In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Jonathan Kazarian, Founder and CEO of Accelevents, joins Phil Alves to discuss how event organizers and businesses can manage and make the most out of their events.
Every SaaS product aims to solve one specific problem its founder encountered. But some products become all-round solutions to multiple problems in their category or niche. In the world of events, that is Accelevents. Today, its Founder and CEO, Jonathan Kazarian, shares his SaaS journey.
In this episode, we discuss:
How Can Events Impact Your B2B Marketing Strategy?
Delivering a better customer experience starts by gathering and analyzing data. Traditional marketing techniques for capturing that first-party data limit marketers in the level of information they can get. But events offer you the possibility of getting multiple touchpoints with your customers. People are more likely to share their data and help marketers leverage their efforts.
Technology needs to be there to make life easier for event organizers - Jonathan Kazarian
From Zero to Hero and Beyond
Though managing events is stressful, it can help companies bring in more data, customers, and revenue. However, during the pandemic crisis, many layoffs occurred, and companies were firing people responsible for organizing events. For Accelevents, the pandemic meant both the moment the business hit bottom rock, as it went down to zero in revenue and the beginning of constant growth. Jonathan and his team have been focusing on helping their clients and making them realize why events are significant for their businesses.
In the world of events, you spend three months building this experience that culminates in three hours. You don't have even ten minutes to wait for a response - Jonathan Kazarian
A Golden SaaS Strategy
In terms of sales, for some brands, the final step is selling their products. For Accelevents, this is only an intermediate process. The company invests heavily in customer experience and focuses on helping their customers learn their platform and constantly engage to get their feedback and improve.
So we made the decision that we want to invest in customer experience, and we won't invest in any mechanism of growth that will lead to a decrease in customer experience - Jonathan Kazarian
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Jonathan Kazarian: When investors are looking at private companies, they're using public companies as a comparable. When the public company revenue multiples come down, thus trickles down to private company multiples because investors will look at a private company and say, "Okay, if I invest at this price today, how much am I going to be able to sell that company for in the future?" Voice Over: Welcome to SAS Origin Stories. Tune in to hear authentic conversations with founders as they share stories from the earlier days of their SAS startups. We'll cover painful challenges, early wins, and actionable takeaways. You'll hear first-hand the dos and don'ts of building and growing a SAS, as well as inspirational stories to fuel you on your own SAS journey. Here is your host, Phil Alvez. Phil Alvez: Okay. Today I have Jon from SL Events. Welcome to the show, Jon. Jonathan: Thanks for having me on. Phil: The first question that I asked our guests is, what problem does your product solve? Jonathan: We solve the problem of helping businesses grow, frankly. We provide an event management solution to facilitate every type of experience, everything from virtual events and webinars through large-scale conferences and field marketing events, all under one single platform to make it easier and less stressful for you to host events so that you can focus on creating experiences, community, new contact. Phil: Great. How did you come up with the idea? Jonathan: It certainly didn't start the way it is today. When I started the business, it was, actually, about necessity. In 2004, my cousin at the age of 17 got diagnosed with cancer and I wanted to do something for her. At the time I was throwing some event/parties on the side and realized that the way I could raise the most money would be to host an event. I went down to the aquarium in Boston, Mass, where I was living at the time. I put my credit card down and I rented up a whole space. I had to sell 185 tickets to break even for that first event, basically, to be able to pay my credit card bill, but ended up getting 840 people to show up to that first event. We raised $65,000 for [unintelligible 00:02:12]. Along the way, I realized that there was no good way to run the auction or the raffle. We had a younger demographic, fairly tech kind, so I decided to build a solution. We looked around, there just wasn't anything good or affordable out there. Ultimately, went down that path, building our own solution. We got great feedback from the attendees, the organization. At that point I realized, "Okay, we can build business out this." I started doing that nights and weekends. I did that for a little while. The second year of the event, the event registration software that we were using, which is now a publicly traded company, failed us. On the day of the event the waitless functionality just broke. We had 100 people clinging off the waitlist, caused the organization to put the event on for probably $10,000. It crystallized this belief that technology needs to be there to make life easier for event organizers, not do the opposite. Continued building for a couple of years. Things are starting to pick up steam. By 2019 we ended up closing out the year at about 375K in revenue. Still, obviously, small, but real money at that point. It was looking like we were going to be able to break million in 2020. By this point we were fairly far moved away from the fundraising part of the business, much more focused on B2B events, conferences, trade shows, et cetera, and then the world shutdown. At that point, I watched everything happening to the building for the past five years, basically, slip between my fingers, evaporated, collapsed. That was really hard. We did have this belief that technology will play a bigger role in events in the future. We had been going down this path and building for a hybrid future, fortunately. We decided to lean all the way into that and start developing virtual event solution, and partnering with our customers to figure out exactly what they needed, and that worked. We ended up closing out 2020 at 3.4 million in revenue. We, basically, [unintelligible 00:04:21] over the year by really learning from our customers and figuring out what's the right solution that they need, including that in front of them. Obviously, we've grown up quite a bit since then, continuing to evolve and, again, continuing to learn from our customers. Today, we're focused on the full spectrum of event needs. Again, everything from those in-person events, through every type of virtual experience. Phil: That's great. There's so much for us to unpack here. Let's go back and I want to definitely touch on the COVID and how you guys had really reacted to that. Before we go there, let's go back. When you start because right now, you have a platform that solve a lot of problems. Looks like at that point you chose to solve just one problem that you had, and then you started to expand. How did you make the decision of picking just one problem? Because I see so many founders, now, so many years in your products were what your initial vision probably was, but you couldn't solve every single problem at the beginning. How did you pick the first problem that you want to solve? How was the process? Furthermore, you couldn't solve even the first problem by yourself. Could you tell me a little bit about building the first version, coming up with your engineer team, and the process of like taking something to market? Jonathan: When you're starting something, if you set this grand ambition and grand vision, that's great, but you're doing that without very many customer conversations. You don't have access to that network in most cases. Yes, if you're coming out of the industry, great. In our case, yes, I've been hosting events, but I only had a handful of conversations with other people that had this problem. For us, it was like, "We're going to solve this specific problem. We're going to bring it to market, and we're going to talk to our customers, and we're going to learn from there." One thing that we did do from the very beginning in a large part, because I suffered this, was that, in the world of events, you spend three months building this experience that culminates in three hours. You don't have even 10 minutes to wait for a response. From the very beginning, we were adamant about being there 24/7 for our customers. There was times, I remember pulling on the side of the highway to respond to messages from customers because they need that on a Saturday night when their event is live. What that did is it led to a scenario where customers, they know it wasn't a bot at the other end of that chat. It was a real person who, actually, cared and wanted to hear what they had to say, who was going to help them in any way they could. That turned into customers saying, "Hey, you guys should think about doing this. Hey, have you tried X, Y, Z? Hey, we're having trouble with this. There's a bug here," because they we were listening and we would adapt to that. Created this network, this community where we had the opportunity to learn from folks. That's how we ended up broadening our offer. Again, from the perspective of what we elected to tackle in the first iteration, I was bootstrapping this, didn't have money to use. I was taking money for my day job and pumping into building this thing nights and weekends. To use a corny expression, we couldn't go and boil the ocean. We had to figure out exactly what we were, actually, capable of pulling off and getting some feedback as soon we could to figure out if this viable. I was, basically, using money I would've otherwise saving for retirement. I was betting on this idea, betting on myself. From the perspective of, actually, building it, the very first iteration for that first event was through a friend of a friend, but after that, we realized we weren't going to be able to work together. I went on Upwork and I found some folks. We started spinning off a WordPress site, PHD code in something that worked. After about 13, 16 months of that, we outscaled what that code base was going to be capable of and ended up actually bringing in another friend to help us rearchitect the entire thing from scratch. Frankly, that's still the underlying architecture and code base that we have for that. I'm sure pretty much all have been rewritten at this point. I was not a technical person by training or by trade. I did not study Computer Science in school. Everything I know today has been self-taught. I'm not in there writing code. Occasionally I go in there and break something. Where I do get very involved is the system architecture because it had to be. I had that vision of where can we get to with this thing, and what's the architecture that we're going to need to be able to develop, to support what we're going to be at two years from now. I don't necessarily mean load and capacity, more just system design. Phil: You had that WordPress solution? For the WordPress solution, you brought some Upwork freelancers, but your friend help you manage those freelancers, or your friend came in and build the third version after the Upwork version? How did that work? Jonathan: The friend came in for the third version. We moved away from the WordPress version. We moved to Java and AWS, and then we, actually, went back out of Upwork and found some Java engineers who are just incredibly brilliant people that we still work with today. We've expanded that team to about 50 folks. Phil: Nice. I find that strategy, that bootstrapper, founders implement all the time very successfully. You do need their leader to tell you how you're going to build this, the architect. Once you have the architect, you can definitely go and find the engineers and have those engineers build that to you. That looks like how it worked. Your friend was your architect and then he said, "Okay, guys, this is how we're going to build the software," and then you went in and brought the freelancers to help you build the product. Did that friend ever become a full-time or he just-- Jonathan: No. At this point, him and I were both working full-time in other jobs. Actually, I had a co-founder at this time as well. Because we were all working other full-time jobs, eventually it reached this point where people had different opportunities in our other career. After about, I guess, 12 to 18 months, the individual who helped us with the initial architecture took a new role where he didn't have the option to continue with us. That was all good and well and setup up for success. Actually, both of these guys-- I was at their weddings over the summer, so I was very a good friend to both of them still. The other one, the guy who's originally my co-founder, stayed with us for a little bit longer. Him and I parted in 2019. Again, he had other opportunities that he want to pursue and he came to me with that. I think, in part, both of these people had the maturity to recognize where their heart was at, but that really, I think, is critical, but is hard to discuss as well. Phil: For sure. I'm sure, at the time when they were helping, you guys working together, you guys were having a great time, but they found something else that we want to pursue, and that's what it is. Business is about having the flexibility. Jonathan: Yes, but keep in mind, this working together, it's not your 9:00 to 5:00 working together. It's your 6:00 to 1:00 AM working together. There was times where my co-founder and I would literally alter who was going to go on a date night on Friday or Saturday night because the other person had to be available to handle support. Phil: Let's talk a little bit about that. For how long you have then this as a side hustle? Would you recommend other founders to start as a side hustle? Because I think that allows you to fund yourself and to make your own mistakes. Let's talk a little bit about that approach of building a product starting as a side hustle. Jonathan: The approach of starting it as a side hustle did a couple of things for us. It allowed to iterate without some of the pressures of a VC breathing down our neck or an angel. It allowed us to make longer-term decisions because we had another income source, our day job, but yes, we could have moved a lot faster had we been spending 90 to 100 hours instead of 50, instead of half of the amount of time that we could have been spending on it every week. That's the tradeoff there. Ultimately, that puts me in a position today where I own much more of the company than I would have if we went out and raised a pre-seed round or an angel round to be able to fund a ramen diet while we were building how it is. Phil: When did you become full-time and did you ever raise money after that? Jonathan: I became full-time in 2020, in the spring of 2020, and we raised a convertible note at the beginning of this year. We haven't raised any money until this year. Phil: 2020, what a perfect time to go full-time. [laughs] Let's talk about that. [laughs] Jonathan: Once it became clear that there was a very big opportunity in front of us, it was no-brainer at that point. Phil: When you moved full-time, you guys had already figured out how to pivot your product and how you'd be able to grow your company through the pandemic? Jonathan: Yes. At this point, there's no co-founder anymore. When the co-founder departed, at that point-- Let's see. We had one sales person, who is currently our Director of Sales, we brought on at the beginning of 2019, and then my co-founder departed in July or June of 2019. Then we brought on a customer experience person when he departed and she's currently our Director of Customer Experience. Both of them are incredible individuals and we are so fortunate and would be okay without either of them, but that was the team that we had during that pivot in terms of call it like the business team outside of engineering. I was the product person and then we had our engineering team. Our engineering team, technically, were freelancers at that point. Phil: What kind of changes did you have to make to the product you as the product person, and how did those changes took you guys where you are today? Jonathan: From a product perspective, you go from a product that is used for two minutes or five minutes during a registration process or something, that landing page to experience with somebody who's sitting there, in the platform, using it constantly for hours on end. Not just somebody, but tens of thousands of people doing that simultaneously across numerous events with a global audience. Our AWS still went up like, I don't know, 50X in the span of three months. The product changed quite a bit. We had to rethink about, really, everything that we were doing in order to support the scale, but we also had to introduce this massive new concept of virtual event into the ecosystem. I also want to go back up. I want to add, Arianne who co-heads our Philippines customer experience team had joined us about two weeks before the world shutdown. How do we cover these increase operating expenses when our revenue is not just going to zero but it's literally going negative because of all the refunded tickets. When the tickets get refunded, we refund our fees as well. It's like we're, actually, we're not taking money in, we're taking money out of our bank account to pay back these fees. It was a pretty harrowing period, but we got some pretty early indications that we were on to something. We were preselling what we had for events that people had planned for the fall based on Figma and InVision mockups of what we were building. Phil: Makes sense. There's a saying that I like and I think it applies for your company here, is that, "Crisis is going to destroy bad companies. Good company is going to survive, and great company is going to improve." It looks like you were to the point where the company, actually, improved, but before you improve, you went down to zero in revenue. Walk me through the process a little bit more. What have you done? As a founder, how did you keep your team calm at this point? "We don't have money. What are we going to do?" How was the process of--? Basically, that crisis ended up making you guys millions of dollars in revenue but I'm sure that wasn't easy. Talk a little bit more about that. Jonathan: We had really good camaraderie. We were all on the same page. We also all had this desire to-- It wasn't just us as a business that was suffering, but all of these event organizers, all of these other businesses that were dependent on the events that they were putting together. We had this camaraderie around, "Okay, we can help these people. We're all stuck at home anyway, so there's nothing better to do than, let's figure out how to solve this problem." That's exactly what we did. Phil: That's awesome. Your customers were suffering too. Now, you went out first to help them because they were at home and they couldn't run their own event, so they're losing money too. Probably, that's who you help first before you scale to help other people. Jonathan: Losing money but also these people that were our customers, our industry, were also losing their jobs because businesses had to-- If you go back a little bit, there used to be 500 in March and April. In May of 2020, before we had the mass effect boom, things got really nasty. There was a lot of layoffs going on and companies were like, "Okay, we're not going to be running events. We don't need this event person on our team." What we helped to do is show companies that, "Yes, you do need these event people on your team. You know what? They're, actually, going to do--" I don't want to say more, "but they have a very, very relevant job." Today, yes, they're doing more. Frankly, part of our mantra today is, "Okay, we want to help get an extra 15 minutes of sleep the night before your event. Events are stressful." Event folks, they had this programming, this in-person events that they've been expected to pull off for years but now, on top of that, they have all of these virtual experiences that are thrown into the mix. Their workload is, essentially, doubled. It's taking longer for their team size to come back to the size it was but, frankly, it needs to be larger because there's even more work on their plate. Phil: How was the transition for these people? I guess maybe they will need some training too because if I'm always only doing in-person event, it's very different. Like on my own company, we used to run two days workshop in-person. I will fly people to Utah to the workshop. That won't fly in the internet. We had to do two hours meetings over two weeks, and that was one change that we've done. What changes has to happen, not only in the mentality but in these people who are in the event, and how did you guys help with that? Jonathan: There was a lot that went into it. It's not just the technology. Even you and I are sitting here with our fancy microphones and our whining and everything else, things that I know I didn't have in 2019. The education stand, from hardware, to backdrop, to your room set up to make things look professional, to, "How do you, actually, use this technology and how do you adjust your event design?" Event design, there's designations around it. There are majors in colleges based around it. There's a lot of psychology that goes into event design. Yes, some people are starting to pioneer virtual events pre-pandemic, but we were all starting from scratch and rethinking it. Fortunately, at the same time that technology was doing 10 years of innovation in a year, but we had to train everybody on all the best practices that we were learning because we had access to so many of these events. A couple of the things that we did, we did a twice a week webinar, training new event organizers on how to use the platform, speakers on how to present on the platform, exhibitors on how to generate leads within the platform. Then we put a bunch of other material and content out there that people could use on their own to further educate and understand how to get the most impact out of these event experiences that they were either participating in or running. Phil: I think that's something that's very important for any SaaS founder to realize. It's not just building a product, but teach people how to use your product. How can you releverage and be the hero at your organization? It's pretty cool everything that you guys were doing about. Still talking a little bit about the pandemic, a lot of tech companies grew. If we look at the public market, now a lot of them are, actually, going down. Like we look at Teladoc, Peloton, Zoom, Shopify, their stocks are down because they grew so much to the pandemic because they were solving a huge problem and now they're going down. How does that work in your private company, and why there has been a transition, now that the world is going back to normal? Of course, you grew so much in 2020, $3 million in revenue, but now, how is it affecting you? Jonathan: I'll hit on that, but I want to go back to one of the point that you had asked around, how to set up our event organizers for success. I mentioned that there were these layoffs taking place within the event sector. One of the other things that we did is we offered professional services to our event organizers. If they wanted somebody on our staff to be there and be present during their event, they could get that from us. We would, basically, act as an extension of their team, and that was incredibly powerful because, again, ensured that their event was successful. Every one of their stakeholders or attendees, their speakers, their exhibitors were potential customers or customers of ours. Word of mouth and attendees at events in our platform are our biggest lead source. Then, the other thing is that it led to us getting tons of product feedback because we were, basically, using our own product multiple times per day with each of these customer experience people that were in there. We would have days where we would have 20 people on our team running support for different events in real-time, being there live within those events. We just got so much feedback from that. To your other question around, what's going on in public markets? Obviously, there are a couple of things. The two biggest factors are growth rates have slowed significantly, are stalled, and valuations are based on revenue multiples. Revenue multiples are often based on growth rates. The other thing is rising rates. There are some externalities that should be considered there. The way that impacts the private companies though is that, when investors are looking at private companies, they're using public companies as a comparable, as a comp. When the public company revenue multiples come down, thus trickle down to private company multiples because investors will look at a private company and say, "Okay, if I invest at this price today, how much am I going to be able to sell that for in the future if it gets to a Series C, B, E or an IPO?" The way that impacts us today, the fundraising environment's definitely different. We're not actively pursuing fundraising today. We as a business and I think because we bootstrap so long, we're a very capital-efficient company. We're not one of the companies that are out there spending crazy amounts of money and hiring giant artists to come play concerts. Although that would be fun. It's ultimately not the thing that's going to make the biggest impact for the growth of the business of our customers. Phil: How about your growth rate? Did your growth rate get impacted? Because you grew a lot in 2020. How is the growth rate now in post-pandemic? It's something a little bit more-- Jonathan: The growth rate's definitely impacted by the changes. I would say the economic environment is a factor, but the bigger factor is that the return to in-person, for us means that the revenue that we generate from each attendee is lower than it is with virtual. Because in the world of virtual, we are the entire platform, the entire experience, basically, the venue. In the world of in-person, yes, we're facilitating registration, a mobile app for attendees on-site, lead capture for exhibitors, badge printing, all of that great stuff, but we're not the entire experience. That's staring at our tech all day like when they're in a virtual experience. Phil: Makes sense. Let's go back. I really like what you talk about bringing professional services, and thank you for bringing that over. Is that still in place today? Because I feel like so many times there's that thing where we want people to just use our products, be left alone, don't talk to us, and you flipped that. You're like, "Let me do it with you. Let me do a consulting approach and do this together." Do you think that really made a huge difference in how much you guys grew? Of course, you talk about learning more about your product, but I feel like that's a strategy that's not used enough in SaaS. I'm going over the place, but I think there's a lot of gold here. Jonathan: No, this is a very important topic to us. We made the decision that we want to invest in customer experience. That we weren't going to invest in any mechanism of growth that was going to lead decrease in customer experience. That also bugged into some of our fundraising decision. That did mean that we invested more heavily in customer experience than marketing. For us, we're very happy that we made the decision. Because it, again, means that we create better experiences for our direct customers being the event organizer, but also all of our second degree customers being our customers customers and the other stakeholders that are involved. There's a gentleman from HubSpot, his name's Scott Brinker, and he posts really interesting content, particularly about the marketing tech space. He recently posted something talking about how we're now in the second era of MarTech. One of the ways that he defines that second era is the concept of software and services as opposed to software as a service. If you think about the way that B2B companies operate today, their tech stacks are so deep and software is so sophisticated and integrated that it's quite onerous to really learn and execute to the full potential of many applications, where technology providers can come in and provide resources to maximize the output, the ROI, the benefit of their platform. They're going to lead to more expansion revenue, higher retention rates, reducing churn, all the things that you want when you're looking at those SaaS metrics. That's really our approach to this. It's a win for our customers, it's a win for us, and frankly, it generates revenue. Phil: Yes, for sure. I saw his post too and I was like, "Oh, this is genius." Because at the end of the day, Churn, it's such a killer for SaaS companies. You're going to make sure Churn gets reduced so much if you, actually, teach people in making sure they're getting a return from your product. Looks like you were doing that before his post, because when I saw his post I was like, "Oh man, it's pretty amazing." [laughs] Jonathan: We've been doing that since we launched. It was good validation. It, actually, made us feel like we were a little bit ahead of the curve and that there was a growing realization of the importance of that. Which is good for as a consumer of other technology products, but bad in the sense that for a long time, that was a significant differentiator for us. It still is because as for boils around side of the water, but people are catching up. Phil: Looking at your site, just stay a little bit on the topic, it looks like you have a very simple pricing strategy. Can we chat a little bit about how you got to that pricing strategy, going through all those changes, and how that affect your growth and bringing those customers. Do you charge more for the SaaS end-of-service, software end-of-service, or it's all-inclusive in that pricing. Can we chat about pricing here? Jonathan: Our pricing, we break it into two different buckets. We have one-off event pricing, and then we have annual subscriptions. It's a hybrid pricing model where we charge an annual platform fee, which varies depending on the feature level. Then we charge a usage component. How many attendees do you have in the event? One thing that differs us from some of the other platforms out there, we only charge on people who actually show up to your event. Some of the other platforms charge for every registrant and then they do things that drive registrants to your page, but they might not be people you actually care about, but you're paying for them anyway. As for the professional services side of things, depending on the tier, we include a certain level of professional services, being dedicated resources, dedicated people during your event. Then we also offer the option to purchase at an hourly rate, people to be available during your event as well. Phil: Nice. Then how did the pricing strategy evolve and develop over the many years that you're running the company? Jonathan: It developed most significantly when we moved from fully in-person to fully virtual events, but we've done numerous iterations since then. Well, we've sort of learned how people use the platform, what our cost structure is, what's the value we provide, the way that people are thinking about their event programming. By that I mean this meshing of in-person and virtual experiences over the course of the year, as opposed to just thinking about, "Hey, I'm hosting this one particular event." Now, we certainly have customers who're coming in because there's an annual that and they need a solution for that. We also have customers that come in because they have an event that they need a solution for. We execute on that event and then we convert them into an annual subscription because we've lowered the barrier to entry to get them in the door and then we've proven that we're reliable, and that we're going to deliver, and that we've got the power and flexibility that they need. Phil: That's great. I love your pricing strategy. Tell me a little bit about the first "Oh, shit" moment that comes to your mind in the years that you have been working in this business? What was it kind of like the first moment? Jonathan: The first "Oh, shit" moment was the first paid customer we had when the technology failed. Because, again, this was seven years ago, live events are, you don't get a second chance. The next big one was when Facebook canceled their FA Conference and I think it was early March of 2020. Then I realized you're going to start to see a lot of event cancellations. At that point, this goes back to one of your earlier questions around bootstrapping versus raising capital, when you're put in a position where you only have two options, you fold the business, or you figure it out. We were put in that position. Folding wasn't an option. We had to figure something out. We took a gamble. We took a bigger bet. It was the right choice. Phil: When Facebook canceled that event, you're like, "If we don't do something right now, we're going to be out of business." You just visualize the future over there. Jonathan: Yes. That was a big signal of event cancellations to come. Phil: How long did it take you to turn the business around? Like, "Okay, we're in the blue again," because as a bootstrap founder there's only so much that you can stay in the red for? Jonathan: Yes. It was about two months before we started generating revenue again, but we were starting to get commitments from customers in advance. As we were starting to roll product out the door we were selling it as we did that. It was a very short window. We made some deals with employees and contractors around like, "We need to work together on this. They could figure out a way where there's going to be some compensation reduction for, hopefully, a short period of time, and we're going to make it out to you." As soon as we could we made it off to them. Phil: Is it fair to say that that moment is the moment that, actually, made your company be the size that it is today? Because you haven't even left your job yet, when that all started, right? You only left your job later. Jonathan: Yes. No, that's completely fair. Phil: Let's say you could go back in time to 2015. Imagine yourself in 2015, what would you tell yourself? Jonathan: Buy Bitcoin. Phil: [laughs] For sure. About your business though. Jonathan: Take bigger bets, and really think about how to split my time between product and go-to market. That's an everyday challenge. I love the product side of things. I didn't love to go-to market side of things but I like selling. I didn't like marketing. I'm starting to really like marketing. Actually, I'm over the hump of really liking marketing now, which is very annoying for our marketing team, but probably relieving for our product teams and giving them a little more slack now. Phil: Would you tell yourself "quit your job earlier or no"? You think that was the right time? Jonathan: No, I think that was the right time. Unless I was going to quit earlier and go raise money because we felt like we have product market share, maybe. Phil: Okay. Now let's go back to 2020, when you start this journey full-time, what would you tell yourself at the start of 2020? Maybe when you have that "Oh shit" moment. You just realize Facebook canceled the conference and then you're going there to meet yourself at that day to tell you something, what are you going to tell yourself? Jonathan: I probably would have invested in operations a little bit sooner in hindsight. It's easier to say that in the hindsight because you're like, "Okay, if I had invested in operations sooner, we would have better data systems today, or we'd be spending less time doing data hygiene today, but at the same time, every investment, especially for bootstrap companies is a trade-off." You don't know what the future holds, you don't know how long anything's going to last. Frankly, anything I say is with the pretense that I know, okay, the world has started to return to in-person, return to some sense of normalcy by this date. There's no context or information I had around that. I don't think that there's anything I can tell myself. I think I made the decisions that based on the information I had at the time, I probably could have made bigger gambles, bigger bets. Phil: You made the best decision you could with the information you had. One question I like to ask for every founder that comes in the show, what book do you recommend for other SAS founders? What books do you think you read that really changed or helped improve a lot as a founder? Jonathan: There's a book I read by Jocko Willink that I really liked. I'm a big podcast person more than a book person, but the name of that book was Extreme Ownership. I saw Jocko speak at an event in Boston a couple of years ago, and heard about the book. I read it twice. Phil: That's a great book. You say you're a big podcast person, so then what podcasters do you recommend for SaaS founders besides this great one that they're listening right now? Jonathan: For SaaS founders early stage, Nathan Latka's podcast. I just spoke at his event in Austin a couple of weeks ago. For later-stage founders, SasStr. Those two are like staples. Phil: For sure, yes. Final question for you. Thank you very much for coming here, but where's the company headed now? How does the future look like for the company? You told us a little bit about the origin story, how you guys got here. Tell us about the future. Jonathan: We are fully committed to making life easier for event organizers and helping them to centralize every aspect of the experiences that they're creating for their attendees and every stakeholder. In terms of where we're heading from that perspective, it really hits down on creating better experiences. Everything that we can do to make life easier, to help people be more engaged and more connected. Phil: Yes, that's great. Thank you very much for sharing. I love your story. I love how you for years were there working and building this product and then something changed the world that wasn't that great, but for you guys had the opportunity to go and do this amazing company. Thank you very much for taking the time. Jonathan: Yes, thanks for having me on today. Voice over: SaaS Origin Stories is brought to you by DevSquad. To find out more about how we help entrepreneurs launch new products and help larger businesses plug in a ready-to-go development team, visit devsquad.com. Add us to your rotation by searching for SaaS Origin Stories in Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else podcasts are found. Make sure to click follow so you don't miss any future episodes. Thanks for listening and remember, every SaaS hero has an origin story.