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SPI 795: Thinking Small, Winning Big—the Unconventional Path of a Niche Software Company with Brenden Mulligan

Why do we chase numbers? Instead, couldn’t we run a small, flexible brand that generates enough passive income for a comfortable life?

I know this is the goal many of us have going into entrepreneurship. Today’s guest, Brenden Mulligan of Podpage, is the perfect example of someone running a successful niche business and resisting the temptation to go too big [affiliate link]. His fantastic service helps podcasters create websites for their shows in minutes with no technical expertise needed!

In this episode, Brenden shares his journey from startup founder and Google employee to launching twelve products in one year and having eleven fail. We explore the lessons he’s learned along the way and discuss starting a software company, finding the right pricing for your services, the value of niching down, seeking early feedback from your audience, and more!

In today’s hustle-focused environment, Brenden makes the case for staying lean and working at a sustainable pace. Join us for this inspiring chat to find out more!

Today’s Guest

Brenden Mulligan

Brenden Mulligan is the founder of Podpage, the best way for a podcaster to create a beautiful podcast website in minutes with no technical experience needed.

He previously worked for Google after they acquired his last company, a suite of marketing tools for app developers. Brenden has also built products in the finance, consumer, and music spaces.

You’ll Learn


SPI 795: Thinking Small, Winning Big—the Unconventional Path of a Niche Software Company with Brenden Mulligan

Brendan Mulligen: Trying to convince someone that they need something is a lot of work if they don’t already believe that they do. Being there when they realize that they need it is much easier. But to try to convince people that they’re wrong basically, and that they don’t understand it, it’s been easier for me to sort of build the best product out there. And so when someone does come around and says, “Hey, I need, I need a website for my podcast,” and they go into a Facebook group and say, “I’m thinking about building this, what should I use?” and nine out of ten things say go use Podpage, it’s way easier. Like, enough podcasters have had that kind of experience where they’re sort of like a mini army now, that just help me.

Pat Flynn: Why are we all trying to grow so big so fast, or even grow big at all? Is it possible to have a lean, small, nimble, flexible business that gives you a lot of time in your day, but also still generates passive income? Well, today we’re talking with the founder Brenden Mulligan, who has created a number of different software companies.

And one in particular, we’re going to dive into today called Podpage. It’s website that let’s you build websites for your podcast. Very niche within a niche, however, very successful. And it successfully generates enough money to live a very happy life, yet there are opportunities to grow the speaker, but Brendan found their chooses not to go to them.

He doesn’t need venture capital. He doesn’t want all of that. He wants time and freedom and a stable business. And Podpage is that, and we’re going to talk about the journey to Podpage, the number of different softwares that Brendan has experimented with what he learned from those failed attempts and what he’s learning now.

We talk about everything from how he landed on his pricing to everything about discovering that this was the right thing to do. Validation processes, the whole nine. I think this will be an incredibly inspiring episode, especially if you’re just starting out and if you’ve ever thought about creating a software, the one thing you must do before starting it to ensure success, or else you’re going to fail massively like Brendan did with his first startup, and we’re going to talk about all those things and more here in session 793 of the SPI podcast, and you can find Podpage through affiliate link, if you’d like Here’s Brenden Mulligan.

Announcer: You’re listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, a show that’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, he just can’t get used to calling it X instead of Twitter, Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn: Brendan, welcome to the SPA podcast. Thanks so much for being here, man.

Brendan Mulligen: Thank you. Good to see you.

Pat Flynn: When we had breakfast together with Matt in San Diego, I knew that I wanted you on the show, not just to talk about Podpage and everything you’ve built there, but just how you’ve kept everything pretty lean and how you’ve been able to still manage a very successful business without scaling up and going huge like a lot of us feel like we have to do, and we’ll get into those details, I’m sure, but I do want to learn a little bit about your background.

What were you doing before you ended up building Podpage and kind of what was your career like at the start?

Brendan Mulligen: Yeah, I think I’ve always had just an affinity to work with creators. I think that’s because I am a creator. I like building things. And so from a very young age, I was interested in, you know, getting closer to musicians and working with musicians.

And so in college, I started working on some stuff that I was helping musicians. And then post college went into the more traditional music industry. During that period was when I taught iTunes and MySpace were blowing up. And so there was this whole like question marker on how to do digital stuff that these musicians who had never had to think about that were starting to have to think about.

And so I didn’t even really think about starting a company. I just was like, I can build a website that will help musicians manage data. That was really like, that was it. I didn’t know what startups were, BCs or any of that stuff. And so that’s kind of what got me started. I built a very bad business. That I went into a very deep amount of debt into building, but it was to help musicians manage content.

And it started this theme that I’ve sort of continued for 20 years, which is find people who are creating things help them remove all of the stuff that isn’t core to creating the thing that they’re creating. There’s all these talented people, whether they’re musicians or podcasters or artists or, you know, whatever the creative pursuit is that they spend so much time dealing with sort of the minutia of running that business.

And I think it’s important to think about as a creator that you do have a business and you have to thinking about how to make a living off of it. There’s a lot in every industry I’ve dug into there’s just so much that’s just like, you probably shouldn’t be spending this much time. So it kind of started with music.

I built a few startups in the music space. I was lucky to be able to sell them to get out of the debt that they put me in, which is great. That’s a win. So I basically got a free education. Then I did a, a startup in the consumer space that was in during like sort of the mobile photo sharing time. So Instagram was doing sort of one to many photo sharing.

We were doing small group photo sharing called Cluster. That’s an app. It was never very successful, but it still exists. It has millions of users and people love it. Someone else is running it now. During that, we started building for creators who are creating apps. So we built a platform for app developers.

We sold that to Google. So I spent a couple of years in that sort of giant resource heavy, everything moving slow, everything heavily funded type environment wasn’t really for me. And then left and sort of, it was almost like my PTSD from that got me into, I just want to build things alone for the next year.

So I committed, I was like, I’m going to launch one product every month for a year. They have to be simple. Because you can’t build complex things in a very short period of time. And so I built 12 products in a year. 11 of them total failures, barely even made it out of the gate, but learned something from everyone.

And one of them was Podpage. And Podpage, again, it was intended to be, for anyone who doesn’t know, PodPage is a website builder for podcasts. And it was really built for a friend who had a podcast and didn’t have a website. So I just built him this little product over a weekend, and there’s enough people that saw it that wanted to use it, that it has grown over the last four years into a really nice business.

Pat Flynn: And when you say nice business, define that for us.

Brendan Mulligen: Well, it’s a business that allows me to work on a full time. That generates enough revenue to be able to not worry if we want to do marketing things to not, if we need to hire a contractor to work on something, you know, that’s possible to do. So it’s not sort of a, we can retire forever business, but it’s a nice business that allows us to live a nice life and also, you have a very small team and a very small set of resources to continue pushing the board.

Pat Flynn: It’s so interesting because when I hear a lot of stories from startups and software companies that grow really big, a lot of times they’re at a point where they go, I just wish I was lean and it was just like me and a couple other people. Like that’s ultimately what I wish this was because this has grown out of control.

it seems like you’ve been in environments where things have grown big and there’s a lot of people. What would you say are the downsides that people who are getting started and they’re excited about this kind of world that they’re not seeing, like, can you help them understand what the future might be like if they perhaps go down that path and it’s not for them?

Brendan Mulligen: Well, you know, it’s funny because what was 10 years ago is different today. And especially with AI, what’s going to be possible in 12 months to five years from now is different for startup founders. Sure, you know, 12 years ago, mobile was hot. And so in order to build anything, you needed to have an iOS developer, a backend developer, a designer, a web developer, maybe an Android developer.

So you needed to raise venture capital because you needed to pay all these people. The expectation for the market for most of those things was that they would be free. And so it was very much like build a bigger team, raise money. Grow this to be big and probably sell it. That was generally the model and the encouragement from the industry.

That was what was rewarded from the press from, you know, that was just what people were excited about. I think that over the last few years, there’s been a big difference where the leaner that you can keep something, the sort of the more options you have. I think that’s what a lot of people realized. Our issue, we raised a bunch of venture capital. And at the end of the sort of experience, it was, well, we could have walked away and not given any money back, but it was important for us to like, make our venture capitalists whole. We were kind of exhausted after doing it for three years. And so when we sold our company to Google, it was a moderate outcome for the team.

We all got amazing jobs. We all got a bit of a bonus for working on what we’ve been working on. We would have been better off going to Google five years prior. And just working there for five years, that would have been a better financial outcome. Interesting. But when we sold to Google, we were able to pay our investors back.

So we felt like, you know, we, we, that was a big thing that we wanted to do. And then we all like, okay, cool. Now we can go and we can try something different. And and again, like we just learned so much. Like we didn’t, we, it was a massive win for us, even though it wasn’t billionaires on yachts type win.

You know, it’s just like, this is great. We’re very lucky. There’s a lot of startups that don’t get that opportunity. But I think it also made us think like, God, it would have been really cool to like, have be a little bit more of a master’s around destiny. And that would have been harder up front, right? We were able to start a photo sharing app and someone gave us millions of dollars let me get his work on it every day. You can’t do that if you Need to pay yourself. So revenue first sort of became important further down the line. And I think that, you know, if you, if you have revenue, I mean, it’s such a dumb thing to say, but I actually, it’s, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how the truth in it, if you have revenue coming in and you don’t have a lot of expenses, you have lots of options for most products, right?

There are certain things that if you want to do, you really need massive resources, massive team. There’s a lot of money you need to do before you can make your first dollar, but in a lot of small software businesses, you can make your first dollar before you really spend a lot of money or hire a big team.

Pat Flynn: That is true. I do want to continue on that path, but before we move on, I want to go back to something you said earlier about your music business. The first one that you started that you said it was a bad business. Why was it a bad business? What, what happened exactly?

Brendan Mulligen: Oh, well, that’s probably a longer conversation.

Pat Flynn: If you don’t mind unpacking that, it might be, you know, you had mentioned PTSD already, but…

Brendan Mulligen: No, no, no, no. I actually wrote a blog post after my second one that essentially was me saying, please don’t start another music business because the music industry is just a brutal space. Especially, I mean, the revenue model is shifting every few years.

You know, first it was CDs to digital that to iTunes, you know, Buying mp3s with at Napster, people stealing mp3s. Then it’s to streaming, which is brought a lot of money in, but it’s a totally different model. You know, the, the artists that used to be able to go on tour and basically play for free because they could sell 30 CDs, which would make them 300 bucks, which is enough to pay for gas and a hotel room and a pizza before the next show.

Now those people show up at the show and they say, I love this band. I’m going to stream them later. And the band literally doesn’t leave the room with any money. And you know, when they get a couple hundred plays on spotify, it’s not like they’re making any money from that. So the whole model has changed.

That means musicians ability to pay is very low. And that’s essentially why it’s really hard to be in business there because you have two types of artists. You have people who are trying to become massive musicians, but they’re struggling. They don’t have any money. So to ask them to pay for a software service to save them time, they’re like, I have time, it’s not money.

So they’re not really willing to pay. Then you have another set of artists that have already become very successful, maybe signed with a record label and someone else is doing their, their stuff. And they’re either wanting everything to be custom, or they think that your association with them is better for you than it is for them and so you should give it to them for free. And so it’s this weird thing that even when they have money to pay, they don’t want to pay very much or they don’t want to pay at all. That’s what I found. So I just don’t think it’s a great business. And then music listeners sort of aren’t expecting to spend any money.

They just pay their 10 bucks a month to Spotify and they get all the music they want for free. So there’s, I don’t know. I think when you’re evaluating a business, if you want to do a small business, It’s important to figure out where the money is going to come and how easy it’s going to be to get. And if the market that you’re going after is small and has a really low willingness to pay, it’s very hard to build a, build a business.

If you want to build like a SaaS business off of musicians, it’s just hard because there’s just not a lot of people.

Pat Flynn: That’s a good point. How would one go about doing the right research? What is that right research to make sure there’s money flowing in that space?

Brendan Mulligen: Well, I think, you know, you can always try to do an assessment of how big the market is.

Right. This is where I think, you know, as me as like a 25 year old, I was like, there’s millions and millions of musicians. Right, right. Okay, cool. You know, let’s take podcasting actually a better example, right? You go look out there. There’s millions of podcasts. podcast index, I think there’s 5 million podcasts.

Okay, well, how many of them are active? Active being, how many of them have more than one episode that probably cuts it down to a much smaller amount, more than four episodes, right? Okay. How many of them have released an episode in the past 12 months? And you start really getting narrowing the number down a lot.

Okay. Let’s say there’s 700, 000 active podcasts. All right. Well, how many of them have more than a hundred listeners? And if you just dig into the data a little bit more and more, okay, well, here’s how many podcasters are making money. So if we were going to charge them, here’s how many that might be willing to pay.

But I think the naive version of me from 10 years ago was like, there’s millions of musicians. I can get X percent of that market. They’ll pay me if I can just get a small percentage to give me 20 bucks a month and all the big business. But I didn’t say out of those million, there’s probably only a hundred thousand that are actually willing to pay anything.

And most of those don’t need what I’m offering. Right? So I think that that’s generally one way to do it. Another way is figure out where you are in the value cycle, which I found with I did a business for NFT artists a few years ago and taking Podpage by page is a great business. It’s a really wonderful product.

It helps a lot of podcasters, and I think it’s I think it’s critical, but it also isn’t necessarily like a step in you don’t like use it to pay the podcaster. So it’s not in the middle of the money flow where a Stripe or Patriot or one of those you’re in the money flow. And so you can actually make sure that you can charge because you’re, you’re, you’re necessary for the person to make money.

And I think that that’s a big piece. A lot of people come out with products that are like, this’ll improve. This’ll be nice. This is a great thing that you should use. And I think you narrow your market down when you’re only a nice to have so but if you’re like you need me to make money.

Pat Flynn: Right like an email template service versus like a literal email service provider which is a part of a person’s ecosystem that you know a person with a software like that could charge monthly for it to have as a part of their stack essentially versus like like you said a nice to have so that’s that’s a great differentiator what are you creating and is it a nice to have, or is it a, if I don’t have this, I’m going to suffer or have more time needed or, or need more people or, or whatever the case may be.

I really love that differentiator. So in the world of podcasting, we already just broke down some numbers. I think you’re pretty darn close to, you know, 700,000, I would say active. And then even within that, only a certain number having, you know, more than hundreds of downloads, you know, if you’re in the thousands of downloads, you’re, you’re up there for sure.

So when we talk about the idea of saturation, no, it’s not. And a lot of people continue to ask if it’s too late to podcast or, you know, all that kind of stuff. And when you break it down in a similar fashion, no, it’s not at all. And nothing is saturated with top quality, top tier content, S tier content, but Podpage targets podcasters.

And you created it, despite their quote unquote, maybe being less than expected numbers off the top. Tell me your thought process on how you built this. I know you said you built it for a friend, was it? And I know that or that was something else. But anyway. No, no, that’s us. It was. Okay. So tell me your thought process on moving forward with it, despite maybe not, you know, a gazillion numbers of users potentially to use it.

Brendan Mulligen: Well, I think in music, one big thing that I was part of was MySpace’s rise and fall. And when my space fell apart, everyone realized that if you put all of your eggs in a platform’s basket, you might lose all your eggs. All these, the record labels were paying millions of dollars to build these my space friend bases up.

And then when Myspace fell apart, they’re like, Oh, we have to start over. So I used to speak at conferences during this whole time. And I said, build a website, put an email list up, get a direct connection with your, in that case, your fan. And so, you know, and so I ended up building a website platform for musicians 10 years ago to do that.

And so podcasting, I just didn’t know much about it four or five years ago. I mean, I was a listener, but I didn’t know about sort of the backend technology or how the industry worked. And so I was looking for a friend’s podcast and I searched Google and what came up was Apple links, Spotify link. You know, platform links.

He didn’t have a website. And so I reached out and I said, why don’t you have a website? And he said, I’m on Apple and Google. It’s fine. And I was like, wow. I mean, I’ve, I’ve seen this before in a very similar industry using similar platforms. And it just seemed like people don’t realize how bad this could be.

There’s some people, there’s some, some great podcasts out there, you know, talking about building a website. But so I would go to a bunch of different podcasts and I said, why don’t you have a website? And they said, well, WordPress is kind of hard. Right. Like, and I’m not a big WordPress and I have a lot of experience, but the more I learned about it, I was like, Oh my God, it is really hard.

And it’s also like claims to be free. But once you do what you’re supposed to do, it actually is fairly expensive. So all those things sort of showed me like there’s an opportunity to build a better product for the people who want it. And there’s also people who don’t realize they need this, but probably we’ll start realizing that over time.

And so that’s what got me started. The RSS feed being a public content feed makes it very easy to build something that has an amazing initial user experience, right? You just type in your podcast name and in 10 seconds, we show you like 15 different websites with your content on them. So the whole user experience is amazing.

It’s like, all right, is this a real business? And the answer is, is it a real business is absolutely could be a real business. There’s plenty of people out there. Is it a big business? I don’t know. Would I raise venture capital for it? Absolutely not. Right. Like I kind of tear, I put things in those tears.

It was like, is this the kind of business that investors would invest in? Absolutely not way too small market, but is it a good business for a small team or a solo founder? Absolutely. Like there’s a lot of value that can be created and captured, and there’s a lot of good that can be done for this community.

And so that’s kind of what pushed me along. But it really was sort of like a side hustle for a long time. And just, it just grew organically and I just sort of had to let it, let it grow on its own as opposed to being out there trying to like spend a bunch of ad dollars to try to get people to use it.

It really was. reach out to podcasters talking about their needs, show them something, see what they thought.

Pat Flynn: I know word of mouth has been a big part of this as well and how people have shared it, which is always a great thing. I’m curious, how did you help people understand that this was no longer having a website for a podcaster?

It was no longer a nice to have and actually a must have because even in conversations with students on this side, it’s still a, well, you technically don’t need it and it would be nice to have a website, but I’m, I’m too busy. And this is where, of course, the solution comes into play. But what did you do to help people go, yeah, this, this is actually a part of my tech stack for a successful podcast.

Brendan Mulligen: What I’ve been doing is I’ve been out there, I speak at all the conferences. I did websites, seminars, all the stuff that you do to pound the pavement. I found though, in general, that trying to convince someone that they need something is a lot of work if they don’t already believe that they do. Being there when they realize that they need it is much easier. And so I put a lot more effort into that over the past few years. Like I do think, I think a lot of people don’t know they need a website and eventually we’ll, we’ll come around and I can’t wait for that, but to try to convince people that they’re wrong basically, and that they don’t understand it, it’s been easier for me to sort of build the best product out there. And so when someone does come around and say, Hey, I need, I need a website for my podcast. And they go into a Facebook group and say, I’m thinking about building this, what should I use? And nine out of ten things say go use Podpage, it’s way easier. You know, fostering that community, treating my customers really, really well, showing them, you know, giving them something and them seeing firsthand, like, Oh my God, this has made it so much easier.

I have a new episode coming out next week. And before I used to send, I’d be like, you’re all of the links that I need to send. But now I can just send one link to my website and say like, just point people to the website. It’ll get you to Spotify or Apple or wherever you want to go. Like enough podcasters have had that kind of experience where they’re sort of like a mini army now that just helped me.

So that’s what I love seeing. I love seeing when someone posts in a Facebook group. I’m thinking about building a website for my podcaster. I really need one. My Buzzsprout page is fine. Like do I need something else? I used to jump in there and try to help. Now I just stay out of it. And I watch the podcasters have a discussion about, you know, what, what’s necessary and what’s not.

And more often than not, people say before when it was WordPress and it took forever to build it and you needed to hire a designer and you needed to do all these plugins and things were breaking. They’re like before it was such a pain that I might’ve said, don’t have one now. Now my Podpage makes it so easy.

Just do that. It’s just easy and you’ll, you’ll be, have a well SEO and, you know, all the other, the other benefits of it. Yeah. The community it’s slower. You have to be patient, but stickier when the community is the one doing your marketing for you.

Pat Flynn: And well said. I want to go to these 12 different softwares that you created.

I think you said within a year and then Podpage being one of them and obviously doing very well now. We’ll get into the pricing structure and how you chose that and all that kind of stuff in a minute, but, What was the difference between Podpage and these other 11 that you think that made Podpage successful and the others not?

Brendan Mulligen: Yeah, so when you build 12 things and launch 12 things in a year, and the launch was the biggest, you know, you can build lots of stuff, but actually to put it out there into the world, the couple things happen. One is you have to come up with some sort of a framework to build them on. Otherwise, you can’t start from scratch every time.

So as I built, you know, the last four were way easier than the first eight because you know, the first one I had to build a login system or a building system or whatever. And the last one kind of got that all free. And so I think Podpage, if I remember correctly, I’m sort of in the middle to the end, one big difference between Podpage the other ones, and they were all tiny ideas, right?

Like Podpage was tiny I mean, right now it’s, I’m having a hard time organizing all the features because it just does so much, but at the beginning it was, there was no login. It was just text me your RSS feed. I’ll create a website for you and put it at your domain. You know, there was no like dashboard or, you know, it was a mostly done, but through DMS, because I wasn’t going to build a whole like user experience that people didn’t actually want it.

So I set the page up and then they’d use it for a few months. And then a lot of people be like, I need to edit this. So it was pretty simple. And all the other ones, I mean, it was also around COVID. So I remember I did, you know, a QR code menu site for restaurants. I did a wafer, a vc, like a venture capitalist to build a website for their portfolio.

Like really dumb stuff. But it was just to get something out there. And ironically, like the vc, some of the code from the vc, the dumb VC website product that I built, I was able to move into Podpage. And that saved me like a few days of building a, so someone asked me this morning what the other ones were.

I did a Twitter thread about it. I need to go back. But they were remarkably stupid. Failed so quickly. One of the hardest things about building any piece of software is getting someone to invest time in setting it up. And so, you know, if someone comes to you and says, Hey, I’ve got a great new to do list app for you.

You’re like, well, I’ve got my to do’s and reminders on my phone and really to move over to your thing, it’s going to take a while getting someone to actually like enter content as hard. So with podcasting, that was a big advantage where it was like, I just need an RSS feed and I immediately will get a full website.

Like they didn’t have to do anything. That was one big differentiator and helped it move a little bit faster. So it also was helpful that it was somewhat self marketing, you know, when you, when you said, Hey, I have a new website at the bottom, it says powered by Podpage. And so like, again, it takes a really long time for that kind of stuff to really move the needle, but it’s better than, you know, building someone an internal dashboard to manage their sales, where that doesn’t have any virality.

No one knows that person’s using it.

Pat Flynn: That’s really cool.

I want to know about the workload required to upkeep a business like this. That’s not super huge, but it is obviously being used. How many users do you have at this point? And what is maintaining this business look like?

Brendan Mulligen: Last time I looked, it was like about 30, 000 podcasters had signed up and tried it.

And then I can’t remember the number that that ended up even converting into a paid plan or what used to be our free plan, but 5000 to 10,000. The whole product is very much set it and forget it. And so we do a lot of support in the first month, you generally for, for supporting customers, they have a lot of questions when they’re setting it up, but they don’t have a lot of questions moving on because it does everything automatically.

It automatically pulls in your episodes, creates episode pages, pulls in your transcript, connects to YouTube, post to Twitter. I mean, once you’ve set it up, it just sort of does its thing. And so with that kind of a business, you tend to have a lot of, you know, startup costs with each customer or startup support, but then it goes away.

And so the crazy thing, the product obviously has gotten better over time or easier to use, and so we don’t do a lot more customer support than we did four years ago, even though we have thousands and thousands of more customers because we have less questions because we’ve written more support articles and we’ve made the product easier to use.

And we generally, we just needed to support them for the first couple of weeks. And then they kind of do their own thing. So from a operational standpoint, customer support is the only real thing. I mean, all tech has been solved with servers. You can sign up, you don’t need to maintain your own servers or anything like that.

And so for the most part, it’s customer support and it’s really not even a full time job for someone. We have someone full time doing it, but it’s a very small part of their day. That’s what I would keep consider like maintenance and upkeep. And then there’s, do we want to build new stuff and keep improving the product?

At the beginning of its life, there was an endless list of things to do because it barely did anything. And all these customers are coming in and saying, here’s all the stuff we want. And we were just building whatever customers wanted. It’s a fairly complete product at this point. And so when we add something like, I’m about to roll out a bunch of new AI stuff.

No one’s really asked for that. I don’t have to do that, right? People are happy with the product, but we’ve been trying to improve it. But I think one lesson I’ve learned over my career has been, I used to just never stop adding features and just, Oh, Oh, we got to keep, we got to keep putting stuff in here.

And I, in so many cases, the product was fine. And then by just because I wanted to add a bunch of stuff, I made it too complicated and actually can make the product worse because no one needed all that other stuff. And so I think with the stage this is in, you know, it doesn’t need a ton of improvements.

The dashboard doesn’t need to be redesigned five times, probably like I’ve done it, right? Like it’s a pretty much a passive business at this point. It could be, but it’s hard because I like making things. So what I enjoy is actually like building things that make people’s lives easier. And so with the AI stuff we’re doing, you know, it’s a lot of people, 90 percent of people probably won’t care about it, but the 10 percent that are really serious about their, their website and their podcast will have a lot of benefit from it.

Pat Flynn: That’s amazing. That’s so cool. I mean, software that is controlled growth can be really, really amazing. You know, it gives you that flexibility. I imagine in your, in your schedule and time to spend with family and all that kind of stuff, I think we’re still in an age where we feel like if we’re not working, we’re wasting time.

And, you know, I think this is a great example of a kind of business, a type of business, and you have software capabilities, but you don’t have to be a software engineer to be able to do this. There’s a lot of people in places you can hire to, to get a lot of these things done for you. And as you can see, you could run it with even a small team.

Brendan Mulligen: This is something that I’ve learned recently, or I’ve done recently is that you just kind of hit the nail on the head, like spending time with family. You don’t have to be doing stuff. I naturally am like, Oh, if it’s the work day, I should be working. I should be adding features. I should be doing stuff. So two kind of like tangents.

One is I built this other business a couple of years ago, and I literally put a Podpage for the most part in maintenance mode. I didn’t add anything to it for a full year because I was like, this just needs to grow. This needs to spread. I can’t do anything to push it forward. And so for a full year, I basically added nothing and it grew really well.

It wasn’t, you know, crazy growth. It was linear growth, but it was, it just showed me. I was like, we did great customer support, that’s all we did for a year. And people loved it. Then today, because I’ve gotten so much more involved in them adding so much stuff, I’ve actually had to build a sketch, like a spreadsheet that I said to this few months ago where 30 minute blocks for every hour of my week.

And I signed what am I doing during that 30 minute block with generally. So like Saturdays and Sundays as our family time. Certain part of the day is workout time, certain part that we have date nights, right? And I was like, how much time do I spend with myself, with my wife, with my family, sort of as a unit, with my kids alone, working, sleeping, like, what are all the things?

I just seems a little ridiculously detailed. It’s actually really, it was pretty easy to build, but because I wanted to see like, where are my holes? And what I found is I wasn’t spending nearly enough time alone. I didn’t have a lot of me time. All my time was for work or for family. And then also I was like, I spent a lot of time working.

I don’t need to. Because the product does really well. I mean, it’s not totally passive, but it could be, I choose to make it not passive, choosing to make it not passive is great, but like 40 hours of non passive, maybe it’s like, maybe I’m, I’m really like giving up a huge opportunity to have right now to spend more time with my family or to spend more time with doing my own stuff.

And so it’s really hard for me, but I’ve had to really try to like, okay, this day of the week, this afternoon, no work. I’m going to go and learn something new or take a class or do something that’s different. Or I want to spend this time taking my daughter out on a date because like, I don’t need Friday afternoon.

I don’t need to be working. I always say like, you know, you never know how long a business is going to go. And there’s very good chance in five years, maybe podcasting is taking a turn. Maybe AI is taking a turn in the web. Maybe this isn’t needed. And I have to go work for Google or go get a job or do something else.

I’m just like, at that point, if I look back and say, God, I had the most flexible schedule and I spent all my time working, I think I’d kick myself. So, but it’s, it’s like a, that’s a big part of like having to really be like, do I need to spend 40 hours? Cause I could, I spent 30 hours. I sit down every month and say is all the time I spent worth it, could I have done that in less amount of time? Okay. Well, if that’s possible, let’s try to do that next month. It’s been a big thing.

Pat Flynn: It’s such an important discussion to have because we often don’t even catch ourselves spending so much time working until sometimes it’s too late. And for a lot of people it is.

Our kids are already grown up or their relationships are faltering or whatever the case may be. And I think it’s a great reminder for people to maybe do an audit. Maybe you don’t have to necessarily spreadsheet the whole thing out, but maybe you do have that realization like you did. Did you, did you, did you?

Get to the point where you’re creating like pie charts and line graphs and all that kind of stuff with that data or no.

Brendan Mulligen: No, it was, no, it was just a percentage. It was just how many hours do I have in the week? How many hours do I spend doing each of these things for me? It was, it was easier to do it visually.

Cause I could just say like, okay, from like nine to nine 30 every day, I work out. Okay, cool. I can just put a W in that cell every day. And yeah, the hard thing, and I’m sure you deal with this too, is whenever you run your own thing. I didn’t feel like this when I worked for Google or other companies because there’s only so much you can do alone.

But when you run your own thing, there’s never a time. I mean, I have a list of a hundred marketing things I could do for a product page at any point. So like, given the time, all the work will still that vacuum. So you have to really protect it. Otherwise I could work, you know, every hour, every day for the entire week.

And a lot of people do. If I was in my twenties, I probably would do that. But. In my forties, I’m like, I just don’t need, I need to block time out for other things that work. I think, I just think that’s a bigger challenge when you run your own thing, because there’s never a time where you don’t have something else you could be doing.

Pat Flynn: For sure. For sure. At least that a nine to five, you clock out at five, right? And then you’re, you’re done versus you could be up at night and know that you have another thing to do for your business. And Parkinson’s law comes into play and you fill it with the next thing on your list. How do you prioritize all those things on that list?

To decide, okay, of all of this, this is the thing I’m going to be working on.

Brendan Mulligen: I’m trying to get better at that. Even after 20 years, I love building. So I always opt to being like, Oh, I should make this feature because people would love this and I would love building it. And I don’t think I should probably make the marketing page better.

I’ll build features and not actually put them on our marketing page or anywhere. Like no one even knows that I built them because I have so much fun building and launching them. So it’ll be in the dashboard in some quarter of the dashboard. But someone, you know, I read a review of me versus a competitor and they listed a few features.

They’re like, well, this competitor does these things. I was like, I did. I’ve been doing those things for two years. And I looked all over my marketing website. Oh. Yeah, you really have to dig to find those. And so I’m trying to get better. So what I’m doing now is I’m trying to sit down and be like, okay, what for each week of the month, what is the set of technology improvements that we’re going to make?

And then what are the set of marketing improvements we’re going to make? And like, it’s not okay to not have one of those sides filled. And also, we need to make sure that there’s, they’re big enough where they’re, they’re going to be meaningful to the user base. And not just like, because I can spend a year making tiny improvements that no one ever notices.

With the sort of like banner, like when you log in, you feel like I just got my time unlocked because they’ve added this feature. Those, I tend to not brag about as much.

Pat Flynn: Bragg away though. I mean, those are the big things that, you know, can change a person’s workflow and share and, and, and all that kind of stuff.

When you see a review, cause in the software space, you’re likely to see reviews, people using it and talking about it, comparing it to other comparable tools. How do you approach that because in some cases, myself included, I mean, that stuff can get to my head in a very negative way if I let it and then others are just like, I don’t even want to see any of that.

But then if you don’t see it, how can you take feedback? How do you balance feedback and the consumption of reviews, both positive and negative?

Brendan Mulligen: I think one thing that is is nice to do at the beginning of any project is to try to be really honest about where it fits in the ecosystem of tools that are out there right now and who your ideal customer is.

Again, this is going back down to whittling down the market. When I started Podpage, I doubt I was like, I want Pat Flynn to use this, right? Because you are at a certain level of the career. You have a certain amount of needs for what your website would be, right? Like you have a lot of other businesses. I looked at your website, I wouldn’t say, Oh, Podpage can replace this. But a lot of people just say like, I want all everyone to use it. And so what I do with Podpage at the beginning and I do with most products is like, okay, what’s the real part of who was using this? And you couldn’t widen that over time, but at any stage, like you’re probably not solving everyone’s problem.

And if you’re solving everyone’s problem in the market, the product isn’t going to work in my experience. It’s like you should narrow in. So with, with Podpage, I always started by saying, well, you start with no website, but most hosts give you a website. And that’s honestly good. I mean, I tell tons of podcasters who are asking me if they should use Podpage.

I’m like, no, you’re so small. Just use that until you get frustrated with it and then move, move over to Podpage. And so they say, so that’s good for now use Podpage. And then at some point you’re probably going to want a ton of customization, a ton of other stuff. You’ll need to move to WordPress and I will celebrate that day and help you move off the Podpage.

And so having sort of like that, we fit in the middle perspective. I think a lot of review if I someone writes a review and says, Oh, Podpages and that customizable. I say, no, it’s not by design. That’s what WordPress is for. Or like for a new podcast or Podpage is too expensive. It’s like, yes, we are.

That’s why you get the, you know, you use your buzzsprout or your lips and site. And so there’s not a lot of reviews that, Frustrate me because most of the criticism on the product is sort of baked in and designed in for the market that we’re going to, part of the market that we’re going after.

Pat Flynn: So those comments are warranted.

I mean, it’s, it’s the truth and you’re like, yeah, it is. I, you know, but I love that. And, and I imagine because you take that approach, there are some people who potentially could upgrade to WordPress. But they don’t because they love you so much and they want to stick around. Is that true?

Brendan Mulligen: Yeah. I think the biggest problem with Podpages is not like point and click customization and you can’t change every pixel on the page.

You know, the goal is like, just set colors you want, set the general frame you want, and it, you know, does everything it needs to do. It doesn’t break. If you want tons of customization or plugins or all this stuff, yeah, move to WordPress. That’s great. I’d say it hasn’t happened a lot. But half of the times it’s happened, they’ve come back because they go to WordPress and WordPress, they have a beautiful site, which is better than Podpage because it’s more like customized to them. And it’s got cool widgets and stuff. And then a year later, they’re like, God, it’s a pain in the ass to keep up to date or it keeps breaking or the plugins aren’t working like I want them to, or I miss that Podpage did these three things.

And then half the people stick in, you know, they’re awesome over there. So it depends, but I definitely think that people are convinced they need something more complicated than you, something easy, this isn’t just Podpages, this is in general, and then They’re fine with it being not as complicated. I always remember this being my criticism on it for the iPhone from Android people, Android people, Oh, on Android you can do all these customizations and you can tweak all these things and you don’t have to just use the app store.

You can download from anywhere. And I’ll, and a lot of the people on the app are like, yeah, I mean, I just, that sounds great. I don’t, I don’t need any of that. I just want it to work.

Pat Flynn: Exactly. Exactly. That’s cool. Brendan, while we finish up here, I do want to ask you about how you landed on your pricing structure.

A lot of software developers who are new are builders and they want to solve these problems, but then when it comes to, you know, the actual business part of the equation, they often just are in the dark. Do you have any advice or tips for those in that position for putting the right price on something so that it, you know, is able to keep the business afloat, but also is attractive still.

What are your thoughts?

Brendan Mulligen: Yeah. I mean, how I came up with mine is probably not the same answer as what I would advise someone else to do, at least at the beginning. So, you know, I think the first thing you have to do is you have to think how many people are you going after? So if you’re going after the regular consumer and there’s hundreds of millions of potential customers, charging you know, what Loom or Calendly or some of these things charge for like five to ten bucks a month, you can build a really nice business off of that.

But you have to be going after massive amounts of people. When I started Podpage, you could sign up for the basic plan for five bucks a month and I regretted it almost instantly because I was chasing people down whose like credit cards has expired for five bucks a month, I eventually just wiped the whole, I then was like, at least you have to pay me for a year at a time because this is just not worth it. I think when coming up with pricing, like target market size is really, really important because if you’re not going to have a lot of customers, you need to charge more.

If you’re adding value to their business, you can charge a little bit more. I also think starting high, it’s counterintuitive, but like, I’ve built businesses that charge five bucks a month. I’ve built businesses that charge thousands of dollars to use the software. And God, the businesses that charge thousands of dollars to use the software are so great.

It just unlocks so much. I’m not saying to charge thousands, but when you can charge a lot more, you can spend more money on marketing, you can spend more money like Google ads potentially works for you. Because Google ads are expensive. If the ticket price people are paying you is high, then you can afford to acquire customers.

But if you got a 10 a month thing, you’re just not able to spend money on acquisition. And at the beginning, it’s nice to have that if you can have it. So I think really try to charge as much as possible for whatever you’re doing. And then you can always scale down. Because if you’re trying, if you’re really adding value, I mean, it’s so much easier to have one user paying you a hundred bucks a month than 10 users paying you 10 bucks a month, less customer support, but for most products, if some things that require network effects and that kind of stuff, maybe you want more users.

But in my experience, if you can get one person to pay you 10 X, it’s better to then have 10 people pay you, you know, one time. And so, and you have to internally be like, You’re going to see a lot of negative reviews about how expensive you are. What are, you know, again, it’s choosing who you want to use the product.

So in general, I think the more you can charge the better, you’ll get more sophisticated customers. They’ll be kinder to you, my experience, they’ll be more patient. They’ll be exceptionally happy when you help them do their job because you’ve made a, you know, they’re, they’ve invested in you and they’re getting a return on their investment.

And people love being smart and being like, I made such a good decision. That’s in general. Now I say that having Podpage is cheap. And there’s the reality of you have to know who your market is and how much money they have to spend. And so the Podpage, we have a plan that I forget how much it is now.

It’s, it’s on the lower end and we have a higher end plan. I think the higher end plan could be actually a lot more expensive. I always feel bad charging people for things, but I think what we’ve done over time is we’ve raised our prices three times in four years and we’ve said, gone to the community and we’ve, we’ve let people who signed up for us at the beginning, keep their old prices.

So we still people paying us five dollars a month for some Podpage stuff, but we said, Hey, we, in the last year, we added like 150 features, we have this whole new thing that it didn’t do before. So we’re going to update our pricing. And then we also last year introduced a higher end plan that we didn’t even offer before with a whole new set of stuff.

You can always adjust it over time, but it’s way easier to reduce prices over time than raise them.

Pat Flynn: I mean, that’s the, the Tesla model is to start high, right? Get all the higher users in and the people who will become fans and offer feedback. And then you make it cheaper over time as systems get better, as parts get cheaper, et cetera.

But in this case, I love the idea of the multiple tiered prices. Everybody should go check out podpage, if you go to, that’s our affiliate link. The basic plan I’m looking right now is 12 a month. That’s for solving a big problem like that and just kind of making it work.

It’s a huge value to a podcaster’s repertoire. And so I can see why this is successful. You know, as somebody who’s been teaching a lot of podcasters, the website is a big pain in the butt that is should have, you should have one, and this makes it easy. Is there any final piece of advice you would offer for those who are diving into software and from your experience having created multiple things, things that have gone very well, some that didn’t, perhaps a final parting word from your perspective for anybody diving into the space?

Brendan Mulligen: It’s cliche at this point, I think everyone knows this, but especially in those early days, just as much one on one conversation with potential customers or with early customers, the better. I mean, I just don’t think, I think a lot of people go out there with the assumption that they know the solution to the problem they’re trying to solve.

And a lot of times, directionally, you’re right. But once you actually start talking to people, these little tiny changes that your customers can tell you about in those early days, you know, it’s just a tiny little 1 percent pivot in the first week. But four years later that you’re, you would have been way off had you not made those adjustments.

And I think, you know, with Podpage, it started with me DMing podcasters and just being like, can I show you a link that I made for you? Can you just give me feedback on what you think of it? Like I wasn’t even asking him to sign up or asking him for money. I was just like, how does this website look to you?

Do you like it? And just trying to make it as low friction as possible to get some feedback in the door. And then as they said, yeah, can I actually use this? Then it’s like, can we, I started a slack channel for a bunch of early customers and I was like, Hey, you’ll have access to me at any point. You can give feedback and you can talk to each other.

Like trying to get as much feedback in those early days because if you start noticing your community cares, then you might, you’re on to something. I’ve done a lot of products where I’m like, let me get feedback. And they’re like, Oh, this is kind of neat. And then you write them the next day and you’re like, all right, what do you think about this?

And they don’t write you back for five days. And it’s like, well, you don’t care. This isn’t something you care about. But if you can, by talking to customers, you can sense, do they care about this? Are they excited about it? And then you know what you sort of keep going on.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, good stuff, Brendan. Thank you so much for this.

And for today, it’s going to definitely be one that I think people will re listen to in the archive, especially if they start going down this path. Appreciate you so much. So Podpage is where you want to go. If you need a website for your podcast, Where else can people go to follow what you’re up to?

Is there a centralized location for the dozens of things that you seem to get involved with over time?

Brendan Mulligen: I have always been fairly active on Twitter. X on my handles @Mulligan. I’m actually a little less just in general on social media right now. It’s part of my more me time. It’s like, what am I doing in my life that I could cut out for a little bit?

So I haven’t actually been on X for a bit, but I spend a lot of time there. If you want to get in touch with me directly, if you go to Podpage and just click the button that helps get customer support in the bottom right, and just say, I want to talk to Brenden, that’s the easiest way to get in touch with me.

Pat Flynn: Nice man. This has been great. Thank you so much for this and congrats on the success with Podpage and all future projects.

Brendan Mulligen: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Pat Flynn: All right. I hope you enjoyed that episode with Brenden. Again, you can find his stuff over at And yeah, if you need a website for your podcast and you want to make it quick and easy, go to that website and thank you again.

That’s an affiliate link, which means we get a little commission if you go through that for us. Thank you. Now, definitely check out the show notes as well. and Brendan, thank you so much for the time and the wisdom and all the stories. Definitely inspiring. And especially those of you who are getting into software.

And as many of you might know, I am dabbling a little bit in a new piece of software as well. So this was just as helpful for me as hopefully it was for you too. Thank you so much. I appreciate you and looking forward to serving you in the next episode. Cheer.

Thank you so much for listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. Our senior producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media, and a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Catch you next week!

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