On today’s show, Jason answers your questions. Today he explores: Strategies for foreign companies to maximize their exposure to U.S. VCs, Whether or not is OK to change your Co’s name post launch, Minimum Viable Product, The Geography of Startups, and the Pros and Cons of growing vs. taking on partners.
This Week in Startups Episode 297 – Transcription
Jason Calacanis: Today on the program, it’s ‘All Ask Jason’ and Tyler is here of course. We’re gonna tackle some very hard questions for developers like which business I should be in, how do I get a minimal viable product into the market, how do I find developers, how do I become a developer. All these pressing issues are gonna be answered today on This Week In Startups. Stick with us, please.
Jason Calacanis: Hello everybody, hello everybody. Welcome to another episode of This Week In Startups. We are cruising right along episode number two hundred ninety seven. It’s our ‘All Ask Jason’ special. With me of course, is my partner in crime, Mr. Tyler Crowley. How you doing?
Tyler Crowley: Doing pretty well, Jake. Uh, how you doing?
Jason Calacanis: I’m good, I’m good. You always wanted to do that NPR voice. With your tea over there. Look at the service you get here, you become like a superstar around the building. Like like, they’re bringing you your tea, but it’s not like a teabag, you like actually have the loose tea leaves.
Tyler Crowley: Oh yeah, I do the loose leaf tea.
Jason Calacanis: Do you have a rider on your contract…
Tyler Crowley: Yeah. Loose leaf green tea.
Jason Calacanis: Oh, is that it?
Tyler Crowley: Adagio.
Jason Calacanis: Oh, Adagio.
Tyler Crowley: Organic.
Jason Calacanis: Organic Adagio. Okay, very good. I’m very happy for you though, Tyler. Hey, listen, there is a backchannel and the backchannel is all the people who are super fans of the show. Two hundred and fifty of them. And if you go to twistlist.co, twistlist.co, T-W-I-S-T-L-I-S-T dot co, you can join the backlist. That’s where the super fans are, discussing Startups all day long. It’s like our little secret club, you can go there, twistlist.co, and join. And this show and all the questions we’re gonna answer in it, brought to you by our friends at stamps.com. Going to the post office is a complete waste of time, and the US postal service covers a lot of great value in terms of the products like media mail and bulk and all this other stuff, priority, all these great services that perform as well as some of the competing services out there. Even better in some cases and cost a lot less, but going to the post office, we all know that can be a dragging, a waste of time. With stamps, you can buy and print official US postage for any letter or package. Listen to me, I use the product, we get to pick who the sponsors are on the program and stamps.com is one of those great products that I’ve used for so long. Go to stamps.com, click on the microphone at the top of the page and use the promo code TWIST, T-W-I-S-T, and you’ll get a no-risk, no-risk four-week trial offer and a hundred and ten dollar bonus offer. Free digital scale and up to fifty five dollars in free postage. They basically want to get you guys as a customer because they know that the people listen to this show are opinion leaders and they’re gonna give you a great deal. So go to stamps.com, click on the microphone, use the promo code TWIST. Listen, I use the product, it’s a great product, you don’t wanna go to the post office and you also don’t wanna use all those competing services that are really expensive. I just read at the Launch Ticker that the postal service is thinking about doing same day delivery. You know, like TaskRabbit kinda stuff, like we’re gonna get you your stuff on the same day in major metropolitan areas.
Tyler Crowley: That’s amazing if the US Postal Service was a startup, they would do same day delivery.
Jason Calacanis: Of course they would. And you know, the US Postal Service is really iterating and providing great services and stamps.com is the best way to interface with them. Go ahead and go to stamps.com and buy and print official US postage. No waste of postage because you get the scale for free and you can measure everything. You know, I always put two or three extra stamps. That’s not incredibly wasteful, especially when we’re gonna do ten items a week.
You can just think about the ways you’re wasting dozens of stamps a month. Now you can do the exact weight of the package. Today on the program, and thank you stamps.com, go to stamps.com, click on TWIST, I’m sorry, click on the microphone on the top of the page and type in TWIST to get your special bonus offer. Thank you.
Uh, so you guys know about ‘Ask Jason’, it was a segment we had on the show, but we don’t have so much time ‘cause there’s so many shows, so many interviews…
Tyler Crowley: Yeah.
Jason Calacanis: … that what we do now is get all the ‘Ask Jason’s together and we do just an episode of ‘Ask Jason’. Well, this is people who have pressing questions, the best questions we get and I get, you know, hundreds of emails a day. I send a lot of times, I just forward to askjason@This Week In.com. The best ones, and we collect them and every month or two, we do these episodes where people ask me a question. Our first caller is Dan Norris and he is on the line. Dan, are you there?
Dan Norris: I am. Thanks for having me, Jason.
Jason Calacanis: A pleasure to have you on the program. You a long-time fan? You been with the program for a little while or you’re new to the show?
Dan Norris: I have, yeah. I’m a big fan. I think I started about episode fifty or so and I worked backwards and yeah…
Jason Calacanis: Oh, wow! Great. Hold on one second while Tyler interrupts the show with rebooting his computer. Tyler?
Tyler Crowley: Sorry about that.
Jason Calacanis: Unbelievable. The interruptions.
Tyler Crowley: Talk to Steve Jobs. That was a hard crash.
Jason Calacanis: That was a hard crash. Hmm, okay.
Tyler Crowley: Yeah.
Jason Calacanis: So Dan, um, do you have a favorite uh, favorite episode, favorite guest?
Dan Norris: Probably Chris Sacca after that trick pop went the other way, that was cool.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Dan Norris: I really like the Friday News Roundup shows.
Jason Calacanis: Oh, okay. Well, very good, very good. All right, that’s good, uh, so enough about me and what you like about me. Let’s go on to your question. What is your question?
Dan Norris: Like I said, a couple of guys started a, what was gonna be like a small dashboard for small businesses. It was going to bring in the stats from different places and it was called Web Control Room and I’m probably a month, maybe less than a month away from launching that. I guess, I’m beginning to think that the name Web Control Room is not sexy enough, and I’m also beginning to look at the data and saying that, I’m not sure that, like the typical small business really wants to login to another dashboard and just, my question is, I have a new name informally and the domain will be inform.ly. And I’m thinking about, basically either whether I shift now before I launch and five percent more around, um, it’ll still be adapt for, but focused more around like, these people might wanna get me email each day and, or do I listen to what everyone else is saying and launch it right now, ‘cause I haven’t launched yet.
Jason Calacanis: Okay, so you have Web Control Room, and this is a business where small businesses can get analytics across a range of different services, so I pull in my Clout, my PayPal, my Google analytics and you make a dashboard. That’s a great idea for a business by the way. People love more information to make better decisions and if you have these dashboards, you pull in all this information, of course, you don’t need to have as many employees, ‘cause you’re more efficient right, you don’t just need to say to a receptionist or an analyst or a researcher, hey get me this data, put it in a spreadsheet, combine it. So you have a good idea, dashboards are great business. Uh, people will pay for this kind of stuff, small businesses, medium-sized businesses. So I think that there’s demand for this product. I don’t think Web Control Room is a bad name by the way. I think it’s kinda nice, what is your competing name again?
Tyler Crowley: Informly.
Dan Norris: Well, Informly is the name I’m thinking of moving to and…
Jason Calacanis: Okay.
Dan Norris: And the main reason is because I’m thinking that after a long time, I might bring in different sorts of business information, not just statistics.
Jason Calacanis: Got it.
Dan Norris: And, as like a service that brings in lots of business information. The name Web Control Room starts to feel a bit irrelevant.
Jason Calacanis: All right, so people know that I am an expert when it comes to naming companies and branding companies as well. I’ve had people had me on their like, asked me to be on their board, just for this issue. So I’ve been through this a lot. Um, so there’s two issues here. The first question you have is, is it okay to launch with one name and change to another.
The answer is, obviously it’s not optimal but it’s fine. about.com was launched as The Mining Company, New York and they had a terrible domain name, The Mining Co. But about.com, eventually when they got that domain name, became a great business.
Tyler Crowley: Groupon was The Point.
Jason Calacanis: And Groupon was The Point. Right, so, changing and having success is absolutely completely possible. It is not a big deal, it happens all the time. Now, why do people make it into a big deal, because branding and changing your brand name could be looked at as a sign of weakness. So if the business is growing, nobody cares. If the business is trending downward, then people care. So if mahalo.com is having a rough time and I say I’m going to change it to inside.com, people are like, oh Mahalo’s having a tough time, a sign of weakness. But if inside.com was taking off and the business was doing great, then it might be, might not be, I’m not gonna say anything here on the program, but then they say, oh that’s genius. So really what other people think, what the press think, what the journalists think, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what your customers think and so it’s generally, I would say, a small issue in the grand scheme of things, changing a name. A name change, not such a big deal. It happens all the time Uh, it’s not optimal, but it’s not something to lose sleep over. Now, let’s get into the two different names ‘cause that’s what I like. Informly. There’s a lot of people adding ly to names these days, right! Reportly, whatever.
Tyler Crowley: Recurly.
Jason Calacanis: Recurly. Swirly. Dirly. Whatever! Everybody wants to put an ly in there. And that’s because Libya was the dot Bitly was the dot com extension.
Tyler Crowley: I think Bitly was one of the first really.
Jason Calacanis: Bitly was one of the first. Now do you, are you thinking about doing a dot ly or are you actually thinking about doing a dot com?
Dan Norris: Yeah. Dot ly.
Jason Calacanis: Okay. So, then you get into this, oh does it matter that you have a dot ly. Or a dot co versus a dot com or a dot net. The truth is, given that we’re moving to an app ecosystem and that we’re moving to, um, you know, if you do a search and if you’re launch.co, I think when you type in the word launch, we’re probably number two for launch, even though we have launch.co and Google owns Launch and is redirect, I mean, Yahoo! owns the word launch.com and is redirecting it. When you type in launch, we’re, what are we now? We’re number five. launch.org is number one. Um, and so, if you like type launch conference, we come up, uh, you know, as well, in number one or whatever. So it’s not that big a deal. People will find you. You’ll be in the top three or four, it’s not going to be that difficult. So, I don’t have a problem with the dot ly, Web Control Room to me sounds like a product for people who are sysadmins.
Tyler Crowley: Uh huh. Yeah, enterprise, like yeah.
Jason Calacanis: More than enterprise, more of sysadmin. But Informly means knowledge. Information, inform and informally. There’s like informally advising. There’s like, sorta play on words like informally discussing something but they also informing me. I really like the name Informly.
Tyler Crowley: I do too.
Jason Calacanis: It has a, it rolls off the tongue, it’s a better name. And so, well, Web Control is not a bad name, it’d be a great name, like you’re saying, for doing your server load times or whatever, so clearly we know which one’s the better name and why. I don’t think we’ve to go too much into that. If you launch with Web Control Room now when you have five beta clients, it’s not the end of the world, In fact, I advise some people to launch their startups with a bogus name so that it doesn’t get picked up in the press, they can still launch at the Launch Festival in March. And I tell them, yeah just launch under like Web Control name and then at the launch, you know, don’t tell anybody in California about it, don’t buy any ads in California, just buy ads in Canada and Middle America. And then when you’re ready, take the same exact product, change the logo and nobody will ever know it’s launched and no journalist will ever write about it ‘cause you hid it in plain sight. So, um, I don’t think there’s a problem with launching as Web Control Room if you wanna get beta users on it and then, you can build out the Informly branding and have that ready when you’re ready to go
Dan Norris: Yeah, I’ll just say, I kind of did that a little bit like a few months ago. I did like a bit of a beta launch and I do have, I had about a thousand people sign up and I’ve got about a hundred and fifty actively using it, so that’s why I am sort of thinking, this time, I wanna make sure that the launch gets noticed, so I’m kinda thinking the name might be a factor in that.
Jason Calacanis: I think that branding would be great for it, like for example, if you wanted to be in one of the, all these events, have you gotten press for Web Control Room?
Dan Norris: Yeah. Only really local press but, you know, I haven’t made too much of an effort yet.
Jason Calacanis: If you re-brand the company and start over, is that, you could probably apply to launch festival, TechCrunch Disrupt, Demo or the local ones, are you in Melbourne or in Sydney? Where are you?
Dan Norris: I’m in the Gulf Coast but yeah, an hour aside from Naba plain.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, so I mean, you could go to any one of those launch events with a new name and with slightly different interface and it’s a, it’s a new company, you know. So I think it’s a smart idea to launch it as a new company and move the hundred and fifty people over and just let them know you changed your name.
Dan Norris: Well, thanks so much for having me on the show, and you guys doing an amazing job, so keep it up. I’m loving it.
Jason Calacanis: Oh! Well, thank you so much. It is great to have a caller from down under. I was dancing to that song the other night.
Tyler Crowley: Dance at what?
Jason Calacanis: I come from a land down under, I love that song.
Tyler Crowley: You know, who I bumped into was Phil from Pollenizer, who we met down there. He was here in LA…
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, Phil from Pollenizer. Yeah, nice guy, smart guy. I like that guy. He did that presentation, I remember. He’s a smart cat.
Tyler Crowley: Yeah. And, he was here at the David Seamer event here…
Jason Calacanis: Oh, is David Seamer paying you now for klutz?
Tyler Crowley: No no no. If the big Los Angeles event…
Jason Calacanis: I don’t get invited to them. I don’t get invited to, I don’t go to that stuff.
Tyler Crowley: Anyway, but he invited me to come down to Australia.
Jason Calacanis: Ohoho, the beak’s getting wet again. So you’re gonna get flown first class…
Tyler Crowley: And then Mark Pesci was like, oh yeah bring in, he filled one onto it, and he’s like I’m trying to get Tyler down to Australia, and Mark Pesci within ten seconds said…
Jason Calacanis: Get Jason down.
Tyler Crowley: No! He said, get Tyler down.
Jason Calacanis: Oh my God. See, I used to get all this speaking advice, I used to get the first class tickets all around the world and now…
Tyler Crowley: They want you to come by the way.
Jason Calacanis: I know they all do. I just don’t have the time.
Tyler Crowley: I know.
Jason Calacanis: I got to focus on my projects. It’s very time-consuming. Takes a week of your life, you understand.
Tyler Crowley: People don’t realize that, yeah.
Jason Calacanis: Maybe we should, maybe when we re-launch as inside.com…
Tyler Crowley: You know what we’ve to do soon…
Jason Calacanis: Let’s do it.
Tyler Crowley: Before that guy dies. We gotta go…
Jason Calacanis: Let’s do it. Let’s just effin’ do it.
Tyler Crowley: I know.
Jason Calacankis: We’ll just effin’ do it.
Tyler Crowley: It’s on.
Jason Calacanis: All right, let’s do it. Um, hey, you’re too like a twenty…
Tyler Crowley: Yeah. I know, right?
Jason Calacanis: Me, you and Sherman. Me, you and Sacca. All right, next caller. Next caller is… Uh… Dimitris.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Hi, Jason.
Jason Calacanis: Dimitris. Sorry. Uh, Kanellopoulos. Kanellopoulos?!
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: That’s almost right.
Jason Calacanis: Tell me. Let me hear it.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Kanellopoulos.
Jason Calacanis: Kanellopoulos. Kanellopoulos. Okay, Oupa, Tekanis. What um, what is, are you in Greece? Are you in Athens?
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: I’m from Greece and South Africa, but I live in Cyprus for the moment.
Jason Calacanis: Oh! Fine. It’s a very international thing. Very international episode here. Well, people don’t realize that the show is downloaded over a hundred thousand times. Now the YouTube videos are getting thousands of views, this show is blowing up. Ads sold out until the first quarter. I mean, basically if you wanna buy ads on the show, it’s gonna be second quarter. We’re gonna be doing some live shows in San Francisco, big announcement about that coming up.
Tyler Crowley: Oh, no one’s heard that yet.
Jason Calacanis: Big announcement about that coming up. Live shows for free from my fans.
Tyler Crowley: Wow!
Jason Calacanis: For free.
Tyler Crowley: In the heart of SoMa.
Jason Calacanis: In San Francisco. Free! Thanks to the sponsors partnering with us. It’s gonna be pretty awesome. Hey, you’ve got, you’ve listened to the show for a long time, Dimitris? Dimitris?
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Uh, you know, I just started listening in April.
Jason Calacanis: Okay.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: But I back watched everything
Jason Calacanis: Wow! That’s about five hundred hours.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Yeah, but I did it. It’s really amazing, because we don’t get such information around here. So the information I’ve received, you know, is exquisite.
Jason Calacanis: Oh, that’s great…
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: It’s really worth all the time.
Jason Calacanis: And you have a favorite guest on the program? I always like to ask that question. Do you have a favorite guest?
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Obviously Chris Sacca was one of the best, but I would also say Nolan Bushnell.
Jason Calacanis: Oh that was a great episode. I enjoyed that one.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: That was great for me because this person has a tremendous way of presenting the world, you know, and his vision…
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, big picture.
Tyler Crowley: Big vision, yeah.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Big picture, yes. So, it’s amazing to listen to this person.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, I have really enjoyed that. I have to say that Nolan and Chris are two great episodes. Okay, you’ve a question, Dimitris, let me hear it.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Yeah, so we’re a team of five. Three engineers, myself as the product and we have a finance/strategy guy. Um, we’re working full-time on other jobs but we decided to build a startup based on a very very big problem we had, after ditching three or four ideas for the last six months.
Jason Calacanis: Great.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: So we decided, for many reasons, that the best people to have on the board as advice and as maybe executive or non-executive, would be you and Tyler. And for many reasons.
Jason Calacanis: (chuckles) Yeah.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: That’s for many reasons. I can explain to you if you want.
Jason Calacanis: Sure.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: So, basically it’s the honesty, okay, for the product and the services you offer…
Jason Calacanis: Right.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: It’s the complete honesty that you and Tyler have towards the audience.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: And of course, your advice and your experience in this, in this market.
Jason Calacanis: Right.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: So, to this extent, my question would actually be, we are a team of five and we have a great experience, we’ve been working in the corporate world for fifteen years, I’ve been working for twelve years.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: In very large banks.
Jason Calacanis: Right.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: How would we approach you, or Tyler, or both of you and present our startup into a market which we want to launch, which is the US and expand, since we don’t have a track record and, to be honest, you don’t know me.
Jason Calacanis: Right.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: It’s very simple.
Jason Calacanis: It’s a great question. So, question is generally, if you’re outside the US, how do you court investors in the US? Not just me or Tyler, but just anybody. Uh, obviously if you’re not in the US, you’re not gonna get taken as seriously by US investors. But that’s changed over the years, because we have seen some huge successes and you see people like Sequoia, have an office in Israel and in China and India. And Sequoia, they don’t need to get on a plane to go anywhere, people come to them, they’re the gold standard in venture capital but they still have those regional offices right, so they are moving around and looking at other opportunities and they invested in a couple of companies in New York like uh, Tumblr and other. So they, even the mighty Sequoia, you know, like the gold standard that you know, can just sit in their office and every entrepreneur will rightfully so, pilgrimage to them, will go out there. But that’s because people have to have track records and they have to have traction. So if you want to get intention of US investors outside the US, you have to have a tremendous business and it’s really unfair but if you were in Silicon Valley with five people and a decent idea and a couple of good mockups, you’re gonna get meeting after meeting after meeting. If you’re in Europe and you’ve got Tengrading voice and you’ve got a better looking product and you’ve got twenty five thousand dollars a month in uh, revenue, you’re gonna get zero point zero. Zero point zero.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Can I just say my experience?
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, go ahead.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: So my experience, all of these two months we were working on this product and we will be launching around January, is that the only person that answered my email…
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: … was a couple of Greeks from Silicon Valley.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: And Alfred Lin.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: From Sequoia.
Jason Calacanis: Right.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Which I was very surprised.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Now if you count another twenty people that I’ve sent emails or called, which they haven’t answered obviously, this is what you get. And generally speaking, in Europe, nobody has answered me, no one, not a single person.
Jason Calacanis: So, that’s an interesting data point. I think, I know Alfred Lin pretty well. He’s an entrepreneur, obviously help build, and it doesn’t surprise me. They make a point of trying to get back to everybody, try to be professional that way. But even I can’t get back to everybody, so it’s really a signal of, people are overwhelmed and they don’t use their inbox as the signaling method, they use the people around them, so what you would have to do uh, just sort of getting to brass tacks here and how to make it happen. Uh, number one, the more traction you have, the more paying customers, the more growth you have, the easier it is. And sending people an email doesn’t mean anything, sending them a three-month or four-month or five-month chart that shows some kind of growth, you just send that chart and say we’re growing, and then, you do that again in three months, and you do it again in three months. And you look at it as a term project, not in week by week project, but you’ve to look at courting the Americans, investors and the powerful people in the Silicon Valley, as a quarterly, as a yearlong project and in that yearlong project, you’ve to send them four emails. Here’s your quarterly update, we’ve made this amount of progress and that would make them say, in the Mark Suster, who does This Week In Venture Capital. Mark Suster’s a famous venture capitalist. He says he doesn’t invest in dots, he invests in lines. And what he means by that is, he will meet people over a year and see they make progress and the dots are going up and then he draws a line, okay this person is trending in a certain way, if it’s somebody he doesn’t know. Now if it’s Mark Pincus or Evan Williams or Jack Dorsey who walk in the front door, they’re gonna just get a check and the VC’s gonna be thankful that they invested in whatever they are doing, whether it’s a grilled cheese business or medium or Twitter or square or whatever it is. They’re just gonna throw that check. So I think you’ve to be realistic about it. Go ahead.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Basically, our startup which is called Grab A Pro dot com. Not yet functional.
Jason Calacanis: Grab A Pro?
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: dot com, but it’s not functional, Jason.
Jason Calacanis: Okay, no problem.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Um, it’s basically gonna solve this problem of…
Jason Calacanis: It’s gonna solve the problem of finding professional advisors.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Exactly.
Jason Calacanis: Oh wow, so this is a really interesting thing. He asked a question. I feel like I just went into the matrix. So your question of how to find the professionals and get them involves in your startup. You’re building a startup to solve that problem, that is a very clever way to market your startup, to do an ‘Ask Jason’, I answer the question and your startup is also an answer to the question. So how do you think you’re gonna approach it? Since you’ve hacked the show, I salute you for hacking the show.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: We’re gonna make a unique experience of having customers seeking for advice from Quora, for example, and receiving results from Mahalo, in person, over the phone or video or one-on-one. So that’s the idea, so we’re gonna…
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, this is a good idea. Experts exchange, Quora, people like to meet experts and they like to, you know…
Tyler Crowley: Clarity.fm is kind of the new…
Jason Calacanis: Clarity.fm, yeah. Everybody is trying to connect experts to people who need information for a dollar amount.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Um, charity is the competition. Um, but the professional services market is a four trillion dollar industry, so being third or second doesn’t make really any difference, execution makes the real difference.
Jason Calacanis: Correct.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: So, we have a pretty good idea on, because we want to generalize. Clarity only focuses on startups, but if you take people that work in other large companies and have the knowledge to share, or doctors or lawyers or whatever it is. That’s more people than people that working at startups. So we’re focusing on a major segment there. And obviously, we’re gonna build it through our professional network and move on there.
Jason Calacanis: Somebody else did one that was a core of, um, a core of lawyers kind of with an expert of exchange of lawyers, so the idea’s out there. Listen, I gotta go on to the next question. But, keep listening and really good question and way to hack the show.
Dimitris Kanellopoulos: Thanks so much.
Jason Calacanis: I always appreciate the hack of the show. Um, and you know, all this great flawless Q and A that we’re doing right here right now, in real time, and it’s just, it just seems smooth and you think I have a satellite…
Tyler Crowley: Hold on, Jason. One other tip for this guy.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Tyler Crowley: I hope not to interrupt.
Jason Calacanis: No, why not interrupt me! Why not interrupt me.
Tyler Crowley: But seriously, your advice on the chart was really solid. They can give them an update about the chart, real quick because it’s about the visual. They’ll look at an image and read your email right?
Jason Calacanis: Absolutely. Too long to read. TILDR.
Tyler Crowley: Keep the text to a minimum. One other clever hack you can make with that is, make a little video that really describes what you do, because they’re much more likely to watch a short little…
Jason Calacanis: Oh yeah, the Youtube videos embedded in their Gmail or Google Docs account, they can just hit play.
Tyler Crowley: Right.
Jason Calacanis: They go just like, hey, this is a message for…
Tyler Crowley: I wouldn’t even do that. I would just go into the product…
Jason Calacanis: Oh, right right right. Just do a screen cast.
Tyler Crowley: Yes!
Jason Calacanis: Oh, so here’s how our product works. Number one, you go here, number two, you do this, and we have clients like this one and you make it like a sixty-second video. Great idea.
Tyler Crowley: Yeah, make it sixty seconds, but also, know that you’re gonna be judged on the quality of that video.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, it’s gotta be pretty tight. Make it high-quality.
Tyler Crowley: Yeah.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, that’s a great little hack too. I love the idea of a little video. I would definitely hit the video to take the tour. Hey, listen, all these great question and answers are coming not by a satellite truck, not by having a remote with HD cameras, but with GoToMeeting. Meeting is believing. I use GoToMeeting all day, I use GoToMeeting for the Mahalo inside board meeting today and it went flawlessly. @gotomeeting. Go ahead and thank @gotomeeting, for providing a great service, hosted online meetings, unlimited one price a month. Go to gotomeeting.com and try it free. Click uh, and use the promo code START, S-T-A-R-T, for a free thirty-day trial. Citrix GoToMeeting is a wonderful product, I use it every day, and I logged in there and it was like, oh you’ve your board meeting today and then you have this demo later in the day, tomorrow you got a demo with this startup, I just do it all the time. And then I flip back and forth, I get control of the demo to somebody on the other side of the call and I can flip it between multiple participants. I got people calling in on their mobile phones, I got people on their computers doing VoIP, I got people in hotel rooms using headsets over their computers, it works. And it’s solid and I use it because of the beautiful HD faces, I got two gorgeous HD cameras here from Logitech that are better than the, uh, I gotta tell you Apple, I mean it’s kinda ghetto this, the cameras on the laptops gotta be upgraded, I use the Logitech HD ones ‘cause I love HD faces which is the wonderful feature that GoToMeeting uses. GoToMeeting. Meeting is believing. Trust me. Meeting is believing. Citrix GoToMeeting is amazing. Go to gotomeeting.com and use the promo code START for a free thirty-day trial. Thank you Citrix GoToMeeting. Meeting is believing.
Tyler Crowley: Meeting is believing.
Jason Calacanis: Meeting is believing. I love that. It’s a great tagline. All right, speaking of meetings, let’s go to the next person. Meeting is believing, on GoToMeeting, which is Greg. Greg, are you there?
Greg Meadows: Hi, Jason.
Jason Calacanis: How you doing?
Greg Meadows: Great. Really excited to talk to you.
Jason Calacanis: Glad that you’re wearing a suit and tie, that’s very very proper.
Tyler Crowley: From the waist up anyways.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, he could be totally pants-less. Don’t stand up. Tell us. What is your question and where are you calling from?
Greg Meadows: I’m calling from Washington DC.
Jason Calacanis: Okay, Washington DC. Very good. It’s a popular area this time of year, election season. Everybody’s freaking out there. What is your question?
Greg Meadows: My question is, uh, I had a great idea for a mobile app two years ago and it’s you know, as an entrepreneur, it’s the way these things keep jumping at night, you wake up at the middle of the night, you write down stuff on paper, so I started to design it. I finished a great speck, looked online, developed a few screens, you know, to sorta test the concept at least for a few folks. And it’s uh, Taxi Crab, it solves one specific, very simple problem in one part of the country. You know, we’re not trying to be Pinterest or Instagram, this is a unique problem in this area,, and that’s delivery of certain types of food. So, behind the scenes, it requires a lot of coding, so once I finish the speck, I would just get proposals to build just a minimum vibe at the NVP.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Greg Meadows: It takes a lot of work. This is not a simple app, it’s something that requires a lot of code.
Jason Calacanis: Of course.
Greg Meadows: So you know, to get codes for forty-fifty k just for the first version is something that’s not gonna happen, so we’re sorta stuck, and I wanted to know, you know, how you might approach the problem.
Jason Calacanis: Sure.
Greg Meadows: And my question is which comes first. Is it seed funding for a product that doesn’t exist or is it, you know, um, you know, build the thing m=no matter what before you try to get seed funding.
Jason Calacanis: Okay, it’s a great question. And, I have recent experience with it . You may have heard of the Launch Ticker project that I started, and that is now using a beautiful CMS, content management system, that we built. Took a couple of months to build. And obviously, you know, a decent amount of money, not thirty-forty-fifty thousand, but you know, not much less. And we did that, maybe in the tenth week of the Launch Ticker, but for the first two months of the Launch Ticker, for those of you following it, we used a Google Doc. People were inside of a shared Google Doc, and it would break down and you couldn’t see how many people were in there, we had no ability to put chart meet in it, and it was, you know, there were all kinds of problems and then we had to cut and paste it into MailChimp to send it. We didn’t use the MailChimp API, there’s no way to go from Google Docs to the MailChimp API, right, that’s not easy. So we had to save it as an HTML file, it was arduous. Luckily, Kirin did all the work, not me. Sassy Kirin, and that worked out better for me. However, once we realized people loved it and people were hanging out in the Ticker and thousands of people were subscribing, and a thousand dollars’ worth of subscriptions came in, we invested in making these, uh, great developer named Jonas, who’s been, in New York, who’s been making the launch Ticker CMS. Now that comes out on week ten. Now we’ve more things we wanna do and we’re adding it, and Pat became an advertiser in the Ticker. So that’s how I hacked it.
Now for your case, and I had this happen with New York Mouth. New York Mouth is an investment of mine. They do, uh, they do, umm, artisanal foods. So if you wanna get chocolates or whatever or you know, here’s a bag of uh, let’s see, here I got apple, picking taster, autumn in New York, tailgates, um, pickles. So let’s say you’re into pickles right, they have all these artisanal pickles from different people, and they’re, these are all the different products they have and all the different makers. Look at all these makers, I’m so proud of them. New York Super Foods, P&H Soda, Rick’s Picks. I mean, what is P&H Soda, never even heard of that. So anyway, one of things I said to them was, you have to have a VIP concierge and if you look right here, here is the VIP concierge right, ‘cause I said I’m so busy, I need to send a gift basket, like I sent one to a friend of mine, James Brooks, just to drop a name, James Brooks, he is the creator of The Simpsons, you might have seen the TV show. We’re friends, we play poker, and I was telling him about the service and some other things and he goes that’s really interesting, and I said yeah gimme your address, and I just emailed email@example.com, so now they have, and we were talking about doing a VIP concierge service, how do we do this, what’s the minimal viable product. For me, I want something I can remember, use from my Blackberry, use from my iPhone, use from my desktop, wherever I am. Oh, we gotta do an app, we gotta do a website, we gotta do a membership, you gotta login. Too complicated. You know I have email, let me just email you what I want, so now, one o’clock in the morning at the poker table, I email send a seventy five dollar gift bag to James Brooks at this address and they send it to him, and that’s it. They have my credit card on file, they didn’t build any software. By the way, this has become one of the most popular features on the site, people are doing their gift baskets, VIP people, baller people are just like, send a two hundred dollar gift basket to his person, send hundred dollars to this person, I trust your judgement. Craig Kanarick, the founder of, the co-founder of Razorfish’s launch New York Mouth, came up with this genius idea, and I invested in it. But that was our way of doing private gifting, corporate gifting and corporate snacking, just email VIP concierge, we know who you are.
So I think in your case Greg, if you are doing this delivery service, what is the minimal viable way somebody could interact with you? Twitter? Email? Who knows? A voicemail service that then gets transcribed, whatever it is. You could do it with one restaurant or five restaurants, just with that email system, just with some simple hack to see if people want to order from those restaurants even. And if you can build a relationship with those restaurants and if the delivery works, all that kind of stuff. So, and you did this too, Tyler, you’re in this business.
Tyler Crowley: I’m surprised you remembered. I did do this.
Jason Calacanis: So explain how you did your minimal viable product. If you don’t know what a minimal viable product is, it’s the concept of what is the simplest, and it’s be Eric Ries and Steve Blank. And you can buy Eric Ries’ app at ericriesapp.com.
Tyler Crowley: Beautiful app.
Jason Calacanis: Beautiful app, that I created. With Eric. Go to ericriesapp.com, R-I-E-S, and you can buy this app for like nothing.
Tyler Crowley: It’s a beautiful app.
Jason Calacanis: It’s a beautiful app. But anyway, you can buy the ibook, it’s really beautiful, and uh, you’ll get all his stuff. It’s a really good course. Anyway, minimal viable product is the minimal product to solve, to answer a specific question.
Tyler Crowley: Right. And there are usually ways if you get creative, to do this without investing any cash and writing very very very little code.
Jason Calacanis: What was your hack?
Tyler Crowley: My particular hack was not so different from the one you just described, where, early on I wanted to provide a way so that when you had a bad experience at a restaurant or hotel or somewhere.
Jason Calacanis: Yep.
Tyler Crowley: To without having to do anything, to talk to the manager. Right from your phone.
Jason Calacanis: Gotcha!
Tyler Crowley: So I told Mark Suster and a few friends. Hey, next time you’re out, eating at a nice restaurant, do me a favor, and you have a problem, just send an email to the name of the restaurant at squeal dot com, which was my handle, and I had to catch all of these and when the front end of the email would tell me where they were, so they would say, Red Lobster Santa Monica at squeal dot com, I’d get the email.
Jason Calacanis: Got it. What a hack!
Tyler Crowley: Call up Red Lobster, and say, hey do you have a customer in your store right now, who just ordered the whatever and it’s not cooked properly.
Jason Calacanis: Right.
Tyler Crowley: And of course they’re a little freaked out. But this is what I think is called internally as artificial artificial intelligence.
Jason Calacanis: Artificial. Artificial artificial intelligence.
Tyler Crowley: Right. You’re doing a manual process that most people think is automated. And they can’t figure out how you’re doing it. You’re doing it mechanically. You’re doing it the hard way for the time being, and there’s no better way to do it ‘cause you really get in…
Jason Calacanis: It makes it raw. It strips away all the noise. So you kids sit there and argue about the features or the colors or the links. It’s like VIP at New York Mouth, send in your order, they’ll interact with you, there’s no debating over it, the email comes from the suctomer and they want to send a gift basket or they don’t, that’s it.
Tyler Crowley: People loved it, I mean…
Jason Calacanis: I love that.
Tyler Crowley: I was telling people that don’t tell people about this.
Jason Calacanis: Right.
Tyler Crowley: Because they wanted to start telling their friends, like hey, we have it around, just send an email to this…
Jason Calacanis: I know. It’s expensive, ‘cause it costs you ten dollars or twenty five dollars or whatever…
Tyler Crowley: Exactly. Exactly. But, it’s incredible service, so if you can make that work in this case, it works for them because they’re making twenty bucks on this gift basket.
Jason Calacanis: Oh yeah, they are.
Tyler Crowley: So in his case, he might as well…
Jason Calacanis: And the thing about gift basket people is, if you’re a gift basket kinda person, like I send a hundred and fifty gift baskets at Christmas, a hundred after, at the launch event. Those are seventy five times a hundred, seventy five hundred bucks. This is serious chatter. Anyway, so what exactly is your idea again, let me, let me hear the, no, it was food delivery for a specific type of food. So what type of food and why is that unique?
Greg Meadows: Have you been to DC, Maryland and Baltimore? I’m sure you have.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah.
Greg Meadows: Okay, so in your experience coming to this area, in the summertime, there’s one thing that people order constantly during the spring to late fall, and around the baseball season. And they eat it almost exclusively at home. Do you know what that is?
Jason Calacanis: Icecreams?!
Greg Meadows: Steamed crabs.
Jason Calacanis: Steamed crabs.
Greg Meadows: You know, the Maryland steamed crabs.
Jason Calacanis: Sure. Of course.
Greg Meadows: Right, so everyone orders them at home, and everyone gets in their car and they drive around, they stand in line in their flip-flops and they stand at these takeout places and they put them in the bag and they drive them back home and they eat them while they’re still hot. So, the TaxiCrab app is sort of, designed to do three things. One is, allows the customer to sit at home in their shorts, you know, in their backyard, and uh, find a delivery driver that picks up the place where they prefer to get them and ring the doorbell. For the drivers, we spoke to several kids who want to help us test as drivers. It’s great for them because they check-in and check-out when they want and where they want, so one weekend, it could be the parents’ house because they’re on a school break.
Jason Calacanis: You know, I get it, okay. So it’s Uber for bringing crabs, okay.
Greg Meadows: Uber I would say, combined with Hotel, Hotel Tonight, which has a lot of algorithms about up-to-date pricing and stuff.
Jason Calacanis: Right. So this would be perfectly suited for a Twitter account, so, or an email. Or both. So let’s say, you get a Twitter account and it’s like, I don’t know, get crabs or something. Well that would probably be bad. Um, anyway, what you do is, you people become a phenomena, you do a little PR around it, and you say, you know, we have ten crabs ready to go. Who wants them?
Tyler Crowley: That’s the marketing guy crabs.
Jason Calacanis: Got crabs. Got crabs. Get crabs. Got crabs.
Tyler Crowley: Like milk.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, got crabs, or crabs now. And you just, you get ten of these crab shacks, and you post, or we have them post, when they have crabs ready and how many. They take a picture of it, they Instagram it or whatever. So, they’re showing their inventory and the people who want it, just reply that they want it, and you direct message the person back if they follow the account. Where are you, they direct message you back, and it’s crabs over Twitter. It’s Twitter crabs, and that’s how you test it. And you get one local, you do what Tyler did, you put up a little signs, tweet us to get crabs, we’ll deliver them to you, just tweet to us, and then you say, what’s your phone number, what’s your email whatever and then you just run it manually and you see if you can get anybody to do it, and how many times they do it, and so on weekends, we deliver crabs. Boom, that’s it. And then you just call a car service and tell the car service to pick it up and drop them. Boom! And you could do the minimal viable product, and then you gotta figure out, what is the margin on this, how much will people pay to have your crabs…
Tyler Crowley: well, at least now, you can start doing in The Lean Startup Methodology is, start running ads against it, find out how many people, you could collect a credit card at the beginning of this, if you really wanted to.
Jason Calacanis: You know, that’s why email is so great. You know, they tweet the pictures who wants these, just coming out of the oven. And then somebody replies back I’ll take ‘em.. Then you say, great. Email us here Email us your credit card to, and then, boom!
Tyler Crowley: A lot of what Lean is about is testing an idea and prebuild it. In the sense that, you build a landing page…
Jason Calacanis: Well, this is to see if people want the crabs delivered.
Tyler Crowley: Right.
Jason Calacanis: And will they pay…
Tyler Crowley: And how much will they pay!
Jason Calacanis: And how much will they pay is the question. So that’s what you really wanna test, Greg. Will they pay ten or twenty bucks or two bucks a crab, or twenty dollars to get crabs delivered. How much would you pay to get crabs? How much would you pay to get crabs?
Tyler Crowley: Oh geez, we’re not going there.
Jason Calacanis: All right, Greg. Does that make sense? Lean Startup-wise?
Greg Meadows: It does, Jason. I appreciate it. One final thought. I’m a TWIST List member and now the Launch Ticker. My favorite episode was probably David Hansson from 37signals.
Jason Calacanis: Oh sure, he was great. He’s gonna come back on the show. Hey Kirin, make a note that David did say he’d be here in the spring and wants to be on again.
Greg Meadows: And, I got to shake hands and chat with Elon Musk, here in DC, who’s had an event, and I really pimped your show. I told him you were the Oprah of startups.
Jason Calacanis: Oh wow, that’s awesome. I saw him just this weekend. Awesome! Well, we’ll talk soon, and thank you for pimping out to Elon Musk. That’s his, he’s getting harassed everywhere he goes by the superfans, I like the superfans being a little harassing though. I kinda like that, like I think I feel like the superfans should just like, every time they meet somebody who’s like and entrepreneur, he’d just be like, why wouldn’t you go on Jason’s show, like you should just be irate, but even with like my friends, like a lot of friends be like, you’re not gonna come on Jason’s show, why wouldn’t you want to go on Jason’s show? I want an answer right now. Like they should get like really, not like, don’t get violent, but they should be really like perplexed and upset about it, like why can’t I, when you gonna be on the show, be like, with Kim Jong, with Kim Dotcom, not Kim Jong Il, Kim Dotcom. Where is Kim Dotcom? I want Kim Dotcom on the program.
Tyler Crowley: That would be a great episode.
Jason Calacanis: I want him live. Is he allowed in the United States? He probably won’t come to the United States, ‘cause they raided his house. They put wireless, like they tapped him and raided his house, but no, it’s like raiding Dropbox’s house.
Tyler Crowley: It’s amazing that the whole case was really…
Jason Calacanis: He’s got them dead. Right, next caller. Walter Wood, are you there? Who’s that? What’s your name? That’s a good looking guy, I’ll take him. Who’s that guy?
Tyler Crowley: It’s either Dan or Walter.
Jason Calacanis: I think his mom just came in the room. Mom! Mom, I’m on This Week In Startups, Mom. Don’t interrupt me. Okay, this is just a question that I’m supposed to read. Okay, here we go. Walter Wood is a student from the University of Tulsa and he says, “I’m a college student studying finance and learning to code, trying to have as diverse a skillset as possible. I’m in my junior year and very interested in working in startups and venture capital. Would you advise trying to start a small company with likeminded people, or trying to join a team with an existing startup to get into the scene? Also, does location play a huge role in getting into the startup scene?” Okay, number one, yes, location location location. If you want to start being in the internet business, immediately leave Tulsa. Run. Do not walk. Sorry, people of Tulsa. You need to run like a melon farmer to Silicon Valley or Los Angeles or New York, maybe Austin, maybe Chicago, maybe Seatlle. But basically, the valley, Los Angeles or New York are your three top choices. Yeah, that’s it. That’s where the startups are.
Tyler Crowley: Or Boulder too.
Jason Calacanis: Boulder. I put Boulder right up to it with those four. You know why, it’s dense. And they’re very helpful, Boulder.
Tyler Crowley: Especially, print decoding.
Jason Calacanis: Exactly. Boulder’s a really good choice, actually for somebody up and coming ‘cause the people in Boulder are all so smart and all so helpful…
Tyler Crowley: Very embracing, yeah.
Jason Calacanis: Friendly. They embrace everybody. It’s just a bunch of hippies over there. It’s like, everybody go…
Tyler Crowley: It’s all that clean spring water they’re drinking…
Jason Calacanis: I don’t know what it is with the people of Boulder, but it’s like, you go to Boulder and it’s like, you know, it’s like ten o’clock on Sunday and you go to brunch and it’s like yeah, I just did yoga, and then I did a triathlon, and I read the New York Times cover to cover and I just did meditation, I get my acupuncture and now I’m gonna eat some steamed broccoli. And you’re like, it’s just ten o’clock, I just drank my third cup of coffee and I’m still asleep. What is wrong with you people of Boulder? They’re all so, oh yeah, I got a double, I got my MBA from Harvard and then I got a double Ph.D in Molecular Biology and Philosophy and uh, yeah, then I sold my company, but I was climbing Mount Everest when I sold it and the satellite phone went out. And you’re like, what? These people are all like superhumans.
Tyler Crowley: It’s like Brad Feld interesting Leerans.
Jason Calacanis: He’s in Alaska, he’s in Venice, he’s in…
Tyler Crowley: Credibly with all these marathon…
Jason Calacanis: He does ultra-marathons. Everybody’s a superhero in Boulder. So the answer is, put the Tulsa question back up, if you don’t mind. So the startup scene does matter. And on the question of joining or starting, um, if you’re a developer, you can make your own thing, but generally that’s kinda lonely to do that, I would get two or three people together, or I would look, I would really become a great developer, become a great front-end developer, back-end developer, whatever. Get those skills really tight, or be in user interface and design, get those skills really tight. Those are the two really in demand. And then I would join a company in Boulder or TexSTAR, New York or Seattle, any of those TexSTAR programs, founders’ institute wouldn’t be bad either, you’ll learn some stuff there, but founders’ institute, you sort of join and try to create a company while you’re there, so that’s not bad. You’re not gonna get into venture capital, so I’ll leave that off the table. Your venture capital slots are limited to you know, all boys network like, did you go to, you know, who was your roommate at Harvard Business School and maybe you enter venture capital, or successful entrepreneurs, so unless you’ve the ability to go to Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School or your brother’s cousin who you play polo with at the, you know, whatever club, you know, know somebody at some venture firm, you’re not getting in. Unless you have a big track record or you know somebody, so skip that. But make your bones in these incubators and accelerators, they’re incredible. In LA, we’ve six of them. And let me tell you, you just go the accelerators and say I’m a developer, can I just sit here? They’ll be like, yeah just sit right there and wait, I would go, this is what I’d do if I were to get my skill up, go to one of those places and say, can I tour all the startups and then pick which one I join? They’ll be like, you know how to code, yes.
Tyler Crowley: LA would not be bad right now, because there’s a bunch of good startups, the bunch that are doing incubators and they could use more developers, so.
Jason Calacanis: You need to have skill, you need to have hard work. You know, that’s the key thing. I’m always shocked at the number of people who wanna work thirty five hours a week, forty hours a week, they don’t even wanna put in fifty hours a week, or sixty hours a week. They’re like, aah, I don’t wanna work fifty or sixty hours a week. Then you really shouldn’t be at a startup company, what are you doing there, like get out of the startup company. If you wanna work like thirty, forty hours a week, like, go to a post office, go to a wherever. I mean people at the post office probably work harder than thirty hours a week. But you gotta be a different type of place. Basically, if you wanna work thirty to forty hours a week, there’s probably no place left for you in the, you know, world. Because the world’s so competitive.
Tyler Crowley: Sweden. You can go to Sweden.
Jason Calacanis: I know, you can go to Sweden, where it’s just like old lifestyle days.
Tyler Crowley: Or Portland or somewhere like that.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, maybe some of those places, but then you really have to have a great job, if you wanna have that kinda balance in your life. And those, you’ve to have a really great skill. You gotta refine your skills.
Tyler Crowley: I’ve to re-track my…
Jason Calacanis: And work your…
Tyler Crowley: … could have a really good startup. Gimme an idea there.
Jason Calacanis: I know that. But I’m saying, just in terms of work ethic, you need to have a tremendous work ethic to make it in the world today I think. And skill.
Tyler Crowley: Especially in technology.
Jason Calacanis: Skill and work ethic. Skill and work ethic. And they don’t seem to teach either of those skills in school. There’s nobody teaching work ethic and there’s nobody teaching skills. Everybody’s like, what do you wanna do to fulfill, yourself and your dreams and your hopes. Nobody wants to learn goddamn craft anymore and be good at something. How about you shut up, you put your head down, and you learn how to use a goddamn hammer, or a sickle or a, you know, something and have some craftsmanship to what you do. That’s what the world needs. The world doesn’t need to fulfill your self-indulgent nonsense about, you know, you wanna save the world or the wells. Save yourself and get a goddamn skill, people. What’s wrong with you people? The world is going to leave you behind, chew you up and spit you out if you don’t have any skills. Literally, it’s getting more and more competitive. This is the world’s competition and this is you. What do you think’s gonna happen if you’re just maintaining your skill level like, the last time you did something interesting or learn something was like sophomore year in college or something. You need to constantly be on this skill, increasing your skills. I am forty one goddamn years old, and I made my money, I don’t even need to be here. I’m still trying to get better at what I do. I’m studying Howard Stern, I’m studying Charlie Rose, I’m studying how to be a great interviewer. And then Chris Sacca was like, finally I did it, I felt very proud of myself that I was able to get out of the way and do a good interview. And Sacca said to me like, you’re the best interviewer I’ve ever heard. My heart just like bubbled up, like, oh my God, I’m getting better as an interviewer. I’m trying to be better at what I do and these goddamn people out there in the world, they don’t wanna get better and then they want more rewards, they want a goddamn private jet, but they don’t want to increase their skill level. Put your head down, and get better at a skill, people.
Tyler Crowley: What was the question again?
Jason Calacanis: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to go crazy on people but I’m literally dealing with this every day of my life. Every day of my life I meet people and I’m literally, I can’t take it anymore. And you know, I don’t even say it to people anymore, I just have people who say it to people, or I’m just like, that’s really cool and I walk away and then I shake my head and go, that person is gonna be dog meat. Like literally, when they cut up all the prime cuts, they take all the scraps, you know, the ugly disgusting scraps and they grind them up and they feed ‘em to dogs or pigs. That’s what these people are going to be in society. They’re just scraps, they’re scraps. They don’t have any skill, and no desire to work hard.
Tyler Crowley: Let me ask you something. Francisco Dao wrote a really good post on this point, recently, which is, is it because, and I think it was in Pando Daily by the way. Is it because, as a society here, like especially in technology, there’s a, there’s a recent trend of not telling people when they’re doing something wrong.
Jason Calacanis: Of course there is. Everybody’s scared to death of telling somebody you suck, ‘cause oh my God, I’m gonna lose a developer, oh my God, I’m gonna lose somebody. You know what, when I raise the standards at my companies, and recently I did do that at Mahalo. I raised the standard, ‘cause I wanted the content better. We did one thing. We set a start time of eight o’clock, seven o’clock, nine o’clock for different groups. Once we did that, like three people quit. And I was like, oh if you don’t appreciate the job enough to get in here at eight o’clock and do it, and you don’t have that discipline and to be an Olympic caliber person, great, quit! You know, I don’t mean to be a Nazi about it, but you know, it is a tell, you know, if you don’t wanna commit to working hard and being consistent, like I do the show, three times a goddamn week, and I think about my performance and listen to my past performances and try to get better at it.
Tyler Crowley: Separate from that, if, when people have ideas, the guy with the crab idea…
Jason Calacanis: Right.
Tyler Crowley: Should, should we be, should this, should the startup culture in America be a little more forthcoming about saying that’s a bad idea. Because in England, they kinda do it through a fault, right.
Jason Calacanis: Oh yeah, they just, they crush everything. I don’t think that his idea is amazing bright, but I do think it will lead him to an amazing idea eventually if he gets some kind of traction, so maybe people do want those delivered but maybe the business is, there’s twenty different artisanal foods that you can charge a premium for and he’s gonna deliver them in packages and you get all ten artisanal foods and it’s a five hundred dollar ticket item. Or maybe he’ll go into private, there might be something that he’ll learn in that process, and also the process of getting one project off the ground is a great way to get the next project off the ground. That’s how we all start in this world. So, I don’t wanna tell him it’s a terrible idea, and he’s an up-and-comer yet, but I do think that he needed to hear that, like hey, let’s stop crying about it because there’s a minimal viable product here. Email, Twitter, I mean, a phone number, an 800 number. 800-getcrabs. Got crabs. I gave him the idea. 800-getcrabs or gotcrabs. You gave me the got crabs, I did get crabs. That’s a double entendre, it’s hysterical, that’s memorable. And people, like guys who’re drunk at a frat party or at a bar, like you got crabs, you know who got crabs, yeah watch this, I’m gonna order crabs right effin’ now. And they’ll put two hundred dollars on their credit card when they’re drunk at two in the morning and they’ll get their crabs and they’ll be like, got crabs, get it, haha, crabs, on your balls, you have crabs. Next caller please. Who’s the next caller?
Jason Calacanis: You’re on. Who’s this?
Dane Witbeck: Dane Witbeck, down in Eastern Texas.
Jason Calacanis: Ah, Dane, how you doing? Where you from, Dane?
Dane Witbeck: You know, we’re working very hard down here, so there’s still hope for America, Jason, don’t worry about it.
Jason Calacanis: America is F-ed. Oh, so royally F-ed. This country is going down the tubes so fast.
Dane Witbeck: Well our company’s doing what we can to make sure we’re working long weeks, long days, make sure we get this…
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, work smart, no doubt. You know, it’s not the number of hours, it’s the amount of output, but you know, usually there’s a correlation. So Dane, what is your question? We’re running outta time. We gotta get going.
Dane Witbeck: Yeah sure, So just a brief background, so we started our company in 2010 around energy management. So it’s an internet of things company that connects thermostats, wireless temperature sensors, order controllers, if you’re in that type of building.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, love it.
Dane Witbeck: Yeah I think, to give you more efficient user of fuel or electricity. And we start building our vertical market, and we have over twenty buildings in New York City and New Jersey that use that slow change, over two thousand households that, for their heating in the winter. And we’re really happy about that. Around May this year, we just couldn’t shake the idea that we had something, you know, bigger in mind, even better, and that ideally was sort of a platform for it, one where we could internet enable a lot of different prices. I’m gonna need a lot of similar features, uh, for example, giving a little space, notification engine, giving graphs and charts based on any kind of data that’s coming in. So we started working on that platform play, and we got it going pretty well now. We got a lot of interest in it, and now we sorta have this problem because we’re building two companies, we have our energy management vertical that is on top of our platform and we have the platform company that’s a separate company. And as I picture those two companies at scale, they look very very different.
Jason Calacanis: Great.
Dane Witbeck: And, I’m trying to figure out what to do there.
Jason Calacanis: Okay, this is what we call a high-class problem and happens all the time. You become good at one thing, and then you find another idea that’s even better. High-class problem. Like we had before, Greg was on talking about his crab thing, he hasn’t even gotten it off the ground, and here you are with two viable businesses that you love. One is energy, you know, people using the energy management platform and one is building out this internet of things platform…
Tyler Crowley: This is not uncommon by the way.
Jason Calacanis: Happens all the time. And by the way, it happens, and then people spit it out so there was a company called Vignette. CNET was you know, good at being a content site on the web, they needed a content publishing platform. Nobody had a good one, they made one and they realize, wow this is really good, other people want to use their platform, other people started using their platform. Then they realized, hey we got all these people who want to use our platform to build their websites. This is in the nineties. And then we have our content business, one that requires enterprise sales people and software people, and one requires journalists and media sales people, and how do we run this? And they have different margins. They spun Vignette out, they took it public, they made a sugar ton of money. That’s what you need to do. You need to sell the services business and then just have the platform business. Or, you need to put somebody in charge of each business, and have two different business units under the same startup and then have different PNLs and maybe even different offices and you know, maybe they just collaborate once in a while. But that’s gonna be hard. And a lot of times, people spin out the services side of their businesses and then when they get really big, then they buy services businesses to add them to software businesses. So actually down the road, software and services is a nice combination. But you may need to have a general manager for each, so like Oracle and IBM, they’ll sell software and they’ll sell solutions right, they’ll sell, so this is a pretty common, um and…
Dane Witbeck: To be clear, with energy management platforms we don’t technically do the services on it either. So we’re doing the technology back-end there as well…
Jason Calacanis: So it’s basically two platforms.
Dane Witbeck: Well, in that vertical market, it’s not so flexible that I’d call it platform, but it’s also technologically, technologically. And so other people, you know, distributors and service people are out there servicing these buildings and working with us on that, on that product, in the vertical, so…
Jason Calacanis: But you think it’s never gonna become a huge business is the issue?
Dane Witbeck: I guess not, I guess not big enough. It can be big, but maybe not big enough big enough.
Jason Calacanis: Good. You know, this is a serious like, board level, founder level discussion, that it’ll be very hard for us to come up with a definitive answer, but what I can give you is what you need to think about when making the decision and one is which business are you going to enjoy going to work every day and building more, which one do you have more passion for because if you clearly have more passion for this platform play. Then if you do the other one, it’s always gonna be the stepchild, the ugly stepchild, that you don’t love, better to have somebody with no kids adopt that one and just love that kid as much as they can and then you focus on your baby. That’s the sort of situation you’re in. I think you might want to let this one go to pasture or wind it down or let whoever the person is who has the passion the organization spin it out, you guys keep twenty percent dummy insurance equity in it or something or over, you know, over a five-year cliff, they get to vest, you know, some significant amount of equity in it and you get to get your money out of it to fund the other business. Some, some glide path, what would I call it, a glide path or something like that, but you have to pick this based on the founder and the founding team’s passion, which idea do you have the most passion for, that’s gonna lead you to the right answer. Right now it seems like you have more passion for this platform play, you don’t have passion for the other thing, and so that’s how I would make the decision. Tyler, you have any thoughts?
Tyler Crowley: I was kinda surprised that you did come to the passion thing, that’s what I was waiting to say, but, so we have the same advice there, which is, um, and it’s a Steve Jobs kinda line where it’s gonna be very very hard whichever one you do, and you have this point as well which is they’re going to be equally hard, you gotta put your hundred percent into either of them.
Jason Calacanis: Sure, so pick something big.
Tyler Crowley: Pick the one that’s big and…
Jason Calacanis: And passion.
Tyler Crowley: And you gotta do something that you’re passionate about.
Jason Calacanis: Swing for the fences. Go for the thing that you’re passionate about. You only get one, uh, what’s the hashtag now? You only live once?
Tyler Crowley: Yes. Y-O-L-?
Jason Calacanis: O.
Tyler Crowley: Y-O-L-O, yeah.
Jason Calacanis: Y-O-L-O. YOLO! YOLO?!
Tyler Crowley: Yeah.
Jason Calacanis: A lot of people, well the kids are saying that. YOLO! You only live once. So do the thing you’re most passionate about, swing for the fences, and you’re gonna do just fine. And you gotta wind the other one down, find somebody who loves doing it. You could open source it as another thing people do, like hey, we don’t want this project to die, but we open sourced it. Is that what you’re thinking, Dane?
Dane Witbeck: Well, open source doesn’t work too well for this. It needs a lot of attention from somebody who can train people, how to go out and install these buildings, how to maintain them. I don’t think that’s gonna work to well in open source. For the energy management…
Jason Calacanis: Can you spin those people out though? Do you have two or three employees who you could spin out and who would want to take it on as their own company and you can have a little bit of upside in it and they can take the majority of the upside?
Dane Witbeck: Yeah, you know, that’s a really interesting uh, point that you bring up there and I’ve imagined one path that we could take, which is similar to a company, you know, well science, where we make our core business building these verticals and finding the right people who run ‘em and finding the best opportunities, you know, within the internet of things for a platform.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah, that’s a great idea. Yeah, it gives you, ‘cause a lot of times when people have platforms they can’t find people to actually build on the platform, they got to jumpstart the platform. So what you’re doing there is, you’re jumpstarting the platform. You’re saying, hey here’s, you know, a use case for the platform, these energy, you know, aware buildings, but we don’t have the time to run it and you’ll spend more time on it and focus on it, so go take this business and run with it. Just make sure you pay us back you know, something for our trouble and uh, I think that’s a great idea.
Dane Witbeck: Can I have one sneaky follow-up question?
Jason Calacanis: Sure sure.
Dane Witbeck: Do you have any advice on the, on which venture capital sponsors or investors are most interested in internet of things, who you’ve seen being successful and have experience in internet of things?
Jason Calacanis; That’s a good question. Who would be interested in the internet of things, it’s really who’s gonna be interested in networks, right so I think somebody who had experience previously with networks would be somebody I would think would be interested, so what is a networked device.
Tyler Crowley: At the same time, those people are very critical ‘cause they have domain expertise in that area.
Jason Calacanis: That’s true. But they might be critical and successful, so that’s what you want in some cases. So that’s a double at short right, they could be a little bit of a headache…
Tyler Crowley: Just be prepared for the…
Jason Calacanis: Yes of course. They’re gonna be super critical or whatever so, they might have some buyers, but I would say, who invested in what network device that became very popular. Wi-fi. Linksys, right? Right, that was a network, right? So, somebody who invested in Sonos, who is the investor in Sonos, or Crestron, you know the home automation systems, people are like, oh that’s an internet of things. Those are things that ping back to a server. Somebody who actually invested in a network management company like one of the, you know, network server management companies that I look at and say, oh yeah, people paid money, thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, to monitor all these servers. Corporations did. Well, corporations are individuals, individuals are corporations sort of interest, you know, interchangeable and you know, on a conceptual basis, countries, companies, individuals. So individuals might have a network of things for families that have networks of things that they want to manage, their refrigerator, their toaster, their pool. You know, how do we, you know, the people who do network management would understand this analogy and they might have gotten rich and now they’re building this twenty thousand square foot-ten thousand square foot mausoleum/home tribute to themselves and they want to put this, you know, nonsense in their house, and know when their toaster oven is over-burning the toast right, so you get somebody who is like, you know, calling in rich and has, the reason they called in rich was because they’ve invested in a networking company. So I’ll be looking to the networking companies, that would be where I would go, ‘cause those people would start to get it and and they’ve probably put in a Crestron system, system. They might have a pool that’s self-aware. They might have an app on their phone to look at, like I have an app to look at the video of the security cameras at Mahalo or at my house, you know, I got eight security cameras on my house, I can look at them at any time. I mean bad looking at my iPhone making sure number is jumping over to fence. The dogs will bite their leg off, you know. And those people are just gonna get it. They’re gonna just get naturally that all the things should be interconnected and they’re gonna have some relationship and I love this concept of, if internet enabled device does X, other internet device does Y. Or if X happens on the internet, Y happens with this connected device, so if weather is rain, then windows closed. If forecast is snow, then driveway heater, you know, floor, something out in the driveways, the radiant heat. The driveway radiant heat goes on. So if the forecast is for snow, the radiant heat in the driveway goes on is such a crazy brilliant idea.
Tyler Crowley: Yeah, I’m sitting here thinking, like that’s a great idea.
Jason Calacanis: Isn’t it? It’s a really good idea. This is your idea?
Dane Witbeck: It’s the kind of stuff that platform makes really easy to do.
Jason Calacanis: That is a really genius idea. I really love what you’re doing.
Tyler Crowley: If it’s really mobile driven from an interface stand point, then things like Qualcomm ventures and they love stuff like that.
Jason Calacanis: That’s true too. So Intel, Qualcomm uh, and Cisco, they love the idea of more things being networked in the world, and they would look at investing in you as a way to just do a little bit of R&D. They might give you five dimes, you know, five high societies, then they start calling five hundred societies, he goes five million. Ten dimes is ten thousand, I’m not gonna call high society ten. They may give you five hundred societies, that’s too much, what would you call like a, you know we’ll call a million a chamat. They’ll give you five chamat. They might give you five chamats, it’s the new currency. You have dimes, which is a thousand right. Five dimes is five thousand. You have, high society’s ten, cranberry’s twenty five and a chamat is a million, ‘cause he went into the one drop right, the million-dollar poker tournament. So it’s called a million. You might be able to get two or three chamats out of Intel, because they just want to have more networked devices out there. I love your idea. God, that’s a good idea.
Tyler Crowley: There’s similar, the folks at the…
Jason Calacanis: When you gonna launch that thing? The internet of things. When do you think that’s gonna come out?
Dane Witbeck: So we’re gonna be doing a big promo push here at startup weekend here in Houston on November 9th, where we’re gonna internet enable a new device in forty eight hours.
Jason Calacanis: So here’s what I want you to do. Listen. Listen to me.
Tyler Crowley: Be careful with your intellectual property on that one.
Jason Calacanis: Listen to… Everybody stop for a second, listen to me.
Tyler Crowley: You’ve to get people in your team for startup weekend.
Jason Calacanis: Did I not say listen to me?
Tyler Crowley: I’m listening.
Jason Calacanis: Listen to me. Dane, the launch conference is first week in March, I’m charging you with launching something spectacular on my stage. In order for it to launch something on my stage, it’s gonna have to be brilliant. So you’ll be in the 2.0 competition. And that means you need to get to work now. You need to think about what would wild the audience and how you can make this and how you gonna win hundreds and thousands of dollars of investment live on my stage. That’s it.
Dane Witbeck: I like it. I like it.
Jason Calacanis: You’re gonna be on stage, I wanna see progress.
Dane Witbeck: And the deal is you’ve to launch on stage right? No launching prior to that?
Jason Calacanis: No launching prior. This has to be secret, so you’ve to build something in stealth. Nobody, no press can see it. But on stage, I want you to wow, I’ve Chris Sacca as a judge, I’ve Evan Williams as a judge, I’ll have George Zachary as a judge, Mike Arrington as a judge, Cyan banister as a judge, well maybe not the Arrington, we’ll see.
Dane Witbeck: That’d be fun.
Jason Calacanis: That’d be funny, huh? He’ll never do it.
Dane Witbeck: So so, can I go ahead and get an invite right now and we’ll hold off on the launch until that date?
Jason Calacanis: Listen, if it’s great, I’m gonna guarantee you a spot, but it’s gotta be great okay. So it’s contingent on greatness. And you know my email.
Dane Witbeck: Well, it’s great, I can tell you that.
Jason Calacanis: All right. It’s gotta look great though. The design has to be there, you have to show my judges and then you’ve to have to have concept and design, execution has to be there as well. So keep it tight.
Dane Witbeck: I’m ping you soon and you’ll see it.
Jason Calacanis: All right. Okay. You send me the secret mocks, I’m under friend-D-A, just put me under friend-D-A, that’s a friend-D-A. We’ll try to raise couple of chamats for you. Listen, thank you at stamps.com for making a great product. Everybody go to stamps.com, click the microphone, use the code TWIST. Really, great guys over there, great gals over there. I’d really appreciate that. Those guys have been making those products for over ten years and they do a great job. Love you guys over at stamps.com, and to my friends at GoToMeeting. Meeting is believing. Thank you Citrix for all your support. I mean, Citrix is now along with mailChimp becoming like one of the longest-running sponsors of this program and you really, If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to thank @gotomeeting and thank @stampscom on your Twitter account. Really, thanking the sponsors really makes them renew their contracts and they renew their contracts, then we can do better shows and more shows, we need these partners, and these partners are backing the programs to the tune. Almost seven figures a year, almost to one million dollars in revenue, and that’s why the production value keeps going up, we can spend more money on microphones, compressors.
Tyler Crowley: Audience really drives the quality of the show.
Jason Calacanis: The audience is driving the show now. It’s out of control. And here I was gonna retire. You guys pulled me back in, I love it. I’m recharged after the Sacca interview.
Tyler Crowley: The whole launch conference thing’s starting to ramp up already.
Jason Calacanis: Oh man, we’re starting to sell out.
Tyler Crowley: Speaking of which, there was in the news today, Cabana, who launched…
Jason Calacanis: Cabana? Who launched at the year four launch conference.
Tyler Crowley: They were just acquired by Twitter.
Jason Calacanis: Yeah? I guess it’s a knack you hire. So it sounds like a single or a double but good for them.
Tyler Crowley: I’m a little angel investor in that.
Jason Calacanis: Oh, you got your beak wet?!
Tyler Crowley: No, beak wet…
Jason Calacanis: Did you put cash in it or you get advisor shares?
Tyler Crowley: I’m listed on as an investor on their website.
Jason Calacanis: Okay, very good. But I think it’s advisor shares. But does that mean you got a low cashy-cash coming? Low cashy-cash?
Tyler Crowley: I think they didn’t disclose in the report what the details of it was.
Jason Calacanis: You got a little cash. You got your beak wet. Look at you. And you’re wearing your space monkey shirt.
Tyler Crowley: Oh, I am wearing my, speaking of launch, yeah.
Jason Calacanis: Speaking of launch, yeah. Big announcements from them coming. I just had them here by the office. All right, thank you everybody. We’ll see you next time. Oh, and stay tuned for This Week In Web Design coming up next. We’re gonna keep the stream going live. We’ll see you next time. Bye!