From Terrible Employee to Open Source Entrepreneur: Caleb Porzio's Playbook | Caleb Porzio, Creator of Livewire & Alpine.js

In this week's episode of the Business of Laravel podcast, host Matt Stauffer talks with Caleb Porzio, a prominent figure in the Laravel community and the creator of Livewire and Alpine.js.

Caleb shares his unconventional journey from being a self-proclaimed "terrible employee" (at Matt’s company!) to becoming a successful self-employed educator and entrepreneur through his company, Wireable LLC.

He also shares insights into his strategies for turning open-source projects into sustainable businesses and building a dedicated audience through educational content and documentation sites related to the tool's niche.


Matt Stauffer: Hey, and welcome back to the Business of Laravel podcast where I interview folks working in businesses either in the Laravel space or using Laravel in their businesses. Today I'm talking to Caleb Porzio. I don't even know exactly what tools to use to describe all the things that Caleb does, so I'm just gonna hand it off to you, Caleb. Like, when somebody asks you what you do, like, How do you introduce yourself?

Caleb Porzio: To a listener of this podcast, I'd probably say the Livewire and Alpine guy to my mom's friends, I'm a programmer. So there's that. And then to people who like, it might turn into a really cool conversation. I'll be like, I'm like, like self-employed, like educator, I'll say, because like, if it, if it's, if it's the right crowd because then we can talk about like entrepreneurial stuff and education and whatever. It opens a lot more interesting doors than just I'm, I've learned that I'm a programmer is the most like dead-ended way to answer this question.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, right, like, cool, I know everything I need to know about you.

Caleb Porzio: They're like, I don't want to know anything.

Matt Stauffer: They're like, stop talking.

Caleb Porzio: They really, there is that, they're like, great, okay, we're done.

Matt Stauffer: Well, that's fun because a lot of people who are going to be on this podcast have programming backgrounds, but I feel like you're going to be one of the few who actually does programming on a day to day.

So can you tell me a little bit more about your business and your business meaning both like the elements of your business that make money, but also the elements of your business that don't make money that lead you to be able to make money elsewhere? Like what is the sum total of things you're responsible for? And does it actually have like a business name that you actually use?

Caleb Porzio: Mm-hmm. I actually did form an LLC earlier this year. I am Wireable LLC.

Matt Stauffer: Okay. Congratulations. Okay. Caleb Porzio of Wirable LLC. We got it.

Caleb Porzio: I made it Livewire Labs and then I felt like I was ripping Adam off. I didn't even tell him this.

Matt Stauffer: for tail-end labs, yeah.

Caleb Porzio: And Tailwind Labs and I, so I actually went through like a massive process of changing it and it was not easy and it took like months and I held up like a ton of stuff just because I didn't want like anybody to be like, you know, come on.

Matt Stauffer: Didn't want to be that guy.

Caleb Porzio: But it is the perfect name, Livewire Labs, but Wireable LLC is great. So yeah, that's the business name. I guess what the stuff I'm responsible for day to day. So Livewire and Alpine, two open source projects that are, you know, kind of spiritual relatives and, but separate enough that they have different audiences at times and then similar audiences at the same time and users.

So yeah, I mean, those two empires and you know, those empires, like an open source empire is like, a repository, a community of people using the thing, a Twitter account, a support channel, a product that goes along with it to monetize it, a documentation site.

Matt Stauffer: Conferences sometimes.

Caleb Porzio: Conferences, yeah, stuff like that. So and email newsletters. So that's those are really the and I have two of those things and they each have all of those things. And I ebb and flow on which one I pay the closest attention to.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: But basically like I do a big project in one and I'm all in on that. And then I switch my focus to the other and that's kind of just been what's happening. And they're both like four, five years old. So the money comes from, yeah, these products, which center around screencasting, but also like offering out of the box, like prebuilt components, like with Alpine. It's pretty much like SaaS, but educate, like education SaaS.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: It's SaaS, but it has the worst churn in the world. So you have to price it, you know, that way. And, and you're on a content treadmill. So there's that, and yeah, and that's pretty much where all of the money comes from. I make peanuts on the little side quest I did for Make VS code Awesome. That's like a course I made on my VS code workflow that I make like $300 a month, $500 a month, maybe.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah. Pays for one bill.

Caleb Porzio: Sometimes less. It pays for a bill. Yeah. At this point, it's just this long trickle that honestly I should just murder because I still have to support it. It's just annoying when VS code changes the name of a setting and I have to go like, you know, be a good business owner about this thing that makes me no money. So, cut a guy a check for 10 % indefinitely that I like shouldn't have done, but I still pay him like a grand to a year. So, okay.

Matt Stauffer: Hmm.

Caleb Porzio: That's kind of the thing. Yep.

Matt Stauffer: Okay, so you've got two code ecosystems, and all the world that exists around them. Then the main place the business is happening is for the people who are using and learning those code ecosystems. And I'm talking like I don't know these things, because I want people who don't know these things to know these things.

So you've got main place that there's a business is enabling people who are using or learning those things to pay you to either learn it better or to build it better using pre-made components. There's the side quest, we'll kind of step up that for now.

Caleb Porzio: Yep, that's it.

Matt Stauffer: My second question usually is in what way is Laravel involved in your business? But I think it ties into something I want to say. My hope is this podcast, even if not today, in the future, people are listening back who don't know the Laravel ecosystem super well, who don't go, Adam, I know who Adam is, who don't go Livewire, I've used Livewire.

Caleb Porzio: Yeah. Right, right, right.

Matt Stauffer: But let's say we've got a CTO listening or a CEO listening who is technical and understands the basics of Laravel and PHP, but comes from JavaScript or comes from Python or something like that. Can you give an easy rundown of what Livewire and Alpine are and why it is so exciting to people that they're willing to pay you money to learn the tool?

Caleb Porzio: Yeah, all right, so I'll give two answers. The first answer would be analogies to other ecosystems, and then the second one would be if you don't even know those things.

I guess the first one would be like, Rails has Hotwire. So a lot of people in, like, the way to build web apps right now with a capital T and W is using React on the front end, period. Maybe Vue and Svelte and Solid and these other ones, but React.

Matt Stauffer: Okay.

Caleb Porzio: Then there's all these alternate approaches. So what I'm doing falls under these alternate approaches and every ecosystem. What I mean by ecosystem is full stack solution, full stack web solution. So that's like C sharp .net, Java spring, Ruby Rails, Python Django, whatever, all of those things, PHP Laravel.

So my thing, Livewire and Alpine are, but I will say specifically Livewire, is the alternative to the React all in JavaScript way. It's the not all in JavaScript way that uses the backend, uses your backend knowledge more heavily. So yeah, Phoenix Live View in Elixir, Hotwire in Rails, .NET has Blazor. So .NET, like a lot of .NET apps use React, but .NET has an official thing called Blazor, which is like our Blade components. It's server side components that also work on the front end. So it's this kind of full stack hybrid thing. So yeah, it's a full stack hybrid solution where you feel you can take a developer who doesn't know anything about JavaScript and get them writing interactive web apps, without paying all that cost of JavaScript, they can make a button do a thing without reloading a page without knowing anything about JavaScript.

So that's that's an HTML X is like a really close, like, yeah, thing to this tool. And a lot of people didn't know about it forever. And now it's like, who doesn't know about it? You know? So, so I can say like, it's like HTMX, it was inspired by HTMX, HTMX is OG. I'm like way after HTMX. So, it's that kind of thing. You're sending HTML over the internet instead of JSON and doing a bunch of work in clients. So that's a kind of an answer that probably someone listening, no matter where they are caught one bit in there to understand it a little bit better. I think.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah, and I'll TLDR that one because one of the things I think that there are different things that interest programmers than interest programmers on the bleeding edge than interest CTOs, right? And I think programmers on the bleeding edge are like, what's the newest, coolest, blah, blah, blah, blah. Programmers are like, what can I do to get paid to do my job right now? But CTOs are often about what tools enable me to do what things with the people I'm hiring and without.

Caleb Porzio: Yes.

Matt Stauffer: you know, like instability or whatever. And so I think one of the pitches I want to ask you, or maybe I'm just going to make for you is you said Livewire allows somebody who doesn't know JavaScript to still write reactive interactive front ends. And I think that that's something that's really compelling because one of the things that has made Laravel have some difficulty in adoption is because all the entry-level boot camps, whatever else say, we want to teach them one language that gives them frontend and back ends or teach them JavaScript.

JavaScript in the front end, JavaScript in the back end. The problem is the JavaScript back-end ecosystem is a mess. And every time you build something there, you're gonna spend months to years rebuilding the same stuff over and over again, Whereas in Laravel, you're like, we just have all these things.

But then if you have Laravel, it's like, but now they have to learn PHP and they have to learn JavaScript because it's got to have a front end, right? And I have all these Laravel teams that are like, so we're gonna build the back end team and then we're gonna build the front end team. And I'm like, or you could use Livewire.

So I think the pitch there for a CTO and CEO is like one language, you're still just writing in PHP, but you're writing PHP in a way that gives you the benefits that JavaScript would normally be required in order to give you. That's to me, that's the sexiness of Livewire.

Caleb Porzio: Yep. Yeah. Yeah. Cool. There's a bunch of interesting things there. Where you started was like, there's things that, you know, bleeding edge developers care about, and then there are things that like newer developers care about, and then there's things that CTOs care about. And that is something that, you know, that I have to hold in my head all the time. And the one I don't really hold in my head well, or even at all is the CTO one. That's the one that gets forgotten. Cause I'm not a CTO.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: And I'm not even in that world. I don't do, I don't hire people, anything like that. So I hear about that world, but, it's, it's interesting just even balancing, you know, like you have to appeal to bleeding edge tech

Matt Stauffer: Yes, they're the wedge.

Caleb Porzio: because those people have voices that everybody cares to listen to. Even if those people are taking them in directions that are, that are dead ends. It's like you listen to those people. So you have to appeal to them and you have to because you can produce it.

This is like the story of my life is being a, like a, like medium level developer, finding something difficult, creating a simple solution to it, and then publishing it and going, look at this. Cause I have so much confidence or used to have so much confidence in this way going, look at this. That's so easy. And then, and then it gets big enough like it resonates and people go like, yeah, that's awesome! And then it gets to the bleeding edge. People will go, wait a second, but.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: that misses this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and then they pull out the shotgun and crush.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Well, actually.

Caleb Porzio: Well, actually, and in a lot of ways, you know, they're right and they're wrong and they're right, you know, but anyway, you have to appease and appeal to those people. You have to appeal to, you know, like that, that is something that I care a lot about is the average dev and making their life easy, taking the knowledge they already have. And then there's appealing to the CTOs. How reliable is the thing?

Caleb Porzio: How stable is it? Do you have whatever those things are called SLSs and can we pay for a premium, you know, enterprise support contract? How long have you been around like all of these things? Do you make a bunch of breaking changes a lot if you get hit by a bus? Is there so, and those are things I don't think about as much because it's usually like, it's like, if everybody starts using it, then I just feel like those people are going to be in the this could just be short-sighted. Those people are going to be in the meetings where they're like, yeah, but and then I'm just going to be like, listen, everybody uses this thing. It's like, it's fine. You know, and that's, yeah.

Matt Stauffer: I get asked all the time, and for those who don't know, I run a consultancy. We go into clients and say, hey, you should use Livewire, or hey, we want to build that app for using Livewire or whatever else. That's not the only thing we use, but I recommend Livewire to a lot of people.

We get asked that all the time. They say, what's the stability? This seems kind of new. Is it still going to be around and stuff like that? I've been being asked that about Laravel for the longest time. I had to get to the point with Taylor where I could give an answer to those. I'm like, Caleb, I'm going to have to get to that point with you where I'm just like, friend. You know?

Caleb Porzio: Yeah. Well, so, I mean, there briefly, there are some things that, that I've done to address that.

Matt Stauffer: Good, tell me, tell everybody.

Caleb Porzio: So we, we do have like the library support program. I partnered with Jason Beggs on it. So there is somebody who's like at the phone and at the ready all the time, you're not dealing with like me off programming. You're dealing with somebody who like does this well.

Matt Stauffer: Great. Okay, so we have support covered.

Caleb Porzio: So you got support covered, you get kind of insider access, you know, you have control. If there's like some massive show stopping bug or production error, whatever that you're hitting with like a big organization, you have a channel to actually affect change, you know because with your with your dollars and size, which was an important addition even just for that confidence for you know bigger companies. Then you know that thing there's it's like it's a it's a law like one of those one of those laws that is like is how long is a business gonna be around like...

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: At least for as long as it's been around, you know, that's like a common one in, I don't know, investing or whatever.

Matt Stauffer: Interesting.

Caleb Porzio: It's like, if this thing's been around for 10 years, you're pretty much guaranteed another 10 years. That extra those last 10 years could be this,

Matt Stauffer: Okay. Yeah, yeah. But it's not gonna just drop off the face of the planet tomorrow. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: but you know, so if it's been around for, it's not going to drop off the face of the earth. If it's a company that's been around for 20 years and it's not already doing this, it's at least doing this. You got 20 more years. And I think that that's true for Livewire that if I just kick the can or kick to the bucket, I guess,

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Whichever it is.

Caleb Porzio: Whichever it is, you got five more years because it's been around for five more years and Laravel you got 12 years, 13 years, something. You got another 13 years on it at least. And that's minimum. And that's assuming that I just stop. But I don't know. I mean, it's funny. Like people have people have way less of a concern with that than they used to because now it's bigger, it's better, it's been around longer and like, or Laravel like officially, you know, supports it and they would be the successor of it. I imagine we haven't like worked that out, but they have the domain name at least.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And that's helpful to know. Just kind of like if, and God forbid that you just decided to, rather than getting hit by a bus, let's imagine that you quit and became an alpaca farmer. Just like that happened.

Caleb Porzio: or became like a convict and like fled the country or something, you know.

Matt Stauffer: Okay, fled. Okay, sounds good. Fled to South America. All of a sudden everybody's Livewire apps don't stop working. All of a sudden it doesn't stop getting security updates, right?

Caleb Porzio: Yeah.

Matt Stauffer: You can invest in Livewire as the future. And we can look at something like CodeIgniter. CodeIgniter was abandoned by the people who founded it and very quickly lost popularity. And people have been doing not just like bug fixes, but active new development on CodeIgniter for over a decade. And I'm not saying CodeIgniter is the new sexy, but it's still going. People who invest in a community continue to invest in that community.

Caleb Porzio: Really? Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: Yeah. Right. That's true. So I get asked that question a lot less now.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, good, I like to hear that.

Caleb Porzio: But, when, when I get asked that question, I want to tell people just like, yeah, you don't understand. Like I'll live and die by this tool.

Matt Stauffer: Love it.

Caleb Porzio: Like no one else. I'll hold onto these things and squeeze them, you know, and make, or even... You know, I'm not guaranteeing I would never like sell the business or something, but it's like, you're at least getting a guarantee that I care a ton about it and its future. It's my own baby that you just don't, a lot of other people don't, don't do some people do, but I am that way. So, anyway, yeah, but enough about me.

Matt Stauffer: Speaking of being your baby, unfortunately it's a podcast interviewing, it's not enough about you, but we can change topics. One of the things I was curious to hear you tell the story about is, because I want people to listen to this podcast who are in business thinking about using Laravel, but also who are in Laravel thinking about business, if that makes sense. I think from in Laravel thinking about business, I think there's where a lot of people are really interested in your story, and some of them know it already. You are a programmer who now runs a business because of the way you did programming versus a business person who just happened to choose Laravel as a part of their business, which is also very interesting. Would you mind telling the story a little bit about what it worked, looked like? Because I mean, you had a job and now you have your own thing, right? What did that transition?

Caleb Porzio: I did have a job. For the listener, Matt was my boss. Livewire and everything came out of Tighten. So that's a whole fun story.

Matt Stauffer: And we love Caleb and Livewire. So could you tell the story a little bit about like kind of that transition moment? Because I've heard Adam, Adam Wathen, who also worked at Tighten and then left and made an empire. He's told a story often about kind of like, well, I started a thing and I made that first book. And when the book made X amount of dollars, I thought it's my only, you know, whatever. But I don't know if I've heard you tell that story as often, at least outside of your own podcast. So can you kind of share for someone who doesn't know, like, what was the story like for you of saying, you know what? I'm done being an employee, I've got a vision, or I don't got a vision, but I got to do a thing like, what was the process like for you?

Caleb Porzio: Yeah, the process was just being amped. It all starts with being amped about Laravel to the degree that I'm just devouring. I started in CodeIgniter. That was my first real thing. And then I remember that I think this is really telling about how web technologies become the zeitgeist, the big web technology. It all starts with somebody searching this first that, or what's the best PHP framework.

I was already in the code igniter and I was just like, what's, what's the, I don't know. I was like, you want something new? You want to know if it's still the relevant thing. I remember it was on stack overflow and it was like a few, it was like probably 70 % of people were like, Laravel, Laravel, Laravel. And I was like, all right, that's it. So I just Googled it and that's it and that changed the course of my life. So then Laracast, whatever the Laravel podcast, which Matt hosted with Taylor and Jeffrey back in the day. And those days are like this, there's a warm vignette around Caleb listening to the Laravel podcast at a Starbucks,

Matt Stauffer: Love that.

Caleb Porzio: just wanting to like be in that world and listening to, you know, your every word and, and caring a lot about it and making it to like a Laracon and sort of coming with this like big wide-eyed like, you know, and Tighten was sort of Mount Olympus of this world. So I was, like Tighten was hiring. I want to work there. I'm not sure if I'm qualified, but I'm obsessed and I want to work there. And I didn't get the job right away. Daniel, co-host of No Plans to Merge, my podcast he got the job and I didn't, but I interviewed with you and Dan and whatever eventually got the job. I made it to Mount Olympus dream place to work. Everybody cares so much, just cares so much. And that's what was missing in every other job I ever had. It's like, I'm always the one who cares a ton.

And then you get criticized for caring a ton and like, you know, just a yak shaving and whatever things like that. But at Tighten, it was like celebrated and it's like, no, no, we talk about the details at length and we care about them and we really hash them out. It was so wonderful, you know, to be at Mount Olympus and at that place, because it was kind of like an incubator for just like doing Laravel really well, I guess.

So I explored that and at the time it was all Vue.js for me. It was Vue.js as it started as SPAs and then just slowly kind of worked its way back. I started with just Blade and Laravel close to home and then like went way out to sea, full on JavaScript crack head and then slowly started swimming back and swimming back at Tigthen and started experimenting with these ideas inspired by the Rails creator, DHH, whose saying like, you can just send HTML over the wire and you know, swap it into a page with your server rendered stuff and you don't have to build the whole thing and job.

I was realizing a lot of the pain of the SPA approach before I even got to Tighten. I almost got fired from my last job because I put them on a whole SPA like that I built and I was in charge of this team. And it took me like two weeks to do a file upload because I couldn't use an input type file because it wasn't a native form submission. And I had to like learn all about like multi-part, like file whatever that object is that you constructed and, and then like temporary uploads and all this stuff. And the CTO who was fluent in CodeIgniter was like, he just smelled something was up. He's like, okay, I don't.

Matt Stauffer: This should have taken four hours. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: Right. We trusted this guy that he was like on the bleeding edge and that he knew all the right stuff. And he just took two weeks to do a file upload. Like, and so he went to the CEO who doesn't know tech and was like, you know, just said those words like. It would take me five minutes and it took him two weeks. And that, so writing was on the wall. They were going to get me, you know? So anyway, I became a freelancer while getting the job at Tighten for two months, freelancer, got the job at Tighten, and worked at Tighten for two years. I'll speed up the story. I'm a, not a great employee. I've never been a good employee. I'm a good worker and I'm not a bad employee in the sense, as you know, like, I'm, I'm not like lazy.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: but I can be more trouble than I'm worth. And I know that. And it felt, it got that way at Tighten where I was like more trouble than I'm worth. And I just wanted, and at this point I was really into all these kinds of experimental, ways of passing HTML over the wire, like kind of, you know, counter-cultural type stuff at Tighten that I was like experimenting with. I was that guy who was trying to do things as like simple and blade oriented as possible. So I just quit and wanted to go on a sabbatical and that was it. I was just like, I don't know what, but I know I want to be done here and I'm smelling it in the air like I smelled it at the last place. Like if I don't end my time here, someone else is going to end my time here because it's just, it's not a copacetic. And that's been my experience at every single job I've ever had for about two years. It gets to that point where I, you know, it just doesn't work.

So, I left Tighten, cause like, I was like, I'm going to fire myself before anybody fires me. And that's how I've always felt. It's just like, I'm just going to see myself out the door. And I told everybody, like, you need to tell somebody, you need to tell people what you're doing when you do something like that. So I always just said, I'm going to go on a coding, sabbatical for like four months, and then I'm going to become a freelancer.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: Because that's like an easy thing to say is you can always say, I'm going to do freelancing, which means everything and nothing, you know. Yes.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah. It could just mean I don't have a job but I don't want to say that. You could actually be choosing to be a freelancer, who knows? Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: Right. And mine was more to the not having a job thing. So yeah. And at that point, I'd built up enough of a following like on Twitter and everything that there was enough like authority behind my name that I wasn't really scared that like, I couldn't get another job easily. But like a week later, I started working on LiveWire. I made a proof of concept because I saw Elixir's Phoenix Live View and then people were into it. And then that, that is the story. Like from that point, there's lots of interesting things to where I didn't make money for like 10 months. But from that point to now, it's just been that it's like made that proof of concept and I've just never stopped working on that thing. So yeah.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, that's great. One of the things we've talked about before is sort of like that journey of trying to figure out how to make money doing a thing like that. I mentioned this before when we were recording, but Taylor Otwell of Laravel had to figure that out, Evan You of Vue.js had to figure that out, Adam Wathan of Tailwind, they've all had to figure out how do we make money doing this kind of open source empire?

Because you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people using your code. You can have a massive email list, you can have all these things, and also not make a cent. And some people do that and they burn out or they have to try to get their day job to pay for it. You've kind of found a couple different arenas and you have landed where you are. You're described at the beginning where you've landed. Are there other ways that you thought might work out for being sustainable business ventures that didn't? Or if that's, okay, well, let's start there then.

Caleb Porzio: Yeah, so, well, I don't know if I have a perfect answer for what you're saying, so finish what you were saying, and then I'll.

Matt Stauffer: If there's no answer there, I was going to say, or are there ways where you'd warn people that just because you've been able to make money doing it doesn't mean it's going to, is there luck? I don't know if you ever heard Guy Raz's podcast, How I Built This, but one of the questions he always asks is, I forget exactly the wording, basically how much luck was involved in you getting the place where you now have this wonderful successful business that merits you being invited in this podcast?

Caleb Porzio: Yeah. I mean, it's, that's a hard thing to answer. I could say in, in some ways all luck, but it's, you know, it's a series of events that. Yeah, I don't know. I like to operate under, if somebody's asking me. Like I'll say it's luck to encourage somebody to have confidence or to not be discouraged by them. Not, you know, achieving something that I've achieved or to, to like defer the merit so that I don't look like I'm cocky.

But if it's somebody who's interested in achieving what I've achieved, it's way more useful to be like, that's actually not luck. That's a formula. And here it is. Because that was most useful to me like Adam laid out his formula and Nathan Barry laid out his formula. And they were like, here's the formula. And I was like, I'm going to follow that and I did and it worked.

So, it's like there's probably luck, there's a ton of luck, but if you're going for something like this, forget about luck. Just like try all these things, you know, and it might probably work. I think the things that I was fortunate with is having a likable personality, a pretty good stage presence, you know, born in the US, English speaking native, like a lot of those things that just have white, you know, like the male black hair, blue eyes, just gorgeous, you know, like.

Matt Stauffer: Yes.

Matt Stauffer: It's just cause they're just handsome, just good looking, you know?

Caleb Porzio: had these things that, you know, so hard, good looking. But yeah, like, so in that sense, a ton of luck. And in the sense that when I was interested in working on Livewire, there was no other alternative path official in Laravel. That's not the case now. You know, it's a lot harder. You'd be clawing through a lot of work that I did, a lot of land that I grabbed. You'd have to grab away from me and that would be hard.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah. Caleb would fight you.

Caleb Porzio: There was more available land at the time, you know? I think that's an interesting thing is like it like in Rails, there was a lot of land grabbed. And I think, you know, Adam took some things from Rails, like just early days, brought them into Laravel and it's like, there's a lot of vacant land here. So you could bring the tap function and be a hero, you know? So I think that matters a ton.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: And I like, what's his name? The transistor FM guy. I can't,

Matt Stauffer: Justin Jackson.

Caleb Porzio: We're like good friends, Justin Jackson. You know, his whole thing on like, it's really all about the market, you know, it's really just what market you pick. And, and in a lot of places of that talk about luck, there was like a market here of people that were like, centralized and there was like a defined group of people who spoke and people listened.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: And there was land available because it was still like early days in some ways. And that those were all the perfect ingredients, but you can find all those things or parts of them in other ecosystems, even in Laravel in different, you know, verticals. So yeah, I thought that was just an interesting riff. I don't know if that answered any of the question, but...

Matt Stauffer: That makes sense. Yeah, no, absolutely. I think the land idea is very interesting because if somebody wants to make a business, one of the things that people often do is look at somebody else's successful business and try to do the same thing and then they don't get the same result and they go, wait a minute, I followed the formula. You may have seen the visible parts of the formula, but you didn't see either the luck, like somebody just found a good market on accident, or...

Caleb Porzio: True.

Matt Stauffer: The intentionality, like the person saw that there was land to grab and grabbed the land, you know, mine was luck. At the beginning, I started blogging about Laravel, not realizing that there was nobody blogging at the level I was. And it quickly rose to be my blog was the one to go to, which then led me to speaking engagements, Laravel podcast, whatever. Several people have come along and blogged since and have been very successful, but they had to work harder to grab land at that time than I did at the very beginning. Right. So.

Caleb Porzio: Right.

Caleb Porzio: Yes. And now you have, right. Like, or even, even if like somebody could be moderately prominent in the Laravel community blogging right now, they might have more page views than you had at your peak. But at your time you were it, you know, like I ended up on Matt Stauffer's blog all the time. And at that time blogs were the thing now, like they're not really the thing. So yeah. yes, there's all those.

Matt Stauffer: That's more videos now, yeah.

Caleb Porzio: Yes, there are all those underbelly things that are there that are interesting to pay attention to. A lot of that is if you have the mentality of doing the next right thing or doing what's working, if you always kind of maintain that approach, then you'll stumble on those opportunities. Once you're like in it, you know, and then you can't really plan them out. I have been unable to do that of like,

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: assessing the landscape and identifying the path and going like this area has a vacancy here and I'm going to fill it. It's like, it's never worked as much as I want that to work. You have to go be in something so that you can see. And then you find one thing and you pull that thread and you keep pulling it. And there's a good chance that will lead you somewhere. Sometimes, you know, it's that a local maximum thing where like you may end up in a local maximum.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. That's very interesting.

Caleb Porzio: I don't know. It's like a math thing with that they struggle with an artificial intelligence. Like you're trying to optimize something, but picture like a 3d, hillscape landscape. The thing's trying to find the maximum, but it's on this little hill. So it does find its own maximum, but it's stuck there. There's a big mountain over here that it can't find cause it doesn't know how to climb back down and then climb back up. So this sort of thing I'm describing has the flaw of you might end up in a local maximum where it's like if I chose Rails or if I chose like Next, I'd be a billionaire, you know, like, but I'm in Laravel now.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Interesting. Okay.

Caleb Porzio: But I think really, to me that really it's like kind of hand-wavy, but captures my experience as like a player in this space and having some degree of success is because of those forces of nature, you know?

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, so you mentioned, you know, Nathan Barry's playbook and you mentioned Adam Wathan's playbook. Do you have a playbook that you could share where you can say, hey, you know, if you want to be successful, like Caleb Porzio, you know, like this is the Caleb Porzio playbook? And if you do have it, is it one you're comfortable sharing publicly or you're like kind of kind of still need to keep it in house for right now?

Caleb Porzio: Right, no, there's a bunch of like micro playbooks and some of them are just ripped off of like Adam's, you know, $61,000 launch blog post where he made a bunch of money, quit your job and quit your company, said see ya and then became huge and did a bunch of awesome things. That blog post is, I think, still one of the best resources on the internet for launching something. At the time,

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm. Yep.

Caleb Porzio: you remember at that time, I bet, I mean, we were in different places. We probably felt somewhat differently, but $61,000 in a week was like, what was stupid.

Matt Stauffer: No, that's huge to me right now. That's a big deal. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: And to him, that was huge money. He quit his job. You know, now if you make $61,000 on your launch, I'm like, sorry. It didn't work out that well for you. You know, it's like, like at least you'd made something, you know.

Matt Stauffer: That's hilarious.

Caleb Porzio: It's like, because, this, and obviously inflation, but the stakes have been now, now the gig is up. Like we know that that's a thing you can do and then your expectation raises and whatever. So yeah, that's a playbook. So I don't even have to describe that. Go read that blog post about how to launch a thing. I did a bunch of like experimental revenue-generating things beforehand after my VS Code book launch, but I did that VS Code book launch because I always wanted to try Adam's playbook on a discreet project that I could be done with and do an ebook and screencasts and do that thing.

I'd always been doing remixes of it on my own and trying different things. But like I wanted to just take a side quest on VS code road and just do that and see if it worked and it worked. The formula works. You start an email newsletter and give, you know, good quality content and get people really interested. Then you go dark and you build the whole thing into a course.

And then you launch it to that email newsletter and you make 60 grand in a week or two or whatever. And then a long tail of revenue over time. And it is a formula, but it, of course, all these things depend on you having original ideas or, you know, seemingly original ideas, good content, and really just being in a space and seeing it and identifying some point of complexity or, fuzziness or confusion, and then creating either by education or a tool. Distilling that down to something that's small and simple and clear. Whether that's a simple, you know, a hot-tip tweet or a full course.

It's like, once you, that is the magic formula. Once you do that and you, and then you get good at identifying those opportunities. But once you do that, that's your core. And then you apply the marketing potion, which is again, what form is it going to take? Is it a discrete course? Then it's an ebook, screencasts, landing page, newsletter, do that whole thing. Gumroad, whatever. Or it's an educational platform. Like Aaron kind of did a hybrid with Jonathan Renning did something kind of hybrid-y with Eloquent Performance Patterns. Instead of just that normal course thing, it's like Screencast ongoing platform, radical design. Jack McDade sort of did that too. Yeah, so I guess that's more of the course thing, but I will say that the thing that's worked best for me that I haven't seen a lot of other people do, is the screencasting play. You get, here's the formula. Okay, here's a unique formula to me.

Matt Stauffer: Give it to me.

Caleb Porzio: Not unique because Adam does it too, and a lot of people do it, but documentation site. This unfortunately requires that you have a popular project. Not easy to do, but you make a project. But I've seen actually people do this. Marcel Pociot, did this with his chatbot tool. Do you remember that?

Matt Stauffer: He wasn't even the one who made it. Yeah, I remember.

Caleb Porzio: He didn't make the chatbot.

Matt Stauffer: No, no, no, he didn't make the underlying technologies. He built a tool. So, sorry, go ahead.

Caleb Porzio: Yeah, right. Yeah. He built the tool. I forget what it's even called. So, this is an example of him doing this in a small way. He made a project open source package that solved a problem and had a documentation site. And then like you needed more. He offered screencasts for advanced stuff and you paid like 70 bucks or something one time and I did that. I was on a weekend thing and I needed to like know how to do this thing. And he had a course to do it on the doc site. I paid it and I got the thing and he probably made some good money off that.

But that's my formula is like an open source project, get a documentation site. Because now you have distribution because people who try to launch... I look in the indie hackerspace at such talented technology people, marketing people, and they claw their way to 10 grand a month. Like, and it's like a huge achievement when they get there because they don't have distribution, they have to build it all from scratch. Where like, you have a popular project with a doc site that people visit all the time, 10 grand a month is you opening, putting out a for sale sign, like what's selling lemonade and like, there's your 10 grand a month. So that's the formula. You get the documentation site that people are on, their eyeballs are on and they're there hungry for information. You have a...

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: the distribution channel and then you sell them screencasts and level up stuff. The tricky part is that you want to make sure that the core free documentation offering is like as good as it would be if you weren't selling stuff. That's my philosophy is like make it as good as it is as good as everybody else is doing. And then the paid stuff you do what people are doing on the side. What like Jeffrey Way is doing for Laravel. You do both yourself and you link the two and now you own them.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, yeah, that's good.

Caleb Porzio: And the screencasts you know, you offer a bunch for free and you get them into watching it right away. And they're watching free stuff. And then they get to one that's paid and you charge a, you don't charge an insane amount. We could talk about pricing. I've learned a lot about that even recently. But then they see that and they're like, you're a good screen caster, a good educator. This is really valuable stuff. I'm hungry. Give me more. All right, let's do it. And now you have a really sustainable business. You turned an open-source project into a sustainable business.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: And that's the formula. It freaking works.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: Like, you know, you could hire a screen caster if you suck at it and it'd probably still work. So, yeah.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, that's a great formula. I love that. And it's funny because I was kind of thinking in terms of Marcel's, like, there's a plus on top of that because Marcel wrote the chatbot, but his tutorials didn't just teach about his chat bot, it taught about chatbots in general. It wasn't just about his tool. And so there may even be a leverage thing where maybe your tool itself only requires so much education.

Caleb Porzio: Mm. Okay.

Matt Stauffer: but the underlying world beneath it also requires education. So you use the screencasts about your tool as the way to sell a broader course about chatbots, you know, or whatever. So there's, that's an even broader world because now you've got the ones where, hey, Livewire is enough to just merit its own videos. Maybe chatbot, the tool, whatever he named it is not, but maybe chatbots plus my tool is. So there are lots of different ways to be able to do it. But the core that you're pointing out is the distribution platform of the docs. And I love that. Brilliant.

Caleb Porzio: That's true.

Yes. And I think the Marcel example is so interesting. From what you just said, it's like chatbots, like it's such a niche thing,

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: but nobody was addressing it. You don't have to have the front-end solution to Laravel to make a bunch of money or to make a good amount of money. You could make chatbots your thing. Like Nuno has so many things going for him, but look at Pest. Like it's like testing, you know, it's like there are opportunities.

There's testing. There's chatbots, there's, you know, Chat GPT integrations, whatever. There's these little niche things and you just become, or Joe Tannenbaum for a minute there.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: And maybe still he's the command line guy. He's doing a bunch of cool stuff on the command line. Everybody's like, okay, you're the command line guy. He could make a package. He could get a doc site going. He could do screencasts and he could probably fund a year of his development doing that. You know, it's like, yeah.

Matt Stauffer: Make some money off of it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that's really good. Huh. It's interesting. I had all these questions lined up on the agenda and I had hoped this would happen. I'm like, I don't care about any of these questions. This is way better where we're going. You mentioned pricing and you said you've been thinking about this a lot and because we're kind of nearing the 45-minute mark, I'm like, well, let's get there before we have to start wrapping it up. Tell me about pricing things.

Caleb Porzio: Sure. Matt, really quick, can I take one small tangent on,

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, 100%.

Caleb Porzio: so thinking of like, I have a scarcity mindset that I'm always battling. I have just negative thought patterns that are useless. And so here's a tip that I can give to people is like, and even for somebody in like my position, if I'm telling everybody to go out and make packages and doc sites and then screencasts, like there will be some part of me that's like, like, now everybody is doing it.

Matt Stauffer: And now I'm not going to have as much opportunity, right?

Caleb Porzio: You know, whatever. Yeah, that I'm not gonna have as much opportunity or you're copying me or whatever. Or we were charging people so much. It's like, this is crabs in a bucket. Think about it, this isn't gonna rob anything from me, period.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: So this is for anybody listening if they feel this way. It's like, stop feeling that way because you're asking for $70 to $300 from one developer, who makes money at their job, it's just not a big deal. It's like what could be a life-changing amount of money to you is like a nice meal to someone. Don't feel guilty about that. Charge them the nice meal, give them the value that they came for, and just move on. We can all do that. And I can buy 10 more courses if they give me the value of 10 times that. It's great.

Matt Stauffer: Right, exactly.

Caleb Porzio: Give me value, I'll give you money, I'm happy to, and we can all do that. So just a little note on scarcity mindset and crabs in a bucket, pulling each other back down.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. I personally think that a rising tide lifts all boats is relevant in so many areas where people would be inclined to say, I can't share that. Every time I give a talk, especially a talk that's focused on how we do things at Tighten, I think I've just shared the secrets. I am no longer going to get any work. Why would I tell people to do this on their projects when they should be paying my company?

Caleb Porzio: Yeah, right. I struggle with that too.

Matt Stauffer: At some point, I was just like, first of all, I want...

Caleb Porzio: Yes, it's such a bad mentality.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, I just, I want everybody to do better, right? And I hope that in doing better, like, and you and I have talked about this a lot over the years, like, I want to help people and do good things for them. And I also want to be successful and it's okay to do both of those. But this like little clawing part of our of the cells, like says, like, I can't share too much, I can't help too much. And then we do it and it's like, no, it turns out you're fine. You know, it's, it works out okay.

Caleb Porzio: Yes, you just have more authority. It's like, you can write the entire contents of the book you're going to sell or are selling.

Matt Stauffer: Yes.

Caleb Porzio: You can release all of it. And it will be better for your book sales for the audience, despite that part of your brain that is so logical. And you're believing wholeheartedly that it's saying that's ridiculous. Why would they buy the book? You know, it's like, but it's one of those, that is a struggle to this day for me. Been, since day one, I now have intellectually.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: Cerebral...

Matt Stauffer: Yep.

Caleb Porzio: That word brain like I have made these agreements with myself that blue ocean, you know rising tides like these things. It's like that is true but I still have a lot of those things that I battle and it's probably always but yeah, so that's the note on that.

Matt Stauffer: I appreciate that a lot. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: Pricing briefly I'll say what I think is perfect because I feel like I just cracked it like a month ago is... Don't do monthly, but don't do one-time, offer a one-time premium for people who want to just pay a bunch of money and be done with it.

Matt Stauffer: Okay.

Caleb Porzio: But yearly is really good and reasonable yearly because if you do, if you do monthly, especially for a screen casting type thing, that's what I can speak to mostly. If you do like a low monthly, like 15 bucks a month, like a lot of overseas people where the dollars don't go as far as whatever that is an access point for them. Or if you just do one time, you're blocking out like.

Matt Stauffer: Mm-hmm.

Caleb Porzio: massive swaths of people who can't afford $200 or $150. It's like their month's rent, you know? So you're blocking out a ton of people, but if you open up that with like $14 a month, those people are very economical. They're like, I'm going to buy that 14 and then I'm going to consume everything and I'm going to walk away. And if I need it again, I'll go pay that 14 and come back where somebody rich in the U.S. like myself is like, 14 a month. Sure. Let's do it, you know, and leave it forever. But that's not the majority of people in the world.

Matt Stauffer: Turn it on, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Caleb Porzio: So that will, you'll get way more sales, from people who wouldn't have access to your content, which I think is kind of a good thing. But the lifetime value of those people is often $14 to $30, you know? So, if you just go all one time, yeah, like you make more money from the rich folks, but a lot of those non-US rich folks, they're not, they can't even enter the space. And even with your 50 % discount, they have trouble entering the space or your PPP, like a 30 % discount.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Don't even touch it. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: We're doing this like an annual one-time thing. I think is great. If it's like a reasonable annual, like 70 bucks a year, and then like a reasonable one-time, like 150. And I say reasonable because I think like, there's a lot of like rhetoric around like charge more. You're not charging enough. And sometimes that's true, but you block out a lot of people with that.

I think sometimes you make less money because maybe the people telling you that have it worked out that it does work for them. But in my experience, it's like, I think a lot of people that I've seen launch stuff. Recently in the past like two years would have done a lot better if they had halved their prices. They have made more money and I'll do a like you're my friend like I'll hook you up like I don't even need your course. But if your course is 300 bucks, I'm not hooking you up. If not, if it's 99 to 150 and I'm your friend, I'll hook you up, if it's 300 no way. I gotta talk to my wife about that and then she's gonna be like, why are you doing that?

Matt Stauffer: Sure, yeah, you don't even need that, right?

Caleb Porzio: No, I'm your friend, but I'm not that much your friend so charge a little less yearly 70 a year, one time, 150. It depends on what you're offering. But for me, this combo is like now all these people with like lower, you know, dollar power currencies, they can enter this, they can enter that and it's reasonable. So I get all of them. And then these rich U.S. folks who are like, meh, whatever they can enter this side. And that has been the maximum revenue for me of all time with the same offering, just remixing pricing. So that's the formula.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, that's brilliant. I really appreciate you sharing that. Yeah, we got two formulas from Caleb today. All right, so because we're supposed to be wrapping around 45 minutes, I want to look through our agenda. I think you've covered actually a lot of the really good ones here, but I have two that I want to ask. Number one is, is there anything that you want to plug that you haven't gotten a chance to plug?

Caleb Porzio: Buying screencasts is how I feed my family. If you do that, that's great. But just follow me on Twitter. I don't know.

Matt Stauffer: If you don't buy a screencast, you don't want Caleb's children to eat, basically is what I just heard. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: Yep. Nothing to plug. You don't want my children to eat. Yeah. They don't kind of want to eat most of the stuff we feed them anyway. So they're probably pumped about it.

Matt Stauffer: That's fair, yeah. All right, and the last question is, if you sold your company for $100 million today, what would you do tomorrow?

Caleb Porzio: What would I do? A hundred million is like big money. So I'd pay off my parents' mortgage for sure. First thing. I'd buy a piece of land. Second thing. I'd buy a place down where it's not freezing cold all winter. Third thing. And then I'd get back to work. I might buy like maybe a come out. I'd probably throw it in the stock market and try just some new project or maybe keep working on Livewire. I don't know. I've given up on a lot of the like.

Matt Stauffer: Okay. Yeah.

Caleb Porzio: retirements foot in the sand stuff. Cause I've tried like some amount of that and I, I love programming. So I just want to keep programming.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, keep programming. Just out of curiosity, if you did buy that place down in Florida near Disney or whatever, would you all live there full time or would you be back and forth so you could be near family?

Caleb Porzio: Yeah. No way. Yeah. No. And I, I love Florida for like three months and then the rest is like miserable to me. You know, you know,

Matt Stauffer: Okay, that's what I thought. Three months is literally, I lived in Florida for long enough that I agree, it's got three good months.

Caleb Porzio: It's great. And I show up for those three months and it's awesome. And then Buffalo, it's like, you get all the vibes. It's great.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah, their three good months are the three worst months in Buffalo, I assume. Great.

Caleb Porzio: Yeah, right. And in most of places north of whatever. Yeah. Yeah. So that's, yeah. Right.

Matt Stauffer: Yeah. Yeah. Not the Mason Dixon or whatever. Okay, cool. Well, is there anything else that you would have loved to talk about today that we didn't cover or do you feel like it went pretty well?

Caleb Porzio: But you know, me and you, we could talk a good long while about everything. So this 45-minute thing, you know, this is tough, but so I'll just cap it at that.

Matt Stauffer: We could talk for hours. Yes. It's rough.

Matt Stauffer: Okay, cool. Well, Caleb, I really appreciate you for two reasons. One, for coming on this call to hang out and share your playbook, hard-earned playbooks, which I know it's scary in the moment to share, and I really appreciate you kind of like taking that risk to share things that have worked for you, even when you're feeling the clawing crab kind of fear.

Second of all, for the work you do for the community, you have proven yourself consistently to be someone who is trying to walk the line well of like do stuff that makes you able to take care of your family and also not be that self-aggrandizing, self-marketing, you know, self-promoting jerk. You know, we've had some conversations behind the scenes where I'm like, you know, this is a human being who is in.

Caleb Porzio: You're where you're like you know you're kind of being yourself.

Matt Stauffer: No, that's not where I was going at all. No, we had some conversations behind the scenes where you've just shown that even the stuff that you're not doing publicly, you're trying to figure out how do I promote good people and how do I care for people and stuff like that. People don't always see that. And so I just want to say thank you for being that sort of person in the community.

Caleb Porzio: You got it, Matthew. You formed a lot of that. What you weren't talking about is the early years talks of where young and wide-eyed Caleb is just aggressively doing all the things all the time, and Matt is sort of handing me a rudder. He's like, here's a way that you could, meh, maybe, or, eh.

So yeah, all good stuff, and you're a big part of the journey, Matt. So pretty cool to hang out with you on this kind of interview. Cause yeah, you're one of the OG like Godfather-type Laravel dudes and people listening might not know that because it's lame for you to say that. So I'll say it so that they hear it, you know? Yeah.

Matt Stauffer: Thank you, Caleb. I appreciate it. I'm very grateful to have been a part of the journey. And to you listeners, thanks for being a part of our journey. Thanks for hanging out. And we will see you next time.

Caleb Porzio: See ya!

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