April 26, 2024


Entrepreneurial Seasons

Hosted by

Jordan Gal Brian Casel
Entrepreneurial Seasons
Bootstrapped Web
Entrepreneurial Seasons

Apr 26 2024 | 00:56:10


Show Notes

Protyping with AI.  Burnout aftermath.  Validation theories that need retiring.  Go-to-market.  MVP speed.  SaaS UI components as a service.  Kitchen Reno.  Passover.  Knicks Games.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:17] Speaker A: Hey, it's bootstrap web. It is Friday, April 26. I thought I'd say the date today because just to remind folks, I do publish these minutes after we record, so anyway, I like that. Very sad. What's up, buddy? [00:00:31] Speaker B: Not too much, not too much. It's Friday. I just got the, you know, a great dad email to receive, which is your daughter has been selected student of the month. You know, come in and, like, celebrate or something, like feeling good. Our kitchen's done. [00:00:46] Speaker A: There you go. [00:00:47] Speaker B: So I was able to cook for the Passover Seder in our brand new kitchen. And, damn, that felt good. [00:00:52] Speaker A: Oh, yeah, that sounds nice. [00:00:54] Speaker B: It was nice. [00:00:55] Speaker A: Good stuff. [00:00:55] Speaker B: I was a little worried that Passover would feel a bit heavy, and it was just beautiful and fun. We had a. Our neighbors over. [00:01:01] Speaker A: Did you have a lot of family over? [00:01:03] Speaker B: No, just our neighbors from across the street, but that's, you know, that's ten people total, so. [00:01:07] Speaker A: Right. [00:01:07] Speaker B: Four adults, six kids, and I lead it, and there's some singing involved, and the kids are happy. All these functions. [00:01:17] Speaker A: It was beautiful. You know, I grew up, raised jewish. I haven't practiced since, but I do remember the seder. That's right. As a kid, just kind of being bored at the table the whole time. But, you know, there's a lot of that. There's a lot of that. [00:01:30] Speaker B: And the coincidence was I went to Florida last weekend to see my cousins from Israel are in, and they're going to. They're visiting their brother who lives down in Florida near my dad. So I went down there and had such a good time. And by coincidence, my uncle was there. I haven't seen him in ten years. And this is the uncle who lives in Newbridge. No, Woodbridge, Connecticut. Right by you. [00:01:51] Speaker A: Oh, not far. [00:01:52] Speaker B: Yeah, not too far. And that is where I went for all of my seders growing up. This crazy coincidence that the Seder was the next day, and I see my uncle for the first time in like, ten years, and all these things kind of came together. So it's been a great week. [00:02:06] Speaker A: Very cool. Yeah. Yeah. So last Saturday, I surprised my girls with. I splurged on some Knicks tickets for game one in the playoffs at the garden. [00:02:17] Speaker B: Wow. [00:02:18] Speaker A: It was. Those were not cheap, but, man, it was. It just. It brought back memories. And it was like, all of, you know, my favorite sports memories of all time are playoffs at the garden in New York City with the nineties Knicks. [00:02:33] Speaker B: Oh, my God, I hated them so much. Ewing. I couldn't stand that team. [00:02:37] Speaker A: Okay. So, I mean, I was like, a die hard Knicks fan, and I still am. And it's so cool. Cause my girls are both into basketball. They play basketball. And we've been, like, watching the Knicks games every game of the season at home. [00:02:49] Speaker B: There have been some good games. [00:02:50] Speaker A: Yeah. And this team, this year is really exciting for Knicks fans. It is. It's. It brings back the feeling of the nineties. Like, this team has potential, you know? And, man, the energy in that building was just unbelievable. [00:03:04] Speaker B: Wasn't there, like, an incredibly dramatic game recently? [00:03:07] Speaker A: That was game two. [00:03:08] Speaker B: Okay. Yeah. [00:03:09] Speaker A: I mean, we. We were at game one, which they won, but, yeah, game two, the ending of game two was just also just. Yeah. I mean, seriously, the, the. Just the volume level and the intensity was incredible. So I brought my two girls. One of them, it was her second game, and the other, it was her first Knicks game ever, and she's been asking, and it's her birthday this month, so you set a tough bar. I know. [00:03:33] Speaker B: Winning team. [00:03:34] Speaker A: I mean, granted, I, like, I just really wanted to go, so I got the tickets, but there's nothing wrong with. [00:03:39] Speaker B: Dadding with a little bit of selfishness involved. Like, guys, this is cool. Yeah, exactly. [00:03:44] Speaker A: Yep, yep. Anyway, how are we doing on our work week here? [00:03:52] Speaker B: Pretty good. I have a board meeting coming up next week, and that looks different than the last time I had a board meeting, so that part's interesting. And we are kind of locked and loaded. We have our concept. We've been doing a lot of tech discovery, and next week, team starts building an MVP. And that's what we've been talking about. What is an MVP? What's necessary? What's v one? Right. Is v one just for us internally to show on a demo? Where does it turn into something that people can use? How much time do you want to spend? A lot of the conversations we're having, especially in this new category in AI, you're trying to figure out what the stack looks like because it's a little different. And then what you start to realize is it's hard to decipher which parts of the stack are adding which elements of value to the product, because there's always like. So we're doing stuff with AI voice. So if you go to a site like Deepgram, and you see what it offers sounds really interesting. Okay. And then you go to a different site, poly AI or whatever else, and it'll offer something different, but a little more. And all of it you want to leverage. At least our point of view on this is we want to leverage existing tech, especially on the infrastructure side, we don't want to rebuild that. That's not where we're going to add value. But it's tough to know what's worth. [00:05:26] Speaker A: What'S available to everyone. [00:05:28] Speaker B: Yes. What is a commodity, what is actually adding value? What should we build internally compared to what should we rely on? And where's the danger in relying on a new startup that has great looking tech but may not be around in a year? [00:05:42] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:05:43] Speaker B: So it's a different set of decisions than, well, AWS is going to be there forever and these other things will be there forever. [00:05:50] Speaker A: Yep. I think the biggest, I'm all for the idea of like going headfirst into an AI based software product. You know, there's a lot of debate over like, oh, just don't, you know, but. [00:06:02] Speaker B: Right. Don't build a wrapper. Everyone that built a wrapper that I know is making money like crazy. [00:06:07] Speaker A: Exactly. I think the bigger risk of that. So if you are going in that direction, then I would think that the bigger risk is going super broad into the areas where it's likely that Google and Apple and Microsoft and Amazon and all them are just going to have that solution if they don't already have it already. Or it's such a broad solution that don't reinvent the wheel for everything. I think where you add the value or the benefit is sort of in the marketing, in the wrapper for the niche industry, the use case, where it's just going to be way too specific for a Google to come out with a Google like thing, thing of a jig, right? Yeah. For Google to do Google Docs or Google to do list or Google Calendar, it doesn't make sense to try to reinvent something like that. But. [00:07:10] Speaker B: Where do you want to add value? Some things feel and I personally. [00:07:19] Speaker A: I think there's nothing wrong with doing something knowing that you are already going to have competitors out of the gate and there's going to be many more competitors in the future because you all have the same access to the same tech. But yeah, we're in an ocean here where it's still pretty new and especially when you go into these industries where they don't even think about AI at all yet. [00:07:44] Speaker B: If you can assume that a lot of things will not only exist but also get really good, then where do you want to compete? You don't want to compete there where things get commoditized and everyone just has access to the same amazing tech. Like, so what if you have amazing tech? So, yeah, that's what I've been thinking a lot about and learning about competitors. [00:08:02] Speaker A: And just curious to know. So I think where we left off, if I remember correctly. So you've already talked about on the podcast last time that like, okay, you're not going for a tool that's like selling into SaaS, looking more outside of the SaaS world and outside of your personal network of people. And so you're investigating this different applications of AI, you're looking at voice stuff. How about the talking to customers? How much of that are you doing? Are you finding it more difficult to go into this, like, foreign industry? Do you know which industries you're talking to? [00:08:41] Speaker B: Yes. So the danger here is that you find this amazing tech and you see this type of solution that you envision, and then you go looking for the problem. That's the danger. And I have gotten comfortable on that for a few reasons. One, I see the problem out there. I see competitors thriving. I listen to podcasts with the founder of the competitors, and I'm reading between the lines and I'm looking at the funding, and I'm getting a decent view of, no, there's definitely a problem here. And I talked to people that I got introduced to over the last week that run these types of companies. So the problem is validated to a degree. [00:09:22] Speaker A: I think that's an interesting thing. Just to pause on that for a second. The idea of validation, I feel like this does need, and there's so many different types of, there are different levels of validation, like validating that the problem exists, validating that it's a problem worth paying for by a certain customer. Validating that you can deliver the solution, validating that you can reach those customers easily. So there's so many different things that you need to validate along the way. But I think that there's some outdated, classic, traditional advice around validation that maybe needs to be retired a little bit. [00:09:59] Speaker B: Yes. [00:10:02] Speaker A: I mean, we came up in the lean startup and probably before that, all this sort of like advice around, you have to talk to customers and have customers verbally tell you, yes, this is a problem that I'm willing to pay for, and there's all sorts of stories and advice around, like those commitments, you need to get their commitment, you need them to pay you upfront, pre buy or write you a check or all this stuff. Yes, but I think that, like, that comes from a world where it's like we are inventing new things that have never existed before. So we need empirical data, proof that these are truly problems. But in today's world, in 2024 every single category, every single niche category has been solved. You can just go see that there are definitely customers paying for that solution or paying for a version of that. It's just completely obvious. This is definitely something that people pay for. It's almost like, so you still need to validate, but you can sort of step to the next level of validation. It's like, can we reach those customers? Can we build that? And can we build it in time? And can we? Yeah. [00:11:14] Speaker B: And there's also an element that I always keep in mind that coming out with an amazing product also expands the market. More. People that weren't using a similar solution now believe that it can solve their problem and it creates more potential customers. I mean, Shopify, one of the best examples. When Shopify came out, like, there were a bunch of e commerce platforms out there, and if you looked at the universe of online stores, it would not be an exciting business. [00:11:48] Speaker A: Right. [00:11:49] Speaker B: They've talked about their difficulty in raising money because the market wasn't that big. But then you put out an amazing solution with an ecosystem and it actually drives demand for your product by expanding your tam directly. So this has been an interesting conversation. Some tension, nothing negative, but internally, at the leadership level with us, this is the stuff we've been talking about in terms of, is it validated? Should we start building? Should we talk to people first? And I got to a point where I was comfortable enough, and then I also looked at the downside. What's the downside? Our entire team builds for the next six weeks, and then we decide, you know what? We don't like this. [00:12:34] Speaker A: And that's the other thing. I think we talked about this a few weeks ago, like, how much did you lose the time risk of building an MVP and having it, having a product in hand that you can show to a customer saying, do you want to buy this and use it today? Yes or no? Right. [00:12:48] Speaker B: So the way I've positioned it to the team is, and it's such good. [00:12:52] Speaker A: For better signal to get back of like, here's a real product. Tell me if you are going to put this into use today and buy it, versus, like, would you theoretically buy a product that looks like this picture that I'm going to show you? Like, that's such bullshit. [00:13:05] Speaker B: Yeah, it's right. It's not the same thing. And in reality, you don't need to build a polished admin and an onboarding and everything else to get to that point of this. Sounds great. When do I start? Yeah, you don't need to build the full product. So I just said to myself, cause. [00:13:20] Speaker A: We'Ve seen it time and time again, like customers saying, yes, I will buy that even, and I've seen this personally, customers paying, pre paying for theoretical products. Yeah. And then in reality they don't use it. Yes, they paid for it, they even pay, you know, but they don't actually, they think that they'll use it in theory, but will they really? That's what a real product gives you. And it's, it's not that much risk to spend six weeks, eight weeks putting an MVP together. And yes it is possible to build in that, in that timeframe like it is. I don't care what people say. Like, no, people say, oh, software takes longer than you think. No, it doesn't have to. You can build fast. [00:14:00] Speaker B: Yeah, and we have a smaller team now and think that we can build faster. [00:14:04] Speaker A: Yeah, and I believe that too. Like fewer heads build faster and more heads. Exactly. [00:14:10] Speaker B: So we kind of are unleashing the team and the, where we've landed is at the very worst our team learns how to build an AI product and at the same time the go to market side. And that's like, let's hear from you after this. And then we'll talk about the go to market side, we'll learn how to go to market and then at worst we decide it's the wrong thing to pursue. And six weeks from today we're better off because we built instead of talked. And if we drop something, we pivot, we do something else, we're still better off. [00:14:38] Speaker A: So I'll say on the validation thing, the go to market stuff like this is probably an area where I don't have a great track record of early validation for my startups. I'm curious to know how you're thinking about this because looking back on a lot of my past stuff, I would have liked to go into new businesses already with a strong hypothesis of like, okay, once I build this, here is how I'm going to reach 1000 customers in the next six months. These channels, I feel strongly about these channels. I have evidence that these channels can work and that's where I'm going to throw the marketing dollars. Instead I went into a lot of products, like look, there's products in the market who do well. We're going to figure out ways to reach customers. There's a bunch of channels we can explore. We'll get to that. And then I experiment and try and it takes longer than I expected to reach organic word of mouth growth with customers. So are you like, we're going to go after these products and markets and we think ads is the way to get to them, or we think cold outreach is going to work, or are you thinking about that kind of stuff yet? [00:15:59] Speaker B: Sure. So we're trying to come up with like one passive channel and one active channel. So active being, let's get lists and get data and send emails and make phone calls, like kind of straightforward blocking, tackling activity every day, and then slightly more passive, where we're really using money as a leverage. And I think for that we run ads to a landing page. The goal over the next few weeks is to understand which industry, which people, which demographic or whatever type of customer raises their hand and says, we want this more than others. This is more valuable to us for reasons that you don't yet know, but you can learn in conversations. So that's the whole goal, is to avoid what you mentioned before, avoid being way too broad. Because, like, the call center for enterprise, like that space is insanely competitive. Already there are companies that have raised hundreds of millions, like young companies have raised hundreds of millions of dollars because that is such an obviously big industry and big potential that let them compete over that. I don't want to compete over that. I want to figure out which individual, small medium businesses raise their hand and say, we want that now and we're willing to go ahead of these other industries. So that's really the goal of the next few weeks, is to find those so that we can narrow ourselves down and say, this solution is for X, Y and Z. Yeah, not for everybody. [00:17:34] Speaker A: Yeah, I like it. [00:17:35] Speaker B: So running ads, I think. I actually think that this type of thing should be Instagram ads, video ads on Instagram. I've seen some amazing b two B ads. You look at Twitter from an hour before this conversation. I'm tweeting, asking for an agency that does it because I've seen some great b two B ads. And I think this is just general enough that we can just say it out loud of, you know, are you missing x, y, z? Do you want this? And then just see who comes in. And so what if it's wasteful? [00:18:06] Speaker A: It's really valuable to do anyway, you know, cold outreach. I mean, we all hate it, receiving it, but, like, it's true that when you niche down and especially when you're solving a very specific problem for exactly targeted, targetable group, it sort of continues to surprise me. Like, yeah, people do reply and positively on a regular basis. Like, we're still running it and cool. That is how cause we have a mix, I'm talking about clarity flow. We have a mix of Google search, we have a mix of word of mouth is kicking in, and we have direct outreach. Almost. No, basically no customers know who I personally am anymore. It's all just like they heard about it somewhere or, you know, and that's. That's how it sort of. And I think ads is something that I would like to get back into with clarity flow. At some point, we're starting to grow a little bit more and maybe, maybe pick off a little bit more profit to throw at some ads and try that. But, like, it's been nice to have this little product in my portfolio. It's a small portion of what I do. And we have these low cost channels that just bring. That's how you can reach customers without me screaming from the rooftops every day about coaching software. [00:19:38] Speaker B: Yes, yes. You just need the hunt for that channel. There is something that tells me, you know, this stuff just kind of is in the ether. People just start working on the same things at the same time. And it's also. It's definitely partly because now that I'm paying attention to it, I'm finding these competitors that I wouldn't have cared if they existed, you know, a month ago. But it definitely. Things like, things are bubbling up quickly. And the right approach, given where we are in our, like, vc track, would be to find the most efficient channels with the most efficient onboarding and look to grow incredibly fast. So if something works, I will throw $250,000 into an ad campaign. Over one quarter is kind of the mindset that we. [00:20:27] Speaker A: That's where you have the advantage of, like, of the firepower, you know? [00:20:31] Speaker B: Yes. So all these things are super interesting between product and engineering and marketing and sales, because it's like, no, we have these parameters that we need to hit. It cannot be. I just looked at an enterprise version of what we're doing that I heard is growing really well, like from five ARR to 25 million ARR over the last year. [00:20:53] Speaker A: Right. [00:20:54] Speaker B: Sick. But you go to their site and it's very enterprise, it's very requested demo, and it's very, we'll get you up and running within six weeks. And we have to be like, no, we're going to get you up and running in 30 minutes. [00:21:07] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:21:08] Speaker B: And then later on, if you want to customize all these things, you can do more. But it feels like that is, that's the attack angle that we should take into the market, even if it's not as good just to get the distribution as far and wide as possible, as quickly as possible. So that's like the right mindset for us. [00:21:28] Speaker A: I like it. [00:21:29] Speaker B: Yeah, we'll see. What's up with you? [00:21:32] Speaker A: I thought I would try to get a little bit more philosophical this week. So today on my YouTube channel, I published something that I was a little questionable of whether I should publish it. But the title of this video is called I burned out. And I think I actually did have a form of burnout a couple months back, right around the turn of this year. And I think I talked a lot about this on this podcast, but I think it was really the aftermath of about a three year period of going hard on, just putting a lot of pressure on myself to make a SaaS startup business work and get profitable and nail product market fit and grow into a business that just can ride off into the sunset. Right. That has been the goal. And I still own and I still run clarity, flow. And I've talked about, I don't know, there's a lot of listeners who sort of like, pop into this podcast from time to time, or there's new listeners, there's longtime listeners. But anyway, I don't wanna rehash everything that went on in the, in the past, you know, couple years here. But what I, what I came to realize, and I'm. The realization that I have this week is that, you know, now I'm back to my roots. I'm. A few months past this, I had like, a physical burnout. Like, I had shingles in my body. I had a lot of issues that I've never dealt with in my life. A lot of painful shit went on and I was like, where is this even coming from? You know, like, back aches, headaches, body pains with all of it. And it comes at a time when I am. I have been in some of the best adult shape of my life. [00:23:26] Speaker B: So it's like, these are like physical manifestations. [00:23:28] Speaker A: Yeah. I've actually been eating really healthy for the past year. I lost a bunch of weight. I've been working out. So it's not like I've been. I've had poor habits, but I was still experiencing a lot of these issues. I was like, where is it coming from? Clearly, it's stress, right? And so anyway, I'm a few weeks and months out of that now, and I'm starting to look at a high level of my week to week work life here. And basically I'm trying to operate with this no pressure mindset. You know, I'm back to my roots. As a bootstrapper. And what I mean here is, like, I'm still building a business, I'm still investing in assets, but I have removed the level of urgency that I was operating under for those three years. [00:24:19] Speaker B: So you think that was, like, self. A lot of it was self generated? [00:24:22] Speaker A: Oh, 100%. Yeah. [00:24:24] Speaker B: Okay. [00:24:24] Speaker A: Right. And, I mean, a lot of it was, like, actually logistically, like, I want to put this pressure on myself to, like, I, like, I sold all of my businesses in 2020 to go all in on a single product idea and focus all of my time, energy, resources, funds, all of it, on. On making this one thing work right now. Fast forward to 2024. I'm back to kind of splitting between, like, you know, I've got my. The way that I look at my week. So, like, this week, I feel like was a. Was a good slice of an example of what a typical work week should look like for myself in this new phase of my career. A no pressure, like, taking a no pressure approach. Like, I started to feel a little bit better about, like, look, I just show up every week and I do what I need to do, and then I'm almost treating it more like a job, even though I still own a portfolio of businesses. So, like, as long as I show up every week and I'm doing these three things, I'm investing in my audience by creating something on YouTube. I'm investing in products right now. Clarity flow is. Is the main product that I own. And I, and I maintain that with my team. I'm basically answering their questions and I'm helping them run it. And then I'm paying the bills. I'm doing consulting, doing this instrumental products. Currently, I'm doing a lot of UI and Ux consulting with SaaS companies. And that's how I split out my week. I literally spend, like Monday, I spent the day writing a script for a new YouTube video. Tuesday into Wednesday, I worked on these client projects doing UI and Ux refresh work. Thursday was recording day. I recorded that video and I edited it and I published it, sent it to my newsletter. And then here we are. On Friday, I'm doing the podcast and I'm sort of catching up on little bits and things. And throughout the week, every day, I do like an hour or two of product work on clarity flow, like answering the team's questions and things like that. But overall, it's like, as long as I'm investing in growing the audience and investing in my products portfolio and investing in bootstrapping a solid income for myself this year, like, I'm starting to feel a level of calm that I don't think that I had before. I was in Florida two weeks ago with my wife. We had a little mini vacation, and I talked about how I didn't really work too much while I was down there. I worked a little bit on writing a script for YouTube, but that was not that much. But compare that to the year before when we did a big trip to Asia. I worked my ass off throughout that whole trip. Every single day I was shipping product stuff on clarity flow, feeling insane amounts of pressure to literally do real workdays while I'm on this beautiful vacation. But last week in Florida, I was like, I don't. I don't even have any projects that I should know be working on. I don't feel the guilt of needing to work on a project while I'm away. I'm on vacation, and even now at home, I still put in full work days. I still work hard when I'm sitting here in the office, but I can come out of work and enjoy a Knicks game or play the guitar. What it just. I'm starting to remove the guilt of. And the pressure is what I'm trying to get at. [00:28:05] Speaker B: I guess what I want to ask is, what's the difference between this week where it's successful in having a calm head and not feeling in a rush and not feeling stressed and a few months ago, is it. Is it mindset? Is it just completely in our heads? [00:28:25] Speaker A: Yes. The answer is yes. I think the other thing about it, and this is where a little bit of you and me, I think for the last couple of years, we've been on very, very parallel tracks. We've been doing this podcast for ten years. [00:28:40] Speaker B: I can't believe that. [00:28:41] Speaker A: It's incredible. We've had multiple businesses, each of us in different stages, different types of businesses, all this. But I feel like the last three years have been really interesting for us because we've been on very parallel but different tracks, but we've both been trying to build a new product and hit product market fit and pivoting, and we've both been going through that right. For me now for the first time in a long time that I can't even remember the last time. Like, I'm just not interested in chasing product market fit for a new thing right now. Like I was a year and a half ago when I did the big pivot into clarity flow. But even just a few months ago, when I was experimenting different ideas for instrumental products and this full stack founder concept for my YouTube channel. And what products is this going to grow into? What's going to be the next startup idea, the next SaaS product that I get into. And I'm sure I'm going to do another product. I'll probably do many more products at some point, but right now I'm kind of enjoying, like, not stressing out about trying to find a product idea and make a new thing work. I'm just kind of putting in the reps every week and just showing up to my job. And my job is to make a YouTube video, maintain my product portfolio clarity flow, and do some good quality consulting work that's paying the bills. [00:30:17] Speaker B: You know, maybe it's, maybe it's having patience. Maybe it is just a different season. Yeah, right. It is amazing how much is just completely in between our ears as I am building a new product and looking for product market fit. But I don't feel that stressed. Yeah, you know, part of it is, you know, Runway adjustments. So that specifically on purpose not to feel stressed. So, yeah, it's tricky, man, because I want to have a lot of urgency. [00:30:56] Speaker A: But I think a few years ago. [00:30:58] Speaker B: I think just stress, just pressure. That's, it's not that productive. Urgency is good, but pressure and stress and unhappiness and tension and disappointment and guilt. Like, how do you have one without the other? [00:31:11] Speaker A: It's very personal to each and every person. And this is why I can't stand it when I just see these, like, blanket pieces of advice thrown out there on Twitter and whatnot, where it's like, you should do this, you should not do that. No, you don't know. You, you don't know what that person is going through or what they value or where they're coming from or what they even, how they even define success. So you can't, you can't dictate how they're going to perceive your blanket advice. So I think that every person is different in that way. I think for me, like, one of the things was a few years ago I tried, you know, talk about different seasons, like, I tried on the idea of, like, let's purposely layer on the urgency. Let's purposely go put all my chips in this one bet. And I thought that that was my tactic to make a SaaS business work, was to go all in. And I'm really just speaking for myself here. I know that a lot of people have success going this route as they should, but I think now, a few months after my experience with what I think was probably some form of physical burnout was, you know, for me, removing that urgency is actually makes me more effective overall. Like, I'm even just having like, more creative ideas on like, how to do consulting well with, with clients. You know, like the form of consulting that I'm doing now with like UI and ux work for SaaS companies. Like, I'm just reentering that world of doing that type of work for the first time in ten years. And I'm even finding interesting creative ways to add value and just really enjoy the work. But it's still a super high level of importance for me that I am always investing in my own assets. I'm not trying to have a job. I'm not trying to get a job. Above all, I need to be owning my business. I'm not trying to get out of the game here. That's right. But to me, the game is now much longer term and slower and calmer. It's like for the first time I'm starting to really settle into that mindset. Whereas I had that mindset before, 510 years ago. And then the last three years I went to the urgency thing and I took on some investment and I sold my businesses. And now I'm trying to get back to the true slow and steady bootstrapper. Do a couple of things here, do some consulting there, and just let it ride out. Eventually some things are going to fall into place as long as I show up and invest in the right things, like growing the audience, products, consistency. [00:34:09] Speaker B: Yeah. There is something around the urgency that ends up being counterproductive. It's pretty tough to be creative under pressure and stress and guilt and disappointment. And if you let, if you ease up a little bit, you can kind of find different things and your brain goes different places. [00:34:31] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:34:31] Speaker B: I think back to the last few times that in the last few stretches of real stress, I think back to card hook growing really fast. But all of us knowing this is, this is not sustainable because the product has issues. And it was kind of like everyone was like, you're so, you guys are doing so amazing. You're so smart. And then underneath it was like, actually this, the wheels are about to come off. [00:34:58] Speaker A: Right. And I actually touched on this in the YouTube video that I put out. That to me is one of the best types of pressure. And urgency is like, you're not stressed about how to grow this business, you're managing the growth of this business. Right? [00:35:17] Speaker B: Yeah, it's good stress. [00:35:19] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:35:20] Speaker B: But still put me in a pretty tricky spot. Then I think about fundraising and I think about the transition from cardiff to rally. That was very stressful. Those were the only. What I came up with in those situations, in terms of an approach and a mindset, was happy warrior, for lack of a better term, it was. I have to find a way to feel really grateful to go into this really stressful day. Yeah, I gotta go ask four more people if they want to invest in the company. I don't have any confidence that they're gonna say yes. Cause the last 18 people said, said no. And so that's what's gonna happen today. But I have to find a way to really like my job and enjoy what I'm doing and feel lucky and grateful and whatever that takes. Whether that's looking at things from a different angle on, hey, I get to work from home, I saw my kids this morning. Whatever combination of things to kind of get into that right mindset of, I get to go to war today. Aren't I lucky? [00:36:19] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:36:19] Speaker B: So in all those environments, I think works to an extent, but there is. There is a more ideal approach, which is just being happy and putting in work. [00:36:31] Speaker A: Yeah. You know, I think also now that I'm talking about it, like, the other. The other thing that made it a lot harder than I wouldn't have expected this to be, as hard as it was for me, is the transition back and forth between these different big entrepreneurial strategies. Right. So, again, three years ago, three and a half years ago, I made the decision to abandon what. What had been sort of working for me for, like, ten years, which was like, bootstrapping, self funded. I had productized services, I had some audience stuff, I had a portfolio of stuff, and I kept layering on. I sold a thing here and there along the way, but I. But I kept just, like, making small adjustments, starting a product, leaving a product, letting one coast for a while, relatively small changes over those years. And then in 2020, I sold it all, and I went all in. And at the time, that was a really exciting and energizing thing to do. I made a bunch of money on those sales, and then I took a bit of investment, and then I went all in on this new SaaS thing that was getting really good traction at the time. And so then it was like, three years of, okay, I'm all in, but what I didn't, and I'm glad that I tried that, but looking back on it, like, it probably wasn't the right move for me. And what I didn't expect was coming out of it, like, getting my again, like, the turn from 23 to 24 was like, the turmoil of getting back, like, resetting, that was a lot harder physically, mentally, and just logistically. [00:38:18] Speaker B: Isn't that funny, though, right around the same time? [00:38:22] Speaker A: Yeah, I guess so, yeah. You mean with rally? [00:38:26] Speaker B: Yeah, with the checkout product and, like, figuring out how to come to terms with, hey, I don't actually think this is gonna work. That's almost the easiest thought to happen. [00:38:36] Speaker A: Well, it was also interesting, the time. Okay, all right, good. Go ahead. [00:38:40] Speaker B: I want to just draw this parallel to you because I think I heard similar things from you. Making the decision or having the thought, I don't think this is. I don't think I should spend all my time on this, or basically, like, this isn't gonna work out the way I wanted it to. That's like, step one of ten. The other nine steps are like, how do I become okay with that? How do I not regret everything I just did for the past year? How do I justify, like, all these things to untangle emotionally and psychologically, to then be like, I feel okay with making that decision? [00:39:20] Speaker A: Yes. You summed it up perfectly. Because I came to, I was literally looking at, like, the spread, the financial spreadsheet and everything. This was, like, in the fall of 2023. So around October, November, that's when I was like, you know what? Our Runway is not. We're just not going to get to profitability. As I was looking ahead to the next eight to 1012 months, at that point, I was like, I don't think we're going to make it unless something drastically changes. And I can't count on anything drastically changing. That's when I was like, just financially, look, this is not going to work. That was the fall of 23, and then it's like, December, January is when I'm starting to really make plans for 2024 and change. Okay? I'm going from 100% on this business down to 30% on this business. And that's when January, February is when these physical issues started to manifest. So it was almost like that. It was like. It was like the. The change happened a few months earlier, but, like, the physical thing, like, was like the. Was like the hangover of it, right? [00:40:37] Speaker B: One's just mental, and the other one is like this, like, confronting it with everything that it means for you. And here's the thing. Here's, I think, where we got to give ourselves credit and, like, everyone else listening, at first we say, screwed. I screwed up. You know, what did I do? Oh, my God. And then. And then you just give it a little time, and then you realize, you always have so many more options. [00:41:03] Speaker A: Yes. Yeah. [00:41:04] Speaker B: And then all of a sudden, the creativity starts to come back in, the guilt starts to go away, and then the excitement comes back around. Well, I can do this, and I can also do this. I bet I could just do this and send out a tweet, and all of a sudden this thing happens. And that's a goddamn entrepreneur right there. [00:41:19] Speaker A: Hell, yeah. [00:41:19] Speaker B: Crazy cycle. [00:41:21] Speaker A: And, I mean, yeah. And I'm like, I'm kind of picking up the pieces and rebuilding my income. Got a few really great clients that I'm working with, and I hired Kat on customer success, on clarity flow. And that's starting to grow again a little bit now. So it's like, yeah, yeah, it was a few months there, like, fear and everything, but then it's like, it's also like, well, the fear of, like, having to resort to these things. And then now. Now I'm sitting here and it's like, you know what? This stuff is actually pretty good. I'm actually enjoying this. Like, actually, the thing that you're. That you're afraid of is actually not all that bad at the end of the day. [00:41:57] Speaker B: And if you were giving advice to someone else about it, you would identify that much more easily than when it's for yourself. [00:42:03] Speaker A: Yeah. Yeah. [00:42:06] Speaker B: All right, well, we. [00:42:07] Speaker A: You know, I still think a lot about, like, theoretically, I would like my products portfolio to grow and fire up and spin up new product ideas. At some point, I'm sure I will. At some point. I don't know when, but, like. But even whenever I do that, it's like any project, any product that I do can have any number of outcomes. It could be a quick idea, goes nowhere. I learned something. Or it can get a little bit of traction, a little bit cash flow in my portfolio, or like what you had with card hook, the thing catches fire, and then you're managing its growth, you're figuring out how to. How to manage it, rather than right. Banging head against the desk trying to figure out how to grow it, you know? [00:42:49] Speaker B: Yeah. Oh, I want to get back to that. I do, I do. I want this next product to do that. There's so much, you know, it's. [00:43:00] Speaker A: It's. [00:43:01] Speaker B: It's more fun. It's more fun to deal with that. And even just because it's still difficult doesn't mean, you know, you don't want it. [00:43:08] Speaker A: Yeah. So what you were saying with the funding, and this is where our paths are really different, and you have the benefit of having gone the VC route. I only took a little bit of, like, what do you call it? Like, fund scrapping, but, you know, funding and, you know, with. With fund. And, you know, that's just a limited amount. And I was just not interested in, like, doing another follow on round with anyone. So that that did make it, like, more constrained of, like, what. What's going to change in the next ten months, where we're going to nail profitability, whereas you. You have a longer time horizon and Runway that. That you can really. And you have the firepower to throw at stuff, you know? [00:43:53] Speaker B: Yeah. So we. The corresponding problem with that is the. The hurdle. The hurdle is the preference stack, right. If you sell for the same amount of money that you raised, you as common stock, founders employees don't make any money. So you got to get over a hurdle. [00:44:11] Speaker A: Right. [00:44:11] Speaker B: We've raised $18 million, so if you sell for less now, I see that as still doable. If you have a successful software product, you can sell it for more than $18 million. So I kind of don't think about that, like, number to hit or hurdle to hit, because if it's successful, you can overcome that hurdle. Now, here's the thing I've been thinking about recently. Right now, things are quiet. Like, my inbox is quiet, like, my schedule is relatively quiet. Right. And going into this, I can't help but want some hybrid of the bootstrap versus vc experience. When I look at the product that we're building and the way we're building it, does it require a demo, or is it self serve? What is the pricing like? How much stress is put on by how high of a price it is, all these different factors. I want a calm version of growth. I don't want to grow the team super fast to just handle the growth. I want efficient growth. I kind of want the same dream as a three person bootstrap company. [00:45:26] Speaker A: Yeah, I feel like you can. You know, we were talking about this off air, I think, right before this recording. I was asking you, like, so this idea that you're working on exploring right now, is this a bootstrapper idea, or is this a vc idea? But you said something that was interesting. You said, how do I say it? You were like, as long as we're solving a problem that gets us into a paying relationship with lots of small businesses, there are many directions we can go off of that. Yes. [00:46:03] Speaker B: Your question came from, is that market big enough? Can that be that market big enough to use? [00:46:08] Speaker A: Business is niching down into a vertical industry. That's the bootstrapper playbook. Is that going to work for VC. [00:46:14] Speaker B: Playbook, but I'm half trying to build a bootstrapper dream business. [00:46:19] Speaker A: Yeah, but you know what? I think you're right. I think. I think you can sort of do it. Like, you can do it. You have the benefit of knowing how these bootstrapped businesses work. You can be successful as a bootstrapped company. Yeah. [00:46:31] Speaker B: And then make money and then, like. [00:46:34] Speaker A: Almost like, be like the anti VC, but then still make all the money. [00:46:38] Speaker B: Whatever that means, is what I'm going for. [00:46:41] Speaker A: What I mean is like, you don't need to go hire 50 people to execute on this vision, but then you have the benefit of, like, okay, once you do, you know, scrap, you know, scrape and claw to 100 customers, then comes in the big guns, and then you can do all the things that the bootstrap companies can't do at buying up a hydro website or doing these paid ad campaigns or. Or, you know, just all of it. [00:47:10] Speaker B: Right. [00:47:10] Speaker A: Just buying out the boots at all the conferences. Like, you can do all that stuff that a bootstrapper is just not going to do, you know? [00:47:17] Speaker B: Yes. Which is why I just find identifying a problem that people are willing to pay for and that there are is a large potential market for it is kind of enough of a breadcrumb. You don't see that far into the distance. [00:47:28] Speaker A: And then what you were saying was, like, even if the initial product that you roll out and you get a couple hundred customers on, even if that turns out to not be big enough, now you've got the foot in the door now. Now you can pivot or expand off of that. And. Yeah. [00:47:45] Speaker B: Right. Will businesses be spending more or less on AI in the future? Pretty straightforward. It'll be more where that goes. And what we're seeing now is this, from a product point of view, a very, like, wide. We have all the features. We can do everything for you around voice, and I think we're better off, you know, whatever that land and expand type of approach would be, where it's one really, really, really specific, painful problem and we nail that, and then later on we add effectively the other features or the other products that the other companies have right now. But our entry point was through this one area that was really, really painful. And that is what got a small business to effectively hire an AI agent for the first time, as opposed to needing. For me, the key word that I have to focus on is skepticism, because you and I love the tech. Before this podcast, I sent Brian a clone of my voice. [00:48:54] Speaker A: Dude, we got to do an AI version of our podcast at some point. [00:49:00] Speaker B: So I pinged Brian. I was like, yo, Brian, send me a recording, one of our podcasts or something. So I ended up using voice memos on Apple. I talk for 30 seconds, I upload my voice, and now I have a clone of my voice. And then I can write whatever I want, and then my voice says it. I send it to my brothers and my dad, and they were like, WTF? They were like, are you trying to tell me that that was not you? So it's easy to be enamored with the tech. Cool. [00:49:27] Speaker A: It's like, what can we do with this? What's the use case? [00:49:29] Speaker B: What can we do with it? And a small business owner is going to be really skeptical. You want me to do what? You want me to put customers on the phone with this machine and have my reputation at stake? That skepticism is the whole ballgame. And so I think it's easier to overcome that skepticism in a very narrow use case. Then all of your customer service is now handled by a robot. Like, I don't. I don't think most small businesses will go for that. [00:50:01] Speaker A: Yeah, I feel like if I can, I don't even know which. Which industry or what actual use case or solution you're gonna end up going after, but I feel like it'll. It'll end up being like, let us just prove it to you. Like, hire us, and we will set it up and do it for you and deploy it, and we'll show you. [00:50:22] Speaker B: Right in this one area. [00:50:24] Speaker A: These. These are the leads that you. That we're delivering that you didn't have before. Yes. [00:50:29] Speaker B: I'm in. [00:50:32] Speaker A: Nice, man. [00:50:33] Speaker B: What else, man? [00:50:33] Speaker A: What you gonna scheme? [00:50:35] Speaker B: So they're still in it, right? [00:50:37] Speaker A: They're still winning? Yeah. I don't know if my bank account can. [00:50:39] Speaker B: Can handle that, but no, sporting events are no joke. You can drop thousand bucks on a random night out, no problem. [00:50:48] Speaker A: Especially New York. What was interesting was last night was game three in Philadelphia. And, like, there are. There are a lot of Knicks fans. You could just hear them on tv. Like, like, these, like, Philly tickets are, like, so much cheaper than just going to Madison Square Gardens. All these New Yorkers are going to go to the Philly games, right? [00:51:03] Speaker B: Take a train. [00:51:05] Speaker A: Here's the thing. So I've been talking about, and this is sort of just bubbling up as. I'm just observing the consulting work that I'm doing right now. I think I forgot if I talked about this or not last couple of episodes. So I've been basically working with a weekly rate. Okay. And I book out like one or two clients at any given time, and I'm booked out for the next month or two. And mostly what I've been doing is working with SaaS companies, doing like, taking their old, janky, outdated interfaces that have worked from a business standpoint, but they just need an upgrade into modern UI, ux, Tailwind CSS, modernized things. I come in and I redesign, but I also deliver coded tailwind CSS templates and components to deliver. That's a really common thing for SaaS companies. We all know of these component libraries. There's tailwind UI. But what's interesting, and I've done this for my own in clarity flow. Now, it's evolved to a point where we have our own custom dropdown component and our own custom menu component, or what's that called? [00:52:28] Speaker B: Like, component library. [00:52:30] Speaker A: Yeah, yeah. Like, I've built out, like, my own component library. [00:52:34] Speaker B: Design system. [00:52:34] Speaker A: Yeah, design system. So, like, everything looks consistent in the app, but it's also really efficient for me and my team to maintain, especially when raising, like, talent classes on everything. And so, and so, like, that's one of the things. Like, one client that I'm working with, they have, like, an admin dash, like a customer admin dashboard that's getting a total makeover. But, like, the thing that I'm doing is building a components library for them to pull from, and then I'm doing that with another client. And so it's like, I'm starting to formulate an idea. I don't know if I would call this a productized service, but it might be dialing in this type of service even more. What I wrote down here was your own private UI component library as a service. So, like, instead of, like, it sets. [00:53:25] Speaker B: You up for the future. [00:53:26] Speaker A: Yeah, like, yeah, there are these, like, public libraries that you can buy or that you can use, but those are sort of generic, and you still need to tweak them and adapt them to your own app. But when you hire someone like me or any other, you know, Ui designer, what you end up doing is you're building your own internal component library. You're redesigning some screens, but then in the process, you're saying, like, this is how all of our dropdowns should work, not just this one or all of our menus or all of our forms or all of our pop up modals or all of our slide overs, whatever it is. And I don't know, I'm starting to think that's sort of an interesting way to position myself or my consultancy as, like, you have a SaaS app. You already have all these components across your whole app. Let's standardize them, let's modernize them, and let's build you out your own private components library that you and your team can just pull from anytime. I don't know. I'm starting to, like. I like to observe my work and observe what customers respond to and see how I can better position that or package it or productize it or whatever that might be. That's just an idea that sort of came up this week, actually. [00:54:44] Speaker B: You know, is that, like, that's the end product that you leave off with, like, improvement and then this is an asset for you for the future? I mean, that. That's worth a lot on its own. [00:54:58] Speaker A: Yeah. Like, right now on instrumentalproducts.com, which is, like my little site where I. It's not even used much. It's mostly my network right now, but. But that's where I've, like, written up my consultancy, a sales pitch, but that's a few months old. Whenever I rewrite the copy on that, I feel like I should reposition it toward UI Ux and maybe start to focus on your own private UI component library for your SaaS as a service or as a thing that you can purchase from me a block of work. I don't know. That's an interesting thing. [00:55:33] Speaker B: Excellent. I'm going to try to be in the market as soon as possible. Hopefully by next week. We are emailing people and asking this to talk. [00:55:42] Speaker A: Right on. [00:55:42] Speaker B: So hopefully I have some real world kind of feedback in the short term. [00:55:46] Speaker A: Yeah, there we go. [00:55:49] Speaker B: In the meantime, let's have a great weekend. [00:55:51] Speaker A: Yes, sir. All right, thanks, everyone. Later, folks.

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