Build a Thriving Business without Custom Software with Ben Tossel

Ben Tossel created Makerpad, which seeks to teach that you don't need to spend years learning to code or spend 100s of thousands of dollars on expensive engineers to start a business.

A core part selling educational content online is that platform. Whether it's Youtube, a multi-million dollar site filled with custom functionality, or somewhere in-between, you'll need ways to share your content to your learners.

You can also avoid spending a lot of time and money on your platform by researching the UX other platforms have implemented and repurposing it for your own needs. They have already done the R&D so you don't have to. But, make sure that you are repurposing the features and making them your own and not just copying one-to-one. It's very important that you do not steal.

The point of all this is to say that you don't need to build something completely custom. It's tempting to think that you need something that can't be found anywhere else, but more than likely this part is used as a means of procrastination from actually launching a course.

Shipping and iterating on your content comes first.

No-code can take your business to the point of several million dollars of revenue even. When it comes time to build your platform, ask yourself what you actually need out of your app. More times than not there will be an existing solution!

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Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Joel: I'm really excited to talk to you. You've built an amazing learning platform. I think that takes a kind of a unique approach to like the technical aspects of platform building both from the platform itself, like what you've built as a business then as learners and kind of enabling people to do things that they other couldn't do.

Learning on the internet

[00:00:18] Joel: I wanted to, to kind of break the ice and, and ask you, like when you approach. A difficult topic. Like what's your strategy? How do you, how do you think about learning the internet or otherwise?

[00:00:31] Ben Tossel: Yeah, I think I'm I'm just one of those people that do not read instructions. I will just try and figure it out. So I'd often just jump into something and then try and refer back to something. Yeah. Ultimately hasn't worked, which happens often. We don't read instructions. So I'm, I'm sort of like data and diver into.

Okay. There's. A text-based tutorial here, or there's a YouTube clip here. Just skip it straight to where I need to be and find out that piece. And then I think lots of it is like how someone else did it. And actually just asking people, because often you can find them on Twitter and stuff about like, how'd you build that thing or where's that. from, And actually things like this is one thing that I was looking at at egghead fi for years when I was building makeup pad, because I just stole all my site features from other other sites.

Well, the design and everything. So,

[00:01:23] Joel: to go.

[00:01:24] Ben Tossel: yeah, definitely. So I remember looking at the OCAD pricing page and I was like, I love how it was just so simple. And I was like, use extensions, like built with and whatever, just to see if there's anything I'll get, I'll get steal. So I'll try and like dive in that way with certain things like that.

[00:01:39] Joel: It's funny because I've done the same thing with maker pad for some of the things that you've done. Like, and I think that's cool. And like, I would encourage people to do that, right. Like go out and actually seek out a way instead of inventing everything from whole cloth every time, like works and it's not like a cut and paste or, you know, Plagiarism or theft.

It's just like, wow, this looks pretty good. I like this. And it's working. So like, why not jump to the finish line instead of starting from scratch,

[00:02:04] Ben Tossel: Yeah. And also with like bigger companies, you assume that they've done all the testing, they figured out what the thing actually, what that sort of page needs to look like, because they thought the resources. Whereas if you're a small business or a one man band building stuff, like lean on what other people are doing and what's working.

So I think, yeah, they probably figured it out.

[00:02:24] Joel: warn people. Like copying what

[00:02:26] Ben Tossel: Yeah.

[00:02:27] Joel: is, probably not going to fit that particular description. You just out there. But, you know,

[00:02:31] Ben Tossel: Yeah.

[00:02:31] Joel: I think, I think it still stands. So you, you have your personal learning style and then you sit down and, you know, like you, you're a teacher and an educator on the internet.

How does your personal learning style differ from like the way you approach, like creating.

[00:02:45] Ben Tossel: Well, most of our content is video based and I just told you that I prefer text-based or I would like a mixture the mixed. Yeah. I like a mixture. You know, why is it that we've done that then if you've done it, but then the same thing and think this. But actually recently we've started making sure that everything also has the transcription.

And then I've tried to tone down tutorials where I think early on a couple of years ago, it would have been I'll show you click here to set up an account, click this button to do this click. You get to a point where I think if you're on the other side of you, do you want to, do you need to see someone like, create an account on this tool?

Do you need to see that? Can you just assume some level of common sense and, and sort of tech proficiency when using a website, but sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

[00:03:36] Joel: It's interesting to think about that level of assumption too, because you're always kind of catering and it's like, this? Do we have to go back to square one? Every

[00:03:43] Ben Tossel: Yeah

[00:03:43] Joel: teach something or can we assume people log in with Google or whatever the mechanism might be, it can kind of jump to pass this account creation And I mean, video, like people obviously love it, right? Like. Exists and this, this, and, you know, and just video something that we all love and consume, but it's like a teaching style thing or how we like to consume or, or just the, almost like a Like for me, I can watch video on two X and, and.

But if it does not have two acts, it's like, I'm not even going to sit down with it. And I don't know if that's impatience or what, but like the, the medium itself is aggravating to me, just because of sheer speed, where texts, I can just scan and kind of jump to what I want and visually map it out or whatever, like pattern matching.

[00:04:31] Ben Tossel: Yeah, no, I'm, I'm definitely, I'm exactly the same with video, especially on YouTube. If I'm looking for a recipe to cook something, I like open the transcripts of the YouTube video. Cause I think every YouTube video automatically has one now. And you can just skip to those bets and then scrubbed through and miss all this or fluff bits that you actually don't don't need.

[00:04:51] Joel: How do you describe maker pad as a platform?

The problem with the term "no-code"

[00:04:54] Ben Tossel: I think it's changed every three, six months probably. It's it started as a learning community for one to be founders, want to be, entrepreneurs were a little unique in that we teach like no code and no code as a tool. It has become semi-popular over the last couple of years. I don't know if we had anything to do with that, but if we did, I would have chosen something, a different term for it.

So it's difficult because if we want to say, make part is the place to learn no code you've automatically alienated everyone. Who's never heard of no code and people. I think if we're trying to do. The every day people, which I think we are like my mum wouldn't type in how to build a website with code or without code in Google.

She would just type how build a website.

[00:05:42] Joel: Yeah

[00:05:43] Ben Tossel: so there are things we're constantly playing with and thinking around what is sort of to build projects. You can build a business, you can automate world. You don't have to code. And it's just, there's not like a really catchy one-liner in there that we really love and think that we own.

So yeah, I mean, there'll be another one out on our homepage in a few weeks. I'm sure. So I'll call I'll message you about.

[00:06:06] Joel: So I I'm, I'm in like, I'm a code maximalist, right? Like I will spin up and build up a full stack backend. And to me, like this idea of no or low code or, you know, like whatever you want to describe it is it's almost like a stepping stone and just a smart way to go about things that, that saves time and kind of removes a lot of technical complexity.

Cause frankly, No code is a misnomer. Like it's like as a user, it's code, but there is a ton of code actually getting run behind the scenes. And I was talking to Quincy Larson and he's talking about, you know, the future where it star track and you're, you're the captain on the deck and you just ask the computer to do something and it happens.

and you know, like that kind of future is actually pretty interesting to me where we democratize this ability to create or build something and you don't have to. We have learned how to program computers at a syntax level. And didn't, you know, like I, I assume that's kind of the goal, right? Like we want to build something.

We want to get it out there in the world and not have to learn JavaScript to be able to produce anything at all.

[00:07:08] Ben Tossel: Yeah, I think it's just, it's an obstruction, right? So it's just not touching the actual code. You just touching a UI layer on top of that, that ultimately creates the same code that a developer might when they're spinning up a similar site. And like you said, there's a lot of, or there has been conversations around code versus no code.

But that's not like that's completely missing the point. I think it's, they're all on the same spectrum of creating software. Like creating something with software, whereas no, but the no code, but it's just a very, very beginning, but they're really entry-level stuff. And then as you graduate, you start playing with web hooks and API APIs and things like that.

And then. Like easy slope into actually you want to now write a script for your site. You want to know like, start doing that and then you start learning. You can start learning to code that way quite easily. I think I've seen many people doing that, especially on like the advanced, when they need to push it a bit further, which I'm sure we get on to.

Yeah. I didn't see it as a one versus the other. Yeah, it's just an obstruction.

[00:08:08] Joel: When somebody comes to you, like a learner comes to make her pad, what kind of difference are they? Generally seeking in their lives. Have you noticed patterns? Like what are they trying to accomplish or what difference are they trying to achieve?

Reducing barriers to starting online businesses

[00:08:21] Ben Tossel: It definitely was. The people who are told, oh yeah, cool idea. You should go learn to code or go find a technical co-founder is generally what the sort of ideas people usually are in the conversation of let's start to start to pay you, talk to your friend and say, I've got a really good idea for a startup.

I'm not technical. I'm not sure how to build it. I'll go to an agency or whatever. It's like, sort of at that point, no coach should be the fit to me should be the first. Sort of thing to do. It's I've got this idea. It's basically behind the herd. Exactly. Like Airbnb, there's a form, there's a email sequence.

There's like a UI where you can filter stuff. The first thing shouldn't be like, I need to save a hundred thousand dollars to hire a developer to do it. It shouldn't be right. I'll start learning to code in nine months. I'll be able to build a really, really shitty version of this. It should be. Let me just spin this up.

See what it looks like and how, how it could actually work. So I think it's like the con, like what we said before with like copying or borrow borrowing features and things from other companies, lots of websites could be grouped into very similar mechanics, right? ache head and make a pad could broadly be put into the same category of a learning platform.

yours is built with code. Ours is built with no code. They still do similar things or have similar features. Obviously we don't have as advanced features, but it's still like I can spin that up quite quickly. And it's the same for most, most ideas really.

[00:10:00] Joel: It took me six years to learn how to program computers, not nine months before I was able to, to do something like a kid. So I think like that's a good point and it's interesting to me because over, over time, we've actually. Migrated away from the code maximalist and use more kind of no low code to tools because our entire team isn't, you know, experienced programmers and it's like, if they want to add to it or build it, it's like it opens it up to them as well, which is another kind of interesting advantage of, of the.

Like just these services, cause they're taking patterns, right? Like I, I assume. And that's what we're talking about is these patterns, like the general shape of a learning platform, so we can combine these services and you get that shape and, and you know, like, you're going to end up with some customization maybe that you can do or need to expand on, but you can get to that MVP, right?

Like this, this point of, of being able to produce something and ship it into the world with. You know, needing all that and that kind of overhead up front and actually see if people are interested, because I think that's a big, you know, like the underlying theme too, is like you, if you build something and nobody cares you've wasted hundred thousand dollars and two years of your life making something that nobody's even interested in that's a different discussion, but it's also, it hurts pretty, pretty severely to do that.

And it happens all the time.

[00:11:15] Ben Tossel: Yeah, I think that that's an interesting thing that. I don't know if no code is sort of a two-sided coin in that conversation, because I could build something in an afternoon or weekend, ship it on a Monday. No one gives a shit all week. Everyone gave terrible wifi feedback and said, this is awful. Like you need to change this.

I'd have. That weekend's worth of emotional attachment to that project. Whereas if I was coding something for six years, I'd be saying, this has to work like, or your 200 grand in with a development team you think, and this has to work and you're you're then going to not quickly pivot or be more open to feedback.

You're probably going to be thinking none of that. This is the idea I built was this. This needs to work no matter if the market would tell you a different way. So that's like, you can give up on those projects quite easily. But again, I think to be a successful entrepreneur, there is a perseverance, but also you probably need to be a bit clued up in and like seeing the signs either way it's like, is this worth persevering?

Or do I need to change?

A friendlier entrypoint into tech

[00:12:20] Joel: Have you noticed people's kind of worldviews or how they approach problems changing as they come in to make her pad and. Go through your curriculum and come out of the other side. How, how have people changed in, in practice?

[00:12:34] Ben Tossel: Yeah. So we do like a survey as they come in. We have a cohort course. I'm sure we'll get onto. So we do a survey at the start saying things like, how confident are you with knowing what tools to build your idea? If you have an idea, what tools you need to build them or coming up with those ideas or knowing how to put them together, or like building them and actually.

In the, in the open and the scores changed pretty dramatically from when they come in to when they finish, because we try and we try and make people ship like ship shit stuff. Like that's what we say build, just build crap, but just build anything. Because you need to have those reps and that feeling of opportunity together.

I've put it out there. Cool. Like that's not going to go anywhere. A recipe book of just my family meals. Isn't going to go gangbusters on the incident, but like, I've done it. I've gone through the motions. I sort of understand how to like put them together and then do all that stuff. So then that just becomes a bit of a muscle.

You start training, I suppose, where developers are probably. That's how a lot of them learn it's while you like, you build small little chunks of projects over time, and then, then you can put that altogether. So that's what we're trying to teach is it's not actually that scary to do it. But I think lots of people, they probably used that these of things as excuses to even start that building thing.

So we're trying to get over that too of like, no, I've got this one idea I want to build. So no one wants to do that. So you just don't want it to fail and they could build it, but they just, the too scared. And I think saying, okay, well, if that is, if you think that is your big business idea, I mean, we've seen it from the other side, but like, if that's what you think come up with five or 10 other ones before it, before you get to that building that last one then.

Cause that'll change. Definitely.

[00:14:22] Joel: And like iterating through the process,

[00:14:23] Ben Tossel: Yeah Yeah

[00:14:24] Joel: through maybe a more incremental. Have you had any like surprise success stories come out of mega pad students where it's just, they did something unexpected or otherwise succeeded beyond their own expectation?

[00:14:36] Ben Tossel: Yeah, there was a woman in one of our cohorts where Cindy and hope she doesn't mind. If you listen to this me telling her story But she's a really sweet, older lady who came and joined one of our cohorts and was like, I have no idea what no-code is, what any of the tools are, anything like, I don't know any of this.

And then she started getting through the cohort and really engaging, really like committing to learning this stuff, building stuff, and sharing with the group and everything else. So that was, that was awesome to see. And then she, she joined our last cohort as like a returning, returning student. And like in the middle of it, she was like, oh yeah.

So I wrote this script to get this thing going. And I was like, wait, Cindy, you've like, you've written a script, but I

can't even

write a script. Yeah. I was like, whoa, where that transformation has been. Like, that's just crazy. It's literally gone from zero to writing your own script fear on websites. So that to me, I was just like, that's crazy.

I never thought


[00:15:34] Joel: whole

[00:15:34] Ben Tossel: gave people those things

[00:15:36] Joel: too, right? Like that's completely changed the of what they can produce. They it's like a new superpower at the end of the day.

[00:15:44] Ben Tossel: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. And I think there's lots of, lots of things like that. There's a couple of people who sort of collaborated together. Then they started launching products. One of them was like, number one on product hunt and all of these types of things that are. Like, I think for big business people, it's like, they seem like small wins and they ask them what wins, but I think you need, I mean, I must've had 50 product launches under my belt before anything really actually stuck.

So I think you need those, those wins, whether it's however small or big to, to get there.


[00:16:21] Joel: So you mentioned cohorts, and I think there's a lot of different ways you can, you can approach like participation, like active learner participation and on egg head it's, it's totally self pay go in there and you watch it and like Netflix and then there's, you know, like live workshops and cohort based and what y'all are focused on, on cohort base.

And, and how has that contributed to the success of, of learners coming into.

[00:16:45] Ben Tossel: I think it's really difficult because I think cohort-based courses had had, or are having their moment in a world of everyone is stuck at home on zoom. People wanted like a connection. So I think it, it all ties in very nicely with, oh, I've got a cohort and I've got a cohort and I've got a cohort. And I've never done one.

So when we started to say, well, we'll just teach one and we'll see how it goes. And we'll learn from that. And I think we're on our sixth one now, and they are interesting. I don't know, like I can't tell which is my favorite, like path of education to. How does a business? I can't, I don't know if it's self-paced because there's all the talk about non-completion rates and all of that stuff, or whether I like the live element.

Because like sometimes it's, it's up to the group, whether how successful that cohort is, if that cohort are happy to be quiet and not share and not really want to like dive in, like Cindy did. Then it could be a lot quieter and it's, it's a hard, it's a hard job. It's very taxing to like do a five-week cohorts, be sort of the entertainer, every session and go get people in and go do icebreakers.

You got to like try and force that connection straight away. So they're interesting, but the people who do commit to them get so much out of them, like Cindy, that, that, that you can't argue with that. I don't know if she would've got there, had it not been for the live cohort.

[00:18:12] Joel: Like when it

[00:18:12] Ben Tossel: So

[00:18:12] Joel: you have active participatory learners, like that's where the magic happens and you can get something really special and kind of evolve out of that. But if it's, you know, a bunch of people that aren't really into it, It probably is just, it's almost sad at that point, I would think, or just difficult, right?

Like it's just

[00:18:30] Ben Tossel: yeah

[00:18:31] Joel: get a room of people that don't want to talk to, to talk and opening that up. And there's, I think there's a challenge in facilitating too. And I like to. I liken it to Dungeons and dragons. A lot of times where you have to, know, the game, master the person running it, that's setting up the module, doing the research and showing up and getting everybody else interested is like the key to success and bringing those people in and all that stuff.

And, and, you know, that often works, but sometimes it's not enough and that's, that's that's a real challenge for sure.


[00:19:01] Ben Tossel: yeah. And I think Yeah, they just grew people. I'm actually monthly.com. They've got a bunch of different courses. And I think the Casey Neistat one is on now. And I signed up to it just to sort of see behind the hood of what that cohort looked like. So there's no live elements there, but they group you with like a peer, like a group of 20 others.

And I think this, what you're saying is sort of just your, your giving them. Impression that straight away you've like, you have a connection with these other people. You have this sort of almost a duty to get involved, so they don't feel let down and you're helping each other out. So that accountability and connection is happening.

It's just not that forced live. We're here now on a Tuesday at 9:00 AM to like putting you into breakout rooms. So I do wonder how, like, does that live zoom breakout bit need to be happening? Or is it actually just, if you connect people together in a group, like through discord and slack and all of that stuff and

Copying the good stuff as a design philosophy

[00:19:57] Joel: You know, like, and I think that there's, you know, They're both are valid and there's, there's, you know, like, like if you can do that and you can provide and you help some people and people sign up and that works. That's that's great. I am curious, like, what's something I'm very curious about.


you have a, like a formal instructional design philosophy or strategy or, or prior like influence in that space?

[00:20:17] Ben Tossel: I don't actually, like, I read that question until I should come up with a good answer for this for just in general life. I should have one. Like, I feel like it should have looked into that, but I just, I haven't at all. I just I've done whatever I thought I, I would have wanted to see someone else do. And that's how, like, make it back in together and build again.

I just, again, copy from other people. I think I saw the guy's name. Chris from go rails was like one of the sites I saw and I said, well, oh, someone could live stream. I'd like, can screen record their, their stuff and just talk over it and put that up and behind a paywall. That's a business he's making like 15 grand a month at that time.

So that's how I started saying, I'll just do the same. I'll do a short video tutorial like that. And then you just see, see there's patterns out, like on, on other sites. But I haven't really sat down and thought of sort of that myself.

[00:21:15] Joel: And you're, you're not alone. And when we started AK it up through just even a few years ago, that was kind of our approach. And, and for me, the, you want a very pleasant and kind of thorough and world-class introduction to that space, Kathy Sierra is bad-ass is absolutely her book, badass making users.

Awesome. Is the best. Like instructional design, primmer that, that exists. It is fantastic. And really a great way to kind of open up into that

[00:21:41] Ben Tossel: Yeah. So I'll, I'll I'll look, I'll look up that. Cause I think, I wonder if like, to me it's always been a feeling of, this is how I learned. this is how I think we should teach it to be taught. Like this is how it should be taught. And then it's just been through yeah, whatever I thought peoples do differently.

People always do differently. People always don't read and people always don't let people skip things. And it's just things like that, that sort of throw you off a bit and think, oh, so we actually changed that thing because. We thought this, but people don't work like that or think like that and just assume this.

So something changes that way. Be able to read that book. Definitely.

[00:22:23] Joel: Yeah, another, another recent favorite is Rob Fitzpatrick's. He has, it's called the workshop survival guide and how to write useful books. And Rob's done this like amazing job of really capturing a lot of this kind of theory and practical ways to that. It's fun when you've been doing this for a long time, and then you can read something that's like, wow, like starting only accurate.

And I wish I had this 10 years ago kind

of smack in the

face and that's what he's done. So. You're sitting around and you decided to build your own platform instead of just using something off the shelf, because there's, you know, there's, there's platforms like teachable and podia and these sorts of things.

The learning platform

[00:22:57] Joel: And, and you went for it and built your own platform. And what, what was kind of the trigger to DIY, and I'm assuming you're kind of using your no-code tools and stuff too. And the process to do that, but like, what was, what made you decide to build a platform instead of grabbing something off there at.

[00:23:16] Ben Tossel: Part of it initially, was this a challenge for me to build? Like I'd like to I'm teaching people how to build stuff with no code. I can't just use something off the shelf. I've got to show that the thing that they're using to learn no-code is the most impressive thing they've seen with no code. Like I needed to sort of talk my own game and I don't know if I just like.

Had the skills to build what I feel like was anything at the time, like, I know no code, I can do anything. I feel like I can build this platform myself. You always automatically think, oh, I want to do this thing. I'll build that. I can just build it. I'll just put it that whole thing exactly how I want to do it.

And it'll be the exact things I want. And then when you try and use something else, that is the tool that has been built for that thing. You're like, oh, I just wish that was slightly different because I would have done it like this. And I'm trying, I've been trying to like stop saying, I'll just build it and then actually building it, like I've tried, I've tried to stop myself doing that because there are all these tools out there that do the right jobs for a lots of these things and they lost them need to be like 80% of what you would have thought anyway.

But often it was things that I just wanted a bit more control over exactly how it would look. Exactly where certain things would go and yeah, some of it was just testing myself. But yeah, there's, there's tons. I mean, we use disco now for our cohorts. We did a first cohort with just air table, slack notion.

And that's how we did it. We just had the content in an ocean doc and that was like set up that way. So, I mean, there's so many different ways to do it too, but yeah, we use disco for that for the cohort piece.

[00:25:00] Joel: I was going to ask, I was wondering if you were starting today and you you're going to build you're going to launch a course or, you know, launch a learning platform of your own design to teach your expertise, how would you approach. Today, and that might be different from how you approached it.

When, when you first started thinking about maker path,

[00:25:18] Ben Tossel: Well, I found out yesterday, I sat, I sat in the video to my team yesterday. The Google has something called Google classroom, which lets people sign up, take your course assignments, submit them. You can mark them as comments on there. You can have any type of media in their YouTube videos, texts. All of that stuff all basically free and it all looks quite clean and nice.

And it's an easy sign-in experience. Cause it's not another thing someone has to sign into necessarily a lot of people be able to sign in easily to that. And I couldn't believe that I just like being someone who has a course platform, I just had no idea that that existed. And that would have, like, to me, if I was doing that tomorrow, I'd probably just set something up in that have a landing page in web flow.

When you've paid, you get an email that links you to that, that Google classroom. And that's how I do it.

[00:26:15] Joel: My child's Montessori school actually uses that. And I never, before you just mentioned it, thought about using it for anything outside of my child's Montessori school communications that we, we have to use as parents. That's that's pretty wild actually. I'm going

[00:26:29] Ben Tossel: look

[00:26:30] Joel: for sure.


[00:26:30] Ben Tossel: you definitely,

[00:26:32] Joel: other thing I like, I love notion, and we we've been using notion as a prototype platform. So when we're like beta testing courses and doing that sort of thing, Yeah, put it in notion and kind of have the content there because people can leave comments and do stuff. And it's great.

But, but that's,

Is definitely an interesting option. And I assume, I don't know that that's probably something that evolved out of the whole global situation too, they've put resources into that and kind of, of bringing

[00:26:58] Ben Tossel: Yeah

[00:26:58] Joel: into the Google sphere.

[00:27:00] Ben Tossel: Yeah. they must've been, yeah, we do the same with our content before it's ready. It's all in notion. Everything's like a toggled lesson and just go through it that way. Yeah. It's very easy to just do that and get feedback and tweak stuff. So that's how we plan it and then

upload it

[00:27:14] Joel: generous guest policies too. Like a lot of, you know, like, like cost is an issue and in a lot of these platforms, just, but you start talking about air table and stuff and it gets like extremely expensive. If you're, you're bringing a lot of people into it and notion has one of the most generous and just kind of guest approaches that I've I've experienced.

I wonder at some point, if they'll change.

[00:27:36] Ben Tossel: Yeah.

I think they would say made, I think it was more, it was less, less like this previously, and then they've made it more open, I guess. Cause they know people are going to sign up. So

[00:27:47] Joel: what's a, what's a, a challenge that stands out over, over the years. So far running a learning plan.

[00:27:54] Ben Tossel: I don't know if it was a very good business. I don't know if running a learning platform is a very good business. Only, I mean, to me, that feels like you always have to go the route of something like you, to me, where you have an open thing, people can put their own courses up, you take a cup, you get loads of venture money to build this huge platform.

And it's like very transactional. You're just trying to get people in and you're taking cuts from, from other people.

[00:28:22] Joel: 9 99 this week.

[00:28:24] Ben Tossel: Yeah, exactly. So it feels like there's a few, there's quite a few of those types of platforms or there's the other, other side, which is more, I guess, where we are, which is like Codeacademy egg head.

Those types of platforms are more, this is a single site. You sign up, you learn here.

[00:28:40] Joel: It seems like often a path and in that room,

Pricing model

[00:28:44] Ben Tossel: Yeah. And it happens. Yeah. Lots of these get swallowed up and bought. And we were, we were bought by Zapier, but we were allowed to do our own thing and run independently because it's not,

[00:28:54] Joel: I

[00:28:54] Ben Tossel: we're not happy trait

[00:28:55] Joel: of changes actually, after, your acquisition.

[00:28:59] Ben Tossel: Yeah. We're not a Zapier training tool and they don't want us to be a Zapier training tool. And it's not, that's not the point of what, what it is and why we, why we joined forces. But to me, I just felt like. Learning is a very difficult thing to monetize because if I'm like, you want, you want subscription revenue because you want predictable revenue, but I never wanted to do subscriptions because I just didn't want the headache of thinking who's going to churn, why they're going to churn, how can I stop them churning?

So it felt like it was almost wasted energy thinking and trying to stop that when really I

should be trying

[00:29:36] Joel: never tried. Cause I agree with you and we're a subscription service and I've never focused on sharing. It's like,

[00:29:41] Ben Tossel: Yeah, I just, I felt like it would be a, it would just eat you up and think I'm spending so much time trying to stop someone from churning this year and they might do it next year, but I've got them thinking of all that stuff. So to me, I was like, it's odd. And also if I sign up for something to learn, learn something and I it'll charge me again next month, if life gets in the way, my job kids, whatever it is.

And I haven't done something. Am I going to pay for it next month? No, I'm just going to cancel it straight away and think I'll just do that. I'll pick that up again when I've got time and it'll just be the same cycle might happen. I might sign up three times. So that feels like an odd thing to me. So we never did monthly subscriptions.

We did a lifetime plan, which was me thinking, I don't think people would stick around for two years or more. Initially. So I'm going to charge them over what two years will cost. So then we get that revenue upfront. It's good for cashflow when I'm bootstrapping. And that's sort of how we, how we started.

We just started with the lifetime and started increasing that up to like $600. And we then introduced a yearly subscription as well, cause people were asking for it and then it could, that could be, that was like $200. And it's. Yeah, it just, it's one of those things that I just find again, if I haven't used something in that one year, or I can't remember hanging around and make a pad building stuff with no code for a considerable amount of time that year I'm going to renew my Netflix and everything else first.

And then I'm not sure maybe I'll do makeup art. I'm not, I've learned my notebooks stuff now. Maybe I don't need it. So we're always battling with that or I certainly was. And I think like, we always want people to graduate and say, yeah, you, you know how to use no code now.

Like yeah we can

[00:31:29] Joel: or whatever that

[00:31:30] Ben Tossel: Yeah

[00:31:30] Joel: with. They wanted to build a business. So they want to do something in their life that was different. And they've achieved that. And, you know, like completing new courses doesn't necessarily add to that original goal that they set out to achieve to begin with.

[00:31:43] Ben Tossel: Yeah. And, and those people, if we then start building tutorials for that sort of person who have they've graduated, they know how to build something like makeup pad. They want to deal with web hooks, APRs and all of this really complex niche stuff for advanced no coders, which is the niche of the niche, niche things.

Yeah, just serving a small amount of people, whereas you should. I, what I did early on was just, I built tutorials as I was learning. So my tutorials were getting more advanced as I was getting more advanced. In my teaching. And then I was like, wait a second. I forgot everyone who never heard of no good before.

So we're trying to make sure that we are now getting the biggest piece in that front, front weight, that piece. And just have enough that people who can build stuff just want to stick around to build stuff and talk about, oh, that's impressive. I like to figure this thing out rather than I'm here to learn the next thing what's next.

[00:32:37] Joel: Yeah. And I mean, like with egghead, our, our kind of business model is on the fact that there's a constant. The space and web development is ever evolving, and there's always something new to learn to stay ahead of, of, of where you're at and that, and it works and like we've avoided being gobbled up over the years and kind of intentionally on my part.

I've chased away potential investors for, for years and years, just as, as like a stubborn refusal. And working on the problem myself. Like they're like, I want to go back cause they're like the, it is a good business. But it is not like a guaranteed business, right? Like you can sit down and you can, you can build an education company and succeed, you know, you can launch a course and succeed.

You don't have to build an entire company or platform. Right. Like you can just like, teach what, you know, and put it out there on the internet and have some measure of success. It's just how you, you measure that. Whether it's revenue or, helping as many people as possible, like there's all sorts of ways to kind of slice up the idea of success.

One thing I wanted

[00:33:33] Ben Tossel: Yeah

[00:33:33] Joel: I thought it was interesting. And you're talking about subscriptions and going back and like, how do you price things? Cause that's always a very, you know, like how much do I charge per month? How much do I charge for this? And, and I, over the years over, you know, almost a full decade of doing this and having a subscription, but yeah.

Like at this point, we know like the customer lifetime value, right? Like, and you take the customer lifetime value and multiply that by 50%, like add 50% on top of that. And instead of a subscription, why not just charge a flat fee, right? Like you ended up like, just give them the lifetime because then they can just access it whenever.

I mean, that really struck me. I saw that somebody said, well, if you know the customer lifetime value, why not just charge that upfront instead of. like dealing with the recurring billing and all that. And I thought that was a really interesting way to think

[00:34:17] Ben Tossel: Yeah so

[00:34:18] Joel: Versus. I don't know, people expect it to like people expect subscriptions or expect a certain thing.

And you know, like if you're not giving that and they want it, then like, sure, here, here you go and up. And it is pricing is very difficult. Like, what is this work worth? And what is it, what kind of value is it bringing to them? And like in your case, if somebody succeeds at pad, right? Like if they succeed in doing what they set out to do the return on their initial investment, whatever hundreds of dollars that is, is. Just bonkers. Like I think I credit Amy, Hoy's 30 by 500 for a lot of our kind of We established our business early. And I remember having like a family meeting about the $1,200 that course costed. And we just like this year broke the $30 million in revenue mark from.

[00:35:05] Ben Tossel: Okay

[00:35:06] Joel: course, that kind of like was the that ignited the entire thing.

And to me, it's like, that's amazing, but it's like, that's also, you know, if you look at the bell curve, it's definitely on the outlier side of it. Most people just kind of drop out at the, like, never really doing anything side of it. So always a

[00:35:23] Ben Tossel: Yeah.

Yeah. I mean, yeah, the price stuff is crazy. That's just how I thought about it. I was like, why would I want to have to like sign up for something for hundreds of dollars a year? I was like, oh, just pay once. And that'd be awesome. I think I've seen a few, like make us, do I think Peter levels with no bad lists tried it.

And yeah, I just, I thought, well, I think people would stick around for like, they'll maybe do two years, but I think after that it will be a struggle to keep them here for the reasons I outlined. I think that, yeah, she said, okay, well do two years plus a hundred dollars. How's that as a lifetime, if people are happy to pay that, I've not forced them to I've given them the yearly up.

And it was just overwhelmingly people would do lifetime. They would just, it was like 60, 70% would do lifetime. And often it's the people who are doing yearly, sign up, get the video they wanted and then they're off. Like, that's all we wanted anyway. So, yeah,

that's interesting too but D

[00:36:19] Joel: is a subscription site with a royalty aspect that has been. That's that adds a whole like financial twist to the entire thing with an evergreen roster of, of content and folks that you pay it out. That's been what you ended up having is you ended up building an accounting platform versus.

You know, like, like the stuff you actually want to look at. And when I had that realization that I had built an accounting platform I was really I never set out to do that. Like never in my life, what I set out to build an accounting platform exist and, you know, bless them for their service. But yeah, it's, it's a interesting realization when you wake up one morning and realize what you built.

[00:36:54] Ben Tossel: Yeah, I bet you were thrilled. Do I say I'm happy to hear you say that, but I am happy to hear you say that because so many times I looked at the, like how to produce on okay. Sites like just copied and pasted all of your stuff, put it into notion and thought, right. We're going to have a platform similar.

We'll pay out people. That's how you can get content in. This is how we're going to do it. And I was always, always trying to figure out a way that that could work. And I was like, I just, just feels too messy and it feels too difficult. And it just, especially, I think probably the blessing of the NOCCA.

Stack them was what you're really going to have to stick all these things together. And it's going to probably break quite a lot and you're going to have to maintain this. And I was too lazy to think I'm happy to do that. And we just never, never went down the path of we'll do royalties. So now you saying that I'm like, okay, good.

That was a good either forced like obstacle that I took. So.

[00:37:50] Joel: Yeah. And, and it's like, there's a, there's a whole. There's this thing called the ethical pool, like royalty pools are flawed just by nature and you can search F F ethical pool. And it's mostly related to music and Spotify streaming and as the pool grows, it, it dilutes. And like it's a whole, it's like a math mess at the end of the

[00:38:09] Ben Tossel: Yeah

[00:38:10] Joel: you know, like get into math messes. And we just like took Spotify as algorithm is how we originally did the And it's still how it is today. And it's. Versus the other approach that we take where it's like, we have a chorus. And it's a partnership with a single person, so, and the one-off sale and using that one-off sale price instead of a subscription where with a subscription, you, you know, like it's every month you're having to pay a bunch of people based on a percentage versus like one-off sales where it's like, okay, we sold X dollars a month.

You get your cut, we get our cut. Thanks for doing business as. Great. And it's a lot less complicated than the, like creating a, a marketplace, a royalty driven marketplace, which has been an interesting challenge and I'm still all for it and we're going to continue, but as we of spin up other other products in, in using the same methodology, that's one thing that we've, we've dropped to the wayside.

Cause it's, it's really quite complex. And You know, is there a no-code accounting platform? I don't think so. Like, you're going to be full code at that point. So,

[00:39:10] Ben Tossel: Yeah.

exactly. It just like a, sounds like a headache. No.

The high limits of no-code

[00:39:13] Joel: Then that's a, that's a, this is my last question. And I want to know, like, at what point do you hit the limits of no code? Have you hit those limits and when do you have to, know, break it out and start like building custom? Or, or is it something you think you can get away with? Perpetual.

[00:39:29] Ben Tossel: I mean, you can get away with it for a long, long time, I think. And I think it's a lot longer than people think. I mean we're three years. Yeah. Three years old. Oh, you know, that's not a long, that's not a long I've saga for business. Yeah. I guess. And that like tens of thousands of users, like hundreds of thousands, Dollars in revenue nothing's ever like the site's never gone down for any reason, other than like a CloudFlare issue or whatever.

Things, things break, but like they do on every side, there's bugs here, there, and everywhere. But we did have a point where, so we use Webflow and we use SCMS CMS for all of our tutorial content and things are slow on our side because we just have so much content and it's just, yeah, it's slow. But as our.

Like maturity as a company, the amount of content and stuff was increasing over time, sort of web flow is getting better over time too. And they're trying to, they want you to be able to do everything without code, because that's, there's no better, like there's no better promo for their business to say that this whole thing's built on web flow.

So they're always working on new things. And then you got a membership beta out now and all of that stuff to help. Like sort of relieve some of the other tools added to the stack. But we, yeah. Cause, cause we have the CMS, we had all of our users in that CMS cause I was desperate and adamant to have everyone have a public facing profile.

So you could show what tools you used and what tutorials you've completed and all of that stuff. I just wanted that really, really badly. And the only way we could figure it out was to have the web of CMS. And then we got to the 10,000 CMS limits. Then we had to think, right, well, what are we going to do?

Cause this, we can't do this. I hired a developer and we worked on sort of linking the web flow site with Firebase. So then there was like one profile page and it was like dynamically being wounded by. Data on Firebase. So we tried that for a bit as well. And then it was just like, well, it's too dark.

No one was really using the feature. Anyway. It was just something I was adamant to build. I wanted that thing. It felt like one of the things that had to be in a platform like ours Yeah. So we got rid of that and then went back to all, no code at the moment and still haven't ever figured out the profile piece of where we would do that.

So when Buffalo said the membership stuff, that that was exciting, but yeah, we'll, we'll see how, how that goes. But yeah, you can build a lot of things with no code. I think it's. I'm not gonna pretend that you can do everything because I don't want a load of developers coming off to me, but you can certainly do, like, you can run a successful business.

You could run a run like millions of dollars through it. There's. Like there's so much you can do other than like, just MVP, you got a website up and people can give you their email. It's like, there's so much more than that. So I don't want, I don't like when people, people just sort of brush it off as that.

But yeah, there's, we're always going to need, need developers. We need the developers to build the tools that we're using.

[00:42:28] Joel: Yeah. I

[00:42:29] Ben Tossel: Like no Cody

[00:42:30] Joel: itself was going to need an army of, of develop.

[00:42:33] Ben Tossel: Yeah

[00:42:33] Joel: the scenes doing that for, for sure. I think like, in, in particular, if you're talking about building course platforms or delivering like an educational content, or if you're an expert and you want to like share your knowledge and charge people an entry fee, I think like the no-code stack has.

So you'd like that level of application development is, is very prime for, for the space and, and something, you know, like even now, as I'm, I'm thinking about starting up another, like a. Course and think about what platform and I have, you know, this, this bespoke platform I built, I'm intentionally not using my platform and tools that I've had at my disposal and thinking about it, like, okay, I want to do this.

Like, how would I do this if I didn't have all that at my disposal. And that's of where this conversation actually stem from is like, I want to like, think about and teaching, you know, from the perspective of, I don't have a bunch of, you know, like a full stack that I've, I've just. But stuck millions of dollars into building stack and I love it and it's very effective, but like, what would I do if I didn't have that today?

And, and, and, you know, like in 2022, so that's, that's been an approach I've been thinking about too, and, and it's, it's really cool to see what you built and what other people are building and can build without getting into, you know, like opening up a code editor and the terminology and firing up databases and doing all that stuff.

It's really fascinating to me and awesome.

[00:44:00] Ben Tossel: Yeah, no, I appreciate that. Yeah. I mean, I think of that every, probably three months, much to the delight of my team. It's if we were going to start this all from scratch, we, if we deleted everything. What would we do? Are we teaching things in the right way? Should we do this? You don't do that. So we are actually making some changes soon.

Cause I've even seen things like free code camp is just such a simple, I can see their TMS structure would be so simple because everything classes is that the same type of content they've got their Doug structure curriculum. And it's just even things like the student directory just takes you to the LinkedIn.

But you don't have to build your own. I said this earlier, but you don't have to build the thing. Not everything has to be built from scratch and has to have all of your

touches on it

[00:44:47] Joel: built from scratch and probably, you know, like,

[00:44:49] Ben Tossel: exactly

[00:44:50] Joel: I'm not telling anybody how to live their lives, but like you can make your life a little easier and maybe like

Value to the people you're trying to help in the first place quicker and to like prove out your ideas and reach what you have set out in terms of success in a way that I don't know isn't as painful or expensive or time consuming, you know, kind of get on with your life.

[00:45:12] Ben Tossel: Yeah, but I think again, it's one of those procrastination things that people use to say, no, this, this platform is different though. This, the course I'm trying to do is actually very different to what other like teachable and all these others can, can give me. And it won't be the same. Melissa can be this way.

And really, no, your idea is not that unique. Just get on with it and use the tools on there. That's yeah.

[00:45:32] Joel: I am a snowflake, Ben. I really appreciate it. I thank you. Thank you for building maker pad and kind of enabling this. Cause I think it's a a value add to the world and I hope more people like get in there and explore and

Build and create using these tools because it's, it's really does open up

a lot of opportunity.

I really appreciate it. Thanks very much.

[00:45:52] Ben Tossel: I really appreciate it.

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