#33: How to Build and Sell an Audience-First Business with Arvid Kahl

Hosted by Josh Gonsalves
1 HR 26 MIN
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Episode Description

Arvid Kahl and Josh go deep on the process and strategies of bootstrapping a profitable software business, what it means to build an audience-first product, and building in public.

Arvid has years of experience with building and selling online businesses, and he gives us some really helpful strategies on how we can build and sell a sustainable business with a greater chance of success.

About Arvid Kahl:

Arvid Kahl co-founded, bootstrapped, and sold, an online teacher productivity SaaS company, with his partner Danielle Simpson. He's the author of Zero to Sold, and currently writing his second book, Audience First. He also writes for his popular blog and hosts a podcast at

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  • 00:41 — Intro
  • 02:32 — Conversation begins
  • 03:01 — Josh is in Toronto Canada, and Arvid is in Berlin, Germany.
  • 04:32 — Arvid's blog post where he talks about taking Twitter seriously recently.
  • 05:07 — Making Twitter and building in public part of your business journey.
  • 07:01 — Arvid's backstory on what he has done and what he's currently doing
  • 07:57 — In 2017, Arvid and his girlfriend started FeedbackPanda together out of a problem she had as an English teacher. The problem they were solving was was giving feedback to the parents of the students.
  • 09:04 — They built Feedback Panda from zero to a $55,000 a month, recurring revenue with under an under two years.
  • 09:27 — Arvid had learned about entrepreneurship mostly from Twitter, Indie Hackers, podcasts, and books.
  • 10:46 — Arvid wrote a book from all of these things that he had on his blog Zero to Sold, which he self-published in June, 2020.
  • 11:03 — Arvid wrote Zero to Sold in public. He was writing on his blog every week and it turned into chapters in the book and people could comment on what they felt about it and how they, how they liked it, what they would like to see.
  • 11:22 — Arvid is now writing his second book, which until the day before this podcast recording, was called Audience First. But he had a very interesting Twitter conversation about the term, and now it's called the Embedded Entrepreneur because apparently audience first is confusing to people.
  • 11:48 — The Embedded Entrepreneur is how you embed yourself into communities to build a business from within.
  • 14:01 — Bootstrapping Software as a Service business.
  • 15:07 — Arvid describes how he built Feedback Panda.
  • 16:16 — They originally built Feedback Panda for Arvid's partner Danielle who was an english teacher, then they decided to share it with other people.
  • 16:30 — Arvid and Danielle were in Facebook groups for teachers observing their problems ans challenges and found out that feedback was one of their biggest challenges, so they introduced them to Feedback Panada.
  • 17:36 — They decided to quit their jobs at somewhere around $15,000 a month that they had in revenue coming in. It took them about 6 months to reach this point.
  • 18:17 — Working with your romantic partner on a business.
  • 18:52 — Book: E-Myth by Michael Gerber
  • 18:55 — Make an org chart for the company, as you would like to see it 10, 15 years down the road and split up the roles. Whenever they find a new position, they just add it to the chart and assign someone to it. They ended up with 52 positions for the business and they each took on 26 roles. And everything that falls into this particular domain will be decided by whoever gets role. that really helped making sure, there was kind of, a clear definition of who's responsible for each domain of the business.
  • 22:10 — Outsource the positions that neither of you are interested in right away. Stuff like finance and taxes.
  • 25:18 — "business needs to build relationships between the owner of the business and its customers. At least in the beginning, but usually forever."
  • 24:47 — Finding your audience and building a community
  • 25:10 — Arvid's initial customer base came almost exclusively from the Facebook groups that Danielle was already part of when she started the job
  • 28:24 — Building a solution for a problem that you don't have yourself, but for other people who you think could benefit from your solution.
  • 29:15 — "Software engineers are not the best audience to build a business for. They love solving their problems."
  • 31:57 — Product-first approach: Why it's a bad idea and why it's backwards.
  • 32:47 — Audience-first approach
  • 33:38 — Arvid believes that the audience driven approach is the right way to build a small, sustainable, and still life-changing business as a bootstrapped or self-funded entrepreneur.
  • 35:02 — Building a personal media empire.
  • 35:52 — Transmedia: the ideas in a book also becomes a podcast, a newsletter, video series, and more.
  • 37:23 — Journey-oriented approach, vs. strategy-oriented approach. "it feels like it's a journey and I'm discovering where I'm going while I go there. "
  • 38:39 — Book: Optionality by Richard Meadows
  • 39:37 — Building in public
  • 40:14 — Having energy to beat your competitors, execution from the founder & finding your personal edge.
  • 42:13 — "You create something that resonates with people by being vulnerable, because if you're vulnerable you become relatable."
  • 44:47 — "I just feel if you want a good quality product, you involve the people who are going to be using it."
  • 45:14 — Self-publishing a book vs. working with a publisher.
  • 46:30 — The amazing thing about bootstrapping SaaS business or "bookstrapping" the book, is the control over the equity and wealth that you built.
  • 47:19 — Why SaaS businesses can be sold for such a high multiple compared to other business models.
  • 48:47 — Why Arvid sold Feedback Panda.
  • 49:17 — Why a book is the best kind of passive income you can have.
  • 50:10 — Stair-stepping approach to building a business.
  • 50:47 — Pursuing multiple things at once
  • 51:48 — Context switching & why its diffacult
  • 51:56 — While writing his book, Arvid created another SaaS company called because he needed it himself when writing his book. It's a link redirection service for books.
  • 52:41 — link rot & why it's a big problem.
  • 52:43 — The average link has a two year lifespan and then it kind of rots away
  • 54:03 — Arvid on Pursuing multiple things: "I would highly recommend sticking with one thing and seeing her through. However, you can automate a lot of stuff. And you can outsource a lot of stuff. So if you want to build a sellable business to begin with automation and documentation are the staples of how you get there."
  • 54:39 — Arvid wishes he hired another engineer and customer service employees. He developed a lot of anxieties and a lot of stress. "I still get like a physical response, like a Pavlovian reflex to that Intercom thing."
  • 55:48 — Providing superb documentation both internally and externally is a great way to make your business more productive, and it's great marketing for your business, since you may get new customers who were searching through your public knowledge base.
  • 56:58 — Pieter Levels 12 startups in 12 months.
  • 58:54 — Being a domain expert vs. a generalist.
  • 01:04:04 — No-code
  • 01:05:39 — The process of connecting multiple tools when building a no-code product is the same process in software engineering where you wire up databases with a back-end code and connect it to some kind of front-end code.
  • 01:05:57 — No-code is very inclusive, approachable and extremely diverse compared to traditional software engineering. The types of problems they are solving have not yet been attempted by traditional software engineers.
  • 01:08:55 — Most no-code tools are extensible with code.
  • 01:09:32 — Almost all no-code tools have a free initial tier that allows you to build a business without having to pay them. They grow with you as you grow.
  • 01:10:10 — You could build a sizeable subscription business for free with Outseta's free tier without paying them a cent.
  • 01:10:59 — Value alignment
  • 01:11:16 — Arvid is an LP in Earnest Capital. They fund bootstrapped businesses differently than a venture capitalist.
  • 01:14:10 — Selling your business
  • 01:14:19 — Arvid was approached by SureSwift Capital to acquire his business when he posted his revenue numbers on Indie Hackers.
  • 01:15:23 — MicroConf
  • 01:16:05 — The process of selling a business becomes much quicker and easier when you build a sellable business from day one by automating and documenting as much as possible.
  • 01:17:46 — Arvid's advice for people looking to sell a business.
  • 01:18:03 — The emotional aspect of selling a business. Read Arvid's blog post on this.
  • 01:19:04 — Book: The Art of Selling Your Business by John Warrilow
  • 01:19:04 — Podcast: Built to Sell Radio
  • 01:20:00 — Resource: Indie Hackers community
  • 01:21:03 — 5 books that Arvid always recommends:
  • The E-Myth
  • Built to Sell
  • Four Hour Work Week
  • The Mom Test
  • Hooked
  • 01:22:49 — Book: Indistractable by Nir Eyal
  • 01:23:02 — Arvid's list of book recommendations on his Bootstrappers Bookshelf
  • 01:23:18 — Arvid's book Zero to Sold
  • 01:23:24 — Self-publishing and selling a book online
  • 01:24:13 — the best sale for Arvid is always through Amazon because the higher my book ranks, the more sales it gets.
  • 01:24:22 — Arvid is releasing an audio version of Zero to Sold.
  • 01:25:28 — Arvid is moving from Berlin, Germany to Glencoe, Ontario in Canada.

[00:00:00] Arvid: No domain expert ever started out as a domain expert. I think, I think that might be the most important thing to recognize. They all started out as the guy or girl who had no idea about anything. They joined a community, they didn't understand the jargon, they didn't understand what they were talking about, but there was something that drove them there. Every domain experts started out as an ambitious learner. And that's what we are. Every founder, every entrepreneur is essentially an ambitious learner.  

[00:00:41] Josh: Hi, I'm Josh Gonsalves and welcome to Mind Meld. This is where I have in-depth conversations with some of the brightest people in the known universe. My aim is to spark deep conversations around interesting topics to find the tools, strategies, and philosophies that we can all use in our daily and creative lives.

[00:01:00] In this episode, I sat down with Arvid Kahl he's the author of zero to sold and currently writing a second book. The embedded entrepreneur. Arvid co-founded bootstrapped and sold which is a software for online teachers to easily send feedback to their students. He writes on his popular blog called the bootstrapped founder and hosts a podcast with the same name in this episode, Arvid shed some light on the process of self-funding growing and selling a profitable software business.

[00:01:30] We talk about building an audience first product, and we also talk about working in public. Arvid has years of experience with building and selling online businesses. And he gives us some really helpful strategies on how we can build and sell a software business with a greater chance of success.

[00:01:45] Since we talk a lot about specific tools, books, and other resources, I made detailed show notes that have links to everything we talk about in this episode. You can find the link to the show notes in the description of this podcast, or go directly to That's J O S H G O N S a L V E S dot com slash P O D C a S T.

[00:02:10] If you found anything helpful or interesting in this podcast, please share it with someone else you think will get some value out of it. And if you haven't yet subscribed, please consider subscribing on whatever you're listening to this on. So you can get notified when I publish new episodes every Monday, I hope you enjoy this episode, so let's get right into it.

[00:02:27] I'm Josh Gonsalves and this is Mind Meld with Arvid Kahl

[00:02:32]Ok, Arvid. Thank you so much for joining me on Mind Meld.

[00:02:39]Arvid: Absolute pleasure. I'm super excited to get chatting with you today.

[00:02:42] Josh: Absolutely man. And, you know, I probably bring this up on every single podcast, but it's just so great to kind of go off of Twitter and actually have these conversations on, well, in our case video, maybe not in person, but we're just talking about all of these technological issues we're having before here.

[00:02:57] That's the, that's what happens when you're talking to someone on the opposite end of the world. So I'm here in Canada and you're in Berlin, right?

[00:03:04]Arvid: That's right, ya. I'm in Germany. I'm German by birth and, um, always. Always lived here kinda, uh, had a little stunt in the United States at some point. And I do spend a lot of time in Canada. My girlfriend is Canadian. And we're, uh, usually if there isn't a pandemic, you know, we usually spent a big part of the year with the family, mostly around Christmas and somewhere in Ontario.

[00:03:26] But, um, not this year or last year, hopefully this year, you never know, but yeah, for now, for now, we just have to deal with this kind of communication. That's the pinnacle of being in proximity

[00:03:38] Josh: Yeah. Which is nice too. Right? Cause otherwise we wouldn't have this conversation. If you know, you're in Germany on Canada. Luckily we have this super glitchy technology, but you know, it's getting there, we're getting it. We're getting into that future. I'm hoping for VR, we can meet up in VR, like some AR thing, but that's later down the road.

[00:03:56] This is good enough. I can see your face...

[00:03:58] Arvid: I mean, this is already so much that's right. Yeah. It's it's uh, and you, you mentioned Twitter. Twitter is also like one of these platforms to just connect to everyone. At the same time, you can, you literally have a communication that is almost like the moment you have 10 or 15 followers on Twitter, you have a global kind of conversation, no matter where you go. Somebody from somewhere has gone to see it. They don't necessarily take part, but they see it. So that it's a public conversation. So that the moment you have a couple followers, you are literally talking to the world and that is really cool.

[00:04:28] Josh: Yeah. And you've recently just got on Twitter, like seriously. Right? I think I read, I read a blog post recently that you started like really taking it seriously.

[00:04:36] Arvid: Yeah, I have a Twitter account or I used to have a completely inactive Twitter account for probably 10 years. I started like in 2009 and I got a new Twitter account. The one I'm using right now at some later point in 2011, but I haven't really used it at all. until the business that I built with my girlfriend , that when we sold that in 2019 and, um, building, building a business kind of, doesn't leave you much time to tweet either, unless you take the time and you make it part of your business journey, which I kind of did, but we didn't put too much effort into, but after we sold the business, I had a lot of time, all of a sudden. So I thought, well, I got so much from reading people's stuff on Twitter, but never it's kind of time to flip the script and be the person telling other people's stuff so I can share my stories so I could share my learnings and all these things that came from running and building and selling a successful business kind of felt like it was inappropriate time.

[00:05:36] And that was, I think November, 2019 when I really started using it, then I had 400 followers. Which I had painstakingly collected over 10 years on this account. Essentially. I was, I was checking my statistics recently. Um, and I think July, 2019, I had a follower growth of minus three. That was my,

[00:05:56] Josh: Oh, so losing followers.

[00:05:58] Arvid: Yeah, it was losing followers because I just didn't tweet. There was nothing interesting I was doing, but by November it was just, I started interacting with the community on a daily basis. Like really tweeting with people, not just at people, but with people, engaging with their stuff, helping other people see more engagement on their own posts, sharing stuff.

[00:06:16] And then that all of that really led to an explosive growth. Still really high quality followers, right? I'm not, I'm not trying to get into the millions of followers for the sake of having a high number, but having everybody who follows me be an actual person that has some interest in what I'm saying, and that has been extremely enjoyable, like the last year and a half, man has that been fun?

[00:06:38] Josh: Yeah, man. I feel like Twitter had this huge resurgence. Well, I mean, it makes sense with the global pandemic, but I didn't think that I would find myself spending most of my social media time on Twitter, I honestly did not. And I'm so glad I did, you know, we found each other on Twitter, you know, cause we're just in the same sort of spear.

[00:06:54] So, and you kind of like mentioned just earlier on the reason why you kind of got on Twitter. So I think maybe this would be a great segue into you. Kind of give you a little backstory on what it is that you you did and what you're doing now. Cause you're doing some really cool things right now.

[00:07:09] Arvid: Well, thank you. I hope to convey that. So, um, I kind of all started with me being interested in computers, right? Like I'm a software engineer by trade. You could say, I used to study that at university. I mean, I dropped out, but it doesn't really matter once, once you are a software engineer, it's just because you want to be one, you are one.

[00:07:29] And, um, I was working for a lot of companies here in Germany and for a couple of US companies, both venture funded, bootstrapped, and all different kinds of stuff, for the last decade and a half. And I've always tried to start my own business and had a couple of attemps with friends trying to build bootstrap businesses here in Berlin, or, um, across a couple of cities working remotely back before it was cool with friends, but they all kind of fizzled out. and I had jobs in between.

[00:07:56] But, uh, in 2017, my girlfriend and I started a company because she had a problem. She was an English teacher and, um, she needed to deal with her student feedback because if she didn't do the student feedback, giving feedback to the parents of the student about how the lessons went, she wouldn't be paid for actually teaching.

[00:08:14] So she needed to get this done. Then she had her own little system with like templates and texts and copied and pasted it all together to make it faster. It was very hard for her to do this because it was essentially unpaid time and she. Like she taught for 10 hours a day and she would need to spend two hours on this administrator.

[00:08:29] So we came up, she saw that there was potential and she asked me how we could do it. And then in a way, we came up with the system that would allow online teachers that worked for this particular online school and a couple others to deal with that feedback faster, like down to five minutes a day from two hours.

[00:08:45] And we build a business around that as software as a service business, called Feedback Panda, because it was like English online. Um, teachers are teaching, uh, like let's say North America teachers teaching Chinese kids how to speak English. That was pretty much just the thing. And that was really cool.

[00:09:02] Lots of teachers immediately found value in our product. We built this business from zero to a $55,000 a month, recurring revenue with under an under two years. And then at some point we sold the business for what I'm allowed to say is a life-changing amount of money. And, uh, after that, We both kind of looked into what else we could be doing.

[00:09:21] And I immediately saw, okay, now I can give back to the community because in the years before we actually started this business, I had learned so much from Twitter, from indie hackers, from the podcasts and the space from the blocks into space, all these people just sharing their knowledge. And I got to actually build something on top of that.

[00:09:39] Now I thought, okay, it's time for me to do this. What they did, for me back then, I can now do for other people. So I started writing, I started the blog called the bootstrapped founder and because I'm super lazy, I also started a newsletter that would hold, hold me accountable to actually produce something every week.

[00:09:54] And then somebody told me, ah, uh, reading is kind of hard. I don't have the time other people told me, Hey, I'm dyslexic, I have hard time reading. Can you turn this into some, some kind of audio forum? So I said, sure, I'm going to start a podcast to start a podcast. Yeah. Be nice. Because all of a sudden I could reach all this, these different kinds of people at different stages, not just in their entrepreneurial journey at different parts of the day as well.

[00:10:18] Right? Some people don't have time to read because they have a complicated job and that keeps them from screens as much as they can out of that job, so they didn't listen to it while they walked the dog or they listen to my podcast while they do the dishes. And it's just really nice to have this little, um, media empire that, uh, use consists of the same content, just a different avenues from writing.

[00:10:40] Obviously, if you have a podcast, um, I at least write for that. And if you have a blog, I write for that to newsletter too. So I wrote a book from all of these things that I had on my blog called zero to sold, published that in June, 2020. And it has been very successful ever since like, um, think it's now 4,000 something copies sold and, uh, it's completely self published.

[00:11:03] I had a wonderful time, just building the book in public. Like I was writing on my blog every week and it kind of turned into chapters in the book and people could comment on what they felt about it and how they, how they liked it, what they would like to see. It was a really nice exercise. So that book has been successful.

[00:11:19] And if you find something you're good at you try to repeat it. So I'm now writing my second book, which until yesterday it was called audience first. But I had a very interesting Twitter conversation about the term, and now it's called the embedded entrepreneur because apparently audience first is so confusing to people that, um, I figured out, Hey, I don't want to confuse people even more and I don't need to fight for my right to define this term, just going to describe what I actually wrote about in the book.

[00:11:47] And that is how you embed yourself into communities to build a business from within. And the entrepreneur, the embedded entrepreneur is a much better term for that. So that's the scoop, I guess. Um, obviously I'm doing all of this in public, so everybody who's part of this conversation knows that, but yeah, I'm, I'm, I'm building an audience first product in an audience.

[00:12:08] So I listened to what my audience says, and if they say, Hey, this is using well, then I change it. So that's what I'm working. No, right now I literally yesterday finished the first draft, like the first write through of the, of the draft. I spent every single day of January, 2021, writing at least 2000, sometimes 3000 words.

[00:12:26] It's now 53,000 words, I guess, which is like a 250 page book, happy with that. And from now I'm just going to do a pass and then send it to my alpha reader, audience, 400 people who are actually willing to read this raw draft and give me their feedback. And then, you know, back and forth is going to turn this into an actual book that people want to read. And release it at some point, mid 2021, that's what I'm doing.

[00:12:48]Josh: That is incredible. I mean, first of all, just the whole notion of writing this book in public and self publishing, being a bootstrapper sharing stuff. You can definitely tell that what you've been doing now is completely, self-made. You're doing this yourself and it started, I guess, with that idea of like the bootstrapping, right?

[00:13:03] Like, and I guess that you've kind of embedded that in everything you're doing. And it's just so cool to see all these amazing things. There's so many things I want to get into here. There's like, I guess like four tiers, almost like, you know, with the SaaS and bootstrapping. Um, I do want to talk about audience first, cause that's, I guess that's what you were calling it before and we can kind of define it as the embedded entrepreneur.

[00:13:23] I think the idea of audience first makes sense, because I've always been thinking about that as I guess like a serial entrepreneur, myself creating different products, I've realized too within the last year is it is a lot easier to start with your audience first. Find the people who would be interested in whatever it is that you're selling or providing, and then build your thing rather than the opposite. I mean, it can still work, but it's hard. Right?

[00:13:45] So there's so much here, man.  do want to get into maybe the SaaS and the bootstrapping stuff first. So that was like the beginning of your journey. And that's a lot of the stuff that you're writing about.

[00:13:54] Later on I'd love to talk about your writing processes. Um, and especially in writing in public, because that's so different. It's so, so cool. But I guess like starting off with, with the whole SaaS thing, um, when you started feedback Panda. You did this completely bootstrap. How did you kind of make it work? Especially in the early days before you have a lot of users, like, were you working another job?

[00:14:15] How did you make all that work before it really took off?

[00:14:18] Arvid: Yeah, I had a job. I was a salaried software engineer. Um, I was, working for a company in Hamburg in Germany, which is two to three hours, right. By train from Berlin where I live. So the commute was interesting. I worked there as a, an elixir engineer, like elixirs as a programming language, and it was a fairly new thing rather, Not yet popular kind of thing. So it was super interesting to build something with elixir. Elixir is built on top of Earline, which was built by, by Nokia or Ericsson somewhere. And like it's, uh, it was initially used for the phone switching technology. So it's, it's very, parallelizable, it's very, um, they fast, like you could build complex systems that ingest and, uh, Deal with a lot of data at the same time with a very low footprint.

[00:15:07] So that was an interesting piece of technology to work with. And funny enough, I used to same technology for  because I was still working. There was moonlighting feedback Panda. Essentially I was a full-time software engineer, but I already was so deep into this technology. And I knew that for Feedback Panda in particular, because everybody would use the software at the same time because teachers would teach for twenty-five minutes in every half hour, and then within the last five minutes, they would deal with that feedback. So I would know, I knew at that point, if we ever get a lot of people using this at the same time, it's going to be 25 minutes of nothing, and then everybody's going to use it within those five minutes. And then again, 25 minutes of nothing, and then everybody's going to use it within the next five.

[00:15:46] So I knew we needed a technology that could deal with this kind of parallel, um, workload. Um, so I used the technology I was already using from our IOT system that we were building was really cool. So essentially that paid for producing the initial version of Feedback Panda. And we still like both Danielle and I, we kept working for a long time, even though kind already had paying customers. Like we, uh, we built a prototype, um, back in 2017. And Danielle started using it because she was the one I built it for, right. It was her problem that we were solving. But she found, yeah, does this, this is amazing. Let's share it with other people.

[00:16:25] So we shared it with other people and we had the 30 day trial and then, um, people were starting to check it out and talk about it. And the Facebook groups that we were part of, like we were in their community already, like observing the problems and challenges that they had. And feedback was one of the biggest, if not the biggest challenge that they found.

[00:16:42] So we knew, okay, this is gonna make an impact in some way or another. And then the first people started subscribing, um, they actually subscribed so fast that I, I had forgotten to switch to Stripe Testkey for the production one, where you would like turn on the payment for real people. So I needed to kind of quickly fix our system so it would accept payments because people were trying to pay so quickly. And then we just had this constant influx of new teachers because these Facebook communities that we were part of would generate so much word of mouth where people would say, Hey, feedback is kind of hard, but look at Feedback Panda, or you can actually do this much faster.

[00:17:18] And if new teachers came in, they would say, what do I need to do to teach? Somebody would say, well, you need to get a cool webcam tool and you need to start using feedback Panda because otherwise you won't be able to, you know, use the time that you have to make as much money as you can. So we started to, we slowly built up some, some MRR there, and I think at somewhere around 10, 15, maybe 20, but I think it was about $15,000 a month that we had in revenue coming in. We started, um, yeah, we, we decided to quit our jobs, but not before. Like we, we really kept us going and until we knew this was going to work for us as a full-time gig.

[00:17:55] Josh: Yeah, that's smart. And how long did that take roughly?

[00:17:59] Arvid: thing, it was, uh, April, 2018 where we did that. Around that time, March, April. Uh, so that, that would be, that would be like half a year or six months.

[00:18:08] Josh: Wow. Wow. So that's pretty incredible, especially with like online technologies, how fast you can scale these things. So it's not like you're slugging away for years to do something like that. That's awesome. And I think it's really cool that you're working with your partner on that project.

[00:18:20] Arvid: Yeah, that

[00:18:20] Josh: Um, I worked with my partner as well so I'd love to hear some advice. Like what are some things that kind of kept you guys sane and kept you guys going?

[00:18:28] Arvid: Oh, from the start we made absolutely sure that we knew who was the decider in which field. We knew there was two people that we would share our work-life and we would share a private life and. First off, you kind of want to keep them separate, but you can't because your people and people's relationships, they overlapped right? You can't be distinctive when it comes to that. But in the beginning we set out and it was something that I read in the book, the E-Myth by Michael Gerber, we set out to make an org chart for the company, as we would like to see it, 10, 15 years down the road. So on, on this whiteboard behind me, we just really, uh, drew a big line and we brought owners on top of it and CEO underneath.

[00:19:08] And then we made like a little org chart. Right. We kind of went into the marketing there's, uh, R&D, customer service, there's finances, and we just built the org chart. And whenever we find a position. We would just Mark it there and then look at the other positions that were in the company. I think we ended up with 56 positions for the business, right there, chief of product and a software engineer back end software engineer, front end, and, uh, accounts payable. You know, accounts receivable, all these little roles. And then we said, okay, we're going to split these. I think it was 52 roles, 26 going to be you. And 26 are going to be me. And everything that falls into this particular domain will be decided by whoever gets role and. We got there. Danielle got to CEO and I got like the chief of product to something.

[00:19:52] And, uh, she, she was also marketing and I got like finance and, you know, split it from the top down. That'd be both ended up with 26 roles. And we, whenever we had a question who deals with this, who would need to get into this work on this, we just start on, look at the whiteboard and it would be right there. So that really helped making sure, there was kind of, a clear definition of who's responsible responsibility.

[00:20:17] Of course, there are moments in the partnership where you feel you know it better, even though the other person is in charge, right? Just like in any kind of normal conversation, you need to come to an agreement, um, through having a conversation.

[00:20:33] But the org chart really helped us be setting these boundaries so it wouldn't even need to come to an argument or anything like this.

[00:20:40] Josh: Wow. I love that. That's I mean, it makes a lot of sense, right? Just give that person that very strict role and you're the one in charge of that. That's great. And of course, like you might be going back and forth and helping out with different roles. Like, were there some times where you had to help out each other, like maybe  you're a better at one thing that she did. Would you just take over that role or did you just kind of help her see that through?

[00:21:00] Arvid: I mean, just look at, in a situation like sending out a newsletter. That is obviously a marketing thing, right? So it's a, it's a content based role, but setting up the system. To like correctly, lay out the newsletter and to send it to the right people like to essentially building the infrastructure or connecting the infrastructure to our systems so that the new person who signed up would then get in, uh, get into the newsletter list, that is all technical stuff. So I would obviously do these, but the content and to scheduling and the long-term strategy, you know, like the, the more abstract kind of stuff that was always Danielle's work. Um, not only because she was, uh, responsible, but also because she was way better than I was at that stuff.

[00:21:42]we didn't choose these things by random chance. Like we would look at each of these positions and see, is this something that you're good at? Something that you're interested in? something that you can see yourself doing without going crazy.

[00:21:55] And for a couple of things that was like a 50, 50 split and then we'd kind of take the person that was least annoyed by doing the work. But some things are clearly right. For one of us. And the other thing that this kind of org chart does, it really helps you outsource work. Like we both looked at finance and we both looked at tax stuff and we've thought, ah, we don't want to do that.

[00:22:18] So we quickly found a tax advisor to do that work for us, or like bookkeeping, I, as, as much as I enjoy numbers. And so does Danielle like booking bookkeeping is like, okay, I could do better things with my time. So we find somebody to do that for us and writing for the blog. Also not for me. And then you have other things to do in the bigger vision of the project.

[00:22:40] So we hired people from, without, from within our community and to actually write things for the blog that would then go to our community, and it's just, you, you, you find certain things. The moment you have this big structure, ideas come up. It's like, if you have data, you will start interpreting it. So having the data in the first place, it's actually quite valuable.

[00:22:59] Josh: Right. And it's interesting because you come from a technical background. So you're always thinking about data first. How do you think about that now? When you're like building an audience and you're building a community for like, your writing and all of this content you're putting out now?

[00:23:11] Arvid: I'm still looking at numbers, but, I'm actually more interested in relationships at this point. Like,

[00:23:16] Josh: you flip the script almost, now.

[00:23:18] Arvid: I mean, I. Right. And I don't necessarily just mean mean that on a human level, but relationships also in the abstract sense as connections between things, right between topics between people, between businesses, between ideas and concepts can be everything.

[00:23:33] I find this much more interesting to try to optimize for relationships, then to optimize for numbers because that's what I initially said, like you can have hundreds of thousands of followers, but 90% of them will be bots, so they are completely useless to you, but they will kinda take away from the quality of your followers and the quality of the stuff you see.

[00:23:53] So I would rather have like 10% of that amount of followers, but have them be of a higher relational quality and that it's going to improve everybody's life. I see communities as the sum, more than the sum of the relationships that they form that form in them. But, um, relationships are the core of community off an audience of actually building a meaningful business because a bootstrap business is sustainable.

[00:24:18] So business needs to build relationships between the owner of the business and its customers. At least in the beginning, but usually forever. Right? If you have a small business that you want to see thrive, you need to build relationships. There's no way around that. Like even low touch SaaS businesses, you need to kind of get into the brains, the minds of your customers and understand them, and for that you need relationships. So that it's much more interesting to me.

[00:24:45] Josh: So how, how do you go about finding your audience or finding your core community, your groups? You mentioned before you were part of the indie hackers community and that kind of stuff, but you weren't selling to them though. It wasn't really a tool for them. So when you're building Feedback Panda, how did you find that initial group? Was it through your partner or did you guys find other ways online to like build that initial customer base?

[00:25:10]Arvid: So our initial customer base come almost exclusively from the Facebook groups that Danielle was already part of when she started the job. So, if you, if you become an online English teacher, you try to usually the, the companies that hire you, these Chinese companies, in this example, they give you some sort of hints where to go to connect with the teachers, because they know there's power in a community, right?

[00:25:31] Essentially they teach each other how to teach. So all, all these newly recruited teachers would be funneled into these Facebook groups. And so it was the now and by extension, I was getting in that too, because I could see it like through her account and stuff. So we were in the middle of these communities, like right in there, embedded deeply in the community, reading every single thing that they said often interacting with them, like just figuring out what was going on. And the moment they talked about feedback, it was first time it was a signal to us that we were working on the right thing. But at some point we actually had something that we could show them. There would be somebody asking: so how do you deal with feedback? And Danielle would reply: well, I use Feedback Panda and then put the link in there. In the middle of a community of trusted peers that were not often exposed to advertising, right, we just really plugged our solution, but without forcing anybody to go there, we just said, well, we use it. We also build it. And it comes from within this community, and that gives us immediate credibility.

[00:26:31] And, um, I guess also that the level of trust that you need to get people to check it out your thing that people checked it out, they saw that it was useful and it was not trying to like trick them into paying money. It was actually providing value. So then they would share it within those communities and we wouldn't even need to do that anymore. Like our marketing, most of our marketing was literally that initial Facebook posts that Danielle put in there and then kind of snowballed from there because we had this word of mouth. Um, that a fertile ground for word of mouth, cause people saw the value of the product and then they started immediately communicating back into their community. Um, and that really kept it rolling.

[00:27:11] Like we had a sustained amount of people, um, that would come in every single day into our product, sign up, and we had a 30, 40% retention rate there. Like the conversion rate was pretty high because it came with a recommendation, it was a valuable product. It's not surprising that in this very hyper-specific niche, that a tool that solves this very clear, clearly defined problem in a way that benefits every single person, because they all have the same problem, that that would be a high retention rate there. But you know, that, that was how we got our customers almost exclusively.

[00:27:48] Josh: That's amazing. And what's really cool is you guys validated it yourself first because you built it for yourself. Um, well for then Danielle, but, um, when you think about, um, these tools, like there's so many different SaaS platforms coming out, so many different tools and software that people can build. I eventually want to get this conversation rolling into this micro SaaS and no-code space, cause I think that's really interesting right now. But when you think of like other people, I'm sure you advise a lot of people or people ask you questions. Do people come up talking to you about building software or solutions that are not for themselves or someone they know, but maybe another community that they know could find some value in it.

[00:28:24] So instead of building it for yourself and knowing deeply, how can you find that community and how can you really start to understand the users? Even if it's not a problem you have, but you want to solve it for someone else.

[00:28:38] Arvid: Well, and it all starts really with that community. It starts with the people that you want to help. And I think many, many people are quite limiting themselves in the kinds of audiences, the kind of communities that they could actually be serving. Right. I talked to a lot of software engineers and they want to build a business, and the first and often only audience that they consider ever having is other software engineers. Because that's what they know. that's what they get, that's what they understand. But I honestly, I, I feel, um, first off that is limiting because it kind of tunnel visions you into one particular audience, and honestly, software engineers are not the best audience to build a business for. They love solving their problems.

[00:29:20] Like have you ever seen an audience of people or a group of people that loves challenges and loves problems in their jobs? I don't know. Like most people avoid problems. Most people avoid challenges and they try to live a normal life with as little surprise as possible. But here we are, software engineers and you bug a new problem and they a smile on their face because now all of a sudden they can spend the next six hours going through documentation and trying to fix it, right? It's just, it's a, it's an audience that is not very, um, yeah. Uh, interested in buying things, they want to solve it themselves.

[00:29:50] So I always recommend to people who are looking into this to really step back, like take the furthest step back and say, I don't even know who I want to serve yet. Let's figure out this stuff first. Let's discover who could be my future audience. And, um, that's what I'm writing about in The Embedded Entrepreneur.

[00:30:09] That is the whole point of the book is to take this step back and do the audience discovery first. Figured out who could I serve then go into their communities, go into this audience, become part of it, and, um, and I, I know an audience that you already have, but it could be, it could be an audience later, right? It could be a, it is a group of people that could be your audience later. So you go into their community and start building the audience from within just start being interesting and building a following. And you start also learning about their problems, the most critical problems they have, the stuff they complain about most the stuff they ask for recommendations for most, you see this from within the community, but just like we saw this with, by Panda. Um, our building feeder found out within the Facebook groups where we saw everybody complaining about feedback, but only a few people complaining about that scheduling or payment scheduling all these kinds of things, right. These multitude of problems. But the biggest one was feedback. So that's the one we solved because it was also logically the biggest problem we had, right. It was like, um, a self felt need, but we also saw this represented in the community. So two, two, from there on you, you see all their problems, you discover the problems, you figure out what it is, and then you actually start solving it.

[00:31:25] And that's beyond the scope of the book that I'm writing. I'm more looking at this discovery process in the beginning, right? Who can I help? Where are they and what do they need help with? And these first steps are the initial steps. And then you start really building this following around yourself, that your personal brand, the professional brand, you have this back and forth with people about their problems, about how you can help you give them your solution. They tell you this is great, or they tell you this is not helping at all. And you do this back and forth to iterate on your products, iterate on your solutions, but it also starts with the people.

[00:31:57] You don't go in there with your idea. You don't, you don't want to like build Tinder for cats. And then you try to find the people who would like to use Tinder for cats. That's the product first approach. And this is riddled with problems because you have no validation built in, right? If you start with the product you have to like validate backwards, you have to find, is this actually a solution to a problem? And if it is then, does anybody actually have this problem as a critical problem that they have a budget for? And if it is, are there enough people that actually have a budget for such a problem that I would have a solution for? It's like you built something and then you have to press it into a market. To me, product market fit. Is that where you fit it, stuff it into a market. And obviously not everything fits into that, the market, right? So it is a, it's a problematic approach.

[00:32:45] But if you go with the audience first, if you find this prospective audience that you want to serve in the future, and you start embedding into their communities and figure out their problems and figure out how they are currently trying to solve it, are they already paying money for solutions that are not good enough yet. You can do something better. You have validation built in. You are looking at those people. They are literally right there, right? So you validate their existence as a potential audience. You are validating their problems because they are literally talking about them constantly and you see it, you observe it.

[00:33:17] And then you are validating that there's a budget for a solution because they are already are actually paying for things. It could be completely different stuff. They could be paying for Notion even though what they need is a specific database based solution. Right, but you, you can validate all these things just from looking into a community.

[00:33:36] So, this is why, um, I believe that the audience first a, that an audience driven approach is the right way to build a small, sustainable, and still life-changing business in our space as, as a bootstrapped or self-funded entrepreneur. Because if you start with and follow them to your product and you don't start with the product and try to forward to people, you have a much higher chance of success, which is the whole point of the self-funded business, right?

[00:34:01] We're not looking at VC. Find a businesses where one in a hundred is supposed to succeed and pull everybody along with them. I'm actually looking at people like myself, people who want to build a business to get to financial security. stable financial situation in their life, so they can sort of think into do what they want.

[00:34:17] I mean, I got there in selling this business and now I kind of want to see other people accomplish it too. And I want to see all of them accomplish that. Not just one out of a hundred. I want to see 100 out of 100 accomplished that. And the best way to do it is by actually solving real problems that are painfully felt by real people.

[00:34:34] Josh: Totally. Oh man. There's so much to unpack in there. First of all, I do understand now why you're kind of changing this to the embedded entrepreneur. Cause it makes sense, right? You're embedding yourself into community rather than finding an audience. Cause I think like when you think about audience too, you might think about more like content production.

[00:34:48] Like you're like, Oh, we're going to be a YouTuber. I mean, in your case, now you are. Yeah. In your case too, you're finding an audience for your book, for your podcast, your writing. So it is more like media driven. And maybe it's a good way to kind of segue into that. Like do you think, like building a media brand yourself could be in fact it's business or do you think that is just a way to build the audience and then sell a product? What are your thoughts on that?

[00:35:11]Arvid: The thing is, a book is a product to me, honestly, I, and it doesn't matter if it's a SaaS or if it's a book, like it has the same exact journey that it goes through. So here you have this, this kind of a need that you're trying to solve it cause a problem that somebody has, I guess, in my case, people want to learn how to build a business in a way that doesn't involve much chance, but.

[00:35:31] I thought of potential validation, and then you try to find the solution and apparently people already are paying for other books, so I said, teach them, right. To try to teach them how to do this, so might just as well do the same, but I'm sharing my own way so that the journey is the exact same thing.

[00:35:48] And, uh, it's actually an, an interesting observation because I feel the book is not the, uh, the only product, the product here is, um, everything that goes into the book and everything that surrounds the book as well, which is the media, right? It's just like this, this media approach that I'm, that I shared initially that I try to have a podcast and a newsletter and everything there.

[00:36:12] Maybe this is going to be a course at some point where I take the, or workshop more likely, Oh, I take the learnings from the book and try to make them even more pragmatic and go through that with people. But it's all centered around me as the, the person that does this, that says this and that, um, communicates this. And facilitates more communication within the community. So yes, in a way the media company is the final product. It just has little stepping stone products in between. Zero to Sold, my first book was one of them and now the next book is going to be the next one. And, um, I mean, yeah, that's, that's audio versions and all that. So yes, I guess that would be the actual product.

[00:36:50] But honestly,I don't really have a big strategy here. I'm just really doing what I think is right at any given moment. I feel I want it to write another book because it was enjoyable to write the first one and the responses have been extremely positive.

[00:37:04] Like they're, I dunno, it's like 4.7 or something rating on Amazon out of five, which I'm extremely grateful for that people actually value my work that much. So I just felt it was the correct next step to do was to write another one, even more specific on the part that most people wanted to know more about.

[00:37:23] Right, it feels like it's a journey and I'm discovering where I'm going while I go there.

[00:37:28] Maybe as an example, like I, like I said, I just finished a first draft of the yesterday. Um, the interesting thing is I probably set out to write a different book. audience first, the thing that you just said, your definition of audience first is like building up an audience and then selling them a product.

[00:37:45] Right. That was kind of where I wanted to go, but it turns out the moment I considered the term audience-first, to me, it wasn't build your audience first. It was put your audience first, right? Do everything focused on your audience, but that's not what audience first means right now. Right now, it just really means build an audience and sell them something.

[00:38:06] So what I was actually trying to write about and what I ended up writing about is a completely different, yet slightly related topic. So in writing the book, I discovered what I wanted to write about, and I kind of feel that it's just how I approach business in general, in building the things I just go where I end up and then that's what I actually wanted because every single step I took along the way led me there. It's, it's a very journey oriented approach. Just not much strategy to this other than let's see where this goes.

[00:38:36] Josh: I love that. And I don't know if you've heard of, or read the book Optionality by Richard Meadows. I think this is like gonna be the second or third time I brought this up in the podcast. I'm halfway through it and I love it. And what you've been describing is exactly what Richard describes as this optionality approach.

[00:38:51] It's not having a strategy let's have your 20 year vision or your 10 year product vision. It's like, no, let's just do the right things, have a system, and your case, this system is finding the people, asking them about their problems, trying to solve that problem, getting feedback. And you have this, it's like an iterative cycle.

[00:39:08] And you just do that over time, and it's like a spinning wheel that eventually you start going. So I love that approach a lot more instead of being like, no, it has to be this way. It's going to be like this in 10 years. It's like, no, like let's just, discover this.

[00:39:19] And I think what's really cool is you, you like took the same approach from business into actually writing the book. A lot of people wouldn't take the same approach and they were just like, you know, go hide in their study and just start writing the book. But you actually took this audience first or the embedded approach first, and you actually were doing this in public.

[00:39:37] I don't think I've seen people write a book in public like this before. So I just want to know, like what ha what has been surprising to you? What has been fruitful? What has been maybe, not so good about it. I'd like to hear this, this approach of, building out in public because people are doing this with software a lot right now, it's a big trend. And to do this with a book is amazing. So I'd love to hear how that's been going.

[00:39:58]Arvid: Well, the thing is that you just, like you just said, like people are doing this with software, but there as much as there is a build in public culture, there is also a counter-culture where people say, Oh, this is dangerous. You're going to lose your IP and you're going to lose your edge as the entrepreneur. Honestly, I didn't believe that. I believe, there's always the saying ideas are a dime, a dozen it's execution that counts. And I don't think it's execution necessarily, it's like the person who executes that counts, because if you have a founder who really knows that was what they're doing, they could take pretty much any idea and execute them in some way that is probably going to be better than another founder who has no idea whatsoever, which is just starting out. you can clone a business and people have time and again, cloned all kinds of software businesses, but you cannot yet clone a person. You know, you can not clone the founder. You can't clone the spirit and the energy, the motivation.

[00:40:48] Honestly, when I talk about this, you probably noticed that I'm quite energetic, but that energy comes from this deep desire to help people. Right. And if you are somebody who just wants to clone the business to make money, and you do not have this energy, you will be consistently outperformed by a founder who has. Even if they spend half the time that you do, and they have got to be, have a better vision. They're going to have a better discipline and just keeping the stuff going, interacting with people, you cannot clone that.

[00:41:20] So I believe that building in public is not building the thing you're building and public. It's building your reputation as the person who is building that thing.

[00:41:30] I mean, the thing is also part of it, right? If you build a SaaS and you share the numbers and metrics of the SaaS, that is itself, an interested an interesting indicator of success, but you showing up every single day, posting the metrics, telling people what your decision process is. Sharing insights into not only your successes, but into your struggles, your failures, the problems you have.

[00:41:53] Like what I was trying to do over the last couple of days and, first coming to terms with the fact that I need to change the name of my book, and then publicly helping myself by engaging other people and getting their input, what they would think of the new name and what is, understand this to me. And let's just really dealing with my struggle in public.

[00:42:13] That creates something that resonates with people, because if you're vulnerable, you become relatable. But I'm, I'm not vulnerable because I want to be vulnerable. I'm just vulnerable because this is actually honorable thing, mate. This is actually a problem that I'm having. I thought I had a cool idea.

[00:42:28] I had this cool idea for a year and all of a sudden I noticed people don't get this. So it is, it is actually a failure that I'm publicly communicating. And it doesn't matter if this is a SaaS with zero customers, or if it's an product like a book where people say, Hey, your title is misleading. If I buy a book with that title, and this is the content I'm going to be quite upset, right.

[00:42:51] There's no difference there. And the great part is I'm doing this in public, which means I invite other people to communicate to me both their disappointment, their outrage, but also their understanding, their sympathy, their empathy. There are just things that come up with them that they think could help that they communicate to me.

[00:43:12] So I'm gaining much more than I'm losing first off and. By by doing this, not just in public, one of the founders, but also in the middle of the community of people who will be the, for my book, I generate interest in my work too. First off, I know that many people would buy the book, which is great. Right.

[00:43:33] That's that's the point of a product is to generate income. Gotta be honest, it's a means to make money, but even more importantly, now I have multiple hundreds of eyes on the book before it's done. So whatever happens over the next next couple of months where I'm going to be releasing this to my alpha readers, like 400, 500 people at this point, it's going to come back better.

[00:43:56] So literally these people own a stake in the success and the quality of the book. The people that I'm interacting with on a, on a regular basis, every single day, there's hundreds of people who already are committing to the raw version. And I would assume that once I have like beta readers who are just review readers, tell me what you think of this book.

[00:44:15] Right? Don't tell me what to fix. Just tell me what you think. Um, there's going to be a couple thousand of those. So there's like hundreds, if not thousands of people who are already invested in this book and trying to actively make it better with every single comment that they put out there, like, how could I not do this?

[00:44:31] How would I try to sit in isolation and try to write a book? I mean, I did this kind of over the last month, but I was constantly talking to people around it about like all different kinds of things. And over the next month it's going to be even more immersive for me and the community. I just feel if you want a good quality, um, product, you involve the people who are going to be using it.

[00:44:53]Josh: Oh yeah. I couldn't agree more. And I think it's really interesting. So instead of taking the route of like getting, you know, a publisher, something, then they'll, I guess they'll hook you up with editors, unless you have an editor that you work with. I don't really know the process, never written a book.

[00:45:05]but I would assume it's something like that. From what I know you're doing this again, the same approach that you take with software and bootstrapping a business with your book, like you said, it was self published. So it's almost like these people you've created like an army of editors in a way. I'm sure you can take their, their feedback or not. Like there could be parts like, no, I don't think that's valid. I don't really want to take that. It's totally up to you at the end of the day, you have full control. You don't have to be beholden to the publishing company. Right.

[00:45:32] And is that sort of like your idea between that and, bootstrapping, is it purely an autonomy sort of thing or what is, what is it that, that really strikes the core there? Is it purely just like a Liberty and freedom? I'd love to hear sort of your thought process on staying independent rather than, going with a publisher that maybe you can sell more copies, but you decided to stay independent.

[00:45:54] Arvid: I love that you point this out. I love that you pointed out the similarity between bootstrapping, which is like building a self-funded business. And self-publishing, which is building a self-funded business. It's Literally does the exact same thing. And I think you already said it. Control. Like control, not just over what I'm doing.

[00:46:11] I could be a freelancer, but still be beholden to, you know, like clients and stuff like that, and I used to, and also as part of my, my history, um, in the, in the software engineering space used to be a consultant, and I had like big people that I worked with and all that kind of stuff. It was nice, but it kind of still was like dependent.

[00:46:30] I think that the amazing thing about bootstrapping SaaS business or bookstrapping the book, is the control over the equity and wealth that you built.

[00:46:41] But if I work for somebody, if I work for somebody as a, as an engineer and they pay me a salary, everything that I built in wealth stays with them. I get my salary compensates me for my time. often that's great. Right? And you can, if you have enough set of where you can put stuff aside and like build your own, um, you know, financial little thing that often works like, there's um, the movement of people who retire early, because they do a smart investment choices and all that stuff and live very frugally. That exists.

[00:47:08] And that is cool. Right? It's it's like, um, it works for people, but I feel building this equity in the business, building a business that belongs to you and you alone, and that you can either sell fully to somebody for, an extreme multiple, if it's working well right, which is in the SaaS space, it was quite the norm to have a really, really interesting multiple, somewhere between, I dunno, maybe three and five, often 10 times the yearly earnings of the business or revenue. Uh, it's, it's quite substantial.

[00:47:41] Josh: Why is that? Why is, why do you get such big multiples? Is it because of the recurring revenue?

[00:47:46] Arvid: It's the nature of the recurring revenue. It's the fact that you, it doesn't really matter if you have 5,000 customers or if you have 50,000 customers. The systems that you have to have in place for that are the exact same. You might just have like maybe twice the amount of people working on it, but you get 10 times the amount of revenue that just scales differently.

[00:48:03] Right? It's an economy of scale thing, particularly in a low touch SaaS where people log in with, I dunno, their Twitter or Facebook, and then they use that and they pay with credit card and you never really have to communicate other when they have an actual issue, you don't have to onboard them. You can automate all of this.

[00:48:18] Um, those like low touch SaaS has extreme multiples because it's literally the company. You can 10 X revenue by two Xing the amount of people in there. So that is kind of where this comes from. And you can do that. You can sell that part of the company and stay on as a CEO or like an advisor or something, or you can not sell the company and just put another CEO in there.

[00:48:40] You've just stay owner, but you pay somebody else to run the business. And now you get all the dividends and they get paid, right. There's a lot of ways to retain the value and the wealth that is generated by the business, which is why we sold. we had all of our wealth in Feedback Panda. That was a business that was doing like mid six figures a year, right. At that point. So we wanted to kind of make sure that this was wealth that we could keep, which is why we sold it. If we had another business, maybe we wouldn't this time around. Right. Because we, we have like a financial buffer somewhere in there, but that is the value of a bootstrap business.

[00:49:16] And it same goes for a book. A book is literally the best kind of passive income you can have. It doesn't matter if it's paperback or ebook or whatever, like you built once you sell forever. Provided that it's timeless content. Or you built once and you sell quite a few, right? If it's like stuff that is more like one particular part, a piece of technology that is a hip right now, but it doesn't matter.

[00:49:35] A book is passive income and you write one book, you get X amount of dollars, passive income. You write two books to get two X amounts of dollars, passive income. So building wealth like that is amazing because you keep it, you keep all of it. And self-publishing and building bootstrapped business are the ways to get there.

[00:49:54] Of course not every attempt works out immediately right? Some people's struggle for many years before they get to a point where it actually makes enough money. So you can really quit your job today. And jump into bootstrapping or self-publishing and hope to be as success by next week or next month that it still is a stair-stepping approach.

[00:50:11] You start with building a couple side projects, see where this goes. You learn the ropes of building stuff, becoming an entrepreneur. And then at some point you commit to something, it may work, may fail. You're starting to commit to something else, you know, like you just, you need to get there. And it's a long term process.

[00:50:25] There is no overnight success that is not also 10 years in the making. But the approach is what creates value from day one that you get to keep. And that's why I think it's really, really nice for everybody.

[00:50:38] Josh: Yeah, it's awesome. And I mean, I guess you always have the autonomy to choose whether you want to keep it going and then maybe start second business. So, yeah. Um, what are your thoughts on that? Like doing multiple things like maybe one does start working out and your case, like you're doing mid six figures a year.

[00:50:53] How much work did you have to put into that? Would it have been possible? Do you guys keep that running, start something else, start writing the book or was it, I think, as you explained, you wanted to just at least kind of sell the company and get that lump sum of money, which makes sense. But yeah, maybe like now you might be thinking about it differently or I guess it's whatever people's  current situation is obviously, so how do you think of that in general? Just doing multiple things at once?

[00:51:17] Because for -myself, I do a few different things as well. I've been able to manage it, but sometimes I'm seeing things, especially on Twitter, people saying, just go all in on one thing, just grow that. Just focus on the one thing and then do the next thing. But I'm like, I feel so compelled to do like all these things. Like this is the perfect time for me to do so much. So I don't know. I'm sure a lot of people do struggle with that. And it also brings into that idea, maybe we can get into this after, but of like the niching down and becoming a domain expert versus like going wide. But first of course, just doing more than one project.

[00:51:49] Arvid: Context switching is always hard. Like, I, I feel it's, it's not something I do well, and I have it right now. Right? Not only did I write this book, I also started in another little SaaS because I had a need for myself. It's called permanent link. And the idea is if you have a book and you want to put a link in there at some point, the link might actually point to a website that went down for some reason, right?

[00:52:09] A blog was closed or somebody moved it around, or the website is a 404 now because they did their redirects wrong or something. It just like messes up the book, um, and Amazon these things, and then displays a big warning message over, or this ebook contains errors. You don't want that. So I built a little service that had this essentially a link redirection service for books.

[00:52:29] So I built that for myself. Again, because I needed it for zero to sold because Amazon was telling me that your book is containing errors every two weeks, because for some reason somebody's blog just vanished and link rot  is, uh, is a big problem. The average link has a two year lifespan and then it kind of rots away on average. So yeah, I mean, that just happens naturally over time.

[00:52:52] Josh: Is that from people not paying their domain name bills and their hosting bills?

[00:52:56] Arvid: It's it's just a technology moving, right? I mean, if you're linked to Wikipedia, you can be pretty sure that the link is going to be there. But if you, if you're linked to, I dunno, your blog, I don't know way where you put your blog next year. Maybe you migrated over to Ghost or you go back to Wordpress.

[00:53:11] So, you know, and like this, all these little things and some things just break and you might not even notice it because it's content that you wrote like two years ago, but somebody linked to that in a book. And all of a sudden it's not there anymore and it's messed up because they cannot change the link anymore.

[00:53:25] So it's, um, yeah, that's why I built this thing, but I built this to a point where I was happy with it and I use it for Zero to Sold and it's now just gathering link analytics, like where people click and it's really cool. It's something that I mostly built both for myself to see how people actually read my book.

[00:53:43] But the moment I started writing the next book, the embedded entrepreneur, I, put it to the side, like completely removed it from my vision, cause I could not write, which is a highly creative process and fix bugs, which is a highly technical process. They are very, very distinct. So I'm not a good person to give any advice on doing things at the same time, I would highly recommend sticking with one thing and seeing her through.

[00:54:06] However, you can automate a lot of stuff. And you can outsource a lot of stuff. So if you want to build a sellable business to begin with, automation and documentation are the staples of how you get there. Right. Which is also what we did with Feedback Panda. We automated as much as we could. We documented as much as we could so that we could run a business that had 5,000 customers with essentially just two people.

[00:54:28] Like we never hired during the two years that we ran the business, not a smart choice, but it worked. Right. I probably should have hired another engineer, another customer service person because I developed a lot of anxieties, a lot of stress, I had a lot of physical responses. I still, when I, when I hear the Intercom thing, like the little chat bubble that comes up, I get like, um, email PTSD. Because when that happens, usually I would, the next second I would get like 10 emails from our uptime monitoring system or an air mattress tracing system. It would tell me the database was down or something. Now again, it was really stressful.

[00:55:03] And I still get like a physical response, like a Pavlovian reflex to that Intercom thing. And this should not have happened, right. Should have hired somebody to take care of this so I could deal with the technical problem. And then they would call me to talk to our customers that it's a whole, whole, whole situation. But hiring is a good idea. Now, if you have a product that is taking off and most of your work with the product consists of customer service, just hire somebody to do it for you.

[00:55:29] That is always an option. If it's making enough money to pay them, it may not be enough to pay yourself and them, but who knows, maybe could like elevate the business to a point where it could pay for both of you. Right. It's just like not fearing involvolving other people is probably going to be a good idea at least to consider.

[00:55:47] And then automating as much as you could providing superb documentation, both internally for yourself, so you could solve problems quicker, and externally. It's a, it's a great marketing way. I, I see, a lot of entrepreneurs providing really, really good documentation for their product, and that is the way they actually get new customers. By having really good documentation that people share just because it's so good. And then it attracts more customers in that it's really crazy. So there are ways to build multiple things at the same time.

[00:56:15]the question is always, do you see it going somewhere? Right? Do you feel that if you were to now spend your time exclusively on this, are there chances for this to really take off.

[00:56:27] Like, to take off in a sense of this could pay my bills completely and also fund the other projects that I then kind of spend a couple of days on a weekend or something. If that's the case, go for that. If not, if you're still exploring, then stick with like juggling all these things at the same time. one of them, or none of them, depends, will eventually go somewhere.

[00:56:48] Josh: It's like the different stages, like the exploratory stage, where it makes sense. You can do a lot of stuff. I think I saw someone on Twitter even last night, some guy saying like, Oh, I don't understand why someone would do 12 startups in 12 months. Like that was the big thing, right. Especially with bootstrappers levels, He did it. Peter levels. And, um, cause you're in the exploratory phase. You're like, I don't know what will work I'm going to, but again, it's taking maybe the wrong approach, right? You're starting from the building of things.

[00:57:12] Arvid: It's a product first. Yeah, that's right. That's it. That is the best way to kind of validate a product first approach, is just by throwing stuff at the wall and see what sticks.

[00:57:21] Josh: Yeah. You just have to do a lot more of it. It's hard to just do one, right? You can't really.

[00:57:26]Arvid: And, and you, you, the funny thing is once you do this, it actually turns at least slightly into an audience driven approach because you start exposing yourself to multiple communities and audiences in trying to get the stuff off the ground, and then you actually learn what their problems are.

[00:57:44] And then you understand, Oh, this community has this problem. This community has this problem. I can build something that solves both of these and other people's as well, and also maybe connect these communities in a way that wasn't possible before. So I think it's actually nice to do this just, and not just to validate your often probably crappy product-first ideas, but to actually embed yourself in those communities and see similarities, commonalities, and differences and build something on top of that.

[00:58:13] It's a cool idea. I think I'm going to use

[00:58:15] Josh: It is a really good, yeah. Cause you were just talking about relationships and this kind of like the idea of like making connections. That's what I'm all about. That's why this podcast is so broad. And I've been thinking about that too. I'm like, does it make sense to go into multiple communities? Because then you, again, this may be the imposter syndrome, right?

[00:58:30] You feel like a fraud. You're like, Oh, I shouldn't be trying to do all these different things. Or like I'm not, um, domain expert at this. Or like maybe people will be like hey, that's like. In my case of the VR guy, what is he doing over here? It's like, does that matter? What are your thoughts on that? Like I, I mean, we're kind of like building this idea together. Maybe it is better to go into multiple domains and make connections to make new ideas and new products and new communities form.

[00:58:54]Arvid: Well, no domain expert ever started out as a domain expert. I think, I think that might be the most important thing to to recognize. They all started out as the guy or girl who had no idea about anything. They joined a community, they didn't understand the jargon. They didn't understand what they were talking about, but there was something that drove them there. It's something in this community, maybe a person that introduced them into the community. Yeah. It doesn't matter. But every domain experts started out as an ambitious learner and that's what we are.

[00:59:24] Every founder, every entrepreneur is essentially an ambitious learner. We all want to know stuff. We want to build stuff. We want to accomplish things. That is learning just in a more active kind of pragmatic way. So why not join all these communities and learn things and become the domain experts by being part of the day-to-day activities in the community.  For the book, I checked out a couple of communities that I was out of, part of like the plumbing associations of New Jersey that was in their plumbing and pipe fetters.

[00:59:54] Cause I wanted to see how that worked and the people who do a lot of knitting and exchange, a lot of knitting patterns. There's a forum, millions of people who do nothing but knitting. And the whole forum is about knitting and patterns and different kinds of threads and different kinds of needles. And it was super interesting to just become part of these communities.

[01:00:13] And just learn what they talk about, how do they talk about it, what they, what they buy, what they consume, what they are looking for, what they're recommending to each other. Thank you. There's already spent an hour on the knitting forum, and you know, much more about the different quality of needles and where to source your threads and to get the best kind of techniques and how to learn that and who to follow for that just from an hour of observing this community. So you already, at that point, you're probably more knowledgeable about knitting than 99.5% of the population. That already puts it into the domain expert just from an hour of watching this. Right. So I feel it's so easy once you know who you want to serve, to embed yourself to find those communities and learn and just explore and observe that you will eventually, you can't avoid learning about the problems, because if people love talking about one thing, at least here in Germany, it's their problems, right. It's just what they don't like and what they would like to complain about.

[01:01:14] And you will feel this notion in the community very clearly. What real problems are. What nuisances are, what like little tiny issues are, and you will see the hierarchy there. You, you just, if you expose yourself to what people talk about it's, it's gonna appear in your mind. And then it's so clear that you can't help but think of how to solve it.

[01:01:35] And that's where the transition comes in. That's where this transfer of knowledge from one community to the other comes in. Because if you are a software engineer and you understand how templating engines work for example, and you meet an online teacher who needs to generate texts quickly, you know, like you transfer your domain knowledge as software engineer, understanding how to quickly create from a template into this field of online teaching, which does not yet understand tech, text templating and automate automated replacement of pronouns, stuff like that.

[01:02:06] We build little tools for that because we needed that a feedback Panda. Okay. You can write feedback for one student that is male and for another student that is female, you kind of want to use the same texts. Well, you just replace the pronouns. And there you go, right? And if you build a technical solution to this, because you know how to do texts replacement, then you can quickly and surprisingly build something super useful to this industry who has never heard of that before. And that transfer of knowledge between communities is where innovation happens. And you can do this. You should do this intentionally.

[01:02:37] Josh: That's awesome. No, it makes so much sense. And I was talking to an engineer at Google, this guy, Juvoni Bedford and we we're talking about the same thing. I can't remember exactly what it was. I think it was like, um, There's like a story. I'll try to find it, but there's like the, not the tortoise and the Hare, but there's something, um, it was basically a story of going wide in, in like multiple domains versus like being a specialist.

[01:02:59] And he said it basically in times of turbulent times, like now we want to go wide because that's where all the innovation will happen when things are kind of being rebuilt. And it kind of brought me back to the days. Um, I was at a business incubator and I was talking to one of our mentors and she was saying that she had a friend who was a photographer that was doing really, really well. So this is not even software engineering.

[01:03:18] He was a photographer that and embedded himself into, I believe like the real estate associations in Canada. So he just became really good at making friends with them, and lo and behold, he was the only photographer that was like deeply embedded in there. So who do they go to like, Oh, well for you to have to give stuff to be top of mind. Right.

[01:03:36] So it's like the same idea. If you're a software engineer or designer, you know, finding multiple communities. Cause I don't think, you know, if you have a broad skill like that, maybe that's the other thing, like when it's so broad, when it's something like design or like engineering. You could do anything and you've just feel like you can kind of build anything. So you have to just be really compelled to like a, solve a problem. Cause it's kind of brings us into no-code where it becomes even easier.

[01:03:59] I know you're an engineer by trade, but have you been following how deeply you've been following the no-code community? Cause that was even easier to build these solutions.

[01:04:07]Arvid: it's not just been following. I've been quite obsessed with it because I feel this is that quantum leap that the entrepreneurial community really needed. And that's the thing with Twitter, right? We talked about Twitter in the beginning. Like, uh, Twitter has become very interesting for entrepreneurs, much more than it had in the past.

[01:04:24] And I feel this is because it's become super inclusive to be an entrepreneur because now you don't need to be a software engineer or know one to actually build a business. And the kind of diversity that I've seen in the no-code space, um, in terms of where people come from, like backgrounds, all kinds of backgrounds, right?

[01:04:42] If their ethnicity or the education or location, or, you know, doesn't matter what the, any kind of background you can find is so incredibly diverse in the no-code community and compare it to the software engineering community that is mostly white and male because of historical reasons. It is. Uh, it's a godsend to have this like, no code is literally liberating the entrepreneurial space from this, this very, very strong One sidedness that it has. And it's really, really cool to see, because not all only do the people change that are entrepreneurs, the kinds of problems that they solve are also completely different. Like I said, if you're a software engineer, you're probably going to build something for software engineers or something in the space, but the moment you see other people coming in and using tools that they don't need to study 10 years of complicated software engineering for. They use like, um, I dunno, glide to build, build apps or webflow, to build websites.

[01:05:39] And they all like wired together with Zapier and there's Airtable here, and it's, it's just a mix of all these tools, not unlike a software engineering process where you wire together, a Postgres database with an elixir backend and a JavaScript front. And it's kind of the same process. It's just more approachable, right?

[01:05:57] It's, It's more inclusive than, um, yeah, it's exclusive at this point because it's super easy to learn. And I'm so happy to see this because first off as a software engineer, all the people I knew in the beginning when I went to Twitter were also kind of software engineers and all the problems that they were solving were kind of problem software, software engineer.

[01:06:16] So I'm not saying that's wrong, I'm just saying it's very one-sided. So now being in this. Overlap of a software engineering and a no-code and an entrepreneurial and a boots or founder. And it just like people wanting to solve problems, this community that is so amazing, which is why I love Twitter so much because every day I get to talk to hundreds of people from all different kinds of backgrounds, sharing with me, that journey, and to build a public thing makes us even better because you see other people's problems that you would never have imagined existed, but.

[01:06:45] It's it's a no-code founder in a space that you don't even know, like female haircare products or something like that. Right. Not my thing because I'm not involved, but now I see what they struggled with, what they struggle with. Maybe as a minority founder, what they struggle with as a person that is. Um, had until this point, be beholding to software engineers to solve their problems, but now they need to learn something else.

[01:07:06] It's, it's just really, really awesome to be at this inflection point and the, in the entrepreneurial space. So, um, honestly, if you want to be a founder, if you want to build something, look into, no-code go to it. Just literally go to Twitter and search for people who talk about no-code.

[01:07:23] Josh: We're a good start. You can go to our, our, both of our communities are pretty much, I think right directly in the middle with no-code founders and educators, even. Yeah.

[01:07:31] Arvid: Yes. And that's what people I've also been doing. Not only do they use no code, they actually actively teacher code because they have found out how incredibly liberating this technology is, which is what I'm super grateful for too, being a person that also tries to teach people about entrepreneurship.

[01:07:46] It's just so nice to see people essentially teaching in their spare time. Which is awesome. Right? It's a lifting up or the tide that lifts up all the boats and you see that over Twitter. I at least see this every single day and it just makes me smile, which makes me happy.

[01:08:00] Josh: Yeah me too. I've noticed that too, like that community, I don't know if it is purely the no-code community or more people are, maybe that love is spreading to other communities as well. But I've noticed that too. It's like, it's very, very inviting and it's very uplifting as no one's downplaying each other. I'm part of other communities.

[01:08:15] Like I mentioned, the virtual reality. They're very pessimistic right now. I'm sure some there's a lot of other communities that are like very pessimistic. But no code is like so optimistic, so happy, so loving. And like you mentioned Webflow, like they're one of the companies at the forefront of this and just their entire brand and their company culture is so uplifting and so like happy and, Oh man, it's amazing. I really do do love it.

[01:08:40] And I think it makes so much sense that this would be perfect for the bootstrap community or people who are thinking about bootstrapping. It's a lot cheaper to do. You know, you don't have to hire a developer, hopefully, if you don't have to.

[01:08:52] Arvid: At Least not for a while. Right? Like, and most of these tools are extensible with code, which is the genius. Right? You built this base thing, I mean for workflow. And it's also how they monetize that you can build anything. And the free version, but the moment you want to customize it with code, you have to pay because that's very likely when you start making real money as well.

[01:09:11] Right? Because then, then all of a sudden, these integrations come in and stuff it's, it's genius. And that's kind of sorry for jumping in here, but the people who are building these tools, they come from this community. They come, they understand what a self-funded bootstrapped founder is and where they come from.

[01:09:28] Like how much, how much funding they actually have, or don't have. So you will see in almost all no-code tools, this is free initial tier that allows you to actually already build a business and you still don't have to pay them. Like unlike other tools where you, the moment you, you get over like a hundred, but I dunno, like database entry.

[01:09:47] So something you have to pay the 50 bucks a month, and no code tool, you can probably build a sizeable business on the free tier. And then when you get over that first limit, it's still going to be like 10 bucks a month because that's the entry plan. Like they completely understand our space and what our budgets are. It's really cool. That's a whole other layer of how awesome this is, right. Is the understanding of where we come from.

[01:10:08] Josh: Yeah. Are you familiar with Outseta by any chance?

[01:10:11] Arvid: Yeah, they actually sponsored my podcast at some point.

[01:10:14] Josh: Oh, that's amazing. Yeah. Jeff, I've been chatting with Jeff a lot. I'm building a product on Webflow and Outseta right now, and I think they're one of the best, the best examples of this, right? Like their free tier, like you could build a sizeable subscription business for free with their free tier without paying them a cent. And like, that's insane how much value they're giving up front. And then the hope is like, you grow with them or like, Hey, let's build this amazing thing for you. As you start making more money, we'll make more money with you.

[01:10:40] But you're right, they're like right down on the ground floor with you, they're not trying to charge money right away. They're like, Hey, we understand where you're coming from. It should be cheap. It should be free at the beginning. And that will get more people in. They'll get more people using it and they'll be able to help more people. So it's amazing.

[01:10:58] Arvid: This is a value alignment, right? Your value as somebody building a business and their perceived value of you as a customer, they are aligned. The more you succeed, the more they succeed. And you don't even see that you don't necessarily just see this in SaaS Um, you see this in, in funding as well. Like, um, I, I'm a, I'm a, uh, LP in Earnest Capital. I'm involved in, in that fund and earnest capital is an approach to, um, Fund bootstrap businesses not to be a VC, right. In the sense of throw a couple million at then them and hope that they succeed, but like, again, like throw a couple million at a hundred people and over all we'll, we'll get out of there, but they want to actually want to see every single company that they fund succeed.

[01:11:43] And that to me is also value alignment when your funding source, where you get your money and it's not like that, that's a, like a million or so it's, it's much less, but it's enough to get your bootstrap business going. When that source is aligned with your business, that can only benefit everybody, right?

[01:11:59] It's not that your, your, um, the people, the investors in your business, try to squeeze every single cent out of you. The more you grow the more they grow, the better it's it's it's value alignment. And if that happens, because people understand the people they're funding, because they understand the motivation of people, that funding, we want to build that financial security system for themselves and not like make the next, um, I don't know Uber happened to something, build a, a billionaire lifestyle and a unicorn or something. Right. Most people don't want that. I would not want that. Honestly. I want to sit in this room and play a lot of world of Warcraft and in between  write a book. That's what I want to do. Right. that's  what I get do.


[01:12:38] Exactly. I needed like some breakfast, maybe lunch maybe some dinner. That's it. Right? I do not need to build not only this gigantic business, a billion dollar, I don't know unicorn, but also the complicated like human infrastructure. And then I'm the kind of responsible to report to all these VCs and then the press is here. And then I need to like bolster it up and sell and sell and sell and get it more funding rounds. Don't want to do that. I want to sit here and play games. and also write stuff.

[01:13:05] Josh: Really fast treadmill at that point, it gets, it's a never-ending treadmill.

[01:13:09] Arvid: Yeah. That's not aligned. It's not aligned with my goals, not as a booster foreigner, but like earnest is, and there's, there's other funds as well in this space that are starting to come out, also built by people who come from the space, right.

[01:13:21] Ernest capital is built by, or it was conceptualized by title drinkers, who is a bootstrap founder. He built store mapper and he sold that business, sold that to the same company that we sold it to, which is how we connect it. And then he started. Making it fun for bootstrappers cause he exactly understood what the needs and values and goals of food service are.

[01:13:42] And that's just stuff that comes from within our industry. Right. And that's the best way to do it. So I'm super glad to see this alignment all over the place.

[01:13:49] Josh: Yeah, it's getting there and maybe it's, it becomes tunnel vision where you only start connecting and seeing the people that you are in alignment with. And you completely just shut out the rest. Like you're not gonna be following VC Twitter because like it's not really relevant. Not into it. Don't need to see it. Right. Sometimes it's good to be aware of what's happening to see what's going on. But if you don't need to, you don't need to.

[01:14:10] Um, I have a few more questions too for you, like when it comes to actually selling the business, you guys were approached by the business, right? Or did you go out seeking?

[01:14:18] Arvid: No. The only thing that we did was actually put our revenue numbers on Indie Hackers like we connected Indie Hackers with our Stripe account, and you would see, um, uh, at the product page feed their kinda like how much MRR we currently produced. And since we were like steadily growing and was like very interesting, like in almost like linear growth, um, people got very interested in seeing this, uh, up and to the right graph happening. Right.

[01:14:44] And obviously if you're a private equity company, like SureSwift Capital, the people who bought our business, you are interested. Yeah. SureSwift. The people you are looking at, whose businesses you're looking at, if you see them slowly going up and to the right, well, the earlier you get in, the more you get of that growth, right?

[01:15:00] So they reached out to us a year and a half ago, so into our business because they saw our numbers and we had just talked about, I think reaching $25,000 in MRR. Um, we sorted them at $55,000, so that was half a year in between. So it was really cool. Um, yeah, super nice. Like Kevin, Kevin McArdle, who is the CEO of that company, super friendly dude, heavily involved into MicroConf community as well.

[01:15:25] SureSwift has been a sponsor of that conference. Which we went to after we sold and had a little talk about how we sold and how that was. It was really nice as well here in Europe. Uh, back when we still have conferences, you know, remember those days.

[01:15:38] Josh: Now it's all clubhouse, man. All we have is clubhouse.

[01:15:42] Arvid: Well, uh, then we're doomed, but now, um, they reached out to us. They reached out to Danielle in an email and she like dealt with all of this. You had the communication going. And at some point we felt, okay, it's kind of time. I was getting pretty much burned out by the business. And we, we were not diversified enough in our wealth that we said, okay, let's sell it. Let's look into this. Let's negotiate the price. Let's deal with the preparation with the due diligence and with the whole transition. But that was over very quickly cause we had already built a sellable business, highly documented, highly automated. There was really not much for us to do. We just kind of handed

[01:16:15] Josh: Did you do that from day one?

[01:16:18] Arvid: Yeah. I, uh, in those years that I worked for this company in Hamburg, like in North Germany, two and a half hours by train every day, I, I worked three days a week I worked there and the other days I've worked here in Berlin. So I had essentially 15 hours. Does that  Math work out? Kind of, of a commute every week that I would spend reading and listening to podcasts.

[01:16:39] I read a lot of books on entrepreneurship. I listened to a lot of episodes on podcasts and entrepreneurship, and I came across John Warrillow and his book built to sell. And at the same time, I read too that Tim Ferriss's four hour work week and I read Michael Gerber's. E-Myth that the one I mentioned earlier, but they're organic gram.

[01:16:56] Like the, the, um, thing that would show the structure of the business. The org Chart. So. I read a lot of books on how to build sellable and interesting businesses before we actually started building the business. So it was always in the back of my mind.

[01:17:12] We built a sellable business because we wanted a good business and a good businesses inherently sellable, right. A valuable business will be sellable because it's good. And if you build a sellable business, then you build a good business and vice versa. So we took these approaches from the beginning, because they made our lives easier too. Like having good documentation for your internal process, makes it faster to go and help a customer. Building good documentation for your customers outside in a knowledge base makes less customer service come in because they can already solve their own problems. It's just good business 101, and we had it all. And then we had a very easy time transitioning it over to SureSwift.

[01:17:46] Josh: That's awesome. So do you have any other  little bits of advice for people who are looking to sell, or maybe they're in the process of selling? Do you have any other advice for people as they're building their business?

[01:17:54] Arvid: Yeah. Talk to other founders who sold, like there are a lot of things that you probably would not consider when you sell your business for the first time. There are a lot of emotional things that happened with this. I wrote about this last week in my newsletter. There's a lot of grief and loss in Walford selling a business that you would not expect.

[01:18:11] Like you get a lot of money. Everything is great, but your whole sense of purpose has gone. Like the thing that kept you going for two years, 24 seven, all of a sudden this stunned by somebody else and you have no control over it anymore. Just does something with your mind, but there's also a lot of things that you need to take care of, like red flags to look out for in the process because to so many, um, acquirers out there that are interested in you know, like just looking into your business and then building their own, you know, it's just like doing due diligence, but like backing out and building a competitor. We had a wonderful time with SureSwift, like, we literally, we went through all the lists of red flags we could find on the internet and we checked and none of them came up. It was really, really nice.

[01:18:55] But that is just what you need to do. You need to find out what other problems had people run into before. And how can you make sure that you won't run into those. John Rolo he just released a book, the art of selling a business that probably helps. And he has a podcast called built to sell radio, plugging this guy a lot, huh.

[01:19:14] On which he interviewed hundreds of people who exited that business. So if you have, and I did that, I listened to every single episode of that podcast, so I spent a couple of weeks, just 24 seven listening to that show, but Hey helped us. We both were all of these stages. And we learned a lot about selling a business at the time.

[01:19:32] Just yeah, learn, learn what other people ran into and try to prepare. It's still going to be a unique experience, but try to figure out what other people went through. It's going to be super helpful.

[01:19:44] Josh: Totally. And this may be a great place to kind of start teetering off here. What are some other resources? Like you mentioned a few books here. Are there other resources, blogs communities that you, um, that you'd recommend for people to check out?

[01:19:56] Arvid: Maybe it's a good idea to just condense that a bit and bring them all together. So indie hackers is for anybody building a business is an extremely valuable resource because it's both community and knowledge repository at the same time. The podcast, the indie hacker podcast, uh, is extremely good. And I don't say this because I wasn't on episode 142 or something. I

[01:20:19] Josh: Specifically that I will link in the description,

[01:20:21] Arvid: ones. Almost four. I think it's one 42 at one 40, but you know, it doesn't matter. Um, all the episodes that came before and since have been packed with insight, Cortland is an extremely good interviewer. He just really knows how to talk to people, give them the space to explore, but also pull out that the really interesting parts of their journeys.

[01:20:40] So that alone. can teach you. It's like an MBA in a podcast, really, if you listen to the whole thing. So the community around that, both in on the forums, on the Indie Hackers forums and on Twitter, on there, and essentially everybody who's following indie hackers is a good, interesting person to follow on Twitter as well, because it's just a really cool community.

[01:21:00] Um, then. When it comes to books. I think I have five books that I always recommend. I already mentioned three of them. Yes. Three of them. Um, it's by Michael Gerber just gives you a lot of insight into how it's not enough to be really good at what you're doing to build a business, but you also need to be, uh, like beyond being a good technical technician, you need to be a manager and a visionary.

[01:21:21] It's kind of the main story of the book. And he explains how to do that. Then built to sell by John Warrillow and obviously to like built a sellable business from the start, a business that is easy to get out of and replace yourself with either selling it to somebody else or get a CEO in there. Right.

[01:21:35] That's the thing, the four hour workweek is a book that I always recommend by Tim Ferris, because it's just, that kind of sparked this idea of building something that I'm in control of and that is not in control of me. Not having a job, but building a business that runs without me runs for me.

[01:21:52] Then, um, the next book that I ever would like to recommend is, um, The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. It's literally about not talking to people and trying to get their opinion on what you're doing, like you would talk to your mom who would support you in any way, right, you're not going to get good and helpful. Um, and an honest advice, if you ask your mom, do you like what I'm doing? She's probably gonna say yes. Right. Or at least she's gonna not give you the harsh. Uh, truth of what she actually thinks. So that's what the book is about. Customer exploration, how to talk to people to get meaningful results. That is super important. If you run a business, if you run a business by yourself, you need to get actionable and honest advice, which is what the mom tests helps you find.

[01:22:34] And then the last one is Hooked by Nir Eyal, which explains the hooked cycle, like, um, how to build products that are habit forming and how to build products that actually what people want to get back to. And he also, he released another book called Indistructable, which shows you how to not get hooked by certain things. But the idea is building a product that is so good, so valuable that people come back to it at all times that is a product that is really meaningful.

[01:23:02] I have a section on my blog on the Bootstrapped Founder called the bootstrappers bookshelf where I have like a couple dozen books that I linked there. Um, just because they're really good because I read them, right? Yeah. Th those are the things that I would recommend.

[01:23:14] Josh: I will link those in the description as well. So people can check out all those books. Um, I'm going to plug another one, zero to sold by this one really awesome guy,, have I'll definitely put a link in the description.

[01:23:24] Do you have a, specific channel that you like to sell on? I know you sell directly on Gumroad. Is that your best, channel to sell the book on?

[01:23:30]Arvid: Funny enough, Amazon is still the best channel for anybody selling books, because the higher your book ranks on Amazon, the more books is up. It's just Amazon is, is the biggest thing. I might make slightly less on each individual sale when I have full control over price and stuff. But Amazon takes like 70% of, they take a lot of money from, from a sale. Like paper back in particular.

[01:23:50] Josh: Is that from ebook, from Kindle version or everything?

[01:23:52] Arvid: For the Kindle. They only take 30, which is still hilarious. Yeah. So, yeah, it's uh, if you are surprised, if you are the only company in a field, if you have a complete monopoly, you can, whatever you want. Apparently. Yeah. It's, it's what they do, but yeah, Gumroad is also fine.

[01:24:10] If, if you, particularly, if you don't have Amazon in your country or anything, but the best sale for me is always through Amazon because the higher my book ranks, the more sales it gets. It's just what it is. Um, but anything is fine. The audio book is coming out soon. Supposedly like, uh,

[01:24:25]Josh: Did you record it yourself?

[01:24:26] Arvid: No, it's 11 and a half hours. I could not deal with that. I had an actual professional voice actor do that for me. I could probably do it, but the quality of a German that speaks English as a second language narrating a 12 hour audio book. I dunno. It's just, I wouldn't, I wouldn't want to, um, do that to people.

[01:24:45] No, I have, I found a really great guy, um, uh, Derek Botin and he read the thing like marvelous. It's really nice. So that, that is coming out to audible and all different kinds of places, but yeah. Hey, whatever you want, if you want to support me to get a book in any shape or form, it's going to be helpful.

[01:25:00]Josh: I would say, yeah, Amazon is great. Leave a review and you know, and give it a nice five stars that helps a lot more, right. Cause it is a nice big marketplace. That's awesome.

[01:25:10] One last question for you. So we can end this off. I love to end this off on a high note. What is something that you're really excited about coming up in the next year, next little while that you're really excited about?

[01:25:21] Arvid: Um, in my own life or life in general?

[01:25:25] Josh: Life in general, anything that you're working, it could be multiple things. I'll leave it up to you.

[01:25:28] Arvid: Oh, wow. Well, so, so Danielle and I, we, we planned to move to Canada. We plan to move to, to Ontario, to, to be with her much larger family than mine. Like I have like a couple of people, um, somewhere, uh, around, uh, you know, Glencoe? Glencoe, Ontario?

[01:25:42] Josh: Yes, I'm in Toronto. So that's really close man.

[01:25:45] Arvid: Will be. Yeah. It's like two and a half hour. And you know, that, uh, that the Via Rail actually has a stop in Glencoe. So we could literally go to union station and Oh, you could go and you could visit us there. So that's, that's what we've been planning to do for the last year and a half or so. But then there was this little snag, uh, the global pandemic that was in the way, but that's the biggest thing kind of looking forward to it's actually moving from a city of 4 million people to a town of 23,000.

[01:26:14] Now, what is it? Two and two and a half thousand. I think it's even smaller. I don't even know.

[01:26:18] Josh: And you're close enough to the big city, if you ever need to come, but you probably won't need to nowadays. Got the internet.

[01:26:25] Arvid: yeah, it does even, I guess, a smaller, big city, London, Ontario right next to there. And I think, I think Glen Glencoe is two and a half thousand inhabitants. It's it's it's that much. So it's going to be a big change, but I'm super looking forward to it, like being closer to that family and being, uh, being, in the countryside is going to be great.

[01:26:42] Josh: Well, I can't wait to have you in here in Canada. And so last thing, if, uh, if anyone wants to connect with you, what is your Twitter? What's your website? Love for you to plug all these links so that people can find you easily.

[01:26:53] Arvid: I should have a linktree memorized or something, cause there's so much stuff going. Um, I, I, yeah, the best thing is always due to find me on Twitter. Arvid Kahl. A R V I D K A H L. That's where you can find my stuff, me and my stuff. Um, the boostrapped founder is my blog, my newsletter, my podcast, and then and, uh, what was formerly known as I'll have to deal with that domain stuff in the future.

[01:27:17] So it's a, it's iterating on a product. So, yeah, that's fine. Follow me on Twitter. Interact with me on Twitter. Send me a DM. DMs are open, whatever you want to talk about. I'm always up to chat with an entrepreneur and help them with their problems. So there you go.

[01:27:30] Josh: That's awesome. Okay. Arvin, this was amazing. Thank you so much for your time on this podcast. I guess one last thing I do want to plug for you as well is, um, check out Arvid's podcast. Uh, I'll put the link in the description as well. He talks a lot about this stuff in depth. You'll get even more knowledge and honestly go read the book Zero to Sold. It's incredible from what I read, you're going to love it. So just go dive into the deep end and you'll do great. Thanks for listening and Arvid, thank you so much for joining me.

[01:27:55]Arvid: Thanks so much Josh. Thanks.

Thanks for coming this far! if you're reading this, it is no accident. The universe brought you to this corner of the internet for a reason, and you're on the right track. I already know that you're an amazing person and I can't wait to connect with you!

— Josh

Episode Transcript

Josh Gonsalves
Mind Meld Podcast Host

Hi, I'm Josh Gonsalves, the host and producer of Mind Meld. I'm also a Canadian Academy Award-nominated director and Co-founder of Contraverse, an immersive media company. I'm a multi-media experience designer living and working in Toronto, operating at the intersection of design and exponential technologies to develop solutions that change the world for the better.

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