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  • John Harden

Helping Channel Partners Increase Revenue and End-Clients Save Money

John Harden joined Mike Kelly on the Startup Competitors podcast to discuss how Saaslio was built to serve channel partners.

Video Transcript:

Mike Kelly: Welcome to the podcast, today we have John Harden, who's the founder and head of business development for Saaslio. John, welcome.

John Harden: Hey, thanks for having me Mike. Appreciate it.

Mike Kelly: Why don't we open with a quick pitch for Saaslio?

John Harden: Yes, Saaslio is a managed SaaS solution for the channel partner models. So we're going into managed service providers, IT service providers, and giving them a tool that they can use in their end clients to help save them money. It's a really cool mix up though, we're in a position right now where we're going to the partners and giving them a lead generation tool because we're able to identify all the technology in their clients space so they can go in and unearth new projects, they can look across their entire client base and unearth projects and go, “Well, maybe I need to take my business this way because we have a lot of people using Salesforce or maybe a lot of people using this tool.” And so we're allowing the partners to discover new ways of making money. So always increasing revenue and increasing sales as a positive, but then on the flip side of the coin, we get to go down to the clients, and we get to save them money. And so the best analogy, one of my advisors said that he pulled out a coin out of his pocket, and he looked at it and he goes, “On the heads, you're increasing partner revenue. And on the tails, you're decreasing client spend.” He goes and you're right here on the razor thin part of it in the middle. And he goes, you don't realize how rare that is. Because a lot of this space that I play in I mean, the big players, they want to increase spend, they're like let's get more, more, more, more into the clients. And I'm coming in and I'm kind of messing with the norm and coming in and say, “Let's reduce, let's stop wasting so much money on SaaS.

Mike Kelly: So let's make that super tangible for a second for somebody who's listening who might not have understood everything that you just said, So, you're selling to a company, like, give me, for instance.

John Harden: Yeah. So I mean, on the local area here like a KSMC, a, an AIS, something like that.

Mike Kelly: Perfect. So you're going to AIS and you're saying, “Hey AIS, we built this product, here's how you can use it with your existing accounts and as a business development tool with new accounts.” And then AIS comes to develop our town, for example, and says, “Okay, developer town, we're going to use this tool for what?”

John Harden: Yeah, they come to developer town and they say, “Hey, we know that you're already spending a tremendous amount of money on SaaS licensing, we want to deploy this into your environment, and we're not going to interact with you at all, it's just going to sit in the background of your computer, it's going to understand how you might use your software's out there, it's going to integrate into your finances, and it's going to pull all the data forward. And it's going to tell the partner, this is the licenses that Michaels paying for, these are the licenses that they're not paying for. And this is where we can shut technology down.” To put it in like a consumer model, think of the Spotify you pay for or think of that Amazon Prime account that you probably get your use out of. But just think of those non are those monthly recurring subscriptions that hit you every single month. This is a tool that's focused on helping businesses cut that overhead out of their business and 999 might not sound like a lot to one consumer, but when you look at it at a business, that's 300 consumers, that's $300 a month and it compounds and it's $3600 a year. And that's with one tool. I mean, the amount of overspend in business is outrageous. It's 30% of its almost overspending $120 billion market so there's nearly $40 billion worth of waste in the SaaS space and they add up, its death by 1000 cuts and any business owner that's listening. They're probably nodding their head right now going, “Okay, I've been cut, to death by about 1000 times before.”

Mike Kelly: Yes. Okay, perfect current status of the company, any vanity metrics at all you can share around the business to help paint a picture of where you're at for somebody who's listening and maybe isn't familiar with you guys.

John Harden: Yeah, some really cool exciting news that when I'm telling you right now, Mike can't make it out. But by the time this podcast gets out there can make it right on. So just got accepted into the G beta program, really cool program, phenomenal group of folks excited to be working with them. We've secured three partnerships. So we've got three early adopter partners that are taking our product and deploying internally. We just locked down our first and client Federal Credit Union base down in Florida, don't ask I broke the indie Bumble or the bubble with my very first client. And things are going really rapid. I mean, it's kind of cool because we categorize applications and we identify applications by identifiers. And one of the metrics I sent out in our last update is we're category almost 100 applications a week. And this is with a very small footprint. Like, as we grow, we're expecting to be categorizing nearly 1000 or 2000 applications a week.

Mike Kelly: And are all those SaaS products that you're categorizing or some of those more traditional like you can see that we're also using a desktop version of QuickBooks or Adobe or something like that.

John Harden: Yeah, it's a mix because right now, SaaS is in such a landscape where you may not just be going to the web tool. I mean, you use zoom on your desktop, you don't go down to your web application. So we actually have a mix. It's a browser extension that helps an augment your existing web based SaaS tools. And then it's desktop agent running in the background, helping identify the desktop based tools. And so it kind of is a hybrid and identifying all these things, but it gives us a full picture.

Mike Kelly: Awesome. So still, early stage, how big is the team today?

John Harden: Two, we just got to announce our tech co-founder a couple weeks ago, really Uber talented guy named Josh Gayso came to us from MetaCX. And it was funny, the only reason I think that Scott McCorkle likes people to leave MetaCX is if they're going to found a company. And so it was a great, great departure for him. And he's an exceptional addition to the team. And he's our head of software development, and he's going to crush it. He's crushing it right now while I'm talking to you. And so it's exciting that we're at that stage, lot of growth to come. But he's one of the people that I've been watching since day one that I wanted on my team.

Mike Kelly: Why sell through service partners, instead of selling directly to the company that is monitoring their software?

John Harden: Yeah, that's a really good question. I actually get that a lot. So right now in the space and the competitive research that I've identified, there's a lot of direct, there's a lot of direct to enterprise, we're not focusing on quite enterprise, even, we're focusing more on SMB, but there's even still a lot of competitors and direct SMB. Where we see though is that the SaaS management space was really made for managed service providers. And what I mean for that is like, take my two men company, take Saaslio, if I go to Nike, and I tell Nike, deploy this agent that's going to monitor your employee activity, I don't even think I'm going to get that sentence out before I'm asked to leave. It's just not feasible. But if my managed service consultant comes in, or my IT professional comes in, if essentially walks in the door, and tells Nike, “Go deploy this in your environment, we're going to save you a bunch of money.” They don't bat an eye. And so we're really playing on the trust factor that the it providers and these managed service providers bring to the picture. But we're also playing on the fact that there's nobody in their space solving this problem.

I was talking to one of my partners yesterday. And when I say partners, I'm talking about one of our channel partners. And they were so excited because they said, “Everybody in our space is so focused on pumping more software into our clients. There's nobody coming in saying how do we reduce it.” And it's a really cool picture because what that means is I can go to their clients, reduce spend, and open up new avenues to be more efficient for the partner to introduce their technologies. And so it feels like a better fit. The channel is absolutely grasping at straws for something like this. The traditional things they've been selling for years network, managed voice, Telecom, all these traditional things that used to have a lot of money or a lot of revenue opportunities for them have become really commoditized and there's $140 billion market and just manage SaaS nearly a $500 billion market and cloud and they want a piece of it. I want to give them a piece of that money and I want my own share of it as well.

Mike Kelly: Amen. When you think of competitors in the space, who or what comes to mind?

John Harden: I kind of have a categorized in two in my mind, I've got the direct competitors, the people that are going direct to market.

So in the back door, most people are going to think straight to their head. And I've been asked a million times, silo, of course, but I also look at the others, you've got G2 Tracks that's more in the SMB space, you've got Tory more in the SMB space. But where I really am worried about, if you're identifying the risks, and people coming into the space, I'm not worried about those guys moving channel, because when you build a product that's direct, you can't just pick it up, take a square peg and put it in a round hole. Direct products and channel products really are fundamentally different. Now you can kind of shift there, but we're building a product for the channel, not a direct product that we've shifted to the channel. So not too worried about that, where I get a little bit conscious or a little bit more thoughtful of is the big players in the managed service provider space, I'm thinking, the Connect wise, the logic monitors, the solar winds, the big dogs that have billions in revenue that could go right into our space that already have agents that might be collecting similar data and want to start to run the telemetry against it. Now, I kind of sigh a bit of a relief, because most of the growth that those companies take connect wise, you take logic monitor solar winds, even Microsoft falls in this space. They don't grow through innovation, typically they grow through acquisition. I smile, a bit of relief, knowing that they're probably not going to go into my market directly, they're going to buy into my market. And I smile, because I want to be the one that gets bought.

Mike Kelly: Right. Nice, good answer. What is channel partner acquisition look like? What is it? I think most people when they think I'm building a SaaS product, and I'm going to go to market, they think, well, I'm either going to go direct to consumer, so at some version of ad buy, or I'm going to do enterprise sales. So I need SDRs, and people smiling and dialling, and I need to have a dialogue with our customer over time and educate them and write long sales cycles. And you're not doing either of those really. So what does it look like for you when you think of customer acquisition? What is what does that look like?

John Harden: Yeah, so grew up in the channel, my entire like SaaS life has been in channel so sold Unified Communication before this. So I know the end goal. But for me, right now, it's relationships. And I know relationships is kind of like a corny term to throw in sales, because everybody says sales is relationships. But I'm telling you, when you go to a partner, and try to convince them to deploy it to their hundred clients, it's really relationships, it's proven success, it's delivering on everything you say you're going to do. And you can only build it over time. I mean, you have to come in have a compelling statement, just like anything you would sell. But you have to be trustworthy, because you're asking them to translate your pitch and your trust to their end client. Like I said, I'm belaboring the trust and the relationship factor. But that's a lot of it. Now, as we grow, there's marketing. Marketing finds its way into every single thing, joining the appropriate boards so that you're in channel, paying the fees so that you're in front of everybody's face, there is targeted marketing for partners, and there's targeted marketing for managed service providers. But it's not your traditional go spam, Google ads, go spam, Facebook ads, it's more strategic. It’s almost its entire own niche that you've got to be a little bit experienced to play in.

Mike Kelly: When you're working with a prospect, what does it look like to start an engagement with them? Is there always a pilot program? We're going to do this for one or two of our customers, see how it goes. How long does that given that you're deploying software at scale within inside of a client? How long does a pilot need to run before you have enough results that they feel confident? Yeah, let's go. Let's do this for everybody. Like walk me through what that engagement looks like to go from first conversation to we've now scaled this to all of our clients inside of the service provider.

John Harden: Yeah, that's a really, really long road, by the way, that's a multiyear road. But the way that it starts is by establishing the problem and establishing the solution. You come in and you tell them, “Hey, this is how we're going to save your clients money. Hey, this is hoe we're going to help you generate money.” Kind of an easy entry, like, it's easy to say that, it's hard to kind of deliver on it.

Mike Kelly: Do they only pay you based on outcomes or they pay you a SaaS fee, just to use it?

John Harden: They’re paying a SaaS fee just to use it. Now, we traditionally waive the SaaS fees for the first 12 months for the partner. What we then do is based off of delivery metrics, if they're selling enough to their end clients, we’ll completely reduce and remove that fee. Our goal isn't to make money, it's not to make money with the two to 300 licenses that are at the channel partner, is to make money with the 20 to 30,000 licenses that exist in their entire ecosystem. So we come into market we give them a wave to 12 month entry into our product we walk them through, we give them a very clear partner guide. We say this is what we think is going to happen in eight weeks and we stay true to it. We put together a partner journey and we work on that partner journey.

The first week might just be, hey, let's sit down and understand the value props. Week two and three might look a little bit more like, well, let's get this into one or two of your teams inside the company. Let's work on looking at a deployment strategy. Week four and five, maybe we tackled the entire organization, and we're starting to talk about some ideal end clients that might be working for them.

Mike Kelly: What you're talking about right now is them eating the dog food first, right? They're going to deploy in their organization on their employees and see what SaaS products they're using internally.

John Harden: Correct. Yeah. And then where we go from there is we say, now that we've solved the problem for you, and you can see the data that we gather, usually at that point, it clicks in their head and go, we have these three, or four, maybe four or five clients that could really use this right now. We've had clients asking us for this problem to be solved, but we haven't had a tool to offer it. And those are really our PLC clients. Those are the ones that we go out. Now we're deploying, and we're charging SaaS licensing for them, but we come in and we go, these are the ones we're going to handhold you through, we're going to help you understand the data, we're going to help with the deployment, we're going to really hold your hand through all of this, we get it out in those environments. And usually by about the second third or fourth deployment, they've got it picked up. And in the past, where it's been really good as you get to a position where a channel partner goes, I have a 70 user deal. I then go, I need SaaS to solve this problem, I know exactly how to deliver it, I know how to consult on it, I know how to provide it, I just need 70 licenses. And that's the dream. You wake up with an email that says I just need 70 licenses and I'll take everything from here, a heck of a dream to live and maybe a little bit artificial, it's never quite that easy. But once you really build the relationships, and they get it, it really is just its own sales funnel. Because, just as much as you're focusing on growing partners and partner relationships, they're focusing on growing clients and client relationships. And so truly, if you get the right strategic partner, they are just saying I need licenses, and you're there just turning on licenses and helping them deploy in their environments.

Mike Kelly: Talk a little bit about, well, maybe back up, I was going to ask you about product roadmap, but maybe before we do that, let's talk a little bit more about competition and maybe some of the reasons why you are different. One of the criticisms I've heard about the people who are selling direct is that the transaction can almost be episodic, right? I can bring a silo in, we can use them to monitor our systems, identify all of our spend, we can go through a process to fix that, right size it and whatever way that needs to look like. And then I can literally tell myself a story is the customer like, “Oh, good, I'm good. I'm good for a couple years. Let's do this, again, two years from now.” And then in theory, terminate the license and walk away. One, I've never used a tool like that. So I don't know if that's true. But is that a pretty accurate representation? Does that happen?

John Harden: Absolutely. Everybody thinks this is a front loaded problem.

Mike Kelly: Okay. So, talk a little bit more about that, and how that affects how you think of product and what you need to build, not just today, but even three, five years down the road?

John Harden: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we're really hyper conscious of that. And initial deployments, like three or four months ago, we were in smaller clients, we saw that thing with a, I mean, big red marker on the whiteboard, how do we solve this problem. And so one thing you have to realize, and you're putting yourself in the shoes of being the consumer, you're going, “Well, I got my silo, I got everything fixed, and I'm out.” As a partner, you're coming in, and you're wanting to be the trusted advisor for everything, you're wanting to be the trusted advisor for the SaaS, you want to be the trusted adviser for network, you want to be the trust advisor for everything. And so what we are doing with this dual persona approach, where we're helping partners identify value and upsell, and then helping customers reduce costs, we're getting it almost to a point where the partners are using our tools for their QBR, their quarterly business reviews with their end clients. There's a really popular offering in the MSP space coming out. And it's been emerging over the last couple years called VCIO or they're your virtual CIO. And we're pairing right lockstep in with that VCIO offering. And we're telling these partners, not only telling them, but proving it to them, that instead of managing 10 customers per VCIO that you're hiring at $150,000 a year, why don't you manage 20 customers, because you have all this data, and we're starting to aggregate and make recommendations for you. Remember, this project for the developer town is really cool, because you save a bunch of money. And then rationally you save a bunch of money, and you're good. But what's happening is in the background, the partners aggregating this data and trying to discover how to make developer town more efficient as well. And so they're identifying projects. And so where we're trying to get to as a point where this cost is…

Mike Kelly: Can you give me an example of a project they’re trying to identify?

John Harden: Yeah, and a great example would be one of our partners is deploying an non for profit right now. And they're trying to identify what technology exists and where they can automate it, they want to make the business as hyper efficient as possible. And so an example would be, you're sitting on a Salesforce environment. And you've got these four non for profit tools hanging off of it that don't communicate, really common problem in the landscape. You may end up having to use some a tool like Zapier, or Microsoft Flow, or some iPads solution to solve the gap. But if you're a business that's leaning on a managed service provider, you're likely not going to be the one that's implementing these kind of things. We want the managed service provider to go to the customers, we want them to be proactive, just like your CIO would be at any company with them proactively saying, I see the laugh. Sighs you hope, you want somebody that's looking ahead, shutting the lights off behind you and turn the lights on ahead, and you want somebody that's going, here's the ways we can automate your process, and our tool is going to help you discover those. And that's where we're going.

So it's easy to justify the monthly recurring cost, because it's a discovery tool on one side and two reduction tool on the other. And we're really hoping to work in it's just bundling this in with the VCIO offerings, they already exist, coming in and bundling this with something, where it's traditional for them to charge per employee at the organization, similar to FullStack, I mean, you come in and you charge for a bunch of bundled services per employee. But we just want SaaS to be part of that bundled services for their employees that they're managing through the VCIO. So yes, it's front loaded for the client, but there's a long tail for the partner. So as the client reduction kicks, the partner value comes in, because they've got enough data to start driving those next projects inside their organization.

Mike Kelly: What can you do with this data long term? Maybe I'll expand on that question for a second and buy you second to think. What can your solution partner, your channel partner do with the data to help their client from a VCIO perspective? What can you Saaslio do with this data long term when you get this macro-level view of what software is being used in what type of companies and to what extent, what they're paying and how they integrate it and all that kind of stuff? Where do you see that coming into play down the road?

John Harden: Yeah, data is king. Like data is the driver. All these things that we're talking about today sound great, but you need data to get there. And what we're focusing on is right now we collect about 1800 data points a day on a user, how they're using the software's, what software's they're using, everything, we're aggregating all this data together. Now, our reports that we have, we’re only six, seven months in, our reports probably use about 100 of those data points, we don't even come close to touching it. But where we're going is this concept of, I know everything about you as a consumer, as an employee, probably as the better term there. I know everything about you as an employee, and what you're using in your tools. And I know your ecosystem, because I know who you are in the organization. And I know that there's a really similar ecosystem out in California that looks like you. Like maybe there's another incubator that is doing the exact same things and they're using these five sets of tools to solve a problem.

Well, I want to unveil that information to the partners so that now they're the only ones that can exclusively go into the tool and say, my stack looks like ABCD and I'm looking for E. My stack is these four pieces of technology, and I need to solve HR education management or learning management system, whatever niche problem you may need to solve. And then I can take the metrics from all our similar clients and start making recommendations based off of that, aggregating all that data together, anonymize obviously, so that I can start to give partners an enormous amount of data set that they can start to really identify most effective tools. And really where eventually goes is this concept of it's a SaaS based CIO, it's a software tool, making decisions inside of your organization. We’re going into market to reduce costs, but as we evolve and move in through our vision, it's a SaaS tool that unearths opportunity. It's a SaaS tool that makes decisions and helps make recommendations based off of all the other data we have. To ask about the data, we could sit for an hour and talk about that.

Mike Kelly: But if I'm Slack or Spotify or InDesign or Insert SaaS company here, and I want that data because I want to build a better product, I want a better wedgie and my competitors, you're going to have a ton of usage data that I'm guessing they don't have. They know how people are using their product, but they don't necessarily know what other products those people are using. So you've got the Netflix of satellite products, right?

Like, if you like this, you'll like this one too. So do you envision a world where SaaS providers would potentially have access to that data? Could they pay you for that? Could they get access to it? Could they better understand their customers?

John Harden: You're asking a question that's been asked to me quite a bit. And I want to come out here and say, I have a rock solid answer, because I do. I have what I want it to be. But really, it's going to have to be driven by how we grow. I want to approach it to a point where this data is only accessible by partners. In a healthy partner ecosystem, you have to give them something exclusive, you can't give them something that everybody else has. If everybody else has it, well, then why are they exclusively working with you? I want this data set to be you work with Saaslio as a provider, as a partner, you're getting these very specific keys to the kingdom and nobody else is going to get it and I want you to be the one with the competitive advantage. I don't want the SaaS companies with the competitive advantage. I want the managed service providers with that data.

Mike Kelly: Why? Why is that important?

John Harden: Because in my space, I've worked with a lot of managed service providers, everybody sells 95%, the same stuff, I hate to say it if you're one of the MSPs out there, and you think that like you're that hundred percent different angle, you sell about 90% of the same stuff, but you put a bow tie on it with a little bit different, and you probably do niche into a certain area. But for me, I really do want to provide a competitive advantage, I want something that really does step you out not something that you have to artificially inflate with marketing, I want it to be a true differentiator by using our product and the channel ecosystem.

Mike Kelly: Why is that a problem you're passionate about solving? That is not, like when I think about a problem that's waking me up in the morning and get me out of bed, that's not on my list. But why is it for you?

John Harden: Because I've met a lot of really, really smart business leaders that have had the right intentions with everything they've done. But the problem is that they aren't efficient technology makers or decision makers. And I'm talking about fantastic sales leaders or some fantastic Marketing Leaders or fantastic services and operations leaders. And when it comes down to it, a lot of the times they just choose a technology that either is existing in their environment, and they're having to fit this puzzle piece into their problem, or they're having to make a decision without all the information. And what ends up happening a lot of the times is they may have a grand vision that they want to get to, but they're not able to execute on it.

In my previous company rotated around roles, I went from marketing to sales to services, doing technology overhaul and understanding the problems there. And I saw it everywhere. I mean, you make a technology decision, you buy a Salesforce, for instance and you're locked in. I mean, think about it. Uprooting Salesforce is probably one of those painful processes in business, because it just costs too much to approve. And I've seen businesses get enveloped in expenses because I mean, you sign a 12 month, a three to six month contract with these guys, because you think that this is going to be your solution, then six months into using the product, it's nothing that you thought it was going to be. You realize that there's limitations here, there's limitations there. And where you end up being is, it's not inefficient, because you didn't have the right idea. It's inefficient because you didn't have the right things to make the right decision, the right data to make the right decisions. And so I'm passionate about enabling businesses to make the right technology decisions that they want to make, but maybe they just don't have the tool to do it or they don't have the data they need to make it. I just want people to be more efficient in what they're doing because I just know it's a big problem out there. And I wake up ready to solve that problem?

Mike Kelly: Do you have any Saaslio swag that you hand out to employees or partners channel partners?

John Harden: No, but I'm actually about to purchase some. This is a very timely question.

Mike Kelly: Let's hear it.

John Harden: I want a purple Polo that is so obscenely purple that everybody that sees this Polo knows it's a Saaslio Polo because not many companies out there are rocking a hard purple. And I think that a nice solid purple Polo on the golf course. Bring some attention to you.

Mike Kelly: Okay, have you found this purple Polo yet? Or are you still in the hunt?

John Harden: It's in my mind. I'm looking for it.

Mike Kelly: This is perfect. So for your purple Polo, you need to get connected with Dean at and Dean will help you find the perfect purple Polo and he'll even give you a discount since you were Startup Competitors a discount on your first order.

John Harden: Let's make it happen. The other ones though, good ones, phone Back all about those right now. Those are rock solid. They're dirt cheap and give out like, throw them out like confetti.

Mike Kelly: Phone back is pretty fair. Nobody has said that one before. I like that.

John Harden: Yeah, they’re so much solid because they're super applicable and it's always on you at all times.

I still don't think anything beats just a real. I don't know why people don't do this and I don't have the budget for it. I wish I could get there at some point where I had enough money just to like throw money around, but like a really well done just like I want to wear around shirt. Why does nobody, they put their brand on there and it looks super corporate and it's like super brand focused. But why can't you just make it look like a shirt that somebody wants to wear around that has your brand on it?

Mike Kelly: Some guys here in town who are really good about that lucid group, Lucid used to be Lucid services. Now I think it's just Lucid, their swag, it's clothes, you want to wear, their logo’s not obnoxious, like they make some really good swag. I'm a fan.

John Harden: Can I do a shout out and say if the Lucid group wants to get hold of me, I could use some advice, obviously.

Mike Kelly: Yes, you can, I could make that connection.

John Harden: Perfect.

Mike Kelly: All right. If you need swag, go to What's the biggest problem you faced taking this product to market?

John Harden: Well, so the biggest problem that we're having right now is that there's a lot of expectations for a product and the IT Service Management, for example. And we're coming in and doing SaaS management, which is different. So we've kind of had to shift their mindsets a little bit.

Mike Kelly: You have to educate them on what the problem is that you're solving and how it's different than the problem they think they're solving.

John Harden: Exactly. I mean, because in that space, this is this is emerging, this is really bleeding edge in the channel. Everybody I talk to, the biggest or the smallest, they see it as a problem that they want to be part of. I harken it back to like, we're going to go old school and date a little bit here. In my telecom days, back, when you can make a lot of money on long distance. There's a lot of money to be made in long distance, just snapped forward three years ago, there's no money to be made in long distance, network equipment, a lot of money to be made, now no money to be made. And it's very cyclical in the managed service space. And I think that the partners are seeing the SaaS is something that they haven't had a chance to be part of. And they weren't part of that $140 billion market. So it's a mix of education. And the same problem that I think every entrepreneur is facing, I can't get there fast enough. I get energized, because I talked to my partners, and they're like, this is exactly what we need. And if I could snap development forward 12 months, I'd be a very happy camper, my head of business development job would be a lot easier. And so one of the biggest things is just speed to market. I'm racing people that have got hundreds of million dollars to throw out to this problem.

Mike Kelly: Are you bootstrapped or venture backed? You don't have to answer that.

John Harden: Yeah. Now, I'm purely bootstrapped right now, this is coming out of the bank account of John Harden. We're making this thing happen. Both me and my co founder are purely sweat equity growing this thing right now?

Mike Kelly: Is that going to continue to be the plan? Or do you think you'll do around at some point?

John Harden: We’re looking for around, we've got plenty of runway, we're not needing around. We're looking for around. And it's because we strategically think that us bootstrapping it, isn't the right decision because of the lag to the market. We're looking to secure a raise so that we can get RND in the house building software every day.

Mike Kelly: Give a third party building it today. I'm just clarifying.

John Harden: Yeah, we don't. I'm a software engineer by trade. I built our entire MVP in beta for the first six months. My tech co-founder, Josh Gay, he's come in…

Mike Kelly: He could rewrite it.

John Harden: No. I told him, it's not allowed to do that. I said, we're a startup and you don't trash code. Now you can be mad about some of the decisions, but we're not trashing code, we have got to build forward. I'm a software engineer, so I could dog on it. There's always the archetype that comes and goes, now this isn't right. We're going to start from scratch. And I'm not letting that happen right now. Maybe in two years, I'll let somebody do that. But right now, I'm putting my foot down on the ground, we have features and functionality to build. We're not building scale for every company in the entire country. We're building scale for the businesses that we're solving right now.

Mike Kelly: I'm so glad I asked that.

John Harden: Yeah. I've had it happen too many times. And now I've lost the trade of art.

Mike Kelly: All right, we're talking about funding. So you're thinking, bring on a round of funding to bring RND and how scale that up after customers faster?

John Harden: Yeah, I mean, that round is purely so that we can accelerate. And it's not because we need, we can continue bootstrapped. We feel confident we could do it. But we think that the raise and dilution that we will take will be outweighed by the acceleration to market.

Mike Kelly: Is that the reasoning behind joining G-beta?

John Harden: Yeah, I think that G-beta is a really cool program and I want to be involved in it for a lot of reasons. One, they've got some super smart people. It's really fun chatting with those folks, and they've pushed me I mean, in six months, if I had a mirror of myself six months ago, I wouldn’t believe where I'm at, they've been pushing me without even being part of their program. And they're just good stewards of the indie community. So I want to be involved in it for that reason. But they bring a lot of strategic reasons to the table too. I mean, they bring investors to the table, they bring mentors to the table, they bring professional guidance to the table. And also for me, as Saaslio, it's a stamp of approval from a third party. I'm going to be energized. If you ask me any question. There's never a problem. It's all rainbows and unicorns, because I'm a founder.

Mike Kelly: And you and you're in sales. You're the founder, and you're in sales.

John Harden: Yeah. So everything's always good. In my world, there's never anything going bad. But I understand that if I'm asking for investors to put money into my business, that I need some stamps of approval. And so G-beta is a stamp of approval. And I think it's a really well respected one locally. And there's other things that we're doing that can't quite get into, but we're working on a few more stamps of approval right now.

Mike Kelly: Awesome. Love it. You personally, when you think about what you need to do to get better to reach the next level of performance in the business, what are you working on?

John Harden: I'm a big firm believer of you are the combination of the five people you surround yourself with the most. And people have probably heard different variations of that. But that's something I really firmly believe. And so I'm focusing on surrounding myself with people where I'm weak, I've got a lot of really phenomenal connections and spaces that I'm strong. Technology, pretty easy comes naturally, I've been building software for 13 years, it's not challenge to me. But building a channel, I was a sales engineer in the channel, but I didn't build a channel, I'll be open and where I'm strong and weak. Those are things that I need to grow. And so I surround myself with phenomenal people, like one of my mentors in the sales space, Jason Olm, for instance, phenomenal channel person, he understands the space like the back of his hand, he has resources and skills that I've dreamed to be there. And so Jason is just one example. But there's a lot of people, I'm very fortunate, and I look and then sometimes just, I mean, kind of floored as people that have come and helped me.

I mean, these mentors are just astronomical values to me, because they've really pushed me. And so it's all about surrounding, I mean, just surrounding and talking and meeting and just because I'm a salesperson, I'm not meeting people just to sell, always meeting people, because I love hearing the stories. You can kind of get to like a common denominator of all roots of all problems, the more times you hear it from different angles. And so I'm just a big fan of talking to people through problems and hearing their responses. And that's how I'm strengthening myself. If you've ever met with me over coffee, and when we first met, I'm very honest. I'll tell you where I'm weak. I tell you where I'm strong. I want you to help tell me where I'm wrong. I don't want to hear where I'm right. I don't need Pat's on the back. I need kicks in the ass.

Mike Kelly: Right on. If I caught you on a Saturday morning, 10 o'clock, what would you be doing for fun?

John Harden: Right now, the last few weeks I've been trying to get my golf game up because I abused it and didn't get out there this year, mainly for tomorrow. Now by the time this comes out.

Mike Kelly: You are in sales.

John Harden: Yeah, I know.

Mike Kelly: It’s like a stereotype.

John Harden: It really is. But I've only been practicing recently because tomorrow we're throwing a non for profit fundraiser for Wheeler mission through my young professional organization, and it's a golf outing. And we have some super prizes for the first team. So the last few Saturdays have definitely been out golfing, but just doing anything active, an active body and shape body as an in shape mind. So pretty done a ton of different things this year, whether it's biking. We were joking about pickle ball before the show, like getting into it. Yeah, I know. I get the rolled eyes, the smile of the pickle ball, the golf.

Mike Kelly: I’m not judging.

John Harden: I’m fine with it. Just something outside or some activity, especially in the last like six months, like you just want to be outside, you're already cooped up in your house too much to just doing something. If anybody knows me, they know I'm a busybody, there's never downtime. And then I complain that there's never downtime.

Mike Kelly: That philosophy active body, active mind, where does that come from?

John Harden: I'm sure there's a million books on it. I don't know, I've always kind of been active. And so, I'm sure there's a yoga mantra or something that really zones in on it, but that's kind of just me.

Mike Kelly: So, no strong influence in your past that kind of put that there.

John Harden: No, I just like doing things and being active and being active not only physically but being active and alive. It's all about being well rounded, being physically in shape, always reading new books, always meeting new people always doing new things.

You just got to be pushing yourself constantly. And it can't be, as a startup, I have to even remind my tech co-founder this, sometimes I'm like, you have to take a minute and breathe and like, do something different. Like, he will sit on the -- and this is Josh, I'm sure you're going to hear this, you sit on the computer for 12, 14 hours straight pumping out code. But I'm a firm believer of, if you're constantly pushing yourself in different areas, you're going to get more done in eight hours feeling loose and feeling good, then you're going to get done 12 hours being stretched, trying to push a deadline. Now don't get me wrong, I've sat on the floor at data centers before overnight, well, things went down. I've crunched out code on the delivery that has to go out on a Monday, I've been there. I'm just challenging you that if you have free time, you should take it. But don't take it and waste it. Take it and go push yourself somewhere else because as you push yourself and boundaries all around, you're going to become a better person holistically.

Mike Kelly: If looked at the last five podcasts you listen to, what would they be?

John Harden: Nothing, I’ll throw this one out. It’s kind of crazy. It's weird. Now I do have a favorite book. You could ask me the favorite book. I replace podcast time and book time with my eight to 9am wildcard coffee slot?

Mike Kelly: Oh, yeah. Okay, I know that slot. Unpack that. Explain that for somebody.

John Harden: Yeah. So I love the concept and the idea of podcast, you pick up a lot. And the idea when you're listening to a podcast is you're learning from a different point of view, you're hearing from a different point of view, you're wanting to hear the story, and you want to pick up something a thing or two. And the way I do that is for about the last four years, I've only probably missed 30 or 40 over the last four years, I've had an eight to 9am Coffee meeting. And it is no bars, no hold on, doesn't matter who I'm talking to, I'll meet with anybody between eight to 9am. And I have done this for like four years. And I've learned more in those discussions than I've picked up in any condensed reading or in any podcasts. And it's because I'm not hyper-focusing on like one little problem and like, I'm not making myself a T shape, I'm becoming a V shape, I'm becoming well rounded in there. And I've done this for so long, I wish I'd started writing a book, it would have been a fantastic idea to like take one little thing I've met from every coffee meeting. But there's only a handful of meetings I can look back and go, I didn't take something out of that meeting, whether it was an introduction to the right person in the network, whether it was a piece of advice, whether it was a different way of looking at something, because at the end of the day, when you're reading or when you're listening to a podcast, that's what you're looking for is a different perception, a different point of view, I just consume it a lot better by talking through it. Most of my discoveries have been talking through problems.

Mike Kelly: Do you structure those coffee meetings in a way that, like in your head, is there like some super loose scripts that you're following to try to maximize the value that you're getting out of that?

John Harden: Yeah, it's not as prescriptive as you think. But one is always ask more questions, spend more time listening than you are talking. I mean, a lot of people catch themselves telling their story constantly and never taking time to digest the other people's. It's kind of a really bad trait. And I run into people sometimes in these eight to nine slots where you realize they're just waiting for their next moment to talk. Everybody's ran into that. So just listen, just shut up and listen. I have to even tell myself shut up and listen to because if you know me, I probably don't shut up and listen to enough too. So that's my number one part of the schedule. But then the next two are really more hard and pragmatic. One, I never walk out of a meeting without asking, how can I help? And I say, how can I help and genuinely mean, how can I help? I don't mean, let me put on a smile and throw out some superficial how can I help? I mean, what can I do to help you? Is it a contact I can connect you with, is it a problem that you're trying to solve that you want to digest with me? Is it some sort of challenge that you're trying to discover? I always ask, how can I help? And I always, it you’ve been in a meeting with me as well, you've probably seen me pull out my phone and throw something on the Trello board, make a mark about what I can do to help and deliver it. That's kind of the most important thing, because you've got to have a giver mentality to build real relationships.

I was talking with, his name's Thaddeus Racks he's here locally. And him and I were discussing like what is a truly good relationship and it's all about givers meeting other givers. And he was telling me this like analogy that the giver stereotype, the person that gives, gives, gives without the expectation of anything back. When you look at like an employee pool, the givers fall either in the top 10% or the bottom 10%. They very rarely fall in the middle. And what's interesting about that and he broke it down, he goes the most important part about being a giver is identifying people that are takers.

And you got to cut out the takers and consume yourself with the other givers. And what he means by that, those bottom 10% are often the people that they have a manager that they know, if the manager reaches out to them at 10pm and says, “Hey, I need these three things done.” They know it's always going to get done. And they take advantage of these relationships. And they say, “I need this, this and this,” and they don't work as hard because they know that this is a giver stereotype. And they're always going to deliver, anything you ask them to do, they're going to do because they have a giver mentality. And that's how you fall in the bottom 10% because you can never get forward because you're constantly helping everybody else, and you're never taking time to help yourself. Now, the top 10% on the other side, as that is explained, are the givers that are aware enough to identify the takers and only surround themselves with other givers. And when you combine two givers, it's a really beneficial relationship because you're constantly battling -- you never want to be in debt on the giving side.

So you're giving and then the other person gives and then you're giving and the other person gives. And it's a constant push of giving. And it's healthy. It's a healthy way to grow relationships. And when you surround your -- if you truly embody the giver mentality, and you surround yourself with other giver mentalities, you're going to find that you're going to have some of the best friendships and relationships you've ever got. And you're going to end up realizing real quick that, more than yourself like combined, the power of all the givers together is better than the power of one by themselves. And so you just build a really effective ecosystem and network and people that you can rely on.

Mike Kelly: When you're chatting with somebody early in the relationship. How do you try to SaaS out if they're a taker giver?

John Harden: This is very engineering of me.

Mike Kelly: I love it. I can't wait.

John Harden: Yeah. So if you look at my Trello board, it looks like I shot a clown and he bled everywhere, because there's colors for everything, looks like a clown blew up. And there is yellow. For an intro I said I'm going to make, because I always walk out of a meeting saying, “Can I introduce anybody?” I probably try to introduce every coffee meeting I make, I try to introduce them to somebody else to keep the network chain rolling. And then there's bright purple for the things that they said they were going to do. And I just put them in a different list.

Mike Kelly: As I frantically tried to think about what I told you I was going to do?

John Harden: I don't bother them about it. I don't put it on the list to keep tally. I just put it on the list because it's a very interesting way because you'll find that a lot of people say they're going to do something, and they don't. And it's not like a personality trait. I mean, if I don't have like a Trello board, for instance, I'd say things and I'd say I'm going to do and then I'd never get them done. It's an organizational thing more than anything.

Mike Kelly: Yeah, right now, I probably have 25 emails in my inbox that are just me emailing myself to do a thing.

John Harden: Yeah. And I've got a mix of that in Trello and once again, this isn't to keep tally, it's not to keep score. It's just to actively evaluate like, are you giving as much the relationship as you can? And on the flip side, are they really staying true to what they are, because you just want to surround yourself with people. The best people in the world are the people that say they're going to do something and they get it done, whether they say they're not going to do something, that's fine, too. For me, I'm all about yes and no, and everything else in between sucks, like, I'm fine if you don't want to do it, but just tell me, you don't want to do it. Or I'm fine if you're going to do it, but just do it. You just have to be really consistent. And so for me, those bright purple marks aren't like judgment, they're just identifying if those are the people that are going to follow them do what they said they were going to do. And those are the people I like to surround myself with. And I've got a phenomenal network of people that I can trust will deliver. And it's really powerful because we're constantly helping each other. And I think that that's really a lot of why SaaS has grown so rapidly is because I've got a network that's really wants to help and I'm helping them just as equally as much as I possibly can.

Mike Kelly: Can I put you on the spot?

John Harden: Of course.

Mike Kelly: You don’t have to answer this one. We can edit this out. If I were to ask you your top three coffee meetings of 2020 and why, what's the key idea or topic or outcome from that that was so impactful that it made it a top three? And you can name the person, you don't have to, whatever is going to be more comfortable for you.

John Harden: Yeah, I know my top two, I need to find my third here.

Mike Kelly: Just go on the top two then, don't worry about the third.

John Harden: Okay, so my top two, we are at first watch in early February with my mentor Mark Caswell, he'll know this one. And I am talking to him about whether I should leave my company and go work somewhere else or whether I should leave my company and start a business.

Mike Kelly: That sounds impactful given first half of this podcast.

John Harden: Yeah. And kudos to mark because I know for a long time that he's wanted me to work with him. And I've wanted to work with Mark. He's an Uber brilliant dude. He's Stanford educated in every conversation, like my top 10 could probably be consumed, at least five of them are with Mark. So it's a little unfair. But yeah, Mark gave me the push to start this business. And really, I was walking in there and had he said, “Just come work for me. I'd probably be working at KSMC right now. But I mean, that's a sign of a good mentor when they come in, and they push you past that angle. So number one most influential of 2020 certainly.

Number two would probably be Jason on Java house Carmel, that probably impactful if I remember the place and the location and everything where he really helped me identify what I had. And it's funny, I say that because I've been building a product and I had all these value props. And in my head, I'm like, yeah, this is it. This is it. This is it. And he goes, “You don't realize what you've got right now, right?” Now I'm like, “Yeah, I know what I've got, I've got my value props, I've got my pitch deck, I've got all these sheets that say I know what I've gotten.” He says, “No, you've got this.”

And he's the one that really helped me understand that I don't need to focus on a single persona perspective, I need to focus on this dual persona perspective. And he's the one that sat me down and explain that like, there's not many people in the MSP space, or the managers provider space where I'm in, that can give a benefit to a partner, while having a benefit for the client. It's a very rare balance. So there's not many things out there that have that dual prong approach. And so he really helped me identify that day on how I’ll approach the partner product. Those two are certainly influential. But I mean, I've had countless meetings with Joe Caribe, one of the advisors on my team. He's an Uber brilliant dude, he gives me phenomenal feedback. He's one of those guys that doesn't pat me on the back, he kicks me in the ass, which I like. And then another one of my mentors Elliott Rector, I'd hate to leave either those two out because they've had such impactful conversations with me all year. Super well, I'm just surrounded with awesome people. But if I let you off the list, it's out of love, is just a hard competition. I’ve got a lot of really good coffee meetings this year. I'll put it that way.

Mike Kelly: Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. And thanks for the 20 minute digression in the kind of mindset and how you develop that. All right. We're way over time. If people want to learn more about Saaslio, they want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

John Harden: We've got a website, it'll be brand new by the time that you're listening to this podcast,, we've got, and we've got all the type of variation. So just hit some keys on your keyboard. If you think you could spell Saaslio, you'll probably end up getting into the right website. And we've got a contact form, just reach out and then I'm more than happy, I don't know how you typically distribute these but they're on the email out there, my email on the podcast if somebody wants to talk and has a quick question. Always happy to fill that eight to 9am Coffee slot. So if you're listening to this and something resonated and you want to pick it a little deeper, let's grab coffee sometime.

Mike Kelly: Can you put on the shiny new website? Can you do a link to like Saaslio/coffee and have that hit that calendly.

John Harden: We already have Saaslio/meet. I could probably just redirected over. It is all calendly integrated already. We’re on the same page.

Mike Kelly: Do something like that, so if people want to schedule coffee with you, they can do that.

John Harden: We'll make it happen.

Mike Kelly: All right man. Dude, thank you so much.

John Harden: Thank you. It's been great.

Mike Kelly: It’s been great.


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