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Podcast: How an Entrepreneur achieved Lifestyle Freedom

Steve Miller Entrpreneur

Jordon Bryant of ChambersDS App Academy just published this podcast with Steve Miller, who built a multi-million dollar software business and sold it in 2009 and retired. After being retired for several years and traveling the world, Steve is now creating mobile apps in between time he spends golfing, boating, cycling and keeping fit.

Ways To Listen To This Episode

About Steve Miller

The guest for this podcast is Steve Miller, an entrepreneur who built the multi-million dollar Pragmatic software and sold it to AutomatedQA, which is now SmartBear Software, in 2009. He has over 24 years of experience in software development, project management, and software architecture.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Steve:
  • 1:23 : Steve gives us a peak in his consulting days with Microsoft and how this influenced him in forming his previous company, Pragmatic Software.
  • 3:21 : The solutions, features and benefits of their software, and the pivots they had made to fully develop their company including branding and building up clients to make the business viable. These strategies resulted to winning awards and, in turn, made them more attractive to other companies.
  • 06:16 : How they ended up being acquired by creating strategic partnerships and pre-planning integrations with other vendors with products complimentary to theirs. We also discuss the value exchange that happens during cross promotions and partnerships, not only in terms of revenue, but also when it comes to building relationships.
  • 08:46 : We dig into how he came up with a SMART exit strategy and how he ensured that this buyout plan came into fruition. Steve shares the timelines, starting out by identifying the list of companies which would be a good fit, narrowing them down, reaching out to form a relationship to those which remained as potential candidates and finally achieving the goal of being acquired.
  • 12:07 : Steve explains what a buyout earn out is, as well as the things that companies are looking for before doing acquisitions. He adds that they are not just interested in the product but also, they are interested on what you will bring into the table. As someone who knows your product well, they would look at you to be there to support the transition initially. He also shared pay out terms during their buyout and how they exceeded revenue targets which resulted to bonuses.
  • 14:04 : What Steve is currently doing with his free time including travelling, exploring his hobbies, and finally deciding to enter the mobile app development world.
  • 15:10 : His amusing story of how losing his iPad spurred his genius and resulted to his first app creation, aMemoryJog. He also talks about how travel can change perspectives and about his long-term plans.
  • 18:41 : The structures Steve had in place when he started working with aMemoryJog starting from looking at the competitive landscape, creating a business plan after his analysis, and documenting his processes along the way.
  • 23:53 : Apart from looking at the App Store, Steve also shared his other validation techniques such as having the app reviewed with friends and family and leveraging on his network.
  • 25:21 : How detailing his specifications helped him in landing a good price and using oDesk and Elance services for his app development needs. Steve also shares advice to people seeking development.
  • 27:57 : Steve’s other marketing efforts including reaching out to bloggers to tap them to become beta testers in different silos to get feedback. He also shares how he plans to reach out to them using a template with a YouTube video and how he tracks response rates.
  • 36:10 : Other key take aways that Steve had learned from his first app that he will be applying for the second: driving social virality through sharing capability and establishing good PR.

Rapid Fire Questions

  • Would you put more emphasis on the idea or the execution? How would you weigh each of them why?
    • Everybody has an idea for an app so for me it’s 10% idea, 90% execution.
  • What is your biggest learning lesson on your journey so far?
    • It’s good to localize but you can localize too early.
  • What is your favorite business book?
  • What is your favorite app?
  • What is the coolest thing that you are working on right now that you want everyone to know about?

Links From The Episode

Connect With Our Guest

Finding a Post-Retirement Muse

Eliminating Post-Retirement Boredom

In my March 8, 2013 blog, I talked about how I stumbled onto an idea when we stopped at a hotel and forgot my Hilton’s rewards card. As I was checking in, they asked me for my loyalty card number and I could not remember it. I thought man, if I could have that info on my phone I could easily retrieve it and not miss any loyalty points. That spawned an idea to create an app that could house all my loyalty cards, website passwords and any other personal information that is useful to have at my fingertips.

Well, I just finished the first version of this. It is called aMemoryJog because it literally jogs your memory if you forget passwords, account information (bank, credit card, loyalty, frequent flyer accounts), or anything else you have a hard time remembering. For me to be comfortable using it, I knew it had to be secure, so I implemented 256-bit AES encryption, the same level of encryption most banks use.

If you want to try it, point your browser to http://www.aMemoryJog.com and click the Free 30 Day Account button. This version works from your web browser, so you can use it from your PC, Mac, iPad or any other tablet. You can even use it from your smartphone but I will be creating a smartphone optimized version for the iPhone, Android and Windows phones in the near future — a version that will make using it on a smaller screen much easier.

If you are just curious how it works, watch the YouTube video: http://youtu.be/26flOLCj6uk.

Why Start Another Business?

You may be wondering why I would start another business after I just retired just over a year ago. In short, I wanted to stay mentally sharp, occupy my time between traveling and hobbies, and generating additional cash to further fund our retirement never hurts.

Have you ever read the book by Tim Ferriss called “The 4-Hour Workweek“? If not, you should pick it up, it is a great book. It talks about how to optimize your workload to gain maximum efficiency with the least amount of time spent doing it. He talks about creating a “muse” — a business that is so optimized that it requires minimal effort. So that is what this project is for me — my muse.

When I started thinking seriously about doing this, I jotted down the goals of my muse:

  • It must be inexpensive to start
  • It must have low overhead
  • It must be accessible anywhere in the world, because we like to travel
  • It must allow me to work and play as little or as much as I like (I have lots of hobbies and love to play)

A software business fit the bill perfectly.With a strong software architecture and programming background, I could do all the programming. With no need for a physical office, my overhead costs would be low. If it ever becomes too much work, I know I can easily outsource the programming and/or support.

Other Early Retirees With Muses

As we were working towards early retirement, we were inspired by a couple of early retirees. The first was Billy and Akaisha Kaderli (http://retireearlylifestyle.com/). They retired at the age of 38! After traveling extensively for a couple of years, they began to amass tons of travel knowledge. So they wrote a series of books to aid other early retirees and travelers. Their book The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement is a great read. So this is a labor of love for them and their muse.

Another example is Robert (Bob) and Robin Charlton. They retired at 43 years old. After a few years of retirement, they wrote a book called How To Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less. What a great book, and this is their muse.

What’s Next for Us?

We will spend the next few months visiting our boys at CSU in Fort Collins, Colorado, spending Christmas, New Years, and most of January there. I plan to ski on some of my favorite Colorado mountains, spend lots of time with our boys, and mountain bike as much as possible. As inspiration strikes, I will begin working on the iPhone version of aMemoryJog with hopes of finishing that by early Spring.