Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

An Uncommon Exit Strategy

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Amir SalihefendicAmir Salihefendic is the Founder and CEO of Doist, a productivity software company. He is the Creator of both Todoist, an online task-manager and to-do list app, and Twist, an asynchronous messaging app that makes collaboration easy from anywhere using threads to organize your conversations. Amir was the Co-founder and CTO of Plurk Inc. and a Developer of Bioinformatics research activities at the University of Aarhus.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [04:13] Amir Salihefendic talks about creating a product to outcompete the competition
  • [08:22] How to build a lasting business model
  • [11:07] Why social media marketing can help your struggling brand
  • [17:43] Amir explains planning for proper brand governance
  • [22:55] How can an AI compete in the business world?
  • [27:27] Ways to empower people through task management
  • [34:01] Amir discusses some advantages of a remote company
  • [38:40] The value and efficiency Twist brings to communication lines

In this episode…

What if you could create a plan without pulling your hair out? How can your brand outlast and compete in a thriving market?

When Amir Salihefendic created his brand, he wasn’t looking for a means to an end. He desired to bring consumers a quality product he was passionate about — and one that would solve consumer problems around creating and organizing schedules. Building a better product means constantly changing with the times and staying committed. To Amir, that means no plans of exiting in his future.

In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Mark Daoust sits down with Amir Salihefendic, Founder and CEO of Doist, to discuss pivoting and growing a business with no exit strategy. Amir talks about a business model that lasts, governance structures, and how artificial intelligence can aid in task management. Stay tuned!

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by MyAmazonGuy, an Amazon agency to help level up your PPC, SEO, Design, and manage your entire Amazon catalog.

This episode is also brought to you by Quiet Light, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.

There is no wrong reason for selling your business. However, there is a right time and a right way. The team of leading entrepreneurs at Quiet Light wants to help you discover the right time and strategy for selling your business. They provide trustworthy advice, effective strategies, and honest valuations. So, your Quiet Light advisors aren’t your everyday brokers — they’re your partner and friend through every phase of the exit planning process.

If you’re new to the prospect of buying and selling, Quiet Light is here to support you. Their plethora of top-notch resources will provide everything you need to know about when and how to buy or sell an online business. Quiet Light offers high-quality videos, articles, podcasts, and guides to help you make the best decision for your online business.

Not sure what your business is really worth? No worries. Quiet Light offers a free valuation and marketplace-ready assessment on its website. That’s right—this quick, easy, and free valuation has no strings attached. Knowing the true value of your business has never been easier!

What are you waiting for? Quiet Light offers the best experience, strategies, and advice to make your exit successful. To learn more, go to quietlight.com, email [email protected], or call 800.746.5034 today.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:07

Hi, folks, it’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals.

Mark Daoust  0:32

Hi, folks, thanks for joining us on another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast I’m Mark. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a podcast episode, but really happy to do so today as I was able to interview and have a great conversation with Amir, the founder and CEO of Doist.com, you may be familiar with Amir and Doist. And particularly, they’re extremely, extremely popular. To do a snap, sorry to do lists app called Todoist.com. Very popular to do is to add very, very powerful software. They also have another piece of software, which I absolutely love and have been working with quite a bit more called Twist. It’s like Slack, but not always on. It’s asynchronous as opposed to synchronous. Amir and I had a great conversation in which we talked about a core value that Amir holds with his company. And that is that they don’t have an exit strategy. I love this, I think it’s a great core value to have. And it might surprise some of you to hear me say that. But I actually think that going about your business, knowing that you want to hang on to it for the long term is a great way to to go about your business. And that’s really what he was speaking to, he was pretty clear that look, you know, an exit could always be on the table, if it made sense to do or maybe that day will come someday. But he’s not building this company specifically, because he wants to sell it someday. And I think that sentiment is absolutely right. To be able to have, we also talked in depth about some of the artificial intelligence tools that are out there, this was more of a diversion. It’s something that that was a lot of fun for me to be able to speak about. Todoist is implementing and experimenting with AI in their task and task management suite. And then we talked about the nature of running a remote company, something that he’s been doing ever since he started duelist in 2007. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this episode. And I just have to give a great big thanks out to Steven Pope. As you probably heard from some of the other episodes here, this episode is also sponsored by My Amazon Guy and Steven Pope, the founder of My Amazon Guy. I know him personally, you may have seen him over all over YouTube offering free educational content. If you need someone to level up your PPC SEO, design and manage your Amazon catalog. Make sure you check out Steven at MyAmazonGuy.com. Right, let’s get into the episode. Amir, thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the podcast for the Quiet Light Podcast. Really happy to be here. You’re with Todoist. And you have kind of an important role at Todoist as the CEO,

Amir Salihefendic  3:04

right? Yes, Mark, it’s awesome to be here. Yeah. And I’m looking forward to just like chat and see where this conversation brings us.

Mark Daoust  3:14

I remember when to do is launched or shortly thereafter, when Todoist launched. And I have the exact same reaction. Every time I see a task management, task management software come out another one. And I remember thinking that with what to do is but you guys have absolutely found your space in a hyper competitive niche. I would love to learn a little bit about what drew you guys to this space in the beginning, and how did you eat a little bit of the story as to how you pushed your way into what was already a fairly crowded niche at the time you guys started?

Amir Salihefendic  3:51

Yeah, yeah. Um, you know, like, I started this as a personal side project in 2007. And like, something that is a great thing at the beginning is like, you know, ignorance is bliss. So I didn’t really care about competition, I really didn’t care about like, a lot of other stuff. I was just, you know, focusing on like, creating a good product for myself that I love to use. And then I also had like a personal blog, they use kind of promote it. And that’s kind of like how I got started, like, you know, just like a personal project that I’ve made for myself. You know, this is kind of like a very big contrast to a lot of like, founders right now that kind of like try you know, to start something because they want to start something like I think it’s much actually better if you start something by like identifying a problem that you have or like somebody like a space you know a lot about has, and then solving that problem. Especially I think also like it’s really critical to be super passionate about the stuff that you like going to solve because a lot of times you know, it’s a lot also game like, you know, I’ve been doing this for 15 years now. Very, you know, you need to have a passion to work on a To Do app for like 15 years. Most of the days, I remember work on the weekends, but you know, like, everyday in and out, you know, like, working on like our space. And I think that sounds like something that’s maybe not valuable enough in like, the current founders is kind of like, a long term commitment and long term thinking. And, you know, just like out competing competition, because you’re just like, you know, going to outlast them, you know, we have outlasted like, companies that got bought by like $200 million, like Wunderlist, the chemical shutdown? And, you know, like, maybe they actually had a better product at that time, you know, but we just outlasted it. Because, you know, we didn’t sell out like we, we just stayed in the business and you know, kept churning out stuff. Yeah. Yeah. And find your

Mark Daoust  5:58

story fascinating. And the history of Todoist. Fascinating again, partly because it’s, it’s in this space, where, you know, building a To Do app is often the test that you give the developer who’s learning a new language, right, develop a to do list app. I remember we years ago for another company I owned, we actually had that as the test for React developers and one very simple task management list, can you can you do that, and we wanted to see how they broke their code up. But when you get into the layers of it does get more complex, and you can get really fine. I love the fact that you talk about, you’re solving the problem for yourself, right? Product Market Fit is always the key that unlocks a successful SaaS company. And so where do you start willing to start by solving a problem that you might be having? When did you have that realization? Of I want to make this public and put it out there? Was that from day one? Or was it after you had something that was working for a while that you decided to make it public?

Amir Salihefendic  6:58

Yeah, that’s a great question. And like, something to note, as well is like, I actually was like an indie developer. Before, it was cool. Like, I was an indie developer in 2007. You know, like, and somebody knows, like, I built in public, like alone, like, there’s a lot of, like, boundless amount of building public, I built in public, I had a blog, you know, I like I would talk every day, I would like, do some work, publish it out. And, you know, Todoist wasn’t really my first project, like, I’ve done like, a spell checking app, I’m actually also sold it before. And I don’t like CMS system, like, various libraries as well. So I was not like, only building like, a to do that, like, I was doing a lot of like, different projects. So, you know, I was just like, building public public sharing my my thing. And even like, the business model, you know, like, that’s also like, a strange thing is like, I didn’t know like, zero about building a business, you know, but I knew, Okay, like, I actually need to pay like hosting. And, you know, I’m a student, like, you know, like, like, I need to cover the cost somehow. So that’s actually also like, how the business model got got, got kind of invented in 2007. Like, it was very uncommon to actually charge a subscription for some software on online, you know, it wasn’t really super common. And I did that, because, you know, I didn’t read a book or like, I didn’t know what even like SAS was, you know, like, I was just like, Okay, I have cost, I need to cover this cost. Let charge. Yeah, and even know that the pricing part. And that sounds like something that’s very, you know, like, right now you have like, all of these, like sophisticated models, you know, I was just like, Okay, what should this cost $3 per month? You know, it makes sense. Let’s just do this. Yeah. And, you know, that’s also called the pricing point, got set and honest, like, we had this pricing point that I just like, threw out like, you know, out of nowhere, for like, I think, Oh, well, like a decade, before we can optimize the price. Yeah.

Mark Daoust  9:12

There we go. Who needs AV testing, just pick your prize and go with it, when you’ve got multiple projects going on. And I know, entrepreneurs can relate with this because we can’t sit still on a single project, right? Shiny Object Syndrome. We all know about it. I can relate with this when I started Quiet Light when I found in Quiet Light. Probably the first five years I treated this as something on the side that I was doing. And it just kept growing and kept growing and kept growing. And I had to make that decision at some point to say, Okay, I’m actually going to go all in on on this, right and get rid of most of my other projects. Did you have that moment or did Doist just crowd everything else out for you? Where was that pivot point for you? And I mean, you talked about you did the spell checking nappy as CMS, you had all these other projects going on? Maybe you still have them all going on?

Amir Salihefendic  10:08

How did that how did that transition happened? Yeah, I mean, something to notice, as well, it’s like, to this was like a side project for me. From 2007 to 2011. It’s about the same time

Mark Daoust  10:22

for me, it was Quiet Light. Actually, that’s what was the effect? Same arc there. Yeah,

Amir Salihefendic  10:27

yeah. And, you know, I didn’t like see our business. Like, I didn’t think like, this would be a bit like, it was a side project. No, I had thought this, during the night, actually had like, to start off with around, there was CTO of a social network or clerk, it’s access to the operational. So you know, I didn’t really see this like, really as like, a business, you know, I was just like, okay, you know, this is kind of my pet toy, you know, I really feel passionate about this. But, you know, at some point, like, especially, like, I kind of quit this social network. And, and I started another project called we Doist, which is like, team based project management app. And then at some point, like, you know, I was, like, really struggling finding, like, product market fit. And then I had like Todoist, you know, like, which have product market fit, like people were using, like, people will also send me like, these huge emails, you know, like, this, this thing’s, like, sucks, you know, you need to improve this, you know, like, You’re ruining my life, you know, like, and honestly, like, some of these, like, wouldn’t be like, super long. And like, I was just like, you know, like, also, with, like, a lot of feedback, and a lot of just like, poof from the market. So at some point, I was just like, okay, like, why am I actually like trying to find product market fit, and struggling when actually have something that works. And if I just, like, apply more energy on this, we just die off. So that’s kind of like when delight kind of came to me and said, you know, like, I see a vision now. And like, this is the path. And in that time, but maybe to this was meeting about, like $3,000 per, per month or something like that. And when I actually, like came back Todoist, and started to work on a full time, I think it took me like, I don’t know, six months to bring like 230 K per month. Yeah, because, you know, like, I had so much knowledge as well, like, of building like, a social network and all of these other things that you know, and then it also became became like, our survival mode. Yeah. So much like, you’d have the same similar story with your company. But yeah.

Mark Daoust  12:37

Yeah, I mean, I’m sure people here quite like can tell you that I get distracted. And it’s a matter of months before I wake up one day and think, What am I doing? Why am I doing this? I’m curious. Who was your first hire? At Doist? Who did you bring on? First, that first hire I always think is interesting and difficult and feels weird sometimes.

Amir Salihefendic  13:01

Yeah, I mean, my first hire, like real hire was actually a support person, because I was getting so much support. And like, it was, I was also honestly, like, a super bad, like, support. person, because like, I would take like this as an offense, like, you know, they are criticize, like, sometimes, actually, we had, like, so this is a funny story. Like, we had some people that joined this afterwards. And they would show me like emails, you know, like, when they send supporting, I would, I would just, like, respond back like, Yeah, I’m going to look at that, like, this is not important, you know, like, just be like, one line as you got like, like, the the zero, like customer support, because, you know, I was just like, overwhelmed. And also just like, you know, I took it very personally, like, you know, yeah, so that was my first hire. That’s, that’s hilarious.

Mark Daoust  13:55

That’s hilarious. All right. I’ve been sitting on this question for a little bit. So I’ve got it, I’ve got to ask it now, right? Today, with the company, you are obviously a well formed company. You have values, the core values for your company, and one of them stands out, you put a write on the website do est. And obviously, it intersects beautifully with what we do here at quiet light. And I actually really liked this value, even though it means that my business would go up in smoke if everybody adopted this, and that is, you don’t have an exit strategy. That’s part of your core values. When you’re teaching this to your team. And using this, what do you tell them? Why is that a value that

Amir Salihefendic  14:31

you hold dear? Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, I think that as a company, and as a founder, you really need to find like, edge, you know, and like, you need to be different. So most of the founders, you know, they have an exit strategy. Most startup companies, they think short term, you know, like, their success. It’s kind of like, Hey, can we get acquired can we do IPO or whatever else with this? So Like mighty fresh in Australia is kind of like, there’s no exit, you know, like, this is full commitment, you know, and like, if you as a leader go in and say that, um, you know, I can also pack this up, because I have worked on this for 15 years now, you know, like, I turned down offers and like, I don’t even like, it’s a team, like, acquisition talks, or whatever else like, is, like, it’s a really powerful life, because it makes you very different. And it makes like a commitment very, very different. And I think like, people can really feel this, like, you know, this isn’t just like something that the state, you know, it is the reality no. And of course, also, like, a lot of founders, or companies can’t really do this commitment. Because, you know, like, maybe your project isn’t really, you know, something could work 50 years old, but, you know, I believe, like, our space, it’s something that we can easily do. Yep. So, you know, yeah, like, you know, finding a match finding a moat, and being different, you know, yeah. Yeah. And that is one aspect. Of course, that aspect is, you know, just like being, you know, like, like, not having a boss or like, you know, like, not having somebody that can, like, big data are our, you know, our decisions, like, we’re just like, yeah, we can do whatever we want. Because, you know, we’re independent. Yeah. Honestly, like, I think that is initially I thought, actually, that was a very strong belief. But I don’t actually believe that, I think like you always have, you know, stakeholders, like that could be your customers, that could be your employees. I mean, right now, we are 100 people, that means like, I’m actually in charge of, like, 100 families, maybe, you know, that is the huge, like, you know, like, we are not just independent, like, we can do anything that we want, you know, yeah, so I think like, that independence, like, I always think you have stakeholders, and that’s all something that I’ve been thinking about, especially like, you know, watching like this FTX, you know, explosion, and like fraud happening. I really think like, the problem there is really like, stakeholder control, and not actually having like, you know, a board and like, you know, somebody, somebody that calls like the execs or the CEO accountable. And this we’re actually very similar right now. Like, you know, of course, like we’re not fraud, but like, we don’t really have like this for and I think actually, there’s a reason why most corporations actually adopt this, I think it’s a great way to have accountability in a company. So you establish a board with with Doist? No, no, but you know, that is definitely like, my, my future plan is kind of like have a proper governance structure that holds, you know, the C team in place, the CEO, and even myself, you know, like, maybe at some point, you know, I should get replaced, you know, like, if I’m not doing a good job, if I’m not, you know, yeah. Yeah, you know, so that’s something like, it has evolved a lot, you know, all the time. But I think like, if you want to do a good job as a founder and CEO, you really need to, like, take care of the company, and all the stakeholders inside the company. And sometimes it means like, you need to exit, you know, like, you need to switch your job as well. Yeah,

Mark Daoust  18:23

yeah, I’ve done that exercise as well, Quiet Light, about 35 people large, but when you take into account spouses, and children, partners, and you start to realize the decisions that you make, as the founder, as a CEO, you impact a lot of lives, hopefully, all positively, right, and maybe some negatively, and that that’s, you know, it becomes industry, where it’s all about freedom, and it’s about doing what you want. Pretty soon you do have real stakeholders. And then there’s, of course, the customers. So you have 100 people that are dependent on the income you produce. But the number of people that you enable, that your company enables, from a productivity standpoint, and the extension there is the hundreds of 1000s if not millions of people that are benefiting from the work that you do. It’s an awesome responsibility. And you guys have done a wonderful job with it. You’ve done a wonderful job with it. Overall, you know, the the don’t have an exit strategy. I was at a dinner years ago at a conference called e-commerce fuel. And somebody grabbed me after a dinner and said, hey, you know, I want to know your opinion on when you think the best time is to sell my business after starting now, how many years should I hold on to it? And I told him, I said, never actually. He said, What is never I mean, hopefully you never get to the point where he wants to sell your business right hopefully is so good. That it’s you want to hang on to it forever. And it was a surprising answer, because obviously, you know, it goes against what we do we do live in, generate our revenue on people who do reach that exit point, I think there are natural exit points. But I am opposed to the short term thinking that you see some times with founders of build just to just to exit at some point, because it does set up that short term thinking. So I applaud you for having that that resolve, and I can imagine the trickle effect that it has on everybody that works with the company, to know that this is one of the core values of the company is that we’re in this we’re committed to doing long term benefits, as opposed to just whatever is going to benefit us in the short term.

Amir Salihefendic  20:32

Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t agree more on that, Mark. I think like, yeah, and honestly, like, you know, I’m not opposed to exit. You know, like, I think they are a natural part of this, I just think that there’s like, way too much focus on that. And maybe an even, you know, like, I think in us, it’s actually much better than the in Europe. Like, if you look at Europe, like we don’t actually have very big companies, you know, tech companies, and one of the core, maybe driverless car complacency and like, you know, like, you know, like, at some point, people just cash out, you know, and you will Verado, you know, just like, be on a beach the next year, you know, like, build something that’s much more valuable. And, you know, empowering to a lot of people. Yeah, so, the IVs actually, like more, especially, you know, maybe in the US, actually, I think there’s like a class of founders that are super focused on the long term, and they really live for like a mission. And in Europe with like, at least, like, based on what I’ve seen, is there’s a lot more like short term focus, and like, there’s no mission, there’s nothing like, it’s just like, Okay, can we make some money and like, exit or whatever? Like, yeah, right,

Mark Daoust  21:44

right. Right, right. Yeah, the natural exit points to come up over time, as a founder, as an owner. When the time comes to exit, you’ll know that that’s when really the right time is right. When, when I always say when the landscape of your life when the landscape of your profession changes. You’ll know it at that point that it’s time, time to exit, you guys are playing around with AI, with to, Todoist excuse me, which is absolutely fascinating. I’ve been personally obsessed with my journey. And I’ve been playing with open AI as new chat based response tool. So much fun, huge time suck for me, because I keep going in here and saying, I wonder if I could get my attorney to do this? You know, and I’ve had some really cool things come out of it. Where do you see the AI component of task management going? Do you really see this as being a key part of the future? And key part of the offerings for for Todoist you’re moving forward?

Amir Salihefendic  22:46

Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question Mark. And, you know, like, I’m super passionate about this, I read like, above this every day, I see a lot of like demos. And like, I’m just like, yeah, I really do this, like deep into this. And honestly, like this, like, there’s been like a huge explosion in the space in the last like, few months. And also, like, if you look at like, the growth of board and subsequent hardware, but also software in like these models, they are growing, like at an exponential rate, year over year. So it’s kind of like, I think, the latest model, like so GPT, three, which all of us probably use, opening eyes is maybe 250 billion parameters. There’s actually a model right now with 500 billion parameters. You know, and yeah, so that’s thing is kind of like these current demos, you know, they’re just demos. Like, it’s kind of like, you know, watching the first iPhone. So I really feel like this is actually not only like task management related, it’s kind of like a huge paradigm shift. And I think, actually, we are not only creating, like, general intelligence, on demand, I think we are creating, like super intelligence. Because you know, something that grows exponentially. You don’t need a lot of like, iterations for it to reach a stage where, like, no humans will be able to compete. So I feel like, you know, we’re kind of like, in this moment where, you know, chess, like you had, like these, this match between IBM and Kasparov, where like, you know, there was kind of like, some doubt, like, you know, can this like really be humans, you know, and then suddenly, you know, like, right now, like, there’s no human or compete, like, some of these best, you know, computer chess players. And the same thing has been done for a go. There’s like, also some strategic games right now, where like, computers just like winning more and more. And even like, you see this, you know, society, I’m pretty sure like, we are So let’s add Well, you know, like these systems, they will be super intelligent, like, a human will not be able to compete against them. And, you know, how does this shape our world? You know, like, I think it’s actually a following, you know, because we are basically, you know, is basically huge leverage, because, like, one of our biggest assets as a species is like, our intelligence, and we have basically, you know, made it available and like, it will maybe be super intelligent. So, yeah, I, you know, I, you know, I must like, if you have seen, like, some of these models that sold like matte and scientific things, I mean, it’s, like, you know, it’s, it’s incredible. Like, it’s really scary. Yeah,

Mark Daoust  25:48

yeah. I was playing around with it yesterday, the the latest model that has the chat based interface, and I think he’d be true. Yeah, challenging. Three, I just put some very basic scripting challenges for it. Well, I think what I said was, I want a three column layout, with headers on each and different shades of blue. In each column, what is HTML and CSS for this? Within two seconds, it gave me a written response with perfect code in there. Obviously, that is an extraordinarily simplistic challenge, right. And I’ve seen some people put in some more complex challenges, and it’s still spitting out. Accurate code, I sent it to a friend said, I think developers should be worried. Right? The ability for the student to be able to take some, some coding bases and create legitimate code is impressive. And I can just imagine where we’re going to be going

Amir Salihefendic  26:50

here in the future. Yeah, yeah. And even hear something like I, unless this podcast, I’m not sure if you follow that, but there’s like, interview with like, GitHub co pilot creator, where he shows fear, some stats, and you’re like, already, right now, like, GitHub copilot, which basically AI auto completion, it’s used, like, on a mass basis, to just like, turn off code. Because, you know, it’s just like, smart auto completion, the camera empowers you. And of course, like, you know, this is kind of like a demo of what’s to come. Because imagine, like, this model is like, 10 times or 100 times better, you know. So, yeah,

Mark Daoust  27:35

let’s bring it back over to to do is because I want to stay on that view. And I could easily go down this rabbit hole, it’s, it’s such a big topic, and so fascinating. When it comes to task management, you are bringing in is publicly available now what Todoist to use the AI

Amir Salihefendic  27:47

capabilities. Yes, yes. I mean, we have like this experimentalist. So basically, you can get like, you know, these experimental features, and like aI features is one of them. And right now, we basically have a very simple thing where it can basically like, you give it a task, and then basically creates like, tasks to solve this thing. So it’s like, you want to run a marathon, it kind of creates, like, a small plan for how you can run a marathon. And also, like, it’s scarily good. Like, it’s really, like, you know, it will probably create better tasks than the average person at this point, you know, like, more actionable, like, it’ll break stuff up. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, you know, this is just like, a small thing to come. Like, we’re still kind of, like, you know, venturing into this, I think there’s like, a lot of ways you can kind of empower people. Because all people like struggle, you know, like, we like creating good tasks, creating actual size, breaking tasks of, like, you know, like planning projects. And the thing to notice about like, something like, GP d tree, or similar model, is, it’s trained on like, billions and billions of like, examples. So actually, if you tell it like, Okay, I want to, and I think that’s like the future. It’s kind of like, how does this work like project planning, you know, you will just tell it, you know, I have like, run a marathon, I want to spend four months on it, create me like a plan. And then it actually goes out and uses, like, humanity’s knowledge to kind of create a plan. That’s like, Yeah, we actually have like a demo. We haven’t published it yet, of this feature on it. I think it’s really incredible what you can do. Yeah.

Mark Daoust  29:34

What I like about that we were talking about this as my business partner and I and some of the other executives here at Quiet Light. You know, we set out our quarterly goals and what we’re going to be working on specifically, we call them rocks, right? What are the rocks that we’re working on? And there’s always this push and pull between us. i I hate listing out steps to get there because I always told me that I don’t know what the sixth step is yet. I gotta get to steps one and two, and then I’m going to By now, you know what maybe the next two steps are. What I like about this is it gives you a roadmap, at least an initial roadmap. And it will definitely bring up things that maybe I haven’t thought about. On my own when I’m sitting down trying to break this this up. And that, that I think is is a fascinating use case of this. By the way, your example that I saw you use online, I think it was on Twitter initially, when when I first saw that you guys were doing this was not run a marathon, it was become a dictator. I believe. I think the last one was watch out for the coup, I think was?

Amir Salihefendic  30:36

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, I mean, that was like a joke. But you know, that’s the thing about these things as well, I think you can use them for some great things, you can also use them for some evil things as well. So so, you know, something I actually liked about, like, open AI is like, the safety is kind of a core concern for them. So actually, you know, like, one example is, if you actually try to create, like, a plan for killing yourself, right now, they would kind of figure it out. And then we’ll actually try to suggest like hotlines, you know, talking with friends, you know, like, it will not actually go in and like, give you like a cold plan, it will actually try to help you. Which I think is like very fascinating, you know, that? That yeah, like, you know, like, harming humans isn’t really a core. Like they’re probably trained not to do that. Yeah,

Mark Daoust  31:36

that’s great. So we don’t have to worry about AI. Becoming sentient and taking over the world just yet. Few more years,

Amir Salihefendic  31:43

or years. I’m actually I’m not sure about that. Yeah. Because like, we don’t really know, you know, like, how, like, like, how have we become sentient? You know, like, we don’t really know how our brains work. And we are creating, you know, recreating something without like, really understanding what we are recreating? Yeah, so yeah, I am. I don’t know. I mean, I think like right now, like, I’m more like, excited about the possibilities of just like leveraging and empowering people, you know, and just like speeding stuff up, then, you know, like this problem, like, you know, AI taking over the world. Yeah,

Mark Daoust  32:22

right. Well, for all those listening, your next few sleepless nights are brought to you by the Quiet Light Podcast, you’re welcome. Let’s, let’s actually switch gears a little bit, because we are starting to run out of time. And I want to touch on another topic as to how do is run similar, again, to Quiet Light, in that we are a 100% remote company. And I would never imagine going back to the office. This is the push among tech companies right now, obviously, coming out of the pandemic. A lot of the companies that were in office in person previously went remote and struggled during that time, or are now struggling, there’s definitely advantages to being in person. I know Rob walling has talked about how when he found a drip, initially, he made it in person, and he would not do anything different than that, because of some of the the benefits there. But I like the remote portion. I would like to ask you guys run remote. What was the thinking behind running remote. And then also, let’s, I want to talk a little bit about twist in the idea of asynchronous communication being a better way of managing communications on remote teams. So let’s start first with with your decision to work remote. Was that just how the company developed? Or was there a conscious decision to do that?

Amir Salihefendic  33:41

Yeah, I mean, something really is like, when I actually started to work full time, on to this, I was actually living in Chile, in Santiago. And, like, you know, starting a company from there, and like, finding the talent that I needed, like, that was a no go, such like, you know, running this remotely in hiring remotely like that. It wasn’t even, like, you know, like those that came supernatural. And also something as well, he’s like, you know, my background is like, development. And, you know, like, developers have worked remotely for a long time. I mean, some of the most successful projects, like Linux kernel, you know, is being developed, like 1000s of like developers remotely, for a long time. And same thing like with some other like, you know, core libraries, you see, and you use, so, you know, this remote thing that wasn’t really you know, like, very decent for me. Yeah, so, and also like, it was a huge edge and, and I’m actually happy that like this kind of like I saw, like this tweet yesterday that like, you know, all the top Silicon Valley VCs founders don’t really believe in remote work. I’m just like, yes, you know, this is amazing. Yeah. comparative advantage here we come again, like, because again, like I think like, as a company, you really need to find a match where you’re different. But if you’re doing the same thing as everybody else, like, you know, you’re probably not going to find that edge. And I think like remote and like making being amazing, that remote work, you know, that is super empowering. And it can lead like to hiring amazing people, you know, and I think most you can become more productive. If you just fully embrace this philosophy, then like, you know, this hybrid structure where you suck, you know, like office work, you also suck at revolt and like, you have like, the worst of both worlds. Yeah. Yeah. So So honestly, like, for myself, like, I think actually, it’s better to kind of like be office only, or remote only, like, not these hybrid structures. I don’t really believe in them. Yeah,

Mark Daoust  35:52

yeah, they’re trying to do remote work. Well, the hybrid models in everything hasn’t worked. It didn’t work in schools, when they schools tried to port the school system to remote. I know we’ve we’ve homeschooled our kids. And we’ve also done online school. And we also do in person school, you have to have totally different mindsets for all three and totally different approaches for all three. And so I don’t know how you go run, run a workplace, trying to recreate the in office work, it doesn’t work, you can’t do it. But remote companies can work. And they can work really, really well. But you just have to go about them differently. communication. The communication is a big part of this. Now. I wanted initially to use Slack with quiet light and the vast majority, my team said, Please, please do not do that. Right. Nobody wanted the green dot. They didn’t want that always active. Cal Newport talks about it as the hyperactive hive mind, I think is the phrase he uses. And he’s absolutely right. Asynchronous communication. This is what twist is? Where did you guys stumble upon this as the model that you incorporated at Doist? And what sort of advantages have you gained and just full disclosure for everybody? I’m at this point, transitioning our company over to Twist half the company is on it. And we will be rolling it out to the rest of the company here shortly. I absolutely love it. But when did you guys discover this as slack is kind of good. Better than email in some ways, but it’s sort of not. So let’s find a product that does work.

Amir Salihefendic  37:31

Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s a great question. Like it and something, you know, it’s like, we were actually some of the early adopters of Slack. So, you know, like, we adopted slack or very early on. And the reason why we actually developed twist was that everybody else was kind of copying slack. And running like a remote company that distributed where you actually don’t want to have like, nine to five schedules, you know, you couldn’t find out and like, like, Slack is super, like, toxic for this environment, and, you know, real time communication in general. And then you’d like when we look at the market, there was like, nobody that really sold this or had this problem, you know, and we just like, you know, this kind of sucks, like, you know, my life sucked, because I will be spending a ton of time in some meetings. And then combined with that, you know, real time presence all the time inside a chat room, or like multiple chats, like direct messages, you know, it wasn’t really a great environment to do, like deep working. And that was kind of like, you know, the need to create, like, Twist and like, like, create more like, asynchronous way of communicating where, like, you don’t need to be connected all the time. You can do like longer messages that have like a lot of payload. You can distribute work across the world. And also, I’ve never used this, I think since 2015. Maybe. And, you know, like, we are huge believers in this. The problem is like, when the COVID a pandemic hit, we thought, oh my god, like, we are going to be like suit like, This is amazing. Like, everybody’s just like, you know, and then like, everybody just like copied, you know, like, the office environment, put it in inside the cloud meetings all day long chat rooms, I mean, if you look at the stats, like meetings have have increased like 250% inside like Microsoft tools since 2020 250%. You know, so yeah, and you know, purchase like we do have like some, I think, like pioneers that cannot see the vision, believe it, but the majority of market is just like, they’re still like stuck in these meetings in real time chat rooms. And honestly, I think it’s amazing because like, it means they’re not really finding their edge. And you know, it helps can sometimes to you know, yeah, be against the status quo. Yeah.

Mark Daoust  40:00

One thing I’m fascinated by are workplaces that that are hacking or playing around and messing around with the generally accepted structure of how to run a company how to go about a daily work life, right? So much of you know, the nine to five sort of structure started with industry, and shifts, and we don’t need that anymore. And when you see companies that play around with this idea, you can see some pretty fascinating things start to come out of their workforces, but everyone’s scared of work and play around too much with it. They don’t want to completely torpedo their company’s progress. But there’s a lot of gains. And I think we’re incredibly inefficient. That’s that you said, but 250% increase in meetings, is mind boggling. absolutely mind boggling to think of. absolutely mind boggling to think of, we are coming up on time, unfortunately, because I would love to talk more about the asynchronous communication and go into that, for those that are not familiar with what we’re talking about with asynchronous communication and everything else, just check out twist.com. It’s a great piece of software. It’s like Slack, but not the same real time where people are going to have all this context shifting going on at all times, which is such a distraction to productivity, especially when people are being paid to think about things. So check it out overall, or anything else that you want to just cover or if somebody wants to learn more about you, I know you’re active on Twitter, so you’re good follow on Twitter, any other places where they can follow your work and things that you’re doing?

Amir Salihefendic  41:39

I think that Twitter is a great army. I’m a very active user, I blog, a lot about tech AI, you know, productivity and stuff, like remote work as well. asynchronous work. Yeah. So you know, if you are interested in this, like, Please, just like follow and, you know, hopefully create some good content there. Yeah. Yeah. And lastly, I think, like something that really struck a chord with me, Mark, like, is really like inefficiency. Because I think, really, this is a huge problem, not only for the tech sector, I think for the whole world, like, you know, we have, like so much leverage. And so like, you know, great tech, but we are just like, not utilizing it properly, I think. And I’m really, like, passionate to work in this space, because I think there’s like so much possibility to kind of empower people. Yeah, so yeah. So that’s, that’s kind of like, you know, feeling like this, like, yeah, like removing this inefficiency. I think, like, it’s a huge opportunity.

Mark Daoust  42:41

Absolutely. It’s a lot of fun. Well, on behalf of a lot of people listening that I know used us to do this. Thank you for creating an incredible piece of software there. I also think before creating Twist, because we are absolutely loving it. Here. We are. Thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate your time here. Today. This is this has been phenomenal. It definitely scratched the itch of my Gi Gi hearts. So thank you so much for that. We’ll be posting links to your social media profiles, and obviously to the company and some of the other incredible things that you’re doing. Thanks again, Amir.

Amir Salihefendic  43:13

Mark, thank you for having me. This was really, really fun. And you had some amazing questions. And yeah, yeah, and best of luck as well, like, you know, Twist with asynchronous I O. It really gives you a huge edge. Yeah.

Outro  43:27

Today’s podcast was produced by Rise25, and the Quiet Light content team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast, subject or guest, email us at [email protected] Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

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