26: A Big Change

Aaron shares his big news that he's leaving GatherUp to start a new SaaS adventure! Darren and Aaron catch up to start 2021, and dive into Aaron's big decision and explore his next product.

[INTRO music]

0:00:12.2 Aaron Weiche: Episode 26, A Big Change.

0:00:16.0 S?: Welcome to the SaaS Venture podcast, sharing the adventure of leading and growing a bootstrapped 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.


0:00:44.6 AW: Welcome to the SaaS Venture podcast, and welcome to 2021. I'm Aaron.

0:00:50.3 Darren Shaw: And I'm Darren.

0:00:51.6 AW: And Darren did you know that 99% of the time for lunch, I eat a turkey, pepper jack cheese, mayo and avocado sandwich?

0:01:05.9 DS: For how long, is this for the past seven years, you've been eating this for lunch every day? [chuckle]

0:01:11.4 AW: I would definitely say the percentage has kicked up highly during COVID, so the last year now, but yeah, just because I'm home just about every single day that's kinda... If I'm home, that's the sandwich I'm making. And my kids just laugh at me, they ridicule me about just how basic, boring and the same I am.

0:01:39.1 DS: Oh, that's funny 'cause I'm exactly the same. This is a life hack, Aaron, it's like you're reducing your decision fatigue, you don't have to think about what you're gonna eat for lunch, you just know what you're gonna eat and you just go and make it, and it's one less decision to weigh on your brain. It's like the Steve Jobs thing, he just wears the same thing every day, he gets up, puts on his outfit. [chuckle] So yeah, it's a smart... The smart move.

0:02:02.6 AW: Right. I'm gonna choose to look at it as an optimization then. I just got done eating lunch before this, that's why it was on my mind now is just like, I make the sandwich, I have a basically... What do they call it? I think they call it a sandwich cut or a deli cut pickle. So it's not a dill pickle spear, it's like the flat slice but ridged, so it's got some texture to it so...

0:02:28.9 DS: Okay, good.

0:02:29.7 AW: Every day.

0:02:30.0 DS: So that's what we're talking about today, just we're talking about sandwiches [laughter] on the podcast.

0:02:34.2 AW: Totally, I love sandwiches. Someone tweeted this week talking about that they forgot to exclude mayo on a sandwich that they ordered from Jimmy John's, the sandwich franchise. And I was like, "No, it's not a sandwich without mayo, that is the ingredient, that's like sandwich glue. You need that, without it, it's just bread with stuff like." [chuckle]

0:03:00.6 DS: I used to love when I was a kid... This is really weird. [chuckle] When I was like, I don't know, between the ages of 10 and 13, I used to love to eat... This is the weirdest sandwich, it was just two pieces of bread, mayonnaise and jam. [chuckle] It was just this disgusting sandwich that I ate all the time when I was a kid, really weird.

0:03:21.9 AW: Wow, yeah, the mayo and jam combination that definitely... I was waiting for peanut butter, bananas, there's definitely some variations. I don't think I've ever heard jam and mayo. [chuckle]

0:03:34.1 DS: And mayonnaise, I don't... I was just on a jam and mayo sandwich kick for a while.

0:03:39.6 AW: Oh my gosh, for me at that age, it was like peanut butter and jelly and nacho Doritos. I think that was my lunch, especially during the summer at home as a kid, I made that every day.

0:03:52.5 DS: Well hey, you and I, our next SaaS product is gonna be sandwich related.

0:03:56.5 AW: Oh, this is brilliant. I would love a company that was named after a sandwich or something like that, I'm all in, so.

0:04:03.8 DS: Alright.

0:04:07.1 AW: Right, well hey, let's catch up on some other things besides our sandwich habits and our sandwich secrets. I hope our listeners feel really good about what we bring to the table...

0:04:18.4 DS: They've all stopped listening at this point, I think.

0:04:22.9 AW: This is what you got for 2021, sandwiches? [laughter] Anyway, catch us up on how the year started for you, Darren.

0:04:31.6 DS: Alright, it's been a good start. We kinda went out with a bang at the end of 2020. We had a big launch of our Rank Tracker, and it was, I guess, probably in June, we launched our updated local citation finder and man, we've just been on a roll, it continues to grow. We were going through some declines on our subscriptions for a while, and that trend has been completely reversed and yeah, every week numbers keep going up, so it's been great on the software side of things.

Great on the service side of things too, I've just been so busy doing marketing and lots of presentations because of the local search ranking factors, which I officially released at the end of the year, so just been doing tons of webinars and podcasts and presentations around that. So that's been... It's been good and it's been driving business for sure.

0:05:24.5 AW: That's awesome.

0:05:25.8 DS: Yeah, so yeah, it's been good. Got lots of stuff coming up in 2021 as well. It was a good end to 2020, a good start to 2021. And man, we have so much in the pipeline about to launch for in the next month or two, and I think it's just gonna be a great year. Yeah, it's looking good. Lots of optimism.

0:05:50.3 AW: Yeah, that's a really great feeling. One thing, you and I, we did a non-recorded call, just catching up and seeing how things were, and one thing that obviously really stood out to me just 'cause we'd had many other conversations about it, but you were commenting on your engineering team has really found its sweet spot in efficiency and what they're kicking out. And that was great to hear just because prior months we had had talks, it felt like things were... Something was missing structurally or process, or even possibly people, and you were working hard to get your finger on it and change some things up, and it sounds like that's worked.

0:06:32.3 DS: It worked really well. So step one for me was getting myself personally tuned into it, because the software team is busy doing stuff all the time, but I wasn't really hooked in, and I didn't know what they were doing, and so as the founder I just always had these lingering doubts. I'm like, "Are they doing anything?" I'm like, "Why is this taking so long?" But I wasn't really involved enough to know how things were progressing. So I started a daily stand-up. So we now do a daily stand-up. It takes about 10-15 minutes and everyone just kinda outlines what they do.

We're recording all of this in Confluence, which is Atlassian, same company that makes Jira. So record that every day, and it's just so... That immediately dissipated any doubts I had. It was just like, okay, cool, I'm now in this. I'm involved. I know what's happening. It was really helpful for me, personally, to be able to see what was happening, and I think it was helpful for the team too, because it just sets the day every day. Every morning, we set up, like, "This is what we're doing. This is what I did yesterday, these are things we're doing today."

0:07:38.6 DS: And then at the end of the year we did annual reviews for all of our staff, and I promoted one of our developers to a team lead position. So that's been really helpful too, because I'm not the best person to be the team lead, and I was kind of the go-to person for all software team-related decisions, and I was a bit of a blocker in a lot of stuff. And so putting Troy into our team lead position has been really helpful too, and so now we've got processes in place and we got the daily stand-ups, and then we ended up hiring two more people too.

So we've got one more full-time guy, and we have a part-time student developer, and it's just like, "Wow, it's all... " All systems are firing, and the dev team is building stuff faster than I can review it. It's like I got a backlog of like I have to review this app and I have to review that app, and it's like, "Dude, they're waiting for my feedback on stuff, 'cause I've just been busy with other things." And so things are really going awesome on the dev team. Love it.

0:08:45.2 AW: Yeah, that's fantastic to hear. Do you see the team themselves feeling it and having a new burst, or a new outlook, like has it crept in there?

0:09:00.2 DS: Yeah, it feels just really positive all around, and I think everyone just... It's that sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, right? You're just getting stuff done and it's like, wow, this app has come to life. It looks good. It's like, "Wow." We're really putting a polish on it and everyone just feels good about it. So generally, I'm seeing a lot of momentum. The daily stand-ups are really good to keep everyone connected too. When... 'Cause we have a lot of different things happening and different people are working on different projects, and so I always felt like one developer is just working in a silo, on his own, doing his own thing, and he's not really communicating with the rest of the team, whereas now, everyone is a little bit more connected, and it's really helpful.

0:09:39.7 AW: Yeah, that's awesome. I definitely think we can dedicate a future upcoming episode to... Related to efficiencies and sprints, and builds, and shipping code. That's just one thing I've always been such a proponent of, is it's great to be doing work, but what's so important is tying it off, like, at what point are you shipping? And when you can get a team to have those better visibility into each other and that produces better accountability and gets everyone to that same level, and then you get everyone just more committed and performing to a level where they're shipping, not just doing... It's so easy in work to be busy. Being busy is not hard, but getting something done, that's hard, and that's where you need to get a team too, so that's great.

0:10:37.7 DS: Yeah, and actually it's really important to define that cut-off point. We're already... The main thing that a lot of the dev team is working on is our new account system, all of our billing, our authorization, our transactions, all of that, signing up for all of our different things and all... The flow of all that has been in the works for a while, and it's already much better than our existing system. So it's like we can keep polishing it for the next three months, but gosh, we might as well just push it out the door, because it's already better than what we currently have. So it's about defining that, like, "Okay, let's launch. It's ready."

0:11:18.0 AW: Yeah. Well, I think you just provided us some good segue in mentioning cut-off point. And for me, but this is the first time I'm kinda saying this out loud past my own internal team, but I've made the decision that I'm leaving GatherUp. I'm cutting off my time at GatherUp and have started on a new product and a new venture.

0:11:49.7 DS: Big news Aaron Weiche. Big, big news.

0:11:53.3 AW: We have to redo the intro of the SaaS Venture podcast. [chuckle]

0:11:57.1 DS: That's right. Yeah, we totally do. That is a huge news. I'm really excited for you, Aaron. This is gonna be good stuff. Yeah. And so that's... We're gonna talk about some of that today, right? 

0:12:09.3 AW: Exactly. Certain things I'm not ready to reveal and put out there, like the name of the product, company, and things like that, but all kinds of other things, totally. Totally fair game. I'll just sit back and let you pick away at me, and I'll try to give you some answers.

0:12:31.7 DS: All right. So I wanna start with, what made you decide to take the leap? How did you do this? You had a very comfortable position, you had a very important role, how do you leave that behind and say, "I'm gonna do it. I'm diving into the deep end, and I'm gonna start something new?"

0:12:49.1 AW: Yeah, well, as you personally know, Darren, 'cause you're somebody that's obviously in my sounding board, inner circle, this conversation started for me last summer. And it was a combination of a few different things. But one, after the acquisition, even though I was completely treated well and respectfully, so many things, I think it's more of the situation that is, is I went from being in charge of something that was a whole and an entity by itself, and then when you're plugged in with a whole bunch of other companies and I retained being in charge of that entity, but now I was part of a larger entity that I had very little influence on. And as a leader, that just ends up starting... I just started feeling unfulfilled, and it just wasn't gelling. I didn't feel like... I wasn't doing what I really love, and I didn't feel like I was being utilized for the things that I do best, just based on the structure of those things.

0:14:06.6 DS: That's really weird how that happens. It's like you're in this position, you help build a company to what it is, and then after acquisition, it's just... Things change. It's something all founders should be aware of that after an acquisition, the structure of the organization will change and you don't really know how that's gonna impact you.

0:14:26.9 AW: Yeah. And you really transition from entrepreneur to employee.

0:14:31.2 DS: Right, right. Oh my God.

0:14:32.3 AW: And an employee isn't something I've been for a very long time, and for right or wrong, those barriers or fences or the lane you're in, no matter how much freedom you're given, you start to bump up against those, and it starts to feel uncomfortable. And yeah, it just ends up, one way or another, it just ends up not being the ideal situation.

0:15:00.7 DS: Yeah. And I think the opportunity presented itself too. You had a great new idea and it's just... The two things coming together. You're like, "Okay. Now's the time."

0:15:16.3 AW: Yeah, yeah. There's so many components. As you know, a lot of hemming and hawing about it, where I was being recruited for a couple of other CEO positions, which was flattering and great, and that also led to me answering some of my own internal questions on what I really wanted to do and what would really make me happy. The incredible hard parts are, you've given every ounce of yourself to something, and then you're gonna walk away from it. And the two big pieces of that is, one, the team, is you have all these people that you've hired and recruited and worked alongside and everything else, and leaving that is extremely hard. I just... I dearly love our team. And the good news, they're friends for life now. But just such a great working relationship and just such a great culture that they all... They all self-built and contributed too to make it so special.

0:16:22.7 AW: And then it's no secret, I love what GatherUp is about. I just was hanging out with a friend last night who's in a somewhat related world, and he had a bunch of questions 'cause I was letting him know about moving on. And it was kind of a... We hadn't caught up in quite a while, and just even my passion in talking about what GatherUp can do and what it's rooted in and what it provides, and showing him all the different ways it manifests and talking about how different companies use it and the benefits they get out of it, it was just like, man, I love this solution. I've wrapped my mind around it for the last five and a half years, trying to make it better every day and build the features and all those things, and it's definitely hard to walk away from something that you've put so much into building.

0:17:17.1 DS: For sure. Yeah, it's got... I can't imagine. I can't imagine, one, being an employee and how that would feel and how I would respond to not being the person that has the final say on things. That's just the way... That's my position and it has been my position for 15 years. For 15 years, I've been the person that gets to make the final call on everything, and so that would be a weird transition for me. And then, I also can't imagine how difficult it is to leave behind something that you are so passionate about and spend so much time building up and leaving the team that you've built. And yeah, that's gotta be tough. But it's good that you're still friendly and still in touch with all those people and...

0:18:00.0 AW: Oh, they're the best. Truly. All of us basically... And having something like that too, just what some of them shared with me, just super humbling, and just to know you're able to have a great impact and help them along in what their journey is and their careers, just super satisfying. And I'm just very grateful for it. They're all wonderful people, and they're all super supportive and just like, "Go get it." As one of 'em said, "Leaders gotta lead," right? And just...

0:18:36.0 DS: Right, exactly.

0:18:38.0 AW: It made it a lot easier getting that kind of support for them.

0:18:43.4 DS: Sure.

0:18:44.3 AW: And then just the last thing, as we can transition in and talk to some of the new things, is the idea that I had that was years in the making of when the initial idea happened and how I wanted to go about it really became an accelerated thing during COVID. And more solutions, we're working these elements in, and this was becoming more and more important with it, and I was just like... One, I had the feeling like, "Oh, I wish I already had this product to sell," and two, was just like, "Alright. Timing matters here. Stop sitting on the sideline," and as I again talked to the handful of friends and kind of professional mentors, they were all like, "Build the... Let's map out the plan you need here and the path you need to make this successful."

0:19:41.8 DS: Yeah. You gotta strike while the iron is hot. I saw an interesting... No, it was probably just like a graphic or a stat, but it was like, if you map all the successful companies, they weren't usually the first to have the idea, but they launched their product at the right time. Timing is so important. It's like when the market is ready to get the product that you're selling, if you did it five years before, then the market wasn't ready, then that's a huge Achilles' heel. If you did it five years later, then you're a little bit too late. The timing is so important.

0:20:17.2 AW: Yup. Absolutely. So with that, it was like, "Alright, I'm not sitting on the sideline. Let's pull all this together and framework out how to make this work, and what year one's gonna look like, and get started on it."

0:20:31.8 DS: Yeah. So what can you tell us about the new venture without giving too much away? I don't know. I wanna hear what you've got to say about it.

0:20:39.4 AW: Yeah. The problem that I wanna solve is just really helping businesses and customers communicate better with each other. And in short, the evolution that has already been taking place, but I really feel like is hitting more of a stride, and where COVID has definitely forwarded this is, all of the different messaging channels that are out there, are really becoming the dominant players in the acceptable ways and time periods to interact with each other. So SMS, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Google My Business now has their message product, chat. You have all these other ways where it's like email is really regressing to this static, slow play of what's out there. And I look back, this summer, I had a perfect example of, this is the problem I wanna solve. 

I was looking at... I was entertaining/daydreaming on getting a new boat. We have a family cabin, we have a boat, it's adequate, but the kids love... We have friends that have a boat where you can wake-surf behind it, the kids love that. You have to get a really high-end boat that has some pretty cool equipment to throw these big waves off of the back of the wake, so you can surf on them.

0:22:03.2 AW: And so I started the process. I went to a boat dealership that was literally two miles from the cabin, I filled out a contact form 'cause it was the classic, "Here's a couple of models, call for price." And, one, I'm not gonna call. And, two, I fill out the form, I filled it out on a Sunday afternoon. Monday, they got back to me and had a bunch of questions. Monday afternoon is when I saw it, I replied back. Tuesday, they replied back, and was like, "Okay, great. Do you have a boat you'd trade in? What is its condition? Can you send us a few photos of it?" And so finally, by Wednesday night or Thursday morning, I got my quote for the boat. 

So it took four days, it was tens of thousands of dollars for the boat, and any momentum that I had on that Sunday afternoon while at the cabin daydreaming, whatever else, now I was back at my house, it's four days later. And it made me realize if I was able to text with someone, even if they didn't respond till that Monday morning, 5-10 minutes of a text exchange, and they would have had all the info and I would have had what I needed to know, right? 

0:23:11.5 DS: Yeah.

0:23:11.8 AW: And I was like, a ticket item of close to $100,000, and it took four days just to tell me the price, so you could acquire the info you want and structure your communication, all those things. That was just... I was just like, "That is just so wrong." I didn't like it. I can't imagine the sales person actually likes it, if it's a lead worth following up on.

0:23:34.9 DS: Yeah. That's a solid lead. Every one of those leads coming in are great leads 'cause it's such a big ticket. By the time Wednesday rolls around, you're busy thinking about sandwiches. You're not worried about boats anymore.

0:23:46.4 AW: [chuckle] Exactly. And then the other side that really incorporates my 20 years of building websites before I got into SaaS, was really the lack for businesses of putting good calls to action in place that are always in front of the user. When you think about how much emphasis we've put on content and content marketing and SEO and all of these other things, you still can come into a website and you have to go through this specific channel a certain way to reach out to the business. You have to go to the contact page, you have to find the form, you have to fill out this static form. And to me, it's just like it's so far away from a natural interaction with a customer.

0:24:32.0 AW: So the other thing that is a big part of what we're looking at building now is, how do you have these call to actions right in front of the customer, and can you provide the customer with options, so it's not, "This is the way to do it," it's, "Hey, you can interact with us really instantaneously, and here's some choices on how you wanna do it." So you pick the channel or the way that you wanna interact with us, but you don't have to go clicking around and hunting to find it. We're gonna put it easily accessible, no matter where you are on our page, no matter where you're scrolling, what you're doing. 

I just saw a lack of that, especially in building websites where it's like, "okay, we build your site. Here's where your phone number is gonna be, and now we need to install this plug-in, if it's in WordPress or use this forms module and create this form, and then on a different page, we might have a scheduling item. So it's like you have all these things just kind of everywhere. And so I really wanted to centralize and say, "Hey, if you need CTA in a box, here's a solution, so you can deploy your three, four, five best contact methods or ways to start interacting with that client, and they're all in one place. It's easy to find and easy to make those choices."

0:25:49.0 DS: Yeah. Well, it sounds like a good problem to solve, and it sounds like you're building a really good solution. Are you boot-strapping this? How do you just decide to drop what you're doing and start a new company? 

0:26:05.9 AW: Yeah, so one of my big hang-ups with this was just kind of runway and funding and coming back to timing, and through a lot of different conversations, I ended up deciding through nudging of a few people, to raise an angel round with it. And that was hard, and coming from always being around and only doing bootstrapping, and the agencies that I've been a part of, GatherUp was bootstrapped, but I really looked at it like I wanted to do something where time to market could be months for the first version of the product, instead of a year of nights, weekends, one engineer, things like that. So I did... My goal is to raise this angel round and then run bootstrapped after that.

0:27:00.2 DS: Sure.

0:27:00.3 AW: So what that's allowed us to do is have a full-time engineering team, on day one, we roughly have a team of six, between front-end, back-end, QA and product management, that's already heads down on the product and building on it, and that's something, without raising that, I would have been able to have one and a half people if I was self-funding it.

0:27:26.4 DS: Yeah, yeah, that's really interesting. And so, I guess the debate is always, how much do you give up to your investors? How much equity do you give up to your investors, to get out of the gates faster? And it sounds like you have a pretty good balance. It was a reasonable angel round, right? 

0:27:44.5 AW: Yes, yeah. I probably still haven't talked away through how much I'm going to share on that, but in that sense, we basically traded off 13% of the company for what we raised, and at the end of the day, especially when you're starting, it's so easy to look at that and be like, "Well, I have whatever percent of something worth zero," [chuckle] so when you put together and say, "Hey, here's where we're gonna evaluate this on, based on the team we have, the idea we have, track record, those types of things." 

That's where it... It obviously worked really well in my favor, one, we basically raised the money from five investors that were definitely qualified as friends that had either been part of past entities that I've worked on, or have known me a long time, and it really wasn't that hard, it was like, "I'm just coming off a win of GatherUp doing really well and selling for a great multiple," and so it really kinda rolled that over. And so it wasn't too painful to go through that. There are certain parts of it where it was a little bit... Whatever people have their own ideas on the evaluation and things like that, there's always challenges, but ultimately, only took about 60 days to kind of pull that together.

0:29:12.7 DS: Right, that's kind of amazing too, when you can do it that way, just reach out to your network, find the right people, and there you go, you got a company, you got the funding to hit the ground running with an engineering team and a good group of people to build this thing.

0:29:27.5 AW: And one thing I reflected on too, without what has taken place at GatherUp and the outcome and the acquisition, if I tried to do this 10 years ago, I think I wouldn't have been even able to raise 10% of what I raised. And it's kind of a couple-fold too, a lot of the people that invested in this, weren't in that position 10 years ago either. So it's this fluid thing where it's like, as you go on and you achieve success, your friends have also achieved success and they've had outcomes, and they are now in position to be an angel investor or to write a check of significant size, and that's... To me, that's just kind of really interesting. Again, back to timing, it is so interesting that you need that, where 10 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to do this at all.

0:30:18.1 DS: Yeah, it is interesting how the network you built over the course of your career, becomes so important and valuable, and also just what you personally built, all of... Everything that you built, over the course of 20, 30 years, has such an impact.

0:30:34.3 AW: Yeah, no, and that was even some of the things... And this just gets into when you're entrepreneurial-minded, that was one of the hard things for me too is, personally, after the acquisition, and in so many ways, things could be incredibly comfortable if I wanted them to be, and instead, I've taken all that, I've let go of a very well-paying job and security, and gone down to, "Alright, I am going to make zero likely, for 2021," and the great thing is, is I've achieved enough and put enough away where I can pay myself for that year. My wife, Marci, is incredibly supportive, at every turn where I thought, "Alright, here's where I'll probably get the, 'Hey, that's pretty risky.'" Ultimately, she was just like, "If we're gonna invest our money, I'd rather invest in you, than the stock market or anything else."

0:31:29.2 DS: Yeah, I think Aaron Weiche is a safe bet, every day, any day.

0:31:33.3 AW: But then, I was like, "Do you know what GameStop is gonna do? You might wanna rethink that?" [chuckle] Oh man. So all of that, just kind of a whirlwind over many months of talking it out, putting it all in action, coming to the GatherUp team, putting all of that together, is definitely interesting, and now transitioning it to a different day, cutting off and being like, "Okay, now my days are not gonna be Zoom meetings all day long, it's gonna be working and building on something extremely new and small and basic, and which is so... It's such a different mind shift when you're leaving something that is six years matured and has just grown by leaps and bounds.

0:32:28.4 DS: Yeah, how do you determine, "Okay, this is launch-ready"? Do you have a cut-off point, where you're like, "Okay, this is the feature set we need to have, and that's when we're gonna launch"? Is that what you have in mind? 

0:32:38.9 AW: I do, but I can easily say, this is something that I struggle with the most, just even as we're getting and moving fast and trying to get a super... A basic pilot where we could get a handful of people using it and giving feedback and trying to get some learnings, I already feel myself struggling looking at that and saying, "Oh yeah, it's good enough at this point," I'm definitely... I'm not a great MVP person. Just because I want it to have that polish, I want it to... I don't wanna get a bunch of crappy feedback, I wanna try to remove as many objections as possible, 'cause I feel like I know them, but I also know, that that just goes against so many things of get it into people's hands and either validate your opinion a little bit, but get them to also let you know or be able to start to pull out where you really need to focus or prioritize on the things that are on your roadmap.

0:33:52.9 DS: Yeah, I struggle with that too. I find that it's like I wanna get feedback from people, but I wanna preface the feedback with, "Hey, here's the list of seven things I already know, you don't have to tell me that it needs this or it need that, 'cause before you give me... You spend all your time writing up this feedback, here's my list. Yeah, I know we've got these things on the roadmap and we're gonna do them." So I think I struggle with that too, just getting feedback early, when it's painfully obvious what already needs to be done.

0:34:28.5 AW: Yes, yeah. And maybe it's... That's just part of it. I'm trying to save myself from what I already know, but it's like you will also get other things than what you already know.

0:34:40.1 DS: Exactly. New perspective is so valuable.

0:34:43.5 AW: Yeah, I need to get better at that, I really just need to force myself as it gets to that point and just be like, "No, put... Even if who you have piloting, comes back two days later and is like, "It's a piece of shit and I'm not using it," [chuckle] you just... You need to take that step, you need to break that level, and I know it, I'm just having a really hard time being able to be exact with it.

0:35:10.1 DS: Yeah, that's one thing I mentioned earlier about getting an engineering team lead in place, he's really good at pulling back the reins, he's like... 'cause I have a non-stop stream of things I wanna do and how I wanna make the tool better, but he'll say, "That's post-launch. Nope, that's post-launch," so we just make two lists, it's like, "This is the feature set we need to get to launch and everything else, yeah, these are all great ideas, but we're going into another list and we'll hit them after we pull the trigger."

0:35:42.2 AW: Yeah, and see, I just look at that and be like, "Oh okay, here's where it's at, but I see that these two more things are coming in the next sprint, those would really... That would be great to have those. So yeah, let's just wait another two weeks."

0:35:54.9 DS: I know. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's tough, but I think for you, you're like, you're gonna start with a closed beta, so you might as well launch it to some people, even though you know there's a lot of great functionality coming, you can start getting some feedback from early adopters.

0:36:12.0 AW: Yeah, no, I need... By the next time we talk, I need to be able to tell you what's been going on in the pilot, otherwise, I've just screwed up and something needs to be... Something basic needs to be out there.

0:36:26.5 DS: Alright, well, there you go, you set yourself a goal.

0:36:28.7 AW: Yeah, hold me accountable.

0:36:30.8 DS: Okay, will do.

0:36:32.4 AW: Some of the other things that are interesting is, one, getting a new team to bond, we've assembled a team out of South America, on the engineering side. What's been nice with that, my previous engineering team was mostly in Poland, and so, the window to communicate and interact was kind of a three, four-hour window, depending upon how early you wanted to get up in the day, 'cause they're roughly eight hours ahead of me, and now, the team is two to three hours ahead of me for the most part. 

So we kinda gain... There's more of a four to six hour window every day, to communicate and collaborate, and that's been really nice. But again, with starting all over in a new team, your experienced team, they have this built-in accountability and responsibility to each other, not just the product and everything else, and that's one of the things, it's like, "Okay, that took years to build at GatherUp, how do I shrink that? What are the things that I can do, to get that to happen in a matter of months, with a new team?" And that's definitely been hard and interesting and already battling things of somebody being out with COVID and things like that, there's definitely... No matter what you know some things somewhat remain the same, you just hope you can solve them, even when they take time, just a little bit faster.

0:38:06.0 DS: Yeah, that makes sense. It's gotta be hard, just bringing a whole new team together when you're coming from a place of such a mature, established team, right? 

0:38:16.5 AW: Yeah, yeah, just 'cause it's... And maybe I'd even forgotten some of the things that I did do along the way, that helped build that in my previous team, and at some point, they took it over, they self-policed and had all those pieces, and it was just more finessing and prioritizing and things like that, and then you go all the way back over to starting from scratch, and you have to re-build and establish trust and communication, and how to, "Read the room" and understand where you're pushing too hard and where you shouldn't ask, and all of those kind of things. It's just really interesting and definitely challenging.

0:39:03.2 DS: How are you communicating? Is it like you have Slack and you're mostly chatting on Slack and then firing up calls with the team, kind of stuff? 

0:39:09.5 AW: Yeah, yeah. We do a daily stand-up, that's usually about 15 to 20 minutes, just kinda as you were talking about. What am I on? What's a blocker? So just normal stand-up methodology with that, and then we'll do planning meetings ahead of a sprint, just to map out what that looks like and then depending upon what they're working on, and what they have going on, then just spending time one-on-one, with either testing something or giving feedback or rounding out a story that they're working from and things like that.

0:39:47.8 AW: It's pretty good, but it's just like with anything, just... Even the difference in specific people, it's like there's already a few people on the team that are great communicators, very proactive, put things in front of you. And there's others, you're pulling teeth like, "I need an answer. Let me see what this looks like. Let's collaborate or let's work a little bit more iteratively on this." So, yeah, it's just interesting, no matter what you set up and how, you really just have to be ready to adjust and adapt and find what works best for everyone individually and as a whole as the organization.

0:40:27.6 DS: Yeah. And so a new app, you get to choose your new software stack, what you're building this in. What are you building your new application in? 

0:40:38.1 AW: Yeah. So we definitely went through the selection process there, and chose to go a little bit of a route less traveled with something newer. We're using Flutter, which is one of Google's kind of SDK and UI toolkits, and it's really... What it's built around is kind of a one code base that you can deploy natively and to the web. And so that's even been a little bit of challenge where it's like, those are very well-known pros and we look at it like, "Okay, not having to build separate." And we also looked at... There's just a couple of nuances that made it feel like it might be more advantageous for us than React Native on the front side of things, which gets you close to accomplishing that as well. So we're kind of betting on how it matures. It's been out for a couple of years, but that's just not a long time in the world of code.

0:41:40.2 AW: And what we're really finding is the first thing we're building in our product is the web app version. Well, that's the piece of Flutter that they started with the Native builds and web is kinda their trailer. So we're leading with what their trailer is, so we've definitely had a few things where we have to find some workarounds and our devs have to figure out some tutorials and dig into stuff and whatever else, but we're really hoping that just with anything, six months, a year down the road, both will have hit a better stride, and then we'll be like, "Okay, it was the right choice, not day one, but it was definitely the right choice day 100 or day 1,000."

0:42:22.4 DS: Sure, yeah.

0:42:23.5 AW: So a little bit risky. I don't know if everybody would like... A lot of people just say like, "Hey, the last thing you need to do is be worrying about those things. You should bet on what's tried and true." But we felt okay enough with what's there that we'd be able to make it work.

0:42:40.9 DS: I think it's a bit less risky 'cause it's a Google product, and so it's gonna get wide adoption. People are probably going... It certainly has the marketing to get a lot of pick-up. And it's very compelling value proposition that you can write your application and, boom, you've got a iOS app, you've got an Android app and you have a web app. That's kind of amazing. When I think about our product, I've always wanted to... I have, in the back of my mind, one day building mobile apps for our products, but it's like, that's such a huge undertaking and it's one that you don't even have to think about. So that's kind of amazing, so I like your choice.

0:43:19.0 AW: Yeah. Well, we'll see. If it comes to fruition, it's amazing. If at some point we have to break off and go back to React Native, then it'll be like, "Oh, okay. Hard lesson to learn." But I don't know, Darren, I look at the same time... I look at all of the things, obviously in you and I coming from the world of working so much with Google on its search products and local search products, Google also kills stuff off really fast too, and so... [chuckle]

0:43:43.2 DS: Yeah. Well, I hope that doesn't happen. It is true, though. They love to launch fast and kill fast too.

0:43:51.3 AW: Yeah. So hopefully, we don't end up in those things of it, but we'll just have to see what happens there, so...

0:43:58.0 DS: Yeah, interesting.

0:43:58.9 AW: Yeah, so that's kind of where things are at. In the next probably three, four weeks until we talk again, I think a lot will take place as the initial pieces really kinda come together and we have a little more time under our belt and all those kinda things. But I'm excited to get to do this and openly talk about so many of these things and what it looks like starting all the way back at zero again, so...

0:44:30.3 DS: Yeah. It's really great content for our podcast. Brand new company starting from the ground up. I love it.

0:44:37.3 AW: That's the whole reason I did it. I was like, "Let's get some new fresh content in here. [chuckle] I'll start a company."

0:44:47.3 DS: Good idea, yeah. Well, thanks, I really appreciate your commitment to our podcast.

0:44:50.7 AW: Hey, at the end of the day, let's be real, this is the best thing going, so...

0:44:55.0 DS: That's right. [chuckle]

0:44:57.9 AW: Our podcast that... As long as we get something recorded every five to six weeks, we're getting by, so...

0:45:04.8 DS: Yeah, totally.

0:45:06.2 AW: Oh, man. Good stuff. Well, I appreciate, I just wanna openly say, all of the phone conversations and things like that you and I had, you're a fantastic sounding board in a number of different ways, something that really took me many, many months to arrive at. So I appreciate your friendship and your advice and definitely made me look at some and face some hard things, which was good for me.

0:45:35.2 DS: Oh, thanks. Well, I hope I was encouraging, because I have unbelievable faith in your success with this. I can't wait to see how this pans out in the next year, two, three, five years. I'm really excited to watch this journey. I think it's gonna be a huge success.

0:45:56.0 AW: Alright. Well, I'm gonna try to live up to your expectations. [chuckle]

0:46:00.3 DS: Alright. Good. Yeah. I'll be watching.

0:46:03.3 AW: Alright, anything in closing today that you wanted to mention or have coming up? 

0:46:09.1 DS: We got a bunch of launches coming up, not really much to say. We can talk about it on another podcast, but yeah, no, I'm excited about 2021 with everything that's happening at Whitespark. We've got some big stuff coming up. I don't know.

0:46:21.2 AW: Yeah, no.

0:46:21.7 DS: We'll talk about it next time.

0:46:23.2 AW: Yeah, I can't wait to just continue to see what you guys can do with this new found efficiency and some of the ideas you have. That's definitely exciting.

0:46:32.9 DS: Yeah, I'll say another huge thing that's gonna really help us out is that one of the big things we're working on is our new account system, and that is our final piece of legacy code that's been holding us back. We have to do a lot of maintenance on the old system, and so now everything within the company is on a modern tech stack. Everything's on the same tech stack, and so we'll be able to move a lot faster. I'm really excited.

0:47:00.0 AW: Yeah that's really... Removing those blockers is awesome and it'll be fun to hear how that changes things for you guys.

0:47:08.0 DS: Yeah, technical debt out the window. Ready to fly.

0:47:10.6 AW: Paid off.

0:47:10.9 DS: Paid off. We paid the debt off. Exactly.

0:47:15.7 AW: That's awesome. Alright, well, thanks as always Darren. Pleasure catching up, and thanks everyone for listening. And as always, if we can remind you, if you would love, it's been quite a while since we've had a review. We get hundreds of downloads each episode, which we greatly appreciate, but if you could take a few minutes, leave a review. If it helps someone else discover the podcast or give it a listen, we're super grateful for that. At the end of the day, selfishly, I know I do this for myself, the ability to talk out loud and to get your introspect and review. There's oftentimes I just go back and review my state of thinking on this. 

It really is self-beneficial, but over time to the messages that we get on LinkedIn or email on people enjoying it or a specific piece that stood out or helped them make a decision, It's super, super rewarding. So if you can share a few notes in a review and help someone else discover us, or man, if you share what we're talking about socially on Twitter or wherever else, we greatly appreciate it. That would be fantastic.

0:48:30.7 DS: Yeah, greatly appreciate it. Those reviews, they're really important and really valuable for the podcast, so yeah. Any words you could say would be greatly appreciated.

0:48:39.9 AW: Yeah. Alright, well with that, have yourself a fabulous, let's see, whenever we'll release this, maybe it'll be in time for next weekend. So I hope everybody has a good weekend. I'll shoot to get this all wrapped up by Friday to launch, and then everybody can have a good weekend and my wishes are timely. Alright, take care Darren.

0:49:02.8 DS: Thanks, you too. And see you all next time.

0:49:04.9 AW: Alright see you everybody.


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.
26: A Big Change
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