For this weeks episode we interview Chris Pattison. Chris is originally from the UK but currently living in Lieden in the Netherlands, and he is co-founder of Squeaky.ai, a future-proof analytics suite that lets companies capture up to 60% more data than legacy tools by putting customer privacy first.
During our chat, Chris and I cover a wide variety of topics, including privacy, when to incorporate your startup, Chris’s journey from architecture to software product design, and his mission to make the web better.
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Matt: Hello, and welcome to Working on Something New the podcast for and about makers and founders. I'm your host, Matt Johnson and I'm myself a founder and product manager.
Thanks for joining us for another episode where we interview a maker about their journey, their project, and their vision for the future.
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For this week's episode, we interview Chris Pattison. Chris is originally from the UK, but currently lives in Leiden in the Netherlands, and he is co-founder of Squeaky, a future proof analytics suite that lets companies capture up to 60% more data than legacy tools by putting customer privacy first.
During our chat, Chris and I cover a wide variety of topics, including privacy. when to incorporate your startup, Chris's journey from architecture to software product design, and his mission to make the web better. We're glad you're tuning in. Let's kick off the episode
Thanks Chris for being on. It would be great to hear a little bit more about what you're working on. Could you just give us a bit of background on Squeaky and what the project's all about?
Chris: Yeah, sure. So well Squeaky is it's really, very much like a classic analytics tool, like Hotjar or Google analytics, but we're really zeroing in on the problem of making sure that it's very privacy focused. So there's lots of emerging legislation, but also changing consumer behavior that means that all of these legacy tools are becoming somewhat irrelevant and aren't capturing good data or they're not compliant.
So we're trying to help sort of solve that problems for people.
Matt: So what, what sort of legislation is coming? Like what should people be aware of? They're using maybe some of legacy tools.
Chris: Yeah, well, of course some things are already here, like a GDPR and CCPA and these sorts of legends. And to begin with the enforcement's been a bit light and they certainly have been focusing much more on the, you know, the sort of big tech companies and using those as sort of an opportunity to highlight the fact that these laws were being enforced.
So the, yeah, the laws do apply to, you know, any business that's capturing and processing personal data. It's really about the types of data you're capturing, how you're storing it, how you're processing it. And yeah, just making sure that all that fits within the legislation in different jurisdictions.
So GDPR applies to the EU, but it's, they very much see it themselves something where it affects everyone. They know it does because any business that operates internationally is going to be touching European users. So therefore everyone has to deal with the same legislation, even if they don't want to.
Matt: Yeah. And so, how does your privacy focus differ from something like FullStory or one of these other analytic tools?
But by default, you're just getting this data in this anonymous that you can still do meaningful things would say, you can say, for example, how many users are accessing on certain types of device or from different regions, or you can even watch back session recordings where all the personal identifiable information is anonymized, but you still get the value of seeing how they process this journey and where they dropped off and these sorts of things.
So I think the, the sort of logic behind that is that. People think that you need to understand, you know, every visitor to your site, like, you know, who their, who their spouse is or what their date of birth is. And actually most of the insights that you gleaned from analytics tools, you don't need that granularity of data.
So how can we surface meaningful insights without actually compromising on privacy? There's people that are doing similar things with their cookie products. So there's other, there's other tools that aren't using cookies and also trying to avoid IP tracking and have various approaches to that.
But then most of these sort of starter tools. They're entering the space. They're very basic dashboards that are great dashboards that are involved in, in that sense. But there's very few that are actually trying to create a broad analytics suite that also tackles the privacy problem, because I think everyone's a bit nervous.
Like how, how can you reconcile this idea of user privacy with something like session recording or heat maps and these sorts of things.
Matt: Yeah. I think a lot of users, especially someone maybe not working in tech would be very surprised at how much you can know about a person using some of these analytic tools or even just basic like chat tools, like Intercom shows you, you know, city and where people are located and things like that and it, it can be a bit creepy.
Chris: Yeah. Super invasive and.
Well, so say even most of them electric tools actually, in a way, because there's a explicitly about capturing this data. They're not even doing anything, particularly underhanded with it. They they're using it in ways that consent is sought 90% of the time, whatever it is, that's fine.
But. It's the, where that gets much more creative is these sort of large ad networks that tracking you across the web. And they they're avoiding the use of things like cookies, but they're doing an incredible job of fingerprinting users based on various attributes. Like, you know some hybrid of like the browser language and the sort of sites they're visiting these sorts of things.
So they can actually figure out with incredibly high accuracy who someone is. But just small there's anonymous data points aggregated together. We don't do that, but I think there's the creepiest stuff goes on the ad space. And then there's some middle ground which is like legacy analytics software, which most companies are using.
And then there's sort of this, new wave of tools coming in, like Squeaky, like, to name some of the other more well known ones say like Fathom or Plausible and these sorts of tools that are trying to take it a step further, like towards defaulting to privacy.
Matt: And so what stage would you say you're at? So for full disclosure I was, I think one of the first five squeaky users we were at Taskable and, and so we sort of saw it from the beginning. First of all, I was really impressed at how quickly you and Lewis iterated and, and took feedback on and, and went from a product that was very, very rough to one that was, we used, you know, pretty regularly and still do when we, when we needed to sort of jump in and see screen recording.
So I'm wondering just what stage would you say you're at and, and, you know, in terms of customers and growth and things like that.
Chris: Yeah, well, it's, I mean, it's super early for us though, right? Like you were one of the first 5 people alpha testing it. And also you participated in the beta testing you've just been with us throughout, but we kept it in a closed beta for like eight months because there are so many incumbents and there's no point suddenly announcing yourself into that space when, you know, there's, there's about 10 unicorns in this space that there's something completely dominate. And you know, we want to make sure that we're, we're actually at least competitive or differentiating with their user experience and not just in the privacy front. So, so we actually started five weeks ago that we sort of removed the beta, the beta moniker and the sort of public release of it. And yeah, I think we're, we've got about. Well, a hundred/150 companies now using it. And yeah, just starting to get first sort of first revenue. We were on freemium pricing model. So most people were using it for free and we decided to generate revenue now. Yeah , five weeks after public launch.
So think that's about what we anticipated, but. It's early days. And I think for me, it's a, it's a big transition. You know, my background is, is says designs on leadership roles and product leadership roles in tech companies. And I've never really worn the sales side of the marketing hats. And that's really what I'm focused on now is like learning how to, how to, you know, run a, run a sales demo and just figure out our marketing base.
So Yeah, I guess I looking back now to say we're in closed beta for a long period and it totally makes sense for, from that perspective, there are a lot of people, a lot of sort of incumbents that you're competing with. So you definitely want to have sort of an MVP that is solving a need, but what are some things that maybe looking back you would have changed about that period or, or even about like early revenue?
Like, you know, why, why go with the freemium model? Why have the closed beta and what'd you do, if you could do it all over again, would you do it the same?
Chris: Yeah, I think of this is a bit of like, you know, maybe if I was early twenties. Yeah. I dunno. Just a bit more like less, less responsibilities. That's probably, I would say, you know, I've got, I've got a family, a mortgage and you know, we sort of. It was important to me that we had enough real positive signals to, to commit to it.
So like you know, maybe sometimes you have these things that just takes off overnight, but we sort of suspected that wouldn't be the case of best because there are all these incumbents. And so we want to save time to get it right. And there's a lot of things that you don't know. So I don't know if I, I think it was someone, someone else, but it was one of the other alphabet users.
We didn't even think of us because we had Dave felting demo day anonymous. We didn't even have the concept of a visitor in the application. Right. It was just a bunch of recordings of the table, which, which is fine. But then, you know, taking the time to really people go. Yeah, sure. I like that. They're all anonymous, but I still want to see like an object as a visitor where you can accurate recording Tufts and analytics around it.
And so the minutes go by and do that based. And so just read it like slowly, like starting just with this premise that. We wanted a default to use the privacy first and then see if we can build a tool from there. It meant that we, yeah, we had to kind of come to some novel solutions in terms of how we present the old in the interface and the products that large.
But, so I think that that went really well. I'm glad that we pasted like that. I'd say and stuff that helped over time to make me feel confident. I can commit to that. Full-time but yeah, I think for sure. The eight months was too long. I mean, okay. We actually released really early, so I didn't really know we had, you know, you were using it after we'd been working on it for like three or four weeks.
And we had the beta part ourselves up to eight weeks. So we've got users in foster, regular, and we interviewed people all the time and we got lots of feedback, but then the things that I didn't anticipate for example, was. Incorporating the business and setting up the banking and stuff. And I've incorporated business before I've gone through that process, but I've always done that in like the country that meant, for example, where everyone on the team, for example, comprehend gold better than the us.
And in the case of high hackers actually did before. And then you you've done it. None of it's gonna be a bit painful, but. With squeaky. Additionally, it took a month to cooperate and then it took two months to get the banking stuff sorted out. And then that's like a month, like three months gone where we just sat and base it.
And we're going to start charging because we haven't gotten the banking stuff sorted out and there's nothing we could do about it. You're just sat in a queue and the banking system I'd call up every few days. I'm trying to launch of, as I said,
Chris: can you just, yeah. So, so yeah, I think I, I sort of regret not getting the ball rolling without sooner.
I think really three or four months, if we could have gone, right. This is obviously picking up some momentum now let's like, let's just get their corporation underway, start backing away, sort of wait until the turn of the year. And that did that. And we basically lost the whole Q1 20, 22, just, yeah. Slowly, slowly going through that stuff.
I just find that hard. Like when is it an official enough to actually start to do that sort of boring admin stuff? Like you don't want to jump the gun and like open up a bank account and then two weeks later realize actually this isn't really the project I want to work on, or it's not really making sense.
So, but then if you wait too long, then, then you're stuck in bureaucracy. So it's, it's, it's a tricky, tricky balance.
Chris: Yeah. Like I am fun enough. I was, I was in a conversation with someone about that. So online. Just yesterday. And they were talking about how they wanted a corporate in the U S and you know, there's some there, but they were overseas and asking what that experience is like. And I sort of chimed in because I've done that myself, but I was also really questioning the rationale.
Why you incorporate now, like, and then when they explain more that like, well, we're launching for free and we have not, we're not going to use this yet. And I was like, well, this place like, just like lobes, if you know, you're launching for free and everybody uses it, then don't even think about collaboration.
Like, yeah, the, the flip side to that would just be. The sooner you can start, you know, this better than I do. And I think you're a better practitioner of it, but the sooner you can start asking people for money that better. Cause there's not, there's no better validation than someone saying here's my hard-earned money going into your pocket.
Like yeah. So, so
Matt: the sun, the,
Stripe app up to get those notifications. Every time you get a payment, there's like that, that's the first thing I check every morning. It's just like, it just feels so good to see that that's that money flow. And then for sure.
Chris: well, I think the. That's all I I've, I've discussed this with some friends before as well. That actually, what would be a really great startup would be a startup who acts as your you'll if you don't get the money. Right. So they're basically what they are, is like test structure for you to prove your revenue.
So you you've come along and you'd say like, Yeah, we've got this pretty great idea. And also if I know what's actually going to be eight or I'm going to pay for it, and then you'd plug into this system for, as your payment provider and then people would pay into it. But actually like it's not really even your company, but that is the service, right.
Is they just keep your revenue and you can see the revenues coming in and you can prove it. You haven't had to worry about the legal sort of setting it all up. I'm not sure how the hell though. I proposed it to a few people because I run a small charity and I proposed it to some people that I knew a few years back where they were like, oh, I'm not sure if we should, if we should really incorporate.
And you know, when I'm ready to take that risk and do all the overheads and legal and accounting stuff. And I said, Well, if you want, you could just send a payment, like ethical to sign up, but send the payments to maturity. And then that's sort of win-win for everyone. Like they can prove that people are willing to pay and then the charge you have to spend the money on bond the countries.
So, you know, it's like,
Matt: Yeah. I like that idea. Yeah. Like if you're, if you're you do all that go to all that work, the idea doesn't pan out and you're only getting $50 in a month or something then, and you've done all that, like set up a bank
Chris: Yeah. I mean, I've been there before. Yeah. I've been there before the project, so yeah, you've got you, you know, you know, you end up basically barely breaking even, but then you couple with magical studio and you just shut the business down and you're like, great. I'm sort of like, well, like even when she found earlier sort of.
So I guess, yes, focusing a little bit more on your journey. So can you talk a little bit about, you know, how you ended up here, you know, what's your sort of background in uh, you're, you're a designer and you mentioned that, but what's your sort of journey as a maker, founder whatever you want to call it.
Chris: Yeah. I think I took a, well, it's funny. I never meet anyone that says taking a straightforward route to sort of software design or founding a company as well. But Am, I guess at least it was always had a desire flare to it. So I studied architecture as an undergrad and and then off the back of that, I actually joined a, an environmental engineering firm, designing a gray mold systems and and well, let's do another.
I was looking around the office and those people that are just working like 78 hours a week and they'll look miserable and they're all commuting into central London and. I just, I just turned around after three months and I just said, yeah, like this is not the life for me. Like, I'm sure that, you know, I love the work that we're all doing, but like, I'm not going to kill myself, like, oh yeah.
Basically. So just sort of take a, take a pause on that and see I'd be doing. Design things, web design while I was studying before that turn living. And and so I went to the masters in fine arts and then just carried on doing the sort of freelance graphic and web design and stuff and, and a former client, actually, he He, well, he just sold his business who I'd been doing some work for.
And he said, I think you've said it where the agency will you come in and sort of take the lead of the design function of the agency. And I thought, well, you know, I'm still studying, but sure I can do that Baton around a little. So I actually help this guy co-founder this web agency. And and that was really the first time it was actually.
Bringing me in more regular income. And she did it for about 14 months. And in that time, I didn't even know Saks or software design could even pitch it as a career at the time. It was a conference architecture backgrounds and. This yeah, we picked up this outbound telesales projects lately as a platform, basically as a, as a client and specimen of a design software.
And I was like, I was telling you, so it's a good blade. I thought I was just working really closely with stakeholders in this company, iterating over it and things blowing up and destroying again. And I just thought like, yeah, this is sick. Like, you know, I think. This should be my job. So, so yeah, but I knew that we weren't going to think of Lowe's that's all black, the agency side.
I explained to the guys, I'm going to see if I can find something in the dedicated SAS role. So I went and joined a cat accountancy firms, UI design. And then it's, Mattrick, they're very successful. So I went to a database out of a job platform that attraction designer, and then a senior UX designer at help desk company in London then yeah, this is several years early hire first designer at health.
Company in the Netherlands and stay to them for several years. Credit design team there. And yeah, I left that last last year and then a few of those sort of products and like had a product role of FinTech company in Dallas of various things. But yeah, I just got into the whole software game and especially the B2B side and just love.
The complexity of all the problems you have to solve. And the fact that it's the scale of everything, right? Like I said, it's so poor when, you know, you release a new thing and millions of people could be benefiting from that. Like, you know, over the months ahead. And like, I could design the best building, you know, in some architecture firm, but there might only be like, you know, 10, 20,000 people that go through that building.
And in 50 years,
Matt: Oh, interesting. Yeah. I've never, I've never thought of it that way, but but yeah,
Chris: Unless you've done it like football stadiums. So that's why, that's why architects always want that. But as big band people picks them up the hospitals and they
Matt: Yeah. Airports.
Chris: yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Matt: Cool. And so this is the second. So you worked on hacker stash before, and that's when you got into pioneers. So is this your second startup really? That you've done or,
Chris: Yeah, I mean, I run this charity, I guess you could see that assault up. Cause I, you know, build that up a from scratch as well. But as you know, we just plant, you know, a few thousand trees a year. It's not like it, it's not a big part of my day to day. And before that, of course helping set up this web agency, but yeah, just a feeling of, I feel things I think Pakistan was the first time I really gave it a proper go in terms of like committing to cooperating.
It really like. Drive users to it grow like grow revenue a bit. And yeah. And squeaky is the, I guess the, the second, the second time I'm taking that same approach where I'm like, yeah, I think there's something there.
Matt: Yeah. Cool. So yeah, like, I guess we're running a little bit out of time here. So I guess a couple of last questions. One is, you know, what's your sort of big vision for squeaky? Like what does success look like to you? If you could transport yourself out 5, 10, 15 years? Like, what will, what will that look like?
Chris: Yeah, that's a good question. I think that when I try and describe to people, what motivates me more intrinsically. And there has been the case in Spanish. We just talked a bit about our background and that ties into that. But it's, I just want to make it, make the web a better place. Right. And how can, how can I do that in a way that scales and what I've been doing in companies for years now is coming in and the design or product function and helping to make their corner of the web a little bit better.
But if I can extend that logic to, how could I create a tool or a suite of tools that can help. Hundreds or thousands of companies to make back. One of the weather bit better says basically, how can I sort of project that and that vision for a better web across the web. And I think squeaky is the tool to do that.
And. There's a million different things I could make. Right? Like you know, whether it's making it easier for people to, to all the things that they want to order online or things that annoy me as someone who rejects every single cookie banner on the web, right. Using the internet sucks to me. Right.
Like I just proudly spent all day. Fighting off legitimate consent toggles and stuff. You know, I just want to browse the web and not be hassled and speak. You can have a part and reducing all that noise and nonsense. Yeah. Making everyone's time more enjoyable on the web then. Yeah. Then I think we've won.
Matt: Nice. Yeah, Someone who spends an insane amount of their life on the web. I, I I sharing your vision, so hope hopefully you're successful in that. Yeah, I guess what, where can we find squeaky? Where can we find you, you know, social media plugs and what I plugs and all that.
Chris: Yeah, sure. Well, squeaky, squeaky.ai. Well, Squeaky is S Q U E A K Y. And yeah, well I'm on Twitter @CodeFreeChris and yeah, that's probably the best place to find me and just a. Yeah, and I, no one can contact me anytime on email@example.com, by email, happy to chat. I do. In fact, if an open it was listened to, especially if you're a designer, a great designer or someone in that sort of space, all of a sudden spent a little time mentoring other designers and people like trying to progress in their careers and stuff.
So whether you want to use squeaky and try and see what that tool can do for your business, but likewise, if you're just an aspiring designer and you want to attend the next step in your career and looking for guidance, then by all means, reach out. Yeah, I love doing what I can to help.
And you actually we spent maybe an hour or two, maybe more than that on the on screen shares, just running the early versions of Taskable. And the feedback you gave us was just insanely helpful though. Some of the best two hours. How long was that we spent just thinking about design. So we really appreciate that.
And it's so. The decisions that we still make to this day are informed by those conversations. So anyone out there is, is a designer who's looking for a helper, you know, definitely hit Chris up cause it's super useful for us. So yeah, I will thank you very much for taking the time to chat and, and it's, it's great to hear a little bit more about the backstory.
We know each other fairly well through pioneer and then, and using the product, but it's, it's always good to dive in a bit deeper and yeah, I wish you the best of luck on squeaking. I'm always excited to see what you guys put out next. So keep up the good work.
Chris: Thanks, Matt. Yeah. Thanks for, thanks for allowing me to chat.
Matt: So that's it for this week's episode. Special. Thanks to Chris for joining us. If you enjoyed the episode, please be sure to give us a follow or review on your favorite podcasting app. You can also follow me on Twitter @mattcrail or @wosnpod. You can find all the episodes of the podcast at wosn.taskablehq.com.
Working on Something New is powered by Taskable: integrated tasks and calendar for all day productivity. Start a seven day free trial at taskablehq.com. Thanks everyone out there for listening we'll catch you next week