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Today’s guest has been starting businesses since high school. But what’s interesting is that they were all in really different spaces.

He ended up taking all that experience and launching his most recent company, Durable.

James Clift is the founder of Durable, which makes owning a business easier than having a job.

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James Clift

James Clift

Durable

James Clift is the founder of Durable, which makes owning a business easier than having a job.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of entrepreneurs who are really building impressive businesses. And often you’ll see them here being interviewed about how they did it. Um,

joining me today is an entrepreneur who, when I first saw him on the docket, I said, well, my team, my team pick the great company, but it’s too early. He is the founder of a company called durable with durable. Does, is they combine multiple tools that you who are listening to me are probably already using.

We’re talking about like a website builder insurance, which is kind of a pain marketing tools. Um, CRM CRM in this case means, uh, by the way, his name is James Clift. CRM means like email marketing software, right.

James: uh, more or less, yeah. Customer management, automated followups, basically keeping track of your customers and making sure they’re happy.

Andrew: Sending out invoices. Am I right about that? All those things. All in one in my, my thought was interesting, you know, bundle it. I’m paying all these different companies for software. Maybe if they, if I paid one person I could pay less and then have them all work together. Interesting idea. Still a little too early, because it’s just a few months old.

Maybe we should have them on a year later. And then I realized he’s the guy also behind visual CV. This is like the site that would take your, your resumes. We call it in the U S from LinkedIn or from your own stuff and just make it look really nice. And I’ve been fricking fascinated by that company for years, because how the hell is visual CV making money?

How are they getting people sign up? What is, what is it that they’re doing that I’m not noticing? And I had a hunch from conversations with others that the business was doing really well. Apparently it did way better than I even imagined. And so we’ll talk about visual CV a little bit. The way to build a resume online, the company that truthfully he sold, he it’s it’s in his past, but I want to find out about it.

And we’ll find about, find out about what he’s doing, a durable and maybe even go back in time to the window washing business that he had as a kid, because I geek out on entrepreneurship and we could do all this with James cliff because I have two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you need developers, the way that James has in the past, I want you to get great developers, great price direct from Europe.

If you just go to lemon.io, you’ll be able to sign up and talk to them and see how amazing they could do for you. And the second is Gusto. If you’re paying your people, whether they’re contractors, W2 now, even international gusto.com/mixergy is where you should start. But I’ll talk about those later first, James.

Good to have you here.

James: Awesome. Yeah. Thanks for having me

Andrew: Can you say how big revenue got for visual CV before you sold it?

James: when I was running it, we were doing about 3 million a year in revenue with a team of six, so super profitable, great business. Um, kind of, yeah. Top you to dig into the details

Andrew: it was there more than a, more than 30% net margins, like in the bottom line, more than 30% of revenue, which stick.

James: oh yeah, we’re close to probably 70, 80% net.

Andrew: So what did you do from what I understood? Just looking, I hadn’t built a resume since I dunno, college or something. From what I understood you need, that you grab people’s data from LinkedIn made it look more beautiful than they could do it themselves. What will you tell me What is it that, that visual CV did that’s visible and then what would I not notice?

Because I wasn’t using it as a, as a customer of yours.

James: Yeah. So our goal is to be the easiest way to build a resume or portfolio online. So taking your existing, either word, document, and LinkedIn profile and transforming that into a resume that actually one looked really good. So we had a bunch of different templates with like either more simple formatting or kind of more creative formatting.

So for more like artists design jobs, um, as well as an online portfolio, so something you can actually share link to as opposed to just like PDF document. Um, so that was the basic premise of it. Um, and then. Also built in a lot of features, like multiple resumes. So as you know, when you apply for a job, you want to have customization for each position you’re applying for.

So you can just kind of tweak the keywords on the resume, almost like version control for your resume. So a lot of people had five or 10 different resumes when they were applying for jobs and then made some analytics as well. So actually letting you know, like, oh, who viewed your resume, who downloaded it?

Like when you should follow up, um, and then really expanded the scope into kind of that online portfolio. So, um, as a freelancer, you need more than just a resume. So building a really lightweight one-page personal website, um, adding that to your email signature and actually link from your resume. So it really trying to expand kind of what the idea of a resume is and was, um, but yeah, that, that business, just after five years of grinding on other ideas, that one had such a smooth trajectory, which was, yeah, I feel, I feel really grateful about it and it was a great business and yeah, a lot of fun to ride.

Andrew: James that grinding a part is also fascinating to me. Apparently you graduated from college, knew you were an entrepreneur and said, we’re going to try a bunch of ideas. And you told our producer that one of your approaches was to just copy what was out there and make a Canadian version of it. Is that right?

James: Yeah, I, that sounds like a better plan than I had even.

Andrew: What was It Well, how were you doing it?

James: so we graduate. I, I wasn’t in my last class in university, like paired up business and engineering students. So I had two business partners. We had won a business plan competition for this really cool hardware project. It was like a daylighting system for office buildings.

So it was like reflective Venetian blinds that track the sun and reflected into the ceiling. So you have beautiful natural light when you were working. Complete theory that didn’t work at all, but we won $20,000 and we thought that that was enough to actually go start a company with, um, so none of us got jobs.

We just started trying to build this company, um, that didn’t work out pretty quickly. And then one, one guy ended up getting a job. So it was myself and a partner. We started doing literally anything we could to pay rent. So like anything legal, I guess, to pay rent. But we, um,

Andrew: like

what, give me an example of

James: Yeah. Like just like web design development.

So we were like getting clients off Craigslist, building websites for people. We were, um, writing articles on seeking alpha on like financial investment advice. Like I have like 12 articles on apple that made us like 600 bucks one month, never having any money to invest. We just like, okay, this is a way to make some cash.

So we managed to stay alive for two years and built a bunch of different projects. Um, one of them was. It recruitment marketing platform. So kind of applicant tracking and like helping people manage their, their jobs when they’re hiring,

Andrew: Like workable, I guess.

James: yeah. Like 800 different

Andrew: Right. I can’t believe

James: for that.

Andrew: do that.

Now. They’re basically creating Trello boards for, for, uh, people who have jobs to fill and I’m oversimplifying it. Okay. But that’s one of them. What else?

James: Yeah. So we, we built a, um, this is actually a good idea. So an online job, fair platform. So basically taking that like physical job fair that you do in university and do it fully virtually. So you can go around as an applicant, like chat with recruiters, drop your resume off. So we have this idea and. I think we’re completely losing momentum and running out of money.

So we just said, okay, let’s just do this thing in a month. So we built the platform. I went in, signed up 40 companies, um, in Vancouver, BC, generally, um, we got articles and like our local, our local, like national newspapers. And we got like 5,000 candidates and 40 companies out within a month. Uh, and then that was enough momentum to get into, I guess, Vancouver’s version of Y Combinator.

So startup accelerator, a tiny bit of cash, some mentorship, um, and just grinded through like eight more ideas, like within that space. Um, and then ended up like, yeah, I think that business got 200, 150 K in revenue our first year. Um, but kind of didn’t fit the scalability requirements of a company that raised capital.

So we, we ended up basically shutting that down and then eventually pivoting into visual CV. So there’s about eight more projects in there that

Andrew: didn’t you, why didn’t you give up on it then James and S do like your third co-founder from school and say, I’m going to go and get a job. I wonder why you knew that you had it when all the evidence was saying that you’re just making $600, uh, and seeking alpha that you maybe don’t have it,

James: Yeah. So that’s a very good question. And I think part of it is naivete. Like, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I was like, yeah, I’m fine. I can pay my rent somehow. Or I’ve managed to pay my rent so far. So I didn’t really have any expectations of what a real lifestyle and job looked

Andrew: because you weren’t comparing yourself to other people. Is

that it

James: it never, never crossed my mind.

Yeah. Like, I mean, some of my friends, like I went to like undergrad business school, so all my friends were like at KPMG and accounting. Um, and I think the. The biggest drivers, like I do not want to be an accountant. Like that was the number one driver for me. So whatever I can do to not be an accountant, I’m going to do that.

Um, and then with, with visual CV, it was like, okay, there’s three, four years of grinding. I made probably $20,000 in a year or one, maybe 40,000 in year two. Um, and personal income. So that’s looking pretty cheap. And then I was looking at getting a job. I was like, okay. Yeah, this is like, okay,

Andrew: it. You’re saying at some point you were, but this was after you had already gotten rolling with visual CV. so where did the idea for visual CV come from?

James: so this was pre, this was kind of exploring whether to do visual CV or not. So I had the opportunity to go work for a friend’s company in Silicon valley and go do like business development or something there. So it was really a hard decisions. Like, do I just go get a job or do I put three months into this new project?

Which, which was visual CV. Um, and I spent a. A long time really weighing the options there. Cause it was like, okay, like there’s uncertainty in both of those paths. It’s been, it’s been a grind for three years. And is this the, is this the right thing? I want to focus some energy on. Um, so visual CV was, uh, I was trying to sell my last company to a larger recruitment marketing company.

Um, they had actually acquired the website visual CV that was kind of around for, um, they raised money in 2004 and like had a bit of a spike and then just basically bought a domain name. And the founders of the larger company were just like, oh, do you wanna work on this project? I’m like, yeah. Maybe like maybe we can do something here.

We’ve got a good team.

Andrew: You mean, they had it, they had the idea for a visual resume. They bought the domain And that’s where you got it. It wasn’t, you kicking it around or a friend of yours telling you they need a better design resume. It was them with the idea asking you, do you want to build it within our business?

James: Um,

Andrew: No,

James: kind of like, we, we, we spun it out as a separate business entirely when we first started, but it

Andrew: what I’m getting at is James, where did the idea come from? Like how does a guy like, you, who had always been an entrepreneur realized that there is a problem with resume design.

James: yeah.

That’s that’s the origin story is that there was an existing website. We saw an opportunity and just decided to put a team behind it and build it.

Andrew: Got it. You just saw their idea. You said, I like it. And then you, you said, can we buy this business from you? And they were open to that.

James: Yeah, we basically, it was a four way partnership. So we, we rolled the, the web, the website into our company and then we all invested a little bit of cash into it and

Andrew: Got it. And when you say we all, who was involved, it, was

James: uh, myself, my, my original partner. And then my two other partners at the larger recruitment company.

Andrew: got it. Who had the domain, had the idea. Got it. Okay. And then what was going to be the responsibility breakdown between the four of you?

James: Uh, so the two of us would operate it. They just put up a little bit of cash initially and were, I guess, mentors, advisors, that kind of thing.

Andrew: Was that all the money you had or did you still have any of the accelerator money?

James: Oh yeah. We were out of that money. I was like 25 K. So that was gone pretty quickly.

Andrew: so then it was just the four of you as shareholders. How much money did they put into this business?

James: I was about a hundred K.

Andrew: Okay. All right. That’s considerable. That’s more than the accelerator did, and then you get their advice. All

James: Yeah. And, and the, the math there for me was okay. We can pay ourselves 30 grand a year for a year and try and figure this out. Um, and I think the, the reason I like the space as well, so we were doing a bunch of stuff in the recruitment space. So we had a lot on the employer side and like the virtual job fair side.

I think we had tens of thousands of like students that were running through our platform and did have a lot of trouble building their resume. So it definitely was something that, like, that, that idea clicked. Um, and it was okay. There, there is something here, like it’s clearly. An obvious pain point.

That’s not solve that well for whatever reason. And I think we can solve it a lot better than the existing solutions out there. So it’s definitely a, a long analysis of whether this was the right market to build in. Um, and then

Andrew: first version that you built? What did it include?

James: yeah, so the first version was super simple. It was basically one template upload your existing resume.

We’ll parse that and put it into this nice looking template, um, or just log in through LinkedIn and we’ll do the same. And then you get an output, which is a PDF. Um, what we got right initially was really heavily focusing on SEO. So that was the biggest growth lever for us was just investing in thousands of resume examples.

So if I’m a. Accountant, what should my resume look like if I’m a, I’m trying not to say accountant, but it’s in my head now. Um, basically, yeah. Resume examples for every category, resume samples, um, kind of different templates across the board. So just a heavy focus on, on online marketing and not in that specific, like technical SEO.

Um, and that’s what really got us, our initial initial growth and use your base. And then, um, everything kind of compounded from there.

Andrew: What was the revenue going to be for it? From where charging for creation or subscription or something?

James: Yeah. So three months in, we had, I believe 10,000 users on the platform and we just put up a paywall, we launched three new templates, like premium templates and put a bus subscription paywall, and we made $2,000 our first month of that. So I was like, okay, there’s, there’s something here. Um, and then. That kind of grew to 2,500.

And then I think it was 60 bucks a year when we first started. Um, and then we just made that 60 bucks every six months or something like it wasn’t super scientific and how we priced it. Um, but the, the price elasticity was interesting. It was, it’s one of those things, right. Where when you’re in that job seeking period, it’s, it’s worth paying a little bit more for that three to six months where you’re looking for a job and then obviously, um, you might, you might unsubscribe for the next year or so.

And then people actually come back when they’re looking for the next job. So it’s kind of interesting, um, interesting dynamics of that type of business. It’s probably similar to an online dating business where you kind of go hard for three months and then you take a break. If you find a relationship, then you come back when you’re looking for your next one.

Andrew: tech crunch did an article on you back in 20 2008. Wow. You guys launch it at a really painful time for the economy, um, and their take on it was that you don’t want your employer to see your Facebook page. You want them to see an online page that you create for yourself, like your own link, your own profile for companies that you’re working for.

Was that part of it too? That it was going to be almost like what LinkedIn is today.

James: Yeah. I think that’s, that was the initial thesis and it’s definitely part of it. So having that, like that landing page, if you think about LinkedIn, If you send someone to your LinkedIn profile, it’s like, it’s like your personal marketing page. Um, but on your LinkedIn profile, there’s like, oh, here’s eight other people that also look great.

Do so if you’re, if you’re selling someone to a product, um, you don’t want to list competing products on that landing page. So that simple thesis of like, okay, like, do you want to send an employer to a website that’s distracting full of ads and sends them to eight other people that look like you versus this custom marketing landing page that actually showcases your specific skills, um, something more about your personality.

So a lot of people do have more of a portfolio they add to the page. So a hundred percent, I think that. Coupled with the idea that you can just download a simple PDF to go through the traditional application process, which is still 99% of jobs out there. But taking that PDF, looking into something way more custom and dynamic, I just, yeah, the idea of linking to your LinkedIn doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

And even now that the data from that, um, I think it’s like 5% of people apply with LinkedIn. So it’s not a super common way to apply for jobs still. Um, and I think that idea of customizing your landing page and how your employers might view you, um, was definitely a big part of the thesis there.

Andrew: The other thing I noticed when I went back in time is that you had a lot of press. Was that you James, who was working on getting mentions in business, we can tech crunch or was it an eight?

James: Yeah, that was me. Yeah.

Andrew: Just sitting there finding Eric Schoenfeld, the tech crime, saying I have this new thing. You should interview the CEO.

Go ahead and make the introduction that was you sitting and typing cold email.

James: Yeah. And the thing about press two, once you get a little bit of momentum, it gets a lot easier. So once you’re in one of these publications, then the next email gets a little bit easier and then they actually start sourcing from you as well. So if someone’s doing an article on the job market or the best resume building tools for 2021, um, if they start Googling and visual CV is in every one of those other articles, then they’re going to reach out to you.

And I think that’s like the compounding nature of online press that that really kicked in for us too. And that’ll couple super nicely with the, like the technical marketing strategy. Cause the more, I mean the more press you get, the more domain rating you get, the better your SEO is. And I think that like that marketing strategy really compounded for us.

Andrew: And one of the co-founders was Phillip Merrick who created web.

James: Uh, so he was the one of the original guys, so he was not part of our, um,

Andrew: Oh, this is before you,

James: this is like Prius. Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Andrew: know what? So he’s mentioned in that, in that tech crunch article, along with a note that says that he raised $5 million from headhunting firm Heidrick and struggles and Valhalla partners. So did any of that money come through to you or was that money? no, it didn’t. This was money for what?

James: So that was, so that was like original visual CV, like I mentioned. So they had raised money in like 2004, and then they shut down pretty quickly after that, like that first rush. Um, and then we bought the site or my partners bought the site and then rolled it into like our, um, our business. So that was like original visual CV team.

Um, so we basically inherited the domain name and some of that. Traffic traction, but nothing, uh, nothing. It was basically like dead in the water when we took it over. There’s just a little

Andrew: you what you have, that they did not have fricking design sense. Like your design style was so different from theirs. There’s as much more of, I guess they have an enter, I guess Phillip American is in his spouse, maybe founded a web methods and they are very enterprisey business. I guess the way I would think about it as more like Zapier for enterprise before, am I right in thinking that it’s like business integration software,

James: Yeah. Like the original version looked a lot, like my space. It’s kind of like the MySpace depressive phase.

Andrew: Right. It was like, like two people in enterprise or one person in enterprise sitting down and going, okay, how do I make a less MySpace, more professional MySpace? And that will kind of all right. Got it. So then you acquire it, you re relaunch it. Who codes it up

James: Uh, so Thomas, my, my co-founder at the time.

Andrew: himself?

James: Yeah. Built the whole thing.

Andrew: Wow. We all right. I should say, speaking of developers, if you’re out there listening to me and you need to hire developers, you should talk to my sponsors.

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They’ll find the people who are less expensive because they’re not living in Silicon valley. They’re not even living in Austin where I’ve moved to from San Francisco. They’re living in places where it’s a little less expensive, where they get better quality of life. But at the same time, they still have the, the experience, the knowledge and the love of tackling tough problems.

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lemon.io/mixergy. All right. So he coded up, you were the person who was in charge of going out and, and getting promotion. How else did you get people to sign up for this.

James: Yeah. So, like I said, heavy focus on, on SEO, um, press was a big part of it. Um, one big catalyst was actually launching on product hunt. Um, and October of whatever year, that was 2000, must’ve been 16. Um, but yeah, we were kind of like

Andrew: Oh, so you really had acquired it afterwards. When I say launch 2008, that was in your version. Your version was 2016.

James: we were to trying to get the dates. Right. So we like, so yeah, they, 2008, I think it was 2014 I think is when, when we took it over. Um, and we relaunched it in like October, 2014.

Andrew: Okay.

James: Yeah.

Andrew: Got it. And so product hunt. I remember actually at that period, when I would talk to people in my audience, talk to my guests, see where their traffic was coming from. The number one source of traffic for a lot of them was product hunt.

James: Yeah. It was, it was massive. And it wasn’t, I didn’t have high expectations cause it’s not, uh, it was, it wasn’t like a super sexy product, but there’s something inherently, just everyone has this problem of building a resume at some point. Um, so it, I guess it stuck. Um, but yeah, we were at that point where it was like, yeah, our traffic was okay, we’re getting a little weed, like maybe 2000 and 3000 bucks a month in revenue.

And then we launched on product. And just blew up there. It was, it was pretty not. So like we went to, I think we got probably tens of thousands of views that day. We were the number one or two product at the time. Um, a bunch of like Saudi Arabian press picked us up. So we got in these like really random web, like publications in Saudi Arabia, which drove a bunch of traffic.

Um, and then obviously like after a launch, you kind of spike and then you, then you drop down again. But our, our level after that was three times what it was, um, previously. So we just kind of hit this algorithm within Google that bumped up all our pages, all our domain authority. Um, and that’s really when things just started like actually growing, um, quite linearly and I guess exponentially, exponentially pretty quickly there.

So it was a, it was a huge catalyst for, for us going from kind of, okay, we’ve got some revenue to, okay, this is a scalable business and we’re actually getting some really good traction.

Andrew: So product hunt, some, uh, articles written about you that you help push along. But also some that just came because you were discovered on product hunt, uh, search engine optimization was really kicking in and you are someone who, who got good at search engine optimization. From what I understand, right?

You started writing articles. I think you even started creating templates online. You knew your customers were looking for templates for business or examples of resumes for their profession. Am I right? And so you created that,

James: A

Andrew: um, did you also have A free version? It was freemium

James: Yeah. Yeah. I was 90. It’s still 90% free right now. So most of the users are still still for users, so, yeah. Great, great free product as well.

Andrew: Was there any virality built into it? Anything that allowed one, one job seeker to go and bring in another job seeker or for companies to encourage people to use you.

James: Yeah, we tried a bunch there, so we definitely had kind of more natural word of mouth. Like people are asking like, oh, where should I go to build a resume? And then we pop up there. Um, and then we built this feature where you can ask for like someone to check your resume. So like, Hey, can you like take a look at my resume and like, give me any feedback on it.

So that was one feature that definitely added a little bit to like the natural vitality of the product. Um, and then on the free version, there was a link back to visual CV. So if you’re posting a website or URL, um, that’s going to link back to visuals, uv.com with the referral code. So definitely a lot of natural traffic came from that.

And then also people were using these as their personal websites. Right. So if you’re searching for like James Clift, um, my visual CV site shows up probably as a fourth result there. So we got a lot of just organic Google traffic through there. There’s some strange ones too. We had some, uh, I forget who it was.

It was like. More or less a dictator in some random country was using visual CV. And I was like, oh, why does this, why does this page have so much traffic? And I was like, oh shit, this isn’t good. The revisional CV user. So yeah, a

Andrew: wonder if it was a,

James: coming through.

Andrew: I wonder if it was someone that they hired for reputation management. I remember right.

James: Oh yeah. It must’ve been. Yeah. Cause we had, we had, we did have a partnership with, with some of those sites too, and it’s like another, another link obviously to,

Andrew: Uh, where the reputation management companies would then create a page with your site. I remember doing a masterclasses for Mixergy with the reputation management company, and that was a huge technique for them to create a page on your site. And of course on LinkedIn and every social media site, because those get pumped, pumped, I mean, bumped up to the top of search results and they will then push down anything that’s negative.

And I could see how that would be helpful. Ultimately, you sold the company. Why did you decide to sell the company?

James: Yeah. So it was, I mean, it was, it was a great business. Um, I think the reality for me was, um, after a certain point, it just wasn’t a product that I was super passionate about after, after five years. And it kind of solved all that. Like we had a great team. It was really, it’s really cool. Now having another company when like 20% of our resumes are from visual CV, like that’s frigging crazy.

I’m like I built that thing or my team built that thing. So I think like at some point, um, yeah, it was just, yeah, it was, it was long enough. I think, like, I, I made the, I made the capital that I was trying to make. Um,

Andrew: You had like a number goal that you wanted to reach personally.

James: yeah, more or less I think, like I I’ve surpassed that pretty quickly on, within visual CV too.

It was more, I think I wanted to. Almost make my life harder, again, like play a, play a harder game and like take a bigger swing with the next business. So I think like by definition, visual CV is a great, a great, I mean, amazing cashflowing company. Um, but there’s just something I was like, okay, like I’m I I’m, I challenging myself enough here is this, is this like, am I spending my days doing, doing really high value work and, um, just really wanted to double down on, um, yeah, what’s the hardest thing I can do right now, I guess.

And like kind of, there’s two ways you can go, right? It’s like, okay, do I want to retire and chill out for the next decade? Or do I want to go the exact opposite direction? And for some reason, I’m, I’m just designed to go to go the hard, take the hard route. So

Andrew: you do anything nice for yourself? Did you go on vacations? Did you buy herself something, a home, a car, an experience.

James: Yeah. I mean, I did, I had a great. Experience just running the company. So I was, I was doing the digital nomad thing. I was living in Argentina for six months and just, yeah, living a really nice lifestyle there. Um, and I think like, yeah, I mean, I bought, like I bought a house or a townhouse and stuff, but, um, yeah, the I’m trying to think of like,

Andrew: Investment property. What’d you put your money into

James: yeah, yeah.

Investment property and like yeah. Index funds more or less. Um, so pretty conservative on the, a little bit of startup investing too, but it was, it was more like, I, I’m not, I don’t like thinking about money in that way. Like, it takes up a lot of time. So it was like, like when I had the money, it was like, I spent so much time.

What’s my ideal asset allocation. And like, um, all this stuff, that’s not in my control. Um, and it feels just way too time consuming and mentally consuming. Like I’ve done enough risk on like starting companies. Like what’s the kind of the. The portfolio that will let me sleep at night. It was really what I was trying to optimize for.

Um, and like super grateful to it. It’s, it’s, it’s crazy to be able to not worry about the price of groceries and like hotel rooms, like, um, like I think that level is kind of the, the level of wealth that is the most rewarding. Cause you can kind of take care of your family a little bit, you know, everyone’s going to be okay and you don’t have to worry about

Andrew: what’d you do for your family?

James: um, yeah, I’m trying to retire my parents now.

So it’s a bit of, a bit of a struggle cause they’re like holding on. Um, but yeah, I think that’s, that’s a big one and then just want to

Andrew: nice thing to do

James: yeah, and be more supportive. Like I’ve got a new niece and stuff and I just want to be there if anyone needs it. I think just being that, like having that buffer and that, that like margin of safety, I think, um, that’s really rewarding for me.

Andrew: at its height. The site was, the business was like a website builder. That’s more specific.

James: Yeah, more or less.

Andrew: Like it’s. So in high school, I think you, um, you’re building websites, you told our producer and you said you were basically reselling Weebly why’d you pick Weebly by the way.

James: I think it was the easiest one to use at the time. Yeah. That was like 2007. So yeah, that was like the easiest and cheapest one.

Andrew: And so it’s kind of like that. one.

of the things that one of the past guests that I’ve had on said, look at all these different website builders that are industry or need specific. Everyone thinks about where the Weebly’s the Wix is of the world, the square, what is it? Squarespace. But there are these massive ones that are just for the car industry or for in your case.

It’s just for people looking for jobs. Um, speaking of on your LinkedIn, on your visual CV page, you happen to say that you washed windows, there is high definition, window cleaning. This was just, you.

James: Yeah. I mean a buddy. Yeah.

Andrew: How did you get started doing this? This was back in high school also, or college.

James: Yeah. So I, my second year university, um, I ran a, like a window cleaning franchise. So basically college pro painting where people have like some formula you can follow to go run a business. Um, so I did that and there was a brand, this is the first year they franchise. So as a complete mass, like there was no actual franchise formula, but basically window cleaning is you get a truck and some squeegees, um, and you go knock on doors and, um, start cleaning windows.

So we ended up doing, um, I think it was 42,000 in sales in three months that first summer. Um, and I had a,

Andrew: just go knock on businesses doors.

James: uh, no residential, so

Andrew: knock on my door and say, Hey, Andrew, I see you have a lot of windows. Would you like us to clean your windows? You know what, here? I wouldn’t necessarily need it, but in San Francisco, I remember because we were living in like a really busy part of the city.

Windows would get dirty. And so we pay you. What, how much would it be to clean up?

James: Yeah. So our, our neighborhoods where there are pretty big houses. So, um, yeah, some interesting stories from there, but yeah, usually with a neighborhood was like, I’d say the average deal was 300 to three 50 and you can do two or three houses in a day. So a good day, you’re doing about a thousand bucks a day.

Andrew: And you’re selling and cleaning same day, just going door to door. Do you need your windows clean?

James: yeah, so I’m, I’m selling. And then I’m also cleaning that I had two, two of my buddies working for me, um, that were like doing the labor. So that that’s what, yeah. And then I guess I worked hard, but it was pretty fun, right? Like you’re doing, I don’t know, eight hours of labor and two hours of sales a day.

Um, but once you get kind of this critical mass within a neighborhood, you got like two neighbors, then you put a sign up, the next neighbor calls you, you knock on the door. It’s like, oh, your neighbor just did this. And then you, you ended up getting so. one neighborhood, we probably did like $15,000 just getting most of the houses in that neighborhood.

Um, so

Andrew: you also put a sign on somebody’s lawn so that everyone knows that you just did their windows.

James: Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: okay. What else? Give me one, uh, one more technique that you used selling door to door was I used to do that. It was so much fun because often it was cash. So you get to keep the cash right there.

It’s not like an intellectual exercise and seeing numbers grow in some random place. It’s a full on CR pockets getting bigger. And if you work up the courage to talk to someone else and you work up the stamina to get up earlier, to work a little bit longer, you get more money and it feels really good, very direct.

James: yeah. And it’s, I think you just learn to stop. It’s like this weird combination of really caring, but also not caring, right? It’s like you’re going to get rejected, but most people are nice, I think is the reality. Especially if you’re a young kid with a nice, like uniform on trying to like clean their windows and everyone wants to help out that person too.

So I think that was a big part of. Um, it wasn’t a technique, but I got hit by a jet ski, like mid summer and like compound fractured my foot. So actually couldn’t walk really without a cane or do any labor. So I’m not sure if I got some sympathy points, but I was going door to door with like a boot and a cane and like trying to close deals.

So I think that might’ve been helpful. It definitely, it definitely didn’t fake it, but it might’ve been, uh, might’ve been a good technique.

Andrew: And so one of the ideas that you had from durable came from that experience and the money that you get is basically what you were, was an entrepreneur. You paid someone which apparently was a mistake for a, for their name to put on, on your business cards and some business practices. They didn’t give you the truck, right.

It was your own truck. Yeah.

So that was a mistake. It’s fair to say. That was a mistake back then to have done that, or you needed.

James: Uh, yeah, I think if I knew what I did like a month or a weekend, I wouldn’t have done it, but yeah, it was 30% of sales too. For what? Uh, it wasn’t, it wasn’t a whole lot of value. Um, so we, we,

Andrew: of your sales.

James: yeah, we took a year off from that, um, based on the agreement. And then I just went back to with HD window cleaning and we did like 25 grand in sales in two months and paid no franchise fee.

And then I went to Europe for a month. So it was like, yeah, it’s a better, it’s a better option.

Andrew: HD window cleanings. Is you doing it yourself? Like that’s your personal brand

James: this is my brand. Yeah. The brand we built. Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. All right. And so, James, one of the realizations that you have with durable, durable.co is a website for anyone who wants to see your new, your new business is you said there are a lot of people who maybe are working for somebody else, cleaning windows for them, or doing something else for them who in reality, they could do it by themselves, but there’s no how that you need.

And then there’s pain in the ass stuff that you need to do, like a website like insurance and so on. And your realization was what if we just take all of that off of you and basically turn whatever business you’re in into the equivalent of franchise minus the industry specific how to manual am I right?

James: Yeah. So I think the insight that, that I really believe in, especially for so like service jobs, right? So services, anything where you’re trading hours for dollars or projects for dollars. The reality of all those businesses is, and this is my, like my window cleaning experience. Like I’m charging my team out at, at the time it was $30 an hour and paying them $12 an hour.

Um, so if your labor within that market, you’re an hour, you’re basically that hourly. If you flip a switch and become a subcontractor or an owner, then now you have the power to charge that hourly rate. So you go from 10 bucks an hour to 50 bucks, an hour to a hundred bucks an hour. Um, and just the way that like across the board from like we were seeing lawyers quit their jobs to go do their own thing.

We’re seeing consultants, we’re seeing like home services. So kind of across the board, there’s this huge trend towards being your own solo business. Um, the challenge with that is it’s a lot of work to manage all the stuff that is not actually delivering the work. Right? So you, you do have to go build a website, create like online invoicing and you have to get your insurance.

You have to get your healthcare. Um, like everything is hard. Um, and that’s kind of why companies exist to solve a lot of that stuff. But we were basically saying, Hey, like, can software do the job that accompany would do, um, and automate as much as possible. So if you have a skill, how can you turn that into a business?

Um, and all of a sudden go from making. You’re 15 bucks an hour to 50 bucks an hour in the shortest amount of time possible. And that’s like all the software process systems and also really in-depth education as well. Um, not in terms of learning the actual scale, but in terms of how to operate, grow a business like marketing and sales and people management and operations and documents.

So yeah, trying to bring all that under one roof and make, make owning a business easier than having a job, like that’s really our end goal. How do we make it better to own your own thing than to work in one of these, one of these jobs?

Andrew: And are you including insurance, also

James: Yeah. So we’ve got a, we’ve got a partner for that, but you can buy insurance through durable. Um, and like, by

Andrew: on health insurance,

James: uh, we’re not, we’re not touching health insurance yet, but eventually we want to as

Andrew: liability insurance? Like if you’re fixing, if you’re cleaning someone’s window, when you break the window, you’ve got to pay for it. Instead of you covering it out of your pocket,

James: Yeah. And then like Arizona missions insurance, if you’re doing like MarTech contracting work, but yeah, just kind of your basic package before you incorporate just having a sole proprietorship plus the right insurance. So you can actually get to work right away and not have to worry about kind of the more complex accounting and legal stuff.

Andrew: How did you know what to include in this and why go after all servers? Why don’t we focus on how do you know what to include in it?

James: Yeah. The, the standard set of tools and it’s kind of the vertical versus horizontal question. Right. So do you just say, Hey, we’re just going to do home service. So just do window cleaning and build the best possible product for that. Or do you want to go more general, uh, and then kind of target multiple, multiple users?

Um, I think there’s a really big opportunity to be like the Shopify in this space. So actually saying okay, for all service-based companies, um, there’s a standard set of tools and processes that you need to go through from. Incorporation insurance, um, to, um, banking, credit card accounting. There’s just like a standard operational tool set and marketing tool set that actually looks pretty similar across the board.

There’ll be some custom stuff around like how you market your services, but more or less that tool set is the same. Um, but then bringing that general tool set to a really, um, smaller target customer. So we want to target solo one to four person companies, um, that are pretty underserved by these vertical solutions because they’re super expensive.

So to buy like the best-in-class vertical software for your home services company, that’s going to cost you 2000 to $10,000 a year right off the bat. And that’s not the right place to invest that money. Um, when you’re first starting up. So like a cleaning company, right? There’s like, like, um, how called PRA house called per hour?

Um, the bigger one.

Andrew: got it. You’re saying, look, if there’s, if there’s a cleaning company where it’s one person who’s working the internet and one or two cleaners that’s working for her, then they don’t need the industry specific software. That’s expensive. They need the same thing that if there’s a gardening company, landscaping company with one woman sitting at the desk, managing the internet, maybe going out on some projects, but has two people out in the field, those are similar enough that they don’t need the industry specific stuff.

How did you even know that? What kind of calls did you have to make or what kind of, what did you do to understand it?

James: Well, we talked to a ton of customers in these different categories, and usually even if you’re using like that more vertical, specific software, there’s four other tools you’re still using. So you still have a different website builder, or you still have an invoicing tool. Um, some of them might have an integrated, so.

Convoluted complex setup. And that’s like the sophisticated version, right. Where you have, um, like some Zapier zap running to your CRM that talks to this. Um, and we just looked at that, it’s like, oh, the average, person’s not gonna do that. Um, and then you have like your kind of our traditional business that runs off a spreadsheet and they also hate their life because they’re spending all their time trying to like manually reconcile these transactions.

So it just kind of, to me, it’s like, there is a 10 X better solution here and having it all in one place, um, not just from a like, okay, this is nice to like save money on software, but it actually makes everything so much easier because now your customer data talks to your invoicing data talks to your expense data, talks to your employee data.

Um, so you have this data set that actually lets you abstract and automate all these processes that you would either have to do manually or like verify manually. Um, so to me it’s just like, like, yeah, it’s, it’s obvious. How do we make that on ramp? Um, going from zero to business, like, let’s make that a day.

Like why is

Andrew: were no, were there calls, weather, sit downs, weather,

James: we did a bunch of bunch of customer calls. Yeah. So

Andrew: I’d love to hear some of what you, let me take a moment to talk about my second sponsor and then I’d love to hear one or two of those conversations that helped inform what went into the software. I should say.

My second sponsor is Gusto, you know, Gusto, right? James,

James: Oh yeah. Gusto is awesome.

Andrew: Well, here I’ll, I’ll do it since they paid me. I was going to ask you, uh, and then basically sit back and let you

talk about

James: every startup I know uses Gusto

Andrew: Me too. I don’t even know why they’re even paying me because every startup is already fricking using it.

but you know what?

Sometimes they’re using it, I

James: always more startups.

Andrew: I’ll take it. Here’s the beauty about Gusto. They help you pay your people, manage the benefits that you give them in a way that’s easy for you or whoever on your team is handling it. That scales up with you so that if you’re paying contractors are first and then full-time employees next and then international people.

Now they’ve just added international. I saw that in my dashboard, it just grows and scales with you. It’s as beautiful as the best piece of software that you’ve seen. And because they’re managing your payment and your benefits to the people who are the most important to you, and frankly, was livelihood.

Depends on it. They make it beautiful for you. Beautiful for them, easy for you, easy for them. And it’s all together in a package that I’d like for you to see. But you’re probably not going to see it unless I let you go see it for free. This is a great time of year to do it. Even if you’re transitioning from a company you don’t like, or just getting started for the first time, paying people outside of whatever accounting software or using whatever PayPal thing you’re using, wherever you are, they will meet you there.

And they’ll let you try it for free right now. If you use my URL, the URL is gusto.com/mixergy. It will not be up for long. I know they took it down before because the limited time offer, I asked them to put it, put it back up. If you go and want to try for free, go to gusto.com/mixergy, and I’m grateful to them for sponsoring, especially since they don’t need me.

All my guests seem to know them already. And I know my audience does too, but go try them out. If you haven’t yet gusto.com/mixergy, pay your people in an easy, effective way. All right. Um, do you have one of those stories of what you, what you heard.

James: Yeah. I mean, we, so the way we recruited our, our user interviews, there’s a bunch of like Facebook groups. We’re all like, um, like landscapers hang out or like home cleaners or so we, we really started the home services business then moved to like, is there like similar, like around it and consulting? Um, so usually how I start those calls, um, I mean obviously like, okay, let’s hear about your business and kind of the tool set you’re using.

Um, but. I it’s like, you want to almost like for like a motion around like, okay. Like, so walk me through what the incorporation process was like. Um, how did you decide to structure it as an S-corp? And like, people just get stressed. They’re like, oh, like, uh, my, I guess my accountant said that, but I don’t really know.

I’m like, oh, like, okay. Um, and then like what software using for invoicing? Like I Googled a bunch of stuff and this, this came up and like, we’ll do like, do like the software and just like kind of this like low NPS for every like tool set across the board. Really. It was like quite evident. Um, so non, super happy with the tool set.

I think that’s like one interesting data point that came up. Um, and then just the, just the sheer amount of like emotional complex, because you’re already starting a business for the first time, which is hard. Right. And like not having that knowledge of. that fear of doing things wrong is really real, like from a, like a tax perspective and accounting perspective.

Um, do I need errors and omissions insurance? If I’m like writing code for a company as a contractor, there’s just a lot of really specific things that most people don’t have a lawyer to ask those questions to, or an accountant to ask those questions too. So you’re kind of just trying to figure it all out on your own.

Um, and the reality is those processes aren’t very complex. Like there’s obvious answers to them, but there’s, there’s no place to actually go. Um, that is like a trusted place to kind of get those things done and also, um, have that trust that you did the right thing more than anything. So like that’s the way I feel about our business.

It’s, it’s certainly building software, but it’s almost this like emotional layer of like, yeah, everything’s taken care of. Like, you can just relax and do your work and your life will get better as opposed to trying to like, learn a bunch of new things. Um, stress your way through the, like the, the personal user research.

Um, so I think that that’s like something that just kept coming up and I think the, like the idea is, is reasonable. It’s pretty obvious, right? It’s like, why isn’t there this all in one consolidated solution of all these tools. Um, and I think

Andrew: degree, I feel like square is trying to do that, but they’re, they’re coming at it from a cash register point of view, instead of, instead of something that’s more business facing, you know? And so they will create some kind of a website. If I, if I remember right, won’t they James, they, they then let you collect payment online or offline, but it’s, it’s much more of a take payment from customer give customer receipt.

And by the way, you’ve been asking for this other stuff. So here’s our version of it.

James: yeah.

Andrew: And not an all-in-one solution. That’s more what the business person would want if they started out with just give me the business part of it,

James: Yeah. And there’s a lot of like, so there’s similar, like invoicing tools. There’s like a couple like multi-billion dollar invoicing companies that just do the invoicing. And now they’re starting to tack on these additional services, like

Andrew: FreshBooks, but FreshBooks seems to be moving a lot more towards like QuickBooks territory, right. Taking on more and more of the accounting.

James: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. You know, when I think about what you do, it’s not until I see the screenshot of the dashboard, that it makes sense. See who your customers are, who’s who to invoice.

And then of course, I would want to email past customers through the system and say, I’ve got some opening. Do you need to hire me where we’re running a little bit late here? Aren’t we? Why don’t we, um, do you have a hard stop in, in

James: Uh, Nope. Nope. I’m good.

Andrew: Let’s talk a little bit about what you did on Facebook and discord in order to get customers in the beginning.

James: Yeah. So basically just like went into a bunch of these Facebook groups and said, Hey, like I’m James, I’m working on this new thing. We’d love to chat with anyone who’s like in this specific category of business. Um, and I think we, we offered, uh, like a a hundred dollar Amazon gift card as well to some of the interviews.

So I think one, we did a draw and then why don’t we just said, Hey, we’ll give you 25 bucks to like, come do this interview. And then somebody just did for free. So kind of testing out different ways of getting that customer feedback. Um, and then a lot of it too, like these are my pain points as well. Like even as a, like, I have a small consulting business as well, just like on the side, I’m like, oh, this stuff’s annoying to me too.

Like half of it’s like, I want this product for, for myself and my side

Andrew: do you have a small consulting business on the side? I heard you’re overloaded. You’re still on the board of the company that acquired visual CV. Am I right about.

James: Yeah. So I started that business to consult for, for visual CV basically.

Andrew: Oh, got it. They needed you. They said, Hey, look, we want to bring you on somehow to help with this transition. And this has been a long time transition. Okay. And so in order to collect payment from them, you need to have some kind of invoicing system. And

James: Yeah. And like a, like a corporation and stuff too. So it was like, okay, this is like a pretty obvious, like, um, annoying. Like I was using some random invoicing to them, like, okay. Like this, like even just knowing your year-end is annoying when you have a separate company. So I was like, okay, can we put that data in one place?

Um, and then I think as a, as a company policy, I’m just doing it for fun, like doing some like startup pitch, deck consulting and stuff. Um, cause I wanna use durable for that basically. So I’ve got my own little like startup coaching and like pitch, deck, business, um, very, very part-time but.

Andrew: Well, let’s think about that though, James. So the thing that I wonder is if somebody is doing a business like that, like pitch, deck consulting, or frankly just PDF presentation consulting, or, or even dog grooming in their house, why can’t they just use a spreadsheet and email some customers and build a website using whatever Squarespace or any one of these other tools?

Why do they need something more than that?

James: I think the, the reality of what we want to build is like, how can we help you scale that business? And also just like, you could do it yourself. You could find six different tools and actually do it. But I think the speed to go to market, like if you actually use your, you can get this up and running in literally five minutes, like it’s pretty, pretty quick.

And the marketing suite that we’re building is the thing I’m really excited about. So saying, Hey. in, you’re doing mobile dog grooming. Here’s like the six channels you should be investing in here. So you automate your Google ads, just actually helping with customer acquisition and growth. Um, and then the, just the manual part of doing like the spreadsheet, accounting or something, even a 50 grand a year business, you have expenses to track.

You have specific, like, do you engage an accountant or not? There’s a lot of like annoyance that goes into that. Um, so I, I just think this like idea of a consolidated place to have all of that, that, that product and that data, it lets you actually flow in and out of that better as well. So. Um, you don’t need paying for like eight subscriptions.

If you go back to your job and then come back to this part time. So I just think there’s this idea of like, we’re kind of your co-pilot that lives on the side while, while you’re trying to get it off the ground and up and running, and then we can scale with you and kind of flex up and down with you, um, versus having 12 different logins and like 12 different subscriptions.

I think that’s just like kind of a mental time suck as well as financially is not that doesn’t make that much sense.

Andrew: You know what I’m saying? Notice a lot of businesses don’t realize how much they could integrate with the tools that we use. Like quick, like, um, like Google maps. I’ll give you an example. I moved to Austin, I needed a haircut. Suddenly I was going to Google maps to see who was rated highly. And so on this one fricking place made it so easy to book within Google maps that I just booked.

Did you know what I’m talking about? I didn’t realize with Apple pay I’m paying them suddenly. I didn’t look beyond them because they made it so easy. It turns out that.

James: pay is so underrated.

Andrew: So under it’s amazing, but also the Google maps integration hardly ever comes up. I just did a search right now for a barbershop to just to see what happens, what I went through old soul barbershop comes up and then there’s a big button under their photos.

It’s a book online. And then when you book online, you get, you know, you just get to see available times and how much it would cost for whatever it is that you want. And then underneath it, there’s a tiny little mention that says a booking times provided by Squire, which I guess is a haircut type solution.

Right. That kind of thing is just so valuable. But what store owner has the patience to go and figure it out? The Google’s offering that and then Facebook’s offering something new and then Instagram, tomorrow might offer something and then screw over their people when they eliminate it the next week.

James: Yeah. I think we underestimate the power of frictionless, like transaction, like you said, like, can you just text someone right away? Can you schedule something right away? Can you check out right away? Um, so like a lot of these folks they’re kind of hesitant to accept credit card payments at first, then when they start doing it, it’s like, oh wow.

I get paid instantly. And you just add this like tip button and you make another like 5%, like think how much we tip door dash, just cause it’s easy. Um, even though it’s like, not that great of a service for anybody, frankly. Um, but just like, okay. Two clicks and I can, oh, it’s 10% tip. Sure. Sounds good.

Andrew: Right. They got me to tip before.

James: exactly.

You tip before you even get the service, it makes it, it’s like, it’s just like the psychology of that is super interesting.

Andrew: Okay. So now if I do the same thing for landscaping, nobody lets me book landscaping online. I just happened to cause sometimes we need to get somebody to come in here and do it. Nope. It’s not on there. Who knows. Does Google make it a bell? But I feel like that’s a huge, uh, a huge need too, that if you could bring them more customers, do you see that at all?

As a pain point? Am I just thinking through your business with you? Cause I’m getting a little bit excited about what you’re doing. A durable.

James: Yeah. I mean, that’s the, the most important thing I think like after getting up and running and getting your first customers is how do you grow and make it scalable growth. So, um, scalable, meaning it’s, you’re not spending so much time, like dealing with quotes and phone calls. It’s like, okay, you want customers here?

They are. And I think the, the reality of most of these businesses, once you get to your first kind of five or six customers, then there’s this word of mouth engine that CA that kicks in. So we’re actually building like, automated, like asking for reviews on Google, asking for referrals from your friends and just like this kind of word of mouth engine.

Um, so you don’t have to actually pay for acquisition. Cause right now, like. You would either post on like a Thumbtack or a different marketplace, which we want to actually give people the ability to do as well. But like use that for your first two clients make, might cost you 200 bucks a client, but then do a good job, get the reviews, get the word about the engine.

And then you should have a sustainable growing business within a very short period of time. and like all this stuff is, it’s a lot of time to deal with if you’re trying to do it manually and you forget about it. And they’re just best practices that software consultant better than humans, right? Like it’s, you can have that ask, asking for review, make it a very human touch.

Um, but just automate it, right? Why not? It’s the same thing. Right. And it just makes her life so much easier.

Andrew: James. What about this? Like philosophically, I’m noticing a lot more entrepreneurs I’m interviewing are not even doing the minimum viable product anymore. They’re just building the thing you didn’t say. Can I first create an MVP that collects all the software you need and a human being will make sure it all works together.

And then once we see that you really wish that it worked together better, then we coded up. You just said, I’m going to. I’m going to build out the first thing. Why,

James: It’s almost a gut feeling and intuition that I actually think this is going to be very big and going to work. Um, and it’s kind of a, it’s like, I like showing people something, I guess, like, I think like, um, you could do the lean startup approach here, like you said, and do it all manually. Um, maybe that would have been a better strategy, but I just have the experience of just building software in like very adjacent categories.

And, um, I know we’re going to be, I know we’re going to be able to acquire customers, so it’s like, can we build the thing? How good can it be? Um, and I

Andrew: you know you can build, how do you know you could acquire customers?

James: I, I mean, we acquired like four and a half million for my last business and it’s like, If we have an exceptionally good competitive product at a good price, like, uh, we’re already, we already built a big list too.

We built like a couple thousand person waiting list as well. Um, so I think that, like, that was enough, like market validation for me. Um, but yeah, lean versus fat startup. Um,

I just think this needs to exist then. Like, I, I think this is like a product that I really want to exist, then I want to build it. Um, and sometimes building a 10 X better product, um, just gives you way more momentum when we go to market. Um, as opposed to just being, like you said, building an invoicing solution is not that interesting building, like another website builders, not that interesting, actually going to market with, Hey, like start your business in 10 minutes.

Like that’s really where I want to get to. And that’s just like a compelling story and a

Andrew: I saw your eyes light up earlier when you gave the time. I think you said five minutes earlier, but the idea of,

James: Yeah.

Andrew: you covered in five, that isn’t, that is an amazing thing. By the way, speaking up, starting all these different things you started in between both the businesses we just talked about, you started this one slack thing and I, I know we’re at the end of our time, but why did you start a slack thing on that?

What was the slack thing that you started

James: Oh, it’s called hall. APOD yeah, it was like, um, essentially automated your slack status based on your current work state. So when you’re, when you’re on slack, you’re kind of bombarded by messages at all times. Um, so what we wanna do is like, how do you signal to your team? Like, Hey, I’m in a meeting right now.

I’m focused right now. Um, I’m next available. So it’s kind of this like automated workflow management within slack. Um, that was a side project while I was running visual CV. Um, and then COVID hit, so it just got a

Andrew: why did you do it? Was it just because you needed it yourself and you said, let me see if other people need it or were you bored? And this is your form of.

fun.

James: I thought it was a really, really good idea. And like my friend, like my friend was an exceptional engineer actually built like the first prototypes, like, oh, this is, this is cool. Like, there’s like, it solves a pain point for my team here. Um, and then, yeah, I mean, like, it just kind of like inherited the project and then, um, COVID hit and it got a bunch of really organic momentum.

So like a bunch of public companies started signing up. And, um, we, I think we ended up like 5,000 companies using it. Um, I definitely, I think it’s a personality flaw, but when I choose to do something, I will just like run through a wall to make it work too. And I think that was the gut check. So we actually.

Like I was running that, that business. And I was like, it was, I mean, losing, losing money. Um, but getting a lot of like user momentum. Um, I just, like, I gotta do this. Like I said, I would do this and like, I kind of care about it. Um, it’s a cool product and people liked the product. Um, but I didn’t really take a step back and gut check whether this was what I wanted to spend the next 10 years doing.

And that, that was really my framework for, for durable is like,

Andrew: Uh,

James: like polo pod needed to work for me to be happy with it. Um, if we give durable the absolute best shot and we build something amazing and it doesn’t work, like I can live with that. Right. It’s like, I actually think it’s a product that, um, I’m excited about.

It helps the world that will help people. Um, and that’s important to me. And if I’m going to go spend 10 years on this, it’s probably not, um, making tech teams slightly more productive, even though that’s a great mission too, for the right person. It just wasn’t the right mission for me.

Andrew: you sold it to pulse. It seems like this is a major part of their, or maybe pulse is the new company.

James: Yeah. So Paul’s like, again, like who’s, the founder market fit is so important and Rashi runs policies, superstar. Like he built a calendar app before that sold to Salesforce. He’s super excited about status and what it can do. I’m like, yeah, like a hundred percent, like you should buy this business. And like, I think there’s a ton of momentum here with Hala pod that you can kind of a couple into to what you’re doing at Paul’s.

So I think that’s like, again, founder market fit, I think is just so important. Like chasing the right market. If you don’t care about it. I just think don’t think he actually, like, I don’t think there’s longevity there.

Andrew: I just feel like you’re such a creator, like I think on a, on hollow pod you had bare metrics is one of the users. I remember talking to the founder of Baremetrics and he was constantly coming up with projects. There’s always another little side business and I asked him why. He said some people will play video games in their lunch break.

I just need to start something and see it,

James: Yeah. And that’s, what’s fun about durable too, is like, I get to dig into all these little, like random businesses that we can build some education and some content around. So it’s like mobile bike mechanics. Like that’s actually a massive market. That’s like a $50 million market. Now I’m in Canada. Like,

Andrew: because of the pandemic. Is that what made it grow so fast?

James: yeah. There’s like some biking grew like 300% in a year and then you can’t get a mechanic now. So I could just like that specific market. I’m like, yeah. If someone started like hot tub maintenance, my friend has bought a place on a mountain and he can’t get a hot tub person. I’m like, dude, like if I was 20, I just go like church 200 bucks a month for all these rich people’s hot tubs.

Like, like there’s just so much opportunity here. And

Andrew: And you know what, dude, and that’s what you said earlier. You said there’s for many things, there’s more demand than supply. There’s more demand for somebody to come walk my dog than supply for somebody to fix my hot tub or clean my pool or whatever, then supply. And then you don’t even know where to get it.

Alright, and also bikes. I get what you mean. I saw the line on, uh, Valencia street in Santa Monica, in San Francisco. Excuse me, of people waiting to get their bike looked at by the one place there. All right. The company, I love the name. It’s durable. The website is durable.co congratulations on the launch.

Um, it’s been, it’s been a while. It’s not like, it’s brand new, but it’s been out there. It’s fairly new and congratulations on this impressive career. Thanks for being on

James: thanks, Andrew. Yeah, I really appreciate it.

Andrew: You bet. I want to thank my two sponsors. If you need to pay people, go to gusto.com/mixergy. And if you are looking to hire developers, go to lemon.io/mixergy.

Thanks

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