Episode 40: Know When To Quit w/Christopher Hawkins

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In this episode, I answer questions from listeners about why the show is ending, who my favorite guests are, what I’m doing next, and more!

Let me leave you with this letter:

Dear Listener,

It’s been an interesting three years, hasn’t it?

Every other week, I’ve been swallowing down my nervousness, asking someone more accomplished at product than I to spend an hour dispensing free advice, and posting it on the internet.

And every other week, 1,500 of you have been faithfully downloading it, listening to it, sharing it, and putting the advice into action in your own businesses.  That’s amazing to me.

Even more amazing is that episode after episode, you kept showing up.  Despite me being unqualified to host a show about launching software products, you always treated me with respect, like I was one of you, because I am. You’re my people, and I am yours. There’s no show if there are no listeners, and I’m so, so incredibly thankful for your support all this time.

So today, I move on, proud of the work I’ve done on this show, proud of you for having incorporated the advice of this show into your own product efforts, and proud even of my own (admittedly meager) product-launching results.

What’s next for me? First off, I’m not really prepared to talk about those rumors of me doing a freelancing podcast yet, but…when there’s something to talk about, the folks who get my newsletter will be the first to know.

Aside from that, my blog isn’t going anywhere.  I’ll still be around on Twitter.  Those of you who are still freelancing or consulting now about my free course.  None of these things are going away, and neither am I.  I’m just going to be a bit quieter for a while, and focus on the world of freelancing.

And what’s next for you?  With your dreams of making it big with your own product?  You’re going to be just fine.  There are loads of other podcasts out there that will help you get to where you want to go.  You’ve shown yourself to be smart and determined and capable; I have no doubt that you’ll make it.

So, as I move on from Chasing Product, I say to you this one last time:

Until I see you again, my friend,  keep on chasing product.

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Kind Regards,
Christopher Hawkins
Host, Chasing Product, 2013-2016

 

Episode 33: Following Your Startup’s North Star w/Sahil Lavingia

This Episode Sponsored By:
90-Day Product Goal Framework
Are you tired of failing to meet long term goals as a product creator? Now there’s a system to help keep you on track and on task as you launch your own products – more details


In this episode, Gumroad founder Sahil Lavingia opens up about VC, recent layoffs, the bright future of the company, and how having a startup “north star” has helped him to find his way as a founder.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • What a “north star” is and why it’s important
  • Why VC is just a tool, not a pair of shackles
  • The role of automation in a small company
  • Important lessons from being an early employee at a startup
Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

 Show Notes:

Sahil on Twitter
Gumroad
Gumroad on Twitter
Small Product Lab – Gumroad’s contest for product creators
Show HN: my weekend project, Gumroad – Gumroad launch in 2011

Sahil lavingia has had an interesting ride. Getting into the game as a teen doing self-taught freelance logo design, Sahil moved on to ad banners, web design, app design and eventually app development to meet market demand as brochure sites became less and less desireable.

The connections he made led him to landing a job at Pinterest in 2011 (which was not “the” Pinterest we know today). Being an early employee at a funded startup taught Sahil a number of valuable skills, including:

  • Learning to adapt to goals
  • Taking charge of one’s personal destiny
  • Managing up/down/sideways
  • Learning to develop & articulate a vision
  • How to not be idle

During that formative time at Pinterest, Sahil came to understand the concept of a startup “north star” – core values that vet every decision a founder makes. Sahils own north star led him to launch a startup of his own, Gumroad. After coding up a proof of concept consisting of a hew hundred lines of code/html/css, the next indicated step was to turn it into a business that scales well.

Being plugged into the Valley startup ecosystem, Sahil discovered that there was a system & process for turning ideas into money. After securing $1mm in seed funding, Sahil proceeded to behave like a bootstrapped startup, building out Gumroad on his own for an extended period of time and letting most of the money sit in the bank. The decision to take funding was guided by Sahil’s startup north star to help creators be able to earn a living from selling their creations.

“My default answer is, yes, I totally can.”

In recent years, that same startup north star led Gumroad away from further VC and back to being a bootstrapped business. Sahil talks frankly with me about his experience with VC – which he says has been very positive – and what recent layoffs mean for the company.

We also talk about how his startup north star led the development of a high degree of automation at Gumroad, why the Gumroad team continues to roll out new features, and why the company never needed more than a few employees to handle the day-to-day operations of the startup. Sahil further tells us how his startup north star will guide him through the decisions facing Gumroad as they continue to operate as a bootstrapped company for the foreseeable future.

“People like saying you’re either bootstrapped or VC-funded, and I don’t think it’s that binary…it’s a spectrum.”

We also talk frankly about what VCs expect from their portfolio businesses, and why this works out acceptably well for Sahil and Gumroad, according to his startup north star.

Episode 30: MVPs and Product Validation w/Ian Lawson

This Episode Sponsored By:

Mastering Business Email
Don’t let unprofessional emails cost you business or harm your reputation – simple guidelines to help you write better, more professional emails
Special offer for Chasing Product listeners in this episode – more details


Ian Lawson from Awmous and SlickPlan joins us today. As an agency owner turned product-creator, Ian has plenty to tell us about the importance of an MVP, and the surprise product validation that launched his product.

In this episode, Ian talks about being a self-professed art nerd, starting his own interactive studio, and how he went about deciding what product to create.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • The importance of avoiding tech/design debt
  • How to capitalize on a business accident
  • How to plan for growth
Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

 Show Notes:

Awmous – Ians newest venture
SlickPlan – Create a beautiful site map in minutes
Honeypot – Simple and intuitive web app that simplifies HR tasks
Startupland
Basecamp
Lean UX
Remote: Office Not Required

Episode 28: Teach Everything You Know w/Nathan Barry

This Episode Sponsored By:
RECORD & RELEASE: Learn How To Podcast In Just One Day
Podcasting can help you gain status and notoriety as a subject-matter authority, and effectively build an audience by reaching your entire market.
More details

convertkit-nathan
Today’s guest is Nathan Barry, founder of ConvertKit and author of several books. His career has spanned from anonymously doing client work to becoming a highly-visible and well-respected author, speaker and founder.

In this episode, Nathan talks about his journey, including early struggles, professional epiphanies, hard-learned strategies for growing his Saas app, and why “teach everything you know” is so powerful for marketing.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Growing a Saas app
  • Why your heroes are no different than you
  • How to position yourself as an expert
  • Why it’s important to get customer feedback
Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

 Show Notes:

ConvertKit – Email Marketing For Professional Bloggers
Authority – A step-by-step guide to self-publishing
Designing Web Applications – Nathan’s guide to web app design
The App Design Handbook – Nathan’s guide to iPhone/iPad app design
How To Cheat At Online BUsiness – Nathan’s article about audience-building
Chris Coyier – Writer, CSS Tricks
Jason Fried – Marketing By Sharing

Episode 24: Learning As You Go w/Tracy Osborn

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

Tracy Osborn joins us today to talk about her founders journey. From college CS to art courses, to an incubator, Tracy has made her bones in the industry by learning as she went along. Now, Tracy can claim multiple products and recently authored a book.

In this episode, we talk about Tracy’s early experiences working in both startups and agencies, her experiences with partnerships, and why it pays to get an app in front of customers, fast. We also cover some practical aspects of being a founder and keeping a product moving forward.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • the benefits of participating in an incubator/accelerator
  • how Kickstarter can aid your product launch
  • why it’s important not to dilute your focus
  • why learning as you go is better than reading books

 Show Notes:
WeddingLovely – Tracys web product
Hello Web App – Tracys book; Learn to Build a Web product w/Python & Django
Limedaring – Tracys blog

Python
Django
500 startups
Y Combinator
Kickstarter
PyCon
Nathan Barry
Authority
Gumroad
Leanpub
Product Hunt
Reddit
Uber
Skillshare

Episode 23: Building An Audience w/Richard Felix

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

Richard Felix joins the show in this episode.  Richard Felix has a multi-product mini-empire going on. From his early collaboration with Chris Coyier until now, Richard has leveraged building an audience and education people into a steady stream of lifeblood for his products.

In this episode, we talk about his start as a big reader & computer support pro as a teenager, his early lesson regarding audience-building and how it impacts success, and his experience using the act of teaching as an audience-builder. We also cover some practical aspects of being a founder and keeping a product moving forward.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • how having an audience made his first success without knowing it
  • the importance of developing marketing skills
  • opportunity cost and how it changes when you have product out
  • why the term “MVP” has baggage

 Show Notes:

Be Stunning – Richard’s product; stops SaaS app churn by preventing failed payments
Get Retained – Richard’s product; stop Saas customer cancellations before they happen
– Retained tells you what customer to talk to & what about
– Customers need to do certain things to be successful
– Customer questionnaire upon sign-up; use the responses as criteria

Customer Retention Academy – used to build e-mail list
– Creating customers through education

Richard’s Blog
AreMySitesUp – Richard’s project from 2009
Chris Coyier & CSS Tricks
– Chris was building an audience long before the site – this is important

Amy Hoy – product-launching badass
30×500 – Amy’s product-launching course
– never build w/o an audience
– lots of structure
– lots of goals
– sales safari…identify needs & marketing opportunities in peoples own element
– see what people complain about…find enough of them

David Kadavy
Steli Efti
close.io

Dropp – geo-tagged messages & media

Richard Says:
Build something small first
– maybe solve 1 part of the problem & see if the complainers bite

Marketing skill development
– be social!
– come out from behind the keyboard & meet people (the opposite doesn’t work)
– keep up a constant trickle of communication while building an audience
– losing a lot of customers to easy-to-fix problems prompted a desire to communicate better

Mistake: taking things I read as fact – too much focus
– Now, focus on outcomes
– Don’t get overwhelmed
– There’s a chance people don’t know why they’re successful

Opportunity cost – freelancing takes away from the product business now
– Most of us have the opposite problem

3 things
– build an audience…this is important!
– talk to your customers, or the people you want as customers (do you really want those customers?)
– ship as fast as you can – get as much as you need shipped to see if people pay
WARNING: MVP HAS BAGGAGE

Episode 11: Launching an App With a Full-Time Job w/David Raffauf

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

On Episode 11, I talk to David Raffauf, founder of Scoreboard, a Saas app that handles invoicing for freelancers and agencys.  David shares his story of launching an app, marketing, and doing business in the Saas world while holding down a full-time job.

David’s blog can be found at http://davidraffauf.com/ and you can follow him on Twitter as @draffauf.

WordPress ate my show notes, so this will have to do while I re-create them.

Scoreboard – David’s Saas app; Invoicing made fast & simple
37Signals
Bidsketch
Ruby On Rails
Rob Walling

Episode 3: Mobile App Marketing and Double-Bootstrapping w/Andrey Butov

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

After two episodes of bootstrapped product founders with Saas apps, I went mobile! Episode 3 features a talk with Andrey Butov, the founder of Antair Software & creator of more than 2 dozen BlackBerry, Android and iOS apps. Plus we take part of the conversation all the way back to the old-school Joel on Software forums.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • the product strategy that is even worse than “build it and they will come”
  • why Andrey had to bootstrap the same company twice
  • the trade-offs of a huge early growth curve vs taking your time to grow
  • why selling to small business is the same as selling to consumers
  • why Andrey’s latest product is a Saas app instead of a mobile app (although it does address mobile app marketing)

We also talk about our shared hatred of the term “lifestyle business”.

Andrey has survived and thrived in an often brutal mobile app marketing environment.  Mobile app developers have little control of the customer relationship, and sometimes no way to contact customers directly.  Andrey shares what he has learned over the years, what he has realized about mobile app marketing and what he’d do differently now. We also talk a bit about how his latest product, Uberdeck, just might change the entire face of mobile app marketing.  That’s an exciting prospect for a bootstrapper.

As always, we finish the show with some action items for aspiring founders.  This is a tricky question to ask, and runs the risk of encouraging generic responses.  Andrey gives a reply that is clearly informed by his years of experience as a bootstrapper. Don’t miss it!

Uberdeck – Andrey’s newest product; Send marketing campaigns and important notices directly to your mobile apps to serve as mobile app marketing.
Antair Software – Andrey’s long-running software company
Bootstrapped.fm – Andrey’s bootstrapped product podcast
So You Want to Be a Wall Street Programmer – Andrey’s book

Joel On Software forums – where an entire generation of bootstrapped product founders got their inspirations
Perfect Table Plan – founded by Andy Brice, back in the Joel On Software days
Collectorz

Andrey & I talked a bit longer than expected, but his story is so interesting I didn’t want to edit too much out.