INTERVIEW WITH DARREN NEIMKE : FEATURED PRESENTER at ADNUG, 12 FEBRUARY 2020
By Simon Cook
Darren Neimke is a Senior Consultant with Telstra Purple who loves learning new technology by tinkering with side-projects in his spare time. In addition to a 20-year tech career, he has also been actively involved in Hockey including 3 seasons as the Head Coach of the South Australian Suns Hockey Team.
To register for this one-off FREE event, go to http://bit.ly/DarrenNeimkeADLNUG
NOTE, the team at Stripe have generously contributed a whole bundle of SWAG (books, stickers, t shirts) which we will be giving away on the night. Special thanks for Yvette Pearce and Mac Wang from Stripe for being proactive and sharing these with us.
Darren and I spoke about the background behind his product; his advice for those looking to build their own; his experience with Stripe; and the steps he has taken to market the product to date.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Darren. I am curious about MatchLib. What is the background behind your product?
The genesis is that it's a collection of tools, automation, and reports that I build to address my own needs.
Through coaching, I've had exposure to high performance programs such as the Australian Men's and Women's hockey teams. At that level, performance analysis is a big part of those programs.
Dedicated coaches and analysts use software to capture and analyse video and then present clips and statistics back to individual players and to teams in pre and post-match briefings.
Most software in this space is targeted at the elite level - NBA, NFL, AFL, EPL, etc. - and is quite expensive. It would blow the budget of most club coaches!
As I drifted away from the high end of coaching, I wanted to continue providing analysis to players, and I also wanted a way to organize my library of sports video so that I could find things easily.
I couldn't afford to buy the products that I'd used previously, so I started to hobble together solutions to my needs.
I started simply by using Google Docs and a Dropbox account. Then I developed my own features along the way - mostly to automate repetitive tasks. It's been about a 4 year journey to date.
Who is your expected audience for MatchLib?
The target audience is clubs - specifically, club coaches.
3 or 4 years ago, there wasn't a lot of demand for these types of products at the lower end. But technology has made it much more reachable for amateur clubs and coaches to provide these services as part of their programs.
Better internet speeds and reliability - makes it easier to push video to the cloud
More matches are getting filmed
Greater awareness of performance analysis - plethora of analytics - e.g. the analytics sessions that we see on cricket coverage where analysts use video and data to explain what's happening.
More and more players are expecting to be able to watch video and coaches are adding it as another element to their coaching programs.
What type of market research did you complete prior to building MatchLib?
Probably my experience and exposure to other solutions. I've used a few products in the PA space - ranging from really high end tools through to simple, affordable video capture solutions such as Coaches Eye (a product you can use to do technique analysis from mobile phones and iPads).
Is this the first product you have built?
I'm always tinkering with software. Especially the latest and greatest of whatever there is. I generally try to build something practical whenever I am learning a new technology as a way to keep it interesting.
Over the years I've built lots of things; many of them I made public. SingleUserBlog, RegexLib, BlogML, ProjectDistributor and a few other things.
But I've never formally productized my software before.
This is a learning journey for me!
How much has your experience working with clients at Telstra Purple helped you developing this product?
Telstra Purple has expanded my knowledge, challenges me, and keeps me learning about software.
Working with customers is very helpful because you learn how customers think and what is important to them. Of course, every customer has unique requirements and so, the more customers you work with, the more you learn about different software boundaries and possibilities!
You also learn about the range of different environments that your software will ultimately meet. So you get to know more about the things that break, how you can support them, and what types of things have an impact on performance and security.
And then there's working with the Telstra Purple team. In the early Readify days it was all about elite engineering skills and knowledge. Nowadays it's broader than that. I get exposure to diverse areas and practices such as Design and Data Science.
Overall, I'd say it helps expand your knowledge and understanding about software and the possibilities for providing tailored solutions.
What advice would you give someone about to embark on their own product?
Be clear about your goals and objectives.
I remember getting some inspiration on this recently from my colleague - Andrew Best.
We were at work, spit balling ideas for a few things and Andrew decided to run an Impact Mapping session to map out goals and objectives.
That session got me thinking... And I did an impact mapping session of my own.
One thing that came out was that my sports analysis software (it wasn't called Matchlib back then) wasn't going to get anywhere by itself. I needed to take action.
As I mapped out my goal (of growing Matchlib), things became a lot clearer!
Do you need to be a Senior Developer to build an online product?
There are a lot of things available to help build eCommerce solutions. So you can probably get something done relatively easily. It probably depends on what your product is and how much custom software you need to get an MVP up and running.
I suspect that there are things you learn as a Senior Developer that will stand you in really good stead when it comes to building an online product.
· How to grow and adapt software
· How to support software when it isn't in your own environment
· Choosing and integrating third-party libraries and components
· Designing the architecture and components to align with your business model
· Building tested and robust software - who wants to be supporting something that is broken at 3AM?
How much time should a developer expect to invest before having a minimum viable product?
It depends on what you are building, but I can think of a few things you need to consider;
Think about what you need to wrap around software to support and maintain it.
Be persistent! Things take time. It might be a year or more before you have enough software to support an MVP - and that's before you even start on building your customer acquisition strategy!
As you start building, there will be setbacks. It will take longer than you anticipate. And, at times it will feel easier to walk away than continue.
My favourite quote is this one from Bill Gates:
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
What other products did you consider before deciding on Stripe?
I looked into a couple - Square and PayPal were two that I can remember taking a look at.
What made you decide to partner with Stripe for the e-commerce of your site?
My software is sold as a monthly subscription and the Stripe billing module has a flexible subscription model for managing recurring payments.
I didn't want to be responsible for managing the scheduling, invoicing, and everything else that goes along with a recurring payment model. I wanted to offload as much of the e-commerce heavy lifting as possible... so that was my primary concern.
A few other things were also important:
1. It was easy to get started! From signing up through to developing against their service.
2. Modern API's with a natural feel for a C# developer - some API's just feel clunky and old school. Or they feel like they are designed for another language. As soon as I grabbed the C# SDK, it felt very natural to me.
3. Great developer experience - they have a modern CLI tool and an easy to use development mode in the portal
4. Reputation. I wanted to go with a service that my customers could feel confident about
Cost wasn't a major consideration but Stripe's pricing model is very competitive. I feel like cost will be a good problem for me to have.
What challenges did you face in integrating with Stripe?
There are two ways you integrate with Stripe. You can call their API's and you can receive and respond to requests from their webhooks.
The webhooks are the primary initiator of integration because that's how the Stripe service lets you know when things happen.
The main challenge with webhooks is that, you can receive many webhook notifications and they arrive in any order. So, you might receive the "Invoice Created" notification before you receive the "Customer Created" notification. Or the "Payment Received" notification before the "Invoice Created" advice.
To get my head around it, I built a prototype and ran it for a few months. Including not only the integration code, but to understand what monitoring I needed in place to know how the system was behaving.
That's a big part of what I'll be explaining in my talk
What tools are you using to market MatchLib to your target audience?
My main channels right now are Facebook Ads and direct mailing campaigns. I've setup Google Analytics to monitor these campaigns and I'll be reviewing the results regularly so that I can tweak my strategy.
I've used the webmaster tools provided by Google and Bing to try and improve my presence on search.
Have you used external agency support to do this?
No. If Matchlib is successful, I might look to outsource some of the development and marketing of the product.
Are there any courses or reading on selling a product that you would recommend for aspiring entrepreneurs?
· The Lean Product Development stuff - Lean Product Validation, ShapeUp (BaseCamp approach by Ryan Singer)
· Articles about Customer Acquisition Strategies
· Impact Mapping - to help get clarity about your goals
Who would most enjoy the topic you are covering?
Developers who have an interest in what is involved with implementing an e-commerce solution.
At one of the first ADNUG sessions I ever went to - I think it might have been around 2002 or 2003. There was this VB programmer who was telling us about the ActiveX controls he was selling online.
I remember thinking how cool it would be to sell your own software products... And to think... It's only taken me around 20 years to do something about it!
Thank you Darren, I look forward to seeing the presentation on the 12th!