Hiring Taylor Otwell to build HelpSpot and Laravel at the same time | Ian Landsman, Founder of HelpSpot

In our very first episode, Matt had the pleasure of speaking with Ian Landsman, affectionately known as the 'Godfather of Laravel,' where they discussed his long history with Laravel and his business journey. Ian shared insights into his primary venture, UserScape, and its flagship product, HelpSpot, a help desk application he started 20 years ago. They also talked about taking a bet on Taylor and Laravel early on, bootstrapped startups, and more!


Matt Stauffer: Welcome back to the Business of Laravel podcast, where I talk with business leaders who are working in and with Laravel. My first guest is Ian Landsman, commonly referred to as the godfather of Laravel, who's been doing business-y things with Laravel since the absolute very beginning. Ian, thank you so much for hanging out with me today.

Ian Landsman: Thank you for having me on as the first guest here. It's very honored. And I don't know how I got that nickname exactly. I love that I've gotten that nickname being that, as you are aware, Godfather is my favorite movie and just that this has somehow worked out where in a segment of the community, I'm referred to as the Godfather of Laravel. I will take that and I wear it with honor.

Matt Stauffer: It's so fitting. And there is a story. I mean, we do have a set of questions I want to ask, but I got to start with there is a story. There's a reason why you're called the Godfather of Laravel. One of them, of course, being your love for Godfather and all that stuff. Also because of your history and the history of your relationship with Laravel, the framework.

And I guess I was looking at the questions we have lined up and we'll probably get there. Who are you and what's your business? And in what ways is Laravel involved in your business? I mean, that's going to come up real quick. So let's just dive right into those. Who are you and what's your business?

Ian Landsman: Yeah, so I started a business almost 20 years ago now, a product called HelpSpot, which is still our main business, which is a help desk application. And in terms of, you know, so that's just a B2B app, nothing sexy or exciting, very straightforward, it's going to be getting sexier as we integrate more AI stuff. So the AI is going to bring some sexiness to an otherwise very unsexy application. But even that, I expect the sexiness to be short-lived, because ultimately, everything's going to have AI stuff in it, at least in my world. In the help desk world, there's going to be a lot of AI. So I don't think it's going to be sexy for that long. It'll just be expected.

Yeah, and then Yeah, but in terms of the Laravel community, obviously, already, I don't even know, 13 years ago or something like that. You know, Taylor came and worked at UserScape, I kind of found him building Laravel 1 or early 2 or something like that. And we were hiring and hired Taylor. And that got me kind of into the loop. And we did the first conference, the first Laracon together, 90 people in Washington, DC, which is crazy. I just saw a picture the other day of you at the New York one the second year. Were you at the first one? I can't remember.

Matt Stauffer: No, I actually was buying a ticket. And then a big client thing came up, and I missed it. And I've never stopped regretting missing the first one.

Ian Landsman: Yeah, so yeah, so that's kind of how I got involved. Eric Barnes runs Laravel News, also worked at UserScape. I hired them both at the same time and so we've all kind of been there from the very beginning of obviously seeing where it is now and everything that's going on with it and Taylor on a hiring spree and everything, it's what a ride to see over the last decade or so.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, and also Chris Fidao and Alyssa Mazzina, who now work at Laravel, are also UserScapers. UserScapers, yeah.

Ian Landsman: UserScapers are my actual company, so. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, no, it's like we're still, it is amazing to have this sort of, yeah, like this sort of impact, I guess, or being part of something like this so early has been very interesting. It's been, you know, I love being a part of it. It's been just a fun ride to see how it has all shaken out.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, and I mean, I appreciate that because you're a good podcast guest, you didn't go into too much detail, but I'm going to go into detail because when we're talking about business and Laravel, there's no deeper prototype than the way that you brought Taylor in.

So Taylor had a job, was doing Laravel on the side, and you said, I want to support, you know, I want to have that person, I want to support it. And Taylor's often referenced the fact that he was able to build out Laravel because he had the support that you gave him some time, some paid time to be working on it. And a lot of the things he developed and learned and refined were through you all using Laravel on HelpSpot.

And so there's actually, I would say, almost the origin of Laravel's relationship with business. Because Laravel's relationship with business is in part business is using Laravel, which you were the first. Or if not the first, very much among the first. Early. Laravel has financial backing because of its relationship with businesses in a way that makes it sustainable.

Laravel has Laravel LLC, now Laravel Holdings with Forge and all this Envoyer. But prior to that, it had you, and it had you basically bankrolling the ongoing development of Laravel in a way that is very foundational to us having Laravel the way it is. Also Laracon, it's this big impactful thing. Ian was a very important piece of Laracon. It was Ian and Laracon. And then you also did the same thing with Laracon Online later. You have shown what a business leader can do to support and be a foundational part of an open source community. For 13 years at this point.

So I just want to really name that like that when you talk about business and Laravel, there's why you're the godfather.

Ian Landsman: Well, you know, there's some interesting stuff there I think. So I always I love you know, I'm very honored at Taylor gives me a little credit there and I think I give him total credit in that. I think if he didn't work at UserScape early on, it still would have all happened. He's very entrepreneurial. I do think it would have taken longer. And once you have that factor, who knows? Maybe he has another kid and he is conservative and maybe it's too stressful to go all the way out on his own. Who knows? Anything could happen, right? And so maybe it does take a different path. Who knows? But I think... My belief is he would have. He would have got to this point anyway. Maybe it would have taken a little longer.

But yeah, I mean, those early days, it was very interesting. So I don't know how much I've even talked about this, but this might be a little bit of breaking news for a 14-year-old item here. But one of the things I thought about very early, I mean, literally as early as you can think about it, when I found Laravel and I found Taylor, and before I even talked to him, I was like, all right, I have a decision.

Because do I approach this as DHH and Rails and come on board, but I want a piece of what you're doing and we're going to go about it that way. Or is it just, Hey, we're going to support you as like an open source thing and be supportive in that way and just give financially. But whatever happens with it, you know, I'm not taking a cut of that and it's still your thing.

And so I decided, you know, I was like, I don't know, like... cutting myself in on that. Well, yes, there's going to be value there. It's like, I don't know, I feel like it's his thing and what it grows into should be his thing. And so I also thought too, that's a harder pitch to make, right? And I want him to work here. So yeah, so I was like, yeah, you know, I'm just going to support it like open source, but sort of more than most companies do. I think this is a little bit of a template that other people could do more of.

And I know there are some people in the Laravel community, I know, I think Kirschbaum does like Filament, and I know you guys (Tighten) have done a ton of Laravel, all sorts of Laravel open source stuff, whether it's projects or packages or different things like that. But even for the consultancies, it's a little bit harder, I feel I would love to see just bigger B2B software companies, dump some more money into the community. Let's put it that way.

But yeah, it was, you know, the first four or six months he just like built stuff. It's like there was no caching. There was no, the eloquent, he rebuilt the whole thing. I don't know. Like a lot of the really core things that you're like, oh, we need this otherwise it doesn't really, I think he built out like the SQL server driver didn't exist, which we needed in-house because we supported Microsoft SQL server. So it was just a bunch of stuff like that. That's just, yeah, yeah, just go do it. Um, and then we built a other product which failed, but that was definitely a good experience, I think for Taylor, in terms of just getting a real app built that had customers and, all that kind of stuff.

So yeah, I think that first six months to a year was really big for you know just Taylor getting some experience and then the framework itself getting kind of grown out and then you know, he built Forge on the side And then I was, you know, that just got huge quick. I literally had to go to Taylor. I was like, you just have to leave now. Yeah, you know I'm like you gotta go, this thing is big and it's only gonna get bigger and you need to dedicate all your time to running this because it's obviously got a lot of traction.

Yeah, and then the rest is kind of history... Forge, it just continued to be a monster and obviously they built more products and all that stuff and Yeah, did the first Laracon which was really cool. I thought that was some of the most fun I've ever had in business, was that first Laracon, was great. So yeah, really cool to be at the beginning and have been able to be a supporter.

And I think people think Laravel is so huge that those things aren't still important maybe, but it's definitely important. When you can hire somebody who can maybe spend some time contributing to the framework or you can build tools around it, even for-profit tools. I mean, one of the tools I love is Shift. Shift is, what an amazing tool Shift is for the community, right? And it's inexpensive and everybody can use it. So even things that that are maybe even for profit but dedicated kinds Laravel are really great.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, and it's, you know, we Tighten we have this 20% time where we're like, hey go figure out you know what you're gonna do and some of that is supposed to be for you know, go learn and become better and one of those supposed to be go give back to the community and it's fun to see that it's not just when we're paying people to do it there is a community-wide desire to figure out the new cool thing and some of them are paid and many of them aren't, but it is great to be able to be at a place where we as a company can support people doing it.

One of the things I've discovered is a lot of individual programmers would love to do that, and they're like, I've got a 40, 50, 60 hour a week job, and a family, and hobbies, I can't be up, and they're like, it's very cool that some of these people on Twitter spend all their free time, nights and weekends doing this, but they're like, that's not me, and so it's cool for us as business owners to be able to enable that to happen. with a broader swath of people by saying, Hey, I'm going to pay you X hours a week to just go do creative stuff versus only only leaving that space for the people who kind of make that time their their free time.

Ian Landsman: Right, right. People who have that amount of free time or whatever flexibility to be able to do that. Yeah, I think that that support is really huge for the community and just keeps it growing. And, I mean, I just, you know, at the end of the day, it's just the very the sort of feeling I had when I first discovered Laravel, because I'd been looking around all the frameworks, and there was way more back then, and everybody kind of had their own little frameworks, right?

And just the same feeling I had when I discovered Laravel is the same feeling I have now. I'm like, oh my gosh, the documentation's awesome. And now it's even better, of course, because the documentation itself is great, but you have Laracasts, and you have your book, and you have all these amazing resources that are just out there for the community. And just the product itself, right? Like just building something on Laravel, it's just so much better than any other way to do it. It's not even close. Every time I look into it, I spent the last year poking around on some of this other technology out there, not really for the back end, because I would never really leave Laravel.

But, you know, should I do JavaScript front end stuff and whatever went down all those rabbit holes. And it's just like, Man just Laravel with just even Blade is so great and then obviously with Livewire now you can get a lot of the perks of the the pure JavaScript stuff and it's like so it's just so warm and fuzzy and you can just build so fast. It's just so much better. It's great.

Matt Stauffer: No, I totally agree with you. The next question I asked actually was to be sort of, in what ways is Laravel involved in your business? And we talked about how Laravel was originally involved, but I mean, you're still building and working today. So, in what way does you as a person with a 20-year business, the original business was written with hand-rolled PHP and jQuery, I'm assuming.

Ian Landsman: Before jQuery, yeah.

Matt Stauffer: Okay, there you go. So Vanilla JavaScript and whatever else, or Backbone or something like that, right?

Ian Landsman: Yeah, it was just Prototype.js, if you remember that. But mostly Vanilla.js, like the vast majority was and still somewhat is Vanilla.js.

Matt Stauffer: So you kind of moved everything over to Laravel and probably like many people it was an incremental process. It wasn't just one big bump. But I would imagine today the majority or all of it is Laravel code. But you've also been running that for over a decade on Laravel. So what does being on Laravel feel like to you as somebody who has a 10 plus year on Laravel software product? Because not a lot of people are in that case. You know, a lot of people are like, yeah, Laravel's great for just spinning something up.

Well, you've been doing this for over a decade on Laravel. What does your app being on Laravel do for you? What do you like and not like about it? Do you even think about Laravel in the day to day outside of just, you know, what you read on the internet for fun, as a part of work, you know?

Ian Landsman: This is going to be a long answer. This one's not going to be short because I'm going to go a little sidetrack. So yeah, so it's very fascinating. So yeah, we have an old school PHP application, as old school as it gets, variables defined at the top of the file and just function libraries. And, you know, it's almost like a C app. It's that style originally, that's what it was built because that's how you built them.

There was no frameworks. There was no code igniter. There's nothing, right? So, okay. And we've always been a very small company. It was never really a goal of mine to get super big. I mean, right in the beginning, I had another decision that was, well, should it be SaaS, which was basically not even a thing, you know, it was like Basecamp had come out just before HelpSpot. And it was, okay, could I do that? I don't know anything about running servers. I don't know. This is a big heavy application that deals with all this email and stuff. And, so I was like, I'm just going to have it be downloadable.

That's the safer route. And. You know, maybe it would be Zendesk today if I had gone the other route. There's like a 1% chance of that, but there's like a 99% chance that I just had no idea how to run at that scale. There was no tools, there was no AWS, there was no nothing. So mostly likely it just would have bombed and failed because the world in 2004, 2005, also there was post .com. There was no VC money for any internet stuff.

That's where all the bootstrapping of software companies came from, because it was like, all right, well, some aspects of this have become much cheaper, and we don't need a lot of people to do it. But on the flip side, even if you did, you can't even do those ideas, because there's no money to do those ideas.

Yeah, so it's like, okay, it's like regular PHP app, people download to their server, whatever. And then over the years, that's evolved. Now there's a Sassified version, which is not a Sass app in the traditional sense, but is a multi-tenant hosting setup that we've... It feels like a Sass app to the end user, but it's a little bit different behind how it's actually constructed.

And yeah, it's, HelpSpot itself moved on to Laravel, but it's been extremely incremental. So we kind of moved it on there, maybe... 10 years ago or something like that, or a little more recently than that, somewhere in that range. But it was not fully on, I would say. Some of the stuff moved over, and the core was Laravel, but there's still the function libraries, and there's still this crazy routing system, which is in no way Laravel's normal routing setup, and some things like that.

And so actually, like barely recently, I was going through the process of like, well, maybe we'll rebuild this kind of where I was exploring. And yeah, so I spent like a year on that kind of, and then just not that long ago, I was like, you know what, just not going to happen. I started on it and it's gone back and forth. It's like, there's just so much in, you know, and this is a known thing. It's always a bad idea to rebuild. Right. But I was like, well, maybe we'll try it.

But there's so much just logic and subtleties and all that stuff. And maybe if we just did the pure rebuild of like, okay, we're just going to literally feature for feature match every single thing and just try to do it that way. But also, that's super boring. I don't want to do that. If I'm going to rebuild this thing, I'm going to be like, okay, well, here's stuff I don't like about how it works, and how should we do it different? And you kind of go down that path, and that gets long and exhausting.

So put that aside, which that's been a path we've gone down a couple of times. It always gets put aside, because in the end, it's just a bad idea, because the customers don't care. So lately, very recently here in the last month or so, I've been just kind of more taking the existing app and finish Laravel-fying it, I would say. So getting on to the normal controller routing setup, using service providers to do some bootstrapping stuff that we did other ways in sort of our in-between state. Getting on fully to things like Laravel language string management because we had my own thing I built 20 years ago doing that.

So just all those little things to help make it so when we use Shift it's even better and can do more for us when we use other packages and tools in the ecosystem It's like everything's where it's expected and you know all that stuff. So Yeah, so that's been great. It's amazing to me how fast that's gone. Part of why I was like when we should rebuild was like, ah, it's gonna take forever to refactor those things. And then it's like, Oh man, it actually doesn't. Laravel just like service providers, especially solve so many problems that old PHP apps had.

That's like, Oh, I could just leverage the service providers do this and this and get things bootstrapped and set up. And,so yeah, so that's been really fascinating to me of, being in that process right now of doing some heavier refactoring of an older application into some of the newer Laravel stuff and just pure Laravel.

Yeah, I think, again, it's so easy when you get in there and everything's so well documented and Even nowadays, there's so much content out there that chatGPT is actually pretty useful most of the time. It's like, how do I do this? And it's like, okay, I can turn this old weird HTML producing function into Blade for you. And it does a good job of it. And they're like, all right, that's really cool. So yeah. So it's great.

Matt Stauffer: One of the things that I talk to oftentimes with business owners as they're trying to decide whether or not they choose Laravel long-term as they ask the question of like, what is hiring in Laravel like? And I didn't even think about the fact that, you know, your relationship with LaraJobs makes you uniquely capable of having this conversation. We're going to jump into it because I'm going to say, as a business owner, what has your experience been like finding staff when you need to scale up? What has your experience been like hiring people to do Laravel work for you?

Ian Landsman: Well, you know, I feel like it's, that's a harder question for me in some ways, but as personally, just because, since I've been in the community, most of our hiring has been kind of out of the community. And so, and we've also had people stay a long time. So Taylor was here three years, which, you know, isn't that long, but then Eric was here for 10 years. Chris Fidao was here for eight years. So that's been the development team, basically, and myself for the last 10 years.

So we actually are likely going to be hiring. We can talk about that in a little bit. There's a little trickiness with this right now for me. But yeah, I mean, I think it's been great. I mean, there's so many good Laravel developers out there now. There's been, I feel like the community is so strong and so much sort of momentum that there's just a lot of people all over the world at this point who are really strong in Laravel. Definitely, you know, LaraJobs, we have a lot of repeat customers and things like that. So I think it is one of the good resources, but there's a lot of, you know, job boards out there now or LinkedIn and all the different ways people hire. But, I do think when you can, the job boards are great. And LaraJobs, like a baseline that you should definitely always do. Of course, I'm going to say that.

Matt Stauffer: Pitch that real quick. If somebody's listening to the podcast and they've never heard it before.

Ian Landsman: So LaraJobs is the official job board of Laravel, which I run at UserScape. And it's been around for, again, also like 12 years or something like that. We built it while Taylor was still at UserScape. And yeah, it's linked from Laravel.com, right? It's the official job board. And so it gets a lot of that kind of traffic. But we also have a really deep partnership with Laravel News, Eric Barnes's product where all the jobs are distributed throughout the whole Laravel news network of hundreds of thousands of social media followers and newsletters is huge and on the website. Plus we have our own large social media following and things like that and our own newsletter, like notification system. That's not really a newsletter, the Laravel jobs notification system for new job listings. So, you know, every time you post a job there, you're reaching like four or five, 600,000 Laravel developers. And so it's definitely the biggest resource of pure Laravel developers that in terms of being able to reach them for jobs, it's the best way to do that. There's nothing else even close on a pure sort of these are just a huge pile of Laravel developers. This is the biggest by far.

And yeah, but I also think Laravel is kind of an interesting community to me because it is like, and this is all from Taylor, to me, it's so welcoming and it's, to me, it's the nicest tech community on the internet. I mean, every other time in any of these other tech communities, it's like, man, there's always people complaining and yelling at each other. And I mean, not to say that Laravel's never had any of that, but it's very rare and very minor. So yeah, I always recommend when they can that companies do try to get involved in the community in some way, in a little way, because it just gives you a huge hiring advantage to just be out there a little bit.

Even so people know you when they see the job come across, when they get a notification from LaraJobs, it's like, oh, I've heard of that company. Of course, it's a huge advantage. But even just making your own connections with developers and yeah, it's amazing being out there a little bit just helps your hiring process so, so much versus if you're just coming at it cold. But yeah, there are a lot of companies that don't have, if you're a manufacturing company, wherever, you don't necessarily feel like you have that in to do that. So, yeah, so there are LaraJobs and similar resources out there to help you get into the community.

Matt Stauffer: And LaraJobs is absolutely where I would tell everybody to start. If somebody says, a client or whatever says, where do I hire? I say, go to LaraJobs. And that doesn't mean you can't post other places, but LaraJobs is where we've done every single one of our hires. And when we put up jobs there, we get hundreds of applicants. And because LaraJobs is the trusted place to go, we're going to get the people who are more connected into the ecosystem. And if you put job postings elsewhere, you will get people who don't even know about LaraJobs, involved in the Laravel Twitter community, they just found Laravel. But LaraJobs is the most valuable place to get the people who are most tapped in and most connected. I would say, even if you list multiple places, you're going to get a group of applicants from LaraJobs that is going to have a little bit of a higher connection to the ecosystem, which is of value. And Ian's not paying me to say this. I just literally, truly, I use LaraJobs for everything. I really recommend it to everybody.

Ian Landsman: That's a great pitch. I might hire you, actually, as a pitch man, because that is a great way to put it. Because it's when you go on... LinkedIn's obviously a huge thing these days for hiring, and you are going to reach all sorts of other corners. So I definitely think it's worth sometimes putting it in multiple places. But absolutely, LaraJobs is connected to the people who are following Taylor on Twitter, who are following Laravel on Twitter, who are on Laravel News and on the newsletter, who know what's going on in the community. As soon as there's a new release, they're on what's going on with the new release and all those things, as opposed to maybe people who are more just, you know, they're just showing up at their jobs and writing Laravel in some big corp somewhere, but they're not necessarily in the loop on everything that's going on and things like that. So, yeah, I think that's definitely a big differentiator there. You hit that kind of nail on the head.

Matt Stauffer: OK, so since we're trying to keep this short, I know we can't get through all of the topics we have on our plate. You did talk a little bit about the kind of the challenges that you've got in front of you right now in terms of the kind of the rewrite and everything like that. I would say we're probably going to do our last four questions if we've got space for them. The first of the last four is, what piece of learning content, whether it's a book, video, article, or talk, has made the biggest impact?

And this is less about your programming career, but more in your business career. Because again, you're someone who a lot of people would love to be, someone who has created a successful you know, software business using Laravel that provides for their family, provides for a lot of other people. If you were to tell someone like this is the most valuable place you should go look to have a potentially similar career, like what, what would you point them to? And it also could be something longer, like a podcast or a conference or something.

Ian Landsman: Yeah. Well, man, there's, there's a lot of resources out there, you know, you know, um, I think, just in general advice, I think Rob Walling's stuff is super good. He's not integrated as much into the Laravel world, but I would definitely check out Rob Walling's book on bootstrapping software companies. He's got a whole bunch of other stuff out there. He's got a podcast that's 700 episodes in about bootstrapping software companies. He's got his mindset overlaps mine a lot and he had just way more published about it so I think if you kind of look into his stuff he will be similar to my thoughts on things um it's probably a good good starting point.

In terms of like personally the biggest impact for me. I think there's, I mean, a lot of the stuff that impacted me in the very beginning doesn't really exist anymore, like Joel on software forums and things like that. But a talk I think about a lot, which I definitely think if you're building a SaaS app is a critical talk, is called the long, slow SaaS ramp of death. And it was a talk at the business of software, which I was there for that talk actually live, which was really cool. 2008 maybe, or 10, I don't remember the year exactly, but somewhere back in there. And it was a powerful talk. In person, everybody was blown away.

And I do think some of the concepts are more known now in general, but I still think it's actually just a really good talk to really internalize that, yeah, you're trying to charge people 99 bucks a month, or $199 a month. Or things that actually takes quite a long time to build that up into and her talk was about I mean getting to huge numbers, but even yes, even not the huge numbers even just for you one person or two people To make a career that it's like you do have to figure out how you're gonna navigate having those $2,000 months and $3,000 months and $4,000 months in those early days and figure out, you know, do you need to do something else or how are you going to balance these things or take a little bit of money or whatever you're going to do to get through that. But I don't know. I don't remember a lot of talks. Talks kind of go in and out of my brain. And but that one is one that just sticks in there. And I think it's really valuable for people to check out even today.

Matt Stauffer: That's really helpful. We have a channel at Tighten where we talk about half-baked ideas for potential startups or whatever else. And it's not always startups or products. It's also ideas for a package or whatever. And one of the things that stood out to me very quickly in those conversations was, I had been influenced a lot more than I realized by startups for the rest of us, and Rob Walling, and also a little bit of Justin Jackson and Ian Landsman. These people who were talking publicly about creating startups who are several years ahead of me, who've been thinking about it, and stuff like that.

I didn't realize it, because I'm just casually listening to these podcasts and taking this stuff in. Then someone would say, and not even always at Tighten, just conversations with friends or clients, they'd say, oh, we should do this. I've heard these other things ahead of time that let me know that you have not actually looked at what the competition looks like or you have, yeah, your friend said they're going to pay you for it, but are they actually going to pay you for it? You know, and just all these things that have just become common knowledge for me about how to do these things purely by just listening to the couple of podcasts and, but I'd been listening for years. You know, I listened to you and Andre, I listened to, you know, mainly startups for the rest of us, and just kind of absorb these ideas and they now have a huge impact on how I think about businesses I might start or side projects we do at Tighten or whatever.

And so it's one of those I don't even know, I mean I hope somebody could just read a book or watch a talk and just get it, but I would say part of it is just kind of like living in that world, you know, just listening to the way people talk about things really gives you a better understanding of how to evaluate stuff, and how to prioritize your time, and you know, what ideas, you know, what does it take to go from an idea that is interesting to an idea that you actually decide to execute on, and all these things are like, there's kind of, like you said, there's kind of a common knowledge, common parlance, and some of it has made it into the broader software developer community, but I think a lot of it still hasn't, so I love hearing that.

Ian Landsman: Yeah, and there's so much stuff out there now, if you're just kind of starting to think about, well, maybe I want to do my own software thing, It can be overwhelming. It's like, there's so much stuff and who do you trust and all that. So it's sort of the reverse problem. Back in the day, there was Joel on software forum and a couple other things. And everybody knew where to go. Cause that's all there was. Now it's like, Oh no, every, every two bit person on Twitter, who's just trying to sell you their, you know, small business starter kit or whatever. And it's like, they're just putting out whatever they think is gonna, you know, get, pushed by the algo and whatnot. So it's a little bit more of a minefield.

So yeah, I think maybe sticking some of the OGs still have the value. I mean, business hasn't changed that much, right? There is, of course, the internet enables certain things and different types of businesses, but at the same time, the core elements of what's a good market, what's a good customer, pricing, and things like that. A lot of these things are pretty much the same as they've always been. And so, yeah, if you can just get that foundational stuff, get some advice there, listen to what people have been there have said, you know, people have to rip on that.

I do think you can sometimes take that too far, right? Of like, I'm just going to, I followed this playbook and it didn't work. Well, that, yeah. That's true. Sometimes for your specific market at a specific time with what's going on, you might have to do something different than somebody did 10 years ago, too. So you still have to use your own judgment, of course. But I think getting some of that foundational stuff is really helpful.

Matt Stauffer: And so let's say someone listening today says, Hey, I'm a Laravel programmer and I'm working a nine to five and I just really want to start a business. I would like to be able to be in your position. I want to be able to provide for myself, my family, and I don't know the next step to take. If you had one piece of advice or one next step for them to take, you know, what would it be for someone who's interested in kind of starting a business using Laravel?

Ian Landsman: Yeah, I think it's, my, cohost on the mostly technical podcast, Aaron Francis says this a lot, and this is kind of what worked for me 20 years ago. And I still think it's kind of the same now, which is just to sort of put yourself out there. I think it's a really key element, especially early, things like Twitter and stuff. It doesn't really, it's not that great when most businesses as a long-term solution, you're probably not gonna be able to sell a lot of your B2B software on Twitter or that type of thing in general. So it's not great as like, this is my solution forever, but it can be good to kind of kickstart you and get you those first couple of customers and get your name out to a couple of places.

For me, it was the Joel on Software Forum, which probably had, you know, 500 regular readers or whatever it was, not a lot. But I just would be talking about that. I'm starting this product called HelpSpot and blah, blah, blah. And a handful of people brought it to their bosses and whatever. And so the first month we had like $4,000 in sales and I was like, holy cow, that's unbelievable. And we had a mailing list of 80 people. Yeah. Just from that, then the SEO built up and people, a couple of people early linked to us and it wasn't anything huge, but it was just being out there. I had a blog, right. actually blogged a lot and people would link to that.

And so I think you need some way to get started and SEO and those things are probably better long-term solutions, but also pretty hard to do. When you launch month one, you know, you're not going to have a lot of that stuff. So, what can you do to, kickstart, make some connections, maybe get a few early sales, maybe get a Nuno to retweet you magically or something. Who knows? Just get involved, put out there what you're doing. Definitely in the Laravel community, people are always looking for interesting products people are working on. People are pretty happy to support people in those ways, I think.

So yeah, I would just put yourself out there a little bit and try to get in the conversation. You know, don't be crazy aggressive about it. But I think if you just kind of put out there what you're doing, especially the larval ends of it, if you're doing anything interesting there, anything like that. Yeah, I think that could be really advantageous to use that as a little bit of early leverage to just get the name out there, get those first couple of sales that are so hard to get, and then give you that little bit of momentum to give you that time to build out whatever your actual sales funnel is going to look like, whether you're going to cold call, you're going to SEO, you're going to whatever you're going to do.

All those things take a long time to build up. And so if you can kind of get that off the ground a little bit, it's a huge advantage versus just sitting there at zero or 15 bucks or whatever. Yeah, it's really hard. Yeah. The other thing I would say is people don't think about this a lot, but HelpSpots only ever had annual pricing. So this is just a little bit of business. But I don't know, I think not enough companies go with the idea of like, we're only going to have annual pricing. And I do think there are some advantages to people who commit to annual pricing and how long they stay and how good of customers they become and stuff like that. So I don't know, different businesses are different there. And the expectation is more to have a monthly option, of course, but I do think people should consider that as a little random piece of advice there.

Matt Stauffer: I'm going to poke on that real quick because recently I signed up, I can't even remember what it was, but I signed up for something and it was this new idea and they're like annual only. And I was like, I'm not going to know if this thing's any good for at least a month or two. And they're like, sorry. And because I felt like I was over a fire, I signed up for a thing and two months in, I was like, this is garbage. And I spent the next 10 months angry at them because they had locked me in. Do you think there's, and I mean, I don't think HelpSpot is garbage so I'm not worried about that for you, but do you think there's any way where choosing annual only puts a higher burden on you to have a trial, or do you feel like it gives you a higher first couple months churn, or is it like, look, if the product's good, annual's fine?

Ian Landsman: So definitely I wouldn't do it without a trial. So we definitely have a trial, free trial so people can try it. I do think kind of the key element there, it depends a lot on what you're selling, but if you're selling to the founder, that's, I don't love the annual pricing as much. If you're selling to larger businesses, we sell to a lot of higher ed and K-12 and manufacturers. And, we are not on the cool cutting edge, people who would sign up for Intercom or something like that. We are old school businesses, non-profit, higher ed. These are kind of our core finance. And so they're not making decisions like that. They're not like, okay, I found this thing, I'm signing up. And oh, it's crap. I want to just unsubscribe and be done in a month. They're not having that problem. That's the way I sign up for things. I'm like, okay, I'll try this. Oh, it's garbage. Let me unsubscribe. But you just, that's a good exercise of like, you're not selling to you often.

And so, who are you selling to? So in our case, people are trying six different products. There's like 80% of the time, there's a committee of people meeting about it. And so once they've made this decision, they're already in the, like, we're not changing after a month mindset. Anyway, because they're not going back through this process unless it's just horrible and they totally hate it Or you just implode or something like that. They're not going to go through this process again for a year no matter what so... So yeah, so in that regard, it's kind of like it doesn't It hasn't, we have very, it's pretty rare that anybody asks us even for monthly. Let me put it that way. It's not like people are like, oh man, do you have a monthly? I want to try this out for a month. It very rarely comes up.

And the other thing we do is we just offer money back. It's like, Hey, if you go through the trial and you sign up and then two months in, you don't like it, we'll refund you. I'm not trying to, you know, we do like, I don't even remember the last time we did a refund more than a year ago for sure. But, you know, we've done a few here and there, but it's no big deal. Just, just refund them. So. I do think it does create more friction with the sign-up process, but if you have the free trial, that's the equivalent. Because in 21 days or whatever you want to do, do a healthy free trial. We don't do the three days or seven days or whatever. It's like, no, you've got 21 days, kick ties.

If anybody ever asks for extension, we always give extension. I just extended somebody literally for four months the other day because they're like, We can't use our old tool expires in four months and then we're going to switch to HelpSpot and we have it all set up in the trial and we're all ready. But, you know, we can't do the budget now for us. I can't find like, I'm not going to tell you to reset it up in four months. It's going to be like, okay, yeah, four months. Your trials just sit there doing nothing for four months and it'll be ready for you. Great. No problem. Yeah. Just be flexible with those things. There's no upside in beating on people or coercing them into buying now. And in those kinds of situations, I think it's just like, be flexible and it works out.

Matt Stauffer: That's very helpful. And one of the things you named there is you're like, I'm not selling to the founders. And I mean, part of the dynamic you were talking about there is they've got these whole committees, but also part of it might be it's not their money. And I think you've actually talked about this. I think this might be where I got this idea from originally, was people are more precious for their own money than when it's the money that their boss allocated to them in their budget that's already been defined two years ago by the budget committee process.

Ian Landsman: I definitely think in terms of starting a business, these are pretty key points to me. There's obviously many other businesses that run other ways, but I feel like, especially if you're going to be self-funded, I just feel like the sort of B2B, it's not their money. You're not, you're not, I think selling to startups and founders is generally not a good place to sell. So like big, a little bit bigger orgs, department heads, things like that. They're harder to reach for sure in some ways, but at the same time, once you get in there, they just stay with you forever.

And so they're not, you know, the people who are like us, Or like, oh, there's a new tool that will make me 10% more efficient. Great. I'm going to go ahead and switch that. Or it's 15% cheaper. Or it's 50% cheaper. And that's like, now it's 50% more money to me personally. Great. That's important. But yeah, when I just have a budget, I don't even care. I'm trying to spend this money or else I lose it. So that's not a big factor to me. And again, it depends what you're charging and all these things.

Yeah, I think that those are just generally much better customers, where as a small company, it's hard to stay up on the latest thing. HelpSpot cannot compete with Intercom on the speed of feature releases and the quantity of features that we provide. We will never match them. We can never implement AI as fast as they can implement it, all these things. So to be in a space where other people can just quickly come in and swoop huge chunks of my customer base away because they can just produce something faster than me is not ideal, I think.

We, you know, if you're selling a bunch of manufacturers and K through 12 schools and higher ed, they're not out there on Twitter being like, what's the latest thing? Let me do this. Let me upheave 50 agents and move them to this new tool. That's going to make my life this tiny percent better maybe. But you know, they're looking at the other way, like, well, what's the risk of if this goes wrong, what if this new tool is bad? What if they changed the pricing on me in a year? They're looking at that way from their jobs. And if they say we should switch off this tool and then they're responsible for having switched and if it goes poorly and all those things. So they just want to, I think you want to sell to those old stodgy department companies. That's where the reliable revenue is generally.

Matt Stauffer: And I know I said we were going to wrap, but I just had to get your insight on that. And I really appreciate you sharing that. So we are going to wrap here. I got a couple more questions for you. So one of them is, are you hiring? And you actually kind of gave us a little nod earlier that that actually might be a case. So tell us a little bit about it.

Ian Landsman: Yeah, I'm thinking about hiring another developer because Eric is sort of part-time now. He's moving fully on to Laravel News most likely soon. And so, yeah, I might be out there. I'm not ready to commit to it just yet. There is, I mean, this will be a whole big sidebar, but there's this whole Section 174 thing. If people are following me on Twitter, they've heard me ranting about this, but basically it's a tax change that makes it much more expensive to hire software developers in the United States.

And so it basically costs like an extra 50% to hire a software developer. And so, you know, that's got me a little bit, that's sort of like, there's some, it might get overturned here in a law that's been passed by the house, but not in the Senate yet. And so there's, there's just some variables. I'm sort of like, Thinking about how to navigate with that. I'm sort of since we're not desperate for it I'm like, well, I'm just gonna let it play out a little bit. But yeah, I would think in the next Over the summer to early Fall. We are gonna hire another developer here

Matt Stauffer: So if someone wanted to potentially apply to that, where do they keep up to date? You know, what does it look like to know when the job comes up?

Ian Landsman: So it'll definitely be on LaraJobs. It'll definitely be, you know, if you follow me on Twitter, @ianlandsman, I'll surely be posting it there. UserScape.com would have it up there. There's no, I don't think there's a RSS feed or anything there, but it would be up there. So yeah, those would be kind of the main spots to keep an eye out. But yeah, sign up for the LaraJobs, you know, instant notification email and you'll get it when we come through.

You know, people want to reach out to me. I'm fine with that. I love people who are proactive. If someone wants to reach out and send me the resume or send me something, I would be happy to take a look. I think that's a little thing. Get an advantage. We were talking about this on my podcast. Jeffrey Way was talking about this recently, and I'm sure you've experienced this. People don't even follow the instructions when you post a job. Any sort of proactiveness puts you so far ahead. Even if you don't get hired right away, it just puts your name in my head. And when I see your name again, you're instantly at a huge advantage because you impressed me a year ago or six months ago or a month ago or whatever it is. And all those little things add up so much and people don't realize, I think, how much that helps them.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, no, we have a, we have a line on every single job posting where somewhere in the job posting, there's an instruction. It's a very simple instruction. And if you do not follow that instruction, your resume is in the garbage. It doesn't, it doesn't matter how great it looks. I'm like, if you can't read the freaking job description, then sorry.

Ian Landsman: Yeah, it's like. You're gonna have to be responsible for detail-oriented things and if you can't manage to be detail-oriented on applying for this job. It's like....

Matt Stauffer: I can't trust you to do it at work.

Ian Landsman: Yeah, and every job gets hundreds of applicants and you're always as a hiring manager looking for ways to filter and that's just such an easy one. Like I can just take out 70% of the people who apply because they didn't follow the instructions. And now I'm down to 30% of people who follow instructions. And so there you go. So I can't overemphasize that enough to please like triple read the job post before you apply.It's a huge one.

Matt Stauffer: 100 percent

Ian Landsman: Especially to small companies like ours. I think, you know, if you're applying to the Borg, it might be a little different, right? But you're applying to Tighten, you're applying to UserScape, you're applying to Laravel. You want to read that job description carefully and make sure you're following instructions and formatting things correctly. Putting some personality into it, don't just send me the same thing you sent to Microsoft and the other 300 people you message from monster.com or whatever.

Matt Stuaffer: There's a real human being behind us.

Ian Landsman: Yeah, this is the same thing as we were just talking about. It's me the founder who's gonna read your money it's my money I don't want the person who doesn't follow instructions very well like this is money that could just literally be in my pocket or it's money that's gonna go to you, this is not a budget per se like yeah sure we have some budgeting ideas, but at the end of the day, I know that all the money I don't spend rolls up to me. So, I'm a little more cautious with it than just a hiring manager.

Yeah. So, um, that is a big, I do think that's another area where people just don't realize the difference of hiring, of like applying to a small company versus a big one, just huge in those ways too. Like there's just a lot of the personality that matters a lot more. The vibe we get off your writing and what you send in matters a lot more, I think, because you're not, We're not hiring 30 Laravel developers. And yeah, I'm just like, I need a 5,000 applications and just like, let's slot them in. I'm going to be hiring one. Okay. This is the person that I expect my, you know, all the previous developers stay here years and years. Right. So, this is the mindset I'm going into this with of like, who can I hire? That's going to be around.

Matt Stauffer: Who I'm going to interact with every day, who's going to meet my kids at a company event one day. There's a very difference then versus how I need to fill one of 30 slots. So yeah, totally. All right. So I have one last scheduled question and one surprise question for you. The last scheduled question is, is there anything else you want to plug?

Ian Landsman: No, I mean, I think we hit my stuff so well, it's great, but I would just say, check out LaraJobs, check out HelpSpot. Um, we do have a one, here's a little plug thing. If anybody out there in sort of, um, it services or things like that, one of the things we don't plug enough and it's going to be getting a lot more plugging from us is that HelpSpot has a partner program where you get like 30% of the revenue from people you refer. And it's not like an affiliate thing, exactly. It's more like a partner relationship, so it's a little closer.

But yeah, if you're anybody out there who recommends software to people in the business environment, you can check out on helpspot.com and it'd be cool to work with some more people because we're trying to build that up as another channel. We've had a little success there recently with one or two partners who've kind of come through and brought a good amount of business. So it's an area we're going to try to build up to get you know, you always, you got Google out there, you got chat GPT, where's all this lead gen stuff going to go? Who knows? So much competition. So we're going to try to work some other, other angles here to, spread the risk a little and, and, all that.

Matt Stauffer: I'm shaking my head here because there's at least six things that we have casually mentioned on this that I would like to do an entire episode about. And I planned for this podcast to be one episode per person, period. And now I'm like, Do I have to rethink that? Do I have to have you back? Are you gonna be my first repeat guest?

Ian Landsman: That's a good idea. You know, I do think there's a lot, I mean, I love when there's repeat guests on podcasts, especially, I mean, if, if people enjoy the person, we'll see if they like me, but, I do think that having people circle back and maybe covering topics again, that's kind of cool. Might be something to think about.

Matt Stauffer: Like, all right. Yeah. Just, just know that might be coming, but okay. So the surprise question, if you sold your business or businesses for a hundred million dollars today and you signed the, the, dotted line today? What do you do tomorrow?

Ian Landsman: Where do I sign? Man, let me tell you, I've actually thought about this quite a bit. Not exactly in the hundred million, because that isn't probably that realistic, but even for any amount, it's like, okay, What would I do? That's a big factor. Can I even sell the business? At some point, I'll want to. In 10, 15 years, I'm sure, I'll be like, okay, I just want to retire and sell the business. I would be bored. I'm too young. You know, it's a balancing factor. Like $100 million, I could find stuff to do, okay? Like for $100 million, I won't be bored. I won't be bored for $100 million. But for a more realistic amount of what my business could actually sell for, which is what I've thought more about, it's like, eh, it's not really enough money to never work again, at least in the like, yeah, if I cut down on everything and was You know, very frugal maybe, but no, I will.

And I want to be able to travel and do stuff and whatever. I still have young kids who have to go through college. So there's big expenses, um, still happening. And so it's like, what would I do? It's like, I can't sell because, I would be between like, ah, I just have to be required to go back to work and build another thing. Basically. I would feel that stress. And, you know, there's no guarantees. I mean, I feel like I really only ever had one good idea. I mean, I sort of don't count Laracon and LaraJobs. Those are nice. little businesses, but they're not big moneymakers like HelpSpot is. And so it's like, there's no guarantee that there's another good business in there, hiding out, like other things I've tried have failed. And so, you know, when you get something that works, I do think you should be cautious about selling it unless it's a truly life changing money.

Matt Stauffer: Like, life changing money.

Ian Landsman: If it's like you don't ever have to work again, really? Yeah, sure. I think you should just do that and not take that risk off the table. But otherwise, you have to be a little cautious, because there's definitely no guarantees you're going to come up with another good idea, or you're going to be able to execute it, or you're going to feel as motivated the second time as you were the first time. You're a little bit older. You're more tired. Can you really pull that off again? It's hard. It's hard work.

So that's kind of what I've thought about it in the times in the last year or two where it's popped in my head or, you know, there's lots of people reach out all the time and mostly not that interesting ways about buying the business. It's like semi-generic. Sometimes the semi-generic ones, I just totally ignore. Sometimes there's ones that people are put a little bit of effort in. Again, we're back to effort and have you actually looked at the website to see what we do and things like that. But it's like, what am I going to do with myself? I don't know. So yeah, that's, that's kind of where I'm at. But a hundred million, if you have a hundred million and you want to get into the help desk space, you can come talk.

Matt Stauffer: Give me a call.

Ian Landsman: Yeah. Give me a call.

Matt Stauffer: I love it. Well, Ian, now that I have the promise of potentially bringing you back, I feel less, less regret about not getting to all the topics I wanted to because I'm like, Yeah, we'll do maybe 30 minutes, maybe 45. We're at 52 right now. There's just so many good things to talk about. So, but thank you so much for everything you've done for Laravel community, the ways that you have made it possible for us to build businesses, for the ways you made it possible for, again, I agree with you, like Taylor would have done the thing either way, but you had an important role to play in it being what it is today at the time it is today. So thank you for all that. And thank you for taking a risk on this brand new podcast that nobody's ever heard of before. And that could be a total bomb. I really appreciate you having you here today, man.

Ian Landsman: Thanks so much. I think the podcast is great idea and it's gonna be awesome. I'm really looking forward to listening to it so great great job on your part getting it getting it going. It's a lot of work just to get started. So you're started.

Matt Stauffer: Ain't that the truth? All right. Well to the rest of you Thank you for listening to the inaugural episode of The Business of Laravel and I hope this is the first of many that you hang out with us on it and we will see you all next time.

Ian Landsman: Thanks.

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