MicroConf On Air + Software Social Crossove‪r‬

ICYMI: Colleen and Michele talked with Rob Walling of MicroConf On Air on March 3.

Transcript below. Watch the video: https://youtu.be/cfeXNzWwAEc

The hosts of the SaaS Podcast Award nominated Software Social Podcast join Rob to chat about all things SaaS, early stage marketing strategies, and more. https://microconfonair.com

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Rob Walling  0:00  
Welcome to this week's episode of MicroConf On Air. I'm your host, Rob Walling. And as always, every other Wednesday at 1pm Eastern 10am Pacific we live stream for about 30 minutes, we cover topics related to building and growing ambitious SaaS startups that bring us freedom, purpose, and allow us to maintain and value healthy relationships. We know that Silicon Valley way to raise buckets and buckets of money and go big or go home. But we believe in bootstrapped and mostly bootstrapped founders who are making a change in their lives, maybe not changing the world, but at least changing their little corner of it. Thanks for joining me. Welcome back. 

I am excited today to talk about the talk about Software Social, it's a podcast if you're not listening to it, you should be it got nominated for the Best podcast in the best podcast category in the MicroConf SaaS podcast awards. And I have the pleasure of having the co-hosts of that podcast on the show today. And we'll be talking about have some questions for them about getting started and the benefits they receive from podcasting and that kind of stuff. But if you are watching this, please chime in with your own questions. We'd love to have the listener engagement. And that's why level level and your engagement. And that's why we do live events like this, instead of just doing them asynchronously through a podcast feed. Before we dive in, I want to mention MicroConf remote, which happens at the end of the month, March 23rd 24th 25th. It's gonna be pretty amazing event producer Xander is really outdoing himself on this one, MicroConfremote.com if you want to get on the list for that, and we'll be putting tickets up for sale here in the next few days. It's an early stage event. And it's aimed at folks trying to get their really their first 100 customers and it's going to dive deep into four specific early stage marketing tactics. We're going to have folks on who have done a specific tactic to get early stage traction and example App Sumo or posting on Producthunt. And we're gonna have a founder or subject matter expert on who has done that very thing and we'll share as many numbers with us as they can. So it's going to be a real barnburner especially if you're early stage. I look forward to seeing you there here towards the end of the month. 

With that, let's dive into Software Social. My two guests today are Michele Hansen. She's a co founder of Geocodio. And you might remember her from Startups for the Rest of Us Episode 524 called Bootstrapping a Commodity SaaS when she and her husband Mathias came on and spoke to me about their journey of growing Geocodio to a pretty amazing bootstrap business. They started that company in 2014 as a side project, she went full time in 2017. And as I've said, she's cohost of the software social podcast, which was nominated in several categories for 2020 SaaS podcast awards. She also recently launched a free newsletter about customer research for bootstrappers. So check her out at mjwhansen on Twitter, if you want to link to that. 

And her co host is calling Colleen Schnettler who is @Leenyburger on Twitter. She's a Ruby on Rails consultant. She's spoken at both Rails Comp and RubyConf and loves being part of the dev community. She recently launched her first product, Simple File Upload, excuse me, which is in the Heroku app marketplace. If you haven't been following their story, it's super cool to hear this going from zero to $360 MRR in the span of about a month with this file uploader app. So again, software social podcast if you want to check that out. Colleen is a mother and a military spouse and loves chatting about all things software and business. Ladies, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining me today.

Colleen Schnettler  3:45  
Hi, thank you for having us. Yeah, it's great to have --

Rob Walling  3:49  
issues are great had issues. Anders, it's great to have you here, as I read the outline where Xander says the internet is causing causing issues. So let me start with this before I try to figure out if I have to troubleshoot my internet or whatever it is. But I want to start with this question of when did you start your podcast? And what made you decide to do it?

Colleen Schnettler  4:12  
So I have actually been on Michele for a while, like I had been asked gel for a while if she was interested in starting a podcast. Because Michele and I used to always casually meet about once a week to talk business and I was in that really hard idea generation phase where it just feels like you're just slamming up against brick walls like you have a great idea and then you just can't get any traction or you can't ship it or you can't find someone to purchase it. And so we were already meeting and that was great. But then COVID hit and she moved across the ocean.

Rob Walling  4:53  
You want to take it from there, Michelle? 

Michele Hansen  4:55  
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I think it came out of it because we wanted to stay connected to each other. And we had some friends in the bootstrap community who had prodded us about it and had said, Hey, you guys should have you should have a podcast. And so we're like, you know, we'll just take the conversations we were already having. And worst case, it just like forces us to keep meeting every week. And I think during COVID, that's been really helpful to have to schedule in interaction with other people. And so it really just started as something that we were doing for ourselves. And I think we've joked that we expected that we would just have a couple of pity listeners, like our husbands and some friends of ours, and it would just sort of just be this thing we did for each other. So it's been really fun. 

Colleen Schnettler  5:47  
Yeah, I think for me, what happened was, I was trying to stay motivated. And I was searching the internet for bootstrapped founder podcast, and there's 1000s of bootstrapped founder podcasts. But I was listening to one show, and I distinctly remember, the guy was talking about, like, how he got in his car and drove to California. And he was just such a different place in his life. Like, I was like, where the parents like the mothers and the people who are trying to build sustainable businesses, while raising a young family? And while working a job like I was looking for an approach that was would fit more like in our life, and I didn't feel like a lot of people were podcasting about that.

Yeah, love it. And that's really why a lot of us I think started is we started podcast or even why we started MicroConf was that we looked around for other people trying to do what we wanted to do in the way we wanted to do it. And I like calling you just said, I want to start a startup or I want to start a product that fits around my life. and not the other way around, I'm not going to be able to I have three kids and a mortgage, I'm not gonna be able to hop in a car and drive to California, and sleep on this on the side of the road in Santa Clara, like some people do, it makes a great story. But that's not a lot of our reality. And that's frankly, the name of my podcast is Startups for the Rest of Us. And we named it that because we we this is 2010. And we wanted to talk about building ambitious, but like ambitious startups, but that also worked with our goals and our life. And it was for the rest of us for all of us who can't, you know, uproot and sign up for Y Combinator and maybe move to San Francisco for three months, because that's just has never been a reality. For me, I love the I love that you guys started at because a we need more bootstrapping, podcasts and B, I just love to see more diverse voices coming into this space. It has been something I talk about every state of independent SaaS is something we focus on with MicroConf get in terms of of getting more attendees and more speakers who are just under represented. And so I love you started and I've been listening to it since I first heard about it. I'm curious, have you been doing this podcast now? For how long?

Since early August, July? 

Rob Walling  8:01  
Okay, that sounds right. Seven, 

Michele Hansen  8:03  
I think early August was when we first launched. Yeah.

Colleen Schnettler  8:07  
I'm curious, maybe start with Michele. What benefits if any, have you received from the podcast? Or has it really just been we wanted accountability and to have some fun? Or do you feel like, yeah, I guess what benefits have come your way because of it.

Michele Hansen  8:24  
Something that's really important to me as a person is that when I go through something difficult that I make it easier for the people who come after me, but just just something that's always guided my life. And so I doing the podcast, I feel like I'm thing we'd have this goal of demystifying it. 

Rob Walling  8:45  

Michele Hansen  8:46  
So a lot of people want to start a company, you want to bootstrap a company, they don't really know where to start. They're in that exact situation that Colleen was in, not in anymore, but wasn't of spinning their wheels and trying to stop consulting. And just it's a really frustrating place, but a lot of people are in it. And so I think there's opportunity to to just, I don't know, show people that it's normal to struggle. And just normalize that, I think, and it's been fun.

Rob Walling  9:24  
So fun, plus the benefit, or the value you get out of it is feeling. It's like purpose almost. I would if I were just looking for you. Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. How about you Colleen.

Colleen Schnettler  9:37  
I've gotten tremendous benefit out of it. Part of the reason I wanted to start it was so I didn't quit and I actually launched something. Why is it so hard to launch something? Anyway, part of the reason I wanted to start it was just to get over the finish line and keep chatting with Michele since we couldn't see each other in person anymore, but I feel like it's been tremendously beneficial in terms of weekly accountability.

In terms of just more interaction with people on the internet, there's been like this whole community of people I didn't know existed something I noticed when I was listening to all these other bootstrap podcasts, they'd always talk about their, they had some word form. They're like their mentor groups, they have a better word. What do they call those group mastermind? 

Rob Walling  10:19  
Yes, that's it. 

Colleen Schnettler  10:20  
I was like, Why is everyone in a mastermind? Where's my mastermind? And so I found Michele and she's like, she and the random people on Twitter have become like, my mastermind group. And it's spectacular. It's been so much fun.

Yeah, yeah, I'd like to call that out. There. I have this phrase, I say doing things in public creates opportunity. And whether that's publishing blog posts, or starting a podcast, or just shipping, some code shipping, an add on to whatever, it has never ceased to amaze me the number of people that I have met, because they start shipping things. And a lot of it is podcasting. I look at a lot of the early, just the early friends that I made, were through MicroConf, and then people starting their podcast, a lot of the early like angel investments. When I first started angel investing where people was like Jordan Gaul with cart hook, because he had bootstrapped web, there was just a mcgillicutty fuse, because he had zero to scale. I believe their podcast was, I don't know, there's just something about it that it feels when you're listening. I think it always feels it always felt to me, Will I ever be able to, to do this, or it's like this coveted spot. And then once you start doing it, you're like, wow, I'm going to include already it was way less work. And way easier. I think that I thought because there just aren't that many people who are doing what the two of you do, which is to get on the mic every week. And to do it even eight months. Most people don't last that long. And I think you should Pat yourselves on the back for making it this far. I am curious, Colleen, you're sharing revenue right now. And you're sharing progress. And the transparencies is awesome, because it allows you to really follow your story. What I've seen, I've seen a pattern where folks are transparent to a point and then when they hit they usually hit 10 or 20 K and then it's I don't think I'm going to do this anymore. I'm going to shut it down. Have you given any thought to that about whether you'll continue to share perpetually, whether you'll decide when as you get there, or whether there is a mark where it's time to start hiring employees and people. If you wind up doing that, or once I'm making my full time living off of this, it's perhaps too dangerous may invite competition whatever reason, have you given any thought to longer longer term with that transparency might look like? 

So I have not. But as you bring up the question, it seems to me there's probably not a lot of benefit to sharing past a certain point, Michele has deliberately chosen not to share so she could tell us why they made that choice. But it seems like it's so great to share in these early days because you get so much bad press on the internet saying you're going to get 10,000 MRR your first month. And that's just not the reality. So I love being in sharing their like small MRR growth. But I definitely think there's going to be a point where there's it's not value added to the community anymore.

Yeah, we have a listener or a viewer question from Pablo. And maybe I'll throw this to Michele first and calling you can add any additional thoughts? How much time and or money do you dedicate to the podcast outside of the time spent on air?

Michele Hansen  13:16  
That's such a good question. I guess we'll start at the beginning. So every week we record and we try to keep it to 30 minutes intentionally so that somebody can listen while they're driving to and from the grocery store or walking the dog or whatever that is. We block off an hour for that. And that includes us like chit chatting, like what people don't hear is that like Colleen and I having social hour after we get off recording, we actually don't prep for the podcast we did initially. And we would like both come into it with something we wanted to say and plan to each talk for 15 minutes. And we found that we were both talking in paragraphs and sounded very stilted. And something that has been important to us is that it sounds conversational and social. And so we found that that sort of imposing that structure was inhibiting that. And then so there's editing time, and I'll let Colleen go into that because she has been handling that. So I'm going to start handling that in a few weeks. And then there's also the posting time. So we have transcripts made from otter.ai, which is super fast, but like you need to clean it up a little bit. But I do a prelisten, before we publish anyway. And it's it's not nothing I can't do in that time. I'm listening. So I don't know, that probably takes me about an hour, 45 minutes or an hour total. And then in terms of costs, we have a subscription to Transistor. And I think that's what $20 a month or something like that.

Colleen Schnettler  14:48  
Yeah, it takes me about an hour to edit. I was slower in the beginning because I didn't know what I was doing. But I would say probably an hour for each of us outside of the hour we spend to record so it's really low.

Yeah, that's been my experience too. And in fact, we, when we started sort through the rest of us, we edited first I think 15 or 20 episodes. And then we found an editor on Upwork, which was called, what to call back then. Remember freelance? Elance? No. Elance and oDesk. Camp. 

Michele Hansen  15:21  

Rob Walling  15:22  
Thank you. That's called oDesk. Yeah. Oh, my goodness. Yeah, anyways, Upwork 15 bucks an hour. This was before podcast motor, right? This was before the productized editing services, or we would have just gone with them. So I think similar to you guys are too similar to the two of you. I spend time on the mic. And then and for me, it's only about it made an additional half hour of prep, because I pay for all the other stuff and pot to give you an example, because Pablo said, I have a friend. I have a similar regular conversation with similar software social and I've been thinking of turning it into a podcast, too. It was Oh, he's trying to think through Yeah, so it's not if you have a bit of budget, you can throw it out at 75 bucks in episode for like podcast mode or to do your editing and posting. Or you can do it on your own like Colleen and Michele are doing but it I don't feel like it's an insurmountable amount of work, especially if you do keep the episode shorter start going to 45 or a minute or an hour episodes, it can get a little more cumbersome. 

Michele Hansen  16:20  
But honestly, the thing that takes the most time is talking to people on Twitter the day when an episode goes live. And that's also the most fun part about it, too, is just chatting with people about what they thought and what it made them think of and questions they have. That's one of the best parts as Colleen mentioned earlier. 

Rob Walling  16:41  
When you so the day it goes live, you tweet the episode out, and then two folks respond and say, Hey, this helped me do you have a cool example in the past month or something? Have someone like bringing something up specific that you felt like our work here is done? Achievement unlocked? 

Michele Hansen  16:56  
Yeah, I mean, all the time. Pretty much every episode, we're getting positive comments from people on Twitter. Just yesterday, we had someone send us an email thanking us for doing it. It's, I have been so moved by how willing people are to show us that they enjoy it. It's so nice.

Rob Walling  17:20  
You have similar interactions. Michele, I don't think you've had any guests on yet. Have you ever planned to have guests come on.

Michele Hansen  17:28  
So we had Alex Hillman on in September. And then we had Michelle Penczak from Squared Away, which is gonna be the does military spouse virtual assistants. And then we also had Danielle Simpson, co-founder of Feedback Panda on a couple of months ago, or about a month ago. And then we have another guest coming up in a few weeks, Colleeen us moving. And this time, I'm really excited. It's a listener who's joining us, and we're going to workshop, their business. So I'm really excited. Yeah, we're very deliberate about how we do guests, I get pitches for guests all the time. And we are only bringing people on when we feel like it's something that really aligns with our mission for the podcast, which is really fun. Like we bring people on because we think they need more visibility or because they're saying something that people need to hear. It's, it's been really fun when we've had guests on, I can be so deliberate about it. 

Rob Walling  18:29  
That's the thing. It's nice bit the way your you've set up your format is he the two of you can just talk every week. And so you have the luxury of just only handpicking guests that you want on that really have something to say at the moment you want them to say it and I that's something that I've enjoyed with my podcasts as well is that we didn't have guests on for a few 100 episodes. And then we had a bunch of guests on and I didn't really like either of those extremes. And being able to maybe have a guest on every once a month or twice a month, I think is a nice balance. But we Okay, we're having having some questions and comments coming in from the audience. And I think calling Hey,

Colleen Schnettler  19:06  
Holly, thanks for joining us again. Yeah. So maybe we'll start with Colleen on this one since I just asked Michele a question. He says I believe producer Xander is that his quote as well. He says I heart Software Social exclamation mark, a little bit of love for there. And then and then he says how do or how did you foster a growth mindset? How did you develop the mindset to ship things without the need for immediate payoff? 

philosophical like it. That's tough.I mean, when he says that, I'm like, Wait, do I have that? Man, I have struggled to ship something. And so I think social accountability helps a lot like when I learned I'm a career changer. So I'm a self taught coder. When I learned to code, I did 100 days of code, and I got involved in as many coding communities as I could because that social accountability really makes a difference. And I feel like shipping a product, it's been the same thing. I hadn't really found good community, although I had been trying. So Michelle and I, I don't want to say we started one. But it feels that way. Because now I have Michelle, who I talk to every week has been very successful and can keep me motivated. Then I have this also this random group of people on the internet who tweet about their success and their MRR. And they're all building and public, and I'm building in public. So just like seeing that has really helped me ship and not just ship because this is the developer problem is we ship something and we think we're done. So it's like shipping now. 

Rob Walling  20:46  
Nice. How about you, Michelle?

Michele Hansen  20:50  
I think something was you can see with Colleen story and with ours is that we started with things we needed ourselves. And I find that motivation is so much easier to come by when you're not building something for other people that really, you're just building it, because it's a pain point that you have in your own life. And worst comes to worst. nobody uses it, but you use it and you have solved a pain in your life, whether that's something that took you five minutes or five days, you have removed that frustration from your life. And so maybe this product is something that becomes something that other people use and you grow it. Or maybe you've just removed frustration from your life. And that frees you up to think about something else you could improve. And maybe that will become something that other people will use.

Colleen Schnettler  21:38  
Yeah, and the only thing I want to add there was don't there's so much information and advice on the internet that is 100% in conflict, like people told me do not solve your own problem. I kept hearing that over and over, they were like, go do the whole pre sells in the marketing. And I don't, that's great. I just didn't know how to do that. And maybe my next product, I'll do that. And then Michele was like, yeah, that's cool. You should just make the thing you want. And then if no one buys it, you have the thing you want. And that for me, the pre sale thing just didn't work for me. I couldn't wrap my brain around how to do that. And so if I had just continued to follow that advice, I probably wouldn't have gotten anywhere. So I think different advice is appropriate for different people and different skill sets to.

Rob Walling  22:21  
Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree that's something I've been harping on for years is don't listen to everyone who's talking about how to do what you want to do, how to start a successful SaaS app or, you know, software product. Find the one or two, maybe three tops who really resonate with you and who you feel like their approach matches with you or like they're where you want to be. I have some I'll call them virtual mentors or people who I look up to people like Jason koa and Hayden Sean says, but when I look, I don't Jason Cohen runs WP engine or he's co founder. I don't have the desire to build, essentially, what is going to soon be a billion literally a billion dollar business with 500 employees already and they've taken no response capital. That's what he wants to do. And he's doing an amazing job at it. And but I don't particularly have that desire myself. Now I can take and choose some of this stuff when he talks about bootstrapping, when use that in my own portfolio or in my own kind of mental models. But in addition, I think finding someone who has done it, hopefully done it a couple times, because oftentimes it's you have to determine whether, you know, did they? Did they have a lot of luck? Or do they really have the chops? And have they are they really executed on this for a long time, and finding someone that resonates with you and someone that I think you respect? I think the other like, I've heard folks idolize whoever you want to whoever you want to say, who's a business person who maybe some people might not like an Elan Musk, or Jeff Bezos, and it's if you're not willing to do what they were willing to do to get where they are, then maybe that's not the path you want to travel either. Maybe they're not the folks to idolize, if you want to build a 500,000 or a million dollar bootstrapped startup. Should I really be listening to either of them even though Yeah, arguably, they're great. They're great business people, and they've built amazing empires. It just doesn't feel like it necessarily fits. So I like what you're saying about there are at any given time, there are 1000 people telling you how to start your app and who how are you going to narrow it down? How are you going to figure out who resonates with you and what advice to take? You guys have other Michelle, do you have other thoughts on that topic of like, how you maybe filter advice that that you take or how to narrow down to who the folks are that you really listened to and trust on the internet?

Michele Hansen  24:35  
It's funny, I don't actually read a lot of the kind of advice that Colleen does, I'm trying to think about. So who am I like business heroes and I think of Daniel Kahneman, the author of Thinking Fast and Slow. Like I tend to gravitate towards books that give me frameworks and mental models for thinking and finding out how to make better decisions and I do read a lot of books on customer research, because I'm always trying to improve my chops there. But yeah, Colleen and I are so opposite on that. But I think I think we're now both in agreement that hustle porn is pretty toxic. And that there's a lot of people out there who are, as you're saying selling advice that doesn't necessarily relate to the bootstrap founder.

Rob Walling  25:25  
You have any other thoughts? Coleen?

Colleen Schnettler  25:28  
No, I think I think one of the things Michele mentioned is, she consumes a lot of books. And originally when I started, I would just read a lot of blogs. And they're both useful ways to get information. But thanks to her recommendation, I've been reading some of these books she's recommended. And I think that those have really resonated with me a little bit more. I think when you start to feel like you're never going to make it, you start to get on the internet and read things on the internet. And that can lead you down. Maybe not the most productive path.

Rob Walling  26:01  
Here here, I agree.

Colleen and Michele, thank you so much for joining me today. And thanks for starting Software Social being nominated for the Best podcast and Microsoft's podcast awards after what, six, seven months on the air is pretty cool. So folks, again, want to find you on Twitter at mjwansen with an E. And @leenyburger.

Thanks for joining me.

Michele Hansen  26:28  
Thanks for having us.

Rob Walling  26:32  
And with that, we'll wrap up for the day. Oh, yeah, I saw live guys. I'm having internet problems. Sorry about that. Again, MicroConfRemote.com cheat codes for early stage marketing strategies. We have an interactive video game environment. That is pretty dang cool. So I would encourage you to go check it out. MicroConfconnect.com you'll see the dates on the screen. It's March 23 through 25th 11am to 1230. Eastern time. There is also there's an interactive pass and then there's a video only pass if you just want to do the live stream but I've really you should check out this thing. We've I think again, producer Sanders outdone himself on this one. MicroConf mastermind applications are open again periodically, every several months we open them So MicroConfmasterminds.com if you want to be paired up in a mastermind, and thanks again to Hey and Stripe as always for being our headline partners for the year. Thank you so much. I'll see you in two weeks.

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