Steven Benson of Badger Maps

Founder Coffee episode 046

I’m Jeroen from Salesflare and this is Founder Coffee.

Every few weeks I have coffee with a different founder. We discuss life, passions, learnings, … in an intimate talk, getting to know the person behind the company.

For this forty-sixth episode, I talked to Steven Benson, Founder and CEO of Badger Maps, a leading mapping platform and route planning app for field sales people.

After studying geography and doing an MBA, Steven spent his whole career in field sales at companies like IBM and HP and then went on to sell the Google Maps API to businesses.

Being exposed to a lot of mapping problems, he figured there was a space in the market for a mapping product for field sales people. That’s when Badger Maps was born. Almost 9 years later, Steven now leads a bootstrapped business with a team of 75 people.

We talk about the power of podcasting, studying languages, doing three-hour bike rides on a stationary bike, and why he might move his company out of the Valley.

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Jeroen:

Hey, Steve. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Steven:

Hey, Jeroen, great to be here.

Jeroen:

You are co-founder of Badger Maps. For those who don’t know yet, what do you guys do?

Steven:

Badger Maps is a CRM add-on that effectively helps field sales teams. The things that we do for field sales teams is take the data from their CRM system about their customers and put it onto a map for their field salespeople, giving them the ability to have those field salespeople plan their day, build a route, focus on the right customers. It has a whole suite of tools for the outside or the field salesperson.

Jeroen:

So, is it focused around mapping then, like the name says?

Steven:

Well, it’s on a map. So, at its base layer, it’s taking data and putting it on a map. When you look at it, it looks like a map that does a bunch of things but it’s a different way of looking at your data that is extremely useful for people that are out in the field. So, you wouldn’t use this if you were just interacting with your customers over the phone. It’s for people like med device sales reps or people that sell beer at bars or pharmaceutical sales reps. That sort of salesperson that goes out into the field and meets with their customers every day.

Jeroen:

Right and that’s because CRM systems don’t really cover that as much, right?

Steven:

One does, Salesforce. They purchased our biggest competitor but the other ones, they don’t. And we work with Salesforce as well obviously. The other ones, if you wanted this type of capability, it’s too niche for them to have gone into basically. Because field sales is just a small segment of the world of sales. There’s retail sales and inside sales and online sales. It’s too niche for them to have built out a whole suite of tools just for this one type of person and so what we do is kind of convert the CRM for that one person, which helps them gather more data and get more usage, et cetera.

Jeroen:

Yeah, and is this based on a problem you had yourself? I see before Badger Maps until exactly the month before, you were working as a regional sales manager at Google. Is that where it sort of started?

Steven:

Yeah, my whole career had always been in field sales and this is back in the day when we sold software as field sales reps. Today, most software is sold via inside sales reps. Maybe not the bigger deals. And I think that’s actually a mistake. I think we’d sell more software and at higher price points with shorter sales cycles if we actually got in front of our customers. But in general, in software today, we do most of our deals over the phone. And yes, I was always in field sales, so I had a lot of exposure to the types of problems that we ended up solving and then when I was at Google, the thing that I was selling was the Google Maps API, which is kind of the base layer of the maps that we’re using here. So I was exposed to both the problem and the thing with which we would solve the problem.

Jeroen:

Right. Yeah, I see you even have a BA in Geography. That’s funny.

Steven:

I do, yeah. I’m one of the only people to ever use a geography degree in the real world.

Jeroen:

Right. So you studied geography. I see you also did an MBA and then you ended up in sales somehow and then you sort of got to combine these things by building out Badger Maps.

Steven:

Right and that’s a weird path. I think I was one of the only people in my MBA class that pursued sales. Usually, it’s not as academic a career path and you don’t need the MBA to start a career in sales. Especially MBAs at top schools tend to do things that you needed the MBA to get, right? So, iBanking or consulting or things like that but I went with the sales path because it attracted me. The interaction with customers. The clear goals. The doing of things, very tangible things. There are things about sales that people shy away from because it’s so much transparency, so easy to judge with real numbers how this person’s doing. There’s no way to fudge it.

Steven:

So, I think it’s one the best career paths to start out in if you ultimately want to run a business because so much of what we do as a leader of a company has to do with sales, whether we’re selling to employees, whether we’re selling to investors, whether we’re selling to customers obviously. I think being a CEO is more being a sales job than anything else.

Jeroen:

Yeah, no, exactly. I actually did business school myself as well and I remember we had this career day sort of and some alumni came doing a testimonial and there was this one guy, I forgot his name or where he was selling but he was telling the exact same story. He was saying like okay, you guys all do business school and I know sales is probably not the first thing you’re thinking about but there’s really a lot of value in doing it and getting that experience will make you ready to actually lead a company in a proper way.

Steven:

Yeah, I really think it’s a highly valuable experience, especially for a startup because when you’re starting a company, you’re the first salesperson and even before you’re making sales that have revenue, you’re selling the idea to people and it maybe the right idea and it may not be the exact right idea. You may need to tweak it a little bit but if you haven’t been able to sell it to a whole bunch of people, you don’t know which direction to tweak it. And so when I was first starting Badger, the thing I could tell was different than what most other founders were doing was that I was extremely focused on sales. Basically, I was a professional salesperson. So I was bringing all these tools to bear that most startups didn’t have because most startups don’t have a professional salesperson on staff from day one.

Steven:

And so before we even had the thing built, I was interacting with hundreds of prospects. Ultimately prospective customers, showing them the idea, talking to them about the idea, getting different versions of what it would look like in front of them and asking them, “If we were to build this, would you purchase it” and for this much money and getting a whole bunch of people to say yes when you’re six months away from having the thing built at all but getting them to say, yeah, I would buy that if you made it. Then when it actually does get made, you have a ton of people that you’ve been in touch with and kind of a bunch of people that are ready to convert.

Steven:

That’s why we were able to bootstrap the business. Before we had really even the basic version of it built, we had all these people that were willing to purchase it and the reason I was able to do that was because I already knew how to run sophisticated sales processes and we just had a full-time professional salesperson on staff. And that’s not to say it wouldn’t have been really useful if I could code. But I can’t. I don’t code but I was doing like running professional sales plays on a product that didn’t even exist yet.

Jeroen:

Yeah, cool. Well, what was it exactly that you figured a career in sales was something for you because I can imagine that when you started studying geography, that’s not a moment where you think sales is going to be your job. Was it in business school? Was it after?

Steven:

I think it was probably before business school. My job before business school was sales as well, predominantly. And then when I went to business school, I actually looked at a whole bunch of the traditional career paths that come out of business school. I looked at banking and investing and consulting and I think operations, but sales was kind of my background. And I was talking to a friend of mine, I remember this conversation actually. A close friend of mine, really sharp guy and he now runs a pretty cool company too but he was like, “You’re going to be an average consultant but you, just the way you are and the way you think and the skillsets you have, you could be an amazing salesperson. And I would play to your strengths in your career. I wouldn’t try to shore up your weakness. So think about a career in sales. It doesn’t necessarily “use” your MBA but it’s probably where you’re going to excel.”

Jeroen:

Yeah. And at what point did you actually think about starting a company? Was that after Google or was it way earlier that you were already thinking about this?

Steven:

It was when I was at Google and frankly, I mean when I went to business school, I had always kind of had in the back of my mind that I’d like to start a business. But I don’t think I actually really thought about it seriously until I had the idea for Badger and I had the vision for what I wanted the product to be, who I wanted it to be for, what problem I wanted to solve and I think that’s different with a lot of people. A lot of people decide they want to start a business and they look for a business to start and I think that can lead you down a path of jamming a round peg in a square hole. If you’re passionate about being an entrepreneur, it can be hard to come up with a great idea and you can pursue something that doesn’t make as much sense.

Steven:

I kind of saw this problem and it just wasn’t a problem that could be solved before I started solving it because phones weren’t fast enough. The internet on mobile wasn’t fast enough. The Google Maps API wasn’t mature enough and we needed cloud computing to be at a certain point with respect to its ability to deal with geographic data and all those things were kind of coming together at the same time. And so when I started Badger, you couldn’t do a lot of the things that we actually ended up doing where we could only do some of the basic ones. But I could see where the direction was going. I was working with Android at Google and I could see how much faster the phones were getting, mobile, how it was responding to meet the demand.

Steven:

This was 2011. So they were throwing up cell towers everywhere, right? And I could see where that was going and I knew the Google Maps API intimately and so I could see that this is a problem that was important that a lot of people had that I would be able to solve. And so I was able to kind of get out ahead of other people that would have been looking to solve it. And in software, if you’re being two years ahead means that anyone evaluating your space or evaluating to purchase a product is always going to notice when you’re two years ahead. You’re just going to look better than your competitors.

Jeroen:

Yeah. How large is the team now on Badger Maps?

Steven:

75 people.

Jeroen:

Oh, that’s pretty big already and I see you didn’t really take any venture investments. Is that correct?

Steven:

That’s right. We were able to bootstrap the business and once again, that’s because we had sales abilities and sales weaponry from day one. So, we were able to prosecute big enterprise sales deals early on, I remember. We had a big deal in the beginning of 2014 for just over $300,000 and we only had four people at the company and one of them was me and I wasn’t paying myself. $300,000 goes a long way.

Jeroen:

Mm-hmm. So are you in there for the long run with the bootstrapping or would you consider taking venture investment at some point?

Steven:

I don’t think we’ll take venture investment, no. For us, certainly and for a lot of software companies, I think SaaS often isn’t a great fit for venture. I mean sometimes, obviously, it is. But often, SaaS companies aren’t a great fit for venture capital because they don’t grow fast enough to be big enough within the period of time that venture capitalists are able to get a great return or the return that they need for their business model to work out. I mean occasionally it does but even some of the big SaaS companies, their venture capitalists weren’t happy about how long it took to get them big. It’s just not like a consumer product or a lot of internet businesses, a lot of technology businesses where it can really pop quickly.

Steven:

This just takes so long because you have to acquire real customers. I guess I would say the B2B enterprise type SaaS space. It just takes a long time to acquire actual customers that are paying you between $30 and $100 a month a license. So I think there are some products that have a high enough price point or they were so needed and weren’t able to be provided before and someone comes up with a way to do it and it’s just such an important solution that it just explodes. There are certainly those cases, so don’t get me wrong but frequently, I think there’s a tension between the venture capitalists and the B2B SaaS company. The venture capitalist needs to go faster, needs to be bigger sooner than is natural for a B2B SaaS company. That’s it. So we’ve never gone that direction. I don’t predict that we will. If we bring in professional financing, I would imagine it’ll be growth equity or private equity.

Jeroen:

Yeah, right. Oh yeah, I can see totally what you mean. Many SaaS companies are not really sort of revolutionizing the world or going to offer these huge wins that venture capitalists are looking for. So it’s not often a very good fit.

Steven:

And it is a better fit for growth equity. There’s actual revenue, so businesses can be profitable. They’re predictable relatively. If you’re creating the next Instagram, it’s just unpredictable which one’s going to win because there’s six video versions and it’s just tough to pick the winner and it happens real fast and sometimes, it’s unclear why one wins and why the other wins. And private equity companies don’t like to have goose eggs on their balance sheet. They don’t like anything to go out of business. It’s like well, we want it more predictable, so they lose fewer but their wins are smaller and that’s well aligned with the SaaS space.

Steven:

Once the train has left the station, you’ve achieved a certain skill with SaaS, it’s hard to lose. It’s just will you win big or will you win small. Once you cross $10 million in revenue, let’s just say, the company has legs, it’s going somewhere. It’s unclear if it’ll go public but as long as the growth rates are looking good, and they’ll be able to evaluate that, they’ll get the return they’re looking to get.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Are there any companies or founders you were looking up to while building Badger Maps?

Steven:

I guess I follow a ton of them. I love listening to SaaS podcasts and kind of hearing all these different founders. And also I love SaaS podcasts where you can hear from a line manager like the VP of sales of XYZ company or the marketing person for Gusto or whatever it is. I like hearing from the people, not just the ones running or founding the business but for businesses it’s more at scale hearing from the people that run the different lines of business. It is really useful for me to kind of expose myself to that. The way they think and what they’re hearing and what someone who’s really great at a certain role sounds like.

Jeroen:

Yeah, what is it exactly that you’re putting a lot of focus on right now in Badger Maps? Like what is keeping you up at night lately?

Steven:

Well, I mean the COVID situation, obviously, is tough on us. Our customer’s a field salesperson and so with COVID, field sales has been massively impacted. We lost about 20% of our revenue.

Jeroen:

Wow, okay.

Steven:

So, it was a decent sized hit. And being bootstrapped, we were basically running at break even the whole time. I was not prepared for a 20% hit to revenue and so now we’re kind of trying to get growth back up. We’re trying to grow back and we are growing but we’re growing very slowly right now. We were growing at a nice clip, like 35% a year or so, but now we’re kind of just limping along here from a growth perspective. But things have turned up and I believe that they’re going to keep speeding up throughout this next six months and kind of hopefully be back to a normal growth rate by next summer but we have whole areas of our customer base that they just can’t do business because they’re selling to businesses that are closed.

Steven:

So, if you’re a guy that sells tires to a tire store, people are still buying tires. You’re in business, right? And so the tire store owner wants to meet with you to talk about tires and you’re just doing that with a mask on and distanced and things are still very normal. Europe has done a much better job than America has at this point in terms of keeping the virus under control, so things are relatively closed in a lot of places in America. And if you sell beer to bars, for example, the bars just aren’t open. So large swaths of our customer base are just not able to do their jobs. They’re not able to have meetings and therefore they’ve paused. So most of those people that quit our product, they’re like oh, we’re just pausing, we’ll be back in a few months but a lot of them have not come back and I’m hoping they’re going to be able to keep their business together over time but it’s just a lot of things are closed right now.

Jeroen:

Yeah, it must be hard. What are the main things you’re doing to cope with this situation? Are you taking a different sort of target market or there are other things you’re thinking about?

Steven:

I mean the problem that we’ve solved is really that of a field salesperson and the inside sales team, like I said, just wouldn’t need our product. The location of someone does not matter if you’re just making phone calls. So there are other types of people, types of end users that use our product and so we have kind of ramped up our sales into those types of people but mostly we’re just focusing on the types of sales reps that are still in business. Like if you’re a med device sales rep, you’re still doing meetings. You’re just doing them in a distanced and safe way, right? Like doctors are still open for business and they still need to buy medical devices, for example.

Jeroen:

Right.

Steven:

We’re not trying to sell Badger Maps to people that sell beer to bars right now because obviously, they’re just not open. So, it’s more focusing on certain verticals that are really still going strong and haven’t been impacted but the entire economy is down a ton and unemployment’s extremely high right now. It’s going to impact growth for the foreseeable future until we can kind of get this under control and turned around.

Jeroen:

Mm-hmm. How do your days kind of look like? What do you do during a typical day?

Steven:

Well, I think that the higher you are in an organization and the more people that you used to be in an office interacting with, the more this has made your job inefficient. The fewer people you had to work with, probably the more efficient you are just working from home. So like an engineer, for example, our engineering team hasn’t really been affected by working from home and working remotely. Whereas, for me, there used to be a lot of two to five minute quick meetings that I would do with people. They’d walk up to my desk and have a question. I’d walk over to their desk and have something to talk about and we could get through things really quickly and I feel like now, a lot of those interactions have become 30-minute phone calls.

Steven:

So, I spend a lot of time on the phone with people that work at Badger in different roles and kind of touching base on different projects and giving input where I can. This setup pulls me in a lot of different directions just because it is a small company still and I’m involved in a lot of things. So, a lot of my time is spent on phone calls, internal phone calls. Internally, we use Google Hangouts. So a lot of meetings are over Google Hangouts. I am trying to do more PR stuff and get the word out and so I’m working pretty closely with our marketing and PR team. Just trying to drive awareness of the product because in order to grow and get back to where we were and meet our expenses, we’ve got to bring in some new revenue. So I’m trying to focus there. That’s most of my time. Marketing and PR and I guess I would say internal management.

Jeroen:

What are some of the things you think about when you say PR? Obviously, getting a podcast like this one but what else is it that you’re thinking about?

Steven:

Podcasts are great, and they’re so popular right now. People love listening to them. Webinars are still big and anytime that I can speak to a group of people, I take the opportunity. I like to speak to groups of people and I talk a lot about sales and how to run a sales team, especially how to run a sales team in a time of economic crisis, that’s a big topic for me that I have a fair amount of expertise in because I taught a class on “How to effectively manage a sales team” and so I was able to convert that into a discussion of how to run a sales team during a time of economic crisis and it’s an important topic right now. So I’ve been able to speak to a lot of groups of people about that topic.

Steven:

My podcast is specifically for outside salespeople. I bring sales experts on and have them talk about their area of expertise but through the lens of “this is for field salespeople”, so talk about the thing you’re an expert in for that audience. And so that’s been a really great way for me to kind of communicate with a bunch of people who are in field sales and build that rapport and give them something of great value, which in turn has driven awareness and then I think a lot of the traditional things from a PR perspective, just articles and blogs and stuff like that.

Jeroen:

Great. Yeah, cool. What things actually give you energy within all these things? Like what do you like to spend your time on and then get more energy to do other stuff?

Steven:

Coffee, really.

Jeroen:

Coffee?

Steven:

Cold brew. It’s easy to make cold brew. Every office should make it. Make cold brew in a big vat and the whole office can enjoy it. Toss some ice cream in there sometimes. No. So, what gives me energy? I try to be physically active. I try to workout every day. Sometimes I’ll workout a lot actually, like I’ll do three-hour bike rides on a stationary bike I have and I’ll watch videos, either movies or educational videos, things I want to learn about and go deeper on. On YouTube or whatever. I’ll sit there and ride the bike for three hours and learn things or just watch movies.

Steven:

I watch a lot of movies in Spanish since I’m trying to get better at my Spanish, so that keeps my mind and body pretty active. I’ll often do that late at night, so I get to look forward to that.

Jeroen:

Three hours is pretty long to stay on a stationary bike watching something, I would say.

Steven:

Yeah, everyone thinks I’m a maniac but people – bikers, cyclists, they’ll go on three-hour bike rides all the time and it’s really kind of the same thing. I just don’t have to worry about traffic. I have a mountain bike. I have a road bike. I really don’t use them all that much. I’ve had a stationary bike for 12 years or so. I got a new one about three years ago but it’s very similar to a Peloton. It just doesn’t have a screen on it, which I really recommend for people that want to keep their heads clear and get a good workout. You can do it whenever you want. You can just hop on it in the morning or if you have an hour in the middle of the day or at night and I end up doing it for longer periods of time at night, I think, just because it allows me to really clear my head and I like longer workouts. I used to do triathlons and so I think I just enjoy that.

Jeroen:

Do you also have Peloton like features on the thing?

Steven:

The hardware is very, very similar to Peloton. So, the brand I like is called Keiser, it’s an American company based in California. If you look at it, it looks the same as a Peloton basically. I suspect they were making Pelotons before Peloton was making Pelotons. Peloton just put a subscription model on it and put a screen on it. So, mine doesn’t have a screen. It’s very simple from a technical perspective but I don’t really measure the output of the workouts. I don’t check my heart rate. I don’t check my calories. I just don’t track anything. I just don’t care.

Jeroen:

You just go for it.

Steven:

Yeah, yeah. I like to track everything in the SaaS company but in the workout, I really don’t care. So yeah, I don’t take classes. I don’t need the whole thing of someone yelling at me and telling me to go faster. I don’t need it. It’s boring to me. I’m going fast enough. I like to kind of zone out and focus on either the movie and watching movies in other languages and obviously, Europeans are familiar with this but Americans are a lot less so. But watching movies in other languages makes it a lot more engaging just because it’s tapping into this whole part of your brain and so I’ll watch the movie in Spanish or Portuguese because those are the two languages I’m working on and that allows me to kind of be very focused. My body and my mind are very focused when I’m doing that, so it’s a great way to unplug and take the needle off the record, so to speak.

Jeroen:

And you’re working on both Spanish and Portuguese at the same time?

Steven:

Not so much, those are the two languages I speak and I’m not working on Portuguese all that much. I should. I’ll watch a movie in Portuguese every once in a while just to keep it on the top of my mind but I’m probably better at Spanish at this point and that’s the one I focus on more. Spanish is so important in America. There’s so many people that speak it as their first language and it’s a really common one and then I have a team in Spain, so I end up going there a lot. Badger’s second biggest team is out of Spain. So, I’ve got a lot of reasons to learn it and be good at it. I enjoy it. It’s just a beautiful language and I like tapping into that part of my brain.

Jeroen:

Do you watch them with English subtitles or with Spanish or Portuguese subtitles?

Steven:

English subtitles. I’m not that good. If I had a little more time to focus on it, I will make that switch over and if I’ve seen the movie before, I’ll watch it with Spanish subtitles. But if it’s the first time, I’ll miss a lot. I didn’t learn it when I was a kid or anything. I kind of learned it as a grownup, so I’m not that good at it. Unfortunately, Americans don’t tend to learn languages when we’re little but that’s something we should work on. You guys are great at it in Belgium.

Jeroen:

Well, I’m Dutch speaking, so we have different parts of the country. I’m from Dutch-speaking parts. Actually, when I was a kid, we lived in the French-speaking part, so I immediately got that but the other kids start at 10, I think, with French, at 14 with English, 16 with German and if you’re a bit smarter, then you also do Latin and Greek. So it starts building up pretty quickly. We are pretty good at picking up new languages. I’m personally working on Portuguese now because my wife is from Brazil.

Steven:

Yeah, okay. I lived in Brazil for five months. That’s how I got exposed to Portuguese.

Jeroen:

Oh, where did you live?

Steven:

This was in college. I was in a study abroad program. It was kind of like if you went to like 15 national parks in Europe. But I was doing it in Brazil, so I was just kind of hopping around, studying different environments and the different environmental problems of Brazil. So it was a really cool program. I got to move around a lot and then I went back and worked on a thesis about carbon sequestration and things that they could do economically to leave the forest standing that would be sustainable.

Jeroen:

Yeah, cool. And now you’re in L.A., Los Angeles.

Steven:

I am. I’m based in L.A. right now. Usually, I’m based out of the Bay area but the Bay area is a struggle right now with the fires and the virus and they’re getting kind of hammered on both sides because San Francisco is really a very inside city. There’s beautiful nature around it obviously but the actual city, because it’s often cold, chilly, not cold, I guess. I can’t translate it to celsius but it’s often like London. And so all the restaurants are inside. All the things to do are inside and so those have to be closed right now because of the virus but you can’t go outside because of the smoke. So you can’t really do anything. So, I shot down to L.A. for a little bit here just to be more comfortable.

Jeroen:

I read something this week or last week that they did a survey with San Francisco founders and now that everything is sort of more mobile because everybody is working remotely anyway, a lot of founders would consider moving to L.A. actually.

Steven:

Yeah, L.A.’s got a lot of advantages. San Francisco has a lot of challenges right now. It’s a great place to start a business if you are raising VC funding, obviously, because VCs like to invest in things they can drive to but it’s so expensive there and it’s so competitive to hire different types of talent because there’s large, established, really great companies there that just soak up all the talent. And they’re really, really rich because they tend to be monopolies, so they have all the money they could put in. I’m talking about Facebook and Google and Apple and there’s just 20 huge companies that are based there and so there’s just a real talent war. So it’s not a great place to start a business anymore. Well, I think you’re almost going to need teams in other places and so it begets the question, why are we here in the first place?

Steven:

So, we started in San Francisco and then we opened up an office in Utah, opened up an office in Spain. We have a bunch of employees in India and the Philippines. We surveyed our employees and the only office where people were like I never want to come back to the office was San Francisco and it’s because they all have nasty commutes because there’s no housing in the city that they can afford and so they end up living outside of the city and commuting with public transportation whereas the other offices were like yeah, yeah, we want to come back when we can.

Steven:

So, it’s a challenging place. I very well may not open that office again. We’ll have to see how people feel once things are back to normal here, but it’s a tough place to hire people, tough place for them to live because of how expensive it is and it doesn’t really feel like it has the advantages that it used to have 10 years ago. So, I’m not sure if I’ll be running much of the business or any of the business out of there going forward.

Jeroen:

Yeah, so Badger Maps might move out of San Francisco.

Steven:

Yeah, I mean right now we’re still technically headquartered there but no one’s there.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Interesting.

Steven:

I might move the headquarters to the Utah office.

Jeroen:

Right. Slowly wrapping up into learnings, what’s the latest good book you’ve read and why did you choose to read it?

Steven:

Well, right now, next to my bed, I’ve got Jason Lemkin’s book, Impossible to Inevitable on the bedside table and that’s kind of been a staple there for a while and that’s one I thing every SaaS founder should read and then I’ve got a book about How to raise a Doodle, which, I don’t know why. I was at a San Francisco bookstore a little while back and the person that was writing it was there and had her dog there and so I ended up getting swindled into buying it. It’s kind of a silly book but it’s got a lot of nice pictures of dogs and talks about raising them. So it’s kind of cute and good.

Jeroen:

Is that the type of dog you also have in your LinkedIn picture?

Steven:

No, in my LinkedIn picture, that’s a Pomeranian, which is not a dog I would recommend anyone get. They’re not very useful. They don’t come when they’re called. They’re very stubborn. They’re very cute and they’re very sweet and cuddly but they’re not a great family dog. They don’t do well with kids. They’re very pig-headed little beasts but I love them. I think they’re very cute but that was my last dog who, unfortunately, went to puppy heaven and I would not get another one of that breed. I kind of inherited that one from an ex-girlfriend but I really like, well, I guess, all kinds of dogs. But the type of dog that I’m likely to get next is well, whatever they have at the pound when COVID’s over. There’s going to be a lot of dogs, I think, that people have to give back because they got them during COVID and then realized, oh, I have to go back to an office now. I can’t have a dog anymore.

Steven:

But my favorite kinds of dogs right now are doodles and I like Bernedoodles, so half Bernese Mountain Dog, half Poodle and I really like Cavapoos which are half Cavalier King Charles, half Poodle. But I like all dogs.

Jeroen:

But you’re not that set on doodles.

Steven:

No, I wouldn’t say so. I like them all but I ended up with this book. That’s still on my bedside table. Impossible to Inevitable and a book about doodles.

Jeroen:

If you were to start over with Badger Maps, what would you have done differently you think?

Steven:

Well, I mean bootstrapping is really hard. I’ve never had enough money to do what I want to do and there’s so many advantages to having a bunch of money. So raising VC. I mean I’m really glad now that I didn’t do it but it would’ve been really useful many, many times. So it’s kind of a tossup but they would not have been happy with me because we started the company almost nine years ago. We’re hovering around $4 million a year in revenue. They wouldn’t be happy with that result and they’d probably be either pushing me out or pushing for a sale so they could get some liquidity. It wouldn’t have gone well but I really could’ve used an extra $5 or $10 million to spend.

Jeroen:

Yeah. My question was if you were to start over, would you do that and you were saying you wouldn’t.

Steven:

I think I wouldn’t but it sure would’ve been nice.

Steven:

I would’ve gotten more debt sooner. When I started Badger, there weren’t as many debt options as there are today. All these ways to get relatively inexpensive debt capital for SaaS businesses now, like Lighter Capital and similar have got a new thing and companies like Scaleworks. There’s so many of these guys, Riverside, to me they all have these things. There’s lots of ways to get debt capital as a SaaS business now and that wasn’t available to me when I was first starting Badger. That’s something I would have definitely done earlier. If I was starting today, I would have more debt sooner.

Jeroen:

Makes sense. Final question, what is the best piece of business advice you ever got?

Steven:

I mean create value for customers and then that’s what makes you successful and I have my own theory that you get to keep about 10% of the value in the world that you create. And so just look for ways to create value and things will all work out if you create enough value. So, my first filter is, “Is the stuff that I’m doing right now creating value for people?” When I’m looking at a new feature, is it creating value for customers? When I’m doing marketing stuff, am I creating valuable content that people are really going to learn from and enjoy and engage with? Whatever it is, I think that you keep some small percentage of the value you create in the world. Investing in employees, whatever it is across the board, like create value wherever you can and some of it comes back to you.

Jeroen:

Then you get about 10% back and I’ve heard that before but it’s an interesting way of looking at it.

Steven:

Yeah, I made it up. I’m not sure if it’s true or not. Sometimes it’s probably 2%, sometimes it’s probably 200%.

Jeroen:

Yeah, well, thank you, Steve, again, for being on Founder Coffee. It was really great to have you.

Steven:

Yeah, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.


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