February 16, 2024


New Directions

Hosted by

Jordan Gal Brian Casel
New Directions
Bootstrapped Web
New Directions

Feb 16 2024 | 00:54:03


Show Notes

AI everywhere.  Zuck's shots fired.  Committing to the new direction.  Customer success.  "Starter for hire" consultancy concept.  Skiing.  Birthdays.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:17] Speaker A: Bootstrapped web. We are back. We had a couple of weeks off. Some travel, some I got my big snow tiny comps out of the way. I'm back at it at home and enjoying a lot of snow over here in the northeast right now. Jordan. How you doing, budy? [00:00:34] Speaker B: I'm pretty good. I have been hearing a lot about the snow. I've been very casually wintering here in Chicago. It's been nice and easy. Brian, I think we should tell people that this isn't a real podcast. This is actually just a sentence prompt in OpenAI's new tool. [00:00:52] Speaker A: We may or may not be real. [00:00:54] Speaker B: That's right. Everything that you hear and see right now was generated from that one prompt. [00:01:01] Speaker A: That's correct. I think we sound pretty accurate. Yeah, we're almost. [00:01:08] Speaker B: How much longer do we actually have to work? As opposed to just writing a prompt of could you just do this work for me today? [00:01:14] Speaker A: And then even that really, we just need to sit in a chair and think thoughts, and then they just become reality. [00:01:21] Speaker B: I like that. And then we can set up an AI to do the thinking for us of those thoughts and then the other ais could do the work and we could be out in the world walking around. [00:01:34] Speaker A: It was pretty cool in our vision pros. [00:01:36] Speaker B: Of course, it was cool to see AI kind know freaking out again this week with that. And my favorite part of the week was Mr. Zuckerberg just sitting on a couch, tearing a new one into Apple. And most importantly, being completely know. [00:01:58] Speaker A: He made some good points. And I just love the raw video recording, which I guess he had someone else use the quest headset to record. It's. It's barely edited at, you know, it's just so interesting. By the way, I went into an Apple store and I tried on the vision pro just to get their little demo. I didn't intend to buy it or anything. They thought I was going to buy it. I was like, yeah, I'm not buying this. I just want to check it out. True. Which is also interesting, just to experience their sales process, which frankly, I wasn't all that impressed with as a sales process. [00:02:35] Speaker B: But they are used to being in such a powerful position in that sales process that they give off a very dismissive air. They literally say, welcome, we know you want to pay us $1,000, take a number and wait. Which is a very. [00:02:51] Speaker A: The whole thing was very. I feel like we could talk about that, but let's come back to that. But the Zuckerberg thing, I love it because as a spectator of business, and tech. It's just so cool to see the CEO, the original founder of what are they, like a trillion dollar company just taking shots at the direct competitor and just be like, yo, we're better. [00:03:25] Speaker B: But then going like feature for feature. [00:03:29] Speaker A: When I watched it, like making a case. [00:03:31] Speaker B: Yes. When I watched it, like the growing realization inside me of my guy knows the features of his product better than I know the features of my, like. [00:03:43] Speaker A: Yeah, it just shows you how embedded in the process he is, how passionate he is about product. [00:03:51] Speaker B: Still got the fire. Still got. [00:03:53] Speaker A: I'm not a big fan or user of Facebook itself anymore. I barely even touch threads anymore. I've got a lot of complaints about Facebook's ads product that obviously makes them a ton of money. But yeah, it is really cool to just see. I don't really see any other CEO doing that. And you wouldn't expect Tim Cook to do like a response video or anything like that, right? [00:04:24] Speaker B: He's a politician at this point. And everything's very careful and very calculated. It's Zuck and Elon. That's the show. That's the most entertaining thing in business. [00:04:38] Speaker A: Again, this is one of those takes that I'm lifting from John Gruber and Ben Thompson. I really love their podcast and their writing on stuff like this. But they make the great point that the original founder is a different animal than the CEO who is not the original founder of any company. And especially at that high level, they approach things differently. Maybe it's a higher willingness to take huge risks and huge swings, whether it's product wise or pr wise or whatever. It might be like a Zuckerberg or an Elon musk just thinks about and approaches their role much differently than a Tim Cook or Sachin Nadella because they started it. They remember when they were in the bedroom or in the garage. And it's different for a non founder CEO. [00:05:41] Speaker B: Yeah. It might also be like a dna thing and just personality because they don't need to do anything. They don't need to do anything ever again, period. [00:05:53] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:05:54] Speaker B: And yet they're doing it because they want to. That's right. And it's certainly their freedom involved in that where. [00:06:05] Speaker A: The competition, like they want to win, they want to create the. [00:06:10] Speaker B: Honest manifestation of who they are and what they want to do. There's no pressure behind it. They don't care about the salary. None of it matters other than the fact that I can do whatever I want and this is actually what I want to do. It's fun to watch. [00:06:24] Speaker A: Let's talk about the Apple store for a curious. So actually, I went into an Apple store twice since the vision pro came out. Right. The first time. I just happened to be in an area where there was an apple store, and I walked in. I was like, oh, that might be cool to try it on. I walk in, and mind you, it was not crowded in this Apple store at the time. It was in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. This was in New Haven, Connecticut, near Yale and stuff, and it was not crowded. There were a couple of vision pros sitting there on the table. Okay. And I was like, I told the guy, I was like, can I try one on? Can I try it out? And he was like, let me slot you in for a personalized demo. I was like, all right. I was like, can I do it now, like, in the next 10 minutes? And he was like, well, our next available one is 90 minutes from now. And then that sit down session is going to take about a half an hour. I was like, well, I'm leaving. I got other things to do today. [00:07:23] Speaker B: In SaaS world. [00:07:25] Speaker A: Yeah, unheard of. Like, what are you doing? [00:07:27] Speaker B: No, hold on. They're forcing you into a demo? Literally forcing. Of course. [00:07:32] Speaker A: Yeah. But I literally saw Apple store employees standing around doing like, you could give me the demo. Like, I don't know why you're making me wait an hour. So about a week later, I'm in a different Apple store, and same thing happened. I knew going in, they're going to force me into the demo, but we happened to be at this mall, and I was like, I know we're going to eat lunch, so let me just get on the list, and then I can come back here in an hour just to try it out. So I did that, and I'm there with my nine year old daughter. She's interested in all this stuff, too. And I was like, can she try it on just to see what it's like? She's like, no, can't put her in it because she was like, she needs her own sit down demo experience because we personalize it. I was like, well, all right, forget that. Very structured. [00:08:24] Speaker B: Wow. [00:08:24] Speaker A: Very structured. I tried to make it clear up front, like, hey, I'm a tech guy. I kind of know all this stuff. You don't have to explain it to me. Like, I'm five. And there was still a lot of that. I was pretty impressed with the demo. Just seeing some of the content and some of the demo things that they're showing me, especially sports, I got to say, is the most exciting thing. But yeah. Overall, I felt like I was led down this path that didn't really make me want to buy it anymore. There wasn't anything new that I hadn't seen online on YouTube or anything, like, super compelling. And I actually started to see your. [00:09:16] Speaker B: Needs or what might be most useful for you. [00:09:20] Speaker A: Yeah, there wasn't a lot of that. And frankly, I was more like noticing all the drawbacks or noticing all the shortfalls of a version one. I heard a lot of reviewers talk about the weight of the thing, and I definitely noticed that I could see how wearing this for an hour or longer could. [00:09:42] Speaker B: It's got that big cord. [00:09:44] Speaker A: It could weigh down. Yeah. And then the other thing that was immediately noticeable was like, it is not totally immersive. I could very clearly see the edges around the goggles, and even, I don't know if it wasn't fit to my face properly or something, but I saw the outside world out the sides of it, and I was like, I don't know, that's not great. Sports was the thing that was like. [00:10:13] Speaker B: Wow, can you get into that? Is it just a giant screen in front of you? What does this. [00:10:20] Speaker A: Movies in general are cool because it's a giant screen, so I could see how cool that would be to watch a movie on it. Sports. The thing with sports is that it's just not going to be available for most sports for probably many years to come. [00:10:33] Speaker B: There's additional content that goes along. [00:10:34] Speaker A: Content. And they got to have cameras in the stadiums to achieve a lot of this stuff. And content deals between Apple and NBA or MLB or NFL. But they showed a quick, like, ten second video clip of there was one of soccer where the camera is basically placed at the top of the goal and you're seeing it from behind the goalie and you're seeing these shots and you're, like, in it. It's as if you are as close to standing there next to the goalie as possible, which is, I'm not even a big soccer player or soccer fan. That was pretty cool. The other one was baseball. You're seeing like a Red Sox game, and it looks like they have some sort of camera in the dugout. Like you're in the dugout and you're watching a play. Like you are on the field. I didn't see, like a basketball thing, but I would be super interested to see what it would be like to watch an NBA game as if you're sitting courtside in this thing. That seems pretty. [00:11:39] Speaker B: It's a. I don't know how it ends as a win or not, right. Apple had a few of these product lines that just turned into the iPhone business itself is just like one of the biggest businesses in the world. It's one product line. I don't know if this does that. I heard an argument recently from our boy Zuck that glasses are the right form. Lightweight glasses. He likened that to your phone. Everyone relies on their phone. We know it's not perfect to have this thing in your pocket that you hold up and you bend over and you look down on. That's not ideal if you can have. [00:12:20] Speaker A: Effectively, a heads up display for your AR glasses. In your glasses, right. [00:12:25] Speaker B: Make your phone calls, do your things, like look at the weather, Twitter, like, whatever you're going to do. And then he talked about the headset as like a laptop. [00:12:35] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:12:35] Speaker B: So your phone is what you walk around with, and it's lightweight and so on. Then on your laptop, you kind of get work done and you do more stuff. [00:12:41] Speaker A: I mean, I think that's. [00:12:42] Speaker B: That you don't want to do on your phone. [00:12:44] Speaker A: I think that's sort of how Apple is looking at the vision pro. And it's interesting that their first version has the word pro in it. And they keep talking about this idea of spatial computing. You should think about this like a computer, and it's not like a walk around the world with this thing on. It's more like sit at home with the battery pack in your pocket and do your work in it or watch a movie. I thought that I would probably buy, like, version three, and now I'm starting to think, like, I'm probably waiting till version five or seven. [00:13:22] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:13:23] Speaker A: When it clicks, I could see we're further off than it seems from this. Being. [00:13:30] Speaker B: As a parent now I see my kid with the phone, and I see it as a necessary evil. It's not all bad. There are a lot of benefits. There's some pitfalls. You got to talk through them. It's one of these things where you can't pretend the world doesn't exist. You have to teach your kid the right way. But I have negative interest in seeing her put a headset on. [00:13:53] Speaker A: Right? [00:13:53] Speaker B: Like, no, thanks. It's already enough. When she walks into the car and goes right onto her phone, I'm like, hi, can we talk? I haven't seen you all. [00:14:00] Speaker A: I already see that with their iPads. My kids have iPads and it's like, okay, yeah, we're not super hard, maybe as hard as we should be with the screen time with them, but they spend a lot of time on that with their heads down. [00:14:17] Speaker B: Makes you aware of it. All right, dude, you want to talk some biz? [00:14:22] Speaker A: Let's do it, man. All right. [00:14:24] Speaker B: I had a big week. It was a stressful. I don't know if it's stressful is the right word. It was a lot of pressure on getting things done the right way. So this week I had a board meeting, and as we've talked about in the past, that focuses the mind and it forces us to articulate what's happening and why and all these other things. So what made this board meeting different is this is when I came to the board and effectively showed and laid out our thinking and logic and argument for this pivot that we're in the middle of. And so that's always helpful to just be forced to articulate, right. I'm calling it the board. There's one outsider, right, our lead investor, and then it's myself and rock and Jess. But it still has this sense of formality and importance that it does. So what if I text with know all the time, the investor from Arch capital. This takes that informal, ongoing conversation and it puts a marker once a quarter, we're going to get a little serious. [00:15:32] Speaker A: And there's some legal, some records that are being laid when you do this meeting, too. Yes. [00:15:39] Speaker B: Which is not top of mind, but it's there. So this is official and this is judged in the future and so on. [00:15:48] Speaker A: It's interesting because we were chatting about this off air before, but I guess, so in this context, the meeting is like you and this investor and then Rock and Jess, like you, Rock and Jess are already moving along in this. They. They know the deal at this point. [00:16:04] Speaker B: Rock and Jess and I are right. We're in it day to day. So what happens? Think about any company. It's just this constant evolution, these circles around new thinking, new strategies, learning mistakes. You just kind of keep going in this circular evolution from one thing to the next. And these board meetings are like a snapshot in time. Like, given the last three months of evolution and thinking and hypotheses being proven or not, where are you now? So that's kind of what it does. It doesn't stop that cycle. It just forces you to take a time out and say, here's our current understanding of where we are, what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong. This one was a bit more, like, dramatic of that version of that, because our conclusion is that, hey, we want to go in a different direction. And so that does require some data. [00:17:03] Speaker A: Yeah, that was going to be my next question. I know you've been experimenting with the new direction, with kind of selling this as marketing tools that you can apply to your checkout process rather than trying to overhaul the entire checkout flow. So what kind of experiments, what kind of data is convincing you that we're going this direction? [00:17:24] Speaker B: The most important thing is customer demand. That is by far the most important thing. There's other things, but by far the most important thing is when we have gone back into our lost pile in our CRM of prospects that we went through the sales process and they ended up not buying. When we went back to them and said, hey, we're doing this thing now, the percentage of those merchants that say, yes, that sounds interesting, we want to talk is very, very high. And we knew that along the way because the merchants, they were sent, they were telling us, we want your marketing features, we think that will work. This new checkout sounds great. And then between that initial interest and the decision to not sign a contract, that's the set of pitfalls and dangers that we are effectively naming as insurmountable at this stage, given our resources and the timing and the goals and the Runway, all these other things combined, that feels like we should stop trying to make that work and we should make this other thing work. And here's the evidence that is telling us that it makes sense, that that's a logical, smart thing for us to do. [00:18:48] Speaker A: Yeah. So you're seeing more demos booked, more sales conversations. [00:18:53] Speaker B: That's right. And so what we've named it happened to coincide with the beginning of the year. [00:19:02] Speaker A: Right. [00:19:02] Speaker B: Q one. And what Q one forces you to do the other piece of formality and requirement for the board is a budget with projections. So what's the next year going to look like? What are your projections? And show us the budget so that we're all approving a plan on how to spend money over the next year. And so looking at that is extremely helpful. We've talked about this multiple times. You look at an excel sheet and it talks to you, it tells you things. And so doing that, going through that exercise, the budget and projection exercise ahead of the board meeting, was even more. [00:19:43] Speaker A: Convincing because it changes the math on the Runway and just the approach and. [00:19:50] Speaker B: The revenue model and the pricing model and the go to market, and then it starts to bleed into, well, how do you pay salespeople and how many salespeople do you need? And all that. [00:20:00] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:20:01] Speaker B: So that was this week. And then as soon as that went out, I took all that work and put it into an investor update and let the entire investor group know. Right. Because that's, I don't even know. It's like 30 people or so. So now it feels like a burden off. We're not doing this on our own and we're not sure. We're not like some uncertainty. [00:20:25] Speaker A: Everybody knows the plan. Yes, it's official. We're going. [00:20:29] Speaker B: Yes. Obviously, you build up this fear around people's reactions. But when I wrote the investor update, I was in a good mood and I was in a confident mood because the board meeting went well and we convinced ourselves internally that this is the right move. We didn't just think it, we went through the work to show it, and then that felt great. And so when I wrote the investor update, I was writing it from a position of strength, and I think it comes out in the language of the update and in the framing. And so what I got back was very, very positive feedback. Shout out to rob walling. Always a good friend and a good supporter. He kind of wrote out a full, like, hey, this is a hell of investor update. All makes sense. We're behind you. Definitely not easy, but blah, blah, blah. So now I'm kind of riding high. It's Friday. At the end of the week. We went out, we made it all public. We kind of articulated the reasoning, the responses. Hell, yeah. Go get them. Let's see what you can do. [00:21:34] Speaker A: Love it. [00:21:35] Speaker B: Now it feels like the fresh opportunity kind of begins. [00:21:39] Speaker A: Yeah, that's great, man. I'm excited. Where are you at? There's product and then there's, like, marketing pipeline. What parts are like with this new direction? What parts are up and running, what parts are partially running, what parts are not built and shipped yet? What are your top priorities to get the new direction going? [00:22:06] Speaker B: So there's a split. Sales and marketing, not surprisingly, is ahead of product because sales, marketing requires changing documents and changing emails and changing words much easier than get features into a sprint, get them Qaed, get them deployed, and so on. So sales and marketing is ahead of product, and product is not far behind. And what that really means is, I guess from a product and engineering point of view, we're approaching it as a beta. First few customers are under a beta. It's not perfect. When you walk into the product and you sign up, there's still a screen that says checkout, where you can adjust your checkout logos and all this other stuff. [00:22:50] Speaker A: From a product standpoint, you're not building again from the ground up, you're more adapting your existing code base. [00:22:56] Speaker B: Yes. So if you think about our checkout, our checkout had these marketing features inside of the checkout. So our admin is like home, right, for analytics. And then there's checkout for all your checkout options, and then it's order bumps and then it's funnels, which are the post purchase offers. And so those two parts of the admin stay the same. It's the same building process and functionality and like a little building wizard or whatever you want to call it, that remains exactly the same. It's just that it goes on your checkout instead of ours. So eventually what we need to do. I know it's more complicated, but effectively comment out. [00:23:34] Speaker A: I was just going to say, you can just hide that link. [00:23:37] Speaker B: Yes. Can you just hide these tags right here? It's more complicated than that, but that's effectively what we're doing. The place where I am most interested, and I spent an hour and a half today in a long conversation, is pricing that I think is going to make or break. Might be a bit hyperbolic, but will have a huge, huge impact. And that has been evolving over the last few weeks. The most important thing this week externally is that we got our first verbal yes. So not only do we have prospects that we're talking to, but one of them has said, yes, I want to do this. And it was according to our almost ideal pricing, meaning I will pay you thousands of dollars upfront for the ability to use this product and then I will delay the decision on whether or not we want to stick with this forever off into the future. And that gives us the opportunity to perform. [00:24:40] Speaker A: Yeah. So they're effectively like paying for your development on it a little bit, or at least giving you the indicator we're willing to pay upfront for something in the future. [00:24:52] Speaker B: So we have these certain parameters that we're trying to hit. One of those parameters is upfront. There's got to be an element of upfront revenue. It's good for us because it helps effectively pay for our marketing expenses, so it basically fuels the sales. And we also want it because having skin in the game is infinitely better. We have had checkout customers that have processed millions of dollars and they never turned on the marketing features because it's such a big lift to get it up there. And then if you don't have enough momentum with the team internally, they just don't make time. [00:25:30] Speaker A: They're just busy because the checkout sort of like blocked them. They didn't even get to the good stuff. [00:25:34] Speaker B: They haven't even gotten. [00:25:35] Speaker A: Yes. [00:25:36] Speaker B: So like, getting skin in the game is a requirement. And then I want to make sure that there is almost no reason to cancel after the initial period. So we initially went out and said we're going to do like a proof of value period and it's like $5,000 for 60 days. And then after that you can decide if you want to stay. And that accomplished a bunch of things, but it wasn't quite right. Now we're moving toward instead of a set time frame, a set dollar amount. So it's like $5,000 for your first incremental revenue. So I think it's almost there. We're going to go back out to those people that we've made offers to and say, hey, we made it an update. How does this sound? Pretty close. [00:26:18] Speaker A: You had mentioned to me this idea of selling software as consulting, like a consultative approach to selling these deals. Is that what you mean here? Where they're sort of like paying up front for this engagement, where your team will implement these marketing tools, not so much like custom building for them, but like custom integrating an implementation? [00:26:46] Speaker B: Yes. We want the merchant to feel like it's low risk. Right. So it's not this 50 or $100,000 risk. So $5,000. These merchants can basically do that without much approval. So that's important for them to see it as like, well, I don't have much to lose. There's really only upside here. At the same time, the spot in the market kind of requires us to take this type of, I think leads us to this type of a pricing approach because there's a lot of demand for this on Shopify. What we're doing right now will not work. It won't work on Shopify. You need to be product led. You need to build a product specific to the Shopify platform. You need the pricing to be tailored to that. It's like, how do you get 1000 customers approach? We don't want to do that. Then there's woocommerce. There's a lot of demand there. Too small. Doesn't quite make sense. So it's this specific spot of these merchants that do ten to $100 million a year. This is how they buy. We just learned a lot about their buying patterns and decisions. And so a $5,000 proof of value type period would just not work for a Shopify merchant and is actually perfect for a $50 million a year salesforce merchant. [00:28:06] Speaker A: Yeah, I love it. Makes a ton of sense, man. [00:28:10] Speaker B: I will report back. Hopefully by the time we have another podcast that we closed our first deal. That's my goal. One closed deal in February. [00:28:19] Speaker A: Yeah. Nice. I'm excited. It's been cool to see this build up week to week and month to month over the last couple of months here. And this feels like a turning point. This is like a committing to the plan. [00:28:34] Speaker B: Yes, we got the question. Why not keep selling the checkout product? Because, of course, you know how this works, right? Of course. As we're making this decision, some of the biggest ecommerce merchants in the world are approaching us right now asking about checkout. Like one of the biggest, most popular sports car brands that we would all recognize. And then one of the biggest nutritional supplement type bar companies in the world coming to us and saying, we need a new checkout. And we know what it means that when someone says, yes, I want what you have, it does not mean it's going to get a deal closed. So we're kind of there. We're confident. Even when these big opportunities are coming away, we know that we are on the right track. [00:29:24] Speaker A: I think we were talking about this last time where it's like, especially if you've done a bunch of businesses and you've done this rodeo a few times, and I've seen this recently pivoting to clarity flow, that this sort of pivot is so hard as an entrepreneur, especially when you see some demand for the original thing, but you've also been sort of burned enough times to see the roadblocks, even though that initial offer, there's a little bit of spark there that brings interest in. Yeah, there are all these onboarding hurdles, activation hurdles, blockers that even they, the buyer, don't necessarily see until they're further in the thing, and then it's just a problem for everyone. [00:30:09] Speaker B: Yeah. I like the idea that the worst possible type of business is a mediocre business because you just keep trying and trying. [00:30:18] Speaker A: You keep trying. [00:30:19] Speaker B: Right. If it's a horror show and there's. [00:30:21] Speaker A: Story of my career here. [00:30:25] Speaker B: I think everyone listening knows the feeling of, okay, this is working well enough that I can't quit, I can't stop. I can't justify stopping. And when it's a horror show of a business, you just drop it quickly. [00:30:39] Speaker A: Yeah. So much easier. There have been so many times where I just wished that I wish there was zero demand for this thing. [00:30:49] Speaker B: Yes. [00:30:50] Speaker A: And it's almost never the case. I can't remember launching anything to zero customers. And that's the hardest thing. Yeah. [00:31:00] Speaker B: It's always the most dangerous. Not good. All right. Homie. What do you got going on? [00:31:06] Speaker A: All right, so I'm going to maybe turn it back to you because I've been dialing in and in through exploring on different options on where to focus my energy and investment of time and dollars and everything in the year ahead. I feel like this has become more and more focused on a gradual, and it's been sort of like a trial and error basis over the last two or three months. So at this point, it has come to, I see my business world as a pie chart, and it's sort of broken into three parts. There are two that are probably more significant than the third. One is clarity flow. That's still very much in play. A big part of my time and effort and energy just hired a customer success person. We're doing a lot of work on the product there. That's like one third of the pie, although it's not necessarily one third of my hours, it's probably more than that. The next big chunk that I'm spending a lot of time and energy on right now is basically starting up a consulting business, a consultancy in product development with clients. I could talk more about that. And then the third piece is the audience piece. I talked about starting up this YouTube channel. And so the big picture, the way that I see all of it sort of fitting together in a way, is like, I'm a product person. I'm a product designer, product developer, full stack. I pretty much identify with the role of, like, a product manager, but from a founder's perspective. And I do product in three ways. One is I run my own product. That's clarity flow. The other is I consult with teams on developing new products in partnership with them. And then the third piece is full stack founder growing an audience around. Okay, I would think of it more like thought leadership in product development at this point. And maybe some teachings, some opinionating in the form of video and tweets proving. [00:33:29] Speaker B: Your stuff out in public instead of. [00:33:31] Speaker A: Just working with you. And all of these are in various stages of development. Like, clarity flow essentially is up and running, and I have evolved the team there, and there's lots of things happening. Consultancy is still in the exploration stage, but I'm actively working with some clients and I'm learning a lot. And now I'm dialing in what this thing looks like in year one and year two and beyond. And right now, I'm actually working on writing up a landing page for this consultancy based on what I'm learning from the clients that I'm currently working with. And then the third piece is the audience thing where it's been really hard to outsource the video editing. I feel like I finally figured that piece out. And there's been a gap in publishing because I've been figuring out how to outsource the editing now. I figured that out. So now I can get back on the train of being able to record things and just drop it into Dropbox. Okay. [00:34:29] Speaker B: I'm interested in that separately. [00:34:31] Speaker A: Okay. So that's the pie is like clarity flow consultancy and content. I'm going to throw it to you because I have updates on all three that I could talk about. What should I talk about? [00:34:43] Speaker B: All right. It's almost like clarity flow is investing for the future. You are not getting back a dollar for every dollar of effort. It's just off in the future. It's a curve, and it just sucks now and then it swings up later. [00:35:03] Speaker A: Yeah. And the thing with clarity flow is that it happens to be doing pretty well here in January and February. Growth has been up a bit, but it's nowhere near the level of being able to pay for my full time income. So I have to have other things cooking. But the one big thing there has been just this week, Kat is starting in customer success. And my role is currently still doing a lot of customer support, success work myself. But my role is product like it is with everything. And we're improving the product every single week. Now we're getting around to the small ux improvements, and it's been really fun to quick ship these instead of hammering these huge features that we were doing last year. Now we're getting back around to the long list of little remove all the friction in the product. That's been fun to do. Yeah, that's essentially the story at clarity flow. Okay. [00:36:06] Speaker B: That's how I would kind of split it up. Like, okay, for your long term, it's basically your equity, your big upside in clarity flow. [00:36:14] Speaker A: It just needs more years to get there, and I need to be doing something else in the meantime. [00:36:19] Speaker B: Yeah, that's right. I think you always seem to be pretty good at this alignment around the content that you want to create and the service that you want to offer. And I think that's like just being around for a while and figuring out how to be authentic because that's what you like to do. This product stuff is genuinely what you like to do. [00:36:42] Speaker A: That's been the most sort of interesting and almost surprising thing to me with consulting. This year is the first time in many years that I'm actually working with clients that aren't customers of a product of mine. It's been so long since I've actually done client consulting work, and it's been a really interesting thing. And I think I feared this for so many years where it's like, oh, I hope I never have to resort to getting back into consulting. But now that I'm actually doing it, I'm kind of excited about it. I'm having fun with it. And that's the thing. I'm a product person now. I'm a software product designer, developer, product manager. I mix all those skills together. I'm using the term full stack founder. Right. It's interesting to be able to offer that type of value to clients, and it's been interesting to see the types of clients and their specific needs on why it might make sense for them to bring someone like me in. And this is informing some of the copy that I'm working on for a landing page for this thing. [00:37:56] Speaker B: I was going to say that insight on that's one of those things that's invisible to almost everyone. The slack group that I'm in with the Portland guys, the Ruben Gomez and Ewalt and a few other guys, they always learn something from my decision making process because I raised money. And they're always like, oh, that's interesting that for you, paying $6,000 a month for a marketing agency is like a bargain, right? But when you are like the solo one or two person shop that wants to start a marketing agency, you're like, how can I charge $6,000 a month? Does that make sense? So that ability to understand what a company might need and why it makes sense for them to go out and pay you to build something is like, that's the key insight. And then putting that into the content is what puts you ahead because you actually understand what they're dealing with. [00:38:59] Speaker A: Yeah, totally. I love the process of sort of like a love hate process of writing these landing pages to sell this service. But it's such an iterative thing because I feel like I've written this page like three or four times over the last four months. And in the early days, I was passing around this coaching concept that it was totally in theory with no actual client work under my belt yet. And then I worked with some clients and I tabled the coaching model, and then I went into this other. I kept adapting the way that I'm consulting with clients, and now that I've done it with a couple of clients and I'm doing it, and I'm talking about some deals on the table now, it's a clearer sense of what goes into it. And so there are basically two forms of consulting that I'm offering now. One is this, like, I'm calling it like, product planning sprints. And I've done it with one. I'm in the middle of a second one. I've got another one talking to where it's like, for two weeks, sometimes three weeks, I work with you and or your teammate to plan out a big new product initiative. Maybe in one case, it was like starting up a whole new product, like a second product in their business. In another case, it was sort of like overhauling their whole onboarding experience. Like a big, hairy new product that needs to be started and thought through and strategized and architected. I come in to help do all that stuff, like ask a ton of questions, think strategically, think technically, maybe do some wireframing, some sketching. And at the end of this two or three week thing, you have a Roadmap, you have a product plan ready to hand off to your developers. And, like, I like that concept because it's like, I get to think strategically as a product person. Basically, what's interesting is it's like a SaaS company who is really preoccupied with running their current product. So they've got developers, they've got support people, they've got success, people who are selling and maintaining and building on their current product. That SaaS company still has big new ideas that they want to get off the ground, that they want to take from zero to one. [00:41:34] Speaker B: Is that the ideal customer? [00:41:35] Speaker A: That seems to be the ideal customer, because it's so hard for an existing SaaS company to pull your developers off their tasks to go work on this thing that we need to start from the ground up, and you can bring me in to work off in the corner and be the mad scientist to think through the new concept for the new thing, whether that's like an onboarding flow or a new product or whatever it might be. [00:42:03] Speaker B: When you put it that way, it's really interesting. Right? So one of my investors, Adam, one of the Portland guys, actually, he has this concept that he always comes back. It's a bit of a joke now because he's brought it up so often, but it's this concept of, like, a strike force. Like, okay, let's say you have 25 employees and you have an idea. Can you peel off a strike force of five or six people and let them work on something for two months and launch this idea that you have? It is impossible. It's impossible because there's too much going on. You're already making a set of trade offs and decisions and sacrifices, as is. The idea that you can go 100% on those trade offs is unrealistic. [00:42:53] Speaker A: Yeah. So when I'm doing these strategic sprints with clients, that's how they're basically using me, is usually the founder themselves is the one working directly with me. A couple of calls. We do a lot of async work. We're working in notion over two or three weeks, and it's almost like they're working with me in secret, like separate from their team. They don't want to disrupt their team on their current work, but they need to get this new thing off the ground and thought through. [00:43:24] Speaker B: You're like an executive team's ability to act on a hypothesis. [00:43:32] Speaker A: That's the idea on an idea. And I'm working with different headlines on this thing. I don't know, I'm playing around with the h one being something like starter for hire. [00:43:45] Speaker B: You should play with that terminology, because. [00:43:48] Speaker A: If I think back to taking an idea from zero to one. [00:43:52] Speaker B: Yes. Or execute on your best idea, or something like that. If I think about before I launched cardhook, I was on the lookout for this type of a service. I was like, how do I just write a check for $50,000 and just have a product in the market and it doesn't work? And I think that's actually not a great customer for you. [00:44:15] Speaker A: So this particular consulting thing, this model of advising and strategizing is like just the planning work. Just take it from concept in my brain to detailed, written up notion docs roadmapped out. Like, these are the priorities. Here's what would go into v one. Here's what won't go into v one. Maybe some user flows. And then at the end of this, it's like a package that we can have the developer team start working on. But then there's this other big offering where it's like instead of just me advising, actually hire me and my small team to actually build a whole version, one of a product from zero to built. And this is a multi month engagement. I've been in talks with a couple of clients about this. I haven't landed this yet, but I've had a few discussions. One of them is pretty likely to happen at some point this year. Multiple five figure proposal over several months, where it basically involves, like, me plus a developer or two from my team. And again, it's like you either have a concept for a product in both of these cases, it was like an established SaaS company who is planning a second product from their company. It's like a related cross sell type product. [00:45:50] Speaker B: It's an idea they want to act on. [00:45:52] Speaker A: It's an idea that they want to act on. And they are too preoccupied with running their first product, but they know there's demand, they know that they have access to a market and they want to act on it. And so I'm being brought in as like a super efficient fast. Me and my team, we just ship products because we're lean and you're not. [00:46:13] Speaker B: Encouraged by all the things that are currently happening internally. [00:46:16] Speaker A: Exactly. [00:46:18] Speaker B: This is really cool. [00:46:20] Speaker A: And that one is like, these are bigger products, bigger price tags. And in some select cases, it's a mix of cash and equity. Makes sense if it makes sense for both of us, but at the end of the day, it's like majority is cash based and there's some logistics over. Like, all right, you've got me plus my developer for a few months and then some options after that. Maybe the developer transfers, maybe we stay on as like an advising role. There's options. So these are things that I'm kind of strategizing and roadmapping as a consultancy, as a company. So here in year one, in 2024, it's me basically selling myself because you're getting me on all these projects, and I might bring in a developer to help in some cases. If this continues, then year two, let's see if we can double our capacity and maybe bring on a few more developers, maybe eventually bring on a project manager. Maybe this turns into a product dev shop, product dev studio agency, type of, type of model. And again, it just gets back to like, I love to design and build and start products from the ground up. The more I can do that, whether it's with client partners or my own stuff, that's good way to make money, good way to spend my time, I think. [00:47:46] Speaker B: I love it. I want to give you two pieces of opinion from my point of view, please. Number one, whatever you think you can charge, you can charge a lot more. [00:48:01] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:48:02] Speaker B: And that's related to point number two. Point number two is that there are a decent number of private software companies with millions of dollars in the bank and things are not going great for them. And they would love to launch an idea to see. I mean, I have one in mind right now. Everyone's got one in mind. [00:48:25] Speaker A: Everyone's got one. Everyone's got one. And the conventional wisdom is like, don't do it. [00:48:29] Speaker B: You can't do it. [00:48:30] Speaker A: Don't do the shiny. [00:48:32] Speaker B: That's right. [00:48:34] Speaker A: What I'm actually seeing, and this is literally what I'm learning in real time, is there's a lot of SaaS, or at least the ones that I've been in contact with, there's a lot of companies who, it does make sense strategically for them to grow by expanding their product line. [00:48:53] Speaker B: I see. Maybe they're mature in their life cycle. [00:48:57] Speaker A: Yeah, they're mature in their lifecycle market. [00:49:00] Speaker B: Becoming more competitive, whatever that set of circumstances. [00:49:03] Speaker A: Yeah, there's that. And there's also like, in some cases the new product could be like a version two of their current product, like maybe a rebuild or sometimes it's not just a new product. Sometimes it's like just a big new part of their existing product. I was working with one where it's like, all right, they've got this big well established SaaS product, but they need like an education center for their customers. Okay. And that's like a whole new value proposition that they're offering, but they need a whole admin interface and the whole customer interface and it's a whole new thing. [00:49:45] Speaker B: Yeah. Really interesting. And the point I wanted to make about number one there in terms of a company is going to look at this and going to assume ongoing investment. So the initial investment is a relatively small part of the total investment. So if you look at the initial investment, let's just use round numbers as $100,000. As the manager, you know you're going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next year. [00:50:14] Speaker A: Yeah, we're starting something new. What we're talking about here is just version one. Yes. And I've been thinking through that as well. Right. So I haven't gotten to this point in any deal yet, but in theory we would spend x number of months going from concept to built and shipped version one. Maybe you call that an MVP. I don't tend to like that term. I liked version one, but yeah, post version one I could see my company offering kind of a menu of options. And one would be one that I think is sort of interesting. I haven't tested. This is okay. If I bring on a developer or two from an outsourced development agency to work with me on building version one, maybe there's an option for that developer is transferred for a recruiting fee to have them transferred under the direct employment. As if I just recruited you, a developer, to continue. And it happens to be the same one that built your version one with me. I see that the other option would be like a fractional product management retainer. So if you already have your developers in house, they can take this existing version one product and maintain it. But you still want some strategic advising on product direction and roadmap for version two, version three, I can be available for fractional product management type of role. Or maybe again, if this dev shop grows, then maybe we offer, like, actual ongoing product maintenance retainers as a service. Right. But I think ideally the ideal thing, and no matter what the ideal thing, no matter what the client is, we're brought in to start something. I don't love the idea of being a dev shop where we can just plug into your existing code base and we're just another developer in a chair somewhere. I really like the idea of bring me in, bring in my small team to let's build something new off in the corner, and let's go from zero to one. That's the main value. And then we'll have options to continue to maintain that going forward. [00:52:47] Speaker B: Yeah, I like it. Very interesting. Look at us starting new businesses in 2024. [00:52:53] Speaker A: Yeah, man. [00:52:54] Speaker B: All right, my man. I got to run. I got a 230 I got to drive to. It's Friday. It's my birthday this weekend. [00:53:02] Speaker A: Is it? Oh, man. Happy birthday. [00:53:04] Speaker B: Thank you very much. Go have fun with the fam. We're going to go skiing, I think I'm just not. [00:53:08] Speaker A: Oh, your favorite thing to do for your birthday. [00:53:11] Speaker B: Thanks, honey. [00:53:12] Speaker A: Nice. Yeah, we're going skiing tomorrow, too. We're going to one of these tiny hills here in Connecticut. Going to bring the. But at least we got a bunch of snow, so this should be fun. [00:53:20] Speaker B: You haven't heard of the majestic slopes in Wisconsin? [00:53:24] Speaker A: I have not. Yeah, neither have I, but I think I'm going to hear from you about it, though. [00:53:29] Speaker B: Whatever. I get to hang. It's actually a nice setup where the kids can go up and there's like, the little hut is right at the base, so you can basically have a beer and literally watch your kids go up and then ski back down. [00:53:41] Speaker A: Oh, beautiful, beautiful. [00:53:44] Speaker B: Happy Friday. [00:53:44] Speaker A: Ready? All right, later, folks.

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