Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #69

Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan joined as ever by my partner friend and Ceo of startups dot com Wil schroder. Well, today I want to talk about how often we've had to say no. Um, we're decided to say no. I think a lot of people look at what we've built with startups dot com and think, you know, man, these guys hit $100 million valuation within a couple of years, you know, they were acquiring companies left and right. And I think there's this sense that we were just running around saying yes to everything. Um, and, and kind of grabbing and growing as fast as we could. And you and I both know that that that's actually about as far from the truth as it

Wil Schroter: could get little did you know how often we were saying no, yes, it was, I mean, okay, so the other side of it, you know, we were bootstrapping right? So, uh, you don't have any choice. So I think a lot of folks that are probably listening to this, even if if they they raised money. Um, I think in this episode, it would be really interesting if we talk about why were so adamant about saying no, kind of what no bought us and you know, also to some degree what no cost us, You know, it wasn't, it wasn't all good decisions. Um, but you know, we built an eight figure business in a fairly short period of time with no outside capital, a lot of people ask us how we did it, right. Um, and, and again, if I were to summarize down to one word that isn't, no, I would say discipline, uh, which, which to be fair, Ryan earlier in my career, I didn't have, like, I couldn't have pulled this off, right? I, I didn't, I didn't understand the value of saying no. Um, because I thought yes was the only way you get ahead. Then you make all these mistakes and then you're like, oh, sh it, okay, I get it now. Um, you know, being able to say no is actually an incredible discipline, uh, that very few people have.

Ryan Rutan: It's a discipline. I'd also argue that it, that it's a luxury. Um,

Wil Schroter: I mean there are, there are times

Ryan Rutan: where you want to be able to say no. I think that there's, there's definitely a misconception that, you know, having to say no means means, you know, not being able to take opportunities, not being able to do the things you want. And sometimes it's just not the case, right? Um, you know, interestingly enough, and as you mentioned, we bootstrapped, I would say that one of the major things that happens when you do take on funding is you lose the ability to say no, you start to have to say yes, you don't have that choice anymore. The optionality goes away. You have to start to say yes to everything because you got to grow and you gotta return that investment, right? So yeah, I think it's, it's, it's discipline. Um, on one hand, there were periods where, you know, we have to be extremely disciplined to make this work. Um, and that did mean saying no to things. Um, but I also think that, you know, at this point I treat the ability to say no is as much of a luxury as I do a discipline

Wil Schroter: and think about it in the formative stages when we're building a startup, we want to say yes to everything, right? We want to hire more people, we want to maybe do an acquisition, we want to increase the marketing budget. Like it seems silly to say no as a discipline, right? Again, to your point in the formative stages, it feels like we're saying no because we have no choice, right? We don't have enough capital. So that's, you know, that's always the answer. Um, and the truth is, uh, being able to step back and say, look, I've seen this story play out enough times just saying yes to everything without giving things a little bit of time is a, is a dangerous play. And honestly, it doesn't end well. And if you haven't, if you haven't done it before, uh, you don't know that right? You're, you're, you're, you're going well if I don't say yes to everything, that I'm choking the business that I'm not growing, that, you know, I'm less of an entrepreneur, uh, it has this kind of bullshit. And so what I'd like to do if you're cool with that, I'd like to uh maybe kind of dissect this a bit and talk about where we say no, why we say no and what it buys us. And again, sometimes what it costs us. And I would say, and I think you'd probably agree with this. The first thing it took us a long time to understand is that this is all going to take

Ryan Rutan: time. Yeah, well it's interesting, but I think that is one of the like when we talk about the cost of saying no, that's the very obvious one, I mean it's it's the one so like saying no, doesn't mean never, it means no right now. Um And typically what you're talking about is not it's not so binary, right? It's that it's not going to happen now, we're gonna have to say no for now and it's going to make things take longer, right? As you just said, And that's not really as much of a problem as we would like to make it right? This this self in, you know, influenced urgency, self imposed urgency that we put on ourselves um is is really a big part of the problem and it's part of what makes saying no more painful than it should be because we feel like if I say no to that higher, we're not gonna be able to open that new marketing channel and the business isn't gonna grow, well that's not necessarily true. It might not grow as fast, But yeah, so I think that the, the timing aspect of, of saying no is, is probably one of the most critical, it's, it's one of the most obvious in terms of the actual impact. I don't know that at the time you're making the decision because as I go back and I think about times that I had to say no, sometimes they felt extremely painful at the time. Um, and I wasn't really giving enough weight to the fact that all I really was saying no to was no right now. Right. And that that decision will likely be there again later.

Wil Schroter: Right? You're saying no to win.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, exactly.

Wil Schroter: There's always this assumption that when the opportunity is presented to make a higher to, uh, you know, increased marketing to do whatever. We think we're going to do that if we don't do it at that point, that there's automatically opportunity lost. That, that there's, there's no other way around it. We don't stop to think maybe by saying no. I'm also going to create opportunity by not spending money at the wrong time because I don't have the entire data set yet. And I think probably the best illustration of this, we can talk about in detail firsthand, uh, is when we launched one of our first products fungible back in 2000

Ryan Rutan: 12,

Wil Schroter: Ryan. If you were to, you know, set us up here. What was the state of crowdfunding, circa 2012.

Ryan Rutan: You ever see those videos where like the old, the old clips of people going to Beatles concerts,

Wil Schroter: right?

Ryan Rutan: I think that was the level of excitement around crowdfunding,

Wil Schroter: people

Ryan Rutan: were literally fainting and swooning. Um, you know, there was, there was a lot of anticipation, there was a lot of excitement around it. Um, you know, as we know that the reality has proved out very, very differently. Um, but if you had simply looked at it at that point in time and said, man, this just

Wil Schroter: has to be amazing,

Ryan Rutan: Like, this is gonna blow up, it's gonna be the biggest thing ever. Um, and of course you're building a business, you always want those things to be true. So there's some selection bias there, luckily we didn't really fall into that because had we started to make decisions about the business based on what we saw in 2012, um, we would probably be part of the now expanding. I'm not even sure you can still get a grave site in the crowdfunding platform graveyard.

Wil Schroter: Right, Well, okay, so, so let me build on that a little bit. Uh, and everyone listening to this, you know, uh, saw crowdfunding kind of evolved, but not a lot of people understand what really happened to it. The short version is nothing the bet back in 2012 was that crowdfunding was going to replace, you know, equity funding was going to replace how, how companies got funded and, and to be fair ideas did get funded. It did not work, it just didn't work at the level everybody thought it would,

Ryan Rutan: it didn't create new capital.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, yeah. And my dates are off a little bit here, but it doesn't really matter. Cle 2012. The big deal was that pebble watch raised a million dollars on Kickstarter and that was the impetus where people went batshit, right? And every single person was starting a crowdfunding for something, right? Um, everybody had a take on it and everybody was super pumped. A lot of people raised a lot of money. Um, and we've talked about this a little bit in previous episodes, but this is so much more relevant here. We were looking at it going maybe, but we're not quite seeing like, like, like we're kind of in a don't believe the hype moment. And the reason I want to say that is because we get so high on our own supply when we have these are startup ideas, right? All of them. We all believe that ours is the one that's going to be the next Uber or the next Airbnb or, which is ironic. Both of those are getting tanked right now. Um, but but the point is we genuinely believe, and we're kind of supposed to that our ideas are exactly the right time at the right moment, et cetera. And that if we don't fully capitalize, we're going to miss the opportunity of a lifetime. And to be fair, sometimes rarely, that's true. It can be okay. It can be, it can be a good point. More often than not though. Uh, nothing happens meaning the market evolves at a rate that's just like any other market and you build like you're going to build, That's probably 90% of the time. What happens? Maybe more. Everyone's worried that they're going to miss that 10% or less of, of opportunities, that window of opportunity. But at the time, even though everything was going gangbusters and there wasn't a single market signal that said, don't get on this train. We were looking at it saying, wait a minute, wait a minute. The number of people funding deals doesn't seem to be going up geometrically in the number of good deals seems to be pretty capped. So if Kickstarter is killing it, how long before they run out of pebble watches, right, You don't just have all the perfect storm of opportunities and on the funding side, more so in equity, that's the business we were in. But also in the reward side were like there is kind of a limit of share of wallet, of the number of people that are willing to fund those types of projects And the number of people that are looking to make equity investments at $1,000, more you know, whatever the thresholds were kind of not, you know, we step back a little bit, this goes back to the discipline and said, we believe we want to be in this space because it's developing, but we're not going to push all our chips in. I mean, how did you see it? Right.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. The same way, you know, I mean, as we, there were sort of two big bets on crowdfunding, right? One was that it was going to increase the available capital because now everybody's, you know, rich aunt and uncle were going to come out of the woodwork and, and start to invest in start up companies. That was one side. The other side was that it would somehow democratize the landscape and the deals that because of geography or visibility in some other way wouldn't get funded that. It would start to level the playing field a bit there. Um, I would say that of those two bets Bet one, uh, failed completely. Right. We didn't really see more capital coming into the market. I would say that Bet two was, was definitely, um, at least a partial success. We did start to see companies outside of the typical funding centers, at least get exposed. Now maybe then in order to get the funding, they were forced to move to one of those locales, but we did see that second half of it play out. Um, so, you know, as we go back in time then and we think about what we were doing and how we were reacting to that, you know, we did it right. Um, you know, as you said, we, we maintained our discipline, we decided not to go crazy, not take on funding. Um, you know, not do you know, any of the other, you know, crazy growth things. We could have tried to really uh, to push our position into a market that still was not at all certain, right? And I think that there's just, um, you know, if we go back in time, we had a product that we were still trying to figure out in the market that we were still trying to figure out, right? And I think that was where, you know, the, this, this need to let it take time and it wasn't just about our product, but there's a very well defined market, um, maybe you can make a little bit better case for urgency and saying like, okay, the markets there, the market is ready, our product's not, we gotta push hard and we got to get in front of people, um, but we were watching a market take shape, you know, from from nothing. Yeah, and, and it was changing quickly. Um, and so in that case, and we talked about this a lot acceleration just means going faster. It doesn't necessarily mean going the right direction had we decided to accelerate our growth into the crowdfunding space. Uh, and, and something I think about a lot like the other opportunities we would have missed by capitalizing on those opportunities that turned out not to be good opportunities, um, would have had a major future opportunity cost. We wouldn't have been acquiring companies, we wouldn't have been in a position to, to remain profitable as we have had we gone all in on some of those early, early bets around crowdfunding. Right? And so letting things take their time allows you to start to see more clearly. Is there truly an R. O. I hear? Is there really an opportunity here? And so, you know, I'm just letting things take time is always going to be good, but we could probably all, we could probably throw that into every segment that we do well. Um, and it would continue to make sense of like just slow down a little

Wil Schroter: bit in that time. You know, as we're looking at fungible, we're looking to expand the portfolio to kind of realize the startups dot com vision of helping founders. Uh, you know, we looked at hundreds of companies to acquire. Uh, we did diligence wasn't only hundreds, are you sure? Uh, but we did diligence on 40. So, you know, we're, we're pouring through financials on 40. We made offers on six and we ended up acquiring six. Um, however, one of the things along the way, uh, that, and I think this will be helpful both to folks looking to sell in by, um, you know, or just interested in the acquisition space as a whole, every time somebody comes to you and says, Hey, I have a deal for you. It looks something like this here is the best month, quarter or year that we've ever

Ryan Rutan: had,

Wil Schroter: right? And I'm going to annualized that by the way at the last six months sucked. I'm just gonna focus on last year, Right? I mean, I, I get it, I do the same thing. Um, but the point is, the point is, um, every company kind of says, here's us in the best light, right? It's the equivalent of people being like on a, on a Tinder profile. Like here's my best photo, right. Um, and, and that's what I'm trying to sell, which is fine. Again, that's sort of what you're supposed to do. However, the one thing we always did, we said, cool, you had an amazing month last month. We're gonna come back next month, see

Ryan Rutan: how you're looking.

Wil Schroter: You know, how often the next month happened to be as good or better. Never, never, never. Um, and, and again, it's, it's, it's a bit of discipline. Ryan, I like the way you said a bit of luxury to be able to stop and say, let's not get too hung up. Let's take a minute, just kind of hang back and see if this thing comes to us and comes to us meaning kind of people was meant to be and I was just being a carmen destiny here. But I mean, if this company is continuing to trend then one, it should be there in a month or two. If it's not, then we miss it, you know, not the end of the world. Um, but if it is in the trend lines continue then yeah, yeah. You know, we're interested and so, uh, I think when we're going through that process, one of the most powerful things we did was exercise discipline over a long period of time to know when it was the right time to finally say yes now did that mean we hit every time? Not really right now. Again, you know, it doesn't mean like you're going to win every time, but here, here's what I really want to point out, you know, how many times we would have lost so many times so many times and, and look, it's a little bit different in, in M and A than it is in VC VC. People tend to be fundraising at a specific moment in time and everyone else that you're competing with for, for, for investment is also competing on that week. So you kind of usually don't have the same luxury M and A is a little bit different longer timelines, etcetera. Uh, but the reality is the same. We never got hung up on the moment. We always let things just take a beat and see if they were still the same decision a week, a month, a year from now. And I gotta tell you that served us incredibly well.

Ryan Rutan: The other thing that's interesting well, and I've given this some thought to, um as we, if we go back in time, even back when, you know, when we launched and it was just really fungible, right? And and we knew that we wanted to build more of a platform, more of an ecosystem that funding was not going to be where it started and stopped for us. Um, we had that vision. So it was interesting to me was by having the clear vision of, of what we wanted to build off into the future, right? Not getting too caught up in, in, you know, the, the final, final things, we knew that was going to change and we knew it needed to be fungible. Um, but one of the things that was very clear to us because we had a long term vision, we knew everything else we wanted to build, Having that clear vision allowed us to balance what we did tactically. And in other words, it gave us a reason to understand the context of the yes or the no. Right. So if we said yes to another acquisition in the funding space, it meant we weren't going to be able to get to planning or customer acquisition or education as soon as we wanted to. Right. And so it was far clear to us what the additional costs of saying no word because we had that vision and I think that, um, you know, not our first rodeo right. We talked about that a lot. So we, we knew that there needs to be that kind of vision. Uh, you know that North Star is something that you can lean on, um, even if it's highly theoretical and it remains highly theoretical. You know, we're still, we have a great idea of what we want to build. Um, but we're still very much willing to admit that that may change, but we still have that North Star and we can measure things against that. I think one of the things that happens with, um, early founders, early stage companies and um, you know, maybe it's your first time or you're in a brand new market, you may not have as much clarity of that longer term vision for the company. Um, sometimes that's almost by, if not directly by choice. It's just by not having put enough time into thinking about the vision of the company. And I think that can lead to some problematic decisions.

Wil Schroter: Can you illustrate a little bit because I think this would be helpful. What are long term vision is like, it's actually fairly simple as far as like who were helping, etcetera.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, of course. Well, no, I think that's, that's, that's a great point. So yeah, so if we look at the vision of the company, you know, at a very, very high level, um, the kind of driving force behind all this is that we know that startups are going to need help. Starting founders are gonna need help starting their companies forever. Right? The context of that help, what actually needs to happen, The tools that are required, the information is required will change, right? As markets changes how people start companies change that, it's all gonna change, right. However, that core piece is still gonna be there, it's still gonna be hard, People are still going to need help. And so we want to continue continuously modify what we're doing, continue to build towards those goals. Um, and those outcomes, regardless of what they are, right? And so we have that. And so I think the other thing is because we're admitting that like this whole thing is going to continue to change, but the people are always going to need help. Um, it allows us that freedom and flexibility to say, hey, this is going to take a long time, right? Um, just by nature of this and you know, as long as we can structure ourselves to be around long enough to stay helpful, We're in great shape, right? There's no rush, there's no urgency. So the vision for us is to be able to be helpful to founders off into infinity,

Wil Schroter: right? It also implies that we can miss, right? If we miss that one opportunity at, you know, at one acquisition or building one product we miss in the market, it doesn't really change the fact that our customers still need this type of help And there's 50 ways to provide it, right? And I think I think that gave us a much better perspective on how to think about decisions to say, okay, look, even if we launch this thing and we screw up, it's not ideal. I mean it worked on it for a year and a half. Let's say we put a lot of resources into it but but It's okay because the problem still exists, we can take a long view. We can say we're gonna be working on this problem for 50 years. We're gonna miss along the way. This is just one of those misses. We we hope we don't miss but we will.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, well I think it's a great point. I mean, you know, as we as we think about the decisions that we've had to or been able to differ and I would still, I would still say that you know, some of these were absolute luxuries to be able to say no to at the time. Some felt a little painful but knowing that we're going to spend a generation or more building this thing out, it's okay to say no, it's okay to defer those decisions. It's okay to say, you know, yeah, we'd love to have that developer right now. Um we can't necessarily fit that into the staffing line right now and that's okay, right, we will at some point be able to um by knowing that it's going to take a long time admitting that um and taking away that urgency around this need to scale quickly. Um we need to scale it all right. There are times where you may say like, look, we're good right now, we actually don't need to get any bigger, let's spend a little more time on being a little better um or or building out something new that doesn't necessarily to immediate scale. That's also okay, right. And we've done an entire episode on growth for the sake of growth is not necessarily a great idea. Um and I think this speaks to that, right? I think that there are time and place for growth, there's a time and place for hiring, um there's a time and place for risk, there's a time and place for acquisition, for profitability. Um and I think that's something we should talk a lot about today. Well, I'm in terms of our, our decision because this is another one of those kind of north stars around profitability and how many things that actually let us saying no to not yes to because I think a lot of people think that, you know, it takes a bunch of yeses to get to profitability. I would say in our case, there were actually far more nose involved in the equation that we balanced out to get profitable,

Wil Schroter: I don't think people understand like how disciplined we are about our income statement, right? So, so so folks that are listening to know and I'm our CFO, so I can, I can say this directly. Ah we've used our income statement the way people use uh project management boards, like a can ban or anything else like that. Like our income statement is this single most understood document in our entire company across every level. And when I say that not 100% of people have access to the income statement, mostly managers, decision makers and leadership, but those that do understand it down to the penny. I'm talking every single line at him across our entire piano, we've got 200 people um, Across every staffing line down to like if if our, we've got a column for miscellaneous stuff, if we have a weird $1000 miscellaneous item, everyone within 24 hours like what just happened, right. Um, and it's not a fairly sizable business. So you know, it's not a small business, but what I will say is that discipline and more so that focus in saying if it doesn't make sense in the income statement, we can't say yes to it and getting everybody to start to understand that has been like kind of one of our secret weapons. And because most startups don't understand finance to begin with, it's typically not something they use as a weapon, but here's where it gets really interesting, right? If you give me just a minute here, I'll try to illustrate how that understanding translates into saying no, but also saying yes,

Ryan Rutan: I'm just gonna drink some coffee, you go for it.

Wil Schroter: I've had it, I've never heard this before. Um what it comes down to is by having an intimate knowledge of our income statement and what I mean by that is like we updated daily, you know, we were so close to it.

Ryan Rutan: It's literally what you can see. It's funny, but like when, if you, when you open it up and you can see the other viewers, it's like every morning everybody opens it, right? We're all in there and it's always, everybody always has it open. It's incredible.

Wil Schroter: Absolutely. And here's the funny thing, it actually doesn't even change that much. I mean our business is so incredibly consistent. Uh but we can also, this is pretty awesome and we've always been able to do this over eight years. We can predict our net income and our gross income within like 2% points every month. Uh and that has more to do with how tight we are at forecasting and focus and focusing on our dollars. But what that really means and how it's relevant to this discussion is we can make lots of decisions yes or no almost immediately because we know exactly how that's going to impact all the other lines of business. If someone says, hey, we need another developer on the staff, we know exactly down to the penny how that would impact marketing, how that would impact finance, how that would impact other staffing decisions. And we all know the answer is no right or yes in some cases, but nobody has to guess because we're so well attuned, well what that did early in the early days when we were still, you know, kind of bootstrapping and figuring things out. Is it allowed us to take basically all of our company priorities, you know, all the stuff that you want to do. I want again hire developers, increased marketing budget, etcetera and have everybody who runs those different functions be able to understand intimately how their decisions or how, what they want would or would not drive the P and L which would or would not drive a Yes. So Ryan, if you said, hey, I want to spend more, you know, Ryan's also our CMO. If you want to spend more on marketing, you would look at that and say, yeah, but you know, I really want to developer because I have this, you know, marketing related tech that needs to get done. So I'd really like to see that decision happen first. But you know, down to the dollar, what that decision is. Yeah, I

Ryan Rutan: think it's interesting because what it, what it essentially does right? Because as you get into the nuance of each department, the the language and, and the context can be very difficult to translate from department to department. Um The beauty of using the income statement um is that, you know, like most math is a universal language and so it allows us to quickly translate needs wants from, from one department into impact to the others as you said. Um and you know, the other thing that you brought up was that not everybody has this level of visibility into, into the actual income statement. However, um we do we do talk about the pieces that are relevant to the individuals in any given discussion, right? If we're going to lean

Wil Schroter: on

Ryan Rutan: finance, right? We we definitely bring up, you know, the moving parts, they have visibility enough, they have the context understands not, we just don't have enough money for this or we don't want to spend that or we need to spend somewhere else. We're able to give them enough context that they can truly understand the decisions and also understand what other factors would need to become true in order to get to Yes. And I think that's the other piece. That's so, so, so important here, is that when you say no being able to condition that with here's how and when and why we would be able to say yes, also makes those decisions a lot easier because they at least feel better, right? I no longer have to just simply say no, I can say no, here's why and here's what we could do to change that answer in the future, right? If this still is a need, here's what would have to occur to make yes the right answer. Um And so you're not just sending people off with a no or we're not just having to say no and then compartmentalize that we're able to say no, but and then we can move forward and say if this matters enough to me, I will go make the conditions for yes true and then we'll move forward, right? And I think that has a lot to do with not only the discipline piece of it and and being able to understand why and when to be disciplined and when when we can say yes. Um but it also has a lot to do with then being able to achieve those things and and actually move forward and get to yes.

Wil Schroter: Well, yeah and what's really interesting, you said it's universal. It's kind of this simple if you're thinking about making a decision, plug that decision into the P. And L. And if the number at the bottom is positive then it might be yes, but if it's negative then it's definitely know it we like we kid around like this is like we're saying something so obvious but we work with enough startups. Ryan, this isn't universally obvious right? Often the ceo doesn't even know whether those decisions are going to lead to a positive or negative number, especially if if you, you know, push them out a few months. Um, but where it's been really powerful for us is it also says so long as we stay essentially on the right side of profitability, we have full agency to do whatever we want to do, make acquisitions, et cetera. But the moment that puts us in the red, which is, you know, too close to, to not profitability or anywhere in the red, that is a red alert, right? That is, everyone has to stop, drop everything and say fix that. Can you imagine if more startups had that level of discipline? If, if profitability was so incredibly, you know, tuned into everything that they're doing and, and, and, and Ryan, I'm not knocking startups that don't do that because again, there's, there's, there's a million use cases that I would support, um, we're losing money to make money later is the right gamble. You know, it's kind of what we see is about etcetera. But most of what I see isn't that most of what I see is just poor cash management,

Ryan Rutan: the results speak to it. I would say, right? Like the outcomes in real life. Tell us that that's also not optimal.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, yeah. When I think the other side is, um, it's a lack of financial understanding, which is all part of this discipline. We can have this discipline because we made the universal understanding across our company, um, understood by everybody, right, You know, whether it's a dev team marketing, etcetera, like everyone gets it and everyone has an intimate knowledge, so they understand exactly how to operate. When new folks plug in, they can look at that and go, oh, I get your formula now, um if it's profitable, it's a discussion, it's not, we

Ryan Rutan: don't have to get into the nuance, right? We don't have to get into the nuance of of whether or not this is something that should happen if it won't work financially from the beginning, we don't even have to get into the nuance of whether or not this is exactly the right decision. It allows us to kind of quickly eliminate um a lot of things that I think other companies would then struggle with or drag out the decision and spend a lot more time on the consideration piece than is necessary because we start, we developed, I mean, you know, this, it didn't happen easily. Um it took time to get there, but now finance truly is the kind of the lingua franca of our business and it allows us to have this framework for decision

Wil Schroter: making and it's also, I mean for what it's worth, it's allowed us to outlast almost all of our competitors. I mean, uh, you know, even even if you're $1 profitable, you can live to fight another day, but if you, if you're $1 negative, you're eventually going to die. And so we looked at the discipline of profitability and the ability to say no, that anything that would impact profitability as the unquestionable factor? And I have to say if, you know, if we look back at our history and all the decisions we didn't make again, because often, you know, the profitability was the issue. I don't regret a single no decision that we made. I regret some yes decisions, but not a lot of I can't I actually can't think of any. I

Ryan Rutan: mean, it would have been fun to buy Atari, let's be honest, but I'm glad we said

Wil Schroter: no, we didn't try to buy a very long story. It's its own podcast. Kind of hard not to regret that one. Um, but look, uh given, um, you know, given how many decisions uh, are brought to us and for those folks listening, I mean think about it, we've got a pro platform with over a million startups. You know, many startups come to us and want to sell us something, um, a lot and not because we're special just because we happen to be kind of in the middle of it and we're so optimistic about startups. That's why we do what we do. So it's really tough for us not to get excited about what they're doing, which is why we always joke that that would be the worst investors of all time because we want to invest in either everything or nothing, either everything because we're so optimistic or nothing because we know better. We get that question. What

Ryan Rutan: do you think about acquiring this? Yes. What is it that you do? Right. That's the answer. Right. And then we're like, yeah, let's say yes. And then let's go figure it out.

Wil Schroter: When we look at our ability to grow. When we look at the our our comfort level, let's let's say it Ryan with saying no is very high. And I think part of that and I'd be curious your thoughts here. I think part of that is because as a team, as a company, we've had so many reps, I'm saying no in being happy that we did that saying no feels a lot more comfortable than it used to. Would you agree with that?

Ryan Rutan: I would, I would, I think again, you know, if we talk about this from a luxury standpoint, we've also had what we've created the luxury of being around long enough to be able to see how those decisions played out. Right? So I think that's that's something else that not solely by virtue of saying no, but because we've been disciplined across the board right now, just around what we've said no to what we said yes to how we've spent money, what we've decided to do what we decided not to do. We have been around long enough to be able to have the hindsight to see the value of those nose. Right? And of course, you know, there were things, we could have done that. They may have changed the business a little here. There may have moved things a little faster again. That would have mattered much. But I, I think that by, by virtue of having been around long enough through this discipline, through saying no to things were able to clearly see the value of those nose. Right. And I think that the, the converse of that, the inverse of that is that you end up saying yes to a lot of things and, and maybe, you know, getting over your toes over cash flow over whatever, right? You run out of room, you run out of runway, you're out of business. There's not enough understanding at that point to be able to see like really, where did this go off the rails, right? What should we have said no to, if you didn't say no to anything, you just said yes to everything still went out of business. How do you do the calculus on that? And so I think that, you know, as we, as we talked about why we chose profitability. It's because it allows us to be around, it guarantees we get to come back tomorrow and the next day and the next week, the next month, next year we will be here. And because of that, we're able to see the impact of this. And I think that luxury and that ability has now given us, you know, full, full, um, you know, great feelings about being able to say no in the future, right? We now have enough evidence that says yes, sometimes no is absolutely the right decision. Um, and so we don't have to question ourselves each time we do this, we're like, let's use the same framework we've been using, let's continue to say no where it makes sense. Um, and move on. Right. And do we get 100% of that's right. Of course not. And that doesn't matter. Right. Um, we're making enough of the right bets and and saying no to enough of the wrong things to have been here long enough to be able to look back at it and say we did it right, right. And that feels good.

Wil Schroter: The way I always tell entrepreneurs to think about these decisions is yes, may give you more opportunity, but if no is going, if not saying those is going to thank you. Um, then that's not a good decision. In other words, if I say yes to a developer and I might be able to get the product out faster, but that runs the risk of maybe not making payroll anymore and go out of business. But I'd rather say no, I'd rather maybe take more time to get the product out there, but be around long enough to be able to say yes or no in the

Ryan Rutan: future. What's interesting, no, has a lot more certainty to it. In most cases, I can think of some decisions that don't, but in most cases, no has a more certain immediate impact, right? If I say no to the developer, I saved the cash. If I say yes to the developer, I might move the product faster and when I put the product into the market, it might make us more money. But there's, you're, you're now starting to compound uncertainty, right? It may move faster, it might not, it might work in the market. It might not, we might be more profitable because we might not. Um, but there's definitely certainty around the saving of the money, right? And it's not just about the financial cost, right? There's there's a lot of things that end up happening when you say yes. Um, that can be quite unforeseen, right? There's very few unforeseen circumstances, at least in the, in the kind of the, the near term around the notes. And I think so. The fact that there's far more certainty there should also give you some comfort in being able to say no. Um, and being clear on what the return of investment of that note is. That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe rate and comment on ITunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy. You can find all of our episodes at startups dot com

Wil Schroter: slash

Ryan Rutan: podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer, from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like this plan, fungible and launch rock. It's everything a founder needs visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash b e G I N. You'll thank me later.

Copyright © 2024 LLC. All rights reserved.