Software Social podcast

Software Social

Michele Hansen & Colleen Schnettler

Two indie SaaS founders—one just getting off the ground, and one with an established profitable business—invite you to join their weekly chats.

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  • Software Social podcast

    Deploy Empathy Audiobook Podcast Preview


    Go to to buy the audiobook private podcast, physical book, or ebook!This episode of Software Social is brought to you by Reform.As a business owner, you need forms all the time for lead capture, user feedback, SaaS onboarding, job applications, early access signups, and many other types of forms.Here's how Reform is different:- Your brand shines through, not Reform's- It's accessible out-of-the-box... And there are no silly design gimmicks, like frustrating customers by only showing one question at a timeJoin indie businesses like Fathom Analytics and SavvyCal and try out Reform.Software Social listeners get 1 month for free by going to and using the promo code "social" on checkout.AUTOMATED TRANSCRIPTMichele Hansen  0:01  Hey, everyone, Michele here. Colleen is at a conference this week. So doing something a little bit different this week and wanted to give you a preview of the audio book podcast for Deploy Empathy. So as I've kind of mentioned on previous episodes, I am releasing the audio book every week as a podcast as I record it. Part of the idea of this was kind of to sort of sort of do like I did with the newsletter with the book and sort of you know, do it and you know, sort of chapters at a at a time. And so I didn't have to spend you know, two weeks recording which is just, I didn't didn't really have two weeks, you know, of full workdays to sort of lock myself in a closet and record it. So this is allowing me to record it as I have time. Which is kind of a challenge as I say this right now, my desk is literally surrounded and pillows from the last time I recorded which was like two weeks ago. So So yeah, it's been it's been kind of an interesting challenge. But I have been enjoying it. And it's also allowed me to get feedback on it as well. This is my first time recording an audio book. So if anything sounds weird, or whatnot, like people can, you know, give me feedback, and I get a chance to re record as I go. So, so yeah, so it started in I want to say the end of August. And currently, it's on Part Six, which is the how to talk so people will talk section of the book, which is maybe my favorite section of the book. I admit I was a little bit nervous going into recording these chapters because the tone of voice is so important. And I wanted to make sure that I got that right. And I think I got a little bit in my head about that. But I think it I think it came out Okay, so I think I think I'm happy with it. But so yeah, so So this week you're gonna get a chance to preview the the the private podcast, there are still spots in it if you want to join so it's limited to 500 people and right now I think there's about a little under 200 so there's quite a few spots left if you wanted to, to join along, but also you know what, once the full thing is recorded, which I don't really I guess it'll be sort of end of the year early next year. You know, it'll also be available as a regular audio book not quite sure what I'm going to do with the podcast I'm actually kind of curious to hear if people want that to stick around or whatnot. I don't I wonder if it makes it more digestible to get through but maybe that value is on the you know that it's coming out every week, right now. So yeah, hope you enjoy and Colleen and I will be next back next week.Part Six, how to talk So people will talk. This is the most important part of this book. The tactics you'll learn build toward one goal, creating a bubble of suspended judgment, where the person feels comfortable being open. Throughout this part, you'll also find ways to practice these skills before using them in customer conversations. We'll go into each of these in depth one, use a gentle tone of voice to validate them. Three, leave pauses for them to fill for, mirror and summarize their words. Five, don't interrupt, six, use simple wording. Seven asked for clarification, even when you don't need it. Eight. Don't explain anything. Nine. Don't negate them in any way. And let them be the expert. Love it. Use their words and pronunciation 12 asked about time and money already spent. Lastly, you'll learn how to pull it all together by picturing yourself as a rubber duck. Trust me, it'll take you some time and some practice. But I think you'll notice a difference even in your personal life. By using these phrases and tactics. I want you to make me a promise, you'll only use what I'm about to teach you for good, you won't be manipulative, and you won't use what people say against them. deploying the tactics in this chapter can make someone open up to you much more than they otherwise would. Someone's confidence is a sacred gift. And it should be handled gently, respectfully and ethically. That respect should continue after the interview to I expect you to carry through the empathy you build for the customer well beyond the interview, and use empathy as part of your decision making process. Before we get into the tactics and phrases, it's important to understand just how much these tactics can transform a conversation. I got my start doing proper customer interviews in the personal finance industry. In America, people are generally very private about their personal finance decisions and situations. It's an extremely delicate topic. And because of this, I had to learn interviewing in a rigorous way. I didn't realize how much the techniques outlined in this chapter had woven themselves into my everyday conversation habits until I was at the grocery store a few years ago, I was in line with a dozen items and notice that the cashier hugged the woman in front of me, and they interacted with one another in a heartfelt way. I must have just finished an interview because I found myself asking the cashier about it. me with a smile. Oh, I noticed you hugged her. Is that your sister? cashier? No, she's just a longtime customer. I've worked here for a long time. me. Oh, you have? cashier? Yeah, almost 20 years. I'm due to retire soon. Companies changed a lot in that time. me. Oh hasn't. cashier proceeds to tell me about how the store chain was bought out by another chain 10 years ago, how they changed the retirement plan how she's worried about having enough income from Social Security, her 401k her old pension and retirement and how she's making extra 401k contributions. This was all in the span of less than five minutes. As she rang up the dozen or so items I had in my basket. It's important to note that this cashier wasn't just a particularly chatty person. This was my local grocery store. And I had been there a few times per week. For several years at this point. I'd been in this woman's line many many times. And we had never had more than a simple polite conversation about the weather, or how busy the store was that day. I went home and told a former co worker about it and joked Do I have Tell me about your retirement planning written on my forehead. I was amazed that a stranger had told me that kind of information in such a short amount of time. My former co worker pointed out that it was a sign of just how much interview skills had worked themselves into my everyday conversation style. And how I become so much more effective at digging into the heart of an issue without too much effort. For someone who's only negative mark in their first professional performance review was that I was abrasive and was diagnosed with a DD it'll 11 years old, it came as quite a shock to realize I now had an active listening conversation style without even realizing it. That experience taught me how we need to be careful with these skills, and to know when to hit the brakes. It's a person's decision what to reveal. But I always keep that story in mind and remind myself to back off or shift topics. When it seems like someone is on the verge of saying too much. It's possible to make someone too comfortable and safe. It's always okay to say thank you for telling me that I was wondering if we could go back to something you said earlier. I'm curious about something else. It also reminded me of how so many people don't have people in their lives who will just listen to them. Especially about things that are processes or tasks they complete daily or goals that are top of mind. The cashier at the grocery store clearly spent a lot of time thinking and worrying about the different sources of Income she'd have in retirement and whether they would be enough, but maybe didn't have anyone who would listen to her talk about that. I find that once you build trust with someone and show them that you're willing to listen, they will talk. Because no one has ever cared about that part of their daily life before. Maybe they grew up to a co worker about how long something takes, but they've probably never sat down and had someone genuinely ask them what they think about creating server uptime reports or following up on invoices, they've probably never really talked through where they spend a lot of time the tools they use, and so forth. They've probably never had anyone care enough to try to make it better for them. Just being a presence who's willing to listen is more powerful than people realize how customer interviews differ from other kinds of interviews. If you're already familiar with other kinds of interviewing, it might be interesting for you to read with an eye for how this kind of interviewing differs, journalistic interviewing, motivational interviewing and a negotiation based interview all bears similarities to user interviewing, yet they also have significant differences. The first professional interview I ever did was the summer I was interning at the Washington bureau of a British newspaper. the BP oil spill had happened a few months earlier. And my boss asked me to interview someone thinking back that was a very different interview from the customer interviews I started doing years later, in that BP oil spill interview, I was digging for information and I was looking for specific quotes that could be used in an article I already knew about the oil spill, so I wasn't looking to learn their perspective on it. Instead, I needed them to say specific things and say them in a quotable way. Customer interviews by contrast, are all about diving into how the other person perceives an experience and intentionally suspending the desire to validate your own ideas. Later, after the interview has finished, you can analyze the interview and see what opportunities might exist. We'll talk about that more in Part Eight analyzing interviews. Chapter 25 use a gentle tone of voice.In Chris Voss, his book never split the difference. He suggests using a late night DJ voice in negotiations. You're listening to wb mt 88.3 FM therapists will often speak in soft slow voices as a method of CO regulation to calm their patients. These techniques help put the other person at ease and create an environment where they feel safe. These techniques apply when you're talking to customers to a customer interviews should be conducted in the most harmless voice you can possibly muster. Imagine you're asking a treasured older family member about a photo of themselves as a young person. There might be a gentle, friendly tone of voice, a softness to your tone, genuine judgment free curiosity. Or perhaps picture that a close friend has come to you experiencing a personal crisis in the middle of the night. You would listen to them calmly and just try to figure out what was going on. You probably wouldn't start offering ideas or solutions to their problem and would focus on helping them get back to a clear state of mind. use that same gentleness in your customer interviews. It's important to note though, that you cannot be condescending. I purposefully do not say to speak to them like you would a child because people have very different ways of talking to children. Think of your customer as someone you respect and you can learn from because you should and you can. Why did you do it that way set in a medium volume voice with emphasis on certain words could make it sound accusatory and put them on the defensive versus will lead you to do it like that. And a gentle, unassuming, curious voice will help them open up. Try this now. The next time a friend or family member comes to you with a problem. Intentionally use the gentlest voice you can muster when you talk to them. The next time use your normal approach. Notice whether the person reacts differently. Chapter 26 validate them. books on product development often talk about validation, validating ideas, validating prototypes, validating business models.This chapter is about an entirely different kind of validation. It's a pivotal part of getting someone to open up to you. This chapter is about what psychologists and therapists describe as validating statements. These are specific phrases you can use to show someone that you're engaged with what they're saying. It's okay to have trepidation about what you would say in an interview, and how you would come up with follow up questions. Yet most of what you say during an interview aren't questions at all. Instead, you use validating statement It's that shows someone you're open to what they're saying and are listening. Your goal is for them to talk as much as possible. And you as little aim for the interviewee to do 90% of the talking in the interview. In a customer interview, you use validation, even when you don't necessarily agree with what they say. Or even if what they say sounds absurd to you. It does not mean that you agree with them. It is instead a way of recognizing that what they think and do is valid from their perspective. You cannot break that bubble of trust ever, even when something wacky cans, which I can. In a memorable interview years ago, the interviewee suddenly said, Sorry, I'm eating a case of beer right now, about 45 minutes into the phone call. Mind you, this person had given zero previous indications that they were eating. My research partner, the unflappable research expert, Dr. Helen fake, just rolled with it and said, Oh, you're fine. Notice what she said there. She didn't say no worries or not a problem or don't worry about it, all of which either hinge on negating a negative word, worries problem, and thus leave the negative word in the person's mind. Or invalidating instead told him he was fine. Not, that's fine, which is abstract. But explicitly putting the interviewee as the subject. And that saying that he is fine, which validated his state as a person. It was subtle yet next level of conversational jujitsu that will start to come naturally to you, the more you practice this, you also cannot say that you agree with them, or congratulate them, or do anything that implies that you have an opinion. Even if it's a positive opinion, this is probably one of the strangest parts of how to make an interview flow. And for many people, it runs counter to their built in instincts to be positive and encouraging. The person you're interviewing may ask you if you agree, and you need to purposely find a way to make that question go away. I can see where you're coming from on that. Can you tell me rather than Yeah, I agree. agreeing or disagreeing will remind them that you're a human being with opinions and judgments, and the trust will start to melt away, you almost want them to forget that you're a person. For example, when I was interviewing people about their finances, they would admit to doing things that a financial planner or portfolio manager would never endorse, even though we knew that we couldn't correct them. We also couldn't agree with them, either. We were searching for their internal logic and thought processes. And if we were introduced outside information, or agree or disagree with them, they would have shifted into trying to impress us and holding back information, examples of validating statements. That makes sense. I can see why you would do it that way. I'm interested to hear more about how you came to doing it that way. Would you be able to walk me through the context behind that? I can see what you're saying. It sounds like that's frustrating. That sounds like that's time consuming. It sounds like that's challenging. Sounds like you think that could be improved? Can you help me understand What went through your mind? When? Can you tell me more about? It makes sense. You think that? It makes sense? You do it that way? Sounds like there are several steps involved. I'm curious, can you walk me through them? Sounds like a lot goes into that.When using validating phrases, I encourage you to use the word think instead of feel. Some people I've noticed will find it insulting to say that they feel a certain way. But think is interpreted as more neutral and factual. For example, you feel the process is complicated. Versus you think the process is complicated, or better. The process is complicated. And remember, most people like to think their job is challenging. years ago, I heard someone talk about their recent move to LA. their spouse was in the entertainment industry and this person was not. And they kept finding themselves struggling to make conversation at cocktail parties. But eventually they learned a trick. Whenever someone said what they did, they replied with that sounds challenging. Even if the person's job sounded easy or boring. People would open up because it felt like a compliment. And it would lead to an interesting conversation about the things that person did at work. What that person found was that encouraging someone to keep talking requires Turning the conversation back over to them. Rather than offering your own ideas. Try this now. The next time a friend or family member shares a problem with you and does not explicitly ask you for advice, say that makes sense or another one of the validating statements mentioned previously, rather than offering a solution. Sometimes people say I just don't know what to do, which sounds like an invitation to offer a solution but may not be. If that happens, ask them about what they've already tried. Chapter 27 leave pauses for them to fill. Several years ago, I was sitting in the audience at the DC tech meetup. I was there to support a friend who was giving a presentation. And something one of the panelists said stuck with me and it's something I remind myself about during every customer interview. Radio producer melody Kramer was asked what she had learned while working for Terry Gross host of the long running NPR interview show fresh air. She said that Terry Gross his interview strategy is to ask a question and then to wait and wait and wait at least three long beats until it is uncomfortable. Quote, the other person will fill the silence and what they fill it with will often be the most interesting part of the interview. I remember Cramer quoting gross as saying this tactic of saying something and then waiting at least three beats for the other person to fill it is something that I use in every single interview often multiple times. The length of what feels like a long pause varies from person to person. The research of linguist Dr. Deborah Tannen, shows that people from different American regions tend to have different conversation styles. A coordinator her research, people from the northeastern us may talk over one another to show engagement. While California and may wait for a pause to jump in. People from different continents can have different conversation styles to people from East Asia may wait for an even longer pause and could interpret what seems like a suitable pause to the California as an interruption. A three beat pause may seem long disarm and normal to others. I encourage you to experiment with us and add an extra two to three beats on top of whatever is normal for you. In addition to pauses, I also encourage you to notice whether you provide prompts and additional questions. What do you do if the other person doesn't respond right away? Imagine you're trying to figure out what kind of delivery to order for dinner with a friend or spouse. Do you say Where should we order takeout from and let it hang? Perhaps you had possible answers like where should we order takeout from? Should we get pizza? Chinese sushi? One of the ways people make a typical conversation flow is by adding these sorts of little prompting words, when someone doesn't reply immediately. Maybe the prompting is an offering answers like above. And it's just a rephrase without offering an answer like where should we order takeout from? Do you wanna? while adding gesticulation. In an interview, you need to avoid prompting as best as you can, lest you influence the person's answer. When you ask a question, you need to let it hang and let the customer fill the silence. So can you tell me why you even needed a product like your product in the first place? And wait?Don't prompt. If they don't reply right away? Don't say was it for use case one, or maybe use case two? Just wait. I know how hard this is. In fact, there's a point in the example customer interview where I slipped up and prompted cool was there, or is there anything else? Did you have any other questions or?Drew  24:10  No, I think that's everything I have.Michele Hansen  24:14  Now, sometimes it might get truly awkward. The person you're interviewing may not respond. If they say, Are you still there? You can gently bring the conversation back to focus on them and say something that elevates what they've already said like, Yeah, I was just giving you a moment to think. Oh, I was just jotting down what you just said that seemed important. And then rephrase what you'd like them to expand on. Yes, I'm still here. Do you want to come back to that later? Oh, we just sounded like you're about to say something. If anything too long pauses and the interviewers phrases the follow, make the customer feel even more important and reinforce that they are in the dominant role in this conference. It puts them in the role of teacher which marketing psychology expert Dr. Robert Steele, Dini, has identified as a powerful way of influencing another person's behavior. You want them to teach you about their view of the process. And this sort of almost differential treatment through pauses, helps elevate them into that teaching position. To get the answers you need about the customers process, you need to create a safe judgment free environment, you need to hand the stage entirely over to the customer, and talk as little as possible. And leaving silences without prompting is one of the ways you can do that. Try this now. The next time you're having an everyday conversation, not a tense conversation, not appointed conversation. Notice whether you ask a question and wait. Chapter 28 mirror and summarize their words. I have a friend who used that a parrot named Steve. I remember listening amused as he told me about the conversations he had with Steve. This was years before I learned about active listening. And now it makes more sense to me why parrots are great conversationalist, even though their vocabulary is limited. What parents do is repeat words back at people and repeating words back at someone and rephrasing what they've said, as the magical power of encouraging them to elaborate. It's a tactic that therapists and negotiators use all the time. CHAPTER TWO OF never split the difference by Chris Voss is a deep dive on mirroring. And you can also learn about it and nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Consider this excerpt from the example interview, I wasn'tDrew  26:44  really seriously considering anything that had a paywall on it was I wasn't sure that it would ever pay itself back off. I knew there were other options out there that would either require moving our storage and our database altogether, which didn't really seem appealing, or having two different services, one to manage each. But then the storage still being just as complicated only somewhere else.Michele Hansen  27:07  It sounds like you had a lot of things you were trying to like wave back and forth about whether you should sort of try to plunge forward with this thing that was already being very frustrating. Or then all of the the negative effects of switching and all the complications that that would introduce.Drew  27:23  I really didn't want to spend a whole lot of time investing, you know, building up a new infrastructure for a new product for new servers to handle this one thing that I think the most frustrating part was that it worked in now it doesn't.Michele Hansen  27:36  You'll notice there aren't any question marks and what I said as a follow up. I rephrased what he said as a statement, which then prompted him to expand on it. This is a combination of two conversation tactics, mirroring and summarizing, mirroring is repeating what someone has said. And summarizing is when you rephrase what they have said, and sometimes label their feelings, you can hear another example of mirroring in the sample interview, he describes himself running into a lot of walls, jumping through a lot of hoops. And that phrasing is mirrored back for elaboration.Drew  28:10  And Firebase Storage just did not work as easily. As it was we found ourselves running into a lot of walls, jumping through a lot of hoops just to make the simplest things work.Michele Hansen  28:22  Can you tell me a little bit more about those hoops and walls that you ran into? negotiation expert Chris Voss notes that it's important to say it rather than I, when summarizing, it sounds like is more neutral, then I'm hearing that since in the second one, you're centering yourself as the subject, but the first phrase centers the situation. For example, if your spouse or roommate comes home seeming frazzled, man, what a day, I had, like 10 calls today. You mirroring. You had 10 calls today. The other person? Yeah, and then my last one didn't even show up and I'd had to cut the previous call short to make it. If I'd known they weren't going to show up. I could have gotten this thing sorted out and then I wouldn't have to work tonight. You summarizing and labeling. Sounds like you had a lot of calls today. And because someone didn't show up, you're feeling frustrated that you have to finish your work tonight. Notice that none of these follow ups or questions? Oh, are you talking to new clients? The clarifications are simple restatements of what the person has said without added editorial zation of the events. Try this now. When a friend or family member says something to you about their day, try stating back at them what they've said. Then try summarizing what they've said as a statement. Sometimes a gentle upward tone implies interest more depending on the person
  • Software Social podcast

    To Freemium, or Not to Freemium


    Michele Hansen  0:01 This episode of Software Social is brought to you by Reform.As a business owner, you need forms all the time for lead capture, user feedback, SaaS onboarding, job applications, early access signups, and many other types of forms.Here's how Reform is different:- Your brand shines through, not Reform's- It's accessible out-of-the-box... And there are no silly design gimmicks, like frustrating customers by only showing one question at a timeJoin indie businesses like Fathom Analytics and SavvyCal and try out Reform.Software Social listeners get 1 month for free by going to and using the promo code "social" on checkout.Colleen: So Michelle, last time we spoke, you were rapidly approaching selling 500 books. So we'd love an update on the status of the book.Michele: Drum roll, please. As of today 567 copies, Colleen: Wow. That's amazing. Congratulations.Michele: I'm, I'm pretty pretty excited about. Colleen: Yeah. That's spectacular.Michele: So I was thinking about this and, and talking about it with some friends because on my trip to the us last week and you know, talking to people about it and I realized like, why, why was the number 500? So big to me and I think it's because when I first started writing this, like, you know, the newsletter and everything else, I was like, okay, only the people on the newsletter are the only ones who are ever going to buy this book.Right? Like, you know, worst case scenario, I'm writing this just to have a central place to send people when they ask me about doing customer research. And then as I sort of I don't know, admitted to myself that it was becoming a book then I was like, So only the people on this list are going to buy it.Maybe like a quarter of them are like half, you know, that's like, it's going to sell like 5,000 copies, maybe like 200, like lifetime, like ever. But it's really only going to be people who have heard me talk about it, like, you know, who are basically doing this because I have implored them to do so, you know?Cause I've been like, it's been really helpful for geocoding, so you should do it and they're taking my word for it. But 500 or 567, you know, that's like way more than, you know, the 30 odd newsletter readers that I interviewed as part of the writing process. That's more people than subscribed to the newsletter.That's I guess about as many people listened to this podcast, as of right now on a, on a weekly basis, that's this way more than I thought. And that's only in the first two months And I mean, I feel like I keep quoting him so much that we really need to have him on, or just get a clip of him saying it.But as our friend, Mike Buck B says that is stranger money. That is people who don't know me, who don't care about me, who, you know, aren't just buying the book to be nice. Because they're my friend, right? Like that's people who recommended it to other people who were bought it because somebody recommended it to them.And that kind of feels like massive validation for like the concept of customer research to me, when, you know, I feel like there's all these stereotypes about, you know, developers not wanting to talk to people. And there's so many old school ways of doing business where people think that the only ideas come from, you know, sort of inside the building or that they're above talking to customers.Right? Like it feels like repudiation of all of that for the concept. Colleen: You've definitely reached outside your one degree of separation network Michele: Yeah. Colleen: in terms of the reach the book has had.Michele: Yeah. That's super. I don't know. I guess when you set your expectations very low, you're always going to be pleasantly surprised. So I feel like, even when I had five people subscribing to the newsletter even I was like, wow. Even my friends are tolerating me on, like, that was even a surprise.So, so yeah. Yeah. Colleen: It's amazing. I don't know if you've had a chance yet to listen to the podcast with Nadia, but she talked about, she was on last week. I had her on while you were out. She did three months of customer research. So for three months. So before she built her alpha. I interviewed customers for three months. I was like, yes, that's amazing.And she talked a lot about how that was. So she's been incredibly successful. She has 500,000 users and she talked about how that was the critical, like the critical piece to her building. Her business was taking that time out. And of course this is before your book existed, but like taking that time out to do that customer research, and she used this term called synthesis, which I loved.So she would do. was like, she had read your book, even though your book didn't exist, she would videotape her customer interviews and then she would go back and she would said, and then I would go back and I would, I would, I think she said she would synthesize them, but basically what she meant is she would watch the whole interview over and really try to absorb and hear what they were saying.It was really, it was fascinating. But to your point, the importance of customer research is becoming more and more evident. To all of us, especially developers who just want to build buildings and not.Michele: I mean, I guess I want to clarify that, like, I, you know, I didn't invent any of this stuff. You know, it's been around for yeah, Colleen: feel like, sorry to interrupt. I feel like the key is there's a hole, there's a hole in the market because we don't know how to do Michele: yeah. Colleen: mean that, that's the thing we know this is a thing we know this is important, but most of the. I don't know, literally what do you do? And I think your book meets such a need, cause it's like, literally, if you don't know what to say, say these words here are the words you can say when you get confused or lost or scared,Michele: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, it's like, there's a, there's an amazing, wonderful body of. Work on, on customer research and yes. So I always, I, I hear what you're saying. I always want to be very clear, like I did not invent this concept. And I've referenced a lot of that in the book and I'm more so I guess I'm, I'm re phrasing it and sort of, I'm reminded of a quote from GOTA that I'm going to garble, which is basically that all brilliant thoughts have already been thoughts and. Merely have to rethink them in our, our own experience and our own words. And I guess that's sort of what I have tried to do is to, to Yeah, Bring my own kind of voice and perspective to it for, for that, for that level of, of here is if you, if you truly do not know what to say, then here's what you can say. I mean rides we've went what Sean did too. Didn't he say that he did like hundreds of hours of researchbefore Colleen: lot. I Michele: he launched his stuff to, Colleen: my head, but it was quite a lot of hours.Michele: I wonder how you feel about hearing that, because you have said a couple of times in the past, how you wished you could just. I don't know if you wished it, but like you, you felt like you needed to like go in a cave for like three months and then just research. And I have been like, no, like do it alongside, which are already doing, like, you don't have to go quote unquote in the cave, you know, to to, to figure this out and see, but it sounds like you were her story left a really strong impression on you.And I'm curious how that changes your. Colleen: so her story left a really strong impression on me because she literally is taking on Amazon as a solo FA oh, she has a co-founder now, but as a solo founder. So I think the reason Nadia story resonated was because she. Found the problem that everyone said cannot be solved and she's trying to solve it.So to me, that's really inspiring and it was the problem everyone said can not be solved. And so on her quest to figure out how to solve it. She had to talk to so many people. I feel like my problem is a little bit smaller, which is fine. And I do think for what I'm building, which is like really just a widget when push comes to shove, you know Doing the customer research alongside the development has been good because I can iterate quickly.And there's a certain amount of validation that comes with making money from a productMichele: But it sounds like from Nadia, you really admire her. I guess her tenacity and her courage. Colleen: I literally cannot believe it. This is the most amazing thing she basically, and I think really her success, which is something we don't talk about as much. I think her success comes from, she described it like founder product fit, like she loves to read.And for those who didn't hear the podcast, she is the founder of story graph, which is basically good reads, but a million times better, they have over half a million. Users . They've been featured in famous publications. They're basically on track to kill , good reads.It's it's really fascinating to watch her journey. And I think the thing that inspires me so much is. This problem was just seemed like impossible. Like everyone's like, yeah, good reads kinds of sucks, but I don't know. I don't know how you would solve that. It's too hard. Right? It's too hard. And she just went for it with, and the reason she went forward is because she realized early, she loved books.She loved the space and she just was so, so, so, so, so excited to work in this space. So she actually found like founder product fit before she found. Product market fit, which is interesting, but the founder product fit is what kept her going, you know, through the early, the first year, which sounds like it was pretty challenging.Michele: Yeah. So as someone who loves customer research and reads a lot of books, it sounds like I should listen to this episode. you said it was on software social last week, right? And Colleen: totally was. You would love it.Michele: yeah, That's I mean, yeah, I've, I've, I feel like I've heard a lot of people talk about founder market fit, which is, which is really interesting because like, when I think about that term, You know, so for, from one perspective, like it's really important that you're, you're passionate about the space that that you're solving for.But then there's kind of a point where like being too passionate about it and knowing too much about it is almost a hindrance because people come in with a lot of biases about what the solutions should be. And I tend to think more about it, you know, being passionate about. The customer in that space and having empathy for the customer in that space, you know, and, and it's not just being passionate about the concept of books, but the reader experience of books, which is the customer of books, which are, and those are, those are two very different things. Colleen: right. Yep. And that's exactly, I think why she spound so much success because she was so focused on the customer, the reader of books.Michele: I'm curious, like how you, you mentioned how you think about, you know, integrating customer research with simple file upload has customer research really come up with hammers? Colleen: Not yet. I need to talk to my people about this, because this is an interesting thing because Aaron has been doing so much work to kind of be out there and be visible in the layer of L space.So, so we've had like the informal, like, this is great. We totally want this kind of messages, but I wouldn't say that we've done any in-depth customer research yet.Michele: Yeah. I mean, that's also a case where, you know, being one of the customers is really helpful because if you, if you are like, Aaron is like, so in tune with the customers and really one of them that you're releasing things that they're really excited about because you're really excited about it. Like that can play out pretty well.I think in many cases, that's where we come from with, with um, But, you know, to edit at a certain point, like, like how far does that get you? Colleen: right. So speaking of customer research, Michele: Always speaking of customers. Colleen: We're always speaking of customer research. So one of the things that has been one of the things that has been so great about simple file upload is I have zero support requests. It is apparently easily actually that easy to use because no one ever emails me.Great. Right? No one ever emails me. So two weeks ago, We did another round of, will you talk with me emails with the Amazon gift card as incentive. And we got exactly zero responses. So people are actively using it, but again, it's only 2025. I have 2025 paid users. So I want to do something. I have a plan and I think what I should do is I should add additional pricing.And the re the reason I think this is, if you think about how Heroku works typically. So for example, paper, paper trail, which is a law. App is really popular on Heroku. And what they do is there's a free tier, but you're limited you're log limited. So then there's like, then they have all these itty-bitty tiers, then it's like, oh, here's my $15 tier.And then I get however much luggage storage I get, and here's my $30 tier X amount of log storage. So what, what happens to me, literally, every app, you sign up for the free tier and then you upgrade when you need it. Sentry I believe is the same way. Sentry gives you a free tier and then when you need more error reporting or logging or whatever you upgrade.So I think I should offer a free tier and a $15 tier on Heroku.Michele: So, I don't know if you heard my little keyboard strokes there, but I was pulling up your current page on the Heroku marketplace. And just for context, most of your customers are still coming from Heroku. Is that right? Colleen: It's interesting most are coming. I think the split is yeah, probably two thirds are coming from Heroku, but the interesting thing is my non Heroku customers are like more excited. Michele: Hm. Colleen: that's kind of an interesting, like there, they talk to me a little bit more, but that's a whole nother thing. We are not going to have time to talk about.I kind of think it was a mistake to release this, not a mistake, but I released it. I did Heroku and then I released it out into the world. And I did that because I thought. My people were going to be front end developers who don't use Heroku, so they wouldn't have to deal with AWS. And that has not proven to be true.So that's a whole different thing. So, so, and now we have to now, Michelle, I feel like I'm trying to get out of that place where I feel like I don't have enough time, but I feel like I don't have enough time because now I have to maintain two completely independent billing sets. Because Heroku is deal is totally different than how you do Stripe.And that is a lot, every time I want to make a change, it's a huge deal. Okay. But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about this pricing plan on Michele: oh, there's like so many things in there. I want to dive into, Colleen: right. So many things. Michele: Oh, hold on a minute. Let's can we, we pull this back for a second. How many hours a week are you working on this Right now Colleen: Right now I'm doing about one day a week, which is, you know, eight hours, maybe Michele: Okay. Okay. And we don't want to spend all of those eight to 10 hours dealing with billing. Colleen: right? That's the problem. Yeah. That was in Michele: And I feel, I mean like months ago, I mean, even like a year ago now we were kinda going through like, should you do free tier, should you do free trials? Should you do just pay like, w like, should you do pay as you go, should you do a monthly, like all, like, there's kind of, it's kind of mind boggling, like how many different permutations of a pricing model you could go with.And so I'm looking at the plans right now. So you. Just as it stands right now. And this is, is, is, is it the same on Heroku as on non Heroku? Like is, the Colleen: it is it Michele: Okay. So basic is $35 a month. Pro is $80 a month and then custom is two 50 and then need a larger plan. Let our customer success team help our customer success team of Colleen. Colleen: I've Colleen.Michele: And so what you're saying or. You think that does your, your hypothesis here is that if you add a free tier, then you will get more signup. That will then convert into paid plans, which means that your hypothesis of why more of the original Heroku users when you were in alpha and beta did not convert into paying users is because your free, your subscription plans were too high.Does all of that sound correct. Colleen: That sounds correct.Michele: And your basis for this hypothesis is other services that you have looked at. Colleen: correct. I feel like I need a free plan, like a free tier and it would be super low storage, so you can try it out. You can get, you know, do that and then maybe like a 15 or $19 tier.Michele: So by super low storage, are you talking like one. Like basically they can like, oh wait, like Colleen: megs, like, like five Michele: so they can like upload like Yeah. like five files and then be like, Hey boss, lady, give me the P card so we can subscribe to this.Colleen: Yeah. Cause I think the problem is, I mean, I know I like to do this. I don't really know if you're looking at this. You want to try it out and right now you have no way. To on Heroku. Cause there's no free trial on Heroku. Like you have no real way to try it out on Heroku. So if I did a plan that was like, like seriously, like super low storage.So it's maybe the equivalent of five to 10 files. If you like it you'll upgrade because you'll need more storage. And then if you don't like it, you know, and you got to try it and maybe I'll get more people to talk to.Michele: So I think that makes sense. I don't think adding another basic plan makes sense. Those feel like the workflow that you're describing. I feel like adding another basic plan. Does not help you because adding, so what you described is basically what you're trying to do is a kind of, what we do basically is selling into teams without actually you know, having to cold email them and be like, Hey, developer needs this.They found a thing by Googling. They can try it out for free. Then they get permission to pay for it from somebody without ever talking to you. Amazing sales process. It's hours. Love it. But then adding a $15 a month plan feels like going for a customer segment that has lower usage and is more price sensitive.And I feel like that. Th that feels like it's solving a different sales process and a different customer type that's, you know, doesn't have as high usage doesn't have as high of a propensity And it sounds like the customer you're going after really should not blink at $35 a month or even 50 or a hundred dollars. Colleen: right. Yeah, that's true. That's a good point.Michele: I mean, you could always add the free plan and then see, are there people being like, wow, like this five files to, you know, 30 gigs, like that's a big jump. Like we, we only need 10, but right. now you're not hearing from anybody. And your problem is volume of, you know, you need bodies basically. So I feel like if you were to launch those two at the same time, you would be muddling your results.And I use results sort of broadly because there's not enough volume here to really get a, you know, sort of a statistically significant result or, you know, anything out of that data. But it sounds like you need more people coming in and you need like something to see if that. Colleen: Yeah, but the idea behind this would be it's very similar. It's very common for Heroku and literally there's again, so many features I could build one to build. I don't know which way to focus my energies. I just can't stop with the features. Michele: can't stop. Won't stop. Colleen: right. If I could talk to more people like, I really I've let go.You remember, in the beginning I wanted to resize images on demand. I don't think anyone cares about that anymore. Now. Michele: But you didn't add it. Colleen: I did not add Michele: Yay. You didn't spend time on something. People didn'tColleen: People don't care about Michele: that's a win Colleen: that's a win I, my new hypothesis, however, is that people would like, some people would like the option to edit the images after they've been uploaded, like in the widget, which would be super cool.But I, again, no one has asked for that. I Michele: I was just going to say, has anyone asked you this or do you just think,it's cool? Colleen: I just think it's cool.Michele: That's okay. You're allowed that. Let's just do. Colleen: I just Michele: Recognize that, but so did you say that it's like common on Heroku for people to offer a super low like testing plan basically? Colleen: well, I don't know if it's yeah. I mean like if you look at would people expect that? yeah, I think, I mean, that would be super low, but like century, paper trail, those are the two I use and. That's pretty normal to be like, oh, you have this amount, which is really not much. I should see how much they give you. Okay. So paper trail, see paper trail free $8 a month, $16 a month, $30 a month, $33 a month.65. I mean, they have like the, the, you know, the difference is so small, but for example, Paper trail gives you the free plan is two days of search duration, which is like hardly 10, 10 megs log volume per day. The next one is seven days of search duration at $8 a month. And I think century might be the same.So I think it's pretty common to have kind of like a staging plan. I could name it dev. I mean, it would be like named dev yeah. Centuries the same way. Only they go from free to $29 a month and you get 5,000 errors per month for free 30 days, a long history. And then if you jump up to their next tier, you get 50,000 errors per month.So I Michele: Yeah, I think that would make sense, like a dev plan that's free. That's I think also naming a dev makes it very, rather than like naming it dev rather than naming it. He makes it clear that it's just for Colleen: Just, yeah, like this is a super small thing you have here. So yeah, I think, I think that's what I'd like. I think that would help me get more Heroku people in the door. I mean, I know it well because when it was free, I got signups like crazy. So I know it'll help me get more Heroku people and it'll be interesting to see what kind of conversion rate I get with Heroku.Once I get that set up.Michele: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that will be interesting. So, Colleen: I, God, Michele: oh no, you go ahead. Colleen: I don't have great metrics yet though, either. So I've been trying to like, get those set up too. So it just feels like there's a lot to do right now.Michele: Did you feel good about it? Colleen: What do you mean? Do I feel good Michele: Like, I feel like last time we kind of talked about this, like you were feeling like working on. Hammer stone was taking some of the pressure off of you and you kind of had some space to explore and let simple file upload blossom a little bit on its own, sort of without the pressure of replacing your, your full-time income right away. Colleen: That's true, but I don't really feel like it's blossoming fast enough, like, right. Like I just can't I'm like, I don't feel like, I think so I've been pretty flat on MRR, but it's actually really good because I had a couple people that were paying me $250 a month and they have all left because I never used it.It was weird. So the people I have now. Our higher quality customers, I think less likely to churn because they're actively using it. So I have more customers now, lower price point actively using it, which is good. Yeah. I guess I just feel, I mean, I know everyone feels this always, but like, I just want more time to do all the things I want to do.Michele: You know, it's not a fun place to be in where your revenue is flat, but the fact that it's flat says something about the business that people are paying every month. It's not declining. You lost some of the, the, the big what do we call them?The, the whale customers. Right. But. It's still, it's still coming in every month and okay. So maybe it was blooming and then the flower pedals froze a little bit and they've paused. But I think that, I think this idea for adding a dev plan is as really interesting, I'm excited to see where that goes. Colleen: Yeah, I am too. I think it feels good to like, be able to continue to do things, to move the product forward. And I think this is better than building new features because I Michele: Yes. Colleen: will like, this is definitely Michele: Seriously, like the, I mean like thinking back on like geocoding, like our big revenue jumps did not come from new features. They came from pricing Colleen: pricing changes. Yeah. Yeah, I I think this will be good. Cause if I can get more people to talk to me, then I can get a better sense of what is important to people I mean, that's really, the goal is I can't make the product better unless I talk to people. And that's what you've been saying for almost a year. What's it been like seven months, a hundred percent true.Michele: Well, it sounds like you have your work cut out for you for this week. Yeah, it'll be interesting. Yeah. That's that, that'd be interesting to see how this goes.Good chat. Colleen: Oh, Michele: Good chat. We'll talk to you next week.
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    Taking on Amazon...and winning?


    Michele Hansen  0:01 This episode of Software Social is brought to you by Reform.As a business owner, you need forms all the time for lead capture, user feedback, SaaS onboarding, job applications, early access signups, and many other types of forms.Here's how Reform is different:- Your brand shines through, not Reform's- It's accessible out-of-the-box... And there are no silly design gimmicks, like frustrating customers by only showing one question at a timeJoin indie businesses like Fathom Analytics and SavvyCal and try out Reform.Software Social listeners get 1 month for free by going to and using the promo code "social" on checkout.Colleen: Welcome back software, social listeners, Colleen here, and I am super excited to bring you a special guest today. Today on the podcast we have Nadia the founder of story graph. Story graph is a site that helps you track your reading and choose your neck next book based on your mood, mood, and your favorite topics and themes.Nadia, thank you so much for coming on.Nadia: Thank you so much for inviting me. Colleen: I would love to start with a little bit about your background. You are an economist by trade, right?Nadia: Right. So my degree was philosophy politics and economics, and I focused, I focused mainly on the economic side, I was moving to the math mathematical side of things and I was heading into investment banking, post university. Colleen: Wow.Nadia: Yeah. And I was just lucky with the people I met in my final year of uni. I'd done a summer internship in the banking world and I was just very, not very enthused with it.It just felt, I felt like there was more to life and I'm in my final year of uni, I met so many young entrepreneurs and people running social enterprises and charities, and I just felt like I've always felt entrepreneurial. And I just thought, you know, I want to go into that feels more like. And I'd also started a creative writing online publication called the story graph. Colleen: Oh, I didn't know that.Nadia: yeah. That had given me the first taste of running my own thing. And so I, yeah, and I was lucky to meet people who were in the tech space as well. And that's when I started to be familiar with, oh, maybe I should learn how to code. And yeah, essentially, I, I got, I want a couple of places on coding courses and that's how I got into software post universe. Colleen: So, did you go work at all in investment banking or did you go right from college or university to learning how to code? Nadia: So I had a graduate offer for bank and I turned that down and then I wasn't sure what I was going to do. And I'd applied for this entrepreneurship scheme and it got to the final round. And I remembered that when I was filling out the form, there was a checkbox that said we may be piloting a new coding course for women.Do you want to be considered for this? And I was just like, why not check the box? I wasn't really interested. And I thought, why not? You know? And so when I remember I got the call from the, one of the people who run the program and they said, we've got good news and bad news. And I was like, I immediately knew I didn't get into the main program.So I said, well, what's the, what's the bad news. And I was like, yeah, you didn't quite make it. And I was like, Okay.what's the good news. And she said we're going to give you, we're going to do this program. It's called code first girls, and we're going to give you a place. And I remember at the time I was just so disappointed and not getting a place in this entrepreneurship program because it was meant to be my ticket out of not going into the bank.That I just thought, what do I want with this coding course? And then I remember thinking about it and realizing that I was also. Like the next day, I was offered a summer internship at my college at Oxford where I was. And so I thought, you know what, I'm going to come to work at Oxford for a bit after uni, I'm going to travel to London twice a week.I was from London, but I was at, I was in Oxford and and I'm going to learn to code and then figure it out from there. And it's so, I'm so glad I did that. And then while I was. Twice a week coding course, I saw a tweet saying we're doing a competition for someone to win a free place at makers academy, which was a new software boot camp in London at the time.And I had a taste of this coding thing. I saw how powerful. It was. And so I said, I'm going to apply for this scholarship free place. And I got the scholarship. And so then I did a three month bootcamp at the beginning of 2014, immediately after. Well, at the end of 2013, rather immediately after the two months that I spent at Oxford traveling twice a week to do the part-time cutting costs.So that's how I Colleen: Wow.Nadia: into software from being like all along since I was like 12, 13, I was going down the investment banking. Colleen: Wow. Did you get pushback from yourself or from your family to have invested so much time at Oxford? No less. And then be like, I'm going to go do this coding bootcamp.Nadia: Yes. So it was actually quite funny. I come from a poor background and I remember that, you know, the reason why I was going down the investment banking route since I was young is because when I was at school, you know, it was always this typical doctor, lawyer and your banker or something like that.And I remember we had this day where you could go with your parents or a parent to work with them. And I remember trying to go with my dad who's an accountant or like, um, my mom worked for herself at home and, and my dad was like, no, you should find someone who acts in a bank or something like that.And so I went with my best friend at the time her dad worked at. And, you know, when you're 14, everything looks so amazing. And like I, so I remember going and seeing the trading floor and seeing all these, like men and women dressed up in their suits and carrying their blackberries. And I remember at the time thinking I want to be like them.And it wasn't until I was doing the internship when I was in between my second and third year of uni that I was just disillusioned. And I was like, oh, like, this is not very fulfilling. This is not like, I feel like there's more I can do and give. And, and so that's when I got disillusioned when I was like about 18 and I was thinking.This isn't really exciting. I'm not sure of the value that I'm bringing while doing this work. And I also just thought there must be more cause I was working so hard at, it was quite academic. I was working so hard at my studies and I thought, is this it? And so when this whole entrepreneurship software thing came up, it was very, yeah, it was so much more appealing and. Colleen: Wow. So after you did the bootcamp, did you then get a job, your rails background, right? Nadia: Ruby Rails So back then the, the main focus was Ruby rails and it was funny because I went to that was this jobs, fair tech jobs fair. And it was during during the course, the point of the courses you do the 12 weeks, and then they help you get a job. And I just thought I didn't plan to get a job.I just said, let me go to this job fair and see what's out there. Even when I started the bootcamp in my mind, I still thought, oh, I'm going to be an entrepreneur. I didn't know what that meant. I was just like, I'm going to be an entrepreneur. But you know, since I'll know about coding, I'll know how to talk to developers.Like I had just, you know, stereotypes in my head of, you know, developers, don't talk to people, and I can never be a good developer anyway, cause I'm starting, you know, 19. But Colleen: at like 32 Nadia: like 21, rather. Exactly, exactly. But I honestly thought, I thought that was it. So when I went to this fair, like I, for the first few weeks, I honestly thought, yeah, it's just going to help me be a better entrepreneur, but then I realized, no, this festival, I love, I, I enjoyed it.And I was pretty good at it. I wasn't amazing, but you know, I could do it and I saw how powerful it was because I said to myself, you know, I also started to think about what being an entrepreneur meant. And I realized how empty that was. Without an idea something.that I was keen to work on, or that was useful.And so I said to myself, well, you know, if you focus in on this coding thing, then if you do have a great idea, you can build a prototype yourself. You don't have to hire anyone. You don't have to rely on anyone. But you know, if you don't have a great idea or whatever, you're working on, doesn't work out, then you have a skill that people always need and will pay for.And so that's when I kind of like a month into the bootcamp, I kind of made that switch of, I need to go all in on this software thing. I should work as a software developer for a while. And yeah, I, when I went to this fair, I ended up, I didn't know how well known or big the company pivotal was pivotal labs at the time, but I got talking Colleen: Oh, yeah.Nadia: Yeah. I just went there. I was trying to find my way out and I saw this one, man. I kept on getting lost. And so I, I asked for directions out because I kept on going the wrong way. And as I was going to the exit, there was this one table that was very empty, but it was one, there was no one else there, apart from the people who are monitoring that table.And I just thought pivotal. That was one of the companies that I like. I'd when I was looking at the list of companies the night before I'd listed it out. Why not just stop by? And anyway, long story short is I was invited to come in and then more and. I just got put into the interview process without realizing I did the proper interview process that everyone else did, but essentially the boss of the London office, his name is JB Stedman.He said, come in for a chat. We were really close to makers academy. And so we organized this tack a couple of weeks later. And what I didn't know was that was the first round of their full interview process that their famous parent interview that. Colleen: Right. Nadia: so after that I got, yeah. Yeah. So in a way it was good. I didn't know Cause it wasn't, I wasn't nervous or anything like that.I just was like, Oh, this is fun. I'm doing this, this, this pairing big. And and so when I went back to the office, after the fair and I said, oh, I I'm going to speak to the person who runs this office of this company called pivotal.Well, the makers academy, people were like, what? Oh my gosh, this is amazing. We, we, a lot of our practices that we follow here have been inspired by pivotal. This is great. And so, yeah, before I finished the bootcamp, I had had a job lined up at pivotal and I worked there for a year and a half after the boot camp. Colleen: Okay. Wow. That's pretty spectacular. It's pretty cool. Right. To go right from your bootcamp to such a good job. So then what happened? So were you just like, what was your next step in this journey?Nadia: I'm someone who always has side projects. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are like this. I think you're the same. I always had something on the side that I. Even if I even didn't find time to work on it, I just have ideas in my head. So I was always kind of hacking away and it got to a point after about a year, I started to feel like, okay, I want to do my own thing now.I think I got a bit tired of just being moved from project to project. Not, you know, not being able to like really craft a own a product and like see it through. And I also felt like, I know this is, this comes with, you know, working in different companies. There were times where I just felt like, you know, oh, I'm, I'm just like a book, a bit ability sort of tool.And I'm just like, I'm a resource, basically. It got to a point where I felt like, you know, We're trying to, Pivotal's trying to be as biddable as possible and where does not you're fit. And, you know, I also ended up getting, and I loved, I loved overall. I loved my time at pivotal, but I remember I worked. I was, even though I was pivotal labs employee, I worked on cloud Foundry that platform as a service for a really long time.So that's like, you know, cloud platforms, distributed systems. That side of things. And I felt like I was losing touch with my web and app development skills. I went into a niche, basically. I went from Ruby, veils, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, all that stuff to basically working with like distributed systems.And I remember moving from Ruby to go and it was all super interesting, but I just felt like it was such a niche. And I was also worried about losing the skills that would enable me to kind of. The like flexible when I was trying to implement my own ideas later. And so those things meant that I actually ended up there was another colleague there who he was always, always hacking around on projects too.And we got talking and then we started hacking around on different side projects. And at one point we got a good contract to do a little contract and we decided it was like a six month contract. And we thought, well, if we do this contract, we will then have enough money to. Do our own product afterwards.And so after a year and a half, we both handed in a resignation and then went and ran this business Colleen: And were you also at some point a co-founder on code newbies.Nadia: Yes. So this, this could be a very long story, but the summary is that business I left, it just didn't work out the partnership. Wasn't Right.We didn't have any product ideas that were inspiring. And we ended up running out of money and being staffed on a banking project.We have to take a banking project and. Really good money. But I just wasn't fulfilled. And I just saw this world where wait, I quit. I turned down my banking job all these years ago to go into software and entrepreneurship. And now here I am and I was co-founder of this company, but I felt like I'd become a glorified consultant on this.Bank where like it wasn't, it just wasn't the most fun felt very undervalued. And I just felt like I was wasting my potential. I just wasn't super happy. And so I quit that business without knowing what I was going to do. But because, yeah, but because my co-founder and I, from that business, we didn't, we were just saving our money.We would just saving the money we were earning because we weren't gonna invest it in our own product. And so when I left. I took half of that money. I got half of that money, which essentially equated to five years of runway for me. Colleen: Nice.Nadia: And so, but I didn't know what I was going to do. And so Saron who runs code newbie was like, come and be my co-founder code newbie.And I was like, really, are you sure? And so in the end I decided to give it a go and I was on the verge of moving to the states to do this thing for. But in the end, ultimately it didn't work out. And Saron decided that it wasn't the Right.direction, that code was going in.And so that after a year I was kind of like, you know, left in the lurch and like, again, uncertain with four years of runway.Colleen: Right.Nadia: And so I was like, well, I still, if we, as a runway and I couldn't offer having a year of dislike doing, you know, doing it was, it wasn't kind of my own thing, but being like a co-founder or something and trying to take something off the ground, I just thought, you know what I'm going to, and I'd had two kind of partnerships that didn't work out or companies that didn't work out.And I was like, you know what, I'm just going to start something by myself. Now I've got four years of runway. And actually, I didn't even say I'm going to start a company. I just. You know, I have all these side projects that I haven't really been able to focus on in the last three, four years because of work and just other hobbies and things that I get up to outside of work.And so I said to myself, so it was January, 2019, and I said to myself, I'm going to take the two. Side projects that I'm most excited about, and I'm just going to spend January hacking away on them. I'm not going to put any expectations. I'm not going to put any pressure on it. I'm just going to work. You know, I was like I said, I got four years, so was going to work on these two and I had two apps.So one of them was a running app and it auto-generated running routes for you. So you would give your starting point and you would say, I want to run five kilometers, or I know in the states it's more miles, isn't it. Like I wasn't gonna run like. Colleen: Yeah.Nadia: Three miles. And it would basically give you a running rate that started and ended where you were.And this was inspired by the fact that I used to, I don't want as much now because I do other things, but I used to run and I. I, when I figured out what 5k route was, or a 10 K route was, I would just do the same route and I would get like bored of it. And so this was a way to help me, you know, find new routes or when I was traveling for conferences, you know, it would be a way to go on a run in an unfamiliar place.So anyway, that was one app that I was going to work on in January. And the second one was reading lists app where essentially. It was only meant to be a companion app to good reads. Cause I, I had been using good reads for eight years at this 0.7, eight years. But there was no way to create private lists or less that you shared with a select few friends that you could then track your progress through.So say you you, you had a subject matter you wanted to delve into. So you put together a reading lesson and you would have a progress bar or, you know, I have a friend who, whenever she writes a book really highly. Those books. I would want to collect them in the less than see, you know, these 20 books.How many of them have I read that kind of thing? And so I was like, I'm going to spend January of 2019 just working ping-ponging between these two apps. And so I got to like, I dunno, it would have been January 1st or January 2nd maybe. And I said, wait, which 1:00 AM I going to start with? And I said, let me start with the reading app.And essentially I have never picked up the running up. I have done. Since from then to now, I've just been working on the meeting up and it's grown into a story graph. Colleen: Wow. So, wow. There's so much in that that I want to talk about. Okay. So let's start with, you started working on the reading app and you never pivoted to the running app because you were having so much fun or like what, what made you see that this had potential.Nadia: Okay.So this is what it was, you know, how I, because this was a side project I'd had for years. So actually had a backlog with a friend set up in an old pivotal tracker. And so again, because this wasn't a, this is going to be a business. This is just a side project. I just spent a week. Yeah. I think it was a week just hacking through or working my way through the backlog.I wasn't worried about customer research or anything like that. And I just had so much fun. Like I felt so alive and you know, they talk about the founder Porter. Yes.this was the first time I was like, oh, like I need to work on books and reading. It was like the first time I felt alive, like Really?like super passionate.And so at this point I had this feeling like I need to build something to do to do with books. And so at that point, I then said, let me show you this prototype that I've built to. And so I got, you know, I did cause I know the importance of customer research. I'm always trying to talk to customers.And so when I decided I'm going to be serious about this, we'll see, basically see if there's a need for something in this space. I was like, okay, let me do a customer research interview a customer research round and see if there's something here. So I, I lined up five people and I, I also about their reading and then I showed them this Demo that I'd built.And essentially after those interviews, I realized that I had to stop that app. It wasn't compelling or exciting enough. There was a lot of this is cool. Yeah. I guess, I guess I would use it for this. Yeah. So I immediately was like, okay. Nope. So at that point I said to myself, okay, this feeling of when. On a book's product is super exciting, but this is not it.And so I put that aside and I spent the next three months distinct customer interviews. So I didn't cause I was like, I don't. Yeah. I was like, I don't want to build. Something that people don't use or don't need. Like, I was like, if I, so I just started doing custom interviews. So the first round the hypothesis was, is there, is there any pain, but it was, it was more research gathering.It was like, are there any pain points in the book space? So then off that round, I think I discovered, okay. People still find it hard to get consistent high quality recommendations from one source. You know, people would often have, you know, one or two trusted friends. If you didn't have any people in your network who ranked than it was even harder, you know, you might have some. Articles or like bloggers that you followed, but it was a lot harder. And so I was like, wow. Okay. Recommendations. Cause this is still just me on my own, like trying to figure stuff out.And so then, then I started doing more research, being like, okay, what is not working with current recommendation systems? How are people currently trying to find books? And that's when I ended up on the whole mood. Aspect. I would, I would see, I started to get involved in the books community on Instagram as well.And I started to see the language that people were using. They will say, I've just read this book. It made me feel this way. What other books like will evoke similar feelings or I'm a mood reader seeing this a lot. I'm a mood reader. And so that's when I said, okay, there's something in this mood space. And so then I started to go down that route and essentially it was three months of customer research until I felt like I had enough of a concept for an alpha.And the alpha was just a straight up personal recommendation service, nothing else. Colleen: So how many people do you think you spoke to during those three months of customer research?Like ballpark?Nadia: so let's think of, so maybe about it, wasn't like actually that many, so probably if I did it. Maybe full five rounds and maybe five, five to eight and eight. So maybe, I dunno, maybe in about 30 to 50, because, you know, I would, I would, I was quite strict with, I'm not going to do anything until I've done the customer research.So say I had a round of five to eight people. They could be spread out over a week or two weeks, and then I would do my synthesis. And so I didn't try. And like, so even though it was like three months, It wasn't like every single day I was talking to a lot of people. Cause I also didn't want to feed back overload if you know what I mean? Colleen: Yes, you said, and then you do your synthesis. What does that mean?Nadia: So that, that's a way of basically drawing out learnings from the, from the research. So essentially It's a basic, Yeah. it's a way of like doing the analysis and then figuring out what's next. So for me, Yeah.I do. I do it. I mean, you could do it in many different ways. One of my most common ways is to get like a virtual.The sticky board with post-it notes and draw out the key points and what I, what I do by the way is I record the interviews, video, record them and watch them back. Cause that means particularly because I'm doing them by myself. So too, it means that I have. Write down what I think I heard as opposed to writing down what they actually said.So I try when I'm interviewing by myself, I recalled, I always ask permission and I record the interviews and then I watched them back and take I take down what they say, bullet points. And then I group up across the different people. I grew up. The them into themes. And then I'm able to see, ah, people keep talking about, they can't find recommendations.People keep talking about how they don't trust the ratings on good reads or like you would see patterns and that's what would help drive that would that's what would help figure out what the hypothesis or the question was going to be for the next round? Colleen: Okay. And you also said you got involved in an Instagram book, books space. What is that? How so two questions around that. What does that mean? And how, like what pointed you in that direction?Nadia: So they could have books to grab it's the books community on Instagram, and it's called books to go out. Colleen: didn't know about that.Nadia: And I think when I had said to one of my friends that.I was. Looking in the, you know, I was excited about an idea in the books and meeting space. She said, do you know about the books community on Instagram? And I just thought I was like, No.I don't know. And she essentially, I learned about, oh, that was the other thing I did.You know, the three months of research, it was also not only did I do customer interviews. I also went to lots of industry events, like publishing events. I saw panels and to learn more about the industry and see if there were pain points on the, on the publishing side or the authors. And so it was mentioned in a couple of talks, then there's books to Graham growing community of Bookstagram 30 million posts on this hashtag.So I just started looking through that tag and seeing different accounts and just seeing what they were posting, what they were talking about, what they were complaining about. So there was lots of complaints of being in reading slumps and saying, I just can't, there's all these books. I have all these books at home, but none of them are appealing to me.And, and I was, and this was when I started to move towards, like, if I could, you know, build something that could help someone say, oh, this is actually the perfect book for you right now, given your mood and giving your reading tests. That would be amazing. And so that's the kind of my customer research was just kind of trying to figure out if that was a compelling, useful, valuable product. Colleen: This fascinates me so much, because that is such a hard problem. Like Amazon can't solve that problem with all of their engineers and data scientist.Nadia: So it's funny. You said that cause as you, so I'm still working. I, at this point and I definitely had people say to me, like peep up, maybe other founders who tried it or other, other people who'd worked in this space. And there was definitely a lot of. Good luck. It's basically impossible. And there's Amazon and, you know, I just, it was that founder product fit thing is probably the reason why I continued to during those times where I was like, you know, is this city a, I.Am I, you know, going down a path, that's just not worth it. Well, I just couldn't let it go. So I just said to myself, don't don't think about Amazon. And I also was like, don't think about good reads. Don't think about what's out there. Just you focus on the next step each time. So that's why the customer research rounds were very grounding because I just said to myself, I'm not thinking about what I'm trying to build or this big, amazing product I'm going to build or that kind of thing.And I'm going up against Amazon. I didn't even think like that. I just said, just follow. Follow the comms, follow the little nuggets and just take each today. And like, even sometimes I have to remind myself of that. Like now I have to be like, just take each day, Nadia, you know, keep going, just follow, just follow what the customers are telling you and what, you know, the pain points you see.And if I had focused on, if I said at the beginning, Yeah.I'm going to take on Amazon. I'm going to build an amazing recommendation algorithm and. It's going to be the best. I think I would have very quickly probably lost confidence and said, no, I can't, I can't do this. Although I don't like saying I can't do anything, but you know what I mean? Colleen: Yes. I know what you mean. Yeah. Like that, coupled with the fact that you're selling to customers, like the number one piece of advice I always got was like never sell directly to consumers ever.Nadia: Ah, so funny you say that because when I was reading about entrepreneurship while at uni and all that and even, you know, talking with entrepreneurs, I, I always had the thing of like, you want to get into a B2B space. It's like a lot better. You can charge more. And so again, when I was thinking about, I want to be an entrepreneur.I was always thinking, I was always trying to gravitate towards B2B ideas and it was so funny. Cause I had this moment when story guff started picking up and I was thinking about the business model and all that. And I was thinking, oh, I'm in exactly the kind of business that I didn't want to do in terms of like the financial and also just daily dealing with customers is hard and it, you know, it can be very it's, you know, it's tough.And so it's, so's definitely a hard business to be in. Colleen: Yeah. So you said that one of the things you, one of the tactics you use to kind of deal with that is focus on one day at a time and focus on your customers. Has there been any points on this journey when you just want to quit? Like, it's just feels too hard, especially by yourself. Like weren't you so lonely in the beginning?Nadia: Oh, yes. Like, you know, I was and Luckily because I live, I live by myself as well. So luckily pivotal was super friendly and I was still able to just go in and use a desk in the office. So once or twice a week, I would go in and you know, just be able to work with old, alongside old friends.So that was super helpful. But the thing is, I definitely had moments of particularly when I was pre-product. I definitely had. Of Dao or CA you know, is this, do I have the skillset to even build something that would be compelling enough? Within a reasonable timeframe? Like I said, I really think I was just lucky with that.I didn't have anything else that I would rather go and do at that, at that point in time, you know, I didn't want to get a job. I didn't have any other grand idea. And up until that point, nothing else had gotten me that excited from a product perspective, then the area of books. And so that is what, even in the moment.Where I thought, you know, I'd hit a dead end or there was one customer research round where I was, it was, I was essentially trying to test for product market fit and the results were basically like, your product is a nice to have. And I remember it being so deflating and being like, oh, do I just stop here now?This isn't it. This is never going to be more than a nice to have. And you can't build a business on a have. Yeah. I just think it was, I just couldn't let it go. I think there was, that was kind of a gut instinct thing as well. That just kept on driving me through, I guess. And I think the other thing is even when I had those moments, like when I was when I had the alpha and the beta, there were always some people who are super excited even. Yeah,And so. I would I would see an email from them or, you know, they would respond to, you know, my newsletter that I do. And it would always, there'd always be something that would just say, there's something here. Keep going. Whether it was happened to be something from a customer or just an internal kind of feeling like I'm like, no, you haven't.As long as there was something that I could do as in whether it was a customer reset round to find the answers or you haven't implemented the things that you've learned from the customer reset around. It was, there was always just, I dunno, something that just kept me going and to say, okay, just do this next step before you, you know, pack it in and just do this now. Colleen: So you did three months ish of customer research, and then you did an alpha and then what did you do from there?Nadia: So it got to the point where I realized I had, like, I think I onboarded two rounds of people onto the alpha and again, talking, I would let people use it. And then I would kind of do, I can't remember whether I did video customer research or email. Well survey, but long story short is the, it got to the point where the feedback was pointing in one direction.And that was, this recommendation looks awesome and looks perfect for me, but I'm not going to read it until I finished the book I'm currently meeting and the other five books. On my shelf. So it got to the point where, okay, this product is, is never going to be, it's not very useful. Cause the, the real pain point is not necessarily finding new books.It's choosing your next book. That, that's what he is. Like people say, I've got all these books at home and this one now just goes into the list. So that's what I kind of pivoted the product to. Okay.Definitely. Sometimes people need new books, but a lot of the time they just. Pointing in the Right.direction for books already on their radar, or they know the kind of things they want to read about, but there's like 50 of them.So how do we help them choose the best one for them? And so that's when I shut down the alpha, because it was a lot of work. Cause I was personally recommending books to people doing research and recommending Colleen: wait, what? Wait, can Nadia: Yeah. That was the alpha. Colleen: You were, you were personally like, oh, they like these books. They'd probably like this one. Nadia: I had a survey. Yeah, I did a survey, so they had like a profile and then, and then they filled out a form on the, on the, on the, on this website. And then I think they ha I had a deadline. You'll get it within this much time. And then they got an email saying your recommendations ready? And it was, it wasn't very manual, Colleen: That is impressive.Nadia: yeah.So it got to the point where I said, I've learned enough from this alpha, so I'm going to shut it down and I'm going to. Three months building a Bita. Cause I'd done enough research by this point that I could put together a backlog. And actually that's when I started my newsletter because I said to myself, it's just me.At home, I'm now going to get heads down and build this Bita. And I'm worried about losing momentum from like all the people who've spoken to me in my research rounds and been excited. I'm worried I wanted some form of accountability or some form of like, Okay.if people are expecting a newsletter, an email from me every week, I've got to have something interesting to say every week.And so I, I started the newsletter. I think it must have been June of 2019. When I started building the Bita and I think, I think the first issue is called, like building a Bita. And so, yeah, and so then I just spent two or three months building the spitter, which was a more fully fledged product where you could track books, you wanted to read and you could filter by mood and pace and all the dimensions that I learnt from my months of research, the people were really looking for when they were trying to find books. Colleen: So almost six months from of customer research and playing with ideas and testing product before you launched the beta. Okay. And then is that what your product is now? That's that was about two years ago now. Nadia: That code base is the one that's currently now live. Colleen: Okay. And what did you find when you launched that? How did that go?Nadia: So originally I launched it private, or I call it concierge, beta. I was manually onboarding Colleen: I like Nadia: Yeah. I was like, who wants to be part of my concierge? It's Bita. And I made, I made it sound fancy. And then, because I was, I was manually onboarding people. So I was manually adding in every single book in the, in the database.I. Colleen: Okay.Nadia: I had to I remember people had to fill out a form and one of the, one of the fields was, so how many books do you have in your good reads library? And I sent you, you appointed people who had like 300 books or something. And so, Colleen: You don't make you don't pass the test.Nadia: yeah. And so I Yeah. I just onboarded people and then there was an ASP.Of the product where, because every time I onboarded a new person, a bunch of new books got added to the product. And then I had these filter menus where you could filter by a genre or the mood or pace. And so I realized, wait, I don't peep, anyone could find this useful for book discovery. And so then I made the beat of public in September and.Yeah, initial feedback was kind of like, Okay.this is interesting. And that's when I realized that I needed to be very much more intentional about intentional, about who my customer was at that time, because I kind of said everyone come. And so I realized that when people were saying, Hmm, it doesn't really work for me.I realized, wait, they're not my customer for the beater. So even though, you know how they say, like, you know, when you start a product. You wouldn't have a clear definition of who your customer is, and it's better to go more niche because you can expand out later. And so I realized, even though in my mind, I was like, this could be for everybody.This will be for everybody. I was like, no, at this stage of the product, you can't pretend to cater to everybody. You have to filter like out. And so I remember starting with like avid mood readers. It was like, you read. And you're always reading multiple books and you, you stop and start books because you're, you're, you're maybe not in the mood for it now.And that was super helpful on in boarding people who've really felt like the product resonated with them. Cause they, they felt, you know, there was a lot of finally a product for us mood readers like that. That was the original. And then as the, you know, the product developed, it's kind of now expanded to be.But I also had a hypothesis as well, which was kind of underlying everything, which was. You know, sometimes they say like, what do you believe that not necessarily everyone believes, and this is not like some wacky idea, but I got, I came to the viewpoint. That really everyone's a mood reader. But even though, you know, I would have some people say I'm not a motivator at all.Like, I, I just, you know, I stick to this list and I read it and that's it. But my like hypothesis was, I think everyone is on the scale of mood reading. Cause there are some times when you don't like a book and maybe if you'd picked it up at another time it might have worked for you or like in a different context.There are some books that will never work for you. They're just not for you. But I do think that everyone has an element of mood reading in them. And so when I really, when I realized that that was it, I became a lot more comfortable with specifying this niche early on, because I knew that, you know, eventually the product would hopefully develop into something that had wider than. Colleen: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, I, I feel that way sometimes, right? Like, I wouldn't say I'm a mood reader, but there's, I have multiple books and sometimes I'm like, oh, I don't feel like reading this one tonight. So that was 2019 and cents, right? September, 2019. So since then you have hired a co-founderNadia: Yeah, I wouldn't. Yeah. W yeah. So Colleen: as hired, not the right word. Nadia: I was going to say, no, no, no, it's not Brought on Yay. I will say, because I say it's funny because I, I never even, we have someone who also works for us. Part-time and actually she, Abby came first before Rob did. But, but even though, yes, technically it's like, I'm in charge.I never see it that way. You know what I mean? It's very much like, even with Abby, I'm like, oh, we're all colleagues working together. But, but yeah, so first actually came Abby, so it got to the point where one day it was while I was still doing the Bita. I don't know how this got someone did a tweet about the story graph, the Bita.I remember seeing my Twitter notifications blowing up at essentially Scott Hanselman, who has like a quarter of a million Twitter followers or more retweeted this tweet. And I remember being like, no, not now need this. I need this exposure later. So I had a flood of users and a flood of requests to like add new books and, and add books that fit this category and that category.And so I just said to myself, wow, I can either build the product. I can spend days doing these manual. Requests for people. And so that's when I was like, I need help. And so actually two years ago, tomorrow, exactly because I, I reached out to Abby on the 22nd of September, 2019. And he started on the 23rd of September, I believe.And I remember this because my birthday's on the 24th. So I remember on boarding her and saying, just so you know, I'm not doing any work tomorrow. Cause that's my bad. So he's had two year anniversary tomorrow. So two years ago I said, I need help. I reached out to her, I'd met her. She was a well-known books to grammar and she was just going freelance.It worked out so well and she reads a lot. So, you know, she had a wide breadth of knowledge in this. And I just reached out to her and I said, I need help. Is this something you're interested in? So she came on board and she started helping do a lot of admin and just tidying up of book data and just helping me do just manual requests for people to import them.And then later that year it was, it was the one's husband who actually saw something on Twitter. We got. I spoke about how I was doing spending hours manually entering books and adding in the moves and the pace, all that kind of stuff. And he said, oh, I've been learning machine learning. I know promises, but maybe I can.Help automate this for you. And within two weeks he had some amazing first version and essentially since then, he's just, Yeah.he's just been working on it. And I think four months after he first reached out, he'd quit his job and doing full time. And I remember being like, whoa, like I have no money for you like to see, you know?And so, yeah, no, he just goes through equity and we've been working ever since. Yeah, he will be two years in February, two years full time. So yeah,Colleen: So when you hired Abby, she was freelancer. So were you paying her out of pocket because you weren't charging yet at that point,Nadia: so actively I, it was mostly I'll put on. It was mostly out of pocket. Cause I was mainly putting money into the company, but I did run a paid B2 program because when I sh yes, when I shut down the alpha product, I still bought in those personal recommendations to the Bita. But I was like, you know, I can't just be doing this.I didn't want to just offer this to everyone. It D like it wouldn't scale. And it was a lot of time. And so I said, Pitched this paid beta program where you could pay five bucks a month and you would get a personal recommendation a month. And also you will. I think, I can't remember if you, I think you access to some extra features, but there's also a monthly call with me.Well, there are two monthly calls with me, a group call and also a one-on-one call. And this was just basically having invested beta testers who were always testing out the product. The group who was great, cause people were bouncing ideas off one another and then the one-on-one call. There's nothing like a one-on-one call just to get the real, honest feedback and really understand how people use the product.Some of that money basically went into paying API, but ultimately, was still, I still needed to, it was it that wasn't enough that could maybe cover a few months and then it was Yeah.Money that I'd put into the company. And then when Bob joined, he started putting in money into the company. Colleen: So it's been two years. How many users do you have now?Nadia: So we have, well, we're close to half a million registered users, registered users active is about in the, in the two quarter of a million to 300,000 mark at the minute. But I'm looking at it cause you know, my birthday is three days and I'm like, Ooh, we're 4k off of half a million registered users. So maybe it will be a birthday present.So yeah, we So That's how many registered users we have. So we have hundreds of thousands of users like active users. And we have we have, you know, thousands of thousands of users who hit the site or the app every day, every day we have like about over 20 million pages a month at this point.So. Yeah, it's going well. And we're trying to, you know, we're doing our plus plan, so we're, we're on the path to profitability as well. So we've got over two, we've got 2,140 ish paying customers and we have a monthly pan and annual plan and essentially people get extra features. And so we're about basically at the break even point now.And if the trajectory continues, we'll be able to be profitable. So we're hoping that that continues. And also that our costs, we can, we re we're paying close attention to our costs right now and how, because we've not operated at this scale before. And so we're trying to figure out, make sure things are optimized.Cause we don't want to Walden, which it keeps growing the costs grow a lot bigger than our subscription fees come in. Cause that wouldn't be sustainable. So that's our main focus. My main focus is the profitablity. Colleen: And you guys decided to charge the users, Nadia: So it's funny. Yes. I was going to say, it's funny, you make that point because when I originally I was going down this route of a book site cause I've always, you know, entrepreneurship is always like, you want to get to profitability or earning money as soon as possible. And so my original thing was okay, I'm going to be taught.Doing publishers or authors something along those lines. And I remember I actually got, I was thinking like, you know, publishers, they want to advertise, or they want to, you know, the, the, the main way was like advertisers put their, have their books. Be highlighted amongst others. And I remember that one of the things I learned from customer research was that people didn't trust certain recommendations from certain places because they said it's always the biggest publishes.It's always the same books. It's always the publishers with money. And so I said, well, I never want to have the recommendations be tainted by who like the publishers that have the most money. And so people don't trust them. I want them to. The best book for you. And so I kind of went off that track and then there was also a whole world around like data and like anonymized data, but trends and things like that.But I was like, you know, people, that's a very, I don't know if I want to go down the route of like data, like reports in terms of like, you know, what people searching for looking for. Cause I know that's something publishers would be interested in too, but I know that, you know, like people like. I wanted to make sure that we run, I ran a high trust, like product and company.And I also got some advice from a mentor that basically said the best company can get. Can get, gives so much value to the users directly that the users want to pay. And so I always said to myself, okay, let's test this. Can we build something? Even though it's very, it seems very unlikely. People don't believe it's possible because it's a book's website.Good reads is completely free for users. I was like, can we like, let's just test it. So we, in October of 2020. The years are all messed up because of, you know, the pandemic. So I'm just in my mind, I'm like last year, the year before last, Colleen: who knows.Nadia: so Octavia. Totally. It must've been, we just put up a page cause we were out costs were going up cause we were probing and we were like, okay, we need to start thinking about how, you know, what I feel like financially, we're fine.So I, you know, I had the few years still and, and what was fine. And so it was more that we're like, if we're going to make this as longterm sustainable business, we need to start thinking about profitability from that. Colleen: Yeah,Nadia: And so we just put up a page, a pre-order we said story golf plus coming next year, I said early 20, 21 purposefully gave myself some room.And we just said, these are the features we're getting, just sketch them out. Didn't exist. $30. Pre-order it's going to be $50 and we had 1400 people pay. Colleen: Wow.Nadia: and so we were like, right, okay. Let's build this past thing.Colleen: Yeah.Nadia: Yeah. And so we it got to the point where, because we will, we officially launched January of this yearColleen: Okay.Nadia: It got off the launch.I was like, right, okay. Now we need to launch the plus plan because we have all this money that people have paid us and they want that. Extra fetus. And so we spent, yes, I remember we eventually got it out just the end of February, beginning of March, if you were in the states, it was, it was February where I was, it was the 1st of March, early hours of the morning and yeah, the plus plan launched.And so, Yeah. we've been, we had a kind of it wasn't uptake. Super great originally. And then we've just been again, I've been just doing customer research. So I've, I've been speaking to the people who use the product every day, finding what is it that makes them keep coming back? Because the product wasn't designed to be used every day, but I would see people tweeting and saying things like, I love story golf.I use it every day. It's like, I need to talk to these people using the product every day. Even I don't use it every day. What are you doing? And so I learned, Okay.These are the most avid readers. So that updating something every day, and then they're looking at their stats, they all love stats. So then it was like, do I, we enhance the stats piece and what do we give the most?Active users also tended to be paying members. So how can we enhance the stats for them? And it was like, I was going down that route. So I've been involving the pro plus product. And also, yeah, just like just trying to continually improve the product, making it more visible. So some people, you know, we had so many people originally say, I didn't even know that was plus.So now I then spent time adding little badges around the site. There's a plus feature here, or, you know, unlock this plus feature. If you, if you if you, if you're interested in like more advanced stats or if you want a special type of similar books, that's more focused on your preferences. You know, little tips around the product in a way that's, hopefully we're trying to get the balance between.What people love about our product is there are no ads or anything it's very clean and quiet. And so I didn't want to have suddenly big banners everywhere saying plus plus plus, but enough that people noticed it and you existed. And so things like getting an email when your free trial expires, like little things I've been doing and we've seen we've just seen like the uptake growing grow.And yeah, we recently, we recently released a very powerful feature, which. It's up next to suggestions and essentially we recommend. From your two weed pile. And we give you a reason why, so we basically help you pick up. We basically give you specific suggestions from books. You've already said you want to meet and help you choose what you read next.So we'll say maybe this one, because you a similar user to you enjoyed this one, or if you want something similar to the last book. Maybe this one, or if you're doing a reading goal and you're behind his like a short one to pick up. So this has been a very, this is added a lot of value to our paying members because it's just helped them actually work through rather than just adding a bunch of books that they want to read, help them actually read them.And that, that's just an amazing when we get that feedback, when people are saying, wow, you're actually helping me read books that I've wanted to read for ages or cleared books on my bookshelf. It's such an amazing feeling to know we're actually helping enhance reader's lives in This Colleen: This whole story is utterly amazing to me. It's like, you guys were never in a box. Like the rest of us are trying to get out of our box and you're like, I was never in a box. I'm going to do exactly what I want. You know, I think because like, I live very heavily in that indie SAS world. So I listened to a lot of indie hackers.And if you listen to indie hackers, 9.5 out of 10 people, Cortland has on our developers making tools for other developers. Right. Like, we were all really tightly coupled and what you have done, like you did everything. I don't want to say wrong. That's not the right word, but like you did everything we've always been told not to do.Right. You're like, don't care about your rules. I'm just going to do it because I love it. And I'm passionate about it. And I don't know. It's just so exciting for me to see you take this like really hard problem that no one thought they could solve and trying to. And now you guys are having so much success.Like that's so awesome.Nadia: Oh, thank you so much. I mean, I think I see what you're saying in terms of, it's not the it's like what you said, cause they say, you know, build for. What you know, and so that whole pattern of developers building for developers and, or even what you said, the bef what we spoke about before the whole business to business thing, as being a smart way, it's easy to kind of figure out what your price, much easier to figure out pricing and to also, you know, like, know who you're going to speak to and selling to companies, that kind of stuff is a lot, there's a lot more.Over a playbook, I would say like every, every place is still different, but there's a lot more of a, a playbook and it's a lot easier to, I think, get to that profit profitability piece sooner. But I would say the one thing that I just think is just, if, if, if you do like you just have to do it. It's the customer research like that is the thing that.Like you said, this is just such a big, huge space and it's a really hard problem. And you know, we've done a good job of solving it so far. We've we've got, we could take what we've currently got and make it miles better. Like even though people love it already and think it's great. We have got like a bigger vision with it and lots more we want to do, but just because we just stay to stick with that customer reset.Really, you know, having a good process around it and being not shying away from it as well, and also not cutting corners with it. So there'll be times when I would do a recession. I'm like, no, you have to find the time to watch them back and do the synthesis, Nadia. Don't just, you know, like anecdotally be like, oh Yeah, people generally think this like actually do the research, you know?And you know, I'll always find. Some new pattern or something, even if it was just confirming something, I had kind of guessed, but just, you know, seeing it and having the confidence to say, okay, this is what's going on right now. I just think that has been the, a big part of us doing well so far, I would say so far because you know, you never know with stuff like this.Right. You know, hoping those plus numbers still keep going up, hoping people still keep loving the product. You know, it's, it's a. Even though. yeah,We're two years in and we're doing, going well, I'm almost at half a million. I still, you still have the thing of like, you know, this could all fall apart or like just stop working.You can start plateauing or, yeah.So when we were trying to keep that in mind to just keep the stay focused. Colleen: What is your long-term vision for your life and story graph?Nadia: Okay.I would love. So we're not. So we want to stay in D our dream is to stay an independent company that's possible. So Robin, I can have our salaries and we can invest back in the product, whether that's hiring a handful of people or hiring people who work with us on a short-term basis to, to help where we need like methods, design stuff, perhaps, or, you know product overview or accessibility.That's something that I've been, you know, It's trying to always improve on all different facets of the product. But essentially, Yeah.I just want to build a product that is it's known as a really excellent tool for tracking your reading and choosing our next book. It's basically known as I would love the product to be essentially seen as like your best friend that like, no.All about your reading, but also knows about all the books in the world. So you just trust them. And it's just the, it's just a joy to use. And if that brings joy to readers, avid readers, it enhances their lives. And also inspires people who don't read or maybe used to read, to pick up a book and get into a meeting.And then we're bringing so much value that we can stay profitable and independent and running from several, several years to come. That would be absolutely incorrect. Colleen: Wow. Wonderful. Well, Nadia, thank you so much for coming on software social today and sharing with us your adventures in building story graph,Nadia: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so honored to have been invited. Colleen: that's going to wrap up today's episode. Please check us out on Twitter and we'd love to hear your feedback. Thanks.
  • Software Social podcast

    Software Social University?


    Michele Hansen  0:01  This episode of Software Social is brought to you by Reform.As a business owner, you need forms all the time for lead capture, user feedback, SaaS onboarding, job applications, early access signups, and many other types of forms.Here's how Reform is different:- Your brand shines through, not Reform's- It's accessible out-of-the-box... And there are no silly design gimmicks, like frustrating customers by only showing one question at a timeJoin indie businesses like Fathom Analytics and SavvyCal and try out Reform.Software Social listeners get 1 month for free by going to and using the promo code "social" on checkout.Colleen Schnettler  0:51  So Michelle, how are things going with your book tour?Michele Hansen  0:54  So the book tour itself is going well, I did indie hackers build your SAS searching for SAS one end product? I just recorded another one. yesterday. No, no, no, today? No, that was I feel like I'm doing a lot with it. Because that's what says because I had I love it. Let's see yesterday, no Tuesday, I did a session with founder summit. And then I also had a call with someone about being on their podcast yesterday. That'll be in November, and then I've scheduled another one for October. And then I did another group session today. And then yeah, actually, it was when I got off of that and Mateus was like, you know what you just did? And I was like, What? Like, he was like, you just did consulting? And I was like, No, I did. Like cuz it was Yeah. No, I did. I was like, it wasn't personalized. It was just like a workshop and people asked like questions, like, I just, I just talked about the book. And I was like, No, it wasn't he was like, yeah, it wasn't like that. No, it wasn't. Um, yeah, I think I actually kind of need to like, Cool it a bit on the promotion stuff. Like dude, like, this week, I spent like two days this week, creating a Google Sheets plugin for geocoder Oh, it was so nice to like, be playing around with spreadsheet functions again, like, after doing all this like writing and then talking about this stuff I wrote like, it was very comfortable. It was much more comfortable than talking about.Colleen Schnettler  2:42  Like, I don't know, it was your happy was when you went Excel.Michele Hansen  2:46  It really is. Um, but actually, so I have another spreadsheet that doesn't have any fun functions in it is the number of books I have sold, adding up, you know. Okay. For 490 400Colleen Schnettler  3:03  my gosh, that's amazing.Michele Hansen  3:07  I know, it's so close to 500. And it's been so close to 100 500 for like days. And like, the other day, I was like, maybe I'm, like, tapped out the market for this at 490. Like, that's really good. Like the average book sells like 300. So like, that's really good. Um, and, yeah, so so I'm going to do like, I'm going to be on some other podcasts and whatnot. And like, I remember seeing once. Rob Fitzpatrick once, I think actually, it's in his new book. He has a graph of the revenue of the mom test and like, the growth of that book is I mean, a case in compounding.Colleen Schnettler  3:52  Okay, so, right. SoMichele Hansen  3:54  you know, it's not all like in the beginning, and like, there's really positive signs, like people are recommending to other people, people are writing reviews, like, so. So yeah, I feel good. But man, I really want to get to 500. I don't know, I haven't been thinking about the numbers very much. I mean, it's only six but like, I really, I really want to get to 500. I don't know why, like it's like getting to like, you know, 1000 or what it like that's that's not even like remotely like a possibility to me, like I don't even really think about it. But now it's like so close. And like that would be so awesome.Colleen Schnettler  4:25  I wager a guess that by the time this podcast airs on Tuesday, you will be at 500.Michele Hansen  4:31  That's only six more books. Maybe Maybe. And by the way, if people want a free copy of this of the book, so if you are listening, when it comes out on on Tuesday or Wednesday, is running a little giveaway on their Twitter account. I think Justin saw my like, I think 490 is all I'm ever gonna sell. Okay. And I was like, no. So they're giving away five copies of the book. You just have to go retweet the tweets about the book. So yeah, nice. Yeah. If you just go to the deploy wonderful,Colleen Schnettler  5:05  that'll help expand your reach.Michele Hansen  5:07  Yeah, it was interesting hearing that I was like helping you interview people on podcast. I'm like, Yeah, I guess you could. I mean, it doesn't have to just be for. for customers.Colleen Schnettler  5:19  Anyway, oh, yeah, your book applies to so much. So that's where the,Michele Hansen  5:23  that's that's where the book is. But I gotta say, I think I think I need to give myself a little break on promotion. Otherwise, I'm gonna, I'm gonna burn out on thatColleen Schnettler  5:33  for right now. Yeah, I was thinking about that when you were talking about like, how you're hitting it so hard. I was like, wait, Isn't this what happened with writing the book? And then afterwards, you're like,Michele Hansen  5:43  Yes, I have a pattern. Yes. way overboard. And then I exhaust myself.Colleen Schnettler  5:53  So maybe we should approach it like a marathon instead of a sprint? Yeah,Michele Hansen  5:57  I think so. I haven't scheduled anything for next week. So I don't have anything scheduled until the first week of October. So okay. Yeah, kind of just, yeah. So so you know, hopefully by the, you know, yeah. Bye. By the time I'm on again, because I'm off next week. I vacation. Yeah. Oh my god, dude, I'm going to American, I'm so excited. So happy for you. Okay, um, I can't wait to just go to Target and Trader Joe's anyway.Colleen Schnettler  6:34  So if you're not have target, and then we do notMichele Hansen  6:36  have target, we have a story that's inspired by target or like more like, inspired by Walmart. But like, it's just like, there's just nothing like getting a Starbucks and walking around target. You know, it's just true story. Anyway, um, what's going on with you?Colleen Schnettler  6:52  So I did quite a bit of work on simple file uploads. Since we last talked, I actually spent a good chunk of time doing some technical work, some cleanup work that needed to be done. But I have gotten the demo on my homepage. Oh, it's really exciting. Yeah,Michele Hansen  7:10  the like, code pen demo thing that we've been talking about for a while, right? Correct.Colleen Schnettler  7:15  Okay, instead of putting a code pen up, I actually just put a drop zone. So you can literally, if you go into my site, it just says drop a file to try it. And you can drop a file. Wait, so that is something I know. Right? So that's something I've been talking about doing for a long time, which I finally got done. So that's exciting. Yeah. And there was some other stuff with like the log on flow, that wasn't really quite correct. It wasn't wrong, it just wasn't really right. So I just spent a lot of time kind of getting that cleaned up. Oh, and the API for deleting events. So that was a real hustle for me, because I have someone who reached out to me, and they were like, Hey, we totally want to use your thing. But we have to be able to delete files, you know, from our software, not from the dashboard. And so that external forcing function of this potential customer just made me do it. And so I have that done. So I Oh, I feel now that I have like a completely functioning piece of software. Did they buy it? So that's exciting? Not yet. They claim that they're going to start their project like next month? I don't know if they will or won't, but we'd have developed kind of like, relatively frequent ish email communication and stuff. So I think it'll be good. Either way, it forced me to kind of do it. So I'm happy to have that because that is something I really wanted to do. Because I wanted to make sure I had that before I allow multiple uploads. So the question now Oh, and we had a huge I mean, a huge spike. We don't the site doesn't get tons and tons of visitors. But we had a huge spike in visitors because we're actually publishing content. Oh, yeah. So like things are I'm doing things. So that's exciting to get the documentation stuffMichele Hansen  9:03  done that we talked about.Colleen Schnettler  9:05  So I decided that it wasn't worth my time to completely rip out the documentation and redo it. So but I did go in there and try to take what I had, which as your to your point, I think last week or two weeks ago, is you said, you know, it's fine. It kind of looks like a readme like it's not beautiful, but it's functional. So I tried to make it more functional by adding more documentation. And then I hired a developer to write a blog post, I shouldn't say almost more like a tutorial, how to use this in react. So his article is up. So I've been putting a lot of content on the site the past week.Michele Hansen  9:41  You are on fire.Colleen Schnettler  9:44  I know girl, I'm feeling good. I mean, part of it is like hiring my own sister has been so good for me because she can call me on my bullshit, because she works for me, but she's also like my best friend. So she's like, just stop whining and just do it. I'm like, okay, I joke like she's part marketing expert part like life coach, like,Michele Hansen  10:06  it sounds like you've got the fire under you now.Colleen Schnettler  10:11  I do. I mean, I have not seen. Okay, so it's only been a week right. So we've seen an increase in the ticket people coming to the site. I have not seen any kind of great increase in signups signups are still. Well, actually, I have not seen a great increase in signups. But what I have seen is my file uploader hit 10,000 files uploaded this week, like people are using, right. Right. So what has happened is remember the beginning I was really concerned because all these people were signing up and then like 30% of the people were using it. So all those non users have turned. So the people who are paying me now are actually using it actively. So that's good. Yeah, that's really good. Yeah. So I'm not seeing an increase my MRR still bouncing around 1000. Again, nothing to sneeze at. Like, it's a good number. But I haven't seen any kind of great jumps. But I think part of that is because the people who aren't using it have left and then the people who are using it, you know, the people who have signed up or actually committed to using it.Michele Hansen  11:14  Right. But new people have not come in that have replaced the people have checked who have turnedColleen Schnettler  11:20  right, not really like a couple. But you know, at one point, I had three people paying me 250 bucks a month. Like That was pretty awesome that now I only have one personMichele Hansen  11:28  is that is that the the whale that we talked about that like wasn't using it and wasn't Replying to Your Yeah.Colleen Schnettler  11:33  So I've had three of those people come in and come out. One is still there. Again, not using it not responding to emails. But I'm not trying to hassle them. So Alright, if that's what you wanted? Yeah. So I'm trying to figure out so I'm fit. I mean, the energy there is really good. And I feel like I've made a lot of I've done a lot of things. I haven't seen yet. The the response from that from a revenue standpoint, but I feel like if I just keep pushing in this direction, I'll get there. So I'm trying to decide what to do next. So why for so long, I had this list of things. And every time we talked, I felt like getting advice from you on what to do next wasn't really useful, because I hadn't even done the other things I was supposed to do. But now I have done the other things. So I'm trying to decide if you should focus on other ways to use it. So now that I have an API for deletion, I can open up multiple file uploads, which is kind of cool. I already do it for a client, like on the on the download secretly because I control their site, but I could. So I could write more content, showing people how to actually use it and like, and kind of go in that direction. Or I could make the UI more flashy and add a, like an image modifier editing tool, which would be kind of cool. Or I could, I don't know, that's what I got right now.Michele Hansen  12:58  What are you? What are your customers Asia doColleen Schnettler  13:01  my customer search. So we are trying to do another round of customer interviews. So I did, we offered a $25 amazon gift card. And we're going around to everyone who's actively using it to see if anyone wants to talk to us. So we are doing that we are trying to do and that was another thing. Like I'm kind of proud of myself, just because when we moved here, our schedule is so variable, I couldn't really get like solid work hours like this is when I can work. But we did send out those emails requesting customer interviews. So that is on the docket.Michele Hansen  13:34  Because like I could sit here and be like, Oh, yeah, like that sounds good. But like, Don't listen to me. Like I don't I don't know, like, you know, I have a question for you. That's kind of kind of a different topic, but I feel like you are so you're so enthusiastic right now. And I have to wonder whether working on stuff for your like, quote, unquote, day job, which was you know, the consulting before and then was the other company and now and now is Hammerstone like, like, I kind of have to wonder if like working on stuff during like work is likeColleen Schnettler  14:15  ifMichele Hansen  14:16  if that is working on something you're excited about during the day is energizing you for your side project because I just feel like the energy that I am hearing from you is like so much more than it has been before. Like you're just like,Colleen Schnettler  14:35  I fired up. I totally am Michelle, I someone had you know, all those there's always tweets like oh, all the things, the best decisions I've ever made in my life or you know, all that stuff. I saw one the other day and it was the two most important decisions you're going to make in your life are who you marry and what you do for a living. And I can tell I mean I'm literally for the first time in ever I'm in my late 30s first time in ever doing exactly what I have always wanted to do. And it's amazing. I mean, and the coolest thing is like the Hammerstone stuff. So I'm working on that I'm working with people I think are awesome. I go to sleep, and I wake up and my business partner has like, done this amazing stuff because he's just like cranking out code like a rock star. And I'm like, oh, Aaron's like, oh, while you were sleeping. I made this totally amazing thing. I'm like, glad I partnered with you, buddy. Because you know, what's up?Michele Hansen  15:32  Every day, Aaron has like some new like, thing. And yeah, who is he? When do you sleep? Like what he was? Was twins. Yeah, like newborn twins. Like not just twins, but like not like, born like, I mean, I guess babies do some kind of sleep a lot at weird times. Oh, gee, I don't know. And he has been jaw. There's also like, there's kind of the like, we want we launched you akoto when Sophie was four months old. And I feel like there was like this, we got this, like motivation from it. Because it was like, you know, she would go to bed at like seven or 730. And then, you know, we knew she was gonna wake up at like, midnight or two or whatever. But it was like, Oh, my God, we finally have two hours to ourselves. Let's use it as productively as possible. Like this thing I've been thinking about this whole time while I was changing diapers, I can do it now. Like, and it was weirdly motivating, and also incredibly exhausting, and a blur, but I don't know. Yeah, yeah. Aaron, like, dude, you're a machine?Colleen Schnettler  16:34  Yeah, it's so impressive. I think part of that too, might be you know, with that thing, if you only have three hours to do something like, you get that thing done in three hours. versus if you give yourself 30 days to do it. It'll take you 30 days. Yeah. But I think for me, I mean, my journey, you know, has been from a job, I didn't really like to all kinds of bouncing around doing different things, to learning how to code years ago, always the goal when I was learning how to code was to get to where I am right now. And I'm finally here. And it is super awesomely exciting. Like, I'm literally working with someone I have wanted to not, I mean, also Aaron, but like, not just him, working with someone I've always wanted to work with on something that's exciting. And it's like our business, I can't imagine a better knock on wood. I can't imagine a better work scenario for me. And I think that energy that comes from that scenario, absolutely bleeds into simple file upload, like, honestly, you know, a couple weeks ago, I was like, I should just sell it and be done with it. Like I was just kind of over it. And then hiring my sister really helped because she's really excited. And like, just having a higher level of energy in general, for this thing. It's been really fun. You know,Michele Hansen  17:50  I feel like I've heard you talk a little bit about how when you were first starting out, and then working as an engineer, like electrical engineer, rather. And you were like talking to people at work about how like, you know, they had all these like hopes and dreams when they got out of college. And then like, those things never happened. And then they were it was 30 years later, and they were just miserable. And you were like, Oh my god, I'm not like, I can't do that. And I like I wonder what was the moment when you realized that? Like, your solution to that was like learning how to code like, what made that happen? And but like, inspired you to not only realize that it was possible, but like, but then you acted on it, like?Colleen Schnettler  18:45  Well, I think part of it for me is I worked for a big, firm, a big company. And via I mean, that wasn't just like one of the middle managers that was like, all of the middle managers, right? Clearly these guys, they had started at 23 or 22, because they wanted to pay off college loans. They started working, it was a very comfortable job, right? They paid us well, we don't want to say we didn't work that hard, but we really didn't work hard. It was a lot of very bureaucratic, right, like lots of meetings, lots of organizing. And you know, before they know it, before they knew it, these guys were comfortable. And then they got married and they had kids and you know, most of them, their spouse stayed home. So then they felt that they were in this position where they were totally stuck. And they I mean, 30 years, I'm not exaggerating, like these guys had been there for 30 years. And they kind of it was just like this pervasive energy of like, real like, you know, the whole energy was just kind of like, everyone was just kind of bummed about their situation like no, it was sad, but they were definitely, like, felt the weight of this really boring job they'd done for 30 years. And so for me, it was really hard because like, again, it's so comfortable like they loved me. They paid me well. didn't have to, you know, wasn't all that stressful. But like my first of all, it wasn't hard at all, like your brain when you don't get to think or you don't get to be like, in you intellectually stimulated. It's just like murrah, blah, blah, blah. And I didn't know if I could, I mean, what I'm doing now has always been the dream. I couldn't see that eight years ago. Like, if you had told me I'd be doing what I did eight, I'd be here. Eight years ago, I would have been like, there's no way like, it felt like a freakin mountain to climb. I mean, like, it would never, I would never ever get there. And, I mean, I think a lot of it was just like, you know, obviously, all the work I put in seeing it as a vision I could reach and the community I was part of, and, you know, the communities I built along the way, but I couldn't see it. I mean, that's why, you know, I kind of make that parallel sometimes with what I'm doing now. Because like, back then I couldn't see I could not, couldn't see it. Like, just, I'm still amazed. And I can't see myself, my friend the other day, who has a business said, Oh, I think it's way easier to go from 1k to 5k. And I was like, I can't even see that right now. Like, that feels like a million dollars to me. And he's like, Oh, it's way easier to go from one to 5k than zero to 1k. And I was like, Really? So? I don't know. I mean, yeah, there's a lot there. Yeah, IMichele Hansen  21:23  was thinking about the other day, cuz I was talking to someone who, who has had a hard life, but it turned out that they, you know, I was talking to them about what they do. And you know, they're, and, and they, and they're like, Oh, you know, but I kind of know how to edit videos, and, you know, do some graphic design and stuff. And I was like, dude, like, if you have a little bit of technical competency, and like turnout, they've done like little bit of like Python stuff. I was like, run with that. But I realized, like, I didn't actually know where to, like, send them. Like I told him about, like, indie hackers and you know, other stuff. And I was, but I was like, I was like, I don't actually know, like, where to send you to, like, learn how to like code or like, no code. Like, I think I said, I told him about bubble. And like, I mean, it was worth the reason why like we do this podcast in the first place is to kind of like, demystify this whole thing about like running your own little internet company, which is still a weird job. And, like, show people that it's possible, I guess, um, and that, you know, they don't have to be in a dead end job or selling leggings as you are.Colleen Schnettler  22:38  Yeah, we watched the die.Michele Hansen  22:40  Lula documentary, we started it. I thought of you the whole time. Yeah, I really, I didn't even know where to send them. And it just got me thinking about your story. And it's like, you're in a dead end job. Like, not only like, like, what? I don't know, like, what was that? Like? What inspired you to be like, yeah, I have to do something about it. And here's what I'm gonna do.Colleen Schnettler  23:08  So I think for me, it was a lot of things happened at once. But it was I was at a dead end job where I had some real jerks that I worked with. And it was like, I don't have to put up with this. Like, I'm out. Yeah. And so then it was, it went when I decided to go back to work. They want to be back. I mean, they want to take me back with no, no interviews, like no hard shit, like, just come on back. And man, that was tempting, because the money is so good, was good. But I saw those guys, those guys were always in my mind, like the guys who never took a shot. And I was like, I'm not gonna, I'm not going to be that person who never takes a shot. But to your friends point. This is what is so hard about making this kind of career change. There is no roadmap. I mean, the reason people wanted to sell leggings is because they tell you what to do. Trying to like start a career in tech. There's literally no roadmap. There's no you. It's like, overwhelmingly hard. Not only everyone's like, oh, there's tons of resources on the internet. That doesn't help. There's too many resources on the internet. There needs to be a framework where it's like, here is where you go, this is what you need to do. Here are the steps. Yeah, because no one, everyone's journey is different. And there aren't any steps. And so what happens I see this all the time, because I mentor, some people that are trying to get into software, and they are totally lost, just like I was because there's no roadmap. There's no steps, like what do you do next? Like, sure, no code, what the heck do I make with a no code tool? Like what should I do? What are people going to pay for? How do I find those people? Like, it just feels like so nebulous? And I think that's why although you hear all these great success stories, I think that's why making the transition is so hard. And for me, I took a ridiculous pay cut for four years before I've now exceed my previous income but significant exceed.But, I mean, that was years. I mean, there was probably three to four years where I had taken this, I mean, you know, ridiculous paycut to rebuild, and not everyone makes it on the rebuilding stage, like, there's just so many stages, you can get stuck, and you just can't. It's just not it's just not knowing the path forward, like now that I'm speaking this to you, that would be useful to people like,Michele Hansen  25:37  where do you do? Yeah, like,Colleen Schnettler  25:38  Where do you think I'm thinking?Michele Hansen  25:40  Like, there's Okay, there's like, there's programming courses, you know, there's 30 by 500. Like, there's kind of all you know, there, there's zero to some, you know, our recalls book, but like, I mean, it's almost like, you know, there's so many things that go into it, and it's so nebulous, it's almost like you should be able to, like, go to college for starting an internet business, except you can't, because there's so many things that go into it. And like, so when you were so like you so so so let me understand this correctly. So you worked the dead end job. And then you quit, and you stayed home with your kids for a while. And then you went back to work. And then you did. So you didn't, and you decided you weren't going to go back there. And basically, it sounds like the real, like, the light bulb for you that you weren't going to do that was you know, your own self worth. It sounds like, um, and that you just couldn't do that to yourself. And you felt like you deserved better. But then so when you went back to work, did you get an engineering job? Like it like an electrical engineering job? And then like, did you learn to code at night or something? Like, how did you tackle this?Colleen Schnettler  26:56  Yeah, so I never went back to work. So the first thing I did back what this 10 years ago now, I wrote an iOS app. Because this was back in the day when people were making millions of dollars off of stupid iOS.Michele Hansen  27:07  Yeah, I was coming up in that era. And I think the most we ever made was 400 bucks a month.Colleen Schnettler  27:13  Right? This was maybe 11 1011 years ago. So I wrote an iOS app. And, you know, totally taught from scratch, there was only like one tutorial site at the time, all of this other stuff, treehouse, and all this stuff didn't exist. There was this guy, I think his name is Ray wonderlic. He had this iOS. And this was before Swift. So this is like Objective C days. I wrote an iOS app. I got it in the App Store. I made $65. And I realized I could make money on the internet. And then I was like, oh, okay, there's something here. This iOS stuff, though, is not the path because not only would I have to learn Objective C, that's decent, I then would have to learn all of these other things about like, building and selling an iOS app. And that is way too overwhelming. In the beginning, trying to learn how to code and learn how to run a business, these are not the same skill set, like learning these at the same time, when you come from a baseline of zero, I do not think it's a good idea. I kind of feel like you should pick one or the other. So being technical minded, I picked learning to code. So I literally started listening to every inspirational learning to code podcast I could find. And in one of the podcast, it was one of those real tech bro guys who's like, you could do it kinda like Gary, Gary, what's his name? It wasn't Gary, what's his name, but it was someone like that. Who was like you can do it, you know, you can start internet business. All you got to do is learn Ruby on Rails. So I was like, cool. So I started, what was the resource Back then, I think I got a book on Ruby on Rails and started building some apps. And I'm still, you know, I'm doing this at night, right? Because I still have the kids, I have three little kids at home, or maybe two at the time, I guess I only have two at the time. And then from there, Women Who Code had a bounty bug program, so they would pay you $75 to solve issues. And this was like, tremendous for me, because the $75 that doesn't sound like a lot now. Right? That was huge. Because that could pay for babysitting for like, hour. Yeah. So I mean, it would take me under these things would take me like 15 hours, I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, like, but that was tremendous. For me also finding social groups, like I got involved in some open source. And the social groups are tremendous. And by social, I mean, you know, on Slack, and from there, and from there, I ended up getting a job as a Rails developer. So it felt like clawing my way through a path that did not exist is what it felt like, right? There was no like, as an engineer previously, it was like, go to college get a job. There was no you know, the path was very clear. Where's the path here? It was like I started contributing this open source. I got so overwhelmed. I just stopped And like six months later, one of the guys just reached out to me individually and said, Hey, I see you took this issue on six months ago and you haven't solved it. Do you need help? And I was like, Yes, I need all the help. Like, I am so confused. I didn't know what I'm doing. So that guy who don't know don't keep in touch with no idea where he is in the world, but like, he was tremendous in helping me not to quit. Isn't that amazing hack someone that youMichele Hansen  30:26  don't know, over the internet just like shows up and is like, Hello, can I help you? And then you don't even keep in touch with this person or know them. But they had this like, massive v here without this influence on your life?Colleen Schnettler  30:41  I should, I should hunt him down. Be like, Hey, remember me?Michele Hansen  30:48  It's amazing.Colleen Schnettler  30:49  Yeah, it is. It is amazing. But I also think like, to this point, to your friend's point, and to me, like trying to get help my sister figure out what she wants to do for remote business. There's no path. I mean, it's so hard because you don't know what to do. Like people can work hard, I think motivated people. Absolutely. There's so many people who could change their career trajectories, because people will work hard for what they want. But when you don't know which vector Yeah, you know which direction to apply the work. You just spin around in circles, like I would love for there to be a better way to help people start internet businesses, because from our perspective, having done this for like, you know, eight years now, or whatever, it's like, oh, you just do this thing? And no, if you don't know what to do, just start with something. It's so even, I mean, everything is hard in the beginning, right? Like, how do you send emails?Michele Hansen  31:45  Like I we still don't send emails, so I don't know if I like we technically have tools.Colleen Schnettler  31:53  I think you could think of like now that I'm talking to you about this, like a fully encompassing course, Oh, my gosh, great new idea. Here, were to build out aMichele Hansen  32:02  course or something for like, for your, you know, learn to code instead of selling leggings, like you like that. Like, like that is like I feel like that is your like life's mission is to help.Colleen Schnettler  32:13  I know, right? All about going down. But here's the thing is, this is kind of my life mission. Yeah, but But the thing that I think I thought I'd make a course to teach people how to be a Rails developer. The thing is, it's really hard to learn software, well, like it's not going to happen. And here's my new thought, Oh, my gosh, it's just coming to me, you're not gonna learn software? Well, in six months, especially if you have, you know, if you're working during the day, you're just not this is not, you're not going to become a good rails developer in six months. So originally, I thought, my way was to help people learn to code. But I think what makes more sense, is actually to help people learn using probably no code tools, how to build online businesses, because that more aligns with the demographic of people I'm trying to help. Not how to learn to code, but like, how do you like cuz, you know, the joke is, every military spouse is a photographer, it's like the most prevalent, it's a very prevalent occupation. But teach these help these people learn how to like, build a site and send emails and use a no code tools. So they can you know, accept payments on their website and like basic stuff, so that people who want online businesses can still pursue what their individual passion is, because I'm finding like, I push people to try learn to code, a lot of people don't want to learn to code that's not their jam.Michele Hansen  33:36  You know, it reminds me of the something we say a lot. And then the sort of jobs to be done world is that nobody wants a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole so they can put a nail in it so they can hang a picture on their wall, right? Like learning Ruby on Rails like is not the end goal. The end goal is hanging the picture on the wall, which is building the business.Colleen Schnettler  34:02  Right? And if you want to have a real business, you got to know how to use the internet'sMichele Hansen  34:10  how to use the internet. I think my university like nothing, I think I looked into like, like, oh, like, Can I take like an HTML or like, whatever, like class, and there was literally class that was like, This is the internet, you will learn how to use a browser and I was like, and then then, and then everything else was like C Programming. I was like, This is not looking good. LikeColleen Schnettler  34:34  Yeah, Michelle. Think about this, though. You're absolutely right. Like, I approached it incorrectly thinking oh, I need to teach the world how to code. Well doesn't want to learn how to code world wants to make money doing something they're already passionate about, whether that is selling something they make or whether that is being a photographer or you know, running a home catering business. But that's what we could do. We could To help teach people how I mean, you could have a course. Okay, I have to learn I'm sure you know, no code. That's the whole point is it's not that painful, right? You could have a course that basically walked someone through how to use no code tools to set up a website where you can do things like accept money, and do things like send automated emails. Dude,Michele Hansen  35:23  Do either of us know how to use the new code stuff?Colleen Schnettler  35:27  No. Okay. But yeah,Unknown Speaker  35:29  I mean, we don't have time right now.Michele Hansen  35:31  When we put ourselves through, which is how to use No, you know, what I just realized? Is that like, you came into this conversation, like fired up, and then somehow you were even more fired up right now. And I didn't think that was possible.Colleen Schnettler  35:47  I love this though. I feel like I'm adding shalon Pauline University. We don't have time for it now. But we're so first social University. Oh, my gosh, that's coming.Michele Hansen  36:02  Um, well, before we get more, you know, ideas out there. Maybe we should wrap up also, for apparently a lot of people listen to this podcast while running. And I have been tagged in the fact that we're usually around 30 minutes is like people like great, I can go out and like, I know how long of a run that is. So we're already five minutes over, we usually plan for it. So.Colleen Schnettler  36:26  Alright, guys, it's because of all my great ideas. Well, IMichele Hansen  36:29  so I will see you in two weeks. So yes, yes, I will be drinking started wandering through target next week. So but I know Colleen has exciting plans and then we'll we'll talk to you later.
  • Software Social podcast

    A Tour Through Struggle: Cam Sloan, Founder of Hopscotch Product Tours


    Send Cam some love and support! out Hopscotch: Michele Hansen  0:01  This episode of Software Social is brought to you by Reform.As a business owner, you need forms all the time for lead capture, user feedback, SaaS onboarding, job applications, early access signups, and many other types of forms.Here's how Reform is different:- Your brand shines through, not Reform's- It's accessible out-of-the-box... And there are no silly design gimmicks, like frustrating customers by only showing one question at a timeJoin indie businesses like Fathom Analytics and SavvyCal and try out Reform.Software Social listeners get 1 month for free by going to and using the promo code "social" on checkout.Michele Hansen  0:01  So today, I'm so excited we have a friend joining us, Cam Sloane. Hello, Cam. So we invited you on today because you had tweeted the other day about how you're kind of feeling stuck right now. And we're like, you know what? Maybe we like we can chat about it and help you get unstuck.Cam Sloan  1:17  Yeah, that was, I guess, shout out to Aaron Francis, who kind of like just was like, Hey, bring him on. And, and I was like, Yeah, let's do it. That'd be awesome. And I think that, you know, just speaking that tweet, it really seemed to resonate with a lot of other people, like other founders who are trying to do this. And because I had an outpouring of, you know, comments and support, and DMS, from people I don't know, and people that I do know and invite stuff like this show and stuff to just like, it's amazing, the community that has reached out to kind of say, like, well, all sorts of things I'm sure we'll get into today. So it's been really nice to it's always nice to have that because sometimes you're just going at this and you feel like super alone. So for context, I just feel kind of stuck in like, you know, do I keep going do I switch to something else? Or do I? You know, yeah, like, I've contemplated like just doing contract work. And you know, just make money that way, because it's a bit easier. So all sorts of stuff that is going through my head over the past few months? Because it's just slow, slow going.Colleen Schnettler  2:32  Yeah, Cam to get us started. Could you give us a little background about your product? And how long you've been working on it?Cam Sloan  2:40  Yeah, definitely. That would be helpful for listeners. So yeah, I am working on hopscotch. It's a user onboarding tool, specifically focusing on product tours, and kind of in app messaging and guides to kind of, you know, when a user signs up for your product, sometimes you want to kind of hold their hand a bit to show them what their next step should be, in order to help prevent them from churning by actually showing them to the thing that they want to do. And so yeah, I mean, product tours, to be honest, like, it's not the right fit for every every business. But sometimes, there are really good use cases, like if you have a complex product that has, like you get in like a CRM, or like an analytics tool that has like 10 options on the top menu and 10 on the side, and your users just get dumped, or, you know, Landon, this page with no idea what to do next, then a really good way to show them is to guide them, you know, and kind of say, you know, here's, here's what your next step should be, so that you can see value out of the product. So I've been working on this for, I mean, about a year since the inception of like, actually like the idea, but really kind of steadily since January of this year in 2021. And kind of focusing most of my time on it. Because outside of that I do freelancing contract work for you know, larger companies just doing web development work for them. And that kind of helps me to stay self funded to do my projects like this and, and hopefully grow my own software business.Michele Hansen  4:28  Yeah, so. So I kind of want to propose a structure for this conversation. So I've mentioned a little bit in my book, how the sort of core questions that you're trying to answer when you talk to a customer can also be used when maybe you're helping somebody think through something, which are what are they trying to do overall? Why? What are the steps in that process they're going through what if they already Tried, and where are they stuck? And so I feel like you've kind of you've started to give us a little bit of overview on the what you're trying to do. And why. I'm curious what led you to be interested in building an onboarding tool?Cam Sloan  5:23  Yeah. So the, you know, like, as I don't know, if you did this as well, when you were coming up with, you know, what business to go into you like make a list, you're trying to make a list of ideas, and like, most of them are pretty terrible. And, like, I had maybe 50 ideas. And this was kind of one of them that I didn't really think too much about until I actually I met someone who I, who wanted to hire me to build to work on their software company, and just doing web development for them. And we actually ended up, I didn't work for him, it wasn't the right fit for taking on that contract. But we ended up like really getting along well, kind of both having founder ambitions. And he was almost like, in the position that I'm at right now where he was feeling a bit stuck. And so we ended up saying, Hey, we should like try and work on something together. And, and we were thrown, like, what ideas have you been having, and, and we both checked kind of our lists. And, and this was one of them. So for him, he was actually experiencing, like, the pain point more than I had previously. So really, he was searching around for tools. And like came across intercom product tours and other app cues and realizing like, you know, he's a bootstrap founder cannot justify the price at like, $300 plus a month, and was looking for a tool that was maybe affordable that that could get them up and running. And we kind of ran with that together. In like, just real quick summary. Like he ended up going and building another business. So I kept going on hopscotch. And, yeah, like, as soon as I dove into the problem, like I really enjoyed it, both technically, because like you're you're kind of embedding your yourself into another SAS product by default, like by the definition of what these tools do. And so there's a lot of like, really interesting technical learnings that I've had to had to go through with that, like anytime you're dealing with like widget, embed scripts and other people's code, it's, it's a lot of interesting stuff on the technical side. But then also just realizing like that, there's a lot of interesting stuff in the human and business side of this as well. Like, I started soaking in resources from Samuel Kulik, and like the user less team and, you know, anywhere that I could find people who are talking about onboarding and realizing like how crucial it can be to a business's success. Because, you know, if you can reduce that initial churn in the first month or two, then then it can have a wild impact on the like, lifetime value of customers and how your product retains users. And so it just kept me interested From then on, which is why I didn't like end up going work on something else. After, after he, like my co founder went to do something else.Michele Hansen  8:23  So let's talk a little bit about where you are now. So you launched in April. Is that right?Cam Sloan  8:30  or me? Yeah. So I think so. Time is a blur? Yeah, like I because I've kind of been doing, like, I did a lot of stuff with early access of just onboarding one on one, like people who are signing up for the early access list. And at one point, I kind of let people sign up on their own, which April sounds, it might be even a bit early, it might have been just a couple months ago that I finally made it so that people could self sign up. And so, yeah, I think a lot of the customers I was speaking to back in April, and May and June, like I was kind of doing just they would express interest, find the landing page, and then we would jump on a demo call. And and some of them would, you know, try the product, others would just kind of like ghost off and and so that's kind of where, yeah, like I probably had about 40 conversations, demo calls and stuff. And you know, I'm setting with just a handful of like really just one main customer that is like paying me and has the product installed. And I've like kind of done a white glove service to help them get up and running with it. And then I have a couple like I don't know, like almost just like friends and family supporters or like people who have like paid but not activated. And so I don't like really even count towards the bottom line. They're like There's not a lot that I can gain from, from them, except they're $20 a month.Michele Hansen  10:07  So, what's your revenue out? Right now? If you're comfortable saying that,Cam Sloan  10:11  yeah, I'm at like 150 MRRMichele Hansen  10:14  and what are your expenses to keep it running?Cam Sloan  10:18  A pretty low. Yeah, like, I'm paying like 20 bucks a month for server costs and, and then it's really just a matter of like, I am trying to pay, you know, just paying my rent and stuff out of savings. And like all of that I have, like, the way that I kind of manage my cash flow there is just by doing a certain amount of freelance per year and then saying, I have to make this much. And then that kind of floats me on that side of things. And so yeah, it's it's like really quite inexpensive to keep it operating like this. But I have thought, like, I have quite a bit of cash in the business bank account from doing the contract and freelancing. There's about 100 and 120k. there that is kind of, you know, just setting as runway, but I have also considered like, should I be deploying this more effectively? Like, if I'm ready to work on this business? Like, which, I guess is a big question mark, like, do I keep going or not? But like, do I want to invest more in, I don't know, maybe trying some ads, or trying to hire someone to help with the content and things that I'm not doing. So hopefully, that gives a bit of a picture of the financials and stuff.Colleen Schnettler  11:38  Can we go back to the 40 onboarding calls you did? and talk a little bit more about that? I'm really curious. So you actually got on the phone with 40 people who organically reached out to you?Cam Sloan  11:51  Yeah, I would say, you know, somewhere in that range, because I had about 100 people on my, like, early access list. Well, this was over the course of several months. And so as they were joining, I would kind of do the playbook of like, you know, as soon as they sign up, or maybe a day or two later, sometimes depending how much like I was working on product, or if I was in learning mode at the time, I would, you know, jump onto calls with them, I did come out with like, a really early version of this product and sent it to like a handful of customers, and then you know, got feedback, like, oh, but it doesn't do this. And so I go back to product mode and, and rebuild and say like, here we go. But then, you know, maybe there were other other issues that it wasn't solving, like a huge part of that just felt like, maybe it wasn't a huge pain point. Because I actually went back to a lot of these, like, people and I plan to go back and even speak to, like, send some more follow up emails, because just this week, I sent about five or six of them. So yeah, where I guess I'm, I've been speaking with, you know, quite a few customers that would be requesting these features. And then I would, you know, go off take maybe a week or whatever it took to go and build the smallest version of that come back. And, and sometimes that was not really enough for they would just kind of ghost at that point. And, and just, you know, it. I know, it felt like the right thing to be it felt like the right approach and like learn from the people who are going to be our customers and you know, go build what they asked for. But then, but then didn't really see results from it, I do think still like most of what they requested and was like super reasonable and like did improve the product to where it is. Today, like where I think that people signing up today like have a much more useful product because it can do you know, an example of that would be like segmenting your product tours to only show certain ones to certain demographics of users. Like if you have a new user that is, I don't know, an agency versus a small business owner, they may have more, they might have a better understanding of tooling in general. And so they you would just show a different thing. So you want to do segmenting within the app. And so that was something that I really do feel helped with making the product better, but then yeah, it still didn't like end up driving those conversions in the way that I was hoping for.Michele Hansen  14:29  Yeah. Did any of those people you talked like you said those were onboarding calls so had those people paid for the product?Cam Sloan  14:37  And maybe I just like misspoke. It was more like demo calls I guess of like, you know, just people who had signed up for they would sign up for fill out the Early Access form. Tell me about like their use case. And then I would go and speak with them but you know, to be also just like, I don't know, just Be critical on that point. It's like a lot of these people who are signing up probably, were just following my journey of me building in public on Twitter and like, may not be like the ideal customer profile, either I have found that like, initially I thought hopscotch might be a great use are a great fit for, like, really small companies like originally was targeting like other solo founders, indie hacker types that, like, you know, to get them a tool that they could afford that they could use for doing onboarding, but really, like, you're not feeling the pains yet of having to manually onboard like hundreds of customers at that scale. And so where I'm now more leaning towards is like trying to target more companies that are kind of in the I don't know, maybe like two to three employee to 10 Plus, like 1015 employees, so they still, like feel the pains of like, apt uses too expensive, but they actually have like employees and revenue, and are probably feeling some of the customer, some of the pains of trying to manually onboard so many users. So I think it has, like, these conversations have been helpful to like, guide me slowly to where I need to be. It's, it's just slow moving still. And like, now I don't see as many people filling that pipeline by default, because I'm not really tweeting a lot. And so it's like, Okay, I got to go and like, chase my, you know, hunt my food, for lack of a better term, and like, go and, you know, either do some, you know, founder sales, like going and prospecting and doing cold outreach, or, you know, trying to work the SEO game. And, and this is kind of like, where I fall and get a little bit stuck of like, not knowing the next best steps, because they're, like, so many ways that I could go with this. And none of them show like immediate returns. And so and so I kind of get a little bit deflated, even, like, if you spend a week writing out two or three articles, or, you know, Docs or blog post type things, or like you go and fill out a bunch of Korra answers. And then there's not necessarily going to be immediate returns, these things kind of prove themselves over like 612 months. And and that can just be hard compared to I don't know, I'm sure you both can really have like, you know, going in coding a feature. And then you see that returns, like it works right there. So yeah, it's just, I feel like that's been the tricky part of where I'm at now.Michele Hansen  17:32  Yeah, it can be really hard when you're at the point of making content investments, and you know, that it's gonna take months or years to pay off. But, like, investing in general, like, my head waiting for that payoff, and being patient is so hard.Cam Sloan  17:54  Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think that's what, like, I noticed yesterday with so many founders resonating on the same points, and some of them getting through to the other side was really inspirational like to read about and hear that, like, yeah, they just, you know, keep, there's like an element of keep plugging away. But there's also like, you can keep plugging away doing the wrong thing, forever. And, and I am like, really trying to like, since day one, I've tried to avoid like sinking many years into a startup that's not going to ever see traction. And I've always been like, at a certain point, I just want to have like a cut off trigger, like wearing like a kill switch, where I'm like, if I'm not making this much MRR that or you know, have this much act like engagement in the product, then like, I should maybe switch to something that is a bit easier to get people activated. I'm still not convinced that that's not true. Like, there's been a lot of encouragement to just keep going. But I do think that this is a bit of a slow moving industry, it may be a bit more of a vitamin versus painkiller type of thing in for some people, or at least that's the way they see it. Because when I reach back out to some of those leads, and asked, you know, how did you end up solving this problem? Like, which competitor? Did you end up going with? They like, so far the answers have been nothing like we are still like just thinking about this problem. And we'd be happy to you know, some of them are like, Yeah, let's do another demo call or let's do another, you know, something like let's talk about it again and reopen the conversation. And that's since April, however many months that is like five months or something like going by without actually moving on the problem. And so that could be just the again, the customer like that type of customer or it could just be the way that people buy in the space. It's a bit of You know, kind of, it's one of those things that's like sitting in the background, we should improve user onboarding, but then a lot of people don't because like, but they don't really realize that there's like this whole element of churn and like, and like, the bottom line is so closely tied to user onboarding, and improving that experience, that there's a disconnect there. So.Michele Hansen  20:25  So let's talk for a second about what is working. I'm really curious about this customer that you have at $99 a month, you said, and I have a couple of questions about them. First of all, is this somebody who knew you from Twitter? Or is this as our friend, Mike buckbee calls and I believe I quoted him on this last week. And Mike, you're getting quoted again this week? stranger money. So good.Cam Sloan  20:54  I think it's like I it stranger money, like I know this person. Yeah. Okay. And I don't remember exactly how they like came into the waiting list, but they did like, stumble on there. But they were really looking for like, yeah, some managed service, kind of white glove service there. So I've been helping a lot to do the implementation and planning there, as well, which is important to know, it's like, not just by my SAS, like, pay me 99 a month, it's like quite a bit of hands on work for for it as well.Colleen Schnettler  21:27  Oh, that's interesting. IMichele Hansen  21:27  noticed. Yeah. And I noticed in the end, all the people kind of chiming in on the thread and offering support and advice and whatnot, that I'm Jesse from bento jumped in. And he made the suggestion, I'm just gonna read it, throw a managed account offering 899 and see how many deals you can close with that I have a feeling many people would rather you do everything for them versus do DIY, at 49 to 99. It was a huge unlock when we were stagnant at bento, so much learning. And I was curious about your thoughts on that?Cam Sloan  22:04  Yeah, I mean, I can see a lot of value in that approach, because you're learning about the problem by actually implementing but you know, trying to solve it for them as almost like putting yourself in the consultants, shoes, I guess, part of like, part of even why I've been, I don't know, like, it's kind of been draining to do that a bit from this other for this customer. But again, I'm only charging 99 a month. And so there's not like the return on on all those hours invested. But it has proven to give me some better learning and understanding of like, how people want to think through this problem, and how to solve it for them. Yeah, and I do think like, yeah, if I'm gonna be justifying outbound sales, if that's like long term approach to this business, then you need to put a higher price point on it, which like kind of goes and partially removes, like, why I started this business in the first place, which is like to make a lower cost solution that like, you know, can be more affordable for people to get into. So yeah, it's been a bit. Like, I like the idea. And then I just don't know that I want to run that kind of business long term of like having to basically do a productized service.Colleen Schnettler  23:29  So what I'm trying to understand with this one client that you have is the time you're spending with them. Is that making it more hands off in the future? Like, are you working on integration pieces that makes them like kind of will streamline it for your future clients?Cam Sloan  23:46  Yeah, like, for us, a lot of this has been for learnings like I kind of agreed to take it on, so that I could, you know, write some better documentation out of it, like, realize what questions they have been having in the process and what we need to do to implement. So it will both be like product improvements that come out of it, you know, like just yeah, tweaks to the product, when I'm implementing for them. But also, oh, what questions Am I asking the client? And and then turning those into like help Docs or articles that maybe can help other people get up and running? Like, what do I need? What information do I need about my customer to like, make a product tour that is going to be effective? Or what do I need to know about my product and the like, audience that I'm serving to, to know if I need to implement a product or not. So I'm taking kind of those notes along the way, using it as a learning opportunity. Hence, not really like charging a premium. I was kind of just like, well, I get to learn a lot from this experience as well. But the I did say like after this initial implementation, I'm handing this back off to you and your team will have to run with it. So it's yeah I'm not like signing on for a forever job at 99 a month. And I Deeley not doing that for each customer. Yeah.Colleen Schnettler  25:08  So does this customer fit into your theory that you need to go after slightly bigger companies? Two to three, what do you say three to 10? employees with pretty significant revenue?Cam Sloan  25:19  Yeah, I would say they operate mostly like with, yeah, contractors and freelancers helping them out, but they are Yeah, kind of in that range of company size. Definitely not the, you know, initial indie hacker audience, which I think Yeah, like, is an easy thing to learn, like we like, like, indie hackers don't have a ton of capital to be throwing at tools, and they would rather go build things themselves or spend like, a week like, making their own solutions. And, and it doesn't, yeah, it's just I think not having the access to the capital is like, is a big challenge there. So yeah, I've definitely learned to like, a bit about Yeah, maybe I should follow this. larger company size, at least, that's kind of where I'm at. Like, I don't know, if I want to, I don't know if maybe that ideal customer is actually a bit bigger than even what I said, maybe it's, you know, 20 plus employees. I've definitely had some companies reach out that were like 500 employees, but they tend to have much larger expectations, like, want to do NPS scores, they want to do surveys through these tools, they want to have the tours, they want to do checklist, like there's a lot of product gap, like there's a lot of big gap in what the product offers now that they kind of want a whole suite, because they're kind of nearing on like, enterprise, or like really like the larger business. So I'm trying to, like fit into this kind of smaller area where people might not have like such high expectations or like needs out of a product. And really, they're just trying to focus on this one part, which is like activation. And they can use another tool if they need to do like, survey and feedback type of stuff.Michele Hansen  27:09  Like our sponsor this month reform, for example. Love it. There we go, Peter, um, I'm interested. So you mentioned you know, you have other customers who are mostly sort of friends and family and like, indie hacker money, and as you've kind of alluded to, basically this sort of irony of, you know, indie hacker world is basically that usually, we're like, we're not very good customers for each other, for the most part. But a very good peer group community. But I'm curious, this 99 a month customer, you did 30 demo calls, you probably learned a lot about what people were trying to solve within onboarding, like what their products were like, and, you know, these things about company size, and the sort of sort of corporate demographic questions basically, but also the activity they're trying to solve and, and how complicated their products are, and and what the, you know, basically, what the cost is to them of having a poorly on boarded user. And so I'm kind of curious, like, Do you notice any differences in the kind of product or those sort of goals or whatnot, that your $99 a month customer is trying to do? That those other customers are not, that might be a clue for you on the sort of customer that you should focus on from a sort of activity based perspective?Cam Sloan  28:55  Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, yeah, the biggest learning I've had there is, you know, when you go into their product, there are multiple use cases for it, you may sign up for one thing or another, like you're not necessarily doing. It's not like hopscotch where you come in, and the single thing that you would like, use this product towards, but you come in, and there's a suite of products. And so when you have like this complex product that has multiple offerings, then you may want to guide the user to the next step. A good example of this would be like wave accounting software, but they also do so they have like, receipt tracking, they have employee like compensation, and they have invoices and all these things. And maybe you sign up and you only want one of those things like you may not need to know about every single part of that product and you may feel a bit overwhelmed when you come into a dashboard that has like 10 different options. Like completely different use cases. And that's where I'm finding that there's some, some good opportunity there to help, like with a product tour. And so for example, like this customer that I've on boarded, part of what we did is hooking to their onboarding survey to say, like, What are you trying to do with this product, which I think is really helpful for them segmenting what you're going to show them in a tour. And so, you know, if there so it's like an SEO platform, I won't get into too much more, I don't want to like, you know, just yeah,Michele Hansen  30:37  that's fine. Yeah. But it's a it's a, it's a product that has basically multiple, different products within it that somebody has purchased. And maybe they know they need one of those but and they don't know what these other things are, that they're either they are paying for or the company would like them to start paying for. And so the value that you're providing to them in this in this case, is basically helping to introduce the customer to these other products and reduce, reduce sort of overwhelm that the customer might be feeling about coming into a complicated product. And the other the friends and family product, like those ones, were they more like single products without multiple products within them.Cam Sloan  31:26  Yeah, yeah, more like single products, and actually just a quite a slight tweak on on the other one, because like, what users will actually do is come into this product, they'll sign up, and then they are, they may know what they want to do. But because there are so many options, they don't know what the next step would be to get to it. So instead of showing them the other options that they don't need, I'm actually guiding them more towards the one that they signed up and expressed interest for. So if they say like I need, you know, I'm interested in link building, whereas this other person might be interested in local SEO, then you want to guide them to that next part of the product that's going to be relevant to that so that they can take the next steps and see value out of the product there. And then going to your other point of introducing them to the other parts, like that is a great thing to do, like over time as people use like one part of the product, and then they come back to it, you can kind of use progressive disclosure to show things over time, Hey, did you know about this feature, hey, this, like, you know, and kind of like when you have software like figma, that maybe gives you a tip every week or something? And it's just like, Oh, I didn't know I could do that. But like, it kind of does some feature discovery is what it's called. And you can help users discover new features or features that they are not actively using. So So yeah, those are a couple use cases that that customers is using. SoColleen Schnettler  32:52  ultimately, your product is about user retention, that's the value you're providing to your customer.Cam Sloan  32:59  Yeah, I would say, kind of on the activation side, as well, where you're really trying to get them from, like, there's there's a couple elements, you know, but the very first, like the core part of the star is getting them activated and getting them to take that next step once they come into your product that's going to help them to get to the outcome that they want and what and so asking yourself, what is the like, what is the thing that your customer is coming in here to do, and then making sure that you can guide them right to that next step is like, is crucial. And so that that is more in like the activation world, and then retention, it can play a role in as well. But because if you don't activate them, they're not going to stick around as well. But yeah, there are also some other things that you could do like email drip campaigns. And like, yeah, like kind of knowledge draw, like kind of an email campaign that educates your users on how to do what they want to do. Like it makes us really well with that to kind of retain them. Yeah.Colleen Schnettler  34:06  Right. So ultimately, though, when you say activation they've presumably like if I'm a user, I've already signed up for someone service because I wanted so when you sell it to the person I'm you know, assigned up with, you're selling it as we will reduce your churn, because they need to activate because if they don't activate, they're going to churn because they're not going to see value. Okay.Cam Sloan  34:27  Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's definitely like tied into that, I guess. You know, there are just some tools like I forget as it turnkey, is like one that is like specifically focused on like, the customers who are maybe about to churn out and then keeping them around or giving them offers. So this is like primarily, I guess there because there's a spectrum of like, you know, from activation to like retention that you may find custom like that you want to focus on within that whole experience, but yeah, but Like, it all kind of adds up, it all plays really like, together in, in giving a good experience to users that's gonna keep them around. And yeah, you're right like to really what I want to do is like help help my customers to show the value of the product to keep their customers around and get them, you know, activated and using it, versus maybe getting dropped into a product that is just so overwhelming, like Michelle said earlier where they don't know what the next steps should be. Yeah, I feel like that's, that's pretty much it.Michele Hansen  35:39  So I used to work on a couple of products that had that we actually used hopscotch style tours for. And basically, the reason why we use to hopscotch it was I think we use a survey that then directed them into the proper hopscotch sequence was because the products were incredibly complicated. And we had limited ability to make those products less complicated. So it was a very painful problem for me as a product manager, who was tasked with driving retention metrics, but could not solve the foundational problems. And so we use hopscotch as a way to try to like, basically overcome the fact that the product is complicated. And kind of thinking about that, and thinking about what Colleen just said, of like, you know, what is the pain that you are solving for people, I just pulled up your website, and nudge your users to the aha moment. I like it, it's positive. But if you show that to me, when I was a product manager, you know, five or six years ago, that would not have been the problem I would have expressed to you. Right, like, reduce your churn, like, you know, your product is complicated. Your users don't have to be overwhelmed, like get them through it virt more trial, that type of thing, convert more trials, like what is that goal that someone is trying to drive that relates to what you're solving, or that's reducing churn, increasing activation, like, you know, stop losing users, because they're confused. Like, that's the problem. you're solving that people have value in their products, but because for whatever reason, whether those reasons are in their control or not, the products are complicated. And their users are, you know, their users thought there was value in it, but then they get to it, and they can't get the value back. And so like there's this mismatch, and speak to the pain, I'm not like, I'm not seeing I'm not seeing pain on your landing page.Cam Sloan  38:04  Yeah, I think in that the h1 doesn't fully address it. It's something that Yeah, like, the thread yesterday, and everyone reaching out after like, definitely gave me so many ideas of like, where to go, and what to focus on improving for hopscotch. Like, there's a lot. There's a lot, it's not like, I'm coming here, and like, I'm all out of ideas now. Like, there's nothing more that can be done. Like, there's so much more that could be done to improve the state. And so it's been like, what do I choose from that? But that's a pretty like, yeah, a no brainer, is like the positioning of it, and kind of better. Focusing on the outcomes. I think you're like, absolutely, right there. I have, like, let's see, I, because there were, I don't know, 20 people that sent me, like, it was so great yesterday, like 20 people sent me DMS, and like, had like, great conversations with some other founders. And then and then I had some other people that kind of just commented and offered their suggestions as well. And I've been trying to just, like, go through that and, like make a list of like points of like, what I could explore and take away from that, like so that it's not all just like me airing my grievances and Twitter, which actually like go and take something away from from it. And, you know, there there was, I guess some of the pieces in there include, like, what you just said is like really like, you know, you should be focusing on the outcomes more like and someone suggested like, you know, increased child conversions, improved feature adoption. And so there's more that I could do to like really? Yeah, like reduce churn to make that clear. I think there's a positioning element and and just like communication element that could be improved upon. There's also just like, number of people aren't are not coming through like there's not enough people that are Coming through my site and through the signup flow to even make, like, great. I don't know, decisions based on like data driven decisions, you know, it's if I, if we're picking it into this, like one or two customers kind of thing, it's like you need more people trying this, you need more people activating. And so finding ways that I can do that through, you know, people have given some great recommendations of like, how I can go ahead and like build like a sales campaign, or use AdWords and SEO tactics to kind of like, grow this, I guess a lot of it ends up like there's a ton of things that I have taken from that. From from that thread of like, good ideas, and now it's like deciding which things that I can do. And I think it will come down to like evaluating which are the easy ones that I can like make changes to right now really quickly like this, on a playing with the communication and wording on the on the site. And then some of it will be more like long term investment. Other things might be more immediate, like running some AdWords tests, like $10 a day and just like trying out some different headlines to see what grabs people and then using the learnings from that to maybe further update, like what my content game will be, or what my you know, what my wording on the website should be like, based on what people click on those ads has, like it's been, it's been really nice to get some of that information. And then and then other people even mentioned about the pricing, maybe not being accessible. But again, I have to take that with a grain of salt. But there's, you know, people who are saying the jump from a free tier to $50 a month, and then $100 a month is too large. And so maybe there could be a price in between that, that becomes more accessible if I am trying to target like, smaller businesses as well. And then there's like the other advice, which is go and add a price deer on the other side, that is like $800 a month and you know, do manage services. So that's Yeah, there's just been almost it's been overwhelming, like, get all this new knowledge and information overnight.Michele Hansen  42:25  It totally makes sense that you're, you're you're swimming in ideas right now. And, yeah, I sort of just added one to that pile there. And I always I'm almost reminded of kind of the situation that Coleen was in after she first started doing user interviews where like, there was like, so many ideas coming at her from customers, and she was having so many ideas. And then it was like, where do I go from here?Cam Sloan  43:04  Yeah, I remember hearing like those episodes. And when you did, like the live, you know, customer call, where Michelle interviewed your customer. And and then yeah, a lot of trying to figure out what the next step should be. It does feel a lot like that. Like, there's so many paths to go down. What's the right one? And I think, you know, a big part of it has even just been like, does it make sense to keep going down pass like down these paths at all, or try some, like, again, like, try a whole new thing. And I think that's why I was like, was then maybe am scared to even go forward with some of this stuff is like, does it make sense to keep investing the time in, in what I'm building now? if, you know, is it gonna help me see returns in a year or two years time, versus switching to something else? It seems like a lot of people think that it's definitely a good idea to keep going. And, and so I'm leaning towards that, I still think I want to have like, some kill switch, like, you know, to avoid running three years without any revenue kind of thing. And I need to see some positive signals at some point. But yeah, that's kind of kind of where I'm at. But it has given me a bit more hope of like, this is a normal feeling cam like you are allowed to feel deflated, you're allowed to feel like you don't have like, you don't aren't great at sales and marketing just by default, you know, you have to work towards those and put a lot of work in and so it's okay to feel like this and it's okay to like. Like, it's not just that the product is bad or that the market isn't there. It's just this is a part of the process. So just coming to terms with that. has been really helpful over the past day and gives me a bit more. I don't know, just like, like, a bit more of my like, desire to keep going.Colleen Schnettler  45:13  Alex Hellman has a great article on this. It's about, it's about all of the developers who take his course and how when they get to the marketing course, they all freak out. Because when someone is excellent in their field, starting over is so hard. So there's a lot of things I feel like I heard you say today, and one of them, is it, I wanted to ask you, is it that you just don't want to do marketing? Because you're convinced it's going to fail? Or, I mean, what what is your thought, like, all of this? Or do you feel like you should be making more revenue now and you're frustrated? And that's where this is coming from?Cam Sloan  45:53  I think, you know, I think that it's like it's a mix of like, Yeah, well, the marketing, see fruits at the end of like, of all that investment, because because just you know, going through 4050 calls and and then only coming out with like one customer that I'm basically doing it all for them at the end, like is that the type of business that I want to be growing? Like, do I want to do a sales driven and like hands on business versus something more like, you know, seeing what Peter has done with reform of like, really, people are signing up and get going themselves, maybe you have to have like higher numbers, but like, it's more. I don't know, like, it's, it lends itself better to self signup, and self serve, where you can do a bit more product lead, you still have to do marketing, but like, the way that the business operates, is not like hiring a sales team. It's investing in content and other other parts of the business, which is more maybe the type of business so it's been that like, question mark, about the business in general? Like, is that kind of where I want to go with it? And, yeah, I mean, there are all sorts of fears in there. I think a lot of it is also just a fear of like, yeah, it like, do I know what I'm doing. And I actually, I worked in marketing for five years, believe it or not as, like, scary as like, I worked in music marketing, for concerts, it was a much different thing. And this was like, six or so years ago. And so it's a much different beast, but then SAS marketing. But yeah, like, even with that experience, it's still just scary to go out on your own. And like, I don't know, just feel you feel back at square one again. So yeah.Michele Hansen  47:39  Yeah, I mean, towards us that I think that's a totally normal feeling. And this feeling of like struggling and like, this isn't working. And then also you get some more ideas. And you're like, Okay, wait, where? Where do I go? Like, what do I do next? And, you know, I noticed, like, you posted that thread. And I'm guessing that you woke up that morning, not not feeling so great. Yeah, you're right. And I wonder how you felt waking up this morning. After getting all of that support,Cam Sloan  48:19  today has been much different, like it's been, it's always like, Man, it's so amazing to see that people are gonna be there to lift you up when you're like feeling a bit down, I think. I don't know. I've had I've, like, wrote tweets like that, and then deleted them because like, it's very personal and just like very open and you know, you're like, our potential customers gonna read this think less of me for like, running a business then not knowing what I'm doing. You know, there's all all sorts of like, fear in that. And what I'm realizing is, like, there's been a lot of appreciation for this open approach. So I, I wake up the next day with like, just feeling very grateful to have like that, knowing that maybe I need to, like, yeah, rely on community more and maybe get more involved with like, talking to other founders a bit and ideating with them, because working alone is very challenging to like, be in your own head all the time and see, you know, things moving so slowly. But yeah, at the same time, like the next day, having 100 people reach out and I'll give you like many ideas has been overwhelming at the same time. For like, what to do next. But I guess like the core of what my challenge was, or is is not so much like what to do next, because all of these ideas, I'll put them in a list and work through them one by one. That's the only way to get things done. It's like one thing at a time. But yeah, just like knowing it's more figuring out, like the conviction around like Emma is this the type of business I want to keep working Because in a couple years, the efforts hopefully will, yeah, show fruits for the labor. And then also I keep using that term, which I've never used before. Like, I don't know why everything's bearing fruits today, but but you know, like that kind of thing of just like, really? Like, will this be the business that I want to build? And I'm making sure that I'm doing that. And I think that's been a big part of the fear that I have of, of moving forward. So I don't have an answer to that yet. But I do have a lot of people who have been like really kind of offering advice. And so I think there's still some chewing on this idea to be done. Yeah.Michele Hansen  50:39  And I think that question of, is this the business I want to build? I think that's that's a question that only you can answer.Cam Sloan  50:48  Exactly. Yeah. I've i that is one thing I've noticed, like as much advice as you soak in or people give you, you know, they could all be right, like in their own ways, but then it comes down to like a deeply personal decision on like, what, like how you want to approach things. So T, B, D.Michele Hansen  51:10  I guess that's a good point for us to wrap up today. Cam. Thank you so much for your vulnerability, both here. And on Twitter. You know, I'm reminded of something I heard. Nicole Baldy new co founder of webinar ninja say on her podcast recently, Nicole and Kate can relate, which is true vulnerability is when there is personal risk involved. And I think your tweet and thread about that really shows like there was that risk involved, and you took it and and people jumped in to help. And I think that's what's so amazing about our community. But so I encourage people to follow along with cam. You are at Sloan cam on Twitter. Your product is hopscotch dot club. Thank you so much for coming on cam.Cam Sloan  52:14  Thank you both for having me. It was such a pleasure. I love the podcast. And you know, I'm always listening and tuning in and love following along your stories, because it's really it's encouraging as well to just you know, hear what you're both, you know, working on and so that always helps me feel a little less like it's just me and having, you know, some help on the way. So thanks so much.Michele Hansen  52:39  All right. Well, Colleen, talk to you next week.Colleen Schnettler  52:42  Bye.
  • Software Social podcast

    Just Tell People About The Thing You Made


    Listen to the latest from Michele's podcast book tour! Searching for SaaS: Knight In Product: Hackers: Hansen  0:01  This episode of Software Social is brought to you by Reform.As a business owner, you need forms all the time for lead capture, user feedback, SaaS onboarding, job applications, early access signups, and many other types of forms.Here's how Reform is different:- Your brand shines through, not Reform's- It's accessible out-of-the-box... And there are no silly design gimmicks, like frustrating customers by only showing one question at a timeJoin indie businesses like Fathom Analytics and SavvyCal and try out Reform.Software Social listeners get 1 month for free by going to and using the promo code "social" on checkout.Hey, Colleen,Colleen Schnettler  0:51  hey, Michelle.Michele Hansen  0:54  How are you?Colleen Schnettler  0:56  I'm good. I'm good. How about you?Michele Hansen  0:58  How goes week three now of doing Hammerstone and simple file upload.Colleen Schnettler  1:08  It's going well, today, I'm going to dedicate most of the day to simple file uploads. So I'm pretty excited about that. I'm finally back into my theoretical four days client work one day, my own thing and never really works out that way. Because I make myself way too available. But I have a lot of plans. But I do want to talk to you about something. Okay. I am I have not had any new signups in six weeks. Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm not in the pit of despair, because I'm just generally pretty happy about everything else. But I haven't been really on top of I know, six weeks. Right. That's really. I mean, IMichele Hansen  1:54  I hate to say it, but that does give me a little bit of like trough of sorrow vibes.Colleen Schnettler  1:58  Yeah. I mean, I honestly, I hadn't even really noticed, which is a different a different thing. Has anybody been canceled? I don't know. Because I, yeah, so I don't track that as well as I should. And I think with everything that's been going on, I have been so busy that I haven't. Honestly, I've just been letting it run itself. I checked my email every day, but no one ever emails me, which is nice, by the way. So I hadn't checked it in a while a and I checked it in preparation to do this podcast with you. And I was like, Oh, crap. I haven't had a sign up since July. This is September 2.Michele Hansen  2:39  So have I mean, has your revenue gone down? Like?Colleen Schnettler  2:44  No, actually, it hasn't. So I've been pretty consistent. So without doing a full churn analysis, I don't think people are churning. But they're not signing up. Okay, that's not okay. Let me stop. That's not entirely true. People are putting their email address in and then bouncing. So people are still finding my website. But yeah,Michele Hansen  3:12  I feel like it was like the people who are paying you is that mostly people from Heroku? or from your website?Colleen Schnettler  3:19  It's mostly people from Heroku.Michele Hansen  3:21  So are you still getting that like you had this problem where people were like, signing up on Heroku, but then not actually activating it? And like starting to use it, like, Are people still doing that first step on Heroku.Colleen Schnettler  3:37  So people are using it. I actually had one person respond with what he's doing. So that was cool. In terms of like a new signup. So people are using it that sign up on Heroku, which is good. It's just a lack of new signups is really confusing to me.Michele Hansen  3:55  Did you ever get that work done on the homepage like and Roku site like we were talking about the code pen and improving the documentation? And like, did did all that happen?Colleen Schnettler  4:10  So I have a whole list of great things I'm going to do so what I have done this week last week is I actually started writing a piece of I wrote an article right, it didn't take that long. I should have what it doesn't matter what I should have done. I did it. So that's good. So I have seen on Google Analytics said that is getting a decent amount of traffic. Today, literally today. I'm going to get that freakin try it now on the homepage. That is my plan to do that today. Nice. I'm speaking it into existence. The documentation is a whole different animal because I don't think I mean, I really need to redo the documentation. But that's like a whole thing. Like it's not I need to add some things. I think I need to take it in baby steps because I added some things to the tech side that are not reflected in the documentation that are kind of cool. So I think, but of course, instead of just adding that to my existing documentation, which I don't really like the way it presents, like, I just don't like the way it looks. I want to tear that all down and make a new app just for documentation, which I will do someday, butMichele Hansen  5:17  so it kind of sounds like you need to put away your laundry. But you don't want to do that. So instead, you're going to completely build yourself a new closet, butColleen Schnettler  5:26  my closets gonna be so pretty, and so organized.Michele Hansen  5:33  Yeah, I'm sensing a theme where like, you have a task that you don't want to do, or it seems overwhelming to you or you don't feel like it plays into your strengths. And so your way to do it is to make it something that is one of your strengths, which is actually just throwing more hurdles in front of you actually doing the task.Colleen Schnettler  6:00  Oh, yeah, totally. I mean, that's, like, it's funny, because before we got on this podcast, my plan was still to rewrite the whole documentation and make it its own site, blah, blah, blah. And as soon as I spoke those words to you, as I do, I've really is that really a super high priority, like, the higher priority should be getting the fact that like, I emit events on, you know, successful uploads, that's cool. People can use that. It's literally nowhere in my documentation that I do that. So I'm probably the priority should just be getting it out there with what I have. And then someday, when I have more time, I can rewrite the whole documentation site.Michele Hansen  6:39  This is your problem with the documentation that it's ugly, or that people email you telling you that it's janky. And, like, difficult to use documentation specifically, or is it just an eyesore? It'sColleen Schnettler  6:53  a it's an eyesore. I don't like the way it looks. I don't like the way I navigate with tabs. I don't like the tabs. Like I think you can still find everything no one has emailed me saying I don't understand how to use this. Hold on.Michele Hansen  7:05  I need to like I'm I'm pulling look at it. So nowColleen Schnettler  7:08  Yeah, pull it up. Okay, so if you go to simple file,, and then click on Doc's documentation,Michele Hansen  7:15  you got that calm, like,Colleen Schnettler  7:17  I know, I win it names. So if you look at it, I was like so I also bought unrelated simple file. Wait, what did I buy? I bought simple image upload calm. Hmm, I haven't done anything with it. I just snagged it. I was like, okay, that seems like what I should have. Okay, so look at this documentation page. Like, I just don't like the way it looks.Michele Hansen  7:40  I mean, it's not the ugliest thing I've ever seen. Like, it's basic, but like,Colleen Schnettler  7:45  it's fine. I mean,Michele Hansen  7:47  it like has a little bit of an old school README file vibe, but totally does. That's not a bad thing. Because that's how documentation was distributed for, like 20 years. And it's still sometimes distributed that way. Yeah. I mean, the other thing is, is like, I think it's okay to like, give yourself that space to be like, you know, like, this is ugly, and I hate it. I'm throw the content in there now. But also, when it comes time to build the documentation, like, there's so many tools for this, like, Don't design your own documentation to you know, like, like, if you're going to build yourself a new closet for all this, like at least buy one from IKEA, and then you just have to assemble it, like, don't go actually go out and buy the two by fours. And you know, like,Colleen Schnettler  8:42  do yeah, you're doing, I don't actually know what tools are out there to build documentation. So what do you guys use? Do you remember? Cuz I know you're right. This has got to be a thing. Like, you're absolutely right. IMichele Hansen  8:57  think I know someone who, like just bought a documentation tool.Colleen Schnettler  9:02  This is interesting.Michele Hansen  9:04  Because, like it definitely I don't I don't remember what the name is of the thing that we use. But we've actually we've actually had people reach out to us saying that they really liked our documentation and wanted to know where we got it from. Like, I think we just got it somewhere. Well,Colleen Schnettler  9:19  this is an interesting thing. I didn't actually I didn't even think about that. But absolutely, you're right, I should there's there's a better way to solve this problem than me. Does that make rewriting this whole thing? So what you're looking at now, the here's the real reason I want to redo it. What you're looking at now comes through the application page, and the application app does not use tailwind. My. My marketing site does use tailwind so that my thought would be to rewrite all of this documentation, put it on the marketing siteMichele Hansen  9:52  using tailwind because would you design it yourself with like tailwind elements or would you grab a template from tailwind.Colleen Schnettler  10:01  Oh, totally. I pay for whatever that thing is with tailwind where I can just copy the code and put it on. I bought that. Yeah.Michele Hansen  10:09  But it's worth it. It was totally worth anything is worth it. Totally Great. So yeah, there's I don't know, I don't know, read Right. Like there's all sorts of, is that what we use? That kind of looks like our docks?Colleen Schnettler  10:23  See, I didn't know that. IMichele Hansen  10:24  don't know. I don't think I'll have to ask Mateus. Right.Colleen Schnettler  10:28  So this is this is a good point, though. I should, because I don't need API documentation too. So I need to think about, yeah, has a whole documentation tab. Ooh, this looks fun. Oh, all right. I'm totally gonna check this out after the podcast, maybe that is the right answer.Michele Hansen  10:46  I don't know how much it costs. But yeah,Colleen Schnettler  10:49  well, it's gonna be cheaper than five hours of my time. Right. Right. Like, there's no way it cost that money, yourMichele Hansen  10:55  time is not free. And this is See See, this is I always say that, like, you know, I studied economics and undergrad. And I'm always like, Oh, you know, it was interesting, but it doesn't really relate. But here is where it does. Because, yeah, opportunity cost is a very real cost. And that is a perfect distillation of it that your time is worth more than spending five hours rolling your own documentation. thing when this is like already a solved problem.Colleen Schnettler  11:31  You're absolutely right. 100% agree with that. You're right. I didn't think about it that way. But that is a true statement.Michele Hansen  11:39  But first, I'd really just like tell people about the stuff you mayColleen Schnettler  11:44  think. Okay, so like, let's get actionable. Because AI, today is my day to work on simple file. So I think the first step, okay, I don't love the documentation I have, but I need to get the information out there. So the first step is just add something that's set like this things that people can use, like these event callbacks, or emitting events, like, that's useful information. So I'm just add it, you know, just adding it'll take all of 15 minutes. And like, I don't want to, you know,Michele Hansen  12:11  I don't want to be like standing on my, like, high horse here that like, you know, oh, we tell users everything we do, because actually, something we were just talking about this week was like, oh, like, we need to, like, send out an email to people and like, tell them about the features we've added because we basically stopped sending product updates, email, like, we never so. And then also like MailChimp shut down their pay as you go at one point. And, and then we're like, migrating and all this stuff. And I think we sent out like one email since then. But like, we were just talking about this the other day, that's like, oh, like we added support for like, geocoding a county, like if you know, you like have like a street address plus, like Montgomery County, Maryland, for example, like in places that like, use the county rather than the city name. We haven't told anyone about it, because we haven't sent any product updates, email, and God knows how long so I'm all this is to say that I am. I also need to take my own advice. And maybe other people too, maybe there's somebody out there, you know, just tell people about the thing you made. The thing you made? Yeah. Just tell them. Don't Don't think about you know, marketing stuff and ads and get all in your head about that. Just tell people. Yeah, even if it's a plain text email, just tell them just Just tell me advice I'm trying to give myself and I'm, I am trying to manifest it into existence that we will do that whole step to send out an email to get people to opt in. And then after that, we send out an email that tells them with the stuff we did, maybe that can be one email.Colleen Schnettler  14:42  Yes. So people tell people got it. I like it. That's good advice, your marketing advice. That's my marketing advice for the day I get to tell people. Yeah, so that's kind of what's up with me. I'm going to try And get those things implemented today. So hopefully that'll move the needle a little bit on signups. It was Yeah, it's definitely been a very trough of sorrow six weeks though I was like, Wow, that's a long time. eek.Michele Hansen  15:13  So I mean, there's the reason why there is that product lifecycle, like chart that has the trough of sorrow on it is because the trough of sorrow is normal.Colleen Schnettler  15:27  is normal. Oh, okay. This will be interesting.Michele Hansen  15:31  Yeah, yeah. There's like this whole image that's like the I didn't know that. Okay. Yeah. No, I when I said trough of sorrow, I was referencing something. Okay. I'll have to, I'll have to find it and send it to you. And also put it in the show notes. So everybody else who's like, What is she talking about? And then like five products, people listening are like, Oh, my God, I know that. I forget where it comes from. I think it might be like, it might have been a business of software talk at one point. ThatColleen Schnettler  15:57  Okay, oh, no,Michele Hansen  15:58  I think it might be the constant contact. Founder person.Colleen Schnettler  16:03  Has she interested in her? I don't know. Okay.Michele Hansen  16:07  Yeah, I'm gonna find it. It'll be in the show notes. So listening does not have to, like wonderColleen Schnettler  16:13  what it was to go dig through the internet to try and find itMichele Hansen  16:16  like normal to have, you know, periods when you're like, Okay, like, nothing happened. I mean, granted, you said that you kind of weren't really doing anything with it. So the fact that your revenue didn't like crater even though you basically didn't touch it for six weeks, like, that's awesome.Colleen Schnettler  16:36  Yeah, that's super awesome. Like,Michele Hansen  16:39  again, you know, to our conversations of like, if you ever wanted to sell this thing, like the fact that you didn't touch it for six weeks, and it kept making money. huge selling point.Colleen Schnettler  16:48  Yeah, yeah, it's super. so far. It's been super low touch, which is awesome. It's so funny, because years and years ago, I used to obsessively read. Do you know, Pat Flynn is smart, passive income guy? No. Okay. He's got this whole empire built about trying to teach people how to build passive income on the internet. Okay. And I used to obsessively read his blog. I mean, we're talking like 10 years ago. And here I am with kind of sort of passive income ish. And that's kind of cool. Yeah, you did anyway. So, yeah. Tell me about how things are going with the book and your podcast tour.Michele Hansen  17:26  Oh, so they're going so I think you had challenged me to be on 10-20 I feel like it was 20. I feel likeColleen Schnettler  17:37  I mean, it's been a while, but I feel like it was more than 10.Michele Hansen  17:41  So okay, so I have been on a couple at this point. So I was working, I was on searching for SaaS with Josh and Nate which sweet By the way, so of like people like our dynamic of like, you know, somebody like who has a SaaS and then somebody who's like trying to start one and like different phases, you would totally love searching for SaaS, because Josh has been running his business for, like, quite a long time, referral rock, has employees like, and then Nate is kind of has like consulting and is trying to figure out a SaaS. So I was on searching for SaaS, they were my first one. Um, and I'm so glad I did one with like, friends, because I was so nervous about the whole like, and I'm promoting a book, but it feels like self promotion, and I just just like is uncomfortable for me. So. So so I'm really glad I did it with them first, and then I recorded another one. That's actually they told me was not going to be out for another three or four months. So we'll hear about that one when it comes out. IsColleen Schnettler  18:45  that a secret?Michele Hansen  18:47  No. I mean, I just, I'll just tweet about it when it like comes out. But that counts, right? That's two. Yeah. And then I was on one night in product with Jason Knight, which came out a couple like, yeah, a couple days ago. That was super fun. Because that's like a podcast for product people. And we like really like dove deep on some of the different books and the differences and like, my fears around like people using this to like manipulate others was really it was really good. Um, so that's three and then I was on indie hackers, that that just came out. So that was kind of fun. I feel like I feel like I don't know like, I feel like it is like so legit. Like I don't know, it was kind of it was kind of wild. Indie hackers. Yeah. Being on the indie now.Colleen Schnettler  19:46  Did you talk about Geocodio or do you talk about the book or both?Michele Hansen  19:49  we talked about Geocodio a little bit but mostly about the book. Just kind of Geocodio as background.Colleen Schnettler  19:58  Okay. Yeah. Oh yeah, getting on Indie hackers that's basically making it. Like, that's amazing.Michele Hansen  20:05  Yeah. Like, can I be like, starstruck at myself for like,Colleen Schnettler  20:09  yes, you totally can. Like, I just think like, that's like, you know, that's like my life goal. No, that's not really a life goal. But I'm like, someday I will be on indie hackers. Someday Courtland will ask. I know, if I just take a couple more years. No, I love that podcast. I think that's wonderful. And yeah, yeah. Now you're kind of famous like, totally. Once you're an indie hackers, you've made it.Michele Hansen  20:33  I know, you're so funny. So like, I you're talking about this a little bit when when we add Adam on a few weeks ago that like, you know, I for a long time, like, like, so I didn't know that this whole community existed and that I knew about it, but I didn't feel like, feel like I was like, legit enough to like, be there, which was not true and was just my own imposter syndrome speaking. But for years, I had this like, sort of self policy that I would only go to conferences if I was speaking at them, because then people would come up to me and have something to talk about. Otherwise, I would be like standing in the corner, like not talking to anyone and like feeling like super out of it. Um, and so now I'm like, Okay, you know what, like, now if I like, go to something like, I feel like there's a good chance that like, one person, like, knows me, and we'll have something to talk about.Colleen Schnettler  21:29  Yeah. Yeah, that's great. I mean, that's a benefit of sharing your work, I think the way you have been. Yeah,Michele Hansen  21:38  yeah. So um, okay, so wait, so I lost count. Okay, so searching first as you're coming out in a couple of months. And Indie Hackers. Oh, wait, I think I forgot one. No, no, that's four. And then I recorded one yesterday. So that's five and then I am recording another one. today. So Wow, six. And then I'm scheduling another one. like trying to get that one on the calendar. Um, that person is also on pacific time like you and dude, it is so hard for me to schedule things with pacific time. Like, yeah, that nine hour time difference is required at the top planning. So I guess that's that's six I have either recorded or in the hopper. And I think there was more people who reach out to me, but I think they DMed me and I need to like, cuts through the jungle morass that is my DMs.Colleen Schnettler  22:48  That's great. I mean, honestly, 10 would it be spectacular? Colleen said, I have really 20. I know, now that I'm actually thinking through the logistics? That seems like a lot. Let me out of this. That's really great. So my next question would be, have you seen any, any impact yet of being on these podcasts? In terms of sales or community engagement or anything like that?Michele Hansen  23:15  Yeah, I mean, I guess the the biggest bump was definitely product times. Um, like, I think I saw like that day, like, I sold like 20 something. Or like, almost 30 copies, I think out of, I don't know, because I'm probably at like 350 now, or no, actually, it's more than that. Almost 400. So, oh, wait, maybe I'll be at almost 500 soon. That would be fun. Yeah. So So yeah, so there was definitely a little bump out of that. I did look this up for Josh and Nate from Searching for SaaS. And I sold three copies a day that one came out. So they were pretty pumped about that. I mean, I think it's the kind of thing where, like, not everybody, like listens to a podcast on the day. It comes. Yeah. Like, I was, like a regular listener of us. And like, they were like three episodes behind, because, you know, you've listened to it whenever you can. And there's other stuff going on. So in many ways, it's like, it's not really for the immediate hit of that in the same way that say like product time was,Colleen Schnettler  24:27  um, yes, yeah, yeah, long game.Michele Hansen  24:30  The long game there we go. Looking for. Um, so I mean, I guess we'll see. Right, because it's like, this is you know, this is not a like Big Bang. Launch. Right. Like, this is like the the book is hopefully designed or like written in a way, you know, to be a book that people recommend to other people they buy for their team. Like it's not like it's not particularly timely or relevant to like current events? So it's okay, if it doesn't, you know, sell like a bajillion copies in the first two months. Like, that's totally fine. You know, it's funny I was I was, I came across a tweet by our mutual friend, Mike Buckbee this morning, saying that, you know, validation for something is when you're getting stranger money. Like people who don't know you, they're not your friends. They're not the people that follow you. They're just like people who, you know, come across it for a reason. And then they buy it, and they're happy with it. And the book is definitely getting stranger money. SoColleen Schnettler  25:42  wonderful.Michele Hansen  25:43  Yeah. So So I so I think that's kind of a sign that it's, it was like, I mean, it was actually getting that in the presale. So. So I think that's a sign that, you know, things are in the right track, but it's just like, this is gonna be a slow burn.Colleen Schnettler  25:59  Yes.Michele Hansen  26:00  Yeah. So I mean, I'm happy with things, you know, again, like considering that, I think it was like most self published books only sell like 250 copies lifetime. And then most published books sell 300 copies their first year. Um, I've already, like smashed that. So anything on top of that, basically, is gravy. And but again, like those numbers, like are kind of like I look at that I'm like, Yeah, cool. Okay, like, but mostly, it's like, people tweet out, like, somebody tweeted out this morning that, like, they had their first customer interview, and it was delightful. And they learned so much. And like, they had scheduled it for 15 minutes. But at the customer's insistence, it went on for almost an hour. And they learned so much. And it was like, and I was like yes. Okay, like this. Okay, the book did what it was supposed to do like that. Yeah, that is what makes it feel like a success more than Yeah,Colleen Schnettler  26:49  that's anything that's really cool. Well, in the money. I mean, you know, I was thinking about, like, what motivates you Because for me, I want life changing money, you could get life changing money, any, anytime you want it like you You, you could just snap your fingers because you have a successful business. So that's something that I assume does not motivate you, because you kind of already have it. And so you know, when I think about the book, and like how you've been motivated, it really feels like helping people like really literally helping people learn how to be empathetic is what has driven this passion project for you.Michele Hansen  27:27  Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, it's been a very, like, personal sort of mission, because it's not just about talking to customers like, and, and I guess what I mean, so one of them's actually this will be coming out the same day. So I guess I can talk about it. But I was talking about this a lot with Justin Jackson, on on Build Your SaaS about how, like, he was reading the book, and it made him realize like, oh, wow, like, I can actually use this in my personal life too. And like, it's like, not just a business book. And I was, you know, saying to him how, like, I think I've told you how, you know, people don't put be more empathetic on their daily to do lists, but they put, write the landing page, improve the documentation, get more sales, like, stop churn, figure out if people can use the thing I bill, like, that's the stuff that ends up on your to do list, and you can use empathy to solve those problems. And then in the course of doing that, you realize that you can transfer some of these skills to your personal life as well. Then it's like a double win.Colleen Schnettler  28:38  Wow. Yeah. So the other day, my 10 year old asked me what empathy was, and I literally handed him your book. Like, read this book.Michele Hansen  28:48  Let me guys this because this is the question that I get from children and adults, but children generally their first question, why is there a duck on the cover?Colleen Schnettler  28:58  He totally asked that. Yeah.Michele Hansen  29:03  Love it. Love it. Well, you know, you can tell him that he will find out when he gets to let me just flip through it here. I believe it's chapter 34. Um, you know, never accused me of burying the lede here. To get 138 pages, you will discover why there is a duck on the cover.It has been fun talking to you, as always, you too.Colleen Schnettler  29:45  I'll talk to you next week. All right.
  • Software Social podcast

    Everything Is Happening


    Michele Hansen  0:00  Hey, welcome back to Software Social. This episode of Software Social is sponsored by Noko. you’re bootstrapping on the side, every free moment counts. But do you really know how you’re spending those moments? Which days you're most productive? If your product have time sinks that just don’t pay?Here's one way to find out: Noko is a time tracker designed to help you learn from the time you track. And Noko makes it frictionless to give yourself good data, too — you can even log time directly from your Github commit messages. Try Noko today and save 15% off every plan, forever. Visit to start making your time work for you.Colleen Schnettler  0:52  Michele, it's so good to talk to you. So I have been following some of the things you've been tweeting about recently, and I saw that you did a Product Hunt launch for the book.Michele Hansen  1:05  Yeah.Colleen Schnettler  1:06  Tell us about that was quite a roller coaster. Yeah, I am fascinated. I want to hear all about it. Michele Hansen  1:14  So um, gosh, I don't even I don't even know where to start. Because it was it was kind of it was kind of a spur of the moment thing. Like I've been planning to do a Product Hunt launch for a long time, but I didn't really know exactly when. And I think it was a we've talked about how my, like, original deadline for the book was before I started Danish language classes, right. I feel like we I don't know. But yeah, okay. So I actually started them last Monday. So you know, even though like, when I finished my MBA, I was like, I am done with school forever, like, never again. And you know, here I am again. Um, so I started Monday of this week. And so the 20th I was like, I saw I was starting, you know, the in a couple of days. And I was like, You know what, I just need to do this. Now I want to get this launch done. Before I'm like thinking about school again, cuz I'm not gonna have as much time. So that's basically like, why I did it on Friday morning. Now, apparently, when you launch on product time, you're supposed to get someone like, well known to basically hunt the product for you and submit it for you. And then I guess it notifies all of that person's followers, and then it helps with your ranking and stuff like that. I did not do that. I just submitted it myself.Colleen Schnettler  2:46  Wait, okay. pause, pause, pause. Okay, so let's back up a little bit. So you were on Friday morning, you woke up and you're like, I should put the book on Product Hunt today? Is that like, what happened? No. No, IMichele Hansen  2:57  needed to send out a newsletter that morning. Because I had I had something I wanted to send out. And I was like, you know, why don't I just throw it up on product time. Like, let's just get that over with and do it and like, so like, I just like wrote up a post, I took a couple of screenshots of like the book and the table of contents. And like, I like put it up, like, apparently people hire like consultants and pay them like 1000s of dollars to try to get a good ranking on on product ton. And they spend all this time recruiting someone to hunt it for them. And like there's this whole, like product launch a Product Hunt launch strategy that I was completely oblivious to. SoColleen Schnettler  3:37  yeah, I've heard that. That's a hole that if you there's like so many articles about how to properly do product on and there's consultants, yes. Okay, so tell us what you did. Yeah,Michele Hansen  3:47  I guess it didn't. I don't know. I it didn't occur to me to research it first. Because I don't know. I just didn't so I just threw it up there. And then I sent it out to the newsletter and was like, hey, like, you know, Product Hunt today. And so it was like going pretty well. Like I sent it out like first thing in the morning European time. And by like lunchtime or so here it had like 30 or 40 upvotes which was like way more than most of the other products on the homepage. And I started being like in the people started being like I can't find your product like I searched for it. It doesn't show up like it's not on the homepage like like she usually like reach out to them or something because something is wrong. And this is somebody on Twitter who jumped in and they're like, Oh, they shadow ban info products, because there's so many of them that they shadow ban them by defaults, if you're submitting it and you're not like a you know a sort of name brand person submitting it.Colleen Schnettler  4:47  What is shadow ban mean?Michele Hansen  4:48  Oh, so shot. Shadow banning is when you post it and it looks normal to you and you can send people the link, but it doesn't show up on the homepage and it doesn't show up in search.Colleen Schnettler  5:00  Oh, wow.Michele Hansen  5:01  So basically you don't know you're banned from the homepage. So, so weird, but I guess there's like so many that I currently the logic is that there's so many info products that like, they basically want to cut down on the number of them going to the front page of product on. So and then I kind of like started tweeting about this and I'm not really sure what happened. But I like reached out to their support on their website and on Twitter. And then I think some other people also backchannel that to community people at Product Hunt. And then yeah, it was on the the front page. Like it just appeared at number four. And it was like, Oh, this is kind of fun. Like, we went from being like, completely invisible and thinking this was a huge waste of time. to like, now it's ranked number four. That's pretty amazing. And I just woke up and did this this morning. Like, this is fun. And that's all and then it kind of just kept going. Wonderful. Yeah. And I was actually I was getting like, last minute, like, you know, sort of, like, play by play advice from Arvid call in my DMS. I'm like, okay, like, here's what you do, like, make sure you reply to everybody, like, you know, all this stuff. And I was like, okay, okay, okay. Like, I was like, such like totally green at this. Um, and, yeah, it was it was wild. And then it ended up going up to number one. And oh, that's exciting day. And I just checked it a 512 up votes.Colleen Schnettler  6:36  That's amazing. Wild.Michele Hansen  6:40  Super wild. I've never really done a, like a Product Hunt launch. Like, we I mean, we didn't launch geocoder one Product Hunt. Like we actually launched before Product Hunt had their show h n launch, which when geocoder launched a show h n launch was like, what a Product Hunt launches now. I guess. Yeah. It was so funny. I remember coming across it in our refers for geocoder to and I was like, What is this product on thing and like, signed up? Um, so yeah, anyway, so that was, that was pretty crazy. Um, that'sColleen Schnettler  7:20  really cool. Yeah, itMichele Hansen  7:21  was it the whole thing about it, like, not showing up and like what was wrong and like, all these people kind of like rallying around it too. And like so many people tweeting out the the posts and commenting and like, I just felt like I was collectively being lifted up by people all over the world simultaneously. And it was, it was lovely. It was pretty, it was pretty surreal. It was it isColleen Schnettler  7:49  as bad. It's awesome. So have you seen the Product Hunt success? increase the number of sales of the book?Michele Hansen  8:00  Yeah, so I actually did get a little bit of a nice little bump out of it. So I learned later that the benefit of being number one on product one is not only are you number one that day, but you're also number one in the newsletter. And so you get another bump after that. Okay, cool. And so if I just pull up the numbers really quick. So the the total have sold 344 individual copies, which excludes a bulk portfolio wide purchase that a fund made. So okay, so it's been 180 on Amazon 160 PDF copies total, including the pre order. And then for audio book only pre sell copy, so 344 total. And so of all of that, so 23 of those PDF copies are from since the Product Hunt, launch, and then 59 print copies since the product launch.Colleen Schnettler  9:11  Wow. Yeah,Michele Hansen  9:12  so it's a pretty good bump.Colleen Schnettler  9:14  Yeah, that's great. Yeah. So how are you feeling about the whole feeling good, likeMichele Hansen  9:18  I'm starting to come across like podcasts of people talking about it or blog post they wrote about it, or people tweeting out like, I'm reading the book, I'm ready to do a practice interview, like who wants to pair up with me like, all that kind of stuff. But just that just gives me warm fuzzies when when I come across that kind of thing, andColleen Schnettler  9:42  I love it.Michele Hansen  9:43  Like for so many years, I you know, I tried to write blog posts, and most of the time they would just like land with a thought like there was a couple that did okay, but most of time I would like I would fuss over them and have friends edit them and like, then they would just go nowhere. And so it's still like kind of bewildering and surreal to have people like, be excited about something that I wrote because I'm so used to just like being nothing. Um, so all of this is just this really delightfully surreal.Colleen Schnettler  10:27  I love that. Do you think it's better, you didn't actually know you were doing Product Hunt wrong, because you would have not launched it, if you had realized how some people do it.Michele Hansen  10:37  I think it might have been sort of intimidating to look at. It's like, oh, like, shoot, like, people hire consultants for this. And like, there's, they're like, producing videos for it. Like they have, like, this whole, like, strategy around it, like, but I think it also goes to show like, you know, I mean, the, the real power of building in public or writing in public, and, you know, like, the people in the community were part of this from the very beginning. And, you know, so No, I did not pay a consultant 20 $500 to get to the top of product and like, the book got there, because everyone's been a part of this process. And contributing to it from the very beginning. It was on the strength of community. It's, there's, it's pretty, it's funny, I've had people like DM me now. Like, oh, like, what's your advice for getting to the top of product? And I'm like to Don't ask me. Like, dude, like, don't do what I did. Like that was apparently wrong.Yeah, I mean, I'm sure there's people who have written guides about this, and everything.Colleen Schnettler  12:04  Oh, yeah. They're all over the I like someone recommended Product Hunt to me once. And I was like, Oh, okay. And I don't use Product Hunt. Like, I don't even think I'm on it. And so I googled it. And it was like, Oh, my gosh, there's so much information, how to do a Product Hunt, it needs to be Tuesday at 4pm. Because that is the optimal time. Like, it was a whole thing. And I was like, so this is so wonderful that it's worked out for you. And I also saw you are going to start your private podcast.Michele Hansen  12:30  Oh, yeah. The first chapter already went out.Colleen Schnettler  12:35  Sweet. Yeah,Michele Hansen  12:36  I think I'm gonna roll them up like so I was kind of trying to like couple weeks ago, we're talking like, should we do one chapter a week or like, do like two different drops a week because there's 50 chapters in the book. And so we did that, then it would take a whole year to get that book, which seems very long time, it's very long. So it seems excessive. So this week, I dropped the the title and the chapter one as two separate episodes on the same day. But I think for next week, what I'm going to do is I've rolled up several chapters, and basically all drop, do one like episode a week, that is multiple chapters, with a goal of that episode being 15 to like 25 minutes. So it might be like chapters 234. And then the next one might be chapter five, and six, depending on how long those chapters are, because some of the chapters are pretty short. SoColleen Schnettler  13:37  yeah, that makes sense. And try to make it likeMichele Hansen  13:39  normal. Normal podcast length, but more on like, walk the dog a little bit longer length rather than run three miles. Length if you run at my speed, which is not fast, depending on Yeah, so uh, yeah. So yeah, I think I'm gonna do that. So then it'll go a bit faster. But I don't want I mean, I don't want to like drag the whole thing and I already recorded like 18 chapters, I think. Wow. Yeah. So I'm going to do another recording day in a couple couple weeks. Maybe next week. Maybe I should do another one. I like surrounded my desk and pillows and like put a blanket gonna ask on my Yeah, I totally did a pillow for it. The NPR pillow for it. Yeah. of like, just surrounding my desk and pillows to improve the sound quality. And yeah, putting a blanket over my desk. So I feel like it should, you know, it should it should sound good. I don't want it to sound you know, homegrown and, or Yeah, you know, like I want it to sound Good question like people should pay for it. Yeah. SoColleen Schnettler  15:04  yeah, totally. That makes sense. Yeah, it's well, that's really exciting. Um, you've had a really exciting couple weeks,Michele Hansen  15:10  I've been talking to you a couple of weeks, and you have been doing seriously exciting, as we talked about a couple weeks ago. So you are now my cool kid friend, I moved to California and joined a startup. And totally,Colleen Schnettler  15:21  it was crazy. I can't even tell you like, everything just went crazy. But it is super exciting. And I think something that has not been well communicated is we are basically being funded because we are being paid to me really, to build out this product. And so and we get to keep the IP. So this is really exciting for me. I can't think of what else I would rather do with my life. Besides, you know, normal life stuff with do with my career, then build a business with people I like, like, that's my whole life goal right there.Michele Hansen  15:57  That sounds amazing.Colleen Schnettler  15:59  It is. Yeah. So I'm super pumped. It is a lot of stuff of new stuff. But it's a really cool opportunity. The guys that I'm partnering with are great. I've known them for years. And I finally get co founders, which I'm super happy about because doing it alone is lonely.Michele Hansen  16:17  So I feel like we should back up. Yeah, that's a very basic question. So So a couple of months ago, you took a job? Do you? Do you still have that job?Colleen Schnettler  16:33  I do not. Okay.Michele Hansen  16:35  So this is what we were talking about in decisions dishes and was should you? So you have you have that had that job? And then should you continue doing simple file upload? And how does this whole Hammerstone thing fit into it? And one of those options there we did not talk about was like, quit the full time job and like go whole hog and jump in headfirst on Hammerstone. So let's like,Colleen Schnettler  17:07  yeah, it was, I mean, I just everything went a little bit crazy. I announced that I took that job. And maybe part of this is building in public. or part of this is just the market right now. And I am not kidding you. Within a week I had three other people offering me jobs. Like they're like, Oh, I didn't know you were taking a job. So everything got a little crazy. When I took that job, I had every intention of being with that company for years. It was a great company. I love the people. I love their mission. But this opportunity came up to do really exciting work as part of this startup. And I had to choose because there was no way this startup stuff is full time. I mean, there's no way I could do both. So I unfortunately had to quit the job I had for what a month, maybe two months, and go all in with the startup. So it's very exciting. But it was a lot of stuff.Michele Hansen  18:04  Yeah, I mean, that must have been so much to go through in such a short amount of time. And then you're I mean, you're a very you're he You're a very reliable person who can be taken at their word and sticks to it. And yeah, for you to walk away from something after a month. I imagine that was very difficult for you. And also that shows just how excited you are about Hammerstone.Colleen Schnettler  18:42  Yeah, and I think it was really hard. It was a really hard conversation to have with my boss, who was super amazing and gracious. But it was just an opportunity. I couldn't turn down. It was so I mean, and it's high risk, high reward, right like this could burn out. And I could just be back in regular consulting land. But you know, when you're basically offered to be funded for something, but like, I don't know, that's literally what I want to do. So I couldn't turn it down. Yes, it was really hard, Michelle, because I think especially with what I do, like my business is built on relationships. And my reputation is the most important thing I have in this business as a software developer. And so I absolutely need to be very careful of that and how I handle these kinds of situations. And so that's why it was so hard to make this decision. But ultimately, the opportunities with Hammerstone are just and the problem space is really exciting. From a developer perspective, like the problem space we're working on. It's really cool. It's just really intellectually intriguing. So that coupled with like the equity it was, yeah, I mean, it was hard decision, but I think I made the right one. If I'm crying on the podcast in six months, it means I did it. Just kidding. As a joke. I made a terrible mistake. know if I made a mistake or not. But I got to go all in like, I'm in a position where I can go all in. Because you know, we have health really because we have health coverage through my spouse's job. So, man, it was tough though, because I took the full time job with every plan to stay there for years, and this opportunity came up and it was just like, I cannot This is literally what I want to do is build businesses with my friends, period.Unknown Speaker  20:25  Yeah. SoMichele Hansen  20:27  yeah, so there's two things I want to dive into there. The first is, yeah, like, what's so exciting about it? And what Hammerstone? Like, does and what you're gonna be doing for it? And then the second one, and I think I want to start there is is the funding side just to sort of, sort of distill that a little bit? So if I understand correctly, so there's the Hammerstone team, which is you, Aaron and Shawn, right? Correct. Correct. And then hit Hammerstone has a client that themselves has a client, then that that second level clients is paying your clients for Hammerstone, to build their thing into client number one's app? And then you get to keep the IP from that, is that? Right? That's,Colleen Schnettler  21:38  that's, that's kind of right. Yeah, that's kind of right. So basically, youMichele Hansen  21:43  know, if I dive I follow that fully, but okay.Colleen Schnettler  21:47  So I think, yeah, so basically, we have a client, that's a pretty big client, and then there's a middle layer, and then there's, well, really, there's the client, then there's Hammerstone, then there's me. So we're still we were separated as three layers. And so now I'm joining Hammerstone. So it's actually there's one less layer in there. So it's just, it's just the client to Hammerstone. And so the client has agreed to basically fund the development of this piece of software, the software is a query builder. And that sounds so exciting. Like when I say Query Builder, people are like, what I don't get the big deal. But the nuance and like, the power of what we're doing with this query builder is really cool. It's just, it's such a constant problem, like everyone I have ever worked for basic, smart queries are really tough, you're usually putting scopes on the model, and you're trying to chain those scopes together, oh, here, they want this here, they want this. So we're basically trying to extrapolate all of that away, pull all of that out of your model, and allow you to define these queries in a filter. And we're going to provide both the front end and the back end interface. And it's, I mean, again, we need to work on messaging because no one is excited when I tell them what it is. But once you see it in practice, you're like, Oh, this is amazing. SoMichele Hansen  23:12  that's kind of the product. Can we back up for a hot second? And I want you to assume that I don't know anything about web development. Colleen, okay. Yeah, what's the Query Builder?Colleen Schnettler  23:27  So, Michelle, what is your favorite online shop? store to buy clothes or shoes or whatever you're into?Michele Hansen  23:34  j crew.Colleen Schnettler  23:36  Okay, so if you want to go to the J crew website, and you want a V neck sweater in orange in stock in your size available at your store, tall order, that's a query. Okay, right. I mean, a lot of places kit. That's like a search, which is funny. Yes. Which is funny, because that's how I described it to my husband. I was like, show me the Nike website. And let me show you how we're gonna make Nike better, because that's his favorite shop. Got it. Okay. Um, so, you know, traditional, I don't want to get to it's like a search.Michele Hansen  24:10  So are you like competing with like, like, algolia orColleen Schnettler  24:15  so it's actually no, because we're, it's actually how you build up. So we actually build up the SQL, so you'd still use a like, you could still use like, this client is using Postgres timescale dB. So you could still use a different service for for your database, but we're actually building up this performance sequel in so it's at the model layer, but it extrapolates the the querying the scoping, we call it scoping and rails, I don't know what people call it another languages out of the models, so it like extrapolates all of that away. So it but it builds it The cool thing is like it provides both the front end component and the back end component. So ideally, it will be a drop in piece of software, but you as a developer Like, okay, so I have a client, they do real estate, right. And so they have this huge problem with search because people want this super specific things that they want to search. And this is a constant problem. tuning the searches to be exactly what people want to find. But for example, they don't want you to be able to search based on I don't know, like what on who the agent is, let's say that's just an example. So this query builder is actually a drop in software component that I can put in the app. But I as the developer, when I integrate it can also say, Do not let them search by listing agent only allow them to search by this, this and this. So it gives, it's just really powerful. And where it really shines is like in relationship building, because that is always a problem, right? When you have to reach through all these tables. And then if you have these huge SQL tables, like trying to join these tables is a problem. So we're trying to fix all those problems. It's a really interesting problem space for me, because our client is like big data. And not I haven't worked with like super billions and billions of records. So I haven't worked with that kind of big data before. So it's gonna be really exciting.Michele Hansen  26:06  You're really excited about this.Colleen Schnettler  26:09  I know this is like, honestly, this is what it came down to with, like jabber, jabber about SQL. But I think when it came down to making this decision, which was super hard, because my job was so wonderful. It came down to this is literally what's gonna what's hap what happened. So the Hammerstone guys, were gonna hire someone to take over for me. And then I just couldn't let it go. I was like, Oh, well, can I like I just because the, to me, the problem space is fascinating. They were like, they were going to hire someone. And they're like, Well, you know, you could mentor him or whatever. And I was like, yeah, and then we should redesign it to do this. And we should redesign it to do this, and I just wouldn't let it go. And I think to me, that was a indication that the problem space was so fascinating for me, and I just really, really want to solve the problem. You know, when you get a problem in your head like that, and you're like, this is amazing. I must spend Well, yeah, of course you do you. This is like I'm speaking Michelle. Right.Michele Hansen  27:04  Yeah, I know a little bit about what it is like toColleen Schnettler  27:08  to become obsessed with some Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it's a huge change. Who knows if I made the right decision, but I made the decision that that I think is the right decision. I guess that's all that matters. But it's been a it's been a roller coaster of what? A couple three weeks here.Michele Hansen  27:26  So yeah, so what does this mean for a simple file upload?Colleen Schnettler  27:30  So simple, but it's still rockin and rollin? I think. So although i've you know, I'm working full time for these new guys, but it's gonna be kind of the same dear deal, wolf were full time is 32 hours per week. So I should still have that extra day per week to work on simple file upload. And I'll be honest, like now that I'm settled, I feel like a lot of energy for simple file upload. Like I feel I actually wrote a piece of content finally didn't take that long. I know, right. But um, I feel good about it, it's still not going to be super fast. But I feel good about putting energy into it and putting time into it and making it you know, keeping it where it was going to be, which was, you know, eight to 10 hours a week.Michele Hansen  28:16  Do you feel less pressure with simple file upload? No.Colleen Schnettler  28:21  Yeah, I do. I think I mean, if I had not that I would want to pick one to succeed. But I am super pumped to have co founders. I mean, I'm super pumped. The Hammerstone team is so great, because I'm going to do the real stuff. Aaron is like a layer of Bal Laravel. Laravel.Michele Hansen  28:40  Yeah. superstar, right. Yeah, he's like, really light stuff. People are like, super Hammerstone Yeah, okay. Okay. I thought but yeah.Colleen Schnettler  28:51  Okay. Yeah. So he, so he's kind of, you know, doing great things in the Laravel. World, he did torchlight. And he's trying to do some other things just to get our reputation out there as like a company that makes really quality software components. And then we have Shawn, who's our front end guy. And Sean also has a lot more experience from a marketing and success standpoint, if you will, because Shawn, in the past, has had a product that has been his only, you know, has supported his family. And so he's been there so he can actually see past that, which is really an interesting perspective. Aaron, and I is relatively, you know, we both have mildly successful products, but like, we're both kind of new to this. And so we're approaching it in different ways. So Shawn is like Yeah, sure. I think we can get to, you know, 200k or whatever. How do you get past your network? And Aaron and I don't have never gotten to 200k with a product so we can't even conceptualize that. Right. So I think we're gonna be a really good team.Michele Hansen  29:50  You I feel like what I'm hearing is like you sound really fulfilled by this hair. We're stone work. And I think for a long time, simple file upload came out of that desire to be fulfilled where client work was, like paying the bills, but not necessarily super soul nourishing for you. And then you took the job. And it was, you know, it was you had all intentions of staying there. And making that work and, and everything else. But it did not feel like a calling for you. Which, you know, for the vast majority of people, their day job is not their calling, or something that's fulfilling, and that's perfectly fine. Um, but I feel and then it shifted that that simple file upload was then like your source of like, personal fulfillment. But I feel like now I'm hearing you sound super fulfilled by the Hammerstone work. And that kind of takes some of the financial and emotional pressure off of the work that you do with simple file upload.Colleen Schnettler  31:07  Yeah, I think that's an accurate assessment, I think, yeah, simple file upload definitely fulfill that need when I was working clients. Yeah, I think I think you're right, like, it's really exciting to see where this is gonna go.Michele Hansen  31:21  And I'm super pumped you because we don't do side projects just for the money. Right? Like, you know, very often they come out of that, like, it's certainly, you know, I've talked a lot about how do cardio certainly did. But then we've also talked about how, you know, the book for me was like, you know, it was not for money. And it was not because it was a good decision with my time it was because I enjoyed it. And I needed it myself. And I think sometimes that's a really good space for side projects to be in where sometimes you just need an outlet for fun. And, gosh, I guess given this last year, when you're stuck in your house, and you can't really go do a lot of fun outside your house, like, you know, side projects can fill that need, you know, in the same way that we talked about, you know, when you're interviewing someone looking for the, the functional purpose of why they bought something, but then also the emotional and social purposes. And, and I guess I you know, in for me coming off of everything with with Product Hunt, and all of that community support, like I'm really thinking about those social and emotional components of launching things. And I hear you talking about Hammerstone. And I hear that fulfillment, and I think you have said maybe three times in the last half hour, how excited you are to finally have co founders like that loneliness and struggle and having to figure everything out on your own has been a running theme for you with simple fileupload.Colleen Schnettler  33:08  Yes, so I've basically figured out the rest of my life, because I'm now I'm wise. So I'm going to tell you, by my life, I mean your life to Okay, so you're absolutely right. Like, I kind of came to this realization. So this was a hard decision like agonizing, actually. And when it came down to it, when you're financially stable enough that you can make these kinds of decisions. As I think I said earlier, running a business with my friends, literally, if I could do that the rest of my career I'm in. So I think I've mentioned before, that when we started this podcast, I said, Michelle is gonna write a book, and I'm gonna launch a product and you were like, man, it is never gonna happen.Michele Hansen  33:48  Okay, so now you are actually like a clip of that, like, do we have a recording of that somewhere? Or is that I don't like the two of us talking about it. And like, I don't know.Colleen Schnettler  33:57  I know, like, I would love to go back. I've actually started listening to some of our all of our podcasts, which is amazing, by the way, kind of go back and listen to them, but I haven't come across it yet. But so Hammerstone is hopefully going to make me a ton of money. It's gonna be super fun. We'll do it for five years ish. And then you and I are going to start a business where we help people, women specifically start their own businesses. Oh, yeah. So you and I are definitely gonna start a business someday. It's like five to 10 years in the future. And it's gonna be an altruistic business. And we're gonna figure that out. But that is my life plan for us. You're welcome. For my life plan.Unknown Speaker  34:38  You know, I feel like I'm here.Michele Hansen  34:40  I feel like you like it. You like kind of dropped the idea of like software Social Fund, like a couple of months ago, like casually, and yeah, um, you know, something that I'm really intrigued by. So there's this guy Nick ramza in Maine who runs a nonprofit called Tor. labs, where he teaches people in rural Maine, how to have an online business. And it's a nonprofits. And these people are like making real money, real jobs, like, huge impact in their own lives. Actually, I've been meaning to have phone call with him. Hi, Nick. Um, so I mean, that's that's kind of the thing I feel like I think about, I don't think I would limit it to just women. Um, no, like, doesn't have to be evil. Yeah, yeah. But, um, but I love that if like doing an incubator, as a, like, a nonprofit or a, like, some sort of public benefit instead. But, but then of course, then you have to deal with like donor fundraising, and you still have to deal with investors, it's just donors and like, this, this is not happening anytime soon, becauseColleen Schnettler  36:01  they do not think about this. We're not doing theseMichele Hansen  36:06  years. Also, don't tempt us and send us offers to fund it either. Just like just not just know applications and just like, just just forget we, butColleen Schnettler  36:18  okay, I just wanted to get that on record. Because I see that as our future. Like, that's what I are apparently veryMichele Hansen  36:24  good at predicting the future. So like, when you say go buy here stocks and bet on some sports games, and heck, yeah,Colleen Schnettler  36:32  sure, sure.Unknown Speaker  36:35  So, anyway, well, that's fine. We're gonna wrapMichele Hansen  36:38  up today with the conclusion that Colleen is apparently Nostradamus and things are things are. Things are happening in a way that I feel like all of it, you know, they say that there's times when nothing happens, and then there's times when everything happens. And I feel like both of us are in this time where everything happens. Like in the past month, I have launched a book and it is number one on product time and you have actually taken one job and quit it and then taken another job that you are super pumped about everything is happening and who knows what's going to happen in the future.
  • Software Social podcast

    Struggle and Sponsors: A Conversation with Adam Hill, Creator of Django Unicorn


    Check out Django Unicorn! Adam on Twitter: Hansen  0:00 Hey, welcome back to Software Social. This episode of Software Social is sponsored by Noko. you’re bootstrapping on the side, every free moment counts. But do you really know how you’re spending those moments? Which days you're most productive? If your product have time sinks that just don’t pay?Here's one way to find out: Noko is a time tracker designed to help you learn from the time you track. And Noko makes it frictionless to give yourself good data, too — you can even log time directly from your Github commit messages. Try Noko today and save 15% off every plan, forever. Visit to start making your time work for you.Hey, everyone, welcome back to software social. So as you heard last week, Colleen joined the Hammerstone team. And she also just started a job recently. And she just moved California. So Colleen has a lot going on this week. And so for the benefit of her mental health, we decided that she should just take the week off. And I'm super excited because that meant that I got to bring a friend on the show this week. So I have Adam hill with us, Adam and I actually used to work together. He was the CTO at a place I used to work at. And he also has some projects going. So welcome, Adam. Hey, it's been a long time since we've caught. Yeah, it's weird. I should do this more often. No, no, when we had I had Murray pulling on a couple of weeks ago, the notion expert. And we like had that exact same conversation at the beginning of it was like, This is so weird. I talked to you online all the time. But we haven't actually spoken in a very long time.Adam Hill  2:04  Right. talking over Twitter is a little bit different than hearing someone's voice.Michele Hansen  2:08  Yeah. Yeah, it is. So so actually speaking of one of those conversations we are having so we were talking the other day about podcasts, and you were kind of thinking about maybe you start your own show or whatnot. But you said something in particular that I wanted to talk about? Because I think it is I think it's will strike a chord with a lot of people. And you said, I'm tired of hearing podcasts from people who don't struggle.Adam Hill  2:41  Yes. Oh, all right. So no offense to you. And thank Colleen, because I think you guys do a great job of talking through the things that you're, you know, having problems with. And maybe this is just the podcast that I tend to listen to. But there seem to be a couple of categories. There's like, advice, podcasts, there are interview podcasts. And then there are kind of like two co founders, like talking through their last week sort of podcasts. And the advice podcasts seem to be more like, I'm an expert, I know what I'm doing. Here's 10 ways to get more traffic to your landing page, or whatever. The interview podcasts are more like, I just made a million dollars in the last year, like, asked me how I did it. And then the two co founders on a journey. Maybe that's the closest to like, these are the things that we're working through. And I'm having trouble with this or that. But even like, even Colleen, she's making $1,000 a month, which to me is like, That's crazy. Like that's, that's, you know, she's like having so much success. And, you know, maybe some of this is sort of like, everything is relative. I'm, I've tried a bunch of little side projects and startups over the years, and I've never gotten to $1,000 a month, but like, maybe she's looking at you and being like, well, Michelle is like Michelle and Mathias are supporting their family, you know, on their startup. So like, maybe it's just everyone is able to look at someone who is above them, quote, unquote, and see someone who is like, doing more of what they want to be doing.Michele Hansen  4:40  I think what you're saying is is something that a lot of people feel, and I think that there's kind of this undercurrent of loneliness to a certain extent behind the sort of indie hacker indie SAS kind of world where you know if it's just your one person And working on something or maybe you have a co founder, like me, like, don't really have a lot of people in your daily life to talk to you about these kinds of things. And we're already sort of a lonely pursuit to like, try to start your own SAS on the weekend to then like, hear other people who are doing it, but to hear that they're like having the success that that seems elusive to you. Like that could reinforce that kind of feeling of loneliness. And I could understand how that might make you want to, you know, scream at your phone that like $1,000 is actually amazing. What are you talking about?Adam Hill  5:40  Yeah. Yeah. I mean, like, Can you talk a little bit about, you know, I assume that it was very helpful for you and Mateus to be working on things together throughout the years, like when you were starting geocodes Oh, so like, was that your sort of like support system? Because there was no mic or cough at that point. And there was, you know, indie hackers, I don't think was around. Yeah. Can you just elaborate on on how that worked for you?Michele Hansen  6:08  You know, we actually, we didn't go to micro conference till 2019. And we didn't go for so long. Because we didn't feel like legit enough to be there. Like, and I guess I didn't know that. Like the micro con growth side was a thing. But still, like, we didn't feel like we were, like, legit enough to be there even after we had gone full time.Adam Hill  6:35  So when did you go full time? Was it 2017? So you didn't think that you belong to that community?Michele Hansen  6:44  No, it existed really like so I remember actually, when I was when we started it like the only people we I don't think we knew anyone with side projects, really. And like we had friends were developers. And like, they gave us feedback on it. But like we didn't really know any, like, we knew people who were like freelance developers, who were like, you know, contracting, but like we didn't, I didn't know anybody who had like, started their own SAS and then ran it as like a one two person show. But so when I went full time in 2017, I remember really wanting community. And I actually started a meetup for like, people to work together from Whole Foods, I think, in DC. Yeah. Well, like it. Yeah, it was, I think I did like three, two or three times, like the first time nobody showed up. The second time. This, like other woman, who was a marketing consultant showed up and like, that was cool. And then we like sat next to each other at a table at Whole Foods. Yeah, didn't really talk. And I guess it was fine. And then and then the last time this like, got older guy showed up on like, pitched me how he could like we needed to get our business into China and how. And it was like, I don't know. And after that, I was like, this may, I don't know, maybe this isn't gonna work. And I shut down. And then I actually joined a co working space for I remember half a year but actually only went for like, the first three months, because then I really wanted to, like meet people and like, make friends and find other people in a similar situation. And like going to a co working space in DC there just really wasn't anybody doing that. Like, it wasn't 1776, right? No, it was actually so Okay, so, so context for the people who are not from DC. So 1776 I don't even know if it still exists, but it was like this, like, incubators, slash like co working space in downtown dc 1776 is actually where we did our buco to prototype testing. So we had friends who had a start up at 1776. And one day Mateus, like, you know, went there with his laptop and had people play around with the API and like, try to break it and you know, doing all the stuff about authentication and whatnot, that was actually at 1776. But I think they take a percentage of the company if you want to go work there, or they used to, I don't I don't I haven't really followed it and the last couple of years. Um, but yeah, and then and actually wasn't really until I kind of found the whole community on Twitter and like the whole micro content kind of world that I felt like I had, like community of people, but even then, if you find that community like it can be hard to feel like you are, like fit in like because I feel like people are super welcoming, but like I didn't know that from the outside. And then yeah, and then we kind of like showed up and then and then like we You start talking to people and everything and we like we kind of are like, Whoa, like, you know, we're not legit. And then you talk to people I was laughing Yeah, yeah, you know, in no revenue, like, you know, over a million, you know, like, and they're like, what, where have you been like you just came out of nowhere? Like you're like, Okay, I guess we could, I guess I guess we didn't have to have this like imposter syndrome about it for like, five yearsAdam Hill  10:26  isn't gonna say imposter syndrome. I mean, that's what it sounds like. And I, we have a mutual friend, person who we used to work with, who has their own other startup, I went to lunch with him the other day. And you know, he's doing really well. And I was like, you could be talking about, you know, how well you're doing more if you want it to as sort of like content marketing or sharing, you know, your journey. And he doesn't really want to. So, I mean, that's interesting, because you said that you hadn't heard about micro comm for a long time. So I listened to startups for the rest of us which podcast for probably like 10 years, and sort of followed that journey. And then that podcast turned into micro Comm. And then it turned into tiny seed. So it's been fun to watch. That community is sort of like morph and change over time.Michele Hansen  11:35  But we just kind of turned this about, like how I didn't feel included for a long time. But I think what we were intending to talk about was how you feel sort of alienated hearing about other people's success. And I recognize this is somewhat uncomfortable to talk about. But I also think it's important to talk about because I so many people feel this way, and not just about trying to launch a SAS but in general, like when you are struggling with something and all you see are examples of success. It is profoundly alienating and discouraging. And I think people think they're being motivating be like, look at me, I made, you know, like $10 million, or whatever, like last year and like, here's how you can do it by my course. Like, like those people have good intentions. But I think as as you know, like if you're in that position of being like, yeah, like my revenue is zero, and it has been zero for five years now. And I've watched 10 things like and you're like, what am I doing wrong? Is it me, like all these other people having success? Like, you know, it's like watching all of your friends get a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school, and you're like, what am I doing wrong?Adam Hill  12:44  I think that, especially with some of the interview podcasts, the people who come on to talk are people who are, you know, successful in somewhere or other? Do you remember, there used to be a website when boom, and bust was happening called f company? Um, I kind of want like a, like, what were the biggest mistakes that I made in my company or startup, I think that would be instructive and sort of helpful to show like, maybe that vulnerability of like, you are struggling with this thing. And, or I messed up this thing. And here are sort of maybe some takeaways or lessons from it. I think that would be sort of interesting,Michele Hansen  13:45  huh? Yeah, I think people talking more about the, I think in the way that I think I'm quoting someone here that, you know, success is always contextually specific, like the specific resources and constraints and incentives and whatnot, that lead someone to be successful or not always, you know, immediately applicable to someone else, especially if they're in a different situation. I think it's also the success, the same for failure. And now, of course, it may be very, very difficult for someone who has had a failure to do that kind of analysis, but also breaking down those other things. Because then if you read that and be like, oh, like, they didn't have this resource that I have, like, maybe I could make this work, and I could overcome that. Is that kind of what you're thinking?Adam Hill  14:36  Yeah, I think so. So sometimes, there'll be like a post mortem, when a startup goes away. They're always really interesting for me to read through. And I just wonder if, you know, basically, those are sort of like, there's one of them because then everything goes away after that. And, you know, it might be useful to sort of had a catalogue of those things. I don't know, I'm sort of just thinking off the top of my head,Michele Hansen  15:14  it's almost like the inverse of, you know, say like, you know, indie hackers, for example, they do a lot of highlighting of people who have been successful and can inspire others. And there's, there's a place for that, and I almost was, what you're saying is like an inverse of that, that's like, here's my failure, or, like, here's my side project that I launched two years ago, and doesn't have any revenue, or, you know, it's been stuck at 300 MRR for a year, like, and here's what I think I'm doing wrong. And I'm gonna requires this like level of vulnerability that I think would take a lot for people to be willing to do that. And maybe they would want to do it anonymously. But then again, if they're on the show, and people are listening, then it's like, maybe marketing for their things. So I you know, but I think there really is something there because we all have more failures than successes. Like I think that's normal. It's also normal to like, hide the failures under the rug and be like, Oh, no, look at my successes look great. This was amazing, isn't it? Um, you know, like, I've watched stuff that failed. Like, I've like we've botched launches, like, like we've had, you know, customers wanting to, like, burn us down at points, like, maybe not for Juho do but like for other things like, absolutely. Like, it's, it's totally normal. In some ways, it's one of the reasons why I think I, you know, I'm, I want to hold on to God as long as I can, because like, starting a business is really hard. And like having to do it all over again. You know, the, the chance of failure is, is much higher. So I'm sorry, if you listen to this show for inspiration, because you're not getting it. You know, so I think is maybe enough on failure. I do want to talk about what you have launched, though, because you have done some really cool stuff. And I don't think you give yourself enough credit for it. So was it last year or the year before you launched Django unicorn, which is basically like Laravel Livewire for Django.Adam Hill  17:37  Yeah, I think it was last year. And actually, I think it was a tweet that you responded to. I was like, I think I said something about, I wish you know, Laravel Livewire was for Django. And I think you said, Why don't you or something like that, so terrible. So thank you, I guess. Um, but yeah, so it is, um, it's a, it's basically a full stack framework for Django. So if listeners have ever used any, like front end framework, like view or react, they know that you basically, you have like your front end part of your website, and then you have the back end, and they sort of have to talk to each other. What, there's a couple of these out there, there's Phoenix Live View, and there's Laravel Livewire, and there's Django unicorn. And they basically let you build the interactive front end website easier, without having to basically build both pieces separately, and then connect them. It enables the nice user experience, quicker than having to build both pieces at the at the same time. So it's been a fun project. One thing that might be interesting about it is that it's all open source. But I have GitHub sponsors enabled on it. And so I do have a bunch of sponsors on it. Well, 10 ish, which for me is like more than a handful. That's awesome. So I don't know how you how you, you know, rank open source projects, but there's around 700 stars on GitHub, and nine to 10 sponsors. So for me, that's like, crazy successful. People are using it in production. So now it's, you know, responding to issues and bugs and trying to add features when I have time. But yeah, it's been It's been really fun to build it sort of, if you've heard of like the I didn't think about this at the time. But if you think about like the stair step approach where you like, you have like a small, little product, usually it's like a WordPress theme or a plugin for Shopify or something. Sometimes it's good to like, get your feet wet with that little thing before you like try to do like a SaaS product. It's been fun to sort of like, I have a whole marketing site for which we can sort of talking about marketing to developers, maybe if that's interesting, because I've sort of thought about that a bunch. But um, yeah, it's different than, you know, making a b2c startup for, you know, latitude and longitude, coordinates or, or whatever. Yeah, it's a, it's a whole different beast, I guess.Michele Hansen  20:59  Yeah, I find the business model of open source really, really interesting. Because it's so different than, like, what we do, like we just sell to businesses who need what we need. And then that's kind of like it, like, we just have to be there when they're searching for it. And so you have I mean, sponsors on the project. I mean, it sounds like it is it is, like pretty successful. So to all of our talk about failure early on, and imposter syndrome, I feel like there's maybe a little bit that going on here, but I think it's like, so what do you want to like? Like, do with it? Like you mentioned that you're doing support? And like you're trying to add features when you have time? Like? Where do you want it to go?Adam Hill  21:48  Yeah, that's a good question. Because I, I don't have a great answer for you. I think, you know, I'm maybe being naive, or like, super altruistic, but I really like the Django ecosystem, and Python. And sort of, I wanted to put something out there that people used and let them move faster and build things quicker, without a lot of pain and struggle. That was my initial goal. I enabled sponsors, sort of on a lark, because, well, it was the pandemic, and I had a lot of time. So I put a lot of time and effort into building out this framework, and then also all the documentation and marketing site. And so, you know, my initial goal was basically if I could pay my hosting fees, on Heroku, then it was a, you know, that was gonna be a win. And so I got that, which is great. It is interesting. So it's sort of like what I was talking about before where there's like, always someone sort of ahead of you that you kind of like look up to, um, I don't know if you know, the developer who does Livewire in Laravel. It's Caleb porzio. He is making a living off of Livewire and another JavaScript framework called Alpine. And so I kind of look to him as like, Oh, that's sort of That's crazy. He has enough sponsors where he can basically, you know, work on that full time. I don't know, that's not really my goal. But it's interesting to look at sort of the tactics that he is using to get that many sponsors and sort of do the things that make sense for unicorn as well.Michele Hansen  23:53  Yeah, it seems like there's a couple different paths, you can go on with a product that is that is open source. You know, so I guess there's there's this sponsors approach. There's like people who sell courses and books on top of it like thing like tailwind, for example. I think the more like, classical example is like consulting services using it. And then there's kind of also like, what, what Hammerstone is doing, which Colleen is working on now, where I believe it's something like the back end is open, but the front end is not. And it's also there's also like, you can have sort of, like productized services on top of it. To where there's, there's like a, you know, like, I mean, a lot of Laravel stuff is like, there's there's a product that's, you know, that makes it easy to do all of those things. And so it's kind of interesting, I think about the different options like you could go down.Adam Hill  24:49  It sounds like for Hammerstone. They also have a client who is sort of paying them to develop the thing and then to develop refine And then they'll be able to keep that IP. That's Yeah. From the last podcast.Michele Hansen  25:07  Yeah.Adam Hill  25:07  So yeah, so that's really interesting as well. So I know for, for Livewire, Caleb wrote a long article, which basically detailed all the things all of his sort of like, ways that he got more sponsors. So one of them was he gated screencasts for like how to use the product. So there was some of the like, elementary ways to use Livewire are free, and then for more advanced things they were yet to sponsor. And then he also did sort of a sponsor where model sort of like shareware where if you were a sponsor, you got access to a certain, you know, library or some code. And then once it hit a set number of sponsors, he then just open source that. So yeah, the sort of making money off of open source has all these different sort of approaches, which I think is really interesting. And sort of, you know, one of the things that I've kind of liked about this product or project is, I sort of, because I've been a developer for so long, I feel like I know how they think. And I'm scratching my own itch. So like, both of those things, make it a little bit easier to, you know, market.Michele Hansen  26:42  I wonder, like, do you intend to waste like, like, I feel like this plays into incentives a lot. And it's where we started do Cody from place off, but like, from our conversations about it, it seems like you basically want to keep this as a, a side project. Like, it's, you know, it's sort of as much for you know, like, having extra money on the side is always great, like, you know, when we started to akoto, it actually came out of like, to be able to afford daycare, which, you know, context for the non Americans listening. daycare is like $25,000 a year and costs more than public college tuition in the majority of states. And yeah, so we're like, like, we can't just like magically start making $25,000 more from our jobs, we've got to get something going. And so it was, like, always intended to be a side project. And I, and I feel like I hear that from you. And I think one of the, the other benefits of that, aside from the extra money is kind of like giving yourself like a playground or like a sandbox to like play in outside of work that's like, just for your own enjoyment. And just as you said, like, doing something to help other people to make things easier for them.Adam Hill  28:02  Yeah, so. So for some context, I guess, like, I really like my day job, like, I don't ever want to leave, I know a lot of sort of bootstrappers, or whatever you call these people. You know, they want to, you know, escape the nine to five, and they, they don't want a boss and whatever the other, you know, sort of reasons for for pursuing this path. But it is mostly a hobby for me, it's something for me to do, like you said outside of work, work on different things that I wouldn't get to do in my day job. So that has been most of my side projects have sort of scratched that itch. So my incentives are pretty minimal. And I do think about that a lot. I think one thing that is interesting for startups, or for side projects, is that once you charge people, you get feedback from the marketplace. It sounds like a level ofMichele Hansen  29:17  responsibility or obligation comes into that, like, you know, I've heard like Taylor, Hartwell and Adam wathan, like, talking about how mean people can be in GitHub issues and like really demanding and like, you know, if somebody sponsors you them feeling entitled to you building every feature they asked for, and replying to things right away and like paying customers has its own stresses, but also like having not paying customers or even like spot like that, that creates its own set of stresses as well. And you know, to You're saying about incentives? Like, I wouldn't say that you have no incentives you actually have, if you have a day job, you have incentives for an extremely low support volume, because you can't reply to anything between nine and five. And you probably don't want to spend all day Saturday and Sunday going through support tickets, because like, you've got a family, you want to do other things in your life. And as I mean, it's, it's a lot to think about.Adam Hill  30:26  Yeah, I mean, I think one thing I think about is like, Why do I keep trying to do this? Because like, um, you know, it's, so when we started working, I was the CTO for a little while, at the same time, I had co founded a startup on the side. So that was sort of crazy, crazy time. And I a small child at the time, the two other co founders wanted to go full time. And, and I didn't, so we sort of split at some point. But even that, which was sort of like, more of a real startup, like, over the years, I have done side projects. And, and I just, I do wonder about sort of the psychology of like people who just keep trying over and over and over again, even if it doesn't really work out, like, I'm not trying to make a ton of money off of this. So that's not my incentive, it's more like, I just want to see how far I can go and how much I can do. And I do think that charging people sort of gives you a really like, clear answer of this is something that someone finds useful or not.Michele Hansen  31:58  And then how you kind of work that in with the sort of multiple options available for an open source project. I mean, it's kind of in a way, like SAS is like, so much more straightforward. It's like you have pay as you go, you have a subscription, like maybe you have a, you know, you pay for onboarding services, or integration fees, and then you play as a tutor on top of that, like, there's not really as many things have, like, you know, like pay for this ebook about how to use this project, or, as you mentioned, with live wire, having screencasts about how to use it, or gatekeeping, you know, specific features like for so there's some of that in SAS, but like, it's very different dynamics. And do you feel excited by those options? Or do you feel decision fatigue, and kind of not sure where to go with all of that,Adam Hill  32:50  I think I have a few things in my head of these are things I could I could do. There's a little bit of decision fatigue, I have done some screencasts. But I find it takes a really long time for me to do them. I know you've done a conference talk before. But like, I also did a conference talk per Django unicorn. And I spent so much time preparing for it and doing the slides and running through it over and over again. And a screencast isn't that much time, but it's similar, where I sort of like, need to figure out a script and write all the code and plan everything out. So getting motivated to do that is a little tricky. So other than that, though, there are a couple other ways that I could monetize Django unicorn. But I do feel like, I want to try more of a SaaS product, just to sort of not diversify my income because there's very little income, but like, sort of try something new. I do wonder if the side projects are a way to just try a lot of different things and see, you know, see what I can learn along the way.Michele Hansen  34:19  I guess it kind of comes back to what you were saying about you were sort of like why am I doing this in the first place?Adam Hill  34:26  Yeah, I you know, I don't have a good answer for that because I I asked them myself a lot. I look at it as a hobby. And you know, I I'm curious how you how you looked at geocode do at the beginning like you said it was to pay your their daycare bills, but at some point it pay the daycare bills and then sort of how did you think about it from that point on?Michele Hansen  34:56  Well, then it went on to paying off my student loans. There's just more and more things that are paid off. More American, like financial debt obligations. Yes, that's basically the story. Um, no, I mean, you know, I'm personally very motivated by like financial security. But no, it was always like, it was a hobby, until it got to the point where it was like, No, this is actually serious. And like, this is actually you know, this is this is this is a business, I can trust that the revenue isn't going to disappear overnight, like like this, this other part that people don't really talk about is like, there's this first stage of like, nothing is working. Everyone is having success, but me. Okay, cool. We're having our hosting costs, awesome. And then like, kind of growing it a little bit like this is working, having fun throwing pasta at the wall, you know, unlike it work, like you can try something and if it doesn't work, like there's very little consequences for it at that stage. And you can, you have a lot more freedom to explore and for decision making, which is something that I really valued from it. But then there's kind of the stage when you have legit revenue, feeling like this could go away overnight, like a big competitor could come in, release something, and everybody's gonna switch and my revenue was gone. And like, basically, like I like I like, where I didn't trust the revenue, if that makes sense like that. I mean, the revenue is, I'm totally like anthropomorphizing it here. But trusting that it would be there, that you could rely on it. Like that took me a very, very long time, I probably I waited a lot longer to go full time, I think then other people might, especially people who are super eager to not have a boss anymore, and whatnot, because I was so afraid of that. And also, because, you know, in the US, when you fall, you fall hard, there is no floor, basically, to how far or how far you fall. And, you know, just based on my life experience and whatnot, that was something I was terrified of. And, but it took me a long time to really trust the revenue. And so it was like part, I think it was like it was a hobby, and it was my fun place to explore, where I got to make all the decisions. And I was the one doing the roadmap and is doing all these different things. And you know, I'm ADHD, so I love that I have to switch between, like all of these different things all the time. And we're all these different hats, because then I don't get bored. But I think saying I was a side project for so long, because it was a hobby, I think that would be lying to myself, because there's that other reason that I just didn't trust that it wasn't going away.Adam Hill  37:56  So you've talked about not having, you know, other employees or anything, but can you talk about sort of, you could have had sort of a contractor who would help out with parts of geocode do. And that would have been a less final decision, I guess, then not getting a full time job again.Michele Hansen  38:27  Oh, you mean like before I went full time, like hiring a contractor to work? Yeah, I never even considered that. I mean, it was just earlier this year that I even got a VA, like I had never occurred to me. I mean, even now, like the I don't, we don't plan to hire anyone full time. And for some reasons, it would be nice. But in other ways, like I like I don't feel capable of like fully managing and like taking on the hopes and dreams of another person. Like, I feel like I'm treading water at doing that as a parent. And so I questioned my ability to do that with an employee and give them the amount of attention that they deserve. And then also provide a career path of advancement for them. Like I take it very seriously that it's not just a year of employment for someone, it's, you know, if things work out 510 20 years, and we're I can't be certain that this company would never grow to be more than, you know, three people or whatever, like and then there's the co founders running it, like there's always a ceiling for those people and, like I would almost feel bad like bringing someone on to a company that I knew that they couldn't advance that or run like I feel guilty about that. Like it feels like wrong to me, even though I know there are people who like don't want to run a company would be very happy with that. Like, like to me like I can't like I just can't get over that. So, um, but yeah, I'm taking baby steps with VA, to talk to me again in five years, when maybe we have hired a part time support person or something.Adam Hill  40:14  Yeah, I mean, I hear you on on the full time employee. I that sounds daunting. And, you know, there's payroll, and there's taxes, and there's, you know, all of that, at least in the States. There's, you know, humanMichele Hansen  40:28  side, though, that's the part that, you know, I don't know, I guess I don't believe in myself as a manager. So I know we can execute, need toAdam Hill  40:41  get over your imposter syndrome syndrome. Michelle, and you can do anything. I don't know where I was going with that. Well, that's why I brought up, you know, contractor or, you know, a va or a part time, you know, support person. But that all makes sense, because you are less invested in in helping that person grow. Because, you know, they're not actually a full time employee.Michele Hansen  41:08  Yeah, I don't. I don't know. I think I have to dive deeper. And figured that I think this might be one of the rawest interviews we have ever done on my side, and probably on the interviewee side. So maybe this is a good time to end it for today. Sounds good. Thank you so much for listening. Adam, thank you so much for being on today and talking about struggle, which, again, as you said, I think is a really common feeling. And people just don't talk about it. So maybe we're changing that a little bit. If anyone listening would be interested in a podcast where people talk about stuff they did that failed, maybe let Adam know. And who knows? Oh, gosh, I was on it, right? Because there's a difference between like, wanting to listen to a show like that, and getting to a fly on the wall of other people's feathers. But actually then offering your own up, like, there's a difference there. And if you would be the ladder, maybe let Adam know, because this could be interesting. I'm Adam, if people want to keep in touch with you. And learn more about Django unicorn, where should they go?Adam Hill  42:29  Sure. So um, I'm on Twitter, and I tweet occasionally, every couple of days, probably So, but they can reach out to me there I am. Adam g Hill, on Twitter, and on GitHub.Michele Hansen  42:44  And what about Django unicorn? Where can they find that?Adam Hill  42:45  That's on Twitter as well, Django unicorn. All one word. And if you go there, you can find it on GitHub.Michele Hansen  42:55  Awesome. We'll also put those links in the description for today's show. Adam, thank you so much for coming on. Thanks. And Colleen, we'll be back next week. So we'll talk to you soon.
  • Software Social podcast

    Decisions, Decisions Part 2: Colleen Takes the Plunge


    Check out Hammerstone! Hansen  0:00   Hey, welcome back to Software Social. This episode of Software Social is sponsored by Noko. you’re bootstrapping on the side, every free moment counts. But do you really know how you’re spending those moments? Which days you're most productive? If your product have time sinks that just don’t pay?Here's one way to find out: Noko is a time tracker designed to help you learn from the time you track. And Noko makes it frictionless to give yourself good data, too — you can even log time directly from your Github commit messages. Try Noko today and save 15% off every plan, forever. Visit to start making your time work for you.Hey, everyone. So you may remember a couple of weeks ago, Colleen was facing a big decision about whether she should join an exciting project that some of her friends had started. So I'm here to tell you today that Colleen did decide to join that project. And we thought that you should hear about it from her and the team she's joining. So she is joining Hammerstone with our friends, Aaron and Sean. And you may remember Shawn from our episode a few months ago, where he was helping me learn how to market a book. So we thought we would let you listen to the episode that Colleen did on the Hammerstone podcast recently, where she's talking about joining the team. And after you listen, make sure to go subscribe to the Hammerstone podcast to get more updates about that really exciting project.Unknown Speaker  1:54  All right, we are recording. And we have three people here with us today. So the third person you want to introduce yourself.Colleen Schnettler  2:03  Hello, everyone. My name is Colleen and I have been working for Shawn and Aaron for about six months now. And this is my debut appearance on the Hammerstone podcast.Unknown Speaker  2:14  Welcome to the show. Thanks. So Colleen has been working, she said for us. But now Colleen is working with us. Colleen is a part of the Hammerstone team now. She's the third partner.Colleen Schnettler  2:29  Yes, I am super pumped. Super excited to join the team.Unknown Speaker  2:34  Yeah, so I guess we've been talking about this client for like, a year or more. And we've mentioned Colleen several times, I don't think it's been a secret. And she's the one that's been doing. She's the one that's been doing the rails side of the Refine product. And so, Shawn and Colleen have been working on this client for a long time. And the client has kind of been like, hey, what if we just keep doing this for a long, long time, we're like, great, we, that sounds good to us. And so Colleen is gonna continue working. But this client for they just, they just love Colleen, they just can't, they can't get enough of you. So, yeah, she's coming on as a partner and Hammerstone and she's gonna own the rails side of things. And I own the Laravel side of things. And Sean owns basically everything else. Kind of kind of a huge change, you know, in a whirlwind the past couple of weeks, but welcome.Colleen Schnettler  3:41  Thanks.Unknown Speaker  3:43  Yes, super cool. So speaking of owning all the other things, actually, can you guys hear me the sound just cut out weirdly for a second? We're good. You're okay. Yep. Yeah, so we, since there's three of us now, Aaron, and I have been, as I put it on the call with the lawyer yesterday, just yoloing it for the last year with our sort of like, operating agreement. So we got to hammer that out, you know, and actually do that properly given there's three of us, and that's an extra level of complication. So, the, the thing that we talked about with the lawyer, which I wanted to bring up with you guys was so first of all, I brought on my lawyer, Dalia who's awesome, and the best lawyer that I know. And I was like, Oh, yeah, I definitely want dahlias represent Hammerstone that Dalia immediately brought up that it's a conflict of interest of her because she's representing me. I'm planning for aliens. And I was like, Oh, well, I'll just find another lawyer for planning for aliens. And that's when I realized like last night, I was like, do I want to do that? Like it's, I want Dalia to represent Hammerstone but I also like kind of still want to have Dalia around for other shit for me. So I think that she had mentioned this as a possibility where like, she could represent us both. And then if there's a conflict of interest step aside, and it would go to me by default, I think is what she said. And then Hammerstone would have to find another lawyer. How does that sound to you guys?Colleen Schnettler  5:18  Yeah, so what I took from that conversation was exactly that, like, she can represent you, she can represent Hammerstone. But if the three of us as Hammerstone have a problem, she would then have to step back and then all of us would, like, if we're at the point where we all need our own attorneys, like something has gone terribly wrong, right? Like, we're probably just gonna want to Anyway, when we're talking about attorneys, that's all we're talking about is these horrible situations, right. So that is what we're talking about right now is a horrible situation that, you know, potentially could happen in the future. Get it? I'm not putting anything out of possibility. Like, I'm fine with that. I don't know, she had said something about how someone has to wait, like waive the conflict of interest. So you can ask her what that means. But I mean, I have no issues with this, because I just, I know, no one ever sees themselves in these situations, but I just cannot imagine a situation where that would happen. And if it did, then, I mean, you're so far gone by that point that, you know, I'm okay.Unknown Speaker  6:29  Yeah, I think I think I understand the same thing. So she'll represent planning for aliens, which is your holding Corporation. Shawn, shall represent planning for aliens shall represent Hammerstone. And should, Shawn Colleen and Aaron ever need representation against each other not as Hammerstone against each other as individuals, then that's when we have to say conflict of interest, or, you know, Colleen, and I get our own lawyers or whatever. Does that seem right? That's exactly it. Yeah. Yep. I'm on board with that. That's fine.Colleen Schnettler  7:02  Yeah, I'm totally fine.Unknown Speaker  7:03  She'll give us whatever papers to sign about that. And then Alright, cool.Colleen Schnettler  7:07  Sure. What I didn't understand from that call was the accountant thing. At the election, yeah, way into some tax law with a vesting schedule. For me, and that was kind of Whoosh. SoUnknown Speaker  7:24  So you got to talk to our accountant, like, so this is what we're talking about. We have our accountant, you could you could have your own, or you just use Aaron, I'm like, pushing, we just use the one accountant for all the stuff. I mean, it's not. He's an accountant. So I don't know if there's like, there's not like a conflict of interest, right? He's just gonna tell you like, what's the optimal thing to do?Colleen Schnettler  7:43  Right? This is how you should structure it. Yeah.Unknown Speaker  7:46  Yeah. And, and my understanding, I never thought about this before, I guess, because it's gonna be like a taxable event, that you could decide, take the taxes now or take the taxes later. And I think that'll probably all depend on your whole personal, you know, finance situation plus, like, what you think's gonna happen with Hammerstone, etc. So,Colleen Schnettler  8:06  right, so you guys have a Hammerstone accountant, who is also Aaron's personal accountant. It's my it's my personal accountant, but his name is Aaron is Aaron. Oh, hence. Yeah. Okay, so Shawn, you have an accountant named Aaron, who has been doing Hammerstone taxes and your personal taxesUnknown Speaker  8:30  and planning for aliens. Correct. And he's gone. Hammerstone he hasn't done Hammerstone taxes yet. We just had no money last year. So we just write ourselvesColleen Schnettler  8:39  and then Aaron, not you Aaron not accounting there. You then have your own accountant for your own stuff for your LSIUnknown Speaker  8:47  I Aaron am an account I forgot. Yeah, yeah. So it makes it worse. I'm a CPA, however, I'm not our CPA, and I'm not my own CPA. I have my own personal accountant. For Jennifer's and my taxes. And I have a I have an LLC called bits and things. And so she does, she does bits and things she does our personal stuff. She does. And I've recently switched because my old one was terrible. So yes, I have my own personal one as well.Colleen Schnettler  9:15  Okay, because I have an accountant, but I'm not totally crazy about him. So I don't know if it's easier to just switch like we're, I'm cool with that. We can talk about that more. But yeah, okay.Unknown Speaker  9:26  I think I felt like the advantage for me if having Aaron jado match to do my personal and LLC or an S corp actually needs the one that set that all up is that he knows like how to optimize both and they both writer and they both come into play and otherwise there's going to be a communication point between the two of you have two separate accountants or find like DIY, my personal account my personal taxes. So just for him to optimize things and be more, you know, fluid in that. It was easier to just have him do it. And then like as far as my recommendation of Aaron, like, I feel like I have a lot less problems with there. And then anybody else that I've ever talked to about their accountants and like I have, he saved me automatically a lot of money the first year that I hired him, and I have not been audited. I was audited prior to this prior to hiring him, and hadn't been audited said so. Anyway, that's, that's my pitch there.Colleen Schnettler  10:28  Yeah, not a pitch. It's really up to you. Yeah. But just not to get like two businesses. So like, my first accountant, had all these like, cool. I don't know if they're cool ideas, but he had a lot of ideas about how I should structure my LLC for like tax benefits. And then his wife died. And he retired and it was kind of dramatic. And then my new accountant who I've had for two years now, he's just not into that stuff. Like he doesn't provide recommendations. He like, I think he just puts everything in TurboTax and tells me what I owe. That's why old accountant Yeah, exactly. Nice guy. But I'm like, I can literally do that myself, like you are, you aren't advising me on like, structure anything. So I'm open to trying something new.Unknown Speaker  11:07  Yeah, so with Aaron, I do have to, like, I gotta push a little, like, if I do nothing, he'll just do what he's got sort of squared away from me. And I think he makes by default, good choices. And he's not just doing plug it into TurboTax stuff. Like he's thinking through all the various implications. And if he thinks there's something we need to talk about, then he'll generally bring it up with me. But like, I do have to, like, I wish he would provide me with like, a prompt of like, here are all the things that you should tell me, because these are the things that are gonna like impact, you know, the taxes or whatever. But I've had to kind of come up with my own list. Well, that sucks. But generally, if I'm doing something that's potentially having a tax implication, yeah, I mean, I've reached out to him, like we sold our house, I have this money sitting around from selling the house and like, what do I What do I need to do with this? etc? He's good at all that stuff? Yeah. Very cool. I still feel like space in our in our community for like, a really good accountant that like, actually does their job, like high level high touch could charge probably twice as much, you know, as mine does. And like they would be so busy. It would be ridiculous.Unknown Speaker  12:16  I agree. I think any any accountant that wants to book using savvy cow, I think you'd have a million customers. bootstrap customers, right? Oh, you you savvy Cal. You're not you're five years old. Colleen, is this accountant, the one that sent you like a 40? page? Yeah, organizer right here. Fill out all of your documents. And I said, you should just tell him No, I'm not going to do that. Is that this one?Colleen Schnettler  12:42  That's the that's the one. Yeah, I was like, What am I paying you for? Like, and again, he's a nice guy. But it was just like, like, I pay you. So I don't have to fill out the 40 page document. Like I might as well just do it in TurboTax. If this is what we're doing, yeah, yeah. SoUnknown Speaker  12:59  yeah. Any other accounting lawyering? So one sided? One thing? Yeah, the one thing that the lawyer was saying we need to talk to the accountant about is the 83 b election, which I think determines when the taxable event, like when you recognize the taxes of your new part of Hammerstone. So I think, you know, just for context, that's what she was talking about. But I don't know too much else about that. The other thing she mentioned, which I thought was interesting, is his colleagues portion of the company coming from Sean's and my portion, or is the company somehow magically expanding to have more shares? And that's something we'll need to figure out because I have no clue. I think that's also a tax base decision, basically. I think it is.Unknown Speaker  13:52  Yeah, but yeah, we're gonna have to explore all that cuz I totally get it either. Yeah, even though there was another Oh, go ahead.Colleen Schnettler  14:00  I was gonna say even stuff, like invoicing. Like we invoice the customer, the client? Do I invoice you guys? Ask us guys, US people, US people? Or do I from my LLC? Or do I take a distribution? Like how youUnknown Speaker  14:14  just did you just destroyed our bank account to yourself? Yeah. So we'll just invoice Amazon, you can just pay yourself?Unknown Speaker  14:22  Yeah, I think that's right. But I don't know, actually, we need to check because I don't know if, you know, Colleen takes that as an owner distribution. That doesn't. That doesn't offset our revenue. So like if Hammerstone makes, you know, let's say Hammerstone makes $10,000 but actually 9500 Oh, call is a good point. We need to recognize that as an expense otherwise, hammer stones pay $1,000 Yeah, so not an owner. Just contribution. No, we shouldn't do it that way. That's right. So let's not do accounting live on air because this is something that's definitely definitely one we'll need to get sorted. I don't think anything changes. You've been invoicing us, and we've been paying you and I don't think anything changes but wanting to double check that. Yeah, fun stuff.Colleen Schnettler  15:25  I know. It is like surprising. I'm sure we will be happy. We hashed all this out. But like at this point in the business, it feels frustrating, right? Because it feels like it's slowing us down. We have to have meetings, we haven't talked out lawyer to like, Oh my gosh, can we just do our work? Like, IUnknown Speaker  15:40  don't want to write tests. I just want to write the products like, this is this is the testing of business. You have to do all this stuff you don't want to do. Yeah, that's funny, though.Unknown Speaker  15:50  I don't mind it at all feels absolutely necessary. Really great. Yeah. That's wonderful. Oh, that gets a job that we have to do. I mean, got to do it.Colleen Schnettler  15:59  That's interesting. Yeah, I just I don't know. I'm just like, let's just skip all this. It's fine. But it's good to do it. You're absolutely right.Unknown Speaker  16:07  That's why we have you, Sean. So I think, you know, we have all this context. And this is actually a podcast, not just a Hangout. So I think it would be interesting to talk just quickly about how the three of us like how we ended up here. Because like Sean said, he and I have just been yoloing it and just like, yeah, we own 50% of the company. Let's shake hands. And that's because Shawn and I didn't just meet on the internet yesterday. And you know, bringing in a third partner is a big deal. But we didn't just, you know, meet Colleen off the street. So, Shawn, do you want to talk about how you and I met? And how long ago that was?Unknown Speaker  16:52  Yes. Before Isaac was born, so probably eight years ago. And I was I just quit my job to start writing sketchy CSS and I went to the bacon biz conference, right? Is that what it's called? bacon bits. Yeah, yeah. Amy hoy. And yeah, anyway, now pixelmon. The other thing. The first one, actually, right. wasn't the first one. Yeah. So yeah. And you shared a room with Josh Pigford on that.Unknown Speaker  17:18  Yeah, I did I share it with Josh Pigford. Because the way that I knew Josh Pigford was cuz I shared a room with him at micro comp. He was on. So micro comp and bacon bids were the same year that year, and he had posted on the micro comp thing like, Hey, does anybody want to share room I'm normal. That's like, I doubt you're normal. But I'll look you up. And I looked him up. And we had like a zoom call. And I was like, Yeah, sure. I don't have any friends there. And I need like, you know, when you when you go into a conference, and you don't know anyone, and it's terrifying and like you're in high school with no friends. That's how I felt. So I was like, Yes, I'll share a room with this guy. And then he went to bacon business. So we shared a room again. It's so funny that you remember that?Unknown Speaker  18:06  Yeah, I met you. I met buckbee. I met Barry. Hmm, I think there was there Pete was there. I was not there. No, no, no, Pete wasn't there. He wasn't there. He wasn't. No, no, I didn't meet Pete in real life for a few years. Oh, wow. Yeah. But Pete was working on his stripe book around that time. And then and then Andrew had. So Andrew had a company called churn buster, Andrew Culver, a mutual friend of ours. So he had this company called churn Buster and turn Buster had a HipChat support channel, which he just had it so he would invite people to hang out with him in there. And then every now and then, is it chat customers or be his churn Buster customers would pop in and ask questions. And we'd be like, well, Andrew is not here. But like, have you tried blah, blah, blah. troubleshoot the problem?Unknown Speaker  18:58  It was such a scam. We did all this support for him.Unknown Speaker  19:02  Yeah. And there was also briefly, same in that same HipChat room, there was Patrick Collison a like yeah, that's right. It was in the HipChat room with us. forgot about that. Yeah. We've had people graduate out of Yeah. Yeah, but that's what we all met was that room like buckbee invited us from that conference. And then we started hanging out together there and then meet in real life every now and then, you know, it's making this conferences etc. So we just have this little community which has been growing and changing over the years. Now, it's a Slack channel. It's not Andrews. How to intercept or gel anymore.Unknown Speaker  19:47  Yeah, eight years ago, and then Colleen, you met Andrew first. Is that right? Are you met Michelle?Colleen Schnettler  19:54  Andrew? No, I met Andrew first Sean actually. Put Michelle and I Touch I believe. So I met Andrew, I was going to the Ruby on Rails meetups in Virginia Beach. And there were like three people that attended these meetups like it was not. They were not well attended. But Andrew came to speak at one. And this was maybe four or five years ago, I don't remember. Andrew came to speak at one. And afterwards, we all went out to get drinks all four of us, because he and one of our mutual friends knew each other really well. And so Andrew told me so this is like back when I'm in my just want to launch a product phase kind of that, you know, in the beginning when you like have that really strong desire, but you're aimless because you don't have any contact salutely Yes, yeah, that's back in those days. So Andrew and I were talking about business ideas. So he told me about the slack group. So then I joined the slack group. And then I started having weekly lunches with the Virginia Beach people. And that's kind of how I got to know everyone. And then I met you guys will show that I had worked on and off together. Occasionally we were on the same contract. But we never really worked together. I feel like we were always we didn't really know each other, even though we kind of worked together. And then I met you two, what, two years ago, in real life. I think it was two years ago in the dc, dc. DC was the first time so before that I had never met Aaron and you were really active Aaron in the Slack channel. So I like didn't even know who you were. And Sean I kind of knew because he was like the React guy that worked on the same contract I worked on, but we've never really worked on together. Yeah. And then I met you guys IRL, as they say, yeah.Unknown Speaker  21:39  And we have another so obviously, we skipped the retreat last year. But we have another in person retreat coming up. Yeah, hopefully.Colleen Schnettler  21:49  Hopefully. Yeah. We'll see. I'm nervous. I'm nervous about it. Yeah, same. I will say though, good.Unknown Speaker  21:59  Saying that I feel nervous about it, too. I wasn't even thinking about it. But until recently, when all the sudden I've had to start having new, like, bubble conversations with my parents about like, Who's gonna watch Isaac if like, he has an outbreak in his class? And like, should we do the after school care for him where you guys want to commit to it? So he's not like with all these other kids? And I'm like, Oh, no, this is a retreat even gonna happen?Colleen Schnettler  22:22  Yeah, I hope so. We'll see. But I would say like going back to the three of us working together, we never really got to know each other. Well, I would say until we started working together recently, about, what, eight months ago now. I mean, I think that I don't think I any of us, and I can just speak for myself, you guys would not have invited me in to this company eight months ago, right? Like, we didn't have that relationship. I mean, we had no context on each other, we had never worked together. So I think like us forming a partnership has really grown over that working together almost every day, you know, over the extended period of time. Definitely.Unknown Speaker  23:00  Yep. I would absolutely agree. Yeah, I think. So. I think, just from my perspective, like the thing, the problem that we're working on, and maybe we should describe it, because I don't know that everyone has listened from Episode One, which you should. So the thing that we're doing is, it's like a visual Query Builder. So you know, when you go to, let's use ecommerce, because that's an easy example, when you go to an e commerce website, and you're like, I want shoes that are Nikes, in size 11, or 12, and are black and are under $100, and ship in two days. So like, you can build up your, you know, your perfect filter, just kind of like on the fly. We're building that as a component. So you can just drop it in to your Rails application, or you can just drop it into your Laravel application. And then the application developer can say, here are all the conditions that I want to offer my users, I want to offer them shoe size, and shoe color and price. And then Hammerstone, y'all figure out how do you show that on the front end? How do you do validation? How do you apply that to the database? How do you store that so that they can like, you know, generate a report and send it later. So that's like, that's the product we're building. And it's called refine, and that's what we've been working on for a long time. And I think, from my perspective, one of the reasons that I was like, Yes, we absolutely have to have Colleen is because you've spent like eight months or a year getting your head around this problem, which it takes that long, and I think you have an extremely good grasp on the problem space and it's like a very complicated problem. And you've got, like, you've got ideas on how to make it How to make it successful in the rails world, which I don't have, I don't have the context, I don't have the knowledge, I don't have the experience. And so somebody that has the whole problem set loaded into their mind and is really excited about it and wants to make it a Rails thing. I was like, Yes, let's do it. Bring her on. Absolutely.Unknown Speaker  25:23  Yeah, I think it makes sense. Because it makes sense. If we're, if we're just doing like a really small, like little project, that's gonna make a couple 1000 bucks a month. First of all, Aaron, you should just launch that without me. And then, but we're not like I think we have, I have at least a larger sort of thesis in mind for building a lot of different types of components like this. And we realized that like, we can build front ends that are compatible with different back ends, and we could build a Rails version level version of Python version, like, there's a choice for how we could like, expand our market, we could do, we could go down that route. There's other ways to do it. But like, that was a possibility. And here we are, we were presented with the opportunity to build a Rails version paid for by a client. And now we can have somebody take over that piece and own that, that's a no brainer for me. So it kind of commits us to the strategy of like, we're going for two different markets. And that's how we're going to, you know, like, increase our market size. But I also think that makes sense, long term. And it makes sense that Coleen run the run the rail side.Colleen Schnettler  26:38  I think so I have listened to your podcast, I think you guys are really, like, I feel like your excitement, I don't know, I know, you can kind of see the potential. But literally everyone I have ever worked for could use this query builder. So it's just I mean, when you describe it, Aaron, I think it's hard to describe it. Because someone asked me, he was like, What is this thing you guys are building that you're so excited about. And I was like, I don't know how to describe it concisely. But the power like when you guys first, when we first talked about this, I literally thought it was just going to be, you know, a couple scopes, right? Like, you're just like, Oh, I'm going to scope the model, and I'm going to send you the string. And you're just going to scope the model on it. And that's not what it is at. All right. So I just think, I think we can grow this business with just this product to, you know, larger than any of us have done before, like, This product is really spectacular. I mean, it's just so cool. And I think it'll be cool to like, approach it on different fronts, it'll be really interesting to see how it does in Rails versus, you know, Laravel, and just kind of see the growth trajectory. And both of those ecosystems. Yeah, it's gonna be cool.Unknown Speaker  27:47  Yeah. To get there, though, like, there's, there's some problems. You know, like, it's not, like, Yes, I definitely could, every entrepreneur could see how their product could be used everywhere. Like, that's 100% true of every entrepreneur who creates a product, like everybody should use this. But like, I think that for us, there's the obvious, like, low hanging fruit of, we're gonna get some sales from on the site, like you and Aaron are basically gonna do like dev rel, you're going to do like a little bit of content marketing, you're going to be building up the those relationships, and we'll get a few sprinkles of sales there. And those are going to be people that are going to buy it like because they're like, Oh, yeah, I was gonna build this, but instead, I'm going to buy it right. So they're already at that build versus buy decision point, then, and they already know, like, they need the thing. They already know, they need a query builder that they probably already, like, use that word or phrase even. So they're pretty far along in the process. In order for us to get out further and deeper into the market. That's where we have to start doing some convincing or pointing out to people that like, Look, you can, you could drop this into your product. Now you don't even see the need for it. But like, I could we then show can show the need for it. And I think that's a that's like another harder problem. So there's like, how far can we get on people that are going to make build versus buy decision? And how, how can we figure out systems to get in front of them right then? And then what's the next step, the next layer, like pulling in these other people that like you could add this into your app now. And it solves pains You didn't even know you had kind of situation, which is a lot harder. That's like a lot harder. A thing is possible. I mean, I've already had conversations with somebody who's interested, like they're just what are you doing? And I explained it to them. And then I explained it in the context of their app. And they were like, Oh, I need it. Right. So I know it's possible. But it's very hard. Which that's gonna be my job. Yeah, seriously.Unknown Speaker  29:48  Yeah. And I think like, Colleen, you've worked on a bunch of different clients. So you're not just looking out and being like, oh, the world needs this. You're looking back on your clients and being like, no, the people That I did work for in the app, they need this. Is that right?Colleen Schnettler  30:04  Yes. Yeah. And since they're my clients like I would, I mean, that's the nice thing about consultants. Right? I'd be like, you all need to buy this immediately. And they would. But yeah, to Shawn's point we how do we expand past our existing networks? Right? Like, that's basically, you know, we have we have pretty good networks of people in our community, people in the indie SAS community. How do you expand beyond that?Unknown Speaker  30:31  Huh? Yeah, exactly. That's, that's the hard part. But if we do that, then we definitely have a business. But that's like one of these things that we have to that's, that's the hard part. Yeah. My my movies a coupleUnknown Speaker  30:44  years, my move so far has not been expanding beyond my personal network, it's been expanding my personal network. So like I'm trying right now, to gather up more and more Laravel like connections and eyeballs. And the way I've been doing that, as you know, putting out either open source projects, or blog posts or torchlight is another great example, something that something that's not gonna make us rich, you know, independently, but is getting a lot of traction within Laravel the ecosystem of people saying like, Oh, this is really cool, let me you know, follow the story, follow this guy who's doing it or sign up and use it myself. And so that's been my move so far. But obviously, that only scales, that only scale so far, but it's definitely like, it's definitely step one, I mean, might as well start with the inner circle. SoUnknown Speaker  31:45  I think there's been me is another benefit of having Colleen was, like, takes it I was gonna have to do what Colleen is doing now, like on the rail side, like what you're doing in Laravel, I was gonna have to do that. And I am a Rails developer, but it's, I'm not as well connected in that community. And it's a bit of a stretch, I could get there. But like the learning curve was going to be large. I was trying to figure out ways to like hire contractors to like, kind of get me there and like, So this takes that off my plate entirely. And then like, focus on the hard problem. Which is like where I've been, I have gotten to the point where I have a business that is selling products, paying my bills, doing what you're talking about Aaron doing the devil stuff. And like having doing content marketing and that sort of thing. I've been there getting past that is a whole other thing that I want to figure out and do. And that's, like, that's the goal for me at least.Unknown Speaker  32:43  Well, I've never gotten to the point where I have a business paying my bills, like a product paying my bills. So I'm glad we have you beyond that, because you've been there I have not calling you haven't either, right? You have simple file upload, but it doesn't pay bills. And so to have your mind working on that issue, well, Colleen and I are doing other stuff, I think I think it's gonna work out quite just knowUnknown Speaker  33:10  for everyone. Like, I could just get you guys ahead of you and tell you how you're gonna feel a year from now. You're gonna be like, how do I make more money than this? I'm like, right on the cusp of like a real business. What do I do? Yeah. It's just the next step. Yeah. Well, hopefully you've got it all sorted out by then. Yeah, we'll have it all figured out. Yeah, perfect. I'll just have buckbee tell me what to do. Seriously,Colleen Schnettler  33:35  that usually works. Yeah, that does usually work. Alright, what else? Nobody, nobody, nobody. I'm good.Unknown Speaker  33:51  So we're gonna do, we're gonna do three people from now on, right? calling your game to join all of Yeah, yeah. Hope, right. That's great. Some, some weeks you and I can just talk technical the whole time. I think that's gonna be one of the fun things is, like, I've already picked up a lot of good stuff for the lair Val product from, like working with you. And I think that is going to expand beyond just the Refine, like, refine is the name of our product just beyond refine, into other, like, either open source packages or other products be like, hey, what? what exists in Laravel that doesn't exist in rails and vice versa. I think that'll be a fun, like cross pollination opportunity, either for content or for products. But I'm thinking right now, especially for content. Yeah. So, all right, well, so we just call it there.Colleen Schnettler  34:57  Sounds good. All right.Michele Hansen  35:00  Michelle again. That's all for software social for this week. You can go to Hammerstone dot dev to learn more about that project and listen to their past episodes. We'll talk to you next week.Transcribed by
  • Software Social podcast

    Breaking 200


    Buy Michele's book! Hansen  0:00  Hey, welcome back to Software Social. This episode of Software Social is sponsored by Noko. When you’re bootstrapping on the side, every free moment counts. But do you really know how you’re spending those moments? Which days you're most productive? If your product have time sinks that just don’t pay?Here's one way to find out: Noko is a time tracker designed to help you learn from the time you track. And Noko makes it frictionless to give yourself good data, too — you can even log time directly from your Github commit messages. Try Noko today and save 15% off every plan, forever. Visit to start making your time work for you.Colleen Schnettler  0:51  So Michele, how are things going with the book? Michele Hansen  0:55  They're going? Um, so I checked the numbers the other day and between the PDF and the paperback and Kindle editions, sold 210 copies so far. Wow.Colleen Schnettler  1:09  Don't most books don't most self published books only sell 250 copies over their lifetime.Michele Hansen  1:16  So Miss, like, I happened to like, slack that the other day.Colleen Schnettler  1:22  Like you set me up for that one. So we could talk about how awesome you are?Michele Hansen  1:26  Yeah, I was actually kind of like, I was like, okay, you know, that's good. Like, because I think I kind of went into this. And it was like, worst case scenario, like, everybody on the newsletter list buys it. Right. Like because other people are interested in what I'm saying. So that adds about like, 300 people on that list. So I was like, okay, like, you know, that's that's good. That's solid. And then yeah, and then I was, someone kind of prompted me to like they were they were like, that's really good. And I was like present. And it turns out the average self published book only sells like 250 copies total lifetime. And then the average published book, like publisher published book sells 3000 copies, two to 300 of which would be in its first year. Okay, wow. Consider that we're a month into this. I guess. It's pretty good.Colleen Schnettler  2:16  Yeah, you're already you're already killing that record. That's amazing.Michele Hansen  2:22  And if anything, is, I feel like I haven't really, like done anything. Um, I mean, no, I feel like I you know, I've been tweeting about it probably incessantly. And I sent out a couple of newsletters where I mentioned that. I think you challenged me to be on what likeColleen Schnettler  2:39  1020 I feel like it was 20Michele Hansen  2:41  podcast. Oh, I was hoping it was 10. But I think so I just, I've I've recorded two so far. None of them are okay yet. But which ones have you done? So I've done two so far. I have another one. I have two more on the calendar. Oh, okay. And then I was just someone was just like, dming me this morning about being on there's and there's one that I like I need to do my own recording. Like there's some things in the hopper, like, basically, when I like dm with people about this, then I like I've been emailing myself, the link to the DMS because I always lose my DMS and can't ever find anything. So I email it to myself with the link to the DMS and then I've been tagging them as podcast. And then I okay folder in my email. So it's about like, I have a list of like 10 ish so far.Colleen Schnettler  3:36  That's great tennis a lot. Michelle, good for you.Michele Hansen  3:39  So I feel like I haven't really started to promote it. Yeah. So you were saying the other day? How? Like you were trying to get some content out? And how you're, like struggling to get it out for like three months. Yeah. And one of our mutual friends said, Colleen, like, get it together. Michelle just published a whole book in five months.Colleen Schnettler  4:02  That's literally what happened. It was hilarious. We were chatting. And I was complaining. I don't know if complaining is the right word, you know, lamenting the fact that I was struggling to write a piece of content, he very tactfully pointed out that you managed to write an entire book. Like I think you can write a piece of content. But onMichele Hansen  4:21  that note at like, I think the rate at which I got the book out was I think it was so fast because first of all, I had all of it in my head like and it was just a matter of like I need to go find the reference for this thing. It's not like I needed to go find new references and find like I didn't really have to find any new content for it. But the other thing is, is I think I was kind of in a like hyper focus black hole but like a very extended one for like five months where basically all of my free time was getting spent on this and It's kind of I know like, last night, all of a sudden, I felt exhausted, like and not like physically exhausted. But I was like, Oh my god, like I'm, I'm, I'm tired, like I have been running full tilt at this. And now I'm tired. And it was, I mean, it's good timing right. So because out but like it was weird I had this moment where I was like, you know i, one of my favorite things to do is just like, while I'm eating lunch or whatever, just to like sit down with the New Yorker. And I usually read it. As soon as I get it, I even get it shipped overseas. And I have a stack of them a foot high still in the packaging that I have not read. And I like had this and I looked at it. And I was like, that's not like me, like that's really unlike me to hate. And I have like just like a stack of books I really wanted to read. And I haven't read a not a fiction book in like six months. I was like, This is all very unlike me, like and I was like, I think I'm like really close to getting burned out actually like, I'm like, I just didn't realize how fast I was going. I think my might sound kind of weird. But But yeah, I just I didn't realize it. And then so on. And all of a sudden last night, I was like, I'm exhausted. Oh my gosh, I'm yeah. And so I don't think the pace at which I wrote the book. I don't think it should be used as the standard. Because I don't think it was very healthy. And also, I already had all of it in my head. And I justColleen Schnettler  6:24  need so it was interesting to get it out. While you were saying that I was thinking about the episode you did with marine. And you both talked about how you had these tendencies to go into something Full Tilt, with no breaks. And I remember there was one part where you talked about like, someone would be talking to you like maybe your husband, and you'd be still be thinking about your book in your head. Yeah. And, and so that's really interesting. So for you it's like, the way it seems to be like this has been like such a sprint for you. And now your body's just like, Huh, like, what do they call it adrenaline fatigue, where your body's just like, Whoa, yep. So do you feel? I mean, how are you feeling about it? Now? Do you want to take a break from it? Do you just want to sleep for a month? Like, where's your headspace?Michele Hansen  7:08  I'm a parent. So I can't sleep for a month. Yes, not not allowed. I mean, so I like going into this like in June, I was kind of like, oh, and I'll you know, I'll do the audio book in the fall. Like when school starts again, like I have a little more time like, well, we'll do that in the fall. And now I think with everything coming out, I've been like, Oh, I need to, like start recording that because like, I think it's this combination of like, genuinely enjoying that. And also getting a lot of positive reinforcement about it and just like failing to like, check in with myself of like, Am I taking care of myself? Am I doing the things that like, helped me feel like me and kind of calm me down on a daily basis? And the answer to that was, like, basically no, like, I realized I haven't even been on the trampoline in like two weeks. And I was like, What is going on? Like, and I just felt stressed like, constantly and I was like, Where is this feeling coming from? And I think I've been feeling like, Oh my god, where am I gonna get this time to like, record the audio book, like I keep not like, you know, just with, you know, child being home and lack of summer camps. And like, just, it's just kind of been sort of chaotic, and I can't find that time. And I was like, but I don't have to get it out. Like one of the reasons why I published this. Myself, like did self publishing was so I didn't have a publisher breathing down my neck saying, Okay, now you need to get this out, you need to go record this this year, you need to, you know, go give these talks or whatever, or do these interviews, like I purposefully intentionally did not do that. Like, I could have gone through the whole publisher rigmarole if I wanted to. Like, I'm sure if I had pitched it, you know, well enough, like I could have gotten someone to publish it. But I chose not to do that. Because I wanted to do it at my own pace and on my own terms, and because I am not in this to sell books. I'm just, you know, in it to help people. Yeah, and well, and that sounds alignment of incentives. And but like I think I lost track of that.Colleen Schnettler  9:13  Yeah, yeah. Do you think so? I have a question for you. And this again, is based on what I heard you and Marie talking about. Could you have done it at a pace that enabled you to care for yourself and would have been a little bit slower?Michele Hansen  9:28  I don't know.Colleen Schnettler  9:31  Like I just wondering it though, that sounded like that's your that's kind of the way you work like you get sued. Yeah, is and you're all in bursty but to your own health detriment right and your own kind of like detriment a recurring problem. Right. That's what I was. Yeah,Michele Hansen  9:48  I mean, cuz I think and I think this like, I don't know, I I always want to be careful when I'm talking about ADHD things because it's like, is this a me thing? Or is it an ADHD thing and like in recent years learned that a lot of Things that I thought were me things are actually ADHD things, but I'm not an expert in it. So I don't know. I think the thing about it is, when I do get focused on something, I'm so scared of that focus going away, that it like builds this kind of anxiety of like, Oh my God, if I don't get this out, it's never gonna get it's never happening, like, I'm gonna like, it's like, I have to take advantage of this focus while I have it. Because it just feels like this scarce resource that like might slip away at any moment. I don't know if that makes sense.Colleen Schnettler  10:29  It does. So what I'm trying to lead into with this, this line of questioning is, when you start recording the podcast, are you again, going to be spun up into a don't sleep? Don't read a book, work every night? I mean, just what you know, of yourself, like, do you think that you're going to do that, again?Michele Hansen  10:49  I think I need to not do that. And writing I need to like I maybe I should like dedicate a day where it's like, I'm only doing these recordings on this day. Because also, you know, it requires like, it sort of basically requires the house to be quiet and like, you know, so when I'm recording even recording this podcast, like Mathias can't be in the office, and, you know, Nigel, or dog, he needs to not be in the room. And so like he kind of needs like, take them like so it does require a little bit of coordination for us. So I think I need to maybe just do it like one a day, like, have like, one day a week where I'm doing it. And also I can't release like 10 chapters in a week because nobody would have time to listen to that. I think I'm sort of mentally thinking like three for the, for the private podcast for the book. So I think I need I need to like three a week.Colleen Schnettler  11:43  Yeah, no, one a week, one a week. But if I did wantMichele Hansen  11:47  to well, if there's like 50 something chapters in the book, it's gonna take a whole year? I don't know. I don't know, I guess.Colleen Schnettler  11:54  I'm just saying we'll see. Let's see. Let me know whatMichele Hansen  11:56  you think people like if you are interested in the private podcast of my book, that was basically like, just get it all get compiled up and turned into the audio book. So I'm doing a pre sale for it. If you would want to once a week or three times a week or twice a week, or if you don't mind it being a whole year tweeted me, let me know.Colleen Schnettler  12:15  I think it depends on how long it takes you to read a chapter. I'm big on like 20 to 35 minute podcasts. That's probably two chapters. Yeah. So yeah, that's probably two or three chapters.Michele Hansen  12:25  I don't I don't remember I did the I did a demo of the first chapter. And I think it was like 1520 minutes.Colleen Schnettler  12:31  So okay. Yeah, I think that's that's probably good. About 30 minutes. So let's circle back to what, sorry, circle back. That's so quarter. And I know right? I'm so I can talk corporate like you were Lilly on that thing. synergy. So, but seriously, that let's circle back to what you were saying you were originally thinking you were going to do it in the fall. So and we kind of got off topic. So are you now saying you want to push it even more? No, IMichele Hansen  13:00  think I'm gonna go back that I was basically originally Yeah, pull it forward. Right. And that's just not going to happen. Like, and I need and I don't think there's a need for myself. Yeah. Like, I'm just I am the one putting the stress on myselfColleen Schnettler  13:14  for no reason. Yeah. Yeah, I totally think that is a good move, especially since this is a marathon, right? Not a sprint. And you already have tons of momentum. And your book is just selling itself. Like, it's really cool. Michelle,Michele Hansen  13:28  I don't know if it's selling itself like it's I've mostly sold it to like people who know me or you know, some soColleen Schnettler  13:34  I'm while I was reading it at the part about stripe, all I could think was like Michelle should do a deal with stripe where they like buy 20,000 copies of the book and give it to like all the stripe employees. I don't know how many employees, they probably right. If you're interested in that, let me know. Because you reference them a lot like the way they try to, you know, facilitate and work with their customers. And I was like, Oh my gosh, you should just sell it to stripe Corp. Actually, IMichele Hansen  14:01  did. I did do like a portfolio wide deal with con company fund, formerly earnest capital where they basically bought it and yeah, they just bought an unlimited license to share it with all of their portfolio companies. Nice. Yeah.Colleen Schnettler  14:16  How did you figure out? I don't I don't know, if you want to share the amount you sold that for? If not, it's fine. But how did you even figure out how to price an unlimited license?Michele Hansen  14:25  I was basically Okay, what's the price of my book times? The number of companies they have? And then let's just give them a nice discount on that. And it's gonna Yes, version two. It's not the physical copy, which would be a little. I mean, I guess I could do that.Colleen Schnettler  14:42  Awesome. Well, it sounds like the book stuff is going great. And I'm glad that you, you have been, you know, reflective enough to see what it has done to you. Yeah, sounds terrible, but like to kind of see where it's put you and how you've stopped caring for yourself. So you can walk that back before you're totally burned out and you know, you have to hide In your raspberry bushes.Unknown Speaker  15:02  I do loveColleen Schnettler  15:02  By the way, I'm so I'm so jealous. You have raspberry bushes, raspberry bushes,Michele Hansen  15:07  they are an absolute delight, like I was out there earlier and just like there's the bees are just being busy bees and just not stinging me yet, you know, but like just going around and then it's like treasure hunting because raspberries are just like, they're just these like sneaky little things that like hide behind the leaves anyway, if you want if you want to see some farmed we use Yeah. Yeah, so I need to I need I think I need to schedule it. Cuz I think again, that's sort of an ADHD thing is like, I do really well with structure. And I don't do well with internally provided structure like that, like because I can just move my own deadlines. Like, you know, I mean, the reason why I got the book out so fast actually, is because I was like, I need to get this out before I have to start Danish classes before I'm vaccinated, and originally the Danish vaccine calendar so that people in our age group would not be vaccinated until September. So i or i kept moving, but it was August to September. And so I was like, Okay, I need to get it out by August. And then actually, like, we were able to get vaccinated in May. But anyway, and then I was like, Okay, and then I need to start Danish lessons. And I'm gonna be starting Danish lessons in the fall. And so like that was that like, deadline that I had to get it out? Because once I start doing that, like six hours a week, like, I'm not gonna, like, that's where my free time is gonna go. So I, you know, I think your own content project, it doesn't have a like big looming deadline like that in front of it. And sometimes I need things to be urgent in order to get them done.Colleen Schnettler  16:48  Did we talk about that last week, or two weeks ago, I told you about that podcast, urgent versus it was urgent versus important. And it was from some Eisenhower came up with it. I don't know if Eisenhower came up with it. But I think they used it in context of Eisenhower, I have to look up the podcast, but it was so good. It was just about the psychology behind something that's urgent versus something that's important. And I was like, Yes, I need to make it urgent, like, and how do you make your own deadlines? urgent, right? Like, how do you because you're right, if you can just move them like you have to do something? Oh, this could be like a whole nother thing. I mean, everyone's trying to figure this problem out, right? Like, how do you make your own things? You know, you should do health stuff, working out writing content pieces? How do you make them urgent? Yeah,Michele Hansen  17:31  I think you can also, you know, you can make them annoying, too, like, like, I've seen a bunch of people talking about going out and running every single day. And it's like, just run for 20 minutes every day, it doesn't matter how fast or how slow or if you do sprints, or whatever. But put your shoes on first thing in the morning, and don't take them off until you've done running. So basically until you like, if you get annoyed by having them on all the time, then you just have to go do your running, get it over with. Right, like, this is annoying. I should try that.Colleen Schnettler  18:05  Yeah, I think for me, the content stuff is. I mean, when Matt said that about how you wrote a book in three months, you know, and I couldn't, much nicer than that. But he was basically like, you haven't written a single piece of content. I it gave me pause, because I was like, you're right. Like, I am someone since I have been young, like hated English class, I love to read like, I'm a voracious reader. But I have never enjoyed writing like English papers. And I think with developer focus content, I have this mental block to start because I know it's going to take a long time. And it's going to take a long time. Because I am by long time, I don't mean five months, I mean, like a couple hours. And it's going to take a long time. Because when you write really in depth, the developer focus content, even though I already know these things, I you know, the ecosystem is always changing. So I'll have to go back and make sure this is still the best way to do it. And make sure that you know, I'm referencing all the right versions of Ruby and Rails and APA storage, and I get all the new stuff in and then you need screenshots and I don't know, it's just so it's this meant it will probably take me three hours. Like that doesn't sound hard when I say that to you, but man, I'm having a hard time blocking it out and just doing it would it be easier for you to record a video or a screen share of it and then make a transcript of that and then use the transcript to write the content? That's a good idea. Yeah, because then you get it out and because like I just do it Yes, IMichele Hansen  19:35  get it. You're like okay, I need to reference the right version of this and I need to figure that out before I release it, but like you don't actually have to like that's something that you could just edit later and like basically just make your documentation expanded version of this video and like, some people genuinely prefer watching videos to reading something. I am not one of those people, but I'm told they exist. And I mean, that could, it might make it easier for you to create it.Colleen Schnettler  20:05  That's a great idea. I need to just get it out. And I have this like, Oh, it's gonna be hard, I'm gonna have to spin up a new Rails app, not that it's hard to spin up a new Rails app, it literally takes five seconds, but it's just like, and then I'm like, oh, are my dependencies gonna be up to date and blah, blah, blah? I think that's a great idea. I think I'll just I'll just word screenshare. vomit something. And then at least I'll have the basic building blocks of Oh, my gosh, I have an idea. Yeah. So I have hired my sister. And I think we've talked about this before. The problem is she is not a developer. And so she cannot write me any content. But I could screenshare word mind dump. And then I could send it to her. And she could turn it into words. Yes. On a paper. Yes. That's a great idea. That's brilliant. It's brilliant. Michelle, we're going to do that next week, maybe? No, for real. Yeah. So that's, that's definitely something I want to do. That's a great idea. That's totally what I'm going to do.Michele Hansen  21:07  Speaking of things that you're going to do, so last week, we are talking about the spake decision you're trying to make. And I don't want to pressure you. But I'm just want to kind of like wondering, what's what's going on there? If you've thought about that, since?Colleen Schnettler  21:22  Yes, so I have decided to join this other startup that I mentioned. I am super excited. I can't talk about it too much yet, because there's just like, there's like lawyers involved. It's like a thing. And there's lawyers involved because there's real money involved. And there's three of us. So three co founders. I know, doesn't that just sound interesting. I mean, I have three children. And the thing about going from two children to three is you like, you know exponentially increase the number of relationships you have to manage, right? Like when you have two kids, you only have to manage one relationship. When you have three, you've got to manage all the different relationships between the three children. And so that's what I was thinking when I was like, oh, now there's three of us. But I know these guys really well. I've known them for years. They're good guys, I really believe in their product. But we are definitely at that phase. It's really interesting. Like we're at the lawyer phase. So we're lawyer, lawyer, bring out some of the details. So I can't talk about it too much, because nothing is finalized. Yet things could still change. But I'm really excited about it. It's gonna be really fun. Look at youMichele Hansen  22:34  moving to California and joining a startup. I know I'm so cliche. You're in San Diego, and it's like a indie thing. But you know what?Colleen Schnettler  22:44  It still feels a little cliche. Like, this is what you're supposed to do, man.Michele Hansen  22:48  Live in the California dream.Colleen Schnettler  22:50  Live in the California dream? Yeah, so I'm super excited. That's moving pretty quickly. So there's a lot of hopefully, in a couple weeks, I'll have an update on that. There's a lot of moving pieces, and there's a lot of work to be done. So it's gonna be an adventure. But I am, I am really excited to join their their team, because I am super pumped to have co founders. I have had people approached me before about becoming a co founder. And I just don't think it's something I would do with someone I don't know. Because there's so much involved in that relationship. And so I'm just like, super pumped to have people to talk to about, like, random nerdy stuff that no one else cares about. But us. That's fun. Yeah. So we'll see how it all how it all shakes out. But I think it's gonna be great. Obviously, I think it's gonna be great. And so I'm doing it. And I, you know, IMichele Hansen  23:45  like that you're kind of going in as an equal, like, you know, cuz, cuz you're the only rails person on the team. Right? Right. And they're coming from other, you know, places or worlds or whatnot. So you're bringing something unique to the table that they don't currently have. And and since you know them, well, like, you know, it will be a, what's not a marriage of equals, because there's three of you, but three, a union of Yeah. of equals.Colleen Schnettler  24:23  Yeah, and I felt that that was really important. When we talked about equity. I feel like for me to make two dues to commit the time and to do something like that, like, I've I, you know, I don't really want to work for anyone, like, I want to be an equal partner. So that that was that was definitely important to me.Michele Hansen  24:43  Mm hmm. It's pretty exciting. I it's hard that I kind of can't share too much more about it.Colleen Schnettler  24:49  Yeah, I think it's all gonna be fine. But like, I just want to be over that hump before I start talking details. Because if if something change, you know, sometimes when lawyers get involved, and you have To talk about these hard things like, things can get a little weird. I don't think they will. But you never know. And you add to what we were just saying about some of the challenges that you've had with simple file upload around. How do you price it and content and marketing it. And all of these things, like, there's a lot for one person to take on. And, like,Michele Hansen  25:27  I think you have been feeling the lack of a co founder.Colleen Schnettler  25:31  Oh, my gosh, Michelle. So after I made this deal, this just happened. My first thought was like, I should bring out a co founder for simple file upload, like co founders everywhere. Everyone needs to co founder. But seriously, so So obviously, so you know, I've been like, Okay, how am I gonna have time for simple file upload? And the thing about trying to everyone says, Oh, just hire like a contract developer like that. So easy. It's not like FYI, finding a good contract developer at my budget, which is, what, $1,000 a month to stay within my parameters of what I'm making. That's not, it's not really possible. Like, I feel like, it's really not something. I would love to hire someone to do all these things, but I'm just not there yet. So I don't know, I started toying with the idea. Okay. So if I don't have enough money to incentivize a really good developer to come join me, maybe I should just like, find myself a co founder for that. My getting crazy. Maybe I just need to take us take a beat and think about it. Like, I literally know who it would be. And I think he listens to this podcast, but I don't know if he knows.Unknown Speaker  26:43  You. I mean,Michele Hansen  26:44  and so now there's gonna be these listening, like, Is it me? Is it me? Oh, my gosh.Colleen Schnettler  26:51  I shouldn't have said that. Um, anyway, it's something I've thought of, as literally just thought of yesterday, I have never thought of before. But I don't know, there's possibilities here. I mean, I just man, I just feel like I cannot. I cannot move simple file upload forward. at this speed, I want it to move forward. And so I'm trying to be patient with myself. And the thing about SAS, it's still just, it's like, just making me money. Even though I'm doing nothing but responding to support requests. Like it's like magical money. Michelle, it's so cool. So maybe on a like, if you look at it from a business perspective, it hasn't really what what's that hockey stick thing everyone's into? I haven't really hockey stick, but it's still pretty cool. So I mean, just it's casually making you $1,000 a month, which is nothing to sneeze, right.Unknown Speaker  27:40  Like, that's fine. Like,Michele Hansen  27:43  there's pretty people who would want to have that. And that's, and it's very, like, yeah, I'm just trying to support like, that's, that's a pretty big achievement.Colleen Schnettler  27:53  Yeah, it totally is. It totally is. So I don't know. So I think I was just like, you know, excited about this other thing. And I was like, oh, maybe I should bring out a co founder for this, I don't think I'm going to make any moves to do that. I like having my own thing. I'd like to be able to run it exactly how I'd like. But it would be cool. If I could, I don't know get a little bit more help. And so maybe, maybe I'll decide that it's worth that and I'll put some of my own money into it and, and hire someone to help me. The thing that's cool about simple file upload is like 95% feature complete. So I just need a little more push to get it over the edge. And then it's just like little things I've noticed every time I grab a chunk of time to work on it. It's not like big architectural decisions, except for this sub domain thing, which is causing me infinite headaches. Besides that, once that gets sorted out, it's a couple I can, I can make an impact in like three to four hours on it, like I can do three to four hours, I can implement a feature. And you know, it's good. So it doesn't require that much time.Michele Hansen  28:53  And the other thing is, if you're 95%, there, do the other 5%. And then if the stuff after that is stuff that you don't want to do, like marketing and whatnot, like, yes, you can hire people to do that. Or you can just throw it up on micro acquire and see what, you know, people bit like,Colleen Schnettler  29:10  Hi, if so we talked a little bit about that last week, that is an interesting idea. I think I'm gonna see how this shakes out with my new my new company, and see what you know, how I am able to balance my life with them. And go from there, because that's an interesting idea that we talked about that I'm definitely you know, it's kind of percolating, but I also think that this thing is almost completely hands off. And as you just said, like, it just brings in some money. So that's pretty cool. So I think it's gonna depend on once we get rolling with this new company, how many spare cycles that takes and that might take all of them and so, you know, there might be something I don't know. It's like, all exciting though. It's like really all good, really fun stuff over here. All good things, all good things. Yeah. So I think last week, as part of my Keep myself accountable podcast, I said I was going to get a test, a test domain set up on my website, I still don't have that, because I'm having a very frustrating time with like architecture challenges. I did all the things I needed to do, I got rails to 6.1, I set up proxying through my app. But now I'm just having trouble like, with the sub domain, I'm sorry, with the CDN and the sub domains and the routing. And this kind of stuff like DNS and routing, and subdomains and CD ends are not things I am intimately familiar with, like they're usually things you just set up once and you let them be, and they're just hanging out. So this whole wildcard subdomain thing is new. I've never done it before. And it's causing a lot of headaches. So I'm hoping this week, it's going to be the same same goal. And this week, I'm going to add the goal of doing a screen share for my sister, so we can start pumping out content. Nice. Yeah, that was a lot of words. But yeah, that's the goal. Cool. I should write that down. Yeah.Michele Hansen  30:58  Totally. All right. Well, I think that'll wrap us up for this week. Thank you so much for listening to software social, we will talk to you again.Transcribed by

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