Charlie Ward: Thank you so much for joining us today, Amar. So for everyone to say that what we're planning to do is we'll do a kind of interview for 40 minutes just to chat between AMA and myself. And then we'll open up for questions and last 20 minutes. So as you have questions as we go, just post them in the chat and then we'll just pick people to ask questions like towards the end.
If that's cool and yeah, just before we start. So Amar is the co-founder of ZenMaid, so I'm sure a bunch of you follow him on Twitter already. He's also an advisor at Sperry style stuff, which mash runs and actually me, which I'm very grateful for as well. Yeah. How you doing, man?
How you feeling today?
Amar Ghose: Yeah. Doing well. What can looking forward to this thing is going to be a lot of fun, so yeah, love it. It's good to see. It's good to see some familiar faces.
Charlie Ward: Yeah, for sure, man, for sure. And yeah, just to get things started cause you a quick time check. Do you have an hour if it went over a tiny bit, would that be okay or do you want to stay?
Amar Ghose: Yeah, I can go over by a little bit. I had another call that I pushed back by, by 30 minutes just because you never know what these sorts of things, so yeah, I've got 30 minutes.
Charlie Ward: We'll try and keep it just in case. Yeah. Just to get started. So I entered you already, but in your own words, like how would you describe what does unmade does and who it's for.
Amar Ghose: So ZenMaid we provide like a scheduling software for maid services. So for domestic, like domestic cleaning companies, if you think about like your average little maid service, not a franchise oftentimes it's like a husband wife team that ended up with a couple of cleaners down the years.
The very typical story is the wife was a good cleaner, started cleaning for for her friends or something. And then eventually took on too much work, had to hire help at some point the husband came on and like help with the backend or started doing the cleaning or something along those lines. And then, fast forward, five years down the road and like they wake up and all of a sudden they have a business.
So like we're perfect for that like very specific like group and Justin did terms of being specific, but not like for the sake of being specific, but just to be clear one thing that's interesting is that if a maid service owner comes to us and is like already a business owner, has like digital marketing experience. If they're going like with the lead gen angle and and all of that stuff, we're not the best fit for them. I wish that we were as like the marketer that I am, but the truth is we're not, it's just not where our product fits in the market. So
Charlie Ward: yeah.
Now I got you. And just for our curiosity, what's the kind of range of the number of cleaners this service might have. What's the kind of low and high ends that you see.
Amar Ghose: Yeah. We have so low cleaners that are on there who just pay us the $49 like a month. And then I think our biggest customer pays us what, $500 a month.
So that's. What, 70 cleaners, 80 cleaners, something like that, but mostly it's between three and eight is like our sweet spot, but the real range is three, for many, like anywhere up to 25 and then above 25 are like mainly outliers.
Charlie Ward: Yeah. So something I see often on Twitter is that kind of the bigger, more enterprise sort of customers turn out to be like less effort and less customer service to handle.
Do you find that to a degree with what you do or is that kind of, is it more complicated than that?
Amar Ghose: It's just different for us. They all complain. I don't really know like how else selected to describe it? They're all like, they're all equally. Just as as frustrating.
No, I dunno, we've got a couple of like big clients, but even when I hear about that, like I think that the main thing there is that for ZenMaid we don't really have control over like the size of our clients and we don't really have the ability to go out and to target bigger clients.
Like we're not a good fit for the actual biggest made services. So to me, it's just we service who like who we're a good fit for. The one thing that I will say is that the people that pay us the least tend to be the biggest headache on support.
I think once you get above like a hundred dollars a month, they all seem to be a lot easier going, but man, the number of demands that we take and not like nice feature requests, the number of demands that we get from folks that pay us like $60, $70 a month is just way too high. Yeah.
Charlie Ward: Wow.
That's crazy. So I want to just go back a little bit in time, a bit like, in the early days and slightly before. So what I'd like to ask is how did you get into kind of like entrepreneurship or building SAS in the first place? What's your background that sort of led to that? Were you building stuff before Zen maize or what's that story?
Amar Ghose: yep. So I'll try to you to keep this short. To go like way back, I never really considered myself to be that entrepreneurial, but I think as I talked to more and more people, it's like, there's a couple of stories that I can think of from my youth that it's okay, like maybe I was like a little bit entrepreneurial.
So the first thing that like comes to mind is. The sixth or seventh grade. I essentially just found a really good deal on candy. It was just like you, you went to the supermarket, you bought my candy and they gave you, or you bought anything. And on the receipt that they gave you, there was a coupon on the back.
And one day I noticed that the coupon on the back was like a dollar off candy that was already on sale and they didn't have any rule against a double, like double use of that. Like you could use the coupon on something that was on sale. And so I ended up just buying a bunch of candy. 7 cents a bar and then just went to school, undercut the vending machines and just made like a couple hundred dollars until one of my teachers found out and threatened to go to the administration.
If I didn't like didn't stop or whatever. So that was like the first like foray. And then at some point I read rich dad, poor dad that I'm sure a lot of people like here have probably read at some point, can't say that I actually recommend that book, but it is pretty good from like a principal's perspective.
And the big thing I took away from that was don't climb the ladder on the ladder. And that was something that I think always stuck with me that mainly thinking about real estate. But then as I got into other things, I realized that, a business was just another, like another kind of like kind of asset, that we could That that could essentially create that sort of, that same like level of of freedom. And so then so many of us, I read the four-hour workweek. I grew up in in Palo Alto, so in Silicon valley, so I was essentially part of Tim Ferris says like target market right at at the beginning of all of his of all of his like marketing campaigns is focused on like LA, Los Angeles and New York, and just wanted the books to be like, to be big there.
So I was like exactly part of that demographic Reddit pretty much when it first came out. And at the time I was playing poker competitively, like online was making a little bit of money. Like there, I was still like still in high school at the time, but I had friends online who had chat about hands with and stuff like that were already living in Costa Rica.
And we're doing the digital nomad. And so that's really what put the bug in my head of okay now it's not just escape the rat race, escape, the rat race, travel the world. And that really put a lot more like of a solid sort of like why of the idea of like mini retirements and just not waiting until you retire, to go out and to and to live life.
And so when I read that was in 2007. And so for those of you guys that have followed me we started ZenMaid in 2013. So the time in between that I was in college and then, short period after college, that entire time trying different side hustles, micro niche sites playing poker online, just to try to make money like remotely from from anywhere in the world.
And then Let's see, what else did I try? They would try like a t-shirt business at some point, a couple of other things like that. And then in 2012, we came across a thread on Reddit, me and a friend of mine that was talking about starting a maid service online. And so me and a friend following.
Started a main service and that's what led us to
Charlie Ward: ZenMaid. That's awesome. Yeah, we'll try. It does cool stories, was setting like snacks at school, but I didn't have any, one's doing anything interesting like that at that age. But that's interesting about how you got to ZenMaid when that person was writing the Reddit thread, what were they just talking about?
How they had themselves started one of these businesses or,
Amar Ghose: yeah, essentially. They, it was in more of almost like a launch Formalwear like he had 28 days that he had mapped out, but he just did a day by day started and main source of when it's funny as is that he became one of my primary competitors that like, he launched a software to help all of these guys.
And if they had launched that software sooner, we would have never launched. And we started working on it because he hadn't solved the software problem in the industry yet. So he actually became like, yeah our biggest competitor, like couple of years down the road,
Charlie Ward: Do you think this is like the other side of building in public?
Is that sometimes you do open up these situations as well?
Amar Ghose: Yes and no. I think that, he like built a business and sold it for $3 million or something. So I'm sure he's very happy with the result. I don't think that he cares at all that, like I entered the industry and make a bit of money, a lot of people did office stuff, but he certainly made a lot of as well.
Charlie Ward: Yeah. So it sounds like that post, it had some kind of evidence that this was like worth exploring, but with you and your co-founder, was there like anything you actively looked for to prove that this was worth working on longterm? I don't, sometimes you'll call that validation or whatever, but or were you just we need somebody to this work at all costs and we'll see what happens.
Amar Ghose: It was a little bit of both because what happened was that because of my experience, as as a maid service owner and knowing like what we were up against on like on the software side, we were pretty confident that this was gonna work. So once we decided on the idea, my friend, or ruin who I co-founded the business with, he got to work on the product.
And I immediately started doing cold email and cold calling to maid service owners. So essentially I went into full like sales mode and it took him what about six months or so to get the product like into the hands of of our first customer. And so by the time we actually launched it, I had essentially, since spent six months.
Selling the product and had just been like really waiting for the product to actually come out to begin like collecting checks. That's what we thought at least of course, like nobody came when we opened the doors because that's life and business. But we did have one customer that paid us a thousand dollars for like lifetime access to the software before.
Before we, we had even finished the the software. So like we do some work there and we did follow a lot of the validation best practices, but we completely ignored the don't move forward with the software until it's validated. But, do, as I say, not as I do validate guys, make sure you validate,
Charlie Ward: do you think that's a common issue in the kind of indie hacker beat shopper community that like, people just don't do enough of that.
Amar Ghose: Yeah, definitely. But I think one other thing though, is that I didn't get, it's also important to consider, like when folks talk about validation, if you have an idea like Zimmerman, You don't truly need validation because like when we started it, wasn't a unique idea. There were already software companies that catered specifically to maid services that had founders that were clearly like earning like a decent living.
You had competitors that would provide these services. Like we just had a different take and thought that we could do it like a little bit, like a little bit better. But, and so like in that sense, and that's true of a lot of B2B software, if you're entering some market and you can already see that you're going to be one of multiple competitors.
You don't need need any validation and like contrary to. You know what's yeah. I guess you used to be cooperative and maybe it's still popular opinion, but having lots of competitors, that's usually a good thing. Because it means the validation like is done. Like it's done, I'm done for you, but where I really see like indie hackers and those folks getting tripped up is they don't go through the validation steps maybe because they're thinking exactly that and where it's actually helpful is if you can't go out and validate that your idea is good, that means either the idea is bad, or it tells you, you need to work on like your sales ability and like your messaging and how you actually present the product.
And so if it's something that's a validated idea, a lot of times the validation, like for us, my six months of validation, it wasn't validation. It was literally me doing sales, but it gave my, like my co-founder that confidence that like what he was building was actually going to make a difference and that he wasn't, building something for another marketing guy that was just going to disappear.
As soon as he realized that he couldn't sell it or or whatever.
Charlie Ward: Yeah. Yeah. I want to touch on something you mentioned now about not just what the product does, but how you present the products, a bit like random positioning, is that something that you think about a lot?
Amar Ghose: It's something that we have thought about a lot in the past. It's not something that I think about much on an ongoing basis, just because presenting made, we've been in business for nine years now. Our brand is very established. So it's something I don't really have to think about. But yeah, like in, in the beginning, you're always trying to figure out what's the positioning.
That's that's going to work. A quick link example there is, we definitely thought that our software was going to take off because of these booking forums that we were going to give to clients, they could place onto their onto their websites. And it was just going to help their businesses completely take off.
So we thought that would be the hot, new thing that once people saw that they would have to sign up like for our software and. First five, 10 customers didn't even use that feature. And we found out the only thing that they really cared about or the thing that caught their attention, they thought was just so cool about our system was just simple scheduling plus SMS and email.
And the fact that the SMS and the email was specifically designed for maid services that would be triggered around specific like main service appointment events, right? That little detail was something they just haven't seen done well in any other like system. And so for me, being on the phones, I very quickly realized that completely pivoted, we pretty much stopped showing that booking form feature until people had already signed up and we're using like we're using the schedule.
And we went through many iterations of that as the product matured as our messaging matured as our competition mature, all of that. Whereas now it's I can tell you exactly where like, where we fit in which competition is better for for who and all that stuff. Yeah, because I
Charlie Ward: guess you would you make mostly would define yourself correct me if I'm wrong.
It's more of the sort of growth and sales person. But it sounds like you had a, quite a tight relationship between when you were doing sales, but also research like the in it's not just about selling, you're also getting insights you could use to improve the.
Amar Ghose: Yeah, definitely. I essentially did everything non-technical including like customer interviews.
So essentially everything that I was doing was just protecting my co-founder from having to be exposed to people. And the more that I did that, the faster that we got, like code written and that was just like six months of just yeah. All that stuff. But I'm still like that even to like, to this day, that if I see in support that someone's asking for a phone call and no one on my team is available. I'll jump on a quick call with a customer, talk them through some issue or talk to them, on an intro call when they've just signed up, like signed up for ZenMaid. And if they point something out, some feedback that they agree with.
All, type something up, have screenshots done and have it sent over to to, to the dev team. That I still try to stay very close to that even like even nine years. And of course it's not like a regular thing. But every now and again, it's nice to be able to just like exercise that muscle.
Charlie Ward: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to talk a little bit more about how you think about some of the growth tactics you've done, but I just want to go back again to in the early days, did you ever think about you and your co-founder about what your kind of ramen profitable figure was like? Was that ever okay, this is a figure where we don't need any more at any to rely on our savings or to have side hustles and that kind of thing.
And if so, how'd, you think about that.
Amar Ghose: Keep in mind that we took a very extreme approach to this. So what we did was we, so he was working or not working. He was getting a stipend as a as a grad student at Stanford university. And I was working a day job when we started the company together.
So we started in of Q2 in 2013. And from there until February of 2015, So almost two full years, we didn't pay ourselves a penny or like literally the only thing that we did was just like work. We paid all of our living expenses from our own stuff. The only money we took out of the business that I've talked about on Twitter was like three sushi dinners to celebrate things.
That's the only thing that we ever spent money on. As a company during those first two years. And we just poured everything back into the business. Paid advertising, like all that stuff because I was working full time. I couldn't spend all my time, like doing this.
So when you fast forward, two years. I think at that point we were making, I think we were making seven or $8,000 a month. And at that point I began paying myself $1,000 a month and that's when I packed up and moved to Thailand. So I just, I like I was literally like paying more than that in rent in California.
I was living in mountain view and was commuting up to San Francisco every day. And I essentially just packed up my shit left, left my apartment, jumped on a plane, went to Thailand and then was essentially just living off of a thousand dollars a month for what probably the next like year or so between Thailand and like a tiny bit of like of Europe and stuff.
So we went very extreme that way. And so then my co-founder just didn't take out any salary for another year because he was still finishing up at Stanford and didn't need it. So we just kept pouring more and more back into the business. And then after about a year, then he stepped out as well.
But even then, we were only paying ourselves maybe 2000, $2,000 a month or something. While while traveling the world, but we pretty much just up and left the U S and just cut our expenses that way. So he was mainly living in Bangkok for two years. And then I was doing like a bit of a bum rotation between girlfriend's parents at the time, my parents, et cetera.
Charlie Ward: Yeah. So interesting. In this community and looking elsewhere, there's so many different ways people made that transition from like their business as a side hustle to working on it. Full-time you savings, you move somewhere cheap. You wait, so you have this much money.
It just sounds so context dependent. But are there any sort of principles that you think are applicable to like everyone's situation these things? Or do you think it's just like completely dependent?
Amar Ghose: Th the one thing that I've noticed is that most people, if you don't like your situation, if you don't like your current job, then chances are whenever you leave in hindsight, you're going to be like, I should've done it.
I think there's a big exception for people that love their job. And they're like, yeah, I've got a side hustle is beginning to make some money, I get to work on really cool problems, at my day job that I just am not going to be able to get to do bootstrap. I think there's definitely like a category of folks that are like that.
But the vast majority of people it's like the sooner that you go full-time and and double down assuming that it's validated, that's like a big thing, right? It's if you're not making any money yet, don't quit your job and go full time. It'd be like, oh, but Amar said too, right?
That's not on anybody, but yeah. It's just one of those things where like the, yeah, the vast majority of folks that, that I've talked to that have made that transition all in, in hindsight are just like, man, like if I'd done it three months, like sooner, it would have accelerated many things.
And, oftentimes oftentimes people are being overly conservative with like savings and and stuff like that. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I don't think that you should pull the trigger on this early, if it means that you're going to be stressed the entire time.
I think that saving for an extra 12 months that you have an 18 month runway that you're just not stressed as a bootstrapper is just like a godsend. You know what I mean? Yeah, that's probably the
Charlie Ward: biggest thing. Yeah. Gotcha. And you were saying earlier how especially early on you used a lot of cold email to meet new customers and that sort of thing, like in general, like what sort of grades.
Tactics has worked for you. And has it changed at different stages of your business as well?
Amar Ghose: Yeah, so it definitely changes a lot over time. Just as you like, are dealing with like different scales and stuff. Like for example, now I would never cold email because we just, we have so many needs, it would just be such a nightmare to manage between like our opted-in list and a cold email list and all that stuff.
Like I just don't even want to touch it. And we just, we have enough inbound leads to focus on, for example. So I've dropped pretty much all all outreach stuff. But it also changes a lot with Markets and industries and stuff, that I don't know that I would really recommend cold email these days if I were like, if I were starting out, I recommend the same principles.
So for example, if if your audience, even if it's B2B, if if your audience spends a bunch of time let's say it's e-commerce owners, they might all be on Instagram. So maybe it's using like Instagram, DMS, and then having a followup sequence there. And maybe it's something that you can't do automated, but you can essentially use the same principles to identify who your target audience to reach out and to get in front of them and to get your first, maybe five customers that way or something like that.
So these things definitely change over time. Did you want me to talk a little bit about like how I think about like marketing and like growth tax is, I feel like it's a little bit different than like this. So the main thing. I'll keep this short, just so you can ask where you want to go with it.
But in a nutshell, the big way that I think about most of like our creative marketing that we've done, that, some of you guys may have seen, like on Twitter is at its core. What I'm always trying to figure out in. The big question that I'm trying to ask myself is what value can I give to like our audience or to my customers and ask for no money.
And any time that I can add value for free, it's a form of marketing. And one reason that I really liked taking that sort of approach is they gets you out just thinking about ads that I find for indie hackers. I feel like for a lot of indie hackers, that's a much more creative and fun and like opening way of looking at it.
For indie hackers, it's just If you can build a little calculator tool, because it'll take you one afternoon to do something cool for your industry, that you'd never be able to sell, but folks in your industry would find really useful. That's a form of marketing, right? That's not going to solve all of your marketing problems, but it's something it's an asset that you can now drive traffic to.
And so like for you guys, that, that haven't seen me talk about this on on Twitter, a big example of this for us is the the made summit. So that's a virtual conference that we do, right? Everyone's familiar with virtual conferences, you see them all over the place. We were the first ones to do it in the cleaning industry. So we have if you guys go to may to summit.com.
Talk about without necessarily endorsing apologies,
Charlie Ward: AMA did it lose it for anyone else for about 10 seconds? Mastered. Did you hear all that they
Amar Ghose: did? Yeah. Sorry. Oh, w what was saying.
Charlie Ward: The main summit, you're just asking.
Amar Ghose: Yeah. So yeah. So with the maid, somebody, it was just like what's something that we can do that can get everyone in the industry, essentially talking about us or sharing, like really sharing a web asset.
Really what I'm trying to do is I'm like, how do I get people to the site so I can pixel them and then follow them around the internet, on Facebook until like they're ready to convert. And so how do I get people to share some other, like some other link that is completely like related to ZenMaid it helps us, but doesn't make everyone in the industry feel like they're necessarily like endorsing ourselves.
So every single influencer in the industry wanted to talk about this event because they were speaking about it. But of course, not every single one of them actually recommends us. So another example would be our Facebook group, which is the the ZenMaid mastermind on on Facebook.
That's another one that that we have, that was the exact same thing. But that's actually the reason that we we called it the made summit and not like the ZenMaid summit or the main summit by ZenMaid or anything like that. We almost wanted to hide that it was bias until it really picked up steam in its own.
Charlie Ward: Yeah. Gotcha. I really liked that. That framework of like thinking of marketing ways, you can add value for free for people. Like it didn't, it feels more authentic and it just puts me in a different frame of mind of okay, how can I add value for free, con
Amar Ghose: the other big thing there, I'm sorry. I'm spraying for mosquitoes right now. Cause I'm a, on a tropical island and getting bitten to shit right now that The the other thing is that when you ask yourself that question, it allows you to really think like each individual to really think about playing to their own personal strengths.
So for example, I'm pretty much good at nothing, except for like team-building and maybe like finding the right people that for whatever reason, I'm able to bring teams together and just find the right people to feel like the right role. One thing that we did to like to build relationships, so yet two to two examples here.
So one example is for, I think it was like 2014 or something. I went on to five. And got the ZenMaid like holiday logo or the sorry, the ZenMaid logo done with a holiday version. So it was like some designer or something, just put it in a snow globe. Some like insanely easy, like tasks costs like cost $5.
So I looked at that and was like, oh, maid services should should do this too. So we quickly did a little campaign that was just for Zen made customers. That was just like, Hey, send us your logo. We'll do a holiday version for you. Like it's our gift to you like this holiday season. And we paid $5 for every single.
But of course people were talking about about this thing, it wasn't something that I was actually good at, but I just found someone to do it for $5. So we ended up doing it for maybe like 20 or 30 customers, every single one of them posted it on their social media tagged us. And it was just one of those things.
They never knew that it cost us any money to do. I never told them. It didn't matter. It was just something nice that we did. But that was just like one little example. You can see how yeah. That's not going bring us in any customers or whatever, but you can just see how this sort of gets like the wheels turning, right?
Like ideas like that, or what led us to the made summit, which, last year we made $30,000 just by running the event itself, let alone all the money we made on the back end from people signing up, like for this. So then the second option are the second thing that we did. And this is something that everyone in the industry can do, because of course you guys are like, are all technical, probably good with websites and all that stuff.
If you have any like old school consultants in the industry, any coaches, any partners, any influencers that just aren't as technical, I just dropped all of them in email, back in 2014 and was just like, Hey, we're obviously much more tactical than you. If you have any technical problem that you're struggling to solve, just send me a quick.
And like me, someone on my team will take a look and it was the kind of thing that there were a couple of times that they came to me with something and I went on Upwork. I found someone for a hundred, $200 to just like to pay and to go into fix their problem for them. Never told them, never passed on the cost.
Guess what happens. We want to run the main summit. I send out 30 emails, inviting speakers, the next morning 21 have confirmed, it's little things, like things like that. But that's two ways that, that, like you can use like that mindset to get ahead with like your marketing and product and all that stuff.
Charlie Ward: Yeah. Gotcha. I think we can probably do a couple more questions then we'll open it up for other people to ask questions. And what can you work? What do you think is like the lowest point you've had. Do you want to share in buildings and mates so far?
Amar Ghose: That's an easy one. I recorded an entire podcast on that one in 2017, we launched a redesign after after close to a year of work, maybe more that that we launched launched a redesign and it went horribly.
Like essentially we critically took down the software and this is the scheduling software for a main service. Like it has all the information that folks need to know to get where they need to be and to do like their jobs. It's why they pay us the money. We critically took the software down from Monday at midnight until about Thursday at midday.
So we lost about 40% of our recurring revenue over the following. Maybe four to six months. It took a little bit of time for people to like, find alternatives and transfer off and and do do all of that stuff. But that was easily the low point.
Charlie Ward: Oh my God. Yeah. How do you is a big part of something like that?
Kind of just like just the mental side as well of just trying to like, not panic too much and stay positive so that,
Amar Ghose: yeah exactly. It's Yeah, lot. A lot of it was the mental game. I think that a lot of entrepreneurs in that situation would have considered just like shutting down or just trying to get out of it.
And then just not continuing on, I look at that as as a pivotal moment, like in the software, because yeah, it was a tough one, right? It was a tough one to to communicate through. It was a PR like a PR nightmare. We had to make some tough decisions because you had a bunch of customers that were, cussing us out and swearing at us and like trying to call us and stuff and were telling us to revert it back to the old version.
And we couldn't like, we couldn't do that. Which was not a fun thing to have to like that to do. There were a lot of learnings from that, obviously. But Yeah. The mental game was definitely the biggest thing. And and it definitely did save us.
It would have been a lot worse, so we would have lost a lot more than four then 40%, if we hadn't, if we hadn't responded the way that we did
Charlie Ward: no fair play for keeping going that situation, don't not sure everyone would have been able to. Yeah. Fair. And so I've heard some things like, besides the situation there, are there just some general things that you might've done differently if you started again on ZenMaid?
Amar Ghose: That's a really tough one to say, right? There are lots of things that I'm going to do differently for for my next business. But I think everyone will tell you that. And that's because you have experience, you've developed different skills. Like all of that stuff. I don't really have any regrets.
Around like around ZenMaid and how we started and stuff, because. Y, it's almost like thinking about theoretical, like butterfly affects like kind of things, but almost everything that I could tell you that would have made ZenMaid more successful in the future.
I actually think would have led to not having worked for one reason or another. It's for example, if I had a more talented co-founder, they probably wouldn't have worked with me for very long. Like my co-founder and I were perfect for each other at that time that like, I like had like sales experience, but was a very green very junior.
And I'd run like a maid service for a short period of time. But I looked like I was 12 and no one took me, took me seriously. And he was essentially like learning to code at the time, but was a very like talented, talented, like coder. And so it was one of those things where, yeah, I hadn't been anyone else.
They wouldn't have stuck with me through like those early, like growing pains. But yeah, second time around lots of things differently. The primary one I think is going to be going a bit more like audience first is I'm probably going to solve at least one or two of the marketing channel problems before I would really put a lot of effort into into the actual the actual product that, you hear like the cliche of of like first founders, think of first time founders, think product second time founders think distribution.
I definitely believe that, that I would essentially figure out how we're going to distribute the software and then I would figure out, what does that distribution channel want? What does the product need? What requirements does it need to meet to fit?
Charlie Ward: Gotcha. And and you were saying before, you're talking about, what you might do for your next business. Do you have a kind of, I know you don't like to like, even book meetings more than a week in advance. Are you thinking much about the future and made right now or just enjoying where it is and, feeding it out?
Amar Ghose: Enjoying where it is and feeling it out, but I don't really have much of an interest in selling ZenMaid. I just think that it's like too good of an asset to let go of I just don't really see why I would sell it. With that it's I'm more just I'm still building the company to sell, but even now, if I wanted to, I could just step away from the ZenMaid day-to-day operations for a month, three months.
And I would come back to to a bigger business. There would be some ramifications, like longer-term strategy and stuff like that, but I'm already I can already optionally step out of the day-to-day if I want to just looking forward into the future, I feel like there's a decent chance that I'm going to be like an owner investor in quite a few SAS companies.
I don't think I would want to do angel investing. I think I'd want to be like a majority like stakeholder or like a. Like a majority partner, it's me and a couple of friends having 20% each, like in something or something like along those lines with one person being the operator, like something along like along those lines.
But that's something that I've thought about. If I'm going to do a portfolio of SAS companies, why sells and made to then start that? Like, why not just have San, may it be like B be the first one. And then I've tried to do that with two, two companies now. So I bought 50% of one company from another indie hacker.
I think we're going to like back out of that one, like quite cleanly, is pretty much just tear up all the documents and just go back to, before I was involved in that. And then I bought one during the pandemic, two years ago or two, two years ago that needed a bit more work than I think that we were initially thinking when we bought it and, so if we're being honest, ZenMaid was crashing pretty hard at the time.
And as soon as I bought it, ZenMaid started skyrocketing again. And then I was like, oh, is that admits fun? You, you know how it is when it's going? It's all the fun in the world, when it's not, it's I hate this business so much,
Charlie Ward: man. I've really loved. I've loved this conversation.
I think we're going to open it up now. So a few kind of audience questions. Let's see. There's different ways to do this. Does anyone want to ask Emma or question so we can either just do it, you can just ask it like with your voice or you can just post it in the chat and I can ask it for,
Amar Ghose: yeah.
Should we just go through the first ones that were just early, I guess there's just one. Yeah. So I was asked to, did you bootstrap? So yeah we bootstrapped the entire company like ourselves. And then how does the overall timeline look from starting to, okay for that question about yeah, the, how long it took, if you guys check my Twitter, just check my my pin tweet, the pin tweet goes through our revenue by year and it goes through what my actual take-home pay was was during that time.
So you can see right that two years, we didn't pay each other at all and pay ourselves like at all. And then you're like year three, I was paying myself maybe a thousand dollars. Then my 2000 and then it really skyrocketed from there, but five, five or six years into the business, I wasn't even paying myself like 3003 K a month.
So it took awhile. It took awhile. Didn't go for VC because we just had no interest in going for VC. The point of the business was to was to build like lifestyle, freedom. Also, I don't think there's any VC in their right mind that would have given me money, like a big reason that we started the company.
For me, it was a no risk proposition because no company would give me the time of day to do marketing, which is what I discovered that I actually enjoyed doing when I was running the the main service. So
Charlie Ward: yeah, just to check roots because you want to ask a question.
Amar Ghose: No, sorry
to let you know that I'm still here.
Charlie Ward: Awesome. That's this guys, the next one from John
Amar Ghose: the jar. Yeah. So Jack's question was what was the highest impact hire that you made either full-time or contractor? The two answers there would it be Chris? Who's my who's my COO now.
So he's like running pretty much everything. Like non-technical on the team other than other than marketing. And he started out as actually a marketing intern for me of that. I hired him when I was actually here on, on the same island here in Thailand's that I'm on right now.
This is back in, I think, 20. 17. And he was like the first real hire that we made. And so that was, a couple of years ago. So he was essential for like person number three in the company. And now we have close to a close to 40 or something. So he's the one that really came in and is yeah, the true, like more like operations mind that like I still decide on and would execute pretty much everything in the business.
And he was the one that came in behind me and return everything like into a process over time. He's essentially built out like the entire, like ZenMaid playbook. Like almost all of our documentation is like due to him or like now the team that has. That's probably the biggest one.
And then of course our current CTO was like the primary contractor that we were working with back in 2017. And he's becomes, great friend, like both of them were at more at my wedding and stuff. And he is, he's been leading our product team for four years now.
I don't know what I would do without him. If he quit, I would probably, at that point I would probably consider selling the business rather than going through the headache of replacing them.
ZenMaid has a lot of content on YouTube. How much impact did it have on your growth? What lessons have you learned when working on your YouTube? Okay. So I am not the person to ask about this because we are really bad at tracking results. My approach is we push it out there that is designed to help our target audience.
And we just try to do that in bulk as much as we can. And we just think that it'll come back to life to help us. So honestly, no idea how to YouTube has has helped our growth. I don't even know how we would begin to like to attribute that, we can take a look at the views and stuff. They're still smaller than we'd like, I think we have maybe 3000 subscribers and like our views is beginning to get like more consistent, but we put in three years into YouTube before we really started getting any traction.
And the reason for that. We don't really edit or create videos for YouTube. I'd mentioned the maid summit earlier. So the reason that we have so much content on YouTube is because we do the maid summit that has what, 50, 60 talks every year. And then every year we publish those on the YouTube channel over the following year, we drip it out one week at a time.
So if you look at them, made.com/magazine you can see that all of the YouTube videos, they all have like standalone articles as well on like on our blogs. So we put out ton of content marketing. Yeah. They're for for that stuff, but in terms of tracking it's yeah, no idea. If you guys are interested in shameless plug, check out my podcast, that surround sound, SAS marketing Your favorite local podcast player, I guess I don't really promote this very often.
But if you're interested in that, I think it's the second or third episode where I talk specifically about our strategy for for the main summit and the title of that is like how we got paid $28,000 to create a year's worth of content. So essentially that made summit events that we run.
Like we run that one event and then I've never even spoken to the writers on the ZenMaid team. And that one event every year creates a year's worth of content. So I don't really have to think about the content team within Zen mates. I just focus on partnerships and like paid advertising and the rest of it just takes care of itself at this point.
But that took years to put in place. Like I did that all myself for four or five years before getting it here.
Charlie Ward: While we're waiting for some more questions in the chat. I just want to ask about how would you summarize, like the kind of main safety see indie hackers made earlier? You mentioned validation hardly, for example, we're like, is there some way to try and summarize?
Amar Ghose: Honestly it just comes down to not talking to users. That's really what it comes down to. No matter where you are right now, you have your use. And I was lucky because I wasn't working on my product. So like, all I could spend my time, particularly at the beginning was really like talking like to the users.
But yeah there's a good chance that it's not, so I put out, again, it looked like I cut out
Charlie Ward: Rocky, but I think we got the gist of what you were saying with an Italian.
Amar Ghose: Yeah. Gotcha. Yeah. It's just not talking to customers or not. That's really, it. Yeah, another question. What's my favorite tropical island to work from.
That's the island that I'm on right now that's co bond gone. I don't know how much you guys can see out here, but I'm like sitting like waterfront right here and then where the lights are right there. And this area is like a coworking space. So I'm like bungalow. And then my wife is in the hammock right there.
It's not about life. It's not a bad life. There's a couple of beach dogs that have adopted us. It's great. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah yeah, and then I think, we didn't really touch on it like too much, but like I, I mentioned that I started traveling in 2015, so I've been traveling says since then, I haven't lived like back in the U S so everything we've done has been like on the road.
Team's been remote since since 2013 and Yeah, then to 30, 30 plus 30 plus countries or something while buildings, inmates. That's pretty cool. Adrian's question. What difficulties slash learnings did you have working on your multi-lingual SEO? We just used a plugin for that. I forget what the name of it is.
We just do some plugin that essentially takes care of that. Like for us, we went like the lazy route and I did the same thing inside the software. We have translations inside the software, just in like Spanish Polish, and like maybe German or something like, like that. Let's see.
Any other questions here? Key parameters for a valid product? It's a hard one, but I think just figuring out that you've got at least 10 people that are. Actually going to pay you for the product, like five, 10 people, I would say I'm not really sure. That's a feel one, but validation is really just like making sure that people value your product enough to pull out their wallets in order to use it.
Charlie Ward: Nice. Equivalent sounds like you got a question.
Amar Ghose: Oh yes. Just want them to know how you got from zero to a hundred and a hundred, 2000 in terms of your strategy in terms, but is it inbound and outbound? More because I do know a lot of probably cleaners in a sense, they don't go to the length of searching like a scheduling to earlier on when you just start.
Yeah but the ones that aren't going to be searching, aren't likely part of our target market. So I'm not trying to reach those people. It's one of those things of you can try to get in front of everyone, but we want to get in front of people, like when they're ready.
So like our love, our blog content is those people. They may not search for a software, but they may look at how do I get more cleaning clients? And if our blog shows up, then we try to introduce them to the software. And that's when the, maybe they just, they don't know what they don't know. So they don't know that they don't they don't like need it, but to answer your question about going zero to a hundred and a hundred to a thousand, pretty much exactly what you touched on zero to a hundred was essentially outbound.
And then one, like one, one, like lucky partnership that we actually landed because of outbound work that we were that we were doing. And then a hundred to a thousand was just a lot more a lot more inbound. It's been a long time since I've thought about outbound marketing, right?
To me, like all marketing is really inbound, but getting it off the ground I almost think those first hundred customers, to me, it's more an exercise in sales or at least the way it was the way that we went about it. That for me, it was just like, I, I had done the math and I just knew, if I spoke to 3000 maid service owners, we were going to get a hundred customers.
And there was a good chance. It would take way less than that. But I just set that in my head of just like the goal is to just call 3000 managed service owners. Or kill yourself, whichever comes first. Here we are
Charlie Ward: nice. I love to hit you touch on how you thought about evolving your pricing over time.
Because it's something that like, the more I've read about best practices, like you should treat it like a feat unit itself that you rethink and evolve. What's your kind of, what's been your approach to it.
Amar Ghose: We've only changed our pricing significantly, like twice that we, yeah we, at some point went from being, 49 only to 49 99, 1 49.
And then at some point the major pricing thing, and then this is in 2019. So it's been over three years since we changed our pricing. So we're long, long over overdue for it, but we changed to usage based pricing. So we changed a $49 a month plus $9 per month per cleaner. And then the other thing was we also launched a free plan as well, which was another big that's almost like a business model change like that.
That was an entire business model decision versus versus really a like a pricing decision. But. With pricing. I think there are some good resources and some good books like that are out there. They're not, they don't tend to be geared towards geared towards SAS specifically, or I haven't found too many good ones that are geared towards like SAS.
The guys from ProfitWell have got some good resource songs like, and stuff like that, but The biggest thing is figuring out a way to directly align the value that your users like receive with like your pricing and the more so that you can align your success with their success. The easier time you're you're gonna have like expanding, like getting that expansion revenue or getting people to sign up.
The only thing with that is you will get some pushback of, there's always the folks who are like, oh, I just want to pay $29 a month, like for life. And it's great, that's fine. Go use one of the competitors. And they're probably not going to make any updates. But if you want to sign up for something, that's going to grow with you, the expectation is we're going to do the work.
And so that's probably like the biggest thing. So like for us, that combined with simplicity, right? So for us, what we discovered when we were really deep into ZenMaid, as the value of ZenMaid is derived directly from the number of appointments that are in the system, because every single appointment in the system, we save them more time for each additional.
So that's what we found. But the problem is that most maid service owners don't know how many appointments they have a month. Plus the appointments per month are variable. So if they come to the pricing page and you go, oh, you have 400 to 500 appointments a month now you're making them think hang on.
How many appointments is that? How many recurring clients I have, or how many total appointments or what do they say? And so the whole thing is, that's why we actually were like, okay, what's the closest metric that's reflective of that. Everyone knows how many employees they have. And the more employees you have, the more appointments that you're likely going to have on the schedule.
And so that was the metric that we ended up on. And so now what we're actually looking at is for this year, we're looking at a combination of things. So we're looking at releasing quarterly pricing to help improve like our cash flows. Cause we don't want to do like annual because most of our customers won't sign up for it.
Cause they don't have the cash flows for it. But the other thing is we're looking at doing usage based. Plus features now. And so now it's we know okay, if someone has over 10 cleaners, then like certain features are going to be much more valuable to them than than other ones. So we're going to put that on, like on the higher plan.
Now each one, now, if they've got 10 instead of $9 per employee, maybe we can get it up to $14 per employee. And so now we're at that stage where if we want to keep growing, honestly, the pricing as a bigger difference, it makes a bigger difference than anything else. Like we changed. So I said, we changed in January of 2019.
I did the math in in 2020, I did the math at some point. And if we had not changed our pricing in January of 2019, we would have ended that year at $48,000 per month. And because we changed the pricing, we ended up, I think it's $63,000 a month. So that.
Charlie Ward: It might've cost out again. Yeah. Let me just tell him when
Amar Ghose: he's banner.
Sorry about that. I just switched my switch to my, a hotspot on my phone. Yeah. Anyways, I was just saying it's about a $15,000 difference between those two and add at that size, that was about 25% of our business, right?
Charlie Ward: Gotcha. No, that was great. Any other questions from anyone else?
Amar Ghose: No.
Charlie Ward: Awesome. Is there anything else that you think, while you're here that like you want to, you want us to share or a question you wish people would ask, but they don't
Amar Ghose: that question, Charlie? That's the question.
I don't actually know. I guess one, one thing that I thought I think is interesting to like, just like touch on really like really quickly is I just think it's interesting, like the difference for me, like now that the company is a lot more mature versus when it was very like early on.
And I think that's something that I have to remind myself of, if, it's difficult to spend time talking to your customers, right? That was essentially my full time job at the beginning, which is why you hear me talking about it like a lot, because not enough people like can do that, but it's difficult, it's a tough one, to balance if you're working a full-time job, if you're working on the product, like at the same time.
I just think that people need to be one. So actually I think, I guess one, like piece of advice that I feel like doesn't really come up enough that I wish that more people like considered or whatever is I wish that more indie hackers looked for non-technical solutions to problems. I think that everyone looks at how do you code something up and oftentimes there's some better way, or the other thing is stopping for a second and going, does this lead to be automated?
Like I catch the ZenMaid team on that, where like someone goes, Hey, we need to write a process for this thing. And it happens like once a year or something. Or maybe that's not not on love the best of the best sort of suggestion, because for like a company, like ZenMaid actually, that makes them more important.
Cause you know, the one person leaves you don't realize for 11 months and then something's completely like completely broken, but at a lower level, I remember like when folks were trying to like, spend time like automating, they're like, yeah, we can spend two days on nest and like it'll automate this and make the customer's life.
It's hang on a second, but we can make the customer's life easier by having a VA do that. And we get two of those, like a day, it takes them no time to do it all. I'm like we get back to days of development, time to then folk songs and stuff. And I think that the more in the hackers need to be thinking about that the whatever, or that you're like, God forbid matters to anyone paying you like money.
It's not about adding dark loaded, how long it's gonna take it's about the opportunity cost and what else you could be doing in that time. And it's not about that one task. It's about the 50 or 100 tasks that are like that, of it happens with every new ZenMaid employee of what do you mean?
You just spent like an extra day getting the animation, right? Like you do that again. I'll fire you. I don't care about the animation. Get it done for the customer, fix it. You know what I mean? I think that's something that people need to have more of a mindset of around like moving fast.
Charlie Ward: No, I couldn't agree more.
And I think we'll make this, the last question from Adrian on what habits were useful in your journey.
Amar Ghose: Most useful habit was from the, it was introduced to me by the foundation probably comes from like a bunch of other things, but just the 20 mile March, which is just essentially talking about just working every single day and just being consistent.
So for me, the first two years I did not have a good work ethic. I would skip out on things. My co-founder would ask me to do things and and I wouldn't. And when things changed where, a couple of conversations that we have. Stuff like that. But the biggest thing was that I essentially just started waking up every single day and I'm a morning person.
So for me, everything was like was done like in the morning. And it was like, I would always have my call list ready to go of here's like the 10 calls that I have to make in the morning before I go into work, like in San Francisco. And then like separate of that, I would spend five or 10 minutes just doing one thing that would add to the business longterm.
Like adding one email into our email sequence. Okay. I wrote that one email. Everyone that joins our email list gets that email. And I just focused on doing one thing a day like that. And you stack that up when it comes to like marketing tasks and an email funnel and like building landing pages and all of that.
And I just stacked little tasks like that for two years. And by the end of it, it's oh my God we actually do marketing, but I'm not really having to do all that much work. Of course, that was just the start of all the work. But you know what I what I mean? So that habit is probably by far like the biggest thing.
And then the.
The second one, which is more digital nomads, specific time zones. A lot of 'em, a lot of nomads will will almost fight time zones where they are traveling a little bit. They go to a different continent and it's, they're like, okay, I've got to stay up. I've got to do like all these, like these things, like sometimes that's necessary, but oftentimes it actually gives you a different ability to focus.
So just a really quick example of that is like, when I'm here in Thailand, I wake up at five in the morning and most of my team does wake up and. Maybe one o'clock in the afternoon. So when I'm here, I can just do deep work in my life. My mornings take off most of the afternoon. And then when they're up to speed in like the afternoon or the evenings, maybe I jump on a couple of calls to make sure we're on the same page or whatever.
I do know customer calls while I'm here, when I'm in the United States, then I really lean into it. And my more active on support, I'm giving the support team feedback and doing a lot of the quality checks and making sure things are still up to the standards that I sent. A couple of years ago, I'll do demos.
I'll jump on training calls with people. I'll do all of that stuff right. In the UK. It's a little bit, a little bit different, but that, that's another one
Charlie Ward: Nice one. Thanks so much for that. And yeah, I think that's a good note to end on Amar.
Thanks so much for joining us. Like this is some incredible insights there. So super appreciated, man.
Amar Ghose: Cool. I'll see you guys later. Thanks for having me.
Charlie Ward: Thank you so much, Amar. Thanks everyone. And catch you soon.