"I almost gave up on my business"...Find Out What Made Him Stay – with Dan Norris

Dan Norris, co-founder of WP Curve, a 24 hour WordPress support company has had an interesting past. Having graduated from university with an HR degree, he had a cushy job in corporate Australia, but he quit that job to go freelance. After a series of failed business ideas, Dan struck on the idea of a 24 hour WordPress support company which has gone from strength to strength.

In This Interview You’ll Learn...

  • 01:14  How Dan started out quitting his job in corporate Australia
  • 09:04  Why Dan got out of his failing businesses
  • 20:12  Why it’s important for Dan to launch his new ideas quickly
  • 23:44  Why his latest business idea is proving to be successful
  • 27:19  The value of having a partner
  • 33:20  The impact of having a family

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 Show Notes

 

Podcast transcript:

Andy: Welcome everyone to another episode of Starting
from Nothing – the Foundation podcast. Today we have with us Dan
Norris on the show.
Dan is the co-founder of WP Curve, a company that gives
entrepreneurs access to a live WordPress developer 24/7. WP Curve
is less than a year old and has been profitable since day one but
Dan’s journey hasn’t been an easy one. In 2006 he left a cushy
corporate job to start a web design company and six years later
found himself burnout and need of cash to support his family. Today
you’re going to hear about the changes Dan had to make to provide
for his family and launch a successful business at the same time.
Dan, thanks for coming on the show today.
Dan: Thanks for having me. I didn’t know you knew so
much about me.
Andy: We do our research over here. (Laughs)
How old were you when you quit your job?
Dan: Twenty-six. I think I’ve worked for … I’d only work
for four years at beginning I think.
Andy: Yeah?
Dan: I got ten different jobs before [inaudible 00:01:22]
manage to get a new job every six months and … yeah. I don’t
know. I wasn’t too bad as an employee, it was fun. I kept changing
but I always want to start a business. I just kind of left. I got a
permission and then like two weeks or something later I just kind of
left.
Andy: So, you’re 26 when you start your job and did you
have a family then or were you on your own or where were you at
that?
Dan: No, I didn’t have a family. I think I … let me see. I
probably should know these numbers pretty well but [Jodie
00:01:54] is six years old. I think I was 28, 27 when we had kids but
I … I was married I think or close to married and we had a
mortgage.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: We had about half a million dollar mortgage at the
time.
Andy: Oh, wow. A half a million dollar mortgage at 26.
Dan: Yeah. The stupid thing was we ended up selling the
house. I probably should have kept it but, yeah. My wife had a
pretty good income so I’ve … we kind of worked out how I could
do it and not have to worry an income for a little while. Although I
did income straight away but I at least had little bit of a safety net
where … like we wouldn’t be completely screwed if I didn’t have
an income for like three months or something.
Andy: So, three months was about the safety net though. So
you didn’t have like a … it wasn’t like a two-year safety net.
Dan: No. I pretty much had to have income straight away.
We just cut back on every expense and basically just had the
mortgage. Katie could pay it for a while but … I mean I had to start
earning income. Because I started a web design business and it was
services so … I mean I had no expenses and I started making money
from day one. I never made a lot of money but I was able to make
enough money that kind of …
Andy: Cool. Keep cash flow coming in.
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: What did you do in Corporate America?
Dan: Corporate Australia.
Andy: Corporate Australia. Yeah, what did you do in
Corporate Australia?
Dan: I did a lot of different things. I actually … I did a HR
degree at university which is strange in itself but I started in HR, I
lasted one year in that. I move in to another like project management
job and I’ve gotten to e-learning. E-learning was kind of new in
Australia at the time. Our organization … I work for a company that
have 15,000 employees and I’d spent multiple millions of dollars on
a learning management system. They needed someone to build their
online training courses and outsource them. I just kind of fell into
this … I kind of work my way into this position because it seem
more interesting than HR.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: I was responsible for basically all the e-learning,
managing all the projects with outsources. And I built a bunch of
them myself just for fun because now I’m almost really managing
me and I could do what I wanted.
Andy: So why did you quit your job?
Dan: Well, I think I always wanted to run my own business
so I think I was always going to quit eventually.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: It was just a matter of when. I’m not sure why I did it
when I did it. I’m always in a bit of a hurry. Once I make my mind
up about something I just do it.
Andy: Had you ran any other businesses ahead of time?
Dan: None.
Andy: Did you know how you’re going to make money and
start with the web design company? Like how you’re going to get
customers or …
Dan: I didn’t even know how to make websites. The first
thing I did was I went out and bought like a bunch of those teach
yourself books.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: You know like the Sams Teach Yourself. Teach
yourself JavaScript in 24 hours.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: And I’ll just like smack. Because I wasn’t a
developer either and I just like smash through these books and tried
to learn [inaudible 00:04:53]. On my first project I went for the
meeting with a friend of a friend and they’re like, “Oh, I want to
build this website in ASP,” and I’m like, “Okay, cool. It sounds
good.” I don’t even know what ASP … I knew what ASP was but I
had no idea like how to make it. I didn’t know how to use it. So then
I went out and bought the book on ASP, coded up this website. Oh
yeah. I was just starting as I was going.
Andy: How do you price something when you don’t know
what it is to sell?
Dan: I always shit at pricing. I mean I’m still shit at pricing
but I just made it up. The funny thing was like … I did some elearning
projects as well and some of those like I knew how to price
them because I worked on managing those projects for the big
company. I knew big companies paid like tens of thousands of
dollars for these e-learning courses.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: And I knew the stand up price was about $25,000 for
a 30-minute e-learning cost and so I just price it a half of that. I’m
like, well, I’ll just do it for like $10,000. I got a couple of those
projects and I could have just kept doing that but I just got really
bored with it. But it was like … it would have been a great business.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: I did one project. I did one $30,000 project I think in
like my first one or two years. And then I just shut all that down and
started doing … I was doing websites from the start and I just sort of
thought like that was something I could turn into a business whereas
e-learning was just kind of something that I was doing myself and I
couldn’t really get other people to do it for me.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: [inaudible 00:06:18] pricing … I was hopeless. I just
made it up. I just made with fixed price for everything because I
didn’t want to talk to customers about price.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: So, I think I just went with like a thousand dollars for
a website or $2,000 of [inaudible 00:06:29].
Andy: Something simple. It’s funny because that’s … at the
beginning that’s just how it works. You just throw something out
there and see what happens. You know?
Dan: Yeah. The thing is at the time, like, it was really
standard for people just to pay … the WordPress barely existed. I
think it was 2006 when I started. So WordPress barely existed. I was
using Joomla and that was, like, almost revolutionary at the time.
People weren’t using CMS’s. No one was building a site on CMS.
Every single client I got didn’t know what a CMS was and when I
built this site they were like blown away that this thing was like …
that they could use it themselves.
Andy: Mm-hmm.
Dan: And they were paying $5,000 for just a standard
HTML website so … I mean …
Andy: Man!
Dan: Yeah. It was easy enough for me to just say like I’ll
build you like a CMS one for two grand. It wasn’t hard for me to do
because … I wasn’t a coder anyway so it was actually probably easy
if made to build a Joomla site than it was to like code one from
scratch.
Andy: Yeah. Where did your first customer come from?
Dan: Well, that one I mentioned was my wife’s employer.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: I think actually my first customer was the guy I work
for at my first job which is where I met my wife. We work for HR
Consultancy.
Andy: Mm-hmm.
Dan: I knew he needed a website, he didn’t have one. I just
told him I know how to build website, which wasn’t really true. I
knew I could learn. I went to his office and took all these photos.
Look, I had no idea what I was doing. I took photos of his art and
stuff and … like coded up this. I learned how to do like JavaScript
drop down menus and coded up this HTML website with like this
crazy menus. It drove me nuts because I just … and it was all like
IE6 and I was having to test it in different browsers. [Inaudible
00:08:11]. But then I charged him a thousand bucks, it took me
months to do.
Andy: (Laughs) Oh, man. It’s funny if you ever go back to
the way back machine where you can see websites from 2002 or
whatever and you see some of the stuff you built. Like I used to
build websites in middle school. You can still find those and it’s like
crazy.
Dan: Yeah. Well, the thing is … I’m not a designer either.
Like I design the sites originally as well and so I had to learn all of
that. You can’t learn design. I did my best but I tried to make sites
really simple so that one I was like … It was so simple that it kind
of aged pretty well. It was live up until I think last year.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: And aged pretty well because I just didn’t really tried
to do anything fancy. It was just really simple and a few nice
pictures. So it wasn’t really that bad.
Andy: So why … why you get out of the website business?
Especially if you can do those big, learn … e-learning projects for
ten or 20 grand a pop.
Dan: The e-learning stuff I gave away because I didn’t
know how to make it into a business. I’ve always wanted to create a
business, I’ve never wanted to work for myself and I ended up
working for myself which is just not fun. And I didn’t make a lot of
money. I never made a lot of money with that business. I was just
working for myself.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: I had people working for me as well but it wasn’t a
real business. I wasn’t profitable.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: E-learning stuff will be really hard to make into a
business because like … To build one of these e-learning courses
you needed … you need to be a writer, you need to be an
instructional designer so you need to understand like adult education
and I had HR background. I’d learnt all these stuff. I’ve done a
whole bunch of research and written my own stuff around adult
learning. You needed to know flash programming so I taught myself
action script. I needed a product called Lectora which is what built
the training that integrate with the LMS. You needed to know
something called Scorm which is what communicates between the
e-learning.
It’s pretty specialized shit. These days I think you can probably just
get a program that does it but back then like I was coding it all from
scratch.
Andy: Oh, wow.
Dan: And so I had to get someone to do that. Like I would
have needed four or five different people.
Andy: Got it.
Dan: And still it’s just still not that good of business. It’s
just kind of project base. You don’t really know where the next
thing is coming from.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: It would have been all like Western stuff. I would
have made it like a writer and, you know. Even then it was kind of
before I knew anything about outsourcing. I just decide it was going
to be way too hard for me to turn into a good business.
Andy: So what did you do next?
Dan: Well, I shut down the e-learning side of the business.
I stopped doing anything regarding that and then I just did websites
and hosting. I tried to build up a stream of recurring revenue and I
really was just never able to. I did so much stuff. I bought another
company. I bought another company for like $40,000 that was …
Andy: What did you buy?
Dan: … that had like 40 clients.
Andy: A hosting company?
Dan: It was just a local … [inaudible 00:11:15] a company
like mine. It was a one man band who had like 40 clients in the local
area and he had good clients like schools, like car dealerships and
stuff like that.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: I just kind of thought like … that was one thing I
thought, like, I could just both add on. All of them were paying
recurrent fees for hosting and I thought I could just put them over to
my server which I was already paying for and that would just add
profit. But it just didn’t. I was never able to make a profit. I think I
… I earned 40 … I earned around about $40,000 wage for myself in
my first year and the same amount in my 7th year.
Andy: No way.
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: From this hosting company?
Dan: And every year in between. I just was not able to … I
was just not able to make more money than that and not able to …
Like what I really needed to do was get a team to do all the work.
There was just not enough profit there to do that so I kind of tried
everything else. I bought another site for $15,000 that was like …
turned it into a blog and it was ranking really well in Google. That
was good for leads but I just still … just still couldn’t make any
more money.
Andy: So you paid 40 grand.
Dan: So I eventually gave up.
Andy: You paid 40 grand for this host … like this web
company. Did you make money from the 40 grand you put into it?
Dan: Not really. I ended up selling my business after seven
years for about $80,000 I think.
Andy: Damn.
Dan: But if you consider like the 40 grand I’d already put
into it, I paid 15 for the site. I hadn’t really put my own money into
it but I had given up seven years of a really good income …
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: … to work for this business. I see it as a huge value.
It was good that I was able to sell it.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. We lost a lot of money. There’s no way I’m
going to work for seven years on something and sell it for 80 grand
again.
Andy: What did you do after you sold it? Why did you sell
it in the first place?
Dan: Well, I tried everything that I could to try and turn it
into what I wanted it to be and I just couldn’t. I mentioned those
things … I’ve signed a partnership agreement with another company
to merge together with them to basically [inaudible 00:13:22] do the
sales. Because I didn’t like doing the sales which is not good if you
… you know, basically a services business.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: A local services business. You really need to be good
at sales.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: And I hated it. So I signed a partnership agreement
with … Well, I didn’t sign it. I got very close to signing it so I was
going to merge with another company and like give them half of my
company. That fell through. I tried. I mean I just tried everything. I
tried everything. At one point I bought I think 200 different domain
names, turn them all into like lead generating sites to get more leads.
I had a local office, I hired a client manager, hired a developer. I
outsource to the Philippines. I tried everything.
Andy: Wow.
Dan: I just couldn’t make it work. Eventually I decided
like I was going to build something that will grow. Like the major
problem was just the inconsistency with that kind of business. Like
you just have no consistency of the income. One month it will be
good and next month it’ll just be horrible. It’s just horrible
[inaudible 00:14:24]. Yeah. I decided to sell it and then within a
month or so I was able to sell it.
Andy: What did you do afterwards?
Dan: Well, I started … I had an idea for this dashboard,
analytics dashboard which at the time I called Web Control Room.
Actually I had four ideas and I just … In hindsight they are all shit
ideas. This was the least shit. Like some of the other ones were so
shit that were just like … they’re impossible to make money from.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: And as it turns out this one was as well. Yeah. So I
just basically gave myself a year to build this product. I built that
and the same time I wrote lots and lots of content and tried to build
an email list because I had to start again from scratch. I gave away
all of my social media profiles and everything with the last business
so I kind of have to start.
Andy: Oh no. So you’re starting totally from scratch and
this is WP Curve?
Dan: No, not yet. So what happened was I started this Web
Control Room. I changed the name to formally … about six months
later. I could tell you all day but … It didn’t work. After 11 months I
was earning $476 in monthly revenue. Monthly recurring revenue. I
was paying $2,000 a month. So I burnt through all of the money and
I was … we’re like two weeks away from [inaudible 00:15:57] get a
job.
Andy: Oh, wow.
Dan: See, the other thing was I couldn’t go back into … I
couldn’t go back and build websites and do the same thing I did
before because I had this … this clause from selling the old business
that didn’t let me do that.
Andy: Had a non-compete in there.
Dan: Yeah. I really had no choice I had to … I mean
hardly going to get a job, I started looking for jobs. This was just
last year. This was in July last year or I was going to just try and
start something else. I started WP Curve about two weeks before I
just gone out of time. Like the end of the 12 months.
Andy: You sell your business, $80,000 payday. Comes with
the non-compete agreement. So you can’t go back to that business.
Try starting Informly or Web Control Room. Is that what you called
it?
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: You’re paying over two grand a month at least for 12
months making four …
Dan: More than that. I was paying more than that. I was
paying two grand a month by the end but at the start I was paying
more. I think I had like two or three developers at the start.
Andy: Oh wow.
Dan: I also … I don’t know what I spent … To be honest a
lot of the money I spent like was just personal expenses. We
couldn’t afford to live with just one income.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: With family. So a lot of that money just went to …
and we didn’t budget for anything because it was just … it was just
horrific fucking bad year.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. I don’t even know where that money went but
it just went. I knew I had, like, I knew I had 12 months because … I
kind of knew exactly how much I was spending each month and
how much was left.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: But I was spending about $2,000 a month just to ... I
got rid of one developer I gave. Have you had Jake Hower on your
show? I got him one of my developers.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. And then just scaled everything back.
Andy: Was that the developer that built his Fuzed app?
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: No way. That’s hilarious. So if you’re listening Jake
… I had Jake on … I don’t know, three months ago or so and he
talked about Fuzed app which is an integration between Wistia and
Office Autopilot. He told me the story of his friend was getting
ready to get rid of a developer who was a really, really solid
developer. It was like a grand a month or something and Jake’s like,
“Okay, well, here’s like a project you can try,” and within six weeks
he had like a real legit, solid, awesome business idea up and running
with customers.
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: It’s a great [inaudible 00:18:30].
Dan: Yeah. I had a bunch of good stuff. I had two really
good developers and now we’ve got more but … and I still got my
original one. Yeah, I just was … I couldn’t afford to keep him. The
more I was paying the short amount of time I had left to work
something out.
Andy: Dude …
Dan: But good for Jake. It’s good that he was able to get
some value out of it.
Andy: You’d been an entrepreneur for seven years, what
was it like searching for jobs?
Dan: It was fucking hor … Sorry. Am I allowed to swear
in this show?
Andy: It’s okay. It’s okay.
Dan: Yeah. No, it was horrible. The worst thing is like …
I’ve got a really weird mix of skills because I never stick with
anything very long.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: I know a little bit about everything but I don’t know a
lot about … The only real thing that I know a lot about is probably
like content marketing.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: There’s no really such thing as a content marketing
job. The only content marketing jobs are like in big companies. I
don’t really know that kind of content marketing because I’m just
not interested in big companies. Where I lived there’s no jobs
anyway because it’s like … it’s not really a city. It’s an hour to like
the proper city where there’s proper jobs. There are jobs here but
there was nothing like the kind of jobs I would get. Yeah. I don’t
know what would happen to me if I have to go back to get a job
after. Just working for myself for so long.
Andy: Oh my God! It’d be so tough.
Dan: Just like … just the failure and just the … I don’t
know. I don’t know what would happen. I wasn’t looking forward to
it.
Andy: You’re down to like your last couple of weeks and
looking at jobs and stuff. What happened then?
Dan: Well, I … I was trying to think of ideas. I’ve always
got hundreds of ideas; it’s just a matter of working out. In this case,
really, I needed something that I could build quickly. Since then
we’ve launched about three or four different ideas and we’ve done
the more within one week. That model seems to work for me
because it’s … you kind of just forget all the stuff that doesn’t
matter too much and you just do the stuff that does matter.
So like I put a thread up in a forum saying does anyone like this
idea? There were mixed result. Some people thought it was okay but
most people I thought didn’t think it was a very good idea. But I
wasn’t able to dwell on that for, like, weeks and debate it because …
I had to launch something. I just launched it anyway. It was just …
the ultimate minimum viable product.
I thought of the name, went on the weekend when I was like at this
farm with my kids. I went home, register the domain, put the site …
put like a dodgy WordPress site up. I think I paid $39 for a theme.
On Tuesday I sent an email out to my list and asked if they want to
sign up. I wanted it to be like really simple for people to understand
so I just said its unlimited small fixes for WordPress sites. We
operate 24/7. It was cheap. We’re $69 a month now. I think like that
first week it was $39 a month.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: It was ridiculous. It was ridiculously cheap. I think I
arrived at $49 a month and I gave a special deal to, like, people in
this forum for $39 a month or something. Yeah. I had no idea how I
was going to support it 24/7. I assume I’d just get enough clients
and then I would like hire someone [inaudible 00:22:02].
Andy: [inaudible 00:22:02]. Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. But until then I just found like a lot of chat
software. Actually I think I already had it. I already paid [inaudible
00:22:10] for the last business and then I worked at how to get it on
my phone. So like every now I’d go to sleep and I’d put my phone
like next to my head in case it buzzed. Yeah. Within the first week
we had ten customers I think and then every week since we’ve had
those kind of numbers sign up. Maybe a little bit less than that but
yeah.
Andy: How cool that you spend a year and you’re making
like $500 a month and then you have this one idea and you’re
making $400 a month. Boom! Just like that.
Dan: The funny thing is the number was exactly the same
so I’d spent a year getting to $476 in recurring revenue.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: And then I spend a week getting an additional $476
in recurring revenue.
Andy: I bet that felt good though.
Dan: Yeah. It was, like, I think I just knew. I knew from
the second that I launched that that it was going to be a real
business. The other stuff … I was really striving to … I’ve got an
idea in my head of what a real business is and what like my old
business was. I wanted to start a real business. I didn’t want to stuff
around with info products or launches. I do want to do project
consultancies, anything like that. Like I wanted to do something that
was a 100% recurring. Something that was in a really big market, it
was scalable. Something we could grow into something big and real.
Yeah. I knew this was going to be that from the first week we
launched it.
Andy: Nice. Why do you think this was different than what
you are working on before?
Dan: Well, I mean there’s a lot different about it. I think
the motivation for starting it like … I think I started it from a place
of … like how am I going to solve a problem that people are already
solving. So I had this huge audience of people but they didn’t really
… If I go back and think about it logically, they weren’t paying for
analytics. Google Analytics is free. So my audience weren’t paying
for analytics. They certainly weren’t paying for a dashboard to bring
the analytics charts together. Most of them probably didn’t even
know there was any such thing before I started the idea.
I think if you start a business where you’re not like solving a
problem that people already trying to solve and you’re not doing it
in a different way then it’s really, really hard to get them to pay for
it, you know? You’re trying to convince them that they need
something that they don’t think they need.
Whereas with WP Curve most of our clients are doing content
marketing, most of them use WordPress, most of them are
developers which means from time to time they’re going to have to
fix a problem on their site. They can either go to oDesk or
somewhere or they can go to an agency or whatever. They already
know they’re going to have to pay for it and they are already paying
for it. They’re probably not very happy with, like, the
responsiveness of their developer.
Andy: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of a pain getting somebody and
hiring them and managing them and all the above.
Dan: Well, yeah. All that just getting ripped off by their
agency who just have that business model that I used to have which
just doesn’t work well for the modern web. The way people work
their websites now that agency model just doesn’t work well.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: And a lot of people are still stuck in that. They’ve got
the agency there who paid them … either paid $5,000 to build the
site. Then when they need every little change they kind of have to
ask the agency who doesn’t want to do the little jobs.
Andy: Go and charges a hundred bucks an hour to do it.
Dan: Charges a hundred bucks an hour to add a fave icon
and then … yeah. It takes a week or two to do it. Meanwhile this
person is kind of waiting around, not doing any content.
Andy: Where did the idea come from?
Dan: I don’t think … To be honest I don’t think it is really
even an idea. I was doing … like in my last business I was doing
recurring monthly support so I was charging people I think $45 a
month and for that they got up to an hour’s worth of work. What I
learnt from that is that most people didn’t use the hour but they were
happy to pay for the hour because they wanted the support. But it
was a bit of a hard sell. I was never really able to sell that to
someone I hadn’t built a site for.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: If I was to build the site I would say, “Ah, by the
way, do you want this support?” then that was fine. But I wasn’t
able to sell it to new people because it wasn’t really that much of a
saleable thing. Whereas just making that little change to it where we
just make it unlimited and we just take that any question mark out of
the person’s mind where they’re kind of wondering how much
things are going to cost so how long they’ll take or when we’re
going to be available. We take all of that out of their brain and it just
becomes a case of whether or not they are happy to pay $69 a month
to have the problem solved.
Andy: That’s pretty nice. It’s like comfort knowing that
you’re just going to be taking care of no matter what is how it feels.
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: You used a partner in this business.
Dan: Eventually, yeah.
Andy: When did that happen and why?
Dan: I think I was live for about two weeks. I wrote a blog
post it’s called ‘Is startup validation bullshit?’ I’ll give you the link
to it because you can see him commenting in that post. The post did
really well. It was probably like the most popular post I’ve ever
written. It’s actually move now so you can’t tell with the shares and
stuff because the numbers are gone away but … I think … I had like
200 plus shares and I’ve had hundred comments from like really
well-known startup [inaudible 00:27:55] and stuff.
Anyway, I kind of wrote it out of frustration because I thought like
I’d tried every validation technique and none of them have work for
me. I wrote this post. He’d been following me for quite a while and
he email me a couple of times. He basically … I think in those
comment started a conversation with me and eventually convinced
me that he could solve the biggest problem that I was going to have
which is I was not able to operate 24/7. I was shit of running a
business by myself because I’ve tried and failed. So that’s how it
started.
Andy: At what point did he come on?
Dan: I think it was probably two weeks after I launched.
He’s an Aussie who, as it turns out, is also … also used to live in the
Gold Coast and also used to work for the same company I used to
work at. But I never met him and he just moved to the US. He
wasn’t able to work because he just moved. I think you need to wait
around for a couple of months for your Visa to come through.
Andy: Mm-hmm.
Dan: And he wanted to get into entrepreneurship so he
offered to work for me for free for two months. We decided working
together and … it became very obvious to me that this business was
going to be a lot better off with both of us.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: Much more than twice as good. From that point of
view it was a very easy decision for me to bring him on board as a
partner and we’re 50/50 partners. Yeah. And the business is going
better than my last one after seven months.
Andy: What’s it like building a business with a partner
versus on your own?
Dan: Well, I think it probably depends a lot on the partner.
It’s been very good for me. It’s been absolute game changer for me.
By the end of seven years working for yourself … a lot of that time
working like for yourself in your garage type of thing. It just sucks.
Just the bird and making all those decisions. Just second guessing
yourself all the time. My brain kind of flies around with crazy
thoughts all the time. Crazy business thoughts. [Inaudible 00:30:07]
killing people or anything. When it’s just me I’m like … I’ll just
change my mind all the time. I just don’t really have anyone to kind
of just say like let’s just do this. I’ve also got like … I’ve got a bit of
a weird skill set but there’s some things that are not … really not
very good at and most of those things are really important skills for
business owners to have. Networking sales face to face stuff I’m
pretty shit at.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: So I’ve always kind of known I needed a co-founder
but … Yeah. It’s been great. I mean Alex is great. It would probably
be very different. I was pretty close to signing an agreement with
this other company which I think would probably be pretty bad
because I don’t think we really got along that well. But Alex and I
get along really, really well.
Andy: Nice. Does he compliment where … Is he more
outgoing and better at selling or …
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: Yeah?
Dan: Yeah. He’s got all those skills that I don’t have but
then at the same time we have a lot in common that we kind of …
we’re able to have fun and joke around. We’re not like complete
opposites.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: It kind of sounds like a marriage, doesn’t it? It is a bit
like a marriage.
Andy: It is. It’s almost more intense than a marriage at
times, you know?
Dan: Yeah. It is more intense. Especially for the first like
six months. We were talking to each other. In many ways we still
are like literally just talking to each other all day every day.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: In the first few months we’ve got live chat app on our
phone. There were nights where I’d stay up so late that he’d be
waking up the next morning so I’d be up like 2:00 in the morning
when he woke up in the US. Then I’d, like, go to sleep for five to six
hours and then we just talk all day, again.
Andy: Mm-hmm.
Dan: Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s been fantastic but I could
definitely see that it could go bad if the match wasn’t right.
Andy: Yeah. Yeah, me too. I think you’re really right. I
think you nailed it like … the whole working alone is way over
glorified. You know? Like running your own business it’s just …
you get there and you’re like, “Man. This is just as bad as Corporate
America, Corporate Australia.”
Dan: It’s worse. In many ways it’s worse because … like I
never had a boss who busted my balls like I do.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: I have to work very hard [inaudible 00:32:28].
Andy: (Laughs)
Dan: I never had as much money.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: You don’t have that social contact either and I’m not
really that good at kind of going out and getting that.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: When it’s not forced on you like it isn’t a job.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. Working for yourself is hard and most people
who do it don’t have a lot of money because they don’t really
understand what a real business is. They kind of just go at and selfservices
and work for themselves but they find that they just …
they’re just not able to turn it into anything other than just a job.
Andy: Yeah. Just freelancing is the exact same thing as
having a job. And then all of a sudden you wake up and it’s
Wednesday and you’re like, I haven’t left the house yet this week.
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: This is like slightly depressing.
Dan: Yeah. Of course there are benefits. The flexibility
would have been … It would have been really hard for me to go
back and get a job especially with the flexibility. I don’t know how I
would go … having to go somewhere that I didn’t want to go to
every day. I don’t think I would be able to do that.
Andy: How important has having a family played in your
role for building a business and the motivation that you have to
build something?
Dan: Oh, it’s been … some good things and some very
difficult things.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: The pressure you put yourself under is certainly a lot
more. I put myself under a lot of pressure anyway but when you
have a small family and you start having to make decisions that you
wouldn’t want to make if you had more money.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: You feel horrible about yourself and you put yourself
under so much pressure. In a way that can be a good thing because
you end up creating something that you wouldn’t have created. So
this company wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t under that intense pressure
to create it.
It puts all kinds of pressures on you especially just the need to be so
many things to so many people. You know you’re not doing a very
good job of all of them and you try to manage that. Yeah. It hasn’t
been easy but there’s some nice things as well. I think … yeah. I
think when things are going well and I kind of feel like things are
starting to go well for us now that it will be all worthwhile but it’s
been a bit of a hard journey.
Andy: Oh yeah. It seems like it, you know? And that’s why
… we were talking in the beginning of this is, see, I love the stories
that people who are building stuff with the family on because it adds
such a completely different element. I’m 27, I’ve got myself to care
pretty much.
Dan: Yeah.
Andy: And so if I had to eat ramen noodles for a month or
two like I’m cool with it.
Dan: Yeah. It’s really probably not the best way to do it. I
probably haven’t done things in the best way. Like if you’re going
to tell someone the right way to do something it’s probably not quit
your job when you just got a promotion and you have no idea how
you’re going to make a business and it’s probably not sell a business
that is providing the family before starting one. That’s not making
any money at all. I don’t know. I kind of always had this underlying
confidence that I would work it out in the end and I did. It was just
very, very close to the end.
Andy: (Laughs) Yeah. It sounds like it’s happened a couple
of times where it comes down to the wire.
Dan: Yeah. Hopefully no more.
Andy: Tell me about the other companies that you have.
Because you got WP Curve which sounds like it’s going really,
really well right now and Informly which is still going on, tell me
about Content Club and Convert Press.
Dan: Yeah. We got a bunch of things on the go. Last year
we … we probably did too many things and me and Alex get excited
about things and I have a lot of ideas. If he likes one of my ideas …
I’ve got another one at the moment which I think is really good and
he likes it so well. Maybe we can build this out but we get too
distracted. We really should just be doing WP Curve. It’s fun. The
other stuff is fun especially the … because we do a weekly podcast
on startupchat.co.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: And we have a community, a paid community and I
love that. We talk to some amazing people and we love doing that
stuff.
Convert Press is landing pages and opt-in forums for WordPress.
We launched that in one week just to to do that seven-day startup
thing again as a bit of an experiment. I love doing that stuff as well.
I love the developing plugins and the software side which would not
really get to do with WP Curve. A lot of the other stuff we’re doing
is more for fun than anything else. Informly is still going and it still
got … I think it probably does about $1500 a month in recurring
revenue.
Andy: Nice.
Dan: But I think we’re up to 12,000 or 13,000 with the rest
of it. It’s really like … it’s mostly WP Curve and we just need to
kind of restrain ourselves a little bit from getting too distracted from
that.
Andy: Beautiful, man. It’s cool. It’s really hearing … it’s
really neat hearing everything that you went through. From doing
the corporate job, to doing all the freelancing, to having a year
where you go from a year to make $400 a month and then a week to
make another $400 a month. Sounds like you’ve been on just a
rollercoaster.
Dan: Yeah. I’m getting better.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: I’m getting better at learning a little bit quicker so
now when we launch something we do it in seven days. We know at
the end of the seven days if people like it or not we just … we make
it and we put it out there and sell it [inaudible 00:37:57].
Andy: How do you do that? How do you do that?
Dan: Well, actually, I had another idea yesterday that I
haven’t spoke to my co-founder about yet but it was … that I would
rather book in seven days and I’d call it the Seven-Day Startup and
explain exactly how we do it and why to do it.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: So hopefully they’ll let me do that. Maybe this time
next week we’ll have a new book.
Andy: (Laughs)
Dan: Yeah. It literally just is a case of cutting at absolutely
everything that’s not completely necessary.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: It’s stuff like. You do some of your best work.
Convert Press is an awesome name. The site design is really nice.
The product is good. It could be better and we’re improving it but
… When you have to do something that quickly like … it generally
works pretty well. You don’t have to think it and you just make
decisions quickly and focus really on just getting the thing out rather
than just debating all the details about it.
The most important thing about it is you learn from real data and
that was my main problem with Informly was that everything I was
using to learn from was not real data because it wasn’t our people
paying me, it was … are they opting in or are they telling me it’s a
good idea or am I getting covered … covered in Mashable or is
Jason Calacanis telling me that he likes my startup idea. That was
the kind of stuff that I was inputting into my brain as validation for
the idea.
Andy: Oh wow.
Dan: Now it’s … I don’t do validation. If we have an idea
we create it in seven days and then put it out there and then we learn
from real data whether or not people like we made changes to
improve it.
Andy: And then you try and validate it from there.
Dan: Well, yeah. We don’t really validate it. I guess it’s a
form of validation but … I think we put it up for sale. If it doesn’t
sell we shut it down. If it doesn’t sell as well as we thought but we
get some kind of good … with the community we had 30 signups
within the first week.
Andy: Yeah?
Dan: And with Convert Press I think we had seven or
eight. It was monthly recurring which is a bit odd for a WordPress
plugin. We had some good signs that people wanted this problem
solve. So that was enough to know that we should keep investing in
both of those.
Andy: If people don’t sign up, how do you know it’s not the
marketing that’s off?
Dan: Well because we’ve got a big enough audience to
know that if it was a problem then … that they want it solved and
they would sign up.
Andy: Got it.
Dan: And I think sometimes when you have to sell
something for you marketing then you’re trying to push something
that really isn’t solving a big enough problem. That’s what I think. I
know other people interpret that different but I know … in my own
situation … like WP Curve sells itself. We don’t do any selling.
Andy: Yeah. It’s like you explain it in one sentence and the
people are like, yes, I get it. I want that or I don’t.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s what we do with the other
things. We try to have something that you can explain in one
sentence.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: If people don’t get it and people can’t refer …
See, a lot of that time to grow something like this it’s … its can
people refer to someone else. You might come up with a really
flashy sales pitch for your business but … As soon as you tell the
other person about that they going to forget everything you said and
they just going to hear whatever they think you do, you know? And
then they’re going to tell the next person what you do. So you’re
going to have some flashy [inaudible 00:41:18] saying that you’re
this amazing designer that increases brand awareness and doubles
revenue for 300% ROI or some shit.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: That they’re going to go and tell the next person that
you make business cards.
Andy: (Laughs)
Dan: Our thing is … we need to say in one sentence what
we do and it needs to be something that our customers can say to
someone else. You know that’s happening when you launch
something quickly because people start giving you testimonials. We
have people going on Twitter and tweeting about us. You’re saying
they love WP Curve and what it is and that tells us that it’s a good
business that’s going to grow.
Andy: Beautiful. I really like that idea of just getting it into
one sentence like boiling down; this is what we do, this is the
problem we solve. I think there are times when your body like you
viscerally resonate with that problem. You’re like, “Oh, yeah, duh. I
need this fixed.”
Dan: Yeah. And especially if it’s something you’re trying
to fix already. It’s a lot harder if you’re not trying to fix it already.
It’s really. You’re just trying to create something. I know people
have done it and they are probably the people that get looked up to
the most which is fair enough but it doesn’t mean you should follow
their path because it’s just a needle in a haystack. There’s very, very
little chance you’re going to invent something amazing. Much,
much easier to solve a current problem.
Andy: Absolutely, man.
If people want to learn about WP Curve or if they want to learn
more about you and where you’re at, where can they find you
online?
Dan: Yeah. You can go to one of our 16 different blogs
that we write on today. So we do one piece of content every day.
We ought to put it on wpcurve.com/blog or startupchat.co. And the
startupchat we do a live call every Wednesday 4pm PST with
entrepreneur. We’ve got calls on there from … we had Charlie
Hoehn last week and Wade from Zappia.
Andy: Oh, nice.
Dan: Yeah. We got some … We’ve had Dane on there. So
we got a bunch of … That one was really good actually so they can
go check that out. So you go to startupchat.co, there’s a whole
bunch of different interviews and stuff on there.
Andy: Beautiful. I’ll put those in the show notes. We just
had Charlie Hoehn not too long ago. I’m super stoked for him to get
his book out.
Dan: Oh, yeah. I’m reading it actually. He’s cool. He was a
really good guest. He gave us like … we had four or five people on
the call because we have people in our community come on the call
live.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: He just talked about so many different things. I had to
listen to it back afterwards. I read like two and a half pages of notes.
Andy: Yeah.
Dan: He’s good.
Andy: He’s a genius, man. Good stuff. Well, I will put all
that stuff in the show notes.
Dude, Dan, thanks for coming on today. Really appreciate it.
Dan: Yeah. I’m really happy you had me on and I love
your show. I love what you guys are doing. So thanks for having
me.
Closing: Thank you for joining us. We’ve taken this interview
and created a custom action guide so you know exactly what action
steps to take to grow your business. Just head over to
thefoundationpodcast.com to download it for free. Thanks for
listening and we’ll see you next week.

j