How BrandCrowd Ended Up In The Dead Pool – with Wes Wilson

Can credit card fraud destroy the company you built? And if your company goes into the dead pool, can it ever come back? Today’s guest says it happened to him. Wait till you hear how Wes Wilson, founder of BrandCrowd, pulled his business from oblivion using an approach that just might work for you.

BrandCrowd, where you can buy ready-made logos and brands, was founded with a different name as you’ll hear. After it was hit with credit card fraud, it shut down and was sold. All that and more, coming up.

Watch the FULL program

Wes Wilson, Brandstack

Wes Wilson is the founder of Brandstack, a brand marketplace where designers offer unused brand concepts or specially researched and developed brands for sale to small and medium businesses.


Raw transcript

Mixergy's audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Coming up in this program, can credit card fraud destroy your

company? Today’s guest says it happened to him.

And, if your company goes into the debt pool, can it ever come back? Wait

until you hear how today’s guest pulled his business from oblivion using an

approach that just might work for you. All that and so much more coming up.

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Here’s the program. Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew. I’m the

founder of, home of the ambitious upstart and in this interview

I want to hear how a founder who I interviewed last year could end up in

the dept pool?

Wes is a friend and the founder of BrandCrowd, where you can buy ready made

logos and brands. Let me give that name again, BrandCrowd. The company was

founded with a different name as you’ll hear after it was hit with credit

card fraud, it shut down and was sold. I want to hear the whole story but

first, Wes, welcome back, bud.

Wes: Hey, Andrew, how are you?

Andrew: Good. Hey, how about just a simple explanation of what the fraud

was before we get into the back story of how you built this company, some

of the winds along the way and then what happened after the fraud?

How can you explain it to someone who just doesn’t understand how credit

card fraud can influence a company?

Wes: Sure. Credit card fraud is something I didn’t anticipate or expect it

to be this big and damaging factor as it was but, essentially, when anybody

makes a purchase with a credit card, they use a, let’s say somebody uses a

stolen credit card. They go to a retail shop, they swipe it, the retailer

accepts it and give them the goods. The person whose card was stolen, they

get the money back from the bank. The bank then turns around and tries to

collect that money from the retailer. The retailer has no one to collect it


So in essence, anybody that’s accepting credit cards is liable for any sort

of fraud or issues like that.

Andrew: So, if somebody comes to my site using a fraudulent credit card, a

stolen credit card and eyes MixergyPremium for example, and then they walk

away, I have to, actually in my case I don’t have anything. It doesn’t hurt

me because I don’t have to pass that on to someone else.

Wes: Yes. So that’s one of the beautiful things of working for a SaaS

company or something like that or running a SaaS company as opposed to

something like BrandStack that was selling one-time digital goods. There

was no real returning, I guess, asset there.

So one of the things that was damaging was we accepted credit card

payments. Designers would either sell their items or work for this. We

would later find out, probably two to three months down the road, that that

was a stolen credit card. We’d then have to refund the money to the bank

and that’s when we’ve already paid out the money to the designers so we had

double losses at that point.

Andrew: OK. And why would they want to do this?

I understand if you steal a credit card you might want to go out and buy

sneakers. Maybe you want to find a way to turn that into cash but to go out

and buy designs seems very unlink credit card thieves. What’s their


Wes: Yeah, and I don’t know if they were traditional credit card thieves.

We had some initial fraud at the very beginning of BrandStack where it was

just the marketplace and one of the things, through my advisors at I

learned is that credit card thieves, a lot of times would use online

companies just to verify that a card can accept payments. Usually looking

for $100 increments. They go to [??] at that point. They go ‘OK. That

works. Let’s go and use it somewhere real’

And so we did a decent job combating that in the beginning but what really

got me, and again I’m really not sure of the incentive, but once we opened

the custom portion of BrandStack which was BrandStack Custom, we started

getting a huge hit of fraud there, where somebody would use a stolen credit

card. They would actually get the work completed, usually in a fast

turnaround time, 24 to 48 hours from the designer. They were paying an

extra fee to these guys, you know, really making them work hard for it and

then they’d take the goods and then they’d dissappear.

I get the feeling it was probably one group of people that was doing it,

just doing it really effectively. And again, incentive, I don’t know other

than maybe taking that information or taking those designs and selling them

to somebody else later.

Andrew: Was it also a situation where they know that you would pay the

designer and then, of course, you’d lose the money that they’d supposedly

paid you.

So were they working with that designer on the other end to collect cash,

In other words, being both sides of the market, knowing that the money

they’re giving you is trash but the money you’re giving the designer is

real and they can then pocket it if they’re also the designer.

Wes: Being a believer in the community and making as many friends on that

side as I did, I really hope it wasn’t but it was a strong, strong


We had a lot of safeguards in place working through our merchant supplier,

working through PayPal, and then also our own self-made tools to try to

catch, you know, we did different geo location things and that to try

trends in the system to try to make sure that that wasn’t happening but

there’s so much sophistication out there. I don’t know. It could definitely

be a possibility.

Andrew: You’re now working for a company called ZippyKid. I interviewed the

founder. They’re doing great. I know my audience loves ZippyKid. After the

interview, they went to ZippyKid and signed up to get their word press

sites hosted by Vid because they knew that Vid took all the calls, or at

least in the early days, he took all the calls himself if there were any

tech support issues. And they figured ‘All right, I’m going to put my site

on ZippyKid and if there’s ever an issue, I know someone, maybe even Vid,

the founder, will be on the other end of the call’.

So you did OK at the end of it. But take me back before you did OK, to the

point where when this is all exploding around you. Maybe not exploding,

maybe the way to talk about it is like it’s crumbling around you. This

thing that you built up, you talked about it with such pride when you did

the interview with me last year. When it’s crumbling, can you tap into how

you felt and just express that?

Wes: Yeah, I mean, it was very stressful time, just because what you

anticipate in the beginning of starting up a company, this is not the way

you expect it to go. And so I made several decisions along the way that, if

I had made them the other way, I could have probably safeguard against some

of this stuff but I really did have a lot of fate in the community and the

product and that’s where I didn’t think some thing as trivial, and I do

call it trivial because in the grand scheme of things, if you’re set up

right and you’re doing things right then fraud shouldn’t be the downfall of

your company, but there were several decisions along the way that caused me

to put some of that stress on myself.

For example, I made a decision, you know, we raised a little bit of money

in the beginning. Went through a decent amount of growth and then decided

at that point, you know, I did go out there and check a few offers about

possibly raising a little bit of more money and decided that it was better

if we really went from raising some angel money, running through that and

then really taking the boot strap around at that point forward. And knowing

now that the fraud was there, probably wasn’t the best decision because we

didn’t have [??] of funds.

Andrew: No question because you were bootstrapping.

Wes: Exactly.

Andrew: You know what? If you don’t mind, let me just put a pin in this.

I’ve got a note here to myself to comeback and ask you about what you could

have done to avoid this and more importantly since this is all behind you,

what advice you can give the audience based on your experience on how to

avoid this. I want to avoid it.

But let’s just stay for a moment with the pain and I’ll tell you why. When

Olivia and I first moved to Argentina, I’ll go personal first so that you

understand what I’m looking for. The importance of what you can give our

audience now.

We moved to Argentina and I remember coming home one night and going ‘Why

are we always arguing?’ I thought ‘You know what it is? We just got married

a month before. Maybe as soon as you get married, you start to live this

ordinary life and the ordinary life is not for me and I’m arguing with her.

Maybe I just discovered the real her because now she got me to sign on the

marriage agreement. Now, the real her is a pain in the butt, and she must

have thought equal things about me. We were arguing a lot. Then we had

dinner with, I won’t even say who, who was this great entrepreneurial

couple that I met in Argentina.

They are just into extreme openness. They talked about how when they first

moved to Argentina, they were arguing all the time. As I heard them tell

these stories, I said, of course, it makes sense. They’re in this new

environment where the food is different, where the people are different,

where there’s nothing safe to touch. Of course, they’re arguing, and that’s

what they’re going through. Then I said, huh.

That’s why we’re doing it, too. As soon as I realized what they were going

through, and the pain that we were going through, and why it happened, and

I know it sounds like magic but we just stopped arguing. We understood it’s

not about us arguing with each other, it’s about the situation. Now we can

take ourselves away from it and solve it by having touched stones like

American food, we’d go to bars and have American beer.

Wes: Sure.

Andrew: We’d go to places where you can talk to people in English. Anyway,

so it’s kind of tough to open up about the pain that you’re having in a

marriage, but these guys did, this couple that I’m talking to you about.

If you can do the same thing and really tap into the pain of being in that

situation, the fact that you got through it and what you went through will

help us. So, to the extent that you can, tap into some of that pain for us.

Wes: Yeah. Definitely. All right. Let’s think strategically, and like I

said before, there are some decisions that I should have made early on to

help prevent some of this stuff, but you just don’t really see some of the

downsides coming at… I thought I’d [??]

Andrew: Did you go into your head saying, I wish I’d done this, I wish I’d

done that, and spend…

Wes: Yeah.

Andrew: …a whole day going over what you wish you’d done and beating

yourself up?

Wes: Yeah. I mean, it’s all stuff though that I think it makes sense for

larger companies, or I guess if people in the audience are specifically

building market places. You talked about it before, there are some specific

issues related to market places.

Yeah. When we went through some initial rounds of traction, I should have

made the decision at that point to raise at least a little bit of money so

that we did have some sort of pool set aside. I kind of look at it if you

relate somebody living paycheck to paycheck. When your car breaks down, it

throws everything off. You know?

That was one of the issues. I think that we should have relied a little bit

more on our current set of investors, or even made some different choices

with our expenses so that we would have some of those funds available.

Andrew: OK. Choices like what? I’m going to keep asking about this…

Wes: Yeah.

Andrew: …about what you could have done. To the extent that you feel

comfortable later on talking about how you felt in those moments, I’d like

to come back and ask you about that too. You’ve got some points that you,

yourself, have processed, some understanding of what you could have done

differently. Let’s spend a little bit of time on that, and then I’ll come

back to the pain if you’re willing to talk about it.

Wes: Yeah. No worries.

Andrew: You’re saying there were some decisions you could have made. Like

what? With your expenses.

Wes: Yeah. On the expense side, I’m trying to think. We could have gone

back and made some cuts. We were living life as if it was normal life. I

guess, I’m going to ramble a little bit here.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Wes: It was kind of us leading up to that point. It wasn’t like we hit all

this fraud on one day, and then the next day you’re out of business. It was

really a long kind of churning time period. There was a little bit of fraud


We start to notice it a couple months later. At that point it’s already had

some damage. The first part that I had noticed the damage, I should not

have assumed, I’m an optimist overall, so I should not have assumed that

was the only hit that we were going to have. I should have started putting

in some safeguards then.

I should have started cutting back on some expenses. As sad as it is, I

ended up having to let all the employees go, which were really just two of

them at that time. I had to let them go, probably a couple of months before

we made the decision to actually shut it down, which was the hardest thing

in the world for me to do.

I should have had really started to think about cutting back at that point.

Maybe they go to part time. Maybe I put it in front of them, let them know

exactly what’s going on so that they weren’t hit with that in the very end.

I think that would have freed up some cash for that part as well. Almost

contrary to that, but I think it would have made a huge difference, is that

we stopped marketing altogether.

Not just stopped marketing expense wise, because we were trying to keep

some of that cash conserved, but we stopped doing any sort of PR or

anything like that because we were in survival mode. In my mind, survival

mode means, I need to focus everything I can to prevent this from happening

and keep the boat afloat.

What it did, it really did take a toll on the number of customers that we

had there, so it started a domino effect on that. I think those two things

probably would have helped out quite a bit.

Andrew: I see. As soon as you start to catch that fraud is going on, not

say, hey, it’s a small percentage of our overall business. This stuff

happens. But to stop and say, this could take us down. Let’s find a way to

protect ourselves from more of this. Maybe at that point those guys were

testing you to see if this was a good site for them to keep running their

bad credit cards through. And because you didn’t stop it then, you were

signaling to them, “Hey, keep on coming. This is the place where you can

keep testing your bad cards.” So that’s one thing that you’re doing.

And the other thing, if I’m hearing you right is, don’t go into survival

mode. Because a startup like yours, if it’s not growing, it’s dying. If

you’re not bringing in new users, then the whole marketplace starts to feel

like it’s falling apart, and people go find another marketplace. Fair?

Wes: Yeah. And I guess to rephrase that, not so much don’t go into survival

mode, but make sure your marketing is part of your survival mode.

Andrew: Oh, OK. And if you’re going to . . . I understand the reason why

you don’t want to market. It’s not just that you don’t have money, but

you’re trying to fix the problem. And you don’t want to market and bring

more people into this environment where there is a problem. How do you do

it right? How do you still bring new people in so that, you know, part of

survival mode is bringing in new money which will give you strength to go

and grow? How do you do that even when you’ve got a problem, a leaky [??],

let’s say?

Wes: That’s a great question. You know, I think . . . I don’t know if

there’s specific tactics around that. I wouldn’t say it’s to go out and

spend a bunch of money on PPC or on banner ads, but I think it’s to still

keep your mindset on marketing in general. I think BrandStack did really

well in the beginning because a lot of the company’s mindset, a lot of my

mindset was around taking care of the customer. And in doing that helping

spread word of mouth for what we’re doing. And I think a lot of that fell

off the map. Communication went down between us and them, just because we

were thinking . . .

Again, we weren’t thinking about it. We were thinking about, “how do we fix

this issue”, as opposed to, “how do we keep our customers happy”. Right? We

were thinking as long as we get this issue fixed everything will be fine.

But I think, really, just having a mindset about marketing in general. And

again, maybe marketing is just talking to your community. Maybe marketing

is staying out there on Twitter more. Maybe it’s contributing to blogs.

Whatever it is, even if it’s free stuff, I think just staying out there so

that people continue to see you, and hopefully you can build your user base

upwards to what you currently have.

Andrew: I see. And because you weren’t out on Twitter much, you weren’t

doing interviews like [??], you weren’t buying advertising, what happened

to the business apart from revenue? What happens to the business?

Wes: It slows. I mean, in our particular situation, uploads slow. I’ve

always seen a direct correlation between the number of logos that were

uploaded on the site, that directly correlated to sales. So as the logo

uploads start to slow down, sales would slow down. And then again, you

know, the fraudulent issues were directly impacting users at that point.

Because it started to put a crimp in our cash flow. It started to slow down

the rate of payment that we’d make. So as opposed to the one or two days

that we would do it, you’d start to push it to three to four. You know. And

then four to five, and that kind of thing. So, it would start to upset the

user base as well.

Andrew: I see. And the way the business worked was, designers would upload

logos. And basically it’s not just a logo; it’s a brand, it’s a whole

identity that they upload. They just have this great idea, they upload it

and then they put it up in the market place. Entrepreneur says, “I don’t

even know how to describe the kind of logo that I want. I just need my site

to look good, to communicate this feeling that I have”. So they come to

your site. Instead of going in and describing what they’re looking for, and

working back and forth with the designer, what they do is they go shopping.

They say, “Oh, that logo looks good. That brand feels like my brand. I’ll

replace the name that they put there as a placeholder with my company name,

and boom, I now have a look. Life is good”. And the more designs there are

up there, the more likely I am to buy and the more likely traffic is to

come to you from people who are looking at the logos and designs.

Wes: Yep.

Andrew: OK. So that’s one issue. What about . . . Here’s what happened to

me back at Bradford and Reed when things were going bad. I found myself not

wanting to face my employees, not wanting to talk to people because I felt

pretty bad about myself. Did that happen to you? What would we do in

situations like that? I still feel like what I should do is walk out there

and talk to people and say how I feel and say, “Hey, you know what, we’re

going through a bad situation, and it’s hurting the way that I’m feeling

about this business. But I know I’m confident and I can get through it”.

But I don’t even know that I’m confident at that point. I feel like a fraud

to say it. So what do you think we should be doing at that point? If you

take yourself back, now that you’re so close to it.

Wes: Yep. I think, open communication, regardless of the feeling, I think

is huge. I was always under the impression . . . I don’t think that I cut

off communication with employees directly. I definitely cut off

communication with our sellers on the site during that time. But to [??], I

don’t think I was open enough, I don’t think I was upfront with the issues

that we were actually facing. Which I think, if you were to do that, even

if there are kind of gloom and doom feelings at that, I think that the

employees, at least mine, would have faith. And they would say, “OK, well,

here’s what we need to do to get out of this, and we could all kind of work


As opposed to doing that, I was a single founder, so I spent more time

taking it all on my back which I don’t think was the right thing to do. So,

no, I think you have to be open with your communication, regardless of how

it is. I don’t think it’s always realistic to think you can spin it in a

positive way. I don’t think it’s realistic, depending on how far down in

the valley you are that you can have a lot of confidence in what you’re

doing. As long as you’re open with it, you can work together to put a plan.

It definitely helps to paint the right picture or, at least, set the tone

for what you’ll need to do and get everybody on the same page.

Andrew: Wouldn’t though, employees at that point be thinking one of two

things, either I’ve got to go look for another job and they go out and do

it, or in this place I’m in an uncertain situation.

Wes: Yeah.

Andrew: I can’t operate. I’m out looking for another job. I am loyal, but I

just can’t operate because most people aren’t entrepreneurs, and partially

it’s because they can’t handle the uncertainty that comes from one day

being up and the next day being completely out.

Wes: Sure. Yeah. No, the reality of it is a startup, regardless of your

size, is going to be an up and down battle, and there’s always uncertainty

involved. A lot of startups are living off of it, whether it’s investment

rounds they put in and/or the current traction they’re going through.

Looking back, I had a lot of the same feelings that we’re describing right

now, but I didn’t want them to go out and look for other jobs. Knowing the

way that thing turned around, I wish I would have, so I would give them a

little bit more of a heads up. But, still it’s a startup. I think you’ve

got to be honest about that. You’re not working for a Fortune 500 company,

you’re working for accompany where everybody needs to have all hands in at

all times. And so, I think that just having the open communication about

that, I think it’s the right decision.

Andrew: What else can we do to safeguard ourselves? I’m hearing somebody

else. I expressed a little bit of excessive confidence in the beginning of

this interview because I was trying to express the problem that you were

going through. The confidence was, hey, I’m not a marketplace, so if

someone runs a credit card through me, the money isn’t going out the door.

I could always pay back the bank, whatever, but clearly they could come to

my site, sign up for a membership and use a bad credit card just to test my

system. If someone is listening to us and does not have a marketplace and

is selling some digital goods, same thing could happen to them. If that

happens often enough, you could lose your ability to process credit cards.

Wes: Right.

Andrew: What do we do to avoid that?

Wes: I think there are some third party services out there that helps with

that. But that was a huge issue and that’s something I should of actually

brought up earlier on it. We went through, we ended going through two

credit card processors through that last period.

What happens anytime that a credit card processor decides that you have

become a risk; which just in it’s nature of market place is going to be at

risk and all my market places is going to be at risk over any of their

business. Because of the nature of buying and selling. Whenever they decide

to cut you off at that point and you find another processor, they hold

whatever funds they have in there.

Which at our point was tens of thousands of dollars, that were waiting to

be processed. They hold that for six months because there is a six month

period on anything that comes back. The hard part about it is the

processors don’t do much to help you out combating fraud. Their safeguards

are the underwriting process before they actually approve you.

They want to make sure that personally you have good credit, they want to

make sure that your business is one that they want to deal with, that they

want to work with, they want to make sure that it’s a sound business model,

that you have been in business already. I know there are some other

companies now that are coming up like Square, and that that are the

processors and a merchant.

Which I think is great, I don’t know how, what they do to combat fraud. But

I know there were some third-party processors out there, some third fraud

detection services out there; that if I were to realize the extent to the

damage with that I probably would of invested in that a little bit earlier.

Andrew: I see. What about taking money out? If they have access to freeze

your money, should we as entrepreneurs keep the money that we are going to

spend in a separate account from the money that we are collecting from

customers, so if we do get frozen, we don’t loose access to all of our

safety net?

Wes: I do not know if this is, if we are getting into legal aspects now. I

do not know if-, I think when you sign up to process with a merchant

account, they want you or they require you to keep your money in the same

account that they are able to tap into.

I don’t know if that is a right decision from an entrepreneur’s standpoint

we never got into it too far, which it could of helped out. But I was

worried about any legal aspects that can come back on. One of the things

though there is a difference, though between the money that you have in

your bank and what the actual merchant processes. Usually, there is a delay

between when the merchant will process a credit card and then they put it

in your bank 24 or 48 hours, whatever.

Once they start to get a hint that there is some sort of issue, then

they’ll put a freeze on that and they’ll just keep collecting your funds

and not distributing to your bank. For me, again, I wasn’t on top of things

enough to see that a few weeks had gone by, we hadn’t had any deposits in

there and then by the time you make that call, then that’s when they

decide, ‘It’s time for you to go somewhere else. We’re going to keep your

money and we’ll give it back to you in six months.’

Andrew: At any one point, how much of a runway did you have in the bank?

Wes: I don’t remember exactly. It obviously varied, but when a merchant

holds a good chunk of your funds that you’re processing and, again, you’re

in this bootstrap mode, it makes a pretty big dent.

Andrew: What about this, it wears on you to have gone through this.

Everything from not having access to money to the possibility of where

things could go, to trying to perk up your employees, to trying to battle

the fraudsters, to trying to have conversations with or hide from angry

designers and customers. Did that keep you from coming up, I see the smile

on your face. The smile of recognition, I think. How did that affect your

ability to come up with creative solutions to battle it, or did it make you

say, ‘You know what? I just can’t anymore. I got to walk away.’

Wes: No. I can’t was when you get down to the very last dollar. There was

never a real, ‘I can’t,’ throughout that process. Anytime we had any, the

fight never left, but it definitely plays a role because the great thing

about a marketplace is that the community will drive you. They’ll drive

both your inventory and your sales. An even better thing about the design

community is they’re passionate as hell. When they love you, they love you.

You’ve seen sites like Gerbil, for example, that just take off of that

passion. The bad side of that is when something goes wrong they’re just as

passionate and they’re just as loud. Anytime we would think about doing

something creative, whether it’s doing something on Facebook or Twitter, we

knew that as soon as our voice was heard, we’d start to get some backlash

because the issues weren’t resolved. It definitely plays a role.

Andrew: And if you had more excess reserve, would you have been able to

come up with something like a plan like, ‘We’re going to partner up with

someone else. They’ll do our credit card processing. We’ll continue to run

our business and then maybe once we’ve gotten rid of all the fraud and

they’ve helped us get back on our feet, we go on to process our own

accounts.’ Or some other creative solution. That’s not the best idea that I

could come up with, but would you, with more energy, more creative power

been able to have come up with something like that?

Wes: It’s hard to tell. Obviously, not being in the same situation, you

really don’t know what kind of decisions would have been made. I have to

say, that idea’s actually a good one, but as we were going through this,

one of my investors and I had a good conversation around the troubles that

credit card fraud bring and the fact that retailers are the ones that

aren’t being protected throughout all of this. I think if there was a

service at the time, they would have charged a couple of extra points

knowing that we had the margin built in. I think we would have taken that

kind of deal in a heartbeat.

Andrew: I like to do post mortems on my interviews. I’ve been doing them.

Before I sit down to do your interview, what I did was, I sat down and I

watched parts of my interview with Ryan Deiss [SP] and with Will Schroeder,

that haven’t been yet posted on the web, but I just wanted to see, ‘What

did I do there that I could do differently in these interviews, in today’s

interview with you.’ One thing that I noticed going through Ryan Deiss’

interview is, as tough as he is, talked about crying. I remember crying at

Bradford [??] in the toughest days. Did you?

Wes: Yeah. I’m not one who will probably get overly emotional with it, but

I think that’s a flaw of mine. I will tell you I gave myself shingles

through the whole process, which I bottled stuff up to the point to where,

I guess that’s what happens. That’s the first time anything like that’s

ever happened. I put myself out of commission for a good four to six months

from something like that.

Andrew: What do you mean? What’s the shingles and how does it put you out

for that long?

Wes: Shingles is normally, it only affects, don’t quote me on this, but I

think it’s like two percent of people under the age of 60. If you do get it

at that age, it’s usually driven by stress and what it is, it’s basically a

strain of chicken pox, but it just attacks your nerves. It’s funny, once I

got that and I’d start to talk to other entrepreneurs, I found others that

got it as well going through that kind of hard time. I definitely did go

through some emotional, I guess, quest throughout all that.

Andrew: Shingles, if I put you out of commission.

Wes: Oh and I just a pain that shingles brings on in general.

Andrew: Yeah, last year for about three months, at least, you were just

under severe pain from shingles.

Wes: Yeah, yeah and I have been in, if you never had it, you thank god.

Apparently one’s you get it, once you can get it again. And it is weird,

whenever I get into a stressful situation now that’s the first thing I

think about. I have find ways to de-stress.

Andrew: How?

Wes: There is no more stress now. It’s impossible just because I don’t like

I can do it again.

Andrew: How do you de-stress, how do you give [SP] from having that?

Wes: You know, I think it’s almost trigger now since you go through

something like that and I have got three kids, I have got an awesome fiancé

right, so I just think about those things. I mean there is so much more

important things in the world than the stress of a company, you know. As

much time and passionate energy that you put in as an entrepreneur [SP],

you put into building something, it’s not the end of the world whether it

succeeds or it fails.

Andrew: [??], is it shingles or that shingles, I feel like, I just called

it the [??], when I referred towards the shingles.

Wes: I’m going to call it [??] shingles from now on, yeah.

Andrew: It’s what, it shingles.

Wes: It’s shingles, yeah.

Andrew: I see, okay. You know what, actually crime really isn’t my way of

expressing myself either and I sometimes feel like it should be…There was

that time, he was crying in the shower [??] I felt like, oh what, I don’t

even know what I felt but, I remember doing it because it’s just a shocking

way to express myself.

Wes: When you put so much of your energy and your self into a company, you

know. Yeah, I mean it takes you through roller coaster promotions.

Andrew: Yeah. I remember watching cheerleading competitions on TV and the

team that lost, the girls were crying and I remember feeling like they

weren’t crying like girls, they were crying like people who really wanted

it. Even in basketball, sometimes, you’ll see it, the baseball the team

that loses will cry because you know what, they’re giving it every single

thing that they have and to feel that passionate about something that you

wanted that badly that you were willing to give it everything that you got,

that’s you’re willing to get the shingles court, now that passion, I think

is a gift.

I think most people walk around feeling like, where is my special thing

that I care about. Where is that thing that I care so much about that I can

just get it started, maybe get it off the ground not flying off like a

space shuttle but just even hovering off the ground? Where is that thing

that I feel passionate about. I do feel, it’s a gift.

Wes: Good point.

Andrew: You then, shut it down and I refer to, it is dead pool because

that’s what it TechCrunch.

Wes: Yeah.

Andrew: I refer to it. Then it said, ‘Hey look at this, this company

actually came out of the dead pool maybe the first time that I have seen it

on TechCrunch.” What happened, how do you suddenly go from shuttering a

business to having a buyer. How do you make [??] of it.

Wes: I think TechCrunch did it. I think the fact that they posted about it

going down on the way over the weekend. I think spurred that kind of

activity around it. I had actually had conversation with a couple of

different companies for about six months before deciding to shut it down,

about acquiring it. This wasn’t designed but it wasn’t one of them. But,

you know, so once I kind of felt like, those were all just kind of fall

through the mess. We made a decision, we don’t have any more money in the

bank. You know, when I feel to do this, I’m going to have to figure out

way, you know to make this right at some point before right now, you know,

we can’t keep doing this. So shut it down,

TechCrunch wrote about for [??] the first time ever, which you know under

those circumstances, it was, I guess it was bittersweet. But yeah that

actually spurred several potential takers and acquiring a company. And this

one, it went fairly quick. We were contacted by a couple of brokers, where

there somebody’s initial, I just lost the word. What there somebody’s

initial, we give and research process and then, you know, went through

making a deal.

Andrew: How much do, the diligence, it just came to me. How your diligence

they do in this situation like this.

Wes: It’s actually quite a bit, I mean, I don’t what it is, this is my

first settlement [??], so I don’t know in comparison but it was quite a bit

with you know, the last three years of numbers, we went through, you know

what the extent of the fraud was, we went through as much as everything we

had on paper, we went through it.

Andrew: [??] had a company go though the diligence with me in retrospect

with what they were doing was squeezing me. They were squeezing me for time

for having me full [??] out. They were squeezing my tension by having me

care more about this than I care about other aspects of the business. So

that when I finally, it was time for me to buy, I would sell, I will either

give them a great deal because the whole thing was just not going to

survive without them or I was going to go back devastated.

Wes: Yeah.

Andrew: And, you know lost money, lost attention. Do you feel like they did

that to you that anyone was taking advantage of the situation?

Wes: No. I don’t think so. Obviously, it’s not like we were in a great deal

of leverage at that point and the only power that we had was that there

was more than one company looking at the deal. One, we did agree to just to

a one week non-compete period, which, looking back now, I think it was a

brilliant move for them to suggest it because in my mind it was like,

“What’s one week? It’s no big deal. Let’s go for it.” I’ll be damned, they

were able to get everything done that they needed to within that week. Made

an offer at the end of the week, which was a good positive offer for me and

my investors and all of our users and we went for it.

Andrew: They said, “Wes. Don’t talk to competition for just one week. Don’t

try to sell it from under us, give us a week.” I see. What’s in it for

them? What do they get with this business that you thought you needed to

shut down?

Wes: It fills a niche for them that they needed. They’ve got, the Design

Crowd is similar to, like 99 Designs [??], they’re basically out of

Australia. They’re a design marketplace as well and they were debating on

whether or not they’d buy, versus build, a marketplace to buy those designs

and this one made sense for them because there’s an existing community in

place, they come in and they bring the business out. They’ve got some

exposure from TED Crunch and other places like that and they’ve got a [??]

to, a fund and the process to prevent the kind of fraud that we went

through before.

Andrew: They’re saying to themselves, “If we wanted to create this

marketplace with a lot of designs in it, where people can come in, where

entrepreneurs like Andrew, like whoever’s listening to us, needs to buy a

brand, where they could come in and see, not an empty marketplace, but

shelves, essentially, full of designs, take us a long time to do it. They

have it already, we’ll just buy them so that we have that, and if there’s a

bad name associated with this business because of the trouble in the past,

we’ll rebrand it. If there are other issues, like credit card fraud, we can

handle it.” Got it.

Wes: That’s exactly right.

Andrew: Let me just get the names clear, out for the audience. This

business that Wes started, Wes started the business under the name Brand

Stack. It was then acquired by Design Crowd and renamed. Brand Stack became

Brand Crowd and that’s what all these names are. You also launched another

business, Upstack. Upstack was launched February 2010 for custom design

work in addition to the current marketplace. This was a place where people

could get custom design work. We talked about it last time. What happened

to that?

Wes: Upstack was actually a direct competitor to Design Crowd so they

actually let that part of the, I’m assuming they merged that actual product

in with Design Crowd.

Andrew: But it seems like you couldn’t get traction with Upstack against 99

Designs and some of the other competitors in the space. Right?

Wes: Initially that portion of it was what brought us up to break even, the

on demand design work. The margins were better on that side initially. The

problem was management. We were trying to go a little more high touch, an

agency style of design work using the crowd sourcing model, trying to

eliminate the spec work aspect of it. I think there was too high a

management for myself and the team to do a good job on that part of it. I

think it still did well, but in comparison, the marketplace side was really

the side that Brand Stack was obviously known for.

Andrew: Weren’t you still at the stage back then where you guys were doing

a lot of the work for clients who came onto the site? Right?

Wes: No. We didn’t do a lot of the work. We managed a lot of it. All the

design work was done by the actual designers on the site, but we did manage

a lot of it, so what would happen was we had a guarantee in place and

anytime that a project would go awry, which happens a lot just because

you’ve got very particular designers, very particular clients and getting

them on the same page is a really hard problem to solve even in the real

world. We would have people jump in and take over the management of that

process, so it’s basically the gateway between a client and the designer.

Andrew: I remember thinking when you and I talked about that, ‘It’s too

early for him to talk about it, but Wes must be going nuts with this back

and forth with clients.’ It’s not a process that you can systemize in your

business and have it run without you. It’s one that very much needs your

attention and one that very much takes a lot of your name and puts it on

the line because of the kind of work and the interaction that you have to

do. Did that happen? Was it as tough as it seemed to me from the outside?

Wes: Yeah, I think it was and I think some of it was, obviously, that model

in itself was not scalable, but I think we were using it as an opportunity

to really try to figure out what the true issues were between clients and

designers. I think, in our minds, if we could get that part figured out and

if there’s some way we could systemize it after that, then I think it would

have been a success.

Andrew: I see

Wes: Unfortunately, I don’t think we were in that part of the business

long enough to figure that out. We figured out how to [product] some parts

of that process that are just historically known for being difficult. For

example, writing a creative brief right now is such a hard thing to do and

so we figured out let’s create this wizard where they go through and they

start clicking things and choosing things and the system would write the

brief for them, so I think if given enough time we might be able to figure

something like that out. Yes, initially it was not scalable at all.

Andrew: I remember actually telling Matt from 99designs that that was one

of the reasons why I didn’t use 99designs at the time. Just so much work to

come up with the way of expressing what I’m looking for. I don’t know how

to tell someone even a feeling. I guess a feeling I could give them but not

much more. So you solved that by creating a wizard? One of the happiest

days for me was when the first version of Mixergy didn’t work out, that

wasn’t happy, that was painful, but when I finally did that post that some

people could see on Mixergy where I said, I failed, announcing that gave me

such freedom.

I remember cycling through Santa Monica. I was living in California feeling

free as a bird, listening to Kanye West and just feeling like, boy I can

now do anything. This thing that I hated which I should have shut the

business down before and I refused to accept, was the best thing that I

should have done and the best thing that I did for myself at the time. What

was your feeling once you said, hey this is it, I’m closing down the

business.” did you feel agony about it? Did you feel free because of it?

Wes: Initially there was a lot of pain just because, and again it was a

short time period between the time that we actually shut it down and it was

acquired. But yes, the initial reaction was pain just because I knew that I

was letting a lot of people down. I really think designers had a passion

for what we were doing at BrandStack and I think they believed in it. I

didn’t want to go through that process, but yes, after that and once that

feeling was over the relief was huge and I thought it was awesome and

especially once we actually completed the acquisition because it turned out

to be a really positive [deal] for us.

The relief is enormous and it gives me a lot of, I guess more knowledge

than anything else because now I’ve got a good sense of what I want to do

in the future, what I don’t want to do, what I need to stay away from, and

that kind of thing and I’d say that’s valuable. I haven’t had a chance to

sit down with many entrepreneurs that have gone through something like this

but I know that there’s a lot of knowledge gained through it.

Andrew: One of the things I’m noticing is that we as entrepreneurs should–

we’re told never close, never give up, never ever. But what I’m finding in

myself and in some of the interviews I’ve done is that only when you shut

down a business or shut down a project or shut down anything that you’re

working on can you take some distance from it and really evaluate what you

did wrong honestly, and what you could have done differently and what you

did right, and really get some perspective.

In fact, I’ve interviewed entrepreneurs soon after they’ve shut down their

businesses when they just don’t know what they did wrong. It’s too close

for them; it’s too painful for them. They haven’t really realized it

because they haven’t taken the space for it. When we shut down things that

don’t work we give ourselves room to learn that and then we bring that

knowledge into future projects which is why so many entrepreneurs who I’ve

interviewed have done tons of little start-ups before they hit that one

thing big and that gives them a lot of lessons for what to right, what to

do wrong. Do you find any of that? Does this ring true at all?

Wes: Oh, of course, yes. I think it’s huge. I think the faster you can

fail, the better, because you don’t have as much riding on yourself, on

your brand. I actually think, personally speaking, I actually think there’s

a lot of credibility if you’re going through a failure. If you talk to

other people, other entrepreneurs like you mentioned, that have gone

through a successful start-up, they gain all of their strength and all of

their knowledge off of the ones that have failed. I just think it’s

important to try to do it as quickly as possible so that you don’t go

through a round of funding where you don’t get huge traction with customers

and that kind of thing. I think the quicker you can do it, the better.

Andrew: I know I just put that premise out there. Let me answer the

question that must be in the minds of some people who are hearing us talk

about it. They’re wondering, couldn’t you, Wes, have come to the same

understanding, drawn the same conclusions about what you could have done

differently, what you could do next time by being in the business and

having it turn out OK? If you were to right the ship and everything would

work out OK with BrandStack, your company? Could you then have taken the

same kind of space and look back and said ‘Oh, this is what I could have

done differently? This is what I should do differently next time?’. Or does

closing the company give you a special understanding that you can’t get

unless you do that?

Wes: It’s hard to answer because I didn’t write the ship initially but…

Andrew: But what did you learn after you shut it that you didn’t know when

you knew that you made mistakes, when you were still in the battle?

Wes: You gain a much stronger sense of clarity at that point because

there’s nothing to lose anymore. And there’s no going bald anymore. Now you

really look back at it as a third party and you can say ‘If I were in their

shoes, here is what I would have done differently’.

So that’s, you know, I think that’s what you get by actually closing the


Andrew: I see, I see. And so if you were still running this business and it

was, actually maybe at the time when it was doing, when you were still

running it and you were in trouble, maybe back then you would have thought

‘Hey, you know what?…’ Oh, man. I can’t even express this but I think I

get what you’re saying. I want to confirm it with you so let me see if I

could express it clearly to get the, have you tell me whether I’m getting

it right.

When you’re going through it, you’re not really fully seeing the problems.

When you get past it, if you’re still running the business, you might look

back on it and say ‘You know what? Cover up your problems. That’s just what

everybody goes through. We had our troubles but of course we are so brave

that we can get though it’ and you don’t force yourself to look at what

those problems are.

Here because you have complete distance from it, you don’t still own the

business, you don’t still work at it day to day and you’ve said ‘I failed’,

you can really look back without embarrassment, without any hesitation look

back at why.

Wes: Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean, I think if you were to ride this

ship during that time, it’s not like you’re starting off with a clean

slate. I think that’s what you gain when you do actually close it because

you can look past the actual issues that you had. You can also look at the

model, you can look at the people involved, you can look at everything

across the board.

If you ride the ship, you’re still trying to right some wrongs. I can’t

claim that anything that we did or everything that we did was perfect up

until this point so there’s a bunch of things that would have been changed

along that timeframe. You can’t do that if you just keep moving forward.

Andrew: I had to tell you, and I hope do a better job at expressing this

than I did at expressing the last question. We’re still going to continue

with the interview but what I want to tell you is how much I appreciate the

fact, Wes, that you come on here and you talk the way that you have been.

That you’d be this open.

I can’t ever take for granted that entrepreneurs are willing to have this

kind of open conversation with me or that even, forget about me, anywhere

in the world because there is so much to be gained from this and I know

that aren’t books that talk about this. I know that there aren’t people who

celebrate your experience and just dive in and appreciate it and it’s an

untapped asset that you’re exposing to us by saying, “This is what I

learned from something that, an experience that most people dont’ talk


Why are you doing it? Why do you trust me with this?

Wes: I don’t know. I mean, I think I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve got,

obviously it’s what we’re doing [??] now. We’re able to carry on some of

this issues that we’ve faced before and hopefully not confront them again

and I’m going to go on and continue to start other things as well and I

think, you know, hopefully by contributing some of this knowledge, that it

helps other people not go through it.

I mean, I’ve never been one that’s very close minded about stuff but any

issues that I go thorough, for some reason I’m OK sharing them. I don’t

have a very big ego.

I was able to mentor TechStar’s Cloud, who just started off in San Antonio

this past year, which was awesome and the main advice that I could give was

all the failure stuff. Here’s the stuff you need to avoid, which I think

it’s usually valuable.

I’m OK sharing it. I know this isn’t my last startup. I know this isn’t the

last end result that I got.

Andrew: Speaking of avoiding, there’s something that you said earlier about

that you know now what you don’t ever want to do again.

I wanted to pick up on that. What won’t you do again based on what you’ve

learned here?

Wes: I think this is more product-wise as opposed to logistically or

operationally. One of the things that was typical with BrandStack and

wasn’t anything that I saw before but, having a single cell product like

buying a one-off logo, one-off domain.

I think that model’s very, very difficult to take off. I mean, there are

few companies that have done a great job with that. The marketplaces like

eBay or an Etsy and those, I mean, they have done a really good job but I

think it’s really, really difficult to get off the ground, as opposed to

doing something where there’s purely MRR, where you’re selling

subscriptions. Because then obviously you’re constantly building on top of

each other and as long as you keep your previous customers happy and you

have a product that adds consistent value, it really helps contribute to

your growth.

Andrew: What’s MRR?

Wes: Oh, I’m sorry, Marketing Recurrent Revenue.

Andrew: I see, OK. I see the issue that you were facing before was you

said, “Hey look if BrandStack’s knocks people on their butts. It’s so good

that we give them the perfect design, they’re not going to come back.

There’s no reason for them to come back and get a new logo, there’s no

reason for them to come back and get a new brand for their business. Now, I

have to go and hustle and get new customers.” All that work that you did,

terminates once you do it well, versus Zippy Kid where it’s hosting and if

you do a good job for someone, then they are going to stick with you month

to month to month.

In the future if you do a good job with them on month to one; they are not

going to need so much tech support month two. If you do a good job for the

first six months, they may never need tech support again and you got

constant recurring revenue and decreasing expenses as you do a better and

better job.

Wes: Yes, that’s it. We get a customer; we treat them right, they stay with

us, they continue to pay, and they tell their friends about us. It adds up

more and it just keeps compounding. I think, there were a handful of

customers that were repeating customers on BrandStack. But they were not

our primary target, and it was really difficult to bring new users in over

and over again.

Andrew: Before the interview started, you and I were talking about

entrepreneurs who say I will never work for anyone else. I told you my

feelings about that they were pretty strong. What do you feel about that?

Now, that you have gone to work for Zippy Kid, work for someone else as

apposed to running your own business.

Wes: Yes. Like I mentioned to you before, I came from a commercial banking

background where I wore a suit and tie ever day, it was very, very

structured and rigid. I told myself I’m never going to go back to that

environment. But, I’m okay working with somebody else. I think it does big

things, because you get to learn a new environment. You get to learn to

work with a team under different roles. I have been able specifically, to

hone in on the skills that I enjoy, that I continue to learn on which are

the marketing side, front-end development design, that kind of thing. Then

I really get to focus on those things as opposed to all the operational

headaches that are involved. I think I can take that and then use it

towards whenever my next startup is.

Andrew: What about this; I keep relating it back to me because I feel like

this is such a tough conversation to have that if I could be open, if I’m

going to ask you to be open then I should be, too. I remember in college I

was running some side businesses. At one point none of them were going

especially well and I was getting depressed. I think I was really just

depressed if I look at my old journals I could probably pick up on that

depression. But I did something that changed it. I went to work for a guy

named Paul Servera [SP] in midtown Manhattan. He was a Wall Street

recruiter, and he was a guy who was really driven and so I fed off of his

drive. I said, “I’m not the only one that’s driven in the world.”

He was a guy who gave me clear direction. And so, if he gave me clear

direction, I knew that I could march down it just nobody’s business. If he

gave me a week to do an assignment and he was clear about what he wanted

done, I could probably do it in a day, and then I felt confident about

myself. And I felt energized, and I was ready to, first of all, own what I

wanted to be in the world and then to go out and start my own business as a

result of it.

Am I seeing a smile of recognition? Do you feel any of that stuff in you?

West: Yeah. No, of course.

Andrew: OK. So, confidence coming back from what? What’s specifically

happening because we’ve also people who go take a job somewhere and they

lose themselves. They lose energy, passion for life, everything stinks. At

its best, when you are working at Zippy Kid, how is it helping you

reconnect with who you really are?

Wes: I see what you’re saying. OK. So, we’re in a fortunate situation right

now. Zippy Kid is kicking ass, both from gaining new customers, from doing

some cool things in the space. We’ve been building some really cool stuff

that we’ll be launching here soon that will kind of change the face of how

you host WordPress now, being a part of all that stuff. While it’s not

something I started from scratch, it’s all these individual pieces that

we’re able to contribute to. I think that’s huge in helping me build on my


Again, when I started BrandStack, I relief on everyone else to do the heavy

lifting, and that was just because I lacked the skills. I outsourced the

development of the site. I did do all of the operational stuff, and

actually the marketing and trying to get all the community building in

that, but the actual meal of it, the technical side of it, that’s something

that I never had the capability of doing. I’m fortunate enough now that I’m

able to do that. And so, everything that we’re building on the front end,

that’s my hands and my sweat which is huge. I think if it wasn’t that way,

it’d be a little more difficult for me to do this.

Oh, I lost you.

Andrew: There we go. I keep mentioning Zippy Kid because it’s a favorite of

the audiences. Vid, after the interview, I guess he got customers from

having done the interview about how he built up Zippy Kid, emailed me

afterwards and said can I buy an add. I felt bad just saying no, but I had

no space I have been running the same advertisers consistently for a long

time. But I figured if I can’t give him the add and you are here I want

people to know where you are right now and at least give you both the

mention of Zippy Kid is a . . .

Wes: I appreciate that.

Andrew: I’ve got here in my notes, my researcher actually pulled this from

somewhere. Said, he’s the chief, CCO is it or did you mean COO? What’s your

title there?

Wes: Yes, it is actually CMO. Yes, and there has been some inconsistencies.

When I first came over to Zippy Kid, I did not want to handle the marketing

at all. I wanted to really stay focus on just the front-end side of things.

But it’s really all rolled into one. I’ve got a CMO title, but that

basically means anything that customers are facing whether that’s in

advertisement, or the front-end of the sites, or anything like that then

that’s my responsibility.

Andrew: I see it was Chief Creative Officer at one point?

Wes: Yes.

Andrew: That’s what you picked up on, I see, okay. Let me do just a quick

plug for the most important thing here on Mixergy; which is Mixergy Premium

and actually Ben Paul in the comments says, “Andrew I would like to see you

promote your pay version more, we loyal listeners want to see you succeed.”

Then someone else underneath Ben’s comments said, “Hey can you tell me even

what Mixergy Premium is?”

Which means I guess I’m not doing as good a job. Let me tell you guys what

it is. Imagine, forget Mixergy for a second. Imagine if you had a problem,

like, you needed to know how to use Photo Shop and you didn’t know how to

do it. What would you do? Well, maybe you go to YouTube for a little bit

come up with some good videos, but they weren’t very solid. Because each

one would explain a little bit, they would be inconsistent, you go, I’m

pulling my hair out, I am not learning anything.

You end up going to a site like, where you sign up and get of

course from the beginning to end what they teach you about Photo Shop.

Well, what happens if you are an entrepreneur and your problems and your

needs aren’t as clear cut as I need to know how to use Photo Shop. Well you

have a problem like how do I get somebody to my sight? Or you say to

yourself, I got them to my site, how do I get them to actually trust me and

buy from me? Or maybe you watch West talk about the need for recurring

revenue, and you go I want that, I want recurring revenue.

Well that’s where you go to and I bring entrepreneurs,

the people who are doing all this stuff to teach you how they do it. When

we talk about recurring revenue; for example, I didn’t just hire someone to

teach you how to do it, I invited a good friend of my Stu, the founder of

Wishlist Member.

The software that my site and many other sites use to build a recurring

model on, and I said teach me what all your guys are doing well and fact I

know that Stu runs his own recurring revenue site. His own membership site

just to make sure that he’s using everything, all the software that he’s

building for others.

I said, Stu tell me what you are doing, tell me what your best customers

are doing. Teach me everything from beginning to end and in fact if you

could since we are friends, spend hours working on how to put this course

together with us so that it’s really effective. Stu did it and it’s in and that’s just one topic of what’s now growing and

becoming over 60 courses ready for you to take. If you have a problem and

you are a Mixergy Premium member, you don’t have to go to YouTube or hope

that you find some blog post that answers it.

Go to MixergyPremium and it’s there from beginning to end, and if you are

missing something, and I don’t think we are. But if we are; and I always

think we want to add more, but I think the basics are covered. If we are

missing something you want, you just let us know and we are always on the

hunt for more entrepreneurs to come on and teach the things that you really

need to know as an entrepreneur.

That’s what is, I guarantee everything in there

thousands of people are already members of it, they do it because they know

if they could learn just one thing, it’s worth thousands of dollars to

them, but crazy Andrew still hasn’t increased prices and so prices are way

less than that.

If you go to MixergyPremium, you are going to find a great deal and if you

don’t agree with me that it’s a good deal, come back to me, look I’m here

on video, I can’t hide anywhere you can-, my friend West would hate if I

didn’t live up to my guarantee. If you are not a 100 percent happy, even if

it’s your fault, I’ll of course give you all your money back and thousands

of people are happy and I know you will be too.

That’s the other thing I’m doing West, I’m doing the post-mortem on the way

that I explain what MixergyPremium is, just to see well can I do a better

job. Constantly looking to see what else I could do. But you know what gets

me, I could do everything right and then maybe something out of thin air

could come out like this credit card fraud.

Not my fault, but it happen and it could knock me out. So I’m constantly on

the look out to see what else should I be watching out for. And better

still, something eventually is going to knock me on my butt, even Mohammad

Ali I believe was knocked out, at least, once.

I want to know how to be what you did, I want to know how to get back on my

feet when that happens, so that the knock out doesn’t mean I’m on the mat

and never getting up. So anyway that’s, I saw you smile a little bit I

thought, hey I’m doing a better job with this, because of the post mortem.

I’m doing a better job promoting Mixergy Premium. Anyway, I’ve got one

final question. It’s the Money Shock [SP], question here for you, and it’s

this. What percentage of the money that your investor put in the business

was he able to take out?

Wes: That I cannot share. So I’m not going to be able to fill your Money

Shock question, but I can tell you that my investors are happy from the

deal. They all agree with me that it was a good, it was a positive

acquisition. It was something that we, obviously, a couple of weeks before,

we didn’t think we’d be there. I think it was all positive, it was all


Andrew: It wasn’t 100, it was somewhere less than 100, but you’re not going

to say what?

Wes: Yeah. I’m going to tell you, we all gained a bunch of knowledge, but I

can’t tell you any more than that.

Andrew: Fair enough. Has it became profitable now? Can you say that?

Wes: Yes. ZippyKid’s doing great, actually. Like I told you before, we’re

growing leaps and bounds, [??] over [??] right now with our customer base.

We just put together, which we haven’t announced yet, I guess we can call

this an official, another round of funding led by [??] 500 start ups and

are the co-founders of Rackspace, which is huge for us. We’re taking that

and we’re hoping we can spread ZippyKid to the rest of the world. So if

you’re on Word Press, you need to be on ZippyKid.

Andrew: People can check that out at and if you want to find

out more about Wes, I’m going to give them your personal site,, right? That’s your site?

Wes: That’s it.

Andrew: There it is. Wes, again, over and over I’ve got to say this to you,

I’m really grateful to you for coming on here and doing this interview.

This is not the kind of interview that you see and I love the book, but a

book like “Founders at Work” is not the kind of interview that you see on

television. This, I believe, is the reason that Mixergy’s around and thank

you for helping me [??] do this.

Wes: [??].

Andrew: You’re great. Thank you so much. Thank you all for being a part of


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  • Karan Goel

    Credit card fraud? Fo’ real? Was he tried? Was he imprisoned?

  • Postmortem

    I want to see more post mortems

  • Andrew Warner

    I think they’re useful too. I’m proud that entrepreneurs come here to tell those stories.

  • Randy Cantrell

    he was a VICTIM of fraud

  • Karan Goel

     Okay.. That makes sense..

  • Tristan Pereida-Rice

    I remember listening to you and Wes discuss Brandstack a while back … it’s nice to now hear the somewhat happy ending to a story and a company he seemed so clearly passionate about.

  • Sean

    Great interview Andrew and Wes.
    Quick questions.
    Can they not track the fraudsters if they are using the media like logos or images or wireframes or whatever ?
    How is the credit card processing that Wes employed different than paypal or google checkout ?
    Is it worth just going to these rather than having to risk exposing oneself to fraud.

  • Anonymous

    Man this was a real knockout. When you were talking fraudulent transactions my mind immediately went to the designers themselves, too. I would have put my money on preventing anyone on the *supply* side from participating if they got hit with a fraudulent credit card from selling and see if that had an impact.

    I’m still a little unclear, though – was BrandCrowd ever in the dead pool? Seems the title of this interview is incorrect – like if DesignCrowd bought BrandStack and renamed it BrandCrowd, then surely this interview should be using BrandStack in the title.

    Anyway whatever the naming issues, I really loved hearing this story, particularly Wes’ advice about putting perspective on things that really matter. Shingles ain’t no joke, yo! I love the “there is no more stress” attitude – gonna start trying that in my day to day :)