A Conversation with Kevin Sahin, Co-Founder of ScrapingBee

Michele chats with Kevin Sahin, co-founder of ScrapingBee.

Follow Kevin! https://twitter.com/SahinKevin
Check out ScrapingBee: https://www.scrapingbee.com/

AUTOMATED TRANSCRIPT

Colleen Schnettler  0:00 
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Michele Hansen  0:39  
Hey, welcome back to Software Social. We're doing another interview this week. I am so excited to have Kevin Sahin with me. He is co-founder of ScrapingBee. Kevin, welcome to software social.

Kevin Sahin  0:57  
Well, thank you, Michele, I'm excited to be here.

Michele Hansen  1:01  
So this kind of came about because I was on Twitter, as I often am. And I noticed, I think it was actually someone tweeted about MicroConf Europe, which I had been really wanting to go to, but conflicted with a friend's wedding. So we couldn't go. So I was just sort of following and watching everything unfold on Twitter and tweeted about how peer your co founder was, was giving a talk. And he mentioned how scraping DEA offered free API credits to customers who are willing to jump on a 15 minute call with them. And you guys ask them questions like, what else have you tried, and my interest immediately perked up. And really wanted to talk to you about those calls you had and what you learned from them, and what that added for the business. But before we jump into that, perhaps you should say for a moment, just what scraping be. Is and, and whatnot. And?

Kevin Sahin  2:09  
Sure. So um, so basically scraping the is an API for web scraping. When you are extracting data from the web, you often have the two same problems, which are, there are more and more websites that are using JavaScript frameworks like Vue js, react, etc. And so you have to render the page inside a web browser. And this is kind of, it's a pain to manage, especially at scale. Because you have to, you know, there are lots of DevOps skills that you need. You need big servers, you need lots of things. And it's really handy to have, you know, a headless browser accessible with a simple API call. The other thing that you have to do when you scrape the web at scale, is to manage proxies. So you can you probably need proxies for many different reasons. For example, let's say that you are extracting data from ecommerce website. Well, most ecommerce websites are internationalized, meaning that if you access the website from an IP address in Europe, you will have the prices in euro if you access the IP address or the website from an IP address in the US you will have prices in dollars. So you need some kind of proxy management system. The other thing is IP rate limit. Some websites are limiting the number of pages you can access per day from a single IP address if you need to access more pages, you need more IP addresses etc, etc. And so we bundled this inside a single API which is scraping

Michele Hansen  4:04  
so I love how you're solving that because we have felt that pain personally. So I've kind of talked a little bit in the past about how my husband dies first project that was what so the one well, not at first, but the one right before geocoder that basically funded Juco was this mobile app called what's open nearby where you could open it up and see grocery stores convenience stores and coffee shops that were open near you. And how we ran that in the back end was we had a ton of scrapers running of like grocery store, you know Starbucks, whatever like their websites, scraping the hours off of them and we like just all the time there's issues you know, the parsers breaking or you get blocked or actually the the sort of recent side project we did Keren, which allowed people to get an alert when a grocery pick slot opened up on a on a grocery stores website because of COVID and everything that was also powered by scrapers basically and the back end. And so I have I have personally felt the pain of, you know, the impacts when when when, you know, scraping goes wrong or you know it can get frustrating at times.

Kevin Sahin  5:29  
Yeah, that's I mean, there are the, the story behind scraping is that we, we personally experienced some of those frustrations, because p&i like before launching scraping beam, we started our career in two different startups that were heavily relying on web scraping. In the business, I was working on a startup in France, which is kind of a mix between mint.com in the US and plaid.com. So for those who don't know, it's a bank account aggregation software's sublet, that comm is an API that allows third party to access your bank account. And means that comm is a bank account aggregation, personal finance management app. And so at this startup, I was really exposed to all of these issues. And Param, he was working for a real estate startup, a real estate data startup in France. And so there will relying on scraping lots of real estate portals. So we both, you know, experienced lots of these issues regarding how to handle headless browsers, how to handle proxies, how to, you know, handle blocks, etc, etc. So that was something we, we knew a little about,

Michele Hansen  7:16  
I love how you started with a pain that you had. But also as, as you've run the business, you're also actively reaching out to your customers to understand what they were trying to do, what problems they were having, and how they were solving those problems. So I wonder if you can kind of take us back to when you like, how did those emails come about where you were reaching out to people like, like, what what kind of prompted that?

Kevin Sahin  7:47  
Yeah. So that we quickly realized that we really knew when I say that we knew a little about it, it's not an a few million. Because we really knew a little about the different web scraping use cases each time. I mean, from the beginning, when we launched the API we like from day one, I'd say, we realized that some users, we're scraping, have had some use cases that we never imagined. So we quickly realized that we had to get them on the phone and knew more about about it, understand their businesses, what kind of data they they needed, what frequency for what we use case, etc, etc. But the problem that we had is that at the beginning, so we had we had the banner on the dashboard, covering that, if they had any question, they could schedule a call with me. But nobody was scheduling any call. So maybe, maybe the banner was wasn't, I mean, the copy wasn't great, maybe. The CTA wasn't clear, I don't know. But the fact is, nobody was getting any call with me. And we also had an email sequence where we, we had a few links to my county. But it wasn't working. I mean, sometimes we had a trial scheduling a call, but it was not very, not a lot. And and then we we had this idea of offering more 10x more free API calls. Then the trial offered. And then instantly, we started to get a lot of calls. So many that I had to, you know, delete some availability in my week, because I was just doing calls every day all day. And, and it was great because we will learn so much we, I mean, we will learn so many different use cases that we never thought about. For example, I don't know, we, we, we had so many diverse people. So for example, university researchers that were scraping the web for all kinds of research projects. We had government agencies that were scraping the web, to automate automatically detect security frauds. That's all those kinds of use cases we could never invented them, we like, I don't see any other way we could have learned all of this, then, you know, calling our customers and, and developing a relationship with them. And by the way, this, I mean, there are many benefits to these calls. It's not just about, you know, discovering their needs, but it's also building relationships, especially when you are one month old startup. Because, you know, it's really hard to sell your product, especially with enterprise customers, you know, government agencies, universities, etc, etc. When you say, yeah, we were launched a month ago, there's a bit of a trust issue. And developing the relationship, a relationship with them, really helped. Like, in the seven months, after our launch, we signed a big enterprise customer. And I think that we never could have done this without, you know,

having them on the call. It also helped in many other ways. For example, I mentioned the the, the university researchers, we granted them free credits to the API for their research project. And like a few weeks or months later, they mentioned us in the University website, which is great for many reason for SEO for authority, etc, etc. So, I mean, there was like, it took me a lot of time to take these calls, but the, the benefits is a like, it's really worth it. And I'm glad we did.

Michele Hansen  13:44  
It's so interesting how you say that you You not only learn so much about why people need something like scraping be in the first place. But it also built this trust with your customers when you're very you're very new company, and they really didn't have a lot of reason to to trust you. And even though the purpose of them maybe was not, you know, making these sales, it really led to them down the road. All because you took 15 minutes to understand what they were trying to do and what they had been using before.

Kevin Sahin  14:23  
Yeah. Most of the time, it was more than 15 minutes, by the way. Like, especially when the conversation was getting technical. Because even those scraping visas, simple REST API, there's a whole you know that they often needed. Advice advices about how to implement it on their side. Meaning how to you know Do the scraping pipeline, the scheduling, the data storage, the error monitoring, the maintenance of the scrapers how to what kind of libraries they could use, etc, etc. So I, we we spent a lot of time with this. Sometimes this was a bit too much like, for example, when you spend one hour advising the technical team of your prospect and that that at the end, they don't end up being a customer. It's a bit frustrating. But at the same time, it was really I mean, it was a as a two months old startup, it's a really competitive advantage, I'd say that to be able to take the time to really advise and guide the prospect in the implementation. So and it really helped us to sign the first customers.

Michele Hansen  16:24  
I'm curious, do you remember the exact questions that you asked people?

Kevin Sahin  16:30  
Yes, I remember. It's not. I didn't ask a lot. But I was asking them about their, what their company is doing. What? Why they want to scrape data? I mean, is it part? Is it something that is part of their core product core business? Or is it some side thing? The, the the kind of website that they needed to extract data from the frequency? And why like, what did they tried so far? Why did it didn't it worked? Why are your other looking for another solution? Etc, etc. So that, like these five questions, or the most important one, I think

Michele Hansen  17:35  
it sounds like those questions came out of your own genuine curiosity, because you had some awareness of the some some things people might do with scraping from your own experiences. But you were aware that that was not the whole universe of things that people might possibly do. And so you genuinely did not know what the other things people why people might be doing it and what else they might be doing.

Kevin Sahin  18:03  
Yeah, exactly. And, and we were pretty lucky to realize this early. Because, you know, you're always tempted to just see things through your own experience. But we, as I said, early on, we, we realized all those kind of use cases we had no idea about. And so we got pretty curious about it pretty early.

Michele Hansen  18:43  
And in so many ways, that reminds me of how I got interested in customer research in the beginning, too, because when we launched geocode, do you know it? I mean, so it came out of our own needs, actually, because that that app I mentioned finding grocery store hours, it would show people a map, and we needed coordinates in order to show that map. And, and so it came out of our own need there. But we're not, you know, neither of us has a background in geography or geographic data analysis, GIS, any of that stuff. And when we launched and people were, you know, reaching out to us, and they're asking for us to do things, we would ask them why because we genuinely did not know because we were not do geographic information systems, people. We weren't steeped in this world. So it was as much about how do we expand our product? As you know, but what why do you want to do it in the first place? Because I just I just don't know. And following that curiosity, yeah.

Kevin Sahin  19:48  
And so um, the geocode IO, you launched this how many years ago,

Michele Hansen  19:58  
we launched in January of 2014. So we are Coming up on eight years this January. Wow, congrats. almost a decade of, you know, a couple more years. But yeah, it's kind of wild. snuck up on me.

Kevin Sahin  20:17  
That's a that's cool. And so how did you when you launched in 2014? What, how did you get your first customers.

Michele Hansen  20:34  
So we were our first customer for that app, because the app was making about like three or $400 a month in ad revenue. And basically, the idea of do codea was that, you know, we could basically if we released it as an API and threw a wall in front of it, maybe other people would pay to keep the server's going for it. And then we would, we could still keep our app going, and then not basically not be paying for for this geocoding API, rather than paying you know, a major provider, you know, 10s of 1000s of dollars a year, which we didn't. So we had, you know, two little digitalocean droplets that it was running on for 20 bucks a month. And that was our goal was to make 20 bucks a month. So we then, you know, put it on, you know, we talked talked to some other friends who are developers and had them test it out, and then put it on Hacker News. And that was how we got that initial wave of feedback, we had 1000s of signups. Most I mean, that traffic doesn't stick around, like, you look at analytics graph, and it's just like, you just we basically have to filter out our launch, because it's just, it totally breaks the graph. And but we made, we ended up making $31 that month, that that first month,

Kevin Sahin  21:55  
sorry, trade paid for the Digital Ocean droplet,

Michele Hansen  21:59  
we were over the moon, because we had made more money than we spent on it. And to us, that was a wild success.

Kevin Sahin  22:10  
And so how did you like, after this initial hack on your success? How did you continue to, you know, acquire customers and develop the company.

Michele Hansen  22:25  
So I think in the early days, it was a lot of, you know, when people expressed that they had problems that we solved, trying to be there, so I spent hours, you know, replying to stuff on Stack Overflow. And, you know, whenever something came up on Hacker News, someone asking about geocoding, whatever, we would always like pop in there, or on Twitter, or just kind of trying to be in the places where people were already looking for something like this. Of course, we had we had a website, but I don't, it wasn't super built out, you know, with, you know, case studies and example customers and testimonials and, you know, stuff like that, basically, it's for like documentation for for a long time. But um, yeah, I basically spent a lot of time on StackOverflow trying to sort of, you know, neutrally, like reply to questions and kind of, yeah, keep people coming to us,

Kevin Sahin  23:33  
and how, like, how did he did evolve? Like, right now, where, where does your customer are coming from?

Michele Hansen  23:43  
That's a really good question. Because I don't always know. We don't do a ton with analytics. But pretty much we're very SEO based. So it's still that idea that someone is already frustrated. They're already trying to find something for geocoding. Or for you know, they need you need mentioned academic researchers. So we have a lot of customers who are academic researchers, because in the US, in order to connect to any government datasets, you need this thing called a FIPS code. And you can only get that FIPS code if you have the coordinates for the address. And then the government data will be at that FIPS code level, which is basically sort of like the block. So for example, if a researcher is they know they need FIPS codes to connect to some data, there'll be googling it and so is to have tons and tons of landing pages showing people how you need to convert addresses to FIPS codes. Here's how you can do with our API. Here's how you can upload a spreadsheet. You know, if you need congressional districts, here's how you can do it. If you need time zones, here's how you can do it. And it's very content driven. On the SEO side, we we still do a little bit of replying to stuff on StackOverflow I don't think I've done that for months if not, you know like not really Really anymore? Um, pretty much it's it's about, you know, being there when someone is already looking for something.

Kevin Sahin  25:08  
No, we that's something that we, we also did in the beginning of scraping be. We answered Korra questions, not a lot, not a lot of Stack Overflow but a little bit, and then on forums on Twitter and indie hackers, etc, etc. And just like you like now most of our customers are coming from SEO, I'd say 90%. And we've been really focusing on that, since the beginning, we launched the blog, and even before the product was launched, so I think that our first blog was in May 2019. And we launched in August 2019. So you really treated SEO as a, like our main acquisition channel,

Michele Hansen  26:17  
and seems like you guys are, I don't know if you're quite like freemium. But you I noticed on your site that it says you can get started with 1000, free API calls, no credit card required. You know, in many ways, I feel like, you know, I think I think it's, you know, freemium is not a pricing model. It's a marketing tactic. And I very much feel like, you know, that combination of SEO and freemium is a huge part of why we have been able to attract customers, because people can try it out without, you know, without having to talk to us first, they can see if this is the product they need, and then they're like, okay, like, we're ready to ready to sign up, and you don't feel like you don't have to sell as hard when you have that combination of SEO and freemium, because people can just figure out for themselves if it's what they need.

Kevin Sahin  27:22  
Yeah, exactly. And there is only one thing that is very specific to API's. It's that in many companies, and so I learned this with the customer interviews, the developers do not necessarily have access to the company credit cards. And having a free trial without credit card is really something that can boost the activation. Because if the developer has to ask is n plus one or n plus two for a credit card? And maybe he's like, it's going to bother the developer, he's not even going to try the service, or it's going to slow things down because he needs the approval, etc. So having the free credits on the trial is really something that helped us. And I don't I don't see any, I mean, I see many drawbacks of not having it. I don't see many benefits of having, you know, a credit card. They will follow the trail when you're doing when you have an API business.

Michele Hansen  28:45  
Yeah, exactly. And then you know, the developers they can they're trying to get their work done. They can try it out for themselves, see if it works. And then if it is something that's going to work for them, then like they're the one selling your product within the company. You don't have to be emailing all the CTOs and directors and everything being like, Hello, we're scraping me and this is what we do. Like, it's already there. Developers within the company who are like, hey, like, we've got this project. We've got this deadline, I need to use this thing. I already tried it. It works like can you like, like, yeah, give me the card. Let's go. Let's get this over with. Exactly. Yeah. And I'm curious when you did those calls, you said you gave them free API credits? How many did you give them for those calls?

Kevin Sahin  29:28  
How many API credits Yeah, I mean, it was at least 10,000 acre grades, sometimes even more, depending on there. So the thing you have to keep in mind is that one API creates isn't equal to one API call. Because the the cost of the API call is depending on the parameters that you use with your API call, and it can cost up to 25 API credits per call, so it goes up quickly.

Michele Hansen  29:59  
Yeah. So but so basically, I'm just wondering what the, the cost to that, uh, you know, there's the cost of those interviews, but also basically like, you know, because sometimes, you know, often recommend if you're doing call somebody know, give them a 10 or $25. Amazon gift card, and I'm just kind of curious like what that

Kevin Sahin  30:20  
wasn't? It was not much, I'd say, but I don't have a precise figure to give you I don't know, but probably less than $1 per per 10,000. I mean, they don't even they don't like most of them didn't use the whole 10,000 free credit. So I don't think but not much. So these

Michele Hansen  30:48  
customer interviews cost you maybe less than $1. Yeah, each, which actually wasn't a cash outlay, because you're just giving them credits. Half an hour, maybe an hour of your time, depending on how technical their questions were. But down the line could lead to these enterprise sales. And the customers really trusting you in a way that they maybe would not have had you not spent this time and given them those credits.

Kevin Sahin  31:19  
Yeah, I can't even give you a precise numbers. The first month in August 2019, we signed our first enterprise customer for seven or $800, a month after one of those calls.

Michele Hansen  31:37  
Wow. Do you know how many of these calls you did? You mean, you mentioned you to them over 18 months? But I'm curious if you have a

Kevin Sahin  31:44  
I did a lot in the beginning, I'd say probably 200, something like that.

Michele Hansen  31:55  
And I'm curious, you know, you said you you did this for? Like, are you still doing these calls? Or?

Kevin Sahin  32:01  
I am but so right now, we don't offer free credits anymore. We just have some links in our email sequences. And on the website. If for the trial, period, when customers have questions that cannot be answered, with our knowledge base or recommendation. And now I would say that maybe I have four or five calls per week. Maximum.

Michele Hansen  32:38  
Yeah, that's, that's awesome. Yeah, I'm still sort of, you know, the the calls came about because you were just you were curious about why does anyone need this thing we made this very similar to us. And I'm curious of, you know, as as, as you were, maybe thinking about doing that, like, like, the questions you asked, you know, are very much, you know, sort of quintessential jobs to be done questions. And I'm curious, what kind of understanding you had of customer research. Before you started doing this?

Kevin Sahin  33:25  
I would say zero.

Michele Hansen  33:30  
facet came out organically.

Kevin Sahin  33:33  
Yeah. I mean, no, I, like, I probably read a few blog posts about how to do customer interviews. It's just not like it was a, you know, a bit of both customer interviews and sales call. So but I mean, I'm not I'm not a salesperson. I don't, I was just, you know, trying to see if, what the customer problems were and if scraping me was a good fit to solve these problems. And if it was, then I would honestly, tell them told them that I thought scripting was the best solution for them. And if it wasn't, then I just told them to. I mean, actually, I told them what if scripting wasn't the solution, I often told them what the solution was. So if I had to refer them to a specific software or consultant or whatever, I did it. And yeah, dog came, I'd say, semi organically. I had some notions about the customer. interviews and sales gold that no experience at all.

Michele Hansen  35:05  
Fascinating you just kind of dove like head, you know, sort of headfirst into it. And I mean, it seems like it's really helped your your business and help you understand like, like why people need scraping and how you can help them and lead to these enterprise customers and you guys are in tiny seed like

Kevin Sahin  35:30  
yeah, definitely it really helped.

Michele Hansen  35:33  
That's awesome. Cool. So I'm curious, you had mentioned that you also had some questions about geocoding. And I wanted to make sure we got time to get Yeah, so

Kevin Sahin  35:45  
So I'm curious about the letter. So first of all, where are you based?

Michele Hansen  35:50  
So we are in Denmark now. But when we launched geocode, do we live? Actually, we lived in Washington, DC. We lived in Arlington, Virginia, which is just outside DC until July of 2020. So so now we're in Denmark.

Kevin Sahin  36:07  
Alright, that's cool. And yeah, so the question I had is, you know, the usual what, what led you to? to geocode? So you've answered this a little bit, but what what were you doing before? How did you find the date? You know, did you did some consulting on the side? Was it a side project, etc, etc. Found the stories, always fascinating.

Michele Hansen  36:37  
Yeah, so um, so I kind of mentioned a little bit. So we had this mobile app, which is making a couple 100 bucks a month in ad revenue. This is like 2012 2013. And we need a geocoding for it. And we ran into a point where we basically couldn't use Google anymore, because they didn't have pay as you go at the time, it was either 2500 for free per day, or enterprise contract, and we just needed 5000. So we had to, basically sort of rolled our own geo coder that was very rudimentary. And we kind of talked about this problem that we had, you know, not being able to store the data and whatnot. And, you know, developer friends had the same problem, made an API, put it on Hacker News, $31, the first month kind of vary, and got tons of feedback from people ask them, you know, why they wanted to do what they needed to do. So started, you know, adding those features as people needed them, like a big thing for us early on was was the ability to upload a spreadsheet. And I think we made our first sort of, you know, higher end sale, May of 2014. So a couple months after, and that was, I mean, that wasn't really adding that that we called the unlimited plan, which at the time was 750 a month was huge part of our growth. But so from that, the beginning as a side project, and it stayed a side project until I went full time, which is October of 2017. So currently celebrating my four year full time anniversary. I was I was a product manager before Okay, yeah, yeah, I was I was specifically like in Well, I was a first I was an operations manager that I was a technical project manager do work managing like WordPress website, builds that agency. And then I really wanted to to like dig my teeth into things. So I transitioned into being a product manager, which led into then doing product development, which is sort of where my heart is, which is how I got into customer research to is doing product development and launching a lot of stuff that didn't work out just like learning that you really need to talk to prospects and if you want something to succeed, learn that the hard way. me so I went full time 2017 and then my husband he and we're like, oh, you know, if I go full time, like it's gonna you know, maybe take some of the load off and make things a little easier. Except you know, I was full time so then our response to our customer response times got better, you know, and we actually grew more and so we're like, Okay, well now husband needs to go full time. And this is February of 2018. And he went to his boss and was like, you know, it's time for me to go full time on this thing. And his boss was like, No, and we're like, this is an interesting negotiating position to be in so he ended up going part time part salary but keeping health insurance which in the US is huge. And, but he eventually went full time by September of 2018, because I mean, basically the more we worked on it, the more you know, the better the product. Got. Yeah. And?

Kevin Sahin  40:02  
And yeah, did you? Do you have any employees?

Michele Hansen  40:08  
No, I have a VA, but we don't have any employees.

Kevin Sahin  40:12  
Okay, so you are very lean? Yeah, yeah, we

Michele Hansen  40:15  
we focus a lot on, you know, automating as many things as we can. And I think that's one reason, you know, we talking earlier about, you know, SEO and free tier and not having to, you know, sort of, you know, do cold outreach and reach out to companies. You know, partly it's because, you know, that's kind of the sort of workflow I like, when I'm starting up with a product, I like to be able to test it out, see if it works, not have to talk to anybody, like I hate when I have to have a demo to figure out if something is what I needed to do. But also, because we just don't have the time to be, you know, reaching out to people and pitching them, because it's just the two of us, but and that's also, like, a conscious decision on our part, like, we could hire another rep, or we could hire, you know, a salesperson or whatever. But we also just, we, we kind of like how calm it is with just the two of us. So So

Kevin Sahin  41:06  
you said, Yeah, so basically, you plan to stay just the two of you and not hire in the future.

Michele Hansen  41:15  
Yeah, that's the plan.

Kevin Sahin  41:17  
Okay. That's, I mean, there are many founders that, like, this situation that don't really like to manage employees, etc, etc. So that's great, that's working for you.

Michele Hansen  41:37  
I'm a very, I'm just very product driven. Like, that's what I really love doing is, is product work. And I also I do enjoy, like, sales work, too. So like my time, you know, my sort of favorite things to work on are both product and, you know, customer research and whatnot. And then also doing, like sales and negotiations. And, and yeah, if we had employees, you know, I would be spending time managing employees. And I just, I don't know, I just that that's just not really where my, my heart is. It's not in being a manager, it definitely is for some people. But

Kevin Sahin  42:20  
yeah, I can relate to

Michele Hansen  42:21  
that. Yeah.

Kevin Sahin  42:25  
Yeah, that's, I mean, that's, I don't have much experience managing employees. But for our blog, I worked with a lot of freelancers, you know, different kind of freelancers, constants, writers, editors, some Freelancer to help me with the SEO link builders, etc, etc. And I mean, it's really hard to hire, to manage to keep employees motivated. I mean, it's, it's pretty hard.

Michele Hansen  43:10  
Yeah, it's a lot of time. And, you know, I think from my own experiences, and you know, those of you know, people I know, like, having a manager who doesn't love being a manager, who, you know, doesn't love, like developing people, and helping them grow, and all that kind of stuff, like, there are people who genuinely love that those people should be managers, those of us who, you know, are a little bit more reluctant on it and enjoy other things. I think it's okay, if we allow ourselves to, to not be managers. And, you know, I sometimes think that there's this, this assumption that, that, that you have to grow and that you have to hire in order to grow. Is this sort of this baked in assumption, and I think there's a little bit of like, judgment sometimes around companies that don't hire because people like, oh, like, you're not a real company, if you don't have any employees or whatnot. I reject that. Like, I think if you can find a way to run a company, and it's successful and gives you the life you want, and for some people that involves employees, and some people it doesn't, and that's Yeah, exactly. And some people you know, it involves, like, I think, I guess, you know, my, my VA is is is you know, a contractor, like a lot of people have a lot of contractors working with them. But you know, having that responsibility also of covering someone's paycheck can, you know, can lend a lot of stress to running a business and some people like that stress and some people don't and I don't understand that like that. Yeah, I think that that sort of leadership component of it is is challenging and I sort of, you know, I asked myself, like whether I feel like at some point I could want to be a leader like that with employees. But quite frankly, I don't feel ready. You know, maybe in another season of life, I will be but at this point, you know, yeah.

Kevin Sahin  45:25  
Yeah. I mean, I, as I say, I totally relate to this, because it's, I mean, for me personally, I don't I don't think I totally agree with you with the fact that there is this assumption of growth and hiring and, and even sometimes raising funds, like, you have to you have to grow, you have to raise fund you have to hire, it's kind of, you know, a vanity metric in the startup ecosystem, how many employees do you have? To try etc. And, I mean, many companies that I mean, either don't hire at all or hire just, you know, a really small team, and that are doing totally fine, where the founders are happy, the employees are happy, everyone's happy. And, yeah, it's. And on the other side, there are many companies raising funds, hiring, and growing like crazy, whether founders are not happy at all, and stressed and

Michele Hansen  46:43  
yeah, I think, you know, that's something we, as founders, we have the decision to run our businesses in a way that, you know, to design the business. Right. And, and, you know, and for me, part of, you know, designing that business is it's, you know, setting it up in a way that, that we're running it in a way that we enjoy, and we enjoy working together. And it sounds like you and I really like working together, too.

Kevin Sahin  47:12  
Yeah. I mean, we've been, we've been, so we know each other since high school. So we, we've been working on many project, back in high school, and then side projects in college and the beginning of our career together. So yeah, it's been. And that's was the, it was great, because when we founded the company, we had this whole history of working together, of knowing how to talk to each other to, you know, divide the work based on, you know, what we are good at what we'd like to do, etc, etc. So it was pretty, I'd say, you know, a fluid, the work relationship.

Michele Hansen  48:09  
Sounds like you learned a lot from that that first side project you did together with him about how you can work together. I'm curious what that project was.

Kevin Sahin  48:19  
There were many projects, I'd say the most. The biggest one with a Chrome extension that we launched. I don't remember the year 2016, I'd say or 17. It was called shop tourist, it was a Chrome extension that could where users could save products on ecommerce websites that they were interested to buy. And our we had some scrapers in the backend that would refresh the price every day. And if the price dropped it send an email with a note with the with an alert that said, Hey, this product dropped 25% this night. You can buy it here. And then there was some affiliated links on the email. And like, we, we had some pretty good success marketing it on Reddit. Like we launched the we posted a Reddit post one day and it got 1000s of upvotes. And we like to overnight we got a few 1000 users on the app. And yeah, and the funny thing is that we realized Is that some customers? No, it was not customers, some users sorry. were added adding hundreds of products on their list. And we, we told ourselves, it's kind of strange, because why would I mean, unless it's, you know, the person is on the buying spree or is a has a buying problem. It's kind of weird to save, you know, hundreds of products with different variations of the same. I don't know, a T shirt or whatever. And so we realized that it was ecommerce owners that were monitoring their competitors, with our app, and they were doing it because our app was free. There were some b2b SaaS that were doing it, but it was very expensive. And so we saw an opportunity there. And we launched our first real company, pricing, but and it was a price monitoring app for ecommerce owner. And we did this in 2018. And it was a failure, we managed to get it from zero to 500, or 1000, in monthly recurring revenue. But we failed to grow it from there. And we knew nothing about marketing to ecommerce owners, or to ecommerce in general, except the previous experience we had with this little side project. And so we, we managed to sell it to one of the biggest player in this field, which which is priced to spy.com. And it's funded, what would become scraping be later. And the great thing about this failure is that with pricing, but we we had to scrape a lot of websites. So no, we had these those problems about JavaScript rendering, headless browsers, proxies, etc. So we like, we knew exactly that one, like this one kind of use case for scraping me.

Michele Hansen  52:48  
So interesting. And I feel like I hear so many similarities in our stories, but something that stands out to me not only how you were, you were able, you know that so that pricing bot, you know, ostensibly failed. But you were able to carry through that expertise you built in building scrapers, and understanding how difficult that can be and the problems with that. But what also carried through is I'm struck by how it seems you have this curiosity about user behavior. And you know, people were doing something and you're and you're like, Oh, that's interesting, why are they adding hundreds of products all of a sudden, and you allowed yourself to follow that, and I think that's such, like, such a great quality, and a founder to not only notice when something is strange, you know, but but follow it, you know, you could have shut your brain off that like, Oh, these people probably just have a spending problem and basically judge, right? And you could have just sort of left it at that. But instead of stopping at judgment, you instead be like, I wonder why they're doing it and follow that thread, you know, follow this sort of cookie crumbs and figure it out. Oh, it's because they're doing this ecommerce thing. Okay, well, maybe we can like pivot into doing that and then it didn't really work out but you got acquired and then you're able to use that funds to start scraping be but you had that understanding of your own use cases for scraping. And again, you were like, Why do people need this? Let me go figure it out. And you just allow yourself to follow that curiosity. And I I just love that.

Kevin Sahin  54:33  
Yeah, I mean, that was um, it was really a great experience. I mean, the the like, even though it was hard, you know, to fail, and both p&i we didn't. Like we had to fund the business ourselves. So it was a very hard Financially but the experience the learnings were really worth it.

Michele Hansen  55:06  
Yeah. It sounds like it. I feel like I could talk to you all day about this. This has been so much fun. Um, thank you so much for for coming on. I I know from this conversation that this is not going to be the last time I talked to you. So So this has been really enjoyable.

Kevin Sahin  55:33  
Thank you. Yeah, same for me. Thank you a lot. And maybe see you next time. I still have many questions around the geo coder, yo. And I'd like to, I'd love to talk more about it.

Michele Hansen  55:52  
Yeah. Hey, I'm always always happy to talk about your cardio. Cool. So if people want to know more about you keep up with what you're doing on Skype and BMI and whatnot. Where should they go?

Kevin Sahin  56:03  
They can go to my Twitter. It's @SahinKevin. And yeah.

Michele Hansen  56:12  
Awesome. Well, if you enjoyed listening to this episode, please like Kevin, and I know. And you can find us on Twitter at @softwaresocpod. Thanks. Thanks, Michele.


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