Build Your SaaS

A panel discussion on 37signals' first ONCE product, the launch of Campfire ("pay for it once, install it, and run it on your own server"). Ian Landsman, Tyler Tringas, and Justin Jackson share what they expected to happen before the launch, what did happen, and what it means for indie hackers and bootstrappers who want to launch SaaS companies. Is this the end of SaaS?

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I want to hear your thoughts:

If you listen to the episode, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts:
  • Can you think of a low-price, pay-once, on-prem software product that's succeeded? (The only one I could think of was ​Statamic CMS​)
  • Do you think a different Once product might have made more sales? What kinds of products do you think might work?
  • Did you buy Campfire? What did you buy it for? Are you using it as a chat tool for your company?
  • Other thoughts on our discussion.
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Timestamps:
  • (00:00:00) - "I appreciate that 37signals exists."
  • (00:01:58) - 37signals' influence in the bootstrapped startup space
  • (00:03:58) - What did we expect from the Campfire/Once launch?
  • (00:06:23) - DHH's tweet on Campfire sales – is that what we expected?
  • (00:09:49) - The Once model, philosophy, and Campfire's history
  • (00:17:21) - Misconceptions about what IT Managers want
  • (00:19:49) - How Campfire was marketed and positioned
  • (00:26:01) - Basecamp's PR, virality, and audience 
  • (00:28:29) - Can you do customer research to validate demand?
  • (00:32:01) - The volume of sales as a success metric
  • (00:33:33) - The Potential for Campfire's expansion
  • (00:37:37) - Distribution opportunities with hosting providers
  • 00:39:31) - The intuition behind HEY Email's success
  • (00:43:42) - The Value of an Audience and Customer Overlap
  • (00:45:12) - The Compounding Advantage of Longevity
  • (00:49:54) - Scorecard
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Creators & Guests

Host
Justin Jackson
Co-founder of Transistor.fm
Editor
Chris Enns
Owner of Lemon Productions
Guest
Ian Landsman
Founder of HelpSpot
Guest
Tyler Tringas
Investing in Calm companies

What is Build Your SaaS?

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Tyler:

I think said this on Twitter, I think, but I appreciate that 37signals exists. I appreciate that, like, some folks are out there that they have the even though you often have to say, like, you like, as you put it, Ian, like, "you, random bootstrapper, do not have the, like, tools, advantages, you know, recurring revenue to to execute this." Like, I'm glad they're doing it. You know? Like, sometimes it's almost like, it's almost like an art project. Right? It's like a commentary on the state of the software business world, you know, that I'm like, "I'm not gonna do that, but I'm glad you're doing it!"

Justin:

Yeah!

Justin:

We have assembled a panel here today. We've got Ian Landsman and Tyler Tringas, and we're here to talk about the post-SaaS world of Once only payments (buy once). We are going talk a lot about the launch of Campfire by 37signals.

Justin:

And, actually, Tyler, I'll start with you because you had a Twitter video where you were talking through (maybe in anticipation of the launch), what you thought might happen. Could you describe, before launch, what were some of your thoughts leading up to it? What did you expect to see from 37signals? And maybe was there any expectation that this might become a viable model for more indies? What were your thoughts?

Tyler:

Yeah. I think it's I think it's super interesting. I feel like the 37signals folks are like, you know, sometimes I think of myself and and kind of all of us a little bit. We're kind of anthropologists of these, like, you know, Internet SaaS entrepreneurs kind of, like, just observing the whole sociology of what's going on. And they're so interesting in the sense that they both, like, often have really good insights about, like, undercurrents of demand, but then they also create it themselves because they have such a big marketing presence and stuff like that.

Tyler:

And so it's really interesting. Like, what I was trying to do was to kind of, like, pick apart, like, okay. What are the trends that I think they're just, like, picking up on? And then also what are the things that they are kind of, like, creating within the ecosystem just by virtue of the fact that they are really successful. They've been in the game for a long time, and they're, like, incredible marketers in a lot of ways.

Justin:

I mean, what I appreciated about your kind of thoughts, And I think a lot of people had this. The question was, you know, when 37 signals says they're they're introducing a new paradigm, whether it's, we're getting off the cloud or whatever, It's not like that's just for 37 signals. There's this other question, like, is this for now everybody? Is this a new trend in bootstrapping, indie hacking, startups where, you know, all of a sudden, once, type products are going to proliferate in our space. And a lot of that's by design.

Justin:

They are like a religion. People follow them, and then people copy and emulate them – for good and bad!

Justin:

Ian, let's switch over to you. I pulled up the transcript from some of your old episodes with Aaron Francis. You guys have a podcast called Mostly Technical that's very good (people should listen to it). And, Ian, you are, you know, you're known to be a critic of 37 signals, and even you We're thinking, man, they're gonna send sell, like, 10,000 copies of this because of their audience. Like, you were expecting it to be big. Is that right?

Ian:

Yeah. I guess I would frame it slightly differently. I I would expect I expected them to sell a lot of copies because of, like, what Tyler was saying. They have our humongous audience. Right?

Ian:

And nobody's ever seen DHHS code, like, literally for that reason of, like, an app. Obviously, they've seen it in Rails, but they've never seen an app that he's built, how do you handle notifications? How do you handle when a user gets deactivated? Like, all these stupid little things. Like, what does DHH do Yeah.

Ian:

For those things. Right? And so I definitely thought they'd sell a ton of copies, mostly because of that, not so much because I think there's any actual demand for people to run a Slack competitor on their own, you know, servers. So I definitely thought, at least early, it would be the type of thing that, yeah, they'd sell thousands of copies because people are just gonna want for for $300, wanna see what d h I almost bought it. I don't know anything about rail.

Ian:

Yeah. But, like, you know, it's like, hey. Yeah. What does DHH do? Like, he's a genius.

Ian:

Right? I'm totally agree with that. So, yeah, I did think that they would sell a good chunk on just for that reason.

Justin:

This is what's so fascinating is that there was kind of 2 elements to this. There was okay. Is this a new like, is this the new model for indie entrepreneurs, like, everyone's gonna be having once products. And then there's the other side of this, which is, like, oh, they're gonna sell just thousands of copies Just on the curiosity level.

Ian:

Right.

Justin:

Just people wanting to see the code. You know, we all know folks like Adam Wavin and Taylor Otwell Who have sold things like this. And so I think part of us you know, there's some people that bought Tailwind Just to see how, you know, how does Steve Shoeger design things and how does Adam Wathan write HTML and CSS.

Ian:

Right.

Justin:

And some people probably don't even use it! They're just, like, looking at the code, and that was interesting enough. And, likewise, for some of Taylor Otwell's stuff in the, Laravel ecosystem. And they sell lots of copies. Like , we've seen the volume that they've sold, and I think in our minds, it's like, well, you know, 37 signals that the audience is just so much bigger.

Justin:

So one of the reasons I thought we we wanted to talk is because there's A tweet that I don't think people are talking isn't getting enough discussion, and the reception to it was odd to me. So, David Heinemeier Hanssen on Twitter, February 7th: "Once Campfire hasn't even been for sale for a week, but we've already sold more than a quarter of a million worth of installable software. The future looks bright For a world of software where not everything has to have a monthly subscription." So a quarter of a million is $250,000 sold in, whatever it was, under a week. My first impression was: "that doesn't seem like that much."

Justin:

What about you guys? What was your your reaction to that?

Ian:

Yeah. I mean, it's 800 copies, which is not a lot not a lot of copies. And, you know, I guess one big distinction from what Taylor and Adam have done, right, is that those are, first of all, they're, like, developer tools, not end user software.

Justin:

Yeah.

Ian:

And then also they are they have built in, like, demand generation where, like so the tailwind CSS documentation is, like, super number 1 in everywhere in Google. Right? And so people come in searching for things about CSS, and they're like, oh, they sell tailwind UI. Like, I don't have to do the thing I was gonna do and build all that.

Ian:

I could just buy this for $300 from Adam and boom. Like, that's great. Whereas this is Different. Right? Like, they haven't really built that up.

Ian:

It's like they're gonna try to do the paradigm shift through their force of will. But, like, if DHH stops talking about it, that's kind of the end of the marketing. Right? So, or, you know, if it becomes if it becomes a self sustaining thing, great. But if it doesn't, There's not really, like, a plan b to the that that I can see.

Ian:

Like, there's no SEO angle. There's no they're not necessarily even cross selling it. So Yeah. So I think that 800 copies given their size and reach is not a lot.

Tyler:

I I guess I agree. Yeah. I mean, I also had another category of just sort of, like, you know, we're talking about where we kind of expected, like, kind of, like, inorganic sales. Right? Like, things that are not, like, the true, actual customer, you know, who is exactly what's being targeted.

Tyler:

I also thought that, like, just the price point alone and given that they're targeting Slack, you'd have a lot of people buy it just to just to try it out. You know what I mean? In sense that, like, you know, maybe I'm not even sold on it, but for $300, I'll buy it, install it, and see because we spend $40,000 a year on Slack. So it's like, you know, even if I try it and throw it away, it's worth are working it out. So I kind of expected there to be, like, all sorts of random pockets of of demand.

Tyler:

And yeah. I mean, I guess it's pretty low. I guess I haven't it's it's less than I would have guessed. I would have definitely have guessed 1,000 in within a week. Yeah.

Justin:

Yeah. And especially for that price point. I mean, people were also guessing. They thought they thought it would cost a1000 or 3000, and then when the price came out, that was 300. It was like, oh, well, that seems you know, that is a no brainer for anyone who's interested.

Tyler:

Did any of us buy it? Did you buy it? No.

Justin:

No. There's people on my team that said, oh, my a friend bought it and showed me the code. So maybe there's some of that going on too. Like, That was the

Ian:

People stealing the code. They're in the they're in the streets where I spent my whole career. They're in the streets. People are stealing your shit and sharing it. DHH.

Ian:

That's what's going on.

Justin:

They're just they're getting robbed.

Ian:

Yes. They are.

Justin:

I mean, the there's a there's a couple different ways we could go here. I think people are gonna want us to talk about was this marketed well, was this positioned well. I I think the other thing to to just also emphasize is that, this idea of once. I mean, this has been around for a long, long time. Right.

Justin:

And even from the original base camp, I remember, like, an old old hacker news thread where someone had built an open source version of Basecamp that you could deploy yourself.

Ian:

Mhmm.

Justin:

And at the time, as an ardent 37 signals fanboy, I was, like, defending them in the comments saying, well, look at this. You know, this is not gonna affect 37 signals at all. You know, these open source host on your own, options don't you know, they don't. People want SAS mostly for the customer support and just to not have to worry about all the upgrades and everything else. But this is not a new model.

Justin:

I mean, statamic is

Ian:

a It's the original model.

Justin:

Yes. The original model. Yes.

Ian:

Right? It's, like, from the eighties. Like, you sell software one time. And, like, maybe when I do version 2, like, I'll sell it to you, and maybe you get a discount because you bought version 1 or whatever. Like, that's the original model of selling software.

Ian:

This is it.

Tyler:

Yeah. Yeah. Ian, what do you think about that? You mentioned, like, you're, like, oh, surprised, like, people are are stealing it. What do you think about I think, like, you probably know more than any of us about, like, technically, how would so maybe that explains, like, the folks who just wanna see the code.

Tyler:

Maybe, like, one Right. Some, like, threw it up on a GitHub repo, and everyone's looking at it in saving a $300, but, like, what are the options here for if that is, like, a big problem and explains, you know, a lot of the nonsales like, what can they do about that? Beside I just read the license just kinda says, like, don't do it. Right? But, like, practically speaking, had

Ian:

That's, like, pretty much it. I mean, you can do more. This all stems from a core problem, which is that they're I mean, I guess if they're just building software for developers to see DHH's code, that's a certain thing. Right? But I assume that's not really What they're trying to do.

Ian:

And according to the ones.com homepage, it's not what they're trying to do. But the ones.com homepage is extremely sort of It's just wrong about a lot of things in the market. Mhmm. And so I mean, just just so people who don't know, like, I've sold an on premise help desk application for 20 years. It's a similar to conceptually to this, right, where it's like a b to b piece of software and people install it, and you give it to their end users to perform some kind of function, whether that's chat.

Ian:

In my case, that's customer support. Right? So, Yeah. So in terms of stealing it, there's nothing you can do. The way the way you get around stealing it is that what people really want is the support kind of like Justin said there, and, like, that's a huge part of it.

Ian:

Like, they want every release. They when you when they come to you for support, you can check to make sure they actually have bought a license. And you pretty much just don't care about the people stealing it because, like, they're not customers anyway, they weren't gonna buy it anyway, and you kinda move on with your life. Like, you could play the there is, you know, stuff you can to do and have it call home and blah blah. But, like, in the end, it tends to not be worth the hassle of implementing all that because there's nothing you can do anyway, Especially on, like, a $300 piece of software.

Ian:

It's not like, you know, a $100,000 piece of software. Maybe I'm gonna try to sue somebody or whatever. It's like There's nothing I'm gonna do about this, so I just I'm gonna ride that out.

Justin:

Well, let's get it. I I think the other thing the other way you solve that problem is volume. Right. So I'm sure lots of people are stealing Tailwind UI, but, Adam and company are just getting so much volume that it really doesn't matter. It's just whoever's stealing it, there's just enough, people in the pipeline that want it and will pay for it, You know, in the same way, you know, that, I mean, other things work this way too.

Justin:

There's always gonna be a percentage of folks that steal it, but if you've got enough people that are actively waking up every day and paying for it, then it doesn't matter.

Ian:

And most people wanna pay. Like, it's just like the music industry. Right? Like, the music industry made music Cheap enough that people stop stealing it. Like, I'm sure Napster still exists or whatever.

Ian:

Right? There's probably somewhere you can go and download music As m p threes, I have no idea. Right?

Justin:

Yeah.

Ian:

But I don't nobody does because it's like, well, for $5 a month, I just get all the music ever made, and I don't have to, like, get hacked or get weird versions or all that stuff. They just solved it by lining up the demand and the the pricing right and That, you know, it's that, like There's

Justin:

also an argument that some piracy is good. Like

Ian:

Sure.

Justin:

My 18 year old may or may not be Pirating a well known software by a company named, runs with Abobi. But, eventually, you know, people who pirate when they're teenagers, For example, graduate, get jobs, and then ask their boss to buy a license. And I my guess is actually that paid off for Adobe. I think, it's ended up being better for them that, you know, people pirate their stuff when they're poor and in college.

Ian:

Well, it's a whole that's a whole theory behind, like, how Microsoft Part of why they became dominant in, like, the eighties nineties was because, like, everybody got word at work. Everybody brought word home and used word at home from their, like, Essentially stolen work copy, and that was, like, part of what drove the, like, well, if I buy a Windows computer, I don't have to buy, like, software for it. Like, I can bring my software from work home and, like, that was all part of that where they crushed everybody there for a period of time.

Justin:

Eventually, everyone you know, somewhere around 30 when you've got kids And you're just tired of pirating stuff. You're just like, okay. We're just paying for stuff at home, at work, wherever. The the tired dad thing goes in, and it's like, okay. We're just paying for cable.

Justin:

Goddamn

Ian:

it. Yeah.

Justin:

Let's let's get into your theory, Ian, why why what did they get wrong about on especially on the once.com homepage? What do you what do you kinda think they got wrong about, buy once, install, host yourself.

Ian:

How many IT managers do you think they've actually talked to? Not like software developers who do some DevOps, But, like, somebody down in the dungeon of IT at a college. Right? Like, I don't think they've talked to many. Maybe none.

Ian:

Right? And so, like, the one lie we don't have to go through the whole website, but I feel like the one line purposely encapsulates it, which is IT IT departments are hungry to run their own IT again, Tired of being subvert subservient to Big Tex rain clouds. And I just like, literally, All of that is completely wrong. Like, it's just wrong. Like, there's no like, you could parse it.

Ian:

You could I mean, I've talked to literally thousands of IT managers, and I've sold to them for 20 years, and I've watched as they all started on premise, and every single one of them was like, you You have to have a cloud version. We have to leave your platform if you don't cloud version. Okay. So we built the cloud version. Right?

Ian:

We did that all the way through to today when now it's, like, maybe 20% of our sales or Probably less honestly is on premise in terms of new sales. Mhmm. And it's like, yeah, there are reasons to be on premise. Like, Chase Manhattan just had a thing, right, where they have 60,000 IT people managing their security and okay. Great.

Ian:

Like, you're a bank. You wanna run your own security. You have a lot of regulatory reasons to do that. Yeah. We have bank customers.

Ian:

They have huge IT departments that run physical servers and manage them and great. Fine. Yes. They want on premise software. Totally great.

Ian:

But the vast majority of IT manager don't want it, especially for something like an end user app. That's like something they're not dealing with. They don't wanna be responsible for it. They wanna focus on their network security, on the physical security, on device security. Like, they're not Like, oh, man, Slack that we pay.

Ian:

And, again, even, like, the stuff that comes up with, oh, $100,000 for Slack, whatever, most people are pay not paying off of Slack. Right? You're paying a $100, $200, $500, $1,000. Yeah. Like, at $1,000 let's say you have $1,000 a month for Slack.

Ian:

If I'm gonna switch it with the on premise version, like, I gotta have a server. I gotta have somebody responsible for it 247365. Because if it goes down, I'm gonna be the one who gets yelled at. Right? If the CEO is trying to Slack somebody, and my homegrown Slack thing by DHH is down.

Justin:

Yeah.

Ian:

Well, now I'm in trouble. Right now, this is this is my problem. Yeah. And why did I do it? And what's my answer for why did I do it?

Ian:

Well, we saved $10,000 a year. Yeah. That's a shitty answer. Nobody wants to hear that answer. Right?

Ian:

That's not a good answer. And so, you know, it's just not real. And then even the the cloud, Like, even the things they're doing, IT managers are moving away from physical servers. They're still going to cloud services. Right?

Ian:

Even the things that are on premise are We now have an Azure cluster of 70 servers or a 1000 servers or whatever it is. Right? Like so it's just You know, I do think there is some stuff out there where, like, architectural things, there's some demand for on premise that's switched. Like, you wanna run Elasticsearch And you want it deployed into your network and things like that. I think there's some demand for that kind of stuff, but It's it's and even those even those, when you see those, they're still fully managed by those companies.

Ian:

Yeah. So, like, single Thor, Elasticsearch. Like, yes, you can have them deployed in your VPC on AWS, but you are not responsible for any of it. All that's getting you is, like, basically networking. So it's in your network.

Ian:

Some of them maybe give you access to the server. Some definitely don't. They are the The vendor is still, like, performing all the security updates, managing the system, all that stuff. Like, the IT managers are not doing that stuff. So That's just why I feel like their whole premise was like, this sounds like a good idea.

Ian:

People are tired of paying for SaaS, which I don't even believe is true. And but let's just say you think that and I just think it's a faulty that there's a huge demand by IT departments to get rid of an app that On average, it's probably, like, a $200 a month cost for the average install and, like, for very little upside and a lot of risk. I just don't think that's That's true, many more.

Justin:

Ian, while you were talking, you were just bringing back waves of past trauma For me, where I convinced my boss to let me install replace our phone system With an on premise PBX open source software, put put the computer in a closet, and I will manage it for are

Ian:

both there. 365 days a year. I think it was wrong.

Justin:

Just a nightmare. Just it turns out there was a open security vulnerability I didn't know about. This thing just got hit by denial of service attacks, brought down our whole phone system, constantly had to hire some, You know, some guy that knew how to fix it, and it took him all day. It was just a nightmare. And every time the phones didn't work, I was I got called.

Ian:

That's you. You made that call to save a $1,000 or whatever it was. Right? And, like well, that's the thing. I mean, even that whole premise of, like, it's never been Easier to run a server.

Ian:

Like, yes. Asterisk. Like, that's true. Mhmm. You can spin up a server, and it is spun up in a relatively secure state.

Ian:

Totally agree compared to, like, 10 years ago. But the risks have also never been higher. There's more people trying to hack everything in automated fashions than ever before. Mhmm. And if they get into your network and they ransomware your whole, you know, site like, Again, well, why did we go with this on premise thing that we have to manage and be responsible for and have security updates for and all this stuff?

Ian:

And your answer is, well, we saved $99 a month. Like Yeah. That's not an answer anybody wants to hear when you're gun getting ransomware for $3,000,000. Right? Like, that's the trade off there is horrible.

Ian:

And so it just you know, I I don't I don't know.

Justin:

That that is a modern Seinfeld episode. Seinfeld.

Ian:

Lorenzo. Or no.

Justin:

Costanza. Costanza.

Ian:

Costanza. Get in here. They're in the system. They're in the system.

Tyler:

I wondered as you were talking so so I think we should talk about some of the things that that once gets right. So I think I wanna put a pin that we should come back to that. But but while we're on the topic, I do think, like, I wondered, you know, so this is not a pure AB test. Right? So what we have is this theory of once with the idea of pay once and run on your own server, but it's actually the test is Campfire, which is this very specific, very sort of opinionated minimalist kind of product.

Tyler:

And I wonder, a, just, like, how much of each of those things is actually playing out and and then b, so, like, how much of it is people do or don't want once as an idea, and how much of it is people do or don't want Campfire? And then I wonder if there's, like, a bit of a mismatch between those two things. Like, to the extent that there are people who think that's a good trade off, you know, because they're like, well, I know how to manage servers, like, in my sleep, and I already managed 6 of them. So what's one more? And Mhmm.

Tyler:

I do wanna make those trade offs, maybe they don't want a sort of, like, fairly minimalist chat tool. Maybe that's the the kind of people who are, like, I have 16 workflows set up within Slack. I like my automations. I like that. You know, like, I like, the thing about Basecamp that I think is magical was this, like, really tight alignment with this use case from the get go, which was, like, clients trying to like, agencies trying to onboard their nontechnical clients and giving them just, like, the the most approachable doesn't need any sort of explanation.

Tyler:

You're just in there. You're using the software. It's super intuitive.

Ian:

Mhmm.

Tyler:

This feels maybe a little bit out of sync where it's kind of like the person who would be pretty psyched on this, you know, is maybe not that psyched on how stripped down Campfire is, and they actually prefer Discord or Slack or something like that. I don't know. Maybe that's a factor here.

Justin:

Oh, for I think I think for sure.

Ian:

Yeah. I think because to me, here's the thing. It's like my beef as it were, which is, like, beef is a strong word. Right? But I feel like, You know, they are great marketers, and their inclination is we must be revolutionizing the whole like, this is a revolution.

Ian:

Whatever we're doing, it's a revolution. Right? And I think if you just if it was not the revolution, but instead it was like, hey. This is a cool tool for a particular set of use cases. Some of which make a lot of sense.

Ian:

Like, obviously, a big one people you see complain about all the time is, like, I have a community, and Slack does wanna charge me Sensibly, a $1,000,000,000 because there's 20,000 people in my community, and there's no free version. There's no way for me to do that. Right? Whatever fun. So, Yes.

Ian:

That's great. Like, it's a community. It's low stakes. It's kind of nobody's even responsible for it. Have a server running with it.

Ian:

It's not like even in a corporate network or anything. Right? This is just like a thing that's out there. You're running the community. It's cheap.

Ian:

It's easy. Yeah. It makes total sense for that. And I think Then in that world, I mean, I think the product seems fine, and then it comes down to, like, the product itself, like you're saying, Tyler, where maybe then is it Is it too stripped down?

Tyler:

I almost still feel like a cheaper SaaS version will be better though for for, like, what you just described. You know what I mean? Like, if it's more if it's really going after, like, if the actual laser focus target are these communities for whom Slack is completely misaligned. Right? We've all seen these communities where it's, like, 6,000 customers in Slack will charge you $1,000,000 a year.

Tyler:

And you're just like, no, you know, I, I don't know that there would be a very high overlap between wanting to manage our own servers, like, I think I'd rather just have, like I'd rather pay for Campfire SaaS if I'm that person, and I'd rather be, you know, like, a $150 a year, you know, that I just click and sign up for it and it's campfire. I don't know. It still feels like that line. Like, it doesn't seem like any properly lines up as, like, a really good fit between target market and the offering. I don't know.

Ian:

Because then you are still tied down to, like, still devs. Right? Like, this is really just for devs like, maybe a dev who runs a community or whatever, but you have to have a dev involved because, like, you need somebody to run the server. I mean, I do think in the end, they'll probably have Some type of, like, resellers who just host it for people because otherwise, like, I don't think it's gonna sell much of anything at all without that. Like, people just want that.

Ian:

That's what people want. And so Yeah.

Justin:

Let's I I think we should get to that in a second. But I I think there is a misalignment even in that use case, Which is the thing about running a community, and I've run MegaMaker since 2014, is, we've tried switching to all sorts of We started on Campfire and then moved to WordPress p 2, which is a hosted install yourself thing, and then moved to Mighty Networks. And then But you know what wins is having your chat in the app that everybody in your your type of people all

Ian:

have network effects.

Justin:

And so Yeah. Yeah. For most people, for most community members, there's a misalignment there too, which is, like Right. If you're gonna use chat and you're actually gonna have an active chat, You wanna use the chat that most people in your world are used to using, and that's gonna be Slack, Discord, Facebook chat, Telegram there's, like, a list of things that exist before some self hosted website That you need to remember to open up every day. That is just the the friction there is so much higher.

Justin:

There's all sorts of ways to do product development. And, you know, Basecamp has proven that they can build products that lots of people buy. But one of their philosophies that I disagree with is that you can't do pre validation. So I would agree with them that Until you put it for sale and put it up, you don't really know. But there is customer research you could do beforehand, like Interviewing a bunch of IT managers and and saying, like, here's what we're thinking, and you'll get you'll know very quickly, whether they're interested in your thing or not.

Justin:

This is the premise behind the book, the mom test, which is you can go out, ask potential customers good questions that aren't leading questions. And you could even ask them, like, Tell us about your experiences with on prem software. Tell us what your your company's, attitude is towards on prem software these days.

Ian:

On prem software you added in the last 2 years.

Justin:

Yeah.

Ian:

Or and versus how much have you gotten rid of? Right? Like And

Justin:

talk about the whole experience. Talk about the time you installed that PBX phone system. How'd that work out, Justin? You know, like, there's there's you can do this kind of research beforehand. And, again, there's all sorts of ways to do product development.

Justin:

And I'm not saying their approach is bad or good, but I I've always disagreed with that idea that you can't do some beforehand. You won't really know until you put it up for sale, but you can do some beforehand. You can see who is already in motion and who's proving that with their actions. You know, are they actively buying this kind of thing? Will they actively switch?

Justin:

Hey, Justin. You've run a community since 2,014. What have you tried? Would you ever switch off Slack? I get those messages all the time, and I say, we're not switching off Slack.

Justin:

It's just it's where people are. I we've we've tried it 5 times. We're done. You know?

Ian:

This is one of the things where I think it's unfortunate that people sometimes just follow them mindlessly because They're in a very different this is where a lot of their advice to me is unfortunate sometimes because they are coming at such a different place with, like, a huge audience, And it's just impossible to not be influenced by that. And it's like, yeah, we're gonna try this on premise thing, and we're gonna put some devs on it for 3 months or whatever. And who care like, I don't wanna do all that boring stuff Justin just said. Right? Like, I don't wanna talk to a bunch of IT managers.

Ian:

Like, I'm gonna put it out. And, again, I've done this for 20 years, and I'm get bored at Times of having sold the same product for 20 years. And so it's like, yeah, I just wanna build a new product, and I've done that. And I put it out there, and I've seen if it worked. And that's more fun than Doing a bunch of product research and talking to people and aggregating and whatever.

Ian:

Right? So fine. So do that. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily if you have one shot And you're starting up something with your own money or you got a little bit of money from somewhere and, like, should you start an on premise app? Like, Not unless you have a very, very good reason, like, to to do that.

Ian:

So, yeah, I think that's a little bit

Justin:

I've been surprised that, how many folks, at least in the Twitter, indie bootstrapping community are saying, oh, no. This is a success. And I think I mean, this may or may not be a success for Jason and David. We don't really know their true motivations. I think they had bigger aspirations for this.

Justin:

I think they want this paradigm to win. I think they want it to work. And, this this kind of volume we've seen for Campfire, if this is true, unless they've sold a lot more copies since DHH tweeted, this is not The kind of volume a company like 37 signals would say is a success. But this is also not the kind of volume that even an indie person, I think, Should think is a success. Like, nothing has been proven or disproven here.

Justin:

If we're looking if we're saying, oh, 37 signals is introducing this new paradigm. I should it for my next business. I don't think we have a good case study here anyway. You know? Like, we have these these guys that have an enormous audience That are, I'd say, pretty good at PR who were on every big podcast, you know, This Week in Tech and Lenny's podcast, and, you know, they had enough exposure For this ahead of time

Ian:

But millions and millions of people heard

Justin:

about this. And so in that sense, it's like, woah. This is not the response I would have expected from that kind of PR. And if you're just a little indie, you know, and these things often happen to be very launch Centric, you make most of your money in the 1st week or 2.

Tyler:

Do we think that's gonna be true? I was just thinking about that. Like, will you know, are we, extrapolating a lot from, you know, other one time sale products, like, like info products and stuff like that. You know, just based on nothing, pure guess, like, would we think that, you know, the curve of campfire sales is gonna look a lot like course or something where it's just, like, pretty much, like, the first two weeks is, like, 80 to 90% of your entire lifetime sales, or, you know, what do we think about that?

Justin:

I mean, it could

Ian:

I mean, I I would think yes. Again, this is just from my experience of selling an on premise product, like, they are not doing the things you would otherwise do. Mhmm. So, like, there's they are presenting it like that type of course where, like, I'm gonna do a huge blitz, And that's that's kinda what I'm doing. And, DHH, I'm gonna talk about it for a week or 2, and that's what we're doing.

Ian:

Like, I mean, the ones.com has no pages. Right? Like, there's no pages on ones.com. There's no there's no one there's no campfire versus Slack page. There's no anything trying to get SEO optimized.

Ian:

They obviously don't they haven't said anything, and I very much assume they don't have a sales team who's gonna go approach corporate clients and be like, hey, ditch this $50,000 a year Slack for our 2.99 product because, obviously, those economics don't make any sense if you're selling a 2.9 product.

Justin:

They often cited, Shopify as, like, Shopify's use case. Like, Shopify is spending whatever on Slack. I don't think Shopify has switched to this campfire thing.

Ian:

We're not switching. There's zero by chance. I mean, just the other thing is, like, everything else aside everything else aside, You're an I just imagine you're an IT manager. Right? You have all these people you're responsible for.

Ian:

You have the system security responsible for all this responsibility. Okay. You're gonna take over the chat system. You wanna be responsible for it in house. You go to the Campfire page.

Ian:

It tells you the support is bare bones only support. That's, like, literally the words they use is bare bones support. Like, That's just not intriguing option to me. Like so you're saying when something goes wrong and if it's complicated more then I had a problem, like, installing it on a clean brand new system that you basically aren't gonna help me. Like, maybe that's true.

Ian:

Now DHH has tried to hedge it a little on Twitter, I saw, and, like, Under promise over deliver, I guess, fine. But I just feel like that's like again, do I are IT managers following DHH? I don't think So Mhmm. So it's like, when I go to the web page, what the web page is selling me is bare bone support. Mhmm.

Ian:

Again, not a compelling, you know, offering, really.

Justin:

What I was surprised about is that they did not have a auto deploy with Heroku badge on this thing right away, like, just simple click, a bunch of hosting partners. They often they cited WordPress as one of the examples of you know, WordPress has been doing this forever. Well, if you've been following WordPress' story Or WordPress

Ian:

Right. It's all the hosting.

Justin:

CPanel. As soon as you they got installed in cPanel, and there was a one click deploy In every hosting provider in the world, that's how WordPress won that's the distribution you want in that game, if you want, you know, lots of people to be installing it.

Ian:

And even now with WordPress, I feel like that's true of the, like, Free open source WordPress, but if you are running your commercial website on WordPress, like, you're not even doing that.

Justin:

Yeah.

Ian:

You're going to WP Engine. You're going to WordPress calm Mhmm. You're going to pantheon. Like, there's a million obviously of these, like, dedicated WordPress hosts that that they SaaSify WordPress for you. Yeah.

Ian:

Right? They take care of security. They take care of updates. You don't have to think about it. That's what they do.

Ian:

And so, yeah, I mean, that would make sense. That would then, of course, defeat the purpose of, like, the full court press into, like, run it yourself. Don't trust anybody else. Don't use anybody else. You can do it on your own.

Ian:

If they roll out a bunch of resellers with it and a bunch of hosting partners, like, they They should have just built it as a SaaS probably and run it themselves.

Tyler:

Has anyone built that? Have you see because I feel like you you could build one click deployed, managed hosting Campfire. My sense is you buy one copy of the code yourself. You basically have that fired up, and then you just tell people go buy a license to give us your license key. You know, you could probably spend that business No.

Ian:

It's it's Against the license specifically that you can't host it.

Tyler:

I don't think so. I think you're not allowed to resell it, but I think it is.

Ian:

It says hosting too. Yeah.

Tyler:

Oh, really? That's interesting.

Ian:

Mhmm.

Tyler:

Okay. It's

Ian:

in the FAQ. I mean, that's something I think I think they're gonna change that pretty quickly because I think Yeah. They're just gonna have to.

Tyler:

That that doesn't make any sense that you would prohibit as long as you're buying the license, you know, having somebody then provide, like, a managed hosting. Okay. That's interesting. Right?

Justin:

I I think they're they could sell a lot more copies of this, and I think, one idea would be to add it to the Heroku marketplace, add it to the DigitalOcean marketplace make it very, very easy to go to DigitalOcean. You can buy a license probably through they they probably won't like this because it's through It's through other stores that people control, but that's one way you could sell a lot more copies is just make it dead simple to auto install this on Heroku and, or DigitalOcean or wherever.

Tyler:

There are people used to buying a $300 product through their, like, DigitalOcean account. Yeah. Like, do do they support, like, one click install, like, you know, because that the the benefit of WordPress was it was one click doubt, but there was no cost associated with it. Right?

Justin:

Like I wonder if anyone's done that because

Ian:

I There is I mean, AWS has a marketplace where, like, people buy very expensive things through it. But, again, it's not with the, like, you're on your own for support and, like, that whole kind of vibe of it's it's a different sort of mindset. It does say an FAQ reseller white label, so I guess maybe somebody could I'm pretty sure I saw them tweet about this. The real somebody asked them, like, can we host it for people? And they said no, but I guess you could do it.

Ian:

Right? But, again, it's kind of a weird thing. Like, usually, in these type of setups, which I used to do this for HubSpot. Before HubSpot, we had HubSpot cloud. We had a hosting partner, and they did exactly this.

Ian:

Like, when somebody wanted it hosted, we just send them to the hosting partner, and they charged them for hosting, and they had to buy a HubSpot license. You know, like, it's kind of not it it just doesn't seem like what they're going after, but, I mean, they could do it Mhmm. If they wanted to. You know? It too.

Ian:

You know?

Justin:

What happens when you buy it? Do you just get a access to a GitHub repo?

Ian:

No. I think they just give you, like, a one line, Like, a command line call that you make and it downloads and installs.

Justin:

Interesting.

Ian:

That which looks pretty easy in straightforward.

Justin:

I actually I think in this sense. I I think that they are very good PR people. Like, they were on all the right podcasts. They were talking about it. They they know how to craft a manifesto and make a big splash.

Justin:

I I felt like the marketing for this was not very good, actually. I think, like you said, I I don't think the the marketing site is very well done or compelling. You're missing out on all those SEO opportunities, and also the the the fact that the, that you would At least not I maybe they did try, but it feels like all the distribution here is with the hosting providers. Like, if you could just get some partners right off the bat that make this super easy, then it's like, oh, sweet. I can just, you know, buy it and then auto deploy it to DigitalOcean, you know, no configuration required.

Justin:

But, any other ideas on marketing or thoughts on the marketing of it.

Ian:

I mean, I think to your point before, maybe this is, like, their canary in the coal mine. Like, instead of talking to a bunch of IT managers, it's like, let's put out a manifesto. Let's put out a product, that we know people use, chat, and we'll see if there's interest. And if there is, maybe we do a whole line of things that are like That's right. And Yeah.

Ian:

If there's not, then we don't. Like, I mean, I think it there's a pretty big, like, poker tell here, which is that They didn't come out with Basecamp on premise Mhmm. Which would be the most logical thing. Right? Like, if IT managers are sick of this and everybody wants to host everything, Why wouldn't you have Basecamp on premise?

Ian:

Like and still offer Basecamp cloud. Right? But then you have Basecamp on premise. Maybe you you have all this private details with you and your clients. Like, You wanna be in charge of it.

Ian:

You're a consultancy, 95% of the people using base camp, right, or some type of a consultancy. And so you have some IT premise, like, generally, some some capability, so have base camp on premise, but they didn't do that. Right? So that's where I'm like, maybe it's a little more you know, I don't think spent a ton of hours on this. I think it's, like, pretty bare bones as Tyler said.

Ian:

And so it's like, let's this is our market research.

Tyler:

Yeah. I think also, like, for folks who don't know the whole sort of history of this kind of stuff, like, you know, entrepreneurs who are just saying, like, oh, should my next business use this business model? Definitely need to know that Campfire was a preexisting product. Right? That it was a standalone product that they 37 signals, you know, had for a long time, and then they kind of, like, sunset it slash integrated it into core base camp.

Tyler:

So they kind of, know, again, like, I have no idea what that technically entails to just sort of take it off the shelf and, you know, polish it back up as a as this like, on prem version.

Ian:

I think they rebuilt it. I think they rebuilt it. I don't think it's the old version.

Tyler:

Yeah. But, I mean, it's still just, like, a lot of the, like, design and and decision choices and all that kind of stuff. It's, like, it's not like they came out with, like, they Cision Choices and all that kind of stuff. It's like it's not like they came out with, like they said, like, the once is a totally new paradigm, and we have something like, hey, like, their email thing is totally new. Mhmm.

Tyler:

You know, it may well be and this might also tie into, let's say, not going full bore on marketing besides like the stuff that's easy and free, which is going on podcast is just like, this may be a test of like, is it worth it to build new products under this paradigm? Phase 1, ship this thing that, you know, is gonna be the easiest possible thing we can we can actually ship and just see what happens and use that as a test. You know?

Justin:

Yeah. It's an it's it's the other difference And I I put this under the umbrella of marketing is I thought Jason's, intuition about email was actually right When he said, you know, people have there hasn't been anything new in email for a long time. And after a while, you know, after 10 years have passed Since Gmail launched or whatever, people are often just eager to try something new. You know? It's like when we were younger, There was Hotmail and then or Yahoo Mail and then Hotmail and then Gmail.

Justin:

Like, these things were kinda coming out all the time, And there just hadn't been any new email provider really making a big splash

Ian:

Yeah.

Justin:

In a long time. And although there was little examples with Superhuman and things. It's like, oh, wow. There's some demand here. And I think he correctly identified a, a wave that was building, which is, I think people are kinda, you know, ready for something new and fresh.

Justin:

Whereas with, With chat, really, Slack kinda capitalized on that. There was Campfire and then HipChat And Yammer and it was like everybody was starting to use these things, so the demand was growing. And then Slack came in with the, you know, the cute, fun, well designed version of that, and it just spread like wildfire. This didn't seem to have that same kind of thing, though. It's not like, you know, Discord is relatively new.

Justin:

It it doesn't feel like there was this this same kind of latent demand of, like, oh, man. If there was a fresh, you know, chat app out there, I would love it. It's like it didn't have that same kind of momentum.

Ian:

There's also, like, I mean, the another well, we haven't even said the name yet, but it's a huge elephant here is, Microsoft Teams, which, like, almost every corporate entity already has access to Teams for free as part of whatever other thing they own at Microsoft. And so, like, you already have, like, cord and Microsoft Teams for free Mhmm. You know, chat, and then you have Slack for sometimes free or else your paid chat. Like, there's a lot of coverage here already. And so, I mean, in that regard, it's like maybe they felt like we don't wanna do, like, an SaaS chat thing because there's not a lot of oxygen there, and maybe this will be different or whatever.

Ian:

You know? But I'm also not marketing wise, I'm not surprised to see them take this approach because this how they run things. Like, even if you go on base camp, like, there's not a lot of SEO organized pages on base camp. Like, there's no base camp versus Asana page. I don't think there's like, there's just A lot of those, like, hundreds of pages and hundreds of blog posts, like, with all the various keywords and everything.

Ian:

All the stuff the rest of us have to do To, like, sell our software. Like, they they don't go that route in there because they do this other kind of marketing, which if you can do it, is great.

Justin:

Oh, I wonder about that. How do you how do you think people are finding Basecamp right now? Like, Basecamp seems to have just a ton of normal ass users all over the world. It's gotta be word-of-mouth or search or, like, they've built up some sort of marketing asset. Yeah.

Ian:

I think it's both. I mean, I think it's Search. I thought that their search, like I'm sure they search, like, for project management software. It's, like, pretty good, right, which is gonna be the big one.

Tyler:

It sounds like I got the sort of inherent virality of it, you know, in the sense that the the user base is a lot of these agencies and stuff, so they're constantly inviting clients to it who didn't have their own business and stuff like that. So I

Justin:

mean, I heard about Basecamp and 37 signals reading Time Magazine in, like, college, I think.

Ian:

Right.

Justin:

So, like, there was a time where they were, like, they they were on the cover of, Fast Money or whatever called the with the the title The bad boys of Silicon Valley or something, like, they had a media blitz for a while that was they may still be benefiting even from that. I don't know.

Ian:

Yeah. They are they are bottom of page 2 for project management software on Google, which is not that's not enough for the amount of customers they get. So it's It's definitely, you know, probably more of like it is built into the product, which I think is a huge thing these days and something that, like, I'm working more towards with my own product is having more of that, you know, built into the product itself that is inherently going to spread the product, as people use it. Yeah. And Basecamp obviously has that, As father said, because you're just inviting other people in and other companies, and you have all this interaction, and people get to see it and use it and then take it with them, when they have that kind of need, which I think is huge.

Justin:

Yeah. And don't underestimate the compounding, advantage of doing that for 20 years.

Ian:

And it's just like a lot of people.

Justin:

There's just a lot of people that have used Basecamp at some agency or, you know, doctor's office or wherever they're using it, and it's like that That kind of word-of-mouth when you go to the next place, and it's like, well, let's use Basecamp, but that's what I use. Because I'm I'm the question I always have with them is We always talk about their halo effect. Like, they've got this huge audience and all these things. I always wonder how much of what percentage of their customers are fans. And my in my head, I'm thinking it's probably actually quite a small percentage, like 5% or 10% maybe.

Tyler:

I bet it's higher than anything else, stuff. I think, like, the what you're saying is true is that that we overstate the value of an audience. And oftentimes, there's not that much of an overlap between the audience you build and your target customers, but I bet whatever percentage it is, it's the highest for them than any other software company, you know, in the world, I think they do do a job of, like, attracting their own customers through their books and stuff like that being, like, here's how to remote work and why you should, like, give a shit about remote work and why it's amazing. And by the way, here's our software that enables it. You know?

Tyler:

I think they have really good, like, integrated marketing like that. So, you know, you know, whatever number it is, it's probably the highest. That's that I probably do high watermark.

Ian:

Yeah. That and that early leverage of that. Right? Like, has anybody ever gotten more bang for their buck out of that audience early on? Like, when they Initially, in 2006, 2007, like, made maximum use of being rails and rails becoming famous.

Ian:

Right? Like, base camp was everywhere, being talked about everywhere. You know, they practically invented SaaS. Right? Like, essentially, for, like, for a small bootstrap style company, they did invent SaaS.

Ian:

So, you know, I think they maximize that, which is great. Yeah. And

Justin:

let let's not underestimate the value. Like, their top I just put Basecamp into Ahrefs. Their top link to Basecamp by traffic and value and etcetera is from rubyonrails.org. So, I mean, that that we we can't underestimate the fact that they also have one of the most popular, programming frameworks out right now and that, you know, that that, gives them some juice.

Ian:

We see that in the Laravel world. Like, the Laravel commercial products have done great, and then there's no SEO, and there's no Traditional marketing and there's no sales team. Right? There's Laravel, and people love Laravel, and then people use the products and people Talk to other people about the products and that whole thing. Right?

Ian:

So

Justin:

Yeah. I

Ian:

mean, that's a great marketing path if you can pull it off. Like, it's an in in the world. Yeah. Well, okay. Well, that's not like a, like, a viable business strategy for most people.

Ian:

Right? But but if you could If you could do it, like, that's it's awesome. Yeah.

Justin:

Yeah. Even then, like, jQuery, I don't think had a commercial product associated with it that gave them the same. Well, let's let's get into Tyler's question, which is what did they do right? Yeah. Tyler, why don't you start here?

Justin:

What what did Once Or Campfire get right here.

Tyler:

Well, I I mean, I think that, like so, basically, I think, especially, like, out of our discussion here, I think, like, once is a better pitch than switch to Campfire. Like, I think I'm more and more convinced that, like, once is a better idea than the relaunch of Campfire. Just I definitely feel like there is subscription fatigue, you know, like, up and down. I think, like, consumers are feeling it. They're being, like, I've got a subscription to 6 different streaming services and, you know, athletic greens and creatine gummies and, you know, like everything is just like on subscription.

Tyler:

It's like stacking up, you know, and then businesses are in the same boat. They're like, oh my God. You know, we have all these subscriptions we even forgot about. You know, I do think there's like subscription fatigue. And I think there is also a sense that software in particular SAS is kind of overpriced.

Tyler:

I think both of those are, are probably like real things that they are identifying a tipping point on, especially kind of, like, come out of this kind of economic cycle where a lot of businesses are starting to pay attention to that, where we went through this, like, kind of chaos where everyone was just like, just buy whatever you need and add as many as you need. And now folks are maybe being like, this has gotten way out of hand here. So I do think, like, part of the reason why this resonated so quickly. And even when they just announced once, just as an idea without any products attached to it, are that folks are feeling that they are resonating with that. They're empathizing with that.

Tyler:

I think like for me, I think that there is kind of like less like, more unbundled ways to address that. Right? So I do think just like, for example, cheaper SaaS, like, I think, you know, Campfire for, like, $29 a month Mhmm. You know, flat fee for unlimited users would maybe be a better product than, this kind of open source version. I think that the once paradigm maybe is a better fit for like kind of prosumer tools.

Tyler:

So like, I'd actually be curious to hear what you guys think about like taking, let's just say once just the landing page is like actually correct for a minute. Like what would be the best tool to launch under that, like, best product to launch under that paradigm.

Ian:

Right.

Tyler:

Because, like, for me, I hear so I'm constantly recommending this, app called Krisp, which

Ian:

is this, like I was just gonna talk

Justin:

about Krisp.

Tyler:

Noise.

Justin:

Yeah.

Tyler:

Like, I'm using it right now. Yeah. And I recommend it all the time to people, like, literally 8 out of 10 times that I send it to somebody go, oh my God, another subscription. Are you kidding me? You know?

Tyler:

And I don't know. It's like dollars a year or something like that. It's like app works like magic. It's like no brainer. People are it.

Tyler:

You

Justin:

know? Although Krisp the reason we switched to Krisp is because compared to intercom, It is like orders of magnitude more affordable.

Tyler:

I'm telling you what's slightly different. Okay. But that's a good example too. But the one I'm talking about is this app that filters out background noise

Ian:

Oh, Chris

Justin:

with a k.

Ian:

Chris with a k.

Tyler:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But that's So that's just a a cheap app people as well, you know?

Justin:

Yeah.

Tyler:

Like, kind of the same

Justin:

Yeah. I think I think, Krisp, the the chat app is a good I think the the opportunity for indie, which is that, you know, intercom decided to go upmarket and go enterprise and in in the process squeezed out SMBs and small companies. And Krisp came along and said, listen. We're gonna do all of it for $99 a month, and it's gonna be incredible software made in France. And, you're gonna love it.

Justin:

And, it's it's very well made software. It's affordable. I recommend it all the time Because it's an affordable option, and they have a great business because they're addressing a market that Intercom just said we're not interested in. So I I think there is a huge opportunity there. It's still SaaS.

Justin:

Right? It's still SaaS. And But I think that's almost the lesson is if there is a trend of, subscription fatigue, I'm still not totally convinced about this. Like, you know, we sell a prosumer SaaS. Most of our customers are prosumers, And, we haven't seen a ton of people, canceling.

Justin:

Like, our our, our growth rates are still good. We're still growing. Our churn is, I think, relatively low. It's, like, 2.5% or something like that. So we haven't seen a big uptick in people canceling because of subscription fatigue.

Justin:

We've seen pockets of it, like, you know, after COVID or whatever, there's, like, a little a little jump of people saying, I have too many subscriptions. But overall, Since 2018, as a prosumer product, we haven't seen a lot of subscription fatigue.

Tyler:

Just to play devil's advocate on that, though, I do think we might years is a little different because it's hosting. Right? So it kinda, like, has to be ongoing. It it like, there's really no logical version of, like, a pay once. But, like, I do think also you might not just see subscription fatigue showing up in churn.

Tyler:

It's like might also be invisible, basically people who don't sign up. So for example, when I recommend this like AI filtering tool that you don't have to have. Yeah. If people look at it and they see one more subscription, there might be a category of people who would pay, like, one time who just, like, don't ever sign up because they're you have too many subscriptions. I can't keep track of it.

Tyler:

Like, I'm that way with streaming services right now. I'm just, like, not subscribing to stuff because I don't want a million more subscriptions. You know? Like Yeah.

Ian:

I do. I I think that's true, but also it depends a lot on the market. Like, I don't feel like with HelpSpot, we ever have that because it's like, whatever. You have 20 full time agents. They spend literally 8 hours a day every day.

Ian:

So they are going to need to pay for this software, whether you pay us or somebody else. Like, there's not an expectation that, like, oh, this is the last piece of software that's driving me over the edge. We're literally using it, like, a 1000 hours a week of time are in this piece of software. Right? So it's fine.

Ian:

Mhmm. But there are so that's kinda maybe part of the problem with Campfire. Right? It's, like, trying to replace something that is like, well, we're in Slack all day every day. It's such high usage thing.

Ian:

It's not an area where I'm, like, annoyed by the subscription that much as opposed to, like yeah. Like, Obviously, on my Amex bill is 50 other things that are, like, I used it once. I use it once a month. I use it once a day for 2 minutes. It's like those things start to add up, and you're like, oh, man.

Ian:

Like, yeah, this would be cool. Once a week, I need this, but it's, like, another $9 a month for this one day a week you know, one time a week, I need this thing, and it's like, no. I'm not I'm just not gonna buy it because, like, it's just one more thing, and we have to remember Cancel in 6 months or a year or whatever. Yeah. So, like, there are like, I do think there is some, like, opportunities there for it to be, like, super cheap or annual super cheap or once or whatever.

Ian:

There are some things like that that aren't so enterprise dependent.

Justin:

Is is there another example of a product that maybe is targeted at prosumers or SMBs or smaller companies, whatever, that is buy once, host yourself that is relatively successful.

Tyler:

It's not quite host yourself, but there's the entire, like, themes business, like, Shopify themes and and press something. Yeah. That that I do think kind of have fit they're, like, the closest analog to, like, fairly successful businesses where you're kind of pay once or ends up being, like, pay infrequently. Right? Like, every 18 months or so, there's a new, like, optional paid upgrade kind of thing.

Tyler:

Yeah.

Ian:

But I

Tyler:

don't know about the actual

Justin:

I think that business is amazing, by the way, but that seems like A quite a different business.

Ian:

Yeah. There's no security implications usually there and all that kind of stuff.

Justin:

Yeah. The only one I can think of is something like statomic, which is a CMS that you pay for once or you you can get a new license every year if you want, and then you host it yourself. But I actually think the advice I've been trying to give static forever is for them to get into the hosting game, because I think they would have a much, I think the business would be better. In some ways, the lesson I'm getting from this is unless you're gonna go upmarket And charge 100 of 1,000 of dollars for on prem software. If your target is small companies and prosumers and whatever, If you have a once product like statomic, I would actually say maybe you should consider offering some hosting Or partner with some more hosting providers, and, you you know, you each get a a a chunk of, of revenue or whatever.

Tyler:

This is the entire commercial open source playbook. Right? Which is basically, you know, it's it's pay nothing upfront and then optionally pay for, you know, managed hosting and stuff like that. And there's tons of successful businesses doing that. And so pay once is kind of the inverse, right.

Tyler:

Which is like pay upfront and there's no hosting available, but they basically said pay nothing up front if you want the code, but if you want us to host it. So

Ian:

Yeah. I mean, pay once and nothing after is not Even really, like it's really like a very consumer oriented mindset. I there is no business software in a sense Like this, because there's always, like like, even statamics is $65 a year for updates or like, there's always, like, you know, HubSpot was on premise and you own the license. So it would run forever if you stop getting support, but it was basically a SaaS, from a Pricing perspective because you had to pay a $100 a year per user Mhmm. In, you know, support and updates.

Ian:

And nobody wants to run it without support and updates because why would you ever want to run it without support and updates? So, like, now listen. Are there a small percentage that run I mean, we whatever. Occasionally, we come across a customer who is still running it, they don't have support and updates, and they're on version 2 from 10 years ago and fine. Like, whatever.

Ian:

Yes. They could do that. Mhmm. But 98% of people, right, didn't do that. They either Stopped using it and churned at some point.

Ian:

They stopped paying because they went to something else, or they've just paid forever because they're like, yeah. We we want dates and security fixes. And when there's a problem, we wanna be able to call you and, you know, all those things. So it is a little weird. I don't know if there's a lot of b to b apps that would go with the no support forever mindset.

Justin:

This is my favorite Ianism. My favorite. Is it Ianism or inlandism? Is I don't know. I like both.

Justin:

It's, it's about volume. The software business is about volume.

Ian:

That's true. Yes.

Justin:

And I I think this is one thing that I missed early on when I was trying things out is that, like, transistor works because Every day, hundreds of people are looking well, not just 100. Thousands of people are looking for podcast hosting, and they enough of those people find us, and we get we literally need hundreds of trials every month for our model to work. Tailwind UI Probably has hundreds or thousands of people buying it every single day or every single hour. I don't even know. Right.

Justin:

But but you want volume, and volume is, like, Enough interest that's driving the funnel so that once they get to you, there's enough daily, weekly, monthly, annual volume there that you can convert enough and have a business. It and the once the challenge I think is gonna be it's like if it's truly once, You're you're just not gonna have in so many of the product verticals, you're not gonna have enough volume. You have to keep the volume going, so you're not Right.

Ian:

It doesn't build on itself ever. Yeah. It's only new sales, which is, you know, a much much I'll be I mean, I don't know. I'd seen them not being very interested in this, to be honest with you. Like, I mean, the money is not even if it was very successful, the money is minuscule Compared to base camp Yeah.

Ian:

Just because of how they set it up. Like, 300 time dollars one time, just not a lot of money. And, I mean, they By their own mission, right, made 100 of 1,000,000,000, maybe close to a $1,000,000,000 at this point. Like, I think I think people don't realize how big base camp is. I think people think base camp is like, Oh, man.

Ian:

Those guys make $50,000,000 a year or whatever. No. Mhmm. Base camp has a lot of zeros. It's a humongous business, and I just feel like they're I don't know.

Ian:

Like, if I ran a business that big, would I wanna have this little thing that was doing a 1,000,000, 2,000,000, $5,000,000 a year? Like Again, all the way back to beginning, I thought it would have more benefits for, like, the Rails developers and such who would just wanna, like, see the code. Mhmm. You know, it acts as, like, a getting into rails learning tutorial because, like, you can see how the pros build the real app that functions and all that stuff.

Justin:

Yeah.

Ian:

And maybe it's That people don't value it up to $300. Maybe it's that everybody's sharing it, so they don't need to pay for it.

Justin:

I wonder if they marketed it marketed it as a course if it would have done better. Like, DHX people tweeting about

Ian:

it like that. Like, I've seen a bunch of people be like, you don't buy any course. Just buy this and look at the code. And, like, That makes sense to me. You know?

Ian:

Like

Justin:

Yeah. The positioning of that

Tyler:

flap a couple of screen paths on there just like doing the walkthrough of the owed and sell it for $3,000.

Ian:

Yeah. They, well, should do that.

Justin:

The thing is the way this was presented is it was presented as a philosophy, as a paradigm, as a thesis that the bootstrap or the indie or the startup community now has to respond to. So it's like, here's the thesis. We're giving it to you guys. Now this is gonna be a thing. And so now, it's like people are always saying, like, well, why do you guys Why does anybody have to comment on this at all?

Justin:

It's like, well, it's a it's a it's an open thesis that's out there now, that kind of the community has to grapple with.

Tyler:

Yeah. I was just gonna say, I think, like, the 80 20 here is, like, if you think a lot of this is compelling and you apply it to your own business in your market, and you say, I think this is more right than wrong, you know, the the sort of basic premise of once as applied to whatever it is you're building. I would probably start with, like, a cheap annual subscription.

Justin:

Mhmm. Right?

Tyler:

You know what I mean? Like and just try to frame it that way because they still think you get, like, most of the of the underlying benefits of why this was so resonant with a lot of folks without some of the worst aspects of it. For example, just like how difficult it is to build a business without any kind of recurring revenue whatsoever. Mhmm.

Jason:

So I

Tyler:

think, like, if I have a one takeaway of, like, what should, like, a new bootstrapper think about once? It should be, like, consider a low price point annual plan really, like, heavily market that, you know, versus, like, very high, multi subscription alternatives and and kinda start there. You know, I I don't think there's enough of a boost, and I think we probably have seen that, like, latching on to the once type of, like, marketing wave. At least the initial conclusion is is probably not enough there to to make it worth your while to, like, go all in on once with a new product. I think that's obviously, like, very early days, so that's to be determined.

Tyler:

But that's where I would land as, like, a one line takeaway for, Bootstrapper right now.

Justin:

Mhmm. Yeah. I think that's good. What about you, Ian?

Ian:

Yeah. I agree. Like, for the in terms of bootstrapper advice, as I often feel About 37 signals of ice is, like, it actually doesn't apply to you very much, the person out there, because yeah. I mean, even this initial launch, like, you're not gonna be on all these huge podcasts. Right?

Ian:

You're not getting any of this juice that they got. So you'll have your own level of juice. Like, maybe you have some connections. Maybe you can get one good podcast or whatever. Like, you can do some stuff, but you're not gonna be ubiquitous and everywhere, like, they can be.

Ian:

And so yeah. And, I mean, definitely, like, talk if you were thinking about on premise the math on, like, how many customers you need if they never pay you again, or if they pay you once every 3 or 4 years, because you're gonna have kind of like, well, new version upgrade cycle or whatever because, like, I mean, listen, we have people paying for HubSpot. We've been paying since 2,006 And I've paid a $100,000 or a $150,000. Right? And it's like, if instead they had just paid me one time $300, Like, that doesn't take many of those to be, like, your business is completely different, and you're basically out of business.

Ian:

Like, I would be out of business. Right? If I had no recurring aspect it. Even though I didn't even though it's own licenses, the recurring aspect was the support and upgrades. And so I had this recurring element That does builds up over time, over years, and is the foundation that gets you through the down periods.

Ian:

Right? Where, like, something like, All of a sudden, there's SaaS. Like, for 3 or 4 years, there was no SaaS, and we just sold on premise, and it was fine. And then there's Zendesk and everybody else, and they're like, people want SaaS. Right?

Ian:

And that took us time to, like, For us to build a SaaS platform and, like, do all that stuff. And so you don't wanna have no income, like, during that period where, like, things you get a little shaky. Like, you you wanna have oh, yeah. We have these other 100 of customers who are, like, paying us every year and happy. And, like, they're not necessarily on the cutting edge.

Ian:

Like, they're not looking around being like, What's the new hotness and things like that? Like Mhmm. So yeah. Like Yeah. Again, like, some software developers, another little is I think terrible market.

Ian:

I think nobody should sell to software developers unless you have a very, very specific insight or something there, access to the market because They're horrible customers. They're always looking for the next great thing and what's gonna improve them. What's hot. Like, whereas when you sell to Bob, the manufacturer, Like, they just as long as your stuff works, they don't ever look at an alternative. Like, they're fine.

Ian:

They're happy. They're loving life. So, like, those are great customers.

Justin:

Yeah.

Ian:

So yeah. You know, that's always in general. You gotta be careful about copying anybody else in the industry because you don't know what they have going on. You don't know their edges. Mhmm.

Ian:

So, yeah, you gotta you gotta be careful there.

Justin:

Yeah. I think folks should really do their research on kind of 3 different levels. One, go and find some people who do have one time sale products. Listen to their podcast. Like, if you listen to Adam Wathan, he has one of the most successful products I've ever seen in my life.

Justin:

Even he is anxious about one time sales.

Ian:

He is anxious all the time.

Justin:

Listen to his podcast. You'll hear that it's It's a thing, and he doesn't need to be anxious. He's gonna be fine. But find people and then even observe, like, oh, that's the kind of business, that's the kind of scale, That's the kind of insight or advantage you need to have to succeed in that market. Right?

Justin:

The second is, if you have a a thesis like, you know, I'm gonna build the on prem version of Mailchimp, Do some interviews. Come and talk to me. Come and talk now we wanna reduce our email bill. I think a lot of companies do. But if you came and told me, like, here's a a thing that you're gonna host yourself and use SES or whatever does that stuff, I'm gonna be like, no.

Justin:

I don't want that. I just want a more affordable version of Mailchimp, please. And so and that it's even more than that. Right? I want a more affordable version of Mailchimp that still has all the features and things I like about Mailchimp.

Justin:

So it's it's a high bar. Right? Yeah. Oh, another example that I thought of was Paldi. He at Balsamic, they publish their revenue numbers every year.

Justin:

Just look at the trend In their business, they've got onetime desktop sales, and it's just going down, down, down, down. What's going up, up, up, up is software as a service. So

Ian:

There's literally nobody in in the industry who doesn't have that exact same chart. There is, like, nobody Who sells an end user in any way oriented product where the on premise version's, like, going up and the SaaS version's going down. Like, That doesn't exist for anybody. I mean, again, like we talked about, there are some things growing a little bit with, like, these infrastructure type things, but not an end user oriented app. Like, Not not a thing.

Justin:

Alright. I think let's leave it there. That was good, guys.

Ian:

Yeah. Thanks for having us on.

Justin:

Yeah. Great stuff. Definitely go check out Ian Landsman on Twitter. Maybe you should ask Ian what his, budget is at HelpSpot for CBD gummy subscriptions.

Ian:

Not none. Maybe I gotta get in on that. That's a write off, I hear, so let's do it.

Justin:

And go check out Tyler Tringus on Twitter as well and what he's doing with calm company, lots of good thoughts there. And, I'm on Twitter as well, m I, Justin. If you have feedback about this, Definitely hit us up. We'd love to hear it. And, yeah, we'll maybe do a follow-up episode in 6 months when we've got more information.

Justin:

Maybe all of our all of our present day information was wrong and will be proven.

Ian:

Could be.

Justin:

It will be proven so.

Ian:

Not impossible. Alright.

Justin:

See you next time. Alright.

Ian:

You.