Highlights of my conversation with Jared Armstrong
- Internal collaboration tools
- Inbox Zero
- Providing a product that presents exactly the features, exactly the complexity that is needed for the specific business that is using it
Subscribe to Episode 4 of Cloud Stories on iTunes:
Heather: Hello Jared.
Jared: How’s it going?
Heather: Good, thanks. Thank you very much for coming on the show today. I’m really looking forward to talking to you and hearing more about your product and what you’re doing in the business ecosystem at the moment but what I’d first like to ask about is:
Jared, who is your favourite superhero and why?
Jared: My favourite superhero, that’s an interesting question. To be honest, I think recently it’s probably been Batman. I think the recent movies that have come out really made that whole story really relatable and realistic. Personally, I’ve never really been a huge fan of the fantasy stars or superheroes. I much more enjoyed real world, someone that’s actually potentially possible.
Heather: Fair enough.
Are you looking forward to the Ben Affleck movie with Batman?
Jared: To be honest, not really. I preferred the last year. I thought they finished it off pretty well. But yes, not too sure how the new ones are going to go.
Heather: Yes, that seems to be some, I guess, talk about it. I think Ben Affleck always gets that unfortunately, poor guy, so good looking.
Jared: Yes, he’s a good actor as well. I like a lot of his other movies. I’m not sure how he will go with a superhero though.
Heather: I think he has the good looking actor’s curse.
Ooops – its seems technology failed me – and part of a very interesting interview was lost here – I’ll blame it on my learning curve for this new podcasting world – I will get Jared back on the show soon – to fill in these gaps!
Jared, can you share with us what your business does?
Jared: MinuteDock is online time tracking software. Essentially it’s built for any small business that has a time component as a key part of their business. So for a lot of consultants, freelancers, lawyers, book keepers, etcetera. Obviously they need to track their time and bill it, and MinuteDock allows them to do that in a really easy way, and really simply get invoices into their accounting system and send off to their customers.
When and why did you start MinuteDock?
Jared: MinuteDock was started in mid-2009, and there were originally three of us who made it. What we were at the time was we were software consultants and we were selling our souls for an hourly rate and tracking our time, adding all the details of what we worked on, and being Kiwis we also were on to this new great thing called Xero for our accounting.
Heather: Very good.
Jared: Xero doesn’t have time tracking in their product so we thought, “Okay, we just need a basic tool to track our time and get it into Xero.” It sort of grew from there really. We added a whole bunch of other features and worked for around that time-tracking problem to really make tracking time and keeping track of your targets and budgets for clients and customers. It’s really easy and really seamless.
So you built it out of necessity for your own needs.
Jared: That’s right. We solved our own problems. Obviously the old classic case of scratching your own itch in terms of building a product, and that worked really well for us for the longest while. These days though we’re working full time on MinuteDock rather than consulting, so we aren’t necessarily billing our time but we still track our time and keep track of where it’s all going. So that using MinuteDock , the old saying of dog food, you need the product that you build, so we still get good use of it but obviously we’re building it for a different audience than ourselves these days. So that’s definitely a change in approach in our way of going about things than when we first started.
What platform is MinuteDock built on?
Jared: From a technical side of things, the software is written in Ruby on Rails which is a software framework. It came out of … I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Basecamp, the project management software.
Jared: It was probably 2005 or 2006 maybe that it came out of Basecamp and grew from there. It’s pretty big these days. It’s been around for ten years I think. It’s very popular. We built the software on that and in terms of where we host the product, the servers are using Amazon’s infrastructure.
Jared: Amazon web services. That’s the same host and setup that Netflix, for example, uses to host all their servers and stream all their content.
Heather: Excellent. What technical skills did you Jared have prior to starting MinuteDock?
Jared: All three of us were web guys. We’d been building websites and web products before. Personally I’ve been building websites since I was about ten years old, adding app-like functionality to them and things like that. Coming into building a software product for businesses, which MinuteDock is, that was the next step from … the software I previously worked on was more consumer-focused rather than business-focused. But yes, we had all been building websites and apps before. We were just applying the skills that we already had into a different context.
Heather: It seems that New Zealand’s software development community is very about building business solutions rather than perhaps social media solutions. So that’s interesting that you say that you evolved to build a business solution.
Jared: To a certain extent. That’s a really good point actually because if we think about it, one of the challenges of building consumer-focused products is that consumers, as a general rule, are less willing to depart with their hard-earned money.
Heather: Yes, absolutely.
Jared: The value proposition isn’t quite as clear to the consumer mindset as it is for the business mindset obviously where if something is adding value to your business, then it’s worth most or a little under the value that it’s creating, right?
Jared: It’s really easy to sell to businesses. On the other hand it’s very difficult to sell to consumers. But that being said, there are consumer social network products around start-up by New Zealand guys and there’s a product called Letterboxd which is a tool where you can track which movies you’re watching or you want to watch and write reviews. It’s almost like a …
Heather: And people pay for it?
Jared: People pay. It’s a freemium service. Some people will pay, some people don’t, but I definitely don’t think it’s making a huge amount of money. But the idea I think is to get to a decent scale of users using it. It’s only got about 150,000 people on it at the moment but they’re really looking to expand internationally and that’s probably, I guess, one of the constraining things about New Zealand is that we are kind of on the other side of the world really in terms of consumer products. Really the big markets are the US and Europe. We’re quite a way away and sort of competing with players who are actually operating from that market is really, really difficult, especially when we have much, much lower funding opportunities here than overseas.
Heather: Yes. Yes. In a conversation I had with Rod Drury, and I don’t want to take him out of context, but it was something along the lines of ‘small business community is the first level and the largest level of a group of people who are prepared to actually pay for something’. When you’re online, the normal person isn’t ready to pay for something and that next level is the small business community and they’re the ones who are ready to pay for something so it does make a lot of sense to … if you think along that line, that seems to make a lot of sense to build a business solution.
Jared: Yes. I think it really comes down to whether or not you’re in a business mindset, right? Like, there are still small businesses who operate in more of that consumer mindset where they are thinking, “Actually this thing is costing me five dollars a month. I’m going to go and spend three hours of my time to do it free instead.” Whereas obviously that just doesn’t make sense, right? That’s a very consumer mindset approach to thinking about costs.
Heather: Yes, yes. You’re very right.
Jared: Essentially if you’re valuing your time as free then you’re not really thinking about it as a business.
Heather: Yes, absolutely. I know, me, I operate as a freelancer, and I have loads of the add-on solutions. I sit down and I use MinuteDock , and I sit down and workout even … I’ll pull another one out as an example, Timely does some online booking management solution which when you book the session with me you used, and I figured if that just saves me five minutes of booking a meeting with someone, it’s actually paid for itself and everything else is a bonus.
Jared: Exactly and the back and forth that saved in terms of figuring out a time is definitely worth five minutes for me and you, right?
Heather: Yes and it’s time and it’s time zone and it’s like all of those things but definitely that’s a really interesting way … I perhaps hadn’t articulated it as consumer business but thinking like a business owner, definitely.
Jared: Exactly. That’s still a challenge that a lot of freelancers struggle to move away from, that consumer way of thinking, thinking like a business is actually not something that just happens naturally to all the people. Sometimes it takes some kind of learning the hard way and realising actually how much time I’m I spending or if just spent 20 bucks that’s going to save me a whole bunch of time and effort.
Heather: Yes, and maybe that’s something that they find when they work with a business coach or something like that, but hopefully listening to these sorts of shows and spending time looking at the eco-system they’ll realise that it is an education level that needs to flow out there.
Jared, what’s the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
Jared: Personally, I cover pretty much all areas of the business. I’m a software developer. I do customer support, staff sales, staff … things like this. I get my hands dirty in pretty much every role in the business. To me that’s actually really quite rewarding because it gives you a good understanding of essentially the whole business. You definitely feel that what you’re doing really makes sense and is working when you think about it in the context of every different part of the business and the way that it all works.
Other than that, one of the other great things is talking to customers and when they give feedback or when you hear things that aren’t quite working for them and you can solve their problem for them, that’s also really great as well. That’s one of the reasons why I think pretty much everyone who is involved in the business should be taking some role in the customer support side of things, because getting of customers is really what running a business is about. Unless you’re actually talking to customers and understanding where they’re coming from, then it’s really hard to apply that to actually growing the business.
Heather: Yes, absolutely. I think that you hear about these people developing software solutions and they want to perfect it before they actually talk to the customer and that sometimes doesn’t work. I know that other people then sell the solution, like they go out on this crowd sourcing sites and actually sell the solution before they’ve even developed it, and you do definitely need to know.
Jared: Yes, it’s that old saying that no battle plan survives first contact of the enemy, right?
Jared: That applies to products as well. I think the great thing is that it’s so easy to create a product, create a really simple version first and test it out with people as you’re building it and get their feedback. That’s the way to build software these days is – it’s not to go and get a whole bunch of money, sit in a cave and build it and then launch it.
Jared: It’s actually to work with customers, to figure out actually what do they need.
Heather: Yes, and you see the successful ones are both listening to the customers and then really adapting and evolving quickly when the customers come back and say, “Can you do this and can you do this, that etcetera?”
Jared: Yes. One of the things about that is you’ve got to be careful about it. You can’t just go and say, “Oh yes, we’ll go and add that,” to every single thing that a customer asks. But what you do see is different people wording things in different ways and if you drill down to why you’re talking to them about what is their situation, what are they trying to achieve out of what they’re asking for, you can combine across a whole bunch of different pieces of customer feedback and come up with an approach to implementing a feature or something that solves their problem in a way that is really simple and causes less issues than, for example, just going and adding a feature and then finding out that that’s actually not what they wanted at all. That’s only what that person wanted not what everyone else wanted.
Heather: Yes. I completely agree with you on that as well, yes. You don’t want to bow to everyone. Many people in the professional services have this mantra, ‘sell packages, charge what you are worth’ not the time you spend on the project. What do you say to them?
Can your product be of benefit to those sorts of people who have flown with that sort of thoughts?
Jared: In terms of the concept of selling packages rather than time, personally I think … it depends on whether or not you can reliably create packages that you’re going to trust that you are not going to be selling yourself short. One of the things about time is that when you’re selling … and again this depends on who you sell to. I’d find that consumers rather than the businesses tend to do this more often. When you quote someone in terms of time, the mindset really changes to ‘what is my time worth?’ and then they justify what you are charging based on what they think their own time is worth to do the same job.
Often times they significantly underestimate what that time is worth and therefore they think that if you’re charging 100 bucks an hour or 80 bucks an hour for a trades person, they think that’s an off this planet rip-off, where actually that’s probably pretty reasonable if you think about all the cost of doing business that that trade person has and the fact that obviously that the person hiring the trades person doesn’t know how to do the role either. I think like selling packages, if you can do that, is a great way of changing the framing of the cost from how much time am I buying to actually what value am I getting out of what I am paying for?
In terms of actually being able to do that, what you really want to do is make sure you’re tracking how much time you’re actually spending because, really, time is what the cost is to you, at least in the simplest terms. Your cost is how much time you spent to generate the revenue that you’re getting from the customer. So keeping track of actually how much time you’re spending across various jobs or various products that you’re selling and various customers is actually very important, even if you’re not selling it in terms of you’re not pricing them by the hour to what the customer is paying, you still want to be able to track that internally and get those reports and that visibility. Tracking that time is critical.
Jared: For MinuteDock, one of the ways you can do that is you can apply various tags or projects to every time entry that you’re tracking. You can go and report on whether or not this type of product is taking … how long it’s taken for each customer. You can track goals in terms of you’ve sold a package to a customer and you expect it to take you about 20 hours, you can set up a goal and keep track of how you’re progressing along that so that you can be aware or alerted really early on whether or not you’re probably spending too much time or too little time. Of course when you’re selling a package you want to really make the time that you’re spending efficient because the less time that you spend, means you are making more money.
Jared: Having that progress indicator to say “I’m almost finished,” but I’ve only spent two hours and I’ve sold them the equivalent of 30 hours of work and that’s a great deal for you.
Heather: Yes, absolutely.
Jared: That’s the best place to be in.
Heather: I hear people say they’ve moved to the value add package services and then they just lose all track of time about what’s involved with that. Especially when you’re managing a larger team, you really want all of the team members to be docking their time so you’re aware of what’s going on because if person A takes ten times as long as person B to do the same task, you need to understand why that’s happening.
Heather: Excellent. Your business is based in Wellington at the very bottom of New Zealand’s north island.
What’s the internet connection like for you there?
Jared: Pretty good. Actually I have 200 megabit fibre, so it’s probably better than yours.
Heather: Yes, probably. I think everything is better than mine in that place.
Jared: Yes. We got fibre in the middle of this year. Before that we were on the ADSL which wasn’t too good because the copper lines are pretty old but now that we’ve got fibre we’re pretty much living in the future, so it’s really cool.
Do other people around you have that or is just you specifically?
Jared: The New Zealand government is rolling out fibre connectivity across the country. They’re aiming to get about 70% of the country connected up in the next few years. A significant portion of Wellington and Auckland and Christchurch and a whole bunch of other regions are connected. It really depends on which street you’re on and if they’ve laid the fibre there yet and then you can get it connected up.
How have you funded MinuteDock? Have you bootstrapped or used venture capital?
Jared: Yep. MinuteDock is fully bootstrapped. At the start we built it, we put it out there, we worked on it part time for free, we let it grow and then over the years it has continued to grow and it’s been able to hire us to do work on it. Yes, so fully bootstrapped, built entirely off the revenues that it generates.
What marketing difficulties does a software solution face because I think you are one of the very first Xero add-on solutions, weren’t you?
What marketing difficulties do you face?
Jared: One of the big challenges is that an individual customer for MinuteDock is not worth thousands and thousands of dollars and that makes it a real challenge to market direct to those guys via direct marketing campaigns or even online advertising because some of our competitors make more money per customer and they can out bid us to the point where we just can’t justify the cost to get a click. That’s a real challenge particularly for software products targeting small businesses. Most of MinuteDock’s businesses are in the realms of kind of 1 to 10, 1 to 15 employees, whereas a lot of our competitors are targeting businesses worth 50 to 200 plus employees and they are paying a hell of a lot more money and they could spend a lot more in terms of search rating those search volumes and that search traffic for Google ads or various advertising networks on the web. With MinuteDock , what we did was we figured that out pretty quick when we were still planning and not really getting a lot of returns. We doubled down and focused on the partner relation channel, the likes of Xero and QuickBooks, etcetera, and we worked closely with those guys to essentially add value to their eco-system and as a result they pushed their users into MinuteDock and the other add-ons that they partner with as well. That’s essentially our main channel alongside word of mouth basically is how MinuteDock does its marketing.
Do you find the reviews on the Xero community helpful?
Jared: Yes. I think the reviews are pretty helpful. I think one of the things is though that reviews you’ve got take with a grain of salt because you’re either going to get a five star or a one star review, right? People are either really happy or are really, really unhappy are the ones that are going to write reviews, so people that are pretty content, they’re not going to be so enthused either way to go and spend the time to go write a review.
We find that you’ve still got to take everything with a big grain of salt but definitely the review system for Xero particularly with their new add-on directory which actually displays the number of reviews and the average rating on your listing, that’s been really helpful for us because that makes us stand out from the other guys. We’ve got about 80 reviews with a five star average and I think our closest competitor in our category has got about 10 or 12 reviews.
Jared: We stand out quite a bit.
Heather: Well, if you’re liking MinuteDock , while you listen to the rest of this interview, please go and review and give Jared a five star rating so he stays up there.
How do you contend with selling a product to a global market and working through different time zones and cultures?
Jared: Time zones, they can sometimes be a challenge but other than the U.K which is probably the exact opposite time zone to New Zealand, it’s probably the biggest challenge because you pretty much get like an hour overlap during the day which can sometimes be frustrating for customers when they send a simple support query but it takes about eight hours to get a response back. That’s definitely a challenge.
At the moment we don’t really deal with that other than trying to get back to them as quick as possible when we see their support query sitting there when we get up in the morning. But in the future, we’d would probably look at getting part time customer support help in a few different spots around the world, and they can do it all online and just get back to people when we’re asleep over here.
Jared: Other than that obviously there are a few cultural differences, things like date formatting, that can sometimes be a challenge. Things like the starts of the week. Most western countries generally think the start of the business week is Monday to Sunday, so Monday to Friday are work days and Saturdays and Sundays are the weekend but in some other countries, I think it’s Israel it might be that actually Monday or one of those weekdays is a public holiday every week and Saturday is a work day or something like that.
Jared: You’ve got to be really careful when you’re building features and you’re assuming certain cultures or behaviours about what customers are going to do, when if it’s a global product then quite rightly they come back and say, “Actually, this doesn’t really make sense for us.” That can definitely be a challenge sometimes. So just keeping that in mind as you’re building this up.
Heather: Yes, it’s interesting about the business days and understanding the different business days. I hadn’t actually thought of that before.
Jared: Yes. We also get comments from people saying, ‘Well, look , I’m self-employed and personally I take my weekends on Monday and Sunday instead of Saturday.” There things like that and perhaps they’ve got … perhaps on a Saturday or something, maybe someone takes the kids to sports all day so they spend that day working, that type of thing. That’s something to keep in mind too is that people’s … in this day and age, the concept of everything being standard across everyone is not necessarily true. Everything is a lot more flexible and open to different ways of doing things.
Heather: Yes, absolutely. I worked in Singapore and I started a real job … like a real job at a real company, and I’d been working there for about six weeks and one of the ladies came up to me and she goes, “Heather, why do you never come in on a Saturday?’ I was like, “What are you talking about?” Apparently they work six days a week rather than five days a week and I just didn’t realise.
Jared: Yes, things like that can definitely cause issues.
Heather: Yes. I was just like “Really? We’re coming in on a Saturday, are we?” Anyway I started coming in on a Saturday.
Jared: The other thing in terms of being a global product is obviously of pricing. With MinuteDock
we have New Zealand dollar price and US dollar price for our international customers. A New Zealand dollar price adds GST on as well but we actually get quite a few comments from people asking for local pricing rather than just standard US dollar pricing, comments like the credit card currency conversion fees and things like that. That’s something that we are continuing to look at.
Unfortunately from a technical perspective, the options in New Zealand for payment gateways are pretty limited at the moment. Hopefully next year there’s going to be some big international players coming from the US into the New Zealand market.
Heather: Which ones are they?
Jared: Stripe and Braintree.
Jared: They’re actually already in Australia. They just haven’t quite jumped over the ditch yet.
Heather: I’ll bring them when I visit next. Yes, that’s interesting but it is an on-going issue and I know that, as someone who pays for multiple add-ons, I’ve got them coming in in all different currencies all the time and so what I’m paying is just constantly changing as well because of multi-currency differences.
Jared: That’s right.
What’s on the development roadmap for MinuteDock Jared?
Jared: A few things. We’re still working on getting a native iPhone app out. That’s something we’re going to try and finish over the Christmas period and get out early next year.
Heather: Well you need to take a break on Christmas unless you can get the elves to do …
Jared: I actually already took a holiday and spent a month in the US just a couple of months ago actually. I thought it was probably a bit rich to try and take another holiday over Christmas.
Heather: You’ll be working with Santa to develop presents for the MinuteDock users.
Jared: That’s right, maybe not on Christmas Day, I might be a bit too full from food but yes. We’ve also got a whole bunch of things we’re working on. We get a lot of people wanting to use MinuteDock but they don’t. Rather than invoicing customers, they often have people they need to do payroll for, so it might be relatively simple business but they have contractors and they need to run a payroll run for those contractors or even their own internal hourly staff.
So we’re looking at doing a similar thing that we do with the invoicing side of things. With the invoicing we like to attach on to products like Xero and QuickBooks which do invoicing and accounts receivables sort of work flows really well, so we just focus on the time tracking side of things. We’re going to do a similar thing with payroll in the sense that we basically just hook up with Xero payroll in Australia or Zen Payroll, etcetera, and just connect up and send their data in so they can …
Heather: Into their time sheets?
Jared: Yes, exactly. Have employees track their time in the same way that they do at the moment but it just seamlessly goes into their payroll system if they don’t need to do invoicing, or even if they do do invoicing as well oftentimes.
Heather: Okay, so you think you could actually have it record the time, record that I’ve worked three hours in the morning and have it both go to my timesheet and go to an invoice, to invoice out to a client?
Jared: Yes. Often with a lot of businesses there’s the internal cost, which is the cost of the employee and there is also the cost you charge the customer, right? At the moment we’ve focused on the external charge out to customers with the invoicing workflow, but it’s a pretty simple step to give the option to push that same data into your payroll system.
To be clear MinuteDock isn’t trying to be a payroll tool. We’re trying to be the time tracking tool and we’re just connecting up with a different type of system which you can push that data into. That’s the great thing about software these days, is that you can focus on a certain type of problem and connect up with your other systems to solve or specialise in different problems. They are full of data talking to all the other systems; you can combine a best in class collection of software products to solve your whole workflow.
Jared: Writing various things, keeping track of that, which again in my experience, I’ve found that people generally try to use one or the other. Either they use Google Docs or they use Dropbox with Word documents. Personally my recommendation would be to take a look at Google Drive and use the Google Docs features because they’re really just great for collaborating with other people in terms of writing and working on spreadsheets, things like that.
You don’t get as much flexibility in just customizing how they look and feel. It’s probably not as ideal for external client facing documents since they’re a word doc but for internal stuff, I entirely recommend it. It’s fantastic.
Heather: Excellent. Thank you very much for that.
Any other tools you’re keen to share? If not, no worries.
Heather: Gmail, yes.
Jared: Gmail is critical at least for me. It’s such a fantastic email client. I know people that use the various desktop clients, the mail app and things like that but Gmail is by far in a way the very best email client that I’ve used. One of the things actually that I do is I use a system called Inbox Xero. I’m not sure if you’ve heard that. Basically the idea is that you treat each email in the inbox as almost a “to do” item. When you’re done with it, when it doesn’t require your action as the next thing, you archive it.
The goal is to essentially have your inbox entirely empty and every time someone responds or you do something again, it sort of pops back into your inbox and you can deal with it. In terms of work flow hack, especially when you’re wearing lots of different hats and working on lots of different things, that’s a really useful way of working with your email.
Heather: Yes, that’s what I do. That’s exactly the solution I do. I didn’t know it had a special name but it always amazes me when I go and sit with a client and they’ve got like 4,000 emails and I’m like going, “My goodness, you’ve got 4,000 things on your “to do” list.” It’s actually never really registered but maybe they just aren’t deleting or archiving them.
Jared: The main thing for me is not missing emails. I guess every now and then you perhaps accidentally archive one that you shouldn’t have but for me at least, even if it’s a couple of weeks late because the inbox is so full, at least someone’s going to get a response that I haven’t forgotten about it. Whereas people that don’t archive their email, if they don’t just answer it right away, they’re never going to see it again.
Heather: Yes, exactly. Absolutely. I find all my absolutely high priority important stuffs always ends up in the spam box and those drives me insane, I’m always kind of going … checking through the spam box just in case.
Jared: One of the other tools from a more technical perspective, one of the other tools that we use is an online product called Raygun. It’s actually built by another Wellington business. Basically what that does is that hooks into the MinuteDock code base and it detects if there’s ever any bugs or errors. It sends us out an email and it keeps track of it all so that right away we know if something’s crashed on the site, someone has done something and it hasn’t worked, we can go and look into it and deal with it. That’s really, really useful.
Heather: That’s amazing. It’s amazing how it would work that out. That sounds like a complicated program. I’ve just got a few more questions for you Jared. This is a question that Peter Thiel, one of the senior investors in Xero asks when he looks to investing companies, so I’ve just seen this report that this is a question he asked so I thought I’d ask you it.
What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on? It’s a bit of a hard question.
Jared: It is a hard question. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently is coming back to what I was saying earlier about where MinuteDock is currently targeted in the size of it and what our ideal customer is. Obviously talking about one of the downsides of that is that smaller businesses are almost by definition that they’re going to want a pay less. Obviously that makes it harder to target and grow and scale the business.
One of the most commonly believed things in this offer is that it’s really important to focus on who your target market is in terms in making that product for them. So the product for a small business is not going to be the same product for a larger business.
One of the things that I’ve been really thinking about these days is … because of growing MinuteDock is how we can provide a product in a feature set that works really well for everyone. It basically comes down to the product having to almost change itself based on who the customer is. Most people that I talk to say, “Well, this is going to be really hard. If you go and build all these features that target larger businesses, you’re going to alienate the smaller businesses.”
Personally what I’ve been thinking, I’m beginning to believe at the moment is that it is actually possible to go in, have the product almost define itself and build itself based on who that customer is in a really seamless way. That’s especially true with the data you can get, for example, from Xero in terms of what type of industry they’re in and things like that, in terms of initially priming the product to fit the audience at a time. Obviously that’s a really challenging thing and I haven’t quite figured exactly how we’re going to do it yet. But that’s one of the things we’re looking at working on.
So you’re kind of suggesting ecosystem for MinuteDock?
Jared: No, not really. I’m sort of suggesting that MinuteDock, as a product, it adjusts itself to its complexity and features based on the business that’s using it without complicating either one, either size business. So, for example, a smaller business doesn’t even know that there are these more advanced features and therefore it doesn’t impact what they think about the product. One of the things that generally happens is if you’re using a product … there’s almost two schools of thought, one is just throw every feature in there and have a really complicated and complex user interface.
Jared: And when you’re using things like that, you’ll think, “Okay, I’m actually only using about 10% of this product, so it’s actually not for me. I’m going to go and find something else.” That’s kind of what you want to avoid. You want to be able to provide a feature set that works for a range of businesses without actually impacting the perception or the perceived complexity for businesses that don’t use some of those features.
So in an ideal world, the product would present exactly the features, exactly the complexity that is needed for the specific business that is using it. That’s something that I think is a potential solution to the problem of, “Well, how do you create a product that works for a wide range of businesses without impacting the user experience?” Most people tell me that in terms of creating an ideal user experience, it’s very, very difficult and not possible to do that. But I think that potentially it is going to be possible and that’s what we’re looking to try and do at some point in the next year or so.
Heather: That sounds very impressive. I look forward to something like that coming out in the next year or so. That sounds like a lot of time will be committed to that.
Heather: So, I’d like to leave you with one final question, Jared. I have a 17 year old son and I think you’ve kind of touched on what you were doing at school, etc., in terms of learning how to code and self-driven learning.
What advice would you give to just a 17 year old who’s about to leave high school, who wants to be the next Jared Armstrong? What should they do to get to that point at the quickest but to have the knowledge on board that they need?
Jared: In terms of the old saying, “There’s two best times to climb a tree, one was twenty years ago and the second best is today.” The first thing is obviously in terms of learning, it’s a lifelong process. You never stop learning, so the best time you can start is today.
The great thing is that these days there are so many resources available for people to go and learn about business, about technology, about programming. There are the online universities, there’s Coursera.org which has a whole bunch of universities, lectures and courses you can go through and learn. There’s skillshare.com where people made short video series about various things. There’s great series on sort of marketing, business and all that sort of stuff.
There are just fantastic resources available to go and learn these days and I think it’s really changing the way people think about education. I think in the next 10 years or next 20 years, the idea of what we think of as a schooling system, will be really different because I think self-directed learning and sort of tutors helping out and pushing people along is going to be the way … the predominant way people learn.
In terms of where to go from there, if you can find the topic that you’re interested in. Come up with something you want to work on, kind of like a project. I think having a project that is interesting is just so critical in terms of motivating yourself to go and learn because most people like to learn to solve a problem. That’s at least how I’ve always learnt is I have a problem, how do I solve this, go and invest a bunch of time figuring it out. Coming out with a hobby project or a hobby problem to work on is probably really important. Yeah.
Heather: That’s excellent. I really appreciate that response and I agree with what you’re saying there. As I’m about to possibly, potentially have a massive university degree cost land on us, it is questionable the way people need to learn going forward and there is so much high quality yet very free learning. Certainly with the self-directed learning and pulling a project … a hobby together is a good way to go.
Jared: Just on that, one of my personal thoughts on the university system in general is that universities are great for getting theoretical foundation, theoretical direction in terms of where to learn. But unless you actually apply yourself outside of that theoretical element, actually applying yourself on real world problems, what ends up happening is you end up coming out of university without any real world practical experience and you’re almost at step one.
One of my recommendations for people going through universities, obviously I did my computer science type things is … especially for computer science majors is to not just … don’t just go to university and don’t just think that that’s what you need to do, you need go and actually apply yourself and apply what you’re learning. Go and learn beyond what they’re teaching you. Go and take that as a road map and go figure out other things as well because as I said before, there’s so much resource available, not just for computing degrees but almost every degree these days.
You can go and get so much information and go and get so much experience with people, the blogs that they’re writing are just fantastic. Just make sure you go and apply yourself outside of the actual degree and course.
Given your time again, would you still go with your computer science degree?
Jared: Yes, I think so. Looking back when I was 18 and going to university, I think obviously doing that was the right choice. I probably would have done a few things differently. Maybe would have spent a little more time studying but I think everyone probably feels that way in hindsight at least. I think the time taking that path was really important in terms of getting the road map in terms of what’s important.
Heather: Yeah, excellent. Thank you so much for sharing all of your thoughts today with us. I’m sure our listeners have learnt so much from you and gained so much from the session today. If they haven’t tried out MinuteDock, please go and try out MinuteDock and if you have tried out MinuteDock, tell your friend about it because I think it’s a fabulous product and I really appreciate your time today, Jared.
Jared: Well, thanks very much. I really appreciate the opportunity to come on.
Heather: No worries. Cheers.
Jared: Cool, thank you.
- MinuteDock https://minutedock.com/
- Xero https://www.xero.com
- Google Docs https://docs.google.com
- Gmail https://mail.google.com/
- Google Drive https://drive.google.com/
- Raygun https://raygun.io/features
- Letterboxd http://letterboxd.com
- Timely http://www.GetTimely.com
- Stripe https://stripe.com/
- Braintree https://www.braintreepayments.com
- Coursera https://www.coursera.org/
- Dropbox https://www.DropBox.com