Note: This AMA is closed for new questions, but you can check out the existing conversations below.
This January 27th, for 2022’s first Relay AMA, we are really looking forward to hosting Podia’s founder and CEO, Spencer Fry. Having embarked on his first entrepreneurial journey more than two decades ago, Spencer has “never earned a paycheck from anyone other than myself.” If there’s such a thing as a special sedimentary layer of founding insights accrued from years of first-hand experience, over the course of scaling four startups, Spencer has certainly amassed a few.
AMA Index (Spencer’s brain-pickings)
(Hard-won insights, opinions, and observations; thoughtfully examined and articulated)
— Brief notes on getting B2C SaaS right
— Some examples that illustrate Podia’s bet on an async culture
— Spencer’s bootstrapping regimen: “I was very cognizant about the value of a dollar”
— Pricing from the gut and choosing “the investor, not the term sheet”
— Podia’s “legendary” alternative-page, SEO strategy
—“If you’re going to build an all-in-one tool, you need to keep in mind that it’ll take 10 years to get to where you want it to be.”
— What raising money instead of bootstrapping again has meant
— On persevering, landing an investor, and being a solo founder; “No matter how early success your product/company has…continue to march forward every day”
— Zig when the competition zags
Further reading/listening/pondering from the interwebz /
(Other insightful excerpts drawn from blog posts, interviews, and conversations)
On the ever-changing nature of customer feedback
I’m well-known for talking to lots of customers. In 2017, I spoke to 4,000+ on live chat alone. That doesn’t include the weekly webinars I do for prospective Podia customers. But as we’ve grown, how has customer feedback changed for us (and is it still valuable)?
Feedback is most valuable in the early days. As your customer base grows, there’s more noise, more divergence in opinions, and more competing interests at play.* It’s still important, but I use it differently than I did when we were smaller. Let’s take a look at each stage…
0 customers. More customer research than customer feedback. Today, it’s common for founders to talk to customers before they start designing and developing a product, but this wasn’t always the case. I find it really helpful to identify problems you can start to solve.
1-100 customers. This is when customer feedback is the most important. You’re desperately trying to build a product that 100 people will love. I talked to and followed up with every customer who signed up during those days. Sad fact: due to changes we made based on the fire-hose of learning in those early days, I think we only have 3 out of our first 100 customers remaining.
101-500 customers. At this stage, feedback is still very important. Your focus is on solving the needs of your customers, but also ideally expanding who you serve. You’ll get a lot of different feedback here than previously. People will ask for more advanced features.
501-1,000 customers. Feedback is going to start being more scattered. You’ll have some customers say they like something, when others will say they hate the exact same feature. It starts to get difficult to sift through the noise.
1,001-5,000 customers. You’re getting feedback all the time. On everything. Whether you ask for it or not. Even parts of the product that you’d never expect to receive feedback on. It’s starting to become difficult to parse everything and have individual feedback be useful.
5,001+ customers. You send out a survey and easily get 1,000 responses. What do you do? At this stage, I find that customer feedback is best for one thing: a directional guideline as to what parts of the product are (1) complicated, (2) in need of updates, and (3) most popular.
You will get lots of ideas for your roadmap.
How do we use feedback today? Nowadays, I use customer feedback for forward-thinking roadmap planning (versus addressing more immediate concerns). The feedback is really helpful to spot the bigger problem areas and opportunity areas. I find that customer feedback is most valuable for trend-spotting and to inform bigger-picture decisions.
Source: Twitter | 2020
On why today’s goals don’t matter:
It’s not achieving today’s goals that feeds my motivation, it’s the opportunity that reaching them unlocks for the future.
This idea is straight out of gameplay seen in any level-based video game. You have a set of quests you need to complete in order to unlock additional content and rewards, which in turn present you with another set of goals. A successful video game will never break from this pattern; locking you into a never-ending gameplay loop.
I’ve always known that I’m the type of person who is never satisfied with simply achieving today’s goals. That my motivation comes from achieving a goal to unlock the next one.
Reach a major revenue milestone for Podia?
Onto the next goal.
Release a market-defining feature?
What’s the next thing we can ship?
Hire a fantastic new employee after months of searching?
What position do we need to fill next?
While all I have is anecdotal evidence, it strikes me from the conversations I’ve had with the best founders — with valuations from tens of millions to billions — is that their focus on their immediate goals is primarily driven by being able to unlock what comes after.
Source: Spencer Fry | 2021
On doing your own thing:
My eyes roll every time I see a competitor sign up for our product or attend our live demos — it happens every few days. At this point, I just laugh it off, but I have some advice for you: stop looking at what we’re doing or anyone else is doing, and do your own thing.
Everything you need to know is right in front of you: the answers are in how your product is being used and in the thoughts and intentions of your customers.
If you have to look elsewhere for inspiration, you’re doing it wrong.
You might think opening up Google and searching for the answer will get you what you need, but it won’t. No number of articles written by entrepreneurs will get you the answers you need.
Emulating Slack or other fast-growing startups won’t have the same results for you. The only thing that will work is if you focus on doing your own thing by looking at how your product is being used by your customers, and in turn, talking to those same customers.
That’s one reason why I’m such a believer in having live chat throughout your product, because nothing beats a direct communication line while your customer is using your product.
Source: Spencer Fry | 2018