Holler: How To Light 300 Grand On Fire & Walk Away Smiling – with Nick O’Neill

You’d think getting another hit would be a breeze for an entrepreneur who sold his previous company for millions.

It didn’t turn out that way for Nick O’Neill and he’s shockingly open about what happened.

This is the story of what happened when Nick followed up the sale of his successful blog, AllFacebook, with a personal investment of $300,000 in his new startup, Holler, an iOS app that lets you connect with people around you for in-person activities.

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About Nick O’Neill


Nick O’Neill is the cofounder of Holler, which helps you quickly organize activities with friends and nearby people with shared interests.

Raw transcript


Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

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Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. The big question for this interview is what kind of challenges does a proven entrepreneur have with his next business? Nick O’Neill was recently on Mixergy, and he talked about how he bootstrapped and sold his blog all over allfacebook.com for millions of dollars.

In the interview and before the interview started he was telling me about Holler, an IOS app that he launched and what happened to it and I thought boy, this guy is being really open about some of the setbacks and some of the frustrations that he had and I asked him if he’d come back on and do a full interview on just Holler. He said yes, and that’s the idea here, to have you talk about what happened with Holler Nick and maybe a little bit about what you’re doing after Holler.

Nick: OK.

Andrew: All right. So first of all, what is Holler for people who don’t know it?

Nick: So I can give you a quick 30-second background of how we came up with this or how I was thinking about it, I moved to San Francisco from D.C. about a year and a half ago or a little over a year and a half and one of the problems I was running into was, I was sending all these emails back and forth with people who I had met through my blog and I was trying to set up lunches and there was all this process to just have a lunch and they were literally right around the corner.

All I wanted to do was grab lunch with people, share information and then just go back home and keep working and just learn something from other people hopefully. I thought, why can’t we do this? Why isn’t this easier to do? So what we built was an app which enabled these sorts of spontaneous or ad hoc in-person activities. Really the entire purpose of Holler was to facilitate those in-person experiences, so meet up under a more casual setting.

Andrew: OK. All location-based because it’s on IOS. I can figure out who’s in the area and ready to hang out with me.

Nick: Exactly. Specific people within a group, yeah.

Andrew: OK. I don’t know if I said this in the interview or if I told you privately, but when I launched the software version of Mixergy back when I somehow got into the invitation business, I lost about $300,000 on it. I had one full-time developer, another one who was part-time and other expenses that I just kept putting in. It’s all my own money and all my own friends and all people who I trusted and I thought this makes sense and I lost that much and it was painful for a long time after. Can you say what you put into Holler?

Nick: Yeah, it was about the same. I don’t know the exact amount off hand because I’m not the one doing the accounting, but between domains, trademark expenses, I can actually go through and explain all of the mistakes that we made and where we spent expenses where I may not be as likely to spend expenses now. There’s probably been about the same amount. At least over $250,000.

Andrew: OK.

Nick: Yeah, and I mean and it could be close to $300,000. I’m happy to go into what I think we’ve messed up on and more importantly I wouldn’t call it a complete failure, and I can actually articulate where we’ve gotten to and why we’re here, but why I’m deciding to actually pursue a different business may have less to do with, does this market have an opportunity versus how do you execute on that opportunity?

Andrew: Right. As you were talking, I’m sure that you noticed my head was down because I was taking notes, and here’s what I wrote, that I want to make sure that we cover in this program. Expenses: where the money went; some of the mistakes that you said you wanted to talk about; and also why you want to start another business, what your analysis of this business is, and what your analyses of your other opportunities are.

I want to go through it all in chronological order so that we can hear the story of how this happened, and learn as it unfolds. But I’ve got to ask you this question right at the top – Nick O’Neill, why are you doing this? Why were you so open with me privately and now, why are you so open with our audience of entrepreneurs publicly?

Nick: Sometimes, that’s a good question, that’s a valid question, and people wonder that. So I learned a lesson with All Facebook [tip] (and this was something I’d read somewhere), which was: The more information that you give away for free, the more likely people are going to come back to you.

Now, in business that’s not always necessarily the case, right? If you are about to implement a specific strategy that you’re executing on, the knowledge of that strategy is going to be valuable to another competitor who’s going to either be able to compete against you, or execute quicker than you’re going to be able to. It’s not as useful to expose that information. But there’s two primary reasons; I guess the main thing is the first, which was the lesson I’d learned from All Facebook, which is, I’m pretty transparent, and I’m open to giving away a lot of information.

The second thing is, I’m really confident in our ability to execute on our new project (which I won’t go into all the details on), but our ability to execute on it and competition in that market is good. So I mean, I’m pretty transparent and I’m really confident in our ability. And I like operating in businesses where I’m extremely confident in our ability to execute. So yeah, more competitors – great, but I’m really competitive. I’m open to competition.

Andrew: You know, I’ve got to tell you, I remember from the beginning when I first got into entrepreneurship, I’d read about how American style of entrepreneurship not just forgives failure, but it encourages conversation about it, and takes pride in it. And it helped me take risks that I wouldn’t have otherwise, if I wasn’t surrounded by this culture. But when I started doing these interviews, I realized how true it was, where entrepreneurs will talk openly about their setbacks like badges of honor that they got through them. It’s just part of the process. And it’s the people that don’t take risks that we look down on, not the ones who take them and don’t end up with huge successes.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: So, I love that about this space. I don’t know if it works the same in other industries as it does in our start-up, tech community, but I’m so glad that it does here, because you can learn a lot from someone’s successes, but also from the setbacks.

Nick: I think there are actually a lot of people that also haven’t yet gotten to the success, and so they start questioning their own confidence and their ability to execute. So they actually will reflect on it: Yeah, that really didn’t work out when I did it that time.

And I’m like, no, no, no – that’s actually a really good lesson that you failed; just keep on going and don’t quit at your self-discovery and learning process, because that’s really where you’re going to finally stumble across something that really works successfully.

Andrew: All right. So you had this idea; you told us where the idea came from. It makes a lot of sense. What’s the first thing that you do to execute on the idea?

Nick: Well, the first thing had to do with actually the agreement that I had with my old company, but I had to leave it (leave my old company), in order to work on Holler effectively. I was able to do it somewhat on the side by moving to a contractor at my old company, with the one that I had sold. And so there was that, which was my legal issues. Legal protection of this new entity was the first concern.

Andrew: You didn’t want to launch this business and have them turn around when it’s successful and say, hey, we own it!

Nick: Yeah, effectively – or have any sort of claim to anything, aside from any agreed-upon claim (if they made an investment, or something like that, at a future date), so I didn’t want that.

Andrew: What was the conversation like with WebMediaBrands, who bought your business?

Nick: Well, I mean, it’s pretty straightforward. You just articulate what you want, and the other party let’s you know whether it’s something that they’d like to have you do, and whether or not there’s flexibility. I’m not going to go into all the details of how that conversation went down with WebMediaBrands, because that’s a pretty private conversation, but I mean it was a very transparent conversation. Both parties were rational parties during the conversation or negotiation.

Andrew: You said, ‘Hey, look. I’ve got this new idea. I know I’ve sold my business to you. I’m a writer here at allfacebook. I know you guys are counting on me, but I need to go launch this business. How do we make it work so that I get to own the business but don’t leave you guys in a lurch. You worked an agreement, and now you’re able to go and do it legally and ethically.

Nick: Yes.

Andrew: What do you do after you get that OK?

Nick: So, the main thing was that I had not launched a large consumer business before, like a Facebook. I had actually tried building a Facebook right before Facebook launched, and that was my only experience with that. After watching all these things, the one thing I was confident about was that having a good name was really important to me. So, we spent a bunch of time brainstorming names.

We balanced that brainstorming with what the product was going to be, so what we actually started with was a product called “Lunch Up” which was just for lunch. I literally have diagrams and pictures of all the whiteboards we had, which were basically, here’s what it’s going to look like, and here’s how it’s going to work, and how is this going to function?

As we started drawing this up and brainstorming names at the same time, originally we started with “Howl” like a wolf. I thought it was a good name. We started going back and forth with people. Some people didn’t understand it, some thought it was corny, but eventually we came up with “Holler” in the midst of designing the product, the interface for it, and how it would function and also figuring out the name.

Andrew: OK. Holler.com. Great fricking name. I would imagine that that domain alone would cost your $300,000. What did you pay for that domain?

Nick: The domain was around $50,000.

Andrew: That’s a great deal for that name.

Nick: I’ve heard mixed opinions. If anyone wants to buy it for more, that’s watching this, I’m open to offers.

Andrew: I think it’s worth more, and I’ll tell you why. It’s easy to spell. It’s a real word. It makes sense, and it connects to a lot of businesses that relate to communication. Did you start off with “LunchUp” first, and then later on go and buy the name? You just kept looking for the right name?

Nick: We kept looking for names while we were designing the product, and wire framing it, and thinking about how does this work? I click this button, and what are the logistics behind this? How do you get what’s effectively a free marketplace of people. . . there’s supply and demand, which are both the same people actually saying, ‘I want to do something.’ How do you facilitate these different things? Is it a black box or is it totally transparent? How do all these different things take place?

Andrew: How do you come up with that? For me, I sometimes sit around and journal, but I feel at times that’s just me just talking to myself and not getting any new creativity in?

Nick: We whiteboarded it, and we brought in some other people. Eventually, there is a point where you want to have a physical product that you’re playing with. The problem in this case was that I had no idea how to do iPhone development, and no one I knew that did, and all the people out here who knew how to do it were all hired at a couple hundred bucks an hour to go do this, and it was going to be really hard to convince a full time iPhone developer. So, we found an agency that was willing to do it for a decent price, and we decided to just go with it. And that’s what we did. We worked with that agency to try and build it.

Andrew: And did they help you think through what the product would look like?

Nick: No.

Andrew: You just say, this is the document with the wire frame. This is an explanation of what the product is, and I need you guys to code it up for me.

Nick: Yes. I spoke with a couple of agencies, and some of them would say, ‘Oh, we’re great at giving advice.’ And the biggest response I have is, where do you have demonstrable success that proves that your advice is worth anything. That’s great. Everyone you show the app to has their ten cents, especially the users. And so, the biggest question was, who’s going to be the expert in this space? And we decided that, you know, we’re fairly good at this, and most importantly, you just have to feel the app, and see how it works, and that’s what we went through.
So we got an agency that we thought had a reasonable price – it was really well-priced, almost too well-priced – and we ended up actually firing them at the end of it.

So we built this first version, started using it, realized there were a lot of problems. Effectively at that time, the developer who was working from the agency for us, started giving us less and less time, and eventually it just wasn’t finished. It was an unfinished product that we were able to use internally, but it wasn’t something that we were comfortable delivering to the public.

I had built the back-end; the iPhone developer had built the front-end. My creative director and co-founder had built, had designed it, and I had done a lot of interface stuff as well, in coordination with the creative director (my other co-founder, Natasha). And so we just went back and forth on that for a long time.

Andrew: Let me pause here for a moment.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: You introduced a few people. Do you have one co-founder at Holler, or two co-founders?

Nick: Two.

Andrew: Who are these guys who you partnered up with?

Nick: One happens to be my girlfriend. She helped me actually come up with the idea, and she was so excited about it. She’d never been part of a start-up. She had been working at Google and I was like, hey, it seems like we’re on a really good track here. She kept wanting to come work for us, and so I was like, OK, you can come on at a serious discount of a cost to us. I mean, I was just basically covering bills and stuff like that.

Andrew: OK.

Nick: And Dan, my other co-founder, I had hired as a contractor, but his stuff was so great, and he seemed so excited, and was so passionate about the product, that I was like, hey, we would love to have you onboard!

Andrew: Who’s Dan?

Nick: Dan Petty.

Andrew: OK.

Nick: He’s a killer designer; he does designs for huge brands and stuff. That’s actually he ended up – he first contracted, and he started working for free and did freelance on the side. He became effectively an equal partner, or a partner in the business.

Andrew: But at first it was you and your girlfriend on whiteboards; you brought in some outside people. Who are the outside people who helped you think through the process?

Nick: I mean, that was just feedback among friends.

Andrew: OK.

Nick: And telling them about what I’m working on, and what their thoughts are – things like that.

Andrew: What’s your girlfriend’s name?

Nick: Natasha.

Andrew: Natasha. When I said girlfriend, you were kind of smiling. I was trying to read it. Were you feeling a little like – how did it work out that you were working with your girlfriend?

Nick: Well, it’s worked out great. She’s actually working with me on the new project.

Andrew: OK.

Nick: And she actually has since learned to program. There she is, in the background.

Andrew: So it’s not just, hey, she’s in the room and I’m talking about her, and it’s kind of weird?

Nick: Well, yeah, that’s part of it. Actually the main thing is because she – for her, it’s like, I guess the main thing is the different roles that we play in the relationships that we have, right? I’m operating as a boyfriend in this instance, versus, I’m operating as a business partner with you, or even your boss.

Andrew: What’s the difference? What are the two different ways that you interact under those roles?

Nick: The main thing is, let’s say that you’re feeling really down about the way something’s going about the business, right?

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Nick: You’re feeling very stressed-out about the business. Well, when you start communicating that stress to someone who’s your employee, they suddenly get demotivated, right? And so all of this stuff that you used to confess to your girlfriend, saying, here’s all the problems that I’m having, and things like that where they’re playing the counselor role, is also having an impact on them individually, in terms of what they’re thinking about in relation to the business.

Andrew: Right.

Nick: So I think there’s a lot of complexity there. Fortunately, if you have really great communication, and you’re able to communicate about all these different things and say, here’s the conversation that we’re having, and here’s the hat that we’re wearing right now. Even though it does have an impact on those different things, you can at least communicate through a lot of those issues.

Andrew: I see. So if I’m understand you right, Nick, what you would do is say, ‘Look, I know you and I work together, but I need to just de-stress here.’

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: ‘I’ll tell you what’s bothering me – don’t freak out about it. We’re going to find a solution.’

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: ‘Because, you know, all businesses have setbacks, but let me tell you what happened.’ And then you launch into it with that. So that she can separate herself because you separated yourself from it.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, ideally, that’s how the conversation would go, although, I mean, it never really, the world is not perfect so I mean. . .

Andrew: And when it doesn’t work out according to the ideal description that I had here, what happens?

Nick: You just figure. Well, I’d stop in the middle of the conversation. I mean, this is just simply, you know, communication patterns of managing. I think you go through the same communication patterns with any of your founders, right. At the end of the day, you should have the same sort of level of communication that you would [??] who you love dearly. You should be able to have that same form of open communication with your early founders, I believe.

Andrew: OK.

Nick: And so, yeah, I mean, that’s a critical thing. And often times since Natasha lives with, we live together, we have unbalances in communication levels between myself, Dan, Natasha. I mean, these are, I’m going into real detail here about how these things work. But I mean [??].

Andrew: By communication balances, you mean. . . Dan’s left out of a lot of conversations that happen because you guys are living together and having those conversations.

Nick: Exactly, because when things are just going through my head, I’m just spouting out, you know, whatever it is, and so you miss that and then you get to this meeting two days later, and it’s like you missed the gap. So I’ve got to suddenly fill that gap on what was this way of thinking and why are we going this way. And I found that that was often times a little bit, that was a little bit difficult.

I mean another lesson that I learned here was, I was oftentimes looking for feedback from him, when they were just looking for guidance. And so, and that becomes really like how do you become an effective leader, and I mean, I’m still learning that. I’m not, I’m by no means a master of that. But . . .

Andrew: On Facebook, you didn’t have any full-time employees, right?

Nick: No. I mean, that was my biggest weakness, right. Like, I was not able to . . .I had hired some people to . . . I had a few people for one period of time. One of my really close friends was employed by me and then I had to fire him because I ran out of money and that sucked. And then I had another contractor who parted ways at some point for whatever reasons that doesn’t really matter. But, yeah, I mean, I’d only had a couple and that was where I had overextended myself and needed some full-time work which is why the acquisition of my business was so, was such perfect timing. But, yeah, so I had no experience at that point in managing other people.

Andrew: OK. All right. So you and Natasha brainstorming this idea, you introducing it to a few friends who say things like, “Yeah, we would use that.” “That makes sense.” You’re getting good vibes about the business. You’re ready to go out and build it. You don’t have a developer and your talking about how crazy the market is for IOS developers, in San Francisco especially, but anywhere in the world. And then you say, ” All right, I’m going to hire this agency.” You set, you give them what? What’s the product when you give it to them? What is it supposed to do? Is it big? Is it small?

Nick: It’s a pretty complex product at that point. There are actually features that we don’t have in the current version that we launched. There was friending involved. There was hollering out at people. Our conclusion was it was overly complex which is. . .but we had all sorts of features and all the designs were completely. . .they were done. I delivered 27 different pages or views as they’re called on your app. Twenty-seven different views that were supposed to function and the developer just built this.

Andrew: So a view, for example is, this, like a, I don’t know if you can see it?

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s a view. So one screen is a view. Then if I click on “anti-social camp” within the app, that’s another view. And that’s what you gave them.

Nick: Yes.

Andrew: And you designed this using something like Balsamiq or some mockup software?

Nick: I started with a wire frame. I actually gave it straight to my designer, who then designed it, and then we delivered the final designs. Now bad idea, that was a bad idea.

Andrew: Why? I heard good things about that format. Why is that a bad idea?

Nick: You should start building it with no design and make sure the interface feels right. The way that buttons work and the way that things pop up and slide down, you end up going through so many iterations of that. In order to hit the design phase, it ends up being really costly, like in terms of your time, your development cycle. Your iterative cycle gets much longer the more components that you add to it, right.

Andrew: I see. So if you give something to a designer who then goes inprope [??] and then creates it, then gives it to the programmer and then the programmer says, ” Hey, this doesn’t really work.” They have to give it back to you, you have to go back to the designer who has to continue the circle.

Nick: And often times the things that you’re changing is you’re focusing on little small things, which we found ourselves doing. Small little pixels where things were off by a percentage or whatever it is, we’re like, this doesn’t look right. And then we start playing with it and we’re like, wait there’s some bigger issues here that need to be fixed.

Andrew: Like what? What are the small things that you focused on and what are the big things that it distracted you from?

Nick: The small things would literally be like differences in pixels. I mean, literally like a pixel was off and we had to move it. The color of a box was off and we had to fix it. I mean, in hindsight it was really excessive attention to detail, which is great. On the final deliverable that is great. But what we should have been? We should have launched under a different name, tested it out with some people, and just gotten the app working. To a point where we said, yeah this actually works, we’re using this and this is functional and this is great. But, so that’s what I would have done instead.

Andrew: And you said that there were bigger issues that you were distracted from because you were thinking about individual pixels and button design. What are those big issues?

Nick: Well, like for example we had friending. So there’s this whole debate about when you into the app do you want to like let someone friend somebody, do you want to use their Facebook friends to have them pre-friended where they automatically start following these people? And now all the people that their friends with on Facebook can ping them on this app? How does this work and how do these relationships get built? And what is the dynamic of that? And what are the users telling us? And we thought about this friending stuff so much and I see, you know, everyone has a different approach. It’s clearly, this is part of the problem of this specific app is how do you friend, do you automatically follow people, things like that.

And I’ve seen people, most of the viral apps opt towards auto following. And so we actually didn’t do that. We actually just avoided friending all together and just said, you have your phone book and then you have groups. And those are the only two things that you have. And they’re public groups. And that’s all that we stuck with for the first version. But we had built friending and we had built the whole relationship system and then decided to just throw it out.

Andrew: I see. So how is the friending system different from what’s in there now? What I saw was, one of the first things that happened when I logged in was, I was told, invite your friends. And when I clicked that if I remember right I saw my whole phone book. And then if I would have invited the people from my phone book, they would have been my friends wouldn’t they?

Nick: No, they would have just been invited to a specific activity. But this is, there’s all sorts of communication issues with the application which I could reflect on. But what you really get into is these really finite details in terms of like onboarding for example. How do you get people to engage within the community? So the onboarding flow which is the process of having the user register for your application, when you go through this onboarding process you have specific tasks that you’re hoping to accomplish in an effort to retain that user for an extended period of time. To get them to come back a second time. That’s always like one big metric for a lot of these different companies is, what’s second usage rates? Or repeat usage rates.

And so we had this whole system where we didn’t have onboarding, and then we built the onboarding system. And we thought, wow, this is going to change things. We also got into optimization of outgoing SMS messages. How do we increase our response rate from 20% to 60%? And we were able to do that. But even still we weren’t getting the virality through the system. But we still were getting high response rates but then not everyone was downloading the app. It is organically growing still but the organic rate is at a small amount. We theoretically still, we’re kind of pausing this really early in its development phase and I think this space still has a lot of opportunity. So I actually given up hope on this space as a whole like I’d said before.

Andrew: I get that. I think what you’re talking about makes a ton of sense. There are times when I just want to go out and say, who’s around, who wants to go and have a drink? That happened to me last week when Olivia was out for some work thing and I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to make phone calls to people one on one or text them. I just wanted to say, look, I’m going out. Who wants to go and grab a drink? And if I get one person then I’ll do it and if not I’m going to go home. But, who’s around? So, alright, so you give it to this agency. What’s the process like with the agency? You give them all this stuff, they give you a deadline. Do they hit the deadline or is it that there’s so many issues along the way that they just can’t do it?

Nick: It starts getting extended, and extended, and extended and then because of changes that we’re making. I did end up accomplishing a lot of the changes. Specifications changed over time, the product isn’t exactly what we wanted, we started seeing all these issues, we finally get through the agreement that we had and decided to pay them more money to continue to get us through the next phase.

So we moved from 25 grand to 35 grand in terms of how much we’re spending in terms on this development process. Which still isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things and so we start going through the process and the developer starts giving us less time and so all we need to be doing is iterating, iterating, iterating. Iterating, iterating and making the product to a point where we’re actually confident that we can release this to the public. Eventually I had to fire them because they were giving me three hours a day or three hours a week, sorry.

Andrew: Oh, wow.

Nick: Or four hours a week at a certain point and I was like, “what are we doing now?” So we pulled the plug on it, basically and got really depressed, and spent a solid month just wondering what the hell we were doing. Because I’m a web developer, and have been for 10 years, I was, like, is there a way we can do this with the web? So we built a web version internally and we started using it. Then we turned to each other and I was, like, “Would you guys use this” and everyone was, like, no. We were like man, this just sucks, what are we going to do, how are we going to get there?

So I started looking at the mobile app stuff, I was, like, maybe I can build it. Because I’m talking to iPhone developers, typically you can still get an iPhone developer but it’s not that easy to just pick up an iPhone developer and start going. More importantly should we blow another 25 or 50 grand to try and even see if the thing works? That’s the bigger question. The cost of experimentation is so high at that point. So that’s where I was, like, this is a really high cost of experimentation and getting those apps right , and investors have been agreeing with me, is very capital intensive. You need a substantial amount of capital and this is leading towards, well what do we do?

Andrew: Let me pause the story hear if you don’t mind with you taking over, but I want to make sure that I understand up until now. How long was the project at this first agency?

Nick: Maybe a month and a half, two months.

Andrew: OK. So that’s not that long a time, but within a month and a half they were starting to lose interest or starting to be irresponsible and moved and burned through what, $50,000?

Nick: No 35.

Andrew: $35,000 all right. Then you decide internally we’re going to build this all in html, we’re going to make it real easy, it will all be web based and we’re going to experiment with our friends.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: What did that version have in it, did it do everything?

Nick: It was literally, it was Twitter for events. It was literally Twitter for events. We took Twitters user interface where instead of the feed being all tweets, it was literally just events. Then you’d click on it, it would slide over and now you’d see the conversation. It was a pretty slick sort of interface actually. The problem was how you got the people into that system. I actually still think that could even work and the main issue was when you invite someone externally we didn’t have a good invite system and since you don’t have the phone contacts there’s no easy way to just invite someone and on Facebook we had no way to quickly message them. There was a pop-up messaging system that Facebook since added in the past twelve months, but it’s not exactly what we were looking for and it felt kind of, I don’t know if janky is the word, but it didn’t feel really right. So we said, it doesn’t feel really smooth and we need it to be frictionless.

Andrew: OK. So when people are saying “We don’t like this” or “We’re not going to use this” what you felt was, of course you’re not going to. This really doesn’t have any of the key features of the app that I had in mind, and so I see.

Nick: We didn’t even test it with that many people, we just tested it internally and said, does this work for us and it didn’t.

Andrew: OK.

Nick: I mean, it just didn’t work. It didn’t even accomplish our own needs.

Andrew: Right.

Nick: And so if it can’t do that I’m not comfortable sharing it with the world.

Andrew: I see. I would forgive a whole lot more in my own app than other people would. All right, so you also mentioned that, we got a little depressed, which makes a lot of sense at that point. Tell me about what happens as a second time entrepreneur, or one with a hit behind him, that doesn’t necessarily happen the first time? I remember, the guys from Grasshopper. They launched an app and I said, hey did you guys feel like you had to have it perfect because Grasshopper’s the company that so many startups count on and go learn from. And they said, yeah, that’s exactly it. That people have high expectations of them and they wanted to meet them. They had high expectations of themselves and they wanted to hit them.

Nick: So there’s that as a problem. I can also tell you that one of the side affects of me having succeeded before, that how it impacted the following month where we were kind of like, what are we doing?

Andrew: Yeah, tell me.

Nick: So this is a really negative sort of thought process but I found it and I’ve since overcome that and actually moved on from it. But the negative thought process was, I have money. Why do I even need to do this? Why am I doing this to myself right now, why don’t I go on vacation? That was immediately like the sort of thought process that was going through. I’m not slumming. And all I’m doing is spending my money to go build this thing which we’re having all these problems with. Why keep doing this? Why not just quit already? And that went through my mind a ton. And that was probably the most unhealthy sort of thought, because it doesn’t get you anywhere. Great, so you have some money that you can play with.

But, you’re still, at the end of the day if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re still an entrepreneur and you got to get back to the point where, I’m building a business. And if I’m building a business then I’m building a business and there’s no buts about it. You can quit at some point but you’re still going to need to figure out a way to make money. I mean, because your money’s not going to last forever. I mean, well, unless you’ve been, you have a billion dollars or whatever your number is that you’re willing to aspire to and retire at. Until you hit that point you’re probably fearful that you’re going to run out of some money and so, at some point, you just can’t vacation forever. So I was going to have to come up with some solution. I guess in the back of my mind though was like, why do I even need to do this?

Andrew: I see. So where a new entrepreneur might say, I could just go get a job. Or even worse, I could go live with my parents for a couple of years and really mellow out. Why do I need these headaches? For one that has a hit behind him it’s, I can be on an island somewhere right now. I could go to Greece where the economy is pretty bad and they’ll be happy to get my dollars. They’ll be happy to give me a good time.

Nick: You just made a good comparable there which was, was that even the first time entrepreneur faces the same sort of questions of, why am I doing this to myself? Possibly when they hit those road blocks. And so I definitely think that getting over that hurdle, there’s different ways to get over that. One is like, oh great Nick was spoiled and now he’s saying, woe is me. I have no guilt for this guy. That’s what most people would probably think.

Andrew: I don’t think anyone here in my audience would think that. We’re trying to understand it, but, what’s the other one?

Nick: Well yeah I guess for the first time entrepreneur it’s more like, they already had a sort of probably in the back of their mind what their bailout was. And so, you always have a bailout. And that’s always like the emergency lever or whatever it is.

Andrew: You do and you don’t. I feel like for some people that bail out really is there. I mean, really. They could go home to their parents and live there for a couple of years and they’d be okay. For other people, yeah technically their parents would love it for them to come home and yeah technically that room is still available and they could go home. But there’s no way they’re really going to do it. And it sounds like for you is like that.

Nick: Yeah, and the first time. There’s no way, I never let the first business get to that point. Like I was not. Yeah, the question is how big of a ditch do you want to build to get to success? And that’s like how far down are you willing to go? And that’s where you set your level.

Andrew: I can tell you, for me I didn’t have that. For me what it was was I. And I should say that Mixergy at some point got to be an invitation site, and I don’t even know how the hell I made it into an invitation site way back then. But I started spending money to make sure it was successful. Anyway, what happened when I got to roughly 300,000 is I wasn’t thinking I could be on a vacation somewhere.

It’s, oh I gave up this like, someone just talked about how great, how sick a 30,000 a weekend vacation is. I could have had ten of those and look at what I’m doing. Someone else was talking about their car and I was thinking, that’s just 50,000 I could have six in my garage right now and you could be impressed as hell. I couldn’t stop shaking the mourning that I had. The internal mourning for these products that I could have owned, and I didn’t even want them. I had a car; I didn’t want that freaking car.

Andrew: You said there was another thing. So, that’s one thing. What else was it for you?

Nick: That was mainly it.

Andrew: There was no, ‘Hey, my girlfriend knows me as a successful entrepreneur, and now I’m not even showing that. My parents are waiting for this. The world . . .’

Nick: You’d definitely always have that, right? You tell all of your friends you’re doing a hot new startup, and you tell them because you want to lock yourself into it. You want to force yourself to get through that process, so you tell the world. You tell your family. You tell all of your friends. But what I’ve since found out, and I’ll tell you from now, once I’ve said, ‘Hey, I’m putting this on hold to start something else.’, you find out who your friends are.

At that moment, the next time when you decide to make your pivot, which is really saying, ‘I’m totally starting anew with something else.’, when you make that have pivot, you find out who really says, ‘Man, I really wanted this to happen. I believed in you.’ Whatever it was. Or you have other people that say, ‘I knew this was going to fail.’ There are just positive and negative responses, and you have the people that say, “Man, that sounds like a great thing. I’m sure you’ll really hit it off. You always figured out.’, or says some kind of positive reinforcement verses the negative reinforcement you get from some people. I guess, once in a while it’s good to get criticism, but from your close family and friends you’re looking for them more as a support structure rather than anything else.

Andrew: Criticism is good. Schadenfreude is not good. Where someone says, ‘Dude, you got lucky one. You should have pocketed your money, man.’ I had someone say stuff like that. What are you talking about? You’re just saying this to my face now?

Nick: Exactly. Well, I have no desire to talk to you anymore, man.

Andrew: Do you have anyone specific in mind that did this? I don’t want their name, but if you could describe what was going on with them it would be helpful.

Nick: In terms of people that give you negative?

Andrew: Negative.

Nick: I guess that one person told me that they went to a meeting afterwards . . . I had a meeting with him and a bunch of his friends to tell them to get feedback on something, and after the meeting was done and I have left, they said, ‘there’s no way he’s going to pull that off.’ It wasn’t that big of a deal. Sure most people are going to say you’re not going to pull it off. I already know this. This is not needed.

But, if I’m turning to advisers, I wanted advisers that believe in the fact that you’re going to pull it off in the first place. So I don’t even give two craps about what you said in the first place anymore. I’m never getting advice from you again, because you don’t even believe in my ability to execute. Don’t give me advice if you don’t believe in this vision. That’s the thing that really pissed me off. I don’t just need advisers; I need believers. That’s what I’m looking for.

Andrew: There was one person who was a friend and college, I just had to say, ‘I don’t think we can be friends anymore. We’re just not compatible as friends’. And I said in the most calm way because I knew I had to get this person out of my life. What was disguised as advice but was really jabs was just getting to me. I couldn’t deal with it.

Nick: Exactly. I’ve had those. I can’t recall them off hand, but I know exactly what you’re talking about. Back handed advice which were really, ‘You’re going to fail miserably.’ It was really subtle communication and not really subtle communication line, and I don’t need this sort of advice.

Andrew: That’s why there are certain people. . . Did you ever get to Mark Schuster in person?

Nick: No.

Andrew: He’s an L.A. VCO. He’s living in L.A. so I got to run into him a lot. He is so good with people, that in that moment when you’re just in the crapper, he’ll tell you how he was there. It’s all part of the process and suddenly you’re in this fraternity with the guy, and of course, you’re going to make it. Just a couple of sentences are all that come out of his mouth, but he doesn’t have any inner need to get out his resentment towards the world. People like that, I can see why entrepreneurs want to work with him. I can see why entrepreneurs feel inspired by Mark. So, you’re going through this. We talked about how you wanted to launch the HTML version. You did it, but it wasn’t the full product, and you said we have to go on another correction. What was the next step that you started taking it on to yourself?

Nick: Eventually, I got into this iPhone programming course, and I decided to go take it. It was in Atlanta, and it was one week. It’s called Big Nerd Ranch. It was incredible. And not Devon sponsored me or anything. And the…

Andrew: I’ve heard good things about them, Big Nerd Ranch.

Nick: Yup, they’re the best. I’ve heard, according, at least for IOS. And I went and took this class and within six weeks I’d built the iPhone app and we launched it.

Andrew: Whoa, hang on a second. Six weeks. You take it on yourself, after just going through a one week training program, six weeks you launch it yourself. Less time then it took you to go with the other company that charged you $35,000 and gave you little more than agita.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. So how does that version look?

Nick: Awesome. Well, you know why it looked awesome? It was because I built it. And you feel really good when you pour the blood, sweat and tears into building it, but it was okay. My creative director will tell you it wasn’t like. It was not to the point that we had wanted. And we still have, I mean I have wire frame sitting on the board here of what the next phase is. And so I guess a little piece of me in the back of my mind is like, the dream is still alive always. And I always find this of every entrepreneur I met. And then they keep chasing that dream over and over and over again. A lot of times unsuccessfully. And so, we basically, we built a version that I said, look we’ve got to get this out. Let’s set a deadline. We picked Tech Crunch Disrupt and we decided to just demo there. (inaudible) And I said, I just wanted an arbitrary date. So we set a date. We said it was going to be in the app store by then, we’ve got to get it done. And we did.

The first version that was launched crashed on 35% of people’s phones. Within twelve hours or almost instantly because I got into contact with someone at Apple, they were able to approve the bug fits that we submitted. So we were able to get the next version out relatively quickly for a lot of the Tech Crunch Disrupt people. And we got an article written and so we got a little bit of traction and got it out the door. And so I mean, for us that was like, we have reached a milestone. We have got it out the door. We were just about to quite but now we have a mobile app in our hands that we’re able to holler at people with. And we even have real world experiences through the app, so we knew, our excitement was now back at an all time peak.

Andrew: Beyond programming what did they teach you at Big Nerd Ranch that helped you focus your development or helped you think about developing and launching properly. Beyond programming what do they do to help you get it out there within six weeks?

Nick: The biggest thing was the group of, the Google group that they gave me access to afterwards, which was basically like Stack overflow which is also a priceless resource to go on there. I have a Twitter follower base which actually happens to be a lot of developers so I tweet out questions saying, who knows how to fix this? And then I link to a question and then people come answer it. But their Google group was priceless.

A guy from Germany who was part of this group came on and on Skype and helped me find a bug. Spent 45 minutes walking through my code, through my screen, I shared my screen, and he walked through all my code and found a bug. After I had e-mailed that I had been banging my head on the desk for three days trying to solve this problem. And he hopped and literally sat with me for 45 minutes to find this bug and help me solve it.

And that’s what they gave me access to was that group of people which was, I mean it’s not as tight knit as a fraternity. Like you were talking about having access to this like close group of friends. But they help each other. And people are really willing to jump in and support each other in trying to solve problems and things like that.

Andrew: Did you know that guy from your week at The Big Nerd Ranch?

Nick: I’d never met him before.

Andrew: Wow, okay. So he’s just part of this Google group because he might have gone through their other training and he’s there helping you and you guys are kind of working together. All right, that’s huge, I would have missed that. I’m glad I asked. All right, and then you get this out the door and you said you got some real world users, real world experience behind you. What did you learn from real users using your product?

Nick: Real world users. Well, we learned a lot of changes that we needed. I immediately realized that our onboarding process was a failure. So we fixed, we made it what we considered to be an improvement and on a metrics based it showed that it was an improvement. The other thing was our outbound messages were not converting, our outbound invites were not converting effectively. And so we increased that from a 20% response rate to a 60% response rate or higher. Probably an 80%. I don’t know the exact percentage. I know that well over 50% now respond to all invites. What happened is, the most common response was, ‘Who is this?’ No one knew who was sending the message because it came through Twilio.

So now I set up a communication channel, a private messaging channel where people could reply back and forth. And now they could at least say, ‘Hey, it’s Nick. I’m using this new app. Holler. Let’s go grab a drink.’ And some people actually had real world experiences take place from that, and we’ve had plenty of well. So, we know that it actually works.

Andrew: No, go ahead. Sorry.

Nick: That was the true primary thing that we solved in the next generation. So, I spent another two to three weeks developing that and making that next version which has worked a lot better in theory.

Andrew: So, the person starts using the app; there’s a Facebook connect so they don’t even have to put their e-mail address and their name in. Then, there’s an address book so that they can send text messages to a few local friends, and say, ‘Hey, do you want to get together?’

Nick: They send an invite. It’s an invite basically.

Andrew: An invitation.

Nick: And then a broadcast invite to a bunch of people.

Andrew: And the first responses that you got to that were, ‘Hey, who is this?’, because it’s not coming from the person’s phone. You don’t want to rack up their minutes. It’s coming through Twilio. And Twilio uses their own phone number for this, so the person doesn’t know it. And, so you solved that this, by just letting the recipient of the invitation respond back to the sender of the invitation?

Nick: Yes.

Andrew: And that’s what got your numbers up.

Nick: Way up.

Andrew: How did you even know that was the issue – that people were saying, ‘Hey, who is this?’? Were you looking at the responses that were coming back to Twilio?

Nick: Yes.

Andrew: OK.

Nick: Without knowing who they were, I was seeing the messages that were coming inbound, and that was all that mattered to me – was who those people were. So, it’s really just more of an optimization game. When I was writing all Facebook, I was talking to all the developers to find out: how do you get to this point?; what is the stuff that you’re looking for; finding out about the “K” factor and all this other stuff, which is that for each new user you have, how many new users are you getting. All of these different things, and I watched them optimize all this stuff.

I hosted conferences to ask them to find out about this stuff and asked them questions, the same way you ask entrepreneurs questions. I would ask them because I was simply curious. How did you get to this point? How do you make a successful application? And, that’s where we started finding out all these things, and then I started using those same optimation models for my blog. It was just the same process. I would just go in and look. You just find out where the dead end is happening, and how do we get rid of that dead end. And, so, we started just going after that process.

Andrew: I see. Are people sending out enough invitations? No. That’s a dead end. Why aren’t they sending it? We’re not making it clear enough that this is the process, and this is what’s expected. So you solved that, and then you say, ‘Ok. Why are we not getting new members? Oh, the recipients aren’t understanding who they’re receiving it from.’ All right. So you fixed that, and then, they’re receiving it, but they’re not taking the action we need for them to take next. Why not? What do we do? And it’s just constantly smoothing that path until they hopefully complete the circle, which means use it and invite their friends.

Nick: Yes, and hopefully have an in-person experience. That’s really where the biggest issue with these apps are, is that the percentage of in-person experiences, the funnel moves down to basically less than 1% or some really low percentage. I don’t know the exact number. Ii could be less than 5%. So, 95% of people are not having the experience that they’re hoping for. That’s a horrible system, right? That’s why it’s so hard to make these systems grow organically. That’s the biggest problem against us. Despite our reduction of the friction and our increase of conversion from maybe .5% to even 5%, despite even having a repeat usage. What we also found was that people who did it, became repeat users. Once you had that experience, you did it again, which means that’s really the growth part you’re focused on. How can I expand that percentage of my base, but it starts really small. You have ten people doing it.

Andrew: Because that big payoff is an in-person meeting. If it wasn’t an in-person meeting, but an online chat or a text message on the phone, or something else, it would be easier. But, getting people out the door is a big challenge.

Nick: And so, you’ve just made it insanely hard for your system to grow. So, we started actually considering alternative models. This is where my competitors will get some insight. We started considering either making a forum for people where they could have a conversation because our question was, when does that in-person activity truly start taking place? Is it at the point of the conversation where I get to know you? And I think that’s actually where it is. So maybe it’s more like a group. A face book group or something like that is actually the beginning of that conversation and then the in-person activity happens at a later point, so maybe we need to move earlier up the funnel to number one, increase the volume of transactions taking place through our system, or activities, whatever you want to call it and so that we can get hierarchy versions to further and basically widen the top of the funnel.

Andrew: I see what you’re saying. In fact, I was thinking about that too, that if it’s hard to get people to leave their homes and go meet in person, then maybe there could be a group of IOS developers, for example, in DC, who all first, just chat online and maybe …

Nick: Exactly.

Andrew: … they’re there for each other the way that guy from Google was, and then of course, we’re all aiming to meet in person where we can bring our computers and not do a go to meeting remotely where you look at my computer and try to solve it.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: I see…

Nick: And now you know the next version of the app that we were hoping for.

Andrew: No, that would be the next version. It would kind of be like (?). It would kind of be like Google groups. It would kind of be like Group Me, I think it is. But you decided at that point before you launched that, before you starting building it, I think there’s another direction that I need to go in. Right?

Nick: Yeah, this is where we call it quits. Not quits. This is where we put it on hold.

Andrew: OK. Now that’s a tough decision to make. It took me months to come to that decision with the Mixergy invitation system. I should have known it months before I did, but I kept spending money and I kept deluding myself because I couldn’t just bring it to a stop. I would almost pay thousands of dollars just not to have to tell people this isn’t working. How did you come to that conclusion?

Nick: Well I had lunch with someone who basically suggested an idea to me and gave me access to their whole database, or as much of it as possible. I’ve been talking with the (?) guys and they’ve been giving me access. They’ve just been working with me on a bunch of stuff and they’ve been very supportive. And they have said, hey why don’t you do kind of what you did for face book, but do it for the (?) system. And I said, well that’s a great idea. And we thought of a specific product that would actually cater to this sort of system and so that’s what we’re working on.

And basically they hooked me on my passion, which is doing research and looking into all of these different things and studying things to figure out how are people successful, who are the successful people and surfacing those people. And so they hooked me on that and I was also, I’d say, and I don’t want to say this like they took advantage of me cause they didn’t, but I was in a relatively vulnerable time with (?), right, which is, I don’t know where this is going, how much more money do we want to get to go explore this and more importantly, what my bigger thing was, we don’t even have a defensible position yet. We have no defensible position. What if face book group adds us? What if they make their product better? What if Group Me makes public groups?

Like, there’s so many opportunities for those people to, who in a matter of a couple weeks, incorporate all the functionality that you’ve built into your product and so at that point the bigger question is, do we want to commit all of our time, and since this is going to be a capital intensive process, also raise money to go after building this product which may not be defensible, which I’m starting to have a lot of questions about and we realized how complicated it is because this is a problem that we haven’t yet solved and we need to go so far down this funnel. We’re going to probably lose a lot of money on it.

Andrew: All right. I want to understand what vision they put in your head in a moment, but first of all, what I’m curious about is, you’re already running (?) and you’re talking about being the founder of (?). You’re talking it up. How does someone like maybe I’m imagining there’s a guy who talked to you (?), present you with a new business opportunity without hurting your feelings about the fact that you’re running this one? It’s like, if you were to come to me and say, Andrew, you should be going and doing this other business, I would go, you think Mixergy is not anything.

Nick: So I had already expressed some doubt. And I had already been, now clearly if they were an investor in (?) that would be the worst thing that they ever could possible want to see the entrepreneurs saying is, yeah let’s not do this.

Andrew: But they were friends and you were telling them, hey confidentially I’m not sure where this is going or that I’m executing it right and I see all these other things that are coming down, and through that you got to brainstorm new ideas.

Nick: Yes, they simply just suggested going after some stuff. And, I thought, about it and I started doing some research on it.

Andrew: I’m sorry, I want to hold off on telling what this is yet, because I still want to understand this point of view. What was it? Why them? Why would you share with the guys who are basically sitting at the top of the angel funding community and talking to all the angels, why would you be that open with them? Did you have a friendship with them or something else?

Nick: Like I said, for better or worse, I’m a really transparent guy. That’s just my nature. It’s incredibly hard for me to fight that nature. It doesn’t always work to my advantage, to be honest, especially when you’re speaking to investors. If you’re speaking to investors and telling them you’re having doubts about your business, they’re not going to write you a check. You always have that balance. I guess for myself, at the end of the day, the investor is going to invest in a product that I’m confident in, and sometimes it doesn’t work. I’m also testing them. I want to find out who’s a good investor, and once I get onto that big thing, do I want you on my team? And that’s a bigger thing. Investors don’t seem to care about that, which is a funny thing, and I don’t understand why. There are a lot of investors that I meet that could give a rat’s ass. They don’t care whether or not you’re going to succeed down the road. The thing you’re working on, they’re not really interested in.

Andrew: So, screw off.

Nick: Basically. I’m not here to help you. I’m too busy. OK, I understand that. You’re a busy investor. You’re a successful investor, but some of these people are willing to still give you 30 minutes of their time or 15 minutes of their time. I like those people. I’m not asking them for all their time. I just want to know that they’re a fellow entrepreneur who wants to give you some advice on where you’re going.

Andrew: So, you reached out to them because of who they were in the community. You said, ‘Hey, I’m a proven entrepreneur, working on this project, can I pick your brain, essentially?’

Nick: Exactly. I feel that having a relationship with those people is always good, and either they’re going to be good people or they’re not. There are plenty of bad investors out there that I don’t want to deal with. They see them as they’re always filtering us. No. Screw that. I’m filtering them, because there’s so much money in the marketplace. It’s our job to figure out who we want to take money from and not the other way around. More importantly, that’s just going to make them more attracted them.

Andrew: Exactly.

Nick: You’re surprising them, as Orrin [??] told me.

Andrew: All right. I see it. And these guys, [??] and [??] are terrific. I’ve heard so many great stories about the two of them from entrepreneurs who have interacted with them. You’re talking to them. Can you say what this vision was that they put in your head? I know you’re transparent, but you’re working on a new project. I’m sorry to talk over you, but this is very important to me; that you don’t reveal anything that you don’t feel comfortable with just because you’re a transparent guy. Whatever you feel comfortable with I’ll take. OK, go for it.

Nick: You don’t need to stop me. It’s pretty specific. I’d been doing this something in terms of collecting data before at AllFacebook with Facebook pages and Facebook applications, and we were tracking all this data.

Andrew: What kind of data?

Nick: Literally, daily active users, weekly active users, monthly active users and the number of fans on Facebook pages. I built this database that ended growing to 18,000,000 Facebook pages. The business I sold actually ended up making a business out of this. What I’m interested in doing is a similar sort of thing in terms of collecting large amounts of information about startups and investors and building a dashboard for investors and entrepreneurs to monitor the market. That’s what we’re building.

Andrew: What can you do about unifying or standardizing the data? If it’s Facebook pages, there are a common set of metrics that you would use, such as how many fans the site has. How would you be able to do that across different industries, and startups that cover industries where you’re great if you only get 25 customers versus others where you don’t do well at all unless you get 1,000,000 customers.

Nick: I don’t want to get into all the details, but basically you have weightings for different things. You have weightings for different industries, you also have weightings on a per company basis. How much is one signal an accurate measurement of the success of this business? Effectively what you have is you have a set of indicators and you have a waiting of those indicators for each company and that’s about as much detail as I’ll go into with that, but we basically are actively building a system to track as many of these things as possible and sell access to that on what I really think is a really robust system. We’re finding metrics that I haven’t found anybody using yet aside from internal people. We’re really excited about it.

Andrew: Did you co-launch this with Angel List?

Nick: We’re not partners. They just gave me this idea. I’m an independent party in this. They’re just advising. There’s no formal agreement right now, we just chat is really all that exists. They just got the idea in my head is really all that’s happened at this point.

Andrew: And they’re supporting you with data and other resources?

Nick: And some advice. Yeah.

Andrew: All right. Any last questions? Yeah, I’m wondering this, how do you know if you made the right decision to move on from Holler to Pause It [SP]?

Nick: At the end of the day, it’s really what excites you, what you want and what you want out of your life and this is very selfish, but if you have full control over your destiny you might as well drive it in a place that you really enjoy. At the end of the day, I guess my really deciding factor was which thing am I really more excited about? I love this data stuff. Even though the programming stuff can really be like annoying. I really loved do this. Going through various product iterations on these tiny, minute details to remove the friction from all these different things, I like doing that to a specific point, but on mass consumer products you really need to be passionate about refining the product.

You need a Steve Jobs sort of mentality to get there. I have some of that with building products, but I really enjoy what we’re working on now. I’m absolutely thrilled. I love the schmoozing with investors and things like that and chatting with them and entrepreneurs. I love meeting people that are doing exciting things and so it’s a space that I really enjoy.

Andrew: We talked a lot before the interview about how sometimes you just have to walk away and try something different. You did I think five different companies before Allfacebook became the huge hit, right? And if you would’ve stuck with any of those five for the rest of your life even if they weren’t working out Allfacebook never would’ve happened and we wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t know each other and you wouldn’t have had the influence that you had on that space. Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t have gone to you to talk to developers the way that he did when you were running Allfacebook.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: It’s not something that you hear a lot about because the advice that advice givers are trained to give us is, never give up, never ever give up.

Nick: Yeah.

Andrew: And it sounds so great and it makes the people who succeed feel really masculine for having stuck it through when others wouldn’t have. Really, real life is a lot more nuance than that and we don’t give credit to the whole story.

Nick: I think that you can always be in pursuit of a broader vision and maybe I’ll come back to Holler in a different way at a future date and you never know where life is going to take and what sequence of thoughts and events lead you to a point. Ultimately yeah, I think that following your gut and then just making the call and doing it is really the best thing and a lot of people say, well it seems like you’re actually entering in a great direction and other people will say, you’re not going to make this work. It doesn’t really matter what they say. At the end of the day you need to follow your gut. For most entrepreneurs your gut should be able to get you to a great place hopefully.

Andrew: Let me read a quick email from the audience and I’ve got one final question to ask you. Based on your past I think you’d be the perfect person to ask this question. Here it is. Last time I read the email you knew the guy who sent me the email about being a Mixergy Premium member. So let me ask you, do you know Jason Croft [SP]?

Nick: No.

Andrew: No? All right. Great. He’s a real person, Jason Croft. Any time anyone sends me an email I use their full name so that the audience can go and check out and make sure that it’s a real person. I hate testimonials that come from Steve B. online, I want the real person. So Jason Croft sent me this great email. He says, “Hey Andrew. I’m a new premium member. I flipping love it. My head is about to explode with all the ideas and info I’m getting, in a good way of course. Thanks so much for doing what you’re doing.”

And then he says, ‘Quick suggestion. I’ve noticed on a couple of the courses your intro music just keeps on going during the intro even into the guests as they start talking.’ ‘I’m a production guy.’ he says, ‘So, maybe it bothers me more than most, but the music really needs to fade out just as you’re coming in to introduce the guest.’ First of all, he’s absolutely right. I killed that. We cannot have music overlapping the conversation, because we’re apparently not equipped to edit the audio properly and reduce the volume of the music and increase the volume of the talker, so as soon as the talking happens, get rid of all the music.

And then he says, ‘Can you tell I just bought Ruben Gomez’s networking course?’ And, that comes right out of that course. This guy Ruben comes on and says, ‘I’m an introvert. I’m going to teach you a class on how introverts can network online.’ And, one of the tactics he has is to offer someone who you want to get to know, offer them a little bit of help, and then he goes through this whole process for how he built relationships and got some of the web’s top people to help him out as he built his business. And, so, of course I could tell.

So, Jason, thanks for doing that. Thanks for saying that. I’m glad you’re getting a lot of value out of it, and if you’re a Mixergy premium member, go take that ‘Networking for Introverts’ course. Even if you’re not an introvert, Ruben’s course at Mixergy.com/premium is, I think, the best way to get to know strangers online. Offer them a little bit of help. He walks through the whole process, and by the end of it you’re going to get some of the top people, I believe, to be your advisors. And that’s just one of many courses that we have at Mixergy premium. I hope you join us.

If you do, you’re going to get dozens of courses like that, and if you’re already a member, go take them, use them. You’re already a member, and I want you to take as much advantage of it as possible. All right. Nick, final question is this: You were phenomenal at allfacebook with headlines. You can get people’s attention from across the internet, while they’re doing other things, to just click over to your site. If you were writing a headline for this interview, for the Holler interview, what would you do?

Nick: You’ve got to give me about 30 seconds here to think of this.

Andrew: Take your time. I should have asked you that before I did that little promo for Mixergy premium.

Nick: Well, there are a lot of ways. One would be: How to light 300 grand on fire and walk away smiling. Let me actually say one other thing. It wasn’t really lit on fire. That’s not an accurate depiction of what it is, but it gets you in the door.

Andrew: Yes! And then you find out what happens.

Nick: That’s the more important thing. I sometimes pushed the title just for the purpose of getting them in the door and then explaining the whole thing. Another one, I think, at the end of the day the question is: what is attractive to your audience? If you say, ‘My audience is startup entrepreneurs that are learning about failing and succeeding.’ I think that one was actually the best one, that came out first.

Andrew: I like that. It’s really hard to outdo that one, and it just came to you.

Nick: I think about all these things. It’s messed up. It’s really good. If you can master headlines and study it, it will do wonders for your traffic.

Andrew: That was inspiring. That first interview where you studied not just headlines, but you studied copyrighting and you gave a few ideas of what worked for you at allfacebook. We’re going to hire a writer just basically to do what you suggested here. Hopefully we’ll get that in January. We’ll get a good writer to follow through on that. Alright, Nick, your blog, what’s the URL on that?

Nick: Well, my current one is just nickoneill.com.

Andrew: It’s not ‘just’. It is a great blog. Let me refer to one blog post. One blog post that people need to check out is, you had just a screenshot of how Noah Kagan at AppSumo grabs email addresses from Facebook. You said, ‘Are the people aware of it?’ I think the audience should really just get that screenshot. Go over to nickoneill.com, get that screenshot, and you’ll understand how cleverly Nick sees the world. Nick, I appreciate you doing this interview.

Nick: Thanks for having me again.

Andrew: All right. Thank you all for watching.

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  • Gerald

    Andrew this interview really hit home with me…… maybe because I’ve been down the money pit road before……..have been an millionaire a few times in the past …..thinking the same way as he did……”Why I’m I doing this I have money, just go sit on a beach” But being the Entrepreneur we are we go again…….but I believe we make need to take a break to refocus our energy….and mind set……and then go at it again…..I’ve been a member of mixergy for a long time and believe me this is the BEST COMMUNITY FOR ENTREPRENEUR EVER…….real word experience….is the best…..

    Gerald

  • Gerald

    Also Nick what percent of your money you receive from the sale of AllFaceBook  did he lose on holler? And looking back on it what the one thing to would have changed?….

    Thanks,
    Gerald

  • http://www.exercisetherpg.com/ Tom

    Andrew,

    Great interview as usual! a lot of things Nick talked about are very helpful to me as i’m also looking for developers to develop my first iOS app. Not that they are new, but they have all covered before in your interviews such as the one with Eric Ries, or one with Fiplab. I guess entrepreneurs have big dream but we all need to learn how to strategically start small and grow big.

    I also really like the way you ask the first 3 questions – much more powerful than the previous “just 3 things before we start”. I notice that the header image has been made smaller. Probably the right-hand navigation too. The three ad boxes look cleaner, but the “read now” buttons can be better. They don’t look like active buttons because of the combination of the button color and background color. Your search box is no longer  working; it took me to a message saying lijit.com has been acquired and stuff.

    Tom

  • http://twitter.com/jaygould Jay Gould

    Andrew – fantastic interview here.  I love Nick’s complete transparency.  Awesome work.

  • Anonymous

    Did he really come up with that headline on the spot? or did he prepare it before the interview?

  • Anonymous

    Hopeful….

    “How Mixergy’s Fans Convinced Andrew To Do A Part Three With Nick Even If They Had To Just Riff On Current Events!”

    Nick is on my short list for all time favorite Mixergy guests. His style resonates with me…and you two have great “interview chemistry”. The hopeful headline above was tongue in cheek….but should you ever have reason to bring Nick on for a third appearance, I’d be delighted.

    CHEERS!

    David

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-ONeill/7403766 Nick ONeill

    Just came up with it!

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    ;-)

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Ont he spot. Impressive, right?

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