Next time you think you need to build something huge and expensive to start a business, think of today’s interview.
Today’s guest built a hit business selling templates.
Amir Khella is the founder of Keynotopia, which makes templates for Apple’s presentation program and Keynote. It also transforms that program into prototyping tool.
Amir Khella, Keynotopia
Amir Khella is the founder of Keynotopia, which makes templates for Apple’s presentation program and Keynote. It also transforms that program into prototyping tool.
Andrew: Three messages before we get started. If you are a tech entrepreneur, don’t you have unique legal needs that the average lawyer can’t help you with? That’s why you need Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. If you read his articles on VentureBeat, you know that he can help you with issues like raising money, or issuing stock options or even deciding whether to form a corporation. Scott Edward Walker is the entrepreneur’s lawyer. See him at walkercorporatelaw.com. Do you remember when I interviewed Sara Sutton Fell about how thousands of people pay for her jobsite?
Look at the biggest point that she made. She said that she has a phone number on every page of her site because, and here’s a stat, 95% of the people who call end up buying. Most people though don’t call her but seeing a real number increases their confidence in her and they buy. So try this. Go to grasshopper.com and get a phone number that will make your company sound professional. Add it to your site and see what happens. grasshopper.com.
Remember Patrick Buckley who I interviewed. He came up with an idea for an iPad case. He built a store to sell it and, in a few months, he generated about a million dollars in sales. Well, the platform he used is Shopify. If you have an idea to sell anything, set up your store on shopify.com because Shopify’s stores are designed to increase sales. Plus, Shopify makes it easy to set up a beautiful store and manage it. shopify.com. Here’s the program.
Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. I’m Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, home of the ambitious upstart. The next time you think that it takes huge investment, takes building big software, takes doing something that takes years and years and years before you launch, or even months and months and months before you launch, I want you to think of today’s interview.
Today’s guest built a hit business selling templates. Yup, templates. Amir Khella. Excuse me, Amir Khella. Right. did I get that right? I got the hu- right but I got the rest of it wrong. Amir Khella is the founder of Keynotopia. He makes templates for Apple’s presentation program, Keynote, and transforms that program into a beautiful prototyping tool. Amir, welcome.
Amir: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Andrew: Amir Khella. How many customers do you guys have?
Amir: The last time I counted, we had over 30,000 customers.
Andrew: 30,000 . Actually I said we. Is it, how many people in the company? Is it just you, or more?
Amir: By myself but I have people helping me out with right now with designing the programming of the business on a full-time basis.
Andrew: Just as you need them.
Amir: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: And how much revenue have you made with this?
Amir: Enough. Enough to have a good lifestyle and to pay people to work with me.
Andrew: More than half a million.
Amir: Between a dollar, maybe, and half a million.
Andrew: Between a dollar, maybe, and half a million. I actually know the number you told me via email but I wouldn’t reveal it. You did say, though, that you got training in how to not answer questions that you don’t want to answer. I thought, let me see where I can push him with this. Where’d you get that training?
Amir: I worked with Microsoft as a PM for about three and a half years. I was working on a confidential product that wasn’t launched yet and there needed to be some reviews for the press and for developers. We got some basic training about how to answer a question without answering the actual question.
Andrew: All right, but we . . .
Amir: The secret is the reporter asking something, you should still give them something valuable, even if you cannot answer the question they’re asking you.
Andrew: And in this case, you gave me something valuable. You told me 30,000 customers. We’ll find out in a moment what you’re selling the, actually, I’ll say it right now. You’ve got a $49 product, a $97 product. The cheapest is $39. Right?
Amir: Right. And we have three templates as well.
Andrew: We have three templates.
Amir: Yeah, so 30,000 is including free customers.
Andrew: Free customers too.
Andrew: Oh, I see. I’m glad that I asked then. I thought it all paying customers. The revenue is solid. You and I have talked about it privately. I’m not going to force you to reveal anything that you’re not comfortable with. I just want to learn from your story and see how you did this. For you, it all started out with coming here from where? To the US.
Amir: From Egypt.
Andrew: From Egypt. What brought you to the U.S.?
Amir: In 2001, I was working on as a software engineer in Egypt. I was working as a software engineer but I was interested in moving to the United States. As long as I can remember my Christmas gift feeling was trying [??] So, I came to the U.S. with a PhD scholarship at the University of Maryland. That was in 2001, which wasn’t really the best year for someone from Egypt to come to the U.S.
Andrew: Why? What was going on in 2001?
Amir: Well, you had September 11th.
Andrew: Of course. I see. How did it impact you? Were people saying, ‘Get out of my country, terrorist?’
Amir: It wasn’t that bad. Fortunately, I was living in a very educated town, by the University of Maryland, which is a very educated town. I just remember having some challenges with my line of work.
Andrew: What kind of challenges?
Amir: For PhD students, it’s actually very tough to survive with the schedule that they give you. It’s a scholarship so most of the money is going towards paying your education at the university and they give you something like $1,000 a month to survive on. It was a huge step back for me because I was working a very comfortable job and I could have taken a job with Microsoft or any big company and made a good salary. To me, I had to take this step back to go forward faster and to move in the direction that I wanted. I knew I didn’t want to continue being a software engineer. I enjoyed programming but for fun, not for launching products or making things from scratch.
Andrew: I understand spending a lot of time to learn, to educate yourself, and be ready for better things but I’m looking at your business right now, I’ve got all these beautiful templates up on my screen, do you really need a PhD to build Kenotopia?
Andrew: How did it help you to get the PhD?
Amir: You don’t know. In retrospect, you don’t know. The PhD I was working on was in a field called HCI, human computer interaction. In 2001, it was a relative obscure field compared to computer vision or networking, which is where everyone I knew was going. I got into this field because the funding on the graphic slot that I was working on was fine. I was told it was a good professor to work with. I owe him a lot of what I do right now because he’s a great guy.
Andrew: You’re making $1,000 a month living in Maryland, basically scraping by trying to figure out what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.
Amir: Right. $1,000 pays for rent, transportation and other things.
Andrew: Soon after that you went to work for Microsoft.
Amir: Right, about three years later.
Andrew: How’d you like working at Microsoft?
Amir: Very smart people. I loved the team I was working with. We had a lot of challenges because we were running a start up inside the company, something like 35 people. It’s a great place to be if a long-term career at Microsoft is what you want. Great benefits and very smart people. I left before the session so I don’t know how things are now.
Andrew: Incredible security.
Amir: You mean job security?
Andrew: Job security. Having the ability to feel safer in life. No?
Amir: I don’t think it’s such a place where you have incredible security. I’ve never really connected with the job thing. I just did what I love doing. If it happens in your job, that’s fine. When I left Microsoft, I actually had people tell me that I wasn’t grateful to have this job and I was trying to convince myself everyday that my lifestyle has put me in the top one percent of the worlds population but you cannot rationalize your life. You just follow what you think is right for you without having influences from people, at least in terms of where you decide you’re going to go.
Security? Yeah. I mean your next paycheck guaranteed. Of course, but you also give up a lot of freedom in terms of when do you want to take your time off, or can you guarantee that no one will pull the plug on you when you have a mortgage and car payments, and kids to pay the school for and all these things. The security that I feel is knowing that tomorrow I can create something else for people.
Andrew: I see. I was going to ask you, do you have security now with Keynotopia [sp] and the answer is it’s not from that. You’re saying it’s because you know you could create something else, because you have the power to create your future, to create a business, that you feel safe.
Amir: Right. You know, I think it was helpful that I read a couple of good books and a good biography before I left Microsoft and these impacted my decision a lot.
Andrew: What was the biography?
Amir: The biography was ‘[??].’ If you look at my latest blog post I summarize my [??]. That was a guy who came to the brink of suicide, who actually went to the edge of suicide. He heard a voice saying, ‘Your life is not [??], if you don’t want it, turn it on and [??].
He believed that that the same system that supports nature and animals and all the ecosystems of the universe applies to humans as well. What you’re doing is the right thing for you to do. I always say that life is selfish. Life will support you in the way that it gets the most value out of you for others because that’s how an ecosystem works.
If you keep providing value the way you’re meant to provide that value, you’re finding there’s a little gear in that whole system. You’re finding where you fit and you operate, there’s no reason you won’t be supported [??]. I base all my decisions based on that belief.
Andrew: I think we’re going to see some of this come out as we hear your story starting with this experience that you had that it seems like caused you to leave Microsoft.
Amir: Right, so . . .
Andrew: An accident, a near accident. What happened?
Amir: I was driving home, that was in 2006. I was driving home from Microsoft and I used to live 10 minutes away from [??]. Everyday around 5: 00, 5: 30 there was a mass exodus from Microsoft. People going home and the freeways just bumper-to-bumper. Since I lived in the same city as Microsoft, I just decided to take the exit and take the in roads.
I’m the first car at the red light, I get the green light and I need to turn left and my foot hits the brake. Actually, I noticed that the car stops and then I’m like, ‘What’s going on? Why did I stop?’ I look at my foot and my foot is on the brake. I’m confused because I didn’t hit the brake consciously, I was just hitting the gas.
With the corner of my eye I see a guy running red lights 30 miles an hour, coming into my driver’s side door. That was the moment where I had this kind of Hollywood experience where it was like a tunnel, then I was pulled back from my body. Everything was so far away, so quiet and so slow. It was almost like time just has different relative meaning at that time.
I was basically preparing to leave my body and then the driver saw me at the last fraction of a second and he hit the brakes and he started skidding in the middle of the road. He was so close that the wind turbulence from his car coming so close shook my car sideways. He stopped in the middle of the road and at that point, while he was braking, I was pulled back into my body. It was almost like you’re going through a death tunnel again. Everything sounded so loud, so bright, so fast, that I had to shield my eyes, as if someone just hit the pause on the remote control.
All the street was just still and I did nothing. There was no accident, I’m not going to report anything, I just drive back home. When I got home I realized when I was a kid I always thought that I would live beyond my 30th birthday. And that day was the eve of my 30th birthday.
Andrew: You thought you wouldn’t survive to your 30th birthday.
Amir: Yeah, I just knew when I was a kid. I knew I would die before the age of 30. That was just a feeling that I had.
Andrew: You know what, I see as you are telling this, you are checking me out to see if I would judge you critically for this. Am I going to think that he is a wacko or am I a fellow believer? When you get into stuff like this, how do people react?
Amir: Extremely scientific. First, I learned that everyone is judging someone else by their own experience and everyone’s experience is limited. So, I don’t try to convince other people about something. I just tell them what is true for me and if it resonates with them. But the truth is, [??] everyone’s life is a glimpse in the [??] and I would like to …
Andrew: A glimpse?
Amir: …the universe. Yeah, it’s like a spark. And, in engineering terms, it would be a very useless waste of energy if we’re here as bodies without anything operating it. My own experience tells me that I am not. I was born and raised as a Christian and I was told that you are here and when you die your soul will return to God. But, could it be that we are, we have these bodies just as simple shifters of the specter. We are souls or spirits, or whatever you want to call it, just infinite beings having these vehicles we call bodies and minds…
Andrew: All right, I’ll tell you this. I am not judging this in any way. I was even going to start asking some questions about it, but then I realized, this is outside of the scope of the kind of interviews that I do here.
Andrew: I am going to ask you more questions about it as they come up, but I have got to focus back on the company. Only because I hear the person who is listening to us, in their minds going, Andrew, you told me that this guy is business on templates, get to that. So, I am going to get to it. And, we’ll come back a little to this because I could see how important it was and how this outlook on life has impacted your business. But, the bottom line is, you had this near-death experience that caused you to leave Microsoft.
Amir: It wasn’t so soon. It took a year for me to kind of gather my courage, do enough contemplation, and realize it’s a great company but it’s not for me. I am not happy where I am, and I don’t know, maybe that experience made me a little crazy, a little reckless, but it’s almost like you’ve been playing a game from believing that you are an avatar in the game and I just realized that I am a player. I can do. I am controlling this avatar that I call a body, and I can take it where-ever I want. And…
Andrew: Did you have something lined up for after Microsoft? Or did you just leave it?
Amir: One day, I just woke up and realized, too many days in a row, I woke up and I didn’t want to go to work. And it wasn’t because I needed a vacation. I actually switched teams before leaving Microsoft. I wanted to see if it’s me, or the team, or the product. And, it wasn’t any of that. It was just me. It was time for me to take the next step in my life and like I said in the beginning of the interview, I had people. You know, my friends were calling me because I have this great job security, I have a good salary, and I should just settle down, buy a house, start a family, and so on but I knew I would be miserable if I had done that.
Andrew: OK. And years later, you started doing design work and development for other companies. You started your own company which did work for other start-ups and bigger companies. And, once again, you left that part of your life behind. Did you know when you said, hey, you know what, I am not going to do any more design work for start-ups, for bigger companies. I am just going to leave. Did you know you were going to do next at that point?
Andrew: Oh, so you just walked right out.
Amir: It was even more difficult because it was a business I created. It was profitable. It was doing great. I was working with great people. I really, really loved working with start-ups. We helped launch, probably about 12 or 13 products in a few years, and 3 of them have been acquired. So, it was a very successful craft. I mean, I could have just taken it much, much further but again, I realized that I was under the control of business rather than me in control of it. So, I woke up everyday and I felt that I didn’t want to do it. It’s a bad feeling. I…
Andrew: Give me an example of what made you feel like you were a slave to your business most people who don’t have companies would think, “Hey, If I ever had paying customers and a business that I knew what i was doing in… what I knew what I was doing every day, I’d be happy.” But you felt like a slave, give me an example of something that made you feel like a slave.
Amir: The last contract I did was with a big, big company. They would not allow me to venture from their [??]. They want people to know that they design their own products but we designed their product and it was kind of a little bad because there was so much bureaucracy. And we just had to settle things in a way that made me feel that I was making a compromise on some design decisions, and I hate that. I just need to know that if I’m making the design I should be making the decision if I think this design is the right thing. I shouldn’t compromise anything. I wanted to step back and said, “If I owned my own products I’ll be making all of the decisions.” Because I know if it’s a mistake I’ll learn from it. But, I don’t know, I’m kind of [??] experience in design.
Andrew: I see. Did you do just design or design and development, too?
Amir: In the beginning we did just design. Actually, by the end of the consulting work… I did consulting for about two year; so, the first two years I did design and I had a couple of people working with me as contractors, friends that I had met in Seattle. The last two I was only doing user experience consulting so I cannot really find my process independently from design work. I think companies should not outsource their design work. They should maybe get some user experience help but they should be doing the design in house.
Amir: Because you’re building dependency on someone else for something that’s becoming very critical for your business because…. understanding what your customers need and knowing how to present it in a way they can use it.
Andrew: All right. By the way, you seem to have a natural gift for design that I don’t have. I’m even looking at your screen and you’re wearing a plain white shirt, but doesn’t look like a plain white shirt. There’s something about it that looks good. If I wore a white shirt it would look like…
Amir: It is a plain, white shirt. There’s nothing [??].
Andrew: It looks good. You’ve shaved your head down to practically nothing, but it looks good. I tried doing that but it looked dorky.
Amir: I’ll try to help you, I’ll go to San Francisco and I’ll shave your head. We should, we’ll meet together.
Andrew: OK. No, I don’t want to shave my head. I don’t think it’s good. But I could really use that. I wish I had that gift; I’m looking at your designs here of the templates and they just look frickin’ stunning. I feel like that’s why a lot of people come to you because they want that design. They want that gift…
Amir: I was giving a talk at 500 Startups, Dave McClure venture fund and that was probably early this year in March and someone asked me, “How did I get John Gruber [??] of Fireball to mention Keynotopia in his blog and his twitter?” And the only reason I knew John Gruber mentioned me is because the server went down for half a day because there was so much traffic. But I don’t actively go and ask people to write about my product. Maybe in the beginning I have a network of friends that when we’re launching something I tell them, “Hey, we’re launching this can you mention it to you audience, we really think that they’re going to get a lot of value from it.” But, I focus a lot on the quality of the product and on the [??]. And if something had to be designed perfectly then it has to be designed perfectly. I cannot…
Andrew: Give me an example of something that grove you nuts that maybe no one in your audience, none of your customers would have notice but it drove you nuts and you had to get it right.
Amir: [??] and Keynotes, right? Keynotes is powerful but I could easily just grab some screenshots of iOS components and put them in Keynote and no one will notice because the way we have them now, it’s so perfect they look exactly like the component. But because I told people it is the vector components designed from scratch in keynotes, we don’t paste any photos, we don’t copy from screenshot [??]. I think 90% of the people using the templates will not notice that. They will not notice the difference if I gave them screenshots like on/off switch for the iPhone, they’re not going to know the difference. The promise of the product is that everything is vector, everything is reusable, everything is customizable. That I care about so much.
Andrew: I don’t think I would notice if you just gave me a screen shot. I’m going to come back to that in a moment. Let’s go through what happened next. You decide, ‘Hey, you know what? I am done with this. I don’t want to be a slave to someone else’s design. They don’t care about every pixel the way I’m passionate about every pixel. I’m going to just stop.’ So you stop, you take some time off to figure out what you’re going to do next.
Amir: More to recover from what . . .
Andrew: To recover. How do you recover? How do you regain yourself?
Amir: I take long hikes. I [??]. I [??] beach. I [??]. Nothing really too technical to you: fiction [??]. I don’t know, it’s been consistent that every time I allow myself to take that space, it’s almost like every time you’re trying to pull into your field or pull into your mind something that [??]. What am I going to do next? What am I going to do next? It’s just there in front of you. You need to stop looking for everything around it to see it.
To me, that was March of 2010, I had to take that break. I just couldn’t tolerate working in the business anymore and it was a bad feeling. It’s my own business and I can’t keep doing it, that was the consulting business.
At the end, in retrospect, it’s because I’ve reached the end of the road. I needed to make a turn. Usually, you don’t see the next path until you make that turn. It’s very hard. Some people are lucky enough to have a future that’s just a straight line. Straight from the beginning they can see all the way through the end, or they can decide all the way through the end.
To me, it’s always been, ‘I know the next step, I’m going to take that turn.’ Once I make the turn, I can see the next signpost and that says, ‘OK. I need to do this thing now.’ The turn is slow. Usually, when you’re driving, you have to slow down to allow the turn [??] not to crash into something.
I slowed down, that was in March 2010. April 2010, Apple comes up with their first iPad. I go to the Apple store, I’m playing with it and because I wasn’t really trying to get anything out if, I was just playing. I was like, ‘This looks like a cool device. I’ll buy one, take it home and play with it.’ I took one home, I started playing with and I’d been using Keynote for designing for the consulting business for a while. I thought, ‘This would be fun to actually try Keynote and explore [??] to the iPad and see how it works.’
It worked! It looked like a [??] so I created a very long, comprehensive blog post, step-by-step, exactly how I do things in Keynote and how it works on the iPad. I think because the iPad was just out a few months, a few weeks earlier, it picked up and became viral and people shared the video and that became my business.
Andrew: Let me see if I understand this. Most people use Keynote to create presentations. They say, ‘PowerPoint’s a little bit old. It feels . . . it’s not as beautifully designed as Keynote, I’m going to switch to the Apple product, I’ll create better presentations with it,’ and that’s it.
You used it to design. What do you mean by that?
Amir: Keynote has 20% of the design features that I can create 80% of my designs with. It doesn’t operate on the pixel level, it’s a shape, it’s kind of like Illustrator, it’s not like Photoshop. You’re creating shapes, but then I can put text inside shapes and I create labels inside buttons. I looked at it and I think the first time I used it was on a friend’s laptop. He wanted me to help him out with a web app. He didn’t have any design tools on his Mac. The only thing he had was Keynote.
I’m like, ‘OK. Let’s see if this works.’ I look at it and I play with it a little bit and I’m like, ‘Wow! This actually beats all the expensive tools that I’ve been using.’
Andrew: What kind of design did he need?
Amir: Just a web page. A web app, different [??] for his app.
Andrew: I see. You were using it to create a mock up for him. To say, ‘Hey, the button should go here. You need a little design there,’ and because he had no other design program on his computer, that’s what you used and that’s what made you realize, ‘This is a powerful, quick design, or mock up building tool.’
Amir: Right. It’s got the basic shapes. It’s got the basic colors. It’s got … right now, I think it became a movement. Right now a lot of designers are just leaving expensive design tools, and just moving to Keynote. I’ve been talking with a lot of designers, and more recently there was a company in Germany [?] it’s a big design agency in Germany and they actually design the final product with Keynote, because it’s just simple. You want something that’s fast, and gets you the right work done. Keynote, to me, I use it probably 50% of the time that I’m on the laptop.
Andrew: All right, so now the iPad comes out and you say, “Hey, look. You guys don’t have to develop programs to see what they look like on the iPad. You can just design them in Keynote, and get a sense of what they look like on the iPad and even move those designs into the iPad and see what they would look like on the device itself. And then if you like it, then you can create the product that you’ve just designed.”
Amir: Right. And the real trick there was making use of very tiny obscure [?] hyperlinks so you can basically have a non-linear presentation by linking shapes to build to different slides. So now you can actually say, “I put this button, or I tapped this control, taking it to the next screen.” So when you actually play back and look at yourself like, “Wow, this is just… you know it’s an illusion but… One of the people who contacted me a few months back was Sam [?], and he interviewed with you, and he was set to sell his designs to clients by showing them how it works, and most of them believed that it was actually the final product. I get that a lot from people who use the product, that their customers don’t know if it’s the real thing or just a fake prototype.
Andrew: Yeah, I didn’t know that until I saw your product. If I create a presentation in Keynote, and I add a button to it with a hyperlink, when I click that button, the hyperlink takes me to another page in the presentation, so it feels like I’ve done something – some kind of movement within an app. And that’s what you were showing people. Now, how does that become a business? How does this discovery that you made, this design that you used based on that discovery and the blog post that you wrote become a product that you start selling?
Amir: Sure. I put the blog post for people to use. I shared my templates for free with people, and I think within one week, or two weeks, I had over 500 downloads. And it was just for the iPad, but people started emailing me – “We need this for the iPhone. We need this for the web…”
Andrew: So you created a Keynote template at that point, and you started handing it out?
Amir: I put everything I know in that blog post with a video demoing the prototype working on the iPad, and step-by-step how to do it. And then I’m like, “OK. Here, by the way, the templates that I created this week, and so it’s good to use them . . . So many downloads and people asking for more templates for web, and iPhone, and they were like, “We’re willing to pay for that.” And until that point I didn’t believe that someone would pay for design templates, simply for Keynote, and not like professional PhotoShop. So it was one weekend when I had a friend over, and we were both really inspired by just quickly launching products, and we just decided to sit down one evening and hack the product. Each individual sees [?] to want something . . .
Andrew: I see. You each would work on your own products, but you said, “Let’s see what we can launch quickly. We’re here, and we’re inspired by all these people who say that they’ve launched their products fast. Let’s see what you and I can do. You work on your product, I’ll work on mine and if we need help, we’ll be there for each other, but mostly we’ll just be there to hold each other accountable.” That’s the idea?
Amir: Right, yeah. Or to inspire each other, to keep each other sitting down, instead of going to the beach or something. But, there’s something I forgot to mention – that in 2009, I’d taken about nine months off from my consulting business – to work on another product that I never launched, and I did everything the opposite of what I did later in [?]. So I spent I think between 10 and 15 grand of my own money working on the product – that was during the session. I had a full-time developer working. It took nine months, it was feature-rich, and needless to say, every feature you add adds bugs, and you had to fix the bugs, then at some point, I ran out of money I allocated to that project and I said, maybe I’ll come back to it later on after doing more consulting. But, in the second time around that I launched Keynotopia, I wanted to do it the opposite of what I had done before. So, the budget was, I think under $50. That was the entire budget for the launch: a word-press template, hosting, and domain name. And, e- junking for fulfillment. Launched it in 3 hours. It didn’t take 9 months. I treated this product, basically word-press template website fulfillment system from e-junkie, and you don’t need to be an uber-developer to be able to put these things together. Just basic knowledge of HTML and some set-up of WordPress .
Given my design fanaticism, it looked very ugly. I was really ashamed of how the website looked, but the templates were good. But, the website was really ugly. I remember just going to the kitchen to fix myself up some late-night oatmeal and I was thinking that maybe I should just take it down until I can do something that looks good enough. That is presentable. And, I made that decision. I was like, OK, I am just going to pull it down. Nobody will be very worried about a few weeks delay. Then I go back and I find this email from PayPal telling me that I just made the first sale. That was like within 10 minutes of launching the website. So, I didn’t pull it down. I kept improving it. That was the big lesson is, even if something is really ugly but delivers the value that people need, it will work. And keep improving it.
There is this Japanese concept of kaizen which is constant improvement till perfection. And, it’s better than trying to pull back something before launching it because you never know which direction you want to take it to perfection.
Andrew: I understand how within a few hours, you can build a word-press site and launch it. How you can have a shopping system using e-junkie, get that going within a few hours. But, how do you create the product that the actual templates that you are selling to people that would enable them to use Keynote to design their iPhone and iPad apps.
Amir: Well, its actually [??]. There is a product that we are going to be launching in January and the way I basically tested demand for that product is the exact same thing. A couple of hours of work with word-press to set the site, see there’s no shopping cart there. I created a bunch of screenshots for the product and a buy-now button. But the buy-now button would just take you to a sorry page. It would say, “Sorry, we’re still working on the product but put your email here. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready.” And, for a few months of me testing the demand for the product that way, I realized there is enough demand. So I..
Andrew: That’s what you are doing today. That’s how you know whether you should be building something out. But back then, you did the same thing. You said, ” I know I can develop these templates for people if they pay me for it. I just don’t know if there’s enough people out there who want to pay.” So, you said, “I’ll create a website with an e-junkie shopping experience and if enough people pay me for it, then I’ll sit and create the templates?” But you …
Amir: That wasn’t the case before.
Andrew: That was, or was not?
Amir: That was not the case with Keynotopia. With Keynotopia, I knew from the blog post that I wrote that there is enough demand because people downloaded the free templates over 500 times. So I knew that it’s useful for people, but…
Andrew: I am sorry, but what I am trying to understand is, how did you in that evening that you worked with your friend, not just launch the site and the shopping experience, but actually create the product that you sold.
Amir: Because it was easy to create. I had the templates for the iPad before. Creating the one’s for the iPhone and the web wasn’t that difficult. It took a few hours. You know, they were pretty basic. Like a dozen, or couple dozen [??]. Right now, it’s over 35 hundred templates.
Andrew: So it was a few buttons, a few of…
Amir: Basic. Right. And in the beginning I was selling them for $9. Now they are priced at almost $100 because I kept increasing the value. Most people who buy it tell me it’s under-priced. You need to charge more money. No, that’s a good price for most people.
Back to your question, there’s something important that I learned from doing this three hour launch. In 2009 I joined an incubator and software guide. I had a three page business plan about an über design, Web design, and iPhone – there was no iPhone right then – design tool that I wanted to create.
There was one bullet point in that business plan, at the very end of the last page, that says, ‘Since I’ve been using Keynote for prototyping, maybe I’ll make these templates available for subscribers.’
Sometimes you have a big vision for big products. If you realize what is really something minimal in value that can launch, it doesn’t have to be the full vision, but something valuable. Something that solves small problem, an annoying problem and solves it really well.
I always had the dream of launching my own design tool, my own prototyping tool. These templates solved the problem for tens of thousands of people because they weren’t about to learn a new tool. They weren’t about to do things right then . . .
Andrew: You were going to create a whole software program, like Balsamiq, that enabled people to prototype.
Andrew: I see. You realized you could do this on Keynote and keep it really simple. Just create templates. Sell people images that work with Keynote.
Amir: Right. In retrospect I didn’t know if it would gain that much traction. I knew if enough people are using Keynote and PowerPoint to know how to use these tools, I don’t need to teach them something else. I just need to let them you know that you can also use this for prototyping.
Right now I get emails from teachers that are saying kids in schools are using the templates because they just had problems and cannot install in labs. They don’t need to learn programming. They don’t need to learn anything else. This just works for them. That makes sense. I didn’t know that until I launched, but that’s good to know.
Andrew: I see. That’s right. Now it works with PowerPoint also right?
Andrew: Right. If they don’t have a Mac, they just have a Windows computer, they can still do this.
One of the reasons why you didn’t launch this sooner is something that I think would stop a lot of people from launching. The idea that you just can’t sell templates. Only charlatans would sell just templates. Real serious engineers, people with PhDs, people with real business backgrounds, they would launch real programs. You had that right?
Amir: Yeah. I think I had the impostor syndrome, where you feel like, ‘Can I really charge for templates. Would someone actually buy it?’
When I launched them I realized that entrepreneurs, and people with very limited budget, and people don’t know how to use design tools, or to program the [??] interface, would use that. To my surprise, 30% or more of my clients are designers.
The smarter and more sophisticated we get, the more we overlook the simple solutions. That’s something that taking that break in 2010 allowed me, which is stepping from the expert’s mind into the beginner’s mind. Being able to think like someone who wants to create an app but who doesn’t expertise or money.
The beginner’s mind has all the possibilities. I wasn’t eliminating the possibility of these templates. I was just freaked out that everyone who buys them will call me back and say, ‘I want my money back. These are just templates. They are not real components that I can use in the’ . . .
Andrew: I can see having that fear. All these people not just asking me for money back, but saying, ‘You’re a fraud. You’re someone that I looked up to as a designer.’
Give me more of an understanding of how you got the courage to launch that. I will need that at some point. Somebody in my audience will need it.
Frankly, the further along you get, the more promise you have, the more results you have in life, the less likely you are to do what you did, the less likely you are to build that simple product that people really want, and the more likely you are to build something that’s much more complex that you think will earn their money. So, how did you get that courage?
Amir: Just realizing that any fear really begins as a thought in my mind, and by really watching these thoughts carefully I can discriminate between real fear and made up fear. So I realize just all my fears are made up, worse case scenario we fire everyone, put the templates online for free and that’s it, I’m not going to work on them further. The biggest shift was when I launched it and realized anything could be a business as long as you are providing value to others. If your product is valuable, you know, it could save people time, save people money, let them do something they couldn’t do otherwise. In the beginning you asked me about, you know, the numbers and the revenue. I don’t think the revenue is, to me it is not the real measure of the success of a business. It’s a measure of sustainability that I can keep doing this for long, but the real measure for me was how much money do people make using my product? When someone like Sam Owens [SP] contacts me and he is like, I have a sustainable business, I have a very successful business because I was able to use my knowledge with your product and prototype something, or a design agency contacts me you know, like, we want to thank you because we just landed a multi-million-dollar contract with a client that we just spent like three hours doing the prototype, and oh, wow. That’s the real measure of success. That’s value.
Andrew: Amir, I would like to measure my success that way. I don’t know how to measure it that way, though, and it doesn’t sound like we have an accurate way to do that. All we can get, you and I both, is anecdotal evidence where maybe Sam says he used your software, or someone else says that they heard one of my interviews and used it. It drives me nuts that I don’t have as accurate a measurement of my effectiveness as I do of my profitability. I can go into inDinero.com right now and see where my revenue was for any point in the year. I don’t have something similar that says how useful I was to the audience. How do we do that?
Amir: Well, your revenue is probably the byproduct of how much value you are providing to them.
Andrew: It’s also a big reflection of how much marketing I put in, you know? Because if I just pump email ads out to my audience, a large number of them will leave but a bigger percentage than today will buy from me. Then I’ll think great, I’ve done a better job this year than I did last year because more people buy. But that’s not why. You know, it’s because …
Amir: That’s why I mentioned value.
Amir: That’s why I mentioned value. Are you pumping these emails because you want to provide more value to your customers or extract value out of them? Value addition is much, much better than value …
Andrew: I’m saying that we need some kind of, some measurement, some way to see how useful what we are building is for the audience. And it’s not just because you and I might be hippies in San Francisco with this feeling that we don’t care about money, we care about the world. It’s because even if someone only cares about money, they want to know how effective they are for their customers because that will then translate into more revenue in the future, more trust, more orders in the future. So it works for us and it also works for someone who’s only profit-minded. I wish we had that. I wish you could put your product out in the world and say look, this week my customers made $20,000 more than last week. That means that we are creating a better tool. By adding this button, we didn’t just make more sales for ourselves, but we made more sales for our customers. We don’t have that. I think when I talk about that, people start to think that I am going off the deep end here.
Amir: No, you are right. I don’t think there is an accurate tool yet that lets people quantify their success using your product, but who knows? Maybe if there were such a tool then we would focus only on making a monetary impact, right? You measure the success of your business based on how much money it’s making, but I don’t think anyone should do this for the money. You might just maybe have a full-time job, do your best, maybe do some consulting on the side. You will make money. But when you do something you are passionate about, the money comes a byproduct. I know this sounds like a cliche, but again it is true to my own experience. Do something you like, provide value to others and value comes back to you. It’s karma. It’s how, you know, things reciprocate with themselves. Now the thing is, you can launch the product for free. That means you’re not looking at it as a source of income, that’s fine. I’d rather not get people [??]. To put the product up for free, you’d have it up as a very average quality and move on to something else. I wanted this product to be a very high quality. To some extent, I don’t care that much about the money that comes from it. It allows me to do other things, but I’m not going to do it so that I can get more money.
Andrew: You told me how you launched, and you almost wanted to pull it down because you were worried about the quality of it. Then, an order came in that made you think, ‘Alright, this is something’. And, you reassured yourself by saying, ‘I will have constant improvement’. What I’m wondering is, how do you know what to improve? What do you do next?
Amir: You ask people. They will tell you what they want.
Andrew: How did you do that?
Amir: I just sent them an email, literally saying, ‘What do you want me to build for you next?’.
Andrew: ‘What do you want me to build for you next?’.
Amir: Yes. It’s that simple.
Andrew: So somebody bought it from you for nine bucks. You email them afterward and say, ‘What should i do next?’.
Amir: Right. They have problems. They have challenges and [??]. They know what they want. It is my role as an entrepreneur to find out what these problems are, and to find ways to solve them.
Andrew: I’ve heard that if you ask people directly, ‘what should I build next?’, they’re going to ask you for a Frankenstein – a mix-match of all the things that they wish they had, but that they really couldn’t need – versus extracting what they need in other ways.
Amir: [??]. Entrepreneurs, designers and developers are people who really know what the problems are. In retrospect, I am also asking them for their challenges. But, what I’m finding is, they are also very good at brainstorming these solutions with me. So I’m not solving that problem alone.
Andrew: How do you brainstorm it with them?
Amir: We just start throwing out ideas, and they get very excited. They add their own ideas, like, ‘Wow, we could also do this, and it would be awesome if we add this to it’.
Andrew: Do you mean you would go back and forth like that with them via email or do you jump on the phone?
Amir: Just the phone. Phone or Skype.
Andrew: Can you give me an example of a feature that was developed with your customers?
Amir: Good question. The UX Course that I have right now is a good example.
Andrew: The what? The UX Course?
Amir: Yes, I have a user experience course right now that is selling [??]. We have over 1500 students on it. And, I kept asking people, ‘What do you need?’, ‘If I create a product for you, what would be nice?’. And they’re like, ‘We want more tutorials; we want something that teaches us’. We have an idea of how to turn this into a prototype. Two is great if you already know what you want, but if I don’t know what i want, how do i get to that stage? Like, ‘There’s a gap here’, and I look at the books and the tools out there and there wasn’t anything specific for idea people, like entrepreneurs and developers. If i have an idea, how do I turn it into a prototype? Most of the books and courses were to professional designers and UX practitioners. So, I sit down for two weeks to read the entire course, and I know Gaga [SP] from [??]. Yeah, it was about a year ago, and we have about 1500 or 1600 students right now. So that’s an example. Sometimes the solution doesn’t have to be an act. That’s something that I learned over and over. Your solution is what ever solves the problem. If it’s seminar, you are going to a conference room in San Francisco to deliver and fly over people, that’s fine. If it’s a mobile app, that’s fine. If it’s templates or a video tutorial or an ebook, as long as it solves the problem.
Andrew: I see it right here, ‘Designtrepreneur’? That’s what you call people who are designers and work with themselves?
Andrew: ‘$197 Class On You To Me: Design User Experience in Seven Simple Steps’. And that came from people saying about the software, ‘I have an idea but, I don’t know how to turn it into a product’.
Andrew: How about a feature within the templates that came from audience feedback?
Amir: jQuery templates for example. They email me and say, ‘We have [??], and we have mobile templates, but we don’t have the jQuery Mobile Templates’. And we’re like, ‘Wow, you’re right’. One thing that people really loved in the product is, if you bought it two and a half years ago for the $9, you kept getting all these free updates up to the level of the $100 that someone was buying at that now. If you buy it at $100, you would probably keep getting enough value that, someone five years down the road, would probably buy it for $500. You keep going up.
Andrew: Because if you add another element to the bundle that I bought, I get it even if though I bought it in the past.
How did you decide to do that? Instead of saying, “There’s an upgraded version. If you bought the $9 version and you loved it, wait ’til you see what I have for $97. You should pay for the latest version.”
Amir: It took me awhile to get to that mindset where I want to keep adding value to people without asking them for much value back. I thought if the price was fair, they bought it, they supported me when I was launching the company. That’s big to me. They were my investors. I wouldn’t ask them for money again and again. I would appreciate that they believed in the product early on.
Same thing that people who right now believe in the product at this point will get enough value down the road from this product from other one that we launched. I appreciate the support. That’s how I give back.
People that I give these free upgrades to, they like it, they tell their friends. They tweet about it, they even blog about it. That word of mouth is more powerful than any advertising can buy. I can charge them $10 more and then go spend that money on advertising. I’d rather not charge them, and they will tell people about it because it’s just good.
Most of the traffic we were getting on Keynotopia was word of mouth. I don’t do much advertising at all, or anything else. It was just people liking it and telling other people about it.
Andrew: What about pricing? How did you know to go from $9 to $97?
Amir: That was a window of time of two years. Every time I added enough templates, enough components to validate the new pricing point, I would test the new pricing point to see what’s fair for most people.
Ironically, there was usually a pricing point where it was actually more than the previous price, but more people were buying because of the value price perception. Not because you’re going to price your product higher, because less people will buy it. In fact, more people might buy it from you at less high.
Andrew: When you do it, do you do A/B testing on the product price? You do.
Amir: A lot.
Andrew: When your customers come to you from word of mouth, that means, I as a customer, I use Keynotopia. I did when I was prototyping, I still have it, I use it, I love it. A friend of mine says that he wants to design an iOS app. I say, “You’ve got to go and get Keynotopia.”
I send him over. Maybe I send a second friend over. I tell them the price is cheap. It’s $97. Now one of them goes over to your site and sees that the product is selling for $125. Another comes back and says, “Hey, this thing is selling for $80.” Since they’re friends of mine, doesn’t that create an issue for you?
Amir: No. First, I don’t run beta tests for too long. It’s probably three to five weeks. There’s enough traffic on our website to get enough data to make a decision.
In terms of pricing, I follow my intuition. It was $9, then it was $14, then it was $27. Almost doubling, plus or minus, 20%. It was based on the value you get.
For example, if this product saves a designer working in the US one hour, then it paid for itself. That’s the way I look at it.
Right now, it’s probably valued at less than one-tenth of the time it’s saved them. That’s fine with me. They get the nine-tenths, that’s their value for getting it.
I’ve always had this concept of value in my products. If I think this is more valuable than the price I’m charging, I’ll keep it at that price [xx]. I’m always asking about if the value it’s going to provide. When it’s making more money, or saving more money, or saving time, or making it faster, and so on.
Andrew: One of the issues you had in the past, you didn’t want to charge more than $9. You felt it was just a template and I should charge $9. What I’m understanding from this interview, the way you got past that is by saying, let’s stop thinking about what it is specifically that I’m selling. Let’s start thinking about how useful it is to the people who are buying it…how valuable is it to them? How much time is it saving them? How much money is it making them? And the more I start thinking about that, the less I get out of my own head about is this something that people should be paying for at all? Should anyone pay nine dollars for templates?
Amir: Right, you should use your intuition, but at the same time, you shouldn’t rely on, when it comes to pricing, you shouldn’t rely on subjective data. It’s thoughts in your mind or speculations, it’s not going to be a big deal. Maybe I pay stuff, a total of 50 people who came in the last three years, found the different prices in different times. But I wasn’t just increasing the prices, I was putting a lot more work into the product, creating more templates, upping the value and then asking for one- tenth of the value that I put it.
Andrew: The design, we talked earlier about how you will design. Even though it’s the same button that Apple gives all developers as part of their design set. Sorry?
Andrew: The RSDK, right. It comes with a button. You want to reproduce that button in Kenotopia, so that people can place it anywhere on the screen and see what it would look like if they designed it here or there. You recreate that button yourself?
Andrew: You sit down with what program and you start creating it?
Amir: Keynote. Everything you see is designed from scratch inside Keynote.
Andrew: The buttons that I have as templates are all designed within Keynote?
Amir: Yes, and [??]
Andrew: I’m going to go back in now and just take a look at that and see, because I never give it much thought before.
Amir: [??] click on one of the components and change the colors. It’s just live components, not screenshot. Like I said, it wouldn’t have made much difference for 90 percent of the people who buy it, but there is 10 percent who are meticulous designers who want to recolor it or restyle it and that [??]
Andrew: All right, I think I’ve got an understanding of Keynotopia and how you built this business. Let’s talk about two other things that I put off until later in the interview. The first is I want to talk about the way that you look at the world. You believe in energy manipulation, telekinesis, you told Jeremy, our producer. And then I also want to find out about books that you think are important, because when Jeremy asked you, “What question are we not thinking to ask you?” you said, “There’s some books that are worth recommending.” So let’s talk about this. You have a different way of looking at the world. I don’t want to brush over it, I want to understand it, and I want to come at it without any criticism or judgment. I need to understand you. How are you looking at the world differently from the rest of us?
Amir: By the way, it’s not a belief. I respect peoples’ beliefs, but I always rely on my honest feelings in what I formulate as my values and my way of moving forward. I was lucky enough to have extreme experiences that consolidated my beliefs in certain areas and changed my beliefs in other areas. That’s simple, near-life, near-death experience. Are we bodies carrying energies, or are we energies carrying bodies? It’s a simple switch in your mindset. But if you believe that your body is carrying something mysterious, then this will remain a mystery to you until you die. But then you also believe that you’re someone [??] cannot be lost, but belief has been disconnected from the branch and just withering on its own. But I feel connected, I know we’re connected beyond the bodies that we’re inhabited by. And the brain’s connected to other people. And we’re connected to feelings of compassion for thoughts, and sometimes when we’re physically connected to people, you’re feeling good with someone, you feel better with someone else. Why? Why do you feel, you’re married, right? You love your wife, can you tell me why you love her? You can’t make a list and say if she stops doing all these things I’m not going to love her. It’s because we connect somehow, connected. I think compassion is very, very important for any entrepreneur.
Andrew: Compassion, why is compassion important for entrepreneurs?
Amir: Because if you can’t get yourself into the mind and life of a customer, it’s very difficult for you if you’re inhabiting this uber place where you’re looking back on people, I’m looking for the solutions for these people. No, it’s because you really took the time, had some empathy, compassion and help the problem that it was.
Andrew: So, based on the way that you understand the world, how are you getting into the mind and bodies of your customers differently from someone who says, ‘I’m going to send out a survey,’ or, ‘I’m going to send out an email,’ or Amir says he followed up with his customers after they bought and said, ‘What else can I create for you?’ or, ‘What issues are you having?’ For someone who is just going to go through the tactics, how are they going to get a different result from you, who has this understanding of peoples’ energy?
Amir: When I talk to a customer, I try not to talk to them like I’m someone trying to create a solution for them, but someone really trying to put myself in their shoes. I’m really just working to feel that person.
Andrew: What would it feel to be that whole person?
Amir: Yeah. Maybe that’s something that I’ve gained because I’ve worked so many places, so many jobs and so many businesses. I’ve worn so many hats and I can really understand someone who is stuck in a job that they don’t like. I know how that feels. Or someone who wants to create a business but is just stuck with an idea, draining the money, draining the bank account, but they don’t seem to be going forward. I’ve lived through that. Maybe because I’ve lived all these experiences, I can connect with a lot of people who are trying to get out of something or get into something. I don’t try to think so much when I’m talking to someone, I try to just let it in and understand them. It’s as if I’m not talking to someone about a business set up, I’m talking to my good friend about his or her problems or on the weekend and the trials that happen.
Andrew: Give an example of how this approach helped you create something at Kenotopia. I want to get a concrete understanding of it.
Amir: Actually, it’s something that I’m applying right now. I wouldn’t say it’s a new product but when Sam and I talked, and I also talked with Dean Maxwell, and he gave me some advice about trying to understand more the challenges that we both faced with my customer base. I know people and I really just asked them the typical question Sam Robins and Dean Maxwell ask which is, ‘What’s your biggest day to day challenge?’ and I got a lot of responses.
Andrew: You just email them and say, ‘What’s your day-to-day challenge?’
Amir: It was something that when I was talking to Dean, asking him what it was like, I received something like 1,000 emails. I spent weeks and weeks sorting through them. Then I had to start following up with people but again, I was open to things and I didn’t say, ‘Oh! Most of them said this problem so it must be this problem.’ It really became something beyond the problem, like a mindset, the fear, or another desire that drove that problem. When I call up the people now and ask them, ‘ How is it going?’ a lot of people will say focus is their problem. They can’t focus on anything. They have an idea, some of them have jobs and some of them don’t, but they want to focus on the idea. It’s so difficult because there’s email, there’s social media, there’s people asking them, all these things that are just interruptions. But, why are we allowing ourselves to be interrupted in the first place? What are we afraid of missing out on? When I talk to someone I know that focus is a problem but there is an underlying mindset behind that problem. I want to understand that mindset because I don’t want to solve the symptoms; I want to solve the problems. Like when you have a headache, you take a Tylenol, but you got the headache because you haven’t been drinking enough water. I can ask you, when was the last time you had something sweet or when was the last time you drank? When do you have the headache? Then I can understand, ‘Oh, maybe you should try drinking some water.’ It’s similar to that.
Andrew: I see. I feel like I want to understand this more than I can at the end of this interview. Do you feel like you have a good handle on this already?
Amir: I think so. I’m always available for people to ask questions. They can reach me on my website, by phone or email. I appreciate you saying my email, and if you probably give them the links to the email and website, and you know…
Andrew: Do you want to give it to them here in this interview or would you rather hold off on…
Amir: Sure, yeah, yeah. So my website/blog is AmirKhella, A-M-I-R-K-H-E-L-L- A.com. And I’ve been like working slowly and starting like a newsletter where I’d share, gradually share my knowledge and my experience in a more actionable way than just being in the mindset of the random bookshelf of inspirations, and then some tools. So more of a theme of [??] is what I’ve done. And my email with the [??] is Amir@Khella.com. So A-M-I-R@K-H-E-L-L- A.com. They can ask for me.
Andrew: And I guess I should have said this earlier, but Sam Ovens is someone who I interviewed here on Mixergy who learned from Dane Maxwell, had a talk to his customers, figured out what his customers’ pain is, and then he developed a product for it. And before he hired developers to code- up, I think he said he used Keynotopia. And he said, “Is this what you guys want me to develop? Should I hire someone to build this?” And then he got some feedback and then changed…
Amir: He got some money.
Andrew: And then he got… Oh, and then he got some money and then he went and built it. So first he said, “This is what I could build for you and use Keynotopia to express that.” And then he said, “If I build it, will you guys pay?” And they said yes, so he said, “Alright, give me the money now and I’ll go build it for you.” Do I have this right?
Andrew: Okay. Right. And finally, books. What books do you recommend that we read?
Amir: On the top of my list is The Fountainhead.
Andrew: Is what?
Amir: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
Andrew: The Fountainhead. I actually… You know what? It’s so surprising that you said that because I do feel that when you were working as a consultant for other companies, you were like Roark, who was told to design something one way and you had a different…sorry?
Amir: Probably, a little bit, yeah. I wasn’t trying to make it so that I can impress them, but so I can do the right thing.
Andrew: So why are you recommending The Fountainhead?
Amir: Because it’s a good contrast for what people thought would be a selfish person for what he is, a selfish person. So I’m going to talk to someone about selfishness, and selfishness, people think about as, “I’m going to do something that I care only about and I don’t care about other people.” And there is some truth to that, but selfishness means: do the right thing — regardless of what people think, say, or do — because you know it’s like that. So it contrasts two people, one of whom just went after the success and fame and money, regardless of what happens in [??], and the other one just stuck with his values and what he thought was right. And I read the book about three times so far. It’s a big book; it’s like a thousand pages.
Andrew: What’s the second? So it was the Fountainhead, and was there a second book that you said? No. Boy, the connection’s a little bit rough today for some reason — I don’t know why. Was there a second book that you said?
Amir: The second… No, I was saying it’s a thousand pages [inaudible].
Andrew: Should we just stop?
Amir: No, I was saying the book is a thousand pages, so make sure you dedicate a good chunk of time to it.
Amir: Another book… That’s a good question. I have so many other second books. I think there’s a book called… There are two books called Mastery. One recent one by, I think, Robert Greene — you interviewed him recently on Mixergy.
Amir: And there is another one, I think, but the name of the author escapes me. But I think there is a lot to be said about mastering something because hacking is good and being able to get things done is good. But when you get to the depth of something, it’s almost like you’re finding a lot about yourself and about your [??]. It helps understand who you are. And I think mastery is very important.
Andrew: I think the other book is by George Leonard. I just looked it up.
Amir: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: Okay. Alright. And Bird by Bird you also told Jeremy. What’s Bird by Bird?
Amir: So Bird by Bird is subtitled as a book on writing and… Advice on writing and life, or something like that. And the reason why I like it is…
Andrew: Oh, there it is. Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Amir: Exactly. So first, I like people who take an example of something and they can generalize it to get life advice and make it like into a framework for understanding other stuff. So she used writing as a framework for understanding life, and one of her… One of the things she said that really stuck with me, especially as I was reading recently the biography of Gandhi, and they both talked about “service,” about there’s the highest value and the highest statement [??] life — it’s to be of service to others. And she said that once you find your path to freedom, your role is to go back and lead others along this path, because so many are looking for it.
And that’s what I decided to do in my life, and that’s to help as much people, as I achieved to a large extent my own financial freedom and controlled my own destiny, not entirely, but to the extent that I can control it. But I control my day, I control my vacations, and I control my [??]. And a lot of people, like now, they’re just stuck somewhere where they know they have this yearning for doing something that is valuable to others and they’re passionate about, but they don’t know how. And I think leading people on to that path is what this book allowed me to do well [??].
Andrew: Right. Just as we were talking, I sent a sample chapter to my Kindle of Bird by Bird…
Andrew: …to the other books I’ve read. All right. The website is Keynotopia.com. And Amir, thank you for sharing the story of how you built up this business.
Amir: My pleasure.
Andrew: Thank you all for watching. Bye guys.
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