Colleen recaps her learnings from her first TinySeed meetup/MicroConf: Local Austin.
Two indie SaaS founders—one just getting off the ground, and one with an established profitable business—invite you to join their weekly chats.
Colleen Schnettler 0:01
Hey, Michelle, good morning.
Michele Hansen 0:02
Hey, Coleen, how are you?
Colleen Schnettler 0:04
I'm good. I feel like we haven't recorded in a while.
Michele Hansen 0:07
You've been busy.
Colleen Schnettler 0:09
I have been busy. I have. I have had a surprisingly large amount of travel recently. So it's been exciting and fun. But I am also very glad to be home for the rest of the month.
Michele Hansen 0:22
You were just in Austin for micro con. Austin or local slash tiny seed meetup. Right?
Colleen Schnettler 0:31
Yes, I was. Just got back actually a couple days ago. And I had a great time. I mean, it was really an amazing experience. You know, you and I have attended a founders conference together. And there's something about getting together with other ambitious founders that just really lights a fire, like, it just really gets you excited. I was there. So tiny said seed did a kind of like an odd, I don't wanna say onboarding. That's not the right word. But it was just kind of like a retreat. And we had some deep dives on pricing and some other interesting business topics. We broke out in a mastermind, so I got to meet a lot of other founders. So the way the program works, is, we get sorted into mastermind groups, and with other founders who have taken tiny seed investment. So we got to go, we did ours with these guys like, three, four hours over two days, just with our small group, plus tons of learning and chatting with other people in the batch. And that was the first two days. And then the third day, we went to micro comm for local, which was at WP Engine. Jason Cohen was there. So he and Rob walling did kind of a fireside chat, and got to meet more founders there. So it was really a cool, it was really a cool experience to the point where I am super glad I flew in for it.
Michele Hansen 1:54
Yeah, that sounds super energizing.
Colleen Schnettler 1:58
It was it was and it's fun to, to see where it always interests me like where people are in their business when they take funding. And some people are a lot further along than I would think you would take funding at. So it was just kind of interesting to talk to people and their motivations and their goals. And learn more. I mean, I know quite a bit about tiny seed. I've had several friends go through the program. But it was also fun. Like one guy specifically was was talking to a lot of different VCs. And he, he said, he actually said he was like, Well, I didn't want to lose my soul. So I took tiny seed money. Okay, good. I'm glad to hear that. But I think what was interesting to me, and very encouraging to me was the, I don't know if you call them the founders of tiny seed, or the head of tiny seed or whatever. Like, they want us to be successful, obviously. But it didn't feel like growth over people. Like it felt like meeting them in person. They seem to project what they say they project.
Michele Hansen 3:06
That's always a good thing. Yeah, it was good.
Colleen Schnettler 3:08
I mean, it was just it was better than I expected. Actually, to be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I don't know what I thought was gonna happen. But um, yeah, the people were great. We had lots of good talks, like I said, deep dives on things like pricing and business models. And, and one of the things that kind of interested me was they invest in a lot of companies that have Enterprise potential in terms of selling bigger contracts. And it just felt so obvious, like being there. But I was like, yeah, if you want to multimillion dollar company, you need to be doing bigger deals. That is something you and I have talked about with refined for Rails is how I want to go, do you say up market? Is that the right word? If I want to sell the bigger companies? Yeah,
Michele Hansen 3:47
I think going up market is what people would say, I
Colleen Schnettler 3:49
mostly just made up that word. But it sounded right. So I've been going with it. We had, we had that deep dive on pricing, you know, when we found out about the tiny seed here on the podcast, and we've just talking been talking about how, you know, we want to do bigger deals for refine rails. And being around these people who are not scared of huge deals is very, I don't know if encouraging or just it's just a different. It's kind of like a different community than the community I spend most of my time in where people are trying to sell their product for $35 a month. Sidenote, I have a product I sell for $35 a month. Love it not I'm not hating on that model at all. That's a great model. But this whole concept of like a high touch high value funnel, longer sales cycles. It's just an interesting world to me. And I think for me and Aaron and our skill set, it's going to be a really good path.
Michele Hansen 4:44
Yeah, I mean, $35 a month versus $35,000 a year, right? Very different. You know, sales and marketing experiences.
Colleen Schnettler 4:52
Exactly that. That's exactly my point. And so, what was really cool, okay, so we're at It WP engine for the Microsoft and I guess this is the first Microsoft local, they've sold out and they had a super long waiting list for it. And what was really cool about it, is it there were not very many people there like maybe 50 people. Oh, yeah, it was tiny, tiny, tiny. And so it was just an awesome experience because they did like a little bit structured, like, meet and greet things. I like when they're a little like the networking is a little bit structured, because it's just less awkward, right? So kinda like that, hey, go talk to a founder. And we're gonna set a timer for five minutes and ask these questions and then switch. So we had a little bit of that. And then Jason Cohen and Rob walling did like kind of a fireside chat kind of a q&a. And afterwards, very, very few people went up to talk. Of course I did, I was like, Aaron, we need to go. Aaron was like, Are you going to make me talk to Jason? I was like, Yes, 100%. Like, we're going to get over here. There are only three people like went to talk to Jason Cohen after his talk. And so we got like, 30 minutes with him, because there was no one else there was also, yeah, it was a whole thing. I kind of expected it like I do. You know, I do a lot of events. And typically when you go to introduce yourself to like the speaker, or like, I don't want to say the famous person that's cheesy, but like the person, you know, the the Hi, I don't know how to describe him. But you know what I mean? The speaker, let's just say the person, the people on stage, the people on stage, usually the keynote? Yeah, that's a good way to put it. Yeah, go talk to that person. Typically, it's a like, you go, you say hi, you tell them you'd like their body of work. Like I already knew which talk I loved of his that I wanted to talk about. And they ask you what you're doing. And they say good luck, and you leave, right? There's never anything like it's usually just say hi, high five by. And that is not what happened. We get up there. And remember, there's no one else like waiting to talk to him. So we have nothing but time. And we get up there and we start talking to him. And he's asking us about our business. And he just like took this idea. And you know how hard it has been for us to communicate what we do. Yeah. And so we're getting better at it. Because literally, we met 30 other founders. And the first thing we talk about is like, oh, what does your product do? So we've kind of like our sound bite now, which we're still working on. But our soundbite now is we build a visual filter builder. For rails and Laravel. Developers, it's a drop in piece of software that enables them to give their users the ability to filter database records.
Michele Hansen 7:41
Okay, so that's much more concise. That's better,
Colleen Schnettler 7:43
right? All right. Yeah, it'll work out. But it's way better than my, our 20 minute spiel, another Okay. Speaking of that, I have another funny story. I'm going to tell you in a minute. But um, so Jason got it, like, right away. Like he was like, Oh, yeah. Okay, cool. And he just, like, took that idea. And like he riffs on the positioning of that idea for like, 20 or 30 minutes, like, yeah, wild too. I like I literally wish I had a video camera. And I could have videotaped his excitement about this product. It was awesome. So, yeah, Jason Cohen is gonna be my new hype,
Michele Hansen 8:18
man. Are you going to change some things? Like based on that conversation?
Colleen Schnettler 8:22
I think so. I think what he told us things we have been circling around. One, he said, Who are you selling to? We said, we're selling to developers. He's like, That's a terrible idea. Don't sell to developers sell to product managers. And we've heard this before, but we haven't really like, internalize it. He's like, here's what you do. You sell the product managers, and you make the product manager, the hero of the story. So something you and I podcasted, about, almost years ago was reading story brand. And so so it was like all of these things. Like it's just so cool, when, like all of the advice and learning and books you read feel like they're, you know, coming together. And so, you know, his, his he was chatting about it, he was like, Look, you sell the product managers, you make them the product manager is the hero of the story. And so, if you the, when a product manager, you know, he was talking about at WP Engine, they have quarterly announcements or not announcements, but like events where they announce new features and stuff. He's like, so you give the product manager the Oh, but one more thing, Steve Jobs style. And the Oba one more thing is whatever they need, like custom reports, custom background email jobs, using refine and the sales, the positioning is for less than the cost of a developer. You now have this full feature that you can add to your app that makes it more sticky for them. Because now their customers are like oh with XYZ product, I get custom reports or I get custom filtering or I get custom email background jobs, whatever they need. So the product managers the hero, because they bring to their CEO and Oh, one more thing that makes their product stickier that they sell that they have purchased, excuse me, for less than the cost of a developer. Hmm. So and he got into way more detail. But that was kind of like, and we've been circling that idea, but no one has really like, described it in such a way to us before. We talked a lot about leaning into our current customer, our, you know, our big enterprise client, we should have a case study from them. Yeah, this company's, you know, our filtering enabled this company to do XYZ. Like, that's such an obvious thing that I don't know, we hadn't thought about. So stuff like that.
Michele Hansen 10:43
Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense, like doing case studies and having that testimonial, and also having the quotes in that case study being from your target person. And so it's like, like having quotes in there from a product manager that says, This is what allowed us to do,
Colleen Schnettler 10:59
right. And I think that is the big shift, we are gonna and this isn't an overnight thing. Like there's a lot of work that has to go into making this shift. But I think that's kind of the shift is like bigger companies, product managers, is going to be our target market. Like that's going to be our what we're going to try.
Michele Hansen 11:17
I have a question about something you said earlier, so you're talking about how it surprised you the point at which people were at when they joined tiny seed? Yeah, and no, now of course, you probably can't give you too many specifics on this. But I get questions fairly often from people on you know, do you think I would be a fit for you know, tiny seat for example? Yeah. Can you can you give some some ranges because I do think it would surprise people both on the low end and on the high end.
Colleen Schnettler 11:49
I mean, I talked to people everywhere from 500 MRR to 40,000. MRR.
Michele Hansen 11:56
So I feel like big range. It's a huge range. I
Colleen Schnettler 11:58
feel like I can share that because I didn't share any.
Michele Hansen 12:01
I guess where are you guys at? I mean, you're more arr?
Colleen Schnettler 12:05
Yeah, ours is kind of hard to calculate. We're in the very low end of that.
Michele Hansen 12:10
So yeah, I mean, it's basically if you have some amount of paying customers, like if you have proven that people will pay you doesn't necessarily have to be at product market fit. And then also, it's everybody's beat is b2b, right? Like everything's nappy
Colleen Schnettler 12:24
sassing with tiny seeds. They do not do b2c. And Rob talked about that in his podcast. So before we applied, Rob, I think in to do with Sherry, he did a podcast on startups from the rest of us talk about the kind of founders he likes to invest in. And one of the things he said on that podcast is they don't do b2c Because they don't think they can help you like, they just don't know how to do BDC. As effectively. I think the big thing with I mean, it's it's early, right, I'm new, but it just depends like, I have one friend who did it, who's done it, and it's been fine. But he hasn't leaned into any of the resources being offered. And so he's kind of like, whatever I don't, you know, he feels kind of blase about the whole thing. Whereas I think if you lean in, it just depends on what you want. Like if you're running a business, I think it's fair to say like, most of the people didn't need me, we don't need the money. Like we were fully self sustainable. But we want to lean into the resources. So I talked to a couple founders who like, had talked to lots of different funds, and we're getting lots of offers and went with tiny seed because of the focus on like, obviously, they want, you know, the focus on sustainable growth, I think would be the way to describe that.
Michele Hansen 13:40
Yeah. So So what else is on your list after coming back?
Colleen Schnettler 13:46
The big things would be kind of all the stuff I just said, which is a lot of stuff. So Aaron and I for this month, and this is December, we are trying to get our low touch funnel going. So he's working on the Laravel Nova homepage and trying to get the Nova integration rolling. And I'm leaning into some of the issues we're having on the rails side. And those issues specifically are like technical issues. And so I'm working on fixing those I think, I think what I remembered slash learned while I was there is like, I'm good at this. If I trust my gut on what I should be doing, and I take a lot of advice in. And like actually, one of my strengths is, I'm very coachable. People have always said that about me like I'm very coachable. But also, sometimes you can get too much advice. And sometimes when you're getting too much advice, it's hard, you get confused, or it's hard to remember like it's hard to filter at all. And so for me, I need to remember just like to lean back in on what I know the right thing to do is because I still feel like I know what the right thing to do is.
Michele Hansen 14:47
I think that's been a big theme for you over the past. I mean, people can even go back and listen to the beginning of this podcast, but like, over the past couple years is really developing and then trusting your own own intuition on business because I feel like when we started talking, you didn't really have any intuition about ripeness. And like you were reading a lot of stuff, but you're kind of just reading a lot of things, watching a lot of talks doing a lot of learning, but you kind of didn't have your own compass guiding you through that, and kind of helping you judge like, is this something that's going to help me or not, it was just sort of all coming in, like a fire hose. And I think what I've seen, you go through is now like, hey, this was really useful. Okay, looking back at like story brand, right? That was actually something that really resonated. And that makes sense. And you, you tried that, in your business, you saw that it worked. And now you're going back to that and you're like, Okay, I can fit this in with something else that I already understand. And, versus I mean, how many, like 1000s of blog posts have you read on running a SaaS business? Right, and so you've kind of you've kind of developed this, like, center, you know, to like to combat like, you have a certain like, groundedness, that maybe you didn't have, like, three, I mean, we used to describe this as you wandering through the forest. Yeah. And now I feel like you've you've, you've not only firmly got the compass in your hand, like, you've got it within you, you still need to know where to go. But there's much more of you influencing where that is, and like, and then, like a certain, like, trust in yourself about that, that I feel like wasn't really there a couple years ago?
Colleen Schnettler 16:30
Yeah, I think that's I think that's accurate. And I think that, you know, that happens with all things in life, right? Like, you got to put the reps in, like, you got to do the work, you got to break out of the cycle of just reading, which was a problem I had, you know, years ago, you actually have to try things and you build your intuition, right, like you build your, your ability to know what the next right thing is for your business. And I feel like I you know, I feel really good about our path forward. I feel like I know, what we need to do next. I mean, even you know, like, I feel this way about simple file upload to and they're totally different businesses. So, yeah, I think that's a lot of like, that kind of confidence grows, the more you do things and learn things, right. Like it's, I say, fail fast a lot. But it's really learned fast. Like, you know,
Michele Hansen 17:17
yeah, I mean, just keep, yeah, keep learning.
Colleen Schnettler 17:19
Oh, when I'm doing this new thing I'm going to share with you. So I'm doing so I was doing I think I told you, I have a meeting with a friend. And we do one actionable thing each week, which has been really great. Trying to focus. I tell you that. Yeah, you did. Yeah. Okay, cool. So I'm gonna I'm adding on to that and trying to like define, since we're still early, and we are still, yet we have this grand idea, but we don't exactly know what that's gonna look like yet. We're doing or I'm doing like a every week, like, learn, make one decision about the business if you can, and learn something and like, start at the beginning of week like this week, I'm going to learn XYZ. And so I'm adding that to my weekly things I need to do.
Michele Hansen 18:04
Do you go back and keep track of like what you learned that you didn't expect to learn?
Colleen Schnettler 18:10
Yeah, I do. Which is fun. I don't Well, I just started to learn, like specifically writing it down. So I kept I keep the one actionable thing. So I don't have any like juicy stuff. But it is kind of funny, because I have been keeping like a notion journal since 2020. So it has been fun to like, go back and look at some of that stuff. And like, see how far I've come?
Michele Hansen 18:34
I think it's my favorite thing about learning whether it's you know, in a course or simply, you know, talking to a customer or reading a book or whatnot, is looking at what did I intend to learn? Or what did I? And then what did I think I was going to learn? Yeah, and then what did I actually learn from it. And for me, that's the most exciting part about learning anything is the things I didn't expect.
Colleen Schnettler 18:58
And that's when I think you really had growth to, like, Here, here's where this intuition thing comes into play. So, so far with refine, I have learned things I already thought I was going to learn. And that's good. Because I have proven so for example, before I shipped like back in August or September, everyone's like, You got to ship you got to ship you got to ship. I was like God, it's not ready. The customers are gonna say X, Y and Z. But I shipped it anyway. And guess what? The customer said X, Y and Z. But it was still so we're paying you while they're, while they were saying XYZ showed that. But the point was, you still have to ship it. Like your intuition is telling you this is this is kind of my take on what that means. Your Business intuition, it says you need to fix XY and Z. But there's still a huge value in saying will you pay me, Joe customer, even if I don't haven't fixed x, y and z and when they say yes, you learn? Yeah, this is really valuable because they bought it even when X y&z aren't finished. But also you have to finish XYZ.
Michele Hansen 20:05
Right, you get both things going, right.
Colleen Schnettler 20:07
So what's even more fun so so I think the real like you break out of your box more is when, like you just said you learned something you didn't expect to learn. And I'm not there yet with refine. I haven't learned anything I didn't expect to learn yet. But I you know, that's when I feel like we're really going to start making big breakthroughs.
Michele Hansen 20:25
It sounds like you did a little bit though, like you still paid people will pay you before you thought they were willing to. And I think part of that is kind of shedding your, you know, employed engineer perspective that like the thing isn't done until it's fully met the spec that was laid out. And by contrast, now, you can ship it well, before the spec is done, and get paid for it, either while you're completing what you thought it was you were building or going in an entirely different direction. But you don't have to sit and wait for that point. In fact, you shouldn't, right.
Colleen Schnettler 21:09
So yeah, but so funny thing. You know, I was just thinking because I was writing up some things about simplify level of the other day that I didn't think, totally unrelated side note. So what I one of the funny things I learned about simple file upload is like, the pages that convert the most are like the fluffy pages like that, that upload care alternative. And I was like, This is stupid. We don't need to, like the SEO focus pages have brought in more traffic than the super technical pages, because that's what people Google right. That's what people get. I mean, it's just like, yeah, that's what they're typing in. And
Michele Hansen 21:41
that is why I would find you. Yeah,
Colleen Schnettler 21:43
so lots of interesting things. And bracing, the unexpected. Embracing the unexpected. That's literally our job description, right. I've been listening. Do you know the Zen founder podcast? Which Yeah, isn't that Rob? wallings wife's Yeah, Sherry's okay. Yeah, people have told me about this podcast before and I tried to listen to it. And it wasn't really my jam. Because there was someone else she had on that's like, suppose I don't really know. It just wasn't, it wasn't found very focused. I was maybe I just picked a bad episode. But what I discovered was, they started this podcast and like, 2016 together, so if you go back, so I have been like binge listening to Zen founder episodes from 2017. Because it's Sherry Walling, who is a psychiatrist, psychologist, I don't know what the difference is. But she's one of those psycho psych
Michele Hansen 22:32
psychiatrist prescribes medicine a psychologist is, does not they're more on the like, psychological side of things.
Colleen Schnettler 22:39
Okay, so I hope she doesn't listen to her podcast, because I don't know which one she is. But she's one of those things. She's and then and then rob Walling, obviously, and they're both startup founders, she has a book, he has a book, they have a book together. And it is so fascinating, listening to these early episodes from like, 2017 from them together. Because it, it's like the way they bring some like really personal stuff. And, you know, she's talking about like, this really personal issue they have to deal with, and how being entrepreneurs, we do hard things, like we can do hard things, because, you know, hopefully, you're supported to do hard things. But that's like, what we do. And I guess what, I'm fascinated by it, because you always I always thought of like this career path is just being just that a career path. But this career path is really a whole way of viewing challenges and like viewing the world and figuring out how to solve hard problems. And they basically took all of this work, like entrepreneur mindset and applied it to these personal problems in their life. And I was like, yeah, that's super cool. Oh, that's
Michele Hansen 23:42
really interesting. It was,
Colleen Schnettler 23:44
you know, this is a total now I'm totally off topic. But um, it's a great podcast from 2017. I can't speak to the newer episodes, because I haven't listened to them. But I'm really enjoying listening to two people in this space with like, high emotional intelligence, talk through like, the problems, their marriage faces, and like startups face like and kind of how it's all entwined. Right? Because it's like your life, you know, you can't really separate the things. It's been good.
Michele Hansen 24:11
Oh, it's true. I mean, especially when you're married to your co founder. Yeah. I haven't listened to it. Yeah, but I read her newsletter actually. And I read Oh, okay. He's letter. But then this is just my like, the fact that I can read so much faster than I listen to that. Yeah. do hard things. Learn unexpected things.
Colleen Schnettler 24:32
Put that on a pillow, cross stitch, cross stitch, cross stitch that on a pillow.
Michele Hansen 24:40
Put that in your chimney and smoke it. Okay. Good job, chat.
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