Episode #46 | A Week in My Life as Co-founder, What I’ve Learned This Past Year

Featured image for episode 46 of Designing Growth featuring Motion.io Co-founder Sam Chlebowski. At the top of the image, the title for the episode reads "A Week in My Life as Co-founder, What I’ve Learned This Past Year." A picture of Designing Growth podcast host Sam Chlebowski is displayed in the bottom right of the image. All text and pictures for the featured image of Episode 46 are displayed on a dark blue background.

In a rare solo episode, podcast host Sam Chlebowski shares the behind-the-scenes details about what a week in his life as Co-Founder of Motion.io looks like. Sam explains why Motion.io’s full product release last week was so exciting, the things he did to support the release, and the top lessons he’s learned after one full year of working full-time on Motion.io.

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A Week in My Life as a Tech Startup Founder, What I’ve Learned This Past Year | Designing Growth #46

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[00:00:00] Sam Chlebowski: I’m not gonna lie to you, that time period of Motion.io was really stressful because we had been working on the assumption that we were building this project management tool all along. And then, within a matter of weeks we were like, this isn’t working We have to scrap not only the tool that we have built, but all of our assumptions about the things that we thought.

[00:00:19] Sam Chlebowski: Creative businesses like web designers, marketing agencies, graphic designers, needed to run projects.

[00:00:26] Sam Chlebowski: And I’m sure anybody who has done a pivot or a new iteration of their business can agree, like it’s hard. There are so many doubts that you have because in some ways you’re still so tied to the ideas of the past the initial version of what you thought your business or your product or your services were.

[00:00:43] Sam Chlebowski: Leaping over that mental hurdle is incredibly tough.

[00:00:47] ​Intro Music Plays

[00:00:47] Sam Chlebowski: Happy Thursday everybody, and welcome back to Designing Growth. How’s everybody out there doing this week? How’s your business? How’s life? How’s family? How are you living? 

[00:01:05] Sam Chlebowski: As for me, it has been a super, super exciting week and I’m actually recording this episode solo, first time that I’ve done that since episode 32 of Designing Growth. That was a ways back where I was talking about my marketing tech and this time I’m recording this solo episode to give you some really cool updates about Motion.io and also get into a little bit about like: “Hey, what does Sam actually do here?”

[00:01:32] Sam Chlebowski: “Is he just this podcast host that sometimes pops up on social media or is he like actually doing things there?” So I will tell you about that, but first, I want to explain why we didn’t release an episode last week.

[00:01:44] Sam Chlebowski: When I started this podcast, my goal was to be very consistent with it To release episodes every single week typically , I like to bash these episodes out, record a couple of a time but we have just been honestly in a dead out sprint for like the last month here 

[00:01:58] Sam Chlebowski: And last week [00:02:00] it totally caught up with me because 

[00:02:02] Sam Chlebowski: there were a lot of big things that we needed to do aside from recording content to support the full release of Motion dot iOS customizable client portal software. There was a ton of blood, sweat, and tears that went into getting to the point where we were ready to release the full version of our product.

[00:02:20] Sam Chlebowski: with this release, we finally have an end in sight to our early access period. We’ve been in early access now for well over a year, and motion.io has been totally free to use at this time.

[00:02:31] Sam Chlebowski: The long story, not so short of why this happened is basically when we launched motion.io, we had a totally different picture of what the product would end up like when we had a quote-unquote full version of it that we were ready to have people using and ultimately have people start to pay for.

[00:02:49] Sam Chlebowski: After we initially launched motion.io as a project management tool in late 2022, we found that it really missed the mark in a couple of ways, and the biggest problem was it was project management software. We quickly found out When people started using it that they didn’t really want to switch from the project management software they were using.

[00:03:09] Sam Chlebowski: whether that was a sauna notion, Trello. They didn’t wanna move from that to a new tool ‘ cause it would disrupt their entire workflow. All of these systems that they had built internally and switching away from that was just a huge lift for people.

[00:03:21] Sam Chlebowski: Even if they weren’t using the project management aspects 

[00:03:24] Sam Chlebowski: the businesses that we invited to try out our initial version, were using our request tool that had a very simple concept of, create this thing for a client to do. They can do it right in motion.io. When we saw people using that, but not using the rest of the product, we said basically, okay, it is time to burn this thing to the ground and rebuild it.

[00:03:44] Sam Chlebowski: to focus on first delivering value where people were already getting value from their product. And then second do more than just the one or two types of requests we had in that time. I believe when we had launched that version. Really the only thing we could do with motion.io is have clients complete a [00:04:00] to-do list, as well as use our visual feedback tool, which is still a part of motion.io today to annotate images and have clients pin comments on images and respond to them.

[00:04:10] Sam Chlebowski: I’m not gonna lie to you, that time period of motion.io was really stressful because we had been working on the assumption that we were building this project management tool all along. And then within a matter of weeks we were like, this isn’t working We have to scrap not only the tool that we have built, but all of our assumptions about the things that we thought.

[00:04:29] Sam Chlebowski: Creative businesses like web designers, marketing agencies, graphic designers, needed to run projects.

[00:04:36] Sam Chlebowski: And I’m sure anybody who has done a pivot or a new iteration of their business can agree, like it’s hard. There are so many doubts that you have because in some ways you’re still so tied to the ideas of the past and the initial version of what you thought your business or your product or your services were.

[00:04:53] Sam Chlebowski: that leaping over that mental hurdle is incredibly tough, thankfully I am surrounded by two of the best people I’ve ever worked with in my life. My co-founders, Perry and Zach. We were all there in it together 

[00:05:06] Sam Chlebowski: And we all got to this place we were ready to pivot and we were ready to go in a new direction with motion.io.

[00:05:12] Sam Chlebowski: from there we moved super quickly. We built the next iteration of motion.io. while it didn’t have the full suite of features and functionality that motion.io does now, the two that it did have 

[00:05:23] Sam Chlebowski: our core to motion.io is functionality today, with this next iteration of the product, we really wanted to double down on the things that businesses told us they needed help with the most. project management wasn’t one of those things. What they did need help with, was doing things like getting clients to complete onboarding forms, getting clear and actionable feedback from clients without having to beg them or teach them how to use some complicated tool as well as collecting files, content and documents during projects.

[00:05:53] Sam Chlebowski: But the number one thing these businesses said is that the reason why all of these individual things were problems within their [00:06:00] business is that they had to constantly follow up, track and manage of these types of requests that they would make to clients.

[00:06:07] Sam Chlebowski: So with this next version of motion.io, we released, we included four different types of tasks, businesses could use and request things from clients in just a couple of clicks.

[00:06:17] Sam Chlebowski: The tasks that were a part of this version of motion.io are still a core part of the product today. You can do things like assign a to-do list for a client send a client a form. request files or documents from a client and use that visual feedback tool that we had originally developed for the first version of motion.io.

[00:06:35] Sam Chlebowski: so clients can pin comments to things like website mockups and wire frames, and know exactly what you’re talking about.

[00:06:41] Sam Chlebowski: We heard some really good things about this next version. People liked how simple it was to create tasks for clients. and how easy intuitive it was for them to do things like upload files or provide feedback on a mockup, ?

[00:06:53] Sam Chlebowski: Despite a positive response from users about this next version of motion.io hearing what excited them the most came as a complete surprise to us. Again and again, we kept hearing that people loved the simple client portals motion.io generated for clients to view and complete tasks that were assigned to them.

[00:07:13] Sam Chlebowski: We included this as a feature. Originally, it was kind of like a nice little bonus in addition to users having the ability to assign client tasks and set automatic follow ups and reminders, We honestly didn’t even think of motion.io at this point as client portal software.

[00:07:28] Sam Chlebowski: We kept playing around with names like request management tools or file collection while we didn’t know it really at that time, none of them felt quite right.

[00:07:38] Sam Chlebowski: What I learned from going through this experience is that when people are telling you specific things that they, number one, like about what you have already, and number two need so they can use it within their business 

[00:07:50] Sam Chlebowski: you should listen to those things. 

[00:07:51] Sam Chlebowski: When people tell you things they like about what you are doing right now, double down on those things, focus on those things maybe that means you’re able to [00:08:00] automate parts of a service and offer it at a lower price. maybe it means you can roll that into some other package or expand that offering to do more on top of what you’re already doing.

[00:08:10] Sam Chlebowski: The second part of this is that if people are asking you for more on top of those things that you’re already doing, Those can be powerful growth opportunities, and they can lead you to new directions, new services, new products, new features. They’re gonna help you rapidly scale your business and get you to that end destination. Whether your goal is a more sustainable and scalable business, whether it’s to pay yourself a better salary, whether it’s to build a business that can eventually be acquired or sold one day, listening to the people that you work with, especially when they’re asking you to do something more or provide something else for them, is a really powerful indicator.

[00:08:48] Sam Chlebowski: So to tie all of this together, when we heard that people liked these client portals we asked why, you know, what do you like about them?

[00:08:55] Sam Chlebowski: And they said a couple things. The first was that they liked, these portals required virtually no setup. if they created a project and assigned tasks to a client as a part of that project, the portal was already set up for them. It was there, it was ready, it was good to go. The next thing they liked is that it was really intuitive, Meaning businesses wouldn’t have to coach clients through using this software as they’ve been required to do so many times. with things like other client portal solutions or even doing things like inviting their client into their project management software. 

[00:09:25] Sam Chlebowski: The final thing that we heard from users, when we asked them to tell us what they liked about motion dot i’s client portals were that they were login lists. 

[00:09:32] Sam Chlebowski: And this is a big thing in motion.io today. when you invite a client to one of your portals, they get a link. And when a single click, they can access that. They don’t have to create an account, they don’t have to log in 

[00:09:43] Sam Chlebowski: while hearing how much people who tried out this next version of motion.io loved the client portal functionality At this point, we still weren’t ready to go a hundred percent all in and become client portal software. This is where the second part of that lesson that I mentioned about listening to your users comes in [00:10:00] because the very next thing we asked was, okay, you like this part of it?

[00:10:03] Sam Chlebowski: what else do you need?

[00:10:04] Sam Chlebowski: and the things that these business owners told us are exactly what is in the full version of motion.io that we just released.

[00:10:13] Sam Chlebowski: I won’t spend too much time on the details, but some of the cool features that we’ve added are first off custom tabs. So within your client portals, instead of just having a list of tasks for clients to complete, you can do things like embed videos, add resources, or a welcome guide, in addition to being able to embed any other software that you’re using directly within your motion.io client portals.

[00:10:35] Sam Chlebowski: The reason why we ended up adding these custom tabs to the product is because as soon as people started using motion.io, they quickly asked well, how do I embed my, Calendly calendar? or how do I add a Google Slides presentation to a client portal so a client can see that?

[00:10:49] Sam Chlebowski: Or how do I even connect tools like dub sodo so a client Can complete my dubs auto proposal payment and contract without having to leave their motion.io client portal. At the time, we didn’t have a good answer for that, but we put our heads together and these custom tabs that exist within motion.io have ended up being a game changing solution, that we’re very excited, made the cut into this full release version of the product.

[00:11:11] Sam Chlebowski: even last week, I’m not gonna lie, we went a little bit nuts just seeing how many different things we could integrate into it and what was wild was how few times that I ran into roadblocks. Pretty much everything that I was playing around with on our development environment and trying to integrate into motion.io, things like notion boards, panda docs for contracts, Google Docs, sheets, slides, all of that stuff, I was able to add them to these test client portals I was creating in seconds.

[00:11:39] Sam Chlebowski: Another key feature that we released, as a part of this decision to go all in on client portal software was branding. Branding had been something that people had long mentioned would be like a nice to have, but once we started seriously asking the question of well, what is motion.io gonna be when it grows up?

[00:11:55] Sam Chlebowski: And answering that with customizable client portal software, immediately knew that it was [00:12:00] time to add branding into motion.io. So now in motion.io, you can add your logo, you can add your primary color, and you can also customize the sending name on all of the emails motion.io sends. To reflect your unique brand identity and be virtually indistinguishable from another piece of software.

[00:12:17] Sam Chlebowski: So I promised I wouldn’t talk about our product forever. You can go to our website and check out the full release notes to see all of the features the full release version of. motion.io has right now. Or even better, go sign up for a free account and try it out to see ’em for yourself.

[00:12:33] Sam Chlebowski: So, All that aside, let me take you into a week in my world as one of the co-founders at motion.io.

[00:12:41] Sam Chlebowski: I’ve shared a little bit about my background a couple times on this podcast. Episode 32 is a good one. If you want to hear the full story of how I got to where I am now.

[00:12:52] Sam Chlebowski: one of the things that I always find interesting is I listen to a couple of other, you know, startup business related podcasts, and I love hearing the story about, what people do in a week, because it can seem so nebulous if somebody says like, Hey, I’m a business owner of X, Y, Z creative agency, or I’m a co-founder of this startup, Or I run this company that helps people do X, Y, Z. It’s like, well, what do you do all day? Very curious. Tell me more. And I love things like that. So I’m gonna tell you a little bit about what I was doing last week.

[00:13:23] Sam Chlebowski: So I had mentioned that we had done a ton of work to get to this point where we had this full version of motion.io and we understood what motion.io was gonna be when it grows up which is customizable client portal software built for creative businesses.

[00:13:39] Sam Chlebowski: From V one to V two to the version of motion.io we have today, one of the hard lessons that I’ve learned is that repositioning a product it’s a ton of work and you don’t even realize how much stuff you have to update until that time comes.

[00:13:54] Sam Chlebowski: Whenever I’ve been working in startups or at companies previously, the product was [00:14:00] already pretty well-defined. And while I’ve been in marketing for a decade now and I have done things all of the time, updating website copy or launching a new feature or service and positioning those features or services, the foundation to do that was already laid for me. I didn’t have to create it. And I think A big lesson I’ve learned throughout that is let the writer’s block happen. ’cause it’s gonna happen. It’s really, really hard to explain something that hasn’t existed previously and may not even be in its final form yet.

[00:14:30] Sam Chlebowski: Looking at similar products that I thought did a really good job and drawing inspiration from that, found that that was one of the best way to help break through that writer’s block 

[00:14:39] Sam Chlebowski: But I will also note that it’s an iterative process. You’re never gonna get it right the first time. And you’ll look back at ways that you had described things previously and say, oh, that doesn’t make any sense. Or This sounds like a jumbled mess that’s gonna happen.

[00:14:52] Sam Chlebowski: And I think every time you realize that It’s not a sign to beat yourself up, it’s really a time to congratulate yourself and say, wow, you’ve made a lot of improvements. You are so much better about talking about your services or your product or the things you do in a concise and easy to understand way.

[00:15:09] Sam Chlebowski: So it takes practice.

[00:15:10] Sam Chlebowski: the other part that was hard for me about marketing a rapidly changing product was,

[00:15:14] Sam Chlebowski: building the brand for this product.

[00:15:16] Sam Chlebowski: I feel like now it’s gotten to a pretty good place.

[00:15:20] Sam Chlebowski: as Motion dot iOS, VP of marketing. I am of the primary person for all of our marketing stuff. 

[00:15:27] Sam Chlebowski: and because we didn’t have a real budget to build our website, I had to dust off my web design shoes. that, I’ll be honest, I had not built a website since 2016 or 2017. 

[00:15:38] Sam Chlebowski: And because it had been such a long time, I felt like I was just fumbling all over the place. ‘ cause not only did I have to kinda relearn some of the fundamentals of web design,

[00:15:48] Sam Chlebowski: I also had to update myself on the new kind of design standards. It had been just such a long time. I’d always been in companies where the website was already built. we hired a contractor for that, or [00:16:00] there’s an internal designer who had done that, and it had never been just me. for a new business, a lot of where your branding starts is with the website.

[00:16:08] Sam Chlebowski: Some of my favorite places to go for website design was a website called SaaS landing page.com drew a ton of inspiration from there. They have some beautiful websites from, big tech companies out there. some of the ones I found especially cool were Harvest website, which is uh, time tracking software.

[00:16:27] Sam Chlebowski: As well as Zapier’s website. I mean, they are just like the best in the game at what they do. I think in some ways, and I drew a lot of inspiration from their site.

[00:16:36] Sam Chlebowski: So in addition to those two things, keeping me busy last week, updating the copy on our website, updating the design of our website, and that means things like new screenshots of the product.

[00:16:46] Sam Chlebowski: Also another pro tip for taking screenshots. One of the tools, I’ve honestly been like beating to death If you could see my desktop screen, it is littered with thousands of screenshots, but I use this tool Zeit, formerly known as Cloud app.

[00:17:00] Sam Chlebowski: Don’t love the new name, but I do love the product and I use that to take high quality screenshots as well as do high quality like four K screen captures of our product. That’s been a lifesaver when it comes to updating our imagery on the websites as well as doing like, YouTube tutorial videos where I’m not using something like O B S and I want just the full screen, high resolution video of the product.

[00:17:25] Sam Chlebowski: in addition to updating the copy on our website, updating all of our landing pages, updating all of the screenshots and imagery on our site, another thing that kept me busy last week was creating our paid advertising campaigns. We had run some paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram previously, but it was for a much older version of the product.

[00:17:45] Sam Chlebowski: We created those paid ads for V two of motion.io, which I talked a little bit about earlier. So I had to update everything to the V three imagery.

[00:17:54] Sam Chlebowski: One of the tools that I have found just to be a lifesaver when it comes to creating compelling creative [00:18:00] for paid advertising.

[00:18:01] Sam Chlebowski: On Ad Creative Bank, you can look at some of the top-performing ads you can get as specific as like picking what industry you’re in, what kind of business you run. it provides a lot of great inspiration when you’re trying to design creative and you haven’t done it before, you have no template or anything to base it off of.

[00:18:20] Sam Chlebowski: So that’s another tool that I really like. And then also shout out to YouTube channels that have really, really helped me get our paid ads up and running and performing well.

[00:18:30] Sam Chlebowski: Jordan Platten is an awesome follow on YouTube if you do anything with paid digital advertising. He does a couple things that are like full walkthroughs of setting up campaigns on meta. In other words, Facebook and Instagram ads, as well as another channel – Analytics Mania. And they cover a ton about Google Analytics and tracking because that was something that I struggled with early on.

[00:18:52] Sam Chlebowski: That’s been a good place for a while now. But getting all of that setup and hooked up to Google Analytics for was a bit of a bear when I had to initially get that created.

[00:19:00] Sam Chlebowski: the last thing that was keeping me busy last week, I mentioned how much I loved what Zapier does with their website and in their marketing. I think it’s some of the best in tech, honestly. one of the things that Zapier does especially well, is they really showcase all of the various tools that you can integrate and connect with Zapier.

[00:19:18] Sam Chlebowski: So we took a page out of Zapier’s book and last week I actually created nine different articles of how to connect a certain software to motion.io. I think we are just about to bring someone on to help us with this going forward. but last week It was just me and my co-founder, Perry, creating these articles, so it was like a mad dash that before we released these custom tabs and this ability to integrate all of these softwares into motion.io, we had to come up with educational resources to teach people how to use them.

[00:19:49] Sam Chlebowski: And I think that that’s another interesting takeaway just about, entrepreneurship in general. There’s always gonna be things that come up that hit you totally by surprise, and you have to just figure [00:20:00] out how to get it done. And oftentimes when those things come up that you’re not prepared for the fastest and best way is to just do it on your own.

[00:20:07] Sam Chlebowski: But the good news is, is that doing those things, whether it is editing your own content, whether it is designing your website, whether it is creating email campaigns or ad creative, every time you do one of those things on your own, you get better.

[00:20:21] Sam Chlebowski: Hiring for that because you understand the quality that you want. You understand that the ins and outs how it works and you have a level of education that’s going to allow you to bring on the right person for the right job that’s something that I’ve seen happen a ton of times.

[00:20:37] Sam Chlebowski: When people make bad hires. They don’t know what they need or what they expect going in, and they’ll hire a marketing agency or they’ll hire a automation specialist to do these things that they don’t know how to do them themselves. And I’m not saying that that’s totally wrong, but it can be a little bit dangerous.

[00:20:56] Sam Chlebowski: The way that you can minimize some of those risks sometime of spending that money and not getting the results you expect in return is understanding how to do it yourself the first time around.

[00:21:06] Sam Chlebowski: now that I’ve talked a little bit about my week, all the things that I was doing last week, I am here to say that we have some really exciting new episodes in the works We will be back to our regularly scheduled programming over the next couple weeks. As well. We have some really cool stuff planned for motion.io.

[00:21:23] Sam Chlebowski: In the coming months, we will be releasing a messaging option so you can chat directly with your clients. In the portal we’ll be releasing payments and contracts.

[00:21:31] Sam Chlebowski: So in addition to being able to connect those things to motion.io, you could even do them within the app itself.

[00:21:38] Sam Chlebowski: Then in addition to all of that, we do have a Zapier integration plan. Not sure a hundred percent on the timeline of that, but it is something we know we are going to be doing, so stay on the lookout for that. Until then, everybody. My name is Sam Chlebowski, host of the Designing Growth podcast and co-founder of Motion.io. Hope you enjoyed this special solo episode and talk to you [00:22:00] everybody next week. Have fun, good luck, and go crush it. Take care everybody.

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