Marathon Series: Can Australian founders have success without guilt?

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Today I have an Australian founder which is usually a challenge because they are in a whole other time zone from my office in SF. But as part of my marathon series, I’m making these interviews happen.

Dylan Baskind is the founder of Qwilr, which allows people to create beautiful proposals, sales and marketing documentation as web pages.

We’re going to find out how well this business is doing and find out a little bit about Australian culture in this interview.

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Dylan Baskind

Dylan Baskind

Qwilr

Dylan Baskind is the founder of Qwilr, which allows people to create beautiful proposals, sales and marketing documentation as web pages.

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Full Interview Transcript

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. I usually do it from an office in San Francisco where I’m really comfortable. I got my two monitors setup. The whole thing is great. The problem is, freaking Australians, they are out a whole other time zone, and so whenever I want to interview an Australia, it’s a pain in the butt for me or for them, and I don’t want that.

I said, “I’m going to run a marathon in every continent in one year and I’m going to go and make sure that I do interviews as I travel and I want to get to know people in Australia,” because the thing that I noticed about them, and Dylan, maybe you can tell me if this is just the way they react to me or in general, Australians are very comfortable talking about money without this sense of guilt. Right? Like, success without guilt.

Dylan: Yeah. But I mean, is there a success with guilt in the U.S.?

Andrew: Yes. You do not want to talk too much about it because there’s this guilt like “Why me? Why not you?” or you’re going to feel like you’re rubbing in people’s . . . It’s this awkwardness. People are still comfortable talking about money much more so than the rest of the world, but there is this sense of guilt, and Australians are like, “No, this is like my life.” But you asked me if I tie my shoelaces, I’m not going to feel guilty that I did it. I’m smart enough to know it. You asked me about whether I built my company myself, I’m not going to feel guilty. Is that a good read?

Dylan: I think . . . Well, I don’t know about actually money. I think about building companies, for sure. People are definitely . . . If they’ve built something that they’re proud of, I think there’s no inhibition to saying like, “I’m really proud of this thing that I’ve built.”

Andrew: Are you really proud of your business?

Dylan: I’m proud of the comp . . . I am proud of the business and I’m proud of the company, the team that we’ve assembled especially and the product we’ve built.

Andrew: But there’s a little hesitation. I didn’t even introduce you, but I want to ask about the hesitation. What is it?

Dylan: No. I think we’ve got a long . . . We got so much to do.

Andrew: Is it because you’re an artist and you just see the things that aren’t exactly the way you see them in your mind or how you want them to be?

Dylan: I think it’s more a case of I feel like we’re running a marathon and we’re in the first 50 meters of it.

Andrew: Okay. So, it just doesn’t feel like it’s close enough to where you want it to be.

Dylan: Yeah. And I will say that knowing myself I can almost be certain there is no level . . . there is no distance at which I’m like, “Oh, we’re close to the end of the race. Oh, I know about myself. I will permanently be in a state of like we’re in the first 50 meters.”

Andrew: I know that too. And a lot of people say that what we’re expressing here is unhealthy. I’m going to come back to that in a moment. Let me introduce the guest who you just heard. His name is Dylan Baskind. He is the founder of Qwilr. What Qwilr allows people to do is create beautiful . . . I’m going to say beautiful. You might say, “Oh, but it could be so much better.” I’m going to say beautiful proposals, sales, marketing, documentation, all that stuff as web pages. So, you’re not giving people a link to a PDF that looks beautiful, it’s a web page. It scrolls and interacts the way that a nice web page should. And by the way, you get to see when people have read all the way through or pretended that they did but they’ve never even opened it up. Right?

We’re going to find out how well this business is doing and find out a little bit about Australian culture, all thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first will host your website right. It’s called HostGator. And the second if you’re looking to hire a developer or a designer, you can go to Toptal, and I’ll tell everyone about them in a moment.

There is this sense that I never feel like my business is as far along as I want it to be, and I never feel it. You seem that way too. Do you think that’s healthy?

Dylan: I actually think it’s . . . Yes. I think that all . . . I think it’s how you improve. I think if you have this level of like, satisfaction about what you’ve created, it’s sort of the end of the line of iterations, the end of the line of advancement. I think, like, any great entrepreneur, any great artist and a great musician, they’re always pushing forward.

Andrew: So, what are you looking at today and to me it looks beautiful, but to you, it’s like, “I want to push it a little further. It’s not there”?

Dylan: The thing for us is like, we’re building this new breed of . . .

Andrew: Give me something you personally as an artist, as a creator. What is it that you look at your product and you say, “It’s good, but it’s not at my level”?

Dylan: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: Okay. I interrupted you before you were going there. Okay.

Dylan: Because it’s like necessary preface. We’re building this new generation of documentor and it is all about capturing the language and the vocabulary of the web and making it accessible to everyone, right? Not just developers and designers. When I look at the product today, I’m like, it does make these really beautiful pages and people are already so enamored with this idea they can go on, they know nothing about design or technology, they can produce this beautiful interactive website that plugs into all that stuff. But there’s so much more that the web can do. There’s so much more design possibility in their interactive possibilities that we’re working on.

Andrew: For example.

Dylan: I mean, like, right now with layouts. So, for us, because one of the really important things to us was, has to be agnostic to devices. You can’t be in this world with PDFs where it’s like, “Well, I’m opening on my phone, therefore I can’t look at it.”

Andrew: Yeah, two-column PDFs are horrible.

Dylan: You can’t use them.

Andrew: They look good on a computer screen, but they’re terrible on my phone.

Dylan: But it’s even like, a report that’s got too many words per line is like unreadable, I’ll have to wait to some other time. That’s stupid. It’s the 21st century, the web is incredible. That shouldn’t be the experience. But that was actually a really interesting design constraint because at least initially where it was like, “Okay. Well, how are we going to deal with . . . ” And again, we want to make it so low bar for people, they’re not having to think about responsiveness, like, what does that mean? We don’t need people to think about that. So that means you have to do this kind of single-column type mentality. And a lot of things we want to do is to bring in . . . how do we deal with multi-column layout and different types of layouts and arranging content in more interesting ways, so that it’s zero mental effort to make that work across, work on a mobile context, work on your desktop?

Andrew: So you want even more design elements, but you need them to work seamlessly on all these other platforms.

Dylan: Yeah. And I think the way I will always like to think about this is like, what we’re trying to do at Qwilr, and it’s a very fundamental sense is like, take the matrix code of the web and turn it into Lego. So, the constraint is as we’re adding more powerful design layouts and interactions and integrations, it always needs to feel like in Lego, it needs to be so unintimidating and fun and easy . . .

Andrew: That I just got a block that I need and remove the . . .

Dylan: Yes. Just plug it in and all it is, not a problem. As opposed to Photoshop or whatever, like, you get in there and you’re like, “Too hard. I’m out.”

Andrew: Revenue. Where are you guys?

Dylan: Look, we’re at a multi-million dollar run rate is what I would say.

Andrew: So I did the math. Okay?

Dylan: Okay.

Andrew: In preparation. You guys you have 40,000 clients according to an article that I read on smartcompany.co.uk. Is that right?

Dylan: I think that would be an old figure about users.

Andrew: Oh, got it. So, they’re not all paid.

Dylan: That would be an old figure about users.

Andrew: Not necessarily paid.

Dylan: Not necessarily paid.

Andrew: I thought you didn’t have a free plan. You have a free plan?

Dylan: We used to have a free plan, but we . . . We used to have a free plan.

Andrew: But you also have something that I can find is free.

Dylan: We’ve got a 14-day free trial.

Andrew: Got it. Okay. All right. My math was going to show that you guys were . . . I was going to say over 1 million a month. Is that crazy?

Dylan: I’m going to say that we’re at a multi-million dollar run rate.

Andrew: That’s it. Okay. How much funding do you have?

Dylan: We have not taken a heap of capital to date. Single-digit millions.

Andrew: Okay. From anyone I know?

Dylan: Point Nine has probably been the biggest sort of, like, most notable investor. They were the backers of Algolia and Zendesk and Typeform whole bunch of great companies.

Andrew: Okay. I don’t know that much about you because there isn’t that much about you online. I do know from reading articles about you that you used to be at Google.

Dylan: No, that’s my business partner.

Andrew: So, only Mark. I thought the two of you were there.

Dylan: No. I’ve never worked for any . . . Basically, I only ever worked for myself essentially.

Andrew: As a designer and that’s it.

Dylan: An engineer.

Andrew: I do know from talking to you before we got started that you are a musician.

Dylan: That’s right.

Andrew: What kind of music?

Dylan: Somewhere between the national and the arcade file.

Andrew: What type is that?

Dylan: It’s like dark folk rock.

Andrew: Wow. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Though, actually, you know what? I went out for music in San Francisco once. I just wanted a night out. And I think I heard dark folk rock which I had no idea was . . .

Dylan: So I don’t know if that’s an official genre. That’s . . .

Andrew: No. You know what it was? They were playing folk instruments, but there was a darkness to it.

Dylan: Sure.

Andrew: It didn’t feel like they usually went together.

Dylan: Sure.

Andrew: Okay. And so were you the leader of the band?

Dylan: I was. I was also the songwriter and the singer.

Andrew: How do you become the leader because you both sing and write everyone that circles around you?

Dylan: Well, I put the band together, and yeah, if you write the songs then . . . But it can work in various ways. Friends’ bands would have a songwriter who wasn’t necessarily “Their leader.”

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: But in this particular situation among this group of people, that’s . . .

Andrew: Did you feel comfortable being a leader?

Dylan: Yeah, I did, actually.

Andrew: You did. Why?

Dylan: I think . . . Actually, let me say, I think initially, less so. It was a lot of feeling out especially as quite a young person about like, how does this collaborative group going to work that we need a very singular and polished outcome, but everyone wants to sort of get their ideas in there? And I think it was actually . . . I should say it was actually probably a gradual process of finding how I liked to lead the group where I wanted others to take sort of leadership opportunities in that particular sort of context. I think by the end of my sort of tenure in the band . . . It’s been pretty long time. It was about eight years. I think I felt pretty comfortable in that sense.

Andrew: You were telling me about how much you learned about running companies by leading a band. What’s an example of that?

Dylan: Yeah, I mean, sort of . . . We were talking earlier about the band room which I guess for those who have been in bands before, it’s the place you’re rehearsing and many different ways you’re sort of working on the live format of your songs. And it can be sort of intense place because you’re in there for like four hours and you’ve got some big . . . you’re going to play to 2,000 people in some festival, so there’s a level of pressure and you’ve got these hyper-talented people who are all sort of thinking in different ways. The drummer is thinking in a very particular way, the violinist is thinking a particular way, the bass player is thinking in a different way.

Andrew: You had two violinists in your band?

Dylan: We had two violinists.

Andrew: Wow. Okay.

Dylan: But they’ve all kind of coming with their own . . .

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: . . . their own way of thinking about what you’re doing and they’re all creatively contributing.

Andrew: I can’t lean back in this couch. Very new couch. I need more pillows.

Dylan: And you need to moderate those ideas and make sure that the final product you’re producing is coherent, it’s cohesive, and ultimately it’s for the benefit of the listener and less so for the benefit of the musician.

Andrew: And so if somebody comes up with an idea that you just feel is a dumb ass idea, what do you do that you don’t hurt their feelings?

Dylan: Yeah. And that’s the . . . It’s very interesting to say their feelings because like . . . And in terms of being the leader of a company, it’s like, you need people to be so bought into what you’re doing especially in the startup where it’s like, “Hey, I want you to leave Microsoft and come join this fledgling startup and see where it will go.” People need to be so infused about what they’re doing and they need to have a sense that the thing that they are building is theirs in some material way.

So, in terms of like, in the band room what I learned about how to get creative people to have a sense of contribution without and still weed out bad ideas, was just to go full tilt into the idea and give it full benefit of the doubt. So, it’s like, “You think we should turn this into a polka and play for 20 minutes the same loop. Let’s give it a shot. And everyone . . . Let’s work out the best version of that idea and let’s try it.” And then normally, at the end of that, if it was a bad idea, we kind of look around and be like, “Yeah, that didn’t really work.”

Andrew: And so you have to play it out knowing full well that it’s probably going to almost definitely going to be a bad idea to do polka, but you have to.

Dylan: Yeah, that’s . . . I mean, one of the things that I’ve learned about leadership that . . . You know what? That I didn’t think I at least consciously understood was, there are many easy ways to lead that require less energy which is like authoritarian responses to like, “No, bad idea. Moving on.” But often, I think things that require a lot of energy, like, sitting someone down explaining your whole philosophical framework as to why you came to a decision. They have so much more buy-in in what you’re doing, and ultimately, they can become better decision makers and will become a more valuable member of what you’re doing.

Andrew: And so you’ll have somebody on your team who’s a designer design something that you believe is a bad idea just out of respect for them and to let them come to their own conclusion?

Dylan: No. This will never get to the point where it’s like, now in the product. It’s more like they’ll say, “Dylan, we should turn everything pink and flapping.” I’ll be like, “Okay.” Well, first of all, you have a choice of being like, “No, that’s a bad idea, we’re not going to do that, drop it,” or you can be like, “Let’s sit down, let’s talk about it and let’s dig into the layers of why you think that’s a good idea. And if after . . . And you have an hour-long conversation with someone that often draws in much higher level thinking than whether it should be pink and flashing.

After having that discussion, they understand something more fundamental. I think that’s the point. And once you have a series of those discussions, this person understands something deep about your business and about your market and about your product in a way that means they can start adding value and so much more regularly at a higher cadence and a higher depth later on.

Andrew: I see. So, you let them talk it through, not create it necessarily and . . .

Dylan: Correct. So, it’s same as the band in many ways. It’s like, I’m not going to let something get into the song or the product or the whatever that actually reaches the user or reaches the audience if it’s not to my standard or to the company’s standard of what greatness is. Our first principle as a company is undeniable business, so like, that’s how we want to win this race is by producing something just undeniably great.

Andrew: You are the only person who walked into this place. We’ve got an Airbnb here in Sydney. Every guest who’s walked in here has had this sense of intimidation about them for a bit, and then eventual ease and often the ease happened through the interview, and at the end they felt comfortable. But you’re the first person who just kind of walked in comfortable. Why?

Dylan: I think, again, I don’t know why I keep talking about the band, but I think the band puts you in lots of crazy situations. Many interviews, you’re in front of thousands of people all the time. Yeah, this is a level of comfort. It didn’t come naturally to me. Though, I will say that actually funny enough when I got started in business and I was 19 I did this product business when I was 19. It was an online rostering business. The first thing I had to work on was eye contact.

Andrew: Really?

Dylan: I remember saying to myself, I was sitting there in this meeting. I’m just looking at the table the whole time because I couldn’t bring myself to look at someone’s eyes. And so that was like the first thing I used to get right was how to look at someone’s face.

Andrew: My technique was . . . I had to look at people’s forehead but they could tell when you’re not looking them in the eye, so I look at one eye which I find easier . . .

Dylan: Oh, interesting.

Andrew: . . . than two eyes.

Dylan: Okay.

Andrew: And that allows me to have an easier conversation with some eye contact. What do you do?

Dylan: No. I think I’m just . . . I think I’ve sort of built up a nice thick skin. I’m just interested in folks and don’t mind a bit of eye contact these days.

Andrew: Is this you from your band days right here what I’ve done on my iPad?

Dylan: That is actually me during my Qwilr days, but not long after my band days.

Andrew: Long hair, cap. That’s . . . So, what I was able to get by looking at some articles about you is that you started out as a designer.

Dylan: And engineer.

Andrew: And engineer doing what?

Dylan: So, I spent about pretty much in the same period as I was playing in the band. I was a consultant sort of working just one-man-band consultant. And I did the full spectrum of sort of online business. And basically, this is everything that I went when I was 19 that I did this business. So, it was marketing and sort of strategy around an online product. It was brand and identity design, it was UI design, it was UX, what used to be called information architecture, but . . .

Andrew: Can you give me an example of a project that you worked on that combined some of these?

Dylan: Yeah. One of the interesting ones that I’m not sure if it still exists or not, but . . . So, Saatchi & Saatchi were doing this . . . It was actually really cool thing and sort of ahead of its time in many ways. What I wanted to make was like a sort of Twitter feed that a brand could go and suck in things from all over the internet, so, like, Twitter things and RSS things and podcasts and sort of assemble them around a particular content topic and make it as kind of destination for that topic. It was like, really sort of beautiful the way it all fluid.

Andrew: So they came to you with that idea.

Dylan: They were thinking of this kind of mini product that they were going to farm out. Yeah, and I worked with those guys maybe a year and a half and there was like, a ton of technical stuff of like, how are we going to build this thing? A ton of like interactivity questions of like, “How is this going to work so it’s natural?” Especially for the brand, the administrator of the brand because they, again, needed to be like, totally non-technical, how they’re going to pull this stuff in for security questions, etc., etc.

Andrew: So you’re doing this and then you send out what type of proposals?

Dylan: Yeah. So, originally, in my business it was PDFs.

Andrew: And you did a PDF?

Dylan: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: You personally. Okay.

Dylan: Yeah, yeah. So, I was the only person in the business.

Andrew: I just don’t see you work in PDFs. It feels very much like Dunder Mifflin type technology.

Dylan: Sure. Let’s, I mean, then it’s . . .

Andrew: But you did it?

Dylan: It’s probably a short leap to why a Qwilr exists, but . . . Yeah, so, I had the most complicated process. It was like Excel to work out my actual pricing, Microsoft Word to work out what I wanted to say, and then a combination of InDesign and Illustrator to make it look some particular way. Now, the real pain in my rear was I’d put all this stuff together, I’d send it out and then I’d be like, “Can we change this one thing?” I’d be like, “Okay. Let me go back to Excel, redo the thing, copy and paste every cell into Illustrator and then copy-paste into InDesign, re-jiggle thing, email it to them.”

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: And that was the loop to get this thing done.

Andrew: Because you had to have it look good? Because you could have just put in a Google Doc or something, right?

Dylan: Yeah. Well, here’s the thing is like, for me, what I was selling was this combination of design and technical talent, right? And the other thing was, I was a one-man band. This is actually an interesting thing like, this job was with Saatchi, with the government, with my last client as a consultant was the government. They need to trust you. And you know, I’m just some kid sitting in his house making . . . I’m not some 100-person agency, so you need to send them something and that’s a lot about the philosophy of Qwilr is like you need to be really impressive when you’re persuading and asking someone to be like, “Hey, you should trust me with your project. You should pay me and you should choose me among all these options out there.”

Andrew: Proposals really do do that. They give a sense of confidence to a proposal.

Dylan: I agree, but it’s also an interesting thing for me and I think with Qwilr is, like, it’s a proposal but it’s also everything. As in, it’s your first contact, it’s like, here’s the case study that I did for this guy and this is what I did far as the value that I rendered for them.

Andrew: How would you show all that?

Dylan: What’s that? Sorry.

Andrew: How did you show all that, your past work?

Dylan: Yeah. I did have a system. So, like, obviously you have your portfolio, then you have a case study of like, “Here is what I did for this startup and this is the product they wanted to work and you told the story.” There’s a company called Teehan+Lax if you remember them.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Dylan: Anyway, they were phenomenal design company and I loved the way that they told their case studies. So I wanted to do that. So you had these case studies of what you’d done, how you worked with the client. Obviously, you had your proposal, then you had your sort of project milestone reports of like, “We said we’d be here. This is where we’re at. Here’s the results.” Then you had your . . . Even your invoices looked great. And all that meant, I think, for me, it was like, the caliber of referral that came out of that was so different because they had this sense of like, “This guy has a whole system. It’s beautiful. Everything that comes out of this business is like, well thought out, well rendered.”

Andrew: So, you started sending . . . You started converting it to web pages . . .

Dylan: Yes.

Andrew: . . . on your own site?

Dylan: No. So, my little hack was . . . So, if someone was, like, small fry, I’d send them a PDF.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: But if a logo came in, and the Saatchi job was an example of like, “Oh, I really want this job.” Then I would sit down in my underpants and code for like five days to build a standalone website that was the response to the brief.

Andrew: With its own domain and everything.

Dylan: Yeah. With [inaudible 00:21:00]

Andrew: Wow. Really?

Dylan: Or a subdomain of my site or something.

Andrew: And your own personal site?

Dylan: Yeah.

Andrew: I couldn’t go back in the archive and find it. You do have a bunch of good stuff on your site, but I couldn’t . . . I’m sure there’s . . .

Dylan: That’s been cleared out many times since.

Andrew: Yeah. That’s not like an easy thing to even find on Internet Archive. All right. And so one of the things that I read was that clients would say to you, “This is beautiful. How did you do it?”

Dylan: Correct. So, they’ll always be like, “Wow, this is amazing. Is this a thing? Is this a tool?” And for me, I think, I’d done this business as a teenager, I’d done it by myself and I was like, “Cool,” in that I got some money, I built the thing, I got customers, but it was also really hard.

Andrew: To create that website.

Dylan: This tool I’d built when I was young. As in doing a product business was really hard. And I was pretty successful in many ways as a consultant, especially for my age I was like, “Life is great. I’m playing in this band. I’m earning a lot of money. Do I really want to go and do that thing that was really hard?”

Andrew: I’m sorry to interrupt. What was the product that you created then?

Dylan: It was a thing which hurts my feelings because it has consequently become very successful businesses. It’s called Smart Roster and it was a way to do online shift recruiting for casual shift workers.

Andrew: Oh, yes.

Dylan: But it was before . . . I launched it before the smartphone happened.

Andrew: All right. I didn’t realize what the roster thing was because I’ve interviewed a few companies that have done that and I’ve tried to get . . . There’s a Sydney company that does it really well too, right?

Dylan: Yes. Deputy.

Andrew: Deputy, right, deputy.com.

Dylan: They’re crushing it.

Andrew: And all they do is they help you, like, schedule your people, the whole thing . . .

Dylan: Yes.

Andrew: Yeah, I tried to get them on and it was just not working for this week, unfortunately, but the founder was a really cool guy. I get it. So, this was your thing you launched it. Why didn’t it work out?

Dylan: So, I got some money for it, I built the product, I got some early customers. The management loved it because in management I made this button where you could auto-fill your roster with all the complicated roles and who was available and blah, blah, blah.

Andrew: Meaning like, who’s going to wait tables tonight? Who’s going to be at the front of the house and what time that they show up?

Dylan: And there’s all these certifications you need to do things and found alcohol and the number of hours they’re allowed to work and they could click a button and it would auto-fill it.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: So, they were like, “This is amazing.” Every member of staff was like . . . Because this was a time when the internet lived on desktops and it often lived at universities and someone’s house but not the other person’s house.

Andrew: What year was this?

Dylan: I mean, this is coming on from an early 2000s, I’d say, like, maybe 2007.

Andrew: How old are you?

Dylan: Thirty-two.

Andrew: Wow. Okay. And so you did it that early that . . . You must have been super young at the time.

Dylan: I was 19.

Andrew: Nineteen when you did this. And I do remember a time when people would have like . . . I always assumed everyone had a laptop, but I remember being at someone’s house and the roommates were sharing the laptop, which was kind of weird for me. And they weren’t even using like different accounts.

Dylan: And it was also different . . . Wi-Fi wasn’t really a thing. It was like you plugged into your phone guy.

Andrew: Got it. And so the people who worked hated it because they’d have to go and ask a friend to go . . .

Dylan: They hated. They were like, “How am I supposed to give my availability like . . . ”

Andrew: I have to sit down at this computer and formally do it.

Dylan: The internet was a geographic place that was in a place.

Andrew: In a room in their house at a desk in their house.

Dylan: Often their parents’ computer, and so they were like, “How can I update my thing?”

Andrew: And when it failed . . . I was going to ask you how you felt when it failed, but let me take a moment here to talk about my first sponsor. A first sponsor is actually a company that kind of fits in nicely here, a company called HostGator for hosting websites. I keep talking about it as a way of building up a website for your business.

But you know what would be interesting? If you want to get a client beyond proposals, if you just create a website about all the reasons why the client should work with you or create a website about why someone should hire you for a job, full-time job, a site for them, it costs hardly anything. What does it cost to get a domain? Ten bucks? Probably even cheaper than that.

And then you install WordPress, you find a theme that you like and you make it a theme about how you should work at Mixergy or Andrew should hire you, whatever, right? Probably anything a few bucks a month at HostGator. And frankly, if you don’t like it, if you don’t get the job, you want to cancel, they have 45-day money back guarantee. I’m glad you’re smiling at that and you’re not saying, “Wait, they should be using Qwilr for that.”

Dylan: Well, I think that there are reasons why, but I don’t want to step on you.

Andrew: Do you think Qwilr would work for that too?

Dylan: What I want to say is installing WordPress, back to like the assumption of people who live on the internet all day that everything is easy. Like, WordPress is incredibly intimidating for anyone who’s not a developer.

Andrew: I’ll tell you what? If you’re looking to get a job with me, you better know how to do WordPress. If all you’re doing is showing me that you could use it, that’s clever enough. If you’re out there and you want to get a website, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. When you do, you’re going to get the lowest price that they have available, 45-day money back guarantee, unmetered bandwidth, unmetered disk space, all that stuff really. You don’t need to think about it. They have it working for you. It’s hostgator.com/mixergy.

I’m okay with you talking about why your product would be better for that. Why do you think? So, if somebody wanted to get a job and it wasn’t like, a WordPress thing where they didn’t want to show off that they knew how to set up a website, could they use Qwilr for that?

Dylan: Yeah, we actually . . . When we had a free plan, we had this thing called the Resume Builder which I think was actually number one on Product Hunt or number two. It was very popular. You used to fill out a little form and it spat out this webpage. And we still get people who sign up to pay just so that they can . . .

Andrew: Use a resume template?

Dylan: Yeah.

Andrew: Really? And why did you get rid of the resume then?

Dylan: For the free plan?

Andrew: Yeah. Why did you get rid of the free plan?

Dylan: I mean, business dynamics. We actually would love to get back to the free plan in time, but it’s not now.

Andrew: Because there are people who are willing to pay and if you give them a free plan, they’re not going to pay and they’re going to be on the free plan forever.

Dylan: There are different dynamics to a freemium business. Right now we’re in a sort of . . .

Andrew: What are the different dynamics? This is an opportunity for me to learn.

Dylan: Yeah, I mean, like, you need to be very . . . You need to be able to divide what is valuable or what is valuable to a business and valuable to a team, which I think is I think something we’re still trying to work out our position on.

Andrew: Meaning what’s valuable to you and your business versus a team of people who are using your software?

Dylan: Yeah. Well, there’s a question of, like, a consultant who earns $1 million a year might just be a one-user account, but he should be paying obviously. Then you got the resume searcher, he’s also one user. So, like, okay. So, is it users that you separate the free on or what features of this?

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: It’s a ballet between, like, your market segments and your feature set. And yeah, I think we’re still . . . It’s a very active discussion in the company, but not one that we’ve settled on yet.

Andrew: The reason that I like the resume builder part is if you help somebody get a job, they know your software well enough that they could recommend it, right?

Dylan: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: Like, how do you even do that? Yeah, here you are. This is you on Product Hunt. Oh, 1,000 upvotes.

Dylan: There you go.

Andrew: Wow, that’s phenomenal. Okay. So, what did you take away from that business that didn’t work out?

Dylan: So much. One of my core lessons was do not do a business by yourself. I’ve got a wonderful business partner and co-founder in Qwilr called Mark Tanner. He was an ex-Googler. Technically, he was a sales guy. And that was something like . . . It was bloody lonely doing that whole thing by myself. And a lot of times where you just you just need someone to be like, “What do you think . . . What should we be doing here?”

Andrew: Really? So, just talk it through with someone and you felt like there was no one for you to talk to?

Dylan: Not . . . There’s always people to talk to and anyone out there who’s building a business by themselves, power to you. I think the difference is someone who has much at stake in the business as you do because you might be like, “Should we hire this person? I don’t know if it’s a good idea.” You can talk to a friendly person and an entrepreneurs who you know. They don’t care about it the way you care about it. So, it’s nice to have a co-founder.

Andrew: Did Mark cared about it as much as you did? I mean, he could always go back and sell something else.

Dylan: Look, I think initially since I built the first version of the product and it was my sort of baby at that time, there was definitely like, a new father exposure to the new baby, but after a period of time, you’re both the parent.

Andrew: And the two of you know each other because you used to be friends as teenagers . . .

Dylan: Yeah, we’ve known each other for a very long time.

Andrew: . . . you used to go to listen music together. All right. So, you saw the people liked this product. At what point did you finally say to yourself, “All right, I’ll get back in the product space”?

Dylan: Yeah. It actually took me quite a long time. As I said I had like . . . I knew the building products was great and I loved it, but I was really doing it in many ways as a consultant. And I was quite resistant to starting this business because I was like, life was in a great balance of playing this band, earning a lot of money and doing the thing that I loved. I was like, “Why should I give that up?” But I think there was just enough signal coming back from very serious businesses as well with quite significant scope. And I just sat down to think about it strategically. I was like, “Well, this could apply to almost anyone in business, consumers as well if and when we get back to having a free plan like this. And if I thought about it on a grander scale, it’s like, this could totally disrupt what a document even is in the 21st century. That’s a serious business.

Andrew: When you say disrupt up what a document is, what do you mean? Where were you thinking of taking it?

Dylan: Sure. Look, I think the old . . . There is this lineage. There’s a lineage of design thinking and documents that exists in the incumbent toolset. So, like, if you go and look at Google Docs, as amazing as Google Docs is like collaborative editing, incredible, or at least at the time, incredible. But it’s like an A4 frame sitting in a browser. Like, that’s how they’re thinking about what a document is, which is . . .

Andrew: A4 meaning the size of a paper sitting in a browser.

Dylan: Sorry. U.S. letter paper for our . . .

Andrew: Yeah, I know, I’m with you. I was just trying to think of it like what’s the tech version of what . . . what tech is he talking about? But I get it.

Dylan: It’s just like a little fine little . . .

Andrew: So, you’re saying, why doesn’t it have to be that?

Dylan: Yeah. Because I think the thing about it is the design thinking that underpins much of the document tools we have today is like it’s analogizing a finite physical thing which is a piece of paper.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: But the world has kind of dropped almost all of those skeuomorphic ideas to be like, “No, no, we’re living in this now ubiquitous world of the web. A document being a way of expressing an idea shouldn’t be this like legacy black and white static thing. You should be able to use . . . ” Because what always strikes me is like, people sit on the train and they’re doing their banking on the amazing app, then they look at the news on some interactive widget, then they message their friends, and then someone asked them to . . . then someone says, “Pay me $150,000,” and they showed them this black and white flyer. That doesn’t make sense. When you’re at that critical moment of business where you’re trying to persuade someone to do business with you to care about your propositions, you should be at sort of maximum communication potential. You should be using all that web stuff.

Andrew: Right, right. When I’m thinking about if somebody comes to my site to buy for me, I’m not creating a set of PDFs for them to buy. I’m creating something that flows, that is long, that has images that . . . One of the things that we added was like a slider to one of our sales pages. That helps because people just fidget with the slider.

Dylan: And it’s in the language that everyone’s . . . It’s this like, level of communication that everyone is used to everywhere else. It’s just business, it’s like lagging in this other decade.

Andrew: But beyond proposals what were you thinking?

Dylan: It’s kind of everything. It’s just like job ads, case studies, marketing materials, like, “Hey, we’ve got this . . . Let me tell you about the new features we’ve just launched on our thing.” And I think it’s really how you communicate with the outside world.

Andrew: Right. That makes a lot of sense. Why should a press release even just be a document? It could be that because you need to tell people write, but why couldn’t it also be on the same page all of the logos and other information?

Dylan: And media. As in, the other interesting thing, especially about press release is like so many companies are now built on videos and audio and interactive charts that show you the growth in the so and so, the 3D model of how the blah, blah, blah works.

Andrew: So, you generally thought, “This is the future. This is how big it could be.” It wasn’t like, “I need to raise money. I need to come up with some BS about how big this is going to be. It’s going to change everything.”

Dylan: Our first tagline which was inadvisableism is marketing tagline was documents for the web. It was like a rethinking of what a document can be in this modern era. Now, that was a really inadvisable . . . That was the wrong marketing message to go out with originally because users needed a more focused message.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: But that was . . . Like, from the beginning, we thought about like the document can express so much more than they currently do or at least the incumbent toolset.

Andrew: Okay. So, you built the first version yourself.

Dylan: Yep.

Andrew: And then when did you say, “I’m going to go find a business partner and here’s a guy I’m going to go get”?

Dylan: I can’t remember the ye . . . I’m going to say 2014 would have been the year.

Andrew: And you launched in 2012.

Dylan: No, no. We launched in 2014.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: I think I maybe started . . . Maybe I was thinking about the idea in 2012.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: I probably built it in like 2013 and I would have launched I assume 2014.

Andrew: I do see 2014 on archives when you had it. Why did you come up with the name Qwilr?

Dylan: So the idea of Qwilr is that once upon a time . . . We’re talking about documents and their lineage. Once upon a time, monks would copy a book in these illuminated scrolls, and then they’d be like nine months later, they would emerge from their little crook and say, “I’ve copied the book. We now have two copies of the book,” right?

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: And then the Gutenberg press came along and was like, “Let me show you what efficiency looks like.”

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: And now they could just pull the crank and they had a copy of the book, right? So, the Gutenberg printing press put the quill right out of business and what we want . . . And in many ways I think the Google Doc of today has a strong anchor in the Gutenberg printing press and we want to make another sort of paradigm leap from the Gutenberg printing press to this web of . . . this document of the future that’s predicated on the web.

Andrew: Okay. So how did you find your co-founder?

Dylan: So, as I said, he was sort of a friend of mine all the way through.

Andrew: I meant . . . Sorry. Why him? Why did you decide to go with him?

Dylan: Oh, right. Sure, sure.

Andrew: [inaudible 00:34:47]. You know why? Because I’m also . . . I have screenshots of your Internet Archive stuff, but I’m going back and I want to see what that very first version from June 2nd, 2014 looked like.

Dylan: It was pretty basic.

Andrew: I actually thought that the website throughout as I looked at it in the Internet Archive was basic and clear and had a clear explanation of the features from the start. It wasn’t like you started out with one thing and ended up with another.

Dylan: Correct. I mean, that’s something that I think it’s been good about the business. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s like, we’ve always been very clear on the value of what we’re doing and what it is we’re building.

Andrew: And also here, so this is one of the first versions sell more, right? It’s always been . . . And I kind of like this about your business. Even though you had this big vision for how you’re going to change documents, you also were very clear, “We’re going after people who are selling.” This is going to help you sell more.

Dylan: It was always . . . I mean, it’s actually . . . The sell was where we needed to focus, but it was always about external. It was always about like, there are great tools for you and your team and it doesn’t really matter. All you care about is what you’re saying or if you’re organized, whereas what was so lacking was the conversation between the business and the customer, and that part is just not been reinvented. So, like, a sell is part of that but that’s also like, attract upsell and tell them another word for talented like attract talent if you want as opposed to customers.

Andrew: Okay. So, why him?

Dylan: Yeah, sure. So, as I said when I was 19 I did this business and I did everything. I was like Mr. Sales, Mr. Product, Mr. Design, Mr. Engineer, Mr. Janitor.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: And the part that I loved and I felt I was good at was strategy sort of business strategy and product. And the part that I . . . As I said, when I was first getting started, eye contact was a thing. I was like, “Sales is not really what I loved doing and I’m amazing at.” And I really wanted someone who was super strong at sales especially because we certainly have strong ambitions towards the mid-market and the enterprise with what we’re doing, and I was like, “Well, I need someone who’s got experience in really large corporations sitting in a boardroom and sell to all hell.” And Mark is a phenomenal salesman.

Andrew: Okay. So, the two of you partnered up.

Dylan: Yeah.

Andrew: Equal ownership?

Dylan: I prefer not to say.

Andrew: Okay. I think I’ve got a little bit of the answer for. And then you built the first version.

Dylan: Well, yeah, I built the first releasable version. Yeah.

Andrew: You did by yourself.

Dylan: Correct.

Andrew: No outside developers.

Dylan: No. As we got our first developer, maybe a year after we . . . I’m actually not sure on the timelines, but I want to say it was excellent engineer from Microsoft called Ben. He’s still with us today. He’s an awesome asset to us. But the platform sort of existed . . . That’s not true because he was with us when we launched our beta. So, I think the majority was there, but certainly, we brought that on before we launched our beta.

Andrew: In the first version allowed me to create my own proposal basically with these sliders. Look at this. I highlighted a sliders using my iPad. That would let me quickly price things out for you. And that was it. Easy page, look nice, gave me a URL that I can give to somebody without the Qwilr domain or with it?

Dylan: With it at that point.

Andrew: With it. And then that’s it.

Dylan: That was it.

Andrew: That was it. Okay. And then how did you get your first customers?

Dylan: I mean, I’m actually trying to . . . Someone asked me this the other day of like, how do you get started?

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: I think we must just rung people that we know. I’m pretty sure that we just rang people who we knew.

Andrew: And you said, “Do you want to use this?”

Dylan: Yeah, I think I have . . . I seem to recall emailing a bunch of agencies and like, always, “You knew a friend that worked in agency. Can I speak to your boss?”

Andrew: You would say that.

Dylan: Yeah, just like . . .

Andrew: And you felt comfortable doing that yourself too?

Dylan: Yeah. When I was . . . Like, I’ve been running . . . I’ve been in business for a long time. I didn’t love sales, but I didn’t have a problem doing it.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: Yeah, I just emailed people and be like . . . email a friend and be like, “You work in this industry or you are tangentially related to it.”

Andrew: “Would you use this? Would you introduce me?” That type of thing.

Dylan: Yeah. And that was good. That was like, great exposure to people being like, “No, for these reasons.”

Andrew: What were some of the reasons?

Dylan: I can’t even recall now.

Andrew: Was there anything that stood out for you as like, “Why do we miss this? Of course, if we only had that we’d be doing great.”

Dylan: I didn’t think it was . . . Well, actually, I think something that in retrospect was an interesting signal and something that we were talking earlier about, like, what were the biggest . . . Like, what did we miss? What did we miss in the business? And something that I think I missed was just how significant a product we’d need to create in terms of breadth in order for it to be really compelling because . . .

Andrew: You mean, that alone, what I just talked about was not enough for most people?

Dylan: No. Well, it is if you’re at a small scale of business, but for the kind of companies that I wanted to land to feel good that like, when we were onto something here. What they needed was like, “Well, I need to talk to my CRM and I need security and I need analytics on it.” They needed all these auxiliary pieces which . . .

Andrew: Analytics because they got with many other document platforms, they got to know how many people opened it up.

Dylan: No. So, interestingly, at the time, that was still very [protein 00:39:51] or didn’t exist, but they were used to analytics and the rest of their software suite.

Andrew: So they wanted it in this too . . .

Dylan: Yeah. They were like . . .

Andrew: . . . because if you’re creating a web page, then give me web page features.

Dylan: Exactly.

Andrew: Okay. And then they also wanted the CRM. Why the CRM? They’re creating a proposal. PDFs don’t have CRM integration.

Dylan: But they . . . As in, you have to manually stitch it together into like, oh, drag a PDF onto your CRM so it’s connected, but don’t . . . And you could forget to do so and . . .

Andrew: Oh. Oh, right. Because when they send the proposal they need it in their address and their contact . . .

Dylan: All of that has to be tracked, all those relations.

Andrew: . . . to know that they did it. Right. I wouldn’t have thought of that either because you’re running a company by yourself. You’re not adding it to a contact, you just know I sent it out to Bob.

Dylan: Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: Okay. And you couldn’t get sales until you had that.

Dylan: Well, I mean, that’s not true. We could, but I wanted to get it with some of these more serious businesses that made me feel that like, we’re building something valuable here.

Andrew: Do any of these people ring a bell? Photos of your early customers. Do you remember how you got them or what they needed?

Dylan: So, friend, friend. Guy is still with us. He’s a phenomenal customer friend.

Andrew: That’s it. So, it was mostly your friends who were using the software at the different companies.

Dylan: Initially, like right at the beginning, yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. All right. Let me talk about my second sponsor and then come back in and find out how you got . . . what features are starting to get customers, what was working for you. Second sponsor is a company called Toptal. Have you ever heard of them? It will blow your freaking mind. Do you guys have a phone editor?

Dylan: A phone editor?

Andrew: Yeah. This is the key . . . Like, can I create a document using my phone?

Dylan: Oh, sorry, mobile. No. Not yet.

Andrew: Not on mobile. Okay. All right, great. This is actually the example I’ve been using with a lot of guests. Imagine if you said, “You know what? I think we need a mobile editor. I think that if people could create it on their phones, then they would feel more connected to this and they would see how beautiful it looked on phones. Our team is too busy.”

You could go to Toptal and you could say, “Toptal, I need somebody who’s already created an editor, already created something that customers see. Maybe even if it’s like landing page editor on a phone. Give me those people and then I want to interview them.” They would get you the best of the best people who’ve already done this. You can interview them. If you like them, you could either get started often with a team of people who work well together, an individual who’s done this and just get started, have them do it like a skunkworks project. If you love it, you can bring it into your company and then let other people on your team take over. If you like the person who you’re working with, that person could become like a full-timer with you. And if you don’t, nothing ventured, nothing lost.

Like the founder of Grasshopper says he uses Toptal. He’s the guy who sold his business for $170 million. They did phone service for small-medium sized businesses. He said a lot of times they’d hire people from Toptal, they’d develop something on the site they didn’t like it and they said, “We’re so glad we didn’t actually have our team develop this and get distracted.”

That’s the beauty of Toptal. They have the best of the best developers, funding by Andreessen Horowitz so you know they’re a good company. If you want to work with them, don’t go to toptal.com. And I should say top as in top of your head, tal as in talent. Don’t go to toptal.com, go to toptal.com/mixergy. They’re going to give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit and a no-risk trial period. And if you don’t love them, you don’t pay but don’t worry, they’re still going to pay the developers because they’re good people. Longtime Mixergy fans. They created that URL for me. If you’re out there listening, go to toptal.com/mixergy. I don’t even know I’m looking at the camera. We don’t need . . . This is a podcast. I’ve got cameras anyway, though.

What was starting to work for you for getting customers? What’s the first bit of marketing? Was it calls? Was it something else?

Dylan: I mean, one of the really interesting aspects about business is that when you use Qwilr, people . . . it’s often sort of a level, a bar of impressiveness that someone will say, “Wow, that’s really cool. You sent me a website. How did you do that?” And they’ll say, “Oh, there’s actually this tool called Qwilr.” So, there was an inbuilt virility into what we do.

Andrew: Because you’re sending it . . . But it’s you sending it to one person at a time, right?

Dylan: Well, no. As I said, there’s a lot of marketing use cases, recruiting use cases, there’s customer success use cases. So, it actually . . . Although I think proposals and sales is a really strong use case for us, so all these other use cases around the go to market org and again in recruitment, that it reaches a lot of eyeballs.

Andrew: So, if I were to see . . . Where do I see one that’s free? Or an actual template. If I were to look at a template, would I see your branding on the bottom?

Dylan: It depends what . . .

Andrew: What level? And does that help for getting customers branding on the bottom?

Dylan: It helps for sort of general awareness. It helps with general awareness.

Andrew: But it’s also not the type of thing that if I get it, I’m likely to use it. The people who receive proposals aren’t usually the people who write proposals, right?

Dylan: But I think they’re aware of this too. I think they’re . . . What people understand when they see a Qwilr page and why a viral user is a phenomenal user is that they get the disparity between like, “Oh, shit,” where . . .

Andrew: We usually see PDF now we see something.

Dylan: We’re operating in 1998. These guys are operating in 2020. Hey guys, we should look at this tool.

Andrew: By the way, Pipedrive is really coming up in the world.

Dylan: Pipedrive is coming up in the world.

Andrew: I’m seeing them as being boasted on integration pages more and more. Do you use Pipedrive?

Dylan: Internally?

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: No. We’re a HubSpot company.

Andrew: And they copied Pipedrive. They have their own like pipeline thing. I’m not putting the down. It’s sucks for Pipedrive, but it’s the way of the world, right, which is kind of interesting. But we use Pipedrive. I’m sure you were in our Pipedrive system.

Dylan: I think we used Pipedrive at one point in time, but for some reason we went to HubSpot.

Andrew: But if you use HubSpot, then they’ve got their own version of it and it’s kind of integrated. Do you feel bad because you just said I’m not using someone that’s a major partner? A little bit. I saw your cheek twitch. What else was working for you for getting more users?

Dylan: I mean, the templates I think were really helpful.

Andrew: Because you were showing people how it could be used.

Dylan: Showing people how to use and also made it so fast. Like, if you go to our templates right now and you go sign up, sign up through one of our template pages, you’ve got something that’s like . . . I’m not going to say. I reckon you’re probably 90% ready to send in terms of here’s a structure, it’s designed to look great . . .

Andrew: Let me do it right now. So, we do obviously sponsorship ads here. We don’t send proposals. Actually, I don’t know. Do we? Maybe we do. I take it back. I have no idea. But it’s kind of interesting. You guys have a sponsorship . . . Oh, this is event sponsorship proposal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you also have one for ads. So, there’s a spot here with a video, so you’re telling me I could show people what my event looks like and then there’s fill in the gaps for like, my audience engagement, how many people saw it and so on and then there’s a big button for Accept. And people actually will hit the button when they’re ready to accept?

Dylan: Yeah.

Andrew: And then they can even pay using Stripe.

Dylan: And find these different packs. So, one of the things you can do, because I think for your particular use case, it’s often packages, it’s like, do you want to be a bras sponsor? Do you want to be a gold? Do you want to be a platinum?

Andrew: And you guys do that right away.

Dylan: Yeah. So the different packages you can have in the quote, they can configure it in different ways, like, how many spots do you want in the podcast? Do you want to have 10 spots or 3 spots and that’ll update the price dynamically, and then they can accept and E-sign for it, they can pay you, again, on all through the page.

Andrew: So, I have to say, I found with proposals that sending it out is a nice thing because it gives people something to think about, but you want to get them on the phone after they see it and close the sale yourself.

Dylan: One of the really interesting things, though, on that note is like you get notified as soon as it’s opened. So you’ll know . . .

Andrew: So you can call them right away.

Dylan: Yeah, it depends how creepy you want to be, but you can be like . . . Yeah, one is . . . It’s so interesting using internally like dog food in Qwilr because job ads, investment, our end customer success materials, like everything, it’s like, we know when it’s been open, what’s been raised.

Andrew: Do you do that? Do you actually call people up when they open up?

Dylan: Sometimes. We definitely use it as business intelligence.

Andrew: To know that they have done it. To know . . .

Dylan: You know when they’ve opened it, you know what they’ve read, you know how many times it’s been opened, you know where it’s been opened from. And if you’ve got it, there’s a feature we have where you can sign on through Google or LinkedIn, you know specifically who it is.

Andrew: Oh, because they might need to open it up with LinkedIn.

Dylan: As in to look at the document, there’s a security feature we need to sign in through Google, so I’m like, “I know that Jonah can do that.”

Andrew: Got it. Got it. So, it’s actually templates . . . I can understand that more people would sign up because of the templates because it’s hard to create your own thing from scratch, it’s hard to even visualize it until you see it. What about for bringing people into the site?

Dylan: As in like . . .

Andrew: How do you get people to come to the site? What started working for you for that?

Dylan: I mean, interesting, the templates. As in a lot of the keyword search volume is around . . .

Andrew: People were looking for proposal templates.

Dylan: I mean, not even proposal yet. We’ve got a pretty broad selection of templates, so we just kind of looked at what are people looking for in the document space? They’re trying to get a head start on. Let’s make a template for that and then introduce them to Qwilr.

Andrew: You know what your competitors do? They do something like, let’s say proposal template, people are searching for it, they say, “Here’s a great proposal template. Here’s what makes it good. Enter your email address to get it.” And then when people get that template, they say, “By the way, there’s a better way to do templates than what you just asked for.”

Dylan: Sure.

Andrew: Right? But that’s not your way.

Dylan: No.

Andrew: When newer people come in, they see that there’s a template, they could then use a template, they hit the button to use it, and then they become customers.

Dylan: Correct.

Andrew: And that’s what works for you.

Dylan: Yeah.

Andrew: Let me take a look at SimilarWeb. I always use SimilarWeb to get a sense of what people are doing. It’s telling me that you guys are big in the United States, much bigger even than you are in Australia.

Dylan: That is true.

Andrew: Search is really powerful for you, very. Eighty-seven percent of your traffic comes from search, which is huge. And it’s things like technical writing, people are doing, how to write a white paper. Do you guys have a template for white paper?

Dylan: Stretching my knowledge, probably, I hope so.

Andrew: That’s pretty significant thing for you guys. Wow. A significant traffic driver. Facebook is sending traffic to you somehow. Why? What do you guys do on Facebook?

Dylan: We do social ads, but as in again, it’s all orientated around like, there is a better way to run your business and you should check out this tool. We can change how you’re perceived in the market.

Andrew: There’s one company that was sending you traffic. I never heard of them. I want to ask you about them. Oh, here it is. I have a tab open from before to make sure to ask you. Instructionalsolutions.com. What is that?

Dylan: I have not heard of instructionalsolutions.com.

Andrew: You don’t. They send a bunch of traffic to you. What they do is they change the way your team writes, business writing courses that work, so I guess people are sending their company and . . .

Dylan: Oh, actually, may think I remember because . . . Sorry. It’s what I recall.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: Qwilr is a really useful business tool. The business is all . . . I know this a bit of founder Kool-Aid, but I do believe it’s a really useful business tool that businesses ought to know about that will help them improve, the kind of clients they can land and how many of them they can land.

Andrew: So, courses. People will send their . . . Companies will send their people to these to this course, the course will say, “Hey, here’s a way to not just write better, but to make it look better.”

Dylan: “If you want to be operationally better, you should check out . . . Here are suite of tools that you’ll probably find of interest. Qwilr is one of them.”

Andrew: So, that’s what I was thinking. What I was wondering is, though, do you have partnerships? Is this part of your strategy?

Dylan: Not at the moment. Not in a lot formally.

Andrew: No. So, what is the top thing for you for bringing in new customers?

Dylan: I mean, right now . . . I mean, really, it’s a combination of virility and this search the fact that there is demand today of people who are trying to find better ways to communicate with their customers.

Andrew: And then when people . . . Oh, you know what I just realized? No, I was the Google search term. That was actually what people are finding instructional solutions on. I got a different tab open here. This is you guys. Direct, actually, there. That makes a little more sense. Direct is a pretty big source of traffic for you, it’s not just search.

Dylan: Which I think is . . . I was going to say I’m not so quite sure about the percentages. Which I think is a good indicator about basically our word of mouth like that’s people telling other people like, “Hey, you got to check out his tool. It’s kind of great.”

Andrew: Yeah, but there’s still a bunch of search like, here’s your terms that actually make more sense. Business proposals for social media marketing. That sends traffic to you. Right now things are trying to make a little more sense. Price, sheet, software, outsourcing template. Makes sense. What about . . . Do you have any . . . Are you guys making calls to customers? Is there an outbound . . .

Dylan: We’re only inbound.

Andrew: That’s it. So they contact you, they come to a webinar, maybe, they call you up, but there’s no, “They registered so we’re going to call them up”?

Dylan: It depends on the customer. There are certain customers if IBM signs up, we’ll go and have a chat.

Andrew: Okay. Because you’re doing what to find it? How do you know that IBM signed up and that you should contact them?

Dylan: We have good BDRs and we’ll look at the emails, look at the users signing up.

Andrew: These are development reps?

Dylan: Correct.

Andrew: They’re looking at all the email addresses manually or using . . . What is it? Clearbit.

Dylan: Clearbit because Clearbit will tell us . . .

Andrew: Will tell you. So, any email address, it’ll check out who’s using it, who’s behind it, and if there’s someone who’s at a company that you guys are targeting, it’ll tell your business development reps. Your business development reps will say, “Thanks for signing up.” What’s actually the process? What did they say?

Dylan: Yes. Well, normally that actually pass it on to an account executive. So, they’re like, “Hey, SpaceX signed up.”

Andrew: That’s it. And so you just go and contact them.

Dylan: So I can be like, “Hey, thanks for signing up. How can we help you be successful here? What are you trying to do? How can we help you?”

Andrew: That’s it. It’s, “How can we help you?”

Dylan: How can we help you?

Andrew: But the VC thing . . .

Dylan: We have this term inside which is like, “We want you to have a good time in the playground.”

Andrew: But you don’t call them up and say, “We’d like to show you around to make sure that you understand this.” It’s just, “How can we help you?”

Dylan: Sorry, sorry. Yeah. In terms of like . . .

Andrew: Yeah. What is the process?

Dylan: What are you trying to achieve? We call you. What are you trying to achieve? What pain point looking to solve in your business?

Andrew: Does the BDR try to get a call set up something like, “Thanks for signing up for our software. We want to make sure you use it. Steve can get on a call with you to . . . “?

Dylan: Correct. Well, it depends on the customer. They’ll set up the call or they’ll just pass on the contact.

Andrew: Got it. Who’s developing all that? That’s your partner?

Dylan: How do you mean?

Andrew: Like, who’s coming up with this whole sales process?

Dylan: So, Mark heads a sort of customer-facing part of the business. They’ve also got these really smart guys in biz dev who sort of helped a lot with our sort of sales ops stuff, and then sort of designing a lot of that Clearbit, so the MQL like Marketing Qualified Lead, requalifies, why?

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. I hear Clearbit being used more and more, but it’s a behind-the-scenes tool.

Dylan: It’s pretty great.

Andrew: It is.

Dylan: It’s actually, I would endorse it as a useful tool. It doesn’t have data on every business, but it’s a really useful enrichment.

Andrew: I’m hearing nothing but successes here. Any challenges?

Dylan: So many. Come on.

Andrew: Like what? It feels like this was easy.

Dylan: Definitely wasn’t easy. I’ll say in the first two years it was a case of I convinced someone to leave Google and come and join me. I convinced someone to leave Microsoft and come and join me. And we were not making money. We were making an absolute pittance. We were trying to build this enormous product. One of the core things is building an editor for any engineers out there, like, building editors is a non-trivial activity.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: It’s actually incredibly difficult. So we were taking on this enormous technical challenge and enormous design challenge and we weren’t earning any real money. There was definitely like, some real hard yards of . . . the thing for me, at least personally was . . . And I have always been totally confident and sure that this is valuable and that this is a better way of doing business.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: But there’s a lot of times you . . .

Andrew: How do you convince somebody to do that, to understand that?

Dylan: But there’s a lot of times you’re sitting there waking up at 3:00 a.m. in the morning being like, “I’m sure of this thing, yet why aren’t we finding enormous traction and blowing up like Facebook is?”

Andrew: Why didn’t you?

Dylan: Find enormous traction?

Andrew: Yeah. What was the answer in retrospect?

Dylan: So, part of that, I think, is . . . Yeah, it is our first tagline which I mentioned, earlier documents for the web. That’s like a philosophical paradigm shift demanding tagline. And we were thinking that way and talking that way, which was the wrong way to do it because the Zeitgeist was still . . . It wasn’t far away from “I’m now comfortable putting my credit card on the internet.” Like, that was in living memory was like when people would refuse to do that.

Now, times have changed a lot since then and the Internet has become the fabric of people’s lives in business and as a consumer, and so I think what we’re doing is marrying up far more with where business is going and where just everyday lives are. But five years ago when we started the company, it was like, “Wait. My document is going to be a website? What the hell did that . . . What would that even be? What would that even mean? It’s just not comprehensible.” Then there was still a lot of businesses who went on the cloud for one thing, and they were like, “How could I not have it on premises? How would that even work?” And that’s the kind of environment that we were operating in. So, I think, yeah, there was a real, a), how we were approaching it in terms of like, we were coming with the paradigm shift as our marketing message which was not . . . that was a hard lesson that we needed to learn.

Andrew: It’s something you said for investors, but for the customer, you gave them something more concrete.

Dylan: Yeah. It’s so tangibly. We needed to like drill . . . And it’s interesting you sort of mentioned proposals, like proposals is just the thing that we realize people could hang on to and be like, “Oh, proposals. I care about that.”

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: But if you look at our tool, it’s a general purpose document tool for impressive, compelling communication that integrates with your stuff. Like, it doesn’t . . . It’s not actually necessarily anything to do with proposals, per se.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s almost like landing page software in some ways, right?

Dylan: And people use it for all kinds of purposes.

Andrew: They do use it for landing pages and then they connect it to Stripe so they can collect payment and then . . .

Dylan: All that kind of stuff.

Andrew: I wonder if we should be doing it for that.

Dylan: What’s interesting is when he had our free plan, oh my God, we had like fan fiction, we had kids in school using it, like, we had everyone using it for everything.

Andrew: Right, but those people are not leveling that up.

Dylan: Well, I mean, the school kid in year 10 is not able to afford the entry price point.

Andrew: No, I can understand then why you wouldn’t go free. But you know what? So, I just entered my email address. I got the free version right now. You immediately . . . You just like in the second here.

Dylan: Yeah, yeah. You’re in a 14-day free trial.

Andrew: I didn’t even . . . I thought I’d need to put my credit card information.

Dylan: No, no, no. Let’s not make it. That’s not add friction.

Andrew: That’s it. And so now you’ve got my email address, I can go in here, I can actually use this, I could send it out. And if I have like a thing that I’m going to use for 14 days or less, I’ve used it for free, and that’s it.

Dylan: Correct.

Andrew: Which is not really common. So, let’s see if it will work on my iPad. I’m actually going to add something. Let’s see if we can add a Lego block. I’m hitting the plus. Oh, I can add a quote right in the center. Okay, let’s do a quote right in the center.

Dylan: Got it set. I know you don’t need to necessarily set up iPad, but we’ll see how this experiment goes.

Andrew: If it doesn’t work, I actually believe in this case, it would be Apple’s problem. Apple should just force all Safari browsing experiences to just be desktop. Like, you should not even have to adjust for the fact that I’m on an iPad.

Dylan: Sure.

Andrew: Okay, so I’m blaming Apple. I’m going to put description here for some text. What are we selling here? We’re going to sell whiskey, whiskey night. So you can buy a whiskey night with me. How much do we charge for whiskey night? We’re going to charge 100 bucks American on Australian. What’s the unit? We’re going to sell one at a time. And they now get to . . . Now that I’ve done this, they see a total . . . Oh, and they get to put in how many?

Dylan: Yeah. Well, you can make that optional and interactive . . .

Andrew: Got it.

Dylan: . . . so when it’s received, they can configure that.

Andrew: And they could see for themselves here’s how much it would cost if I got 10 whiskey nights again for my team.

Dylan: Correct. So they can configure the quote. Well, you can allow certain parts to be configured as you wish and then they can get that live update on the price.

Andrew: Oh, look at this. So, I can show line items. I can then apply a discount. Oh, let’s let them have a discount. No, no. Screw that. No discount on whiskey. That is kind of interesting. So now the thing is, I like how this works. There are times when I do want people to pick. I’m trying to think of use cases. And that’s a headache.

Dylan: But I think your one with ads is a great one. It’s like which package . . . which options do you want?

Andrew: For sponsors, yes.

Dylan: How many spots? R

Andrew: Right.

Dylan: So, you mean more generally?

Andrew: I feel like with sponsors, I want us to get on a call with them and sometimes promote push them to take more, sometimes push them to take less. And I guess what you’re going to say is, “Andrew, put it in here. Let them pick. You decide for them.”

Dylan: One of the interesting things I think about that is, in general, when people pick for themselves, they tend to pick the safer, like, I probably should get the extra insurance, so I would wager that you will get more platinum packages . . .

Andrew: Because Sachit can’t do upsell on the phone, it would be . . .

Dylan: I mean, you can but you’re being sold to as opposed to, “Well, the reach will probably be better. I’ll take the gold package.”

Andrew: That’s interesting that now you’ve got an upsell on this. And for us, maybe an upsell would be access to like Facebook ads to our audience or something.

Dylan: Yeah. And that’s the other interesting thing I think is you can provide a whole list of upsells that might be a bit painful for you to go through on the phone, persons, they’re considering it.

Andrew: So, it’s just Sachit closes the sale. The proposal is just a way for them to see it on paper what he’s got instead of him sending it via email and sends it this way, and let’s add an upsell on there.

Dylan: Correct.

Andrew: And the upsell would be something that we’re kind of . . . it’s easy for us to offer. All right. I like where that’s going. I like that there’s an easy way to create a website like this. I’m trying to think of other uses for it. Can I use it for events?

Dylan: Sure.

Andrew: Like for selling tickets to events?

Dylan: It doesn’t like integrate with Eventbrite, but we’ve certainly had a lot of events people.

Andrew: No, replacing Eventbrite.

Dylan: Actually, yeah, I mean, you could.

Andrew: Could you do inventory with it?

Dylan: So, this is something that’s been quite interesting almost since the beginning of the company is, will we ever do product inventory? All I can say is that it’s an internal conversation, but it’s definitely one that’s come up a lot.

Andrew: What’s the best part of having done all this, of building this company?

Dylan: The people.

Andrew: Just hanging out with the people?

Dylan: Not hanging out, to be clear. Assembling it takes . . . Assembling the right . . . We’ll start this again. Something magical happens when you assemble the right group of very talented individuals that care about something as much as you do.

Andrew: And they do now.

Dylan: Yeah.

Andrew: You got that team of people who are smart who cared about it as much as you do.

Dylan: I do.

Andrew: You do?

Dylan: It’s kind of like a wonderful thing and I think that’s what’s the best thing is you’ve . . . You’ve also produced something that I think . . . I don’t want to say makes people’s lives better because that’s such like startup tech bro thing to say. The thing I always think about software is, I remember being like a kid like, 16 and having to do some menial stuff at these jobs that I was like, “This sucks. This is the most repetitive mechanical task that a monkey could do.” And then some bit of software would come out and then I don’t have to do that task anymore. It liberated me from that dog work.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: And I believe and I think it’s true if you go and use Qwilr it liberates you from so much dog work, so much repetitive dog work involved with documents and means that the outcome that you get is like something you can be really proud of versus something you’re a little bit like, “No. I’m sort of sheepishly ashamed of this thing.”

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: And for me I’m like, “That’s pretty cool.” If what’s happened is I’ve assembled this like crack team of people whose talents I admire who care about something as deeply as I do and we’ve produced this product that improves people’s lives at work and that it liberates them from dog work, that’s cool. And I’d love to do that to our earlier conversation of being in the first 50 meters. I’d love to do that at grander and grander scale.

Andrew: Who’s your ideal? Like, if we were to sit here five years from now or 10 years from now looking back, who’s the one type of customer that you feel especially proud to help?

Dylan: Probably . . .

Andrew: Use case. Not especially not of . . .

Dylan: I mean, that’s actually that’s hard because I don’t want to . . .

Andrew: I want to come up with the use case that’s like not intuitive, but it shows that you’ve changed documents because you’ve done this.

Dylan: One of the interesting ones I think one of our big customers is a removalist company, Australia’s largest removalist company.

Andrew: These are the people who remove junk?

Dylan: So, when you move house.

Andrew: Oh. You guys . . . We talk . . . We call movers.

Dylan: Okay.

Andrew: How are we all watching the same Netflix, the same videos, the same stuff, and still we have these phrases that are completely different?

Dylan: Why are we all on the metric system?

Andrew: No, that’s right. That makes sense. We should be on the metric system. But you’re talking about moving company. Okay.

Dylan: Yes, a moving company and they had . . . They were really struggling with their document system in terms of it wasn’t interactive. They couldn’t find a way to make it smooth and fast for people to do this. And we turned the document from something that was a static flyer that required getting on the phone, which means that they needed to scale the number, need to get more people in order to do more business and turn it into something that was beautiful, interactive and worked across devices. Like, to me in a small way, this is like, I think we’re only at the very beginning of this journey.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dylan: That kind of change what the document is. And I think the difference is it became . . . It’s the same differences as what happened between web 1.0 and web 2.0. Web 1.0 it was a presentation, it was static, it was a flyer. It was something you would leave behind and it wouldn’t change as a result of anything you do.

Andrew: Like tripod, you set up your own web page, you tell people about what you’re doing, but that’s it.

Dylan: It’s like geo city. Is wherever you’d like go and you’d see it and it would be like, “Okay. Well, this is the information presented.” It’s like a printed book, like the . . . I think a book is a good analogy. You get a printed book, you take it home, it can’t changed. It’s set in stone. And the web 2.0 jumped. It was like, you’d bring home this book, but depending on how you read it, it would change and you could interact with it. And I think this is the same jump we’re trying to make with documents was like, a document shouldn’t be this static thing that doesn’t adapt, it doesn’t change. What we’re trying to create is this like living interface that is interactive and it is dynamic and it functionally does things. That means that the receiver of the document can interact with you and your business in these automated and scalable ways that just makes both sides of the equation far more efficient.

Andrew: I often forget how much software can change the way that I’m doing things. Like, for example, the booking software that we used to have you come here and that saved me . . . Just picking that up saved me so much time because I didn’t have to go back and forth with people. I didn’t have to worry, “Did I give you my contact information?” I didn’t have to worry, “Do I have your cell phone number?”

Dylan: Sure.

Andrew: It was just like it’s revolutionary. What’s the software that does that for you?

Dylan: Probably the one that I love is an app called Things.

Andrew: Things.

Dylan: Things.

Andrew: It’s a checklist app.

Dylan: It’s a checklist app. And I know that’s like not the most like revolutionary . . .

Andrew: How do you use it?

Dylan: Do you know Getting Things Done?

Andrew: Yeah. You actually still use Getting Things Done.

Dylan: Well, I mean . . .

Andrew: Your version of it.

Dylan: My bastardized version of it.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: And that has just sort of changed my life in a lot of ways for the better.

Andrew: How do you use it?

Dylan: I mean, I just use it in terms of the discipline of like, I keep nothing on my mind.

Andrew: Something worries you, you put it in a checklist.

Dylan: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s it. I do that too and then I forget about the checklist.

Dylan: That’s why you got to be disciplined with the software.

Andrew: So every day you make sure to check it.

Dylan: Every day now with my entire life to it. But the thing that’s cool about it in terms of it changing my life is like, it works with Siri, so when I’m in the car, I’m like, “Hey, Siri, remind me to . . . ” whatever, and then it’s on my list, it’s on my laptop, it’s on my iPad, it’s on my phone.

Andrew: Okay. What other productivity hacks do you have that work for you?

Dylan: I’m a little bit . . . I mean, in many ways, I’m almost embarrassed to have mentioned the GTD thing.

Andrew: The what?

Dylan: The Getting Things Done thing. I’m a little bit . . . No more productivity hacks.

Andrew: Really?

Dylan: Yeah.

Andrew: Do you sit down and journal a lot?

Dylan: No.

Andrew: You don’t. I feel like you’re very well thought out about what you’re doing, where you’re going, who you are.

Dylan: I think a lot. I just don’t journal a lot.

Andrew: It is all in your head.

Dylan: No, no. I’m big on writing. So, yeah. I mean, I write things down when I want to formulate them.

Andrew: Okay.

Dylan: But in terms of the thoughts they are on my mind.

Andrew: Okay. I remember Sam Altman. I’ve been thinking about him so much lately because he left YCombinator so he’s been in the news a lot, but also the fact that he is so good about sitting down once a year and writing his goals. And I’ve just been amazed that . . . I guess it’s one of those things like Getting Things Done and I thought, “Oh, people don’t do that anymore. They don’t sit down and annually, like, write their goals and look at them but he does.” And I’m sure other people do too.

Dylan: And that’s why I actually think this the Getting Things Done system or that style of thinking is essentially that but even on a more regular cadence because you are keeping track of all the things you intend to do and what matters and prioritizing them.

Andrew: I like the Siri version of that because I do like just telling Siri to remind me. The thing that helps me is I say, “Siri, remind me when I get to the office . . . Siri, remind me when I’m at home . . . ” or I say, “Siri, remind me at a specific time,” and that helps a lot. I still don’t follow through. What I needed to do is like, automatically go to the right person who’s going to do it instead of me.

Dylan: Sure.

Andrew: All right. I have gotten better at delegating. I’m kind of now drawn into this freaking editor. All I want to do is just play with it. Yeah. See, now I’m forgetting to end the interview because I just want to see what else I could do with this editor. I’ve gone through your software before but never like this. I think I was going at it more of an intellectual exercise to get a sense of preparation and not like digging around, screwing around on it and seeing what I could do. All right. It’s Qwilr, K-W-I-L-R.

Dylan: Q-W.

Andrew: Q. Okay, right. I’m looking at it actually and literally saying K. Q-W . . . Do you think that this is like a tough name because I have to spell it?

Dylan: It is a bit of a difficult name I’m going to be honest.

Andrew: It is. You’re missing the R, the E after the L, right? Believe me, I called my company Mixergy, everyone calls it mix energy. People compliment me about how great mix energy is. All right. It’s qwilr.com. It’s really beautiful. If you enter your email address, you can just go in and play around with it. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is HostGator which is now looking and saying, “Oh man, what do we do about these guys who are just not building websites because we’ve gone over to Qwilr?” There’s still a lot of uses for websites.

I still believe that if you’re trying to get a job and you’re trying to show off your software skills, HostGator is a good way to do it. If you’ve got a company and you don’t own your own website, which is now becoming more and more of a thing, you got to have your own website. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And finally, I want to thank the company that helps me by helped me hire developers, designers and the finance guy who’s been helping me a lot. I went to toptal.com/mixergy and hired from there. All right. Thanks so much for doing this.

Dylan: Cheers.

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