Mike Potter is the backup guy. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Rewind, the automatic backup for Shopify stores. He has founded a number of companies and was an active merchant in the early days of e-commerce, selling curling gloves from his garage.
On this podcast, we talk about Mike’s awesome and interesting journey with Rewind, his thoughts on customer feedback, and how to approach mistakes as a business.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- [1:30] Mike’s journey with Rewind
- [3:13] Shopify’s backup limitations
- [5:12] Mike’s journey with Rewind continuation
- [7:13] Why Rewind chose Shopify
- [8:40] Mike’s transition from wanting to work with Shopify to doing his own thing
- [10:26] Mike was an e-commerce store owner before!
- [12:00] Relating to your customers’ pain points
- [12:22] Getting inspired by the stories of others
- [14:11] Rewind’s biggest win
- [15:14] The best way to know what to do to your business
- [15:47] The birth of Replay, Rewind’s other app
- [17:55] Sponsor: https://www.simplr.ai/honest
- [18:47] Rewind’s biggest mistake
- [20:03] “As long as you’re learning something, mistakes aren’t bad” - Mike
- [21:39] “Mistakes shouldn’t bog down entrepreneurs” - Chase
- [22:36] Chase’s mountain driving story - Overcoming obstacles
- [23:07] FedEx’s Story - Perseverance
- [24:36] Rewind’s Free Ebook to prepare for Black Friday/Cyber Monday - https://rewind.io/bfcm-2019
- [25:23] Rewind’s free backup promo - https://rewind.io/free
- [27:23] Mike’s last remarks
- Rewind’s website: rewind.io
- Rewind’s Shopify App page: apps.shopify.com/backup
- Mike Potter’s bio: rewind.io/blog/meet-team-mike-potter-ceo-co-founder/
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Making a mistake, trying something new, having it fail, learning from that and then using that to improve.
Welcome to Honest Ecommerce where we are dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners.
I'm your host, Chase Clymer
And I'm your host, Annette Grant.
And we believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game.
If you're struggling to scale your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us. visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more.
And let's get on with the show. Hey, everybody, welcome back to... Wow! I'm just going to screw up this intro and keep it anyway. Honest Ecommerce, see everyone makes mistakes. (laughs)
Today's episode, our guest is Mike Potter from Rewind. He had probably the best onboarding form joke I've seen. He said his name sounded like Harry Potter but Mike. So, I actually really enjoyed that this morning. Welcome to the show, Mike.
Yeah. Thanks, Chase. Nice to be here.
Awesome. So Mike is the CEO of a fantastic app called Rewind. If you're in the Shopify Community, you probably know what it does. It takes amazing backups of your store in case there are any whoopsy doozies and something goes wrong.
But we're going to take it back to the beginning, his journey with Rewind is pretty fantastic, in my opinion. Going from everybody's dream of a side hustle into a full-fledged business. So, take us back to the beginnings. What was going on?
Yeah. So, my friend, James and I had worked together a couple of years ago. And I just started to email him one day and I said, "You know, I really liked working with you. Let's try and do something on the side."
And one of the ideas I had at that point was to do backups. I'm a big backup guy. I've lost my data before. One time I was doing a presentation in front of a few hundred people in Chicago including my boss and my computer froze on me. Which is just a terrifying feeling?
And the hard drive was completely gone. I'm that guy that is backing up at home to 2 different hard drives and then backing that data up into the cloud with 2 separate systems just to make sure I don't lose anything because I've lost stuff in the past.
And so I emailed James, and I said, "You know, I really like working with you and let's work on something that is backups related. And he said as anyone would, "what should we back up?"
And I said, "Let's back up Shopify." And his immediate reaction, --which I'm sure is probably not unlike most of your listeners-- is "Why would you need to backup Shopify. It's in the cloud? Clearly, if something goes wrong... That's the point of having cloud services, right? If something goes wrong, they can recover your data."
And so we did a little bit of investigation and found out --like most people have already known-- that if something happens to your individual store, Shopify can't help you.
You can't call Shopify support and ask them to, you know, undo a change that you've made to your products or undelete something that's been deleted accidentally, things like that. And so we started working on it.
Yeah. I want to stop you there and just really nail that point home because a lot of our listeners probably don't know. Shopify does not take backups of your store. And if anything goes wrong, you are screwed.
Yeah. So, we wouldn't say that Shopify doesn't take... Shopify takes backups of all the data. And so if something happens to the whole system, they can recover the entire system. That's definitely what they're doing. They have just written a blog post on (the) engineering blog about how they do that.
So they definitely have the data that['s] (there when) they would need to recover it. The problem becomes, if you're needing them to recover 1 or 2 products or 100 products, it's literally like picking a needle out of a haystack.
They have hundreds of thousands or billions of products that they're backing up for hundreds of thousands of stores. They're not going to go into their backup and pull out just the few that you need in order to do that.
So, Shopify provides what we would call sort of system-level backups. They back up their entire system. And Rewind provides what we call account-level backups, which are backups for just your specific account. And Shopify, by the way, is not any different than any other SaaS provider that's out there.
There are many companies that are backing up Google Docs, and Office 365 and Salesforce data. So this is a real industry, in terms of SaaS backups. It's not something that is that anyone of those companies is doing that other people don't do.
Absolutely, and thanks for the clarification on that. I knew it but the way I said it was definitely a little more suggestive of a bad solution. But it's true. There's just so much data in there.
To find your specific stuff would probably [be] just straight man hours. They'd have to hunt for it. There's no solution to really pull that out.
Yeah, exactly. And so that's what we do. And so we started out about 4 years ago, it was June of 2015 when we launched this little project. Like you said Chase, it started as a side hustle. And so we launched it. In the first month, we had about 50 people that installed it.
And then next month, we had 60, and then 70 and it kept growing nicely. When we first started, we didn't charge anything for it. We just wanted to see if there was a real need for backups. And turns out there was. That Christmas, so June... Sorry, December of 2015, we had one of our customers lose all of their data.
So they had an integration with an inventory management system. And that inventory management system was expecting something in their Shopify store that wasn't there anymore.
And when it found that, it had a little bug that just deleted all of their products. Imagine the panic that's going through that customer, as they're just a few weeks before Christmas, the busiest shopping time of the season.
They go in, they log into their store, and there are no orders coming in. They go to check out their products and literally, all of their products have been deleted. So they did what anybody else would do at that point where they called Shopify and they said, "Can you help us out?"
And Shopify said, "No, sorry, we can't help you out." And so they called us up. And I remember I was tobogganing with my kids in the winter. And they said, "Can you help us?" And we said, "Yeah, absolutely." And, so we did.
We were able to recover their entire store exactly the way it was before the problem happened. And that was the point where we knew we had a business. And so starting in January of 2016, we started charging for the application. And we worked that entire year, again, part-time, nights and weekends.
We ended up recruiting two other friends. So the four of us were working for a year. Again, all of us have full-time jobs, part-time nights and weekends.
And then later in that year, we finally decided that we had enough monthly recurring revenue where one of us could quit their job. And then the following year, the other three of us quit our job. And from there, we've grown the company to over 30 people now.
That's amazing. Where are you guys based out of these days?
So, we're based in Ottawa. We're actually just down the road from Shopify. And the reason we started with Shopify was because when we first started the business, we thought, "Let's just build something and we can go and work for them."
I've always said the best way to get a job is to do something that can get noticed. And then you've got an advantage over everybody else. So really, the end goal for us when we first started was just Shopify.
Shopify will hire us and we can get a job there and we can work for them. It's the company, I think, that most people in Ottawa really want to work for. It's growing extremely quickly. It's helping entrepreneurs all over the world.
At least from my standpoint, it was the tech company that I wanted to work for. And so when we first started, you know, all of our technology choices were made to facilitate that. So we built the application on Ruby on Rails like Shopify did.
We use the same database. We thought their data was in AWS, so we put our infrastructure in AWS. Everything lined up so if they did want to buy it, or at least hire us, we had experience on all the stuff they're working on.
And it seems it's worked out pretty well for us so far. I don't think they're going to acquire the company at any point anymore, but, but that was really how we started. And really all (of it's) because we're in the same city as they are.
When was the shift in your thought process between trying to get a job to be like, "This thing's cool. Let's run with it."
Yeah, I think sometime in 2016, within the first year when we were starting to charge for it. I think my thinking started to change on it that maybe we had a business. Certainly, when I quit my job and started working full time on it, at that point it was pretty clear.
But I think I knew a few months before then. I'd given my boss a heads up in about a year in June of 2016 that I'd be quitting in the next 6 months sort of thing.
Because you could see it growing, you could see it solving real problems that customers were having, and the reviews that we got on the application were really, really positive, that we were really making a difference in their store in giving them the freedom that they were now able to make changes on their store that they otherwise wouldn't be able to do.
That sort of feedback reinforces that "Oh man like we're really onto something here." It's definitely a disaster recovery tool.
But there are people that are using it as a productivity tool as well to undo changes that they're making. Bring back products that they're deleting on purpose in case somebody's returned something, for instance.
So, definitely a lot of different use cases for the product, in addition to just major disaster recovery. And as soon as we started seeing those reviews. That was when it started saying, "Oh, you know what, maybe we're onto something here. Maybe this isn't going to be just a part-time venture. Maybe this can be something bigger."
Yeah, that's awesome. So I'm going to shift our focus real quick. There's a nice little nugget of information here on your onboarding (form). So you used to run some stores back in the day?
Yeah, a long time ago. It's funny because as Tobi was starting his snowboard store, I had a curling website that I was working on. So it's a big curler when I was younger, and I created this curling community and ran this curling website. I was trying to sell stuff online.
And I ended up importing a whole bunch of gloves from a manufacturer overseas and I was selling those online.
So a lot of the problems that he was experiencing in getting his snowboard store up and running, were things that I was going through at the same time.
I think it's really interesting how he was able to take that problem and think "You know what, if I'm going through this problem, there are probably many other people that are going through the problem. And this really should be a lot easier than it is."
And that takes a lot of self-awareness that I think a lot of people don't have. I went through that same process as he did and just solved the problem never really thinking, like, "Oh, there's an opportunity here that if I solve this problem for other people that we could build some software that would do all this."
You just say, "Well, this is the way it is." Until we had a much different approach we said, "This is the way it is, but it could be so much better". Yeah, I was selling curling clubs online for a few years.
That's fantastic. So it's always good to have that experience of the pain points that your target market is going to have when you're getting into solving those problems for them.
Yeah, it's definitely helped. Having been an online merchant and we're over 10,000 customers now. And we still will email all of our customers when they sign up and ask them if they want to chat with us to get feedback on their store.
When it was just the 4 of us working full time a few years ago and I was on the phone, I just loved hearing the stories of how people started their stores and what they were working on, how they got into that business, what their success was like.
I just found it so inspiring to be listening to all these people that were trying to do basically the same thing that we were doing which was trying to, in a lot of cases, turn a side hustle into a full-time job.
Yeah, you gotta respect that. And I'm assuming that is going to be a majority of the listeners to this little podcast. So that's definitely a story that is repeatable. And I've been talking about it now for almost 40 episodes.
Everybody's got a different approach and their experiences are making them build whatever it is that they're building. And so in my case, for instance, my mom and dad were big into curling. I got into curling and then built a pretty successful community website around it and then wanted to monetize it.
And we've talked to other merchants who are from India and bringing over rugs that are being manufactured over there or people who have family businesses that they've run physical stores in small towns that are now starting to move online to expand their market.
The number of stories that you get, I think it's just... Everybody's got their own experiences, and they're all trying to take a unique approach or do something different to try and see if they can make it work. And I find that just really, really inspiring to hear all those people talk about what they're doing.
Absolutely. So let's talk about growing the business. I feel like there's a lot of parallels between apps, between agencies, between Ecommerce stores. I mean, it's all just small business, and you're going to run through the same pain points.
So I guess I got 2 questions for you back-to-back. What was the biggest win that you guys found early on? And then what was the biggest mistake that you guys made and learned from?
The biggest win we had early on? I assume by that you mean like what we do that we felt was most productive for us...
...that helped us grow the most?
I think the biggest thing that we did was we emailed every customer after they installed --and I did-- and it looked like a personal email. It was actually being sent from intercom but it wasn't an HTML email. We formatted it to make it look like it was being sent from Apple Mail or from Outlook.
So when people got it, they thought it was a personal email. And the responses did come to me. I saw every response that came in there. And we wanted to talk to them and understand more about their business and more about their needs.
I was on a lot of calls where people told me, "You know what, I've installed a lot of applications before, no one's ever asked me to do this. No one's ever asked me to just get on a phone call and learn about my business." And I found that really surprising, to be honest with you.
Because I think, the best way to learn about what to do in your business is to talk to your customers. It's really not rocket science. But there are so many people that just don't do that. And so it was a no-brainer for us. What I've been taught as a product manager was that you always wanted to talk to your customers.
So it was natural for me to be the first email that they got was, "Thanks for installing. I'd love to hop on a 15-minute call and learn more about your business and how we might be able to help you and what other problems we might be able to solve."
And out of that, out of those discussions, we ended up building another product for Shopify called Replay which allows you to copy or clone a store. So if you're running a store for multiple currencies or multiple languages, you can copy all the content from one store and copy it into another store.
And it does things like if you're doing multiple currencies, for instance, it'll ignore price changes. So you can copy the images and the titles in the description and you ignore the price when you change something, for instance.
And that entire product, --which represents now probably about 10% of our overall revenue-- came from those conversations with customers. Hearing like, "Oh, I wanted to backup from one store restored to another one." Then we start to ask people, "Why do you want to do that? What's the use case around that?"
And learning about, "Oh, we're running in multiple currencies. We have a US store and a Canadian store or a European store and an American store or running in multiple languages."
So I think that's the biggest win. It's just really talking to your customers. Making sure that you're getting their feedback and your understanding of what their problems are that they're trying to solve.
Obviously, in a lot of cases, the easiest thing to do, but that feedback loop is really, really important. We've seen some things from merchants that do cards in there. Maybe when you're putting it into the shipment, put a little card that says...
Ask for a review or something like that, where you can get some feedback from the customer even maybe even offer to get on a phone call with them and learn about why they picked your product and why they ended up buying it, how they selected it. We'd learned really early on.
For instance, one of the questions that we always ask people was, "If you didn't know about the product. How would you find it?"
So, if you were just looking for this, I noted that to get the exact search terms that they're putting into Google or in our case, as well as the Shopify App Store, and you can do things that optimize for showing up high on those results. Just tons of learning that you get (for) just talking to customers.
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And then what is your other question, Chase?
It was the complete opposite. What was the biggest mistake that you guys learned from?
The biggest mistake, I think... Hmm, that's a good question. What have we learned? We learned so many things. I think the biggest mistake we made early on... Certainly, the technology that we've chosen to run Rewind has changed a lot.
The initial version that we built didn't actually work. It worked and that it backed up the data, but it was very, very hard to scale it up. And so early on, we had to delete all the backups two or three times, before we got to something that would work.
But early on, the product just didn't scale-out. So that was certainly, you know, one of the larger, larger mistakes that we made. It was very stressful having to wipe out somebody's backup.
On the plus side, like I said, when we were first going, we weren't charging anybody for it. So we felt like we had the permission, in some ways, to build a product that was in beta because we weren't charging customers.
And now that we charge customers, we have obviously much, much higher standards in terms of what we need to maintain. That's probably the biggest mistake that we made. I think any time you make a mistake... We've got a philosophy here in the company that is; As long as you're learning, mistakes are not bad.
We accept mistakes from all of our employees. And quite frankly, we're quite happy when they're making them because it means that they're trying something new, they're trying something that might not succeed. And so we've tried to develop a culture here that is very accepting of people making mistakes.
Not of people making the same mistake over and over again, but certainly making a mistake, trying something new, having it fail, learning from that, and then using that to improve I think it's been something that has really helped the company grow.
I think the fact that you guys took all that work that you put into the MVP of the product --hours, countless hours of work-- to make this thing work and then realized, "Well, this doesn't work. Let's drag in. Tossing it out."
That takes a really awesome gusto. "You know it's going to work. We're going to make it work. We're going to try again." But I feel like some people will put a lot of work into something and it fails and they just give up.
That's not the way to do it. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you got to understand that you're going to make mistakes. And you have to fail fast, learn from it, and keep going.
Yeah, I think that's exactly it. How quickly can you learn is a big thing. One of the things that we've done at Rewind, one of the choices that we've made is that we haven't built the backup solution just for Shopify Plus merchants, for instance.
We built a solution that works for the largest Plus merchants, and we have them using the platform and the smallest merchants who have literally zero orders. And that decision to work across the entire merchant base at Shopify, I think, has really helped us.
Because when you get thousands or tens of thousands of merchants using your service, it allows you to learn a lot faster than just having hundreds or dozens of merchants. And it's really that velocity, that speed of learning --especially early on-- I think is really, really critical. And getting that feedback and continuing to improve.
It's funny you mentioned that. I never really thought about whether we would just give up after the first product didn't work.
We knew we had a problem that we were solving that was really valuable to customers. There was never really an option for us to just say, "Oh, this isn't working and we'll have to quit and we can't overcome it."
But I can totally understand your point that some people might see that and say, "Oh, yeah, this is obviously impossible. This can be done."
No. I just think that it's just a mindset and you gotta get into it. It's funny, I was just in the mountains and driving through Denver. I was at a conference up in Breckenridge and I was coming back.
And someone's just talking about overcoming obstacles. And it dawned on me. Somebody had an idea that's like, "I'm going to build a road through those mountains."
And how many people were probably like, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. You're not doing that." But you know, lo and behold, you can take seven all the way through the mountains now. It's nuts.
That probably was one of the biggest obstacles in the world back then.
I think there's a lot. And there are tons of examples I go back to. I think FedEx is a great example of a company that most people thought wouldn't succeed. I'm pretty sure it's FedEx, where the CEO or the founder of FedEx, wrote his master's thesis on FedEx, the idea of the company.
And his professor said that the company is never going to work. And even when it first launched, they had 4 planes. And I think on the first day, they put 6 packages on 4 planes. You could totally look at that situation and think "This is crazy. I've got all the feedback in the world that this is not going to work.
And on my first day, I'm literally putting one package on an entire airplane." And yet (they) continue to stay at it. I'm also pretty sure at one point they had to go to Vegas and he said, "Okay, if it hits read can make payroll, and if it is black than the company's done." I've heard that about FedEx as well.
We've seen sort of a similar thing with Rewind, where there are definitely times where you have to overcome major obstacles and just stick with it and determine, "Okay, are we going to move forward here? Are we going to give up?"
And you just gotta keep going and solve the problems that you've got in front of you. If you can just keep your business growing a little bit every month, then start to get some momentum and push forward.
Absolutely. So before we wrap up here, I know that you... One, you guys have put out an amazing piece of content that's going to be really timely for everyone listening to this about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Can you share a little more information about that?
Yeah, so we've written a guide on Black Friday, Cyber Monday that you can go and download. So it's at rewind.io/BFCM-2019.
It talks about some things that we recommend companies do and what they recommend companies do in order to get ready for Black Friday, Cyber Monday. And so that ebook is a free download.
We've also done something new this year, where we've made rewind, absolutely free. So we're doing a one-time backup. We call it Rewind: One-Time, and it will do a one-time backup of your store.
So that if something does happen on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or in the holiday period, you've at least got a backup that you can recover from. So we mentioned earlier that most people don't know that Shopify and BigCommerce don't provide account level backups.
And so this is giving any store owner the ability to run a backup of all their products. And so if you're in that same situation that our customer was in, where the integration ended up taking down their store, you've at least got a backup that you can recover from.
And it'll bring back all the products, all the images, the categories and collections and exactly the way it was before that problem happened. So people can get that rewind.io/free.
That's a fantastic offer. I didn't even know about that. So thank you so much for sharing that with everybody.
Yeah, it's something that we've decided to do because we really believe that everybody should have their store protected. The last thing we want to do is put anything at risk going into Black Friday, Cyber Monday.
It's a time of the year where, in a lot of cases, merchants are making you know, 50% - 60% - 70% of their revenue over that holiday period, sometimes more. And we really wanted to make sure that we could help them and make sure that their store was protected in a crucial time for them.
And so obviously, one of the ways that we do that is to provide that backup. Our paid plans will keep your backups up to date.
But the free version at least has something where if something does happen over that period of time, you'd be able to go back to that version that you've saved that backup that you've got from when you install the product.
Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show today, Mike. is there anything else that you want to share with our audience before we go?
I think the main thing that I'd like to just reinforce is everybody's out there hustling, trying to get their products working. Stick with it. But also, I think you need to take a good look at the business and whether it will actually work or not.
Sometimes you've got a good idea that is not going anywhere. And James and I actually were working on something before Rewind, that was in that state where we were trying something out and it just wasn't going anywhere. And we still think it's a good idea, but it's not necessarily good business.
And so if you're out there and you're working on your store, and you're not getting any sales, don't give up but also don't continue to always make that same mistake. See (for yourself) maybe if there's another thing that you can be selling or something else that you can do to get it working.
You can always come back to the idea. Just because an idea gets a little traction at one time does not mean that you can't go back to it after you get traction in something else.
And so you're always needing to think, just find that one thing that's working and once you find that thing that's working, you really will know that it's working.
It'll be so much easier to find customers and to get customers then it was when you're trying to hustle and slave over getting them. They'll start coming in and you'll know that you're onto something. So definitely don't give up.
But also take a good look and see whether or not what it is that you're working on is really truly going to work or if there's another idea that you might want to test out.
Awesome. Thank you so much. This was a great episode. I look forward to seeing you next year. I'm sure I'll see you at Unite again.
Yeah, absolutely. Sounds good. Alright. Thanks, Chase. It was fun.
We can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing the truth. links and more will be available in the show notes. If you found any actionable advice in this podcast that you'd like to apply to your business, please reach out at electriceye.io/connect.