Episode · August 29, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

A Very Soft Launch

[Unedited Transcript]

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] Richard!

Rich Ziade: Paul Ford, it’s good to see

Paul Ford: What’s new?

Rich Ziade: Not too much.

Paul Ford: Good, good, just kind of roll along, just living your life.

Rich Ziade: No, this is uh, it’s an important week for us.

Paul Ford: It is.

Rich Ziade: We have been… Telling people about this great thing that they can’t touch or see for almost a year

Paul Ford: This is the closest I’ve ever come to serious mental illness. The state of this product and having to, having to talk about it.

Rich Ziade: Oh, we can’t even, yeah,

Paul Ford: let’s get into it.

Rich Ziade: get into it.

Paul Ford: It’s launch day.

Rich Ziade: It’s launch week as I like to call it, but you can call it

Paul Ford: Launch, launch year. [00:01:00] Um, so first of all, okay. We have a product, it’s called Aboard. It’s like if you took the parts of Google Sheets that you manage data with and the best bookmarking engineer. you’ve ever seen and a little bit of, uh, Trello and a little bit of chat and put them all together and just made one sweet casserole of software.

Just delicious. And it’s really good, frankly, like people use it.

Rich Ziade: It’s very

Paul Ford: we have gaps, but hundreds of people have been in there regularly using it for several months and it’s now time to open the doors. Anyone can come in.

Rich Ziade: Anyone can sign up at Aboard. com. You can log in with your Google account or you could sign in from scratch. You can also log in with your Apple ID if you like. Um,

Paul Ford: a new marketing website that explains it a little more thoroughly. Like, we did all the stuff. We’re good at this part.

Rich Ziade: there is a lot there. Take your time on the marketing site. Um, read over how it can be [00:02:00] useful to you. Um, we are still in beta. Uh, it is still currently free.

Paul Ford: no, I thought we were done. We launched.

Rich Ziade: be in beta for another five years.

Paul Ford: Yeah, this is like Gmail. This is the thing. It’s… Launches used to be so exciting to me in my life.

Rich Ziade: Oh, I don’t think launches matter that

Paul Ford: They don’t, they don’t. And it used to be when I, like, like years ago, I’d be like, here goes the website, world’s gonna change!

Rich Ziade: Yeah, some of the best software I’ve ever used, um, got better later. Some of the best software I’ve

Paul Ford: all of the software gets better later, because then it actually meets its users.

Rich Ziade: it meets its users. And, and you know, I think people equate the launch of a software product, uh, like the launch of, uh, an album, dropping an album or the release of a movie, which is just…

It is an event. It is a moment, but all I have to say is Cyberpunk 2077? Is that

Paul Ford: Yeah, that was the one that, that’s, so, tell the people the story of [00:03:00] Cyberpunk 2077.

Rich Ziade: this was

Paul Ford: It’s a video

Rich Ziade: it’s a video game that looked,

Paul Ford: The Witcher, right? So like a really big studio.

Rich Ziade: Big Studio took a look at like, the computing power of GPUs and said, let’s make a game that can’t run well on any existing hardware unless you have the very… They just aimed for the moon. It was like, it was akin to like a movie director obsessing for way too long on a movie and going over budget.

Paul Ford: you know about this? Francis Ford Coppola is making one of these. Do you know about this? He’s making like a whole, it’s like a whole city, like he’s got a whole thing where he’s making this movie for years.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Uh, uh, Scorsese in Gangs of New York ran out of money, called the studio, decided to build downtown. Downtown New York City in Italy.

Paul Ford: Yeah, this, this, what do you think about that movie?[00:04:00]

Rich Ziade: I think that’s a very good movie. I think it’s a ridiculous movie.

Paul Ford: saw it in the theater and it was like, what the hell? What is happening? Yeah,

Rich Ziade: Look, there is a comic book quality to Scorsese movies that is just what it is. But we’re not going to get into that. But what happened to Cyberpunk? It was a mess. It was buggy. It was really buggy. And

Paul Ford: let’s be clear, the users are gamers.

Rich Ziade: gamers, I mean, if you look historically, um, The software, the quality insurance around games used to have to be airtight because you were shipping physical CDs and DVDs to…

Paul Ford: The worst people in the world.

Rich Ziade: You can’t just patch it the next week.

Paul Ford: just patch it today. The worst people in the world. Yeah.

Rich Ziade: So this game comes out, it’s a sloppy mess, it’s buggy, it’s weird, but… They kept at it, credit to them. I think there was a major update that was almost as big of an announcement as the game, like five months later or whatever it was, that kind of [00:05:00] ironed out a lot of the stuff.

And now that game has an avid following. It’s a very cinematic, beautiful game. Uh, it’s for adults. It’s like, it’s like a movie. I mean, and you know,

Paul Ford: Well, this is what’s tricky, right? So you think about a game, and you think about it as an artifact. It’s actually a platform. Like, they’re going to keep doing Cyberpunk 2077 stuff

Rich Ziade: fact, you can buy add ons and mods, and there’s all, it’s a community that’s just sort of taking the thing

Paul Ford: So there’s tremendous tension in the gaming community because you’re trying to ship this entire platform, but people just want to be able to run around and grab all the loot, right? And so, obviously our product doesn’t have that tension. We are shipping a platform. We’re shipping a data management tool at its core.

Rich Ziade: and, and look, I think you have to come to peace with two things. Three things. Number one, nobody cares.

Paul Ford: No, this is [00:06:00] what’s amazing.

Rich Ziade: you’re not gonna plaster this on Times Square. Nobody cares, right? And so don’t take that personally. That has nothing to do with it, because your software is not going to land in living rooms and change people’s lives on day

Paul Ford: You know what is, you know what is exhausting though is like people getting in touch and they’re like, So it’s Squiggle with a mix of Flurrity Bloop. And I’m like, well, actually we, we’ve been thinking about it for quite a long time. So it’s not simply just those two things.

Rich Ziade: you, when strong opinions come in, very like… Assertive, as if almost, that’s a very promising sign. That means people are now appropriated this thing and are making it theirs and they feel emotionally invested in it. So number one, nobody cares. Nobody cares. Your job is to get them to care, by the way, over time and to become advocates of your product.

Number one, nobody cares. Number two…

Successful software, successful platforms, uh, are only partly due to [00:07:00] the software. There is very successful bad software in the world. There is very good

Paul Ford: Most of it. Most of the successful software is actually bad, buggy, difficult to use, doesn’t help you out.

Rich Ziade: And

Paul Ford: You have to watch like a four hour YouTube video to get good at

Rich Ziade: That’s right. And if you look back on the history of like the mega successes of software, they married two things. One was… You had to have software and flexibility around the software. But the other was you had to have that sales culture, that people connection culture that went out to the world.

Steve Ballmer is a huge, like is not the technologist at Microsoft, but he created the sales culture there. He created the idea of seeing success as connecting people to a thing rather than just. How many features got into Windows 98 or whatever it was. That pairing is huge. Benioff at Salesforce is pure people.

Paul Ford: Both of these are two of the most exhausting human beings who’ve ever lived. God [00:08:00] bless them, I mean, I think they’re great,

Rich Ziade: That’s true. And, and they, they, you know, Salesforce is probably a better example of someone that, like, really software has become very much secondary to the relationships they’ve built and the brand they’ve built around those relationships around the

Paul Ford: Wait a minute, we’ve built good software that looks good, that’s fun to

Rich Ziade: You have to go out and look into people’s

Paul Ford: Well, that’s fine, I’m happy to do that, but let’s be clear, like, you know, you just described, like, Windows 98 and Salesforce. I don’t want to be either one of those

Rich Ziade: You don’t want to be either one of those things, but the component beyond the software side of it, which is the human side of it, which the engineers find exhausting.

Paul Ford: but here’s the thing, we had to build, so one of the big things we did when we rebooted this almost a year ago, was figure out how to make something that was really good and almost tactile, like just felt good, right?

Here’s why. It’s going to be a lot easier to look people in the eye and say, I love this thing. That’s what they want to hear first. They don’t want to hear, this is for you. They want to hear, I love this

Rich Ziade: Absolutely.

Paul Ford: They want to hear, [00:09:00] this is, I use this all day. I like it. I’m proud of it. And then they’ll go, Oh, maybe I’ll give it five seconds of my time.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, that’s right. And, and you might not get them the first go around. I have visited. So I try everything like I hear about new software. I try it. And I’ve, I give it a minute. And then I move on and then it somehow comes back around to me through some other path, right? And that usually means the software is evolved.

And it’s also coming to me not as a cell, but rather as a connection point between me and others. Either I got shared into a space of some kind, or a document, or a whatever. And you’re like, huh, what is this tool? Right? And we’re not talking about companies, by the way. Companies tell you what software to use to do your job.

That’s different than…

Paul Ford: going to use Concur for your expenses and good old Concur sits there and they have a feature roadmap and they’re like, Hey, we’re going to make it even harder to file expenses next year.

Rich Ziade: Forever,

Paul Ford: going to just ruin everybody’s

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Paul Ford: everybody stands up and applauds and they put the [00:10:00] tickets

Rich Ziade: People don’t have to use anything. They don’t have to use anything. And, and, and I think one of the things that has been such a journey for us was figuring out how to make something that could connect, that people can connect with personally, and I’m going to say the word emotionally, like they find it something they can invest their time in.

That’s hard,

Paul Ford: all, all we’ve done for the last year is take features away from this product. Be and try to make, using the web and using a computer suck less along the way.

Rich Ziade: That’s kind of it. It is also a tribute. I’m trying to think of like an actor, you know, there’s always that move where the actor shows up 10 years later, they’ve kind of fallen off the radar, and they wow you with the return role, like Jamie Lee Curtis just did it in that Everything Everywhere

Paul Ford: No. And um, uh, the big one [00:11:00] was, uh, Travolta and Pulp Fiction.

Rich Ziade: Pulp

Paul Ford: Everybody’s like, oh my god, John Travolta.

Rich Ziade: That’s right. That’s right. And, uh, for us, I don’t, you know, I don’t think If you bet on the homerun out of the gate and then absolute love forever, that’s,

Paul Ford: no, no, no. We’re, we’re launched. Launching means that you tear down one part of the wall. And people can now come in and look around the garden.

Rich Ziade: right. That’s

Paul Ford: that’s, that’s it.

Rich Ziade: What’s the advice here? The advice here is that it feels very anticlimactic. The work ahead is the work ahead. Yeah.

Paul Ford: no, it’s, it’s, the advice is really straightforward, which is you build up to launch in your brain, usually through the beginning of your career, you get really excited about things and you chase a high. Uh, you can’t do that. You actually, if you’re, if you’re going to launch things for the long haul, invest in them and build teams around them, it has to be just another day.

Now that doesn’t mean that people who, Some people pulled like good long weekends [00:12:00] to get us here, right? Like it that doesn’t mean that like there isn’t an element of launch here. Like, okay, it’s real. Here we go We celebrate the team. We’re grateful to them at the same time. It’s Monday

Rich Ziade: Yes, it is Monday and it is, and

Paul Ford: I’m gonna tell you something the one thing you can the advice to take the meta advice. It’s always Monday It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. It’s always gonna be Monday If you if you I remember once I was with a very great editor a very famous editor and he was being honored for something and you can see it was the most depressing day of his life because it was just basically We want to tell you how great you are meaning your career is over.

You’re no longer relevant We can put you in a box and you can you’re gonna get the big award and you’re gonna get a little plaque Yeah, and you’re gonna get up there and you’re gonna say some funny things. You’re dead You’re a dead person

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Yeah.

Paul Ford: and it was breaking his heart

Rich Ziade: Interesting.

Paul Ford: that’s real.

Rich Ziade: the adoration.

Paul Ford: Who wants to be told that you’re great?

It means you’re over. [00:13:00] Being complimented means you’re done. I have people, because I’ve had a very lovely career, and I’ve done some interesting things, definitely have people reach out thinking to themselves, I should talk to Paul before something happens to him. I want to register how much I care about his work.

And I’m like, Oh, really? You made a list of the people who are going to die, especially when I was really fat. I was like, Oh, here we

Rich Ziade: Oh, no,

Paul Ford: When you tell me that I’ve been really important to you, what I hear is you’re making sure to express that before I die.

Rich Ziade: the darkest launch podcast ever.

Paul Ford: No, so what I’m saying is, I really celebrate this product as a journey that is both, it is, and it’s not just, this isn’t just the beginning, this is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work. It’s not, it’s not day zero, it’s not day one, it’s, it’s, you know, not day 5, 000. Here we are and celebrate this moment, which is, I mean, frankly, we built something I am excited to show people.

And one thing I’ve learned is [00:14:00] that I see the gaps. And so will they. We have to celebrate that together and just kind of get in there and make it better.

Rich Ziade: together and we are taking feedback.

Paul Ford: Oh my god, are we? Yeah,

Rich Ziade: at aboard. com. We look at all the emails. Um, we’re, we’re curious what you think of it. Share it out. Invite others onto it. It’s a social product, uh, tight social product. You can publish your boards to the world. There’s a lot.

It’s a long list of features. You should go check it

Paul Ford: It’s an unusual and powerful tool that lets you make your own little version of the internet with your own data and the internet’s data for you and your peers.

Rich Ziade: and it looks good.

Paul Ford: It looks good. It’s planned the family reunion. That’s what it’s for.

Rich Ziade: Um, We’ve gonna have, we’re gonna have a lot more to talk about. I think you said it right. If you’re looking for finality, this isn’t, the launch is not that. If you want finality, shut it

Paul Ford: There’s no

Rich Ziade: real

Paul Ford: no finality in life. Yes. That the, the shutdown of the startup, this, when they sell the Aron [00:15:00] chairs, that’s finality.

Rich Ziade: finality. That’s not what this

Paul Ford: everything else is just another day. Hurdling into the future.

Rich Ziade: you said you use the word journey. It is the journey, right? That’s where we’re on.

Paul Ford: Well, here we go. Well, we did good. You and I, we’ve had probably like three fights in the last two years.

We’re doing pretty.

Rich Ziade: We’re doing real good. I think we know when to walk away from each other and let some time pass and then we reconnect.

Paul Ford: that’s right. That’s right. So I’ll see you in about two weeks.

Rich Ziade: Um, uh, this is the Ziade and Ford podcast. We were just debating whether this should be just be the aboard podcast. We’ll talk

Paul Ford: That’s too weird. We’re bringing people into the process

Rich Ziade: Let’s do

Paul Ford: Yeah. All right. All right. All right. Like nobody

Rich Ziade: all this. Uh, hit us up at Ziade Ford on Twitter slash X. I say Twitter slash X now. And,

Paul Ford: it’s so stupid. I’ll never call. I don’t want to call it anything. I just want it to go away. Look, all this aside, all the marketing for Ziade Ford. The real favor you could do us is try a board, beat it up and tell us what you really think about it. What you really think about it. We want to know.

Rich Ziade: we would love [00:16:00] to know. Have a lovely week. Check it out. Bye bye.

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