The Indie Hackers Podcast April 12, 2019

From Fireman to First-Time Founder with Matt Verlaque of UpLaunch

Episode #089

Matt Verlaque (@MattVerlaque) is no stranger to hard work. But when he decided to leave his job as a fireman to build a tech business, he embarked on a path of learning and uncertainty very different than the world he'd known. In this interview, Matt tells the story behind how met his cofounder Jake, came up with a business idea, learned how to code, overcame a stagnant business model that wasn't working, and built a profitable business that generates over $65,000/month in revenue as a first-time founder.

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    Great episode! @MattVerlaque I'm curious how you managed to bootstrap a business for a couple years while also (I'm assuming) supporting your wife and children. Any tips or insights to share there?

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      Hey Daniel! My wife works nights in a hospital, and I was on rotating 24 hour shifts at the time in the fire department. Basically, one of us would have the kids while the other worked our full time jobs, and we would get some help from family members to help watch the kiddos when we BOTH had to go to work.

      As far as the business goes, I would carve out as much time as I could on days when I wasn't at the firehouse, and would do my focus work (mostly coding at that stage) from 8pm when the kids went to bed until about 2am.

      It was a very complicated way to live and didn't result in a very balanced lifestyle...but I think that it's important to know WHY you're doing something like that, and for HOW LONG you'll be willing to do it.

      Starting a business while ONLY working 40 hours a week is a great goal, but not achievable in many situations. The above lifestyle resulted in 100-ish hour weeks between both of my jobs, and required a ton of sacrifice on my wife's part as well, such as taking the kids after she got done working a night shift.

      It was a calculated short term sacrifice, though - 100 hours weeks aren't sustainable for more than a year or two, no matter how many #hustle #grind tags people post on Instagram haha.

      Hope that helped!

      Matt

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        @mattverlaque Yep — thank you! Best of luck going forward :)

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        Thanks for sharing!!!

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    AWESOME episode! The most interesting founders are the modest and honest with simple and direct answers. Thanks a lot.

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      Sorry I missed this comment - thanks so much for listening to the episode @pablog!!

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    I smiled a lot when hearing this talk. Very inspiring and honest, thanks, Matt

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      Any time, thanks so much for listening!

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    @MattVerlaque really enjoyed listening to your podcast. Just hearing you even for an hour, I can tell you carry your business with full of integrity.

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      Thanks so much for the listen! Truly appreciate it 🙏

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    Very inspiring story and congrats to you Matt!

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      Thank you for checking it out!

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    My Main Takeaways:

    • Matt worked as a Fireman for 10 years (he loved his job). Matt met his co-founder (Jake) who was also a Fireman, he learned to code, then left his job as a Fireman, and bootstrapped UpLaunch to over $60k per month in ~1.5 years.

    • Solve your own problems: Matt and Jake (co-founder), got the idea for UpLaunch because Jake ran a crossfit gym alongside his work as a Fireman. They’d both spend time doing marketing and outreach for Jake’s crossfit gym, and then the idea for UpLaunch was born.

    • If you believe in it, take the risk and avoid regret: Matt’s initial plan was to work 33 years as a Fireman and retire with a nice pension. But he decided to take the shot at a fitness startup because he didn’t want to regret it.

    • Sometimes you’ll have to build it from scratch, so learning code is an advantage: Matt didn’t want to start a software company, he wanted to be more of a consultancy and leverage what was already out there to see if he could put something together, but no such tool existed, so he had to build his own.

    • Have a co-founder that complements your skills: Jake is the idea guy, and Matt is the implementor. This is one of the reasons they have a great relationship, says Matt.

    • Narrow down your business plan: Their first business plan was very big and broad, so they had to narrow it down.

    • Find a blue ocean: They refined their business plan by identifying gaps in the fitness market that they could fill. And they focused on online marketing automation.

    • Validate with payment as soon as possible: They pre-sold about 60 subscriptions to their fitness marketing platform.

    • Know how to code if you’re short on funds: Matt did a coding bootcamp called The Firehose Project that he highly recommends.

    • You don’t have to go to college: Matt didn’t enjoy high school and dropped out of college after 1 year.

    • Matt considers himself more of a people-person.

    • Go out to places and meet people: Matt met his CTO while attending a coding bootcamp.

    • When you can, hire people better than you: Matt no longer codes, he just hires people who are better than him to do it.

    • Enjoy learning: Despite not enjoying school, Matt enjoys learning. He just didn’t have the patience to sit through something he doesn’t feel like he would immediately need.

    • When you hit a plateau, switch things up: They hit a plateau at ~$20k MRR for about 4 months. So, they were advised to switch things up and did a hard pivot.

    • It’s all about relationships with your early customers: Talk to them, listen to them, “having a strong personal relationship with our early adopters kept us alive” ~ Matt

    • Relate to your customer’s pain: This helped them presell about 60 subscriptions, since they first identified an existing pain themselves, and then others.

    • Join mentoring groups: Matt and Jake were part of a mentoring group called “SaaS Academy" by Dan Martell which consists of a lot of “rock-solid” sales and marketing playbooks. They highly recommend this.

    • “Your product has to be a pain-killer, not a vitamin” ~ Dan Martell

    • Learn by doing: Accept that you will suck for a while, but you will improve if you stay consistent.

    • Establish company principles

    • Cultivate a strong Work-Ethic: Matt says that his superpower is his strong work ethic ”It’s not about being smarter than everyone around you, it’s about working harder than everyone around you” ~ Matt

    • Advice for beginners: Just do it, you don’t need to quit your job, you can try and validate ideas on the side. However, not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship on an emotional level, you may have great skills and credentials but it takes much more than smarts.

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