Software Social

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Summary

Colleen and Michele move their previously-private weekly coffee shop conversation about their businesses to podcast form. Here's what you can expect from this podcast.

Show Notes

MICHELE HANSEN: Welcome to the Software Social podcast, where we invite you to join our weekly conversation about what's going on in our businesses. I'm Michele Hansen,

COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: and I'm Colleen Schnettler.

MICHELE HANSEN: And this week we're giving you an intro to what this podcast is about and who we are and why we're doing this and why we're hoping you'll join us.

COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: So Michele can you start by telling us a little about your software business?

MICHELE HANSEN: Yes, so I am a co-founder of Geocodio (https://www.geocod.io/) which is a software as a service company. We do geocoding for US and Canada as well as data matching, and my husband and I started it about six and a half years ago now as a side project and we have run it full-time for the past three years. 

COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: So you're basically living the dream, is what you're telling me?

MICHELE HANSEN: Some people would say that, I bristle at that a little bit, there's definitely a lot more dream to be had. But yeah, people do say that to me, especially people who are looking to create their own software businesses. Which is kinda the boat you're in. 

COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: Much like myself! I am a Ruby on Rails developer, I've kind of had a varied career. Always in tech. I started as an electrical engineer, stayed home with my kids for a few years, and then I started learning Rails and I built up a really successful consultancy. And that has been amazing, and a really wonderful journey for me, but I have always wanted to start a product business. There is just this dream of having a product business that you are in charge of your own life and your own business, you get to make your own decisions. That's something I've always wanted. And man, it's hard! 

MICHELE HANSEN: It is hard!

COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: Right? You know, I read a lot of startup content. I have read a lot of books and I follow a lot of successful startup founders and there's so many stories out there that make it seem like -- I mean you don't hear about it until they're successful, so it makes it seem like it's easy, and I'm at the very beginning of this journey, and you know, I'm just getting started! So part of my impetus for doing this podcast with you is obviously to learn a lot about what you can teach people who are in the early stages of their business, and also to stay inspired and to share with people what it's really like to start a business.

MICHELE HANSEN: I don't think you give yourself enough credit, Colleen, in saying that you're just at the very beginning. You have been working intently on this for over a year now -- I remember it was last summer when you came to me and you were so excited about an idea and this passion you had that was leading you to toward that idea, and you started doing user research on it, and having something that you're passionate about, and doing the work to see if there's legs to it, and then realizing that there aren't -- that is work. That is valuable productive work.

COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: I hope so! Because it was quite a lot of work. And so just a brief overview, I had an idea to do something with the childcare industry. And I had a founder, someone I was going to work with, and she and I interviewed quite a few people  who would have been in our target market. So we kind of took the steps you learn about with idea generation and honestly the truth is -- we put in a lot of time and effort and found out it really was not a profitable business idea. So it's hard to get really excited about something and climb that mountain and then realize -- up! no one wants to buy it. 

MICHELE HANSEN: Right

COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: You know? At least we found that out before we started writing code.

MICHELE HANSEN: Right

COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: Didn't you guys have some side projects before Geocodio?

MICHELE HANSEN: Oh, many. And we had many projects in between that, too, that we've launched in the interim. And it's -- there's no lying that it's hard to find something that sticks, and as you said, no one cares about something until you're a success -- which is a really really lonely place to be for a very long time. You know, our first month we launched Geocodio, we made $31. We thought we were a ridiculous success because we were shocked that anybody wanted to pay us. We thought our product was pretty terrible. And we were we were truly -- we were so shocked that we hadn't even written the code that would tell Stripe to bill people. That was how surprised we were that anyone wanted to pay us. And we worked on it as a side project for a very long time. And it wasn't until just before I went full time, that people started kind of noticing what we were doing and asking us to talk at conferences or, or being a podcast. There's that was a very long time. Where Yeah, exactly like you were saying, you don't hear a lot of those stories. You only hear the stories when people are successful. And I think what we're hoping to capture here is some of that granularity that goes in week by week when you're launching something. And then also the kinds of things you face on a daily basis when you have launched something and it's gotten to the point where you can work full time on it, what what are the kinds of things that you might be facing at that point, and and how do we tackle them
 
COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: So you guys had the business for a few years before you went full time, right?
 
MICHELE HANSEN: Yeah. Yeah, three, it was like three and a half years until I went full time. And then my husband went part time, six months later. And then full time, six months after that, like, honestly, we were terrified of paying for health insurance on our own. And that was a big thing that kept us from going full time. We probably could have gone full time a lot sooner. But given the experience I had just a couple months ago trying to buy health insurance, I'm glad I put that off. But it's possible -- not to scare anyone. But there's a very real fears that come into it. Even when you do have something that works and you have customers and your revenue is increasing. You're going to have a whole new set of anxieties to face so -- congratulations! Yeah, no. Everything is solvable.
 
COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: I think when you're where I am in this process it seems like so far away right like like it seems like "Man, if I could just make a product that people want to buy my life will be rainbows and sunshine and easy every day!"
 
MICHELE HANSEN:  I can see that and also you know our everyday is we've got something that's that's launched that, you know, has recurring revenue and you know supports us and everything and every day there's still people who are upset with us. Every day we discover things with our product that we're like, "Oh my, that is so obviously bad. Like we need to fix that. Like how is that been like that for so long? This is embarrassing." Like that, that happens to happened... today. It happened yesterday. And the same time you know some of the things you were talking about earlier that the dream so many people have for having a product business. Being able to be your own boss, getting to make decisions, getting to have that level of autonomy and authority and direction over your own work. That doesn't go away. And that definitely keeps me going. And really, what makes it worth it when not everything is rarely otherwise.
 
COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: Yeah, I imagine you're a parent as well as am I? And I imagine it goes both ways, right? Like I imagine the flexibility you have with running your own business is amazing to help you parent. But on the other hand, can you ever take a vacation? 
 
MICHELE HANSEN: Yes and no. You know, I mean, like, we started this as a side project, right? And, you know, we both had, right, you know, full time, like tech jobs, but in the early years of the business, like I remember the first time that we like took a vacation with money we had earned from the business, which was I think about two years, two and a half years in. And I remember we were driving on these beautiful roads on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. And it's just like these rolling hills and it's just, it was so gorgeous. And I was replying to someone on Intercom at the same time. Because, you know, an issue had come up. And that's just been the case the whole time. And my perspective on that has always been, we're only able to have the life we do because of the business. And so yes, like, very often one of us is dealing with something for work at the dinner table, or when we're on vacation, or when when when we have life going on or especially with the pandemic and being at home with other things going on all at the same time. And that has pros and cons. At the same time, you know, working in a corporate job I think all of us can speak to there's always some issue that's blowing up on Slack off hours that you have to deal with. And so it's not really that different. The only difference is that when you are responding to that customer, or, you know, once we took a call with a potential large customer while on a road trip through Belgium, was that we, we got all of the money from that, right? Like, it wasn't that like we would have to prove to our boss at the end of the year like, look at all this time I did when all this work I did when I was on vacation, all this time I put in on the weekends and at night, like so hey, like, you know, give me a 2% raise, right? Like, you don't have to do that. Like if you land that contract and you sacrifice a part of your vacation. You got the money. It's very clear cut. And so that makes it worth it for me. I feel like my daughter might have a different perspective and sometimes she's like you guys need to Stop talking about Geocodio at dinner, let's talk about something else, something else is not boring. So. So you know, I always joke that if you know, maybe our business talk will either make her adept at business herself or she can totally rebel and not want anything to do with it. I mean, you've got clients. I mean, that's not like, you don't ever get to fully log off either, right?
 
COLLEEN SCHNETTLER: No, I really don't. So as you know, in my consultancy, I am a single point of failure. Like I have one really large contract really big client that I share with another developer, which is nice. But yeah, it you know, if something goes down, or you know, they, they want something I'm usually relatively accessible. It does make it hard to I mean, you know, it's interesting, it does make it hard to really take a vacation. And it's interesting because I have never been a good office employee. I don't like Working for other people. I don't like sitting in meetings. I don't like other people to tell me how to do my work or when to do my work. So consulting has really been great for me. But there is this this joke that like you spend all your time trying to go from employee to consultant and then as soon as you're a consultant, you're ready to jump to something else. Sometimes it feels like you have multiple bosses, right? Because you have like several different clients, they all have different needs are all contacting you. So it has given me immense flexibility with which, you know, I couldn't work an office job right now with a pandemic. And now apparently, we're homeschooling the children because they're not going back to school. So I have to have this flexibility. But, you know, it does feel like I'm always it does feel like I always have to be plugged in, like I always kind of have to be on top of it. And if I am a single point of failure, so if I can't figure it out, or I can't get it done, like it doesn't get done. So sometimes that does pressurize the situation. But I imagine much like having a product business. I still like consulting more than I liked a traditional office role. 

MICHELE HANSEN: Oh, absolutely. And so I guess you know, in, in closing with this podcast, what we're hoping to do is bring you in to our conversations, conversations like this, that Colleen and I are having regularly anyway. And considering the different stages that we are at, and how that plays off in one another. Maybe you'll find this helpful. Maybe you're looking to start your own business. Maybe you're looking to branch out into other things. Whatever that might be, we want to invite you to sit at the table with us. We take the name of the podcast from a great little coffee shop in Arlington, Virginia called Northside Social where we used to meet up before the pandemic and, and so we're inviting you to Sit at our table and and listen in and hopefully share your own thoughts with us on on all of this.

What is Software Social?

Two software founders -- one transitioning from freelancing, and one with an established business -- invite you to join their weekly chats about their businesses.