01: The Hard Things

Aaron and Darren officially launch The SaaS Venture podcast. Our topic is "The Hard Things" and we each share one of the harder things we accomplished in 2018. For Aaron it was rebranding the company to GatherUp from GetFiveStars. For Darren it was putting together the Local Search Ranking Factors, a massive local SEO study done annually.
Aaron and Darren jump into things as we officially launch The SaaS Venture. Our topic for the episode is "The Hard Things" and we each share one of the difficult things we accomplished in 2018.

The full show notes are below the helpful links.

Helpful links from the episode:

00:08 Aaron Weiche: Alright. Well I guess there's no going back. We are officially launching episode one, The Hard Things.

00:15 Speaker 2: Welcome to the SaaS Venture Podcast, sharing the adventure of leading and growing a bootstrap SaaS company. Hear the experiences, challenges, wins and losses shared in each episode. From Aaron Weiche of GatherUp and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. Let's go.


00:44 AW: Welcome to the SaaS Venture. I'm Aaron.

00:47 Darren Shaw: And I'm Darren.

00:49 AW: And we have finally decided to abandon or move away from all other ways of communication and get into this podcast thing and super excited to be bringing you guys through our world of trying to lead and manage and grow our SaaS companies, which both GatherUp and Whitespark are bootstrapped, and share just some of our day-to-day and month-to-month activities and what keeps us up at night, or everything else that goes in with it. And Darren I was trying to go through my head and figure out when was it... I know we were at a conference, but we were talking about doing a podcast together. It was some time ago, but I can't remember where it started.

01:34 DS: Yeah, you proposed the idea at MNSearch Summit. It was in the after-event at some pub that was right across the street from where the conference center was. And I was actually FaceTiming with my Violet, so having a little FaceTime with my daughter, and you actually came in and had some FaceTime with her, and then after that little call you're like, "We should do a podcast." And I was like, "Yeah, that sounds fun." And so we talked a little bit about it.

01:57 AW: That makes sense, where it was like some learning, some mental stimulation, being around smart people at a conference and then mix in a few beers. And that's when the big ideas happen.

02:09 DS: I think that's how every podcast starts really. [chuckle] A few beers are required.

02:14 AW: I don't know if I've heard anyone else document that so we might be the first to admit to it.

02:18 DS: Maybe, yeah. Yeah, I'm excited. This is gonna be good. There's so much to talk about and it's a new, I often talk about local search things, but this is talking about running the business, it's a new topic for me to share with the world, so I'm excited about it.

02:33 AW: Yeah, me too. Same thing, both of us speak at a ton of digital marketing and other types of conferences where we're asked to come in and give... For me, it's how to get more reviews and customer feedback and customer experience and it's so tactically driven a lot of the times. And I think both of us were really intrigued by this to share more of running a business, things unique to a bootstrap SaaS company, and all of those other aspects that we really don't get to talk and share a lot about, and it's also content that we're constantly seeking out ourselves through podcasts and articles and things like that.

03:07 DS: Yeah, and I think it's gonna be highly educational for me as well. Just getting a chance to chat with you on a regular basis, and then even thinking about these things like, "Okay, I wanna talk about this process that we're dealing with with our pricing page," or whatever and spending the time... Knowing that I'm gonna talk about it in the podcast, I'll put a little bit more effort into it. So [chuckle] I think it's gonna be great for helping drive my own personal development as well.

03:30 AW: Yep, I totally agree. So even if we only get two downloads out of the gate, we will chalk this up as a success, because you and I are talking on a pretty regular basis in order to make this happen.

03:42 DS: Yeah, definitely. [chuckle]

03:43 AW: There you go. There's a byproduct always of wins in everything you do.

03:46 DS: Absolutely.

03:47 AW: So just as we touched upon this first episode of The SaaS Venture, we wanted to look at the hard things, and this got me thinking. Just this last week, I put out a tweet because I was frustrated to myself. There's a couple internal projects that are just on my plate here at GatherUp and I started looking at all of the external things I do between speaking and selling and traveling and recruiting and hiring, as we're growing our team and all these other aspects. And probably one of the hardest things for me to do are internal projects, for me personally. Where it's working on a better intranet type system is one of the things on my plate. And I was feeling really frustrated because I was having a hard time carving out the time and being able to focus on it and that led me to thinking for our first episode topic and we're starting the year here recording this in January. We'll see when we get it edited and aired. But just reflecting back of like, "Well, what was my hardest thing in 2018?" And when I looked back at that, it was another internal project, it wasn't mine, just personally, but it was an internal project for our company and that was re-branding. We used to be called GetFiveStars for the first four and a half years of our company's life, and we re-branded to GatherUp on September 17th; it sticks out in my head very, very well.

05:13 DS: Why did you re-brand? What was the motivation to get a new brand name? 

05:17 AW: Yeah, it's one of those multi-facets, like many fingers on the hand pointing in that direction. One, I can tell you from day one, I've been with the company for over three and a half years, is one of those things that just as like a gut check never aligned with me. I'd like to say that I'm kind of a brand marketing guy at heart, is just kinda in my core. And so, in my gut, it didn't sit right. Then we had just kind of other pieces where we had... Sometimes we would get someone who would tell us your name feels kind of spammy because it feels like I'm gonna buy five star reviews. If I purchase services from GetFiveStars, I will get five star reviews.

06:00 DS: Yep.

06:00 AW: As we went up channel in our customers and started having bigger customers, we had a couple that were using the company Five Stars, which is a loyalty. And they were like, "Man it's really hard to talk about you guys and talk about Five Stars in the same meeting. And he's just like, [chuckle] "Why don't you change your name?" That was kind of comical but I was kinda like, "Yeah, I kind of agree with you." And then just looking at longevity of things like we have GatherUp now, we just finally got word that we're officially registered, trade marked. That was never gonna happen with the word GetFiveStars and it was just kind of like GetFiveStars felt tactical where GatherUp feels like a brand. So it was kind of a collection of all of those things that really signaled to us that we need to start looking for a new name.

06:47 DS: That makes sense.

06:48 AW: Now the process of that, that's a pretty interesting process, right? There is kind of like all these little steps and hurdles. The first part is trying to figure out a name, that might be the hardest part, because so many other things after that, are steps and processes and things you document and checklist and whatever else, where the initially figuring it out is extremely difficult. At first we tried to do it by committee with the four or five of us that we kind of call our executive team, within our company. And it really kind of fizzled out after that. And then to be honest, there's just a lot of... And I know not many people want to admit this, but a lot of late night texting with Mike Blumenthal, where he and I just, sending text, "What about this? What do you think about this?" And you'd kinda judge if it had any legs, based on how long it took the other person to reply. [chuckle]

07:42 DS: Right? Yeah, it's like, "if there's a long silence then it's maybe not a hit."

07:47 AW: Yes, yeah, you kinda knew it wasn't there. And I don't remember what it was or how or whatever else, but I was doing a lot of working and researching thesaurus.com, and looking into all kinds of other things that were related to what we were doing, but yet unrelated, and things like that and GatherUp just kinda came into place and was one of those like, where sent it across to Mike and got kind of a... Nothing gives you a yes. Most of the things that you sent across, a couple will get you like a maybe, right? 

08:16 DS: Right. Did you start at the domain registry searching. You've gotta be able to get the domain, so how did you... You've gotta start there, right? 

08:25 AW: Yeah, totally. When you're an online SaaS company, anything but the dot com to us was just non-negotiable, so...

08:34 DS: Yeah, same here. Whitespark.ca. [chuckle]

08:37 AW: Yeah, so going through that, and that was its own deal, it was like, "Yeah, okay, gatherup.com was not being used by anything, which is a great sign and we were able to figure out it was for sale but then luckily we had a contact who had recently secured a domain name for a friend of ours and his SaaS business, so we went through him. Definitely one thing I learned from my wife, being a very successful realtor over the years is negotiating with emotions is a really bad idea. So to have someone represent you in that domain name was definitely helpful because I definitely got emotions, where we're looking like, "Oh this could be the future of our company," and the other side's looking at like, "Well, how do I maximize and make the most out of something that somebody wants in this moment right now?" That can really cause some of that back and forth to be skewed a little bit.

09:28 DS: Yeah, are you happy with the price you paid in the end? 

09:31 AW: Yes totally, we were willing to go probably at least two to three times as high as what we paid for it, we paid in the thousands of dollars and we had kinda capped and said like, "Alright, if it comes in and it needs to be this much here's what we're willing to go." Because we looked at it like, "This is an investment in our future, we feel good about it, and we're willing to go that high." So the amount wasn't so much, it was one of those... It was an interesting process. Let's just say the domain owner was somebody who lives off the grid, wants to stay off the grid, so his kind of payment request and process were not a normal process for purchasing a domain. [chuckle] But anyway, basically between briefcases of cash, we ended up securing...

10:15 DS: Is it drop them in by drone or something? Briefcase... [chuckle]

10:18 AW: It was darn [10:19] ____. If I laid it all out...

10:20 DS: It's [10:21] ____ up a mountain.

10:22 AW: Yeah, if I laid it all out you'd get a good laugh. And it was kinda one of those things too where it's talking about the emotions. A couple of people in our company where just probably ready to quit at that point 'cause this person didn't make it any easier. Mike and I were at the point where we're like, "Hey, well, if this is something super sketchy or fraudulent, we'll put up the funds for it, the company won't be out." We're betting that this is a little strange, but the world of domain-ing is strange. So it just was what it was.

10:47 DS: It was worth it. I struggle with it myself, because I once had the opportunity to get whitespark.com. When I registered my company, which is a local Edmonton web developer and so I didn't really care. I was happy to get the dot CA and whitespark.com was owned by a company in Portugal who was an engineering firm and I was like, "Okay, whatever. They're far away, it's not gonna really impact me." But then they went out of business, the name went up for auction, and I joined the auction, but I screwed up something. I never got the domain. So now it's floating out there and every once in a while they hit me up and they're like, "Hey do you wanna buy this domain?" And I'm like, "Sure I'll offer you this much." And they're like, "My client thinks the domain is worth six figures." And then I just laugh it off and I never bother doing it. So it's really annoying. I would like to have the dot com, but don't six figures want the dot com.

11:35 AW: No. Well, keep after it. I feel like sooner or later, I believe in you, I think you can win that battle.

11:41 DS: Thanks man, I appreciate that.

11:43 AW: And then it got easier. Our Twitter handle, we ended up... There's another great one. It was registered 10 years ago by a gentleman in Australia and Mike Blumenthal went all the way down to... 'Cause the guy wasn't active on social media at all, but Mike ended up finding out that he coached his kid's rugby team, and he went through the President of the rugby club to reach this guy.

12:08 DS: Wow, that's a story right there. That's a whole podcast.

12:10 AW: Yeah, totally.

12:11 DS: We've gotta get Mike on.

12:12 AW: And I think we had a part with either $500 or $750 for the Twitter handle, but completely worth it and the experience of tracking him down was a story within itself.

12:23 DS: Nice.

12:24 AW: Yeah. And then once you kinda get past those pieces and you have the right thing and everything else, a lot of it on our side was just looking at a lot of processes and documents.

12:34 DS: So many things to update, yeah.

12:35 AW: Oh my gosh. And our biggest goal was don't mess this up. We have thousands of customers with a daily experience and the master plan was rolling everybody into this new brand. We had given our customers a heads up as we got towards the tail end, but we didn't wanna disrupt service and transfer everybody from one domain to another, and there was some architectural things that were different. We went from... Our app was running just at getfivestars.com and we moved everything to a sub-domain for GatherUp on app.gatherup.com for a number of different reasons. So just not messing up was the biggest thing. But, yeah, we created a spreadsheet basically by department in the company and here's everything that engineering needs to do, here's everything sales and marketing needs to do. From changing Zoom accounts, email addresses to what's on an invoice, here's what billing has to do. There's this giant spreadsheet that for months we just looked at and kept picking things off and just made sure like, "Okay... "

13:38 DS: Adding things too. 'Cause like, "Oh, I forgot about this." There must be so many little things that you kept remembering. "Oh we have to change this, we have to have to update that."

13:44 AW: We still had a few stragglers here and there afterwards, but you just stay focused and work hard on the details and you have everybody on the same page, and it went really well. I couldn't have been more proud of our team and the effort and the work that they put in. Engineering especially, they replicated environments, we had no issues related to the transfer at all. Replicate environments, then transferred all the data. Everything went perfectly smooth. I was counting on being on some 48-hour bender, never sleeping, fixing things, talking to customers, apologizing. You plan for the worst, right? [chuckle]

14:23 DS: I would expect that too. And as a reseller, we resell GatherUp at Whitespark. I was really impressed that your communication as well was fantastic. So all of your client communication in your email newsletter and your blog and your social feed did a really good job of making sure that the communication was clear and the transfer was really seamless for everybody. So I think it was really impressive.

14:49 AW: Thanks. I appreciate that. We definitely learned a lot of things out of it. I think what you hit upon, communication is so key. You see it so many different ways. I think it was just last week on Twitter, there was a big flare up because Drip raised prices and the way they communicated it and the stipulations they gave, people were all up in arms and it was just one of those reminders to me as a leader in our company, how important it is to communicate early and often. And honestly, those are really big things in ways to engage your customer base that keep them as a strong community and believing in you and trusting you and spending their money with you.

15:28 DS: Yeah, definitely. And it's one of the things that I think we need to work on and improve and I think it comes from me as the leader of the company, sometimes I'm not the best communicator and I need to make sure that when we launch something we have a bit of a communication plan around that. So planning communication is part of the piece that we often don't put enough time into. And after this podcast though, I'm gonna much better.

15:53 AW: There you go. Sometimes it's just being self-aware of what it is. There's a whole another podcast for us, self-awareness. I'm big into that. We can go and do a lot of things there. I have my own things to work on.

16:06 DS: So what are the biggest wins? How did it benefit the company? 

16:10 AW: So to me, there's two things that really stand out is one, being able to take this from scratch approach and truly create a brand and have so much cohesiveness and touch all the small things and really create it the way you want, was really, really important. Because our site and our messaging and so many other things over four and a half years kind of got Frankensteined together, and that's understandable with a startup. You're just happy sometimes to live for the next day, and you're not really thinking far out into the future. And I really took that approach with this and was like, "Alright, how do we best tell our story and how do we get to those pieces?" I really have seen that take hold with how we wanted that to work out for us in our brand positioning and messaging and things like that.

17:03 AW: And then the second thing I looked at is it was such an internal win for us because it allowed us to tighten up the things we talk about internally, and define our why so much better. We built out core values for the first time in our company, which might sound crazy to some but we always... We're just doing the work and we kinda sorta knew why and what we made decisions off of. But we're really able to nail these down. In some regards I felt like I was cheating because I had... It wasn't just putting them out there into the air, we had years of doing this. So it was just like how do we tighten that up. And it really turned into something that when it all came together, I really saw our team all come together.

17:45 DS: Nice. And then how about the reception? How the clients, customers, everyone received the new name change. Any complaints? Everyone's generally happy with it.

17:55 AW: Yeah. I would say 90-95% was all... Customers are great. When you do the right things, they support you, they cheer you on, they share it for you. Some people... Change is always hard for some. Some will be like, "Great. I have to retrain myself this, and where to log in and what to call you guys." There was definitely some small pieces of that but the good far outweighed it and people were really like... I felt like they saw what our vision is. That we're not just about reviews, we're about creating a connection between the customer and the business, and they already saw it in our features and now we're putting this wrapper on it that best represents it.

18:33 DS: Yep, nice.

18:34 AW: Yeah, and really the only big scary thing was just... We are 99% inbound marketing, and so switching domains and ending up in that Google sandbox, and for us it was a five to six-week sandbox, that was scary stuff.

18:50 DS: So, yeah, that 301 redirect, so you're gonna redirect all your relevant pages to the equivalent page on gatherup.com, but that doesn't flow immediately, it takes, what, five to six weeks for you? 

19:00 AW: Yeah, yeah, it took us five to six weeks, so it was just daily of doing searches, and monitoring things in Ahrefs, and consulting others that are out there, "Have you seen it happen this long?" There was just so many things, and finally when we started seeing a branded result and site links and things like that, and you start to see things tick up in Search Console, you're like, "Yes, yes, we're coming out of it." [chuckle]

19:25 DS: Well, that's interesting. I thought Google would be a little quicker with that. Five or six week seems like a really long time for them to get the pictures, considering that you've gone into Google My Business and changed the entity name, you 301 redirected the whole site, it's shocking it takes Google five to six weeks to get it all resorted out.

19:44 AW: It was shocking. I wanted it to sandbox for five or six minutes. [chuckle] Not five or six weeks.

19:50 DS: Yeah. That's what you'd expect, you think Google's so smart these days, right? 

19:53 AW: Yep, totally. So I would say if anyone else, if you're facing this, if you're gonna do it, that's one thing you have to consider, especially if you're heavily dependent on inbound, it's gonna be more than a blip on the map, and you've gotta be willing to wait it out. And in our case, too, we also had great... I went back to people who had written articles in the past 30 days that were still fresh and asked them to change and update link... We tried to do everything we could to send the strongest signals possible, anything to wriggle us out of that sooner than later, but yeah, it ended up a month and change until we were out.

20:26 DS: Yeah, a brand might actually consider planning for that and allocating additional budget for PPC and other marketing, paid marketing, in order to cover the loss you're gonna get from organic marketing in that period.

20:40 AW: Yep ... Nope. Smart. I should have done that. That was definitely one thing we didn't consider, we were...

20:44 DS: You didn't know. You didn't expect five to six weeks, did you? 

20:46 AW: No, no. We were so consumed. I definitely expected a couple of weeks; I expected two to three weeks, but it really doubled. So that was definitely a hard thing about the hard thing.

20:57 DS: Great. There's our first big teaching moment in the podcast. [chuckle] Anybody listening, if you ever do a re-brand, prepare for a five to six-week downtime in your organic traffic.

21:08 AW: Totally. Well, enough of putting me on the spot, I wanted to get to... As we were talking before this and before hitting record, I find your hard thing really interesting because what yours is is a hard thing is putting together a giant study, and you definitely do that. You have taken over the Local Search ranking Factors report on a yearly basis. And I would just love to hear more about and ask you a couple of questions around what is it like putting together something that has so many opinions, is that massive, and then ends up on such a visible stage to people? 

21:49 DS: Yeah, it's a pretty hard thing. But it's funny, because I have this very positive outlook on things. Before I do something, it seems so easy. It's like, "Oh yeah, no problem. I'll be able to get that done in two weeks." [chuckle] And then after I do something and it's in the past, I'm like, "That was no problem." But when I'm actually working on it, when I really think about it, it was a ton of work, and there were a lot of challenges that I had to face through it. So I think it's very applicable for our hard things topic.

22:16 DS: So let me just describe what it is, because not everyone that listens might be familiar. So it's called the Local Search Ranking Factors, and it was originally conceived and executed by David Mihm; he prepared this study for, I think, eight years before he handed the reins over to me. And what he started with was he would send out a spreadsheet and ask the 30, 40, 50 top notable local search experts to rank the factors that are driving local search. And so each year he would add new factors and remove factors that aren't applicable anymore, and it was a spreadsheet thing, and you would just drag the factors that you think have the most importance versus the least importance. And so when I took over, I would basically execute it the exact same way.

23:03 DS: And so some of the really hard things are chasing people down. So first it's like, "Are you gonna participate? Hey, can you get this back to me. I'm still... " So you're trying to chase people. And then another thing that I did this year, which was maybe a bit too ambitious, was I wanted to take it out of the spreadsheet format. Instead of dragging factors in a spreadsheet and copying and pasting, which was kind of clunky and difficult and challenging, I wanted to use a drag and drop survey tool. I looked at maybe, I don't know, five or six of the top survey tools, and none of them really offered the features that I needed, so we decided to build our own. So we put it together and we now have a little tool that we created that allows participants to just drag the factors in and really do it easier and simpler.

23:53 DS: And another benefit to that is that now everything gets saved to the database, and so I now can run queries to run the analysis. And so it was really nice, actually, one of the first times... I haven't touched code in a long time, but I wrote all of these SQL procedures in order to extract the data, and I felt really proud of myself for actually writing some code, 'cause I don't do that anymore, my developers do not let me touch code anymore. [chuckle] Yeah.

24:20 AW: This sounds like you might have built a whole new product. We might need to start talking about how you're gonna go to market with this. [chuckle]

24:26 DS: That is a challenge. We're always building things, and I think, "I could sell this." I was like... [chuckle] We already have way too many little things at Whitespark, that's part of the problem.

24:35 AW: Yeah. So between all these things, Darren, you're getting it all put together, you're building software to make it easier for people to do it, you're chasing down participants. What's your time investment into this report each year? 

24:49 DS: It's really hard to estimate, but if I had to give a number, I would say maybe 300 hours roughly; 300 hours went into it. It's a lot of time, a lot, a lot of hours, and that's over months and months and months. So it's first reworking the form. What are the things that need to be changed this year, what are factors that need to be taken out, building the software, it's refining the software, it's chasing people, getting answers, going back and forth 'cause some people actually had problems with the software where it wouldn't save their answers, and so dealing with those kinds of things. And then after that, okay, let's say everyone took the survey, great, I have all the data. Then I spent a ton of time extracting all the analysis, so I'm analyzing the results and trying to get the numbers. I'm reading through all the commentary, trying to pull out information in there.

25:35 DS: And then I'm preparing slide decks 'cause I took it to SearchLove London, and that was the first place I presented the results. And then I had another conference a week after that, so I had to prepare two slide decks. And then it's getting it ready to publish, so it's extracting all of the content and putting it into a resource format. It's writing up my take on it, preparing a blog post that pulls out what are the high-level take-aways. Oh, and then I also flew to Moz to film a Whiteboard Friday on it. And it even still comes up. So let's just be clear, I am not complaining. [chuckle] The beauty of it is that it's this non-stop marketing engine for me because... And I just got invited to go and speak at the Local Search Association, so he wants me to present on the Local Search Ranking Factors. Great, I already got that stuff and I know [26:25] ____ so it's really nice to be able to continue to reuse this as marketing over and over. And I got to present on a bunch of different webinars. And so it's a lot of work, but with a lot of reward. And so I love it quite a bit; it's a really fun thing to do.

26:41 AW: Yeah, no, I mean, it absolutely gives such an authoritative stance by being the one to pull it together. And I think... I look at... I did it for four or five years when I was more hands-on and still running a digital agency before David even made it drag-and-drop, David Mihm who originally started it. And I remember feeling like this is a lot of work to fill out this spreadsheet when I got it, much less have to wrangle it all together and everything else, but...

27:13 DS: Yeah. Yeah, I remember actually spending a good five, six hours just doing the survey as a participant.

27:18 AW: Yeah. Well, and it was kinda nerve-racking, too, because I always looked at it like, "Oh, when David reads this, is he gonna think I'm dumb compared to someone else's opinion? Is he comparing these really hard against each... Is he doing his own ranking on who's actually intelligent or not?" It was nerve-wracking.

27:34 DS: Right. It's an intelligence score, he scores everybody based on how close your answers are to his.


27:43 AW: I can see that happening.

27:44 DS: Yeah, I totally felt that way taking it, and it's something you don't take lightly when you do that survey, you wanna make sure that what you're putting out there is your best effort, because it is evaluated by David himself, and then a lot of commentary gets read by everybody that does local search, so yeah.

28:02 AW: So you touched on a number of the things from obviously the positioning as an authority, and an industry influencer, and all the different conferences and talks and things like that. What are some of the SEO benefits? Can you turn that into anything tangible for us to understand what it gives off in that, and backlinks and mentions and all that kind of stuff? 

28:25 DS: Yeah, it's hard to measure. I bet you I could do a little bit of research and figure out how many times Local Search Ranking Factors and Whitespark are mentioned together, and then find all the ones that are actually linking, but it's a ton. Every time you publish this, there are so many links that go out. And I publish it on Moz, I don't publish it on the Whitespark website, so a lot of those links are going to Moz, which is fine. But another big benefit is Moz has a huge audience, so it puts me in front of Moz's audience, which a lot of enterprises follow, and so it has this really great marketing reach, and it really establishes me as one of the top influencers in local search as the person who executes this study. And so, yeah, it gives us a lot of clout, we get a lot of leads and calls because of that position, and so its dollar value is impossible to measure, and marketing value is impossible to measure, but it is... You can feel it.

29:23 DS: After we publish this thing, you can feel the number of contacts really increase at Whitespark. The number of emails that I personally get that then end up turning into various forms of work, people either signing up for our software or contacting us for enterprise work. You really notice it after doing something like this. And then, of course, more invitations to go and speak at conferences, which then leads to more of that. So there is a huge benefit, and I really have to thank David for passing those reins to me, it's been a massive gift. And he's done such a great job of preparing this; he really just handed it to me on a silver platter, and I couldn't be more grateful. That guy's amazing.

30:04 AW: Well, I would agree with that. I like David as well. I think you're doing an outstanding job with it. I like the fact that even when you look at it, you consider the process and how you could improve it, and your software and product side of you led to figuring out efficiencies with that and how you can make it easier to extract data and run queries against it and everything else. I think those are kinda cool things happening within your process that you probably, at some point in time, will look back and be like, all right, that was kind of wild that we just continued to evolve it even further from what it was.

30:38 DS: Yeah, definitely. And it's also exciting to think about the evolution of it, because one of the things we're gonna talk about at the Local U event that's happening in Santa Monica in early February is we're gonna talk about the Local Search Ranking factors: Does it still make sense to sort factors this way? And so it's a real thought exercise as well, this whole thing where we get to think about what is driving local search. And so from a personal development perspective, it really helps drive me forward as well in terms of is this... Is what we've been doing to rank businesses in local search still applicable? And the way that we decide what drives local search, does that still make sense? And so it's exciting from that development perspective to be able to push the industry that way.

31:23 AW: Yeah, for sure. Well, you kind of touched on here, as we get ready to wrap up episode one, I was gonna ask what are you up to in the next couple of weeks before we talk again, and try to get another show recorded, and put that out there. I think first week of February is Local U Advanced in Santa Monica. I was bummed, I won't be there, I'll actually be just north of there, I'll be in San Jose at SaaStr Annual, which is the big...

31:50 DS: Oh, yeah.

31:50 AW: SaaS conference. It's almost too big, it's 10,000 people.

31:56 DS: You told me about this one, yeah.

31:57 AW: Yeah, it's really... The thing I love about it is, you go into a session, you sit down, you introduce yourself to the person next to you, and it's most likely the CEO or a VP of sales, or someone else at another SaaS company that you can just make really great connections with, and ask a few questions, and learn more about things that they do, and everything else. So for me, the networking, and connections, and war stories, and finding insight, all of that, to me, is usually on par or even greater value than some of the presentations that are there. I will say...

32:31 DS: I often find that at conferences, where just the relationship building and the conversations you have outside of the talks, that's where a ton of the value of going to conferences.

32:39 AW: Yep. No, and that's why I'll be missing it at Local U, all of the... It's such a great conference, and it's family style, where you get 50-75 attendees, and all the speakers, and it's just a ton of great knowledge share for 2-3 days on so many different levels, so I'll definitely be missing out on that, but... So is it where you also... That would be my fun place where I'd wanna spend my time at a conference, but I definitely get a lot out of the SaaStr Annual, and need to be there as well. And I haven't found a way to duplicate myself yet, so I can't be at two...

33:12 DS: Yeah, well, maybe next year I'll come to that SaaStr with you, that sounds awesome.

33:16 AW: There you go, you should totally do it. I'll show you... This'll be my third year now, so would love to have you there so I had someone else that I know to hang out with and everything when networking falls apart.

33:28 DS: Yeah, that'd be fun. So yeah, next couple weeks, we've got a number of developments happening within the company. We've been rebuilding our Local Citation Finder in modern technology; it was built on some pretty old stuff and had some really terrible code in it. And so we basically started from scratch with it, rebuilding the whole thing in Laravel and Vue, the most modern versions of those, and so that's been wonderful. Oh my god, I'm so happy [chuckle] to see the new Local Citation Finder coming together. So our staging environment, I was playing around with it, I have a weekly call with the team on that, and was playing with it today, and it's just such a delight to use compared to the old piece of crap. And the Local Citation Finder is probably our most popular product, it is our most popular product. We have so many new sign-ups coming in all the time, and that user experience they're having is just... To me, it feels like it's been letting them down. So I can't wait to launch this new version, and we might be able to get it out in the next two weeks before our next call.

34:26 DS: I'm also launching... You're gonna find this interesting, Aaron, we're launching a software system called... It's just this free little thing, we call it Review Checker. So what it does is it Googles your brand name plus reviews and a whole bunch of different search terms, and then it aggregates anything in the search results that has stars. So if you've got schema markup and there's stars, it's gonna pull all that stuff in and give you a little report of all the places you're getting reviews. And so pretty much every review site is returning schema, and as long as they have enough authority they're gonna get pulled into our tool. So it's this great quick check, and we have a review score algorithm where we calculate what your review score is, and we show you all the sites you're getting reviews on. And so that little free tool, which will funnel into our GatherUp resell software called Reputation Builder, we should get that out the door in the next couple weeks as well, so I'm really pumped about that.

35:19 AW: Awesome, yeah, you got some great, great things going on there that, yeah, we'll have to catch up in a couple of weeks and determine what topics to talk about on episode two. But as you and I have discussed, there is always so much going on on both sides for us that we really don't think content of sharing what we're up to, what we're planning, decision-making, all that kind of stuff is gonna be too difficult for us.

35:42 DS: No, we're gonna have lots of content, so much to talk about.

35:44 AW: All right, well, we got one recorded here; we'll see what the future holds for us. Thanks everyone for listening to episode one of the SaaS Venture, where myself and Darren Shaw take you through what it's like to lead and grow bootstrap SaaS companies through our own struggles, wins, losses, experiences, and challenges, and we hope we will see you again by subscribing to our podcast. Thanks, and have a great day everybody.

36:11 DS: Thanks for joining us. See you next time.

Creators and Guests

Aaron Weiche
Aaron Weiche
I'm the Co-founder and CEO of Leadferno, a business messaging app. Leadferno creates delightful connections at speed through SMS and messaging platforms centralized in one app to close more leads faster. I designed my first website in 1998 and never looked back. I have co-founded and been in executive roles in multiple digital marketing agencies and SaaS companies. I speak frequenty at conferences of all types on digital marketing, customer experience, mobile and local SEO. I'm part of Local University and a founding board member of MnSearch. Outside of work I'm a sports fan, love Nebraska college football, Minnesota Twins baseball, snowboarding, boating, BBQ and anything with my 4 kids and amazing wife. I live to the west of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Darren Shaw
Darren Shaw
I'm the founder and president of Whitespark, a local search company with software and services that help businesses improve their rankings in Google. I started developing websites back in 1996 during my first year of university. I failed plenty of courses because I was skipping class to work on my HTML, CSS, and Javascript projects in the lab. Fortunately, people wanted to pay me to build websites, and in 2005 I started Whitespark as a web design and development company. In 2010 we stopped doing web development projects so we could focus on local search, and we launched our first SaaS software, the Local Citation Finder. We now offer multiple SaaS applications and services. When I'm not speaking at conferences, researching the latest in local search, or designing the next best local search application, I like to spend time travelling, skiiing, and dining with my wife and daughter in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
01: The Hard Things
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