Today’s guest on the Niche Pursuits Podcast is Andrew Amann. Andrew is the CEO of Nine Two Three Venture Studio, a software development agency that invents, develops, and grows online business ventures.
Their first product received 600,000 downloads from a pretty low investment, which led them on a path to becoming an online startup agency.
Andrew and his team have never looked back.
The company has been an enormous success, producing 14 startups, 50 client projects, and has become the 4th fastest growing company in Canada.
During the chat, Andrew talks about why and how they started the agency and shares his thoughts on how to come up with new business ideas and ways to grow them.
He makes his advice super actionable by deep-diving into a product he and his team designed during the pandemic called Altar Live — a live streaming app for churches.
The popular app has created a yearly income of $100,000 dollars…achieved in just 12 months! It’s fascinating to hear Andrew’s thoughts about the process involved.
Other things Andrew Amann discusses during the chat include:
- Growth of startups vs sustainability
- The holistic entrepreneurship approach
- Becoming a consultant before quitting your job
- Examples of being a consultant or intrapreneur for a business to grow a profitable startup
- Actual steps from beginning to end with a product idea
- The thought process they go through for working with an entrepreneur.
- Using investments wisely for the good of the product
- How to sell and get downloads for apps
- Evaluating risk for a product idea
- Competitor and customer research
- Using demos as a marketing tool
- Plus much more
Finally, Andrew shares a story about his team of developers in Ukraine and how the current war has been one of the most stressful moments in his business.
He talks about how they have dealt with this issue and how they have been able to double their revenue during this difficult time.
As always, take notes and enjoy the episode.
Links Mentioned By Andrew Amann During The Interview:
This Episode is Sponsored by: Rank IQ
Watch the full interview:
Read the full transcription:
Spencer: Hey Andrew, welcome to the niche pursuits.
Andrew: Thanks for having me Spencer, glad to be here.
Spencer: Yeah, it’s good to connect on a podcast we’ve connected previously. Of course, yes, we are part of the rhodium group. We’ve done a couple of, I guess mastermind calls is basically good way to call it chatted software and lots of other stuff, but, uh, I’m excited to share what you’re doing in your business with listeners here on the podcast and give you a chance to kind of explain what’s working for you because you actually kind of, I think bring a unique perspective that we haven’t had really on the podcast in the past.
And so, uh, I’m excited to jump into. Um, before we kind of get your background, I wanted to give people a little bit of a highlight. You sent over a few bullet points of some of the things that your business has done. Um, and so just to give those, uh, your company’s built 14 startups, um, you’ve had two acquisitions.
Um, one of your startups did a zero to a hundred thousand in ARR in 12 months. Um, another startup got 1600 or 600,000 downloads with only $50,000 invested. And you have built the fourth fastest growing private company in Canada. So those are some of the highlights. That I’m, I’m sure there’s lots more details, but I want to get people there to how you built this, how you’ve accomplished some of this, but before we do, maybe give us some of your background, like, how did you go from what you were doing before, uh, this business and what kind of led you to, to starting?
I should mention the name nine to three venture studio.
Andrew: Yeah, sure. So yeah. Thank you for the introduction. And, uh, yeah, we’ve been at the agency model now for about six years, but the business has been around for 10 years. We originally started in 2012 as a SAS product. You know, myself, my co-founder Pavel, we met in Boston and we both wanted to build a product that was trying to solve the business card problem at the time bump, which was the two phones that were bumped together in space, uh, had just been acquired by Google and there’s, there was a gap in the market and.
There is no way to transact two pieces of contact information between individuals really with one phone. And so we tried to solve that challenge and we came up with innovative ways to do that. Uh, one of them being QR codes, it wasn’t, you know, this was 10 years ago. So it wasn’t revolutionary at the time to see QR codes, you know, in the, in the marketplace.
Um, and we had basically what LinkedIn has now, you know, you open up your LinkedIn profile, you press the scan button and it shows a QR code on your phone. And with just one foam, you can attract the contact information of somebody else and inform them that you looked at their profile on LinkedIn. But in our case that that person’s information will be sent back to you.
So that was our first product that you mentioned. It had 600,000 downloads. It got sold in 26, 2016. I was acquired at that time for the. But the team itself, we’ve had that team since 2012 and that’s where the agency has come from. And so, yeah, over the years we just built product after product, after product.
And because we had that startup background, we kept taking the profits and realizing that what our team was really good at is building those startups. Whether somebody asked us to do it, or we have the idea. And so there’s 14 startups have come from the idea that our team just continues to build those startups over time, creating that product,
Yeah. So to, to kind of, uh, clarify that. So you first had the idea, you built the team, you built the product that you mentioned, um, had the exit and that left all, or at least a portion of your team, um, that you wanted to keep busy, you know, probably you wanted to keep employed. And so you, you kind of went to the agency model, Hey, we’ve got a great team of developers we’re willing to take on client work.
And, and as you’ve done that, it sort of evolved to like, Hey, we’re, we’re great at building startups for other people, but you’re also internally building apps for yourself as well with, I assume, excess hours that your developers. That’s
Andrew: exactly right. Yeah. I call it the opportunity costs, right? Because you have the ability to always have projects kind of lined up and a lot of agencies will, you know, signwaves the development, right?
Sometimes they have full staff, sometimes have half staff. In our case though, we’re always, we always have projects to work on. And the projects that we’re working on is catered towards the fact that we’re really good at that beginning process going from zero to one. So we understand how an app should be built for an industry.
And because most of our 50 client projects are in different industries. When we think of a startup, we have a general idea of how that startup can you build in that industry from experience. And we know the gaps. So a lot of our startups have come from the idea that. You know, this gap exists because it’s client, wasn’t fulfilling that, that part of the market.
Let’s go see if we can fulfill it ourselves. So let’s go see if we can take on the challenge of understanding how this part of the market will work and what stems out of that is. Yeah, you can have a great product there, but you ultimately need the sales and marketing. And so we’ve had three phases. The first phase we thought we could do it ourselves, you know, kind of run the startups and the agency, which didn’t work really at all.
But the second phase we hired a CEO and we would go out and find an industry expert and place them into the product. And that worked relatively well until we found out the third model, which is an entrepreneur that’s in the industry, comes to us and said, You know, I’ve already had three accidents. I’ve already sold a bunch of products.
I know what I want to do next. I don’t want to do venture backing. I don’t want to hire a CTO. I want to hire an agency just to build my idea, but I want them to tell me what’s right and wrong. And that’s where we’ve really fit in. Now with this agency model, the startup builder, because we’re just building the product and they’re taking care of the sales of.
Jared: Yeah. And so, um, is that primarily all that you’re doing now in terms of people are coming to you, entrepreneurs are coming to you with their ideas. Um, and, and do you build all the ideas that you get, uh, or do you kind of vet those and go, you know what, like, we don’t want to work with this entrepreneur, even though it would give us, you know, development revenue, uh, for whatever reason.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s a great question. I think if we didn’t find out about this model, we would still be trying to start companies and install CEO’s because that was relatively working. We were decent at that. It’s just that you can’t do that. People come to you model until you have experience and success. And that process allowed us to have that generalized success where people said, oh, you can do this.
You can create this product if I give you a simplistic idea. And so I would say the answer to that. Repeating that is, is like evolutionary for our, our playbook, but it also is very advantageous for us because if we get the right entrepreneur, we don’t have to worry about the venture backing. You don’t have to worry about the sales and marketing because we know they have done it before.
Right. If we get a first timer, we’re probably not going to buy in because we won’t discount our costs because we don’t see the, the long road that that person has to be on and they don’t see it either. So it becomes the challenge of you have to get the right person so that you can discount your pricing, uh, and allowing them to, you know, we all win together basically in the long run.
So it only really works if somebody has done it before and we know that they have that potential
Jared: future. Yeah. So can you walk us through, um, a specific example or, or, or generic one, you know, if you can’t, um, of like what a, what, what the model looks like for the entrepreneur and for you in terms of equity split, like, uh, and who who’s doing, what in the business.
Andrew: Sure. And I’ll just give you a generic, generic example that kind of fits two or three of the models that we’re working on. Okay. So a team of people or a set of entrepreneurs, or even an individual entrepreneur will come and say, I have an idea to put a product into the marketplace to do X, Y, and Z. I also believe I can raise, let’s say a million dollars to do that, or I can get $400,000 of sales in the first six months, because I already know of these three or four customers.
Right? So try it into entrepreneurs, have that revenue goal in mind and they can fit the cost structure into it. So they say, if this product can do X, Y, and Z, and they’ve talked to their customers, so they know X, Y, and Z is the product market fit. So they say, if this product can do X, Y, and Z, can you build this?
And so we’ll go back and we’ll estimate what X, Y, and Z is. And when we get that estimate back to him, let’s say it’s $200,000 to build his product. And he thinks he can raise a million dollars. Once that product goes to market as an MVP, right? Initial customers, nothing scalable yet. And so there’s $200,000 cost million dollars of other investment rounds.
We will split up that investment round and say, we’ll take a hundred thousand dollars of costs back, like in cash when you raise that money. So you got to tell the investors a hundred thousand dollars of that is going to build the MVP product, you know, at that future date, the other hundred thousand dollars, we’d like to invest into the company.
Now, whether that’s a revenue share of warrant royalties, or even like. It’s up to the entrepreneur and how they want to divvy up their company, but it allows us to be part of the team and scale with them over time and really be like your CTO in a box with the team as they scale their product. So that split, if it makes sense, allows us to be part of the team, you know, take care of some of our costs and more importantly, see a longer exit.
Jared: And so, uh, all the entrepreneurs that you’re working with, are they also out raising additional funds? Um, you know, they, he threw out the million dollar thing or, or do you have some that are, Hey, it’s going to cost 200,000 to boots, you know, to, to get the MVP out the door or the finished product out the door.
And, uh, I think I can, you know, grow the business through, uh, paying customers, you know, beyond that. I don’t want to raise any more. Yep.
Andrew: So one has that concept of, you know, raising X amount of millions and they know of that percentage, how much they’re paying us. A, another one has pre-sales through a webinar that they’re doing and webinars are new to us.
So it’s a new way to get products to market. Uh, but they are, they have a general understanding of what that presale would be, and it’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, right? And then as long as our costs are under that, we’re good, right? As long as their presales stay above. And then the third one, which is, is the newest of these entrepreneurs that are coming to us, is interested in just paying for the cost.
They have a large company they’re doing very well at that company and they’re interested in their next venture and they just, they know the market they want to be in, but ticket price is going to be $20,000 a customer. And they know if they get five to 10 customers, they can pay for the development. So if they pre-sell those $20,000.
And our costs, let’s say it’s $200,000. We’re perfectly made it up to be a, at least an MVP bills. Right.
Jared: Yeah. Uh, so I want to, uh, get a sense. I’m not sure if you mentioned specifically how many apps, uh, your company owns, like outright, that you’ve built in house versus, you know, how many have you partnered on what what’s kind of that breakdown?
Andrew: Yeah. So we have 50 client projects that we have zero equity in. People have come to us like, you know, we have a billion dollar company that we’ve been consulting for them for the last three years. We are their mobile app team, you know, Pablo my co-founder the CTO of their company calls Pablo, if there’s any mobile issues, Tom was on the phone with him, right?
So that’s like a, a very agency model, right service for the company. There’s 50 of those. Then there are 14 companies that we have equity in or partnership in or royalties in or some long the lines that’s not just cost, but also equity in the form of future, future growth.
Jared: Yeah. Okay. Very good. And then are there any apps that you own like outright, like you didn’t worry with an outside entrepreneurs that part of that 14,
Andrew: I would say.
Uh, so there’s three cohorts that I always say the first cohorts is we own a hundred percent and we try to run both agency and startups at the same time. The second five, the second cohort is when we tried to install the CEO where we own 80, 90% of that app. Um, and then the CEO would get, you know, 20 or 10% somewhere around there.
The third cohort, the last four now are straight entrepreneurs that have come to us. And so that’s why we’ve, evolutionized through the process with experience. And so those last four are all entrepreneurs that have come to us and said, I have the idea, you guys are going to build the product. And we said, great, we’re a match made in heaven.
Jared: Perfect. Yeah, no, that makes absolute sense. And the reason I wanted to get to that is so, uh, I could help listeners appreciate, you know, sort of obviously what you’re involved in, but also that you, you do have apps that, uh, you are running in addition to just, you know, sort of partnering that other CEO’s and et cetera are running.
And so I’d like to kind of focus on the apps that, that you and your team are running, um, and kind of get an idea of what’s working well. Um, and so are you willing to share any numbers that might give people an idea of, of the success? You know, w we kinda mentioned that, Hey, you got one up within 12 months up to 100,000 in ARR, you know, maybe we can chat, chat about that, but any other numbers that you’re willing to share about either income or downloads or just success stats for those apps that you run?
Andrew: Sure. Yeah. So, uh, during the pandemic, we had the opportunity and the visibility into zooms list of people that were building products, uh, for the pandemic. And so they immediately come out with this in the first month, and it was work from home work from the office, you know, yoga studios, dog studios, basically agencies had the opportunity to build all of these different niches.
What transpired out of that is nobody was building for charity. And so I sat down with that list and I said, what is missing here? And I thought, am my new England town, you know, there’s 10 churches. As I drive up the street here. Even if I drive two miles, there’s like 10 churches. I was like, nobody’s really addressing this market.
And that’s a massive market during COVID, uh, that people just can’t attend church. And so this was in the cohort that we were starting the product. We had figured out the product market fit. And we knew we were going to build like zoom for church. We started the partnership, talks with zoom and we went out and found a CEO to be installed into this product.
And then the process basically was her. And I sat in a church for six months every time. Uh, with the soundboard, we were the ones that controlled it. Even some Sundays, the soundboard operator was not there. So it was myself and Stephanie. And we basically ran a church service for six months, or at least we’re sitting in the church for six months.
Uh, and it was really to introduce us to the idea of how hard it is to get a live stream from, you know, basically a seven person organization that has limited resources. That’s doing a mass production for a hundred to 200 people every Sunday and using tools that they need to basically reduce the price of to get online, you know, YouTube and Facebook live.
And so we learned that process for six months and we pivoted into what is now called alter life. And within that first year, just like you said, we went from zero to a hundred thousand dollars, uh, AR in that was like 92,666. We were almost there. And, uh, so we got that in the first year. And then we, we plateaued, it took us another six months to figure out the product, figure out the product market fit for a second time to then start, see scale that we’re seeing.
Now we’re starting to grow that product month over month. Um, it has 115 churches, you know, active churches and it has over 1900 churches that have been on the platform using it. There’s tens of thousands of people that have gone for their Sunday services. You know, we’re seeing thousands of people every Sunday, you know, onto the platform using it.
Just imagine zoom for church, but like catered for zoom. So you can go to your breakout rooms, you can go to your prayer rooms, uh, there’s tables and stuff you can sit at. And then when you’re watching the actual service, you can sit and chat with four of your friends like you do in church. And so your video is on.
And so always like three of your friends, you know, that you’re sitting next to. And so it’s an awesome engagement platform. Um, and we see a huge opportunity for it because we’re really the only video provider for churches in the world. And this niche, this, this. Is make a profitable company. Like we’re not interested in growing this VC backed growth, but we’re interested in the people that work for ultra live that they have profits and they can continue to grow this product so that they can get more people underneath them to support the massive number of churches.
Jared: Yeah. So this is fascinating. So I’d like, I’d like to kind of dig into altar live a little bit if, if we can. Um, because a it’s like we’re on the niche pursuits podcasts. Let’s talk about a niche like that. That’s just a great, you know, what seems like, Hey, it’s just a small little app, but as you mentioned, when you start thinking about the number of churches out there, I mean, it’s a large addressable market.
It really is. Um, and so what I’d like to maybe go through is how did you come up with the idea, which I know you addressed a little bit, but I’d like to dig into that, you know, how did, how do you come up with these ideas? So listeners can maybe think through the process on their own. And then I want to dig into the marketing, um, a little bit, you know, how do you go about.
Getting downloads for an app for churches. Right. Um, so let’s talk about the idea a little bit. I know you said, Hey, you know, right in your town, you drive through churches. Was it just kind of, as easy as that you noticed a bunch of churches, um, or, or what else goes into coming up with an idea for an app?
Andrew: I think my role in the startup studio is the person in which understands how markets fit with customers. And I think it’s a tried practice. I think you really have to put effort into understanding how our product can be built for a specific set of customers. And I think when, when it pops, like when I, when I visibly see the connection of a gap, I can’t stop thinking about it.
And so myself, I’m, I’m the, you know, a dreamer of the team, uh Pobble is my co-founder and he’s really reserved. He understands how to protect the company, how to secure, like, is this really a good idea? How much risk is involved? And so by dreaming constantly, I’m always coming up with ways to solve problem.
And then Pablo has always has the ability to say, yeah, but there’s a lot of risk here. So the process that you’re asking is, you know, come up with idea after idea, after idea, and some of them will stick. Some of them will, but have that person, that sounding board that can tell you where the risks lie, even stuff you’re not thinking about.
So you can really validate if it’s a good product market fit, or if it’s really just an idea that never has legs. Um, and so that the answer is like, come up with a bunch of ideas and then have somebody like filter those ideas. Right. And alters that, tried and test, uh, the, the, the Testament to that. We came up with the idea, I told him, and then a week went by and we were both like, remember that altar thing.
That’s pretty good. That Bible app is number two on the app store for peed apps. Right. And then you just start finding things, you start realizing, oh, and the top 10. There’s two Christian apps of the top 10 free apps. There’s two Christian apps, and one of them is a paid Bible app that makes more revenue than 99.9% of the apps in the marketplace.
And then we found there’s 360,000 churches in the United States. Nevermind the world. Then we found zoom is offering partnerships to any company that wants to build that like platforms for their, you know, and you start digging, right. And as you dig, you’re like, you know, I’m probably digging on two or three things every week, but sometimes they just keep digging and you’re like, this is still a good idea.
This is still a good idea. And by the time we got to actually sitting and talking with zoom, I remember that they said to us, they’re like, we cannot stand Sundays. Like the customer support that is needed for chess, Sundays alone is impossible to deal with. And we’re like, we’ll take that away from you.
Like it must those customers. Right. And obviously they didn’t, but that concept, there was like we said, we found the problem. We saw the product market fit and just by continually to dig, the risk gets removed. And Pablo’s it. This is good. This, we should try this. Like the risk is now been removed. We can see the product market fit.
Now we see the need. We see why the customers need it. Right. So I’ll pause there just because there’s a lot like unpackaged, but let’s see where we go from
Jared: there. Yeah, no, I, I like that a lot. I mean, a you’re constantly coming up with ideas. You kind of threw in there that, Hey, you’re coming up with two to three ideas probably a week as it is throwing it against the wall.
Um, and then B, you’ve got a sounding board, somebody that’s going to help you kind of analyze and, you know, Probably, um, recognize things that maybe you didn’t say, Hey, that’s, that’s a bad idea because of XYZ right now, but when you can at least get two minds that are like, Hey, you know, this is still a good idea.
After looking at how many users might there be. And something that I do that you mentioned is looking at, are there other successful businesses or apps in the industry, right. And you’re looking at the top downloaded apps and everything that you mentioned. And so, um, yeah, those are great ways to kind of vet, uh, those new ideas.
And so obviously. The building of the app is in your wheelhouse. Right. You’ve got the agency. That’s why you’ve got the team in place to do that. So, um, feel free to come, come back to that. If you feel like I’m missing anything in terms of developing the app. But I was just going to skip to like, okay, now you’ve got the idea, you’ve got the app.
How do you actually sell the app? Right. Like, and we can talk about alter live. Like, how do you, how do you get it out the door? What are you doing?
Andrew: Sure. So the, the customer research is something that’s not talked about much online and every product that we’ve released, you know, we’re working on a product right now.
That’s a little bit confidential, but it’s in the food space. Um, and the person that came to us to build this app, he, uh, had this document of competitor research. And that document had 150 slides on it in each slide was a quote. And the quote was, you know, from door dash and Airbnb and Uber eats and every company that has touched food in the last, like 10 years for an hour and there’s quotes and everyone, and there’s the CEO and the CTO.
And so I asked him, I said, you know, where’d you get this information from? And he said, he called every CEO until they answered and responded why there was an email and like, those are the entrepreneurs, right? That’s the customer research. And he knows what Uber eats is doing different than, you know, door dash.
Right. Notice the gap. And just by talking to the individuals at those companies, he can ask specific questions. Like, have you thought of my idea? And the CEO is so busy with building door dash. They don’t care if that idea is good or bad, but they will say, yeah, thought about this, but we don’t have a, a team to build it or no, I’ve never thought about that, but that’s a great idea.
Somebody should do. Both great answers for this entrepreneur. That’s trying to figure out, should I build this, this app? And I think that part of the process of customer research of understanding why, who will buy it once its product goes to market. And like I said, we sat in the church for six months. You know, this guy called every CEO.
That is the next phase here before you get into the sales and marketing. Um, and then we can just dive into the sales and marketing if you’re ready.
Jared: Yeah, no, that makes sense. That kind of tees up the sales and marketing, right. Because you you’ve done the customer research, you already sort of have your potential customer list in hand before you’ve probably even built the app.
Right. And so that should make the step of, of marketing the app, you know, um, so much easier. So, so yeah, let’s, let’s, let’s jump into that. I mean, you sat in a bunch of churches, you kind of knew probably specifically what type of church, what size, you know, maybe even location, I don’t know of church that you wanted to target.
So how did you target those, you know, contact them or, or what was the process?
Andrew: Yeah. So after when your product studio too, you’re starting to build a little. But, uh, what we did next was we were building, uh, but at the same time, Stephanie and I started getting on the phone and we had a list of pastors and both of us would be on the phone and we’d ask them specific questions about how we thought they needed to get online for their industry, um, and for their market.
And so at this point, Stephanie has called over a thousand pastors on the phone. One-on-one um, the number was 900 last September. So I know it’s well over a thousand at this point, but every customer that contacted us on our website, on our contact forms, whoever it happened to be, we pushed them towards.
And we called it a demo, but really we call it was like an introductory learning process for us and for them. And we were trying to figure out what their needs are, what features are required and how does this product support that need. And so at first the demos were not great sales tools, right. But now when I listened to one of Stephanie’s demos, it’s like that, that professional demo that like Steffi does, you know, from close IO, like it’s that really regimented like line after line where the person’s just getting more and more indated with the product before they even get to the sales pitch.
Um, they’re understanding the problem. They’re understanding what issue that person already has. They know the size of the market. Like you suggested they know the size of the church and what message to tell that church based on other problems that churches of that size has had. And so by doing those calls so frequently and like really watching the MicroComp stuff and, and understanding how product market fit.
Like just addressing their problem up early on and saying, do you suffer with this? Is this a challenge? Do you wish there was an easier way? You know, I so happened to have a solution for you. Are you interested in learning about that solution? Not selling, but like just being a friend and like getting them to the point of, of the sale, where the product is, like the only way for them to move forward with their right hard, you know, hard salute hard problem.
So that process of like calling understanding and doing just straight sales calls, I think it’s very important to the process.
Jared: Yeah. And so, uh, to give people an idea and I actually, I don’t know, what’s, what’s the pricing and the structure. Uh, for alter life.
Andrew: Sure. So it’s $69. Um, for the, the, you know, the base price, uh, about average, a customer paying somewhere close to 99 or a hundred, uh, after they, you know, tear up cause it’s usually user based or usage based.
And then the lifetime value of this product is one of the better ones I’ve ever been a part of once they’re on the. The churn is very low because you can imagine they’re committing their entire congregation to this product
Jared: and they’re paying on a monthly basis. Monthly. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and so I partially wanted to ask that just to, uh, because you’re getting on a call and doing a demo.
Um, and so it probably, you know, it makes sense for a product that’s got, you know, whatever that annual revenue is, you’re close to a thousand dollars per customer, right. Something like that, probably. Um, you know, so it makes sense to go on a call. Um, other people might have an app that’s, uh, you know, not worth getting on a demo call.
Right. It’s purely self-serve. Um, do you have some of those products as well that are just like mobile apps on the app store or something that maybe it doesn’t make as much sense to hop on and do a demo.
Andrew: Yeah. So our first product was an ego. It was a $7 product. Um, it was a digital business card, as we talked about and demos were just not necessary.
The whole goal was to get them from downloading the app into the purchase place. So we do have those apps at the food. What I’m talking about is also going to be another one. You see the value right on the demo. Doesn’t matter the need for the service is what matters. And I think it’s more product oriented than it is price oriented.
Um, but yeah, we do have two of those that I can think of real quick. Yeah. Okay.
Jared: So, uh, let’s, let’s also, um, talk a little bit more about marketing, right? So you’ve got a great process for doing the demo calls and that, that seems to be converting well. Um, are you doing anything else to generate inbound leads like SEO search engine optimization or, um, you know, social or other paid marketing, anything like that?
Andrew: Yeah. So we’ve started to dabble as hiring people to run multiple parts of our business. Um, SEO being one of those big ones, because for one site, it doesn’t fully make sense. Uh, but if you’re hiring somebody to run 2, 3, 4 sites, The, the value of that person makes a lot more sense. So as I start up studio, we now have a great, you know, a stack of, we have a marketing manager, who’s doing all the content like PR promotion publishing.
Then we have an actual writer, uh, for each product. So we have a content writer for altar live. We have a content writer for nine to three, and we have a content writer for the dog exercise coach. Those content writers are very specific in the industry they’re writing for. Um, and then the marketing manager is taking that content and pushing it online, using HootSweet and plannable and things like that.
But that stack allows us to grow the SEO and grow the social media at the same time with.
Jared: Yeah. Yep. That makes sense. Um, I think that’s, you know, obviously, uh, can, can be super important for some businesses, right. Um, bringing in, uh, those additional channels as well. Um, you’ve mentioned, yeah, some of the different structure you’ve got the marketing manager, you’ve got the individual content writers.
Um, how big is your team overall? And I’m not even sure. I’ll let you answer that, but I know like some of it’s complicated, right? Because you only own 10%. Some of the apps you’ve done. Whereas, so yeah. How big is your
Andrew: team then? Direct people that work, you know, for 9 23, a hundred percent of the time is about 62 right now.
And then we have altar live, which has five people inside of that, uh, working only for altar live. Uh, but again, we have those, those entrepreneurs that have come to us with their own teams that are kind of mismatched with ours a little bit, like, you know, we have a few people doing some hours, they have a bunch of doing their hours and it’s almost like a new joint venture that we’ve combined.
So counting those satellite companies, it would probably be close to 80 if we Brianna.
Jared: So out of those 62, how many are, uh, developers like our, our programmers?
Andrew: Yeah. So our engineers probably. 40 45 somewhere around there. And then we have project managers, quality engineers, uh, human resources, and then sales, marketing, no sales, actually straight marketing.
Jared: So at this point, um, it’s purely inbound entrepreneurs who are approaching you or other customers are approaching you. They’ve the words out that you guys kind of do good.
Andrew: Yeah. W uh, no, not really. Like, I wish it was like that. Um, like the Greg Eisenberg model of, you know, he built late checkout and he’s so pro proficient on social media that people just come to him when they want to build the community.
That’s where we want to be for the startup studio model. Uh, we have a long road ahead of us to be that, that, you know, go-to market place that everybody knows about and is aware, uh, that, that we just build this, the studio model. Um, the process of getting there is what we’re after. We’re trying to be in the position of, of being that expert in the startup studio space, uh, being that expert of how to build products and being that expert of this entrepreneurship, you know, four or five time entrepreneur are coming to us rather than going through a venture backed company or, you know, hiring a CTO.
Jared: Yeah. So let’s talk about that process and kind of what ideal you’re trying to achieve with your company. Right. And, and you touched on a couple of topics, right? Growth. Um, you know, a lot of venture backed companies are just trying to grow at all costs. Right. Um, versus sustainability, you know, trying to build a sustainable business that you know, is, um, going to be around for a longterm.
So ma maybe address that a little bit, how you guys approach that and what you’re trying to achieve there. Sure.
Andrew: And I think you and I have known each other long enough now to know that’s kind of what we’re both after like the, uh, Ryan Begelman calls it, the holistic entrepreneurship approach where we are building companies.
And I think you’re a component of this as well, where we’re building companies, not a lifestyle business, but it’s supposed to be a business for our lifestyle. Right. I don’t want to be spending 100% of my time on the business. I want to be able to spend time with the kids and the family and like having a, a world in which the business has interacted with my life.
Not my life is around the business. Like all those phrases that people use. Right? So to do that, each of these startups, whether the entrepreneur comes to us or we create the company, we’re only building profitable companies, right? We are not after this like ridiculously growth at all costs. Um, even the entrepreneurs that I’m talking about that are raising money, they’re raising money for that first round to get product market fit.
Once they get product market fit, then move past. Then we’ll go into that growth at all costs. And we won’t be capable enough to grow with them, but we would have the foundation of that product so that it can get that growth. So the goal of the agency is, is to keep that lifestyle. Um, and you know, we want to scale, we want to get enough products that are supporting it, and there’s really only two ways to do that.
One is to just double everything you got, right? If we’re selling projects at $200,000 a pop, we can sell 10 of them instead of 20, and we can sell 20 of them instead of 10 of them, or we can raise our prices. And we’re not positive what direction we’re going to take this yet. Um, it depends on how those, you know, those startups do, because if they start becoming successful and we’re able to take dividends from them, like as a lifestyle business would, then that provides the revenue enough revenue for us not to need to double the business.
Right. And so that’s a lot like of moving pieces right now. And I think because we just started that, that third cohort of finding the entrepreneurs, we’re kind of discovering ourselves, but we know the goal is like don’t grow at all costs, but also keep stability around the fact that we’re just building profitable businesses that have a long, long lifespan.
Jared: Yeah. You know, it’s a fascinating discussion. Um, why, why do you think so many entrepreneurs and so much of the startup world, right? The tech crunches of the world, um, focus so much on raising money, growing at all costs. Like what’s, um, what’s sort of the appeal that you see behind that, what what’s drawing so many entrepreneurs in versus what you and I maybe see, at least I see, right.
I, I got a family. I’m a, you know, I want a profitable business. Right, but I have no grand jury of like having an IPO someday become a billionaire per se. Right? Yeah. I
Andrew: agree. And it’s, it’s a shame because when you meet those individuals, they are so stressed in high strong, and there’s the rare few, like the guy from superhuman, who’s just, you know, he’s meditative state happy and just very good at what he does.
There are far between, those are the ones that are making the headlines. But if you peel back to like happy, humble, like ability to understand other businesses have time just on their calendars to do podcasts and chats and things like that, that lifestyle exists with these profitable businesses that you and I are talking about.
And it, for me, that’s the achievement is not only have we made it, but we’ve also now allocated our time to helping others. And I think it’s a mindset. I think it’s a holistic approach to who you want to be as a human. Because if you take the tech crunch, you know, angle, you’re trying to get a big ego.
You’re trying to grow at all costs because you want people to know about you. You’re putting the same risk that, you know, Spencer’s, you’re putting in or I’m putting in, but you’re looking for the glory. You’re looking for that article that says you raised $7 million of paper money. That doesn’t really mean cash.
And you now have to achieve that. Right. And so great. You’ve got the news article. You can show your mom, you can show your friends, but at the end of the day, after those three years, there’s like an 80% chance you’re going to fail. And you’ll be left with nothing. Whereas the businesses we’re building at the end of the day, we have a profitable business that, you know, we can take a week off and it can still function.
And I can be with my kids for a night and not worry about, you know, the whole house coming down. Right. And it’s that type of mindset, I think. Allows us to do what we do, but it doesn’t get publicized. Right. That’s the
Jared: shame. Yeah. Yeah. It is a shame. And you know, it doesn’t mean that, uh, we’re not ambitious.
Right. Um, you know, some people may look at that and well, if you want to be as ambitious as possible, you’ve got to be raising the money and, you know, grinding all the time. And I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Like I still have ambitions, you know, I, I want to grow my business as much as possible.
Um, you know, and I have other ideas that I’m throwing at the wall and seeing if they stick, you know, I can also turn that off. I also have another side to my life where in the evening I can be with my family and do other things. And, um, anyways, it, it is, it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s a, uh, it’s a business model choice.
And, uh, yeah, I, I love seeing what you guys are doing there. Um, any, anything else that you’d want to touch on there as it relates to kind of yeah. The growth versus sustainability or, um, just kind of the model that you guys are trying to achieve.
Andrew: Yeah. The one thing I was listening to a few of your podcasts and, you know, what, what is being told in the news is to grow at all costs, right?
Like we were just talking about. Yeah. But there’s a young entrepreneur. That’s trying to make a decision of like, I don’t want to work in a cubicle. I don’t want to work, you know, in a W2 form. There’s another avenue that’s not really discussed much. And it’s the concept of really being a consultant for yourself.
And that could mean that you have a great idea and you have a great product market fit, but you just don’t have the experience of how to get that product to grow. And now if you sit at like home base and try to figure out like, what direction should I take this? You could go on the route by yourself.
And that could mean glory, but it would also mean massive failure, right? And the second path here is really the canvas model of being, uh, like a consultant to somebody that has a business that can support your idea. Now it could be a five-person company, it could be a hundred person company. You could get a W2, you could get a consultant state, but your entire intention is to go to that business and say, I have a phenomenal idea.
I really want to work for you. And I am interested in sharing with my idea to you or even just telling them I really want to work for you because I love what you’re doing. And after a year, sharing your ideas. And at the end of the day, if that idea fails, you still have a W2, right. Or a consultancy gig.
But if you went off on your own and that fails, uh, you’re you’re you’re loss, right? You have you’re out
Jared: $50,000 or whatever, whatever you
Andrew: cost. And so to grow to where I think we’ve created these profitable businesses, you’ve been a consultant at some point in your life. I’ve been a consultant. I still am.
That model is actually like very rewarding. And I think we should celebrate people that are being consultants and agents for other people, because I do think it’s a path to success. And it allows you to entrepreneurs to grow profitable businesses rather than getting the high venture backed or the high valuations.
Jared: Right. So let’s, let’s try to give a specific example of how somebody might do that. We’ve got a listener, let’s say that, uh, you know, he’s in his always, you know, young thirties or whatever is, is already working a corporate job. Like how does that work, you know, does, um, he find, come up with an idea for a different company.
Uh, does he come up with an idea for his own company? Um, anyways, maybe, maybe walk through any examples that you’ve seen of somebody kind of doing this sort of consulting, um, strategy and how that might be implemented. Sure.
Andrew: So I actually just met a guy who worked for Oracle for 10 years and he wanted to be an entrepreneur.
And so he split off and decided that he was going to build a second. And he was going to build a SAS from scratch, right. He needed to get a co-founder. He needed to get a team and went to MicroComp, uh, in Minnesota. And he’s sitting, talking to everybody and I could see the transformation happened in those days that he was at Microsoft.
He started with this idea of like, you know, really selling his idea as an entrepreneur. But then as I talked to him more, I realized he actually knew the knowledge inside and out of org. He knew what worked. He knew what didn’t work. He knew how those consultants acted. He knew what time they woke up in the morning.
He knew everything about them. And as we talked more and more, we started talking about what are the ticket prices you think you could sell this SAS for that your ideas for, to Oracle, right? Like to the guys at Oracle. And now we’re talking $30,000 a year ticket prices to one customer. And for him to be free and profitable and not have to work for Oracle, he only has to sell what seven, 10 tickets.
Right. And he can make $200,000, which is probably close to a second. So if you find just 10 customers within his contact book that he already has, he has the ability to create a profitable business. Now, if he can pre-sell those, then he has six months runway to take that cost, to build the SAS. And now he’s not taking the risk.
He’s not taking the jump. All of those features or things, he’s intimately aware how they will work and how they will operate. So he knows which ones to choose and which ones should he should start with because that’s going to solve the problem. Then when he gets customer 11, 12, 13, 14, that’s just gravy.
Right? It’s just extra cash from there. Now we can start growing an actual business.
Jared: Yeah, no, that’s a great example. Right. And so I think there’s probably a lot of people listening. Uh, I can think of an idea either for the company they’re working for, right. That, like you said, they kind of understand the company, uh, intimately, and they might be able to have a SAS idea or be a consultant of some kind.
Um, I’ve actually heard of that quite a bit of companies or of individuals that even if it’s not a SAS, I did just becoming a consultant for their, you know, former company. Right. Um, you know, and that, that happens quite a bit. My, my, my brother, this actually happened, uh he’s he’s an engineer and environmental engineer and he got hired, uh, by another firm, but he was such an integral part of his previous company that they are paying him a consulting fee essentially at the new company.
And so he’s still like 50% of his time still doing his old job, but he’s not working at the company anymore, so right. But he’s
Andrew: afraid he has a good salary. He knows exactly where his talents. And he’s working for himself. He’s no longer required to sit on specific vacation days or holidays. And if that was the goal, doing a venture backed company, it takes you to that goal.
But it also takes you down a route of like extreme risk and probably ultimate failure because you’re going to be left with zero. Even if your company’s value is 7 million, where is your brother? He has the history. He has the contacts. He has friends. He has everybody that will back him up if something was to happen to that specific job, because he has the knowledge in that space.
He’s not building from scratch. And that’s a way better lifestyle than trying to go all in, in one, one shot.
Jared: Yeah. No, and I like that. Um, it’s something that we haven’t talked a lot about on the podcast in the past is, is sort of this alternative route of kind of the go-between of full-time job versus like quitting your job and going all in on your side project.
Uh, there there’s maybe that happy medium of, okay. Do do some consulting or, or, um, figure out a SAS that you can sell your existing company. Right, right. Um, any, any other aspects of sort of the. Transition that people can go through that maybe you’d like to bring
Andrew: or, yeah, that’s what I did personally. I called myself, they call it the intro for newer, right.
And it’s a person that works internally for a company to extract resources. Right? So when I worked at a, I used to be a nuclear submarine engineer, and then it became a nuclear power plant engineer. And when I was working on their supply chain, I saw the inefficiencies. I proposed how to create a better supply chain.
And so as an entrepreneur, they gave me my own job title. They gave me my own office. And my only job was to build out this product that I had created. I had a W2, I had a job. I had, you know, the ability to stay at that company. Even if the product didn’t work, I came to the office every day. Like, yeah, those are the downsides, but I never, my family never worried at that time.
And what came out of it, we ended up getting two patents, us patents of the first Bluetooth chips in manufacturing for nuclear supply plants. That concept I could never have done on my own. I didn’t have enough money to pay for patents. I didn’t have the concept of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the hardware needed to support the idea, but the company did.
And so now forever on my resume, I will have that experience. And that’s invaluable as I like build these startups when somebody is like, Hey, do you know how to build a home? My God, let me tell you, I went through this like for years, right? And so now I can utilize that skill. Whereas if I just jumped ship and it was like, try to build it myself, I wouldn’t run out of money.
I would’ve run out of time and I probably wouldn’t have had kids for another two years. Right. Right. And those are sacrifices that you make. And I just think, like you said, it’s not talked about enough that, that like gap period, but it is so instrumental to what happens with your family and your kids and your decision-making that it should be talked about and it changes your aspect of life.
Jared: And, and it kind of touches on what we were mentioning before about the need to raise money. Right. You know, I guess that’s perhaps the draw is that, Hey, if you can raise $10 million, you can go all in, but there is this happy medium and okay. Maybe you don’t need to raise the money, but I guess in a way you, you can get the money from your existing, uh, company.
Um, You’ve got a business with 62 employees. Um, you know, there’s a lot going on 14 different startups. Uh, what gives you the most headaches? Like what, what are, what are the struggles in your business? Yeah,
Andrew: we, um, the, on February 24th, uh, 25 of our teammates were in Ukraine and they still are 23 of them are still in Ukraine, themselves.
Only two of them have been able to get out. Uh, so at the time we were a 50 person business. Um, we were operating, you know, no problems at all. Uh, when the war hit, uh, our team, you know, had to scramble and we were worried about them, but we committed to paying their salaries. We committed to supporting them through the war and to supplement their efforts.
We had. You know, developers outside of Ukraine. So we found some developers pretty much immediately stopped, brought them into the company, train them, got them up and running, and then to support that whole cost structure, we had to double our revenue, but the last six weeks we’ve doubled our costs and double their revenue.
I’ve got brought in new clients, new projects, we’ve supported 100% of our previous projects, but the most amazing thing was without us asking. And without us. Understanding how this was possible. The individuals from Ukraine started supporting the company. They started putting in hours. They started putting in their time, back to the company while they were in parking garages, basements, you know, apartments with nine people, you know, the stuff they’re going through.
It’s just, it’s unfathomable. Balta what we experienced in America here. They’re just some of the strongest people. And not only are they supporting our company, they’re supporting their families. They’re supporting that. So what keeps me up at night is their safety. Uh, the revenues like that, we finally came through nowadays, like, we’re good.
Um, but that was a struggle for six weeks of needing to support them by getting new clients that we’ve never talked to before. And we had to double the revenues just to support everything. And yeah, so that kept me up. But now, like, we’re good. Like I’m taking my first week, I started sleeping more than six hours a night.
Finally. Like things are settling and obviously the individuals in Ukraine are, we’re still worried about, but that, that whole process has been quite the experience.
Jared: Wow. That’s sad to have been quite the whirlwind over the last couple of months, um, to, to have an event like that. Just, yeah. I mean, that, that, that goes to one of those things that you just can’t predict, everything that’s going to happen in your business.
I mean, that’s just probably something was never would have crossed my mind. Right. There’s uh, the most of your employees are suddenly gonna be unable to work because of war. Yeah. And so kudos to you for being able to work through that obviously difficult time and being able to double the revenue. Um, my next question was going to be w now what, now, now that we’ve talked about your sort of, what’s keeping you up at night, what do you consider one of your biggest successes?
I guess that still can be the question, but yeah, that that’s gotta to be one of the biggest successes as well.
Andrew: I think as entrepreneurs, we always struggle with the idea of how to build the product and that’s what we put on social media. And I think we forget often that it’s the people behind the codes or the like behind the screens is people.
Um, and so when the war started, it wasn’t even a question in our mind that we were going to support the individuals that had been with our company for so long. Um, and that just, it was a decision, right? We didn’t think of the consequences, but entrepreneurs understand risk. And you understand that by doing that, you now have to achieve something greater.
And so that challenge was immediately all right, great. You’ve just, you know, you’ve complicates. Your entire, we had more costs than profit. Like at the time we added the developers and that complicates things. And so as an entrepreneur, you sit back and be like, yeah, I can fold. I can crash or I can solve this.
And so we got a crisis consultant and we helped us just like really decide what the next task was each day. And we just achieved that task one after the other one, after the other. And you don’t look back, you just go to the next day and you solve that problem. And so by the end of it, I remember I was with my wife and it was like a Thursday afternoon.
And we had just doubled our revenue. And that was like the goal, like, literally our goal was double revenue that we were off by like $1 of how much we doubled it by, like, it was that close. And so we did it and I sat back and I was like, we did it. Like we accomplished this and there’s no one to celebrate you.
There’s no one to like commend you because you’re dealing with 25 people in Ukraine who are running for their lives. Like, that’s why we did it. And so you’re supporting this and that’s all you’re thinking about is like, can we keep them safe? And then all of these things happen to keep them safe and you look back at what we just did for five weeks.
It was probably the biggest accomplishment of my career of being able to do that so rapidly. But yet it didn’t matter because all that mattered was we kept 25 people employed. You see it, like that was just the human part of us. It wasn’t the business side. Right. When you ask, like, what’s the biggest business achievement, anyone would said, you told your revenue in five weeks, not might a year, two years, three years, like five weeks.
Like that’s, that’s an extreme accomplishment. Um, but it goes to show you focus on the small bits and you can really achieve what is necessary to keep a business alive.
Jared: Yeah. Um, I’ll give you kudos for that, you know? Absolutely. You know, maybe it’s, you know, you don’t get a lot of coverage elsewhere, but I’m glad you now have time to sit down on the podcast and actually talk about some of that.
So, um, So maybe we’ll kind of wrap it up there. I mean, uh, is there anything else, any final words of wisdom, uh, or I should also ask, is there anywhere you’d like to send people that are listening, um, where they can either learn more or, um, kind of follow along?
Andrew: Yeah. So we’re a venture studio, you know, we build mobile and web apps and we love listening to ideas.
So we do a lot of free discovery calls, especially if someone has a concept of building a legitimate app, uh, you can go to our website, you can all the buttons lead to contacting me. Um, but my, you know, my superpower is listening to ideas and understanding if there’s a product market fit. So if you’re interested in building products or just want to understand, you know, if your product is good for the marketplace, especially.
And a niche like, ah, your entire websites about, you know, that I can offer that service, um, and our websites, the way to do that. But also the way to contact me is on Twitter. It’s Andrew. Amen. A M a N N is the handle, and I’m pretty active on Twitter. So you can DME or just send me a direct message. Spencer and I chat, we were chatting yesterday on Twitter.
So that’s where you can find where my eyeballs, most of the day are, are watching that. Yeah,
Jared: very good. So, uh, people can do that. They can head over to your website, which again is nine two, three.co. Uh, and it’s all the numbers are all spelled out nine to three.co. Um, what does the nine to three
Andrew: stand for?
So when we were working the two jobs, when I was the entrepreneur, we were working from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM every night on an ego. And so we decided to call it that I like it. And helps you remember your roots as well? Remember the good old days? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Before kids, there’s like a point like before kids here, you can do that.
Can’t do that after kids.
Jared: Very true. Uh, awesome. Yeah. Thank you so much, Andrew, for coming on the podcast, uh, people can check out your website, follow you on Twitter. Uh, I think you shared a lot of great tips. Um, you know, I got a lot out of it and of course you have people want to hop on a call with you to flush out their crazy idea that, Hey, maybe isn’t crazy and we can do that.
So, um, really appreciate
Andrew: your time, Andrew, thank you for your time as well. Thank you for what you do on your website. You have great content all the time, who constantly on each pursuit. So thank you for your time and everything that you do and thanks for having me. Awesome. Thank you. All right, bye. Have you been frustrated with your Google traffic lately?
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