178: TZ Discussion – The Hacker News Slap

Justin and Jason discuss balancing time when bootstrapping, the categories and costs of context switching, strategies for recruiting AnyFu experts, the status of the AnyFu payout system, what was learned from the first five AnyFu sessions, the DNA of the perfect AnyFu expert, whether or not we’re in a startup bubble, when it makes sense to bootstrap and when it makes sense to raise money,ย vaccinating yourself against customer feedback, Helmut’s document signing demo, the Hacker News slap, why Jason believes the “donate to charity” business model won’t work for AnyFu, the importance of keeping your message simple, the PhantomJS web stack, why writing business plans are a waste of time for web and mobile startups, the new Node.js profiler, how Justin got into business with Uri Geller, the story of MashAPI, and the scam of automatic traffic ticketing.

  1. Something to think about in terms of being able to “go dark,” is hiring someone part-time to handle front-line email support. I have a great email support guy who I found on oDesk about 6 months ago and he saves me not only tons of time, but tons of context switches each week.

    It was a challenge for me to hand off support of the products I value most, like Micropreneur.com and HitTail.com, but with the right person you can save yourself tens of hours a month (or more). But more importantly, it eliminates context switching.

    If you want someone in the U.S. it’s not that expensive – $10-20/hour and they work only when you have open issues so you can scale it up nicely. Sarah Hatter, who was head of support for 37 Signals, is talking about support at MicroConf (woot – see you there in 21 days), and she owns a company at http://cosupport.us/ that handles outsources support for startups…I have not used her service and don’t know what they charge, but it’s another option.

    For the first few months you’ll obviously want to handle every bit of contact yourselves, but honestly…after 2-3 months tops, you should be handing front-line support to someone else. The opportunity costs of you two answering basic support emails is just too large.

  2. Pretty insightful discussion on the challenges of growing a start-up into a real business. It takes a ton of hard work and commitment (and a sense of humor!) to build a customer base, and the swings between ups to downs often happen daily. I couldn’t do it.

    On the topic of providing client reviews on AnyFu… (i.e., client rates the expert)

    I agree with you that an open rating and review system (a la Yelp) probably won’t work for the experts you have on the site. As you say, Jason, there is too much at stake for me to worry about someone taking out their frustration on me… when I’m simply trying to help them overcome an issue.

    But I would expect at some point to be able to include testimonials from satisfied clients. Social proof is still a very powerful form of persuasion. This is not difficult to do, either — just check out Linked In. They give members the ability to include social proof… in the form of “Recommendations”. There is almost zero risk that someone will leave negative feedback, because I, as the owner of my own profile, get to choose who to ask for a recommendation. It’s all in how you position it. Avoid “Ratings & Reviews” on AnyFu, but include “Recommendations” or “Testimonials”.

    Great discussion show, guys!

  3. Jason says:

    @Lance Jones – That’s precisely the plan! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Although we are going to provide for private reviews (from both clients and experts) so we can get an understanding of how well an expert is performing and be alerted if a client is being difficult.

  4. Helmut Granda says:

    Have you considered ratings a la Facebook with only “likes” and share options but no dislike option?

  5. Ignacio says:

    Great substance in this episode. Regarding the going black, I think a good balance would be to go black in segments through out the day, which has been talked about a lot (works great for me). Similar topic in this article (GCTD)

  6. Steve Jacobs says:


    I’m always curious from an application architecture point of view about how developers handle failures of can’t-afford-to-fail functions like making a payment transaction, talking to the check processor, and so on. Do you queue the transactions up if they fail? What happens if you need to make the call in real time? That sort of thing.


  7. @Rob Wallingย – We have heard you give this advice before and makes sense – during your TZ interview (165) and/or your own eBook. The opportunity cost argument is strong. However it is always difficult to get into this mindset when you haven’t taken the leap to off shoring your own skills.

    @justin and jason – Really enjoyed this podcast. The discussion on AnyFu and past projects is invaluable.

    Any Fu:

    Surprised you guys continue to down play the attraction of this product? This service is free for experts to sign up? AnyFu is a platform for experts to their time at whatever rate they desire?

    Agree you need a basic guide to explain what the service is and how it works. This will help with your cold calling. Maybe you could build some sample profiles (with dummy info or with info based on your prospect expert). Experts may be reluctant to sign up if they have never consulted before – so you may need to explain how you could help?

    Agree on rating system. Testimonials and gaining feedback on the expert and AnyFu are crucial for you guys and the expert.

    While the charity idea is great. We think this is a separate offering to your AnyFu brand. People, rich or poor, would be willing to give back some time to charity. Maybe another product for you guys to launch later on?

    Hacker News:

    Agree with reducing karma for those that down vote. However the community can be fickle.

    Our karma is 2. We posted two posts. Both similar content but one did well. The other flagged our removed. Don’t know why.

    Billy Crystal:

    Great photos. Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lean Canvas:

    The Business Model Canvas is gaining in popularity as a replacement to the old business plan. While the business plan still has it’s merits – mainly to satisfy banks – the business model can be completed quickly and gives you a summary of your business one a single A4.

    Last month we posted a brief summary on our blog comparing the two.

  8. aListener says:

    I like the idea of private feedback. Something like “would you work with this expert again? yes / maybe / no ” Then a text box for additional information.

    Bubble :
    Well, it looks like now you have a public persona saying some startups are a bubble …

    Also, you don’t need to have a lot of stuff saying it’s a bubble. When stocks were going for $100+ in 1999 and the company had no chance for profit it indicated an irrational market. Then housing became a bubble. The Big Short captures some of the people that saw that bubble just a few years later. Bubbles are very visible after they occur.

  9. Guyon says:

    Justin, remember… We’re from the internet, the motto is “Pictures or it didn’t happen” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. @Steve Jacobs, at my day-time job (for a financial services company), all critical external interfaces use queuing systems with audit tables. When processing messages we only peek the message, try to process it, and remove it if successful. Otherwise the message will be attempted again at the next cycle. In addition we synchronize messages that must be executed in a strict sequence so that a failure blocks all related messages. Then we have monitoring to check for depth of queues and age of messages so we can be alerted on abnormal situations (e.g. failures due to a prolonged downtime for an external partner). Hope that helps. If you want more details ping me.

  11. Martin Baker says:

    Another enjoyable show. And it was great to be nosey and look at Justin’s photos! Looks great.

    I completely agree with Jason’s focus on positioning AnyFu at the high end rather than diluting it and allowing anyone in. However I’d worry that you’re not taking a large enough cut at 10% if it’s going to be a relatively small select group of experts who get personal service.

  12. Jason, regarding you comment about the red light cameras being such a money maker, I think you are making one major miscalculation. You are assuming that 1) they are able to send that fine to someone and 2) when someone sees it, they will actually pay it. Neither of these assumptions hold up well in a “sanctuary city”. Now, for that one camera you mentioned that pulls in a theoretical 8 million, I would not be surprised if total revenue was a quarter that. Still significant, so your point is still valid for that one instance, but I doubt all the cameras get someone every 15 minutes.