From Success to Startup: Oli Gardner’s Journey and Lessons Learned

In this show, Oli Gardner shares his personal journey from past success to launching a new startup. He discusses the challenges he faced and the valuable lessons learned along the way with Special Guest Oli Gardner, Founder of Outline and co-founder of Unbounce.

#1 – Oli, what problems does Outline solve, and why should the user care?

#2 – What are some of the key things you learned for your years being involved in Unbounce that you used connected to the development and launch of Outline?

#3 – AI seems to have the power of really threatening the careers and livelihoods of graphic designers and copywriters; what are your personal thoughts and advice that you can give to these particular groups of individuals?

#4 – What do you see as some of the major challenges that you and your team at Outline face in the next 12 to 18 months, and what are your general plans to overcome them?

#5 – What are some of the business tools and services that you use to run your business daily that you could recommend to the audience?

#6 – If you return to a time machine at the beginning of your career, what essential advice would you give yourself?

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The Show Main Show Notes & Links

[00:00:14.760] – Jonathan Denwood

Welcome back, folks, to the WP-Tonic This Week in WordPress and SaaS. This is episode 886. Oh, my God. I’ve only been doing this for a while. We’ve got a returning guest. He came on the show six years ago. You pointed that out to me. It’s taken him six years to recover from the experience. He’s already had the experience this morning. He was the former co-founder of Unbound and he is also the founder of Outline. We have Ollie Gairdner in the office. Ollie, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?

[00:00:58.490] – Oli Gardner

Sure. Well, yes, I am indeed a founder of a new SaaS business. I could say Unbound was my life for 12 years, and I spent most of the latter half of that as a public speaker. That just led me into wanting to create software to actually help people do a better job as speakers, which is why I’ve launched Outline, which is all about helping people make presentation outlines, specifically better presentation outlines, which then leads to better presentations. Anyone who’s ever had to make a presentation knows that it’s hard, and it’s especially hard trying to figure out how and where to start. Most people do itjust jump into a slide deck, an empty slide deck, which is the beginning of the trauma. For you, as the- If you.

[00:01:52.820] – Jonathan Denwood

Don’t know what Joe, where is, you want to wait till I’m done with this podcast. I think.

[00:01:58.990] – Oli Gardner

You’d be sure to have the the audience later on.

[00:02:02.190] – Jonathan Denwood

I’ve had some people email me back and say, Never contact me ever again. I’ve got Kurt, my beloved and patient, Koday’s Kurt. Do you want to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

[00:02:17.260] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah. My name is Kurt Van Oren and I have an agency called Manyana No Maas and a podcast to go with it. We focus largely on membership and learning websites. I’m actually really intrigued to hear about this speaking stuff with Outline.

[00:02:30.980] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. In this great interview, we’re going to be talking about the reason for Outline, what Oli has learnt from his years with these other company. It’s just going to be a feast of knowledge from a great marketer and entrepreneur. Before we go into the meat and potatoes of this great show, I’ve got a couple of messages from our major sponsors. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks. Are you.

[00:02:56.000] – Oli Gardner

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[00:03:25.520] – Jonathan Denwood

We’re coming back, folks. I also wanted to point out that we’ve got a great couple of special offers from the major sponsors, plus a created list of the best WordPress plug-ins and services that will save you a ton of time as a WordPress professional. You can find all these goodies by going over to wp-tonic. Com/deals, wp-tonic. Com/deals, and you find all the goodies there. What more could you ask for? Probably a lot, but that’s all you’re going to get from that bloody page. There we go. On we go on this winding journey with Ollie. Ollie, what does Outline solve? What problems do you see you thought we needed a new SaaS product? You had 12 years with the other company, probably pulling the arrows out of your back. You decided you’re going to re-enter the SaaS field. What does Outline solve? What are some of the key things that it provides to its target audience, Holly?

[00:04:35.230] – Oli Gardner

Yeah, it helps with things like, I mentioned people tend to jump straight into a slide deck that creates a presenter’s block. It’s like writer’s block. Staring at blank slides doesn’t help anyone, and at least other problems like people just use generic templates and then they’re painting by numbers, writing by numbers. That’s where you get failed generic presentations and you get meandering storylines because people don’t… When you put yourself in that position, you can’t craft a proper story because you’re panicking. I got to put something on this blank slide instead of thinking it through. Outline is basically the best way to start any presentation. You create your story, it helps you unpack your idea, and it’s designed specifically for that purpose. I mean, the best outlines people probably made prior to this product are a list of bullet points in a Google Doc. That’s a good start. You’re at least thinking your story through before you get onto your slides. But that’s all it does. It doesn’t do anything to help you and it’s not semantically related to the topic of speaking. That’s just a bullet point list. Outline helps guide you through how to do that before you work on your slides.

[00:05:50.420] – Oli Gardner

It has things like section goals where a presentation will have sections and you can define goals. What do you want the audience to feel, know, and do in this section? Once you define that goal, it’s a lot easier then to think, Oh, I need a slide for this, a slide for that, a slide for this. It helps you craft the story. You can define what key takeaways are in the slide so that when you get to your slide design phase, you know you’re focusing on the important point that you need to communicate strongly to the audience. That just guides your slide design process, it guides your performance, all that stuff. Once you’re done with Outline, you can export placeholder slides off to your slide platform so that you’re starting from a position of, Okay, I’ve got my story ready. It’s good. I’ve done a practice while there’s an outline and it feels good. I can communicate it. Awesome. That’s the time to move on to working on your slide deck. No, at the beginning.

[00:06:44.700] – Jonathan Denwood

God bless you, Oli. You’re doing the great fine. You’re trying to destroy boring PowerPoint presentations. If I have to see another PowerPoint boring, corporate presentation, I’m going to take a knife and cut my throat. So God bless you, Oli. You’re doing God’s work, Oli.

[00:07:05.290] – Oli Gardner

Yeah, everybody suffered through it. So yeah, something needs to change.

[00:07:12.590] – Jonathan Denwood

You need to change. You need to Yeah. Over to you, Kurt.

[00:07:17.160] – Kurt von Ahnen

I feel like I’m going to hijack things right now because I’m so intrigued at some of the stuff Oli’s doing here. I think about the book Story brand and I think about how important story is and relatable is to the audience. Then I see speakers in real life because I, too, am a speaker. I’ll come on before or after.

[00:07:36.510] – Oli Gardner

A speaker.

[00:07:37.520] – Kurt von Ahnen

And I watch everything for mistakes. I record myself so I can learn from my own mistakes. I think we fail forward. But to your point, having a way to pre-structure or to understand, you need more than bullet points in your PowerPoint. You need some form of relatable. You need some content to surround the learning content. But at the same time, you can’t overpopulate each slide and kill people with content either. I love the idea that you have a tool that seems like it handles a lot of that. Am I interpreting too much?

[00:08:14.000] – Oli Gardner

Is this… Because I need to help you easily go through the process of doing that work. Over time, there’ll be things that I release into it that will provide more and more guidance and assistance on how to do things like that, for instance. Because the introduction is the most important part of any presentation. I’ll be building features that help you craft a great introduction just because that’s the first thing you get to. If you can feel empowered or inspired by a product that’s helping you do that first part better, then I think that’s where it becomes something really beneficial that people will find a lot of value in. Because people don’t really know what they should do. I don’t just want to make. It will help you make better presentations, but it will also help you become a better presenter through the process.

[00:09:11.040] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, like jumping up in front of an audience and just leaping into quantum physics, you’ll just leave everybody sitting there. But if you start out with a story about throwing newspapers in seventh grade and then how it relates to quantum physics, it’s like people have binding, they follow along. That’s awesome. Jonathan, I’m going to pass it back to because I could just go this way for a long time. I’m sorry.

[00:09:33.420] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, Ed, he’s throwing the good question, he’s throwing me into confusion, but there we go. It doesn’t teach much. It doesn’t teach much, Holly, but you knew that anyway. What do you think are some of the key things you’ve learned from Unbounce that you’ve utilized some of the key lessons, those 11, 12 years that you’ve utilized in the launch of Outline?

[00:09:58.650] – Oli Gardner

Well, the first major realization I’m having is that having six co-founders is a lot easier than building a SaaS company by yourself, which is incredibly difficult. Unboss was great that way. We started, six friends just jumped into this. It was our first time thinking about entrepreneurship, really. Well, the last time, it’s not true, but doing a startup. That balance, that communication, friendship, camaraderie was a major support system. I miss it a lot, I got to say, because now I’ve always worn a lot of hats. I’m very multidisciplinary. I don’t know what I have. You know what I mean? But now it’s just insane. But now I have to work so hard on trying to prioritize who I’m going to be at any given day because my major skills are as a marketer, that’s what I did at Unbans and as a speaker and such, but as a writer, so I’m a creator on that side of things. I’ve always been a product guy, and now I get to do that fine. Let me know I have a background in UX and conversion optimization. That all lends itself well to product design. But it’s tricky. But obviously, where the idea came from was, as I was as I was…

[00:11:30.250] – Oli Gardner

In the latter years of Unbounce, I’ve been speaking for seven years or something, I was going to launch a company called Be the Keynote, which is about helping train people to become better speakers. But as I was working through the beginnings of that, I was working on the first course and I made a little tool, a little prototype in Google Sheets. It would help you create an outline. I was like, This is really good. I should ditch everything and turn this into a software company because really that’s what I want to do anyway. I don’t just want to do content because although I enjoy it and I’m good at it, it’s exhausting and it’s really, really… I don’t know why. Unless you’re a really strong organized professional, a lot of content is very difficult. I’m not good at it at all. But yeah, that’s why I decided to do Outline because the tool I stumbled into before this, people can definitely benefit from this. I know and that was the genesis. But I think another core thing I learned at Unbounce was the importance.

[00:12:37.480] – Jonathan Denwood


[00:12:38.830] – Oli Gardner

Exceptional content and the long game, which also, again, that pours the stress on them because I’m like, I know it’s a long-term thing if you want to do it right. But I need customers now. I’ve only been a zero-income family for over a year and it’s terrifying. But having done it right before, I at least have that barometer to be like, I know that’s the way I should do it. Try not to panic. But yeah, it’s tricky. Definitely, you’re by yourself.

[00:13:13.460] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I think you do. You’ve got a tremendous amount of experience. But even with that, trying to find true market fit and really resonate, even if you know a lot about your target audience because you’ve done it, been there, and you’re seen as an industry expert. But I’m putting words in your mouth, I’m just sensing what you’ve outlined, that finding market fit, even though you got all these benefits, is still really tricky. Would I be correcting that assumption?

[00:13:49.580] – Oli Gardner

It is. When I first started building the tool, it was called Pressflow. It’s been Pressflow for the last year and a half. I launched that about six months ago and I did it wrong. I did the classic… Because I’m an introvert, so I struggle with the outreach portion or talking to lots of people about the idea, the classic startup stuff you should do. I was building and building and building and building and built quite a large platform which had amazing features and it did amazing things. But the mental leap for how I built it, basically I was reverse engineering my brain and how I make presentations and I made this really complex but cool product. But it was so overwhelming at the entry point of how you would get started in this that people didn’t get to the really good stuff.

[00:14:41.780] – Jonathan Denwood

You had all these braids in front of you.

[00:14:44.840] – Oli Gardner

I was like, That’s terrifying. Then the major pivot is that didn’t work. People got excited about it when they heard about it, but when they tried to use it, they didn’t. I stepped back and I thought, Okay, Pressflow, this is too big. Then I decided I’ll break it down to smaller things. I’ll make little tools. I love building things. I’ll just break it apart into little things. Pressflow was going to become like an umbrella brand and Outline was the first of those tools. Then I struggled for about three months with the branding aspect because having to say, Outlined by Presflow, instead of this awkward umbrella brand, which is if I had more of the tools underway, the other tools, I had ideas, then it might make sense. But as soon as I released Outline and did it quite early this time, the response was so much better than the first. People got it. I had people saying, You’ve designed something that is how I feel, how I think. That was amazing validation early. That was like, Okay, let’s ditch the multi-tool thing, ditch the umbrella brand. Let’s just make it out of line. But then it’s a very generic term.

[00:16:05.800] – Oli Gardner

My marketing is going to be very difficult to try and be up there and search results for a term related to that is going to be tough. There’s a lot of a lot of incumbents. There’s no competition other than for the term. That’ll be a unique challenge. Also, we’re just getting a domain. I have useoutline. Com. I did the fill in those forms to get quotes for domain costs. Outline. Com was 150 grand US.

[00:16:42.440] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, at least.

[00:16:43.710] – Oli Gardner

I would imagine. Outline. Net was 500 grand. I’m like, What? I’m putting in $126,000 a month right now. I’m in the market. So yeah, use outline. Com is what I managed to get. I think it reads well. You should use outline.

[00:17:03.250] – Jonathan Denwood

I thought you could.

[00:17:05.540] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, I want to use a keyword from your last answer, and that was panic. You mentioned panic. Our next question deals with AI and how we’ve seen a lot of people in the graphics or in the content areas of web development hit that panic mode. We’re starting to think, is AI coming from my job? As someone that works online, what are some tools or what is some advice that you can give to some of those groups of individuals to surf this landscape that’s coming our way?

[00:17:42.050] – Oli Gardner

Yeah, it must be terrifying. But I think some of it’s changing from the initial fear to a bit more of the reality. I think there are two ways you can approach it. You can embrace it or you can take a stance against it. To take a stance against it is very difficult. You have to beto be a real exceptional creator that lives in the storytelling world and wants to stick with the human side of things. I have friends who do this and they do exceptionally well. But you have to be at that level to be able to say, No, let’s defend ourselves against this. Or you can embrace it. I prefer that. But embracing it doesn’t mean giving in. It doesn’t mean becoming generic or any of the negative connotations that with this current fear. Yes, there are impacts where people are… Jobs are changing because of this. It’s become a bit of a cliché now, but I think it’s true that the people who adapt and learn to use it will have a higher chance of owning those jobs versus someone who doesn’t. But I don’t think that if we approach it the right way, it’s not going to replace us.

[00:19:03.750] – Oli Gardner

It’s going to make us better. For me, I then use it for the thing you need most, not for come think of it as a scary thing that’s going to replace you. Use it to your benefit. For me, it’s a business partner. Chatgpt is my co-founder right now. It’s massively beneficial for me. I have a certain bandwidth. I’m just one person. By using tools like this in the right way, I can get things done that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get done. But let’s think, for me, something I’ve always done in my content, marketing and speaking, is to reverse engineer things, whether it’s audience experiences for talk or a landing page, anatomy, conversion equations, whatever it is. It can help with things like that. It’s exceptional. It can help you quickly gather the base elements of what you’re trying to accomplish. I often find that the terminology that I’ll get out of a session talking with ChatGPT is hugely helpful in creating semantic definitions of things I’m working on. I guess I have three main piece of advice. Use it to kickstart your work, ask between things related to what you’re working on, then look at the best ones and dig deeper into those.

[00:20:26.820] – Oli Gardner

But for me, I use it to create frameworks and things. I’m working on a content series called Introspectives, which is where I take classic story arts and adapt them for presentation outlines and then do a deep dive on the introduction, the intro, and how it’s structured. I started asking ChatGPT for, Hey, give me a detailed list of story frameworks. 80% of them I’d never heard of. That was super inspirational for me because like, Oh, wow, all these things. Then I can go and read them. Research those. I wouldn’t have found that otherwise. I choose one, I dig deeper into it. Then after a while, I’ve got a very detailed and specific structural framework in a spreadsheet. I’m trying to think. In this series, I want to include examples of slides that would go into an outline, but I want the content to apply broadly to many people. I ask for 10 presentation topics that are broadly applicable to a lot of speakers. Then I’ll take a screenshot of my Google Sheet, this complete outline, and then I’ll say, Hey, because you can do images now based on the outline in this image and the topic, I want to that I just chose, can you create example titles for every slide in the outline?

[00:21:49.280] – Oli Gardner

It comes back with a very well-woven thread of example content to illustrate how the outline works. I’m not using it to… I’m not using the content. I’m not speaking the content. I’m using it to help me structure things and gather how I’m thinking to create something meaningful. It’s an accelerant for me versus I don’t do the part where I’m like, write me this and I’m going to verbatim take that thing. Now I’m doing complex stuff with it that is hard to think your way through and it can help you do that really quickly.

[00:22:32.600] – Kurt von Ahnen

I really like the answer. I like the beginning part of the answer. As soon as you were talking about purists versus people that would use AI, for some reason, I immediately thought, vegan versus people that like a steak. It’s like, are you disciplined enough to never eat meat again? Well, maybe vegan is for you. There was that. But I also thought about, as a writer, I think in the blogging world, I got lazy over time. I started thinking in terms of shorter blog posts, one subject at a time, just bam, bam, bam. Then all of a sudden I was hit with the challenge of doing longer form blog content like guest posts for other software companies and stuff. To your point, I found myself going, Okay, well, this is how I would write the article and I make the outline.

[00:23:22.100] – Oli Gardner


[00:23:23.060] – Kurt von Ahnen

Then I realized I’m probably missing the perspective of 30 % of the people that might read this. I went to AI and I said, What are some other bullet points? Use this content and then craft me some other bullet points I may have missed. Ai was like, Oh, you missed 50 things. Oh, crud. Then I could pick the top 10 things or the top five things, bullet point those out, and then expand on them. To your point, it’s like, Yeah, I didn’t just give over the craft of writing. I didn’t give over the craft of thought. I used it as a stepping stone to get in a better direction.

[00:24:02.390] – Oli Gardner

Yeah, because you can’t always… I mean, maybe if you have the time and you have a good research process, you will come across all these things through your efforts. But a lot of the time you won’t and it will take an awful long time. Using these tools to help you become better, to be able to create something that is more meaningful, more structured, has more depth to it, it can do that because it’ll surface things that you wouldn’t have considered in the moment. I think another way, if you want to use AI to help you create content, but you really want it to be your voice and you have it interview you. The mobile app now, ChatGPT, you can have a conversation with it, spoken conversation. What I like to do with that is tell it your expertise and ask it to interview you on a topic, starting broadly and then diving into specifics based on how I respond. Tell it to ask you really deep and challenging questions. This is a wonderful way to enter into a pseudo interview state where unexpected questions help bring ideas and memories and perspectives that may have been maybe long forgotten, buried, or never realized.

[00:25:16.400] – Oli Gardner

After you’ve done that, that content that you’re going to have in that chat, that’s you. Because you’re saying it. You’re using the AI to help create the environment where this is possible, this creation process. It’s not its words, it’s your words, guided by an expert interviewer because that’s what you can make it be. Afterwards you got this is you content because you said those things. That’s AI-stimulated, not AI-generated. Perfect. It’s a big difference.

[00:25:46.250] – Kurt von Ahnen

Thank you for that. Jonathan, over to you.

[00:25:49.140] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, my comment about it. I think there’s two areas, really, all these. I think you got some great insights, but I see this technology a bit like if you were a scribe in the old days, you had a team of scribes writing a book and then you had the typewriter coming up. The idea that you’re just going to keep describing the books, not using the typewriter or printing press, you’re deluding yourself a bit, aren’t you? The other thing, I think, I’m no expert in this area, but I have some interest as an amateur, I think there’s a lot of confusion about a really sophisticated language model and how it mimics the end result to general artificial intelligence. That’s a totally different animal in a totally different beast that we might have to face in the coming years, but who knows? I think all that’s got mixed up as it does with the internet, doesn’t it? Although you’ll get mixed up, doesn’t it?

[00:27:04.300] – Oli Gardner

I think really it’s just about playing with it. If you go rail against it and it’s just going to pass you by, you need to get in and have fun with it. One of the things, especially when it first came out, ChatGPT-3 and everything, it was so much fun. Just being playful with it. I’d type in, me and my two best friends, Liam and Matt, tell me a story about me and my two best friends, Liam and Matt and how we get in trouble and blah, blah, blah. It’s very fun. We write this hilarious story where strangely, one of us would always get arrested and one was always the winner. I don’t know. But it was just funny and playful. Then at Christmas, I created a book for my son Hendrix based on one of his favorite book series. I used Midjourney for the imagery and I used me and ChatGPT working on content. I created this hardback book for him as a gift. I’ve had the idea for a long time and I could have done it myself, but I wouldn’t have because it would have taken me forever. This still was a lot of work.

[00:28:12.350] – Oli Gardner

It was really hard work and I created something magical.

[00:28:15.350] – Jonathan Denwood


[00:28:16.310] – Oli Gardner

It facilitated me being able to do that versus not being able to do it. There’s wonderful things you can do. Just got to embrace it and treat it in the right way.

[00:28:27.530] – Jonathan Denwood

I think that’s fantastic advice. We’re going to go for a mid-breakfights with a couple more messages from our sponsors. We’ll be back in a few moments with this fantastic interview.

[00:28:36.610] – Oli Gardner

This podcast episode is brought to you by Lifter LMS, the leading learning management system solution for WordPress. If you or your client are creating any online course, training-based, membership website, or any type of eLearning project, Lifter LMS is the most secure, stable, well-supported solution on the market. Go to LifterLMS. Com and save 20 % at checkout with coupon code, podcast 20. That’s podcast two zero. Enjoy the rest of your show.

[00:29:15.030] – Jonathan Denwood

We’re coming back, folks. Just want to point out we got a fantastic partner offering for WordPress for Professionals. If you’re looking to host one of your clients’ websites, your building a membership learning management system or buddy boss website, we’re the people to partner with. You can find all the information on these great partner offerings by going over to wp-tonic. Com/partners. Wp-tonic. Com/partners and have a look at what we got to offer you will be taken up. Your breath will be taken away of you, or something like that. Off we go on this journey. You’ve had this repositioning, you got into the minefield of feature creep, you narrowed it back into the core functionality from the feedback you got from your passionate user base.

[00:30:24.640] – Oli Gardner


[00:30:27.160] – Jonathan Denwood

The plan of action in the next 12, 8, 10 months to move outline to where you would like it to be? How you’re formulating how you’ve taken this, I would call a micro pivot, and where you’re pivoted and refocused on its core functionality. How do you see your ability? You must have been thinking about this quite a lot, and I think the listeners and viewers are going to be interested in this. How are you going to move things on in the next, let’s say, 12 months?

[00:31:05.220] – Oli Gardner

Yeah. The biggest challenge will be growth, mainly. Obviously, that’s everyone’s challenge. But when it’s just… Because it’s just me. China, I’m a believer in product-led growth and using the product to inspire people talking about it. I got to split my time to marketing and product, but it’s very difficult because the marketing side is slow if you don’t have a budget for ads or something, just doing it organically. It’s easy to be demoralized when you put out some content or do something and then there’s no signups and you’re like, Oh, and you get depressed. Quick kids. My biggest challenge is going to be the discipline of splitting my time. But I’m getting to the point I need some co-founders or business partners to help move this forward. That’s going to be one of my main goals over the next while, which is a tricky one for me. Like I said, I’m an interesting… I’m a terver. The idea of going out and finding someone to partner with me on this, that’s terrifying. But it’s something I’ll need to do. I was waiting because after the pressflow didn’t hit, I was like, I need some decent signal before I could even consider bringing someone else into this.

[00:32:38.760] – Oli Gardner

But the response for Outline has been that. Now I have the confidence that I’m like, Okay, let’s just make this a thing. That will be what I’m looking for. But again, it’s tricky. What do these co-founders need to do?

[00:32:54.080] – Jonathan Denwood

Exactly. Can you give her online what you’re looking for? If you’re online, why not one to do that?

[00:32:59.800] – Oli Gardner

I’ve started that. I’ve got maybe five different docs starting that. I’ve defined that a little bit. I want someone on the business side with a sales background as well because I don’t like sales and I don’t want to do the business side of things either, really. To be honest, that’s something I didn’t want to know about it at M-Ban, at the time. I was off as an individual contributor, speaking, traveling, that thing. I missed a lot of the core moments of how the business was functioning. I didn’t have that experience built into me because I wasn’t there. Obviously, I feel like I can lean on to get advice about that thing. I want someone with a bit more of a business intel than I have to work with. I’ll lead someone technical, too. Yeah, because I am technical. I was a developer way in my past, but 27 years ago.

[00:34:02.290] – Jonathan Denwood

You’re still look here, your man, compared to now.

[00:34:06.110] – Oli Gardner

I will need someone technical, when shit is the fan, because I can deal with a lot of problems, but there are certain levels of technical stuff that if it goes wrong, that would be really hard for me in the moment to solve potentially.

[00:34:24.410] – Jonathan Denwood

You’ve built the previous product using freelancers outour-sourced, get to know Bill, is that correct?

[00:34:33.180] – Oli Gardner

For Pressflow and Outline? Yeah. No, 100% me. I use bubble. Io, no-code platform. It changed my life. I wasWhen I was beginning Pressflow, I sat down with two co-founders, Mumbounds, Carl and Carter, they’re on the technical side. I said, Okay, so I’m going to build this product. I’m going to be using some of the development on Fiverr. I’ve got virtually no budget. I just want to talk about tech stacks because I don’t want to go down a pathway developer that is going to be wrong. Even if they’re not doing much right now, I want to start in the right direction. We start talking about it. Then actually, Carl said, Yeah, how much is your budget? I’m like, It’s virtually nothing. He’s like, I don’t know how you’re going to do that. Have you thought about no code or low code? I said, I don’t know what they are. I researched it, found bubble, and literally changed my life. I would not have been able to take this path without it. But with my technical skills and this no-code platform, which is epically powerful, there’s never been a single thing I’ve needed to do that I couldn’t do, which is just pretty amazing.

[00:35:47.710] – Oli Gardner

It was the most empowering feeling I’ve ever had from a tool. Hopefully, I didn’t create a tool, but hopefully, Outline makes someone feel like that and feel like that in the future. But yeah, it’s pretty special.

[00:35:59.690] – Jonathan Denwood

We’re on time. Curacy, over to you, Kurt.

[00:36:02.050] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, the next question, Ali, is what are some business tools and services to run your business daily that you would recommend? Obviously, bubble. Io comes to the top of the funnel for you. But what are some other tools that you just find, Man, I need this to stay focused or I need this to be productive? What keeps you going that you could recommend to others?

[00:36:27.980] – Oli Gardner

Yes, I’d jump the shark there. Bubble definitely is my top recommendation for anyone who wants to be a creator of something, tools, things like that. It really is fantastic. Actually, I reconnected with an old colleague from 10 years ago because he was in a similar place with a new startup and been spoken years. We had a call. I showed him what was doing in bubble. We had a call six weeks later. He’d rebuilt his entire platform by himself because he had to get… His old developer wasn’t a good seed. He rebuilt the entire platform. I’m going on this journey with him, which is amazing to see. That’s definitely my top thing there. But other than that, I mean, on this same journey, there’s a platform I use called Outsetter, which is fantastic. It’s basically an all-in-one SaaS platform for creating, we’re doing this thing for… There’s the billing, email marketing, CRM, help desk. It has the whole thing wrapped up. From a SaaS perspective, that’s its purpose. A fraction of the cost of the five or 10 other tools that you typically put together. I was using two email platforms before and this and that and that and that and had this very expensive thing bound together.

[00:37:52.660] – Oli Gardner

Maybe I’d be spending $500 a month on software, the previous incarnation. I would said, I’m paying like 60 bucks a month.

[00:38:01.550] – Jonathan Denwood

This is the conversation I regularly have with it. I used to come back to the light of WordPress because we offer it in the WordPress area, but they save a ton of money with WP to on it. I regularly have that conversation on it. That’s why I’m smiling.

[00:38:25.440] – Oli Gardner

Yeah. That again, has been empowering for me. They’re the two main tools that are helping me achieve something I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, including also ChatGPT because there are some coding aspects I have to build in the perimeter, and I could spend five hours on Stack Overflow, Figary, and out because I’ve got that. My coding skills now are pretty shabby, but I could muddle my way through. But with ChatGPT, I can get something that’s much better code and a lot faster. Again, that’s just something I use for that. That’s not replacing a developer. I wouldn’t have a developer, I’ve got 40. That’s just me getting shit done. But yeah, I’m trying to do what other tools I use. I’m not a very organized person. Basically, I send myself emails 50 times a day. That’s my organizational structure. I just send myself emails, but no.

[00:39:34.480] – Kurt von Ahnen

Don’t forget them.

[00:39:35.540] – Oli Gardner

Just forget that here. The edge of the cliff.

[00:39:39.640] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s my morning walk. I do a lot of walking, Olly. My morning two-and-a-half mile walk is where I work out my day. That’s fantastic. You’ve given us some good products there. Thank you so much.

[00:40:01.740] – Oli Gardner

That’s key. You’re dead right. When I was first thinking it’d be the keynote, which had started as an idea of 365speakingtips. Com was the first time this I had. What I do, Hendrix was six months old, so I’d take him out in the stroller and I’d walk around the streets. I’m in Victoria now, but I was in Vancouver then. I’d just walk around the streets recording on my phone. I’d just narrate all of these speaking tips as we went for walks for hours every day. It’s a great way to take advantage of the time. But also when you’re walking, your thinking is easier. You just ideas flow better.

[00:40:38.580] – Jonathan Denwood

I listen to my podcast and do more exercise, walk and think a bit. I can switch off a little bit. I’ve got one thing because you said a couple of times that you see yourself as a bit of an introvert, which I don’t really see because obviously you’re noted for your very quality public speaking. I’ve watched some of your gigs that you’ve done recently and you always put a lot of effort and you’re very entertaining. I don’t see you as a true introvert because people sometimes are surprised that I’m a mixture. Because I’ve been doing podcasting, but there’s also a very introverted part of me as well. You said you started your career in the development. How did you more so that with the… And become a public speaker in that? How did that happen? Was it a mistake or was it was something?

[00:41:46.670] – Oli Gardner

That’s funny. Yes, you could probably say I’m an amnever, which is a place in the middle. If I’m on a stage in front of 5,000, 6,000 people, absolute best time in my life. 10 people, absolutely terrifying. That’s the difference. If we went in a room giving a talk, scary. Giant stage, easy. Because you got that distance, that barrier, everyone disappears into the blur. But yeah, it was a lot of accidental mistakes at the beginning. I wanted to be a sound engineer. I was end of high school. I wanted to be a sound engineer. I went to the careers guidance teacher, a counselor, and said, I want to do this. She said, Flat out, you can’t.

[00:42:31.280] – Jonathan Denwood

Wait, everybody else, I’ll get the same story. They always say you can’t do that.

[00:42:38.850] – Oli Gardner

I was living in Scotland. You could do it 30 miles from where I was. You can do it in Nottingham. You can also do it in London. She recommended I go to Mayphire University in Edinburgh. I went there to talk with this guy. The degree I did was electronic and communications engineering, like electronics and telecoms, stuff like technicals. I had a walk around with the guy there and I said, Could I use this to become a satin engineer? Again, I was let down. He went, Maybe. I’m like, All right, slam me up. I was not very good at deciding. But anyway, that took me down a technical path, which I then morphed into near the end of it into learning a code, which then turned into my first job as a developer. But then I quickly went from backend development to frontend as the internet was happening. I’m more and more at the creative side. Then I just kept going in that direction through UX, usability, that stuff, interaction design, and then eventually as a creative director and stuff like that. I transitioned more to where I should have been, but it took quite a while.

[00:43:54.320] – Oli Gardner

But I’m glad that I have that technical foundation because it’s worked out well for me now. But yeah, definitely, it didn’t start in the most appropriate direction.

[00:44:13.040] – Jonathan Denwood

Going back over to you, Kurt.

[00:44:15.240] – Kurt von Ahnen

Oh, my goodness. He’s going to give me this question again. He must really like me now. You’ve been to the UK, right? I’m sure you know who Doctor Who is.

[00:44:23.990] – Oli Gardner


[00:44:24.770] – Kurt von Ahnen

All right, good. That’s one step in the right direction.

[00:44:29.850] – Kurt von Ahnen

Since you have a tech background and you could probably build your own TARDIS at this point, if you built a TARDIS and you could go back to the beginning of your career.

[00:44:40.730] – Jonathan Denwood


[00:44:41.420] – Kurt von Ahnen

The biggest chunk of advice you would give yourself at the beginning of this journey?

[00:44:50.690] – Oli Gardner

I’ll split into two. If I went back as far as the beginning of the startup career, so 2009, I think what I tell myself is to really cherish the first five years because the concept and utility of content marketing is going to hit its absolute peak in that period of time and there will never be another opportunity like that. Starting a company and using content marketing to expose yourself to the world, using that for marketing, it was amazing back then. Now it’s very different. It’s a lot harder because there’s a SaaS playbook. Everybody does the same thing, everybody… I mean, a lot of it’s garbage, but it’s harder than it ever was. Because back then, if you’re just incredibly exceptional with your content, you pretty much automatically stood out. Now it’s a lot harder. That’s why I’d say I just say just cherish that, embrace it and make the most of it because it’s going to change. But if I went all the way back to the start, I think, honestly, I probably just shut my mouth because the series of events that actually happened led to me coming from the UK to Canada, which led me to meeting the friends I started to bounce with, which taught me how to be a market and a writer, which led me to become a speaker, which is how I met my wife.

[00:46:11.630] – Oli Gardner

I just probably try not to interfere. I mean, this whole being a developer, it’s not for you. Play with it for a couple of years and then move on, which likely is what happened. But otherwise, I would probably try not to interfere too much.

[00:46:33.230] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, that is probably some of the most contented advice I think we’ve had someone give themselves. I wouldn’t screw with the recipe.

[00:46:39.740] – Oli Gardner

I’d just let it keep going.

[00:46:41.930] – Jonathan Denwood

I’ve had a couple of people say that I’ve had one interviewee say, Yeah, not coming on this podcast. I’ve observed, I think they’ve been tempted to say that, Olly, you have to come back definitely maybe sometime next year. Definitely not six years. I think you’ve enjoyed it. I think it’s been a great discussion, great chat, as I say. I love talking to people like you and getting some knowledge from your own journey and sharing that with the audience. What’s the best way for people to find out more about you and more about Outline, Ollie?

[00:47:27.570] – Oli Gardner

Use outline. Com for Outline, for sure. It’s funny, that launch is tomorrow in a crazy rebrand, tactical overhaul service going down, nightmare by myself. When this comes out, that will be a week in the past. Tardis has moved forward. Usually, I would say, Olly Gairdner on Twitter, now X, but that place has become toxic.

[00:47:53.190] – Jonathan Denwood

I just used it for… It’s all very bizarre, isn’t it? It is.

[00:48:02.270] – Oli Gardner

It’s hard to let go because I built a decent following over the years. I’ve jumped on threads and stuff to have a look, but I wish Twitter was what it was. Yeah, Olly Gairdner on Twitter X, then yeah, that’s the best place for instant access or on LinkedIn. I’m super active on LinkedIn now actually. That’s become my de facto platform because I used to dislike LinkedIn intensely.

[00:48:28.440] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, it’s a strange in its own way.

[00:48:31.300] – Oli Gardner

It’s pretty amazing right now. It works well for talking about something like public speaking because there’s so many professionals who want to better themselves on there. I am, Ali Gairdner on there.

[00:48:43.480] – Jonathan Denwood

Kurt, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and what you’re up to?

[00:48:48.820] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, I’m with Ali. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on LinkedIn almost every day, and I’m the only Kurt Van on in there, so you won’t get me confused with other folks. You can also find me on MananaNoMas, and of course, follow the podcast. That’d be awesome.

[00:49:01.840] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s fantastic. If you really want to support the show, go over to the WP Tonnet YouTube channel and subscribe. That really helps the show. Also, join our Facebook group, the WP Tonnet, the membership machine show Facebook group, which is a mixture of WordPress professionals and those building a great business online with free membership. We will be back next week with another fabulous guest and another great interview. We’ll see you soon, folks. Bye.

[00:49:30.830] – Oli Gardner

Hey, thanks for listening. We really do appreciate it. Why not visit the Mastermind Facebook group? Also, to keep up with the latest news, click wp-tonic.  com/newsletter. We’ll see you next time.

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