Building Businesses that Create Value

Andrew and Kyle Bragger discuss building businesses that scratch your own itch and create value for others. Kyle is co-founder and currently running Exposure with Luke Beard.

Presented by
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO
Kyle Bragger
Co-Founder, Exposure

Andrew Verboncouer:  You're listening to the Seaworthy Podcast, Episode 13, Building Business that Create Value. Seaworthy is a podcast about building successful software.  Today we're talking about building businesses that scratch your own itch and create value for others with Kyle Bragger of Exposure. 

I'm excited to have Kyle Bragger on the show with me today. Kyle is a co founder and lead developer at exposure, the best way to publish beautiful photo stories on the internet. Kyle's a seasoned entrepreneur with experience designing and developing ideas that create value for users. You may know him by other projects, such as Forrst, Statshot, or Thinglist. Welcome to Seaworthy Kyle, thanks for coming on the show. How are you doing?

Kyle Bragger:  Doing well, thanks for having me. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Good, yeah, appreciate you taking the time.  So before we can get started, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, your background and how you got started in in building things? 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea sure. So I've been professionally building things, I guess for going on, yea, I guess a decade now. Got started, I guess as a bored teenager with Visual Basic three. I think I got through less than above board means back when you could just download zip files of stuff like that, right? Not too painful. But anyway, yeah,  VB-3, I had stumbled upon I don't know there's a like, desktop customization community called Desk Mod, and a few others that were building like Windows Explorer replacement, apps and what not. So yeah, just started trying to reach create stuff that I saw for fun, I guess. And then yeah, sort of accidentally got into professional development, first with WordPress, back in, like '05, or '06, was actually pre med and then ended up kind of realizing that I liked computer stuff a whole lot more, and probably would leave me with less debt in the end. So I ended up getting a job in New York City, right. When I turned 21, after I'd been doing some client work for a few years. And that was with the Huffington Post just doing engineering. Yea moved there, sort of put two weeks notice type of thing just up and left. And yeah, it's been kind of a crazy ride since then. But that was the start. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, that's exciting, I think, hear that a lot more of a lot of different designers and developers just getting started tinkering around, right. And then kind of realizing that, you know, this is something that you're passionate about building and creating things and, you know, figuring out how things work in and solving problems. It's interesting. So, you didn't go to school at all? Was that right?

Kyle Bragger:  I don't know how many credits that have, bio chem undergrad, certainly not enough to graduate unless I went back and finished a bunch up. But yeah, I also have some, German and computer science stuff randomly scattered in there. But yeah, no, never finished undergrad.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Gotcha. And that's I think, more common obviously especially today with like treehouse, I know their marketing, you know - don't start out to get ahead. Don't go behind in debt, right? 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, no, for sure. And I am, I think through my high school, like, whatever percentage I graduated in, everyone was given basically a local community college, totally free ride for two years or something like that. It was actually where a lot of the Rutkers, pharmacy students went to do their undergrad. So it was you know, good enough for them, it is good enough for me. Yeah so fortunate to have no student debt to speak of even, you know, even stopping midway through, but yeah, people get buried in that, not to digress for anything. But yeah, very fortunate to not be in that situation. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, yea that's good. So what, what do you do outside of work? I mean, obviously, you're designing, developing things, you've entrepreneur of sorts.

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, it's funny. Now, these days, especially the last eight months or so, since we had our first kid way less computer stuff. It's kind of nice I guess you kind of get burnt out after a while. Um, but yeah, a friend and adviser of, actually Yellow Path, which we'll get to, I guess, in a few minutes here, got us all into sort of weightlifting and I guess CrossFit types of activities back when we were on a team retreat in Berlin, and then I kind of stuck with the weightlifting part. So been doing that for a while, and recently picked up scale model building, which I did as a kid, which is incredibly and surprisingly cathartic, non computer sort of thing. But still an interesting creative outlet for me at least. But yeah, otherwise just baby wrangling. And we just bought a house here few weeks ago. So in Chattanooga, so there's no end to the number of things we have to to do. So definitely kept busy. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, exciting things. Yeah, congrats on the baby and the house.  Well, thanks yea - so it's just like, it's all happening at once, I guess. But yes a huge weight off my shoulders. Sure, yea that's cool. So I guess the biggest thing you're working on right now is called exposure. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and how that came about? 

Kyle Bragger:  Sure. Yeah. So after I sold Forrst in 2012, I think a few months later, my wife and I got married when we were still living in New York. And a friend of mine who's sort of a avid illustrator and internet personality Pascal, DeSilva, who I guess I'd met through Forrst, actually hit me up and said that he had just joined a sort of startup incubator thing called Hello path that was out in San Francisco. They're working on really cool stuff. And it was kind of like a creative Playhouse, I guess, where you could go and work on whatever you want to and have that support network as far as legal and accounting and office space, and whatever you need, really, to, you know, move something forward. So ended up doing that, think we pulled the trigger on moving September 2012 or so. So when I moved out there and started our path, and did a whole bunch of stuff as both me coming out of about 3, 3 and a half years of forrst. And I was trying to find my professional creative self again after that. And then also just as a company, figuring out you know, what, a startup incubator meant I guess. So yeah, we did a bunch of things. And then I convinced this guy from the UK to basically move across the Atlantic and come join us, he's a super talented designer and photographer as well. And through this model, that we had at hello path, which was just creative people working on stuff, they care about, the pre, I guess, whatever idea was the seed of exposure started. And the way it worked, basically, was, if you had an interesting idea that you wanted to see, kind of go into the world, you did whatever you could to kind of mock it up or building an MVP, or, you know, understanding still, that not everyone necessarily had coding traps are designed traps, or vice versa, but enough to see something, you know, get a sense for what it was. And when had a little I forget now, the exact formula because it changed so much. But we had a little internal flow for graduating things, so to speak, from one phase to the next. And yeah, he sort of he had this notion about a thing, that would eventually become exposure, for photographers like him getting his photos online in a more meaningful way. And we kept working on it, and we kept it kept making sense. And, you know, we got the green light to keep going further and further in this incubator process, I guess. And yeah, that's been - that was, I think, the first video that we started working on in July or so, 2013. So it's been about four years now, which seems crazy to say, but yea, that was out of hello path. And we actually...I guess the last step so to speak was we spun it out into its own company in early 2015, so little over two years ago. So Luke and I became its founders and our path has a stake in it for basically helping its inception and yet it's been running independently since then. And got a little seed round done back when we did the spin out and just humming along at this point. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah it's exciting - it's not the first product to spin out is it? 

Kyle Bragger:  Yeah the other big one Keeze, and I think now it's their primary focus as far as the other things like that worked on. We, let's see that would have been sort of around the same time maybe a little bit I don't remember before or after exposure but yeah, around the same general timeframe and I think they just sort of consolidated the company around Keeze so in sense, another de facto spin out you could say. But then the other was one other thing called thinglist, which was a an iOS app that Pascal and I were working on pre exposure, still at hello path, which we we, I think we did like three major releasees - did a cool promo video, it was our first dip into the App Store. So it was kind of a, a good learning experience, you know, getting through the weeds of Apple promotion and all that, how that whole crazy system worked. I'm thinking the end is maybe 150 or 160,000 downloads, got some cool press was fun to work on.

Andrew Verboncouer:  But I think we ended up selling off to another another team to move forward. I honestly haven't kept up what happened to it. But it was my first iOS app. And as a company, or incubator's it was hello paths first real foray into the app store ecosystem. So I think it probably was pretty helpful. And you know once Keeze started happening in that team that was working on it. Since we had we had some prior contact with Apple, you know, promotional people, and just generally understanding how that all worked back then, so.  That's cool. Yea, I'm looking at actually at my thingslist list right now, with all of the to do list and apps and list making things. I still use thingslist. Probably only a couple times a month, but I'll add things in there like books I like to keep in there. And then eventually, I'll add them to like my Amazon wish list. But yeah, it's a cool thing. 

Kyle Bragger:  Oh, that's awesome to hear. Yeah, it's sad that we didn't get to work anymore. But yeah, that, you know, to do a space, I think every engineer has to make a to do list at some point, right? So yeah, that was hello path. And then the exposure spun out and independent now. And yeah, it's kind of kind of crazy. Really, just applying this whole idea of how you can almost formulaically create software businesses and then actually have it work. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  I'd be interested to kind of dig into that a little more - so at hello path, you had basically a management team, I mean, is it your traditional incubator where they maybe have a board of people that, you know, they're funded by a firm to kind of create these things and fund them and get them into the wild? Or is it more of, sounds like it's more of like an entrepreneur in residence, but like, you know, designer developer and residents, and you would kind of come together and create ideas, or did you guys do client work? Can you speak a little bit more about that? 

Kyle Bragger:  No, absolutely. Yeah. The founder is called Jake Lodwick. He did Vimeo with a few other people, connected ventures, College Humor, that little group. And I forget the exact number that he raised but he raised some money, basically, and started hiring creative friends. So I think it, at our peak, I forget, we were maybe seven or eight people. There was, yeah, he was sort of our buffer to the investors in hello path itself, which was great. And then there was the others just legal and accounting and whatever else we needed that you end up spending a lot of money on, especially in the beginning. And then yeah, just designer and developer types, mostly, a lot of Ruby and some iOS disciplines. And then Pascal sort of the wild card as far as his illustration chops. And then yeah, it was just if you had a creative idea, you know, we kind of had this evolving system, you know, as long as you played nicely within the system that that we had for sort of vetting things along the way, just so it wasn't a total free for all - because in the end, you know, we're still employees in the company, there's a lot of investors. But yeah, it was it was very open. And definitely, I mean, I think exposures is prime support that it worked. And I think, you know, I think Keeze's aldo doning pretty well as well. So that's at least two legit web businesses or internet businesses that came out of it. So I think that's a pretty good track record. And they're both still going all these years later, which, you know, I couldn't tell you the average time and total your typical startup crashes and burns, but I think we've passed that point, so. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, I think it's like three years. So far. So good. At least.  Yea, that's awesome. Yeah, I mean, it sounds like a cool model. Just interested to...yeah, it's interesting to hear about that. A lot of the companies we work with are similar, like, people come to us with ideas. And we, you know, basically, that we put them along our process of, you know, fact finding and sense making of, hey, you have an idea, is there a problem? Is there a market? Is the user who we think it is, you know, how do we start getting some confidence behind that, it sounds like that was, you know, a similar, a similar model, there where like, you mentioned, building an MVP and building something to kind of sell forward to the team. Were you doing any,of that kind of, you know, talking with users and stuff along the way to kind of prove it out before you said, hey, yeah, we're gonna go ahead and build this thing completely, or pursue this thing fully. Was there any of that? Or was it more just kind of selling to, you know, the owner and maybe some of the other stakeholders within our path?

Kyle Bragger:  No, it was, it was pretty much at least from my experience, how you would probably do things outside of the context of an incubator, you know, definitely wanting to solve real people's problems. And, and that was sort of the Prime Directive, I guess, for us was always know the user, I think they called it a muser, like a muse and user sort of combo, but something like that, little quirky, but yeah, just just knowing who you're building for because I think a lot of things end up getting built, where it's just because you can, or because it's cool to use XYZ tech in it, and maybe focusing on that versus actually, you know, solving somebody's problem, that they're willing to give you money for in the end. And just as a caveat, that's certainly not to say that you shouldn't build stuff just to try out tech or really for any or no reason. But as far as we were concerned, you know, again, because there was not an unlimited amount of money. And, and we need to prove that this wasn't just a bunch of crazy people in in San Francisco or anything. But yeah, making sure we knew the user and that could be you - there was no rule necessarily said you can't build your own, you know, solve your own problem, and for Luke, he was solving his problem - photographer Luke - but as long as you could clearly articulate who that person was, what their problem is, and how your solution, you know, was sort of a pain killer for them, than, it was fair game. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea that's cool. Can you kind of take us back in time to when, you know, Luke had the idea for something like exposure, and kind of maybe the process of what your key learnings were, what, you know, your aha moment was realizing that, hey, this is big enough of a problem to solve. You know, we should definitely pursue this a little bit more. Can you can take us back a little bit into that? 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, sure. Sure. Um, yeah, he had done some, just static mockups, I think if I recall, of like, I guess the post page that publishing tool that he was thinking about would spit out - and it was pretty rich as far as it was polished, you know, because it was what was in his head and he did a great job of getting it down on paper, so to speak, and we built enough to just wire up that page for him I think- I hope I'm not totally misremembering this. You might end up with an alternative podcasts or whatever, the alternative facts podcast. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, the alternative facts for startups. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, this is the real deal, I think. But anyway, yeah, I think he he wired up, or he designed the post page. And we just made a stupid simple CMS just so he could upload to it. And that didn't have head users. But there's no way to actually create an account it was just...And then he was running it on a subdomain, it's personal site. And we knew as soon as people started losing their minds, when they saw it, and asking for it, that there was something there. And then we built, like V-1, or an MVP of exposure, which doesn't look so different from how it is today, as far as the storytelling feature, sort of the original way to publish these long form groups of photos with the grids that automatically size for any device, screen size, or whatever. And we've been also did I think, a paid beta, so I think we charged money from almos day one, even the beta users, we gave, like, a 50% lifetime discount or something. And he had just invited all his his photographer contacts from within San Francisco and elsewhere, 150 people total, we're using it in beta. And yeah, so it was, it was initially when people were just freaking out about wanting to use it, when they saw him using his personal site. And then with this beta, yeah, people started subscribing and giving us their money. And just becoming really big, really promoters of it. Some things, you know, you never know, it's kind of could go either way. But it was, I think, to us, at least at the time was really clear set, there was something there, and it was worth continuing to work on, especially when people are giving hard earned money, and giving it to you. That's a pretty good show confidence. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Right, and people that, you know, photographers that have been in the industry for a while and, you know, would have seen something else come along that, you know, obviously didn't meet their needs, or wasn't what they're looking for, from an ease of use standpoint or presentation, whatever it might be, you know, they had plenty of opportunity at that time to see many other solutions that didn't fit the mold. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea totally. And I think I think also, what was interesting was, and again, this is...it's crazy that this has been four years already, I recall something with Instagram at the time, which people were really upset about, it might have been a change to their advertising policy, or algorithm or something people were - or maybe it's just the acquisition, maybe that was the timing that would have been about four years ago, I think. But yeah, we were definitely seeing this sort of widespread discomfort, I guess, with photographers, that they've invested so much into the platform... I'm almost positive actually, it was the Instagram acquisition - but year just feeling sold out, I guess. But I mean, this is like, as old as the internet, practically, this whole notion of, you know, who's the user and everything as far as who's paying, who's supporting the product. So it was important for us to make sure that there was a really clear answer to that with exposure which parlayed into just having subscriptions and charging people, you know, pretty reasonable amount of money for what I think is a really great service and hopes not only to build a sustainable company, but also just alleviate those fears of - will you be around in six months. Will there be pressure to sell out to a bigger company that's going to probably shut you down and destroy every post that I've ever spent time making, you know, and that was important to make sure we had an answer to that, that we really felt good about.  And not to get sidetracked too much. But I guess there's... this sort of touches on I guess, like almost an ethical question of companies. Now, we want exposure above all else to just be ethical and never do anything that we would ever feel ashamed of, or otherwise uneasy, you know, and I think one of these things is just having a really clear link yeah, between... you joined the service. Remember, you pay us $5 or $9 a month or whatever plan it is, that's your part of it. And then our sort of promise is that we're building a sustainable company and we're not going to just disappear overnight because there's a plan there. Yeah. So it was definitely an interesting time then with everyone being so upset with I guess the Instagram acquisition. And then over the years, we've seen other services come and go storehouse was a really beautiful sort of iOS version of, I guess maybe more of a lightweight thing that we were doing. I think they ended up at Apple, maybe. But same thing, you know, originally, they never quite figured out the business model and ran out of money I think, and I assume, anyway, and then, yeah, everyone who had invested time in that platform...well, export, and move on, I guess. But, you know, when - especially people in tech, we've all been on the receiving end of that, where you get that email. So sorry, you know, we got to shut down for this reason, or that reason or we were acquired. And the whole, you know, we're super thrilled, slash excited, slash humbled, everything's going to be the same, nothing will change we promise and then six months later, you know, sorry, yeah, really didn't didn't see that one coming. And then service goes away. So, anyway, not to get on a super long tirade, but we just don't want that to be exposure, we want to make sure that we're building this thing for our members and no one else and yes, we have investors but in the scope of seed rounds, ours was pennies compared to some companies and we also have the business model to back our growth and sustainability - 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Right, and revenue. 

Kyle Bragger:  Aside from that, so  yeah, but that's kind of exposure's I guess, promise you could say. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, no, yeah, that's great to know. And kind of you know, on that same track is just - you know, building a sustainable company you kind of come up with at least one other semi related product that I know of in Statshot, right?  Yep, statshot.  And that was a basically...can you give us a rundown on what that was? That was by exposure, right? It wasn't...

Kyle Bragger:  But it got some paying users, it had like a tiered business business model, I think, based on how many followers the total, the total followers across the connected account, something like that. But it never really hit this really crazy inflection point where it was clear that it was something that needed to get worked on. And it just became sort of a distraction in the end that that we could have either tried to spin out and hire a team around or...Yeah, but for us, there's just not enough time to go around. But exposure just being what it is, and clear to us at least that it's pretty successful on its own. We decided to try to try to see if there was another team that we felt good about handing the reins to, and there are a few things but this was -  this was also right, when Instagram change their API rules, I think. So we would have gotten impacted for a few different reasons. So yeah, we had a, we almost had a sale lined up, but it just would have been too much investment in terms of re rebuilding the parts of Statshot to comply with the new API usage guidelines that it just didn't make sense for the amount that we were looking at, and just the time factor for the other party as well. You know, we didn't want to hand off this thing say, See you later. And then suddenly, you know, a week later Instagrams, new rules take effect, and they're left with a brick. So we just, we just decided to, as they say, sunset it. Yea, exactly. That was, I think maybe a year into the spin out or so, yeah, we had been dabbling with this idea. And actually, when we formed the company, when we did the spin out, we called it exposure labs, just thinking, you know, I guess our underlying mission is make good things for photographers. So yes, statshot was an experiment, sort of the first then to date only other external non exposure product for I guess - yea different name, quasi spin out to everything that we'd worked on. But it was basically an email with some easy to digest stats about your Instagram accounts. So you backed up to five Instagram accounts. And then we'd send you, you know, follower growth for that day or week and engagement across your your posts. And we tried to calculate reach using one of the few available kind of estimation formulas, and people liked it, for sure. In the end I think, you know, this, at least in my experience, this is a pretty common thing. And not surprising that with our team being so small, just Luke and I full time and then sort of a rotating cast of freelancers as we need them on engineering or whatever it might be, you know, our main focus is and always has been exposure and statshot probably could have been quite interesting. And there's other sort of similar things in the space. But if we focused on it...you know I think we set like a six week, you know, we'll build this and we'll release it and we'll see how initial reception is. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, that's good. I remember it kind of coming out. And that actually had a -  I want to say, the domain and the Twitter. I don't know if he knew this, but Luke, reached out to me. Hey, it looks like you're the only follower on Statshot. I ended up handing over the reins to him. I don't know if you remember that.

Kyle Bragger:  Oh, yeah, that's right. Small world then. Yeah, that's awesome. Well, see, you have a small part in our ongoing history,

Andrew Verboncouer:  Right, yea. I forget what...I don't know. I forget what it was for originally. But, yeah, something I'd snagged up. I don't know, I'm assuming many years ago. And just interesting that, you know, we can reach out and was familiar with exposure and everything already. Yeah, that's awesome. Cool. Seaworthy is brought to you by Headway. A product focus team for higher, Headway helps companies validate ideas, build out products, and grow through experimentation and technical execution. If you have an idea that you're looking to gain traction on, or a current product you're building that needs expertise with product design or development, check us out@headway.io, and let's make waves.  Yea, so I guess the other part of your history is that you were part of a 500 startups cohort.  Yea, batch three, I think was, yeah, back in 2011. Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit more about that before we get back to exposure? 

Kyle Bragger:  Sure, yea that was for forrst. So that happened through an introduction from Gary VanderChuck, who, I was working prior to forrst, was working with Gary on one of his many ventures called Corked, which was like a wine review site that actually that Van Cedar home had started, and I think Gary bought or something and wanted to grow as part of his wine empire. So yeah, we worked on that for a while. And Corked eventually ended up not working out and I was still kind of camping out in their office. And I hadn't worked on forrst or the predecessor to it for a little while. And showed Gary because we sort of - I looked to him as a mentor, in a sense, and he thought it was super cool. And basically offered to fund its development for like, a year or something. So I worked on it out of the vandor media offices. And then yeah, it did its thing and got to a point where, I was kind of thinking of what was next as far as its growth and got me in touch with Dave McClure, and yeah, we got accepted to the the 500 startups - I think it was batch three. Yeah, because Luke was actually in batch two when he was working with our boy Zerkley. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Oh, yeah, yeah - are they still around? 

Kyle Bragger:  I think, yeah, I think they're doing like, video film production, you know, employee referrals, or something like that, where it's like LinkedIn, but just for that sector. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Right, like endorsing someone via video or something.  

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, like, for people are who are working in film and TV or something. I think that's like a really, really interesting niche. I think it was more tech people oriented at first. But yea so Luke was in batch two, I don't think we ran into each other, then. But yea so my designer partner and I went out to Mountain View for a couple of months and worked on forrst and did the startups thing and had a lot of fun doing that - was also just interesting, I guess unexpected side effect is really good bonding experience for he and I as well. Which I guess when you're, you know, two people working in an apartment in Mountain View away from your your partners and, you know, across the country, can do that. But yeah, there's a lot of fun and definitely a good growth -  personal and professional growth experience for both of us. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea I mean,  I definitely was on Forrst - I think it was maybe three or four months ago, I came across my forrst profile and it was pretty comical taking a look at what I posted still up. I

Kyle Bragger:  I know I just realized the other day, it was eight years since I started that - well, it was nine. So, no...

Andrew Verboncouer:  Time flies. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, so sad. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  I had no idea that Gary was part of that inception or, you know, you were working for...I mean I'm definitely familiar with him and his books. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yeah, he and his brother AJ were both...to give credit where its due, of course, were both super helpful and supportive after Corked. Because AJ, I guess, is the vandor media co founder. But yeah, after corked kind of went into the sunset. Yeah, it was just really good timing, and, you know, good relationship to have at the time. But yeah, first, I guess, first investors in it. And then the iPhone startups happened. And we did a tiny little seed round, I guess, as part of that. And then that ended, and I think we sold the company a few months after that to create a market. Yeah, that would have been, yeah, we probably would have been done in December and then sold the company around April, then. So yeah, maybe some credit to 500 startups helping us get over a hurdle.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, it's all exciting. Your background and, you know, quite a few different verticals. But obviously all related to what you do personally, which is cool. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, for sure. It's, it feels a bit, I dont' know I want to say miopic. But sometimes I get...well, you know, exposure is definitely outside of my wheel house. My wife has a background in photography, but I certainly don't. But, um, yeah, I guess there's a community aspect to exposure, and just generally making things for creative people, whether that's designers, developers, whoever. Yeah, there's a, there's a common thread. Then also, the thing I kind of realized is, I just, I like helping people improve their craft and be prosperous in, whether that's our industry or photography or whatever. I think that maybe is the this secret underlying thread of the things that I've tried to do. And I never maybe realized originally, but it's just, it's a good feeling to see other people succeed. So if I can help engender that in some super tiny way, then I'm happy. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, it's good. Um, so we didn't know that exposure was only two people. So that's cool. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, we've been hearing that a lot lately, as we've gotten a little, I guess, more visible, maybe...that o, you're only 2 people, I thought it was 20, it has its ups and downs, you know, there are some days where it just feels like there's a million things that we're never going to get done. But it's better actually, now that I'm - I lived in Berlin for two years after San Francisco, we actually just moved to Chattanooga, so back in the states last October. So it's definitely better as far as work day is concerned that I'm a little closer timezone wise to Luke, because San Francisco to Berlin was just, you know, I'm, I'm ready to call it a day. And he's just kind of getting up, right. You know, I think it works for some people. And we thought it would work for us, and it did for a little while, but, you know, it ended up - it's way better now that we're, we're definitely closer and just have more overlap. So that's helped us be more effective. But yeah, now it's a small operation, and who knows what the future will hold too? It's hard to imagine that it's a giant company also. But yeah, I mean, anything is possible down the line. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  For sure, yea. With I guess, with that kind of in mind, you mentioned, you know, there's a laundry list of things that, you know, may not,  may never get done, or, you know, you wonder when they're going to get done. How do you guys I guess, think about, you know, growth and expanding beyond you two - you know you mentioned you use freelancers and such. But I mean how does, you know, new features and functionality and stuff get prioritized into the roadmap and how do you pick on, you know, prioritize what you're going to work on and tackle and and given sprint or is it maybe -I guess we'll go into that next, workflow. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, sure. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  How do you prioritize, yea? 

Kyle Bragger:  I don't know. It's kind of a weird mix of gut and data. You know, the one thing I will admit about myself, is that I'm not that dogmatic. And we'll get into a few minutes here. But we definitely follow pieces of different project management approaches. And there's some method to our madness as far as how we decide what to build. But yeah, I think a lot of it is just with Luke being in the photography world, knowing the audience there, you know, because he, he's also still building very much for himself as well. But yeah, I think we kind of jokingly say, if only one person asked for something, then just, you know, forget about it. But we don't literally mean that. But I think there is something to kind of seeing based on your scale, for us, we have a certain amount of if people are buzzing about a certain feature that they feel is missing, you know, we kind of get a sense whether it's literally one person who has kind of an off the wall, very specific use case type of thing, or it's like, you know, our inboxes are just blowing up because every other member is in dire need of this thing. So, usually, it's somewhere in between, right.  But yeah, we've kind of taken into account how much people are really clamoring for it, whether it makes sense in the big picture of what exposure is, or should be, you know, as far as maybe some of the more one off feature requests, you know, Like, if someone were to ask for doing like an Excel file, import of story content, right, that's kind of a - we'd probably not really prioritize that very high versus what we actually just released in beta will will officially launch a little while here called gallery which is basically the first - it's a pretty big new way for exposure members to be able to publish content. So the whole time that we've existed and had this sort of long form your cover photo and then new groups of photos and the grid layout is all automatic and you can intersperse long form content with a cool editor like medium or something. Like that gallery is way more short form and title optional, description up to 50 photos you can pick a couple of layouts, way more I guess rules you can say around how it looks and works but we've seen a huge uptick in people publishing because the story you know, people get, I guess I don't know, shy is maybe not the right descriptor but, I think people were taking up to a month sometimes so yeah, 34 days or something like that, between creating a story and publishing because they want to get it right - there's a lot of you know, their own internal bar that they have for its quality and also feeling like the exposure content in in a broad sense, making sure almost feeling daunted by making sure that it It feels at home among everything else that people publish, right. Um, but yeah, gallery was gallery was like, total no brainer, so many people were asking for, I mean, they didn't know they were asking for gallery but asking for something easier, and way less friction to publish. So yeah, that made complete sense, we prioritize that pretty high. But yeah, it'll you know, we'll also look at data, we try to measure a lot of different things, you know, some important pages we'll measure even which like billing and some other funnel pages, what button they clicked to siggn up - was it the header footer somewhere, you know, what section - we don't typically get super drilled down like that. But where it makes sense. They will also do sort of semi regular audits of just Hey, we released XYZ feature three months ago, you know, are a lot of people actually using it, because our, you know, let's just use as an example, people wanted to be able to add their own SEO metadata to post right, not everybody needs it, or knows what that is even. But for the, for the decently large group of people who are asking for it made sense to add it as a paid feature. But yeah, we'll do a checkin after we do something like that after a month or three months and say, how'd that worked for you? Our hunch was that people needed it. And we'd see this kind of usage - and cool, yeah, we see that that was about right. Or well, more people than we thought or fewer people that we thought are using it just as a, I guess, a way to tune our own barometer for what makes sense, but I just feel like it's almost a, I don't know, like, a dark art in a way with, with building products to know what the right thing is to work on. Because you could - you can do that really, I guess, data only approach, you know, which of the 40...what was that story from Twitter, Google, you know, the 43 shades of blue, whatever that was, you know, he'd be testing what exact shades of blue this sign up button should be. And then the other hand is more like, I guess the completely gut driven development, which is, we think this might be good with no data apply to it. So I don't know, we feel like it's it's also something that evolves, the sense evolves as the product evolves. And as you work on it more, I think, the Luke and I of six months in on exposure versus the Luke and I now probably would have had wildly different answers. If you asked us to predict whether a certain feature was worth building, you know, just because we have we have more experience with the types of users who join exposure, we have more experience with working with each other, and knowing what the company should be, you know, its identity and more data. And yeah, so I don't know it's an evolving thing. But like I said, I feel, at least speaking for myself, hopefully, Luke would agree that we're both just not necessarily... we don't, we don't always draw within the lines, so to speak, as far as the over determining what to work on. But it works. And we have super happy members and have been growing for four years and counting.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Seaworthy is brought to you by Headway. A product focus team for higher, Headway helps companies validate ideas, build out products, and grow through experimentation and technical execution. If you have an idea that you're looking to gain traction on, or a current product you're building that needs expertise with product design or development, check us out@headway.io, and let's make waves. Yea, that's awesome. Yeah, it's always difficult to balance that. I mean, you've got like value, right? For the user. You've got the value for the company, you've got the effort to build something thing you've got, you know, a plethora of other variables. Yeah, it's interesting to make those decisions for sure. Yeah, totally seems like you guys are on... yeah, have a compass set towards your users. So I think anytime you do that, focus on them first. You know, you it's gonna be hard to lose. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, we try. Yeah, the other red flag I think, you know, you hear this a million times, I guess. But, um, I would, subscribe if users and people who don't pay you but they swear that just build that one feature and they're totally going to subscribe. You know, the same day, I think, right, at least for us unequivocably never do so that's a good thing to see and say, you know, that's maybe a good a good warning sign to take heed of. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, that's good. So I guess, you know, what other advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are looking to take this business idea to market?

Kyle Bragger:  Oh, man, that's a good question. We'd be here for hours, probably. But like I said, you know, sometimes I think that I don't know if maybe this is to my own detriment or not, but I get really, wary of things that are too shiny and new. And, you know, I think for people who want to build something and have an idea and like to see it real and, people using it and loving it to just focus on that. I know it sounds really overly simplified and it probably is, but it's really easy to get distracted by everything else that this industry has to offer. Good and bad, you know, the thousand in one meeting think pieces about should designers own refrigerators and you know, getting blinded by Oh, we have to raise money. And you know do we have - what is the language that they always use is like - we have tier one Silicon Valley investors or whatever, you know, things like that, right? So there's sort of like the cart before the horse type of thing. People worried about funding and VC dollars before they actually have something tangible. But yeah, I think, you know, you should know who your user is that's...hopefully not too much debate there. But no, whether you're building something that's solving a problem for them, knowing what the problem is, being able to really articulate it simply or whether, you know, there's a stat call solutions in search of problems, where it's just the thing that exists that doesn't really address anything. Yeah, you know, I, over the years, I've seen people have legitimately good ideas that have asked for feedback, or whatever. But, you know, then they send like, a 20 Page, Google Doc, or something. And at the end of it, I'm just like, Chris, tell me what you're building, tell me where you want to build. And then admittedly, they're, you know, when you just... when you hear it from them in a sentence or two, it makes complete sense. But, you know, there's people who think you have to write a business plan and follow, you know, 12 step program to get your idea into the world. And you don't even really have the ability to articulate what it is simply - which I think even for your own purposes, you have to you have to know what you're building, right? Because if you can't, you know, if you don't know, no one else is going to figure it out for you. But, um, yeah, you know,  keep your head down. And, and try not to get distracted by the other VC stuff, getting press and million pieces of advice that are all you know, that one silver bullet that everyone wants to exist, you know, for me, as an engineer, also, you know, I probably couldn't get hired anywhere, because I don't really keep up that bleeding edge with new technologies. I guess maybe it's a function of just not having tons of time to do it. I don't really know actually - I never really like react, for instance, still haven't really looked so deeply at it. Everyone's talking about it, seems interesting, it seems like it could be useful even for some exposure stuff. But, you know, at the end of the day, I have to make the trade off of it's just looking, I mean, if I use this brand spanking new, well, maybe not so much anymore. But to me, at least this thing I'm not really comfortable with in a production setting, because everyone's talking about it, is that going to be good for exposure or bad for exposure. So, you know, it's maybe hopefully not coming off as too snarky or cynical, but things like that, you know, my thing, most apps end up being some permutation of put text in a box, put in database, spit it out on a page with the good looking design somehow. So, you know, feel like 9 times out of 10, when people get stuck early on. It's just because they're overthinking all the other stuff that will eventually be relevant. But just get your app working, you know, doesn't have to...it could be posting forums like we used to do once upon a time, no designer or, you know, bootstrap or any other good sort of CSS during points, just make something. I feel like that's the bottom line really just, you know, don't get too mired in the details. Just make make something that solve's someone's problem and they're willing to support financially and then I think everything else kind of falls in line after that.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Mic drop - Yea,  that was good. Yeah, yeah, very good. Yeah. Get it out there in the world, get into people's hands, create enough value for them to pay for. 

Kyle Bragger:  Exactly, yeah.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, good topic. So where can people follow you and learn more about exposure or yourself and kind of stay up to date with what you're doing?

Kyle Bragger:  Sure. Yeah, exposure is just exposure.co. We tried to get the.com once and it did not go as planned. Twitter is actually I think all of our social channels for exposure, are just @exposure - Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, all that. I'm Kyle Bragger on Twitter, where I post snarky dad jokes and...

Andrew Verboncouer:  New dad jokes. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea exactly. That's basically it. Yeah, I've just been super disconnected from online stuff these days. But that's probably the easiest place to get me is there, on Twitter.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Awesome. Well, thanks so much Kyle, appreciate it. Great insight. Yea and thanks again. Appreciate your time. 

Kyle Bragger:  Yea, thanks for having me. It was fun. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yea, it was good. Thanks, Kyle.  Thanks for listening to Seaworthy. Connect with us and ask questions on Twitter @seaworthyfm. Make sure you subscribe, and if you enjoyed it, leave a review on iTunes. Sail forth and make waves! 

show notes
  • Getting Started Building a Business
  • Creating Value for Customers
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Co-Founders
  • Startup Story