Jan. 4, 2022

#11 - Going Full-Time on Side Business with Eric Turner of JapanDev

Kaustubh (@_ofkaus) and Prashant (@primaprashant) sit down with Eric Turner (@_etdev), founder of Japan Dev, and VCList.jp, to talk about his transition to an IndieHacker role, common business mistakes made by engineers, getting customer feedback, sharing progress, and more.


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  • 00:32 - Intro
  • 01:09 - Working full-time on JapanDev and being accountable
  • 06:16 - Tasks with high ROI and impact
  • 07:38 - Job market in Japan
  • 15:00 - Building features that customers want
  • 18:43 - How JapanDev started and early mistakes
  • 26:11 - Managing side-business along with a full-time job
  • 31:01 - Eric’s long term plans
  • 34:20 - The technology for which Eric is most optimistic?

Eric: For whatever reason, people see you doing that and just sharing it, they want to help out. Of all the like different types of marketing, I think for developers, people like me, maybe the easiest one is to just like talk about what you're doing. It doesn't really take any special knowledge. You don't have to study. You just literally do a thing and then say, hey, I did this thing. Thinking about doing this other thing. What do you guys think? And they'll tell you.


[Intro theme music plays.]


Kaustubh: Welcome to the Tech Culture Podcast, a podcast about careers, products, and business ideas related to tech. I'm your host, Kaustubh.


Prashant: I'm your host Prashant.


Kaustubh: Welcome, everyone to the podcast. So, we are doing this slightly different because we have a guest on our podcast. Yay. 


Eric: Yeah.


Kaustubh: We are here with Eric Turner, the founder of Japan Dev. So, Japan Dev is a job board, which curates high quality tech jobs in Japan. And he's trying to improve the image of Japan, towards foreign tech workers and like tech industry. Eric is also building VCList.jp where you can browse top venture capital firms in Japan. First of all, welcome.


Prashant: Yeah, welcome.


Eric: Thank you. I'm really happy to be here. Thanks for that intro. It's pretty good rundown of what I'm doing. So, thanks.


Prashant: So, one of the very big questions that we wanted to ask you is that you recently quit your full time job. And you started working full time on JapanDev, as well as some of your other products. So how is your day-to-day life different now? How was it different from when you were working full time?


Eric: Yep. That's a really great question. I mean, it's different in a lot of ways, obviously, I feel like one thing that is like a major difference is the way that I look at my time now. Before, I feel like it was pretty much prescribed. You know, what I mean, when you're working at a company, you're doing basically the same thing every day, for eight hours, you know what's coming, right. You can kind of look ahead and see, like, this is what I'm doing this quarter, maybe there'll be some changes, like, you'll switch to a new team, something like that. But it's like, probably for the next year or so you can kind of visualize exactly what your day is going to look like. Now, that's really not the case anymore. You know, two days can be totally different from one another. Like, I don't really know, what I'm gonna be walking into on a given day. And I could be jumping between different, like completely different tasks. I could be doing sales one day, and be knee deep in like CSS and like JavaScript the next day trying to fix bugs. So, I'm an engineer, one day, I'm a salesman, the next, I'm a marketing person, the day after that. So, there's a lot more variance, I would say. I mean, I guess there's a little bit of the fear of the unknown, that kind of enters into it, because it's just like, a lot less stable and a lot more like, I don't know, what's gonna be on the menu today. That's one big thing I would say.


Kaustubh: You used to have OKRs, and daily stand ups to keep yourself accountable. Now that you're your own boss, how do you keep yourself accountable? Or how do you keep track of your long-term goals?


Eric: Yeah, that's a really good question. First of all, I don't have OKRs anymore. I've simplified a lot of that, you know, I have a to do list that I try to keep updated. But it's pretty basic at this point, since I don't really have to collaborate with anyone else,  I have a lot more freedom, which is good, but also bad. So, you know, because there's gonna be a lot less structure. And if I want to now I can kind of just slack off. And there's not gonna be anyone necessarily yelling at me or asking me what I was working on that kind of thing. So, it takes a lot more personal, I guess, motivation. So, you need to figure out how to kind of do that. And yeah, I'm still kind of trying to figure it out to be honest. And find a good medium, I have reverted to kind of a schedule that I couldn't really have done If I had been working at a company, I don't think, but I'm kind of a night owl. So, I think that's actually working well, for me, I'll do a lot of my deep work very late at night, like literally like probably 12 am to like 3-4am is when I really am doing the real work. So that that's one kind of nice thing about it is I can just focus. And I never really did that at least when I was working in a company. So, it's got pros and cons, I would say.


Kaustubh: Are there any specific tools which you absolutely love using?


Eric: So, I have a to do list that I try to keep updated in notion. And that's actually pretty much where I just keep everything at this point, I didn't really understand how to use it. At first, it was kind of overwhelming, but now that I'm kind of getting more used to it, I actually really love notion. And it's kind of amazing the amount of value I'm getting from it, because I don't even think I'm paying them any money or anything. But I set this to do list that automatically remove stuff after a certain period of time. And that's been actually awesome. And that's something I've kind of always wanted. Because, you know, if it's on the to do list for like a month, or whatever, you know, for two months, and you end up not getting to it, then it wasn't really that important, was it? So, I get some little tricks like that. And it's like, you know, if it really was important, then I'll think of it again and re-add it, you know what I mean? So, you know, there's some small efficiency tricks like that, that I'll use but yeah, it's pretty much just like waking up, checking out the to do list, you know, seeing what I'm what I'm willing to kind of get into that day. And yeah, in that sense, it's not really that different. To be honest, it's just we don't really have, I don't have the team meetings or anything like that, it's more just, I have to kind of figure it out on my own.


Prashant: So you work on most of the stuff for Japan Dev and other projects yourself, like, engineering, or sales or marketing and everything. So obviously, you have worked as an engineer before, so that stuff might be a little bit easier. But what kind of stuff takes you most of the time?


Eric: I am an engineer, as you guys are, as well. To be honest, like the easiest tasks are the coding tasks, right? And I actually have to watch myself a little bit, and make sure that I'm not favoring those too much. Just because, obviously, that's those are the ones that are the easiest, for me, it's super easy to just jump in and fix a bug or whatever. But it's always a question of like, is this going to be the task that's most valuable for the users? Or is there something else I could do that would be more valuable, you know. A lot of the time that is gonna be like marketing and sales, getting more companies on the job board, more jobs. Adding like major new features and stuff like that, of course, is good, too. But, yeah, I have to generally watch myself and make sure that I am getting a good mix and making sure that I'm doing the promotion and the marketing stuff as well, which I find a lot more difficult, but also very important, and maybe more valuable a lot of the times.


Kaustubh: Since your target audience is mostly also engineers, you don't really have to market it to like a lot of generic audience, what activity do you think gives you like the highest ROI? Is it marketing? Is it designing or getting new jobs on board?


Eric: In terms of business itself, you mean, like, if I want to like increase my revenue or something like that?


Kaustubh: Yes.


Eric: That is actually pretty clear cut, there are usually things that I could do. I mean, there's essentially a funnel, right, for any company, and I have one where it's basically, people will come to the site. And the goal is to get them to apply to jobs. So, if there's anything that I can do to kind of make that that path more efficient, or more benefit driven, so it's more clear why it's in their best interest to apply for jobs, or just really like kind of promote them more widely. Any of that kind of stuff, is what really drives like can move the needle in terms of like, actually improving the business and the KPIs and everything. So that is one thing that I definitely think about a lot is like, where are people dropping off in the funnel? How can I make the UX better? Where can I share jobs online to get more people into the funnel in the first place? So yeah, essentially marketing, at the end of the day, like marketing, promotion, distribution, those are probably the most impactful things I would say. Which is unfortunate, because that's not my background at all. It's what I've had to kind of learn. And that's really been the hardest part for me, I would say.


Prashant: So, one other thing about Japan Dev is if some people are using it, and they find a new job, they're not going to use it again, for the next maybe two or three years. So this makes it a little bit difficult to get continuous revenue, because they're not repeating customers. Do you like find marketing difficult due to this?


Eric: Yeah, I mean, that's definitely a limiting factor. You know, at least it's not like a one time only purchase or anything like that, like, there is a cycle. And like you said, it is probably about two or three years. The question is just, is the market big enough that you can have that two-to-three-year cycle, and make sure that you'll still have enough applicants for it to be a viable business? Right. And I think that that is definitely the case. Obviously, I'd prefer if they change jobs a little more frequently, just in terms of business. But I do think that that that cycle is totally fine. There are enough people interested in working in Japan right now. And these sort of like modern companies that I'm trying to push on my site. And I also think it's actually growing, the number of people trying to work in these types of positions. So, I feel pretty good about the market overall. But yeah, it'd be nice. If that wasn't the case, right? If they could just come back and use the site every day, for years, right. And but it is not that kind of service. Unfortunately.


Kaustubh: Although your customers won't come back maybe for two, three years, it still has very good word of mouth publicity. When people who want to move to Japan, post on subreddits, like moving to Japan or Japan life, I can see a lot of people recommending Japan Dev to find new jobs. So, it might be either, like there's a good reputation for Japan Dev, or it's just you using 10 different accounts to boost Japan Dev. Either way, it's working.


Prashant: Recently in the global market. So, if you see the trends in US, I've also been watching their trends in India, and jobs in tech sector are really booming and like salaries are increasing by a lot. So, do you also see similar trends in Japan right now?


Eric: Japan's an interesting case right now, of course, given the whole COVID restrictions. The borders are not really open to people getting new visas to move here. So that has created a little bit of interesting situation, right, where it's a great market right now for people within Japan. And that's obviously one sector of our users. But then there's also the sector of people who want to move to Japan from elsewhere, and they're not able to do that right now. So, I think the number of people who are able to move has decreased. And there are still some people who are going to be getting jobs, where they're going to be working overseas for a little while, and then moving over to Japan when it's safe to do so. But that has created this really interesting climate right now, where I think it's actually a great time to change jobs, if you're already here in Japan. That's good for people here already. Right, but doesn't help people over in the US or somewhere where they're trying to get to Japan, but they can't. But yeah, I think there is like a clear need for talented engineers. That's true in the US. It's true in Japan. I think it's especially true in Japan, actually, because it's still lagging behind a little bit in terms of like the software developer education, things like that. So, there aren't as many people like coming out of colleges here with the skills to really jump in and work at the types of companies that we specialize in. So, I think that that lack of engineers, that demand is going to keep getting stronger and stronger. So, I think, yeah, it's a great time for the market right now. Also, the amount of like startups has been increasing, the amount of venture funding has been going up. It's still pretty small relative somewhere like the US, but it's increasing a lot as well. So, I think there's a lot of factors actually, that make it a really interesting place to be right now.


Kaustubh: Since there are different like most startups coming in, what are some different job profiles that you see like they are a class apart from the normal job postings that you see on average? So how are companies attracting new talent basically?


Eric: There's the job posts themselves, I think there's still a lot of room for improvement, to be honest, we can go into that if you want, like the, you know, kind of how to write a nice, nice job description.


Kaustubh: Copywriting, copywriting, copywriting, it's a very important skill.


Eric: It's so important. And the average level, I feel like of the copywriting and job descriptions is still just not there. So, I started telling companies that like, make it benefit driven, you know. My philosophy about that is like, you got to act like every applicant is a potential hire and like, could be the next superstar, right? Obviously, you know, the statistics say that, maybe you'll hire one in a 100 or so, most of them won't actually get through your interview. But you have to approach it from the assumption that like every person you're talking to, could be, and then you're really trying to attract them, here's why this is a great place to work. Here's why we want you know, what you can do, if you work with us, that kind of thing. Like so many companies, you know, they approach it from this, like, kind of condescending thing where it's like, here are all the like, hurdles, you have to get past. We need somebody who has this and this and this and this, all these requirements. And it's like, why are you like giving them reasons not to apply? You know, you want as many people as possible coming in, because anyone could be that next core person, right? So I think companies are gonna have to learn that, as the market becomes more strict, and it's harder and harder to attract those top people, I think they're gonna have to really understand that and like you said, copywriting, figuring out how to write things in a way that really is like showing the benefit to people and really attracting them.


Eric: I also think one thing companies really need to learn, I think they really need to understand that it's not all about acquisition, and like acquiring new talent. But it's also about trying to keep the people that you have and focusing more on retention. That's one thing that I just personally, like, anecdotally, I've felt like, so few companies really invest in retention. And it's more like they build up these big, like talent acquisition teams, and it's constantly like, how do we get more people in into the company. And then if you look at like, market, like salaries for example, a lot of times they will be increasing, like pretty quickly. And obviously, there's the situation where you can kind of map it out and say, like, oh, if I change jobs every two years, unfortunately, an engineer with two years of experience is worth a lot more than a new grad. And an engineer with four years of experience is worth a lot more than one with two. So, you can say like, this is what I'll be worth in two years. I'll be worth in four years. And basically, so few companies really are able to keep up with that progression, right? So, it creates a situation where you can basically objectively look and say, well, I could stay at this company and earn X, or I could jump around a little bit and earn Y and Y is significantly higher than X, unfortunately. So yeah, I think companies just need to understand that and look at the incentives and say okay, this is how much we need to pay. But then instead of having to hire a new person and take that risk, we have this person that we like, so let's just keep them at the like the pay level where it would actually be competitive with the market were they to be like switching jobs. Right. So, I think that dynamic, I think it'll, it'll balance out. It'll reach like a some sort of equilibrium. But it hasn't yet. And I think that unfortunately, that that's still kind of the case where in a lot of markets, at least, you know, I might, it might depend on the area and everything. But there's the situation where you can essentially make more by switching jobs because companies just don't invest as much in retention and making sure that they're paying competitive wages to their existing people. So that's another thing I think companies really just need to do better.


Prashant: So, coming back to talk more about Japan Dev. So how do you decide which new features you want to build for your Japan Dev? What is the process of getting feedback from customers? One of the products that I recently found out about is it allows you to post a public board where customers can post what features they want in your product. And other customers can vote on those features as well. So, you can directly find out which features are most highly requested by your customers. So, what kind of mechanism do you follow to decide what you want to work on?


Eric: Yeah, that's a really great question. I mean, I don't have like a super clear process for that. And I'm not using any kind of like SaaS or whatever it is, that sounds very interesting. One part of it is that I will still like kind of networking, especially when you could still do the in-person meetups, like pre COVID. Right? I would just talk to as many people as I could in person. And then of course, like on the site, I have contact, feedback buttons and whatnot, scattered around. Sometimes people will send me messages about features that they'd like, things like that. I also try to like just to use the site from the perspective of the user, and really just think about things that are suboptimal. But yeah, I mean, feature ideas can come from anywhere. Yeah, it really depends.


Prashant: You know, one of the interesting things that I think you do is, I often see you running A/B tests, and you post about them on Twitter with like #buildinpublic tags. So, was there any test that you found quite interesting or that surprised you?


Eric: It's kind of funny, because like, I'm an engineer. And for a long time, I was all about, like building systems and clean code and code style and testing and all that stuff. Now, I've taken like a much more, I guess, utilitarian view of like coding. And one thing that I one trend I've noticed is like, usually like the simpler something is, the more impactful It is. Literally, like I said, I kind of have this funnel, right. And ultimately, I want people to apply to jobs do the same. And I have applied buttons. So, I've done things like literally adding another apply button in the middle of a page that wasn't there before, had applications go up as a result, or I think this animation, it's like pulsing animation to the buttons that draws your attention to them. I swear, it's little things like that, making the buttons larger, just like using kind of bolder colors, making things more concise. For example, I'm trying to get people to sign up for the newsletter, I have text a copy that's trying to get them to do that. Just making that as short as possible. Like the shorter you make it, it seems like the more people sign up, yeah. And there's a million just like small tricks like that, when I really look back and see what was impactful in actually getting more people to apply and improving like the kind of the KPIs and everything, it's really mostly those things. It's not like, oh, I built this brand new like system from scratch, and everyone's using it. There's, that's rarely the case. To be honest. It's more just like this button could be could be even bigger. I think. I know, it sounds crazy. But yeah, landing pages, you know, like you're saying copy just buttons, like, it's not rocket science most of the time. It's really not, that has definitely changed the way that I think about development as well. Because it's like, ultimately, there's the business. And there are certain levers that really control how much money you're making, and you know, how the business is going. And a lot of times, it's not like that, the tech stuff, just simple, simple things, right, that don't even require code a lot of the time.


Kaustubh: So, sounds like you increase the button size by 20%. And the number of applications increase by 20%. So how about just revamping the webpage with just one big button apply?


Eric: That would probably literally work.


Kaustubh: So, you mentioned like simpler things tend to work out, and like they give great results. So, this is still more related to like the development side and stuff. But what are some business practices that that might seem very obvious, but you personally had a hard time adapting them? Or like, what were some of the business practices that you wish you had adapted sooner?


Eric: Well, I think especially early on, I, I guess I focused a little bit too much on the tech side. And I got into, I guess I got a little bit of tunnel vision in the sense that I was focused on building the product. But I made the usual mistake of having an idea. And then just building it, you know, without really talking to actual users. And without really thinking about like the market, who my target user is. And that's one thing I learned is like, you've got to really know who you're building it for. And you know how many of those people there are, where they are so that you can think about how to actually distribute what you're building to them. That is huge, like marketing distribution. Like I said. When I initially released Japan Dev, it was pretty different from the current site. There were no jobs actually. It was literally just like kind of a glass door type site where it was like, I want to tell people about the good companies here in Japan. They offer actually good environments for English speakers, people not from Japan who want to work here in Japan, right? And avoid like kind of the older school, Japanese companies that you may or may not have heard of, you know, some horror stories about.


Kaustubh: Black companies.


Eric: Quote unquote black companies that because everyone's heard about that, like Japanese work culture, right? And I realized, like, wow, there's so many great companies here that yes, you have to be careful. You got to search and make sure that you're working for someone that's more international, if that's what you're looking for. But let me try to like, share that with people. And it just came as a result of like my own job search and everything else, I learned more and more about the market. Every time I had this, like big Trello board of like companies that I personally was interested in. I was like, I should just like, share this. So that was the original MVP. It was literally just like, here's 50 companies that I'm kind of vouching for and saying these are actually good places to work, globally competitive, they offer actually good environments for people like us. And people looked at the site, it got some decent buzz, right? People were like, oh, this is cool. Yeah. Like, I'll check out these companies. But then it started paying very clear quickly that people were like, okay, cool. Like, where's the Apply button? How do I actually apply? And I was like, oh, people don't want a list of companies, they literally just want jobs, right? They want something a level beyond that. And I kind of did want that. But I realized that like that it's a market of one literally just myself, right. And of course, there are some other, there's always gonna be some people like that. But you know, you actually have to get what the market really wants. So not checking with people just building too much without thinking about the market.


Eric: And like, of course, I had no plan for like distribution, or any of that kind of stuff. I was just kind of hoping, oh, I'll put it out there. And hopefully, people will just use it, you know. So, I kind of figured some of that stuff out later. But I'm still not particularly strong at like, the marketing side of things. And I think that's something that a lot of engineers do. So that would be my advice. For people. You know, if you're an engineer, you're looking to start a company, like, really, really think about the market and who your target customer is. And it sounds cliche. Everyone's like, oh, yeah, I know, I know, to do that. I knew you were supposed to do it. I didn't. No one actually does. That's the thing. Everyone knows in their head. Yeah, that's the thing you got to do. You got to have like a persona. And like, know, your target user is right. Like, I know, it's like, do you though, who is it? Like, you know, that's, that's basically, that's the situation I was in, and I figured it out kind of after the fact. But yeah, I made all those mistakes. So essentially, what I had to do was pivot and say, like, okay, this isn't gonna work, by the way, like, especially a B2B service, I'm going to get money from the companies and companies are very, very strict about their like, public image. Right. So that was also just a complete nonstarter, I had this feature where you could do like, kind of essentially reviews kind of like Glassdoor where it's like, you can kind of read IT pros and cons of the different companies and stuff. And yeah, that's never gonna work. As a business companies, for some reason Glassdoor is like big enough to do it, I guess. But in this, like, tiny niche, right? Companies are just gonna like, oh, yeah, totally like, right, right. Whenever you want about us, you know, we'll put our logo on there. Just let your users just say whatever they want. So yeah, there were just so many, like, issues like that. At some point, I guess you just have to throw up an MVP in order to kind of force those issues out into the open, and then you can kind of figure out, too, so that was another mistake I made, like I was screwing around with Kubernetes. Like literally setting up a Kubernetes cluster. For this thing that could have been a static site It probably would have, there would have been so many benefits to just building as like a static, super simple site. It barely ever needs like, any, like, it doesn't have accounts or anything. Yeah, I was like screwing with Kubernetes for like six months before I actually released it. And just all those all those mistakes, especially that I think engineers tend to make. Yeah, I made them all. Yeah,


Prashant: So, you brought an interesting point about knowing who your customers are, and how to find them before you build a product. Now that you already have some experience, and you are also building VCList. So, do you have like some kind of checklist that you go through before you start building a product or start developing on a new idea?


Eric: So, for me, I think Twitter has proven to be very powerful. I don't have a huge following yet. But it's one thing I'm trying to actually invest more in. I think for people like me who are like kind of developers, not marketers, or business people, it's a lot easier to just kind of do stuff, and then tweet about it, and just say I'm doing this, and that for whatever reason, I think that gets a lot of engagement from people. They are interested in that and come to them with problems and say, hey, I'm thinking about doing this. I'm thinking about adding this new feature. Should I do that? Yes. Are you gonna do polls can just like ask people, you can kind of crowdsource answers to questions that you're having, that actually works really well? And that actually is a form of marketing without having to like, go down that sort of marketing, I guess, rabbit hole, right and actually learn like, all the stuff that like you would learn if you were in like a degree program, right. I think that's a really good way for me, and something, I try to do more, just like basically building in public. For whatever reason, people see you doing that and just sharing it. And they're like, hey, like, cool, they want to help out. So, I think that's one of the best ways personally, just because of all the, like different types of marketing, because you can do paid ads, and you can do guest posts on blogs, and like, go super deep into SEO and all that kind of like, there's a million different ways to approach it. And I think for developers, people like me, maybe the easiest one is to just like talk about what you're doing. You know, it doesn't really take any special knowledge. You don't have to study, you just literally do a thing and then say, hey, I did this thing, thinking about doing this other thing. What do you guys think? And they'll tell you. So that's worked well, for me, one of my idols Pieter Levels, he's done that amazingly well. So, I'm kind of trying to learn from people like that, and get a little bit better at it.


Prashant: I guess it also like feels more genuine. It's not like you're spamming your followers with some random crap about your product, or somehow trying to convince them to buy your product. Your followers also get a say in what you will build in your product. So that also I think, plays a big role.


Eric: Exactly. Yeah. And then yeah, they'll suggest other ways, other kind of similar features that they want. And you're like, oh, wow, I didn't think of that. It works. Well, in my experience.


Kaustubh: We've been speaking about how you are working full time on Japan Dev, and VCList, but there was a period of time when you were employed, as well as also working. How was that period? Would you do it again? And what were the things that you would make right, if you had to redo it?


Eric: Yeah, that was tough period of time. Because yeah, I was working full time as an engineer, really, for about, like, the first year and a half or so of JapanDev, I was working full time and doing both, it was really tough. Because I'd literally do like a full day of work for my normal job, right? my full-time job. And then I'd finished that be like, Oh, yes, finally, it's over. And then immediately have to jump into the JapanDev stuff and basically do a bunch more work. So yeah, I don't think I could have sustained that very much longer. To be honest, I got really lucky. And in that the business was doing well enough that I felt okay to go full time on it at around the time when I was really getting pretty burnt out. Because the other thing is like it got worse and worse, as it went on as I actually got clients was starting to get revenue and things like that, it sorts of became a real business, then it's really hard to do that at the same time. So yeah, that was tough. In terms of like things I do differently, it's really hard to say, I mean, I could probably have automated a lot more stuff, there was so much manual work just like operational stuff, like day to day things, just to keep the keep things going like emailing back and forth and doing things manually, when I probably could have had like a system to do it. That type of thing was, I could have cut down a lot of that and probably saved myself a lot more time and gotten kind of the same result, with less stress. I could have probably relied on other people a little bit more like gotten some up workers and people on Fiverr or whatever, like help out with some of the stuff, that's still something I kind of struggle with, I end up kind of doing everything myself, just because I'm kind of afraid to get other people involved, you know. So I still think about that now, for ways that I could bring in some other people. But yeah, that's one thing I probably could have done a little bit more as well be I just kind of taking some of the responsibility away from myself and delegating it, or automating it, I think probably the only real ways that I could have made it much, much better. But it was probably going to be pretty rough regardless though.


Kaustubh: You mentioned you were like earlier hesitant about getting like up workers or whatever, I'm making an assumption and you can validate it was there's some anxiety that if you hire people to work on it, it becomes a thing. And you kind of have to ensure it delivers. Did you experience that when working on it?


Eric: Yeah, definitely. And I was not sure if it was gonna work, especially early on, right. Even when we turned it into a kind of a real business and had contracts and stuff. Like, it wasn't the kind of thing where we had like steady monthly income coming in or anything. So it was like, okay, worked this month, you know, we made a little money or whatever. But we'll see how it goes next month. And maybe it'll continue, maybe it won't. And that was obviously one fear that I had. And it also just adds a lot of complexity as well, because then you're managing, right? If you hire someone, even if it's just like an up work, or the management overhead actually can be pretty significant. And you can end up spending more time trying to like, check their work and make sure that they're working and you know, all that kind of stuff, then you would just do it yourself. So that was kind of my thought process early on. Yeah, I have to write this proposal. And like, if it's super detailed, you can find the right people and like, usually you cycle through a few people before you find like someone really good even then you kind of have to watch them. And it's like, yeah, I don't know if it's worth it. So, I don't know, there's tradeoffs, you know,


Prashant: When you're working full time and you are managing your product, you know, there could be some unexpected thing in the middle of the day. So there might be some incident and your product. You might get some kind of client call or you know, support calls or somethings, did that bother you in your, you know, normal, full time work?


Eric: That was very scary. Because you're right, that could happen at any time. Like if the site had kind of gone down, or if they'd been like a major issue with a client. I mean, it was, it was a constant fear that I had. So even just that it was kind of scary, right, just to have that that fear in the back of my mind. I don't know, I can't really think of any, like really major things that went down, where I had to, like, take time off from my job or anything, thankfully. But honestly, I just got lucky in that sense. I was working at a company that was like, pretty flexible. And I think I was able to kind of plan meetings and stuff. Like if there's something I had to do for Japan Dev, like to make sure they didn't have any meetings that night, or whatever, you know, that kind of thing. And there Yeah, there was some stuff like that, right, try to kind of schedule things around each other because I was having to do like some, some meetings and stuff for Japan Dev too, there were things that were maybe a little bit dicey. But yeah, no major issues, though, to be honest. But that was just because I got lucky, you know, there could have easily been.


Prashant: What kind of vision do you have for Japan Dev. Where do you see Japan Dev down the line? And like, do you have some kind of exit strategy for Japan Dev?


Eric: Yeah, that's a great question. I am still trying to figure it out. I think there are different types of businesses right there, the venture backed, go big or go home businesses, you know, those are the kind of sexy ones that you'll see in TechCrunch and everywhere, right? Where you're, basically, you have people investing in you, they're saying, We want you to get 100x, grow 100x, basically, and get this massive return. And I've definitely, like accepted the fact that Japan Dev is not that, right. And I'm not going to try to get any kind of investment for it, or make it this massive company, right. In order to do that, I'd have to completely pivot, because the size of the market and everything is just not like it's growing. It's not small, it's good. You can have a healthy business, but it's not gonna be this crazy hypergrowth company, right. So that's kind of off the table. So yeah, I've accepted the fact that it's basically a lifestyle business. But I'm just trying to make it as good of a lifestyle business as possible. And of course, continue to grow, and continue to make it a better experience for users and everything. I'm constantly trying to think of ways to do that. Needless to say, I'm not trying to be the next Zuckerberg, you know, I'm saying, I just want it to be a nice little business that kind of supports my lifestyle gives me freedom to kind of do what I want. That's really my ultimate goal is just to be able to do what I want. And that includes things like trying to automate stuff, just that the time that I personally need to spend on it is lower, obviously, without, you know, I don't want to decrease the quality of the service. So think about how can I delegate to other people to kind of at least maintain or kind of grow at like a reasonable amount. And when the market expands? Like, for example, if Japan opens up the borders, again, there's a flow of new people, it's like, how do we capture that. Make sure that we grow with the market, of course, as I believe that will continue to grow? So yeah, that's kind of where I'm at. I want it to keep growing. You know, I'm not trying to go be this, like public company CEO or anything like that, though. So yeah, that's my current thinking.


Prashant: Okay. So that's very interesting point. And obviously, as you said, you're not trying to get some kind of VC funding or make Progress 100x progress. What kind of goals in like, not about Japan Dev, but what kind of goals do you have for your life? How do you find out you're making progress? Like, what kind of North Star metric would you say you have for your life?


Eric: I think just the level of freedom that I have is really what I kind of look at as my like personal North star. Like, if I want to go do something, can I just go do it? If I want to buy something? Can I buy it? If I wanted to just go, you know, live somewhere else for like, a month? Could I do that? Probably right now? No, unfortunately. I guess that's really the metric that was like, freedom, if that makes sense.


Prashant: That makes sense very much.


Eric: Yeah. Not having to spend my time doing what others want me to be able to just kind of live on my own terms and do what I want, ultimately.


Kaustubh: So, you mentioned that you value freedom a lot. Are you American by any chance? Sorry. 


Eric: I am. 


Kaustubh: So, I think we've had a productive one hour. So, we will not take more of your time. And like come to the last question. What is one technology or field that you're interested in, seeing how it grows in the next 20 years or so? It doesn't have to be Web 3 or DeFi or autonomous driving. But is there like an industry where maybe you are really interested in how it goes in the next 20 years? Or maybe an industry where you want to build something to capture a large market?


Eric: That's a good question. I'm trying to think, I'm not sure that there is really any specific industry that I'm trying to go into. I am kind of like the, you know, there's like shiny object syndrome. Ever heard that?


Kaustubh: Yes. Ooh, shiny.


Eric: Yeah, exactly like, oh, it's the latest thing I want to I want to work on this.


Prashant: Kubernetes.


Eric: Exactly like, I want to use Kubernetes. I've suffered from that in the past. Definitely. I think I'm getting over it though. And now I'm kind of going the other way where I'm like, you know what, like, web3? That looks cool. I guess, you know, it's interesting. And I see that more and more people are kind of jumping on that bandwagon and leaving their other kind of products and stuff to say, like, Yeah, I'm all in on web3, I'm gonna build all this crypto stuff. And I look at that, and I'm like, okay, so you're telling me that there's like space open back in web2 now, that I can kind of grab? And I'm like, okay, cool. Go on, do it. Like, great, thank you. Because I actually still, I still really do believe that there is just so much potential, right? In like, the older kind of like, just like, building just basic kind of websites. You know, there's so many things that are just still not using the power of the internet at all so many industries. And to me, like this mad dash for like the latest thing. I've never really understood it personally, like, I'm not really that interested in like, crypto and web3, and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, I think it's cool. I don't want to switch over to it and abandon my web2 or like my current projects or anything like that. And to me, it's like, cool, like, more, more, more of the pie more of the web2 pie for me. You know, so that's, that's my current thinking. It's like, there's actually a lot of value to be had it like the less sexy but like, fundamentally, like business focused companies. And if anything, there's going to be even more of a chance as people move away from that, because it feels kind of premature to be honest. Nowadays, I think I've cured my shiny object syndrome. And I've replaced it with dull object syndrome. I just something is like, old, or just like, anything. It's not like the latest technology I'm interested in. But I feel like there's actually still so much value that can be extracted from it.


Kaustubh: I think the answer was very insightful. And maybe I might also change my thinking in that direction. Web2 is where it's at.


Eric: I just think that the internet itself, it just unlocked so much potential, you know, and we're still really at the beginning of like, the value that's going to be created just from the internet. And I know, everyone's trying to move on to the next thing or whatever, because the internet has been around for so long now. But there's still so much so much value to uncover, 


Prashant: I think, yeah, I think like, instead of thinking in terms of like, I'm going to build this web3 stuff we should be thinking of in terms of what problem I'm actually trying to solve. And whatever sort of suitable technology is, we should use that. If it is, if it turns out that web three is the most suitable thing, then use that. And if it turns out, web2 is perfectly capable of solving that problem, then use that.


Eric: I completely agree. It will change the world it very well might. A lot of really, really smart people think it will. So, I mean, I'm cautiously optimistic. I just don't feel quite ready to make the jump personally.


Kaustubh: Thank you for your time, Eric, and thank you for your time listeners.


[Outro theme music plays.]


Kaustubh: That is all for this episode of the Tech Culture Podcast. You can find the links to all the topics we talked about in the show notes. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. Follow the show on Twitter and Instagram @techculturepod. Catch you the next time, Bye.