E158 Michael Novotny: Creator @ Side Product Led Growth for Startups

Episode 158 June 06, 2022 00:28:28
E158 Michael Novotny: Creator @ Side Product Led Growth for Startups
NoCode Wealth
E158 Michael Novotny: Creator @ Side Product Led Growth for Startups
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Michael Novotny is the creator of Side Product Led Growth for Startups, a studio to build and grow your startup fast, the creator of Side Project Stack which gives makers free recommendations of which no-code tools to use, and of The Learn Side Project allowing founders to Build and Launch a Digital Business Without Code.

His Twitter: @michaeljnovotny 

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Episode Transcript

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:16 Once upon a time, there were 10s of 1000s of makers struggling. Every day they built for hours and hours but didn't chip and didn't earn enough income. One day, the no code wealth podcast came to help them find a way because of this, makers became founders and live the lives they deserve. Because of that, founders live lives of abundance, freedom, and creativity. That's what I'm really all about. Hello, my name is Aziz and from being a poor boy born to a single mother in North Africa, to failing multiple startups, yet learning a whole lot to barely escaping alive the war in Ukraine, even living as an illegal immigrant. I've lost everything twice. And now, I'm rebuilding my life one more time. 1% a day, sharing the wisdom of luminaries I'm interviewed on this podcast from Google executives to Amazon, Microsoft, Forbes, Technology Council, Harvard, Financial Times, and even a priest from the Vatican church. Everyone is welcome, here. So let's begin. My guest today is Michael Novotny. Michael is the creator of side project stack, which gives makers free recommendations of which no code tools to use, and of the lean side project, allowing founders to build and launch a digital business without code as well as product and build.com. helping startups grow with no code. Michael, how are you today? Michael Novotny 2:11 I'm doing great. Thank you so much for that intro. That's amazing. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 2:15 It's my privilege, my honor. And my good luck to have you here. And to begin this conversation. I'm curious about what you're up to these days and a more personal and emotional and psychological level like, is there something that you've been working on that is taking all your time and passion? Is there an insight that you've realized that you're focusing on trying to put into action more into your life? Is there something that demands your attention and thought, again, and again, and again? Michael Novotny 2:53 Yeah, well, great question. So I guess two things can come to mind. While life has been completely different today than it was about 100 days ago, and it was about 100 days ago that I quit my job, my well paying job, and to go into entrepreneurship full time, I have a family and I give support. So it's been stressful nerve racking. The reason why that I've done that is because I the to the randomness of Twitter, and the serendipity of Twitter, I sent out a tweet in the fall, asking, and just telling the Twitter world that I'd be happy to help startups grow. And in popped my DMs, a CEO of a startup Thredbo, based in based in India, and Prasad and I connected and he had a vision for helping his startup grow. And it turns out that I could help him with that vision. And so since since I've quit my job, almost 100 days ago today, I'm now working with five startups and just rapidly growing and helping startups grow by a new, a new strategy called decide product lead growth, which leverages no code and is really in you know, in tapping a lot of value for startups. And so I'm I'm still figuring things out and in building a new life in this entrepreneurship, I've got a lot to learn. It's been very stressful and I've been very overwhelmed but encouragement and the folks and community here on Twitter and then also just even have conversations with you. Have tools just been, you know, super encouraging. helpful. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 4:31 Thank you. That's very interesting. So tell me Twitter, three things. One. How do you deal with that? sapping of energy or I don't know how to explain it when you're constantly checking Twitter, checking the news, checking the new postings, or new the new tweets and the new comments and all that stuff. That sometimes doesn't allow you to have the tranquility that comes from there you were you're disconnected. That's one. And second, did Twitter like you mentioned something that makes me think Twitter change your life? Do you feel everybody should be active there? Do you recommend posting? Or how did you go about it? Is it more about commenting? What was your strategy? Maybe someone listening can open doors in the same way you have by following your footsteps? Michael Novotny 5:28 Yeah, absolutely. So a couple of things that impact there. And I guess I'd start with just a philosophy, a principle that I've learned, which is, the universe responds, when you ship things, when you put things out into the world and universe response. The problem, though, is that if you haven't started engaging with people on Twitter, or in some space, it doesn't have to be Twitter, wherever the people are hanging out that whatever you're interested in is, if you haven't engaged with them prior to shipping, that first thing, you could get actually what I call like a false negative, which is nobody responds to your post or whatever you shipped out into the world. And so then you think that it sucks, and you think that nobody cares about it, when actually when and when actually, you haven't strengthened and built up, you know, some type of distribution path, which is what Twitter and any social media is, is basically connecting you to, to users or customers for who need your your thing that you're building. And so that, you know, if I were to kind of summarize just my biggest lesson with Twitter, because I've grown from, you know, just a few dozen Twitter followers to now over 5000, in the past year and a half or two, you know, two years now, which is not a I don't think it's a rocket ship of like 100,000 followers in a year, I'd send a crazy viral story like that, but I've just been steadily engaging with people. And what I do have is like, really authentic relationships with hundreds of people. And I, to me, I think that what gets lost is like, the vanity of total Twitter account. But what you can't see is, what's the value? What's the number of real authentic relationships that you have? Through Twitter. And so that's going to be a subset of your total follower count. But to me, that's more important, because it's what those actual relationships are, from helping people first and engaging with them. whether it just be commenting and telling them, Hey, I liked that thing that you made, or this is cool, or I'd love to learn more asking a question. It's, it's not about Twitter threads. It's not about it, of course, it's about engagement and consistent engagement. But it's really about just building relationships, like you would face to face with somebody. That's not sexy, because it takes time. But it's what I've used over a period of two years to build what I feel like is a really solid foundation. And it's it's just the hard work of, of engaging with people and doing the quality job of of trying to help people. And then when you do ship something out to the world. And as you continuously ship, then some magic happens. And that's what that's kind of in a nutshell, what my story is, is basically I've been been doing and helping for two years building an audience. And because I put that tweet out there in the fall, that opportunity was there, available and I was ready for the opportunity. You know, so many times opportunity comes opportunity doesn't care. Who's there to take it. It's just going to in for you, though you'd like to take in have that opportunity. And the way you need to do that is by just giving a little bit of value to folks through Twitter every day. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 8:40 Thank you. Yes, opportunity is, as the saying goes, like meeting preparation. And let me play the devil's advocate a little bit, which is this. You mentioned that you can get false negative by going and like speaking about something or whatever, on Twitter, and you don't get that engagement and all that. But let me say it in a different way. Does Twitter truly get you connected with prospects or people who you can serve? Or is it connecting you actually with people who are on the same journey? Who will be good to open doors as collaboration partners, rather than the customers that you can serve? Because also this is a different kind of false feedback, which is getting other people who are makers or I know you're serving makers with with the thing you do, but I'm speaking in general where makers will ask the opinion of other makers on their app, rather than the actual customers who will use it. What are your thoughts about this? Michael Novotny 9:51 Yeah, absolutely. That's a great question. And quite simply, you have to as a product builder, listen twice in the way I would listen twice as What advice or what feedback are you getting? And then the second way is who are you getting it from? Right? And so you have to make a judgment call on, okay? Is this maker who is are they an actual user or customer, and, or could be a potential user or customer, because you want to listen to people who would actually pay you money for the thing that you're building, not the people who just give you advice on Twitter, which could steer you the wrong way. And I've made that mistake. And so the beautiful thing about no code, but also just the trap of no code is you can build anything, and you can do it quickly. So the problem is, is there's temptation is to build really big, but if you can just build one kind of single feature app, build something small, and then kind of put it out there in the world to start getting some feedback. And then listen twice to see who is actually giving that feedback. But then also watch to see what do people what are the actions people take. And so before we're in product management, and building things, we've trained so much to listen for feedback, which is vitally important. But what happens is, is that in the reason why is because you'd have to build a prototype, well, now you can build a fully functioning app. And so what you can start doing more of now that you have an advantage, which is a much higher level of fidelity of feedback, is basically what do people do? I don't care what you say, I care what you do, do you pay for the thing, that's the ultimate, really, the only way you can validate something is do people sign up and activate use it or pay for that thing. And what's great about no code is now you can skip the prototype phase go straight to building something that is the actual product. But I would caution you and one of the things that I do is I work with startups, and I talk with hundreds of makers, you know, through the weeks and the months and the years is you're missing a valuable opportunity if you just tried to build your whole vision. And if it takes you months and months, you need to just try to build something as quickly as you can, within a week or two, whatever that part is, and then became the listen and look for those validation feedback loops. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 12:10 Thank you actually, it reminds me of what one of the My Favorite entrepreneurial thinkers said was Dan Sullivan, he said, the difference between a good idea and a bad idea is simply are people willing to pay for it, which is true, because sometimes you can be too early, too late, too low priority on their pain and problems list. And all that as well as what you're speaking about, which is like the Lean Startup model is actually two when it comes to even being productive. When you create the design your own workflow, and you design your own ideal day, and then you'll find this absolutely unrealistic. It's much better to do something, notice what is working and what isn't. Do more of what works, eliminate what doesn't work, which is exactly what you said, fails forward, fail fast, create a prototype as small of an MVP as quickly as possible and let the actual paying customers tell you what to do, where to go, how to grow and pivot. And I love this topic. Do you have any more comments or advice for makers, since you're speaking to many about it? frequently? Michael Novotny 13:30 Yeah, absolutely. I just like to add to thanks. And I think that is why I was so compelled to write the lean side project. And basically, to summarize, it is kind of a modern way to build that I've noticed from hundreds of successful makers, not just building products, but actual businesses. And it's a it's a it's a guide, it's an it's a, it's a database of products built with no code that's for non technical founders from non technical founders who have generated millions of dollars in revenue. And the reason why I wrote this is because I launched a start up in 2016. And I failed, and that hurt. And I spent a year building this thing. But I missed a valuable feedback loop. And I think is first time makers, we folk, you know, one of my favorite quotes is from Justin Khan, who's the founder of Twitch, which was acquired by Amazon for almost a billion dollars. And he said that, you know, first time founders focus on and first time folk founders focused on the product, second time founders focused on distribution. And so the key lesson for me was is that you have to be building up distribution, an audience or community for the first 100,000 users or customers of your thing. And then also building with no code. So when the lean startup was written, and I think it was published back, you know, over 10 years ago, is no code wasn't really a thing. Right? And also, the game of social media. The way in which we interact today is drastically different today than it was 10 years ago. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everything is saturated today. So how do you rise above the noise? How do you stand out? And how do you build in public and build an audience while you're building the thing that you're doing. And what I noticed and documented from hundreds of makers is there's actually some things, some trends that I noticed that many of the successful makers were doing. So then I wrote a wrote the book, The Lean SOP project, just documenting what successes they were having, and how they did it. But to summarize, it's, it's basically, you know, two things is building with no code helps make that iteration feedback loop even even faster, which gives you a competitive advantage. And then also understanding like, when you build something out, you're actually missing out on two things by over building, you're in building too big of a vision, you're missing out on your first 100 to 1000 users and customers would actually prefer that your product isn't fully created, because then they can give feedback they can use, you can discover how do I make something that's really valuable for just a small subset of people. And then those people will be your evangelists, those people will give you the feedback, those people will also give me an indication that what you're solving is high enough on their pain point list, and that they would actually pay money for. And then you can also then once you kind of establish that first single feature, you know, of your app or ARB, your vision, you can always build from there and listen to your users. You know, I interviewed James Davenport as his Twitter of user loop and as a SAS built with no code. And one of the things that was so profound and interesting from his success was that when he started, his product was not what it is today. So his product is basically allowing people, Shopify users to easily get feedback and reviews from the products they sell on Shopify. The problem is, is that we as makers and founders, we see his endpoint or where his current point is, but we don't ever really see his starting point. And when I talked to him, his starting point was just putting, selling, and not really selling, but just providing a single feature, use case of putting a link in an email to allow, you know, Shopify, or any type of E commerce, businesses to get feedback. And so from there, he was able to then actually get users and customers to talk to him about what they really needed, which is what he then built by building an app and in product on top of Shopify, and then that's what gave him his first users, his first 510 users. And then he was able to then use that as a way to get testimonials and to build authority. And when he was doing and also validated along the way of, of some people were really willing to pay for his product. And now his product is primarily based off of, you know, getting feedback for Shopify users, and serving that segment really, really well. And so I would just, you know, can't emphasize enough like, starting as small as you can think, like single feature app, and starting as small as you can, is, is such a competitive advantage. And then, and then learning how to leverage that as you go along your way and tell your story to get your first, you know, 10 100 and 1000, users and customers. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 18:23 Thank you. It's in theory, and I understand that that's the right way to go about things. But I believe there are two extremes or two sides of like limiting beliefs or mental obstacles that not they don't allow makers to follow that strategy. One of them is, well, when you spend the year or six months or whatever developing your ideal project without realising it. They have hope, all throughout that time, while facing failure makes them feel rejection on a daily basis, or constantly, which is painful, and it kills the ego in many ways. So that's one side. And for you, well, how do you open yourself up or give advice to makers in order to be okay with failure, okay, with rejection, okay with those temporary setbacks. And the second, which is you said, focus on a small feature or a small thing. A lot of makers have this fantasy that they want to build either a really big unicorn business or something that's much, much bigger than what you're speaking about. So how do you temper that and bring it back into reality? Rather than staying in fantasy thinking, Oh, I will have this both lifestyle business but it employs like 20 people and makes a million dollars a year and all that. Michael Novotny 19:55 Yeah, great question. So I'll start from the ending. Go go back to you. to the first question, there's two questions there. So one is, you know, what am I, one of my favorite makers and builders and public is KP, and I was talking with him once. And we've we've worked together and helped each other just on giving, you know, talking about different things we're building, and we have a relationship that goes back a few years. And back when we had zero follower counts, and we're just trying to figure things out and making him still making lots of mistakes, but learning and we've just tried to apply those learnings. And one of the things he said that really stuck out to me was, you know, a lot of a lot of builders focus on building this billion dollar startup and are trying to build like a massive business, instead of why not build something that is, like small, like a campfire, where you can be much more intimate, you can then start much smaller and get make more progress and in in learn from what you know, people are doing, because as you're building something that's really big, you know, what happens is that you lose the ability, and it's much harder to see the noise, you know, in the forest, you know, in the in between the forest and the trees. And so when you when you kind of just have that operating point, what happens is that, you have just kind of one viewpoint of how to build something, which is like this venture scale company, and you don't realize that actually, there's lots of successes with small bootstrap companies. And just because you have a bootstrap company, doesn't mean it can't turn into a venture scale company. I mean, look at MailChimp, for example, is a perfect example, like, they started as a bootstrap side project and turned into, you know, a billion dollar empire that everybody knows around the world that recently sold for billions of dollars. And so I think what, what you can do what you want the advantage of is it starting small, and building like just a campfire, instead of like trying to build like this larger infrastructure from day one is that a campfire, and you can always grow into something bigger. But if you start with a large kind of building, you can't go backwards, and, and, and go into something smaller. And so the principle behind that is that you're missing out on opportunities and tactics, that you can leverage that are necessary for you not to have to take on millions of dollars in funding at the beginning. And you're missing out on an opportunity to gain a tremendous amount of leverage. If you have a working product. If you have business customers in revenue running and going in, it'll allow you to stay in control of your vision, your products that allow you to execute on your timeline, and allow you to have leverage at the negotiation table, if you decide you want to take on venture capital, you can still achieve all the things that you want to do a billion dollar startup. But what why not start small, to help you validate things a lot faster, and nobody needs to know your full vision, right? Like, you can just kind of keep that to yourself. And as a visionary, it's actually your responsibility to keep that vision to yourself and give that vision only when you need it to help grow your product. And so people aren't, don't know where you're going. But if you just start small, you can always still grow to that. And and you can also reduce the risk of building something that fails. You know, the people say that 90% of startups fail. Well, why is that? Like? Is it just because, you know, they're, you know, there's lots of reasons, right? Just because it's a, you know, a bad idea, wrong time, or not enough pain point, or whatever. But how, what, what what I don't ever see is a reason why. And that I know is a reason why is that people take on funding and investments. And that fails a start up, right? And so what percentage of that 90% fail because of that reason, right? And so why not eliminate that from the equation and grow at a pace and learn at a pace that you're that you're comfortable with. And because you can build with no code, you can then build something in much less time and build it out. In get those get that validation before maybe you take on some angel investing or before your you can, you know, save up enough money to kind of build it, build it yourself. And so that's why I think like, the game is changing why no code is such a differentiator is that because you can leverage this in totally flips the script on? How do you have to build when I watched my startup, I thought that venture scale was the only way to build a startup. And what I didn't understand was just as David Pearl talks about is understanding the quiet successes of bootstrap companies and what are they do to kind of start small and then that way you as a founder, when you like to have the opportunity to choose between this lifestyle business or continuing the pursuit of you know, ever Interest scale company. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 25:00 Thank you. That's very interesting. And it's a perfect segue to, for you to introduce what is product and build.com? How can makers benefit from it? Where can they learn more? And I will make sure of course, right your Twitter in the description so people can discover everything that you're working on? Michael Novotny 25:23 Yeah, absolutely. So I think a couple things that I sharing and learning is, I think for makers, the best thing to help them build a digital business is to is to go out and ship something, right? And start and start shipping that but I also feel like, Hey, if you want to help learn from others, and understand what are the things that people have done, that's helped them increase the odds of their success, the lean side project and side project stack, those those assets are helpful in doing that, with product and build, I help startups grow by by building small side products, and a call side product lead growth. And many people are familiar with product lead growth. But I, sensually help with the help of some input from some friends from Kp and from others, decided to coin the term side product like growth, because of what I'm experiencing with startups and helping them grow. And so with no code, I'm building small, single feature apps, and launching those for startups so that they can give value to their core user base, and allow them to then neither have gain awareness for their startup, and then eventually become users and customers or their startup. An example of that is everyone's familiar with social media scheduling app tool called Buffer, they launched an app called Pablo. And what that did was, it basically allowed social media managers to create Canvas style type of Instagram posts or or social media content for free. And so they launched this and gained hundreds of 1000s of page views and 1000s of users and signups for their main product. And the interesting thing is that it's based off the same principle of building your own startup building your own bootstrap business. And it's basically just applied to the lens of startups who are further along the journey. How can they leverage, you know, no code and building small apps to help give value and then grow their business. And if you're interested in checking out more about that, you know, I'm on Twitter and Michael J Novotny, you can follow me there and get access basically, to all the things you talked about. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 27:41 Thank you, Michael. This was a truly enriching conversation. I personally got a lot of insights from what you shared, reinforcing some very useful ideas. And I wish you to keep going. And I wish you a wonderful day. Michael Novotny 27:59 Great. Thank you so much for having me. I hope that was helpful. We'd love to share more and we'd love to, you know, engage with everybody in Twitter in the community, whether it's through DMS or on Twitter, and I'm happy to help

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