Thu, 18 April 2019
Matthew was a guest of StartCon, Australia’s largest startup and growth conference. It was held at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
When he was young, Matthew Brimer spent his days taking apart old electronics and dreaming of space exploration. A child of the Midwest, he was raised on the belief that hard work and passion could turn even the grandest dreams into realities.
As he grew older, he continued to hold tightly to this conviction, and, with the blood of two entrepreneurial parents pumping through his veins, Brimer knew he wouldn’t be stuck in his high school job selling ice cream forever.
Always that tinkering kid at heart, Brimer wanted to be an inventor. And he ultimately achieved his dream, but in a way he never would have imagined while growing up. He became an inventor of businesses, of communities, of experiences.
Co-founder of several brands to date, including dance party/lifestyle brand Daybreaker, VC firm The Fund, and most notably online education platform General Assembly—Brimer has developed an incredible knack for building passionate, engaged communities. Today, General Assembly has 20 campuses and more than 35,000 alumni, and Brimer serves as a mentor to members of the next generation of entrepreneurs through his role at The Fund, a New York City community of founders that he co-founded.
And it all began with an old piece of furniture and a lucky break on eBay.
In 2005, during Brimer’s freshman year at Yale, he and a few buddies noticed that some of the buildings were under renovation and the university was selling the contents in the process. After perusing the items for sale, they decided to buy an antique piece of furniture to see what they could get for it on eBay.
They took a couple photos of the item, posted it and hoped they could make a few extra bucks from the sale.
They had purchased the piece for $50. It sold for $1,000.
Minds blown, they rushed back to the buildings, bought more items and the college freshmen launched a small online business in the antique furniture space.
Having caught the entrepreneurial bug, Brimer wanted to try his hand at something a little bigger—something that required more technical skill.
In 2007, he and four other college students launched the website GoCrossCampus.com, an online game that turned college rivalries into a wildly popular online battle.
“We made every first time founder mistake in the book. It ended up a few years later becoming a total failure,” Brimer says. “But for a while we were the largest college gaming network in the country.”
He acknowledged that with too many founders and no way to generate new revenue, the project was doomed to fail, and GoCrossCampus shut the doors to its battleground in 2010. But while his first project may have ended, Brimer’s desire to create new things had only begun to grow.
He graduated, moved to New York and freelanced as a web designer while he spent all his free time immersing himself in the tech space. Although the city was bursting with brilliant entrepreneurs and new, exciting ideas, Brimer soon realized that bringing them together to interact and exchange those ideas was a challenge.
What if, he wondered, there was a physical building dedicated specifically to serving those in the tech space? What if there was a place where they could work alongside each other and learn while building meaningful community?
With that dream in mind, Brimer, Jake Schwartz, Adam Pritzker, and Brad Hargreaves co-founded General Assembly in early 2011.
Education for the 21st Century
General Assembly launched as a place for coworking, education, and community, under a single membership model, and this system worked well at first. But Brimer quickly noticed that, to better serve members, a greater emphasis had to be placed on building out the educational branch of the brand.
“There’s this huge skills gap between where traditional higher education leaves off and where the 21st century begins,” he says. “College education isn’t changing that much relatively speaking. But the 21st century—in terms of what employers are looking for, in terms of the talent they’re hiring, in terms of the skills you need to be effective in any industry today—that’s moving quickly.”
Brimer says that a traditional university education can leave graduates in tech fields woefully unprepared for the challenges ahead, and this was the gap he hoped General Assembly could fill. So they eliminated the coworking aspect of the business and doubled down on providing quality education from stellar instructors.
According to Brimer, these practical training programs on digital skills taught by actual practitioners currently working in the space were the most powerful, the most transformative thing they could provide. He wanted to equip students with valuable skills that enabled them to land a new job, upgrade their current position or pursue their passions in the digital economy.
Brimer and his cofounders threw themselves into the new phase of their business, raising more capital, expanding their curriculum both online and off, and launching a new branch that offers corporate training and assessments to large companies. They also built out a credentials program and launched a philanthropic wing designed to lift up those with talent and tenacity from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
With this grand expansion came a need to cement the trust consumers had in the brand.
From day one, Brimer placed a significant focus on delivering measurable outcomes at General Assembly, as a way to build firm trust in the brand. He wanted to answer the question, “What can I do after experiencing this product that I couldn’t do before,” with an unequivocal answer: get a job in tech.
It’s no secret that a college degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee a job after graduation, and this, Brimer feels, is a major issue right now for traditional colleges and universities.
“So here you have spent all this money, all this time getting a college degree and it doesn’t guarantee you a job anymore,” he says. “The outcomes are a little nebulous.”
Brimer and General Assembly wanted to provide something with more certainty. By supplying classes in coding, data, design, marketing, business, and career development, as taught by instructors with the most up-to-date information, Brimer feels that General Assembly fills the gap left by traditional education, more directly preparing students for a career in the industry.
The co-founders of General Assembly also made a concerted effort to attract instructors who were not only excellent in their fields, but also who cared deeply about passing their knowledge and skills on to others.
Brimer says that the best instructors at General Assembly are those who love giving back and empowering others, even if they’ve never had any teaching experience. Today, according to its website, there are more than 250 expert instructors. With an ever-evolving curriculum, and continued expansion, General Assembly is bound to continue making a splash in the tech world.
Brimer began as a cofounder, later transitioned into a part-time position, and this summer he stepped into a new role as an external “evangelist for the company,” when the Adecco Group acquired the brand for $412 million.
While his day-to-day work at General Assembly may have come to a close, he is still extremely passionate about what he was able to accomplish during his time there, and is excited to see what new frontiers they are able to conquer in the years to come.
Brimer is no longer the kid tinkering with household electronics in Missouri, but with free time to concentrate on new ventures, he’s still dreaming big.
“It would be a hilarious thing,” he says, “to explain to my 6-year-old or 8-year-old self what it is that I am, have been, and will be.”
4 Ways To Establish Trust in Your Brand
When competing with major colleges and established universities, the way Matthew Brimer was when he co-founded General Assembly, it is absolutely essential to establish deep trust in the brand as quickly as possible. But all brands, not just those in the education space, have to find a way to build a bridge of trust between company and consumer to become successful. These are four of Brimer’s best tips on how to establish trust for your brand.
1. Deliver Measurable Outcomes
Brimer says that one of the best possible ways to build trust in your brand is to deliver outcomes that are clear and measurable. To decide what that outcome is, he recommends asking, “What is possible for a customer after engaging with the brand or product that would have been completely unattainable before?” By nailing down the measurable outcome and then delivering it, it turns word-of-mouth references into undeniable, tangible results.
2. Celebrate Success Stories
Once you’ve determined what “measurable success” for your brand looks like, it’s time to celebrate those who have achieved it! Brimer says that even prestigious colleges only gained the clout they have because of the success of their alumni. In the same way, the successes of others who have interacted with your product reflect back onto your brand.
3. Establish and Adhere to Core Values
By crafting a definitive and concrete set of core values you can stand by, customers learn what they should expect from your products and services. Brimer says that by delivering on those values, you can develop an invaluable level of trust with consumers that can only come from maintaining integrity.
4. Stay Humble
Brimer says that, all too often, as companies grow larger, so do the egos of the people at the top, preventing them from quickly acknowledging mistakes and accepting feedback with humility.
“The more human of a relationship you can have as a company with your users, the more trust you’re going to have,” he says. “Trust goes away when it’s a faceless brand—a faceless corporate entity—interacting with live humans on the other side. That’s when things go downhill.”
Wed, 10 April 2019
How Aidan Clarke grew global brands 2XU and Saint by prioritizing product.
In a market saturated with quick, cheap fashion, building a high-quality, global apparel empire was not an easy feat—but in 13 short years, Aidan Clarke paved a way.
It took a lot of dedication, but Clarke was determined to make a game-changing clothing company. Clarke decided early on that he doesn’t care about how his apparel looks, as much as he cares about its quality, and that commitment has paid off in a big way.
His first and primary brand, 2XU, is based on the idea of making high-performance athletic wear, with a focus on unique, custom-engineered materials first. This approach and the resulting success would lead him to his second brand, Saint, which takes that same emphasis on materials and applies it to safety gear for motorcyclists.
The funny thing is, by focusing on high-end users and materials, Clarke’s companies ended up creating products that have much broader appeal than the initial target audiences, branching out into athleisure, workwear, and potentially even streetwear for skateboarders.
Through these two brands, Clarke has found a way to sell products that look good and perform well—and outfit consumers in over 60 countries.
From Door-to-Door Sales to 2 Worldwide Brands
Clarke got his first taste of the clothing business at just 18. As he was preparing for a school dance, he took a second glance at the neckties he and his friends were buying. A young entrepreneur’s mind started crunching numbers and realized that the fabric only cost $30 per meter, and each meter could make up to seven ties. Yet here he was shelling out almost $100 to purchase just one. “I thought, ‘Hang on, there’s a business here,’” Clarke recalls.
He decided to start making his own ties and selling them door-to-door to businesses in his home of Auckland, New Zealand.
Clarke’s entrepreneurial path didn’t continue in a perfectly linear fashion, a common theme we see among emerging founders. After graduation, he went to college and started a corporate career. His pushed his entrepreneurial passions to the back of his mind, but not for long.
“I ironically landed back in clothing,” Clarke says. “I’d grown up around seamstresses and saw the value-add of clothing.”
Clarke started his first apparel brand 2XU in Melbourne in 2005 and moved his family there soon after. He spent the following five years on a plane building 2XU into a multinational business reaching more than 60 countries.
Why Melbourne? Clarke and his team had received a significant amount of startup funding, and their investor was based in Melbourne. The Australian market for 2XU was also better than in New Zealand. “We spotted an opportunity. New Zealand had lots of local sports brands, but Australia ironically didn't,” Clarke says. “We wanted to take on the big boys.”
2XU started with audacious goals. Clarke and his team wanted 2XU to be uniquely performance-focused, so they spent the entire first year developing fabrics for their apparel, before creating their product. “You can either buy fabric or focus on quality,” Clarke says. “We said, ‘Hey, we want to change the fabric.’”
With millions in seed capital, they were able to spend ample time and resources on fabric development. Eventually, their warehouse became so full that they had to start selling their product.
Clarke and his team did wholesale and direct sales at the same time. While most clothing brands avoid direct sales so as to not compete with wholesalers, 2XU opened its first retail store to prove they could sell premium, expensive sportswear in Australia. “Selling at our own store motivated retailers to accept products,” Clarke says. “Having our own hero shop drove demand for wholesale.”
The team also visited both retail and special sports stores. Selling next to well-established international brands was difficult, but they pressed on. Their first major sale was to a now-closed triathlon store that purchased the entire 2XU line for over $3,500.
Another significant sale Clarke remembers was to Rebel Sport, a major retail chain in Australia and New Zealand. “Needless to say, we had a few drinks that night,” he says, laughing.
Clarke’s next step for expanding 2XU was finding ambassadors and distributors. But that wasn’t always easy. “Trusting someone with your brand is like a glorified babysitter,” Clarke says. “You have to find someone with the same passion to sell your story.”
He found that the best thing about distribution is how it taps into local knowledge and expertise. The 2XU team worked hard to find passionate brand ambassadors and people to accurately represent 2XU brand in each country. In doing so, they found mostly nontraditional distributors: athletes.
In the following years, 2XU celebrated two major equity events. In 2011, a local company bought 30 percent of the company. Next, the capital arm of Louis Vuitton discovered the brand and bought in at 40 percent, a significant valuation for 2XU.
Since then, 2XU has scaled up and hired corporate CEOs to run the company. “The challenge we face, though, is how to still act like a small business…an underdog,” Clarke says. “We used to say, ‘By athletes, for athletes,’ but we can’t say that anymore.”
But at the end of the day, the 2XU product is “still sensational.” It’s been well-received at the professional and Olympics level and is very much considered a premium brand. In the United States, it’s worn by the NBA, NFL, and even Navy Seals.
In other places, 2XU apparel has become an athleisure staple. “You don’t have to be a world champion to still want quality,” Clarke says.
After getting 2XU settled, Clarke pulled back and spent a “non-executive year” focused on himself and his health. One day, while riding bikes with his co-founder, he came up with what would become his next big idea—a new form of safety apparel for motorcyclists.
The idea sounded simple, but as the duo dove into R&D, they realized creating this type of product would require a significant commitment. “It cost us a couple million dollars after a couple years,” Clarke says. This effort would go on to become Saint, Clarke’s second global clothing brand.
Their goal was to create a single-layer safety product—ensuring a flexible, comfortable riding experience—that wouldn’t rip or tear if someone fell off their motorcycle. The global “slide time” standard for the fabric on these products (which defines the amount of time that a fabric should withstand sliding across an abrasive surface, such as pavement, before it tears) is four seconds, and they’re routinely tested in facilities equipped with spinning disks of sandpaper that replicate sliding on the street.
Their first fabric lasted 3.67 seconds before ripping—just short of the standard but still much longer than any other single-layer fabric. After continual development, Clarke’s fabric now lasts almost six seconds.
This single idea helped Clarke and his brand break into work clothes and other tough lifestyle applications.
They’ve since patented their super-durable fabric, which involves a unique material spun into the yarn. “As for workwear, no one can do what we’ve done,” Clarke says. “It’s nice to have the IP protection.”
Premium Product > Price
Both of Clarke’s businesses, 2XU and Saint, lead with a premium product line. And there’s a reason for that. “People often lead with price,” Clarke says. “That’s a lazy way to sell. Product is king.”
Some clothing retailers also find themselves tempted to sell their products relying on aesthetics alone, but not Clarke. “Rather than being a fashion brand, I’d rather be an authentic motorcycle brand with tough products…that also look good,” he says about Saint.
How can you create this demand? Clarke relates it to a “chicken and egg” situation. If you create demand before you’re ready to supply and distribute your product, you risk wasting resources because you’re essentially creating demand for competitors. On the other hand, if you develop and supply your product before the demand is there, you risk wasting resources on product that never brings in revenue.
To build demand for your product, Clarke recommends doing so authentically. He and his team often attended sports events and spread the word about 2XU to one person at a time. Those early adopters and advocates would then tell friends. “It’s like a grassroots movement,” Clarke says.
Clarke claims that social media, in fact, is a lot more directed. “The ability to target and generate demand is more focused than ever,” he says. “That’s what’s exciting about today.”
Every business’s website is now the flagship store, at least to begin with, Clarke says. People form their judgments about your products very quickly, and you’ve got to have your website synchronized with the products you’re offering in the real world.
The Future of Saint and 2XU
Looking ahead, Clarke is excited for the futures of both 2XU and Saint. The brands are at different stages, but they both sell high-quality product and are both in growth mode, as Clarke calls it. His primary growth measure isn’t from a focus on sales numbers—it’s from a focus on communities.
“Saint is a rocketship about to take off,” Clarke says. “It’s five times tougher than standard workwear.” The brand has even had inquiries about street fashion and safety gear for skateboarders and other action sports.
As for 2XU, Clarke says that seeing more and more people discover the brand is exciting.
“The tough thing about clothing is that scalability is hard,” Clarke says. Small businesses often buy too much stock, but Clarke encourages the opposite—pay more to make fewer units and sell them up.
In his opinion, it’s better to scale yourself up. Too much stock can put clothing brands in a hard place. Unlike the whiskey business, apparel product is worth less and less every year.
At the end of the day, Clarke reminds brands and entrepreneurs to prepare themselves for the road ahead. “It’s a tough game,” he says. “Just believe in yourself, be resilient, and keep pushing.”
Thu, 4 April 2019
At 16, he began building websites.
At 18, he became a regular at the gym.
At 20, he started sewing and screen-printing workout apparel in his garage.
By 26, when most adults are only on the cusps of their careers, Ben Francis had already launched a viral gym clothing line, served as its CEO, and stepped down in favor of a more creative role in the wildly successful company.
Today, the Gymshark founder works alongside 190 staff, including the high school buddies who partnered with him to launch the brand, bringing this unmistakable apparel line to customers in more than 130 countries.
And while it seems like this former pizza delivery boy magically rocketed to entrepreneurial stardom overnight (OK, he sort of did), his success can be traced back to a dedication to community building and an innate understanding of social media influencer marketing, long before it was a thing.
But it all started with amateur website building, a love for fitness, and a whole lot of YouTube.
Years before he was a CEO, Francis longed to make a name for himself in the fitness space. But the closest thing he had to investors were people calling to order a pizza, so establishing a clothing brand couldn’t have seemed less attainable.
Not to be discouraged by limited funds, Francis and his high school friends began a workout supplement drop-shipping business and quickly realized that there was an opening in the workout apparel market.
Dressing a bodybuilder and a skinny, weight-lifting newbie are two totally different jobs, especially when you’re going for form-hugging designs fit for a workout. Francis and friends, however, believed they could create a line that would be sleek, modern, and appealing to gymgoers of any body type.
“And so,” Francis says, “I bought a screen printer and a sewing machine and started to make the clothes by hand.”
The designs were an overnight sensation.
“People were seeing the clothes, and they were so iconic and unique, that it sort of started to spread like wildfire,” Francis says.
But the real secret sauce was the passion he and his friends had for YouTube.
In the early 2010s, YouTube was rising fast. People passionate about everything from movies to knitting, gaming to, yes, fitness, were creating video content and building communities around shared interests.
Francis and his friends were among the millions who joined online followings based on their hobbies, but stuck around for the personalities in the videos. One such fitness YouTuber who held their attention was Lex Griffin of Lex Fitness, whose channel now has over 440,000 followers. Another was Chris Lavado, whose channel has 65,000 subscribers today.
Realizing they could leverage the followings of others, Francis and his friends pursued a business strategy that put them on the map, and that they still use today.
They sent samples to Griffin, Lavado and other fitness YouTubers they admired, and hoped for a stamp of approval—and a video to prove it.
While the term “influencer marketing” has only recently entered into the pop consciousness, the principle has been around as long as marketing. Attracting the favor of a wealthy or influential person by showering them in gifts that define a brand is as a classic move, a point Francis illustrated by sharing some history of his hometown of Birmingham, UK.
For hundreds of years, the Jewellery Quarter in central Birmingham has been a hub for opulent accessories. Many jewelers open businesses in the Quarter, and the competition is fierce. But historically, there was one way to ensure that a brand’s name would be on everyone’s lips: become the first choice of royalty.
Frances explained that this principle of vying for favor worked then and still works now.
“They would provide a bunch of free jewelry to royalty so that people would associate that jewelry with the royalty and then hopefully back to the brand and go buy it,” he says. “It’s no different to what influencer marketing is nowadays.”
“I think it’s worked forever, and as far as I’m aware, I think it’ll always work.”
And so, like an ambitious jeweler in the 1700s, Francis sent off his product to curry favor with those who had the power to make his brand catch fire. And it worked.
“They absolutely loved it, and they’re still with us today,” he says. “That started, I guess, what you’d now call an influencer market for us.”
Today, Francis continues to leverage the audiences of athletes through an ambassador program that now includes such personalities as bodybuilder Matt Ogus, lifestyle and fitness vlogger Nikki Blackketter, and weightlifter Whitney Simmons.
Because of Francis’s early success in harnessing an influencer-generated market, Gymshark has never relied on investors for capital.
“We never needed investment,” he says. “So why complicate things?”
Francis recognizes, though, that there was also a component of luck at work. He entered the world of social media influencer marketing when it was still a young idea, and those with followings weren’t inundated daily with products in search of a boost.
“I do think it’s a hell of a lot more difficult than when we first started,” he admits. “It’s a completely different place now.”
But if he were to launch a new business today, a venture he says would be a fun challenge with the vastly changed online landscape, he knows exactly where he would focus his attention.
“Product is king at the end of the day,” he says. “I would focus on creating an absolutely brilliant and a gorgeous product because I think from that, it’s like a snowball effect.”
He believes that by designing a remarkable, unique, and stunning product, anyone can rise above the cacophony online.
“If you get someone’s attention with a genuinely brilliant product, people will wear it, people will use it, and people will talk about it.”
But for now, Francis is focused on the current community he has built.
Growing up, Francis loved attending events and expos in his hometown and dreamed of the day he would not only participate, but host his own. His belief in the power of person-to-person advertising was instilled in him as a young expo attendee and has continued to stick with him into his mid-20s.
“Even though the world is becoming ever more online, and 99.9 percent of what we do is online, there is always space for that human connection, and I think that’s really, really important, and it’s a real important thing to Gymshark.”
So in Gymshark’s very early days, when an opportunity to participate in an expo presented itself, Francis says that nothing could have stopped him from finding a way to join.
When he reached out to one of the coordinators to find out how much it would cost to get Gymshark a spot, he was quoted a price far more than they were able to afford at the time. But as Francis likes to emphasize, he plans hyper long-term and hyper short-term and lets the rest in between work itself out.
“This was 12 months in advance of the show, and I was like, ‘Right, yeah. We’ll have it. We’ll get that, and we’ll just sort of make it work,’” he says. “It was our dream to go to an event like that.”
And go they did, beginning a successful string of expo appearances that were initially in the UK, but rapidly branched out internationally until, eventually, they stopped going to expos and started hosting them.
“I literally think, ‘Let’s make the product that I love,’ and by default, I think other people would love, and let’s create the event that I would love to go to, and by default, I think that other people would really enjoy to go,” he says.
He also says that when it comes to events, making a profit is not the immediate goal. Just like the early days spent working a screen printer in a garage, Francis’s motivation is simply a desire to create something awesome. Something he loves.
“We just sort of think, ‘Right, what would we really, really love to go to? Let’s go make it happen. Let’s forget about the profit and loss at that point for that event. Let’s just go make something really, really cool.’”
But rapidly gaining a dedicated following, especially when selling a physical product, has its challenges. Francis says that Gymshark’s biggest challenge at the moment is keeping up with demand, especially when YouTube influencers or expo attendees are hyping them.
“We definitely made massive improvements in the last six to 12 months, but there’s still a long, long way to go,” he says.
Part of the Gymshark’s effort to keep up with growth meant Francis himself coming to terms with his right role within the company. As CEO, he quickly came to realize that he was in a position that he was not suited to fill.
“We were growing so fast, and the role of the CEO is very people oriented,” he says. “I’m very much an introverted person. I’m much more suited, and work better, in either a very small team or on my own where I can really dive into a project, focus on that thing and make it really special.
“As we were growing bigger, it became more and more evident to me that the CEO really needs to be a lot more of a strategist and a lot more of a people person than what I am.”
So Francis made the difficult decision that it would be best for him to step into the role of Chief Brand Officer instead. But the transfer of CEO power didn’t just happen overnight, which he feels helped build trust among himself and the staff. It happened over a period of about a year as Steve Hewitt, the current CEO, slowly took on more and more until he finally stepped fully into the role.
Of course, passing leadership on to someone else is always a humbling and challenging process, but it’s one that Francis has come to embrace as an opportunity to become more fully himself.
“I think it’s very important to be self-aware and to understand what you are good at what you’re not good at,” he says. “I’m a massive, massive believer of that.”
Today, Francis has the freedom to focus on product and vision, gathering small teams together to pursue new designs and strategies for the future.
So what’s next for Gymshark?
Francis says that they are always pursuing innovation and are currently in the process of designing new fabrics, as well as looking to branch out of the strictly apparel space.
And in an effort to keep avid followers and fans of the brand up to date, Francis has recently launched a vlog series of his own, giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Gymshark and into his world.
In the 10 years since Francis started creating amateur websites from home, his world has utterly transformed. But many things remain the same: a love of fitness, a passion for social media, and an unbreakable bond with his high school friends turned business partners.
The Gymshark brand invites each customer and avid follower to “Be a visionary.” And Francis is asking nothing of his followers that he hasn’t done himself. After all, where would Gymshark be without an enthusiastic pizza delivery boy who had the vision to buy a screen printer, and the boldness to show the world what he could create?
Ben Francis’s Tips for Success
Launching a brand new product on your own or starting your own business is never easy. No matter how large or small the venture, it requires vision, courage, and determination. But Ben Francis believes that there are three things any beginning entrepreneur can do to improve their chances of success.
Francis says he was once asked to share a story about a time when he was told that he couldn’t do something. He paused to think, but his mind came up blank. “That never happened, because I never surrounded myself with those people,” he says. Starting a business is a challenge, but with the support of people who inspire and motivate you, Francis believes that mountains are reduced back into molehills.
Being honest with yourself and clear about who you truly are is one of Francis’s crucial steps to success. “Self-awareness is key,” he says. “I think it’s massive. You can only kid yourself for so long.” Without the ability to identify which skills you have in abundance and which you lack, you’ll be unable to build a team around you that complements your abilities and improves upon them.
Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, Francis insists on the importance of allowing them to guide your decisions. “Could I do an operational…role for a little bit? Absolutely. I’m reasonably intelligent. I could manage,” he says. “But would I be able to do it for a sustained period really, really well? Absolutely not.”
Rather than forcing yourself to be something you’re not, Francis encourages all entrepreneurs to be honest about their strengths and find ways to play to them, even if that means relinquishing, as he did, the title of CEO.
Wed, 27 March 2019
When Kim Perell landed a job at a hot new internet startup in 1998, she thought she had hit the jackpot.
She loved her job and learned a lot, but when the dot-com bubble burst, the startup went bankrupt. What was once a dream company that she recruited many friends to join had become a nightmare when she had to lay off those friends, and then lose her own job too.
“In an instant, someone pushed delete on my life, and my future, my identity,” she says. “My multimillion-dollar stock went up in flames and was worth nothing.”
Perell turned to the one person she thought might give her a loan to start over: her grandmother. And sure enough, even though Nanny didn’t know what the internet was, she loaned her granddaughter $10,000, which Perell spent on a computer, a GoDaddy account for a website, and a one-way ticket to Hawaii to live with her boyfriend rent-free.
Perell launched Frontline Direct, a digital marketing company pairing brands with online advertising. Scarred from the bankruptcy, she was eager to work for herself and get back to basics, which meant focusing on profitability and growth. In 2008, Frontline Direct was acquired for $30 million, and again by Amobee, where Perell now serves as CEO.
Through all the ups and downs, Perell has learned many lessons, which she passes on to fellow entrepreneurs in her latest book, The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success. After investing in over 70 startups, she noticed one thing stood out in particular for those who succeeded: they focused on execution more than anyone else did.
For her, writing The Execution Factor was a way to pay it forward.
“If I could shortcut the system and share, based on my own experiences, what is important as an entrepreneur, that was really meaningful to me,” Perell says. “And I just felt like my grandma made a bet on me, and I was going to pay that back.”
In addition to the book, she established The Execution Factor Fund to provide seed stage funding to execution-driven startups. One hundred percent of the proceeds from her book are contributed to this fund.
(And in case you were wondering: Perell paid back the loan to her grandma.)
Thu, 21 March 2019
Tony Fernandes has worn many hats over the course of his decades-long career. And if the Group CEO of AirAsia (and former host of The Apprentice Asia) ever finds himself dissatisfied with a signature look, he’ll just invent a new one.
“You have to keep renewing yourself,” Fernandes says. “You’re only as good as tomorrow.”
That philosophy undergirds Fernandes’s entire career trajectory. Before starting what is now one of the world’s most successful budget airlines, Fernandes was an accountant, working briefly for the likes of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Communications. He then reinvented himself within the music business, where he served as a Warner Music executive in Malaysia.
Fernandes’s latest reinvention is his biggest, and most complex. He’s the co-founder and Chairman of Tune Group, a conglomerate of hotel, automotive, financial services, education, media, and telecommunications industries subsidiaries. And he sits at the helm of AirAsia, a budget, no-frills airline that has revolutionized travel in Southeast Asia. After purchasing the then-bankrupt airline for a shocking 24 U.S. cents, Fernandes has grown the brand to a net worth of more than $1.5 billion. AirAsia is now the fourth-largest airline in Asia, behind only the big Chinese carriers (in 2017, AirAsia flew over 90 million passengers), and it recently embarked on an ambitious program that will see the airline transform itself into a travel technology company.
To hear Fernandes tell it, two primary factors differentiate AirAsia from other companies. For starters, the company has always embraced digitization. And secondly, the organization is built on inclusivity and creating a fantastic work culture. Here’s how Fernandes has leveraged those strengths to build a company that no one thought possible.
Pursuing a Childhood Dream
In 2001, during Fernandes’s more than decade-long stint in the music business, digital advancements began to threaten deeply entrenched industry norms. Fernandes spotted an opportunity, but his colleagues weren’t so keen on the digital revolution.
“Napster had come along and Spotify was just starting, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is super exciting for the music industry,’” Fernandes says. “But I was a lone voice.”
No one at Warner Music or Time Warner Inc. (where Fernandes was working at the time) thought it was a good idea. “They thought the internet would destroy music,” Fernandes says. “My premise was that we can’t hold technology back and that this was a fantastic distribution model to create more revenue.”
But his vision didn’t gain traction, and when Time Warner merged with AOL, he decided to bid adieu to his music industry career.
He was sitting in a bar in London, trying to figure out what to do next with his life, when he saw mention of the budget airline easyJet on the pub’s TV. Fernandes instantly recalled his childhood love of planes.
“Always from a very young age, I’d told my dad, ‘I’m gonna own an airline one day,’” he says. “That’s one of those things you say, but you’re not entirely sure you’re gonna do. But I always said it. And so I thought, ‘Well, this could be the time.’”
It might seem like a bold move for a music industry exec to presume he could run an airline, but Fernandes was motivated by one simple premise: YOLO.
“I thought… ‘You only live once,’” he says. “If I fail, I fail. It’s okay. I’ll go get a job doing something else. But I don’t want to sit there at 55 and say, ‘I wish I did it.’”
Fernandes’s idea gained further traction after he started studying the models of low-cost airlines such as RyanAir. (RyanAir’s then-Director of Group Operations would later become a shareholder of Fernandes’s airline.) Inspired by what he refers to as an “amazing concept,” Fernandes gathered up some partners and returned to Malaysia for a meeting with the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister agreed to let Fernandes and his partners into the airline industry, but only if they purchased an existing airline. As a result of some devastating circumstances, there were a lot of opportunities. Fernandes was looking to purchase an airline around the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which had sent the industry reeling. He ended up purchasing AirAsia, a Malaysian government-owned airline that was $11 million in debt, for a grand total of 24 U.S. cents.
After purchasing AirAsia, Fernandes knew he had to move fast. “It was very clear to me once we started moving that…I was going to put the foot to the accelerator because there were some big around me,” Fernandes says. “When you have something, scaling up is important.”
Luckily, Fernandes spotted multiple avenues for growth.
For starters, he knew that at the time he acquired AirAsia, only 6 percent of Malaysians flew. If he could capture even a portion of the other 94 percent, he’d be in business. What’s more, he was willing to fly to places that most airlines didn’t go. “A lot of our growth has come from destinations that no one did before,” he says.
But perhaps AirAsia’s biggest differentiator was its use of the internet at a time when, globally, many still weren’t online. “Back in 2001, most people didn’t even have internet yet,” Fernandes says. “But I said, ‘Trust me, when I put a fare at 2 dollars, people are going to find their way to the internet.’” Since then, AirAsia has been religious about tracking and keeping data. So when huge brands started to embrace digitization many years later, they were already ahead of the game.
Still, Fernandes knew he was at a disadvantage, due to his lack of industry knowledge, so he accelerated his learning to ensure he could continue AirAsia’s rapid growth. He sat down with engineers, pilots, simulators, and cabin crews; learned how to change a wheel; and generally threw himself into understanding the intricate workings of planes and airlines. “I was a sponge,” Fernandes says. “I took everything in.”
A strong focus on innovation, learning, and growth helped Fernandes and his team make up for what they lacked in capital.
“Let’s be real, three guys from the music business coming in to start an airline is not the most convincing business ,” Fernandes says. “No bank gave me a cup of coffee. Did we want capital? Of course. But we didn’t have it. But again…we built a massive airline with very little capital.”
In fact, AirAsia only raised one round—$30 million around year three—before launching its initial public offering (IPO). “I’m old-fashioned in that aspect,” Fernandes says. “I believe in cash. I believe in making some profit. If you have a model where you can make money, make money. And of course reinvest some of that money, which we did.”
Much of that money went into flying to new places. “The product was going places that no one else wanted to go,” Fernandes says. “We couldn’t stand still… kept adding routes and new destinations.”
While the airline continues to add new destinations, today it’s equally focused on developing a multi-pronged digital strategy. The organization is digitizing all of its processes to enhance efficiency and the customer experience. It’s also attempting to create a comprehensive travel ecosystem that will enable users to book train tickets, purchase concert or other event tickets, use financial services, and so on, all from one central hub.
“We’re using and building platforms that will provide more value to my customers…and it’s an exciting vision,” Fernandes says. “There’s a huge potential if we can execute well.”
That execution hinges on a top-notch team working cohesively and effectively. Luckily, Fernandes has been building that since day one.
Building a Dynamite Culture
“Culture is, I think, the most important thing in the success of AirAsia,” Fernandes says.
Fundamental to that culture is a bedrock of transparency and trust—even among 24,000 staff. “It is by complete choice that we’re open plan,” Fernandes says. “When you have an office, you have all these invisible walls. … So one day I just came in and smashed all the offices. I brought a contractor in and just tore them all down. And we’ve been open-plan ever since.”
In keeping with the open office concept, AirAsia also employs a fairly flat organizational structure. “I like to think we utilize everyone’s brain,” Fernandes says. “We put everyone…in the same building. Everyone eats in the same place, everyone goes to the same gym. I want people who believe they can do a lot more and grow in this company.”
This spirit of inclusivity extends to diversity. “We embrace diversity,” Fernandes says. “We don’t care what race, creed, color, sexual orientation you are. And I think that’s a strength. Because that gives us a huge diversity in our workplace, and a huge ability to attract great talent and great ideas. … I wanna have a fantastic, multi-ethnic, diverse company, and I think we’re not far from that.”
Of course, when you’re dealing with a team of 24,000 people, it’s easy for bureaucracy to rear its ugly head. “We got big, and politics and bureaucracy creep in,” Fernandes says. “But it’s not something I’m gonna run away from. I confront it because bureaucracy and politics is the cancer of any organization”
One strategy the team uses to confront bureaucracy is simply having fun. “I think too many business leaders take life too seriously,” Fernandes says. “Too many entrepreneurs get too stressed. Have a balance. You don’t have to work 18 hours a day. Make sure you give time to your family and your kids and your friends.”
In Fernandes’s view, this juggling act is worth it in pursuit of building a great team. “You’ve gotta surround yourself with good people, and you’ve gotta be prepared to listen,” he says. “Too many founder CEOs think they know it all. … You can have all the ideas you want in the world, but the execution is what it’s about, and you need a good team.”
Luckily, developing a great team has always been fundamental to Fernandes’s vision for AirAsia.
“My vision was to create a great place to work—a fair place to work, where it didn’t matter whether you…had money or a great education, but if you had a great brain and you had the will and belief, you could achieve anything in this airline,” he says. “To turn a raw diamond into a diamond—and we have so many of those. … If you really push me, it’s allowing a lot of my staff to live their dreams—that would be something I’d be most proud about.”
That spirit of affirmation and inclusivity extends from AirAsia’s team members to its customers. In spite of the many ways that Fernandes and his airline have reinvented themselves over the years, the company’s slogan has remained the same since Fernandes first developed his vision all those years ago: Now everyone can fly.
5 Mini-Lessons in Entrepreneurship from Tony Fernandes
“Great ideas are great ideas…only people know about them,” Fernandes says. “Too many businesses don’t spend enough on branding and marketing. Keep a budget for that.”
“The world is littered with products that didn’t reinvent themselves,” Fernandes says. For example, he references Nokia. “Who believe a world without Nokia phones? They were it.” Today, of course, the phone landscape is very different.
“You have to live within your means and live within your resources,” Fernandes concedes. “But you also can’t stand still. It’s a balance. But life is a balance. Everything you do is a balance.”
“Failure doesn’t worry me, because I’d rather fail than not try at all,” Fernandes says. “Many people are too worried about failing, so they don’t do anything. I’ve had many failures… I don’t have any regrets, because if I didn’t try I didn’t know.”
“You can do all the marketing research you want,” Fernandes says. “You just gotta go with your heart sometimes and do it.”
Thu, 14 March 2019
Life in the Fast Lane
From washing cars, to selling them, to building businesses, Sendlane CEO Jimmy Kim credits focus as the key to his rise to the top.
Like many children of Asian-American immigrants, Jimmy Kim knew his parents had high expectations for him. When he was a child, his mom told him that he needed to become a doctor because that would make him the most money.
“I don’t wanna be a doctor,” the young Kim replied. “I’m gonna make more money than a doctor.”
Fast forward to 2018, and Kim is making good on that promise to his parents, as an entrepreneur working in online marketing.
He’s built and sold multiple companies, and now sits at the helm of the fast-growing email marketing software Sendlane. The bootstrapped company employs 25 full-time employees in its newly remodeled, 6,000-square-foot office in San Diego. As of May, Sendlane had already more than doubled its revenue over 2017 and was on track to triple or even quadruple that number by the end of the year.
How did he get here? Kim attributes his success to one thing: focus.
From Washing Cars to Building Businesses
At 15, Kim was entirely focused on one goal: saving up enough money to buy a car. He started working 10 hours a week making pizzas at a local shop. But earning $4 an hour made saving enough money difficult.
“When I turned 16 and I got my driver’s license,” Kim recalls, “I still couldn't afford a car because, well, I came from a middle-class, first-generation Asian family, and my dad's not going to buy me a car. I mean, it didn't matter what my grades were at that point.”
He figured the next best thing to owning a car was working with cars, so he got a job washing cars at a dealership.
“That was my solution,” he says. “That was my first mindset: ‘Okay, let me go at least get to drive cars.’”
Kim worked at the dealership until he went off to college. During summer break, he returned and asked for his old job back, but they said the positions had been filled. He felt defeated. But as he walked out of the office, one of the salespeople spotted him and asked him a question that would change the trajectory of his career: Why don’t you try selling cars?
Thanks to his excellent work ethic in the past, the manager hired him on the spot. During Kim’s first month, he sold 31 cars, made $14,000, and became salesman of the month, at the age of 19. Some brushed it off as beginner’s luck.
“That just fuels the fire in me,” Kim says. “That's how I am. I'm a competitive person.”
His second month, Kim made even more money and, again, was named salesman of the month. That’s when he decided to make the difficult decision to drop out of college.
“Now, as an Asian growing up in an Asian family, it was probably the hardest conversation that I ever had with my family,” Kim says. “My parents did not approve. They thought I was crazy. They thought I was wasting my life, ruining my life.”
As a compromise, he agreed that after a couple of years of making money, he’d go back to school and fund his own education.
After that conversation, Kim went full time at the dealership and was doing well, but being the ambitious kid that he was, he felt he could do even better. He noticed a finance position opened up at the dealership, and he was drawn to the challenge of selling intangible goods—life insurance, car insurance, paint protection, etc.
“I wanted to be that guy to sell that intangible because I thought it was really fun to take it to the next level.”
Excited by the possibility, he asked if he could take the finance position. The manager said he would need to speak with the general manager, and a couple days later, came back to Kim and said the position had already been filled.
“The anger inside of me actually grew at that point,” he says, “which, I'm not an angry guy at all, but for some reason, I just felt like he was lying.”
Infuriated, Kim marched up to the general manager’s office (“It's totally disrespectful. I should have never have done that.”), and told him he couldn’t stand the place and he was quitting.
A month later, he got a call from the owner of the company, inviting him to come back and talk it out. Kim shared his aspirations with the owner, and eventually, was sent to a finance class where he obtained his certifications and earned his coveted spot in the dealership’s finance department, where he eventually worked his way up to finance director.
At 25 years old, Kim became general manager of a Saturn dealership, and under his oversight, it became one of the top 10 Saturn dealerships in the nation.
The End of an Era, the Start of an Empire
In 2009, General Motors, which owned Saturn, filed for bankruptcy, forcing Kim to make his next move.
“It was kinda sad,” he recalls. “I remember that bittersweet moment that it was the end of that realm.”
With GM going under, some people wanted to reopen the Saturn dealerships as Kia stores instead. They asked Kim if he’d be interested in helping, and he agreed to help them get started, but set a hard date for when he would leave the auto industry.
“I realized that this isn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Kim wasn’t entirely sure what he did want to do, but he had a friend, Anik Singal, who had an internet marketing company, and he’d always been curious about what he was doing. So he approached him and said, “Look, I don't know what's going on as far as what you actually do in business, but there's one thing I'm really good at—I can sell stuff and I'm really good at operations.”
The timing was perfect. At that point, Singal’s company had more than $1 million in debt and needed help. The two friends worked out an agreement. Kim would help the company get out of debt, but in exchange, Singal would teach Kim everything he knew. As soon as the company was out of debt, Kim would move on.
And just like that, Kim went from making around $250,000 to $300,000 a year at the dealership to about $80,000 a year at the internet marketing company. But remember, for Kim, it’s all about focus, and he had a plan.
By 2013, after delivering on his promise to get Singal’s company out of debt, Kim transitioned to the next phase of his career by starting his own internet marketing company, JK Marketing. In 2016, he estimates that business brought in $4.5 million in revenue.
From Side Hustle to Full-Fledged Business
While Kim was running his internet marketing company, he and his team developed an in-house solution to their email marketing woes: Sendlane.
“We never intended it to be anything else but for us,” he says. “That was the number one thing: We built it for us. It was a platform. It was ugly. It was purposeful. That was all we built it for.”
But by 2014, friends and clients alike began asking Kim where they could find out more about Sendlane. The problem was, they couldn't. All that existed was a login page for Kim’s company to use to access the app. So in 2015, he and his team decided to open the doors to the public and see what happened. They put up a simple webpage with a payment portal—and people started signing up. From 2015 to 2017, they ran it passively. In its first year, Sendlane reached $40,000 to $50,000 in monthly recurring revenue. By 2016, it climbed to $80,000 to $90,000 a month.
So there Kim was, juggling his internet marketing company, a growing side business, and on top of that, a clothing store in Las Vegas. But in August 2017, a life event changed everything for him. His daughter was born.
“The moment I saw her I realized that I needed to find more time in my life,” he says. “Yet I knew that I couldn't slow down business because I love business too much. So I had to find a good balance.”
To do that, Kim decided to sell most of his companies and revive his favorite tactic—focus. He would pour his energy into one company only, and it would be Sendlane.
“I took that hard look,” he says. “I looked at the companies and I was like, ‘You know, this is the company that I can see incredible legs, and I know we haven't focused on it, but look what we did without even focusing on it. What can we do by simply focusing on it?”
That was in August 2017. From September 2017 to May 2018, Sendlane grew an average of 10 percent, month over month.
Bootstrapping Versus Raising Capital
That age-old question. So far, Sendlane has been 100 percent bootstrapped, but Kim says he will be raising capital to the tune of $5 million later this fall.
“Bootstrapping is great and it's a way of life, of course, and I totally respect it, and I think that it's been a great journey for me.”
But as someone once explained it to Kim, you can own 33 percent of a $30 million bootstrapped company, or you can own 20 percent of a $100 million VC-funded company.
“Being bootstrapped, you're always going to slow yourself down because of revenue and money,” Kim explains. “But when you have a large infusion of money, it becomes a different mindset because now all you're focused on is growth and not the money.”
And what would Kim do with an infusion of $5 million? He says he plans to spend the majority of the funding on growth, such as media buying and salespeople, keeping a close eye on getting an ROI as fast as possible.
The One Thing Your Email Marketing Needs
While we had his attention, of course we had to ask Kim to share some of his email marketing knowledge. The first thing Kim wants people to know, though, is that you can’t use outdated tactics and expect awesome results.
“People are still trying to do what worked in email marketing in 2008, in 2018,” he says. “People don't recognize things have changed so dramatically. … People are just getting a heck of a lot more emails every day.”
In fact, a whopping 269 billion emails are sent each day, according to a 2017 report by research firm The Radicati Group. So how can you stand out in a crowded inbox? Kim recommends behavior-based automation.
Using your email marketing platform, create emails based on actions a user took (or didn’t take). Did they open your emails? Did they buy anything? What kinds of actions have they taken in the past?
For example, if a subscriber isn’t opening any of your emails, it may be time to get more aggressive. On the other hand, if a subscriber is opening all of your emails but hasn’t made a purchase, that tells you they’re highly engaged, but for whatever reason, they’re not buying. It may be time to move that subscriber into a separate email funnel that pushes them to make a purchase.
“Creating that personalized experience is, bar none, the best way to make people want to actually listen to you and want to open your emails,” Kim says. “That's email automation and that's the best way you can do it now, in 2018, and forward.”
This level of personalization can be achieved with email marketing software that allows tagging, revenue tracking, and “if this, then that” statements.
“Things like that you can do with email, you can do with Sendlane of course, but you can do it with most email platforms that are more advanced thinking.”
What’s Next for Sendlane and Jimmy Kim?
Aside from raising a round of funding later this year, Kim has an entire roadmap for Sendlane that he wants to continue to implement.
“I'm not going to tell you that I'm not going to ever sell the company,” he says, “because if someone offers me enough money, I'm going to sell the company, and I'm going to move on to the next project. But the coolest thing about that is, being the owner or founder, you don't have to worry about that if you just put your heart and soul into it.”
Kim also wants to put more time into sharing nearly a decade’s worth of his digital marketing knowledge. He plans to get more into vlogging; he’s already started a YouTube channel where he shares tips on anything from Facebook ads to affiliate marketing. And a recent project he’s particularly proud of is the Advanced Email Marketing course he put together in collaboration with Foundr.
“It's always been kind of a small passion of mine to share this information,” he says. “Whenever comes out, that's something you should be looking for.”
Kim’s 4 Tips for Founders
NEW COURSE ALERT: Want to learn advanced email marketing secrets from the cofounder of Sendlane? In our latest course, Jimmy Kim is sharing all the knowledge he’s learned to help you transform your email list into a money-making MACHINE.
In Advanced Email Marketing, you’ll learn:
To be the first to know when Advanced Email Marketing is open,
Wed, 6 March 2019
240: How to Use Excellent Customer Support to Stand Out in a Crowded Market, With Ross Paquette of Maropost
When Ross Andrew Paquette founded email service provider Maropost in 2011, he never expected it to take off.
“The plan was to have 10 customers and maybe sit by the pool a little more often than not,” he says with a laugh.
But since then, he’s scaled the company to nine figures, with an impressive customer list that includes DigitalMarketer, Livestrong, and The New York Post. And beyond email marketing, Maropost has expanded into customer acquisition and ecommerce solutions.
These are extremely crowded markets, but at the core of the company’s success is its strong commitment to excellent customer service, with heavy emphasis on a 24-hour in-app live chat and five-minute support response times.
We chatted with Paquette to learn the strategies he used to so impressively grow his SaaS company in a short amount of time.
Tue, 26 February 2019
You don’t become the richest self-made woman in American real estate by playing it safe. Dottie Herman has proved time and time again that bold moves pay off.
In the 1980s, in a maneuver that solidified her path to the top in real estate, Herman flew to California and convinced Merrill Lynch to hire her to help the company expand into the real estate market.
In 1990, when Prudential decided to sell its regional holdings, Herman then persuaded the company to lend her $9 million to purchase its own Long Island real estate offices.
And in 2003, Herman expanded her empire into New York City with the nearly $72 million purchase of the most prominent Manhattan real estate company, Douglas Elliman (again convincing Prudential to finance the deal).
“If you don't ask, you don't know,” Herman says. “And the worst that can ever happen is someone says no.”
Thu, 21 February 2019
238: Juggling Multiple Projects and Knowing When to Step Away, With Grasshopper Founder David Hauser
David Hauser’s life changed forever the moment he taught himself how to code.
Like so many other nascent entrepreneurs, the power of computer programming set him on a lifelong path as a tinkerer, always fine-tuning and building in an effort to shape his and others’ futures.
In much the same way Hauser learned how to code, his entire entrepreneurial journey has been one of unrelenting trial and error, involving a mix of success, failure, and personal and professional evolution. With the creation of tech companies like Grasshopper and Chargify, Hauser used his talents and curiosity to shape his own destiny, and make a splash in the startup world.
Now, in his latest endeavor, he’s directed that very sense of experimentation to the field of health and fitness, with an upcoming book documenting his extensive adventures in improving his own physical well-being.
But it all started with a few lines of code that enabled him to pursue a nontraditional professional life.
“I always worked for myself since before high school,” Hauser says. “I never had a traditional job.”
In the late 1990s, the internet was gaining unstoppable momentum, and as websites started to become viable means of doing business, the demand for web designers and ad creators increased dramatically. This shift granted new opportunities to clever teens on the cutting edge of new technology who wanted to make a few bucks (and sometimes much, much more) from the comfort of their childhood bedrooms.
Hauser, who has no formal tech training, was one of these teens, swiftly making his way into the world of banner ad management and creating his own company WebAds360.
“From there, I started grabbing onto different things, learning different technologies, working with other people,” he says. “But it all started with web design.”
Before graduating college, he founded a second company, called ReturnPath, to help businesses that used permission-based email lists to keep their addresses up to date as subscribers graduated college or changed jobs.
Being a teenage entrepreneur in the late 1990s and early 2000s presented some major limitations, however. For one, what phone number were prospective clients supposed to call?
Cell phones of the time were still extremely basic and lacking features like putting a caller on hold or setting up a conference call. Meanwhile, home landlines might be answered by baffled family members. Neither option exactly screamed professionalism. It wasn’t just a problem for young people working at home, either, as lots of scrappy new entrepreneurs were lacking dedicated business phones.
So when the born and raised New Yorker headed off to Babson College in Massachusetts, and met Siamak Taghaddos, another entrepreneur with a similar problem, they put their heads together to pursue a solution.
Leaping Toward Success
“It started with a really simple idea,” Hauser says.
All they wanted was a way for tiny companies, startups, and solopreneurs to have the phone presence of a large, established company. And when neither he nor Taghaddos could find an existing solution to their problem, they did what so many successful entrepreneurs end up doing. They built their own solution.
Because they were only out to solve a problem for their existing businesses, Hauser admits they didn’t spend a lot of time on research or planning.
“It wasn’t well-researched necessarily, beyond the fact that we knew we had a problem, and we thought that we could solve it,” Hauser says.
During the process of creating the solution to their own problem, they realized that they were really onto something. That maybe this was going to be much bigger than a new tool for their own tool belts.
And because he and Taghaddos had their fingers in a lot of pies, and the money flowing in from their existing projects was enough to fund their new endeavor, they never needed to request outside funding.
In 2003, the pair officially launched Grasshopper, a service that enabled small businesses to present themselves like big businesses using just a cell phone, complete with extensions, customizable greetings, and simultaneous call handling.
Before long, Hauser shut down all of his other businesses, including WebAds360, and decided to focus entirely on the management and growth of Grasshopper.
And business boomed.
Small businesses and startups flocked to the service, delighted that it enabled them to operate with the professionalism of a well-established corporation. The company continued to grow for the next six years, when Hauser decided it was time to relinquish his role of CTO.
“I was always relatively technical,” he says. “But I am definitely not a top programmer, and as we really started to build out the company, it was clear that we needed to have better leadership from a technical perspective, and I could apply my talents better elsewhere.”
So, Hauser moved through another phase in his evolution as an entrepreneur and broadened his scope.
“Rather than being just focused on the technology side, I spent a lot more time in company culture, HR, hiring, process, goals and how we implemented those,” he says. “I shifted my focus.”
And as he stepped back, looking at Grasshopper from all angles, he saw possibility everywhere.
Trial and Error
Even though Grasshopper was a big success, Hauser’s head was bursting with new ideas and new problems to be solved.
In 2009, he developed Chargify for streamlined recurring billing. Then in 2010, he created PackageFox, a way to secure guaranteed refunds from late or lost packages shipped through FedEx or UPS. And in 2011, he launched PopSurvey, a graphical survey creator.
These are just a few of the self-funded side businesses born out of Grasshopper, and Hauser says there are many more that aren’t resume-worthy or that never saw the light of day.
“Those are probably just the ones that became something,” he says. “There are tons of others that failed and never really got very far, or failed horribly bad and we lost a lot of money.”
PopSurvey eventually fizzled out, overcome by competitors. PackageFox was an opportunity for Hauser to learn more about automation, but he eventually sold it off to someone in the space who could make better use of it. Hauser kept Chargify longer than either of the other two, but recently sold it, as well.
And while Hauser learned much during this time of exploration and creation, he admits that it created a lot of tension within his team at Grasshopper.
“We thought maybe we couldn’t keep growing Grasshopper, and we started all these things, and wasted a tremendous amount of time and money, but more importantly distracted ourselves—and even worse, probably, distracted the team—from the thing that was growing well. We could have just doubled down,” he says. “The success would have been much better than if we had wasted all that time, but that was the blind spot we had, and luckily we realized it.”
Hauser says that internal blind spots are some of the most difficult challenges that founders face. While an entrepreneur is wrapped up in the excitement of a new creation, he says it can be nearly impossible to determine impartially whether or not that is the best possible use of time.
“We’re overly invested in something, and we have that blind spot to maybe this isn’t the right thing to be working on right now,” he says.
But whether by choice or by force, the decision to take the left fork instead of the right is eventually made.
“I think sometimes it happens naturally. That progression just happens and you kind of see it,” he says. The problem is that sometimes it takes too long, and we over-invest in something that’s not productive, taking time away from something that has a much brighter future.
And while he is thankful that the ultimate effect this period of distraction had on Grasshopper was minimal, he would have done things differently given the opportunity.
“Looking back on it, it was not the best choice,” he says. “We should have focused on Grasshopper and grown Grasshopper.”
But despite any amount of distraction, Grasshopper grew and grew until the company was raking in $30 million in annual revenue. Before long, the success of Grasshopper drew the attention of hungry eyes, and the acquisition calls started pouring in.
Sales and Farewells
“When we started the company, we had no exit plan,” Hauser says. “Our goal was to build a company we loved being at and loved doing what we were doing. That was it.”
So when the first of the interested buyers knocked, Hauser turned them away empty-handed.
But as Grasshopper was a privately funded company, without the limitations placed on it by investors and capital, interested buyers were not to be discouraged. Eventually, Citrix, a multinational software company, made them an offer that they couldn’t ignore.
Citrix said that Grasshopper could retain their brand name, keep the team together and continue growing the company.
Over the course of a year, Citrix worked with Hauser and Taghaddos until they recognized that this proposal was a great fit for everyone involved. So they decided to sign on the dotted line.
As soon as the sale was finalized in 2015, both Hauser and Taghaddos bid their greatest success farewell, something Hauser describes as being “very emotionally difficult” but “best for both the company and Citrix.”
He trusted the management team to keep steering the ship in the right direction, and with Citrix’s new ideas for growth and strategy, he knew the business was in good hands. Neither he nor his partner were interested in sticking around for “two more positions for highly paid executives with titles that are kind of meaningless in a big public company.”
While he knew he had made the right decision, Hauser was rocked by the impact of his choice.
“All of a sudden, your email address changes, your phone number, your identity,” he says. “For 12 years, I was the guy involved in Grasshopper, and I ran Grasshopper. That’s who I identified with and people identified me with, and that just changed overnight.”
For a year after stepping away from Grasshopper, he continued with Chargify, but in July 2016, he sold that business, too.
With a clean slate, Hauser stepped into his next phase of evolution.
He explains that the core purpose of Grasshopper was to empower entrepreneurs to succeed. Now, he’s just hopped into a larger field.
“After a year, I came back to and found my core purpose,” he says, “and that’s empowering others.”
The Pursuit of Health
It’s been two years since Hauser’s life changed with the sale of his two most successful brands, and he spent the latter half of that time on an exciting new project: himself.
“I really wanted to change my life, and that included changing my exercise and diet, and I went from doing extreme endurance sports to practicing yoga six days a week,” he says. “Like massive change.”
In pursuit of this change, he also took just about every test imaginable—blood tests, stool tests, sleep tests, DNA tests and more. All in the pursuit of a healthier life.
And now he is ready to share what he has learned.
Thirty pounds lighter, Hauser is releasing a book in 2019 called Evolve: Optimize Your Life, Body and Mind. In it, he busts myths around fad dieting, trendy workouts, and quick fixes, sharing instead the methodology he used to transform his own life.
He also tackles many of the health sacrifices entrepreneurs make while chasing lofty goals. And despite all the changes he tried in his own life, he isn’t necessarily an advocate of massive life shifts or hours spent in the gym. He believes that often the little choices can make the most impact.
“It’s always easier to work an extra hour past midnight because no one is bothering you, right?” he says. “It’s easy to pick up the phone and call for pizza, because you know you get that instant boost and gratification and can continue working for an extra hour. But I think, at the end of the day, what I care about is output and productivity, and I don’t think there is very much value in that extra hour of work when it is low productivity and low value, and it is just work for work’s sake.”
Through his book, Hauser hopes to open the eyes of founders and non-founders alike to the power they have over their own lives and the small adjustments they can make that will bring huge impact.
“The idea with the book is allowing people to understand that their life is a self-experiment and doing little things like maybe just buying a new pillow for your bed…could have massive gains,” he says. “Each thing in your life is an experiment, because you’re different from everyone else.”
Once again, just as he did as a teenager learning to code, Hauser is relying on the power of trial and error—how the slightest adjustment, addition, or subtraction can make a big difference. He is, yet again, learning to crack the code, and yet again, hopes it can change lives.
David Hauser’s Tips For Living A Healthier Life
Since founding, building and selling Grasshopper, David Hauser has invested much of his time in pursuit of a healthier life. In 2019, he is releasing a book on the subject, “Evolve: Optimize Your Life, Body and Mind,” and these are just a few of the tips held inside for entrepreneurs pursuing a healthier lifestyle. For more information on the upcoming book, and a free chapter on the impacts of coffee, visit www.evolvebook.com.
“I am a huge believer in routine,” Hauser says. “If you talk to the most successful people in the world, most of them will tell you routine is very important.”
He is such a strong believer in routine that, even when he doesn’t plan to work out, he still goes to the gym because it’s on his schedule. By developing a routine that allows for more movement, more stability, and more sleep, he thinks entrepreneurs can improve their lives—as well as their businesses—in enormous ways.
“As founders, understanding our sleep patterns—improving our sleep patterns—I think has tremendous effects and gains on our productivity the next day, the next week, the next year that we don’t realize,” Hauser says.
By making more time for sleep, and being unwilling to compromise that time for a little extra work at the end of the day, he believes that entrepreneurs will actually be far more productive. Entering into each new day refreshed improves mood, interaction, and problem solving—all areas that are vital for success.
“Life is a self-experiment and doing little things like maybe just buying a new pillow for your bed…could have massive gains,” Hauser says. “Each thing in your life is an experiment, because you’re different from everyone else.”
Even the smallest changes can make a massive impact, and what works for others may not necessarily be the best choice for you. By trying new ways to solving old, persistent problems, he believes people can make great impacts on their health, and what is more entrepreneurial than that?
Wed, 13 February 2019
Jay Baer was born to be in business. As a seventh-generation entrepreneur, he always knew he’d start his own company one day.
Over the years, his ventures have run the gamut—from an early internet company to a design firm to his popular marketing consulting firm, Convince & Convert. His clients have included Hilton, Cisco, Nike, and Oracle, just to name a few.
And if that weren’t enough, Baer is a New York Times-bestselling author, with six books under his belt. His latest, Talk Triggers—co-authored by marketing expert Daniel Lemin—dives into the power of word-of-mouth marketing and how to use it in your own business.
What is a talk trigger? According to Baer, it’s a “strategic, operational choice that creates conversations.”
Take DoubleTree, for example. Their talk trigger is the warm chocolate chip cookie given to every guest who checks in. Baer and Lemin interviewed 1,000 DoubleTree customers for this book, and that’s just for one of the 30+ case studies you’ll find inside.
If you want to acquire customers faster and cheaper, listen in as Jay Baer shares his marketing know-how to help you identify your business’s talk trigger.
Wed, 6 February 2019
“I don’t think CEOs should be able to be CEOs if they can’t code,” says Grant Petty, founder and CEO of Blackmagic Design.
That’s a bold statement, but Petty is a bold guy. Working as an engineer in the television industry, he realized the technology was overpriced. So he started a company that cut costs and put power into the hands of creators.
“Really what I was doing was a protest against the way the TV industry was,” he says.
And soon, Petty began to challenge the status quo of business in general. He runs his company a little differently: There are no spreadsheets, very little planning, and to him, metrics hardly matter.
“In the Western world, business culture becomes so rigid and so inflexible,” he says. “If you’re a creative person, you can get destroyed by that because they don’t allow you to exist.”
Today, Blackmagic Design boasts nearly $300 million in annual revenue and is still 100% bootstrapped. Its technology is used by 80% of modern day feature films. We sat down with Petty to discuss what he’s learned about how to run a meaningful business in the face of opposition.
Thu, 31 January 2019
These days, Sabri Suby reigns supreme as the founder of King Kong, Australia’s fastest-growing digital marketing agency. But he’s come a long way since his first job, selling ink cartridges over the phone, which he describes as a “cold, hard slap to the face.”
“I sucked incredibly badly at doing that in the beginning,” he says.
Soon enough, thanks to mastering the art of sales and persuasion, he became the top producer in that role, went on to travel the world, and eventually, forged his path as an entrepreneur. For all of his companies, he realized he was asking the same fundamental question: “How do we get more customers?”
His obsession with answering that question has helped him perfect his selling skills and scale King Kong from zero to $10 million in annual revenue in just four years.
In his latest book, Sell Like Crazy, Suby reveals the selling system he’s created and honed over the years, including things like the Magic Lantern Technique and the Halo Strategy. He says he’s deployed this system in more than 167 different niches and markets—and it’s worked every time. With Sell Like Crazy, he shares the steps you need to take, regardless of what stage you’re in, to level up your business.
Tue, 22 January 2019
From humble beginnings to fitness empire, Sweat CEO Tobi Pearce tells us what it takes to run a multimillion-dollar business and grow a powerful brand with a significant other.
At just 26, Tobi Pearce has accomplished a lot. He’s the CEO of Sweat, a fitness app that’s been downloaded 30 million times. He’s engaged to his business partner and Instagram fitness star Kayla Itsines. And together, they’re worth an estimated $63 million, according to Australian Financial Review.
But just a decade ago, Pearce was homeless and struggling to get by on $45 a week, something he revealed in an Instagram post in July 2017. “I am not posting this for sympathy and this is not a sob story,” he wrote. “I just thought it was time some of you got to know ‘me.’”
To get to know Pearce is to discover many unexpected facets. While he’s popular for his fitness empire, prior to all of that, he was a “nerd” who grew up in a small town in Australia and loved playing classical music. From what we’ve seen on social media, he can just as easily shred it on piano as he can in the gym. On his Facebook page, he posted a video of himself playing a complicated Chopin number, writing, “I used to be embarrassed to tell people I played piano as a kid because it wasn’t ‘cool’ or classical music made me a ‘nerd.’”
Today, Pearce has plenty to be proud of. In addition to his upcoming wedding to Itsines, TechCrunch reports that the couple’s fitness company is on track to bring in $77 million in revenue this year.
From Classical Music to Fitness Classes
Pearce began his foray into fitness when he started working as a personal trainer to pay his way through college. He and Itsines met at a gym and began dating around 2012. Eventually, the pair became business partners, too, with Pearce taking over the marketing side, helping to promote Itsines’ popular Bikini Body Guides ebooks and grow her Instagram account (today she has more than 10 million followers).
Not one to be easily satisfied, Pearce then set his sights on expanding the business “to kind of shake up the industry.” That’s when the Sweat platform was born.
“My whole career and this particular field has always been about trying to push boundaries and kind of see how far we can move the dial and how big we can build things,” he says.
Originally dubbed “Sweat With Kayla,” the Sweat app provides workout videos, meal plans, and progress-tracking tools to its subscribers, for $19.99 a month or $119.94 a year. It targets millennial women with programs from bikini body to post-pregnancy workouts and boasts well over a million monthly active users.
The Appeal of an App-Based Business
Moving from ebooks to a mobile app, what made Pearce choose a new platform for Sweat? As he tells Foundr, there were three main reasons:
First, he wanted a better user experience. Originally, Itsines’ workouts were being shared through ebooks—not a very interactive platform. Pearce wanted a way to have more control over the user experience, including being able to gather user data to improve the product.
Second, he wanted to meet the needs of millennials. Most of Sweat’s customers are in that age group, so Pearce knew that meant the content needed to be mobile-friendly.
Finally, he wanted to be able to scale. To be able to make a real impact on the health and fitness industry, internationally, Pearce knew Sweat needed to switch business models.
“The big move was, yeah sure, from ebooks and a website to an app,” he explains. “But it was also a huge migration from a single-purchase service into a subscription business. And subscription business economics are completely and fundamentally different to that of a traditional ecommerce business.”
Combating Churn With an Engaged Community
As with any subscription business, churn is always a concern. One way to combat the tendency for members to cancel their subscriptions is to cultivate an engaged community. For Pearce, this is a no-brainer: He’s seen how it works from his personal training days.
When he was a personal trainer, he often picked up on the social habits of the people he was training. At 8:30 a.m., for example, a few women attended a 30-minute class with Pearce, while another group of women had coffee together downstairs awaiting their 9 a.m. slot. Once 9 rolled around, the groups would exchange spots, and by 9:30, when everyone was finished with training, they’d all go to the beach together.
“Fitness actually brings people together,” Pearce says.
But how can you recreate the social aspect of in-person fitness classes in a mobile app? The Sweat team knows people feel their best right after they’ve exercised, so within the app, users are prompted to invite their friends once they’ve finished a workout. They can even share their trophies and achievements, as part of what Sweat calls “social currency.”
Beyond the friend-invite feature, Sweat has a community forum where members can share stories, find advice, and get motivated.
“Not seeing much progress :( starting to panic,” wrote one bride-to-be on the Motivation & Encouragement forum.
“There is such a difference between the two photos,” replied another member. “You’re definitely making progress so keep up the good work!”
“There's all these different stories,” Pearce says of the forums. “But there's hundreds of thousands of women that can connect and relate with one another, and that really brings them together.”
On Chasing Growth Without Sacrificing Quality
While Pearce is aiming for growth, he’s not willing to do it at the cost of top quality and a strong brand. Sweat’s trainers, for instance, are carefully curated.
“We're not really looking to have like a hundred or a thousand different trainers and programs,” Pearce says. “We're kind of looking to have best in house and best in class.”
A prime example of this is Kelsey Wells, who joined the Sweat team over a year ago and leads the weight training and post-pregnancy programs. Beyond her finesse in the gym, she’s excelling on Instagram with 1.4 million followers. Her brand growth and depth have impressed Pearce, who says, “We'd much rather work with 10 people like her in their own specific categories than a thousand people that are just generalists.”
With a team of talented trainers who are also Instagram rockstars, does Sweat have aspirations of acquiring influencers abroad to boost international growth? “There's definitely a potential for that,” Pearce says.
How a Fitness Power Couple Finds Work-Life Balance
Google “Tobi Pearce” and you’ll find plenty of headlines referring to him as “fiancé of Kayla Itsines.” From the start, he’s been comfortable doing the behind-the-scenes work while Itsines steps into the spotlight for the Sweat brand. As soon-to-be spouses and current business partners, how do they strike a healthy balance between work and personal life?
“It has its testing moments, that's for sure,” says Pearce, adding that he’s obsessed with the business aspects while Itsines loves handling content creation and community interaction.
“She’s able to switch off,” he says of his fiancée.
Pearce, on the other hand, not so much. “I've always been probably a little bit too interested in ,” he says. “If I'm not talking about it, I'll be reading about it. If I'm not reading about it, I'll be listening to something about it or learning one way or another.”
Pumping Up Your Personal Brand
In recent years, a movement to build your “personal brand” apart from your company or product brand has taken hold of the entrepreneurial world. Big names like Gary Vaynerchuk and Neil Patel come to mind; both social media powerhouses use their personal brands to funnel clients into their consulting agencies.
Sweat has a similar story. It began as Itsines’ personal brand, which Pearce helped grow into the formidable Instagram presence it is today. Recently, Forbes named Itsines as the top social media influencer in fitness. Many of her faithful fans have followed her to the Sweat app, too, where she leads high-intensity workouts based on her Bikini Body Guides.
So what’s the secret to building a powerful personal brand? “Content and messaging are really king,” Pearce says. That means content that is high quality and messaging that creates interest.
“There's so much crap on social media,” he adds.
In the fitness sphere, he says it’s more than just looking good and posing for the camera. You need to create content in an intimate and authentic way. Just take a look at @kayla_itsines on Instagram. Instead of polished, picture-perfect content, it’s a mixture of motivational quotes, funny memes, before-and-after praise for her clients, and of course, workout videos—all with conversational captions where Itsines’ personality shines through.
While Pearce is hesitant to give a one-size-fits-all strategy for growing your Instagram—”Every industry is different,” he warns—there is one Instagram tip he recommends for fitness brands: lay off the endorsements.
“It's all well and good to sell a product or do endorsements, sure,” Pearce says. “But if that becomes everything that you do, it really becomes a bane of your existence and it's actually quite saturating for your personal brand. It's impossible for you to maintain credibility and authenticity as a brand if every second post that you do is talking about a new deal that you've done.”
Instead, says Pearce, focus on what you’re good at. Let’s bring Gary Vee back into the discussion. Take a look at his social media accounts. How many times does he mention his agency?
“I don't think I've ever actually seen him do that,” Pearce says. “The point that I'm making there is that if you do have a product, it's very often what you're trying to do is sell yourself and sell the opportunity, sell the dream. You're not really actually trying to sell the product itself because telling people to buy stuff is irritating.”
The Sweat brand steers clear of hard sells. That’s no small feat in an industry that’s always pushing guarantees of six-pack abs, a celebrity body, or a nice rear-end. “We would never, ever do that,” Pearce says of his company, “because reality is that it instills the wrong cycle of mindset in consumers. It predicates the wrong perceived mindset before consuming a product and that only actually sets up consumers for failure.”
How to Sell Without Selling
If people hate being sold to, how do you get them to buy? Sweat focuses on the benefits, not the features. For instance, instead of promising you amazing abs, Sweat’s messaging would tell you how you’re going to feel more confident and develop better relationships by getting healthy with its app.
“The best car salespeople are the ones who actually don't try to sell you anything, but they make you feel like you really want to buy the product,” Pearce explains. “They're telling you why this car's going to be perfect for your family. … They're not telling you that it's got 19-inch rims and blah, blah, blah.”
For Sweat’s Instagram account, Pearce focuses on posting educational, credible content that adds value: healthy eating tips, user-generated content, and motivational quotes, with a few posts highlighting the Sweat app sprinkled in.
“It pitches us as industry experts—which we rightfully are—but then it makes people turn to us when they do want to spend their money on a product that's actually going to help to solve these problems in their life, rather than going for the one that just says six-pack abs, because no one actually believes that crap.”
And Pearce doesn’t get fixated on the one-off purchases; he’s looking to create long-term users and repeat buyers, which is something the Sweat platform is built to nurture. “They develop friendships with other members of our product and that builds our community.”
Working Out What’s Next
For the next year or two, Sweat will be focusing on reducing churn and improving the product, namely, getting more quality content and keeping users engaged.
Long-term, though, Pearce hints at something more. He says there are three big pillars in the fitness industry: facilities (think studios and gyms), trainers and therapists, and content. “We obviously kind of only play in the content spectrum of that at the moment,” he says. “I think in the longer term, we'll probably, hopefully, get a chance to play in some of the other areas as well.”
Wed, 16 January 2019
Steve was a guest of StartCon, Australia’s largest startup and growth conference. It was held over two days at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
One For The Books
The story of Booktopia, ‘Australia’s favorite bookstore,’ and how they’re conquering the competition—even Amazon.
Once upon a time, a programmer who got his start with IBM was given an enchanted opportunity to create a magical bookstore that would one day battle powerful giants. The magical power? With just a click of a button, Australians could have brand new books delivered within days to their doorsteps.
And just like in most fairy tales, our hero and his friends stumbled upon the opportunity entirely by accident. “We literally fell into it,” says Steve Traurig.
Traurig and his two brothers-in-law, Tony and Simon Nash, were running an online marketing consulting business when Angus & Robertson, the 130-year-old Australian bookseller, approached them and asked if they would be interested in getting into the book business. The pitch was a white label book retail website, meaning that everything from the website creation to the distribution would be handled by Angus & Robertson. All Traurig and company had to do was add their personal flair.
But Booktopia, the company that arose from that project, would end up becoming something much bigger. Nearly 15 years after Traurig’s brother-in-law said he “wouldn’t mind giving that book thing a bit of a go,” Booktopia has served over 4.2 million Australians and is on track to bring in $115 million this year, making it the market leader in online book sales. Oh, and they now own Angus & Robertson.
The journey from their very first book sale to squaring off against Amazon for online book supremacy in Australia was a chess game of strategic move after strategic move. Thanks to some shrewd decisions, including focusing on customer interaction and building their own ecommerce and fulfillment systems, Booktopia’s well on its way to happily ever after.
A White Label Bookshop, Transformed
In 2004, with only $10 a day to put toward advertising their new business, Traurig and the Nash brothers dove headfirst into the book world.
“When we first started, we owned nothing,” Traurig says.
When Booktopia first launched, Angus & Robertson created their website, managed their distribution and owned the brand. Traurig and his brothers-in-law were responsible only for marketing, so they created a few Google AdWords campaigns (one of which is still running today) and waited for their first books to sell. By the end of the first year, they were doing $100,000 in business a month.
This worked beautifully for the trio and for Booktopia for three years, but in 2007, they had to confront the reality that what they were building, with revenue ever increasing, could all go away in an instant. They also realized that the fulfillment company was neither able to keep up with the growth they were experiencing, nor were they able to meet the expectations Traurig held.
“We decided we had to go out on our own, because we were actually building a company of value,” he says, “and we realized that if you want to have something of value, you have to do it yourself.”
Things were going well, and they realized that in the current setup, they didn’t really own anything of substance, should they ever want to sell.
So they broke away from the fulfillment company and set out to turn Booktopia into something of their own. They set up their first warehouse, hired a warehouse manager, bought some shelves off eBay, and got to work building their own core systems.
“Dealing with those sorts of numbers in databases, in the website, in the front end, in the backend, etc., the scale is beyond almost any other retail environment, and we had to make it all work,” he says. “We built the systems ourselves and that takes particular commitment and skill.”
With all of the changes taking place, it would have been reasonable to see a marked customer drop off. Before the transfer, they did about 130 orders a day, but that number only dropped to about 110 a day, even after everything from their systems to their website changed.
Through it all, the Booktopia customers remained loyal. In fact, the focus Booktopia places on the customer experience would come to define their brand.
“It’s about the customer obsession,” Traurig says. “About putting yourself in the place of the customer.”
When Traurig and his brothers took on the fulfillment side of the business, they began with only a single book on their physical shelves, but knew that building up their stock was the only way to give their customers the best experience.
Instead of the long wait from the moment an order was placed until a supplier could deliver the order and then ship it off, all they had to do once they built up stock was grab an item from the shelf the moment the order came in and send it along.
“That was essentially a business-changing experience, because the feedback we got from the customer was instantaneous,” he says.
Customers responded with glee that their books arrived so quickly, inspiring them to remain loyal and recommend the bookseller to friends. Because of this organic growth, Booktopia has never needed to take on investors.
Even without investors, they have consistently outmatched the competition and met their sales goals. In fact, they made the BRW Fast 100, Financial Review’s list of the fastest growing Australian brands, seven times between 2009 and 2016, the only company to do so.
Traurig says that they have also built strong relationships with their banks, something he describes as a critical part of doing business. This gives them additional wiggle room if necessary, staving off a need for traditional investors.
“A lot of startups, a lot of founders, think they immediately need to go out and grab someone else’s money and give away bits of the company,” he says. “There’s definitely merit in doing that for certain types of models. We chose to actually build a solid business organically and build it off the back of our customers and customer service.”
And this approach has carried them through what could have been a business-ending battle.
Squaring Off Against a Giant
When Amazon announced that it would be launching in full in Australia at the end of 2017, Traurig wasn’t nervous. The institutions they worked with, however, had concerns.
The gargantuan online retailer had generated $136 billion in revenue the year before, with all signs pointing to continued growth. So how was “Australia’s local bookstore” going to keep up?
Well, according to Traurig, they had been keeping an eye on the behemoth from the very beginning and hadn’t let its success deter them.
“From our point of view, when we started Booktopia, Amazon was shipping $100 million worth of books into Australia already, and we didn’t worry about that,” he says. “We were fearless.”
They focused instead on their own business, and the most important asset: the customers.
Due to its global nature and size, Amazon has an impersonal quality to it that Traurig says Booktopia always vowed to counter. For example, Booktopia’s website has the office’s physical address, email, and phone number on every single page, not only allowing but encouraging customers to reach out and share praise, complaints, and questions instantaneously. They wanted to be accessible and feel like a part of the community.
To keep up with the emails and phone calls, they quickly hired their first customer service staff, a cheerful individual who still answers the questions of Booktopia customers today.
Traurig says they take customer feedback extremely seriously and use it to inform their continued development. With a 20-person development team on the case, he says that Booktopia is always in pursuit of the best possible user experience, a quest that can only be completed through regular, honest feedback.
Traurig says that this approach to customer service has been the key to keeping up with the competition.
“All throughout our history, Amazon has been this massive company…but we were just focused on getting product to our customers.”
And if winning 2016’s National Book Retailer of the Year and 2017’s National Bookstore of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards is any indication, Booktopia’s approach is working.
The Next Page
Today, Booktopia has over 6 million products available on their website with over 150,000 of those titles in stock in a 140,000 square-foot distribution center. They also acquired Angus & Robertson, along with its online store Bookworld, in 2015.
“It’s a 130-year-old company that had a very, very good chance of disappearing completely,” Traurig says. “So for us, it was also an honor.” The company currently runs as its own business unit with independent marketing, branding and customer base.
The founders also have high hopes for the company’s automated systems and distribution center. To demonstrate their capabilities, Booktopia acquired an online camera and optics company. In doing so, Traurig and his partners are hoping to show that their systems can handle more than a single type of product.
So what’s next for Australia’s favorite bookstore?
Although they ventured down the path of going public in 2016, they pulled the IPO just before launch, choosing to remain a private company. With Amazon looming, and after watching several other online companies attempt to go public and fail spectacularly, they decided to keep things as they were.
While Traurig has a “never say never” mindset toward another try at going public, there are no plans to move in that direction for now.
“Our customers have been our investors,” Traurig says. “What we’ve always chosen to do is delight the customer.”
And in true fairytale fashion, delight them they will.
Steve Traurig’s Tips on Building a Sellable Company
While founders are still scaling the challenging mountains that come with launching a business, it might seem silly to think 500 steps ahead to the day they will be shaking hands on the sale of the company. But Steve Traurig believes building a company that will someday attract a buyer starts on day one, so he offered three tips to creating a company that will sell.
“One of the things we’ve always done is make sure that our financials, our financial reporting and our accounting are top notch,” he says. As you might expect, well-kept books have always been a priority at Booktopia. From the very beginning, they sought financial advice when necessary and kept all of their books in perfect order. And because neither he nor his other co-founders had strength in bookkeeping, they always made it a number one priority to hire someone skilled.
“It may just all look like a whole bunch of receipts and a pain the neck…but aim to set up solid financial management right at the beginning.”
In the beginning, Booktopia was a white label website, but when it started to flourish, Traurig and his partners realized they needed to make some changes. “If we wanted to sell it,” he says, “we had nothing to sell,” Traurig says. So they decided to build all of their own core systems to create something that would be attractive to eventual buyers. Traurig encourages founders to use as many original systems as possible and innovate wherever feasible. In doing so, the value of the company you may someday look to sell increases significantly.
Now that you’ve created something original, it’s time to show what it can do! Perfect its intended capabilities and then push its limits. This is what Traurig says they are currently doing at Booktopia with their distribution systems. Because they created the automation used in the center, they decided to demonstrate to potential buyers that it could handle more than one product at a time, leading them to purchase a camera company. The only thing better than an innovative creation is one that can be used in more than one way. Traurig says that demonstrating this is a great way to build a sellable company.
Fri, 11 January 2019
232: Create a Company Culture That’s Healthy and Profitable, With David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp
Eighteen years ago, David Heinemeier Hansson was a college student sitting in his little apartment in Copenhagen when he stumbled across a blog post by 37signals (which would later become Basecamp), a Chicago-based design company he had long admired.
In the post, co-founder Jason Fried posted a question on some aspect of programming. Hansson knew the answer, so he contacted Fried. Several emails later, Fried was asking Hansson to work with him.
“Jason decided it was easier just to hire me than to learn how to program,” Hansson says, “and that's how we started working together.”
That was the beginning of a now-legendary tech startup team, and an illustrious career for Hansson. In Hansson’s early days at Basecamp, he famously created Ruby on Rails, an open-source web development framework once used by Twitter, and still in use by GitHub, Shopify, and many more.
We were excited to talk shop with Hansson (often known as DHH) because, in an industry dominated by breakneck Silicon Valley culture, Basecamp stands out in many ways: It’s been profitable every year since its inception in 1999, it doesn’t chase growth, and it doesn’t even set numerical goals.
With their latest book, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, Hansson and Fried are hoping to challenge the prevailing narrative about chaotic work culture by sharing the unique way they run their company.
This is Part 2 of our Basecamp co-founder interviews. To hear Part 1, check out our podcast interview with Basecamp co-founder Jason Fried.
Wed, 2 January 2019
Ditching Growth and Setting Up Camp
How Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson turned their backs on lofty goals and created a profitable tech company quite unlike any other.
Growth is exciting. Sales boosts, climbing revenue, and eager investors are all signs of a happy, healthy company. Right?
Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson beg to differ. While they rejoice in revenue and profit as much as the next set of tech company founders, they define success a little differently.
Instead of chasing arbitrary growth goals and deadlines, they simply aspire to do their very best work day in and day out.
Instead of always expanding their line of software products, they double down to perfect the one they already have.
Instead of scrambling to hire more people when revenue is climbing, they enact a hiring freeze so as to not lose sight of their mission.
Critics might call their approach too timid. Others call them brilliant. Fried and Hansson don’t care much either way. They’ve followed the startup road less traveled and have pitched sturdy camp at the end of it—all while remaining profitable and highly respected.
Today, Basecamp is one of the leading project management and team communications tools on the market, while boasting remarkable employee satisfaction. The duo also have a new book out explaining their unique take on startups and how they’ve found success.
Setting Up Camp
The origins of Basecamp date back to 1999, when Fried started 37Signals as a web design company. It’s since transitioned to a web development company, specializing in project management and team communication software, and became Basecamp in 2014.
The transition to web development happened in the early 2000s, when young Danish developer Hansson responded to Fried’s blog query about PHP. Hansson had been a fan of 37Signals for years and jumped at the chance to help out. After a handful of emails, Fried decided it was easier to hire Hansson as a programmer than learn to code himself.
The firm created Basecamp’s flagship software product in 2004 and drummed up 45 customers in its first year. The idea was simple, but met an important need in the modern workplace: It allowed for real-time, remote communication to help teams identify what needs to be done (and when) and work together smoothly and efficiently. In the following years, the pair saw their product achieve steady growth, which also caught the eye of venture capital and private equity firms.
Even so, working with investors never made sense to Fried and Hansson. They didn't want to sell any control of Basecamp or be forced to exit their business on someone else’s timeline. But they did need money to continue developing Basecamp and its products.
In 2006, the pair was approached by Jeff Bezos himself. In exchange for a yearly dividend payout (but without making any other demands or staking any other claims to the company), Bezos purchased a piece of ownership and became a member of Basecamp, LLC. This arrangement worked well for Fried and Hansson as they didn’t have to sell control of their business to raise money, and the purchase was a lucrative investment for Bezos.
“[After Bezos’s investment], the appeal of selling the company subsided and allowed us to pursue our mission to build a wonderful company to work in for the long term,” Hansson said.
Fried and Hansson maintain a fiscal relationship with Bezos, but that’s about it in terms of what they’ve taken from the richest man in the world. As for perspectives on growth, productivity, and culture, Basecamp has blazed a trail of its own.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work
Or does it? Fried and Hansson’s latest book introduces a new perspective on the modern-day entrepreneurial hustle. They published this book to “[send] out an alternative beacon,” Hansson says.
The cover of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work features a big red “X” crossing out words like "packed schedules,” "80-hour weeks," and "overflowing inboxes."
Sadly, a lot of today’s business literature and role models celebrate crazy schedules, packed days, and little sleep. “[This has] been a predominant narrative for quite a long time,” Hansson says.
Pushing back on the norm, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work argues that this kind of lifestyle isn’t healthy, sustainable, or necessary. “You can do great work in a normal eight-hour day and 40-hour week,” Fried says.
Basecamp’s culture and success is a testament to this ideal. The 20-year-old business has been profitable every single year since it started, and the company’s 50-plus employees work a totally normal schedule. “At Basecamp, it isn't crazy at work,” Hansson says. “Crazy at work should be an exception; it shouldn't be the norm, and certainly not be an aspiration.”
The (Mis)Guiding Principles of Goals and Growth
As of 2018, Basecamp has more than 100,000 companies utilizing its software. But unlike most tech companies, that number goal doesn’t dictate their work.
“We have no interest in building [our] company to a certain amount of dollars or size,” Fried says.
In Silicon Valley, businesses often feel the need to dominate industries and destroy the competition. Basecamp isn’t driven by those criteria, and they’re definitely not driven by constant growth or lofty goals. “We've always felt that we don't need to chase anything but profit and quality...and quality of life, for both our employees and customers,” Fried says.
To Fried and Hansson, it’s much more about running a sound, sustainable, profitable business. Instead of prioritizing OKRs or various other acronyms, they simply focus on doing the very best work they can every day.
“The idea that a goal should be driving you harder. ... I don't understand why that'd be,” Hansson says. “People forget that goals are figments of their imagination.”
He explained that as a primary indicator of what success should look like, goals are not helpful. They’re arbitrary measures of success or failure…and falling short of one can make you feel bad when you shouldn’t.
Moreover, goals are often determined by looking at others. “They become this death of enjoyment by comparison,” Hansson says.
Basecamp does set a few loose, top-level goals, such as “build a good product,” “create a great place to work,” and “treat customers with dignity, honesty and kindness.”
But what about specific metrics, like sales, retention rate, or customer success? “We can look at [those] numbers, like retention rate, renewal rate, etc., to see how well [Basecamp is] working,” Fried says. “But we don't have goals around those numbers.”
To measure the success of their product, the team simply uses it themselves. They actually use it more than any other company. By employing their own product and improving it every day, they’re able to better understand their customer experience. And when it works better for them, it works better for their customers.
“We judge our success by how we feel about our work, and the customer reaction and reviews,” Fried says. They ask themselves, “Are we proud of what we did today? Are we proud of the way we did it? And ultimately, do customers like the product?”
How Basecamp Approaches Success
Such a nebulous approach to growth and goals is sure to make employees feel adrift, right? One might think so, but the opposite is actually true for Basecamp employees, they say.
There are very few meetings at Basecamp, and that’s not just because they are a mostly remote workforce. The company does have an office in Chicago, but even those who live nearby only come in a few days a week.
“We’re a writing-heavy company,” Fried says. Instead of insisting on weekly stand-ups or organizing project check-ins, the pair encourages their employees to chronicle all updates, ideas, and thoughts. This gives employees a chance to ponder what they’ve read and formulate thoughtful responses—instead of presenting an immediate reply the way you’d expect in meetings and boardrooms.
This notion of slow, delayed communication inherently pushes back on live chat, an up-and-coming trend in today’s tech companies.
“The idea of chat as a primary means of communication inside of a company, I believe it to be a very toxic idea,” Fried says. He argues that outside of social communication and quick check-ins, keeping in touch with chat can cause a massive distraction for employees.
“I think that, right now, chat is why work is more hectic for more people,” Fried says.
Like they contend in It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, Fried and Hansson don't expect, require, or support a culture that's “always on." They routinely monitor for “overwork,” and occasionally have to gently remind employees that late-night emails or mid-weekend product updates aren’t necessary. In fact, they’re frowned upon.
We don't reward late, hard overwork,” Fried says. “We’d rather reward someone who works normal hours and gets a lot done…someone who protects and manages their time. There’s no celebration of long hours here”
Basecamp hasn’t always been like this, though. Some of the values have been around since the beginning, but the company has spent the last 20 years constantly tweaking the way they work.
One major change Fried and Hansson have made is the way Basecamp gets projects done. The company used to work with absolutely no deadlines, then started implementing three-month work periods. Today, they work within six-week cycles.
The team doesn’t do anything they can’t complete in six weeks. When asked if that sort of deadline adds pressure, Hansson is quick to respond: “It could if you don't approach the idea of the budget as a tool. It’s there to shape your decisions and guide you. Budgets make it easier to say ‘no’ or ‘not right now.’”
Fried and Hansson are less interested and impressed by the results of work done with unlimited resources or timeframes. In the past, working with no deadlines left each project open-ended. It was harder for developers to say “no” or know when to stop working.
Each six-week time budget forces employees to make decisions and weigh tradeoffs. “That's what's enjoyable about product development,” Hansson says.
By implementing changes such as these, Fried and Hansson have noticed that Basecamp has become a calmer company. While the pair conducts employee audits twice a year, they mostly take the pulse of employee success and satisfaction by staying close to each team, which isn’t hard given the company only has 53 employees.
“We're constantly seeing [our employees’] work and talking to people,” Fried says. “We have a really good sense of how things are going. It’s pretty obvious when someone’s not doing well.”
How does their remote culture affect this? It doesn’t. The team has a few in-person outings each year—when they gather everyone in their Chicago office—but even those are spent “reconnecting and recharging social batteries,” as Hansson explains.
Basecamp’s culture is simply based on trust and harmony between words and actions.
When asked about the challenge of building a culture with a remote workforce, Hansson says, “[That is] based on a misconception of what culture actually is. Our definition is that culture is repeatable actions, what you actually do.”
Fried and Hansson do instill specific values and principles throughout the company, but Basecamp’s culture arises when they live up to those words. “Nothing transmits culture more than seeing actions, especially during hard times.”
He also believes that a remote workforce is better situated to building a strong culture because such culture is derived even more explicitly from the actions you actually take and the shared writings you commit, given there’s no office or in-person meetings to do the work for you.
The numbers behind Basecamp’s culture and employee satisfaction are off the charts. The industry average for employee turnover is about 18 months. Of the 53 employees currently at Basecamp, the average length of employment at Basecamp is 5.8 years. Eight employees have been there over 10 years, and almost half have been there over seven.
“Basecamp employees stick around a long time, even in traditionally high-churn positions,” Hansson says.
In the spirit of constraints, they’ve capped their headcount and are doubling down on good, effective work.
“We have no love for size,” Hansson says. “Big companies can’t solve small problems. The bigger they are, the more divorced and less able they are to relate [to customers]. More layers of management and indirection only harm empathy and kindness.”
Wed, 19 December 2018
230: Startup Legends Talk Hiring, Branding, and Core Values, With Oli Gardner of Unbounce and Ryan Deiss of DigitalMarketer
Most of Foundr’s podcast episodes are one-on-one chats, usually focusing on a particular foundr or their business. This time around, we were fortunate enough to sit down, in person, with two startup icons, and explore some of the most important facets of running a business.
Oli Gardner and Ryan Deiss are both digital marketing pioneers who have grown their online businesses to millions in revenue. Gardner, the instructor of our Landing Page Formula course, co-founded landing page builder Unbounce in 2009. Deiss, a serial entrepreneur, founded DigitalMarketer in 2011.
Not surprisingly, this turned out to be a fascinating conversation, in which Gardner and Deiss share both similar and differing opinions on everything from branding to hiring.
For example, both founders insist that creating core values is an important business practice that will inform your branding and your decisions. “I have had more businesses come close to failure because of too much opportunity,” says Deiss, who adds that having a mission makes it easier to know when to say no.
In addition, as both Unbounce and DigitalMarketer grow, Gardner and Deiss have each honed their strategies for hiring top talent. The details might surprise you, as one of the two companies doesn’t even allow candidates to submit a resume (it’ll get thrown out).
Listen in as Gardner and Deiss join Foundr for this lively chat in Barcelona, where they share their hard-learned lessons from growing online businesses and the sacrifices they’ve made along the way.
Wed, 12 December 2018
NEW COURSE ALERT: Entrepreneur, we wanted you to be the first to know that we’ve collaborated with Arman Assadi to bring you our brand new copywriting course. Learn the copywriting secrets behind 11 seven-figure product launches, taught by Arman himself.
Arman’s broken it down into a 10-step framework that he’s proven with his clients time and time again. He’s even going to give you templates, formulas, and how-to guides so you can start converting customers like crazy.
If you’re tired of seeing ZERO sales for all the hard work you’ve put into your amazing product—then you NEED to learn the power of copywriting. We’re opening the doors to this course soon for a limited time only, and we want to see you there. Be sure to get on the FREE waitlist so you don’t miss it!
Wed, 5 December 2018
Serial founder and VOIP pioneer Alex Mashinsky has founded eight companies and raised more than a billion dollars in collective funding since his entrepreneurial start in the 1990s—and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Mashinsky is the founder of Celsius, which allows users to earn interest on and borrow dollars against cryptocurrencies.
While Mashinsky wants his company to succeed, he sees much more at stake here than just his entrepreneurial resume.
Mashinsky is devoting his latest startup to taking on the world’s financial systems and driving the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies. Subverting the “big guys” has been a common theme throughout Mashinsky’s career, starting with helping AT&T develop some of the first international VOIP systems, and now fighting to decentralize the world’s banking systems.
According to Mashinsky, “This is the biggest battle that I’ve fought in my life. I fought with the phone companies…in the 90s. This is 10 times worse.”
Listen in as Mashinsky reveals the details of his entrepreneurial journey's highs and lows, his dedication to educate the world about cryptocurrencies, and entrepreneurial lessons only an eight-time founder can teach.
Wed, 28 November 2018
Frank Body co-founder Erika Geraerts left her $20 million coffee scrub company to invent a new category within the beauty industry.
She's now on a mission to empower young girls everywhere to feel more comfortable with themselves. According to this forward-thinking founder, the world has enough makeup products, and what the industry really needs is better products with better brand messages.
Geraerts thinks makeup should be fun, not a necessity or a chore, which is one reason she called her company Fluff. But there's nothing frivolous about her approach to business. Geraerts is filling a void in the cosmetics industry and raising up the self-esteem of women globally in the process.
In this compelling video interview, Geraerts reveals why she decided to leave her booming skin care company, and what she sees on the horizon for Fluff. She also talks about her strict manufacturing process, her focus on sustainable products, her unique customer development process, and the distinct way the company creates online content.
Thu, 22 November 2018
Bobbi Brown has spent her life helping people embrace who they are. Embracing herself—strengths and weaknesses—has also proven to be a powerful career strategy.
The veteran makeup artist and founder of the eponymous cosmetics line built her empire on the belief that people are most beautiful when they love who they are. This natural approach to makeup went against the over-the-top aesthetic of the 1980s—which, at the time, critics said would be her undoing—and people couldn’t get enough of her.
“My hope is to help women everywhere understand that being who you are is the secret to lasting beauty,” she writes in her book Pretty Powerful.
Powered by that philosophy, Brown became known as a makeup artist to the stars, touching up the faces of Carla Bruni, Katie Holmes, and Michelle Obama, to name a few. With characteristic warmth, she treats even the biggest of celebrities like old friends. A video for HELLO! Canada shows Brown in the back seat of an Uber with actress Meghan Markle, dishing out makeup tips and jamming to Biggie Smalls. As they part ways, Brown tells the now-Duchess of Sussex, “Text me later.”
Whether she’s getting celebrities ready for their close-ups or hobnobbing with the rich and famous in the Hamptons, Brown remains refreshingly down to earth. “One of my best attributes in life…is I'm incredibly naive,” she tells Foundr. “I think everything is going to work out.”
And for Brown, a lot of it has. She scored big with her first job out of college as a freelance makeup artist, catching the eye of Vogue, which hired her for a cover shoot with Naomi Campbell. In 1991, with just 10 lipstick shades, Brown launched a cosmetics line that she would sell to Estée Lauder four years later, and continue to work at for more than 20 years after that. When Brown stepped away in 2016, she left behind a billion-dollar company. And in the midst of all that, she met the man of her dreams, Steven Plofker, to whom she has been married for 30 years.
Yes, she has had an illustrious life and career. But one look at her latest projects makes it clear—Bobbi Brown is just getting started.
On Being Boss Again
When she left Bobbi Brown Cosmetics (which she calls her “first baby”), the beauty world was stunned. But the company was no longer in her direct control, and she was eager to be back at the helm.
“I realized that it was time for me to be the boss again because that's really what makes me happy,” she explains. “I like to be in charge, and I like to work with really fun, cool people to create things.”
And that’s exactly what she’s been doing. Her first project after leaving the company was to write and promote a book, Beauty From the Inside Out, a lifestyle guide that details recipes, nutrition recommendations, and confidence-boosting tips. This was a nod to Brown’s aspirations to broaden her scope from cosmetics to general health and wellness.
“I don't like a lot of makeup,” says Brown, who is an outspoken opponent of contouring, using darker shades to “reshape” parts of your face. “I don't believe women need a lot of makeup. And I think the healthier you are, the better you feel and the better you look.”
In 2017, Brown opened Just Bobbi lifestyle concept shops inside of Lord & Taylor department stores, where she curated her favorite wellness and beauty products for the public to peruse.
Earlier this year, she launched a line of wellness products, Evolution_18, on TV shopping network QVC. She also runs a film and TV studio, 18 Label Street, and her own line of eyewear, Bobbi Brown Eyewear.
And in an unexpected move, she partnered with her husband to breathe new life into a 1902 historic landmark and launch The George, a boutique hotel in their hometown of Montclair, New Jersey.
As if that weren’t enough, she’s got a podcast in the works.
With so many projects, how does she maintain her focus and a sense of cohesion? “It all works together for me,” Brown says, “because it's pretty much authentic, and it's marrying, finally, really what I believe in.”
Why She Never Wants to Build Another Billion-Dollar Brand
With Brown’s hard-earned success and elite status comes perhaps the greatest privilege any entrepreneur can obtain: the power to say no to otherwise enticing opportunities. She says many of her friends in venture capital have asked her, “How many millions do you want?” in an eager bid to invest in her projects—regardless of what those projects are.
“Look, it's very tempting,” Brown says of the investment offers. “But I don't want it.”
For entrepreneurs who have pounded down the doors of VCs hoping to snag just one investor, that outlook may be difficult to understand. But for Brown, it’s all about freedom.
“I don't want to have to report to anyone,” she says. “I don’t want to sit in meetings.”
While many tout the venture model of forgoing profitability now in order to borrow money, spend it on growth, and sell the company later, that’s not Brown’s style. If she were to sell 500 bottles of vitamins, for example, she says she would reinvest the profits by ordering 1,000 more bottles and keep growing incrementally from there.
“I'm very simple-minded,” she says. “I know it makes no sense, but I really do believe in making a profit.”
So, for now, she’s content to bootstrap, even if that means slower growth or a smaller business. “I never want another billion-dollar brand. … I never want to go that big again because the headaches that come with it are not worth the rewards.”
Reflecting on the expansion of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, she calls the first 15 to 17 years “amazing,” but says that as the company grew, her control over it diminished. “I'm not the boss anymore,” she says, “which is why I'm not there.”
Beauty, Glam, and Instagram
So if Brown is hesitant to grow her new businesses too big or too fast, and still wants to be able to call the shots, what is her plan for growth? A lot of it revolves around working her connections—especially the connection to her audience.
Back when Brown launched her career as a professional makeup artist, and even later as a cosmetics line founder, there was no such thing as social media or ecommerce. To get her products off the ground, she started mailing out lipsticks until one day, a New York department store agreed to carry them. In the digital age, when brands have direct access to consumers online, Brown is thriving.
“The internet is an amazing place for people to go on and really look and find the community they need,” she says. “Whatever you're going through, there is a support group for that. There are people teaching and empowering.”
Brown is active on Instagram (in fact, she manages at least four accounts), where you can find anything from the announcement of her latest probiotic product to photos of her recent trip to Paris. On Facebook, she hosts a weekly live broadcast where she interviews everyone from Gary Vaynerchuk to her Aunt Alice. And the best part? These episodes don’t cost her a thing; they’re shot on her smartphone.
“There are so many ways for people to start their own brands,” she says. “There's a lot to teach and a lot to learn.”
Making It Up as She Goes
By this point, Brown may seem unstoppable. But she’ll be the first to tell you that accepting her weaknesses has made her a stronger entrepreneur by forcing her to embrace her strengths, and get help with everything else. It’s similar to her approach to cosmetics. As a makeup artist, Brown refuses to hide clients’ “flaws,” preferring instead to accentuate their natural beauty.
“It's such a sign of strength for someone to know what they're not good at,” she says. “And I think a lot of…people starting to be entrepreneurs think they could do everything, and you can't.”
For instance, Brown doesn’t know how to type—but she’s written nine books. At times, she gave an assistant her handwritten notes and had them transfer them to digital; other times, she had writers interview her and take the information down for Brown to edit. “What you're not good at, find someone that is and tell them what to do.”
Her sharp sense of self-awareness was honed from a young age. Growing up, she struggled in school and didn’t have access to tutoring. “Either my parents punished me or they said, ‘Oh well, she'll never be a secretary.’ They were right…because I dropped out of typing because I couldn't figure it out.”
From those early experiences, she learned a valuable lesson. “I had to figure out, like, almost coping mechanisms. I don't know if I had learning disabilities. I wasn't good at something, but I knew I had to do this.”
When conforming to convention didn’t work for her, Brown would develop her own distinct approach. For example, the first time she wrote a book, she followed the rules: write the book, edit it, then source the photos. But it was extremely difficult for her. So with her last couple of books, she did photo shoots first, then put the book together based on the photos, then had the writers write. “I drove my publishers crazy,” she says. But for her, it worked better.
So if there’s something essential you don’t know how to do? “Figure it out,” Brown says. “That’s my only advice.”
Happiness Never Goes Out of Style
In many ways, Brown has been a contrarian in an industry that is notoriously cookie-cutter. And maybe that’s been the key to her success. While she used to compare herself to the supermodels she worked with, she’s learned to be comfortable in her own skin. When people told her things had to be done in a certain way, she forged ahead with her own process and succeeded. But even with her many accomplishments, Brown doesn’t subscribe to any notion of perfection or “having it all.”
“I'm not tall and blond and athletic, which I always wanted to be,” she says. “I can't sing. I can't draw. But I have a sense of humor, and I have a lot of friends. I've been married 30 years…I have three amazing boys that I adore…and I've been able to be an entrepreneur.”
“Is that having it all?” Brown says. “No—there’s no all. But I'm happy with what I have.”
Wed, 14 November 2018
225: New Founders Doubled Business and Hit Their First $10K Month (Consulting Empire Spotlight: Part 2)
Welcome to part two of our two-part podcast series that’s shining the spotlight on successful entrepreneurs who hail right from our very own Foundr community!
If you haven’t listened to part one featuring Gavin Symes, you can check it out right here.
Today, we talk with Danielle Roberts and Shea Kucenski, courageous entrepreneurs who started a marketing agency while working full-time jobs. Roberts and Kucenski took all the action steps laid out in the Consulting Empire course and in two months took their business from slow and stagnant to closing 20% of all proposals, doubling their earnings, and reaching their first $10,000 month.
In this inspiring interview, you will hear about Roberts and Kucenski’s journey to success, how they overcame their perfectionism and fear of failure, and how they land high-paying clients while managing busy schedules.
We are extremely proud of Danielle and Shea’s achievements and we are happy to share their amazing story with you!
ATTENTION: If you want to learn how to start and scale a service-based business like Danielle and Shea, whether you are a consultant, coach, or freelancer, agency founder Sabri Suby reveals all of his golden strategies (the exact ones he used to scale from zero to $10 million) in our Consulting Empire online course.
We only open enrollment a couple of times a year for a limited time, and it's open for just one more day this week! Check out the Consulting Empire course before we close the doors again.
Thu, 8 November 2018
224: Gavin Symes Scales His Consulting Business to $50K/Month in 3 Months (Consulting Empire Spotlight: Part 1)
The Foundr community is full of passionate people from all walks of life, in the trenches daily doing what it takes to make their startup dreams a reality. In this week’s podcast, we want to highlight one of these entrepreneurs we’re especially proud of—Gavin Symes of The Foundry Group.
In part one of this two-part podcast series, we talked with Consulting Empire student Gavin Symes, who advanced his business growth and management skills to create a profitable consulting business.
Symes took all the action steps laid out in the Consulting Empire course—from validating his service to developing a lead-gen machine—and built his consulting business from scratch. Three-and-a-half months into the course, he closed 10 clients and generated over $50,000 of monthly revenue. He plans on scaling to $1 million this year and then to $10 million in three years.
In this inspiring interview, you will hear about Symes’ own journey to success, the biggest problems most businesses face when scaling, and how to set up processes to overcome common business growth challenges.
We are extremely proud of Gavin’s achievements and we are happy to share his amazing story with you!
ATTENTION: If you want to learn how to start and scale a service-based business like Gavin, whether you are a consultant, coach or freelancer, agency founder Sabri Suby reveals all of his golden strategies (the exact ones he used to scale from zero to $10 million) in our Consulting Empire online course. We only open enrollment a couple of times a year for a limited time. Get on the free VIP waitlist here to be one of the first we notify when we re-open!
Wed, 31 October 2018
New to the US from Pakistan, Syed Balkhi was a lonely and isolated 12-year-old. Unable to speak English fluently, he took to communicating with new friends—computers—and quickly found comfort interacting with these non-human companions. Soon Balkhi was learning how to code and build websites, and that very same year he made his first dollar from a website he created.
Now 27, Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the first and largest WordPress resource website in the world, and co-founder of many accompanying businesses. He was also named a top entrepreneur under the age of 30 by the United Nations, his websites receive millions of monthly pageviews each month, and his software runs on nearly 8 million sites serving billions of monthly impressions.
Listen in as Balkhi takes you through the early years of his entrepreneurial journey and how, brick by brick, he built his empire.
Tue, 23 October 2018
Tobi Skovron, Founder, CreativeCubes.co
Dog toilets and co-working spaces? An unlikely pairing. But if you talk to Tobi Skovron, you'll find they have one thing in common—they inspired him to create two passion-filled businesses and realize his dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.
Skovron walked away from a promising career in medicine to pursue entrepreneurship, even though he had no idea what business he wanted to run. It wasn’t until Skovron got a dog that he came upon an idea that would take Australia by storm—an indoor dog toilet called Pet Loo. Piggybacking off of the success in Australia, Skovron decided to expand into the US market. He quickly faced a lot of challenges, however, since he made the move right as the 2008 recession hit. Skovron lost half his money right away.
Starting over in Los Angeles, he realized the spare bedroom in his Venice Beach apartment was not the ideal environment for him to breathe life into his US expansion, so he joined a co-working space to rekindle his inspiration. There, Skovron realized a new passion for this collaborative environment, which ultimately led him to his next project.
Skovron sold Pet Loo and started CreativeCubes.co, a hotel-like co-working environment that houses a curated community of passionate people. We here at Foundr have even used CreativeCubes.co to shoot many of our course videos!
These days, Skovron's less interested in financial return, and more interested in providing quality experiences and fostering an environment of positivity and creativity. Listen in and get inspired by this journey from aspiring entrepreneur to two-time founder.
Wed, 17 October 2018
221: Zero to $9 Million in 4 years: How Chris Peters & Rob Ward Built Quad Lock From a Kickstarter Campaign
Welcome to our newest podcast format, video interviews! You can expect more of this format in the coming months. Subscribe to our YouTube channel here to be notified when we publish new videos.
Today I had the pleasure of sitting down with the co-founders of Quad Lock, a mounting device to securely attach your smartphone to your bike, car, motorcycle, arm or in any situation where you need a hands-free moment. These guys are killing it with $9 million in yearly earnings in only four years!
This was a phenomenal interview, as Peters and Ward gave us 45 minutes of pure gold on how they built a strong brand reputation and high-quality product, how they manufacture their products in China, how they got started as a simple Kickstarter project, and so much more.
They also discuss brand longevity, how to become trendsetters, and how they overcame their biggest scaling challenges. If you want to learn how to build a long-lasting brand and scale your physical-products business, this is an interview you don’t want to miss!
Wed, 10 October 2018
220: Building Community as the Foundation for a Successful Content Business, With Carly Zakin & Danielle Weisberg of theSkimm
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg started their business as good friends on a couch, with nothing but their laptops and a healthy dose of hustle. Today, their millennial women-focused media company theSkimm serves seven million daily subscribers, employs 70 people, and boasts more than 30,000 enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
The company also just closed a round of Series C funding led by GV (formerly Google Ventures) and a group of mainly female investors—including the likes of Shonda Rhimes, Tyra Banks, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely.
Weisberg and Zakin have maintained a close friendship and strong collaboration throughout their six years in business. This dynamic forms the backbone of their company and sets the tone for daily operations, which is largely focused on supporting and empowering women.
In this interview, learn about the early days of theSkimm, the power of community and connection, and how the brand monetizes its content to build a sustainable media business.
The company publishes news that fits into the daily routines of its members, continually nodding to its mission statement of making it easier for people to live smarter, more connected lives. But if you ask us, these powerful founders are the smart ones, effectively proving the mantra, “We are all stronger when we work together.”
Wed, 3 October 2018
219: From Bankrupt to Bestseller: How Mike Michalowicz Used His Own Failures to Empower Other Entrepreneurs
Mike Michalowicz appeared to have everything an entrepreneur could want—big companies and lots of revenue coming in. But things aren’t always as they seem. As Michalowicz was high on fleeting indicators of success, his businesses were leaking profits. “I got caught up in the vanity metrics…how big my business was revenue-wise and how big my business was people-wise,” Michalowicz says.
After feeling the sting of and two failed investments and losing millions, Michalowicz found himself struggling with depression—along with a realization that ignorance and arrogance were a deadly combination. Thankfully, with support from friends and a rekindling of his love of writing, Michalowicz was able to pull himself out of the ashes and rebuild his career—this time with heart and soul.
Michalowicz used writing as a way to find solutions to all of the biggest challenges he faced as a founder. His books Profit First, Pumpkin Plan, and Clockwork tackle managing cash, business growth, and automating a company, respectively. His next book will focus on how entrepreneurs can serve a greater purpose and make an impact on the world.
Listen in and get inspired as Michalowicz gets brutally honest about his own struggles, and shares years of lessons learned to empower other entrepreneurs.
Wed, 26 September 2018
“It took me 10 years [to create my own business], because I didn’t have the courage to start. But I still had this belief that one day I would start it.”
Fortunately for Aytekin Tank and 3.7 million happy users, he ultimately did start that business—JotForm, a profitable online form builder that houses 12 million forms; integrates with Paypal, Salesforce, and Dropbox; and spans two continents.
It took Tank a decade to build that business, but he couldn't care less. In an entrepreneurial climate where rapid growth and risk-taking are worn as badges of honor, Tank considers his slow growth the reason for his strong company culture and long-term success.
Concerned that your wariness or risk aversion hinders your ability to become an entrepreneur? Listen in and get inspired by Tank’s journey. Anything is possible if you just take the plunge and then keep moving forward—no matter the pace.
Wed, 19 September 2018
Scott Belsky, Behance founder, investor, and author of the new book The Messy Middle, is a strong believer in putting in the hard work and then finishing strong. His nine-figure exit from Behance is a testament to this tenacity and determination.
Behance came with its own set of challenges, but Belsky learned over the years that when it seems like things are falling apart, it could mean victory is right around the corner. Your near-meltdown might just be your “messy middle," and sometimes being successful simply means sticking together as a team long enough to figure it out. A labor of love will often work out in the end, even if it's not how you expect.
In this thought-provoking interview, Belsky shares his own “messy middle" from his time with Behance, and some of his best wisdom on product-market fit, perseverance, and startup culture. We were thrilled to get the chance to talk to Scott. There’s a ton of gold in this interview, so don’t miss it!
Wed, 12 September 2018
“Ninety-eight percent of landing pages are just plain bad.”
This is what Unbounce founder Oli Gardner declared when he began his public speaking circuit four years ago. A bold statement, but he would know.
As co-founder of the landing page software builder, which pulls in $20 million in annual revenue, Gardner confidently claims he has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet—nearly 100,000 to be exact. These days, he's leveraging his immense knowledge on the topic to help businesses drive more leads and revenue, through Unbounce and as a speaker.
In this interview, learn about the history of Unbounce, Gardner’s top tips for becoming a better marketer, and his golden advice on how to create a landing page that gets his seal of approval.
ATTENTION: We are excited to announce that Oli has partnered with the Foundr School of Entrepreneurship to teach a powerful course, Landing Page Formula. If you want to learn the principles of conversion-center design and get a step-by-step blueprint on how to construct a high-converting landing page (templates included), Oli reveals his proven framework in this in-depth course. We only offer open enrollment a couple of times a year, for a limited time. Get on the FREE VIP waitlist here to be one of the first we notify when we open.
Thu, 6 September 2018
215: Navigating the Unpredictable Journey From Failure to Triumph, With Stuart McKeown, Co-Founder of Gleam
Stuart McKeown started his entrepreneurial career as a college dropout, had a short-lived stint as a DJ, and then lost thousands of dollars on his first startup attempt. But he's nothing if not persistent. McKeown is now a growth marketing and list-building master and the co-founder of Gleam.io, a growth-focused platform used by more than 20,000 brands a month.
The secret to McKeown’s success? He never believed failure was something to be feared, but rather a means to gather the information he needed to grow.
In this interview, learn how McKeown overcame his setbacks to build a powerful platform and brand, how he establishes work/life balance for himself and his employees, and his top four tips for running a viral competition.
McKeown may not have become a world famous DJ, but by staying true to himself and striking out fearlessly despite unforeseen obstacles, he has built a brand to be proud of—a gleaming beacon of success.
ATTENTION: We are also excited to announce that Stuart has partnered with Foundr to teach an epic course, List-Building Mastery. If you want a step-by-step strategy on how to explode your email list from scratch, get your first 10,000+ subscribers, and scale to 60,000 and more, Stuart reveals all of his proven strategies in this in-depth, tactical course. We only open enrollment a couple of times a year for a limited time. Get on the FREE VIP waitlist here to be one of the first we notify when we open.
Thu, 30 August 2018
214: Nailing Product-Market Fit and Building a Successful Startup, With Legendary VC and Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff
Andy Rachleff is not just a product expert; he literally coined the term “product-market fit.”
Wealthfront CEO, former VC backing companies such as eBay, Uber, and Twitter, and technology entrepreneurship instructor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Rachleff has a wealth of knowledge on creating and scaling powerful companies. I was excited to have the chance to pick his brain on everything from product-market fit, to how he started his company Wealthfront, to how he hires the best of the best to join his team.
In this interview, you will gain access to a true master, who has enjoyed a long career of investing in legendary companies and now gives back to today’s entrepreneurs and investors. Rachleff started his company Wealthfront, an automated investment service that manages $11 billion in assets, as a way to perform a social good by democratizing sophisticated financial advice. In our discussion, he was kind enough to divulge some of his wins and losses and top lessons learned in his storied entrepreneurial career. Enjoy!
Key Resources From Our Interview With Andy Rachleff
Thu, 23 August 2018
You may know former Moz CEO Rand Fishkin from his characteristic curly mustache, Whiteboard Friday videos, or his SEO mastery. But this interview isn’t about linking, Google rankings, or gray-hat practices. Or mustaches.
In our chat with Fishkin, he opens up about his battle with depression and how it has shaped his past decisions and guided his current ventures. He sympathizes with the many entrepreneurs who have also succumbed to loneliness and wondered why their business success wasn’t enough to make them happy.
Fishkin also talks about his new book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World. In it, he shares the conversations entrepreneurs have about their challenges and hardships, whether personal or in their businesses. Fishkin also shares details on his new software project and why he decided to venture into another startup.
If you want to be inspired, encouraged, and take away some great advice from a long-time founder, don’t miss this interview. We hope you find it as moving as we did!
Thu, 16 August 2018
We are always blown away by the success stories within the Foundr community, and we take every opportunity we can to shine the spotlight on them.
In today's podcast, I am thrilled to present to you three of our Start & Scale ecommerce course students who are absolutely crushing it! I got to sit down with each one and ask them how they got started with their businesses, what challenges they faced, and what successes they are now enjoying.
You will hear from:
Adam is the founder of men’s personal care product line, Ball Wash. Adam started his ecommerce journey only eight short months ago and has already made more than $1 million in revenue.
Shamanth is a busy mother who created a new leggings product, and put it to the test with a pre-sale Kickstarter campaign. In a short time, she received nearly £50,000 from more than 1,500 backers. Shamanth is in the process of fulfilling those orders and putting her shop online full time.
Monique and Chevalo Wilsondebriano
Monique and Chevalo run Charleston Gourmet Burger, which was already a $200,000-per-month business, but had yet to reach its potential in online sales. Their goal was turn their website into an online store so they could generate more sales. In two months, they earned nearly $22,000 and attracted 9,110 visits to their website.
We couldn’t be happier for these guys and are proud to be part of their journeys. Please join me in congratulating them. Way to go!
Thu, 9 August 2018
While he always had a passion for entrepreneurship, Shane Snow started his career as a freelance journalist, and during that time noticed how many of his peers were struggling to market themselves and find work. This frustration fueled his desire to develop the global content marketing platform, Contently. Contently is a unified content marketing solution for the world’s biggest enterprise brands, and it’s also a tremendous source of income for creative freelancers. By Snow’s best estimates, Contently has paid out more than $46 million (and counting) to freelancers around the globe.
As successful as his time at Contently has been, Snow never stopped being a writer at heart, and now he's back at it. He recently hired a CMO for Contently and became “founder-at-large,” relieving himself of the day-to-day management and freeing up his time to reunite with his first career love.
Today, you can find Snow promoting his soon-to-be-published book, Dream Teams, and otherwise sharing his expertise on team building and storytelling for founders. In this interview, Snow shares his journey to the top of the entrepreneurial mountain and back home again, along with his best advice learned from a seven-year reign at Contently.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Shane Snow
Thu, 2 August 2018
210: How to Create a Multimillion-Dollar Software Product the Market Actually Wants, With Crazy Egg’s Hiten Shah
Hiten Shah has a killer track record when comes to creating software products. He and his co-founders have built several multimillion-dollar releases, including Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, and many of their features were the first of their kind to hit the industry.
It might seem like Shah has stumbled onto a secret formula for software-building success. But to him, it’s simply a matter of creating what his audience wants. Solving a problem is the biggest determinant of a software’s success, and Shah builds this methodology into every new piece he creates.
In this informative interview, Shah shares the details behind his process, from planning the software build and ensuring a market fit, to hiring the right people to bring it to life. As an avid mentor and advisor, Shah also answers our own, real world questions about future software builds for Foundr. Listen in and get inspired!
Thu, 26 July 2018
209: How Two Fintech Entrepreneurs Found Stable Ground in a Volatile Space, With CoinJar’s Asher Tan and Ryan Zhou
It only took six hours for Asher Tan and Ryan Zhou to put together the incubator pitch for CoinJar, a vision for a next-gen personal finance account that would capitalize on the growing interest in bitcoin and other digital currencies.
Five years later, CoinJar is a leading digital currency platform in Australia and the self-proclaimed “fastest way to access your money from anywhere in the world.” CoinJar’s users can spend, send, and trade their bitcoins, dollars, and pounds globally.
Despite the major challenges that come with scaling in a global market, the company has been profitable for the past three years. In this insightful interview, these brave founders share how they overcome scaling challenges, their next products to hit the market, and their top tips for entrepreneurs interested in creating fintech startups. Enjoy!
Thu, 19 July 2018
208: How a Charitable Mission and Influencer Marketing Sparked Massive Growth, With Griffin Thall of Pura Vida
For Pura Vida co-founders Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman, a chance meeting with two Native jewelry artisans on a beach in Costa Rica sparked an idea that would forever change their lives. They're now running a rapidly growing brand that not only inspires tremendous customer loyalty, but also promotes products that give back in a big way.
Pura Vida (which means “pure life” in Spanish) has grown rapidly since its inception, but this isn’t the brand’s most appealing aspect. Customers also love the company, because it has provided sustainable jobs to 350+ jewelry artisans worldwide, and donated more than $1.5 million to charities using proceeds from its products.
In this inspiring interview, learn how Pura Vida has leveraged influencer marketing and social media to spread its brand message and create a global movement of loyal customers. Matching creative social strategies with a passionate mission has made this brand a massive success and we are proud to feature them. Way to go Pura Vida!
Thu, 12 July 2018
I’m excited to share a very special interview with you today! Mitchell Harper has been my long-time mentor and coach and a driving force behind Foundr’s success. I’m thrilled to share his story with you so you can glean some entrepreneurial gold from his experience.
Harper started his entrepreneurial journey as a software developer, building games as early as 12 years old. He built his first businesses in his teens and sold his first company around the time he graduated high school.
Partnering with another developer in 2003, Harper created Interspire, a suite of software tools for businesses, and grew it to $10 million in revenue in four years. The company eventually became BigCommerce, now one of the web's premier shopping cart platforms. BigCommerce has raised $250 million in its short lifetime, recently hit $100 million in annual recurring revenue, and the company is still growing.
While his big career wins might suggest otherwise, Harper says he is risk-averse and doesn’t believe entrepreneurs need to be big risk takers to achieve high levels of success. He prefers taking the safe route and reveals his strategies for building high impact, low-risk businesses. In this inspiring interview, Harper also shares how he battled with depression and what his journey to wholeness taught him about work/life balance.
I’m so privileged and lucky to have Mitch as a mentor and to introduce him to our Foundr family. Please listen in and get inspired by the man who has been an integral part of Foundr’s success!
Thu, 5 July 2018
Lynda Weinman sold her 20-year company Lynda.com to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion. What is she doing now? She is reinventing herself and enjoying her new role as a champion of independent film.
Weinman is no stranger to the concept of reinvention. In fact, it's that very spirit of constant evolution that led her to become a trailblazer in the online education space, and to ultimately make a massive exit.
Her journey started with a career in animation and special effects, of all things, and even included running a punk store on L.A.’s Sunset Strip. She continued to pivot, until her creative endeavors eventually led her to education, and a business model that allowed her to teach thousands of laypeople about complex tech topics.
The company started as a brick-and-mortar classroom, but after the economic decline that followed the tragic terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Weinman was forced to take Lynda in a new direction. To weather the economic storm, she transitioned to the online subscription business model of Lynda.com.
Lynda.com’s growth was slow going until social media gained ground in 2006, a movement that helped catapult her company's revenue to $40 million and beyond. Even though Weinman never thought about selling, when the offer came in, she knew she had to pull the trigger.
Working relentlessly on Lynda for the past 20 years and now in her early 60s, Weinman has set her sights on a new course. She's now the president of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and invests in independent filmmakers using charitable grants. In this interview, Weinman shares the journey that led to her $1.5 billion exit, how and why she has continued reinventing herself, and her top advice for entrepreneurs.
Thu, 28 June 2018
A health crisis that landed Munjal Shah in the ER turned out to be the catalyst for his next mission: making the world a healthier place.
Then the chest pains started. Shah wound up in the ER, and while it didn’t end up being a heart attack, the incident was a sobering reminder that his own father had had one while in his 40s. It was a wake-up call for Shah, who was 37 at the time. He started focusing on his health, lost 40 pounds, and decided his next entrepreneurial endeavor would make the world a healthier place.
“People always say, ‘Go find your mission,’” Shah says. He’s now the founder of a new and growing insurance startup called Health IQ, which encourages healthy behavior by taking a data-driven approach to its coverage. “I would say my mission found me.”
Thu, 21 June 2018
204: Taking the Road Less Traveled to Build the Business of Your Dreams, With Mike Dillard of Self Made Man
In business, in life, and even behind the wheel of his actual race car, Mike Dillard goes from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye.
In stark contrast to his calm voice and introverted nature, Dillard is a pioneer willing to crash through boundaries and challenge common wisdom. He just prefers to do it through the written word, rather than grand speeches or face-to-face encounters.
The core principle driving Dillard’s pedal-to-the-metal attitude? He deeply believes in the power of one person to change their community, their industry, and maybe even the world. “I approach life with a core belief that anyone can accomplish anything,” his website bio reads. “That not only can one man or woman make a difference, but that it’s one man or woman who always makes the difference.”
Thu, 14 June 2018
203: The One-Two Punch for Sustainable, Consistent Startup Growth, With Dmitry Dragilev of JustReachOut
Dmitry Dragilev has a typical entrepreneurial story, but maybe a little more extreme. Bored in his dead-end, corporate job, he was fearful of ending up like his older, unsatisfied peers. One day, Dragilev read in a magazine about what was going on in Silicon Valley, and up and quit.
He sold everything he owned, hopped in his car, and made his way to California. Equipped only with a knowledge of coding and a drive to succeed, Dragilev had made a decision that changed the rest of his life.
Thu, 7 June 2018
The Comeback Kid
In 2013, Eric Siu bought a failing SEO agency for two dollars. Today, he’s built it into a digital marketing powerhouse that serves giants of the tech industry.
These days, Eric Siu rubs elbows with the internet marketing elite, hosting a popular podcast with online guru Neil Patel, and leading the successful agency Single Grain, which boasts clients like Uber, Amazon, and Salesforce.
But go back about six years, and Eric Siu was just a 25-year-old new hire entrusted with the monumental task of saving a tanking company.
“A month into it, the CEO pulls me aside,” Siu recalls, “and he's like, ‘Eric, you know, 48 people, their families, they're riding on your shoulders right now, and if you can't hit numbers in the next month, we're gonna have to let you go.’”
Siu had taken a job leading the marketing for education startup Treehouse. He loved the product and the team, but he had no idea the revenues were stagnant. It hadn’t hit its numbers goals in the last two years, and when Siu came onboard, the company had only five or six months of cash left in the bank.
“I was like, ‘Oh, man. We're gonna go down, and it's me that's kind of responsible for revenue growth because it's a subscription-based product.’”
After seeing some traction on Treehouse’s YouTube account, Siu took a gamble and put all the company’s budget into YouTube advertising. This was 2012, and Facebook ads hadn’t quite taken off. And for Treehouse, which teaches video courses on coding and web design, YouTube was a natural fit. Siu began bidding on promising keywords, and the team created an inspirational video ad inspired by Apple’s slick aesthetic.
“We just started cranking out a bunch of sign-ups that way,” Siu says. “The price point wasn't that bad, and so things started to really blow up there.”
From there, Siu fired their PR agency and started working with one that was paid for performance. By the time he left Treehouse, Siu says he’d helped take the company from about 500 new subscribers a month to between 3,500 and 4,000. Now, Treehouse sees $15 million in annual revenue, according to a March 2018 Mixergy interview with CEO Ryan Carson. “So they're fantastic now,” Siu says. “They're just building on top of everything that they're doing.”
That may sound like an exceptional comeback, but it was only the beginning for Siu. From there he embarked on a career of getting into tight spots, taking risks, sometimes failing, and then making comebacks, all culminating in the success of his digital marketing agency.
Lose Money Now, Make Much More Later
It’s important to note that, while Treehouse was bringing in more customers, it wasn’t profitable in the short term. That gets to an important concept that Siu believes isn’t talked about enough, but has been an important one in his work to breathe new life into companies—the payback period.
They payback period is the length of time required to recover the cost on an investment. According to Siu, mastering the payback period can mean the difference between a quick, small ROI, and building a company with a huge payday.
For SaaS businesses, payback period tends to be long, with some companies not breaking even on an investment until 18 months out. But if they look at the long term, they know they can make back way more than that initial investment if they’re patient, understand the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer, and know their numbers well.
In episode 551 of their Marketing School podcast, Siu and Patel talk about the difference between seven-figure versus nine-figure businesses. Seven-figure businesses want a return on investment right away. Nine-figure businesses, however, are willing to lose money at first because they know the lifetime value of their customers.
Siu points to ClickFunnels as a great example of how understanding payback period can pay off in the long run. The marketing funnels software company is completely bootstrapped and reached $60 million in annual recurring revenue in 2017.
“The reason they're able to do that is because they have their numbers locked down,” he explains. “They are willing to perhaps even break even or lose money on the front end, right? So let's say when they first acquire an email or even a free trial in the beginning, they're going to lose money, but they know that their funnel in the backend is so locked down that they can upsell people on, you know, their mastermind or other bundles, things like that.”
Siu gives a hypothetical example too: Let’s say it costs you $1,200 to acquire a customer who pays $100 a month. The payback period, then, is 12 months. But if you can find a way to increase that price to $300 a month, you’re looking at a payback period that takes one-third the time. With the extra cash from the monthly recurring revenue of that customer, you can reinvest in your company to grow it faster. That’s why Siu emphasizes the importance of getting your pricing right. In fact, he says if he could go back to his Treehouse days, he would increase prices.
The Single Grain Salvage
Before he even hit the one-year mark with Treehouse, Siu set his sights on the next rescue mission: a failing SEO agency where Neil Patel was a partner. Armed with the marketing chops he honed at Treehouse, Siu was up for the challenge.
“But going to a company that I thought had a lot of problems,” he says, “that I thought was a house of cards, that I thought was going to be in big trouble—that was a different challenge.”
And even though he wasn’t thrilled to return to the agency world, the gamer in Siu saw it as a fun opportunity. “I thought the challenge of saving a stagnant company was really interesting because...I just see every challenge as, like, the game, right? It's just fun to play.”
At the time, Single Grain was an SEO agency with four partners. When Siu came onboard, he says the company was doing about $1.1 million a year, relying completely on SEO services, mainly link building for clients. But then the Google Penguin update happened, decimating Single Grain’s efforts.
“The work that the company was doing was no longer having an effect,” Siu says, “so customers just started churning left and right, and that's when we had to basically make a change. And that's when I popped in.”
But Siu had his work cut out for him. This time around, it wasn’t just marketing. He was in charge of operations too, and the company needed to get some processes in place. “Basically, when I came in, everything was on fire.”
Siu had to lay some people off because their roles were no longer relevant after the Google update. He then turned the company’s efforts to content marketing as the next logical step. Upon a recommendation, he hired a head of content marketing, which ended up being a mistake.
“This person was actually really toxic and caused four of our clients to leave,” he says. After that, two employees quit and morale was low.
Even though things had gone from bad to worse, Siu hung on.
The $2 Buyout
So let’s take stock of just where Siu was at in 2013: He was hired to resuscitate a dying company, he had to lay off employees, he hired the wrong person for a key role, his employees’ morale was low, and oh yeah, he had to take out a personal loan just to make payroll.
“I didn't know what the hell I was doing,” Siu says. “And I think a lot of times when it comes to business, or just when you're starting out, honestly, I think it's okay to say you don't know what you're doing.”
And then, leadership started to cave. One of the partners admitted to Siu that he wanted out, and the other three agreed that the company was worth nothing. While this easily could’ve been the end of Single Grain, Siu had an idea.
“I said, ‘Hey, guys, I will buy the company, I’ll take on the load, I'll put it on my shoulders, I'll see what I can do with it.’”
He offered one dollar to Neil Patel and one dollar to another partner, for 10 percent of their shares in the company. The other two partners, he offered to pay with profits from the company.
“So it's a buyout, but the contingency is if the company fails, I will owe nothing. So we signed that agreement, got it done, and it was off to the races,” Siu says.
He had his work cut out for him, as the company was in the negative when Siu took over; plus, its source of leads, Neil Patel, was now gone.
Meanwhile, as everything seemed to be falling apart, Siu continued to try to grow a podcast, Growth Everywhere, spending six hours a week recording and producing the episodes. One year into it, he was getting only nine downloads a day. But again, he powered through.
“Here's the thing,” he says, “you just keep going, right?” Now Growth Everywhere gets up to 80,000 downloads a month. Plus, it turned out to be a great lead generator for Single Grain.
Slowly but surely, Single Grain began gaining leads through organic search. Siu decided to refer those leads out and worked out referral deals with agencies, getting 25 to 30 percent of the lifetime of each customer. Siu says the referral income generated about $250,000 to $300,000 a year, but he wasn’t satisfied. “The kind of competitive spirit in me is like, ‘Okay, I wonder if we can build this thing up to be a paid advertising agency.’"
So Single Grain started experimenting with taking on its own clients and noticed retention went up, and clients were happier. Traffic was coming in from the podcast, organic search, and speaking events. Today, the company has 34 people working at an office in downtown L.A. The Single Grain website has gone from 4,000 visitors a month to about 80,000, and Siu believes it will reach half a million fairly quickly.
Content Marketing Is King
Take a look at Single Grain’s website, and you’ll see big client names such as Intuit, Amazon, and Salesforce. So what’s Siu’s secret for snagging premium clients? “Every single client that we have, whether it's a Uber or Lyft or TrustPilot, or whatever it is exactly, all came from content marketing.” In fact, up until recently, Single Grain didn’t even have an outbound team.
In the past, Siu says people from his management team have challenged him on the amount spent on content marketing, asking to see the ROI. So he did a breakdown of each client to see where they came from: podcasts, organic search, relationships Siu built up with people, and speaking opportunities. “It was all basically content marketing.”
When clients come through inbound or content marketing, Siu says, the sales cycle is much shorter than with outbound. Instead of waiting months for a deal to close, the time is cut down to weeks. In addition, the lifetime value of that client is longer, because after reading your blog posts, listening to your podcasts, and watching your videos, they feel like they know you. That leads to a longer-lasting relationship.
Another note Siu adds about client acquisition is that it pays off to specialize. At first, Single Grain focused on paid advertising for SaaS and education companies. They were able to boost their prices based on their specialty and proven framework.
“If anybody's trying to sell anything,” he explains, “when people ask you how you're different, the more you can niche down, at least in the very beginning, the more you can charge premium prices and the more you can focus in and maybe grow faster.”
Most of the employees at Treehouse were remote, so when Siu took over Single Grain, shutting down the San Francisco office and transitioning to a remote company seemed like a no-brainer. But as Siu puts it, it’s one of the “massive mistakes” he made.
Without having built up a rapport with his team and without understanding the relationships they had with each other, Siu says he shouldn’t have made an executive decision of that size, especially without asking for team input. “That totally devastated the culture, in my mind,” he says. “And I think when it comes to a services-based business, like this, where it requires a lot of creativity and collaboration, it's tough to have a completely remote atmosphere.”
So Siu shifted to a hybrid method: He and the team work in the office three days a week and remotely two days a week. “I just know that when we're in the office…we can just get so much done that way.”
To maximize productivity, Siu uses these two tools:
In addition to those tools, Single Grain has one-on-ones, as well as traction meetings with each team. “That's helped make us into a well-oiled machine,” Siu says, “and everyone's much happier now.”
Eric Siu’s Tips for Hiring Great Talent
When it comes to tapping into new talent for the team, Siu’s got a process worked out for that too.
Leveling Up: What’s Next for Single Grain
Never one to slow down, Siu’s already working on his next big projects. Right now, Single Grain is working on a SaaS product called ClickFlow, which helps companies get more organic traffic by boosting organic click-through rates.
On top of that, he’s writing a book, entitled Leveling Up as a nod to his competitive gaming days. “I just see this entire thing as a game,” he says. “Just plugging things together, making systems work, making it all happen.” Once the book is ready, he hopes he can use it to educate people on marketing and maybe even recruit talent to his agency or others. Siu also plans to do more live events and add an education component to his company.
“I think it all kind of plugs in together,” he says. “And I think the ultimate goal is just to give back and invest in education, because that's what I love.”
Thu, 31 May 2018
201: Zero to $10 Million in 4 Years: How King Kong’s Sabri Suby Went from Work-at-Home Consultant to Booming Agency Founder
To Sabri Suby, business is a jungle and only the strong survive. To be successful, you need to dominate the digital landscape and crush the competition into a fine powder. That fierce attitude has served Suby, and his clients, very well over the years.
Suby is the founder of King Kong, the fastest-growing digital marketing agency in Australia. Last year, King Kong raked in $7 million in revenue from its digital marketing campaigns, over $200 million in sales for its clients, and this year, is aiming to top that.
Hustling since he was a teen, Suby learned how to sell early on. Making a whole lot of cold calls over the course of his life, he never let up. Starting King Kong in his bedroom on his girlfriend's laptop, Suby preferred to jump into the trenches and get his hands dirty instead of wasting time reading business books and attending events. That unrelenting approach definitely paid off.
Listen in as Suby discusses why his agency scaled to millions in revenue so quickly, how to dominate direct response marketing, and why a service-based business should be the top choice for entrepreneurs.
ATTENTION: Suby has partnered with Foundr to teach an epic new course, "Consulting Empire.” If you want to learn how to start and scale a service-based business, whether you are a consultant, coach or freelancer, Suby reveals all of his golden strategies (the exact ones he used to scale from zero to $10 million) in this new course. It’s just about ready so get on the free VIP waitlist here to be one of the first we notify when it launches!
Thu, 24 May 2018
200: Foundr’s Story: How a Humble Side Project Became a Global Brand, with CEO Nathan Chan [Special 200th Episode]
I refuse to lose.”
It's the mantra that has guided Foundr CEO Nathan Chan through the highs and lows of becoming an entrepreneur. It helped him resist the naysayers, and confront deep insecurities and self-doubt, to build the business he fell in love with right away. That sense of determination and drive continues to fuel Foundr’s big goal of impacting tens of millions of entrepreneurs around the globe with world-class resources and training.
In this inspiring interview, Nathan gets up close and personal and takes us behind the scenes of what it was like starting Foundr—the good and not so good—and the many lessons he learned along the way. Interviewed by Dave Hobson, our head of product and business development and one of the first to join the Foundr team, the two reminisce about the early days, the first goals the company set, and the memorable moments that transformed the company from a side hustle to global presence.
Pull up a chair and a drink (Does Nathan prefer wine or beer? Find out in this interview!) and learn more about Foundr, how the company started, and where it is headed in the near future. Nathan shares it all in this special 200th podcast episode. We promise you this is an interview that will inspire you for many years to come.
Thu, 17 May 2018
As a lifelong, accomplished dancer, Payal Kadakia never thought she would become an entrepreneur. But it was that very love of dance that compelled her to help others pursue or rekindle their own passions.
Driven by a strong desire to create something with potential to change people's lives, Kadakia created ClassPass, a platform that helps fitness and dance enthusiasts find and book classes in 8,500 studios in 50 cities around the world. Kadakia has appeared on prominent lists such as Fortune’s Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs and Marie Claire’s Most Influential Women in America, and ClassPass has been ranked among the fastest-growing technology companies in North America.
It may sound like Kadakia effortlessly glided from performing arts to business, but her seven-year journey was full of setbacks. She overcame several problems and had to pivot twice to stay afloat and then thrive.
In this interview, Kadakia explains how she turned her personal passion into a successful business, including the importance of partnerships and how being “mission-obsessed” instead of “product-obsessed” fueled her growth. She also discusses the power of purpose in entrepreneurship and the principles of real perseverance.
Thu, 10 May 2018
198: How This Breakdancer Built a 6-Figure Instagram Business and Travels the World for Free (Instagram Domination Student Spotlight)
In today’s podcast, we are shining the spotlight on one of our successful Instagram Domination students, Zach Benson. This driven entrepreneur is in the trenches daily doing what it takes to make his startup dreams (and travel dreams) a reality. And he’s done a great job. We couldn’t be prouder!
Benson was a former professional breakdancer who suffered an injury that ended his dance career. Looking for a “plan B,” he turned to Instagram and joined the Instagram Domination course to learn how to build his personal travel pages and drive valuable traffic. He’s done so well, that in the last 18 months, 170 exotic hotels have given him free stays in exchange for exposure to his network, and he is on track to hit $1 million in revenue.
But, the real magic happened when Benson partnered with a few Instagram Domination students and started an agency to help people grow and manage their Instagram accounts. The agency, Assistagram, has worked with high-profile clients such as The Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton and currently services 50 other companies.
Benson is grateful to the Instagram Domination community for allowing him to connect with like-minded people and create a thriving business fueled by his passions for travel and social media. We are so happy for him and the success he has achieved. Way to go, Zach!
Thu, 3 May 2018
197: Technology and Tacos—From Fired Facebook Employee to Eight-Figure Founder, With Noah Kagan of Sumo
At 24 years of age Noah Kagan got tired of being fired. After getting the boot from Facebook and other companies, Kagan decided to create his own job and live life by his own rules. Those rules included posting taco-loving blogs, shooting over-the-top YouTube vids and creating Sumo, an eight-figure global company that empowers business owners to grow their brands using cool, geeky software tools.
Kagan likes to make business exciting and embraces the madness of entrepreneurial life. But aside from his contagious energy, he has a lot of knowledge and loves to help entrepreneurs. In this interview, he shares the lessons he learned building an eight-figure company and his top tips for hiring and maintaining A-player teams.
Kagan also stresses the importance of building relationships in this “era of Tinder-ization,” and teaches entrepreneurs how to set and track intentional goals to drive companies forward. Throw back a few (drinks or tacos) and listen in as Kagan shares his life and business adventures and helps entrepreneurs build and market profitable businesses.
Thu, 26 April 2018
196: Fueling Massive Growth by Adopting a Culture of Experimentation, With Dan Siroker Of Optimizely
Dan Siroker has always believed in the power of data and experimentation. A former project manager at Google and director of analytics under President Barack Obama, Siroker believes that experimentation should be one of the highest-order cultural values of an organization. To that end, Siroker co-founded Optimizely, a globally adopted software tool that enables businesses to experiment and fine-tune their businesses based on data.
From product development to front-end conversions, Siroker believes that a culture of experimentation should start from the top and trickle to the bottom, fueling growth on a large scale. Otherwise, organizations that are too afraid of risk and intolerant of failure end up undermining their ability to innovate.
In this interview, Siroker shares his strong belief in the power of experimentation, and how startups can use data to their advantage, now more than ever. He also shares one of the biggest lessons he's learned in his entrepreneurial career, and how he is building a 100-year legacy with his company.
Thu, 19 April 2018
Growing up as a fanatical skateboarder first in Ohio and then moving to California as a teen to pursue skating professionally, many of his friends and fellow skateboarders were older than him and running their own businesses.
From a very young age, he was steeped in skateboarding’s DIY culture, always on the lookout for the next frontier in the sport, or scrappy new brand to emerge from the scene. From skate shops to clothing companies, Dyrdek was exposed to a variety of entrepreneurial ventures early in life.
Thu, 12 April 2018
194: From Zero To $20 Million, A Story Of Courage And Relentless Discipline, with Steve McLeod of Fire And Safety Australia
Former firefighter Steve McLeod turned his passion for helping people into a nationwide business, scaling his Fire and Safety Australia company to eight figures in 10 years. In addition to running a profitable company, McLeod also empowers entrepreneurs by teaching them how to become more courageous and run goal-focused businesses that never give up.
According to McLeod, it takes courage to protect and serve, especially when danger could be present at every turn. But it takes another kind of courage to withstand the pressures of entrepreneurship to build and scale a $20 million dollar company.
In this inspiring interview, McLeod discusses his latest book, Courage for Profit, and reveals some of the gold he has learned from his own struggles, successes, and failures. He outlines the key principles entrepreneurs need to embody if they want to scale their businesses. We salute McLeod for his passion for serving and helping people. Way to go!
Thu, 5 April 2018
Gary Muller’s company is thriving. His Mill House Inn in East Hampton, New York has been in business for 20 years and recognized by Travel + Leisure and the Travel Channel, highly rated by Zagat, and featured in other prominent publications. His properties have welcomed celebrities and prominent people from all over the world.
If you ask Muller the secret to his success, he'll likely tell you that his family is largely responsible. "Family" is how Muller describes his employees at the inn, and he believes all leaders should treat team members as such, displaying empathy, instilling trust, and creating an environment where going “above and beyond” is a daily occurrence.
Muller is in the people-helping business. Whether that means serving his cherished guests or connecting with his work family, his care for other people runs throughout his unique leadership style. Learn how Muller has grown such a loyal and dedicated team, and how he fosters a work culture that has led to massive business success.
Thu, 29 March 2018
192: Best of Foundr: Gary Vee, Tony Robbins, and More Talk Hustle, Mindset, and GSD (Foundr 5th Birthday Special Episode)
Welcome back to our “Best of Foundr” podcast series!
To celebrate Foundr’s 5th birthday, we put together a series of special edition podcast episodes that feature the best snippets from our most popular episodes. We pulled out the gems from each of your favorite interviews and compiled them into a three-week series of pure content gold.
This week we are focusing on hustle, motivation, mindset, and getting things done! In this episode, we have one of my heroes and the king of hustle, Gary Vee. We also have memory and productivity wizard Jim Kwik, morning routine master Hal Elrod, and the mindset king himself, Tony Robbins!
While I have loved the releases in this special birthday series so far, I have to say, we saved some of the best for last. In this episode, you will be challenged and motivated to seriously move to the next level!
Thu, 22 March 2018
191: Best of Foundr: 4 Superstars on Investing, Sales, And Scaling Your Business (Foundr 5th Birthday Special Episode)
Welcome to our special “Best of Foundr” edition of the podcast!
To celebrate Foundr’s 5th birthday, we put together a series of special edition podcast episodes that feature the best snippets from our most popular episodes. We pulled out the gems from each of your favorite interviews and compiled them into a three-week series of pure content gold.
This is the second week of our three-part series. Last week, we heard from four successful entrepreneurs on how to build an epic online presence.
This week we are focusing on investing, sales, and scaling your business. You will be learning from two masters of sales, Ben Chaib and Matthew Kimberley; from the shark himself, Robert Herjavec, on investing and scaling your business; and lastly from Mr. E-Myth himself, Michael Gerber, on setting your business up to scale.
These are some of my personal favorites that have had a huge influence on how Foundr is run today! Enjoy listening to the best of the best!
Thu, 15 March 2018
190: Best of Foundr: 4 Superstars on Building An Epic Online Presence (Foundr 5th Birthday Special Episode)
Welcome to our special “Best of Foundr” edition of the podcast!
To celebrate Foundr’s 5th birthday, we put together a series of special edition podcast episodes that feature the best snippets from our most popular episodes. We pulled out the gems from each of your favorite interviews and compiled them into a three-week series of pure content gold.
This week we are focusing on how to create an online presence with content marketing and Instagram. We are featuring some serious advice from our conversations with Gretta Rose van Riel, queen of Instagram and Influencer marketing; Darren Rowse, the OG of the blogging world; Deonna Monique, Instagram millionaire; and content king Derek Flanzraich, founder of Greatist.
Enjoy listening to the best of the best!
Thu, 8 March 2018
189: Foundr Community Member Shifts His Business Into High Gear With Help From Mentors [Foundr’s 5th Birthday Special Episode]
Welcome to Foundr's fifth birthday celebration!
Over the past five years, we’ve been blessed to interact with an awesome community of passionate entrepreneurs who are making it happen and turning their dreams into reality. We want to honor these inspiring entrepreneurs in our community by sharing their stories and highlighting their successes.
In today's special episode, we talk with Austin Peterson, a rising entrepreneur who is working in the trenches daily to build his vintage truck restoration business Black Dog Traders.
Austin reached out to me for advice in early 2017, and it's been amazing to watch him build his business to new heights. In this episode, we're airing a one-on-one coaching session with Austin and mentor David Brim, founder of Tomcar Australia, who is helping him take his business to the next level.
In this episode, get the inside scoop on the advice that is helping Peterson optimize his production, streamline his processes, and continue to scale his company in the coming year.
Well done Austin! We look forward to your continued success!
Thu, 1 March 2018
“I’m not crippled with being perfect. I’m crippled with not doing,” Gary Vaynerchuk says, and that about sums up the philosophy that propels him ahead in life and business—avoiding hesitation and seizing the moment at all costs.
To many, Vaynerchuck (aka Gary Vee) needs no introduction. He’s a serial entrepreneur, four-time New York Times-bestselling author, venture capitalist, popular podcast host, and sought-after public speaker serving an audience of millions. And he's showing no signs of slowing down.
How does this guy accomplish so much? Vaynerchuk doesn’t agonize or hesitate when starting something new. He dives in voraciously, working his tail off and learning as he goes. He also never aspires to "have it all." Too often, entrepreneurs strive for some lofty material goal as the finish line, but for Vaynerchuk, having it all begins on the first day we embark on our entrepreneurial journeys. The reward is in the process itself.
In this interview, Vaynerchuk shares tidbits from his new book Crushing It! (an updated version of his 2009 bestseller), unpacks epic branding and marketing tips that have led to his success, and reveals his personal philosophy on GSD.
Gary Vee wants aspiring entrepreneurs to crush it with him. Are you on board? Listen in and get inspired.
Thu, 22 February 2018
- Acumen's trailblazing vision on global poverty eradication
Fri, 16 February 2018
186: TaskRabbit Was Ahead of its Time, But Leah Busque’s Vision and Persistence Made it a Game-Changer
No Task Too Big
Leah Busque launched TaskRabbit and became a pioneer in the sharing economy. Now she wants to empower other founders as she transitions to venture capital.
Picture this: You’re sitting at home on a February night in Boston, where winter temperatures dip well below freezing, and it’s snowing outside—not exactly a good time to find out your hundred-pound Labrador retriever is out of dog food.
So what do you do? Do you don your boots and trek through the snow in pursuit of kibble? Do you ask your spouse to do it? To a 28-year-old Leah Busque, the solution should have been simple: Why not hire someone in the area to run that errand for you?
“[My husband and I] were certain that there was someone in our neighborhood that'd be willing to help us out,” Busque recalls. “Maybe even someone at the store at that very moment, and it was just a matter of connecting with them.”
After some geeky brainstorming with her husband, Busque grabbed her iPhone—it had come out a few months before—and bought the first domain that came to mind: RunMyErrand.com. Four months after that, she left her job as a software engineer at IBM and locked herself in her house for 10 weeks to build the first version of the site, all because a service she wanted didn’t yet exist. Thanks to Busque’s creativity and persistence, now it does—TaskRabbit.
Think Big, Start Small: From Back Bay to the Bay Area
In September 2008, RunMyErrand launched in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, where Busque was living at the time.
“I was very targeted,” she says. “[I] really wanted to focus on one geography and create a peer-to-peer-network in that geography that was liquid, that would have high supply and high demand … and from there it just really started to snowball.”
Word traveled fast. People in Charlestown started telling those in Beacon Hill about this new service that let you hire locals to run your errands. Word traveled from Beacon Hill to the residents of Back Bay and Cambridge. Soon enough, Busque was recruiting Taskers from all over the city of Boston.
By the summer of 2009, Busque was invited to participate in an incubator program run by Facebook, leading her to change the name from RunMyErrand to TaskRabbit before launching in her second market—San Francisco.
A Pioneer in the Peer-to-Peer Sharing Economy
Here’s how TaskRabbit works:
First, you post a task on the platform (mobile or web), such as, “I need help mounting a 32-inch flat screen TV on my wall.” Next, you get matched with vetted Taskers in your area, and you can view their ratings and hourly rates. Then, your chosen Tasker shows up, completes the task, and gets paid securely via the app. A simple enough idea for any smartphone user today, but you have to remember that TaskRabbit launched in 2008; most people were still rocking flip phones, and the term “sharing economy” hadn’t yet made it into the consumer vernacular.
“These technologies were so new and so emerging, it wasn't an obvious thing to be able to utilize your mobile device to connect with people in real time,” Busque explains.
“Certainly, no one was going to jump into a stranger's car off the street and grab a ride with Lyft or with Uber. And so the consumer mindset was completely different. Trust was a big barrier. Letting a stranger into your home to hang shelves, or hang curtains, or clean your house—these were all very big decisions that the consumer was making.”
It’s been almost a decade since TaskRabbit’s inception, and the company’s come a long way from that neighborhood in Boston.
The service has expanded to about 40 markets (including London), raised more than $50 million in venture funding, and last year was acquired by Swedish furniture giant Ikea.
According to Busque, TaskRabbit gets more than 15,000 applications every month from people who want to be Taskers. And on the buyer side of that marketplace, people have hired Taskers to do errands as varied as waiting in line at a store, rushing a passport to the airport, and even retrieving keys from the bottom of a lake.
Knowing When to Quit, and When to Keep Going
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know when to quit. Failing to realize an idea is a dud can lead to overspending and wasted time. So we had to ask Busque, especially given the novelty of the idea when it first launched: Did she ever feel like giving up?
“I’m not someone who gives up,” Busque says. “I’m not someone who quits.”
Given the dismal economy during TaskRabbit’s early days, one would have understood if she had. When Busque launched the first version of the site in September 2008, subprime lending had tanked the housing market and the stock market was crashing, ushering in the Great Recession—not exactly the best time to be quitting a steady job, or starting a business, or seeking investors. But still, Busque pressed on, choosing to bootstrap her startup for almost a year.
“We had a mortgage on our house and we had bills to pay,” Busque recalls. “We basically did the math and thought, 'We've got about six months where I don't need to work. I don't need to take a salary to kinda make ends meet.'”
When six months came and went and TaskRabbit still didn’t have an investor, it must have been difficult not to close up shop right then and there.
“We were so close though; I felt like I was on the brink of something every day. I thought, ‘I just need 24 more hours, 48 more hours, one more week.’ And so every day was a question [of], ‘Should we keep going? Should we call it?’”
Thankfully, Busque didn’t call it quits. In December 2008, three months after she had missed her self-imposed deadline to raise funding, Busque closed her first angel round of $150,000. That funding was enough to carry her fledgling business through to the end of 2009, when she raised a seed round of $1 million.
As an entrepreneur, it’s just as important to know when to keep going as it is to know when to quit.
Before You Automate, Do it Manually
As Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham says, “Do things that don’t scale.” In his famous 2013 essay on this principle, Graham writes, “Startups take off because the founders make them take off.”
“I definitely had to do things that weren't going to scale over the long term,” Busque says.
In the early days, for example, Busque could often be found zipping around Boston on her little Honda scooter, completing tasks on her own. “I still am the master TaskRabbit,” she laughs.
That firsthand experience as a Tasker proved invaluable, as Busque got to know her customers and gained a deeper understanding of how her service fit into the marketplace. That willingness to dive in and get her hands dirty proved to be a hallmark strategy for the founder.
“Even as the company developed … I would say one strategy I used that worked pretty well was figuring out how to do things manually first, to really, really understand what to build, how to make it more efficient, and then start to automate layers on top of it over time.”
Take TaskRabbit’s application process, for example. The first version involved an online application, an in-person interview (to start the site, Busque conducted 30 interviews herself over coffee in Boston), and a background check. In total, that highly manual process took three to five days.
“But the time we spent,” Busque says, “for instance, doing in-person interviews, really helped us to understand what was important in finding the right Taskers, in the highest quality, most consistent Taskers. And so we then, from those in-person interviews, would figure out what questions we needed to ask, what the indicators were early that this Tasker was going to perform well on the platform.”
Now? Every piece of that process is automated, and a Tasker can be onboarded in a matter of hours, not days.
How to Get Comfortable With Competition
Every founder knows that sinking feeling of learning a new business similar to yours is entering the marketplace. Maybe it’s why entrepreneurs are notorious for guarding their ideas with intensity, fearing one slip-up will allow a competitor to crush everything they’ve built.
But the fact is, if you’ve got a good idea, someone else is either already doing it, or will be doing it soon.
After nearly a decade in business, TaskRabbit has seen its fair share of competitors. At first, this rattled Busque’s nerves. “I remember early on stressing out a lot about the competition, but I think what I learned over time was that I just needed to stay focused on what we were building.”
What inspired her shift from flustered to focused was seeing so many competitors rush in and then quickly fizzle out.
“I would see competitors come out of the gate, raise multi-millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars, and burn through it in 18 to 24 months. And so after that happened a couple of times, I just realized that I was going to play a long game.”
What was TaskRabbit’s competitive edge? “From day one, we were producing revenue,” Busque says. “From day one, we had positive operating margins. So for every job that went through the site, we were always making money on it. And we had to be very disciplined about how to build a platform that operated that way.”
She also thinks that too many of her competitors caved to marketplace and investor pressures, something she as a startup founder was not immune to.
“I remember getting a lot of pressure even from my investors at one point in the company's life cycle about growth, about the competitive landscape, pressure to move faster, to copy whatever it was that they were doing, but I knew my business better than anyone.”
Repeat After Her: ‘This Is Not Rocket Science’
Many aspiring entrepreneurs let what they don’t know become a stumbling block to launching their businesses. But for Busque, what she didn’t know, she knew she could figure out. She recalls a conversation she had with herself just before leaving her job at IBM to pursue TaskRabbit:
“I was thinking about all the things that I didn't know how to do. I was thinking, ‘All I know how to do is build this product. I’m a coder; I know how to code. I don't know how to raise money from investors, I don't know how to hire, I don't know how to fire, I don't know how to build a financial model.’ And then I realized that, to me it sounds funny, but I remember saying to myself: ‘This is not rocket science. … Just go figure it out.’”
Busque cites confidence as a key requirement for every successful entrepreneur. “As an entrepreneur, you're doing something that no one's ever done before, and you're going to have to innovate and build new things in new ways.”
Another key entrepreneurial quality? Adaptability. And having gone from engineer to entrepreneur to investor, Busque clearly has that in spades. Though she studied at a women’s liberal arts college, she works in the mostly male tech industry. Though she’s highly analytical and majored in math and computer science, she appreciates the arts and minored in dance.
“The appreciation of those other aspects has really aided me in being able to adapt, and learn quickly, and jump into new situations, and have the confidence that I'm going to be able to figure out and learn whatever I need to as fast as I need to.”
From Founder to Investor
In 2016, Busque stepped down as CEO of TaskRabbit, and in September 2017, the company was sold to Ikea. (Interestingly, in a TEDx Talk six years prior to the acquisition, Busque said the most popular task posted on the platform was Ikea furniture assembly.)
“TaskRabbit is my first baby, my first child,” she says. “The one thing that you would hope for your child or for your company is that it has a full life, right? And is happy, and grows up, and moves on from you. And so I feel very fortunate that I got to be on that journey and see that happen all the way through.”
Even after the acquisition, Busque has her feet firmly planted in the startup world. She serves as executive chairwoman at TaskRabbit and has transitioned into the role of investor as general partner at Fuel Capital, a seed-stage venture fund in San Francisco. It’s a natural transition, given her background as the founder of a venture-funded startup.
“Building things has always been my passion,” she says. “I love the early stages of a company, when there is a seemingly impossible-yet-pressing problem to solve. I couldn’t be more excited to work closely with early-stage founders and their teams as they take on world-changing ideas—much like I did during my early days at TaskRabbit.”
Given her years of experience building a peer-to-peer marketplace, Busque as an investor has chosen to focus on consumer businesses and marketplaces.
“I’ve also focused my attention on meeting and supporting the ‘outsiders,’” she says, such as women founders, those who don’t fit the typical mold, and those who aren’t based in Silicon Valley. “It’s been awesome to meet so many awesome entrepreneurs who don’t look like the typical founder. … I certainly didn’t!”
Her new role and focus couldn’t come at a better time. According to the Crunchbase “Women in Venture” report, in 2017, only 6 percent of all seed dollars went to female-only-founded startups, while male-only-founded startups received 83 percent of all seed dollars. Those figures have remained remarkably static since 2012.
Busque’s first investments reflect the type of impact she hopes to make. Werk is a women-founded career platform helping women find flexible job opportunities. Feather is a Brooklyn-based startup that provides affordable furniture rental with quick delivery.
“As I thought about what I wanted to do next, I just started getting pulled in the direction of venture from a lot of different angles,” Busque says, “from investors that I highly respect, from friends that were in the industry, and so I made the decision that I wanted to do investing full time as the next stage of my career.”
And if the previous stage of her career is any indication, there’s no task too big for Busque.
Thu, 8 February 2018
Melody McCloskey is the founder of StyleSeat, a San Francisco-based SaaS company that has raised $40 million in funding, powers billions in transactions and is recognized in 82% of American cities. StyleSeat provides tools for beauty professionals, which lets them run their entire business with just one piece of software.
If StyleSeat sounds like your typical booming, industry-disrupting tech startup, don't be fooled. McCloskey is dedicated to running her company in very atypical ways, and in today's interview, she shares how bucking Silicon Valley norms can help you achieve tremendous success—on your own terms.
For example, her startup is led overwhelmingly by women, a rarity in an industry with persistent gender gaps. The company has also chosen to stop raising money, and without a marketing or sales team, it barely invests in marketing.
McCloskey loves what she does and her business decisions are not solely driven by a pursuit of revenue and growth like many of her peers. Her goal is to empower female business owners with amazing products so they can do what they love as well. When they win, she wins.
Check out the interview to learn McCloskey's unique approaches to funding, growth, and staffing, along with other priceless lessons.
Thu, 1 February 2018
184: The Unconventional Approach That Built an Online Education Empire of 3M Students, With Ajit Nawalkha of Mindvalley
Unlike most entrepreneurs, Ajit Nawalkha doesn't focus on profit, revenue, sales, or customer surveys to grow his company. He's also been known to abandon some of his products, even when they're highly profitable, if they don't align with his vision. An unconventional approach, to be sure, but his personal development school Mindvalley has more than 3 million students and counting.
So what does Nawalkha focus on? His mission is to create life-changing experiences for his customers, and does so by bringing them instruction from some of the most powerful speakers of our time.
Nawalkha’s main goal is not to develop products, but to create "heart-centered experiences." And he believes this is the key to Mindvalley’s success in its quest to move their business—and all of humanity—forward. In this unique interview, you will learn exactly how Mindvalley creates these amazing client experiences, and its unconventional philosophy for measuring success.
Nawalkha and Mindvalley have risen to the top by focusing not on conventional indicators of growth, but on making the world a better place—one client experience at a time.
Thu, 25 January 2018
Thu, 18 January 2018
Thu, 11 January 2018
Entrepreneurs find inspiration in all sorts of places. But for Ari Meisel, founder, bestselling author, and productivity expert, desperation was the driving force behind the launch of his successful company, Less Doing. That same desperation led him to breakthroughs in productivity that changed his life.
At just 23 years old, Meisel was enjoying a thriving real estate career, but after suffering some major business blows and landing $3 million in debt, the stress overwhelmed him and he was diagnosed with debilitating Crohn’s disease. Managing the disease crippled Meisel’s ability to work regularly. Some days he was unable to work longer than an hour.
During this difficult experience, Meisel realized he needed to devise a way to accomplish more work in the limited time he had. Through a long process of experimentation, Ari developed his Less Doing, More Living productivity system, which allowed him the time he needed both to build a new business and improve his health.
A devoted husband, father of five, and dedicated businessman, Meisel now helps individuals and businesses around the world become more effective—all while working only 5 ½ hours a day. He's also recently teamed up with Foundr to teach his Less Doing, More Living system to our awesome community.
In this inspiring interview, learn the secrets behind Meisel’s airtight productivity system and discover how you can also become a productivity master and optimize, automate, and outsource your life and business.
Thu, 4 January 2018
180: How a Made-Up Idea for a Business Became the Second-Largest Expense Reporting Company, with Expensify’s David Barrett
What if you could stumble upon a game-changing idea without spending time and money on validation, industry research, or prototypes? And then grow this idea into the second largest company in your niche? It’s not common, but that's what happened to today’s podcast guest, David Barrett.
Barrett is the founder of Expensify, the second largest expense-reporting company in the world. But in its early stages, Barrett knew nothing about the space, nor was he particularly interested in it. In fact, he completely made up the Expensify idea as a decoy to get some funding for another endeavor, since banks weren’t interested in his “real” business idea.
But the decoy picked up steam as he pitched it, and before Barrett knew it, he was sitting on a potential goldmine. People were talking more about his fictitious business idea than they were his original idea. And Expensify was born.
Keeping with Barrett's unconventional approach to startups, Expensify’s massive growth has also been atypical. Barrett has not spent a dime on advertising, outbound sales calls, or salespeople. The software essentially sells itself.
In this packed interview, learn exactly how Barrett grew his company and how his unique business sales model and contrarian style disrupted the space. David Barrett is a true example of how challenging the status quo and disrupting common ideas can lead to avenues of massive growth and potential.
Thu, 21 December 2017
Jessica Jackley, co-founder of the game-changing microlending site Kiva, never played the typical role from entrepreneurial stories we're accustomed to hearing. She didn't start a business as a kid, and never dreamed of making millions. Jackley considered entrepreneurship a greedy venture, in fact, and she wanted to be one of the good guys.
But things quickly shifted for Jackley while she was in East Africa doing survey work for a nonprofit. Inspired by her work there with microfinancing, Jackley thought up the idea for Kiva, and wanted to spread it to other countries. Kiva would be a business, but one seeking to make a social impact.
In 2009, as an experiment, Kiva launched its first pilot round of loans. Fast forward 12 years later, and the company has issued more than $1 billion in microloans to 2.6 million borrowers in 84 countries.
Jackley didn’t stop there. After Kiva, she went on to become an accomplished investor, entrepreneur, and the author of Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least. She currently teaches social entrepreneurship at USC.
Throughout her experiences, Jackley discovered how entrepreneurship and social change could not only coexist, but come together to create a huge global impact.
Inspired to follow in Jackley’s footsteps? Well, don’t be. Jackley doesn’t want you to replicate what she did. She urges entrepreneurs to play by their own rules, define business with their own ideas, and never ask for permission. She believes these principles have always been the key to her success, and she outlines them in detail in this inspiring interview.
Thu, 14 December 2017
178: How 17-year-old Justin Kemperman and Brandon Monaghan Scaled to $500K in 3 Months (Start & Scale Student Spotlight – Part 3)
Welcome to the final installment of our three-part podcast series that’s shining the spotlight on successful entrepreneurs who hail right from our very own Foundr community! These passionate people are in the trenches daily doing what it takes to make their startup dreams a reality.
Today, we talk with Brandon Monaghan and Justin Kemperman, superstar entrepreneurs (one hasn’t graduated high school yet!) who developed a stellar brand and scaled their ecommerce business to half a million in sales in just 10 short weeks.
After joining our Start & Scale ecommerce course, they realized they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel to make money in ecommerce. They just needed to improve upon an existing product and build a powerful brand around it.
And, that’s exactly what they did. Their company, The Urban Lash, scaled so quickly that they didn’t have enough inventory to supply orders. They kept on growing, and Brandon and Justin recently sold their business for a nice profit and are ready to start the process all over again.
In this power-packed interview, we go behind the scenes with Justin and Brandon and learn exactly how they scaled their business so quickly, what principles guided their growth, and what they have planned for the future. We are extremely proud of these guys and how rapidly they grew their ecommerce business. Way to go!
Thu, 7 December 2017
177: How Shannon Willoughby Turned Her Passion Into a $30K/Month Business (Start & Scale Student Spotlight – Part 2)
Welcome to part two of our three-part podcast series that's shining the spotlight on successful entrepreneurs who hail right from our very own Foundr community! These passionate people are in the trenches daily doing what it takes to make their startup dreams a reality.
If you haven't listened to part one, featuring Gamal Codner, you can check it out right here.
Today, we talk with Shannon Willoughby, a courageous entrepreneur who started from zero and scaled her ecommerce business to $30,000+ per month and growing. Using the principles she learned in our Start & Scale ecommerce course, Shannon was able to surpass $250,000 in sales since starting her aromatherapy business just four months ago.
This episode is packed with advice on how anyone can scale a profitable ecommerce business, but it's also an inspiring story. Not only did Shannon build a business from zero, she's also recovered from two strokes and won the New Zealand rugby National Championship.
Her “never die” attitude will have you dreaming bigger than ever. Learn the strategies that led to Shannon’s success and how to follow in her footsteps. We are extremely proud to share her story with you!
Thu, 30 November 2017
176: Gamal Codner Scales His Ecommerce Business to $60K/month In 3 Months (Start & Scale Student Spotlight - Part 1)
The Foundr community is full of passionate people from all walks of life, in the trenches daily doing what it takes to make their startup dreams a reality. In this week's podcast, we want to shine the spotlight on one of these rising entrepreneurs who we're especially proud of—Gamal Codner of Fresh Heritage.
In part one of a three-part Start & Scale podcast series, we talked with this corporate-sales-guy-turned-ecommerce-entrepreneur, who overcame some difficult setbacks to scale his business to incredible success. Codner is a student of our Start & Scale ecommerce course, and was able to leverage the principles he learned in the course to grow his physical products business by 30X in just three months.
Before becoming a Start & Scale student, Codner left his corporate sales job to become a successful affiliate marketer. He then joined an accelerator program and decided to create his own ecommerce business. Codner was having some success but it wasn’t until he joined Start & Scale that he was able to use the principles we teach in the course to catapult his business revenue from $2,000 to $60,000 per month.
In this rare interview with an up-and-coming member of the Foundr community, we learn the exact strategies Codner used to create products his audience loves, and take his business to the next level. We are extremely proud of Gamal’s achievements and we are happy to share his inspiring story with you!
Thu, 23 November 2017
As a former Navy Seal, Brandon Webb is no stranger to life’s roller coaster of adversities and triumphs. In the military, pressure is a constant, and learning how to withstand and thrive under that pressure has made Webb a victor in his own battles, whether in business or everyday life.
In this interview with Foundr, Webb shares the story of how he lost millions in his first failed startup and turned his misfortune around to build and scale his eight-figure media and ecommerce business, Hurricane Group, Inc. He shares exactly what the turning point was that gave him a burst of forward momentum and the realizations that led to his success.
Webb’s astonishing accomplishments have been shaped by the principles he's mastered to overcome adversity, maintain laser-sharp focus, and make better decisions under pressure. He discusses how learning the necessary principles of FOCUS have helped help him create attainable, actionable goals that influenced outcomes and have helped him win in life and business.
As a New York Times-bestselling author, Webb also takes you behind the cover of his new book, Total Focus: Make Better Decisions Under Pressure, where he discusses how to approach the challenges and complexities of growing a startup using the indispensable life skills and principles he learned as a Navy Seal.
Thu, 16 November 2017
Anyone, technically, can build a business. But it takes real skill to convert an audience into die-hard followers who will stick with you no matter what. Ben Rattray is an expert at doing just that, now at the helm of one of the largest online communities in the world, not to mention a major force for social change.
Rattray is the founder of Change.org, one of the world's biggest social enterprises with over 100 million users spread across 196 countries, empowering everyday people to create and join social causes. In 2012, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world, according to Time magazine, and he's partnered with titans ranging from Virgin to Amnesty International.
But before it became the massive vehicle for online activism it is today, Change.org looked very different. In fact, it actually wasn't until 2011 that Change.org became the online petition platform we all know and love today.
Like most entrepreneurs, Rattray had to go through a few pivots before finally developing a model that actually worked. While most entrepreneurs can only afford to pivot maybe once or twice, if they're lucky, Rattray had the power of community behind him. And that power can take you a long way.
Rattray did what most others could not, he managed to not only build a huge community that loved what he was doing, but he was also able to keep them loyal to his brand even while undergoing multiple changes. You don't have to be in social enterprise to understand the magnitude of such an accomplishment, and just how valuable it can be to any business.
Luckily for our listeners, Rattray knows exactly how to do it.
In this episode you'll learn:
Thu, 9 November 2017
If you don't know Kevin Kelly's name, you undoubtedly know his work. Staying mostly behind the scenes, Kelly has quietly influenced the world as we know it, from pop culture to how we interact with digital technology.
He launched and built up one of the most influential media brands in the world, with a devoted audience of millions—a brand that's published, and even launched the careers of Pulitzer Prize winners, presidents, filmmakers, and of course, billionaire entrepreneurs.
Kelly is co-founder of the one-and-only Wired magazine.
In his time as editor-in-chief at Wired, Kelly was a pioneer of helping the world understand and interact with the internet and digital technology at large, as their role in our lives exploded. Since then, he's gone on to publish multiple books and launch multiple successful businesses. Throughout this interview, though, one theme persists:
Kelly is a true futurist.
Not only have many of his predictions about the future come true, from crowdfunding to wearable technology, but his keen ability to hack into these cultures early on, before they've hit the mainstream, has been the key to his success.
Luckily for our listeners, Kelly reveals in this sweeping interview his methodology for culture-hacking and how he's just so darn good at predicting the future.
In this episode, you'll learn:
Thu, 2 November 2017
For any startup to be successful, it's going to need an amazing team. It's why Fortune 500 companies are willing to pay their executives so much, and invest millions of dollars into finding and hiring the right people.
For the founders of startups, though, especially those that are bootstrapping, there's barely enough money to pay themselves, let alone hire anyone anyone else. The challenge of finding the right person to bring onto your team becomes that much harder.
It's a position most founders find themselves in when they need to start bringing on new staff, and Cyan Ta'eed was no exception.
In the beginning of Envato, one of the world's leading digital marketplaces with over 1.5 million active customers, it was just Ta'eed and her two other co-founders. It was a 100% bootstrapped operation, and still is today, and for a while, the three-person team was enough. But they soon quickly realized that if they were to grow any further, they needed to grow their team.
"We couldn't offer above market, because so many startups who had taken funding to get these amazing, sort of, guns. These people who can command these incredibly high salaries," Ta'eed says. "So instead we would look for people with great potential, people who were entrepreneurial themselves, people who we knew could take the ball and run with it."
Ta'eed hit the pavement and began the seemingly impossible task of finding that unicorn who's driven, entrepreneurial, and a problem-solver. In the end, though, she found a system that made finding and hiring exceptional talent, exceptionally easy.
In this interview you'll learn:
Sat, 14 October 2017
Despite being a prolific investor as one of the judges on Australia's Shark Tank, Janine Allis would rather sell her family home than seek investor funding. How do we know? Well, that's precisely what she did to start her own business.
Allis started her first business while on maternity leave, and it was then, like so many entrepreneurs, when she realized she didn't want to live by someone else's rules anymore. The result was Boost Juice, a retail empire that stretches over 500 stores across the globe, making it the largest and most profitable juice bar chain in the world.
While Allis certainly isn't entirely against the idea of taking investor money, she does caution entrepreneurs that raising capital should never be the first goal. And she has some indispensable advice on how to avoid the common money traps so many entrepreneurs fall into.
The most important stake any entrepreneur has in their own company is their equity and the passion they have for their own project. Bringing on investors not only means that you'll lose out on some of your equity, but it also means that you may have to make room for someone else's passion and vision for the company. And, most of the time, investors are more interested in the bottom line as opposed to the founder's ideas.
"I'm a firm believer that you only ever ask for money when you don't need it," Allis says.
She has seen firsthand how many entrepreneurs get caught up attempting to solve all their problems by throwing everything they have into fundraising—a Hail Mary pass that, more often than not, ends up hurting a business in the long run.
To help you avoid that common pitfall, Allis has some choice pieces of advice that you need to hear.
In this episode you'll learn:
Sat, 14 October 2017
Greg Mercer built an entire lifestyle business without having to build his own products, distribution network, or even an online store.
Instead of creating his first business from scratch, Mercer took advantage of the tools around him and started selling products on Amazon. It worked, to the point that he and his wife were both able to quit their jobs and start traveling the world. He had achieved the dream that so many of us are working toward, all by cleverly riffing on an industry giant.
Within two weeks, though, he was bored. Fortunately for us, Mercer's next project is helping others find similar success.
Selling everything from wrist braces to cages for tomato plants, Mercer realized he had stumbled upon a proven formula. A formula he could use over and over again that allowed him to find products people wanted, sell them on Amazon, and turn a significant profit. The next step was obvious.
Mercer built a tool called Jungle Scout, which allows other ecommerce entrepreneurs to find opportunities to make money on Amazon. Despite having limited himself to a budget of only a thousand dollars, having absolutely no coding or technical experience, or any experience in the software business, Mercer hacked together Jungle Scout, his first bona fide startup.
After starting out as a complete novice, Mercer began learning on the job, and despite encountering some classic hurdles and mistakes, has found himself at the head of a fast-growing company.
In this episode, you'll learn:
Thu, 12 October 2017
Mark Cuban is a very busy man. As one of the star judges of the hit show Shark Tank, Cuban has invested in nearly a hundred different startups that have appeared on the program. That's not even mentioning the investments he makes outside of the show, and the dozens of other businesses he's founded or manages himself.
So how does a single person manage to keep so many plates spinning at the same time?
His secret: Hiring the right people.
Cuban is always making sure he has the best people staffing the hundred-plus businesses he's involved in. And while hiring seems like a pretty basic business practice, finding the right talent is a true art, and one that Cuban has mastered.
It's a process of finding the right person, putting them in the right environment, and then continuing to build their personal growth and passion about the job they're doing. And in Cuban's case, multiplying the process for a thousand-plus employees.
That may sound hard, but Cuban says the one skill every founder and entrepreneur needs to master if they want to become a billionaire businessman, is knowing how to be a leader. If you don't know how to recruit and manage people, you're just not going to make it very far.
It can take decades of trial and error to figure out how to deal with the thousands of different personalities out there, and knowing what to prioritize at any given time. But Cuban has figured it out, and he's sharing his secrets with us here.
In this episode you'll learn:
Thu, 5 October 2017
Often as entrepreneurs, we envision success as owning more objects, like a fancy watch, a big house, or a fast car. But what if there were a more authentic, more enriching version of success? One that involves less?
That's the question that Joshua Fields Millburn seeks to answer, as one half of the duo who call themselves The Minimalists. Millburn and partner Ryan Nicodemus have built an entire brand around how to live a better life by having less.
Millburn runs a website with an annual audience of more than 4 million readers, hosts one of the most listened to podcasts in the world, has published multiple best-selling books, and has even produced and filmed a critically acclaimed documentary. In this episode of the podcast, Millburn gives us the crash course on redefining success, and otherwise decluttering and streamlining your life.
Millburn first adopted the minimalist lifestyle after spending years climbing the corporate ladder. By the time he was in his late 20s, he realized he wasn't happy, despite having everything that he thought he wanted.
"I always felt I was one promotion away in my career from being happy. But of course, I had all these other things that came with that ostensible success like stress, and anxiety, and discontent, and overwhelm, and of course a boatload of debt," Millburn says.
He says that too many entrepreneurs get caught up in the idea of constantly wanting to achieve the next goal, and the one after that, and so on so forth. But rarely do they ever take a moment to think about why they're working so hard, and to what end.
According to Millburn, the key to achieving happiness is to pursue meaning over anything else. And to do that you must first ask yourself, "How can my life be better with less?"
In this episode you'll learn:
Wed, 27 September 2017
Great entrepreneurs have that rare ability to take risks that others find crazy, coupled with a single-minded determination that allows them to bring their visions to life. But some of us want to do much more with that talent than simply create a profitable company. Some of us want to change the world for the better.
If that sounds like you, you're going to want to hear what Samasource founder Leila Janah has to say in this episode, as that's exactly what she's done during her incredible career.
Janah runs one of the most influential social enterprises around, responsible for raising over 30,000 people around the world up from poverty, and rebuilding entire communities.
Rather than the typical charity model of distributing donations to make an impact, Janah realized early on that in order to combat global poverty, she needed to come up with a more innovative solution. She decided to build a social enterprise that operates like a business, but in service of reducing poverty.
Janah focused on empowering poverty stricken communities in India, Haiti, Uganda, and more, contacting companies like Google and Microsoft that were looking to outsource their work, and training individuals with the skills they needed to complete that work.
This revolutionary business model has changed the way people think of success when it comes to social enterprises. Janah has shown what happens when you use the powers of entrepreneurship for something other than just profit, and the world is so much better of for it.
In this episode you'll learn:
Thu, 21 September 2017
Ask yourself, just how many hours have you sunk into that palm-sized rectangle of plastic, metal, and glass known as the smartphone?
As the co-founder of Kabam, one of the world's leading companies in mobile games, Holly Liu might be able to provide an answer to that, and it would likely be a huge number. But luckily for us, and our listeners, she's far more interested in talking about how she managed to build a billion-dollar company from scratch by giving away her products for free.
If you don't know Kabam already, you've probably heard of the company's hugely popular games, such as Kingdoms of Camelot, The Godfather, and Marvel's Contest of Champions, just to name a few. Each one operates on a "freemium" model, where users can download and play games for free.
This might sound crazy, but it's actually a ludicrously lucrative business model, with Kabam making the bulk of their revenue through in-game currency and advertising revenue. Kingdoms of Camelot alone has, to date, grossed over $250 million.
The secret behind Liu's success is simple, she just asks herself:
"Where are the people?"
That question led to Kabam's successful pivot into building a Facebook game and tapping into the power of viral marketing, to even partnering with the major studios in Hollywood to build games for upcoming movies and franchises.
For Liu, there's so much more to surviving in the mobile gaming industry than building a successful product, especially when great products exist on almost every corner. It takes an equal amount of dedication to marketing, finding the right partnerships, and, as always, understanding where your customers are.
In this episode you'll learn:
Fri, 15 September 2017
After 16 years in the game, Patel has established himself as one of the most prolific marketers in the world. Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs eagerly await his latest blog post, video, or product.
And yet, Patel says, more than anything, he deeply regrets building a personal brand. Pretty shocking, considering the majority of Patel's businesses have been built off the back of his personal brand and status as an influencer.
"If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't build a personal brand, it was the biggest mistake of my career. I built a personal brand by accident," Patel says.
For all the benefits and advantages Patel's personal brand has brought him, he also feels that it's seriously held him back in other areas he wants to pursue. While it's brought him more clients as a consultant, that very same notoriety has made it difficult for him to even build businesses without encountering problems.
But, like any other entrepreneur, Patel isn't stuck on what might have been. He's here to talk with us about what he's doing now, and how he manages to wield the double-edged sword of having millions of people recognize his name as an entrepreneur and a marketer.
In this episode you'll learn:
Fri, 8 September 2017
164: Why You Need More Swiss Army Knives and Paratroopers on Your Startup Team, says Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite
What separates the companies that make millions of dollars from those that never make it?
It's not the vision, or the product, or even the founder, it's the people. You can't build a successful business, let alone grow it, without having the right people by your side.
It's a lesson that Ryan Holmes, CEO and founder of Hootsuite, is intimately familiar with. Today, Holmes finds himself at the helm of one of the fastest-growing companies around. Hootsuite is a mega-popular social media tool that boasts over 16 million customers and 5 million messages powered by its service every single day. As of 2013, Hootsuite has raised an impressive $165 million in funding from some of the biggest VC firms in the world and continued to dominate the social media landscape.
In this episode, Holmes advises founders that when it comes to finding your first batch of employees, you're looking for the "Swiss Army knives" and "paratroopers" of the world. People who have the ability to take the smallest instruction and make their own way. It can be tempting to want to hire specialists in the early days, but as Holmes explains, they're more likely to hold your business back in the early days.
Finding the right people is as much about timing as it is finding the right skillset. And according to Holmes, the number one reason Hootsuite managed to grow so fast is that he had the right people by his side from day one.
In this episode you will learn:
Fri, 1 September 2017
Change is inevitable in the startup world, and only the best entrepreneurs stay on top of the game by evolving with it. Steve Huffman, co-founder and CEO of Reddit, knows this all too well, and in this episode of the podcast, Huffman explains how he's ushering the social media giant to the next level.
Huffman was there in the very beginning, when he and roommate Alexis Ohanian first pitched the idea for Reddit to Y Combinator, and he's at the helm again today as the company strives to reach new heights.
On the surface, nothing much has changed about Reddit since it was first created in their college dorm room 12 years ago. The layout, font, and even the logo remain relatively the same. But over the years, it's grown into a massive and highly influential web of online communities.
Today, Reddit is one of the largest websites in the word, with over 250 million active users and 300 million visitors a month. Beyond boasting impressive traffic numbers and a $1.8 billion valuation, Reddit is home to over half a million active online communities, where users can find anything from a laugh to help with addiction or relationships. The company's now making some serious changes under the hood, even to its appearance.
How things have changed.
"It's important to realize that there was never a point in which there was an idea for Reddit the way it exists today. There was just the idea we started with, to build a place where people can find interesting stuff every day. Not anything in particular, just interesting stuff," Huffman says.
In the early days, no one really knew what they were doing, and Reddit has experienced numerous stumbles and challenges along the way. But Huffman's managed to stay on top, and he's learned a tremendous amount along the way. He shares with us what it was like to create one of the largest sensations of the internet, and how to stay ahead in an ever-changing industry.
In this episode you will learn:
Fri, 25 August 2017
162: Investors, Crowdfunding, or Shark Tank? Maneesh Sethi's Done It All and Reveals His Funding Strategies
"How can I solve a problem in the fastest way?"
It's a question that Maneesh Sethi asks himself almost every day, and it's been the main driver behind who he is as a person, and as an entrepreneur. You see, Sethi lives a life of what you might call extreme productivity, and he wants to help you do the same.
The question has manifested in a variety of ways throughout Sethi's life, including starting his own productivity blog, Hack the System, where he examines how people can be more productive and focused in their lives by looking for unconventional solutions. Then there was the time he paid someone to follow him around and slap him in the face every time he was being unproductive.
Sethi's latest endeavor is par for the course in his never-ending quest to become as productive as he possibly can. As the founder and CEO of Pavlok, a wearable device designed to help you build better habits by literally shocking the bad ones out of you, Sethi is determined to help people transforms their lives. Even if it means giving them a zap every now and then.
Sethi knows a thing or two about the power of a little negative reinforcement, as evidenced by the aforementioned slapping, and the way having your back against the wall can bring out your best ideas.
"Our company has been a consistent sufferer of almost-death, followed by me figuring out something to help us survive, followed by learning a lot from that experience," Sethi says.
To save his company from bankruptcy, Sethi has turned to investors, crowdfunding, and even appeared on the hit show Shark Tank to keep his company alive. Through it all, he's developed a knack for finding the best way out, no matter what life throws at him.
In this episode you will learn:
Sat, 19 August 2017
Jodie Fox loves her shoes.
But unlike your average shoe lover, Fox was able to turn that love first into a living room-based passion project, and then a multimillion-dollar online business. She's the co-founder and CEO of Shoes of Prey, a popular online store that allows customers to design and customize their own shoes.
Shoes of Prey recently raised $25 million in funding as part of its Series B round, and while that's impressive enough on its own, Fox managed to validate, launch, and break even on her very first business within two months. That's mind-bogglingly fast, even by startup standards.
The former lawyer also skilfully scaled her business with a powerful mix of influencer marketing and deals with wholesale giants like Nordstrom, to the point that over 5 million shoes have been designed on the platform. Not bad for a first-time entrepreneur.
"I think a founder's job when you start a business is just to do everything that you haven't hired anyone to do just yet," Fox says.
Together with her co-founders, Fox followed her passion, validated her idea, built her first online store, and from there the wins kept on coming.
We are very lucky to have the opportunity to interview her and receive step-by-step instructions on how this first-time entrepreneur managed to build herself a worldwide business with million of customers at lightning-fast speeds.
In this episode you'll learn:
Fri, 11 August 2017
160: The Not-So Obvious, But Ridiculously Successful Strategy on Building a Business with Brian Clark of Copyblogger
"The truth is I didn't like working for somebody else."
Most entrepreneurs start their own business because they want to take charge of their own destiny, and for Brian Clark, the CEO and founder of Rainmaker Digital, Copyblogger, StudioPress, and the Rainmaker Platform, his story doesn't start off any different. It doesn't matter if you haven't heard of Clark before, but if you've been anywhere near the startup space in the past 15 years or so, you've undoubtedly felt his influence.
With his first successful business he stuck with what he knew, taking his four years of experience in law and starting his own small law firm. He quickly set himself apart from the rest of the competition with his natural marketing instincts and his ability to build an audience.
"What most young attorneys can't do is develop clients, and I figured out how to do that. And in that moment an entrepreneur was born. I was just so amazed that I could develop a business by myself with just an email newsletter. No one understood what I was doing at the time, they thought I was crazy, but it worked!" Clark says.
A few years, and a couple more businesses later, Clark began working on a small blog that would come to be known as Copyblogger, one of the most influential content marketing blogs in the industry. Some of the world's top content marketers can fondly remember turning to Copyblogger early in their careers to learn how to write better headlines and become better writers.
Clark helped blaze the trail for this new style of marketing, and to this day, he's still pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
While most people are still trying to figure out whether to focus on building the perfect product or growing their audience, Clark has devised a strategy that's allowed him to do both at the same time, all while growing his multiple businesses at warp speed.
It should really come as no surprise that, here at Foundr, much of our own business model and content marketing efforts have been directly inspired by Clark and his successes. This is why we're very excited to present to you this eye-opening interview with the one and only Brian Clark.
In this episode you will learn:
Fri, 4 August 2017
159: A Lifelong Founder Teaches Critical Lessons for New Entrepreneurs on Products, Investors, and Selling with Jonathan Siegel
Jonathan Siegel has started close to a dozen different companies—some have been hugely successful, others didn't quite go as planned, and for one, he sold his shares after a falling out with his co-founders. Siegel has been a serial startup founder since he was just 12 years old. Now at 40, he has seen it all, and he's sharing his lessons—on products, investors, and selling a business—with Foundr.
"It doesn't feel like a job, as much as it just feels like I'm getting paid to do something for fun," Siegel says, about his love for the entrepreneurial life.
Siegel has had a knack for entrepreneurship since he was putting together and selling computers all the way back in 1989. From there, he's had a lifelong passion for creating something new every chance he got. Whether it was starting his own businesses, constantly creating new products, or building products for other people.
For Siegel, entrepreneurship isn't so much a money-making exercise or a career, but a lifestyle that constantly allows him to strive forward and look into the future.
"If you do something as a creative outlet, the amount of money is not the goal. And I don't believe that every entrepreneur is running around thinking about how much money they have in their accounts. I think that every entrepreneur runs around thinking, 'Hey I want to bring this thing to life. I want to create something bigger than myself. I want to see the thing that I create influence other people in the way that they work and the way that they live,'" Siegel says.
This passion has helped Siegel learn many valuable lessons on his own journey, not just about himself, but about what entrepreneurship is all about.
In this episode you will learn:
Fri, 28 July 2017
In the late 1970s, Brian Smith was a young Australian surfer looking for the next big thing. Little did he know that while flipping through a magazine, he would stumble upon an idea that would grow into one of the world's most iconic brands. With more than $1 billion in sales worldwide, you can find the UGG brand in millions of households.
What does it take to build such an iconic brand?
Smith openly admits that, at the time, he had no idea. He struggled to get people interested in his product, and even when they were interested, he found it difficult to turn them into customers. In fact, after his first season of sales, Smith had sold only 28 pairs of boots. The outlook was not good for his fledgling brand.
While many entrepreneurs would become disheartened and give up, Smith realized that no company becomes successful overnight.
"You can't give birth to adults," Smith says.
Smith believed that every successful business in the world has to go through a period of infancy, where almost nothing happens, and only then can you start getting the traction and momentum you need to explode your business.
For UGG, that infancy stage would go on for another four years until that lightbulb moment came and Smith figure out what he had to do. What happened next turned sales from only $15,000 to $200,000 almost overnight.
In the years that followed, Smith would find his sheepskin boots on the feet of young surfers, snowboarders, and eventually A-list celebrities.
In this episode you'll learn:
Thu, 20 July 2017
Andrew Barnes's company GO1 is a Y-Combinator alum that's raised over $4 million in funding, grown to over 400,000 users, and is currently the world's largest onboarding, compliance, and professional development learning platform. If that weren't impressive enough, Barnes hit those benchmarks in under three years. The secret weapon? An airtight B2B, or business to business, sales process.
In our interview with Barnes, he shares with us how the Australian-startup-that-could found its path to achieving explosive growth and influence, eventually ranked as one of the 100 most disruptive startups in the world. He also tells us how he and his team mastered B2B sales, a huge arena of entrepreneurship today.
"I remember in YC we were up late just basically cold-calling trying to generate interest and see whether they'd take us, we'd try Google Adwords and spent a fortune on that, we tried a whole host of different options. And what we eventually stumbled on is a model with sales development reps that identify people that match our criteria," Barnes says.
Then it's just a matter of knowing the right person to contact, what to say, and when to say it. It's a process that Barnes has mapped out to a T, with a ton of little tricks and hacks along the way to get the job done. Barnes, much to our benefit, shares this sales process to Foundr and our audience, along with the many lessons he's learned as a lifelong digital entrepreneur.
In this episode you'll learn:
Thu, 13 July 2017
156: Lessons Learnt From Building a $300 Million Dollar Business From the Original #GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso
Sophia Amoruso was a community college dropout, working a variety of odd jobs to support herself, when she set up a humble eBay store called Nasty Gal Vintage. The rapid growth that followed has become the stuff of startup legend, and in this episode of the podcast, Amoruso shares what she learned from the roller-coaster ride of Nasty Gal, and tells us about her new endeavor, Girlboss Media.
Over the course of a decade, Amoruso had a meteoric rise, during which she became the head of a retail empire, and was named one of the richest self-made women by Forbes in 2016. She also became a symbol of brash millennial entrepreneurs and a trailblazing icon for female entrepreneurs especially, following the release of her New York Times bestseller #GirlBoss.
Then, the same year Netflix developed a scripted comedy loosely based on the book, Nasty Gal found itself filing for bankruptcy. In those 10 years, Amoruso had bigger highs and lows than many entrepreneurs experience in a lifetime, but the story isn't over yet.
Today, Amoruso has moved on and is working on continuing the momentum of her book and the devoted following she built around her story. Nasty Gal Media is as focused as ever on helping women around the world launch their entrepreneurial careers.
We were very fortunate to be able to interview Amoruso amid her hectic schedule of growing a new business. She shared with us the many lessons she's learned from her exciting and colorful career, along with fascinating insight into what makes a brand explode, and how to come out on top in today's tumultuous startup world.
In this week's episode you will learn:
Thu, 6 July 2017
In 2011, four lads from Dublin were running a successful business that let programers and engineers know when a user encountered a problem with their program. The problem was that none of them were particularly interested in the world of programming errors.
Instead, they found their passions centered on why it was so difficult for online businesses to talk to customers. They didn't know it at the time, but they were about to reinvent the concept of content marketing.
So Des Traynor and his three co-founders sold their successful business, packed their bags, and moved to sunny California.
"We were four Irish founders and basically our previous company, we had already done the bootstrapping thing. ... When we were going through this change of business and this change of approach, we said, 'What's the opposite of running a bootstrapped business off the north side of Dublin?' Well that's come to Silicon Valley and raise a million dollars, and that's what we did," Traynor says.
It turned out to be the right move, as the company that now known as Intercom raised more than $160 million in the past six years, building a customer base of over 17,000 customers, and making over $50 million in revenue. Their mission was simple: to make online businesses feel less like talking to a robot and feel more personal instead.
The solution to that was to help businesses talk to their customers through their own websites and apps instead of the usual mish-mash of emails, texts, and phone calls. Intercom built its reputation and customer base through the power of content marketing, but in a way that might surprise you.
Instead of following the traditional strategy of hiring a content team, focusing on SEO and backlinks, and churning out at as much content as possible, Intercom went in the completely opposite direction and developed a unique content strategy that led their business to go viral within the startup community, while building a beloved brand.
"We're not one of those people that do all that black hat stuff. I really, really hate that. We had a recommendation recently to go post on discussions.apple.com and write a piece that links back to your site, and it was just so puke-worthy. I could never get excited about gamifying the Google algorithm and building the business on such a messy, fragile house of cards," Traynor says.
Traynor goes in-depth with us in this episode about why the conventional content marketing strategy doesn't work anymore, and how to really get your message across.
In this week's episode you will learn:
Fri, 30 June 2017
154: A Behind-The-Scenes Look at the Marketing Strategies of Multi-million Dollar Companies with Clate Mask of Infusionsoft
Every entrepreneur at some point faces the dilemma of simply not being able to pour any more hours of work into their company. As a result, they get stuck.
That's where Clate Mask, CEO of Infusionsoft, comes in. In the 10 years Infusionsoft has been operating, Mask has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs use the power of email marketing to double their growth, triple their leads, even quadruple overall revenue.
For Mask, automated email marketing is the secret weapon for any business that's trying to scale. In today's podcast episode, he dishes on how to do it right.
"What happens in an entrepreneurial business, when you're running a small company, it's very, very difficult to follow up effectively with all your leads and customers, and things slip through the cracks," he says. "You're wearing 10 different hats trying to run the business, and ... you just can't keep it all straight when the business starts to grow and when you start to have some success."
At that point, you can either hire more people to handle the workload, which can be costly, or learn how to automate your business.
Mask has helped Infusionsoft's 125,000-plus users create their own automation campaigns by mapping out customer lifecycles, and pinpointing the best times and messages to engage customers and get as much of a return as possible.
In this week's episode, Mask tells us what the marketing strategies of his best users look like, and how you can incorporate them into your own business.
In this episode you will learn:
Fri, 23 June 2017
In his lifetime as an entrepreneur, Steve Olsher has crashed, burned, and reinvented himself in the face of tremendous failure. But for Olsher, there was never any other path. If you can relate, he's got some indispensable wisdom to offer.
"I've been an entrepreneur pretty much since I've been old enough to pick up a rake and move some leaves around, or grab a shovel and do some snow-shoveling and clear some sidewalks, driveways, that sort of thing. We're all naturally wired to excel in very specific ways, and for me, I've always just been wired to rub a couple of dimes together to make that quarter," Olsher says.
Olsher has spent his entire life as an entrepreneur, and with it has experienced all the highs and lows, from starting a widely successful business that was prepared to go public within a year, to losing it all and walking away from a company he spent nine years of his life building.
But if success is defined by how well you can bounce back from failure, Olsher is one of the most successful people on the planet. Taking the knocks in stride, and embracing the lessons they taught him, Olsher went on to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures over the next six years, before reclaiming his original business and domain name, Liquor.com, and building his business from the ground up again.
In the years since, Olsher has distilled a lifetime of experience and lessons into helping others figure out what their passion and their purpose are. Today, he is now a New York Times-bestselling author, and is all about helping people reinvent themselves into who they truly want to be.
In this episode you will learn:
Thu, 15 June 2017
152: How to Build a Business You Care About More Than Paying Your Own Bills with Adam Braun of MissionU
Getting rich is for amateurs. A real entrepreneur, one with serious guts and vision, wants to make the world a better place.
If that's you, it's time to enter the world of social enterprise—business that seeks to make both a profit and a positive impact, on anything from education to world hunger. This is a tall order, but it's possible and an increasingly popular form of entrepreneurship. So today's podcast is going to show you exactly how to make money, while also making a difference.
Unlike your traditional businesses, social enterprises have a much harder time securing funding and even staff. The legal frameworks and business models can also be much trickier. Lucky for us, we were able to sit down with Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise and MissionU. He shared with us how he managed to raise over $50 million in contributions, build hundreds of schools, and grow a worldwide staff of more than 125 employees as a social enterprise.
As he turned 25, Braun only had $25 in his bank account, but was still determined to build a school for the less fortunate. Before crowdsourcing was even a thing, Braun turned to strangers to help him fund his first project. He used social media and event marketing to attract people to his cause, relying on influencer and word-of-mouth to secure the funding he needed.
"You start scrappy and understand that maybe one day you'll have the resources to hire full-time staff and work with capital at hand, but most people don't start that way, and I certainly didn't," Braun says.
Starting with this grassroots marketing strategy and an all-volunteer staff, he built Pencils of Promise into a huge success. Today, more than 400 schools have been built as a result, and Braun's turned his sights to education in the United States with his new project MissionU.
In this episode you'll learn:
Thu, 8 June 2017
151: How to Build a Cult Following Tribe Resulting in 10's of Millions of Annual Recurring Revenue Russell Brunson
Russell Brunson knows a ton about building effective marketing funnels. It's a skill he learned after spending nearly 10 years making money online by building funnels for all sorts of things, from potato guns to coupons. Now as the CEO and co-founder of ClickFunnels, Brunson heads one of the fastest-growing bootstrapped companies in the world.
"We're growing faster than any VC-backed company that I know of, and we do it because we had to do it smarter, and we do it through the funnels that we practice and we preach, and it works," Brunson says.
In a mere two-and-a-half years Brunson has grown ClickFunnels to more than 36,000 active customers and, even more impressively, he's been able to turn those customers into a passionate community of evangelists loyal to the brand. He's since taken his talent and knowledge for building effective sales funnels and has distilled it all into an incredibly easy tool that anyone can use, as well as a number of bestselling books.
But it hasn't been an easy road and it's taken a heap of knowhow, expertise, and foresight to get there. Luckily for us, he's sharing his best advice with the Foundr audience.
In this week's episode you'll learn:
Thu, 1 June 2017
Tony Robbins advises billion-dollar CEOs, celebrities, even heads of state, but today, he's going to show you how to become a master of money.
The New York Times-bestselling author has once again topped the charts with his latest book Unshakeable, and to date, the world-renowned speaker has inspired tens of millions of people all over the globe. Successful people from Bill Clinton to Oprah have sung his praises, and he's had sit downs with the likes of Nelson Mandela.
What you might not know, however, is that before it all, Tony was a penniless kid growing up in Azusa, California. After leaving home at 17, Robbins decided to skip college so he could start working, which at first meant sweeping the floors as a janitor. But he constantly strove to continue learning and feed his voracious curiosity.
Every millionaire finds their start somewhere, and for Robbins it was in the pages of endless books that he found himself glued to. He was determined to be a millionaire, and he wasn't going to let a lack of formal education be a barrier, eventually working his way to the top.
Today, he's the one writing the books, sharing all the wisdom he's collected over all those years. And his latest topic of obsession is finance—how to master money and become truly free from worries about wealth.
Robbins has decades of experience in business and investing himself, but in recent years, he's been questioning the world's greatest financial minds to get to the bottom of that question. Many of the answers are in his new book, but fortunately for Foundr fans, Tony Robbins joins us today to share some of his most important lessons.
In this episode you will learn:
Thu, 25 May 2017
In 2012, Gretta Rose van Riel, like most aspiring entrepreneurs, found herself spending all of her free time building a business. It was nothing more than a passion project at the time, something to do in her spare time when she wasn't working at her day job.
Despite the fact that she had no real plans to become a full-time entrepreneur with her own business, it wasn't long before that passion project grew into something bigger. She soon knew that this was something she just had to devote all of her time and energy to.
"Basically, I had an idea that resonated with me so strongly, I just knew that it was something that I had to pursue," van Riel says.
The result was a multimillion-dollar ecommerce business called SkinnyMe Tea, the world's first teatox using the natural benefits of tea to help you achieve your health, fitness, and nutrition goals. That alone is impressive enough, but what really separates van Riel from the rest of the pack is that she didn't just build one multimillion-dollar business, she's built many.
In five years, Van Riel has transformed herself from just another employee to serial entrepreneur, with multiple ecommerce businesses under her belt. She's effectively cracked the code on how to successfully build a business online, including coming up with the perfect idea, the best way to market it, and how to rapidly scale.
In this week's episode you will learn:
Wed, 17 May 2017
148: How to Build a Successful E-commerce Business - The Foundr Incubator (Business Breakdown) with Tom Bilyeu of Quest Nutrition & Jake Mckeon of Coconutbowls.com
In this very special episode of the Foundr Podcast, we answer all the questions you've ever had about building an ecommerce business and more!
The first installment in what we're calling the Foundr Incubator series, we recorded a live coaching session between one ambitious Foundr community member and the head of a billion-dollar company.
We organized a call with Jake McKeon, the up-and-coming founder of multiple ecommerce businesses, to receive one-on-one coaching from Tom Bilyeu, co-founder of unicorn startup Quest Nutrition. Like so many other entrepreneurs out there, McKeon was doing well, but looking to grow and not sure how. That's where Bilyeu, with his years of experience and wisdom, stepped in.
The result is a fascinating and honest conversation in which Jake asks just about every question an entrepreneur might have about how to grow, how to market yourself, and generally how to take an online business to the next level. Tom doesn't hold back and answers all of these questions and more, sharing his insights on what it takes to create a successful ecommerce business and a thriving community around your brand.
This is an episode you definitely do not want to miss, with so much gold being shared that you can't help but feel empowered and inspired after listening.
In this interview you will learn:
Thu, 11 May 2017
147: Lessons from the Master Growth Hacker of Dropbox, LogmeIn, Eventbrite & Many more with Sean Ellis of Growthhackers.com
Sean Ellis is not just another marketer. In fact, he's something entirely different. He's the world's first growth hacker.
Originally selling advertising in the print industry in Budapest, Ellis found his calling when a friend began building a new company on this relatively new thing called the internet. Despite not knowing that much about it, Ellis immediately recognized the opportunities that online marketing presented.
"Nobody knew much about the internet at the time. But because I was selling advertising, I really liked the idea of being able to target specific ad messages to specific people," Ellis says.
In the years that followed, Ellis continued to stay ahead of the curve. While the rest of the world was still trying to grow their startups the traditional way, by pounding the pavement and paying for advertising with little understanding of the results they were getting, Ellis was already breaking the rules and experimenting with every possibility that the internet offered.
Instead of just focusing on marketing as something separate from the product that was being built, Ellis wanted to experiment and see if he could combine both product and marketing together. The result was a method he called "growth hacking," a term he coined in 2010 that would come to revolutionize how startups looked at marketing, and eventually become the name of his company Growth Hackers.
He tested his methodology over the years and played a key role in successfully growing companies like Dropbox, Lookout, and Xobni, eventually becoming the go-to guy in all of Silicon Valley for startups looking to grow as fast as possible. Today, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone with more experience, knowledge, or passion about the power of growth hacking.
In this week's episode, you'll learn: