The SaaS (Software as a Service) Business Podcast

Jan 09 2017 42 mins 20

The SaaS (Software as a Service) Business Podcast helps entrepreneurs start and grow their SaaS businesses. By interviewing people who have accomplished what you want to do, this podcast will provide you with resources and inspiration to grab a piece of this expanding market.





019: A Campaign Against Email Attachments with Dave Koslow
Jan 09 2017 52 mins  
In this episode of the SaaS Business Podcast, Ron Gaver’s guest is Dave Koslow, co-founder of DocSend. Dave and Ron discuss how Dave and his co-founders discovered the problem that led to the creation of DocSend, a document sharing and monitoring tool. Dave details the various ways DocSend provides users with seamless, real-time feedback, listing its advantages over tools like email attachments and screen-sharing programs. This, in turn, opens a conversation about promoting asynchronous communication for business success and how businesses can use DocSend to bridge the communication divide separating them from their clients. Along the way, Dave discusses opportunities and pitfalls for early-phase startups doing product research and design. The full show notes contain a thorough listing of all resources mentioned in the episode and a full transcript of the entire episode. Get the Full Show Notes! NOTICE After clicking the link above, you will be asked to enter your name and email address. By entering these, you are agreeing to receive email from us. To be removed from the email list, unsubscribe from any email message from us. Episode Outline Click any timestamp on the website to start listening at the noted time. [00:00] Intro [02:24] Attachments and the Failure of Transparent Communication [05:15] Purpose-Built Platform for Data Sharing [06:11] External Communication Beyond Shared Content [08:39] Using DocSend to Study the Effectiveness of Pitch Deck Slides [09:08] Using DocSend with Your Existing Documents [10:11] Raising Funds with DocSend [11:53] Investors Value a Solid Startup Team [12:43] DocSend’s Study of Sequoia Capital’s Recommended Pitch Deck Slides [13:19] Using DocSend for Lead Capture [14:55] Using Lead Capture for Organizational Mapping and Networking [16:35] What Happens to Your Documents after You Hit Send? [17:36] How Are Attachments Performing? [18:17] Using DocSend to Evaluate Page Engagement [19:16] The Importance of Asynchronous Communication to Business Success [21:20] Getting User Feedback from DocSend [21:57] What Feedback Are You Missing with Email Attachments? [23:40] DocSend’s Feedback Is Easier Than PDFs [24:24] Using DocSend for Remote Live Presentations [25:55] DocSend’s Live Present Advantages over Screen Sharing Apps [27:35] DocSend’s Highlighting and Cursor Tools [28:00] DocSend’s Advantages over WebEx [28:42] DocSend’s Origin Story [29:33] How DocSend’s Team of Founders Met [31:55] How DocSend’s Founders Entered the Industry [34:20] The Character of DocSend’s CEO – Russ Heddleston [35:20] The “Perfect Co-Founding Team” According to Dave McClure [35:48] Brainstorming the Idea of DocSend [36:14] Finding the Need [37:06] The Need-Finding Hustle [39:16] DocSend’s Dachshund Delivery Service Marketing Campaign [40:28] Building with Heroku [41:07] Scaling with Heroku [42:25] Real-Time Messaging with Off-the-Shelf Components [43:09] DocSend and User Privacy [43:40] DocSend’s Experience Working with Ruby on Rails [44:30] DocSend’s Experience Creating a Website with Bootstrap [44:57] Funding: Seed Round and Series A [45:42] The Future of DocSend – Upcoming Developments [46:36] DocSend’s First Conference Experience [47:19] Dave Koslow’s Personal Influences [51:18] Conclusion


018: Learn About Content Marketing for Startups with Nick Raithel
Sep 19 2016 47 mins  
In this episode of the SaaS Business Podcast, Ron Gaver’s guest is Nick Raithel of Content Corps. Nick and Ron discuss the unique requirements startups have for content marketing. Nick points out some of the “dos” and “don’ts” of content marketing stressing the need to begin by building relationships with clients before trying to market their products or services. He describes road-mapping, a tool used by Content Corps to plot a client’s marketing course, delve into competitors’ tactics, and define success in advance. He discusses how road-mapping can save you time and money. He discusses the various types of content and channels for content marketing. One of his favorite types of content is email courses. When done correctly, email courses can help you win your customers’ loyalty. When done incorrectly, they may turn customers away because they are perceived as marketing. With email courses and content marketing in general, the idea is to lead with value and avoid creating content that is nothing more than a thinly concealed sales pitch. He examines the various ways entrepreneurs can use social media to amplify their content by building relationships and increasing audience exposure. He then points out that published books are often overlooked as a marketing tool to build personal authority and set you apart from your competitors. Nick closes out the show with the four most damaging content marketing mistakes aspiring entrepreneurs make and offers an exclusive bonus to listeners of the SaaS Business Podcast in the form of free course tools. See SaaSBusinessPodcast.com/018 for transcript. Please see Disclosure* (below transcript) concerning affiliate links on this page. #AskGaryVee – Nick Raithel used #AskGaryVee (Gary Vaynerchuk) as an example of repurposing content. See the separate entry for Gary in this list for more information about him and what he does. Listen or read at 36:30. Audible* – I’m a podcaster. I like audio. I can listen while I do other things. Audible is now part of Amazon.com. In this episode, Nick Raithel recommends Audible to those of us with busy lives as a way to educate ourselves on the go. New users receive a 30-day free trial, as well as one free story when they register. Listen or read at 40:53. AWeber* – I am an AWeber customer and affiliate. AWeber is email marketing software. I find it to be an affordable solution satisfying my current needs. AWeber employees and (and as far as I know disinterested) third parties have told me that messages sent by AWeber end up in the Spam folder less often than some of their competitors’ messages because of their conservative approach. Erik Harbison, the Chief Marketing Officer for AWeber, will be discussing the marketing stack for a SaaS company in an upcoming episode (it is in post-production now). The episode is about the various marketing tools he has used for SaaS companies more than it is about AWeber. This is in alignment with what Nick Raithel says in this episode. Listen or read at 22:53. Buffer – I am a Buffer user. Buffer is SaaS for social media automation. Buffer currently provides queues, schedules, and analytics for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Integrations with the browser and smartphones make buffering a post easy. Reposting (at least on the basic plan) turns into a manual process, which has driven me to another app for reposting and may eventually lead to me discontinuing Buffer. Buffer analyzes engagements with your posts and can suggest an optimized schedule based on maximum engagement. Buffer can monitor Instagram for engagement but does not provide the capability to post to Instagram. Listen or read at 19:11. Buzzsumo – According to the site, Buzzsumo allows you to analyze “what content performs best for any topic or competitor,” and to “find the key influencers to promote your content.” The current pricing model has the starter plan for bloggers and small teams at too high a price point for me to try at this time. Other guests have recommended it, and I hear good things from elsewhere. If is seems like a tool you need and you can justify the price, I think you should give it a try. Listen or read at 19:28. Content Corps – Content Corps Is Nick Raithel’s company specializing in content marketing services for startups. Their services cover the gamut of content marketing. Some specific areas of focus are road-mapping the customer’s current and future state, creating an editorial calendar for consistent content production, creating email courses, helping clients publish books to enhance their personal and brand authority, and tailored social media engagement. Content Corps Bonuses for SaaS Business Podcast Listeners – Nick Raithel has provided two free courses as an exclusive bonus to SaaS Business Podcast listeners: “Deadly Mistakes in Content Marketing” and “The Faster Content Mini-Course.” According to Nick, the first is “a quick guide showing you seven mistakes you must avoid when doing content marketing,” and the second is “a short, actionable mini-course to help you learn faster ways to create killer content for your blog and social media.” Listen or read at 44:22. Drip – Drip is email marketing software that allows you (according to the site) “to trigger an email, campaign or tag based on any action a user takes, be it expressing interest in a topic, downloading a sample chapter of your book, starting a trial of your software, or viewing your upgrade page.” Drip also provides a visual workflow design capability for your marketing campaigns. Listen or read at 04:54. Gary Vaynerchuk – “Gary Vee” started out doing irreverent videos about wine. He is not your typical wine snob, and this set him apart. Add to that a fair amount of hustle and you will find Gary the author of five books available on Amazon,* videos, a podcast, etc. His books are about the things has done and how to do them. His book Crush It is about personal branding and Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is about standing on in a noisy world. Listen or read at 36:30. Infusionsoft – Infusionsoft is a marketing stack for small businesses. They currently provide email marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) with all plans. Other plans provide sales automation and e-commerce. Listen or read at 22:53. MailChimp – MailChimp is email marketing software. Listen or read at 22:53. Marcus Aurelius – A Roman emperor’s reflections on Stoic philosophy, published from 170-180 AD. Nick Raithel alludes to this work in his discussion about how personal study into Stoicism can give an entrepreneur mental toughness when facing challenges and disappointments. Listen or read at 43:18. Salesforce – Salesforce is one of the original SaaS companies to make it “big.” Originally customer relationship management (CRM) SaaS, it is now more of an ecosystem of apps and extensions. Founder and CEO Marc Benioff has chronicled the history of the company in his book Behind the Cloud* written with Carlyle Adler. Dreamforce, their annual expo, draws more than 100,000 people to San Francisco. If you click on the link provided, you should recognize some of the speakers. Nick Raithel mentions Salesforce as the model of what most SaaS businesses are not likely to become stating that most successful SaaS entrepreneurs are more like to become “quiet millionaires” like those studied in the book The Millionaire Next Door (see entry in this list). Listen or read at 42:30. Seneca* – When Nick Raithel discussed Stoic philosophy and its applicability to modern entrepreneurship, he specifically mentions Letters from a Stoic*. To illustrate this similarity here is an excerpt from Amazon’s webpage [preceding link] about Letters from a Stoic: “This selection of Seneca’s letters shows him upholding the austere ethical ideals of Stoicism—the wisdom of the self-possessed person immune to overmastering emotions and life’s setbacks….” I’m not sure you can get that into 140 characters. It may be a bit too much for us today. Listen or read at 43:18. Stoicism* – Nick Raithel mentioned Stoic philosophy having applicability to modern entrepreneurship. See the entries for Marcus Aurelius and Seneca in this list. Listen or read at 43:18 The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy* by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko ­­– Originally written in 1998 and revised in 2010, the book presents the results of a study of millionaires and identifies seven common traits. Nick Raithel mentioned the book as a good fit for SaaS entrepreneurs. Listen or read at 41:13. See SaaSBusinessPodcast.com/018 for transcript. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.



017: Ocean, The Tech Accelerator
Aug 15 2016 59 mins  
I interviewed Tim Sinclair in Episode 015. During the interview, Tim mentioned that he had gone through the inaugural class of the Ocean Accelerator. He also mentioned that Ocean is a faith-based tech accelerator. I had never even considered the intersection of faith-based organizations and tech accelerators and was immediately intrigued. I asked Tim if he could put me in touch with Ocean, which he did. Scott Weiss is the CEO of Ocean and James Clair is the Marketing Manager. UPDATE: Ocean came out with important news for potential applicants just before the podcast release. They have increased their seed funding for companies accepted into their 2017 class from $35,000 to $50,000. Everything was already in place for the episode release when the news came out, and it would have been difficult to alter the audio to make the change. Contents Episode Outline Resources Mentioned in Episode Episode Transcript Disclosure concerning affiliate links Episode Outline Click [Website] to go to the corresponding website location. Once on the website, you may listen to the episode starting at any timestamp [mm:ss]. [00:00] Intro [Website] [03:12] Accelerator Defined [Website] [04:54] Accelerator Capital and Convertible Notes [Website] [07:28] Ocean’s Founders [Website] [08:07] Accelerators Versus Incubators [Website] [09:05] Ocean’s Unique Spiritual Component [Website] [11:39] Focusing on the Founder [Website] [12:27] Non-Business Relationships and Stakeholders [Website] [13:17] Ocean’s Message [Website] [13:49] Ocean’s Five Capitals [Website] [15:24] Maintaining Balance during a Business Venture [Website] [16:35] Marketplace Success [Website] [17:41] Ocean’s Work Ethic [Website] [19:18] Ocean’s Program Overview [Website] [19:48] Demo Day and Business Curriculum [Website] [21:16] Keynote Speakers – Day One [Website] [23:23] Keynote Speaker Discussion – Day Two and Beyond [Website] [24:53] Ocean’s 2017 Program Plans [Website] [25:20] Ocean’s Policy on Faith [Website] [26:12] Faith as a Component of Business [Website] [27:32] Ocean’s Program [Website] [27:45] Weekly Program – Speakers and Workshops [Website] [30:20] Syncing Program Behavior with Business Life [Website] [31:47] Ocean’s Field Day – The Importance of Customer Dialogue [Website] [32:39] Relocating as a Founder with Family [Website] [35:27] Ocean’s Ideal Company and Founder [Website] [37:29] Ocean Capital [Website] [38:07] Ocean’s Origins at Crossroads [Website] [40:48] Ocean’s Mentors [Website] [41:29] Role of the Mentor [Website] [42:36] Mentor Demographics [Website] [44:49] Partners [Website] [45:51] Brand Identity Kit [Website] [46:23] Design Style Guide [Website] [46:44] A Creative Space to Build Relationships [Website] [48:20] Cincinnati as a Hotspot for Entrepreneurs [Website] [48:51] Cincinnati’s Community Spirit [Website] [50:02] Cincinnati as an Ideal Region for Startups [Website] [51:23] Appropriateness of Cincinnati for Founders with Families [Website] [52:37] Ocean’s Schedule for Applications [Website] [53:19] Benefits of Demo Day [Website] [54:42] Post-Demo Day Activities [Website] [57:08] Universal Message of God’s Interest in Enterprises [Website] [58:39] Conclusion [Website] [Website Contents] Resources Mentioned in Episode Please see Disclosure* (below transcript) concerning affiliate links on this page. 805 Creative – According to the website, 805 Creative is an “Ohio-based creative agency dedicated to empowering our business partners with compelling ways to communicate their stories.” Listen or read at [44:49]. Business Canvas Map – Also known as the Business Model Canvas. A strategic management template for visualizing a business’s partnerships, resources, revenue, and customers. Ocean’s program provides mentoring through the canvas creation process, focusing specifically on planning, the business model, the strategy canvas, and value proposition. Listen or read at [19:48]. CincyTech – “A trusted partner for high potential technology companies in Southwest Ohio,” according to the official website. Scott Weiss mentions it to emphasize the many organizations surrounding Cincinnati which make it an ideal place for entrepreneurs. Listen or read at [48:20]. Cintrifuse – Cintrifuse is Located in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. According to the website: “Cintrifuse acts as a connecter and supporter to create a global destination for entrepreneurial success. Cintrifuse connects the region’s high-potential, venture-backable startups to advice, talent, funding, and customers.” According to Scott Weiss: “Cintrifuse’s role is to coordinate all the activities, to minimize wasteful redundancy, and to get everyone in this broad region, which includes northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana and southwestern Ohio, to work cooperatively so that we share resources and share programming.” Listen or read at [50:02]. Lean Startup – Business development method pioneered by Eric Ries. Lean Startup’s methodology is built on the principle that designing products to meet the needs of early customers can prevent many product failures and funding expenses in the future. The claim gained widespread renown after the publication of Ries’ bestseller,The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses*. Listen or read at [32:25]. Ocean – Ocean is an independent tech accelerator that is uniquely faith-based and focused on building founders. Ocean application – Ocean’s application window is (currently) September 1 to October 31. Listen or read at [52:37]. Ocean Capital – Ocean Capital is a separate legal entity from the Ocean Accelerator but affiliated with the accelerator. It collects money from a broad range of investors. It puts money it into convertible notes for the companies in the accelerator. When investors get a return, the entity tracks the flow of money so that investors can be properly taxed. The entity does not have investment profits and losses. Listen or read at [37:29]. Ocean on LinkedIn Ocean on Twitter – @OCEANAccel [Website Contents] Episode Transcript Intro [00:00] Ron Gaver: This is Episode 017 of the SaaS Business Podcast: Ocean, The Tech Accelerator [00:16] Scott Weiss: One of the benefits of Ocean for any startup is [that] our demo day is on a large auditorium stage in one of the Crossroads buildings. This past year, we had 1,400 people attend live. We had 1,800 people stream it live. So that’s a total live audience of over 3,000. Last year, after we finished, we posted the stream (the stream’s downloadable). Ten thousand people downloaded the stream between last year’s demo day and this year’s demo day. So, if you’re launching a business, you get to come here. You get to go on a stage designed to speak to thousands. You get [a] professional production team fine-tuning your speech. You’re streamed live. Your slides are amazing. You get to launch your brand to, literally, thousands of potential customers and hundreds of potential investors. We work real hard to make sure that the audience has a high percentage of angels, angel funds, and customers. [01:32] Ron Gaver: Hello and welcome to the show! I’m your host Ron Gaver. This is the podcast designed to help you put the pieces of the puzzle together to start, grow, and succeed in your SaaS business. [01:44] Ron Gaver: Before we get into the show, I would like to personally invite you to visit our website. The URL is SaaSBusinessPodcast.com. When you visit, please be sure you sign up to get the FREE Resource Guide. This is a living guide that grows with the podcast. By signing up, you will always have access to the latest edition. [02:01] Ron Gaver: For each show, you will also find extensive show notes on the website. Show notes now contain ALL links for resources mentioned in a show, an outline of the show, and a full transcript. I have designed these show notes to help you quickly find valuable information. To get to show notes, just enter the base URL, a forward slash, and the three-digit episode number. [02:22] Ron Gaver: This podcast, the Resource Guide, and show notes are produced at considerable expense. They are my gift to you for your continuing growth and success. [02:37] Ron Gaver: I interviewed Tim Sinclair in Episode 015. During the interview, Tim mentioned that he had gone through the inaugural class of the Ocean Accelerator. He also mentioned that Ocean is a faith-based tech accelerator. I had never even considered the intersection of faith-based organizations and tech accelerators and was immediately intrigued. I asked Tim if he could put me in touch with Ocean, which he did. Scott Weiss is the CEO of Ocean and James Clair is the Marketing Manager. Welcome Scott and James. [03:07] Scott Weiss: Hey, how are you? [03:08] Ron Gaver: Just fine, and you? [03:10] Scott Weiss: We’re doing great up here. Thanks. [Website Contents] Accelerator Defined [03:12] Ron Gaver: Good. Alright, well let’s get right into it. For the sake of the audience: not everyone may fully understand exactly what an accelerator is, what you do as an accelerator; and then, beyond that question, I would like to know how Ocean is different. We’ll get into that, I’m sure, in a great deal of detail; but, first of all, what is an accelerator from your point-of-view, and what is an accelerator’s purpose and function? [03:37] Scott Weiss: That’s a great question. I’ll lead off. So, let’s start with the founder. The founder has a great idea, and they work on it, they tinker on it, they devote themselves to it, and it gets to a point where they need some help; and that’s the role of investors. Whether they be friends, family, or angels, the capital they provide enables the idea to continue to move forward. [04:01] Scott Weiss: Accelerators do two things: we provide a roadmap that allows the entire thing to accelerate—to speed up, to compress a year of business growth into a few months; and, secondly, we provide access to mentors that will enable the founder to have a far greater circle of knowledge than they have alone. There’s about 220 accelerators in the United States, and all of them do that. Most of them, including Ocean—ours—also provide a level of seed funding—a small amount of money that allows the founder to relocate and participate residentially in that accelerator, as well as enough money to keep the enterprise going. In essence, that’s—from my —what an accelerator does. [Website Contents] Accelerator Capital and Convertible Notes [04:54] Ron Gaver: Alright, then, you mentioned the aspect of capital. [04:58] Scott Weiss: Mmhm. [04:59] Ron Gaver: And so with the capital usually comes something on your end—there’s a bit of dilution as far as the founder’s ownership of the company, generally. Is that true across the board, or is it not? [05:10] Scott Weiss: Well, actually, there’s a narrow range of what accelerators that provide capital get in exchange for that capital. Let’s start with Ocean, the accelerator that James and I are honored to work for. Our note, when the company accepts it, is a convertible note. It’s debt. It does not dilute the cap table. It maintains their equity ownership. And if that company raises subsequent money, the holders of the note—which is a separate guy who manages all that—determines whether or not we want to convert that note into equity at that time or simply get our money back with a modest interest rate. So that’s a very “founder-friendly” capital structure. On the other end, accelerators will take anywhere from 6-10% direct equity in the company in exchange for the capital they’re investing. That begins the dilution process for the founder, because they’re giving up direct shares or direct equity for the money. [06:14] Ron Gaver: Well that’s good. I didn’t understand what the “convertible note” part meant. Now I understand. And that sounds like an excellent option for the founder to basically be able to pay that back if he or she so desires. [06:27] Scott Weiss: Well, to be clear, it’s if the investor so desires. [06:30] Ron Gaver: Oh, okay. [06:32] Scott Weiss: It’s the investor’s choice. I’m not an investor in our fund because I work there, but if the investors say, “Hey, we really like Ron’s company, and we want to convert our debt into equity.” Boom! That happens. Or they say, “We really like Ron, but the company’s not our cup of tea. We’ll just take out money back.” And it’s money back with a very low interest rate. So the investor chooses, not the founder. [06:54] Ron Gaver: Okay, and what did you say the dilution is, usually, on that, in your case? Or does it vary? [06:59] Scott Weiss: There is no dilution with a convertible note. It only dilutes if it converts and the terms of the conversion are spelled out based on the amount of funds raised, so if the company goes out and raises money with an evaluation of three million bucks, and you’ve got fifty thousand dollars in seed capital from an accelerator that converts at fifty thousand, you can see that the dilution would be very, very modest. [07:23] Ron Gaver: Alright. I didn’t understand, then. I’m sure that there are others who would not have understood that. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Founders [07:28] Ron Gaver: So, we’ve talked, just briefly, about what an accelerator is, and how it functions (at least, peripherally). Now I’d like to talk about how Ocean is different. I realize, from your webpage and from talking to you and from talking to Tim Sinclair (who went through your program), there were three founders, originally. They’re Tim, Tim, and somebody else whose name was never actually documented on that page. [07:53] Scott Weiss: Chad. [07:54] Ron Gaver: Those were your three founders? [07:56] Scott Weiss: Tell you what: let me back up and just tell you what makes us different, and then we’ll jump into the story of how we got here. [08:01] Ron Gaver: That’s great. [08:02] Scott Weiss: Perfect. I’ll prattle on a little bit more, and then I’ll let James jump in. [Website Contents] Accelerators Versus Incubators [08:07] Scott Weiss: So, we’ve already covered in very high-level, broad strokes, what an accelerator is. The other important perspective is: there are 220 accelerators in the United States, and there are over 1,000 incubators. Let’s go sidewise. Very high-level—the difference between an accelerator and an incubator is that accelerators tend to be time-limited. You get accepted, and you get so many months in the program, and then you get out; and accelerators tend to give you money. Incubators generally have no time limit. You get in and you stay as long as you are getting value from the incubation. And, generally, you pay the incubator. Almost every university in the United States has an incubator, and students have access to it, but they’re paying for it with tuition dollars in order to that incubator. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Unique Spiritual Component [09:05] Scott Weiss: So there are 1,400 organizations out there trying to help high-tech entrepreneurs grow businesses faster, and we’re just like all of them. We’re just one of 1,400 and we think we’re pretty good (and we can talk about that later), but what makes us different—what makes us truly unique—is we are one of only two accelerators in the United States that integrate a spiritual journey with the business journey we take you on. And we do that because our focus is not exclusively on the business. Our focus is on the business and the founder, and the lens we look at it with is faith. [09:45] James Clair: Yeah, to pop in and add onto what Scott was saying: when Scott was laying out exactly what an accelerator is, you can think of it like putting guard rails around an entrepreneur or packaging a program for an entrepreneur, to accelerate their business; not a package or a program for a business that leaves out the entrepreneur. All of our curriculum and program—its scope is centered on the founder as an individual because we understand that they have the ability to create multiple ventures that are successful. And they also have the ability to recover from a failed venture versus most businesses and products that don’t get off the ground. Unfortunately, most of them never recover. [10:33] James Clair: So, this sustainability and life expectancy of a founder is much, much more valuable than an individual idea, and, like Scott said, our difference is that lens of faith. And you can think of it like an orientation point. So a lot of decisions are made, unfortunately, with a motivation for financial gain, as the first thought or sole inspiration. We believe that Scripture clearly lays out that God, and the disciplines and principles that He taught, are what should be our initial point of inspiration, and that financial decisions are simply a filter that we run those following decisions through. So, we don’t want to tether ourselves to our money. We want to tether ourselves to our faith and use smart, financial intellect and decision-making to forward our progress. [11:29] Ron Gaver: Alright, I understand, and I think that I would certainly embrace having your faith at the center of all that you do and having God at the center of all that you do. [Website Contents] Focusing on the Founder [11:39] Ron Gaver: So you’re trying to focus more on the founder. Not only on the business, but also on the spiritual, the physical, the relational, and the intellectual because, you say, essentially, that the founder has a greater shelf life than any business, potentially. [11:53] Scott Weiss: Well said. [11:55] Ron Gaver: And then you explore the role of faith. One of your founders said that that is, arguably, the proper place for faith to be put in building the business and putting it all together, and so you’re trying, also, to build the person up, strengthen that person, and edify that person to bring the spiritual to bear on that person’s business so that that person is a more graceful founder or can more gracefully transition into that business and not burn out in the process? [Website Contents] Non-Business Relationships and Stakeholders [12:27] James Clair: Yeah, exactly, because, oftentimes, we can forget that there are non-business-related relationships at stake—most notably family, friends. So if we consider the entire amount of stakeholders that exist within an entrepreneur’s idea or their business venture, we want to make sure that we don’t exclude those relationships and the physical health that’s put at risk when a founder, unfortunately, is not tethering their decisions to the right source. A lot of people can identify with what it’s like to lose friends during a business venture, to have lost marriages, to gain weight, to go through physical ailments—a lot of people identify with that. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Message [13:17] James Clair: It’s not just the high-tech founders that come through our accelerator, and that’s also another layer to our uniqueness—that our message translates to a vast kingdom. And that’s our mission: to expand God’s kingdom; and we are looking to do it through the marketplace, or into the marketplace through entrepreneurs. But they have the ability to take that with them and transfer that to their families, to their friends, and then to future business associates, well after they’re out of their current venture. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Five Capitals [13:49] Ron Gaver: I find this idea to be very exciting because, looking at starting a business, one thing I would not be willing to sacrifice—or the things I would not be willing to sacrifice—would be my marriage, my family, and my health. My friends, maybe a little bit after that, but my marriage, my family, and my health—those are the things that God has given me to be a steward over, and those are the things that I must maintain. I have a mandate to do so, and I have a responsibility to do so. The sacrifice that goes along with losing those things is, in my mind, a failed proposition. [14:26] Scott Weiss: We would agree. It’s also important for your listeners to know two things. We are trying to help the founder see these five capitals (and you articulated them already): [in ascending order, financial, intellectual (or ideas), physical (or health), relationships, and spiritual]—to see they have all five of these things, in different measure and at different times in their life, and the key to navigating a successful startup is to recognize that you have access to all five capitals. And while you’re watching the business, you don’t need to sacrifice your family, but you are going to impact your family. You simply will have far less time for your family. You will need to use many of your relationships to build your business, just to interview them (what do they think about your product?), to do your pitch, to ask for money possibly, to ask them to become a customer, or ask them to ask friends to become customers. [Website Contents] Maintaining Balance During a Business Venture [15:24] Scott Weiss: So, we try to help the founders understand: you’re not going to have a balanced life; you’re going to have an unbalanced life. Now, how do you enter that journey, recognizing its imbalance, and come out on the other end with healthy relationships intact? You do that by taking everyone on the journey with you, by over-communicating where you’re heading, by using the other capitals you may have in excess to feed the capitals differently than you normally would. So, while I no longer have the time for the relationships I used to have, I will have access to new learning, new intellectual development, new networks, new people—let me introduce them to my wife, my children, whoever is important in that family. So this is very much an issue of: it’s not about balanced life. It’s about understanding the impact the imbalance it’s going to cause and using the resources available to you to navigate that successfully. It’s a real important concept that often gets lost. I’m just going to carry on, so I’m just going to throw the second thought at you pretty quickly, if that’s OK. [16:34] Ron Gaver: Sure. [Website Contents] Marketplace Success [16:35] Scott Weiss: We are very, very focused on the founder, but we recognize the founder comes to us with an idea that ignites his or her passion. They have this idea, they want to create it, they want to see this enterprise enter the marketplace and grow, and hopefully succeed, and hopefully succeed at whatever level’s appropriate for that idea. So, we don’t have a different benchmark for marketplace success.The marketplace determines success, and we strive to prepare the founders to have their invention, their idea, their product, their company, succeed; and succeed at the highest levels. We think its excellence is absolutely an affirmation of the gifts God has given you, and using your gifts to deliver excellent results is what we aspire to do. So this has helped the people understand the journey they’re on and to use all the things it’s provided to them and to navigate that journey successfully, and navigate that journey, delivering, an excellent company that delivers excellent results. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Work Ethic [17:41] Scott Weiss: So, in many ways, when we’re interviewing candidates, we try to help them understand: coming here is more work than going to most accelerators. The outcome is more enriching, more edifying, and you will leave here (if you engage in it) with awareness and knowledge and relationships that we think will serve you the rest of your life, but it’s a lot more work. It’s not easier, it’s harder. [18:10] James Clair: Yeah, very much so. Hearing Scott brought to my mind: when God is shining a light in some of our darkest corners—many times, we can be scared, or we can be afraid of what impact and anxiety that’s going to bring to us or to the people around us; but one fruitful piece of our overall mission is that we want to change that feeling for a founder from being afraid and scared to feeling free; and that there’s freedom in identifying these characteristics and behaviors that we have as individuals and how they affect, not just our personal lives, but the success of our business. And, many times, [for] the biggest fault-line in our individual ventures, there’s a relatable behavior that’s reflecting in our personal life; and addressing those realities and really dying to them and bringing truth to what that really should mean for us is what ties together both of those pieces really well. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Program Overview [19:18] Ron Gaver: One thing that, Scott, you mentioned, “taking everyone along on the journey”—and I think that that’s a great concept—how do you implement it, though? Do you use it by talking to people more, by demoing your product—is that what you said? By basically involving them as much as possible in this whole process with you? Is that how you do that, or can you elaborate a little on that? [19:39] Scott Weiss: Sure, I think I can. Let me paint a pretty clear picture, and this will take just a few words and then I’ll pause and answer any questions. [Website Contents] Demo Day and Business Curriculum [19:48] Scott Weiss: The Ocean program—once you arrive, it’s a four-month program and then demo day occurs and then there’s one month following demo day that we’re all together. And accelerators, while they do the same thing, do it differently; and one way to look at accelerators is there are very unstructured accelerators (you get in and you have access to a bunch of mentors and advisors and customers, and you’re kind of on your own), or you have structured accelerators. We are a structured accelerator. So, the companies arrive, and we have laid out a curriculum that starts everybody at one level and takes them up through, and past demo, day; and it’s a business curriculum that’s built on the business canvas map that really gets them focused on what value they’re creating in the marketplace, validating that value, and getting out there and testing it, and then generating revenue off of it. [20:44] Scott Weiss: We have a variety of speakers that come in and talk about that, and entrepreneurs who have both succeeded, and many of whom have failed (or failed once or twice and then succeeded); and they just come in and tell their stories that supplement whatever concept we are focusing on that week. So that’s the business curriculum, and every week there is a speaker on the business side of it to prepare the knowledge base of the founders to accelerate—to run their business more effectively and to grow faster. [Website Contents] Keynote Speakers – Day One [21:16] Scott Weiss: So let’s say it’s day one. The very first speaker we had this last year happens to be a venture capitalist who drove over (about six hours) and taught a session on: what is the mission of your company? He taught very well. He’s taking them through questions and answers, and he’s really engaging, and then he kind of stops and he says, “You know, I’m on my third fund.” (Which means he’s succeeded. So he’s been able to raise money three times—it’s now many, many millions of dollars in funds.) “And I have this many analysts who work for me. And I personally hear 300 pitches a year.” (I think is the number he said—maybe it was 500, I forget.) “And you will never get to me to give me your pitch unless you can answer the question: ‘What is the purpose, the mission, [and] the vision of your company?’ And I’m not looking for an advertising slogan. I’m looking for the insight and depth that communicates to me that you have found something that uniquely will add value in this world.” [22:20] Scott Weiss: And then he unfolds all of the worksheets he and his analysts use to determine that. So you’re sitting there, day one, and you’re hearing a live, venture capitalist give you the answer to the quiz. How do you get them to open the door and talk to you about your idea? You tell them the vision and mission of your company in great depth and in a way an investor, or potential investor, can understand it. [22:44] Scott Weiss: That’s kind of day one. They all go out to lunch. They have a great time. They come back. And day one, I had a creative director from a local studio there, and he led a session that he called (I think it was a “he”), led a session on, “I believe in God, I believe that God’s a creative force, and I believe God wants me to create, and that’s what it means to be in God’s image.” And all that he talked about was his personal faith journey and how God had come alive in him and given him the courage to step out and create these incredible visual images that multiple clients pay for. [23:21] Scott Weiss: That’s it. That’s day one. [Website Contents] Keynote Speaker Discussion – Day Two and Beyond [23:23] Scott Weiss: And the next day the companies all come back in, and I walk up to the front of this great co-working space we have, and it just happened to be my turn, and I say, “Okay, let’s talk about the venture capitalist.” [23:34] Scott Weiss: We begin getting all these companies—there were nine of them, so there’s about thirty-five people in the room—processing through what the vision and mission of their company is. They’re jumping on Google. They’re looking stuff up. They’re just busy little beavers. And I let that go for about ten minutes, and then I say, “Wait a second. What does any of that have to do with the guy in the afternoon?” And the room just explodes. So half the companies will say, “It has nothing to do with it.” And half of them will say, “It has everything to do with it.” [24:02] Scott Weiss: And the way we drive integration is we then just process that discussion and then have, over the balance of the week, three or four more speakers come in and speak to the exact same thing, but more and more overtly on how understanding what God wants you to do may have an awful lot to do with the vision and mission of your company; and we replicate that each week, in a different way and more creatively, to get the companies to begin integrating this concept of: “I’m on this journey called life, and I happen to be creating a company; but God has a plan for me in this journey called life, and how do I put this together in a way that honors Him and maximizes my meaningfulness on this earth?” So let me unpack it a little bit more because that’s an awful lot to swallow, and you’re sitting there saying, “Geez, how do they do that?” [Website Contents] Ocean’s 2017 Program Plans [24:53] Scott Weiss: Next year, what we’re going to do is—because we think, “Ok, that worked really well”—but next year, when the companies arrive the very first week, instead of sitting in Cincinnati and going to our great co-working space and starting this, we’re taking them all off to a local park. We’re getting everybody a room in the lodge, and we’re going to spend three days getting personal and intimate about: “Where are you in your walk with God?” [Website Contents] Ocean’s Policy on Faith [25:20] Scott Weiss: We do not select based on your faith. We’ve had Christian believers in the accelerator. We’ve had non-Christians. We’ve had seekers, people who say: “I think I’m an agnostic or humanistic. I’m not really sure. I’m trying to figure this all out.” We’ve had all different religious faiths from the Christian side. We select based on your willingness to go on this journey, and we’re very clear, while we respect where you’re at, understand: the journey we’re laying out for you is from a Christian perspective. We all believe that’s a source of great truth for all of us. [25:54] Scott Weiss: So, we’re going to take them out for three days We’re going to have multiple workshops leaders come in. We’re going to have all kinds of exercises, and begin unpacking: “Where are you? Where are you in your walk with God? Are you having one? Are you not? How does that manifest itself? What do you believe?” Then we’re going to come back and do all this business/faith stuff. [Website Contents] Faith as a Component of Business [26:12] Scott Weiss: Then, about two months later, we’re going to go away again, and on that weekend sojourn, we’re going to say, “Here are the biblical truths, the biblical principles, we’ve been talking about. How are you going to apply those—if you choose to—in your business?” And we have taken the time to unpack key biblical truths into business principles, and almost all businesses in Judeo-Christian cultures use biblical principles in running their business. Love others as you love yourself. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Treat the customer the way you want to be treated. We get them to unpack that and to write out their objectives for their company so they have specific goals for the culture and company they’re trying to create. [26:59] Scott Weiss: Then we come back, we get through demo day, and then we’re going to take them off again. Now they’ve met all these investors, they’ve had this launch. What are they going to do all this as they leave us and launch into the world? How’s this all going to come to life in how they’re going to run a company based on biblical principles that, hopefully, has great commercial success? So it’s an intense, fun, creative process that involves literally dozens and dozens of people, willing to give of their time and talent, who come to us from all over the country to help make this possible. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Program [27:32] Ron Gaver: You’ve gotten into some of your program—the actual functioning of the program, month-in/month-out, day-in/day-out, week-in/week-out—and there’s one graphic on your website that is a circle with the formal program in it and you have monthly events, weekly events, and daily events. Could you go into a little bit about how that program works? [27:53] Scott Weiss: Absolutely. [Website Contents] Weekly Program – Speakers and Workshops [27:45] Scott Weiss: The weekly events are the series of speakers that I outlined. Every week, we have someone come in and lead a workshop on a business topic that’s aligned with accelerating high-tech companies. We have a speaker come in every week and lead a session on a faith topic, and then every week we have a workshop that integrates them. Every week we have at least one, but generally two, guest speakers for something we call “coffee chats,” and these are founders, these are people who’ve started businesses. Last year, we had a founder from Israel drop in. We’ve had a major leader from Google drop in. We have all kinds of local entrepreneurs. A young man who’s been on shark tank came and talked, and they just tell their story. And we tell them, “This week we’re talking about this business topic and this faith topic.” And they tease out of their story something that’s occurred to them that exemplifies either or both of those topics. [28:48] Scott Weiss: Every week we do a community meal. We provide soup (I love soup), and we’ll have all the founders there. Their families are invited. All the mentors are invited. We’ll have all the lawyers who volunteer for us. We’ll have 30-50 people every Friday for a big community lunch and soup, which forces you to sit next to somebody and drink or sip out of a bowel. So, it gets everyone talking, and suddenly we’re not in an accelerator anymore; we’re just doing life. Every week we’ll have optional participation in a Bible study. Every week we’ll have optional physical activity. [29:25] Scott Weiss: Daily, we ask each company to journal. We post a journal question up on the board—we’re going to do that differently next year—and the journal question is very much against their faith walk, very much is taking them on a guided journey of questions that, if you went back and read all the answers you wrote to these journal questions, you’d have a pretty interesting diary or chronology of ever-deeper growth and understanding. [29:52] Scott Weiss: And then, about two weeks into the program, every week we practice pitches on a stage, with microphones, with slides, leading up to our demo day, which is probably one of the highest-attending demo days in the United States in terms of physical audience size and streaming audience size. So, we do the combination of all those things to make the program entertaining, engaging, creative, and fun. [Website Contents] Syncing Program Behavior with Business Life [30:20] James Clair: Yeah, it’s important to have those different layers because we want the program to reflect how we live life. There are routines and there are rhythms that we don’t do every day but that we want to make sure we prioritize, and that we make space for, as we go through the journey of the program. So there’s a key reflection in what we do outside of our businesses and what we do in life, and we put that into the program so then that way, if you don’t have a very good rhythm or routine with spending time journaling or in Scripture every week, we want to almost kick-start that rhythm for you, so that when you leave the program, you’re going to take that behavior with you. Same thing with the encouragement of physical fitness, and then encouragement of getting in a small group and discussing your faith or Scripture. [31:15] James Clair: Especially when you’re in a format like we are, we find that routine to be very beneficial because they’re also naturally integrating what they’re currently going through in their companies into whatever topic we’re discussing in the Bible studies. So, the program—although it looks very cool and it’s laid out (we’ve got monthly, weekly, daily)—we could easily eliminate whatever words we put in there for those bubbles and put rhythms and routines in our daily life, and it would make perfect sense to a lot of people. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Field Day – The Importance of Customer Dialogue [31:47] Ron Gaver: Okay, so the cornerstone of the program is the faith aspect of it, and, of course, you bring in the other speakers who talk about more technical, business-type aspects, and then, on the monthly events, you also get into legal, investment, leadership, and something called “field day.” I’m not sure what that is. [32:05] Scott Weiss: That’s just getting people out to validate their idea in the marketplace. The number one cause of high-tech failures is people fall in love with their own idea and actually never talk to anybody in the marketplace about it; so whatever they’re working on (whether it’s B2C or B2B), we line up time, space, and interviews with the right audience to validate their idea. [32:25] Ron Gaver: Alright. In the Lean Startup vernacular, something like, “Get out of the office.” [32:29] Scott Weiss: Exactly. That’s exactly what it means. Get out in the field, and go and talk to customers. It’s a big principle we teach: to constantly listen to the marketplace. [Website Contents] Relocating as a Founder with Family [32:39] Ron Gaver: Hypothetically, let’s say I’m a founder. I’ve been accepted and you’ve made the convertible note available to me, and I’m relocating to Cincinnati for the four-to-five months—well, five months, including the month after demo day—and I’ve got a family. How do the founders usually negotiate that with their families? What do you usually see happening there? [33:04] Scott Weiss: That’s a great question. So this past year—our program runs January through May, so we just had our bon voyage party for this year’s class—this past year, there are nine companies that got accepted. We take anywhere from about eight to twelve. It’s hard to get in. There are hundreds of applications that get boiled down to the people we offer to. Of those nine, five were from outside the Cincinnati region. Two of those were from Europe and relocated from the United Kingdom (both were from London, coincidentally) to Cincinnati. One was a single person (and her co-founder popped in and out), and the other was a married gentleman with a wife and two children. [33:48] Scott Weiss: The “spouse with children” is a common story from people relocating to Cincinnati or in Cincinnati. About half of our founders tend to be married with family. So, we go through all this in the interview process. We want to understand their game plan. [34:04] Scott Weiss: When that individual arrived, we had reached out to our network and we had already lined up twenty or thirty rental properties of people willing to rent to him on a short-term basis. He, from London, envisioned his family being here on two separate times during his five-month sojourn (so they would relocate for an extended period and then they would go home); and then he would fly back and forth from London twice and spend a week there and Skype in or stream in and participate in the program that way. [34:36] Scott Weiss: So we helped find housing at a very favorable rate. We then worked with a non-profit that gives away automobiles, and they gave him a car. He’s going to give it back to us when he’s done, and we’ll give it back them, but he had free use of a car for his duration, as did the other person from London (as would anybody relocating here who doesn’t have a vehicle—we would arrange that). And we lay this all out so, when they get here, we know how their family’s going to navigate it, they know how their family’s going to navigate it. When that individual’s family showed up from London, we also had arranged families of our mentors to take time out of their lives, show them Cincinnati, invite them over to their home, take them out to dinner—without imposing, giving the family time, but still being welcoming. That’s how we do it. [35:24] Ron Gaver: Showing them great hospitality. [35:26] Scott Weiss: Exactly. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Ideal Company and Founder [35:27] Ron Gaver: Now as far as the type of companies that you look for: do you look for any specific type of company—or the one speaker that you referred to last year was looking for people who could clearly articulate their mission—is there a particular type of mission that you focus on when you’re selecting applicants, or is it basically just whatever floats up to the top? [35:53] Scott Weiss: We’re very focused on the industry being high-tech because you can accelerate a high-tech company. If we’re making fans, you can’t accelerate because you’ve got to cut molds, you’ve got to make the product, and you have to test the product; but high-tech is coding so we can accelerate. They have to be high-tech. The product has to be at or beyond the MVP stage (minimally viable product stage). We don’t like to start with companies before then because it’s too hard to get them ready for demo day. [36:22] Scott Weiss: There has to be at least two founders. We won’t take solo founders—it’s just too hard. And they have to be willing to [take], and seeking, this spiritual journey; and we sort that latter piece out in an extended interview either live or via Skype. At this point, we’ve done dozens and dozens and dozens of these, so we have a pretty keen sense when someone’s being honest and sincere in their answers and when, perhaps, they’re just saying they want to do that so they can get in and get the money. So that’s kind of what we look for: high-tech, at least two founders, willing to relocate, product at or beyond the MVP stage, and a sincere and open heart to a spiritual journey. [37:03] Ron Gaver: And you also prefer one of the co-founders to be a technical founder, I believe? [37:09] Scott Weiss: We skew that way, just for practical reasons, although we’ve taken about a third of the companies where neither was a technical co-founder, but they were able to resolve that issue through outsourcing or hiring a CTO. Chances for commercial success are higher if one of them understands coding and can actually build the product. [Website Contents] Ocean Capital [37:29] Ron Gaver: As far as Ocean is concerned, the accelerator itself is a non-profit organization and then there’s Ocean Capital as well, which is basically the financial end of it. [37:38] Scott Weiss: Correct. That’s a separate legal entity that, under IRS rules, is an SPV (special purpose vehicle), which means it collects money from a broad range of diverse investors, and its job, as a legal entity, is to track the flow of money so that, when those investors get a return, that they can be properly taxed. The entity itself doesn’t make any profit. It doesn’t lose any. It collects money and puts it into convertible notes for the companies. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Origins at Crossroads [38:07] Ron Gaver: And as far as Ocean, the accelerator, the non-profit side of that—it grew out of Crossroads (the church), and then an organization within Crossroads called Unpolished, which I believe was a group of business people getting together and talking about business, and then they wanted to do something more. Is that correct? [38:26] Scott Weiss: That’s a great story. Unpolished is a group within a large church—very vibrant and active community in Cincinnati called Crossroads Community Church—and this group had coalesced and formed and was meeting monthly and providing speakers; and they’re sitting around one day, brainstorming (it’s a small leadership team): “What else can we do?” And three of the participants in that were high-tech founders—had all founded high-tech companies, and one had had a successful exit (had started a company, grew it, sold it, and was now starting another one)—and those three articulated that the path for a high-tech founder is arduous and fraught with risk and often results in significant damage to health, relationships, and faith, which James talked about earlier. So they said, “Let’s start an accelerator. Let’s create an accelerator that approaches it differently—that focuses on the founder, with this lens of faith we’ve been talking about all afternoon.” And the larger group and the church said, “That’s a great idea!” And Crossroads very generously kick-started the entire campaign with a donation that allowed for the conversion of this old warehouse space into a fantastic co-working space. So that’s how it all started. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Financial Support [39:41] Ron Gaver: You say they kick-started it. I read somewhere on your website that they did it with a 2014 Beans and Rice Week? [39:49] Scott Weiss: They do a really interesting fundraiser where, every week, they ask their entire community to take on a third-world diet, which is largely vegetarian and beans and rice, and to contribute the difference they would spend normally for food (dining out, buying a first-world diet)—to calculate that and contribute that to Crossroads. Crossroads collects that money, which is a large sum—the first year was like $350,000, last year was $700,000—all of that money, a hundred percent, goes outside Crossroads to support a variety of partnerships or programs, that don’t have any relationship with Crossroads, around the world. It supports building schools in Nicaragua. It supports Ocean. It supports paying to have public swimming pools open in the greater Cincinnati area in a year when the city didn’t have any money to keep the pools open. So they give that all away and we were the very fortunate beneficiaries of some portion of that the first year. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Mentors [40:48] Ron Gaver: Then as the founder arrives—we’ve talked about family accommodations, and that’s something you call concierge, but there’s also really a package of things that you do. We’ve talked about seed financing. We’ve talked about the unique, five-month curriculum with all that that entails. A couple of things we haven’t gone into too much: first, your mentors. You say you have a great pool of mentors, and I’ve seen on your webpage a bunch of pictures of all the different mentors. Could you kind of give a characterization of your cadre of mentors—not necessarily saying “this person, this person, this person,” but the type of people that come and support and want to be a part of this? [Website Contents] Role of the Mentor [41:29] James Clair: Yeah, that’s very much the guardrails of the program. We introduce a very diverse mentor—I should first say, we identify and address a very diverse mentor pool—and our goal is to educate them as to what it means to be a mentor in an accelerator space, and what it means to be a coach in an accelerator space where you have nine founders (like we had this last class) but 100 mentors and coaches. Obviously, ten mentors and coaches aren’t going to meet with every founder every week—the capacity of that doesn’t make sense—but it’s the right person at the right time, and that’s where we come in, where we say, “This entrepreneur is at place X, and that’s perfect alignment with this mentor that we have in our pool.” So we’re going to introduce them, and we believe that that mentor is going to help shape [the founder] or help put that founder back on track—or you could even say “introduce a discipline” that will help put the founder back on track—[or] share life experience, and don’t let me make it seem like it’s just business. [Website Contents] Mentor Demographics [42:36] James Clair: These mentors have voiced that they’re really passionate about sharing their faith journey and their faith story, just as much as their business successes and even business failures. Our mentor pool—they’re not just diverse in the sense of demographically but geographically. Scott has mentioned different mentors and speakers coming in from Israel or East Coast or California, Silicon Valley, the South. That aligns perfectly with our mission of Kingdom expansion globally, and our program speaks to a lot of people, not just in Cincinnati, not just in the mid-West, but [as] we’ve seen in our applicant pool, in the UK. It speaks to people in Europe. It speaks to people around the globe. We want our mentor pool to be capable and ready, and we want to arm them well enough that when we introduce them, our founders are going to benefit from that exponentially. [43:33] Scott Weiss: So I would just add, Ron, the mentors will break into two broad groups. All of them want to share their personal life story, their faith journey, and they break then, subsequently, into two groups. We have a large group of subject matter experts—accountants, marketing, product developers, project managers, legal—and then we have a smaller group of people who have started businesses and understand the journey. That smaller group tends to form an intimate, one-on-one relationship. One person from that smaller group will end up being with one of the companies for the whole five months. They’ll be there every week. They’ll have them over their house for dinner. The person who has started the business has the time, the energy, and the maturity in their faith to be able to kind of wrap their arms around a company and be a truth-teller—not to run the business, not to tell them what to do, but to listen and give them honest feedback. Everyone else tends to cluster around tasks, as James pointed out, and we tend to pulse them in and out based on their subject matter and where each company is on any given week. [Website Contents] Partners [44:49] Ron Gaver: In conjunction with that, you also have some partners—some business partners, law firms, banks, Crossroads itself, an organization called 805 Creative (which is a design and creative production agency). [45:02] Scott Weiss: Yep. Companies all get free legal advise the whole time they’re in the program. That’s a combination of the generosity of the University of Cincinnati Law School, which provides legal fellows, and they’re supervised by a local law firm. Last year it was Frost Brown Todd, and it’ll either be them or another great local law firm next year (there’s two law firms that want to do that). And then all these other business partners line up, and they’re very clear: “We will donate this much time.” So the lawyers just said, “We’ll be your lawyers.” Each studio says, “We’ll give you 20 hours.” And, when we line them up with the company, we say, “Okay, you’re asking this agency to do some work for you. And at 20 hours, the clock starts running and you’re paying for it, so let’s get really focused so you can get done what you need done in 20 hours.” That’s what we coach them on doing. [Website Contents] Brand Identity Kit [45:51] Ron Gaver: One of the objectives of that creation experience is a brand identity kit? [45:56] Scott Weiss: Yeah, some of the companies need that. Some do not. This past year, most of the companies had well-established brands and arrived with trademarks in place and graphic design done and operational websites. If the company doesn’t have it, we provide that. If they do have it and want to validate it, we provide that. But most of them have really solid brands. In fact, only one of them needed a lot of branding work this past year. [Website Contents] Design Style Guide [46:23] Ron Gaver: And there’s something called a style guide in there? [46:26] Scott Weiss: Yeah, that’s just a tactical tool on design (the product design itself); what the interaction is like if it’s a B2C business (business to consumer). Of the nine companies, almost all of them were B2B (business to business) this past year, so while the style guide is still important, it’s not as profoundly important. [Website Contents] A Creative Space to Build Relationships [46:44] Ron Gaver: So then, they’re there. Are they all basically in one co-located space, and they feed off of one another and thrive on the ideas and inputs from one another? [46:56] Scott Weiss: Yes, we have a fantastic space. It’s a large space, so each company gets a table and all those tables are co-located, and the intimacy and friendships and relationships and energy that come out of that is amazing. And, consistently, when the companies leave, in their evaluations, they tell us: “The most important thing are the relationships I formed.” [47:19] Scott Weiss: They can then get up and walk from there to multiple places in the building, into a private conference room, all glassed in, and they can jump on a video network feed and talk to a customer anywhere in the world (or anybody anywhere in the world), or they can put a presentation up in a larger conference room and have customers come in. They can walk to other parts of the building, which are just quiet spaces, where you can go work alone on your laptop or sketchpad, or you can go and pray or study. And then we have “huddle” areas—we have couches thrown around with area rugs where [I could go] if I wanted to get four or five people together and just hash something out. Whiteboards everywhere—moveable whiteboards everywhere—and everything’s open. [48:01] Scott Weiss: There is no closed space. And everything is reserve-able or schedulable, or if it’s open, just walk in and use it. We then we have a kitchen area that we use for soup day, and we do a happy hour every Friday and about half of them are on our space, and that’s when we set up the beer and the soft drinks and all that good stuff. [Website Contents] Cincinnati as a Hotspot for Entrepreneurs [48:20] Ron Gaver: You’re also big fans of Cincinnati itself. You site various things that are going on in the Cincinnati area and the area around Cincinnati, as far as start-up events, accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces, universities, something called CincyTech, funds and angels groups, economic development, and various associations. You seem to be real community supporters, and (from my point-of-view) you feel Cincinnati is a great place to do this kind of work. [48:50] Scott Weiss: Yes. [Website Contents] Cincinnati’s Community Spirit [48:51] James Clair: What we do is a reflection of what already exists in Cincinnati, that there is an output now of an entrepreneurial spirit that has existed in Cincinnati for a while, and now there are minds and the intellect coming together and opening up about some of these innovative ideas on how this can work in a place not located on the West Coast. And we embrace the community because—I love that you referenced the beans and rice fast; that is the community of Crossroads Church—it was our catalyst to becoming who we are and opening this space that we’re in. [The community that goes to Crossroads—not eating lavish meals for a week or pausing their grocery trip for a week, and deciding to go deep into their cupboards—sacrificed.] They made that sacrifice so that what we’re doing right now would come to fruition, and I believe that we just simply reflect that in how we speak about our city and how we speak about the community. It’s just an affirmation both ways. This is an output that’s tethered to a Divine source. [Website Contents] Cincinnati as an Ideal Region for Startups [50:02] Scott Weiss: There’s many great places in the world to start a company—to start a high-tech company—so this is not about being better than anybody, but Cincinnati is a very competitive space and has access to four terrific universities (so a broad swath of engineering talent), has access to a large number of customers who are seeking startups to offer creative solutions and that are willing to do tests and are willing to invest their money, has a unique infrastructure where those large companies have formed something calledCintrifuse (named after Cincinnati)—and Cintrifuse’s role is to coordinate all the activities, to minimize wasteful redundancy, and to get everyone in this broad region, which includes northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana and southwestern Ohio, to work cooperatively so that we share resources and share programming. So, we think this is a very vibrant, dynamic region for startups, and then the city itself is in the midst of a huge renaissance and can be read about in travel magazines or dining experiences. It’s a fun place that’s attractive to a lot of entrepreneurs to come and start a business and, hopefully, stay; but, if they depart, depart with the sense of, “I was in a very blessed area for a period of time.” [Website Contents] Appropriateness of Cincinnati for Founders with Families [51:23] Ron Gaver: Would you say that Cincinnati is a family-friendly city? [51:27] Scott Weiss: I would say it’s both a family-friendly city, and it’s increasingly a city that attracts and has a lot to offer single people who are just starting their careers. [As I mentioned earlier, a number of our founders are married with families, but a larger number are single, and the city has enough to offer them as well.] [51:47] James Clair: Yeah, and that’s a great point: for the effects that starting and scaling a business have on a married founder—when I think about moving myself from maybe my hometown or home area, across the country to a new city—the way we support that individual founder is just as much as we would the married founder—the one, you know, relationship from a long distance. We leverage Cincinnati as a diverse city that just has this infectious fun about it, and it’s a place where you have an opportunity to do a variety of things no matter, geographically, where you’re from. There’s a lot of things here that are applicable to, not just mid-western, skyline Chili. It’s not all Chili in Cincinnati. There’s, like Scott said, a renaissance that’s really diversified, honestly, Cincinnati’s portfolio as a city. [Website Contents] Ocean’s Schedule for Applications [52:37] Ron Gaver: Alright, then as far as Ocean’s schedule for a year, when do you usually open up applications? [52:43] Scott Weiss: We’ll be opening up applications in September—very early September; maybe very late August—and that’ll all be announced on our website. We accept applications from (let’s call it) September first to the end of October. We go through our screening process in November and make offers shortly after Thanksgiving [at the end of November] for a class that starts the second week of January. [53:06] Ron Gaver: And that begins your cohort, that goes through it, marching down to demo day as the major milestone at the end; and you said it’s a very well-attended—both physically and virtually—event. [Website Contents] Benefits of Demo Day [53:19] Scott Weiss: So first, one of the benefits of Ocean for any startup is [that] our demo day is on a large auditorium stage in one of the Crossroads buildings. This past year, we had 1,400 people attend live. We had 1,800 people stream it live. So that’s a total live audience of over 3,000. Last year, after we finished, we posted the stream (the stream’s downloadable). Ten thousand people downloaded the stream between last year’s demo day and this year’s demo day. So, if you’re launching a business, you get to come here. You get to go on a stage designed to speak to thousands. You get [a] professional production team fine-tuning your speech. You’re streamed live. Your slides are amazing. You get to launch your brand to, literally, thousands of potential customers and hundreds of potential investors. We work real hard to make sure that the audience has a high percentage of angels, angel funds, and customers, based on whoever’s in whatever class; and it works incredibly well as a company launches a public event to say: “I am here, and I am ready to go into business,” or “I am in business and I’m ready to meet you and do more business.” [Website Contents] Post-Demo Day Activities [54:42] Ron Gaver: So demo day comes, and demo day goes, and then your companies are still with you for another month. What happens in that month? [54:51] Scott Weiss: Post-demo day, we help the companies take action based on whatever occurred on demo day. So one company is actively negotiating with two different investor groups as we speak, so we are continuing to provide support for them. They’re still working out of Ocean—met with them today. Another company came out of Ocean and finalized its application to get into a different accelerator, an accelerator that is core to their industry and will give them access to a dramatic number of customers. They were successful and that will be announced publicly Wednesday. It’s a major accelerator. One company received hundreds and hundreds of customer inquiries, who want to hire them, and they’re processing through: “How do we manage that and monetize that and service all that?” [55:42] Scott Weiss: So, each company ends up with opportunity coming out of demo day, and we provide support on: “What do you do with that?” And then we also have a few weeks of integrating the entire program back to: “What does this mean for you now in your life? Where do you go from here in your life? The company’s a very important part of that, but you’re a far more important part of that. You are what God cares about. Where are you going to go?” And then we kind of have a ceremony—we call it a bon voyage party—and we launch them. As of this point, about three of the companies have moved on—they’ve left our building; they’ve moved on. One came in and said goodbye today, and the rest are still kind of hanging around, figuring out where they’re going to rent space and all that good stuff. [56:29] James Clair: You hit this pinnacle at demo day, and it’s amazing, and the companies do an amazing job. They deliver on the highest stage with the most visibility they’ll ever have at one time, in their young companies. Post-demo day it’s—what Scott said: “What does this mean now? How do I digest this in a healthy way, the feedback that I received from demo day, both good and bad? I retain it as a leave the accelerator.” And that’s really what we’re there for. We’re there to be [sounding boards] and to help them digest and retain feedback from demo day. [Website Contents] Universal Message of God’s Interest in Enterprises [57:08] Ron Gaver: That was pretty much the end of my list of questions. The next thing that I was going to ask you is: is there anything that you would like to say or cover that I haven’t asked you about yet? [57:18] Scott Weiss: I’m reflecting on this great conversation we’ve had, which I’m so appreciative of. We’ve had a terrific conversation, and for anybody in your audience who listens to it, the universal message is: you, individually, matter. You matter to something much bigger than any of us, and that’s God, and He cares deeply about you, and He cares about your enterprises and your visions and your dreams. And whether it’s a high-tech company trying to get into an accelerator, or someone trying to get an education or someone trying to get a job at a local garage, lean into your gift and lean into it with the knowledge [that] God wants you to utilize that gift to your best ability; and in that leaning into it with the spirit of “what does God want me to do in this,” greater riches will come to you than in any other way in your life. So, our message would just be: lean into the gifts you have, and keep asking yourself, “What does God want me to do in this?” And more will come back to you than you can possibly imagine. [58:20] Ron Gaver: Well, thank you very much for your time. I’m sorry for running over a little bit. [58:25] Scott Weiss: Thanks a lot, Ron. [58:26] James Clair: Thanks, Ron. [Website Contents] Conclusion [58:39] Ron Gaver: If Ocean’s program sounds like a good fit for your company, please remember that they will be taking applications for the following year’s class from the beginning of September through the end of October. See the show notes for an application link. [58:51] Ron Gaver: Thanks for listening to the SaaS Business Podcast. [58:55] Ron Gaver: Please remember to take advantage of the show notes and the FREE Resource Guide we have created for you. The show notes page for any episode is SaaSBusinessPodcast.com followed by a forward slash and the three-digit episode number. To get the FREE Resource Guide, just use the Resources tab or any of the forms on the website. [59:13] Ron Gaver: If you like what we’re doing, please go to the support tab on the website to learn the various ways you might be able to support us. [59:28] Ron Gaver: This has been Episode 017 of the SaaS Business Podcast: Ocean, The Tech Accelerator. Thank you, again, for listening. [Website Contents] *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


016: Customer Success with Lincoln Murphy
Jul 18 2016 55 mins  
Lincoln Murphy’s focus is customer success. He’s currently the growth architect at Winning by Design, where he creates blueprints and playbooks for customer success managers and leaders. In the past, he founded Sixteen Ventures and led customer success at Gainsight. Using customer success to drive growth across the entire customer lifecycle, he has helped over four hundred SaaS and enterprise software companies accelerate growth and retain valuable customers. Contents On the website, click any timestamp to start listening to the episode at the noted location. Resources Mentioned in Episode Episode Transcript [00:00] Intro [Read] [02:27] Pre-SaaS Career in Supply Chain Management [Read] [04:14] Early SaaS Company for Mail Center Management [Read] [07:55] Early Days of SaaS [Read] [11:12] Before SaaS Was SaaS [Read] [12:56] Resistance to SaaS Adoption [Read] [14:08] Role of Corporate IT in SaaS Adoption [Read] [15:18] SaaS Business Model [Read] [16:27] Business Architecture [Read] [17:18] SaaS as a Business Architecture and SaaS Revenue Models [Read] [19:13] Recent Career [Read] [20:27] Sixteen Ventures [Read] [21:44] “The SaaS Guy” [Read] [22:16] Contrarian Views [Read] [23:57] Freemium in SaaS [Read] [25:10] Thought Leadership (or Getting Things Out of Your Head and Moving On)[Read] [26:06] Facts and the Contrarian Point-of-View [Read] [27:48] Customer Success Management [Read] [28:37] Customer’s Desired Outcome [Read] [29:01] Customer’s Required Outcome [Read] [30:06] Customer’s Appropriate Experience [Read] [31:39] Appropriate SaaS Experience [Read] [33:26] Solve for Success Not Happiness [Read] [33:59] Successful Customers Advocate But Want More [Read] [34:49] Happy Customers May Not Be Getting Value and Then Churn [Read] [35:15] The Appropriate Success Vector [Read] [36:21] Customer Success and Company Valuation [Read] [37:15] Churn [Read] [37:50] Customers to Save and Customers to Let Go [Read] [39:41] When Churn Becomes a Non-Issue [Read] [42:03] Individual Contributions to the Customer’s Desired Outcome [Read] [45:05] Personal Recommendations [Read] [46:34] Make Your Customers Powerful [Read] [47:20] Operationalize Customers Making you Powerful [Read] [48:16] Proactively Convert on Success Milestones [Read] [49:31] Customer Lifecycle Success [Read] [50:07] Tools to Monitor Customer Progress [Read] [51:01] Understand Desired Outcome Before You Operationalize [Read] [51:31] Start with the Customers and Tools Will Become Apparent [Read] [52:22] Saas Networking Recommendations [Read] Disclosure concerning affiliate links [Contents] Resources Mentioned in Episode Please see Disclosure* (below transcript) concerning affiliate links on this page. 7 Ways Customer Success Drives Company Valuation – This blog post by Lincoln Murphy on Sixteen Ventures discusses how Customer Success can impact the valuation of your company. Listen or read at [36:21]. ClientSuccess –Customer success management app mentioned by Lincoln Murphy as an alternative to Gainsight to measure customer success milestones. Listen or read at[50:18]. Customer Success: How Innovative Companies are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue* – Book by Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman, and Lincoln Murphy. Lincoln did not mention the book during the interview. I recommend you digest the information in this podcast episode, read Lincoln’s Customer Success: The Definitive Guide, and then read the book. The book is broken down into three parts: (1) Customer Success: The History, Organization, and Imperative; (2) The Ten Laws of Customer Success; and (3) Chief Customer Officer, Technology, and Future. Each of the Ten Laws is covered in a chapter. Customer Success: The Definitive Guide – This is a 2016 update to Lincoln’s original post The Definitive Guide to Customer Success. A PDF of the guide is available from the site. If this podcast episode interests you, I would recommend you read this next. I brought this up during the interview. Listen or read at [27:48]. FlipMyFunnel – According to the website, FlipMyFunnel is a “B2B Marketing and Sales Conference.” Lincoln Murphy mentioned that he would be speaking at the 2016 conference in Austin, Texas, but the conference moves. Check the website for info. Listen or read at [52:22]. Gainsight – Lincoln Murphy’s former employer. Gainsight is a customer success management platform to measure customer success milestones. According to the website, Gainsight is: “Community, Best Practices, and Platform to Drive Business Transformation.” If you scroll to the bottom of their homepage (as of this writing), you’ll see several useful guides listed. I have not checked them thoroughly, but they look good. Listen or read at [50:18]. Heroku – PaaS (Platform as a Service) for web app development and deployment. Lincoln Murphy mentioned this during the interview because he was once involved with a startup that was a competitor. That statup is gone, but Heroku remains and is well-respected. Listen or read at [18:35]. Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition)* – Book by Robert Cialdini about the factors that influence us to say, “Yes.” According to his research, there are six such factors or principles: reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. This is a well-written book and must-read for anyone interested in how people are influenced. Lincoln Murphy recommended this book. Listen or read at [45:33]. Intercom – According to the website: “Intercom is a customer platform with a suite of products for live chat, marketing, feedback, and support.” Lincoln Murphy mentioned this with other tools to operationalize customer success. Listen or read at [50:18]. Lincoln Murphy on Twitter @lincolnmurphy. Listen or read at [53:56]. Ruby on Rails – Ruby on Rails is an MVC (model-view-controller) framework based on the Ruby programming language used for web development. Mentioned in passing by Lincoln Murphy. Listen or read at [18:35]. SaaS Business Model [graphic] – SaaS Business Model graphic by Lincoln Murphy on Sixteen Ventures site. I mentioned this during the interview with Lincoln Murphy because it has his definition of customer success. Listen or read at [15:18]. SaaStock – European B2B SaaS conference. Listen or read at [52:22]. SaaStr – Annual conference, podcast, academy, and extensive blog about SaaS. According to the website: “SaaStr began in 2012 as a simple attempt via a WordPress blog, together with a few answers on Quora, to help share back Jason M. Lemkin’s learnings of going from $0 to $100m ARR with the next generation of great SaaS and B2B entrepreneurs.” Mentioned by Lincoln Murphy. Listen or read at [52:22]. SIIA (Software & Information Industry Association) – According to the site: “SIIA is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry.” Mentioned by Lincoln Murphy in passing at [23:23]. Sixteen Ventures – Sixteen Ventures is a company founded by Lincoln Murphy. The site contains blog articles about SaaS back to 2007 and Lincoln’s current speaking. Mentioned in numerous places during the interview. Listen or read at [01:54], [19:13],[20:27], [20:41], [27:48], and [53:43]. The Reality of Freemium in SaaS – PDF by Lincoln Murphy mentioned during interview. Listen or read at [23:57]. Totango – Customer success management app mentioned by Lincoln Murphy as an alternative to Gainsight to measure customer success milestones. Listen or read at[50:18]. Winning by Design – According to the website, Winning by Design has a “proven customer-centric SaaS process for sales organizations” to assist with the design, implementation, and scaling of SaaS sales organizations. See their How It Works tab for more information. This is Lincoln Murphy’s place of employment as of this writing. [Contents] Episode Transcript Intro [00:00] Ron Gaver: This is the SaaS Business Podcast, episode 16, an interview with Lincoln Murphy. [00:16] Lincoln Murphy: I’ll tell you what: this is one of the most powerful concepts that I’ve ever come across in business, and that’s kind of a big statement, but I believe it to be true If you understand what your customer’s desired outcome is, what they need to achieve, and the way they need to achieve it, I think it changes everything. [00:45] Ron Gaver: Hello, welcome to the show. I’m your host, Ron Gaver. Thank you for listening. This is the podcast designed to help you put the pieces of the puzzle together to start, grow, and succeed in your SaaS business. Before we get started with the show, I would like to invite you to visit the podcast website. The URL is SaaSBusinessPodcast.com. On the website, the most important thing to do is to sign up to get your copy of the current free download. This will also put you on the list for future free downloads and updates. For your convenience, there’s also a page on the website for each episode, where you will find show notes for the episode. The show notes will contain links to resources mentioned in the episode. Just enter the base URL, a forward slash, and the three-digit episode number. [01:33] If you enjoy this podcast and find the content to be valuable, please consider giving us a five-star rating on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Five-star ratings help the show stay visible so that new listeners can easily find us. [01:54] Ron Gaver: [Guest intro. See top of page for text.] Welcome, Lincoln. [02:22] Lincoln Murphy: Hey, Ron. How are you? [02:24] Ron Gaver: Fine! How are you? [02:25] Lincoln Murphy: I’m doing well. Good to be here. [Contents] Pre-SaaS Career in Supply Chain Management [02:27] Ron Gaver: Let’s move back to 2004, roughly. You’re getting ready to go to San Francisco, you’re about to board an airplane, and your task is to go out to San Francisco and lay off a bunch of employees (or at least give them the bad news). [02:42] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah. [02:44] Ron Gaver: I think you had it pretty much up to your eyebrows at that point. What did you do? [02:50] Lincoln Murphy: I called my boss, and I told him that I wasn’t coming out and that I was done. That’s not what I signed on to do. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t believe in the reason that we were laying off people, anyway. This was to move jobs—not the people, but to move jobs—from San Francisco to Dallas, and I knew that, fundamentally, the people were good people. I didn’t want to do that for them. [03:17] Lincoln Murphy: But I also knew, fundamentally, this was the connection between us and our trading partners. This was in supply chain management, and if we lost these people with all this institutional knowledge—the systems were not great, we weren’t all working off of one centralized database of customer data or trading-partner data, we weren’t working off of one centralized form of documentation, processes weren’t documented—I knew if we lost these folks, we would lose the relationship with our trading partners. And even in a situation where you have two giant corporations coming together, it still relies on just a handful of human connections. [03:50] Lincoln Murphy: And I thought it was a bad idea all around, and I had it at that point and was lucky enough (I don’t know how it played out like this), got off the phone with my boss, called the airline, got a full refund (I don’t know how that happened), and I said, “That’s a good sign; this was the right decision.” Then I decided, “Well, I quit my job. Let me figure out what to do.” So I started a company, and it turned out to be a SaaS company, at the time. [Contents] Early SaaS Company for Mail Center Management [04:14] Ron Gaver: And you characterize that as a mail-center management for large businesses in the Texas area? [04:21] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah. From a supply-chain-management standpoint, you have very structured data that moves between, what we call, trading partners; and it’s what allows products to flow from supplier to vendor, and invoices and purchase orders and everything else to flow; and it’s all structured, and it’s all heavily—I don’t want to say regulated, but there’re rules in place, and that’s cool. [04:42] Lincoln Murphy: But then I saw a part of the organization that isn’t structured, yet a lot of really important information and other types of things—packages, things like that—flowed through this mail center. So you think of the mailroom at some companies, but your large companies actually have very sophisticated, very large mail centers, and there’s a whole industry out there involving mail-center management; and I said, “Look, I think that is an area of the enterprise that could be automated—not fully automated, but we could bring technology there and maybe provide visibility into the process and have it not be such a black box, where some really important information (things like checks and packages) are coming in.” And I said, “Let me just take that and run with it.” And—you know what—we did. [05:29] Lincoln Murphy: I pulled in some partners and we built a product—very much a minimum, viable product based off of what we now know as customer development (didn’t really have the term for that), but I spent a lot of time going to industry meetups. I spent time with the post office, trying to understand how mail is routed through the U.S. Postal Service. I spent time with anybody that would let me go to their mail center and their mailroom. I remember Greyhound was nice enough to let me have some access. Pitney Bowes was a company that did a lot of outsourced mail-center management. I got to sort of piggyback on what they were doing for other companies. I went down to Exxon in Houston and toured there. [06:09] Lincoln Murphy: Actually, I’ll tell you a little trick I used: I went to a company that does inbound mail-sorting automation; because I thought, “I want to, number one, be able to connect into their technology for our product.” But what I ended up doing was having them take me to some of their clients to show me their products in action, which also allowed me to get my foot in the door at ExxonMobil and at Frito-Lay, and a couple of other big companies, and so I met the right people based off of an interest in buying and also partnering with these makers of these really big, automated, mail-sorting machines. So that was a little hack that I used. But the bottom line is: I started understanding this market a little bit better and understanding what the needs were. And so you take a company like ExxonMobil that actually has a very distributed workforce, yet all of the mail comes in through their Houston mail center and then it has to be sent out. One of the things we did was created a way to view your mail. It comes in the mailroom, it goes on one of these sorters, those sorters actually have really high-speed cameras, we take the picture, and now that can be visible to somebody in Alaska, working on the North Slope above the Arctic Circle. They don’t actually have to get the physical mail sent to them; they can go through and say, “I don’t need that. I don’t need that. I actually do need that.” And that actually cuts down on the cost of sending mail across the world, which, for a company like that, is actually a pretty significant cost savings. [07:30] Lincoln Murphy: Bottom line is: very interesting, lots of customer-development work, a lot of understanding of the market; and then, ultimately, the understanding that, no matter what, that market was not as exciting as I thought it was. It was just really slow to take up new technology—a lot slower than I was willing to or comfortable with waiting out—and we ended up selling to a competitor; I like to say I ended up not owing too many people too much money. But I learned a lot. [Contents] Early Days of SaaS [07:55] Ron Gaver: This was in a time when SaaS was not as ubiquitous as it is now. How is it that you decided that that was the right place, that was the right thing to do, SaaS was the answer? How was it you even came to know about SaaS at that particular time? [08:10] Lincoln Murphy: In all of the supply-chain-management stuff that I was doing—this will kind of go back to even the early ’90s, when I got into that world—it was a network-centric, business architecture. If you think about the way that information is passed between companies, none of that really matters if you can’t actually connect to the other companies. It absolutely relies on having this network centricity. And that was kind of the world that I grew up in. It was all about, ultimately, what we would refer to as B2B ecommerce. At the same time, of course, B2C ecommerce was coming up, and I was doing a lot of work with Web technologies. Even as the supply-chain world sort of evolved, we started taking on these dedicated networks and what we called value-added networks where—if you think about it—it was literally a server that two companies would dial in to—literally dial in to with old-school modems and things like that. You would have different types of computers, and we would have different format standards that we would use, and we’d upload a file to these systems. Those systems would translate the file into what the other company could use, and that was how we did business. [09:13] Lincoln Murphy: Well, we started moving that to the Internet, started using more standard technologies, more standard formats and things like that. I was doing a lot of really hardcore business work, using Internet technologies, so when I decided to move outside of where I had been in the supply-chain management world into creating a startup, Web technologies—that was what I knew more than anything else. I really had no idea how you would even build an on-parameter client-server piece of software, and I had no real interest in that. And like you said, SaaS wasn’t a thing yet. And, certainly, ASPs—application service providers—had been around. People were “delivering” software over the Web. I saw this as a way to, not just deliver software, but if everybody signs into the same system (what we now know as multitenancy and things like that)—if everybody’s signing into the same product, the same system—now we have that network centricity. And I wasn’t really sure what we could do with that, but I did know what we’ve seen with companies like Workday that sort of upset or displaced previous types of products, like PeopleSoft in the human capital management space. One of the reasons Workday really took off is the fact that, for a distributed company, all they have to do is have Internet access to be able to get to the system. They don’t have to have a server set up in a room somewhere and then dedicated circuits, or even VPNs, to get to this centralized server that, for all of their remote offices, all they have to have is Internet access. [10:44] Lincoln Murphy: Well, I saw that same thing in this case, where, at a company like Exxon, all they have to do is scan the content, put it on the server (which is on the Web), and then all the different remote locations could all log into that; and you don’t have to have any of that dedicated IT infrastructure. So I saw that as a real positive. It was kind of two-fold: (1) I didn’t come from an enterprise-software background, so that wasn’t even on my radar, and (2) I really saw the benefits of having everything on the Web. So that’s kind of how I went into that. [Contents] Before SaaS Was SaaS [11:12] Lincoln Murphy: It was hard to find information, certainly, on this, because there wasn’t one thing that we called it. We didn’t call it SaaS, didn’t call it Cloud, so we kind of had to just feel around in the dark, but we eventually realized that this was a SaaS company. Right around the time we were getting ready to exit this venture, I think SaaS was becoming a term. But it was a real learning experience from all sorts of angles, and, you said it yourself: it wasn’t ubiquitous. Really going out and selling this stuff to very staid, old-school companies who were technologically forward in the places where it mattered to them—Exxon was technology forward when it came to drilling, and some of the other companies were really technologically forward when it came to supply-chain management—but when it came to things like this, especially in a part of the business that was kind of considered a cost center (not really that important), they were not really looking to take any chances; and, of course, the management of the mail centers were not looking to take any chances, so they would bring IT in, and IT would say, “We have a lot of concerns.” And it was all of the things that I’d heard. Later on, you heard there were challenges for SaaS. We went through all of those, and so it was not ubiquitous. [12:22] Lincoln Murphy: But at that time, when SaaS was becoming a term, you would hear things from Silicon Valley (from investors and pundits and the press) that SaaS is everywhere and it’s the next big thing, which was true. It was absolutely the next big thing. But in terms of being everywhere, in terms of being the norm or the way that you do business, it was hard. It was rough. And so we had a major uphill battle. When I came out of that, it was hard, but we were able to sign a number of fairly sizeable accounts, even with all of those challenges. And I thought, “Man, I think I’ve learned something that other people might be able to benefit from.” [Contents] Resistance to SaaS Adoption [12:56] Ron Gaver: You mention a variety of challenges. One of the challenges that I continue to read about is the disinterest on the part of corporate IT departments in adopting any kind of a SaaS infrastructure or a SaaS product. Do you see that still as a large problem, or do you think that that’s gradually eroding away? [13:16] Lincoln Murphy: It depends on several things: everything from geography—I think in a lot of places in Europe, overseas markets are (I say this in the most kind way) a little bit behind where we are. They just haven’t adopted it as much. I think you’re still going to run into some of those things. [13:32] Lincoln Murphy: Certainly, there are regulatory issues. There are probably going to be some markets in the U.S. that are more reluctant, but there was a time when banks, financial institutions of any kind, healthcare—these guys will never, never do SaaS, and now it’s basically in every market. Again, there may be some—and maybe there’re some that should be. I don’t know about building a SaaS product to run nuclear reactors, but save from that, maybe we’re not really seeing too many of those barriers in one entire vertical. But I think you’re still going to find that every once in a while. Certainly, older companies that haven’t evolved, I think, are going to be there. [Contents] Role of Corporate IT in SaaS Adoption [14:08] Lincoln Murphy: That said, IT still plays a very important role, and the more your product is mission critical to the organization or to very important departments, I think, the more IT is there to vet your security. And so, you, as a vendor, need to know—when you’re selling into a particular type of company, into a particular market or vertical—you need to know if IT is going to be a part of the sales process and what they’re going to be looking for. Oftentimes it’s as easy as putting together a one-pager that just says, “Here is what we do for security. Here are all the things we have in place,” and just allowing IT to kind of look at it, check the boxes, and be good to go; or follow up from that, and you’ll have a much quicker conversation. [14:54] Lincoln Murphy: If you understand your customers and their buying cycles and their buying process and everything, you should be able to be proactive in offering up those kinds of pieces of information to the different personas that are involved in the buying process. And where IT is involved, you want to make sure that you help them check those boxes. A lot of times, they can’t say “yes” to a product; all they can do is really say “no,” and so it falls on you to make sure that they have everything they can do to not say “no.” [Contents] SaaS Business Model [15:18] Ron Gaver: Alright. Now you started by talking about your experience in supply-chain management, bringing that into what became known as SaaS. You have a graphicon your website, SixteenVentures.com, that shows your SaaS business model, or your model of what a SaaS business looks like, and at the very center of that is network centricity and surrounded, then, by four other balls—customer success, revenue model, technology and core IP, and marketing. So you went from supply-chain management, you had this realization that network centricity was sort of at the core of what you wanted to pursue, and you went into the mail-center management; but it didn’t turn out to be quite as much fun as you thought it would be, and so you got out of that, and then you started to do other things. What did you do from there? [16:09] Lincoln Murphy: It wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be, and what I mean by that is it was just really a slog to get these deals done, and they didn’t end up being that lucrative and so we weren’t really going to be able to build a very big business. I mean, we just had to be intellectually honest about that at some point. [Contents] Business Architecture [16:27] Lincoln Murphy: But what I had learned, I thought was valuable, and so I just started consulting with different companies, and, really, I started thinking a lot about the business architecture. Where I was when I left my supply-chain-management career is I had gotten to the point where I was what we called a business architect, which was really just looking at all the different ways that we can make things work. The mandate I had at my last company was: get us as deep as you can into our vendors’, our suppliers’, and into our customers’ worlds. That was the coolest mandate I’d ever had. I mean, how do we infiltrate their business in really awesome ways, where it’s not a bad thing, but how can we make sure that we know what our suppliers are doing and make sure we know what our customers are doing and try to get ahead of the curve? I tried to apply that thinking to mail-center management, and then, once I left there, I spent a lot of time applying that thinking to SaaS. [Contents] SaaS as a Business Architecture and SaaS Revenue Models [17:18] Lincoln Murphy: So SaaS had become a thing at that point, and I said, “Well, okay, it’s not just delivering software over the Web. This really is something new.” And, of course, the SaaS business model was kind of the way people were talking about it, but I looked at it as almost something different. It was really this architecture of a business: it’s how you would build a business; and the revenue-model part of it was one thing. I, from very early on, thought, “SaaS is not monthly subscriptions.” You can apply any revenue model to this architecture, which was fundamentally different than how everybody was thinking about it at the time. Most people were looking at SaaS as equaling subscriptions and a monthly fee; and today we’re at a point where SaaS is the architecture, and the revenue models run the gamut from pay-as-you-go, to subscriptions, to multi-year contracts—they’re just across the board. So SaaS today is kind of where I thought it would be a long time ago. I mean, I couldn’t have predicted exactly what it was, but I didn’t think it was just subscriptions. So I actually came up with seven different revenue models and that applied to SaaS. I did a lot of thinking about that, put that stuff out there, published that; and that got a lot of people interested in working with me, and so I would do a lot of consulting—and that was from, like, 2006 to 2008. [18:35] Lincoln Murphy: I joined a startup at that point. It wasn’t one that I started; but, kind of early on, they built a platform as a service. At the time, you were starting to see you had SaaS and then platform as a service. Then you had infrastructure as a service, and all these different X-a-a-S things coming up. And this was one that was very much like Heroku is today. They were a competitor of ours. It was built for, at the time, Ruby on Rails apps to run, and since I had been doing so much around SaaS and had become kind of well-known as the SaaS guy, they wanted me to be the liaison or the evangelist to get SaaS companies to run their business, basically, off of our platform. [Contents] Recent Career [19:13] Lincoln Murphy: So I did some consulting; I did that, moved over to Morph, and then Morph ran out of money about the time that everybody else did—the banks and everything—at the end of 2008. That’s when they shut down operations, and I decided to formalize my consulting with Sixteen Ventures. That’s the company name I came up with, which is a story in and of itself. Over the next eight years, I took a couple of years and worked with another startup called Gainsight the last few years; but along the way there, I kind of evolved with the market. [19:45] Lincoln Murphy: I was talking a lot about the business architecture in the early days. Well, then, it kind of solidified, and we were all somewhat in agreement on what it was, and I kind of moved into pricing and conversion optimization, especially around free trials. I spent a lot of time talking about free-trial optimization, and it’s great to acquire customers, but what happens when they start to leave? Well, we need something to keep customers around. Once you eliminate churn—man, wouldn’t it be cool if we could actually grow those customers? And that’s where customer success comes into play, which is what I spend a lot of my time working on today. But I just kind of evolved with the whole market, when it comes to SaaS, over the last decade or more. Gosh, time flies. [Contents] Sixteen Ventures [20:27] Ron Gaver: I really want to get into customer-success management, but you threw out a couple of things there that I’d like to explore first, quickly. First of all, you said Sixteen Ventures was “in and of itself” a story. Is there something you can quickly tell us about the story behind that? [20:41] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah. I was coming to the end of 2008, and I wanted to formalize my company within that year, but we needed a name. So, it’s not a really exciting story, except some people would often wonder where that name comes from, and, honestly, I think I just said, “Well, you know, this is probably my sixteenth venture,” if you count all of the different things that I had tried over the years, and I think that’s what took. Now I can back into the fact that my name is Lincoln, and President Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the U.S.—that’s also one thing. Ultimately, it was just kind of a fluke that I chose that name, but I’ll tell you an interesting little side effect of calling it Sixteen Ventures is that, before that name became synonymous with just anything to do with SaaS and ultimately customer success, it got me into places because people thought I was a VC. I actually got access to things that I might not have otherwise had access to. So that was not planned, but it ended up being a pretty interesting side effect of calling it Sixteen Ventures. [21:39] Ron Gaver: I can see how that would happen. When I first saw it, I was kind of wondering the same thing. [21:43] Lincoln Murphy: Mm-hmm. [Contents] “The SaaS Guy” [21:44] Ron Gaver: Before we get into customer-success management… You became “the SaaS guy,” you said. How did you become “the SaaS guy?” You’ve now, at this point in your career, consulted with four-hundred-some-odd companies; there was, obviously, some sort of growth, some sort of transition that happened along the way that you went from supply-chain management, into your own venture, into your mail center—I don’t remember the name of it. [22:10] Lincoln Murphy: Global Mail Technology. It was a wonderful name. [22:12] Ron Gaver: But then you became “the SaaS guy,” and I’m just interested: how did you become “the SaaS guy?” [Contents] Contrarian Views [22:16] Lincoln Murphy: In 2006-ish (and these posts are—while they didn’t start out there—now at SixteenVentures.com; if you somehow get to the very first posts on the site, they are there), what I did is, after we sold the company and I took a few days (or weeks probably) and decompressed, I got kind of irritated, again, with all the noise that was coming out of Silicon Valley about how SaaS was ubiquitous. And I just wrote three or four pretty-lengthy blog posts. They were on Blogger at the time. It was easy to make noise back then because there wasn’t a lot of it, and I just laid it out there. I was like, look, you guys are saying this stuff. I believe what you’re saying will be true, but it’s not right now. If you go into Middle America, into actual, regular corporations—not the things that are happening in Silicon Valley—you are going to be hard-pressed to very easily close a SaaS deal. That’s what I laid out there, and I got a lot of people saying, “Interesting; thanks for sharing that.” I got a lot of people saying, “Who are you, and what right do you have to say anything?” [23:23] Lincoln Murphy: It worked, and it kind of got my name out there. And I met a guy, Ken Boasso, of Keychain Logic, basically out of East Bay in San Francisco. He was one of the guys who was, like, “who are you?” and ended up becoming one of my best friends. He’d been a sales guy, and I remember there was an SIIA event, I believe; and he knew people there, and he kind of got me in, and I think I asked some tough questions of a few of the speakers and probably irritated people, but I just made noise. And it was easier then, but it’s certainly not impossible now. [Contents] Freemium in SaaS [23:57] Lincoln Murphy: Fast-forward a couple of years from there. I published a twenty-seven-page PDF that kind of went viral called The Reality of Freemium in SaaS—so, it was right at the beginning of 2009—and it just called out all of the things about freemium; and, based on companies that I’d been working with, why freemium was a cop-out. You didn’t want to sell, didn’t want to have to really try, so you just opened your product up for free and then hoped people become customers. And I laid it out there. That thing got some fifty thousand downloads, and it was being shared, and I think it’s just wild because it was a really ugly PDF. It got me a speaking gig at Freemium Summit, the only one there that was sort of a contrarian and the only consultant on the event. It was just another case of me making noise, but it wasn’t just noise for the sake of noise; these were things that I believed that people needed to hear that were not being put out there, that were not being said. And, of course, with the freemium paper, I wasn’t being contrarian to be contrarian; I was saying, “Look, if you’re going to do it, this is how you should do it.” Just like SaaS isn’t ubiquitous, back then, yet, but it will be, and here are some of the things that I learned along the way. [Contents] Thought Leadership (or Getting Things Out of Your Head and Moving On) [25:10] Lincoln Murphy: So, there’s making noise, and then there’s causing people to pay attention to you by saying real things but also maybe adding value. So, what I learned from that was, “Hey, you know what? I have experience that people can learn from.” It just caused me to really start sharing. And that’s what I’ve done. That’s the story of how I am anything—how I’ve been able to maintain whatever this is that I’m doing for the last ten years; it’s because, when I learn things from working with my clients, studying, and thinking, I put it out there. And some people refer to that as thought leadership—that’s cool—but, to me, I just share these things, and a lot of times it’s just to get it out of my own head. Once I get it out of my head, put it out there on the blog, then I can go move on to the next thing. But that’s how it works. You have a podcast. Now you’re getting to be known in this space. Everybody has a different way that they’re going to do this. It’s just a lot easier for me to write a bunch of words. Luckily, that still works pretty well. [Contents] Facts and the Contrarian Point-of-View [26:06] Ron Gaver: Even though you have a dissenting opinion—you are contrarian—you’re not really just making noise for the sake of making noise; you really are trying to lay out the facts and say, “Here’s a different way to look at this. You might not want to just buy into all the hype. This is the way I see it. You might want to consider this point of view.” [26:24] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah. [26:25] Ron Gaver: I like that. [26:26] Lincoln Murphy: I appreciate that, and I like that, too. That’s how I like to learn. So the people that I—and I couldn’t name anybody right off the top of my head—but that I’ve know over the years, including when I was younger and growing up, I think those are the people that I gravitated to—that would say something that caught my attention but then add value. The people that just say things to be loud and obnoxious—I don’t like that. I don’t think anybody really likes that, and it’s certainly not something that’s built for longevity. I’ll tell you, there were times people have called me—one word that sticks out is bombastic. I make these bombastic statements, and I’m, like, “Well, yeah, but it’s true.” And then usually what happens is—this sounds weird—I like to make all this noise, but I’m not really good at bragging or tooting my own horn; but usually what happens is I get people that’ll react negatively to what I say and then, eventually, it comes true. That’s not to say that I’m a futurist and I can tell the future or anything like that, but it’s just that it was true all along; and eventually people start to gravitate to see that it was actually the right way. That doesn’t mean I’m always right, but when I am, that’s usually how it plays out. At first, people kind of react negatively and then they come around. So, that’s cool. [27:38] Ron Gaver: Logic often prevails over illusion. [27:40] Lincoln Murphy: Hopefully; usually. [27:42] Ron Gaver: Not always. There are many exceptions in history where that has not come true. [27:47] Lincoln Murphy: Exactly. [Contents] Customer Success Management [27:48] Ron Gaver: I would like to kind of get into the area that I said I was interested in—customer success management. I know that that’s something that you talk about a lot, and I mentioned that in terms of your business model earlier. You’ve got a quote—I think it’s your definition of what customer success is—and I’ll quote it. It’s: “Customer success is when customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company.” Not just with your product, but with your company. Maybe we could deconstruct that a little bit. I think you’ve deconstructed it in one post in particular that you’ve rewritten, which is the Definitive Guide to Customer Success, which is on Sixteen Ventures, and I’ll link to that. There’s a picture, also, there of you in front of a big screen, somewhere, with that definition behind you. So, the customers’ desired outcomes… [Contents] Customer’s Desired Outcome [28:37] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah. I’ll tell you what: this is one of the most powerful concepts that I’ve ever come across in business; that’s kind of a big statement, but I believe it to be true. If you understand what your customer’s desired outcome is, what they need to achieve, and the way they need to achieve it, I think it changes everything. Let me explain. Desired outcome is two pieces. [Contents] Customer’s Required Outcome [29:01] Lincoln Murphy: What they need to achieve—I refer to that as their required outcome. This is the thing that they need to do. This is not using your product. This isn’t even the job to be done. This is the outcome that they absolutely have to have. If I need to get from point A to point B, quickly, that’s my required outcome. Now, I might choose to do that through commercial airline travel. That’s one way. If I need to get more people to my event—that is my required outcome. I could do that in lots of different ways: I could print out flyers and hand them out, I could place ads on Facebook, I have a bunch of email addresses—maybe I could use email marketing. So if I choose to use email marketing, that’s what I’m choosing to use to achieve my required outcome. Vendors need to understand that a customer is coming to you because they have a required outcome that they absolutely have to achieve but that they could do that in lots of different ways. We need to keep that top-of-mind, if for no other reason than it keeps our ego in check. [Contents] Customer’s Appropriate Experience [30:06] Lincoln Murphy: Once they have chosen to do business with you, they’ve done so because they believe that you can help them achieve that required outcome; but they also believe—based on your sales and marketing, and how good you are at promoting your stuff—that you will help them achieve that required outcome in the appropriate way, giving them the appropriate experience. That’s the second part of desired outcome. So, it’s required outcome plus appropriate experience. And I use the termappropriate—you may have seen this in some of the articles where I write this out—I use the term appropriate because it’s the appropriate word. Our customers have an experience that is specific to them, which means we need to understand the different customer segments that are doing business with us, and we need to understand what the appropriate experience is for them. That’s why I don’t say “a great experience” or “a high-touch experience” or “modern” or whatever. It’s whatever is appropriate for that segment. So using the airline analogy, we have one airplane. There is a first-class cabin and there is the coach cabin. The first-class cabin—there’s a particular customer segment that is going to do business with the airline on a first-class basis—and there’s the rest of the airplane that’s going to be filled with people doing business from a coach standpoint. It’s the same required outcome: get me from point A to point B safely and quickly. But as soon as you understand that there are different customer segments that have a different appropriate experience, you understand why some people are going to pay a premium to sit in first-class and some people are going to try to save some money and sit in coach. [Contents] Appropriate SaaS Experiences [31:39] Lincoln Murphy: From a software standpoint or a SaaS standpoint, if I’m selling to very early-stage startups, I could probably get away with an API only. I don’t need a graphical interface. I could probably just have some lightweight documentation and maybe a Slack channel for support for that customer segment. If I’m selling that same thing, the same underlying product, to a department in a Fortune 500 company, I’m probably going to have to have a full-blown UI, probably going to need some better documentation, maybe 24/7 support, maybe I need to be able to sell it to them on a three-year contract. There’s going to be a different experience that is appropriate for each of those customer segments, but a lot of the time, companies don’t think like that. They think, “Well, I’m just going to create one experience and sort of normalize it for everybody”—in which case they don’t connect with really anybody and that’s why they’re struggling, or they just don’t take into consideration that different customer segments are going to need a different approach. In a worst case, they don’t resonate; best case in that scenario is that they actually overinvest resources. They throw a bunch of customer-success managers at these customers, and the lower-end customers that aren’t paying much—they don’t need that level of coverage—so we’re overinvesting where we don’t need to be overinvesting. The larger customers actually need a much greater level of touch, but we can’t do that because we don’t have enough people, and so we underinvest where we should be spending more. And so it just ends up being a problem. If we understand our product has different customer segments that use that product, and those different customer segments are going to have a different appropriate experience with us—again, not just in the product—then we can build out a strategy that really allows us to more effectively get those customers to be successful over time. [Contents] Solve for Success Not Happiness [33:26] Ron Gaver: Perhaps it’s a corollary to that, but when you talk about what a successful customer is, you do say that you’re not solving the equation for happiness; you’re solving it for them to be successful—for them to have the appropriate and the required outcomes—not necessarily happiness. And I think that, a lot of times, people think that a happy customer is a good customer, but that might not be the thing because a happy customer, as you write, might walk away and do business elsewhere, where they get a better experience or where their needs are met a little bit better. [Contents] Successful Customers Advocate But Want More [33:59] Lincoln Murphy: Totally. I think what happens is, a lot of times, happiness is the wrong approach. We look at things wrong. We say, “Okay, this customer is just opening a lot of support tickets, they’re always asking for different features, they’re always pushing back on us to do more, and they just never seem happy.” But if you look at the actual context of what’s going on—they’ve been around for a long time, they’re continually adding more and more seats or they’re buying more add-ons. They are our biggest advocates. They’re actually the ones that will be references for us. They leave reviews. They speak at our events. They’re actually the most successful customers. But if you ask, “Are these customers happy?”—you would probably say, “No, they never seem happy. They always want more.” [Contents] Happy Customers May Not Be Getting Value and Then Churn [34:49] Lincoln Murphy: On the flip side, customers that we never hear from, we might misinterpret that as being, “Well, they’re happy; they’re not complaining, so they’re fine.” Or maybe they’re even pleasant. When we do talk to them, they’re happy, but then they contact us and they say, “By the way, we’re going to cancel our account because we’re going over to this other vendor.” And you’re like, “I don’t understand; I thought you were happy.” “Oh, I’m definitely happy; we just weren’t getting any value from the relationship with you.” [Contents] The Appropriate Success Vector [35:15] Lincoln Murphy: So, if our customers are achieving their desired outcome—if they’re on the right path to achieving whatever that desired outcome is that they have—then that’s all that really matters. Customers that are doing that are, hopefully, emotionally happy. I have to be really clear: I don’t want to be around people that are unhappy. I don’t want people that I work with to not be happy. I just can’t solve for your happiness. I can solve for your success. I can ensure that you are on the right track to your desired outcome; and if you are, hopefully, that will make you happy. But those are two different things. And I think from that standpoint, when we look at our customers to know whether or not they are on the appropriate success vector, we have to look at, “Are they on the right path to achieving that desired outcome?” If they’re happy, great. If they’re not, that’s okay, too, because we’re human, and I can’t really solve for that. On the flip side, if we want to be taken seriously in customer success, or as a CEO we want customer success to be taken seriously by our board or anybody else within the organization, we have to get away from talking about fluffy metrics like “happiness” or “delight.” I have to be really clear: I don’t want to be around people that are unhappy. I don’t want people that I work with to not be happy. [Contents] Customer Success and Company Valuation [36:21] Lincoln Murphy: We need to really understand that customer success—and I just published a post the other day that goes into seven ways that customer success actually directly impacts the valuation that investors or acquirers will apply to your company—the value of your company is directly impacted by customer success. We need to be talking about customer success in those terms, and not in “happiness” and “delight” and things like that. If we talk about it in the way of, “Look, if we have this net revenue retention at the end of the quarter that’s going to potentially impact the value of our company”—that is so much more powerful than “happiness” or “delight.” Again, I want people who I’m working with to be emotionally happy, but I just can’t solve for that, and it doesn’t actually end up moving the needle along the value of my company. This is too important to be thought of as just another way of creating happiness or delight. [Contents] Churn [37:15] Ron Gaver: You talked about customer retention. Well, one of the aspects that you often do refer to is churn; and, of course, churn is a topic, a subject, that comes up in the SaaS world all the time, but stopping churn when a customer is about to churn is like stopping a fire after it’s already started. [37:34] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah. [37:35] Ron Gaver: You need to attack that problem upstream. Customer-success management, I believe you say, is preventing that customer from ever wanting to churn, not looking at attacking the churn problem at the end. [37:48] Lincoln Murphy: Right. [37:49] Ron Gaver: I’m sure you can say it better that that. [Contents] Customers to Save and Customers to Let Go [37:50] Lincoln Murphy: From the conversation so far, you can see that I probably can’t say it any better than that. You’re absolutely right. I mean, if you have a fire, go put it out. We’ve got to put that fire out. If you have a customer who’s about to churn, do what you can to try to save them if they have success potential. Some customers do not have success potential. They never should have been signed in the first place, or they never should have signed up or whatever, so we probably need to let them go because there’s no way they will ever be successful. But if they have success potential, then do whatever you can to save them. That is not customer success, though. That’s usually going to involve begging, maybe some discounts, whatever. That’s not customer success. That’s just doing what we can to try to save a customer. [38:33] Once they agree not to churn, then it’s customer-success management’s job to get them back on track. See, all we did was keep them from churning; we didn’t actually make them successful. So they’re still very much at risk. And where a lot of companies go wrong is they offer concessions and make promises and they keep the customer and then, a few months later, the customer—because nothing has changed—is still not successful, and so they churn out, only this time they’re actually angry because you wasted their time. So, only save a customer if you have a plan to get them back on the path to success. But again, that’s not customer success. And here’s the thing: churn is just a symptom of a greater disease. So if you have a churn problem right now, then we’ve got to do what we can to triage that, do what we can to keep them around, then get them back on track; and if we get them back on track—and we do that by having a very clear understanding of customer success, what their desired outcome is, understanding how to orchestrate and operationalize that—then churn will actually start to go down. [Contents] When Churn Becomes a Non-Issue [39:41] Lincoln Murphy: And then eventually—if we do things right, including making sure that we’re only signing customers that have success potential, we’re not bringing on customers that have no potential for being successful with us—we actually get to a point where churn is just not an issue anymore. Then what? Well, then customer success really starts to come into play because now we’re not only going to keep these customers around longer (which is great), but now we can actually start to grow customers and create an ascension model where customers not only stay with us but they actually expand their use. So whether that’s inviting us into other parts of their organization, whether that’s just buying more capacity, whatever that is, that’s where we need to be. So churn may be your initial catalyst for looking at customer success, but, eventually, if you do things right, churn won’t be something you even worry about anymore. Obviously, you want to make sure it doesn’t creep back up, but if we’re focused on the customers’ desired outcome, we’re ensuring that our customers are doing the things that they need to to get there. Churn won’t be an issue, and now we can focus on growth. [40:42] Lincoln Murphy: So, I don’t talk a lot about churn as much as I used to because I think customer success is about so much more than that. If churn is your initial catalyst, obviously that’s going to be the thing you focus on. But, even then, you should look at customer success long-term as something that isn’t just about churn-busting or firefighting; it’s ultimately about getting your customers on that ascension path so that they’re always growing, to the extent that I say the real measure of success isn’t even having customers that are just sticking around—so it isn’t just retention. If I have customers that are only sticking around, but aren’t growing, to me that’s not successful. I want customers that are on that ascension path, that are moving up, that are growing, because that means I have created an environment that really allows my customers to thrive and one that I really understand—that customers are always evolving and that they should be growing. And I think that’s something, that, most of the time, when people are developing customer-journey maps and they’re thinking about the customer, they kind of think of the customer as a static entity, but the reality is our customers are always evolving and changing, and that’s good. That’s what we want. And so we should think about, “What is a customer that signs today? What do they look like in five years? Are they just going to be the same, or could they be ten times as big of a customer as they are today?” That’s how we need to be looking at that, and that’s, really, to me, the real power of customer success. [Contents] Individual Contributions to the Customer’s Desired Outcome [42:03] Ron Gaver: And as far as the customers’ desired outcome and what’s valuable to the customer, you say that, really, that’s a question you should begin to ask when you’re starting the company, when you’re developing your product, when you’re first starting out; and you should continue to ask that question over and over and over, and everyone in the company should really be able to answer the question of what they’re doing to provide the value to the customer—I don’t remember exactly how you said it—but what are you doing that is worthwhile to the customer? [42:31] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah. The way that I phrase it is to ask each individual contributor in your company: “How do you contribute to the customer’s desired outcome?” And, a lot of times, when I’ll go work with a company—and maybe the CEO brings me in because he or she really wants to make sure that customer success is really part of the overall DNA of the company, bringing that in at the high level—we’ll figure out what the desired outcome is so that we’re all on the same page. We know what we’re talking about when we say, “What is the customer’s desired outcome?” And then we go to that question, “How do you contribute to the desired outcome of the customer?” And every single person in the company should be able to say that, even somebody in HR or finance. HR brings on and keeps the talent that enables us to provide the desired outcome to the customer. Everybody has that impact. And the scary thing is, a lot of times, people building the products, people selling the products, people in customer success, can’t answer that, and that’s a problem. So we need to answer that. And then any new person that signs on, we tell them, “This is what the desired outcomes of our customers are, depending upon all the segments, and this is how you contribute.” And so now, from the very beginning, we’re letting people know, “This is how you contribute to customer success.” It’s so much better than just saying, “Hey, we’re all in customer success.” Well, of course we are, but what does it actually mean? Let’s actually get down to something tangible there and then reiterate that every time we do a performance review. Or if somebody changes jobs, okay, it’s time to change the definition of how you contribute to the desired outcome of the customer. So you really want this to be a part of your organization at a DNA level. Those are some very simple, little things you can do that have a huge impact. [44:03] Ron Gaver: I feel like we could go on for a long time talking about this stuff, but I’m going to respect your time and start to ramp it down a little bit. Is there any particular subject or anything that you really wished that I had asked you that I haven’t asked you? [44:18] Lincoln Murphy: Like you said, we could talk about this stuff forever. I think the main thing that I always like to talk about is desired outcome, and I think we did a good job with that. It’s one of those things that I encourage you to go to SixteenVentures.comand read as much as you can about desired outcome. I’m really thankful for you, Ron, for bringing that up and having this as a topic because it really is one of the more transformative things. If you understand this about your customers and build your company around that from the ground up and continually evolve around that as you grow and as you scale, I think you’re going to be a lot more successful than if you try to go the opposite approach, which a lot of companies, unfortunately, do. They don’t thrive as they could be. They’re kind of focused inward. They’re focused on their desired outcome and not their customers’. That’s the hard way. And I think the easy way, really, is to just make sure you’re making your customers successful. [Contents] Personal Recommendations [45:05] Ron Gaver: Something I’m always a little bit curious about is the things that you would value as my guest, the things that have built you, and things that have had a positive influence on your life or your attitudes or whatever it may be on your business. It really could be just about anything. Is there anything that comes to mind right away that you would say, “This really means a lot to me, and I would recommend it without reservation to the entire audience?” [45:33] Lincoln Murphy: I think there are a lot of different things. I believe in karma and that what goes around comes around. If we think about that concept—and it’s kind of the law of the universe; or even of science (one reaction has an equal and opposite reaction)—if we understand that and we focus on making our customers powerful, then that’ll come back to us, and they’ll make us powerful. And they’ll do that by staying longer, buying more, and telling their friends. It’s pretty simple. The other thing I would say—just because this book changed my life—it’s a book by Dr. Robert Cialdini called Influence.*. It’s just one of those things that I always recommend everywhere. The more you can understand about how other humans operate, I think, the better off you’ll be in business but also just as a fellow human. It’s called Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini. I’d check that book out, too. Those are the two things—one’s my operating philosophy, and one’s a book that changed my life. [46:25] Ron Gaver: I’ll definitely link to the book. I may actually already have it on the website. [46:29] Lincoln Murphy: Cool. [46:30] Ron Gaver: I’m familiar with the book. I have it on the shelf behind me. [46:33] Lincoln Murphy: Awesome. [Contents] Make Your Customers Powerful [46:34] Ron Gaver: As far as the karma that you mentioned… Something you’ve recently spoken about—flipping the funnel and taking the power back—just really inverting some of our concepts, and by satisfying the customer, your customer will also promote your product and will help you to become successful. [46:52] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah. That concept stemmed from some conversations I’ve had with CEOs and founders who are, like, “Look, customers just have too much power these days; how can we take some of that power back?” And the reality is, it’s not our power to take. We all have power. It’s equally distributed. The best thing we can do, if we need to use power as an analogy, is make our customers powerful so that they will, in turn, make us powerful. Now the secret is: it’s not magic. This is where customer success management comes into play. [Contents] Operationalize Customers Making you Powerful [47:20] Our customers—we make them powerful, but we also have to operationalize them making us powerful. Don’t just let advocacy, for example, happen by chance. Understand the points in time when it would be right for them to give us a review somewhere or to be a reference for us, and make sure that we reach out and enable them to do that. When it’s time for them to buy more, don’t just let them wait until they’re ready to buy. If we know that it’s a logical time for them to add this new product onto what they buy already or to add more seats, then let’s proactively reach out and make that happen. It’s about knowing when the right time is and doing what’s right to ensure that they are moving in the right path, even if that means pushing them outside of their comfort zone sometimes, because we have to make sure that our customers are always growing and evolving and achieving their desired outcome. So we want to operationalize that stuff and not just hope that it happens. It is about making sure that what goes around comes around; and if we help our customers, they will help us. [Contents] Proactively Convert on Success Milestones [48:16] Ron Gaver: You just said something, and I’m really curious about this, and I actually even wrote a note in some of your material about this. You talk about being proactive rather than reactive—if you’ve got your customer on a trial, don’t wait until the end of the trial to try to convert them or try to upsell them or whatever it may be, but monitor the process along the way, measure what’s going on, determine where they are, what value you’re providing, and then use tools to monitor that; and, as you said it, to be proactive rather than reactive. [48:48] Lincoln Murphy: Exactly. In a trial, for example, we need to know at what point is the most logical next step that they become a customer? Let’s figure out what that is, let’s work to get them to that point as quickly as possible, and if they get to that point on day three of a thirty-day trial, well, let’s make the offer. That’s the point where they’re ready. Now if we, on day three, try to get them to convert and we don’t know that’s the point where they’re ready, that’s why I say, “Don’t do things on a timed basis; do things on a success-milestone basis.” If we just do it on a timed basis and they’re not ready, it’s just not going to be met with a lot of acceptance. It could be off-putting. But if we know that they’ve gotten to a point where the next logical step is to become a paying customer, then, yeah, “make the ask,” as we would say. [Contents] Customer Lifecycle Success Milestones [49:31] Lincoln Murphy: So the same thing applies across the entire customer lifecycle. Know the success milestones. Know which ones are associated with an upsell or an advocacy ask, and reach out and make sure that we’re moving them up that ascension model and make sure that we’re taking advantage of their willingness to advocate for us by operationalizing them. This isn’t all about being altruistic. If we make our customers successful, we should be able to also get some value out of that, too. And that’s cool. If all we’re doing is trying to get value without ensuring that our customers first get value, then that’s not where we want to be. But if we, like you said, flip it around, make sure that we’re focused on them, then we’ll get what we get in return, which is awesome. [Contents] Tools to Monitor Customer Progress [50:07] Ron Gaver: And tools for monitoring your customer’s progress and the value you’re delivering to the customer—are there any favorite tools that you would recommend that you find to be extremely good for that? [50:18] Lincoln Murphy: It really depends on where you’re at. Companies use everything from Excel spreadsheets to purpose-built, customer-success-management tools like Gainsight or Totango or ClientSuccess. I suggest looking at the purpose-built tools first, number one to see what’s possible, and number two to see if they might work out financially when you thought maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe you thought they were a little too much out of your price range. From there, you back into everything from lifecycle messaging tools to lifecycle email messaging or things like Intercom, to other workflow tools that allow you to build out a workflow. You can kind of manually move a customer from one stage to another, and then that triggers various events. So there are lots of different ways to operationalize this. [Contents] Understand Desired Outcome Before You Operationalize [51:01] Lincoln Murphy: The main thing is, first, before you do that, to understand what you’re trying to operationalize, which means understanding what the desired outcome is of each customer segment for each product that you have, and knowing what are the things that have to happen in order to get that customer to achieve that desired outcome. Do that first so that you’ll know what you need to operationalize; you’ll know what you can leverage technology for, based on the appropriate experience; and you’ll also know where you need to fit human beings into that mix. A lot of times we just think, “I’ll just throw a bunch of humans at it at first and see how that plays out,” and that’s not always the best way. [Contents] Start with the Customers and Tools Will Become Apparent [51:31] Lincoln Murphy: So really, start with your customers. That’s why you may see me say every once in a while, “A customer success strategy that doesn’t start with a deep understanding of the customer is one that’s destined for failure.” Because it’s true. I mean, how can you have a customer success strategy without truly understanding what the desired outcome is of the customers? So start there, and the tools will start to become more apparent as you start to figure out what we would call the coverage levels that are necessary. [51:56] Ron Gaver: I’m going to make this the last question. You travel in the SaaS world. You talk to many people in the SaaS world. I’ve seen your itinerary. I’ve seen your speaking schedule. As far as someone who’s starting out—they’re in a startup mode; they want to be able to network with other SaaS entrepreneurs; they want to be able to get together with them, maybe pick their brains. Where would you recommend that they go to get that kind of information? [Contents] SaaS Networking Recommendations [52:22] Lincoln Murphy: There are meet-ups and events all around—startup meet-ups, things like that, in just about every major city; I would venture to guess, all around the world. There are incubators. There are accelerators and co-working spaces that generally have meet-ups for a lot of those that’s lead generation; and they’re looking for new deals, but that’s a great place to meet other startup founders. Other SaaS events like SaaStock that’s coming up in September [2016] in Dublin—that’s a great place for European SaaS startups to go. I’ll be speaking there. SaaStr in San Francisco every year—it’s a pretty big event that people come to. All the different technology meet-ups, sales and marketing ones. I’ll be at FlipMyFunnel in Austin, as an example. That’s going to be an interesting one. It’s focused on marketing, but there’s going to be a lot of SaaS companies there. Different customer-success meet-ups, as well, are going to attract a lot of SaaS companies. [53:13] Lincoln Murphy: So I would just get creative—there’s going to be meetings every week, at least, probably, no matter where you are, within driving distance or a train or a cheap flight. So just get creative and get out there and meet people and don’t be afraid to reach out. If you do reach out to somebody to pick their brain, be respectful of their time and maybe don’t ask for a thirty-minute meeting over coffee on the very first email. Maybe just ask them one question, and maybe offer to help them along the way. Be respectful. That goes a long way in getting people to pay attention to you. [53:43] Ron Gaver: Alright, Lincoln. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time. I appreciate the interview. Is there anything you’d like to say by way of good-bye, any references? I’ll link to Sixteen Ventures. Anything else that you’d like me to make sure to link to that I might not have mentioned yet? [53:56] Lincoln Murphy: Yeah, I’m most active on Twitter. You can follow me @lincolnmurphy. So if you just want to link to that. I share things on there that I don’t necessarily share anywhere else, so it’s a good place to keep up with the latest thing that’s on my mind. [54:07] Ron Gaver: Okay. Thank you very much. [54:09] Lincoln Murphy: Absolutely. [54:10] Ron Gaver: Again, I appreciate it. [54:11] Lincoln Murphy: Thank you. This was awesome. [54:13] Ron Gaver: All right. Bye. [54:14] Lincoln Murphy: Bye-bye. [54:27] Ron Gaver: Thanks for listening to the SaaS Business Podcast. I would like to remind you of a few things. Please don’t forget about the resources available to you on the website. Sign up there to receive your free download and updates, and go to SaaSBusinessPodcast.com, followed by a forward slash and the episode number to find the episode’s show notes. Finally, please leave a five-star rating on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts, if you find this podcast to be valuable. This has been episode 16 of the SaaS Business Podcast, an interview with Lincoln Murphy. Thank you, again, for listening. [Contents] *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


015: An Uncommon Startup Experience with Tim Sinclair
Jun 27 2016 46 mins  
Tim Sinclair is founder and CEO of RingR. Before founding RingR, Tim had an established career in broadcast radio. The idea for RingR grew out of Tim’s frustrations with trying to get high-quality recorded audio for interviews conducted electronically using the telephone or Skype. For such interviews, the host can produce a high-quality recording on one end, but if the guests do not have good recording equipment on their end, the audio quality for the guests’ recording is often low. If the host records the guests from the telephone, audio quality is generally low. If the host records the guests from Skype, internet artifacts such as warble and drop out often occur. Tim conceived RingR as a way to get high-quality, recorded audio for all parties by recording each person’s audio locally on a smartphone, transmitting the data to a server, and syncing the audio files together. In the end, host and guest sound as good as the local recording. RingR has come out of beta, and I wanted to get the story from Tim of how he developed the product and stood the company up. On the website, click any timestamp to start listening to the episode at the noted location. Please see Disclosure* (below transcript) concerning affiliate links on this page. Full episode transcript follows Resources Mentioned. Resources Mentioned in Episode Amazon Web Services (AWS) – According to the website: “Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a secure cloud services platform, offering compute power, database storage, content delivery and other functionality to help businesses scale and grow.” Tim Sinclair discusses RingR’s positive experience with AWS starting at [30:00]. AWS has a free tier that may not be exactly what Tim describes in the episode [31:46] but seems like a reasonable option to explore. Apple EarPods* – EarPods are my favorite in-ear listening and speaking device for iPhone. EarPods do not close the ear canal and allow you to listen to your surrounding environment while talking and listening. I do not know if they work with Andriod phones since the jack has four bands (left ear, right ear, microphone, and common). EarPods are mentioned in this episode as a good interface for recording on an iPhone using RingR. Listen at [04:50] for discussion. Love Does* – This book by Bob Goff is about showing love in remarkable ways. It was mentioned by Tim Sinclair in this episode. Tim takes inspiration from this book about how to interact with his customers. Listen to the discussion starting at [43:06]. Ocean Accelerator – Tim Sinclair is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Ocean Accelerator. Ocean is a faith-based accelerator providing seed funding, mentors, legal assistance, a well-attended demo day, a 5-month curriculum focused on founders first and business second, and more. For Tim’s story with Ocean in this episode, begin listening at [19:10]. Ocean will be featured in an upcoming episode (tentatively 017). RingR* – RingR is an app for recording high-quality audio from geographically separated speakers and synching the audio files into one high-quality recording. Typical uses are for podcasts and broadcast, but the app has been used for remote medical consultation, legal deposition, and employment interviews. Participants may record on an iPhone, Android phone, or desktop computer. The creation of RingR is the subject of this episode. For a technical description, begin listening at [04:50] RingR on Twitter @RingR_US [42:07] RingR on Facebook @RingRApp [42:29] Serra Ventures – According to their website: “Serra Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm investing in technology companies in emerging Midwest technology centers and selected other geographies. Sectors we focus on include information technology, devices/instrumentation and agricultural technologies.” In this episode, Tim Sinclair discusses obtaining his original funding from Serra Ventures. Listen starting at [11:50] for the story. Tim Sinclair at RingR – Tim is the founder and CEO of RingR. For a short bio, listen to the introduction at [02:16]. For an invitation to connect, listen at [45:14]. Full Episode Transcript [00:00] Ron Gaver: This is SaaS Business Podcast episode 15, an interview with Tim Sinclair. [00:19] Tim Sinclair: Surprise, I believe, is the key to most every emotion. Great horror movies are great because of suspense and surprise. Great comedians—it’s all about timing and saying something at a time that nobody expected. They don’t see it coming. They’re surprised and—boom—all of a sudden they’re laughing out loud because they didn’t see that coming. And for us—I think—when we surprise a customer, a user, with a great experience or with something that we say or that we do, not only is it a good feeling for them and a good experience for them (and it endears them to RingR), but it’s something they’re more likely to share with other people, and like I said earlier, that’s going to be our best marketing ever. [01:06] Ron Gaver: Hello, welcome to the show. I’m your host, Ron Gaver. Thank you for listening. This is the podcast designed to help you put the pieces of the puzzle together to start, grow, and succeed in your SaaS business. Before we get started with the show, I would like to invite you to visit the podcast website. The URL is SaaSBusinessPodcast.com (that’s S-a-a-S, SaaS with two a’s business podcast dot com). On the website, the most important thing to do is to sign up to get your copy of the current, free download. This will also put you on the list for future free downloads and updates. For your convenience, there’s also a page on the website for each episode where you will find show notes for the episode. The show notes will contain links to resources mentioned in the episode. Just enter the base URL, a forward slash, and the three-digit episode number. If you enjoy this podcast and find the content to be valuable, please consider giving us a five-star rating on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Five-star ratings help the show stay visible so that new listeners can easily find us. [02:16] [Intro – See top of page for text.] Welcome, Tim. [03:18] Tim Sinclair: Hey, thank you, Ron. I appreciate the opportunity to be on the show. It really means a lot. [03:21] Ron Gaver: Glad to have you on. Let’s start out with the problem you originally identified and how you came to the point of wanting to develop RingR. [03:30] Tim Sinclair: I’ve spent 18 years in radio, hosting shows, working the production room, did literally thousands of interviews, and really got tired of that stereotypical, telephone-interview sound (sounds like you’re in a tin can or on the moon or whatever). And you know, even Skype—now that some have gone to using Skype and recording those calls for interviews—you still get that warble and drop out and internet artifacting stuff in the calls. And so, I had a friend who’s in the industry who’s one of the artists we played at the radio station I worked at, and I just sent him an e-mail and said, “Dave, answer these questions, record it into the voice memos app of your iPhone and then send me the file. I’ll see if that’s something I can use on the air, and he did it, and it sounded unbelievable. And so, I began to think, “What if we could actually have a phone conversation and his device would record him while we talked like that?” And then I went, “Well, if we can get the phone to do that, then we could get my phone to do the exact same thing, and we’ll just piece the two perfect-sounding audio files together on the other end and sound like we’re in the same room having a conversation rather than in different parts of the world.” And so, that little idea is really what turned into RingR and what led us to the products we have today. [04:43] Ron Gaver: Originally, then, this started out with you manually piecing together a couple of files or streams from you and a guest and then trying to automate the process. [04:50] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, correct. People have been doing this in the radio and podcasting world for quite some time. It’s called a double-ender. Basically, you record on each end and then somebody has to somehow send one file to the other person, so you can do it on reel-to-reel back in the day or put in into some sort of digital file, and do all that. And what we wanted to do was kind of two-fold: (1) automate the process, but (2) make it possible with mobile, because while most podcast hosts and radio hosts have a studio they use, most guests do not. They have to somehow jerry-rig some microphone/computer combination on Skype or whatever on their end, and find a place to record. So we thought if we can (1) automate the process and (2) make it mobile so that all you really have to do is really have a phone conversation, all you need is your smartphone or your tablet, and you can plug in your EarPods or just hold the phone up to your face like you normally would. That would be ideal, especially for the guest, because then they don’t have to create an account for anything. They don’t have to sign up on Skype, try to find a microphone, sit in a room that’s not echoey—you know all those things that you want for a good-sounding conversation. The phone does all that work for you. The mic is good. It’s a unidirectional mic. It blocks out background noise. Everybody knows proper mic technique when it comes to a phone call: hold it to your face. That’s it. Same thing with EarPods. They automatically keep that mic just a few inches from their mouth. We try to combine all of that into one product. [06:15] Ron Gaver: The double-ender, for those who may not know, is where two parties at separate locations each record their end of a conversation and then someone later syncs the two recordings together. [06:25] Tim Sinclair: Correct. [06:26] Ron Gaver: And usually, there’s some sync signal; some sound. People will sometimes clap or snap their fingers. I’ve even heard of people singing “Happy Birthday” together to sync up. That’s a double-ender. You’ve basically perfected the double-ender electronically. [06:40] Tim Sinclair: That’s been the goal, yeah for sure, … to allow you to record without really any equipment or any studios, and then put those two files together on the back-end and provide you with something that you can easily use or edit and get into a podcast or broadcast. [06:54] Ron Gaver: You’ve envisioned this for podcasting and broadcasting. Do you have other applications in mind as well? [06:59] Tim Sinclair: Those were our first two obvious choices for markets to go into, but we’ve talked with lawyers who need to do long-distance depositions even some doctors who need to do medical consultations. There are some job interview possibilities: if you want to save the job interview for transcription or you want to share with your boss or with your team, so they can be in on the interview you just did and hear more of what the person had to say who might be interviewing for a job. There’s all sorts of audio collection services that are trying to put together either stories of your life or to get audio for video. I mean there’s …. Seems like every day, we find a new potential use for what we’re doing, and it’s exciting to watch that market expand. [07:40] Ron Gaver: Currently, the front-end recording device for RingR is either an iPhone or an Android phone. [07:45] Tim Sinclair: Correct. [07:46] Ron Gaver: And you’re moving into a browser-based RingR system? [07:49] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, it won’t necessarily be browser-based, but it will be available on your desktop or laptop. We’re fooling around with a couple potential things right now. We’re hoping in three or four weeks to begin beta testing, and it would allow you to login to your RingR account and launch a call from there. And it will allow your guest to just follow a simple link in an e-mail on their computer and start the call from there. [08:13] Ron Gaver: So, in that implementation, the guest just needs to follow a link to start the call. When guests use an iPhone or an Android, they also have to download the app. [08:22] Tim Sinclair: Correct. They do not have to sign up. They do not have to create an account or give their e-mail address or any of that kind of stuff. They literally just have to have the app on their phone, and then they tap a code in the e-mail invitation that you send them and that automatically—much like a conference call would today—jumps them right into the call, and once you’re both there, you start recording. [08:40] Ron Gaver: That’s what RingR is. We’ve talked a little bit about how you got the idea. Next phase: you’ve got an idea. How did you start to get the idea developed? What was your first step? [08:51] Tim Sinclair: I knew, not being a technical guy, that I wasn’t the one to try to code anything or put this together. I really have no experience in that realm and figured that I had to find some people with some app development, and probably audio experience, in order to make this happen. And I talked with a number of people. It’s kind of an idea that was rolling around my head for a couple of years and I would mention it to a friend, or whoever, over time that I thought might know something, and they all thought, “Man, that sounds like a cool idea, but I don’t really know how to do it.” It got left at that. About 18 months ago, I was having lunch with another friend, and he had just started a company with a couple of his friends, and I knew it was app based. And I said, “What do you think of this?” And he goes, “We can do that.” I kind of looked up from my food and went, “Really?” He said, “The two guys I’m working with, Kris and Dan, have their PhDs in computer science with an audio and media focus. This would be like a dream-come-true kind of project for them.” And so, we started talking, and they got excited about it, and the rest is kind of history. They gave me the bill—what it would cost. That was the next major potential stumbling block for us, but we took it to a venture capital group locally who was very interested in the project, and they jumped on board pretty quickly, and we’ve been moving forward ever since. [10:07] Ron Gaver: On your website, you show four team members, yourself, Chad, Kris, and Dan. You went to one of those guys with the idea. Was it Chad? [10:16] Tim Sinclair: Yes, it was. [10:17] Ron Gaver: And he’s the one who said, “We can do it”? [10:20] Tim Sinclair: He is. I don’t think he regrets it. [10:23] Ron Gaver: Good. And how long did it take to get from, “Gee, I’ve got this idea, and I think it’s really cool,” and you started talking it up, until you got it to Chad and he said, “Hey, yeah, we can do that”? [10:36] Tim Sinclair: Well, it probably was rolling around in my head for two years, maybe three, of this should be doable, but I had enough other things on my plate, and it wasn’t anything I wanted to invest a whole lot of time or energy in, and so, it just would come up once every four or five months when I was talking to a friend who is in the tech space and that was about it. And it was sort of that time, again, when I met with Chad. It was May of 2014, and he said, “We can do that.” And by the next week, I had the quote from his company as to what it would cost to get going. So, I took that to this venture capital group. I made a phone call to them on Thursday, we met on Friday, they offered money on Monday, and by the end of that month we were incorporated, we were funded, and we were starting to develop the product. [11:21] Ron Gaver: That doesn’t sound like the normal startup experience. [11:25] Tim Sinclair: It is not—I have learned. I didn’t know any better. I was too dumb to realize it, but I have talked with many in this field, and no, it is very, very unusual. [11:34] Ron Gaver: You were very fortunate to find Chad, and Chad was hooked up with a couple of stellar developers. You made a call to a venture capital group on a Thursday and had funding on the following Monday. Did you already know this venture capital group? [11:50] Tim Sinclair: I didn’t. I hadn’t even thought about what it would cost to do this until I got the bill from them. So then … I called a guy who I’ve known for years. He’s kind of like a father figure (in terms of age, at least) and said, “You’re the best business guy I know. What do I do here?” And he said, “Well, I invest with Serra Ventures in Champaign. You should at least give them a call. They almost always want a product and some proof that it works, but you can at least share your idea, and they can give you some help.” And I said, “Okay, I might as well do that.” So, that afternoon, [which] was Thursday, I called them, and they called back Thursday night, and we set up the meeting for the next day. They said, “Bring your business plan.” I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t have a name. I had nothing, so I opened up Google Docs and made a bunch of stuff up. I mean, it was fairly accurate, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I made up the name RingR. And I walked in there as if I knew what I was doing, and Halfway through the meeting, the guy I was talking to said, “Rob, come in! You gotta hear this!” And so then, I’m talking with two of the partners of the firm, and on Monday morning, I got an e-mail from them offering basically some starting capital to get going, and I said, “Sure, why not?” I had no idea what I was getting into. And … like I said, we incorporated, we got things squared away with Chad and Kris and Dan, and started development pretty much right way. [13:08] Ron Gaver: Did you even take Chad or Kris or Dan with you to that meeting, or was it just you solo? [13:13] Tim Sinclair: No, it was just me. Chad is local, but the other two guys don’t live in the same state. In fact, one of them doesn’t even live in the same country. Kris is our CTO; he’s based out of the UK. And Dan is in Virginia, and then Chad and I are in Illinois. I went to the meeting solo. Again, I had no idea what I was doing, but whatever it was worked and at least 18 months later we’re still here. [13:36] Ron Gaver: That’s a great story. [13:38] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, it’s (again) unusual and you know any entrepreneur that I [tell] I called Thursday, met Friday, had money on Monday, pretty much chokes and then wants to kill me because that’s just not how it goes, but for whatever reason, it was orchestrated that way, and we were in the right place at the right time. These guys felt confident in my ability to sell the product [and] my industry knowledge, and the idea was innovative enough and new enough with very little, if any, competition in the space that they decided to take a chance. [14:06] Ron Gaver: So, you had an idea. For about two years it’s rolling around in your head. Was it one of those ideas you just couldn’t let go of? Was it one where you’re driving down the road thinking about it day-in and day-out and just couldn’t let it go, or was it just something that surfaced every now and then? [14:22] Tim Sinclair: No, it was one of those things that would come back quite often to me, and I’m kind of entrepreneurial, in that I always feel I’ve got a good idea rolling around in there somewhere, but either I try and it doesn’t work or I just forget about it. This was one of those things where I’m like, “This has got to work, there’s no reason that this could not happen.” And I think it would be big. I could see lots of different potential applications for it, so I couldn’t shake it, but I didn’t know what to do with it either, and finally, I sat down to lunch with the right person who at least started the dominoes, and we’ve been moving forward since that point. [14:54] Ron Gaver: So, you had an idea then you just came into this great development team—a UX guy and two Ph.D. developers who just happen to specialize in audio and digital media. They’ve got a company, give you the bill, or at least give you the price tag, and then you go and get the money. You’ve got money. What happens next? [15:13] Tim Sinclair: Well, that was sort of the honeymoon period. I was still working in radio. I had a full-time job, and I was working with these guys who had several other clients. And so, we were kind of all working in a very part-time capacity—although I wasn’t getting paid—but we were all working in a part-time capacity on putting this thing together. And it wasn’t until December of 2014—late November maybe—that I realized, “I think I’m going to need to quit my job and jump into this thing full-time.” At least, that’s my hope, and I quit my job, not knowing exactly what was going to happen. We didn’t really have the money for me to go full-time, but I just felt it was the right thing to do. And Wednesday before Thanksgiving it was that we announced to the staff that my co-host and I would be leaving the morning show we’d been hosting for about eight years, and on Monday, so just a few days later, I got a call from Ocean, a business accelerator in Cincinnati that we had applied for and had heard about us, and said, “Hey, do you want to come? We’d love to have you be a part of our inaugural class.” So, after a couple of days, I accepted, and it just so happened that my last day with the radio station was January 2nd, and that was a Friday. The first day of the Ocean class was January 5th, which was a Monday, and so, I missed no time. It was a seamless transition. I moved 250 miles away in that weekend and literally sort of began my full-time endeavors into RingR that day. [16:40] Ron Gaver: There’s another beautiful domino that fell into place. [16:44] Tim Sinclair: Yes. [16:45] Ron Gaver: Ocean just happened to be there at the right time. [16:48] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, they were. [16:50] Ron Gaver: Looking back on this, doesn’t it amaze you that all of these things fell into place? Or does it just sound like they fell into place a little bit better because you’re looking back and telling the story? [17:01] Tim Sinclair: No, … sometimes we look at the past through rose-colored glasses and we go, “Ah, wasn’t that nice.” But this was one of those things that, at the time, I’m realizing as it’s happening that this is pretty remarkable. I’m well aware that when you quit a job with no plan and then the very next work day you find out the plan that you didn’t know was coming and then that plan happens to involve you missing absolutely zero time at work—because one ends on a Friday, the next one starts on a Monday—[that] … all those things were coming together perfectly. However, as I was driving to Cincinnati, I had 88 cents in the RingR bank account. We knew that some investment was coming from Ocean, the accelerator. We were hoping that more was coming from some other investors, but none of that was guaranteed, but I just felt like every step was kind of being laid out for me, and I was just going to have to trust that this was the right thing to do. Although, you look at 88 cents, and you go, “I’m an idiot.” But it has certainly worked out for the best, despite the (I call it) exhilarating terror: it’s a whole lot of fun, but it’s really, really scary. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love it. [18:10] Ron Gaver: When you first started, Chad, Kris, and Dan had a company. Are they still operating that company, and that company works with RingR, or are they now full-time RingR employees? [18:20] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, they started out at about 40% with us and then for the last nine months we bumped them up to 90%, so it’s been nearly full-time. Pretty much all of their time as a company has been spent with RingR, but they’ve never been actual employees with benefits and things like that. We are going to ramp our tech development back a little bit in 2016 now and focus more on sales and marketing. We do have, as you mentioned earlier, the desktop, and we have some conference call functionality coming, but once that’s done, we’re really going to focus on supporting what we have, refining what we have, trying to make it the absolute best product possible, … not really do a whole lot of forward-thinking development for the next 12 to 18 months, and really focus on selling and marketing what we feel like is a great product already. [19:10] Ron Gaver: The accelerator, Ocean: what was your experience working with them? [19:14] Tim Sinclair: I had no idea what to expect, but I loved it. It’s the nation’s first and only—I think the world’s first and only—faith-based accelerator, so not only do they focus on the product and the business and the customers and all those kinds of things, but they focus on the founders as people and who we are, why we do what we do, what we believe. What does it mean to be a creator and a founder? What does it mean to do things the right way and with the right heart? How does that impact your business? And that was fantastic for me. I really enjoyed the experience. It was kind of business boot camp and a chance to develop our pitch to investors, to actually pitch to a roomful of investors, and to make connections with all sorts of different people—legal and marketing and design. Literally, everything was opened up to us, and we just had to take advantage of what we needed for our business, and I really enjoyed the experience. [20:09] Ron Gaver: It sounds like you feel that they truly brought value into the process for you. [20:14] Tim Sinclair: They did. Certainly, the money they invested was nice. It wasn’t gigantic, but it was helpful, but I think even without that, it proved to be a very valuable experience. Several of our key investors have come as a result of that. Several of our legal team have come as a result of being at Ocean. Our marketing and sales folks, who are just getting ramped up now, are from Cincinnati. I met several mentors [who are] from that area and came through the Ocean program. I can’t say enough good stuff about what it did for us in getting started. [20:47] Ron Gaver: Did they really roll up their sleeves and jump in with you? [20:50] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, they did. You know early on, the first six weeks was really, “Okay, we’re going to teach you what business is, what the startup life is like, what a venture-backed business has to do. We’re going to work on refining your product, product market fit, testing, interacting with your customers or your future customers, design, how do you want to share yourself with the world, what kind of voice do you want to speak in.” Then things like, how do you set up a board, where do you go for investments, are you an LLC, are you a C corp? You know, we had to go through all that kind of stuff. Most of it was due to me—not all of it—but that was a really helpful base for me to stand on, and then once we got through that, it was, “Okay, let’s make some decisions about the product, and let’s figure out the story we want to tell investors about how they can play a part in what we’re doing.” And so, the next six weeks were spent on putting the pitch together, refining that, and it sort of culminated last April with the chance to stand in front of about 1,500 people who were there for our demo day. Another 1,500 or so, I think, were watching online and really gave us the opportunity to share what we’re doing with a bunch of people who cared and some of the people who had some money that they could potentially invest. [22:05] Ron Gaver: So, did the whole process with Ocean start in January and end with demo day in April? [22:11] Tim Sinclair: It actually ended in June. The last six weeks were kind of: “Okay, now that you’ve pitched and have talked with investors, now what? Do you need to pivot? Do you need to continue the course? Do you need to wrap up some deals with financing? How do you want to proceed from here?” It was a lot lighter workload at the accelerator, but, officially, we all graduated in late June. [22:33] Ron Gaver: That was their inaugural class? [22:34] Tim Sinclair: Correct. Yep, very first one. [22:37] Ron Gaver: Were they kind of feeling their way into it as well, and you guys were—for lack of a better term—“guinea pigs,” or do you feel like they were spot-on and hitting it on all cylinders? [22:49] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, I would say they were hitting on most cylinders, and we joked all the time that we’re all startups, Ocean included. They were a startup, but they had a lot of their ducks in a row, and obviously, there are a few things that we could have done differently, and I’m sure they are with the class that just started. But Scott Weiss is leading the program. He’s the former CEO of Evenflo, the baby product company. He’s worked all over the world for some gigantic companies, and now, he’s really devoting his life to investing in young entrepreneurs and some older ones, including myself. His heart is in the right place, his knowledge is unsurpassed, and they’ve done a fantastic job of collecting some great companies and watching them grow. [23:30] Ron Gaver: You said that Ocean is a faith-based accelerator. What does that mean exactly? You said that they focus on the person, the entrepreneur, and not just on the technical aspects of the business. What did they do? How did Ocean come about? [23:44] Tim Sinclair: It was formed, actually, at a church named Crossroads in Cincinnati—giant megachurch, 20-25,000 people—and they have a group that have been meeting for a number of years called “Unpolished,” which was just for entrepreneurs and start-ups and people who were interested in that kind of life, who either went to the church or were from the community—didn’t really matter. They had two, three, four hundred people who met once a month and out of that group, four or five decided, “You know what, we could do something bigger than just meet and talk about it. Let’s start an accelerator and see if we can do something a little different here.” And so, the church doesn’t own or run Ocean, but it sort of sponsored and sanctioned this group to go out and start the accelerator. And there was no requirement whatsoever that you be of a certain faith or have any sort of certain experiences or beliefs. They just asked that you be willing to explore faith as a whole and how that related to you and how you run your business. In addition to classes that we had about business, once or twice a week we would meet for 45 minutes or an hour and discuss faith—how it had shaped us as people, how it was shaping our businesses, what we could learn from others, what we could learn from Jesus, what we could learn from the Creation story about how we do what we do, why we do what we do, and how that impacts the ultimate product and result. And I found it fascinating. I’ve spent a lot of my career in a faith kind of environment, and I by no means, have felt like I knew it all or had it all together. I was constantly learning from everybody there—fellow classmates and those who were there to help teach us and talk us through things. Nobody was shoving anything down anybody’s throat. It was just, “Hey, let’s explore this together and investigate,” and it was fantastic. [25:27] Ron Gaver: At the end of June, you completed the Ocean program. Where were you with RingR development then, and what have you done since? [25:34] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, we had really just sort of finished releasing the Android beta—iPhone beta had been out since January—and so we knew that we had to do some refinements and really get both of those apps to a place where we could charge for them. We still had this open beta, and we were listening and trying to find out as much as we could about the product and how it was being used and what was working and not working. But we also knew that we had to have the framework in place to handle the desktop piece, the conference calling piece, the ability to pay for subscriptions through iTunes or through Google Play or through our website, and put all that into place, so much of the second half of 2015 was trying to put all of that into one app—we called it 2.0—but it didn’t really make a difference to anybody else other than us that we were trying to get all that done. In the meantime, we were having to do a little bit more fundraising and figure out how we were gonna ultimately sell and market what we were doing, start building some relationships with some larger enterprise-level clients, and moving on from there. And so, the second half of the year was really focused on that, and now that we’re in 2016, as I mentioned, we’re pulling back on the development just a little bit and really pushing forward on the sales and marketing. [26:43] Ron Gaver: So, your beta phase started in January of 2015. When did you come out of beta? [26:48] Tim Sinclair: I really just call it all of 2015. I think it was the second week of December we officially started charging for the premium version of RingR, but the bulk of last year was our beta. [26:59] Ron Gaver: And now, you’re out of beta, and you’re ramping development down and marketing up? [27:04] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, that’s fair. We’re obviously going to support what we’re doing and continue to try to refine the products we have in addition to desktop and conference calling, which are coming soon, but beyond that, yeah, our focus is really to be on, “Okay, we’re going to share this.” We’ve got an affiliate program that just started. We’ve got some content marketing through e-mail and a blog that’s gonna come soon with some heavy hitters in the podcast and broadcast space providing content for us that we think’s valuable to anybody, not just RingR users. And then obviously, we’ll be exploring SEO and social media and some other places like that to really try to get the brand out there, and then the other (I guess) … 25% of that is going after the enterprise clients who can use us in larger environments, and we think the sum total of all that should be pretty successful. [27:49] Ron Gaver: You’ve got a great story about how things just fell into place. Many things happened at just the right time. You found the right developers. You found an angel investor and got money in less than a week. You quit your job and started with Ocean without missing a day of work. It’s just a great story, but there must have been some difficulties along the way. What kind of difficult things did you have to overcome? What kind of bumps were in the road, perhaps bumps you never even imagined you would have to contend with? [28:19] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, we’ve hinted at some of them. I mean certainly, driving to Cincinnati with 88 cents in the bank account was a difficulty that I had to overcome mentally as much as anything, and just going: “This is the right thing and we’re going to keep pushing forward, even though it seems like we don’t have any resources to pull it off.” But from a more, I guess, tangible perspective, I’ve struggled at times with everything-takes-longer-than-it-takes-and-costs-more-than-it-costs, and that’s no one’s individual fault, but when you’re reliant on Apple and their operating systems or Android and their operating systems, they make changes without telling anybody, and then they launch them. Then it’s catch-up for everybody trying to figure out, “Oh what do we need to change within our app to make this function on the new OS?” We’re not doing Angry Birds or Candy Crush here. This is a very sophisticated app that’s doing multiple things in the background, and when one little thing changes, it could break the whole thing. And so that’s been a frustration, to go: “Man, we just thought we put the finishing touches on this, and then there’s a change that’s caused a number of other issues for us that we’ve got to go in and fix.” And rather than spend time on development or creating something new, we’re spending time fixing something that we didn’t think we’d have to fix, and so that’s been a sore spot for us. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s how the whole system works, but it’s certainly something that I didn’t ever really think about. It’s like once you create it and you create it right, it’s done, right? Well, in this space, that’s not necessarily the case. [29:41] Ron Gaver: Could we talk a little bit about the infrastructure that makes RingR work, the things going on behind the scenes? We’ve talked about the front-end, of course, being an iPhone or an Android phone and later on something on a desktop that allows somebody to connect by clicking a link, but what’s doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes? [30:00] Tim Sinclair: We have some proprietary software that’s having to do the merging of the audio once it gets to the Amazon servers that everything runs on. We have sets where the audio is merging. We have servers that are connecting the VoIP call. We’ve got servers that are doing backup copies of everybody’s audio so that it lives there. We’ve got a number of things, sort of, running in the background that nobody sees, thankfully not even me most of the time. Not being the technical guy, I don’t want to have to worry about that. But we’ve tried to set a very, very high level for security in terms of protecting audio and the ways people are able to access it. But we do have multiple systems running multiple servers. Again, they’re all Amazon—they’re AWSstuff, and that’s where pretty much everything lives. [30:46] Ron Gaver: So, you’ve got everything running on Amazon web services. How is it scaling with you, and how easy is it to scale? [30:52] Tim Sinclair: Thankfully, it’s pretty easy, and Kris and Dan have done a good job of working with Amazon and saying: “Okay we’re going to pay for certain nodes that we know we have to have all the time, and then we’re gonna reserve some at a much lesser cost so that when we do have high peak times—of a whole bunch of calls happening at the same time or being merged at the same time—that we can handle it without really any glitches.” So, you pay a lot less for the reservations of stuff you might use, and then when you use it, it’s there for you to use, but if you’re not, you’re not paying for all the data. So, it’s been fantastic, and we’ve really been thrilled with how that’s worked so far. [We’ve] had zero glitches with them, which is great, and we don’t see any reason to change that, for sure in the near future. [31:40] Ron Gaver: You seem to have a very high opinion of AWS. [31:42] Tim Sinclair: Absolutely. [31:43] Ron Gaver: And you have found them very easy to work with? [31:46] Tim Sinclair: We have. They’ve been great. In fact, for a lot of startups that are involved with accelerators specifically, Amazon has a program that they offer through the accelerators, which would give you a couple of years, and about (I think it’s) $10,000 in credit to use their stuff. And of course, they’re hoping that once you do, it’ll be too much of a pain to change, and you’ll just stay with them and start paying them, which is clearly what we’re going to do, so it worked. But certainly, in the early days of a startup, to be able to save a whole bunch of money on server cost is huge, and so through the end of 2016, we still won’t have incurred really any costs from Amazon, and they provide tech support, and we’ve had a few little things here and there we’ve had to pay for, but in general, the actual usage of their servers hasn’t cost us anything yet, and that’s, of course, been really helpful. [32:31] Ron Gaver: What’s the name of the program that allows you to do that with Amazon? [32:34] Tim Sinclair: You know, I wish I had that in front of me, and I’m sure there is a name for it, but it was offered through the accelerator we were with, and so I believe that to have access to that you have to be part of an accelerator program in order to get it. [32:49] Ron Gaver: Alright. As far as their customer service and the ability to call them up and get advice or to work with them to debug a system—you probably didn’t do that as much as the other guys did, but you’ve certainly heard anecdotally how that’s gone. Have the experiences been good for them? I’m assuming they have been since you have such a high opinion of AWS. [33:09] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, I do, and I take a lot of that energy and conviction from my guys who do have to deal with them on a regular basis. Thankfully, we haven’t had a whole lot, certainly negative, that we’ve had to go to them about. So it’s just been, “Hey, how do we better configure this? Can we do X, Y, or Z?” And they’ve been helpful every time. [33:25] Ron Gaver: You, as the CEO, have to wear multiple hats. What are the hats that you have to wear, what do you like doing most, and what do you like doing least? [33:33] Tim Sinclair: Well it started out, any startup is about dreaming and innovation and design and creation, and that’s really my wheelhouse. It always has been, and so that phase was a blast for me. Whether it was the idea that was rolling around my head for those couple of years or once we even hit the ground running, all the meetings were, “How can we create something that people are going to love?” And then all of a sudden, you launch a product, and thankfully, we were well-received, and a lot of people were trying us out, and I realized, literally within an hour after launching on the App Store, “Oh no, we have to support this. You know, people are gonna have questions or comments or concerns or criticism or whatever, and we have to not only just dream and design, but now we have to support what it is we’ve designed.” And so that felt like I was going from one full-time job to two, and then at the end of 2015, when we actually launched the paid model, it was that realization all over again. It’s like, “Ah, we’re designing and supporting, and now we have to sell it.” Because there’s something to sell. Before, people were just using it for free, and now there is a part of this that needs to be sold. Certainly, our investors like to see when we actually have money coming through the doors, and so we’ve got to sell this thing, too. And for me, I love the design and dreaming phase. The selling would probably be a somewhat distant second, and the support would definitely be third. I say that with an asterisk, though, because I’ve really tried to challenge myself to go, “I think this support and sales thing kinda goes hand-in-hand. I want to leave every person who contacts us with a really positive experience.” And I’ve tried to kind of make it my mission to overwhelm them with generosity or support or friendliness, or put my phone number out there and try to respond to people at midnight if an e-mail comes through and none of my other guys are able to get it. I’ll respond. I’ll try to help. I mean, I know what it’s like. I’ve been a broadcaster who always wants a good product, and if something doesn’t work, that’s really frustrating and can make me look bad. And so I feel like I can feel what many of our users feel when they’re having a frustration or a problem. And so, I try to use that to market because when you treat people beyond what they expect, they tend to share that with friends and family, and I’d much rather have podcasters or broadcasters who love us be sharing RingR rather than me trying to beat down bushes and beat our own drum and say, “Hey, look how great we are.” It’s way better if other people do that for us. [35:57] Ron Gaver: When you realized that you had to go into the support mode, what was your instant support team? Was it just the four of you again? [36:04] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, it really was. It was kind of an all-hands-on-deck. Whoever got to it first [would] respond and do their best to help, and then if we had to bring other people in, we could certainly do that. But there’s nothing automated at the moment. I think that’s pretty obviously what it is, and I would rather have someone, 15 minutes after they send an e-mail, get something back from me or Chad or whoever that says, “Hey, got your request; we’re on it, and we’ll be back to you real soon,” rather than have it sit there for 24 hours, and then someone respond at that point. When it comes through, we try to get to it as soon as we can, and that’ll have to change as we grow. I understand that, but right now we’re a small operation. We want to seem as if we’re a big operation but function as if we’re a small one. [36:47] Ron Gaver: There’s a lot to be said for the user’s experience when the user calls support, gets one of the developers on the line, and the developer knows exactly what’s going on down in the intricate details and isn’t somebody who’s just taking a trouble ticket, logging it in, and letting them know that somebody from level two will get back to them. [37:05] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, absolutely. I remember, probably 5 to 7 years ago, I was using a site to store some audio for my radio show and had a question or a comment, and I sent an e-mail to the company saying, “Hey, here’s a thought.” And later that day, I got an e-mail back from the CEO. Now, he may have been their only employee. I don’t know how big they were. They weren’t very big; I do know that. That had an impact on me. I went, “He took time to send me a note and respond to my question and say, ‘Hey, that’s a great idea. We’ll look into that.'” And I’ve tried to take queues from his generosity with his time and put that into RingR and go, “I hope when one of us sends an e-mail back or responds to a phone call or whatever, we can somehow leave our user with an idea that, “They care. Not only are they the ones who can fix the problem and fix it quickly, but they care about me, they know what I’m going through, and they’re willing to do whatever they can to help.” [37:58] Ron Gaver: So, now you’re transitioning into the third job you described, which is salesman, marketer, chief marketing officer, or whatever you want to call it. What do you see as the big challenges ahead of you as you now try to get the business up and running and expand your user base? [38:14] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, I think the big challenge was finding the right person or team to bring on who were experienced in doing this kind of thing—and scaling startups—to find the resources to do that because, you know, we don’t have all the money in the world to throw at big-name person or big-name firm or big-name team to come on and work with a little startup. I think that that hire, that decision, is probably one of the biggest ones—at least to date—that I’ve made, and thanks to our time in Cincinnati, we came across one person specifically and her team who has done this very successfully for a number of startups and even larger companies. So for us, it’s really, “Is this the right hire?” And I believe it to be, but we’ll find out. And then what is the plan? We’re gonna do a lot of testing of various ways of sharing what we do, seeing what the response is, and then building a plan based on that response. And so we have to find where our audience is, what motivates them—to not only sign up but eventually become a premium user—and causes them to fall in love with us and then share us with their friends and their audiences. And thankfully, our audience is mainly podcasters and broadcasters who talk to other podcasters and broadcasters, and so we’re excited about our affiliate program and allowing people to share us and make a little money in the process, but that’s gonna be a long, arduous 4-to-6 months to find out what’s working and what’s not, and then developing a plan from there on out to move forward. [39:44] Ron Gaver: You’re also fortunate that podcasters and broadcasters just like to talk. [39:48] Tim Sinclair: It’s true. It’s a very good thing for us. [39:50] Ron Gaver: So, you found a marketing partner. Is it safe to say it’s a marketing team—this hire that you made? [39:56] Tim Sinclair: It is. They’re pouring a ton of time into us, and they’ve been willing to help in exchange for some equity and not a whole lot of money because they believe in us, and time and time again, we found that, from our tech team to some of our legal team, to our IP and patent strategy team, and now sales and marketing, to go, “You know what? We think this idea is a good one. We believe it’s going somewhere, and we’re willing to put our expertise in for less than we might normally because we think there’s a return on the other side.” [40:28] Ron Gaver: Alright. So, you’ve got a certain amount of dilution going on from taking on extra partners, but you still have a good feeling about what you’ve managed to retain? [40:36] Tim Sinclair: Absolutely. Yeah, I’m a solo founder, for one thing, so that’s helpful for me, personally, and while I am concerned about the percentage I have, to me it’s just like fundraising. Yes, it’s being diluted, but to go out and raise the same amount of money, it’s the same difference, so whether I raise a million dollars and then spend that on a whole bunch of employees, or whether I have those employees go, “We know you don’t have the cash right now, but we’re willing to put in x-number of dollars’ worth of work,” and it all adds up to a million dollars. It’s no different. And so, the work has to get done one way or the other, and I like having people working for me, and working with me, who have some skin in the game, and who know that their work isn’t just a paycheck. It isn’t just money that’s being deposited at the first of the month. It’s long-term investment, and it’s a chance for them to really be a part of something significant and part of something big, and their work and their results directly affect their ultimate pay because it’s tied to our equity and not only to a paycheck. [41:41] Ron Gaver: It certainly makes for a more motivated team. [41:44] Tim Sinclair: Correct. [41:45] Ron Gaver: As we start to wrap this up, is there anything, perhaps, that you would like to discuss that I haven’t brought up yet? Maybe a question you wish I had asked? [41:53] Tim Sinclair: No, you’ve been very thorough, and I appreciate that. I think, certainly, just sharing how to get in touch with us and how to get a hold of our products would be important, but beyond that, I think we’ve hit the highs and lows for the most part of the story. [42:05] Ron Gaver: Alright, so how do we get in touch with you? [42:07] Tim Sinclair: The website is probably the first place to go. That’s ringr.com, R-i-n-g-R dot com, no E in RingR. You can download the app for free for your iPhone, iPad, or Android device through the App Store or Google Play, and we are on Twitter and Facebook. Our Twitter handle is just RingR_US. [42:27] Ron Gaver: And on Facebook? [42:29] Tim Sinclair: Facebook, just search RingR, and you will find us. I believe it’s/ringrapp, Facebook/ringrapp, if you’re looking for the actual address, but searching RingR should do it too. [42:38] Ron Gaver: And I’ll put the links to all of those in the show notes and make sure that everyone has ready access to those as well. In conclusion, I’m always curious how people have grown and developed throughout their careers and lives. Is there anything you can think of that has had a profound impact on you that you could recommend to someone? Something that they could take away and say, “You know, maybe I’ll check that out and see if it works for me?” It could be a book, a person, a conference, just about anything. [43:06] Tim Sinclair: Yeah, there’s a book I’ve mentioned to several others called Love Does. It’s by a guy by the name of Bob Goff, and it’s not a business book at all, but it’s simply the story of how Bob loves other people in extraordinary ways, and ways that culture and society have told us aren’t reasonable, aren’t okay, aren’t whatever, but they’re remarkable. And I’ve really tried to take to heart a lot of what he says in there with our customers and say: “I want to be remarkable. I want to be different. I want to, if not love, certainly care for and care about them in ways that they don’t expect.” Because when something happens, surprise, I believe, is the key to most every emotion. Great horror movies are great because of suspense and surprise. Great comedians—it’s all about timing and saying something at a time that nobody expected. They don’t see it coming. They’re surprised and—boom—all of a sudden they’re laughing out loud because they didn’t see that coming. And for us—I think—when we surprise a customer, a user, with a great experience or with something that we say or that we do, not only is it a good feeling for them and a good experience for them (and it endears them to RingR), but it’s something they’re more likely to share with other people, and like I said earlier, that’s going to be our best marketing ever. And so, that’s why I love looking at Twitter and finding people who are not talking to us but talking to their friends about us. “And man, just found this! This is awesome!” or “Just recorded my first RingR interview—sounds unbelievable! How do they do that?” Those kinds of things we want to continue to increase, and whether that’s an interaction with me or our team or just an interaction with the product, we want to consistently leave people surprised and feeling like they’ve gotten more than they’ve bargained for; it’s the under-promise, over-deliver idea. And that book, Love Does, really was a great encouragement to me on the kind of impact that could have in a life. [45:05] Ron Gaver: That’s a good one: just to surprise people. I think that’s an excellent recommendation. Alright, Tim. Thank you very much for the interview. Thank you for your time. I appreciate it very much. [45:14] Tim Sinclair: Oh my pleasure, Ron. It’s good to be with you, and if we can ever do it again, please let me know. If ever I can do anything to help, I’m happy to do so for you and everybody else. [email protected] is my e-mail address if you want to e-mail me directly. [45:40] Ron Gaver: Thanks for listening to the SaaS Business podcast. I would like to remind you of a few things. Please don’t forget about the resources available to you on the website. Sign up there to receive your free download and updates, and go to saasbusinesspodcast.com followed by a forward slash and the episode number to find the episode show notes. Finally, please leave a five-star rating on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts if you find this podcast to be valuable. This has been episode 15 of the SaaS Business Podcast, an interview with Tim Sinclair. Thank you again for listening. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


014: The Mind of a Disruptor with Jay Samit
May 31 2016 44 mins  
Jay Samit is a serial disruptor, a change agent, an innovator, an educator, and the author of the international best-seller Disrupt You!: Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation. For over three decades, he has been at the forefront of global trends. He has pioneered breakthrough advancements in mobile video, Internet advertising, e-commerce, social networks, eBooks, and digital music used by billions of consumers every day. Combining innovation with commercial success, Jay is a dealmaker. He has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for startups. His list of partners and associates includes Apple, Bill Gates, Coca-Cola, Facebook, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Paul Allen, Reid Hoffman, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, United Airlines, the Vatican, Verizon, and the White House. He has held senior management roles at Sony, Universal Studios, and SeaChange International, a leading global multiscreen-video-software company. Jay is a trend spotter. His predictions of the future tend to be accurate because he is constantly working with those creating it. Please see Disclosure* (below) concerning affiliate links on this page. Key Segments Click any timestamp to start listening at the noted location. [00:17] “I got into this field and was amazed when you wake up one day, and dozens of your friends have become billionaires, and it’s not like anybody went to special schools or had special this or that, but 70% of the world’s richest billionaires were all self-made. They have the same 24 hours in a day that you and I do, so there must be something different that they’re doing with their time. What is it? How can I learn to do that? How can I emulate it, and how can I do it no matter what continent, what country, what city, [or] what education I have? Most of these people didn’t go to top universities. Many didn’t even go to college. Sir Richard Branson, [who] started 12 companies now that have market caps over a billion dollars, didn’t even go to school. What is he doing [that’s] different? Can I do that? That’s what Disrupt You!, disrupting yourself, is all about.” [04:05] Jay’s book is split into three parts: (1) self-disruption, the internal process of disrupting your personal value chain; (2) business-disruption, the process of disrupting the value chain of a business or industry; and (3) world-disruption, the process of using the principles of disruption to solve big, non-business, world problems (like climate change, education, and healthcare). Jay says Disrupt You! is a new paradigm with predictive and repeatable methodologies for breaking the patterns that limit personal success and growth that anyone can use to become a disruptor. [04:46] Jay says that the need to disrupt starts out in our childhood. Parents, teachers, and others who mean well constantly reinforce and tell us what we can’t do, what we won’t be, and what we’re not good at. We grow up and begin to believe that we have a certain type of personality, that we’re not good at math or public speaking. “We put blinders on and then society gives us shackles. In fact, you are completely malleable, and once you realize you can change your preconceived limitations, it then makes it easier to look at the world as having the same flexibility, the same porousness, the same [potential] for you to disrupt. And so when you look at the self-made billionaire in their 20’s, that’s what they’re doing, and they have the advantage that they don’t have the preconceived ways of doing things that we have developed into habits.” [05:40] Changing yourself into a disruptor is a matter of introspection. Jay likes to say, “It’s akin to major surgery, but you’re holding the scalpel.” Becoming a disruptor is a state of mind; it’s about becoming a silver-lining person. When you have problems, instead of saying “woe is me,” ask yourself if others have them too. Maybe the problem has scale. Maybe if you solve the problem, you could solve it for millions of people. Your phone now connects you to 6 billion consumers. If you’re right for just a nanosecond, you could become a billionaire. [06:30] “Once you get into [the mindset of a disruptor], you realize that our world has changed so dramatically, that we have access to tools that weren’t around 2, 5, [or] 10 years ago, [and] that you may be the first person to apply these tools, that somebody else invented, to solve a problem.” [06:45] Jay uses a popular traffic app, Waze, which sold for a billion dollars with no revenue, as an example of the size of the market potential that technology allows us to reach with our ideas. You don’t have to be in the technology business to use social, mobile, and broadband to scale up. [08:20] How did Jay begin to understand the concept of disruption? Jay discusses a friend who found great success manufacturing and selling PC accessories like dust covers when PCs were new. Without ever learning how to use a computer, this friend sold his company for 135 million dollars. Jay asked himself what his friend had seen that he was missing. His friend had seen a simple opportunity. A similar thing happened when the iPhone came out. People ran out to buy the phone and then bought a $15 case to go with it. It’s about looking for the holes in the market. [09:49] The value-chain concept comes into play because so many people look at the totality of a business, but most parts of a business don’t generate a profit. Focus on capturing value and find the link you can disrupt. Jay gives four examples of businesses that have disrupted their markets: (1) Airbnb, the world’s largest hotel chain, has no hotels; (2) Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no cars; (3) Facebook, the world’s largest media company, creates no content; and (4) Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, has no inventory. All of these businesses were basically just a big data play. Take the essence of eBay, or any other two-sided marketplace, and realize that you can do this in any category and retain the value. [10:43] There’s a new way to look at a business that involves focusing on the part where you can capture the most value and not bothering with all the other parts. In the book, Jay states that a business or product consists of the sum of the value of five links in the value chain: (1) R&D; (2) design, (3) production; (4) marketing and sales; and (5) distribution. People think that they have to reinvent the entire thing or that billion-dollar ideas come from having an epiphany, but it is really about isolating the one piece of a business you can disrupt and creating a better value chain. [11:57] Jay says that the number one business for failing is restaurants. People think that if they have a good recipe, they could open a good restaurant, but recipe is probably the least important factor in a restaurant’s success. Somebody took a look at restaurant value chain and figured out that if you have too many items on the menu and people don’t order all of them in sufficient quantity, wasted food becomes lost profit. Jay gives a detailed example of Benihana, a nationally recognized name in the restaurant industry, that has built its success on a limited menu to reduce food waste and using shared seating arrangements to fill tables. [12:47] In the process of looking at the value chain, you look at the value chain as a whole, drill down to take a closer look at individual links in the chain, and find the one link that can be disrupted. [13:04] Jay asks what has changed in the way people do things that you couldn’t do before? He encourages us to apply modern tools to habits and problems nobody has developed a solution for yet. Jay challenges people to write down three problems a day for a month as an exercise. He gives an example that someone found through this exercise of monitoring prescription drug compliance with a timer integrated into the cap of the container. [15:30] If you disrupt a technology or product, you either create an entirely new market, consumer base, or user, or you destroy or displace the market for the technology it replaced. Jay uses a fun example from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones shoots a sword-wielding opponent to illustrate the technological shift from knives to swords to guns. An example of a modern technological shift is the smartphone’s replacement of a wide variety of devices and tools. Jay asks, “What does that new world of people living with this device open up that you couldn’t do before? … When we talk about wearables or the internet-of-things, what are the next things that you can now do that solve problems that we didn’t have a way to solve? … This isn’t just for techies. We all use technology.” [17:25] Jay takes a glass-half-empty look at some technologies that are expected to displace workers in the years to come. According to Jay, “Disruption isn’t about what happens to you; it’s about how you respond to what happens to you. So, if you know all those things are happening, where [are] the opportunities? What are all the new things that you can do that put you surfing the wave of change as opposed to drowning under the tidal wave?” [18:29] Jay discusses an innovative and humanitarian application of 3D printing. An entrepreneur is using 3D printers to manufacture prosthetics for growing children. He can provide affordable prosthetics to young children who formerly would not have received one until their growth had slowed because of the cost to custom manufacture the device. To make this even better for the children, he went to Disney and licensed characters so that children can have a cool, character-themed prosthetic. This entrepreneur didn’t invent the technology, but he found a link in the value chain that he could disrupt, serves an underserved audience that will line up to buy his product, and makes the world a better place. [20:00] Jay discusses slaughter-free meat and plastic in over-fished oceans as opportunities. [21:41] Jay is dedicating the last third of his life to teaching people how to do this because he believes that our society is fundamentally changing. There are 2.3 billion millennials in one generation, more people than were on the planet in their grandparents’ generation. There won’t be enough corporate jobs for all of them. The educational system designed to produce factory workers will not give people the skills they need in a world that doesn’t need as many factories. This situation brings about the disenfranchisement of people, which leads to instability, can bring down governments, and changes our society. Jay suggests that we show all these people how they can be a couple of clicks away from knowledge, prosperity, great new markets, and equal access to consumers because most goods are digitally available globally. [22:51] Jay’s concept of becoming a disruptor and looking at your personal value chain involves seeing yourself as The Brand of One, the individual as a product. Why would somebody not buy you-the-product and how do you improve it? Jay’s concept of disrupting your personal value chain has four links: (1) R&D is perceiving your environment; (2) production is your actions and responses; (3) marketing and sales is how you present yourself to the world; and (4) distribution is how you spend your time and focus your energies. You start by understanding your personal value chain then present yourself to the world in a different way to rebrand yourself. [25:04] Jay talks about getting out of college during a jobless recession. He wanted to work in Hollywood creating special effects, but he couldn’t find a job. For $1, he printed 100 business cards for a non-existent computer graphics company (for which he did not even make himself the boss). With some hustle, he got hundreds of thousands of dollars of post-production work and then hired people with talent and skills who wanted jobs. [25:55] “Where do 3D printing experts come from? Virtual reality experts? Bitcoin experts? Internet of things experts?” They started like Jay did when he had $1’s-worth of business cards. Jay says, “They’re self-proclaimed experts who then work hard to grow and defend the turf they wisely stake out. There’s nothing stopping anybody from being the expert of the next big thing.” [27:58] According to Jay, “You’ve gotta be a little creative to rise above the noise in anything. If you’re looking for a way to blaze a new trail without creativity, wrong! No one ever led a nation or a company by following in the footsteps of somebody else. … There’s so much opportunity. Ideas are easy. Execution takes work. Success isn’t guaranteed, but if you work at it, you will find out what it takes to be successful, and you will be successful.” [28:32] In the book, to get yourself into the mindset of figuring out where you’re going and what you want to do, Jay gives four different segments to develop steps for a disruptor’s map: aspirations, priorities, resources, and deadlines. [28:54] Jay states, “If you don’t know where you want to be in five years, congratulations, you’ll definitely not be there. If you don’t know how to get to there, that’s OK. Work backwards from a goal but give it a deadline. … So, you work backwards … and you don’t need to know all the steps ’cause here’s what’s gonna happen: once you have that insight, you only need insight and drive to succeed. Those are the only two things [you need] in life. Everything else can be hired. Once you have that insight, you’re gonna start exploring down that path. You’re gonna’ start talking to potential customers. You’re gonna do all these iterations of your business in your head when you’re not burning capital, when it doesn’t cost any money, and everybody is trying to kill your idea until you come up with that zombie idea that can’t be killed. And when you’re doing that, you’re going to uncover things that nobody else [has] discovered yet because nobody’s gone that far down the path. And at that point in the path, you may pivot in a direction that you didn’t even see.” [28:50] Jay gives an example of three guys who started an online video dating service named Tune-in Hook-up. Nobody wanted to use the dating service, but they looked at their data and noticed that a lot of people were watching the videos. They pivoted into YouTube and became billionaires. Most successful businesses have pivoted. LinkedIn started as a resume repository. eBay started as a place for collectors to find old, used things. Jay says, “You’ll find [your pivot] if you’re looking at your data and you’re paying attention.” [31:22] Jay discusses his concept of the zombie idea: “Everybody always tells you, ‘Nurture your idea. Fondle it. Help it to grow.’ That’s [wrong]. You wanna figure out every way that idea’s gonna fail because … the second you go in the marketplace, that’s what your competition and reality [are] going to do to it. [F]ind … ten people who will benefit from this business and will spend time with you (not friends or family). … [H]ave them tell you [what’s wrong with it] … [and have them] come back again and again until they come back and say, ‘Oh, I would pay for that. That makes sense. Wow, that’s useful!’ Then go with that data [and get funding]. … There is no shortage of capital. VCs last year put $40 billion into the hands of startups. Crowdfunding is now greater than that.” [32:23] Jay believes that there is only one advantage the United States has on the rest of the world, and that is that we do not have a fear of failure. He uses the example of two guys who started a company to synchronize traffic lights. The idea was way ahead of its time and bombed. But they didn’t give up when their first company failed. The next company Bill Gates and Paul Allen started was Microsoft. [33:27] Jay discusses the difference between failing and failure: “Failing is trying something that you learn doesn’t work; failure is throwing in the towel.” Jay suggests that you could talk to people involved in the early stages of any now large and very successful company and have them tell you a story about a board meeting when they were thinking about pulling the plug before they pivoted or made some other change. Google was once on the table for Excite to buy for $600,000, but the deal fell through. [34:03] Jay goes on to say, “We call private companies that have market caps over a billion dollars unicorns. There are now over 200 unicorns. The size of our market now that we’re all interconnected is massive. You can scale from zero to a billion very, very quickly, and it doesn’t take anything special except really looking at the market from a disruptor’s mindset.” [34:30] To help listeners, Jay offers a free copy of his 40-page companion workbook toDisrupt You! at jaysamit.com or by reaching out to him on Twitter @jaysamit. [34:56] To find ideas, start with simple problems and start looking to see who else might have that problem. Jay emphasizes, “The more people you solve [a problem] for, the more money you can make.” [36:13] Concerning the ability to get started, Jay says: “Now, there’s no excuse. You can get the learning for free. You can reach your market for free. You have social media. The cost of launching a startup is 95% cheaper than it was ten years ago because all the networked architecture is in place. All you have to do is be the catalyst for what the change is, and Disrupt You! tries to spark you.” [37:24] Concerning our ultimate motivations, Jay says, “The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose. … If you’re not fulfilled by what you’re doing, and you’re staying in a job you don’t like, how long are you gonna stay? A year? Two years? Five years? Are you gonna trade your whole life, and why would you give up the only life you have for something you don’t want? … You can be what you want. You can be successful in the field that you choose to be. The only thing stopping most people is fear.” In the book, Jay refers to “the illusion of security.” Many people are fooled into thinking they have security because they have a good job. Jay cites that of the original Fortune 500 companies, only 57 are left on the list. Jay states that this “illusion of security” robs us of ambition and autonomy. [38:59] Jay briefly discusses positive thinking stating: “Scores of scientific studies have proven that visualizing success makes all things possible. … When you are in a positive state of mind, it releases dopamine. It lights up the neurotransmitters across your synaptic nerves like a Christmas tree, and suddenly … you are more creative, you increase your intelligence, you increase your energy, and you even close more sales. Success doesn’t make you happy. Being happy creates success.” [40:17]: See chapters 9 through 13 of Disrupt You! for additional information and examples about disrupting each link of the value chain. [40:25] Jay discusses the concept of using other people’s money (OPM): “What if I told you that I could get you millions of dollars from people who don’t want you to pay it back, aren’t gonna charge you any interest, and don’t want equity in your company? You should be leaning into that speaker right now and listening. Here’s how it works. You’re going after a specific audience. Solve for that audience and [ask yourself], ‘Who else wants that audience?'” Jay gives an example of getting $60 million from McDonalds to help him launch Sony Connect (a digital music store to compete with iTunes). Through a large campaign, McDonalds had an increase in same store sales and Sony Connect got 20 million new customers; everybody was happy. “Solve for others and you’ll solve for you.” [42:32] Jay gives the following recommendations for things that have had a profound influence on him: (1) “Have kids. It’s a great motivation. You don’t wanna let ’em down. You won’t give up. I think fear either immobilizes you or pushes you to challenge your perceived limits.” (2) “Find a mentor. I really think you can find people from an earlier generation that have wisdom, knowledge, [and] connections to share that would just like [to have the validation] that they have learned something that they can pass on.LinkedIn is a great tool for that.” (3) “Travel. … Getting outside of your norm and your culture allows you not just to see the world different, but you’ll see yourself and what you think of as the normal way of doing things [differently], and you’ll get insights from that.” (4) “Life-long learning. Commit to life-long learning. Learn something every day. Get out of your comfort zone. Expand your universe.” (5) “Enjoy the journey.” Resources Mentioned Disrupt You!: Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation – Book by Jay Samit about disruption. According to Jay the book breaks into three part: (1) disrupting yourself; (2) disrupting a business or industry; and (3) disruption to solve big, non-business, world problems. Click to listen at [04:05]. Disrupt You! Companion Workbook – 40-page companion workbook to Disrupt You! available at jaysamit.com or by reaching out to him on Twitter @jaysamit. Click to listen at [34:30]. LinkedIn – An online social network for professionals to connect with colleagues, companies, mentors, and more. Click to listen at [42:32]. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work – Book by Shawn Achor. Click to listen at [38:59]. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


013: Service More Than Software with Blair Williams
Apr 04 2016 69 mins  
Blair Williams is a software engineer and entrepreneur. He is the owner and lead programmer for Caseproof. Caseproof has four products on the market Pretty Link, MemberPress, Affiliate Royale, and Buy Now for Stripe. Pretty Link is a WordPress plugin to manage link redirection on WordPress websites, MemberPress is a product to manage membership sites, Affiliate Royale is a product to manage your affiliates, and Buy Now for Stripe is a product that allows integration with Stripe to sell products on a website without an SSL certificate. Please see Disclosure* (below) concerning affiliate links on this page. Key Segments [0:02:39] After getting a degree in computer science, Blair worked as a programmer, software architect, and CTO at various companies. But while he was working these jobs, he was moonlighting on Caseproof doing freelance web development for clients and then got into WordPress plugins. [0:03:56] His passion was all about the web. He created Caseproof to both learn about the web and get started helping people build websites. When Blair first started building web apps, he thought he needed to use the most bulletproof technology he could find, something that could scale massively and be solid. He chose Java Struts [see Apache Struts] and Enterprise JavaBeans. It took him about a year to create his first web app, which was basically a file browser. After that experience, he switched to PHP. He wasn’t sure how PHP would scale but felt that he would be able to get things done in a reasonable amount of time. [0:06:16] While working at Franklin Covey, he started working on larger applications that had been written in PHP and were out of control. He heard about Ruby on Rails. Since Rails uses a Model-View-Controller (MVC) as Struts does, he felt it had the strength of Struts while using a beautiful scripting language. He switched to Rails for several years, even using it after he started working with WordPress, and today still uses some Rails apps to facilitate the sale of MemberPress and other plugins. [0:07:21] He later began to work for a client doing more Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Internet marketing work and started fiddling around with WordPress to develop microsites. As part of this, he wanted to start tracking links in pay-per-click campaigns independent from Google to have secondary confirmation. That’s when he wrote Pretty Link for WordPress. He also wrote Pretty Link in such a way that he could use his own domain name instead of Bitly, or something like it, to shorten links. He put Pretty Link on the WordPress Plugin Directory and found that other people wanted to track their links too. [0:08:58] After Pretty Link, came Affiliate Royale, MemberPress, and Buy Now for Stripe. Pretty Link is a WordPress plugin. MemberPress is also a WordPress plugin but uses a license server on the backend running a Rails-based service. The backend issues and revokes licenses, and facilitates updates. Upgrades and support for a year come with a license. [0:10:30] “When I first got into this, I thought this was gonna be this primarily programming job. I was gonna just be in my basement coding all the time, and it was all about the software. I was just gonna make the software better, and that is a really important part of the business, but the thing I have found is that it’s really not a software business; it’s a support business [slightly edited].” MemberPress handles e-commerce, protecting pages, and keeping the life-cycle relationship with the customer intact. People use it to run their businesses. Blair’s team takes support seriously, and that costs money. [0:12:36] “We take it just as seriously as you take your business, and we wanna make sure that you’re up and running, that you are able to make money. That’s our whole goal: to help you make money.” [0:12:51] Most of Caseproof’s support team are developers. They can go in and fix things for people. Ron had a very positive support experience with the Caseproof team and, knowing how expensive support is, felt a little guilty for the time they spent fixing the problem [relative to the cost of Pretty Link Pro]. Blair’s response was: “But that’s what they’re there for, and we try to fix as may things as we can.” [0:13:51] Blair attributes part of the strength of MemberPress to WordPress but notes that there are thousands of plugins, themes, and web hosts in the self-hosted WordPress environment. Testing every permutation is impossible. Support in this environment requires masterful troubleshooting skills. [0:16:04] Pretty Link, the free version, will do basic, server-side redirects (301, 302, and 307), which Blair explains. [0:19:15] Pretty Link Pro also allows JavaScript redirects, meta refresh redirects using HTML, cloaking, pixel tracking, Tweet automation, social bars, Tweet counters, keyword replacement, alternate base URLs, and geographic redirects. Cloaking is a technique to hide target URLs from the user. Cloaking is legitimately used to retain branding when redirecting but has also been used for questionable reasons to trick people. Pretty Bar Redirect is a form of cloaking that puts a bar at the top of a linked page with brought-to-you-by branding. Pixel tracking, where a one-pixel image is loaded with a page, is also provided to track page views and hits. Tweet automation tweets to connected Twitter accounts when designated pages are initially published. Keyword replacement will replace occurrences of keywords throughout a site with a predefined link (such as an affiliate link). An alternate base URL can be used to provide a short URL for a long URL, such as SaaSBP.com as a substitute for SaaSBusinessPodcast.com. Geographic redirects will redirect based on a user’s location. [0:31:11] With MemberPress, you can control who has access to content by limiting access according to rules established by the admin. Access can be granted or revoked for posts, pages, categories, tags, feeds, communities, digital files, and custom taxonomies. Community access allows integration with BuddyPress or bbPress to limit access based on topics. You can manage subscriptions, manage transactions, and resend welcome emails. MemberPress centralizes the rules for access to all of your content. There are also developer tools to integrate with external systems such as SaaS products. MemberPress can revoke access if payments lapse. Membership levels control price, subscription period, trial period, access to content, and recurring billing. Registration pages can be set up for each level. Customers have account pages to view billing history, edit their information, and can be given the option to cancel subscriptions. The admin can also manage coupons with options to define the frequency of use, expiration, discount levels, applicable products, and trial periods. Members are not restricted to a single subscription level but may have multiple subscriptions defined within the site. MemberPress can calculate proration for membership level upgrades. [0:43:49] If customers require custom MemberPress development work, Caseproof maintains a list of trusted vendors and can provide referrals. These are vendors who are familiar with MemberPress and maintain a relationship with Caseproof to resolve problems. Caseproof does not receive payment from vendors for referrals made. [0:44:43] For payments, MemberPress integrates with PayPal for Business and Stripe(and Authorize.net for the developer version). Caseproof is working on integrating with Braintree and, for Australia, eWay. With Stripe and PayPal, the integration is tight, so you can tell if someone has purchased or canceled, and an admin can manage subscriptions from the membership site without needing to log into the gateway. All three services can notify MemberPress of payments made; MemberPress can then issues receipts to the user. [0:50:17] MemberPress also provides analytics to see how your membership site is doing. It will report by week, month, year, and product allowing you to see who has been buying what and when. You can measure traffic, money coming in, and lifetime average value of users. The data is live and displayed using Google’s Visualization API [see Google Charts]. [0:52:28] Affiliate Royale allows you to manage a complete affiliate program. It will track affiliate commissions, and if you refund a transaction, it will automatically calculate the correction. Currently, it only supports payments to affiliates using PayPal. You can have a tiered commissions structure of up to 100 levels. It generates a dashboard allowing affiliates to see how much they have been paid or are currently owed, to see a leaderboard, to get affiliate links, banners, or other assets you have provided, and to enter an SSN or EIN for tax purposes. In addition to MemberPress, it integrates with Easy Digital Downloads, WooCommerce, Shopify, and other e-commerce platforms. And since Affiliate Royale is a WordPress plugin, all this is managed from your site with the same look and feel of the rest of your site. [0:56:00] Blair’s software products came about organically. He started by searching for a tool that eventually led to the development of Pretty Link. He tried to find solutions but found none that completely solved his problem. [0:57:07] “Initially with Pretty Link, I didn’t even have any idea that it would make money. I just put it out there on the repository thinking: well, this is what you do. You put software back out there into the community and give back a little bit. And there was kind of a big uptake. I think the first day there were almost 200 people who downloaded it. Just the first day! I was pretty excited about that, and over the next few months, I thought: ‘I wonder if there is a way I could make money at this?’ [slightly editted]” [0:57:43] “WordPress, in general, does not make it easy to monetize plugins.” Anyone who sells premium plugins that can do automatic updates has to reverse engineer WordPress a little bit and create their own server that the plugin can talk to and get updates from. “It’s pretty involved.” Initially, they were using FTP to copy files into WordPress, but over the years, they have gotten better at utilizing the plugin management facilities of WordPress. [0:59:07] Affiliate Royale and MemberPress were also needs that Blair had identified while working with other software or clients in those fields. He found things that were good, but not exactly what he needed, so he decided to build it himself. With the update mechanism from Pretty Link in place, he had an advantage with the other products. For the most part, the products were a “scratch-your-own-itch kind of thing.” [1:00:54] For resources, Blair recommends the book The Personal MBA, getting a good accountant, and GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping. The Personal MBA is his number one from the many business books he has read. “If anybody has one book to read, they should read The Personal MBA.” GoDaddy Bookkeeping integrates with Stripe and PayPal allowing them to track numerous small transactions. With BuyNow for Stripe, Caseproof gets a couple of cents per transaction as a fee. They must have software to track thousands of transactions. He has also heard good things about Xero and Less Accounting. FreshBooks is another great resource. Concerning accountants, Blair feels that you can’t replace the in-depth professional knowledge of a good accountant. [1:05:03] Buy Now for Stripe is a plugin that allows users to accept credit card payments from a WordPress website without an SSL certificate. It’s the most SaaS-like of their products. The backend is a Ruby-based application. For a credit card payment, it redirects to a secure payment server for the payment and then back to the original site when complete. It is similar to a PayPal flow without a PayPal account. It uses Stripe Connect, so it uses your Stripe account and is connected to the Buy Now for Stripe service. They facilitate the transaction, but the money goes straight into your account minus a small fee. They assess a transaction fee on top of Stripe’s fees (for which they have gotten some flak), but if you weigh the transaction fee against the cost of an SSL, it’s less expensive in many cases. If you’re doing high volume, investigate getting an SSL. Buy Now for Stripe also has some features to facilitate the delivery of products; for example, it will send a receipt to a user with a link to where a product can be downloaded. They have had a lot of requests to integrate with MemberPress to allow transactions from MemberPress without an SSL, so they are looking into that. Resources Mentioned Affiliate Royale – a WordPress plugin that allows you to manage a complete affiliate program. See above or listen at [0:52:28]. Apache Struts – an open-source, Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework for creating web applications based on Java. It is extensible using a plugin architecture. It has plugins to support REST, AJAX, and JSON.Java Struts – see Apache Struts. Authorize.net – credit card processing. bbPress – a WordPress plugin to create online forums. Bitly – a link shortening and tracking service. Braintree – online payment processing. BuddyPress – a WordPress plugin to help you build a community website with member profiles, activity streams, user groups, messaging, and more. Buy Now for Stripe – accept payments on your WordPress site without an SSL certificate Caseproof – Blair Williams’ company, makers of Pretty Link, Member Press, Affiliate Royale, and Buy Now for Stripe. Easy Digital Downloads – e-commerce web app for digital products. Enterprise JavaBeans – server-side software based on Java to encapsulate business logic. eWay – online payment processing. eWay Australia – online payment processing for Australia. FreshBooks – small business accounting software. GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping – online bookkeeping. Google Charts – interactive charts for use in browser and on mobile devices. Google’s Visualization API – API for Google Charts. Java Struts – see Apache Struts. Less Accounting – online accounting software. MemberPress – WordPress plugin to manage membership sites allowing you to accept payments, control access, and sell digital products securely. PayPal – web app to pay for online transactions. PayPal for Business – a service to accept online payments using PayPal or credit cards. PHP – a script-type programming language used by WordPress and widely used on the web embedded in HTML. Pretty Link – Caseproof’s WordPress plugin to manage affiliate links on WordPress sites. Pretty Link Pro – the paid version of Pretty Link. See above or listen at [0:19:15]. AddsJavaScript redirects, meta refresh redirects using HTML, cloaking, pixel tracking, Tweet automation, social bars, Tweet counters, keyword replacement, alternate base URLs, and geographic redirects. Ruby – a script-type programming language with an elegant syntax. Its creator, Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, has said that he is “trying to make Ruby natural, not simple.” Ruby on Rails – on open-source Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework for creating web apps based on the Ruby programming language. Shopify – e-commerce web app. Stripe – web app to accept credit card payments. Stripe Connect – service to enable payments for sellers, vendors, contractors, etc. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business – book by Josh Kaufman covering the essentials of business. WooCommerce – e-commerce web app. WordPress – software to create web pages (websites, blogs, and apps). WordPress Plugin Directory – the official WordPress repository for plugins. Xero – online accounting software. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


012: Bad Employee, Good Entrepreneur with Tom Tancredi
Mar 07 2016 48 mins  
In 2009 Tom Tancredi and his twin brother, Dominic, founded Dom and Tom, a digital development shop. To date, they’ve launched over 250 projects across multiple platforms including Web, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Google Glass, Oculus, iBeacon, and Android Wear. Their customers include GE, Hearst Publications, Tyson Foods, Esquire Magazine, Priceline, Bloomberg, Cliff’s Notes, and the Emmys. In 2015, they made the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in America for the second year in a row. Before starting Dom and Tom, Tom worked as a film projectionist, gymnastics coach, preschool teacher, bartender, collections agent, client relations for a law firm, and an executive assistant, all within five years. He says that he was a horrible employee jumping from one job to the next in less than a year, but believes this experience ultimately made him a better boss. Please see Disclosure* (below) concerning affiliate links on this page. Key Segments [05:50] Tom describes the opportunities that are available with mobile technology. Dom and Tom have helped Priceline make vacation recommendations to those who are stressed, and have worked with the University of Chicago to explore medical opportunities with Google Glass. [06:00] As Chief Strategy Officer, Tom can work on any technically feasible project. He helps clients understand hardware capabilities and discusses their ideas with them until they can determine if what they have is a future business or simply a hobby. [09:32] Before starting Dom and Tom with his brother, Tom had five jobs in five years, studied to be a TV writer, earned a masters in finance, and has used those experiences to shape him into the leader he is today. He now knows what he wants, and it has propelled him to success. [10:29] Dom and several other members of the team have a background in creative arts. Tom shares his insights into why he believes there is a direct and powerful correlation between being a successful developer and remaining engaged in creative activities. [12:20] Communication is critical when developing projects, understanding the details of what the client wants, and keeping the production team on the same page. Tom discusses how he finds people who are good at writing code and communicating with other humans. [16:22] With SaaS products it can be difficult to strategize your offering, get off the ground, and manage your product development and company growth. Tom describes some of the SaaS products they have developed and why it’s important to start small, do a prototype, test, and move forward using feedback from the users. [18:44] Scalability, documentation, architecture, security, databases, and frameworks are all critical elements in producing successful apps. As an agency, Tom and Dom have a track record of broad experience that enables Tom to guide clients through these challenging components to find success. [22:35] On average an application requires 5700 man-hours to complete. While that’s a price and time commitment that big companies can make, it can be a seemingly impossible barrier for startups. Tom shares how startups can work within their limited resources to create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and develop apps and strategies that will help them find growth and success. [24:29] Clients can save themselves a lot of time and money by being well prepared before they come to Dom and Tom. Tom gives a detailed example of what a well-prepared client looks like and the preliminary work they did. [30:39] After establishing a core set of features, mocking up the product with paper prototypes, and creating an MVP, it’s time to iterate, experiment, and determine what features customers are using. Tom discusses how to establish who beta testers should be, how to gather info from them, and how to make the right pivots based on that feedback. [31:40] Tom got his start because people were willing to talk with him and mentor him. Tom still spends a lot of time mentoring and talking to startups that have no money. Every startup is an opportunity for a new career and a new life. Tom finds a lot of value in creating a business that builds more businesses. [34:25] Is entrepreneurship the wave of the future? Will big corporations be able to make quick decisions and innovate new ideas in a way that will keep them fresh and their employees engaged? Tom thinks that entrepreneurship is the wave of the future, but also shares his opinion on how big businesses will be able to partner with entrepreneurs to help them remain relevant. [37:00] Are colleges training students with the right skills for today’s needs? Tom shares his views on the future of college for his family, alternatives to traditional university programs, and the benefits of university programs. It’s not a simple question to answer and not every person needs the same educational path to find success. [41:49] Do you think you have a great idea for a SaaS app? Tom shares his advice on what you should do to lay the best groundwork for the app. It’s all about keeping it simple, removing the risk of human errors, and making it rewarding for users. [44:05] Tom shares the best piece of advice he ever received from his mom. Surprisingly, it’s not about following your passion; it’s about getting angry and using that anger to break through walls and overcome obstacles. Being an entrepreneur is not a happy life initially. It’s fraught with frustration, doubt, and fear. Resources Mentioned Dom & Tom – Website for Dom and Tom Tancredi’s development company. They are specialists in user experience and app development for iOS, Android and Web. Tom Tancredi on LinkedIn – Another way to connect with Tom Tancredi. [email protected] – Tom Tancredi’s email address at Dom & Tom if you want to reach out. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


011: Entrepreneurs and Money: Steps and Missteps with Dan Franks
Nov 30 2015 46 mins  
Dan Franks calls himself a lifetime serial entrepreneur (not necessarily out of the womb). He started building websites for clients while in middle school, he started two podcasts, and together with three partners, he launched Podcast Movement, the largest conference in the world specifically for podcasting, and from there they branched out into single-day regional events, and even a six-day cruise dedicated to podcasting. Dan is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and I wanted the accountant’s perspective on what entrepreneurs should and should not do when starting their businesses and managing their money. Dan discusses some of the worst and best things entrepreneurs can do as far as money is concerned. Please see Disclosure* (below) concerning affiliate links on this page. Key Segments [00:10] Get Laser Focused. I advocate for people, if they’re passionate about what they’re doing and want to succeed, to get laser focused. Go through the valley of immersion, and dedicate yourself. There have been times when I let other things get in my way. The serial entrepreneur started grabbing for more shiny objects when I should have been staying laser focused on what it was I was working on or what my goal was. Stay laser focused and dedicated. [02:45] Dan is a lifetime serial entrepreneur. Dan refers to himself as a lifetime serial entrepreneur on his webpage. What does this mean to him? From a business perspective, Dan’s brain is always turning and coming up with things that might be worth trying. Early on, Dan was able to turn his interests and passions into businesses. Some made money and some didn’t. [03:30] Dan was building websites at 13. When he was about 13, Dan was a fan of professional wrestling and wanted to keep up with stories and who had won matches, but he found that a lot of the smaller federations had no websites. He became the web guy for some of the smaller federations and then branched out to some of the wrestlers directly. From there, he began to build websites for other (usually sports-related) businesses. [05:30] Dan cofounded Podcast Movement. Dan is one of four co-founders of Podcast Movement, the largest conference in the world specifically for podcasters. Podcast Movement was started in 2014 and doubled in size in 2015. Small regional meetings have grown organically to serve additional segments of the podcasting community. These smaller events capture the essence of Podcast Movement on a small scale. The next thing is a six-day cruise for business podcasters. [10:05] Dan has started two podcasts. Dan’s two podcasts are Entrepreneur Showdown and Men Seeking Tomahawks. Entrepreneur Showdown was his first podcast (now dormant). He and his co-host were trying to get away from generic podcasts about entrepreneurs in an attempt to get different information out of their guests. They did this by picking a topic the guest had recently covered and using that as the topic for the interview. Men Seeking Tomahawks is nothing about business and best described as guy-talk; surprisingly, they found that many women listen too. [13:10] Dan is a Certified Public Account (CPA). Dan previously worked at one of the big four international accounting firms but now works for a mid-sized, tax-only accounting firm in Dallas. He scaled down to work with entrepreneurs and small business owners. He works with clients on tax, payroll filings, payroll maintenance, and bookkeeping. [16:50] What is an entrepreneur’s formula for accounting disaster? What are some of the stupidest things entrepreneurs do as far as accounting is concerned, and what is the best formula for creating a disaster? [17:05] The number one mistake is combining business and personal finances. From the beginning, open a business account or at least a separate personal account (or even a credit card) that is only for business. This will keep you out of a lot of trouble. The last thing you want is to have everything mingled together. Keep a clean paper trail. [18:45] Consult with an attorney and a CPA. At least at the beginning stages, consult with both a CPA and an attorney. Get started in the right direction. [19:55] What’s the best way to find a good accountant? Word of mouth is the best way to find an accountant. Talk to people. Do your due diligence to make sure you get along with them. Currently, there is nothing on a large scale available to help you find professionals. [21:25] What are the considerations for virtual versus local CPAs? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with local versus virtual CPAs? It is now so easy to work with someone virtually that the question now is not so much “can I” as “should I.” It comes down to personal preference. There are so many collaboration tools now that it’s easy. Just make sure that whoever you work with is familiar with the local restrictions and rules for your location. Make sure you understand your filing obligations. [26:15] Lawyers and accountants see entities differently. A lawyer is going to advise concerning entity types and the corresponding legal protections. The CPA will tell you the tax ramifications of each type of entity. What works from a legal perspective may not work from a tax perspective. An attorney’s role is to help you put together and file the legal documents to form an entity. A CPA will work with you to get the taxes in order and maintain things going forward. Make sure you know the difference between your state’s entity types versus the IRS’s entity types. You might not get this conversation if you only talk to an attorney. From the IRS’s perspective, you can be one of four things: (1) a sole proprietor, (2) a partnership, (3) a C-corporation, (4) or an S-corporation. An LLC can be treated as any one of these four. [33:00] An S-corporation is sometimes the best of both worlds. The S-corporation is sort of a combination of the C-corporation and the partnership. The big distinction with an S-corporation, and where many people get in trouble, is also the greatest benefit. As an owner in an S-corporation, you are treated as both an employee of the business and an owner and are paid by the company in two different ways. You are paid wages as an employee and dividends or distributions as an owner. Wages are subject to self-employment taxes, Social Security and Medicare, dividends are not subject to these. The tax benefit can be significant, but there is also additional complexity (cost) required to maintain an S-corporation. A competent CPA will be able to help you keep the books, do payroll administration filings, and file taxes. If you can accept the additional fees, then the burden is not much more than a sole proprietorship. [38:50] How can we be Zen-like in our path to accounting bliss? If the money makes sense, have a CPA or bookkeeper take care of things. As a business owner, don’t do your own books. Your time is better invested in building your business. Focus on what’s actually making you the money. If you can afford it, have a power team around you. [42:00] What are Dan’s recommendations for success? Jump in with both feet. Fail fast if necessary. Learn hands-on. Immerse yourself. Consume all the information you can get your hands on. Resources Mentioned DanFranks.me - Dan Franks’ personal website. Entrepreneur Showdown - podcast by Dan Franks and Joe Cassandra. Dan and Joe pick a topic that a guest has recently covered and focus on that topic for their interview with the guest. Men Seeking Tomahawks - podcast by Dan Franks and Jack Drastic. Dan describes it as guy-talk but, as it turns out, a lot of ladies like it too. Podcast Movement - conference for podcasters. Dan Franks is one of the founders. It is the largest conference of its kind. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


010: Do Less and Live More with Ari Meisel
Nov 16 2015 21 mins  
For years, Ari Meisel worked eighteen-hour days in the construction industry, but in 2006, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract aggravated by stress and considered incurable. He was forced to find ways to get things done in less time because there were some days when he could only manage to work for an hour. He needed to simplify his life and somehow continue to be productive. Necessity drove Ari to optimize, automate, and outsource much of his life, and in the process, the system he calls Less Doing was born. Through lifestyle changes, Ari eliminated all symptoms of Crohn’s and now considers himself cured of the disease. He typically has two scheduled workdays per week and spends the other five with his family. Less Doing is his business through which he helps other people optimize, automate, and outsource through teaching, coaching, and services. Apart from his business, Ari also helps others overcome Crohn’s. Please see Disclosure* (below) concerning affiliate links on this page. Key Segments [00:20] Ari Meisel considers himself cured of Crohn’s disease because he put himself through a long process of self-tracking. When Ari got sick, he sometimes couldn’t work more than an hour a day. This is how Less Doing came about. Ari needed to find a way to get more down in an hour and mitigate the stress. [03:15] What can we do to be more productive using the resources Ari provides and recommends along the way? Ari has a company named Less Doing. He teaches people how to optimize, automate, and outsource everything in their lives. What does that mean? Everyone has outsourced something, even if it was just asking the kids to do a chore. The problem is that people skip right to outsourcing as the first line of defense when it should be the last. People need to optimize first to weed out inefficiencies and streamline. The second thing to do is automate in the vein of set-it-and-forget-it. Outsource only after you have optimized and automated. [04:30] How would Ari recommend people get started with his system? There are different paths. Ari has two coaching programs and a virtual assistant company. The Less Doing, More Living Podcast is a great way for people to find out who Ari is and what he does, but it is a launching point for people to take the next step. Visit Less Doing Call and get a free 30-minute coaching call with one of Ari’s Less Doing Certified coaches. This coaching call is where Ari tries to direct everyone to get them started. If they find the coaching valuable, they can get information about programs that might be a good fit. [05:50] Ari’s book Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier outlines the nine fundamentals of the system [more on the nine fundamentals below], and he is working on a second book that will cover more of the “why” of Less Doing. [07:10] Ari’s two coaching programs are his Boot Camp and his Master Mind. His Boot Camp is the for-everyone program. It’s all online, and there’s a weekly call with the whole group (currently 150 people). This program takes people through the nine fundamentals and adds other information. In the Master Mind coaching program, Ari works more personally with individuals (currently 14) to address their business, personal growth, or physical problems. [08:10] In 2015, Ari started the Less Doing Virtual Assistants service (the LessDoIsts). He considers the LessDoIsts to be on-demand project managers rather than just virtual assistants. The service is currently in stealth beta mode, but people can get on the waiting list. They are taking on 3 or 4 new clients each week. They have seen considerable interest and are scaling smoothly to get the kinks out of the system. [10:25] Ari begins each episode of the Less Doing Podcast with a discussion of interesting links. These are resources he feels may be of interest to his listeners. He provides a summary spreadsheet of these links as the Less Doing Podcast Links on his website (for the last 100 or so episodes when he has been doing proper show notes). [12:00] Ari and Dave Rael created the Less Doing WODCast, the first completely automated podcast. It is a workout podcast assembled and published daily by a program using pre-recorded workout segments, where each segment is based on a Tabata protocol (high-intensity interval training). [13:30] The nine fundamentals of the Less Doing system, as documented in each of the chapters of the book, are as follows: (1) the 80/20 rule, which is about tracking; (2) creating an external brain, which is about offloading thoughts; (3) customization, which is about creating custom solutions for common problems in your life; (4) choose your own workweek; (5) stop running errands; (6) batching; (7) organization; (8) finances; and (9) wellness. [14:55] Ari discusses contracting and beating Crohn’s disease. Ari does free consultations about once a month for people with Crohn’s. Ari states that it isn’t that hard to overcome Crohn’s with the right tools. [16:35] Ari recommends the book Emergency by Neil Strauss. This book was instrumental in helping him change his life. He found the book to be empowering when he was suffering from Crohn’s and feeling very powerless. [17:30] Many of Ari’s decisions in life and business are made based on how they will affect his time with his family. Ari finds that being with his family as much as he is provides him a lot of material for figuring out ways to be more productive, but it also gives him perspective on his life and business. He could spend more time working and make more money, but he wouldn’t be happy. Resources Mentioned Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life – book by Neil Strauss about what to do when the societal systems we depend on are unavailable. Less Doing, More Living – Ari Meisel’s website. “Learn how to optimize, automate, and outsource everything in your life including your health.” Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier – book by Ari Meisel in which he presents the nine fundamental principles of his “Less Doing” philosophy. The nine fundamentals of the Less Doing system, as documented in each of the chapters of the book, are as follows: (1) the 80/20 rule, which is about tracking; (2) creating an external brain, which is about offloading thoughts; (3) customization, which is about creating custom solutions for common problems in your life; (4) choose your own workweek; (5) stop running errands; (6) batching; (7) organization; (8) finances; and (9) wellness. Less Doing, More Living Podcast – podcast by Ari Meisel about making everything in life easier. Less Doing Call – free 30-minute “discovery coaching call” with one of Ari Meisel’s Less Doing certified coaches. Less Doing Podcast Links – spreadsheet summarizing the links to resources Ari Meisel has shared in his Less Doing, More Living podcast (since he has been doing proper show notes). Less Doing Virtual Assistants – virtual assistants trained by Ari Meisel in his Less Doing system (LessDoIsts). Ari describes them as virtual project managers rather than virtual assistants. At the time of the interview, the service was still in stealth beta-mode, but people could get on the waiting list. Less Doing WODCast – an automated daily workout podcast by Ari Meisel and Dave Rael. Dave wrote a program to assemble a daily workout podcast from a group of pre-recorded workout segments, where each segment is based on a Tabata protocol (high-intensity interval training). SaaS Business Podcast – website for this podcast. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.



009: Keep Your SaaS Out of Legal Trouble with David Lizerbram
Nov 09 2015 52 mins  
David Lizerbram is an attorney in San Diego, California. He founded his law firm in 2005 to provide legal services to entrepreneurs locally and nationwide. He has provided legal guidance on multimillion-dollar funding rounds, negotiated strategic partnerships, managed international intellectual property portfolios, and advised many innovative startups. David regularly speaks on legal matters and has presented as part of a legal education panel at San Diego’s Comic-Con every year since 2008. He has also created Products of the Mind, a podcast about the intersection of business and creativity. In this episode, David and I discuss trademarks, legal entities and where you should form them, legal jurisdictions in the unfortunate event of a lawsuit, and the handful of things every SaaS entrepreneur should do to avoid legal problems. Please see Disclosure* (below) concerning affiliate links on this page. Key Segments [00:13] The law (business law, intellectual property law) is a set of tools that, hopefully, will help your business grow and succeed. So, just like you need to learn whatever other skills are appropriate (maybe it’s coding software or maybe it’s sales or marketing), getting an understanding of these subjects can be interesting and can be helpful in terms of avoiding problems and training yourself how to think–not to think exactly like a lawyer but how to anticipate where you’re going to need to put your resources and time in the future. That’s going to be an important key to the growth of a business. Whether it’s a solo business or a larger enterprise, I think that’s probably the right way to think about these things. [02:43] What due diligence is required when picking a company name to make sure someone else doesn’t have rights to it? [02:48] David cautions that what he discusses on the podcast is only information and should not be taken as legal advice. [03:18] What is a trademark? A trademark is anything that identifies the source of goods or services. A trademark could be a business name, a brand name, a logo, a slogan, or a tagline. It is almost unavoidable for a business not to have a trademark or trademarks. You are in the intellectual property business whether you like it or not. [04:18] In the United States, and most other places, trademark rights are acquired through use in commerce. Generally, the first company to use a brand name for a particular type of good or service is going to have superior trademark rights even if they have not filed to register that trademark. You need to do some due diligence (research). [05:58] What do you do to make sure that someone else doesn’t have a claim on a trademark? First, do the research to make sure that you are the first to use the name in that category of goods or services. Now, we’re going to get into some gray areas. It’s never exactly clear what falls into your category of goods and services. Another factor is that the names do not need to be 100% identical for there to be a conflict. The standard is “likelihood of confusion.” Is there a likelihood that a reasonable consumer would be confused as to the source of the goods or services? [09:48] What are the minimum steps someone starting out on a shoestring budget should take to avoid getting into trouble with a trademark conflict? If you can’t hire a professional to do the research for you, the first thing to do, in the United States, is search the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. Search for variations on the name. Check spelling variations and plurals. Google it. Use any search engines that may be appropriate for your type of business. Psychologically, you have to avoid trying to convince yourself that something is not going to be a problem. The more research you do, the better off you will be. It helps if you chose a unique name. Pharmaceuticals chose made up names (coinages) for this reason. [13:08] Is there a way to register a trademark in case someone does claim that it’s theirs? Even having a registered trademark does not cure an underlying conflict. It doesn’t make the problem go away. Registering the trademark amounts to attesting to the fact that you believe that the trademark is clear and fair to use. In the United States you can file on the basis of “in use” or “intent to use.” [15:53] What are the types of legal entities a SaaS company is likely to be, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these? There are really four types of legal entities a business could be. None of them is wrong or right. It all depends on the circumstances and where you’re going with the business. [16:18] A sole proprietorship is one person who hasn’t filed anything and is just doing business as him or herself. Refer also to [19:50]. [16:28] A partnership is the default entity for two or more people doing business together. A partnership can have different types of agreements and filings or can be fairly informal. Refer also to [20:30]. [16:53] The next level of complexity or sophistication would be limited liability entities: Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and corporations. Refer also to [22:20] and [24:35]. [17:18] A corporation can be anything from one person to Apple or General Motors. Refer also to [25:55] and [31:00]. [17:38] If you are operating as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you and your partners are liable personally for the debts of the business and being bound to contracts, meaning: you can be sued personally. [18:08] The primary reason for an LLC or corporation (which are actually very similar) is that the owners are not subject to personal liability in most cases. These entities provide some protection for your personal assets, credit, etc. There is a cost for these entities and some other requirements, but it’s insurance against you being personally sued over something having to do with the business. [24:38] What do you need to do to maintain the limited liability limitation? Usually, it’s just a matter of informing your state that you are still in business. Generally, the costs and requirements for operating an LLC are low. [25:58] What are the different kinds of corporations? The typical kinds of for-profit corporations are S-Corps and C-Corps. A corporation is a company owned by shareholders, one or many. The difference is how you have chosen to be taxed. The corporation pays corporate taxes, and the shareholders pay individual taxes on distributions and salaries. The so-called S-election results in taxation much like a partnership. Refer also to [29:50]. [28:43] What type of entity you want to be is an important decision, but is not a decision you are making for life. It’s common for companies to convert. You can close a company and sell the assets. You can change to another state. There may be expenses, and it may be cumbersome, but it’s not the end of the world if you have to change. [29:53] Profits and losses are passed through to the owners at the end of the year for LLCs and S-Corps. An LLC and an S-Corp provide essentially the same legal liability protection. [31:03] What is the burden for maintaining an S-Corp? Typically, a corporation does have to have annual meetings of shareholders and directors. There may just be one shareholder and director, and it may be the same person; in this case, there is just a document that needs to be generated and signed. If you are sued, you need to be able to show compliance with regulations. [34:23] How do these laws work when dealing with companies internationally? Most contracts contain a choice-of-law provision. Pay attention to these, they are important negotiating points. If there is a lawsuit, arbitration, or something else related to a contract you may need to travel and hire attorneys in some distant jurisdiction to defend your rights. [38:48] If you’re selling from your website, think about your terms and conditions. If you’re going through distributors or third parties, there are terms and conditions there as well. [40:03] Why do some companies incorporate in Delaware? What makes Delaware attractive? It depends on where you are going with your business. If you’re starting out and not necessarily planning to have a large enterprise that is backed by venture capital, going to have lots of investors, or go public, the recommended move is to form your entity in the state in which you are going to do business. [44:18] What are the things every business should do? Pay attention to trademarks. Get a good handle on the people who are working for you. Make sure they are classified correctly as employees or independent contractors, according to the laws the state in which you are doing business, and treated appropriately for their classification. [46:38] What resources have you found to be exceptionally valuable? The book People Skills by Robert Bolton has become an invaluable resource. We all need to continue to work on our people skills. [48:18] David is launching a podcast named Products of the Mind. It will be a discussion about the intersection of creativity and entrepreneurship. How do people who classify themselves as creative find their way in the business world? How do business people access creative skills to solve problems, keep their customers happy, and create a lifestyle that works for them? Resources Mentioned Lizerbram Law – David Lizerbram’s legal practice in San Diego, California providing legal services to entrepreneurs locally and nationwide. People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts – book by Robert Bolton. Products of the Mind – podcast by David Lizerbram about the intersection of creativity and entrepreneurship. How do people who classify themselves as creative find their way in the business world? How do business people access creative skills to solve problems, keep their customers happy, and create a lifestyle that works for them? United States Patent and Trademark Office – website to begin your due diligence for trademark research. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


008: How to Earn Your Customer's Attention with Tom Schwab
Nov 02 2015 42 mins  
Tom Schwab began his professional life as a U.S. Navy officer running a nuclear power plant on an aircraft carrier. As his family grew, he decided to separate from the Navy and went into industry. He later started his own business selling alternatives to crutches, and along the way, cultivated his skills in marketing. Tom is now an inbound marketing specialist. He has been a speaker at HubSpot’s Inbound conference. He equates inbound marketing with permission-based marketing and outbound marketing with interruption-based marketing. He works with clients one-on-one to help them formulate their overall inbound marketing strategy and to get them to go beyond buying their traffic and start earning it. He found that the best content for conversion is podcast interviews. The investment is minimal in terms of time, but the ability to talk directly to customers is amazing. Tom teaches and coaches his client’s to grow their businesses using podcast interviews to reach a specific target audience. Please see Disclosure* (below) concerning affiliate links on this page. Key Segments [00:10] Ultimately, people want to buy. They want to solve their own problem. If you help to frame that and to show them that you might be a good solution, you have a much better chance of getting a great customer, an advocate, and the lifetime value of the customer, than somebody doing a one-and-done because somebody clicked a couple of ad words. [02:50] What is inbound marketing? It’s about trying to help people buy. It’s about helping them find answers to their questions. You can either earn attention by being helpful or buy attention. [03:40] Nobody really wants your product or service. They want relief from a problem they have. Those who help them solve their problem are the ones who build the brands. It has never been easier than today to make a transaction online, but it has never been harder to build a business and differentiate it. Talk to their pain. [04:25] How do you get your message out there? Blogs are pretty much saturated. They’re not working as well as they did five years ago, but podcasts are up-and-coming. You can talk directly to your ideal customer by being on a podcast they already listen to. Blogs convert at 1 to 2 percent, but we found that podcast interviews convert at about 25 times that. [05:15] It’s not just about getting on podcasts or just getting known. There’s a strategy. We have a six step process to take people from listeners to visitors and from visitors to leads. [Listen to this section for the detailed steps.] This strategy doesn’t cost anything except time, and it’s repeatable. Sometimes you can even control when it goes out. For over a year, we did it with 12 clients one-on-one using over 500 different interviews to test the system then we started it as a course, a minimally viable product. We got feedback, improved it, added resources to it, and now it’s a fully launched course. [10:15] Our company is called Inbound for eCommerce. Engineering dictated how I see the world. A lot of marketers think of the world as marketing; I think of it as an engineering problem to be solved. Today, data is telling you what people loathe and love. If a customer keeps telling you that they have a problem and need a solution, that’s the next product you should build. Build a minimally viable product, put it out there, and ask them open-ended questions like: “What questions do you still have?” or “What resources do you still need?” Keep answering the questions and making the product better. [11:50] The course for being a podcast guest is one portion of our business. I also work with clients one-on-one to help them do their overall inbound marketing. We work with eCommerce companies to get them beyond buying their traffic and starting to earn it. But one of the things we stumbled on is that the best content we could find is podcast interviews. The investment is minimal in terms of time, but the ability to talk to your customer is amazing. [13:55] If someone comes to you with a SaaS product, what would the process look like to for you to work with them and get them on the right podcasts? The biggest thing is defining who they want to talk to. We can do this one-on-one. The online course also walks people through this, and we throw in two 30-minute coaching sessions with that. Most SaaS companies already have visitor-to-lead and lead-to-customer already built. What they struggle with is how to get people to their site. [15:35] Marketing is all about starting a conversation with your ideal customer. Are you going to buy ads or are you going to go out there and speak to your ideal customer? We help people get the word out through inbound marketing. How are you going to get new customers? Are you going to buy the traffic? How are you going to get in front of them to let them know that you exist? There’s no better way to do that than content. If you buy attention, it’s there, and it’s gone. The next day you have to buy more. Content is always out there. [18:55] What is outbound marketing? That’s the marketing that we all know and hate. Outbound marketing is interruption marketing. It’s where someone is trying to sell something to you, to push it on you. It’s not targeted. It’s not helpful. It’s focused on what I can get from you. [19:40] Inbound is focused on drawing people in and helping them by answering their questions and solving their problems. It’s permission-based marketing. The cost of inbound is minimal. With outbound, whoever has the biggest budget wins. Our grandparents built businesses based on inbound marketing. They weren’t using tricks or buying attention. They earned the attention. They had to serve their customers. They had a customer-centric model. Ultimately, people want to buy. They want to solve their problem. If you help to frame that and to show them that you might be a good solution, you’ve got a much better chance of getting a great customer, an advocate, and the lifetime value of the customer, than a company doing a one-and-done because somebody clicked a couple of ad words. [22:40] Concerning Goodbye Crutches, what are the alternatives to crutches? [25:20] The best SaaS companies have a good on-boarding process. They want to make sure you learn how to use their product. They want to make sure you see value in it. They want to make sure you differentiate it from other products, so that four months from now when you’re going through your credit card statement, you think: “That brings value to me.” [26:15] Tom has spoken at a breakout session of the Inbound He provides some perspective and history. He talks about how the conference content gets shared thus amplifying its impact. [27:20] Tom will be speaking at OntraPalooza because of a podcast interview he did on how you can use user-generated content to tell your stories. As business owners, we are sometimes the worst people to tell our story because we start talking about features and how the product or company was built, but what people care about are the benefits. There is nobody better to talk about the benefits of your product than your customers. Tom hired a journalism student to follow up with customers who had written thank-you notes, interview them, get some pictures, and tell their stories. Each customer’s story is different and resonates with a different buyer persona. [35:30] Tom is a big fan of intellectual cross-pollination to expose yourself to new ideas. If we always stay around the same people, who know the same ideas and read the same books and go to the same conferences, we’ll never be exposed to new ideas. He loves listening to things like Ted Talks because you get exposed to different ideas. You can take an idea from somebody else’s industry and apply it to yours. Read books from different industries. Attend conferences that are not niched to your area. [38:15] The biggest struggle any business has is getting the word out. The Internet makes it very easy, but there is a lot of noise. Don’t try to get your word out to everyone because not everyone cares. Find a handful of people, the fans, and serve them well. If you serve them well, they will probably tell their friends who are just like them. [39:00] Tom makes an offer to listeners for a 30-minute webinar specifically targeted at SaaS. He will cover how to build your business by reaching your ideal customers as a podcast guest. At the end of the webinar, there will be a special offer for his online course. Visit TMSchwab.com/SaaS to find out more. [40:25] Tom share’s his favorite quote from Derek Sivers, author of Anything You Want and founder of CD Baby: “What’s ordinary to you is amazing to others.” [41:15] Tom invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn. Resources Mentioned Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur – book by Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby (a popular music site for independent artists), about how he created a multi-million dollar company by following his passion. Dane Maxwell – reference to Episode 002 of this podcast. Daniel J. Lewis – reference to Episode 003 of this podcast and Daniel’s My Podcast Reviews SaaS app. Goodbye Crutches – Tom’s Schwab’s company providing alternatives to crutches. Once named “the second unsexiest company to use inbound marketing” (after industrial lubricants). HubSpot – SaaS for inbound marketing and sales. Inbound – conference in Boston about inbound marketing. As Tom Schwab put it: “a conference in Boston created by HubSpot to bring marketers together to talk about how to use the Internet to change the rules.” Inbound for eCommerce– Tom Schwab’s company specializing in inbound marketing. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World –book by Gary Vaynerchuk about social media marketing strategies. LeadPages – SaaS for landing page generation, split testing, and more. OntraPalooza – conference sponsored by OntraPort intended to bring together sales, marketing, and operational instruction. OntraPort – SaaS for business and marketing automation. Podcaster’s Paradise – podcasting instruction by John Lee Dumas. Ted Talks – platform for spreading ideas. TMSchwab.com/SaaS – link to Tom Schwab’s website for a 30-minute webinar specifically targeting SaaS as offered in this episode. He will cover how to build your business by reaching your ideal customers as a podcast guest. At the end of the webinar, there will be a special offer for his online course. Tom Schwab – Tom’s profile on LinkedIn. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


007: "Dude, You Could Sell This Stuff" with Joey Kissimmee
Oct 26 2015 43 mins  
Joey Kissimmee says that he’s not techy, but he has created iPhone apps, SaaS products, WordPress themes, and is now working on WordPress plugins. He says that he has always been a hard worker. His first job was washing dishes in a beat up old sandwich shop in Chicago when he was twelve. In 2000, he started working at Walmart and doing a little business online to make some extra money to have fun with his wife and kids. “At first,” he says, “it was just selling junk on eBay.” But he found some mentors, he listened, he learned, and he implemented the things he learned. He created a few tools that he couldn’t find and then turned these tools into products. Somewhere around 2008 or 2009, he realized he was making some pretty good money from his online business and decided to take it seriously. By early 2010, he was able to retire from his job at Walmart to work his online business full-time. Please see Disclosure* (below) concerning affiliate links on this page. Key Segments [03:00] Joey is not a developer, so how did he get into the SaaS world? He says he’s not techy. Joey wasn’t even sure what SaaS meant until long after he was creating SaaS products. [03:55] He didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur; he just wanted to sell some junk on eBay. [04:25] When he first started to get involved with marketing, his mentors were creating little tools to perform tasks. [05:05] He started creating iPhone apps in 2011, and that’s where he really learned to hire people to create things. [06:25] Anything he had to do repeatedly, he would pay someone to automate for him. He systematized his processes and created tools for himself. [07:00] In about 2010 a buddy in the affiliate marketing world told him: “Dude, you could sell this stuff.” [07:40] He was a good listener, and he took action. He just implemented what worked. He created TubeSlicer.com as a tool to do the five things he knew how to do with Photoshop for creating YouTube thumbnails and then turned this into a product. He did the same thing to create Image Ad Creator a product to create images for split testing Facebook ads. [09:15] Every product he created was to solve his own problems, and then he figured out a way to turn it into a viable product. He created Tube Slicer, Image Ad Creator, TimelineSlicer, and Podcast Artwork Slicer out of his own needs. Appendipity, his premium WordPress theme, was created the same way and turned into a huge success. [10:00] “I don’t care who says what, outsourcing is an art form.” When you’re outsourcing you don’t have to know coding, you have to know the lingo. [11:30] Rule #1: Know how you want to use the product. The coder doesn’t really care about or understand the Ux (user experience). Your problems aren’t unique. There’s a good chance that a dozen other people have the same problem; so if you can figure out how to solve it for yourself, you just solved it for a dozen other people. [12:14] Rule #2: Know the lingo. [13:00] To communicate Ux to the designer for his WordPress designers he draws on a legal pad and then scans it and sends it to them. For iPhone apps, he used Balsamiq to do wireframes. 14:30 Once it’s working the way you want it to work, fiddle around with the look of it. Once the mock-up’s done and you’ve got a working prototype, send it to the designer. [16:00] His go-to place for designers was oDesk. He also used Freelancer and eLance. (Note: oDesk and eLance merged in 2015 and formed Upwork.) [16:40] You could get hosed in many ways. The developer and the designer could overcharge you. People could also steal your ideas. One way Joey protected himself was not to give too much information on the job posting. [17:00] Joey gives an example of how he does a job posting and then explains his filtering process for hiring. [18:50] Once he has filtered out the best candidates, he shares more detail privately with them. If he has a good feeling about an individual, he does a live Skype session with them. You have to trust your gut. No matter how qualified someone may seem, if you don’t feel right about it, and there’s just something off, forget it. [21:55] For design work, he now goes to 99designs but uses a slightly different process because of their crowd-sourcing-like model. [23:00] Now, he can also put the word out to his email list that he needs people and use a survey on Google Forms to collect responses. Requirements are in a question format. He doesn’t use a code word in these surveys, but the rest of the process is the same. [24:50] Joey has developed four different types of software products but uses one well-refined process to find people in all cases. Joey picked these things up by paying attention, listening, being connected to a few good people, and doing it. [27:40] Joey recommends The 4-Hour Workweek, The ONE Thing, and Influencer (see Resources Mentioned below for additional details). [29:00] Joey takes the end of one year and beginning of the next to spend with his family and to reflect on his business. He reflects on how things have gone in the past year and what he might want to try in the next. [32:15] He is fortunate to be able to take himself out of the equation. He learned to create evergreen businesses that don’t need his name or his face to make money. Create brands that can stand on their own. [35:15] Don’t become brand dependent. Don’t become the brand because you won’t make any money if you take yourself out of the equation. Build the product as the brand. [35:45] You can create a SaaS product, and you don’t have to be the actual product. Be behind the scenes. Let the product breathe. Build the product into a brand. Make it the best thing possible. [36:55] You don’t have to make it the best thing possible at the beginning. The beauty of SaaS is the ability to release versions. Build a working prototype, release it for free or dirt cheap, and then get feedback from the customers. Let the customers build the features into it then package it up, raise the price, and sell it. People will buy it because it’s customer driven. They built the product. [38:20] You will get a lot of crazy requests from guys who think so far outside the box, they lose the box. Filter by the majority of requests. [41:15] “You just gotta go out there and do it. I always tell people, and I preach this off the rooftops: ‘You must listen. It doesn’t matter where you’re listening from. You have to listen to everything that they say. Learn as much as you can. There’s no possible way you can learn everything that they say and jot everything down. Just jot down and take mental notes of the things that resonate with you. Then when you’re done listening and learning, go out there and implement it. That’s the freakin’ key thing right there. If you don’t implement, if you don’t take action, the only guaranteed results to zero is if you do nothing. You might as well do something. If you’re gonna get zero anyway by doing nothing, you might as well go ahead and try to do something so you’ll get some kind of result.'” [42:05] “Do something. That’s the way I go about it. You know, hey, it’s gonna be zero anyway if I do nothing. So I might as well get a zero by doing something. ‘Cause at least, I gave it a whirl.” [42:55] “If you can use your own product, you’ve got something good to share with people.” Resources Mentioned 99designs – web-based service for design freelancers. Appendipity – premium WordPress theme created by Joey Kissimmee. Appendipity is particularly well-suited to podcasting. This site uses Appendipity. Balsamiq – wireframing app. Freelancer – web-based service for freelancers of all kinds. Google Forms – online form app from Google. Results transfer into a spreadsheet. Image Ad Creator – app created by Joey Kissimmee “that allows you to create beautiful and professional looking image ads to use with your Facebook advertising.” IncomePress.com – Joey Kissimmee’s primary personal website and podcast. Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, Second Edition – book by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler about making change happen. Photoshop – SaaS for processing images. Podcast Artwork Slicer (server move in progress) – product by Joey Kissimmee to create inexpensive album artwork for iTunes. The 4-Hour Workweek – book by Tim Ferriss free yourself from as many tasks as you can so that you can live differently, doing only the things that you alone can do. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – book by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan describing a simple, powerful concept to focus on what matters most. TimelineSlicer (server move in progress) – app created by Joey Kissimmee to “create custom cover photos for your Facebook Timeline.” TubeSlicer.com (server move in progress) – app created be Joe Kissimmee to create thumbnails for YouTube videos Upwork – web-based freelancers of all kinds. *Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. These commissions help to cover the cost of producing the podcast. I am affiliated only with companies I know and trust to deliver what you need. In most cases, affiliate links are to products and services I currently use or have used in the past. I would not recommend these resources if I did not sincerely believe that they would help you. I value you as a visitor/customer far more than any small commission I might earn from recommending a product or service. I recommend many more resources with which I am not affiliated than affiliated. In most cases where there is an affiliation, I will note it, but affiliations come and go, and the notes may not keep up.


006: Calling Cards Nobody Throws Away with Emily Chase Smith
Oct 18 2015 28 mins  
Emily Chase Smith was a practicing attorney before leaving the law for a literary calling. Now, she helps entrepreneurs get their stories on paper by either ghostwriting their books or coaching them through the writing process. She explains why SaaS entrepreneurs should consider writing a book and why a book is your best calling card. She describes the differences between traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing. She talks about how she helps her clients get their books finished. Key Segments [02:15] Emily Chase is a book lover and a recovering attorney. [02:25] Emily practiced bankruptcy law; her recognition of common mistake made by clients caused her to write The Financially Savvy Entrepreneur: Navigate the Money Maze of Running a Business. [02:50] As a podcaster, Emily produced Money Morsels, The Entrepreneurs Money Podcast, and Mommy Brain. [02:55] Emily has pivoted and is now doing book coaching and ghostwriting. [03:05] Why would SaaS entrepreneurs want the write a book? [03:20] A book will establish you as an expert in your field. [03:55] A book gives you a great base from which to operate. [04:40] If you give somebody a book, they're not going to throw it away. [04:50] Why prioritize writing a book over other tasks? [05:55] What types of clients does Emily attract? [08:15] How does Emily's personal experience uniquely qualify her to help her clients? [10:35] Why did Emily decide to pivot in her business? [12:10] How do Emily's book coaching and ghostwriting services work? [14:30] How does she bring a book to life? [15:20] How is Emily selective about the projects she will work on? [16:15] How does she feel about deadlines and schedules? [17:20] What is the DiSC(R) profile? [17:50] What is the end result of her work, and what are the traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing options? [20:20] How should a self-published book be designed to stand up next to a traditionally published work? [20:55] Emily uses Persona Publishing to produce high quality self-published works. [21:45] Does Emily help authors get book deals and understand contracts? [23:25] What does a first draft typically look like? [24:30] How does Emily help her customers focus? [25:00] You don't need to be a writer to have a story to tell. [26:00] Emily talks about her different package options and a special offer for listeners. Resources Mentioned Chase Smith Press - Emily Chase Smith's service for book coaching and ghostwriting. DiSC(R) - (dominance/influence/steadiness/conscientiousness) a personal assessment tool. Mommy Brain - podcast by Emily Chase Smith and Kristie Cain: "brain candy for moms daring to be themselves." Money Morsels - podcast by Emily Chase Smith for small business owners about money. Persona Publishing - high quality self-published book producer. The Entrepreneurs Money Podcast - podcast by Emily Chase Smith for entrepreneurs to help them get back in the game after a setback. The Financially Savvy Entrepreneur: Navigate the Money Maze of Running a Business - book by Emily Chase Smith providing "clear systems and processes for avoiding the financial pitfalls that derail so many businesses."


005: How to Turn a Desire into a SaaS Solution with Corstiaan Hesselink
Oct 11 2015 34 mins  
Corstiaan Hesselink is the creator of the Reflect app, an extension for Evernote. Reflects provides a convenient way for you to reflect on (remember, review, and rethink) all that you have saved in Evernote. Reflect was born because Corstiaan, an avid Kindle reader, wanted a tool to help him review the tagged high-lights he had saved in Evernote while reading Kindle books. Unable to find such a tool, he built one and then put it up on Beta List. When Reflect started to attract interest, he knew he was on to something. Corstiaan does a deep dive into the technology of the stack that is Reflect, talks about his plans to monetize Reflect, and discusses how a small app can become a big project. Key Segments [02:30] What is Reflect and how can you use it? [05:45] What did Corstiaan do to validate his idea? [06:10] He first posted Reflect online on Beta List and received a few hundred requests for early access within a few days. [07:15] What technology does Reflect use between Evernote and the front end? [07:35] Reflect was developed using Microsoft .NET and is running on Microsoft's Azure [07:55] Corstiaan used the micro-framework NancyFx instead of ASP .NET. [08:15] Corstiaan recommends using a framework that does not get in the way. [08:45] Evernote .NET libraries are available for the Evernote API. [09:20] The database runs on Microsoft's SQL Server. [09:40] For data access between the web application and the database, Corstiaan uses OrmLite. [10:10] On the front end the web app is built using Bootstrap for the CSS framework (customized to match the style of Reflect) combined with js. [10:30] Corstiaan will consider AngularJS for his next project or for a major overhaul of Reflect. [10:50] He is currently very close to releasing the iOS app in native code. (Post-production note: Reflect for Evernote for iOS has been released.) There is no HTML5 wrapper. NancyFX comes into play for the mobile app too. [11:40] Reflect is currently slightly more than an MVP (minimum viable product), but given his vision for what Reflect can become, Corstiaan considers it to be near an MVP. [12:25] He uses .NET mainly because that is what he has the most experience using. [13:35] NancyFX allows you to build an application in the way that HTTP actually works rather than having the framework abstract a lot of the details away. [14:35] AngularJS has a large community, many side projects, and gives you a large toolset for mobile apps. [16:10] What are his strategies to monetize Reflect as a SaaS product? [17:40] He wants to create a service that works in the background and allows people to get a more thorough understanding of their data. [19:50] What kind of problems did Corstiaan run into while developing Reflect? [21:40] Have there been any unexpected costs along the way? [22:05] As more users used Reflect, Corstiaan's bandwidth bill increased. [23:15] Do you see any problems with scaling on the Azure platform? [25:15] Is he using any metrics to track usage? [25:30] He started out with Google Analytics but is working on implementing KISSmetrics. [26:35] What does your company Fluxmatix Ventures do? [26:50] Corstiaan shares a bit of his background. [27:05] Progress in web apps and mobile in particular lured Corstiaan back into active software development. [29:45] Recommended books: A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young, and Anti-Fragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Profit First: A Simple System To Transform Any Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz Resources Mentioned A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young - "examines the creative process and ways to produce ideas" AngularJS - HTML enhanced for web apps (by Google) Anti-Fragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb - "things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish" Azure - Microsoft's cloud platform Beta List - "early access to over 100 new internet startups each month" Bootstrap - "HTML, CSS, and JS framework for developing responsive, mobile first projects on the web" Evernote .NET libraries - .NET libraries for the Evernote API Evernote API - application programming interface (API) for Evernote Fluxmatix Ventures - Corstiaan's company responsible for Reflect for Evernote Google Analytics - "turn customer insights into action for your business" KISSmetrics - "key insights and timely interactions to turn visitors into customers" js - "dynamic JavaScript UIs with the Model-View-View Model (MVVM)" Microsoft .NET - Microsoft development platform NancyFx - "lightweight, low-ceremony, framework for building HTTP based services on .NET and Mono" OrmLite - "lightweight Object Relational Mapping (ORM) Java package providing simple, lightweight functionality for persisting Java objects to SQL databases while avoiding the complexity and overhead of more standard ORM packages" Profit First: A Simple System To Transform Any Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz - "accounting plug-in that will transform your business from a cash eating monster into a money making machine" Reflect App - Corstiaan Hesselink's app to help you review and remember things you have saved in Evernote Reflect for Evernote - Reflect iOS app SQL Server - Microsoft tools to deploy and manage databases


004: How to Create Killer SaaS Products with Neil Patel
Oct 04 2015 20 mins  
What makes a killer SaaS product? How do you get customers and keep them? Introduction Neil Patel, together with his brother-in-law Hiten Shah, is currently operating three SaaS companies, Crazy Egg, HelloBar, and KISSmetrics. Some of Neil's clients include such well-known companies as Amazon, NBC, General Motors, HP, and Viacom. Entrepreneur Magazine says that they "created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world." The Wall Street Journal calls Neil a "top influencer on the web," and Forbes calls him "one of the top 10 online marketers." He has been recognized by the United States House of Representatives, President Obama named him one the Top 100 Entrepreneurs Under the Age of 30, and the United Nations has distinguished him as one of the Top 100 Entrepreneurs under the age of 35. Neil talks about his first businesses and how trying to copy Monster.com led to him learning internet marketing. He talks about borrowing money to start a cloud hosting company before such things existed, losing all of the borrowed money, and paying it back. He discusses why he and Hiten Shah started CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics. He then discusses why SaaS companies need to solve customer problems and provide awesome customer support. He discusses the importance of support and why he keeps all of his in-house. Even today he spends some time fielding customer service calls to stay grounded and connected with his customers. Neil's advice for retaining your clients is to keep them happy and provide them with SaaS solutions they can't live without. Key Segments [01:50] Ron introduces Neil Patel. [02:40] Entrepreneurship was in Neil's blood. [03:25] Neil started his first business as a freshman in high school. [04:35] Set his sights on becoming an Oracle consultant when he didn't even know what Oracle was. [05:10] Neil began to look for jobs as an Oracle consultant on Monster.com but ended up analyzing Monster.com's business model. What did he learn? [06:00] Neil learned that he needed to drive traffic to his website and how to do it. [06:45] Neil applied himself and learned Internet marketing. [06:55] Neil compares Internet marketing to the presidential election system. [07:20] People who provide a good product or service tend to win. [07:30] Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. [08:05] Neil shares how he acquired a client for $3,500 a month from a talk about how search engines work in a college class. [08:50] Neil begins to partner with Hiten Shah. They start an Internet ad agency. [09:30] They began to invest in a cloud hosting company before there were such things and lost a lot of borrowed money that he had to pay back himself. [10:05] Neil and Hiten transition to CrazyEgg. [10:30] What was the painful problem CrazyEgg was designed to solve? [11:20] How did they make CrazyEgg profitable? [12:10] What's the best way to ensure that you venture into a good SaaS product? [12:15] SaaS is all about solving a problem. [12:40] They wanted to tackle a larger problem with KISSmetrics [13:50] What advice does Neil have for SaaS entrepreneurs considering taking on investors? [14:45] Neil wants to share what he has learned with others. [15:10] What is Quick Sprout? [15:35] Neil's long-term goal is to work with non-profits. [16:05] Neil believes awesome products and killer support are the key to a good SaaS product. [16:25] What is awesome support? [16:45] Support response should be fast, accurate, concise, clear, and actionable for the other party. [16:55] Solve as much as you can on your end before reaching out to the customer. [17:00] Neil keeps all of his support in-house because it is too important to outsource. [17:10] Neil personally deals with support on a weekly basis because it helps him understand pain points. [17:35] The best SaaS product is a subscription-based model. [18:15] Neil is a fan of the freemium model to get customers in and upsell a portion of them. [18:40] Always keep learning. [18:55] Neil recommends Moz blog, Search Engine Land, Quick Sprout blog, and the KISSmetrics blog as valuable resources. Resources Mentioned CrazyEgg - heat maps to see what people are doing on your website KISSmetrics - "key insights and timely interactions to turn visitors into customers" KISSmetrics blog - "a blog about analytics, marketing, and testing" Moz blog - "The industry's top wizards, doctors, and other experts offer their best advice, research, how-tos, and insights—all in the name of helping you level-up your SEO and online marketing skills." Quick Sprout - Neil's personal website Quick Sprout blog - Neil's blog on Quick Sprout Quick Sprout University - Neil provides resources to learn about online market subjects like SEO, link building, content marketing, social media, paid advertising, email marketing, reputation management, and conversion optimization SaaS Business Podcast - this podcast's website Search Engine Land - all about search engines including current events


003: People are the Key to Developing Successful Products with Daniel J. Lewis
Sep 28 2015 40 mins  
Daniel J. Lewis discusses his SaaS product My Podcast Reviews stressing the importance of talking to people before developing your product. Introduction Daniel J. Lewis is an entrepreneur, an award-winning podcaster, and the founder of My Podcast Reviews. My Podcast Reviews is a subscription-based SaaS product for aggregating podcast reviews from 150+ national iTunes stores into a single deliverable report. Daniel stresses the importance of talking to your customers during development to find out what their pain points are. Daniel also shares how he monitors Twitter for niche-specific keywords and combinations to do marketing. Key Segments • [01:50] Who is Daniel J. Lewis? • [03:00] How long has Daniel been a podcaster? • [03:15] Daniel talks about his flagship podcast The Audacity to Podcast. • [03:30] Daniel discusses the Noodle.mx Network, his podcast network. • [04:40] Daniel is passionate about enabling people to share their message. • [05:05] What is My Podcast Reviews? • [08:10] You can monitor your competitor's podcast, and why you should. • [09:35] Daniel wishes he had done more research among other podcasters before launching My Podcast Reviews. • [10:50] A little marketing trick of monitoring Twitter for keywords and combinations. • [12:40] Apple's WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference)? • [14:45] Using Apple's iTunes API. • [16:05] My Podcast Reviews uses Ruby on Rails for a back end with a WordPress front end. • [16:45] Learning from a dataset of 40,000 podcast reviews. • [18:15] Daniel found great developers on Elance (now Upwork) who challenged his concept. • [18:50] In what ways did Daniel's developers challenge him for the better? • [20:45] Was there any downside in dealing with developers in India? • [22:10] Daniel discusses project management. • [24:05] How is the product documented? • [24:55] Daniel talks about hosting on Vultr. • [28:15] Daniel does a deep dive on the Ux (user experience) for My Podcast Reviews. • [31:35] SaaS owners should have an email list and segment the list (send email based on what plan the customer is on). • [34:00] What does he do for analytics? • [35:10] As an artist, Daniel looks at the human side. • [36:40] The best resources are people. Ask your users what they want. What are their pain points? Connect with people. • [37:50] Be helpful and connect with the community before you promote yourself. • [38:50] Thinking of podcasting? Go to TheAudacityToPodcast.com and checkout MyPodcastReviews.com. Resources Mentioned • SaaS Business Podcast • My Podcast Reviews • The Audacity to Podcast • Noodle.mx Network • Daniel's blog • Apple Worldwide Developers Conference • Asana project management • Elance freelancers • Vultr - high performance SSD cloud servers • MailChimp • AWeber • Infusionsoft • Google Analytics


002: Dane Maxwell on SaaS and the Five Levels of Consciousness
Sep 21 2015 40 mins  
Dane Maxwell discusses how to create SaaS products, why he created The Foundation, the importance of being present in whatever you do, and the power of perseverance. Introduction Dane Maxwell is the founder of The Foundation, a company created to teach entrepreneurs how to create SaaS products. The Foundation model for creating SaaS products is to find the pain, sketch a solution, pre-sell the idea, build the product, and launch it. Dane discusses what he considers to be the most important skill he has ever learned: idea extraction. Dane also discusses how The Foundation is intended to create friends and how the five levels of consciousness relate to SaaS. Key Segments • [01:50] Ron introduces Dane Maxwell. • [03:00] What is The Foundation? • [04:00] What does it mean to look at the world through green glasses? • [05:35] Jay Abraham and the principle of triangulation. • [10:30] What does The Foundation teach? • [12:30] From the perspective of abundance, business is less risky than being an employee. • [12:55] Five steps to build a business in a fun, free, effortless way. • [14:20] The technique for finding the pain is called idea extraction. • [17:10] Learning how to do idea extraction is an incredibly useful skill. • [20:20] Dane talks about the five levels of consciousness. • [26:00] Dane talks about building phenomenal products by being journey oriented and present. • [31:25] The future of creation and what The Foundation teaches. • [32:35] Who are ideal candidates for The Foundation? • [38:30] It's the attachment to a goal that creates suffering. • [38:45] What are Dane's goals for The Foundation? • [39:05] The mission of The Foundation is to create friendship and freedom. Resources Mentioned • SaaS Business Podcast • The Foundation • Starting from Nothing: The Foundation Podcast



001: Sujan Patel on Building Business Relationships, SEO, and 100 Days of Growth
Sep 21 2015 40 mins  
Sujan Patel shares excellent marketing and growth tips for SaaS business owners based on his ten years of Internet marketing experience. Introduction Sujan Patel started his first business selling cars parts while in high school. While the business was not a great success due to a lack of business acumen, he learned SEO in the process. His SEO skills would serve him well in years to come. Sujan dropped out of college to found Single Grain, a digital marketing agency. Single grain eventually became one of San Francisco's leading agencies boasting such high-profile clients as Intuit, SalesForce, Random House, Sony Pictures, and Yahoo. In 2014, Sujan sold his holdings in Single Grain and took a job as VP of marketing at the SaaS company When I Work—as a vacation (he does not like to be bored). Together with Colin Matthews, Sujan has founded ContentMarketer.io, a SaaS product to help marketers automate content promotion efforts. During the Christmas holidays of 2015, he and Rob Wormley "accidentally" wrote the ebook 100 Days of Growth while brainstorming growth strategies. (He would later write: "It's been one of the most productive Christmas's ever!") Sujan is also a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and INC. Magazine. He has written on such varied topics as accelerators, mentorships, productivity hacks, online resources, success habits marketing skills, team building, content marketing, and growth strategies. Key Segments • [00:45] Please sign up for the SaaS newsletter to get notified when each podcast is released. • [01:25] Ron talks about today's guest, Sujan Patel. • [02:50] Sujan talks about the first business he started while in high school. • [04:05] What has remained the same with SEO over the years? • [04:40] Sujan dropped out of college to start his company, Single Grain. • [05:00] Single Grain was started three times. • [06:15] Sujan brought on a partner to help with the business side of Single Grain. • [10:10] What problem does the SaaS product When I Work solve? • [12:10] Changing someone's habits is the hardest sell. • [13:00] Why did Sujan start ContentMarketer.io? • [15:20] How does ContentMarketer.io work? • [18:40] How did Sujan and Rob Wormley write the ebook 100 Days of Growth "by accident"? • [24:05] Sujan contacted everyone mentioned in 100 Days of Growth and generated a lot of buzz. • [24:30] What's in the book? How is it structured? • [26:30] Email is so easy to use and it's free! • [30:15] What SEO tools does Sujan recommend? • [31:30] What are the best resources to learn copywriting? • [32:40] How can you use content as a marketing tool? • [34:40] Sujan's favorite marketing hack is T-shirts customers can wear. • [35:50] Think about how your marketing products/emails will look on mobile. • [37:00] Cold outreach is a lost art. Sujan does one call a day with somebody new. • [38:20] Build relationships before asking for help. • [39:10] Sujan recommends a few resources. Resources Mentioned • SaaS Business Podcast • Single Grain • When I Work • ContentMarketer.io • Lukewarm emailer • Attach • 100 Days of Growth by Sujan Patel and Rob Wormley • Startup Foundation Slack group • Instapage • MailChimp • AWeber • SujanPatel.com • 35 Best Digital Marketing Slide Decks • SumoMe • Hello Bar • SEMrush • Buzzsumo • Copyblogger • Copy Hackers • Facebook Page Plugin • Inbound • Content Marketing Institute • Launch by Jeff Walker • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz • Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey




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