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EP02: Who should you build products with?

Episode description

In this week's call Kyle and Justin talk about people: specifically, the people you choose to build a product with.

There are two ways to look at this, and we discuss both of them:

  1. How do you choose a co-founder? (if you're building your own company)
  2. How do you choose an existing product? (If you're working for another company)

    Kyle: Wow, that sounds so sexy and fun to work on.


    Justin: I set us both to "male voice." I hope that's okay.

    Kyle: Yeah, I appreciate you assuming the correct gender.


    Justin: All right, welcome to Product People, a podcast for people who build beautiful products. My name is Justin and I'm calling from Vernon, BC.

    Kyle: And I'm Kyle and I'm calling from Edmonton.

    Justin: And Kyle, I thought for this week's call, I had an idea that we could talk about people, and specifically, the people we choose to build products with, and I thought there was like two angles on this. One is, if you're starting a new company or building a new product on your own, you have to choose a co-founder and two, if you decide to join an existing team, as may be a product lead or product manager, you have to decide who you're going to team up with, which company you're going to join and we might also even talk about how you break into that. How do you break into Product Management, Product Lead, that kind of thing? What do you think?

    Kyle: Uh, sounds good, yeah. Let's do it. Justin: All right, well I thought to start, maybe we could talk about—get a little bit personal and talk about how this whole podcast even came into being. Do you want to just tell people the story about like, how did this happen? How did this podcast happen? Kyle: Right. Well, you and I don't have much history together, which may be a surprise to anyone who's listening. Justin: That's true. Kyle: We—how long ago would you say it was that we finally met in person? Maybe a month ago? Justin: Yeah, a month ago, I think. Kyle: A month ago? So, Justin and I, for probably the last couple of years, have followed each other on Twitter, both lived and worked in Edmonton at software, internet software companies and so, the circle in Edmonton is pretty small and, found each other through Twitter and bantered on Twitter a lot and I think we even—we sort of planned a few, "Hey, let's meet for beers," and— Justin: That's right. Kyle: and they ended up never panning out. Justin: That's right, yeah, we missed each other a couple times. Kyle: For some reason or another, one of us would cancel. [laughs] Justin: Yeah, I would be thinking about going to an event and I'd decide not to and it'd turn out, you would show up. We were just missing each other every time. Kyle: Yes, exactly, for two years, and then it wasn't until you moved to another province— Justin: [laughs] Kyle: we were actually able to coordinate an in-person meeting. [laughs] Justin: That's right. Kyle: So yeah, you came back to Edmonton for a short little business trip and we met with some other friends for beer and started chatting about prodcuts and kind of realized that we had a lot of the same, I guess, outlook and vision for how products should get made, what kinds of things are important, the sorts of aspects of product development that get us excited and— Justin: Yeah, I think we both admitted to tiny little business crush on Amy Hoy. Kyle: Yeah, exactly. Justin: [laughs] Kyle: Yes. Justin: And so we— Kyle: And probably many others as well. Justin: Yeah, yeah. And so we chatted, hung out, it was a great, great chat, focused a lot on products and then I think it was maybe a couple days later, you messaged me on Twitter and said, "Hey, have you ever thought about doing a podcast?" Kyle: Yeah, um, it was kind of always something I wanted to do myself. I just never got around to it, I suppose, and just chatting with you over beer was fairly conversational and easy and we talked about a lot of interesting things. I sure found it interesting. Whether a third party listening in finds it interesting, I guess that remains to be seen. Justin: [laughs] Kyle: But at the very least, I enjoy our chats about products and software and all that fun stuff. So it seemed like a good opportunity to maybe give this podcasting thing a try. I was pretty sure that I had seen you tweet in the past that podcasting was something you wanted to give a try to and I know you're fairly active on your blog and things like that, so, I thought, "Why not? I'll see if he's interested and see if we can make it happen." Justin: Yeah. And I'm wondering what we could pull out of that whole experience because, essentially, you and I have co-founded a product. This is a podcast, but it actually has a—the development of a podcast is, in a lot of ways, like developing a product and you and I are treating it even more so in that we're trying to kind of do a lean approach to podcast development and we're going out and we're doing customer development and we have a survey and we've been talking to people and asking them questions and all of that. But we've co-founded this product. What do you think are some things that we could pull out of that, that maybe would apply to other folks as they're looking to start a product and looking for someone to co-found it with? Kyle: Yeah, I think there's a lot of parallels any time you want to undertake any kind of creative endeavor with somebody else. So I think one of the most important things is to not really be afraid to approach people with ideas and opportunities to collaborate on things. Justin: Mm hmm. Kyle: I'm not sure if it was last time we chatted but—or if we had recorded it but we had sort of talked about how, because of things like Twitter and blogging, people are just—they seem more approachable and even like your web design idols or your development idols— Justin: Mm hmm. Kyle: sort of seem like they're maybe on this other plane or whatever, you really look up to them, but in a lot of ways, they're just regular people too and the reason that they're so prominent in those fields is because they're passionate about that particular topics. So, chances are, if you're interested in that topic as well, and you toss out an idea, there's nothing really to lose by tossing out an idea, right? Like, I didn't know if you wanted to do a podcast or not but hey, I'll at least mention it and see what happens because there's no harm in asking, basically, so— Justin: Yeah. I think it's okay to—even to approach people that you don't really know or have a good relationship with. Kyle: Yeah, definitely. It's kind of like you can just approach people just to hang out and you don't really have to have in mind that, "Oh, me and this other person, I really admire their work. I want to build a product with them." That's kind of like love at first sight and wanting to get married immediately before you get to know somebody. Justin: Yeah. Kyle: So just getting to know somebody and kind of going with it and if it turns out that you have good chemistry, which is another important part of any sort of business or creative relationship, if there's chemistry there and there's a shared sort of—there's shared values and shared vision, then the opportunity to make a product together will kind of naturally bubble out of that relationship because you will naturally be tossing out ideas for different things that you've wanted to build or different things you like and naturally, I think, if there's chemistry there, it's going to come around to, "Well, what can we do together?" Justin: Mm hmm. Yeah, and you know, your story—sorry, our story, kind of reminded me, in high school, I had this idea—this is going to sound funny, but I had this idea I wanted to put on a rave in my hometown— Kyle: [laughs] Justin: and I just remember feeling like I was into the rave scene and I remember wanting to bring this big city event to my little town of like 3000 people and to do that, I had to find someone who could do that with me and I ended up going to this guy Adrian that I didn't know that well and just pitching him on it but I knew he was into raves and DJing and I thought he would be a good partner. And I think sometimes it's okay to kind of, as you get to know people, and as you're involved in a certain scene, to approach people and say, "Hey, are you interested in this?" or maybe you just get that sense, because as soon as I pitched him on it, he was like, he was in. And we ended up having a really good business partnership for this Grade 12 rave that we put on. But sometimes you don't even need to know the person really well. You can just kind of see who's out there, see who else might be into something similar and I think really, the big lesson is, just get started. Like, get together with them, pitch them on the idea and then say, "Well, what would be the next step?" and for you and I the next step was just a phone call. Kyle: Yeah, exactly. I think that's an important point too is that you don't need to have—like you don't need to know somebody really well to determine that you have kind of chemistry and potential to build something. Again, it kind of comes back to romantic relationships, like there are many couples who date for three weeks and then decide they're going to get married because it just—it clicks so well and in a lot of cases, that's how good products are made too. Like you just—people's vision just aligns so well that—and you're both on board, like you said with your friend Adrian and the rave. It's just a no-brainer, basically, to like, "Yeah, let's do this. It's something I want to do and—" it's kind of—this summer, me and my friend Jeff Archibald from Paper Leaf, we went to Interlink, that's a web design—or web conference in Vancouver and they kind of talked about how—one of the speakers, Jessica Hische, talked about how she went to, I believe it was Type Camp or Type Cooper— Justin: Okay. Kyle: and basically, she spent however many days learning lettering and things like that and we were like, "Hey, that's pretty cool. That's something I've always wanted to do," and so on the plane ride back home from Vancouver to Edmonton, we sort of were like, "Hey, would you—would it be crazy for us to try and do a typography or type design workshop?" and we were both instantly in to do it and— Justin: Yeah. Kyle: he and I had never really pursued any—like we hadn't really worked together previously. Like, we were good friends and things like that but it was sort of like this out of the blue thing, like let's do this and then over the course of a month, I guess it was two months, we planned and actually had this type workshop in Edmonton. But it was one of those things where you just throw out an idea and based on your relationship with the person, it's like, "Yeah, I'm in. I know we can do this. We've got a lot of the same tastes, same level of quality that we would expect," which is a huge thing. Any time you're working with somebody and there's difference in the level of quality that you're okay with, that can cause a lot of friction and problems— Justin: Mm hmm. Kyle: so if you know that somebody that you're thinking of working with has kind of the same expectations of quality and the same vision then it's yeah, it's like a no-brainer. It's one of those things where you're super excited to actually pursue something with that person because you know it's going to end up awesome. Justin: That's right, yeah. That inspiration is important. The inspiration, I think Jason Fried says, "Inspiration is perishable," and sometimes you are in those moments where you might have just met someone at a conference or met up with someone for a beer or something and you have that moment of inspiration. I've found you really need to jump on those. If you're in and you're saying, "Hell yeah," you need to jump on those, whatever it is, and just go for it and a lot of times it won't work out and that's fine. But if you're kind of thinking about doing something, especially building your own product and you happen to meet someone who has the same taste and same sense of quality and same, maybe even shares a vision with you, it makes sense to just get going and take one step at a time and maybe think about details later. Kyle: Yeah, definitely. That's—the biggest hurdle, well one of the biggest hurdles, is just making the decision to get started and actually do it. It's one thing to toss out ideas and say, "Oh, someday we should do this," or you know— Justin: yeah. Kyle: "someday," but actually taking that first step and actually diving into like, "We're actually going to do this. What's the first thing we're going to do tomorrow to actually get this started?" You kind of have to seize the moment when you've got that inspiration. Yeah, like you said, take advantage of it and take advantage of the fact that there's a person there who wants to—like has the same sort of vision. [laughs] Justin: Yeah. I think the only thing I would add is that for me, I've always tried to do things on my own and I'm starting to learn the benefit of teaming up with someone else and working with someone else. Kyle: Mm hmm. Justin: And I just think that there's a lot of maybe entrepreneurial people or maybe a really great designer or a really great developer and you're just used to doing good work by yourself and the idea that—of teaming up with someone might seem like it would slow you down or that would be a lot of extra work. And I'm just realizing more and more that to build great products, you need a team. Definitely to start a company, you need a team. Even to start a good podcast, it makes a lot more sense to have two people talking instead of me just talking to a microphone by myself. Kyle: [laughs] Justin: And so I've been thinking about that a lot, about the idea of teaming up with someone else and doing something together, as opposed to just trying to do it yourself. Kyle: Yeah. There's totally a buzzword for that the whole "synergy" thing where two people working on it, they're more than the sum of their parts so you're not just—if you have two people working on an idea, you're not—you don't have double the productivity. It's probably more than double just because you kind of push each other to work a little harder than you would if you were each working individually. Justin: Yeah. Kyle: And there's also the whole thing of complimentary skills, which is definitely important. Like if you're looking for somebody to start a new venture with, whether that's a business or a podcast or whatever, it can be tempting to yeah, want to do it yourself, especially like, I've found that a lot of entrepreneurs, like myself included, are a bit of—control freaks—[laughs] Justin: Mm hmm! Kyle: and I think that's partly what drives the entrepreneurial spirit but it's definitely kind of in your best interest to give up the reigns a bit and realize that you can't do everything. You can't be the best at everything. Justin: Mm hmm. Kyle: And so, maybe it's better for you to, rather than trying to be the technical guy, the business guy, the designer guy and the marketing guy, maybe just focus on the two things that you're really passionate about and find someone else who sort of fits those other areas and then—because not only is it less things for you to try to juggle in your head at once but there's that whole idea where you're getting fresh ideas that you wouldn't have if you were just by yourself. It's like a—I forget what the term is for that, but basically, you're getting external input into your own head rather than just relying on your brain to churn our your own ideas. Justin: Yeah. Yeah, I found that really helpful and I'm still—I feel like I'm a beginner in that sense of teaming up with folks and not always thinking I just have to do this by myself. Kyle: Yeah. Justin: But actually working with other people. Kyle: And it's hard, like again, with the control freak thing, I think entrepreneurials—or entrepreneurs—[laughs] Justin: I like that word. Entrepreneurials. Kyle: Entrepreneurials. [laughs] Justin: [laughs] Kyle: It gets even better when you try to say "serial entrepreneurials." Justin: [laughs} Kyle: They, again, by definition, have a vision for how things should be and that whole idea of giving up a little bit of control and trusting someone else to follow through with what might not be exactly your vision but it'll still be good, it's a tough thing to do. Justin: Mm hmm. Kyle: Even entrepreneurs who try and go it alone and as their company grows and even if they hire people and aren't really seeking a co-founder, I know that giving up control and delegating tasks, even to employees, can be difficult because you're just so used to having that vision in your head and entrusting that vision to other people can be hard. Justin: Mm hmm. Kyle: And it's even harder when it's at the co-founder stage, things are super early and there's a lot of room for error, basically. Justin: Yeah. Kyle: So basically, learning to give up some of that control to somebody else you trust is super important if you want to accomplish bigger things. Justin: Yeah. Well, and this is a good segue into the other side of the coin, which is joining another team, working for somebody else. And you just switched from freelancing to employment, right? Kyle: It's true, I did. Justin: Okay, so tell people, which team did you join? Kyle: So I joined a company called Granify and I joined them as a Product—I think my title is Product and Design Lead. Justin: Okay. Kyle: So, yeah. Justin: And what does Granify do? Kyle: It sounds complicated but they use machine learning and artificial intelligence and big data to help e-commerce stores earn significantly more money, is basically what it boils down to. Justin: Interesting. Well said. You have that line down. Kyle: Yeah, we've been kind of refining the pitch because we've sort of been explaining—we've gotten a lot of confused looks when we try and explain it and really, that's the way to boil it down into—I wouldn't even say that's in layman's terms because I said, "artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data." Justin: [laughs] Yeah. Okay, so thinking about this question, I think there's two things. One, how do you decide which company, which team to join and then maybe we could also talk about at the end, for people looking to break in to Product Management or some sort of product role, how do they do that? How do they get there? Kyle: Right. Justin: So for you joining Granify, what was it that made you want to join that team? Kyle: First of all, I wasn't actually seeking a job. Once I started diving into freelance—the whole reason I dove into freelance was to kind of bootstrap a product I had building on the side called FotoJournal. Justin: Mm hmm. Kyle: That was kind of my plan. I was going to freelance enough to pay the bills while I continued to build and grow FotoJournal. Justin: Yeah. Kyle: But it gets to the point, what I was getting to earlier, you kind of realize the limitations of one person. Like, I could grow FotoJournal to a point but then after that, there's only so big I can make it as one person. And it's also working from home by yourself, it's got its perks, but it's also not as, maybe, inspiring in the same way that working with a team does. So one of my freelance clients—Granify was one of my freelance clients and the CEO, who has had some previous success with building and selling companies, he's got a lot of vision and so basically, it was the CEO's amount of passion and vision that really got me on board to come on and do bigger things than I could have on my own. So it was a—it's kind of a new area, I guess, for me. Like, e-commerce isn't something I've really worked in before, but he's like, "Oh, no, don't worry about it. You'll figure it all out. What I want you to do is—" it was more like—it's a Product Manager type of role so I mean, in some ways, it doesn't really matter specifically what product it is. He's just like—he was more interested in my past history of helping products get out the door and look good. Justin: Mm hmm. Kyle: So basically, yeah, his vision and passion were contagious and I was just—it was again, getting back to the chemistry thing. He and I got along really well, we've gone for beer and coffee a bunch and it always turns into four-hour sessions, so just like really easy to talk to, we get along great, we've got that complimentary skill set we talked about earlier. Justin: Yeah. Kyle: It just was like a great fit. Justin: You know I think for me, that's key. You can check out a company and kind of get a sense of who they are but I think if you're looking to join a company, it's hanging out with the leader of that company, or if there's leaders, but hanging out with them and seeing, what do they value? What's their vision for this company? And just seeing if it gets you excited, and if it does, to me, that's what I would pursue. If I hang out with a leader that excites me, then that's who I'm going to want to follow. It was the same thing for me at Industry Mailout. The reason I wanted to join that team was because the leadership there were—they had values that I shared and they had a vision for a product that I could really buy into. So I think that would be definitely one thing is if you're thinking about joining a team is to finding a team that—where the vision excites you and you agree with the core values. Kyle: Definitely, and I would say that probably—well, for me anyway, that's even more important than the specific industry that the company might be in. Like I said, e-commerce, I don't really have any experience in e-commerce but the fact that I was so excited by hearing Jeff talk about the direction of the company, I thought to myself, we're going to build something awesome. No matter what we attempted to build, it was going to be awesome just because of the level of enthusiasm that everyone has. And it was the same as like, at a previous company I worked for, Yardstick Software, that does—they do online exam software which, you know, when you hear it, you don't immediately think, "Wow, that sounds so sexy and fun to work on." Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Kyle: People who just love making stuff, they love working with customers, they love launching, they love watching revenue grow, they love hiring good people, they love building a team and culture. That's kind of more important than the particular type of widget you're trying to manufacture, I think. To me, anyway. Justin: Completely. I think if the vision is there, and there's some core values that you agree with, I think you could be doing anything. You know, Zappos sells shoes, 37signals makes project management software, Amy Hoy has built time tracking software. None of those are really exciting in and of themselves but I think each of those companies is exciting and has a really interesting culture and really interesting vision and have built incredible products. So yeah, to me, I don't think that the actual thing that you're producing is as important, although it's really fun when that happens too, when the product that you're building is also something you're really excited about, but it's not necessary. Kyle: Yeah, definitely. If you can have both, it's like a home run type situation but it's also, if you have that team, it's easy to suddenly start thinking, maybe it's like that whole Stockholm Syndrome thing but like, [inaudible] worked at Yardstick making exam software, at first it didn't really matter to me what we were building because I was just having fun building stuff with the team. But as we went further along, I started to really care about online exams and really want to make that an awesome experience, like the best possible online exam product we could make. And it's the same thing with Granify. The more I work with this awesome team to build e-commerce software, the more excited I get about the space we're in as well. So it kind of has a ripple effect on your interests, I suppose. Justin: Yeah, I think that's the culture speaking, when you get excited about the product even though you weren't originally excited. I think that's a result of culture and when I went and visited the Zappos headquarters, you walk in those buildings and you feel like a million bucks. People treat each other so well there and really, their product is customer service. It's essentially a call center and you think about these people getting excited about working in a call center. It's unreal. But they were so excited to be at work and it was seriously one of the most positive places I've ever been. Kyle: A lot of people, probably, who are listening to this are kind of builders at heart where they love to build things they care about and that's—it can be hard to maybe fathom how people can get excited about things that maybe don't seem that exciting but when you get in a room with people who are excited about it and you see the potential of—you can see the end of goal of where you're going then, even though you're a developer, you don't mind answering the phone to talk to customers to fix bugs because you're not just there to sit down and crank through code for ten hours a day. You're there to help achieve something bigger and that's where people—it just results in so many things where people are doing more than what they were—maybe their job description says but they're doing it because they want to. And those are the kinds of companies that, if you're interested in building good products, those are the places you want to work where everyone is excited to build the best possible thing, regardless of what their job description says. Justin: If I was going to give some advice on getting into Product Management or a Product Lead role, it would be to find a great company and then try to just start at the bottom and work your way up. Kyle: Yeah, totally. I totally agree. That's kind of what we talked about at the start, which is don't be afraid to approach these people that you really look up to but maybe have never met before. So if there's a company in town that you really admire their work and their company, or you know somebody who works there and just loves it, send the CEO or somebody and email and just ask if you can take them to lunch or to coffee or for beer or something like that and you'll probably find that more often than not, they'll be really excited to talk to somebody who's looking to break into that field. Because all of those people love—like we all love talking about business and products and software and customers and that sort of thing, so there's a good chance they'll want to talk to you. Justin: I seriously, I probably contact, I don't know, probably three people a week asking if I can meet up with them and I might get one out of the three. Kyle: Yeah. Justin: But it's the act of doing that that produces the results of actually meeting up with someone. Kyle: Yeah, exactly. You might only get one lunch out of three emails but you'll get zero lunches out of zero emails so [laughs] why not send something? Justin: Yeah. Do you have anything else you want to say that's on the top of your mind right now? Kyle: Well, one other thing, quickly, that I was just thinking of mentioning is if you're looking to break into this kind of a field, I sort of talked about how you want to work at a people maybe step outside of what their job description is and are willing to fill in the gaps wherever necessary, whether that's answering the phone or doing customer support or helping with some design or writing code. I think those are the kinds of peoples who, if you have a breadth of skill, I think those are the kinds of people who go on to be probably excellent Product Managers, when you've got the background in a bit of everything. Justin: Yeah. Kyle: So it's—I think one piece of advice would be to dip your toes into all those different waters, learn a little bit of code. You've dabbled in code a bit, you've done some UX stuff, you've done some marketing in business and all of that sort of thing and you don't really have to try to be the best in each one of those niches but if you've got a breadth of understanding, it just helps you talk between all those teams so much better. Because that's really what a Product Manager is, right? You're kind of like the hub between all these different production teams. So the more you know about what they're actually doing, the more effective you can be as a Product Manager. Justin: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And for me right now, my weakest point is definitely coding and so I've been actively working on that. I've done some coding workshops, I'm doing some online education, I'll probably take a few courses, and the point isn't for me to become an expert developer, but the point is I want to be able to communicate with developers. I want to also understand at least the technology that we're using or that we could use and I might not need to know how I could build it from the ground up but it's good to know what pieces are available and how we might use them. Kyle: Exactly. I've got a good friend who's starting a new healthcare stsrt-up and he's hired a team of Django developers. Django is kind of like a Python version of Ruby-on-Rails, a web framework type thing, and he's hired a Django team from the States to build a lot of the prototypes and it's kind of turning out that the prototypes are becoming the actual product. He's got no—absolutely zero background in development or anything like that but he's—during the day he's hustling, helping getting this product built and in the evenings, he's hired another one of my friends in town who knows Django really well to tutor him and teach him coding in Django so that—like he has no intention to dive in and start contributing code but he's just really motivated that the more he knows about what his developers are doing, what sorts of challenges they'll hit, when they run in to a problem, he can understand what they're saying and possibly talk to other developers to try and find a resolution. It's a good thing to want to be well-rounded, so you don't have to be, like you said, your intention isn't to become an expert developer but the more you know, the better prepared you are to be that hub between all the teams. Justin: Yeah, that's really good advice, actually. If you're looking to break into Product Management or being on a product team, then I think you definitely want to stick your nose in a bunch of different places. That's how Ryan Singer from 37signals, he explained he got his Product Manager job because he kept sticking his nose in design and development and business and customers and eventually the said, "Well, you're sticking your nose in all of these things. You might as well manage the product," and I think if you're going to be involved in managing a product, you need to stick your nose in a lot of different places. Kyle: Definitely, so that's a good example of somebody who's at a company and succeeded doing that. And then you have Amy Hoy, who we talked about earlier who—she's more of the entrepreneurial side where she's sort of built her own products but it's the exact same thing. She's got a background in design and code and marketing and she's kind of—she's a pretty vocal person so she's kind of got a following in all of those different audiences but again, same thing. Well-rounded, she's got a good background in all those different things and as a result, she can—she might not be the one writing all the code or doing all the design or marketing, but because she's got a breadth of experience, she knows what needs to get done and she can assess, if she's delegating it out, she can assess who is capable of doing a good job, she can say whether their work is good or whether it's not good.

    So yeah, I think that's kind of an interesting contrast between Amy Hoy who's kind of a bootstrapped entrepreneur versus Ryan Singer who's fallen into—or I shouldn't say fallen into but grown into a Product Manager role with an existing company. In both cases, it's that breadth of skills that got them there.

    Justin: That's right. And so, like I said, if you want to break into product, like Product Management, start with a great company and just do whatever it takes. So start in Customer Support or start in Design or start in Marketing. It doesn't really matter. You just start somewhere and keep thinking and asking questions and learning and eventually, you can grow into a position where you might be managing a product. Kyle: Yeah, exactly. Justin: Yeah, that's great advice. Cool, well that was a good talk. Kyle: Agreed. Justin: I think maybe we'll just close off by just describing to people what stage we're at. This is our second phone call and we've come up with this idea of building a minimal viable podcast. And so we're following this lean, agile methodology to building this and what we want to do is talk to as many product people as we can, really listen to some of the challenges they're facing both people trying to build their own products and people working for companies, and we want to cater our content around that. So each podcast we put out, we want to hear the feedback and then we want to refine the product. And so the next time we do a podcast, we want to take all that feedback into consideration. So if people are interested in giving us some feedback, you can follow us on Twitter, @productpeopletv or you can go to our website, and there's—you can comment on each phone call or episode that we put out and you can also @ reply us on Twitter. Kyle: Yeah, and I think it's good to mention that we're pretty wide open at this point and open to suggestions, so if there's specific topics you'd like to hear us cover or if there's people that you think would be interesting for us to interview, or if maybe you think you yourself have an interesting story, all of those are good reasons to get in touch with us and tell you what you think would make for an interesting show. Justin: Yeah, and we are really open to harsh criticism so if you've got some criticism too, just send it over, whether you don't like the sound of my voice or it doesn't really matter what it is. We'd love to hear what you're thinking because we will take that feedback and we'll put it into our Project Management software and we'll actually try to refine what we're doing the next time we record. Well, it's been a good call, Kyle. I'm going to see you in a couple days in Edmonton and everyone else, yeah, check us out, Thanks for listening. Kyle: Thanks. [THEME MUSIC] Justin: You need to stick your nose in a lot of different places.

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EP98 – The hard truth about bootstrapping startups (Part 2 with Jason Cohen)

December 17th, 2018

Jason Cohen asks Justin Jackson hard questions about his startup,, and what it's going to take to go full-time.

This is the second half …

EP97 – Can you bootstrap a company on the side? (Part 1 with Jason Cohen)

December 14th, 2018

When you're building a startup you have these questions:
  • Should I work on my startup on the side, and grow it slowly?
  • Should I take investment and go …

EP96 – My secret phone call with Hamish

November 23rd, 2018


Hamish Macpherson is an engineer at Buffer, and was one of the first people to join MegaMaker.

★ Looking for community of bootstrappers?

EP95 – "Programming's gateway drug" with Samantha Geitz

November 5th, 2018

This is a great chat with Samantha Geitz, a Senior Developer at Tighten, and the founder of BetaFish.

Topics in this episode: 
  • Should …

EP94 – Does the old SaaS playbook still work in 2018?

June 11th, 2018


So many great topics in this episode: 

  • Should developers learn design?

  • Derrick's "viral signup" trick

  • How important is a personal brand?

  • How to promote …

EP93 – SaaS pricing with Patrick Campbell

June 1st, 2018

I'm building a new SaaS in 2018 with my buddy Jon Buda called Now, we're trying to figure out our pricing. We're trying not to pretend we know everything there is to know about running a SaaS.

So, we …

EP92 – 2018 MicroConf guide with Mike Taber

March 15th, 2018

Mike Taber (Bluetick) and Rob Walling (Drip) started MicroConf in 2011 as a conference for self-funded startups. It's gone from just over 100 attendees to nearly 500. It's become the place for bootstrappers to hang out.

EP91 – Josh Nielsen from Zencastr: software for podcasters

January 6th, 2018


Josh started out trying to build a "GitHub for music." When that idea didn't pan out, he still wanted to do something with Web Audio and WebRTC. So he started building Zencastr, which gives podcasters the ability to …

EP90 – "Give yourself time." Building a profitable business on the Shopify apps platform

November 18th, 2017


6 years ago, Bjorn Forsberg built an app called OrderlyPrint for Shopify. His goal was to increase his freedom, and to spend more time with his family. Was able to achieve it? (This is the 5th case study in the Mega …

EP89 – "We never wanted to fire anyone," Natalie Nagele on Wildbit's journey

October 28th, 2017


Back in the early 2000s, Wildbit was an agency building Flash websites for Philly nightclubs.

Then, in 2007, they launched their first product, …

EP88 – Pippin Williamson from beer money to over $1 million in revenue with WordPress plugins

October 21st, 2017


Pippin Williamson started out like a lot of us do: building websites for whoever would pay him. He decided to try selling one of his WordPress …

EP87 – How Nick Disabato built a profitable productized service

October 4th, 2017


It's time for another Mega Profitable interview! This series aims to help founders, like you, get profitable. Learn how Draft went from having $21 in …

EP86 – Mega profitable with Brennan Dunn

September 20th, 2017


Introducing a new series: Mega Profitable. What's the difference between a founder who is mega profitable, and a product person who's just making a living? Brennan Dunn joins me to talk about his journey.

This episode …

EP85 – Facing your launch fears with Mike Taber of

August 11th, 2017


You'll recognize Mike from Startups for the Rest of Us and the MicroConf conference. He's launching a new product called Bluetick.

This episode …

EP84 – Contrarian bootstrapper Ian Landsman

May 16th, 2017


"Charge more!" "Use content marketing!" "Start with an ebook!"

There's a lot of folklore in the startup and bootstrapping community. Do they all …

EP83: Laura Elizabeth – unmistakable product validation

April 8th, 2017


How do you find product ideas that resonate?

Hear how Laura knew there was demand for her project, Client Portal.

Everyone was like: "I want that."

EP82: Adam Wathan is back with a new launch story

December 23rd, 2016


When we last chatted with Adam Wathan he'd just launched his first book.

His next project is a course called Test Driven Laravel. You won't believe …

EP81: Behind Adam Wathan's $100k book launch

November 1st, 2016


Adam Wathan has always been passionate about learning new things, and sharing what he's learned with the world.

Then he discovered that he could …

EP80: Are we at peak SaaS?

August 12th, 2016


Should you start a SaaS company in 2016? Does it still make sense to run a SaaS as a solopreneur?

(Originally posted on the MegaMaker podcast)

SaaS …

EP79: Josh Pigford - "We're all winging it"

June 21st, 2016


Josh is the founder of Baremetrics. But he's also just a normal guy. When a relatively well known investor chastised him, it stung.

How does he deal with scrutiny?

Most companies aren’t doing nearly as well as you …

EP78: Nathan Barry - cash flow therapy (Part 2)

April 6th, 2016


This is part 2 of my conversation with Nathan Barry. In the past four months, he’s taken his burgeoning SaaS company (ConvertKit) from $1 million in annual recurring revenue to $2 million.

That sounds exciting, but it …

EP77 - Nathan Barry – Three years in the desert (Part 1)

April 1st, 2016


The last time I talked to Nathan, his web app (ConvertKit) had just hit $5,000 in MRR. In this two part series, Nathan describes how they grew that to $182,000 in monthly recurring revenue.

I’m going to start more …

EP76: Tom & Dan get physical with Studio Neat

February 9th, 2016


Tom and Dan had one of the most successful Kickstarters of 2010 when they released the Glif. But was that enough to launch full-time careers as …

EP75: Jason Zook on why he’s selling his future

September 24th, 2015


Jason Zook has a different perspective on life and business. He’s not afraid to try weird and crazy business ideas.

In 2008 he started a business called I Wear Your Shirt. Over 5 years he earned over $1 million in …

EP74: Tracy Osborn – launching a Kickstarter, a book, a SaaS!

September 21st, 2015


If you want to launch your own Kickstarter, write your own book, or build your own web application you’re going to love this episode.

Tracy Osborn is a serious bad-ass who’s done all three! She’s my guest this week.

EP73: Justin Jackson – “How I got into products”

June 26th, 2015


I was recently on the Chasing Product podcast with Chris Hawkins. Chris is a good interviewer: he asked a lot of great questions about my back-story, and how I got into products.

There’s this independence and …

EP72: Nathan Barry – “The hardest thing I’ve ever done is SaaS”

May 4th, 2015


After having great success with books and courses, Nathan Barry has shifted his attention to his SaaS: a web application called ConvertKit.

Two weeks ago I announced we finally hit $5,000 in MRR (

EP71: Des Traynor on the forgotten job of every SaaS product

December 12th, 2014


Des Traynor is one of my favorite writers and speakers on the topic of SaaS businesses, and jobs-to-be-done.

Notable quotes

“I think not talking …

EP70: Samuel Hulick talks about building Useronboard

November 7th, 2014


Samuel has become the internet’s authority on user onboarding. In this personal and open interview, Samuel talks about how he was able to discover his niche, build an audience, and launch his first product. He also …

EP69: Nir Eyal on how to build habit forming products

October 31st, 2014


In June of 2013, I was introduced to Nir Eyal through Ryan Hoover. Nir had been blogging a lot about psychology and analyzing what makes a highly …

EP68: Brian Casel on productized services

October 23rd, 2014


Brian Casel is a bootstrapper with a lot of projects: he has a podcast, a hosting platform called Restaurant Engine, and a new course called Productize.We talked about Brian’s story (from developing WordPress themes, to …

EP67: Mike Rohde is building a sketchnote army

October 2nd, 2014


Mike Rohde is a designer and an author, but he’s probably best known for illustrating the 37signals books: Rework and Remote. Mike is now building his own products: The Sketchnote Handbook, and the Sketchnote Workbook. …

EP66: Marc-André Cournoyer on making the leap

September 4th, 2014


Marc-André Cournoyer is a passionate coder and product person from Montreal, Quebec. If you’re a developer, engineer, or technical person looking to make the jump to building products, you’re going to love this one.

EP65: Andreea and building Startup Kit

August 28th, 2014


Andreea Mihalcea is a dynamic young founder from Romania. Her and her team are building a new product called Startup Kit. I loved her insights into how and why people buy software products. Startup Kit is targeting an …

EP64: Jarrod Drysdale on bootstrapping design

August 21st, 2014


First, you need to know that Jarrod Drysdale is a good dude. He’s also the author of Bootstrapping Design, and the creator of He’s smart, and humble, and talented and he has tons of great things to say about …

EP63: Sacha Greif – how things get popular

August 15th, 2014


Sacha Greif joined me again for a chat on how he marketed Discover Meteor, and why certain blog posts get popular.

Notable quotes

“I’ve always …

EP62: Paul Jarvis is always hungry

August 7th, 2014


I freakin’ love Paul Jarvis. He’s creative, he’s unique, and he’s Canadian.

Notable quotes

“When you work for yourself, your boss is an asshole” – …

EP61: Nate Kontny says “Solve your own problems!”

July 24th, 2014


Today’s interview is with one of my favourite people on the internet: Nate Kontny. He’s the solo-founder of Draft, a web application that helps you …

EP60: Hear how Ryan Hoover built Product Hunt in 4 days

July 17th, 2014


This week’s guest is Ryan Hoover. We’ve been online friends for a few years now. Back in 2013, Ryan invited me to join a new site he’d created called In the last 3 weeks, it’s exploded. He was …

EP59: Dan Norris and the 7 day startup

July 10th, 2014


Dan Norris is the co-founder of  WP Curve, and the author of  The 7 Day Startup. He gave himself 1 year to build a profitable product. After spending a year on a product called, with no profits to show for it, …

EP58: Garrett Dimon – SaaS isn’t all rainbows and unicorns

July 3rd, 2014


Garrett Dimon is the founder of Sifter and author of Starting + Sustaining. We talked about finding an idea, validating an idea, and building your product. Our conversation started with this question: “What are the …

EP57: Brennan Dunn talks about the marketing machine

June 27th, 2014


Brennan Dunn is the go-to guy to talk about marketing automation. He’s build a SaaS, called Planscope, but these days he recommends first-time entrepreneurs build something smaller (like an eBook, or a webinar). He’s …

EP56: Sean Fioritto on succeeding after failing

June 19th, 2014


Ok, so ages ago I interviewed Sean Fioritto, the author of Sketching with CSS. I like Sean a lot. He’s from Chicago, and he struggled for years trying to build products. Then he wrote this book, and it took off. You’ll …

EP55: Patio11 on promoting your product

April 11th, 2014


This week you’ll hear from Patrick Mackenzie (Patio11 on the internet), an influential member of the self-funded, bootstrapping community, as well as a high profile member of Hacker News. Patrick is a great guest: he’s …

EP54: DHH on why 37signals is becoming Basecamp

March 17th, 2014


David Heinemeier Hansson started working with Jason Fried at 37signals about 14-15 years ago. 10 years ago, they created Basecamp, their first SaaS product. This past week they decided to stop using the 37signals brand, …

EP53: Alex Hillman is the king of JFDI

February 22nd, 2014


Alex Hillman is many things: first, he’s the king of JFDI (he even has the tattoo to prove it). Second: he’s the founder of IndyHall, a co-working space in Philadelphia. Third: he’s Amy Hoy’s partner in 30×500. And …

EP52: Amy Hoy – “Why it’s not about you”

February 8th, 2014


Amy Hoy is known for her unfiltered, straight-shooting opinions on building product businesses. Her and her husband  Thomas Fuchs have built  Freckle, an awesome time-tracking web app – and have become well known in the …

EP51: Surprise! Brand new episode with Nathan Barry

December 31st, 2013


Welcome to a brand new episode of Product People: this is the show that exposes you to the scrappy underworld of people creating their own …

EP50: Jakub Linowski of

October 30th, 2013


Jakub Linowski  is a Toronto (Canada) based interface designer. He surprised everybody this year (including himself) by releasing a viral hit called In this interview we go behind the scenes, and try to …

EP49: No more excuses with Ruben Gamez (part 2)

October 23rd, 2013


If you’ve been making excuses as to why you can’t build your product, bootstrap your own business, or hire someone on oDesk? Well you need to listen to this episode because Ruben Gamez here to destroy all those …

EP48: Ruben Gamez thinks about business differently (part 1)

October 16th, 2013


Ruben Gamez is one of the most thoughtful and wise entrepreneurs I’ve met. He has some great advice on outsourcing, staying focused, getting work …

EP47: Meat and potatoes with Chase Reeves (part 2)

October 9th, 2013


This week I get into the meat and potatoes with Chase Reeves. This is part 2 of our discussion.

This week we talk about that struggle of building products, especially when you’re just starting out, and trying to figure …

EP46: Chase Reeves has important things to discuss

October 2nd, 2013


This week, I’m joined by a man. A man named Chase Reeves. We’re going to talk about the business they’re building over there at

Chase and I both like to talk, so this is a two-parter! This is part 1.

EP44: DHH at 200 miles per hour (part 2)

September 18th, 2013


In our last episode we talked about how David started working as a contractor for 37signals making $15 an hour. He eventually worked his way up, and became an owner in the company (along with Jason Fried). In this …

EP43: DHH, a personal interview (part 1)

September 11th, 2013


David Heinemeier Hansson started working with Jason Fried as a contract worker from Denmark. How did he eventually become a partner at 37signals?

I’ve kept in touch with David over the years, and we’d planned on doing …

EP40: Allan Branch on leaving LessConf to focus on his product

August 21st, 2013


If you’ve dreamed about building your own product, you’re in the right place. This week the hilarious, talented, and honest Allan Branch joins us to talk about why he’s leaving LessConf behind to focus on LessAccounting.

EP39: Spencer Fry part 2

August 14th, 2013


Spencer Fry built his first product when he was 19, and now’s building a new product called Uncover. It’s a big risk: it’s an HR product, which is a …

EP38: If Spencer Fry could go back in time…

August 7th, 2013


What were you doing when you were 19? Spencer Fry built his first online product.


This show wouldn’t be possible without these great …

EP37: Dan Norris gets the Claff

July 31st, 2013


Imagine building a product for a whole year, and then deciding to try something new on a whim. You build it in a weekend, and in 4 days you already …

EP36: Dan Norris gave himself 1 year to build a profitable product

July 24th, 2013


Imagine this: you sell your web consultancy, and give yourself 1 year to build a product. You decide to do everything by the book: you’re going to …

EP35: Noel Tock on building products on WordPress

July 17th, 2013


This is part 2 of our interview with Noel Tock. He built a SaaS app on top of WordPress. In part 1 we talked about the thinking behind that, in part 2 we talk about the lessons he’s learned along the way.


EP34: Building your app on top of WordPress with Noel Tock

July 10th, 2013


If liked our episodes on using WordPress to build your web app’s MVP, you’re going to love this interview with Noel Tock, of

EP33: Jason Calacanis of talks about bootstrapping vs funding

July 3rd, 2013


It’s part 2 with Jason Calacanis!

In this episode we explore the question every product person needs to answer: should I bootstrap, or should I get …

EP32: Jason Calacanis at 300 BAUD

June 26th, 2013


Normally we cover bootstrapped products: people who are self-funding the stuff they build. We do this because I’m naturally drawn to bootstrapped companies.

For this episode I wanted to go into “enemy” territory: I …

EP31: Dan Martell gives us some Clarity

June 19th, 2013


Dan Martell discovered computers in rehab. After he overcame his problems with drugs, he taught himself to program. From there, he started building businesses. Eventually, he travelled to San Francisco to learn …

EP30: Dan Martell’s story – from rehab to San Francisco

June 12th, 2013


Dan Martell discovered computers in rehab. After he overcame his problems with drugs, he taught himself to program. From there, he started building businesses. Eventually, he travelled to San Francisco to learn …

EP29: Cease and desist with Cody Brown

June 5th, 2013


Imagine this: you build a product that you’re passionate about. To demonstrate it’s capabilities, you create a demo that attracts the attention of the New York Times legal department; who promptly send you a cease and …

EP28: Draw your own video games

May 29th, 2013


Hey, let me ask you a question: when you were a kid, after a game of Mario Brothers, did you ever take out a pencil and paper and try to draw your own video game levels? The idea of creating video games from a kid’s …

EP27: Does Amy Hoy get scared? (part 2)

May 22nd, 2013


In this episode of Product People: does Amy Hoy still get scared before a launch? How do you choose an audience? And she answers some listener …

EP26: Amy Hoy sells her My Little Ponies

May 15th, 2013


Amy Hoy gives a personal interview on her growing up in suburban Maryland, programming on an Apple IIc, selling her My Little Ponies to buy a Power Mac, and how she ended up building her first products.


“I …

EP25: Hiten Shah “Make your idea a reality” (part 2)

May 8th, 2013


Hey Product People! What’s your process for finding an idea that people love? How do you take your initial hunch for an idea, and make it a reality? What is a funnel? Hiten Shah from Kissmetrics is back to answer these …

EP24: Hiten Shah – “Make things that people love”

May 1st, 2013


Can you build a healthy software business when you don’t know how to code? Hiten Shah is on the show today. He and his co-founder Neil Patel, have …

EP23: Paul Farnell, how does growth happen with a SaaS startup?

April 24th, 2013


On the show today is one of the best bootstrappers in the business:  Paul Farnell of joins me and shares some great stories.

EP22: Paul Farnell of Litmus on building a startup in a college dorm (part 1)

April 17th, 2013


On the show today is one of the best bootstrappers in the business: Paul Farnell of joins me and shares some great stories.


EP21: John Saddington on deadlines, partners, ugly babies and warning bells (part 2)

April 10th, 2013


This week we have part 2 of our interview with John Saddington that literally sent warning bells blaring through the 8Bit office. We also hear about his new Kickstarter campaign:  Pressgram (an iOS app that allows you …

EP20: John Saddington of 8Bit on his adventure as an entrepreneur

April 3rd, 2013


Before this interview we thought John Saddington was a guy that built WordPress products with his team at 8Bit (we were also intrigued by his new Kickstarter campaign: Pressgram). What we didn’t realize is that John, at …

EP19: Jason Evanish shares his process for understanding customers

March 27th, 2013


Jason Evanish has made a name for himself as a customer-focused entrepreneur. He caught the eye of  Hiten Shah, the founder of  KISSmetrics. Hiten asked Jason to leave Boston, and move to the Valley to become …

EP18: Jason Evanish moves to San Francisco

March 20th, 2013


While in Boston, Jason Evanish made a name for himself as a customer-focused entrepreneur. He caught the eye of  Hiten Shah, the founder of KISSmetrics. Hiten asked Jason to leave Boston, and move to the Valley to …

EP17: Nathan Barry shows you how to write, price and sell your ebook (part 2)

March 13th, 2013


Nathan Barry has released two really successful ebooks, and a new web app called  ConvertKit. If you’ve ever wanted to write your own ebook, but …

EP16: Nathan Barry’s story; building iPad apps, ebooks and web apps (part 1)

March 6th, 2013


Nathan Barry is an amazing individual: when you spend time with him you can’t help but be inspired to create and launch your own stuff. As a young man he’s had tremendous success is releasing his own products: an iPad …

EP15: Jason Fried on making money, internet fame, and the new Basecamp

February 27th, 2013


This week we have Jason Fried of 37signals on the program. We discuss how he made thousands of dollars in high school, why he chose DHH as a partner, …

EP14: Kyle Fox on launching, metrics, and lessons learned (part 2)

February 20th, 2013


Kyle Fox is back for another episode: this time he talks with Justin about the power of design, how big their launch mailing list was, and why it’s …

EP13: Kyle Fox on building his own SaaS app

February 13th, 2013


Kyle Fox is a real Renaissance man. Besides co-hosting this podcast, and working as a Product Manager at Granify, he also runs his own SaaS app on the side: FotoJournal. FotoJournal allows photographers to create a …

EP12: Brennan Dunn on startup launch tactics (part 2)

February 6th, 2013


Learn Brennan’s trick for identifying a good market: “find a community, and just keep adding value.” Whether that’s a forum response, blog post, info-product, or SaaS app, learn how choosing an audience and sticking …

EP11: Brennan Dunn on building his startup, Planscope

January 30th, 2013


How do you make a name for yourself, and your product?

That’s the question we posed to Brennan Dunn.  It seemed like almost overnight he was everywhere: blog posts on Hacker News, popping up in my Twitter stream, and …

EP10: Rob Walling – outsource on oDesk, find your idea, market your product (part 2)

January 23rd, 2013


Have you ever wondered how much personal brand affects software sales? Check out this is great episode with Rob Walling. In our interview he reveals a ton of tactics for outsourcing your development on oDesk, finding a …

EP09: Rob Walling – Get off the hamster wheel, build your own products!

January 17th, 2013


Rob Walling is the man behind products like HitTail, DotNetInvoice, and Drip. But he also helped start a movement of micropreneurs: solo-founders, …

EP08: Sacha Greif on choosing a co-founder and building MVP

January 9th, 2013


This is part 2 of our interview with Sacha Greif. In this episode we talked with him about how to find a partner, and the pain involved in building …

EP07: Creating info-products with Sacha Greif (part 1)

January 2nd, 2013


What are some good strategies for creating, pricing and selling an ebook? In Part 1 of our interview with Sacha we discuss what he learned launching his first book, and what he plans on doing next time. We also take a …

EP06: Patio11 on building products that make money (part 2)

December 26th, 2012


Want to build a software product that actually earns income?

In this (Part 2) episode Patrick McKenzie (Patio11) shares specific tactics for …

EP05: How Patio11 built a product business (part 1)

December 18th, 2012


Part 1 of our interview with Patio11 (Patrick McKenzie) where you’ll hear how he actually learned to program with graph paper, and how he built his first product business with $60.

Show notes:

Patrick’s blog: 

EP04: MVP apps with WordPress (Part 2)

December 12th, 2012


WordPress was first for pure blogging, then became embraced as a CMS (though some people still deny this), is seeing growth and innovation in being used as an application platform (I think we’re about a third of the way …

EP03: Building MVP apps with Wordpress (Part 1)

December 5th, 2012


Are you a developer who wants to cut down the amount of time it takes to build a prototype? Are you a product person who can’t code? Do you have a product idea that you want to validate quickly?

If any of those …

EP01: Our first phone call

October 15th, 2012


This isn’t a podcast, it’s our first Skype call! As a result, it’s definitely a bit rough, but we think it will give you a good idea of who we are, …

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