Text Request: Bootstrapping a $15 Million ARR SaaS Company
Brian Elrod is the co-founder and CEO of Text Request, a B2B SaaS startup that helps businesses manage text messaging at scale.
In 2012, Brian and his wife came up with the idea for Text Request after a frustrating experience at a restaurant where they wished they could text their server.
They realized text messaging was becoming the preferred communication channel for many consumers and started exploring building software.
However, their first attempt failed because they targeted the wrong customers and didn't have enough technical expertise.
In 2014, they tried again, this time bringing on a technical co-founder, and finally launched a product that helped them get initial customers. After five long years of bootstrapping, they eventually reached their first $1 million ARR milestone.
Although it hasn't been easy building the business through the ups and downs, Text Request has since rapidly grown to $15 million in ARR. And even today, the business is entirely bootstrapped and has never raised any external funding.
In this episode, you'll learn:
- How trial and error helped Brian identify the ideal target customer profile after initially casting too wide of a net.
- How bootstrapping the business forced Brian's team to intimately understand customer needs and build a product customers need vs. want.
- How constantly communicating with customers was a critical ingredient in the business finally achieving product-market fit after several pivots.
- Why, even as a CEO of a $15M ARR company, Brian still makes time to do five customer demos every single day.
- How an acquisition of a competitor turned out to be one the best things that's happened for Brian and his team.
I hope you enjoy it.
TranscriptClick to view transcript
This is a machine-generated transcript.
00:02 (Omer) Brian, welcome to the show.
00:03 (Brian) Hi, thank you for having me.
00:05 (Omer) Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us?
00:10 (Brian) Well, I can tell you we've got a quote that we used a lot early on and it really suits well with my personality. And it's called we have a strategic plan that's called doing things. And this is the founder of Southwest Airlines for Keller Kerr. I felt like early know, everyone wanted a plan for everything and I just felt like we needed to be doing things every day.
00:35 (Brian) We needed to be talking with customers, we needed to be solving problems instead of just analyzing everything. So that has always stuck with me and to this day we have it in our corporate office posted in the four year.
00:48 (Omer) Love that. So for people who aren't familiar with text request, can you tell us what does the business do, who is it for and what's the main problem you're helping to solve?
01:00 (Brian) So we have a B, two B software. And really what we do is we provide a platform so that businesses can easily manage all of their text messaging as a team in an organized method. So that's how we started. And for the last nine years, we've been building products around.
01:21 (Brian) That right. So it started as a tool just to manage those messages. And now we have a review platform, we have a payment platform, we have an SMS chat, we have multiple things all around text messaging and give us.
01:37 (Omer) A sense of the size of the business. Where are you in terms of revenue, number of customers, size of team?
01:42 (Brian) So at the end of this year we hope to be right around 15 million in Arr. We crossed ten last year and that's what we're looking at.
01:51 (Omer) And number of customers, size of team.
01:54 (Brian) So we have about 6000 businesses and that can be upwards of 15,000 locations, probably 50,000 users, and we have 40 employees.
02:08 (Omer) And we should point out that the business is completely bootstrapped. You've never raised money.
02:15 (Brian) That is 100% correct. We've never raised a single dime. We tried early on because we thought that's what we were supposed to do because we were a technology company, but we failed miserably.
02:29 (Omer) All right, so let's start with the idea, where did that come from? How did your co founders find this idea and what made you decide that you were going to pursue this?
02:46 (Brian) So it's a real basic foundation. My wife and I were setting in a restaurant, we had a very rowdy toddler and my wife was like, I wished I could text for service, text our server. And from there we started thinking, wow, why aren't businesses using text messaging? That's how we want to communicate, why aren't they listening? And of course it just evolved over time. You could be used for this and that and all the different use cases.
03:17 (Brian) We started to think about. We sat on the ideal for almost two years before we put it in action.
03:25 (Omer) But yes, okay, so we'll talk about how that turned into a business and a product. One of the interesting things for me is that when I came across you and text request, initially, I was like, I'm not sure. And it was because I've had bad experiences with text and the way companies use them, mainly for prospecting. And when you're getting I don't have a business phone.
03:35 (Omer) I might use a phone with clients, but I don't have a number published. I have a personal phone. And so when I get texts from people, prospecting, to me, it's the equivalent of them calling me at home when I'm having dinner or something like that.
03:41 (Omer) And so I've always had this kind of this bee in my bonnet about texts, right. And how they're used with businesses. But when I looked into Text request, one of the things that I realized was how you're using it.
04:23 (Omer) Actually, I would say for good. And there are so many use cases which are either permission based and help a business to engage more with existing customers. It helps resolve the kind of scenarios you describe with your wife at the restaurant, where if I'm communicating with a dentist, I'd prefer to text them than call them to reschedule an appointment or whatever that is.
04:53 (Omer) So there's some really interesting things, I think, what you're doing about with text requests. And the more I looked into it, I was like, yeah, this is definitely a conversation we need to have. You had that spark of the idea you didn't do anything for a while.
05:06 (Omer) Tell me again, how long was that? And then when exactly did you get started in terms of building the business?
05:12 (Brian) So it was roughly two years before we met our technical co founder. And honestly, a year in front of that, we had a failed attempt at it. We tried to outsource the development. It didn't work very well, and it was only a restaurant use case.
05:31 (Brian) At that point, we still knew that we had something after the failure of the initial beta. And then we were like, we need a co founder. That's a technical piece of this.
05:38 (Brian) And that's when we met and found Rob Reagan. We actually just went out and started interviewing, like you would pitch to an investor. We were pitching software engineers, and so we're willing to give you a third of the business.
05:57 (Brian) This is the vision. What do you think? And we went through a couple, and we landed on one, and he accepted. And next thing you know, we had an LLC and had a business.
06:08 (Brian) Getting back to your point, text request is always about customer service first. That's how we were founded. Matter of fact, in the beginning, customers could only text in.
06:19 (Brian) We didn't allow outbound texting unless you received a text from a customer. We would even hide the phone number from our customers in the beginning. But then as we evolved, we realized that that wasn't going to work and businesses wanted to see the phone number, they wanted to follow up and things like that.
06:29 (Brian) But yeah, that was at our core. We did not want to build a text marketing platform like you were.
06:46 (Omer) Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. So one question about Rob.
06:50 (Omer) When you said we're going to go and find a technical co founder. Now interviewing developers. It's hard enough to hire a developer that you know is going to be a fit and help you build the right product in the next twelve months, let alone somebody who's going to become a co-founder and potentially be with you for the rest of your life.
07:13 (Omer) So how did you do that? Did you initially just say, come on board as an employee and then we'll look at the co founding piece of that later?Or was there something right out of the gate that made you decide, no, this is the guy willing to take a bet? How did you go about that?
07:33 (Brian) Well, that's not something you're going to advertise out. Right. So it started by just networking and having conversations. Hey, we've got this really cool concept.
07:42 (Brian) Do you know someone that might be interested in being our technical co founder? So that's how we did it, through networking and asking through our city, which is we're in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It's not a massive city. At the end of the day, there's probably only five to ten people in the city that would have fit the bill.
08:01 (Brian) Right. But to answer your question, we did that through outreach, through networking.
08:07 (Omer) Got it. Okay, so now you've got Rob on board. How long did it take for you to then build the next iteration of the product and get it in front of customers? And based on the work that you'd done previously, the failed attempt that you described a year earlier, did you still feel like you had talked to enough customers to understand what to go and build, or were you basically doing a complete reset at that point?
08:36 (Brian) Yeah, so at that point, we took what we learned from the initial failure. It took us about four months to build the initial build, probably about that timeline. And we had five beta customers that we went out and through relationships. All of these beta customers we knew in some form or fashion.
08:57 (Brian) Right, hey, we're doing this. You probably would agree it would have helped you. Yes.
09:02 (Brian) Guess what? We're not going to charge you for it. Would you use it for two or three months? That's how it really got going.
09:10 (Omer) And then so after those two or three months, what did you learn?
09:14 (Brian) We learned exactly how they were using it, what exactly they needed that we didn't have. Right. Because we obviously are rolling out the most minimal product we could to get out. And I still remember to this date, we went through that for two months.
09:14 (Brian) We listened to them, we put that into the product and had a product that we thought we could sell. We launched November the 20th, 2014, and in December we had no way to accept a credit card. We forgot all about that piece of the business.
09:52 (Brian) So had that working by January or sometime in late December. And then we were officially out of the gate. We hired four college kids that probably had never sold anything and they were taking direction for me on, hey, do this, call these people.
09:58 (Brian) And through that process, we lucked into a few things.
10:16 (Omer) A couple of questions before we continue the story here. The failed attempt when you said you outsourced the product the first time and it didn't work out, if you just had to summarize that, number one, like how much did you end up spending on that first attempt and why do you think it failed the first time at that time?
10:36 (Brian) The numbers, I guess at this point, because that was twelve years ago, we probably spent ten, $15,000 to get a minimal product out. And I think it fell because it was targeted at the wrong customer base, number one. And number two, we didn't have a founder that was vested in the product that can make changes quickly, that identified things before they happened, that sort of thing. They were doing exactly what we had asked.
11:11 (Brian) So those are the reasons. But probably the biggest thing was it was the wrong customer base at that time.
11:20 (Omer) Yeah, and I definitely want to talk about that because this idea of finding the right customer, I think it was so important for your business and getting you to the first million in Arr and beyond. And I think many founders in the early stages struggle. They want the product to appeal to a broad audience, to lots of people, which kind of makes sense, but it works against you in so many ways. And I want to just unpack what you did differently before we do that.
11:54 (Omer) The four or five beta customers that you had, you said you weren't charging them. One of the problems I see with founders at that stage is they get the product in front of potential customers and say, we're not going to charge. You just want some feedback.
12:09 (Omer) And there's something about a potential customer getting a free product that they didn't pay for. It doesn't have as much value. And those founders often struggle by they go back and those people haven't had time to use the product or time to try it out because it was kind of a low priority.
12:29 (Omer) Did you experience that? And if not, what do you think you did differently to get those customers using the product enough to be able to get useful feedback from?
12:41 (Brian) Yes, and that's a good point. I mean, that's going to happen when you give something for free. But we had just enough experience to realize for this to be successful, we're going to give it to them for free, but in return, they had to use it. So just making that commitment up front from the customer, you agree it's free, but you have to use it if you don't use it.
13:04 (Brian) And so we had those conversations, and I think four of the five really used the product. Well, one of the ones did not use it at all. So we were at 80% success with them using the product.
13:18 (Brian) One was a church, one was a hotel, one was an exercise facility. I know all three of them used the product because it was helping them.
13:28 (Omer) Okay, great. So you've got the feedback. You've got more clarity on what customers need, what's missing from the product. You've got this inexperienced sales team in place to go out and start finding leads and customers.
13:46 (Omer) I know that things clicked more for you once you figured out who that ideal customer was, but did you figure that out pretty early? Or was there a time where you were just going out trying to sell to everybody? Or how long did it take for you to say, no, we need to stop, we need to focus on one customer? Who's the one who needs this the most?
14:09 (Brian) Well, it did take a few months to figure that out. Maybe three to six months to figure exactly who the ideal customer was. Now, when we started as a customer service tool, the one thing I would tell early entrepreneurs is that you have to pivot quickly right when you see something, make a pivot quickly. But we started off as a customer service tool, and we realized that companies really cared about customer service, but they were not willing to spend money on customer service.
14:19 (Brian) Now, if you could bring them a revenue tool, they were much more likely to spend money. So we started to realize that in those six months, because of the background of being a franchise or and in the franchise industry, we did target some franchise brands, and we hit it big with one brand that had multiple locations all across the country. We had a few advocates start using our product.
15:13 (Brian) And when I mean advocate meaning they liked it, they were early adopters, and they started telling their other franchise owners that looked up to them as an experienced franchise owner. And that really kicked it off for us. In the early days, I was spending a lot of time trying to raise money, and everyone I would speak to about raising know, we're in the Southeast.
15:38 (Brian) That's not a huge hub of that venture capital and that sort of thing. Most people would tell me not to do it and any way that you cannot. So I would hear that over and over again.
15:50 (Brian) And I was failing miserably at raising.
15:52 (Omer) Money not to do what Brian? Not to raise money or not to.
15:56 (Brian) Build a business, not to take the money if there's any way that we could do it without taking on investors do know and they had a whole list of reasons and at that point in know, we're just driving credit card up. I had an initial investment in it that we were using, and at some point we started to question that, well, we might need money. But luckily, the business started producing revenue and it started producing a lot of revenue. And by the end of the first year, we're like, hey, we got a chance at doing this without investors.
16:28 (Omer) So this franchise business that you landed and that helped you figure out an opportunity. I think what many people expect to happen is that you sit down it goes back to your quote earlier actually, that you sit down in a room with the founders and you strategize and you research and you break it down and say, this is the target customer we need to go after for XYZ. Whatever reason, in reality, what it sounds like happened with you was you were selling to everybody, sold to one particular type of business, realized that this was the type of business that needed your product the most and then very quickly figured out how to pivot and double down just on that target customer. Is that fair?
17:21 (Brian) That's fair statement, yes. And we also learned their sell cycles for these SMBs and home service businesses was a day or a week where in the beginning we were targeting large customer service brands, maybe hotels or colleges that were using it and their sales cycles were months upon months. So that's another important thing. Think about the sales cycle of the customer that you're targeting.
17:52 (Brian) If your runway is six months and you're targeting folks that sell cycle or six months to a year, that's a problem.
18:01 (Omer) Yeah. So you've finally figured out a target customer that needs your product the most. Can you help our listeners understand how did things change once you made that decision that this is the target customer we're going to focus on, we're not going to try and sell to everybody. This is where we think is the opportunity.
18:23 (Omer) This is the type of customer that needs our product the most. How did things change in terms of how you had more focus on the product or on your sales efforts? I think what I want to try and understand is did picking that target customer help you and everybody else on the team to get hyper focused on what they needed to do, what type of problems they needed to solve, which type of customer they needed to find?
18:59 (Brian) Yeah, without question because those are the people that would talk to us. Right. I mean, we were having conversations. They were using our product.
19:07 (Brian) And I prided myself in talking and doing demos and talking with customers. As the CEO and today, ten years almost into it at 15 million. I've done five demos today with customers.
19:21 (Brian) So that's the core of who we are. We have a sales team of we have like 16 people on staff, but I still do demos every day because I get to hear that direct feedback. But that happened.
19:38 (Brian) That laser focus may have been unintentional because they were the only ones that were talking to us, but they were talking to us, telling us what they needed. And it would make sense if we could only do this if we could have an out of office responder, we wouldn't have to worry about text after hours, just so many little features over time that we developed specifically for them, but ended up being used in almost every industry we serve. But that laser focus, whether it was intentional or unintentional, really helped out.
20:19 (Omer) So I think it's awesome, given the size of the business that you are today, that you as the CEO is still not only doing demos, but you just did five demos today. What were you doing in the early days? Were you also going out and doing a bunch of demos? Or was it basically mostly in sales mode? You were having these conversations, or were you just trying to find potential customers and just start a conversation to understand how they ran their business and what they were doing? Regardless, maybe you weren't even going to go and pitch the product at that point. So I'm curious in terms of what you were doing in those early days, the fact that you still do it today and you talk daily to customers means it's something naturally. Obviously you find it important, but it's something that's wired into your DNA.
20:19 (Omer) So if there's a founder out there who's in the earlier stages, maybe in the first year knows they need to go out and talk to customers, but maybe just feels like, I don't know, it's a difficult thing to do, or assumes that it's all about talking to customer means selling my product. Tell us what you were doing and what maybe people can learn from that.
21:34 (Brian) So that's a broad question, because in the beginning, we thought we were going to sell this door to door, and that did not work very well. We just thought it was, hey, everyone could use this. Communications is a problem. We had those four or five college kids, they were going door to door, usually getting ran out of most places.
21:55 (Brian) Demos was not in our mind at all. Then it turned to phone calls and trying to have conversations. This was honestly before 2014, I think zoom was just getting going.
22:08 (Brian) All of the demo platforms, I remember trying to find one that didn't require you to download software because you didn't want to do a demo if you had to download software on your computer. So I remember we found one, it would work half the time half the time it would not work. So it was mostly just phone conversations with potential customers and then getting them into the product and answering their question.
22:36 (Brian) It was not a live demo the way they are today. So that evolved as well. Obviously, the door didn't work.
22:44 (Brian) We didn't think about demos. And then I read a book one time and I wished I could read. I'm not an avid reader, but it was really about developing the SaaS sales funnel.
22:58 (Brian) It was really basic, but it was great. And it took you through filling the funnel, working the demo, the follow up to the demo, and then the light bulb went off and we started doing demos. And thank God the technology got better with Zoom and products like that, where you could do the demos without having a lot of software issues.
23:21 (Brian) So all of that kind of happened together.
23:23 (Omer) So you were doing door to door evolved to phone calls, which evolved to outbound emails, and you were also doing some paid ads. Was that a significant chunk of what drove leads, or was that just something that you tested? It worked here and there.
23:50 (Brian) So probably early. In the beginning, it was mostly email instead of paid ads. We had very little budget. We had a young marketing person that was super passionate and focused, and he was like 23.
23:55 (Brian) We did a lot of content early because content was free, right? And so we were doing everything from a content standpoint to get found. And so really, the paid ads didn't come until year two, three. We really started doing more of that.
24:25 (Brian) Paid ads are great, they bring in business, but the customer acquisition on a paid ad, it's never been great for us. It's doing a lot of things well, along with the organic, the paid, the outreach, that sort of thing. But do you want us to talk about specific products we use? Way back when, I remember we used this product called Email Hunter.
24:52 (Brian) We would find an email, we would send it, it would tell us who worked at the small business, and we sent them an introduction email. That was probably the number one way.
25:04 (Omer) Yeah. I'm so curious. So when you were doing that, what type of response were you getting by then? Had you figured out the messaging well enough that people paid attention to those emails?
25:21 (Brian) Yeah, they were all individual emails. Right. So it was better than doing an email blast. Those emails would generally get through.
25:32 (Brian) They were personalized. We had the right target because we were starting to have some success at that time in the home service business. And they worked, they worked, you know, they worked fairly well in, say, 20, 15, 16.
25:52 (Omer) So outbound email was the main driver for the business. How long did it take you to get to your first million in Arr? You launched the business, you said, October november 2014.
26:08 (Brian) Yes. So it took about to get to the first million took like five years. And then now we're sometimes adding a million and a quarter. Easy, but yes, or maybe even faster than that, but it took about five years.
26:28 (Omer) Yeah. So I think I read something on your website, I don't know if I mentioned this earlier, that by 2020, you'd cross 3 million ARR.
26:38 (Brian) Right.
26:38 (Omer) And that's where the story gets interesting, because that was just three years ago, and today we're sitting here talking, and revenue has almost five X since that time.
26:50 (Brian) Right. So ultimately, what you're going to do is I think the toughest thing is to get to the 1 million, right? We've always heard this number, and I don't know if it's accurate or not, that 90 something percent of the Sasses 98, 95, something like that, don't reach 1 million in ARR, and then less than a percent reach 10 million Arr with no funding. So maybe it was less than one 10th of a percent. But regardless, it's hard to do.
27:25 (Brian) But if you put yourself in a position where you can get lucky, then sometimes you get lucky, right? So by listening to customers, building a product that was needed, finding a target customer base, now it's expanded way past home services, but trying to do all the little things right, build relationships with your vendors that we used, you start doing all of those little things right as you're building a business. And we've always been, oddly enough, focused on profitability. We've always tried to make a profit.
27:55 (Brian) And doing those things put us in a position when our largest competitor was sold to one of our major vendors, and then the major vendor decided to close the software side of the business. There's thousands of customers that needed a new home, but if we hadn't been doing all of those things right throughout the journey and building relationships and talking to people, and we probably would have never gotten lucky, but we did.
28:34 (Omer) This vendor was twilio right? I think people will be familiar with that.
28:37 (Brian) Yes. Twilio obviously has a past of being a unicorn company in San Francisco and doing all of those things. But they bought a company called Sip Whip, and I guess now it's 2022, roughly. The public number was like $850,000,000 they paid for Zip Whip.
29:00 (Brian) There was some certain routes, toll free routes they really wanted to gain from that, which they did. And then the software side of that, they decided, hey, we're not a software company. We're going to close that down.
29:07 (Brian) And the people that support us and use our product, which we were one of them, will let them fight for the business. They named like four or five preferred vendors. And at that point, we've been able all of the other preferred vendors that they offered.
29:34 (Brian) I think we're winning ten to one over them because they like our product. And we built a Great Migration feature, listening to our customers again, right? So they wanted to be able to move all of their data from zip whip into text request and really not miss a beat. And so we listened to them and our engineer team went to work and they built a great migration tool where they hit a button and all that data comes over and we're winning the lion's share of their business.
30:06 (Omer) So I think that's so important. And this is a theme, I think, that runs through this entire interview about the importance of talking to customers and really understanding what they need and how you can keep taking those insights and building a better product. One of the dangers with that approach is you can also get a lot of feedback about cool features that really aren't that important in the big picture. And engineering teams or product teams can often get distracted building stuff that sounds great, but in practice isn't going to move the needle in terms of customer engagement, reducing churn and so on.
30:06 (Omer) So what have you done? You have those conversations. I'm sure you hear a lot of feedback. How do you try to differentiate between the things that are really important that you should go and invest your team's time and money to go and build versus things that some customers are talking about, but really they're not that important in the scheme of things, right?
31:33 (Brian) So we've certainly made some of those mistakes, right? Building the shiny cool things that net zero revenue. But at the end of the day, for the most part, we associate revenue with product. And how are we going to monetize it? That question is always asked throughout every conversation. And we've developed a pretty good team over the years of senior people that will play devil's advocate.
32:03 (Brian) We have plenty of people that will tell us when we're wrong in our company and they don't think that's going to work or that's not a good idea. And really, I've always valued that a lot for someone to tell me no and not agree with us. And so I think because of that, we've been able to minimize our risk with building things that don't produce revenue.
32:30 (Omer) Related to that is something you've talked about before. I read an article that you had published and the importance of building a product that customers I think you said build something customers need, not something they want. In principle, that sounds great in practice. How do you do that?
32:49 (Brian) It goes back to talking with them. That's one step. When you hear the same thing over and over from multiple customers in the same industry, you start to figure out and analyze exactly what they need and does it drive revenue for them. That's always extremely important for us when building a product.
33:11 (Brian) Yeah, I'll talk about monetizing a product or a feature because our customer is making money from it, they're willing to pay for it. A fine example of. That for us.
33:24 (Brian) We just released a review platform and in the first month we've had over 200 customers just added on to their product because obviously the number of reviews is driving their SEO, which is driving their mat pack. They're being found, they're being trusted. It's a big driver at Google producing and being really active in reviews.
33:51 (Brian) So that's a product exactly like what we're talking about.
33:57 (Omer) I think, for me, you know, you're building something people need when either they are actively using the product and are super engaged and you're getting some really good quality feedback. And obviously, most importantly, when you try to sell it, sell the product, it's much easier to because you're talking about the right solutions that those customers really care about versus things that are nice to have. So I want to talk about some of the struggles along the way. Right, so you launched the business.
34:40 (Omer) You had the idea, I guess, 2012. You tried in 2013 to build the product. You outsourced it, the thing failed.
34:49 (Omer) A year later, you tried again, this time with the technical co founder. And we're here today, the business has grown to almost 15 million in ARR. One of the struggles was not being able to raise money.
34:53 (Omer) And we talked about how that turned out to probably be a good thing, given where you are today and having got through some of the harder times. Let's talk about some of the other struggles. I know you use this term buy days and sell days.
35:16 (Omer) Maybe you can explain what you mean by that. But let's talk about you're in an industry now which is more and more regulated. Maybe you can give us an example of one struggle that you had to experience because of that.
35:31 (Brian) Right? So I've mentioned that to you in our pregame talk, that as an entrepreneur, there's buy and sell days, right? And the buy days are great, and sometimes the sales days are not so great. I would tell any of my colleagues that keeping an even kill throughout the process is extremely important. Never get too high, never get too low. But ten DLC is a new regulation in our world of business texting, and it just put a lot of requirements on us to develop for our customers.
35:31 (Brian) So when you start thinking of all the things in the registration process and the things that they need to do, and to get all of these people moving in the same direction, it was a huge undertaking, really, for everyone. So that's been a struggle. We've been dealing with that for over a year, trying to get thousands and thousands of customers to submit the things they need to submit.
36:33 (Brian) We're coming down to the wire and we're still doing that. So that's produced a lot of tough days. Sometimes when your product doesn't work exactly.
36:43 (Brian) When people start depending on your product to run their business, which that was always the goal from the very beginning. But when you're having some slow delivery times or something's going on that you didn't expect, those are tough days. Luckily, we've lost very few customers over that.
36:49 (Brian) But we have all of those are learning experiences that we try to learn from.
37:07 (Omer) Can you give me an example of a situation that you had with problems with the product and maybe how that resulted in you losing a customer?
37:17 (Brian) So almost all of those would come around releasing a new product that hasn't been tested at mass. We don't have a great way of testing a new feature to send millions and millions of messages because that's what our daily traffic is. I mean, there's days that sometimes we have 5 million messages moving through a platform. Well, there's really not a way to test that in the quality environment, which we do obviously do quality checks along the way, QC all the way.
37:56 (Brian) But until it hits that production environment, sometimes you don't know those and it's all hands on deck sort of thing. As we release new products in 2020, we started being involved somewhat in the political arena. That's not the core of our business, but we had a customer want us to develop a product and we got involved in that and we set hundreds of millions of texts through our platform in 2020.
38:24 (Brian) During the presidential cycle, we worked for both sides. We were unbiased in that. But that type of volume would definitely present some slowdowns that you've never been tested like that.
38:38 (Brian) So the week of the election in November was really interesting to see the peaks in volume that we were seeing and managing that.
38:47 (Omer) You mentioned you haven't lost many customers, but you have lost some customers. Has that really been because you roll out a new version of the product or you're hammering your service so hard with the volume of messages that you're sending that it means customers or some customers are experiencing either outages or delays in the delivery of the messages? That ultimately, if you've built a product that people need, then it also becomes a problem when it doesn't work as they expect it to.
39:22 (Brian) Yes, it's a handful of customers, thank goodness, but it has happened a lot more than a handful of phone calls when it happens. But there again, I'll personally be on a phone call with a customer and talk to them. We go back to the founding three of our organization. We had one that and I think that mixture is right as you speak to a lot of young entrepreneurs or startups or maybe not young in age, but we had the technical person and the expertise.
39:38 (Brian) We had the business development expertise, and then we had a person that was passionate about customer success and support. So a lot of business development guys, after the sales made, they're going to move on. So we had that right combination of founders, and I think that's important to look around at your founder skill sets and what they're good at and what they can bring to the table.
40:23 (Brian) And we may have lucked into that, but it worked.
40:26 (Omer) There's three founders, including yourself, and one of your co founders is your wife. Do you all get along? Do you all have alignment on a day to day basis as you run this business?
40:40 (Brian) Yeah, we do get along for the most part, and I can say some of the most stressful part. There's definitely been times we haven't gotten along and that can be at home or that could be here with the technical co founder. And sometimes we just have to sit down and be brutally honest with each other. And usually when we're in that mindset where we're being brutally honest, that's when we actually make progress.
41:11 (Brian) So I would advise you to have those open and tough conversations with your founders.
41:17 (Omer) Yeah, I mean, having brutally honest conversations with your spouse, on the one hand, sounds like a sensible thing to do. It also sounds like a very dangerous thing to do at times, and also with your technical co founder as well. So do you feel that you're able to do that because the three of you have built enough trust with each other? I think a new founding team of people coming together in the first few months, brutally honest conversations, could lead to all kinds of problems.
41:57 (Brian) Yeah, I think we've built that trust, but we're also all older entrepreneurs as well. Everyone is 45 or above at this point, and so we come to value that. And when I say brutally honest, it doesn't mean degrading or humiliating. It just means really explaining exactly how you feel about the situation.
42:25 (Omer) Right, yeah. That's a good clarification. Thank you for that. All right, we should wrap up and let's move on to the lightning round.
42:32 (Omer) I've got seven quick fire questions for you. Just try to answer them as quickly as you can. You ready?
42:38 (Brian) Yes.
42:39 (Omer) What's one of the best pieces of business advice you've ever received?
42:44 (Brian) In starting a SaaS? It was to read David Cummings blog, and it paid great benefits to me early on in developing this. So David Cummings blog was a great piece of advice.
42:58 (Omer) Great. What book would you recommend to our audience and why?
43:01 (Brian) So, for me, being in charge of building revenue, predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Mary Lou Tyler was something that really got my mind thinking in the right direction.
43:12 (Omer) And was that the book you mentioned earlier as well?
43:14 (Brian) It was, yes.
43:16 (Omer) What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?
43:21 (Brian) Yeah, so I'm going to say the ability to focus and become laser focused and to be able to block things out is something that I think is extremely important with your founders.
43:33 (Omer) What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?
43:37 (Brian) Well, I would be lying if I didn't say my phone is my best tool. The business is always with me, and so my iPhone, as basic as it is, has been my best tool.
43:52 (Omer) What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the time?
43:56 (Brian) Yeah, I'm not sure I can say that right here, but I've had a few.
44:01 (Omer) All right, we'll leave it at that. This is a family show. What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know.
44:08 (Brian) Yeah, I've really enjoy coaching and coaching sports in the youth world, so that was probably what I would lean toward there.
44:20 (Omer) And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?
44:23 (Brian) Without question, my family. So it's family work for me, so family and always, I would tell any entrepreneur, never sacrifice that.
44:36 (Omer) Brian, thank you so much for joining me and sharing your story. I know it's a lot to unpack in me asking you what's happened over the last 14 years, so I appreciate you digging those stories and experiences and insights out. If people want to learn more about text request, they can go to textrequest.com. And if folks want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?
45:00 (Brian) Yeah, the best way to get in touch with me would be textrequest.com or my email is email@example.com, thank you so much.
45:10 (Omer) Congratulations on everything you've achieved, particularly as a bootstrap business, and I wish you and the team the best of success.
45:18 (Brian) Thank you very much. You have a great day.
45:20 (Omer) Thanks. Cheers.
- “Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com” by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler