How to create opportunity by saying ‘No’ to new ideas – with Ned Dwyer

Posted on Jan 27, 2014 - 9:00 AM PST

Do you ever feel like you’re taking on too many projects and can’t cut back to just one?

Listen to what happened to today’s guest after he got focused on one business. And what he had to do to get there.

Ned Dwyer is the founder of Elto.com, a site where you can hire developers and designers to make small tweaks to your site.

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About Ned Dwyer

Ned Dwyer is the founder of Elto.com, a site where you can hire developers and designers to make small tweaks to your site.

Raw transcript


Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart, the only site which doesn’t say, “Hey, you know what? You might be intimidated by the success of the people I bring on So I should lower my standards. You might feel that someone who’s made it is too tough a model to live up to. So I’m just going to bring on people who started companies.” No. I believe in you. I believe frankly in myself. I believe that we should not be talked down to.

We have to have winners on here, people who are doing things with their lives. And in these stories I try to find one little area, at least, that I know that many people in my audience are wrestling with so that you can see you can learn and you can grow based on this interview.

So here’s what I’ve got for you today. I’ve got a guy who used to have way too many projects going on. Did you ever have that? Maybe you have too many ideas? Maybe you just have two ideas, and you can’t figure out which way to go. And you’re stumbling because of it. Well, today’s guest has lots of ideas, and he’s very good at executing. And he ended up having to focus on just one. Wait until you see what happened when he focused on just one and how he got there.

That’s one of the most important parts of this interview for me and for you. His name is Ned Dwyer. He is the founder of Elto. They’re Elto.com, a site where you can hire developers and designers to make small tweaks to your site.

For example, we at Mixergy, we needed a small change to our home page. I hated that the input box where people put their email address was like, this big. I wanted it shortened up, and I wanted that submit button moved right up next to the input box. I went to his site and for 35 bucks Elto fixed it for me. And that’s what you see if you go to Mixergy.com. Now for the first time it’s because of Ned’s site that we have that. So I’m going to find out how he built up his business.

And I need to say that it’s all thanks to my buddy, Scott Edward Walker of Scott Corporate Law. He funds these interviews, and I hold up his mug as a way of saying thank you. If you’re an entrepreneur and needs a lawyer, check out Scott.

Ned, welcome.

Ned: Thanks for having me, Andrew.

Andrew: I did a lot of talking in that intro. We’ve got to let you do more of the talking. Why don’t we start off with this list of the things that you are doing before.

Ned: Yeah. I guess I have a lot of jobs…

Andrew: Can you rattle some off. I want people to see that this is not “I had a lot of jobs” which means you had three. You were really… You were a DJ, for example. What else?

Ned: I worked as a cleaner at a butcher. I was a waiter. I had a medical career. I was a mechanic. I was a delivery driver. I was a marketing manager. I was a sales rep. I pushed supermarket trolleys. I delivered newspapers.

Andrew: What’s the CRM for non-profits that you did?

Ned: Yeah. Well, I worked on a platform for helping not for profit organizations to sort of communicate with their members and manage their member list, kind of like market automation, I guess, barely in the early stage there.

Andrew: And when I say you were a DJ, you weren’t just doing it for fun. You were out there performing, and you were making money as a DJ, right?

Ned: Yeah. We were making really good money for a while. I remember some nights because we were DJ’ing but we were also throwing parties and promoting them and getting people along [??]. I remember one night in particular we were walking out the door with ten grand in my back pocket from one night which was awesome.

Andrew: So it is awesome. You’re a DJ which means you’re the center of attention. You’re artistic. You’re creative. You’re making money, and you’re able to do all that and these other things, too. What is the problem with doing so many things?

Ned: So, I guess, there are definitely benefits, but the problem is that you just are so distracted you can’t give any one thing enough time to make it as big as it possibly could be. Like when I identified these different opportunities, I should have been out there just focusing on exploiting them to the max rather than trying to do too many things at once. You know, I had a mentor, a really great guy named Melvin who wouldn’t let me do too many things. He said to me, “What’s your goal? What do you want to do? What is your dollar figure.” I was like, “I want to make money, live well, and not have to worry about any of that sort of thing.”

And he said, “You can focus on one thing a year for the next five years, and you might turn each of those things into a million dollar company or make a million dollars. But if you only focus on one thing for the next five years, the chances of you turning that one thing into a five million dollar company are a lot greater. You’ve got a lot more time, and you’ve got to focus on that to make that a reality.”

Andrew: Alright. And later on I’m going to see how close you got to that million dollar figure. I have a note here to ask you, but I need to build rapport with the guest before I can start prying into their finances. So why don’t we continue with the story. Was Native Digital the agency that you bought? Was that the first time that you said, “I’m going to focus” or will you still there, a little diffused in your attention?

Ned: Yeah. At the time I kind of felt that that was going to be the focus.

Andrew: Okay.

Ned: The agency let me work on, it was kind of like a banner, and it meant that I could go out there and build one company. Hire people in that company to build projects and things like that. But after a while what I realized was that, you know, we’re going from client to client and project to project within the agency. And so it kind of let me indulge in not focusing. You know, indulge in working on ten different things at once.

The benefit of working on those ten different things at once is that they more often than not they actually make money. So it wasn’t too bad. But, you know, we would still get distracted because we kind of built our own products as well. And, again, we never really gave those products enough juice to turn into a big business.

Andrew: I see. So can you give me an example of the kind of project that you were doing at Native Digital?

Ned: So, I guess a client project. You know, we wrote digital strategy for eBay in Australia. We built a Facebook application for brands around Australia. iPhone applications and things like that. It was quite diverse.

Andrew: Here’s one. A client came to you, this is before Instagram had video, and said I would like to build the Instagram of video. This was 2011. What happened there?

Ned: Yeah. I mean I think that was an interesting project. So a client came to us and wanted us to build basically a version of Instagram but for video. So you could shoot, the clients could, the use as a customer could shoot a small video, apply some filters, preset filters, and then upload it to YouTube. And share it with their friends. And the idea was that that would create something crazy and wacky and then the people would vote and someone would win a great big prize from it.

Andrew: Okay.

Ned: It was a really ambitious project. You know it was probably one of the biggest ones we’ve worked on where, you know, there’s a website with, like, all this video encoding. And then we had an Android app, and an iPhone app, and had to display to multiple different formats, multiple different browsers. And it was a cool project. But it didn’t go so well actually.

Andrew: Why not?

Ned: Well, I think we were a little bit stretched at the time. We were working on too many things and we kind of over reached in terms of our technical capability I think. And what ended up happening was that the project just ran over time and over budget. You know, it was eight of us working on that project at one time. One of the developers was leaving the project burned out and dropped out completely.

And then I had to kind of pick up the pieces and it just turned into a money pit. So, you know, I think the thing that I learned from that was one about, I guess, you know, bringing in scope in any project to make it simpler. To try to get a bit more lean around it, you know. Launching so many platforms at the same time was something so ambitious was crazy. But also, you know, it made me realize that I don’t really want to work in the ad game or the digital agency game anymore. Because, you know, that project we poured our heart into, you know, it went live and it was live and people were using it for all of four or six weeks.

And people loved it when they were using it and the agency loved it. Everyone was crazy about it. But then it disappeared off the face of the planet and nobody will see that thing again. And it’s kind of like now just a story I get to tell you about. This thing that I built which cool but we lost a lot of money on it and that kind of sucks. So, I think that kind of made me realize I want to just find one project, one idea, one app, or business or whatever it is and just focus on that, you know, ram that out for a long time.

Andrew: You know, in a minute I’m going to ask you to hang up and I’ll call you back because we’re getting a kind of slow connection here. But let me continue here for a moment more. That, what I want to understand is was it easy to go from having an even more diverse collection of interest and work to something like Native Digital. Which is still not super focused but more focused. Or was it just a natural evolution because I’m thinking of the person who’s listening who’s saying I have a lot of projects and I need to narrow it.

Is it going to be as easy as making a decision like that? Or what did you have to go through to get to focus on one company if not yet on one project in this part of the story?

Ned: So, I guess my [??] was working out what I ultimately wanted to be doing . . .

Andrew: Okay . . .

Ned: . . . which was running a web based business. And it’s super formatted. And I had worked on a couple of things, but none of them had really gone very far. I think part of the problem that I identified was that I wasn’t technical. I couldn’t really attract a great technical co- founder. Which, everyone has this problem. And so, my goal was to go and in a year’s time, move to San Francisco, this was back in 2010, move to San Francisco, and get a job at Twitter or Facebook or some tech company in marketing or business and then I would meet the co-founder of my dreams, because that’s where they’re going to be, versus in Melbourne.

That was my path, and once I made my decision, then I was going to go off and start a company. Once I’d sort of made that decision I was then looking for opportunities that would help me get there and I basically turned away every opportunity that was not going to help me get there. I was trying to create focus, and that’s when I stepped into the agency, which would allow me to get experience in working with brands that people in Twitter or Facebook might recognize, like e-bay and that kind of thing.

Andrew: I see. Are you telling me that you were working for this agency and that’s how you ended up, that going to this agency was your place to find your co-founder, your place to find that one business that you were going to work on forever, or for a few years, and that’s where you ended up liking the agency and you bought it out from the founder. Is that what happened?

Ned: Yeah, basically. Yeah. I mean it was, the guy that had run the agency wasn’t really working on it anymore. He was in New York working on start- ups. A good friend of mine, Nick Crocker. . .

Andrew: Nick Crocker. Yes, I was hoping, actually that you would say he was in town, but he’s not.

Ned: He’s here at the end of the month. And so he wasn’t really doing all that much with it. For me, I kind of saw it as a vehicle to help me get to my goal. And so initially I was just working with the clients within the agency and then decided and saw that there was actually opportunity there to make some money and to achieve my goal, so I decided to build it up and hire more people. It allowed me to hire developers to build out my ideas.

Andrew: If you weren’t a developer yourself and you were someone in need of a co-founder, how were you able to lead a collection of developers? How were you able to take over a project like that, Instagram for Video, when your developer left?

Ned: I think I was just, I’ve always just been really curious about technology and about programming and that kind of thing. I’ve never gone too far down the rabbit hole of actually learning to program. I realized that that’s just not going to be me, but I think I was just a voracious reader. I would always read up on all the technology that was going to be involved and asked everyone so many questions. And kind, I guess, just ingrained myself into the community of guys that were all developers and so I think if you’re curious enough and you’re asking yourself enough of these questions you just sort of pick up a bunch of these things by osmosis.

And you can ask people that have done it before. I was a shameless networker, so if I needed to go out there and find someone who had done something similar, I wouldn’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call someone to get some help.

Andrew: Your connection, by the way. I was going to hang up now and call you back, but your connection is . . . no, don’t, don’t. Your connection is aces. Did you disappear? No, you’re good. What did you do after I said I was going to hang up, because now you’re looking great.

Ned: I put my thumbs up and . . .

Andrew: That was it, you didn’t like stop anything in the background? Alright. From now on I’m going to complain about the internet connection before doing anything about it and see if that works. Alright, so I think I’m getting it now, Ned. What you’re saying is you came to this realization that you needed to focus. You went to work at a digital agency as a way of getting towards that focus and you thought the digital agency that owning it was going to give you that focus.

So the answer for you, if I’m getting it right, is you just decided, ‘I’m not going to live like this anymore where I do a million things fairly well. I’m going to do one thing exceptionally well’, and you cut off all other alternatives. You moved to San Francisco, you didn’t allow yourself in starting lots of little projects here. You forced yourself to look for a company like Twitter or a digital agency to work for. That’s the big move.

Ned: Yeah, that was it. That was it.

Andrew: And was there something that you had to say to yourself, “Hey, now, Ned, don’t get carried away with this side project’?”

Ned: Yeah, I’ve always had to say that to myself. And . . .

Andrew: It’s like an alcoholic. You always have to say to yourself, “No, don’t have that drink, you have to stay sober.” Is that right?

Ned: Yeah. I think so. And you always have people coming up and offering you a drink, you know. To use that metaphor. I always had people coming up and saying, “I’ve got this great idea” Or, “I’ve seen this thing and I reckon we can make some money here.” I remember once I had my accountant call me and for a meeting. It was on Christmas Eve and he was like, “We’ve got this, I’m going to build Facebook but it’s for churches, and it will pay for it.

Andrew: I see.

Ned: I’m constantly getting pitched crazy ideas, some better than others.

Andrew: And you have to say no.

Ned: I have to say no.

Andrew: We should maybe start a 12 step program for people who cannot say no and a group for them to meet and focus. And I thought coming into this interview that maybe I was forcing my need which is to give the audience a story about focus onto your story and that maybe this your status is focus. And where there’s a place for image the image is of a black and white picture of you with one laser coming out of each eye and they’re red to just emphasize I am Mr. Focus. Why do you do that?

Ned: Part of the reason we were on Skype is so people aren’t distracting me from what I’m doing and I only get contacted when people actually really need something. Make them double [??] before they leave me some random message. I’d like to think that I’m fairly focused. Everyone sort of wavers, and at times I’m better than others. But I just know how important it is because in my early 20s I was so distracted constantly by new ideas and new projects and new jobs.

We had to go back to Uni [??] a second time because I didn’t finish the first time and things like that because I just…bright, shiny things were driving me around.

Andrew: Philosophically though, before I get into how you moved further and started this business, philosophically one of your investors at Elto is Matt Miskovitz who started SitePoint and then from there he started 99Designs. And from SitePoint he also launched Flippa, and he’s done other things. He’s a guy who’s both focused and launches multiple companies. What do you think the difference is between the way he runs things and the way that you do now and the way that you did before? Is there a middle ground? What’s going on there?

Ned: Yes. I think it’s a finishing what you started and setting up a [??] for that project. Along with that you need to be in it. I think Matt’s done really well in that he brought on a partner and was able to keep that business going. And then when 99Designs needed juice, you could get that off the ground. It’s clearly standing on its own two feet now. And so he’s working on High.com [??] and once High.com is to a certain point he doesn’t need to be involved in it. For me [??] digital, it’s still running, it’s still there and it’s actually doing better with me not working…

Andrew: Do you still own the agency?

Ned: But I was. I brought on a partner. Yeah. I brought on a partner to take it over and it’s doing working on that’s the most important, that’s the thing that’s going to bother the top of your mind. And so for me every day that’s definitely tweaking [??] Elto.

Andrew: So your company was renamed Elto, right? We’re going to get into why it’s named Elto in a moment. But first I’ve got to say thank you to Scott. In the past on a sponsorship message for Scott, I realized I shouldn’t be promoting Scott. What I should do is at least tell a story because stories are more interesting, more memorable, so here goes.

I noticed actually the other day I had a friend over, and I asked him, “Who are you using for a law firm?” And he told me about one of the top firms. I’m not going to say which one and he goes, “You know, I don’t know what it’s going to cost me, but it’s going to be expensive.” I said, “How are you signing up for a law firm when you don’t know what it’s going to cost you? Doesn’t that worry you?” And he said, “Well, I’ve got investors. It’s going to come of the money I get from investors. They’re not going to charge me anything until I’ve raised half a million dollars. At that point I have to pay, and at that point I can deal with it because the money will come from there.”

If you are someone who can say, “Once I have a half a million in the bank from investors, then I can spend whatever the hell the lawyer is going to charge me” there are tons of really big law firms, especially if you’re in San Francisco, also in Seattle and every major city, they’re going to be very happy to take your money once you get it. And if you don’t care about counting pennies, they’re going to be even happier to have you in there. They have nice conference rooms with good coffee.

But if you’re not at that position and if you do like to watch your money and you still want a lawyer who’s plugged in, and you still want a lawyer that gets the startup world, that’s when you call Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. In fact, you don’t even have to call him. I know I don’t like to pick up the phone unless I absolutely have to. You could just email him. I’ll give you his email address. It’s scott@walkercorporatelaw.com.

So, if you’re looking for a lawyer and that’s who you are – someone who wants a person here in Silicon Valley, a person who’s plugged in, but one who has a reasonable handle on costs – call Scott. Or, just go to walkercorporatelaw.com.

Ned, you’re a salesman. What do you think of that pitch, a story as opposed to a sponsored message?

Ned: I think that’s pretty compelling. I think it’s pretty compelling. I think people that have dealt with lawyers before, you know, everyone experienced that. The bills show up from a lawyer. The other day we got a $500 bill for December. I was going [??] I was going what was this bill for and realized there was an email that I got sent – is this okay. I replied yes. That was that $500 bill.

Andrew: That’s $500. You know what? At that point it becomes…

Ned: I was going to be talking [??]

Andrew: Sorry?

Ned: We’re definitely going to be talking about it. That’s for sure.

Andrew: You know what? It’s not so much even the $500 or that’s expensive. It’s that I start to feel like I can’t just talk to you unless there’s a meter running, so we’re not friends. This whole idea that we’re friends, we’re chatting, and you care about my life, it starts to feel fake to me because $500 is what you’re billing me for an email.

Alright. Well, thanks for that story. Let’s move on now. Now you realize I can’t continue to build the Instagram of video and the Instagram of whatever someone comes up to me with. I have to focus on one thing. Where do you get the idea that becomes this obsession for you?

Ned: I guess the idea came at me from a couple of different angles. What Elto is is a marketplace of developers and some designers and marketers that were curated from all around the world. We know that they’re really qualified and the best at the job. Our project managers work with you to sort of I guess define what it is that you need to get done. So, you want to make your site mobile responsive, or you’ve got to fix a form. We break that down into tweaks which then get done by the developers.

Andrew: Yes, I remember going in and saying well here are the 50 things… Actually, it was here are two things that I need. I got an email back saying all right, what you really have are two small tweaks, not one tweak but two small ones, and they broke them out. Yes. So, that’s the…

Ned: Yeah, so…

Andrew: …project manager. Alright.

Ned: That’s the project manager. I guess that’s kind of where it is now. But, where it came from was people were… When I was at the agency family and friends coming to us all the time that had an existing site and wanted to, like, add a phone number on their contact form so they could get people’s number and they could call them back.

Or, actually, I had a friend that wanted to add a Pinterest button to his blog. He’d gone to some other agency, and they wanted to charge him $300, $400, or $500 to do it. They were going to take two weeks.

I could understand, because at Native that’s what it would cost. They’ve got to charge you $150 to $200 an hour. They’ve got a producer who gets paid $100 an hour. They’ve got accounts. They’ve got all these overheads. So, we can’t do a small change. Even if it’s going to take me five minutes, I can’t charge him for five minutes worth of work.

I guess that’s sort of part of where it came from, realizing that there’s that problem out there that people that don’t have deep pockets… Anyway, I took the idea to Startup Weekend, pitched it on a Friday night. Everybody hated the idea. Scrambled to pull a team together at the last minute and worked on it over the weekend.

We ended up winning five grand which was great and kind of really validating, and I guess was a bit of pocket money as well that meant that hey we can spend this on getting a decent design made for a site. Let’s keep working on this idea. Maybe there’s something there.

Andrew: This idea was a theme pivot.

Ned: Yeah.

Andrew: At its essence… That’s what you called it at the time. At its essence…

Ned: Yeah.

Andrew: …what was it about?

Ned: The thing…

Andrew: Was it the same thing that it is today?

Ned: No. Theme pivot, we over thought that a lot. Theme pivot was kind of like 99Designs for WordPress.

Andrew: Okay.

Ned: The idea would be that you’d install a plugin on your site and we would suck down all your content, and your theme, and all that kind of stuff. We would spin it up on multiple different instances for multiple developers to work on your problem simultaneously. It was a cool idea. But, then what happened is they’d finish the jobs. They’d fix your form up [??] and you would buy it. You’d click yes I’m happy with that person’s work. It would all get deployed instantly back to your own website.

Andrew: That’s pretty cool.

Ned: The problem with it, I guess, is one, like, it’s really clinically complex and also very specific. It’s just for WordPress. If you’re a small business owner selling coffee mugs in Tallahassee, you don’t know what WordPress is

Andrew: You don’t even know what platform your site is built on. Is it on WordPress? Or is it on Joomla, or whatever you don’t know.

Ned: Exactly.

Andrew: Why do you think people at the start up competition liked your idea?

Ned: I think it sounded like a good idea. Even though it was so limited, in terms of what it could be, it sounded like a bright idea in terms of combining WordPress, the most used website platform in the world, with its 16 million installs with InDesign, which everyone knows the success of. [??] So, I think that what resonated with people. We also built a Tech Journal on the weekend, which we demo’ed. It was completely off focus but it was a way to take a screen shot of a website, you could click on different things you wanted to change, and leave a comment and that share that with the developers. People kind of liked that, I think.

Andrew: So, kind of like Skitch, but built in?

Ned: Yes, exactly like Skitch but more for the web than a separate app.

Andrew: To get yourself going, you put together a landing page and started emailing people about it. I’m actually looking at the landing page as it looked at the time, it just says Theme Pivot, we make it easy to customize your website. Theme Pivot makes it easy to make small changes to your website, a marketplace of professional WordPress developers. Sign up to our mailing list and find out when we launch. Theme Pviot, pty limited. What is mean in Australia?

Ned: Propritry (sp) limited

Andrew: Propirtary Limited, Copyright 2012. That’s all that’s on the page?

Ned: Yeah, simply simple.

Andrew: This is what you sent out. Was there anything built behind the scenes here or was it just this landing page?

Ned: For the first few customers, there was nothing really behind it. It was all done by emailing, kind of like a concierge service, I guess.

Andrew: So I, as a guy who heard about this, and needed a change, would come, enter my email address, hit the submit button, which is very carefully labeled submit, you would get my email, we’d start talking, and I’d say, you know, what I need or what the issue is, you tell me you could solve it, how would I pay you?

Ned: PayPal.

Andrew: PayPal to money order?

Ned: Just PayPal.

Andrew: This is what won $5000 at the competition?

Ned: Yes.

Andrew: Okay. This is like the ultimate MVP.

Ned: Yes, it’s the super MVP. We quickly after got on to building more of a back end, management system and that kind of thing, because we knew we needed to have some way to manage these people.

Andrew: The plug-in didn’t exist? The one that would suck in my theme and allow me to publish afterwards, that wasn’t there yet?

Ned: We spent about three months working on that, and we got it to work but it was really unreliable. There was just so much time and energy poured into this thing that we kind of went, do we really need to build this? We decided to come back to it later on, and just start marketing this thing, and see if people really like it. If so, then we can go and build complex plugins.

Customers want to see the solution before they buy anything and they won’t want to share their login details with some third party developer that they haven’t met yet. I guess we were just over thinking it, and now we have a lot better understanding, because now we’ve worked with so many customers.

Andrew: You told our pre-interviewer that a portion of the website sucked and that approach didn’t work, then I took a different approach and a street fashion photography site responded and she let us mess with her site. Can you elaborate on that? What happened with that?

Ned: We really wanted to get customers, we were quick to get out and promote them on Facebook and Twitter, and tell everyone, here’s this new exciting thing I’m working on. I have a good friend who said, I’m going to collect all your business cards, because one day I feel like you’re going to do something great. Such a burn!

Andrew: They call it a backhanded compliment. It’s a compliment that hits you with the backhand on the way out.

Ned: Exactly. That’s it. I didn’t want to do that anymore, to go outside to people outside of my network. So, I wanted to go out to people outside of my network and find these kind of people. I would go out and stroll through, I said we need to choose a vertical and target that. I went and choose food [??], there’s lots in Melbourne, and I would pull up someone’s website and I would email them. Say, hey I looked at your site, and this isn’t great, or this could be fixed, or this is going to make things better. People don’t like hearing that, they don’t like hearing that their baby’s ugly.

Andrew: Oh, you went out and you told them, right? I forgot that, you said, here are the issues I see with your site, and for $35 bucks or whatever I can fix them for you.

Ned: Yeah. I didn’t get much results. Then basically, we started contacting people and started looking at the vertical fashion blogs and said, we’ll improve anything about your website, you just let us know what it is and your first weeks free. That started to get a bit more results. We spent a lot of time with those people.

Andrew: You would actually email people? You just made a tweak to presentation, instead of saying your site is ugly and here are the things I can fix or your site could use these fixes and I’ll do it for you, you said if you have any small changes you need, then I will fix them for you at this price.

Ned: Yeah.

Andrew: That little change. Let me just also, we’re giving you a hard time, your past you, for having all of these ideas and reaching out people and saying your baby’s ugly. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression, we’re having fun looking at the past, but I believe what you did is the right thing to do. To talk to customers, to pitch it over and over. Frankly, I will pitch until my friends are pissed at me, rather than sit my whole at home and be too embarrassed to tell anyone what I’m working on. Screw that. What you’ve done is something we should be honoring, something we should be encouraging more people to do, and at the same time it’s fun that we can have fun at the past dues.

Ned: Yeah. I’m all about ripping through what I’ve done in the past once I’ve stopped. I think the two things we learned from those two verticals we went after, afterwards was bloggers aren’t really our customers.

Andrew: No. Why not?

Ned: Because, they’re not making money from their website, so they’re less likely to spend money on it. It’s really more of a vanity thing in some ways, and unless you can help them make money on their site, which is complex, they’re not going to spend money it. Now, we work with a lot of big e-commerce companies, e-comer stores, something they have on line, and if we can say to them this change will actually mean more revenue for you, they’re like great, its a no brainier, we can show off what the payoff is.

Andrew: I actually don’t even know what the number is, is it 35 or 39, whatever it is, but the idea that you charge a small amount of money for a small tweak, that to me is one of the most compelling parts of your business. I’m looking at an early version of your site here from 2012, July 2012 and it just says changes from $25.00, request a free quote. It wasn’t always this simple, small change for a small price. It was much more variable. How did you come to this decision to charge per tweak?

Ned: The idea was that we always ran on projects out there and we needed an easy way to tell people, to give them an idea of what is was going to cost, but also an easy way to manage the project. To go out there and say we’ll tweak anything about your website. There are a lot of agencies out there, how is that different than an agency. The $25.00 price point and being able to say tweak, it does two things it says, wow these guys will do a project for only $25.00, maybe my project is only $25.00, that’s the trivial a lot of money. I’ll go out and engage with these guys and find out what its going to cost.

Then breaking it down into two tiny units of work, were we’re explaining to the customer and to the developer this is what actually needs to get done, it’s not so vague anymore. I think part of it was our experience using other market places, like if you been to, oDesk for instance, and you go and put a job up there or you see a job up there that says, I want a website and there’s 100 people who replied and said, I’ll do your website for $5.00.

That’s all that they say, there’s no more detail than that. So, that’s problematic, because the customers going to have a different idea of what a website is versus the developer, whose going to build it for $5.00. That’s what that is, it’s creating a detailed scope, its exactly what we used to do at the agency.

Andrew: I came to you guys and I said my home page has a sign that says I did 800 interviews and give me your email address. I came to you guys and I said can you change that from 800 to whatever the hell it was at the time, 905, and can you make the box a little wider, and can you move the submit button up next to the input box. How did you know that those were going to be two tweaks instead of one tweak or even three tweaks?

Ned: I guess we looked at your site and could tell that it was… I believe it’s built in WordPress. Am I right? But, we could tell that it’s built in WordPress. The product managers have all had experience in WordPress and most of the common platforms. They kind of know how long it’s going to take and how much work it’s going to be. Then, you know, break it down into those sort of small units.

Andrew: Okay.

Ned: We’re learning so much over time. This is kind of the great thing. When we first started we thought everything was going to be [??]. Everyone’s request is unique. But, after the first, I don’t know, 2,000 or 3,000 projects we kind of started to realize there’s actually a lot of commonality here. If we can start to put them in common buckets then we can make it easier for customers to know what they can expect to pay.

Andrew: Give me an example of a bucket. What’s a bucket that makes it easy for you guys to price?

Ned: There are two ones we do all the time. One is set up a shopping cart on a WordPress site. You know that, okay, cool, it’s a WordPress site. It’s going to have this plugin. Then, we’re going to need to star this page and that page. There are some security things we need to do there. We go cool, that’s five tweaks. Those…

Andrew: Those are five. So, shopping cart from scratch is always five tweaks because you know that’s five different things you need to do. You will even install the plugin for it?

Ned: Yeah, absolutely, yeah. That includes every… The other one we do all the time is for Shopify stores. A lot of Shopify stores want to have currency converters on their store. There’s great documentation from Shopify about exactly how to do it, but if you don’t have the time or the [Inaudible 0:02:11] to actually do that, we’ll do it. We do it all the time, so we can say cool, I know that’s going to be three tweaks.

Andrew: Got you. All right, now I’ve got a sense of where the idea came from, how it evolved by talking to customers one on one. You would email them out. You would say hey this is what I do. Many of them hated the first approach.

Then, you tweaked your promotion and you said if you need anything then I’ll do that. Then, they liked it. Then, the pricing needed to be organized. I get all that.

Let’s talk about how you got customers beyond the talking to people one at a time. The next place that you got them, as I understand it, is the press release that you sent out in July of… I guess it was what, 2012 or 2013?

Ned: 2012.

Andrew: 2012.

Ned: Sorry, gee it’s 2012. Yeah.

Andrew: 2012. I’m almost positive that’s when it was, but I don’t have it for sure.

Ned: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. Why was that so effective for you?

Ned: That was really great in terms of driving a lot of traffic. It helped us to reach, I guess, some of our influencers. So, we had guys like Jason Fried from 37signals tweeting about it. Jeffrey Zell wrote a blog post about it. I guess it just kind of gave us a bit more legitimacy in the market, so that sort of enabled us to go out and do other things like business development deals and things like that.

Andrew: People actually look at press releases? Jason Fried doesn’t sit and read a press release, does he?

Ned: No, no, no. Jason Fried…

Andrew: So, how did it get to Jason Fried?

Ned: Well, we hustled our butts off. We got in front of the guys at The Next Web and got them to write about us. We got in touch with a journalist at an Australian newspaper, a tech journalist who wrote about us. Then, just hit as many blogs as we possibly could to get write-ups.

Andrew: I see. When I have here in my notes the press release is what did it, if we were to unpack it it’s we realized there’s more to it. A lot of it is you guys reaching out to bloggers, hustling your butts off as you said.

You gave me a lot of different bloggers that you reached out to. Sometimes I understand a process better by looking at one, and then I can get what happened with the others. Is there one of these guys that you can just tell me how you got an article written about you? Maybe it’s The Next Web, or is it the local person?

Ned: I’m trying to think of the chronology, because it was a little while ago. I believe what happened with The Next Web was that we got… The CEO, Zee Kane, actually heard about Tweaky through someone and ended up coming and submitting a project. We didn’t have that many projects coming through at the time, so I was obviously across every one that came through.

I saw his name come up, and recognized who he was, and immediately got in touch with him. At first I said how about we do this for free, don’t worry about it. And he was like, “Well that wouldn’t be ethical for me to do that.” That’s a sign of who he is as a guy, his honesty and professionalism. But he said, “Look, I’ll tell you what. I’ll introduce you to someone and you can talk to them and perhaps they can cover you,” and that was Anthony cover I guess. So, I think it’s trying to identify those angles, it’s hard. You’ve got to go and read someone’s blog and hopefully you already know them, work out what the angle is going to be for the. Like, why should they care about you, why should they write about you?

Andrew: But it was also looking at who was buying from you and then following up with them. You recognized his domain name and you said I know that guy, I know that company, we should talk to them,.

Ned: Absolutely you know, when you use Tweaky, Elto, now knows elto.com, I made a note of it. And I had a spreadsheet which was the Mixergy spreadsheet. And I knew that it wasn’t the right time for us, it was so early stage for me to say “Hey, I’d love to be, love to do an episode.” But I kept that. I was like, cool, we’ll come back to this t some point this is going to be relevant.

Andrew: I didn’t know. I was wondering if you even noticed. I always tell people who start up here at Mixergy when we give them their email address, be very aware. People see that they’re working here at Mixergy go the extra mile and help out. Just know that we’re being watched, you know. And I’m glad that you saw it. Why didn’t you offer me a free tweak at the site? I don’t have the NextWeb’s ethics.

Ned: I think you, hey we can do something. I do have a couple of ideas about your website that we, you know, at the time I thought that it was something I would let simmer. Because I wanted you to have an authentic experience on the site without me, you know, making it out to be more than it is or giving you special treatment or something like that, so you’d actually know what it was like to actually use the service. And part of it was like, well, I’m going to put that one in the bank. I’m going to come back to this.

It’s not right for us, it’s not right for you, for me to actually say, “Hey we want to be on the show.” It just would’ve been crazy because we hadn’t actually achieved anything at that point. It was so early stage. Likewise, whenever I saw anyone come on the same spreadsheet actually, I’m giving you my secrets now, my spreadsheet has got a list of everyone that I knew personally who’d be on Mixergy.

Andrew: Why?

Ned: Well, my thought was, one day it will be cool to come and do an episode and I’ll email all these people and I’ll ask them to introduce me simultaneously to you,

Andrew: Simultaneously. So, that then I get an email about, you from four or five different people and of course at that point I have to pay attention.

Ned: You can’t ignore me.

Andrew: I love that. That’s such great thinking.

Ned: Unfortunately the plan got destroyed by Noah Kagan who just did it out of the blue, without me even saying anything.

Andrew: Oh, did he? I thought what happened was I emailed Matt. You guys were on Hacker News and I think I emailed Matt Miskovits who I found out was an investor and I said, “Are they ready?” I forget. Because I never want to email the entrepreneur and say, “Do you have any customers yet, and if you do then you should be on.” I need somebody else to tell me, but I can’t remember.

One of the cool things about doing Mixergy is that there’s so many people who’ve gotten to know me over the years that they know what to look out for and they can tell me who I should interview and hopefully if you have something, you can reach out to also all these different people. Alright I’ve got a sense of what you did there. Let’s go on to the next milestone. Let’s see what it is. The next one is 99Designs, or Site Point, excuse me, that helped propel your growth. What did Site Point, a site that reaches a lot of web publishers do?

Ned: So, they did a couple of things there. You know, this sort of small step, these things have been relatively small step changes by the way. None of them has really blown us out of the park. And this was kind of similar, you know. We sent an email out to Site Point subscribers, because they’re in the web development community and they understand this kind of stuff. And some of them will have the pain and they may be able to do the tweaks themselves.

So maybe they can be suppliers for us, but we thought, they’ve probably also got family and friends that are bugging them all the time to make small changes to their site and maybe they can tell their family and friends to come to Tweaky instead of using their services. But I guess that one of the more interesting ones was with Flipper.com, which is kind of part of Site Point.

Andrew: Spun off from Site Point, it’s the site where you can buy and sell websites.

Ned: Yeah. And so those guys put together a deal, we put together a deal with them that when somebody purchased a website from somebody else, and they needed help to move it to their own server, we would for, I think it was like $25 or something like that, we would help them deal with the transfer.

Andrew: That’s nothing.

Ned: Yeah, I know. We were all about users at the time, so we were happy to do it for very little money and we lost money on all those customers…

Andrew: I was going to say…

Ned: …we learned a couple of things there; one, it’s all about finding the customers at the right time, when they’re actually ready to make the purchase or when they actually need our help the most, so just bought a website, had never owned a website or web business before, they kind of need someone to help them, so we could help them do that transfer.

The second thing I guess we learned was that not all customers are created equal in terms of, some customers you get or some leads you get, you’re happy to spend a bit of money to get that lead, but if you look at the [??] of that customer, maybe they’re not going to spend any more money or you’re not going to get that money back. I guess that was some of the learnings we had.

Andrew: Now, I understand that at $25 to move them, it seems so simple, but you’re losing money there and you’re also asking for a world of pain, but did those customers come back enough to want tweaks to their sites, considering that its brand new sites and someone else built it? I imagine it would; was it worth it over the long run?

Ned: There was a range of customers. Some did; some came and wanted lots of different things. Others didn’t and at the end of the day, the balance was probably about even, probably about even. Of course, the real benefit that came from that was we just needed customers. I’ve worked on web projects before in the past where we didn’t have any users and so you didn’t know whether what you were building was actually worthwhile, and so too [many people ended up] using it, giving me feedback, complaining about things, telling their friends about other little things, so I think that was really the benefit for us in those early days.

Andrew: I see, how did you get that partnership? One of the things I admire about your company is, Elto really partners with a lot of businesses and we can talk and we have to talk more about that later, but how did you get that initial one when you were a nobody?

Ned: So we actually raised a [??] round, a seed round from the [??] and the [??], so that kind of made that easy…

Andrew: Gotcha!

Ned: …that conversation; you know, that was a strategic decision to do that because we would be able to get access to that audience, but otherwise, we do a lot of partnerships and are a big believer and building up partnerships, especially where it can be kind of a win/win. One of our great partnerships and one of our great step-ups, I guess, was with Shutterfly.com…

Andrew: Let’s talk about how you got that. That was an interesting story.

Ned: That was a hard one; that was the difficult one. It’s all about finding the right angle and with those guys, we didn’t see anything coming from them. I tried to get in touch with their senior management and their [??] guys, and nothing really was happening, and then we put the Shutterfly logo on our website and said we tweaked Shutterfly websites, and that was up there for about two or three weeks, and then suddenly we had all these Shutterfly leads pouring in and I was like, “Wow, this is fantastic,” and they started pouring more and more and, “Wow, this is amazing. I’m not sure where these are coming from, but it’s great.”

Eventually someone forwarded us an email which came from Shutterfly support. They had heard about us and when people were coming to them saying, “Could you add a currency converter to my website,” they were saying, “Oh yeah, these guys do that, just go to these guys.” It was amazing, but I still couldn’t get through to the guys that actually made the decisions to [??]…

Andrew [??]…

Ned: [??], so I got to the point where I was like, “I’ve got a check here. I’ve got a referral check; where do I send it to?” Just through a little bit of hustling and some connections, ending up getting a check to him and he realized what was happening and was happy to – we jumped on a call and talked about how to work together better and that’s a great relationship for us. Again, it’s people that need the service at the right time.

Andrew: What about the cake?

Ned: The cake as well. That was kind of a last ditch effort.

Andrew: This was before you talked to him? You came up with the cake idea?

Ned: Well, yeah. I was like, “How do I get them to talk to me without flying up to Ottawa and kicking their door in and giving them a big [novelty] check? That was kind of my next idea, so I was like, “How do I dial back from that,” and so I decided to send them a cake to say thanks, particularly to their support guys because they were sending us a heap of leads, and so I found this little cake shop in Ottawa and they didn’t have a website. Well, they had a website, but you couldn’t buy anything on there, you didn’t know how much it cost, and I back and forth called, it was like midnight my time to call them And say, I want a cake, and the cake is going to say, “Dear Lou, Thanks for all your support. The guys at Tweeky.com”

And there was so much back and forth and I had to pay by calling and giving him my credit card details, it was really dodgy. And then a few days went by and I didn’t hear anything from the cake shop or from her. So, I called the cake shop and said, “Hey what’s going on? Did it get sent?” And she said, “Yeah it got sent but there was too much writing so we had to cut it down. So, it just says, “Thanks for the support.”

Andrew: And that could have been anybody.

Ned: That could have been anybody and so I had to email them and say, “Hey, did you get the cake?” And they’re like, “Hey that was from you?” Oh Thank you. That was delicious. That was amazing, we had no idea.

Andrew: And then you got to talk to them. one of the nice things about Harley and Frankly, the Shopify team in general is they get to talk to a lot of people who are coming up and they’re’ doing so well and they’re getting so many people who are hitting them up for stuff, that it’s really easy at that point to just put up walls and to be jerks to people but they’re just super nice.

I don’t know, maybe it’s a Canadian thing, maybe they were, maybe they come from the development world that it comes from. I have no freaking idea what it comes from; I’m not making stuff up. But it’s so good to hear that people who reach out to them when nobody’s were treated well so that now when you’re doing well, you have a good story to share about them. You know why I hesitated there for a moment, because I keep saying there was a point when you were nobody. Did you feel like a nobody or am I just looking back and saying, “Hey, this guy was nobody?”

Ned: I still do feel like a nobody. You know, we’ve come a long way but we still have got so far to go,. And if you look like, a company like Shopify, they’ve got 80,000 customers. They’ve raised, they’ve’ just closed a $100 million dollar round, or $150 million dollars in fundraising. You know, they’re absolutely killing it in terms of what they’ve achieved.

The platform is amazing so when you talk to a guy like Harley, you’re in awe of what they’ve done, what they’ve built, and you realize what a small partner you could potentially be for those guys. So, yeah, i do feel like that and every time we try to start like up a new business development relationship, you’re always having to talk about why they should be even having this conversation because they’re getting, these calls all the time from companies…

Andrew: Yes.

Ned: …much bigger than us.

Andrew: I do feel like there is this place where we’re nobody’s and then where we’re known. And when I was a nobody as an interviewer, it would take me multiple emails to get someone to say “no” to do an interview. Today, people reach out to me. People who I admire, people who I want to get to know will reach out to me. it’s a world of difference when you break through that wall and I feel like there’s a wall. And so that’s why I ask. So I’m looking at your site and I see that you’ve worked on, there’s a list of the platforms that you support, mail chimp, Shopify, WordPress, I’m looking at where your traffic is coming from.

ThemeForest.net seems to be a big source of traffic for you. You’re big with partnerships like this. StoreEnvy is another one, a competitor of Shopify in some ways. Help me understand, what do you do to build a partnership when you’re not well-known and when you don’t have giant margins? Teach me so that we can pass that on to the audience.

Ned: The biggest thing I guess is trying to identify two things. One was people that had, companies that have got customers that are the same customers as ours. So, people that have got customers that have got a website, hopefully an e-commerce site that we can tweak. It’s not, we can’t really do much on Weebly site, for instance, we can do lots on Shopify or a WordPress website.

Andrew: Why can’t you do much on that other site?

Ned: For better or worse, Weebly is really easy for the person who owns it. It’s kind of like drag and draw, it’s very easy to tweak themselves, they don’t really need a 3rd party. But that’s also kind of a limitation because it means that it is not all that customizable, so if you want to build something kind of fancy, it’s a little bit difficult.

Andrew: So, you want to make sure that they have your customers and that those customers have the ability to do what you do.

Ned: I guess then that the final thing is knowing that identifying that they’ve got a pain point that we can solve. So, one of the first things that I do when I find a platform that I want to go and work for is I go and look at their support forums and I find what are people asking about. And what do they have documentation for? So, again Shopify is the example. There’s heaps of people in the forums everyday saying how do I fix this and how do I move this around? And likewise, you know, all we got was paid as a documentation to do a quite complicated implementation. So from there, I kind of assume that they’re probably getting lots of support queries around this kind of stuff.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Ned: And then think, well, you know if we can help to plug some of that gap, then they’re going to want to send us customers. And we’re going to be able to help make their customers more loyal to that platform. You know they don’t need to leave to go somewhere else where they can get that done easily. And everyone wins. I guess that’s kind of the secret to it. So there have definitely been times when I’ve kind of pinked people and said, hey, we would love to work together because I think you’ve got the right . . .

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Ned: . . . customers for me. Let’s do a deal, but it just doesn’t work for them, you know. It’s like, I’m trying to think of an example of that now.

Andrew: When it doesn’t work for them, is it because of lack of money because you do pay affiliate commissions to Shopify, or is it something else?

Ned: More often than not, the money doesn’t even really come to it. Like it’s a nice little, it’s nice . . .

Ned: Yeah, but I can’t imagine that Shopify is going to live off of whatever commission you pay. Because they’re a huge company.

Ned: That’s right. Of course. Yeah. It’s a tiny amount of money. It’s just nice to have kickback. But when it doesn’t work for them, I guess they’ve got different ideas about how they might want to offer services themselves inside of their store. Like they might want to try and build a little marketplace themselves, or something like that. Or maybe it’s just not on their road maps, just not a priority. You know there’s one big web company, who I won’t name, platform, who weren’t in who didn’t want to work with us because they didn’t like to promote the idea that their platform needed developers . . .

Andrew: I see.

Ned: . . . or needed more people to help you make their site better. So I can kind of see that as well.

Andrew: What about this? I saw that one of the sources of traffic for you is, sources of business, is WordPress. So I went to wordpress.com and I did a search to figure out what WordPress is doing. And it seems like you come up in the support forums, but also there is a form on WordPress’ support site that says, want to really dig into customizing your WordPress theme? We are partnered with Tweaky, which is the former name of Elto, a wordpress.com customization service. And they say for 35 bucks, they’ll do custom tweaks. And then there’s a form right there. How do you get that?

Ned: Again, like I think we just solved a problem that probably took six months to sort of pull off. You know we basically worked with those guys to identify what is their problem. What are common problems that customers have and how can we help you fix it? You know, wordpress.com is a great platform, but it’s a little bit more restricted, I guess, than wordpress.org.

You know it’s hosted, which is great, but it means that a lot of their customers are small business owners and bloggers who are really non- technical. And their model is not to tweak these things until the code changes themselves. So how will they help these people get help. And to date, you know, those people have had nowhere to go. So I guess we’re plugging that gap which makes it a lot easier for them to want to send us leads.

Andrew: But it’s just picking up the phone. Is it seeing Matt Mullenweg at a word camp? Is it something else? Is it Matt Mickiewicz calling up?

Ned: I wish it was that easy. I’m trying to work out exactly how. I got an introduction from Mark Harbottle who is the co-founder at 99Designs with Matt.

Andrew: I see.

Ned: He did an email introduction that might have been talking about some stuff with 99Designs at the time. And then I was in San Francisco. And so we met up and talked a lot and then ended up sort of coming together. Yeah, I’m very, very glad that one came up.

Andrew: What about when partnerships don’t work out? You screwed up with a partner who was also an affiliate who was getting paid. Let’s talk about what happened there.

Ned: Yeah. So I can talk about that. So I went in with a partner.

Andrew: Yes.

Ned: But we had quite a big partner who we were working with and it began with that embedded briefing form. You know it was on their website where people could submit a request for a quote. And we did a change on our platform which meant that that form wasn’t submitting the details through to us. And this was going on for like a week or two. And so we didn’t pick it up. They reached out to us and said, hey, can we just catch up. We’d like to know what out numbers are looking like.

You know, we’ve got a really great back-end dashboard so they can see all their numbers. But the best thing about that is they actually see what their satisfaction ratings are from us. So knowing how well which really made customers, which is kind of big part of our sell, I think. But anyway, so they pinged us. Then, I looked and realized there’d been none coming in for, like, this period of time. My jaw dropped and I felt sick.

I called my co-founder who was in Australia at the time and was like what’s going on, what’re we going to do. There was no way to recover it. I basically had to call him, call his partner and say I’ve got some bad news, all these leads that have come through we haven’t been able to get back to them and do anything with them, and it’s our fault. I feel terrible about it. I’m not sure what to do. I understand if you want to call this partnership off.

But, he was surprisingly calm about it and surprisingly understanding, possibly more understanding than I think I would be. We really beat ourselves up about it. We put a bunch of things in place to stop that from happening again including putting our important partners up on a big dashboard so I can track what’s coming in and I can see big discrepancies like that. But, yeah, that was terrifying, that was terrifying.

The positive that did come out of that is that when I thought that we’d completely screwed up, I thought they’re not going to can us now, they’re being polite, they’re not going to can us now but I know in about two or three weeks they’re going to put someone else in and it’s all over. But, then we got a referral from the founder of that company to a major client two weeks later – who we still work with today. I was like they mustn’t hate us that much to send us this guy.

Andrew: I’d be so… I would put it off or want to put it off for a long time. Then, I would offer them money. I’m sorry I cost you money. But, you didn’t do any of that. You just couldn’t.

Ned: I was trying to put it off. I was trying to get all my facts right. I was trying to work out some way we could somehow get these leads from the database or something. They’d come through in a weird way. But, yeah, there was not much to it. I just had to face it head on and eat it.

Andrew: Hey, I’m looking at an old blog post here, someone else’s site, March 1, 2013, torkmag.io. They’re showing a back end page where you did migration from WordPress, migrate wordpress.org packages for 489. Set up beautiful WordPress photo galleries for 78. You don’t do that anymore, right? Now it’s just per tweak.

Ned: Oh, we definitely do those things. The great thing about… This is what I was talking about before about this idea of understanding the commonalities and the different tweaks we do. Set up a shopping cart on a WordPress site is now five tweaks.

We now package that, and you can buy that without needing to talk to us. You can just go tweaky… You go to elto.com/services and search for WordPress. You can find that set up a shopping cart and you can buy it right then and there. The services that you just talked about, like migration services, because we’ve done them so many times we know exactly how many tweaks they need to be.

Andrew: I get that, that that’s something that you can do over and over again. But, when it comes to development work like this, you can get so carried away with all the different possible changes that people want to make. How do you know what you accept and what you just can never structure and should say no to?

Ned: I mean yeah, we avoid anything that’s overly complex. We try to stick to common platforms like WordPress, Shopify, Bigcommerce, and that kind of thing which means that we understand pretty well what those platforms are.

We’d never work on, like, a custom Ruby on Rails or Jango application. That gives us some idea. But, you’re right, there are so many permutations.

If someone comes to us… I had a customer that came to us the other day and wanted us to make a Shopify site look like and act like craigslist. That’s, I don’t know. I couldn’t understand why they would want to do that. That’s kind of a complex project. There’s a lot of design changes, sort of functionality changes, and at that point we say you know what, you need to go and find an agency or a developer, your own developer versus it’s no longer just a small tweak. It’s a complete overhaul.

Andrew: So, how do you know what is and what isn’t? It’s so hard to figure that out.

Ned: You know, I think that’s just something we’ve learned over time. We’ve worked so many projects. We know when a project goes bad. Having run an agency as well, I know I have a sense of what is kind of big project.

Partly, it’s also who the customer is. If that customer wanted that craigslist site for Shopify had… We go back to them and say you know, why do you want to do this, what’s the actual intent of this. That’s really what we come down to. They say well, you know, it’s actually just because I like the way that they show the search results. We can go okay, cool, we can just do that for you.

Andrew: I see. So, I just tweak that, not give you the whole package.

Ned: Yeah. I think it’s really about trying to understand what their problem is versus just building things blindly. That’s kind of the power of having these project managers that work with someone on their project is to ask those hard questions.

A common thing that we do for people is work on sliders for their home page. Make the slider bigger, make it work on mobile, make it ping, make it fast, make it slow, whatever. But, we know. We’ve got heaps of data which shows us that sliders are terrible for conversion rates.

So, we’re like if you’re running an ecommerce site we’re going to ask you why do you want to do this. Tell me more about your business. Often, we’ll find out I’ve got lots of traffic but it’s not converting. Great, how about we help you do something around that, because there are ten different things we can do to help you increase your conversion rate.

Andrew: I just love your business. I mean I don’t know the business model behind it, but I do know my needs. I remember when I first found out about it. I think it was on Hacker News. I immediately bookmarked it and I said I have these little changes, I don’t want to spend a lot of money. Also, worse than not spending a lot of money, I’m going to get sucked into endless work on this. Just all I need is move that input box. All I need is make the number go from 800 to 900, whatever.

I have a bunch of rapid fire questions before we end, but first…

Ned: …[??]

Andrew: …I want to congratulate one of my not just fans, not just listeners, but a Mixergy Premium member, Steve Young. Steve Young took the Interview Your Heroes course where I teach people how to do this.

One of the things I love is just getting to talk to entrepreneurs like this. It’s more than just learning. It’s also building relationships. Ned, you’re going to come to my house to play poker at some point, right?

Ned: Absolutely.

Andrew: Yeah. And, it turns out we’re neighbors. There’s so much to be gained from this – both business, relationships, and getting your name out there. That’s why I do it.

I did a course on how to do it. It’s part of Mixergy Premium. Steve Young took that course. He recently started doing his own interview program for just mobile developers, because he loves mobile apps. It’s called Mobile App Chat.

He’s learning to build better apps for himself which is one of his big goals. He is getting to know other developers. He’s getting his name out there, and as a result of that he ended up leaving his company recently. He did a celebration. I got him a drink to celebrate. I’m really just so proud of how far he’s come. It’s just mobileappchat.com. You guys can go check him out.

The big point is it’s not just me doing this. There’s nothing fancy going on here. This frickin mic here costs you practically nothing. The software that I use to record costs maybe $20. It’s Ecamm Call Recorder.

I talk about how to do the whole thing from the email that we send out to the process that we go through here. I used to do it all myself. I now say we because it’s so compact I can just hand someone else the instructions and say here’s how I edit, here’s what we do, here’s how we send out an email invitation. That’s the way I do it. I pass it to other people on the team.

If you want to do it, too, you can just copy my whole frickin process and you can go to town on it. Hopefully, you’ll build something like Steve Young and get to know someone like Ned. That’s the goal here.

That’s just 1 course out of over 100 courses that are available at Mixergy Premium. I urge you to go sign up before I get my senses about me and I decide that I’m going to sell these courses individually. Because, frankly, that one course alone is worth hundreds of dollars, or maybe in Steve Young’s case even thousands, maybe just a life change for him. I hope you go and sign up.

What do you say, Ned?

Ned: Yeah. I have actually hit Steve up a couple of times for biz dev tips.

Andrew: You know him?

Ned: Yeah, because he was at SmartShoot.

Andrew: Yes.

Ned: I really liked what those guys were doing and went over to chat with them about some of the things that we were doing and see if there were any partnerships. Didn’t really come together, but that’s neither here nor there.

But, [??] operator. I would often go and ask him, just catch up and go coffee and hit him up for tips on how I can do different things and get in to meet different people.

One of the things he told me was exactly what you’re talking about which is start interviewing people. Because it’s an easy in to go and meet someone. Whether or not you’re doing it from a business dev perspective, like, forget about that. You’re just meeting them, but great things will come from it. I think that’s sound advice.

Andrew: Yeah. Even if no one watches it, the fact that you got in to talk to them gets you pretty far. Frankly, it’s never no one watching them. Often, the guy who’s going to work for you, Ned, in the future is probably listening to this interview right now on the drive over. The woman who’s going to end up being your CEO at some point in the future, the buyer of your company, the investor in your company, is listening to your interview and learning and getting to know you.

The reason I know it is someone from CrunchFund happened to be over at another poker game at my house and said I heard that interview that you did with someone as we were investing, and you captured his personality. That’s what I care about.

Ned: Brilliant.

Andrew: All right. Go to mixergypremium.com. It will change your life. It will help you learn about all the different aspects of entrepreneurship. We don’t focus on any one thing. Say what you need and I go out and get the expert and that expert teaches it. When it comes to doing interviews I believe I’m the expert and I taught it, but there are other courses there taught by experts. I promise that you are going to love it. I promise that you are going to want me to increase prices.

I promise that I should increase prices, but I don’t know when. Until then go to mixergypremium.com, sign up. I guarantee you will love it. Mixergypremium.com. And you’ll also be supporting all the research that goes into doing these great interviews, so in addition to the things you do for me you’re also helping out the community and helping me out.

Alright. Rapid fire questions. The company name used to be Tweaky. We’ve brought it up a few times, but I introduce you as the Ned Dwyer of Elto. Why?

Ned: We had a trademark issue, is part of the reason. So we had to go and fire the new name and the new brand. But it has also turned out to be good timing, in terms of we’re maturing a bit more. We not just Tweaking small things. Like you said, there are some of our products which are $400. So that’s why.

Andrew: Fair. Revenue. How much?

Ned: We’re a private company so we’re not disclosing our revenue. It’s moving up and to the right, which everyone wants to see.

Andrew: 2013, over half-million in sales?

Ned: That’s about accurate. That’s about as much as I’d be hoping to say.

Andrew: Okay. I won’t push any more. I think at one point we chatted on Skype and I wrote it down, but I have something written down. I always want to be very careful not to reveal what people tell me in private, but push them in public to be as open as they can.

Ned: [laughs]

Andrew: Fair enough? Let’s see what else. You told me before the interview started that you have used Mixergy as a [??] source. How?

Ned: I listen to Mixergy when I’m running and always find someone that had some link that I could use from a business development perspective. One example is when I was at the agency, you interviewed a guy called Travis Kention[SP], who is at Contestdomination.com. He was talking about building Facebook apps and things like that, but he was not technical. And we had also built a lot of Facebook apps and social apps. So I was like wow! There could potentially be a way that we could cross promote.

So we got on a call and talked about that experience, which was great and later on… he also has a really good affiliate marketer and has a large audience of people who need to Tweak their Contestdomination plug-in at the time. So we were able to work together there. Actually we’re working on something at the moment as well.

Andrew: I do like Travis and he has told me that good stuff has come to him because of the interview. Final question. Actually, one other one after this. What would you Tweak on Mixergy? You said you had a list of things that you think we should change.

Ned: The biggest thing that I would Tweak is to make your site more mobile responsive. If you go to the homepage right now, it’s on that e-mail form, it’s really big and blown up and you have to zoom in and you can’t see it very well. We could make that a little bit neater. And also the blog posts, make the videos responsive.

Andrew: How much would you charge me to make that responsive? [??] like my price so that everyone else understands what you pricing is like.

Ned: Looking at the homepage, I think the homepage probably two or three Tweaks. Then having a look at your blog index, maybe that’s another three or four Tweaks. And the individual page is maybe another two or three Tweaks. So what’s that all up, maybe 10 Tweaks, maybe $390. The big thing I guess for you, what I would be looking at is, how many of your customers, how many people visiting your website are on mobile devices and how well are those people converting to e-mail lists and that sort of stuff, and then how well is your e-mail converting into paying customers, because then you could probably work out how much money you are losing to not catering to mobile devices. And is $390 enough or is it actually worthwhile or is it not. And that’s the kind of questions I’ll be asking.

Andrew: What do I need to give you in order for you to turn that homepage into a mobile responsive page?

Ned: You would need to give us you log-in details to your website and we’ll spin up a staging environment to work on. We’d ask you a couple of questions about exactly how you want it to look. Then give us a couple of days and we can be done.

Andrew: Can we do it all via e-mail. No, we can go to the site, I register, I tell you what I need. I already have an account.

Ned: Do it all through Tweety.com, Elto.com.

Andrew: At the top of the interview, I said that I pay $35. It might have been $39?

Ned: It’s $39.

Andrew: It’s $39. So I screwed up at the top. Actually, I think that’s pretty much it. If people want to sign up they can go over to Elto, right?

Ned: Elto.com.

Andrew: Elto.com. Thank you so much for doing this.

Ned: Thanks for having me on, Andrew. I really appreciate it.

Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye guys.

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  • http://www.pixelhappy.com/ Steve Young

    Great interview Andrew! Ned absolutely love the cake idea!

  • omojola

    We are about to launch our Shopify website…I guess we’ll be using these guys for site changes. I feel like most developer just charge you minimum of $200-$300 even if it’s a 20mins fixes. I guess you don’t feel ripped off with his service.

  • Robb Raiskums

    Definitely omojola – I used to work for these guys and still work for them as a developer and that is their niche (although they are growing in other directions too). Good luck with the launch!

  • Avril111

    mixergy.com

  • Avril111

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  • Dubem Menakaya

    This was a great interview, thoroughly enjoyed Ned’s stories and how he went on the journey to eventually start and grow Elto. Some great advice about focusing on that one thing, exactly what i needed!

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