Launching ZipMessage w/ Brian Casel

It took me a while to draw out what I wanted to say in today’s monologue about our guest.

This will be his 6th appearance on the show. With this episode, we’ve covered 4 different SaaS based businesses, with a handful of digital products and one service-based business that’s still running, of which, I’ve never fully interviewed him about.

I really should since it’s the cashflow center he has to fund all of these business experiments he’s chasing.

His name is Brian Casel and he’s trying something new, it’s called ZipMessage. It’s an asynch way to share videos with customers & colleagues. Out of everything he’s worked on, I think this will be the software project that defines his career in the software business.

Just like I called it with Paul Jarvis and Fathom Analytics taking over his product world, I bet we’ll have Brian back on for a 7th time when he sells his company to Microsoft.

Enjoy today’s episode!


[00:01:39] Matt: [00:01:39] It took me a while to draw out what I wanted to say in today’s monologue about our guests. This will be a six appearance on the show. With this episode, we’ve covered four different SAS based businesses with a handful of digital products and one service-based business. That’s still running of which I’ve never really fully interviewed them about. I really should. Since it’s the cashflow center, he has [00:02:00] to fund all of these business experiments. He’s chasing.
[00:02:03] Can you guess who it is? His name is Brian Casel. He’s trying something new. It’s called zip message. It’s an async way to share videos with customers and colleagues. Out of everything he’s worked on. I think this will be the software project that defines his career in the software business.
[00:02:19]Just like I called it with Paul Jarvis and fathom analytics taking over his product world. I bet we’ll have Brian back on for a seventh time when he sells this business to Microsoft. You’re listening to the Maryport a podcast for the resilient digital business builders. Subscribe to the [email protected] slash subscribe and follow the podcast on apple or Spotify or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Better yet. Please share this episode on your social media. We’d love more listeners around here. Okay.
[00:02:46] Let’s talk to Brian and find out why he’s launching yet another product. Hey everybody. Welcome back to what I’m calling the Brian report. Brian. Oh man. Welcome back to the podcast. You’ve [00:03:00] clearly won the, a amount of recurring times on the, on the merit port show. I should just have applied for all of the products that you launch. I should just have a podcast all to yourself and everything that you have going on today.
[00:03:12] We’re talking about. If that’s
[00:03:13] Brian: [00:03:13] not a sign of failure, I don’t know.
[00:03:15] Matt: [00:03:15] What is failure show castles here to talk about what might be another failure, the message you can find zip [email protected]. I’m going to open this up. I think a lot of people know your backstory. If they haven’t, they can listen to the half a dozen shows that you and I have already done on this podcast.
[00:03:33]Why this product last time we. We chatted. You were just getting your, you were, you were getting that sort of Ruby on rails, getting your chops down on that, like learning how to build whole other platform and suddenly zip message appeared out of nowhere. How, why, when did it come about, why did you pursue it?
[00:03:51] Brian: [00:03:51] Yeah. I don’t, I don’t remember exactly when our last show here on a I’ll call it Matt report aired. It must’ve been [00:04:00] probably around 2018 or 2019. I can’t believe it’s actually been that long, but you and I have chatted since then. The, so a little bit of of the timeline process kit, which is, you know, I still run and still going that product.
[00:04:15] I basically started working on it really full-time in January of 2019, I kind of started planning it in 18, but really got full-time into it in January 19. Launched that to first paying customers by around June of, I want to say, yeah, 2019, and then really focused a hundred percent on that. Throughout 19 and 20 and into 20.
[00:04:40] And then at the end of 2020 you know, process kit just got to the, to that place where a lot of SAS get to where, you know, a couple thousand in MRR it’s really slow to grow. It has some. You know, so some, some challenges I tried a bunch of stuff and I’m still trying some stuff, but I decided at, [00:05:00] in around December of 2020 to just take a step back and start to open my mind to like, maybe I should try another product or two or three.
[00:05:12] And actually like back in, back in, you know, back in January, the idea was. Let’s let’s throw a couple of ideas at the wall and see what sticks, but there was really this one idea called zip message, which I had the idea and midway through 2020, but I, you know, I shelved it along with all the other shiny object ideas in my long list of them.
[00:05:29]But I was like, let me just try this. Take a little breather from, from really pushing on process kit, put it, put the roadmap on process could a little bit on, on maintenance mode. And and I went into zip message and, you know, I really liked the idea. I was attracted to the idea because a number of different things.
[00:05:46]First of all, you know, in, in a lot of ways, it’s sort of really every business that I ever get into, I’m trying to course correct from something that I learned in the, in the previous one. Right. One of the big challenges with process kit [00:06:00] has been that it’s a really big. Product, which means it’s a really big task to adopt.
[00:06:05] If you’re a new customer, like it literally takes new customers a good month, at least of. Of like everyday work on their part to, to
[00:06:13] Matt: [00:06:13] really, they have to appeal the process out, template it out into your system, if you will, and then engage people to, to use it. And I remember you and I chatting a lot PR you know, privately between the two of us, like, wouldn’t this be a great idea, like free templates to like kickstart that and nurture.
[00:06:30] Yeah.
[00:06:30] Brian: [00:06:30] And, and we have templates in there which really did help a lot in, in late 20, 20. Added the templates and put them like front and center in the onboarding experience. So actually since then we’ve had, you know, more customers, self convert without, without the heavy customer support load that it did have for a while there.
[00:06:45]And that, that continues, I guess it’s just super slow, you know, to, to grow and, and become a thing. And for those that don’t know, like in the background, I also have audience ops, which I’m not super involved in day to day, but that, that is the other business that I have that, that sort of.
[00:07:00] [00:06:59] Funds all the runway for, for getting into SAS. So it gives me a little bit of space and time to be able to explore different ideas which is, which is really nice. But with zip messaging, I really liked it because the first things that really attracted to me as the business idea is that it’s so fast to get value from, you know, like again, process kit is like, you got to really commit like a good month to get, to really start to get value.
[00:07:23] Like you’re automating operations in your business. Whereas with zip message. You could sign up and have an, an asynchronous video call with one of the person and you just got. A bit of value from this tool. Is that something
[00:07:36] Matt: [00:07:36] you, you sort of stumbled upon? I know countless products, services and stuff that you’ve, that you’ve gone through.
[00:07:42] And I, and I want to kind of break that down of like what your best, most valuable lesson is thus far in your career, but will you like sort of. You know, midway through or three quarters way through here with process get going. You know what I think I missed, I think it was that I think it was that quick, easy, instant gratification to a [00:08:00] customer.
[00:08:00] I feel like that’s what I’m missing and, oh, that’s right. I get this thing called zip message over here that I was thinking about doing
[00:08:07] Brian: [00:08:07] learned. It it’s, it’s never just one thing. There’s always, you know, there’s, there’s really probably like 10 big learnings that I’ve taken out of process kit. And some things that I, that I learned.
[00:08:17] That, that we did really well, but yeah, that was one of them definitely is that activation adoption sort of thing. The most common , churn reason that I hear from people is you know, really it’s so more of a challenge of, of getting new people to adopt it. Cause cause once people do do get like sign on the, the lifetime is really great and they actually do expand that they add, you know, team members and stuff like that.
[00:08:41]But they, they basically stopped like the people who turn, they, they basically stop using it after a few months. So, you know, obviously there there’s. There might be some like product market fit issues there, but there is a core customer base that is like power users on it and they really love it.
[00:08:55] So it’s sort of like a question of like, what do I do with that?
[00:08:59]Matt: [00:08:59] This is a [00:09:00] reaction to just like, it’s not even just whatever audio video tools to do apps and like all these other spaces. This is just everything. Every product in the world competing with that I need to, it needs to be instant or the customer.
[00:09:15] They’re out. Like it doesn’t matter what kind of tool you’re launching
[00:09:17] Brian: [00:09:17] here. Yeah. The thing that I saw with zip message that, that got me really excited. Number one, was that like speed to get getting value from the tool. Number two is it’s, it’s heading into a space of software tools. That is, is not brand new.
[00:09:33] So like loom is probably the most common call it competitor. And, and which, you know, lots of people use, I use loom as well. And so this idea of like video recording, video messaging tools, the thing that I saw with loom, and this was actually the, the way the idea for zip message came about was that I would commonly be on a customer support call for process kit, and ask the customer, Hey, I [00:10:00] need to see what you’re seeing.
[00:10:00] Can you record your screen for me? Can you, can you go use a tool like, like loom or, or record your screen and send me a Dropbox link or whatever you might do. And, you know, that’s a lot to ask for, for customers. Like maybe they do use loom, maybe they don’t. But it’s just friction there. Right? So I wanted to, like, I, I started thinking like, man, there’s gotta be an easy way for me to just send somebody a link.
[00:10:22] They click it, they come to a page, they could start recording their screen. And that was the original idea for zip message. And that’s what it is. You can, you can do that, but, but what it quickly evolved into was okay, they could re it’s easy for somebody else to record, but I can record my response right back to them.
[00:10:42] And now we have this asynchronous conversation on, on video or just audio camera, screen screenshot, or just text. And now is literally flowing down the page, like a conversation. But we’re asynchronous. We don’t have to book a live zoom call, you know? I don’t have to [00:11:00] ask somebody to get on their calendar, all that.
[00:11:02] It’s just like, here’s a link. Let’s talk when it’s good for both of us. And, and it just flows right down the page. And, and that idea of the asynchronous conversation turned out to be the thing that people are starting to really latch on to, you know, because. And that was a little bit to my surprise, you know?
[00:11:20]And, and I’m finding all these other use cases. My original use case was like customer support scenarios, but. All these other use cases are coming up like, oh, I want to, I want to use it to, to take requests for my podcast. I wanna, I want to use it to, you know, collaborate with my team, my freelancers, talk to my customers, or use it in a sales situation to have asynchronous video chats with, with sales prospects, hiring, like getting, you know, video responses from applicants and stuff like that.
[00:11:49] So, I’m sort of fielding all these different use cases right now, but it’s, they’re all interested in, I, I keep asking people, like, why are you interested in zit message? Why, why don’t you just use a loom? [00:12:00] Right. And, and they all come back saying, this is the one that has that, that conversation, like a threaded conversation view.
[00:12:08] And so we’re really sort of leaning into that. And I’m pretty excited about it. I I’ve been. Ha having conversations with, with customers like using zip message. It’s a
[00:12:18] Matt: [00:12:18] really cool
[00:12:19] Brian: [00:12:19] tool. Totally. It’s a really cool way to actually communicate,
[00:12:23] Matt: [00:12:23] you know? Yeah. Before we keep drilling into the product and how you’re approaching it, , what has been the most valuable piece of education to Excel your career?
[00:12:33] I’m going to bet that it’s learning how to. Amy, you always know, you’ve always known how to develop, but I feel like this progression into learning Ruby on rails and becoming a a better developer has been something that has really skyrocketed your ability to launch and iterate and feel more confident in products.
[00:12:52] Is that, is that true?
[00:12:53] Brian: [00:12:53] A hundred percent. Yes. Yeah. I love it. And it has skyrocketed my enjoyment of what I do [00:13:00] with, with products. Yeah, it has really, really removed such a huge barrier. Cause I’ve, I, I have been a front end dev my whole career. I’ve been a designer. I am a designer.
[00:13:11]And, and when I say designer, I, you know, as, as any designer knows that that doesn’t mean. Picking colors and picking typography. Like that’s just one detail of it. What you’re really doing is as a designer, you’re solving a problem. And so when you’re designing for the web, especially if you’re designing software, you’re really designing the whole system from the way that it works.
[00:13:34] In the database to the way that the user interacts on the, on the screen. And for years, I, you know, probably one of your mat reports, we talked about like ops calendar when I was doing that. And that was 2017. Yeah. Back then I couldn’t develop backend. So I had to hire out. Help with that. Right now, I, I also have a developer that I work with them and we can work really fast together.
[00:13:57] Another big benefit of being a developer myself [00:14:00] is I can collaborate on such a deeper, more productive level with him. He’s in India and we, and we are hashing out every single feature together. Not to mention working You know, like two tracks, like we’re, we’re able to ship twice as many features in a week because it’s both me and him working on it.
[00:14:20] Yeah.
[00:14:20] Matt: [00:14:20] So, I I’d say also one of your super powers, it’s kind of funny. Not to get sidetracked on, on products. I’m looking at our 2017 episode on the Maryport building ops calendar. And one of the channel under the challenges bullet point section there’s here’s a bullet point. It says there’s a side plugin business that is also being created from custom tools by audience, which I think was like your opt-in forms on WordPress, the content upgrades.
[00:14:44] Yeah, it just goes to show like all of these different things that you would fragment and spider out too.
[00:14:49] Brian: [00:14:49] That one was funny because we had that’s a pair of, of WordPress plugins. And we, you know, some, some customers bought it, but we mainly used it for clients and audience ops. And then I think it was [00:15:00] around 2018.
[00:15:00] I ended up selling those to liquid web. Which came about really randomly, but but it was nice to sort of just
[00:15:07] Matt: [00:15:07] let those go. I’d say also one of, one of your super powers, which might often get overlooked is your ability. And this is just something that I’ve admired your ability to do. And I just don’t know if I have the patience like you to do it, but as hiring people is higher as being able to find and hire and train people up to.
[00:15:25]To help you develop these, these products. I think that’s a skill set that is very difficult to hone over time. I’ve seen plenty of blog posts that are like, here’s all you have to do, make a couple of test projects and hire and go through 12 of them and hire that one person. It’s like, it never works for me.
[00:15:41] Works for you. You
[00:15:42] Brian: [00:15:42] know what? It’s interesting you say that because I think, I think I’ve done okay with hiring over the years. In, in, in certain types of hiring, but, but now I’m in a different place with trying to build a small team to grow this SAS company that I’m working on [00:16:00] now. Right. So, and, and that I’m finding a lot more challenging to hire for.
[00:16:04]I’m still figuring it out. I like, it’s literally on my plate this week, like a problem that I haven’t figured out yet. So, the what, what I’ve always felt pretty comfortable with is. Okay. I’ve got a service. I figured it, the process for delivering the service. I’ve documented the process. I set up the systems.
[00:16:23] Now I need to hire people to plug into the process. And carry out specific roles. That’s that’s what audience ops is. We’ve got a team of about 25 people, writers, copy editors managers, assistants, and they, they just kind of carry out their tasks. And that has grown to where we have like a, a higher level manager.
[00:16:41] We’ve got a sales person, we’ve got, you know, different stuff. So you know, that, that. I think, I think I’m an okay manager. Maybe not a great manager. I don’t know that. I’m great. Yeah. Yeah. Like building a a strong team culture something I w I always want to try and get better at, but, but my team there is, has [00:17:00] been with me for many of them four or five, six years, you know?
[00:17:03]Yeah. And, and that’s gone, that’s gone pretty good. And developers I’ve, I’ve had generally pretty good success with sometimes it’s initially hard to, to find the right person who has the right skillset, but being technical now makes it so much easier, frankly. I haven’t done it that much because I’ve just been working with this one developer.
[00:17:19] Who’s been awesome.
[00:17:21] Matt: [00:17:21] One of the challenges for me. When I’m looking to, to work with a developer especially in the past is I feel like I should be finding somebody who just cares as much. About the product and like the vision and the future as I do about like, whatever product that was, or is that I was working on, that was a lesson that I learned really early.
[00:17:42] Like, man, you got to just pump the brakes on that. A lot of people just want the task, want to get it done and do a good job, but they’re not going to care about the long-term vision of where you want to go. Is that something that you wrestle with at
[00:17:54] Brian: [00:17:54] all? With developers. We were just talking about how I’m, I’m still relatively new to learning how to build and Ruby [00:18:00] on rails, like backend development.
[00:18:02]I am still in a newbie. I could technically build an app, but the code will be ugly that like, I don’t have all the experience that that an experienced dev has. So. So it’s actually nice to be able to work with somebody who’s really strong career experienced backend developer. Like I, I I defer to him too.
[00:18:21] Like we have, we actually have a lot of issues in our get hub where I built and finished a feature. It’s all done. It’s working tested. Good to go. And then, and then I just pass it over to him. Just, just go clean up, whatever. I just built here, like, you know, fix it, fix all the mistakes, like and keep it work in the same basically.
[00:18:40]And then I get to learn from, from what he did and and so that that’s been really good. So mostly I’m just sort of deferring on the technical side to him, but I’m D I’m directing him and managing like w what we’re going to work on, how the is going to design, how, how it’s going to function, all that kind of stuff.
[00:18:56] Matt: [00:18:56] And one of the challenging roles, I think we can talk about it because I saw you [00:19:00] tweet about it is trying to find somebody to be like that. Content creator, video podcasts, blogging tutorials. Front-facing it’s quite a unicorn. If I pat myself on the back here, because it’s something that I do for Craig at Casos it’s been a challenging, I don’t know how long it’s been, but it’s been a challenging proposition for you.
[00:19:21] How’s
[00:19:22] Brian: [00:19:22] that? Yeah. Yeah. I’m glad you brought that up. I did. Want to talk about that. Cause it’s something that I’m looking for right now. Just generally hiring marketers in general. Right? Most marketers are really good at what they do. But I think these days when it comes to marketing, excuse me, that’s why I shouldn’t drink coffee while I’m in the tunnel pockets.
[00:19:45]Like most marketers. Who, who, who call themselves either a freelance marketer or a full-time marketer. Yeah. Hold on. Right. You know, most marketers are, are good at what they [00:20:00] technically at what they do, whether it’s writing or or using analytics or SEO, research, outreach, whatever, whatever type of marketing they do.
[00:20:11] It’s usually a mix of things. They’re technically good at that. But right now in 2020 or 2021, B2B SAS is. Just a really, really difficult from a marketing standpoint. And I’m mainly talking about like new entry, SAS products, very early stage SAS products like mine. Right. It’s just the, the competition is just insane.
[00:20:36] You know, it’s one thing to S to S to market and sell a service, you know, because you, you just need a handful of good customers. To, to make it a really viable business, but, but for a SAS product to break through, like really no matter how you price it, even, even if you’re pricing several hundred, a customer, even up to like a thousand or two per, per customer per month, like you [00:21:00] still need a lot of customers and a lot of traffic and visibility to make it work.
[00:21:05] And. And, and it just, and there’s so many other things that, that go into building a SAS product tech, like technically the product and all that. So with collaborating with a marketer, what I’m finding, I had a tweet about this today, or this week is I think it’s a lot more about brand than people like to admit.
[00:21:26] And we think about branding, like it’s logo design, or it’s our colors or something like that. Or you think about brand like it’s. Like it’s Budweiser in, in city field or something like that, but it’s, but for SAS, it’s really like, what are you known for on the internet, even, even within circles. And, and pop, like podcasting is a big part of that.
[00:21:47] Like I think to this day go historically across all my products, the number one. Source of new customers is hearing me on podcasts either in my own or somebody else’s right. [00:22:00] Like by far. And that’s one of the hardest things to even track and measure. But I know when every time I ask someone, 90% of the times, like I heard you on a podcast or I follow your podcast.
[00:22:11]And and so I, that’s not just podcasting specifically, but. I just think that when, when you’re talking about brand, like we need to be creating really interesting, unique things for the world for our people that are different, that are worth talking about that are worth sharing. And that stuff has to be more creative today than ever like, yeah.
[00:22:31] Like you can’t just put out the same stuff that everybody else is putting out. Like you have to, you have to have. New ideas. You have to be advanced. You have to be out there like making arguments for something, you know, you gotta be out there you know, advancing a brand new idea. And in, in a, in a, in a way that’s like visually appealing, that’s fast to get, to get it.
[00:22:50] Like, usually that involves, you know, video and and things like that. And so. So what I’m looking
[00:22:56] Matt: [00:22:56] at, can’t be just one thing. It can’t be one thing anymore, right? Like it [00:23:00] has to be the podcast. It has to be like at minimum it’s podcasts, YouTube channel newsletter, blog, blogs sort of fell to fourth place recently, but still like, you need to do it.
[00:23:12] And it’s almost like one of those thankless you know, like those thankless. Jobs or, or whatever, like you have to keep producing it. Even if people aren’t tuning in. This is the funny thing with audiences and content that I’ve learned over the last few years is. You better keep doing it, even if they’re not tuning in, they want to know that you’re still doing it because if you stop, oh, if you stop that podcast, they’re going to judge you.
[00:23:39] And they’re going to say like, you didn’t do it. Like, even if they’re not listening, they know, I know Brian’s doing a podcast. That’s all I need to say that he’s doing it. And he’s putting in the
[00:23:47] Brian: [00:23:47] effort, you know? It’s so, it’s true. What you’re saying, because like, Like I said, like, podcasts are like impossible to track.
[00:23:54] Like you could sort of see how many listeners you’re getting, but you don’t know how many of those listeners are turning into customers [00:24:00] or leads or whatever, whatever it might be. Or listeners referring other customers. Like that’s actually usually how it happens. Right. You know, you can’t really track that, but I know for a fact, I have this other podcast, I haven’t done it in a while.
[00:24:13] It was called a productized podcast is basically an interview show that I’ve had, it was off and on from my 2017 into 2018. And a little bit in 19, I think. And, and I would go off and on with it. I would do like six, eight months of it, and then I’d do a hiatus and then another six or eight months. And then it’s, it’s weird.
[00:24:34] But I look at the sales graph on like my productized course and my other stuff. And sales go up when I’m podcasting and sales sort of trend down when I’m not podcasting. Like, I don’t know, like the trend is definitely there though, you know? Yeah.
[00:24:48]Matt: [00:24:48] I want to put on girls’ hat for a second here. He would tell you, Brian, why don’t you just do the podcast, the YouTube, the content for zip message and hire out.
[00:24:59] The [00:25:00] development and the management of like the product itself. So why not? Why not
[00:25:05] Brian: [00:25:05] do that? It’s a good CR you know, it’s funny, I, I sort of joke about this lately. Like the more that I get into product development and, and code it’s like the worst I am at marketing and the less interested I am in doing marketing work and content stuff.
[00:25:20] So. That’s basically it, it’s not that I have no interest in it. Like, I, I do enjoy hopping on the mix and getting on podcasts, but I don’t enjoy the, the, the grind of, of especially video. I don’t mind going on camera once in a while. But I that’s, that’s one thing is the actual production work. I’m not that interested in doing, I don’t, I don’t think I’m very good at it.
[00:25:42] I could hack through something, but I’m not a professional video person. I’m not also, I’m also very much not interested in being a personal brand. You know, I know that gets, that term gets thrown out, thrown around a lot. And I think to a certain extent, everybody is a [00:26:00] personal brand, whether you like it or want to be or not.
[00:26:02]And I’m not denying that, but the company that I’m trying to build right now is a small software company. I don’t want it to be. The Brian castle show. I want it to be, we make awesome products and, and we put really cool stuff out into the world, you know? Yeah. That will involve people like, you know, my, my team myself on camera on microphone, but it should be more about the product and the ideas or the questions we’re asking to the world then Then then just, just me all the time,
[00:26:36] Matt: [00:26:36] you know?
[00:26:36] Yeah. I feel, you know, again, it just kind of resonating with what we’re doing at Casos and, and, you know, although Craig might not openly say it, like, I think part of the strategy behind it was that because he hosted the audience podcast, which is from Casos and now I largely do that along with a YouTube channel and all this stuff, and it allows that separation.
[00:26:59] For [00:27:00] him to just show up on podcasts and show up on the audience podcast where we just recorded one before you and I started jokingly. Like he only shows up when he buys something, right? So we’re going through this, this acquisition of podium another podcast hosting company. And when he, we acquired three clips, he came on the show and we talked about like broad visions and where the company’s going.
[00:27:20] But then the day-to-day is me. And, and on the YouTube channel, I’m largely showing off the products and where we’re going with the product. And it allows that separation. So, I totally get it. I’m
[00:27:31] Brian: [00:27:31] a different guy and hire for, and the other thing is I really, really love working on product. I like that.
[00:27:37] That is, that is me. That is what I do. You know, people might see stuff that I do on like, Productized services and other stuff that that’s, that hangs around on the internet for, for many years. But honestly, what I am is I’m I designed software products and that’s, that’s what I, I love to talk to customers and take customer feedback and [00:28:00] plan and build features that that’s what I like to do, you know?
[00:28:02] And that, that takes so much time and energy. That there’s no way I could do the production, but the content grind and do
[00:28:11] Matt: [00:28:11] that, you know, spearhead right back into zip message. And I want to talk about some of the, the, the challenges there in some of these wins that you’ve had. Let’s start specifically with the way you onboarded zip message.
[00:28:24] I think I heard you talk about this on your podcast with Jordan. Like, the way that you’ve done surveys, this isn’t the first time you’ve done this, right? Like you had this onboarding. It’s not just, Hey, I take an email. Off they go and they’re in the system and then you’ll, you’ll reach out to them when it’s ready.
[00:28:39] But you asked a systematic questions here, like, who are you? And you had one specific question. It’s not, is it, what are you going to do with the product? Right. When you get access to it, it was a question like that. Like tell me exactly and what you’re going to do with it.
[00:28:52] Brian: [00:28:52] Yeah. Let’s see. Let me pull up one of them today.
[00:28:55] See what, see what I actually had on there. So, so [00:29:00] basically the way that it works is you today, you come to the homepage and I haven’t yet opened it up for anybody to sign up for zip message. You have to sign up for the early access list. First, you know, you put in your email now, now you’re on the email list.
[00:29:11] And then on the back end of that, it takes you to this survey page. And the questions on the survey are First, how did, how did you hear about, does that message and vast majority of them say your pockets? What does your business do? What’s your role or job title? I like that too, to understand, like who, what do they call themselves?
[00:29:29] Right? Are, are they a founder? Are they a marketer? Are they whoever a manager, right. And then in which situations do you prefer to, this is specific to that message, but which situations do you prefer to communicate asynchronously and with who? So I want to start to hear like, and what I’m asking there is how do you currently communicate asynchronously, right?
[00:29:49] Not like, would you do this or that in the future, but like H how are you currently doing it? Or have done it in the past. I get a mix of different use cases there. And then which tools. If [00:30:00] any, do you currently use for recording, sharing, receiving video messages? Again, I’m, I’m trying to understand their current or past behavior, not like, would you use this tool in the future?
[00:30:11] And then the last one here is how do you think zip message might help you and, and be specific? And so that’s where I start to try to get at like, You just told me that you’re using these other tools. You just told me that you do a synchronous in these, in these other ways. Why are you even looking at zip message right now?
[00:30:30] Right? Like what, what is it about it that you, that you hope would, would be helpful for you? Right.
[00:30:35] Matt: [00:30:35] Are you usually this information to reinvest into the product? Or are you at the, at least in the early days saying, you know what, this person, they just might not be. Really, and they might be kicking tires, right?
[00:30:46] The old sales term, they might just be kicking tires. Is that what you’re trying to do here?
[00:30:50] Brian: [00:30:50] It’s mostly just research into the market, you know? Cause I started this survey and this list before, before I even really started building it or as I was building it. And it’s still up there [00:31:00] today. So, so really I’m just trying to understand like who, who are the people who are interested in this thing that I’m building and, and what are their commonalities?
[00:31:07] So, so I have the survey comes into my email, but it also feeds into a spreadsheet. I’ve done some like, like taking all the data in the spreadsheet, trying to. You know, group, group it like, okay, this percentage of people are in client services. This percentage are in SAS. This percentage are loom users.
[00:31:25] This percentage are not, or, or they’re using some other tool. Right. And I’m trying to see where the patterns are. And then that helps me understand, like, I’ve already done this, right? Like the homepage on zip message. Now I’ve gone through probably three iterations on the whole site already, just in the last couple of months.
[00:31:43] And. The F the very first version was just sort of like my gut idea for this new, this new product idea. And after getting feedback from surveys like this, I realized like, oh, there’s a whole lot that was wrong in the way that I wrote and presented the [00:32:00] idea. And there’s all these other really common things that people latch onto.
[00:32:03] I was talking about like the, the the, the conversational aspect of it, the, the threaded conversation. That was not front and center in my first take at it. And that quickly became the thing. So now it’s like this big animated thing on the, on the top of the homepage, that’s shows you that the conversation.
[00:32:21] Yeah.
[00:32:22] Matt: [00:32:22] You can get a feel for, you know, if everybody’s saying, let’s say loom, we’ll use them as an example. Again, you can bucket and find trends in pricing in their own marketing, you know, and you can quickly find out if somebody says loom, like, let’s say six months from now and you say, okay, loom user comes in.
[00:32:38] They might expect a free plan. Cause loom has a five minute free thing and you kind of understand. From a, you know, whatever churn and conversion ratio you can say, okay, a hundred people sign up looking for loom. I know that these people are gonna be the hardest ones to sell. Cause there might be expecting free and we don’t have free here, so we can kind of gauge our interests.
[00:32:59] And you just got to this
[00:33:00] [00:32:59] Brian: [00:32:59] stage right now, you know, we’re still early on, we’re recording this when I’m only about five months into zip message. So at this stage, it’s, it’s really more, more about. What, what should I prioritize? And what should I not prioritize in terms of which things to build, who, who should we be speaking to on the marketing site?
[00:33:20]That, that’s what I’m looking for in, in the surveys. And then I, and then I do read all the surveys and then I invite a lot of them to calls and I, and, and the surveys reading, what they wrote is a, is a way for me to understand, like, I have a few hundred of these people. I can’t talk to all of them. I shouldn’t talk to all of them.
[00:33:38] I need to know who are the best people from this group that I, that I should be talking to and, and reading their responses helps me kind of narrow that down.
[00:33:47] Matt: [00:33:47] This looks like the, and I don’t mean any offense by this of your past products, but this seems like the most simplistic, yet powerful tool that you’ve built.
[00:33:58] Right? Like, I feel like from what I’ve seen [00:34:00] you launch. Interface wise branding wise. Like I get it. It makes total sense. I understand the use case, the user interface. Like I was just saying, it’s super easy to understand, you know, what you’re going to press in order to get a result. It looks like the most lightweight, yet most impactful product you’ve ever you’ve ever built in a short amount of time.
[00:34:22] Is that yeah.
[00:34:25] Brian: [00:34:25] Yeah. Really? That’s what I’m going for with this To be honest. I didn’t, I didn’t know. Again, it’s super new. I didn’t know that, like right now you can call it a pretty horizontal product. It, it, I’m already seeing like many different use cases and different types of customers who were interested in using it.
[00:34:44] And once I saw that sort of horizontal nature start to. Reveal itself that got me a little bit worried about zit message. You might’ve heard on the podcast with Jordan. Like I, I was starting to say like, how can I niche this down? How can I talk to this [00:35:00] niche or that niche, and then really make that message, the tool for whatever coaches or teachers or podcasters or whatever it might be.
[00:35:08]I explored that a little bit, but at the end, but I’ve come around since then to say, like for right now it just is horizontal. And, and we’re going to see where this goes. Like it has, you know, a bunch of first customers right now. We’ll see how this evolves over the rest of the year. And then if, if there is.
[00:35:27] One or two groups that emerge of like, these are the best customers, then maybe we’ll double down on that, but maybe not, maybe we’ll, it’ll just be horizontal. And then we’ll have like niche use case pages on the site and stuff like that, but I’m sort of still still exploring. And there’s so much, it’s a very simple product in terms of it.
[00:35:48] It basically does one thing really well, this asynchronous conversation, but within that, there are so many little details. We’re not even close to having built everything [00:36:00] that we need to be building. So it’s like, yeah.
[00:36:02] Matt: [00:36:02] It’s of many products and, and this is the challenge, right? This is going to be the challenge for you.
[00:36:09]You know, moving forward, I don’t know of many, you know, paid for products. In other words, a customer has to go and pay for it that really can survive the simplicity of where the product. You know, starts off. Look at loom as an example, my God, there’s like 50 billion things that it does now. I’m just like, I don’t need all this.
[00:36:31] And what happens is the customer like myself goes, I don’t, I don’t need all of these things, you know, popping out at me telling me what I should be doing. Like inviting collaborate. Like I don’t need all that stuff. Where is the product that, let me just record that video and quickly share it. I guess the challenge is, is once you start getting to a certain.
[00:36:52]User amount of users, capacity network, capacity, storage capacity. I don’t know what the costs are internally, but then it’s like, [00:37:00] how do we monetize this play? So that’s another simple note is the only product I know that has survived, like being simple. As a product, but they’re also not charging for it and it’s owned by automatic.
[00:37:11] So there’s a billion dollars behind it. It doesn’t matter.
[00:37:13] Brian: [00:37:13] Yeah. You know, task managers are just, yeah. You gotta, you gotta have huge pockets to make that work. Same thing with loom. They’re, they have a very generous, free plan. And it is difficult for someone like me to compete with them, you know, just be perfectly honest.
[00:37:27]And, and I thought about doing free, not close to the idea someday, but right now it’s not, we’re not doing a free plan. Yeah. And you know, we’re, we are differentiating in certain key ways that, that a certain set of customers seem, seem to be perfectly fine with, you know, and I’m still experimenting with different pricing, but it’s But it has paying customers already and it’s growing.
[00:37:50]So we’ll see. I, wasn’t going to say the the, the simplicity thing is hard. Because, and I think this goes back to like choosing to get into zip message coming from process kit. Right? Cause one of the, [00:38:00] one of the challenges with process kit was like, it started getting first, very first customers like that.
[00:38:08] Just a very small handful of first paying customers within like six, seven months or so after, after breaking ground on, on the code really call it like eight or nine months. If you include the early research but it wasn’t until well, over a year of building features before process kicked got actually like really useful for people.
[00:38:26]Cause cause that product is so much more complex, you know, complex that like you can’t just have a glorified to-do list. As a, as a process tool, you know, there’s, there’s no reason to pay for that. When you could just use any other to-do list, you have to have the automations, the conditional logic, the, the, the reason why people want to use like smart SLPs, which is what process kit does.
[00:38:52] We need a really, really robust Zapier integration and all this different kind of stuff. It took well over a year to get there. And then even [00:39:00] into the second year, there were a lot of important. Features that, that added value in that. And then that’s where the, where the customer base, you know, likes to it has that like automations people who are super into auto automating everything in their business, they love process kit, but like, yeah, it took a good year and a half to really have a product to give them, you know, whereas like zip message.
[00:39:23] It was, I was able to build, I guess, call it an MVP. Within a couple of months, And and now we’re just trying to refine and build that, build that
[00:39:32] Matt: [00:39:32] out. Yeah. And you can see the excitement. Like I can, I can, obviously, if you’re watching the video, you see the excitement, but if like I can hear the excitement when you talk about it and your other podcasts.
[00:39:43] And when I see you tweet about it I can always tell the kind of good mood you’re in when I see your Twitter, when I see your tweets coming out, but even go down to like the branding. And like your approach to this, like the branding stuff that I put out publicly. You don’t,
[00:39:57] Brian: [00:39:57] you don’t see me like throwing chairs in here the rest of the day, right?
[00:40:01] [00:40:00] Matt: [00:40:01] No, but it, it, it comes across and like your approach to this product. I can tell that you’re, you’re becoming much more mature, you know, from, from when I first met you, which I probably say every time I interview a you at this point, cause like when I first met you onstage at WordCamp Providence, talking about restaurant engine, which was your, which was your original foray into SAS.
[00:40:22]You know, this one is definitely something that looks like you’re, you’re really passionate about. Like, this will be the one that, that the history books really write a big chapter on you about you know, it
[00:40:31] Brian: [00:40:31] seems like a well it’s, it’s funny to hear you describe that. I’ve have heard similar things from people like listening to the podcast and stuff.
[00:40:40]And, and I, I appreciate that really. And I, I, a lot of it, I do feel, but. Also at this stage of trying many different products over the years the maturity thing I think has leads to what I actually think is pretty healthy skepticism of, of everything. I think you do need [00:41:00] to go into a new product with a lot of skepticism, you know, I’m, I’m still skeptical.
[00:41:04] Like I’m still trying to understand that question. Like why, like people who are interested in that message. Like convince me, like, why are you really interested in this product? Like, why are you interested in it? I need to know that. And, and and I need to prove that and continuously, you know, it’s It’s just a process to, of like building confidence in like, okay, I think there’s something here.
[00:41:31] I think there’s something here. Okay. Now I’m going to really double down investments here and, and, and that sort of stuff, you
[00:41:38] Matt: [00:41:38] know, I think in a space, a final sort of final question thoughts around around this I’d imagine that. The pandemic COVID audio video, very hot spaces. Now that everyone was forced to work from home.
[00:41:53]I think the video space obviously is going to be interesting. Audio is going to be interesting. But also probably quite challenging was, you know, [00:42:00] building process kit out is probably just a lot of thought. A lot of logic. You probably don’t need a lot of CPU and infrastructure around this stuff.
[00:42:07] Video, I’d imagine maybe a little bit more right. And storage, bandwidth, conversion, all this
[00:42:12] Brian: [00:42:12] stuff. It, it definitely is more complex. I do have a great developer working with me. And I have learned a ton about handling video on the web in the last couple of months. It, it’s definitely a challenge for sure.
[00:42:26]There are some aspects of it that were a little bit. Easier than I, than I expected. And, and when I did some early technical research on it, it was part of, part of the reason why I decided to go into it and not be completely scared off because it’s video. I started researching it a bit. I was like, oh wow.
[00:42:45] We can actually do this sort of thing in browsers these days, which wasn’t exactly possible even like one or two, three years ago. So that’s kind of cool, but there’s definitely. There, there are definitely costs in terms of bandwidth and processing of [00:43:00] videos and storage and, and playback. And there are just reliability issues of, of making sure that every time you hit record, no matter which browser you’re in, it works.
[00:43:10]You know, we’re, we’re constantly working with users to, to, to smooth that out and, and make an, and, you know, you might, you might think that everybody is using Google Chrome, everything it
[00:43:21] Matt: [00:43:21] is. God, I hope
[00:43:24] Brian: [00:43:24] not. You know, I’m, I’m literally seeing from from the user base, the, the small user base here, was it messaged that it’s a, it’s a good mix of Chrome safari Firefox.
[00:43:34] You know, iOS, Android, like it’s, it’s a mix we’ve got to make them work. So that’s a challenge,
[00:43:40] Matt: [00:43:40] basic stuff. Brian castle zip, a sync video conversations with customers and colleagues. I love the fact that you have the little arrow that points to what’s. This led async to help define asynchronous, because I tell you that if I told my dad, Hey, check out this asynchronous video conversation tool, you might be like, what the hell is?
[00:43:59]He’s [00:44:00] not. And competent, but he might be like, what do you mean asynchronous? But he screen-sharing video sharing. He would get it. But I like how you define it there so
[00:44:07] Brian: [00:44:07] that, you know, and that came out of the feedback. Because the very first, I think the very first version of the homepage, I did use the word asynchronous.
[00:44:15] Maybe not in the H one, but somewhere around there. And, and I got a lot of feedback saying like, ah, I don’t really know what, like literally people would ask me, like, what does asynchronous mean? And then other people would be like, I, I sorta know what it means, but I think most people don’t know what that means.
[00:44:30] And then, and then I backed off of it for a while. Like, oh, it’s just for video conversations or video messaging, something like that. And I just didn’t use the word asynchronous, but then it occurred to me that like, No, like we should own the, the term async, you know, cause that is growing in popularity.
[00:44:48] Like people are starting to use it more often. So, so I want that message to be known for async conversations. But we have a little definition there for computer skills. You’re [00:45:00] brand new to it. You know,
[00:45:00]Matt: [00:45:00] Zip Request an [email protected]. Brian, thanks for hanging out and talking to us today on your podcast.
[00:45:07] It’s your podcast at this point go, go to dot com and request an invite and maybe we’ll see Brian again. Hopefully not, hopefully not. We don’t see you in another six months talking about the
[00:45:16] Brian: [00:45:16] product goal is to never be on that report. Again,
[00:45:20] Matt: [00:45:20] it’s amazing stuff. Everybody else, Matt to join the mailing list.
[00:45:26] We’ll see you in the next episode.


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