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

 

About Wes Wilson

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.
First, three messages. Who’s the lawyer that founders in the Mixergy
audience trust? Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. Have you seen
what Chris [??] posted on my Facebook page? His new company’s incorporation
pages that Scott Edward Walker helped him get. Scott Edward Walker is the
lawyer that publications like Forbes trust. Go to WalkerCorporateLaw.com.

Next, when my friend had to close her company’s office but still wanted to
give the impression that all her employees work well under one roof
together, what service did she use? Grasshopper. With Grasshopper, everyone
who works for you could have an extension. They can pick up calls on their
extensions no matter where they are or what phones they use and they can
transfer calls to each other back and forth with ease. Get those features
and tons more at Grasshopper.com

Finally, when Dave Jackson and Dave Petrillo invented a product that keeps
coffee at the perfect temperature, what platform did they use to create
their online store? Shopify.com. Look at how beautiful their store looks.
It’s because it’s built on Shopify. They did hundreds of thousands of
dollars in sales. Shopify stores are designed to help you sell. Patrick
Buckley invented an iPad case and used Shopify as his online store. Within
months, he sold over $1 million in cases. Get your beautiful online store
at Shopify.com

Here’s the program. Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew. I’m the
founder of Mixergy.com, 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
from.

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
incentive?

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
possibility.

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
here.

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
together.

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
doors.

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
about.”

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
confidence.

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, Linda.com 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 MixergyPremium.com 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
MixergyPremium.com 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 MixergyPremium.com 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. MixergyPremium.com.

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
happy.

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 ZippyKid.com and if you want to find
out more about Wes, I’m going to give them your personal site,
IamWesWilson.com, 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
it.

Sponsors I mentioned

Walker Corporate Law – Scott Edward Walker is the lawyer entrepreneurs turn to when they want to raise money or sell their companies, but if you’re just getting started, his firm will help you launch properly. Watch this video to learn about him.

Grasshopper – Don’t make the mistake of comparing Grasshopper with other phone services. Check out their features and you’ll see why Grasshopper isn’t just a phone number, it’s the virtual phone system that entrepreneurs (like me) love.

Shopify – Remember the interview I did about how the founder of DODOCase sold about $1 mil worth of iPad cases in a few months? He used Shopify. It’s dead simple and very effective. To get a longer free trial, use this code: Mixergy

Share

  • http://www.mashgeek.com/ Karan Goel

    Credit card fraud? Fo’ real? Was he tried? Was he imprisoned?

  • Postmortem

    I want to see more post mortems

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I think they’re useful too. I’m proud that entrepreneurs come here to tell those stories.

  • http://twitter.com/RandyCantrell Randy Cantrell

    he was a VICTIM of fraud

  • http://www.mashgeek.com/ Karan Goel

     Okay.. That makes sense..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tristan-Pereida-Rice/528301063 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 :)