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Dax from SST - content that has nothing to do with your tool can still convert Episode 59

Dax from SST - content that has nothing to do with your tool can still convert

· 29:47


Dax 0:00
The theory in January was, we can make content that has nothing to really do with SST and still convert people. And then like 10 minutes later, he tweeted, our Doc's being like, this is so cool. And I was like, Wow, we got our whole theory validated, like within the first hour.

Jack Bridger 0:17
Hey, you're listening to scanning dev tools. Today, we're joined by Dax, who is the creator of SST. And I wanted to bring Dax on today, because I saw this absolutely amazing video that Dax made. Thanks so much for joining Dax,

Dax 0:33
appreciate yyou having me on, looking forward to this

Jack Bridger 0:36
Could you tell us a little bit about SST? Yeah, so

Dax 0:39
SST is a framework for building applications on AWS, the idea behind what we do is AWS is a giant product with a million services in it. Most people, really, if you're trying to build something, you can't just go in and expect to have a good experience, I don't think anyone expects to have a good experience with AWS. So our focus is really looking at all different ways you can do stuff in AWS, narrowed down to like the 5% of things that people generally need and build a framework around these concepts, we typically end up focusing on technologies that are serverless. So the things you deploy through SSE will work for one user million users, everything scales automatically. And we just looked at all the rough edges that people run into, and the confusions people run into and try to simplify that. So you can have a pretty decent experience on day one. But your code base will still work on day. 100. Day 1000 and beyond.

Jack Bridger 1:37
Yeah, that's, that's very, very useful. And this video that I kind of wanted to talk about, if people are listening, they should just probably go watch that right now. But I think the name is this went back. Is it this one? Oh, that was the thumbnail. This went badly.

Dax 1:57
Yeah. The name of the video is that between two nerds who just started between two nerds, you'll you'll it'll come up.

Jack Bridger 2:03
Yeah. So go watch that right now. And basically, it's with Fred Schott, the founder of Astro and you kind of play Zach Galifianakis I guess this kind of like, very difficult person messing things up, like asking absolutely brutal questions. And yeah, I just wondered if you could talk us through, like, how you got to the stage of doing this video?

Dax 2:30
Yeah. So basically, in January, we got to a stage with SST where we just we just finished a big rewrite, we launched SST 2.0. It was kind of like a crunch period for us. And we just ended it. And we, we looked at what we had, and we're like, okay, the product is in a place. It's not perfect, but we're like, in a much better place. And we're kind of happy with where it is, we'd love to have more people using it. So the focus now has to be on marketing. And I've been thinking about marketing for the prior year, and how much it's it's changing, and how the way that dental companies market today, like doesn't really work. And I think the insight I had was, there's different stages of someone interacting with your product, there is the stage where they're trying to learn it, like they're already like, interested in what you're doing, they're trying to learn it. And almost all content is geared towards this stage. So it'll be things like showing off features, demoing a, like a, like an example app or like a tutorial on how to use something. To me, this isn't marketing. This is for people that are like further down your funnel. And that's more of an education site, you're trying to make sure that once they're in and excited about your product, you don't lose them because they don't they can't figure it out or like you want to make sure they know your features. That's not where marketing begins marketing beginners begins way, way before that. It starts when someone has no idea who you are, and you need to give them a reason to stop and look at something you've made. Right, so is the very top of your funnel. And you want to make sure this is as broad and as big as possible. So if you're just producing tutorial content, there is no tutorial content out there, that's gonna get a million views, right? It's only for stuff that's the only thing they're gonna watch or people are already familiar with, with what you're doing. So if you want to focus on top of the funnel, you have to make some to our opinion is we just go for hits like it's okay, if it fails, like most of the stuff we make, probably is not going to do super well, but it needs to at least have a chance of doing super well. So we decided to make stuff that fulfils that. So instead of focusing so much on our product or what we do or about, let's just try to make good content that people enjoy. And this could be stuff that's funny. It could be stuff that's informational. Let's not like obsess over like drilling down, drilling the name of our product into people's heads, just makes up that that people might enjoy. So that was the niche idea. And we had just finished up this integration with Astro and wanted to, again, we wanted to market it. So let's apply this new philosophy around it instead of doing a tutorial video on how to use it two together, let's just do something that people would genuinely enjoy. And I've been friends with Fred for a little bit. So I pitched him the idea and he was immediately down. I was nervous because I had never like I'm not an engineer. I'm not like an actor or a comedian. I've never done anything like this. But doing it with someone that I'm close with. made it a lot easier. And he was on the film it.

Jack Bridger 5:32
Yeah, it was kind of like, it's kind of interesting how when I've listened to you on your podcasts, you're such a like, kind of level headed like real? I don't know, there's a lot of like wisdom when you're on this podcast. How about tomorrow? So it was so interesting seeing this persona that you picked up. So I think you did a good job on that flavour kind of Zach Galifianakis character.

Dax 5:54
Yeah, it's funny, because I spent a day just watching every single episode of that show. And I mean, I approach it. I think like an engineer, I just listened to every single episode. And I wrote down all the patterns of jokes, because the jokes had to have a format. They're always like, because they're all about misdirection, right? Like he says, one thing ends it with a punch line that goes in different direction. There's only so many formats of that. So I wrote all those down. And I just put in blanks for where it was like specific about the person. Then I went, and I read all about Fred and like, thought about what I knew about ash, oh, et cetera, is like fill that in one to one. And it ended up working out pretty well, when I filmed it. And when I wrote it down, I actually thought it was terrible. I thought it was really bad. And even when I edited it, just because I was watching it so many times during edits, I was like, this is gonna bomb but then I showed it to my team, everyone was into it. So I was like, Okay, maybe it's actually worked out because I was so mechanical. For me. It wasn't like, I imagine like making something that is to be like, spontaneous and like natural, but it's really not. And that was kind of what I learned in that process.

Jack Bridger 6:57
That's hilarious. You engineered this comedy video?

Dax 7:01
Yeah, yeah. And so I'm doing another one actually. I'm actually recording today at 230. And this one, I think I just learned a bunch from the first one, just like just that. Another really interesting thing getting into all this is there's just logistics of recording stuff like this, like just little things that you should do like during the recording and before and after that, make it go better. And I learned a tonne, just from that first one. So I'm excited to do this second one and, and see if it comes out comes out even better. Yeah, what kind of stuff did you learn? Yeah, so a very simple thing was Okay, so one. If you watch Between Two Ferns, the exact Alpha next version, it's all very, very smooth. And it looks like a very real conversation. I found one. And I was very nervous when I watched I was like, man, how are these people so good at this, I found one behind the scenes episode. And it turns out, oh, no one is good at this. It's all completely fake. Pretty much after every single line Zack delivers, the other person has burst out laughing. And it's fully done and edits. And that's true of the one that video I made to like what you guys saw in that video was not like nowhere close to what actually happened. I took clips of him listening to me, and splice them in as it was his response to me. So it looks super awkward. And that's what that's what they do in that show as well. And the one thing that I didn't realise was, as you're filming, obviously, we're like laughing the whole time, the whole time we're filming we're just cracking up. And if you watch the final video, you'll see like, Well, I kind of more smiley towards the end. But what the original show does a good job of is once you're laughing, you should like reset, you should like say reset, so everyone knows what like reset their face and then go to the next line. Otherwise, like you're just you're like more giggly by the end by the end of the episode. So yeah, little things like that. You just use learn? Yeah, cuz

Jack Bridger 8:58
I guess you want it to almost be like, there's more distance between. That's yeah, 345. Yeah,

Dax 9:04
yeah, exactly. And you can see like Fred and myself, like in some of the lines, he's like, kind of half laughing delivering them, which is also as its own level of humour. Just seeing that but yeah, like it just I was very impressed with the original with how, how much goes into it? Yeah,

Jack Bridger 9:21
well, it's amazing. And it's funny how, like, how much funnier things are when it's like, so specific to your like area, like when it's like the slam is like Guillermo Rauch, like it's just so much funnier. I don't know why.

Dax 9:39
There's a there's an episode of the show Modern Family the one of the characters we've never met with one of the characters is a he's a real estate agent, and he's kind of like a dorky dad. And he's picked to host this like real estate agent award show thing. And his family finds his note cards, and they're like, this is terrible like these to like the worst jokes ever, he's gonna embarrass himself. So they hide his note cards and make it so he like, can't read his jokes, but it turns out and he eventually gets them eventually reads them and he kills it. Everyone loves it. And turns out, it's exactly that it's like these specific jokes that just wouldn't ever land anywhere else are like extra funny in with the right audience, right? So it was it was actually exactly that I showed my wife the script, and she actually found it funny. But then she, like didn't understand a lot of it, or some of it, but she understood the, like what I was potentially making fun of. But yeah, just hits like 100 times harder when it's like ultra specific. Yeah, yeah,

Jack Bridger 10:41
that's amazing. And it's like, it's one of the things I've thought about after is like, how this, like for most companies, essentially, you're announcing an integration between Palm Desert or I didn't have it? That's

Unknown Speaker 10:57
not the most exciting thing. Yeah,

Jack Bridger 10:59
yeah, it's like, I feel like for most companies, that would have just been, I don't know, like, it's sweet. With the two logos side by side, that's gonna, you know, and everyone within the company would like it and share it. And that would be kind of the extent to which people would find out about it.

Dax 11:15
Yeah, and it's one of those things where I think the thing I realised and us as a team, we realised was, okay, all these dev tool companies have marketing departments and people hired to do this full time. But it really feels like no one is really thinking about it, they're just doing the things you're supposed to be doing. Like, oh, okay, there's a really easy write a blog post you posted. If you think really hard about why you're doing these things, you actually would never do any of those, because they just don't provide much value. And that's why it's like, that's something we're really excited about, we realised there actually isn't another company we can look at and say they're doing everything right, we need to copy them. What's hard about that is you have to invent a lot. But it also means a bar is incredibly low. So as long as you have a unique angle, you don't have to be amazing at it. The expectations are super low. And that's again, with this Fred video. There's other like funny tech stuff out there. But it tends to be like the same old jokes recycled like junior engineers, like this senior engineers like that. So we just wanted the bar was super low, and even the comedy side, and we'd have to be like that, that funny. I think we're gonna see this get pushed, as more people understand that this is like an angle you're gonna exploit. I think, like the bars and arrays. Yeah, like, I mean, I think we're planning a Series A, that we're going to be raising the next six months. And a good portion of that is to invest more in our marketing, we'd love to just get people that are actually like, really talented. But some of these things to come help us like are like an actual comedian, or like people that actually make like really good content on YouTube, things like that. We don't want them to make content pitching our product, we just want them to continue to continue to do what they're really, really good at, just like Ben did a little bit towards the general tech audience. But yeah, besides that, like they don't have to, like really change much. And there's just so much opportunity there. If if, again, very outside the box, not what if you go to any marketing department and any tech company, they would probably be like, that's a really bad idea or like, would just be too weird. But given that we're small, we can kind of do whatever we want.

Jack Bridger 13:25
Yeah, yeah, it's so interesting when you think about like hiring a comedian and stuff like that. But like, I guess, when you have such a small budget, if you just do, if you just like kind of meet expectations, in terms of your marketing, then I guess you're probably going to fail as a startup. So you may as well, you know, go for the big hit. Otherwise, as you put it, otherwise, go home because you're just gonna do mediocre won't make it to the next stage. And

Dax 13:54
exactly, I think people have understood this on a product side, they know that if your product isn't a hit, if it's just slightly better, you're gonna fail, like average results, don't get us off the ground. But like all of that same thing applies on the marketing side as well. Like you can just go for hits and the same kind of a marketing hits, like just the same way a product ID as a foreign you have both right? Because if you have a big marketing hit and a bunch of people discover your product and your product is not good, then it's a leaky funnel, right? So you have this in the right order, like we've made sure we got our product to a pretty good place before we started going more on the side but like yeah, you do have to do everything. And yeah, I think seeing some of the people that are not companies as much as the individuals like I think for this video a big inspiration for me was a prime magician because he is there's an individual like doing making content and some of the stuff is just like really entertaining where if you started video like I look oh, I watched his videos and I always think 10 seconds into the video. There's no chance I don't watch the whole thing because he's just Like, so entertaining and unique, and he's got a really great personality. And it made me realise like, oh, there's this whole other angle to this stuff besides just like, so far all content has been like I'm trying to teach someone something. Now much of it has been, I'm trying to entertain someone, because when someone sits down to watch something, they're not usually thinking, I'm gonna sit down to watch something, I'm only going to watch an educational usually thinking I'm gonna sit down and watch, I'm thinking it might be on Netflix, it might be on YouTube with my whatever. So yeah, you got to make sure that you're one of those options.

Jack Bridger 15:31
Yeah, 100%. And it seems like especially like, if you're going sort of like Junior going after juniors like there's more like tutorials and stuff like that. And the like, I felt like a lot of kind of established engineers tend not to really watch that much like in the way of educational material. It's more like, Okay, I've got a problem, I'll look something up solve that problem, but I'm not going to go like, watch educational videos tonight. Yeah,

Dax 15:57
that's definitely a real dynamic like myself, like I will I have watched like, the occasional thing when I'm trying to, like learn, I remember when I was trying to get into Graph QL. I like watched if you Graph QL talk, some people like moving really complicated REST API to Graph QL. Because I was like, I knew nothing. I don't really immerse myself in it. But besides those situations, yeah, most of the times, I'm like, not going to watch a whole video. So the only way to capture someone like me is through a completely different angle. And it was kind of funny, because initially, this was a theory, right? But the theory in January was, we can make content that has nothing to really do with SST, and still convert people into like trying out SST, and we post this video. And like, within the first 30 minutes, Adam rack is read, quote, tweeted it saying, I have no idea what SSE is, but after this video, I'm gonna go try it. And we're like, oh, it's working. And then like, 10 minutes later, he tweeted, our Doc's being like, this is so cool. And I was like, Wow, we got our whole theory validated, like within the first hour, it does work. It does work. And, and the thing is, like, you do have to find an angle that is genuine for yourself, like, this, like roasting thing does really come natural to me. And if I'm being perfectly honest, just like the way me and my friends grew up, it's the way we all interact with each other. It's just kind of been something it's very innate. So making content off of that genuine personality trait does does work well, because it's easy for me. If someone else went and tried to copy this, it probably would not work as well. So you have to find really what makes you uniquely you and try to figure out what content branch is well off of that.

Jack Bridger 17:41
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And did you like, when you were first starting out on like, videos and stuff like that? Are there any other things you've kind of picked up that you do now?

Dax 17:54
Yeah, definitely. So I think initially, I went through the same hump that I think everyone goes through where I was like, Okay, now we want to publish stuff on YouTube. And I go look at what's successful on YouTube. And I just cringe at it, because I'm like, why are they making these stupid faces in the thumbnails? Like, why are they why is it all like click Beatty and I was I was so above all that I was like, that's beneath me. And then I was sent this video by I'm forgetting the name and I'll link to the video afterwards. So you can you can put it somewhere if you want. It was a guy explain it guy was very successful on YouTube. And he just hit a science YouTube channel. He like explains, like, scientific concept, right? And he was explaining why he does. It's like, Why do I make these quote unquote, click Beatty videos? Or titles? Why do I like you know, like, like, experiment with thumbnails in this way. And he goes into it. And he talks so genuinely about this stuff about how if you don't capture people's attention, like they'll never see the video and then what's the whole point? And he is so unquestionable, because his videos are so genuinely, this is like some of the best content like ever produced on YouTube. And hearing it from him made me realise, like, I can't claim I'm above this guy, because his videos are genuinely 1000 times better than anything I can ever make. And he is explaining why he does this. And I think the misconception people have about clickbait is, you say something fake to draw people in, and then you like, your video is about something else, and people are pissed. If that is what you're doing your videos won't do well, because the YouTube algorithm, the tech side, they don't want that, then they like punish your video for that. Whereas his videos, the title gets you interested in curious and excited. And the video delivers on that on that concept. So the idea is just like it's just making packaging for your product to get people excited for a genuinely good product. And I think it took me a while to get over that. Like I watch that video a few times. And I was like, You know what? I was just kind of a little pretentious about this before and the underlying thing was just fear Like, I didn't want to do that, because I felt embarrassed, like, my friends gonna laugh at me. Like, if I do stuff like this, like they're gonna, you know. So under all of it, it was a bunch of fear. And I rationalise this with this, like, I'm too good to do this type of thing. And I think you see this like, mentality a lot. And it's totally understandable because like I said, I was once there. But if you are willing to do that, and like you are willing to, like, you know, put in the effort understand that it actually all does make sense. You do have to think about what is compelling, what is interesting. The end of the day, people have limited time, people's interests works the way they do, you can claim you never click on stuff that looks like that. But if we go look into everyone's YouTube history, like, we know, everyone clicks on it, because that's the whole reason the algorithm works way it does. Like it's all based off the feedback that people do. So it kind of is what it is. And I try to operate within within that model.

Jack Bridger 20:56
Yeah, I think you're so right. Like everything you said, there is like exactly how I've been feeling as well, that kind of fear and like that cycle that you go through. And, you know, it's like, it's so true, though. Like, if you have good content, then you need to do this stuff to get people through the door. Otherwise, no one's gonna watch what you do anyway, no matter how good it is.

Dax 21:19
Yeah, exactly. And now in hindsight, I was like, I was so entitled to be like, my content is so good that it should just work on its own. Especially that now that I've like more, I progressed more. I'm like, my cousin wasn't even good before. Yeah, it's a it's a skill, like everything else, you could develop it over time, and you will just look back at what you were doing a year ago and be like, Wow, that was really sucky. But you get a lot better at it very quickly, for anyone interested in doing this stuff. Like I've been doing, it's just part time alongside everything else that I do. And I would say it's been like six months or so I've been doing this and in that time, got like, many, many, many times better.

Jack Bridger 21:57
Yeah, I think that's a really good kind of advice, like in terms of like, just getting just doing, you will get better. And yeah, like, it's for me, like looking at your videos. Like, it's just that's so good. And it makes me question like, yeah, how how mine mine are and like, I feel like with YouTube, ultimately, YouTube is amazing place. And that like if your video is good, and your title is good, and your thumbnail is good, like people will watch it. And if they're not watching it, it's probably because like, you're not doing those things well. And it's kind of like, quite interesting in its own sort of, like, they'll promote it for you. Once you get once you hit that. Yeah, it is

Dax 22:39
such a machine. It is crazy. Like compared to every other platform. Like we're not even doing that well on YouTube right now. Like we just haven't, we've like made a few videos here and there. But we haven't like really dedicated our time to it. And we know we have to because there just is no other machine like it is so good at finding the exact person, if it's if the video is good is so good at finding every single person that would like it and like showing it to them. Yeah, so if you can like really tap into that it's, like unheard of that no other platform gives you that kind of reach and ability.

Jack Bridger 23:10
So you were talking about like, kind of maybe getting comedians and stuff like that, do you feel like this whole process could kind of just carry you all the way through, like in some as a company?

Dax 23:20
Yeah, I think so. So we are a very small, we're just three people. And we're able to kind of do a lot, given that our small size, and we're gonna continue to be a very, very small company. So in order to be a small company had to find ways to like just really find leverage anywhere you can. And marketing is a huge lever, right? If you have a really good Channel, it means anytime you have a good idea, you never have to worry about all the right people are gonna see it, right. And I think we're fine on that part. We're fine on that. Okay, making good ideas and building products that line up with that. And now we're building our marketing channel and having a really solid marketing channel is a huge lever, like, it's just way less money time energy to spend in a million million places. So yeah, I think as we raise money as we invest in more areas, we're not going to hire 100 people, like it's not where the money is gonna go. It's gonna go towards like, some of these marketing efforts. And I do think that we treated just as important as everything else we're doing. So we just talked about like, just because your video is good, doesn't mean you don't have to make the cover of the good, exact same way just because our product is good doesn't mean we don't have to spend as much time on on the marketing side. So I'm pretty excited about what we can invest in. I think again, just it's so new and the space is so like, immature that there's crazy advantages up for taking. Like most companies might hire like a full time, quote unquote marketing person for like, let's say 150k a year in the US. For that price, point 100 decays or like Around 10k a month, little over 10k a month, there's so many insanely talented people making content on YouTube that make nothing close to that, if I gave any one of them a budget like that, they could just kill it in terms of the views that they get, for us way, way more than a full time marketing person could. So I'm excited to find those opportunities that are just like super high leverage and invest more there.

Jack Bridger 25:25
Yeah. And do you think it's going to be challenging to kind of get someone who's not working in tech to like, come in and kind of like, have the same kind of impact, because obviously, what you do a lot of is like, an unknown token offline, that you, you are like very much writing code. Like you're, you're somehow I don't know how you're doing it, but like flicking back and forth between them. And it gives you this perspective. But

Dax 25:47
yeah, a big part of the way we're able to operate the way we do is because there's no like communication overhead. Like when I like literally, when I run into a rough edge somewhere, I can like translate that all the way into a joke for some content that I'm making, right? I have to like explain to someone else, that that is an area that we have to figure out, I think the way we're thinking about it is we're going to hire and contract people for quality purposes not to replace us. So I love to work with someone that is like very good at like the filmmaking aspect of it, or like, even just like basic things like like lighting, and like just production quality stuff. And someone who understands like how to like edit stuff together to keep it engaging to keep it fun, they can can kind of give us like really reflect like harsh feedback on on what we're doing. We're not going to do to replace the fact that most of our ideas probably gonna have to come from us. But we'd love to have just more talented people that we can like, go back and forth with and, and it's a way that writing rooms work. I think like I always think about shows that are authentic, there have to be funny shows or shows in general, there's two shows that come to mind. So one is Silicon Valley, the other one is called catch fire. So kind of as a comedy Hall and Catch Fire is a drama. Both of these shows did a fantastic job of capturing like really insane little details about the industry. Whilst also being a fantastic show on on its own, on catch fire, specifically, like captured, like so many of the emotions of being a founder, and like working on something and then realising like, the actual thing you should have been working on was like right there and you missed it like the capture all those details really, really well. So the people pull this off. So it's clearly a mix of people that have lived the experience working with people that are good at delivering that into a nice format. I don't know how this works, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Jack Bridger 27:37
Yeah, that's interesting. Next, see you already like the ball. Like you'll have to look outside of like, the tech devils like Silicon Valley, like as a Yeah, but yeah,

Unknown Speaker 27:47
exactly. Yeah,

Jack Bridger 27:48
that's amazing. Dax I think that's all we've got time for. But if you had to kind of pick out some kind of key takeaways for anyone listening, what would be the things that you'd want them to remember?

Dax 28:00
Yeah, it's just remember that if you're building a company, you do need to do marketing. You don't just need to do marketing, you need to be one of the best marketers in the space. Otherwise, you're not really just doing the default of posting on LinkedIn. Like that's not going to give you any kind of crazy, crazy leverage. get interested in it. Get excited about it, there was a time where I hated it and thought that I would never like marketing, like, what is that? Like, it sounds boring. Find a way to make it something you enjoy, find content you love. And if you love the content, you're probably gonna have fun making other content like it. That's kind of what I did. And it's working really well for us. And I'm just now I'm just as excited to go work on a video as I am to go work on a new feature. And yeah, if you can enjoy it, it just makes it all more possible. Yeah,

Jack Bridger 28:52
that's awesome. And where can people learn more about SST and about ducks?

Dax 28:57
Yeah, so SS T dot Dev is the website. Go check it out. And for me, I'm on Twitter and my handle is th dx are? Probably see me around.

Jack Bridger 29:06
Awesome. Well, thanks. Thanks for joining and thanks, everyone for listening.

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