Software Developers Journey Podcast

#238 Jake Lumetta started and failed many times


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Jake Lumetta 0:00
The goal is to start your own project and get people to pay you for it, you just should definitely approach it, at least for me very small milestones, you know, you got to really set the bar really, really low. It's psychological. It's so psychological, the whole journey, there's a lot of pains, there's a lot of excitement. It is a roller coaster. I mean, it really, really is a roller coaster. When I got that first customer, I remember dancing around the house, just like going totally crazy. They were paying $19 a month, and I was just freaking out, I was so happy. But then you know, there, there are some tough times, like really tough, tough things. And so just anticipate that don't let it discourage you. It is what it is focus on small milestones. Focus on that first customer focus on the next five, focus on the 10. Don't compare yourself to others. That's always tough, like comparing yourself looking at the competition, worrying about some new startup that just got some funding, blah, blah, blah. You know, we all do it. It's really tough. It's really, really tough. You see all the features that they got that you don't have you wish you had, you know, all this kind of stuff. Just focus on your users and your customers like honestly, that was that's the healthiest thing and you have some really good motivation that comes from that.

Tim Bourguignon 1:05
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey to podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building. On this episode 238. I received Jake Mehta. Drake is the CEO of butter, CMS. And when I asked for his bio, what I got was that he loves whipping up Twitter puns and building tools to make developers life better. So I'm both intrigued now, and thinking really hard about every puns that aren't going to change. Jake, welcome.

Jake Lumetta 1:42
Well, thanks so much for having me. Yeah, this is really excited.

Tim Bourguignon 1:46
It's my pleasure. As you see, I take it really seriously. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew, and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests, then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info, and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. So Jake, I know the show exists to help listeners understand what your story look like and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual in the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your journey?

Jake Lumetta 2:39
Yeah, it's hard to pinpoint precisely but I feel like it's somewhere in kind of my early childhood years, maybe Middle School ish or so it's really kind of when the web came about, I would say like, some of the earliest memories I had was, you know, seeing websites built specifically with Flash, Macromedia Flash, this is dating, this is daily mean, there was a thing called Flash, and it was what people use to build a really cool website. And I don't know, it just sort of, I always been into computers, and I think maybe even rewind a little bit further back. The thing that really pulled me into computers is video games. You know, maybe that's a little cliche, but does you know, childhood boy, you know, isn't in video games quite a bit. And so that by proxy brought me into computers, playing video games, computer video games, so I was tinkering around the computer a lot, upgrading video cards, you know, that kind of thing. So I just always had sort of an interest in maybe maybe just by pure need of, if I want to play cool video games, I need to kind of know this computer thing and like how to upgrade the video card. You know, this is like when those early memories I had us buying my first video card at the the local computer store, you know, and cracking open the side of the computer case and like installing it, you know, it's like a real exciting kind of thing is definitely big memory for me.

Tim Bourguignon 3:53
Oh, yeah. I'm nodding heavily. Yeah. Right, yeah, mining the covenants and then sitting at home and saying, Well, this just doesn't fit. These in Paris, where I grew up, there is a there's a whole street within these stores. And we used to really walk up the street with a list of components we're searching for, and taking all the prices. And then we'll can bounce back the street and buying stuff from right left where we had found the best of the best pieces of advice. Right, exactly. And that was something like three years of my life. We just build PCs and configs for every neighbor around then really do almost do your business. That was fantastic. That was so fun.

Jake Lumetta 4:37
That's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah, I can 100% relate to that for sure. I didn't do quite a business. It was more does building a PC for our own family. But there was a point in college. Yeah, actually, I forgot and I mentioned it. I did build a PC. By the time I got around to find this was like eBay, so shopping around for like the cheapest parts and components and the intent was to like sell it to make them Honey, maybe $100 or something like that. But I think by the time I got around to it, I hadn't done very good job of getting the best deals. And so, you know, I couldn't sell the thing for a profit. And I think my parents let me keep it. I had to kind of like work it off through chores and that kind of thing. But anyways, yeah, exactly. Yeah, it worked out. Okay, I guess. But

Tim Bourguignon 5:17
yeah, and back then how to paint us as a as a thieves. But you also had to find where to get your games. And so you had to understand how to get them on your plate. I remember land parties where we started with something like five hours of leaching into all those hard drives. And really understanding how to get this one PC to the other and then tweaking your pc so that it works and then tweaking the network so that it works. Yeah, remember the the BNC cables, I think with the, with the Endian T's to make a ring network. And if you didn't have this ending tees, that didn't work. So you had to learn about networking, and had to learn about IP, TCP IP and make it all work. It was fantastic. And and suddenly you wake up something five years later, and you wanted to play?

Jake Lumetta 6:01
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, really? Yeah. 100% relate to that, you know, there was never the mission of like, I'm gonna become a networking, Windows networking guru. Video game with my friends, you know, is driven by that. Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Bourguignon 6:15
But when did you decide to make this living?

Jake Lumetta 6:19
Yeah, I mean, I think, well, you know, I went from video games to seeing kind of websites built in flash. And I was just so I was just so fascinated by like, Man, there were some really cool just effects and stuff you saw on the web? And like, how are they doing that, you know, I was like, Oh, this thing called Flash. And not to get flash too much credit here, I guess, because it's like, kind of, you know, sort of like Photoshop II, but it also has a programming element to it that I had come to discover, like there was a sort of scripting language basically. And so that was kind of my my first dabbling into a little bit of like programming. But really, I think it really kind of kick started, at least when I started, actually, programming was in high school, there was a computer class, we did some like C++ kind of programming. And you know, from there, it really just became, I got more and more exposed to the web, I started to, I started to meet folks, other classmates who were like building websites and doing kind of interesting things. And there, just a few kind of key moments in my, in my memory, where that this really sort of stuck out like one one time was there was a friend who was building a website where it had a form, like literally just like an HTML kind of form, where you could kind of collect information. And I was like, how do you do that, like, that sounds like that'd be really amazing. If I could, like put this form online and like, get people to like, put in their email address, not for foreigners, not not for any, like bad purposes, but just literally just having an HTML form, have it submit the data and like, save the data to a database? Like that was a huge, kind of, like, how do you do that kind of thing, like, you know, learning HTML, and kind of getting that to display on the site was one thing, you know, that was like, Okay, I kind of figured that out. But, but getting that foreign piece and collecting the data and storing it somehow and doing something with it, that was really kind of the next level. So that was a that was a key member I have, from that kind of point of like learning to really kind of program and do something a bit more sophisticated. But yeah, I don't know, he'll always been kind of passionate about it, get exposed with your friends who was another friend. And this was really where I think it really kind of took off. For me. This was this was in high school. So prior to prior to university, but there was a friend who I went over his house, and this relates to our hardware story, went over his house, and he just had a stack of like motherboards and graphics cards on his in his room, just like a stack of them. And I'm like, where did you What is this? Like, what, what is going on here? You know, like, are you in trouble? Like, what? Where do you get all these things? And he explained, he said, No, no, like, companies sent this to me. I was like, like, companies are sending you this hardware? And like, how much should you have to pay for it? He's like, for free. I was like, okay, he's like, yeah, no, what I do is they send me the hardware. And I have linked up with this website. In this website, they publish hardware reviews, that's what they do. So you know, he had he had kind of hooked into like these, like a hardware publication. And you know, and that's what they do is they review this, like new hardware, like the latest motherboard from Asus, or whatever it is, and he was one of their writers. I was like, wow, that is amazing, you know, and so I was like, do you keep this stuff? He's like, Yeah, you know, I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I gotta I gotta get into this. And so it's Yeah, that's right. Never right. And so that was really cool. And so actually from that is kind of fast. I ended up starting my own. I'm not sure if this was the best path, but I ended up starting my own hardware review website. I was called bonafide reviews. It's quite a quite a mouthful of a name. You know, I was not a anyways, yeah, this this is my first website. And so I created a website, bonafide reviews.com. And then I just hand coded that thing from PHP. So, you know, I had been because it's kind of dabbling for for quite a while, and different scripting languages, you know, ASP dinette, but then I found PHP and it's felt very usable and kind of I could understand it and I could get it to connect to the database. And, you know, just doing everything super raw, like writing the raw SQL queries, and, you know, just total kind of spaghetti code PHP, like just the worst you can imagine. That's what I was. That's what I was doing there. But I was able to do what I yeah, what but what I was aiming to do. And so that was my first real kind of website that I was just building as my own sort of project as a means to be able to get the free hardware. It's like a company that sent me the free hardware. Yeah, so that was, you know, without I had to start small. So it wasn't like, I mean, my goal was to get the, you know, to get Asus to send me the latest motherboard or the latest video card. Like that was kind of a gold, right. But you had to start they weren't going to do that you there was no one who was like bonafide reviews, like what is this site. And so I remember the very first thing I was able to get was, was a mousepad. It was a, it was a mousepad. And I was so pumped, it was like a $19 mousepad. And it just made my ma my week, you know, I got it in the mail. And I was like, This is amazing. So yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 11:07
Did you get some video cards?

Jake Lumetta 11:09
I got HD TVs in the end. So yeah, like Yeah, it was, it would have been pretty, I think good to keep those to be to be fair, they Yeah, by the end, it really was just a sort of progression. Like I got my I remember these this many years ago, now I got the mouse pad, you know, and then it was easy to get like a keyboard, you know, like a $30 $40 Logitech Keyboard and maybe the mouse. So some of the kinds of peripherals getting some basic speakers actually speakers are really cool. Those were fun. I got some really good speakers. So that was fun to really crank up the music, you know, you got like a nice five, five piece surround sound from clips or something like that. And then yeah, then you know, you you get like different kind of motherboards. You always start off with like the lower end stuff. So you get like this low motherboard or whatever the basic line. But then you use those to kind of try and work relationships to get better and better equipment. So anyways, not to go too far down that path. But yeah, eventually we're you know, getting just full TV shipped to my house and was able to review that was and that was it was a lot of fun.

Tim Bourguignon 12:08
Not too bad. Yeah. You maybe just painted yourself into a corner and working too much with TVs and then you never get the the video cards. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Okay, did you always have this this vibe of stuff for yourself making business or being an entrepreneur? You

Jake Lumetta 12:29
know, maybe, maybe it manifests in different ways? You know? Like, I don't know if I think I maybe it's just curiosity is is like the common denominator, like the thread there. It's just curiosity, you know, being curious, with, you know, how computers work, being curious about how to upgrade the video card, being curious about how this website that's using this flash thing looks so cool. Like, how did they do that? Being curious about, you know, it just it just sort of, kind of I don't know, is this, it was like a me a big theme of like, curious and then being interested in doing something with it. You know, it's like, I want to learn how they did that. But then I want to do that, like, you know, actually want to do something, do something with that. But I've always loved Yeah, I don't know, just for me, personally, I've always loved startups, I've always loved entrepreneurship, I always love the idea of just being creative and creating, creating things. And it wasn't like, you know, the goal was never, it wasn't always like to sort of, I'm going to have my own company and blah, blah, blah from from day one. But it was just more of like, I just want to build something that's really cool. And, and if I can make a living from it, that would be amazing. You know? So that was that's always kind of been my drive.

Tim Bourguignon 13:37
I see. I see. So we left off from high school, there's tension to the about hardware. And so did you study or did you follow through with this curiosity and then building stuff and do something else? What did you do after high school?

Jake Lumetta 14:36
Yeah, yeah, so after high school, I did go to university and you know, another big moment in my journey was just sort of figuring out you know, I had gotten into I got accepted into college, but it hasn't yet you know, still in high school and so I was trying to figure out what degree I wanted to get into go into and just for me, for me, personally, I had this I remember having this conversation with my with my mom and And it was a very simple conversation. It was just sort of like, we were like, hey, you know, what do you what are you interested in? Like, what are you going to do? Like, what do you? What do you like to work on? Like, what do you like to do? I was like, oh, no, I like computers, you know? And then she's like, well, you should, you should do that in college. Like, I don't know, study computers in college. I was like, you can do that, you know, that was a thing. You know? I mean, it sounds so silly, right? But it was genuine. It was like I had no, you know, I looked it up. I was like, oh, there's a thing called Computer Science. There's, you know, I was like, Oh, I guess I'll try that. You know, like, that sounds kind of cool. I can keep still like playing around with computers while I go to college. And so So yeah, so I went and got my undergrad in computer science, you know, and it was just, it really was just a continuation of just that kind of interest and curiosity of playing with computers through my childhood building websites, that kind of thing. I just wanted to, like, keep doing that. And so computer science, quote, unquote, sounded like the right thing for that. I had no idea. You know, it wasn't like I went into computer science of like, I'm going to be a senior software engineer at like Microsoft, like, that's my goal. You know what I mean? I had no idea. It is totally, I had no idea of like, what the other end of it looked like, as far as actual career. I just wanted to keep working on computer stuff. And so that's, so that's what I tried to do

Tim Bourguignon 16:13
make sense to? So how was this discovery of the other end, as you just called it when you came out of university in discovering what this industry is all about?

Jake Lumetta 16:21
Yeah, yeah, it was, it was interesting for me. So I'm based in Michigan, I went to school at Michigan State. And so here in Michigan, there's a big auto auto industry. And so I guess for just me and my personal journey, I got a job at one of the big automotive companies that they call them the big three here. So I got a job at one of those companies in their IT department. And again, I didn't know what it meant, or anything like that. But I had gone to school for computer science, where you're actually doing programming and doing coding and building stuff. And at least in the context of the automotive job, I quickly learned that there was almost no programming involved, like when you're it in a automotive company. I mean, I was learning so much, I just thought I was completely clueless, you know, I didn't know what to expect, or, or what it even meant in the context of a large corporation, and especially an automotive company. And I quickly learned that it, you know, is not the core business of the automotive company, it is a support function in an automotive company, automobile companies, they sell and build cars. And that is the most important thing that they do. And so the IT department is necessary, but it's a supporting kind of role, you know, like you're there to kind of, like I was on this rotation program, actually, I mean, this is interesting, I don't know, but I had gone there from university, I had gotten a full time job, I was super excited, super excited, super grateful. It's my first kind of real job. And I was in this rotation program where I got to kind of work in different departments of it for the automotive company, the first department I worked in, we were building kind of like websites for some of the manufacturing plants. We have manufacturing facilities all over the world, actually. And so I did a little bit of programming with that, which I was actually excited about, did some HTML, like basic kind of DEV dev stuff. But then my next job was I was actually the local IT support for an assembly plant. So what that meant is you actually, you know, there's, there's an assembly plant, and there's like a little kind of office area attached to it. And there's the Office Admin, people that work in that area. And they have computers, and they run into computer support issues, like their computer won't turn on, or their keyboard doesn't work, or their internet doesn't work. And so my job was to, to help with them. I was tech support, I was basically tech support. And so I'm like, Okay, this is cool. Like, I like helping people. But this is not really my passion. Like, this is not really what I was looking to do. I wanted to be coding and building stuff and building software. And so anyways, that you know, is I had no idea. And so I was kind of learning like, Okay, this is what quote unquote, it is, inside of a big automotive company. And long story short, I learned that that was not really where I wanted to be. Long term. So yeah, they left there, maybe for two or three years.

Tim Bourguignon 19:20
Okay. Quite a long time anyway, two or three years. Yeah.

Jake Lumetta 19:23
Yeah. It was like it was like two years. Yeah, I think it was like two years as a part of my rotation program. So I kind of finished that up. Part of that as, like, part of the deal was I was in this rotation program, but they were also I was also going to school for my MBA. So they were kind of paying for my MBA while I was doing that. So, you know, so that was kind of a package there where I just completed my schooling and then when I was done with that, then then I was done. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 19:45
Okay. So how do you choose now that you know what you don't want? How do you choose where to go next?

Jake Lumetta 19:51
Yeah, that's a good question. Let's see. Well, from there, my wife and I, we moved to Chicago. She got a job in Chicago and So she's like, Hey, you want to go to Chicago? That sounds awesome. Let's let's go check out a big city. So we moved to Chicago. Yeah. And one of the first thing I did was in Chicago as I was like, what's the tech scene of the startup scene here in Chicago, and this was like, around 2009 or so. And so the first thing I can remember doing is just, I had no job. I didn't know anybody, we just moved to the city. And so I just looked up. Chicago, networking, Chicago tech events, I don't know just those kinds of things. And just just started going to those honestly, I fell into this like little kind of networking coffee group, it was called Jelly doesn't exist anymore. But it had a fun name. It's called Jelly. And just some, you know, some guys, it's kind of in the tech scene was not a very large scene. And but you know, back in 2009, this was before Groupon went public, and all this kind of stuff, and Grubhub it was before those even existed. Anyway, so I met a group of folks and guys, and just through networking, I ended up getting kind of my first job there. I was, like a PHP developer on a contract basis. So yeah, that was my first step there.

Tim Bourguignon 21:06
And that matched with your expectations, finally, or do you have some, again, realization better, but not quite where I wanted to be? Yeah,

Jake Lumetta 21:16
it aligned way more with what I what I want. And I was like, Okay, I'm working at kind of this, you know, I'm working. It was it was a tech company, like a tech startup, it felt it felt it felt right. Like it felt way better. Yeah, it was like, Okay, I'm actually doing programming. There's some other developers on the team, we're like, building the software, the software is the product, it's like, what the business is all about. You know, it's a small company, it's a startup, like lots of ideas, you know, exciting kind of environment, it felt it felt much better than it felt more right for me than where I had been previously. It kind of like a lot kind of IT department, not company kind of a thing. So, at that point, I felt like I was on the right path, as far as like, you know, just just sort of career wise, like I was on the right path. You know, I had a lot to figure out still, as far as you know, the journey. But yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 22:04
but what I'm hearing is, okay, you were in a context that tingle your curiosity, coming back to PHP coming back to something smaller, where you're not just doing what somebody tells you. But you have to figure out somehow what's needed and do that instead? And how long did you surf this wave and really managed to be on top of this curiosity path, and really learn and earn and earn before it started to fade out? And then maybe you need something else?

Jake Lumetta 22:30
I'm not sure. I'm not sure it ever faded out to be honest. So like I said, I've worked at the startup. And kind of always, like, on the side, I'd always been working and dabbling and other startups. So you know, so I, I've just been obsessed with startups, I guess. And I'd always wanted to create one that was my full time thing. I guess, going back to like bonafide reviews, just for a second, you know, I started that site, not as a business or I was a high school kid. So I just started because I wanted some some free motherboards and stuff. And it was really nothing more than that. But I've really worked hard at it for quite a while. And it got to a point where I was making more money from Google, Google Adsense had just come out Google ads. So you just put that little JavaScript widget on your site. And then boom, you have this whole, you know, ad network. And so I grew in traffic, where I was actually making more in ad revenue than I was on selling, selling the hardware. And so I don't know, I got that up to a decent amount of revenue, not enough to live off of by any means. But it was a meaningful amount for a high school kid, and certainly a college student. And so, you know, from that kind of taste, I guess, it was like, eventually, it became clear to me that bonafide reviews was like, not going to be the thing. And so, you know, I kind of sold it and parted ways, but I'd gotten a taste of like, Man, if I could just figure out, I don't know what it is, but if I could just figure out something where I could just work on it full time. And like, that's the thing I could just live off of that. That's the goal. And and so I, I, over my, over my career, over my lifetime, I started and failed at a lot of things, like just a lot of different startup ideas, I learned different things. I don't know if we can go into that or not, but you know, and so and so in order to live I'd also kind of work to build like real in addition to like, my, you know, different kind of project ideas and stuff like that. So

Tim Bourguignon 24:13
I love with the guests pains, the what what 99% of people do is real jobs

Tim Bourguignon 24:26
maybe it is maybe it's not maybe I don't mean that in

Jake Lumetta 24:29
any negative way or anything like that. So it's like, you know, but you know, I had to make money and it was just, but it was not like the thing that I had personally created, you know, so

Tim Bourguignon 24:43
what had yours did you did you follow the to try and succeed or fail it?

Jake Lumetta 24:47
Yeah, I think this one this one's a pretty good learning for me personally, so maybe hopefully it'd be helpful for other folks too. So after bonafide reviews, there was a period well yeah, for bonafide reviews before we moved to Chicago. or there was a period of I don't know, it's like eight months or so. Well, we still lived in Michigan. But before we moved to Chicago, and I had had this idea of, there's a concept called the bookmarklet. And basically, it's like when you it's like when you it's, effectively you have a bookmark for your web browser, like your bookmarks, you know, favorite websites, where you can actually, I think remembering this correctly, you can actually instead have those execute some like JavaScript. Sure. So when you click the button, instead of it just taking you to do a web page, it actually like does something does something. Yep. Yeah. And I think an early early example, this was like delicious, or maybe some was another service out there. I don't know, there were there was some like kind of web 2.0 companies that were kind of doing stuff with this. Anyways, I had this idea of like, coming from bonafide reviews, where the whole point of that company was to help people figure out which motherboard to buy, and which TV to buy. So like, help people figure out how to make like, they're they're kind of making these really complex, like complicated technical purchase decisions, right? Someone is gonna go buy a motherboard, they may know nothing about computers. So how can they find the best motherboard for them? You know, that's the context that I was coming from having done this review site. And so I was like, we should build a I wanted to build like a shopping site, where people could basically use this bookmark. And again, just being kind of a nerd. I just wanted to, I wanted an excuse to kind of like, build this thing started with that, you know, and this was, this was a big learning, though. So you know, I wanted an excuse, like, Oh, can you do this bookmark thing? I was like, oh, wouldn't it be cool if we built the shopping site, or I say we, it was me. So I built a shopping site, where, you know, someone who was looking for a new motherboard could like, use this new bookmark thing that I built. And they could go to like bestbuy.com and amazon.com. And like newegg.com, and just kind of go and collect up all of the different motherboards that they might be interested in. And every time they see a motherboard on again, amazon.com is like clicked my bookmark. And it just magically goes to like, their some account and some new website, and this website is what I was building. And I was like, okay, so they can go around the web collect bookmarks into different like motherboards from all across the web. Then they go back to this website, this new magical website thing I build, and they have all of them organized there. And they can just like compare them easily. And like find the best price. So this was the idea. I call that company shop shop fiber. Fi Ve are on the fence about the name still today. It's not one of my favorite. Yeah, no, no puns. Yeah, it's kind of hard to spell, you have to explain it, that kind of thing. And and yeah, so I worked on this site with with a friend I met in college. And the learning that I had from that was we kind of just went heads down for six months. And we just coded nonstop, you know, and we didn't talk to a single human being other than ourselves. And this was just two really technical kind of guys geeking out about different features and functionality and things that we could build, you know, like, Oh, what if it could do this? And like, well, we need to organize, they need to tag things and like, all this kind of stuff. And so, you know, we we went heads down for, you know, six plus months and just building feature after feature after feature. And then we go to launch this thing and did just as a total flop like there's just no, yeah, just total crickets, right. Which is, which is now you know, what, it's kind of obvious, but at the time, it was like, we just had no marketing plan. There was no no real plan. It was just like, Let's build this cool thing, and people will find it and use it and it was love it. And that'll be it. And so that was a that was a really painful painful learning of not to do that.

Tim Bourguignon 28:43
Engineers dream, just Yes, it is as good as it can be. And it will find its audience. Maybe.

Jake Lumetta 28:51
Exactly, exactly. I mean, we laugh and it's so kind of painfully obvious in hindsight, but yeah, it's a you go through it's it's Yeah, yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 29:01
we've all done some kind of this. Yeah, exactly. So something in the basement and then realize, yeah, it was a good idea. But you should never be able to actually but

Jake Lumetta 29:15
it was funny, funny story from that. Sorry. Just one last thing on on the shopper piece. I had I had on the on the point of getting people to use it. You know, I had shown my wife it as like, hey, you know, here, like, go check out the shop, I read a thing and she's like, Okay, what do you do with it? I was like, Well, you know, it's like cool for, you know, shopping for motherboards and stuff. And she's like, well, I don't, um, don't shop for motherboards. That's not what I need. And so she created her own account. And she went and she added some different purses and shoes to it. And I said, No, that's not what this is for. This is for technical stuff, you know, but, you know, fast forward now that there's a thing called Pinterest rescue. Oh my God, it was just staring me right in the face. Nothing I could do. Have ever accomplished Pinterest. But, you know, that was another learning. It's like, well, you may go into this thing with an idea. But you really need to look at how people are using it and be as open minded as you possibly can. Because if I just known I had no interest in building a shopping site for women, but it was, I mean, just the very first person that use the site was shopping and doing, you know, fashion comparisons and collections and stuff. And I'm like, Oh, God, he just listened to that, that would have been

Tim Bourguignon 30:28
showing you exactly what you should ever listen to. Yes, yes, exactly. Yeah. So what's what's your strategy nowadays? When you start something to avoid this? And to get in the right tracks or or writer tracks? Good? There is never a certainty in this game? Yeah.

Jake Lumetta 30:47
Yeah, that's a great question. I spent a lot of time after, after that kind of big failure, I spent a lot of time thinking about this exact question of like, okay, how do I, how do I avoid that? Again, in the future, around this time, there was a, this thing called the lean startup. I'm not sure if it's even still popular. But there's this lean startup movement, this guy named Eric Ries, he kind of put out this book and it talked, it really resonated with me at that point in my life, because it did kind of talk about these pains of in fact, where the term MVP comes from minimal viable product. That is where that comes from. There's like this lean, lean startup concept. And it's like, how do you determine what the minimal viable product is? It's like, what is the minimal viable product bla bla bla, I gotten kind of obsessed with this, this whole sort of movement, this idea, because, again, it really resonated with me of like, yeah, I needed to figure out the middle of via product, to answer your question and Put very simply, it's like, coding and building is, you should avoid trying to actually build our code anything as long as possible. And so what I mean by that is, if you have an idea, like a real idea for like a, what could be a company, and you should avoid building any features, or any code, and you should just start off and go talk to people. First thing, you should be booking as many coffee, buying people, as many people coffee or drinks or whatever it takes as you possibly can, and having a genuine, open minded conversation with them. And do not lead them in any way. Right? Because you're gonna go into the conversation, and you have this idea, right? You think people have this pain, or you think they're gonna think this thing is cool. You can't show someone something and say, Hey, do you think this thing is cool? Because they were gonna be nice to you? And I'm gonna say, yeah, that's, that's cool. Yeah, like, that's really great. Right? Don't fall for that trap. So it takes a bit of it takes a bit of preparation on this front to not ask leading questions, and really you want to go and you just want to learn about people their lives, and whatever your idea is, you know, do they actually have that pain and trying to get to an honest assessment of that? And, and you can do that just by buying people coffee, you don't need to write a line of code, and you can just have these conversations and get a feeling of like, does anyone actually have this pain? Does it resonate at all? In any level? It doesn't matter. You don't have to have wireframes. You don't have to have anything visual yet. You're just trying to learn at a very high level, is this something you should spend potentially years of your life on, you know, and then if you start to get an inkling that they do, then you can start to take a next step right of like, maybe you maybe you do build out a wireframe, maybe you work with a designer, or if you're a designer, build out an actual mock up of something and kind of visually show something, something to somebody. But it's really kind of starting from there. You can get really far on conversations you can get really far, using spreadsheets and kind of, you know, scrapping together different tools without having to build like a beautiful kind of website or product or mobile app, or whatever it is. So that's, that's what I've kind of learned. Yeah, from from the shop, buy everything written.

Tim Bourguignon 33:57
How do you feel about the whole no code tools that are popping up almost as fast as JavaScript frameworks nowadays?

Jake Lumetta 34:03
Yeah, all right. I'm not I'm definitely no, no code expert, but it's just my opinion. I think that in the context of this conversation, if you're looking to try and prove out an idea, like I just kind of elaborated on, I think these are just a total gift. You know, having so many tools and ways to build out reasonably high fidelity kind of experiences without having to read a line of code, I think is a real is a real gift to him. So yeah, I wish you know, that'd be amazing. If they existed, you know, 1015 years ago, that has been great because we get to whip together some kind of prototype or whatever and and kind of prove it out. But yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 34:41
I agree. And I've been on both ends of that spectrum. I have a small tool I've been running for almost four years now is entirely no code and haven't done anything on it. On on the on the no code stack. I would want to say code sec, but for for ages, it just runs and it didn't take off in turn. As of making it a business and so fine, I just don't need to do anything and it's just running. And on my on my day job, we kick started the thing with no code. And we're now facing the problems that we really have to remove those from the stack, and really recode everything. So it's really the the pain that you want to have that your business is working, and you really have to scale and then you have to get it out the door. But if it really enabled, as you say, to prove that it's working to show that business is working with us to get our foot in the door and get things running for cheap, and that was the best bargain we could have, even though it's a nightmare nowadays to replace, but still do it again.

Jake Lumetta 35:42
Yeah, that's such a great point. I'm so glad you brought that up. Yeah, it's exactly it's exactly right. And that was a big learning. For me, for me as well. Yeah, it's like, what you just described are like growing pains. It's like you have a thing that is actually working, it's like something people are actually using, that is a beautiful problem to have, like, don't try and solve that problem from day one. Like, just try to get people like try and get have that problem is what you're trying to get to, you're trying to get to the point where anyone's even using the thing, and you're in it's really slow. And you have to start worrying about performance and optimizations. Like those are great problems to have painful in the moment. But they're great problems to have. And it means you're onto something that's still alive. Exactly.

Tim Bourguignon 36:29
When When did that RCMs enter this, this will feature

Jake Lumetta 36:31
Yeah, so yeah, I've I guess fast forward, I failed many different startup ideas. I tried the shot fiber thing, I tried to, you know, virtual datings, a live speed dating site, even though I was married. So that was kind of weird. I tried this a bunch of random ideas, you know, and actually, these are some this is maybe some big, big insights, at least for me personally, a lot of those were kind of b2c, this butter was the first b2b business, I eventually, it took me a long time, I'm a slow learner, but I came to realize that it's a lot easier to get businesses to pay you money that it is to get someone like a consumer to open up their wallet and pull out their credit card to pay for any amount for anything, businesses are way easier for him to actually make a business off of like having them as your customer. So b2b. And butter, the idea came from personal, just a personal pain that I experienced. And you know, that was the other, the other the other learning, you know, so it's a little cliche, but butter was actually born from personal pains that I experienced working at some previous companies, where, and I'll get into this more in a bit. But, you know, we were trying to get WordPress, which is a very popular content management system, CMS to integrate with our own technology stack that we were building and using it at the company at the time. In our case, it was Python and Django. And so I was the CTO at a at a startup. We were using Python and Django to build like a market energy marketplace. And the CMO came to me and said, Hey, Jake, you know, we need the ability to blog and write blog posts. I was like, Oh, well, that's easy. Like, let's just use this WordPress thing that I've heard of, you know, that the whole world uses. And so but I said, I don't actually know, I don't actually know WordPress, and I don't, you know, I used to know, PHP, although I've wanted to get out of that. So I don't really know, PHP anymore. So I guess we'll go find a WordPress developer to help us, you know, kind of bolt this thing on and figure it out. And so fast forward through that process, it was, it took a really long time, and it being really kind of expensive and painful process. And it was it just a really insightful experience for me to go through. I was like, wow, it took, you know, let's call it two months, and I don't know, maybe 10 to $20,000 of dev time to like, get this nice looking custom themed WordPress blog to match our site, you know, and kind of integrate nicely. And I just look back on the experience. And I was like, wow, that was, there's got to be like an easier way like it was we were just adding blogging. You were just adding blog to this to the site, like there should have, there should be a better way to do it. And so anyways, yeah, so that really kind of became the genesis of me. I just sort of took a step back from that and said, Okay, you know, WordPress was created. WordPress is great. It's an amazing ecosystem. It was created, you know, 20 to 25 years ago, though, at this point. So like, sitting here today, how would I, as a, you know, developers want a CMS to work like, what does it What should a modern CMS look like? And that really became the genesis of butter, which is, you know, we're called a quote unquote, headless CMS, but I didn't think of it at that at the time. It was an API API first CMS, like an API based CMS, maybe I can go into that a bit more. But anyway, so yeah, so So but RCMs was kind of came out of that experience. It was born from personal pains that I experienced, but just I guess one final note on you know, creating your company or startups or whatever. All of my past failures, i don't know i None of them were, they were kind of ideas, they were just sort of born out of my head, which I think maybe just says that I'm horrible at coming up with ideas that aren't really solving a critical pain that I've experienced. But all of my failed startups were those, they were just, they were just kind of ideas that I thought maybe these were pains that people maybe had, you know, again, like with the dating site, I was married, I didn't have any dating pains at the time. So I just couldn't relate to the product, or the business that I was building. And so when things got tough, I just didn't have the passion to really dig in. You know, I was like, I don't know if I really care about dating that much. Like it just not a pain that I can so passionately, like, spend my blood sweat and tears, you know, kind of kind of solving. So that was that was you know, that was another learning for me. My journey there.

Tim Bourguignon 40:50
Nothing like dog feeding. Yes. Yeah. Feeling what you're not building and having to live through this?

Jake Lumetta 40:58
Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Tim Bourguignon 41:00
When did you decide that this this new idea of doing CMS was worth tackling? You go through the user interviews phase that you described and, and started interviewing people asking them he view do you have to spend and buying coffees and at some point saying there's something here?

Jake Lumetta 41:19
I did, actually, yeah. I did. I Yeah, interview to talk to as many folks in my network is, and I kind of came to the conclusion, I, you know, I focused in really narrowly on the blogging use case, and a certain technology stack. So one of the things with butter, that, you know, one of the pains I was trying to solve with butter is like, I want to I want to build a CMS that you can use with any technology stack. Meaning if for users or customers of butter, it shouldn't matter what technology they are using and their own company, their own teams, they should be able to use butter. And because that's what I wish I had had at the time I you know, and so and so I kind of focused in on two tech stacks to begin with. It was Django and Ruby on Rails Ruby on Rails is really popular in Chicago. And so I was talking to companies. Yeah, so using Ruby on Rails, I said, you know, how do you? How do you solve blogging? Like, how do you add a blog to your site? And like, do you have these pains? And there were, you know, it wasn't super obvious. It wasn't like, yes, JQ must drop everything and like, do this thing. But it was like, Yeah, I felt like, there were there were enough pains here that and people like to have kind of similar stories to mind, of these complicated workarounds, and experiences that they had trying to get trying to get WordPress to work with their, with their site. And so and so I felt like it was enough validation, where I was like, Okay, it's worth me taking the next step, and spending time actually building out some kind of wireframes. And maybe a really basic, really, really basic kind of first version, like version point, one of this thing, something enough where I could go and like, you know, show it to them and get their get their thoughts and feedback on it. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 43:00
Okay. You touch on the on the API part to a CMS, basically, PII? Is this with the dependents with JAMstack? Who is this really the this this API approach or JavaScript API markup approach to billing services?

Jake Lumetta 43:12
Yeah, great question. So the answer that is when I when I founded butter, you know, this, this was before JAMstack, I'd never heard of the headless CMS, headless CMS wasn't really a term, you know, like, like jam stack, and have a CMS, these are kind of marketing concepts, you know, these are just sort of concepts that, you know, are a good way to think about things. And butter definitely fits into those. I mean, that's, you know, really squarely kind of where we are now, but at the time, when I was kind of thinking about, what should this new CMS be, you know, there were just some kind of core principles of things I was trying to solve for, and like, one dimension is that should be able to work with any tech stack. So it's like, okay, well, that fundamentally means that it needs to be API based, because otherwise, otherwise, it doesn't work, you know, you can't like integrate it into any tech stack. So should be API based. The other thing is that it's so we're SAS or software as a service only. So what that means is that you know, with butter, you don't you don't download and host and run butter CMS, so we are only a SaaS model. And the reason for that was because at least for me, personally, I, I, in my own experience, didn't want to run a CMS system, like I didn't want to down, I didn't want to maintain any of the code. I didn't want to have to be responsible for it. I didn't want to have to patch it. I didn't want to have to back it up. I didn't want to have to do the new versions when they came out. I didn't want any of that. That was not my job. My job was like build this energy marketplace. Like I didn't want to have to run the CMS system as well. I wanted I wanted the benefits of CMS. I wanted my marketing team to be happy and have a nice UI, they could do blogging, and if I'm being totally honest, like don't ever bother me again about it. This is like you know, here you go. Here's the CMS, go to your blogging stuff. Go to your job, launch your landing pages. I'm gonna go back to working on like hard engineering problems and like what I'm actually interested in You know that that really is? Really Is it right? And if you've ever worked through this, you know what I'm talking about. So and So anyways, yeah, so those, but so so that's why I made butter to be kind of SAS only because like people that like using butter companies that like using butter, they resonate with that basically they don't want to run their own CMS infrastructure, they don't want to have to spin up a database for their own CMS, they just sort of like, sign up for a butter account, they, you know, connect their app to the butter API, they pull their content and from the butter API, they tell their marketing team or customers to go log into the butter dashboard, and they get the big, you know, easy to use UI to go do other marketing stuff. And then and then that's it, you know, and then butter handles all the scaling and security and everything for them. So yeah, that was, I was like, that sounds like a good, you know, that's what I would want in a CMS. And so that's, you know, that's what Butter. Butter is.

Tim Bourguignon 45:49
Awesome. And it's been five years, something like this.

Jake Lumetta 45:52
Yeah, I think it'd been over Yeah. been over five years. Yeah, it's been it's been a great, it's been a crazy journey. And yeah, you know, it was just really bootstrapping and kind of scrapping and clawing the whole the whole way. And there was some pivotal moments, like, the first moment, or the, you know, a huge moment was when I got the first customer, you know, so that was just talking about the journey of like, create a company it knows, it's like, go interview as many people as you possibly can before you build a line of code. But I guess to your point, now that there's no code, you can kind of cheat that, which is great. But really, the big thing is like, can you get anybody to pay you money for it? Can you get them to put down a credit card real money, don't have them verbally set, they got to do it, they got to like put in their credit card number and you get the money. And it doesn't matter who you get the money from, but as long as someone pays for it, and that's a great signal. If you get your friend to pay for it, that's good. If you get a complete stranger to pay for it, that's even better. That's probably the best. Because if you get a complete stranger to pay for, you know, they're just getting genuine value from like, whatever this thing is that that you built. And that was a huge, a huge milestone, something I'd never accomplished before is just getting some random stranger to pay. I think it was like 19 bucks a month, it was the first customer and they're actually still a customer of butter today, which is, which is awesome. So that's really fun. Yeah, that's, that's really fun. But that really starts a journey going from zero to one is like an absolutely huge kind of thing. You know, and then I don't know, you just try to go from one to five and like, can I get five? You know, I got lucky with one I met some guy who needed who knew a guy and it's like, okay, I got one, how do you go to five, you just kind of scrap and claw. If you get to five, you feel like you can get to 10. And if you can get to 10, then, you know, you can probably get to 100. Right? It's it's a big jump. But if you can do that, you know, it's not an impossibility if you can get to 10. You know, they're not all your friends and family like you there are some strangers mixed in there. If you can get to 10 some strangers mixed in there. You can you can get to 100 If you keep working at it, and then from there sky's the limit. Yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 47:50
that's definitely not friends and family anymore. But 100.

Jake Lumetta 47:54
Yeah, no, no friends and family. Actually, there were there were Yeah, no. Maybe I need to work on my relationships. But not not a whole lot of friends and family. Yeah, maybe a few friends sprinkled in there.

Tim Bourguignon 48:07
Three years out of friends and family, right?

Jake Lumetta 48:11
All my friends

Tim Bourguignon 48:14
wouldn't be there. With an eye on the clock, it's time for me to ask you for an advice. And it's been advice after advice. I'm not sure what I should be asking for it. Maybe? Is there something that people that want to try and fail as as you described, it should know from the get go. We spoke about MVP, we spoke about the Lean Startup we spoke about searching for pins and talking to people? Is it all they should know that? Is there something else that they should keep in mind,

Jake Lumetta 48:41
if the goal is to kind of start your own project and get people to pay you for it and kind of make a real go of it? I think you just should definitely approach it, at least for me, you know, it was very small milestones, you know, you got to really set the bar really, really low. Otherwise, it's it's psychological. It's so psychological. You know, it just kind of the whole the whole journey. There's a lot of pains, there's a lot of excitement, excitement, it is it is a roller coaster. I mean, it really, really is a roller coaster. When I got that first customer, I remember dancing around the house just like going totally crazy. They were paying $19 a month and I was just freaking out I was so you know, it's that kind of thing. And those are the great, you know, those are the great moments. But then you know, there, there are some tough times like really tough, tough things. And so just anticipate that don't let it discourage you. It is what it is focused on small milestones. Focus on that first customer focus on the next five, focus on the 10. Don't compare yourself to others. That's that's always tough, like comparing yourself looking at the competition, worrying about some new startup that just got some funding, blah, blah, blah. You know, we all do it. It's really tough. It's really, really tough. You see all the features that they got that you don't have you wish you had, you know, all this kind of stuff. Just don't look at your competition. Just focus on your users and your customers like honestly, that was the healthiest thing and you have some really good motivation. that comes from that.

Tim Bourguignon 50:01
Amen to all this. Jake, it's been a blast. Thank you for taking us on this adventure on this roller coaster like the past years for you. Thank you very much.

Jake Lumetta 50:11
Thanks for having me on. And this is this is a blast. Yeah. Hopefully it was helpful to folks.

Tim Bourguignon 50:15
I'm sure where would the best place to find you online and continue this discussion? Can you pull in your nose and asking more questions about this this story?

Jake Lumetta 50:23
Yeah. So I'm on Twitter, Jake. Jake LaMotta. You can also hit me up on butter CMS. So Jacob butter CMS is my email. And yeah, we're happy to answer any questions or anything like that. But yeah, I spend my days plugging away plugging away a butter. That's yeah, that's my full time passion. And I love it. Great.

Tim Bourguignon 50:41
I hope people continue for for years and years to come. Thank you. And thank you very much. And this has been another episode of developer's journey, and we'll see each other next week. Bye. Thanks for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share, rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Will you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep ti m OTHEP. corporate email info at Dev journey dot info talk to you