Arvid & Tyler Catch Up

Is building a business on a platform like Twitter a good idea? How can calm founders prevent platform risk while also benefiting from the many advantages platforms have?

This last week has been brutal for indie hackers. Tyler and Arvid talk about how platform risk can threaten your business and what to do about it.

And, for some reason, they talk about Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

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Creators & Guests

Arvid Kahl
Calmly building in public. Helping founders and creators to find their own way.I write, podcast, and make videos at kind.
Tyler Tringas
Investing in and supporting calm companies at Bringing them together at

What is Arvid & Tyler Catch Up?

Tyler Tringas and Arvid Kahl build the Calm MBA in public. And they'll catch up.

Arvid Kahl 0:01
Hello, and welcome to Arvid and Tyler catch up. I am Arvid

Tyler Tringas 0:06
I am Tyler and let's catch up. Arvid What's up, man? How was your week?

Arvid Kahl 0:12
Oh, I had a great week. I, I was on another podcast. We recorded this a couple of weeks ago. But it was Yong Soo, Chung's podcast that that I was on. And it was a really funny recording when I was talking to him, he was like in a closet somewhere surrounded by his wife's clothes. And it looked like really just trying to find the best spot to get the best audio in his house because I think he'd recently moved or just, you know, starting to build a studio. And we had a really, really nice conversation. And I thought this is going to be a great episode just from the conversation. And then he actually had it produced by I think an editor who used to work for NPR. So the quality of that conversation is probably and I don't want to throw shade at anybody else of the 40 plus people who had me on this shows in the past, including indie hackers, but that's that was like a narrative just like you would expect from from podcasts like Freakonomics or like 99%. Invisible, like a really well produced, thought out, like research, they found clips of Danielle and me giving a talk at MicroConf. Europe in 2019. Like they took some of the audio from the cup and spliced it into the end of the thing. It was really good. And it was it was amazing. I actually got his permission to republish it on my own podcast. And that's the thing that went this Monday, it was such a such a great thing to see somebody put in I think he paid 1000 bucks to get it, edit it to that level. Well, I'm just I was just blown away by this. And it feels like such an honor to be the not just to be the listener, but to be the target of that was really cool. So I really enjoyed that.

Tyler Tringas 1:51
It was it was the experience, from your perspective, very different, you know, in the sense that did you have to do much more prep or anything like that, or was sort of a normal, you showed up? You answered questions for an hour. And then they just did all the magic afterwards.

Arvid Kahl 2:05
It was all magic afterwards. It was just a regular conversation that we had in his closet and my Danielle's office that I'm currently setting, it's not even my own space. So we both were in, I guess, our partner spaces in that sense, because it was like his wife's closet, I think and Danielle's office, but we had an amazing conversation just about all the things I usually tend to have to explain my origin story, like the whole feedback panda thing, and building this with my partner, and why we build it, what we build, and you know, all these these little things, but we quickly got into my method of writing and distributing, like what I write in different media, and he kind of you found this editor that not just went through and remove like pauses, errs and oz, he actually turned the whole thing into a narrative that took parts from one part of the conversation and integrated them with other parts, pulled them together, pulled out like three or four major lessons with examples from the conversation. I've never seen this before. And I've never had so much attention paid, I feel to what I had to say. So it was it was just the most wonderful feeling. And it kind of sets the bar for me, I guess, at this point, to where I want my own show to go. Maybe that which is the thing that I've been reflecting on because I do like the format of just having a conversation, like being a fly on the wall. That is something that that I personally liked. I like this about podcasts like the one we're currently doing, right? Yeah, we don't have like much infrastructure. We have some structure because we need structure. But we don't do this like for for effects, right? We don't do this for audience effect. We do this, because that's what allows us to have the conversation that we want. Yeah. And some people enjoy a structured conversation. Some people enjoy just rambling and some people want this, this really highly editorialized narrative with like voice over and sound effects and all that. And I'm torn. Do I want this for my own show? Or do I just want to keep talking and keep exploring things as I talk through them? It gave me an interesting pause in that moment to think about, wow, there are so many ways that we can communicate what we want to communicate, which is also something for us, right? There are many ways we can talk about common businesses and many ways we can teach it. So there was a nice little happening for me this week. Another thing I did, I'm just going to go through my whole week. I was I think today, earlier today, I released my regular weekly interview episode on my podcast, which this week was with Josh Specter, got really nice insight into audience building and writing a newsletter. There's just like a line or two, maybe a paragraph and a link was really cool to talk about brevity something that I struggle with, as you can probably tell right now. And so last episode out of I think must have been over 50 or 60 consecutive episodes that micro acquire or now acquired. com was sponsoring so I'm now on the hunt for new sponsors. And I have a couple leads, I can't say anything definitive just yet. But that was something I spent a lot of time on this week, you know, to give the podcast, a more financial base, which would eventually allow me to hire an editor for this, which is the whole point of sponsorship. Right. So to turn us into a kind of self sustaining system. Yeah, that was, that's my sponsor, hunt, still ongoing. I can probably report more next week about this. And one final thing, I took a bath this week, and it was amazing. I was just I kind of felt like, I needed a nice warm bath. Because in Canada, it's still kind of up and down, right? That's It's April, it gets super cold and today's like 21 degrees Celsius here for some reason. And yesterday, it was like five and minus five to two weeks ago or something. It's it's quite bizarre change of temperature here on occasion, and I took a bath and I thought, hmm, I have an idea because I was just thinking about this. This topic that is now the topic of my newsletter for this week,

Tyler Tringas 6:00
you building a set?

Arvid Kahl 6:02
Well, that would have been interesting. But it was it was it was a different topic. But I figured, well, I can still write, I don't need a computer, I had my phone with me. So I started dictating into my phone essentially brainstormed a lot of stuff that I just had going on while I was there, like splashing around in the bath. And then later, when I was done, I just threw the whole transcript into Chet GPT GPT, for how to generate an kind of an article outline for it. And then I wrote the thing right there from the outline. And it turned out to be a pretty solid article that and I was just amazed by how easy it is to take notes that auto transcribed into something that yet another AI can then condense and turn into these kinds of structured notes. And I think we've talked about this before, like how I write but this was an example of where I wasn't writing in a traditional sense at all. I was splashing around yet. Here it is right that the article is done and an edited and everything. So I kind of just wanted to introduce that as a potential workflow, right writing doesn't need to happen in front of a computer or in front of a typewriter. If you're hipster, right? You can do this. Wherever you are. You just need a device that captures your thoughts in some capacity. So that was my week. Sponsors, writing and an amazing podcast episode.

Tyler Tringas 7:20
Love that. Yeah. How about you? Yeah, yeah. Busy week as well. Yeah. So it's funny that you mentioned that I've also been getting into, like, I discovered that the gym in my neighborhood has a sauna. And so I've been going like in the mornings, first thing, like literally like wake up, go for a walk, go straight to the gym and do like a 20 minute sauna. And that's how I'm starting my day. Most days, not every day. Really fantastic way to start the day. So that's been an awesome addition to my my routine. And now I'm gonna start just turning on transcription and talking while I walk because that's actually excellent. Nice. Perfect. Now I can justify it. I'm working. Yeah. Yeah, take the phone into the sauna, though I think I don't think it would do well there. But yeah, on our docket, you know, we we had a big week, we, we closed our our for our fourth fund this week. So April 1 was the deadline. So over the weekend, we got all the signatures and stuff like that. And I don't have the final tally. But it's you know, something approaching 200 investors, which is, which is great. It's kind of funny, you know, in this business, you get to just like raise another fund and you're like, hurray, we get to stay in business. But, but that's where we're at, which is cool. We also have something pretty interesting cooking up that I think, you know, well, until this podcast gets massive, we will use it to share a bunch of stuff that's not publicly announced yet. And so we're we've been working on a suite of very small apps that we're calling comm flow collectively, they're things we built internally that basically are leveraging, we have this two person team at our company that all they do is kind of know code automation, and now integrating AI into those workflows. And so we have like on any given month, we have like, literally like 10s of 1000s of zaps, running through Zapier and make and all those sorts of things and, and they're really starting to get super powerful now that we're injecting little bits of AI into those workflows. And so we're starting to take the most interesting and useful ones that we use every day and kind of micro productize them. So we're releasing, a lot of them are slack based right now just because that's where we spend a lot of our time. So we're releasing two apps, at least for sure. One is a way to export threads out of out of Slack. So when you have a great conversation and especially in a community slack, a lot of them are free and they don't have you know the history. You want to be able to like rip out a fantastic conversation and add it to the wiki to the internal you know, to the circle Something like that. One click way to do that really, really natively. And then the second one is going to be bringing chat GBT directly into your Slack workspace with like one click, you put in your API key, and boom, you have a little bot. And then you can do all kinds of cool stuff in line with it, you can say, summarize this discussion we just had into an 800 word blog post, and it's just like, right there. So we're kind of releasing that in beta to our portfolio. So it'd be free for them. And then if all goes well, and they're interested, we're going to probably roll it out. It's like a, like a subscription bundle of a bunch of different little apps that we like. So that's exciting. It's nice to be back in like, builder mode a little bit. So that's cool. And, yeah, I have a like a interesting observation that I just tweeted about, which is like, I've been dealing with this nerve issue for almost six weeks now. And it's kind of just like this persistent thing that's made it like hard to exercise hard to tie, it's just like, been a total drag, you know, and nobody knew about it, really, you know, and it just was a good wake up call and reminder for me to remember that the person on the other side of that tweet, email, Zoom call, whatever, they probably also have their own thing they're going through and not everybody is, you know, hanging a sign saying, you know, you know, I'm dealing with a really challenging thing with my kid or my dog is sick right now, or, you know, they don't tell you that sort of stuff. And it's probably better to just kind of go through life, assuming everybody that you interact with is dealing with some crap right now, and just be a little bit calmer and more patient with with everybody. So that was a good reminder.

Arvid Kahl 11:39
That was really nice. Honestly, I, I'm just thinking about yesterday, I started listening to one of my favorite audiobooks, again, and this is related. The audiobook is called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which is written by Eliezer Yudkowsky, like the guy behind the less wrong community, the rationalist community. And it's a book funny, like a Harry Potter fanfiction. If Harry Potter was a rationalist, which is just the cutest thing. And in a way, the what you just described, the feeling that we have when we talk to somebody else, and we completely kind of ignore their circumstances. That reminds me of what is in the audio book, they talk about the fundamental attribution error that when somebody else messes up, we attributed to a characteristic, like some kind of character trait. But when we mess up, we attribute it to the circumstances of our lives. And what you describe is the exact same thing, right? You know, your pain, you feel your body physically. And you know that, well, you just weren't a zoom call, you didn't listen for five minutes. That's not because he is interested. It's because you all of a sudden have this little itch somewhere, and you really need to deal with it, right? It's a circumstantial problem, but somebody else watches you not listening to the conversation. They might think you're lazy, or inattentive. Right? So it is, it isn't a nice reversal of this, this fundamental attribution error that we have, we attributed other people's weaknesses to some kind of character flaw, when in fact, it's just an expression of some thing that happens to them in that moment. So I highly recommend the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality because it's it's just written as a kind of a way into the understanding the Methods of Rationality, right, Bayesian logic, and you know, all these kinds of things in a little Harry Potter story, but it reminded me of that, and I'm, I'm glad that you put this out there because I feel like there's so much signal loss of, of these these subtle things that we usually do in a conversation like micro gestures, or just like an affirmative, bigger gestures, like a nod or something. We don't have this in techspace stuff, right? We, we misinterpret almost every single message that we receive, because we just don't understand from what context it was sent. Like, you hope that you write things so that they cannot be easily misunderstood. But how can you know you don't know the circumstances of those other people? So it's a nice reminder that a lot of context is lost when there is only text.

Tyler Tringas 14:04
Yeah, yeah.

Arvid Kahl 14:07
Well, I'm glad I'm glad you're, you're doing something about it. By the way, I think the sauna part is going to be a big, big part of this. That's one of the only additions to our house that we have been considering, like having a sauna. Because we're not pool people. We're not like fancy backyard, pagoda people or anything like there's nothing wrong with either of these. If you want to have the the hours please go ahead and do it. But if there's one thing that my upbringing in Germany has taught me, is that having access to a sauna, because that's what my grandparents went to every single weekend, and they stayed alive for quite a while and healthy to at least in the regard of like, you know, a blood circulation, all that kind of stuff that having a sauna really helps with that is a great addition to your health regimen. Because if you have it at home, you're going to be using it if you only have it at the gym, and you're already not a person that likes going to the gym, you know, it's always kind of more complicated. But as long as it's a good idea, it's just an expensive investment. But yeah, it doesn't necessarily

Tyler Tringas 15:06
mean it's really fantastic. The big problem is like, you've got like the Huberman lab podcast and a bunch of these things that have all started popularizing this research that seems very compelling that like sauna in almost every day, or some meaningful amount of it is like this, you know, wonder drug, basically, it just like, increases your health span your lifespan, your, you know, decreases risks of all this kind of stuff. And so now I have to go like, in the morning, but after, you know, like, why there's just it's Pat, it's a sauna for like, eight people. And there'll be like, you know, 18 people jammed in there if you don't go at the right time. So get your own. That sounds better.

Arvid Kahl 15:50
Yeah. Popularity of that with with a public good like this, this is probably not public, but semi public, publicly accessible. Yeah, that's, that's a problem getting your own. And it's got to be smaller, right? It's going to be different. And you might even have a different, it might have a different effect, different temperatures that it supports. But I think it's a good idea in general. So that's something next big project after maybe finishing our basement. But this is not basement cast. This is a an entrepreneurial podcast. So let's maybe move into our main topic of discussion that we want to talk about today.

Tyler Tringas 16:24
We have a request, yes, we do

Arvid Kahl 16:27
have a request. And it involves this very podcast, that is not the home improvement podcast, but a podcast talking about comm entrepreneurship, I just really want people who are listening to this to maybe consider talking to their entrepreneurial peers about this podcast, because we try to teach something, or at least elaborate on something that we know or are learning about every single episode. And we would really be happy if you could share this and talk to your friends and family and other entrepreneurs that you know about this podcast and just give it a Yeah, give it give it some boost in your little community. And of course, we would incredibly benefit from a review, and a rating on Apple podcasts or Spotify that is extremely valuable to us because it just gives us more exposure to people who haven't heard about this podcast yet. And it also gives us the opportunity to learn from your review what you like most about the show, right? What is the thing that makes you coming back and that will allow us to cater to this and give you more of what you already get some but not enough off. So that would be my, my request here.

Tyler Tringas 17:37
This is something I've changed my mind on I'll be honest, I think we started this with the idea of keeping it super informal. And so you know, originally I was just like, Oh, who cares? Why do we ask for press you know, I don't care if if 10 People listen to it, or 10,000. You know, like, I'm having fun. The point is like to catch up with our read, right. But we had a guest on last week. And I really liked that. And I think we should do a lot more of that. And you know, I think we were fortunate, right? I mean, Michelle was very busy. But she had this very important thing that she had to get out. And so she was very stoked to come on. You know, if we want to keep getting great guests, we need to at some point, be able to show Hey, there's a real audience here. That's that will be the main hook to reliably get very interesting folks and really pick their brain. So yeah, help us do that. That will be really fun. I would really

Arvid Kahl 18:27
like just to get some feedback on this. Because the pot that podcasting medium itself is like it's a distribution. It's like something that you broadcast, right? That's the whole idea. And that makes it hard to understand, like how we come across, like what people like about this, and what they want more of. So yes, please. And this is this the end of this segment, because we could talk about why this is great for us. But what I actually wanted to talk about kinda is related to this, because I just mentioned like Apple podcasts and Spotify. And both of these platforms are pretty much the biggest players in their market. And if you're not on Apple podcast as a podcast, or if you're not on Spotify, and using whatever podcasting software, you have to distribute to this, you have a problem, because most people will not find your podcasts because they only go through these apps to listen to particular shows. So as a creator, you kind of depending on your presence on these platforms. And platform dependency is something that I have seen, like reared its ugly, ugly head over the last couple weeks, very intensely. And that's that's something I wanted to talk about today like the can you stay calm as a business and operate on a platform or be highly dependent on the platform. And I kind of want to start talking about this, also mentioning Michelle, because she's she's fighting for entrepreneurs right now. And there's this this letter, this letter to Congress that is effectively a petition, an actual actionable and pragmatic petition for that people can act done and will hopefully make making this necessary and significant change from. But it's not the only petition that I saw last week. The other one was one to Twitter from the indie hacker community, telling them to please please reconsider their API pricing. And that API pricing change, that's just the announcement has found the community into disarray. And because for some reason, the idea was you pay $0 for essentially a free tier that you can really do much on, then there's $100, that is for like a basic tier where you have a couple 1000 tweets that you can pull in any given month. And then the next year is enterprise, which starts at $42,000 a month in fees, which is mind blowing the weird, zero 142k. So that is, as of now, of course, nobody really knows if this is just another no for 2069 Joke by Elon Musk, or whatever it may be. But it is a thing. And it's a thing that was officially communicated. And as a consequence, a lot of indie businesses are completely unable to access, or to at least consider in the future, paying for this, because if you don't have 42k, in revenue, you can even pay for this one basic thing that you need. And there are other things as well. And over the last couple of days, there have been there has been a significant amount of bands from these tools are for these tools from the API. So API access for tools, like tweet times are good Bantha yesterday, WordPress got, the had their Twitter API access revoked. And then, I guess through a couple back channels, they got it back two days later. That tells you a lot about the speed of the back, John was too. And yeah, Wordpress, other tools, like, you know that as Oh, black magic had problems and problems with that. And all of the indie hacker Twitter tools that we know, are threatened by this, and probably many, many more software businesses in this world. And I wanted to talk about building on a platform like Twitter, what that means for you as a business? And how, if at all, we can deal with this, what do you think about this development? Yeah,

Tyler Tringas 22:21
I mean, I think there's a lot of different things we can unpack there. This is something that we think about a lot, especially because, you know, we're frequently investing in companies that have, you know, greater or larger extent of this kind of platform dependency. And so it comes up quite a bit. And let's see where I mean, where can we go, right? So the Twitter one, I think, is pretty interesting. It's it is so you know, we invested in type fully Fabrizio and Francesco. And so I was just asking them, actually, I was just confirming for them was like, you know, is there because they announced, they're just going to continue, right type Li is built straight off of Twitter. And I asked them, had they, you know, discovered some, some sort of workaround, and they're just like, No, they're just paying the, the enterprise tier, like $40,000 a month. And, you know, they're sort of fortunate that they were further along. They had outside investment, they had a bunch of different things going their way where they can just kind of eat that cost for a while. But yeah, you're right. If you, you know, if you're going to launch something right out of the gate, you're just dead, right? Where even if you built something to, you know, 25,000 MRR you're toast. So that is it's pretty bad. My heart goes out to a lot of those indie hackers, you know, the it's like, you always live with the specter of this happening. But even still, when it happens, it just like, frankly, sucks. So yeah, for sure. You know, I'll speak for myself, but maybe for the both of us. If there's anything we can do any way that we can help. Any advice that we can give specifically, you know, feel free to reach out to us because this is not great. In terms of what we can talk about here, I think. So I kind of one thing to do is to break down platform risk a little bit, I kind of break it down into two major risks. The first one is just a cost inflation, right? So you're using something and they start to charge you for it, or they started to charge you more for it. And the second one, which is not really relevant here to Twitter, but it's also there is the idea that the platform releases what you created for free, right, that sometimes they I think the term for it is called shirt locking, which goes back to I think it was Apple who was sort of famous for for like just straight up, you know, ripping off the products that people built on top of iOS, and I'm not sure why it's called that but, but that's the kind of a geeky word for it. Well, I have a couple ideas but what what's on your mind about this actually, but why don't you lead it in a certain direction and then we'll go from there. strategies and things that I think about this. But let's dig into the main topic a little more.

Arvid Kahl 25:03
Yeah, I think that let us maybe define what we think platform risk that consists of, because I also feel it has multiple layers, right? There's the risk of just choosing one platform, it's like limiting yourself to one platform to build on with Google's analytics tools, they tend to be capable of supporting multiple platforms, right? If you want to have like a social media analytics tool to see like what the impression of your social media content is, you can integrate Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn and whatnot, you have multiple of these platforms that you could support. And if one breaks away, at least, you're kind of diversified enough to, you know, try and find another platform to monetize. That is at least something you could potentially do to not just be dependent on one platform. But that doesn't make sense for a Twitter tool. Like if you want to support Twitter users, you have to build on Twitter, you can't build on another platform that supports Twitter, Twitter is the only platform that you can automate and support Twitter stuff on. So that's the biggest problem that I see in platform risk is just that you limit yourself, you lock yourself in, it's like vendor lock in, but from the business side, right? It's not just that you choose the dependency, you can't let go off, it's like, there is a whole business without which you would not exist. And we have this platform risk. That's kind of the business version. And then we have platform dependency, which is kind of more the technical side, I feel where you integrate certain things into your business that are relevant to the functioning of your business, that when they go away, everything falls together, and everything explodes or implodes, depending on which direction the expert goes. So that is another tech, more technical layer. And we can, I think, when you think about platform dependency, or platform risk, like every business is built on some platform somewhere. Right? So the question is, to what degree does risk exist? How can we mitigate it kind of asking the question of how can we prevent something from completely pulling our business with it should it go? That's, that is something we should talk about and from for myself, I've seen this happen with a lot of like smaller software dependencies, like little tools that you use, and usually an abstraction around them is enough. But there are things like, if Twitter doesn't allow you on the platform anymore, then your whole business might be in peril. What do you think? Like, what, what other? Or

Tyler Tringas 27:39
was I'll rattle off a couple of these, and we'll see which ones we want to dig into. So one is I think you hit on it, which is that every business has platform risk. Right now, I think I saw a lot of sort of tweet to the effect of, I'm never building on another platform ever again, you know, like lesson learned, like next time, I'll build a platform independent sort of thing. I really, genuinely don't think that's possible, especially in tech and software these days, like, you're just choosing the platform, right? At the end of the day, you're always you're not going to be I mean, I guess in theory, you could, but you really have to go out of your way to like, you know, start racking your own server. So you're not dependent on the AWS platform, and, you know, rolling your own SSL code, so that you're not dependent on, you know, all this sort of, like you're just dependency is baked in to the world of software, because it's leverage, right, you know, you you save your time of inventing reinventing an almost infinite number of wheels to be able to ship this product by using these different platforms, right? So I think the right mindset is not to sort of say, like, platform risk is terrible, because you know, we had this thing happen. And what I'm going to do is try to avoid it at all costs, because you just will end up like, you know, writing your software on sticky notes, right, like, you just can't do it. So the question is just how do you assess it? And how do you mitigate it? And then also, how do you best take advantage of it, right, because there is an upside to it. I think also, recognizing the upside of platforms is important, because you're kind of making a risk reward cost benefit analysis at all times, in terms of how integrated you want to be. There is a reason why a lot of indie hackers are in this predicament is because you don't have a ton of money on marketing. And so one of the absolute best ways to grow a business when you are under resourced a small team is to hop on a platform, you know, you get to piggyback on their marketing spend all the TV ads, they're running and stuff like that. We saw this. We did a lot of investing in building on Shopify. And it was fantastic, right? You build stuff on top of Shopify, and they were adding a million stores a year and so you just had this natural customer flow that all you had to do was sort of get in front of and that's fantastic. And then you just have to assess the risk on the other side. So I think, I think let me say one thing, which is Maybe not gonna be that helpful, but I think is potentially interesting. assessing the risk, we have thought a lot. I have personally thought a lot about how can I systematically create an approach to this because every application for investment that we see has some degree of platformers. They're building on stripe, they're building on Shopify building on WordPress, they're building on top of some developer tool platform. I had asked a ton of people about this, I said, How can we create a mental model for assessing? You know, is there something to do with the structure of platforms or the nature of them? And I and we and everyone have come up completely empty for any sort of generalized strategy to assessing how likely is it that the platform is going to screw you over one day in either of those two ways, either raising prices or creating something for free? The only thing I've really found and this is I mean, I tell like my investors, how we approach this is just trying to backchannel to the actual humans that are running the place to just try and understand what are the actual strategic priorities right? You know, do you care more about power users? Do you care more about creating free features for top of funnel users like just, and I know, that's not super helpful for an independent entrepreneur, but I can, I guess, maybe save you the time by saying that there really is not, as far as I know, I haven't seen anybody else with a good blog post or strategy. Every single one of these platforms is just a unique snowflake, in terms of how they're going to assess the other side of that coin, which is, you know, basically screwing over some of the people that are building on their platform to meet some other strategic priority. And there isn't really like a generalized approach where you can say, Well, Okay, that one's going to be low risk, that one's going to be high risk, that one's going to be medium. Because it's just totally dependent on other strategic priorities. Usually, it's usually like, Okay, well, we need to grow our top line user numbers. So we have to change this or, you know, I have some more things. What do you think? Well,

Arvid Kahl 32:04
unless you have you have access to this back channel, you're essentially looking at a black box, right? It's a yes, it's a business that has its own internal motivations that they will not disclose. And even if they talk about them, you can't be absolutely sure that this is the truth, or just some kind of, it really reminds me, I was thinking about this also in the bathtub. This is very much like what we're currently experiencing with Chet GPT. With opening with with the systems where we don't know how they work, when their makers don't know how they work, because they have an internal mechanism that is completely obfuscated non traceable opaque to the people using it. And in many ways, I think you should treat as an indie entrepreneur, businesses on whose platform you built as exactly that. It's an opaque black box. That may or may not be goal aligned with you, which is that's the whole thing in AI right now. Right? The alignment problem, like is AI gonna kill us? Or is it gonna help us? Is it what is it interested in sustaining humanity? Or does it have its own goals that are not aligned with ours? Same goes for every business, on which premises you built your product, right, where you use their existing capacity, and distribution, and you know, the documentation and the systems that they've already built, while your goals might not be aligned with them. So what I think in this regard is one of the ways out of there for an indie entrepreneur, is to shift the alignment more towards you, by removing yourself from the platform as fast as you can, at least by removing your fundamental business service, the critical money making part of your service into your own, whatever it might look like. So if you start as an analytics browser extension on Twitter, right, you should very quickly move your browser extension into your own software as a service business that ingests analytics from systems like Twitter, but can do so much more. Because once Twitter falls apart, your connection to Twitter is severed. Your standalone SAS that can ingest things from anywhere is going to continue working. While if it's just a browser extension that hooks into Twitter while your business is no debt. Right? That is the shifting towards owning it. And I know that owning a SAS, it's still going to run on AWS somewhere, it's still going to have to do intercom for your chat communication and you need an email provider somewhere. I know there's still like some kind of dependency there. But it is not the same level and intensity as just just being listed on somebody's App Store is so different story. So yeah, that would be one like more actionable thing, I guess that I would like to communicate.

Tyler Tringas 34:51
I think I agree with that. I think so when when I thought about this in the past, assessing risk, I think is basically impossible and I think Your point of it being a blackbox is totally dead on, I think even if you have the network to be able to sit down and have a private coffee or a beer with the head of platform at x company, and they tell you like, no, no, no, we would never do this kind of change, blah, blah, blah, you still don't have that much confidence in that because you don't know that the, the, you know, the C suite has already decided, like, we're taking this in a different direction, you know, we know that this head of platform is not the right fit for the new direction, and they're gonna get fired in six months, right? You really have no idea. And so you do kind of have to assume it's always a risk. And I think there's two counter strategies that I've generally seen were pretty well, the first one is what you hit on, which is just interoperability, right, like being cross platform right out of the gate is valuable one because you can switch to other services, but also it creates value for your customers that the platform is never going to create. Right? So Twitter is never going to create its own like Buffer competitor that allows you to cross post to Instagram, LinkedIn, and a bunch of other competitors, right, they're never going to do Shopify is never going to build a tool that lets you easily sync your inventory, across Shopify, Bigcommerce, Amazon, all that sort of stuff, right. And so that's one way you can definitely add value is by being, you know, natively across a bunch of platforms on behalf of the people who pay you money. So that's one. And I think that's really good, because it also gives you that backup plan to just swap things out. The second one is really focusing on power users who have the capacity to pay a lot of money. And the main reason is that that insulates you more from the it insulates you from both risks, right insulates you from price increases, right? Because you have people who are, you know, much more flexible with their capacity to pay, right? So if you're just like, well, here's this power tool that you already pay, you know, $1,000 a month for now, it's gonna be $1,500 a month, but it's mission critical to your business, and it makes you $50,000 A month like no problem, right? Versus like, you know, if it's a consumer product, and it's gotta go from 10 bucks a month to 50, and you're just completely screwed. The second thing is, it insulates you a bit from the risk of the platform, releasing your product for free, simply because usually, the way that they do that is the more least common denominator type of products are the ones that they release for freight. Right. So the thing that almost everybody on the platform uses tends to rise to the top of what they'll actually end up releasing for freight. Right. So you know, Apple releasing like notes, right? Everybody uses notes, right. And so, if you can build something that actually only a small percentage of the users actually would use, it becomes significantly less likely that the platform is going to build a free version of that and cannibalize all your your customer base. So those are like I think my my two preferred counter strategies. Have you ever thought of or seen any, any other more kind of like generalizable approaches to mitigate that?

Arvid Kahl 38:08
I mean, other than diversifying, diversifying from the beginning, and I think what you what you said just now with the second example, that kind of ties into generally a good business philosophy is to find, find a niche problem that is not niche, because it's just a couple of people who have it. But it's nice, because it's specific, and commonly felt among a pretty sizable group of people who have the budget for a solution to that, I think, yeah, it's kind of the market first approach in a nutshell, right, figure out who you helping what their critical and budgetary problems are, and then implement a solution to that, to that problem in the medium and the workflow that people already have. It's kind of something that I tell every single founder in that order, because it just validates the existence of that budget from day one, every single step along the way. Whereas just building on some platform, building some kind of solution to some maybe perceived problem, which a lot of tools start out with, right? People want something, they build it on the platform, because it's easy, it's fast, they can quickly prototype it and put it out there. Wonderful. But if it doesn't solve a problem that people are willing to pay money for, then you trying to monetize it is going to be a big issue. So even just the approach to what you're building, and how your idea comes to be right is your idea the thing that starts the whole thing, or is the idea, a consequence of market exploration, that already makes you less prone to platform dependency, because you will consider why it is so useful to solve this problem. And being part of the platform is going to be part of it, but it's not going to be the only thing that you consider I like you also your value adding logic that it just kind of put in there like the thing you build if it already adds value that the platform itself would never want to capture because it involves other people, then that added value that that is a logical core of abyss Is that value add is the business and how you implement it. That doesn't need to depend on the platform. So I don't think honestly, there's much more to this than like diversify away from the platform into something that connects. Maybe that's the point. Maybe they're the idea. In most things. If you look at no coach as well, like the successful no code tools are the ones that integrate the easiest, right? Yeah, they're not the ones that solve the most specific problem by themselves. But they're the ones that solve this problem, and then integrate in the surrounding environment. And I think that is generally a good idea, particularly with software because it's so easy to integrate things nowadays.

Tyler Tringas 40:38
I think the one actionable piece of advice that I would take away, I would say what I would not take away from this Twitter experience, again, is like, platform dependency is terrible, I'm never going to do it again. Because you're really just picking platform dependency, like there's always gonna be a platform dependency, what I do think, is a good lesson to learn is probably earlier in the lifecycle of the business than then most founders Think or Do, you should do a sort of pre mortem, right? So a pre mortem is like, Okay, we've gone into the future, our business has been killed for the following reason. Let's work backwards from why and then you sort of say, how can we pre mitigate that? I think doing that exercise, like, much sooner, I think people tend to wait till they're like, enterprise tear before they even start thinking about this. But earlier on lifecycle the business, you should probably say, Let's assess, or let's, you know, pre mortem, like, our business was completely nuked by, you know, one of these two platform risk scenarios, right, either price increases, or they released our product for free. What can we do now to start mitigating that risk? Because I think, you know, you almost inevitably will have some kind of platform risk and any kind of good business idea that's worth doing. And that gets some initial traction. And so you got to just start thinking earlier about how do you make sure that you mitigate that. And that can be as early as, in the very first early versions of writing the code, you make it much more interoperable, right, you go ahead and just take a look at the API's of the competitors that you might need to switch to, and you write a slightly more generalizable, you know, approach to to routing that versus kind of hard coding very specific integrations with with one of the particular platforms. But yeah, I think doing that earlier in the lifecycle earlier than you think, basically, is kind of all I would say, but

Arvid Kahl 42:25
yeah, it starts it starts with technology choice as well. I think that from the software entrepreneurial perspective, more the software part. And the entrepreneurial perspective, I've run into this a couple times over the last decade is that there was an integration that was built on one specific tool, and now the tool is removed and replaced with somebody else. And now we have to completely rewrite the integration, because it just doesn't work anymore. And what I learned in those many jobs that I encountered this with, because people that did not think about it was just to have at least one abstraction layer around it. Right, put some abstraction in there for every single thing you integrate. And when I built feedback Panda, I did this also with a payment system that we had stripe in there. But I had considered paddle or fastspring or whatever people like tools that you could integrate that have a charge just person money API endpoint, or, you know, process a refund endpoint. But I didn't integrate them. Like in HeartCode into the code, I had a module that wouldn't charge somebody money. And then that module was implemented for stripe, but could have been easily implemented for every other tool as well. And you can do this amount around almost every single thing that technically you integrate, including your hosting. I think that's also a thing that I ran into with the panda is just going to put more feedback panda stories on here, because they were so soul crushing the weird. At some point, we were hosting our, our whole software stack at a pretty small German cloud provider. Because we thought odd there are a startup that currently scaling and they can grow with us, we can grow with them all turned out they didn't really know how to deal with like Federation of their servers, and everything just exploded into flames. And it was really bad. We had outages that lasted half a day, which for software as a service product that is being used in that time, like most specifically the during that particular point of the day. That was really frustrating. We had to refund a couple of subscriptions and try to figure this out. All the while I think that was happening while I was traveling from Berlin to Canada. So I was in the air for eight hours. And then it was really, I can still feel that you can probably hear how this affects me just it was really stressful

Tyler Tringas 44:33
in the hacker nice nightmare. Basically, it was

Arvid Kahl 44:37
and we had to overnight migrate the whole software stack onto the Google Cloud or some other cloud would have also worked but we needed to abstract it so it could be migratable and ever since then, every effort that I put into the software was aimed at making it more easily migrated should something happen. And I should have done this from day one like to encapsulate it in a Docker container Due to technical maybe, but you know, put it into something that is portable, instead of something that runs super well on this one platform. Because that was ultimately the reason why we had the long outages because we just did not think about this early enough. So I love the pre mortem idea. And it's kind of reminding me of the whole Tim Ferriss approach to what is it like the fear setting that he does, like, imagine the worst case outcome and feel that you can still be Okay, if you're prepared enough for it, right? Or that life will still go on? So now that you know, how do I mitigate this, it's kind of the same for your your personal psychology, you can do this for the psychology of the business, and stay calm at that point, too. So yeah, I really liked the pre mortem, early stage pre mortem, we should codify this. Like, let's maybe, Okay, let's pull this in an amazing segue that is not pre planned at all, into the discussion about the common NBA, because I have this feeling that this is something that we should teach people very early. Because I think people do not reflect this. If they think about building a business, people think that which is also something you will learn in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, just as a great pocket,

Tyler Tringas 46:14
we should affiliate with

Arvid Kahl 46:17
this free, it's completely free that audiobook and every Yeah, it's, it's, it's really nice. You should yeah, we're gonna put this in the show notes, because I think

Tyler Tringas 46:23
the monetization strategy Arvid we gotta we gotta workshop this. Yeah, I

Arvid Kahl 46:27
guess we should, we should have an affiliate link for something that is free that that is awesome. The idea was that people significantly overestimate the normal case, average case scenario, and the best case scenario to like, if you ask people, are you going to be done with this? At any given point, like in the next six hours in the next hour? Even if you do, if you ask them like an hour before, if they're 99%? Done, only 50% of them will be right. Like there's people just think way more optimistically about the regular case, because the regular case, in of any activity, to most people is a case where nothing happens, nothing goes wrong, which of course, it's not reality. So that is, you know, that is something that if you start a business, you think, Okay, yeah, I'm gonna build this, and then I'm gonna get maybe a couple of customers here that are gonna do some marketing, and you know, that you optimize your thinking for this ideal case. And then it turns out that two days into your launching a product, Twitter just completely cuts off your API access, right. And that is something that we can teach people to think about, just in the early stages of starting a comm business, because it's a mindset thing. Yeah. So that should go into the course. So I wanted to say, because I feel this is very much a, like a core perspective to have.

Tyler Tringas 47:43
I like that a lot. Yeah, it fits a narrative, like a little. I don't even know what to call this. It's a thing I say about where mentorship can be valuable to entrepreneurs, because I think that, in general, I'm kind of default, skeptical of a lot of kinds of mentorship for entrepreneurs, just because I think I think I'm gonna try to keep this not into a big rant, I think I just opened up next year for reversion is, you know, I think entrepreneurship is inherently sort of volatile and sometimes cyclical, right? So it's very different from architecture, right? Where or even more like structural engineering, right? Where the right answer kind of stays the right answer for a very, very, very long time. And you're incrementally building on so somebody who's done structural engineering for 90 years, like they know pretty much the right answer almost every time entrepreneurship changes, its dynamic, right? Sometimes the right answer is the wrong answer. And sometimes the thing that was the wrong answer now turns out to be the right answer. Now, sometimes something that works doesn't work. And sometimes the opposite is what works, right. So I get pretty weary of trying to sort of be very prescriptive. But there is something that I call seeing around corners, which I think is like the area where it's very useful, right, which is not, hey, I'm going to tell you how to assess platform risk, it's more like, I'm going to be able to walk you through some of the like fog of war, of what these kinds of platform risks can look like. So that you can see around the corner of your own kind of path that you're creating for yourself. And I totally agree this would be like a great, a great sort of module, you know, once people have settled on an idea, or they're trying to evaluate an idea to say, let's do a platform risk assessment exercise, to sort of pre mortem, it basically. Yeah, I love that. Awesome.

Arvid Kahl 49:30
We should have a conversation about like the the tacit knowledge that goes into entrepreneurship versus to codify shareable, and not yet and already codified knowledge that we have, and reading up on this over the last couple of weeks, some some really interesting, really thinkI articles about what things do we inherently know, but have a hard time expressing a hard time teaching people by anything other than just osmosis by having them see us do it and learning and experimenting and figuring Get out paying for our teaching efforts, it's going to be important to understand which things we have a hard time talking about, even though we know what they are, right, which is such a, like a successful or at least seasoned entrepreneurial thing, we have this feeling, it's like riding a bike or you get on a bike, you push forward, you know how to balance it, but you couldn't tell somebody how to do it without showing, I just keep the balance, well, that's not going to help them keep the balance. So there's something in there that's, that you cannot express and we should really be careful in finding these things. And then either trying to codify them, or giving people an alternative approach by just seeing how it's already done, and implementing it themselves. And then learning this tacit knowledge just through experimentation. So yeah, yeah, that would be a topic for another episode, I guess just what kinds of knowledge we are aware of, or not even the unknown unknowns of entrepreneurship. That would be super interesting, right? What What don't we even know? Can we get there? No, be cool. I would love to talk to you about this.

Tyler Tringas 51:01
Entrepreneurship. Oh, man, that is like a meaty topic.

Arvid Kahl 51:05
This also sounds like a super boring topic. But yeah, it could, it could also be a quite exciting if we involve more people, I think we, we should just find somebody who is conducive to that kind of conversation and have them on the show. I don't really have anybody on my mind right now. But I bet there's somebody out there. We'd love love to philosophize around like entrepreneurship and what it means to know.

Tyler Tringas 51:27
Yeah, tweet at us, who is the best philosopher of entrepreneurship? I'd be really cold. I would love to know who when we say that term. Does anybody come to mind with love the

Arvid Kahl 51:38
philosopher, the entrepreneurial philosopher, king? Oh, man, that would be really cool. What I actually wanted to talk to you about regarding the calm MBA was something much more banal. Surprising, it's money, I wanted to see, because I've been, I've been thinking a lot about accessibility over the last couple of weeks, like the article that I am gonna be releasing this Friday is about artificial scarcity, and how much I hate it in terms of, you know, digital tools and digital products. Hi, I just really don't enjoy when people keep something that can be copied for $0 limited to 50. Sales, right? And the impact that has on the global economy and the brand of the founder and the community at large. So that's what I'm thinking about. And in that I was thinking about, well, what are we going to charge for a product that will be if it is not a managed thing? Like if it's not a cohort course or anything where we actually highly interact with people? It might be, but there might be a part that is just an info product, right? Or are we charging for both at the same time, so I was thinking about money, and value. And that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Don't have to take ages to discuss this. But just like to get your get a general feeling about this, my general feeling is that we should charge some money for a product that is valuable to people. Because it says a lot about the product, and us as entrepreneurs to charge money for a good product. It's kind of my basic philosophy. I know this sounds like self evident, but I don't think it is in a world where people want everything for free.

Tyler Tringas 53:16
I think you're right. Yeah. I mean, I'm totally on board with that. I think, you know, there is there it isn't a valid question, right? You've got stuff like, you know, YC startup school comes to mind as like a I think it's free. Right? It's good. That's free. Yeah. And several others like that. So it is it's a question, right? If it's going to be something that's nominally competing, at least for mindshare, you know, with those products, does it make more sense for it to be free? Like my gut reaction, right, is that we should walk the walk, right that like that is the sort of like, venture Blitzscaling approach to getting that information out there. And we should take the calm approach, which is to, you know, charge an amount of money, you know, I think, to meet charge an amount of money that makes it sustainable, especially in terms of sustainable in terms of capturing our attention, in terms of potentially, you know, bringing in more folks to help us, you know, grow the kind of corpus of information. And so, yeah, I mean, I think that's a meaningful amount of money, right? Because, you know, we have, we have a pretty high opportunity cost, right? I think a big part of why this hasn't already been shipped is that we have a lot of exciting and lucrative projects that we could be working on. So we need to make sure that this appropriately kind of competes for our time and attention. Otherwise, it will potentially decay, right? If it just, you know, isn't something that allows us to scale you were talking about wanting to get you know, a next level of sponsor for the newsletter, so that or for the podcast, so that you can hire an editor, right? It's like not just about, you know, being greedy for yourself. It's about having the revenue to be able to make the product better. So yeah, I'm totally on board. I mean, I think I think I I mean, I share your sentiment about artificial scarcity. You know, but I do think that there's the we should charge a pretty, you know, hefty value for for whatever version of it. It is. I mean, I think we've been contemplating everything from a free course, or from a self serve course to a semester long MBA, Michelle hands It was talked about that last week, too even talking about doing like more of a weekend workshop kind of format, you know, so, of course, the price will depend heavily on which of those we're actually talking about. But I do think it should feel it should feel pricey, right, it should make sure that it's worth our time. And you know, that I think everybody wins in that case, right? If we feel like it's borderline worth our time, then are we really going to bring the absolute best that we can to it, you know, so I think we should start from that that premise I was. Yeah. So

Arvid Kahl 55:52
it's an honestly, it's a super interesting discussion to have, because I feel if it's worth our time, obviously, we're going to be putting in more, more effort. And it will also create a self sustaining system, which I want this to be right, I don't just want this to be a one off thing. And then people are kind of left alone, I would like to have like an alumni community where there are just regular exchange with people who went through the program to see where they are, if they need help, if they have something to offer, kind of like what YC does, right? If you there was this article just last week about going through yc. And somebody kind of ranked them as to how good it was for them in terms of like making connections and raising funds and learning stuff. And it was a pretty aggressive article, because it was about the YC cohort that went through the COVID remotes area or era. So they didn't really get much of in person stuff. And I think they were also complaining that the moment you go in there and you are assessed at the all the other VC companies might sell to you get inundated with sales pitches from everybody else in the cohort. So you have to make sure that this is not just becoming like an internal marketplace or something for everybody else's product. But I wanted to at least have the capacity for people to find other people who can teach them and who can give them something useful. So for that, it needs to be sustainable, love the word because it needs to be sustained. Like this is a sustained project, it's not just something that we quickly create and throw in and hope to make some cash, I want to play the infinite game, I want to keep playing the game. So that's that's why this is important to me. One thing that I am kind of having problems with is charging a lot of money that makes us completely inaccessible to people that are not living in the United States or Canada. So we might want to look into purchasing power parity pricing, something that makes us both expensive enough, you know, to be valuable to everybody, but in the context of the value of their own currency, which makes less money for us, but makes our whole thing more accessible and more global, which in the end could bring in more interest and more interesting diversity, which makes it more just more real. You know, it's not just people in the States and Canada that are going through this, but people in all kinds of markets all over the world. That is something I would consider at least because I've been doing this with my own products, like every single of my book and courses, books and courses are purchasing parity pricing, parity pricing enabled. Yeah, already. You know what I mean, PPP. And yeah, that has been really helpful for my readers in India and Pakistan and other parts of the world where the dollar is not the same value, right as it is here. So yeah, that'd be something

Tyler Tringas 58:40
that worked for that. I think I think if it's a, if it's a zero marginal cost and marginal time product, I think we should just do what you've done with your books, in terms of just making it PvP adjusted full stop. And I think if it's a sort of more finite product, so if it's a cohort based or we can base and it does have finite number of slots, my gut reaction is like having maybe a quarter to a third of the seats or PvP adjusted. It's also interesting. Yep, yeah. So because like, Yeah, I mean, like, you know, we want some control over that, right, it does need to be sustainable. And so, you know, if just by happenstance of when we tweet it timezone wise, you know, the entire cohort fills up with people at the lowest possible end of PPP adjusted, that could be a problem, especially if we start to hire people for it and stuff like that. Right. So I think if we, I think we can find some happy medium where, you know, there's a finite percentage of them are PPP adjusted, so the opportunity is there. But also we don't have huge, you know, uncertainty every time about what is the actual revenue we're going to have to work with?

Arvid Kahl 59:45
What is a great compromise? I love that because it's both inclusive and sustainable. Perfect. Love it. That's cool. What a really good idea of Oh, thanks so much for suggesting this. I didn't think about this again. I'm learning so One thing today like, you don't have to go either or would have guessed. That's great.

Tyler Tringas 1:00:07
When you think about this, I think for the next time we meet, I think we should put a hard deadline for when we're going to ship something. I think we've we've done a decent amount of scoping. I think we can, you know, we can put something out there. For at least for ourselves, it says whether it's a workshop, of course, you'd like something that people can actually buy by a hard deadline, maybe we should talk about it this week and said, What do you think?

Arvid Kahl 1:00:34
Oh, I'm excited. I love deadlines, man, deadlines, deadlines helped me a lot with just getting something out of the door. And if we can find a deadline by next week, that would also be super helpful. Because the week yeah, in nine days, or something, I'm gonna head to MicroConf in Denver. So I will have something to, you know, not officially or maybe officially communicate about this project to all my other peers that might be interested in this. So love it. Great timing. Good, too.

Tyler Tringas 1:01:10
But Awesome. That's a great timing. Yeah.

Arvid Kahl 1:01:14
Yeah, that is great timing. Sorry, there was just a little audio hiccup on my site. But this is a live podcast as live as it gets, I guess. So. This is staying in there. Cool. Um, do you have any shoutouts for today? Because I think we might be nearing our one hour workout.

Tyler Tringas 1:01:29
Yeah. When you initially proposed that we kept this to 20 minutes.

Arvid Kahl 1:01:37
This reminds very much of this over optimizing for, you know, like people thinking that the average is gonna be a certain length. And it turns out, yeah,

Tyler Tringas 1:01:47
yeah, I do have a shout out. I want to shout out, move better, Sam. So Sam is PT. He's super active on Twitter. I got recommended to him that at the very beginning of having this kind of weird nerve issue, I was just like, freaking out was like, my, my fingers are going numb randomly. I have these weird pains, like, what the heck is going on? And I couldn't get to, you know, Pete, I'm here in New York, it takes weeks to get on anybody's schedule. And so I was freaking out. And a friend recommended me to him, I DM him on Twitter. He did his zoom call with me gave me like a ton of YouTube videos and all kinds of stuff right out of the gate that I'm working with a local PT now because I don't actually know where he is. But it's very aligned with exactly what he gave me. So it gave me a huge head start and a lot of confidence about what to do. And he's super. He's super active on Twitter. He answers a lot of questions, and does a lot of just like straight up free sort of consultations for people on Twitter. And then you can actually book him for a zoom call, which again, was like, incredibly well worth it for me. I got this whole worksheet anyway. So yeah, move better, Sam. Thanks. But

Arvid Kahl 1:02:58
yeah, big shout out to Sam, this is awesome. It just blows my mind that this is the reality we live in. Like we have nerve pain, and then we can just zoom somebody and they can actually you heal through the magic of Twitter.

Tyler Tringas 1:03:08
It's unbelievably cool. Yeah. So

Arvid Kahl 1:03:11
well, I love it too. I hope that you'll be better, even better next week that this is going to be less of an issue for you. Because like anything related to nerves, it's just that gets on your nerves real quick. And that is a problem, right? If you type a lot and all that stuff, so I hope you heal a lot throughout the week, and I'm looking forward to talking to you next week.

Tyler Tringas 1:03:35
Thanks, buddy. See you next week.