Bright & Early Podcast
Building for a Picky Niche with Ben Orenstein of Tuple
Brian: Hey everyone and welcome to bright and early the podcast for people building early-stage startups.
I'm your host Brian Rhea.
I talk to entrepreneurs, product people, designers, and marketing pros to learn what works, what doesn't, and why; giving you at least one thing to apply to your business first thing tomorrow.
my guest today is Ben Ornstein Ben is the co-founder of touple a remote pair programming tool for developers is also the co-host of the art of product podcast then welcome to the show thanks a lot glad to be here it's great - great to have you we were just talking offline I've been hearing your voice for a little while listening to art of product and you know the other things that you've been up to so it's kind of funny to have you it's fun to be on the show and to get to talk to you in person totally yeah I'm psyched I've been listen to you as well so no it'll be like two people who sort of know each other but indirectly actually connecting for the first time yeah yeah well I'm really curious to hear about kind of the yeah just the steps that's the process that you've gone through to get to pull to where it is now it's been fascinating that you've been building it you know in public but but privately because it's been a private access so excited to hear all of that but let's let's start with just the concept of pair program peer programming most listeners are probably familiar with the concept but just for everyone's benefit to get on the same page can you give us like the 1/2 minute explanation of what pair programming is and why it's integral to some developers workflow totally pair programming is kind of just a fancy name for writing code together yeah so it's basically just two developers that are working on a problem side by side and maybe that means literally sitting next to each other and like using one computer or using an app like ours or something else possibly doing it remotely where someone kind of joins you on your computer and it's sort of looking over your shoulder virtually as you're writing code together okay and the reason that you might do this is that well one programming is hard it's easy to do it wrong or right bugs it's easy to get distracted and just if you just think about human learning we've been basically doing this forever which is like two people collaborating on a problem often leads to better results that one person doing it by themselves so this is just kind of a word for it when you're doing it with code and it's really nothing there's not that much to it that's special it's just kind of this old thing that we've always been doing which is more or less just combining brains and trying to create a better result okay and so n-tuple specifically it's a it's a tool that each programmer will have on their machine and how does it work exactly you can kind of just think of it like screen sharing plus remote control so if I was like hey Brian can you can help me out with this code you know this area of the app better than I do I would love to get a second set of eyes on this you would connect to my computer using our app and then you would see my screen and we'd be able we'll be able to talk and there'd be audio and then if at some point you were like actually I was thinking maybe we should do it sort of like this you would be able to actually take over control of the mouse and keyboard and use my computer as if you were sitting right there with the controls in your hands mm-hmm so so to play devil's advocate then some people might hear your description of of tuple bin and say you you mean like screen sharing on a zoom call why are you so you're you're building you and your co-founders are building a product for something that already exists mm-hmm Wow yep because our theory is that little details matter so zoom actually is a good app I think soom is pretty solid when it comes to what we're doing now like where we're focused on each other's faces and we're talking we're doing a video call zoom is great zoom technically does have a remote control mode but it is not their focus it is tucked away in a certain place only certain plans have access to it if you wanted to give me control you'd have to manually hand it off to me it's just a little bit clunky er cuz it's not dedicated towards this use case and so our active theory is that if we care about pair programming specifically more than anybody else we can make a tool that will be nicer enough to use over these existing solutions that people will prefer it and so far that seems to be the case we we sign up a lot of customers who previously used things like zoom or the old slack calls or screen here back in the day that find the overall user experience of how we do things to be better better enough that it's worth switching yeah how much of that how much of that did you did you test before you started writing code on to pool that that hypothesis thereof yeah we we get it you can do this we can do this elsewhere but the latency is is it gets in your way we think that we can do it specifically very very good how much of that did you test with people versus how much of it did you say I think this is true because I'm a very experienced developer and I have seen people paying for this well it's sort of a mixed answer so to some extent we kind of just went for it so I have two co-founders and all of us had quit our jobs and started working on the app before we had proof that this would work so we kind of just jumped in as soon as we started writing code I was out there trying to sell this so my other two co-founders Jill and Spencer were writing code and working on what would become the product but I was out actually trying to get people to buy it so we were kind of doing de-risking very early and just making sure like okay if I describe an app that sounds a certain way will people get excited and will they pay us for it and then the final piece of that is really the the genesis of tuple was that there was this wonderful app for doing this called screen here oh yeah and it got bought by slack and shut down and so there was just this gap in the market in our minds and it was like well it seemed like I mean I was a screen here a user and I liked it and I thought it was great but nothing quite as slick as it exists anymore and so that seemed like further validation and it had been for years or so but it seemed like okay there was this thing that people knew and loved and used and now it's gone it seems pretty likely that if we made something if we can make something that is a similar level of quality we'll be able to capture some of those people yeah I want to ask you specific step by steps of you going out and selling it before I want to ask about that specifically but I do want to jump into what you were just talking about and and read a little bit of marketing copy from your landing page I think it is it is so readable and connects with what you were just saying and it's I'd love to hear the process that you went through to arrive here so it says after screen hero was acquired we were sure someone would come along to make a tool specifically for pair programming sure you could technically get some pairing done with something like zoom but it was clearly built for business types not programmers who hate undisciplined slack calls is fine but not having remote control is rough have you ever tried to dictate some code for your pair to write another problem if you're going to type on a remote machine the connection has to be low latency this is the sort of thing the generic screen sharing tools just don't care much about that feels like that does not sound like website copy that sounds like you are talking to me about your thing so can you just talk about the process there of of coming to those like I noticed like some context setting remember screen hero like great zoom it's there but it's too much slack it's fine but you don't have this required thing what was it like for you guys to come to that like summary of of tuples positioning I mean I so the this that copy that actually started its life on our original landing page okay just like okay we need to put a stake in the ground and say hey we're doing a thing and my co-founder Spencer sort of spun up a template and he wrote this headline that ended up being the headline estate on there for a long time that I loved which is remember when slack stole screen hero from us that's so good and I was just like wow that was perfect yeah and that that prompt basically caused the rest of the copy it was like remember the big bad thing that happened to the good thing well we want the good thing again yeah and here's why what's out there is not good enough and and I we that that acknowledgement of there are other options you know about them I think makes sense yes um I think I learned from my friend Matt when Zhang was he said a sales thing which is like if you're worried about people's objection to a to something just talk about it and like try to flip it on its head yeah or like if like another way of saying this is like if there's an elephant in the room introduce it it's like we know you've heard of zoom we know that zoom has some remote control capabilities yeah so if that's the first thing you think I have to address that objection early on it yep we didn't invent this you know space of the world so I'd rather talk about yes we know that's there but you you're probably frustrated if you're a good customer for us you're frustrated by it in these ways like we talked about on dismissible UI chrome most people don't care about that but like as a certain picky and a retentive developer unda specifically why chrome drives me crazy yes right yeah so as I mean they're they're reading that and they're like they are hearing you call it UI chrome like oh this this person gets me that is how yeah yeah yeah I wanted it to I wanted this the whole thing like that the page and the app and everything to just basically to speak to procure the right type of programmers yes and not really be appealing to anybody else mm-hmm like it's like this page is kind of full of proof and shibboleths that like we are programmers too and we're frustrated and care about the same things that you care about yeah yeah did you because the three of the three of you quit your quit your jobs to go in on this it in it it definitely sounds like it looks like you guys did a really good job of doing what a lot of people struggle with early on which is no we are going to be very very focused on a very particular customer well I a lot of people struggle with that because they think oh gosh I mean we we're early we got to get some money in the in the door here so we're not gonna say no to anybody was there was there any struggle with that at all or was it like no y'all that if this is gonna stick we've got to be specific um definitely I think it was most of the latter yeah like if an if the core that said like so so my theory our theory was like there are enough people that that care about these things that we can just focus on them and by the way if we make a really great remote pairing app that programmers love you know maybe someday that becomes a really great app that other people that are not as technical love to I'll give you if you satisfy the most discerning customers you can later potentially change your positioning to take on more know what media plans for that we're pretty happy where we are and we don't ya come close to like maxing out this niche okay and we might never ever move from there but it was like well if we just make it if you focus on the people that are really picky it's probably not a bad place to start yeah did you also did you find it to be true that by being so specific and so targeted that you're you had a bit more upper range in your in your pricing did that play into it at all maybe it I mean I have to imagine the positioning effect of the pricing and like people when they push back on her prices now it's it's it's sort of like feels like that there's a congruence there where like people will say the people that push back on our price say your price is reasonable but I don't pair often enough to justify it but I think the world does need a tool like this so it kind of feels like the positioning is more or less working they're like okay you are the paring tool if I don't want to use a generic tool I can choose you instead and it's better do i pair enough to feel like that's worth the cost are most of your customers right now do they pair over 50% of the time or are they like purely a pairing team or what would it what are you seeing there I actually don't know the break something I do want to check like what is the average usage but I do I am aware of like the high end of usage like when we sort by like who's using it the most some of our teams are using it like all day every day yeah there are some cultures that believe that you should pair a most things yeah a fairly extreme point of view it's not crazy but it's not that common but we do see that at the high end like there's just like just crazy constant usage right my guess is the average team does more of the average thing which is you pair on things occasionally like sometimes you want to just work by yourself it's it's actually a lot more draining to pair with someone just because you have this sort of full-time social context that's happening as well yes communication is taking place and so you tend to you probably tend to write better code and have fewer bugs when someone else is helping you with it but it's it's harder actually it's way more draining so yeah as people choose to opt into it a little bit less frequently than that okay cool are you are you trying to define a specific target market in terms of remote first startups or b2b SAS orgs larger than 50 employees I don't know pick something are you targeting that right now or did you target it early on not really we wanted to make sure in the beginning we were more restrictive about who we let use the app because we wanted to make sure that the feedback that we were getting in the early days was from people we thought would be good customers and so we used to be a little bit more stringent or like we used to block people at all basically and we were looking for people that paired a lot and cared about pairing and cared about the kind of UX details that we were talking about we're like we are our sort of idea was resonating with them yeah now we are signups are basically open and so it's like okay if you want to give it a shot you can give it a shot and see if it sticks okay we're sort of okay with that now yeah man that is that is such a good thing to take away is you were you're pretty stringent early on to make sure that the feedback that you received is coming from the right people as opposed to getting feedback from anybody like well yeah you're saying that you want this to be a little bit different you're not our you're not our customer how was that just kind of an organic discussion among you and your co-founders of okay yeah this sounds like a valid criticism but it's not coming from oh it's not coming from a good customer or how do you how do you kind of parse that out I don't remember any explicit discussion quite like quite at that nature I mean now we still get feedback from people that want to take like kind of want us to take the product in different directions so we've intentionally sort of chosen a fairly limited use case or a very particularly use case people like the app and want to use it for more things which is awesome but sometimes they'll ask us for things that are like support a use case that we're not really interested in getting into right now okay yeah so like pairing is typically between one like two people and people kept asking so I want to invite more people I want to bite more people huh it's like okay we're gonna let you invite a third person and now everyone's like I want to invite a fourth and a fifth and a sixth and we're like why it's like all we want to do we want to use this for stand-ups and it's like okay yeah like okay that's cool thanks that's very flattering but like that's not where we want to go right now okay so one one cool thing that I think is you mentioned this there's like a four there's a four minute you know screencast at tuple app and you point out that there's a way for the developer to pull up you know like to look at bandwidth and CPU usage you know in your screen sharing app that's that is something that would only appeal to develop or to technically oriented folks and we're like hey something's janky here I'm not just gonna like spin off a support request 2-tuple hey something is slow you're gonna say oh I need to close a couple of different apps or that sort of thing and so is the the concept of being able to add three four or five people would it inherently slow those things down and make tuple look worse or why are you concerned being able to add a third fourth and fifth person well the answer is is pretty deeply technical but the gist is if you and I set up a connection between us the data is only flowing between two people yes and as we add a third person now it's flowing between me and you and that third person and that third person in you yes and so this is actually it's like this exponential increase as you add people and so when you get to like four you actually do something different which is you don't create a peer-to-peer mesh network like that you there's like other techniques for this but it's kind of like a big architectural difference between how we're doing it now and what we would know do to support that okay and that by the way is what zoom is really good at like you can be honest you call with a hundred people and zoom like that is their bread and butter use case and like their value proposition is that will actually work it's really hard and so like we don't want to take on that kind of thing it's not our core thing yeah so we should we stay away from it yes so solving that problem isn't it is it is an entire company that is what a zoom is do absolutely yeah a public company worth billions of dollars what what's the how do you describe that back to your customers who are requesting the who are requesting that feature then you say not right now or no um why like what advice do you have for people when they - what advice do you have for people in your position needing to tell customers no so one thing that I think is one advantage of like selling to people like us is that we can be technical with them and so we can explain to them the technical limitations and they go oh yeah that does sound hard and so that's nice so it becomes fair like it's a little easier to justify certain technical decisions or to like to talk about the complexities and like how people still be interested so that's that's kind of nice beyond that I don't know I mean like it's we kind of just do it the way I think most people do it which is like totally understand I dig in to see what they're trying to do what's the underlying need okay we understand that we write it down like if if we get a lot of requests for a certain feature we start documenting the people have asked for it so if we ever do ship it we can tell them and people really like that but it's kind of mostly like gotcha totally understand like probably not on the immediate roadmap mm-hmm but maybe possibly in the future that could come out we'll see well yeah yeah but you're you're definitely getting another benefit of having chosen your target customer so specifically to be able to describe what you just described to me but in even more detail I'm certain and they totally get it yeah it's really fun like it we can nerd out in the details and a bunch of things when we ship a new weapon we'll just like tell people by the way like we reduce CPU usage with this thing or something I'd be like oh that's cool like yeah and there's also this thing happened that I didn't expect which is because real-time communication is hard and kind of going through the internet which is inherently kind of flaky are and because our audience is technical they kind of sympathize with us more than I expected like they go oh yeah I can totally see how that would be hard I wouldn't want to have to build that exactly yeah and so they're a little bit more forgiving when like oh it doesn't work quite the way wait they want it to yeah and that's so great all right so can we dig in like you you you've mentioned now a few times when you sell like we do or when you talked about like when you're when your co-founders were working on the code you were out there selling it I mean get into the nitty-gritty of that with us how did you what exactly did that look like it actually started at micro Kampf okay um last year I guess well yeah I guess yeah anyway that he was the last maker conf mmm or maybe you were I can't remember anyway so it started at micro conf with like sort of like my immediate entrepreneur software nerd kind of friends okay and I was saying yo I'm starting a new thing it's this and some people go oh that sounds super cool a bit cool yeah like let me know if you want to be an early customer and some of them would say yes and so I would just start kind of making up pricing on the spot and seeing what worked yeah and in the early days I asked people to sign up for a year front so it's like quote them a yearly price and the thought behind that was twofold one was okay I want to make sure we have time to actually like use your take your feedback and make it better so I don't want to sign you up for a month-to-month thing like I want to I won't have time to make something good based on what you're telling us so I'm gonna ask you to kind of be with us for a while and also I wanted to actually wanted there to be a pretty high bar for the early people because again of that let the importance of the early feedback okay a high bar fan financially like price point yeah like actually be like a little bit you I wanted to know that you were kind of a true believer that's who we were looking for in the early days and some people a lot of people would would you know react negatively to that they like you want me to pay for a year for a thing that doesn't exist for which you don't have a ship date and I'd be like yeah and so like a lot of people would say no to that but some people would say yes I want this thing so badly like I would love to support you so I'm down okay and these are and these are all still these are people in your personal network yes yeah these are all people that I knew in like heads that would have in-person conversations with so the first handful of them were like people I had met face-to-face or even did it face to face pretty quickly though they moved outside that group so I talked about tuple on my podcast that's where a lot of our customers came from and come from still and also we had a landing page up pretty fast and so when people send it for the landing page we would send them a short survey and if they seemed like the right kind of company actually and one of the questions we'd ask them it's like are you potentially interested in being an early customer mm-hmm and so when people looked right and said yes to that I would reach out to them and talk and that's where basically all the initial sales came from what and what did you use for that survey and how many questions did it have and what were you asked it was a type form survey okay type form and it had about six questions mm-hmm something like yeah half dozen questions and it was you know where do you work how many developers might potentially use touple there okay are you potentially interested in being an early access person is there anything else that we should know okay kind of thing and I love that catch-all question by the way that's one of my go-to like survey tricks because people will often want to tell you stuff and fortunately one of the things that people often wanted to tell us was like how excited they were which is awesome yeah money's super pumped about what you're building any pricing at all in that survey no okay no present okay how how much of and I don't I'm trying to recall if you've shared publicly the specific numbers but just can you just kind of give us a sense when you're saying that you're you're testing all sorts of different pricing in your conversations a range of ten percent five hundred percent like um what are you messing with yeah him the first Adam Levin was the first person that signed up here's your first customer and I think it was $200 a year or 250 a year okay for just him the highest I got while I was still aggressively testing pricing was 800 dollars per person per year okay and we actually did close one of those and we actually quoted somebody a thousand a person per year that did not actually come in okay yeah about a 4x change okay and did and that by the way is not today's pricing this was like early days are just kind of seeing how how far can we take this and where can we go okay and so where where is today's pricing relative to 250 a year to eight hundred year so we actually ended up at $25 per person per month okay I was going 300 dollars a year yeah the interesting thing about that is in the beginning this is like kinda hilarious to me in retrospect I was talking to a lot of people that were like solo operator type folks like freelancers that wanted to pair with customers like their clients okay so our early pricing was kind of based on like oh there's one person and they're paying for the app and then we're gonna let you use it with all of your customers for free like you're the only person like once you have a paid see you can pair with you know a bunch of guests basically and I think we realized surprisingly late in the process is like no this is way better if you're on a team of developers that work together already and pair a bunch yeah duh okay anyway so basically our pricing did not work for when do you have you know 10 people 20 people a hundred people people were more or less laughing at us at some of the price points I tried actually someone I remember a particular sales call and someone said I think I remember the prime the price was like $50 per person per month we were testing at that time and he said okay if I bought this for my team this would be the most expensive tool that we paid for by about four times and I was like okay that doesn't you higher yeah yeah yeah [Music] hey everyone this is a good time to pause for a second and remind you that bright and early is brought to you by transistor FM transistor offers you professional podcast hosting and analytics and in fact we just made some upgrades to their analytics feature that I am already absolutely loving and just last week DHH had this to say on Twitter he says we've been using transistor FM for quite a while now for the rework podcast what a great experience it's been great product great people great service I could not agree more that says it all if you are thinking about starting a podcast for your business just head over to transistor FM and let them know that Brian sent you ok did shoot do you have a do you have a background in sales at all no not really ok so that that sort of you know I have sure what word like boldness or confidence or whatever like yeah you know what I'm gonna do sales calls and some people are some people are going to think I'm ridiculous some people are going to laugh at me and some of those people I respect their opinion mmm what what sort of practical advice do you have for four founders who don't have a sales background who really really need to do that sort of work there's a great quote that I think applies here which is something like the quality of your life is proportional to the number of uncomfortable conversations you're willing to have yeah and I think that's about right here there's me it wasn't super comfortable actually though like it would to me I kind of think of it as like a I tried to come at it with like a playful attitude and like for pricing a thing I like thinking about is like the your pricing only has to like pass the giggle test which is you have to be able to say without laughing out loud yeah and so as long as the pass is that like you should just like try it and put it out there and see what happens but like I think more seriously honestly like testing pricing is probably the high like one of the most high leverage things you can do for a business that's almost in any phase like I think almost no one test pricing too much and almost no one tested enough I think like we should probably be doing more even now potentially even though we did a lot and settled on something that we think works for us yeah but even even then like we're still we still been tweaking things like cost for trial versus free trial and length of trial and things like yes the quark we're constantly kind of fiddling with these variables because I think they're just so high leverage for the business yeah and yeah it's a little uncomfortable and yeah you're gonna get rejected but like that's part of the game that's kind of what you're signing up for you don't have to do it but your results are gonna be worse if you aren't willing to have a little bit that discomfort yeah so when you especially in the early days before you had a functional product what was the what was your goal at the end of that conversation to collect the credit a credit card or just to get a commitment like what was a oh no we were gonna charge the credit card we charged them charged the credit card yeah before before you delivered a product to the customer yes how and how did you how do you describe that to them like you're gonna have something in X number of months or like how I possibly do that we intentionally I intentionally did not commit to a release date okay because I didn't know when it would be so I would say we're working hard and we're gonna try to ship this as soon as we can but I can't promise you a particular date okay I will I'm gonna charge you today we won't start the one-year clock until we actually actually get rid of ship you in alpha and then you can use it during the Alpha and then we'll start the one-year clock at the end of it so it's kind of like an annual plus a couple months kind of thing okay oh cool uh so I I hear you been here's my credit card information but don't bill me don't actually bill me until I have something in my hands what do you say then um outside well that's we're honestly like I know it sounds ridiculous but like that the people we're looking for right now are true believers people that like are really really excited to get this they're like into their hands and by the way one of the things we're doing with this cash is hiring consultants that are experts in these things so that we can move faster so this actually helps you get the product sooner but totally get it if that's like this is like a deal breaker for you like I'll I'll reach back out once we have something and maybe we can do it then but if you want to be in the Alpha and get it first like this is what's required yeah cool okay that's that's pretty helpful were you what what like close Freight or what what percentage benchmark can you can you say all right early stage founder you get out there and you're doing this thing you're talking to people trying to sell something before you have have it delivered if you're striking out like one out of or if you're if you're closing one out of ten or one out of twenty or one out of 50 conversations like what should what's reasonable to say I've got something here or and this is no good hmm I don't know it feels like it would depend a lot on what you're asking for and who your customers are and they're adventurousness and that kind of thing I don't think I could put out a percentage that would make sense first yeah a lot of things like a lot of situations but I would you can probably just develop an intuitive sense of does it seem like this is a promising Avenue or not yeah like I didn't track my close rate but people were excited enough people said yes I didn't feel that hard to convince them they were like a lot of them were like already pretty on board and so more than percentages I was like this seems it seems like if we build this thing right people will be excited that's definitely something that I I hear a lot now or that I hear a lot is early on that just the qualitative feel of how the conversations are going where the energy is so much more important then I'm gonna have 25 conversations and three of those need to lead to data data it's gotta it's it's just about like the feel of energy excitement that's what I think yep yeah yeah totally and I think that I think that works for a long time for a lot of things like I think brains are fairly good at taking a bunch of kind of noisy data and coming up with like a sense of you know what's the direction of this and yeah like one one area right I still feel like this is working fairly well for us is figuring out the next things to build like we when people like I I'm subscribed to like all our support conversations anytime someone requests something in support I see it and I just kind of let that like feed into my brain a little bit and over time sometimes I'll realize like you know a lot of people are asking for this kind of thing we should think about maybe building something like this yeah we don't like say like okay the last of the last hundred requests 43 were for this feature yeah I think that's okay I think like with when you have fairly small numbers in particular trying to like pretend that there's a magic percentage or something is probably not really valid that was going to be that's one of my other questions for you is how do you decide what you're going to work on a tuple you had a I don't have this in my notes but I just remembered it right now you had one of my favorite tweets of the year which was my next my do you put it my newest consulting engagement you know I you you pay me tens of thousands of dollars and I tell you to delete your backlog and you've lost nothing or something don't something to that effect so if you say you don't have a backlog you are not I wish we didn't have a backlog od do you actually have a backlog tactically sort of yes hey man like I I have a more extreme position on this than my co-founders okay so I think I charge you five thousand dollars and tell you to delete it I wanted to leave this not a problem so I think back laws are not valuable I think like and you had Ryan Singer on and you talked about some of this and I agree with everything you said there okay how so I don't need to repeat it people should listen that episode anyway cuz it's great but not everyone agrees with this and for us about the backlog is less like here's a list of work we should do and more like here's a list of well bugs often that we know about and maybe some reproduction steps for this and so if we ever want to go fix this particular bug because it's happening a lot we can go look at this thing over here and a little bit of work has been done already okay so it's it's helpful it's helpful for that documentation but you're saying it's not it is not how you decide what you are going to work on this week no definitely not we don't like pull from the top of the backlog and work on that how do how do the three of you decide what is been changing actually so we I've been are testing out shape up now as a methodology so a couple weeks ago we had a pitch meeting basically or a bedding meeting and sort of figured out some like brought some shaped pitches and figured out what to work on and so we're given that a shot okay we've been much more ad hoc before that and so we'll we'll see well co fits us okay do you have do you guys do like feature flags or that sort of thing or are all of your customers on the same playing field basically everyone's on the same playing field right now that's something that is on our list of like important but not urgent tasks that I think it could happen and soonish it's often so like we have a our app is sensitive to certain kinds of changes like if you're like there's like this whole incredibly complicated interconnected pipeline of capture the screen and code it into packets fired across the thing decoded on the other side paint to the screen and like by the way if it takes an extra 30 milliseconds it feels worse yeah right so there's and like yeah and that's just like just the screen but there's also a webcam there's also audio there's a keyboard events there's a mouse event so like there's a lot of little fiddly bits in this app and it's hard it's really hard to write an end-to-end test for it so there are parts of the app that make us nervous to work on which is not great but it's the reality and so I'd love to have a like an a/b test or like a a partial deploy option for some of these things because sometimes we make a change and really if this seems good to us on our computers on our network and what the testing we're able to do but once push it out to a few thousand people who knows how it's gonna behave in the real world mm-hmm do you the three of you have enough revenue to this point that you are that you're back to okay we're we're sustainable here we all quit our jobs been living off the savings are you to that point yet where are you yeah totally like I'm I'm basically back to my job okay like salary more or less okay how long was it from I was gonna say first line of code that actually how long was it from quitting - all right we're we're there fellas let's look so I'm fairly proud of this fact but looking at our parametric's graph like our hammer our 12 months ago with zero dollars okay that's pretty cool the point we hit so we look we basically started realistically adding customers and building them in like February of this year of 2019 of 2018 and then our ramen point for us was like 15 K we decided like okay if we can we can just get $5,000 we're good yeah yeah and we're like we're all single guys more like Joel's married but no dependents reasonably frugal people so fresh 15k was was sustainable and so we yeah February so we basically in June of nineteen we hit 15k okay nice and so and that's with a pretty that's with a pretty decent like price point perk per seat per customer like uh yeah yep yeah okay cool congratulations I mean thank you it's grown faster than I thought I thought it would which is very gratifying are you are y'all considering making any hires or I talk about a kind of ad yeah we're at the stage of the company now that you've seen this sort of you've got traction you can do in full time where you at we talk about it a lot the biggest missing skill set we have I would say is design so it's tempting to hire or design and I love good design like I love beautiful products and investing in like a really good user experience yeah and so I'm tempted to hire a designer more than anything else but sort of close to that I would also just be like another developer to let us do more stuff there so we talked a lot about the potential of like maybe a part-time designer maybe a part-time contract developer that has like a set number of hours hours per week mm-hmm but so far we have not committed any of that we've hired consultants for like individual projects we have like no like kind of recurring external people yeah I wouldn't be shocked if we hired somebody next year okay we're growing pretty fast and adding a lot of customers so like support could actually be a thing that's going to ask about that I would I was surprised to hear you say design because the tool is is designed specifically to just be out of the way and remain out of the way yes so yeah I think a select design a part of design is like how does it look but a level design is how does it work yeah so like yes there's not that much like there's there's no on dismissible UI chrome that we have to make look nice but there is an app up in your menu bar and there's a lot of like there's a lot of subtlety in like how it should work like giving someone remote control of your machine how does that work what does the handoff look like how do you know when someone else is you gonna use your mouse so you don't collide yeah like how should the webcam work if I turn on my webcam sure to turn on yours there's just like a ton of little UX details that you have to sweat to do it really well I think nice final question I want to ask and then we can wrap it up was going to be about support actually and how that how involved the three of you remain on or obviously you're you're all doing support or you're all you remain involved in support how and how do you share it or what's your what's your process like um company actually so Joel Bay is the firt like the frontline he handles almost all of it so occasionally like so anything that comes in is like hey I have a problem or a request or like a yeah like we have any an app feedback mechanism and Joel guess all of I handle other things like we send an email to people like hey like how can the app be better and like that kind of is like my product manager kind of responsibility so I respond to those but we so we're between Jill and I we mostly cover basically all of the incoming email more or less mm-hmm okay how how can listeners find and follow you online in podcast is probably the best choice you're obviously a listener of podcasts so art of product is my podcast I host a greater primer yeah that's good if you like hot takes I'm r0z okay on Twitter and no tuple that app for doesn't stuff if you're curious tu piel e app hey what's that what's the genesis of the art as your zero okay by the way yeah so when I was like 12 I was really into chess and that is basically when I started like making internet account to handle things yep and rook was like my favorite chess piece and are oh okay was taken most of the time and so I was like well if I make it look cool and replace those zeros then I can get my name and that's just kind of stuck and the ends were basically stopped that but there's a couple things that I've been on for like a decade now or something that still have that battle handle and Twitter is one of them my guest today has been Ben Ornstein Ben thanks so much for coming on and sharing your experience with us my pleasure hope was helpful hey everyone let's do some closing thoughts here it's good to be back after a couple of weeks off I was actually down in the Grand Canyon for that first week off doing some backpacking with some buddies and so yeah one week down in the Grand Canyon with without a cell tower or Wi-Fi router in sight it was it was really nice it was very very refreshing and so this interview with Ben was at 9:00 a.m. Monday after I had gotten back you know like Late Late Late Saturday night and recovered a little bit on Sunday and then first thing so if I sounded a little bit a little bit off my game or tired then then that was that was why but it's good - it is it's good to be back and so let's let's see what all we got there the first thing was just i like their their approach around a tuple of when bins had little details matter and like zoom has remote control some other things have that sort of you know functionality but that's not those companies focus the little details matter to two bins target audience picky developers with high standards and you know it's extremely like you know high needs in terms of of what to pull offers with in terms of latency and and speed and the the sense that you are when you're pair programming remotely with tuple that it has the feeling of sitting side by side at the same desk and so every little detail there matters and the more attention they pay to those details then the greater advantage they're going to have over those more generic conferencing tools that do already exist but will just not be able to compete with tuple on those specific things that they do well in the same way that that tuple is not going to be able to compete with zoom on getting six seven or a dozen people into any particular any particular conference that's just not what they want to do and I liked when Ben mentioned you know the way that he said we were de-risking very early and they were de-risking in the form of selling so while his two partners are writing code Ben's out there describing it to see if people will will pay for it and so I I think I like that I do I like that approach quite a bit you know because I was asking and I genuinely didn't know the answer but was asking to see if you know what sort of what did they do on the the solution validation front it seems like they they had they intrinsically knew that the the problem validation was there people loved screen hero when it was around and then it then it disappeared there's this gap in the market that they were personally experiencing and so they they believed strongly enough that the problem validation was there but in terms of solution validation wasn't a whole lot of you know asking and a whole lot of interviewing to get it to nail it to nail it to nail it it was them saying remember how great screen hero was let's build something that does you know similar had offers similar functionality you know brings that back to people who love it if we do will you pay for it and so they were they were getting obviously they were getting some responses things that they needed I liked that bit about kind of context setting around a vision for a better way of working when we were talking about the marketing copy and the positioning of their landing page you if you have a seriously good at tu ple app to plot app I just see that there the marketing copy and just the vibe it just completely resonates with me it's one of those things that it feels like it should be very easy to do but but but it's hard it's I think I think it's hard it's almost harder to sound yeah to sound conversational and make a strong business case without getting all business here or whatever so anyway this was I enjoyed I I like the way that they positioned their product and I like when you know he's his kind of comments around if you're worried about an objection talk about it if there's an elephant in the room then address it and that just makes so much that makes so much sense if you if you've got a good customer if you're if you've got an offering and you know that there are a couple of other things out there in the marketplace that that you're going to be bumping up against or directly competing against if you've got a good lead if you got a good custom potential customer on the other side of your conversation you know you better hope that they're at least aware of those other offerings those other companies if they aren't then they're probably not your customer and so yeah you might as well bring it up might as well mention you know that yes you can do these things in zoom but the lag isn't there or you know etc and fill-in-the-blank whatever your whatever your offering might be mention them by name and say specifically why that status quo is not good enough and why yeah by if they're a good customer for you then they're probably frustrated with the status quo bring up those things that are frustrating and discover if if those frustrations are are big and bad enough in order for them to switch and if look if they're if they're not frustrated with the status quo then you may not have a product on your hands you know so there's there are a couple of benefits to just being direct about about that let's see what else it was it was interesting that they weren't necessarily I feel like I'm recalling this correctly that they weren't necessarily targeting a a company demographic like in terms of company size as much as they were targeting like a point of view picky developers who missed who missed screen here Oh picky developers for whom you know remote control across zoom is not enough and you know as I guess I was kind of I was expecting a little bit more to here like we yeah we knew that this sort of business is our is our target and it seems like anyway at least in the very very early days it was been talking with his community who shared his level of his degree of expectations for what makes for an acceptable remote pair programming experience and and that sort of space specificity and that that type of target going after somebody who shares your point of view as opposed to somebody who works in a company that you might want to sell to you that that specificity that makes it easy for tuple to speak to their customers because they are them and that's that's a great that's a great strength that's a great strength that they've got there and yeah that was it was around that point in the conversation when we were he's talking a little bit about you know some of the requests that they're beginning to get and the attention that that's bringing up you know like wanting to go up to three people on it or you know four or five or whatever because people are wanting to do their stand-ups with it so a use case that has seemed it's just kind of flattering that they would they would want to use it but but it doesn't it doesn't match with their what they're going after if you enjoyed that bit of it episode 111 of Ben's podcast with Derek rhymer art of product episode 111 like around the I wanna say like the six to seven ish minute mark Ben shares a little bit more about how about talking to people how they're doing some product you know feature management and what they're deciding to add to the product as people are beginning to use it for ways they hadn't quite imagined and the tension that that creates on the product side of things and so if that piece of the conversation stuck out to you and you want to hear Ben talk about that more check out episode 111 of our art of product now the the major the I can say this for myself anyway the major takeaway from this episode this conversation with Ben was about selling before they even had a product I just I think it's just a very very good case study and how exactly to do this and so you know getting started off with pricing free pricing by the pricing annually for a year number one he said they wanted to be sure we want to be sure that we have time to respond to your feedback and so I'm gonna ask you to be with us for a while so I'm thinking about this personally right now I'm like starting to you know got a side project going that I am ready to start selling and so if you heard me definitely like perk up at this point in the in the interview and say okay how exactly am I good at this is why because I'm getting ready to do this and I and I like this positioning it as selling an annual plan so we want you to have we want to be sure that you're with us for a while and we want it we want there to be a bit of a high bar so that we find the true believers I think that's really important because you know as you start to get as you get feedback if customers are making requests and you haven't been extremely focused on that initial set of customers then you might be responding to the wrong wrote wrong requests so and then I you know I liked the thing of a you you want me to pay a year for a thing that doesn't exist and doesn't have a ship date yes okay well why exactly and and I like to like this answer around that of well look we're not we're not starting the clock yet okay we're not starting the clock on your plan and work will give you that alpha but you know like be prepared to be patient and we're going to get the you know get a functional beta over to you as quickly as we can and at that point then we'll start the clock on your year but we're gonna all right do you believe in this are you with us if so yeah we're gonna charge your credit card so that we can start hiring contractors to and and pay for ourselves a bit to start making making progress on this I've just loved that love that bit of a love that bit of the conversation also talked about that you know we need you if you are closed if presumably after you've got kind of a couple of cohorts of close friends and family using it and then you begin to get some traffic and some buzz and have a closed beta to send like what is effectively I mean something out like a lead scoring survey like where do you work for a tuple anyway the important questions are where do you work how many developers will be using this are you interested in early access and anything else we should know yeah it's just a very very short lead scoring survey in that way this is a really good really good thing to note let's see around around the topic of pricing it was interesting that you know he's tinkering around with with price points from 250 up to 800 per per user per year and then they've ended up coming way on down or relatively way on down to 300 now any any listeners who are also in like the microcon Patrick McKenzie circle would feel like hey we'll hang on a second now if you're able to quote-unquote charge more and get up to 600 700 800 then why in the world are you down here at 3 and you know he just kind of fleshed out that as the as they brought on more customers and as their the business matured and they realized that their original model just didn't work for what its going to end up being their best customers that is companies with lots of seats and so that that I found to be really fascinating I think that adds a very important nuance to the just you know blanket statement repeating of always just like charge more charge more charge more that is usually the right advice it is not you know it's not flawless in every single situation and and I think that that piece of the conversation one other example of where that nuance kind of comes in and you have to you have to know I do I wonder I'm mad at myself for not asking if they did any sort of like price sensitivity surveys I'll add some links in the show notes price intelligently has a good blog article about price sensitivity there's this van westendorfs price sensitivity meter that does not exactly roll off of the tongue that Justin Jackson over a transistor has mentioned himself he and John have talked about it on the build South podcast and Justin has has talked to Ben and in Jordan Goll Goll or gal things call about about price sensitivity and so I'll link a link to those things as well really great really great conversations I guess the final thing is like he was talking about you know during during the the private you know during that private period and selling before they yes only before they had a full product there's not committing to a release date but but just saying that you know we're we're charging you today you can use the Alpha we're not going to start the clock and in those early days when you're walking when you're working with small numbers feel and energy is enough and so you could hear me asking like okay well what like what was your clothes right like what percentage what's a good benchmark if I start doing this that it that I should be I should be shooting for that's me looking for some degree of certainty and assurance when but you know when you're early and you're working with small numbers that sort of that quest is probably futile and what Ben was saying was well yeah I mean like is there energy is there growth are you making some progress that's enough so if you're if you're a regular listener episode 25 now you've probably noticed me doing this pretty regularly which is to try to ask for percentages for what you know a number of different things that entrepreneurs are talking about that's me trying to establish you know a range to know like hey here's here's what I'm getting is that is that in the range and what I'm what's interesting is how often the entrepreneur says you know uh I'm not I'm not sure we could just we could just sort of tell it's happened a number of times now and it just it just reminds me that entrepreneurship is so much an art and having that sort of having that sense of feel of do we have something here is there is there movement is there energy is our we N and growth are we in a growth area can we are we getting some traction here getting a feel for that qualitatively early days is so much more important and leaning on that and relying on that is way more important than expecting quantitative data when you're working with small numbers to assure you and so this was just another good reminder for me that yeah trust your trust your sense trust your feel not always not forever and not in everything but certainly you know and in terms of of discovery and getting a sense for who your customers are what they want and how you can best deliver it to them I would love to hear what you think about about that particular thought as well as everything else Ben and I chatted with you can find me on Twitter I am bewray that is b rh e a thanks so much as always for listening I will talk to you later
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