The Bootstrapped Founder

Are you a bootstrapper who's never considered raising investment money? Or maybe you're a die-hard VC-funded growth hacker who can't imagine running a business without that extra cash infusion. Either way, Jason Cohen's journey from bootstrapping to raising millions will give you a fresh perspective on the funding debate.

Jason discusses his personal discovery of wanting a different journey with WP Engine, which led to raising money after two years of bootstrapping. We also uncover the importance of understanding your competitors instead of demonizing them, in order to develop a unique strategy for your own business.

Jason has seen and done a lot as a founder. No matter what stage of this journey you’re on, you will learn something today.

00:00:00 Introduction
00:01:27 Raising money for bootstrapped companies.
00:09:16 When is it bad to sell your business?
00:15:31 The problem with self-imposed ignorance.
00:19:11 Founder mental health issues
00:23:04 How to hire people who are better than you.
00:27:26 The importance of having a consistent strategy.
00:31:20 The reality distortion field of a software business.
00:34:59 Do you ever consider building a solopreneur business again?
00:40:37 Do you ever consider not being a founder anymore?
00:45:12 The value of building a public network.
00:54:12 The importance of building public.
01:01:03 The importance of social media.

Jason on Twitter: @asmartbear

The blog post:
The podcast episode:
The video:

You'll find my weekly article on my blog:

My book Zero to Sold:
My book The Embedded Entrepreneur:
My course Find Your Following:

This episode is sponsored by! Go to to get started with making sure you run a sellable business.
  • (00:00) - Introduction
  • (01:27) - Raising money for bootstrapped companies.
  • (09:16) - When is it bad to sell your business?
  • (15:31) - The problem with self-imposed ignorance.
  • (19:11) - Founder mental health issues
  • (23:04) - How to hire people who are better than you.
  • (27:26) - The importance of having a consistent strategy.
  • (31:20) - The reality distortion field of a software business.
  • (34:59) - Do you ever consider building a solopreneur business again?
  • (40:37) - Do you ever consider not being a founder anymore?
  • (45:12) - The value of building a public network.
  • (54:12) - The importance of building public.
  • (01:01:03) - The importance of social media.

Creators & Guests

Arvid Kahl
Empowering founders with kindness. Building in Public. Sold my SaaS FeedbackPanda for life-changing $ in 2019, now sharing my journey & what I learned.
Jason Cohen
Keyword, buzzword, half-truth, adjective, hey look at me! (founder of two unicorns:,

What is The Bootstrapped Founder?

Arvid Kahl talks about starting and bootstrapping businesses, how to build an audience, and how to build in public.

Arvid Kahl: Are you a
bootstrapper who's never

considered raising investment
money? Or maybe you're a diehard

VC funded growth hacker who
can't imagine running a business

without that extra cash
infusion? Well, either way,

Jason Cohen's journey from
bootstrapping to raising

millions will give you a fresh
perspective on the funding

debate. Jason discusses his
personal discovery of wanting a

different journey with WP
Engine, which led to raising

money after two years of
bootstrapping. And now it's

unicorn. Well, there you go. We
also uncovered the importance of

understanding your competitors
instead of just demonizing them

in order to develop a unique
strategy for your own business.

Jason has seen and done a lot as
a founder. And no matter what

stage of this journey you're on
right now, you will learn

something from our conversation
today. Let me quickly thank the

sponsor of this episode, here. More about

that later. And now, here's
Jason Cohen.

Thank you so much for being on
the show, Jason. That's really

nice for you to come. Two exits
and two unicorns, those are

quite some credentials that you
have there. And one thing that I

really, really love about your
journey is that the businesses

that you've been involved in,
started out bootstrapped and

then later raised investment
money. And I always wondered,

following that journey, was that
the plan from the start or did

it become a necessity at some
point? How did you go from

bootstrapping to raising money
because those tend to be

different things, right?

Jason Cohen: It was never the
plan from the start with any of

them. And so with Smart Bear, I
never raised money. I sold it as

well, it was still bootstrapped.
And it was only the company I

sold it to, which was Insight
Venture Partners, a well known

VC out of New York. They put in
more money and bought up a

number of companies, which it
now is still called Smart Bear.

But it's a number of development
tool, companies centered around

quality. And, but I never raised
money for it at all. Then with

WP Engine, WP Engine was my
fourth company and in bootstrap

again, because all of them were.
That's the deal. But about two

years in, it became clear that
the market was way bigger than I

thought. It really was an
opportunity size, that you could

raise money for, meaning like it
was plausible. It made sense

too. Not that you have to, but
you could and it would be

logical given how big it could
be. That became clear after two

years. And then the other factor
was, again, having done it many

times and also now being a
father at that time. I think a

combination of that was like
maybe I want a different journey

this time. And I don't mean a
different journey as in, oh, I

know how to make companies. This
is easy. That is not true.

There's a couple of things that
are easier, like, oh, you know

this about taxes or you have
this one framework about doing

this one thing. Okay, a little
bit. But largely everything's

new, new customers, new market,
new product. Even in a market

you understand, 10 years later,
it's still a different market.

Still, everything's different.
And so you really have to have

beginner's mind with each
company. So not that I thought I

knew all of that, but rather, am
I optimizing for profit or

growth? Is the constraint money?
Or is the constraint people? How

big of a strategy should we make
or can we make? What kind of an

impact can we make in the world?
What kind of an organization we

want to build? Those are the
kinds of things where there can

be very different paths. And
since I had done one path and

one set of constraints and
goals, you know, multiple times.

Again, I didn't go into it
thinking I wanted something

different. I thought I wanted
the same, but then it turned out

like you know, what may be? And
so it was this just discovery,

personal discovery, I guess, as
well as being in a maybe luckily

in a market and with a product
with such fit because it was

incredible product market fit
that that was a viable option.

Of course now in retrospect,
absolutely. Correct.

Arvid Kahl: Right. Yeah. I think
that paid out pretty well. Well,

the thing that I wonder about,
like when I build my businesses

in the past, I always considered
myself identity wise, a

bootstrapper. I thought that was
part of me, right? And that

always made the even just the
idea of raising money, something

like no, that's what other
people do, right? It's kind of

the inversion of what Seth Godin
is talking about where things

move up, like people like us do
things like that. People like us

don't do things like that. They
don't raise. So did you struggle

with that at all with this kind
of identity thing as a


Jason Cohen: I did not because
of a couple of things. One is I

do identify with the companies I
have or the ideas that I have,

the blog that I've written for
over 16 years. Those kinds of

things, of course, are part of
my identity. And I do feel that

way about. I don't feel that way
about processes. I don't feel

that way about sort of some of
these more objective decisions,

should you raise money or not?
What kind of culture should you

have? Is design important or
less important? There's which

markets and what kinds of things
are good? Other than some very

broad things like making the
world net better instead of net

worse that I think some
companies do or unethical things

other than some, like very big
boundaries like that I don't

have a personal thing. So like,
I don't have an axe to grind

with investors versus not having
done both. It's like, yeah, they

both have upsides, downsides.
There's bad actors in both

places. And I don't know, you
know, like, I see all of the

above. So I don't know the one's
evil and one's not evil. I've

had experiences with investors,
where without them there's no

way the company would be as good
as it is including things like

culture and people, not just
financially. And also things

where the internal desires of
the investors mean that the

pressures on the company are
wrong. And I don't mean WP

Engine necessarily. I've
invested in dozens of companies.

So I've seen the other investors
act. But like, as an investor

myself, I've been with companies
where it was very clear that the

founder would be better off if
they sold it. They wanted to

sell it. And I saw some
investors trying to get them not

to because I guess that investor
wants to whatever. But I saw

others, including myself saying,
like, good for you. Let's help

you do that. That's what you
want to do. Let us help you do

that, which we did. So maybe
that was, I mean, was that less

overall return for investors? I
don't know, it was a return on

the founders burned out. So that
actually sounds good for

everybody. So I've seen people
be extremely helpful in that

role. And I've seen people be, I
mean, hurtful is maybe the wrong

thing, but like, not taking the
company into consideration,

being very selfish and so forth.
I've seen both. So to just paint

a broad brush and just say it's
bad. I get it, I understand that

mentality, it's something to do,
it's a thing to rail against.

That makes sense to me. But to
me, I care about the actual

behaviors going on rather than
the concept of like fundraising,

being something that is or isn't

Arvid Kahl: It feels to me that
it kind of not taking

investment. Too many people is
shortcuts to not having

alignment problems with
investors because there's no

investors, kind of an alignment
problem, because you're not

gonna have any alignment. But
obviously, there are great

investors that will align
magically or at least

intentionally with your
business. So yeah, that's kind

of what I've come to understand
as well. And it's funny that

you're saying that you are
invested in other companies. I

think I found on your website
that you are or were invested in

short, Swift capital. Is that
correct? Yeah. Yeah. Did you?

Were you aware that? Sure. Swift
capital was the acquirer of my

SaaS business a couple years
ago? Yes. Yeah. So I kind of I

guess I have you to thank on
some level for being

Jason Cohen: No, but but there's
a great example of what I think

of, okay, as an investor, well,
it is, as an LP in that they are

an investor. Of course, they buy
out the company completely and

run it and so forth. But they
are an investor in the same way

that a private equity, is there
really a private equity for

small companies? So Aren't they
great? I mean, I watched your

interview with Kevin and like,
aren't they making the world a

better place? Aren't they making
it not only the world better for

founders who are getting who
gets to get out of the company,

whether that's for liquidity or
burnout? Or both? I would guess

a lot of the time, isn't that
better. And that elevates people

who are at the company, and they
get a chance to shine and have

some leadership positions that
maybe there wasn't room for

before, because it was a small
company. So it's not better for

them. And it's better for the
customers, of course, if the

company has continuity, and
doesn't just burn out because

the founder burned out, you
know, that's, so isn't that

making the world way better, and
that's an investor. So, again,

like I care about, I do think
there's a lot of bad behavior

investors, and I love it when,
when that's called out because

it's very bad. You know, Cory
Doctorow, for example, fantastic

at calling out bad behavior in
industries, companies, etc. So,

Hell, yes, I'm like, I'm way I'm
ready to rail against those

behaviors, right. But to just
say, like, investors are bad,

it's like, Sure, Swift is bad.
Really? You really want to say

that, because you're just so
Boostrap? Like I said, people do

say that. And I don't I don't I
just don't agree with that.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, I don't agree
with that either. It's funny

because I learned a first word
through Morgan style singer who

I had on my show just a couple
of weeks ago. And he was just

just an assassin entrepreneur
who sold his businesses there as

well. And that gave him the
opportunity to build better and

even bigger businesses. Like
they literally make the dream

that he had possible by being
there and being willing to

acquire the thing that he was
ready to sell. Like, that's also

a thing like what Kevin was
saying, like most people sell

for a reason. And money is not
always that reason. Burnout is

different diversification that
is a big thing too. Right? Like

taking some money off the table
or getting getting a half exit

or full exit or whatever. Yeah,
people have their reasons. And

it's nice that there is
something in there for everyone.

And even there are funds like
the com company fund or tiny

seed where there's Some money
for bootstrappers that is not

bound to the VC growth
expectations as well. I like

that there's a continuum. That's
what I really enjoy. And I think

at some point in my life, I was
very much on one side of it,

just like, you know, radical
bootstrapper. Which is funny

because I used to work for
Silicon Valley like series, a

race, SaaS business in the past,
and I thought, oh, Vc is where

it's at, right? It's where it's
all at overreaction, that's

Jason Cohen: false, too, right?

Arvid Kahl: both are super
limiting, in a way. Yeah,

Jason Cohen: it's silly. I think
I think when is it bad? When is

it good, very interesting
questions. But just to say,

like, you know, selling your
business is bad, or fundraising

is bad as like, oh, my gosh,
that's just that's just, it was

productive and silly. Right? And
then especially if you're really

mad about it, what do you do?

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, that's, that's
a pretty weird stance taking in

in our community, I think the
polarization I think it might be

a social media problem, that
things are so polarized that you

have to take a stance, because
if you don't, then nobody cares.

You do because it kind of in
anticipation of getting some

support, you take a more radical
stance, and then you kind of

drift apart. I mean, do we have
this in the political systems of

the world? Maybe?

Jason Cohen: One nice thing
about being extreme, is it's

very easy to think about stuff,
because it's just like, This is

bad. This is good. And so that
that, and I don't mean that in a

bad way. I mean, that in a good
way. It's sort of like, you

know, what diet? What's the diet
that works? Well, really, like,

as long as you're not eating too
much and too much bad stuff.

That's probably about right,
unless you have like a very

special problem. So how come
there's so many diets? Well,

these diets are like super
extreme in this are never eat

that. Probably, it's just a
simple rule. And the fact that

it's a simple rule means it's
easier for you to follow it. And

a more complex, subtle rules is
harder. And so the cognitive

load going down, it just like
makes it easy. Go to the

restaurant, just do this and
tell them know that and, and

it's just better. And so it's
not really about that there's no

carbs, or there's no this or
that, it's really just that it's

a simple rule to get to what you
want. So similarly, I mean, it's

fine just to say, like, VC bad,
or fundraising, bad,

bootstrapping, good, that's what
I'm gonna do. There's nothing

wrong with that, really,
because, okay, then you're only

going to read these kinds of
blogs, you're only gonna follow

this guy. So good, because that
means you'll get this, you'll go

deeper in one area, that's good.
Now, I could say you're not as

well rounded, you may be missing
out on ideas, you certainly have

a skewed version of what the
world's like. But it's actually

kind of useful. So I don't know
like, it's a good way to focus

your time. So I think if you're
getting upset about it, then

maybe it's like, hey, look,
that's crazy, to be upset. But

if you're like, no, I'm just
focused, I think that's probably

why is actually,

Arvid Kahl: I think that there's
a difference between being

interested in something and
being prescriptive about that.

Right, you can be super
interested and go super deep. I

mean, that's kind of the T
shaped employee thing that I'm

always thinking about, right,
you have a broad view of

everything, but you choose one
or two, the moment you become an

A shaped employee, you have a
problem, right? You don't want

to be the just just going deep
on one and ignoring everything

else. Well, another thing too,

Jason Cohen: uh, your
competitors may have raised

money. In fact, if you're in any
kind of a market, that's not

trivial, there is other there
are other competitors that are

maybe large, maybe raise money,
or maybe they're simply large,

so they have money themselves,
like, it doesn't really matter

where they raise it or not. And
so if you know nothing about

that, and what their incentives
are, what their culture might

be, like, what they might be
trying to do, what their goals

are, how is it that you're going
to develop a strategy of your

own, where you win in your own
way, knowing how they might

react, or may think about
different things, you may know,

oh, since they need to do growth
over everything else, if I'm, if

I go really strong in, let's
say, customer relationships, and

I spend all this extra time
talking to people making

relationship reaching out as
soon as they can, personally, as

soon as they sign up. I can do
that, because I'm not at scale.

And because I, I could be
profitable, more profitable, or

even just happier have a happier
customer base, more delighted

customer base, rather than how
fast can I grow a certain

number, but they do, because I
know that they're raised from

wherever place and that's how
they run their companies. So if

I have a strategy that does X,
Y, they will not follow me. Like

even if they could compliment
could like in quotes with, you

know, monetarily, they won't,
because that's not their

culture. That's not their goals.
So I will definitely have a

unique strategy if I do that.
See, that's, that's part of what

makes strategy good is when you
can say that. So if you know

nothing about the other side,
because you can't be bothered,

and you think it's quote
unquote, stupid, even though

they're 100 times bigger than
us, how could it be that stupid?

Then you're probably just
ignorant about your own

strategy. So again, you don't
have to like it. And you know,

but like, just be ignorant of
it. Or say that they're dumb

when they're winning. It's like,
that doesn't sound right. You

want to build your own strategy
where you win in your way,

whatever that may be. And what
that way will not be is you

trying to outspend them on
things because that's what

they've got. Is that money in a
different way. But similarly,

they do need to in a funny way,
they almost need to spend money,

it's not quite true that they
need but they kind of do like

you raise the money, the purpose
is to spend it on something that

directs the company or causes
growth, something like that. So

they kind of do need to do that.
Well, if you know that, what can

you do differently? Okay, so it
actually can be really

enlightening. Not because again,
they're, they're dumb, but

because they have a different
set of things they're solving

for different set of
constraints, different different

goals than you. That's, that's
the genesis of a good strategy.

Arvid Kahl: I like that. That
makes a lot of sense to me that

that's self imposed ignorance by
picking a spot and never looking

anywhere else. That is a self
limiting belief, right? That is

something that limits you, not
just in who you can talk to and

who you can learn from, but also
just understanding how other

people work. Thanks for sharing
this. I think this is a pretty

smart strategy, just to be aware
of other people's incentives

tends to be good to know what
your competitors want. So you

can see if you could just do
something else that they don't

want, and then live beside them

Jason Cohen: react to they won't
follow just so they don't even

want to. It could be, yeah, you
know, another thing is, if your

attitude is, they're dumb, like
they raise money, so they're

dumb or they're bad, or they're
evil, that's preventing you from

a true analysis of what their
strengths really are. strengths

that they have, that you may or
may not want to combat, you may,

you may want to go strength or
strength, that's fine. But you

may want to go in an area where
they're weak or not looking. If

your attitude is they're dumb or
bad, then then you're not

thinking about where they're
strong and good. And that's what

you need to do so that you're
building a strategy with that in

mind. So it's harms your ability
to think objectively and

rationally about it.

Arvid Kahl: Assigning any kind
of emotional quality to a

business generally tends not to
be a smart choice. Yes, it's a

very, very human thing. And
businesses as much as the legal

code may disagree here are not
people. They don't think exactly

like people. Yeah, I like that.
And I think this this kind of

self, it's an ego thing to me in
many, many places where founders

are like this, or at least where
they openly communicate about it

that often rings off. I know
best because and then comes the

list of accolades and
experiences that they think that

gives them the right to feel
superior to everybody else in

the industry, right? It's
protecting their ego, to not

look at other things that might
clash with their reality

Jason Cohen: does. But like, I
think that there's a healthy

aspect to that, like, yeah, why
did you start a company? If you

must think that you know,
better? Like otherwise? What are

you doing? You must believe this
is a better design, I have

better ideas. I want to run the
organization in a better way. In

fact, they don't want to raise
money, because they're just

going to pull me as you say, in
the wrong direction, or have the

wrong account or incentives or
just whatever. And I don't want

that. Because it could be I
think I'm right, but it's it's

even more, I think, just don't
tell me what to do. I just need

to do it my own way. Yeah, some
people need to do it their own

way and think they're right,
they're very confident. But I

find that a whole lot of
founders, me included, want to

do it my own way. But I wouldn't
say I know I'm right. I just

need to do it my own way. Right
or not, I need to do it. Sorry,

I just need to, and I don't need
investors telling me what to do.

And I certainly don't want
employers to run with you. So I

might not even have that
confidence to say that I'm

right. But I still need to do it
my way. So I think you do have

to hold on to that, because
that's the impetus. That's the

motivation to do it in the first
place. And so you need that,

that's the thing that's giving
you the energy to do it. So you

do need to have that, that
whether it's confidence or not,

you need to keep that because
that's what's going on. But to

your point, like, okay, so that
can be very strong and give you

energy give you motivation,
cause you to do all these things

in the first place. Good, keep
it, but then when it bleeds over

into, not just I need to do it
my way, but and also everyone

else is dumb or evil or like
Well, wait a minute, like, you

don't need to put that label on
someone else in order to say

everything you just said about
yourself. That's not necessary

to do that. And if you realize
that maybe allows you to keep

that attitude without having to
be negative. Something else.

Arvid Kahl: I don't think I've
ever was trying to instill in

others that they're doing it
wrong. But I did suffer I guess

in the end a lot from thinking
that only I knew how to do it,

right? And only I was the one
that should have done the thing

that I did. You had a talk
recently, I guess to in 2018.

It's Astor where you kind of go
into the mental health things

that that founders go through
and where people who are at a

stage where they they're really
not happy anymore with what

they're doing. And they say,
Well, I can leave the company

because if I do everything
implodes, right? That's kind of

self aggrandizing perspective,
but I really thought that it was

let me just admit this year i i
thought i cannot hire anybody

they don't know like, they can
do the work as I did it, even

though I was effectively
building a yet another crud app,

right in a movie and I did it
elixir. So it's a language that

not too many people code in. But
it doesn't matter. This still

hundreds of 1000s of these
developers out there, I just

thought, hey, there's not enough
work for them. Because only I

can do it quickly enough. If
there was so many self

delusional stuff in my life that
I didn't hire, and not even just

coders, we didn't hire anybody,
which led me to a burnout state

and fortunately, had Kevin and
insurance there that were able

to guide me through the
acquisition and kind of allow me

to leave the company and not
have it implode on me and derive

the value that I so painfully
build, including this right now

not even understanding my own
mental psychology around this

topic. It was horrible. I didn't
hire because I thought nobody

could do my work, which is like,
why do we do this? I wonder you

certainly didn't do that you you
did hire and you grew a sizable

company. You have your own
building, though. That's really

cool. So did you ever struggle
with this? Like, how did you

talk to yourself about this, to
get other people to do the work

that they're better at than you

Jason Cohen: Well, I mean, I've
worked with really good people.

So I'm not under the illusion
that there's not such a thing as

good people, I think, a couple
of things to unpack there about

that. So again, the founder does
have a certain vision and energy

that you can't hire for. So
you're kind of right, that you

can't hire someone, quote,
unquote, to do your job for you.

If by your job you mean
everything about being a

founder, and that's true. But
what's not true is that you're

that you need to hire someone to
replace all of you. That's not

That's not wasn't needed, as you
said, like the job might be to

hire a developer. That's not
replacing all of you. And it's

really quite silly to say out
loud that no developers are as

good as you at writing code,
it's just not true. It may be

true that you don't know how to
find them that nobody wants to

work for you. That might be
true. But that sounds like a

personal failing, actually a
problem a personal problem, not

something that you should be
proud about, you know, now,

maybe you can't afford it.
That's a whole different story.

But but if you can, yeah, so the
attitude that I give, and I

think I might give it in that
talk, I can't remember, is

certainly as the CEO, let's say,
founder, what is your job in

terms of creating the team? And
the answer is not that you're

creating, that you're hiring
marketing person to do

marketing, how do you
engineering through engineering,

you're hiring people that
specifically are better than you

at that function, so that that
function becomes better than it

currently is. If you don't, then
the company will never get

better than you personally are
at every function, which is a

complete failure of leadership.
You're telling me it's not a

leaders job to make the whole
organization better all the

time. Really. That's not That's
not his job. That's not the job

of every leader to things
getting better. Clearly part of

the job, your organization is
not getting better, smarter,

more skilled than making better
decisions, then you're not doing

good, then then that's you're
failing. So that means you have

to hire people that are better
than you at everything. Again,

there's some things like there's
a certain there's a certain

relationship that you have with
everyone as the founder or a

certain aura you have that you
can't hire for it. There's a few

things like that very few. But
almost nothing is like that. And

now the difficulty is higher is
how do you find someone who's

better than you at something? If
definitionally they know more,

they have a higher skill set,
they're more experienced? How is

it that you would evaluate that,
but again, if you use that as an

excuse not to then you failed as
a leader, and that's on you? And

so, there are some answers to
that. Like, again, it's not

easy, but like who said it was
easy. No one, no one promised it

would be easy. So some things
you can do, for example, is

during the interview, you can
ask them even questions that you

have currently. And how would
you approach this? Like, they

don't have all your details? So
they can't give you? Well, maybe

they can, but you could ask how,
how would you approach this? How

have you approached this in the
past? So let's say it's

marketing, and you know, well,
you know, we've exhausted our

one channel, like we get
customers every month this

channel, but we need to go to
other channels, we're not sure

even what to do. What do you do?
So do they, they're like, oh,

yeah, so like, you got to look
at a lot of channels at once.

And then and then test like this
and use budgets like that. Or

maybe they say, you know, people
say that, but it's wrong. Here's

why. And what you should do is
just pick one or two adjacent

ones, or you should first I like
to survey the customers or find

out where they go. And it turns
out, they're only in like one or

two other places. So you just go
whole hog into those two places.

You don't try everyone or
whatever their ideas. I don't

know. The point is, if they come
back with all these thoughts,

they clearly thought of this
before they've done this before.

It sounds rational to you. It
sounds like someone where the

things they're saying seem
rational to you. So in other

words, they're compatible with
your way of thinking that's

important. And yet it feels like
oh, wow, that feels like several

steps in the future, and yet
compatible. That's starting to

feel like someone In an
interviewer who is better than

you, but compatible, so you can
also you can think of that in

terms of their thought process
and skill set. You can of

course, think about it
culturally, although it doesn't

tell you. You can do reference
checks on them that can be hard,

especially if they're working
and not telling people that

they're looking. Also you don't
you know, you want to a lot of

times when reference checks,
people just say nice things. So

you want to ask to me, I asked
things like, Look, everyone

thrives in certain environments
and fails in certain

environments, where what kind of
environment do you think this

person throws? And like, what
would be the attributes there?

And where would they just fail?
Again, not because they're bad,

but just this be a super
mismatch? So I ask questions

like that, so that the person
doesn't feel like they're being

negative about the person, but I
don't tell them what my culture

and expectations are. Because I
want an honest approach. So

that's an example of that. So
things like reference checks

with questions like that. These
fit questions of thinking, but

ahead. Again, there's no magic
formula, obviously, this, it's

hard. But like, these are among
the things obviously references

from other people you trust. If
you're hiring a marketer, and

you've never done that before,
do you have anyone else that you

know, or it's in your network
that you've worked with in the

past who'd be willing to help
you interview that person, you

know, help you do that, you
might even pay them a fee for

that, if it's a little bit more
of a professional relationship,

and that might be worth it.
Obviously, recruiters can do it.

But we all know like, the best
ones are really good, but a lot

of them just shuffle resumes and
charge you a lot. So might even

be better to give someone you
know, a grand five grand, 10

grand, and have them help you
with the process that might be

actually better. So these are
all possibilities to tackle this

question of how do I hire
someone who's better than me at

the thing? But when you do that,
I mean, obviously, it's almost

definitionally, you're you're
creating a stronger, better

company. And by the way, it's so
much fun. Like, as a founder,

who thinks you know, everything,
how fun is it? When other people

have an idea? And you're like,
oh, okay, we that design is

amazing. That feature was
incredible. That insight is

good. That marketing campaign is
freaking badass, I would never

have done that. How fun is that?
Anyway, just fun. Not to mention

effective. Like, yeah, that's
the organization you should be

trying to build, of course, you
know, so that's some ways to do

it. But yeah, that should be the
attitude. Now, of course, you

may say, I never want to hire
anyone ever I want to be so

that's totally fine. I'm not,
I'm not trying to put that down

at all. But if you want to hire
even one person ever than then

this is the right attitude.

Arvid Kahl: I wish I would have
met you five years ago, because

I couldn't really use this
honestly, that because what you

just said, like I the
solopreneur thing. That was

everything. And the only thing
that I really knew is to do my

own thing. I had worked in
companies before, but I never

had any management training or
hiring training. I was just a

software engineer. Right? It was
technical, I did the thing that

people told me to went to a
couple of meetings not at and

bring brought my ideas and
stuff. And that was really the

life that I knew. So I had no
idea what to look for. And even

that I could do it. I think that
was the big difference. I was

not aware that I could just talk
to people and then hire them.

Like it was bizarre, because
solopreneur ship was all about

giving yourself permission for
anything. But I was not

internally giving myself
permission to even think about

hiring is that that's kind of
where I was. So what you what

you thought, or what you just
said, and I thought this is this

is a wonderful way of
leveraging, I guess social media

is to have a network of people
that can help you with it.


Jason Cohen: one way. I mean,
you don't have to have that. But

it's an example of how a network
can pay off in ways you might

not have originally thought.
Again, there's there's many

different ways that's one way I
do think there is there is an

attitude, which I've had in the
past as well believe it or not,

of like, well, I just I don't
want employees, I want it to

just be me, I don't want to deal
with even one employee. Because

I really want to control
everything. And it's just more

fun and screw it. And the only
meaning I want is in my own

head. Now, again, I'm not
putting that down. I'm just

saying if you want a different
path, then here's some attitudes

to have, right? But let's say
you let's say you want to be

like I'm the only one. But then
you burned out. So here's what I

would say about that. I say you
I burned out. It's smarter to

like, like you're the only one
has ever burned out. I think

it's actually the most common
case. That's my opinion. And I

certainly have myself so like,
anyway, so but what do you do

about that? So there? Again, I
go back to a theme that's common

for me recently, which is this
idea of having a consistent

strategy. So okay, you don't
want employees, it's just you,

obviously, you want to be
profitable and probably

sustainable. Maybe you want to
say sell it someday? I don't

know. So what other decisions do
you need to make about the

customers the market, the
product, tech support,

marketing, sales? I know you
don't have sales people in that

environment, but like there's a
function of sales, or maybe

there's not maybe it's a zero
function, but like, what other

decisions need to be made, so
that you don't burn out? As as

because if if it's like it's
only me, but I'm going to make

these decisions that really need
more people. Support is 24/7 but

it's just me. Okay, well then
you're going to burn out when

you get a certain number of
customers certain masks stuff is

just gonna consume you. So if
it's going to be you forever, do

not have 24/7 support. Now you
could art you could and now

anytime I say like, it has to be
like that you can always think

of, well, it could be because
what if so, there's always other

way other solutions. So I don't
mean to say it's so absolute,

but let's just say, by default,
if it's gonna be just you, then

you don't want to be waking up
in the middle of the night if

servers go down. So you need to
pick a product, which the

customer is not depending on
24/7. So that if you have four

hours of downtime, they're not
going to be happy, but they'll

live. That's works if you're
solo. Having having to always be

the only one with a pager always
forever, burns you out,

especially once you get more and
more into that stuff happens

more and more, and then your dev
support can be similar. So it's

like, okay, no problem, you want
to pick that no problem, but

then you need to make other
decisions that are consistent

with that choice. So that
overall, you're building a

manageable thing. And I think
when that's so I don't, you

know, any decision you make is,
to me is like, that's fine. But

inconsistent decisions, they're
not fine. You need to pick, you


Arvid Kahl: yeah, I don't think
I ever made that choice. Again,

I don't think I ever thought
that I had to make that choice

when I started. Because it just
I'm going to build a software

business, because that's what I
know, that's what I've done for

10 years, I'm going to do one by
myself. Yeah, and I kind of I

must have completely missed that
I did all the other ones in

teams have like four or five
people with people on call and

stuff, right? This must must
have slipped my mind that there

was support to be done in a
software business. It's bizarre,

but you are, in a way as a
founder, this is the kind of

reality distortion field that
you also talked about earlier,

that gives you this optimism and
that like striving for making

something new, where other
alternatives already exist, that

sometimes blinds you to the
reality of the business for

which you may or may not have
the capacity, what you just said

with the Patriots in the
morning, that is where my

anxiety levels came from.

Jason Cohen: Or you could you
could have no choice and you can

say, oh, you know, I can
contract with people for that.

You can do that for support. And
you can do that for the pager.

Now, you mean, there's downsides
to that, besides cost, like,

will they do a good job,
especially in support, that's

really dangerous, because
they're talking to right to your

customer. So that becomes part
of your brand. And part of your

product. Is that okay? It might
be might not be depends on your

business and your attitude. With
the with the technical page, or

at least the customers aren't
seeing it. So if they can, if

they can kind of shield you from
some of that, then that might be

alright. So again, like, you can
be creative in saying how No, I

am going to make a 24/7 product.
But I'm also going to design my

product in such a way that I can
then when I'm at scale, not

right away, when I get bigger, I
can contract with a company.

Because my product is going to
be built such that there's

Runbooks that just always allow
you to rollback or re you know,

redo the I don't know, whatever
I'm I'm going to be able to do

that. And I will build a product
so that that's the case. So

we'll be able to offload that.
Now we sold it again. Yay. So

but what you can't do is ignore
is ignore it completely, like

either make them go away by not
having that requirement, or

there's another solution. So I
not just not just having

effectively inconsistent
choices, but probably probably

not choices you made on purpose.
But choices that happened

anyways, about your behavior
that are inconsistent that will

kill you. So another thing when
you start doing that and saying

like, oh, wait, this is
conflicting with that is is you

start having to decide, well,
what do I really want? Do you

really want to be a solopreneur?
Or do you really want to have a

bigger company that takes more
people to be bigger, you have to

really decide again, there's no
right answer. It's only right

for you or wrong for you. And at
this point in your life, like I

started the VPN and wanting to
bootstrap again, then I changed

my mind. So that's okay. But
which one is right for you?

Maybe you should limit growth.
So that doesn't ever get to any

kind of scale? That's an
impossible thing to do. Close

signups. Yeah, you did it. So
there's so many ways, but like,

you really have to end up
deciding this is what I want.

This is more important than this
other thing. So I will keep this

and give up that. But having to
do that having to make those

really tough decisions. It's a
beautiful thing. And I don't

care how smart you are, you
should you should make these

decisions. And then you'll have
this more consistent company

that sought that solving for the
things you whatever you decided

was what you wanted. That's what
it was solving for. And also,

again, these other strategic
choices about who you're picking

as customers and how they're
aligned and that's good. That

just feels good. Oh, I got
another type of customer who's

right for me. Yay. Like this is
a good thing. That's what

strategy should look like when
it's done right.

Arvid Kahl: What do You ever
consider building a solopreneur

business again, now that you've
been, you know, way on the other

side with a business like WP
Engine, um,

Jason Cohen: I would consider
doing anything again, because I

can, you know, so I've made
enough money where I can do

whatever. So I can definitely do
work on stuff that I enjoy. So,

but one of the nice things there
is, that means I don't have to

make money. So when I do
something solo, yes, I probably

would explicitly do something
solo, but it doesn't have to

make money. So it could be it
really doesn't have to. And the

fact that it doesn't have to, is
such a special advantage of

whatever it is. It could be
philanthropic, it could be

writing stuff or whatever. Like
it could be whatever, investing

in other companies. But since it
doesn't have to make money, that

gives me lots more choices of
what it could be. So I almost

feel like, I want to do one of
those other things. That ignores

money because I can tell that's
something that's more unique,

that would allow me to do
something be something more

special, which is probably
overall better. Like I don't

think you have to be do that.
But like, it's probably better

overall, if you are if you
subscribe to like the Kevin

Kelly idea of being completely
unique, or they've Perl thing of

the personal monopoly, you know,
being you're the only person

who's you kind of thing. I
think, in general, that spirit

is very good. I don't think it
has to be dogma, you know, but,

but I think the spirit is good.
So that tells me I don't need to

make another company that makes
money. So it could even be an

open source project. It could be
a philanthropic activity. It

could be Yeah, more of the
writing and that kind of

creation. I want to write more
about the strategy stuff I was

just talking about. I haven't
written much about that. So I

want to Okay, good. So, so do
it. So probably not a company,

but that's why, right?

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, sounds like
you. You're not limiting

yourself, which is great. Like
the the idea to that you have to

repeat yourself reminds me of
the thing. Patrick Campbell, he

was speaking at MicroConf in
Denver a couple months ago. And

he was saying after he sold
profitwell to paddle for like

$200 million dollars, he still
felt like he needed to prove

that, you know, he could do it
again. And if you have a nine

figure exit and the first
emotion you feel is this is

probably a fluke, I need to do
it again. Right, that was his

reaction says a lot about the
pressures that he was operating

under. And it's nice to hear
that you don't feel to be quite

Jason Cohen: I mean, this is all
very personal, right? So there's

no, there's no right answer, but
it is interesting to see. One

obvious reaction to that is I
did it now I can, I might do it

again. But I can pick what would
be fulfilling and I'll have to

figure out what that means for
myself. That's my attitude. And

as you said, I've written about
have written about what

fulfilling means to me and how
to do that. So okay. Your other

attitude could be Yeah, good.
Maybe it's a fluke. I have to do

it again. Now again, who is my
fourth company? So I guess I did

go back and again, I guess,
maybe Fourth time's the charm. I

don't know. But that's also
logical. Because why did you why

do you why do you do the second
startup? For the same reason you

did the first one because you
were just compelled to, there's

really to me, there's Oh, we
have so much rationalization. My

mom used to do this to me, my
dad did that I grew up like

this. I had this kind of thing.
It may be who I'm not who am I

to say what the rationale is,
but what I feel it's often just

you just needed to like it's
really not necessarily that

complicated. And so why didn't
you do the second one? Because

the same way you did the first
one because he's like, I gotta

do it. You know? Is it more
complicated? You know, and some

of these rationalizations they
sound okay, I'm just, again, I

don't know what's in people's
heads. So but I'm skeptical

because it's so easy to justify,
or to rationalize in any way. So

like, a classic example is
someone's a neat freak. And they

ask why and they're like, well,
my mom growing up was an

absolute neat freak and made me
this maybe do this maybe that

and you know, it just stuck. I
like to do that. That's how I

grew up. Then you ask another
person who's a neat freak. Why

are you a neat freak? Oh my
gosh, growing up my mom was the

slob and the whole house was a
mess and keeping my room neat

was like my way of keeping
control over my own life. And

just having some agency was
staying neat and that's just

kind of stuck with me. Now
here's the that by the way, this

is all true story. This this
this example is a true story.

Turns out these are identical
twins separated at birth. Both

growing up in a in an adoptive
family. Okay, so the reason

they're neat Is there any freak?
It's in their genes? That's why

that's the whole thing they just
are. And this explanation of it

came from my mom, from
completely opposite reasons is

all bullshit. None of that's why
it's because you're afraid that

the end of the story is
justification. Oh, right. That's

a real story, by the way. And so
to me, that applies to many

people's rationalizations of
anything. So like, why did you

start a company? Oh, well, are
you aware that? It could be?

Again? I don't know. I'm no
psychologist, and I don't know

you. And you know, so I don't
know. But maybe he just needed

to. And so why did you do it
again? Because he still needed

to? I mean, maybe that's it?

Arvid Kahl: Honestly, yeah, I
think so. And with this one in

particular, right, we sold the
SaaS business, and then we fell

into the void, you probably know
which void I'm talking about,

like, when you when you leave
something behind, and you feel

like it's right. It's kind of
it's still yours, but it's not.

And that made me built what is
effectively the boots are

foreigner, which is a media
business, which is not SaaS

anymore, obviously. But I, I
still needed to do something.

And I needed to do something
that gives back to the community

that allowed me to do the first
thing. So I started another

business. And now I'm doing the
same thing again, right, I'm at

a point where I should probably
hire and all that. So, you know,

there's I'm going through the
same motions, but this time with

some more experience, hopefully,
more enough more to make better

choices. But yeah, it's it's the
nature nurture thing that

bothers a lot. That bothers me a
lot. Like not knowing if the

thing that I'm doing is because
I meant to whatever that may

mean, or internally, right? Or
if it's something that I think I

should do it this this
difference between the like

going your path and going to
default path. Who determines

what that is? That I struggle a
lot with that because it's so

easy to still be a founder once
you've been a founder? Again, we

talked about easy, easily done,
easy done. The next thing? Yeah.

Have you ever considered not
being a founder anymore? At all?

Jason Cohen: Yes, I mean, again,
you know, I'm not I'm not

leaving WP engine right now.
It's been 13 years, though. So

at some point, it just makes
sense. It's just long time. And

I'm not going to start another
company. First of all, I'm

older. And and I think
continuing to do the writing and

putting these thoughts out like
that, that that's an obvious

thing to do, which is not
accompany. I don't have ads or

anything, you know, there's not
a company. It's fun to write

code. So open source project.
Sounds sound interesting. Of

course, working with other
people, again, I've been an

investor and been on board and
stuff like that. So that kind of

stuff. Sounds sounds
interesting. I don't want to be

just an investor, I think a full
time angel investing wouldn't be

good for me because I need to
produce I need to create, and I

love helping others to create
that is great. But at the end of

the day, if if, if I've not
produced anything at all, that's

not I'm not going to feel good
about that. So I imagined that's

part of it, but not all of it.
But even that isn't a business.

I mean, sort of investing is
sort of but not in the way

you're saying, right? It's
you're not incorporating and I

don't know that not like that.
So yeah, I probably almost for

sure won't have another
business, but they'll have

projects that matter, whatever
that means to me.

Arvid Kahl: That's fun. Yeah, I
do like your writing I really

enjoy it. Your long form writing
is it's very thoughtful, and it

has nice graphs, when I do like
me some graphs to have people

visualize their thoughts, like
the most recent one you did with

the the elephant curve that is
really interesting. You have

notes in the space that I don't
have much knowledge of the DVC

growth space, it's still
exciting to understand, just

like we said in the beginning,
so you know that the companies

that follow that pattern have
these particular problems or

issues at a certain point. So I
I really liked this, like, it's

funny that you think that's not
a business, because, in a way,

like most things are potential
businesses until they are turned

into a business. And it's not
and I don't mean like turn your

hobby into your business kind of
thing. I just mean, this is a

thing that just either can or
can not be monetized, you'll

see. And the monetization turns
it into a business but the

action would be the same that
you would take in the business.

It's a it's a media business
that doesn't make

Jason Cohen: Yeah, sure. Like
maybe that's what it is. When I

think of business I think of
something that has revenue that

would be good. I would like
that. That's not my goal. Like I

would rather like oh, I'll take
the you know newsletter

subscribers the RSS feed the
Twitter that's what I want

because it helps my ego and
makes it feel good when I posted

and other people share it. I
like that. And then people say

it's nice and then I that makes
me feel good. And I have these

ideas but if no one else has no
one else can have them that's

not so fun. So that that feels
like it's worth putting it out

there. That's that's the revenue
I want. I suppose the dollar I

even say in my in my emails just
once a week. I say like, I don't

make any money off of this in
any way. And so The best way to,

to contribute back is to share
it. Because again, that's that's

what I want is I just want that.
That's it. So, is that a

business? I just don't say that
because it's not for revenue.

But yeah, if you if you want to
say like, Yeah, but you're,

you've got a project and you're
trying to optimize for something

or other and you're trying to
build something up, and it's

over a long period of time. And
it's not a hobby like chess.

It's a little bit more directed
than that. Okay, then I agree.

But I guess the real point is,
is not for money. That's the

point of that.

Arvid Kahl: Thank you for
honestly defining what it is for

you. And I think that that
honesty stuff is something that

I've heard you talk and seeing
you talk about a lot, too. And

if you've had a talk for more
than 2020 years, 11 or

something, I think, yeah, that
about honesty and business

really enjoyed that. Because
I've been doing a thing that I

have so conveniently placed on
this here, thing I building in

public, right. So like building
a public is something that I've

been doing by myself or myself
and with others, and seen a lot

of people do, and I really,
really like it. And building and

public is effectively being
honest about your journey, the

ups and the downs and that kind
of stuff. And I do wonder, what

do you think about that
movement, in particular, because

you've been around for a while,
right? Like burning and Publix

that structurally exists since I
guess 2009 when Pat Flynn

started the Smart Passive Income
podcast where it became more of

a digital thing. I mean, people
have been sharing that journey

everywhere. before, but now it's
a it's a thing, right? So the

fine thing. So what do you think
of building and public? Would

you recommend that for founders
like to share the journey from

the start, even while they're
still building? That's something

you would do?

Jason Cohen: Yeah, I mean, this
is definitely another one of

these personal things, a bunch
of stuff comes with it. And if

you value those things, then
that's fantastic. But you don't

need to do it if you don't want
to. So there's a lot of nice

things. One nice thing is you
are constantly evaluating

yourself, because you're not
just post revenue, you say

things like, I'm trying this
marketing thing, oh, this didn't

work. Oh, I had this thought.
And you know, Oh, what did you

do for that? And even to think,
what am I going to post? And

what do I think about that?
Because I need to post what I

think about it, that's almost
for sure. A valuable thing. That

kind of meta conversation is
good. And then having some

feedback. Now, of course, you're
gonna get feedback from all over

the place online. So who knows
which of it is valid or not? You

have to sort through that's too
bad. But But, but hey, that's

better than no feedback and just
sitting there going, is this

good? Is this bad? I don't know
what to do with any of this. So

like having some kind of
feedback, even though you still

have to evaluate it, that's
probably valuable. We were just

saying, Do you have a network?
And do you have you know, where

can you go for that? Well,
you're building it, you're in

you build it over time that way?
Is that valuable? Yes. There

might be these moments where
you're like, I need my network

for this, or can you help me
that I noticed some people

sometimes are like, should I do
design a or design B and you

know, it's, it's kind of fun.
And it's kind of neat. And

sometimes there's really smart
people out there who give really

interesting feedback that you
were never gonna get. So these

are all kinds of reasons why it
might help your business

succeed. Because it helps you
think more clearly. And you can

get some feedback and build a
network like, not necessarily

network to buy the thing, but
network to talk through

problems. Or, hey, I need to
incorporate should I use that

stripe Atlas? Or what should I
do? You know, like, even just

these basics, that's pretty
useful. So these are benefits.

Drawbacks would be things like,
it takes a lot of time, if you

actually are going to build a
network and have a lot of people

and say, it's a lot of time, and
you could be spending that time

doing anything else. Resting,
writing another feature,

launching a new marketing
campaign, anything, anything but

yapping on Twitter. And so, in a
sense, like, yapping on Twitter

will not directly help your
business. And we just said I

would indirectly and so that's
fine. But like, it takes time.

And I don't believe people are
like, I just do it for five or

10 minutes a day, and I'm
building a public that I don't

believe you, you're on here all
the damn time. And you're doing

all kinds of shit and like, it's
a lot of your life. And also

it's fragmented. We all know
that context switching and that

is bad, very bad. So it's not
just I spend 20 hours on Twitter

if in 60 hours of my business
every week, it's that it's like

this. And so that context
switching makes that much worse

than it might sound when you
total it up. That's not totally

enough is not how time
management and attention

management works. So I think
it's quite distracting and

probably dramatically reduces
your productivity to build in

public. So that's that's a big
issue. I think Uh, another

positive aspect though, is going
back to strategy since it's my

favorite topic of the moment,
obviously, but not the academic,

crappy SWOT type bullshit. But
like the stuff we're talking

about, you know, some of the
things that matters. One

beautiful thing about building
public is you have to build a

product and a strategy in which
beings a secret is not part of

your strategy. Yeah. And that's
good, because that's usually a

really weak kind of a strategy.
It can work for like your coke

formula, KFC for okay, like
there's, there's, there's a time

in place, maybe a truly
tremendously amazing algorithm

of some kind, like,
occasionally, occasionally, I

get it, but like, is that what
indie developers are normally

doing something of that? No, no
way, right. And so but so it's

forcing you to make a strategy
of growth, and even have

competitive advantage that isn't
based around some sort of secret

that probably other people can
just rip off. We're like,

because you're small, like, one
kind of a secret is that you're

small. So like, when you're
starting out, especially when

you're selling to businesses,
you don't want them to know,

it's just you. So you say we
have a homepage about us. And

you talk about how you're
headquartered in wherever the

hell your houses, you know,
right. You know, you never let

on that you're one person
because you want the you want

that business to trust you
believe in, you think that

you're stable, and so and so you
don't want to say that you're

only one person. That's an
example of a secret, though, not

just algorithms, but that's the
secret. If you're building a

public, then that's not a
secret. So that means you can't

rely on that ruse, and still get
customers. To me, that's good.

Yes. Because you are just one
person. And if someone thinks

you're a big organization, they
may expect things like 24/7

support or you know, more
features or integration. And

you're not going to do that,
because that's how you're so

that kind of a secret to me
built a bad strategy in that

it's inconsistent with who you
are and what you can actually

deliver on. So that promise, I'm
like a bigger company, you will

not fulfill it. Therefore, it's
a bad strategy to have that

positioning. And I think it's a
good strategy to have

positioning, it's, you can
fulfill that promise. But then

some people will want to buy
from me. Yeah, and they

shouldn't, because all the
things they need, that's good

thing. Instead, you should focus
on the people for whom you are a

perfect fit, you know, so to me,
it helps you actually kind of

forces you into a better
strategy, meaning a better,

like, actually who you are,
therefore, promises you can

actually fulfill. And then
you'll get people who are like,

oh, I want to support the little
guy. I want to support the one

person. Yeah, then you will get
them. And that's right. That's

who you are. And so that's a
good reason. So building a

public sort of pushed nudges you
towards, don't have secrets,

don't try to be something you're
not trying to win on your actual

own merits and weaknesses went
on that that is a better

strategy. Again, you should pick
consistent decisions with that

to go with it. Right. But that's
actually going to be better. So

build in public, if you use that
that way. I mean, that's, that's

helpful. So overall, like, of
course, building and public is

cool. I do worry about the time
commitment, I say commitment,

the time that you spend and that
you just have to decide what you

think about that might just be
worth it might be like, well,

that's part of my social time
that I could have spent with

friends instead of spend on
Twitter. It could be this just

so fun, you just don't care. It
could be that you do regulate

yourself a bit. Like maybe you
don't go on all the time, or

it's real regulated, like I go
on during lunch and I go like

kind of over mealtime, I'll do
it. Otherwise, I really won't.

And that will keep my
productivity high. So there

might be ways to mitigate, mute
the negative things that it is

and keep those good stuff.
Overall, though, is it better

for the world I would have to
think it is, the more you can

see that people, all people of
all kinds from all kinds of

backgrounds doing all kinds of
things are all trying and many

of them won't succeed. And we
love all of them anyway, we're

rooting for all of them anyway,
if they don't succeed with one

particular product, they'll just
do another one. And when people

can see that, I think that's a
beautiful empowering thing. So

that to me that in terms of the
overall view of the world, hell

yeah. That's, it's a great it's
a great thing to see.

Arvid Kahl: I love that because
the motive motivating nature or

quality of building in public is
extremely strong, particularly

with failure like people fail
and they do something else. All

right, I guess I can try if
you're afraid of failure because

I come from a I'm from Germany a
pretty you know, bureaucratic

system and school was just the
same don't try you might fail

that's kind of often was the
message that I got as a kid and

it's kind of still in me,
although you know, nature

nurture. We talked about this
earlier, but I learned this and

I've just I'm just now just
doing things to see if they work

or not, because I've also seen
other people try and fail and

get back up and be successful
eventually. So that's, that's

something that that that
definitely allows for and I love

that you talked about this, the
self selection of your potential

customers, either in into your
business or out of your

business. You you're forming,
you're not for me either of

these is great, because it just
aligns better. So that's, I'm

glad to hear you're talking
about building public in that

way. So it's really nice to hear
what I feel mirrored back at me.

Because that's, that's why I do
it because I want to see people

feel empowered to do things that
they otherwise wouldn't do.

That's really

Jason Cohen: nice. Yes, and that
that aspect is undeniably Great.

Arvid Kahl: Well, I do also
appreciate that you share a lot

of your knowledge around
building businesses, even if

it's not like building public,
as you build a business, but you

just have a lot of strategy
stuff that you that you do

share. And I was I was recently
looking at your Twitter profile

and I looked at your Twitter bio
and I found what I think is

probably one of the best Twitter
bios that I've ever seen. I can

just quote that here because I
just really, really loved the

bio is keyword buzzword half
truth, adjective. Hey, look at

me, founder of two unicorns, WP
Engine and I love

the stash is great. And it does
say a lot about how you don't

want to be perceived in our
community. And what I what I do

wonder is how have you avoided
becoming like a hyper public

thing influencer in a space that
very actively pulls people like

you that have been successful
into these prominent places, and

then corrupts them into these

Jason Cohen: That might happen?
You say, I avoided it. I'm

trying to I'm trying to get more
popular. What do you mean, when

you get I'm just I'm just

Arvid Kahl: More smart quotes,
like just really, really tiny

frogs every day. Just throw him
out? Like a you're avoiding

success? How did you do it? What
wouldn't call that success? I

don't think our community it's
necessarily a successful thing

to be considered like, you know,
a person that is only doing it

for for cash or some

Jason Cohen: Yeah, I don't know.
Who knows, because I don't

control how other people see
things and what they do. One

thing is I don't live in Silicon
Valley. And so whatever machine

that is, I'm not a part of never
have been. So I don't know if

that's part of it or not, it's
really hard in retro spec to

even in retrospect, to say like,
why did that happen? And you're

like, oh, like, I did various
things, various things happen. I

really don't know, what causes
what are what absence of thing?

Cause the absence of another
thing? Like, I don't know. I do

think I mean, you said earlier
about being honest. And as you

know, and as you said, like,
I've been talking about that for

a long time, really live that
all the time, and just like just

being very open about
everything. Maybe that's part of

the answer, though. Because
maybe if you're vulnerable and a

human being, then you can sort
of stay grounded and stay. I

want to say accessible, but you
know, relatable maybe, um,

whereas like, it's hard to,
like, Zuckerberg is a machine,

right? And like, anything that
would pierce that idea of him

being was the machine is bad.
Like, the thing is, he's a

machine, you almost don't want
to think of him as a human. So

maybe the maybe being honest,
like that maintains my, my

status as a human being,

Arvid Kahl: your lack of success
as a machine. That's funny. I

never heard anybody referred to
being a human being as a lack of

success in a social media
platform. That's pretty funny.

Yeah, I get it. I think, like
just being a relatable human

being makes you kind of more
immune to the allure of being a

persona, right? Like, it's this
thing between being a person and

a persona. Oh, right. Right,
right. Personally, I think I've

been a prudent person. When I
started, then I became a persona

for a little bit, right, all of
these smart quotes and stuff.

And then I just thought, wow,
this is so much work being not

me. I would rather be myself.
And then I went back to person

with the knowledge of what a
persona does, so I could avoid

it. Yeah, I guess you had
similar experience on those

platforms, right.

Jason Cohen: Yeah. I don't know.
I think it's just it's just what

I it sort of, like we were
saying earlier, it's just that's

this is how I have been forever,
as you can see, I mean, I've

been writing for so long, in
that way public, not like public

like a government official. But
you know, that kind of public

for so long. It's real clear
over almost two decades of

writing. Like, okay, well, this
is who I am. Take it or leave

it, I guess. Like, if you like
it great. If not, well, that's

what it is. So I don't know.

Arvid Kahl: Certainly is your
personal monopoly right there. I

think you're gonna find yourself

Jason Cohen: well. Yeah. Right.
And one of them in fact, the

Twitter bio has this exemplifies
this is I've always said like,

if you're first honest about a
situation, then it's very, it's

much, much easier to deal with
it, whether it's negative or

positive, whatever the hell it
is, but just like being upfront

about it, just kind of like, if
it's in a meeting, it like takes

the the worry levels down a bit.
She's like, Oh, we can just

admit something and then we can
do Deal with it. It's okay to

just say it. Yeah, it's okay.
Yeah. And so, or like, even if

you're like, Man, I'm terrible
at x or like, I'm I don't know,

like, I'm too hard on other
people about X, if you just say

that, like, I know I am. I'm
kind of working on it. And I

kind of don't know, it's kind of
out of my control. But you know,

there it is. I'm not proud of
it. But there it is. It just

diffuses it's so much like, the
next time that happens. They're

like, you're doing it again.
You're like, God, I know. Okay.

Oops. It's just very, very
different. Right? So it's right

there in the Twitter thing.
Bullshit, bullshit. Look at me,

me, me, me. Then I then what do
I do? I turn around, say, Look

what I did. Yeah, that's right.
Because I want to follow me. So

I want to say something that
says you should follow me,

right? But I start by by being
like, hey, look, this is we all

know that Twitter is just like
CNBC. And right. I do too. Well,

here's mine. And it's like,
okay, you've sort of bought my

debt forgiveness, but okay,
like, now listen to your

bragging and, but I don't quite
feel like it's bragging because

you just defuse the situation.

Arvid Kahl: It's all expectation
management. That's what Yeah, I

think that you've done you've
been doing a great job. So let's

do something for your Twitter
following. Now that we're coming

to a close with this interview.
Where do you want people to go

to social media?

Jason Cohen: On Twitter, it's a
smart bear, like the animal and

and then the blog, or the
articles, I guess, is a So there you go.
So yeah, like you want me to

feel good. And follow me on
Twitter and subscribe to that. I

only I post at most once a week.
So and as you said that, like

they're, they're more in depth,
they're thoughtful. So it's

definitely like, low, low
quantity, but and then sometimes

I'll post like an old one from
decades ago that are that are a

decade ago, that's um, you know,
poignant or people like or

whatever. And so it's low. You
won't I won't send you a lot of

stuff. But hopefully, it'll be a
good, median. Good. So yeah, you

want me to feel good, subscribe,
and then tell other people and

then share some stuff. And I'll
feel so good. It'll be great.


Arvid Kahl: Like it subscribe,
right? Is that what you got to

say today? Thanks so much for
that. I think that the stuff you

do send is more than median
good. Let me just say this. I

really appreciate it. And I
appreciate you being on the show

today. That was really, really
kind of you to share your

knowledge and your insights and
your experiences from building

businesses like this. Man,
Jason, thank you so much for

being on the show. That was

Jason Cohen: oh, man, I love
talking about this stuff. And

anytime, any topics, happy to
it's, this is a lot of fun for

me to see. I don't make money.
But like, this is fun, actually

fun. So I want to do this. So
yeah, I think thanks for having

me. I appreciate it.

Arvid Kahl: I'll take you up on
that. All right. Have a good

one. See ya. Thanks so much.

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