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Episode 98 January 2, 2018 | 32min

The Currency of Attention

Our co-founders talk to Matt Hartman, partner and director of seed funding at Betaworks.

Show Notes

Competing with the Infinite Scroll: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with Matt Hartman, Partner and Director of Seed Funding at betaworks to talk about creating products that stick. We delve into the future of chatbots, why audio is an exciting space to invest in, and how to not bore an investor with your pitch. We also challenge Rich to start the new year with daily positive affirmations!

[Intro music]

00:16 Rich Ziade Welcome to the official podcast of Postlight, Track Changes. I am the cofounder of Postlight, Rich Ziade, and I’m here with my cofounder –

Paul Ford [In a deep voice] Paul Ford.

RZ Woah! Very dramatic. Uh welcome to the podcast. We are a digital product studio in New York City on the tenth floor of 101 5th Avenue. Right downstairs, Paul, there’s an UNTUCKit which we can try to get them on the show but we don’t have to. We build stuff, digital stuff. We build platforms, high scale. We design. We have amazing UX skills blended with incredible technical skills which is very rare, by the way. Um so if you need stuff, hit us up: [email protected]

PF Our leadership is great too.

RZ Amazing.

PF Just fantastic.

RZ Prescient.

PF Alright, Rich, the person who’s on the show today is someone who we literally run into around New York City a lot.

RZ Yes. Yes. And he just — he’s moving, he’s positive, partner and director of seed investing at Betaworks. Welcome, Matt.

Matt Hartman Thank you for having me.

RZ There’s a lot to cover here.

PF Yeah.

RZ There’s a lot to cover. First off: Betaworks, for people who don’t know what Betaworks is, I consider Betaworks a New York technology icon at this point. Um there’s Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley, and then you’ve got this effectively a incubator or a camp or I don’t know what you would call it where some really great stuff has come out and that’s New York City and it’s connected to New York City which I think is very cool because we take pride in being a New York shop.

PF What — actually, so people who don’t know Betaworks which will be maybe three or five people out of this entire audience [RZ chuckles] but, nonetheless, what are the uh what were the big things that came out of Betaworks?

2:11 MH So we build companies and we invest in outside companies. Uh so on the build side, I think one of the early companies that people knew was Bitly which is a link shortener. More recently, Dots, the connect the dots games, and Giffy, the animated GIF search engine on the build side. And then on the investment side, we have made a number of investments in from Tumblr to Twitter to Kickstarter early on. And then more recently, a lot in audio: we are investors in Gimlet media. Uh we were talking about Anchor earlier.

PF Ok. Why audio?

Everything’s competing with everything else. When I step outside to go take a walk or to get in the car, actually there’s only three or four things I can do: I can make a phone call, I can listen to music, I can listen to a podcast.

MH So I think audio as voice is an interesting interface. And, to me, the reason it started to be interesting — we were always fans of podcasts. So that’s kinda the obvious content side but one of the things that started to be interesting to me was when you’re standing in line waiting for coffee you look at your phone. And there’s like every app on your phone screen is competing with every other app. So, “Am I gonna email? Am I gonna do Snapchat? Or Instagram? Or am I gonna text someone? Oh look, I think I got a message somewhere”. Everything’s competing with everything else. When I step outside to go take a walk or to get in the car, actually there’s only three or four things I can do: I can make a phone call, I can listen to music, I can listen to a podcast.

RZ Ok so I wanna go back. You’re, I mean just for people that don’t know: Matt is a well spoken, very handsome man, that probably could’ve done anything he wanted out of college. What did you study in college, Matt?

MH I studied cognitive science and computer science.

PF I sort of think that cogsci is like the english major of the sciences. Like [Matt chuckles] you can kinda fit anything in there and it’s a little psychology, it’s a little bit of like pure neuroscience –

MH Mm hmm. To me it’s an interesting layer of abstraction because you’ve got — you’re going technical in usually one or two categories but probably not everything cuz you just can’t go so technical in absolutely everything.

PF Mm hmm.

MH But then in neuroscience, for example, there’s some biology there but it’s not deep in biology but it’s a lot about functional — cognitive neuroscience is a functional approach to your brain. So there’s different parts of your brain. If you get a uh they process different things, actually. I think when you’re a coder and you’re thinking in functional programming languages all the time, that’s kind of how you’re designing software.

RZ Yeah.

How do you teach computers to behave more like people and how do you teach people to interact better with computers?

MH I always thought about it as: how do you teach computers to behave more like people and how do you teach people to interact better with computers? And kind of it’s sort of this bidirectional thing.

4:34 RZ Um alright –

PF Also, wait, you have a fun fact too, if I remember, which is that you play piano –

MH I do.

PF — at a place, on a regular basis.

MH I do. I have a — [laughing] I call it a residency.

PF Ok.

MH Which it isn’t. But uh I play the piano once a month, right actually around the corner from here. At 27th and 7th, between 6th and 7th Avenue.

RZ What’s the place?

MH This place called Sid Gold’s Request Room.

RZ Ok.

MH And it is a karaoke, a live karaoke piano bar.

PF Do people know about your daily life at the karaoke bar?

MH I think that people from my daily life show up. So those people know. I don’t think the people um people who come in kind of off the street –

RZ Why would they know?

MH Although there was one — there was like a company outing and I was like — and they were like, “Oh we work at this company”. I was like, “Oh yeah, you guys were just acquired, right?” And they were like [RZ and PF laugh], “Why does the piano player know that we were just acquired?”

RZ I wanna jump –

PF Go!

RZ A lot of Matt’s job is: what’s next? What does the future look like?

PF What is your job? What do you all day?

RZ Yeah.

5:34 MH So at Betaworks we have two kind of entities: we have the operating company where we build new stuff, and we have a venture fund and that’s primarily what I work on. So –

RZ The venture fund?

MH Yeah.

RZ Ok.

MH So, for us, I’m surrounded — most venture funds you sort of have this office and there’s like four offices and a big conference room and that’s kind of it. But at Betaworks I’m surrounded by developers. So I mean you mentioned dataset. Like I’m gonna go do the “Hello, World!” of that cuz I wanna understand it.

PF Sure.

MH But because we’re surrounded by developers, someone will build something. Someone will come in after a weekend and be like, “Hey, we have access to some Bitly data or Digg Data and I made an Alexa scale that listens to um — that lets you listen to your tech news”. And they’ll do a demo. And we’ll be like, “Huh, Alexa’s really not a really good voice for this”. Or, “Wait, there’s no home screen, how do you know what functions to ask?” And that’s where we start to dig in and, from a product perspective, say, “Why is this different? This interface different?” So it’s a lot of following the developers.

PF Um ok. So devs come and tell you things, you think about the future, this is how you get to the point where you’re like, “You know what? Audio is really a theme for me”.

MH Well I think it’s — it’s organic. So all of us like podcasts, are interested in audio, start talking to like uh the Gimlet guys, for example, and start to think about this stuff. And say, “Ok, well, is this interesting?” Well, you know, half of cars don’t even, aren’t connected. Half of new, shipped cars this year won’t be considered connected. That’s kind of interesting. So and by 2019 they will be [mm hmm] and battery life’s getting better and cell phone coverage is better. It seems like there’s more surface area for people to consume this stuff.

PF Let’s not also lose sight of the fact that podcasts compress very well cuz they’re all speech. So they’re pretty small assets to send around for the length of them.

MH That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that.

7:30 PF Yeah you can get a podcast downloaded in about the same time as like a nice, high-resolution song.

RZ Yeah. Wait! So when you say, “I’m on the venture side,” [yeah]. I’m assuming that people are coming with a deck [yeah] and pitching to you [yeah]. Not you’ve got developers strolling around hallways and saying, “Hey, come here a second. I just did a thing”.

MH So it’s definitely — so when we — the developers in the hallway are people who either work at Betaworks or are working at companies and I’m — when I say, “Developers are kind of like strolling around the hallways,” what I think about is like, why is a particular thing interesting? What are developers working on? We do get pitched but we tend to actually not to start with the deck, we tend to start with the product. So send the product. It’s kind of nice: we have 50 people in the office. We can spin up a little social network and try something out pretty quickly and what we’re looking for is: is this a native user behaviour? We were talking about Anchor before and that team came in. They had built a product and they said, “Here’s what this thing is”. We started using it and I would get feedback from other developers who were test flighting it and it’s like, you know, this is kind of interesting. I’m walking around and it’s very audio first. Like, I don’t have to look at the screen. And [mm hmm] I’d seen other products that had been self described as like Instagram for audio [mm] and the visual navigation was actually important in those. And I think one of the things that Anchor team got right, and I was hearing from developers and also experiencing ourselves, were — was that it was native to voice. And so I think, for me, the learning come from the people who we are surrounded with, the people who are pitching us, but — it’s the ideas, our cut of like the data is product.

RZ Yeah.

We tend to actually not to start with the deck, we tend to start with the product.

MH Most of the time what’s happening is people are pitching lots of different venture funds, we are one of them. And we are — we write 300 to 500 thousand dollar cheques and so that ends up being not the whole round [sure]. So we’re always co-investing with other people.

PF What is the way that people bore you the most when they’re presenting? When do you go just like, “Oh god, not this again”?

RZ Ouch.

MH I don’t think it’s ever boring cuz you kinda try to find the interesting thing, right? So you’re — we may not — even if we’re not investing –

PF Do you put your phone away during the pitch?

MH Oh. Do I put my phone away during their pitch? Usually it’s about an app and so like I’m on there. I’m usually [ok] –

RZ [Laughing] you’re using the app!

PF Such great plausible deniability: “Oh a notification came in. Tell me about leadership”. Ok.

RZ [Laughs] He’s also anchoring that shit.

9:54 PF I know.

RZ Lot’s happening!

PF Um, how many of these are you doin’ a year? How many people are pitching you? In a day, let’s say?

MH Oh in a day? Anywhere between one and six. It’s hard to do more than six thirty minute meetings otherwise –

RZ So you’re doing 20 a week?

MH So we’re doing — it depends. So there’s two of us full-time on the investment, on the fund, which is Peter Rojas on the West Coast, me on the East Coast, and then John Borthwick who runs the studio and is the CEO of Betaworks operating company is the third partner on the fund. And so Peter and I are always meeting with these companies first. And then kind of trading notes on them. And then the process is basically: they come and talk to one of us, we talk about it, communicate back with the founder, they talk to the other one, we talk about it, communicate, all three of us are communicating, they meet John. And then we make an investment decision. And that’s pretty much the process. We’re meeting — you asked a question how many companies we meet with. Um it’s — it’s sort of thousands on the topline that come through of decks we see and then I think — I haven’t looked at the numbers for this past year. It’s somewhere probably around 600 where we’re really kind of digging in.

RZ That’s a lot.

MH Um and then but separately from that we also have the Camp which is the third thing we do is our accelerator. And we’ll get like between 150 and 400 applications just for that. Just for –

RZ Mean, “Can I just get inside and use your -”

MH Well so Camp is this product we started about a year and a half ago. We were really interested in conversational software, chat bots. And one of the things that was happening was the most interesting ones where too early for us for a seed investment. So we could either say, “Ok, we’re gonna wait,” or, “Could we do something kinda like what we did with Anchor? Could we do something where we invited like instead of inviting one in to work here for three months and then helping with the seed round, could we do that with like five to ten?”

11:50 RZ Ok. So you’re making a bet on a particular technology trend?

MH Yeah. Yes.

RZ World of apps and solutions, chat bots.

MH Sure. So we did chat — we did conversational software, we called it Bot Camp. We did um voice [ok]. What we called Voice Camp and the next one, we’re starting in January, is called Vision Camp. It’s around computer vision augmented reality.

RZ Ok. So tell me. I feel like, and this is from a distance, that chat bots were — it was hot [yup]. It was the thing everyone was talking about and I’m not hearing about it as much anymore. Again, I’m not in — deep in the VC world and what’s trending in tech and all that silliness. But does — am I off base here that it’s like –

MH There was a hype cycle to it for sure.

RZ There was a hype cycle.

MH But I think there’s — with this stuff there’s always kind of a hype cycle, a bunch of people build, and then the question is: what actually — what works? And I think what happens is that the people are building this stuff and either it’s working or it’s not. And either they’re learning and sort of getting deeper in with their users –

RZ Tweaking and –

MH — and getting traction.

RZ Yeah.

MH Or they’re like, “Oh it turns out nobody wants to use chatbot for the thing I was trying”.

RZ It’s like Insta — like Instagram came out and it was like, “There’s like 80 of these. Like, what’s the big deal with Instagram?” And it was just some, a couple of slight tweaks [yeah] to the experience and there it went. And I think you’re right. I mean is there anything — I mean you’re inside –

PF Oh and there’s a lot of copying, right? Like Hipstamatic had really nice filters but it didn’t have a social network.

RZ It did, yeah. To me, the killer leap, real quick on Instagram, was when you hit the button, it went out.

13:29 PF Well it’s that thing where you publish without even barely knowing you’re publishing.

RZ Exactly they just — so is there something cooking that you think, “Ok, this one could be the one. This one could be the leader in terms of now lighting up chatbots”.

MH So there’s a couple of interesting ones, I think. One that’s really grown like crazy on the media side is Shine [mm hmm]. Shine Text. It’s a daily positive affirmation that you get sent and it comes through Facebook Messenger or text and then you could respond to it to learn more and it is growing like crazy. And people are engaging –

RZ Huh.

MH I mean people are — the interesting thing about a notification is if it’s not annoying, if it’s actually sort of additive and you don’t — maybe today, I didn’t look at mine today cuz I was not paying attention to that but I still like that it came. And tomorrow I might look at it. And then I might engage with it.

RZ Tell me. Give me an example of a positive affirmation.

MH Let’s see. Let’s see. Let’s see what they sent today.

PF This — I’m really excited to see Rich hear a positive affirmation.

RZ Well this is bullshit. Like let’s just start [PF laughs] before he reads the damn thing. I need an app that says, “Get your shit together,” at like 9:30 in the morning.

PF That’s me on Slack.

RZ Oh shit that’s right [all laugh]. Paul says that to me.

MH So, let’s see what they said today? One says, all the picture says is, “Choose where your energy goes.”

PF It’s in handwriting, for the people at home.

RZ It’s a human being –

MH And then it gives you a context. It says, “We can be quick to let everyone book our time. Today don’t let your calendar be an open book”.

PF God, this is really relevant to where I’m at right now today actually. My calendar is a nightmare.

RZ [Exhales deeply and blows lip bubble] –

PF Partially due to the management of this company.

15:05 RZ I gotta open up and let this in. Let these kinds of things in.

PF I swear to god. I would put money down for you to subscribe to Shine Text.

RZ I’m gonna get in there.

PF That’s great. Ok so this is very kind of simple interaction –

RZ So there’s dialogue?

MH So you can then learn more, and so you’re kinda going back and forth. So the design paradigm is: send you something frequently that’s additive, and then wait for you to ask for more information.

RZ I’m gonna write a complimentary bot that I can also add that mocks the Shine statement right afterwards.

MH That’s kinda funny.

PF I had — so at one point I made a bot called Anxiety Box.

MH This is great.

PF And what Anxiety Box did was it would send you emails 12 times a day about — and you’d put in a few things about yourself and it would send you the meanest possible email. So it was like, “I was anxious because I was late finishing a book and I was having like anxiety attacks on the train”. And um Anxiety Box would be like, “Hey, I heard that you’re late on your book. It’s probably because you’re complete garbage and none of your friends like you”. And it was just sort of along those lines.

RZ Did it make you feel better?

PF It was so funny –

MH I like that.

PF Cuz what it was is that the little voice in your head is actual garbage. Like you actually have a spam bot in your brain that tells you you’re garbage all day.

16:23 RZ Yeah.

PF And when you see it out in the email and like just running down your inbox. You’re like, “Oh this is ridiculous. I’m really wasting a lot time investing in my anxiety as much as I do because this thing is just saying the same garbage over and over again”. So it was very therapeutic. I made the mistake of talking about it in public and it ended up on This American Life and now I have a Google Spreadsheet with 7,000 people who’ve listed their most profound anxieties, [RZ oh my goodness] waiting for me to release this product like two years later.

RZ [Laughs] that’s so great!

MH This is — I mean you were like cognitive behavioural therapizing yourself, right?

PF It’s very hard what to figure out ethically what to do with that database but what you find is that, in a very abstract way, all of the anxieties are the same. Everyone’s like, “I am a bad person”, “I’m a bad father”, “I have terrible sexual desires”, “I um — I will die”.

RZ Sometimes like, “I’m not well”.

PF Yeah.

RZ “I’m not doing well”.

PF That’s right. “I will die” is a big one. Like, “I’m gonna die”. So and it’s amazing cuz I need to — I’d love to do something with that data because I have 14,000 anxieties of which there are probably 12 original anxieties.

RZ Can we talk about end game here? Like you guys don’t build non-profit businesses [yeah]. Like this thing absolutely explodes and it’s time to put the ad right under –

MH So I think the most, the hardest part right now is creating something that people really feel a connection, regardless of what it is. It could be searching for an animated GIF, or it can be getting a positive affirmation, or it could be getting something that makes fun of your neuroses, right? [Mm hmm] That’s — all of those things are totally legit — those are the hard things to do right now, I think, is getting attention and getting stickiness for those products.

PF I would say thematically for this organization like we’re — I wrote a little essay for our Christmas card and I sat down, I was rewriting something that — from a couple of years ago and I had made this argument that you really need to think about the time of your users with the apps that you create, how you spend their time. And increasingly I’m thinking that saving their time and getting them out of your app is the ultimate service, right? [Mm hmm] And that could be like you go work for the bank and you make it really easy to get people out of your bank website. So that they can go spend time doing whatever the hell they want. But this –

18:34 RZ Spend the money [laughs].

PF This sort of infinite thing where your index finger is dragging down to see what happened. It’s just a bad endgame. Even if it works now, it’ll stop working.

MH So I would argue that that is really um tightly coupled with business model [mm hmm I agree]. Right so if you’ve — I think I heard I think it was Ben Thompson’s podcast. He has a really good analogy where he said you have uh 30 minutes with a broad — like a broadcast TV station every night. It’s the nightly news, right? Suppose there’s no news that night. They’ve already sold the advertising. They’ve already said to you, “Look, every night we’re going to tell you something for 30 minutes.”

PF “Let’s get down to the zoo. See what the tigers are doing.”

MH Wouldn’t it be interesting if you paid for that and then what they said was at seven o’clock at night it was just a GIF that was like, “Hey, no news today”. [Right] just go do — here’s your time back.

RZ Yeah.

PF Yes although as a human you kind of like and I’m — you’ve got that, I think that one’s specific cuz that’s your half hour ritual [fair]. Um but I think with social media in particular it’s an infinite engagement, right? Like it’s just this sense of like the more we get the better. I don’t get a sense that Facebook is like, “You know? That’s enough,” there’s no cutoff.

MH But why? Think about why. It’s cuz they wanna put more ads in front of you.

PF Without a doubt.

MH Amazon is like, “We’ll get you outta there”, “Hey, here’s four other things, tap em real quick if you want”. Cuz their business model is let’s get that order — the cart uh as the average order value as high possible and then bundle it and send it to you for cheap.

PF That’s true. Well and they know you’ll back. You know there’s a mental exercise I wanna do which is figure out the actual number of minutes of attention available in the world and then I’m gonna bet that most — if you put all the social media together that they’ve probably overestimated the number of minutes of attention available from humanity, right? Like the valuations are probably assuming a massive increase in population.

MH Well one of the things I think is so where is the opportunity, right? [Right] I think so if you back two years when like at peak notification, let’s say [RZ laughs]. Where people — there was a moment where people started to say, “Wait a second. Do I wanna allow notifications?” No, you have to earn my notification time cuz I’ve been abused.

20:48 PF Ding ding buzz buzz buzz buzz ding ding ding ding buzz.

Oh the irony! The social network is telling you how to get off the social network.

MH So then I would argue that it took a little bit of time for people to get the idea that they were gonna get abused by all the social networks with there — there’s this kind of peak and now where’s the opportunity? There’s an opportunity, I think, to start to give people the tools to disengage [mm hmm] and I look at Shine as something like that. They’re telling you how to disengage with your calendar or how to, at least, pause for a second. I look at –

RZ Oh the irony! [So -] The social network is telling you how to get off the social network.

MH Well, I’m testing an app right now. I don’t have kids but it’s an app to help measure your kids time on their screens and sort of you can start out with an hour of entertainment time and then if I clean my room, I can — so right now I’m testing it [uh huh]. So John Borthwick has the parent version of the app and I have the kid version of the app [RZ laughs]. So and I’m kinda seeing — so I can connect my HealthKit which I’ve never done [mm hmm] but if I walk 10,000 steps I get an extra five minutes of entertainment time [ooh!]. So one of the things I started doing was I started looking at it just I have a graph of all the apps I’m using and it tells me how much time I’m spending. I’m like, “I kinda just want that”. I want this to regulate myself. So I think that when you start to think about where the opportunities are for the consumer it’s what are the new tools that you can use to defend — how do we let people defend themselves against this stuff?

RZ Yeah. I hope that’s the trend. I hope people are now reacting and deciding, “You know what? I’m gonna establish a valuation, a currency, for my attention. And you can’t — it’s not free anymore. The whole thing is not pennies. I’m gonna pick and choose”.

PF There were a few other things with bots — let’s knock those out.

MH Oh the other things that are working?

PF Yeah.

I hope people are now reacting and deciding, “You know what? I’m gonna establish a valuation, a currency, for my attention. And you can’t — it’s not free anymore. The whole thing is not pennies. I’m gonna pick and choose”.

MH Oh so another one that’s totally different category on the ecommerce side, there’s a, bear with me here, a beverage called Dirty Lemon. Have you guys come across this?

PF No, we’re gonna listen though. We’re listening.

RZ Go in!

22:55 MH It’s activated charcoal [hmm] infused in lemonade. The idea is that it’s a functional beverage. What that does is it detoxes you. They have a couple of other functions. They have one that’s like to help you fall asleep. When they started out a hundred percent of their user acquisition was people on Instagram showing Dirty Lemon and then the only way you could get it was by texting them. And so you’d text with them and you’d ask questions like, “Can I have this everyday?” Or like, “What does activated charcoal do?” And by communicating with people back and forth in a conversation, they ended up bringing people into that funnel. Imagine if Coca Cola had the phone numbers of every single person who tried it?

PF Sure.

MH That’s really interesting. I think that’s an interesting business to put together.

PF Well especially or for higher value things too, I mean it’s — ok.

MH So that’s another example, totally different category, right? [Sure] not on the media side but what I think that they figured out is that people needed to be educated and conversation was a really good way to educate them and to start to pull them in the user acquisition funnel.

PF I think what’s interesting here for our audience is that your focus at this very particular level where it didn’t have to be lemon water. It could’ve been lamps, it could’ve been –

RZ Well, Beats. The Beats headphones [mm hmm]. Did you guys watch that documentary on HBO?

MH I’ve only seen part of it. It’s awesome though.

RZ It’s really good and then they get to a point where they don’t know what to do next cuz they’ve conquered the record industry. And then like, “Well, do sneakers”. And it’s like, “Well, I’m not an athlete. So we’ll do headphones”. And I don’t know if I’m pronouncing this right: Jimmy Iovine, the record executive, said, “Here’s what I’m gonna do: we’re gonna order like a thousand of these,” and he made every celebrity he knew put em on and put it on Instagram. Every single one. He just literally hunted them all down. And next thing you knew it was the hottest thing. And he — essentially his marketing campaign, his kickoff, was hunting down big follower Instagram people and making them wear a thing that’s not even in stores yet and then explosion.

MH I’m always skeptical about celebrities — you know someone with a lot of followers are gonna use my thing and then it’s therefore going to work. But that worked in that case.

RZ It worked in that ca — well headphones are –

MH I’m always fascinated by categories where the best product wins. And that’s not everything.

RZ It’s not everything. They’re not the best headphones.

25:23 PF Where does the best — what categories?

MH So I think the anti example is maybe a place to star — so I’ll give you an examp — so I had a product that was in the real estate tech industry [mm hmm]. After I was at Seabury there was a company called HotPotato on the consumer side and then I did like this the most literal possible mash of social media and real estate and I remember one time I went into a uh went into a meeting and I’m showing the product and people are like, “Ok that’s interesting. We’ll be in touch”. Whatever. But they were — property managers is who I was selling to [mm hmm]. The product was very good, it was easy to use. The — and then I came back in — then I ended up ultimately, long-term, I licensed it to a company called apartments.com. Apartments.com has an amazing sales force with a really good relationship with the property managers. When I walk back in with apartments.com, the deal gets done.

PF Sure.

MH So, does the best product win? Or does the best sales team win? In that industry I would argue it was actually much more about — as much about the sales, you have to have a product that works. But the best product [well yeah] doesn’t necessarily win.

RZ Well look at that culture you’re walking into.

MH But if you think about — let’s just take Shine Text as an example. If people don’t like it, if not enough people like it, they’re just gonna turn it off [right, yeah, sure]. The best product is going to — I would argue the best product wins and there’s marketing involved too but the marketing is sort of integrated into the product itself.

RZ It’s an interesting metric.

PF Well it’s daily — the relationship is with the product rather than with the sales person.

RZ Direct. Very directly.

PF Right. Alright so if somebody’s out there and they wanna understand your world, what should they do?

MH I mean I can plug my newsletter.

PF Alright that’s fine. That’s great.

MH So one thing — so I’ve been an audio interface geek now for probably three plus years [mm hmm]. Um so I started an email newsletter called hearingvoices.xyz [mm hmm] and the purpose of the newsletter was so that I would be disciplined in reading everything about audio, trying everything, and then just at the end of week put it all in a place [right]. So that’s one way to learn about that specific thing. I think that trying new products — I go to Product Hunt a lot and just see what people are making, see what other people who are product people are saying about it [mm hmm]. It’s almost like — I grew up outside of Washington D.C. and my dad was always like, “If you wanna understand the conversation around politics, read the op eds section [right]. You’ll see what smart people are debating and there’s debates. There’s no right answer”. And I think that — I’ve never made that analogy before but as I think about what Product Hunt is a lot of it especially early on was people, smart people who think about product just debating –

27:52 RZ Discussing the product, yeah.

MH — yeah. And I think that kinda stuff is interesting. You know another so — so that’s where, those are the places I go to learn. Medium, obviously. Twitter, sort of. Um –

PF But you want a debate. You wanna see where people are talking and so that you can understand what they’re saying.

RZ What they’re saying about product.

MH My goal was to find is what new user behaviours people are unlocking by trying something new.

PF Ok.

MH And I think where do you — I’m lucky that I get into those datastreams cuz people are pitching us and saying, “Hey, we did this thing and we were surprised by this, it’s working”. Or, “We were not surprised by this”. Or “Our thesis was this and it was true or not true”. And whenever you have a hypothesis, I mean it’s sort of like scientific method right? You have a hypothesis, you try it out. I think Snapchat is such a cool example. You’ve got — they made this picture that disappeared and then it actually meant that um I wasn’t as worried about posting something that was my friend taking a picture of me and it looked stupid because it’s gonna be gone in 24 hours in the story. I don’t — that actually changes your behaviour versus Instagram. I don’t know — now I think like Instagram is sort of copying some of that stuff, a lot of that behaviour is moving over but an example, another example I was just talking about was uh was it took me awhile to internalize messaging. What it meant to be picture messaging. So I uh and this has totally not answered your question. Am I?

PF No, it’s a great answer.

MH But like so I’m looking for what are people saying about the differences between like photo messaging cuz to me it’s like, “Ok. Well you take a picture and you put some stuff on it. Why is that not a picture? Why is it a message?” And it occurred to me. It was truly recent where I switched to Android for a week [mm hmm] and then I switched back to iPhone and I realized that my SMSs I don’t care if I lose em. Like I’ll just delete a whole thread [right]. And I was like, “Wait a second, that’s actually what the — whatever the quality is of that text message. It wasn’t ephemeral because it disappeared. It was ephemeral because I didn’t care about it [mm hmm]. The information was useless”. And that to me is — I send pictures to my brother cuz I see something funny and he sees it and now the conversation is done. He can delete the thread.

29:53 PF So once — so you are always creating a library in your head of that — those changes [yes] in user behaviour. And that’s sort of the model. As people come in and pitch you things and it might be like, “Lemon Water”, or “Build Your Own Shoe”, or whatever, that’s what you’re looking for.

MH It’s one of the things that are surprising given that you see all this stuff. Cuz that’s also what’s gonna be surprising to consumers, what’s gonna give you an advantage, I think. At least in the near term.

PF Right. That’s good insight. Well look, Matt, thank you for coming in!

MH Thank you so much for having me. This was fun.

RZ Yeah we gave you some shit but a lot of interesting stuff here.

PF Well, it’s — you’re someone who’s doing the work and that’s cool to see.

RZ Very cool.

PF Now I need to go look at Product Hunt and think about new user behaviours.

RZ I’m gonna go do the thing where it says nice things to me everyday.

PF We’re gonna report back on that really soon [yeah]. I wanna see how that goes.

RZ Yeah. I mean this is not about the app, it’s about me.

PF This is great as your internal Oprah self starts to emerge.

RZ [Laughs] very cool conversation. A lot of interesting stuff.

PF That was great. Yeah, it really was. So look, before we go, we should tell the people about Postlight.

RZ And how to connect to Postlight.

31:03 PF The way you do that is you send an email to [music fades in] [email protected] H-E-double hockey sticks -O at Postlight dot com.

RZ With anything, really. Um –

PF We like pictures.

RZ Need our help, got a question, say hi.

PF Yeah, we love some good Q&A, ask us how to build a platform, asks us how to make a website beautiful, ask us anything you’d like at all. Or go give us five stars on iTunes. That’s also completely welcome.

RZ And! It could be an and there.

PF That’s true. We welcome you into our podcast world with open arms.

RZ Yes. Paul!

PF Gotta get back to work.

RZ Have a lovely evening.

PF Alright, bye!

RZ Bye. [Music ramps up to end].