Andrew Warner 0:04
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 for an audience that still believes that hasn’t grown cynical that hasn’t decided you know what this whole entrepreneurship thing is never going to work. And I, I was wrong even to even believe. I get the cynicism at times I get the disheartened entrepreneur spirit at times, but I get fired up whenever I see people do well, because it gives me another data point, another point of excitement and other sense into what’s possible. Joining me as an entrepreneur said, you know, you could be really good, and he said, I was good, you could create a good product. He said, I created a good product, but if you’re going against trends, here, kind of the expression uses like you’re pulling up, you’re rolling a boulder up a mountain, and I get it and if you go the other way, Where you’re capitalizing on a topic or you happen to be in a topic that people are fascinated by or excited by. Suddenly everything seems easy. And you almost think that you’re doing great because you’re the the greatest ever entrepreneur and in reality, just be the the trend that you’re on or the fact that you’re not on one. That’s his belief. And I’ve noticed that myself here at mixergy, March 2020, governments all over the world decided, you know, what, we can’t allow people to leave their homes. If you want to work, you need to be at home, except for critical services like going out and getting groceries. And suddenly, companies that I interviewed that happen to be in the remote workspace took off. Did they do anything different in March versus February? No. It just took off. And what they noticed some of them was if they call themselves remote work software, people weren’t directly relating to it. If they call themselves work from home software, people did relate to it. So you’re looking at not just When you’re on a trend, people will be more excited about your product and be more likely to buy for from you. But when you express it the way that they express it the trendy maybe way to put it, you’re more likely to take off. So today’s entrepreneur is someone who discovered that a long time ago and he said, You know, I have to make it easy for people. To find these trends. I want to make it easy for myself to do it. His name is Joshua Howard, he is the founder of exploding topics. They make it easy for you to surface rapidly growing topics before they take off. I invited him here to talk about how he came up with the idea what happens when you do jump on a trend or or express yourself based on the way that people are in the the trendy way to express it. That they express themselves. What happens. I invited him here to tell his story and to talk about how not just he took off as a business but how he decided to sell the business. And we could do it thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first if you’re building a website, go to Hostgator.com slash mixergy and the second when you’re hiring a developer to implement your idea, talk to somebody at Toptal at Toptal.com slash mixergy. First, Josh, good to have you here. Thanks for being listener too.
Josh Howarth 3:12
Thanks for having me on the show. Excited to be here. Andrew.
Andrew Warner 3:16
What’s the trend that’s going on right now? What are you seeing? Forget work from home. I’ve talked about that. What else are you seeing?
Josh Howarth 3:21
So Coronavirus is huge obviously, obviously, does this derivative trends that are kind of off the back of Coronavirus right now that are really interesting that you might not expect. So one great example is is elderberry. So elderberry is it’s an immunity booster just like vitamin C. So it helps fight off the virus. Well that’s the theory Anyway, I’m not making any health claims there. But because
I that’s not my expertise.
Andrew Warner 3:53
That’s why people are interested in it right now. Exactly. So
Josh Howarth 3:56
because I’m exploding for it because the buying it to try and to ward off the virus, and so derivative products of elderberry. They’re exploding right now, in popularity, you’ve got things like elderberry syrup. And then elderberry. gummies. Like they come in like a little capsule you Chilean, and so on. So, yeah, they’re taking off right now and you might not expect it. And then there’s there’s another example actually every stuck at home, and they want to get out the house, but they’re not literally not allowed, right, like in India, terms of lockdown. And so demand for virtual tours and virtual concerts and these kind of virtual events where you can feeling they’ve taken off too. So yeah, like searches for virtual tours, that’s just rocketed to. So you can see places like the Louvre in France, in France and like aquariums, museums, all that kind of thing. So yeah, it’s some really interesting like China spiders you know, company
Andrew Warner 4:53
called museum hacks day obviously because what they do is give companies and individuals tours of duty. VMs in an interesting, fun way. They are suffering because people can go to museums in say, Midtown Manhattan. And they kind of jumped on the these trends that you’ve talked about. I don’t know if it was intentional or not. But now they’ve got operations where you could do things remotely. And because they told me privately, I don’t want to talk about it, and let them play it out. But I’d love to have them here at some point to talk about how they are changing their business model saving their business, because they are aware of changing tastes. You sold your company, do you remember the day you sold it?
Josh Howarth 5:36
yeah, just by proxy to events near the time, because I just had my wedding in Japan on the 29th of September last year. And like literally, it must have been two days later. either the 30th or the 31st. I got an email from Brian Dean from backlinko saying, hey, Josh, like great work with trend this projects a bill.
Andrew Warner 6:02
That’s what used to be called trend to end I love exploding topics way better trend frickin confusing.
Josh Howarth 6:10
Yeah, I mean, you face the battle with what’s available in terms of domain names.
Andrew Warner 6:15
Yeah, yeah, that’s another thing was like trend with two ends Anadarko, right?
Josh Howarth 6:18
Yeah, it’s hard to share. Like you can’t just say to friend check out trend, but with two ends.
Andrew Warner 6:24
Oh, yeah. He was reaching out to you. And he said,
Josh Howarth 6:29
Yeah, I really like what you’re doing is really well done. I don’t know if you’d be interested in selling it. But if you were ever let me know. But otherwise Keep up the great work. I was like, at the time, I wasn’t making any money from it. I hadn’t, like figured out how to monetize Yeah, I just had a huge amount of traction. I knew I had something. But I needed money because I’d been living on like some other like, product projects revenue and like freelance work. And so I was like, scraping by and so I needed money. And also like, Brian Dean, he’s got a huge SEO blog and he’s obviously a huge name in the industry. And so I thought well, if he’s on board we could go a lot further than just me by myself. So it’s like, okay, I could sell it to you but maybe you want to do a partnership that was like what I said in reply. And then we set up in like a meeting for four days later like Skype chat. And if I wanted to do it sooner, right because like strike while the iron is hot, I didn’t want to leave it but we’re going to talk it out with my in which is southern island in Japan. And it was kind of like a honeymoon after a Japanese Japanese wedding. Kind of not because the in laws we’re going to so it’s the strangest honeymoon. Okay, but it was fun. We had a nice time is beautiful. Like even like the start of October is really hot and nice. But then when I got back that very same day, I had a call with Brian. Like I said, it was at like 11pm at night in Japan because of the time difference. And I didn’t know what he, he wanted to do like where you wanted to go with it on that call, like, we just had a few lines exchange though the email. And then like one hour later, we both agreed for me to sell it to him. And so it’s kind of it was crazy. It’s like literally one hour, like 30 minutes. And we were pretending to reach out over the video to shake hands. And so it was it was
Andrew Warner 8:24
kind of crazy. And the deal was interesting in the way that you were structuring your payout because you hadn’t hit profit a bit. Well, I guess you were there was a little bit of revenue coming in, right? Zero non Oh, nine You didn’t even get it. Okay. You know, let’s let’s save that and talk about it later. I want to take the story in chronological order. I mentioned before that you had a business that didn’t do so well because it wasn’t following trends. It was bucking them. What, what was the business?
Josh Howarth 8:53
So it was this small SAS which was an exit intent plugin. So
Andrew Warner 9:00
in exit intent, if somebody is about to leave the site, and before they leave, you bring up a pop up or full page thing, then you say, hey, before you go do this thing, so that the site can get your email address and follow up with you. Right? Okay.
Josh Howarth 9:12
Right, exactly. And then this, this one had a special twist to it in that it was like the Wheel of Fortune from the classic game show. So it’s like a big wheel and you have prizes on it, and you have to enter your email just to be able to play to spin. And most people do because then they’re gonna get like a 20% discount. And it feels completely random. But like, you’ve actually allocated the percentage like odds of them getting
Andrew Warner 9:35
you You mean you Josh, the creator of this or your customer, the
Josh Howarth 9:40
customer. So like, they could assign probabilities. So I always recommended like, always give them a discount, right? If you enter a man spin a wheel and you get like zero, you’re gonna go away like super annoyed, right? Don’t do that to potential customers. Some people did, obviously, but it’s up to them. So yeah, this was aimed at ecommerce store owners and it It worked. It converted really well like upwards of 10% or percent compared to regular pop ups like exit intent pop ups. It works. But um, I got the idea for it just because I was looking around the internet and saw some other guy was had something similar was making 1000 bucks a month I was like, Okay, I’ll have some of that. Okay, but
Andrew Warner 10:20
Emily coded it up, how long did it take you?
Josh Howarth 10:22
It took like, a month or six weeks. Okay. And so I coded up and then I was like, now what? Am I so naive, I thought, okay, they’ll just come. But then I was like, where do I go? I didn’t even know my customer that what I knew, I just knew as ecommerce owners. Okay, so like I learned like that first lesson marketing is the hard part. And then I managed to slowly grind up to like 600 bucks a month over the next six months. And that was just through like direct email outreach, trying to get them on a call, and then convert them into paying customer. And I tried LinkedIn outreach, a lot. into SEO but it was a no go for various reasons. And yeah I tried a bunch of stuff I put it on the WordPress plugin directory and that still generates leads now so like even now I still have customers for it and even WordPress directory
Andrew Warner 11:14
yeah the WordPress that makes sense because people then will browse through it looking for free tools that they can add to their site to get whatever it is that they’re trying to do in this case get more email addresses. And so that was bring new people anything else work for you?
Josh Howarth 11:31
I did, I did a post about how I got to 500 bucks and posted on this blog and that got me up to 600 days from store to store calm. I don’t know it Okay, it’s quite good actually. It’s about entrepreneurs starting businesses Firstly, primarily ecommerce but now it’s like expanded out.
Andrew Warner 11:50
Okay, so so you put it up on there as your you write it, they post it right.
Josh Howarth 11:55
Yeah. So then people would read the story and I knew that the audience was mainly like, want to be in Emerson owners or like current ecommerce owners, so then I kind of, I lost I lost interest after a while because like, I couldn’t like break beyond like 600 bucks, it was just it was falling even like because I landed a big customer and they churned. And so like the analogy, like I often say, it’s like it was pushing a big boulder uphill. And like you’d worked really hard to get each actually customer and then every time you stopped it lose one. And it was,
Andrew Warner 12:26
did you know that that’s the problem? Why didn’t you say, You know what? I created something that already existed in the world, there wasn’t an appetite for it. Why? Why did you say it’s because it trends as opposed to just saturation? Because?
Josh Howarth 12:42
Well, I think it was partially saturation. Like there were other competitors. There was one on the Shopify marketplace, which was killing it like just from the estimated installs and the price point. But they are loads of reviews. So I couldn’t really compete based on the fact that they were established with all those reviews, and there were quite a few competitors. But I was kind of behind the game. They were like, one or two years ahead. And so I knew that like, they’ve kind of captured a large part of the market, which is that Shopify niche and I’m kind of on their heels chasing and after like, maybe another one or two years, I don’t think this thing is going to work so well anymore because I think it’s almost a fad to have this exit intent pop up wheel is so effective because it’s new, like you don’t expect to get like this rise will appear right? When your websites so it works. But then like the second, third, fifth, hundredth time, you’ve seen it on these different websites, you’re tired of it, it’s not gonna work. So
Andrew Warner 13:45
that was my experience with it too. At first it seemed interesting, it was novel and then eventually I felt like whoever had it on their site was was almost just copying without copying without thinking and then I made me feel negatively about the site. Now I know you still run the business. That’s why I’m hesitating to say. But it, I get where what you are noticing. And you said, I want to be on the opposite side of it not at a place where I have to convince people but in a place where they’re so eager for it that they will find me. Did you have an example of something that you were looking at at the time and say, that’s the type of environment I want to be in? That’s where I want to create?
Josh Howarth 14:26
Yeah, like all I was doing at the time was like, comparing what I was building to like what other people were building, and like how they were managed to, like they’ve been working on for six months, and they’d like growing revenue through the roof. And I was like, still like, on the straight line, this low trajectory. So I noticed, like, one of my favorite examples, like I was following at the time was transistor.fm. And they do podcast hosting, you probably you’ve probably heard of them, like, do what they do. And I know
Andrew Warner 14:53
the founders, yeah, one of the founders of
Josh Howarth 14:57
this and they run podcasts as well and talk about like their progress. So I was listening along. And then I realized I realized like this, this podcast trend is huge. Like it’s not like new use. It’s old news, like podcasts were taking off in the early 2000s. And then they kind of fizzled out. But lately in the last few years have been like, yep, skyrocketing in demand. And they kind of put two and two together with that. And realize we’ve got podcasts taking off in search demand and in popularity. And there seems to like right now, businesses are replacing like before the default was for a business to have a blog, and that’s how they attract leads. Right now, the new thing is a podcast. So they thought that’s a great market. So growing market, sells businesses, host their podcasts, it’s really sticky as well because like, once you got all your your shows on on your show, you’re
Andrew Warner 15:54
not going to change. Right. And so you said Look, they’re gonna have a much easier time than I am because they’re in an environment where businesses are looking for podcast hosting, and I want to be in that world. How did that then lead you to create what you called trend at a time.
Josh Howarth 16:10
So I was I was trying to think of trends, like, I was looking around and I couldn’t think of any houses. Okay, I’m gonna build something based on a trend right away. So that like I’m filling this ever increasing, like latent demand, but nothing would occur to me you don’t know what you don’t know. And like if you think of something or see something, pop it into Google Trends and like, bam, you know if it’s taking off or not, but like, you don’t, you can’t put in something you’re not aware of. So I was like, I need something that’s literally just monitoring the web, like everywhere, finding interesting stuff. And then I can like check it out and Google Trends, or even better, it should just check Google Trends for me and like a lot me ping me if if it’s taking off. And so I built this like, tool for myself. Which on the command line, like the console, For the parliament, and you’d like to draw graphs in the command line console. And then I was thinking, well, it’s useful for me, I might as well package it up as a web app, throw it up online, and see if like people like it. Like, just for fun. Like, is I like to build stuff. And it gave me excuse to do that. And so this was just like a bridging project, right? Yeah, find the next thing to build my next SAS on. And then the response was great, so I just kept running with it. As far as I could take it.
Andrew Warner 17:32
Did you first come up with the name before you launched it or after?
Josh Howarth 17:37
before I’m going
Andrew Warner 17:38
to talk about how you came up with the name and how Twitter played part.
Josh Howarth 17:42
Okay, yeah, the very first name was trend list.io. So and that was based on Peter levels. He’s got a site called Nomad list. And that shows like the best cities around the world to travel to and work from as like a digital nomad. And so it’s like all this kind of stuff. You know, it’s like a list of trends ranked by various criteria, and how fast they grow. So trend list. And then, like I bought, it sets up the app, like coded it up and put it live. And then I googled it afterwards like such a rookie mistake like Google googling the name after you build it sets up all the DNS and all that kind of stuff. And then there it was, like trend. list.org is already like this other huge, contemporary design website with huge domain authority that was and people were searching for them, and related contemporary design stuff. So I was like, Okay, I need to change. And I thought, well, this could be fun marketing opportunity, I need to actually start doing marketing, like with the concerted effort, like not just building putting out, so I thought, Okay, well, people can tell me what they want to name it and then at least I’ll know it’s a good name. And so I put up a Twitter poll to try and generate some like a buzz with very suggestions for names and I checked that they’re available. But I didn’t actually buy them. So somebody could have just sniped these names out before, like the Twitter poll and what you
Andrew Warner 19:09
just went on Twitter. You said, What do you think I should be calling this thing before you bought the domains. Other people saw that you did that and bought your domains? No, they didn’t buy them. Thankfully, like, like a few days later,
Josh Howarth 19:21
after, like, hundreds and hundreds people have seen it like thankfully, nobody stops them. Okay. I checked, they’re available. They were trained with two ads, like we talked about, yeah. trend fall.
And what else was there?
Andrew Warner 19:38
It doesn’t matter. It was just a collection. The thing that got me is, I don’t know that they really steered you in the right direction. But they got you going. What’s amazing to me is you ended up getting attention for this. Now you’re starting to do marketing while you’re building. Right? Right, right. You’re going to build software and I couldn’t get anyone to use it because I didn’t think about marketing. Now. You’re marketing first. Why are marketing While you’re building it, and you’re starting to see some enthusiasm, which I imagine is egging you on.
Josh Howarth 20:05
Yeah, definitely big time. And like pizza levels, like, one of the, like, motivate, like, inspirations for building it. He voted on the name. He voted trendy. And so I was like, okay, it’s got a bit. It’s meant to be trend.
Andrew Warner 20:17
Okay. All right. And did you end up getting more customers or anything from it? No, or users? Excuse me? No.
Josh Howarth 20:24
Um, well, I called I timed it with a Reddit post. So I knew like I literally only just started on Twitter. So I zero followers, I knew nobody was going to see it. So I timed it with a Reddit post. And that was like, like this pre validation launch, like this pre launch almost. And it was like, if I if nobody likes it on Reddit, on like the entrepreneur subreddit, I was gonna just like stop and just use it myself and stop trying to promote this thing. And so then, like when I posted it there, they all seem to like it and a bunch of those I managed to get them to go to the Twitter poll and vote for it. So I might get like 100 boats in the end,
Andrew Warner 21:00
what was on the Reddit thing, the Reddit post?
Josh Howarth 21:03
So I’m like, I’ve been working on those subreddits for a while trying to find the next like SAS or the entrepreneur. Yeah. Entrepreneurship and like entrepreneur ride along.
Andrew Warner 21:14
Oh, yeah. It’s entrepreneurship right along, right?
Josh Howarth 21:19
Yeah. I can’t remember that
Andrew Warner 21:22
one is so good. It’s basically somebody saying, I’m starting a company. I’m building it up. Follow me as I do it.
Josh Howarth 21:28
Yeah. That’s why I like really good.
Andrew Warner 21:32
interviews from that, because it’s so fascinating. Yeah, I will see people who’ve written interesting things and randomly be on it and say, Come on over here. Tell me how you’re doing it. And I can obviously see people are excited about what you’re doing.
Josh Howarth 21:43
Yeah, it’s good. So yeah, in a lot of ways, it’s better than than the big entrepreneur because it’s real. Like you say, yeah, so yeah, I put on you. Like, if I try and just promote my app, it’s just gonna get killed on there, but downloaded nobody will see it. So I thought like, I think need to give them something to like, buy some goodwill. So I literally, I literally wrote in it with the hope of like providing value first and asking for feedback. Second, I wrote that as the first sentence so that like, they wouldn’t just like, crush me and downvote me to the dust. And then I gave him 57 of the best trends that I found with this app. So Ah, okay. And so immediately, they’re like, I’m like, I kind of give a brief description. And so they could think about like, business or entrepreneurship ventures based around these trends. And then at the bottom, I said, Look, guys, I generated this with my new app. trend list. io, check it out. Let me know we think and there’s a poll on Twitter for a new name, please vote.
Andrew Warner 22:46
And it did really well. I got like 500 up votes across the subreddits and even ready gold. So I was like, okay, but projects validated Reddit gold, right? I’ve got numbers on this. By the way, it’s sometimes feels weird when you say something. I go on. Like I just heard it for the first time even though we’ve done producer research. In the moment I sometimes get. I just get so wound up and so caught up in the story that I’m surprised as you’re saying something surprising. And then Andrew, you know that it’s in your note, like in my notes, I even see here that you got 1000 hits to the site, you got eight email addresses 5050 user signups right from that Reddit post. Yeah, what’s the difference between a user sign up and an email address email subscriber, so
Josh Howarth 23:26
at the time, I was trying to build it into this huge platform, so people could sign up and add trends themselves, and like, favorite them, and I was hoping to even like, comment and add insights around trends. I was thinking I was imagining like a Product Hunt, but for trends rather than new products where
Andrew Warner 23:46
I might find a trend posted up there, add some commentary, and others would upload it and whoever gets the most up votes will get a lot of credibility. Let me come back and find out why that didn’t work out. First, I need to tell people if you’ve got an idea for piece of software that you need to add some functionality that you need for yourself, or maybe that you want to create as an external tool. You got to go over to top Tao comm slash mixergy. The thing is top towel has phenomenal developers that can take your idea, take the thing that you’ve been backburner, and that you can’t get to that, you know, is really needed right now, and give it the sense of urgency and capability that it deserves. And by urgency and caper and capability. I mean that they have developers already in their network, you will be stunned at the level of expertise that they’ve accumulated in their network when cryptocurrency was taking off. And what to call the the blockchain was suddenly become hot. People were scrambling to find developers who understood it well enough to coat it up top towel had them the best in their network, people who were known who were recognized was respected in the field already in their network and ready to get started. That’s what I mean by the level of expertise that they have. And by speed I mean, you will be shocked that you can often get started with the developer who’s the right developer for you, within a matter of days, go test it out, bring your biggest challenge to top towel.com slash mixergy. They’ll do it fast, they will not give you the lowest price so you can go and brag to your friends. As I said, the lowest price and anger, my mic actually went red. It will they will not give you the lowest price on the planet, but they will give you a reasonable price for a phenomenal developer that can change your business right now. test them don’t take my word for it, you have nothing to lose by going to hostgator.com slash mixergy The first thing they’ll do is start a conversation. And then if you decide to sign up they’ll give you 80 hours of developer credit when you pay for first 80 hours in addition to a no risk trial period, go to top tau comm slash mixergy that’s top and top of your head talent talent to PTA l.com slash MIXE rG Why? Top Tao comm slash mixergy. So why didn’t that make sense? To me, that seems like it’s a natural look at how you’re so wound up with Reddit and you want to make sure that you create good content so that people don’t would you say downvote? You into the, into the dust? Yeah. So why did you decide not to do that?
Josh Howarth 26:13
The the products aren’t for trends. Yeah, the
Andrew Warner 26:16
community with uploading and all that or the Reddit for trends.
Josh Howarth 26:19
Yeah. Because while I started building it, but we, that was when Brian came on board, we talked about it. And we figured it was gonna be a bit of a headache in terms of moderation, like, because I’d already had like, spammy trends added and I was having to go through and remove them. And the quality was just the average trend quality was just going down. So just spammy trend. So somebody added like Donkey porn, and it might have been trending but I had to remove it, you know,
Andrew Warner 26:49
guy but that’s that’s a that’s more like trolling with us. How would somebody spam this would it be like me adding mixergy remote work or me Adding mixergy worked from home just to get my name in front of people.
Josh Howarth 27:03
Yeah, we had that as well people adding the companies all that blogs, like every
Andrew Warner 27:08
elderberry, and then suddenly the fact that that’s growing in searches, even though it’s five searches versus one, that it’s that type of thing that you’re seeing, and he said, hey, look, this is gonna happen to you more if you decide that you want to be a community, and you’re gonna have to do a lot of moderation and he didn’t see the upside for that.
Josh Howarth 27:25
Well, before we we should focus on improving the trend, trend quality, so we should get better at finding more Hot Trends like sooner before they’re taking off across a broader variety of subjects, like across health and other sectors. And so we should focus on that and get that spot on first, and remove all the crummy trends we have on already just bring the average quality up so that everyone’s like a nugget of gold, kind of maybe late so we can move on to make it a community Less than one expect the
Andrew Warner 28:00
community to make gold if you can’t make it yourself, right expect the community to try to make gold for themselves. Well give themselves a laugh in the afternoon. Instead of creating what you can’t get to yourself, Okay, I get it. So Reddit started sending you people. The next day on Twitter, you ask people to vote for a new name and the people were checking out your site to that ended up leading to some new customers, right, or new users? I shouldn’t say yes. Okay. What else was it? What about? Actually, what else? I have a couple of things here that worked for you was, yeah. What do you want to talk about next for as far as
Josh Howarth 28:30
growth? And well, I, I kind of backed off at that point, because I had a bunch of feedback. And I just started trying to improve things that they’d spotted, like improve, like the granularity of the data for the trends on like the shorter time frames, they were really interested in the one month three month timeframes and the data for that it was like once a week, so you’d have a graph literally going up and back down with three data points at the shortest time frames. So I went back into like, like coding mode and improve that. So like the data was daily, and the shorter time frames and improve a bunch of other stuff. Because there was a bunch of obvious things about the app that I could improve, before
Andrew Warner 29:15
feedback from feedback is on the Reddit post from the Reddit post in the comments of the Reddit post.
Josh Howarth 29:21
Yeah, that’s right.
Andrew Warner 29:21
Got it. And where are you getting your data?
Josh Howarth 29:26
from Google Trends. So we’ve expanded now we’ve got a lot of data coming
Andrew Warner 29:30
out about it on why you expand it. But how did you get it out of Google Trends into your platform?
Josh Howarth 29:36
And just so we’re querying the website, basically, just querying the website for the specific data for the specific trend over a specific time frame and getting that data back. And then so you just like
Andrew Warner 29:50
you. They don’t make it available to you through an API. you’re submitting data and scraping it.
Unknown Speaker 29:57
Andrew Warner 29:58
Got it. Oh, wow. Okay. All right. Right. And then you started looking at feedback that led you to say, we have to go beyond Google Trends. What was the feedback? And what did you end up doing with it?
Josh Howarth 30:07
So we, they wanted to, like they wanted topics from a wider set of subjects. I was very, like tech heavy. And so I was monitoring like Reddit and Hacker News for interesting topics, to then check the data in Google Trends. And that wasn’t really broad enough. So people wanted like, fashion trends and health trends, and like lifestyle trends and all these kind of things. So we started to add new sources. This was mainly like later on in the day when when Brian joined because he wanted to, like get this trend quality up and increase like the potential audience like beyond tech people just like me on Hacker News. And so, now we’re monitoring like places like Amazon like you movers and shakers like the fastest hottest right, like raising products on Amazon. We’re like checking Matt, see if it’s interesting. And then other places across the web like social search everywhere that we think might be interesting source. Okay, interesting topics
Andrew Warner 31:14
product on ship, what’s that and how to use it.
Josh Howarth 31:18
So it’s a place where you can list an upcoming products that you’re working on before you’ve even got like a website. So they give you like a dedicated page where you kind of explain what you’re working on and they can put their email into for you to let them know when you’re done and they can try out pizza. So that was my I use that to try and get those first few subscribers initial interest. It costs like 80 bucks a month, so it wasn’t that cheap. I didn’t really need it. Because I was already working on the thing I should have. Like, that was my excuse to just go ahead and build. I thought like if I if I put that out Well, that’s My lame attempts at marketing and fast and getting feedback while and it gives me excuse to build. But really I should have waited to build put pull that out first and
Andrew Warner 32:13
see how who’s interested ask them why they’re interested then create. Yeah,
Josh Howarth 32:18
I should be like seen if I got 1000 subscribers and that was the metric but I was so bullish on the idea I just went for it like
Andrew Warner 32:25
and plus you’re creating it for yourself to try to find your next business idea. So the fact that they were all joining in just meant that you were getting good feedback and ideas for how to make it better for yourself and at some point I can see that it transitions into a real product. I’m wondering why Product Hunt shipped was worth 80 bucks a month considering I could create a landing page for free. There’s Click Funnels a sponsor. I think there’s still a sponsor, a sponsor that will give you for for about the same amount of money way more features, including the ability to sell product on ship has something What else do they give you?
Josh Howarth 32:59
It’s The access to their audience, you’re right, like I didn’t need the landing page or anything else. And I was only planning on using it like one month until it was basically like the setup for the products on launch. I thought if I get some products on it users from products and ship to subscribe, they can help support the product launch in a month when I launch it. And I’m only down 80 bucks. So maybe it’s worth it.
Andrew Warner 33:25
You’re basically trying to seed the votes for your upcoming placement in product content.
Josh Howarth 33:32
Right. Yeah, in the end, it just kind of dragged on because I didn’t launch it on product until like six months later. And so I didn’t I ended up paying like 480 bucks on shipping.
Andrew Warner 33:46
Yeah, the freakin clever people over there Product Hunt. Yeah, but what I’m seeing though is it is a good place to get customers. Why did you wait so long before you published on Product Hunt?
Josh Howarth 33:55
Because I had a huge amount of success posting on Hacker News. And so I didn’t think it was I got a lot of subscribers from that that Hacker News launch. And so I was kind of holding off the products on the launch to just keep that powder dry, you know,
Andrew Warner 34:12
because I have more place to get customers exactly around rating at this point you’re trying to flood your, your, your, your, your lead list, you’re trying to say what else do I need to do, and each new group of people sees it fresh with what you’ve improved, but also tells you what to do next and then prepares you for the next and then once you get product market fit. You figured I’m ready to explode it and go
Josh Howarth 34:33
everywhere. Exactly. And each round that new batch of like subscribers can help support the launch in the next place. So okay, itself.
Andrew Warner 34:45
Got it. Now every new person who subscribed to your list is a potential uploader for whatever the next platform is. But I gotta tell you, I’m on Hacker News right now. I do see one person on Hacker News with what is it called? The show h n. The rest tour on It basically get completely ignored. What did you do to stand out in what’s called show HSN? Show Hacker News. That’s the place where you can talk about what you’re launching and get feedback and get up votes. What did you do? Why did it work? actually talk about that story? Because I know you’ve got an interesting story.
Josh Howarth 35:17
Right? So yeah, the next get Hacker News is next and it can be big. If you land on the front page, it can send huge amounts of traffic but usually just kind of drown out in the in the noise. Like you say, there’s some so many posts on there. Most show Hacker News projects don’t make it anywhere. They just fizzle out off the new page. And, and so I didn’t really expect much because I’ve launched projects before and just fizzled out. But I was kind of hoping you know, I thought probably not 90% unlikely, but I was hopeful. So I was there. It was it was a Friday evening like 10pm because I wanted to catch both Europe and the US being awake. I knew like if it doesn’t take off, I can reply to all the comments overnight into Saturday when I don’t have to work and so on at the time, like,
Andrew Warner 36:12
that’s great. By the way, yeah, hundred percent. So you put you put it up there. And you look are there to the way you’re lurking on Reddit.
Josh Howarth 36:22
Oh, yeah, I looked on Hacker News, too. I’ve tried to be more active now, though. Because when I tried to post, they refused. They were like your, your accounts too new. And I was like, No, it’s not I made it in like 2017. What’s going on here? So I emailed them. And they said, Well, you’ve not been active enough. And sometimes we say that if you’re not being active enough. Makes sense. That’s a I had to like, wait another week, you know, to get that time and great again. And I’ve been thinking
Andrew Warner 36:46
once once you reached out to them, who’d you talk to over there? Dang.
Josh Howarth 36:49
Yeah, dang, Dan. He’s really nice guy. Like, if you explain what it is up, and if it’s reasonable, the they’ll probably help you out.
Andrew Warner 36:57
So he said, Look, I get that you haven’t participated? Fine, we’ll make an update make an exception, we’ll understand you and will allow you to post. You did it for another week to get the same opportunity you posted?
Josh Howarth 37:08
Did it stand out? Or did it get buried, extended out that because I did one of those classic Hacker News, like show I can use intro comments too. So I did like this really long intro comment saying like, Hey, I’m just I’ve been working on this for a while. And like, I’m a developer, looking to build my next SAS. And I figure it’s really much easier to do that around a new trend. And then I talked about a tech stack I’m using and why. And so because like, I’m one of them, I kind of knew, like, what appeals to that audience. And so I guess it felt like it was coming from one of their own. And they they really liked the app. They really liked the website because they’re very entrepreneurial and techie and so there’s kind of hit all their buttons. And so immediately, like, it just shuts The show show how you can use page so the top there, and then from there shut up onto the front page of Hacker News itself. And the thing about so Hacker News projects, you kind of get, like more of a chance because you have the show Hacker News page itself. And then people on that kind of like these projects, because they’re kind of interesting, curious, not always like fully fleshed out. And so you kind of get special treatment, almost like people are more forgiving. And they intentionally
Andrew Warner 38:29
did that. I think when they first launched it, I forget who launched it on the site. They said, We are going to create this place for people to show what they’re working on. And we are going to give them their own space so that they don’t get fully drowned out by everything else. And we’re going to create a culture that supports them for building it and encourages it instead of being as skeptical as we might be with the latest Microsoft product or the latest keyboard from Apple. And so you got the benefit from that. I see you’ve got 446 points.
Josh Howarth 39:00
Yeah, it was huge, huge like, it went to number two from for like me, I can’t remember how long it was like half a day. It hit number one briefly, but I kind of fell down from number one because I had so many people flooding onto the website. I had like 400 all at the same time, 400 concurrent users, my database crashed. I was on the free plan with this MongoDB provider, and it just crashed. And so it’s down for 15 minutes. I was like scrambling at midnight on Friday night, trying to figure out what’s going wrong again, on top Hacker News, and all that traffic is hitting like a page that’s not loading. And so I upgraded to the first page, got back online and still managed to like stay number two, and wow, we’ve got like 2000 subscribers over 2000 email subscribers from that. And it’s fantastic. You huge number of comments and feedback. And
Andrew Warner 39:55
by the way, one of the things that you did that I think a lot of other people don’t do is you want to integrate responded to just about everyone. Here’s someone who said, Max, what could be really? What could be a really neat addition is having trends sorted by countries you said great idea. Thank you. Another person said nice work Josh probably be used for lots of other things startups like you mentioned, but also journalism ideas, investment ideas, job hunting, and many more. You came in said, Thank you. exclamation point. Yeah, totally agree. I hadn’t thought of job hunting, though. Great. And so you’re going in, you’re participating, you’re active, you’re getting subscribers, you’re starting to spend more money on this freakin thing and it’s not producing any money for you. Let me take a moment talk about my sponsor, and I want to ask you, where do you think the money was gonna come from? And then what happened? Why Brian was interested in buying your company from backlinko. I pronounce that name right. Okay. And then. And then this the interesting deal that you made to sell the business? Alright, first, my sponsor is hostgator. One of the things that I admire about what you did is that you just created a bunch of ideas, and I’ve been telling people with Hostgator accounts, just create a bunch of ideas. You What sticks? See what excites you? And don’t be afraid to delete the things that don’t let me ask you this. If somebody were to say look, I like the idea of following trends and then building on it. If they did nothing but read your email list, get a few ideas for something like elderberry popping. What do you think they should do? How could they profit off of that?
Josh Howarth 41:20
They could write a lot of review content exploring the best products in an exploding niche. Like if, okay, if something is trending like another good example is like bamboo products like bamboo toilet paper, toilet. Toilet paper. Yeah, I think we call it toilet roll and you get you get Scottish toilet, bamboo toothbrushes as well. So all these kind of bamboo products. If you were to like write reviews on these different bamboo products and talk about them, you could you could sell it yourself or have affiliate links and recommend the best products. And then you’d have to host that somewhere.
Andrew Warner 42:03
Got it? You know what? It’s interesting that you mentioned that I have been noticing, especially with paper towels now. I forgot to buy paper towels. We can’t get them at the store can’t get them anywhere. I’ve been doing some research online it turns out there’s I think it’s bamboo paper towels that are washable. Could that be a thing?
Josh Howarth 42:20
Yeah, I’ve seen that, sir. Yeah,
Andrew Warner 42:21
you still comes off a roll and they’re washable, but they come from these nobody companies that I never heard of. How many washes do I get out of it? Do I believe the reviews on the site or not? What you’re saying is, this could be a trend. It’s not just a today trend, but one that changes the way that people shop in the future because suppose that they can’t buy paper towels today, and they need this fine. What happens a year from now or six months from now, when they don’t want to spend money on a consumable product, and they realize that having one that they could rewash that feels the same that works the same as their paper towels is at least worth investing a few roles in but they don’t know which of these companies is actually right. And when Which one is going to disintegrate? I did read that some of them actually will disintegrate after two or three washes like, Is it weird? So you’re saying create a site that talks about that. We’re talking about a world now where people are now moving to work from home. We know the zoom works, in what cases does competition work? One of the other people that I saw that was on the show, he was the founder of screen hero. He created a new, remote working video and screen sharing app called screen.so. Or maybe it’s just called screen. That was yesterday, right? It’s out, right? Yeah, he’s right to do that. I didn’t even read his blog post on why he’s doing it. But the interesting thing is that it’s such a following of people who frickin loved it. It was bought by slack. It was killed by slack even though they integrated technology. They don’t want to run screen hero. And I’m glad that for the people who are passionate about that product, he brought it back anyway, I don’t have the patience to go and experiment with it. I actually went to see Can I download it and use it on my iPad? I can I have to go somewhere. to figure that out, am I going to go try 50 different screen sharing apps to understand the difference between the two of them? No, because I got work to do with you. And when I’m not working with you, I’m doing homeschooling when I’m not doing homeschooling. I’m trying to figure out how to have some quality time with my frickin wife before the two of us go bonkers. from doing nothing but homeschooling and work. Imagine somebody put together a site that said, I see that people have this pressure. Let me help them figure this out. I’m going to review them all. Alright, we’ve given you lots of ideas, bring them over to hostgator.com slash mixergy, you will get a hosting package, you could be proud of one that will last because this company has been around for well over a decade and a nice price. They’ll make you feel really good about the fact that you’re not blowing money on hosting. Go to hostgator.com slash mixergy. Get your first website and if you hate your hosting company, or you’re reassessing and saying you know what, I might be paying too much. What could Hostgator do for you? Well go to hostgator.com slash mixergy. Yes, you’ll see they have super low prices, but as your needs grow as you need more, they will give you more we actually had a site that had tons of traffic. One Michael messaged me about it. I go Michael Can you just move it over to Hostgator? He goes, yes, yes, I’m working on it. By the way, I don’t see it on hostgator.com slash mixer. Do we have this? As soon as you start telling me what it is, I say thank you just decide for yourself, I can’t figure out what you’re looking for this but it’s not on the site, go sign up, and then tell them that you need to upgrade to whatever it is that you’re looking for. And I bet you that they’re gonna have a lower price and dependable service, because they’ve always done that for us. He goes, Yeah, I guess that makes sense. So go do that to hostgator.com slash mixergy. All right, we were talking about the sales, the revenue, where was that going to come from?
Josh Howarth 45:37
I didn’t know. I was racking my brain for months trying to figure out the best way to productize this and the price point and who the folks that but I couldn’t. I couldn’t figure like I was just working on this by myself going crazy. And I literally drew up dozens of pricing pages with the different features available and Like one time was like 30 bucks a month, 100 bucks a month, with the various things like you could download all the trends to CSV, I was thinking about all these things, but I never pulled the trigger because it never felt like it was a good fit. Like, I didn’t feel like somebody is going to pay like 100 bucks a month or 30 bucks three bucks a month for for like to get new trends every month because like the value is not so consistent every month. It’s kind of spiky, you know, you see like 100 trends, and maybe 10 apply to you and maybe you execute on one, but you’re not going to pay us like a steak in a business. You then go off to fat and because of this trend, we flagged up for you. Okay,
Andrew Warner 46:43
but but that’s for people who are starting businesses, they start the business, they get the trend they move on. content creators, though, are constantly looking for things that are in the news to connect back to so that they could they said it, they could keep creating a new post that people care about right.
Josh Howarth 46:59
Yes. That was the angle that was the angle me and Brian were then going to go on for after he acquired the project
Andrew Warner 47:07
got it but you before you sold you said I have a few ideas I don’t yet know what why did you want to keep investing your money and your time into something that he didn’t know how was gonna make money?
Josh Howarth 47:18
Yeah, it’s It was crazy. I didn’t know if I was going crazy for six months just like there’s the time aspect as well. Just working on this thing, and nothing else. But I felt like I had something it felt like before it’s like a boulder pushing it uphill. It kept rolling back down on me but this was just like a snowball that was like rolling down the hill and gathering more snow. It was getting bigger. I knew I had something you can feel it when you’ve had stuff beforehand that was just didn’t go anywhere. When you have something with some traction, you just know it. And so I didn’t want to let go of that. And so I was happy to just keep putting time into paying the expenses. Each month are starting to pay more money into service.
Well, this is a couple hundred bucks a month.
Andrew Warner 48:05
All right, so I assume you’re well over 1000. Okay, not too much. It’s more of your time. That was an issue of the site going down because you didn’t upgrade the database, this website that Okay, get it, whatever. I’m sorry. Well, we can say,
Josh Howarth 48:20
I, even after the show, I can use post. After that success. People kept posting on Twitter. Like, I was just working on the projects like in my code cave, and people were sharing it promoting it, and people still coming to the site and subscribing. So it was growing even Rand
Andrew Warner 48:37
Fishkin from Moz I founded Moz he did it, he tweeted out it.
Josh Howarth 48:42
Like I knew I had something when people like that were tweeting about it, so I just couldn’t like I had to see how far I could take this thing.
Andrew Warner 48:49
Okay, and then what did Brian see that made him want to reach out to you and ask you if he could buy you out.
Josh Howarth 48:55
So I think he’d been following a
He’d been trying to build something similar himself, I think, with his CTO, and they were looking at the area. And his teacher forwarded him Trent saying, look, this is similar to what we’ve been trying to build. And Brian saw it and thought, this is it. This is actually what we were going for. And he started digging into it, and he loved it and saw the potential. And at the time, I’d been writing monthly updates just to keep my own sanity and keep track of my progress. And, and he read the the updates and saw this success and traction we’ve had on on Reddit and Hacker News and with Rand Fishkin tweeting it out. And so he kind of bought into the story and felt that potential through that. So without those, but those monthly updates, I don’t know whether he would have been interested, he would have just seen the app and moved on. But he kind of saw the potential in it. And so that’s why he reached out
Andrew Warner 49:57
and he wanted to build it to do well. How did he see it working and making money for him?
Josh Howarth 50:03
Well, on that first call, we were talking about it and he didn’t know either, like the monetization was the fundamental problem, like that’s the hard part with this thing, because people love it, and it’s got traction, but it’s how do you package this up into a saleable product?
Andrew Warner 50:22
And he didn’t have an answer to it. He just said, Oh, my God, this, I know, our audience needs it. Got it. I’m looking, I should say that backlinko it’s for SEO people. He teaches them how to, he teaches them how to do SEO, right? He’s got SEO training, blog posts, that type of thing. Mm hmm. I’m also just frickin getting caught up in damn trends. I just can’t stop looking at this. Like, of course CBD gummies are getting big. And the reason CBD gummies are so big, I guess is because people need to chill the EFF out. Right?
Josh Howarth 50:58
Do anything you can just to relax. You know
Andrew Warner 51:04
what I don’t know if I took those are some other gummy from the marijuana dispensary. I’m not a pot person. I tried to I forget what it was. I think Olivia had them but she bought them. She was afraid to even try them cuz it’s not her thing and she didn’t want to try them. I tried them. They’d knock me right out. I’m not. I don’t need to get knocked out. I sleep really well. Yeah, they knock me out. I could understand why people go for those things. Many chat, the company I invested in I’m looking at them. They had a dip and then an increase. What’s the difference between I see searches per month, that’s the dark color. What’s the light color the gradient that shows you the trend in the trend?
Josh Howarth 51:46
Yeah, so you have the best the best fit line, the gradient of the best fit line. So you plot a line that goes roughly through the the actual data points, and then that’s the grading of that. So Gives you a rough idea of like how steep it’s trending up.
Andrew Warner 52:04
Unknown Speaker 52:05
Andrew Warner 52:07
Again, I keep going back and seeing what else doordash of course going big. AWS amplify, I don’t know what that is makes me want to go and check them out. All right, you made the deal. Talk about the structure. How did you structure your price?
Josh Howarth 52:23
Yeah, it was really tough because it wasn’t making any money. We just both agreed that it had a huge amount of potential and traction. And so we’re both sat there thinking, look, we want to we want to partner up with him buying it, but Mr. Williams involved in it, like, how can we figure it out? And I was like, You give me a number. And he was like, No, you give me a number we just didn’t know. So on the spot, I was just like, well, we need to ground it in something, you know, we’re just pulling numbers out of thin air otherwise, and so it’s like, well, I’ve spent six months on this thing. I want to make at least what I As a software engineer,
Andrew Warner 53:04
multiplied times some multiple just because of like, the traction and success it’s had so far, and the risk, and like the sweat, blood and tears, that’s gone into it. And so then it was a question of negotiating the multiple, but also, so it’s, here’s how much I would have gotten paid if I worked on this as an employee for the number of hours, or are you talking about just annual salary? annual salary annual salary is a developer times a multiple for him having done this right and taking the risk? Ah, interesting. Okay.
Josh Howarth 53:37
So like, that’s something kind of grounded, like and then it like he can justify spending like a lot of money on it. And I’m granting it at a level where I feel like it wasn’t, it was worth my time because, okay, I’ve taken that opportunity cost of spending six months on it. And then I wanted to keep on working on it in partnership with him because like, I feel like he’s got so much potential. So if I could Keep some stake in the business.
And so yeah,
Andrew Warner 54:04
and so that’s what you got, you got a multiple of your salary, plus upside based on
Josh Howarth 54:11
based on revenue. So I’ve got a revenue stake, I got a payout for a multiple of my salary. And also, he we agreed that he’d pay me to work on it for six months as a salary as a salary, like contracting based so there are three parts Yeah, the revenue stake the six months to keep working on it. And then the acquisition price.
Andrew Warner 54:34
And where’s the revenue cuz so far I’m flipping by the way this site is so freakin annoying to me, because there’s so addictive I can’t stop looking at trends, right? So if you see me looking down here on my iPad instead of your eyes, I’m paying attention but I’m just constantly scrolling through. And then I like that you also link me back out into like Google Trends so i can i can do even more research on this. What’s the What was I even asking before I started getting
Josh Howarth 54:59
some Where’s the revenue? Yeah, where’s the revenue? Thank you. Yeah, we’re still we still don’t have revenue. So we’ve, the goal is to. So after. We then went on to do a product launch, which was really successful, and we can talk about that by itself. But the upshot of that was that people kept asking for the newsletter. It’s before then I’d started doing like this short newsletter with weekly trends, but didn’t have much in it just like the name of the topic, and not much else. And I stopped doing that while I was working on redesigning the whole site to look much prettier, and improving the back end to protect that service. And then we launched a Product Hunt, and people kept asking, we want a newsletter. And we have this subscribe link buried in the footer of the site. Yeah, it’s a subscribe page. And we got like 3000 subscribers, even though like it was buried on this other page, by the factor And so we thought, okay, rather than trying to figure out product market fit for content curators and how we can fit in their content pipeline, which is something we’d be making up as we go along, and it’s really, why not just give them what they’re asking for and do this awesome newsletter build up the audience even further. So the goal is to get to 100 k email newsletter subscribers by the end of 2020. And then we can monetize that through responses
Andrew Warner 56:28
and you’ll still get revenue even if your revenue even if the revenue is kicked off till the past 2020
Josh Howarth 56:34
Yeah, so it’s for three years and then it goes down after three years. Okay.
Andrew Warner 56:40
All right. The website Wow, where is it? There it is on every tab now. Look, now I’m curious why serverless is doing so well. But then why to flatten out? Alright. It’s exploding topics. Calm, great domain exploding topics calm. Go. Check it out. And what’s your Twitter handle? I feel like that’s a good way for people to connect with you, too.
Josh Howarth 57:04
I think that’s exploiting topics or what you personally managing that on Twitter.
Unknown Speaker 57:09
Okay, all right, and it’s exploding topics on
Andrew Warner 57:11
Twitter, I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen, the first will host your website, right, whatever your idea is, even if it’s following up on one of these trends that you see on exploding topics.com especially, go bring it to hostgator.com slash mixergy. And if you’ve got an idea for a tool that you need internally, check out what happened here. Josh actually had a tool he needed, he decided I’m gonna make it available to everyone and it took off it exploded. If you’ve got a need, create it. And if your team doesn’t have time to do it, if you don’t have the bandwidth to do it, right, go to top talent comm slash mixergy. They’re great for single projects. They’re great for augmenting your team. They’re great for bringing a team of developers in together. They’re just great. Go to top towel.com slash mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring and Josh, thanks for being here.
Josh Howarth 57:50
Thanks for having me on the show. It’s been fun. Same here.
Andrew Warner 57:53
I Bye, everyone.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai