How did a guy working out of a basement office with a leaky roof in Asia build a multimillion dollar digital marketing agency?
In 1999, Jay Shapiro launched BLUE. 8 years later, he sold it to WPP, the multinational advertising and public relations company.
I invited him to tell us how he did it, and to talk about his latest company, Infinite Monkeys, a self-service platform that enables ordinary people who can’t code to create their own mobile apps.
Jay Shapiro, Infinite Monkeys
Jay Shapiro is the founder of Infinite Monkeys, a self-service platform that enables ordinary people who can’t code to create their own mobile apps.
Andrew: Hey, there are a few things I want to make sure that you catch in this interview, because you’re going to be upset if you miss them. The first is the way that this entrepreneur, who you’re going to meet kept his big clients from knowing that he was working from a tiny operation from a basement with a leaky roof. Check out how he did it.
Also, check out what he did, to keep a potential acquirer, someone who wanted to buy his business from knowing that he had gone blind. It’s an amazing story and you’re not going to want to miss it. In fact, even if you don’t watch this video scroll through the transcript and make sure you catch that section. Finally, and you don’t want to actually scroll and reveal this. Why this founder brought a box with dry ice into a meeting. It’ll shock you. Let it unfold within this interview, it’s all coming up and so much more.
Listen up. I hate to have commercials interrupt this interview, so I’m going to tell you about three sponsors quickly now, and then we’re going to go right into the program; starting with Walker Corporate Law. If you need a lawyer who understands the start-up world and the tech community, I want you to go to walkercorporatelaw.com.
Next I want to tell you about Shopify. When your friend asks you, “How can I sell something online”, I want you to send them to Shopify and explain to them that Shopify stores are easy to set up, they increase sales, and they’ll make your friends’ products look great. Shopify.
Finally, I want to tell you about Grasshopper. Do you want a phone number that people can call, and then press one for sales, two for tech, support, etc… Have all of the calls be routed to the right person’s cell phone? Well, get your number from grasshopper.com. Alright, let’s get started.
Hey there freedom fighters. I am the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How did a guy, working out of a basement office with a leaky roof in Asia, build a multimillion dollar digital marketing agency? In 1999 Jay Shapiro launched Blue. Eight years later he sold it to WPP, the multinational advertising and Public Relations Company. I invited him to tell the story about how he did it and I also want to talk about his latest company, Infinite Monkeys. It’s a self-service platform that enables ordinary people who can’t code, to create their own mobile apps.
Andrew: Jay, congratulations and welcome.
Jay: Thanks a lot. Good to be here.
Andrew: You’re a fan of Mixergy so you probably can anticipate my first question which is, what did you sell your business for?
Jay: I’m not allowed to talk about the actual numbers, but I’ll tell you it was in the eight figures.
Andrew: Eight figures, so over $10 million.
Jay: That’s right.
Andrew: Were you a millionaire before the deal?
Jay: I was definitely not a millionaire before the deal. [laughs] […SS…] I can put a negative in front of it maybe almost, but no.
Andrew: How about afterwards?
Andrew: And this all started, because of something that happened at the IT company that you worked at in Asia. They wanted you basically to let go of your customers, right?
Jay: Yeah, I was working for Publicist Technology which was basically the integrated marketing arm for IT companies. Part of the Publicist’s French Global Ad Network and it was 1998-99. We were working with IT companies doing integrated marketing which was really when the internet was just starting to boom. The .com was really happening.
In all their wisdom in Paris they decided they basically wanted us to build websites for Lancome and Reno [SP} and the various French brands. It was a huge step backwards. Basically, a hundred-and-thirty people all left, because they gave us such opportunity. Marketing…
Andrew: What is they wanted you to build websites and that was a missed opportunity?
Jay: That was a step backwards, because we were doing sole integrated marketing. We were doing websites but we were also doing CRM. We were doing data analysis. We were doing direct marketing. We were doing the whole gamut for INT. But they said, “Oh, you’ve got technology in your name. That must mean you’re a web shop. Can you build websites for us?” It just didn’t make since, so everybody left.
The founder who sold the company to publicists in London had already gotten his R note so he walked away. Everybody that was in San Francisco at the time, there was about five of us in Singapore, and I went around to all of my clients and said, “What do you value more? Is it the brand of publicist or is it the team? If it’s the team then come with us, because we’re going over here.” I started Blue. At that time it was called Blue Sphere Interactive, which is a very .com-y name.
Andrew: Why? What’s the logic behind Blue Sphere Interactive? The name?
Jay: There wasn’t any. There was a white board with a bunch of names and I had a contest to see what would be the best.
Jay: The story of how we launched, it was kind of funny though. We were Blue Sphere Interactive and around, I guess 2001, EDS, Ross Perot’s company, decided they really wanted to get into the internet. This was just pre-911, and they said, in their logo they had a blue circle behind the EDS. And they said oh that would be kind of cool, so they called themselves Blue Sphere. And the guy who owned bluesphere.com, which wasn’t me, had been trying to sell me the domain for a couple of years for like $50,000 and I knew he was ripping me off and I said no way. And he called me up one day and he says I’ve got somebody who’s going to pay me a quarter of a million dollars for the domain but since I’ve been talking to you already I thought I’d give you first rights of refusal. I said go away. I was a start-up. And sure enough a couple of months later EDS launched this small start-up spinoff with 2,700 employees called Blue Sphere. And they were marketing to HP, we were doing HP. So I sent them a lawyer’s letter saying please cease and desist, you’re causing confusion in the market. We’re Blue Sphere, we had trademarked the name already and everything. And they sent us back this fantastic lawyer’s letter. I still have it. It said thank you for letting us know. Please be advised we have more lawyers than you have employees. We suggest you change your name.
Andrew: Is that really what they said?
Jay: Yes. They actually put it in a letter. I cannot believe it. And so we became Blue, which is a much better name anyhow. So that’s how the venture was born.
Andrew: Oh, what a great letter to send out. It’s ballsy, and it’s painful, and it’s wrong, and it’s great.
Jay: Absolutely. That’s why I kept it.
Andrew: So what was going to be your focus when you launched Blue Sphere Interactive?
Jay: It was really what we were doing already, which was integrated marketing for IT clients, and then we shifted to Fortune 500 clients across the gamut starting in Asia but then leveraging that international experience and being able to do multi-culture multi-lingual marketing. We then went to Europe, and then to North America.
Andrew: I’ve got a list of all the things you did here, everything from demand to rapport. It’s rapport, right?
Andrew: A whole list of stuff but it’s still hard for me to fully picture it. Can you give me an example of a customer that you worked with in the early days? Maybe one of the first ones, and what you did for them, so I could understand?
Jay: Sure. My very first client, a fantastic client who I’m still good friends with today, Heidi Lorenza at Polycom, who actually I’m speaking out of Polycom today. They converted me as a brand.
Andrew: It’s a great mic.
Jay: It’s a great mic, it’s a great thing, but unfortunately they’ve lost their way as a company, but in those days they were a great company. We would do their full integrated marketing, so we would set up their customer database, we’d set up their content management system for their websites, we would do promotions, we’d design the e-mails that got sent out to their customers, the whole thing. We would do their search marketing which in those days was SEO submissions. And then it just grew from there, to the point where in Times Square in New York on the NASDAQ building they were running our ads on the side of the building on the TV screens. So it really just kind of grew from there.
Andrew: That’s a whole lot of things. How many people did you start your business with?
Jay: It was me, a designer, and a project manager both junior, in a third floor walk-up apartment in Chinatown in Singapore. We started with a $10,000 angel investment from my old manager and publicist who had faith in me. Unfortunately he had signed his contract and I hadn’t. And it worked out very, very well for him.
Andrew: So Jay, I’m trying to imagine these companies that are going to then hire you. Just a small operation, in Chinatown, in the middle of nowhere, they’re going to trust you with all these different services? How did you get them to say yes?
Jay: Well, it wasn’t from the beginning, obviously. We grew.
Andrew: So what did you start doing for your first customer?
Jay: It was probably in the e-mail marketing side, and the search side. And then in those days it was really building micro sites for campaigns and promotions. And you just kind of roll from one end to the next and next. And what’s beautiful about Asia and Singapore in particular, Singapore is the regional headquarters for most of Asia for a lot of the big multi- national companies, is that it’s really incestuous. And so clients move around, and if you make somebody really satisfied at one company chances are within 18 months they’re going to go to another company – if they love you they’ll take you with. And that’s how we got HP, and then we got Cisco, and then Procter and Gamble, and Johnson and Johnson, and it just kind of grew from there. Until in the end when I sold it we had over 200 people. It was just under 200 people.
Andrew: How did you know what to start with? To start with micro sites, to start with email marketing, you didn’t…
Jay: I started with what the clients wanted.
Andrew: And so you had relationships with clients and you said, “Look, you know us. You know the work that we do. Would you come with us if we start a new business,” essentially, and they said yes to it?
Jay: That’s right and don’t be fooled by the fact that these are big brands. I always believe there is no such thing as HP a company. They’re just collections of people and those people have careers and individual needs, same as anybody else and if you can identify who within those companies are the movers and the shakers, who are going to grow, you can identify what do they need in their careers? And you can make them look good in front of their managers, then they will take you along with them. I just sent an email last week to my very first client from HP, it’s sadly almost 20 years ago at this point, and she’s now the regional vice president for all of marketing for Hewlett Packard. These people grow and she was junior as us when we started. None of us knew what we were doing. But you learn.
Andrew: You know what? I saw that in my research that you believe that, and you’ve experienced that, you don’t sell to HP, you sell to a guy at HP and then you build that relationship with his co-workers at HP and then when one of them moves on to another company, brings you along, when I read that I was expecting a totally different person from the person who’s photo I see when I go to CrunchBase. Who’s got the facial hair, who’s got the cool look to him, I feel like you look more like a musician than a guy who’s going to schmooze and network with me for years. How do you do it then?
Jay: Just, you know what? Be friendly first of all and I’m huge believer in Karma. You get back what you give. And if you make people look good and you do random acts of kindness and you give them free stuff for their campaigns or you just [??] that presentation for their manager that’s tomorrow at 5:00 that they haven’t prepared themselves and you do their slides for them all night. They’ll remember it. Ultimately that’s the thing of a service business.
Andrew: I see. How did you learn to do that, to build those kinds of relationships?
Jay: I had a great mentor, Duncan Ironside at Publicist [SP] who was the manager [??] Investment, who was a professional schmoozer. Every Wednesday Duncan was not in the office because he was on the golf course, he just had a standing order ever Wednesday he golfed and it would always be with some client or prospective client and that’s what he did. He was not a particularly great marketer and he knew nothing about technology but he was a great salesman.
Andrew: I worked for a great salesman at Dale Carnegies years ago and one of the things that I learned from watching him was before he went in to talk to a company he would duck into the lobby of another building next door to the building that he wanted to go into. He gave himself some time to compose himself, cleaned himself up if the walk made him sweat a little bit, and then he’d walk in and immediately start talking to the first person who he saw. If it was a receptionist you would be his best friend, he would check in with her. He would often have those golden books that Dale Carnegie wrote and he might hand them out to people. It was those little touches that I picked up on and I learned and I think I’ve integrated into my life. What did you see from Duncan that showed you how to network and how to really build real relationships with the people you’re working with?
Jay: I think you’re onto it right there with your manager. Is be friends with everybody, because you never know who they’re going to become first of all, especially in small circles. Don’t make enemies, and be best friends with the receptionist because the receptionist, especially at the big [??] are incredibly important to you as an intelligent source. They’ll tell you when the boss from America is in this week or when George doesn’t want to see you and he’s actually there but he’s really p***ed off or whatever. Those are good friends to have. So I bring muffins or donuts or whatever maybe to the receptionist and just say, “I saw you’re still sitting here. You didn’t have lunch. Thinking of you and brought [??]” Just random acts of kindness, people remember that, and love it. And I’ll tell you one of the worst jobs I had and one of the most valuable jobs I had, was when I dropped out of University I worked at a disc jockey company and during the nights I was a DJ and during the days I would work the phones selling DJ services for Bar Mitzvahs and weddings and stuff. It was awful. But, we did 600, 700 parties a year. That’s a lot of no’s that you get. Just working the phones and pounding it and pounding it, taught me how to sell. And I think it’s probably the most valuable experience I learned in my career.
Andrew: You went to the National University of Singapore, right?
Jay: That’s when I went for my grad school, for my master’s degree.
Andrew: I see. Wilfrid Laurier [SP] University, that’s where you got your BA?
Jay: Laurier, that’s right.
Andrew: How did you end up in Singapore? Was it for school?
Jay: [laughs] No. I went to Laurier for computer science. I was paying my own way. I was working nights at UPS in the warehouse in the snow in Canada. It was awful. And I would go to school until six and then work until midnight or 1 am, come home, try to study for [finals], then go back to school. It just didn’t work out. So I dropped out after two years, started a venture startup with my couple of roommates called Fax Net. That failed. Then I worked for this disc jockey company. My life was horrible. I was in debt. I was fat. I was not doing anything at all of value.
And my best friend from high school who coincidentally is now my co-founder at Infinite Monkeys had gone into a different career path from me. He’d gone into theatre. And he got a job on Phantom of the Opera on the global tour going to Asia. I said, “You’ve got to get me a job on that,” and somehow he did. They agreed that if I paid my own way and just happened to be in Singapore on the first day of the work, that I would have a job. They wouldn’t pay for me to get there but (?). And so I did. I bought myself a ticket, I got to Asia, and I worked as a carpenter. And I fell in love with Asia. I straightened my life out and made enough money to be able to go back to Canada, finish my degree, go back to school. As soon as I graduated I got on the next plane and went back to Singapore.
Andrew: Let’s do a little before and after. Before this turn around, what was going on in your head. Talk about maybe, if you could, your inner critic. What was the doubt that was playing in your head?
Jay: First of all, I knew from the beginning I make a very poor employee. That’s a lesson that’s been repeated over and over again in my life. But the inner critic at that point was telling me that as a small guy, you can’t succeed in business. I had a great product that I thought would do really well, we were selling to UPS, and it failed miserably and I lost my shirt on it.
Andrew: Why did you fail? This is Fax Net. Why did Fax Net fail?
Jay: Well, first of all, it was bound to fail anyhow. It was a terrible idea now that I think about it. UPS spent $3 million a year on long- distance on just faxing their daily reports back in the day. But they had these IP connections for their ordering systems and for their drivers’ systems. I said, “Well, okay. Let’s take the fax machines and build this little device that digitizes it, send it through the IP.” What’s funny is the reason why it didn’t work, people said to us, you can’t use the internet for commercial traffic like that. You’ll clog up the pipes sending UPS’s faxes through the internet.
Andrew: You mean you’ll make the internet worse for all of us? (?) send faxes on it. Okay.
Jay: Yeah. Isn’t that funny? Exactly. And so it never happened. But some good lessons.
Andrew: But you had a deal with UPS.
Jay: We never had a deal. We had a pitch. We had a prototype. Because I was working with UPS I had access to managers and saw the problem. I think that was a great lesson as well. All big companies have lots of really small problems that can be solved by (?) startups and make very big startups.
Andrew: I see.
Jay: Right? Big companies have lots of small problems, they don’t know how to solve that startups can solve and they make very big startups.
Andrew: And so when that didn’t work out, you said to youself, “I’m too small to succeed. These guys at UPS don’t want to work with the small guy. That means the small guy’s never really going to make it.”
Jay: That was what I was thinking. Then I was just trying to pay my bills frankly. I dropped out of university, my parents wanted nothing to do with me, and I was just trying to figure out what my next step was.
Andrew: What about you as a person? Were you thinking, “I’m not social” or “I just am not smart enough” or what was going on in your head? What was that broken record saying?
Jay: No. I never thought I was not sociable.
Andrew: I intentionally picked something that I knew didn’t apply.
Andrew: But then, what were you saying?
Jay: I’m not a big self-doubt kind of person. I’ll be honest with you. I’m generally optimistic and believe that the successful people aren’t the ones with the best things, they’re the ones who make the best out of bad things.
Andrew: But here’s what you were saying to me. You said, “My company didn’t work out. I was putting on weight.” You weren’t taking care of yourself. You weren’t sure what to do with your life. You were basically asking your friend to pull some strings to get you a carpenter job. You weren’t in the best place in your life. Why? What was going on?
Jay: You know, it’s hard to pull yourself up, especially when you’re broke. And I feel a lot for people who are in poverty. Certainly, I wasn’t in poverty, especially living in Canada. The worst in Canada are rich by many of the people in the world.
Jay: And that’s a lesson also that echoed through my life. Then we started our non-profit foundation after selling BLUE to deal with exactly that. But, yeah, I’ll be honest Andrew, I don’t mean to break up the therapy session but I never really was filled with doubts. It was just a matter of finding the angle and finding the way out.
Andrew: Here’s what April said to me in the notes. She sent me notes and I guess you saw this too, “We ask all of our guests what was your lowest point?” And she says in uppercase letters, “Couldn’t get one out of him. Maybe probe more about the day he had to lay off a guy. He kept saying there were no real lows.” Was that…how could there be no real lows?
Jay: There were real lows. There were real lows and it’s hard to…I’d bury them so it was hard to get one when I was talking to April. I’ll tell you one real low. I was selling blue, not to the people who eventually bought, not to WPP. This was one previous ones that fell through, for different reasons. But anyhow, we were going into due diligence and while we were in due diligence something happened in my health, in my brain, we won’t get into details, but I went blind. Totally completely blind and wound up in the hospital for a couple of weeks and I’m doing due diligence calls on my cell phone while lying in the hospital bed and talking to the people at headquarters saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just going into a meeting right now. I’ll have to call you back,” as their wheeling me into the MRI, right? So I’m in the hospital for a couple of weeks, haven’t gone out at all and I get a phone call from the Quirer [SP] and I’m seven years into the business at this point and very in debt, right? I got to find some sort of exit and the Quirer says they have a new [??] investment officer who won’t sign off on the deal, which by the way was almost done, until he meets me in person and he would like to fly to Singapore next Tuesday, can I cancel my meetings and meet him. Right? Now, I’m blind and lying in a hospital bed. So, what I’m going to say, no? Okay, fine.
So that day my wife comes, checks me out of the hospital, takes me home, shaves me because I haven’t shaven in three weeks. Shower, dress, whatever, drives me to the office, takes me by the arm and kind of shuffles me into the office, up the elevator, and we staged this whole thing where I’m standing at the front reception desk of the office and my staff are looking with binoculars out the window to see when the guy pulls up basically. He comes up, and he comes to the front reception. I’m like, “Hey, great to meet you. Listen, I’m just signing some papers here, but my colleagues are going to take you for a tour and I’ll meet you in the conference room.” I’m like okay, great. So my two managers, my two lieutenants take him around the office and while they do my receptionist takes me by the arm and shuffles me into the conference room and sits me down at the conference table and the guy comes in and he’s got a whole entourage of course and I know this is seven years of work on this meeting and they sit down across from me and I said, “Listen, you’ve just got off a 21 hour flight.
I know you’ve looked at all our materials. I don’t want to bore you with a PowerPoint, let’s just chat. Forget the slides. Ask me anything you want.” Because of course I can’t see the slides, right? So there’s no point. The guy grills me for two and a half hours about the business and at the end of the meeting, he says, “Okay, great, thank you very much.” And he gets up to say good-bye and he goes to shake my hand and I miss it because of course I couldn’t see it. My CEO at the time kind of elbows me and says, “Shake his hand.” And I reach down, I shake his hand and the guy leaves finally with his entourage and my secretary shuffles me downstairs and my wife is still sitting there in the car waiting for me. She takes me back to the hospital, checks me back in, and I have a lumbar puncture that night.
Andrew: Oh my goodness.
Jay: That was my low point. If you want a story about when we were closest to losing it all, that probably is as close as it comes.
Andrew: And you still didn’t get that deal?
Jay: In the end we didn’t get that deal and I’m so glad we didn’t because they decided they were going to IPO. We went into their quiet period; they couldn’t do the deal during the quiet period. They asked us to wait and I said, “Listen, I’ll wait but I’m releasing the exclusive,” and as soon as we unlock the exclusive, three other bidders came in because they knew that we were almost going to bid south of these guys. And it turned into an auction and we sold for more than double what the original was offering. So it all worked out all right definitely in the end. But, that was definitely…
Andrew: Way to pull it off too. It’s one thing to have your wife shave your and then put you in the office. It’s another thing to work this whole situation out so that you don’t show your vulnerability. That’s something that I learned about you from doing research on, frankly, the Google doc that you sent. I love that you did this, you sent us a Google doc with your own interview of yourself. Which I guess someone in the company did and I’m glad, sorry?
Jay: I did it, it’s just a compilation of questions I’ve been asked.
Andrew: I love that you did because this is something that I didn’t even think to ask you. There’s a point in here where you say “you’ve got to essentially fake it till you make it.”
Jay: That’s it.
Andrew: So, when you were in that basement, I know that you were in the basement with the leaky roof, the audience knows, you’ve now told the world. Back then people didn’t know it, how did you keep them from knowing it?
Jay: Always act bigger than you are.
Andrew: How? How would you do it?
Jay: Spend the money on nice business cards; spend the money on gifts to send for your direct mails whatever. Have a great looking website, do whatever you’re going to do and never tell anybody that you’re only 3 people.
Andrew: Did you do anything to give the impression that you had more people? I think I interviewed a founder who said that he had his dog’s name on his website and the theme page, because technically the dog was in the office.
Jay: My first company was JSS(sp) Consulting and our “Global Headquarter” it said was 155 Park Avenue, Suite 2000, which was my bedroom at my mother’s house. And I actually had a sign up that said ‘Suite 2000′ on it, it was great. And I’ve just done that over and over again for the rest of my life basically. Look, you can only fake it if there’s actually something behind it and you have to provide the goods and you have to provide good service to your client and to your customers. But, you know, for example, one of your sponsors, I use them, Grasshopper, and I use them because of (________) I didn’t know them beforehand.
Andrew: Thank you.
Jay: Yeah. I had one of their competitors who I won’t mention, that were OK, but you know, I got value out of them, so I’m like, you know I’m going to switch across and I put in the code. So we use Grasshopper, it’s great, again, it makes us look big, you know, it’s got all the extensions on it. That’s a great example of something that’s cheap and easy to do and makes you look (________).
Andrew: I think they’ll actually work well with me saying that’s one of the reasons why entrepreneurs use them, so they can pretend that they have 50 different extensions. Dial 1 for technology, 2 for customer service, 3 for etc., and then it all goes to the same founder on his cell phone or wherever he wants it to go.
Andrew: I sometimes feel like I need to do that, and then I get in my head about it, like, what if I’m discovered? What if people think I’m a fraud? How do you deal with that?
Jay: By not being a fraud, and backing it up. At the end of the day a client or a customer just wants value for them. And if you do a good job, it really doesn’t matter how many extensions your phone system has.
Andrew: I see. And you also mentioned earlier that you would spend money on the gifts that you send potential customers. It seems like that’s part of your sales process, am I right?
Jay: Yeah. Lots of companies send out really crappy, (________) where they’ll give away pens with their names on it. Nobody wants a pen, right? We found a fantastic vineyard in Colorado that makes these great wines that happens to be called the Infinite Monkey Theorem Vineyard. And then I researched and I found them so I bought a couple of cases of their wine, I send clients a bottle of wine that’s got a monkey on it. It looks like I made my own wine, that kind of stuff, you know. At Blue we were famous for our invitations for Christmas parties and our (________) that we would send to people. We had this fantastic office that had a view of the local harbor of Singapore, which again was a dodgy English school when we found it and we converted it to this amazing office which we always had a knack for doing these really cheap spaces that were amazing. And we sent people these, you know, Blue ear muffs, that we spray painted blue and then nice packs and all that, saying ‘come watch the fireworks’. We could have just sent a postcard, but nobody answers a postcard. But, if somebody gets a pair of earmuffs on their desk, they’ll remember you.
Andrew: That makes sense. How do you get your ideas? I’m always amazed by entrepreneurs who can come up with stuff like that.
Jay: I wish I could tell you.
Andrew: It’s just part of who you are.
Jay: You know what I think it is? I think everybody gets really good ideas, and I think lots of people think up amazing businesses that they should do, but most people never write them down and so they forget them. I ‘ve outsourced my brain to Evernote and I write everything down, and as soon as I’m walking down the street, and I see something, I’m like, you know that would be a really cool business. Boom, I put it in my Evernote. Because someday, I’ll come back to it, and if I didn’t, guaranteed I would forget it.
Andrew: I think you told Ideamensch that mind mapping changed your life.
Andrew: How do you mind map and how did it change your life?
Jay: I’m a compulsive mind mapper. Again, this is a great thing I got from a client. Joe Puteseri(sp) at Cisco put me onto it years ago and it’s changed my life. It takes an unstructured entrepreneur’s scattered brain and puts structure around it, and I think that 80% of the value that any consultant brings to a relationship, management gets out the markings on whatever, is structure. If you can find a way to structure your own thoughts and your own processes and built them out into steps that are, actually, manageable, then you can do anything. Right? It’s the old joke with the elephant. You just got to know how to do that first step.
Andrew: [??] that elephant one bite at a time.
Andrew: Can you give me an example of how this plays out? I want to understand this process. What’s one specific thing that you apply this process to?
Jay: I’ll do marketing plans with it. I’ll do priority plans with it, for what we should do next quarter. I’ll do my investor relation stuff with it. I’ll do my shopping list for grocery shopping with it. I think in my maps now, even when I’m not using Mindjet, which is the tool I use for my mapping, I just think in my maps. It gives you structure. It’s great.
Andrew: You might say, we need to get ten new customers this month, and ten new customers go in the center of the page. Then you say, what are the five things we do to get ten new customers? We need to send out e-mails. We need to send out gifts. We need to go to the park to these events, etc. Each one of those branches has its own branches of how you accomplish it? Is that the process?
Interviewee: You’ve just demonstrated that you are an inside-out person. You start at the center of my map and work your way out, in structure.
Andrew: I didn’t even think there could be another way. OK.
Jay: There is outside in, which is what I am. You brainstorm, and you start, “OK. We need to raise money, who do we talk to, what do we need to do.” You just start throwing out ideas, and you put them down on paper. Then, you drag them around, and you structure them. By the time you’re done, you’ve got, essentially, what you’ve started with, which is a structured plan.
Andrew: I see, but it starts with all the different ideas related to the topic that you’re thinking about.
Jay: The best brainstorming has no qualification. You just put everything down.
Andrew: I could see how that would open you up to more creativity, because, now, nothing has to connect to anything else. You’re just coming up with ideas. If they connect, great. If they don’t, you remove them?
Jay: At the beginning, there’s no such thing as a bad idea.
Andrew: I see. All right, that makes so much sense. I had no idea that there was another way to do it. It’s interesting. Hey, if someone in the audience . . .
Jay: There’s a ton of great videos with my mapping on YouTube. Either go to Mindjet’s website or go to YouTube. There’s a ton, and it’s so helpful.
Andrew: If someone in the audience is interest in mind mapping and they find a way to get to you, would you mind sending them one of your mind maps just to show them what you do, or is it too personal?
Jay: No, I’m happy to do it. I think there’s probably better examples on the Internet. I do it with my seven-year-old now. I’m teaching him to mind map. I think it’s a great way to learn.
Andrew: The structured way in which you think intrigues me. I’m glad that I was able to ask one question around it. Frankly, in preparation for this, I wasn’t sure how to come up with other questions, how to uncover other ways that you take a very creative mind that would, otherwise, have what entrepreneurs call entrepreneurial ADD. You make it organized and effective. That’s one way that you do it. What else do you do?
Jay: I think entrepreneurial ADD is both a weakness and a strength. I think to be a good entrepreneur, you have to be a good juggler. That’s, probably, one of the best qualifications for a successful entrepreneur is being a good juggler and being an insomniac. If you’ve got those two things, you’re great. It means being able to do everything in your company, or, in my case, do multiple companies simultaneously because I can never to one venture at a time. Just trying to balance that, requires some way of capturing and structuring it, being able to change buckets. My co-founder and I, he lives in Canada, I live in New York, so we’re rarely in the same room together. Through these amazing IM chats we’ll say, “OK. Bucket change. Now let’s talk about infrastructure.” You just have to do it. If you’re rigorous about it, then you can accomplish the world.
Andrew: How do you keep from using one project as an excuse to keep you from focusing on another? I’ll give you an example of a problem that comes up. I was supposed to research you. I think I did my job pretty well, but one of the things I kept finding was, as I was researching you, I would say, “Hey, you know what? I have to have dinner with a bunch of entrepreneurs on Thursday. Let’s go and think about where we need to do that.” Then I would run into a wall, like the restaurant that I wanted to book was closed. I go, “Well, let’s go and think about this other thing.” Each project became an excuse not to think of another project all the way through. How do you keep that from happening?
Andrew: That’s another thing, you’re right, that I heard you do. What do you do with lists?
Interviewee: Every morning I start with a list. I used to do it on paper, now I do it on my Android. You make lists of what you need to do today, prioritize it by dragging and dropping in the order and then stick to it. If you do something that’s not on the list, if you get distracted, you know what I do? I add it to the list and I cross it out, which is stupid, but at least at the end of the day you can look back and say, OK, what did I do today? You could feel bad that I didn’t get anything done today because there were three things that I had to do today and I didn’t do them. Well, actually, there were 17 other things that you did today that maybe you didn’t have to do, but you did them and they’re positive. So long as they’re all steps towards your ultimate goal, then it’s a good thing. So yeah, I make lists.
Andrew: How long have you been doing this? I heard every day you start off with lists. For how long?
Jay: You know what? Again, that’s one of those things that I learned when I was in the DJ company 20 years ago.
Andrew: And it just stuck with you.
Jay: Just stuck with me. Used to be on yellow pads, yellow lined pads I would have just stacked (?). Now with my Android, I use Google Tasks and it’s great.
Andrew: I imagine it went from yellow pads at one point to Palm Pilot to other technology.
Jay: Just about every device you could imagine.
Andrew: You did, after 9/11, have cash flow problems.
Jay: Of course.
Andrew: What happened?
Jay: Clients stopped spending. Yeah.
Andrew: And you couldn’t stop your own spending?
Jay: Yeah. I mean, we had a fairly substantial team at that point. We were probably about 60 people, 50, 60 people. We just couldn’t sustain it, but I really didn’t want to lay people off, which is what all our competitors were doing. Luckily, fake it before you make it. We were always acting bigger than we were and so our costs were always low. We painted our own offices kind of thing. So we were able to squeeze through with some real honesty (?) of our staff.
Andrew: What was that? I took a sip just as I should’ve been asking a question. There was something interesting that you did to deal with that. Can you tell the audience?
Jay: We sat down with everybody and we said look, this is where we’re at, this is what the cash flow is, what the burden is. We should lay people off, all of our competitors are laying people off. We don’t want to do that. So we have a choice. Either we can lay five of you off or we can all take a cut of 10%. To make it a little bit easier, the managers, the top three of us or five of us or whatever it was at the time, we took no salary for three months. We just deferred it. It was owed. In my case I think I deferred four years’ worth of salary. I never did take a penny for many years, but it saved us from having to lay anybody off. (?), in the end we laid one off and we hired him back later.
Andrew: Whenever I hear about creative solutions to problems like that, I always think I would like to do that. That’s the way I want to approach things. But I know in the moment, if we’re having cash flow problems and I need to lay people off or tell them to take a cut, immediately my mind will say all right, everyone’s going to say yes to a cut, but the best people are in the highest demand in bad times, they’re going to go and find another job where they don’t have to take the cut. So why would I want to tip my hands to them?
Jay: Because during 9/11, everybody was having a bad time and nobody was hiring and so I knew they weren’t going to go somewhere else. By the way, if they did go somewhere else and they abandoned the ship when we’re all struggling and everybody’s agreed to take a 10% cut? Well, screw them. Let them go, right? Because they’re not the people you want on the team anyhow. The people who put their salaries on the line were the ones who you knew were dedicated to the team.
Andrew: Inevitably, I’ll start talking big ideas and miss something that you said a moment ago, and I’ve got to not do that in this interview, which is you said I didn’t take a salary for four years. Usually I just let that go, but I know someone in the audience is going to say how does an entrepreneur go four years and keep feeding himself and keep getting clothes and keep laundering those clothes so he doesn’t smell if he’s not taking a salary for four years? So what did you do?
Jay: I have a very understanding wife.
Andrew: And what did she do?
Jay: She was a banker when I met her. Then she went to get her MBA when I started the business. We weren’t married when we started it. Then we got married, which was fun because we flew the entire company to New York for our wedding from (?), which was good, it’s a 25 people town. And yeah, she supported me. By the way, her annual bonuses that she got as a consultant every year went to pay the company, basically. She was my angel investor. Now I’d like to think that in the end it paid off, but yeah, that’s how we got through. We could’ve added lines of credit and credit cards and everything else, but (?). It’s funny, shows like this I think are really valuable because people think that being an entrepreneur is amazing and fun. People go oh, that’s so cool, you can make your own hours, you’re your own boss and all that, but people have no idea how much of a struggle it actually can be.
Andrew: No, they don’t. They do imagine, actually, that’s it’s a struggle for them and it’s great for everyone else because you’ve got a big smile on your face, because you’re telling these stories in this creative way, you must not have any trouble. But I do. We all think that way. I have it, he doesn’t.
Jay: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: Did you ever feel that way?
Jay: Yeah, I’m sure at some point. We all do. Like you said, I think everyone does it sometime.
Andrew: You should your company, I think, before I even started Mixergy. Why do you listen to Mixergy?
Jay: Because I’m a compulsive entrepreneur. I can’t not start companies. The startup environment is evolving so fast. There’s stuff that we’re doing with Infinite Monkeys now that I wish we had when I started Blue. It’s so fast and easy and cheap to build an MVP product now that you just couldn’t do before.
I want to stay on top of it and learn things. I’m constantly learning and getting inspired. Even with Infinite Monkeys like the grasshopper example or you had the Pagemodo guys on recently. That’s a pretty similar business to Infinite Moneys. Different area, but building a tool. It’s the sense of selling picks and axes. I’m a huge believer in that and it’s just nice to have that reinforced.
Andrew: Pagemodo is building Facebook fan pages, making it easy for people who don’t know how to code to do that. You’re doing it with mobile apps. Tell you what, let’s close out this business and come back to the next one. Blue, you decided to sell and we can understand why you decided to sell. You were in debt and you said “It’s time for me to move on.” Do I understand that right?
Jay: It was partially that, but also just a huge opportunity. We were the largest independent digital agency in Asia. All the big networks wanted to come into Asia, everybody wanted digital. They were a big, big deal happening like Avenue A and AqQA recently and schematic and all that. As an entrepreneur you either run the business forever and pull profits out of it, IPO, or sell. I don’t believe the service businesses are IPOable, so we sold it.
Andrew: It is painful. I’m surprised. I’m looking at the list from the, I just copied and pasted it out of the WPP press release from when they celebrated your purchase. They said, as I said earlier, that you guys had demand, a leader and global field of search engine marketing, key services include online advertising, email marketing, corporate website consulting and development, search engine marketing, you are a creator of Rapport, a web based email marketing platform that allows marketers to create- All those different things, I imagine, could have been turned into tools so that you could IPO or you could build a business that was independent of the individual’s creativity, no?
Andrew: Why’d you decide not to? It was an intentional decision.
Jay: First of all I thought that by selling to a global network I believe at the time that first of all it would help us to continue to service our clients and service them better, that it would bring us new clients from the global network and that my staff would ultimately have avenues that they could go to work at other WPP companies around the world.
It turned out that none of that was true, but it was a good theory at the time. And one last thing, I said we only had one angel investor, the $10,000 that’s the last penny we could put into the business except for my wife’s salaries. We had about 15 shareholders who were employees in the company or are alumni of the company.
In addition to those guys, some of whom we made millionaires, there was another, maybe 10 or something like that, employees who were just really great members of the team who were not shareholders, but I still gave them half a million dollars. When I sold the business it was really not so much about the business or just selling for my own good, although, certainly, I benefited from it. But it was about the team. A lot of people had dedicated a lot of hours. If you’ve been in advertising you know. And had built that business. It was for the team, it really was.
Andrew: What about throughout, what I seem to notice is entrepreneurs who have service based businesses fantasize with all of their might about one day having a product based business because it’s so painful to build a service based business. And there’s a reason why there aren’t a lot of successful companies like yours in the service space base. Why didn’t you say “We have to go and build a product based company” the way others did?
Jay: It’s just wasn’t in our DNA. We were fundamentally a consultancy from day one. Now, I’ll tell you, I would never build [??] business again in my life like that. I’ll never do another agency and my new business is a product business but it’s hard to convert and I’ve seen a lot of agencies trying to productize and it’s a whole different animal. It’s different accounts receivable, different support systems, customer support, different infrastructure. It’s hard to change.
Andrew: You know what? There’s one other thing I’ve got to say and then I want to get into Infinite Monkeys, you use to bring a box with dry ice to meetings. What was this box with dry ice?
Jay: We were pitching for Cisco and again, we were tiny. We had no business pitching [??] at the time and we were pitching against the big, big boys at the time; Wundermen and Ogilvie and all the big agencies. We knew that in Asia none of them actually had staff on the ground and we did. We actually had real people. So, what I did is I went around to all of the top people in the industry, many of whom were either unemployed or were freelancing, whatever, and I said, “I want to pitch for Cisco. Will you come pitch with me? Let’s put together this uber team for them and if we win the business, I’ll give you a job.” And so we went into the meeting and we brought this box and in the box we had a bathroom mirror that we took out, we put on the table, and the whole panel of Cisco people [??] and this dry ice in the box [??] and we poured water over it and the whole thing just started smoking up the entire room. Joe [??] said, “What the h*** are you doing?” And we said, “Well, we know who else is pitching for the business and we know that their pitch is purely smoke and mirrors, so we figured we should have some too since we’re actually bringing a real team.” And it worked and we won the business and it was great and we wound [??] millions of dollars which was fantastic. But also one of the most [??] things was we fired Cisco a few years later. They were my number two largest client, multi-million dollar client, but we fire them over basically ethics violations.
Jay: Which is weird for an agency to fire their client. But we just knew that they weren’t somebody we wanted to work with at the time and it wasn’t, again, it’s not Cisco, because I think Cisco’s a great company and there’s [??] people at Cisco. But there were some people in the team who just were not being honest, who were trying to drag us down to the point where the business was multi-million dollars but not profitable. And if you’re not making money on a business, there’s no point doing it.
Andrew: So, you finally made it. You have outside interests. Why not focus on your outside interests on funding good causes, which you have, which we’ll talk about. Why get into Infinite Monkey’s? I’m guessing it’s this entrepreneurial disease.
Jay: It is. It’s the entrepreneurial disease. It’s seeing a massive opportunity and not being able to tap to not tapping.
Andrew: And what was the opportunity that you saw? What was the idea that got you to start this business?
Jay: When I was in the early days of Blue, we used to sell these contact management systems for websites [??] for half a million dollars and I watched that degrade down to basically zero. Where today with [??] and Drupal and WordPress, anybody can build a website for free and the exact same thing is going to happen in the mobile space and there’s more people using mobile today to access the internet then are using desktops and it’s just going to grow. And yet to build a mobile app today costs thousands of dollars, it takes weeks to do and if you’re not a developer, you’re screwed. So we built a drag and drop tool to help small businesses and community groups get into mobile. And it’s a fantastic business. It’s a fantastic space. There’s a bunch of competitors in it now. Mostly small because like we said before, agencies that are trying to productize.
Andrew: And so what was the first step that you took? You said that you heard about…you know today that you can create an MVP; you can do things a lot simpler, what was the first step?
Jay: I’m going [??] startup approach. So we created MVP, we tested, we built about 700 apps that were our apps. We released our own, that were fan apps for the Yankees and the Knicks and whatever else and Bollywood things and just so that we could get the engine going of how to build apps, learn how people use them, get the whole advertising model down with the mediation layer, and build up the robust infrastructure and in the end we [??]. So that today we can build millions and millions of apps.
Andrew: How do you do it? I’m thinking about Ken Yarmosh, a guy who did a course on Mixergy about how to create mobile apps. I said, boy he is so good at this stuff. He’s so polished. I went to his website to see what a proposal looks like, or how do you get a proposal I guess from him and his form starts out with $80,000 to $120,000 for a product. It says, what’s your budget, $80,000 to 100, I think, and then so on and so forth. If it’s below $80,000, the drop down menu says, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough of a budget right now, but I’d like to stay in touch. So he’s not taking business under $80,000, and you are offering —
Jay: Nine bucks a month.
Andrew: Free. So what do you do to make it so simple?
Jay: It’s self-service. It’s zero touch. Our marginal cost per app is essentially zero, because it’s user generated content going through an automated infrastructure.
Andrew: I’m looking at the site right now. The revenue comes from advertising on the apps that you build for free, or from people who say, hey, you built my app for free, but I don’t want your ads on there. I’ll pay you guys to remove the ads.
Jay: Amazingly, coincidentally, either way, we make the same amount of money.
Andrew: Oh, is that right?
Jay: Yeah. Not an accident.
Andrew: How’s the business doing now? What size revenues are you guys doing?
Jay: So, our total customer base grew by 30 percent last month. Our app builds grew 68 percent month over month. They’re the proverbial snowball rolling down the mountain, but this is a scale business. It needs millions of apps to grow, so we’re like a thousand bucks a month revenue. It’s still tiny on the revenue side, but it is growing exponentially, and the revenues are growing alongside it. Our ad revenue was up by 55 percent last month. So it’s great, it’s growing, but it’s still small.
Andrew: How are you getting customers?
Jay: A lot of it is word of mouth, and a big part of it is our international approach, and that’s something that I learned from [??] is to tackle the international markets first so there’s less competition. And so the platform is available in 10 languages, including Arabic and Turkish and Hindi and Bahasa and Thai. And so we’re the number one app builder in Turkey, because we’re the only app builder in Turkey in Turkish, and so we get a lot of Turkish apps. And it’s working wonderful for us.
Andrew: All right, and it’s all free, so anyone who’s listening to this can go to infinitemonkeys.mobi, and create their first app, even if they just want to play around with it.
Jay: Absolutely. Build three. Build four. We’ll build it here [??].
Andrew: You said you believe in the lean start up approach, and you’re employing it here at Infinite Monkeys, but when we asked you about the top three books and courses you recommend, you seem to have recommended Ash Moira’s one page business plan, not Eric, I guess Eric Reese doesn’t have a similar product. Why? What was it about Ash’s product, that one page business plan that you liked?
Jay: Because it’s actionable. It’s doable. I don’t delve into theory often or business books beyond the first chapter. My favorite one is still from probably almost 15 years ago. It’s “The Trusted Adviser” by Charles Green.
Andrew: “The Trusted Adviser” by Charles Green? I’ve never heard of this.
Jay: Oh, it’s a great book. And he’s got trustedadviser.com. If you’re a service based business or want to be a [??] agency, it should be your bible.
Andrew: I see it. And so what was it about Ash that made you say, yes, I like this guy, and I’m actually going to use his tool?
Jay: I think I heard him on a program like this. He was practically applying what Eric was about. And I think what Eric [??] is great. It’s wonderful. It’s probably not entirely unique. He’s just sort of structured it. [??] But what Ash has built, you can take an idea while you’re walking down the street, put it down on paper, and in 20 minutes have a business plan.
Andrew: I like that, too, that he just says, I’m not going to make you do a whole lot of homework. I just want you to think through a few of these different issues. And the other thing that I think appeals to you, just judging from the tools that you mentioned this interview, you seem to like structured thinking. You want to be able to say, just like you mind map your ideas, you seem to want to mind map your business.
Jay: It’s not so much that I like it, but I think that business demands it. I think creativity is scatter brained, and I think business requires structure. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, as a business, you need to get shit done. Sorry.
Andrew: Yeah, you’ve got to be yourself and use the language that you use.
Jay: And to do that you need structure.
Andrew: It’s called lean canvas, Ash’s way of doing things. You actually did it. What did you get out of it that you didn’t have before, that you didn’t know before?
Jay: I’ll be honest. I don’t do it as often as I, done a couple of times. But I like that it asks the right questions. And I think half the problem with a lot of people who are just starting startups is that they don’t know what they don’t.
Andrew: Right. Right.
Jay: And framing the questions helps.
Andrew: The other thing that you said that you like is the Digital Nomad Academy because it teaches people how to work virtually like Tim Ferriss [SP]. You do that?
Jay: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: How do you do it?
Jay: So Infinite Monkeys has 35 staff and no office. We have no infrastructure. The entire company is virtual, and oDesk is a huge part of that. I’m a big, big fan of oDesk. I’ve done a bunch of press for them because I think it’s the way of the future. There are great people in the world who want to help your startup, and they’re available on oDesk. It’s not just developers and $3 call center [sounds like] people. There are good quality people on there, and you can put together an amazing team that instead of hiring the 30 [sounds like] best guys that you could find who coincidentally live within 30 miles of your office, you go out and hire the 30 best guys in the world and [??] the other team. And the Digital Nomad Academy teaches some of those lessons.
Andrew: What projects have you gotten done through oDesk? I always think of them for the kinds of projects that you just mentioned, like I need a quickie web page designed, or I need somebody to build this little tool for me. No, you go more in depth.
Jay: Our entire company is through oDesk, every employee except for the founders.
Jay: I’ve got designers in Bulgaria, a bookkeeper in Mauritius, search engine marketing in China, developers in India, customer support agents in the Philippines, social marketing people for Facebook in the Philippines. I’ve got app builders who are in Africa.
Andrew: What do you do to keep them all together? I’ve got a team that’s all over the world, too, smaller than yours, but I sometimes feel like everything is via e-mail back to me, and I want to create more of a community around these people who are working together. What do you do for that?
Jay: I’ve got oDesk people managing oDesk people, the standard structure of managers and people.
Andrew: For real?
Andrew: But do you have like a chat room that you guys use? Do you use Campfire or Skype chat all day?
Jay: So we use Google Hangouts a lot. We’ll do three video conferences in a day at least.
Jay: I am all the time. We use Zoho Projects as a central collaboration platform. We use Google Drive as our main file storage. We have a terabyte on Google Drive, so that’s where all of our files live. We use QuickBooks in the Cloud with a Cloud provider for QuickBooks. We use GitHub for our development. There are lots of great collaboration things out there, and Base Cap [SP] and all of them. I mean, there are a bunch that are really good. We settle on these ones, but it’s really possible today. All of our infrastructure sits on Amazon and Akami [SP]. We have no servers anywhere.
Andrew: Yeah. Let me do a quick plug for Mixergy Premium, and then I want to ask you about the one very important benefit that you got out of being able to build this business, out of having the success that you had, but, first, Mixergy Premium. You guys know that on Mixergy you get a ton of interviews. Mixergy Premium gives you the vault of all my old interviews, including the very first ones where I had nothing but a mission. I didn’t know how to ask the right questions. I didn’t have the research that I have today. I didn’t have the pre-interviews, God knows. But I had this mission, and if you listen, often at the end of the interviews, you can hear me saying, ‘One day, someone’s going to be listening to this and coming back and doing an interview,’ and I’m so proud that that happened here today with Jay. In addition to that, you also have courses taught by real entrepreneurs who teach what they do exceptionally well. For example, Ash Moro, we talked about him. I keep saying his name wrong. Somehow my mouth can’t get to say Maurya, Ash Maurya. He’s the guy who created the lean canvas that we talked about. He wrote that great book about the lean startup process called “Running Lean.” Well, I invited him here. I said, “You’re a fan of Mixergy. Would you mind teaching my members how to run lean, how to think about a business, and how to apply the lean startup process?” And he did. He broke it down, made it easy for you to understand. I hope you go and read his book, but if you’re looking for a primer for it, there’s nothing like the Mixergy Premium course. Within an hour you’ll get an understanding of it, and you’ll know how to apply it to your own ideas.
That’s one of dozens of courses taught by real entrepreneurs, that if you’re a Mixergy Premium member, I hope you go to MixergyPremium.com and sign up and take those courses. And if you’re not, hope you go and sign up because you’re going to see benefit in your business and, frankly, because you’ll help keep growing this site here. MixergyPremium.com. I guarantee you guys will love it.
Jay: And I want to jump in there and absolutely agree with you. I think it’s a huge value for an entrepreneur, especially someone who’s out there just starting out. The fact is business school doesn’t teach you this stuff. You can’t get it anywhere else, and most entrepreneurs are too busy to sit down and really mentor you. The way you’ve captured them and put the library together, it’s fantastic. There’s real depth in there, and I agree with you. The interviews are so much better now than when you started. It’s weird to hear your voice in real speed because normally I listen to them at two times speed. How I met you was through Derek. It was another one of your interviews. He was inspiring and I contacted him after the interview. We’ve met three other people and now he’s doing his series A. They just completed their first acquisition this week. And it’s entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs. This is what it’s all about. And I think Mixergy’s a big part of that.
Andrew: Thanks for saying that. I was noticing as I was talking up Mixergy Premium that I was rushing really quickly, like I’m almost too embarrassed to promote my own thing. I’m happy to talk about Infinite Monkeys, I’m happy to talk about BLUE. When it comes to Mixergy I just race right through it. (?) [Let everyone] know that it’s available but I can’t really spend too much time because I’m a little embarrassed of selling my own stuff. And I shouldn’t be. I appreciate you saying that.
Jay: You really shouldn’t be. One thing I valued about you and I’ve seen you ask a lot of your guests before: How do you improve Mixergy? And I would say take a page out of the book of Leo Laporte with this week in [Jack] and this week in Google. A shameless self-promoter but he’s built a fantastic business with lots of great content channels. You have enough content now, I think, to start splintering off and building this brand into lots of different value.
Andrew: I’ve been thinking about that. You’re suggesting that instead of just this big Mixergy site for entrepreneurs in the tech world, maybe we create one for growth hackers and another one for whatever.
Andrew: But splinter them off?
Jay: Yeah, I think Mixergy for Mobile, Mixergy International, Mixergy for Nomads. Partner up with the DNA guys potentially. There’s a whole bunch of stuff. Start a podcast [to come and go] and all the ones that have gone you buy up their content and [add it to] the library. Become the behemoth because it’s hard to tell which one’s good or bad until you start listening to them. And your one of the good ones. I think the bigger you can get the better you’ll be.
Andrew: And you’re saying separate sites, separate everything but the same model?
Jay: Not even separate sites – well, maybe separate sites. But separate streams. Weekly shows where now you have a round table of entrepreneurs instead of just the one-to-one things. You do a startup show about latest news in startup. Although you don’t want (?). But that kind of thing. I think there’s lots of ways you can take this because now what you have is not just 800 interviews, you have 800 entrepreneurs who are invested in helping you succeed.
Andrew: Yeah. I do know and appreciate the hell out of that. That’s how you and I met. And Derek.
Jay: Yeah. Absolutely.
Andrew: So the thing that I was hinting at earlier is something called dogoodasyougo.org. What’s that?
Jay: So that’s our non-profit foundation. We started after I sold BLUE, put a bunch of the money from BLUE into it. Basically it’s a network of about, at this point, 300 entrepreneurs, professionals, marketers, IT folk, whatever may be, who do skills transfer workshops and volunteering at orphanages, and schools, and (?) shelters around the world. We say if you’re taking a business trip and you’re going to Argentina, or Mexico, or Africa, or whatever, you’re taking a vacation, why not extend by a day, by a week, whatever you can and add some value and do some volunteering work. That isn’t just painting fences and building schools and that sort of thing. But actually using your skills as an IT professional, as an entrepreneur. Do a brown bag lunch, do some mentoring, that sort of thing.
Andrew: How do I get involved in this? You’re saying, the next time I take a trip out of the country – and it has to be out of the country or can it be in the US too?
Jay: No, we have them in the U. S. too with some of the native reservations, in Chinle, Arizona, in Alaska. We’re across the country.
Andrew: Next time I want to take a trip somewhere I say, “I’m going to extend it by a couple days and I’m going to be a part of Do Good As You Go. I guess I just need to register for the program, find a program. There it is. Go to program tab-
Jay: That’s it. Click on Get Involved. Tell us where you’re going, tell us what your background is, what your skills are. We’ll match you up. It costs nothing. We’re not one of these volunteer organizations that charges you for it. The money comes from us. We’re privately funded. When we do income earning things, for example, we have a photography program and we generate calendars and really nice coffee table books that we’re working on now that we sell. 100% of that revenue goes back to the kids. It’s really a way of your adding value by bringing skills to the kids and giving them income earning opportunities rather than giving them pencils, and candy, and t- shirts like so many people do.
Andrew: I’m taking a look at it right now. I’m in the business section right now but there’s also the sports section, photography, music, statistics is a section here. That’s the one way that I can help?
Jay: If you happen to be a statistician, there’s needs for it.
Andrew: This is dogoodasyougo.org. It must feel great to be able to do that. To not say, “One day when I do well, I’ll do good in the world.” But to finally just get to do it.
Jay: I’ll tell you it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. And my wife Alice runs it. She’s done an amazing job. She has about 25 staff (?) headquarters. Most of them volunteers who have donated their time to make this network work. It’s amazing people who volunteer and it’s done fantastic work. I’m so proud of it. It’s better than any of the startups I’ve worked on.
Andrew: And that’s saying a lot. Thank you so much for doing this interview. If people want to connect with you and say thank you directly, what’s a good way for them to do it?
Jay: You could do Twitter jay_shapiro. LinkedIn is a good way.
Andrew: You’ll respond to tweets if people send them over to you?
Jay: Yeah. Absolutely.
Andrew: Alright. We’ve got clever people. They’ll hopefully get to say thank you in many different ways and maybe one of them will get to work with you. I look forward to you guys contacting him. If there’s anything that comes out of this interview at all, please let me know. Jay, thanks so much for doing this interview.
Jay: Thank you, Andrew. Thank you for all the ones before it.
Andrew: Thanks. Thank you all for being a part of it.
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