Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And you know, to do this, I have to make a lot of judgment calls about which entrepreneur to have on Mixergy, which ones not to, and I feel like we do a good job because we spend hours researching guests and trying to figure out who’s right and who’s just talking the talk and getting away with it on other podcasts and we just don’t want them on here. But sometimes I make mistakes.
Sachin Rekhi is apparently one of those people who I made a mistake with in the past. I don’t know. He just reminded me before we started that the two of us had conversations in the past, and we never had him on here, and I’m not sure why. We’re going to find out here in this interview. He has had a string of successful companies, at least it looks like that from the outside. I want to hear from the inside how well they went. He founded a company that was acquired by imeem which was then acquired by Myspace. It was one of those early acquisitions that Michael Arrington of TechCrunch covered.
He then created a software called Connected which people loved. It’s the CRM that was then acquired by LinkedIn. He is now currently working on a company called Notejoy. Let me read that one sentence description of Notejoy that he gave me. Collaborative notes app for teams. And I’m wondering if that’s the best way to describe it. I feel like it’s what Evernote wanted to be before the founder left, and while the founder was there, and it’s doing it right and I want to know why he wants to get into space and why he wants to focus on it.
This interview is sponsored by two phenomenal sponsors. The first will let you get some publicity. So if you’re starting out in business, you should really get publicity once your product is right. They’ll help you do. It’s called JustReachOut. And the second will help you hire phenomenal developers. It’s called Toptal. Sachin, good to have you here.
Andrew: I feel like you told me about that we weren’t on and you touched like a nerve for me, which is I hate when I don’t have the right entrepreneurs on, but nobody ever feels insulted. Nobody ever walks away feeling like, “Oh, I hate it. Andrew is a jerk. Who does he think he is?” Did you ever feel that way?
Sachin: No, no. Not at all.
Andrew: You seem like a happy-go-lucky person. Are you?
Sachin: I just took that personality test that’s going around from that website, and apparently I have very little negative emotionality, so I guess I just have my high . . .
Andrew: Always or is it because you’ve had this string of successes and you’ve got, like, your life organized?
Sachin: You know, it’s definitely gotten better I’d say. Like, I think my wife and I talked a lot about this kind of pursuit of self-actualization and where we are in kind of Maslow’s hierarchy and certainly it’s gotten a lot better in the last few years because of the string successes, because of matching kind of what we’re working on now with our ultimate passion and doing in a way that is compatible with what we’re really excited about.
Andrew: I have a note here for our producer who talked to you. I said, “You spend too much time talking about Notejoy. What about the past companies that he sold? Spend time on that.” I’m going to . . . Not throw away what you and she talked about, but I’m going to spend a lot of time with you finding out about those previous companies. How much did you sell Connected for to LinkedIn?
Sachin: It was never disclosed, but I will say it was meaningful.
Andrew: It was. I thought maybe it was an acquihire.
Sachin: Yeah. So it ended up being more than acquihire. They actually ended up . . . It was a small team. Actually, it was just my co-founder and I when we got acquired, but they ended up using all the technology. So it was amazing. We were a Python shop. We built a bunch of code around contact management and whatnot. And they ended up deciding, even though LinkedIn was classically a Java shop, to build a Python team around me and kind of our team and actually integrated the technology quite deeply.
We had a bunch of kind of core technology around merging contacts in kind of a better way than Plaxo was doing at the time. And it ended up being meaningful. What happened which was fortuitous is that when we got acquired, the LinkedIn stock price was at about 70 and in the four years I spent there I saw it go all the way up to 210.
Sachin: Two-hundred and ten in terms of stock price.
Andrew: Two-hundred ten. Oh, of course. Makes sense.
Sachin: So the stock price almost went up, like, three times, and so that significantly improved the value of our equity which we’ll talk about in a bit, but with imeem, I had the exact opposite experience where I got all this paper money in terms of equity and that value ended up going almost to zero.
Andrew: Because that was an acquihire. I went back and I looked at Michael Arrington’s post. It was basically one of these companies in the music space that was supposed to do killer well, and then it basically got smashed by the music industry. And we’re going to find out about that.
Let me go further back even than that. Let’s talk about when you were a kid playing Carmen Sandiego. My brother used to play that. What was it that you liked about playing that game as a kid?
Sachin: It was just this opportunity to kind of fly around the world through this game. You’d learn about kind of the pyramids in Egypt, you learn about kind of all these different places, and it sort of became this, like, fun way to be forced to learn about it because that’s the only way you can succeed in the game.
Andrew: So you went to your mom, and you said, “All right, I want more of these video games.” And what did she say?
Sachin: She said, “No. Absolutely not.”
Andrew: She said no?
Sachin: She’s like, “It’s a waste of time, this computer thing. I don’t want to support this. This is just playing time. You should be studying more.”
Andrew: So what did you do because of that?
Sachin: It was like one of these things where I was just enthralled with this Apple 2C computer that my uncle had given me that I had these games on. And since I couldn’t get any new games, I decided, “Well, maybe there’s a way I can make games.” And so I found out on this Apple 2C it had an Apple Basic programming language, and I just started tinkering with that and then realized I could make my own games. And so I started with these, like, basic text-based adventures. So it’d be this thing where, like, my friends would come and play this game and it’d be like, “Hey, you’re in a room. You want to go left, right or straight?” And you type straight and then it tell you, “You were stabbed by a dagger.”
Andrew: I remember those types of games. I wasn’t playing them, but they were pretty popular. And you created one yourself . . .
Andrew: . . . using a lot of if-then commands.
Sachin: Exactly. And go-to statements in the back of the day of Apple Basic.
Andrew: I think you wanted to be . . . I heard you wanted to be like Bill Gates, right?
Sachin: Yeah. And, you know, I think it was this revelation that happened to me at kind of the beginning of high school where I was just making games for absolute fun, and then someone told me, “You can be paid to be a software engineer.” And I grew up in Rochester, New York, upstate New York, didn’t really know any software engineers around there. And I just fell in love with this idea that someone would pay me to, like, make games or any kind of software. And so that’s when I really got passionate about that’s what I’m going to do with do my life. And I remember having kind of hearing about Bill Gates, this guy who created Microsoft and sold a bunch of software, and so I was like, “Okay. Well, that sounds like what I want to do. I got to build software and then sell it.” And that became kind of my role model.
Andrew: Gumball was your first software company. You were a kid about how old?
Sachin: That was at the beginning of high school.
Andrew: Wow. Okay. And so you started creating software, but you did something that a lot of engineers don’t know how to do. You started selling using this creative selling process. Well, what did you do?
Sachin: Yeah. So it was one of these things where I was making these different programs, anything from like, the games we were talking about. I created this thing for my classmates called Vocabulary Master. So it was this simple app that basically quizzed you on your vocabulary test, let you come up with the word a couple times, otherwise, it’ll tell you the definition. And so I started to distribute this to friends and I was like, “Well . . . ” It turns out Bill Gates not only makes the software but then he sells it.
I remember reading about the early days of IBM selling an operating system. So I’m like, “I got to figure out how to do that.” And so I actually hired my friends to be my sales team. And so I went to a bunch of my friends. I had about five of these guys that were my sales team and basically told them, “Hey, guys, do you want to sell my software?” And they were like, “Sure.” And so I gave them a quota. They each had to sell at least 10 copies of the software and the software costs $10 each, and I just said, “Go out to this world and go sell some software.”
Andrew: And they did it and then at one point, one of them couldn’t hit his quota and out of desperation, they contacted their mom and said, “You need to buy it for me.”
Sachin: Yes. So he ended up selling a bunch of copies to his parents.
Andrew: That’s fantastic.
Andrew: All right. So then from there you decided to go get a job. You worked for Microsoft for your hero growing up, Bill Gates. And by the way, let me say this. Bill Gates was the richest man in the world for a long time before there was even a book about him. For the longest time people did not have any respect for entrepreneurs. They just did not care.
Who even remembers the billionaire who was the richest man in the world before him? I do because I was a kid reading about the stuff. John Kluge. I don’t think there was a single book about John Kluge. John Kluge was fantastic. He was this guy . . . And like, fantastic story. He was this guy who owned a bunch of local television stations and he became the richest man when Rupert Murdoch came to him and said, “I need to create Fox Broadcasting Company. I’m going to buy your stations because then I could convert them to Fox stations, and then because I have a few stations that are running my network, I could then go out and get others.” And he built Fox News and John Kluge became this billionaire.
Before that he was like a poker player in college. It’s like, all these stories are fascinating. Nobody cared. You are one of the few people who cared. You ended up working for Microsoft. I’m curious about what led you to start, I guess it was called Anywhere.FM, anywhere. What was it that led you to start that your first big startup?
Sachin: I’d say that story is kind of crazy. What ended up happening was I had a really good buddy at Microsoft, Anson, that him and I used to do dinners monthly where we talked about different startup ideas and we both knew that we treated Microsoft as really our grad school with the idea that we both wanted to start something eventually. He was working on Xbox which is one of the coolest divisions, but frankly, he got bored pretty quickly.
And about a year into both of our stints at Microsoft, he’s like, “You know, I’m getting kind of antsy. Maybe we should go start something.” And I was like, telling him, “Man, I just got to Microsoft. Things are going really well. Let’s hold off maybe six months from now we can go look at it.” And eventually he comes back and said, “Sachin, I’m going. I’m starting something. Are you coming or not?”
And some of the early advice I got from friends was that when you find someone that you’re passionate about working with that you know you’re compatible with that’s eager to start a company, those opportunities are rare and you kind of want to run with those. And actually it turns out in Seattle, it’s one of these tough places where especially getting a job out of Microsoft, out of college, you’re making good money especially against the cost of living that everyone starts buying real estate and getting a condo and whatnot that the number of people that actually go and start something starts to diminish very quickly.
And so here was Anson who’s really excited about starting something and so ultimately I decided, “All right, I’m going with you, Anson.” I don’t know when I’m going to find the next great co-founder to work with. And we did. And the shocking thing was at the time, we didn’t really have a startup idea. We just knew we wanted to start a company.
Andrew: And you were just going to experiment with ideas. What are some of the ideas that you tried out?
Sachin: Yeah. So we decided we were going to experiment with a bunch of stuff and I think we very quickly hit on the idea of Anywhere.FM. Actually, after we’d come up with this other kind of idea which was sort of this like, “Hey, maybe we can create this sticky notes for the web kind of interface.” And you can see I’ve come back to that idea in many ways with Notejoy. But at the time we had this idea of like, maybe it’s easier to capture these quick notes in a lighter weight interface on the web.
Andrew: Wait. So it wasn’t going to be sticky notes on other people’s sites. It was going to be a site where you could just leave your notes.
Sachin: Exactly. So you go there . . .
Andrew: Okay. By the way, is this before you got into Y Combinator? You were in, was it the first batch of Y Combinator in Boston?
Sachin: Yeah, the third, actually.
Andrew: So they did three in Boston. So this was before Y Combinator that you came up with the idea for Anywhere or was it after?
Sachin: Yeah. So went with the idea for sticky notes, we then got an opportunity to interview with Paul Graham for Y Combinator, and Paul Graham was, “I hate your idea. But you know what? I really like the three of you.” We ended up pulling our third friend from Amazon and he’s like, “You guys are in, but you got to come up with a brand new startup idea.”
Andrew: Why did he hate it? You’re not the first person to tell me that. Alexis Ohanian said the same thing that he had this idea for ordering food on the phone before there were smartphones and Paul Graham didn’t like the idea at all, neither did Jess . . . I don’t think Jessica had a strong opinion, but they did both like them strongly.
Andrew: What was it about you that they liked, and what was it about your idea that they didn’t like?
Sachin: You know, I think what they didn’t like was just at the time they just didn’t think the market opportunity was that big . . .
Andrew: For notes.
Sachin: . . . for notes.
Sachin: And that was kind of Paul’s specific take on it. But what he saw in us as the team was just kind of three folks that were . . . We’d always been talking about startup ideas, that we were super passionate about this, we quit our jobs to go work on this full-time regardless of whether we were going to get YC funding or not. We were committed to it. We just thought, “Hey, if we get into YC that would be even better.” So I think he loved our commitment and energy specifically around, like, really, really needing to do a startup. At new at the time with YC. And YC was one of these things that a lot of people were very skeptical in the model. They were kind of thinking of it as like this Idealab trying to be recreated as startup incubator.
Andrew: And Idealab was this accelerator incubator thing that failed miserably in the first version of the internet, so this was a second attempt at it. And then the other thing that people were skeptical about Y Combinator for a long time was they were just going to create these little businesses that were just novelty items online, right? Like, no one thought that Reddit would amount to anything. Even when they sold, it didn’t set the world on fire, and so it felt like they were just going to . . . So what was it that you liked about them?
Sachin: It was our first venture into getting a newer startup and we were looking for any help or any resources we could. And we heard about Paul Graham and what he was doing and we ended up meeting Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman and the whole come up guys before us. And we were like, “Wow. If we can have any support and help to figure this out as opposed to doing it on our own, we’d love it.” And especially when we ended up moving from Seattle to the Valley, the network that we got from Y Combinator was just amazing.
Andrew: Okay. I see an article that you wrote a long time ago about your Y Combinator experience where you said, “We started out as a . . . Anywhere.FM became a web-based music player, kind of like iTunes back when iTunes made sense, now it does way too much, but on the web.” And so you were going to let people play mp3s?
Sachin: Yeah, and actually allow them to take their entire mp3 collection, upload it to the web and then play it from anywhere.
Andrew: Why did they like that? Because the world of people trying to let you upload mp3s to the web was full of failed companies that got destroyed, right? Like mp3.com got knocked on their head. I interviewed the founder a long time ago. What was it that they liked about that idea?
Sachin: So what was fascinating about it was when we built the sticky notes technology we actually used Flash and Flex as actually our code base. And what was fascinating about it is one of our co-founders, Lux, was just playing around and he created this little music player in the sticky note interface and actually, that’s when Paul was like, “Hey, I really like this music thing. What if that thing was the entire thing?” And what was exciting about it was at the time using Flash technology allowed you to create very rich sexy experiences, and our player ended up being super sexy. Not only did we have all the features you’d expect in iTunes, but we recreated Winamp style visualizers, but in your web browser. And so that would be . . .
Andrew: These are those little . . . the things that just make the music feel like it’s moving on your screen.
Andrew: Okay. And so had all that. You launched it. You then got customers how or users?
Sachin: First, we just got press folks like, TechCrunch got us press, and then got a bunch of users through that. We also just used the YC network. Obviously, like, all of our early customers and users were just people from the YC class. And one of our best growth hacks actually ended up being StumbleUpon.
Andrew: How did you use StumbleUpon? This was a site where you just keep hitting another button and see another random site that kind of was geared to your liking, then again hit a button and get another one. What did you do that made that work well?
Sachin: So what was awesome was someone like . . . a bunch of people started stumbling us and then you can basically give StumbleUpon feedback that you actually liked it. And then we started seeing a bunch of organic traffic from StumbleUpon. So we started optimizing the experience. Initially when you come to Anywhere.FM, you had to login, create a sign up. We actually changed it, so as soon as you come to Anywhere.FM, we can just start playing music. We grabbed a ton of indie music and we actually started, as soon as you hit the site, the music just starts playing.
Andrew: Okay. And people liked that quickness at a world where you couldn’t get music online very easily.
Andrew: This is before YouTube Music.
Sachin: Exactly. And then as soon as they opened up their ad platform we actually became one of the first platforms where you can pay for stumbles where you can actually pay for people to come. And it was cheaper than any other ad platform at the time because no one really understood StumbleUpon and why you would pay for it.
Andrew: Why did you sell it to imeem?
Sachin: So it was one of these fascinating challenges being in the music space. It was one of these situations where we allowed you to take your entire music collection, upload it to the web and play it from anywhere. We also let you have your friends play that music. And so the way we did that is we converted your iTunes playlist into radio stations that your friends could play kind of like what Pandora does and we made them legally compliant radio stations. However, the legal challenge we had was the same challenge that mp3.com and some of the other digital locker services had, which is, if you and I upload the exact same song, I have to keep both copies on my site even though they’re the exact same bits on this and that makes it cost-prohibitive to really run a digital locker service.
Andrew: And that was a nutty thing. Let me just emphasize that. If I have a song on my computer and you have the exact same one on your computer. We both had the CD because we both went old school and bought it. We both then upload it to a service, that service can’t say, “This is the same file. I’m just going to keep it once and play for both people.” No. It has to say, “I’m going to have one for Sachin, one for Andrew.” Okay. And so it was starting to get expensive for you to run the site. Let me pause here for a second and then come back and continue telling your story. Actually, you know what? Let’s continue with the story and then we’ll come back to the ad. So you said, “This is too expensive.” Why was partnering up with imeem such a helpful thing?
Sachin: Yeah. And so then the cost was becoming fairly prohibitive and like, we had raised 20K from YC at the time, we raised another 100K afterwards from YC, Paul Buchheit and a few other people, but our Amazon S3 bills were skyrocketing. And actually, at the time, we were Amazon S3 second largest customer after SmugMug because of the terabytes of music that people had uploaded.
And so we were going down the route of potentially raising funding and actually gotten in touch with Sequoia. And Sequoia had spent a bunch of time with us especially because of the YC connection. But ultimately, what they wanted to do is introduce us to imeem. And the rationale was, “Hey, imeem has actually done deals with all four major labels, so all of your legal questions and cost issues go away because they have on-demand streaming rights, and so then you don’t have to worry about any of the costs.”
And what we were trying to realize was that to create a digital locker service and really make it work, we’d have to have people paying us like, $10 a month for this service when we really had thought of it as this kind of freemium style model. We didn’t think we can make the economics work independently as a freemium digital style business. So when we saw the opportunity to get acquired by imeem and really leverage their licenses to not have to worry about the cost piece of it, we saw that as an opportunity.
Andrew: And imeem at the time let people play their music, but also embed those songs on the number one social network, Myspace.
Sachin: That’s right, exactly.
Andrew: That’s what it was. They raised what? $20 million . . . $50 million from Sequoia. Wow. They had a bunch of money.
Sachin: Yeah, quite a bit.
Andrew: No wonder.
Sachin: It was one of these things where, unfortunately, all of that money more than 50% went straight back to the labels in terms of licensing fees.
Andrew: All like, $50 million you’re saying went to the labels?
Sachin: Yeah, yeah, about 50% of it because the licensing fees to get these great deals, they had deals with all four major labels for on-demand streaming which was rare at the time, and so they were actually the largest ad supported music streaming site in the world. They had over 30 million monthly uniques, but it came at a cost. These licenses were not cheap.
Andrew: And then after the acquisition, the company basically shut down. Why did Myspace even want to acquire you guys?
Sachin: Well, so Myspace or imeem?
Andrew: Why did My . . . I guess, imeem, I could understand why they’d want you. You guys are in the same space, you guys actually have a different twist on it. It’s related. Why did Myspace want to acquire the combination of the two companies?
Sachin: Yeah, it was mainly to get access to the audience. Because imeem had built up this user base of 30 million users, they basically wanted to redirect it to the new service that they were building, Myspace Music, and it turned out because the licensing deals that Myspace Music had was different than imeem, like, there wasn’t a clear just, “Hey, let’s keep both running,” but, “Let’s take advantage of the audience so we can have it.”
Andrew: That’s awful. That’s so bad. And then it closed down. Did you feel like a failure at the end of that?
Sachin: It was tough. I’d say, like, when we first Anywhere.FM got acquired by imeem, we were paper millionaires each of the three c- founders and we saw all of that with the Myspace acquisition basically have that paper wealth go to zero.
Andrew: And when it did, how did you handle it?
Sachin: It was tough. I think I had seen the path coming for imeem to not really been able to monetize. It was fascinating. I spent my time at imeem the first year working on the user experience which was kind of what they brought us in for because our player was so sexy and they wanted us to bring that UX to imeem. But after I got there I realized monetization was a big issue, so I spent all of my time trying to right the ship in terms of monetization, creating a new actually, audio ad program. Now we’re all used to this with Spotify and whatnot, but this is one of the first audio ad programs. So I was trying to solve for it on the monetization side. Unfortunately, we even created millions of dollars of new revenue but it was too little too late and forced to sell it to Myspace out of that opportunity.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, it’d beyond like your ability to solve it technically, there needed to be a group of people who were willing to buy it, and then some . . . Now there are companies whose whole job is to take your text and convert it into a good voiceover ad that you can then put into these audio networks. But you didn’t tell me that. How did you feel personally? I know . . . I had a situation where I have in my drawer somewhere here an acquisition offer for one of my companies for almost $100 million, I said no to it, and then years later, I was basically sleepwalking through my day thinking, “How did you not take that opportunity? You had an opportunity locking your wealth.” And it was tough. What was it for you?
Sachin: I think it was an absolute roller coaster ride, like, especially when it feels so real when the paper value is kind of sitting you in the face. And so it was really tough. I think the saving grace sadly is that it was sort of a slow decline and so I saw it coming, and so there wasn’t really any moment where I’m like, “Oh my God, all of a sudden, like, now imeem is no more.” It was more like, I saw this coming the entire time and I was trying to right the ship. I think the biggest challenges I suffered was, could I have done more to make more monetization happen and do it faster? Was this partly kind of my fault that the whole company wasn’t able to survive? It’s kind of one of the . . .
Andrew: How did you get past that?
Sachin: I think ultimately, it was sort of like a realization that it wasn’t about us as much as it was about kind of the industry and the model and that we just wasn’t ready for it. And it’s one of these things we’re timing, it’s one of these things that you just can’t control and plays a big part of it. And just realizing risk is part of being an entrepreneur and it’s part of kind of the ride and I think then moving on to go do my next startup realizing that this is the risk you bear when you go and [honestly 00:24:51] do something.
Andrew: All right. We’ll come back and talk about that. By the way. Dalton Caldwell, I think it was a talk that he gave, but I think I might’ve read it as a blog post about the difficulty of getting into the music space. And I feel like he’s someone who’s super brilliant, who is always right, and the market unfortunately doesn’t agree with him. Like that . . . He also did a Twitter killer. There’s so many people who wanted that thing to work and he was right to say there needs to be something better. He was right with music to say there needs to be something here that’s online, and the market unfortunately just slaps his great ideas down. It’s one of those really difficult experiences to watch, but I’m impressed the guy just kept going no matter the difficulty.
All right. First, I want to tell you about a company called JustReachOut. They do PR. Now, the thing is, a lot of businesses, Sachin, need good PR but PR agencies charge what? $15,000, $20,000 a month which basically starts to sap a lot of your cash and then they don’t produce much those PR agencies. So JustReachOut said, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep things simple.” And he gave me a bunch of examples, I’ll give you one of them because this guy, Dmitry, just freaking loaded me up with examples of how he does PR for people, but I like one.
There’s something called RoboKiller which you could attach to your phone. As we were talking I got junk calls on my phone. I forgot to turn stuff on. There’s something called RoboKiller that you can connect to your phone, Apple even allows this, that will then start to screen out all the junk calls. Now, most people don’t understand that this exists, don’t know that there’s a company out there to do it, and there are tons of apps in the app store. How does RoboKiller stand out?
What they did was they said, “We’re not going to hire a PR agency. We’re just going to work with JustReachOut, justreachout.io/mixergy.” And what JustReachOut helped them do was figuring out how to explain what they do in a way that people care about, how to talk about the founders like these two contest winners who had this idea that the FTC was sponsoring, how they’re helping fight back all these robo killers, how they have these creative ways of basically taunting the robo killing companies, once I get them on the phone they record these calls and then they play them online. Like all these little cutesy things I see you smile as you talk about it, that’s what RoboKiller needed to identify that was interesting about them.
JustReachOut helped them identify those things, helped them tell their story, helped them reach . . . helped them put together a list of media outlets to go after, and then showed them what to do, “How do you go after those media outlets?” And then it was on RoboKiller to actually do the work to actually go out there and get that publicity. And you know what, Sachin? You probably know this. The founder is more likely to get press than some random PR flack that nobody cares about. And so if the founders, if the creators knew what to do, they could just go out there and start pitching themselves. I know about this because I interviewed the founder of RoboKiller and I said, “How do you get all this press?” He said, “We just work with this company, justreachout.io.” And sure enough, they were on ABC, they were on national stations, there were local stations. Everyone seemed to have covered them.
If you need some publicity for your company, and Sachin that goes for you too, here’s what you do. Number one, go to justreachout.io/mixergy. Number two, you’re going to see that Dmitry is a freaking madman behind there who’s probably going to want to screen you to make sure you’re a good fit. So he’s going to ask you to just jump on a call with him or somebody to see if it’s a good fit. And if you are, he will help you get a ton of publicity for your company.
This guy is a freaking madman. I asked him for help one, he starts doing my . . . he starts working with my writers, he starts working with my team to help us write good content, not like, assistant or someone, he does it. He’s probably going to be the person who gets on a call with you. He loaded me up with these freaking ton of case studies. Dmitry, I can’t go through a million different case studies. Anyone who wants they can go see it on his website.
I’m going to tell you guys, go to justreachout.io/mixergy. You can book a demo with him. He’ll spend time with you. He’ll probably over-deliver because the guy is a little bit of a madman. I don’t know how he’s still in a relationship with his wife considering how much time he puts into his work. I asked him for one bit of help. It wasn’t just that, he even took me to breakfast to spend time telling me how I could do my stuff. All right, justreachout.io/mixergy.
Are you in a relationship, Sachin? You are. You’re married.
Sachin: Yeah, I am.
Andrew: Do you make to ensure to spend time with your wife?
Sachin: Yes, every day. Actually, a lot.
Andrew: Like at night every day, because you don’t have kids.
Sachin: No kids, yes. We just have a puppy, a four-year-old puppy.
Andrew: You thinking about her . . . No, it’s too much of a personal question. I’ll tell you what. Olivia and I, we have these young kids. It is so tough for us to just go do date night. We will, like, get into these wacky argument sometimes and it feels like, “What are we even doing together?” And then we go to date night, we go, “Oh, yeah, this is what . . . We like each other a lot.” It’s like these interruptions in our time, the kids are screaming, the obligations that caused trouble.
All right. Let’s go on to the next company. You decide, “I’m not giving up on entrepreneurship. I still believe in it.” You not only created Connected, but dude, I went back in time, you must have been a madman getting publicity. These little bloggers wrote in-depth articles about Connected. What was the idea for Connected?
Sachin: Yeah. So it’s interesting because the idea for Connected actually came from imeem, which most people are surprised about. How do I go from music to this kind of contact management tool? And so it turned out at imeem, because I was focused on monetization, especially working with our audio ads, I’d end up spending a lot of time with our sales team. So the sales team would literally fly me out to Madison Avenue, New York City to go meet with a bunch of these ad agencies and I’d be kind of the technical guy talking about the ad product. And I got a chance to work with our top sales people.
And what was fascinating to me is the first time I had actually worked with salespeople, and what was amazing is, I realized there 10Xers just like software engineers. We all talk about this idea that a software engineer can be a 10Xer, meaning, a single software engineer could have the output of up to 10 software engineers based on just skill and ability. I found that exactly to be the case with salespeople.
And what you’d see is you’d have average sales person bringing in maybe 100K of quota, and then you’d have amazing salesperson bringing in a million a quota in the same month. And I really started to ask myself, “Why is that? What is so special about these rockstars that I get to work with compared to the average sales person?” And what I realized was that there’s many aspects of it, but one of the most important was how intuitively relationship-oriented these folks were and how . . .
I remember one of the guys I worked with, Matt, we’d fly to New York and we’d be in New York and we had a bunch of meetings scheduled, but that night he’d be flicking through his phone and being like, “Hey, let’s go meet up with Sarah. Let’s grab coffee or let’s grab a drink with her.” I’m like, “Oh, do we have a meeting with her?” He’s like, “No, we’re just building network and kind of building relationships and rapport.” We’d go into the sales meetings and he’d spend the first 10, 15 minutes talking nothing about imeem or the products, but really just kind of chatting with these folks about their kids or about their family life, and as . . .
Andrew: And he remembered it. The 10Xers would remember these stuff about their kids and family life?
Sachin: Yes. And he remember these details. Okay. And what I ultimately realized was that they have the superpowers that it’s not like every average sales person can’t have them, they just need help to be as effective when it came to relationships. And so the thought with Connected was twofold. One, we wanted to solve for the classic challenge that everyone had managing their contacts as sort of a Plaxo 2.0 where you can aggregate your contacts, keep them up to date, never have to do data entry because it does it for you, but then second, more importantly, help you be better at managing your relationships by virtue of the fact that it’s going to do a lot of this remembering for you in terms of keeping you and making you a better relationship person.
Andrew: For people who don’t know, Plaxo was Sean Parker’s company that just went insanely viral. You’d get emails from people saying, “Hey, I want to make sure that my contact information for you is up to date. Click here to fill it out.” You fill out a form and then it would say, “All right. Now, not only did your friend, Sachin, get this data updated, do you want to update your address book?” Just become an account member and then you become an account member, and suddenly everyone on your email list will start getting that message asking them to update their contact information, your address book, and went insanely viral.
You’re saying you kind of learn from that. I’m looking at an early version of your site where you specifically said, “You can actually get reminded to follow up with someone within a week, a month or I guess once a quarter,” or something like that. The thing that stood out for me was, number one, that screenshot was in a bunch of blogs because people did write about it. But number two, Susan Su is on there, Andrew Chen is on there. How did you know these people? These are . . . They’re not that they’re on there, they’re like models on the site, you showing your address book and how it could be used. What’s your connection to Susan Su and Andrew Chen?
Sachin: So actually, I’m married to Andrew Chen’s sister.
Sachin: So when I first moved to the Valley, I actually got to meet Andrew through Ada, and it was kind of an awesome, helpful way to kind of get plugged into the Valley. He’s always been a huge supporter of everything Ada and I have worked on. And through Andrew, I actually met Susan Su and Brian Balfour and kind of a bunch of the other kind of growth-focused people.
Andrew: And Andrew Chen has been a guy who’s written about viral marketing and had really insightful opinions about tech companies. And now he’s a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, isn’t he?
Sachin: Yeah, that’s right.
Andrew: Do you spend time actually talking to him and private about your work or does it feel a little too weird?
Sachin: No, all the time. We love geeking out in tech.
Andrew: You do.
Sachin: We’re constantly geeking out about what he’s working on in the venture side or our startup and his ideas and growth and we’re constantly spending time thinking about how do we kind of double down in our growth in Notejoy, and he’s been a huge help for that.
Andrew: What’s a good idea that he’s given you?
Sachin: A lot of it has really just been about, how do you bake in virality in the product from day one? You saw it right when you went through the online experience of signing up for Notejoy. How do you get people to invite from day one? If you’d use G-Suite to go through that onboarding process and even recommend people that you might want to invite. And so we’re spending a lot of time reducing the friction of sharing and making sharing as easy as possible not as like a growth hack but really as something that’s built into the product from day one as a core aspect of the experience.
Andrew: All right. I got to ask you a personal question. Totally fine to say Andrew this is just out of bounds. But with Andrew Chen being your brother-in-law, do you ever feel like your wife is kind of comparing you to Andrew’s success and if you’re not meeting it that maybe she’s like, not beat with someone who’s that successful? Do you feel that way at all or is that just me in my head?
Sachin: No. No, actually. Not at all. I think one of the things that Ada and I really aligned on is I think success for different people means different things and I think Ada and I are really kind of, as I mentioned earlier on this path to self-actualization, and actually, what we realized is that it’s not just about kind of making the most money or having the most success, but doing it in a way that’s 100% aligned with your values such that you’re spending your time every day doing what you love as opposed to . . .
Andrew: How do you know what that is?
Sachin: I think it’s been a long journey for me. Obviously, I was lucky enough early in my life to know that software engineering was my passion, but it’s really been kind of this iteration of getting to the point of realizing that entrepreneurship is my passion, not just kind of building software, but then even doing in the specific way, right? Like, we’re super lean team. We bootstrapped. We think that actually gives us freedoms and we kind of take advantage of those freedoms. And it’s been sort of a journey of going through different startups working at large companies like Microsoft and LinkedIn and enjoying it, but realizing it wasn’t my ultimate dream to really find that, like, “Okay. There’s a style of startup that Ada and I want to do that’s ultimately going to be something that makes us successful.”
Andrew: And it’s, I’m surprised that you’re saying, no outside capital. And you’ve said that to me even before we started, I think you said it to our producer, and so it feels like it’s really important to you. And I’m surprised because you are so bankable, you are so venture-backable because of the people you know, because of the track record you’ve had. Why are you saying no to venture capital with Notejoy? We’ll talk about that as soon, but why?
Sachin: Yeah. It turns out like we’re in this kind of broad-based document collaboration space, and we’ve seen tons of failures of venture-funded startups in this space. I can name three in the time that we’ve started . . .
Andrew: Like what? What are the three?
Sachin: Canvas, Bold, and Memo AI, all three of these companies have raised millions of dollars and now they’re all dead. And it turns out the challenge with the classic venture-funded route is that you end up in sort of this cycle where you raise a seed round of funding of a few million bucks, you’re expected in 18 to 24 months to convert that somehow into a million in ARR or more, and then you go and raise subsequent rounds.
It turns out when you’re in the document collaboration space competing with incumbents like Google Docs and Microsoft Office, the ability in 18 to 24 months to turn any product into a viable alternative, let alone something that’s generating a million ARR is next to impossible, almost no one’s been able to do it.
Andrew: I can see that. All right. Let’s continue and then I want to come back to Notejoy because I want to ask you, how do I fit this into my life? You, for some reason, just hit huge on Product Hunt and I said I got to figure out what it is that I could do with it, and I couldn’t find it. All right. So you were running Connected, you got a lot of publicity for it, you got users on, it went viral, and then within like, no time . . . Let me see how long it was. Within . . . How long was it before you sold? It was a year?
Sachin: Less than a year.
Andrew: Less than a year. Why did you sell so fast?
Sachin: Yeah. So we launched February 2011. We’ve been working on it for about a year and a half, but then we ended up selling it in October 2011. And it’s interesting, we had no plans to sell it at the time. We were continuing to work on the product. And what was exciting about Connected was we had seen a lot of failures in this space of contact management, tools like Xobni and others in the space, and what we decided was to put a price tag on it from day one.
Andrew: Ten bucks a month I saw.
Sachin: Yeah, $10 a month for the product. And we really want to make sure people were actually willing to pay for this thing as opposed to building something with millions of users and not being able to monetize it like, some of my [brother 00:39:27] had done. And so we charged from day one. And what was exciting was just even months after we launched, our conversion funnel was quite strong. We were seeing 8% to 12% of people who joined up our homepage, sign up for the free trial, then 6% to 8% of those convert to the full paid product.
And so every time I showed this to anyone, it turned out everyone we talked to like Andrew and all these guys were like, “Your conversion funnel is strong. Your challenge is growth.” And so we started spending like 80% of our time on growth. And we did integrations with third-party applications, we tried to get people to write about us, we were seeing a lot of success in the real estate space. So we were doing a lot of blogging in real estate. And it’s one of these things where all our growth channels were linear, and so we were planning on just keeping on plugging away.
And then it turned out LinkedIn had actually been following us from the beginning when we first launched in February 2011, when we announced our seed funding in about July 2011. And they kept seeing the product iterate and improve, and so Elliot Shumkler was head of the core product team at LinkedIn called us in and said, “Hey, I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing.” And what he was saying was that at LinkedIn, they wanted to kind of double down on the address book scenario. But what they saw in our product was everything they had imagined building but so much more that they don’t even thought of and . . .
Andrew: Like what?
Sachin: We were doing things like for example, that reminder feature we talked about was not just reminding you to get back in touch on whatever cadence you said, maybe you want to get in touch with someone every month, but it actually looked at the fact, have you communicated with that person? If you’ve communicated with that person in the last month, we won’t bother you with a reminder. If you haven’t, that’s when we’ll remind you, and that was because we had access to your email, your calendar, even your phone calls via Google Voice, so we had your entire conversation history so we can be super smart about these reminders to make less work for you.
Andrew: I get it and I love . . . The product looked so good and it was smart. What it would do is, it would if I added a little bit of contact information, it would go and pull all the person’s social media information in there not just links to it but . . . Tell me if I’m wrong. It would even pull in information about their accounts so that if I happen to meet someone who was on Twitter talking about how they just got sick, I could bring that up.
Andrew: It pulled it in.
Sachin: And it was amazing because like, what it would do is like it made super easy where your contact information was updated automatically. So someone simply updated their LinkedIn profile to say they have a new job, contact record is updated. Someone updates their location on Facebook to say they moved [new city 00:42:10], automatically updated, no data entry on your part.
Andrew: All right. I should say my second sponsor is a company called Toptal for hiring developers. You talk about 10Xer developers. Do you have an example of what a 10Xer . . . This is part of the ad for Toptal. Instead of talking about Toptal, I’ll talk about a 10X developer. Do you have an example of what a 10X developer was able to do for you that others couldn’t do?
Sachin: I think it just comes out like, I’ve always been kind of the primary developer in actually my apps both Anywhere.FM, Connected, and Notejoy. And what people are always surprised about was just how productive we’ve been as a team especially in terms of how much product we’ve been able to build both at Connected and Notejoy. And so I hate to toot my own horn, but it turns out that when you’re able to do it, you can accomplish way more with your resources. It’s great.
Andrew: All right. If you’re out there and you’re looking to hire really the best of the best. If you’re looking for cheap, if you’re looking for somebody who’s just an interesting bargain, this is not for you, just skip this ad. But if you’re looking for the best of the best developers, go check out toptal.com/mixergy. They will immediately get on a call with you so you can tell them what you’re looking for. You’ll chat with them and then they’ll introduce you to a couple of developers. And often, they will be exactly what you’re looking for. And if they are, you can get started often within days. If not, nothing lost.
I will even say this, once you start with them not only will they give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit for free when you pay for your first 80 hours, they’re also going to give you a no-risk-trial period. Really, you’re not happy, you don’t pay, but the developer will still get paid. Sachin and every other entrepreneur who is listening and every other CTO who is listening should go check out toptal.com/mixergy. Top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, toptal.com/mixergy.
I’m going to close it out with the sale. Quora is usually pretty junky for me, but I learned a couple of things. Number one, you seem to have preferred calling it Connected HQ and I keep calling it Connected. I assume the product name was Connected and you needed connectedhq.com as domain. That’s what it was, but people eventually started calling it Connected HQ.
Sachin: That’s right, yeah. And then we just needed the domain. We couldn’t get the domain. It was unfortunate name because people start googling “Connected” and we can never win the search rankings for “Connected” so we started to kind of call it Connected HQ to get people to search for Connected HQ.
Andrew: That is what I prefer. If your domain is Connected HQ, I’d rather you just call it Connected HQ. It becomes really difficult for me to search and do research and prep for someone. The second thing I would say is, so there’s someone on Quora asked, “How much was the acquisition price for Connected HQ?” And this woman, Joan Hoffman, went and did the research. She goes in and sees the 10K filing for LinkedIn from 2011.
LinkedIn acquired three companies back then for $7.4 million. Then she looked at the three different companies and Cardmunch was one of them. That according to the S1 filings was for $1.7 million which leaves $5.7 million for Connected and IndexTank, the other company. According to CrunchBase, Index Tank raise $1.6 . . . Anyway, she basically comes down to the bottom line which says that Connected would have sold for $1.4 million. Is this crazy?
Sachin: It’s pretty crazy because it turns out when you look at the way these acquisitions are done, the actual compensation goes across both acquisition and actual consideration that you get as an employee, and so they can play with where it shows up. It leads to unfortunately, the filing actually not disclosing the full amount of acquisition consideration that comes out of it.
Andrew: All right. You sold, you stuck with it. Most people would have left within like a year or so. You stuck for the full four years and it wasn’t just staying in . . . Was it four years?
Andrew: It was. And it wasn’t just staying in there for four years. Dude, I got lost in your story of what you did at LinkedIn. You are someone who was like totally into it. They gave you a lot of responsibility. You said from the start, “I’m not going in there and changing their culture. I’m going to change my culture to theirs. We’re going to fit in here, we’re going to have . . . I’m going to make a difference.” And as a result, your software was built into what? And then we’ll move on to Notejoy. What happened with the stuff that you did?
Sachin: Yeah. So I kind of had two amazing tours of duty at LinkedIn. The first was, we took the Connected software, integrated deeply on the LinkedIn stack. And as I mentioned, like, a bunch of the code is still being used to this day. But now, anytime you’re on LinkedIn, if you go to Contacts Tab, within LinkedIn we can manage your connections. That was all of our team. Anytime you get a job change notification either on the app, in an email, that was our team. When you see people mentioned in the news, that was our team. So a lot of these relationship-oriented capabilities on LinkedIn were all about what we were able to build into LinkedIn and really kind of have LinkedIn start to care more about relationship management as opposed to just being kind of the professional profile of record which it was really the focus at the time.
Andrew: You were working at LinkedIn when you realized that there was a problem in the way that big teams communicate. You started talking to our producer about how you’d have these all-hands meeting with 500 people. Wow. That’s a lot of people for you to manage. And as a . . . And what happened there that led you to think about Notejoy?
Sachin: Yeah. So as I mentioned, I had a second tour of duty at LinkedIn which was awesome, which was, when we were working on Connected, a lot of our top users paying us for the product were sales professionals, as you’d expect, because they’re the people who are in the relationship business. And so I kept telling LinkedIn, “Hey, you guys should build a tool for salespeople.” And while they had a general subscription, they did anything dedicated to sales professionals.
So ultimately, they said, “Hey, do you want to build the product?” And I got a chance to build a kind of venture team inside of LinkedIn, built a brand new enterprise scale product dedicated to sales professionals. We ended up launching it called Sales Navigator. And what was awesome about that experience is it went from about eight engineers in the corner kind of ideating a bunch of ideas, I then got the opportunity to present it in an off-site and then got insane funding for it. Within the next two years, we ultimately grew the team to about 500 folks. This is 50 people in R&D, 50 people in marketing and 400 people in direct sales, ultimately grew the revenue for Sales Navigator to over 200 million in revenue and now it’s grown well past that.
And I found myself in the situation where I’d gone from kind of a product manager working with a bunch of engineers to really a GM of a large organization. And it turned out, I wasn’t spending any of my time on core product in the way I used to because I had a whole team of product managers. I was really spending all my time thinking about, “How do I make this shift of 500 people constantly move in the right direction?”
Sachin: And I really that my focus and that’s when a lot of the ideas heard for Notejoy because what we were noticing was that I was spending all my time really focusing on, “How do I make sure everyone’s aligned moving in the right direction?” This would be things like those all-hand meetings I was talking about. I’d walk in and lead one of these all-hands and realize, “I’m about to waste 500 person hours, so this better be useful in the sense that there’s 500 people who are going to waste an hour with me, so it better be useful.”
And so I spent a lot of time thinking about that content. We spent a lot of time on things like quarterly OKR processes, which is Objectives and Key Results, a goal setting framework that we were big users of at LinkedIn and really trying to make sure everyone was moving in the same direction. And yet, when I talked to people, I’d ask them, “Hey, do you feel like you have everything you need to be successful in your role?” And people would constantly tell me, “You know, LinkedIn is a big company. I’m sure there’s something going on in this organization that I should be benefiting from that I don’t know about.”
And that just made us realize that we were leveraging all these people processes, OKRs, meetings, daily stand ups, emails to keep everyone up to date on what was going on. And the tools we were using weren’t doing much for us, whether it was email, Slack, Google Docs in terms of keeping everyone up to date, having everyone have the right information that they need, and we felt like there was this opportunity to solve this gap that was resulting in it being very difficult to find institutional knowledge that was really valuable for you.
Andrew: So why not just create a wiki? I think memo.ai was a wiki-based product. Why not just pick one of those and say, “All the information about how our company works is going to be in this one thing”?
Sachin: You know, it turns out every company’s done that. We tried that at LinkedIn as well. We adopted Confluence which is JIRA’s wiki solution. And the biggest thing that happens is everyone starts with good intention that, “Great, we’re going to keep this wiki up to date.” And then it meets the reality of work-life, which is, “I’m super busy getting my job done.” And what we noticed was that people use a wiki when they feel like they need to broadly share content with the team, but when they’re just getting stuff done, they’re using a different set of tools. And so we realized there was a significant friction point between tools like Confluence and whatnot and the day-to-day tools people preferred using just to get work done.
Andrew: I feel that same thing happens in my company too, that we will say to everyone, “If you have something that you’re doing or something that you need to remember for the future, just go and put it in a Google Doc or put it in . . . ” We use Basecamp. I really like Basecamp’s simplicity. And we don’t do it. We don’t create a new thing for it. Where we end up coming back to is, if we’re using chat or if we’re using messaging on tasks, you can always go back and search for the tasks and see what was the process. It feels like just saving the process as people do it, would be the answer. Why do you think that notes would be the answer to this problem?
Sachin: You know, it turns out what you’ve observed is exactly what happens. Everyone falls back on email and Slack instead of Google Docs or wikis. And what you see is that 90% of institutional knowledge within an organization is email, Slack stuck in people’s head whiteboards and only 10% makes it to that Doc or wiki.
Andrew: I’ll also add to that tasks. So Asana, Basecamp, whatever you’re using.
Sachin: Yeah. And the challenge though, is that people are using email and Slack because it’s frictionless to capture and share, but then you don’t get any other value, like, actually, honestly, searching through any of those tools is miserable. Finding anything later that might be relevant is very difficult. New employee joins, like, what do you expect them to sit there and kind of scroll through pages of Slack messages? It’s not going to happen.
And so we believe what was happening was, you have these low friction tools like email and Slack and then these high friction tools like Google Docs and wikis, and we felt like there needs to be a middle ground where it’s low friction, like email and Slack, but then has all of the structure and the searchability of something like a Google Doc and wiki. And that’s where we felt the existing tools were falling short, and we had an opportunity to create something new.
Andrew: Okay. So then it took you six months, I think, to create the first version. Am I right about that?
Andrew: And then you went in to alpha?
Andrew: You were working with your wife on this?
Andrew: The co-founders. And you said, “What can we do to make this better than Evernote?”
Andrew: Why Evernote?
Sachin: What we noticed, actually, was that when people are working, they’re capturing notes when they’re doing the work itself, maybe it’s an Evernote, maybe it’s an Apple Notes, maybe it’s just an email draft email that they have open, and when they’re doing work that’s where the content is being created in the first place and then later it migrates into a Google Doc or wiki.
And what we thought was, “What if we can create an experience that has all the productivity of that lightweight interface that you’re already using to do the work, but then also has all the collaborative features that you expect in a Google Doc and a wiki?” And our idea was to create both a super, super productive experience like Evernote. So it has apps for all the platforms you’d expect, it has keyboard shortcuts, markdown. Speed is a huge feature for us. And a lot of time is spent on making that super productive in the interface but then also gives you all the collaborative aspects.
And so we thought that notes was this right kind of model to get people to capture more than they’ve ever been capturing because it feels far lighter weight. You open up a Google Doc and you think, you’re not going to put three bullet points in it and share it. You would with a note, though, and oftentimes that’s all you need to communicate the information. And so notes felt like the right metaphor analogy for what we’re trying to accomplish.
Andrew: Like if I’m thinking through what to do next or what we did that worked for the last scotch night so that we remember for the next one, you’re thinking, “I’m going to hit a button and I’m going to be able to open up a new note, I’m going to save it, and then if it’s in our notebook that’s shared, then the rest of the team will have it.
Andrew: And as you looked at Evernote what did you see that they were missing because they do that?
Sachin: You know, their collaboration features are very light.
Andrew: So, you know what? I’m sorry to interrupt you, but we used to use them for interviews. It was so bad because if my assistant a minute before the interview came in and wrote a note while I was preparing for the interview, we’d end up with two different notes.
Sachin: Exactly. Exactly.
Andrew: That’s the worst.
Sachin: And the challenge is Evernote has not only merge conflicts when you’re working with other people, it has merge conflicts when you’re working with yourself. If you actually . . .
Andrew: Right. I would do that on my phone and then they don’t . . .
Andrew: I’m sorry to interrupt. They don’t actually update in real time. The lowest you could set it to is 15 minutes. I don’t know why they shifted into chat when they didn’t solve that one freaking issue.
Sachin: Exactly. And that . . .
Andrew: So then if I’m on my phone making it note edit and then I come back to my desktop to make another note edit, I have to remember, “No, it didn’t sync. I have to hit Sync.”
Andrew: That’s what you’re talking about.
Sachin: And to hit Sync is insane.
Sachin: And that’s where we saw a huge opportunity. Technically, yes, you can share a note in Evernote, but the experience fell short as soon as you started to do that. With Notejoy it’s the complete opposite. When you share notes with other people, we have full-real time collaborative editing experience just like you’re used to in Google Docs. Multiple people can be editing a note across any interface, people can be on web, desktop, mobile. And it’s full fidelity. You never lose any information across whatever device you’re in. We also kind of went above and beyond with other collaborative features. We have full-on threaded discussions that you can have right within the note.
Andrew: All right, I’ve got one of your notes. This is my second account. The first one was a personal use. Because I couldn’t remember my password within the five minutes before we started, I just loaded it using my business account. And you’re right. The virality part made a lot of sense. As soon as I sign up, you said, “Hey, do you want to also add everyone else using the @mixergy email address?” which I love because I need, if we’re going to use it, I want it to be all connected. I’m in here. Where would I have a threaded discussion with people on my team about this note? I’ve got one of the notes open right now.
Sachin: Yeah. So well, I think if you skipped the creative team library piece, you have to do that first. And so if you just press the Add button and then it says, “Add team library,” make sure you make a library with your team.
Andrew: Okay, I see it now. “Add notebook or add team library.” And so now I can start a conversation with everyone and they automatically get access to all the notes in that folder or whatever you called.
Sachin: Exactly. Now every note you create in there is immediately shared with that team. And it’s sort of like Slack channels where you don’t have to worry about sharing permissions on a kind of per email basis, you just put in the right Slack channel. So you might compose a note in your personal notes, you’re ready to share it, just drag it and drop it to the Mixergy team library, and boom, it’s automatically shared with all the right people without any sharing permissions on your part.
Andrew: Okay. And then you said you also, unlike Google Docs, you would . . . We’re definitely going over time here. You got a little more time for me?
Andrew: Okay. I’m fascinated by this. Oh, now I logged in using . . . I went to your homepage using an incognito window and now I see it. So on the right side I would actually get to see who’s in there to the right of my notes and I would get to see the chat that’s happening around this. All right. My next thought then is, all right, I get why it’s better than Evernote because I just don’t like Evernote unfortunately. Like you said, markdown, I heard them do a podcast years ago, someone said, “Can you please do markdown? It’s easier than this, like, heavy duty HTML.” And they explain why they couldn’t do it. It’s basically a legacy issue and it’s hard for them to go backwards. The thing that you told our producer that stuck out for me was integrations. Like, what’s the Trello integration? How does that work?
Sachin: Yeah. So integrations have been huge for us. I think when you see people in the space, there’s one of two mentalities, one is, “We’re going to build everything ourselves or we’re going to be a best to be true best-of-breed tool and integrate with other best-of-breed tools.” We’ve taken that approach.
In Notejoy you can certainly create tasks, but we decided to actually integrate with great tools like Trello, and so that’s been super successful for us. So when you’re in Trello and you’re creating Trello cards which are actual tasks, now what you can do is embed a Notejoy note directly into that Trello card. And so the use cases, people use Trello for all sorts of things. Maybe you’re using it for content actual library and you’re marketing a bunch of content pieces and you have tasks that say you’re going to publish this piece next week. Behind that task is a blog post that you’re meaning to write. And so within Notejoy you can actually compose the content in there, but now within Trello, you can view the note without ever leaving Trello and edit the note in the Trello interface without ever leaving Trello.
Andrew: Even on their mobile app?
Sachin: Not on mobile because they haven’t actually enabled the Trello power ups on mobile, but it does work on the Trello desktop app as well as the Trello web app.
Andrew: Okay, got it. All right. And so that’s what you’re trying to think of and you’re saying, “Look, let’s suppose Andrew is using Trello for task management. Let’s make it easy for the stuff that he writes about these tasks to get saved forever for his team to see.” That’s the type of thinking you’re thinking.
Sachin: Exactly, because it turns out when you get Trello, you can use their little comment field but you don’t get rich text editing, you don’t get anything. With us, you get a full-rich text editor. You can make those notes available to everyone, but then when someone is implementing that task, they have it accessible right to them.
Andrew: I do find that with Trello, the reason we had to stop using them, there’s no good chat built in and there’s no good notes or no good messaging, I guess you call it. I forget what it is. I like that Basecamp has it all integrated and I like that we can have this big doc explaining how things work. And so you’re saying, “This is how we’re going to work with Trello to give you that.”
Sachin: Exactly. And Trello has been loving it that they’ve actually been featuring it for months as one of their feature power ups because it does solve that gap.
Andrew: Your issue now is growth. I get how you get me in there. How do you get the rest of the team in there? How do you get . . . or how do you go beyond my team to grow even more?
Sachin: Yeah. And so like, we’re spending a lot of time on kind of overall growth. The one nice thing is that because it’s a collaborative app by nature you obviously do want to invite your colleagues and friends into it to be able to use it, we’re actually seeing 30% of our signups come from pure one-on-one invites and actually when you add word of mouth where about 50% of our signups are coming between virality and word of mouth. But we still want to constantly grow it.
What we find is within the organization if you start using it and actually create content that other people want to view, then you’ve sort of incented yourself to share it with other people in your team to bring them on. Our real struggle is how do we get new teams that have never heard of Notejoy to adopt Notejoy in the first place? And so we’ve been spending a lot of time on that. And actually, the integration strategy has been great for us. We’ve integrated with everything from Google Drive to Microsoft Office to Gmail coming soon and Trello. And these integrations have been super helpful for us to really expose us to those audiences.
Andrew: Because what happens is someone who’s on Trello says, “I need some kind of better note-taking, better whatever rich text formatting,” and they discover you and then they go and they create an account with you.
Andrew: All right, I get that. Yeah, I do feel like the big thing is, if you could get me to publish my stuff online using Notejoy, then everything that I publish would then bring people back into Notejoy to figure out.
Sachin: Yeah, definitely. We’re actually planning on going in that direction and giving you some even better publishing capabilities for super lightweight publishing because today you have WordPress medium, but they’re still fairly heavyweight and you really got to commit to kind of having a publication. We want to create super lightweight ways to share absolutely anything.
Andrew: Anything, like if I have a quick screenshot I want to share publicly, I need some URL to get people and you do that. I’m dying to switch away from Evernote. I feel like the product just hasn’t been updated in a long time, lots of issues with it for me. The thing that I’m challenged by is, will the company survive? And so I really like your approach. So yes, we will survive so your notes will be okay and they’ll be saved. The other thing then is, tags from Evernote are a problem to move over. And then the third thing is PDFs. So some of my notes will have three different PDFs in them and it’s hard to spot those in different software.
Andrew: You don’t do tags. And what do you do about PDFs?
Sachin: So we’re actually seeing that tons of people want to start using Notejoy and Evernote alternative, so we’re really trying to solve for that use case. We actually do support tags now in Notejoy. You can just add a hashtag to either the title or a body of a note.
Andrew: And so if I move my thing . . . I do prefer hashtags. If I move my files over, you will turn all of those tags into hashtags?
Sachin: We’re planning in our Evernote importer. We haven’t launched it yet, but it’s coming out shortly and it automatically will pull down all your existing tags into hashtags with a Notejoy so you can use them as tags.
Andrew: And then if I start creating a new tag using a hashtag Will you try to populate? Right. Good. Because one of the problems with creating hashtags is you think that that note could be interview but you actually last time wrote interviews and then the time before that you actually call the tag “int” meaning it’s interview, and then every time you create a new tag, you don’t remember and so that’s a problem. Okay.
Sachin: Yep. And then on the PDFs thing, we actually let you upload any kind of rich document, PDF, Word files, images . . .
Andrew: But that’s as a separate Doc. Can I actually have . . . If I import, do you think I’ll be able to have a doc that has three different PDFs . . .
Andrew: . . . all work in there? I will.
Sachin: Yeah. So with Notejoy, actually, you have the note, and it can be a container of any number of docs. So you can upload three PDFs into one note and it’s all contained within the note. And then the great thing is, we just launched search inside images and documents. So if you’ve been search for text that’s in the PDF or even an image, we actually do OCR on it, you can now find those things just as quickly as you’d expect to get back to that content.
Andrew: I see you do password protecting of notes. I don’t know why I care that much about notes. I do, though. I care about it a lot. I think it’s because I write stuff and then I can’t freaking find it. I write it and so I do my best, I tag it, I put it in the right folder and I still can’t come up with it unless I use, and that’s where Evernote is still okay. It’s easy to get stuff in there. It sucks to search but at least you could search.
Sachin: Yeah, that’s right. And so I think search has been a huge focus area for us. And we actually even just introduced a solo plan, and even though we’ve been largely focused on team . . .
Andrew: I see $4 a month.
Sachin: Yeah, it just $4 a month because we have tons of interest in folks getting off of Evernote not knowing their future.
Andrew: Yeah, they really dropped the ball. They had an opportunity. This was going to be a company for 100 years, and then it was, “You know what? We want to do this other thing instead. We see that you guys have security issues. We’ll figure it out. We promise.”
Andrew: And then they didn’t. That’s too bad. That’s too bad. So you’re basically setting up here to be in this business for the next 10 years at least?
Sachin: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s one of the things people always ask me, “You’ve been a serial entrepreneur. What’s next?” And I’m like, I’ve only been a serial entrepreneur is because I’ve never been able to find the company that I could do for the rest of my life. My aspiration is to be the next Bill Gates, not to be a serial entrepreneur.
Andrew: I do find that the people who I most admire who built businesses that last are in there forever, and they’re fine with that. They want that. And then everyone else wants to just be in and out and for some reason that’s not me and it’s not the people I admire.
Sachin: Yeah. I do hope Notejoy becomes my forever company and we’re operating like it will be.
Andrew: All right. For anyone who wants to go check it out, I’m going to send them over to Product Hunt. Go see how much people freaking love this new app on Product Hunt. But I think the better way to do it is to go to Notejoy. There’s not like notejoyapp.com, notejoyhq . . . It’s just Notejoy and it’s super easy to type even my bad spelling can always get on to it. All right. Congratulations on this company.
Sachin: Thank you.
Andrew: And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first will get you publicity for your business. It’s called justreachout.io/mixergy. And the second will help you find those 10Xer developers. It’s called toptal.com/mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. And I’ll also say to anyone who hasn’t tried Mixergy on one of your special speak . . . Which speaker do you use? Alexa? Do you use . . .
Andrew: Me too because you could put it all over the freaking house. Shout at it next time, “Alex,” whatever, “play Mixergy,” and see if it works for you because it’s so fun to listen to podcasts on that device. Thanks so much, Sachin.
Sachin: Thank you.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.