Startups for the Rest of Us Notes 2020

Startups for the Rest of Us

Episode 478 | A Few Things I Learned in 2019

Date: 2020-01-07


Turn off the Internet and just think about things.

(Hire) product-based thinkers.

(Processes) have to get better.

Double down on your strengths and backfill your weaknesses.

Launching new things is extremely time consuming and way more than you think it is going to be.

There is a very unique skill set for taking something from zero to existence.

Launch existing products to a new audience or new products to an existing audience but never do both at once.

It makes the day easier to fight through when you have the wins along the way.

Episode 479 | Two-Sided Marketplaces, Hotseats, Forgotten Subscriptions, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2020-01-14


The start of a marketplace is really hard because you need to get both sides.

You need to start getting as much revenue as possible so focus your marketing budget on the business side.

Time is the most valuable asset as a founder.

Make it easy for people to cancel.

Email a monthly receipt.

There is really no such thing as B2C SaaS.

Episode 480 | Stairstepping Your Way to SaaS with Christopher Gimmer

Date: 2020-01-21


Celebrate the wins.

Doing things in public creates opportunity.

It is difficult to get people to try an app.

Episode 481 | A Bluetick Update from Mike #Taber

Date: 2020-01-28


As a founder momentum is so important. It is important for your team. It is important for your morale. Once you can start pushing the boulder up the hill then it is easier to keep going.

Expectations do not always align with reality.

A really hard part of entrepreneurship is knowing what to work on next–trying to prioritize.

We are developers. The siren song of building that next feature is always calling.

Episode 482 | The Value vs. Stress of Twitter, Pros and Cons of Remote Work, and Digital Minimalism – A Discussion Show with Derrick Reimer

Date: 2020-02-04


A lot of the benefit (from Twitter) is serendipitous.

Be deliberate (about the social media you do).

We are reducing our communication down to binary things. (Likes, emojis)

An important part of building a healthy team is actually having relationships.

Episode 483 | Building a Mindset for SaaS Growth with Andy Baldacci

Date: 2020-02-11


Every business has a funnel (even if they aren’t digital). There are steps someone goes through to become a customer.

Keep executing on a small number of things.

People in marketing need to be more deliberate with what they are doing at each stage of the funnel.

You can’t rely on osmosis to fuel growth forever.

Find something you can add to the article or that is relevant that you can give them in exchange for their email address.

Meet (your customers) where they are at.

Episode 484 | Marketing That’s Working Today, Moving from 5 to 10 Employees, SaaS Longevity, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2020-02-18


The main core of affiliate marketing is the same main core as other business you get into. It is finding a defined set of problems for a defined audience.

All (affiliate marketers) are doing is recommending the best things to fix the problem that the people are coming to the website for.

Book: The One Minute Manager

People run their companies like they are going to be around forever.

At some point it is really important for a founder to take some money off the table in some way, shape, or form.

You don’t need that many leads if you are selling at high price points.

Episode 485 | Catching Up with Rob (An Interview by Dr. Sherry Walling)

Date: 2020-02-25


A certain part of being successful is knowing yourself.

Episode 486 | The Shocking Collapse of Zirtual and Maren Kate’s Next Act (plus How to Hire Well)

Date: 2020-03-03


If you have a services business, and people are paying you money for it, then often you don’t need to raise money.

It is important for founders to educate themselves on the building blocks of whatever business they are in.

The world is a lot bigger than the place you are in.

Resumes are a truly terrible way of assessing fit.

Don’t post a role you’re hiring for, post the jobs that you need done.

Check references.

Episode 487 | Startup Roundtable Discussing, Leadpages’ Acquisition, and More Hot Topics

Date: 2020-03-10


Privacy is becoming a trend.

If you run a non-subscription business you are just grinding it out.

When you put money on a credit card you are spending future earnings before you have them.

Episode 488 | A Bluetick Progress Update from Mike Taber

Date: 2020-03-17


Do things that don’t scale.

High average revenue per customer is one of the holy grails.

When you are a small company you are super agile.

We all have blindspots in our personality that are not helpful for us getting stuff done.

Episode 489 | 15 Years to a SaaS Exit (Plus Why Forecasting is Crucial)

Date: 2020-03-24


Board members can help you find talent.

When you have more credibility you have ways to do things differently.

Good investors don’t want unrealistic or silly projections.

If it doesn’t move the needle should you be working on it next?

Episode 490 | How Founders Should Be Thinking About the Current Crisis

Date: 2020-03-31


Recessions and bear markets are not the same but they correlate.

We are definitely going to see cuts (to SaaS purchasing).

The stock market has never fallen this fast this quickly.

Don’t panic. Clear heads will prevail.

No business is recession-proof.

Cut 20% of your overhead now and be prepared to cut another 20% if you need to.

Know where the savings is going to come from before you need it.

The companies that did the best (in 2008 and 2009) are the ones that did a deep cut early and then didn’t have to do anymore.

Take care of yourself and the people around you.

Episode 491 | Hard Lessons Learned, Reaching High-Touch Prospects, Finding Advisors, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2020-04-07


Your best people will sometimes leave your startup for the right reasons.

No deal is done until the ink is dry.

You need to support enterprise clients by process. How they buy is how they buy. You are not going to change that as a boostrapped startup.

Building a brand (by providing value to your audience) is more valuable than getting Facebook links.

A great pitch should draw advisors out of the woodwork.

Once you pick you need to go all in on that niche.

Work really closely with your first 10-20 users.

Educate yourself on what it means to be a product owner.

Episode 492 | From Zero to $55k MRR to Exit (in 2 Years) with Feedback Panda

Date: 2020-04-14


(It can be a privilege) to be fully present.

Success comes down to luck, skill, and hard work.

Bonus Episode: What Courtland Allen Has Learned Interviewing 155 Startup Founders

Date: 2020-04-16


It is harder to do business as usual when everyone is talking about the fact we are in a worldwide pandemic and there is a huge global recession coming.

As people we mostly interact with B2C businesses.

(Of the people he intereviewed) the ones who were doing B2B had on average 4x more revenue that those doing B2C.

Every search engine results page is winner take all.

Brand is not an accident.

All founders have some degree of inherent optimism.

Start small. Do something easy. Get those wins.

Most first-time founders are going to spend a lot of time doing things that aren’t right.

Work backward from the problem you are trying to solve for people.

Episode 493 | A Roundtable Discussion about COVID-19, Working From Home, Payroll Protection and More

Date: 2020-04-21


The most important asset is your team.

Some things will never be the same.

Episode 494 | A Bluetick Update From Mike Taber

Date: 2020-04-28


If you have just two or three customers trickling in every month you need to do something to make that sustainable.

Episode 495 | Advice, Competition, Marketing, and Managing Developers (A Rob Solo Adventure)

Date: 2020-05-05


Don’t overgeneralize from one win.

The three things you need to start a startup: luck, hard work, skill.

Hard work and focus is table stakes.

Don’t take business advice from people who have crappy personal lives.

If you don’t know where you customers are coming from your growth will be capped.

Most transparency in the startup space is about marketing.

Episode 496 | “The Press Covers Exceptions, Don’t Compare Yourself to Slack or Zoom”

Date: 2020-05-12


People print business cards and make a logo then it makes it feel more real to them.

Struggle is important.

Feeling like an outsider means it is never an easy path.

Episode 497 | Documenting SaaS for a Sale, Email Harvesting and Spam, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2020-05-19


A lot of times (acquiring firms) are trying to attain where there is redundancy and business continuity in place (when they do technical due diligence).

Document the tools you use.

(Be wary of) anytime you take a minority stake in a private business that you have no control in. You tie yourself to that company for years.

If you put cold emails into (email marketing software) you will get banned. Those are built for warm emails.

It is not unsolicited email (that is a problem) it is unhelpful email.

You shouldn’t email people unless you are pretty confident this will be a value add for the company in question.

Episode 498 | Selling During a Pandemic with Steli Efti

Date: 2020-05-26


The good and the bad get amplified during times like this.

It only takes a moment to ruin your reputation.

A contract is only worth something in a stable world. If they go out of business the contract is worthless.

During a crisis it is not the biggest or strongest that survive–it is the most adaptable that do.

In cold emails you can’t be average because average equals noise.

Great emails will never be out of fashion.

Episode 499 | The (First) Six Stages of SaaS Growth – Part 1

Date: 2020-06-02


Stage 3 is product/market fit ($5-$20k MRR).

The first twelve months is doubt and pain.

There is so much more money at higher price points.

It is much easier to sell a physical product than a digital one in many ways.

Episode 499.5 | The (First) Six Stages of SaaS Growth – Part 2

Date: 2020-06-05


Escape velocity is $25k MRR to $80k MRR.

A fast-growing business really isn’t profitable. You can take money out of it but if you do you are going to slow the growth.

You don’t need a $100 million dollar acquisition to be a success.

You limit your option set when you take money early.

Develop other people and watch them succeed.

Episode 500

Date: 2020-06-09


Make it authentic.

Everything good comes from long bouts of consistent effort.

Episode 501 | A Bluetick Update from Mike #Taber

Date: 2020-06-16


Consistency is showing up every single week.

Just because you want something to be true doesn’t mean it will be.

You just have to deal with whatever technical debt you build up.

Episode 502 | Accelerating Growth and a Failed Product Hunt Launch

Date: 2020-06-23


The step from part-time to full-time…is not 3x more productive, it is 5x to 10x more productive. All of your mental RAM is devoted to it.

You want customers to tell other people about your product and to do that you sometimes have to do things that feel ridiculous.

Episode 503 | Idea Validation, Expanding Internationally, Affiliate Programs, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2020-06-30


If you don’t have an audience you need to hustle and put in the legwork.

It is much, much, much harder to sell a SaaS or a subscription (than infoproducts).

The EU is not as big of a market (as the US).

Cold outreach is for people who aren’t online often–they aren’t spending all day on Quora or Twitter).

Solving a pain point and helping people is a big deal.

Episode 504 | 15 Tools We Use to Run Our Business

Date: 2020-07-07



Google Calendar





Google Docs






Drip and Right Message







Submittable and Pipedrive

Front (

Episode 505 | 42 Side Projects and the #NoCode Movement

Date: 2020-07-14


The skills you learn from (building one side project) snowball into the next (side project).

With stair stepping when you start out you typically have no skills or one skill.

Everything is a learning experience.

Episode 506 | Shutting Down and Starting Up with Derrick Reimer

Date: 2020-07-21


People who have the best intentions to help you out will often steer you in the wrong direction.

It takes some time to arrive at the thing that is really going to resonate with the market.

Episode 507 | Making Cold Email Work in B2B SaaS

Date: 2020-07-28


With outbound you are in control.

You have to understand the market.

Right now it is about multiple touches from multiple areas.

Figure out the two customers you solve (in your customer’s language). Email one is very straightforward. Get straight to the point. (“In talking with other marketing directors the thing they tell us they are most frustrated about their current tool is A and B. Which of those it for you?”. Email two will be, “if your problem is A then here is a free resource to solve that problem.” Email three will be, “If your problem is B then here is a free resource”. Email four is “Maybe we can help you solve the problem. Why don’t we talk?”

You should have a framework of what is working and what is not working with your customers.

In sales we hear what we want to hear because it is a tough job.

We look down at what we don’t understand.

Sales is the most important function in business.

If you think you need to hire a salesperson you need to hire two. If you can’t afford two then you probably aren’t ready.

The power of a CRM is that it is a single-pane view of all of your interactions with a customer.

What matters in email automation is deliverability and integration with the other tools.

You have to start thinking about how you are going to scale past where you currently are.

You should talk pricing on the first sales call. Not specifics but at least a range.

In sales your work ethic matters more than almost any other job.

Episode 508 |  Finding Marketing Channels, Seat-Limited Trials, Building a Brand, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2020-08-04


Who (in the customer’s company) is the problem really being solved for? An engineer? The CEO?

People with a burning pain point are so much more willing to talk to you.

Who will live a better life because of your service or product?

Building a brand is much harder (than branding) in the long-term.

Brand is how your customers see you.

Job security does not exist the same way it did ten or twenty years ago.

If you are going to make a hard decision there are frameworks to do so.

Episode 509 | Revisiting the Six Stages of SaaS Growth with DNSimple

Date: 2020-08-11


There is a marketing angle where you pick a fight with the biggest guy out there. You turn the fight into a David vs. Goliath showdown.

You don’t just get struck by luck. You put yourself in situations where you can take advantage of some opportunity.

Episode 510 | The Story of

Date: 2020-08-18


If all you are doing is charging for time you are always going to be on a treadmill.

At some point you need to be charging for your output and not your time.

Focus more on output than hours.

Episode 511 |  Raising Prices & Re-writing Your Codebase

Date: 2020-08-25


Laser focus on profitability.

Solve a problem you have yourself.

Book: Traction 

Find (marketing) channels and run tests.

Doubledown on what customers really love.

Financial stress is a distraction.

If you don’t have customers you don’t know if you are headed in the right direction.

If you’re building something get it out there as quickly as you can.

Episode 512 | The Power of Options (A Rob Solo Adventure)

Date: 2020-09-01


Reducing your options further and further can back you into a corner and force you to make bad decisions.

As a startup we need to maintain as much optionality as we can.

Debt reduces your optionality.

Debt is consuming your future earnings now.

Keep your personal spending low.

Do the things no one else will so you can live like no one else can.

Invest in liquid investments.

Episode 513 | SaaS Valuations + Dos and Don’ts When Selling A SaaS

Date: 2020-09-08


Everything you do to prepare your business for sales make it better operationally.

The revenue multiple starts to kick in at $1 million ARR.

Have metrics and financial dialed (in).

The most intelligent buyers tend to understand that a really successful deal will come together if they go at it as a partnership with the seller that is already there.

Take an extremely collaborative approach.

Episode 514 | An Inside Look at MicroConf Remote

Date: 2020-09-15


Talking to an audience with just a camera is way different.

Episode 515 | Finding a Co-Founder, Getting Better at Sales, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2020-09-22


Consider your local laws and how those are impacted by the laws (of the country where you hire someone).

Get an IP assignment (when hiring someone to write code for you).

Remove risk one piece at a time.

The key to any business are the process you build up around it.

A lot of the keys to sales are aligning someone’s needs with the fact you have a product that fulfills that need.

Think of yourself as a high-priced consultant who isn’t charging any money. You are actually giving people advice that is worth hundreds of dollars an hour. You are the expert in your space.

(Sales) conversations are about finding the right solution rather than forcing something on people.

The investment in the inbound pipeline is writing good material that gets out there.

Finding a co-founder is like marriage.

Every product is helping people do a job.

As a first time founder trying to build something novel from scratch is a real challenge because you don’t know when to trust your gut or not to.

You can give someone equity without them being a co-founder.

Episode 516 | When to Re-write Your SaaS Codebase

Date: 2020-09-29


As founders we are always looking for validation.

A lot of us are competing with Excel.

A spreadsheet is endlessly flexible. There is nothing you can’t do in a spreadsheet.

You have to be really honest with yourself about where your motivation is coming from.

Episode 517 | Married Co-founders Who Turned a Free Tool Into a Fast-Growing SaaS Product

Date: 2020-10-06


The (channel) that requires more time pulls you away from doing other stuff.

A lot of times enterprises want big clunky things with lots of checkboxes and settings. If you are doing self-serve you don’t want those things.

As a developer outsourcing development can be a challenge.

You cannot hold everybody to your standards

So many big systems are built with duct tape and they work.

Raising prices is really scary.

Pricing is the number one lever in any business.

Episode 518 | A Live LinkedIn Ads Consult with Anthony Blatner and Scatterspoke

Date: 2020-10-13


LinkedIn tends to be a more expensive channel to use.

Have your LTV be more than $10,000 (in order to use LinkedIn).

LinkedIn is awesome when you need to target a niche decision maker at scale.

On LinkedIn you are usually paying for every click.

You want to see an audience of at least 20,000 to 30,000 (for your LinkedIn ads).

Episode 519 | Profit Sharing, Stock Options, and Equity (A Rob Solo Adventure)

Date: 2020-10-20


The idea is to align incentives.

Equity grants are not stock options. They are taxable based on the current value of the company.

Equity makes profit-sharing simple…but makes things complicated.

Stock options are the standard Silicon Valley way to motivate folks above and beyond their salary.

Most venture stock options aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

If you never plan on having a liquidity event then profit-sharing is the way to go.

Bonuses can be useful in the early days but they are a little too arbitrary.

Episode 520 | Why a Million Dollar Agency Quit It All and Moved to SaaS

Date: 2020-10-27


Being able to understand how the Internet and technology works makes you such a better marketer.

When other people are around there is blame to go around.

Get rid of the things that don’t make you productive.

Have your database managed.

Episode 521 | A Roundtable Discussion about a Potential Recession, Working from Home, Google Anti-trust, and More

Date: 2020-11-03


Have more of a cash cushion (if uncertain times) than you would in boom times.

People don’t understand (that the top search results on Google are ads).

Companies that hire remotely tend to be run by introverts.

Have maker time.

It is hard to be a maker in an open office space.

Most US investors don’t look abroad.

You are a pretty wealthy person if you qualify as an accredited investor.

Episode 522 | Hewitt – Where Are They Now?

Date: 2020-11-10


Hiring allows you to move your focus up in the business.

It puts you on a different trajectory than when you do everything yourself.

It is hard (to get a podcast started).

Everybody should think, “How can I double my business tomorrow” and then think of crazy ways to do it.

It is better to have all of your link juice pointing to the same place.

Episode 523 | Breaking Through Plateaus, Entrepreneurship for Kids, Common Bootstrapper Mistakes, and More Listener Questions

Date: 2020-11-17


When building a tiny project…act pretty quickly and don’t do a ton of customer validation.

There is a way to validate just using keywords tools and trying to find gaps in the market.

If it is a micro-idea lean towards action rather than validation.

Look for a unique traffic channel.

If your kids start making money then match it and put it in a retirement account.

Episode 524 | Bootstrapping a Commodity SaaS

Date: 2020-11-24


Add value for your customers and charge for that value.

Your enterprise tier should be way, way, way more expensive

Having someone at a company already using your product and advocating for it internally can really help when you need to negotiate a contract with their legal or compliance department.

Episode 525 | A Bootstrapping Artifact from 2005

Date: 2020-12-01


There are three levels of making money. The first level is working for someone else. The second level is working for yourself. The third level is making passive income.

You need to sell thousands and thousands of dollars in order to do sales calls (for them to be worthwhile).

Episode 526 | Launching, Learning, and Teaching with Justin Vincent

Date: 2020-12-08


Podcast: Techzine

You have to be small and scrappy (when you start).

The biggest problem comes when you are trying to take a step that is too big.

You have to work out your next steps quite carefully.

Know yourself.

Ideas are both the most important thing and the least important thing.

Ultimately it is the idea that people buy–did you create something people want?

The problem with most founders is that they are working further ahead than they should be.

Learn the fundamental stuff first.

Start by getting some traffic.

Nothing happens until someone visits the website and considers buying something.

There are three types of level-up games that we play. We play the indie-founder level up game where we level up our career. We play the product level up game where we level up a product. We play the skill level up game where we get good at stuff.

Level one is, “how do I get some traffic?”

Step two is to build a tiny thing.

Episode 527 | From Agency to SaaS, Equity Splits, and More Listener Questions with Courtland Allen

Date: 2020-12-15


Separate your identity from our brand. Your name and logo is your identity. Your brand is more your reputation with your customers. You can’t really change your reputation except slowly over time.

You’re going to start by doing things that don’t scale.

It is easier to merge things than it is to pull them apart.

As a developer your work is frontloaded.

One of the best steps you can take is do some research.

In the early days you have a compass, not a map.

It does matter where you live but in business it matters less and less

There is more to life than business.

There are places where you live where the people there give you energy. So it helps to live where people are getting stuff done because they will inspire you.

Venture funded companies have traditionally been densely packed into a handful of cities.

Episode 528 | 2021 Predictions from Rob and Mike

Date: 2020-12-22


Privacy concerns will continue to transform email marketing to what it was back in the day which was basically spray-and-pray.

Amazon is not a monopoly in anything except maybe Kindle.

There is going to be a major breakthrough in nanotechnology.

Episode 529 | A Pricing Deep Dive with Slingshot

Date: 2020-12-29


“People ops” are the people that help you manage your people typically in a larger corporation.

If you are going to compete with existing competition you should own a unique position, you should own a traffic channel, or you should be cheap.

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