Boris Tane: Turning bookmarks into tangible value
May 04, 2021 · 35 minutes reading time
Transcript of episode 14
Matthias: Hey, folks, this is a nice sunny Sunday morning. And I’m so happy to have Boris Tarne here as a guest today. Good morning, Boris – so nice to have you!
Boris Tane: Hey, Matthias. Yeah. Very nice to have you. It’s sunny on your side, it’s cloud your mine. So, let’s see how this thing goes!
Matthias: Yeah. I’m so happy that you are here because you are tweeting a lot about building SaaS in public and you’re also really building in public, bootstrapping bkmark.io. And I’m so curious to hear more about it today!
Boris: Yep. Yep.
Matthias: So, what is it that that you’re doing? Tell us a little bit about yourself and your backstory.
Boris: So, yeah, my name is Boris. I live in London. I’ve been living in the U.K. for the past eight years or so. Been in London on and off, but for the past three years I’ve been in London.
Starting out as a software engineer
Well, I actually studied physics and aerospace engineering, but I ended up being a software engineer somehow. I’ve always been writing code. I worked at startups originally. Really early stage; that’s where I find myself most comfortable.
And yeah, with that experience, being so close with other people, doing things, always building stuff, because that’s what a startup is; it’s building stuff that nobody has built before in order to solve a problem.
I started building small prototypes on the side, small websites, putting them on product hunt, having a few clicks, a few likes. And then when the pandemic hit, I said, “Okay, I might be a little more serious about this.”
Boris starts his first side project
I started, first of all, with the music sharing app. It was quite cool; a few people used it. I think some people are still using it, but I couldn’t really find (one) the people that will connect to it really, and (two) it was a hard thing to monetize; it was something for fun, for parties.
At the beginning of lock down (the first lock down) a lot of people used it because everybody was stuck at home, “Hey, what’s fun? Do you use this small app for free to share music with your friends?” But after a little while, these things, they were not “popping anymore.”
And then I was, at the same time, learning a new software (I mean, new. It’s not new, but it was new to me). So, for architecture at work and I said, “Okay, instead of just doing the tutorials and reading about it, I might as well build something in order to learn it better.”
Matthias: That’s always good. If you really do something instead of just watching some videos. Yeah. What was it?
So, the architecture is event-sourced architecture. It’s something I hadn’t done before and it was quite interesting to me at the time. And I didn’t look that “easy things” to solve.
Scratching his own itch with bkmark.io
You know, I was like, “Okay, what is the very simplest problem that I might have that I get solved with software so that I can focus on learning rather than the problem?” And I thought, “Okay, my bookmarks are a mess! I save bookmarks of Chrome, Firefox, Edge, in my emails, in Google Docs, on Slack, I send them to friends. It’s a complete mess.”
Matthias: Yeah. Same thing here. I know that.
Boris: So, I thought, “Okay, this looks like a simple problem and I can build something to solve my bookmarks and learn architecture at the same time.”
Boris: So, I started like that. And when my friends will call me and ask me, “Hey, what you’re doing?” And like, “Okay, I’m working on this thing” “Oh, what is this thing?” “It’s something to manage my bookmarks.” “Oh, when you do it, send me the link because I will need it as well.”
Three, four, five friends tell me that and I’m like, “Okay, maybe there are actually a lot of people that have this problem. I never thought that maybe so many people have the same problem.”
So, I put a landing page, I bought it domain, put a landing page in thirty minutes or an hour, put it on Indie Hackers and started getting clicks and people signing up. And I was like, “Okay, this is probably going to be something that I can do for real rather than just a small toy.”
Matthias: Amazing. When was that? When did you put out the landing page?
Boris: I don’t remember exactly, but it was summer last year, summer 2020.
Joining the indie hackers community
Boris: End of summer, around the end of the summer already. It was actually at that time that I discovered the Indie Hackers community. Because before that, I was just building stuff on my own, not talking to anyone. I had an idea for an app before, an audio journaling app. I thought, “Okay, everybody has Airpods on, everybody’s recording stuff. This was even before Clubhouse. And I was like, “Okay, people like to journal as well. So, if you make an audio journaling app, people are going to click.”
Boris: But I hadn’t read The Mom Test before, I didn’t know any other Indie Hackers. The only experience I had was you build, you get VC money and then you start selling.
Matthias: Yeah. Yeah. The usual Silicon Valley startup myth, right?
So, I built that app actually before end of 2019, early 2020, for months. I spent months, literally seven, eight months of my life building it. And I never released it, because by the time I was ready to release, I was so tired. And at that time, doubt came in like, “Is this actually something that people want?”
Boris: But that’s the question I should ask on the first day, not after seven months of building.
Matthias: Yeah. You’re not the only one who makes that mistake. I made it four or five times at least.
Ask your customers, first (but make sure you get honest responses!)
Boris: So, it’s then when I discovered the Indie Hackers community that I was like, “Okay, so actually those are the questions you ask first. This is how you speak to potential customers. Don’t focus on your friends. Try to talk to speak with people who are out of your immediate circle. Try to frame your questions or your conversations in such a way that they’re not going to say yes, just to please you.”
Boris: Those are the things I learned over the summer end of summer, early autumn last year and that’s how I’ve been building bookmark, basically.
I launched – What’s the name? It’s not a Launch. Launch is still in beta. It’s been beta for months now. I launched the beta, I think, in early January. It’s been four months. It’s not skyrocketing, getting one thousand MRR in the first week or anything like that. It’s going pretty slowly. But I’m happy with it. I speak with a lot of people and I understand a lot of things better and I’m improving it. So, it’s going to get there.
Matthias: That’s the most important thing; getting some initial people on it and learning from them. That’s so valuable!
Matthias: How did you learn about how to lead these conversations? You said you want to ask in a way that people don’t simply say “yes” because they want to be friendly. What is the current way, when you imagine you’re sitting on an audio line with someone, how do you ask them? What do you ask them?
Boris: So, I learned this – I mean, I’m no expert; let’s put it that way. But I started learning it from “The Mom Test”, the book. I got it as an audio book last summer and I’ve been listening to it. Anyone who is building anything, I think, it’s one of the first books that you should read.
Before that I was reading, I don’t know, Zero to One from Peter Thiel; things like that.
Boris: Which are some books, but they are for, you know, build something that is going to change the world, raise $100 million.
Matthias: Oh yeah. Yeah. That’s a different thing. Yeah.
So, how to go about it? Just make sure that you don’t put bias into the conversation. You talk about the problems in their lives rather than what your potential solution might be.
So, for instance, let’s say yesterday, I was speaking with a friend who doesn’t know that I’m building bkmark.io. So, he has no idea. We haven’t been in touch for a few months, “Yeah, how you doing”, blah, blah, blah, blah. So, he first of all said, “Oh, I should send you this link”; like he was going to send me a link about something and I was like, “Okay, how do you actually get your links in order? Where is it stored?” And he told me, “Oh, actually. So, I have this Word document in which I copy-paste all my research.”
Matthias: Oh, okay.
Talk about their problems, not your solution
Boris: I was like, “Okay, what’s the problem with that Word document? Like, are you happy with it?” “Yeah, it’s all right. It has all my links. But you know, I have already four or five Word documents, because every time I start a new project, I create a new one. And I don’t know what to do with the old one. There are still things there that are interesting, but some of them are not anymore and I’m not sure what to do with it.”
Matthias: Mm hmm.
Boris: “Have you thought of using something better for it?” “Oh, yeah, of course. I used my browser Bookmark Manager, but again, it gets crowded after a little while. And it’s unusable. I think I have four hundred, three hundred bookmarks in there already. So, that is actually a problem.” “Yeah. I mean it’s a problem not so much.”
So, when the person gives you that sort of lukewarm answer, you know that the person is not going to pay for it. Whatever your solution is, if it’s not a problem that is so pressing that they have actually looked for a potential solution because there are tons and hundreds of bookmark managers out there.
If their solution was their Chrome browser bookmark manager and Any Doc or Google Doc, it means that it’s not such a problem that they will go out and look for a way to solve it for real!
So, I continue the conversation a little bit, and I understood that, yeah, he’s going to be interested, but not to the point where they are going to be paying for it. So, yeah, I just ended – not ended – I mean, we were having a different conversation. It wasn’t a user interview. We’re just talking. And I introduced the thing.
And I think that’s the best way, because when you schedule user interviews – Sometimes you have to, because, well, you don’t know the person that well, and you have to say, “Hey, do you want to talk about this?”
But the ideal scenario is to have a normal conversation and try to understand the problems of the person in that fashion rather than setting up a meeting, coming up which suits, taking papers to take notes and all of that. It creates an atmosphere where the person is already trying to please you.
Matthias: Oh, okay. It’s a more formal atmosphere than – Yeah.
Matthias: Mm hmm.
So, from The Mom Test – I didn’t read the book yet; I always thought I have to, but I didn’t read it yet – The title sounds like you go to your mom and ask whether it’s a good idea or what?
Learning from The Mom Test
Boris: Yeah, basically, that is the premise of the of the book. It’s to ask questions and be at user conversations in such a fashion that even your mom is not going to be lying to you.
Matthias: Okay. Yeah, should read it, because I’ve got the same problem with my startup. I rarely talk to people – which is a mistake; I know (laughs). And when I actually talk to them, I run into these problems; to frame questions in a certain way so that they will really honestly tell me what’s going on.
Some people do it from their point of view right away. For example, recently someone canceled, and I sent them an email saying, “Oops, what happened? Why did you cancel so quickly?” And suddenly, I got a brutally honest feedback! And that was amazing, because first it shocked me and it set me up. And then I thought, “No, wait a minute. Maybe there’s something in it for you.” And suddenly, I got an amazing insight from that feedback. This person was saying, “Hey, I’d come back in a year when you have made more progress.” And I thought, “Oh, why do they think that I take a year for this?”
But yeah, it’s something I noticed as well. I think it’s mostly other Indie Hackers or other people who build stuff that are more honest with their feedback and how they answer to your questions. And sometimes, I’ve been in user conversations with people who have told me, “Actually, you’re asking me the wrong question. You should be asking me this and that”, because they have done that so many, many times and they know “better”. So, yeah.
User conversations can be surprising
Matthias: So, what was that? Do really people tell you what to ask them?
Boris: So, that is when I’m talking to other startup founders, basically or other bootstrap founders who have been doing user conversations for, I don’t know, four, five, ten years, and they have way more experience than me, to doing those things.
And when I ask a question, I remember early on, I asked one of the guys, “How many bookmarks do you think you have?” And he told me, “Does it matter? You’re asking me the wrong question! If I tell you one thousand, is it going to help you understand what my problem is, better? It’s not about the number. It’s about how I use them. It’s about how to access them. It’s about how to manage them.”
So, those are the little things; when someone already has much more experience answering and asking those questions, they will sometimes guide you into asking the correct questions.
But that is quite rare. Most people you ask, “How many bookmarks do you have?” and they will say, “Oh, maybe 50, maybe 100.” And then you take 100, when maybe they actually have 20. But because they know that you’re building a bookmark manager, they say, “Oh, maybe if I say 100, he’s going to be happy.”
Matthias: (laughs) It’s so weird.
Now, what would you say, with your bookmark manager, what’s your typical audience that you have? Can you describe those people? Do they have some common characteristics or what did you find out until today?
About Boris’ audience
Boris: So, it is quite interesting because it’s quite a wide range of people who use bookmarks. And it has been actually a challenge for me to actually understand who are the people who need this the most. Because almost everyone has a problem with their bookmarks, but very few are willing to pay to solve that problem. So, I need to understand, who are those people who are willing to pay to solve that problem?
My userbase is very varied. In the paying customers, it’s still varied. I have marketing specialists. I have other bootstrappers. I have developers. I have designers. So, it’s quite varied.
Oh, also analysts! So, I noticed something; there are few analysts in there and I was like, “Okay, this is probably something that is going to be easier to target. Like these sort of analysts, they stay in companies, they do research analysis in those – What’s the name? Not investment firms; the Big Four type of consultancy firms. That’s the word I’m looking for.
Matthias: Ah, okay.
Boris: So, they are research analysts in those consultancy firms. And so, they have to write reports about, I don’t know, the state of video calling in the web in 2020. So, they save links for all the video recording and calling apps in the world and then the right report about it. That’s basically what they do. I mean, that’s what I understand they do.
Matthias: Ah, so people like Gartner or so, like these big companies, right?
So, however, I found it pretty difficult to access them on a on a person-by-person basis. Since they do it for work, they’re not going to pay with their own credit card.
Matthias: Mm hmm.
Boris: The few that do pay for that with their own credit card is because it’s also helping them with their personal life. They may be doing research on the side as well and, well, they also use it at work because it’s in your browser anyways.
Matthias: Mm hmm.
Private bookmarks and company bookmarks
Are there are many people who use it at the same time for private bookmarks and for company bookmarks?
Boris: So, from the conversations I’ve had with existing customers, I will say 20 to 30 percent of them. If they use it like that or during the conversations, they were like, “Oh, I never thought of using it for work. I should probably start using it for work as well.”
Because they paid for it with their own credit card, it’s on their private laptop, on their private browser, they never thought that they could use it at work, although it will help them a lot at work as well!
So, given that, again, a few Indie Hackers as well are using it. Mostly, I think, since on Twitter I interact a lot with other Indie Hackers, most of them are using it for the Twitter bookmarking feature, rather than the “research” type of feature. Because they’re on Twitter, they discover the tool on Twitter, there is always that bias that this is a Twitter tool, and they use it for bookmarking stuff on Twitter more than using it in their own browser or using the email and all the other integrations I’m planning. So, they’re saying, “Oh, I’m using it on Twitter. It’s cool for me like that, because Twitter bookmarks are a mess, anyway.”
Matthias: Yeah, absolutely.
Sharing bookmarks in various ways
Boris: So, it’s a good replacement for Twitter bookmarks. But on the other hand, the software is providing so much more that they are kind of missing on. But again, there are ways around it. I’m trying to massage the product to actually help them transition from that Twitter tool to actually using the full potential.
But again, one other thing that came up a lot is a need for sharing bookmarks.
Matthias: Oh, interesting! So, they want to tell their friends or their colleagues about things they have found and discovered.
And that is something that is one of the things where the user conversations work quite hard for me to get correct. Because when people say, “Oh, they want to share your bookmarks, they don’t necessarily tell you how or where or in which format; do they want to sell to send an Excel file? Do they want to send a link?
My original implementation was to make public collections where you make everything public and anyone with the link can access.
Matthias: Yeah, I saw that. Pretty nice.
Boris: That was quite good, but it wasn’t solving the actual problem! So, a few people are making their collections public, but not a lot, because they want to share it with a subset of people, not the entire Internet.
Matthias: Oh, okay. I see. I see.
Boris: So, I thought, again, maybe password protected collections, where you create a collection, you put the password, you share the link and the password to the person and they can login to view the bookmarks.
Again, I sat on that idea for a little while, probably build it because I have a few people interested in it, but wasn’t that much because it’s cumbersome; sending a password and then the person has to put the password in. It’s, you know?
Matthias: Yeah, they keep it in their password manager and maybe they lose it. And yeah, it creates problems. Yeah.
Sharing bookmarks for business, in a team
Boris: So, further conversations raised the fact that actually, they don’t want to send it to their friends. They want to send it to other people they work with. So, they want to send it to – let’s say, you and me, right now, we are having this conversation. Let’s say we’re in a community of four, five, 10 other Indie Hackers, and we want to share resources about how to go about our business. So, we want it within the small group. We don’t want it to the whole Internet and we don’t want everyone to be putting passwords to see it. And we don’t want one person to be responsible for putting the bookmarks. We want everybody in this small group of people being able to put the bookmarks and everyone has access to them at the same time.
So, that’s when I was like, “Okay, this means that there is a need for a team feature where you can create a team and bookmarks within that team are shared and you can have user access and all of that.”
Matthias: Oh, amazing. I love it! I love your way to differentiate between what people want to do and why they want to do it and what’s their goal and so on. I love it that you try to find out really what people are trying to achieve.
Processing so much user feedback
That takes a lot of time, just having those conversations. And I mean, I get a lot of random ideas.
Boris: And I have to put everything down and then sort them and say, “Okay, this is kind of dumb. Oh, this one is good. Oh, this one, hmm, I will keep it on the side for later.” So, there is a lot coming in.
And I’m not sure if you remember, a couple of weeks ago, I took a break from Twitter and social media in general.
Matthias: Yeah, I remember.
Boris: Because that constant input of things. It’s overwhelming after a little while. You have constant input of ideas and feedback and all of that, after a little while, it’s like, “Okay, I need a break to actually process all of this, because if it keeps coming in, I will never be able to actually decide what to do because I will always have stuff to sort and decide and things like that.”
Matthias: Yeah, that’s right.
Boris: But that’s the process, basically.
Matthias: Amazing, really amazing.
So, you got so much feedback and new ideas that you didn’t keep up with sorting them and putting them into a kind of system. Do you have some note keeping system; some kind of a “Zettelkasten” method or something like that?
I read a lot of articles about second brain, blah, blah, blah. To me, these things, I mean, I’m sure that they solve a lot of problems, however, to me, they get a little bit in the way.
Matthias: Mm hmm.
Boris: It’s something new that you have to learn. It’s something new that you have to remember to update every single time; things like that. So, I use pen and paper and a Trello board, which is more for the actual software part. So, this is the task at hand. This is the task for next week, things like that. But for the ideas and all the feedback, it’s pen and paper. I find it so much easier and faster to use pen and paper than all those myriads of tools out there.
Matthias: That’s right.
Usually, a pen is a very special kind of thing because it has some haptic characteristics. When you hold it in your hand, it does something to your brain, or it collaborates with your brain in a friendly way.
Matthias: My old yoga teacher, who’s dead already for several years… In the ancient times, he said, “Look at your pen. When you’re writing; the back side, where does it point?” And I said, “Okay, it points upwards.” And he said, “Yes, your pen is your antenna into the universe!”
Boris: Oh, that’s nice!
Matthias: And I found it really nice. I thought, “Yes, that’s something.” So, yeah, I really also use a pen a lot. That’s right.
How Boris met the first people in his audience
What else is bugging me about your audience … How did you find your first members; really, let’s say your first five to 10 users? Why did they join and how did that happen?
Boris: So, five to 10 users… Okay, actual users of the app. Let me try and remember… Are we speaking of users or customers? Because to me, there is a huge difference.
Matthias: Yeah, let’s say. Yeah, what would you say?
Boris: Let’s do both.
Matthias: Let’s describe both. Yes, the first free users and then the first paying users!
So, for the first users I just put in the link on my Twitter and like, “Hey, it’s launched.”
Matthias: Okay. So, that’s pretty easy.
Boris: Yeah, the first users, literally. Since I had been sharing the process of building it. So, the day I was like, “Okay, let’s put it out.” I said, I think, the evening before, “I’m launching tomorrow.” And it was literally a, “I’m launching tomorrow. There was no plan. There was no – It’s literally, “I feel like tomorrow is a good day to launch.”
Matthias: (laughs) It was not preplanning with milestones and everything.
And then the next day I woke up, I still had a few bugs to fix and things like that. So, I woke up early, fixed those, and then, I think at 10:00, I was like, “Okay, it’s coming in 30 minutes or in one hour” I don’t remember. And then after the hour, I was like, “It’s launched.” And I put the link.
And it was a crazy day! I think on that day, 200 people signed up.
Matthias: Oh, amazing!
Boris: (laughs) It was ten times more than I expected. And on that day, I was actually on my day job. I didn’t take the day off because I didn’t plan this thing!
Boris: So, everybody was signing up, having bugs that I never saw when I was just testing myself. And DMs and emails and all of that.
Matthias: Oh, boy.
Boris: And I was working. So, I was in meetings and then I come back. It’s like, I don’t know, fifty people or more and the asking for more.
Matthias: That must have been joyful as well as stressful, right?
Boris: Exactly, exactly.
But it was amazing. So, many people jumped in to help diagnose the bugs that I couldn’t understand because it was, you know, the typical “It works on my computer and it works on my machine.”
Matthias: That’s right. Yeah.
Boris: Yeah, it was working on my machine, not on theirs. So, they were helping actually diagnosing and helping me figure out what was going on. So, that was awesome; a lot of feedback on that day.
From free plan to free trial
And then it kept growing steadily with freezes. And then I went to talk a little more to people who have already built SaaS. And they told me, I mean, it’s something that I already knew, because it’s in all the podcasts, all the videos, all the newsletters; if you are a solo founder, try not to have a free plan because it’s very difficult to manage. And I was already feeling it after a couple of weeks, three weeks, I was feeling that, okay, these are a lot of people and it’s getting more and more difficult to manage.
And I spoke with a few more people who have run successful SaaS businesses and all that, “Okay, you need to do something about this, because unless you keep it free and you go out and try to get, I don’t know, one hundred thousand dollars or pounds to be on it fulltime and have someone help you with customer success, you are probably not going to be able to do this on your evenings and weekends anymore, because there just going to be too many people.”
Yeah, I then went the step of killing the free plan and keeping it a free trial instead. Some have even advised against the free trial. But I kept it because, you know, there is always that little, “I’m not too sure if these things work” people.
Matthias: Yeah, yeah.
How long is your trial period for the people?
Boris: 14 days.
Matthias: 14 days. Yeah. The usual thing. Yeah.
Matthias: Yeah, I find it important to have a free trial because people are sometimes so afraid to put in their credit card because there are so many fraudulent sites out there.
Matthias: So, I can totally understand that the credit card number is an important thing. Absolutely.
The first customers for Boris
So, that’s the story for the first users. The first customers on the other hand, came from – So, the very first customer is a person I have spoken with, personally, from the very beginning, the very first user interviews, where with that person – So, from the beginning, the person has been seeing the product grow and –
Matthias: So, they trusted you a little more than someone who they found randomly on the Internet.
So, they understood quite well already what the product was doing. Even though my landing page wasn’t great at the time, explaining that since, the person was an input to so many of the decisions that went into the MVP, that they knew that, okay, this is going to solve their problem because they were part of the process of discovering the problem and the potential solution to it.
After that, I think, most of the other people are from Twitter, a couple of friends who are not from Twitter, because I share there, I send them the link and they signed up and they liked it and they and they subscribed.
Matthias: Oh, yeah.
Reaching out to customers
Boris: But most of the customers are from Twitter. I’m just sharing on Twitter. A few of them I know, a few I don’t; which is great! Getting people you have literally never heard of, signup, register for the yearly plan and use it. no complain! (laughs)
Matthias: That’s great. That’s really great. Without knowing them. Without knowing what they do and they simply sign up for the yearly plan. That’s great.
Boris: Yeah. And it’s actually a bit daunting because I usually want to speak to every single person who uses the app to understand exactly how it’s helping them. But I also find it, maybe it’s just the privacy thing to randomly email someone and be like, “Hey, I see that you’re using my app a lot. I don’t know you. Do you want to talk?” (laughs)
Matthias: Yeah, you should try that probably because you maybe you get no response, maybe you get a no, but maybe you also get some yeses.
Boris: Yes. Yes.
So, that’s definitely something that I’m trying to do a little more; getting to email them and say, “Hey, do you want to have the chat, just to understand how it’s helping you, if there is something that we can improve”, things like that.
But again, to me, it’s just I’m a bit invading their space. Maybe they will not feel it that way. And those are the little things that I think you’ll learn the more you do the SaaS thing.
Matthias: Yeah. Yeah.
Developing Boris’ audience further
Which brings me to my next question. What do you plan to do to – How do we call that? – to develop your audience further? Do you think that there are some activities that you could do besides user interviews or customer interviews that you say, “Oh, yes, this will make my audience happier” or “This will grow my audience” or “This will be more fun” or whatever you’re trying to achieve with your audience?
So, on Twitter, I’m just tweeting almost every day what I’m doing or something that I’ve learned or, you know, those kind of things.
I wouldn’t say that the people that follow me on Twitter are necessarily the users of my app. They are more friends or the Indie Hackers that we learn together and we try to grow our businesses together.
To get now people that will actually use the app, there are definitely more things that I can do. I should probably launch it on Product Hunt and all the other websites as well. I still haven’t. I know it’s a mistake to launch late, but I’m in the middle of building the teams functionality and I want to launch with it.
Matthias: Okay. Yeah.
Boris: The other things that I can do; I tried Reddit. It’s not going so well. You know Reddit, it’s hard, you get banned, you get deleted.
Matthias: Yeah, it’s a really tricky business on Reddit! Yeah.
I could try – What’s the name? – Hacker News. However, I don’t feel like the Hacker News bunch is my bunch. It is really, “Oh, let’s shit on stuff over there.”
Matthias: Yeah. (They both laugh)
Sometimes, it’s a large collection of teardowns, right?
But on the other hand, you have to put yourself out there eventually to get anything. So, eventually, I will going on Hacker News.
Expanding bkmark.io into the world of teamwork
But I think the most critical thing for me will be to talk to other – Okay, just to give you some context. I’m building the theme’s functionality and I’m starting with targeting engineering teams in big startups. Because, well, it’s easier for me to understand their problems. There are already a few engineers who are paying for the app and they say it’s going to help them in their teams. I have already spoken with the few teams that tell me, “Hey, as soon as you’re done building this, hit us up, we will onboard!”
Now, the next step for me, for the app will be to go out there and get as many tech leads and CTOs and engineering team leads and all of that.
Matthias: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Boris: Talk to them, get them to see the product, maybe run some small demos and get them to onboard. That’s the most critical thing for me within the next two or three weeks, one month, two months.
The Hacker News and Reddit, I think, they are more, from my understanding – I mean, I will say Reddit – from my understanding, there, it’s more the individual user products that are doing well, compared to “Enterprise Software.” I’m not pretending to build huge enterprise software, but it has the potential to be enterprise software.
Matthias: I find that totally interesting: Collaborating on links with a common goal. So, it would be interesting to hear from those teams what their common goal might be. You already mentioned the analysts. There, the goal is pretty obvious.
Matthias: But what what’s the goal of those other teams? I think this will be really exciting to find out.
So, I’m an engineer. In engineering teams, usually, what happens is let’s say the team wants to move from Postgres to MySQL.
Boris: Yes, that’s a random thought. Well, whoever is leading that project for moving from Postgres to MySQL has to convince the team that Postgres or whatever is better than the other. And usually, that is through blog posts, tutorials, benchmarks, all of those which are on the web. They are links on the Internet.
So, usually what happens is they are put into Google sheets, they are put into Notion, they are put into Slack, they are poorly put into Google Drive. But that is not searchable. You cannot find the information after one month easily.
Matthias: It’s also not maintainable, right? If several people want to keep their collection in order, it doesn’t work when you put it into a Google sheet.
And you lose the context. I think the context is one of the most important things. So, when you put into a Google Sheet – Yeah, let’s take the example of a Google Sheet. You put it into Google Sheet, you put the link, you put maybe a description and you put a comment or a tag, which whether it’s good or bad, and other people put comments as well. It really quickly becomes a mess.
And then when you finally get to some sort of understanding of what you want to do, you send it to the tech lead for review and he gets this Google shit with 400 comments on it.
Matthias: Oh, boy. What should this poor person do? (They both laugh)
Boris: That’s basically the thing. Or even sometimes it goes the other way around. The product manager and the tech lead, they have this idea. I mean, from user conversations, they have this idea of this feature that they need to build. So, they bring together all the resources, all the screenshots, all everything and they comment on it. They send it to the CEO, they send it to the CFO; everybody puts comments on it. And then when they are like, “Okay, we need to build this”, they send that document to the engineers with 400 comments on it.
Matthias: Oh, okay. The other case. It’s also works the other way around.
When the engineer gets it, it’s like, “What am I supposed to understand here? What is important?”
Boris: So, the solution that I’m trying to build is something that is going to allow that important stuff on links, specifically, to stay there and not necessarily have all the additional stuff.
Matthias: Mm hmm.
Targeting startup engineering teams
That’s an amazing use case. I never thought about that one. Yes. Collecting links, evaluating them, putting them into some context, assigning maybe some priority or something. Yeah, amazing!
And you say start up engineering teams would be your first target group for this feature?
Matthias: Yeah, it’s an advantage because you are also a startup engineer. So, you do understand what people are talking about. Absolutely.
That’s literally the main reason. A few people from marketing teams have told me they need it, journalists have told me they will need it, definitely the analyst told me that they will need it. But I chose to start with startup teams because I already know what use. I don’t need to learn anything.
I know that, okay, they use GitHub or GitLab, they’re on Slack. Some of them use Notion, some of them use Jira, some of them use – You know, I already have a decent understanding of the ecosystem that they use and how they work.
Whereas if I decide to start with journalists, well, I know absolutely nothing about how journalists work! I can definitely learn, but it’s going to be a longer time to market than working with a community that I understand already pretty well and I already have contacts in.
Matthias: That right. It would take some time to understand how a journalist thinks and how they sort their stuff.
Towards Ramen profitability
Matthias: Sorting and processing. Yeah.
I read something on Twitter that you want to be Ramen profitable before the beginning of ‘22, I think.
Matthias: How do you plan to spend the next months?
Boris: Get users.
Matthias: Get users. Okay.
Boris: Get customers.
Matthias: Why not. get customers. Right. Yeah.
Boris: Yeah, literally. Solving problems, getting people to use it. That’s the idea.
Matthias: Yeah, I wish you much success with it.
I really enjoy hearing about all this. And I think, yeah, this guy is really onto something! And I love the way, how you reflect and how you go forward with it, really making your hypotheses and then trying to validate or invalidate them. It’s really good. I like it!
Boris: Awesome. Thank you very much!
Matthias: Thank you very much for being my guest today. It was an awesome conversation. I enjoyed it. And yeah, let’s do it again, maybe when you’re Ramen profitable.
Boris: Indeed. Hit me up any time. I’d be happy to join you again!
Thanks for listening to The Audience Explorer podcast, today.
You can find me on Twitter at @GetTheAudience and you can check out the blog at gettheaudience.com
If you have any questions about this episode, reach out on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to support this podcast, please leave a rating in your favourite podcast player app. This will help other founders or creators to find this podcast about developing an audience for their product or service.