×

Bright & Early Podcast

Wildbit's Rebellious Pragmatism with CEO & Co-founder Natalie Nagele




Episode Transcript

The following transcript has not yet been edited. I am slowly editing them, identifying speakers, and cleaning up issues; but I haven't gotten to this one yet. For now, it's helpful for some Ctrl+F action to find a pull quote.

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 Natalie Nagle natalie is the co-founder and CEO of while bit the 18 year old bootstrap software company behind Beanstalk postmark and conveyor with 30 employees a hundred thousand plus customers and millions in revenue Natalie's focus at the company is on culture and Dean Edell II welcome to the show thank you for having me Brian I'm so excited to be here it's great to have you I was a user of Beanstalk back in the day like 2010-11 from my little corner in my bedroom office in Grapevine Texas so it's pretty pretty cool to have you on the show and they did get to know you well thanks for your early support those were I feel a special bond to those early customers who decided it was okay to store their source code with a stranger yeah okay so yeah we see often around I mean I 18 years but we were just talking like you're you're 19 in just a few like what a month there so we're 25th okay yeah yeah a couple months so you've seen so much change yeah I can't wait to hear like you're just kind of your take on how the industry has evolved and what what you've experienced along the way but so for listeners who may not be familiar with with you and wild bits history can you share a little bit about that and why it is that so many people will find your approach to be inspiring yeah I mean so we've been running the business I run the business my husband Chris we been together for almost 16 years doing it together he started a couple years before me as a just a consulting practice doing a lot of brochures sites we made lots of nightclubs and bars restaurants and we lots of Flash I don't know if the audience knows with flashes but yes and so you know we started off that way and then started to build our own products and kind of did that successful transition from consulting to products and continue to iterate with a really heavy product focus for a long time we never had big sales or marketing or anything like that it was all around product and building fantastic products and then you know I think as we've evolved and grown up took an approach to really try to understand why we're in business and what the purpose is and realized and started really operating under the purpose of building a company that is in service to the people that's around the company so this you know concept of the business exists for humans not the other way around and so really trying to push the constant questioning and the constant defining of enough and and and really making sure that what we build is providing a positive impact on the people inside the company and outside the company you know or whatever the company touches instead of kind of just letting the business run on its own for a long time and and you know just letting it do its thing without really controlling it so we're a hundred percent private it's Chris and I are the only two owners of the business we've been bootstrapping profitable since day one and continue to do so so you know I think that's kind of really been our our our North Star is kind of continuing that sustainable long-term business that's really meaningful to the humans that are involved in it yeah can you talk about that a little bit more because that's something that I'm I know a lot of people aspire to I personally aspire to that where it starts to feel I don't want to how do I want to ask this like that that sounds like that's a an aspirational level that a business can achieve once you know that the primary objective of being sustainable existing being profitable that is well-established then it feels like there's a little bit more margin and safety to kind of experiment with with that what what's your take on that or do you feel that it's something that you should put first and that that's how you accomplish it by putting it first in the beginning you know I think I strongly believe that some of that has to be in the core from the very beginning and I reflect on it pretty frequently because I you know a lot of friends in the industry who've done it differently and you know have grown and sold and/or raised you know lots of money business as we all know and respect and you know there's a I reflect on it to try to understand how when in our kind of history did we end up this way right and was it like always ingrained in us or did it evolve over time and I think you know profitability and sustainability is a goal in and of itself and that is it felt much easier to have that goal when we were starting out because there wasn't this pervasive culture of you know sass and tons of money and selling it and saying multiples and you know doing all this stuff you know we started out Beanstalk is 12 I think you know like you know so back then you ran a business like you run a business right you have to make more money you spend that was kind of you know how this whole works so I think there is I don't think it's a chicken or egg thing I think it really is like there has that there has to be something early on maybe even if it's not clearly articulated so I would imagine it's better if it's clearly articulated that says like what's our purpose here like what's our what's the goal and I mean that from like the people who start the business to the you know the founders matter right like they're doing it for a reason right let's not exclude them and their ability to provide for their families you know and just like having those conversations early on I mean Chris and I had really specific goals like we wanted to live really comfortably we wanted to build something meaningful we wanted to have all the independence and control of our lives you know to be able to do things and build things especially coming from client services work where you know we had incredible clients who we loved very much but you're still building for somebody else right you we had ideas on how it should work but they had their own ideas for good reasons and you know being able to do that for yourself so we had really specific intentions of why we wanted to run a business and I think it was later that we had so once the industry's become much more mature and everybody left and right is raising money and oh you're you know my favorite like oh you're just running a lifestyle business you know or whatever all these like things that would come out that we had to make a conscious decision about that because we we realized there was an alternative and that was kind of what it what happened but really I'm shocked that more often those conversations don't come up because when I talk to people who go to raise money there's a big part of it is either it's impossible to do it if that's not fair there's there's there's lots of reasons and that's probably a deeper conversation but you know a lot of times it's financially much better for the founders and the employees to run a profitable business that it is to run a venture back business and I think people don't realize how that math works and so there's a lot of art there's a lot of people who raise money thinking that it'll be better for their financial stability and future if they raise where you know being profitable is pretty cool and our margins are great and so if you're actually growing a slow-growing sustainable business it's actually much better this way yeah was there ever a point in the history of wild bet they that you seriously considered raising money I'm at Sesame no oh well we've discussed it plenty never seer I mean to me serious would be to start talking to people I've never we've never gotten to a point where we're gonna talk to venture we get a tremendous amount of inbound I'm sure and the I don't say that from a bragging perspective I just no no of course I mean you have a very annoying a ship but you know a a lot of the guys are respectful but you know some of them are but yeah I think we've done this exercise Chris and I over the years that we would go into our separate corners and we would write down how we would spend a million dollars in cash and I it without fail every time we'd come back and it would be like we may be found use for a couple more people was in here for had nothing here you know something like that and the result was like I can get alone yeah if I really even if I needed that right but most the time you don't and I think part of the difference again for us is I don't have a formula like a lot of maybe venture backed companies have needed to create of you know put one dollar in and pull two dollars out you know sales marketing funnel where it's super clearly defined and I just hire these many more people you know I'll be able to make this much more money our growth has been really gradual and I can't really say like if I can build this feature six months faster the business is gonna grow twenty percent faster you know I don't I don't know how to make that correlation I truly believe that most of the time that's a measurement anyway like you don't actually know that and so we've we've just never been able to clearly articulate how that giving up that control giving up that the ownership of the business would correlate to somehow better outcome for us in the end right and it also seems like maintaining that complete and total control just gives you so much freedom and flexibility and one wild bit is a very imaginative company like y'all were you were experimenting with remote work before it was cool Beanstalk long before code repose in the cloud was just like a given you'll do a thirty two hour work week so can you talk a little bit about those those experiments how they came about hey let's let's work remotely let's try a thirty two hour work week how do those conversations happen and yeah how what's your what's your approach to those sorts of experiments I think one of the things that's that we've been very lucky about is because we were in Philly you know we've been doing this Chris and I are for most of our suppose these nineteen years have been pretty isolated from the rest of the industry have lived with this kind of this feeling like this this audacity to just do whatever we feel like and that doesn't have to follow any rules and so you know if you think about the remote workweek Chris's first employee was a guy in Romania that he met in a user group and was wiring money through Western Union users I don't even know if the audience knows that so like before before Skype and so you know the there was like oh why not all right like what do I have to lose like who says this can't be a thing and and I feel like that's kind of continuing through our history the 32 hour work week being the most recent I you know there's a there's a story I've told her a million times and you know like we there was an amazing book called Newports book deep work yeah it talks a lot about like the brain's capacity for meaningful work and we had already started kind of on this journey of I didn't want anybody working more than 40 hours a week I want to make sure nobody was working nights and weekends and you know we were kind of on this journey already in reading Cal's book realizing the brain's capacity is four solid hours Oh like maxes out at four hours a day of deep meaningful work you kind of said I go what are we doing for 40 hours right and you know if you look back 40 is an invented number right there's no there's no science around it there's no real reason that they're right it was from the Industrial Revolution right like let's get it and so you look at that and you're like well then who invented 40 like I mean I know who but I'm saying like why right well what is the basis of 40 and again it's one of those things like why can't we work 32 who says we can't there's no there's no natural law and I believe we are governed by natural law only right there's no natural law that says that and if anything the more we study the human brain which is a muscle that is critically important to knowledge work the more we realize that without providing rest and rejuvenation our brains don't function properly right without providing space for our brains to subconsciously solve problems we can't make progress right so you study all these things and you realize that actually our 40 hours is pretty stupid and then don't get me started there's 60 hours right in most companies so you kind of start realizing like there's this there's more that can be done and I refuse to believe that we've solved all the world's problems already in the way we've defined it now is like how it should be forever but I really do think like a lot of times there's nobody there to say no to us and there has to be I've wondered about this too about Chris and Isaac I wonder if there's part of it is you know we've been doing the same thing for so long that we kind of reinvent it for ourselves too right we are the only two people that can't leave the business people will find other jobs and career paths and you know try to new things and Chris and I are kind of here forever until you know there isn't a while but I guess theoretically and and so we might be in just creating these experiments and these new products and these new processes because it challenges us a little bit right it pushes us to try new things and grow ourselves and that's really important for founders to do because otherwise we get in a rut you know and we get bored and we start looking elsewhere and it's like keeping things interesting you know I'm saying this and I'm thinking like relationships just like in relationships you know keeping things interesting is important so that you you continually feel challenged and that it's a little bit new so maybe that's why - I don't know yeah yeah for sure how do you I thought that Cal Newport points really good as well so how do you on a day-to-day basis think about those four hours that you're spending do you just is it feel if you just you know incorporated as you go along or do you have some tactics that you use to plan out your week so that you're getting your best your best self there's definitely tactics I and you know my kind of feeling is like we have to treat individual as as individuals so I don't we don't prescribe roles for the team I think holistically the tactic is we optimize for focus work as a company so minimizing meetings minimizing distractions making sure that everybody works in small teams so that you can get your most work done and creating flexible hours which I to me is extremely critical to be able to say you're you know you need to be empowered to get up and do something throughout the day that is important to let your mind refresh right it's not four consecutive hours so nobody can sit through that's not true it's very difficult to sit through for four solid hours but to be able to create that space for people to be flexible and again just constantly thinking about that me personally i shifts around for me a little bit there's certain days where i know my focus work is meetings because it's what my job is in a lot of cases so you know like my thursday for example is big meeting day lots of one-on-ones i prefer that because my wednesday is completely blocked off for thinking time reading writing you know just that kind of stuff so i you know i try to structure my day like that I am really methodical with how my meetings show up on my calendar so that I don't have you know 45 minutes in between for meetings because then it's like nothing gets done so I try to do things together and I exercise a lot it's important to me so I try to make sure that I build that in so that I can get better work done I found a huge correlation to my being active and my ability to have the good thinking like good processing so I kind of do that but it varies some weeks for members and others summer is I mean I have two kids and it's summer is different whoever's is talking with Chris this morning as I'm ready for school I'm ready for 6:30 a.m. I'm ready for the kids to be out the door by 7:30 I'm ready but I think it buries mm-hmm I so if it wasn't already if anybody's listening wasn't already familiar with with you and with wild bit it's clear by now that you are a very like creative rebellious type of thief thinker and wild bit as a company expresses that I want one thing that I think is interesting is that wild bit is a tremendously profitable business that allows for that creative expression not an artist's collective that is then struggling to find its way to sustainability so what are your thoughts on the balance between creative idealism and pragmatism and profits I mean I think both are so critical right I think we need this space to create without not without intention but without a specific purpose because then create that space and that time that we spend in that creative world enables us to then do really good practical work that that does make money our balance has always been you know let's work as little as we need to on the things that help us that provide value so that we can make money so that we can be profitable so that we can do other things and so that's that's kind of been you know we one of our values is be practical there's a really core being a while but that's like we're we're just we just want to look at things like as they are you know we want to look at them as they are in reality and say all right what do we need to do to provide value so that we can be as profitable as possible as a team so that we have this space to create so part of this kind of four-day workweek there's 32 hour work week is to create this extra day that people wouldn't have in other organizations to just be free to create whatever that means to them it doesn't mean everybody has to be an artist or a writer or you know whatever but like to just be able to have that space to create and then internally even during those thirty two hours we try to create enough space to be able to create but also you know who the practical lends to some degree like we do hack weeks for example every year we do two weeks a hack weeks at the end of the year and it's a great time so like we just refreshed after a year and I'm cleaning your head clean your mind and just go a little wild you know like do some things but you'll see that our team will come back with some of the coolest ideas right and they're not that wild right because they are still kind of practical like actually this could be really cool right but also really valuable our customers are maybe in part four or make the experience better and so I think you know I don't necessarily believe that a company is supposed to I don't I don't necessarily believe that a company has to provide that creative outlet internally as much as I believe that a companies will ride a marriage almost or a comment like with your personal life and your creative life so there's space for all of them so to me there's a lot I mean and we do we're kind of into this while but 3.0 thing that I've been sharing which is the next version of while but that you know over a long term may look a little bit different will look a little different where maybe we're not just writing software we are creating much more than that and you know I always joke that well maybe we'll make soap but you know like that's a whole different piece but if you take that away for a second I think what in order to enable creativity in individuals they have to have the mental space and capacity to be creative which means that work cannot be a burden right I mean I think one of those things that's really lost on leaders is that the burden stays with with people right after they go home so it's like yeah I can do a 32-hour workweek but if the work is heavy and I mean that you know if there's politicking at work if there's passive aggressiveness and people don't know how they're communicating if they're if the workload is really heavy if they're stressed you know whatever those things are like that creates fog and and distraction and you can be creative even if you are working 32 hours a week outside of work so there's this kind of I always looked at it more from the perspective like what is the the impact work is bringing to the whole person in all the hours not just the 32 and that's where you're able to kind of take that balance for creativity but you know a business exists to make money that's why it's there and our business exists to be as profitable as possible so that we can do things like 32 hour work weeks so that we can pay benefits so that we can have retreats so that we can do healthy habit path you know site then look we can do all this stuff right without that we can't do that so I think there's a pragmatic approach that the whole team has like we're here to make money and hopefully make a lot more money than we spend so that we can then spend it on good things I think it's what's really interesting too about that about that approach let's be extremely practical and very pragmatic let's have what's the least amount of work that we can do to make an impact it's interesting that you you know intentionally you're intentionally trying to unlock that like what a great thing for a business to do rather than what ends up becoming like the status quo at most just at some businesses the status quo is okay how can I stretch out this time so that I'm at my desk for 40 hours in a week so that it looks like I am performing you know as opposed to hey team how much impact can we have and everybody do as little as it takes to get there like that just seems like that unlocks a create like unlocks creative potential in people to begin with it's like better for the business anyway totally I mean the work is better right we're looking at things we you know we start with why you know we're always asking that question because in the conversation if you ever in any of our you know like what are they calls with the team or whatever it's always like guys you can't do thirty two hours unless we're working on the right things right we can't do thirty two hours unless we're working really well we can't do thirty two hours as our operations are tight right like those are things and if there's a there's a purpose behind it it's an exciting adventure right it's like yeah man we had to work 32 hours and can we get more done in 32 hours than we did 40 yes yes the answer was yes and it was like holy crap that's amazing what else can we do you know and I think there's like this the value for the business is really there it's clear it's articulate it's a lot more work and that's where I think it's a struggle right like it's hard work what we do like well you know to do 32 hours like to have the culture that we have but also drive excellence right a highly functioning highly performing team that builds really good products that customers rely on and care about and love that's hard and I don't think we're not perfect at it by any stretch like there's times when I'm not happy that we are working more than 32 hours because you know we're understaffed or I haven't hired the right people or whatever I mean like we're still learning as we go but the essence of it is so critical to be able to like make the business like what I think is meaningful and valuable to the world and so that's kind of you know I don't know which it but it's hard it's absolutely much harder than like hey if you sit in your seat for 40 hours a week I'm writing you a paycheck and if you can put yeah give me like 60% of her great we're moving on it's like I mean I worked in corporate America for a little bit I have a lot of friends and like regular industries not software industries and it's amazing wastefulness and just the lack of creativity because nobody feels good sitting and staring at a screen till five zero one so they can get up and walk away from their computer and so much lost potential to just in like the the people who were sitting there and how much unlocked creativity there is in the workforce own it I wanna ask a couple of questions about or talk a little bit about some of your products sure and so too if you're just in reading back through all of your history everything to be pretty fascinating that so two of your earliest products news berry and Beanstalk have totally different origin stories news Barry was user funded really like brilliant clever way that Chris got that got that funded which was you went to current crest customers how help me if I get this wrong and said hey invest in the development of this and you will get it for forever yeah some some of our consulting customers who needed the product it was an email marketing okay yep awesome okay and so that's how it got built Beanstalk you took that to people and they were like no way in hell you want us to like store our code on servers are you crazy is that that's basically yeah yeah but and yet Beanstalk has had longer legs for the company so what what do you make of that that news berry was you know validated in the way that you're supposed to Beanstalk was a completely rebellious idea so what do you make of the fact that Beanstalk has been the one that's been around for for much longer I to me our success and failure is directly a result of the people building the products right and down to like the personalities and the news barry was an email marketing service that was necessary for our customers that were doing consulting work which were restaurants and bars and they gave hugs and things like that and we as a business did not understand marketing did not respect my thing i never sent a newsletter or maybe sent one a quarter and so that product was so far into us and we had such huge perspective of it that the reason we ended up shutting it down i was making money and we shut it down we didn't sell it was because it felt like a distraction and we just could not connect with the user interesting Beanstalk was a product we built for ourselves and we used it every single day and we were obsessed with it and we had so much fun building it we had so much fun thinking up features it was on everybody's screen all day long because it was how you built software and so it was just much easier to connect with it as a team and iterate on it and get better at him and we were young right today i could probably see building a product for a new audience and studying them and understanding them and i think i applaud people so much you can build businesses for you know teachers and they're not teachers or for wedding planners and that wedding planners I find that so fascinating never been able to do that ourselves we've always built products that we use ourselves and it's how we do product development it's how we get obsessed about the products it's how we go you know we just go nuts right and that's the difference right it has nothing to do with the funding structure interesting yep it was really just the I think news berry was our first realization we always wanted to write build our own product and it was we thought we could do it better I mean email marketing wasn't a thing back then right I mean this is it's all weird and it could have been so big now uh you know we just we didn't see it and so but it was fun to play with a product on our own yeah and build it and that's where you definitely got the bug right was like all right this is what we want to do you know and then the rest is history yeah what so why didn't you why didn't you sell it oh goodness you know well let's start with this was 2000 god I don't know why I think ten Mamie okay I don't was so the point being there was no big market for SAS products like there is now right we sold deployed bought right it was much easier to do that it didn't exist so we had spoken very quietly with a few folks and ultimately this is gonna sound so silly but the distraction of selling it was gonna cost us more in time than what it was gonna be worth know that and that's totally fair that's and it was making money like I don't forget how much was making money because when we sold it and I wrote about it and I was really sad about it and we sold I wrote about we're like what is wrong with you and I was like oh man like we were making so much money with Bienstock it was like the number dude wasn't gonna be enough and then you know the other big problem is its email marketing so the technology that we had in the wrong hands could have really done bad for the world and I think Chris and I have always to our detriment just always been on the side of like I always want to make the internet a better place like it's always been you know for me it's like you know the the the leave the campground better than you found it yes we've always obsessed with how that's why we're not great at marketing because the direction that marketing went for a while over the last like five years is just to me is like polluting the internet and so I just we've always wanted to do that and email marketing especially back then I mean not that it's not now but it was you know before Gmail had really good spam filters you know so spammy yeah it's just like I was like what if we sell it to some jerk unbeknownst to us and they use it for bad right and and we just couldn't do it we're like it's easier to just pose it down well maybe the next thing the wild it could design to improve the Internet is a version of Twitter that's good for your mental maybe I actually did from your sabbatical it's terrible yeah Brian I mean I think you know we we experiment we use slack at work and her company that's like madly obsessed with reflects a problem right yeah so we actually did an experiment where we turned off slack for I think it was a we last year this year we turned it off for a month we almost always do some kind of experiment to see what foster cracks but the point was one of the things that we realized was how much slack is a procrastination enabler and it's this thing where like we get so obsessed with our devices and everybody knows this but it's the same at work as any second your brain is bored or needs to rest its flips to something else to distract it yes I was on sabbatical and I didn't touch slack at Twitter at all and when I came back I would forget legitimately forget and they come back every two three days and now it's back to every second I'm away yeah just once you get bored yeah yeah yeah good good good good luck to you on that one genuine genuinely what do you mean that slack is a procrastination enabler so when you have something that is it lives you know we're remote teams so in slack a lot of socializing would happen and in focus work you know it takes a lot of effort mental effort so they get into the zone and do some really good work so when that gets hard our brain is instantly looking for some quick fix of something and slack is always like this thing that sits behind you're kind of like in the back of your head like oh what am I missing and it's the easiest thing so when we kind of turn off slack a lot of people said it's one of those things where I was like I went to go open snack and we don't have slack anymore and then I went to go take walk instead and like I don't think I have to tell you the taking a walk is much more valuable than refreshing slack and so it was really this like whatever I'm working on is a little hard right now our brain instantly looks for a release and slack is right there and it feels like work you know so it's like it's different to say well Facebook is a procrastination enabler okay but like you know you're not supposed to be checking facebook during the day right so that's kind of like we can call that like whatever it is slack is work but it's shallow useless work right you don't need to be there and so I think that was the kind of interesting thing and I always love that quote like I think somebody my team when we heard about it she said you know I went to take a walk and I was like man I love that right cuz she before I would just flip the slack yeah yeah to me that's just yet powerful yes a slack slack Twitter and keeping your email tab open they all had this similar property that I mean five to ten percent of the time like there's some actual real five ten percent might be which in general there's some real value there like somebody really was waiting for you to respond on slack or you really did find an interesting article this one time that you pulled on Twitter or there was an actual email that you needed it would be so much better if if it were like zero percent of the time because then you would know it's only cotton candy right but because it's like this small percentage it just tricked to you and I not to bring a deep work again but like one of the things that I always really resonated in that book is a lot of like practical ways in which to enable that deep work and to kind of really organize your shallow work and and what I've found really valuable for myself was actually to schedule the times in which I do that shallower so yeah you can you can go to Twitter but like do it you know twice a day for twenty minutes and and there is and your same with email but there is this really interesting you're processing information right and so if you if you kind of set aside a time to process that information you're gonna process it and then you move on to the other thing what we're doing instead is this constant context switching so you're not actually doing anything valuable there could be valuable things on Twitter like there is like you know I use it for work and I make a lot of really great connect I mean I met you through Twitter right and so like there is value there but there's much less value in the constant checking and context with been plugging towels book one of his liked suggestions is to say you know scheduling your social and people have said that before I like scheduling your social time scheduling your shower or scheduling your Basecamp you know checking Basecamp checking emails you Twitter and they think like it feels very robotic but it's also super empowering because you don't feel guilty anymore right my email right this is my facebook timeout on Facebook or this is my Instagram tell whatever that stuff is for you there's less guilt around it and you can say that here my next 20 minutes are like when I get that you know just hang out scroll through Instagram and that's cool and totally fine and that's fine but you also put it to bed for the next hour because you're like I can't check Instagram now so like let me leave it back there focus on the word project that I'm doing now knowing that in an hour I get to check again yeah and doing it guilt-free is more enjoyable totally yeah yeah okay I want to ask so I'm gonna ask about conveyor because okay so it's your it's your next product mmm can you kind of just give a real quick overview of what conveyor is and where it stands sure so conveyor is our kind of next version of Beanstalk it is a tool for software development teams to enable them to focus better in their work so to enable individual developers to gain focus and to create that collaboration that feels more human and less with less overhead so you know it's a it's a client let me get client with project management built in but in a really human kind of human behavior perspective instead of kind of this more robotic computer perspective but and the reason you're asking about it is because we have been working on it for almost five years which yep yeah it's a long time a long time I could do a whole we could do a whole few hours on that and so it is in right now it's actually closed beta we launched it to the public received a lot of feedback and then we closed it again so that we can go edit right on that we are inviting new teams actually this week and next week see if we've made the right necessary progress to open it back up again okay so what I want to ask is having having that experience it's taken a while to get it to market does that does that lend any credence to the VC model in your opinion that sometimes ambitious products they take a while to build and to become profitable and the path that you might have to take is that you're yet it's gonna operate in the red for a while but we're betting that it's gonna end up paying off with a high multiple I mean that's what the VC model says and that's what you have effectively done internally with conveyor so does that do you see anything any argument there for for the VC model no I mean yeah to me that would be defending our massive screw-ups over the last five years and I don't think we have any and we've made big mistakes over the last five years with funny is like while but as an essence of VC only without the pressure like if anything maybe if you see would have done it better because I would have like pushed you harder I mean conveyers taking a while because we have postmarked and we have been stuck and we have wild but and we have tons of padding and we have you know it's just been if we had nothing but compare it would have been go to market much sooner it would have been made radical decisions much sooner you know I think I truly believe that it's taking this long because we've made choices along the way that I've been able dits take this long I don't think there's anything wrong about saying it is it is a very big product I mean I will say I have built lots of products at this point and it is it is aggressive we've showed it to some friends and they were like are you guys crazy like why are you doing all of us and we're like I don't know it just feels right like and maybe we're wrong and we'll figure that out but it feels right it is ambitious it's big it's trying to solve a really big problem in a human way which is where we get really excited it's what we got what we're good at but it's big and so we I see an argument for for creating that space for sure I'm a big fan of what's gone on in the kind of early stage funding for sustainable businesses and I don't say that just because I'm an investor in earnest but also just because I know I'm an investor because I believe in that not the other way around I think there's something that we've talked about internally which is just creating runway and space where Chris and I were extremely lucky that we had a consulting practice and we're super young right no kids no mortgage no anything it's much different if you want to start and build something when you're older and have responsibilities and there's not a lot of runway and so I'm into that a lot those models are kind of what bank loans should be doing for small businesses but destroyed they cannot they don't know how to fund that right my dad build a huge manufacturing business and was able to get loans right like lots of them for inventory right but he had accounts receivables he could leverage we in our industry there's not a lot of banking that's let's figure out how to fund you know how to provide loans and so I and these kind of less traditional they're not B C's but they're more looking at saying like how do I help early-stage they become more or less loans right and they give people that runway and I think there's something really valuable about that and I could totally see if Chris and I were starting out looking in that direction and saying I need to borrow money or I need to get into like a in DBC and earnest kind of environment to give me some runway but I don't believe that the venture capital Monnett model as it you know generalize and I hate this like as it stands would have made conveyor or would have been right for compared like it would have just we shouldn't be taking this long right look we should have a fire under our butts we should be scrappy as we possibly can we should release a quick you know like there's a lot of things that should like we should have been do it we should be doing if we weren't so comfortable in our current existence yeah that's that's interesting so am I kind of hearing under there that that the padding that you have and the lack of constraints on time of like hey we have no choice but to get this out in four months and it needs to start making some money so what are we going to cut because those constraints don't necessarily exist as in as in sharp relief as they might have in in years past that's kind of what is okay yeah you gotta like you don't work 32 hours a week when you're you know barely starting out and trying to make it work right like there's there's seasons for this stuff and we're extremely we're able to do this because we are profitable we're not paying people less we pay people more right we have profit sharing so that people can you know the team can be rewarded for the hard work that they do and and share in the upsides right so I I think when we built Beanstalk we were scrappy we needed it to launch the faster we made money on that the faster we could stop consulting work right it was just a whole different beast yeah conveyor was just it's not like that it's it's a bit I mean to be fair it's a really big product it's ambitious yeah super ambitious and it's a stock we weren't used to right it's not a web product it's a building a desktop client is hard and we've talked to a lot of people who till desktop clients and it is and they all take 2-3 years you know so we're not that far behind cuz we just also happen to add not just a desktop client also an entire like web app that run you know it's great but but could we have cut that by like two years sure I think we absolutely if Chris and my focus was strictly on kebaya right if we weren't also working on postmark cuz just a postmark is growing rapidly and so we need to make sure that continues its trajectory because most the team is there so a lot of our attention is on postmark not on conveyor they're running on their own they could use some leadership and some guidance we weren't providing that you know there's there was turnover on that team there was changes of direction we didn't go to customers soon enough it was just it's my goodness I could run you a whole laundry list of like shouldn't have done that but it is what it is and there was no fire and one of the things we kept telling the team is like the beautiful thing about what we're doing is nobody's getting fired at the end of this right we didn't come together to build conveyor we're not gonna disintegrate because compare doesn't if if conveyor doesn't work out right we are it's a beautiful place to be for yeah well who have been doing fantastic work for a long time in their lives right there twenty years into their careers fifteen years into their careers and so it's beautiful to be able to do that now could we have used a little bit more pressure I think so but we're working on it we'll get there we only have a few minutes left so I want to ask you about this quote that I heard recently on the debate of long hours and hustle and it says anyone who says you don't have to sacrifice anything to grow a company is naive anyone who says you have to sacrifice everything is dangerous what do you make it at I agree I think you know I've spoken pup pretty publicly about this around the dogma that you can build a super successful business working less than 40 hours a week and that anybody who works really hard as a jerk for working so hard Chris and I worked a lot at the beginning and you know Christmas my best friend's wedding because we were having issues and so I don't love that but that was a part of our lives I just feel very strongly that you don't put that on the employees in the team that's kind of where I draw the line but I've talked to a lot of business owners who have nothing to do with software and I try really hard to surround myself with a lot of business owners who don't have anything to do with software and it's hard work but it's also work it's part of why it's hard work and part of why you work so much on it is you love it and it's different and the upside is very strongly in favor of the entrepreneur right so I think like there's seasonality to that and early on it's a lot of work and later on it's less work and you're able to kind of clean you know and that's to me that's honest and I don't I really struggle with thee they're kind of when you see really successful entrepreneurs who've made it tell new entrepreneurs that they're doing it wrong when they work a lot yeah because I happen to know that a lot of them worked really hard early just unfortunate that I've been around for a long time right so you know I happen to know that we've all worked really hard and it's okay to work really hard you just have to find balance I mean I think the the bragging of working really hard as bad right you usually should really be optimizing to not miss your best friend's wedding right like we had a nerd and that's that's probably the most extreme of it right but it you know it's your but it's it's it's a thing that matters it's something you're growing and making great and for us too early on it was really important that we sustained it for the team that was investing their time in us you know like it was our responsibility to make sure that it existed and it's just a constant optimization to working less and to making that less hard but it's hard I think it is you should I mean you shouldn't give up everything always hard how can listeners find and follow you online Natalie just Natalie Nega on Twitter after we talked about how much I hate Twitter know I'm there nobody message her good I'm just gonna do it while be calm is the company page is where we talk about a lot of this stuff you know and Twitter is a great way to to connect my guest today has been Natalie Nagle Natalie thank you so much for everything you shared thanks Brian this is fun [Music] all right I really hope that you all got as much of that out of that interview as I did I really enjoyed ever every piece of hat that was there were so many takeaways for me overall I'm just inspired by Natalie's like rebellious approach but but practical pragmatic way of going about running the business so that they can do creative and experimental things this is a really interesting balance of rebellion experimentation and yet serious practicality just really I like that a whole whole lot there were yeah just so many of those kind of in like the intangible like inspirational takeaways from this particular interview that I I really enjoyed I'll be chewing on a lot of it I think for a little while on the you know on the applicable side of things I enjoyed the part of the discussion just talking about the way that they try to maximize deep work or facilitate deep work at while bit through minimizing distractions in meetings and which just naturally means allowing people to work and in long stretches of time uninterrupted and batching your work batching your deep work together and then batching your batch batching shallow activities and so I'm inspired to get back into a routine where you can you know close Twitter close slack do not leave my email tabs open all day long there's just no need for that check it at 8 12 15 and 4 and you're just not gonna miss that much there's definitely been long stretches of time where I've been pretty good about that and then you know it like just like day by day just kind of creeps back creeps back until you know it's just kind of a permanent permanent distraction again and that and that said I mean there are so many great things about slack it it it can be a distraction in fact it usually is a distraction but it also just it offers people a bit an ability to talk to be in a community with people from around the world that's a really great thing and so no need to throw you know the whole the whole thing out just because it's a distraction if you don't manage it find a way to manage it same thing with Twitter like this podcast I would not have been able to get this podcast off the ground without it and I'm really enjoying doing it and so I'm grateful for it I need to find a way to to not also inherit all of the the negative things about it welcome to being a grown-up I guess so I'll to say I was really inspired by that piece of the conference a conversation if you feel like you've got this like you know if you've got it cracked I'd love to hear from you seriously on this particular part of the conversation most especially if you've read deep work and if there are aspects of that book that you have pulled into your day-to-day work routine what else I loved the idea of work as little as possible to be valuable and I like that just by putting those sorts of constraints on yourself it does probably just unlocks creativity and unlocks this you know scrappiness within you to find interesting solutions that you wouldn't have thought of otherwise and yeah so big impacts with as little effort yeah big big impacts with as little effort as necessary I nearly said big impacts with small efforts but that is that is not quite true that the efforts won't be won't be small it's not that it's not that it's easy she even said like this is hard there's a really hard thing to do to work 32 hours a week the way that they do to put all of this margin in for experimentation and just putting you know like allowing the humans humans needs to come first before the businesses that's really really hard to do that means that you have to be extremely efficient and continuously improving your processes otherwise what happens you slip into you know 40-hour lesson or 50 our less efficient weeks getting less done and getting tired or overtime so I that it's Fila that feels like kind of a call you know to action could commit to being a 32 hour a week company [Music] and that means that you have to focus on the big impacts that require little yeah as little effort as as pot as necessary how can you how can you do that that's really interesting I think to think back on but it also I appreciated nataly's you know transparency about like yeah this is really really hard to do we're not perfect is really messy in here and I appreciate that kind of harkens back to what Laura Roeder was saying if you have sowed to go about comparison despair and that it's helpful for Natalie to say that so that the rest of us aren't like yeah why don't I have a 32 hour a week you know company spin enough you know millions of dollars it well because it takes a long time they've been at it for 18 years and and it's really really hard and they've you know made some mistakes along the way so I I also I still I continue to find it so fascinating that news berry there to product they've had many many products but to specifically we were talking my news berry and Beanstalk where news Barrett was totally you know validated in this really creative way going out to current clients hey you want this thing you can use it forever if you invest in the development and they didn't up needed to shut that one down or they they they just closed it down and it because they're they didn't have product founder fit we talked about that here before that sounds like I mean it was it was making money she said I was making real money probably many of us would love to have just you know to have inherited that that business but it wasn't who they were and they weren't using it on a daily basis they didn't understand the market and so even though I was making money like to put effort into even selling it that that work cost more than what it was worth and because Beanstalk where they are their own company they've got you know product market and brought I found her fit market founder fit it's just you know continuing to turn along over there so it means it sounds to even sounds kind of crazy to say like sell selling the company like just that day effort alone wasn't worth it to us that sounds crazy but like when you think about the scale like you know for me personally like I've got a maybe I've got like an old chair that I you know I could sell it for twelve bucks yeah you know and like needing to go and make the put the posting up on Craigslist or whatever like that's that's not quite worth it to me I will I'll donate it or do something else with it like effectively that's what yeah well but was able to do with a relatively are relative to many you know startups a successful product relative to wild bit relative to Beanstalk and the vision that and you know person post mark the vision that they had for their company um just just not worth it I laughed out loud and loved Natalie's answer to my question about conveyor and as to whether or not the experience that they've had trying to get it to market validates the traditional VC model and of course it's definitely not is I do think it's interesting though because it all comes down to constraints and I and not the funding model at all that conveyor I think she's you know kind of you know even you know talked about this is taken such a long time because they gave themselves so much leeway and so much of a leash and so that's that's just really it's fascinating to even think about they're like what you're saying I may be VC would have even been better because at least in at least in that scenario they would have had a runway or more accountability I don't they I don't want to put words in her mouth I don't think she actually said accountability but I think that the sense there you know like hey we got to get this thing out you know in 14 months or nine months or six months so what are we gonna cut what are we gonna start doing that would force you to to start making those kinds of decisions to get back to that kind of you know scrappiness and creative solutions that come when you are under under tight constraints and so is a founder i guess that that makes you think like can't maybe that can be you know one of the downsides of of going the VC route is that you know maybe you do get a little bit too much too much margin to kind of play with I yeah that's that's a whole separate it can be a whole separate topic but at any at any rate the the take away from me on that was I am man makes me want to be grateful for operating under the constraints that that I find myself operating under even when I don't feel like being grateful for them the you know the the judo move in it would be to embrace it and say okay well what am i what am I going to do to unlock some creative solution that I would not have to if if I were flush with capital and time that's not my situation so what I'm what am I gonna do all right as always I would love to hear what you think you can find me on Twitter I am be Rea that is B as in berserk arse and rough H as in hysterical he is an erratic and a is in absurd I would love to hear which think about the show anything stick out to you hit me up and let me know and as always talk to you 59:21 next time


If you enjoyed this podcast, you would probably like my newsletter. Every Thursday morning, you'll get a “just long enough” email with my thoughts on startups, bootstrapping, remote work, and mental fitness.