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AMA: Spencer Fry, Founder & CEO of Podia

over 2 years ago from , Founder @ Podia

Hey everyone,

I’m Spencer, the founder of Podia: a place for creators to sell their online courses and digital products.

We just celebrated our 2.5-year anniversary, had our first creator pass the $100K mark in online course sales, and now, we’re doing an AMA with you fine folks. Needless to say, it’s been an exciting month!

Okay, let me give you some background on Podia.

We’re a 5-person, all-remote team that’s distributed across New York, Colorado, Canada, and...wait for it...Ireland. We’ve grown to over 5,000 entrepreneurs and creators (much of that growth happened over the last 6 months), and we’re constantly making updates that we hope will continue the success we’ve seen so far.

If you really want to dive in deep, you can check out this article, which focuses less on “what Podia is” and more on why I started it in the first place. There may even be some interesting points in there you’d like to discuss during the AMA.

Now at this point, you may be saying to yourself, “Spencer Fry...who is this dashing gentleman and how do I know that name?” (Well, maybe just the second part).

You may know me from 1 of my 4 former startups, Carbonmade, which is an online portfolio service many of you may have used (at one point or another) to show off your work.

The thing Podia and Carbonmade (and really all of the companies I’ve founded) have in common is my focus on product design—it’s always been really important to me and it’s one of the reasons I’m chatting with all of you today.

Speaking of which, if you’re wondering which types of questions to ask, here are some ideas for conversation-starters:

  • My experience as a non-technical founder
  • Bootstrapping vs fundraising
  • How to choose the right investors when you care deeply about design
  • Cooking, cycling, squash, or writing
  • Anything that comes to mind!

Alright, that’s it for now, folks. I’m looking forward to chatting with you tomorrow (3.29.17) at 12PM EST!

14 comments

  • Justin JacksonJustin Jackson, over 2 years ago

    Hey Spencer! I'm a big fan of Coach. Love the recent profile redesign.

    My question – how did you (as a non-technical founder) come to appreciate design? Why is it important to you?

    3 points
    • , over 2 years ago

      Thanks, Justin! Glad you like the new profile design. The checkout experience is my favorite: https://blog.withcoach.com/4-new-updates-design-customizations-for-storefronts-sales-pages-more-3fe8a8298d9e

      As a high school student back in the day (I'm 32 now), I was designing a lot of fun little websites and sort of got hooked on it. Just a slight turn of the color wheel and everything changes: the mood, the look, etc.

      My grandfather was also an professional artist and my dad (his son) while an English professor does a lot of painting too, so you could say it's in my genes.

      That being said, I think my appreciation for design and product came from my time working on Carbonmade for 4 years. Having met thousands of designers, speaking at design schools, and building a product for designers just got me to appreciate how important design is in our culture and in our work.

      Designers are also some of my favorite people to work with and as friends. :)

      1 point
  • Jesse C.Jesse C., over 2 years ago

    I think a general story on how you found your technical cofounder, and all the related things, would be neat. Did you get lucky and just find a software eng who appreciated design, or did you have to go through quite a bit?

    0 points
    • , over 2 years ago

      So for Coach, I'm actually a solo founder. I used about ~$30k of my own money on a contract engineer to get Coach started and then was able to leverage the prototype the two of us built into raising some pre-seed money. Once I was able to raise money, I used that to begin building out the team.

      Coach was the first company I started where I was a solo founder, so for my other three:

      • TypeFrag: My technical co-founder and I actually met in college. I wasn't a CS major, but we met in a CS class.
      • Carbonmade: I actually hired these guys to do a design/dev project for me and then we decided to go in as equal partners and build Carbonmade together.
      • Uncover: I had built a pretty good network in NYC and decided to start Uncover with one of my friends.

      So in almost all cases it was just from being social and getting to know talented people.

      1 point
  • Victor CoulonVictor Coulon, over 2 years ago

    Hi Spencer! Hope you are doing great :)

    Q: How do you organize your team/How does the team keep each others in sync while working remotely?

    0 points
    • , over 2 years ago

      Thanks, Victor!

      All 5 of us are remote, so staying in sync is sometimes challenging.

      Obviously software helps and we use a combination of:

      • Trello
      • Slack
      • GitHub
      • Zoom.us (for weekly standups)

      Everything gets piped into Slack.

      In terms of our team, we're:

      • 2 engineers
      • 1 designer
      • myself (product)
      • 1 marketing/copywriter

      Our engineers both talk to each other a ton throughout the day and have a great rapport, so that helps a lot. Our lead designer spends a lot of his time focusing on his work and then pops back up every 2-3 days. I think it's important not to bother creative people. :)

      We actually wrote productivity blog post for remote teams back in February: https://blog.withcoach.com/12-productivity-tips-from-our-remote-team-3027497a4a3e

      2 points
  • Chris KeithChris Keith, over 2 years ago

    Hey Spencer, when beginning a new startup, what kinds of characteristics do you look for in a co-founder (or early founding members?)

    0 points
    • , over 2 years ago

      My opinion has changed a lot in the past 15 years. Early on I really only cared if the person was also as interested in the idea as I was. Obviously there are a million flaws in that qualification and with experience, my viewpoint has definitely changed.

      Nowadays, what I care most about is that people I work with are more than just smart, but that I actually get along with them. If there's even 1 person in your founding team that you don't really enjoy talking to / working with then in a few months, you're going to dread going into work and all your work is going to suffer. This definitely has happened to me before.

      That's why I think really getting along with your early team is really important. Can you crack jokes and everyone laughs? Are lunches fun and enjoyable? Can you talk about non-work things? All super important stuff as startups are such a grind.

      2 points
  • Max LindMax Lind, over 2 years ago

    Hey Spencer, thanks for joining us!

    • Talk a bit more about your tagline, "Make a living off your passion"... and more specifically, maybe provide some thought on how folks can better understand what that "passion" might be... and specific examples of people or products?
    • Adding to the above... for some, creating isn't the hard part, but rather the business finance side of things is what's complicated... how does one decide how to price their products?
    • In your Earthquaker plan you have a line item for "Monthly coaching call to help grow your business"... talk a bit about what that entails.
    0 points
    • Spencer Fry, over 2 years ago

      Thanks, Maxwell.

      • For a lot of people out there, they're passionate about something but either don't have the time or resources to pursue it. Part of the reason we're building is Coach is to provide an easy all-on-one platform for these types of people. Being able to not only sell your digital products, but also do your email marketing and landing pages on one system helps eat away at the time excuse. We post a new example every Monday, here are the latest: https://www.withcoach.com/examples
      • I'd say getting started is the hardest part. But to answer your question: It's all about getting the first sale, it's less about how much that sale is for. There's this feeling when the first $$ hits your bank account that this is something real that with more time and energy you could scale up to be a meaningful source of income. That said, I think what's important for a new creator is to build an audience more than to make money, so pricing in the $19-$49 range for your first product will lead to the most sales. Then on v2 or v3 of the product you can get into the $99-$249 range. It's only when you have a ridiculously amazing audience that you can start to charge in the high hundreds ala https://www.groovehq.com/blog/how-we-built-online-course (a customer of ours).
      • That's actually something that we're going to remove in the next iteration of our Pricing. We felt as if our most expensive plan should have some personal guidance, but very few people take us up on it.
      0 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, over 2 years ago

    What happened to uncover?

    0 points
    • , over 2 years ago

      I'll start with an easy question. :)

      Last year in May, 2016 I sold Uncover to a company out in Las Vegas that buys SaaS businesses. I think they own a total of ~25 or so companies and are doing quite well for themselves.

      My heart was never really into Uncover. Employees perks were just not that interesting to me. I think the problem is that "perks" are just not that interesting to anyone. The companies that give them don't really care and the employees that receive them only really care on a surface level. It was difficult for me to build a company where neither of the users really cared.

      1 point