Geoff Roberts

Co-Founder of Outseta

Geoff Roberts is the Co-founder of Outseta, an all-in-one platform that helps founders launch SaaS or membership businesses. A 12-year veteran of the SaaS industry, Geoff previously led marketing teams at Buildium (acquired by RealPage for $580M) and Roambi (acquired by SAP).

Where did the idea for Outseta come from?

My co-founder (Dimitris) and I previously worked together at another SaaS company, where he was the CTO and I led the marketing team. As we scaled the business I kept going to him with requests…

-We need Hubspot for marketing automation
-We need Zendesk for customer support
-We need a more robust billing system

I was consistently asking him to spend time integrating technology products that nearly every SaaS business needs. We recognized that there was a significant opportunity cost here—time taken away from what Dimitris really should have been focused on—building our core product!

Especially in the context of a small bootstrapped team, we recognized this to be a significant problem. All SaaS businesses requiring similar tools—why hadn’t anyone offered all the table stakes features required to stand up a subscription business in a single platform? Why hadn’t anybody built the “Shopify for SaaS?”

We built a better way to launch a subscription business—the software product that we wished existed when we were starting out as founders!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I typically work from 8am to 4pm. Tuesday and Thursday are devoted to working with customers, and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I keep open for deep work. As the founder of a bootstrapped start-up there’s never a shortage of things to do. I don’t obsess over productivity hacks or process at all and try to just gravitate towards the most high leverage work. I’ve found that the appropriate priorities tend to surface themselves.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am extraordinarily selective with what I choose to work on—I tend to think focusing on a single idea (or a very small number of ideas) is more conducive to success than working on a larger number of items concurrently. The ideas that I do decide to bring to life are the usually the ones that I can’t help but work on. It’s a combination of personal interest, potential upside, and my ability to execute the idea that ultimately decides.

I am a non-technical founder so a lot of my ideas start with writing, at least to some degree. But I’m increasingly dangerous and capable of bringing technology enabled ideas to life with no-code technologies.

What’s one trend that excites you?

People traveling more and choosing to live at least more nomadic lifestyles. I believe in my heart of hearts that traveling is the best education money can buy. And as more people travel, they develop a deeper understanding for different cultures and more empathy for other people in general. I’m a big believer in the idea that all people essentially want the same things, and travel can help you realize that. I think legitimately think that more people traveling more often is the best chance that we have at solving most of the planet’s problems.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I think one of my biggest strengths is keeping it simply and not overcomplicating things. There are so many shiny things out there and so much data that you could easily overanalyze and basically paralyze yourself, killing productivity. Focus on taking the first step before you worry about climbing the mountain.

I know that sounds quite simple, but I talk to thousands of founders every year. The number one thing that I see killing start-ups is founders who overcomplicate things at an early stage—they create problems before they even have them! And it’s not even close.

What advice would you give your younger self?

1) Who you choose to work with is everything.

2) Focus on long term projects—it’s incredible what you can accomplish if you devote 10 years to something.

3) Do it your way. Forget that status quo and follow your gut / your own unique style. That’s ultimately what will make you stand out and be successful.

4) How fast a market is growing will have a bigger impact on your success than anything else.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

It’s become so trendy these says to say “Distribution is more important than product.” I think that’s bullshit.

Great distribution can help you fool buyers once, but if your product’s not up to snuff you’ll lose them and churn will bury your business. A great product is the best marketing flywheel you could ever imagine—it makes all of your other marketing channels perform that much better.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Two things come to mind:

1) Start by solving customers’ problems any way that you can, even if the solution doesn’t scale.

2) Go through the buying process for your product exactly as a new customer would.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

The most critical strategy that we’ve adopted at Outseta is incredibly simple:

“Always prioritize what’s in the best long term interest of the business.”

I see so many companies (nearly all of them in tech) deploying strategies designed to help them hit arbitrarily set, short term goals—and in the process actually hurt their businesses longer term growth potential.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

After having a huge success early in my career, I worked at a couple of companies that represented turnarounds. Both ended up doing OK, but neither was a major success—I left with a newfound appreciation for how difficult turnarounds are. For example, if your market disappears on you you can have the most talented team on the planet but it’s very tough to get back the momentum that was lost. I’m not sure I overcame it in either case—I just decided it was time to work for myself.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I live near the beach in San Diego. Every year nearly 2000 people in the US step on a stingray and get stung—I’ve seen the aftermath many times, and it sure isn’t pretty.

Lifeguards encourage you to shuffle your feet when entering the water, but that doesn’t do much good if you’re jumping off a surfboard. I can’t believe that no one has created water shoes that are impenetrable to stingrays.

Small market, but zero competition and extremely easy to distribute.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A date with my wife. Because she’s the best and food is awesome.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

It’s obviously self-serving, but nearly our entire business runs on our own product— It’s really kind of wild.

Aside from that, I love Wistia. I respond to almost every customer service request by creating a video response using Wistia’s Soapbox product. It saves me time, is a better way of demonstrating a solution to a customer, and is just such an easy way to stand out (so few companies do this).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux. We’ve embraced the idea of self-management at Outseta—there’s no hierarchy or bosses at our company. We also:

1) Operate without budgets, forecasts, or performance targets
2) Pay everyone a standardized salary of $210,000 per year
3) Issue all employees equity in the company on the same terms as our founders

The book just demonstrates that so much of the status quo in terms of how we build business is antiquated thinking that no one is really willing to challenge.

What is your favorite quote?

“Mayonnaise colored Benz I push miracle whips.” – Kanye West

Not much entrepreneurial insight here, sorry.

Key Learnings:

  • Keep it simple—nothing will kill your ideas faster than overcomplicating things at an early stage.
  • Some people need a lot of process / rigidity and others don’t. I like to let the world unfold very organically and trust that if I do, the right opportunities will present themselves. Figure out which type of person you are and embrace it.
  • There’s only one you. You’ll benefit immensely from being on a great team and learning from others early in your career, but then give yourself the space to put you own spin on what you’ve learned.