SaaS Founder Interview with Mike Arsenault, CEO & Founder of Rejoiner
Rejoiner is a lifecycle email marketing software designed specifically to help online retailers and eCommerce companies reduce their cart abandonment rate and retain their best customers.
Tony Zayas 0:04
Hey everybody, welcome! Welcome to another episode of the SaaS founders show. This is Tony Zayas. I’m joined by it’s Insivia’s founder Andy Halko. How’s it going, Andy?
Andy Halko 0:15
I’m doing fantastic. How about you, Tony?
Tony Zayas 0:17
Yeah, doing good, doing good.
Andy Halko 0:20
You getting ready for Christmas yet that you put up your lights?
Tony Zayas 0:22
You know what, my wife is one of those that dives right into it as soon as Halloween is over. So we got decorations up all throughout the house already. So yeah. An all-systems girl, how about you?
Andy Halko 0:38
Oh, we’re already in the Christmas season.
Tony Zayas 0:41
Awesome. Well, very cool. Today’s episode, this is the eighth episode we’ve done. I think we’ve had some really great conversations with some fascinating SaaS founders. And I think we have another one in store here today. We’ll bring them on in just a second. We have Mike Arsenal from Rejoiner. So with that, Mike, how you doing?
Mike Arsenault 1:04
Hey, guys, thanks for having me, doing well.
Tony Zayas 1:06
Thank you very much. We really appreciate you taking the time you got to joining us here today. So just to get started, Mike, you know, we’ve had a number of founders who had essentially startups. They were early on, the last few weeks and something that’s kind of cool about you, Rejoiner, is you guys have been around for a while. So do you mind just telling us a little bit about Rejoiner and we can…
Mike Arsenault 1:30
Yeah. For sure, yeah. Yes, I found the company like eight years ago. It’s hard to believe, you know, time flies. But we are, we’re an ecommerce marketing automation platform. So we work with direct to consumer retail brands. And we power all of the ways in which they use email to communicate with their customers. And so our product integrates with all of the ecommerce platforms. You’ve heard of Bigcommerce, Shopify, WooCommerce, all the big platforms. And the product is designed to really power email throughout the entire customer lifecycle. So all of those automated use cases that retailers and brands use, high volume, high scalability broadcasting. So really, it’s a single solution to power, you know, the entire email channel for our customers.
Andy Halko 2:29
That’s fantastic. What was the process? What got you into starting and launching this business? What was kind of the origin story, as we like to call it?
Mike Arsenault 2:42
Yeah, yeah, it’s kind of interesting. So the original idea the original product was was much smaller than than what we do today. So it’s really about solving one very specific problem that I had at a company that I worked for, previously. And actually, we built the first version of the technology while I was working for another company full time. And that initial problem that we set out to solve was, had nothing to do with retail had nothing to do with ecommerce. But I was working for another software company at the time, they’re a SaaS company that had a self service signup flow. And so you know, we drive a lot of paid traffic into the funnel, people would sign up as a Virtual Phone product called grasshopper.com. And we started to see all this drop off on our signup form. People would start signing up, they fill out the first step of the signup form. And remember, this is eight years ago, this sounds like pretty basic stuff now. But there wasn’t a good solution for this at the time. And we weren’t really sure why that drop off was happening. And so we built a really small piece of technology that could track when someone started filling out a form but didn’t complete it. And so we started to gather all this data about these prospects who are getting right to the bottom of the funnel. Really, super high intent, but they weren’t buying for whatever reason. And so we started to capture all of these prospects that ended up being really valuable. And so at first, we weren’t even doing anything with the data, we were just trying to understand where the drop off was. But that first piece of technology that we built ended up being the basis for Rejoiner’s cart abandonment offering, which is a obviously a hugely important thing for for ecommerce companies and retail brands. So we started solving this very small thing. We commercialized it. We didn’t know what was going to work in terms of follow up at first and, should eat to email these people? Should we call them? Should we try to send them direct mails? We tried a bunch of stuff to see what would work and then obviously, email was the most scalable and converted in the most compelling way. And so we ended up commercializing what was just a very simple cart abandonment solution. Not even knowing who we were going to sell it to. Initially I thought I thought we would sell it to other software companies just like, just like us. But then we started to get all this organic pull from the world of direct to consumer ecommerce. And once that started happening often enough, we kind of just doubled down and said, okay, you know, if we’re going to, we’re going to do more, we’re going to expand on this initial use case, we’re going to do it for direct to consumer ecommerce brands.
Andy Halko 5:23
What was that process? like going out of grasshopper in your own business? Were you able to easily do that? Or was it? What did that transition look like?
Mike Arsenault 5:34
Yeah, that’s a great question. I was really lucky. Because we built the tech, basically, for Grasshopper to use. They had, you know, dedicated internal resources to helping us test it. We built part of it, like, on their time with their insight, right? But the thing I got lucky with was that Grasshopper also had this brand value that was about empowering entrepreneurs. Like so they marketed this to the prospects and customers that they sold the platform to. And so the founders there were super supportive. So, you know, basically once this like turned into something that appeared like it had some legs like that, it could go somewhere and that we could build a business around it. They were like 100% on board and you know, they let me out up like, you sign these crazy non competes when you join a technology company that basically says, If you create anything on our time, right, that we help you prove out it’s ours, like we own the IP, you know, they let me out of that. They were hugely supportive. So like the founders there, David Hauser, and cm ACTA gatos, they went on to have huge success. So that business to secure the LogMeIn, Citrix, and they were they were hugely supportive.
Andy Halko 6:54
Yeah, that’s amazing. You don’t typically see that type of thing these days, so really great. What? So how is that different for you? Did you end up bringing on like, co founders? Did they help fund the initial process? You know, what was the first like year like in your entrepreneurial experience?
Mike Arsenault 7:21
Yeah, yeah, that’s a good question. So yeah, I found it with two coworkers from grasshopper, and initially two technical cofounders. And so, you know, we work together nights and weekends and before work and after work for, like, legitimately an entire year before we had something to sell. So a lot went into it. You know, and then we said, okay, like, we’ve got this really interesting thing, we’re gonna go try to do the accelerator thing. And so we applied toTechstars in Boston, and they got pretty far down that track, didn’t make it, then we apply to Y Combinator, went out to California got interviewed got pretty far down that track. didn’t make it. So then we were kind of like, faced with a question. My two cofounders were older, and they both had families. And, you know, we’re still kind of like bootstrapping this thing. And, you know, it ended up just not working out for them to continue, just because, you know, there wasn’t an option for them, in terms of being able to support their, their families, and what, what they did, so after the first year, they ended up both moving on, and I kind of had this, I’m, gosh, this is eight years ago. So I’m what 24 at the time, and I really have nothing to lose at this point. So I’ve got like, half a product, no team, no co founders. You know, and I decided to just kind of take the leap and go for it and see how far I could take, you know, with, with what I had to sell, I wanted to see how far I could take it. And so basically, I just I sold this, like half built thing to as many people as we could have just tried to, you know, keep learning from the customers that were using it to see where we could go next. Yeah, outsourced engineering team. You know, so we have like a engineering team in Poland for the first few years that just like we were just like scraping by with whatever we could, whatever we could get.
Andy Halko 9:29
That’s awesome. I think that’s such a great story. And just, you know, the trials and tribulations of it’s not as easy for everybody and how do you do it? Yeah. So what what, in that first year and kind of that process? One was what was your I like to look at the emotional state a little bit like where was your mind throughout this time? And then what was you know, one or two of the biggest challenges you faced in that period as well?
Mike Arsenault 9:58
Yeah, I think the mindset for me at that time was probably a combination of being like, completely naive about what it was going to take to make it work. But also, like completely blinded by ambition, like in a bad way, like, there’s probably multiple times where I should have stopped and revisited the situation, you know what I mean. But when you’re young, and you have nothing to lose, and you’re getting, like, some positive signal from the market, that it could work, it’s like, when you hit, you know, it’s like, I’m a terrible golf golfer, but when I hit one good golf shot and around, like, That’s enough, like, it’s like, I’m gonna keep playing, I’m gonna keep keep going out there. So it was like, I was getting just enough to continue, you know, I get, like, one break every quarter and be like, okay, like, I think we can make this work. So it was like, just that that was sort of, you know, allowing us to press on. And then like, you know, from a challenges perspective, I mean, everything you can imagine, right? So it’s like, we don’t get funded. The cofounders bail. Actually, I’m over three withco founders, I found a new co founder, who’s actually one of our customers, early customers. He comes on, that doesn’t work out. So yeah, I mean, that that first couple years was was was rough. I mean, it’s probably I have a tax return from the first year I made like $12, or something, maybe I should frame that.
Andy Halko 11:34
I was gonna make a joke that you paid more money, the drop, but I won’t even go there. Well, it’s funny, the golf shot analogy, I actually use that same thing all the time. It’s like, you know, you have all these horrible shots. But that one great chip shot, like keeps you coming back?
Mike Arsenault 11:53
Totally. Totally. Yeah.
Andy Halko 11:55
And it’s funny that, you know, I’ve had my business 18 years. And, you know, people have asked me like, how do you keep going, I’m like, I’m kind of like Wile E. Coyote at times where you run off the cliff. And as long as you don’t look down, you just can’t go forward. Right? So
Mike Arsenault 12:10
Just stay alive, right? Like, that’s the that’s the mantra.
Andy Halko 12:14
I love it when I think that’s what makes a great entrepreneur, you talk about like, hh, I should have gone back and reevaluate it. I think there’s something to that idea of, you know, perseverance, that’s such an important part of creating success.
Mike Arsenault 12:30
Andy Halko 12:30
So that’s fantastic.
Mike Arsenault 12:32
Andy Halko 12:33
So how do you come in that initial time? How did you, you know, get feedback and evolve the product and decide, you know, how to evolve both your target market as well as the feature set in the product?
Mike Arsenault 12:49
Yeah. You know, I really, I just started listening intently. You know, target market happened, like naturally, right? Because we started to get like, people reaching out to us, like potential partners and agencies who wanted to resell the solution. So it’s like, okay, like, how are they thinking of reselling this into Who? Right? So that’s a good, good indicator, you know, then organically, we started to generate a little bit more revenue. So we start experimenting with paid search and content marketing. It’s like, okay, let’s put some stuff out into the world and kind of like, see who shows up, like, who’s searching for this stuff? What do they want? What are the use cases we needed to deliver on? So we kind of like, tested the market with with paid a little bit at first, just to see what would come in. So that was a lot of D2C the time or at least a lot of ecommerce use cases, I don’t even think that the term D2C wasn’t really around back then. But now it’s, you know, now it’s more fashionable. And then the feature set, right? It’s like, we just started listening to what people were asking for, and, like, super painful in the beginning, because like, people come into the product, and they’re like, this sucks, like, doesn’t do like half of what the idea to and even what we said it did, like, didn’t do it particularly reliably. So you know, it’s like, every really, every early user is just a learning experience to try to like iterate and make it better and have it work the next time someone signs up. Because, in the early days, it’s not going to work a lot. And it did. So it’s really just opening up like those opportunities. That was key, like, I would call everybody who signed up. I would try it no matter what I would try to speak to the person to understand like, where they’re coming from, what are they looking for? What are we missing? You know, and then you end up with like, a 25 Page, Google Doc with all this insight from these conversations, and you can kind of like say, like, okay, I can start ranking things that are recurring. And that’s really what guided the early product roadmap for sure.
Tony Zayas 14:51
I was gonna ask, Mike, that’s interesting that you picked up the phone and you actually called customers. I think that’s great. I was going to ask what guided, like, how it was the method of gathering that feedback? So you did you know, phone calls? But did you also take like, customer support tickets and things? Yeah. Yeah.
Mike Arsenault 15:11
Yeah. I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s just me and like, two developers in Poland who aren’t around during US business hours, like, you know, for that first couple years, you’re doing everything. And, yeah, support tickets are great, because, you know, that’s like somebody who’s like, in pain, and they’re like, trying to figure something out, and they can’t, and it’s not working. And like that’s like, even to this day, I still, I still answer tickets. And I encourage everybody on our team to answer tickets, because it’s like, that is the gateway into the friction, right? And like, if you can socialize that friction, like, especially with our product and engineering team, if you can make people feel the pain of the user on the front line. I think if you end up creating a higher quality experience a higher quality product, because it’s rooted in like, reality. It’s not like some imaginary thing that we’re building we think someone’s going to use in this way. It’s like, no, this is like, what people are getting hung up on. And a lot of the time, it’s like things you didn’t even think of initially. That’s great.
Tony Zayas 16:13
I love I love that idea of, you know, getting that product team to understand the pain. I think that’s just nice.
Mike Arsenault 16:21
Yeah. Speaking of…
Andy Halko 16:23
Usually, they’re like three steps removed, you know, you’ve got a support team, and then you’ve got a product manager, and then it goes down to developer I love you know, trying to really expose that, like you said, friction and pain, right to those people.
Mike Arsenault 16:39
Yeah, and that was like, a total. You know, that was another thing I was lucky to have experienced with grasshopper was that we had 24/7 support that we outsourced to a third party. And like this amazing team of people supported all of our customers. Like in the main HQ, there was like, maybe only one or two people that were exposed to that to those incoming support. So it’s actually like, it was never a positive thing. Right? It was. Our engineering team was somewhat isolated from all of this extremely rich feedback that was coming in on the support front. And like we would meet every month and like, talk about what the problems were, but it was like, you know, I would I would chat with the support folks. And like, it was like a goldmine of information. I was like, yeah, it was amazing. And so I started to Rejoiner even at a very small scale. I was like, okay, like, we need to create a system that allows everybody to play a role in supporting customers and understanding, you know, where the issues are.
Tony Zayas 17:44
I was going to ask a little bit about your past history prior to Rejoiner, because I think it’s interesting. You had that product product manager role. Yeah for SaaS. So I’m just curious. So that’s obviously one takeaway that you got. Are there maybe a couple others to just help you accelerate and get through joiner based on here?
Mike Arsenault 18:06
Yeah. I had, I had like the coolest job at Grasshopper I was a PM within like the skunkworks. The grasshopper was like this really successful product. And we sold to like, thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs. It was like a virtual phone system kind of thing. And when I started there, the founders said, like, okay, cool. Like, we’ve got all these customers, we have all this brand affinity, can we start building other products to sell into the grasshopper base. Everybody call it grasshopper labs, it’s going to be like this small team of people. It was remote. So that’s how I got my first taste of building remote engineering teams. And we’re gonna like just try to build a bunch of stuff really quickly and see what works. So it was like, we were prototyping all kinds of ideas really rapidly. And so I got to work on some really cool stuff. I worked on Chargify, which is a subscription billing product that’s going on to do really well they raise like money from Mark Cuban and getting acquired by Skillworks. They’re like, still going strong. I worked on a product called Spreadable, which it did okay. But we ended up shutting that one down. I learned a lot there. And then my last one that I worked on was Grasshopper for iPhone. So it was like, yeah, we didn’t have a mobile app at the time. So it was like we built that. And labs, like so like I learned like a lot about building teams, rapidly iterating. That’s where I got my first taste of doing like qualitative customer research. Like that’s where the pick up the phone thing came from, doing research like that. I mean, I think one of the one of the major breakthroughs at the time, like with Chargify, I remember, this was like, when it was actually easy to rank for some of these high intense search terms organically. And doing keyword research and developing landing pages and content and like shipping a marketing site that like, literally ranked within a week for like terms like subscription billing, which is like completely crazy. It was 10 years ago.
Andy Halko 20:10
Mike Arsenault 20:11
But I took that with me when I founded rejoinder. And from the very early days, organic and paid search have been something we’ve focused on, you know, a lot. And it’s something that, you know, now it takes a really long time to scale that up. And it’s a very different climate, to do that kind of thing. But like, even when I started Rejoiner, it was still possible to rank with a reasonable amount of effort for some really important search terms. So it was like that was that that was a huge takeaway.
Tony Zayas 20:43
Andy Halko 20:44
Yeah, that’s amazing to be in that scenario in a startup like grasshopper and have the chance to, you know, really, try new things and learn that quickly, turn on, wizard, any one single experience or lesson from all those different products, that was just like a beacon for you, if you will, as you have moved on, like something that was just like a big aha moment during that time.
Mike Arsenault 21:14
You know, they were all they were all very, they were all very different. You know, and I, maybe one of the main takeaways was like, what is… Yeah trying to answer like, what is successful? Hmm, like, like that, that was always a really interesting conversation internally, because like, we had this one product that was like generating millions and millions of dollars in revenue, and had 10s of thousands of customers. And then we’re trying to build new stuff that like, you know, SaaS is a slow ramp. You know, and, you know, a lot of times we were comparing the success of these things that we were testing to the success of the, you know, sort of the flagship. And it wasn’t always clear, what is your what was what was successful and what wasn’t? What I mean, because we have this huge thing over there that’s growing really quickly. But like, Chargify is a good example of where we had one of these conversations, and it was like, it ramped at the same rate for years and years, and I’m sure they, you know, things have accelerated, but like, I took that with me. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I continued with redoing it, right? It’s like, it just takes a while to get rolling. And it’s like, eight years later, here I am, like, I’m still learning stuff every day. And it’s like, I don’t know, maybe the journey never ends, right? Yeah. Like, it’s just a slow ramp upwards. And like, that’s okay. And I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs get hung up, if the success is not immediate, but like, I was able to observe this early on where it’s like, man, it takes it takes a long time to figure out what you’re doing. Right? Like, yeah, eight years later, I still don’t know what I’m doing. A lot of the time. So it’s like, yeah, I think that was an important lesson is like, man, it takes time.
Andy Halko 23:05
I’m kind of curious to explore that a little bit. And, you know, that kind of thought process of success, because I agree with you, a lot of folks when I meet SaaS founders early on, you know, what their idea of success is, and what pressure they put on themselves, versus folks that maybe have been doing it for a while and what they consider success, you know, and I know, it’s different for everybody, whether it’s an exit, or is it building a lifestyle? Is it a journey versus the destination? So I’m kind of curious to hear that from your perspective of like, what does it mean to be successful or happy or any of these things?
Mike Arsenault 23:46
Yeah, oh I love this topic. You know, I, my, my sort of high level perspective, and this is I’m speaking for myself here, right? Is that I got into entrepreneurship not to be wealthy. I got into it to be free. Right? Like, I got into it to write my own ticket. And have success or failure be directly attributed to my efforts, right? And like, so. For me, the goal was always freedom, not like an exit not some measure of wealth or anything like that. So, um, you know, I’ve been doing this for eight years now, we’re, you know, we’re doing well and we’ve got an amazing team of people. And you start to ask yourself these questions again, like, okay, like, I kind of achieved freedom. Right? I’ve got a great life and a great family and a great business and a great team. I love working with our customers, but like, what do we do next? Right So, you know, that might you know that logic may be flawed in itself, you know, you go search for this other thing, maybe, you know, you realize that you had it all along, you know. But I think like, if more people thought about entrepreneurship like that, it’s you know, it’s a long game in search of freedom and being in control of your own destiny? Man, I think a lot more people would get into this. Yeah. Yeah, that’s, that’s kind of like how I think about it.
Andy Halko 25:28
Yeah, and I generally think, you know, the, the whole journey versus destination, I’m in a entrepreneur group, or I meet with the same folks month after month, and we’ve actually been having that conversation a lot lately is, you know, there’s some guys in the group that, you know, this, this vision of, I want to exit at this number of dollars, and these guys are doing this. And we’ve had a lot of conversation in the last couple months about journey versus destination, and which one’s more important.
Mike Arsenault 25:57
Andy Halko 25:59
I’m in the journey mindset. But it’s hard.
Mike Arsenault 26:03
Yeah, I mean, the thing is, is like that is like, the whole, the wealth creation, and the big exit, and the press, and like, being able to put a win on the board and say that you sold the company, that’s a very powerful motivation for a lot of people. Right? So if that’s what helps you press on and get through and like, work through the inevitable challenges that you’re gonna encounter, then, you know, more power to you. You know, those have not been the things that have motivated me to store equity. But But everybody, every founder is different, right? So it’s like, Whatever works.
Andy Halko 26:39
Yeah. And even the reason the conversation ended up coming up one guy, you know, he’s had his business for a number of years and had a target, exit in mind. And COVID cut his business in half. And if this, you know, and he sitting there going, Wow, my, my vision and my future, and everything I imagined is, like, kind of gone. Yeah. So, you know, that’s why I think for some founders that face like, big challenges in their, you know, experience. And that was going to lead me to a question for you is, you know, when you hit those moments, because all of us do, where it’s just, yeah, a lot of pressure a lot, you know, fear. How do you get through those times? You know, what’s your approach?
Mike Arsenault 27:31
Well, my, my wife would tell you that she’s, you know, the sounding board. And she’s been on, you know, she’s been on the roller coaster with me since the very beginning. Actually, when I was still at grasshopper, so she’s seen it all, you know, I think, you know, I’ve been lucky, I’ve had a small network of peers, informally, that I can go to and get, you know, kind of gut checked a little bit, you know, if I’m thinking some catastrophe has happened, and I’m in panic mode, I can reach out to a couple other people who are in a similar situation to me as founders who are building technology companies, and they’re like, Yeah, man, actually, that’s not really that big a deal. Don’t worry about it. So having that peer network, you know, I think that peer network is even more important now. Right? as like, you’re not in the same room with anyone, primarily now. So it’s like, you know, I mean, being a founder is a lonely job anyway, right? Even as your team grows, it’s like, being a CEO is a lonely job. So having a peer network of other people that I could go to and have conversations and get reality checks was as important.
Andy Halko 28:52
Yeah, that seems to be a common theme. You know, and I think it for me, what I’ve seen is folks that are successful always do have that peer network. And it’s the folks that seem to struggle the most are probably the ones that don’t want to get feedback from others and don’t like that idea. How’d you find that network of peers?
Mike Arsenault 29:17
Hey, Andy, sorry, the the audio cut out a little bit there. Can you repeat your last question?
Andy Halko 29:21
Yeah. How did you find your network appears? How did you build that? You know?
Mike Arsenault 29:26
Yeah, um, well, early on. I was creating a lot of content and putting it out into the world. And I’d actually at Grasshopper, I’d written like this very thorough post mortem of why we shut down one of our products, hmm. And, you know, put that out into the world and got really a lot of interesting feedback. But like, actually, two founders who I’m still connected with today, read the post mortem. And they were like, Hey, I’m building something. Something similar. It’s not like exactly what you did, but it’s like similar selling to a similar group of customers. And like, you know, would you like advise us? And, you know, I think, like the moral of the story is like, so yeah, that’s like where some of these early relationships came from. But like, putting a failure out into the world in a transparent way, so that other people can learn from it, I think is a very powerful idea. There are companies that are doing this, like to the maximum degree now like like Buffer and Baremetrics. And some of these companies that literally put it all out there, right, good and bad. I think people groove is another one. Like, I think people really identify with those stories, like being able to see peek behind the curtains like but for me, it was like, writing, writing about things that didn’t go well. And then that attracted people, people are attracted to the transparency and you’re like, hey, like, we can learn from each other. And that’s like, the starting points for me.
Andy Halko 31:04
Getting into that a little bit. What is your mindset on sharing, you know, both publicly and with your team, the hardships and failures, as well as the successes, some people try and hide that stuff, not only to the public? Yeah. So to even their their team versus other folks? It seemed to be very open and honest and frank about. Yeah.
Mike Arsenault 31:28
Is that? Yeah, that’s actually a great question. publicly, I need to do a heck of a lot better of being out there in the community and doing things like this, and writing about the process of building our business and the problems that we’re facing. You know, we’re building a new version of the product for last few years, that’s been like, my main focus. And so I kind of put my head in the sand a little bit, which I think was the mistake, like, got off social kind of stopped paying attention to tech news. You stop being part of the conversations, like on Twitter, you know, so it’s like a kind of like, said, Okay, I’m gonna take a step back from all that and focus on building for a little bit. So that’s like, I’m not sure that’s for the better, right? Yeah, if I had to do over again, I wouldn’t have done that. But on the company side, I’m at the end of the spectrum, that is 100%. transparency. So like, all of our staff knows our numbers, good and bad. You know, we start every company meeting on Friday with wins and losses. Talk about what well, what didn’t go well, you know, how are we going to get better next week? You know, so yeah, we’ve had some really hard conversations over the last couple of years with the team, but I feel like, you know, great teams are kind of forged in times when things are not going well. Right? Everything is always great. It’s like, where everybody thinks everything is always great. It’s like, I don’t know, I think that the team members don’t build a stronger connection. There’s not like, doesn’t build any trust, right? Because you got to get through some bad stuff. Together, you know, in order to really trust each other. And so it’s like, the transparency starts at the top, and then I think it cascades down to everybody else.
Andy Halko 33:23
And have you had those people embrace that? Or is there certain people that embrace it? And it goes well, but others that don’t belong in the bus at the end of the day?
Mike Arsenault 33:33
Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing is like, with transparency comes, it stresses people out. Mm hmm. And some people. I’m not sure it’s a good thing for them. Because it’s like, creating anxiety. And they’re like, Oh, my gosh, you know, we just had this company call and like, a lot of stuffs not going well. So maybe I should, like, start looking for another job. And that’s like, a real thing. Yeah. But I think the, the greater good is more important. And you just have to be aware of who is going to be negatively impacted by transparency. And then make a point to follow up and be like, hey, like, you know, I know, that was some heavy stuff we just talked about, but I want to make sure like, you’re right. And I want to make sure reassure you that like, we’re in good shape. But yeah, I mean, it definitely definitely happens. That people people get stressed out.
Andy Halko 34:25
Yeah, I’ve found over the years. I mean, it’s such a mixed bag. I like being very transparent and challenge excites me to find opportunities to make it better, but then there are folks that it just that that is a you know, it really shakes their confidence and there’s all kinds of issues or they freeze up and it’s always a challenge. So
Mike Arsenault 34:49
Yeah, I think the benefit is greater though. You know, it’s like for people that it has the opposite effect on it stimulates ideas it I think people become more proactive. If they realize that there’s a negative situation that they can help correct, or at least they have a thought process on how to correct it. So I’ve always found the benefit is far greater.
Andy Halko 35:08
And I would have to think in the startup world, you know, you want those folks that can understand that there are challenges, there are ups and downs, because welcome to the world right, you know?
Mike Arsenault 35:20
Yeah, yeah. I mean, if you come work for us, you’re not signing up for like, you know, some corporate gig where you can kind of just coast along. Yeah, it doesn’t work that way.
Tony Zayas 35:31
So, Mike, we had a chance right before we went live, but to talk a little bit about your team, since you’re referencing them, what is the team look like? And I know you said that you the team is remote.
Mike Arsenault 35:42
Tony Zayas 35:43
How’s that evolved?
Mike Arsenault 35:45
Yeah, so we are remote. I, like I said, You know, I had some experience coming into this building remote teams working building software with remote teams, at least. But when I founded the company, I thought we were going to stay founded in Boston. So we set up an office in Boston for the first year in the south. And that was really cool. And like, I thought, if we went down the funding road that we would do the typical, you know, have an office and a major tech hub and like, have a bunch of people working in a cool loft. And like, it didn’t work out that way. So as the team grew, you know, it’s hard to compete for engineering talent in Boston, I was the other thing, right? Cuz we have like Google, Amazon, Microsoft. So we started hiring people who it was clear, they valued something different, which was interesting, it actually ended up being very closely aligned to my sort of spiel about freedom they’re a little while ago, is like, the people who gravitated towards us wanted to be able to live wherever they wanted, and work whenever they wanted, and have flexibility. And you know, none of those things are afforded when you have to live in a major city for work, right? And start hiring people all over, closed, the office in Boston, eventually, team continued to grow. We’re still small, we’re like 15 people, mostly on the east coast. And yeah, you know, so we adopted a remote culture, like after your one, pretty much, and have been that way ever since.
Andy Halko 37:24
And I actually think, and I’m curious, your thoughts of everything that’s going on with COVID. And they’re talking about in tech hubs that folks are moving out? I almost think that’s going to make it easier for startups totally. Because there was I even know we’re out of Cleveland. And you hear the stories about startups here saying, well, I’ve got to go to Boston or San Francisco or these other places. And I think this is, you know, this will be a great catalyst for people saying, okay, that’s not as important as it used to be.
Mike Arsenault 37:58
Oh, I think it is the catalyst. I think everything has changed. Yeah. Because there is a significant enough percentage of young, talented knowledge workers who no longer think it’s cool to live in a major Metro. And that’s going to open up all kinds of possibilities as these folks disperse into other parts of the country. And obviously, the technology is going to accelerate to support this now, right? Like a technology was always kind of around, it’s been possible to build remote teams. But now there’s like, all this money flowing into this kind of enablement, and allow teams to work together from anywhere and like, it’s not going away. So to your point, I think it’s going to stimulate all kinds of entrepreneurial opportunities, not only to enable the ecosystem, but like to start a company in any space. It comes with challenges, right, like building remote teams is not perfect. And I was saying to Tony earlier, like, especially for extroverts, right, who really get their energy from being around other people. You know, I think there’s ways to help with that. But yeah, I think it’s forever changed, for sure. And I think it’s for the better.
Andy Halko 39:17
What else? Are there any I’m just kind of curious about this. We’ve been talking a lot about the past they but future state, not only of kind of the software world and building platforms, but also for you and your product. What do you see happening in the next couple of years?
Mike Arsenault 39:36
Oh, my gosh. You know, through all this negativity, I think that’s probably the most positive thing to have come out of this is there was a big shift going on, which was traditional brick and mortar retail, transitioning to direct to consumer ecommerce. And I believe this whole situation probably accelerated that by 10 years. Not only new brands that are coming online, but also existing brands that are now more focused on digital. And I think the evidence of that is like when Shopify is q2 quarterly report, the number of new stores created in q2 2020, went up by 70%. So if you know Shopify is sort of the market leader in the platform world, right, and so that’s, that’s it, that’s important leading indicator for us, like, you know, we sell tools to direct to consumer retail brands. And what’s crazy is like, even with that explosion of brands, ecommerce still only represents 16% or so of total retail sales. So the pie is going to continue to get bigger as this transition happens. So it’s like, you know, I think it’s transformational. For for brands who will now when started the digital first, I don’t think they’ll even think about going wholesale or going direct to brick and mortar first, I think it will be about finding your customers yourself before. You know, before you do that, I think brick and mortar retail will continue to be a part of it. But I think every brand will start online first.
Andy Halko 41:19
Yeah. And you see that in the social media trends, you hear about these folks that are on YouTube, build an audience and then create a product.
Mike Arsenault 41:28
Totally. You see every day. It’s crazy. Yeah, like, and people you’ve never heard of that are like, they show up. And they’re like, yeah, I have 15 million followers on Instagram. And I’ve got 5 million subscribers on YouTube. And like, I want to launch it direct. I want to launch a consumer packaged goods company, like into that bait into that audience. And like, we see like one of those a week now. It’s crazy. Wow. Yeah. But the tools have been completely democratized for audience building. And if you can create content that people gravitate towards, like you got a business.
Andy Halko 42:05
How do you see like there’s been some you’ve been doing this eight years? You know, Shopify wasn’t around. I actually remember big commerce. We had used them when they were interspire. And out of real, yeah, years ago. So a lot has changed in eight years. How do you see that market of e commerce and the technologies not only now, but where were you see it going?
Mike Arsenault 42:33
Yeah, that’s a great question. Yeah, it’s, it’s changed a lot since I first it was it was far more fragmented. Eight years ago, there might have been, I don’t know, six platforms that mattered. And honestly, now there’s only one that matters. I think Shopify as one. Big commerce is still a good product, but Shopify has so much momentum right now. I don’t see how anyone could unseat what they’re doing. Or, you know, maybe there might be an opportunity for some platform to come in and sort of like niche down and, you know, sort of segment out their their basic customers with a more specialized solution. But I think Shopify one, the platform war from our perspective, and you see it like with our customers who are migrating, you know, maybe they were on Magento, maybe they’re on WooCommerce, maybe they had built something home grown. In the past 24 months, we’ve probably seen 40 migrations to Shopify or Shopify plus. And it happens really fast. It’s like super efficient, it’s just like, hey, like, one day, we’re replac forming, like the new sites gonna be live in three weeks. Like, that’s pretty amazing. If you could get for an e commerce build eight years ago, that would take six months, we have established brands who are replatforming, like rapid, rapid pace, right.
Andy Halko 43:57
What about your product? Where do you see the evolution of your product over the next year, year and a half?
Mike Arsenault 44:05
Yeah. So I think there’s two important changes that we’re investing in. The first one is that we’ve differentiated ourselves over the years by being way more involved on the services front than the typical ESP. So we do things like copywriting design, template development, QA. So essentially, what we’ve done is we’ve built an agency alongside the platform. And as the platform has matured, we see an opportunity to open it up on a more self service basis for brands that want to come on and just get spun up and they’ve got a good idea of what they want to do. And maybe they have internal creative resources that are available. So we’re gonna open up a self service channel for people to use the platform on their own. That’s an important one. And then I think the other big one is channel expansion. Right? It’s like We’ve got a great foothold in the email channel. But we’ve also got a really interesting, it’s almost like, as an sp, we sometimes become the single system of record for the customer, like they almost use our brands use the SP as a CRM, in many ways. We capture really interesting data sets of what’s happening on site and what people are purchasing and how they’re engaging with different marketing brands are putting out there and so creates an opportunity for us to also trigger super aligned marketing and other channels. If you think of like your customer lifecycle, and how you’re using Gmail, to grease the wheels, email, the email address of the individual customers the key to identity in a lot of other places, right, you can build exact matches audiences with Google Ads exact match audiences on Facebook, you know, you have mailing addresses, you have mobile phone numbers, and so it becomes like, for rejoinder, it becomes an opportunity to be a single, you know, ecommerce, CRM with which you can take action in any channel, not just email. So that’s sort of like, the bigger the bigger vision off in the distance.
Tony Zayas 46:14
Andy Halko 46:16
Yeah, how do you? How do you go through that process of developing the vision and, you know, bringing it to reality, I’m a big fan. And like, understanding that long term vision, I you know, I deal with owners all the time. And it’s funny, we have a, we have a client right now, that hasn’t really thought about the long term vision for their product and where they’re going, you know, versus I’ve got some other clients where I mean, it’s, we’ve got a very clear five year vision, and we’re headed towards it. So how do you? How do you go through that process yourself of thinking about what’s the future look like defining it and then communicating it to the team?
Mike Arsenault 47:00
Yeah, like, I’m not prescriptive at all. Like, it’s not like, these ideas just popped into my head. And I’m like, okay, like, this is what we’re gonna go build. I am a, I’m a listener, right? Like, it’s about what the market is telling me. And the way that I stay dialed into that is I actually still manage personally, like, five or so of our more sophisticated client accounts. Hmm. And I and I, and it’s like the real deal. Like I get on calls with them, sometimes, once or twice a week, I do Performance Reporting, we audit the accounts together, we roadmap out what they’re going to do with the email channel, but the byproduct of being so close to the customer and doing that work. They also tell us what they need, or what they’re thinking or other vendors that they’re thinking about hiring or other integrations that they need, or Hey, meal, my boss is telling me we got to do this. So I’m managing the accounts, like as far as as far as how they use our platform, but I use that as a qualitative research tool to inform what we need to do to remain competitive. So that’s like some of the most important work that I do is like, real deal, being close to the customer, not only making sure that they’re getting the most out of our platform, but also you start to hear all these little nuggets, you know of information that help you plot the course for, for what else you could offer these these folks to make your offering more compelling.
Andy Halko 48:33
Yeah, that’s great. Tony, anything?
Tony Zayas 48:40
Yeah. I love it. I think it’s great that you’re so hands on, it goes back to how you, you know, sign you’re actually making the calls. And there’s so much to gather. And I think that is an important aspect of Stay tuned in.
Mike Arsenault 48:54
Tony Zayas 48:56
How do you? How do you manage that? Being as involved with also running the business? Like, how do you stay balanced?
Mike Arsenault 49:06
Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard. Yeah. It’s like we I question it frequently, whether I should continue to do that. But then, like, we get some insight that’s like, it’s all about, like, uncovering secrets. Like it’s like, what do we know that nobody else knows. And really, the only way to get to those is to like, be in the weeds with people figuring stuff out. Like, that’s what surfaces, the opportunities and like, people bring all kinds of interesting use cases to the table. So it’s like, you know, it’s like, you have to balance it, because I feel like it’s so important to help us plot the course. But it’s definitely not always easy, you know, so it’s like, you know, I have folks on our team who helped me out with sort of the more call like wood chopping, you know, like preparing for those calls, being ready to talk about numbers. and pulling numbers out of the various systems that we use for reporting. So I tried to, like, get help with any of the time consuming operational stuff that I would need to do to be prepared to have those conversations. And so like kind of minimizes the time spent prior. And then I can focus on the qualitative side and and the research side while I’m having the conversation. So I think it’s really just about having like, the right supports, you know, so that it doesn’t become the only thing that you’re doing. It’s like one thing, but you’re supported. You know, as far as time spent.
Andy Halko 50:36
I love that little nugget that you kind of threw out there is what do we know that nobody else knows? I think there’s something around that I’ve always How do you? How do you take what you’re doing day in day out and be looking for those things that are unique insights? I
Mike Arsenault 50:53
think that’s fantastic. Yeah, you get enough of those, and you string them together on a 30 minute sales call and you got a business Really? Yeah.
Andy Halko 51:04
What do you think some of the big challenges for your organization are? You know, year? Yeah.
Mike Arsenault 51:15
You know, it’s interesting, it’s like, it goes back to that initial question about journey versus destination. And when you’ve been doing this stuff, for as long as we have, the path forward kind of becomes clear, right? It’s like, we know what we need to do we know who we want to work with. We know how to do it. We can always go as fast as we want. Right? So it’s like, we all know what the bigger vision is. And we know like that there’s a market need for what we’re going to build. But like, how do you temper? Because we’re still bootstrapped? Right, we haven’t raised any outside capital, yes, we grow the organization to support these bigger goals, but do so like with a bootstrap company, you can never be out of balance. Like, I can’t have a team of 10 engineers with only a team of four customer support people, right? Like, everything needs to grow in a linear fashion. And the organization has to be balanced. And so it’s like, you have to manage some frustration on the team side where it’s like, dude, like, we know what to do, like, why aren’t we going faster. And I think that is compounded by the fact that we feel like there’s this amazing opportunity that has come out of this hugely negative situation, with COVID, that, like, everything is about to change, and like, and the market is going to grow at an accelerated pace, and there’s all this opportunity and like ready to be out there to capture it. You know, so I really think the challenge for the next year is gonna be like, hey, how do we capture it? How do we go fast enough to capture it, but do so in a way that’s like, you know, we can retain the sameness of our business. Like, that’s why a lot of our great people on our staff, like, they like that same here. We’re not like a venture backed company that’s trying to grow at some blistering pace. And like, we try to give people flexibility and live a great life outside of work. And it’s not like, it’s not crazy, you know, and like, feel like it could get crazy if we really, you know, if we really try to move quickly to capture some of this new demand that’s going to come into the market. So we’ll figure it out. But we’ll definitely be a challenge.
Andy Halko 53:23
So how do you, you know, and I hate to put your further on it. But how do you answer that question in a bootstrap business of moving faster, because, you know, transparently for me, every, every business wants to move fast, whether they’re funded, and they’ve got investors cracking the whip behind them, or bootstrapped and it’s like, well, if we don’t move faster, we’re not going to survive, or we’re not going to take advantage of the marketplace. So you’ve identified the challenge. What would you say if you were pushed more on the solution to moving faster as a bootstrap company?
Mike Arsenault 54:00
Yeah, it’s an easy one. It You know, it? I honestly think, I think it comes down to, to, to mindset and being in tune with the team, really, and it’s like, what do we all want out of this? And once you understand that, you may come away and say, it’s okay to go at this pace. You know, we don’t need to like blow it out, like, naturally the market is going to grow. Right? And if we can position ourselves to be in the sphere of options, you know, we will get chosen by more people. We’ve got a great product already. Right. And it’s like it delivers on the promises we make it’s you know, price competitively. It’s you know, it has product market fit, right. We know that already. Does that does that does that change over time? Yeah, absolutely. But like I said, Do you think it goes back to understanding the people that work for us? And like, serve our customers and make sure that our customers are happy and that build our technology? It’s like, what do they want out of this whole deal? And that like that guides the decision? If enough people on the team like they’re like, hell yeah, let’s go for it. Like, we’re ready to like, go crazy, then like, that’s what we’ll do. But I think it’s rooted in like, having that understanding first.
Andy Halko 55:24
Yeah, I think with that speed piece, I’m kind of curious for you, you’ve done this eight, eight years, I’ve actually had my business 18 years. And what I can tell you is my risk tolerance has gone down a little bit, you know, started birth, versus now. And so for you in eight years, how does that fit into it to have your ability to take risks, because you can move faster, but you might have to take a lot more risk?
Mike Arsenault 55:51
Andy Halko 55:54
Has your risk tolerance changed is as the businesses evolved for you? Are you still the cow? Maybe that you were when you started?
Mike Arsenault 56:05
That’s a really good question. I would say, it hasn’t really changed that much. Hmm. I once you start looking backwards, and you’re like, you know, you start to cling to things you’ve done in the past. It prevents you from making the right decisions, like you’re afraid to make the right decisions in the future in some cases. So I kind of look at it like there is no risk, right? Because we’ve got this great team of people, we’ve got a great group of customers that will vouch for us, we got a really good product that I believe has longevity into the future. And like super smart people can figure stuff out. So it’s like, if it’s a decision that we make, that we can undo, there really is no risk. I think the riskier decisions are the ones that you can’t undo. Right, lowering your pricing or completely changing the market. Even that you could you could go back on, but it’s like, most decisions can be undone. So in that regard, I feel like it’s, yeah, there’s not a lot of risk in most cases.
Andy Halko 57:14
Just have to make smart decisions at the end of the day.
Mike Arsenault 57:17
Andy Halko 57:18
I think for me, that’s probably what’s gotten better over the years is my first year in and I was 22. You know, your ability to logically make decisions and think critically about things. It’s a little bit different as you get further along.
Mike Arsenault 57:33
Totally. I mean, I think it takes 10 years to figure out what you’re doing. You know, like, whether it’s selling or whether it’s building a team or whether it’s building a piece of technology, it’s like, and like I said before, man just takes it takes a long time.
Andy Halko 57:48
Does. Very cool. Awesome. Well, I think it was a great conversation, and I really appreciate you taking the time. Oh, yeah. Thanks for having a chat with us.
Tony Zayas 58:01
Thank you, Mike. And just everybody watching, I would encourage you guys to check out rejoinder.com take a look at the work that Mike and his team are doing. Mike again, thank you so much.
Mike Arsenault 58:12
It’s great that you got it. Thanks, guys.
Andy Halko 58:15