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Joseph Fung is the CEO of Uvaro, a tech sales career accelerator. A graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Computer Engineering program, Joseph’s a five-time technology Founder & CEO, and with multiple successful exits, and speaks frequently on the topics of sales leadership, diversity, and corporate social responsibility.
We discuss so many important topics around enabling people, empowering individuals and teams, using systems to map our experiences and get to progress faster. Joseph has an incredible story and I highly recommend you have a look at what he and the team at Uvaro are doing.
One of the amazing things that I love about this podcast is that I meet incredible people who genuinely have an impact on how I think and do things. You’re going to get the advantage of doing that today with Joseph Fung. Joseph Fung is both a serial entrepreneur as well as the founder of Movado. So he’s really, really neat Canadian as well. Which kind of a bonus. But before we get into there, let me just jump in and give a shout out and a thanks to the amazing folks that sponsor and make this podcast happen.
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And that is Devil’s Breath, one of the best shirts. Plus also proceeds go to support independent artists. That’s the way we roll. We want to support new creators. And one more thing before we get to the good stuff. Make sure if you want to get better connected with your customers, clients, peers, anybody in the tech industry, if you technical sales, product marketing, just about anything. I’ve created a guide called the Four Step Guide delivering extraordinary software demos.
Super cool. I’m very proud of it. I’ve had great feedback. So thank you to all the folks who have already downloaded. There’s much more to the program. So go to VelocityClosing.com You can actually check it out right there and there’s more coming anyways. Let’s get to the Good Stuff. This is Joseph Fung. Joseph Fung is somebody who I really, really enjoy spending time with. You are going to as well. He’s the CEO of Uvaro.
He he’s cool. We talk about selling. We talk about connecting. We talk about startup entrepreneurship, running teams, culture. Amazing. Enjoy.
This is Joseph Fung with Uvaro, and you’re listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.
thank you very much, Joseph, for joining. This is really neat because I love when I get to meet folks, when I look at what you’re doing and it immediately makes sense on a problem that I face on a daily basis, both in and out of my day to day work. And so it was really, really cool when I saw you come up and you Varro was the was the first name first. I did a look for you, Joseph Fung, and you’ve got a really great storied background.
You’ve got a couple of different things for you to talk about. So for folks that are new to you, Joseph, if you want to introduce yourself, tell us quickly about Loverro and then we’re going to talk about a lot of stuff in how people can get better at enabling people through the use of technology and proven historical work. That’s what led to this A.I. only.
Thanks so much for having me here. I’m I’m really looking forward to this conversation. We’re going to cover a lot of territory, and this stuff is always near and dear to the heart for Uvaro. By way of introduction, we’re on a mission to help the world’s professionals lead more fulfilling careers from their first job to their last. And we got there. I’ve been a five time tech founder and CEO, and every time building the people side of the business was always toughest, especially in the sales organization.
And we’re tackling that problem head on Jivaro and we get to see life changed every single day. And wow, is it fulfilling work? It is such a blast.
Now, the thing that I always enjoy is when you can see success come in, that people realize that there’s a repeatable thing that I’m doing and I can now leverage the fantastic capabilities of software to be able to make that process easier going forward for other folks. And I’ve done it with with mentoring. That was one thing. I was like, I keep having the same questions, get asked over and over again and effectively then built a playbook and then through developing this playbook.
Then I said, OK, now can I build a system that uses this playbook and, you know, doesn’t remove the human experience, but enhances the speed at which you can get to the human experience. And this is why I was I was really, really digging in on what you and the team are doing here, because you’re taking, like you said, multi time founders. So you’ve this is not, you know, straight out of school going, I’m going to create an idea and then create a thing and then I’m going to sell that thing.
You’re literally taking practices that you’ve developed over the course of time and now mapping them into a system. So if you don’t mind, just let’s go into the Wayback Machine and what what gave you the need, you know, in that first time you founded and as you went through this to understand that this was a real, you know, repeated problem that we see all the time.
You’re talking about the founding of Uvaro, or that way back. Yeah, each time. Yeah, even the pre Uvaro. I mean, it’s the fun that now folks that now they get to wait. They could listen because they want you want the real story, trust me. But I the lead up to it will actually will influence the reason why you are so important to.
I’ve gone through this a few times and the people who look at my my LinkedIn profile, they feel like, what the heck is this is like marketing hack and H.R. Tech. And there is a there’s a steel cable that links everything through. And if that idea of building, you know, really rewarding places where you can do your best work. And I think the real trigger was I went to the University of Waterloo, did co-op and one of my co-ops at Raytheon and a great space co-op leader, but is a multinational and they do military contracts and we did aircraft, airport surveillance radar and things like that.
They had a brand new president coming to visit. And it for me is a co-op because it’s super exciting. The guy runs a company that’s worth billions of dollars. I’m going to learn something new and, you know, maybe accelerate my career. But everybody was terrified because he planned to kill a factory. What does this mean? Why’s he visiting? And it struck me that that fear was the wrong way to build a company. I look back at it now and I’m like, Oh.
Co-op Joseph thought he could build a better company than Raytheon. That’s a very nice thought, but at the time, that’s that’s exactly what triggered me to do it. It’s like, you know what? I can build a place where people feel more aligned, more fulfilled, like they belong. And every step isn’t filled with that fear. And that’s what got me into building my first company. That was more than just a, you know, kind of a lifestyle business, soap opera style engagement.
And every step of the way, every time since it’s been that same ethos, how do I build a place where people can come and do their best work ever and now we get a chance to do that for our customers, too. And so feels in many ways like coming full circle.
The thing that you highlighted there is this thing of being able to have a different sense of experience through the same exact momentous experience as other people, and it’s funny, it’s very rare to identify that it’s different because most people don’t have the empathy to get there. Like whatever, you know, you’re that’s a you problem. What most people think, like, it’s really tough in like everybody is kind of stuck in just trying to figure their own stuff out.
And for you to be able to say, like, I’m experiencing this differently than other people, it’s notably different. And not only that, but then saying, I wonder if there’s a way that I could. If then my positive experience, and this is why I really enjoyed this story of the importance of being able to say I can gather a different, more positive outcome out of this thing, and I know it’s got to be in there in there somewhere for everybody.
How do we unlock that? And I think that’s that’s a huge thing, right? I mean, it’s changing the world in some small way every day. But then most importantly, figuring out as you do this over and over again, through different experiences, through different people. What are the commonalities that we can ultimately systematize and in doing so then? Bring it to sort of productize of people experience, which is which is kind of neat now. You’ve also definitely was interesting in that you’re you’re out, you’re directly trying to get to people and help them through this experience if you want.
Let’s talk about the heart of you, Varro, and what your mission is other than, you know, sort of the basic core that you’re aiming for.
Yeah, I mean, the crux of it comes from this, really. It’s funny, it’s one of those things you look at it and you realize, hey, you know, the world’s kind of flawed, but if you think about that career journey that anyone goes on and I mean, the stats are horrific, you know, average time in is like, what, two point eight years now? That’s like 16 different jobs a career. But what, 15 percent of people are engaged, 60 percent.
The stats are terrible. No matter where you look and the tools, the systems people have to access, whether it’s something like a LinkedIn or a job search site like indeed. Or the various platforms where you’re consuming content. The challenge is that all of these platforms, the job seeker, the individual, the professional is the product that they’re being sold to companies and to advertisers and things like that. There’s no one who’s actually aligned to the career journey of the individual.
And that’s really what’s at the core of what we’re doing. So, you know, we start right now. We’re focused on sales because every startup, every company has to start somewhere. And we really help people by providing that that full experience. We deliver training, internships, introductions, how people learn those new roles and then the coaching on an ongoing basis. And as a result, people are seeing amazing, amazing outcomes, more engaging careers. They’re talking about like opportunities of a lifetime.
You’ve changed my life. You saved my life. More income, more job satisfaction. The engagement level of our grads is so high and and change where matters like buying houses when they never could have previously looked at it, moving out like one of our own. Our students used to rent one room in a two bedroom apartment while he was saving for his son’s college education. And he goes through our program, lands a role immediately and immediately goes in to find a new apartment so that his son can visit, have a place to sleep instead of just like on the floor besides bed.
And that type of change to someone’s life is so profound. And it’s so much easier when you say, hey, I’m focused on your success, not focused on you clicking buttons so my advertisers can shift the product. And that feels really good because it’s an alignment of values that seems to be lost in so many businesses right now. So it feels really rewarding.
I enjoy that the more companies are least becoming aware to that now, this becomes the sort of salability of the benefits of the platform, that there’s an immediate people, like a direct, you know, your clients, your people that use it as me. It’s you. It’s our friends. It’s our peers. Yeah. But then as an organization, I can then look and say, if I’m using you, Varro, to empower my team, then they effectively are happier, more engaged, more likely to stay.
And what was the old, you know, oft misquoted, which I’m about to misquoted again, you know, statement of jobs or whatever, saying like, what happens if we train people and they leave and says, what’s worse, if you don’t and they stay right now and the sense that if you if you empower them to leave. So I worked four years ago. People can search my LinkedIn. And I worked for a company called Raymond James Raymond James and really enjoyed the company to work for.
I worked in the tech side, but the way they run their financial services arm is that it’s a rarity in the industry that they allow you to own your book. So you bring your customers with you, you know, or you develop your come your customer, you know, clientele. And you if you choose to leave, take it all with you. They give you the data, they give you the accounts, they help you with the migration.
If anybody who runs a financial service firm would be disturbed by the idea of doing this because the whole purpose is they’re developing your clients, Raymond James says no, no, you’re developing your clients and we’re helping you to do that. As a result, one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry because nobody feels the need to run away because they don’t feel locked in. It’s a fantastic thing. And more companies now, I think, especially in tech, are realizing that there’s so much opportunity out there.
Best thing you can do is to vastly empower your people.
It’s it’s funny because you talked about it earlier, that idea of finding a problem or solution and then trying to systematize and scale it. And for me, it’s like the engineering side of my brain. It’s really, you know, how do we optimize the systemize ties, those things? And if we think about a sales or support work, you’ve got, you know, people using your software, interacting with your customers, using your CRM. And we spend so much time optimizing, you know, the CRM, the buttons, the workflows, spent so little time trying to optimize the people.
We just kind of say, you know, we’re going to change crap around you and figure it out and see when you give people a stronger sense of autonomy, of of confidence, of a sense of investing when they perform better. And I love the example of Raymond James because that’s that’s a great example. But it happens at a smaller scale, too. Like we work with a lot of startups, a lot of scale ups. You know, a lot of our grads will go on to a 50 person company, a 20 person company, one hundred person company to see the same thing.
Our grads ramp like they get to Cuota in a third, the time at their peers, and they’re twice as likely to exceed quota. So, yeah, that’s great. That’s not about the software. That’s not about the buttons in the widgets. That’s about investing in the people. And you really can you can engineer, you can systematize your people, your culture. And that’s that’s not about making your company robotic. It’s about treating people equitably and deliberately without wasting cycles.
And it’s a very compelling thing to do.
Now, this is one that you hit a word that’s important and that’s deliberate. Hmm. We especially in startups and I say we I mean, a startup which is no longer a startup, we just got purchased by IBM where. No, you know, I’m a huge part of a huge company. But in watching the growth of this startup and many others like it. Most stuff is not deliberate, it is purely accidental, like they try to take practices that we see at big organizations.
But then the hilarious thing is your Erik Reece quotes this in his great book, Lean Startup, and he says, you get all these people that come from big companies and they create a startup. And the first thing they do is they try and create all this process they like. That’s the reason you left the big company. So we kind of look to these big sales training organizations and and these like big dollar coaching and empowerment. But if you’re not in the right phase of your company.
It’s it’s wasted money and ultimately it is repeating something that just doesn’t match, and that’s why I said it’s not their deliberate in their outcome, not the outcome of the reps. The outcome of the backoffice team, the outcome of everybody in the customer experience is the reason we call them customer success now instead of just, you know, help disguise the the word deliberate is very important because you have to say, like, what is the outcome I’m looking to do for everyone involved and what can I do to reach that?
An example of that, because I hear from founders all the time, like the idea, like, no, we’ve got we’ve got our values, we’ve got our culture. Our people are really important and. At one of the things that I found is that a lot of founders struggle to put it into practice. What does it mean? With my previous company tribe at the time that we founded it, so when we just got started, there was a if you go back and you Google the history and stuff, you’ll see there was a bunch of companies in the Toronto the Waterloo area.
And this is like all the early, early 20s, mid 20s, there’s a bunch that were purchased by US buyers and the teams moved as like Microsoft buys a team and moved them to Seattle. Google buys a team, moves them to California. And that was this big fear, like the brain drain was US companies acquiring Canadian talent and shipping them south of the border. And when we founded Tribe, one of the commitments we made to the team was we want to build a company where we can scale it for us, for our families.
We’re going to never we’re never going to ask you to move south of the border. We’re never going to do that. That’s that was one of the first commitments we made. We founded it seven of us at the time when we said it explicitly in the first meeting and. Kind of go fast forward many years we’re selling the company and we’re evaluating two things this a series, a term sheet that was beautiful, way better than we deserved. Now, I looked at our metrics.
I looked at that and I was like, wow, that was really, really sweet. Or this acquisition offer. And we hemmed and hawed and angst over the decision left, right, center. And what ended up making it a really easy decision was the idea of rewinding all the way back to those core ideas. Why did we do this? What did we commit to at the beginning? And I realized if we raised the series as we envisioned part of the next phase of the business, I got H.R. Tech.
So knowing your local stuff matters, we’d have to build a go to market team in the U.S. And even if we didn’t move everybody, the center of control would end up moving south and all of our investment would be into that US office versus the acquisition. You know, the idea was let’s use this as the kernel of building a large dev presence here in the kitchen or whatever area. And as soon as we looked at it like, wow, you know, in the first option, we’ve effectively moved the company.
S even if even if we’re still incorporated in Canada, even if I’m still living here effectively within itself. But this other example, we get a chance to build something better here for us, our friends, our families, the community. And it’s something made this like it was like this black and white, the very easy decision. And I think by making it such a principled statement at the beginning, it made later decisions dramatically easier. I did the numbers.
I was like, I will make this if we do this, this. If we do that, our shareholders will do it as I analyze it to the tenth degree, like every engineer will. But bringing it back to those core values just made it simple, crystal clear and a very easy conversation to bring to the team after.
It’s a I almost wish there was like a 50 50 or some like a marked reference that we always talk about the fiduciary responsibility of the directors of of an organization. Right. Then you have your required in order to deliver value back to the shareholders, which in most cases in a private firm, of course, is the investors. We know it’s a tough responsibility. We know as employees we hate to see stuff happen that seems counter to the people that work there.
But we also know that I know because I’m a bit deeper into it. Decisions are made for financial reasons, which cannot and which would counter what we believe is the right thing to do, so to speak. But you’ve you weighed both sides and said that I’ve been given a financial opportunity, which. While it seems like it could have a long term potential value to the shareholders, it also means that it could mean I’ve evacuated my entire employee base.
And a dissatisfied employee base, which means that has a negative impact on the value of the company. It is very hard to weigh the human impact to the long term financials and then look at what’s the what’s the thing you do. So it’s I again, huge respect that you said. You know, what do we do? You know, I could probably get this money and I could turn it into X and then scale it from there, especially as a startup in, you know, what do they actually call the I forget I said I’m from Toronto originally, so I know the area well.
And so if you mean it used to be back in the day, if you’re from Kitchener or Waterloo, you either worked for RIM or you worked for the university. Yeah. All right. So the fact that startups were popping up and getting funding and being able to stay and continue to employ people is huge. Right, that this is most people, like you said, I. I never thought I’d work for a company in tech. Because I there were no tech companies, they were U.S. companies that had a Canadian presence, so I ended up in the financial services sector for 20 years doing system architecture and stuff.
But then, you know, very different outcomes and goal. So now it’s a fast forward, much more opportunity in the startup ecosystem. And so you now have the ability to say, look, I can make these people’s lives better. So they can make their kids lives better and their peers feel good about things and ultimately hopefully draw more people to these type of ecosystems.
It’s a it’s a. The only way to put it is it’s like a privilege to have that opportunity, because now I take a look and we sold the company to NetSuite who was then sold to Oracle. And I see now there’s a tower in downtown Kitchener where under my stewardship we snagged two floors book. The third hadn’t filled it out. I think there are four or five floors now, several hundred people. And just I mean, people doing some really amazing work.
And I’ve got former colleagues there. I’ve got friends who then went to work there and we’re on some really brilliant stuff. And so that expertize is now floating around the local ecosystem. And that’s exciting. That’s really cool.
Because it’s always interesting when you look, it’s like when you drive by an old, you know, job place or even an old school and you’re like, oh, wow, you think at the time you spent there in the phase of your life and their life and the world at that time, it must be incredible to look at. Post acquisition successes that have been imparted on the people that went with it, which is such a beautiful thing to be able to see happen totally like when our first employee for Tribe.
What a fun journey, the first job that we posted was for clubs of Because You Never Want to Lose or DELAMATER, all that worst freaking job posting ever, I think is what I hear you getting the job. If I remember right, I think it was something like, do you thrive with independent work? You might be the only employee. Do you like high risk? High reward? We’re not sure if you’ll get paid. I mean, Handschu.
So Ryan, who took it, shows off to his first interview at at a coffee shop sporting the angriest mullet I’ve ever seen. And it turns out he’s a man who is a hockey team and they’re in the playoffs. They were you just letting it grow? Because I was a part of the team, the co-founders. It was like, you know, what, if he’s brave enough to wear that to an interview, was brave enough to work for us.
Let’s go. Let’s do it. I mean, like all startups, you’re hacking it together. So, I mean, our first office was like one room in the back of a car dealership because that’s where we could get some free desk space. And Ryan just did a great job through all the curveballs that we threw out and he ran with it. He did a great job through the exit and the acquisition, so made a change to him and his wife’s life.
Still still there, like within the security organization, amazing building, amazing stuff. And she can see that the individuals and the fun stories, but he also gets now act as that threat of continuity as the organization is growing around him. And that’s super cool.
I was thinking of was like Full Metal Jacket, you know, or like they start off and you see the guys getting their heads shaved in like they’re the new recruits. And then the second half of the movie is them being the seasoned people, bringing in the next class. And it’s like it’s it is cool to see that folks can thrive through those changes, because another thing I’ve discovered is there’s often not staging type of training and coaching. If you in the startup ecosystem, you find there’s a lot of players at a space, a level of growth.
So you get these sort of teams that just come in and they’re like SWAT teams, it’s come in. They’re like, yeah, I’m I’m from like half a million to 10 million in revenue. That’s it. The moment they hit like 50 million revenue, they start to get weirded out and they leave. But a lot of folks survive those sort of SWAT team infusions and there’s nothing for them through those progressions. That’s what I’m curious. Where do you see different types of training and coaching and mentoring that can be done for folks to say, hey, if you want to be a if you want to be the five to 10 million kid, go for it, but will enable you for that.
But if you want to thrive from one million to one hundred million, then we’ve got something that we can help you through all the way.
I love the idea that stage appropriate training and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. That’s specific training offerings like, hey, go, go take this course to learn what it’s like to go from, like, you know, one two million series A to 10 million doing your series B. I think where the onus really lies, though, is ultimately on leadership in many ways. I suppose there’s actually two answers to that for us on the overall side.
One of the big things we do is we do we spend a lot of time talking about what it’s like selling it to the different groups. And the reason we do it is not because we think people need to know the different mechanisms, but what we found is when people fit and they go into an organization that fits what they want to do, they’re more successful. What’s better than knowing the different stages is knowing where you thrive. And so in sales at things like the companies early and figuring it out, you’re going to do the full cycle by selling your whole thing.
And that comes with all the stress and all the dynamism and all of that. But if you like being an expert in your domain, a more established company will have more defined roles. Still a lot of room to carve out new territories to build new features. But you’re going to have some better guidelines and better mentorship. We’re doing that in the sale side of things, and so that’s why I think we have such a good hit rate, but I’ve never seen anything like that across a company.
And all the things I try to do as a founder is spend time with my teams just talking about what you should expect to see in the coming year. And sometimes it’s really simple things like we’re really early, so, hey, sales team or engineering team, you’re all reporting to me that’s going to stop. And it’s not because they don’t like you and it’s not because you’re not. But as we scale that happens and. We talked about that SWAT team, if you had people who have gone through this before, their heads are not in danger.
That makes sense. I got this. No, let’s go. But the people have never been through before. That’s terrifying. It’s really terrifying. And I think it’s founders. We spend so much time just being scared about everything we’re doing. We forget how disruptive that is for most people. You know, they’re trying to crank out a marketing campaign, crank out a bit of code, crank out some support lines, and all of a sudden it feels like the world was turned upside down because of an order change like.
We will do a lot more influence in people’s lives than we really internalize sometimes.
And it raises the importance of this idea of creating coaching and mentoring programs to to make sure that people can know they’ve got some baseline, they’ve got something they can lean into, because quite often that’s like culture is a class thing. One of my favorite, you know, I’ve read far too many books and I’ve got far too many unread ones and myself as well. But the culture code is one that I still reread often, you know, Legacy by James Care as well.
Also a fantastic one talking about the New Zealand All Blacks and this idea that a culture is the way they behave when you’re not looking. And as much as the masthead behind the receptionist’s desk says, you know, we are a people company, when the people on Slack are saying yes, not a people company like it’s that begins to happen and that can ultimately infuse that sort of inner fear and that misunderstanding of what’s next. So it becomes pervasive in the culture and there’s as a founder, you can’t be like pouring over the entire organization constantly to look for that.
You’ve got to create a system. You can let them sort of self discover, hopefully, and ultimately staved off.
I want to come back to that system thing, but I want to ask in a local ecosystem, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I find. Every three, five or six years, it’s like the same blog post article pops back up and it’s like a CEO whose company got to typically somewhere between 50 and older people. And the blog post usually goes something like this culture can’t be created, it’s the thing that emerges and you need to let it grow and then document and capture what happened.
And it drives me nuts, because what that tells me is it’s a founder, CEO that ignored their culture until it got to a point where they said, crap, I got to get my arms around it. And now that I get my arms around it, I’m going to, you know, expound upon why this is a normal thing. And I personally find it very frustrating because I’m a very firm believer that you can be very deliberate in your culture.
And if you do it at day zero, if you start at zero, it’s so much easier. Like forevermore. It’s I if you want a good analogy, it’s like SEO or it’s like code quality or anything. Like if you start paying attention to it early on, it’s way easier to maintain.
Why do we not have culture debt like we have technical debt, we have financial debt, we have all these things, but yet somehow they know they don’t attack this idea that that is a effectively a cultural debt. We create that. We’ll get to this later. Well, we’ll we’ll write it down once we discover it. Like, no, that’s the thing you discover won’t be the thing you wanted because you didn’t hire into culture you hired and culture came out of it.
You don’t want your culture to be a side effect. Right. We tend to think about it is like internally for us. We think about it as a separate thing. It’s like the product is, hey, this process we’re changing, how is it going impact the culture or, hey, you know, it’s time for us to clean up some of the edges or hey, let’s upgrade it or touch investigative culture 2.0 is ready. Let’s say let’s get it put into place.
Yeah, it’s funny. Like it raises all these silly metaphors, but it is like if you think about something that takes on this life of its own and how do you make something that will last beyond the founders, the CEO, the founding team, the customers, the product, the market, because all those things will change. How do you create something that has more longevity and actually a good review? You talked about scaling. You know what people say behind the scenes.
I’ll share. So we’ve honed this over a couple of companies and I love you raise that question earlier on the things that you get better at every time. This is something I think we do really well. The idea of conversations like manager, employee, one on ones. Yes. Do those. That’s regular. I’m sure everybody who’s listening does this already. If not pretend you are because you should be asking what a big old if you haven’t, I need you to stop and write that in your to do list and put it on your bloody calendar because it needs to happen like a minimum biweekly, make it happen whatever.
But we see one on ones as one of three redundant layers for culture communications. So is kind of like security, you know, defense in depth. So we do our one on ones separately. We have a system of executive buddies. So we have our upper layer of management, our executive team, and we will pair every employee with an executive that is not in their direct line of report. And it’s not intended to be structured one on ones, it’s not intended to be backdoor conversations, but it’s a chance to get an executive who is mentoring you, coaching you through your conversations, giving you another perspective, letting you try on email, language for size, conversation, language or size, challenging assumptions.
You don’t say, hey, I was in that one or one and I don’t know what my boss thought of that’s. So you got an exact body. So that’s our second tier. And that’s that builds the mentorship scale in our executives, too. And it’s a great reminder that all of their direct reports are having conversations. And then our third layer, we run these regular meetings, we call them Hello Friends, and we have an employee. She’s part of our people culture team.
But she’s not responsible for like H.R. processes. She’s not responsible for recruiting. This is her primary responsibility. And she does regular dropping coffees with people. And it’s confidential. It’s like kind of cone of silence. Check in. How are you doing? How’s the team doing and how are you feeling? What are you worried about? And her job is to look for trends and highlight worrying signs and nothing identifiable. Her job is to anonymize her job and say, these are the things your people are worried about.
You know, watch for it. Yeah, because we’re not going to catch everything and thinking about your systems or people’s systems in the same way you think about like your security or your processes, like the holes become very glaring very quickly becomes a matter of you can’t create a system if it doesn’t ultimately have a feedback loop. And we think of like the classic outta loop. Right. So you observe this is the you know, see what’s going on Orient based on the what’s happening in the signals, then decide, OK, I can either deal with this X or Y way or whatever it’s going to be.
What what do we do about this particular signal? Do we integrate it as core? Do we deal with it as anomalous, whatever, and then act, then what do you put in place? And ultimately that then feeds back to changing the way that you observe and orient because you then have to take that into account. The next thing like these signals are very non, sometimes even nonverbal, but they’re not what people will feel it. In the anonymous employee survey that went to your corporate email that has your email in the URL when you click it, the like, you know, are my favorite thing.
I work for a marketing team at the time we were when we were still a small organization relative to our chunk of the world. So it sounds like, you know, this is completely anonymous. What team do you here for? Work, for marketing? Well, that’s down to thirty people. OK, what where do you live? I am at the time I was in Toronto like so I said I’m immediately not anonymous. I’m the only marketing person in Toronto.
This is not anonymous at all. And there’s no option of I don’t feel this out like. So you’re going to fill out the survey based on what you believe they want the survey to say for the most part, which is unfortunate versus like you said, getting out there and saying, look, I know I work for this company, but I don’t affect your pay. I affect the way that we help you get better. People are more likely to be open and in their discussions, it’s you have to separate human resources.
It’s such a strange thing. And, you know, now we call them chief people, officer or whatever the whatever the title of, you know, the trendy title is going to be. It’s the fact that you have to separate the people experienced from. Legal and payroll, which is fundamentally what a lot of human resources teams are, they call it culture, but in the end, you you have a you’re there to protect the company from liability, protect the employee from liability.
It’s hard to split that line and really make culture a part of the human and people organization.
I think it’s also a lot of companies and I tend to see this in kind of first time, earlier stage founders a little bit more where they believe ownership of that culture sits inside an organization. So they try to hire someone and say, hey, you can fix this, right? Oh, yeah. Also in compliance and payroll and recruiting and company events do all that and fix culture while you’re at it. And I there’s only a few things that can sit on that CEO’s plate, you know, unequivocally, like don’t run out of money.
Yeah. Don’t screw up the culture. Yeah, I kind of put those up there. So I think it’s it’s really easy to believe that you’ve hired someone and that solves the problem. But I think founders need to make sure that they don’t forget that they’re ultimately responsible for it.
Yeah, it’s tough, like you said, those two core responsibility is what’s the you’re you’re responsible for growing the company and reducing risk. And of course, one of the biggest ones is keeping the company alive. You know, ultimately, there’s two reasons that companies fail. They either run out of money or the founders leave. You know, they choose to exit the situation. It’s generally finances will be the biggest thing that take that company out. But, you know, this is so it’s good.
I mean, I love the idea. Now, here’s the interesting thing. Speaking of, Lou, how much of the work that you have through you, Varro then ultimately feeds back to the next time you do things. And as you bring back, OK, based on the last six months, we’ve noticed some different signals coming from people. Maybe we should integrate. How does that continue to evolve as you build the practice?
Constantly. I mean. So much of what we architected was around optimizing the feedback loops, and I think a really good comparison would be things like look at post-secondary education, they generally do an annual intake cycle, and if they’re launching a new program or a new course, they’ll run it once, get the class through, take a term or semester to kind of think about the feedback maybe offered the next year. She’ll look at this annual cycle and. If you’re on your long sprints, you’re just not exactly going to go well.
Yeah, when we founded you, it. So our program is a three month program, and it scares the crap out of our team. You know, we’re going to launch a group every month. Day one is like a group every month. So by the time we get to the second group, we’ve got two months worth of feedback. By the time we get to the third group, we’ve got two first months and one second month with the feedback and so are our processes.
May cut in as we go. Everything from like regular feedback surveys, check ins, follow up with our alumni and our grads. We’ve just moved to launching multiple cohorts a month and by the end of the year to be doing weekly. And you can’t you can’t do that if you don’t have feedback, you know, baked right in. And the part that’s been really cool is we’ve got we have our training programs, but we also have the right software platform that’s used by the tenders out tens of thousands of sales reps across North America.
So we get to see what are the types of content or features or items like are people talking about objection handling? Are they talking about security? Are they talking about customer stories? And so we get both that kind of usage data to influence our curriculum and our programing. But we also see that really, really tight feedback cycle with our classes because we’re launching them every few weeks. And you’re right, without that loop, you’re just doing the same thing again and again.
You’re not improving.
This is the the beautiful merger where you can have many systems ultimately feed each other because you’re you’re doing things. Let’s talk about Kate, actually, because we talked to the very start. I wanted to make sure that I gave it. Do you know advertisement here this afternoon? Sounds awful, but like it deserves recognition. I actually I use the platform, so I I’m very deep in this idea because we’re all in sales. Bad news, kids. You’re all in sales.
You may not be directly in sales, but you’re supporting sales and work and technical marketing. So I have to understand objections and competitive plays and stuff. And so I looked at it and it was immediately obvious how fantastic it was going to be because it just made sense. Again, like you said it, then from there, it can help to influence the purely human enablement side. So this is a an amazing thing. How how lucky is it and how hard did you work to get that lucky of.
Taking the approach of having a systematize productize thing and then having it ultimately feed another another business, yeah, it’s it’s funny because where we are right now, we look at it like, wow, so much good fortune there. And the journey when you break it into the steps makes a lot more sense. And and it was very deliberate. I mean, the platform is it’s used primarily by tech companies, scale ups and fantastic attacks. The companies we’ve got great, great teams using it.
The part that was really cool was our go to market strategy was working with sales trainers. So if you’re company and you bring somebody in to build your sales process, they might leave behind a bunch of kids or they might leave behind Caite Playbook’s. And so we have these fantastic firms that we’re doing sales training and training programs. And as we started to dig into the usage data, they literally fantastic IRAP project. So, I mean, you want to toss in all the elements of a story, a government funded research to figure out what the heck to do.
All this data we uncovered these really interesting insights, like silly little things, like we look at our highest performing customers, the ones who are growing fastest, adding team members, crushing sales goals. And by and large, they had way more information about their personas and their target customers, but surprisingly, way less about objection handling. And that really had a scratching their heads because, I mean, sales traders always spent time on objection handling like how do you handle those?
And what we uncovered was that there was an inverse correlation. So across the board, the companies that did a really good job of doubling down on their personas, their buyers, their details didn’t have the same need for objection handling. So as a result in our curriculum, they’re not treated as two separate subject is treated at the same thing. How do your personas, your ICP, influence your objection handling? So how do you emphasize the one, decrease the other, drive up your total growth?
And so on an ongoing basis, we get to pull out these insights, these methodologies and push the of our curriculum and even to when we launched the first version of our it all came from our customers on the software side. We talk to them, we say, hey, how do we get you to use more software? And they’d also their biggest trouble is hiring, hiring great sales reps because we hire people, but no one knows how to sell software.
And so we bring in these trainers. They cost an arm and leg and they do great work. But because they cost so much, we can only bring them in annually, maybe every six months. And so you hire someone, they have to wait six months for the next sales cycle. No wonder it takes him eight months to ramp. And so when they said, hey, if there was a way to hire more people who had some software training experience, and that’s not simply just go recruit from LinkedIn or Salesforce, there’s a there’s a supply demand imbalance.
There’s, what, 50, 60 thousand B2B software sales reps out there in North America. We need another three hundred sixty thousand over the next decade. We can’t all just hire from LinkedIn. The need became really apparent, according to my next job is now. Good golly.
It’s it’s like it’s an absolute supply demand. This is terrifying. The difference that we’re about to face in the next.
Well, when I was going into university, all the conversation was like, the world’s going to need more, you know, computer scientists and engineers except for the ninety nine Hiko, like just as we’re all getting into it and we’re all like, oh crap, none of us can have jobs. I’m glad we were wrong. But if I, if I got two kids, if they were graduating right now and I was trying to say, hey, if you want a really good job security for the next 10 years, that’s what I’d be pointing at them, because that that imbalance in supply and demand is so.
And that’s just in tech like Greg Gardner studies like the way all business products are being sold are going to look like the way we sell Souse. And yeah, that’s not more robots and less humans. That’s just automate the crap. So the human element carries more weight. That’s exciting.
Yeah, this is the the thing that I try to tell people of, like we use these products to improve processes, CSR, I’m a Canadian so I can say this without making when I say processed the. But we do this, it always has to be to empower the people to do better and create measurability, which is a really this is the tough line and you’re close to this. So I’m curious at what point when people detect their KPIs, are attached to their performance, start to change the way they behave is the Eli Gold rat thing from the goal.
He says, show me how you measure me and I’ll show you how to behave. And it’s a dangerous thing where when you realize you’re being trained towards a KPI, that all you’re eyeing is the KPI, not the behavior that ultimately drives the outcome, which is a measurable thing via a KPI. So. How do we how are you finding people successful at. We’re not looking at the fact that they’re being watched or that metric.
It’s funny because we never try to encourage people to imagine they’re not being watched because it. Eh, they’re going to be up for a rude awakening. Is that going to be a boss who has a conversation or a colleague like over beers, like, by the way, you know, that this like. Oh, my. Yeah. Really, what we try to do is we try to make sure that if it’s not really up to the individual to manage that situation, it really is up to leaders in management.
I really like I think this is an area honestly where marketing and sales in most areas of the organization can learn from engineering, like in engineering organization. At the end of the day, you’ll have some high level outputs like overall development velocity or maybe it’s product quality and uptime, like whatever your North Star is for your organization. And that’ll vary. But you’ve instrumented your development process all the time, like code coverage. Operate on your Sprint’s velocity or variants on it, delivery versus commit and.
You know, having a really strong sense of like here’s this North Star, but the process is bigger than any one of us. So if we sense there’s something off in the process, how do we choose to focus on a Capi KPI for a while to make sure that that’s not the hang up? And once that’s good, we bring that lens over and focus on and depending on the engineer, you say this is like the lens or the magnifying glass or the eye or Sauron.
You know, we’re going to focus on a different area of the process. And most engineering teams that I’ve worked with are fairly comfortable with that. It’s like, hey, maybe for the next sprint or the next quarter we’re going to pay attention to test reliability or uptime or coverage or whatever it is. What I’ve seen in sales and marketing is there’s not that same sense of the sales and marketing process is external to the individuals. It’s this thing or trying to improve.
And so people take a KPIs in the ownership of them very personally. You know, they think about their open rate on their emails or their clickthrough or their engagement on the content, and they think about it, is them succeeding or failing, not about the system or working or not. And ultimately, I think that’s when that happens. That’s a failure of leadership, not helping the team separate themselves from the sales process because I’ve seen more sales reps lose it, lose their jobs, or leave an organization because the process was wrong, not because of their individual failing.
And that that’s a it’s a hard thing to separate, but it’s super important to try.
Funny that, you know, and I mentioned Ghodrat, which is apropos to this idea of like with engineering. Of course, this is what Jean came in and the team developed and they talked about the the the Phenix project. And and since then, they’ve they’ve done the developes handbook’s. These are methodologies that, you know, and it works like you set this marker of quality or whatever it is, you set the measurement, you move the constraint, you know, and ultimately we’re always attacking the constraint.
And as a result, it affects the goal. And the goal is velocity and quality. Whatever in sales is different because in engineering, no one says, hey, you squashed 400 bugs this quarter. So next quarter I’m setting it to five hundred like it’s very different because in sales, it’s always like you’re going to give 110 percent kid. Like there’s an unfortunate sort of screaming coach from the sidelines mentality that that is the I’ll say the lifestyle of a sales organization is they they think and act differently.
They set big, hairy, audacious goals. Engineering cannot do that. Because it means that they will set themselves up for failure, so they learn to like tighten the measurement to tighten the success rates. So this is. I wonder if there’s a way that we could get better at, like empowering sales without taking the go get them kid, you know, kind of of capability in it.
But I think there’s also, to some extent, you know, confounding kind of a few statements in there. I see a lot of engineering teams who said some really audacious goals like, hey, you know what? We’re going to ship this feature for Q1. And you know what? Maybe all the bells, all the whistles, all the stories won’t make it in, but you’re going to kill it. We’re going to do a hackathon to make it happen.
And, you know, we’re going to kind of pull out all the stops and really make sure this delivers. And it’s really exciting. So I see teams do that and sales teams have their Nalgae with quarter goals or upgrades or things like that. And I think every team needs their version of that. And the sales version is very much like that. What gets Convolve, though, is there are some bad management practices that happen. You gave an example there of like as soon as you had success with the goal post.
You know, James is you made your quota. Bad news is your quota just went up by 30 percent for next year, which is why you see a lot of sales teams ultimately do a stint. They’ll do two years, they’ll do a strong relationship sale, and then they go to another company and take the relationships with them kind of idea.
And I mean, there’s there’s definitely management practices that that exacerbate it. But I think that’s a really good example as well of if the organization doesn’t separate out the process from the people, that feels terrible right now. If we zoom out for a lovely, great as a company, we get better. Our marketing team starts doing their job better. So now we have better quality leads. Our sales automation is better. So we’re, you know, filtering out bad quality leads at a better rate.
Our product is better. So now customers like it more. We have more customers who have better testimonials. Yes, the sales motion as a result is likely easier. So, yes, it makes sense that quotas and territories may shift. Likewise, as we scale a sales team, we’ve got more people we’ll have to draw new territory boundaries and. It’s really important, I think, as a company that you talk about those systems as the process and that those things happen because the companies are succeeding, not because a failure of the individual.
And likewise, your managers need to be really committed, invested to the success of the individuals so that the things you do when you succeed are feeling like you’re penalizing the people who got you there, because you’re right. Otherwise it feels like great, you hit your quotas, were raising the quota, create your top performing sales reps who are splitting your territory.
We’re throwing you in Wisconsin. You know, I shouldn’t joke about that. Wisconsin has a massive market. I’ve always I sort of joke about some poor dairy producers in Wisconsin. Millions upon millions of dollars in revenue come out of out of Wisconsin because there’s a ton of industry there. But it’s this whole thing like, yeah, you do great in the Northeast and they’re like, OK, we’re sending it to Nebraska, kid. You know, we to get that territory off the ground, like, oh, I can’t get my coat out there.
You hit the nail on the head, Doug. Imagine a rap where like, hey, you used to be in California. You know, you got like, you know, 30, 40 million people as your patch. And now you’re Wisconsin. You’ve got less than six. Yeah. It’s really hard to just say those stats and not leave somebody feeling like you just punch them in the stomach. And you got to separate that she was like, hey, great, as a company, we’re at the next stage so we can rejigger these things.
This is what we need. We’re asking you to do it because you have the most confidence in you. It’s a scary thing. What can we do to help you succeed and make this a win for you? Very different conversation and like, great, we’re downsizing your territory by five, six.
Yeah, we’re taking you off of two named accounts that you built up from the ground up because it’s like you’ve you’ve done an amazing thing. We’re handing it to this rep that needs to cut his teeth a bit more. You know, we’ve got a new lady and she’s really great. So we’re going to let her take over this big account. And you’re like, no, no, no, no. I mean. Who knows, right? But if and the sale goes beyond the initial sale, this the other thing, too, is that people often forget is that renewals are this is what we get measured on, is are not just are recurring revenue is the what will bury a company selling a bunch of stuff once is not a successful sales organization.
It’s it’s changing the culture of sales. And ultimately the playbook goes along with it because you don’t just have to defend it once. You’ve got to continuously make sure the product represents the outcomes the customer needs and that you can continue to represent the value relative to the price that you’re charging. Seems fundamental and simple, but it’s hard to do because also you’re fighting for organizations that, hey, look, we just went through covid. Revenues for those companies went down, so they we have to get way better as a vendor to present value, and it may mean sacrifices in a lot of different directions, and it may mean we lose accounts for no reason other than the fact that they just need to tighten down.
It’s really hard, and one of the things that I see is that a lot of a lot of teams haven’t. They haven’t fully instrumented their business and people often miss that that idea of churn. That’s an upper limit of how big you’re going to grow. Your growth hits and asymptote and its position is governed by your churn rate. And the difference between like a two percent churn, a five, a 10 I seen that is 30. That brings your upper growth limit down.
And a lot of teams fail to realize that if you’ve got a growth curve and you try to make it steeper, you try to hire more sales reps, you invest more marketing, you want to grow steeper. The side effect is it can often bring down that churn. And you really don’t want what looked like this nice, smooth growth curve to suddenly be a square wave. Because if you do that, you’re capping the value of your business and it can look really great.
You can raise money, but then you hit that cap really hard and it feels like just crashing into a ceiling and that sets you up for four down rounds if your fundraising turnover on your people bad customer experiences. So it’s tough. Sometimes you have to forego that speedy, speedy, speedy growth just for that long term opportunity with the company.
Well, this raises an interesting thing of, you know, we talking you’ve you’ve had, you know, multiple companies you founded. You’re very successful in the two that you’re working with now. You’ve empowered a lot of people, which is amazing. The trouble I have often when we talk to a lot of founders, especially serial founders, is we talk to same when we talk to poker players and no one talks about the hundred hands they lost. That never that they got dumped out, they were like they weren’t even like in the top 100 in a tournament, they make it to the World Series of Poker, but then they lose tournament after tournament after Sherman again.
But they have the drive to learn feedback, come at it like and go at it again. So I’m curious, Joseph, look, I don’t spend dark thoughts on it, but what have been some challenges that you’ve had to go through in your own personal history to it?
I mean, there’s all the every startup has various forms of like founder drama, investor drama, acquisition, drama. And if you talk to anybody, you’re going to get the same stories. So I’m always happy to riff on those. But and we have limited time.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re almost done here to two things that stuck out to me, though. It’s funny because, yeah, we could train them as challenges. I’ve always felt them is like really good learning opportunities. One of my earliest companies, we were selling a white labeled web content management system like WordPress. But before WordPress existed and we had a unique solution where we sold through advertising agencies, marketers, and it was totally white labels because at the time everybody was worried about everyone had a, quote, Web guy who was very gendered.
It was the language they were using it for what it was worried about that person stealing their clients. White label solution. Really great. We had an upfront fee subscription offering, but this was before kind of SACE as a as a delivery mechanism. And one of the things we recognized was the entire way we thought about the app, we thought about mobility. You know, people needed to upload it, hosted themselves. They you know, if if we went down, they could keep the website forever.
We had to make a lot of things into it to serve the market at the time. But we recognized that the our market was a very specific buyer and we would have to have a fundamentally different business to get to the broader pool of website owners. And we recognized that it wasn’t that wasn’t challenged. We’re going to readily overcome. And so we split the company into and sold it because we recognized the opportunity wasn’t there. And that was a tough a tough pill to swallow to say, hey, you know what?
We picked a direction. We had some success, good growth, but we are not in the right position to see the kind of outcome that we really want is a good outcome. Made money back for our friends and family investors. We’re not in the belts or the company, but the. It, my friends, that it the right way, like it’s like, you know, you got that kid and you something, you look at it with honest eyes and go, Oh, I got an ugly baby crap twins.
And it just it wasn’t going to have the opportunity. That was a tough one. And we tried our most recent. This is a classic look, we’re a Canadian company selling it to North America, the US, and we never fully internalized how miserably painful benefits, enrollment and payroll are in the states. And that read the blog post, talk to the customers we never felt did because we’d never run payroll and benefits internally. And until we really got there with U.S. employees and we recognized how exquisitely painful it was and we realized we had underemphasized that area of our product so badly.
We were now a good year and a half, two years behind with that space wanted to be. And so as we were looking at the next step, it was like, hey, here’s a massive investment for us to stay ahead and in many ways catch up and exceed the competition versus selling the company. And that influenced our decision a lot. And the interesting thing is one of our our our premium investors, like best investors on our board, great.
Ended up after our sale investing and doubling down in another tech company. So there’s definitely a lot of like, oh, you know, could that have been us great. But the reality is everything we saw happen in the space. We realized, you know, we made the right decision. We made the right call. We. It honestly evaluated the decisions we made and now with everything that we knew, we were making, again, a good decision.
So, yes, it’s hard to reflect honestly on the work that you do and then not beat yourself up over it.
Well, and I appreciate like you said, you framed it beautifully, Joseph, and it’s been a real pleasure to spend time, you know, the idea of of lessons in that lessons and signals that feedback to choices and in the way that we build and continue to learn. So I’ll make sure I have links, of course, to Uvaro, and to Kiite for folks that want to get in, get in on this. I’m a fan of Kiite.
This is like this is so bloody easy. I can’t I can’t believe how easy it was. So I do appreciate it. And it’s been a real pleasure. And if folks if they want to reach out to you directly, Joseph, what’s the best way that they can do that?
Oh, they can hit me up on LinkedIn. Instagram I’m on most social is at Joseph. Always welcome the outreach, especially with other founders. So that’s very cool. Joseph, thank you very much. It’s been a real great conversation and I look forward to catching up again. And we can talk about the next phase of growth and and whatever is next as well.
Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing
Shira Shamban is an engineer, Cybersecurity expert, Cloud entrepreneur CEO and co-founder of Solvo. She and the Solve team are aiming to automate and shift left cloud security, so that software developers will focus on coding.
We eplore the importance of moving security into the early phases and pipeline, and also a very open convesation on how to empower teams, create opportunity, and mentoring.
Jeff Bermant is the founder of Cocoon MyData Rewards™, an app that pays users cash just for sharing their online data anonymously. This discussion explores empathetic leadership, selling when you’re not in sales, and how adversity and challenge formed Jeff’s future and what his story could unlock in empowering you.
Well, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are, folks, my name is Eric Wright. I’m going to be the host of your DiscoPosse podcast. Thank you for listening.
Wow. We’ve had a really great, great set of shows. It’s 150 this 150 episode. That’s kind of crazy to imagine.
So I’m extremely proud of the conversation that you’re about to listen to.
And it is really good to be true and to end personal reward.
You’re going to hear some really great stuff. But before we get started, I have to give a shout out. And thanks to the sponsors and supporters of our podcast today. This podcast is sponsored by our fine friends at Veeam Software. So everything you need for your data protection needs. That’s right. Your data is not safe. So make sure you do your data protection. Whether it’s on premises in the cloud can cloud native and containers.
They’ve got this really great thing they just bought called Kasten recently. So lots of really neat stuff if you want to find out more.
And trust me, you do you want to go to vee.am/discoposse again, go to vee.am/discoposse. You can check it out, find out more. I’ve been a long time user and supported the platform in the team and I really love it anyway. So go check it out again. Go to Vietnam forward slash. Just go and find out all about it.
It’s also brought to you by the four step guide to delivering extraordinary software demos that win deals. I’ve been lucky enough to be in the industry and learn from amazing folks and see stuff that’s played out and how to better connect with people. When you’re talking about technical demos and doing product management, product marketing. How do you make sure you can connect with people who want to use your product and platform?
So check it out. You can go to velocity closing dotcom and you can download the ebook.
You get access to the audio book read by yours truly. That’s right. So not only am I the author, but I read the audio book, which is super cool, excited by that really neat announcements actually come up. So if you go and you buy the bundle right now, you get set out for an upcoming course as you can go to velocityclosing.com . All right, let’s get to the Good Stuff. This is a show featuring Jeff Bermant.
Jeff is the founder and CEO of Virtual World Computing, and they’ve got a really, really neat product called Cocoon. My data rewards this. The idea of being able to do stuff around, taking your data and monetizing your own search data instead of just giving it away to the big guns over there at those big search providers. At any rate, this is we start off there.
But really, Jeff is a real estate provider.
He’s a CEO and he has gone through some personal adversity which will really open your eyes to the power of people and what you can do for yourself.
So check it out, Jeff, Fermat. Hi, I’m Jeff Permit, I’m the CEO of Virtual World Computing and our flagship product is Kitsune. My reward’s where you get paid for your data and you’re listening to Desco policy podcast.
You’re listening to. Today’s Capozzi. And with that, will will jump right in. Right. So, Jeff, thank you very much for joining us.
I’m I’m really excited by the both your history, your background, where we’re going to talk about how you got to where we are today, but as well, just the platform and the stuff that you’re doing with your team.
But for folks that are maybe new to your name, if you want to introduce yourself and we’ll talk about virtual world computing, we’re going to get into the cocoon, my data rewards platform and kind of why that’s important.
I’m a I’m cheering and cheering for what you and the team are doing.
So but with that, like I said, introduce yourself and talk about.
But where you’re at with things.
Sure. Well, thanks, Eric, and thanks for having me on the show. It’s a real pleasure to speak to you and to speak to your audience. So my journey, which I’ll just give you a brief background. I’m originally from Rye, New York. So I know that Jersey area a little bit and moved out to California to play tennis. I went to USC there, had a scholarship and played tennis there. It was always like the seventh man on the team.
So it wasn’t great. I got into the real estate business after a terrible year on the pro circuit and my father said, go find a job. And I decided, well, I’ll get into something that made sense. My family was in real estate, so I actually got into the real estate brokerage business and I was with Coldwell Banker, which for seven years as a office and industrial development broker and then salesman, and then decided to open my own development company.
And this is in eighty six. So it’s a long time ago. Some of your listeners probably weren’t even born in.
They said, yes, maybe a variety of folks that have been through it. So I was there. I remember those days.
So days of high interest rates of want everybody but 19, I think they went as high as 19 percent. At one point they were busy.
You remember that people were actually locking in long term rates at like seventeen because they were worried it was going to go even higher.
And it’s if you told somebody today that they were going to pay 20 percent on anything, they would lose their minds like theirs. They just can’t even fathom what it’s like to even have double digit interest rates, let alone you heading into the high teens and twenties.
You’re absolutely crazy. And in fact, I remember my dad who passed away many years ago in 2000. He was boasting about his four percent real estate deal interest rates. And today we’re down in threes. And some of them I’m seeing the high twos for off, not for office, but for other spaces. So history does repeat itself. And we’re at a great time for interest rates and and actually pretty good time and business. Overall, though, obviously with covid, it’s been really rough.
And I do feel terrible for the small and I know exactly what they’re going through. For small business owners, it’s a total disaster. And of course, you know, the trade off is you get people sick. So there’s no good answer for this covid, but it’s different for me. You need to find ways to get through even these terrible times.
And it’s it’s really interesting. And I, I say I’m sorry.
Same with the sort of, you know, the the feeling of of, you know, it’s tough to even say like we trying to look for the outside, like the positive outlook, anything we could do to capture like what’s what’s good about where we’re at. Obviously there’s so much that we wish we could I would give up so many things to know that I could get rid of the greater problem, but. You know, the one thing that we haven’t necessarily seen is so I worked at an insurance and investments companies before and seen like the REIT is like the real estate trust was like a really strong area.
It was slow moving, but it was like you could always you always knew it was a gentle but rising returns. And I think we are very much had a really tough spot market wise for that, which is and I heard an ad on the radio and every once in a while they have those things. And of course, it’s like read the prospectus before you do this.
And, you know, but they they’re talking about like we’ve seen, you know, returns are analyzed, like all the little small print stuff gets said. And they said, like we saw like a 15 to 40 percent gain in some areas. And this was a real estate. They’re talking a real estate investment. And I thought, good golly, if anybody’s listening to this now and they don’t understand where this impact is going to be, I feel for anybody who puts money towards those areas right now thinking for like high returns.
Anyway, I’ve heard that. I know the ad you’re talking about and I worry anybody gets on who does this, I start to worry exactly about the company. So I’m I’m I’m in lock step with you, which is this is not my kind of advertising. I’m much more of a person that and I’m really enjoying, by the way, this move from real estate into tech. And, you know, most people say, what the heck?
Yeah, that’s quite jumping crazy.
I mean, you know what it is. So there’s a fascinating story, but my personality is one of inquisitive and trying to solve problems. And I happened to be really I was terrible math. It’s terrible in English, but I was a really good problem solver. And it’s probably because I have dyslexia and have maybe some form of autism or I forget what the other thing is that makes you figure out puzzles that are most people would go, oh, God, that’s way too complicated to figure out.
But for me, it’s it’s what I love to do. And so when I got sort of bored with real estate and it is boring, I mean, it’s hard work.
And particularly if you’re in Santa Barbara and nobody wants you, you’re the most hated person in the world, but not a popular you’re right up there with dentistry as far as popular careers, actually, I was the most loved, hated developer.
I mean, they loved me because I figure out ways to give open space and wouldn’t take all the land for developers and very honest about stuff. But it was a terrible business to be in here in Santa Barbara. So when I finally decided, you know what, I need to do something different just because I wanted to, I got into tech. I didn’t know I was getting into honestly, but and it’s a whole different world. But I’m I’m actually happy I’m here.
I wasn’t very happy last year, the year before as I continue to lose money. But, you know, if you rummage around in in your profession, sometimes ideas come to you and sometimes not even your ideas come to you, which I’ll I won’t take the credit for the my dinner rewards happily give it to my son who said, Chief, did you know a lot about building browser’s what about people’s data. And the lights turned on for me but I hadn’t.
I stayed in this realm. I stayed in this vertical of browsers and left again and going back to real estate, I never would have picked up on this wonderful idea of what we where we’ve been taken for the last 15 or 20 years and the Internet. And it’s kind of like the wool’s been pulled over our eyes and I realize, holy smokes, this could be great for everyone. So, you know, it’s interesting that you get into one business and I will tell anybody who is entrepreneurial stay at it.
I wouldn’t say be foolish. I would almost recognize recognized as being foolish. But if you can stand it and you can figure something out, it can be really fun and rewarding and hopefully rewarding to your customer as well. Well, you bring up a very interesting thing, Jeff, and and I appreciate your openness to and you talk about dyslexia.
I share the challenge you had I, I would have this real problem.
And I talked to more and more folks who are founders.
And it is not uncommon to find a lot of founders and leaders who struggle with dyslexia was the best burgers I have.
That’s what they’ve said. You’ve got a form of Asperger’s, not as heavily as some people, but it’s there. And my wife says you come up with the weirdest stuff and we think we think differently than a lot of people think.
In a in a sense, it’s a necessity, as you talked about, like. Getting into founding a company and taking the is sort of like this idea of risk. Most people it’s really we talk when we describe it is often, you know, delaying and deferring as much risk as you can and eliminating risk, especially as a CEO.
But just the fact that you take the first leap, you have to have a certain sense of a different type of personality that’s willing to kind of step off the diving board the first time when everyone else is looking and saying, no, I’m good. I don’t I don’t need to do this. It’s a very elite set of folks who will say, OK, well, I, you know, risk aside, let’s say let’s go for it.
Yeah. You know, there’s no doubt about it. And I would tell you, in fact, I had a discussion with a guy and we had a bet because he said, well, you have Aspergers. What are you doing running the company as a CEO? And I said, well, let me show you all the people that are just, you know, have Asperger’s that are running companies. And I’m saying I’m not comparing myself to them, but I gave them a list of these and he was kind of in shock.
And he had much more to say to me, because it is true that that we tend to be and I can tell you part of this is your tenaciousness and you’re looking at problems that most people would go, oh, that’s just way too complicated to figure out. And yet you’re in there in your brain undoing the puzzle or doing the puzzle and figuring out the pieces and finding little strikes, a goal that most people would. And I’m kind of surprised that my team is a really great team.
But half the stuff comes for me. More than half of it comes from me going, hey, wait, what if we just did this and it’s so out of the box? Like I came up with this idea, you know, where we should be advertising? Well, you know, they’re like, where? Well, what do we advertise in gas stations? And it’s like, what? That’s not tech. What are you talking about? Well, most of my best customers, in my opinion, are going to be truckers, Uber drivers, people who are on the road a lot commuters.
So if a trucker is going to do sixty or eighty thousand miles a year, how best are you going to get in front of them? Well, it turns out that those gas pumps where they’re sitting to, you know, fifteen to twenty five minutes to to gas up one of those big trucks. And while they’re sitting doing that, you could have a sign in front of them saying, why don’t you sign up and earn money for it? That’s just off the wall.
It is interesting that you definitely have the and I always say, like when people when adults play video games, he sort of another sort of example of the way that your brain is wired that we’ve by nature have built in all these constraints.
And so if you see an adult play a video game, they typically will have swollen thumbs by the end of it. And they’re physically moving, trying to, like, force this thing. You believe that physical effort can change things, but kids.
Because they haven’t got those constraints built in yet, don’t fall victim to that belief that they’re going to affect the outcome in these other ways and that freedom of thought.
Is where it is, and so when we look at Ivancich personality disorders, but differences in sort of like the spectrum of of personality types and where Asperger’s and other things fall onto the spectrum.
A lot of times it is the fact that you’ve got so much. In one area of like capabilities, like cognitive capabilities, and there’s also it’s a trade off of some parts of the personality are very different, but it also means that you probably have less constraints in the way you approach a problem. You just you see through the constraints and say, well, what if we try this?
And most people are before they say that they’re looking for all the excuses why it wouldn’t work before they suggest the idea.
I have a team that will do that to me all day long and I just push through it and go. Now, we’ve got to go test this because it makes logical sense and may turn out to be wrong. I mean, that’s possible, but it makes logical sense. If your best if if you’re paying people for geolocation, for example, that’s one of the things we do that we pay for GEULA location data. Well, that means your best you’re your best customer might be the truck driver that I mean, I have competitors.
I don’t think I’ve thought of that. Like, well, if I want to collect geolocation data, what about truck drivers? What about Uber drivers? What about people that are on the road a lot? Those are interesting customers. And if they don’t mind sharing their data and getting paid for it, so it’s a win for both of us. But that that I had to push through two guys on my team going, I don’t know, that’s really weird.
Why would you think of that? Then I showed him the sign on the Petru on the station where you’re pumping. And I said, so that guy is going to look at the sign for at least two or three minutes while he’s sitting in his car. And he’s going to start thinking, I’m so glad I can make hundreds of dollars just letting this app run in the background. I had we had a truck driver call up our service guys today, and I think they’re a little bit a little bit off.
He says it looks like I’m going to make one hundred dollars in the first month and it’s not. We have something off on our on our data. It’s more like probably twenty five or thirty dollars. But I mean, you make twenty five to thirty dollars doing nothing. I mean where do you get to do that. And I guess this is the perfect time to let’s talk about what it is that that your team is doing and the idea of being able to do this mid to rewards those platforms.
Let’s open up.
Jeff, what exactly is it that that you folks are doing? It’s you know, I don’t want to call the Lexar because Alexia’s don’t work, so I don’t. I can tell you that this is not something you’d get at one of those shows. So what I what I discovered in my years now nine years in the technology business, and I’ve gone through a lot with the browser, dealing with browsers, trying to figure out how to make money with browsers.
Browsers are difficult. It’s a difficult vertical to be in, and particularly because the word free means you’re not going to get paid. And also on top of the browsers, unless you. I was big on price target, big on privacy. But I’m learning to realize that honestly, there’s very little privacy now in in the Internet and your geolocation. You might, for instance, have a VPN that you’re using and that will give you a certain degree of privacy.
But OK, so how is that VPN going to help you when you get in your car and you’re driving around? Well, if you have your VPN on all the time, I guess it might block the Geode geolocation data. I don’t think it does, though. So you’re just being tracked everywhere. And my son said something to me in one day and he says that, you know, your a plan is not working out with your browser. What about a B plan, which would be the data?
And although you like privacy, there are a lot of people like me that, you know, I don’t really care where my my data goes because I’m not doing anything that I would offend anybody with or do anything wrong. So to me, it was like, yeah, they already have my data, so why don’t we figure out how we can profit, how people can profit off of this. And I would tell you five years ago, I don’t think we had the machinery or the servers that could do that for an individual today with the power of the servers and the computers, it’s a lot easier to track somebody.
And obviously they’ve been doing it for the last five or six years. And I kind of came up with the idea, why don’t we why don’t we I’m including myself. Why don’t we get paid for our data? Who’s making all this money off of it? And obviously became a parent with a little bit of a background study, which was, you know, Google, Facebook, you name it. All these advertisers, they’re all collecting your data and selling it.
And guess who’s not making any money?
Well, you me. Right. And it dawned on me like, well, that doesn’t seem fair to me, that Google, Google, I think revenue last year and don’t quote we have is right or wrong. I think with three hundred and sixty billion dollars. And a lot of it was not the sale of data. It was they give this data away to their advertisers in order for the advertisers to then serve you ads. And they make money off the ads, right?
Yeah. It’s the right. You are not the fish, you’re the bait. And the fish is the purchaser of ads, and that is the business they’re in. But you are, in fact, beating every hook.
You are right. And I would say, you know, as we say in the business, if it’s free, you’re the product. Yeah, right. And so I thought of it in this sense. And, you know, I’ve done pretty well in my real estate career. So this was just like, holy mackerel, you know, maybe I could help change the world. And in fact, this morning I was just reading about a lawsuit that Google, the Justice Department filed against Google for a monopoly.
And I thought I started reading This is Me, because when I went out to Google to start advertising Cocoon, where you could you could actually make money off your data, they called me a scam and they they denied me advertising. I wrote them six different letters, begged somebody to come on to talk to me. No one would. And I realized after reading what’s going on with the Justice Department, they’re doing this to a lot of people. Anybody who is in competition with them, they’re like, we’ll make something up and they won’t be able to advertise on our site.
And it’s a very opaque system, too, like that I I’m in a similar challenge, so one point I don’t even know, probably 10 years ago I I was doing some testing of of like website performance testing for I was setting up a site and let me just see how it works.
And I had Google ads on my site. And so I was basically like battering my site with hits. And I realized that as it’s scraping the site, it’s also scraping the ad and effectively probably virtual clicking the link. And so all of a sudden I get up in the morning and I look at my Web site and it’s just got a bunch of gray boxes on it because there was no ad there. And I look in and says, you’ve been banned from the ad since platform.
And and they said, and that’s it. Like that’s literally all you get is an email saying if you wish to appeal, fill out this form. And there’s no phone numbers, no people, there’s no nothing. And every year, like the way the same way that, you know, Charles Manson’s family goes back and they apply for parole and it gets denied every year. I do the same thing with accents. Every year I say, hey, by the way, I’ve been kicked off the platform since probably the beginning of Google.
And can you tell me why? And then, like, we can’t tell you why.
And I say they a form response from, I guess you we due to the complexities and not being able to expose the algorithms that make the decisions, we cannot tell you why.
We can only tell you that you’ve been denied. Please feel free to reapply again in the future.
My my gal, by the way, over at Google, her name is Elizabeth. She’s not a real person. She’s a I. So every time I’ve tried to go up the ladder now I might give it a go up the ladder with Google only because they’ve just become a tenant of mine in my office park and they’re just about they took like twenty thousand square feet and they’re just about to take twenty five thousand. And what they’re doing in our office park in Santa Barbara is quantum computing.
So no secret there that’s been announced. And they’re taking up as much office space as I can. And I own we own about three hundred thousand square feet. I wouldn’t be surprised if most or all that goes to them in the long run. But my my point was I didn’t even bother to talk to them. But I was like, you know, the government because it’s not just the right. It’s both the left and the right do not like the monopoly that’s going on.
And they could find themselves in deep trouble with this kind of attitude, which is, well, if you’re a competitor of ours, we’ll just block you. And that’s what they did to you or they thought you’re doing something you didn’t have as a way to appeal it. I gave up. I was like, I don’t really need you guys. And that’s by the way, this is how people with Asperger’s look at things a lot of times. Like what?
I’ll need you. I’ll figure this out without you. And I do this all the time, I just go, OK, that road is not working, I’ll just go a different road. And so the gas stations for me, sitting at the gas station with, you know, with the truckers as a bus. And I actually like people. I like people who are like that. So I’m happy to go sit and chat with them over coffee.
Then I am going over to talk to Google and talking some intellectual nonsense with them.
Well, enough to talk about an example of, you know, a big bit of a roundabout of of how things come back together in this weird you know, the convergence is remember Microsoft when they were taken and their answer to antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. government and the the firm that represented them was and was Boies Schiller. And if it was boys and at the time I was. But David Boies, famous lawyer, famously struggles with dyslexia, all sorts of really, really interesting, you know, cognitive challenges that he faces and the way that he dealt with it, stuttering and also with memory challenges.
And so he had a terrible rote memory. And so he had to do was like to really train himself to respond. And as a result, when it came to doing legal briefs, he had this incredible ability to sort of attack it in a very different way. And like you talked about, is that you just kind of you see the puzzle and it’s not even a puzzle. You just you see the solution and you end up. He said he would look around at people saying, why aren’t you willing to do the work?
This just this just makes sense to me. And and thus it created the success.
And then so I said the roundabout thing was Microsoft, you know, it led the way for what I believe Google is probably about to face and.
Exactly, exactly. I mean, they’re now faced with I don’t know what I don’t know if there’s a political hiding place for them or not, but their soon to be faced with this. And, you know, I say to myself, well, just how similar these guys for blocking people with other good ideas and they need to go. The way I look at this is they need to keep up with the other guys, too. So it is a problem for them.
And I’ll explain why. So in in this world and remember, I’m a browser and an app, so I’m not a search engine. And people sometimes get confused. And they’re they’re their biggest profit center, I believe, is their search engine. And everything else is smaller, but still it’s all revenue. But by them blocking other people instead of just saying, oh, yeah, it’s competition now, people are in my interest. I think they’re going to a lot be a lot of knives coming out and hurting Google because they’re not following the new path and the new path, which is what I believe it is more of a shared path you’re doing have to work on your computer or you’re driving around there collecting all this data for free.
You think they’ve kind of talked you into, hey, you’re getting free service and that’s why you’re giving up all this data? Well, I did the math, sat down one day and went, that’s not necessarily true. I could give my user sixty seventy percent of the profit take 30 or 40 percent, which is far better than what you’re getting today, which is zero. And yeah, it’s small dollars to start. But if we start a movement and people catch on to this and go, yeah, I’m giving up my data anyway for free, so why not get paid for it, that will hurt Google in the long run because their model of not paying anybody for anything will eventually eventually make it hurt.
I say May because, you know, they’re the giant gorilla of one point five billion people using their browser. But, you know, there could be a lot of knives coming out. And I don’t mean in a bad way, but just in a fair way for people. After all, why shouldn’t you get some of the profit? And I by the way, I commend Andrew Yang, who is a, you know, the presidential candidate for going after Google and trying to get them to do something.
I don’t have high hopes for him because, you know, a hundred or two hundred thousand, unless they can he can pull something off politically on them. They’re not going to give up anything.
No. And but it’s interesting that you raised the idea of it’s effectively a margin business. Right.
So we are in the it’s you know, you can’t get it all.
But if you can at least take a margin, give folks a way in which they can recapture value in Little League revenue from their own data consumption, that not not them consuming, but their data being consumed, like, why shouldn’t we do that?
Why shouldn’t we we’re seeing it in other areas of the industry, like what Rakuten does with with shopping. Effectively, they’ve looked and said that we can at scale do something that effectively is a margin. Business, so we will share that margin with you and that works out to discounts, everybody, in effect wins because you are going to do the stuff anyways.
So why wouldn’t you, you know, put something in the middle that allows you to personally have gains from from what you’re doing anyways, instead of giving it all to the these massive back end providers?
You’re 100 percent right. In fact, I built the Staats. It’s in the weightings. I built my own rack store because what I wanted to do is when you come to NDR, I want you to get all the savings or all the profits I possibly can give you because I want the customer to be the winner. I mean, I ran this real estate company and I was always looking out for my tenants, giving them the best possible deal. I could lose one guy who showed up one day and he invited me to lunch news that one of my competitors and he said, let me ask you a question.
I’m a window broke in my building and it cost me a thousand dollars. I could not convince the landlord to fix it. It cost me a thousand dollars and I just moved in. What would you have done? I said I would have just fixed it for you. I wouldn’t ask any questions. So stupid. He said, as soon as my lease is up, I’m coming to you. Well, four years later, indeed, he showed up and signed a 10000 thousand square foot lease with me.
It’s right, we just made common sense to to work with people and to and if you can figure out I’m excited about nonprofits for interest, I would love to work with nonprofits. Not only had people share some of their profits with them, I’m happy to share some of my profits with them as well. Well, and this is another thing that came up recently, and I’ll say I’ll say this is my point, Jeff, because I want to pull you into my sort of opinion piece here.
But somebody raised that the concerns about Amazon Smil, where they take a sort of a percentage of of every sale and it goes towards charities, you can select the charity. Right.
And because it’s hosted by Amazon, they effectively are getting so you do the charity, you give the money, and then Amazon as the collective gets the tax rebate for it.
So there are a lot of people are sort of torn and they said, well, I don’t like that.
I say like Boo on Amazon smile because it’s just another multibillion dollar company getting more billions of dollars.
But at the same time, like, the charities are getting money.
And so it is an interesting conundrum, like you said, with privacy, where, look, we’re we have 100 percent privacy laws. If we can ratchet it back, we’re not going to get zero. But there are somewhere in the middle where we can at least find some medium where we can we’ll never be fully satisfied.
But that was another is again, like margin level major, you know, at scale model where stuff can have a drastic effect. A lot of companies can get some good money in. Non-profit is a place where I think people would really agree we should put our attention. Right.
I didn’t even think of the tax. I don’t think that way. So I didn’t think of the tax ramifications. I just, you know, I really care about people. So for me, sure, I’m happy if we can get something going. And look, it helps the company. So our company grows because we’re active with nonprofits. People are happy that we’re doing that. They want to give they don’t have to give a penny. You know, they could choose not to take all the money.
And I wouldn’t think anything, you know, less of them. But I just think it’s a great way and here’s what I’m seeing, and this is kind of a cultural change. I think it’s a cultural change is coming is that we is growing up and I’m I’m pretty old. So I’m I act like a 12 year old or 16, but I get it.
And we’re much more of a sharing type of thought process than than we are. And I’m not saying it’s it’s bad to go and make a profit. And it’s and I believe in, you know, in some great American dreams. But I also think that there’s a there’s a little bit of a wave coming where it’s not just about me, the company. And so I’m one of those guys, which is, well, wait, I can help see, I love this.
This is the biggest win win you could possibly have in business where you’re not taking anything from the customer. You’re actually on the customer side making money for the customer and you get to make some money with. And I look at them go, oh, my God, how great is that? It’s it really is a win win and. It it definitely comes out in everything you say, Jeff, that the the focus is always on the customer like the person, the somebody, a real human, you really seem to focus very much first on them.
And you are the secondary benefactor in every way you describe things.
Is that something that’s kind of always been in your personality?
Oh, I have always thought like that. I have always been for the other guy first. And I figure out I may not be the richest guy in the world, but I’m very happy with putting people before me. You know, you can ask my wife, I have that personality like I’m the last guy off the ship. And I really think that way, although, you know, I have to work really hard at what I’m doing. I’m always the last.
I always think of myself as last. Let me get her taken care of. Let me do this for people. You know, let me people ask me, why did you give me one hundred bucks? It’s like you look like you needed some money. You know, I you know, I’m just that way. And I look at business that way, like I don’t have to have every penny in the world. It’s not necessary. And I actually have told people if I had a billion dollars, I would never owned a yacht.
I would give my money away before I’d get a yacht. It’s it’s funny. You want to go on a nice vacation, you want to rent a yacht because you’re worth a billion dollars. Go ahead. Yeah, but to own one and then instead you could you could help other people with that money. Maybe I’ve gotten too old to be that greedy.
Well, another thing that’s interesting is you’re you’ve had many careers.
And I would say that you’ve approached them all. But the one that I’m interested in because you have a you have a let’s just get it done like you are definitely willing to do stuff. And so competitive tennis was your example where. You did very well at that, you’re getting scholarships for it. So it’s an interesting dichotomy that you have that competitive capability, but you also have the very human, empathetic understanding of experience.
So how did that how did it feel to you when you were a competitive sportsperson?
Did you ever sort of struggle with. You’re being competitive and successful in the sense of you probably didn’t celebrate as much as you deserve to because it’s in your purse. Now, think about somebody else first. So intense, is it it’s interesting you bring that up and it’s once again, it’s part of my personality. I was not a good tennis player. In fact, I had a match one time with a kid. I won’t mention his name. And if he’s still around and he told me he walked up to me after we played two sets, he said he’d beat me love and love the 00.
And he said, you’re never going to be any good at the sport. You should go do something else. And I was heartbroken. I was what I go I didn’t go home and say I’m quitting. I went home and asked my dad to build me a backboard, you know, so I could hit a thousand four hundred thousand back and forth. And I was out there every single day practicing practice until, you know, until it became a really good tennis player and I had to play it, which means I have a problem with my eyes.
My eyes don’t fuse like everybody else’s. So a ball will jump around on me. And yet, you know, I turned out as a really good tennis player and with all these things that I had to overcome. And so, you know, I just had this personality where, like, if if the ball was close, I’d call it in for the other guy. It just it was like, well, I don’t know. And it was clearly not out.
And it was clearly, you know, I couldn’t tell. So I actually could actually I won’t mention the coach’s name, but actually when I looked at USC and UCLA, a school, I actually wouldn’t go to UCLA because I knew the coach, a few of the kids on their team cheat. And then we thought I was just kidding. One of my fellow tennis players about that, that we had a saying that he would say the kid would say out and we’d all say, mutter under my breath, under water of your reach, out of your reach.
That’s what it was. It wasn’t out. It was out of your reach. So, yeah, it’s it’s an interesting thing to have this this kind of dual personality that wants to be successful. But I want other people to be successful along with me. But that’s not unusual. But what’s unusual is, is so focused on your customer rather than your company. And I think that is a little bit unusual.
And it needs to be celebrated more and unfortunately, the reason why it’s as you even even you describe what you’re saying, it’s tons of people out there that are like me, like, well, it’s that may be true, but I the problem is the news is sort of filled with the hubers of the world.
And, you know, while we talk about the Uber of something being an idea of like the way in which they approach business, unfortunately, there’s also many negative connotations to sort of the early management team at Uber and sort of their some of their business techniques. And there’s lots of companies that, you know, have done that also.
At the same time, though, I think inside inside some of those folks, they just they were much more willing to do things that were negative in hopes of doing a positive thing versus you just don’t have that in your you when you’re when your needle goes to 50 percent and it says someone’s going to get hurt as a result of this decision, you’ll never let it go to 51. Judging by the way that you’ve, you know, the way you do business, the way you treat people, you sure try.
And I have to say, you sure try and think like that. I like to get up in the morning, look at myself in the mirror and go, you’re doing a good job and you care about others. Now, that’s not to say so. An investor doesn’t say, gee, I don’t know if I’d invest with this guy. He’s not after every dollar. And the truth is, this is the greatest part about this is I’m after every dollar I can get because I’m helping my customers make money.
And to me, it’s like, sure, I’ll bargain the heck out of other people if I could earn a little more. Not being unfair, I’m not the type of person. I’m not I don’t I’m not a person who takes advantage of you, but I am. But I’m aggressive in getting the best deal I can for my particularly for my customers, because they’re my clients and they’re making I mean, this deal is, you know, if there’s there’s right now, it’s the cocoon is MVR by data rewards is a desktop and it’s also a mobile.
And the mobile does two fabulous things. One, it collects your geo data and we can sell that. And then two, it does the browsing and hopefully other things will come to pass that we can sell for you. But by doing that, I’m actually making money for you and I’m getting just a piece of the action. And the more you make, maybe the more I can actually give you. Right, because we’re all doing great together. We’re in the boat together and it’s so unusual to be on the same side as the customer.
Even in real estate, it’s hard to be you can’t really be on the same side as a customer. But here my customer and I are simpatico. We’re we’re together. And I just can’t think of a better all my business career, I can’t think of a better position to be in a lot of us both making money together and and also doing the right thing.
It’s it is a wonderful thing and. I’m I’m betting that this started fire before your your tennis days and your real estate days, when when was the first time, Jeff, that you realized that you were thinking differently in the way that you were looking at life? I know exactly when that would be, I was in the third grade and my parents held me back and they told me, don’t worry, you don’t have to tell anybody. We’re moving to a different city.
We moved from White Plains, New York, to Rye, and that was musclemen health for me. It was hard for me to realize I thought I was stupid. I literally thought I was stupid. And today I still sometimes think I’m dumb. So this goes all the way back to my eye surgery. So when I was a child, I had eye surgery, I had a clubfoot. I didn’t talk until I was I think I was almost either four.
I didn’t say a word. My parents were. I remember having, you know, I whatever all those things on your brain to see if you had a functioning brain because they’re all going, what is wrong with this child? And there was nothing wrong with me in that way. I just thought differently. And so there was different. And I use all these different things to I hope to be a better person and to, you know, think out of the box.
And if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, even in my real estate career, I was the first guy in Santa Barbara to figure out how to bring workforce housing to the marketplace. Nobody had figured out how to do that. And I did. I mean, it took me a long time to figure it out. You know, I was proud of building things that that most people go to. This case, it’s weird to me, was creative.
Right? So, I mean, if you ask people in our town, if you love the most hated developers who you hated the most love developer, it was always, yeah, this guy I mean, I was always true to my word. If I said I was going to donate land, you know, people just to try and kill the project, which is not going to donate the land. And of course, I did. You know, just.
That’s how I act, I tell you, I’m going to do it. We’re going to get it done. There’s a very strong. Story and and like the the adversity that you faced from from early on.
And the way that you built sort of compensating capabilities for those things, like when did when did you understand that you were, you know, as we say, sort of different in the way that you described it or that, but you knew.
That you could do you could have a good outcome despite that, and in fact, maybe even because of it, I would say that you’ve through adversity, you became much stronger than if you hadn’t faced much of the adversity that you faced.
First of all, I’m hiring you as my therapist and you’re dead on, right? And I think it was you know, I really had some dark moments growing up where I really was convinced that I didn’t have the self-worth and that was part of the driving force for me. I mean, when, like your parents say you’re going to be left back, you know, maybe today it’s not as bad. Back then, I was like the most horrible thing they could ever say to me and I interpreted as being done.
And so it wasn’t true. I wasn’t dumb. I just I still can’t write a sentence properly and I probably can’t do all the math. But it’s interesting. I can do math in my head and do fairly complex math and figure it out and be pretty close and not know how to do it on a piece of paper. And just, you know, I have no clue, but I can do it in my head. So probably after college, when I first got my job, my first job and I worked my whole way, I was from a fairly well-off family.
I worked all the time. I loved to work. I mean, as a kid, I tweet tennis courts. I run an indoor tennis club. I worked on a grocery store truck. Anything to me was fun. Working was fun. And so I’ve kind of grown up that way. And I’ll admit, maybe I haven’t been the best. I’ve tried to be a really good parent, but, you know, it’s I don’t want to compare myself to Steve Jobs, but it is hard to be this kind of person and have these struggles going on.
But yet you have these talents that most people don’t understand. And when I hear these guys, as investors say to me, I don’t know if I want to invest in you, they may have good reason, but they certainly haven’t talked to me. They just maybe don’t like the product. But if you sat down and talked to me, you’d go with this guy is you know, he’s got a purpose. He’s he’s out there to win. And in fact.
I never asked my current investors for any money, I just put the money in myself until I think, hey, we really have something and I think now, hey, we really have something. But I didn’t for seven years. I didn’t ask anybody for any money. And I just put it in myself like, it’s not really I can’t ask people for money. It’s a challenge in the industry that, of course, like venture capital and the whole basis of the system is that their investors who are looking for outsized returns in general within a fund, and that means that they are going to bet and they know that the the bets are mostly losses.
And so they have to bet moderate amounts across a spectrum of companies knowing that, you know, in the preto sort of principle that 80-20 that 20 percent of the investment will return 80 percent of the value, but they have to go their whole purpose.
People always say, you know, hey, they could celebrate. Yeah, we just had a funding round of, you know, forty eight million dollars or whatever.
It’s like whatever that thing is, it’s it’s funny when I talk to folks that are on there that are receiving that that fund, that they’re receiving dilution, they’re receiving all of these side effects and IOUs and obligations. But it’s sort of the nature of the industry that they have to take that’s they’ve just accepted, that’s what it is.
And you’re on the right side of the model, in my belief, because you are you probably when you do take an investment, it will be for a fantastic return for that investor, because you’ve already done the hard yards. You’ve already taken the risk yourself, because in the same way you treat people, you’re going to treat your investors the same way that you wouldn’t let them put money in if you didn’t fully trust that you are going to be able to deliver an outcome that will be in their favor.
That’s 100 percent right. I mean, that’s exactly what you should be my therapist, because that’s exactly how I actually think of it. And I wouldn’t put it. I wouldn’t take anybody’s money. I had a woman who said I want to risk more money. And I was like, no, you’re not putting any more money in until I tell you. I think we’ve put all these pieces together and we’re still compiling all these pieces. I mean, today, I couldn’t tell a user that they’re going to make unless they’re a long term driver that are make three or four dollars a month from this.
It’s really hard to do. But I can tell you, if we stay at it and we all collectively work together, all of a sudden that four dollars return and eight dollars and eight dollars turn into twelve dollars. And it’s the tenacity. The smartness is letting our investors know I am their one hundred percent to make this a winning hand and a fair hand so that, you know, the investors may not like to hear that. And I would tell you if if I think treating people fairly is a good way of going and and it’s not always about the dollar, because treating people fairly is about the dollar.
And I can prove it in my office buildings. I had less vacancies that anybody around because they took care of my customers. They never wanted to leave. I mean, I got guys going, fine, you know, they need to downsize. I talked to a tenant today. I need to downsize. OK, let’s downsize you. I got a tenant. I think I can step into your space. What do you want from me? I don’t want anything will help you move and we’ll bring in this other tenant.
And so it’s thinking out of the box that’s super important in in any kind of technology, any kind of thing. It’s super important. And I would say about investors vs.. As I look at them and they seem like they follow each other and they wonder why they don’t make any money in it is because they’re all they’re all following each other. If it’s food that’s hot, they’re all in it. And ninety six percent are going to lose their shirts.
But they’re all in and it’s like, wow, why would you guys all step into that same room? Why don’t you? Take a bit off the wall, I’m in off the wall idea and you go, oh, you’re competing with Google? Yeah, in a way I am, but I think in the long run will hurt Google and you’ll make money doing it. I’m not doing it on purpose to Google. Google really can’t afford to do my business plan because their whole business plan is based on 100 percent.
Yet they’re giving up their own margins to run away from themselves. It would be a fundamentally bad business practice in their mind. Right? Right.
It would be a terrible business idea. What about a search engine? What if we developed a search engine that paid you for your data and then they’d even be more hurt? So this is what they have to worry about is, is people finding ways. And so the time has come where sharing is OK? It doesn’t always have to go just to our bottom line. It could go to. You know, to to my customers bottom line, and it’s it’s it’s a great model and it’s it’s hard to beat up on that LOL.
And in the end, when you look at there, they are still obviously vastly successful. There’s no doubt that even if you were able to scale, you know, and when we see the scaling of of what you’re doing with Cocoon MDR.
You’re still not putting them out of business, in fact, you’re keeping them in business because you still they still have customers, they still have flow of data. We’re not cutting them off. They’re not cutting us off. It is a beautiful sort of.
And it’s fair is a is an odd word because I think of like sort of the Chris Voss method of talks about, you know, fair is a difficult world in negotiations because fair is really the ideal non negotiated outcome is. But each side has a sense of fair.
And when we think of fair in a human term, it’s it really does move to a binary sense of fairness. But in fact, that’s not what it is.
It’s that both sides have to agree to accept some non negotiated outcome of both gain and loss, right?
Exactly. Absolutely. You know, in my in my real estate career, I did really well, a taking care of my customers and B, being smart about how I used money, how we build things. And that’s just a matter of then just as you’re saying, is that compromising that you can’t get it all? And in my case, you know, I like the sharing and I love the idea of building something that’s good for a lot of people.
And look at this. I mean, the advertisers, when they get the data they want, the customer wins finally because they get money in their pocket and and we win because we’re helping the customer make money. And so to me, this is the this is like a I mean, this is a dream come true for a businessman who has strong ethics, which is, hey, everybody wins. And I think the I’m actually seeing a stronger move nowadays that some of the folks that went through sort of Silicon Valley, the you know, so we’ve got the we’ll see the old school, the Sandhill Road, like the classic, you know, big groups of voices.
But they have spawned a lot of companies, which spawned a lot of founders who made a lot of money. They had a good, good, you know, windfall. And they’ve taken that now and they’re doing seed investment, angel investment.
And what’s interesting is that we’re seeing a move towards a very ethical investment method because those people benefited, but they understand that they benefited. And what the wins and losses and what those trade offs were, what how fair worked in that market, and so I really like that we’re seeing folks that took that capability and they’re doing what you’re doing, Jeff.
And they’re seeing look, can I take this money that I’ve made?
And recognize that I did it and I won the lottery in effect, but with that, can I help somebody else feel like they won the lottery? And we are really seeing this new batch of founders that are being given the the chance where a traditional VC investor would just purely have looked at the spreadsheet and not cared about the business like the the human outcome of their business.
Yeah, I. I totally agree. We’re still you know, we’re still underfunded and looking for the investors. But I have to say, I met somebody on the street who just was looking out for themselves, period. I might not do the deal with them because what I want is if you hear, I guess, the perfect answer, which makes this really a lot easier for an investor to understand, because my customers making more money and I’m out looking for them, you, the investor, are actually ending up making more investment versus saying to me, well, why don’t you just keep cutting their margins?
And I can say, if I keep cutting the margins of the customer, the customer is going to go away. And that four dollars turns into two dollars. Sure. For two months you got a little more money, but now I don’t have a customer. Why would you do that? That doesn’t make so being in business for 25 or 30 years makes me a lot smarter about how this whole system can work and what I can say to an investor.
Sure, we’ll take 50 percent, but now I don’t have a customer because I took too much money from that. So they’re not around anymore, so now I have to buy a new customer. Thanks a lot. Yeah, well, and in the area that you’re working, we know the business model that you’re effectively pitted against is certainly not going away. And in fact, their margins are increasing.
There’s definitely a win for your customers all the way through, like the end for the foreseeable future.
This is not a it’s not a temporary win.
This is something that we are going to be up against in the economics of advertising and data sales and data privacy, subjugation.
To to that stuff. It’s. It’s not going away, and in fact, this is an opportune time for for what you’re doing. And and like I said, I appreciate, you know, how you’re approaching it.
What you’re doing is amazing. What the way in which you’re approaching it as a person is even more important, I think, in what will derive a positive outcome for you and for your customers.
I sure hope so. And let me say this. You touched on privacy. I think privacy. I actually built the browser, which will eventually combine into this browser that’s I think one of the most private secure browsers ever built. That was the first thing I ever built. So I like the idea of privacy. But when you get to the point of realizing, well, OK, so maybe my browser could be private, but my geolocation is really not private.
It’s kind of like, you know, unless this is really harming you a lot, either sit home and don’t go anywhere or you kind of have to go, well, you know what, they’re getting it anyway. So why don’t I get a piece of the action and maybe it’s, you know, you kind of given up in a way. But the answer is, well, maybe I had to, because really, you’re fighting these giant companies that are going to take all the information they possibly can get about you and turn it into monetizing because that’s their model.
My model is different, which is a you and I together are going to do this with your data. But finally, you’re going to get paid for your data versus just giving it to some company and you never get anything out of it. Now, it may be only a few dollars to start, but I guarantee you, if we stick together and we build the company, this will turn into a lot more money, maybe as much as, you know, a couple of thousand dollars a year for a person.
And that that’s a dream right now. But it’s you know, it could be reality in years and still have some privacy. But at least you’re making some money off of what everybody else is using on you and you don’t even get it. You don’t even know that you are the product. It’s it’s a terrible, terrible situation to not realize that you are the product and you’re not getting anything for your data.
Yeah, it’s it’s the problem we face of like the some of the like the pundits, the strong voices out there that are very like, you know, and I’m all I’m pro privacy.
I’m I’m I would say I’m island. And instead of a lot of libertarian categories and sort of the like, the way I think about, you know, like Google, I’m like, hey, I love the idea of free markets at some point, then I’m torn of how do we regulate it, because there is a point where sometimes it’s necessary, but when it comes to privacy and whatever, so the people like me, you know, or the really strong advocates for privacy, they’re going to do kind of what you talked about, where they’re going to use a a Tor browser.
They’re going to do VPN everywhere.
They’re going to do all this crazy stuff. But the truth is, it’s a minuscule percentage of the population. And what you’re doing is you’re effectively creating opportunity for the larger mass of the population who just can’t they don’t have the technical know how to do that and nor they should they.
So why not reward them with the data that they’re already giving away, at least in. Let’s let’s find a way that we can I think through that.
You know, even as the second phase of of what your team will do is there’s there’s a next chapter and it will probably be can we empower more privacy through now that we have a customer base like it’s your customers are in the beginning of a journey and it’s a journey towards them getting value from their own.
Selves. Well, how would you like. Let me put this out as a big as a big picture. How would you like that? You have the control, I’ll say, on almost everything you have to control to decide. I want to sell it just like you do it today. I want to sell it. And I don’t want to sell. I mean, to me, that’s how we act as human beings. We don’t have this one side like, oh, I’ll just sell everything or we don’t have the side that I’m just going to be private about everything.
There’s these you know, we have two different personalities going on. And I would submit to you what we’re building when I eventually match in Cocoon, the private browser, you then have the best of both worlds. So you can say to yourself, instead of spending one hundred and twenty dollars on a VPN, unless you’re sending documents through, I don’t see a need for that. But if you’re on the Web, you could use our browser, which hides your IP address, stores, everything in the cloud, nothing is on your computer.
I mean, I’m a whiz kid at this part. It’s probably one of the better browsers ever had built in that sense of privacy. And and we have know antivirus on it. So all types of things. And yet you could have best of both worlds. So you in a switch, which is what I plan in the future, is you can hit I want to be in stealth mode. Nobody can see anything you’re doing. And to me, that’s the perfect solution, which is take your choice, you know, if you want to be private, you don’t want anybody know what you’re doing, put that on.
If you don’t care about where you’re going day to day, turn on your geolocation, let it flow and make some money. It’s a. It’s a win. It truly is a win win, and I think that for folks who who need to look into this will we’ll include some some links in the show notes as well.
But just to go back to your. Your way of approaching things, Jeff, adversity very much played a part in your ability to succeed because of the way you’ve developed methods to deal with that adversity, which resulted in you being able to deal with other externalities, other adversity for folks that.
If they came to you and they said, Jeff, I love your story, I haven’t, I want to be able to.
Take on risk, I want to be able to move they start a business, do a thing.
What’s the advice that you would give, maybe just to folks that how do they prepare themselves for that adversity when they may not have experienced it yet?
Yeah, great question. So a couple pieces of advice from my staff. First of all, which I’ve made a hundred mistakes, so make sure you do your research, whatever, you’re going to go in to do a deep dive and twist this around before you spend a penny twisted around. You’ll still find when you start to develop it that you’ll have surprises you never thought of. Like who would have thought that? Maybe Mike, maybe the trucker’s or or Uber drivers would be my best customers and their best customers, so to speak.
So would you have to do is you need to have an idea. You need to focus in on it, do the research, and then don’t be afraid to twist and turn as it comes along, because the people who get just like tied into their one idea and if it doesn’t work, they give up, then I would tell you, you probably shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. You’re probably and it’s not for everyone. Taking these kinds of risks is a scary deal.
And, you know, I woke up this morning thinking, how am I going to get all my bills paid? And, you know, I’m done really well in business, but you take these risk and you’re willing to take them and you have a spouse that doesn’t mind, hopefully, if you’re married, but you have to be able to twist and turn, persevere, and then you have to know when to let go if it’s not working. I mean, I’m a perfect come see me on my first project and I tell you, you should learn a lesson for me.
I should have let it go. However, when I didn’t let it go because I had the money to keep going and my own money, I think that hurt. I think because I’m not there yet. I think I’ve turned this into a wonderful project. So that’s my advice to people, is focus and do your research first. Do not go out and think you’re going to create the next pair of glasses if they’re already existing or if you’re going to compete, you’ve got to have an angle that the other guy doesn’t have a price point, something that the other guy doesn’t have.
Otherwise it may not work out for you. Restaurant, even a restaurant. You’ve got to look in your marketplace. If there’s four Thai restaurants, I wouldn’t be proposing opening a Thai food Thai restaurant unless you have a special formula that the other guys don’t have. And I do hope that people take a lot from your story, Jeff, it’s inspiring both as far as what you’re doing through your team, your platform and personally, it’s it’s been a real pleasure to share the last the last seventy five minutes with you.
And I hope that folks enjoy it.
And if so, if somebody wanted to get a hold of you or wanted to get in contact. Jeff is there what’s the best way that they could do that?
Well, if they want to reach me personally, which I’m always happy to take people’s e-mails, it’s Jeff. I’m a different kind of CEO. I will answer you. You send me something, I will respond. And I learned this, by the way, from the president of American Express. I was a customer of theirs for 20 some odd years. And all of a sudden during the last recession, big recession, they said, we’re going to cut off your credit or do something.
I wrote the CEO, the president of the company, and he responded in writing back to me with not only I’m sorry, but with a gift card of one hundred and fifty dollars. So don’t be afraid to send me an email. It’s Jeff Jeff at the Lake and Victor World, WRAL, D. C. and Charlie dot com. No crackpots, please. I don’t think I have time for that. You have an interesting question or you liked what I was saying.
And if you want to look at our website, go to try Cun Seo Seo. And if I’m from Jersey, you get to see a bit fast growing. That’s great.
Seo Seo and dot com try cocoon dot com. It’s only unfortunately it’s only Android for mobile and for desktop. It is both an. Both desktop is Apple or Mac and and PC. I will warn you about the desktop. I so far have not found the formula that I think pays people enough money. I’m not discouraging you from coming. I’m being honest with you. But I think mobile is a seriously great play. And as soon as we can get iOS out, we will.
But if you if you do have an Android, come and try us and write back to me. If you find something that was, you know, you couldn’t figure out, let me know was fantastic, Jeff.
And thank you. And try and talk about the platform differences.
Probably one of the reasons why iOS is more of a challenge is because they have actually more aggressively put better walls out to protect privacy for their customers. And Android is entirely based on, you know, like let’s let’s get this free OS out there because it allows us to capture more data ultimately that feeds the the machine behind the scenes versus Apple has taken a very privacy forward approach.
You’re not entirely but there more more privacy forward and more customer forward, I think.
Let me just say one last word about privacy. I think this should be up to the customer. I don’t think this should be iOS or Apple making the decision for you. They should put the safeguards in place. And then if you say, hey, listen, I want to sell my data, they shouldn’t be blocking you from doing that. I hope to God they don’t because they’re ruining not just my platform, but they’re ruining the opportunity for other.
They know this other people getting a small piece of the action. And I would have high disregard for them for doing that to people, because to me, it would just be greed if you want to turn it off. So there is just don’t download our app or don’t use our app if you want total privacy. But if you want to share in the profit, I would hope to God I so far, I think they will you know, they’ll let you do that because you said I want to do that and the power should be in you, the customer, not in them.
Cheers to an opt in lifestyle, and when it comes to privacy, that’s where it should be. I agree. Jeff, thank you very much for taking the time today. It’s been a real pleasure. And as as you mentioned, we’ll include some links for folks to get in contact. I really enjoyed the conversation.
Eric is great and once again, ready to hire you as my therapist. All right.
I’m available. I’m available now. But it’s I tell you, it’s I’ve I, I feel like every day that I get to do this thing is a part of, you know, like sort of a side gig, I guess you’d call it my my side hustle is learning.
And and what I’ve been able to be lucky enough to do is to hear all of these incredible stories of perseverance and adversity and and see these patterns and see that how stuff gets through it. And it’s it’s inspiring. I, I, I’m going to walk at it today, right now. And I’m going to be on a real high.
I’ve got a customer event I’m doing in a in a couple of hours and they are going to get a whole lot of cheer and positivity because you’ve, you’ve, you’ve given me a smile and and anybody who’s listening will will share with me and be positive.
I mean, every day I get up, I may be discouraged one day and next more. My secret is I get up and I’m positive, like, I’m going to go I’m going to go solve this problem.
It was and of course, the day we’re recording, this is what’s funny to people, that the time machine is interesting. So General Chuck Yeager sadly passed away last night. And he one of the quotes that that he has is I butchered every time.
I’m sure that everybody does. But the idea is, is that a landing that you walk away from is a good landing. A well, if you can use the plane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing.
I where I try to live by, I still use the term. Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? From Animal House, and so that’s one of my mottos, is did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and and today we will not give up.
And so thank you for the story. Thank you.
It’s been really great. Great. Thank you so much for your time.