The first 50 days of a new startup – The GetTheAudience story
December 15, 2020 · 11 minutes reading time
Transcript of episode 1
Today is the 50th day of my new startup “Get the audience”.
Starting out to freelance at 21
As this is the first episode of this podcast, you might want to know more about me, first. I am 61 years old, a software engineer and married to a lovely wife. I created my first product at the age of 21 when I was a freelance compiler writer. I studied computer science and during my studies at the university, I began freelancing, developing software for a small company near Karlsruhe, Germany. It was a compiler for the then revolutionary MC 68000 processor, a totally new series of processors at the time. The IBM PC was not invented yet.
I started to create that compiler because there was a real need. Customers had this hardware with a new processor in hand, they wanted to create process control devices for industrial applications, embedded systems, all kinds of that, but they didn’t have a high-level language compiler, to create code for those machines.
So those machines had to be programmed in assembly language, in the beginning. The first compiler that I wrote was for SORBAS, Structure-oriented BASIC. The clients of the small company I was a freelancing for, they knew how to write code in BASIC but they still used this old dialect of BASIC using line numbers, something like
10 do this 20 go to 10
This would be an endless loop, of course.
So I wrote the first compiler that created code for the MC 68000. And I wrote another one for translating Fortran — for all kinds of scientific, math programs that people wanted to bring to that processor family.
One or two years later, the IBM PC came out and took the path of success, so … The MC 68000, it was the first processor for the Apple Mac series. Remember those old Macs with the MC 68000? No, you’re not as old as I am!
The days as a professional software developer
So, after freelancing for that small company, I felt a little lonely in my room and I had the idea: Join a small company and be a software developer there, to have some colleagues around me and get more ideas into my head and so on. So I joined a very small eight-people company. We were working in the living room of my boss at the time — his baby daughter on his lap and he was typing away at the computer, developing software. And so was I, only without a baby!
So I spent 11 years there as software developer, became senior developer, wrote all kinds of things for CAD/CAM systems, computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing systems.
The love for consulting
In the late days of that job, our system became customizable for certain project situations. For example: a bigger company used our system to design manufacturing plants for a printed circuit boards for mobile phones. And I became a consultant for them for this project.
My boss came to me and said: Matthias, go to this customer, he’s in trouble. Try to help them get the system working. I had spent my entire life as a software engineer, typing away code at my desk, and I had zero knowledge of consulting. But: I went there, I listened to them: They were upset because they had all kinds of bugs in our software, and I simply did one intuitive thing:
I wrote all their problems to a drawing board, to a whiteboard, one after the other. And I asked them: which are the most hurtful problems, which ones hurt you the most? We went on prioritizing those problems. In the evening we had a good list of the most urgent problems and they sounded certainly happier than before although none of those problems had already been solved. I thought: Hey, you must have done something right!
And I went back to the company, to my team and we fixed lots of those problems. We made the customer happy over the next one and a half years or so, and this customer was rather successful with his plant. Those were the days when I discovered my love for consulting and I changed companies. I went to a real consulting company, a small house with around 130 people at the time.
I spent there four years in consulting. That was an interesting time in Germany, especially, we called it the “new market” where everybody wanted to become a “dot com”. All those companies wanting to go public on the stock exchange, it was an exciting time. Not so much for me because I found myself sitting there until the evening, preparing stories for the stock exchange that should be communicated to the analysts.
And I thought: Hey, was this the job you came for? Was this the thing that you wanted to do? Of course, my inner voice said no, you wanted to create value in software. You wanted to solve interesting problems. And so I became a freelance consultant at the time because, I’d like to solve problems for customers, for clients, and I wanted to do this on my own.
So this was now almost 20 years ago.
Freelance consultant since 2001
It was in 2001 when I became a freelance consultant and, I spent my time with software teams showing them how they can become more effective, how they can keep their promises, for example, to deliver something on a certain date, and all this, staying healthy in their own minds and having fun with it.
Trainer for software engineering since 2012
In the last five years my career switched towards training. I did less and less consulting and more and more training … training about software engineering methods like domain-driven design, for example, listening to customers, co-designing the system with them. That’s one of the really fun parts of domain-driven design. It was also about software architecture: How much structure or which structures do you need in your system, so that it’s really stable and can be changed without breaking.
So software engineering methods and software architecture became my next big thing, in the last five years or so.
Becoming obsessed with startups
It was in 2015 when I thought: If you go on like that, you will become a pure “method specialist”, and you will lose connection to the ground, to the earth, meaning, I would unlearn how to code, how to write and build applications that solve interesting problems. So I became pretty fascinated and finally obsessed with the startup culture and I thought: why not found a startup by myself?
And in fact, I founded several of them. They all pretty much failed. And it was in this year – in 2020 – when I finally said: “Hey, you’re doing something wrong”. Several years ago, I had read the books by Eric Ries and Steve Blank, all these startup books. And this year I read “From zero to sold” by Arvid Kahl.
And I thought, “oh yeah, this is the thing”:
- You should listen more to your audience.
- You should really pay attention to them and build only what’s needed.
- You should build only something that your audience definitely wants.
So I really wanted to figure out the audience development problem.
Figuring out Audience Development
Audience development what does that mean?
I think it’s a problem that every founder and indie hacker has when they are starting out with a new project. They have to ask themselves:
- Who are the people in my audience?
- Where do they hang out?
- What are they talking about?
And maybe: Do they have an urgent problem or job to be done that a product of mine could solve?
The first 50 days of GetTheAudience
So I founded another startup called “GetTheAudience” on October 25 with the goal to really figure out how to develop an audience for software products. This was exactly 50 days ago. And I’ll tell you a little bit about how the last 50 days have passed.
During the first three days I set up a simple landing page and an early access mailing list. On the landing page there was a form where people could subscribe to that early access list and say “Give me access as soon as it is available”.
I also created the git repository and I made the first function work that was called “Login with Twitter” because I wanted to provide an app where founders and indie hackers could find their audience on Twitter!
On day five, the function “Read the tweets of an audience” already worked. On day six, I set up a public roadmap — I give you a link in the show notes of this podcast. The public roadmaps should work as a feedback mechanism for people who are interested in my product.
You can add a feature requests and ideas to that public roadmap Kanban board. And I will prioritize them, bring them into the development flow, and finally deliver them to you.
On day seven, 12 people had already subscribed to my mailing list, and I was starting to write weekly progress reports. This was rather successful. The feedback was good. And so I continued. Between day 12 and 14, I added the “Show people in an audience” feature. Now founders and indie hackers could see who are the people in their audience, depending on the tweets that they collected before. So they could see who are those people who made those tweets? And who is tweeting about what?
On day 16, I ran my first user interview. And I got lots of feedback from that person. She was really nice. She had some problems using the alpha, alpha, alpha version of the product.
On day 18, I added another feature called “Show when they post”: A user can see when the people in his audience post the most tweets on Twitter. So this worked and meanwhile, there were 23 people on the mailing list.
On day 29, the first eight users signed up for the real application.
On day 43, I added another feature that turned out pretty important. I call it “Show public sample audiences”. After a few audiences were in the system, I thought this would be really interesting to see for other people who even are not yet signed up and logged in.
So I created some more sample audiences and made them public on the website so that people who are not logged in can see those audiences and see what they get if they signed up.
Suddenly after posting the sample audiences, the number of visitors on the website increased tenfold: from eight per day to 80 per day. At least on that one day where I posted the sample audiences. And Indie Hackers shared my post about this with the results, and also the post went rather successful.
I got new followers in Twitter and people started to become interested. Today after those 50 days of development and marketing, I’ve got
- 22 users in the real application,
- 48 subscribers on the list,
- and in the meantime, I have 139 followers on Twitter.
You could say this is not much, but it means something, I think, after only 50 days! 22 users, after 50 days – that’s not so bad.
What am I going to do now? I now take a more strategic, long-term view.
I created this podcast, now I turn each episode into a blog post. I transcribe each blog post into a newsletter and a Twitter thread. For example, I take the three or five most important takeaways from the blog post and post them as separate tweets in a thread. The Twitter thread will link back to the blog post so that I get some traffic from there and the blog post will link back to the podcast episode so that people can listen to it if they want to. The podcast show notes will link back to the blog post again so I will get some traffic from the podcast.
I think this is pretty much what I wanted you to know today. So let’s have a look at the next episodes. I will try to publish my podcast weekly. I don’t know whether I manage that, but I’m trying to, and the next episodes will be about the systematic audience development process: The methods that I use, and the tools that you can use to get your audience.
So I describe a pretty systematic process how founders and indie hackers can acquire an audience, find out what they’re talking about, who is it that is talking, and when they post their tweets.
The goal of all of this is: As a founder, you will want to engage with your audience. You will want to get into a conversation with them in order to find out whether they have interesting problems that you can solve with your product.
So this is the goal and I pursue it in the next upcoming episodes.
Thanks for listening to The Audience Explorer podcast, today.
You can find me on Twitter at @GetTheAudience and you can checkout the blog at gettheaudience.com
If you have any questions about this episode, reach out on Twitter or send an email to email@example.com
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