I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with my new friend, Vidar Andersen, & founding genius behind the “people magnet” app Gauss! We recently had the craziest happenstance way of connecting and believe it or not, we meet each other via Glancee, one of his competitors app at SXSW! He happened to be the closest SXSW event attendee staying near my home, so I thought I would connect. Little did I know, he was actually launching their direct competitor app Gauss. Gauss is a mobile app that let’s you discover and connect with interesting people around you. They describe it as a “People Magnet for your pocket.” I would not just say this and just blow smoke up your a$%, but after Vidar demoed Gauss to me, I was blown away at how it made Glancee look like an amature!

It does not come as a surprise, as Vidar has been making software suck less as a professional for over 17 years; for governments, national companies and global corporations. He is also the co-founder of the Plone content management system currently in use by e.g. the FBI, the CIA, the government of Brazil, Yale University and many more.

So go ahead and sit down at listen to the man responsible for creating the bootstrapped team at Gauss!

Interview Transcript  

ERIC: Alright, so we have Vidar Andersen of Gauss. How are you doing man?

VIDAR: Hi Eric, I’m good, I am fine, how you doing?

ERIC: Good, we finally got to have our interview. We met at South By South West and we
tred to get your guys with Tech Zulu and we’ve just been finally getting together.

VIDAR: Yeah! Piece of cake.

ERIC: So how’s the weather over there?

VIDAR: Well, it’s actually pretty good now. I’m gonna give you a view. Let’s see if you can
see something?

ERIC: Yeah it’s a lot like what it looks like here.

VIDAR: Yeah, it’s overcast but it’s warm and there’s some sun threatening to show up. So
I guess it’s good. It’s been good for the last couple of weeks.

ERIC: Awesome. How many team members do you all have? We have four court
members. We have one working full time on the iOS app. We have one working full time
on the platform. We have me, who is sort of working everything in between. And doing the
management stuff and talking to people like yourself. And we also have operatings officer
who is sort of working full time on just keeping everything together.

ERIC: Awesome, so how was your experience at South By South West? How did that go
for you all?

VIDAR: That was pretty pretty crazy. I mean that was sort of a social discovery with sort of
the buzz word around town and it really got us to meet with some really really interesting
people. We got featured in all sorts of strange places that we probably not have been
featured in if we weren’t going to or if we hadn’t gone to South By. Man obviously, it’s a far
away from home. We’re based in Europe, right? But we got featured in Business Insider,
we were on CNN, we were in, I don’t know well, the New York Times, even.

ERIC: New York Times, yep.

VIDAR: Japan, Tech Crunch, US. We were mentioned all over the place and it was pretty
crazy. We were quite surprised.

ERIC: So was it a last minute decision to get down here to South By South West?

VIDAR: Yeah, I mean, we, to backtrack one second, we actually weren’t ready to launch
at South By. I mean we had, sort of, at least one more month to go at putting into stuff that
we already planned but we had already a version in the app store that we could publish, in
case we needed to. And we just made a last minute decision, “Okay guys if we’re not
going to South By, it looks like a social discovery archive, that thing is going to be a big
thing this year. If we don’t take sort of steps to go there and show the world that we are
also existing and we also have something interesting to show, I think that would be it. It
would be very hard to come back next year and try to do the same. So, we just published
what we had. It was a very early days version as probably most people out there, if you’ve
tried it, I’m sorry but it’s better to put something out there and be embarrassed about it
then just sort of wait forever. So, we actually put it on the app store and sort of put it to
luck. And actually, it was very helpful to have it there cause you can just say to people,
“Oh, you know guys, this is people, oh where can I get it?” Well you can get it on the app
store right. So we could have on-boarding experiences that is to say we could look over
the shoulder of complete strangers just at South By and that was a very very great
learning experience as well.

ERIC: So you got all that major press following South By or as a result of South By?

VIDAR: Yes, I think we wouldn’t be mentioned with some of our competitors if we weren’t
there. I think it was sort of a little drop, or maybe it’s just after the fact knowledge or maybe
after fact reasoning but I think, and it’s my gut feeling that we would have a harder time of
getting taken seriously if we hadn’t been there.

ERIC: That’s something. I mean I think that is a great lesson for young entrepreneurs to
just step up. I know a lot of people don’t like to do things out of timing. I know some people
don’t agree with, just ship it, you know not already complete but at the same time, you’re
exactly right. That was a moment that will not come back cause it was like that was the
highlight. Social discovery was the feature of South By South West. That was the one of
biggest thing that was there. And I kept hearing every body talk about it. And if you all
wouldn’t have been there, first, we wouldn’t have met. People wouldn’t have been able find
about you. But that makes me realize that maybe that’s why, because I told you earlier I
was like, you know, I saw everybody’s platform and you all had by far the best whenever
you showed it to me and I told you that was like “I didn’t see the same kind of publicity as
everybody else.” Maybe that was it because you all hadn’t had it complete but when
everybody sees what you all have and the mechanism that you all have, to me, it is far
superior. It’s not even really close because you have those mechanisms that – because
the thing I kept hearing from people who was just like that, maybe feeling kinda creepy
about everything. But you all have placed in some really good mechanisms that takes
away from a lot of that and that is what separates you all. So I can’t wait to see what you
all have in store. So, go ahead and tell us a little bit about Gauss.

VIDAR: Okay, so first of all, I told a lot about the early version of this, which is the only
thing that we’re on working right now, is getting the update out. So keep posted for that.
There’s gonna be an update out soon. And the thing about Gauss is, probably everybody
knows now, I don’t have to show to explain the whole social discovery thing again but
Gauss is specially about finding and discovering the new people around you that are
relevant and interesting to you. I mean, not necessary the people that you already
know.You know them right, so actually Gauss is a mobile app that enables you to discover
the kind of people that you would like to be discovering but maybe you don’t know enough
of or may be you don’t know any of them at this point. So, when we actually enable you to
discover them, that we have to notify you when they’re around and the other thing is that
when you get the notification, we also provide you with some context and all the social
profiles you know, sort of who they are and what you could start with and we also provide
you with some ways to actually contact them and get in touch with them. Sort of break the
ice and hey, you can meet up.

ERIC: Tell us about some of the things that is different. Go ahead, go ahead I will let you
finish.

VIDAR: One of the things that are very different from a lot of other social discovery apps is
that we actually enable you to be control of the social discovery experience. That is to say
you get to tell us, you get to tell Gauss what you would like to find. What kind of interest
and activity you would like to see in the people that you looking for. So, for me at the
moment for instance, I put in, I am looking for angel investment. I am looking for people
who is in the startup scene like me. People who are looking for seed investment, people
who are entrepreneurs and also I’m looking for squash partners. I’m putting in people who
are interested in squash. And if I can find someone who’s all of those interests, then I’m
gonna have some really interesting conversations while playing the squash. So, that’s
what I’m searching for right now. And the way we do that is that we pull in your Facebook
lives. If you connect with Facebook. You can also connect with Twitter right now, you can
also connect with Foursquare. We have three social connections right off the bat. And what
are the ideas behind Gauss is that that we should just enable you to get more value out of
what you’re already using. We’re not trying to force you into some sort of new social
network or anything. It’s just enabling you to use what you already have in your social
profiles, let’s say now for the sake of the argument, Facebook. So we can import all your
Facebook likes, all of your activities everything, that’s in your profile. If you added
Facebook. So we actually label you to select from a subset of that or select what you want
that adapt because maybe you don’t want absolutely everything right? There’s likes button
everywhere so maybe we click some likes somewhere that’s not that important to us. So
we enable you to just say, this is important, this is important, this is important. You put it in
the app, you put the app back in your pocket, and you just walk on. And you just get on
with your life. You don’t have to sort of spend more time fussing it back with the app. And
actually, when we can find these kinds of people around you, then we notify it. And what’s
also pretty cool about that is that you don’t have to worry about the world getting into using
the app because actually we do as a part of social discovery apps out there. We actually
enable you to find people who is outside of the app that are not uses of the app which we
think is pretty meaningful. I mean it’s probably not the whole world using Gauss right now.

ERIC: Tells about the other feature. I mean, that was one of my favorite features. So
whenever you connect with somebody, say someone that’s like a 100 feet away or you’re
in the same building. And tell us about the symbols and how that all works and how you
can find, they all have the same symbol and how you can find somebody.

VIDAR: Yeah, sure. Lets sort of assume some points down the road and I say “Well, this
looks like a cool person, let’s meet up,” we actually provide you with a way to meet up and
Gauss never ever allows anyone to see where you are. We don’t do anything to reveal
your position to anyone. You get to sort of decide that. But we also provide you with a way
to meet up without sharing your exact location where you are right now, because maybe
you don’t wanna show everybody where you are right now. So what we do is we provide
you with a location very near you and it’s also in the middle of where the other person is,
because we know that from the app but we are not sharing with those parties. We are just
sharing a meeting point in the middle which could be a coffee shop for convenience just
around the corner from both of you. And you see a map, where you see a GPS markers, if
you don’t know the town, you can just use it for navigation in real time. And the other
person gets exactly the same. So you could just meet up at that point and the thing is, in
conferences and crazy situations like South By where the town is just busting and booming
with people, right? It’s very hard to meet up because you don’t even know who the person
is and may be you have seen some profile pictures but we all know how profile pictures
are. Sometimes there are old pictures, sometime they are from a real weird angle or
whatever. So we also have like this — we went back in a time machine basically and asked
ourselves, “How did people solve this problem earlier when they met in a crowded place?
How could you identify yourself with something that’s very easy?” So found out there’s
something called carnations right. The little flowers that you put on your jacket. You didn’t
have jacket to show that I am the one with the yellow flower. So, we actually emulated that
in the app where you can actually get an icon. It’s partially for securities, partially to identify
yourself for convenience because when you see that, itself in the app right now, with some
nice cartoons of animals. So, if you see that, you know that that person is exactly the same
person that matches with me. Or that I’m supposed to meet up because we actually
enable all the data icon in that location to that time. So you can be sure that this is the
person that actually I’m supposed to meet up with. And you could just of course, if you’re
crazy like me and you’re not really concerned about privacy, you just wave it around and
everybody will see how that’s a lighting yellow plastic duck. Okay that’s the guy I am
supposed to see. Or, if you’re sort of n a cafe or a bar and you wanna be discrete about it,
you can just lay it on the table, right? And people will actually know it’s you because they
see the little plastic cartoon duck.

ERIC: That is brilliant! That is brilliant. I mean, I love everything about this app. What all
do you have in store? Like, have you all raised any money? Where you are right now in
the process of development and just your revenue model?

VIDAR: Alright, so first up where we are right now, we’ve have been bootstrapping this
thing. We started working in June, last year, late June last year we started building. And
we’re completely set our finance. We’ve completely bootstrapped. That means it’s of
course interesting and high at times but we have decided that we wanted to have a proof
of concept in the marketplace before we actually went to take anybody else’s money. It’s
like this saying in the Norwegian that, “You shouldn’t sell the beer before it’s shot.” So, we
thought we would actually get ourselves a beer and then get financing. And now we have
that. And we’re busy on, as of Saturday, we’re improving it because it’s such an early
version. And we’re raising our first seed money right now. We’re in the process of raising
our first round of money from investors.

ERIC: And so, have you already did several pitches to investors or you had –?

VIDAR: We’re talking but we’re very very concerned about getting sort on a interesting –
how to put it, to get sort of a fit with the investment. We are desperately looking for people
who can take us places. I mean, we think we have product that can go very interesting
places and very far. And we need the kind of people that have the kind of smart money
that can actually help take us there. And of course, also since we’ve been bootstrapping
for about a year, we are also very interested in having an investor on board that could
understand and and sympathized with our terms for that kind of money. We’re talking, so
any investors looking right now, they should probably have gotten a deck and an
introduction to their email if we’re talking.

ERIC: So where could they find you if they wanna get hold of you?

VIDAR: There are some pretty easy ways. They can tweet @getgauss or they can just
send me an email at vdar@getgauss.com or hello@getgauss.com or
anything@getgauss.com and we’d be happy to talk.

ERIC: So, before we let you go, I know you all just got to pitch in and somewhere, was in
Australia? You just pitched some by South By South West? So, where was that?

VIDAR: Oh yeah, we went to [xx] in December. So, we launched our public beta from the
stage there. We were at the startup competition finals of the web in December in Paris,
France. So that’s where we lunched the public beta from.

ERIC: How did they go for you all? How was the reception?

VIDAR: That was amazing. We also got a lot of interested investors talking. So those who
sort of — we said to the world and to the investors right then and we are really flattered and
would really like to have a working relationship but we need to take the product further and
out of beta before we sort of can talk about dating or getting to second base. So, we are
ready to get to third base right now probably but we are still looking for other people to
take with. I mean it’s very important to us as a set to have someone, that we could jive
with.

ERIC: Yeah, I think that’s important.I’ve only heard about this just recently but people
really starting to focus on fun that right connection and mesh and not just saying. “Oh you
want to give me some money, okay, I’ll just take it. You’re right, that is important because
this is a long term relationship.

VIDAR: Absolutely.

ERIC: You wanna make sure of the when you commit to it, you know, that it’s not a
decision you regret, you know, for life, you know. So, I think that’s one great tip for
entrepreneurs. So, give us two other tips as far as if someone wants to bootstrap,
something of a magnitude like this, what kind of suggestions would you give a young
entrepreneur?

VIDAR: One thing that I just steal from Steve Blank the whole time. You probably know
Steve Blank, he’s a great guy. We met him also at South By. He’s awesome. Like Steve
Blank is a hero. And he says, “Get out of the building and I can not stress that enough for
myself and for anybody else’s bootstrapping. Get out there, talk to real people. Get real
feedback on your product. Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid. Get out there and see what
people think, as soon as you can, and be prepared to get smacked in the face but that’s
what it takes.”

ERIC: So did you have a certain number that you wanted to head as far as getting
customer feedback? Any kind of metrics that you all were, you know, looking for?

VIDAR: Yeah, what we did very early on in August last year before we did anything that
had something similar to the final product, is to do an MVP and that’s something I can
recommend, I see you have the “Lean Startup” book there in the background. So, that’s
something also we did, mine is over there. I am also a big fan of Eric Ries and Lean
Startup. And what we did, we built an MVP, a minimum viable product within about a
month, ramshackled as heck. It was sort of bare bones and it was terrible. But it did what
we wanted to do it to test our thesis and to test basic principles. Is this possible? And if it’s
possible, do people actually understand that there’s a value potential here and do they
understand what they can do with what we are proposing to do and do they think have
value from it? So that took us about one and a half, two months to build and then we had
like a very private beta with friends and family and some friends of friends and some sort
of peripheral people, and then we just learnt from there that, yeah! Most people can
actually definitely see the value potential here. And that’s when we decided to move on.
But only after sort of validating also or invalidating that some of the things we had up our
sleeves, so thought that would be cool, weren’t being recognized as a value potential from
a lot of people.

ERIC: So why would you take it out? Did it hurt the process or you just took it out because
you just wanted to have something that was just minimum?

VIDAR: Yeah, we didn’t have any indication in the data or in the feedback that it would be
something that we should be building at least not straight away. So we put that in a list of
maybe we’re gonna do some other experiments to find out if it’s actually viable because
that is another thing that you probably learn also by the Lean Startup book and by the
methodologies of Lean is that don’t always listen to what people say. I mean, people are
very good at thinking about it, but it’s not always the same as what’s actual fact. So, that is
to say, we are also very concentrated on looking at data we have in immense number of
checks, and blogs in the app just to be able to see if people are actually using what we
think they are going to be using and using it in a way that we think they are gonna be using
it and sort of being adapting to that. So the basic thing to get back to your question is the
reason why we didn’t put it in is that it would take a lot of resources to build. And if we
know that we have stuff that we note, we could sort of reasonably make an argument that
we should be building or we will build that first and we test that. And then we can always
go back to a back order catalog of other stuff and put that in later if need be. But we didn’t
have enough indication in the data or the user feedback so we just left it on the side to look
at another day.

ERIC: That’s great. I thought maybe that it was already built and then you took it out but
you’re saying that it was just things that you wanted, that you thought may be you would
build. So, I see the difference.

VIDAR: By ramshackle, it was so ramshackle that we actually put features and stuff in that
didn’t exist. It just looked like it would work and then we measured if people clicked on it
and we measured what people said when it didn’t work, I mean sort of one way of looking
at it is that you measure pain. If like a significant number of people don’t report any pain if
a feature doesn’t work, maybe that feature isn’t that important to them. So we put some of
that in as well. I mean another thing that we did, I’m sorry guys but I apologize but we
faked purchases. That is to say it looked completely like you were purchasing stuff from
the itunes store within the app, just to measure if people would actually do it. And then it
would get a message afterwards that it was just a test. But it’s interesting to put up funnels
or put up tests, that will actually have people not telling you with words but telling you with
their actions if they will put money behind their claims or put money in your app.

ERIC: That is good, I want to make a note of that to highlight that. That is really good. Last
thing, so for someone wanting to pitch at a big event like you all did, what kind of
suggestions do you have for them as far as preparation? How did you all prepare?

VIDAR: Yup very good question. I think that, we would have a lot of value from hearing a
sort of an answer to that, especially with something like South By. What we learned, I
mean, there’s probably a hundred of other ways of doing this, but what we learned is that
do your diligence. I mean, do your research and find out all the best events and make a list
of it and sort of shop it around and make sure that you know who is who and what’s what.
Right? There is a lot of events but there is not maybe all the events that are most
important or will fit better for you. And once you have a sort of top ten list or top five it
doesn’t matter, but when you have a top list of things that you think are most important to
you and your start up, then just apply. Apply like there is no tomorrow. Apply to anything.
Push anybody to get in anywhere, I mean it’s like, like there’s no tomorrow. And it’s always
nice if you get into more. I mean it’s a luxury problem, right? You should only be worried if
you don’t get into anything. And use your connections. Reach out to anybody, I mean
anybody can be reached, right? There’s Twitter, there’s Facebook, there’s God knows
what, LinkedIn. I mean, don’t be afraid to get in touch to people. If you have something
meaningful to say to those people, they will listen. So get into some of the events. I mean,
use it for all its worth. Use it for publicity, use it to pull your team together to have a
deadline and just do your research ’cause it’s important also to go the events that will be
the most meaningful to you, right?

ERIC: And I would also suggest, or maybe compliment to you is that, you know, you had a
really good positive energy the whole time and it looked like you were busy doing a lot. I
saw you running around like you were talking to a lot of people. Even whenever you may
appeared tired at times, you had the best attitude and you had that willing attitude to, “Hey
let’s talk, let’s have a meeting, it’s all good, it’s fine.” I think that’s really good. You know,
talking to a lot of people as I always do, you know, you could always tell sincerely like who
really wants to be there and just out of sincere interest. If people would do that, following
up, it’s easier follow-up with someone like you ’cause I had a lot of business cards. It’s
easy to follow-up people like you that really showed sincere interest. So I really suggest
that for a lot of people. I wish you all the best luck. I appreciate you coming home telling
everybody about Gauss.

VIDAR: It’s my pleasure.

ERIC: Thanks!

VIDAR: The address is getgauss.com. So, I hope I’ll see everybody on it.

ERIC: Also It’s Vidar Anderson. You got to get it.

VIDAR: Get gauss!

ERIC: Get gauss! [laughter] Thanks man.