20Mile is a place where you come to learn about startup life, entrepreneurship, challenges faced by founders and how balance & discipline are key to a startup’s survival.

Will Fraser | Saasquatch | S1 Ep1

Will Fraser | Saasquatch | S1 Ep1

Four Engineers Walk Into a Room

 
 

Subscribe below:

 
 

Will Fraser, CEO & Co-founder of Saasquatch

Will Fraser, CEO & Co-founder of Saasquatch

This is 20Mile Podcast’s first episode! Welcome.

Will Fraser, CEO and Co-founder of Saasquatch, tells the story of how he got started, as a new grad with a software engineering background and founded his first company with three other engineers. His march took him on a number of turns which today is his SaaS company, Saasquatch: A B2B referral SaaS platform.

_saasquatch-logo-centered-no-slogan 2.png

Episode Transcript

20Mile Podcast is designed to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio which conveys speakers’ emphasis and emotions not available on text. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers. Please check the audio before quoting in print.

Mike:                   All right everyone. Welcome to the first episode of the 20Mile Podcast. Excited to be here with my co-host Gabriel Barcante and myself, Mike Williams. We're here to share a story about a founder and an entrepreneur, and their march towards success and big things. Today we're really excited to have Will Fraser here with us.

                   Will is the founder and CEO of SaasQuatch and Will lives here in beautiful Victoria, BC with his wife Jamie. Will comes from an engineering background and he enjoys hobbies, like drinking wine and cooking and hiking. I'm not sure if he does all those together, but we'll get into that, I'm sure. The team at SaasQuatch is about 16 people and they've been growing for about five years, is that right? Yup. One little other tidbit about Will, he has a superpower. And that superpower is to be able to talk intelligently on nearly any topic and he dares you to challenge him on that, if you ever get a chance to meet Will in person.

Mike:                   Now I'll hand it off to Gabe and we'll dig in with Will.

Gabe:                  Well, thanks Mike. Welcome, Will. To get things started off, why don't you talk a bit what SaasQuatch does and how you guys got started.

Will:                     Awesome. Well yeah, thanks for having me guys. SaasQuatch is a loyalty platform for the digital economy. Basically, there are loyalty platforms built for coffee shops and credit cards today. But as we've seen with the massive change in the way we buy and engage with companies, such as on-demand services, subscription services and marketplaces. Those ideas of simple-point programs or frequent buyers are not enough. So we've been able to jump in to this emerging market and show them how to increase lifetime value with incentives and rewards programs.

Gabe:                  Okay, okay. So, why SaasQuatch?

Will:                     Why SaasQuatch? Okay, so that starts back in about 2008, I think. I'm not particularly good with dates, but 2008 I believe. I was graduating from university, I was graduating and I had two job offers on the table and I thought, "This is pretty sweet. I'm pretty powerful, pretty important, good guy." And all of a sudden the economic downturn hit and the time I was working, mostly, around military projects, government projects. And so, those two job offers disappeared while I was debating them.

                             So I did the responsible thing that everyone does. I took the little, tiny bit of money I had left and I went to Europe.

Mike:                   As one does.

Will:                     As one does, right? So I went to Europe for about three months and I was wandering around with certain members of my family, my now wife, these kind of things. And I got a email, and of course, this is back in the day of the Internet cafes. And so, I checked my email and there was a friend who said, "Hey, I need you to come home. Come get a master's degree and we're going to start a business." And for those that went to school with me, the idea of me getting a master's degree was not particularly logical. I did well in school, but everyone knew that I was very happy to be out of school. But when your options are not much, you say, "Sure. Let's go get a master's degree."

Will:                     And so I went and did that and out of that mass degree, me and this other guy, my co-founder, started a company. And that company was called YUPIQ. YUPIQ was basically, "Get a sweepstakes entry for liking a Facebook page." Okay? Nothing crazy. We kind of blew that up, the wrong way. That took us a few years, we did our masters a couple years, took a few years to figure out that YUPIQ wasn't going to totally work. When I say not totally going to work, I mean like failure. It-

Gabe:                  So what was the wrong turn there, for-

Will:                     Yeah, it was a lot. The first thing was, we had absolutely no idea about the customer industry, in any way. There were four of us, four on the founding team and we were all engineers. We had heard of marketing, we had definitely seen ads and that was pretty much our knowledge. Now we were partnered up with another group that had some good connections and were helping us learn. But our first problem, the first real thing we did wrong was we were way smarter than our customer.

                             We were so smart and we just needed our customers to figure it out, so that they would understand how smart we were and how valuable our product was. So that was not a winning move. We did, there's the idea of a pivot. Well I don't know if it's really called a pivot if you just jump back and forth of the line a whole bunch. But we did like a flip-flop.

Gabe:                  Yeah.

Will:                     And so we started as this, it's interesting, we started actually with this idea we called, "Targeted individual barcode." Which was like, we were going to send you basically a customized coupon and that was going to get redeemed at the checkout, and that was going to be amazing. We didn't stick to that idea because, at the time, a lot of the checkouts weren't using imaging technology, they were using laser technology.

Gabe:                  This is 2008, 2009?

Will:                     That was about 2009, 2010. It was cold. No...

Mike:                   A dark time.

Will:                     Yeah. So whenever, we thought we were smarter than the customer, we didn't stay consistent on a vision. We would try one thing, we'd try another thing, we had a partner say, "Hey, we have this massive demand for this solution. If you can fix this little problem, we'll be able to sell you." They couldn't, we didn't follow the details, whatever, went down the road.

Will:                     But the final nail in the coffin was that we'd become entirely dependent on Facebook and the way it worked. One day, about two weeks, three weeks before Christmas, Facebook made a change to how their platform worked. That was, literally, the end of our industry. It just took away like 98% of all traffic to these promotions, it just destroyed it. Yeah. So that was the end of YUPIQ.

Gabe:                  So hold on, you said flip-flopping possibly killed YUPIQ over time?

Will:                     Flip-flopping, yeah. Now had we not flip-flopped, had we gone hard at what we originally set out to do and we'd really put all of our early ambition behind it. The two biggest players in our space, one sold right before that change and one sold right after that change. The player that sold before the change, sold for 600 million to Salesforce. And the one that sold after the change, sold for 380 million, something like that, to Google.

Mike:                   Oh.

Will:                     And what's interesting is, we started ahead of the $600 million company.

Gabe:                  Wow.

Will:                     Yeah.

Gabe:                  How was it hearing those news?

Will:                     You know, it was a definite lesson. We learned, right then and there, that when you've got something, you've got to go. To be fair, I don't know if we knew we had something because we had flip-flopped so much. But you've just got to put the pedal down. Probably to a level that's very uncomfortable, as a young engineer. But, yeah.

Mike:                   Did those other companies take funding? Is that something you should have done?

Will:                     Hundreds of millions.

Mike:                   Yeah, yeah.

Will:                     You know what I mean? Just so much funding. They had a confidence that we didn't know we deserved. I mean, we looked at what we built, from a technical perspective, and we could have trounced those products. But we just didn't have the gusto to go out there and tell people we can trounce those products. We thought, "Oh, they're..." Whatever, "Oh, you're working with Coca-Cola? Oh, you've got this award?" We didn't know there was 10 applicants for the award, we had no idea. So, yeah.

Gabe:                  Okay.

Will:                     Yeah.

Gabe:                  And then following YUPIQ...

Will:                     SaasQuatch.

Gabe:                  2010-ish?

Will:                     No, this was like '13-ish.

Gabe:                  Okay.

Will:                     2013-ish, ish. So what happened, post YUPIQ, was we told everyone to go home for Christmas. We basically were like, "We have enough money in the bank to pay your very small paychecks," because we were a tiny, young team. You know? I do remember the time when the bank phoned me, which is not a good thing normally, in my mind then. They phoned me and they asked me if I wanted an increase on my credit card. And I remember having the conversation with the guy saying, "You know this is more than my annual salary. Right?" And he said, "Well, you seem to be very good at managing your credit." I'm like, "I make $19,000 sir, I don't think you understand that." And he's like, "No, that's what I have on record here." And I was like, "Jesus, I'll take the money, but this is scary."

                             So we told everyone, "We'll pay your salaries, go home. When you come back, we're going to figure this out." And so, at that time we said, "Okay, who wants to stay? Absolutely, we have a network in the community, we have somewhat of a global network. You want to go, we'll help you find a job. This isn't a personal thing, you got a life and bills and things like that." And to our surprise, all seven people stayed. And we then gave ourselves one week to build a new company.

Gabe:                  Wow.

Will:                     Yeah. So we called it the Blue Sky Week. And in the Blue Sky Week, we worked for five days. The first day, everyone was just told to go research and come up with ideas.

Gabe:                  So by this time you had seven people, not seven engineers?

Will:                     No.

Gabe:                  Okay.

Will:                     We had... one non-engineer, maybe two non-engineers.

Gabe:                  You had embraced and found out about marketing?

Will:                     Well, we'd kind of found out about marketing. Yeah, I said that, we'd kind of found about marketing. We had learned some things along the way, for sure. I mean, during the time of YUPIQ, we ran promotions for major films that were coming out. We'd run promotions for international banks. I mean, we had figured some things out along the stumble. It wasn't just like, nothing. In many ways it was almost misleading, to the degree that we thought it was working. But yeah, so we'd learned some things.

                             And when we went into this Blue Sky Week, we gave everyone a day to research and come up with some ideas for what we were going to do. We put some guiding principles around those ideas. One, we said that whatever we do, the customer needs to be able to put a quantifiable dollar amount on the value we bring to the table.

                             So when you're doing like, "Hey, get a sweepstakes for watching a trailer of this new Quentin Tarantino movie," no one knows how much a view of a trailer's worth. Is that a penny, is that a dollar, is that... No one knew. We said, "Whatever we deliver, we want that ROI to be as clear as possible."

                             The other thing was, we wanted to make sure we were still working in the world of social influence. So, the whole idea of, "I want you to like the page, share the video," those kind of things. It's really all because we're trading an entry to a sweepstakes for you to use your social capital, to provide this product. Or to share this product.

                             And then the third thing we said is, we wanted to work with technology companies. And the reason for that was, our best customers from the YUPIQ platform had been tech companies. We were more technical in what we built. They understood how to implement that, how to use that. They weren't scared away by the level of power we were offering. Those where our three guiding lights and we said, "Burn the rest down. Just, it doesn't matter. We could throw every ounce of code away, you name it, burn it down." And so they had one day to research.

                             Second day, now remember, mostly engineers. We got everyone in the room to pitch, which is a super scary idea to most people. Even if it was just us in the room. And so, we put a little bit of a structure together. We said, "Everyone's going to pitch three times. You're going to pitch once and no one's allowed to say anything. Sit in silence, listen. Then you have to pitch again. Okay? Now people are allowed to ask clarifying questions, but there's no judgment in those questions. It's just to that idea, that genuinely 'I don't understand this part of what you're talking about. Help me understand it more.' And then the third time you pitch, people will ask you some more pointed, critical questions, to kind of test the idea."

                             And then we'd break and people would kill an idea, bring up a new idea, join on ideas. And we just kept running that, all day. At the end of the day, we came out with two possible competitors. And so, what's the best way to test a business idea? Three days to sell. And so the company got split into two teams. It became jovially competitive and we went about selling two products that didn't exist. That had no mock ups, no screenshots. You name it, there was nothing. And we gave ourselves three days to sell it. We said, "Whichever one we sell the most is the winner." Yeah.

                             So we went and sold five customers in three days. Five customers we didn't know, was a crucial part. And so, you could imagine the insanity of trying to sell someone something that doesn't exist, that you can't show them a screenshot of. And so, that's what we did.

Gabe:                  And these were B2B products?

Will:                     They were anyone who talked to us.

Gabe:                  Okay. All right.

Will:                     They were anyone that would talk to us. We put a pricing model on the table for both of them, both products had pricing models. And the thing we asked for wasn't, "Would you buy this?" The thing we asked for was, "What's your credit card?" Because we wanted to prove that people would pay us for this. And so, if someone was like, "Oh yeah, let me get that out for you." We were like, "Okay, hold. I can't actually take your credit card info." We didn't charge anyone, but we tested it.

                             What was amazing about those three days is within half-a-day, the first half-a-day, we'd heard the same three responses we would hear for the next three days. There was three stories that, if they would pick up the phone and talk to us at all... The product we were selling, probably I guess I should clarify. The product we were pushing, that won, was a customer referral suite. So, it was much tied to what we do today.

                             But we had three stories. "Built it, don't like it." "Use something that it's not really built for this and it's okay." Or, "Looked at doing it, realized it's a bunch of work and we didn't do it." We were like, "Great. Those are the three stories, let's figure up our answers," and we went at it. So, yeah. And that was then the formation of Referral SaasQuatch, our original name and concept. Yeah.

Mike:                   What was that idea that lost?

Will:                     The other idea that lost was more e-commerce centric. It was basically taking some of the sweepstakes stuff we had done and moving it more to a sweepstakes, I'm sorry, like a e-commerce platform. The challenges we ran into... Once again, like I said, our guiding principles were this idea of clear sight-to-value. What we didn't know at the time is that we were actually needing customers to understand that value, more than just show it. Which it sounds funny, but e-commerce sites, when you're like, "Yeah, it's $100 a month." For a lot of e-commerce sites, they're just out. They're just like, "It doesn't even matter, I don't think about lifetime value." At least at the time, I should say, not now. But they didn't think about lifetime value, they didn't think about acquisition costs. They just thought, "Hey, I've got a 10% margin. I'm making $3,000 a month and I'm giving you what percentage of my profit?" So that market wasn't quite the right place for us at the time.

Gabe:                  Okay. And thus, SaasQuatch born.

Will:                     Yeah. There's one part after that that I didn't mention, that we had to go through, which is where we had to tell our investors. Right?

Gabe:                  Right.

Will:                     That's a really exciting moment. Which is like, "Hey, I know that we just spent your money for the last four weeks, but I don't know if you know, some stuff changed real bad."

Gabe:                  Back up, back up. So, you raised money beforehand?

Will:                     A very small amount of money, but yes.

Gabe:                  Okay, okay. From angels or friends or family kind of round?

Will:                     Yeah, yeah. Yup.

Gabe:                  And then, you imploded the company-

Will:                     Yeah.

Gabe:                  ... and rebuild from scratch, without them knowing.

Will:                     Yeah, I mean...

Gabe:                  To a certain extent.

Will:                     One of them walked by the board room and saw us in there. You know?

Gabe:                  Yeah.

Will:                     We didn't hide it-

Gabe:                  Right.

Will:                     ... but we didn't go and show it.

Gabe:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Will:                     Yeah, yeah. It wasn't till we had a winner...

Gabe:                  Right.

Will:                     ... that we went back to them and we're like, "So guys, want to do it again?"

Gabe:                  So what was that meeting like?

Will:                     It was actually amazingly pleasant. I think that showing up with saying, "Hey, some bad stuff happened, but we took a week. We sold five customers, we have three months to deliver for the first one. You want to play?" Is a much better place than showing up with just saying, "I think things are screwed. I've got another job, good luck."

Gabe:                  Yeah.

Will:                     You know? So they were, I think... It was a much more positive conversation. Also, the PowerPoint presentation we put together was genuinely terrible, which we thought was great. But when we actually... So we've stored all the documents for those pitch sessions. All of the initial pitch takes, we have all of that kept. And every once in awhile we pull it out and it is insane how bad it is. Just unreal. But it's a good reminder once in awhile.

Gabe:                  Yeah?

Will:                     Yeah.

Mike:                   Who came up with the name SaasQuatch? Because I love the name, because it's SaaS, like software as a service. SaasQuatch.

Will:                     So in the of old days, the old days of SEO, domain names were still being used as part of your search ranking. And so, genuinely, we were trying to sell referral programs to SaaS companies. And we're like, "There it is." Referral, SaaS, throw something on it. SaasQuatch. We liked having a mascot, done.

Mike:                   Love it.

Will:                     So, yeah. That was our a formation, I guess.

Gabe:                  Yeah. And it stuck?

Will:                     Yeah, it stuck.

Gabe:                  Good.

Will:                     It stuck, yeah.

Gabe:                  So, it sounds like you've had previous companies before. As you mentioned, some lessons learned along the way. What's been your biggest challenge, so far? You, Will, as a founder.

Will:                     Yeah. Jeez, there's a lot of challenges. I think there's, when you're a small team, you have to deal with a challenge that you are... How can I say this? You're much more exposed than you think. So that moment that something... I've always said that the hardest part of entrepreneurship is actually your mental health. Let's say that in one day, you can close your biggest, best customer ever, lose your second-best customer, who used to be your best. Right? And then get a lead from a company you never thought would talk to you, followed by a team member quitting. And that's 12 minutes. It feels like that just comes at you, so fast. And so, I think that's one of the challenges.

                             But from that, I think it's really, it comes down to the biggest challenge that I've faced is when it's good, you just have to go like crazy. What I mean that, I mean is never sit back and go, "Oh, we had 10% growth last month. Let's let that ride for two more months and then we're going to go raise money. And then we're going to tell the world how amazing we are." It's like, you are on track to make 10% revenue growth that month, move like it's already happened for three months. And if it stops, everyone understands. Whoops. Don't lie, but act like it's already there.

                             And I think for me, that's one of the biggest challenges. With an engineering background, wanting to be very analytical. I want 12 months of data and a back, if it's not just some momentary trend. But no, I think as far as starting a company, when it looks good-

Gabe:                  Just go for it.

Will:                     ... just keep going hard. I mean, you need to play and get that moment that just... Just go for it. Yeah.

Gabe:                  All right, cool.

Mike:                   So as you were talking about that, figuring out how you manage yourself through that. Right? You mentioned mental health, right?

Will:                     Yeah.

Mike:                   And part of our theme with this podcast is the 20 Mile March.

Will:                     Yeah.

Mike:                   Figuring out how do you do enough each day and give yourself enough time to rest, and make that consistency work over time.

Will:                     Yeah.

Mike:                   You kind of went against that completely and I totally understand, it's the opportunity. It's time to go and you got to go. How do you manage through that without burning yourself out?

Will:                     There's a subtle detail in there. When we started YUPIQ originally, it was four founders. Literally, we worked in this glass office, we called it "The Fishbowl". To get into it, there was a porthole that had the word "duck" above it, so you could remember. It was a funny little office. Right? And I mean, just to give you an idea, it was so bad that four, 21-year-old men walked in and said, "We need to steam clean this carpet before we can work here." But we went hard. I mean, we went in, I don't know, the 18 hours a day, just get it done. If we push harder, we will be better. We didn't necessarily push on the right things, but we went absolutely, as much time as we could.

                             And it led to burnout in every team member, in some sequence. What's interesting is we then kind of adopted this concept, which is that, "It's a marathon, not a sprint." Right? And so we didn't necessarily speak to it as the 20 Mile March, but we started to adopt this idea that it's a marathon. We need to keep going. If you listen to or read any of the SaaStr blog, they talk about the idea that a lot of startups actually fail because the founding teams give up too early. Especially in a B2B product, where it's going to take three years to gain traction, typically. And if it doesn't, that's because there's a little sneaky secret, which is where they built the product three years ago and they just kind of launched it.

                             But quite often you need this two-and-a-half, three year window to really get it going. And that's not a sprint. You know? So when I say push hard or go hard, what I mean is not, put in a 24 hour a day. What I mean is change tact from, "I hope this is going to work, let's tweak product," to, "Go out, talk to the investors. Go out, talk to the customers. Talk about how this already is amazing, where it is going and go for it. Don't wait for that... " I mean, you need some data. Fair, and I understand that each business is different. But when you see enough data, push like this is the rocket ship you know it will be. But that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to do a 12/16 hour day.

                             Now how do I handle it today? Some days, well. Some days, not. I don't really enjoy the world of measuring output by hours, by any means. I don't think it's a great badge of honor. With that said, I casually work an 11 hour day. It is what I like doing, but now I throw into that 11 hour day, pretty much anything work related. So, even sometimes if I'm having a post-work beer with a team member that I need to talk about something with, I'm going to count that. You know, that's still at work, this isn't my free time to do whatever I want. I have a mission and objective in that conversation, that's work related.

                             But the biggest thing for me, and it sounds a little silly, but the biggest thing for me I've ever done, that helps me keep that 20 Mile March going, is that I have dinner with my wife every night.

Gabe:                  Nice.

Will:                     Luckily, I live a six minute commute from my office. But I go home, and I make dinner and eat dinner with my wife every night. Often that's at 7:00 or 6:30, I appreciate that, but it's a clear demarcation line where I have to go and I challenge myself to be present. I don't go and work on my phone for that time. I go, I put my phone in the key box as I'm told, and then I go and make dinner. I like cooking, so it's enjoyable. We both do. That's a big thing I've done.

                             One of the other things, and once again, like I said, I'm lucky. My office commute's very simple. I very rarely work at home. I very, very rarely work at home. I do. I mean like, sometimes stuff happens and you just need to deal with it and that happens. But I don't have an office at home. Intentionally, don't have an office at home. There's no place that's easy for me to go and just work for four hours. So it's like, "Okay, I'm putting my shoes on, I'm getting my coat on, I'm walking to work." I'm clearly choosing to go to work. That is one of the things I do.

                             And on top of that, I mean, I think that it's a lot of the things you know you're supposed to do. Right? So for me right now, it's running, it's meditating. My running and fitness is always challenged because I'm super competitive with my brother, so that competition. I don't want to be the one who... If we go for a run together, I need to be the one that's less winded. That's the rule. Right? And my nightly meditation where I can, I'm not a morning meditator, I know lots of people are. But...

Mike:                   Do you use any apps for that?

Will:                     I've tried a few. I mean, obviously the big ones are the big ones. I think at some point... It's interesting, I love the apps, but I love them as teaching tools. And then I love the idea that it's like, "Yeah, but own your practice." At some point, you should be able to figure this out so that you can meditate for 20 minutes if you need to.

Mike:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Will:                     Which is interesting. Learning to regulate one's owns emotions. As a founder, it can be an interesting battle. But yeah, those are the general things. But like I said, the biggest thing for me is making sure that I have dinner with my wife every night and just ensuring that I have some demarcation line.

Mike:                   Yeah, it sounds like you've built in some good practices there, around not having something at home, a place where you can work at home.

Will:                     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike:                   And then that transition from work to home. Right?

Will:                     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike:                   It's only six minutes, but it's like, "Okay, now I'm going home and I'm no longer CEO. I'm Husband."

Will:                     Yeah.

Mike:                   Right? And then being present with your wife and having that rule, and really living by that. You mentioned putting the phone away too, which is such a big thing.

Will:                     Yeah. Well, and then that's one of the nice things about cooking. It's really hard to cook with a phone in your hand.

Mike:                   Yeah.

Will:                     I mean, sometimes you got to look at a recipe, I appreciate that. But you're cutting things and you're using both hands, and it kind of forces you to put it down. Especially if you're having wine with it, then you're prioritizing phone or wine, and wine's going to win. Right? So you're like, you can't have that phone around as much.

Mike:                   Yeah. Having those habits where you're fully involved or fully engaged, and so forth.

Will:                     Yeah, yeah. I also, I mean, I did simple things. I think you'll hear this throughout your show, people doing this. But I've turned off most of the notifications on my phone. Everyone in my team has my phone number. Okay? I don't hide it. And my calendar, actually this is an interesting one, maybe I never really thought about. My personal calendar is my work calendar.

Mike:                   Right.

Will:                     And the reason I do that is because the team, at some point, might choose to get ahold of me outside of hours. That does happen, we have client issues and things like that. But for me, I'm showing them like, "Hey, I am doing something personal tonight and you should also do something personal. And if you really need me, make the choice that you're interrupting me while I'm doing something personal. Then I assume you've determined this is a very high priority."

Mike:                   Right.

Will:                     "But I am at a birthday party or I am doing normal, human things and you are choosing to interrupt that, and that's okay." I guess one of the other things I've done, which was really hard as a young entrepreneur. So when I was a very new, young entrepreneur, every single conversation I had was about the business. And the business and myself became super intertwined. And I had no ability to understand myself from the company. And so what I started doing is challenging myself, that when I was out at social functions, which are often with people in industry, to not talk about the business. If I'm at a networking event, fine. I'm going to talk about the business, that's life.

Will:                     But if I'm at... Victoria's a small place. You're out at someone's house for something and you see someone from industry, and they start talking about work. I challenge myself, not to shut other people down, but to like, "How's work going?" "Well." Let's talk about life because we're living life right now and doing other things. So that's some of the things I've done.

Mike:                   Yeah, and I think that's a really important one. Right? Is to create that separation. I like that. If it's a networking event, yeah. You're going to talk about work.

Will:                     Yeah.

Mike:                   But personal, because people do that, come up and they're like, "How's work?"

Will:                     Yeah.

Mike:                   It's the first thing they want to talk about, but it's like, "Let's talk about anything else."

Will:                     Yeah, yeah. I mean, I'll give you the casual, "It's great." I don't believe in complaining about work, but I'm not wanting to then tell you about the last six deals we did or this cool launch we did. Or I'm like, "That's a great part of my life and I'd love to talk to you about that, between the hours of 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM, when I'm in the office. Let's do that. But otherwise, maybe let's be humans."

Mike:                   Yeah.

Will:                     Yeah.

Mike:                   That's a great point.

Will:                     Yeah, yeah.

Gabe:                  So if you were to start today, what would you change?

Will:                     I'm a brand new entrepreneur, or just starting a new company?

Gabe:                  If you were to start, let's say, your company today.

Will:                     Okay.

Gabe:                  Yeah.

Will:                     What would I change?

Gabe:                  Either about the company or as an entrepreneur, yourself.

Will:                     Yeah. Jeez. It's a bit of a hard question because I just... The challenge being, of course, if I think back to when we started this, a lot of things we did were things that younger me needed us to do.

Gabe:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Will:                     Me today is a very different spot. I think I would really, really spend time thinking about my founding team and evaluating my founding team, and making sure that our values are aligned. And that our expectations and goals and interests align enough. I think there's a real tendency, especially when you're looking for technical founders, to look for someone who's willing to do the coding. And the problem you find is that, I believe, the problem I believe you find there is, that's not a technical co-founder. That's someone who's willing to code for cheap. And you should give them stock options and you should pay them the little you can, but you shouldn't assume you just found a business partner. Right?

                             A business partner needs to want to actually build the business and be willing to do the other stuff that needs to happen. So maybe that is coding, maybe that is some marketing, some sales. But if they are not super excited about the idea of building a business and solving the problems, that are finding customers and delivering value and things like that, then they might just be a great lead-developer or a great first-developer. But you need a strong founding team.

                             One of our investors, we were out for dinner with him one night, and he's a old Welsh man. Not that old, but he was old to me. I was 20, whatever. Welsh man, and he said... We'd been working, the four original founders had been working together for a little bit. And he said, "So, do you guys trust each other?" We said, "Absolutely. We trust each other. Yeah, we trust each other." And he just kind of looked across the table and just said, "Bullshit."

Gabe:                  Oh, wow.

Will:                     We were super offended. We're like, "You calling us liars?" To us, this was crazy. And it wasn't until we were actually at a moment where we were so busy, dealing with so many things, and we realized someone needs to make a decision that, if it's wrong, could kill the business. And I don't have time to be involved in it. I don't have the mental capacity to be involved, and I have to trust that you're going to make that decision correctly enough that the business will be okay. And that is a very hard level of trust to develop.

                             So I would really spend time on finding that founding partner. And like I said, big thing being alignment on interests and values. And look for someone who's a partner, not a free coder. I cannot stress that enough. If you're a business person looking to start a business, stop trying to find a free coder and casually misleading them to think that they're going to be a founder.

                             If you've solved all the problems, you have all the answers and you're looking for a co-founder, you're lying to yourself.

Gabe:                  Hmm.

Will:                     So I would own that, as a big thing. I think the other challenge is much more pragmatic, is I would really evaluate on execution. You can be misled to believe the idea is the only thing that matters. And of course, it matters. I'm not going to be so silly to say that a really well executed idea will always work. But focusing on that execution and that execution of product delivery, of scalability. And making sure you actually can execute it. You might be smart enough to understand something, that you can't execute. That's fine. But I would look at that execution.

                             I guess the last thing I would do is just constantly remember that you are way better than you think you are. It doesn't take that much time in an industry to realize, no one knows what's going on. And just remember that. Normally, you're looking at an industry and you're like, "Oh my God, there's this major player." And if you actually could just be a fly on the wall of that CEO's office. Just imagine how many times they're going, "Oh my God, what do we do next?" So just remember, you're probably better than you think or you're probably able to fight at a much higher level than you think you can. So just fight and check. Yeah.

Mike:                   Yeah.

Gabe:                  Those were some great words, yeah.

Mike:                   Yeah. That's some great stuff in there. Will, really appreciate you being here with us today and sharing your story, and going deep on some of the personal stuff.

Will:                     Yeah, no worries.

Mike:                   That was really great. It's been really interesting to get the whole backstory on how you arrived, where you're at and some of the challenges that you face. And so, I really appreciate your time. Also want to thank the listeners for tuning in today. Hopefully they got some really great information out of that, as well.

                             And I just want to encourage everyone to check out our other episodes as well. Be sure to check out our website at 20Mile.co. Feel free to follow us @20MileCo on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. And until then, just keep on marching on.

Humaira Ahmed | Locelle | S1 Ep2

Humaira Ahmed | Locelle | S1 Ep2

Season 1 coming in January 2019.

Season 1 coming in January 2019.