Automating Paperwork with Anvil and Mang-git Ng

How I Built It
How I Built It
Automating Paperwork with Anvil and Mang-git Ng
/

Sponsored by:

Restrict Content Pro
TextExpander logo

I LOVE automation, so when Mang-Git Ng reached out and wanted to talk about what he learned by launching a start-up fully focused on digitizing paper processes, I was hooked. If you’ve bought a house, done taxes, or any other document-heavy task, you know what a pain it can be. Mang-Git’s company aims to solve that problem, and he tells us everything he’s learned. In Build Something More, we answer the question, “Are big cities like San Francisco and NYC dead?”

Show Notes

Transcript

Joe:Real quick before we get started, I want to tell you about theBuild Something Weeklynewsletter. It is weekly, it is free, and you will get tips, tricks, and tools delivered directly to your mailbox. I will recap the current week’s episode and all of the takeaways, I’ll give you a top story, content I wrote, and then some recommendations that I’ve been using that I think you should check out. So it is free, it is a weekly, it’s over at howibuilt.it/subscribe. Go ahead and sign up over athowibuilt.it/subscribe.

Hey, everybody, and welcome toEpisode 212of How I Built It. Our sponsors for this episode areTextExpander,Restrict Content Pro, andMindsize. You’ll be hearing about those fantastic companies later on in the episode. Right now, I want to introduce our guest. His name isMang-Git Ng. He is the CEO and founder of Anvil. He reached out and wants to talk about automation, and gave what I think was one of the best responses to my canned kind of pre-screen questions.

Specifically, Mang-Git, before I let you talk, you mentioned digitizing mortgage papers. I bought a house a little over a year ago and I just remember the insane back and forth with all the PDFs and stuff like that. So I’m excited to dive into that. But before we do, I do want to welcome Mang-Git Ng from Anvil. How are you?

Mang-Git Ng:I’m doing well. Thanks, Joe, for having me on the show.

Joe Casabona:Thanks so much for coming on the show. Now, your company Anvil is essentially a… I don’t want to just call it a digitizing service. But that’s kind of what you do. You take paper processes and then you turn them into digital processes. Is that right?

Mang-Git Ng:Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a very good high level description of what we do. One of the things that we noticed, and you alluded to this, which is with mortgages, is that the way information is gathered today, especially for very important life events or very important services is pretty broken. It’s not digital-first, it’s not remote-first. And that’s what Anvil aims to solve is to make it more modern and more digital-first.

Joe Casabona:I mean, I’ve been in technology since I was like 12. Like I fixed people’s computers and then mix CDs and stuff like that. So the fact that anything is not digital kills me. But this particular thing I feel has been accelerated a little bit more since let’s say march of 2020 or February of 2020. But you guys have been around long before that?

Mang-Git Ng:Yeah, that’s correct. We were around slightly before that. We started in 2018. There were honestly a lot of ideas that my co-founder and I explored before finally settling on this idea. But we had set out thinking we want to create something together. And then we kind of surveyed the market to try to figure out what was the right thing to build.

Joe Casabona:Gotcha. Gotcha. So you and your partner, what are your backgrounds? Were you in tech before this? Or were you in business for this?

Mang-Git Ng:Yeah, both of us have been in tech for the majority of our career. Ben Ogle, my co-founder, he is the CTO. I also have a technical background, but he’s much more technical than I am. So he’s the CTO, I’m the CEO. We both have been working in startups and also high growth companies for the past decade, decade, and a half. I previously worked at Dropbox and Flexport. And then had gone through YC, which then his company was acquired by GitHub and he also worked at AdRoll. So we’re really pretty steeped in the technology industry here in San Francisco. But yeah, most of our experience or all of our experience has been in technology.

Joe Casabona:Awesome. You mentioned that you are in San Francisco. In the members-only episode, I’d like to talk a little bit about that—the effects of the pandemic on the tech industry in San Francisco. That’s very interesting to me. So, if you are a member, you’ll catch that part of the conversation over. If you’re not, you can sign up over atbuildsomething.club. And we didn’t talk about this beforehand. So obviously, if there are things you don’t want to say, you know, it’s… I don’t want to put you on the spot or anything like that. But I’m just genuinely interested in that sort of thing and the greater move to remote work, which I suspect Anvil helps a lot with. So the first kind of question around this is you mentioned that you and Ben… Ben, right?

Mang-Git Ng:That’s right.

Joe Casabona:I just had a moment where I forgot.

Mang-Git Ng:Here’s got a hard name, right? Between the two of us.

Joe Casabona:You and Ben wanted to start a company together and looked at a few ideas. What was the research process like? And what made you settle on Anvil?

Mang-Git Ng:Like many technologists, many startup people, we both had a lot of ideas. We started by just writing them down and sharing them. Ben and I actually met at the gym of all places, where we rock climb together.

Joe Casabona:Wow.

Mang-Git Ng:So if anybody’s a rock climber, you know there’s a lot of downtime in between routes. There’s a lot of conversation happening. Very social in that sense. So that was where a lot of our discussion happened. Once we both were kind of in a position to look for something new, kind of what we wanted to do next, we started really digging into ideas. And the first thing we did was take our ideas and go out and ask people questions. Ask them if they thought it was useful, if they would pay for it.

The idea for Anvil was really kind of a culmination of a lot of things. Ben had been working on this online web form for lead gathering. It’s this little tool that he created for, I believe WordPress and stuff like that, and I was actually in the process of buying a house up in Seattle. My wife and I, we do invest in properties. This was not my first time getting a mortgage. But I don’t know, maybe it’s like a third time around, you’re like, “Why is this so broken?” So if finally the pain settles in, you’re like, “Oh, man, this is so terrible. I’m sending my social security number and account numbers over email, and I’ve tried to get them to use my Dropbox link or some other thing and they just won’t bend. And I want a good rate.” So I’m kind of in this impasse, where, “Okay, well, I guess I will sacrifice my beliefs around security and what I know is good security, and just trying to get this done, because it’s so painful.”

So that was kind of how we got to the idea. But we really came at it from a consumer perspective. We were like, “As consumer, this is really painful.” When we went to go fundraise, we had a very insightful question from one of our current investors, Menlo, she asked us, “How do you make this big if form filling is so episodic?” Episodic for people that are filling out… I don’t fill out forms every day. But when I do, it’s for important things.

One thing that we found in discussions with people is that the experience for the user, the consumer is episodic. But at every single institution that issues these forms to be filled out, there’s a poor person sitting there gathering documents, and then reading those documents, then typing it into Salesforce, and then typing into their banking system. It’s just a painful experience for them. The bottleneck is really this person having to do all of this manual tedious work. That’s when we thought, “Hey, we have an idea here. We think it’s pretty good. We think there’s an opportunity and people would pay for it.”

Sponsor:This episode is brought to you byRestrict Content Pro. If you need a fast, easy way to set up a membership site for yourself or your clients, look no further than theRestrict Content ProWordPress plugin. Easily create premium content for members using your favorite payment gateway, manage members, send member-only emails, and more. You can create any number of subscription packages, including free levels and free trials.

But that’s not all. Their extensive add-ons library allows you to do even more, like drip out content, connect with any number of CRMs and newsletter tools, including ConvertKit and Mailchimp and integrate with other WordPress plugins like bbPress. Since the Creator Crew rolled out earlier this year, you can bet it’s usingRestrict Content Pro. And I have used all of the things mentioned here in this ad read. I have created free levels. I’ve created coupons. I use ConvertKit and I’m using it with bbPress for the forums. I’m a big fan of the team, and I know they do fantastic work.

The plugin has worked extremely well for me and I was able to get memberships up and running very quickly. Right now, they are offering a rare discount for how I built it listeners only: 20% off your purchase when you use RCPHOWIBUILTIT at checkout. That’s RCPHOWIBUILTIT, all one word.

If you want to learn more aboutRestrict Content Proand start making money with your own membership site today, head on over tohowibuilt.it/rcp. That’showibuilt.it/rcp. Thanks toRestrict Content Profor supporting the show.

And now let’s get back to it.

Joe Casabona:It’s funny that you mentioned the fundraising part because I’ve always… not that I have ever had an idea that I felt I needed to go fundraise. But I’ve always wondered if I would look for VC funding. But this interaction made business better. I think that a lot of people probably don’t realize that you have an investor and they kind of become a partner who are literally invested in the success of the business.

Mang-Git Ng:Yeah. Also, San Francisco’s an expensive place to live, so having some funding is nice.

Joe Casabona:Yeah, yeah, for sure. You know, it’s different. I’m on the east coast. My wife is gainfully employed as a nurse. And we do have two kids and things are going well. But I’ve never felt like, man, I need to get a lot of money really fast to make sure I survive. So this is interesting. You looked at a few ideas, but it was a convergence of Ben working on something, you going through the pain of a mortgage. And I totally get where you’re coming from what the security stuff like. Anytime I have to send sensitive information, I always password protect it, and then I have to give the person I’m sending a clue without putting the password in the email. It’s a weird dance.

Mang-Git Ng:It’s like all of those game you play as a kindergartener where you try to teach deductive reasoning, right? That’s how you got to transfer this information to the other party. Yeah, totally. Who knew?

Joe Casabona:Yeah. And then the other party is probably like, “This guy is such a pain in the neck.” I asked one of my contractors for a W9 form or whatever and he just sent it to me. His social security number and all in the email. I don’t want to lecture people who were doing me favors, but you shouldn’t do that.

Mang-Git Ng:Yeah, totally. That is not proper security etiquette.

Joe Casabona:So let’s get to the title question before we kind of get into the if I want to start digitizing or automating process. How did you build Anvil? What did it look like at first? Did people send you documents and you scan them or whatever? Or were you building a better process?

Mang-Git Ng:One of the key insights we had for Anvil is that the processes that exist today are not necessarily bad. I think people like to talk about the bureaucracy and how bad the process is and how terrible it is. But the processes were established to oftentimes a guard against something. Like guard against data errors, guard against having random data that you didn’t have to have a person reconcile. So I would say the process itself oftentimes for paperwork is not necessarily bad. There’s always room for improvement. I think the big challenge with this is really the underlying technology that is paper, that is PDFs is just antiquated. And there’s better ways, there’s better technology today. And how do you take that process and adapt it to use the new technology?

So that was one of our key insights. When we built Anvil, we were very keen on making it extremely easy for somebody to take their existing paperwork process, how they do things today, the steps that they have today. And oftentimes, they don’t even have control over that. You know, just think government forms. A small business like yourself, you can’t tell the government, I’m not filling out a W9. No, no, you have to fill out my version of a W9.” No. So a lot of times there’s no control over it.

So what Anvil does is we make it extremely easy for you to take your existing process and replicate it online, in a sense, but instead of sending around PDFs and paper forms, you’re sending out modern web forms, modern forms with Google location services built in, validation built in, all of the things that paper is bad at built into that web form.

Once you’ve done that, you now have the benefit of capturing the data digitally. You can go into a database. But we can also generate that PDF for you, and then we put the information on the PDF. And then if you need signatures, we can request signatures immediately. And all of this can happen remotely. So with Anvil, what we really focused on was, what are the building blocks? If we’re going back to first principles, what are the pieces that we can build that can then be reassembled to accommodate any existing paperwork process? That’s really how we thought about going about building. It’s very object-oriented programming type thinking, I would say.

Joe Casabona:That’s super cool. Did you have a maybe a target niche that you wanted to start with for proof of concept stuff? Or did you build it out generally enough that anybody could take advantage right from the start? Maybe those are two different questions. Did you have a use case, at first, like the ideal customer avatar?

Mang-Git Ng:I wouldn’t say we had an ideal customer or we even defined an ideal customer. We did look for use cases. Our first use case that we build Anvil for was a… there is a shared co-working space company here in San Francisco and they had a bunch of forms that need to be filled out when somebody signed a lease. So we helped them digitize that process. But when we were building Anvil to then digitize this process, we’re very, very explicit about where we will stop building, and you know, you’re going to have to figure it out from there.

So we were very explicit that we’re only focused on the paperwork aspect of it, we’re very focused on the information you’re gathering and where it needs to go on PDF, and then where it needs to go afterwards. But we’re not building an integration into your building rental management software. We’re not building integration into your facilities management software. That’s on you. Here’s an API, here’s the data, here’s what you need if you really wanted to do that.

So we built it in a horizontal manner, but we use real world use cases to kind of infer what needed to be built. That was actually probably one of the best things we did. We then took that product that we built, and we took it to the wealth management space. And we’re like, “Yeah, we can do this for you. You have a ton of forms. So we can totally manage this for you. We realized that in the wealth management space, now we had another use case, and it was so much more complex than what we were doing. And how do we, again, boil down those complexities into building blocks that can be reused for other workflows. So this iterative process of having use cases, but also keeping in mind that we’re building for a broader horizontal play.

Joe Casabona:Yeah, I think that makes sense. You mentioned the shared co-working space in San Francisco first. I think that’s probably a good spot because co-working is still kind of a modern phenomenon to a lot of people. And so they’re probably more like-minded in that, right? They’re like, “Yeah, of course, we got to digitize.” And then you move into the wealth management space. Did you find this to be a hard sell? Yeah, did you find this to be a hard sell?

Mang-Git Ng:I think with any incumbent industry, it’s always a little bit of an uphill battle to help them understand what we’re trying to do and honestly, for us to understand what they’re trying to do. I think there’s a miscommunication. We were fortunate that the company that we worked with First Ascent Asset Management, they’re out in Denver, they are a very technology-for company. Their entire hypothesis was, hey, we can provide lower-cost asset management by automating a lot of the mundane and tedious tests that we would typically have an entire operations team doing. That was their hypothesis when they started the company. And Anvil just slot in nicely into that hypothesis, which made kind of the sale a lot easier for us.

And it’s nice to find those early adopters early on. But I do think that we’ve been selling into various legacy industries, established industries, and there’s a level of learning that has happened where we don’t understand their language, we don’t understand what they’re asking for, and they don’t understand what we do. So there’s some level of learning that we have to do but there’s also some level of education that we’re trying to do and finding the right early adopter partners. And each of those industries is the hard part.

Joe Casabona:I think that you capture that perfectly. I feel like you really understood why I was asking the question. Because from a technology standpoint, as the developer especially, I have been in developer for a long time and I’m just like, the software product I tried to sell was job boards. I went to my alma mater, and I’m like, “Obviously, you want these job boards, they’re better than the job board you have.” And they’re like, “We don’t want your job boards.” And I’m like, “I don’t understand. This is better.” But I didn’t understand the problems they were trying to solve. I didn’t understand how integrated the system was into their system. I was like 22. So I was the dumb kid. Sorry, if you’re 22. I suspect you’re not. Sorry, if any of the listeners are 22 I guess. I just didn’t take the time to try to understand the problem they were solving. And I tried to throw a solution at them based on the problem I perceived.

Mang-Git Ng:Yeah, absolutely. I think that actually is a very… I’ve never actually heard it articulated like that. That is a very important point to Anvil in a lot of ways, you know, from the beginning, where we felt the pain with filling out forms, and we thought it could be better. But then we realized the real pain point is actually on the receiving end of those forms, right, to understanding legacy, incumbent industries, or established industries, let’s say, that do have the purchasing power to do these things.

Then also, I think, maybe this is a little bit of a segue. But I think that in our experience selling our software, we’ve also expanded our offerings to API’s that are more technology-focused. That is actually a big push for us this year is to enable developers who don’t really need the education on why this is good, they just need a solution that can be plugged into their existing stack. That’s something we’re pushing pretty hard on as well.

Sponsor:This episode is brought to you byTextExpander. WithTextExpander, you can save time by converting any text you type into keyboard shortcuts called snippets. Say goodbye to repetitive text entry, spelling and message errors, and trying to remember the right thing to say. WithTextExpander, you can say the right thing in just a few keystrokes. Better than copy and paste, better than scripts and templates,TextExpandersnippets allow you to maximize your time by getting rid of the repetitive things you type while still customizing and personalizing your messages.TextExpandercan be used in any platform, any app, anywhere you type. Take back your time and increase your productivity in the new year.

And let me just say that snippets is not all it does. With advanced snippets, you can create fill-ins, pop up fields, and much more. You can even use JavaScript or AppleScript. I can type out full instructions for my podcast editor, hi, Joel, in just a few keystrokes. Another one of my favorite and most used snippets is PPT. This will take whatever text I have on my keyboard and convert it to plain text so I’m no longer fighting formatting. Plus, if you have employees or contractors, you can useTextExpanderto manage and share snippets with them so you all get it right every time. I’ve recently started sharingTextExpandersnippets with my virtual assistant.

This year, How I Built It is focusing on being productive while working from home.TextExpanderis the perfect tool for that. Plus, they’re providing resources and blog posts to help you make the most of their tool and be productive.TextExpanderis available on Mac OS, Windows, Chrome, iPhone, and iPad. If you’ve been curious about tryingTextExpanderor simple automation in general, now is the time. Listeners can get 20% off their first year. Just visittextexpander.com/podcastand let them know that I sent you.

Joe Casabona:I was actually about to ask you about the API because that’s always… whenever I evaluate a tool I’m going to use, I think, “Does it have Zapier integration?” That’s kind of the first thing I think about. And if you have an API, you can do that. You can build a webhook or whatever. Like you can send that data to Zapier in some way. So the higher level question is, is there a way for me to build something to talk to this other tool? And it’s cool that you built the API because now I suspect people can take what they put into Anvil, and then send it to their CRM or Google Sheets, if they’re doing that, or Airtable or whatever, or probably like some very industry-specific system that takes that eats data in some way.

Mang-Git Ng:Yeah, absolutely. I think the API was really born out of a poll from our friends in the Bay Area. We have a lot of friends that are in technology companies, that work at technology companies, that have started technology companies, and they were coming to us asking, “Hey, we have this PDF that we have to fill out. We are a HR software company, and we want to make the HR experience better.” But why do I have to deal with this PDF? Can you just deal with it for me?” And that’s where we started thinking about the API.

As time has progressed, you know, one of the things that we are launching is these three API’s that we’ve created around PDFs. It’s very much kind of extracted from the workflow. But it is certainly like… it’s like the Lego pieces within the workflow. How do we create API’s into individual Lego pieces as opposed to the entire workflow. So we have a PDF generation API where you can generate PDFs based on data that you have. Invoice is a great example of that. We have the PDF filling API, which is honestly something that we find not very common online, where you have a template PDF, and you want to put data into blanks. That’s not something that’s very common.

And then now we also have a eSignature API that allows people to really quickly integrate eSignatures into their product. And as part of the eSignature API request, you can say, “I need this PDF generated. I need this PDF filled out. I need them all to be kind of collated into a packet, and then sent out for signature.” So that’s the PDF set of the APIs that we’ve created.

And then you alluded to the workflow APIs, which is really actually pretty exciting to us. The workflow API’s, we recently worked with Sunrise Banks for the PPP loan, both back in April and now for the new version of PPP. They’re a very sophisticated bank. We help them build the workflow to fill out the SBA paperwork, but then they listen for Webhooks from us. We make a web hook request. When somebody finishes the application, they ingest the data. Then I don’t know what banks do, they evaluate to see if it’s fraudulent. They underwrite it. And then when they approve it, they then click a button, and it sends another packet of data that they’ve kind of remixed a little bit to Anvil and says, “Hey, can you generate the lender form for us.” and we generate the lender form for them.

So it’s a very tight integration, where not only are they getting the signed, completed documents, but also the data that sits on top of that without having to use OCR or parse it out or use these like not 100% accurate ways of extracting that information.

Joe Casabona:Yeah, that’s really fantastic. I mean, as somebody who went for the PPP loan the first time around, it was a nerve-racking experience. Like, am I filling this out, right? Do I have all the right information? I actually did it twice because I felt like the first people ghosted me. So then I contacted my bank. It was a very weird process.

Mang-Git Ng:I think this PPP program really expose a lot of the challenges for Anvil and for us to kind of figure out and go along with it. I think we did a really good job. But things like the rules were just changing constantly. The SBA would say one rule today and then tomorrow be another rule. Fortunately for Anvil our kind of no-code workflow builder, it’s very quick to make these edits live. But that also meant you were making edits live, not going through a testing process.

But you know, we build a lot of guardrails. So you can make changes. You can make label changes and stuff like that without having to worry about taking down the application. And people that were filling it out midstream, they would get those updates, and then it would automatically check that they filled out this thing wrong. We saw a lot of people were filling out certain fields incorrectly. We added a validation. Immediately, even the ones that were midstream filling it out, you know, we were validating the data to make sure that it met this new requirement.

And to your point earlier about banks ghosting you and kind of like making it hard to apply for the PPP, we’re actually really proud of the work we’ve done with Sunrise. They are a CDFI and a BCorp, and they were one of the few banks in America that opened up their application to everyone. Anyone could apply for a PPP loan through them. I like to think that we were able to help a lot of small businesses that way.

Joe Casabona:Yeah, absolutely. That’s amazing. This has been great. I love everything you’re talking about, because I’m a big automation person. Like you mentioned, filling PDF API, or PDF filling API, that spoke to me because I use HelloSign. And I really wanted to create a template for my insertion orders for advertising on the show, and I thought, “Oh, this will be great because I can be like, Oh, fill in this. It’s pre-roll, mid-roll? How many episodes is it or whatever?” But that’s not really what the HelloSign templates are for. And I was pretty bummed out about that because I’m like, “Well, I still have to make the whole thing in word and uploaded them.” Like I don’t understand. Unless the contract net doesn’t change at all from person to person, that’s what the template is for. So something like the PDF filling API would probably be very useful to me in HelloSign.

Mang-Git Ng:Yeah, the PDF filling API, or even the PDF generation API. You can send markdown. You can generate and send markdown…

Joe Casabona:You’re speaking my language now.

Mang-Git Ng:…and it’ll fill it in and put it into a signature packet. We got some other big ones coming down the pipeline. So keep your eyes open for those. But we’ll wait till those are announced.

Joe Casabona:Awesome. Awesome. Well, I’ll definitely keep an eye on it. Now, moving into kind of the tail end of the show, I like to ask about tips for listeners. Let’s say I’m a small business owner, and I’m frustrated with the amount of paperwork that I have to do. Maybe I work with some old school clients and things like that. What are some ways that I could start to digitize my process a little bit more?

Mang-Git Ng:I think the easiest one that in terms of understanding, and a lot of people have already kind of grasped on to this, is use eSignature platform. You know, you don’t need to meet a person in real life to get a wet signature anymore. That is just not how the world works. I’ve certainly worked with banks where they’re like, “Here’s a PDF, print it out, sign it, scan it, upload it.” I saw a funny meme the other day, which is “Stop sending millennials PDFs to print. We don’t own printers.” If you want to sell to millennials, stop sending PDFs to them to print. So I think that’s a really basic one.

I think a lot of things with PDFs, if you boil it down, the goal of a PDF is really to do two things. I’m specifically talking about PDF forms. It’s to gather information, and then it’s a test that the information is correct or some kind of certification. That’s what a signature is. So we have eSignatures for the latter part. But for the first part, how do you gather that information? There’s lots of online forum services out there. There’s type form, Wufoo. There’s all these form services out there that you can gather information and they’ll provide it to you in a clean format.

Anvil’s unique play here is really to kind of bridge the gap from the PDF to the future. At some point, if you decide or if the government decides you don’t need to fill out a W9 anymore, you can just send the raw data to the government, great. Just stop generating the PDFs. You can still use our online form. But today, the reality is you still need that PDF, and you still need that signature. So Anvil is really trying to bridge that gap between the old and the new.

Joe Casabona:Gotcha. Gotcha. I mean, if somebody sends me a PDF and says, “Print it out,,” I’m like, “There’s an app. It’s called PDF Expert and you can just sign a PDF right on your iPad or whatever. Or in preview. What am I even talking about, like a separate app. Preview does the same thing.

Mang-Git Ng:Oh, man. But Preview, I think even… That’s what I thought. Back in the mortgage days when I was doing that mortgage, I didn’t have a printer. I was like, “Oh, I’ll just fill it on Preview. It’ll be fine.” Like 35 minutes later, I’m still trying to like drag and click and resize boxes. It was so painful.

Joe Casabona:Yeah, for sure. Filling out the entire form in any of these is sucky. But if you just need to sign something, which now I’m thinking about it.

Mang-Git Ng:We actually have a free eSignature service on our website.

Joe Casabona:I was just looking at that, actually, as you were speaking. So I’m glad you mentioned it.

Mang-Git Ng:Self, shameless plug here. But if you need a document signed, you can upload the document to our Anvil website. It’suseanvil.com/etch-free. And then you can have up to two signers sign that document. And these are signatures that we’ve gone through all of the PDF specifications to make sure it’s encrypted and actually cryptographically signed. They are real signatures. Since this is a free tool, there’s obviously some limitations. But one of the biggest ones is just that the form needs to be filled out except for the signature field or the signature date fields. So that’s the limitation.

Sponsor:This episode is brought to you byMindsize. Look, it’s super important for stores to have an online presence these days. If customers can’t buy online, they might not buy at all. And while doing eCommerce fast has gotten easier, doing eCommerce right still has its considerable challenges. That’s whereMindsizecomes in. They are a full service digital agency that focuses on WordPress and WooCommerce development. But that’s not all. They work with Shopify, big commerce, and more. And they’ll work with you to create the perfect strategy and website for your business.

Already have an eCommerce site and want to make sure it’s up and running in tip-top shape? Their flat-rate site audit is exactly what you need. Over the course of two weeks, they’ll dive into every aspect of your site and deliver a prioritized list of actionable recommendations to make your site even better. That means more sales and engagement for you and your store. Or if you’re a freelancer or agency who feels in over your head or with an eCommerce build, their agency support plan is built specifically for you. There were a few times in my career where I really could have used that. They’ll take a high stress situation and help you relax while still delivering for your client.

So check outMindsizeover atmindsize.comtoday. They will help you make more money, whether you need an eCommerce store, whether you need to improve your current eCommerce store, or if you build eCommerce stores for others. That’smindsize.com. Thanks so much toMindsizefor supporting the show.

Joe Casabona:So, actually, interesting question here as we wrap up, before I ask you my big question, which is do you check to make sure the form is filled out? Do you look for blank lines or whatever? Or are you basically just assuming the form is filled out?

Mang-Git Ng:For the etch free tool, we just assume the form is filled out. That’s on the user who’s uploading. But I mean, that’s a whole nother topic I feel like. It’s like, how do we use machine vision to parse forms. Yeah.

Joe Casabona:Yeah. That’s kind of why I asked. This is a fun conversation for me because it feels like where the academic actually meets the real world, right? Because some questions in computer science are just like, “How do you solve the Dutch national flag problem?” And I’m like, “This is a purely academic question. I never have to do that in real life.” But determining if a blank space on a PDF is a blank space because it needs to be filled out or because it’s just spacing, pretty interesting.

Mang-Git Ng:And then a one step further that we… a lot of things we’ve been thinking about is like, how do we automatically label that space? How do we know what is the best label to show in our web form for the field information that’s supposed to go into that blank? And you could say, “Oh, just, you know, take the five words ahead of it and put it in.” But that doesn’t always work. And then you’re often trying to shorten labels and put it in context.

So in a lot of ways, and this is kind of like our second investor gradient ventures, they were very excited about this, which is, as we help people build out these workflows, they are also helping us tag these PDFs. Now we’re creating structure around information gathering. That information can then be used to make it easier faster to build these new workflows just going down the line. So I think that’s really, really powerful. Hopefully one day we’ll be there.

Joe Casabona:Nice. Yeah, you know, one of the other things that we’ll touch on in the member episode is how gathering data can help like that. Because I have some experience with my master’s thesis and all that stuff. So we’ll talk about that more. But before we get into that, I do need to ask you my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Mang-Git Ng:Trade secrets. Maybe not so much a trade secret, but maybe more of a life advice, I guess. I think a common theme even in our conversation today and just the company is listen. I think listening and experiencing from other people is important, especially as you are doing product design, as you’re thinking about what to build. One thing that I always like to tell people or ask people when they’re looking to work at a startup is, you know, have you worked at a startup? And if you have, what do you like about working at a startup? And if you haven’t, what do you think working at a startup is like?

So the life advice there really is: if you’re interested in it, go work at a startup, go find a startup, and learn and listen and watch too what’s happening around you before you jump into your own. I think that just is a very… it kind of sets you up to know where things can go really wrong or where things can go really right. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of startups under my belt before starting and build that, where I really got to see the founders, and how they lead and how the company was run.

Joe Casabona:Yeah, that’s great. That’s fantastic advice. I got kind of the opposite advice. As I was leaving college, somebody told me, “Get a real-world job or a “real job,” quote-unquote and learn how they do things there and then take that information in your startup.” But I think that the general idea is be open to learning from others, right? I think that’s really important.

Mang-Git Ng:Absolutely. Maybe this is another piece for your members-only part of the podcast but we can talk a little bit about West Coast mentality, East Coast or middle of America mentality. I grew up in Michigan, so middle of America. But let’s save that for your members.

Joe Casabona:Love it. Love it. Yeah. So if you are interested in what’s turning out to be a very interesting members-only segment, again, you can sign up over atbuildsomething.clubfor five bucks a month. You get lots of awesome stuff and you get to support the show. So yeah, I’d really appreciate that. Mang-Git, thanks so much for joining me today. Where can people find you if they want to learn more?

Mang-Git Ng:You can find us atwww.useanvil.com. We recently launched our new rebrand. So I love our new website. Please give us feedback, whether you like it or not and we’ll take that into account.

Joe Casabona:It’s really nice. I like it a lot. I love the paper motif and I love… I feel like for a while websites got lots of colors and crowded and things like that. And me too. But I’m trying to swing back the other way, just like lots of white space.

Mang-Git Ng:The paper motif runs very deep in our new website, from the CMYK color scheme to paper cutouts to the way the navigation bar is pushing paper down and then pulling it back up. So yeah, I would say go play with it and see what you think.

Joe Casabona:Yeah, super cool. Awesome. I will link to that and everything that we talked about over in the show notes athowibuilt.it/212. That’showibuilt.it/212. Thanks so much to this episode’s sponsors,TextExpander,Restrict Content Pro, andMindsize. Mang-Git, thanks so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it.

Mang-Git Ng:It was a pleasure being here.

Joe Casabona:And thanks to everybody listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.

Free Email Course!

5 Fast Fixes to Grow Your Podcast.
Wondering why your podcast growth is stagnating (or non-existent)? You likely just need to make a few small tweaks to see growth. In this free email course, we’ll go over what they are, why they work, and how you can implement them. Sign up below to have it delivered instantly.

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *