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The SaaS Podcast

Whooshkaa: Launch & Differentiate Your SaaS in a Crowded Market – with Rob Loewenthal [265]

Robert Loewenthal - Whooshkaa

Whooshkaa: Launch & Differentiate Your SaaS in a Crowded Market

Rob Loewenthal is the founder of Whooshkaa, a platform that helps creators and brands to produce, host, and monetize their podcasts.

In 2014, Rob walked away from a job as the CEO of a radio network in Australia to launch a SaaS startup. His idea was to build an end-to-end technology platform to help podcasters.

He was getting into a market that already had a lot of competitors. But Rob believed that there was an opportunity to do a lot more to help podcasters than just hosting and analytics.

And in a relatively short time, he's been able to build a differentiated product that's now used by around 9,000 podcasts and enterprise SaaS companies like Cloudera and Atlassian.

In this episode, we explore how he's gone from zero to almost $5 million in annual recurring revenue through mostly word of mouth and relentless focus on building a great product.

I hope you enjoy it.

Transcription

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Omer: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of the SaaS podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan, and this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business. In this episode. I talked to Rob Loewenthal. The founder of  Whooshkaa, a platform that helps creators and brands to produce hosts and monetize their podcasts.

[00:00:37] In 2014, Rob walked away from a job as the CEO of a radio network in Australia to launch a SaaS startup. His idea was to build an end to end technology platform to help podcasters. He was getting into a market that already had a lot of competitors. But Rob believed there was an opportunity to do a lot more to help podcasters beyond hosting and analytics.

[00:01:04] And in a relatively short time, he's been able to build a differentiated product that's now used by around 9,000 podcasts. And enterprise size companies like Cloudera and Atlassian. In this episode, we explore how he's gone from zero to almost $5 million in annual recurring revenue, through mostly word of mouth and relentless focus on building a great product.

[00:01:28] I hope you enjoy it. Rob welcome to the show.

Rob: [00:01:31] Hi, Omer how are you?

Omer: [00:01:33] I'm really good. Good to be finally talking. So do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires and motivates you that you can share with us and get us a warmed up for this conversation?

Rob: [00:01:44] Oh yeah, I do look, there's this one that I repeat all the time, especially to my staff.

[00:01:48] And it's a fantastic man called Charlie Munger. Always says, I just want to know where I'm going to die so I can avoid that place. If you think about it, there's a lot in that because I'm sometimes every day going to work. There's a lot of work on your desk. It's not about coming up with that great idea.

[00:02:07] It's just making sure you, you're not doing the wrong thing. So that's, that's something that I don't know that it motivates or inspires me, but I find it very practical.

Omer: [00:02:18] Yeah, it's a good way to stay focused.

Rob: [00:02:19] Yep.

Omer: [00:02:20] For people who aren't familiar with Whooshkaa just kind of tell us what does the product do? Who is it for? And what's the big problem that you're helping to solve?

Rob: [00:02:30] Yeah, sure. So Whooshkaa is an audio technology platform we're used by podcasters, around the world. And what we aim to do is help podcast is save time and make money. So they use us as a content management system. We focus more on enterprise level podcasters.

[00:02:46] But we have podcasts from all categories who use our software and that's our simple objective save time and make money. More and more we find that we're helping businesses solve for engagement and corporate communications, especially over the last year. And that's a big area for growth and focus for us at the moment.

Omer: [00:03:03] Now, before we get into talking about the business and how you came up with the idea. For full disclosure, I should share that I use Whooshkaa for my podcast and, you know, Rob and I connected a while back. And once I got to know you and everything, you and the team were doing at Whooshkaa  it really just was like a no brainer.

[00:03:30] To move my podcast over. So I'm a fan, but I'll try not to get, let that get in the way of our conversations to ask you the tough questions that need to be asked, but tell us about a little bit about your background, because your journey here to start in this business is kind of a pretty unusual one.

Rob: [00:03:48] Yeah, certainly. And look, all the many conversations we have. I'm very grateful because they do, they do help me inform my roadmap. My developers and engineers are like, Oh, you've been speaking to Omer again.

Omer: [00:04:01] Do they have one of those dolls of me? Or they can put pins into us or anything like that?

Rob: [00:04:05] Pretty much. I'm like, if you ever get a bad night's sleep, you know why? So I, my road to this businesses. What you'd say is unconventional. I started my career as an accountant and I worked at a company called KPMG. I got married at a young age. We went to live in Ireland, my wife and I, and I've had four kids early.

[00:04:25] And then we came back to live in Australia where I worked in a radio station. So the first job I. Applied for when I came back to Australia, back in was 2006 was to be an accountant at the radio station. And while I was there for about eight or nine years, I, I was promoted into the role of CEO. And really when I was there, all I ever wanted to do was focus on new technology.

[00:04:49] And you know, when you're working in a business or an industry that's facing a lot of structural decline, it forces you to think hard about solutions, you know, and what's happening and what's next and how can you change the fate of the business in which you work? So I spent a lot of time focusing and thinking on thinking about technology.

[00:05:08] And how it could help that, that radio business, but really Whooshkaa was born out of my own personal frustration when I knew that podcasting was taking off. And I knew that a lot more of the radio listeners were starting to use podcasts and listen to our radio podcasts, and I'd go to our digital manager and I'd ask him how we were performing.

And he would answer me in terabytes. And I thought, mate, there's gotta be a better way. Surely there's, there's an answer that involves whatever, how many people are actually listening to this stuff. And then he'd get out the back of the envelope and he divided the terabytes by the average length of the episode in megabytes and try and come up with the human answer.

[00:05:52] I knew right then and there and there were, so there were a couple of, sort of solutions floating around, but none of them were really sort of enterprise ready that they were more for hobbyists. And so I thought, well, I just want to answer that question. I left that business. I basically had a bit of a gamble, a bit on some technology that would help podcasters, you know, manage their content. And the, the first problem that we solve was just getting them high quality analytics. And so that's where we started and, and, you know, that lasted for about a month. And then I was like, no, we're going to build the whole thing we're going to own. I want to build the whole content management channel for podcasters and audio makers because I knew that there was this bright future for audio, but I just have always felt that the tools were inferior. And when you look at the world of video, there's so much that's been done and there's so much out there, but it's as though audio has just been left behind. so, so we're always, you know, in the back of our mind, we're trying to help podcasters save time or make money.

[00:06:52] But we think that there's a long way to go in this industry when it at least comes to consolidation. What we're trying to build now is. You'll do this podcast today and you'll log into five or six different pieces of software. Well, we think you should only have to log into Whooshkaa and all of the tools like transcription or, you name it, the recording capability that we're doing now, that all should be in the one platform that, that saves you time and gives you a good result.

[00:07:18] And that's, that's the journey. So it's sort of out of that with a little, you know, I'll spend a month trying to build an analytic solution for podcasts. Isn't a blossom from there.

Omer: [00:07:27] So initially it was just that one problem that you sort of set out to solve. Was it just you, did you go out and try to raise some money right away? How did you get started with building the product?

Rob: [00:07:39] Yeah. So I started it. It was just me initially. And I employed some, some developers to help me, over the first sort of six months. And we built a pretty ordinary product, you know, in the first sort of three months. And then I employed my first full time engineer and we really, we produced an excellent product sort of after that six month mark, I raised a small amount of capital from sort of friends, friends, and family, or you'd call them angels in those early days. And that, that helped me. I didn't worry. I didn't pay myself anything for the first year. And so I had a family, a young family, four kids, and a mortgage and all that sort of stuff. So when I raised the capital, I'd help me pay myself a small salary and also, helped me expand the engineering team.

Omer: [00:08:25] So how did you. Like figure out what to build. Like you said, you stay with the analytics and it was like, no, I'm going to go over all in and got to build this thing. But this was kind of back in like 2016. You, you sort of set out initially the analytics play, then you're going to go all in and build this end to end product.

[00:08:50] But there were a lot of other products out there at the time that were solving this problem. So like number one was like, how did you identify where the opportunities for you were. And two, did you go out and talk to potential customers or was it just you and working with these developers and just very kind of specific idea of what kind of product you needed to build?

Rob: [00:09:17] I mean, the answer is really a combination of, of each of those points, but. When I looked at some of the existing competition in this space, and I looked closely at their product and technology. I just felt like it was, it was stuff that was built before the dot com crash and they hadn't changed any of it.

[00:09:34] And they were, their focus was storage of files and distribution to Apple. Like that's all I sort of cared about. It was, it was one step above using a Dropbox folder and generating your own RSS feed for a podcast. So. And almost long, like I was sort of thinking really big about audio and I still do. And I'm like, these guys are never going to want to put, like, we have text to speech, we have speech to text.

[00:10:01] We have all of these other things that are audio related, like integrations with Alexa and Google home. You name it that are all managed inside to Whooshkaa  content management software. So I thought, we think way bigger than those guys, they're just sort of out there to serve small hobbyist podcasters. I don't know that they think one day big companies are gonna want to have an audio strategy, you know, and back then an audio strategy for a company was.

[00:10:26] Should I buy, I am or FM radio ads right now that company is talking, or what am I doing with, with Alexa? Like where do we manage that content? What am I doing with a private internal podcast? And that's something that we've seen grow over the last nine months. And you know, one of the first companies in the world to come out with with that prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

[00:10:47] And so for us, I knew that I was just so long on audio. I'd had experienced. And I know the connection that our listener has, that theater of imagination is so powerful when a listener enjoys a podcast and they feel like they're sitting in the room with the host, that connection is so powerful. And I thought this was going to be something big and it's going to keep getting bigger every year.

[00:11:09] So I just felt that some of the competing products were just stuck doing the same thing and that I didn't want this just to be a hosting and distribution product. I wanted it to be a place where you could as a podcaster, come in and. You know, really improve your content and solve your own problems. You know, and what we talk about now is we're not solving for hosting or distribution, what we're solving for engagement.

[00:11:36] So that's like, you know, at a corporate level it's employee engagement. If a company shares a podcast with their employees, there's also a. The ability for them to survey those employees about the content and then HR managers really love that sort of stuff, because then they get to see firsthand how effective that communications channel is.

[00:11:55] So when you kind of change your mindset and say, you know, some people. Where podcast hosting platform. And we, we stole your files, but if you say like, you know, we're, we're an audio technology business and it's our job to solve your problems of engagement immediately, then you can start taking on bigger projects and working with bigger companies and podcasters and just solving better problems.

Omer: [00:12:20] Yeah, I think that's a really, really good lesson there in terms of how you think of yourself and that mindset. And it kind of reminded me of like that. I guess it's probably an overused story, but the back in the days of, you know, the railroad, the companies that sort of define themselves as being in the railroad business kind of disappeared eventually as, as, as technology involved versus a company that sees themselves in the transportation business, or, you know, Connecting people, right?

[00:12:52] The way you define yourself and think about what you do and how you help customers has a big impact on the kind of product you build and the kind of customers you serve. And it's sometime can be scary to think about that big vision, because it's like, how am I possibly going to get there?

[00:13:15] But in many ways, it's, it's like, I think there's more founders should be doing that. Right. And like this whole mantra of like, think big, but execute small and keep building as you go. I think that's a really good lesson there. So let's get the name out of the way.

[00:13:33] So, how did you come up with that name?

Rob: [00:13:36] So, yeah, well Whooshkaa is a word that we're using Australia. It's a word that we would use that it's when the underdog beats the favorite. No, I've got one of the guys who put some capital into our business. He's if this is typical of many investors, but he's a tragic punter, like he's always betting on horses every weekend and he's always got the same story. You know, I was losing my money and I got to the last race and I backed the outsider and it went Whooshkaa, go and I beat the favorite. And so I thought, well, I want to be like his horse that has Whooshkaa and beats the favorite. And, I don't know that anyone's ever got a great story behind their name and I've struggled with spelling it for audiences. And you know, many of our clients are now outside of Australia, obviously international. And so I find myself explaining that name a lot, but I like it. It means something to me.

Omer: [00:14:25] And it's also because of the way it's spelled. So it's Whoosh, W H O O S H and then KAA is actually weird double A, so K A A

Rob: [00:14:34] Yeah, yeah. And a silly story, but the correct way to spell it is with one A and when we went to get the domain set up and, there was a hairdressing salon in the West of Sydney, which was called  that had the site.

[00:14:48] And I was like, ah, just chuck, let's just chuck in I don't have time. Let's just throw another A on and let's get moving. and, and there you have it.

Omer: [00:14:55] So, okay. So you've you've you spent like the first six months. Building the product. Tell me about how you went and found your first few customers.

Rob: [00:15:06] I appeal to certain customers. One of my very first customers, and this is like, it was a blessing and a curse at the same time was it was a large global media company. And I knew them from my previous life. So I had dealings. I was running a radio network in Australia. So I knew a lot of different media operators. And I went to this newspaper organization and said like, why aren't you podcasting?

[00:15:33] You know what radio station sit in their studio or hosts of shock jocks and radio types. They sit in a studio in the morning and they read your paper out loud and they get paid for it. And around the world, the radio industry is worth $20 billion in annual revenue. And I think in Australia it's worth a billion dollars and I was signed to this, this newspaper company.

[00:15:51] Why aren't you doing something about that? They're reading your content out loud and getting paid for it. So I was able to kind of line them up a bit and they said, yeah, yeah, let's, let's jump in. We've got to do something and let's use your technology to help our strategy. And that was, like, it was great to get a big client at first because it was, it was signified that we were real and we had a product that someone wanted.

[00:16:13] But at the same time, when you take on early clients, a big and demanding, and they want things that are irrelevant or that are not really part of your product roadmap. It's nearly as though you end up being just an extension of their company and you're treated like an employee and that's awful in terms of it, misguides you and your journey towards the product that you want to build.

[00:16:37] You end up building features for a company that actually didn't really know what they wanted, and they're only sort of probably working it out now. So, you know, that that were one of my first

Omer: [00:16:47] and this we're not going to talk about names, but this was a, this is a very big global company media company.

Rob: [00:16:53] Yeah. It's peak. I'm happy to name them. It's new scope, you know, and I've still got a lot of friends in the organization. We don't work with them anymore, but parting ways with that client was also the best thing that ever happened to our business. It just felt like we were not worried about what the big client thought of us all the time.

[00:17:11] We weren't worried about. Oh, they're going to leave us or use someone else or do something else. We just got back to doing what exactly what we should have been doing from day one, which was building up this amazing enterprise solution for podcasters who were serious about engaging their audience or their employees or their students.

[00:17:31] And that's, that was a great lesson for us. I'm not sure if I change anything because. At the end of the day, having a big brand on your deck certainly does help you rise some capital. And that that helped us raise capital in the early days. And it helped me stay afloat and pay a few bills and keep the mortgage under control and just keep going.

Omer: [00:17:53] So how long did this go on? How long did you have them as a customer and what do you think that did to, so the trajectory of the business, because it kind of almost sounds like you were spending a lot of time trying to customize the product for one customer rather than building a product business.

Rob: [00:18:19] Yeah, look at the same time we were still growing. We were becoming the dominant podcasting platform in our own market. Australia. A lot of podcasters were either migrating their content to our platform to manage. Although we're just, we've seen just a huge influx of new podcasters that never existed before. And we also noticed one trend, there were a lot of, sort of YouTube and social media influencers. We're just jumping into the podcast medium. and we'd still focused. I'm trying to grow our user base, but it just, I just feel like sometimes that early customer inhibits your growth from a, from a product point of view, we were still focused on growing the business total number of users who were in part of our ecosystem at the time.

Omer: [00:19:05] So it was a double-edged sword. You've got a customer who, you know, is like, there's you got the logo, you've got the revenue and the credibility, which is attracting other people, but you've also got a big client who's treating you like an employee that's causing some issues there.

Rob: [00:19:27] Yeah. Yeah. You know, you're getting dragged along to some management meeting where they're talking about their podcast strategy.

[00:19:33] How can we use your technology to double our audience and all these stupid questions you get asked? And you're like, this, I probably shouldn't be here. You know, I don't work for your organization, but, but look, and look, it's hard to just kind of walk away from a big client early on because you, look, I wouldn't change anything.

[00:19:52] It's just a good lesson. It's a great lesson. And if I'd have read this startup playbook or the, you know, the SaaS playbook on day one, like, okay. I would have probably known if I'd read, Crossing the Chasm and all these great books, there's so much good knowledge out there. My one failing was actually not being smart enough, not educating myself early enough in this journey, like your podcast, you know, any founder who listens to the, you know, if you listen to a hundred episodes of your podcast, you won't make a lot of the mistakes that I've made. You know, so this is kind of now where I think we're at a point now for founders, especially in SaaS, there's no excuses anymore.

[00:20:29] You can sort of say, Oh, I didn't know that I don't know what product led marketing is and all that sort of stuff, because there's just so much good access to content. Now, maybe like five years ago, I was a bit naive and I was a bit coming out of the corporate world. I probably had, I thought I knew everything and I was kind of too smart for my own good. And so, you know, I had to make these mistakes.

Omer: [00:20:50] So you, you've still sort of ended up, I mean, the customer base is really broad, but you have a big focus on enterprise customers. And as was that just sort of building on how you sort of got into this business and some of the problems you wanted to solve and then kind of working with news corp.

[00:21:13] Or was that something that just evolved over time as you sort of started to build the business out and see, you know, which type of customers seem to be resonating more with your product?

Rob: [00:21:24] Yeah, absolutely. So once we felt that we had a really solid technology stack. For me, it was, and I'd always like, like I'd said earlier, I think podcasting is about engagement. And if I go sort of one step back, I used to be quite a nervous public speaker. And I went and I did a Toastmaster's course, and it was one of the best things I ever did. And in that course, I remember them talking about why, why do we communicate? Like why do we open our mouths and speak?

[00:21:54] And it was like it's to entertain or persuade and it's also to inform, and I, I don't think that audio is used that much as a tool to just purely inform, you know, we send emails to, to inform people of certain things in our company. And we send, you know, there's a whole lot of video content going around at the moment, but audio is a forgotten medium when it comes to general information.

[00:22:19] Like we're all about, you know, Joe Rogan and persuasion and entertainment and all that sort of stuff. But whatever happened to just audio being used similar. To the way that people use text and video and yeah, and every time I spoke to a, you know, I always ask companies and, and yeah, a lot of companies have started using our product because they wanted a public facing podcast and they wanted that to be, you know, that was the way of talking about their brand and how great they were and all that sort of stuff.

[00:22:45] And that was their, their aim to try and get new customers was to put this content out into the world, through a podcast and I always asked them why they didn't do more communication in their organization using podcasts, technology, using audio. And there, the general answer was that we don't want to share our secret recipe with our competitors.

[00:23:03] We don't want everyone being able to listen to this stuff. You know, it was early on and I was always asking that question, consistent answer was, we want it private and easy to use low friction. Like we don't want to be having to sort of embed some web player on an internet and making people sign in three times to, you know, use the identity password or whatever it is.

[00:23:24] So, so we solve there for privacy and low friction. And when we did that, and now we take that presentation to customers or they're coming into us. They're the two key points that really appeal to them. And they love using audio to communicate with their staff. They love using podcasts to communicate internally at an enterprise level.

[00:23:45] And it's because we help solve for privacy and low friction. You know, we don't force someone to download a new app to their phone, to get this content. You know, we've got a system that works using whatever app you have on your phone. It'll automatically work through that. And you can subscribe to your podcast, your company, podcasts, or Apple podcasts. If you like.

[00:24:05] However, we're still able to keep it all private and that's just listening to those customers. And I kept asking those questions, I guess, you know, there's one of the things that you discussed all the time, you know, like always talk to you. Okay. I asked them has listened to them, speak to them all the time.

[00:24:18] And this was something that I was curious about, knew we had to solve for very early on. And that's now it's been great. You know, like we didn't time the launch for Corona virus. We didn't think that companies would need an audio remote solution as quickly as back in March. But at timing was pretty handy, I guess when we launched the product just after Christmas.

Omer: [00:24:41] So I wanted to talk about marketing and how you've grown the business and some of the lessons you've learned along the way before we do that. Can you just give the audience a sense of the size of the business today?

Rob: [00:24:57] Yes, certainly sort of customer base. So we have probably, we hosting about 9,000 podcasts around the world, but many of our significant customers now are large enterprises, actually a lot of technology and software businesses, companies like Safety Culture, Atlassian, Impact, Cloudera you name it. They seem to have an appetite for audio to communicate within place, but we've got 17 staff. Our headquarter is in Sydney, Australia, which is where our engineering team is. But we also have staff in Washington, DC, which is more customer support and customer success, and starting to think a bit more about sales as well.

[00:25:36] And we, yeah, we, we, you know, we're sort of sort of four years into this journey and we still think that. We really feel like now is the time that we're hitting our straps. We're just laser focused on what we need to do. And it's our ambition to kind of double whatever we've got this year next year.

Omer: [00:25:54] So where are you revenue wise roughly?

Rob: [00:25:56] Where are the wrong side of 5 million annual revenue? And we want to break through that number, you know, over the next six or so months, hopefully, and just keep getting bigger.

Omer: [00:26:04] So one of the things that you you've told me before is that it took us a couple of years to get serious about marketing.  What did marketing sort of look like in those first couple of years? And then what are some of the things that you started to do to grow the business?

Rob: [00:26:23] Yeah. Marketing in the early days was just me showing up to any event, any presentation sitting on some panel, you're talking about podcasting and just doing everything without structure, you know, like we've put out a bunch of social media posts and tweets and things like that, but there was no.

[00:26:41] What are we really trying to achieve here? There was no science behind our approach. It was just really scattergun. And then we really sat down and thought, no, we want to try and put forward this proposition to potential clients and have a system where they come into our pipeline, into our world.

[00:26:59] And. Once again, these are things that I should have known from day one. Like there's so much content out there about marketing automation and everything. And I didn't, you know, I just, I was, you know, it was a bit, a bit slow, but now, now that we've done that. We've got a depth of content. You know, when, when we get a lead, like we've got a whole lot of content that we provide to potential customers, you know, I think that there's nothing more effective than really good quality customer testimonials.

[00:27:26] You know, let your customer tell your story for you. So now having that depth of content that we can provide in different situations. If it's outbound or inbound, we use HubSpot for a lot of our automation. And that process just means that there's less labor involved and, and the outcomes more targeted and effective.

Omer: [00:27:47] So a big part of the growth really has come through word of mouth and just continuing to do what you set out to do with this business, which was just to build a great product that just does a great job with helping your customers engage, monetize, et cetera. What else were you doing to, to find customers?

Rob: [00:28:14] Yeah, in the early days, it absolutely was just a lot, a lot of word of mouth and a lot of presentation and events, you know, and I, I also, I didn't focus enough on international markets for all. I just kind of kept looking in my own backyard, which was, which was also really stupid cause Australia is not that big.

[00:28:31] What else did I do in the early days? And that just not enough. You know, I just, I, I also, like for me, we've never had much money. We've always had limited budgets. I didn't have the money to go and employ a marketing expert or, you know, just a marketing manager. So it meant that the money that I had was just going into product.

[00:28:51] And I had a belief that if I've got the best product, I'm going to win the day and. Whilst that's kind of true. There are a lot of times when companies have the best product and they don't win the day. So I had to get a bit smarter and open my eyes and we still do have, and want to have always the best product, but it's no good having a great product if you're not telling anyone about it.

[00:29:15] And that's the big lesson that I've learned over the last couple of years. There are so many features and tools that we've had for, for a long time. And then we see our competitor comes out with some sort of press releases so that the first company to invent this thing and, you know, we get annoyed about it, but it's our fault because we haven't done enough to communicate that, you know, talk about our product in public and that's something, that's a journey we're still on. We're still trying to find the best way to do that.

Omer: [00:29:41] Yeah. And I think that's, that's been kind of my personal experience because, you know, when I use Whooshkaa, I'm constantly blown away by I think, Hey, I want to do this, or could I do this? And whenever I've sort of ask that question to you, because you have become sort of my unofficial technical support, but I'll tell you,

Rob: [00:30:02] I still take support tickets. Don't worry about that.

Omer: [00:30:06] And, and the answer was always like, yeah, yeah, we already thought about that and you can do it this way or whatever. And that for me has just really been so impressive that it's like this it's an analogy that it looks pretty simple.

[00:30:17] Like that's kind of Swiss army knife, but there's all these, you know, things that you can do that if an advanced user comes in is available to them too. Really get so much more out of podcasting or, or, you know, audio as, as a, as a communication tool. But the thing was before I met you, I hadn't heard of Whooshkaa.

[00:30:39] And I think that kind of goes back to what we've talked about, which is, you know, relentless focus on the product, but for a while, Very little focus on, on getting the word out there.

Rob: [00:30:49] Yeah, that's for sure. Look, I, I love when, one of our things I said earlier was like, how can I help podcasts to save time or make money?

[00:30:57] And when we were talking, I'd realize that you baked in kind of promotional messages to your last 500 episodes. So like, if I, and I think your back catalog as a podcast is valuable because I also go back to older episodes and listen to them. Cause there's. That's great education there, but I'm still hearing an ad for some event that will happen in 2017.

[00:31:17] So it's, and I was like, Hey, we've got this tool where you can actually just go into your back catalog. I've been putting a marker and have it. Basically, he replaces that content that's no longer relevant, which means that we're breathing life into your back catalog. And, and I, I loved your response and you, you kind of.

[00:31:33] I was working with you. And you realize that you had this asset, like in your assets, not just your new weekly episode, it's this whole back catalog of content that you've built up. Your, your library is something. And now we've given you a tool to help you kind of optimize your asset. You know, look, we're in a game where content is King.

[00:31:52] Like you can have the best tech, the best software, the best everything. And if your content is crap and forget about it, but we do give you tools to help optimize your life. You know, we help you optimize your asset. That's why I really enjoyed all of our chats because I'm able to use your sometimes as a Guinea pig. I don't know if you realize that.

Omer: [00:32:15] So

Rob: [00:32:16] you also use

Omer: [00:32:16] events as, as a way to find customers. And I think this was interesting because a lot of the times, a lot of founders don't consider events because they think one, it's not going to be an effective way. To acquire customers or to, they end up spending a lot of money on sponsorships without any real kind of follow-ups strategy or plan.

[00:32:52] And I think you found a good balance there of the two. So share, share a little bit with us about how you've been able to use events to turn that into a reasonably cost effective way to acquire customers.

Rob: [00:33:08] Yeah, definitely. And it's a cool look. Any, any opportunity you get to do an event provided it's not cost prohibitive, you should do it because you know, you're putting yourself on a stage.

[00:33:17] You're talking about your product. And as a founder, you're you get to convey your sense of pride in what you do and why your products are great. But we like to do these events. Like if I give I'll give you a more specific example. So right now a large part of our focus is on providing HR teams and internal communications teams at companies. With the tools to do internal private podcasts.

[00:33:43] So we've got to find the events where those people hang out. So we'll, we can sponsor an event like, you know, HR conference, we get not the gold or the silver sponsorship, but you can get the bronze sponsorship, whatever that is, it's pretty affordable, but you always get a list of attendees.

[00:33:59] And if you've got like really good, you know, content marketing capabilities and, and an automation system, You can then email all of the attendees with some impressive content. You know, often for me, it's just like, I find we've got a whole bunch of different customer testimonials and I try and target those attendees with a testimonial.

[00:34:22] From someone who's in or close to their industry, stuff like that is effective. And then you, you know, you've got your Calendly link or whatever else, and you suddenly find you're, you're doing five, 10 demos a week and I'd still do like, I'm easily doing five demos a week still. Like, and I don't have to, but I, I want to do it.

[00:34:41] Cause I know that when I'm talking about my product, like no one talks about it better and no one's passionate about it as me. And I'm also more passionate about solving problems for the client. So, you know, I just kind of keep showing up and doing these demos and make my calendar available, but you know, it's effective and we're closing deals.

[00:34:58] So that's a formula working for us at the moment. It's more scalable because of the marketing automation that we do. But, you know, in the longer term, I don't want to be doing five demos a day.

Omer: [00:35:11] Yeah. So, so just to kind of recap, this it's re you, you sort of have used events and you haven't gone after like massive events, but finding smaller ones that really are focused on the target audience that, that you're going after. And for each of these, I think the HR folks was a good example because it's a very specific type of user persona. And so then you can map that to the type of events that these people might be attending. And obviously the, the, you know, events these days have taken a completely different shape, but people are still finding ways to, to connect and, and sort of attend these types of things, whether even whether it's online and then the sponsorship has been a way for you to either like, okay, there's some, there's some brand awareness you get from being a sponsor.

[00:36:07] If there's an opportunity to, to talk in front of that audience, that's always great because it helps you have an opportunity to spread the message in terms of how you're helping solve a problem for people like them. But even if they don't hear that at the event, You're putting together an email follow-up campaign, which connects back to people attending these events, you being the sponsor, that kind of ads, you know, it's relevant, it's timely. There's some credibility because you were sponsoring the event and then you use this email follow-up sequence as a way to bring people in, into the pipeline and to get, see demos.

Rob: [00:36:46] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And the thing at the moment. All right. So, so coronavirus means that it's kind of harder, obviously harder to put on or attendant event, but there are so many virtual conferences now.

[00:36:57] It means that while I can, I can attend 10 times the number of events that I was doing previously, virtually. So I've got more time to attend more events and I'm getting access to more customer lists. So I actually see Corona virus from a marketing point of view is actually a pretty decent opportunity where you can spread yourself wider than you would have been able to do before.

Omer: [00:37:21] Right. Yeah. Yeah. So how is that what's has happened for you? Are you seeing more growth of the last few months through events than you were before? All of this pandemic hit?

Rob: [00:37:35] Yeah. And look, we, we sort of. Sometimes I'll get a bit ahead of myself. Like that's the strategy that we're using. I'd like to do more and more events. Certainly, the ones, yeah. That we've done have been really good hit, right. Or like basically deals closed as a result of buying the bronze sponsorship or whatever. so yeah, it's in our the next six months, we've got a whole bunch of different stuff in our calendar, especially US-focused internal communications events.

[00:37:59] We want to be front and center at those events. And that doesn't mean have been the main sponsor and having the big sign. It just means getting access to yeah. When you participate in that event or you present your seep into the mind of the participant, when you then get to follow it up and take advantage of maybe some sort of seed that was cited at the event and makes the conversion process a little bit easier and more straightforward.

Omer: [00:38:27] Tell me a little bit about like, how you've landed some of these bigger customers. Like, I mean, I don't know how much revenue safety culture is doing, but, valuation is pretty healthy. Cloudera is probably close to becoming a billion dollar a year business. How did you land these types of customers?

Rob: [00:38:51] Yeah, focus on, this is probably. I don't know, whatever book I read. It was kind of all about trying to make your customers instead of choosing customers that are instructional decline, guess what find customers where the tailwinds are very strong.

[00:39:05] Cause not only, especially in the software business, you know, other SaaS companies. They generally are happy to buy software because that's what they do as well. And they understand the process, but they are viewed as thought leaders. So that when you kind of, if you sign up those companies, first of all, you sign up the first couple of companies and everyone else takes note in their industry and says, Oh, well, you know, that's something that we should be doing too.

[00:39:26] And let's, let's check it out. It's software. It makes sense. But then there is this sort of group of people. If you're ever read that book, Crossing the Chasm it's, they're called laggards. And then the laggards kind of follow what these thought leaders do. And. No. If I'm working at a manufacturing business, I probably don't know that much about SaaS and how it can help me, but I do admire, you know, some big company that's made a fortune in Silicon Valley.

[00:39:53] And if they're using that software well, then maybe I should be too. So my focus has been over the last sort of. Six months on tech businesses in the States. And we've started working with some great companies, you know, we're even working with, with company like Atlassian even. Yeah, no, they are based from Sydney.

[00:40:12] They've got a pretty strong global footprint when they appreciate good, good SAS software. And so that's been, our plan is to kind of work with those companies. And then I think that later on there's this expansionary effect. We're not only at those companies or they're using our product more and more as they sign up, they kind of, you know, sort of land and expand, they sign up and they want it to be available for 500 employees.

[00:40:37] And now it's like 5,000 employees.  But then down the road that really takes off in, in other industries. other than technology, that's kind of been our focus and that's been direct, you know, that's me like. Trying to find people and ringing them up and saying, Hey, I really liked to work with you.

[00:40:54] That's less about our marketing automation and just more about a founder kind of harassing and stalking potential clients. But once you get the first couple, and then you, you, you talk to people who are close or within their networks, the next couple fall a bit easier. And then after that, it's not just a couple it's five or six, you know, and that's that strategy.

Omer: [00:41:15] So News Corp, you obviously had a relationship. There before you started Whooshkaa so you could, you could tap into that nd get them to try the product, the platform, but who was the first sort of big company or name that you didn't have a relationship with that you signed up that helped to sort of drive this growth and bring other people on.

Rob: [00:41:42] Yeah. So there's sort of, there's two types of users. There's the general podcaster and we signed a couple of, we started working with a couple of high profile comedians in Australia. It's a guy called Will Anderson. He was pretty big, and he still has a very big presence in the unit as a podcaster. So he just found our platform and really liked the product.

[00:42:03] And we developed a and our friendship and we started talking to them and then other people just kept following. It was word of mouth. And, and you have this kind of a branding opportunity in podcasting. A lot of podcasts is use your web player and they embedded on their website. So fans go to the website to listen to the content and they see our logo on the web player and they clicked through, and some of those fans turn out to be podcasters as themselves, and then it just keeps growing.

[00:42:28] And that, that was the early days among the kind of. Niche sort of indie space you tended to have once upon a time, a lot of sports people and comedians, and now we're moving into more, there's an organization called Quillette and they use our podcast and that's a kind of free thinking organization that that's all about kind of freedom of speech and so on. And it's a new age media type of enterprise. and they're using our technology for a whole bunch of different purposes. So that, that kind of growth that doesn't sort of happen overnight. Like we didn't end up with 9,000 podcasts or whatever the number is now, you know, in a week or two weeks.

[00:43:06] But the growth just happened because word of mouth was positive. People enjoyed the product and there was this kind of built-in branding. That every time someone was sharing their content, there was a name with someone near it.

Omer: [00:43:19] Yeah. And the same thing, I mean, you know, happening with me that I've started using the Whooshkaa player on, on my site.

[00:43:30] I mean, you could use any player and I've used a whole bunch of different ones, but again, I think that the things that you've done smart you and the team team have done well here is. One is it's super easy to use and embed into your site, but two, it looks good. You know, there's something about having a, a player experience that actually makes your website look better that you want to use, but you know, what, guess what?

[00:43:55] There's actually some virality built into that because it's branded it as Whooshkaa and people were going to click on that and, and, you know, check it out. Yeah. So. It kind of goes back to just the whole idea of like, you know, it's about the great product that I don't know if you touched on this earlier, but I know you've said this to me before, is this, this is about how do you build a product that people really love?

Rob: [00:44:16] And that's like still a big challenge for us. Like we, we just want, we want to use this to love the product. Like I want, when I, when my users log into the software, I just want them to just be really happy about it and enjoy it and know where things are and not be spending their life in the FAQ section of the dashboard.

[00:44:34] So that's kind of that's core to who we are and what we want. And there's still so much more we could do. Like there's still some easy things that we haven't done yet. And we're sort of constrained by resources, you know, like we've got a good size team now and everything, and, but I've got a list of 50 things that I want to do in terms of just straightforward integrations and that with other platforms, thinking about your artwork, Like your artwork, you're probably using something like Canva.

[00:45:00] So, you know, it should be really easy to get your artwork from Canva into Whooshkaa and that's yeah. Something, hopefully we'll have out in a couple of weeks, but just thinking it's like that to make your journey easier. Podcasting is not a perfect medium, like I was saying earlier, like there's still six different places.

[00:45:14] You've got to log in to try and publish some content. And I just find that unacceptable. And so even like, if I use transcription as an easy example, like you. Why should you have to log into a separate piece of software to transcribe content? So with Whooskaa now we're releasing a feature that allows you to record directly into the platform and to conduct an interview directly into the Whooshkaa dashboard.

[00:45:38] So now you don't need some third-party software to record like Zoom or whatever people are using that. Then they've stored the content. We've also got a cloud editor, so you can edit your content in our dashboard, so you don't need to go to GarageBand. And then you're like, well, okay, we want to. I want to produce a highlight to share on social media.

[00:45:57] So you shouldn't have to go to some audiogram maker that generates a video for Instagram, that you can do that in Whooshkaa. And we're at 20 templates. And then, so as I kind of look at that whole process, that podcasters, you know, that whole thing that they're doing, I'm like, well, that's just stuff that they should be able to do in our dashboard.

[00:46:14] And when I make their lives more simple, No, this is like, back to my founding kind of idea was how can I help them save time or make money? And I'm just talking podcasts to save time. And when they save time and they enjoy our tools, they tend to, they fall in love with the product and that's kind of, you know, that's what we're all about.

[00:46:32] Even like some of the other podcast platforms, I still can't understand why they haven't updated their players and made them look nice because that's the sort of personification of it was, you know, it's the perception, that's your brand. Like you get to put your brand on thousands of websites around the world. Don't you want to look good? You know, there's no sort of, maybe it's vanity on my part, but I, I want my brand, my logo to look really sharp when it's on your website.

Omer: [00:47:00] Yeah. And the options are really limited. Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of, you know, sort of third-party players that you could use, but there always ends up being something that I've found. Like, I, I probably tried literally every, everyone that's out there. What I love is like going back to this idea of like, think big, solve the big problems, make it easy you think? And, and, and I love that, that you're, you're thinking like that and doing so much more in the platform, the downside or the danger of that is that you.

[00:47:38] Instead of picking one or two areas and saying, we're going to be best of breed. You try to do 50 different things and sort of do an okay job at all of them, just because you're trying to do so much and spread your resources so wide. And I was glad when you talked about Canva, you weren't saying, Oh, we're going to build a Canva inside, Whooshkaa as well. Right?

[00:48:00] So I think there's this, there's definitely some part of this that you're thinking about. Where it makes sense to build into the platform and where it makes sense to integrate with some other product. But how do you think about that? And then how do you sort of, what are you trying to do to strike the balance between providing that end to end comprehensive solution, but not spreading yourself so thin that you don't. End up doing a great job and a lot of those things.

Rob: [00:48:34] Yeah or for sure. I mean, that's the constant struggle that I have is like, you know, kind of coming up with some crazy idea and taking it to the engineering team and like ruining their life with all my ideas, you know, for like the big thing is that the only way that relationship works is that I encourage them to challenge me constantly and they do.

[00:48:53] And like we have a, you know, we have really constructive debate around me kind of coming in with a new feature request. It's like when I describe some of that stuff, this is like a, nearly a five year journey. So it's, to me, it doesn't take long to build a good web player that people really liked it. It's like we are just slowly incrementally adding important tools and features to our dashboard.

[00:49:16] That actually, it sounds like, wow, you know, you've done these kind of like this five or six things that you've been thinking about, but over nearly five years, I wish we'd made more progress. And well, I'm not trying to. Like we are experts in and around audio and that kind of rich media. We also do some video as well when it comes to connected home devices, et cetera. But I would never try and build Canva, you know, or, or anything like that.

Omer: [00:49:43] Which is another company based in they're based in Sydney as well, right?

Rob: [00:49:47] Yeah. Yeah. Like they're, they're at East and, Yeah, look, Safety Culture, Atlassian, Canva, you know, like three of my heroes that we would love to love to kind of one day be like them.

Omer: [00:49:58] And then we also had your, I meet you from Mark Tanner of Qwilr as well, recently,

Rob: [00:50:03] Couple of weeks as well. Yeah. He's such a good guy. He's and he's just like, there's a big thinker. Like, why are we sending PDFs? Why are we sending this rubbish on the internet? What about if we just generate these webpages that are functional and you can track.

[00:50:16] People using them and watching them. And you know, he's talking about the different part of the sales funnel that no one really talks about, which is kind of where it's a bit closer to conversion and you want to make sure you optimize that process and like Mark Tanner, such a great job there.

[00:50:30] So like, you know, in Australia, there's kind of  a bunch of characters down here where we really do believe that there's nothing that we can't do. and having some of these, like some of our heroes now in the technology space, you know, the Atlassian and the Safety Cultures are just providing us with enough of a boost to say, You know what, when we're not crazy, well, let's take this, let's share it with the world.

[00:50:54] And you look at Mark's having great success and we're trying to, you know, which just trying to follow those giants into new markets.

Omer: [00:51:01] Yeah. I'd love that. Alright. We could go on for a while, but I think we've got to wrap up here. So let's, let's move on to the lightning round. I'm going to ask you seven quickfire questions.

[00:51:15] Just try to answer as quickly as you can. Ready to go. Yup.

[00:51:17] Rob: [00:51:17] Yup. Let's do it.

Omer: [00:51:19] Okay. What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Rob: [00:51:22] Profit is power. So for me, it's kind of, there've been times when I needed to raise towards profit to make sure that we had future options. It certainly was power and not having to rely on shareholders at different times of the journey. That was really useful to me.

Omer: [00:51:35] What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

Rob: [00:51:38] I found for it, if the audiences of whole lot of people like myself who are founders, who wanted to learn a bit about perseverance, a book that I love last theorem by Simon Singh. It's a better guy called Andrew Wiles he spent nearly 30 years trying to solve an age old algorithm or problem that was put forward by  Pierre de Fermat you know, about 300 years ago. And he solved it, you know, over a long period of time. It was a variant of Pythagoras theorem, just a wonderful book about the sort of story behind mathematics and this guy's persistence. Like he's, you know, being a good entrepreneur is a lot about survival and persistence and gee, this guy he's stuck at it.

Omer: [00:52:21] What was the name of the book again?

Rob: [00:52:22] It's called Fermat's Last theorem. Pierre de Fermat was one of the founders of probability himself and another guy called Pascal we're behind that.

[00:52:32] And he also had an idea. you know, Pythagoras theorem is a²  b² = c². He said that doesn't hold true for anything greater than the squared. So A to the powerful plus B to the powerful equals C to the powerful and so on is untrue. And then he said, and he wrote this because he was such a good mathematician.

[00:52:55] Then he wrote in the corner of the, the margin of the book, he said, I'd write up the proof, but I've run out of paper. And then he died a couple of days later. I was like, okay. People were like, wait, there's no proof. He died. And then. Like over the centuries have been sword fights. People trying to find this theorem and work it out.

[00:53:16] And someone in Germany put forward a big prize, like hundreds of, or a million dollars or whatever it was for the person who could build a proof for this theorem. And Andrew Wiles I think he was at one of the Oxford University or somewhere, and he spends like 20 or 30 years of his life. He discovered this theorem, this riddle as a kid and spends the next 30 years trying to solve it.

[00:53:37] Like, it's just talk about persistence, but, you know, well, I like maths, but not like I'm not fanatical about it, but when you read this book, you kind of,  this rich, beautiful history about mathematics that not many people know and the stories behind it. And, so, and I really read that great books have to be at the right time as well.

[00:53:57] And it's kind of a book. It's one of those things that inspired me to think a little bit bigger. Like maybe when I was 21 or 22. And so that's why I chose that. Like, there's a bunch of other books. So I normally say Poor Charlie's Almanack or, you know, Will Durant: The Lessons of History or these kind of books that are just pound for pound massive amounts of wisdom.

[00:54:17] But for me, this kind of. We'll talk about perseverance and persistence was, was, has been important to me in my journey.

Omer: [00:54:25] Yeah, that's a really interesting recommendation and a very unique on that, you know, I haven't heard before. So kind of thanks for the context on that. Well, what's the one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

Rob: [00:54:38] Yeah. So just following on from that, never give up, don't say die. Yeah, just keep going. Just got to find a way to keep going.

Omer: [00:54:44] What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

Rob: [00:54:48] Okay. Earlier, I'm just really enjoying HubSpot at the moment. Some of the automation emails, like just save me time, saving our marketing guys time, where we're able to bring in leads a lot quicker and more effectively.

Omer: [00:54:59] What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to perceive if you had the extra time?

Rob: [00:55:03] Okay. So it was kind of crazy thing I'm doing at the moment because it's locked down. I bought a van and I'm converting it to a camping van. I do that on the weekends and I'm shocked that there's not an easy way. You should be able to buy a modular system where I'm like, yeah, I want, I want to put these racks in the floor and on the walls and just sliding the different furniture that, you know, configuration that I like.

[00:55:23] So if I had the time, I'd think about how I could manufacture a system like that and sell around the world.

Omer: [00:55:30] Love it. Oh, what's an interesting little fun fact about you that most people don't know?

Rob: [00:55:34] Sort of on, on from that little hobby that I have at the moment, my kind of garage is this crazy space in my house that no one else is allowed in.

[00:55:42] And it's where I do my, I like I'm into, I like making Koji, which is this mold based fermentation of rice or Bali or whatever you like. I'm building a solar system for the van in the garage, like a 400 watt solar system. So I just, I really liked tinkering. For me it's I love the process of learning. So I'm sort of, you know, learning how to use mold fermentation or building solar power.

[00:56:05] I often start with no knowledge whatsoever, and I've kind of learned that you actually can learn things if you just do a little bit every week or every day. So my garage is this chaos zone. No one's allowed in there because it's full of kind of bad experiments.

Omer: [00:56:20] And finally, what's what are your most important passions outside of your work?

Rob: [00:56:25] Well, it's, it's easy. Like my family, my wife and my four kids kind of they're everything for me. And there. Such a source of stimulation and happiness, the kind of the reason you wake up and do what you do. And I just bring so much joy. I only wish that I could kind of stop them from growing up right now, their age between eight and 18.

[00:56:49] And we've got a great spirit spread of kind of young adults down to the little kid who wants to kick the football with me. And I just like to press pause on my life right now. And I don't think that's going to be. So easy, but that's, that's my passion outside of work, for sure. Yeah.

Omer: [00:57:03] Yeah. I hear ya. I mean, my kids 14 and 11 and every year, they've kind of less interested in hanging out with me. So make the most of it as you know, when you can. Cool. Thank you so much for joining me and for, for chatting, I'm really, I'm really glad that we were able to share the story of, of Whooshkaa and you know, how you build the business. And some of the things that you're working on is coming down the line.

[00:57:33] If people want to find out more about wish God, they can go to whooshkaa.com that's W-H-O-O-S-H-K with the double A dot com. we'll include a link in the show notes to that. And if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Rob: [00:57:50] Yes just rob[at]whooshkaa[dot]com or LinkedIn or anything like that. I respond to everyone. So. Yup. Happy to chat.

Omer: [00:57:58] All right. Good. Thank you, my friend. And,

Rob: [00:58:01] Catch up. We'll get both. We'll have to catch up in a couple of weeks for the next product development session when you've got some, some new feature requests for the platform.

Omer: [00:58:08] Yeah. It's sprint planning, right?

Rob: [00:58:12] Content templates. Yep.

Omer: [00:58:13] Alright. Cheers.

Rob: [00:58:15] Thanks. See you later.

Book Recommendation

The Show Notes

Omer Khan

Hi, I'm Omer, the founder of SaaS Club and host of The SaaS Podcast. I help early-stage founders and entrepreneurs to build, launch and grow successful SaaS businesses. Join me on this journey.