From Bodybuilder to SaaS Founder

Michele chats with Jesse Hanley, founder of Bento.
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Michele Hansen  0:00  
Hey everyone, I'm so excited. I have our friend Jesse Hanley from bento here with us today. Good, bro. So, Jesse, you have, you're such an interesting founder. So you were a digital nomad for a long time as a marketer, right? Um, and for the past four years, you have been running bento, which is like, it's like email automation, like, kind of like you like compete with like, drip, right?

Jesse Hanley  0:31  
Yeah, I mean, the easiest comparison for most people is like, customer IO and drip, those type of tools. But we've got a good product suite that also serves e comm. So if people are in E commerce, then there's another tool called Klaviyo. So kinda like a put ourselves in the middle of those two tools. But yeah, it's it's interesting bento has also been kind of like my passion project over the past like four years, which we can like, dig into a bit. But it's been all the things that I've wanted, as I've been working in marketing, and I just kind of like built the tools myself. Put them in a nice little package. And then yeah, no, I just flog them online.

Michele Hansen  1:06  
Yeah. Love that. So. So you were a nomad for a long time as a marketer, running this agency. And then you put down roots in Japan. Like last year, two years ago,

Jesse Hanley  1:20  
whenever a little bit before COVID. Like I, yeah, I made the decision to settle in, I met a friend down south, that friend is now my wife ran down south of Japan. And after like traveling for, I think, since 2015, or so, like, I'd spent half a year in Asia, half the year in Europe. And I was running all my stuff. And honestly, it's just it's not efficient. It's like quite a romantic lifestyle, because you're leaving out of hotels, and you're seeing cool parts of the world. But it's very fatiguing. And I think as my business is just starting to like kind of kick up just before COVID or the year before COVID. I, when I got the offer to move into this friend's apartment, I kind of just took it and it just felt like the right move at the time. And then then yeah, then the world shut down. Definitely was the right move, they're going to be locked in in Japan, because Japan is actually being quite nice during COVID to kind of like staying because I don't I love Asia, out of all the places I've been in the world. I love Asia as a region. And I really like Japan. So being kind of locked down here for the last two and a bit years is actually being quite nice.

Michele Hansen  2:26  
That's really interesting. I feel like there's this we kind of talked about this a little bit last week of like, there's this as you said, romantic vision of like, what being a nomad is like, and you know, for those of us who do run our own businesses, but like, have kids, that's kind of not something we I mean, I guess I do know some people who are nomads with kids, but it's a little more challenging, but like, I like I've heard that like, you know, moving from place to place, like there's all this like, mental overhead of like, you have to figure out like, where to buy groceries and where to live. And like all this kind of stuff that like living in one place, you don't really have to think about like, like, how was your experience of that. Um,

Jesse Hanley  3:08  
I mean, that's kind of like some of those problems like all the romantic problems. So like, not knowing where groceries are is like a fun Saturday adventure and like, knowing, you know, the good cafes, to work out is like another fun adventure or, you know, finding apartments can be an adventure, it could be like a horrible adventure. But it's, yeah, I don't know, moving around, it's, I don't know, all those problems, if you have the right perspective, are quite enjoyable. And they do kind of make things interesting, because when I was traveling, I was working Monday to Friday, 40 hours a week, if not sometimes, like, more, or sometimes less, just depending. And the way that I would do is just try and like live out my life normally. And then a lot of my exploring would be like on Saturdays and Sundays, and I would just go out and meet friends or whatever. But at the time, I was also trying to, you know, I was staying in apartments and staying in hotels. I did have a lot of friends that were also staying in hostels and stuff. But for me, it was really important that like, I tried to have as much of a stable life as I could. Yeah, it does get pretty expensive, though. Yeah, it was actually really offensive when I kind of look back on it, but it was worth it. And also, there was like a pretty interesting trade off a lot of the long term relationships and even like some of my best customers now all of them like I met on the road. And I reckon, yeah, I think about it. Like, I had a return from the people that I met on the road even though it's a really expensive way of life, if that makes sense. So, so yeah, you just meet a lot of communities like traveled around the US travel around Europe or Asia and you just meet so many wonderful, amazing humans that um, yeah, even during COVID and stuff like a lot of these humans were either clients, so we worked together or we did in our joint venture projects. Yeah, it made sense. For me at least

Michele Hansen  5:00  
Yeah, that's all it was like an investment in your I don't know, entrepreneur community, which I think for, it's like, it's so important, right? Because like most of us don't really know people in our normal daily lives who do this weird internet job thing. And having that community but also globally is I mean, it's so valuable. I mean, I mean, I'm here in Denmark, and you're in Japan. Like, I think that's that's Case in point enough. And so. So you started.

Jesse Hanley  5:29  
Yeah, sorry to interrupt you. But like on that note, we have like spoken a lot in Slack and stuff. And I think previous Jesse, like pre COVID, when I would have traveled to Europe, because we're chatting online, if your game like we probably would have met up or something. Because we have chatted a bit online, like it would have been easy for me to kind of go to Denmark and just kind of hang out. So that was how I was making a lot of relationships, I meet people online, meet people on Twitter or whatever, you chat. And you'd be like, alright, like, I mean, the country kind of close during a catch up, and then would kind of catch up that way. So a lot of my travels were guided, kind of like that, like I would meet people online, and then kind of catch up, which kind of sounds weird.

Michele Hansen  6:11  
Like, there is this kind of like quick, like fast friendships sort of quick intimacy that comes especially if it's like someone you've been tweeting with for like, a couple of years, like there was someone that I think I had met them, like, once at a conference, and we didn't even really talk that much. But then like, they they live like an hour from us. And so like, last year, I was like, hey, like, come to our house and like, hang out with us for the afternoon. Like, let's do the firepit. And like, let's like, you know, like, hang out. And it was so interesting, because it was like, Yeah, I hadn't really hung out with them or, you know, their, their wife before or the like. But it was like we had so much to talk about, and we're so comfortable with one another. Like, like, like I had that experience to at founder summit where there was people who I had never actually met before, but then like, I'm, you know, going to find a place at lunch or whatever. And I'm like, oh, like, there's Ellen crane from homeschool boss. And I was like, oh, there's Ellen like, and I just sit down and talk to her. And it was like, we had been friends for such a long time. Like there's just this it's it's I don't know, internet friends are awesome.

Jesse Hanley  7:16  
Yeah, I agree. I agree. Yeah, that sounds nice. That experience of like having friends over who you've met online. I've had that a couple times. It's it is the best. So,

Michele Hansen  7:25  
yeah. So okay, so you so your, your background as a marketer, right?

Jesse Hanley  7:33  
Kind of, um, so I, yeah, so after school, I was really into fitness. And I did a couple of bodybuilding shows. And so I was like, alright, what am I going to do? I don't have any idea about university. So I am going to just start working. So I started working as a personal trainer, and then I worked in retail. And then when I was in retail, I was bored, because I was in the CBD, like the centre of Sydney. And no one really buy supplements in the afternoon. And so I was like, Oh, I'm not gonna play video games in the store. So I might build them like an e commerce website. That sounds fun. So I like Magento. And I spun up like an instance and I got going actually start to make some sales. And then my boss was like, ah, do you want to come down to Canberra, which was about three hours out of Sydney, and I had no other plans. I was like, Yeah, I'll move down. So I packed up all my stuff moved down to Canberra. And then when I was in Canberra, I rocked up to the inquiry office, and the office is like a bond in a farm. And he's like, this is where all the magic happens. And it was literally like the dirtiest warehouse like I've seen. And I'm from that began this like pretty crazy journey of four years working with this guy on this kind of cluster of companies and I kind of did anything in tech related to these businesses. So did all the calm self taught myself SEO, the sites are doing like quite significant revenue. potluck, I think it's the past like a million a year. Just doing like econ Rev. And then we're also speeding up stores and gyms and distribution businesses, I got to kind of play in the full commerce stack. Whilst I'm kind of having like free rein on whatever I wanted to do. Like I taught myself email marketing, I taught myself SEO, I taught myself ads I taught myself, you know how to set up abandoned cart emails using a cart hook. Like I think I was one of Jordans like first customers. I think that's how I started like, talk to him on support and stuff. And then then after a while, things start to get stressful because we're importing heavily from the US and by the way, is this interesting to talk about.

Michele Hansen  9:43  
You are a former bodybuilder who's self taught themselves marketing and development and is a like Case in point of making your own luck. Yes, this is interesting. I'm just like sitting here wrapped listening. Okay,

Jesse Hanley  9:59  
okay. To continue, so, um, what it was like the business as it was kind of growing pretty rapidly. We were, it was a full male team of bodybuilders. So quite a lot of energy in that room. So like

Michele Hansen  10:16  
it builders, men, people probably taking testosterone. There is a lot of testosterone going on in this work environment.

Jesse Hanley  10:24  
Yes, yeah. And so you know, and there's, there's huge egos right. And my ego was also starting to get like, a little bit tainted. And I was like, All right, like, what's my future, as well. So I started thinking about this, whilst, whilst I'm thinking about my future, the businesses are growing, there was a macro trend happening. And that macro trend was that the Australian dollar was tanking against the US dollar, at a rate of margins. So we were making 30% margins, the US Dollar was essentially like, getting stronger against the Australian by about like, 30%. So we started losing a lot of our buying power. And then the, the, the CFO was also my roommate. And so he, he had all the things he's like, I don't like the looks of this, this isn't really looking to fab. And so we both kind of like, you know, looked at the painting on the wall, and we're like, what are we going to do? And so, I think I was up to the chapter in like, The Four Hour Workweek, where it's like, negotiate with your boss to leave and work remotely. Like that sounds smart. So um, I went at a gym session, I chatted to my boss and told him that I wanted to work remotely. And I don't know, he was such like, he was at the gym, most gracious guy at the

Michele Hansen  11:39  
gym. Or this is like you had your meeting like your heart to heart with him at like,

Jesse Hanley  11:45  
the business owned two gyms. So we, we would do gym sessions during the day is very,

Michele Hansen  11:50  
very, like you had your like, one on one with Him, basically, while you're like pumping iron, and you're like, I think I want to move to, you know, China or Japan or France or whatever. And like it was,

Jesse Hanley  12:02  
I want to move to Yeah, I remember like, he's like he's doing like tricep extensions. And I'm like, I'm telling him, I'm like, Hey, man, like, I want to work from my laptop from early. I can do my whole job online. He just looked at me and was like, like, like, just disappointed. And it was like, do I have I think he said something along the lines of, like, do I have an option or anything? And I was like, nah, this is what I wanted to. And then we just continued working out. And like, that face that

Michele Hansen  12:33  
disappointed face because he's like straining his muscles or because he's like, upset with what I'm saying.

Jesse Hanley  12:38  
Yeah, exactly. And, and then, like, that was kind of it. I basically booked my tickets, and then started working. And

Michele Hansen  12:47  
oh, wait. Okay, so sorry. I'm just gonna summarize. So you have this meeting with your boss, while working out and to ask him to if you can work from Thailand. And then He grunts at you. And then you packed up and did your job from Thailand?

Jesse Hanley  13:08  
Yeah, basically. Again, to like, summarize that period, I think like the years that I was in that business, well, by far the most formative, like the amount of freedom that he gave me. And it was just, it was the most unconventional business. The amount of freedom that he gave me and like the amount of decisions that I was making it like 1920 2122 was just like, was ridiculous. And also like the amount of we had like a whole warehouse of like pre workout supplements or just like caffeine. So we took a lot. We conceived a lot of caffeine to get the work done. So we definitely overworked and burning the midnight fuel. But I was young. So like I could, like I felt like I could do that. But yeah, it just kind of was a catalyst for really unconventional kind of growth. And there was like a pursuit of excellence in the business, which like I quite liked, we were always trying to do stuff better. We're always trying to look for stuff to do. And no one was really a slacker and like when issues would happen. Like we would order. You know, too many containers for the warehouse. So the whole thing would have to be like restocked and done. Didn't matter who you were you you pick up, you know, you'd roll up your sleeves and you'd repack the whole warehouse. And I think it just kind of taught me a lot and so then I ended up taking a lot of that energy, I think on the road with me, and probably still have like a lot of it today. So I do thank him in particular just for like the freedom that he gave me in a lot of the unconventional mentorship that I got.

Michele Hansen  14:40  
So What year was this that you have this pivotal workout meeting and move to Thailand.

Jesse Hanley  14:51  
I'm going to go to quickly get a nomad list. Let's scroll to the bottom. Ah 2015 I think 2014 was when Then when the negotiation happened, and then 2015 was, yeah, when I started traveling around.

Michele Hansen  15:09  
And so you move to Thailand. And then like, was T basically like, Was this your only client at the time? Like was your plan to? Yeah, guarding agency? Or was it just to like, work remote?

Jesse Hanley  15:23  
Yeah, it was, I am switching from employee to consultant. And I just have to get everything done that I was doing before that that was the only kind of negotiation.

Michele Hansen  15:36  
So then how did that grow into an agency?

Jesse Hanley  15:40  
How did that go into an agency? Um,

Michele Hansen  15:44  
like, what was the next evolution of that?

Jesse Hanley  15:47  
Well, I didn't really know. Like, what? Yeah, it's kind of interesting. So I think like, I felt that there was also like a little bit of risk. Like having one client, which was my boss, who I knew the CFO and I, like, knew that the finances weren't like looking too hot. So I started to kind of like mentally hedge a little bit. But I didn't really know like, what I could package my skills up as. So I think like, the first version of like, Jesse's work online was just like, kind of like a handyman. It was like, if I found an opportunity or something to work with, where I could apply the same skills that I was using in E commerce and stuff, then I basically sold them to people. So if people had met, someone had an e commerce website, or I met someone online, or I met someone in like a forum or something, I would basically just help out the website with whatever they needed. You know, set up abandoned carts, welcome sequences, learning copywriting, and a lot of this stuff I was learning on the job, as well. So I would take up work that maybe I wasn't really qualified for, but I knew I could work, I could figure it out, and then figure it out. And I really cared about clients, I really cared about what I was delivering. So I felt like I delivered Yeah, kind of good work in those early years. And then it kind of evolved from there. So I kind of started niching, because they'll stuff that I really enjoyed, I really enjoyed the SEO side, I really enjoyed paid marketing, and so focused on that and then started hiring help. Yeah, you're like deeper on

Michele Hansen  17:20  
it, like you did, like you didn't go to college, or university, as you would say, and so like, but it sounds like instead, you, you basically got paid to get this education. And it's, it's amazing, honestly. And that you somehow you convinced all of these people that you are capable of doing these things that you didn't know how to do, and then you just learned them on the job.

Jesse Hanley  17:48  
Yeah, a lot of that was also um, in the company that I worked for sales was actually a really heavy aspect of it. And so like, you know, trying to call up a bodybuilder in a retail store, and getting to buy a product to put on a shelf is a hard thing to do. And, and I would pick up the phone and call people at times, and I would pick up the phone and try and sell and I read sales books and all that. So like, the sales part, has served me probably better than any other skill as well. Upon reflecting on it now, I think the sales part was kind of key because I could I could sell people that I could go to help them. And then I would obsess about trying to actually deliver good products, and then they would recommend me to others. And then you put in the work from there.

Michele Hansen  18:37  
So let's do a little roleplay then I'm going to be pretend to be a running a bodybuilding store in rural Denmark, I will put on my best, tough guy voice. And you're going to call me and try to sell me some stuff because I'm really curious to hear like exactly how you would approach that pitch.

Jesse Hanley  19:01  
Yeah, sure. So like if I was calling you. So let's say I went bring bring, and and you picked up and you say, Hello. Yeah, so that and then I say, hey, like, you know, my name is Jesse. And I'm from such and such, let's say Jesse's distribution company, you'd probably hang up. What do you want? No, you just hang up. Frankie. Yeah. So then what? So then what I would probably do, and what we had was, we had sales reps that were actually physical in all their different states. And so what what we would do is build relationships with a lot of these retailers. So I would physically go into the store. And like introduce myself, maybe give them a whole bunch of free samples. And we would fly

Michele Hansen  19:47  
from where I guess you were in Australia at this point. Yeah. So you would fly from say, I don't know. Australia to like South Carolina or New York.

Jesse Hanley  19:59  
Yeah, to the actual physical locations. Oh, yeah, it says, visit them in the physical locations. So when I was selling, it was generally like, we knew who these people were. And so I knew a little bit of background about them. So there's a lot of personal chatter, getting to understand them. Mostly talking about personal stuff, to be frank or gossiping about the industry. And then the sales stuff is generally it's kind of like problem solving. So it's, what do you low wine? What are your margins like with this. So in supplements, generally, it's like a commodity business, you have a whole bunch of different protein powders, all the protein powders are often the same, most of them come from the same, like, if you follow the chain up, most of them come from a company called Glanbia, which is like in New Zealand. And, you know, all the whey protein comes like from a couple of main sources, they're just kind of like repackaged, and all that. And so often, you're trying to work out what are the margins, you're trying to work out how to incentivize the other person to pull your units off the shelf, because you kind of got a double problem there, you got to push your units on that, they have to do a purchase order, and physically put units on their shelf. And then you got to work out a way to get those things off the shelf. Because if they don't come off the shelf, after they've been put on, you may get a call later, and they're like, take your units back, they're going to expire or whatever. And you don't want that call. So you've a lot of it's like how to get the units on the shelf. That's going to be like margin, or net terms or stuff like that. And then how are you going to pull it off. And that's in quotes, marketing, but it's not really marketing, a lot of like distribution businesses that didn't really do well. Often thought they could like run ads in their stores or whatever to get units off the shelf. But it was never that it was always encouraging the manager in the store to kind of take a bias on your products versus others. And that's either better relationships, kickbacks, giving way more samples than all your other competitors. Because if they've got samples, they can give free samples to their customers, the customers try the product, they'll come back and they'll come like a free trial in a SAS. Like free trial, no credit card. So yeah, it is interesting, the sales process is relationship building, first and foremost, less kind of classical, like American sales, boiler room type stuff.

Michele Hansen  22:19  
I mean, honestly, the more I have learned about sales and done sales myself, the more I have realized that yeah, as you said that boiler room perspective on sales is like maybe that happens in a small percentage of cases. But what you just said of like, you know, building rapport and getting to know them as a person, you know, establishing yourself as a like, real human being who cares about them as a human being. And then and just being curious about what they're trying to do, and figuring out how you can solve a problem that they have. And being flexible with that, like, that is is what sales is it's not the like, you know, pounding on the table, like, kind of, you know, well, I hear you talking about bodybuilding. I said, the tough guy approach, right, like, of sales, like that's just, maybe some people do that, but most of the time, it's just just talking to people. With,

Jesse Hanley  23:16  
with with you, how much is your personality and like natural curiosity? And then like, how much is concentrated sales skill that you have acquired? And then I guess the third pillar would be like, experience just talking to a lot of people?

Michele Hansen  23:37  
That's a really interesting question. I've never I've never thought about that. Um, I think it's, it's like, I guess I have a natural amount of sort of, like curiosity and enthusiasm for people. And for businesses, like, sometimes I think I went to business school just to, like, get to do a lot of case studies and just really enjoying learning about businesses. Like, I remember when I was I so I had an early job that was also quite formative for me where it was like a 10 person agency. And I learned so much because I just could learn new things all the time. And it was wonderful. But I remember when I learned that he, like annual reports from companies were public. And I was like, like, you know, and I was like, Oh, what, like, you can get all of this information and it's just on the internet and it like it like, it almost feels like sort of acceptable voyeurism in a way to me like I just like love diving into a business. And so I'm so part of it is just that really natural enthusiasm and curiosity about people and in businesses. Like I just genuinely find it interesting. But then a lot of it is also it's very targeted, right? Because like, I could go off in a million directions without curiosity and it And it's a matter of like, knowing what's relevant and what's appropriate. And what is, you know, as you said, asking about, like, you know, what the margin they're getting from something is or, you know, what drives sales and knowing that that samples, like, really understanding what makes that business tick in a way that is relevant to what you can solve. Because I think there's, there's like so many, you know, every business has so many different problems, and you can't possibly know about all of them, and you can't possibly discuss all of them, and you can't possibly solve all of them. And so it's a matter of, okay, how do I pull out what they're trying to do that's like, kind of related to what we might be able to solve. And so it's, I guess, it's a combination of natural curiosity, but it's very, very steered, like I and I, and maybe I have a sort of natural inclination for understanding to steer my curiosity because like, like, I'm ADHD, like, I will bounce all over the walls if I don't steer myself. And that's something that I have had to learn how to do from a young age. Yeah, so but so I mean, I just like, I just love it when I get to dive into something. And but I think it's also a sales it's like, you know, you talk about like, building the personal relationship, like, you can't get too personal like, because like, people have their guard up. And it's like, so how do I respect? How do I respect their boundaries and make sure that we're not you know, from a business perspective, like they're not sharing too much. And like, there's this kind of dance to it that I think I really had to learn. It scared me at first. But I mean, no, I definitely would say I enjoy. I enjoy it quite a bit.

Jesse Hanley  26:39  
Yeah. Interesting. Oh, it's nice to talk about all that. It's a, I think, like, for me, personally, I think, the curiosity pot, I think I'm probably like, hit more heavily index than like the other ones. And I think if you know, your business, and like the problems that it solves quite well, then the curiosity, it just, I don't know it like scopes in a certain direction. So like, if I'm really curious, I'm generally curious about new people when I talk to them. And then just because I, I'm very fixated on problems that like mentors, also whatever, my curiosity just tends to follow a certain path. And the inevitable line is, like, using bento to solve a problem that they have will make their lives easier. And that's kind of like how I navigate sell stuff. I don't do prep at all. Do you prep conversations before them?

Michele Hansen  27:26  
Oh, a little bit. I mean, I mean, I make sure that I understand like, some stuff about the business, of course, like looking at their website, you know, sort of looking at as much information as I can about them also. So we we don't do any outbound sales. I don't know. Do you do outbound sales? All inbound? Yeah. Okay, so we're so we're all inbound to so it's like all, you know, people coming to us who are already interested in what we do. So I think that's where that like, combination of like SEO and sales comes in, because they're already looking for something that we do. But then, you know, try and, you know, if we have a call, or if it's, you know, over email, just trying to understand as much as I can. But I mean, a lot of times you walk into something blind, like, you know, I mean, I've had ones that reach out to me, and it's just like, from a Gmail address, and they don't tell me what their company name is beforehand. And I'm like, Alright, here we go. Like, you know, let's see, you know, like, how I approach that kind of a conversation is definitely a little bit more careful than I would if I have more information, I think, quite frankly, I think it's hard for me to tamp down my enthusiasm and bubbliness and like, you know, put on like my business, Michelle phase, because the way I talk to a friend or talk to somebody who I'm like, just having a social conversation with is like, it's just it's just, you know, it's a different mood, you know, a different different faces.

Jesse Hanley  28:58  
Interesting. Okay. Cool.

Michele Hansen  29:03  
Yeah, I mean, and so, so back on your story. So you had this so this was 2015 You're in Thailand, you're starting to get all these these clients diversifying away from that first client because of their their business. And then and then you had the idea to like roll up all these tools, but it basically sounds like you were building as you needed for your clients to like, roll them up into a SAS.

Jesse Hanley  29:29  
Yeah, so um, as I was, yeah. So to kind of like speed up the journey like to bento essentially, like I do consulting like one on one, I needed help. So I hired people online, built like a kind of full service agency found the full service kind of marketing agency to be quite stressful at certain point in time. So ended up downsizing, finding everyone that was in the team jobs within actual like clients, or, like, actually work because it was a stressful time and I worked really hard to find people jobs. So I could probably downsize. And then I had a core team of that could help me relaunch the agency as a product service. And we just basically did content marketing and leverage point was that we do content marketing by hiring writers in predominantly Macedonia, we had a really amazing, phenomenal team, and a really cool source of writers over there. And downsize the company by like, 90%, and then kind of rebuilt it from scratch. And whilst I was doing that, I was teaching myself Ruby and teaching myself how to code. So like, had always known a bit of code from like WordPress and Magento. So just like basic PHP stuff, or just like, you know, you install a plugin, it crashes the site, you got to get back up again. That kind of stuff.

Michele Hansen  30:46  
No, WordPress.

Jesse Hanley  30:48  
Yeah, yeah. Just just like, like WordPress handyman stuff. And then, uh, um, like I did, like, I did software stuffing in school, like, I, I've always loved computers. And, you know, could sling some HTML and CSS around. But I was really excited about, like, learning back end development, and like learning Ruby, and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, like, as I was kind of growing the agency, I taught myself Ruby and like Ruby on Rails, and then built a lot of, you know, shoddy products that you know, like to do your to do list and your Pinterest clone, I think I was the first app that I learned to build, which is like on one month rails. And then I, because I was doing so much SEO, I got a rank tracker, which kind of blew up on itself, because like, I didn't understand databases properly, like moderato wrong. It was a really fun project. And then eventually, like, I kind of had this like, idea of like, oh, I want to build something that just helps me with consulting, you know, wasn't around the agency, like I just wanted something that could at the time, it was people would do stuff on a website, and I just changed how the website behaves. You know, they've been to the website a couple times, say, welcome back. That kind of stuff. I just wanted to build that. Tried to go to myself, wasn't really too hard at it. And so, one year, I forget which year, I met with the lovely Andrew Cova in Tokyo. I had just prior to that, boy, all the assets of the defunct bento company in San Francisco. Do you listen to that, like what's the podcast was called, um, startups. Do you remember that startups podcast?

Michele Hansen  32:39  
Was that the one that came out of? That wasn't when they came out of the major thing? Right. Was that it?

Jesse Hanley  32:44  
Yeah, you know, like gimlet media and those like the StartUp podcast? Yeah. Yeah. Do you remember the like, featured the bento company on that? They did. No delivery stuff? Well, I think they did. Um, they went bankrupt. And then they listed all their social assets on websites on Flippa. And so I bought them

Michele Hansen  33:07  
that they probably had a lot of backlinks and stuff, right.

Jesse Hanley  33:10  
Like it did. Yeah, from pretty big VCs. Wow. Yeah. So it was a good it was a good asset. So got the domain got all the social links and stuff. And so I had that, and had a shoddy you know, version. But you know, I wasn't doing chaos. I was just doing everything right, then didn't really have something that took the anadrol that kind of like, totally my idea. And Andrew, at the time, like had the idea about bullet train, like he wanted to basically build like a Rails starter app. And

Michele Hansen  33:41  
he's the founder of turn buster. External, yeah. Excellent. And then he sold that right. Yeah.

Jesse Hanley  33:49  
Okay. And then, um, yeah. And so like, I met with him. And he's like, the nicest guy in the world. And I just, I've got so much admiration for him. And we're talking and he was getting excited about my idea. And I was getting excited about his idea. And I was like, Can I just become like the first customer? And then, and he's like, yes. And then I actually brought him on as the first engine, like consultant engineer for bento. So basically, like, I paid him for bullet train. And then he helped build bento on bullet train for me. So I took funds from the agency, and put them into Andrew to help me build bento. And that was like, the first couple years actually, was was doing that. And it was so great, because like, there's a large risk for me, because for me at the time, I was it was pretty expensive. And, you know, a good chunk of like cash flow, but it was like mentorship cuz I've never worked in a development company. Like I've never worked in a large company. I don't know software engineering practices, but I could just pay for that personal mentorship from Andrew. And so I could learn best practices from him. I could see how he does these migrations. I could see how he modeled out all the schemer for everything. You know, I could learn from him by essentially paying to build what I, what I wanted, and then over time, I would just take on stuff, I would take on responsibility, I would learn how to add a, you know, a column to a model myself, I would learn how sidekick worked and not add a new work or something, I would learn what a Ruby gem was and add new features. And just kept taking over the codebase bit by bit whilst also running the agency and doing consulting. And then, um, did that up until up until COVID, because I felt like I and Andrew had some other stuff. And then I think that that timeline is right up until COVID. And then I started just being like, Oh, I think I'm good from here. Like I felt my skills. Were starting to get pretty, pretty solid. So then basically took over the codebase and ran it from that brought on some help from a guy called colored. And then he helped build some of the more complex features out like a workflow automation stuff and all that kind of jazz, learn react off him. And then, yeah, and then me and call it a being just hacking like crazy the last couple of years. And then last year, I don't do me stop, but Laci salt sold the agency that I built. And then that gave me a very comfortable cash pile. And then maybe full time on to bento in June last year, June, July last year.

Michele Hansen  36:25  
Yeah, I feel like you're like this incredibly energetic piece of clay that is somehow infinitely malleable and full of like, oh, we'll do this over here. Okay, well, then we'll do this next thing. And then we'll do this next thing. And like just sort of building all of these things on top of each other all the time, and adding all of these skills all the time. Like, it's, it's pretty amazing. And like, as a, like a founder, personality is incredibly powerful.

Jesse Hanley  36:57  
Thank you, I don't know how to respond to that. This, this weird dynamics, though, like I play with that if I'm going to be like real Frank, like, I was always doing stuff, because I was always I never wanted to go home to not cause like, I didn't have good stuff at home, I just for some reason, didn't want to go back to Sydney. So like, I always wanted to keep traveling, I loved Asia, or I love to Europe, I like didn't want to go back home, essentially. And I love my family, I got a really, I've got a phenomenal relationship, both my dad and my mom, and my sister, he's now in Melbourne. But I think after like I left school in Sydney, like to go to Canberra, there was like no real reason, like, all my friends are abroad. And so, and I didn't kind of get that close University type thing going on. And so all my friends were abroad, and like I just didn't want to leave, you know, that I identity is maybe the word. And so I think I just worked really hard to keep going. And then also moving to Japan was I think a acknowledgment that like, maybe I need to slow down a little bit. Because I think I was kind of like burning out. Just working too much and kind of taking too much on which I still do in Japan, but it's a little bit easier to kind of get a grip on it. And kind of bounce back. But yeah, in terms of like learning stuff, and always doing new things. It was just because I just wanted to keep the adventure going. I wanted to kind of keep traveling, I wanted to keep doing cool stuff. And I could do cool stuff. I don't know. I could continue doing cool stuff. I do want to kind of go bust and then have to kind of go home. Does that make sense? Yeah,

Michele Hansen  38:37  
that does. And I mean, I feel like we could keep talking about this forever. Knowing that so many of our listeners listen to us while they are out running or walking the dog, their legs might be getting getting tired, or their dog might need some water. So I feel like I have to force myself to cut this off. But you're such a fascinating person. Like you should write a book someday. Like, I just I like your background is amazing. And just like how you have been able to build these businesses. And I feel like we even barely scratched the surface on what bento itself does. But suffice to say you are a wonderful human being and such an impressive founder. And people should totally like follow you on Twitter. You're always posting stuff about what you're working on. And oh, is that the dog in the background?

Jesse Hanley  39:30  
Yes, the dog I think is a postman coming. So maybe it's a good time to raise up. Well,

Michele Hansen  39:37  
we're dog pictures and code and founder stuff and Japan and everything else. Go check out Jesse Haney on Twitter. Thank you so much for doing this today. Seriously, so great to have you on.

Jesse Hanley  39:53  
Thanks so much for having me on. Thanks for being so nice. I was really good. Too super spontaneous as well, which is fun.

Michele Hansen  39:59  
Yeah. All right we'll talk to you or everybody else next week Ciao

Creators and Guests

Michele Hansen
Michele Hansen
Co-Founder of Geocodio & Author of Deploy Empathy
2022, Software Social