Ryan Carson of Treehouse: from startup founder to seasoned CEO

Ryan Carson was so good at telling the world why his unconventional way of doing business was right & others were wrong.

Other companies worked 5 days a week. Treehouse worked 4. Others had managers. Treehouse had a more self-directed team. Others…well, I could go on, but you get the picture, right?

Last time he was on Mixergy he talked about how that style took his startup to $140k in monthly sales. But to do much better, he had to mature as a leader. This is how he went from a startup founder to the CEO of a professional, growing company by doing some of the things he used to fight against.

Ryan Carson

Ryan Carson

Treehouse

Ryan Carson is the founder of Treehouse, a place where you can learn how to design and develop code online.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hi everyone, my name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. You’re about to meet one of my favorite entrepreneurs, largely because I feel like I grew up as an entrepreneur reading his stuff, seeing him do these naked blog post where he talks about how he came up with an idea for a software and how he created it and how he built it and how he sold it. And he came here a few years ago. Let me see how long ago it was, Ryan, that you were here. You were here November 2011. So we’re talking about six, almost six and a half years ago at this point, seven.

Ryan: Looks like an eternity in internet life.

Andrew: Yeah. And boy, I’ve been re-reading the transcript from that interview. You are mind blowingly good. You talked about what you sold your software company for, the one that we all watch you build. What was it called, the one where people could send large files to each other?

Ryan: DropSend.

Andrew: DropSend. You talked about where you came up with the idea for what became Treehouse. You talked about what your numbers were supposed to be in order to break even. And so I thought we could have you back on here to talk about the maturization, hope I’m pronouncing that word right.

Ryan: Good word.

Andrew: Maturization of an entrepreneur, because back then, dude, you were the guy who had it figure out. You were telling other people. I heard rumors about some of the most respected people in tech, you were telling them they were wrong, and in many ways you were right to do that. And then I started reading about you in the Wall Street Journal, seeing in other places that you said, “Actually, I was wrong,” or, “I have to change.” I don’t know that you would say you were wrong. We’ll find out in this interview.

But basically you went from being a guy who said, “Look, this is a democracy, this is an entrepreneurial culture. We do not need managers to being in the Wall Street Journal talking about the need for managers.” You told me here about how you do four day work weeks. This is one of the reasons why people would work for you at Treehouse. And before this interview started, you told me something private about that, or it’s something you don’t share much, we’ll talk about that.

I didn’t realize that even at your level that you still need to sell and what selling is like. So we talked in the first interview and anyone who cares about entrepreneurship should go and listen to that interview about coming up with the business idea, launching it, getting customers and getting to . . . What did you say at the time? This was $142,000 a month in recurring revenues. Today we’re going to talk about how do you take that and hire the people around you to support that and keep it growing, how do you continue to sell when you’ve already, it felt to me at the time, everyone knew Treehouse, and how do you go beyond just selling and building this business to actually doing good in the world. And I know one of the things that you at Treehouse are trying to do is bring coding to people who are not the typical Silicon Valley bros, right? How do you bring in people who are from other cultures, other complexions, frankly, the people who are outside of the typical development world?

Ryan: Absolutely, yeah.

Andrew: All right. So the guest that I have here with me today as you heard, his name is Ryan, Ryan Carson. He is the founder of Treehouse. Treehouse is a place where you can go and learn how to design and develop, how to actually do code online. They do videos and they also have this thing. What is it called? I have it here on my screen. What is that called where I can actually type in my code?

Ryan: We have code challenges, we have practice sessions, we have a new thing called the Techdegree, which is online boot camp. We are the place to learn how to code.

Andrew: And you get that workspace where I can actually see code and play with it, right?

Ryan: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: That goes along with videos. All right, this whole interview is sponsored by two great companies. The first, well, if you decide, I don’t want to learn to code or I need to hire a developer, even though I do know how to code, it’s called Toptal, you can go to them and you can hire a developer, Toptal. And the second will help you host your website right. It’s called HostGator, but I’ll tell everyone about them later. First. Ryan, welcome.

Ryan: Thank you. It’s a joy to be back. It’s good to see you.

Andrew: I can’t believe you are back. Do you feel like at some point, “I’m too big for this. I actually used to go out and hustle and promote, but now I’ve got to come back and stand here and promote with Andrew”?

Ryan: No, no. This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you need to put in the daily work and that never stops.

Andrew: Selling?

Ryan: It’s never stop. This is an interesting thing, and I want everyone that listens to this to understand that if you think you’re great at product or you have an idea, and some day you’re going to have some sales person or some marketing person actually tell the world about it, you got to reset. And I had this belief that because we were doing something morally good, we teach people how to code so they can change their life, so they can get a job, so they can make more income. I almost believe the world owed us its attention. You know that the thing was going to happen, and we built a good product and they will come.

And I was lulled into a sense of kind of safety because we launched at the right time. So we launched in 2010 and everybody want to learn how to code, you know, Code Academy had just come out. And so our growth was just off the charts no matter what we did, we just crushed it. And I didn’t realize, “Oh, I need to actually be doing the daily work to go out and raise awareness for Treehouse. I need to talk to big companies who need to buy Treehouse to train their folks. I need to get myself out there and ask again to be on Mixergy.” You got to do those things. It’s daily discipline.

Andrew: Why? So I’ve talked to some of the people that you’ve hired over the years to do sales for you, to do online marketing for you. They’re great, they’re growth hackers. Why can’t you just say, “Look, I have over 100 people on this team, 1 or 5 or 10 of them can do the sales?” Do you have an example of a time when you realize that it wasn’t working to have other people do it while you think about the vision and the product?

Ryan: Yep. So we basically decided that we realized we have a lot of businesses that are coming inbound and saying, “Hey, will you cross-train our folks? We have designers who need to learn how to code. We have customer service people who need to learn how to code.” And it was growing very quickly. And I thought, “Oh, that means that eventually we’ll be able to do even larger deals with businesses, you know, $100,000 deals, $1 million deals.”

And you know what? It didn’t happen. And eventually I realized I as the CEO, as the founder, I need to get out there and sell. I have to believe in our product and I have to go figure out how to talk to somebody about it so that they make a significant investment with us. And I didn’t think I was good at sales. And some people just feel like, “I’m natural sales. I love it. I love the clothes. I love that feeling.” And then there’s the rest of us who feel bad about it. It’s like, “Oh, I got to kind of ask him to write me a check and it’s kind of dirty.”

And I was in that camp, and then when I realized, “You know what? Treehouse is going to rely on me being the leader in this.” I don’t have to close the most deals, but I have to be the one out in the front of the army. It’s just like if you’re landing on the beach with the troops, you can’t be back on the ship. You got to be on the beach. So I started to get out there and do it, and then I realized Treehouse is my religion. I love talking to people about Treehouse and why it will change their business and their life. This is fun and I’m good at this. So then I started to realize this can be learned, and now I lead the sales team here and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.

Andrew: So as a founder and CEO and active leader, what are the responsibilities that you have? One of them you’re saying is, you need to be an active sales person for the company. What else?

Ryan: So the biggest thing is that I cast a very clear vision for everybody to understand, and this is another learning lesson, okay? I’ve been running this company for seven, almost eight years now. We actually just launched our first two year vision. And what that is, “Hey folks, this is the plan. By 2020 this is where we want to be. This is how it works. This is how we measure it. This is why it matters.” And we actually made these huge posters. So out in the wall out there is this beautiful, big poster. And that’s really important because otherwise folks don’t know where you’re going. And so that’s my job as CEO. Clearly cast that, get buy-in, and communicate it in a regular basis. So that’s a big one.

Andrew: Okay.

Ryan: The second one that feeds into all that is the culture, ultimately, what kind of company we are, what kind of behaviors we value are going to come from what I say we need and what I demonstrate. So we care about things like humility, and hard work, and results, and discipline, and inclusion. Those are the things we all care about.

And then the third thing is that I have to make sure that there is a healthy amount of training, there’s a lot of protecting people from sexism and racism and all the bad things that happen. But ultimately, I’m responsible to grow revenue. And this is where I had sort of detached myself from that. This is going to happen, this is kind of someone else’s problem, and I realized, “No, it’s my problem and I need to know how to solve it.”

Andrew: What about hiring?

Ryan: Hiring. So hiring . . . Boy, hiring everyone says it’s hard and it is, because . . .

Andrew: But is that a CEO’s? Is that the CEO’s responsibility, Ryan’s?

Ryan: Sort of. What I’m realizing is it’s my responsibility to help people understand the behaviors that we need in people. Here’s what I mean by that. So you could say, “Well, we need to hire this type of person,” but really what is the behavior that we need from that person? And the really hard thing about hiring is that it’s like marrying somebody right after you have a date with them. So how do you actually do that? So I think we’re getting a lot better asking behavioral questions around that, and then hiring the right person and then trusting that, and then extending trust as they earn it to help them hire their team.

Andrew: Are you the person who hires or are you the person who thinks through how to do it?

Ryan: A little bit both.

Andrew: Okay.

Ryan: So I have a Chief Product Officer and a VP of Engineering. It’s the same woman, she reports to me. I have a Chief Operating Officer that reports to me, and now I also lead sales. So I have the whole sales team actually reporting to me right now. And I hired Londa, our Chief Product Officer, and Mike, my COO. And so I did that. Now, almost all the hiring that’s happened after that, I didn’t even interview anybody. And that’s good and bad. I do a 30-day check-in and a 60-day check-in and a 90-day check-in with everybody we hire. So I have a Zoom call with every single one. Part of that is to say, “Here’s why I started the company,” and the next thing is, “Hey, I care that you joined the company. That’s big deal.” So it’s a little mix of both. Ultimately though, as a CEO, every person we hire is on me. The results of that person ultimately . . .

Andrew: But you’re not necessarily going through the hiring process, keeping a CRM of potential hires in the future. That kind of thing is not your . . .

Ryan: Not right now. We have 70ish full time people. So we’re actually trying to promote from within. We’ve really switched our thinking on this instead of hiring great external folks, we actually try to create and grow talent. On our engineering team now we have partner with the Boys and Girls Club to find great folks who are black or Latinx, or women. We bring them into the organization and we train them up to be better and better engineers instead of hiring expensive engineers. We’re trying to do the same with sales folks. I think everybody listening should think a lot more about growing talent instead of hiring great talent.

Andrew: That’s interesting coming from a company that trains people to get hired.

Ryan: Right. Yeah. But this is what’s interesting is, we create beginners. So this is what I’ve learned is, “Okay, Treehouse, we’re not Lynda, we’re not Pluralsight, we’re not . . . Even Udacity creates these kind of machine learning engineers and flying car engineers and Pluralsight is really good advanced development. We don’t do any that. We create beginners. We’re really good at that. We have 80,000 enrolled beginners right now.

Andrew: Yeah. I went through one of your courses just to get a taste of it in preparation for our conversation, and the instructor, I forget his . . . Oh, Dave McFarland. I see him all the time. Dave explains what a PNG file is. It’s not like he spends a long time, but he just makes sure as he’s describing it, he’s not saying, “Here’s your PNG, here is your HTML.” He’s saying, “Here’s your PNG file, that’s your image. Here’s your HTML file, that’s your web content, etc.” All right. You know what? Let’s break it down from where you work, how you got here. But first, I want to understand what here is. What’s the revenue today?

Ryan: We’re 15 million plus.

Andrew: A year?

Ryan: Yeah.

Andrew: Wow. So you’ve come a long way more than about, what, 8x from what we were before.

Ryan: Yeah, and it’s not where I wished it was, but it’s better than nothing. So it’s a mix of things. So . . .

Andrew: At the time, I know that you said four days a week was big, that you said that remote teams worked well. It was very much to that Basecamp/37signals way of looking at the world. You guys came up in the same way. I’ve told you before the interview started that I heard rumors that your investor, Mark Suster, did not like that kind of thing.

Ryan: Yep.

Andrew: Did you guys have . . . you had it out.

Ryan: We had a frank conversation around it. I love Mark because he speaks the truth and he doesn’t hide it from you and he doesn’t . . . He’s very direct. I love it. And he’s very genuine. So he just said to me, “Ryan . . . ” And this is when I went back for the beef round . . . no, the A round. So he invested in our angel rounds and then I went back for the A round and I said, “Mark, we’re raising more money. I’d love if you could be a part of that.” And he said, “Okay, well, let’s dig back in.”

And somehow he’d, I probably because I talked about it non-stop, he said, “You work on four day work week. What is that? How does that work?” And I said, “Well, I think people can get the same amount of work done in four days as five if they work smarter, not harder.” And he just said, “You’re naïve, Ryan.” So it’s something like that. Like, “I think that’s naive and I think it means that you don’t have what it takes to lead this company to success. And I know that sounds harsh, but I’m calling like it is, so I’m not going to invest.” Yeah, I was like getting punched in the face. And I thought, “I’m going to prove him wrong.”

Andrew: Yeah. When I talked to you, there was this sense that I’m going to prove him and the rest of the world wrong. This was fuel for you to stick with for four days a week.

Ryan: Yeah. And so we did a four day work week before I started Treehouse back in 2006, and we ended it in 2016. So I actually did it for 10 years. And here’s what happened. I just had to admit, how can we compete if we were working 32 hours a week and everybody else’s working 50? I mean, in the end, I hate to admit it, we’re just not going to be able to compete.

Andrew: I have a sense that you hit some kind of plateau or something that made you say, “All right, Ryan, you got to confront yourself and figure things out.” What was that?

Ryan: It was a number of sort of things happening at the same time. So we went out to raise our series C and then the market just imploded. It was at this moment where boxes, private evaluation had gotten cut by something like 30% to 50% and all over sudden it rippled back into the entire industry and everybody said, “Well, wait, all this 20x revenue stuff, it’s just not real, and we need to give people realistic valuations.” And so I was a raising money right in the middle of that and I just realized, “No, we’re not going to be able to raise money and a valuation or happy with here.”

Andrew: Somewhere around mid-2016.

Ryan: Yep. And it was just tough. And so that was the first moment of like, “This isn’t going to plan and we got to make changes.” And then it was pretty painful. We were on a burn and raise path. So when I talked to you first, I said, “We’re going to build a sustainable company, and I’m excited about that. I’m going to do that.” And eventually I listened to the Silicon Valley type investors. You got to raise and burn until you IPO. There has to be . . . That’s the way this is done.

Andrew: Why did you switch your thinking to that?

Ryan: I was trying to be humble and say, “I don’t know everything. These folks have done more than I have. Maybe they’re right, maybe I’m naive.” And so I had to sort of say, “Maybe I’m wrong. All right, we’re going to take the plunge.” And that was really scary to say, “Okay, we’re going to increase our burn, we’re going to hire a bunch of folks, we’re going to hire executives, we’re going to do all this stuff, and then we’re going to raise money.”

So we had done all that. We had increased our headcount massively. We had hired really senior executives. And then it was like, “Okay, now I need to raise money,” and then the market fell out, the bottom fell out in the market. And it’s like, “Okay, we’re in a really tough spot.” And the brutal answer is we have to let some folks go. And so we went through that, which is anyone listening that’s gone through, it’s really hard. And it makes you question. And so as an entrepreneur, I question myself, “Okay.” I think, “What if I made some fundamental mistakes here? And I wonder if . . . ” I also set up a culture for some reason that is unable to flex and work harder when it needs to more than 32 hours.

We tried to have managers for a while, maybe that hurt us too. So I guess I had a lot of doubt. And I’m being fairly transparent here. It was pretty painful as an entrepreneur when you really start doubting yourself, that’s the worst. And I was . . .

Andrew: Why? Why is that the worst?

Ryan: I think because your whole career as an entrepreneur is predicated on some sort of belief in yourself that you can figure it out and that you somehow are going to make it work. And it must be what it’s like . . . I’ve never been a boxer, but it must be what it’s like when you get knocked out and then you get knocked out again and you think, “Wait a second. That wasn’t supposed to happen.” And so got knocked out twice and it felt like and at that point I had to say, “I got to change some things.” And so . . .

Andrew: Were the changes just to please the investor so you can get to your series C, or did you say, “I actually don’t have that strong of a company right now. We should be able to say, screw you investors, we could figure this out, or keep going until the investors are ready to come back and aren’t scared?”

Ryan: It was not for investors. Thankfully, I was a sole founder and I raised very little capital in the beginning, so I still control Treehouse, I still own the majority of the company right now. So nothing we do is to technically please an investor do something. Of course I want to take care of my investors and do right by them. It wasn’t for that. It was just a fundamental, “Hey, I think we need to change some things to make this business fundamentally successful.” And then the process began. My worst nightmare is telling everybody we need go from our 32-hour week to a normal 42 and pay them the same amount. My worst I remember saying, “You used to not have managers, now we’re going to give you managers.” But we had to do all that.

Andrew: I want to understand how you got yourself to do it because you had to accept it for yourself, then your person who was public about this other point of view and you were trying to prove the world wrong, and you’re telling your people, this is the direction to go. And now you have to go back on everything that you stood for, and I want to know, and it’s the right move, but it’s so hard to accept. I want to know how you got there and what you were thinking. But let me take a moment and just talk about my first sponsor, which is Toptal. And I’d like to get your input into this.

Toptal is a company where people like me go to hire developers. They’re not the beginning developers. I wonder if they do that. That’s not what they specialize in even if they do have it. It’s the advanced developers, the best of the best. The question I have for you is, how should we be thinking about hiring the best of the best developer? As someone who hire developers, who trains developers, who creates new developers, what are some of the ways that we could hire people from Toptal or from anywhere else?

Ryan: So what I like about Toptal is they focus on folks’ work. Hey, the reason why you have the top talent from Toptal is because you have great work. It’s not where you went to school, it’s not your pedigree. It’s, “Hey, show me your work and let my work stand.” And I think that is the most important thing. We anonymize our entire application process. We don’t know your name, we don’t know your gender, we don’t know your race, we don’t know your age, we don’t know your location. We just look at your work and that’s what Toptal does, and so I think that’s a key, look at people’s work and let it stand . . .

Andrew: Yeah. I never thought to do that. So when I hire from Toptal . . . And I should say because I know I’ve got a little bit of a cold again. It’s top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, Toptal. I ask them, what are they done before? And then I pass them on to the developer and have him have conversations with them, but I never thought to say, “Can I see what you’ve done before? Can I ask you questions about it and try to figure out why you did it this way and what you did?” Okay. So that’s one of the things that we should be doing and say, “I want to see that you’ve done work like what I need you to do. Show it to me, not just tell me about it.”

Ryan: Show me your work, yeah.

Andrew: All right. Great advice. Whether you’re looking for developer and that’s really what they specialize in, or a designer, which is their second addition to the Toptal talent pool or more recently, they added finance people. If you’re looking for the best of the best, and they do specialize in the best of the best, go check out this special URL, Toptal was created by two Mixergy fans. They both been long term listeners of Mixergy and so they created something just for us.

Ryan: I didn’t know that. That’s really cool.

Andrew: It really is amazing. One of them was an interviewee in the early days, Breanden and the other person, Taso, he actually came to the first in-person event I did at South by Southwest and he was like, he came over, he started having a conversation with me and I didn’t piece it together that he was a Toptal founder until years later when I moderated one of their panels. So because they’re fans, they are doing something that they don’t do anywhere else. They want to support the program here and they know that the audience is a very valuable audience for them, which is why they’ve been advertising non-stop with me for three, four years.

Ryan: Nice.

Andrew: And here’s what they’re giving you; 80 hours of Top . . . And this is too for you, Ryan. If you and your team need to hire someone from them, 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours. And that’s in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks. They want you to be 100% satisfied. I should probably be emphasizing all that you’re getting with that, but I’m intentionally not. I want you to go sign up for Toptal because you get the best of the best developers and not because of all this 80 hour free stuff that they give you. So I’m just going to tell you, if you want it, go to toptal.com/mixergy, toptal.com/mixergy. All right. The realization, you had it. What do you have to go through to accept and then to tell the world everything I stood for, I’m actually going to adjust?

Ryan: It feels like part of you dies. Let’s put this in perspective. I have all my limbs, I can see, I can hear, I have enough money to eat, I’ve got great kids and family. So existentially, my life is fine, but emotionally it was the worst thing I had ever been through. I think if I hadn’t had anybody I truly love die, so I haven’t experienced that. But it was the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through.

Andrew: How did you get to that point?

Ryan: I think I just love Treehouse so much. I believe in what we’re doing. Like I said, it’s my religion. I’ll do anything for Treehouse. I won’t sacrifice my family, but otherwise I’ll do anything.

Andrew: You’re still with your wife, aren’t you?

Ryan: Yeah. I’ve been married for 14 years. I have two amazing kids. So my family is the most important thing.

Andrew: She was the co-founder of the company, that’s why I ask.

Ryan: Yeah, she is.

Andrew: You know what? Whenever I hear someone started a business with their spouse, I want to ask, “Are you guys still together? And if you’re not, what’s it like when you start this thing together?” And then you told me before the interview started, “I actually got her face tattooed on my body and I realized, “Oh, [inaudible 00:25:25].”

Ryan: Yeah. It wasn’t her face because I thought that would go bad, but it was her name.

Andrew: Her name, okay.

Ryan: Her name is Gillian and she’s British, so I have a teacup and a lion and a unicorn, and it says, Gillian on my chest. So that happened when I was 37. But I think when you’re an entrepreneur, you start a lot of companies, some of them you realize isn’t going to be your life’s best work, your most important work, and then sometimes you realize it is. And I knew that Treehouse was going to be the most important thing.

Andrew: Why? There’s tons of places online that teach people how to program, there’re tons of places in person that teach people to program. Schools are offering it. Why is this? Because the reason I’m saying it is, in the previous interview you told me you had a company that did well, you probably should’ve kept it going or sold it for a hire multiple. But you said, “I don’t care so much about letting people move big files.” What is it about this one that made you say, “I love this and I’m willing to do anything for it?”

Ryan: It’s because it directly changes people’s lives, directly, so . . .

Andrew: Do you have an example? It seems like you’ve seen this happen enough that now it’s touched you.

Ryan: Yeah, it’s crazy. So for instance, right now I’m working with five folks who are Latinx. Their parents are Mexican, and no one ever told them that they could even get a job in tech. No one around them is in tech. No one that they know has completed college. They were never going to have this opportunity. And I think as a white guy, I didn’t understand that for a long time. “Hey, you know, anyone can get in tech. You just sign up for Treehouse. What’s the problem?” And then I realized, “You know what? You’re never going to sign up for Treehouse if no one that you know is going to be a developer and tells you, you can do it.”

So we partnered with the Boys and Girls Club and said, “Hey, you have the trust of these amazing folks. We do not. Can you tell them that there are these amazing jobs in tech that they can get them?” And they said, “You bet, we’ll do that.” So they told them that this could happen, and if they put in the work, a company would invest in them. And so we got this amazing group of folks, and then we had companies like Nike and Treehouse and Envision say, “We’re going to hire those folks and we’re going to invest.”

Andrew: Specifically anyone who comes from the Boys and Girls Club, who go through the program, if they complete it, they will get hired . . .

Ryan: You will hire them, yeah, as apprentices. So this is the other big thing I’ve learned is that coding is a trade skill. It’s not something . . . it’s not Computer Science. It’s a trade skill just like carpentry. And you should learn at a trade school that’s affordable. So we’re really an online trade school. So you take all those things together, okay, I can directly empower someone to change their life and change the trajectory of their entire life and therefore their family’s whole life. It’s just like I get up in the morning for that all day long.

Andrew: Did they pay for it, the kids at the Boys and Girls Club?

Ryan: No, no. So it’s all funded by the employer.

Andrew: The employers says, “We will put you through this. And if you come out, we’re going to give you an apprenticeship.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly, because they need that talent.

Andrew: And it’s a paid . . .

Ryan: It’s a paid apprenticeship, yep.

Andrew: Oh wow, I see.

Ryan: Well, because this is the thing that companies understand, we can’t hire diverse talent, we can’t figure it out, and we need diverse talent and so we’re going to . . .

Andrew: Why do we need it?

Ryan: It’s because we can . . . Number one, I think it’s social justice. That’s important. You know, that . . .

Andrew: You’re just thinking, well, number one, you think it’s the right thing to do.

Ryan: It’s a moral thing, number one.

Andrew: But I asked you before the interview started, “What’s in it? What do you want? How do I make this a win for you?” I thought you’d say something like, “You know, if you could give a URL or you can track how many people came in.” You didn’t. You said, “I want people to know that we were trying to get more diverse people into coding.” All right. That’s why I’m asking this question. So, all right. It’s a moral thing. But I’m a business person and the moral thing I could do on the weekends. What else?

Ryan: So the reason why is we’re all building products, and if we only build products for white people, then we limit our market. And so there’s no way that I as a white guy understand what a black woman needs and wants. And so if I don’t have any black women in my development team and my engineering team, how are we going to build products to actually meet those needs? So diversity and equity and inclusion are really important from a business perspective. So you got to have a diverse team, otherwise you’re going to create products that are only for white people, which means you’re going to limit your market. So . . .

Andrew: You know what? I’m totally with you on that. I sometimes put things in harsh ways to extract from the guests what they’re feeling, but I’m with you on it. You know what? One of the weird things that I noticed was after I had . . . after I got married and had kids, I realized there’s so few apps for married people. There’s so few apps for people who have kids, because people who are coding here don’t have it. They don’t even have relationships here. I’m talking about being in San Francisco.

Ryan: Yeah, it’s crazy.

Andrew: It’s shocking.

Ryan: Right. So you end up with a bunch of apps for delivering chocolate to people who are smoking marijuana. I mean . . .

Andrew: And it’s the million app . . . And so Hunter Walk [SP] has this group for parents in San Francisco because they’re such like a weird set of people. Some of the best entrepreneurs in the city are part of this group. You should see how many times they come on and they say, “Does anyone have an app for this or a way to do that?” They don’t even know any. They’re in the know and they don’t even know any because so many people here are coding up from their own experiences and that’s one of the things that you’re pointing out. I happen to be more aware of being a husband and a father now. If I was someone who was Hispanic woman in her teens, I might also be aware that there’s a lack of apps for that and lack people to take care of it, and that’s your point of view.

Ryan: Exactly.

Andrew: All right. So you came in, you told your people this. One of the other things I noticed about families is when somebody counts on having a day off, it’s their school too. They worked that day off around their school system. They work that day off around when they’re sharing responsibilities for the family. What happened when you told people, “Hey, this day off that I used to give you, I can’t do it anymore?”

Ryan: It was tough. We tried to give people the option of working four tens in case they really couldn’t, you know, they had arranged their life around a Friday, and some people do that. So that helped trying to just be flexible and say, “Hey, I know you can’t change that in immediately sometimes.” But now when we tend to hire people, we say, “Yeah, we just work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, 9-6 of all our folks.”

Andrew: Okay. All right. Managers, there’s this Wall Street Journal article where, dude, I know you as the guy who always wore the Frank Sinatra hat. You look in your 20s, like you are a guy from 40-year-old guy from the 1920s.

Ryan: Oh my God, yeah.

Andrew: Then I look at the Wall Street Journal article, it’s you and a t-shirt with these tattoos. Your hair, I don’t know what you did to . . . You always had good style about you.

Ryan: What happened? Yeah.

Andrew: It’s like, did this guy just go younger? What happened over here? And then I looked at the article and it was all about how you had to hire managers. Tell me what . . . And you did talk about a little bit in this article, but let’s rehash it for people who don’t have a Wall Street Journal subscription. What was it that went wrong in the business that made you say, “We need managers?”

Ryan: So, the premise of not having managers was, “Hey, people are smart. They can make great decisions on the front line, so they don’t need managers.”

Andrew: Decisions like what? Like what would you let them do on their own?

Ryan: Anything. So what products should we build? How should we do marketing? How should we do customer success? It was really anything. It was completely no manager. No centralized structure. And then what happened is I realized it was really hard to get everybody moving in the same direction. Clearly if there’s no leader, you can’t get the army following you. So when we needed to do important things, we couldn’t get them done. And then also it was hard for anyone to keep each other accountable. I want to do this idea, great. I’m going to do it, and then I’m going to be done with it. I’m going to do something else. Instead of improving the thing that we shipped or iterating on it.

Andrew: Somebody need to go back and say, “It was so fun to create it. It’s a lot less fun to confront the faults of it and to also do the clean-up. You need to go back.” And that was one of the things. Did you have software that helped manage it for a while?

Ryan: We did. So we made our own crazy kind of system, I think it was called . . . I can’t remember. It had a name. We created this soft . . . I mean, that was another distraction, you know, we’re building software for managing the team instead of doing the work of . . .

Andrew: The chat app, was that also in-house instead of using something like Slack?

Ryan: Yeah, Slack didn’t exist back then.

Andrew: Why? Why did you build your own software? I feel like that was a point of view that helped you and until it didn’t.

Ryan: It did. So I was like, “Wow, we want to make this no manager thing work, so let’s build some tooling and it’ll be great.” And it kind of was for a little while. And then what we realized is humans have certain behaviors that are good and bad. And one of those behaviors is you have dominant personalities that end up pushing things. So they almost become kind of managers in a way, but they’re not really empowered.

And this is the worst part. What I realized is that managers take care of people. Good managers do. So if you don’t have managers who are trying to take care of their team, you don’t have anybody taking care of each other. It’s not that we didn’t like each other and care about each other, but we weren’t taking care of each other. So now . . .

Andrew: You know what, I . . . Sorry, go ahead.

Ryan: I just now we have managers because they need to take care of their teams, and I don’t mean make their teams do things, I mean, actually take care of them.

Andrew: I feel like the name manager is a pretty shitty name.

Ryan: It is. It’s the worst.

Andrew: Right. And I’m not the kind of person who wants to have fancy titles just for the sake of fancy title, but what’s the name where every company used to have a customer support person and still does, but then they had a success something rather . . .

Ryan: Customer success. Customer success.

Andrew: What is it?

Ryan: It’s called customer success.

Andrew: Customer success. And I used to think that it was just another way of a different name for a customer support person, but it’s not. It’s, “If we get you to be successful with our software, you’re going to stick with it longer and you’re going to be happy with it. My job as customer success is to make sure that this fits in with your company and that it works for you.” And it’s different from being the person who handles bugs for you.

Ryan: Exactly.

Andrew: There’s some software internally that we’re working with for our webinars where they say, “We have a customer success person. We want to set you up with the software. Tell us your problems.” And person on our team say, “I can’t believe . . . First of all, you’re slowing me down a little bit, but second because I like to experiment.” But second is kind of cool that you can actually take away all the work that I’m trying to do to figure this out.

Ryan: Right.

Andrew: And so I feel it’s the same thing with managers.

Ryan: So I don’t need to have people success, right, managers, people success inside our company or something, right? Not manager. So I agree that’s . . . Can you rebrand that for us?

Andrew: You know what? I think maybe just putting it out there hopefully will solve it, but we’ll call somebody to solve it because managers are the people who used to just manage, make sure that you’re putting the nuts on the bolts.

Ryan: Right.

Andrew: All right. So you decided you were going to start bring in managers. How’d you learn how to get managers and how to structure a company around managers?

Ryan: Well, we asked a couple of friends who I follow who were great managers and they said, “There’s this podcast that’s free and it’s called Manager Tools and you should check . . . ”

Andrew: Really?

Ryan: Yeah. And I was like, “What’s that?” And I said, it’s like Car Talk, but for management. And I listen to it and it was great. So everyone should check it out. It’s free and they have something . . .

Andrew: I’m going through right now. Manager-tools.com

Ryan: Yeah, manager-tools.com. And they have this thing called the Trinity, and it’s the three things that every manager needs to learn as the basics. So you should Google “Manager Tools Trinity.” And the first one is one on one, so you got to have one on ones, this is how they work. And the second one, you got to give feedback, and here’s how you get feedback. You can’t manage people and not tell them how they’re doing. They need that and they want that, but you actually have to get a lot of good feedback. So it’s something like crazy, like 70%, 80%, 90% of your feedback is supposed to be positive.

And then the 10% is negative, but negative works like this. “Andrew, when you cough out loud during a podcast, you kind of distract the audience. Can you not do that, please?” And then you move on, right? It’s a behavior based. It’s not a feeling. Like, “Andrew, when you are upset during a podcast, it makes it really feel bad.” It’s like, “Well, what does upset mean?” “No, when you roll your eyes that makes customers think you don’t care.

Andrew: The specific thing that I do, don’t try to understand the feeling that’s causing it.

Ryan: Right. It’s something you have to be able to point a camera at and reproduce.

Andrew: And just come out and say it.

Ryan: Yeah, and it supposed to be real quick. You stop them in the hallway really quick, “Hey, Andrew, when you rolled your eyes in that meeting, I think they seem to get upset. Can you watch that?”

Andrew: I thought you’re going to say soften the blow for them by telling what they do well and then telling them, “No.” You’re saying just be clear, quick, move on.

Ryan: And you’re supposed to build up a lot of trust first by establishing what they do well. So Andrew, when you create a great lighting for the show, you really help the audience believe that, that the quality was higher. Can you keep doing that?

Andrew: So how do you keep yourself accountable for that? Because all the things that go well, I never remember to compliment people on. It’s the things that break that I do.

Ryan: I have a reminder.

Andrew: You do. Tell me about that.

Ryan: It’s literally just an Apple reminder. “Hey, give someone props. Remember to do that.”

Andrew: And it just goes off once today and you have to . . . I see.

Ryan: Yeah, and then it’s like, oh yeah. And then you notice there’s a lot of good stuff going on. I should talk about it.

Andrew: And do you have anything like an internal Slack chat room or something while you do that?

Ryan: We do. And this is another great tip. There’s something called Growbot. I think it’s called Growbot.

Andrew: Yes, it is. It’s a . . .

Ryan: The Slack plugin, and we have a room called Proptastic. And what you do, you plug in Growbot and then you can get props, so I would say. Props to Andrew Warner when he got a guest on the show that really helped raise awareness, it was amazing, and then you put a bunch of emojis on there, and then everyone sees it and cheers. And it’s awesome. It’s my favorite Slack channel.

Andrew: And it gives them point, right?

Ryan: It does. We don’t really use that . . .

Andrew: You don’t use that.

Ryan: Because I think it’s less important, but it’s more just a fun place to create positive feedback for everybody.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s one of the best bots that I’ve seen.

Ryan: It’s in pretty neat. I mean, I’ve got no affiliation with them financially. I think we pay them money. So, they’re great.

Andrew: I like the idea of also setting a reminder. I’ll be honest with you. There was a period there where my wife said, “I really I feel better when you . . . ” I forget how she said it. It wasn’t like I feel better when you compliment me, but it told me that that’s what she was looking for me to be aware. And I set a reminder for myself. And the mistake that I made was I set a reminder to go off at the same time every . . .

Ryan: Oh, no. She figured that out.

Andrew: Did you just set a reminder? I mean, I love it, but I’m just curious.

Ryan: Yeah. My wife always told me very clearly. I used to have an executive assistant. I don’t have one now, but she said, “If you ever ask your EA to do something for me, I will divorce you.” I was like, “Noted. Okay.”

Andrew: Why don’t you have an EA anymore?

Ryan: It was part of that process of realizing I needed to double down on my own discipline and claim like, “I’m going to get good at these things. I’m not going to have crutches and do that kind of stuff. I’m going to learn sales, I’m going to get out there, I’m going to do hard work.”

Andrew: How do you do all this stuff and still have kids and still have a life?

Ryan: It’s interesting. So I wake up at 4:30 every day, so I can work from 4:30 to 5:45 on Treehouse, and then I work out for about 45 minutes real quick. I try to keep that like 30 minutes. And then I protect my time to the family. I walk up to our bedroom and bring coffee up to my wife at 6:30. We sit and chat because life with kids is crazy. So we have a 30 minute just window where we just talk about stuff and the kids usually invade the room and jump on the bed and stuff. And then get ready, we have breakfast, and then I go to work at 8:30. And I work like a mad man from 8:30 to 6:15. I’d never take a lunch because I don’t want to sacrifice my family time.

Andrew: What does work mean for you? You know what? Let me take a moment here and just talk about my second sponsor and then come back. When you say you work, what does it mean? And I’ve got to tell you, I’m so glad that you’re back out talking.

Ryan: Thanks. It’s fun.

Andrew: You are one of the most interesting people because you aren’t just interesting to get attention, you’re interesting because you are thoughtful about the way that you did work to the details. Like anyone who is watching this video. And I’ll be honest with you. Most people are not watching the video, they’re listening to the audio. But anyone who happens to do it would look and say, “This is a guy who framed his shot well. He’s got a good mic, but it’s not in front of his face. He’s got earphones even though Andrew doesn’t have earphones because Ryan’s aware that there’s some feedback that comes in. He’s got the Treehouse, but look at how the Treehouse logo is just at the right spot, not so much that any part of it is covered by his head, but also not so far over on the right that it feels like it’s disconnected.”

Ryan: I’m trying.

Andrew: You pay attention to the details without making it feel like you are sweating it and putting pressure on everyone. And I’m glad that you’re out there talking.

Ryan: Thanks, I really appreciate it. It’s fun to be back.

Andrew: Do you still even have a blog anymore?

Ryan: I do. So Medium . . .

Andrew: Medium?

Ryan: Medium is my thing, enjoying it . . . Are you worried about all our content being out there? Do you care? Do you want to put on your own blog?

Andrew: No. Do whatever you want. I love it.

Ryan: Cool.

Andrew: Yeah, appreciate it. All right. Let me take a step here back and talk about my second sponsor, which is a company called HostGator. Let me ask you this. If you were to start over today, you got nothing, but you do have a hosting plan, what business, what product would you create? What experiment would you do to get yourself started? Because you’re a guy who’s just really creative that way.

Ryan: Gosh, there’s so many fun things you could do. Build a simple app, create a simple website, just get building. So it’d be great to be able to have a service like HostGator to crank it out.

Andrew: You know what I noticed that’s interesting? So chatbots are really big right now where you basically send messages out to people. There are handful of guys who are starting businesses that are very similar to what ThemeForest became where they’re creating templates for the real estate broker template in a chatbot. So if you’re a real estate broker, you don’t have to figure out how to create your own chatbot. You just go in and you buy their template, and you attach it to your chatbot, and it’s ready to go.

Ryan: Wow.

Andrew: So some of these guys have shown me their numbers. It’s not astronomical. We’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, not even tens of thousands of dollars, but it’s in the 5 to 20 a month for some of them creating these templates for chatbots. And it feels like with every new platform, there’s an opportunity to create a new site that sells themes.

And so we saw that when Keynote was popular or PowerPoint was popular for websites. We saw that when Flash was popular. There were these Flash-based themes, someone should have killed them a long time ago, or never allowed them to launch. But it works and it’s an interesting business. If you’re out there and you’re trying to think of something to start off, think of what’s worked over the years and what you could bring to a new platform. I could imagine almost when virtual reality comes out, someone’s going to create a virtual reality theme compilation. There’s some things that are just universal and whenever a new platform comes out, you need to apply them to that platform.

So think about that, and also realize that if you already have a site, and I know most of you guys out there do have a site and you don’t like your hosting company, just switch over to HostGator. They will even migrate you for, I think, they do it for free. All you have to do is go to hostgator.com/mixergy. When you add the /mixergy to the end, you are going to get not 60%, but 62% off one of their already low prices and actually 60% off some of the other prices.

Don’t do it because of the 60% off, do it because you’re going to give me some credit for introducing you to HostGator and also do it because they’re a good company. Frankly, if they’re a bad company, 60%, 80%, 100% off is not going to do you any good. They’re a good company and you could check them out 45 days, money back guarantee to show how good they are. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy.

I forgot the question I was asking you before. You know what?

Ryan: We were just talking about managers, we were talking about four day work weeks, we were talking about learning sales. And we were talking about time, discipline. This is the key . . .

Andrew: So doing it yourself. I don’t know then . . . I still don’t understand . . . When you do your work, when it’s like packed into a full day, what is your work they like? What are the things that you do?

Ryan: So it depends. Some days are packed with one on ones where I meet with the folks that work directly with me.

Andrew: And try to lump them into one day.

Ryan: I do. So I do those all on Monday. So I have like nine of them on Monday. They’re all half an hour long. So that’s pretty much all day Monday. I have two sales standups per day, one at 8:45, one at 3:35, which is because we have East Coast folks. And those are actually really fun. We use a style where people commit and it’s on a spreadsheet to what they’re going to do that day, and at the end of the day, we ask, “Did you do what you committed?”

Andrew: And it’s two calls?

Ryan: Yep, two calls. And it’s red, green and . . .

Andrew: Okay. One at the beginning and one at the end.

Ryan: Red, green or yellow. And those are actually a lot of fun because you announce wins or you cry when you lose deals or that’s fun. I have a weekly executive meeting where we just real quick sync on things, what’s happening this week. And then I do a ton of outbound awareness stuff. I contact folks that we want to tell about Treehouse. I set up sales calls. I sent emails. A lot of sales work. So I’m basically doing a sales role. And then I do a lot of meetings with people in-house just to remind them of our two year vision or support them. And it’s just a lot of meeting great people all day. And I’m an introvert, so by the end of the day I’m just wiped.

Andrew: Do you ever feel like, “I need more time to not do this stuff?” I feel that way sometimes.

Ryan:My light just went off. Right there. It came back up. Yeah, I do need more time, and it’s . . . But you’re always going to want more time. I always think about Elon Musk. Okay. He runs SpaceX, he runs Boring Company, he runs Tesla. I guess he’s busy, so I can’t be that bad.

Andrew: I know that there are times when I get to work from Napa and not have any scheduled phone calls and I have the flexibility. It’s what Paul Graham called maker hours versus manager hours. He was living manager hours now all the time. It’s very tough. And maker hours are more fun, more creative, more of what we imagine entrepreneurship was like. Do you feel like you’re not getting enough of those?

Ryan: I miss it, but I’m in a season of my life where I just want to work extremely hard. And I think that’ll last for years, but then eventually I’ll be able to kind of move a little bit back towards that, those maker hours. I still block time to write, so I blog on Medium. So if you just Google “Ryan Carson Medium” you’ll see my stuff there. That’s pretty creative for me. The sales process is pretty creative and I’m enjoying that. So I think I get enough of that. So I’m all right.

Andrew: One thing that you told me in the past interview that’s stuck with me is, you said, “Andrew, you could benefit from better design.” I forget how you said it, but you essentially were saying, “Your stuff doesn’t feel substantial because the design isn’t substantial.” And you were right then. And it’s an ongoing challenge for me. Design has always been for everything like haircut, shirts that I wear, to the way that the site looks. Sorry?

Ryan: You look good. I like your blue [shirt 00:49:43]

Andrew: Okay. I’ve decided that this works enough. I was over doing it for a period there where I was wearing jackets. I even had this woman who was picking out handkerchiefs for me. That felt a little too much. Then there were times and I was slacking in another way. So this kind of works. It’s an ongoing battle. I feel like by charging . . . What do you guys charge? $25, $50 a month, depending . . .

Ryan: We got a free trial for seven days, and then you can try $25. And if you want a more intensive experience, we have a $200 product a month, which is . . .

Andrew: Oh, I see that.

Ryan: It’s an online boot camp. So the idea is if you can’t afford an in-person boot camp which is like $10,000 to $15,000 dollars, then do our $200 a month online boot camp and you get all the same benefits and it’s a fraction of the cost.

Andrew: The thing is, though, that’s still really inexpensive. We’re looking at a world where people are charging thousands of dollars a month for programs. And I think that I always saw you guys as less powerful because of the price, that if you really want to learn this stuff, you have to go online, or you have to go to an in-person place and pay $10,000, $20,000 for what? Half a year program?

Ryan: Yep.

Andrew: But then I started going through your program in preparation for this and I see the difference and more than that actually, I was looking online for haters. I’ll be honest with you.

Ryan: Nice. You find any?

Andrew: Sorry?

Ryan: Did you find many?

Andrew: You know what? It doesn’t really attract hate because it’s such a low price. Where you get the hate is if someone spends $10,000 and things don’t work out, then you’re upset. If you spend $25 a month and you’re not happy with it, you’re out $25 a month. It doesn’t inspire deep passion.

Ryan: Right.

Andrew: And then there was one site, there was a lot of raving and I said, “Maybe you guys sent people over there if they said that they were happy,” so I disqualified that.

Ryan: No, we don’t do any shitty stuff like that.

Andrew: But don’t you feel like you’re charging so little that it takes away from the sense of quality?

Ryan: Potentially, but the price is actually zero at YouTube, right? So you have to think about the span here. We actual . . .

Andrew: I guess, I can’t compare it to YouTube for a simple to me in my mind. And are you actually competitive? Do people compare you guys to learning on YouTube?

Ryan: No, but humans do. To say, “Well, I can go on YouTube and I can learn things.” So by charging 25, we actually are clearly stating, “Hey, there’s a level of quality here that is very high. You know, Codeacademy is free to try. And I think good quality takes money, so we’ve asked people to pay us $25 from the beginning.

Now, the Techdegree, which is a very intensive, you know, you have projects that are graded, you have a Slack channel, there’s specific courses on how to get a job that’s $200 a month. That’s still a fraction of a college degree or a boot camp, but it’s still pretty expensive, especially for folks that’s almost a car payment. So it’s a mix. And I think we’re trying to take care of people that want to try it, experiment with it for free, then they upgrade to 25, and if they really want intensive experience, then Techdegree is great. But now we have businesses that are paying us large contracts to retrain their folks and that’s exciting too.

Andrew: I can imagine that. What does it take to get a business? What’s your process for selling to businesses?

Ryan: So we basically identify key personas. So this is kind of a classic thing you got to do. Who to sell to? What’s the persona? And we sell to VP of engineers or engineering managers who want to cross-train their folks. That’s a key persona for us. So we go and find them, we explain the benefits of a Treehouse account for their team, and then we have a great sales team that works on closing those.

Andrew: How do you find them?

Ryan: We do some traditional marketing to generate leads which turn into marketing qualified leads, which turns into sales accepted leads. So we do that pretty typical SaaS stuff, and we also do a good old fashion outbound business development. So I work my network, I talk to people I know, I attend events, you know, things like that.

Andrew: Do you have a network in large enterprise?

Ryan: No. But you know what’s funny is, you and I were alive at the right time when we were doing interesting things, and we got to know almost everybody. And now those people are really important people.

Andrew: I know. Isn’t that weird?

Ryan: It’s great. And so I’m good friends with really important people now. And so what I can do is say, “Hey, I’ve got something I think is of value. Are you interested in that and talk a little bit about it?” The network is everything. The one thing I did really, really right given the mistakes I made, was build a strong network of people.

Andrew: I saw that in the transcript of the first interview. You said that’s the most valuable thing that I have.

Ryan: Yeah, but you know what’s weird is, I forgot. So . . .

Andrew: You did? How?

Ryan: Well, let’s fast forward. So let’s go back in time. I contacted you, I was fan of Mixergy, I wanted to be on the show, I made the effort, you said yes. And then I started to take it for granted. I have this great network, I have people that trust me, and I let that network decay. People need care, they need contact, they don’t remember you and stay friends with you if you never bother. So recently I’ve leaned back in and said, “I care about these people. We have good relationships. I need to be methodical and make sure that I am maintaining those.”

Andrew: So what do you do?

Ryan: I pay attention. These are the list of folks that I care about that I want to build and maintain my relationship with, and I need to pay attention to what they’re doing.

Andrew: And then?

Ryan: They’re launching this thing. I want to reach out to them and tell them what I think about it. I want to help them open doors if they need any doors open. Basically, I want to be helpful to them. So I’m just working harder on that.

Andrew: You know what? I was looking for an iPad on Facebook’s marketplace, which is actually really good.

Ryan: Really?

Andrew: I guess, especially in San Francisco, because so many people have brand . . .

Ryan: That’s like Craigslist, right?

Andrew: Sorry?

Ryan: It’s like Craigslist on Facebook.

Andrew: Yeah, but much better. Much better.

Ryan: I’ve heard it.

Andrew: It’s great in San Francisco because so many of the things that I saw were basically brand new and the comment was my company just gave me a new one of these, so I’m selling it. He was like, “This is last year’s iPad.” And I saw this one woman who was selling her iPad Pro like super big for practically nothing, and we had friends in common. Brian Chesky, I think was a friend, which is also, I feel more trusting of what she’s got. That made me think I lost touch with Brian. And the reason that I lost touch with Brian and Joe, the two other founders of Airbnb. Last time I talked to them was inviting them to my house for scotch with a couple of other people. And they said, “Yes.” And then there was some crisis at the time at Airbnb and last minute they said they couldn’t make it. And then I had a kid and I stopped doing scotch nights in my house.

Ryan: Yep. That’s the way it happens.

Andrew: Right. And so what do you do at that point? I feel like the reason I was able to stay in touch with people is I was methodical about it. I need to be methodical about it now. What do you do these days that’s methodical?

Ryan: Yeah, and I think you have to realize as a parent, you can still do these things. It just has to be done over email, has to be done over social. You’re just not going to be able to do that in person.

Andrew: What’s the process for email and social because I don’t want to be a pen pal? If I were just to ping you and say, “Hey, I like your tattoo. There’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal.” It’s interesting, but who cares?

Ryan: I think if you care and you actually take a minute to care about what someone cares about that is valuable.

Andrew: Is it?

Ryan: Well, think about how many people do that for real and how many people actually bother to spend five minutes.

Andrew: You know what? I have to be honest with you. It feels like a chore to not to send it to be on the receiving end of it. I’m going through my life. If you’re just saying, “Hey, Andrew, I like your new t-shirt,” or, “Andrew, I like that you just bought this company.” It feels like another email in my inbox, another thing for me to feel, “Do I have to respond to or not?” Versus, you invite me to your house and you say, “Hey, Kevin Rose and I are getting together with some friends. Do you want to come over for scotch or cereal or something?” That feels more special, more personal.

Ryan: It does. And I can see you want to do both. You’re like you want to accept, I’m not going to be able to see this person very often. Take our relationship, I care about what you’re up to, I am interested, but I . . .

Andrew: I would know that. You know what? I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t know that you knew me from Adam. I just liked your work, and so as soon as you ping me I said, “First of all, son of a bitch, he’s so good. He’s so good. He’s sending emails over.” There’s so much of me in your email versus everyone else who wants to be on. It’s all them, them, them, and I go, “This is so damn good.” And second, I have you on no matter what. I just immediately emailed my assistant because I’m like that, I still use an assistant. I said, “Andrea, can you please find a way to get them on fast?” And so we did. But I wouldn’t know. How would you let me know that you care?

Ryan: I don’t know. It’s one of these . . . I think my parents taught me this, like, just remember that other people are thinking about their own life and how can you be helpful to them. If you can be helpful to people at some level, someday karma will come back. It’ll work out. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. And then some day it will come back. So I think it’s very simple. Do you believe it or not? Okay. Yes. And then if you do, just be more intentional about it, it just takes work. That’s all.

Speaking of Joe Gebbia, it’s hilarious. I have a funny story. So the other day, I was thinking, “I wonder if I ever met the founders of Airbnb, that’d be really useful if I did.” And I looked through my emails and someone, the guy named Daniel Burka [SP] emailed me and said, “Okay, you run these conferences. There’s a guy named Joe Gebbia. He’s like a five person startup called Airbnb. He really wants to speak to your conference.” And I looked at what did I say, and I never replied. And I’ve thought, “There you go.” I mean, c’est la vie, you never know who’s going to be a big deal.

Andrew: I know. And especially in this world because so many people do end up doing something huge. So many times where someone has done something big and I want to contact them, I go through my inbox and all the old comments show up in my inbox. I say, “Oh, this guy.” Actually, I know a specific example. I was subpoenaed to go to a court case. I don’t want to go to court.

Ryan: Good times.

Andrew: Yeah, because something someone said in an interview. And so I reached out to one of the people and then the other person in the case, and they both happened to have been Mixergy fans who had been on the site and so on. So reach out to both and I said, “Can you keep me out of this? I don’t want to go.” And they said, “I don’t know if we can, but we’ll try.”

Ryan: Oh my gosh. That’s hilarious. You never know.

Andrew: So I’m waiting to see if I’m called in, but at least they’re both fans.

Ryan: You never know, yeah. Treat people with respect, act like everyone is going to be a big deal someday because they are. I mean, it sounds hippyish, but they are a big deal right now. They may become . . .

Andrew: It is hippyish. I wouldn’t say they are. Most people are not, but because the odds are in our favor that many of them will be as. This is why you’re a nice guy and I’m not. I’m much more . . . I grew up in the old . . . Like, I used to watch Wall Street movies. While you were designing and learning to code, I would repeat the words from the movie, Wall Street, over and over again. And what was the other one? Barbarians at the Gate.

Ryan: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, and maybe there’s something to that. There’s different styles of entrepreneurs, right? And so . . .

Andrew: Dale Carnegie [SP] helped me learn to be a nice guy. All right. Here’s the thing that really does work. You can’t reach out to everyone, but if you write good stuff then you do reach a lot of people and you touch them in ways that you don’t even know and then that opens doors in the future. I didn’t realize you were on Medium. You are now on medium.com/ryancarson or as they do at medium.com/@ryancarson, but I think either one works. Oh no. You actually have to have the @. Let’s put the @. Wow.

Ryan: Why did you do that? That’s weird.

Andrew: Medium.com/@ryancarson. If this wasn’t a tech audience, this would not work, number one. Number two, I’ve got to say $25 or not, it’s a damn fucking good program in Treehouse.

Ryan: Thank you.

Andrew: I’ve had people who came in here and told me that they learned how to code on Treehouse, and I thought, “You know what? Maybe what they were doing was, like, all they could afford was Treehouse.” Now I get it.

Ryan: Thank you.

Andrew: That thing is damn I’m good.

Ryan: We worked for eight years on this thing. I mean, we’ve poured our souls into it. It’s like . . .

Andrew: It looks like it. You guys care about every freaking detail, every pixel on the site. I imagine that wake up in the middle of the night, if there’s a pixel that’s often you get pissed.

Ryan: I do. I get disturbed.

Andrew: I can see that with your design. I like that. I like that. I like that you’re bothered by that stuff. All right. And the website, does it bother you that it’s not treehouse.com that I have to tell people to go to teamtreehouse.com?

Ryan: It does. I hate it, but, you know, the guy that owns treehouse.com wants like a million bucks for it back in 2010, and I said, no. So teamtreehouse.com, it is.

Andrew: He can’t give it to you. He’s got to have the club med logo on the site and all that. I only do it out of respect you call it Treehouse. Usually, when I talk to people, I always refer to it as Team Treehouse.

Ryan: I get it.

Andrew: I want them to know exactly what I’m talking about. So anyone who wants to go try it can go try it out. Teamtreehouse.com, they’ll get you to code really fast. And before I give my two sponsors, I’ve got to say that there’s an old friend of the podcast, a guy named Jordan Harbinger who used to run . . . You know him?

Ryan: Oh my gosh. He’s a good friend now.

Andrew: This guy is so amazing everywhere I go. First of all, he had the Art of the Charm podcast. It was always at the top of the list of every freaking podcast list. What is he doing?

Ryan: Magic.

Andrew: And he doesn’t have a great design for his cover art. I don’t know what he’s doing, but I do know this. I would go buy ads on Overcast, Marco Arment’s podcast app. He was in there buying it. I talked to someone about content marketing, turning my podcast content into answers on Quora [SP]. He was already on it doing that. Everything . . . He was on all that stuff. Anyway, Art of Charm podcast is no more. He’s not part of it. He now has his brand new podcast out and I want to be one of the first people to introduce anyone who’s listening to me to it too. If you want to go listen to another podcast after this, go check out what Jordan Harbinger is doing. Here’s a challenge for you guys. I know that Team Treehouse is really big on challenging people. They immediately get you to go do a task, go try.

Ryan: That’s right, go.

Andrew: Go try to spell Jordan Harbinger in your podcast app and see what comes up and see if somebody has SEO’ed him already. It’s called the Jordan Harbinger Show.

Ryan: That’s hilarious. Jordan, that’s going to be a tough one, man, but he can make it happen.

Andrew: You know what? He really can. He’s probably going to be up nights, probably going to give himself a lot of agita, but he’ll make this show big and I want to be one of the first people . . . I want him to look back and say, “You know what? Andrew was there for me when I was starting out.”

Ryan: “Andrew did me a solid . . . ” Yeah. Jordan’s Show, his old show was good, Art of Charm. I’m sure the new one’s going to be great. He’s like you, I mean, just creates great content and doesn’t stop. And just to give some credit back to you, you haven’t stopped. And I did my first podcast series called Educate Yourself. We did season one, it’s wrapped. Season two is starting. And it’s hard work. And I’ve done 1,000ths of the number of shows you have, so congrats in your hard work.

Andrew: I appreciate it. And you know what guys? If you have an Echo device, if you have a new Google device, if you even have the new Apple speaker, go try out Mixergy in there. Just give a shout out, I won’t say the names of the devices, because I know whenever I hear a podcast that says the A word, boom, that freaking thing goes off, so I’m not going to do it to you guys. But try it out and see if it works. I’m curious whether Mixergy is understood by these devices. Let me know at contact.mixergy.com that.

And finally I’m going to close it up by thanking my two sponsors. Number one, the site that will . . . the company that will help you host your website right, it’s called hostgator.com/mixergy. And number two, the company that will help you hire the best rate developer, it’s called toptal.com/mixergy. Ryan, I’m glad that you’re out there again.

Ryan: Thank you, Andrew. This was a joy. I appreciate it. Take care.

Andrew: Bye.


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