Bootstrapping a B2C Startup to +$20k/Month with Buster Benson
The Failory Podcast

Full episode transcript -


Welcome to another episode of The Hilary Podcast, where we turn the pages backwards and go back to a previous chapter of founders, Lives at Earlier Cos. Toe unlock Lessons that you can apply to your business. Today I am Brandon and Oko, and on this episode I'm extremely excited to be joined by Buster Benson, who is the founder at 750 words, a Napoli named browser based tool that rewards users with beautiful analytics and the therapeutic experience in return for running three morning pages about anything prior to this, the Buster also worked at Twitter, Slack and Patri on as well as founded habit Lapse Ah, platform that started as a news resolution but eventually leveraged the idea of social GAM occassion to help its users start healthier habits. In this episode, Buster and I discuss his journey from creative writing, the product software with game like elements and the toughness that is often not covered that comes as a result of raising venture capital. Sit tight, get a notebook ready and thank you again for listening. This podcast wouldn't be possible without the help of our friends over at referral Hero be all in one platform design and run flexible referral programs that grow your bottom line.

If you're tired of wasting money on Facebook ads or writing tons of content that never rank on Google but already have loyal customers, you should definitely try a referral program. The Dollar Flight Club grew its business by 13% and holiday pirates added 300,000 emails in less than a month after setting up their referral programs. The best thing about all of this is that you can get started in minutes with their no code widgets, and if you sign up today, you can get 20% off with the code fail ary to zero. Try it now for 14 days without any cost at referral. Hero dot com Once again, that's a referral hero dot com. Hello, Welcome to another episode of the failure. Your podcast. Your one stop shop for failed ventures failed founders with, more importantly, the lessons you can learn from them. I'm so excited to date to have Buster Benson on the podcast. Thank you both for being


here. Thank you. I'm really happy to be here as well.


So first off, Congratulations on the new book launch. Thank you. So would you have to tell us like what


the book is about? Yes. So the book is called Why are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement and It's my first book published by Penguin Random House. But it's really a approachable take on disagreement, productive disagreement, conflict resolution. And I did 100 drawings for it. And it's really just a synthesis of many different fields of study around this that in an attempt to make it more approachable, more practical for people now that our world is a bit more sort of contentious and conflict strewn with all social media and the news going on. So half of it was for me, and half of it was for like, can I turn this into something that's useful for


Yeah, sure, absolutely. So I'm just gonna get into some back in here. But I know this size until, like your background at U Dub. You graduate 98 with a bachelor's in English creative writing and then, yeah, feel free to like, you know, correct me where I'm wrong. Or, like Pepper in some details where I missed here. But you have like, I'd love to say like an impressive technical background. You did software at Amazon. You did. You were got Twitter. You did product. The men slacking and patri on and before, after that defended 43 things and lots of startups,


I would say, Yeah, it's almost hard to list them all old for one. And yeah, I've started four companies, I believe so. One of the missile around and kicking the 150 words. One of them was a bar in art gallery in Seattle, Washington, and the others when was in health change app and another was 43 things, which was a good goal making social network. So a lot of them have been Web based sort of communities intended to sort of help people live better lives somewhere.


Yeah, absolutely. And I don't just, like, dive into this. Like, I guess I'm just curious. Did you You graduated u dub with, like, English create arriving. Did you ever knew you were gonna Do you know software on Amazon Twitter? Yeah.


It's a funny story because my father was an engineer. He was cto at old companies like it's a Borland and Ashton Tate, which were both database companies and So I grew up around computers. My grandfather was an engineer also, but more in the like mechanical engineering sense. And so I had a lot of pressure to become an engineer. And I rebel the instep by saying I was gonna be a poet and novelist, painter and, you know, creative writing. So it was my rebellion to go away from engineering. But then, by the time I you know that I was found myself, you know, basically living three blocks from Amazon and got a job there after college and after sort of, you know, the advent of the Internet,

I became interested in it. And I saw that like, Oh, yeah, actually build things and it's pretty feels like magic. So I then started picking up on my own and learn pretty quickly just cause I have been immersed in it, even though it was sort of against my will as a child.


Yeah, absolutely. And like, I'd love to just, like dive deeper on this when you said, you know, you picked it up quickly. I know I did some reading on my own and said, You said that you did night shift customer service and Amazon before moving on to, like, you know, learning code on the job and then like moving on to software Or like if you could expand on transition like,


yes, the funny story. So I was working customer support and, you know, I learned about HT mellow by building the Internet for, like, training documents because eventually became a trainer. And so I was like building the Internet pages and it was all just like each team. L And then I also had a journal on Diary Land and Diary X and Live Journal at the time. And I just got fascinated with this idea of like, Well, you couldn't sort of create these pages on the Internet and they look cool on you can say things on them. And so it sort of tapped into my creative side, you know, creative writing side, because I was reading stories and stuff, but the actual shift happened.

So I was, you know, I was a tent to become a Web developer. Amazon. But I was from sport different, building different, totally different field ahead of training. But nobody had training at that time, So Amazon had this policy of basically just hiring liberal arts majors and then training them into becoming engineers. And so I was like, love. And one day, you know, someone was like, Do you know Pearl? I said,

Yeah, I know Pearl. I didn't no parole. But I did go to the bookstore and bought the older notable in seven days. You know, I spent the weekend basically cramming this, you know, something I had learned from college and found a way to, like, sort of fake it because all you do is cut in, pay scripts from the Internet and create forms and stuff. And that's already you need me to dio and that really started the wheels turning in my head. Okay, I could be a software engineer, and I had to harass basically the engineering team because I would email them. Here's a position.

Can I apply for it? And I would never get any responses. Eventually, I let HR know that you know this team, you're not responding to my e mails and so I don't know why I did that, but I did. And so they said Okay, fine. You can have an interview, but where you know this position is closed now, so you're not gonna get it. Okay, Anyway, I just want to do the interview and I would end and I, you know, used on my like,

whatever charm I had, I could really do that. I could learn. I'm really passionate about it and they gave me the job. So that's how I transitioned at engineering and, you know, just learned from there. And, you know, Amazon was built on a really old style of coding, like Pearl was was used for the Internet. But the actual website was just built on like, sea and, like, make files that would generate HTML. It was very basic.

So it started, You know, the learning curve wasn't too hard, and I really enjoyed it. So just keep going.


Yeah. Wow, that's amazing. I mean, like, this was like, I assume, like 99 are like, two thousand's Amazon were like, they're just wow, I didn't know. They were just like, hiring. Liberal arts merges. Yeah, And then you moved down to do Twitter. You did product.

And then between Twitter and the first started 43 things. You found it. Habit labs, which I love to dislike talking to, but before that. I guess I hope this isn't like, too farfetched of the question. But, like, I want to get your compares on unlike, you know, going from working an industry, like doing engineering at a mystery toe, like becoming a founder. I know, like in the past,

like all of my interviews have said that they either became funders like accidentally are like they knew that they were gonna become founders. Like, ever since they were, like, you know, three year four. Did you ever know you were going to, you know, become a founder? Or when did this, like, entrepreneurial mindset, like, get instilled in you?


Yeah, it's a good question. I didn't think I was gonna be an engineer, so I didn't really consider found until I was Amazon. And then, well, what's it all started clicking. You know, my father was a founder. Also, he started his own company, and so I got to see that sort of internal experience, and I helped him, like trying to design the logo for him. And, you know, it was like all these things come up with the name.

And so I I'd like that stuff and, you know, I was going through, like, junior high and high school. And so it wasn't an alien idea to me, but it wasn't until I found, you know, it was really like I was disillusioned Amazon, like, just doing the same thing over and over again. But before I left one of my guess, ingenious moves in hindsight was I decide I don't want to become a manager. I wanted to become a level one designer and a little one Product manager, level one, Project manager,

level one, engineer level one. Everything so that I share more generalists. And my boss at the time entertained this idea. They went and it actually changed my title. But he let me sort of shadow other teams and other functions to sort of pick up these skills. And so design was one that was really helpful later on. And so, by the time I was disillusioned Okay, well, we have all the skills we need to start something. Why don't we just do that? And we just like three or four of us from Amazon all sort of left and started this company. So it wasn't an accident, and it wasn't, you know,

predestination. and of any sort. It was just like, uh, let's do something different. And so that happened that


way. Mm hmm. And you did a bunch of things different. At least from what I have researched, you move from Amazon after you Did you know PM and software you found? Did you know your art gallery? And then you founded Health Month as well as, like, Budge, etcetera, etcetera. Yeah, so I'd love to just, like, talk about that. Like, where's your like ideas come from?


Yeah, I don't know. So the sequence of events was the Amazon for about five years. And then I started 43 things with some people from Amazon, and that one was it was called a robot go up at the time. So our mission was like, Let's just do something interesting on the Internet and then try to make money. And it was early days, so, like we were, you know, Brown for tagging. And you know, the very first glimpses of S e o. Blogging all that stuff. And so it was fun. We got to invent her own culture in the her own manifesto,

invent our own sort of work life We only work four days a week, but 10 hours a day, for example. And like all these things where we just felt so free to do whatever you want to do. And that really was appealing to me. I thought I would never build a working office again after that. And so that from there. But, you know, the Internet wasn't everything. So I also wanted to What could we do in the real world? And so that's where the bar came from. An art gallery is gonna be like a real life community instead of Internet community. And then So the thing pulling before it was just like That's really cool. And there's so much stuff we can do and the things that resonated with me. 43 things about goals.

Health Month was about habits, which are also lets her like goals. Some 100 keywords is like the writing habits, so they all sort of playing out of one another. Yeah, yeah, like fresh indulge or something, and slowly refining until in exploring different areas. But just like following that thread a sw far as I could go, you know, realizing how hard it was to rid of business and trying to make different mistakes every time.


Yeah, and that's a good segue. Way into, like our first topic of lick your quote unquote failed startup of habit labs. Or like Health month. You talked about it like as like, setting goals for, like, health. When I know it started as a habit, Labs or like health month started off a New Year's resolution that you held with your friends. Is this, like, still in ongoing resolution, or like tell us a little bit about the resolution and how you really, really went into, like,

I guess, Starting habit labs. You're like, What, The idea for health month Waas.


Yeah. So Health Month was, you know, I had already done 43 things that already done Macleod residence, which at the bar, and I had gotten married, and we had actually just had a son and my wife, and I wish we didn't have health insurance, We didn't have any money, and I was just I just need to do this one more time. So healthy, it was like, you know, I'm gonna do my last shot At the start of saying it was the first line of code was written, like during my son's first month of life, basically, and I work from a copy shop,

and the idea can from something that we did every year. So my wife and I were every every January we would do this thing called Health Month with our friends, and we would basically just come up with really, really strict rules for ourselves to like no alcohol, no meat, no dairy, no sugar in the process, grain, no end, you know, exercise this many times a week, and it was like, really intense, like introduction to the year. We have been doing this for several years. She had been doing it with her friends even longer,

and we do continue to do it. I think this year has been a little lackluster, like, you know, didn't drink and, you know, but then on date nights, we did so Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's fizzled out a bit because, you know, at its heart was like, Okay, well, every year we do this and then we go back to our bad habits the rest of the year.

And so now we're just We've slowly try to integrate healthier habits into the full year, and you don't have to do this huge heart reset every year. So that was the tradition and still continues to happen. But it's a lot. It's more sprawled out. At this point, we don't all follow the super strict


rules anymore. Yeah, sure. And then at its peak, habit labs are like habit. Louse was like health month. It was budge. And then I think it was contagion. Right from


General Health Month was my company. Contagion was Jen McCabe's company, and we merged them and became


having labs Heavy loves. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, Thank you. Sorry about that. And then you guys were from, like, my own words. You guys were like social Gamification to help players like take steps towards better health and then, like you could like, you know, chair, you're, I guess, lives with other people so that,

like, you could build like this network effective, like people helping to heal, quote unquote their friends in gaming outside and get healthier. Witham,


is that like a good summer? Yeah. So they were both sort of similar in the sense that you would set challenges for yourself and then, you know, it would be social, and we were tapping into some of the Gamification stuff that was having at the time who were both. I know it was, like, sort of a sass company for health that charge a small amount each month, like $5 a month and adapted to you over time so that you get it slowly got better. You know the recommendations for you. What? How to treat your habits will change over time and improve. So it was really trying to combine a lot of these ideas about, like bringing community to something that's hard like habits are like the goal that really is the hardest to change. And we were just stumbling into it like this is, you know, a big space. She came more from the health care industry. I came or from the consumer Web industry, and we just tried to combine those two things.


Yeah, I'm just, like, very, very interested until I just like diving into it. I guess. What brought you guys to, like the idea of, you know, besides, you're like Health month, like in real life with Like you and like your friends, like the New Year's resolution, I guess what really brought you to the idea of, like, you know, social Gamification and health


care. Yeah, it's just something that we were doing at the time. I think that there were the fit that was new. We were the first company to use the Fitbit FBI. We worked really closely with them to integrate it. We also worked really closely with four square, which was really doing at the time. To like you could earn badges by checking in at the gym with your goals. So we had all these badges and was, you know, we were already spent so much time, you know, blogging and sort of like flicker and links and bookmarks like So this was like, Let's make it real. Let's make it something that's gonna actually make people's lives better. And we knew that there was something here.

There was been There were no, we were by far not the only ones in the space. There were dozens of other companies that were all trying to do this. All of us, you know, sort of like had this arc of some level of success and then sort of eventually run out of money and go into business because it's such a hard space. You have to eventually find a business model there. And the business model oftentimes relies on effectiveness, right? Like you know. But there's a problem there because effective health change means that you don't need the tool after you've succeeded in changing that thing. And so you lose your customers as they succeed. And also, there is this problem of, like, most things aren't effective.

So you lose them that way too. So it was a really, like, you know, provocative, enticing idea that, you know, is really hard to turn into a business. And everyone, you know, so many hundreds of startups have thrown themselves against the cliffs, like solving something. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we were just one of those?


Yeah, and then I guess, like, I hated like, I don't want this to be like a blast from the past, but, like, at peak, like, how did you guys do or like, how was the social Gamification, you know, taken well, Do you have any stories of, like, you know, people like, I guess, like getting really, really healthy with health


month? Yes. So there were lots of success stories. We found that like there will always be a percentage of users that succeed because they were already and it's hard to know if you cause it to succeed, but they just d'oh So there's a contingent of people that were just picking healthier and healthier over time. We were really popular because of the four square integration we really popular in Indonesia. And so they were just like all of these people that were sort of using the site just to get the badges. But, you know, in the meantime, very active and definitely participate a lot. It was really strange phenomenon, but I think the habits that were the most sort of successful were really sort of everyday habits, like going to the gym or drinking water or eating know a little bit better. And, you know, there was definitely a good size of people that would do that,

I would say so it was $5 a month. I think we're probably making between two and 4000 bucks a month, you know, So from that, you can sort of guess how many people were paying for it and then, like, there was also like people using it for free. But there was always this turn of, like, people coming in, people dropping off, and we raised money for it, which bought us some time. But ultimately we needed the numbers to be 10 times 100 times that and we couldn't get there. We could like to find the thing that was gonna retain people long enough that toe like allow the new people to start filling up the user size. And so that's what inspired us to,

like test another strategy which was more mobile based with budge, which was very much like basically using notifications more intensely to remind people about what to do and to let them check in with mobile and hoping that that would increase engagement. But then, yeah, we sort of run out of money right around then, so it sort of fell apart.


Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing. And this turn was like I was just, like, all organic, you know, like I seemed like some of them were just like users who didn't wantto, I guess continue using, you know, habit labs or like any of your products. But I also know you talked a little bit about, like, you know, that certain from people who, like, already post getting healthy or like Post, like hitting their goal like just stopping using you guys because they assume, like it was just like a,

you know, one time thing that after they reached they just, like, stop using are is there any other like turn that was, like, you know, a source of, like, you guys Not, I guess, getting enough people


to fill a phone. Yeah, So muscly challenge, you know, ends right. So you have to think of new reasons to to do a monthly challenge. And even my own use of this was once a year, so that was not an all year kind of thing. Whenever you focus on something this much, it's hard. And so if you find yourself paying for something that you've been like, stop doing the challenges, you're gonna leave. But that doesn't mean that that month wasn't valuable. That didn't change anything. So it's really hard to know people love the site. People really enjoyed it.

But like that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to keep them engaged to your round. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to I want to keep doing it so realistically. You know, if we got 500 new sign ups a month, but I'm not sure if that's accurate or not. And then, you know, 100 of them start paying for a month and then next month, 50 or 70 of them, you know, cancel then or actually wasn't that high. It was like 30% canceling every month. Then you would run out of pretty quick, like that, sort of the model. You could just map it out and then see that you got to change something in that final.

Yeah. And you know, I often times when we were talking with our investors at the time where it's like, you know, this is 1/2. This is, ah, research path that we're, you know, honestly, just like at the beginning of it would take a lot of veneration to get to the point where you know this is this is gonna be 10 times as big. And so you're basically funding a research project and you know, investors don't want to do that as much unless there's more sign of, like, huge potential, like what is special about this company that makes it seem like they're gonna succeed where the all the other ones aren't.

Because there were so many of them at the time. And yes. Oh, you honestly didn't even tried it. Well, that's not true. We did try to raise money again, had some trouble, and then eventually he just gave money back to our very like any French investors and close it


up. Yeah, And then, like, just like closing up like I know you guys like released like like Public Facing Web. And then what happened to, I guess did like was the same result with, like, budge and everything else. Like, Where's Jen? Now


if I could ask, I don't know where she is. I think she's working at a hardware startups somewhere last I heard, but I'm not positive, and we sold health months to a small like death shop in, I Think Canada, and he kept it running for another several years. I just looked at it recently, and it's been closed down, but that was that was and how many years now, 10 years ago, so it was a business. It was a small business you know, that could sustain itself with the really small team. If that's what you wanted to. D'oh! So we sort of just sold the parts returned element to the investors that we had left and budge.

We just We didn't do anything with that cause It barely launched and was even more infant in its infancy than health month. So, unfortunately, you know, the one thing we did do at the very end was we create a paper health app that you could print out and fold up and put your pocket called the hipster Habit app. Yeah, yeah, and that was like our swan song. Here's everything we know about habits. You don't need a nap. You could just put in your pocket and right on it. And you know, that's the open sourcing of sort of what we learned. And that's still up, actually. Hipster habit app dot com. I believe it's the Earl, and that's one of the most fond memories of that sort of a really tough time that


we had. Yeah, definitely. You have to try it out before you bringing you to like the status quo before, like we move on from like health month, I guess today, right? What do you think about the health? Or like, you know, like social gaming industry? Like if you're still following it like, are there any opportunity that you like from, like a consumer Web experience, like see, like opportunities like gamma Phi other sectors of, like, consumer behavior?


Yeah. You know, right now I'm a big fan of pellet on. I think, you know, they get, they get me defending. But they have just mastered the elements that matter. As faras game design goes, I don't think it's necessarily Gamification anymore. But I like the way that they use a number of days that you've got on the way that they sort of make it social by like you're in this class. But you're at home. They do shout outs for you could do high fives with people that are ready at the same time was view you consort of compete against yourself. Or you can compete against people that your your friends, even if you've, then you write at the different times. So I think Palatinate is just,

you know, a master class in how to do social gaming for health. You know, and it's a high price point, so it's not accessible to everyone. But just if you're just gonna study what kinds of things could work, and I think the head price is necessary because that's part of the business model and it's also a bike. So


it's Yeah, just like that,


Yeah, but yeah, I think they're doing creates. You know, I watched Fitbit and like, Apple Watch, but I think there's like this fatigue you hit when it's just about counting steps or just about Kanan calories or just about doing these things, there has to be like That's where the social element is so important to you have toe, make it about more than just sharing numbers with each other or trying to hit a number. And health is weird because you do go through cycles. So that's where I think all those startups, including my mind, struggled and continue to struggle that are here. There's a lot less of them now than there were 10 years ago, so they've got saying something


as well Yeah, I know, I know. I think if anything, like if I'm not stretching, I think like you guys. Or maybe like you know ahead of your time or like you guys were like the visionaries of, like, starting, you know, like this game design intact cause I know there's, like, a huge push for, like, good design and, like, I'll have a lot of it comes from games.

I know. I don't know if you're familiar with, like, superhuman, like the email up. But you know, Rahul, their founders like I'm a big fan of superhuman. Their mantra is like, you know, software designed like a game or like you just move faster and faster. But yeah, maybe. I think if you guys want a little bit later, maybe you would have, like, hit the wave


correctly. Yeah, yeah, it's all timing. And it's like where you are on the way for sure, and I've definitely been able to benefit from that luck a few times. It's just that, you know, it's you can't control it. You guys got, like, you know, find the timing that


works. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for being vulnerable. Habit lives Health month, etcetera. But moving forward, just like, you know, talking about your life story. This was like the time you did Twitter and then slack and then patriotic. You did like product for, like, all of these companies. And then, just like I guess I don't want to, like,

rehash the same question but like moving from, you know, being a founder for, like, several companies, Macleod, residents and other 43 things. What pulled you back to industry or like, what pulled you back into, like, working on product instead of, like, doing software?


Yeah. So, honestly, after habit labs folded, No, I started it with this promise like, Hey, if this doesn't work, I'm getting a real job, kind of. And that's what happened. So, you know, when it folded up, we're also in Seattle. My wife was not as much of a fan of Seattle shoots from New York and Philadelphia. She don't like the weather was like,

Okay, I'm gonna get a job with health insurance and I have a salary again. It's going to create, you know, I won't build it like work on my passion thing, but like we have a kid and so it's basically I'm gonna take a vacation from working, which it turned out to be because startups compared to just having a job you know, somewhere, even like Twitter is no so much easier to just work at a company and you get paid way more. You get to work with people. It's fun. And ultimately, you know, I spent 10 years, 15 years tryingto build a successful business. You know,

all of my money has come from just working at a company. So, like, you know, Amazon and Twitter and Slack. And I have all, like, you know, gone public and that that's just that's the easy way to make money, I guess versus So And I did end up enjoying the craft of product. Like I think it's such a interesting problem that never gets dull. Never. You never master it. So you're always learning and you don't have to deal with the things like pay stubs and taxes and all that shit. Yeah, it was simpler,

is more more pleasant and paid better. And how health insurance, which was helpful with a newborn. So but yeah, best honest part. And I found it that I didn't dislike it either. I ended up enjoying it and meeting great people and working on great things. It's just that it wasn't. And now here I am again, sort of working on Smell something? Yes. So this cycle happens where, you know, I think my happy place is working on small things with small groups of people with long periods of working on big things with lots of people to help sustain


it. Yeah, absolutely. You've done a great job of, like, say, going like either, like, consciously or unconsciously, just like singling me until, like, when? Next question. But yes. So you did a total of, like, sixes are like 56 years and,

you know, working on product. And then I guess you know where's 700? The words Did it come about like from, you know, people with you at patri on Or was this like, more


of a solo thing? Yeah. So, strangely, I started 750 words in 2009 is a website that I built on my own, you know, in, like, a week and lost it. And it was even before haven't labs. And so I was like, seven years is cool, but what if we applied that same idea Toe health And so that's what happened. Labs was strangely, some empty words has continued to grow for the last 10 years. It just turned 10 last month. And so it was an idea that came from even before Twitter slacker patri on and just continued toe hum in the background and make money.

And my wife, This has been like the community director and support person for a long time, and I've just been itching to just mean improve it. But the very concept of just, like, write three pages make it private. You could just get all your thoughts out, and I add like some like cool stats and word counts and distractions and badges and all these things that were part of health month, too, towards writing journaling. And it's really rewarding and doesn't need a lot of features. So that sort of lived for 10 years with very few new features just because it has enough. And, you know, I enjoyed journaling and enjoy writing, and it's always helped me as a tool.

So when it came time to like Okay, well, what are the things we could do to escape Tak es? No, this was one of the options. Other one being writing a book it. So I decided to both. And this is the first year that I'm actually focusing on this old project instead of other things.


Yeah, absolutely. Congratulations on, like, seven and few words, turning 10. I really love this idea of just, like, you know, writing three pages in a day and then, like, clearing the minder like gonna get the ideas flowing right today. I know, like, it's definitely something I would benefit from. Yes, So I guess I'm just very curious.

Like, I know this has been, you know, like, growing for like in the background, like coming in the background for, like, 10 years. I guess in that sense, like like, was the growth all organic like, You know, like friends, referring friends And like, did you do anything you know, within your product job like to, I guess, spread the word about like people getting onto every few


words there. No, it's been all organic, which is like a lot anomaly because I built so many of these sites that, you know, including ones that I just put all my heart and soul into that just still can't grow. So this was the super anomaly in the sensitive just kept growing like 3% a month for 10 years. And you did know marketing of Don't know nothing, No incentives to spread the word. There's no one to share things, really. And so now what's really exciting to me is like coming from another, you know, have 20 years of startup and product management experience. And there's so much low hanging fruit to d'oh that just like internationalizing at making up, making it faster, making it less buggy,

making it more pleasant in the on boarding. My my home page is just like a wall of text, so but I sort of enjoyed. That is Jakey, and I think that's part of the branding and part of the charm. So I don't want to, like, get rid of all that. But I know I just see it as like, Oh, wow, there's these like, little site that exists and it's sort of, you know, ugly and old and broken. But people like it so we can just meet. No, just fix some pieces of it and focus on it and just give it some love and see


what happens. Yeah, absolutely. You know, like I hate to look just like Claude you. It's like, you know, it is constant phrase, but like, I think the idea is like, actually beautiful. Like, I was gonna go over to Brown for, like, rhetoric or like, creative writing. My parents like,

we're definitely not for that. So now I'm here, but yeah, I think, like, definitely something like I could benefit from, I guess I don't want to, you know, grill you about your numbers here because I'm not gonna give you any money. Would, like, Do you have, like, I guess constant people like coming back, I guess. Like I wanted,

like, just, like shoot for the future here. But where do you see 7 50 words going? I know you, like, talked about, like how you love it, Like, kind of being Jaenke like, Is there, like anything that you're gonna do to, like, we're finance or, like, keep that, like, I guess, essence there.


Yeah. So talked about how the retention and churning of people you know, health month was just not sustainable. Sympathy words is the opposite, right? Like, there are, like, 33 people that I see right now that it wrote today that have been writing every day for 3000 days. Wow, Esso. Almost the entire life, Uh, the product. And then there's like always from every single milestone from a, you know, three days to 10 days toe,

30 days, 205 101,000, 2000 people just keep on writing because it's so rewarding once you start doing it. And so I don't lose people. We know that all the hurdle is signing up, I think, and then because I you know, I put a lot of obstacles in front of you to sign up. But then once you're there, you know there's no reason to stop. Anyone could build the site in a week, but for some reason nobody has. And so it still exists. But yeah, I think there's just something about the simplicity of it that brings people back as far as like, where do I see it in the future?

I mean, my goal is just to, you know, sort of give it some love. I'm gonna spend all of 2020 working on this and try to double it in terms of users and see if that's possible. I think simple things that internationalizing it's because there's a lot of people in other parts of the world that are using it that don't know English that are still using the site a mobile app. I never thought it was gonna be the case that people will want to write some 150 words on the phone, but it's definitely the case that people do this. And I wrote a good chunk of my book on my phone, so I know that it can happen, and I don't really support that today. So that's another easy one. And just making it work better for schools, work better for groups, work better for, you know,

I also want to make it cheaper for people that can't afford it to that kind of stuff. So there's a lot of these 100 ideas that you know are not even controversial. They're just things that would need to be done. So I'm rebuilding it from the bottom up, just like I wanted to look the same, but not exactly what I want to function very similarly, but just work faster. No, the browsers could do so much more now than they could 10 years ago. You know, things like storing things in the browser. All the advancements with Java script in that cast off. So just all that stuff is on the plate. But I'm not gonna try to like, you know, turn it into a multibillion dollar business. Anything inside this is that this is still a family business, and I don't want to hire people. You see, there


just continue no 3% growth month over one's for like, you know, the next 10 years or something. Yeah, absolutely. I think that's like it's a noble cause. And like, I think, like I'm definitely going to get on 70 words over this and like, hopefully I can write for the next 10 years, I guess. Just like bridging the two right? But any tangible lessons, you know, like I know you talked a little bit about like, churn, but like, is there any tangible lesson from habit Labs? Budge, etcetera, that you want to apply to 780 words.


Not raising money, not hiring a cofounder? Not really. Oh, God, let's go Scaling all the thing. I mean, I think the worst part of all of this has been the mistakes I made by Listen to veces tell me what I needed to dio like And it all starts with just say, Oh, I want to raise somebody Just look around a race a couple $100,000 Well, that invites, you know, random strangers with lots of money


for people to get in the round.


BIA, I think. OK, well, in order to do that, you got a business person as a CEO in order that and I have all this money, you know, higher and hiding it like we're gonna be marketing and all this pressure that ultimately takes you away from just building a good product. And so I'm done with that aspect of building businesses personally, not because I think it's 100% bad, but it's just not for me anymore. And I'm just like anything I could do to keep it small, scrappy and sort of independent. And, you know, I have my own sort of aesthetic and ideals embedded in there as much as possible without the pressure


to please invest. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Wow. There's gonna be a spicy episode.


Yes, I have lots of spicy thoughts in that


direction. We'll see. I don't know if any of those thoughts should be, like anywhere public, but yeah, definitely. Yeah. So, like the final question that I have, I guess, Like I've been trying this concept with, like, another of other people that have, like, talk to you. But, you know,

going from, you know, Buster era are like circa, you know, 11 4010 you know, like doing having love just like really being heads down. Are there any words? You know, like you've now like working on habit like we're, you know, working on like, 7 50 words and just like taking this growth by growth. Is there anything you would say, too? You know, founders and like yourself still,

you know, in the trenches and, like working whether or not they be successful where they're not like, you know, their companies, like, pre shut down or something. Are there any, like, any tips or like, any advice that you would tell people?


Oh, my gosh. I mean, it could be a Knauer on that easily. The hardest thing about starting a company is the fact that you're gonna be highly motivated to ignore the problems. It's just a saying like, fake it till you make it you know, move fast, break things, that kind of stuff where we are just given permission to ignore the obvious problems. And it's never worked out well for me in terms of just like, because you end up doing things that eventually the problem is gonna become unavoidable and it's gonna destroy you. So, like, try to understand the pieces that are going into it and find the simplest path too. Something sustainable that you can find. It doesn't have to have the things that you see in other places.

It could just just look at it from first principles. And so Okay, well, why would someone use this? What are they doing now? Is that it? How do I stuff? And it's sort of like introduced them to this better thing and what they would be willing to pay for it. A switch, because it's that simple. Is that in terms of just like you gotta replace something in their lives with something better, and then you go out and test that immediately so you don't need to do a three month, you know, sort of vision quest in the desert, or you don't have to, you know,

raised money first, hire people just like do the paper thing, do the interviews and find that nugget that's like, got some golden it, in terms of has something valuable that people want and are already doing in less sensitive, pleasant ways and something that I could help improve. So just be realistic on that on that front, because it's easy to get swept up in the glory of startups of products and making a $1,000,000,000 creates a big blind spot for you that it will eventually come. Reckoning has time for reckoning will eventually come. And I just see this, you know, it's so easy to fall down that and I've done the multiple times, so it's hard to avoid that willful blindness. But that's what I would have told myself back then, Sort of what I've been focusing on with confident of biases and systems thinking and first principles, thinking is like, just be honest with yourself. Look for the thing you don't want to see. That's gonna be a problem with your


own. Yeah, Wow, what a great message to end. You know, I hope we've brought people back or, like one people's favor back after you like you talked about. You know, your spicy thoughts about PC, huh? Yeah. Are there, You know, anything that you love, Thio plug, Or like any way that our listeners could like, you know,

reach out to you like anything on Twitter. I know. We've definitely, like, done a little bit about talking about the book. People should get the book you should definitely get. Look,


yeah. Resonates buster benson dot com my web site with the book and lots of other weird projects at Buster on Twitter. I'm also on Facebook and instagram Easy to find on Internet. And don't feel afraid to reach out If you have questions anyone can reach out And And also happy to give your listeners, like, free months of some empty words too, If you want to add a link to that s something Absolutely. Yeah,


yeah, definitely. Reach out the buster If you're looking for, you know, spicy thoughts about V


C, I I was just the tip of the iceberg.


We're gonna have another conversation, you know, like non recorded. Just like two hours about what we think about BC. Thank you so much for being on the podcast bus there. I really had a great time. I hope you did too. Thank


you so much for listening. Yeah, Thanks, friend. Writing me this great.


Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Hilary podcast. I've been Brendan Handle Co. And once more I'd like to thank our friends over at referral Hero for making this podcast episode possible. If you're looking to grow your business organically through word of mouth, make sure to check out their tool that allow you to create and grow a referral program within minutes. More than 7000 companies are using it already generating over 30 million leads. And now you can get it to for 20% off with decode fail ary to zero. Try it now for 14 days without any cost at referral. Hero dot com.

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