The Entrepreneurial Coder Podcast

Kyle Mathews talks about his experience building Gatsby as an open source project and starting a venture-backed company around it. He goes into detail about the ups and downs of a high-growth startup and how you might be able to tell if it's the right choice for you. Kyle also talks about what's involved with raising money from investors, his specific challenges as the CEO of Gatsby, and more.

Show Notes

Kyle Mathews is the founder and CEO of Gatsby, one of the most popular frameworks around for creating websites with React. After authoring Gatsby as an open source project in 2015, he later started a company of the same name to take it even further. He's fascinated by technology, open source, and making the web better.

Kyle's Links

Kyle and Twitter
Kyle's Website

[0:00] [music]

Ryan Chenkie: [0:07] My guest today is Kyle Mathews. Kyle is the founder and CEO of Gatsby one of the most popular frameworks around for creating websites with React. After offering Gatsby as an open source project in 2015, he later started a company of the same name to take it even further.

[0:22] He's fascinated by technology, open source, and making the Web better. Kyle, welcome to the show.

Kyle Mathews: [0:28] Yeah, thanks. Glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Ryan: [0:31] Absolutely. I have been following your work for quite some time. I've been seeing the great things that have been going on in the Gatsby world. We did some interview stuff a couple years back, which was a lot of fun. I'm excited to chat to you today about startups more in general.

[0:47] One thing that piqued my curiosity was a tweet that you had recently where it sounded like you had done a talk at your college perhaps, and you mentioned in the tweet that you were giving the advice or wanting to give the advice that may be startups aren't a great idea for everybody. Maybe it's not everyone that should go out and start a startup.

[1:11] I was hoping to chat with you on that. Give me some of the background around that sentiment. Why is it the case do you think that maybe not everyone should be looking to do a startup?

Kyle: [1:25] The scenario was that there was a technology club at my college that's part of the major I did. They invited me like, "Hey, Kyle. You created Gatsby. Come talk about it. Gatsby is cool." I guess the person inviting me has been using it recently. That was fun, and a weird trip, like, "Oh, college. I remember that. That was fun." Then like, "Why y'all look younger than I used to," sort of thing.

[1:52] [laughter]

Kyle: [1:54] Been just long enough that all these weird like, "I'm getting old" feelings are coming into play. Anyways, they had some question about Gatsby, but a lot of people in the Q&A started asking about startups. They were like, "How did you come up with the idea," on and on?

[2:13] It was funny because I had this thought a lot, but it just afterwards, I don't know. Talking about startups is weird because there's this really strong glamour field around doing the startup that is not...The lived reality of doing a startup is not actually how it's perceived a lot of the time from the outside.

[2:44] Anyway, I always have this feeling when people are asking about startups because I downplay it a lot and discourage people more because, startups are absolutely right. Doing a startup, having a startup, absolutely the right decision for some people. For a lot of people, if they get into it, it'd be actually a very difficult, dispiriting, unpleasant experience for them. That was an interesting reaction.

[3:14] Having all these people like, "Oh," fascinated by the idea of startups, and me, cringing a little bit like, "I don't know. You're probably better off getting a nice job and going home and having fun with your friends and family, and doing side projects and stuff like that."

[3:34] The actual lived reality of a startup is, it's hard. It's emotionally super intense. Intellectually, it's very challenging. It depends, of course, but there's often very difficult challenges that you have to figure out immediately or the whole thing goes kaput.

[4:02] There's tons of uncertainty. That's the emotional stuff. It takes a lot of courage to do anything in a startup because there's a lot of pressure to make the right decision. You just don't know enough to figure that out. There's a whole bunch of things that...Unless you sort of weirdly tuned to enjoy that.

[4:23] [laughter]

Kyle: [4:25] You're going to have an unpleasant time. There's really no point.

Ryan: [4:29] That makes a lot of sense. I wonder, in your experience, are those things that you had in mind going into founding Gatsby as a company? You're working on the open source projects, decided to build a company around it. Did you have those things in mind when you entered this venture, or are these things they have become apparent to you over the course of time?

Kyle: [4:52] I've done startup pretty much my whole career. I started my first startup in college. I moved out to SF and joined an early-stage startup there. Did another startup before Gatsby. I knew I liked startups and enjoyed that space before going into Gatsby, for sure. No new discoveries per se, just all the same.

Ryan: [5:20] Got it. A lot of people who listen to this podcast, they are the indie hacker types. They're people that want to do stuff. Business wise, they want to create products and release products. They are people that might want to do startups, or maybe they're doing startups or whatever.

[5:37] For those people who have it in mind, in the future they would like to do a startup around whatever, what would you say is the best way to assess whether or not it would be a good fit for you?

[5:50] It's possible that you've got these lofty goals of like, "Yeah, I'm going to do a start up. Maybe it'll be a little tough, but it'll be awesome eventually." Then, of course, reality hits when you settle into the thing. Any advice you'd give for people that are trying to make that assessment now?

Kyle: [6:11] A lot of it's knowing yourself and learning about what makes you tick. To me, life should be lived to the fullest. What is the answer to living your life to the fullest? It depends on who you are. The first question's like, "What should I do with my life? What do I enjoy? What matters to me?"

[6:36] The answer's very different for every person. There's no one right answer. You shouldn't make decisions based on, that's what I was saying, like the glamour field. People are like, "Ooh, doing a stripe looks glamorous." It's not actually what it is.

[6:49] You have to understand what makes you tick. You have to understand where to put yourself so that you're going to be enjoying your life.

[6:57] I would say the type of person that enjoys a startup, and there's a few types, but a lot of it boils down to a desire for adventure, for intense experience, for life being interesting, and prioritizing that over comfort and security.

[7:28] When I was a kid, I read a lot of kid adventure novels. I loved them. I devoured them and read them over and over again. All these stories about trudging through jungles and exploring outer space and inventing rockets and whatever, I don't know.

[7:46] Tom Swift, I don't know if there's anyone out there that's read that, I loved those books. The idea of adventure and inventing things and doing things is really fun.

[8:02] Another good clue for me was I've had one normal job-ish. It was even at an early-stage startup, and I still found it kind of boring. I would go in, fix an issue or two, write a new component. It was like, "Man, this is boring and predictable."

[8:25] It was a great job. It was a super-good company. The founders are awesome, really cool product. Everything could have, should have been perfect, maybe, but I was still dissatisfied with the whole thing. I wanted more.

[8:41] If that's what you want and you're comfortable with the risk associated with it, but your soul might be crushed by doing a startup. It really can. It can impact you in a way that nothing else can.

[9:01] Financially, it's a really dumb decision most of the time, to do a startup. Even if you succeed, you're going to break even, maybe. There's a slim chance you get rich or something, but it's pretty slim. There are extremely smart people, very talented who don't go anywhere with a startup.

[9:19] There's a lot of things outside of your control. There is very high, inherent uncertainty in doing something. Nobody knows enough to predict the future. Nobody is talented enough to outrun some big wave of something.

[9:36] There's all these things outside of your control and that is impossible to know and predict. There is no way of ensuring success in a startup. You kind of get lucky.

[9:48] You got to be talented enough and hardworking enough, etc., but a lot of it is really just luck. You happen to be in the right place at the right time and a number of things go your way.

[9:59] What you can guarantee from a startup is it is going to be intense. It is going to be an adventure. It is going to be interesting. It might crush you. You might come out of it poor and a lot of other things.

[10:11] As long as you go in knowing those things and being OK with the risk and uncertainty, and not really setting your heart on being rich, which is a terrible motivation to do a startup, then it's a perfect place.

[10:26] Having all these caveats. The group of people that it is a good fit, it shrinks down to a 100th of a percent or something at that point.

Ryan: [10:38] One thing that strikes me here is that the caveats, you list them well, even though they're daunting, you seem pretty OK with it. You seem to know that there's this risk associated, that it may go nowhere, that the things might not go the way that would be good on paper.

[10:58] What I suppose motivates you to keep going and keep trudging through, especially with these, you mentioned, there's pressure constantly. That's something that I'd like to dig into a bit more. There's lots of pressure all the time. What is it that makes you want to keep doing it, I suppose?

Kyle: [11:21] Yeah. It's interesting. I know every day is different. Every day, there's, something new and it's personal challenge. Can I figure this out? Can I understand my emotions? Can I understand this problem? Can I learn how to collaborate well with this person?

[11:53] There's just a lot of things that are, interesting. It's like the adventure motif. You're wandering through the jungle, and you're like, "Oh, there's a beautiful mountain over there. Let's go climb it and see what's on top of it." What's there? What are we capable of? What's out there? Discovering new things.

[12:18] The thrill of discovery, the thrill of this is going to work out but the varied experiences is more important than avoiding negative things if that makes sense. Pressure, disappointments. We're often trained. They are unpleasant. We're trained to avoid unpleasant things. You can do little mind trick where unpleasant doesn't kill you, my wife did a DVT, this type of therapy thing.

[13:06] A lot of super useful stuff, one of the things that they really drill on is that emotional pain, you shouldn't be afraid of it. It's not real. Yeah, in the same way that physical pain is. Because a lot of people get petrified by relationship problems or other stuff and they just won't do things because it feels painful inside.

[13:28] But the point they make is, if it's not threatening your life, why do you care? It's not the same degree of problem anywhere close. Being afraid of emotional disappointment is just doesn't make as much sense as being afraid of physical problems.

[13:55] It takes a bit of training and practice, but it really is true. You can get over emotional problems way faster than physical problems. If you break your leg, it's going to be months of healing but with practice, if you break your soul, you can get over it in a week or two, which is not too bad.

Ryan: [14:16] Yeah. One thing that conjures up for me is that sense going through the startup process, maybe inherently you need to do this, it just happens as a by-product, but you develop some mental toughness as you go. You start to be able to handle emotional situations that are tough in ways that you're not as responsive to them as you would be outside of the startup context.

[14:41] It makes me wonder about the various emotional pressures that you might see in a startup and at least in your experience, where do you feel that the most? is it coming from investors wanting you to grow at a certain rate and wanting to meet their expectations, does it come from staff and the needs that they have. Is there any in particular direction that it comes from the most?

Kyle: [15:06] It depends, you only feel pressure if you are getting more force that you don't expect. For me, some people go take investment. Then there's this scenario that happens sometimes with startups, people take investment, and then are surprised when investors then pressure them to make decisions to grow quickly.

[15:50] That's just mismatch expectation, because that's the only reason you take money is if you expect to grow fast. Our investors grow fast but we knew that going in, it was the bargain, it was the expectation. I don't feel pressure per se, from that. That's part of the situation.

[16:11] I always I think, for me, it's mostly internal. I just have very high expectations for myself, and for our products in the company, and so on. By far, the hardest experiences is when I don't match those expectations, or the company doesn't match those expectations.

[16:32] I deal with a lot of other stuff but it's coming up short on what I expect to be able to do is definitely how it is. Yeah, startups are interesting way to learn about yourself, in a funny way because whatever you think you're capable of doing a startup will expose you to things that you are not capable of. [laughs] They really teach you your limitations.

Ryan: [17:13] Do you have any examples of that where maybe you ran into something like that, where you came up against something that you were incapable of, as you put it or maybe that you just weren't well-matched for within that context.

Kyle: [17:27] One recurrent theme is management. I've never been a manager before. I was either an IC or founding stuff, which is very different context. I knew managers did important stuff, but I didn't realize how difficult it was. It sounds naive now, it wasn't naive but it's like you're managing people and then following that up pretty consistently, that was difficult.

Ryan: [18:08] Got you. I had an experience like that myself, actually. It was a different context. This was before I got into tech and I was doing like GIs mapping stuff and I became the manager of a team of six in a government setting. [laughs] I found out very quickly as they will vouch for it.

[18:25] I did really well in the interview, which is why I got the job. It was not a good fit for me. I was much better suited to be in ICU or at least founding stuff myself, doing projects, [laughs] with that big expectation that I would be this super-skilled manager of people. I hear you there. That's a common one with programmers, especially with you coming from technical fields.

Kyle: [18:50] I could read a book. No, actually this takes years of practice to get good at. It's a general idea. The general problem is the startup needs something from you, and when you can deliver it, that's awesome because you feel great. You're like, "Yeah. I'm the hero of the hour. I'm making this better."

[19:14] A startup will often ask things of you that you can't actually deliver on. As a founder, then it's hard. Startups are funny too because it starts with you and your co-founders. You have this outsized presence. Like, "I am 25 percent of this company, or I'm 50 percent of this company."

[19:42] The emotional arc is more and more things are removed from your sphere of influence. You give them away, or whatever. The point though is, over time, you just become, relatively speaking, smaller and smaller.

Ryan: [19:58] Right on.

Kyle: [20:00] More and more things that the company needs, you can't do. Making that shift from, "I'm doing most of the important things that are happening," to "I'm trying to convince somebody with the right skills to join, even though I don't really know much about it and can't really explain it to them."

[20:21] I'm like, "Hey, it'll be fun. I can't entirely manage you because I don't totally understand this, but this is really complex and hard. The company needs it. Please join, and do it." You call it in the center. It teaches your limits.

[20:41] For the company to succeed, it needs all these sophisticated skill sets that you don't have. You're not going to be able to learn them fast enough to be able to do it, and you have to give them away bit by bit.

Ryan: [21:00] Got you. That makes a lot of sense. I'm curious. Gatsby, all told of you, a unique approach to it being a startup because it started as an open-source project. There is many companies that do this. They will sell it open source, or be mainly open-sourced, but have a paid product behind it.

[21:21] I've always wondered this. What are some of the challenges and maybe opportunities that come with that? Is it easier to do a startup if you start with an open-source thing that people can contribute to and get excited about without paying for anything upfront, or is it harder because you have different expectations?

[21:40] Maybe people when they are then presented with something they can buy. Maybe they don't want to buy it because they expect it to be an open-source free thing. You know what I mean? Is there anything that's challenging or, is that a good opportunity I suppose as well to be an open-source startup?

Kyle: [21:58] All startups have their different challenges and advantages. Open source is no different. People like free things. [laughs] I open source it, gets a lot of attention because it's freely available. It's free to hack on. That's what makes open source so wonderful. It is this shared, wonderful resource that we're all contributing to making better, more valuable.

[22:27] It's like this gold mine that has infinite gold and everyone can just bring more gold to it, and it gets bigger and bigger pile. It's extremely weird thing, if you zoom out to see the historical context. Open source is a magical, amazing, beautiful thing.

[22:53] Open source haven't been tied open source, being built off open source, it gives...Yeah, there's a lot of nice things about it. There is this impedance between both like, "Why is some things free and then why are some things paid? That can be a difficult line to walk.

[23:21] We've seen lots of that over the past few years, especially the last, most recently, the Elastic and AWS. AWS makes more money from Elastic, even though they contribute extremely little to the project. Maybe that's fine. Does it matter who knows whatever...?

[23:43] Open source again and is magical thing. It's not actually hurting Elastic, like Elastic idea. They're making a few hundred million dollars a year. It's just difficult. It definitely leads to difficult conversations. It's hard to figure out exactly where to draw the line.

[24:14] As a commercial open source company, we made the decision, we have to have a business model around this, we have to be able to continue to fund the development of Gatsby. We try to draw the line in a way that makes the most sense. For Gatsby, it's a decision we made.

[24:34] Things that are cloud are proprietary, things that are running in your machine is open source. That feels like a pretty fair thing because someone building a Gatsby site is also interested in running the [inaudible] cluster.

[24:51] That's typically a very different type of job. If you're an agency or freelancing, you just want to build your site, hand it off to some infrastructure and move on to the next site. That's your thing.

[25:04] That's a division of labor. Anything you're running on your laptop, open source, and then once it rolls over into the building deploying type stuff, we're going to do a kickass job of that, provided for everyone for a fair price, but it's been proprietary.

[25:24] There's definitely people who are like, "Well, anything that's open source should be open source." They're never going to be happy with that compromise.

[25:30] For us, it feels like a good balance. It's like you can hack on the things that you want to hack on, it is all free, open source. You do whatever you want on your machine in order for it to run super well and get the cloud, then you can hand it off to us and live within the constraints that we put on it.

Ryan: [25:47] What do you think with this? Would Gatsby have been able to get off the ground if it went direct to paid like if there wasn't an open-source product to begin with?

[26:01] You see things with Remix. Ryan and Michael making a Remix, you pay for it before you can even see the code essentially. I'm not super familiar with it, but I think that's how it works. Is that a viable play, do you think, or do you need to start with the open-source angle?

Kyle: [26:23] It is about just a different play. I would say, my guess is that they'll do very well as a small company, but not being open source does shrink down the potential market a lot.

[26:44] We're open sources, it's everywhere. Gatsby is mind-boggling to even think about how many sites there are where people are running at. We have some anonymous telemetry and so we can see it a broad stroke, where it is. We have an internal map of the world and it's lit up the whole thing. The whole world is lit up with Gatsby.

[27:13] That only happens because of open source, it's free, anybody can touch it without asking us permission or something and run on their own servers, going to do whatever they want.

[27:23] Once you put up a paywall upfront, it cuts out most of that. You're limited to the very small subset of people who are willing to take that risk and have the financial ability to take that risk or want to pay for it.

[27:38] In my mind, it makes sense for a small company for a VC-backed company where we want to be very large, it might be running a significant percentage of the Web on Gatsby. You need the broad reach of open source, I'd say. I don't know. I mean things are changing now because it's proprietary. Cloud changes things in a lot of ways. Open source is changing dramatically because of the cloud.

Ryan: [28:18] How so? What are the changes?

Kyle: [28:28] There's two things basically. You're pulling together work with other people so that, if 20 companies all made the same thing, they can work together on it loosely and build it together. You get the same thing for a lot cheaper. That's the economic rationale behind open source, plus there's the freedom of friction.

[28:54] If you see a bug, you just fix it and move on versus if it's a proprietary thing, then you can't. It's like, "Well, you can submit issue." Maybe six months later somebody will respond. Then 12 months later PM will decide to prioritize it.

Ryan: [29:09] [laughs]

Kyle: [29:09] In the meantime, you're all just dead or something. That was a lot of the motivation. For engineers, "I can hack this together with my buddies of these internally into the other companies, make something better than some unresponsive proprietary company can do. That's right.

[29:28] Open source has created a lot of stuff like fibers and infrastructure pieces that are better and have taken over the industry. Cloud changes it because cloud is inherently centralizing. You just don't run as many things. 15, 20 years ago you're setting up servers. You're running a whole bunch of stuff. You're maintaining them and all those things.

[29:55] Now development has moved from all this maintenance stuff to you're just plugging together a few things. Open source in this world is like, "Do you care about fixing bugs in S3?" It's like "Well, no because S3 doesn't have bugs because it has millions and millions of users and hundreds of engineers." It is a force of nature because it is so good.

[30:24] It's so good because of that centralization. It's because AWS can spend millions of dollars a year developing it. The R&D budgets and whatever on S3 are dramatically higher than stuff in the past. They have way more users, way more customers, way more usage, way more people working on it. It's just many, many times better than stuff was in the past.

[30:50] Open source is like, "Hey, we could have something better for cheaper because we can hack on it." With cloud it's like, "Well, actually the cloud pieces are super good. Do you care if they're open source as much?" You're like, "Well, I don't know. No, it just works." It's like, "I just write files to it. I don't want to have my open source S3. Why would I do that?" That would be pain.

[31:18] I guess where I'm going in all that is that is open source is changing. Then, also, what makes sense to proprietary? The fact that we're even asking, "Should Remix be proprietary or open source?" is just a sign of the times because 15 years ago I'd say, "Of course, it would be proprietary," like why should this be open source?

[31:44] The pendulum has swung so far the other way towards open source that there's now...The pendulum swung a ways. Then also the environment has changed a lot. Maybe proprietary software makes a lot more sense than it did. With Remix, they're cloud-native. Everything is assumed that you're going to be deploying to these things. Their piece of the puzzle is relatively small.

[32:14] They can just make it really, really good. If something's good enough and cheap enough, you don't care about hacking at it per se. You just need a nice API to do what you needed done. You just want the freedom to do what you want to do. The hackability or whatever aspect or the price aspect doesn't matter if the price is fine, and you trust that it's going to stay fine.

[32:41] That it's hackable in the ways that you care about being hackable. That's the same as with cloud. Again, you don't care about hacking S3's code because it has a nice API, and it's super robust. I'm sure the customers of Remix don't care about modifying the source code of Remix or something because it does what they need it to do. It's good enough, and the price is reasonable.

[33:04] On they go because, at the end of the day, we're just trying to do stuff. Everyone's like, "I'm trying to do something." Open source is a means to the end. Also, buying software is a means to the end as well. I'm very curious watching just how cloud is impacting all these discussions and dynamics. I think it's going to continue. I don't think it's played out all the way. I think there's a lot more changes still coming.

Ryan: [33:43] It's going to be interesting to see for sure. I'd love to talk about the topic of funding. Looking at the Crunchbase for Gatsby, it looks like 46.8 million total funding.

Kyle: [33:56] Sounds about right.

Ryan: [33:58] Series B? It says Series B.

Kyle: [33:59] Mm-hmm.

Ryan: [34:00] I'm curious about a couple things. One would be, and this might benefit those who are in the position where they've got startup ideas, they maybe built something proof to dot. They want to go seek fundraising. That may be a small subset of listeners. I'm curious about the topic of fundraising initially.

[34:18] Also, with that amount of funding that you've got at Gatsby, how is that deployed? What's the plan for it, essentially, and I suppose what's after? Maybe we can start with fundraising in general. Do you have any recommendations for how to think about fundraising or how to get started looking for investors if you're wanting to do a startup?

Kyle: [34:47] In general, the right way to think about investors is not that you're convincing them to give you money because they want to give you money. That's their whole job, is to give away money. Not give away, of course. They're investing it. They're buying part of your company for part of future returns. It's not users up. They have to invest the money. They don't have an option to invest the money.

[35:18] Your only job is to convince them that you're the right ones to invest in. Finding investors and all that takes care of itself if you're worth investing in. If there's traction, there's a clear pathway towards being a viable business. In 2017 was when I released v1 of Gatsby, and it started taking off in a much bigger way.

[35:54] Investors just come out of the woodwork. They're watching all the signals. If they see you getting traction, they'll call you. You don't have to call them.

[36:02] I never fundraised before. I bootstrapped previous stuff. I didn't know anything, but the learning curve is not that difficult. It's kind of a absurd process.

[36:22] [laughter]

Kyle: [36:22] It's so simple and casual at the end of the day, because you just chat with an investor, they bring in another investor for the company, you chat again. It's not very formal, you can do some slides, but a lot of it is they'll ask questions and you answer them and you have a conversation.

[36:42] If they like it, then they would like you present to the whole board, they have Monday partner meetings, and you'll present to all the partners, and then you'll get an offer or not get an offer after that. It literally can take a week. It can be extremely fast.

[37:01] The hard part is all about getting traction, you have to create something that people care about and you don't have to have a business to raise money, of course, seed rounds. Even Series A is all around getting you to the point that you have a viable business but you have to articulate how you're going to draw the dots from here to where you're an actual business and people are paying you.

[37:32] Those are really two things you need to be able to demonstrate that you've created something that's valuable, and then be able to draw the dotted line from here we are right now and this is where we're going to be $100 million business type of thing. You do those two things and then they're like, "Sweet, there's money."

[37:52] [crosstalk]

Ryan: [37:53] It's simple as that. [laughs] OK. For Gatsby in particular, maybe the open-source aspect colors it in a certain way, but how did you draw the dotted line between the value provided and "You should give us money" kind of thing. What would something like that look like when you were doing your fundraising?

Kyle: [38:14] Yeah. Investors are watching. Different investors have different specialties. For whatever reason, interest experience, previous companies, pre-investing experience or experience they've gained from investing in similar types of companies, those are just no parts of the market, like types of companies, types of products, types of technology.

[38:43] Those people, their whole job is just to watch what's going on and then try to detect, like "Oh, something in the world is changing. I'm going to invest in this change," because if there's a company that has a product, and people like it, there's no opportunity to do a startup there. Opportunities only come where something's changing, because it's novel, it's new, there's not already a good company there.

[39:13] Once a good company is in a space, it's done, they're just going to be there and everyone else is going to buy from them, because it's a good company offering a good product.

[39:23] The trick is, for real startups and for investing is where something going to change. It's like something new is going to emerge, or something about the world is going to make the old thing not make sense anymore. New thing can replace it. Those are basically your only two options.

[39:39] Investors are watching for things changing and new opportunities. Then they look for companies in that space. That's what I was saying. If you fit into that, they'll just start calling you because they're like, look, "What you're doing is awesome. I believe the same things you are about what's happening in this world. Maybe we do business together."

[40:08] In the right place, right time the right idea, you make some noise, you get people using it, get people excited about it. Then getting investment takes care of itself.

Ryan: [40:25] Makes sense. Yeah. With the investment that you've gotten now, I assume you do the typical things that you do at a start up with it, you hire people, that's probably one of the biggest expenses and biggest activities that you would do with your funding.

[40:39] Do you have given special ways that you're thinking about that though, I wonder or maybe there's other things you're also using the money for but anything in particular in your scenario at Gatsby that is like, we need money to do this kind of thing.

Kyle: [40:55] No, it's pretty normal stuff. There's a number of engineers working on open source, fixing issues, fixing bugs, creating new features, performance optimizations, pretty much as you'd expect there.

[41:15] We have people working on our cloud platform. That's a lot of work. That's the main reason probably we need investment is it's a pretty specialized skill set. You need pretty sophisticated engineers in order to build a robust platform for doing stuff.

[41:38] The other major investment, integrations, because the main value prop for Gatsby is like, "Hey, React, great way to build a site, static, super fast, easy, hosting, scales, secure." The third part is integrations. It's Gatsby plus WordPress, Gatsby plus Shopify, Gatsby plus Contempo, Gatsby plus Sanity.

[42:04] If you're building sites, you want to just have a well-designed, well-built, debugged, fast connection to the different pieces that you're plugging together. Gatsby gives you that out of the box. You don't have to build it yourself. You install a plugin, and bam, it's working.

[42:20] Then you do a design, implement it, add some content, ship it. We invest really heavily in continually improving those integrations for people to use, and then all the other normal stuff. We have HR and engineering managers, product managers make the whole thing go.

Ryan: [42:50] Makes sense. You must have the long view in mind. I would certainly hope so. What's your prediction if you had one? I don't even know if it's kosher to say, though. What do you think in terms of years out from Gatsby, going public or selling or having some event like that?

[43:09] Here's the first question. Do you think about that much? If so, do you put any kind of hopes on the time frame for it?

Kyle: [43:19] You can, but it's very dangerous. Thinking about the future doesn't actually solve the problems of today much. You want to know where you're going. Why are we doing this? Where are we going? You want that to be clear and simple. Everyone's like, "Yeah, we know where we're going and why we're doing this."

[43:45] The only way to get there is take it step by step. Being too distracted from the day to day is really dangerous because, A, the work that is done today is not getting done. What else you learn at a startup, I guess I didn't have to unlearn this, but people who come from larger companies, they have this weird, magical thinking about stuff. They're like "I don't know. Things just happen."

[44:09] [laughter]

Kyle: [44:10] I don't know, stuff gets cleaned and product plans get written up." You don't know the people doing things. You had no part of it. They just happen, and you do your bit. You're part of this weird, large organization.

[44:26] At a startup, if you don't do something, nothing happens. Literally nothing happens. A week could go by and nothing at all would happen unless you do it. You don't want to get distracted too much by what could be when you need to do something today.

[44:44] Danger, too, is believing your own hype. If you're not grounded in the root reality of what is things today, you can lose track of what actually needs done today. That's a pretty easy thing to slip into. Sometimes as a startup founder, you are spending a lot of time talking about the future and thinking about the future. Investing is a prime time for that.

[45:23] [laughs] At some point I told a friend, the only thing you need to do to raise money is turn the switch in your head to be a grandiose megalomaniac or something like that.

Ryan: [45:37] [laughs]

Kyle: [45:39] You have to come and be very confident and say, "We are going to be this huge company that's going to change the world." You have to say it with 100 percent confidence and no hesitation.

[45:53] It's sort of a game because investors, they know you're not 100 percent confident. It's this funny thing, but you do have to believe it enough to even try, I guess. They have to believe it enough to even try.

[46:11] You can all be like, "We think it's 5 percent likely or something." That's fine because not all investments have to work out and whatever, on we go. You have to be able to switch off that and you have to ignore.

[46:24] Because sometimes, also, you'll have very lauding fans. They'll be like, "Oh my gosh. This is going to change everything." You're like, "Wow. They think we're awesome," whatever.

[46:34] You have to be able to switch between that and what actually is happening now. What do we need to do today and tomorrow and this week and this month to move the flame forward? A journey only happens step by step, so be able to switch gears like that is critical.

Ryan: [46:55] Well put. I like it. It's just about time to start wrapping up. We're almost at time. One thing that I was worrying about before we go, though, I think you're in SF, still, are you?

Kyle: [47:07] Berkeley, to be precise, Berkeley area.

Ryan: [47:08] With everything that's going on in the world now and people are migrating out, any plans to move elsewhere, another hot startup scene maybe?

Kyle: [47:18] I don't know. My wife and I talk about it sometimes. Bay Area's a really pleasant place to live, so we haven't gotten too motivated to do anything. Also, we just had a baby last year. Having a baby makes you want to just not do anything. [laughs] The idea of moving right now sounds utterly exhausting.

Ryan: [47:46] [laughs]

Kyle: [47:47] We have a little house, and it's all set up. I walk to a little office where I work at. All those things make me not want to change anything.

[48:02] It's also like a startup. You want to keep the rest of your life boring when you're doing a startup so that you can be very un-boring in the startup. Conserving your energies for the startup is also helpful.

[48:21] I grew up in the Northwest, in Oregon. I love it there. We have family in north Utah. There's interesting options, but not right now.

Ryan: [48:42] Awesome. Kyle, thank you so much for taking the time today to chat through this stuff. It's certainly been educational for me. The listeners will get a lot of value out of this, too.

[48:53] Thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule. Thinking of your dad, of course, presents a whole other set of reasons to be busy. Thanks again. Where can people find you online?

Kyle: [49:04] Twitter's probably the easiest place Beyond that, I have a blog that I haven't updated in a while, [laughs] as usual, it seems these days. Twitter's great.

Ryan: [49:20] We will link all of that up in the show notes. Kyle, thank you once again. We'll talk to you soon.

[49:26] [music]

Ryan: [49:36] Thank you so much for tuning in to "The Entrepreneurial Coder Podcast" today. This has been Episode 40, with Kyle Mathews. You can find the links to all the resources that Kyle mentioned over at, and there you can also subscribe. Head over to

[49:53] If you would like to leave a rating and review, that would be awesome. Check us out on Twitter at

[49:58] [music]

What is The Entrepreneurial Coder Podcast?

An interview show where I talk to programmers, developers, and coders of all types who have gone into business for themselves. I find out the secrets to their success so you can make the move into an entrepreneurial pursuit yourself.