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Episode 1 | What is a Micropreneur?

Show Notes

Transcript

Mike Taber: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 1.

[music]

Mike: Welcome to Startups For the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers be awesome at launching software products, whether you have built your first product or are just thinking about. I’m Mike.

Rob Walling: And I’m Rob.

Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. So Rob, exactly why are we here again? Rob: I have no idea! We’ve decided to do some crazy thing and record a podcast; something that neither of us have ever done.

Mike: Well, that’s true, but I think that the important thing that we are really here for is to share the things that we’ve done in the past and, most importantly, share the mistakes that we’ve made over the past several years in building out our product portfolios and building up our companies.

Rob: Yeah, and I think along with the mistakes come the successes as well, right?

Mike: I hope so! [laughs]

Rob: I mean we’ve learned from both of them. Yeah, I guess if we didn’t have any successes, no one should listen to us.

Mike: Why exactly are we developing this podcast? I mean does the world really need another podcast about startups?

Rob: You know, like we talked about before, there is this obvious gap in the market. There are a lot of podcasts aimed at venture backed startups, high growth startups, but there are so few podcasts aimed at bootstrap startups. And frankly, the ones that I listen to, they don’t tend to have super practical information that you can apply to your startup or micro ISV right away.

There are a lot of interview podcasts, and there is a lot of information that is just floating around, kind of almost superficial stuff that you hear on blogs, and I am hoping we can go a little more in depth with ours.

Mike: Definitely. I mean I think that is the key point here is that we can try to go a little bit further than what you would find on a blog. I mean the point of a blog is partially for information, but some of it is entertainment as well. And to get the right information you need, you tend to go to a lot of different blogs or a lot of different websites.

And one of the key things we would like to bring to the table and share with our listeners is the experience that we’ve had, the things that we’ve done that maybe didn’t work out so well, and then the things that we’ve done in the past that did work out pretty well, and try to collectively show a lot of that information all in one spot.

Rob: We don’t intend this to be another show that interviews startup founders. There are a lot of those, and I think most of us probably listen to them. So we are not going to be duplicating that format. We may have an interview once in a while, but that is not going to be the gist of it.

Individually, you and I have been through a lot as entrepreneurs. And, you know, obviously our goal is to provide real world strategies that have worked for our businesses that ideally will help someone else who is listening to the podcast.

Mike: Right. That’s the goal.

Rob: OK. Let’s get started by introducing ourselves.

Mike: My name is Mike Taber and I am the founder of both Moon River Software and Moon River Consulting. I am based in the greater Boston area. I work for myself fulltime. And I have been self employed since around 2005.

I used to work for a company called Pedestal Software that got acquired by Altiris back in 2005 for somewhere around $65 million or so.

Rob: Holy smokes! I hope you got a fat check off of that!

Mike: I got 0.0001%, and it was actually a little less than that. I did the math on it.

Rob: Wait, 65…1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3…

Mike: It was about $8,000, so you don’t have to do the math. But needless to say, somebody made out a lot better than I did. So the number sounds big, but that kind of pushed me over the edge and I said, “You know what? Why should I be doing all this work to let somebody else be reaping the rewards?”

And, you know, that is why I started Moon River software and eventually spun off Moon River Consulting out of it. I just didn’t want to be in the position where I was making other people loads of money. I mean I am a smart guy, or at least reasonably smart. My wife tells me otherwise. But, you know, that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be master of my own destiny. And I’ve said that to several other people, and at the end of the day, that is just what it comes down to.

So what about you Rob?

Rob: Well, I followed a similar path, actually. Over the past 10 years, I’ve had a couple of salary positions, but mostly I’ve done software consulting. And whether that is for a firm that I was paid hourly through, or I spun off my own firm in 2002 that eventually went fulltime a couple years later.

And I realized pretty quickly that consulting is fun, but I had a tough time building things for other people. I enjoyed it, but it really wasn’t fulfilling me the way that I wanted my work life to do. So I started building my own products and launching them. And pretty quickly I found a couple other products that people had launched that weren’t doing well and acquired them. And I started learning the ropes of marketing software, essentially, on a very small scale, obviously. I am not Microsoft. I mean it is me, one guy, and a couple of contractors I have, or a handful of contractors, I should say.

But I found that I enjoyed it pretty quickly, although I blew through…Man, I blew through a ton of money early on! I don’t know if I ever told you, but I dropped $1,200 on Adwords in six weeks one time and I made one $99 sale off of it.

Mike: I blew like $1,500 in a month before, so I know what you are talking about.

Rob: Yeah. Totally, you just have no idea what you are doing. And looking back, I still have the campaign saved, and I look at it and I am like, “What in the hell was I thinking?” It is not set up very well at all.

So anyway, I own a handful of software products, and I build them, I acquire them, and I market them, and I really enjoy it. And that is what I do fulltime now. So I think it is like you: master of my own destiny or master of my own domain, as they like to say, if you have seen Seinfeld. [laughs]

Mike: [laughs] So I guess one of the things that we wanted to discuss son our first podcast was exactly what is a micropreneur, because that was one of the things that you and I had come up with a while back, and just came up with the idea and definition of a micropreneur. And it is not something I have heard anybody else really talk about. It is just something we kind of spawned off on our own. It sort of makes sense. So why don’t you kind of explain to everybody what a micropreneur is.

Rob: Sure. A micropreneur is a word that we made up, essentially. But after we made it up, we found out, of course, other people were using it in different contexts. But essentially what we focused on is a micropreneur as a technical individual, someone with technical skill, and that can typically be software development or web development skill, and someone who wants to launch small software businesses. And whether that is a downloadable software product, like something that you write and runs on a desktop, like time tracking, or an invoicing app, even a game, or it can be a software as a service application, or an iPhone app, a Blackberry app. I mean kind of anything that you can code up that someone will pay you for.

I have owned things ranging from an ecommerce site, to an e-book, to software products, to software as a service applications, a niche job website. I mean kind of all this stuff fits under this umbrella of a micropreneur-something that you can build and sell online.

And a micropreneur is the person behind that. Some people might be confused by: What is a micropreneur versus a micro ISV? And a micro ISV is a one person software company, whereas the micropreneur is the person behind that micro ISV.

We are going to be using that word a lot in this podcast and in the future. So today we are going to talk about six tenants that you and I put together that essentially try to define what a micropreneur actually is. Let’s get started.

Mike: So the first tenant of being a micropreneur is: a micropreneur is a technical entrepreneur who writes software that creates value for a niche market. You can choose to write games, you can make downloadable software that gets installed on somebody’s machine, or you can do software as a service. It could be something like building comic book creation software. It could be software that is used for creating bingo cards. Just about anything is game for a micropreneur to be creating.

Rob: Right. And I think the key part of tenant one is that it is a niche market.

Mike: You are not going to build a Microsoft Word, but you might build a word processor that is designed for people who need to write a master’s thesis or a PhD dissertation-something along those lines.

Rob: Yep. So it is finding and choosing a niche. Since we are only one person, you can’t possibly take on a huge company. And tenant two is: a micropreneur starts with a single product or website but may build or require more once he or she has learned how to market software.

And this is an interesting one, because a lot of developers don’t think in terms of having multiple products. And they think that they are going to find a niche and build a comic book cataloguing software, and that it is going to make 10 grand a month, or five grand a month, or whatever they need to live on. Typically, that doesn’t happen.

But often, you can build something that maybe generates a lot less than that. And if you stack enough of them together, then you can actually build up a reasonable amount of income. This is not for everyone. Certainly, some developers are going to just want to do one product, and that is going to be their goal, and that is totally fine. But we have really talked about the goal, for a lot of people, is going to be to do multiple products. And as a result, there will have to be some automation involved, because, you know, you can’t manage five products and do everything all by yourself.

Mike: And that is actually a good leading to tenant number three, because tenant number three is: a micropreneur is intent on staying small. Now, small is something you have to define for yourself. Is small a one person company? You are going to be a one employee company for however long you want to run the business? Or do you want to grow it out to two or three people? Or do you have a couple of friends who have jumped on board with you and decided to build out whatever the product or products are that you have decided to build?

But essentially, the micropreneur is intent on staying small. And that is in direct contrast to things like venture capital startups or Angel investor startups who want to build out a company and build it as largely as they can and as quickly as they can in order to make a lot of money and cash out.

Rob: And tenant four is: A micropreneur is a highly technical entrepreneur who values time, location, or income independence. Again, some developers, some micropreneurs, may value only one of these things. Some may value all three of them. And let me step through each of them.

Time independence is the ability to be in control of your own time. So as a consultant, even if you work from home, you tend to have to work between nine and five or nine and nine as a lot of us did when we were consulting. Time independence is if you have a software product that you really don’t have any kind of working hour constraints; that you can work weekends and you can work nights, and you can do all types of crazy stuff.

Location independence is when you can live anywhere you want. And then income independence, of course, is being much more in control of your own income streams. So it is not relying on a salary or even consulting clients.

Now, you are never, of course, completely, 100% in charge of your income, because it depends on the market and what is selling. But if you have a product and it sells to 20, 30, 40, 50 people a month, you are really not controlled by any one person anymore. And that is really the crux of income independence, is you are not beholden to a single entity for the majority of your income.

And as you build or acquire more products, you become less and less beholden not only to each individual customer, but to each individual product. So you just have a lot more diversification.

And as I said before, some people will value one or two of these and others really will make it a goal to achieve all three of them.

Mike: Tenant number five is: A micropreneur merges existing technical knowledge with online marketing knowledge. In order to succeed as a micropreneur, you really need to be able to combine technical knowledge with that marketing knowledge. And if you don’t, what is going to happen is you are going to build a great product, but nobody is going to buy it because you are not able to market it effectively.

And the opposite is true as well. If you have great marketing knowledge but no technical ability, it is very difficult to build a great product that people are going to want to buy. So if you are able to merge both of these things, then what you have is a very, very powerful combination that not a lot of developers or marketers are going to be able to match, because it is very difficult to build up both of those silos of knowledge, I will say. And most of us went to school for development and we know how to develop software, and we could do it in our sleep, but it is really the marketing side that is a lot more challenging because there are many things that are just not well defined in terms of the problem space.

So, for example, if something is wrong in your code, if you got a bug, you know what the parameters are around that bug. You know exactly what is going on. And you may not necessarily know why, but you can step it through the debugger and figure all that stuff out.

If something is wrong on your website and you are just not getting traffic, it could be a million different things. And it is just as bad, if not worse than a technical problem, where, you know, you have a finite space of where this problem could be. With a website where the entire Internet could be hitting it or, in this particular case, is not hitting it, you have to figure out why, and it could be just about anything.

And being able to clearly identify what those sources of problems are is really what is going to separate a micropreneur from the average off the street developer who can certainly code his way out of a wet paper bag, but isn’t necessarily going to be able to figure out those problems.

Rob: Yeah. I think this is a really important tenant, and I think it is one that a lot of developers don’t think about. We totally underestimate how important and how difficult it is to learn the marketing side of things.

Tenant six is: A micropreneur is a cross between four things: a software developer, a webmaster, a marketer, and an entrepreneur. We all know what a developer is. A webmaster, the reason you have to have this in your blood, or learn it, or learn to outsource it is that we are talking about selling online. And even today, iPhone, Blackberry apps that don’t run on the web need some type of sales site or sales information. So you are going to have to know or learn something about getting a nice website up.

And the last two are a marketer and an entrepreneur. And these are the ones that take a lot of time to learn and a lot of trial and error. And, of course, Mike, that is what you and I have spent the last 10 years learning, right?

Mike: Oh yeah!

Rob: Those are the ones that cost you money.

Mike: Time.

Rob: Time. Tons of time. Yeah. And you can learn some of it from books. It is like coding, right? You can learn some of it from books, but you need to have a lot of experience doing it as well.

And so the marketing part is learning how to get the word out and get people interested in your product. And the entrepreneur is the person with the vision, and it is the person who can kind of make everything happen, whether they are doing a lot of the work themselves or whether they are just being the visionary and outsourcing them as they go along.

So those are the four things that would be great if they were four different people each gifted in those areas. But realistically, as a micropreneur, all four of them-one person.

Mike: So now that we’ve kind of talked about exactly what constitutes a micropreneur and what it takes to be a micropreneur, one of the things that we also wanted to talk about was what a micropreneur is not.

Rob: You know, the first thing that a micropreneur is not at all is not an Internet “get rich quick” scheme. A, you are not going to get rich, B, you are not going to do it quickly, and C, it is not a scheme at all. So it just has nothing to do with any of that stuff. I mean it really is a long term mentality of taking technical knowledge and applying it in an intelligent, formatted manner, and learning from experience, and, over a long term, building up one or more viable businesses that hopefully generate some income for you and provides some level of independence.

And again, whether that independence you want is just to have a couple hundred bucks a month to help make a car payment, or if ultimately you want to quit your job, that is going to take a couple of years, right? But it is not anything like an Internet “get rich quick” scheme or a work from home scheme or any of that stuff that you hear about online or on late night TV.

Mike: A second thing that we wanted to point out that a micropreneur is not about is being a micropreneur is not about venture backed startups or very high growth startups. It has absolutely nothing to do with any of these large or high competition niche markets. If you wanted to try and create the next word processor, going about it in as a micropreneur is really not a…I don’t even think it is a viable option, to be perfectly honest. I don’t even know how well Google is doing at it with their Google Docs against Microsoft.

Rob: Venture capitalists have portfolios of products, so they can afford for 10 or 20 of them to fail because they have the one that returns such a huge return for them. But when you are an entrepreneur, your portfolio is one company. Or, in our case, maybe it is a few small companies. But realistically, if you are going to go for the venture backed route, you are going to have one company at a time, and it is going to take you 3-5 years to do it, and it is going to take a lot of work and a lot of passion and effort out of you.

So how many of those are you going to be able to do in your whole life? You know, maybe two or three tops? And if the first two fail, you may not come back for a third. So it really is an odds game, and the odds are just stacked against you too far for us to consider the venture world viable.

So that is why, when we look at micropreneurship, the odds of you succeeding, if you do it right, and if you do it smart, are very high.

Mike: I almost look at a micropreneur as essentially a mini VC or mini Angel who has all these different products in their portfolio. And if one of them does great and five of them do bad, no big deal, because you have got that one product that is doing well.

And if you make these products that are small enough that address a problem in the market, something is going to do well. All it takes is doing the research, doing your homework. And essentially, what you are doing is you are spreading out your risks among all these different products. And if you get a product that only pulls in $25 a month, well, OK. Well, no big deal. But for every product that you have like that, how many others is it going to take before you find one that gets $1,000 month or two or three thousand dollars a month?

And the more of these small applications that you crank out, the better your chances are. And essentially, you become that mini VC of your product portfolio.

[music]

Mike: One of the reasons that Rob and I started to put together this podcast was because, individually, we have gotten a lot of questions over the years about: How do you go about finding a market? How do you go about selling your products? How is it that you have gotten successful and been able to do the things that you have done?

And today what we have is a question from somebody who asked us. Here is his question.

Aaron: Hi guys. This is Aaron. I have a question about competition today. I think a lot of people, including myself, get caught up in the discovery phase. At least for me, it has a lot to do with wanting to find that slam dunk-that product that is almost guaranteed to be a success.

What I am finding out is if there is a market for some kind of software product, chances are someone else is already out there offering a solution, and an even greater chance that there are multiple solutions.

So my question is: How much competition is too much competition? And in a related question: How do you compete with free, or do you? Thanks.

Mike: So Rob, why don’t you take a first crack at that one?

Rob: So the first part is: How much competition is too much competition? In my experience, there is too much competition when the cost to acquire a customer is more than you are going to make from that customer.

So if you have a 1% conversion rate, meaning you sell to one customer out of every 100 that come to your website, and your product is a $100 product, that means that every visitor to your website is worth $1. And if it costs you more than $1 to send people to your website, that means there is too much competition in the niche.

Mike: I think my take on it is that determining how much competition is too much competition is more of a judgment call based on your own personality as well. There are cases where going into a particular niche, there is a lot of competition and there is substantial competition. But if you feel that you can overcome the hurdles to garner attention from the people out there searching for whatever that solution is, by all means, go for it.

But you do have to do your homework. You do have to do the research and make absolutely sure that you are going to be tolerant of the risks that you are undertaking in that particular market.

Rob: Right. And I think a key point that both of us made there is neither of us emphasized “if you can build a better product.” That has something to do with it, but not a ton. Right?

Mike: [laughs] Yeah.

Rob: Really, the key factor is the marketing side of it-getting people to your website. Because you can build a better product and, frankly, no one is going to care. No one is going to hear about it. You have to look at the economics of the marketing.

To get a little more specific, Mike, you and I have talked about the cost of acquiring a customer. And it is like if you are a developer and you don’t have a site, you don’t have a product, how do you figure that out? And there are a couple of tools that you and I both used. One is the Google Adwords keyword tool where you can search on a term. And then you have to go to the exact phrase match. A lot of people go to the broad match. You go to the exact phrase match and kind of peek around and get a relative idea, although this thing can be off by an order of magnitude. But get a relative idea of how many people are looking for particular search phrases.

And the other tool that I’ve used that works really well is SpyFu.com. It helps you not only at…If there is competition in a niche, it helps you look at the keywords that they are ranking for and pulling in traffic for. It also gives you an idea of the Google AdWords they are running and the cost they are paying for them. So you can pretty quickly see: “Oh, they are paying $5 per click because they are in the wedding niche. So I really need to have a high conversion rate and an expensive product in order to make it viable.”

There is a lot more math to it, obviously. Maybe we can get into that in a later podcast. But those are some key tools that you will want to check out.

Mike: So the second part of this question was: How do you compete with free, or do you? And I think that that is a much more difficult question to answer, mainly because it depends so much on who you are competing against and what the specific product is.

For example, there are a lot of products that Google offers. I would not want to be in the business of trying to resell email at this point.

Rob: Run away! And an online office suite…I mean any of these things. Yeah, if Google has online calendaring, like, you are hosed. So if you are talking free like Google, then just consider it case closed.

Mike: But at the same time, there are also tons of email providers out there that are still making money because they actually have value. And this is the key part that I want to drill into, because I think that in the vast majority of cases-we can use email as a great example-you really are going to have a hard time competing with Google trying to offer email services, because theirs are free.

However, personally, I outsource my email. And I actually have a hosted solution that I pay for because I get Exchange Server with it. And it has all these advanced features and functionality that I like to use. And I honestly like having Exchange Server running behind my business.

So, for me, it works. And for the company that I am purchasing it from, they are obviously making money off of this, and they are reselling Exchange Email to me and making money off of it, and are successfully competing against Google.

Rob: I think that there are niches around where there may be a free provider that isn’t doing a very good job, and that you can come in and compete with them. I think the way to tell the difference is that if there is someone with venture capital in their back pocket and they are offering a free service, you don’t want to enter that market, because they have deep, deep pockets and you are not going to outgun them on features. You are one person and they probably have a team of developers. And they are using a freemium model, which is very difficult to get to work for micropreneurs. You have to have massive scale.

So competing with them, they are probably going to put out a good product, and I would say not to compete with them.

Mike: There is also the other argument. I saw Eric Sink from SourceGear answer basically the same question from a college student: “Well, why should I purchase a license for SourceGear when I can go out and get Subversion or any of these other open source version control systems for free?”

And his answer was basically that because buying SoureGear’s…you know, whether you are buying Vault or whether you are buying Fortress, that saves you time and money. And the reason it saves you time and money is because your time as a developer is worth something. And the only time that going after those open source solutions where it is going to benefit you is if your time is “worthless”. And I forget whether he actually used the term “worthless” or not.

But I mean he makes a very valid, worthy point. It can take time and effort to get some of these solutions up and running. And if you are working at a company where they are paying their developers $100,000 a year, they don’t want to have to deal with that stuff. They want to be able to call somebody and say, “Hey, your software isn’t working. How do I fix it? I’ve paid you for whatever the license fees are.” And they expect support. They expect somebody to stand behind that product and fix things when they are broken.

Rob: I can see the flames now. “Mike Taber says open source software is terrible! He says it’s worthless!”

[music]

Rob: Now it’s time for This Week’s Tip. So a little bit about this segment since it is the first time we are doing it. The idea of This Week’s Tip is that we are going to try to make this portion of the program about tools and tips that Mike and I actually use day to day. And we are going to try to relate our unique experience with the tools and tips. So Mike, what is this week’s tip?

Mike: The tool is called RescueTime. You can find it at rescuetime.com. And what this tool does is you install it on your desktop and it will track the things that you do while you are doing them. If you go to a website, or if you are playing games, if you are using Word or various parts of Office, or Skype, or writing email, what have you, this software tracks and categorizes all of the different pieces of software that you use. And it assigns values to them to say how productive it thinks that you are being.

And it keeps track of how much you have been working. You can have it set for 24 hours a day usage or only between working hours, etc. But because, as a micropreneur, you only have a limited time, typically, as you start, you have got maybe 10 or 15 hours a week that you can dedicate to being a micropreneur and to building up your products. So you want to maximize the effectiveness of that time.

So by measuring your efficiency, you can essentially help yourself to be more productive. And looking at my most recent efficiency rating, your efficiency can be rated anywhere from negative two to positive two. Email tends to be neutral-it tends to be a rating of zero. Games, I think, are negative two. Something like your IDE’s for development, those tend to be plus two. And you can customize each of these.

But my efficiency for this past week, based on 42 hours of work, was .81. The average user efficiency… which, I get an email every week, so my RescueTime weekly summary that tells me how productive I am being in relation to other people who are using the product.

The average user efficiency of everybody else was 0.10 for 43 hours and 12 minutes, on average, of work. Granted, this past week was a holiday week, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in the fact that I was eight times more productive than other people. But it at least gives me a benchmark to shoot for.

But you can find it, again, at rescuetime.com, and that is this week’s tip!

[music]

Rob: If you have a question or comment, please call it into our voicemail number: 1-888-801-9690. Or you can email it in .mp3 or text format to . Feel free to include your name and your URL if desired. A transcript of this podcast is available on our website: startupsfortherestofus.com.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider subscribing to us on iTunes by searching for “Startups For the Rest of Us.” Or you can also subscribe via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com. We will see you next time.

Rob Walling and Mike Taber define "Micropreneur," a term describing a software developer turned solo-entrepreneur with a hint of marketer and webmaster.

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My Podcast Launches Today: "Startups for the Rest of Us" | Rob Walling - Serial Entrepreneur

My new podcast launches today. It’s called Startups for the Rest of Us .

My co-host is Mike Taber, the guy behind SingleFounder.com .

Our goal is to help non-venture-backed startups.

I subscribe to about 20 startup podcasts in iTunes, and about 10% of them provide real, practical advice from experienced entrepreneurs. So many of the interview shows turn into people promoting their app or service instead of digging into actionable steps you can take to launch or grow your startup.

That’s why we’ve made it out mission to provide practical information based on our real-life experience as software/web entrepreneurs (20+ years between the two of us), as well as the entrepreneurs we work with in the Micropreneur Academy .

The Details A new episode every Tuesday. The first episode is live at the podcast website and you can listen to it in your browser or download the MP3. We’re also providing full written transcripts of each episode in the show notes.

Episodes will be concise and run 20-30 minutes so you can listen to them during a jog, a short commute or part of a lunch hour.

I think this is something you’ll want to check out…

Subscribe Now:

Rob Walling announces the launch of his new podcast, Startups for the Rest of us. With Mike Taber, they are going to tackle the topic of bootstrapped startups.

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over 1 year ago
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Episode 417 | Pulling Out Profits, Building Features vs. Integrating, Marketing a Podcast, and More Listener Questions

Episode 417 | Pulling Out Profits, Building Features vs. Integrating, Marketing a Podcast, and More Listener Questions

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Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike answer a number of listener questions on topics including how to market a podcast, what to do with business profits, building features vs. integrating and more.

Items mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

Rob: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike and I talk about when to pull profits out of your business, the balancing act of building features versus integrating, how to market a podcast, and more listener questions. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us episode 417.

Welcome to Startups For The Rest Of Us. The podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

Mike: And I’m Mike.

Rob: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. To where this week, sir?

Mike: Well, I talked a little bit about this at MicroConf Europe, but I am getting used to my CPAP machine which is a device to basically help prevent your airways from closing when you sleep. I had a diagnosis for sleep apnea about three or four weeks ago, and they said, “Yeah, it’s not looking good.” Basically, sleep apnea is your body decides to stop breathing in the middle of the night. Various times I would just wake up and be gasping for air just because my brain would freak out because it’s not getting enough oxygen because I stopped breathing. Anyway, this machine will help prevent that which will improve my sleep presumably. It’s actually going fairly well so far. I’m cautiously optimistic about it, but it’s an ongoing issue for a while, so I’m glad that it seems like it’s headed in the right direction. But it’s probably too early to tell.

Rob: Sure. It like straps on your face, right? It looks like an oxygen mask or scuba thing. I guess, it’s on the front of it.

Mike: Yes, I sound like Darth Vader.

Rob: Do you? That’s interesting.

Mike: Well, a little bit. It’s not that bad like when I breathe, I can hear it because the thing is right on my face but it’s not so bad. But if I talk, obviously, it sounds like Darth Vader.

Rob: Well, it’s got to be tough to get used to because if you roll over in the middle of the night there’s a cord or some type of hose attached to it, right?

Mike: Yup. I don’t know. Like I said, it’s taking some getting used to, but it seems to be helping so far. I don’t know. Like I said, cautiously optimistic.

Rob: It’s always tough with these types of chronic things. You deal with for years until at some point, you realize you’re like the bullfrog in a boiling pot of water where it’s like, “I’ve let this go way too long.” I had that with my shoulders, neck, and back. I got to where the point where every day I was just in pain all day everyday no matter what I did. Eventually, Sherry was like, “This is dumb.” This was when I was 38, “You’re 30 years old. Figure this out.”

She had me start doing yoga and then she’s like, “Go to a deep tissue almost acupressure.” I would say it’s a massage but it’s not like I’m going to the spa and get a massage, it’s a medical intervention massage where it hurts a lot. I started doing those twice a week and then it went down to once a week and eventually, I fixed it. It took me six months, but eventually I fixed and it’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe I let that go on that long.” That seems to be what’s happening is you’ve struggled with this kind of stuff on and off and tried different solutions for years.

Mike: Yeah, that’s exactly right. It has been going on for years and it’s just gotten progressively worse in this past year. I almost can’t even function. I was just not getting enough sleep. The sleep therapist I saw, he’s like, “Hey, I need you to track your sleep for two weeks.” I’m like, “Well, I’ve been writing it down whether I get a goodnight of sleep or not.” And he’s like, “No, here’s an official chart. Fill this out every single day for two weeks. Log how much you actually sleep.” I was looking at it and I’m just like, “I’m only getting 15 or 20 hours of sleep a week.” I was bad. I didn’t think it was that bad, but it was pretty bad.

Rob: That’s weird. You were literally, just to be clear, you were sleeping from midnight to three in the morning or something and then you are up. It’s like insomnia type stuff or you’re just up when you didn’t want to be?

Mike: It was a combination of that and also going to sleep and then waking up and then not being able to get back to sleep. Of course, all of the advice says, “Well, if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t get out of the bed because that’ll disrupt your body.” And then of course, there’s the conflicting advice which says exactly the opposite which is like, “Oh, if you’re not tired, get out of bed, and change your environment.” I’m probably exaggerating a little bit with 15 or 20 hours, but anyway, yeah, it was just awful. I don’t think there was any night where I was getting more than I think five or six hours of sleep.

Rob: That’s tough man. I’m not able to function like that.

Mike: How about you? How are things going with you?

Rob: They’re good. Just got back from Croatia 48 hours ago. I forget every time how much I love flying West and how leaving here, leaving Minneapolis and going to Europe is so hard because it is 10 times harder in terms of getting the sleep and the time change and all that crap especially we had three kids with us, they did great, they’re good travelers but still, it’s just a pain—you’re tired, at the wrong time.

Flying West, it’s like a dream man. We got back here, we just had to stay up a few hours then we got a goodnight’s sleep. We all woke up at four in the morning which is not a bad thing. We got up, we had an early breakfast, and then the next day we all slept ‘till six in the morning. Now, I’m hoping to try keep this schedule because I tend to be tired in the morning and I sleep later than I want to, 7:30, 7:40. But it’s been great getting a jump on the day, and it’s like built in. I need to remember this. I feel like the way is always easier.

Mike: I’ve experienced the same thing. I think I got back at 9:00 or 10:00 o’clock at night because I’ve left at, I think around 1:00 or something like that and then I had three hops. I went through the capital of Croatia, and then over to London Heathrow, and I made the mistake of getting in the wrong line. I apparently missed one of the signs. I’m sitting in this line and it’s going through customs, and I’m just like, “I’m not sure that I’m if the right spot. Shouldn’t I be just transferring from one airplane to another? Why do I have to go through customs here?” and so I asked somebody, and I’m glad I did because I was going to end up in England. I would’ve had to go all the way back through security. It would’ve been bad. I was at the wrong terminal too.

Rob: That makes it tough. Cool. I’m glad you dodged that bullet. Other thing I want to mention is MicroConf Las Vegas. It is March 24 th through the 28 th of 2019. Growth Edition is the first two and a half days, and Starter the latter two days of that. We’re going to be putting tickets on sale here in the next, I’ll say, three to four weeks. If you’re interested in coming, you’re going to want to go to microconf.com, click on Growth or Starter Edition, and then enter your email. There’s a Drip pop-up widget in the lower right and you will be on the list to get tickets. We’ve been selling out every year, at least with Growth, it got started selling last year, but you’re going to want to be on that list to get tickets early.

Mike: Yeah, there’s also a place, it’s a description on the website if you’re not sure which edition of the conference you should go to, there’s some descriptions there that’ll kind of help you decide. If you have any questions, obviously, just drop an email to us in the very near future and we’ll help you out.

Rob: Today, we are answering some listener questions. We’ve got a nice crop of them in while we were in Europe. First one is a voicemail and he’s asking about what to do with profits once your business is successful.

“Hey Mike and Rob. My name is Joe, I’m a solopreneur, like a lot of your listeners, but unlike them I’m in the free-to-play mobile game industry rather than a B2B SaaS, but a lot of what you guys talk about still applies. I’ve been listening to you for five years now, so thank you for all the episode. My question is about what to do with profits when the business has been very successful. Up to now, I’ve been treating the profits as capital for future runway, for when the business takes a downturn. But the business has been doing well for a few years now and I feel like my family should take part in the success of the business as well rather than use all of the profits just for future runway to pay myself. I was wondering what you guys think about that and if you have any advice. Thanks. Bye.”

In addition, Joe clarified, he said, “I’m wondering if it makes sense to do something like have half the profits go to future runway and the other half go into savings for the family or maybe increase my “salary” every year because the business is doing well, so that I have more money to spend on and save for family things.” I like this question. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a question like this and I like it. I have a lot of thoughts on it actually.

Mike: Well, do you want to go first? I’ve got plenty of thoughts on my own too.

Rob: Okay, let me go first on this one. I think there’s some traditional business thinking. When I first got out of college, I worked for a construction company–electrical construction. The guy who ran that company had been running it since the ‘50s. His philosophy was, “You take the profits at the end of the year, you invest half of them back in the business.” He kept them as retainer earnings—it’s what they’re called on your balance sheet. Then he took the other 50% and he split that in half, so now you’re talking 25% and 25%. He took 25% for the owners of the company. Originally, it was just him but then there were four or five, six different executives who owned pieces, and then the other 25% basically share with the employees. It was either an end-of-the-year bonus or they would buy us—I worked there a couple of years and they bought us brand-new Dell computers. This was in the late ‘90s, it was actually several thousand dollars, or they would sometimes get cash bonuses and that kind of thing.

Now, Joe’s probably not in that situation, it doesn’t sound like he has a bunch of employees but that’s one way to think about it. This half and half idea, I think is interesting. I think that’s one approach you can take. Other approach is more of what I’ve done with my apps and my companies, is have a number that I want in the bank. It’s kind of like your emergency fund. Like in personal finance, first thing you do once you’re out of debt is you save up three to six months of living expenses and you put those in a money market or savings account, you don’t touch them. That’s for when your car breaks down or you have to move quickly or just if anything goes wrong. I believe in the same thing for a business. You’ll have to figure out what the number is. But I remember, with HitTail, I believe I wanted like $30,000 or $40,000 in the bank, and then everything above that, I started putting into a different account. Now, some of it I pulled out for personal stuff and others I put in to invest in other products.

When Drip started getting bigger, that number got a lot more. It was like $100,000 would only cover payroll for a few months. That number then had to go up to $100,000, $150,000, $200,000 and you’re going to have to figure out where that comfort is. That’d be the other things is you don’t need to necessarily split it 50-50, you could just have a threshold where it’s like, “Hey, everything beyond that, I just basically take out for the family.” Those are my thoughts. What do you think, Mike?

Mike: I think there’s my answer to this and there’s also, I’ll say, some subjectiveness that you would have to run past a tax attorney for that . I agree with you that having a number in mind that you want to have in the bank at all times as kind of a cash cushion for the business is a great idea, and depending on how many employees you have and what your regular expenses are in a monthly basis for your family are, that’s going to factor into that.

Whatever that number happens to be, let’s say that it’s $60,000 and you’re paying yourself $10,000 a month—just for sake of simple math—you get that in the bank and then above that, that’s when you have to start looking at, I’ll say, tax advantages. Because one of the things that he had mentioned is paying himself salary and from talking to my CPA, for example, his advice—again, this is not general tax advice for everyone, talk to your own—but he had said, “Take your salary and actually cut it in half and pay yourself half of it as salary, the other half as the owner’s dividend.” Essentially, what that does is it pays all the FICA and all the other stuff on taxes, and it’s a reasonable salary, and then the rest of it comes as owner’s dividends and it’s taxed at a different rate. I would definitely look in like talk to a CPA and see what you should actually do once you get beyond that cash cushion.

Rob: Yes, that’s a great tip. I just want to chime in and say my accountant has told me the same thing, not tax advice, but you want to be able to justify a salary. You don’t want to pay yourself $1 a month because then the IRS is going to come in and say, “Well, you’re the CEO of a small software company, you should be making at least 60K, 70K, 80K depending on where you live. As long as you can justify that though, if you keep it as low as you can, you will maximize on your taxes. I like that. I think increasing salary is probably not what you want to do.

Mike: The other thing you can do is planning for the future in terms of what you can invest that money in in terms either a SEP-IRA or various investments to basically for retirements. I would definitely look at those, I would probably avoid, again not tax or legal advice, I’d probably avoid keeping a lot of cash in the business beyond what your comfortable with because let’s say that the business got sued for example or something happens, if that money is in the business, it’s considered a business asset. It’s not to say that the opposite can happen because if you get in a car crash then they come after you personally then they’re suing you for the money that’s in your bank account.

There’s different ways of looking at that risk profile but those are, I guess, my general thoughts on it. But I would be cautious about just dumping it all directly into “salary”. There’s other ways to, I’ll say, pull money out of the business and ease up any sort of financial burden on your family or just make it a more comfortable life.

Rob: I think that’s good advice. To recap, I think 50-50 is totally reasonable. I think just having a maximum threshold of an emergency fund is another reasonable approach. It sounds like both you and I vote, don’t increase your salary unless that’s just something you want to do because it sounds like you’re going to pay more taxes on it; you pay the FICA and all the other stuff.

You know what, Mike, I like that you brought up personal liability and business liability. I think in general, owning a business is you’re going to have a lot more liability than on the personal side. Because you’re right, you could hit someone with your car, the odds of that are just less than your business screwing someone’s launch up and then they sue you for damages. But on the business side, you should have that LLC or that S Corp or whatever that protects you on the personal side, if you don’t have a personal umbrella policy—this is going a little off on the tangent but I just want to do my little spiel here—a personal umbrella liability policy here for $1 million or $2 million is very, very inexpensive.

As soon as you have means, as soon as you have enough, someone could sue you and you’re worth enough that it’s worth suing you, I think everyone should have one. I believe that I have $1 million umbrella policy by the time we owned a few houses in LA, and I’d say, in my late 20s or early 30s and we have $1 million umbrella policy and I believe it was $300,000 a year.

That was just if someone hurt themselves at our house, so they decided that, we did get in that car accident, but I had enough money at that point where I was like, “Well, I don’t want to lose these several hundred thousand dollars of my net worth.” and it was worth $300 bucks. As you get more money, you need to increase that, you need $2 million or $3 million umbrella policy. But that’s just a little side piece of advice that I think helps me sleep at night.

Mike: I think, at the end of the day, that’s exactly what he’s asking is like, “How do I sleep better at night with the finances that I have and how do I deal with this?”

Rob: Thanks for the question, Joe. It was a good one. Our next question is a response to our response to a question in episode 415. In episode 415, Chris Palmer wrote in and he asked a question about, “How many presales do I need to do to validate an idea?” You and I, in the past, have kind of thrown around 30. That’s the number Jason Cohen used, and so that’s what I kind of latched onto when you and I battered that around. Maybe it’s 20, maybe it’s 40 or whatever, but we kind of said that and Chris said, “Look, I’m selling into the enterprise and so maybe I can get three people to verbally commit but that’s going to be about it.” You and I talked back and forth.

Nick Mair wrote in. He said, “Hi, Rob and Mike. Great show. Regarding the question from Chris Palmer on the number of customers required to validate an enterprise concept. We validated our idea by pitching a deck of five slides to five enterprise customers. Commitment in principle and strong interest from three to five companies was enough for us to move forward. Next, we bootstrapped into it by finding a willing “development” customer […] going to work with him to help us get the product right in exchange for a low, one-time lifetime license fee. We asked for a letter of intent on the condition that we could demonstrate, we could build a working MVP at our expense.” Letter of intent, you and I had talked about that a little bit. “We built the MVP with £15,000 of our own savings from separate consulting income. The MVP’s success and the letter of intent led to an upfront commitment of £30,000 towards funding a full V1, paid in stages to de-risk for both parties. We agreed $10,000 on the start and £10,000 on deliver to user testing and £10,000 on user sign-off. We were live nine months after the MVP. We had a great reference of customer which got us going. We’re not installed at eight and growing subtly. The one- to two-year runway you need to get traction in enterprise is tough, but I’m not sure it’s harder than B2B SaaS, it just needs a different funding approach. I hope this is helpful to Chris and others in the space.

That was Nick Mair’s response. He’s from Atticus Associates Ltd. Totally appreciate that. I think that’s great insight. I want to point out that I love when our community gets involved like this. That you and I had opinions, and we had thoughts about it, and I listened back, and they were totally reasonable, but Nick has actually done it and he has another point of view in something I never even thought of pitching it as a slide deck. I actually think that’s a really good idea.

Mike: I agree. I actually met Nick at MicroConf Europe this year. I had dinner with him. He kind of talked a little bit about what their approach had been. I’m glad he wrote in because he explained a lot of these things to me over at dinner. It was fantastic listening to him and hearing all the different things that they did and the path that they went. You can look at it and say, “Well, you’ve only got eight customers. What happens if one of them leaves?” because that’s probably going to be a huge chunk of money. But at the same time, at the enterprise level, you’re probably going to, at least have some sort of heads-up that they’re not happy or there’s problems.

Unless the business is shutting down or something like that or they’re ripping you out and replacing you with some other vendor, but chances are good that if you got in there to begin with, you’re probably going to have like an internal champion of some kind because that’s how enterprise tend to happen. You’re going to get at least some sort of heads up about what’s going on and why they may be unhappy.

Rob: Yeah. A little secret here is that Nick is a smart guy and Nick has been successful. You and I sit on this podcast and we give our best advice, and we give our best ideas, but sometimes when there’s someone out there who has done this, they just know a little more about it. I appreciate Nick chiming in. He actually offered to connect directly with Chris, so I connected them via email. That’s why we do this, right? That was so stoke. I’m just super excited that Nick may be able to give some advice to Chris that will help his business get off the ground. It doesn’t need to always be us.

That’s what we learned early on with MicroConf is I think the first year you and I had felt like we had to do everything, and we had to have everything in place and if people weren’t having fun, it was our responsibility. What we’ve learned over the years is that no, MicroConf has become an entity unto itself. The speaker show up and they deliver value in that, the attendee show up and they deliver value to one another, and that’s the most important part. You and I, at this point, are facilitators, we’re involved as well but the conference doesn’t hinge on us anymore. I don’t think the podcast, it does a little more because it’s our voices, but it doesn’t have to. We don’t have to have all the answers when smart folks like Nick and others we know can weigh in.

Mike: It’s kind of a, I don’t want to call it a double-edged sword, but I would say it’s certainly not something that we have thought would happen early on, but I’m very glad that it has happened that way. Because I think you’re right, I think that MicroConf could, in theory, go on without us but in terms of the podcast, if either you or I left, or if two new hosts came in or something like that, as long as the content and the tone and everything else, like the general philosophy and ethos where they are, I don’t know it’s going to be that big of a deal. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the listeners will feel very differently, and we’ll hear about it in the comments but you’re right. It’s nice to be part of a community where it’s bigger than just the people who were there early.

Rob: Thanks again for writing in, Nick. Our next question is from a longtime listener. He says, “Hey, Rob and Mike. I’m the founder of zoomadmin.com, it’s cloud management software as a service. We’re still in development but want to start a podcast with other founders and record our journey, sort of like Startups For The Rest Of Us. My question is, how would you go about marketing a podcast in 2018 both paid and free channels?”

Before you dive in on this, Mike, because I know you have thoughts on it, zoomadmin.com, when you get a chance, get an SSL certificate. It’s not giving me the superbad warning but it’s not secure and Google Chrome is kind of having a little bit of a conniption on me about it. It’s just one of those little things that when you get to launch, you’re going to want to have an SSL cert.

What do you think about this, Mike? I think the first question I would say is, I mean, starting a podcast will be fun, but it’ll be a lot of work. Do you think it’s more of a distraction than its worth? Is it going to help their business pound-for-pound, hour-for-hour? Are there other activities they could be doing that will help their business more than starting a podcast?

Mike: It’s a hard question to answer without the context of their business. If they’re still early on in development, who’s the podcast going to speak to? Because it seems to me, if you’re going to try and start a podcast that’s going to target other founders, you can leverage their audience certainly to help increase the number of people who will listen to the podcast. But are the types of people who will end up listening to it and learning about a journey, are they going to be interested in the product?

I do think that there’s definitely some overlap, but I don’t know how much there is. I will say that, I think building a podcast is going to be a long journey, and yes, you can get a lot of listeners but that doesn’t necessarily translate directly to sales. You’re going to spend a lot of time and effort building this podcast and building the community and listeners around it, but at the same time, I feel like there’s probably much less overlap between the people who would listen to it and want to hear the journey versus actually be interested in the product. I do agree with you, I think it’s a very valid question about, “Is this the right marketing strategy that you should try?” I can’t say I have a great answer for that. If you would podcast about serving hosting, for example, that ties directly to the podcast, so it would be, I would say a better fit, but how interesting is that as a topic?

Rob: Yep, I would agree with it too. I think that’s why I threw out the question. I think hour for hour, there are other activities that you can do that are going to help your business more. Let’s put that aside for now because that’s advice we have, but his real question is, “How would you market a podcast in 2018 both paid and free,” which I think is a fun idea because I’ve often thought about paid promotion of a podcast and what that might look like and whether the numbers could work. Free promotion, what are you going to do, right? It’s social media, it’s all the socials, and then it’s trying to do your best to search engine optimize yourself in the iTunes podcast store or Stitcher or whatever—those are the free channels that I can think of. I would start Googling how to do that. I can throw out ideas here. I know that keyword stuffing kind of works reasonably well because these search engines are not Google, the iOS, or the iTunes podcast repository is not very intelligent in terms of how it indexes things.

Mike: No.

Rob: Yeah. There’s a lot of search engines that are still easy to game and this is one of them. I would kind of dig into that if I were a new one. When I launched the podcast, I would it with four episodes live because as soon as someone subscribes for the first time, it downloads all the available episodes up to three or four. If you only have one episode, someone listens to it, they don’t like, they’re going to leave. But if they download all four of them, they might give it more of a chance. It’s just a little bit of a hack to get more episodes onto someone’s device so that they might listen through them and see if it gets better because your first one’s probably be kind of rough. Please don’t go back and listen to episode one of this podcast. It is beyond rough.

Mike: I think that’s an understatement. All that’s great advice. Another thing I would say is, you had mentioned SEO, one of the things we do at Startups For The Rest Of Us is we have transcripts of all of our episodes. I would advise doing that, and it does cost money to have them done but it is worth it in terms of just having raw content on your website. You can just go to WordPress and just type in whatever search term you have, and it will go back through and it will search every single podcast that you have ever published. In addition to that, you also have the search engines that are coming in and indexing that content. That is going to be helpful as well.

The one other piece of advice I have is if you’re going to start interviewing founders of other companies, let them know when you publish the podcast and have them invite their own audience to it because that can help you to grow your own audience for the podcast. In terms of paid advertising, I think that you could do newsletters and things like that. Find bloggers who are speaking to an audience that’s very similar to the types of people who you want to be listening to your podcast and the materials aimed at and see if you can put a plug inside their newsletter. I think that’s probably the strategy I would go to.

I don’t know how well a paid advertising on Google or Facebook or something like that would work. I have my doubts about it. I think it’s going to be hard to track through a conversion for that like, “Oh, did this person actually subscribed to the podcast or not?” because you’re kind of doing blanket advertising at that point. It’s going to be hard to measure conversion rate and then pull them out like, “Oh, this person downloaded the podcast.” Well, how do you know that? You really can’t because those things are disconnected at this point. I would say it’s more like billboard advertising where you’re bringing out awareness to it versus somebody signs-up for an email list then you can stop advertising to them. You have no idea whether or not they did.

Rob: Yeah, I like the idea of using paid channels to grow a personal brand. It would be tough to make it work with a podcast for exactly what you said. You don’t know who’s taking what actions. Podcast listeners are also not that valuable compared to say, email subscribers. Podcast as the promotion, it is the thing that brings in the traffic. Driving traffic to a podcast via paid acquisition, I can’t imagine that working. I could imagine in the free channels. That’s the thing, the podcast content is what you share on social and then that brings the folks in and then you try to get them to buy or to sign-up for your email list. Those are your two typical calls to action.

But to pay to drive someone to a podcast then try to drive into your email list or whatever, I just think it’s going to be too long of a funnel—personal opinion, haven’t tried it, but I’m guessing it would be. It’s not something I would dive into especially if you haven’t launched yet, if you’re in early stage product. I think there are more important things for you to be worrying about.

Mike: I think I’d point to Groove as an example of how to do that because they blogged about it. I do think that maybe there’s some value in having a podcast where you talk about the blog article that you just published or the post or something like that, but I would treat that as secondary. I would look at that newsletter article that you publish on a weekly basis as kind of the go-to for like, “Hey, people are following this particular story,” and you have them on the email list. I think the disconnect on the podcast and paying user, subscriber, or like an email address—it’s just too much.

Rob: Thanks for the question. I hope that was helpful. Our next question comes from Greg. He says, “Thanks for the show. I’m a big fan. I have a B2B SaaS that is focused on small businesses. I want to keep focusing on the segment because things have been working out really well. We have $45,000 in MRR.” Congratulations, Greg. “I enjoyed the frictional sales process. Sometimes we get some larger businesses interested in our product. Problem is that we use the system very much the same way as smaller businesses do, so we don’t have an enterprise plan. Additionally, most of them require a more presales work. For example, yesterday, one of the customers had their IT department send us a huge security assessment spreadsheet that would take me hours to complete. It also asked for architectural details I’m not comfortable sharing. For $100 a month, it doesn’t look like this is where I should be spending my time. How should I deal with these requests and how should I avoid wasting time with enterprise types when they are not my target market?”

You and I actually discussed this on stage at MicroConf Europe a little bit. But what are your thoughts here?

Mike: I think that you need to look at your pricing and figure out whether or not this is a market that you want to serve at all. Maybe you’ve looked at it already and decided it’s not worth it or you just don’t want to deal with those types of customers or you look at that and say, “Well, I do want to. How can I justify charging them more in order to make it worth my time?” One trick or hack that I’ve heard in the past is to offer an SLA with your enterprise plans. It probably doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do a heck of a lot more, but it’s just like you increase the cost by $800 a month for having an SLA on it because they’re going to want that. And then you can have all the documentation in order to justify that as the enterprise plan. But I think beyond that, do you really want to have them as a customer or not? That’s the fundamental question that you need to answer before you start going down the road of deciding when to spend your time on that.

Rob: I think that’s a good way to think about it. Can you charge more to make it worth it? This used to happen to me with DotNetInvoice, it was a $300 invoicing tool and it was a one-time fee. We would get approached and someone would say, “Here’s this massive checklist.” the same stuff. I would say, “Look, I’m sorry, we just aren’t equipped to service requests like this. This is just not something we’re able to do.” Some people would be puzzled like, “You don’t want me to give you my money? I want to spend money with you.” I was always like, “It’s $300. It just isn’t worth the time.” Some people would just be like, “Okay, I totally get it.”

Oftentimes I had a, “Look, a larger competitor I would recommend.” I’d be like, “If you want invoicing software for enterprise, go with XYZ, large competitor.” and they’re way more expensive than us. They were 10 or even 100 times frankly more expensive than us but they’re set up to handle that. That’s probably what I’d do is try to figure out someone you can recommend. You could even say, “For liability reasons or legal reasons, we aren’t able to…” […] just too high volume, “…and we aren’t able to do this kind of checklist, architectural stuff is just not something that we’re able to do but go to this competitor and they’re set up to do that.” It ends the conversation.

Our next question comes from Jonathan Sachs. He says, “I know about MicroConf and Big Snow Tiny Conf. What other similar conferences might you recommend checking out?”

Mike: We answered this question on stage at MicroConf Europe because people were asking. A couple of different recommendations that we threw out, one Big Snow Tiny Conf because the way the question was worded was what other conferences aside from MicroConf would you recommend. We also threw out Business of Software which I will say is aimed at a different market. But it’s the type of people who would go to it tend to be part of larger businesses. You’re talking 15 employees and up. There are smaller companies there as well but generally, you do not necessarily get as many founders there, so with MicroConf, it’s like 90% founders whereas with Business of Software it’s somewhere between 10 and 25 or 30.

A couple of others I might recommend is FemtoConf, that is run by Benedikt and Christoph who both have come to MicroConf before. I spoke at FemtoConf this past Spring, so did Dr. Sherry Walling, she spoke there as well. That’s a great one especially if you fit within the Microvenure/Startups For The Rest Of Us/MicroConf-type of community where it’s all small, self-funded, bootstrapped for founders. There’s a couple of others that Brian Casel has a list that he put together. I think we’ll link that up in the show notes of tiny conferences. He listed a couple there which I haven’t heard of or don’t know very much about. The three other he has listed here are TropicalSaaS in Spain, Digital Founders Camp, and then CodeCabin. Do you know of any others, Rob?

Rob: Nope. I think that’s a pretty good roundup. The bottom line there is many have come and go in the kind of software, SaaS, self-funded, bootstrapper space, and most of them have not stuck around. I think that list you’ve given is a pretty good one.

Mike: Some other ones I’ve heard of but don’t know a lot about are things like Rhodium Weekend and Peers Conf and then Release Notes.

Rob: I like Rhodium a lot. I’ve spoken there, and I know the crew there. Chris Yates runs that and he’s one of us. He’s very much about it for the community rather than trying to make a bunch of money out if it or something, so it’s very authentic. He has crafted a community that I respect. It’s a small conference, it’s only about 100-110 people. It’s more about buying and selling websites, and web properties, and marketing them and stuff. It’s tangentially related but it’s definitely different. It’s not about startups and often not about like starting your own thing, and it’s very much not necessarily about software. It’s about websites, web properties, and some people do have web applications, but that’s about it.

Mike: Jonathan, I hope that was helpful.

Rob: I think we should wrap it up for the day.

Mike: Sounds good. If you have a question for us, you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at [email protected] Our theme music is excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike answer a number of listener questions on topics including how to market a podcast, what to do with business profits, building features and more.

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Polina Marinova – The Profile (EP.35) | Infinite Loops

In this episode of Infinite Loops, we spoke with Polina Marinova, founder, and author of The Profile newsletter, which covers the masters and experts within various industries. In this conversation we covered:

  • Polina’s decision to leave Fortune
  • The business aspect of content creation
  • Lessons learned from profiling the greats
  • How The Profile has evolved over time
  • Developing an alter ego
  • And MUCH more

Follow Polina on Twitter ( https://twitter.com/polina_marinova ) and check out her newsletter ( https://readtheprofile.com/ ).

In this episode of Infinite Loops, we spoke with Polina Marinova, founder, and author of The Profilenewsletter, which covers the masters and experts with…

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David Goggins & Elon Musk's Performance Secrets - Polina Pompliano | Modern Wisdom Podcast 298

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Introducing the Distributed Podcast

Distributed podcastDistributed podcast

I’ve been meeting with some brilliant people for Distributed , my new podcast dedicated to exploring the future of work. The first episode is a conversation with Stephane Kasriel , CEO of Upwork , about how they built a distributed culture, and how flexible work will shape the future of the global economy.

Unlike Automattic , Upwork does have an office in Silicon Valley (albeit one with a remote receptionist!). It was interesting to hear how Stephane’s teams balance in-person culture with inclusiveness for all employees, no matter where they live. Read more about Stephane’s work at Distributed.blog , and subscribe at Apple Podcasts , or wherever you listen to podcasts .

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I’ve been meeting with some brilliant people for Distributed, my new podcast dedicated to exploring the future of work. The first episode is a conversation with Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, abo…

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On the James Altucher Show – Matt Mullenweg

Interesting interview, a lot of issues and ideas were covered.

I thought that you were sensitive to Jame’s linguistic style, his mind seems to work quickly and jump around — and he interrupts, but you were okay with all that, for it didn’t seem to throw off your focus and ability to listen and follow the topics he addressed. I noticed that you would show that you were listening when he spoke by saying things like “aha, yes”, etc., so on that level it was fascinating to listen too, because I found it refreshing to hear the president of a company that has excellent listening skills.

Indeed, your father was a moving example of the need for company loyalty; the old paradigm of use and take for granted is a dinasour. And you do honour your Dad by how you run your companies, it was heartwarming to hear that WP and Automatic both have high standards and unique too, in how employees are paid and treated.

The part where Jame’s asked you why you didn’t sell WP had some good things to think about arise from your replies, such as: what is important in one’s life, how does one keep interests and activities new and inspiring.

I joined in for the James Altucher podcast in an episode that covered a lot of ground. One clarification was the point of the story about my Dad not making much at his old job was that companies sh…

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over 1 year ago
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Apple and Podcasting – Matt Mullenweg

I’ve been on Overcast for over a year; it’s some of the best £4 I’ve ever spent. Best features: – Your podcasts sync between devices – You can go to Overcast.fm to play podcasts from there or Delete shows/individual episodes or subscribe to new shows – On paid, there are about 8ish speeds you can run the podcast on and you can even set the amount of time a Quick rewind or Quick forward will do (7 sec, 15 sec, 30 sec etc.) – Attractive, clean interface that I found far easier to use than Apple’s own Podcasts app – If you are listening with headphones that have a remote attached, you can set it so that, for instance, 2 clicks fast forwards, 2 clicks and a long click goes to the next track…

I have 2 children under 5 and a wife in full time university. In other words, I’m inundated with chores. As long as I have my podcasts on, I can keep going even when it’s 10pm and my body is saying PLEASE STOP MAKING ME MOVE I AM VERY TIRED.

With many of the podcasts, to me, it feels like I’m hanging out with a good friend. I look forward to their show popping up in my feed. They keep me in a good mood, they make me empathise, they make me laugh, they make me learn – my life is enriched by them. We’re incredibly spoiled for choice.

I am happy to talk about this endlessly and offer recommendations to anyone that asks.

Matt, if you’re in the mood for a cool and motivating distraction, you’ll want to check out Bob Reynolds’ amazing VLOG. It provides a very candid look into the day-to-day life of a professional touring saxophonist and composer. Bob loves to share productivity hacks and even references the Pomodoro Technique in this video at 2:57: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5HMQiFPUjU . I almost fell out of my chair when I saw this and had to send it to you for a laugh…

He is also rocking WordPress in a major way with http://bobreynoldsmusic.com/ ! It’s an elegant, subscription-based music education site. The amount of videos and printed material is blowing my mind and I nominate his site for the WordPress Showcase, if nominations are currently being accepted.

Marco Arment has a great take on how the decentralized nature of podcasting is a feature, not a bug, and Apple being more proactive there would be harmful to the ecosystem. As an aside, since I&#82…

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Changelog Podcast – Matt Mullenweg

I know a lot of people are on their way to SxSW right now, here’s a podcast I joined called The Changelog you can download and check out on the way there (or back). It’s a bit more technical than the interviews I normally do, we talk about Javascript, Calypso, the philosophy of open source and WordPress, some of the thinking behind Automattic’s acquisitions, and my favorite programming books. I hope you can check it out , Adam and Jerod did a great job on this one.

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Dorm Room Tycoon Podcast – Matt Mullenweg

That interview was extra-special because it really stressed the powerful combination of having an amazing product and being committed to building a community, one member at a time. Folks who love WordPress (WP) want to see their friends use WP and often become very vocal about it.

Two weeks ago, I found out that an old friend from fourth grade band switched to WordPress ( http://www.earspasm.com/ ). I almost fell out of my chair in excitement! He is one of the best in the world on the bass clarinet and an amazing person. We were discussing his “Giant Steps” clip on FB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQFySnj-NbM

My rant for 2016: It’s time for successful artists to properly represent…and express their profound love and appreciation for a FREE, “enterprise-grade operating system” that “will enable them to create an amazing Web presence.” Cheers!

I joined an episode of the Dorm Room Tycoon podcast, which you can check out here.

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Stream Like a CEO – Matt Mullenweg

.

When Bill Gates was on Trevor Noah’s show it was amazing how much better quality his video was . I had experimented with using a Sony camera and capture card for the virtual event we did in February when WordCamp Asia was canceled, but that Trevor Noah video and exchanging some tweets with Garry Tan sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, even after I was on-record with The Information saying a simpler setup is better .

The quality improved, however something was still missing: I felt like I wasn’t connecting with the person on the other side. When I reviewed recordings, especially for major broadcasts, my eyes kept looking at the person on the screen rather than looking at the camera.

Illustration by Steve Hardie

For normal video conferencing a setup this nice is a distraction, but if you’re running for political office during a quarantine, a public company CEO talking to colleagues and the press, here’s a cost-is-no-object CEO livestreaming kit you can set up pretty easily at home.

GEAR GUIDE

Basically what you do is put the A7r camera, shotgun mic, and the lens together and switch it to video mode, go to Setup 3, choose HDMI settings, and turn HDMI Info Display off — this gives you a “clean” video output from the camera. You can run off the built-in battery for a few hours, but the Gonine virtual battery above lets you power the camera indefinitely. Plug the HDMI from the camera to the USB Camlink, then plug that into your computer. Now you have the most beautiful webcam you’ve ever seen, and you can use the Camlink as both a video source and an audio source using the shotgun mic. Put the Key Light wherever it looks best. You’re fine to record something now.

If you’d like to have a more two-way conversation Interrotron style, set up the teleprompter on the tripod, put the camera behind it, connect the portable monitor to your computer (I did HMDI to a Mac Mini) and “mirror” your display to it. ( You can also use an iPad and Sidecar for that .) Now you’ll have a reversed copy of your screen on the teleprompter mirror. I like to put the video of the person I’m talking to right over the lens, so near the bottom of my screen, and voilà! You now have great eye contact with the person you’re talking to. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is how to horizontally flip the screen in MacOS so all the text isn’t backward in the mirror reflection. For audio I usually just use a headset at this point , but if you want to not have a headset in the shot…

Use a discreet earbud. I love in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears , so you can put one of these in and run the cable down the back of your shirt, and I use a little audio extender cable to easily reach the computer’s 3.5mm audio port. This is “extra” as the kids say and it may be tricky to get an ear molding taken during a pandemic. For the mic I use the audio feed from the Camlink, run through Krisp.ai if there is ambient noise, and it works great (except in the video above where it looks a few frames off and I can’t figure out why. On Zoom it seems totally normal).

Here’s what the setup looks like all put together:

After that photo was taken I got a Mac Mini mount and put the computer under the desk, which is much cleaner and quieter, but used this earlier photo so you could see everything plugged in. When you run this off a laptop its fan can get really loud.

Again, not the most practical for day to day meetings, but if you’re doing prominent remote streaming appearances—or if your child is an aspiring YouTube star—that’s how you can spend ~9k USD going all-out. You could drop about half the cost with only a minor drop in quality switching the camera and lens to a Sony RX100 VII and a small 3.5mm shotgun mic , and that’s probably what I’ll use if I ever start traveling again.

If I were to put together a livestreaming “hierarchy of needs,” it would be:

  1. Solid internet connection (the most important thing, always )
  2. Audio (headset mic or better)
  3. Lighting (we need to see you, naturally)
  4. Webcam (video quality)

We’ve put together a Guide to Distributed Work Tools here , which includes a lot of great equipment recommendations for day-to-day video meetings.

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Update: There’s an updated 2021 version of this setup. When Bill Gates was on Trevor Noah’s show it was amazing how much better quality his video was. I had experimented with using a So…

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Stream Like a CEO – Matt Mullenweg

.

When Bill Gates was on Trevor Noah’s show it was amazing how much better quality his video was . I had experimented with using a Sony camera and capture card for the virtual event we did in February when WordCamp Asia was canceled, but that Trevor Noah video and exchanging some tweets with Garry Tan sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, even after I was on-record with The Information saying a simpler setup is better .

The quality improved, however something was still missing: I felt like I wasn’t connecting with the person on the other side. When I reviewed recordings, especially for major broadcasts, my eyes kept looking at the person on the screen rather than looking at the camera.

Illustration by Steve Hardie

For normal video conferencing a setup this nice is a distraction, but if you’re running for political office during a quarantine, a public company CEO talking to colleagues and the press, here’s a cost-is-no-object CEO livestreaming kit you can set up pretty easily at home.

GEAR GUIDE

Basically what you do is put the A7r camera, shotgun mic, and the lens together and switch it to video mode, go to Setup 3, choose HDMI settings, and turn HDMI Info Display off — this gives you a “clean” video output from the camera. You can run off the built-in battery for a few hours, but the Gonine virtual battery above lets you power the camera indefinitely. Plug the HDMI from the camera to the USB Camlink, then plug that into your computer. Now you have the most beautiful webcam you’ve ever seen, and you can use the Camlink as both a video source and an audio source using the shotgun mic. Put the Key Light wherever it looks best. You’re fine to record something now.

If you’d like to have a more two-way conversation Interrotron style, set up the teleprompter on the tripod, put the camera behind it, connect the portable monitor to your computer (I did HMDI to a Mac Mini) and “mirror” your display to it. ( You can also use an iPad and Sidecar for that .) Now you’ll have a reversed copy of your screen on the teleprompter mirror. I like to put the video of the person I’m talking to right over the lens, so near the bottom of my screen, and voilà! You now have great eye contact with the person you’re talking to. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is how to horizontally flip the screen in MacOS so all the text isn’t backward in the mirror reflection. For audio I usually just use a headset at this point , but if you want to not have a headset in the shot…

Use a discreet earbud. I love in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears , so you can put one of these in and run the cable down the back of your shirt, and I use a little audio extender cable to easily reach the computer’s 3.5mm audio port. This is “extra” as the kids say and it may be tricky to get an ear molding taken during a pandemic. For the mic I use the audio feed from the Camlink, run through Krisp.ai if there is ambient noise, and it works great (except in the video above where it looks a few frames off and I can’t figure out why. On Zoom it seems totally normal).

Here’s what the setup looks like all put together:

After that photo was taken I got a Mac Mini mount and put the computer under the desk, which is much cleaner and quieter, but used this earlier photo so you could see everything plugged in. When you run this off a laptop its fan can get really loud.

Again, not the most practical for day to day meetings, but if you’re doing prominent remote streaming appearances—or if your child is an aspiring YouTube star—that’s how you can spend ~9k USD going all-out. You could drop about half the cost with only a minor drop in quality switching the camera and lens to a Sony RX100 VII and a small 3.5mm shotgun mic , and that’s probably what I’ll use if I ever start traveling again.

If I were to put together a livestreaming “hierarchy of needs,” it would be:

  1. Solid internet connection (the most important thing, always )
  2. Audio (headset mic or better)
  3. Lighting (we need to see you, naturally)
  4. Webcam (video quality)

We’ve put together a Guide to Distributed Work Tools here , which includes a lot of great equipment recommendations for day-to-day video meetings.

Share this:

Update: There’s an updated 2021 version of this setup. When Bill Gates was on Trevor Noah’s show it was amazing how much better quality his video was. I had experimented with using a So…

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Gutenberg in Portland Oregon and Podcasts – Matt Mullenweg

I’ve had the opportunity to talk about Gutenberg at two great venues recently. The first was at WordCamp Portland which graciously allowed me to join for a Q&A at the end of the event. The questions were great and covered a lot of the latest and greatest about Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0:

Last week I also joined Episode 101 of the WP Builds podcast , where as Nathan put it: “We talk about Gutenberg, why Matt thinks that we need it, and why we need it now. We go on to chat about how it’s divided the WordPress community, especially from the perspective of users with accessibility needs.”

They may be out of seats already, but I’ll be on the other coast to do a small meetup in Portland, Maine this week. As we lead up to release and WordCamp US I’m really enjoying the opportunity to hear from WordPress users of all levels all over the country.

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I’ve had the opportunity to talk about Gutenberg at two great venues recently. The first was at WordCamp Portland which graciously allowed me to join for a Q&A at the end of the event. Th…

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over 1 year ago
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Back on Tim’s Podcast – Matt Mullenweg

says:

YES! Cannot wait to ingest this via my tympanic membranes!

I checked out the Calm and Coach apps that you mentioned. Thanks, hadn’t heard of them before. I kind of prefer the back and forth from you and Tim like the last podcast, though. Nonetheless, it was a great listen! ☺

I’ve really enjoyed both podcasts. I’ve gained many useful insights, thanks again Matt!

As someone starting a career in remote work, I’d love to hear your suggestions as to how to find that community you spoke of. It’s a problem I’ve been struggling to find a solution to.

A recommendation for books on vulnerability: Mark Manson’s “Models” (really just the first 4 chapters). It’s transformed how I think about myself and how I interact with the world. I think his new book may be even better, I just haven’t read it yet.

A high-fidelity, motivational shot in the arm! Listened on a Verizon Android tablet in the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep. Every business student or anyone simply looking to cultivate a more more efficient and fulfilling life should listen and take notes.

I like how you go until you “run out of gas.” It’s also cool to see the flexibility of the Pomodoro Technique relative to time intervals. For me, in the practice room, it’s three 15-minute intervals (long tones, scales, transcribing on the fly) with a five-minute break. Then, a final 10-minute free play session. If I only have 15-minutes to practice, I allot 5-minutes to each of the above areas. Beating the “beep” is my motivator.

I went back for a Round 2 answering follow-up questions from Tim’s readers on the Tim Ferriss podcast. About an hour long and covered a wide range of topics. One of these days I need to start…

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over 1 year ago
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Two Podcasts – Matt Mullenweg

Two Podcasts

Last week I did two podcasts around the Calypso news that are both now up, and show very different sides of the announcement. The first was with Brian Krogsgard of the WordPress-focused site Post Status and we talked a lot about the Calypso launch in the context of the WordPress community. The second was the always-fun video group the Gillmor Gang which ranged quite a bit but mostly focused on Calypso in the context of the wider tech world and where we’re going.

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Last week I did two podcasts around the Calypso news that are both now up, and show very different sides of the announcement. The first was with Brian Krogsgard of the WordPress-focused site Post S…

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0/ Ep. 87 is up with @DavidSacks and it was packed with a bunch of punchy, contrarian insights. Here were his best lessons on building, operating, leading and investing in 26+ 🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄🦄: (good lord ⬆️that's insane) pic.twitter.com/DIpExYRgB3

over 1 year ago

The YouTube algorithm is working like a charm. It recommended this great episode from @TWiStartups episode-5, between @Jason and @DavidSacks back in 2010! Jason and David have been adding value to the tech community for 10+ years, they are the real OGs. youtube.com/watch?v=TYA_vd…

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Webmonkey Podcast – Matt Mullenweg

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I was on the Webmonkey Podcast talking about WooCommerce and tech in general, my part starts around 26 minutes in.  

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Matt Report Podcast – Matt Mullenweg

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As a good follow-up to the podcast with Tim the other week, I did a podcast with Matt Medeiros of the Matt Report.

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Interview with Matt Mullenweg - Matt Report

Matt Report for WordPress, SaaS, and No-Code business Matt Report for WordPress, SaaS, and No-Code business Interview with Matt Mullenweg Share

Today, I’m excited to finally have Matt Mullenweg join us on the Matt Report podcast.

We’re going to satisfy our typical entrepreneur appetite by diving into his day-to-day routine and we’ll learn what it’s like being the CEO of Automattic . Want to know where Mullenweg’s vision for WordPress is going to take us? No problem, we’ve got you covered.

For those of you interested in the nitty-gritty of the WordPress community, we’ll discuss his take on .com vs .org and our latest debate — the purpose of the Jetpack plugin.

My interview with Matt Mullenweg

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The WordPress Entrepreneur

Booking Matt on the show was a result from one of my more spirited comments over on WP Tavern’s piece, How important is Jetpack on WordPress’ road to 50% market share?

I’ve told you how to make it in WordPress and achieving Greatness here isn’t easy.

My thoughts expressed in this discussion with Mullenweg are a culmination of my experiences in the WordPress marketplace over the last few years. We all walk a different path in our professional journey and that’s what creates our unique finger print or identity.

My intentions in this episode are that of someone who continues to work hard to build a brand and attractive product offering for my customers. Though I love WordPress and it’s community, top-down decisions can be a bit scary for a bootstrapped business person like me and I suspect, some of you as well.

Remember, I grew up under the boot of General Motors.

Can you afford to give back?

Five for the future was one such topic that left me thinking like I was pulled from the game too early. Freelancers, consultants and boutique agencies are sure to feel the pressure of dedicating 5% when they are still very much feeling the growing pains of organic growth. Will Mullenweg’s response surprise you?

On Jetpack and 50% adoption

According to Mullenweg, greater general adoption of WordPress will bring more developers to the platform. Fairly straightforward.

Is Jetpack the answer though?

My concern is the priority of Jetpacks distribution for every new WordPress site installed. Getting found in the .org repo is already a challenge and if Jetpack moves into, say, the famous five-minute install – what domino effect will that have on the rest of us?

In the interview I asked Mullenweg about that and generalized a scenario where a user chooses Jetpack forms over Gravity Forms. According to Mullenweg, plugin offerings like Gravity Forms have actually prospered since the release of Jetpack.

I reached out to Carl Hancock to see if he had any data that matched up:

As for Jetpack’s impact on Gravity Forms? I certainly wouldn’t say that Gravity Forms has prospered because of Jetpack. I don’t think there is anyway to quantify or establish that as being true. While it is true our revenue has grown tremendously since Jetpack was released, our revenue had grown every month from the time we launched until the time Jetpack was released. The growth simply continued it’s existing trajectory after Jetpack was released.

As far as the data goes I can tell you that last month was a record for us in terms of revenue. Jetpack was released in March of 2011 and since that time our monthly revenue numbers have grown 5x.

Understanding that both Jetpack’s solution and Carl’s solution cater to two different markets, my concern still lies within distribution of plugins. At what stage could Jetpack start eating away at the bottom line of other plugins?

Perhaps we embrace it like Chris Lema advises and trust that reaching for 50% will provide us better opportunity than available now. In fact, I already have with my latest theme, Symphony .

Go far together

I really appreciate Matt taking the time to chat with us. If you enjoyed this interview, would you say thank you to him?

At the end of the day, what makes WordPress great is that we all have a chance to have our voice heard. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll get our way, but at least we can bring the discussion to the table. To have someone who represents one of the most influential pieces of software in human history, join your little podcast, is truly an honor.

Thanks, Matt.

I also realize that no one has given me the right to profit off of the WordPress platform. Nothing is guaranteed and as business builders of your own, I hope you don’t take our current state of WordPress for granted.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Matt Mullenweg joins the Matt Report to discuss the future of WordPress, the intentions of Jetpack and being an entrepreneur in today's industry.

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