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Founder Interviews: Justin Jackson of Transistor.fm

Justin Jackson does a lot of things. He is a founder, author, blogger, podcaster, dad, community builder, and is now working on Transistor.fm.

Davis Baer: What’s your background, and what are you working on?

Justin Jackson: Professionally, I’ve been working with SaaS companies since 2008. I was the Product Manager at Sprintly and Mailout, and then I did consulting for a while. In 2015 I wrote Marketing for Developers, and it started selling really well. So in 2016 I quit consulting to start MegaMaker.co — online training for indie entrepreneurs.

Now, I’m working on Transistor.fm and Spots.fm with my buddy Jon Buda.

What motivated you to get started with TransistorFM?

Last year I got depressed. For the first time in my life, I was dealing with intense mental health issues. There were weeks where I was only able to work five hours total.

There was a huge downside to solopreneurship that I hadn’t considered: when you get sick, there’s nobody else around to keep your business running. Most of my solo-business required me to be charismatic and energetic; there were many days where I just couldn’t.

When the year ended, I was mentally and financially drained. Thanks to therapy, I’m feeling a lot better now. But the experience moved me.

I decided it was time to partner up. I’ve always liked working alone. But my health scare this past year changed me. The advantage of having a partner, is you’ve got someone to lean on when times get tough.

Jon and I had talked about doing something in podcasting in the past, so I reached out to him. He was eager to partner up as well. So we decided to join forces and do Transistor.fm and Spots.fm together.

What went into building the initial product?

Jon works for Cards Against Humanity, and he convinced them to use Transistor (before it was built) for their “Good News” podcast.

So, we built the initial version for them. At a basic level, we knew they’d need:

  • a way to upload MP3s
  • a generated RSS feed to submit to iTunes
  • a way to add show notes and episode information
  • a website for their podcast: http://www.thegoodnewspodcast.fm/

Our tech stack is pretty basic:

  • Rails 5.2 (because it’s what Jon knows best)
  • Postgres 9.6 (because we like the community + features)
  • Hosted on AWS (because we got free credits through Stripe Atlas)
  • Semantic UI design framework (because it’s what Jon knows best)

What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Our business model is really similar to the web hosting business (think WPengine, BlueHost, etc…)

Our customers pay us monthly for “x number of downloads.” Our pricing starts at $20 / month, and goes up to $99 / month.

So far, we’ve grown revenue through my audience, Jon’s contacts, and word of mouth. But, we haven’t officially launched yet. (That’s happening end of July)

How did you get your first 10 users?

I’d say two of our first 10 users came from Jon’s network (folks he knows in Chicago).

The rest came from this audience I’d built up as a blogger and podcaster.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome?

The biggest challenge right now breaks down like this:

  • Jon works full-time for Cards, and doesn’t always have time to work on Transistor.fm
  • I already own a business, so I have more time to focus on Transistor. But whenever I focus less on my existing business, and more on Transistor, I make way less revenue.
Screenshot of Transistor FM

If you weren’t building TransistorFM, what would you be doing?

I’d probably still be running and building my online training business (MegaMaker.co).

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Most folks don’t know I’m 38. ;) I got involved in tech relatively late in life (when I turned 28).

I was speaking at the AppSumo Conference in Austin. At the speaker’s dinner I looked around the table, and realized I was the oldest person there.

What did you do prior to age 28, and how did you break into the tech world?

Previously, I was working for a non-profit in social services. I was doing most of their tech stuff: web design, building fundraising software, etc… When I decided to leave, one of the board members owned a software company and hired me on the spot.

Where can people learn more about you and Transistor FM?

Folks can reach out to me on Twitter: @mijustin.

They can also check out Transistor at https://transistor.fm

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