Starting Up Solo

Andrew talks with Pete Bernardo, Founder of Punchlist, about starting a company from the ground up on your own. When you're a one-person crew, how do you prioritize tasks to make the most impact? How do you keep your head up in a sea of to-dos?

Presented by
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO
Pete Bernardo
Founder of Punchlist

Andrew Verboncouer:  You're listening to the Seaworthy Podcast, episode 19, Starting Up Solo. Seaworthy is a podcast about building successful software. Today we're talking about the journey of launching a startup as a one man wrecking crew with Pete Bernardo of Punchlist. 

I'm excited to have Pete Bernardo on the show with me today. Pete’s a solo founder building punch list tool, helping teams knock out what's left. Pete, thanks so much for joining me and see where the last time we chatted was about three and a half years ago. At the time you're in a product agency, you're helping build internal and external products. For those that haven't listened to the first episode, which was October 16 2016. Can you give us a quick background on you and your path into startups tech and like? 

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me on again. And the fact that it's been three and a half years is mind blowing to me. So yeah, my name is Peter Bernardo. I'm in Atlanta, Georgia. Three and a half years ago when I was on. I had been working at an agency at that point for about 12 years and had gone from a designer to a product manager to eventually running product for the entire agency was about 100 person agency. And some of those products were internal and some of those were products we had built for customers. And so back then I my goal primarily was leading strategy for our internal products and then working on strategy for the product owners for the corporations that we had been building stuff for. back then. I think you said October of 2016 or earlier. You know, I hadn't I hadn't really considered what Kind of I really wanted to be doing I was kind of in a groove with with that. But then January of 17 I really started kind of, I think over the winter break kind of soul searching thinking about what I wanted to accomplish with my with my career.  And I decided that kind of early in that year that I wanted to see if I can build a product by myself. So traditionally, I've had teams around me, whether it's design or engineering or marketing, and I wanted to, to learn the skill of product development. I thought I understood product strategy. Well, I had spent a long time a large part of my career in UX. So I thought I understood kind of the strategy side, the UX side, but I really had never built anything by myself. And there was there's kind of like a turning point there where I was like, you know, I I want to go out on my own and See if I can do this. Back in 16, when we had talked, I had built a product for myself with a friend. He was the engineer, I was the designer. It was called Frank, it was like for employee feedback. And we were using it at the agency, it was one of our internal products. But still, I had never really done the engineering side. So when there was an opportunity, I decided to leave. And I had to figure out what I was going to build. So that's where punch list comes in. That you mentioned earlier.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, that's, you know, obviously, what we're talking about today, punch list, the origin story of that, you know, had this this need or this desire to get your hands dirty in code, right? You had experience and design in product, really, in the last part of that, as we're talking before the show, like the tree out of product is, you know, perhaps strategy design developments and now you, you know, tell us about your path into, into development, you know, where did you start You know, how did you how did you even start thinking about? Obviously, there's a lot of choices you can make of what tech? What frameworks do I use? What What should I avoid? What are some gotchas maybe maybe take us through that thought process and that journey early on the first couple months of punch list?

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, absolutely. So I think one of the more important decisions I made was, I wanted to find, I didn't know what I wanted to build when I left the agency. And I had committed to myself that I really wanted to learn this skill. And so for me hand in hand with that was finding some idea that I was pretty passionate about because I knew trying to learn how to do the engineering was going to be super hard, like incredibly hard. So I wanted to find some idea. I wanted to think of some thing that was important to me. That would make me kind of run through those walls. And so I had looked at a bunch of kind of like ideas around how to brainstorm a concept. And I just can't kept coming back to this idea that I needed to do something I knew in terms of like an audience in terms of like a pain point. And so what the inspiration for punch lists just came from years of building marketing websites for other people, for customers. So I had spent, like I said, 15 years at an agency I had run an agency in a prior life I had but it's always been like marketing websites and WordPress websites and eventually got to like larger enterprise applications. And throughout that whole time, gathering feedback from a client and getting a project done was was a pain, like it just was never, it was never clearly done. Every project did things a little bit differently. A lot of it came from like what the client It was comfortable with. And it led to a lot of frustrations like if you ever think about this project, like everything about most projects, so you start off with like this great high, everyone's excited to get going you do the designs, it looks beautiful. You get into like, seeing it in real life, like whether it's on your phone or on a desktop, you're like, oh, man, this is amazing. And then you got to start making tough decisions, like, what content is going to go where like, Oh, we actually it's not going to look that beautiful when we actually incorporate your real content. So that stage of a project I just thought led to so much frustration in any example I could think of that I was like, Okay, well, that's interesting, like, how do I solve that pain point? How do I how do I build a tool that alleviates that concern for agencies? How do they get to done faster? How do they make their clients happier? And then I was like, Okay, well, that goes really well with something. I'm passionate about running through a wall on To learn kind of software.  The other big thing I did was on the software side on the on the learning side was I committed to spending about an hour a night. So what I ended up doing is when I leave the agency, I go and work at a incubator here in town, mentoring other founders. And it was kind of like it helped pay the bills, it gave me an opportunity to like reduce my hours, my full time hours, and I could spend time building I can start building the product. So what I committed to doing is I would only spend an hour a night building punch list. And that may be chunked down the work to where it's like okay, I need to do login tonight. How the hell am I gonna do login? Like how does that even work? I didn't understand the engineering of it. Or I need to build a product project like within the tool. How do I do that? How do I edit? How do I edit the project now that I have the project so I tried to chunk down all the work to about an hour a night and some nights. It was For hours and some nights, I wouldn't get it done. But most nights, I would say 80% of them. I went to bed feeling confident, I went to bed feeling like I accomplished something. And I think early on that momentum I was able to build up by just like knocking down a to do list every single night, gave me a lot of confidence that I could actually learn how to write the software and make progress and get to an MVP pretty quickly.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. Well, one of the things you said there is it's such a pain point, you know, we don't do a lot of websites at headway. We do them for some of our application clients, but the last 10% is 90% of it. Right? Like when we use it for our new site headway.io which we built on web flow. We got to a point where, hey, where do we put this isn't an Asana Is it a notion? Hey, did you check figma for for comments on the prototype and you know now there was a divergence between the content in figma and the content on the site. And so it was valuable to us, you know, we had five or six different people from our team involved in approving content. And so it was good to us as like, I think I, you know, reach out even through the support. Hey, Pete, like, can we use this for apps, right, like bug tracking and other things, obviously, there's some technical hurdles there, as you get into spas and other applications and stuff. But that ability to just know where it went was super important, you know, to us, and I had a similar experience, and maybe that this is where the name comes from, you can confirm but you know, we built out our office last year, we were able to walk through with the construction crew, you know, we made a punch list, they were able to everywhere, that wasn't right, we put blue tape on, right, and we could easily like look around the room and see like, Oh, this hasn't been addressed yet. And it felt like that same level of clarity when we got you know, we're using punch list. So kudos to you.

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah. Yeah. And then that idea of like walking through your house with the client, or the customer and saying what's left was really important to me because I thought most agencies have a really hard time at that stage to getting to done. And a lot of projects drag out, right. And so if you're a project manager, and or you're an agency that has project managers, ideally, you want your project managers to come off and on projects as smoothly as possible. And this stage of getting the customer to done is often really hard because a customer doesn't want to pull the trigger on Yeah, I'm signing off, right? Because they know that when it's signed off, it's public and when it's public, you know, someone's gonna hold them accountable. So, ideally, that's what punch was trying to solve. It's trying to get everyone on the same page. It's trying to, you know, put the blue tape on the walls and when you take stuff off and say it's done, the client can have confidence that you got everything. Yeah, because in my opinion, nothing instills. Nothing can ruin the relationship. instilling a little doubt in the customers mind, right? So if you ever miss something or don't catch a change, now they're like second guessing everything like now they're having to micromanage and double check,

Andrew Verboncouer:  Or it was caught, but it's in a different tool that they couldn't see.

Pete Bernardo:   Exactly, or they were looking at a different page and you thought they were looking at one page and, or they send it on slack or email or Word doc, and you kind of missed it. And things can fall through the cracks, if that's your mechanism. So that ideally that was the goal is like, Can we get everyone on the same page, whether it's your internal team or your customer? And then once things are done, you can have confidence that it's done. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah,that's powerful. So he's tell us more about the tech like, what what tech did you decide to build punch list on? Sure. I'm just curious as a first time, I've done some development in my past as well, you know, in a few different languages. So just curious what you ended up going with.

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, I mean, when I tell you the stack, I think, you know, there's gonna be Some engineers out there that I like, you know, will stick their nose up. And so I had I had previously done like, React development and or had been on teams that were using like react. And I'd previously been on teams that were using Ruby. And so I had seen a lot of different things. But honestly, I wanted to simplify kind of my learning curve as much as possible. And I had done a lot of WordPress development in the past. So I didn't do it in WordPress, obviously, but I had done it in Laravel, which is a PHP language. And I knew that Laravel had deep integration with Vue js. And so that for me, kind of that combo, I knew covered, vast majority of the functionality that the application could have for a while. And so it it felt like okay, like I've I've picked a stack, essentially. And I know that that stack can grow with with the application. Then on top of that Laravel has a tremendous community. So there's like lower castes, and there's just a bunch of like very prominent people that go out of their way to educate around the topic. So that gave me confidence that there's people I could turn to their slack groups I can go to. There was plenty of video content like Lera casts I don't know if you've ever seen them. But yeah, Jeffrey way and his team, they record videos, almost like series, but they redo them every year.  So if you've ever tried to learn any engineering or ever tried to learn kind of anything through YouTube, one of the more frustrating things is that you go watch a video that shot two years ago and then you try to replicate it in like terminal or replicated in on your system and it looks different, right? The commands are a little different and you kind of can lose your place because they update the videos every year like it's pretty spot on. So like what you type in you can see in the video and you can Follow along. So I think I got I've, I've made a couple decisions, whether it's kind of what I wanted to build or what I wanted to build with that I've turned out to be good guesses. And I had a engineer the other day kind of run through the application with me to see everything it does. And he's like, you could not have picked a better setup because Laravel was almost built Laravel and view was almost built to do what what this is doing. So, so far, so good. I think I got lucky in that respect.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, no, that's, that's good. Yeah, no, no sneering for me. I mean, we, we, we don't use LAMP stack. But you know, in a previous life, my brother and I did, you know, we did a ton of WordPress, a ton of Laravel. You know, there's, you know, we're primarily a Rails react elixir shop. But yeah, I mean, there's a lot. I mean, I built a, I built an app with Laravel, a web app for podcasting. Actually. It's good tool. I mean, I think Yeah, I mean, you obviously learned it from from the bottom up, you were able to do what you needed to do with it. I mean, the right tool is the one that works for you. Yeah. If you, you know, if you wanted an engineering team of 1000, like, there might be different choices, you're gonna make that maybe it is that same tech, maybe it's not, maybe it's certain libraries are things you plug into, but...

Pete Bernardo:   I think if I ever earned the right to refactor the app, then maybe there'll be different decisions. Yeah. But I, I knew that it was more important that I pick a framework that I could learn, and the learning curve was a little bit better in line with what I already knew. I think there's a lot of developers that I hear that try to pick up react and like just, it takes a lot of mental kind of shifting and how you think things should work to really pick it up. And when you do, it's valuable and they get it. But for me, I kind of I knew I was gonna be in a corner anyways, so I've wanted as many things to be on my side as possible. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, for sure. So what, what was the choice for you around, you know, launching this solo, right as a head of product, head of design head of engineering, versus, you know, starting that that team out early on.

Pete Bernardo:   So I've done I've done things in the past where there was a team, as I mentioned, and I've done things on the side with a team as well. And I kept coming back to the idea that they didn't work for multiple reasons, but one of them was I was the common denominator amongst all of them. And I really wanted to eliminate as many variables as possible with with this attempt. And so I thought, okay, like, I need to kind of buckle down, learn the skill of product, learn the skill of engineering, and see if I can build an MVP that people want. And then if I like most things, earn the ability to bring on a team It'll be because the product is working. Not because you know the team was committed to each other or different things like that. And a lot of what I kind of will talk about it in the story is is not in the book. Like it's not in the startup books. It's not what you go read if you read first round like it's that's not that's not what I was trying to do. I wasn't trying to build a startup that is prototypical like it's not a Paul Graham thing. Like it's not that's not how I was thinking I was humbly saying, I don't know if I can do this.  And so a lot of that comes with the idea that I didn't want to have the burden of having other people involved. I didn't want that on my conscious to try to get someone else to commit, whether that's money or time, right. So I could have raised some friends and family but we didn't need it like we're more than capable of running out of breakeven as a family and You know, kind of going in on this? Unfortunately we are. So I was like, Okay. my thought process was, can I build a product? Can I sell the product? Then can I build a business? And with that, I think comes a team. And that's kind of like the stage I'm at now. So it was more about just mitigating risk and, and, you know, being a more control.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. What was the timeframe from, you know, cutting your first line of code to customer one?

Pete Bernardo:   Uh, about a year. However, that's paid customer. So, within gosh, it probably was about three months. I had a working demo. A kind of a, I don't know the proper terminology. But it was not like an envision demo or a figma demo. It was like an actual in code production. Like you can make an account. You can make a project demo. Yeah. And I at startup hub, I was at at that incubator, I was just showing people and I was like, you know, play with it. And a lot of my best feedback came at that stage. I remember vividly a project manager there using it, I did a demo for him. And then he came back when I when he never used it again. So I came back to him, I was like, hey, how can we, you know, have a chance to use it? And he said, Well, you didn't tell me how to install something. So a lot of my early feedback was like, Okay, how do I onboard people? What are the pain points they run into? And his feedback was that you didn't tell me how to install something. I don't want to go to a developer and ask them to install a piece of JavaScript on the site. Like that's not to me, I want to give them feedback and not make them jump through additional hoops. So I was like, Okay, so how do I, so that was, you know, a big feature request, how do I get this to where you don't have to install anything and write and get feedback.  So a lot of the first year was that - it was people giving feedback and not liking the mechanism for giving feedback. They're like, Oh, I have to do this before that, that doesn't make sense to me and trying to figure out the psychology of how they would use it. And then yeah, so about after a year, I got to a point where I had confidence in it, to where people would pay for it. And there was people using it, but I had never, I had never built up the confidence to to get people to pay for it. I don't know if that was good or bad. I mean, I think there's gonna be people on both sides of the fence like, oh, that seems normal. And I think there's people on the other side of the fence where they're a little bit more aggressive and say, like, you could have got people to pay for it before you even had a built, right get it. But for me, it was it was it felt natural. I'll test an MVP. I'll get people to play with it. I'll get what their feedback is. Once I get enough confidence that people like it, I can transition to charging for it. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah - And and now just looking, you've iterated on the pricing a little bit. I mean, in full transparency, headway is a customer of punch list, you know, 

Pete Bernardo:   Thank you, I appreciate that.

Andrew Verboncouer:  You know, and so we've, yeah, use it on, you know, both internal, like I mentioned our website. And then also, you know, we built some sites in react Gatsby contentful, that whole stack. And so we've used it with some external clients as well. 

Pete Bernardo:   I appreciate that. So last year was a lot of beta selling, I call it so what I did was I would go to agencies like yours and basically say, do you want to buy the product? Here's what it does. Does this work for you? And a lot of the earlier agencies like those first paid ones, it was basically here's the vision of the product. I think I'll get there in a year. But this is what it does really well right now. It works. This is where I'm going with it will you pay for a year upfront? So a lot of the early agencies that was the recall, like founding agencies, so that was their commitment is they would buy a year upfront an annual subscription, and at a reduced rate. And now starting this year, I've started to roll out more traditional pricing, more SAS pricing. And with that has come a slew of new features. So within the last three weeks, we've added the ability to upload files. So when you give feedback on a website, if you're the customer or the client, think about this, if they're saying, Oh, this image isn't right. Where are they going to put that image? Are they going to give you a Dropbox link or Google document? Are they going to email you the image if I have some content changes how they're going to get those to you? So with punch list, a lot of my roadmap ideas have come from what sucks about being a project manager on these marketing projects, like what is just a pain point. And so gathering the feedback, getting to know But within that there's my new show, right? So it's how do I gather the content? How do I gather the documents. So, we've added the ability to upload files so they can directly through punch list, attach an item to a piece of feedback. We just recently launched Trello integration this past week. So that's part of my roadmap thinking is having some deeper integrations getting more in the flow of, of these projects.

Sponsorship:  This episode is sponsored by Headway. Headway help startups and corporations bring entrepreneurial ideas to market and keep them there. Whether you want to bring a new idea to life or improve the one you already have, Headway can help through product strategy, design and development. For more information, you can head to our website at headway.io. Through this podcast, Heaadway is excited to give back to the community - because we all know a rising tide lifts all ships. So go forth and make waves. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  You know, obviously from your product days and UX days, it sounds like a lot of that's bleeding over to this, where you're not just trying to solve the problem you set out to, but you really understand the journey, right? Hey, they have this information, what decisions they make next, like, what's the next action item that needs to take place? in adding those things into it? where, you know, maybe in the past, hey, you leave a comment, this is the wrong image, like, you probably have to message somebody outside the system or try to add a link or, you know, you're starting to make pathways into solving it better or faster or with more clarity.

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, it's not lost on me that punch list is just another tool, right? So if I'm going to get into someone's workflow, I gotta be way better. Right? So I have to be way better than emailing someone I have to be way better than making a Word document I have to be way better than just slacking someone. And so a lot of what I'm a lot of what I was doing earlier was I was never way better. I was just you got to be this tall to ride the ride. That's all I have. Doing and so now I'm starting to get into the How can I be way better right so identifying those pain points and making it feel like magic to them - so gathering files gathering feedback you know organizing things I want everything to feel like magic because I just don't want to be another tool for them. I want to be a value add a pain, you know, a pain reliever a game creator, I want that type of mentality as they use the product.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. In our last conversation mentioned I was listening to it before this. We were we talked about value proposition design a little bit and intercom - Are you still leveraging both of those in in punch list?

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, actually, a lot. So, with value proposition design that I mean, that to me is my like holy grail of product thinking. It's always been a just gravitates toward me kind of like resonates with me. And and if just as a refresher Value Proposition design. It's the idea of customer canvas on one side and a product canvas on the other. And on the customer side, you think a lot about what they're trying to accomplish, and the pains to do that stuff and the gains they're looking to have out of that stuff. And on the product side, you think about the game creators are pain relievers, and the functionality of your app. And the idea is, is when those things align the game creators paying creators, you've earned the right to build that piece of functionality. And so that that feels like a way to reduce bloat in an app, it feels like a way to to really be cognizant of what's important to the end user. It also impacts how you market to them how you think about what's important to them.  And so value proposition design has always been really important to me. I you know, and tangential to that is kind of like intercom and how to reach out to the customers and tell them about new features and how to leverage those tools and intercom has come in Three and a half years and incredibly long way. Yeah. So we use an app for like product tours, we use it for like targeted outreach in terms of usage of the app. So if you haven't started a project yet, it could reach back out and say, Hey, do you want to get started? Do you need help doing that? If you're a guest, and you're kind of joining a project to get feedback kind of talks you through the product a little differently than if you're a project owner. So yeah, I think my my tool chest hasn't changed a lot in in these years. My skills, maybe I know how to build furniture better, so to speak, but I'm still using a song I'm still using a hammer. Yeah. You know, that kind of stuff hasn't hasn't changed a lot. However, I have I have more confidence and and experience doing it.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. I mean, I would say the same for us. I mean, we were using it back then to intercoms come a long way, right? They started fairly simple, and now they've got, you know, a myriad of different tools that you can use and leverage and product tours. You know, we're using it on it, too. We're building, we recommend to our clients a lot, right? We use the pirate model of engagement metrics to really understand like, how do we combine these actions to send them meaningful messages. And it's just huge because you're, you're not looking at metrics a month old and under, you know, trying to pick apart why people aren't using it. You could try to nudge them, you know, back into the tool and nudge them to success really be successful in making that small hire, right? The big hire the Hey, they bought the tool, small hire, they need to use it, they need to get the value you can actually provide out of it.

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah. 100%. I mean, a lot of a lot of early project onboarding, or product onboarding is putting wind in their sails, right. So they have this big gust to get started. And maybe they'll stall out once they got into the app. So how do you kind of give a little bit more wind to get them moving along so that they build a habit? Hundred percent intercom kind of aids in that.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. Now what's interesting to just think about You know, the context of even punch list, you know, in what part of their day and what environmental factors are people signing up, hey, we have a current process at my job, it's not working, I did a quick search for tools that could help us solve this. Right and they're signing up, they might not have time to fully set it up or to get it rolling. I think with the caveat that punches has been super simple in that you enter in a URL and then like you're ready to share, which is pretty cool. You know, we've we've done it for things as small as like our newsletter, you know, hey, we have a newsletter that goes out every Friday, instead of leaving feedback in the top, you know, spot in MailChimp, I'll pull it into punch list and be able to fire off some specific feedback. So I think like understanding, somebody might not have all the time in the world to get set up. So I think reducing the friction to get set up and then making sure that you're nudging them along that path. Otherwise, you know, like any mobile app, like if you you know, it's hard to measure download without anyone logging inter site up. So if somebody downloads it like, and they never sign up, you can't really engage them, right? And I do it all the time where, you know, Hey, I'll download a new app to check it out. And, you know, go through onboarding and then like, never open it again.

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, I'm more cognizant of how people handle post sign up nowadays. So bare metrics is a good one. I really like bare metrics. The the product is, is just really well thought out beautifully designed. And they have like a good personality and emotion that they bring to their product to them. Yeah. But I never had the revenue to fully like, support the data that comes that you need to have into it. So when my trial expired, I went back in after a while and tried it out. And just the smoothness of getting a trial back going so I can get the data back in just was really, really thoughtful. Yeah, and you know, in my head, it's like, I'm You know, people talk about like having a marketing swipe file, I tend to have like a swipe file for like onboarding. So it's like, oh, that that was really clever. I need to, I need to store that one away for for punch list or for just product in general. And it's just, I think, that kind of stuff is just becoming more I'm trying to become more in tune with that. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's, that's key. I mean, how you get started is a big indicator of how it will be beyond or restarted, right? I mean, you know, we've had clients where, yeah, we use your metrics as well, we recommend, Hey, I'll do a two week free trial, and then they're not at a point where they can re up but later they come back and everything's ready to go.

Pete Bernardo:   People are busy. I mean, it's notI mean, whether it's, if you're introspective and look at yourself and say, you know, how many times have you marked an article in pocket and never went back and read it? Like that, you know, thousands times, you know, so that's like a running joke, right? So think about for like product signup, especially nowadays, where product signup could be as simple as clicking a Google account button, right. So like signup could take one second and younger and you might forget why you even wanted to sign up for this thing, especially on like a free trial. Yeah. So I think reaching back out to people being clever on reminding them what the tool does is something I'm still trying to get better about. But it's clearly important.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, it's cool. I'm just looking at your marketing site now. Full story - have you used full story quite a bit as well? 

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Do you want to talk a little bit about your traction so far? From customer one to two today?

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, sure. Yeah, full story's a customer. So what's interesting about punch list is right now I'm focusing on medium size agencies - so under 100 people. I don't - I'm trying to fit the feature set to the audience or sorry, the audience to the feature set. And I'm trying to avoid going after larger enterprise customers just because one, I think it would be kind of a lot of effort to hunt. And, and they're probably going to be more demanding in terms of what they want. So right now our target audience and kind of where we have traction are medium sized agencies, they have a few project managers. So right now our pricing is one project manager up to six and that's that covers most of our agencies. Now, when you think about a project manager, or project manager typically has a team around them. So if you have six project managers, you're pretty healthy size agency, probably millions of dollars in revenue, because you're gonna have, you know, three to five people around each project manager, and sometimes even more. So for for us and for, for us, for me, punch list has been about trying to stick to that core audience, and just See how they use the tool get much better about it before I try to expand to other audiences, full stories of customer. So full story is one of the the few actually like internal marketing teams that use punch lists first agencies. The other use case I have, actually, surprisingly. So that's been one thing I should say that's been pretty nice as I don't dictate the use cases.  Right now, it's been more of seeing how people use the tool, and just trying to understand better. So a bunch of agencies use punch lists for pre sales. So because punch list doesn't require you to install anything, what they end up doing is they will put in a client's URL, maybe a prospects URL, and they'll annotate the live website and because they can share one URL with the rest of the agency, they can quickly annotate. Well. There's an agency here in Atlanta that annotated like 20 sites in a week and they just blew Through all these audits just kind of giving their feedback giving kind of their, their voice to how they would work with this client. And I've actually been surprised about that kind of stuff. So how much punch list becomes a pre sales tool? Verse kind of like a finalization tool is actually surprised me. Yeah. When when I see people's eyes light up, whether I do a demo or just explaining what the tool does, it usually surprises me where their eyes light up. So attraction right now is good. I, my goal this year is actually go full time on punch list. I still, I still consult quite a bit and that helps me have people help with punch lists, so I don't have to go into the piggy bank. But ideally, the goal this year is to go full time and and I think we're on a path to that.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's, that's awesome. So you didn't you didn't mention this, but I think maybe it's implied. You know, you started on your own. You're bootstrapped right by yourself. Obviously, you're doing consulting and stuff to help fund additional development and growth. You want to talk a little bit about the mindset when you started to approach this between, you know, doing it solo, obviously, you had the motivation to learn development and learn that as a skill and you know, be able to launch a product. But I guess, were there any, any things you were weighing in between bootstrapping, and you know, getting friends and family or an angel round or a VC round or, you know, applying to things like Y Combinator or other accelerators out there?

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, I mean, lack of self confidence is a is a killer sometimes. So taking other people's money, really early on, didn't didn't feel comfortable to me. I didn't know if I could do it. Like, quite honestly. And and still to this day, I don't know what this is going to turn into. There's some days where I think I could have a team of 50 working on this and there's some days where I'm like, Man, this would be amazing if I have like three people full time on this thing. So I think I'm humble enough to say like, I don't know where this is going and separately, I thought that it would not be - it would not be fair to take other people's money when I really had never built a product by myself before I had never built a business to where I lead it and had been very successful. I had been in a lot of successes, but never where I had the confidence to really run on my own or take someone else's money. So being solo and being self funded, seemed like the most logical thing forward. It also I had been involved with TechStars over the years from a mentoring perspective and then just understanding it, how how those companies are raising money. And I had been apprehensive to raise money or to go after raising money because it felt like a treadmill or felt like a hamster wheel. Right? So it's it's this idea that you're going to run to raise money. And then as soon as you're done raising money, you're back on the next treadmill or next hamster wheel to raise more money, right? So it ideally like in my head, my vision was and I want to have like a five to 10 person team. I want my revenue per person to be super high so that I can get great people and we could be really tight knit and when I thought back at like, the moments in agency life that I really loved the moments in like team product team I really loved it was always really tight. It was always small groups, like five people, maybe two teams of five, and just like the prototypical like what you hear about agile development, like just, you know, keep it, you know, seven, you know, to up to down or five to up to down. So I just wanted to keep things tight. And so that did not feel like I needed to go raise I wanted to do that it felt like I could self fund, find traction and not artificially hire people not artificially pump money into marketing not artificially do things that would be false indicators of success.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, vanity metrics. Yeah, I mean, well, kudos to you so far. And, you know, bootstrapping it building to the point where you have customers, right, you're eyeing that horizon where you're full time coming on, right?

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, kudos to my wife being patient and letting me work every weekend for the last two years. And you know, it's hard man, it's super hard. And you know, I, there's moments of success and there's moments of God this feels terrible. And part of that is not seeing success and not having, you know, the attraction or, or the follow up from people that you would want And, you know, a lot of that is, it's just something you have to be comfortable with or grow comfortable with. And if you can mitigate the burden you have financially. And so that's so that's one thing I should say, like I tried to reduce my, my burden, my cash flow, my family burn, if you will, as much as possible before I got into this, and it was something my wife and I talked about is how do we reduce kind of our costing, so that if we only had to go down to her income, we could. And so we did that before I left the job. And, and I still consult like I still consult a ton. And that's allowed me to bring some part time developers on recently this year, and hopefully it helps me bring on some marketing help this year as well. So I'm still burning it on both ends, so to speak. But that's that it feels good. It feels it feels like something that I can make But it is hard. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. What's the main difference of many, between building product teams and being the team building a product, you know, prior to engaging external folks to help?

Pete Bernardo:   Yeah, I think it's a good question for me when, when I consider this when I think back at agency life and having a large customer who wants a product team, you want to give them a really healthy team, right? So you want to give them a team that works well together, you know, maybe fits their their product idea from an experience standpoint, but also from like a mentality standpoint. And you also want a team that is okay, kind of adopting the passion. The why of someone else's products, I think, you know, one thing I think about is, you know, how am I going to make punch list sexy to someone else? Who wants to join it? You know, what is the why, what is the inspiration that they could rally behind? When you're an early stage team building a product, you know, a lot of that comes from just, you know, can we build this boat that's going to go out into the ocean? And it's this, you know, I think of like Tom Hanks in Castaway, saying oh, I built fire -  like he survived, right, he built fire, and he was able to survive. So you know, for building a product team, I think comes a lot of, you know, you have to think about health. You have to think about does this gel, and I think a lot of building a team to build a product. It's more about, you know, can these people rally? Are they self sufficient? Are they self motivated? You know, can they handle the hard times? You know, can they handle when things aren't going great? When there's a late night You know, so it's late stage product and access to successful stage product. It's just a completely different person, in my opinion. And you can you can make that transition. But often, you know, when we used to hire we used to really be considered of what stage a product was in just because we knew, like mental Yeah, it's a different person that needs to be in the roles.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, I mean, I would, I would echo that, you know, building teams. On our side, too, you know, you need the right personalities, you need the right right mix of the team, you know, at the right time, right, that Goldilocks zone always changes as the product grows, you know, early on what you need is not the same as what you need. You know, when your team is 50 people, you know, on an individual product.

Pete Bernardo:   And our friend Jeff Olson has this phrase that he talks about the people that got you here aren't necessarily people that get you there. And it's always rang true to me. It's like you can have a great early stage developer that you should be perfectly okay with them leaving when it's not early stage anymore. And that that just it feels counterintuitive like, Oh, this, you know, this person's been with me since the beginning. It's okay. Like their motivations are different. They're the way they think. And you see this all the time as startups grow as they become bigger, huge teams, you don't know everyone else's name. You know, the people that started with that startup tend to grow a little bit disconnected and want to move on. That, to me feels healthy. That to me feels normal. Yes, ideally, you build a startup that everyone feels is the same from day one today, you know, 1000. But once you add people to the mix, that always becomes harder. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah - This was super insightful. Pete, I appreciate your time so far. Where can people find you and follow along and stay up to date with your journey? As a product of one.

Pete Bernardo:   So thank you for that. So I have a podcast called product of one. So you could find product one kind of in any podcast player under product of one I'll just spell it out and then on Twitter the same, but if you want to reach me specifically on Twitter, it's Pete Bernardo. And that's honestly probably the best way to find me. And if you're interested in trying punch list, you can find punch list with punchlist just spelled out with li - dot - st. That's it. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Awesome. Thanks so much, Pete. 

Pete Bernardo:   My pleasure. Thanks for having me on again.

Andrew Verboncouer:  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
  • Solo Entrepreneurship
  • Managing Your Time
  • Making the Most Impact
  • Keeping Your Head Above Water