Lost and Founder

On 3rd February 2022, GoSquared celebrated its super sweet 16th birthday. Here are 8 lessons from those 16 years — on building, ideas, and on customer relationships.

Show Notes

Recently when GoSquared turned 16 years old (or young?) we shared a blog post with 16 lessons from those 16 years. We received a ton of great feedback on the post, so I thought it’d be good to share some of those lessons on the show and speak about them a little more.

Here are the first 8 of the 16 lessons we’ve learned along the way so far...

On ideas and building:
  1. Build something people want.
  2. Share early, share often.
  3. Constraints breed creativity — embrace them
  4. The details are not the details, they make the product
On customers:
  1. Use your own product. Be your own customer
  2. Charge the trust battery
  3. Your customers are smart — treat them accordingly
  4. Treat each customer as unique, but scale your process
Links and further reading
Thanks, and see you next time!

P.S. I'm on Twitter https://twitter.com/jamesjgill

Music: Jakarta by Bonsaye
Podcast hosting: Transistor

What is Lost and Founder?

Being a startup founder is not all private jets and parties. Truthfully, being a founder is a lonely, difficult, stressful, yet rewarding way to spend your life. James Gill started GoSquared with two friends from school in 2006, and in this podcast he shares his struggles, excitement, and everything in between with refreshing honesty.

James Gill: hi there.

Welcome to another episode
of lost and founder.

I'm thrilled to be back.

Sorry, it's been a little bit of a delay
again since since our last episode, but

I, I thought we just nearing the end of
February now, and I wanted to talk about.

The journey we've been
on, it goes squared.

Over several years and to
be precise over 16 years.

'cause earlier this month.

At the start of February.

Go squared termed.

Well GoSquared celebrated it
super sweet 16, as some might

say, if anyone's a fan of the MTV.

Hit show then, the celebrations
were pretty, pretty similar to that.

No one got a Hummer though, and
no one got a big dress for the

ball, but we had a good time.

In fact, we partied by putting
out a lovely blog post.


If you've read that blog post ready
then forgive me because this episode

of the show might be quite familiar,
but I thought Most people in the world

probably haven't read that blog post.

So seeing as this is episode
15 of lost and founder.

I thought we would do eight of
those 16 lessons on this show.

And then in episode 16 of lost and
found that we'll do the other hate.

So we'll finish with.

Less than 60.

Of 16 years ago, squared on.

Episode 16, all blessed and Fanta.

In terms of the lessons that we can look
forward to learning about from all of the.

Mistakes and fun.

And all of the big journey
we've been on, it goes grabs.

We, we, we actually broke those
16 lessons into four blocks.

And the first tier I wanted to talk
about in this show, the first two

blocks of lessons in this show.

I wanted to talk about four lessons.

We've, we've kind of picked
up along the way around.

Ideas and building software
or building anything really.

And the other four lessons I wanted
to talk about were around customers

and how to treat your customers, how
to find customers, how to build a

business with customers that hopefully.

Enjoy and like what you do.

And then in the next episode of
loss and founder we'll cover.

The other eight lessons, which
if you've, if you want to go read

the post, you can catch them then.

But otherwise we will talk to talk
about the, from the next show.

So yeah, so this show, hope.

That sounds good.

And we'll dive right in.

Let's go!

The first lessons I wanted to share
with you all around ideas and building.

Now when we started go squared.

When Geoff JT and I were all at school.

We started at primarily because we
all really enjoyed making things.

Tough designing, making programming.

And I think a lot of people get started
in, in the world of internet business

and and building an online company.

Who who love, who love creating things.

And I think the internet offers
such an incredible opportunity for

anyone who feels creative to a.

Put the creations out
into the wider world.

And for many, it offers the best way
possible to monetize those creations.

And so.

It seemed highly relevant to, to start.

Our lessons from, from on the focus
around on the idea of the focus,

the topic of, of ideas and building.

So first lesson which You may have had
all these lessons before, but I hope

that then coming from me is vaguely
interesting and, and more helpful with

the context of how they apply to us.

But the first lesson really is.

To build something people want.

And this motto is the the,
the motto of one of the most

successful startup incubators.

In the world, which is Y Combinator,
which led to companies, including Airbnb

to come out of But the the, one of the
challenges when you enjoy making things

is you can sometimes put things into the
wild because you enjoyed making them.

But that doesn't necessarily mean anyone's
going to enjoy using them or buying them.

Or all that anyone needs them.

And and I think for anyone out
there who loves making and wants to

start a business, this is a really.

Really important lesson to bear in mind.

And we've made this mistake countless
times over our 16 year history so far.

But I think.

One great way to avoid building something
that nobody wants is to make sure you

don't spend too much time building before.

You talk to people who might
be buying it or wanting it.

And so getting outside, or at least
getting on calls with people who might.

Be relevant users or customers of
your product is is a really, really

sensible idea and really critical.

And it truly warrants.

Number one on our list of lessons learned.

Now second lesson.

Kind of nicely follows on
from the first in that.

A key way to build great things and
to build things people want is to

share your ideas and share them.

Without fair that they
might get shot down or to.

To share them and see what comes back.

And I think.

As we've grown as a team.

What we've increasingly
realized that that is the ideas.

Can start very in a very fragile states.


If you want to harness
a culture where ideas.

Not only survive, but thrive.

And where your team and everyone
on the team is encouraged to truly.

Bring themselves to work
and do great creative work.

You have to treat ideas incredibly.

Incredibly carefully as if they are.

Fragile things that may
get crushed or broken.

And And I think fostering a culture where
people feel free to share ideas, even

crazy ideas is a, is a critical aspect of
building a creative team and a team that.

It feels safe and.

And the safer everyone
feels are sharing ideas.

I think the more, the more exciting
it can get as a creative workplace.

And this is easy to say, but very
hard to do often, far too often

ideas sound difficult or there's
reasons to not do an idea, or

there's a reason why an idea might.

Not be front of mine today.

But if you're too quick to shut down
those ideas or to quibble with them

or to criticize them, It can have a
much more dangerous longterm effect

on people where people don't feel
comfortable sharing our ideas anymore.

And if that happens, then.

You start to drain the brain of the
company and you start to lose that

creative spark, that energy, that.

Can be the difference between a
small team succeeding or authentic.

Often as a small team, all
you have is creativity and the

engineer's he and holding that.

Dare to your heart is I think
something that I will always do.

So yeah.

Feel free to share early
and share often your ideas.

Another way to really enhance creativity
within your team can be to look at.

Applying constraints.


A lot of us have been really stuck.

Over the last years, being at home
and and being in a remote environment.

And I think at times it's been
very hard to truly be creative

and come up with fresh ideas when
you're in the same surroundings.

But trying to find.

Ways of being creative is, is a
real a real art actually I think.

And one of the best ways I think to be,
be creative is to often apply constraints

to a project often artificial constraints.

These may be time-related or looking
at things through a different lens.

But I think from what we've seen,
some of the best projects we've done,

some of the most progress we've made.

Has been from applying extremely
harsh time constraints to projects.

So we've done many hack days in our time.

We've even done a hack our once.

And it's incredible what people can
achieve in such a short space of time.

So sometimes if you're really struggling
to make progress on a project and it

feels like you just need more time.

Try changing it up.

Try thrifting.

The other way round and see what
happens if you give yourself.

An almost stupidly.

Tight constraint.

On on one aspect and see what
creative ideas that breeds.

I am definitely a
self-confessed design nut.

But one of my favorite designers is a.

So furniture designer, mid century
and it could Charles Eames or

Charles and Ray Eames actually.

And Charles.

Em's had a quote.

That was the details on what the
details they make the product.

And for me, this just speaks to exactly
how we've approached building software.

It goes squad.

And that often the world is very
caught up in feature checklists

and who's got the most stuff.

But I think all of us, even
if we can't necessarily.

Articulate it.

Appreciate well crafted.

Things, whether that's the phone we
use the app we use every day or the.

Gloss of.

The glass we used to drink
water from, or the cup.

We drink our mug of tea
from in the morning.

And I think I've always believed that
people can appreciate a well-made product,

whether that's physical or virtual and
and to really make sure we pay attention

to the details whenever possible.

And to, to obsess over details
sometimes that no one would necessarily.

Go out of their way to notice
or to talk about, but that we

know are the right things to do.

And by doing that, you put something.

Better into the world.

And I think.

Ah, that's sometimes
worth bearing in mind.

Is that anyone who's doing.

Doing any software work
or building a product?

I don't think caring about the details
is ever wasted, ever wasted energy.

And hope more people continue to
think like that as we move forward.

When we start a case.

We've built a product that
satisfied our own needs.

We really had a really clear understanding
of what we wanted and we built

something to solve that problem for us.

And I think that's often what causes a lot
of people to get started building things.

And I think, I think it's a really good.

Approach to have for a lot of products,
especially software products, because

you understand the needs in the space.

Often a better than a lot of other people.

And so it can be a really great
way to build a great product.

But I think it's important to make sure
over time you don't lose that closeness

to the problem you're solving and the
way people experience your product.


Try to keep finding ways
of being your own customer.

Now as time goes on.

Often what happens is you.

Become a bigger and bigger user
of your product, but you rarely go

through that experience of being
a new customer or seeing what it's

like to just start using the product.

You build up so much knowledge
about your own product.


You may forget what it's
like to be a new user.

So we continuously try to make
sure we keep being our own customer

and a really good way to action.

This is to try and sign up for
your own product or use your own

product as if you're a new user,
every a, on a really frequent basis.

Maybe it's weekly or
maybe it's every month.

So for instance, if that's,
if you're running like an

e-commerce store, Maybe try it.

Buying a product from yourself.

And seeing how it would come
packaged and how you would open it.

Or if you're running a SAS
business, Try just signing up for

a new trial and seeing what that
experience is like from the get-go.

It can be a really, really helpful way
to make your product better for everyone.

I really profound lesson.

I picked up when reading a piece
from the founder of Shopify, Toby.


He talked about a concept
called the trust battery.

And ever since I came across it,
it has really highlighted and.

Exemplified, I think how I've always
thought about building customer

relationships, but it does a far
better job than I ever could.

On on, on it.

Articulating it.

And the idea is that if you think about
every customer as having a, a battery that

is filled with trust not power, but trust.

Just like your phone battery.

But over time and every interaction
they have with your business.

That battery is either getting
charged or it's getting drained.

And so when you try cheap gimmicks,
that might trick users, you start

to drain that trust battery.

Or when you tell them something
that you don't deliver on,

you drain that trust battery.

But when you deliver an exceptional
experience, maybe go out of your

way to really please the customer.

He charged that trust battery and a.

I think.

Bearing that in mind helps you
build really long lasting customer

relationships and ultimately build
a, a better, longer lasting business.

And and so we always try to think
about that with every approach we

have, whether it's on marketing
on sales, customer success.

Decisions in the product, how can
we keep charging the trust battery

and, and avoid draining at all costs.

Perhaps quite in line with
thinking about the trust battery.

Another lesson that I think I've always
taken to heart is, is to really treat your

customers as smart people and to not miss.

Misinterpret or misunderstand
them or to treat them as

anything other than smart people.

And I know that might sound a little
bit crass, but sometimes it's easy

to think that customers don't get it
or they don't understand what you're

about, or they don't understand
that new thing you've built.

But I think that's a really
dangerous and slippery slope.

Because most people are smart and they've
like, they've clearly been smart enough to

come and use your product or buy from you.

So there.

Those are the people you want
to be attracting and keeping

and attracting more of.

But often it's easy to underestimate how.

How much people actually have time
for your company and your brand and

your product in their daily lives.

And so often it's not about
whether or not a customer is smart.

It's about whether or not
they've got a lot of other

things going on in their life.


Your business and your product is
likely a very, very small part of it.

So remember, try and keep reminding
yourself that your customers

like me are really smart people.

But they've got a lot
going on as we all have.

And to just bear that in mind when
having interactions and helping them out.

They're smart and they probably
just don't have enough time to

understand or pay attention to
whatever your latest release is.

Keep that in mind and I think it will
help you treat customers with the respect

that they almost certainly deserve.

The last about eight lessons.

For this episode.

Is really around treating
customers as unique.

But also making sure you
have a scalable process now.

This can be a really difficult thing
because when you start out, you

likely only have very few customers.

You may only have one.

If any.

And and, and so we've always felt
very good about treating every

customer as, as carefully as
possible as you need to as possible.

But as you grow, and as you
scale, you may end up with tens

of customers, maybe hundreds,
maybe even thousands of customers.

And so it's really important to try
and find a balance of treating each

customer uniquely and with care, but
also to make sure you have scalable

processes and systems in place, because.

The last thing you want to do
as a founder or as a team is be

spending 100% of everyone's time
dealing with your customers because.

Then you're not making a product better.

You're not looking for more customers.

You're not.

Servicing their needs
necessarily as well as you can.

So finding scalable processes that
help deliver that care that That, that

uniqueness for each fruit customer.

But but making sure that, that those,
those processes do scale, so your

team can be as efficient as possible.

Is really, really important.

And so finding ways to deliver
that, whether that's new tooling,

new processes, new systems finding
ways of delegating the right tasks.

I'm finding ways to prioritize
the needs and urgency of different

customers in different situations.

All can really help.

Continue to deliver great
customer experiences.

But also make sure your team can get that.

Get their work done and be
as productive as possible.

So there we have it.

That's our first eight of 16
lessons from 16 years of GoSquared.

I hope you found those helpful.

I could probably spend all day
talking about each of those, but If

you've got any thoughts on any of
those, if you disagree with any of

them, if you think we should have.

Added another in there that we
missed or that we didn't think of.

I'd love to hear from you.

And I'll link to the blog post
and our timeline in the notes.

So you can see the full
history of ghost grad.

If you're that interested or bored.

Then I hope you'll enjoy that.

And I look forward to the next episode,
which will be episode 16, and we will

go through the other eight lessons.

From our journey so far so it's
good to be back and look forward to

speaking to you again soon thanks
for listening and see you then