Talk-Commerce Tom Robertshaw

Building a Big Community with Tom Robertshaw

Brent and Tom (@bobbyshaw) discuss ways to build community and how people can become more involved in the BigCommerce Community. We talk about different channels and how inclusive or exclusive those channels are. We talk about the BigCom DevX event that Space48 recently organized and the upcoming BigCommerce.

Hackathon happening August 15 – August 26, 2022, Starting at 10:00 am CDT


Brent: All right. Welcome to this BigCommerce. Big talk. Hey, that’s a good one. Big talk, BigCommerce, the addition of talk commerce on the BigCommerce community channel today. I have Tom Robertshaw who is a activist for the BigCommerce community. Can I call you an activist? Agitator? Okay. Agitator. Yeah. Yeah. So Tom, introduce yourself.

Brent: Tell us what you do day to day. One of your passions in life. 

Tom: Brilliant, Innovation Director at Space48, and I head up our initiative to build a suite of apps that help the commerce merchants grow their store. Passion day to day two main passions. First, my children about two that three years old and three months old.

Tom: So that’s a lot of time and energy goes into that. And I love it. But my second passion. Probably supporting on Manchester United in the football slash soccer. Although that’s more difficult of late in their recent seasons. 

Brent: Yeah. We have to stay away from controversy or as you would like to say controversy on our podcast.

Brent: Let’s dive right in. Let’s just talk about community. We’ve both been in another community of another platform for a long time. And in our green room talk, we were just going. Some of the reasons and we landed on the word. Why? Like, why are you involved in the BigCommerce 

Tom: community?

Tom: Yeah. That’s a great question. And as you say, we’ve been involved in communities in the past and some, I think when you’re in a community, you think it’s special. And lots of communities are special. I think like for me, personally, whatever I’m doing, whatever I’m involved in, I want to give it my all.

Tom: I want to be involved fully. Get the joy out of it, but to make the most impact as well. Like it feels like if you’re gonna be working with a platform to be involved in the community, gives you so many benefits, whether or not that’s learning like from others in the community, rather than just being whoever you’re working with day to day.

Tom: If you can broaden that to some of the best minds in the community, just by being active, whether that be at in person events online events, forums slack groups and things like that. It’s a greater opportunity to learn from others. I also, particularly when moving to BigCommerce over the last couple of years, I’ve loved being involved in answering other people’s questions, because it was the best way for me to learn rather than just what challenges am I taking on day to day?

Tom: Like I’m building this app. Okay. I need to learn this API. And just the problems that I come into. Building that app, if I’m listening to and helping others I’m researching other APIs, finding out about their problems. And for me that for both Magento and commerce has been fantastic ways to learn myself.

Tom: And the old age old adage of teaching is a great way of learning because you really have to put thought into it. It’s not just oh, I know how that works. Once you tell someone else how it has to work, then that the inside out. So those are like a few ways why I really enjoy learning.

Tom: One of our values is we thrive and we learn. And so there’s so much about being involved, helping other people, getting help from other people that resonates with 

Tom: me there. 

Brent: yeah, I like that. So thrive when we learn. That’s a great, that’s a, that’s one of the core values of Space48 and that’s such a great, that’s such a great way to look at it.

Brent: And I think you had mentioned earlier, too, that like maybe 90% of the people that are involved in doing BigCommerce stuff. We’ll just say whatever they’re doing, they could be implementers or they could be a developer. They could be a salesperson project manager. They aren’t involved in the community.

Brent: And there’s not a lot of interest to be involved in the community, which means that we slice up the pie. We have a very small group of people that are involved and out of that pie, there’s people that would be the ones that are. Pushing that involvement or pushing that engagement.

Brent: And then there’s the people that are learning from the broader community itself. How do we get people to be more engaged and I’m just gonna also target maybe the introverts that aren’t, that don’t feel as though they want to be engaged, but sometimes feel left out when they aren’t engaged.

Tom: Yeah, it’s a great question. And a difficult one and I’m sure it’s, sure it’s one that the like developer advocates and community moderators at BIgCommerce are tackling on a week by week basis as well. I feel like inclusivity and making it a, an a, an open plate environment, whichever environment we’re talking about.

Tom: If it’s on the forums or if it’s on the BigCommerce dev slack, which is where I spend probably most of my day to day time engaging with the community. It’s just, I guess the best thing you can do is making it a welcoming environment. So it is answering people’s questions.

Tom: So people see that people aren’t like judged for their point of view or corrected and told that’s not how you do it. And providing and showing that everybody is welcome. And there’s so many different ways to to approach a problem. I think that’s the best that we can do to encourage I do the, there’s a couple of people within the community.

Tom: Andrew Barber in particular, in the BigCommerce Dev Slack like that, we’ll pose like questions each week, then there might be like slightly off topic questions or a bit more bringing any sort of personal lives into it, like music interests or what have you learned this week? What’s your favorite, like local cuisine.

Tom: And I think that’s a great way of building up a relationship with other people. And that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, with everything that we’re doing it’s all about the people, relationships will live on. People will move to other industries, whatever other platforms.

Tom: But I feel being, being real in those communities as well is an important part of making people feel like they don’t have to perform or be particularly as you mentioned for introverts they’re more likely to be nervous about what they’re sharing or if they’re going to be corrected.

Brent: Yeah. And I’ll just say right this morning, anyways, it is gonna be Branston pickle on. Simply because I’m out of Branson pickle right now. Now I’m on a mission to find some more. So I know I can find an on Amazon, but it’s incredibly expensive. Anyways, 

Tom: Beans on Toast for 

Brent: lunch, say . Yeah, it’s also Marmite, which Tom you very nicely gave me a 500 gram jar of Marmite a number of years ago, but I’m sure that’s still going.

Brent: Yeah I ate the whole thing, so don’t worry. It’s been that long. I think one of the things in the community space and we talk about slack, like that is a closed channel. And if people don’t know about it, they’re never gonna know about it because it’s not public. , it’s public in the sense that anybody can join, but if you don’t know about it, you don’t know about, it’s like that speakeasy.

Brent: That’s a great little place to go to, but until you know about it, then you know about it. So maybe from a community standpoint, there has to be some more outward evangelism that helps people understand where the places to go in the community and help them find the places where they fit best, and I think the slack group is great.

Brent: There’s been some talk about a discord group. And because, I set up a Twitter community and again, that’s a closed group. Anybody can join, but if you don’t know, it’s there, you’re never gonna know it’s there. So how can we. Make it more, how can we get our voices heard better through the broader scope of say social media and then invite people to come to these communities.

Tom: Yeah, I think from my experience and so far in industry, it’s been, Twitter has been the place. I dunno if that’s changing, I know LinkedIn has its own sort of place for people to come to and share and build a network. But depending on which role you’re talking about, like from a developer perspective wouldn’t say necessarily like LinkedIn is the place.

Tom: But Twitter outside of groups, I think we are, all we can do is provide many different options for people for their personal preferences. Like you say is slack isn’t for everyone. I dunno if discord is what, like hip young people are using these days. But I was forced to sign up recently.

Tom: So I think to learn about that now. But yeah, and the Twitter community I think is a great. It’s actually new to me in this, in, in general. Like I’ve joined the eCommerce community group on Twitter as well as a PHP one. But I’m, they’re new to me, so I don’t know. How to make the most of them and what other people’s experiences are other than that, it, yeah.

Tom: Feels like for me personally I enjoy sharing on Twitter, as you say, that’s there’s, it’s public. You still need to be following your network. But that seems like the most practical way. The alternative that I mentioned earlier is the forums. That can be a bit more

Tom: transactional rather than conversational. So I have this problem or, critique my site. And so you, that’s another place if you know about it and if you’re in the becomes community, then I’m sure you do. But that would be another one to 

Brent: mention, yeah. Forums is how I got started in the Magento community.

Brent: And just as you were describing earlier, I asked so many questions that I started thinking I can actually answer questions and the, I. Wanna be a teacher in any way, but I answered questions because I knew by finding the answers, it would help me understand the problem better. And I’ll be honest this is 13, 14 years ago I did a lot of Googling and it’s amazing how just some little investigative Googling would help you find answers for that.

Brent: And then getting into a network of people to help you find those answers. which what followed from joining those forums and forums are more of a public thing? I’ll be I’ll be transparent. I’m not part of the BigCommerce forums yet. have to be part of that. And I don’t do much of a technical role anymore, so maybe that’s shows where that pivot comes from more of a architectural thought leadership role,

Brent: you’re not so much in the forums, but I do feel like it’s an important place for people like myself to at least try to answer some of those questions. So tell us a little bit about the BigCommerce forums and why developers should go there. 

Tom: Yeah, and I had a similar experience. I was a moderator on the Magento forums.

Tom: And now I didn’t initially get involved in the BigCommerce forums. I started out with the slack group and then have grown from there. I think one of the reasons I chose to get involved is like you say, it’s, it feels more open. it feels more open and accessible. So there’s a wider group of people that are in and on the forums as opposed to the slack group.

Tom: But also like slack, particularly in most communities, the messages are lost. So it’s again, it’s very transient of the logistic, the experience of being in a slack community, whereas with forums. while we’ve talked about relationships, there is, a commercial and brand building reputation, building aspect to being involved in the community as well.

Tom: Naturally. It’s a kind of a, it’s a strategic choice. And one of the be benefits of forums is the SEO of them. You answer a question a few times. If that question is popular or it’s linked to, then it’s more likely to show up in search results. And it’s there, forever, or as long as it becomes forums and this shape or forum are around.

Tom: So there’s a lot of it’s nice to know that the time that you’re investing is going to be useful to others in the future, not just the person that’s asking it, whereas slack, its, who asked the question and who maybe saw that question at the time after that it’s gone or forgotten.

Tom: And so I think that’s one of the great advantages over a forum. Even over Twitter for the same reason that if you search for a problem, your solution that you posted a year ago is much more likely to be found. And therefore the value that you’re creating is greater. 

Brent: Yeah. It’s of like an encyclopedia, so you can go back and look up things where I definitely agree on slack is something that does get lost even after a day.

Brent: It depends how busy the channel is. And it’s hard to go back and find it. Maybe speak to a little bit about the developer community now and just let’s touch on big Devex and how you are helping to bring those developers together in a place that we can all talk together. 

Tom: Yeah, sure.

Tom: We created and had our first BigCom DevX, which was a virtual event for developers to come together and listen to a few different talks from people within the community, sharing about their experiences, neat ways about solving problems that they’ve tackled or deep dives into things like stencil and handlebar and how to build

Tom: more advanced themes. And the reason we created that is we internally have a dev X every month where given that we’ve been across offices are now like multi, multiple locations for many years, we wanted a way for the development team to come together and just learn about what other projects have been working on?

Tom: What cool things have you been doing? What challenges have you faced that we other we might all want to avoid in the future. And so we were having a monthly kind of an hour to two hour call Talk set up in advance for some people might be five minutes just to share this one thing they learnt.

Tom: Some might be longer if it’s a deep dive on a particular tool of technology and I got a lot of value from it. I learned and met people in the other offices that wouldn’t have got to know otherwise, and after doing that for so long and particularly post pandemic and getting like really involved in the BigCommerce community, I was going through the the process of

Tom: getting to know other people manually reaching out to them, having a catch up call learning about like their backstory, which I’ve really enjoyed so far and wanted to provide something else. And it felt like an appropriate time to, yeah, let’s run this as an experiment.

Tom: Let’s create what we would normally do for a monthly dev and make it. Announce it three months in advance get people from the community to talk. And we’ve got really good feedback from it. So we had about 75 people attend it. It was a free event, as I say, for a couple of hours. And all the videos are now posted on the BigCom DevX YouTube channel for you to find later.

Tom: And we certainly hope to run it again, not sure on the frequency. Right now may, perhaps the next one will be in the new year. 

Brent: There’ll be one in Manchester hopeful. That’s a big in conference developer conference. I think you, you had mentioned a little bit about answering questions helps your, I don’t know if you were used the word reputation, but it does help you create more awareness about yourself in the broader community.

Brent: I think it’s important to note that both of us don’t work for BigCommerce, but we work for places that are BigCommerce partners. But I don’t think your motivation ever should be self-promotion or trying to be commercial and answering a question, cuz you’d like to sell somebody, something I, as a developer a long time ago, always saw through that

Brent: when somebody was saying, you should use this extension because blah, blah, blah. And it that self-promotion in terms of trying to be commercial and selling something is different than I think the motivation to be in a community to help others, there’s two competing factors there.

Brent: Maybe with the few minutes we have left here, we could talk a little bit about why we want to get people to join and some of the big things that they get out of the community, other than just commercial benefits. 

Tom: Yeah, I think it, it comes back to some of the things I mentioned earlier.

Tom: Like I, I really wanna meet other people in the community. I enjoy kind getting to know people like, like myself getting to know you Brent and me visiting Minneapolis. What was it a decade ago now? So it’s amazing what can come out of getting involved and meeting other people, not least, the things you mentioned in terms of how it can be better for you

Tom: personally from a, the knowledge that you can apply at work or the projects that you might win because of it, those things are there, but they’re not the reasons that you go into it. Like you say. For me, it’s definitely been about the people. I think if I, my personally, if I can, if.

Tom: Be brutally honest. If I hadn’t got involved in the first conference that I’d been to, then I wouldn’t have gone on a tour of America and met my future wife. So there’s a good reason to do it. 

Brent: yeah. Your kids have everything to do with the Magento community. We’ll give the Magento community full credit for both of your kids now.

Brent: I’m gonna edit that out. Definitely. it’s a joke, everybody. So you know, the other thing that, that has come up in our past community started with an M ended with an O had gento in it was inclusive versus exclusive. A lot of people saw Magento, some of the community members as being exclusive

Brent: and they felt it was hard to be involved with those other people. How do we stay away from that? How do we stay away from this sort of notion of being a clic or being some kind of in crowd? And if you remember, there was a hashtag called real Magento that was going around and people then started associating that with the in crowd.

Brent: And it wasn’t, it was I think it was meant to be a label of, Hey, this is where the Magentol community. not that there should be a fake Magento, but it also, we have to have a differentiator from the hashtag Magento, or BigCommerce, because that’s gonna be a commercial hashtag. How do we make it inclusive, but also say here’s how you find the content for this community.

Tom: certainly, and I’m probably the last person that should advise on how to be inclusive, but from going through that experience, and I recognize why those kind of hashtags were created, when there’s lots of Twitter, spam and things like that. And I think in some ways it regarded as a time back to your previous point about like being authentic and connecting those that are just there to be authentic.

Tom: So I think that’s some of it In terms of how to continue being inclusive. I think it’s about always being open to new members. I think it can be difficult, particularly if you’re an introvert. Like you’ve got people that, it can be like a little difficult when the new person walks up to the group, whether that be in, in real life or new person enters the slack chat, like I can appreciate like why we don’t really talk about it.

Tom: That is a strange experience that we, we have to deal with on a day to day basis in our modern lives. And I think it’s about recognizing that they probably just have a wealth of experience too. And even if they don’t, they can provide as just as much like value to the community.

Tom: And they’re just as important. I think I have certainly been lazy in the past of not necessarily considering myself in a clic, but trending towards like the same people that I already knew, because it was. And once you have found a group of people or people that you recognize, they are gonna be the people that you are drawn towards, you engage with because you know them, it’s safe, yeah. It’s gonna lead to a good time. And so it takes effort, doesn’t it, to be inclusive. And I think sometimes it’s hard to make that effort. And so I think we can all forgive each other for the times. And we, when we don’t but to continue to try to make that effort to stay as inclusive 

Brent: as possible.

Brent: Yeah. And I think there is a challenge as well. You have to put effort to maintain relationships with the people that, there’s a certain amount of energy that has to go into putting the effort into maintaining a friendship like between you and I, if we both don’t put any effort in soon the relationship falls apart because there’s no effort put in either.

Brent: So the times that we did get to see each other in an event or something, we, you definitely wanna make time to spend time with your other community members and as it grows, and as there’s more people you wanna spend time as many as possible. So there I do see there’s a dichotomy in there between wanting to make sure everybody feels inclusive, but also wanting to maintain relationships within the community.

Brent: And I think. Like the relationship building and relationship maintaining. Like now we’re getting into more psychology and community, but the word is community, we’re trying to build community. And I don’t think it’s ever gonna be solved. I do feel as though the idea of diversity in our community can be solved.

Brent: Like we can invite more women, more people of color, and you and I are both not good examples of either of those. And how can we bring those people in? I feel like both of us could be open about making sure that we’re talking about the fact that we need more people of color and people that aren’t men and, that’s just a simple fact, right?

Brent: That, that has to be talked about. And it can’t be swept under the rug from a community standpoint and from an inclusion standpoint. 

Tom: Yeah. And I think more, even more effort in that case, because, naturally, psychologically we are going to be drawn towards people that are like ourselves.

Tom: And if it takes effort to continue to Welcome by new people. It’s gonna take even more effort. If you don’t anything about the background or than what they’ve been through. 

Brent: Yeah. I think that the perfect place for community building would be a community run together, which I’m a big proponent of changing your life through movement.

Brent: The Big Com Run. Huh? Are you getting it? feeling it now. I want to end, let’s end at a positive note. Tell us a little bit about what’s coming up for you in the BigCommerce world. And is there any, anything exciting that you’re working on right now?

Brent: And then I’ll make sure we put all these links and things like that in the show notes. . 

Tom: Yeah, sure. Our most recent app just launched which we are about to more formally announce, which is a mega menu builder which I would be remiss not to mention on this particular episode we’ve worked.

Tom: with BigCommerce for a couple of years now, and we’re a bit frustrated what you can do out the box. And we know how important, like the store navigation is to draw people in help their product discovery and just simple lists of categories that it’s not gonna cut it.

Tom: And over the years we’ve created solutions with. Page builder, but again, that’s on a project by project basis. And so we’ve now built an app that allows you to manage your menu completely independently of your cater hierarchy, add images, choose your different sort of designs for the flyout menu.

Tom: And so it’s great for people just to install, configure and get working, but also for agencies to use as just to perhaps an admin interface and provide their own front end from menu. So that I’m really excited about.

Brent: Excellent. Yeah, and I’m all, I’m always excited about the concept of open SaaS, which BigCommerce likes to tout and the fact that BigCommerce, even though it’s a SaaS platform they offer a lot of ex extendability to their existing code and allow you to to work within that similar to open source.

Brent: You. Necessarily download it and run it, which would be actually cool if you could do little local instances of it, but I will, I’ll mention that to Brent Bellm. The next time I talk to him that we need local instances of BigCommerce run with warden. Anyways, I digress. 

Tom: I’ll also quickly mention I’m excited for the BigCommerce hackathon.

Tom: That starts very soon as well. A two week event that BigCommerce are putting on to people to create whatever they would like, or whether that’s apps or scripts or demo stores, things that just create something with the APIs, following that open SaaS approach. And I’m excited to see that’s the first time that they’ve done anything like it.

Tom: First time I’ve been involved in that kind of thing with the BigCommerce platform. Looking forward to getting involved there. Yeah. And 

Brent: hackathons are super fun and there’s roles for non-developers and hackathons either. They need creative thinkers. There’s always there’s roles for everybody in a hackathon.

Brent: And I would encourage even non-developers to join hackathons at least to see what’s happening and learn a little bit about that experience hackathons, I feel are most valued in person, but what we’ve learned in the pandemic and in the last couple years is that they are successful online and they build a lot of great relationships.

Brent: And I, I know that from the Magentol side they did some 24 hour hackathons that happened, starting in one time zone and just continually went for 24 hours straight around the world. And that was all done online collaborative. It’s a proven concept that works so great.

Brent: Definitely. Tom, thank you so much for being here today. I appreciate all the work you do putting in on the BigCommerce community. Thanks. I enjoyed it. When I finish off a podcast, I give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug. What would you like to plug today? 

Tom: I will plug our apps. So if you search Space48 on the BigCommerce app store you’ll find a nice long list of apps that we’ve been able to put out now.

Tom: And we’re continuing to add to so check it out. All right. 

Brent: Thank you, Tom Robertshaw. He is with Space48 in the UK. Have a great day.

Talk-Commerce Taren Gesell

A Better App for Coaching with Taren Gesell

Business owners and entrepreneurs are known for their energy. They focus on their ideas but frequently, that energy is sedentary. Brent interviewed Taren Gesell or better known as Triathlon Taren. Taren went from an Ironman and Youtube sensation to a tech startup with an exciting and disruptive app called MoTTIV. This virtual coaching app helps athletes focus on what they need to focus on while still giving them the flexibility to live their busy lives. Taren is through the beta version and is into his first round of funding. There is a lot to learn and much to unpack in their episode.

Brent: Welcome to this episode of Talk Commerce. This is the activity edition, and I have Taren Gesell Taren go ahead. Introduce yourself. Tell us what you do in your day-to-day life and maybe one of your passions. 

Taren: Thanks for having me here, Brent. Thing that people would best know me for. If they look me up online would be this YouTube channel that I started about seven years ago called triathlon Taren.

Taren: And I started a YouTube channel while I was an investment advisor as my day job, because I just wanted something on the side that was fulfilling and creative. And I thought that if I really knocked it out of the park, maybe I could get some free energy bars at some point in my life. It ended up growing to being now the second largest triathlon YouTube channel in the world, the largest triathlon podcast in the world, we’ve published four books.

Taren: We have expanded into the main thing that we focus on now where I’m the CEO of a. Called the motive training app that helps regular people get to their endurance races. So whether they want to train for triathlons or running races or cycling events, or do Athlons, we have an app that now is hopefully as good as a one-on-one coach, but as cheap as doing it yourself, which has never existed in this world.

Taren: And we want to make getting to those exciting finish lines that endurance sports really are. A little bit more accessible in the world. 

Brent: That’s great. Thank you. And I will admit that I found you because I’m a triathlete. I’m a a very poor triathlete I’m free, very poor swimmer. I’m an avid runner.

Brent: And I’m an okay. Biker. I think I saw one of your videos. we did our first to half Ironman last year as a family, my daughter, my wife and I. It was one of the best experiences I had absolutely so much fun and I’ve run a lot of marathons. It took me longer, believe it, or not than a marathon.

Brent: But I had so much fun in the race and even the swim part, I had such a great time. That’s how we found each other. One of the things that, that really stuck out was the fact that you’ve pivoted from. This role of being a coach or what you were doing with your YouTube channel into this app that you’ve built.

Brent: Maybe tell us a little bit about that. Yeah. So 

Taren: I recognized that life on YouTube is a little fleeting. You get about 15 minutes of fame and there comes a point where your channel maybe just starts to feel a little stale. Maybe in my case, I’ve said a lot of the same things for seven years. I’m also getting older and a lot of YouTubers find that.

Taren: Their channel lifespan is finite. So I recognize that was happening about four years ago, just in general in the YouTube space. And I didn’t want to go back to having a real job. I wanted to still stay in this industry and think about what could I do that would be lasting as a career, as a business and what was needed in the world.

Taren: And I saw one of the things that people need the most help with is coaching and advice to get to their finish lines. But what I saw was the two options that are out there for people that want to get advice on how to train for an endurance event is either a $200 a month one-on-one coach or a free template training plan.

Taren: Both options suck for most people because the average person doesn’t want to spend two to $3,000 a year or more on a hobby just for coaching, let alone all the biking equipment and the wetsuit, and it just gets to be too expensive. So most people don’t use one-on-one coaching and then template training plans are not motivating.

Taren: They’re not relevant to the user. They’re not customizable. And what happens if you have two races in a row and you’ve got a marathon and a triathlon and the training overlaps, what do you do with those template training plans? And nobody’s ever looked at solving this problem. So we launched a Kickstarter, but three and a half years ago to see if people were interested in something like this app.

Taren: And I sold the Kickstarter campaign, literally just off of a Google spreadsheet that I mocked up to prototype my way into showing what an app could possibly do. And now three and a half years later, we’re finally scaling up. We’re raising our first significant round of investment. And I think that we can build something that

Taren: is comparable to what Duolingo did for language learning. That’s what we want to do for endurance training. We want to make it something that isn’t a real niche sport. We want to make it something that everyone can access because it’s easier to get solid training and more cost-effective to get solid training, which it hasn’t ever been.

Taren: So that’s what we’re working on right now. That’s the future of the business of my YouTube channel. And I’m really just trying to make sure that I prove my mother wrong and continue to play for a living. And the app was the way that, that I could continue to do that while having a good effect in the endurance community.

Brent: I love that story. I know myself personally, I do have a running coach who helps me and holds me accountable. And I do see though that where you can get stuck in a rut, even with a coach. What are some of the pain points that your app has been able to overcome in bridging the gap between a training peaks, 80/20 plan and a one-on-one coach.

Brent: And I’ll say to, mine’s just a running coach and I know that there’s a lot more involved than a triathlon coach. 

Taren: That is actually a perfect example of one of the biggest problems. Most users of our app. And frankly, most endurance athletes are like you, they want to bounce between marathons or half marathons and triathlons.

Taren: And the fact of the matter is that most one-on-one coaches are single sport coaches they’re run coaches or triathlon coaches or cycling coaches, and they don’t go across all disciplines. So that’s an issue that we have to solve with our. We partnered with some of the best run cycling, triathlon duathlon, swim, run coaches in the world and created algorithms to make the plans that each of those great coaches put together coordinate with each other.

Taren: So that was one problem that we had to solve a second one is that there are a lot of really great one-on-one coaches out there, but there’s also a lot of really terrible one-on-one coaches out there who charge $200 a month and essentially make a template training plan. And the story that a lot of people resonate with is they might go to their one-on-one coach, wake up in the morning and go, Hey, Carl, I feel really bad.

Taren: What should I do today? And Carl, the coach goes this is part of training, continue on. And he’d go I really feel bad. There are going to be low moments in training, continue on, and really what’s happening is the coach doesn’t know what’s going on in your body. And the coach doesn’t want to go through readjusting your plan every single time you have a ache or a nigle or feel a little bit tired, what we can do with technology.

Taren: And now the data that is being collected by things like the Whoop band and the Aura Ring. We can adjust training every single day. If users drink a bottle of wine, we can make their workout the very next morning, easier for them. If they’re trending down and not keeping up with the train and feeling sore, we can detect that and actually get training that is better than a lot of one-on-one coaches and doing the things that really good one-on-one coaches do.

Taren: The ones that will charge three, five, $1,500, but we’re doing it in a way that we can charge 14 to 20 bucks a month. So there were a couple of major problems that we had to solve. And those two are the primary ones that weren’t really being serviced, even by most one-on-one coaches with the current service model.

Brent: I just I’m pretty sure my wife now is signed up for your app because she does drink a bottle of wine with me every night. And that’s probably why she’s getting up in the morning, thinking that she can take it easy and I’m joking. Cause she’s probably going to listen to this. I think from experience, I can say I did go through the coaching training last year with RRCA, the Roadrunners club of America.

Brent: And that was one of the warnings that they give coaches. I know also that coaches either haven’t been through that training can fall into that rut of not listening and especially right now with online and not even actually seeing anybody in person, you end up with somebody that’s in a different city that doesn’t connect with you or never has connected with you.

Brent: From what I’m hearing is that there’s some technology behind that says listening to your body and is there a certain amount of technology that the user has to have to be able to. W like you’d have to have I have a stride pod and I have a power pedals. I’ve all the dumb things that somebody with enough money can buy that doesn’t ever use all that data.

Brent: But what I’m hearing you saying is that some of those things are of value and they add that value and then you can get back and like my Garmin account is a great example. I can go and see what my power was or my FTP was in my bike ride. I have no idea how to use any of that stuff I should because I’m a coach.

Brent: But I don’t know how to use that for myself. So not to get into a bunch of technical details on an e-commerce podcast, but it’s very interesting on how it’s almost like in AI, like in artificial intelligence, helping the users to know, and then the system is learning as it goes for each one.

Taren: That’s a big issue that you’re talking about with the entire industry that we’re collecting heart rate data, we’re collecting power data. We’re collecting HRV data now, resting heart rate data, all of these things and the Garmins, the Whoop, the auras of the world. They all basically just collect the data and then tell you all here’s what it is, but nobody really is interpreting it and saying, here’s what you should be doing. Whoop is a great example. I liked the whoop band, but they say here’s your readiness score. And if your readiness score is in the tank. Great. Okay. What are you doing? Does that mean that you change your workout?

Taren: When does it mean? Like how in the tank does it need to be to change your workout? So that’s what we’re able to do is pair a lot of that data with what you actually should be doing as an endurance athlete on the day. And that’s a big piece that’s been. 

Brent: I want to pivot a little bit of just, the, maybe our listeners our business owners who are sitting in there at their desk.

Brent: Maybe talk about you. If you’re not already really into doing some fitness things. The importance of doing something other than just typing on your computer. Do you ever ever get stuck in not going and doing some exercise? Are you a type of person who has to get out and do something in addition to doing your day to day business work?

Brent: No. 

Taren: I came from a very unfit upbringing and a very, even add a few more varies, unfit early twenties in my life. Lot of drinking, I was quite overweight, about 215 pounds. And I got rid of a little bit of weight in my mid twenties by going into the gym and throwing some weights around and eating chicken breast and bland rice, the things that young kids do when they think that they’re bodybuilders.

Taren: But there were a couple of things about it that were never quite right. And I think are very meaningful to the average person, whether they’re a business owner or really just anyone who wants a little bit more from life, that feeling that you talked about when you stepped up to a start line of a triathlon being different than stepping up to the start of a race, I think

Taren: running races, really fulfilling that feeling of little bit of fear of not knowing if you’re going to be able to accomplish the task ahead of you being a triathlon or a long running race or a marathon swim or something like that. (A), it gives you a lot of structure and motivation to be healthy. And (B) it gives you a lot of fulfillment.

Taren: When you complete that task, it’s like selling a business or achieving a huge milestone in the business. It’s going through a process of seeing what you are capable of doing. And being able to do it and astounding yourself. And in my case, it made me more confident. It allowed me to start this business.

Taren: It allowed me to have the confidence to put myself out there on YouTube and put my thoughts out there in the world. So it’s less to me about, alright. Do you age? Because so many people talk about that, but I think the unsung hero in endurance sports. Is the confidence and fulfillment and structure that you get from that little bit of fear of knowing that you have to step up to the start line of a race and not know if you’re going to be able to finish it.

Taren: And frankly, the things that are going on inside your head at the start of the race, are am I going to come out of this alive? Yes, the answer is for sure, you will but it’s exciting. And we don’t really get that excitement in this day and age anywhere we can get it in endurance sports. 

Brent: Yeah. And maybe not so much excitement from a marathon.

Brent: Although if you’re in a the excitement going into a triathlon because you, even if like I’m from Minnesota, so Northern Minnesota, there’s some races and in the summer, those lakes. Dark sometimes and it’s gets, it gets imposing when you’re going across a white cap to lake and you’d have to go out a mile and come back or something.

Brent: So the structure that you said is what I really want to key in on, because I think most entrepreneurs or business owners have to have some kind of structure or they just wing it. And the ones that wing it are unbelievably lucky to make it. And when they do make it, they have to put some structure into it.

Brent: So I think that by doing some of these things to get fit, and let’s just say, all you want to do as a couch to 5k. That structure you’re putting into place. And that goal you’re setting to get there is going to be (a) fulfilling and then the fulfilling the next piece of that fulfillment is that most likely you’re going to be a little bit more fit at the end of that goal.

Taren: And you’re going to change how you feel about yourself. I use the example that I’ve just recently come across, while we’re doing fundraising as opposed to going the traditional venture capital route. We are going to individuals. And we could talk about another time about why we’re doing that, but I’m looking for individuals who are endurance athletes and could write a decent sized check. And I started thinking, how do I actually go about finding these people? I say, can I just search for them? So in quotes, I have triathlete in quotes and then LinkedIn, and then president in quotes. And sure enough, the amount of people that have triathlete or ultra runner or ultra marathoner in their LinkedIn bio is enormous.

Taren: That doesn’t happen with golf. Maybe with CrossFit, but there are very few things in this world that become a part of who you are and that people want to celebrate and display to the world in the same way that endurance sports gets displayed an advertised. And I think that’s because it is such an impactful thing in people’s lives.

Taren: So yes, again, all of the good health is great, but the confidence, the fulfillment, the structure of having a reason to be healthy it’s all so powerful. And I want more people to be able to experience that sort of power of changing and improving one’s life. 

Brent: I think that fear part is another one that’s always a fear in a good way. The fear of trying something new and the fear of failing and even the acceptance of, Hey I’m going to go out and do this swim, let’s just say, you’re going to sign up for a 5k swim. And if I don’t make it, there’s going to be a boat there to pick me up.

Brent: If the weather gets big and I know there’s a swim, like the Point to LaPoint is one I want to do it’s from Madeleine island to to wherever across Lake Superior, two miles, and last year they had three foot waves. So a lot of people had to dropout, but just the idea of doing it and stepping in and making that extra effort to put yourself out of what your comfort zone is.

Brent: I think makes you a better entrepreneur because in your entrepreneurial life, in order to grow, you can’t be stagnant and always doing the same thing. And I believe there’s such a tie-in from being active in your physical life to being active in your mental life, to being active in your business life.

Brent: They all tie together and I think you’re right. And I’m going to say something that would probably get a lot of people upset. I don’t like CrossFit. I don’t see the big point in CrossFit. You’re standing in a place. And then you might do a hundred yard run. I run past a CrossFit gym and I see them sprint out and they come back and they sprint back and maybe I’ll run five miles down the trail and come back and they’re still sprinting out and whatever.

Brent: But the the idea of that identity and then the idea of of being able to put yourself into somewhere that you’re uncomfortable. And maybe the, one of the differences too, from the gym to an ultra race is that you’re putting yourself into somewhere uncomfortable for a really long time.

Brent: So your half Ironman is more like three hours. Mine is more like six, but that’s, you’re still out on the course a long time. 

Taren: But 

Brent: close, you could be. Who’s the guy that just got the world record. He did his full Ironman in less than seven hours. Yeah. 

Taren: Yeah. Blumenfeld they’re in 7:21 crazy.

Brent: Only the Norwegian can do such things. Exactly so I can see the tie in, I’m a big proponent of keeping people active and my business life has been around having some balance between that. So maybe if you could bring us back to your app, then you’ve transitioned from your YouTube into this app, and now you’re trying to raise capital, that’s where you’re at in your business. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about, are you in a beta? where are you on your app now? 

Taren: So we launched three years ago, a little bit over three years ago and it was in beta for about a year and a half. The beta was public, and because I was still doing the YouTube channel and have this nice big audience.

Taren: We were always able to drive a certain amount of users to it, enough users that we could start getting data and collecting user feedback on where we needed to go with the app. And then a year and a half ago, we rebrand. We rebuilt the entire app, a completely new architecture, completely new programming language so that we could scale the app because we had grabbed enough, got enough data from our users to have an actual business thesis of what would scale up, what are users looking for? Things as simple as like you mentioned AI, we started doing a lot of market testing of what do athletes think when they hear that their plans are generated by machine learning or artificial intelligence.

Taren: It’s actually a detriment. So learning things like that is important that isn’t to say that we won’t use AI. It just means that we don’t lead with it and our marketing. So learning all the things like that, about what increases engagement, what is a good price to come in at? What is a way to make people feel that the app is working and that they actually develop confidence so that by the time they get to the race,

Taren: they’re confident that they’re going to be able to get across that finish line. So we’ve been gathering all of that for three years and we bootstrapped all, but us small little friends and family round that we raised at the beginning of last year, but now it’s time to start unrolling some of the features that we think are fairly groundbreaking in the industry, and we don’t want to do those

Taren: slowly, we don’t want to do those in a bootstrap fashion and basically announced to the world what the playbook is. We want to be able to come out, grab market share, because we’ve probably got about a 24 to 36 month window before competitors catch onto what we’re doing. And we want to use that to aggressively launch the feature set that we want to create and capture market share quickly.

Taren: So that’s where we’re at right now. 

Brent: Are you seeing a community as an important part of the experience from the user? And I say it from, I used to use an app called the daily mile. It was something that was super popular 10 years ago. They just really put no money into their app and it just ended up fizzling out.

Brent: But the best part of that is that it created a community. And it was more about how your posts look. And I do remember my wife complaining like, oh, you’re going to go do your post about your run, because it was a social thing. And because you had people actually cared about what you’re doing, it turned into less 

Brent: Facebook, Hey, look at the marathon I did to here’s the marathon I did, or here’s my run and here’s the struggles I had, or here’s the exciting part about what I had. And it was a commonality in that community that you don’t get on Strava. Strava, you can give somebody a kudos or you say, Hey, great run but for whatever reason, there’s a piece that you miss in the social part of it. That’s between coaching and between support and it’s about your own people or your group of people that are supporting you in your activity.

Taren: So it’s interesting that you say that we launched on day one with a social media feed. And my core belief was that training for yourself and solely for yourself, wasn’t as fulfilling as training for yourself but with other people, that human element is something that is so hardwired into us, whether it is seeing success in other people and being motivated by it,

Taren: or achieving success in yourself and getting those kudos or the accolades from achieving something that you never achieved before, is really important. And I look at an app like Zwift, so people don’t know Zwift is a training app where you hook your bike up to a smart trainer. And the smart trainer communicates with the app and you cycle inside this virtual world alongside other people now had Zwift launched and you biked around this virtual world by yourself.

Taren: It would be marginally better than staring at a wall or watching Netflix while you’re on your bike. But not immensely better, but the experience that Zwift launched with was you cycle inside this virtual world. And so is everyone else. So when people pass you, you have an encouragement to go a little bit faster and you can enter a race and there’s people all around you.

Taren: You get ride ons from everyone that is riding around you. There are achievements and badges that you can go and collect. The other people get to see how far along you’ve come. And then all of a sudden it’s immensely better than just training by yourself, staring at a wall. So our competitors and where the industry of online endurance training has gone is really just creating that virtual world where people are training by themselves.

Taren: The problem that they’re all trying to solve is how do we automate training? I can tell you we’ve already solved, automated training. And it isn’t enough to change people’s habits. So our entire scale up thesis is we’ve already automated training. We’ve figured out all of that logic and that programming language to be able to make that happen.

Taren: But how do we actually make it such that all of the users have this community experience? They get some of those good things from CrossFit or from a in-person training club. That sense of community is really what keeps people around and keeps people very motivated to continue to come back. So it is the entire thesis of our business, that community aspect of it, without that we’ve just got empty training that people are doing solo and suffering by themselves.

Brent: How. So just I apologize. I should have used the app before I came to the interview. I apologize for that. How I’m not if you’ve sparked my interest. I’ll give you an example, right? So I’ve been injured and I haven’t been running for about a week. And so I’ve switched to biking.

Brent: And so my coach has a running coach. So now she’s given me some biking workouts that I actually, I find quite fun. But because I’m on and I’m on Rouvi, which is just like Zwift, but you get to play. Can I get the bike in Hawaii all the time now? So w what happens to me is. I see that person, then I’m like, I can bike as hard as that person.

Brent: And then I, my easy days, I find myself biking way harder than I should. So if I get I’ve told I bike between a hundred and 150 Watts or whatever, I’m at 200 or 250 or some stupid number that, and I’m no that, I know these are very small numbers for you, but That I’m overdoing myself. And then, I don’t get a lot of feedback after that.

Brent: So would the, would like your app would give you an opportunity to say, Hey, ease back or 

Taren: yeah, our app will give people not any sort of strict guidance where people will be. Say penalized for not following the app to the letter. I think that people need enjoyment. They need to be able to have some free play time, essentially where they can go.

Taren: And if a workout says 60 minutes, but they’re feeling great and want to go for 90 cool where we will start giving people guidance is when they start going off the training plan too many times, be it in the intensity or in the duration or in what they’re actually doing in the workout. We will have indications of you might be less likely to reach your goal. So we will give that guidance of being able to do that. And it will not necessarily motivate people to only follow the plan, which I don’t really believe is reasonable. It’ll give people motivation and guidance to maybe not just fall too far outside the rails.

Taren: And have a bad race day. As long as they’re keeping a hard ride, hard, an easy ride, relatively easy most of the time, strength days are still strength. Days. Rest days are still rest days. People are going to still reach their goals. And we want to give that latitude while we’re giving the a hundred percent guidance, but give them the ability to

Taren: make smart choices make adult choices. If you want to go and turn a 60 minute easy ride into a 60 minute easy ride with 15 minutes, really hard at the end, we’ll tell you if that is becoming detrimental. 

Brent: Yeah. So at the macro level, rather than trying to micromanage the individual workouts, it sounds like what you’re saying, which is, I think that’s a great approach to how you’re doing that.

Brent: And as we tied this back to business, Often entrepreneurs tend to get stuck in the details of a thing and they can’t see the bigger picture. So as we bring this full circle, tying it back into a business standpoint, or even in your app standpoint, if you were to focus on some small bits of code and you’re missing that picture of community or something like that, you’re missing the big picture.

Brent: You’re going to miss out on what your goal is going to be. 

Taren: Yeah, exactly. Whether it is training or what we’re building say with our analytics dashboard. I like what you’re talking about, that we’re looking at large, big indicators of the health of an individual or the health of your business, as opposed to fussing about all of the very, very small minute details.

Taren: I think the small minute details are things that you do need to work on. We’re obsessing right now about the time that it takes people to get through our signup flow. But the reason that we started looking at that was because we started looking at larger numbers, is our churn too large for our.

Taren: For the amount of people that we’re bringing in. And if the answer is yes. Okay. Where are the leaky buckets? Yeah, as opposed to getting stuck in the weeds of every single detail, just focusing on the big picture numbers, which then led us and me in fitness and in business to starting to narrow down what weeds we look at after looking at the big picture.

Brent: Not to keep harping on it, but that idea of having those metrics in place and measuring it and remeasuring it and testing it. It’s exactly the same across both business and exercising and training for an event. If you don’t measure something you’ve done, you’re not going to know if you’ve achieved that goal.

Brent: That’s obvious in a running race, but in business sometimes. And I’ll take marketing as an example. A lot of times people just think marketing is marketing and I going to put some social media posts up and I’m going to do a post on LinkedIn and that’s my marketing and whatever happens there.

Brent: I’ll spend $5,000 on Google ads and we’ll see what happens. I don’t know. And then they don’t look and see how well they performed. So I think to tile this back even the idea of looking back at your your workouts to see how well you performed, it’s always good to to have a measurement or a commonality in that measurement.

Brent: The motivation is like the Google analytics. Could I say of of the running triathlete world and that those analytics are telling you certain things about your fitness and your training. That’s bold step. 

Taren: Maybe I thought about it that way, but as you were saying, that one thing that came to mind was a big thing that we believe in with our method of endurance training is taking care of the entire body, looking at

Taren: every system, as important as all of other, the other systems that isn’t the case with most sports that people do, whether it’s CrossFit and focusing basically entirely on strength and explosive power or yoga focusing exclusively on nothing but being flexible or running and cycling, focusing on being aerobically fit, most sports tend to leave out the rest of every other system.

Taren: What we like to do is look at the digestive system, the musculoskeletal system with strength, training, the heart and the lungs, the cardiovascular system with the aerobic training. And how do we get a training app and a training philosophy to address all of those together because they all do need to work together.

Taren: If you don’t have a healthy heart and lungs, but you’re super strong. Hey, you might be able to run really fast to the end of the block, but you’re not going to be able to run any further than that. Vice versa for people who are really aerobically fit, but not very strong. I look at marketing as exactly the same thing that it’s not enough just to buy some Google ads.

Taren: You have to buy Google ads and then retarget people on Facebook. You have to not just have Google ads, but then you also have to have content. So content marketing, when people come to your website, if they don’t sign up. If people end up maybe signing up for the app, then you have to start thinking about how good is the onboarding flow that the entire system of marketing and of business has to be looked at as a whole, in the same way

Taren: that the body has to be looked at as an entire system. And if you’re just focusing on one thing, I don’t think you’re really going to get great results in fitness or business. It’s got to be looked at as this entire cohesive system. 

Brent: That’s great. Yeah. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Brent: So we have a couple minutes left. At the end of the podcast, I give everybody an opportunity to do a shameless plug, but anything you’d like to plug today and go ahead and plug whatever you like. 

Taren: The app would be the biggest thing. And I’m not saying that endurance sports is the key to everyone’s happiness, but if people feel a bit of a sense of unfulfillment and want to challenge themselves physically, I can’t think of a better place to do it,

Taren: but in endurance sports, because it is so fulfilling. It’s so rewarding. When you have a well-designed endurance sports training plan it does address your heart health, your lung health, your strength health, your mental health, your emotional health your digestive health. All of those things should be addressed in a really well designed training plan.

Taren: And when you cross that finish line, you’re going to be really happy that you challenged yourself. So I think we have one of the best offerings of any endurance sports app in the world right now. And it’s only getting better. This is the year that we’ve been building up towards over the last three years.

Taren: So I’m really excited for everyone that’s on the app. And if people sign up over the next couple of months, they’re going to see a lot of things that start getting rolled out with all of our features over this year. 

Brent: Yeah. And I would just add on that. Now as races start opening up and the world starts getting back to normal, this is a great time to train for a race, to sign up for a race, to do a race and apps like yours, help people to track and build those habits that then turn into

Brent: something that is part of your lifestyle. And I think there’s always a joke about, how do you know if somebody is a marathon runner? They’ll tell you. How many marathons, how do you know how many they’ll tell you? So you just, like you said, in the LinkedIn example, it’s part of their persona.

Brent: I’ll have to look at my LinkedIn. I don’t know if I say I definitely my Twitter. I tell you how many marathons I’ve run. I’ve run five majors. I only have one left, which is Tokyo 2023. They’ll tell you what those are. This is a great way to get into those habits and build healthy habits.

Brent: My dad is 83. He ran until he was 75. She still tracks his miles walking. He’s his goal is 700 miles a year walking this still. It. It is well documented that being active is better than being sedative and as much as much fun at it as is sitting on the couch, watching Netflix, drinking beer, and eating Cheetos it is equally as fun and free in some people’s minds, either, biking for 56 miles or 112 miles, and then running a marathon.

Brent: And by the way, before, I’m starting that I’m going to swim for a two miles. Yeah. A little warmup. So you know that there’s an equal amount of like in both of those, for the type of people. Some of those behaviors are learned behaviors and you don’t have to do a marathon. You can do 5ks. And there’s an incredibly amount of fulfillment in doing a sprint triathlon.

Brent: And my whole family is into sprint triathlons and it’s now turned into a family thing that we do together. I’m just going to go back to having that place to track those habits is so important because you know how well you’ve done.

Taren: Then having a community of other people who are also going towards similar goals, the community is very important that without a community around you, to support you, things are going to be really hard without a community around you to celebrate your wins. Things are also going to be really hard, the community aspect of things, sharing in other people’s successes and other people sharing in yours, it makes it so much more fulfilling that’s when you start getting the people that have triathlete in their LinkedIn bio, because it becomes part of their identity.

Taren: And it’s not to say they can’t ever have beers or pizza or Cheetos or whatever it is, but you can offset that a little bit by doing something for 60 minutes in the morning, challenge yourself and feel really good for the rest of the day and really proud of what you did every single day and string a few days like that together

Taren: and you’re going to be able to step up to a start line that you never expected you to be able to do. 

Brent: Terran Gesell. I thank you so much for being here today. I will put the links to your app in the show notes so people can go there and sign up. And I look forward to someday participating in a race with you, maybe the half Ironman in Kona.

Brent: Yeah, what’s ed life is 

Taren: getting back to normal. We gotta start thinking about that again. This is awesome. 

Brent: Absolutely. 

Taren: Thank you Brent. 

Brent: You’re welcome.

Tom Robertshaw | BigCommerce and BigCommerce Apps

Welcome to Talk Commerce. Where we explore how merchants, agencies, and developers experience commerce. This week we interview Tom Robertshaw with Space48 in the United Kingdom. We give a little history on Tom’s e-commerce survey that he started publishing while he was still at University. We get into the ever-growing community on BigCommerce and talk about BigCommerce and BigCommerce Apps. And how could I talk to a Magento Master and not talk a little about Magento. This episode was recorded on May 26th, 2021

Tom Robertshaw talks about BigCommerce Apps