Fundable.com Founder On The Addiction Of Startups – with Wil Schroter

How does an idea guy launch multiple companies and how does he do it right?

Wil Schroter is the founder of Virtucon Ventures through which he’s launched Unsubscribe.com, Got Cast, Go Big Network, and other sites. His latest company is Fundable.com, which offers crowd funding for start up companies.

I invited him here to talk about how he launches all these businesses at once and what are some of the pitfalls.

Watch the FULL program



 

About Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the co-founder of Fundable.com, a crowdfunding platform for startup companies to take advantage of the JOBS Act, allowing anyone to get early stage funding for their ideas.

Raw transcript


Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Coming up in this interview, are you a founder who keeps coming up
with idea after idea after idea but you never launch? Watch this interview
to see how today’s guest has launched multiple companies. And pay special
attention to what happens when he launched multiple companies and tried to
run them at once. All that and so much more coming up in this program.

First, three messages. Who’s the lawyer that founders in the Mixergy
audience trust? Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. Have you seen
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incorporation pages that Scott Edward Walker helped him get. Scott Edward
Walker is the lawyer that publications like Forbes trust. Go to
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Next, when my friend had to close her company’s office but still wanted to
give callers 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 everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com,
home of the ambitious upstart. How does an idea guy launch multiple
companies and how does he do it right? Wil Schroter is the founder of
Virtucon Ventures through which he’s launched Unsubscribe.com, Got Cast, Go
Big Network, and other sites. His latest company is Fundable.com which
offers crowd funding for start up companies. I invited him here to talk
about how he launches all these businesses at once and what are some of the
pitfalls. Wil, welcome.

Wil: Thank you, thank you. Good to see you again.

Andrew: How many companies did you launch?

Wil: A total of eight in the last almost 20 years.

Andrew: All right, and there have been some hits as we’ll talk about here.
But there have also been a few challenges. And the challenges come from
something that you identified to me as, you said Andrew I feel a little bit
like a guy who was deep into drugs and now is telling everyone else to stay
off drugs. What’s the drug and what happened to you?

Wil: The drug is startups. The drug is the high of the next idea. I mean,
we all run into it. Every entrepreneur, no matter how successful, you know,
has this one other idea that he or she wants to pursue and is contemplating
whether or not it will interfere with anything that they’re doing today.
Having been through this gauntlet many, many times both successfully and
unsuccessfully I just keep coming back to the point where every single time
I’ve been successful I can map back to focus. And the moment things came
off the rails every time it mapped back to losing focus.

Andrew: All right, you know me. I’m going to ask you about the moment when
things went off the rails because I think we can learn a lot from it. But I
also want to learn from the successes. Give me, which is the company that
you focused insanely tightly on and how well did it do? And then we’ll go
back to the time when things didn’t go so well.

Wil: Sure, I mean I don’t know, up until recently I don’t know if I’ve ever
been more focused on one thing than I was in ’94 on Blue Diesel, my first
company. It was one of the first web design companies and in ’94 to be a
part of the internet was a big deal. For me, I think I was just turning 19
at the time, I was at a point in my life where I was really, really excited
to be doing something that was just kind of magical at the time.

As soon as I started Blue Diesel I put everything I had into it. Everybody
always gives you like the ridiculous stories of what they did so mine isn’t
really that much different than anybody else’s. I did not see my family for
three years. I didn’t take a day off for three years. I worked Monday
through Sunday all the time. You just couldn’t be more focused. Every hour
of the day was fully focused on the business and I loved it. At no point
was I dreading going into work. I was working that much because I was that
excited.

Andrew: Let’s talk about results. How well did Blue Diesel do?

Wil: Pretty well. In ’97 we partnered with a small traditional agency
called GSW. We had about a dozen people. They had about 30 or 35 people. We
combined the two agencies. A few months later, we won a big account with a
group called Ely Lilly, a big pharmaceutical company, for about $250
million a year. Today the company does over 2 billion in total billings and
has about 5,000 people.

Andrew: Fair to say that you boot strap that company with practically
nothing and ended up a millionaire in cash as a result of Blue Diesel?

Wil: Yes. Oh, sure.

Andrew: OK. All right. And then on the side you launched something called
HowardHouse.com. What was it, and then how did things go off the rails
because of it?

Wil: Yeah, it was a great idea with terrible timing. So like to put that in
perspective, [??] ’97 we do the deal with GSW, a few months later we win
this big life changing account. From there the agency just starts growing
like crazy. ’98, ’99 we’re hiring a new person every single day of the
year. We’ve hundreds of people at that point. The agency is doing great. We
have this great feel.

I get this idea because it’s dot com era, I can start this other company at
the same time cuz this wouldn’t be a problem at all cuz we have all of
these resources called powerhouse.com. Powerhouse was an idea that I wanted
to build an online version of Remax. I wanted to build an online real
estate brokerage where people could go online, pick the house they wanted
and then use a Powerhouse broker to bring them to the house that they
wanted to get into and actually sell them the house. It was, again, Remax
online.

I had a whole plan to roll up 170 franchises to get nationwide coverage. It
did about $8 billion collectively already in transaction. We had raised a
little bit of money to get out there. I put all of my excitement and time
and attention [??] 99 on this project at the expense of my existing
business which was the first time I saw first hand how incredibly painful a
loss of focus can be.

I’m out pitching everyday. I’m on the road. I’m talking to real estate
agents all around the country. At the same time what I’m not during, I’m
not showing up at my job, more importantly, all of the folks that work
there see me not showing up at my job. They see me thinking about something
else in the meetings. They hear that I’m working on something else. No one
goes to work for somebody that they really hope will just stop showing up
at the office and go start doing other things.

The loss of moral, the loss of enthusiasm connection to the company drops
like a rock. I think as a founder to overlook how important it is to be
able to have that connection to your group. It’s basically like getting
married and then telling your wife, hey I’m going to go start dating this
other girl. Right? It’s not going to end well. [Laughs] It sounds like a
great idea. It’s going to end terribly. That’s exactly what happened.

Even within the first few months as we were getting Powerhouse started,
again, separate group, etc., already I was getting rumblings that people
were leaving. This was at a time when we were hiring people as fast as
possible. It wasn’t like the agency was at a point where it was slowing
down. It was on a rocket ship growth curve.

Within I would say six months, a business partner sits down with me from
the traditional agency side and he said, “We got a problem.” He said,
“We’re getting kind of a powerless revolt back at the agency. Like,
everyone can tell you’re not showing up, and they’re planning on leaving,”
which is again a weird thing considering we were growing so quickly.

He said in no uncertain terms, he said, “Pick your poison. Where do you
want to be? All right, do you want to be starting this new thing, or do you
want to be executing on an existing business that’s already successful?”
considering all my income was coming from that existing business. You know
we shuttered Powerhouse. We didn’t, again, we hadn’t taken it into market
yet. We’re still forming it.

As soon as I came back and I had kind of announced to everybody that I
wasn’t working on something else, everything changed. All the people that
were just about to leave came back. All of our clients . . . we were
getting killed with not delivering with clients, missing all of sales goals
and everything else like that. Everything changed, like, within a month. It
was so acute, and it was the first time quantifiable I could see what
happens when you lose focus.

Andrew: So, you and I have known each other for a long time. I remember you
used to come over to our place in California when Olivia and I lived there
and when you lived there, one of the things that I always felt from talking
to you is that you were just constantly launching stuff. I always wondered
if I was doing the wrong thing to focus ju-, maybe not the wrong thing but
maybe I thought am I weak to not be able to do more than one thing at a
time.

I always my whole life either did only Bradford and Reed back in the day or
only Mixergy today but only one thing at a time. I noticed that you had
launched unsubscribe.com which I admired the hell out of, Godcast, whose
founder was on here, gobignetwork who must have done millions of dollars
in revenue for you and so many others our last conversation It think when I
was leaving LA was check out what being around people can produce when
you’re around other entrepreneurs you can create projects like
unsubscribe.com. So the thing I’m asking is, you were the evangelist on the
other way of life, of constantly launching and something happened now that
you’re focused just on fundable. What was that thing that changed your
whole out look that took you from where you were to where you are today?

Wil: I think it’s, not the last company, unsubscribe, but the company
before we worked on affordit. At the time I think that was maybe the fourth
company in parallel that I’d started and was actively running and that
required a tremendous amount of effort. We raised money from quite a few
VCs.

Andrew: I remember I practically begged you, I remember the street I was
hanging on. Just say dude let me put money in this thing it’s such a great
idea and you’re such a freaking sharp guy I want to be a part of it. So
what happened with affordit?

Wil: It just didn’t grow, it didn’t fail but it just didn’t grow so it’s
kind of on a flat line and as you know with web start-ups if it’s not
growing, you know, it’s not a success right? And prior to that when I sat
down with you and I started to explain to you that idea, we had just
launched gotcast and that had been venture funded, we had gobig, we had
just launched bizplan.com and we had just come off of swapalease.com and
you know when you’re doing multiple things and it’s going well, it’d be
like having multiple kids and if all the kids are healthy and everything’s
fine you feel like the greatest dad ever. As soon as stuff goes wrong
that’s when you realize it’s a problem right?

Andrew: Yeah.

Wil: So as soon, with affordit, we needed to start raising money, we were
going to ruin out of money. OK, I’ve got and urgent issue here. Well then
gotcast needs more money, oh shit I’ve got an urgent issue over there and
now we’re cycling up with unsubscribe.com and that sort of needs some
money. Well now I got an urgent issue over there, right? This concept of
having so many things that you have to focus on at once that need critical
attention, that’s where things start to go wrong. Like with bluediesel, the
agency and powerhouse for the first couple months, everything was probably
OK because people hadn’t decided they were going to start quitting yet.
Powerhouse didn’t have any real deliverables yet but the moment things
start to go wrong when you’re doing multiple things or I assume maybe
exponentially right, it falls apart.

Andrew: You had some of the best advisers out there, was Mike Jones an
adviser?

Wil: Yeah, that’s a great adviser.

Andrew: Mark Suster an investor and adviser?

Wil: Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew: And so many others, I mean Mark Suster one of the top venture
capitalist. Mike Jones one of the top investors in southern California,
maybe even in the world, used to run MySpace, sold a company before that to
AOL. These guys are very experienced people they must have told you
something about focus, when you listen to that feedback and you push it
back, what’s your thought process then?

Wil: The first is that they were spot on, the problem is that they were
giving me advice at a time when the advice wasn’t yet a problem, right? So
Mark was very specific when he made his personal investment, which I
appreciated a lot, to say you need to stay focused on this and I know you
got these other things going on. When I told I Mark I’m going to stay
focused on this there weren’t any problems with the other businesses. They
were all being run by other CEOs like Alec at gotcast, that you know is a
great CEO.

Andrew: Yeah.

Wil: And so at the time there just weren’t any other issues so it didn’t
occur to me that these things could happen. But again would have affordit
gone different if I didn’t have the distractions? Probably not, you know, I
think some of our growth issues had to do with needing an extraordinary
amount of capitol in order to grow and that was the real challenge. But
it’s certainly didn’t help you know. And again looking back on the advice
those guys gave me, it was spot on and again, had affordit raised and
ungodly amount of money and those other problems come up that would’ve been
a real challenge.

Andrew: Because suddenly you have the big responsibility of a lot of money.
A crisis and then multiple crises out there I see.

Wil: Yeah.

Andrew: So it’s kind of like, you know what? I kept getting knee pain but
even though I read the books about barefoot running I brush it off, who
cared and my wife would take Olivia, took a course on how to run properly
and I just kept blowing this whole thing off thinking you guys are all
following a fad. It wasn’t until I did this four day run and my knees and
my legs hurt so much on day three that I finally said I can’t continue I
got to at least learn how to run better and I changed my form and now I
don’t have any knee pain anymore. I had to feel so much pain on a tough run
that meant something to me to finally open my eyes to the advice I’d been
reading for a long time. You’re saying that’s what it is with
entrepreneurs? We have to feel the pain sometimes to understand the lesson,
to be open to it?

Wil: There’s no question about it. Like I said, all of us as entrepreneurs
feel like we can at least do two things at once. Because we have so much
energy to be able to put into our one project, we assume that that can
translate into two. Every now and again it can. You’ve read how Steve Jobs
was doing XR and Apple at the same time. I also think, if I recall
correctly, at the same time he said he was making regular trips to remove
kidney stones. So, you know, even Steve Jobs has a breaking point in trying
to do two things at once.

I think from my own standpoint, trying to focus on one thing is hard
enough. As soon as you separate your focus across two, three, four things,
it doesn’t add up. One plus one equals negative one at that point because
you literally take yourself off the critical path.

Andrew: What about this? The fantasies that a lot of people have is that,
we’ll hire great CEOs who will run these businesses, and you had that, and
they’ll deal with these issues while you just sit back and be the adviser,
basically the chairman of the board. What happens in a start up situation
when you do that?

Wil: I think it’s unrealistic to think that that’s going to happen unless
you have massive scale, almost like unless the company’s already
successful, that said, there’s all kinds of situations, you know, that you
and I read or people we’ve met where that actually worked out. I think it’s
something that works out in spite of itself, you know, not because of
itself. So I think . . .

Andrew: Why? Why doesn’t it work out? Why can’t I just say, I’m going to
hire a guy whose basically as good as me and I’m going to give him the keys
to the company and I’m going to trust that when it’s time to raise money
he’ll raise it; when it’s time to solve a problem he’ll solve it. He’s
running the show.

Wil: You can’t hire founders. That’s the problem. You are the founder. Only
one person has founders blood and everyone else who’s not the founder, and
I’ve had long hard conversation with CEOs that I’ve worked with as well as
CEOs that brought in other businesses. There’s just something odd about the
fact. The founder has this special place that’s hard to replace. I’m not
saying he’s always the most qualified guy. There are many cases where
that’s not true.

At [??] we tried on four separate occasions to replace me. I was trying
like crazy to find my replacement cuz I wanted to go start other
businesses. On four separate occasions we hired what we thought was the
best person at the time. They came in, blew up . . . this is me trying to
get out of the business, so it wasn’t me trying to [??]. We couldn’t
replace the founder. It was actual a terrible [problem]. It wasn’t
something where I felt so wanted at the agency. I felt tethered. I felt
chained to the agency.

Andrew: Wow. All right, let’s go back now. We’ve talked a little bit about
the challenges of it. I also want to learn from what you’ve done right. I
mean the fact is that you launch. You don’t just sit around with your ideas
and talk about them over drinks with people and never get anything done.
You did launch Go Big Network. You did launch Afford It You did launch
[??]. I want to know how you did it. Maybe I should explain to people what
some of these projects are or some of these businesses are.

Go Big Network is a social network where entrepreneurs can get funding and
[need] investors. Biz Plan is a place where they can write their business
plans. Afford It makes it easy for people to buy expensive items like
computer, by charging it, basically, on a lay-away plan. You pay a little
every month until you get it. [??] . . . these are so many, man. [??]
allows talented people to look for gigs for themselves and to network with
other talented people. Unsubscribe lets you unsubscribe yourself from
different email lists. It actually ended up going into reputation
management.

I doing a disservice to all of the businesses by giving them one or two
sentence descriptions. They’re way more complicated. Give me one that you
did . . . show me, teach me what you do to launch all of these businesses
in a world where most people can’t even launch one. How do you take an idea
and get it out there?

Wil: We take it in really small chunks. We assume in every case that our
core thesis of what we think it’s going to do is almost always wrong if not
somewhat flaw. You know, we just launched a business yesterday
fundable.com, [??] funding for start ups. We have a thesis that companies
would want to be able to use [grad] funding to expose their funding on the
web. We could be totally wrong. Time and time again, our thesis is wrong.

Go Big was started as a classified ad, like, Craigslist for startups.
People used to post jobs and talent gigs on there, they’re posting listings
for mentors, office equipment for sale and it turned out all everybody
cared about was posting essentially classified ads, to say I am looking for
funding and it kind of went that direction. Time and time again, we stuck
with the thesis and we would keep testing, we keep trying to find out what
part of it makes sense and work toward that.

Andrew: How do you do that in such a…? I have seen this a lot in past
interviews of course, the idea of going small, seeing if people like it,
improving what they like, get rid of what they don’t like but when you’re
talking about…, We should talk about Fundable in this case, when you
launch Fundable.com, a site where people can fund their ideas, I am seeing,
[??], ‘ride any clip less bike pedals bike with street…’,actually it
shouldn’t be clip less, should it be, ‘ride pedals and street shoes’, maybe
it is, ‘clip less’. It’s basically this guy is looking for funding for this
pedal. You have to have a process to collect money, you have to have a
process to make sure that people aren’t ripping you off, you have to have
regulatory issues to be taken care of, there’s so much to do. How do you
launch a small idea, a small test when there is so many obligations to get
this right?

Wil: It’s a great question. Crowd funding is wildly complex because we are
going to get into a world, we are getting the securities, we are going to
get into brokerage and all these other issues. So right now the reason we
are staring of with a really simple mechanism, which is essentially called
pledge based, which is similar to something like kick starter. All that is
happening here is people are essentially pre-ordering the bike [SP] pedal
in order to fund this [SP]. So if he collects $25,000 for the pre-orders,
he will be able to buy the mold to be able to go produce the product and
send it to everybody. Its sales based and [SP]. There is no complicated
securities here, etc.

The thesis that we are testing is what happens when you do a very
articulate job of expressing your business idea, how will people respond?
Wil they understand that this is something they want to support and will be
supporting? If that thesis is true, that’s why we are testing with 5
companies not 500 so we can stay focused on that thesis. If it’s true, then
there are other ways people can fund their ideas as well right? So we can
do equity based funding, we can do debt based funding, we can do revenue
shared based funding, there is all kinds of stuff.

Andrew: Let’s first see how anybody understands how to react to a startup
before we go down any of those paths

Wil: Is somebody in the background by the way?

Andrew: Somebody is cutting down a tree right now.

Wil: I see!

Andrew: We [??] …sorry about that.

Wil: It happens to Charlie Rose all the time. I was watching an interview
with Henry Kissinger the other day there was somebody chopping down a tree
right behind them.

Andrew: [??]

Wil: This [??] by the way is why I spent half an hour with you before the
interview pushing you for those vulnerable spots in your story, this is why
when we talk I say, Let’s see if we can make this the most freakin’ useful
thing ever so if there is a guy chopping a tree in the background, it’s
still so useful that people listen to it and remember it and thank us both
the years from now when it does well. We have to overcome so many hurdles.
Andrew: Well this guy is now moved closer to me and, and there is multiple
guys with chainsaws walking toward me.

Wil: No its OK, this is the story by the way, I’ll get distracted for a
moment and say, this is basically the story of ethnics in America, the
immigrants who come in, they get…nobody cares, people put obstacles in
their way and they fight so freakin’ hard to overcome them that they end up
doing well in this country. This is the story now of the new immigrants of
the Internet, guys like me who come with nothing, how don’t have the
television background or any of that and we come in with all these
obstacles and we have to get so much freakin’ better than everyone who is
on regular television and who is a pro that we become better than them.
Years from now, people watching this and saying, “That’s how Andrew got
trialed by fire”, that’s how you learn to become such a great interviewer
and so useful for me. Your nodding, you got something to say? What were you
going to say?

Andrew: Oh I was going to say. How do you test ideas before you get an
offer?

Wil: I want to tell you a story about unsubscribed because I think its…it
really goes along the lines of how we test ideas and market.

Andrew: OK

Wil: I had the idea for unsubscribed, this is a couple of years ago I’d say
by now. The idea was simple, hey what if there was a button in your email
client that would allow you to unsubscribe from any email, the same way you
delete emails and so I socialized the idea with a couple of folks around
Santa Monica, who is a brilliant entrepreneur with Multiple exits, Josh
Rock another great entrepreneur who has been on a couple of exits as well.
They like the idea a lot, and they talked about how do we take this idea to
market and I said before we build any level of infrastructure and the idea
of building a mass tool for unsubscribing is really hard to do because
theoretically, there’s millions of different unsubscribe pads as far as how
people check out of their unsubscribe so to speak. So you need an algorithm
to understand all of them etc., really complicated.

But the reality is none of that matters if no one ever hears about your
idea, if no one ever downloads the tool, or no one ever tries to use it. I
sat down with the guys and we talked about kind of what MVP was. This is
like week one. I said hey, look, I’m running Afford It. I can’t run this
but here’s what I can offer you. Let’s build nothing but a site called
Unsubscribe.com. A way to download this button for a handful of clients and
when somebody clicks the unsubscribe button have it email it to an
Unsubscribe Gmail account. Then we’ll just go figure out how to unsubscribe
from that email. We’ll literally open up the email and click it.

I think it was Josh at the time saying that sounds ridiculous. Like it
would take us nine months to build an algorithm. I just said hey man, it
would. Or we can just do it manually to see if anybody even cares about
this idea. I think that’s such an important point because I think when
we’re talking about burning lots of cycles with new ideas it comes down to
oh, well I have to spend a year building all the infrastructure to test
this. I think those barriers are changing and I don’t think that’s
insignificant. I think you can test an idea, a real market idea, with a
small MVP and then decide whether it’s worth building out the rest of the
store front.

That’s what we did. When we launched it we were able to get some Tech
Crunch press. I think Jamie had talked to Fred Wilson and Fred wrote about
it. The moment that went out our site went crazy. We had people signing up
so quickly and, mind you, when that all went out there wasn’t a system in
place. All those emails were just coming into a Gmail account and we were
just rifling through there trying to click the unsubscribe link in all
these emails.

Now, it sounds goofy but at the same time, you know, all of those people
that were using the service were getting exactly what they had expected,
right? Whether there was this incredible Google-like algorithm that was
doing all the work or whether it was just us clicking unsubscribe links as
fast as possible they didn’t really care as long as the job got done. But
it allowed us to get out to market quickly without spending lots of cycles
building this big system. Because we figured if the demand was there we
could build a system to account for it but let’s not build a system and
hope that there’s demand.

If it’s OK I just want to stick on this point for a second because I think
we’re starting to see a huge shift in how people are testing ideas,
actually that have the ability to test ideas. An example, that bikedabs
product that you just referenced on Fundable, it doesn’t actually exist.
There’s a prototype that exists but the product itself, there’s no
warehouse of 25,000 bikedabs somewhere. But Curtis, the entrepreneur, is
going to be able to raise money against the idea, just the prototype
itself, get paid ahead of time with all the funding he needs to make the
mold, to make the actual product. And then take the product to market. He’s
literally testing the idea the same way we just did with Unsubscribe but
with a physical product.

With crowd funding, just the way it’s changed consumer mentality I’d say in
the last 18 months. You saw it with the pebble watch on Kick Starter, we’re
now in an era where people can actually sell the idea first and then go
make the product. That didn’t exist three years ago.

Andrew: What about getting people to pay attention to it. That if Fred
Wilson hadn’t blogged it and Tech Crunch hadn’t blogged it you wouldn’t
have had enough people looking at the idea and then interacting with it to
give you an understanding of whether it worked or not. What do you do to
get people to try it out?

Wil: I think that’s where, you know, small but accurate Facebook CPC
campaigns, Google CPC campaigns. The old Tim Ferriss approach of, you know,
test the landing page. I’m a big fan of anonymous traffic because I think
when you get a Tech Crunch press like we did I don’t think its
representative of your market in most cases. Unless that’s exactly the demo
you’re going after. It also exposes you. I mean, what if our product didn’t
work when we got all that press and traffic, right? You’re better off with
a testing mechanism like CPC where you can actually throttle it. You know,
hey let’s try it for a few days and if it works, great. If it doesn’t,
let’s peel back and try again.

Andrew: I remember talking to Eric Reese about that. At the time that he
started advocated that people go and buy ads on Google ads were pretty
inexpensive so you could just rip through some cash quickly and get a lot
of traffic for that cash and get results. By the time we did our second
interview it got expensive and it is very expensive today to buy that kind
of traffic.

Wil: It is, but you also have other sources. Now you have Twitter, you’ve
got Facebook, you’ve got, you know, other ways that you can drive traffic
without having to necessarily, you know, do a huge Google ad spend.

Andrew: How many people do you have working on Fundable now?

Wil: There are 20 full time people.

Andrew: 20 full time people.

Wil: Yeah, we’ve got 12 people doing product review for the different
clients that we’re bringing onto the site. We’ve got hundreds of clients
that we’ve interviewed and sat down with and said OK, we think you’re a fit
and we’ll be rolling them out on the platform. Then we’ve got eight people
doing product delivery.

Andrew: I noticed on the bottom of your site, on the bottom of Fundable.com
that there’s a note here about how pixels and code carefully crafted in
Santa Monica, California and Columbus, Ohio. I’m assuming the developers,
are they in Santa Monica?

Wil: We’ve got a few people in Santa Monica and the rest of the balance of
the folks are in Columbus.

Andrew: I’ve got people who help me with Mixergy all over the world and
it’s really cool to have all of those people to tap into when I have
issues. But what I’m finding is a lot of our interaction is like CB radio
where I need them to learn how to do new course editing but if I give them
the whole process of how to do it then there will be a mistake somewhere
and it will be too complicated and we’ll have issues. So I give them the
first step. They listen, they try it. They come back to me for the second
and so on. Every interaction seems like that.

To the point where I hired an editor in Guatemala a few years ago. I’ve
been working with him forever. A few weeks ago I got so frustrated with
that kind of interaction I said how much is a flight to Guatemala? It
wasn’t too bad. I flew out there. I spent a day with him. We just got
through so much work together that it felt like it was two months worth of
work the way we ordinarily function. I thought this is one of the problems.
It’s not my interaction with people, it’s the distance. How do you deal
with distant conversations and distant management?

Wil: It’s really hard. I think the other piece that you probably tuned into
is the fact that email, IM, etc., it’s pretty one dimensional. If you don’t
really have a human conversation with somebody for some period of time the
relationship falls apart. If I say hey, did you get this done and that’s
all I wrote in my email, there’s no emoticon, there’s not a smiley face or
something, I kind of sound like a jerk. Right?

Andrew: Yes! Yes, I sound like a jerk all the time. I’m so glad that you
said that, you’re right.

Wil: From time to time, even though it’s kind of old school, I just pick up
the phone and ask the same question. Especially when I actually, before I
hit the send button I look at what I’m about to send and I’m just like, you
know, could that come off the wrong way? More often than not it does. It’s
funny because sometimes I’ll send the email and somebody will get it and
I’ll call them like an hour later. Just because in the back of my mind I
know that something’s off. And it’s like you know what, I’m really glad you
called because I thought you were pissed. No, I didn’t have time to write
more than did you get this done? This isn’t me being furious.

I think the team dynamic about people being spread across locations isn’t
insignificant. I think it’s very real. There’s sometimes a benefit to it.
Like I know there’s, our developers in Santa Monica enjoy me not being
there sometimes so I’m not harassing them all the time. But they’re here
now. They flew in for our launch on Fundable yesterday. We all did a big
party together last night, you know, and drank together and hung out with
spouses and things like that. You can’t replace that. That’s so meaningful.
I notice that when we’re apart from each other too long it starts to get
brittle. It’s like any other relationship. It matters.

Andrew: You know, when I worked for Dale Carnegie, the instructor who I
worked with, when I went to lunch with him he sat with his back to the
door. He always did. It turns out he had this issue where if he was facing
the door he was constantly looking to see who was coming in, to see what
was going on. To solve that problem he just sat with his back to the door.
No more problem. No needing to work on will power while you’re trying to
eat lunch and focus on a conversation with a friend.

As a person who used to, I see this smile on your face. You know what it’s
like, you sometimes those kind of tactics. As a person who used to spread
himself too thin, who used to focus on too many things, what are you doing
to ensure that you stay focused on Fundable right now?

Wil: You know we spend, I spend a lot of time thinking about what my next
gig would be. And what I was looking for was something that would allow me
to kind of chase multiple paths but do it under the same umbrella. That was
what Virtucon was. Virtucon is an incubator so we could work on multiple
companies and get into multiple things at the same time and have that make
sense. That was what the ad agency was for, so we could work on multiple
clients and kind of shift focus and have it all be under one umbrella.

But what happened was we just liked starting lots of companies and getting
involved in lots of companies. With Fundable it was hey, let’s just get to
the point of it. Let’s create a company that helps create companies. You
know, let’s sit around and talk to start ups and think about start up ideas
all day long and just make that our job. I think if we had taken that path
five years ago we wouldn’t have gone through, we wouldn’t have learned what
happens when you start multiple companies and it becomes really
challenging. Now we get to work on tons of companies. Like our offices here
are like ESPN for startups. I mean we see so many start up pitches all
throughout the day, we’re trying to help so many companies.

Andrew: Because they’re all trying to get on Fundable.

Wil: Yeah, yeah, and it allows us to really dig into their ideas. We see so
many cool ideas. But we get the high of all these new start up ideas
without having to go start more companies.

Andrew: How do you, I’m sorry, how do you compete, I’ve got to get back to
where you come up with your ideas and how you launch them and focus on how
an idea guy builds businesses. But if I take a step back and say the
elephant in the room is Kick Starter. How does Fundable.com, a new company
that’s in this space, compete with Kick Starter that just did the pebble
watch, that has had so much time to build name recognition?

Wil: Oh sure, Kick Starter’s awesome but it’s just not our business. That’s
a little bit of a misconception that will become more obvious over time.
Most businesses have no use for Kick Starter. It only works if you have a
business that specifically can do a pledge based crowd fund or an affinity
based crowd fund. Like you see something like the pebble watch, which is an
anomaly at every level, but…

Andrew: Right.

Wil: If you have a product to sell. But if you don’t have a product to
sell, let’s say instead you have to sell some early equity like we did with
Afford It or Unsubscribe or anything else like that Kick Starter can’t help
you at all. Crowd funding can because now you’re going to start to be able
to open up your fund raise to lots of people that you didn’t have access to
before. But Kick Starter won’t help you.

Andrew: You mean because with Kick Starter you need to sell a physical good
or experience, in the case of a concert, but here you can sell something
that’s not physical?

Wil: Correct. Also, there’s two pieces to it. One is Kick Starter is pledge
based. Again, if you don’t have a pledge based offer to be able to fund
your company Kick Starter is useless to you.

Andrew: What do you mean by pledge based?

Wil: Pledge based would be like something that I can offer a pledge or
donation to your organization. For example, a lot of stuff on Kick Starter
is affinity pledges which is hey, I just really like this idea. I really
like your poetry book so here’s a pledge or donation. That works for the
arts because it’s a patron based economy. When you get into commercial
projects like start ups, etc. the concept of I’m just going to give you
money for no good reason doesn’t work so well. It falls apart quickly. The
only time it holds up is if you’re doing pre-orders. That’s all that pebble
was. It wasn’t so much crowd funding as much as it was just a pre-order of
a product.

Andrew: Can you give me an example of a product that would work on Fundable
but not on Kick Starter?

Wil: Yeah, pretty much any website for example. Like we’re doing a pledge
based website fund raise for Tack right now. It’s working pretty reasonably
well. Tack can offer different rewards, if you will, for helping pledge
toward them. But ultimately to raise real sums of money, larger sums of
money, you know north of $100,000, $500,000 it’s going to require an equity
based platform. Someone’s going to need something better than just a reward
in order to drive that.

Andrew: Ah, I see. Tack is the simplest way to create and share elegant web
pages instantly. That’s a software they’re trying to build. If you put
money into it you get a share of the business?

Wil: Not in this case. We won’t be able to do that for a few months until
the SEC lets us.

Andrew: Ah, I see. OK, so then are you running the right small tests? If
the big vision is give people equity in exchange for having them fund a
business then is the minimum viable test a real indicator of whether
people, I mean is it connected to that enough?

Wil: Yeah, it’s been fantastic because it’s all the people that aren’t
pledging that are what you’re really testing. My friends are hopping in and
they’re saying I love this business. Tack’s a really cool business. I love
this business, I want to get involved but I don’t want to pledge. I
actually want to invest in a company. I had a friend contact me yesterday
who said I want to invest $5,000 to this company. Where can I do that?
Right? What we’re learning is that there’s a big market of people that
don’t want to do a pledge. That actually want to be doing equity
investments instead.

Andrew: How are they telling you this and how does the launch, I’m on the
site right now. It looks very similar to Kick Starter where if you put
money up you get a t-shirt, you get a poster, you get a limited edition
poster, a nickname of a font, all based on how much money you give you get
one of those different rewards. How are people seeing this and saying to
you no, we need equity in this thing. Oh, I see on the right side there’s
equity. You’re trying to see are people flipping from pledge rewards to
requesting equity investment in the company and if they are that’s how you
know that people are asking for equity and that this idea works.

Wil: Absolutely. The other side of it is by having the site out there it’s
given us an opportunity to interview hundreds, probably thousands of start
up companies that want to do a crowd fund. We see a fair amount of them
that say hey, I want to be able to expose my idea to the public. I want to
be able to raise money publicly. But I don’t have something, I don’t want
to give away t-shirts to do it. You know, I want to look for equity
investors. By having a platform out there we’re already starting to see,
too, how many start ups are compatible with a pledge based capital system.

Andrew: I see. Let’s see, going back to launching a business and getting
people to run it. How do you find the right people? What’s your way of
finding people?

Wil: You know, I think the people I tend to work with are based on people
that are just as excited about the idea even if their core competencies
aren’t exactly in what we’re about to do. Like me, Jamie, and Josh doing
Unsubscribe. None of us had any real experience in the email space
whatsoever or marketing software like that. But we were all passionate
about the problem we were trying to solve. What I have found is if you can
find passionate people you can work with them to get done what you want to
get done. But you can’t find people that are exactly the right fit for the
product but don’t have passion. Like you can’t create passion but you can
teach people the space.

Andrew: How do you find people who are passionate about an idea that
doesn’t exist?

Wil: Do you remember when you and I used to just sit around and talk about
ideas? Like when you were starting Mixergy, etc.? Like that. It’s always
just me sitting with somebody over a beer. [Dock Cast] came from me and
Alex from Godcast having a beer. I had no interest in being in the casting
business. But it was he and I sitting in Hollywood having a discussion
about how he as an agent was having a huge problem with recruiting talent
from all this new wave of reality shows. I asked him well, why aren’t you
just finding it all on the internet? He said surprisingly nobody is doing
that. Six months later we’re in the casting business. Every one of those
businesses was a serendipitous conversation like you and I had that led to
a business.

Andrew: You’re listening to them. You’re hearing them express their problem
and then once they do you say well, why isn’t there an online solution?
Fine, they say no one has it. Now you see that there’s an opportunity to do
some of this online. But I want to know more about how you come up with
your ideas. Because I, how do I ask you the right question? Let me turn
this around on you. Because I’ve had tons of conversations with people that
never led to ideas, that led to bitch sessions, that maybe even if we tried
to come up with an idea it didn’t necessarily lead to it. You’re a guy
who’s come up with lots of ideas. Teach me a little bit about the process
of coming up with these ideas.

Wil: I don’t try to come up with the idea but I’m just naturally
inquisitive. I remember you and I sat down at Bar Chloe when you were
coming up with how you were going to take Mixergy to market and how you
were going to charge for it and everything else like that. If you recall I
just asked you a thousand questions. It wasn’t me being critical of the
idea. I was genuinely curious about where your head was at, right? A lot of
times, and these are all the conversations I have. I just ask a million
questions just because I’m naturally curious about why people want to do
what they do. Sometimes those lead to businesses but I’m not actually
looking for a business idea.

I mean I do this all the time. I’ll be at a hotel and I’ll start asking the
concierge like where he’s getting all his business from and what keeps him
busy and what he does in his down time. He probably wants to kill me but
like I’m just curious because out of that may pop an opportunity to change
the concierge business. I’m not looking for a concierge business idea. I’m
just interested in what the guy does all day and why.

Andrew: And then when you come up with an idea you tell them and you say
hey, what do you think of this idea? And you see if he’s excited about it?

Wil: All the time. You know, if I were to have come up with the idea for
Open Table it would have been because I was standing at a hostess stand for
way too long and I would have just asked her, you know isn’t there some
easier way to do this? And just had a conversation and realized that she
should have a kiosk in front of her and we should go build a service that
has everybody make their reservations online. It’s just, in every one of
these businesses there wasn’t a single business that I could have said a
year before that I was going to be in that business. I just kept asking
lots of questions and it led to, you know, what might have been a business.
I’ll give you another example.

Andrew: Yeah, go for it.

Wil: A few years ago my brother called me, he lives in D.C. He had just
gotten out of culinary school. He said hey, I want to buy a Nintendo Wii.
He said do you know anywhere I can buy it and finance it? Which I thought
was the most bizarre question at the time. In fact, this is probably in the
[Afford It] interview. I was like dude, why do you want to finance a $250
item? He said, and again this wasn’t me being critical. I was literally
curious why exactly would you want to do that. He said hey, I don’t have a
credit card. I don’t like debt. I don’t want anything that would kind of
tether me. However, I just want to buy this item and pay it off but I just
don’t have the cash flow to have $250. I make $10 an hour. I live in DC,
which is like making -$10 an hour. He’s like I have $200, $300 a month of
just spending cash which includes food so it’s not really disposable
income. But I can pay it off through…

Andrew: I might have just lost you. If we did, I’ll call you right back.

Wil: …year like this.

Andrew: Sorry, so you were saying that he said I have a little bit of extra
money every week and I could use it to do what?

Wil: He said I could pay this off in a relatively short period of time,
probably six months, I just don’t have all the cash up front. I said to
him, I said how often do you have this problem? He said probably a couple
of times a year, if I want to buy any item over a few hundred bucks. I
instantly hop onto Google and I say monthly payments online. I’m trying to
dig into it and that’s where the idea for Afford It came from. If you asked
me the day before if I wanted to be in the online weekly payments business
I wouldn’t even have thought of it.

Andrew: You immediately go online and you say is there a way for my brother
to go do this? Why didn’t you, well when you asked him why don’t you get a
credit card? Just buy it and then you can pay them off every month, what
did he say to that?

Wil: He said I don’t think I’ll pay it off. I don’t want to incur like
extra payments because I hear about people getting stuck in credit card
debt. Which was actually a really observant thing to say. That’s exactly
what happens. I looked at it and said how can I build a system that would
allow him to make this purchase that would, I hate to use the word, but
force him to pay it off. Like it wouldn’t give him a minimum monthly
payment that would drag the balance on forever so I could make percentage
fees. How could I make sure that he had to pay it off in four and a half
months and it had to come out of his paycheck, auto-debited for a small
amount every week in a way that he could afford?

Andrew: I see. The idea is he says I want a Nintendo Wii. You say great,
you’re going to have it. Every month we’re going to take this amount of
money out of your paycheck and then at the end of whatever this set period
is you’re going to get your Nintendo Wii. The reason you’re going to
continue to do it is if you don’t pay then you don’t get the Wii.

Wil: Absolutely. And I really wanted to create essentially a forced savings
account. The trick was it wouldn’t work unless we shipped the product first
and hoped we got paid back which is pretty challenging.

Andrew: Were you, by the way, planning on sending it out first and then
taking the money out?

Wil: Yeah. I mean the reality is otherwise it is literally a forced savings
account which is fantastic but the value proposition isn’t as strong.

Andrew: OK, so you give them a Wii and you say look, I’m going to take my
money out of your account. So far this sounds great. What you didn’t even
tell people is some of what I saw in your investor [deck] which was about
how many people don’t have credit cards or can’t get credit cards. There’s
a reason why there’s so many check cash places all over country. Why didn’t
this work? If there was a clear need, clear research, a clear model, why
didn’t it work?

Wil: It worked great. It required tens of millions of dollars to make it
work even more great and that was kind of the tricky point towards scaling
is that you’re constantly buying inventory long before you get paid back.
The only way to kind of bootstrap it, if you will, is to charge exorbitant
rates. Is to charge $500 for a $250 Wii. Not because you want to but
because you have to because you’ve got to basically buy all of this
inventory ahead of time so you’re dealing with a cash flow issue.

Andrew: But you had top investors who put up their own money. I remember
talking to one investor who said he just pulled out his checkbook and just
wrote you a check. To him the initial payment wasn’t that much but it
started a relationship with you that I’m guessing he hoped would lead to
him being able to invest more. This sounds perfect, like a venture capital
backed company, and you had access to them. Why couldn’t you get it?

Wil: We talked to a lot of VCs. We ran into two primary issues with trying
to raise big amounts of money. One issue was that charging $500 for a $250
Wii, it’s usurious. It’s not really the business, when I conceived this
thing it wasn’t hey, let me try to figure out how to get $500 out of my
brother. It was let me create kind of a simple mechanism that he can pay
for stuff. But in order for it to work in the short term, again bootstrap
or small capital, you’d have to charge a ton of money. There’s no way
around it. We didn’t really have a choice and that felt usurious. That’s a
tough model to raise on.

Other people have done it. I don’t know if you know Doug Merrell at Zest
Cash, the former CIO from Google. He’s Los Angeles based. One of the
smartest guys I’ve ever met. Doug’s doing online payday advance. A very
difficult business and I think they just pulled down $75 million. It can be
done but it was really difficult for us to do it.

The other piece to it that was particularly challenging for us is as we
started to kind of get down this path where it felt like this kind of
usurious product, like that was kind of the only path we could get down. I
think we lost passion for it because that was not what we were trying to
create. It was kind of a necessary evil but not exactly where we wanted to
be. We kept trying to come up with ways to get around that but it’s really
hard to…

Andrew: For example?

Wil: Well, we tried to figure out what could we do to make sure, enforce
payment which sounds kind of draconian. But it was really just trying to
say OK, well if it was an auto-debit could we get paid. We did some test
runs with folks and it was really difficult to determine who was going to
pay you back and who wasn’t. Because we were dealing with folks that they
didn’t even know if they were going to get paid month over month. They had
very transient jobs so it was very hard to do the credit forecasting. We
tried all kinds of stuff. It was tricky but at the end of the day it
required big cash and it was difficult to raise big cash against the model.

Andrew: Why did you leave Southern California where there are all of these
people for you to exchange ideas with? Where you can talk to them about
business ideas that actually generate a revenue and see those entrepreneurs
who had experience in that space and enthusiasm for it. There’s a downside
that I can’t articulate. You’ve always been good at articulating these
ideas that I haven’t been able to express. What is that downside that I
can’t articulate here?

Wil: What’s the downside to Southern California?

Andrew: Yes.

Wil: Oh, boy. Definitely not the weather. No, Southern California was
awesome. At the end of the day a lot of our transition back to Columbus, we
already had a house here, had to do with my wife wanted a kind of a regular
Midwestern town to raise our kid. It really had nothing to do with the
environment there. I loved having all kinds of peers to be able to talk to.
You know, the Midwest is different. It’s just not internet territory but if
you’re raising a family it’s amazing.

Andrew: But you’re someone, wouldn’t you be someone who would push your
family to make sacrifices for business because you’re an entrepreneur and
because of the kind of entrepreneur you are.

Wil: You know, that’s a great question. Not this time. You know, like Sarah
and I have been together for ten years. She’s wonderful. This was one of
the times where, she’s backed me on everything. I walk into the room and
I’m like hey, I’ve got this great idea. She’s like oh, no, here we go
again. You know? Every time she gets behind me. She’s so supportive. This
was the one time, you know I hate to call it this but this was her start
up, being the family. Whatever she wanted to do, wherever she wanted to
take it I was going to be fully supportive with no questions asked. You
know, could I have like forced the hand? Maybe but I didn’t want to. Like I
said, I more than owed it to her and our daughter to go wherever we thought
it was best to raise a family.

Andrew: You and Sarah at one point, I think it was, man I’m trying to think
of what it was. We talked about it over brunch, I wasn’t really paying, I
mean I was paying attention but not taking notes. It was something like a
nightclub together, am I right?

Wil: Oh, God yeah. Let’s not talk about that.

Andrew: Here’s the thing, well, I’ve got to. First of all why’d you say oh,
God? Why not?

Wil: I was just talking about this last night. We were doing our launch
party for Fundable. Somehow it came up last night and Sarah was standing
next to me when it came up and she just shook her head and walked away.
She’s like what were you thinking?

Andrew: Why, what was the problem there?

Wil: We were, you know, we were launching SwapALease.com at the time so we
were already working insane hours. Then we just had this ridiculous idea
that since we were, you know, we loved throwing events and putting parties
together for our friends that, you know, how much easier would it be just
to have a nightclub and do it all there?

That’s a great idea for about five seconds until you realize that people
who run nightclubs work different hours. Like I work from 6 a.m. til about
9 p.m. People at the nightclubs work from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Which means if
you’re going to be in that business, you get to work two shifts. On Friday
morning I’d go to work at like 6:00, 7:00 in the morning then go downtown
to go work at this nightclub, which is totally ridiculous by the way, until
4:00 in the morning. I don’t know what you want to be doing at that point
but I want to be sleeping, right? It sounded like a great idea and it just
dragged us through the mud. It was a terrible idea.

Andrew: Especially if you’ve got a girlfriend. If you don’t have a
girlfriend you think all right, this is going to bring girls to me. I can
date more easily. But here’s the thing that I want to get at. You take
these risks both financially and, I don’t know how to express it, but you
could potentially lose a lot of face if you have this nightclub and nobody
shows up. Hell, I’ve had dinner parties where I say if no one shows up I’m
going to feel like a fool in front of the few people who do. Same thing for
house parties. Do you feel the risk that you’re taking when you take it or
are you someone who just doesn’t feel it and that’s why you can take so
many risks like that?

Wil: I feel it every single time.

Andrew: How do you get past that risk when you launch Afford It or Swap a
Lease, the company that lets people get out of their leases, or now
Fundable.com. How do you get past it?

Wil: You know what, I’ve kind of been down this road so many times of just
jump in and figure it out, case[??] we figure it out. We’re not always
successful but we motor through. You know, like pretty much we’ve jumped
out of enough planes and eventually figured out like how to make it to the
ground safely, right, so that we can get used to jumping out of planes. I
can’t think of a better way to say it because as an entrepreneur we’re all
afraid that there’s going to be this one colossal failure that ends our
career and we end up hermits in some remote location where people come find
us and find out what happened to us. That doesn’t actually come to pass.
You know, you make a mistake, you screw up. No one actually cares but you.
Your friends are like hey, did you hear? Something stupid happened with
Wil’s nightclub, it failed. People are like huh, who cares? It’s a topic
for like five seconds. If you can get past that it’s not hard to try a lot
of things.

Andrew: You’ve had people, we’ve seen them in Southern California, really
brilliant guys who are great at bringing in revenue but there are also
people who just try everything and they’re never going anywhere. Or they
try one thing and you know when you talk to them they’re never going
anywhere. Again, you’re very insightful. Why do you think they’re never
going somewhere even though they keep trying? Even though they’re willing
to take those risks?

Wil: You know what? Let’s face it, none of us knows while we’re doing it
that it’s not going somewhere. Right? Like when you’re right in the middle
of it it’s like being in a relationship that you have a crappy spouse and
everyone else knows it but you. In your mind if you could just fix that one
thing about him or her everything else will work out. I think the problem
is the person in that situation doesn’t have the perspective to be able to
say this is a lousy relationship. This is going wrong. In their mind they
can just do right thing to make everything right. They’re one step away
from a Facebook.

Andrew: Yes.

Wil: It’s not whether they can or can’t be successful. It’s that they’re
not aware that they’re not successful.

Andrew: I see. It’s the lack of willingness or the inability to see the
situation as it really is. Sometimes you have to close a company to really
see that. I had to close down the first version of Mixergy to realize what
mistakes I had and then I had to take a few months, maybe even a year, to
figure out why.

Wil: Yeah, and the thing is sometimes we’re fortunate enough that it gets
done for us. When I was giving you the PowerHouse.com example my partner,
who’s a brilliant guy, came to me and said hey man, you’ve got to make a
decision. It’s me or her kind of a thing. That forced me to realize that I
was that guy. I was right in the middle of making, I was in a bad
relationship with this idea behind PowerHouse.com and everyone else saw it
but me. Whether he intended to or not he forced a decision that put me back
on the right path.

Andrew: Did you realize right away that he was right or at the time did you
say I need to do this to bring peace to this house, to this family and so
I’ll do it. And then maybe months later you said you know what, I was being
too stubborn. Of course, it made sense, this was the right move and came to
an understanding of why it was the right move. When did it happen? Right
away or months later?

Wil: It just happened to be right away and only because I respected him so
much and I knew that he wouldn’t have brought that up unless it was a
really serious issue. It’s like when somebody just grabs you and says what
are you doing? That was just one of those moments where I was like you know
what am I doing? If anything I’m readily willing to admit when I’m wrong,
because I usually am. If somebody puts something to me my ego isn’t so
crazy where I’m like oh, that could never be the case. If somebody says
hey, you’re doing it wrong. If you sat down with me and said hey, I think
Fundable is a terrible idea I wouldn’t just write that off. I’d say hey,
well let’s talk about why you think it’s a terrible idea and by the way,
you might be right.

Andrew: I think Fundable is a great idea and I’ll tell you and the audience
why in a moment. And then I want to talk about someone in my audience. This
may be the most important part of the whole interview, what I’m about to
say right now. And then I’m going to ask you a question that seriously if
someone didn’t find any value in everything up until now and was
complaining about the audio and the guy who was chopping behind or whatever
noise was coming on, this one question that I have in mind I want it to be
the most useful thing and make the whole thing worthwhile.

But first let me show the audience how an ambitious entrepreneur solves a
problem. In the comments of one of my recent blog posts, the post about
systemizing, Antonio, the founder of A Tailored Suit, said he found himself
working 90 hours a week in his business and his business was in chaos. I
want you guys to see how he solved this problem so that you can solve
similar problems for yourself. In his case he said he sat himself down and
he learned from five Mixergy interviews on systems and he implemented what
he learned.

Now you can say I hate Mixergy, I hate Andrew. I’m only here because I’m a
buddy of Wil’s. You don’t have to get it from Mixergy. You can go to the
library, you can go online, you can look it up. But the idea is he realized
that this was a problem where when I thought I was working 90 hours I was
superman. I thought I was conquering the world. I didn’t realize I was
working 90 hours a week because the business was in chaos. He realized
there was a problem and he went out there and he looked for solutions. I’m
proud that he came to MixergyPremium.com specifically to get those
solutions.

Not only did he get those solutions he says Andrew, I can’t wait to improve
upon this. I have so much more to systemize. Haven’t you guys in the
audience found this yourselves? When you conquer something just a little
bit you want to go out there and do even and even more and even more?
That’s what we want you to do with Mixergy Premium. Now this kind of value,
you see he’s saying that he, well you’ll see in a moment what happened to
his business. In your business I believe if you systemize it could be worth
thousands of dollars to you. I know it was to me because once I systemized
I was able to pass on my work to other people. Now there are more people
working on Mixergy than I can count. No, not quite. We’re just under a
dozen people who all help out. But I was only able to do it because I
systemized what I did and then I passed it on to one person. Then when
things didn’t work right we improved the system and so on.

It was worth thousands to me. It could be worth thousands to you, but
Mixergy Premium is costing way, way less than that. If you go to
MixergyPremium.com, you’re going to see how much less. If you’re not happy,
in fact, forget happiness. I don’t want you make you happy. What I want you
to see is that each dollar that you spend on me is going to bring back at
least four, maybe even ten, maybe even thousands of dollars back to you. If
you don’t believe that’s true then come back and I’ll give you 100% of your
money back.

Here’s what Antonio says, again in the comments that you can see on the
blog post. He said publicly for anyone considering Mixergy Premium you are
crazy not to jump on this information for the price. You’re crazy not to go
in there. Andrew is way undercharging for the value received. It’s true, at
some point I’m going to increase the prices but if you lock your price now
you’re going to get it forever. Go to MixergyPremium.com. Let me articulate
it because I watched myself yesterday and I realized I’m not articulating
it well. MixergyPremium.com. Go there, sign up, and you’re going to see the
sooner you sign up the sooner you’re going to get results.

Hey Wil, before I ask you this important question that I wrote down here.
As someone who loves sales, as someone who can be honest with me because
you’re a friend, was I pushing too hard there? What do you think of this
sale? I’m trying to learn how to improve my pitch in these interviews. How
was that? Be honest, brutally honest even.

Wil: I don’t see people often enough just stand up and say buy my product
because it’s good and if it’s not I’ll give you your money back. I like the
fact that you say I’m not trying to make you happy. I’m trying to offer you
value for value and I’ll stand behind the product. I don’t, again I don’t
see people doing that often enough. I think we’ve gotten into this world
where everybody’s got to be so subtle and be afraid of just saying yes, I
want this sale. You know what? Saying yes, I want this sale is real. I
think that, you know, it makes you an entrepreneur. There’s nothing I’d
change about it.

Andrew: What about the pacing? Was I going too fast, too slow, too long?

Wil: No, I think it was good.

Andrew: All right. I am now achieving perfection.

Wil: Yes.

Andrew: I’m working on it. I sucked really badly in this one interview
where I was promoting Mixergy Premium and I said how can anyone ever take
me seriously if I flub the way I describe my own product? I sat myself down
and I worked on it. I worked on what I was going to say and I think I’m
getting better. I’m going to keep working on it even further.

Here’s the big question. The big question that I asked you before we even
started this interview. Which is how does a founder who has a lot of ideas
actually launch them and stay focused on the right ones? If you could give
someone advice, someone who’s in the audience right now who says I wake up
every day, I have these great ideas. Before lunch I have 20 ideas. How do
they launch them and how do they stay focused?

Wil: I am the absolute worst person to ask that because no one has stayed
less focused than I have. What I can tell you is my regrets aren’t that I
didn’t start more companies. My regrets are that I didn’t stay focused on
the companies that I did start. That I didn’t spend more time with my kids,
so to speak. You know, where I didn’t watch them grow up. I’m proud of what
we’ve accomplished with the companies but I realize looking back that in
order to create a great, sustainable company it requires a lot of time. It
probably requires an average seven to ten years. This idea that I’d spend a
year and a half on a company and it would just magically not do me a thing,
I’m realizing now that’s just not terribly realistic.

Any of them that did do well was probably sheer luck, not because that was
the right approach. You know, for something like Fundable I realize now
man, I need seven to ten years to get this right. This isn’t like a hey, in
a year it will become Pinterest. It’s not going to happen. I think a better
way to look at it is not how can I launch companies and make them
successful. It’s how can I realize going into it the first three years are
going to suck. It’s going to seem like this is a terrible idea and I’m on
the wrong path. It’s going to take at least year four for me to realize if
this thing has any scale worth doing. Have you interviewed Jason Nazar from
Docstoc?

Andrew: No, not yet.

Wil: Man, Jason and I were just talking about this a few months ago. You
know, they’re doing great at Docstoc. Jason’s been at it a long time. I
think right around that year four is when things started to arc for him.
Four years is a long time in our business. In any other business people
don’t think twice about it. But in our business that seems like an
eternity. But if you look at Facebook, Google, to some degree Zynga, they
all have roughly the same gestation period. It takes a long time. These are
the fastest growing companies. These aren’t companies like 37 Singles or
Mail Chimp. Those guys will tell you those are even longer cycles, you
know, in order to kind of hit that curve.

I think as founders we have to realize that when we make a commitment, when
we get wed to an idea, it’s a long term commitment and it’s going to take a
long time to find out whether you’re on the right path. The idea of just
chopping ideas quickly, like I was doing, you can do it and if you put in
enough hours, maybe make up for some of it, but man, I can’t tell you how
much I’m looking forward to staying focused on one thing. Which I’m going
to eat my words, a year and a half from now I’m going to be telling you
about a new idea I have for some rocket car or something like that. So I
reserve the right to take this back, but right now I’m just so focused on
trying to get one thing done.

Andrew: You know, coming from you that means a lot, because you have the
credibility to say that. If it was someone who was like me, who was
insanely focused on one thing, basically his whole life, I think well, you
know, maybe you’re just afraid to take risks. Maybe you just don’t have the
other ideas. But I’m looking at you, you’re not afraid to take risks. You
do have constant ideas. You have gone the other direction. You’re making a
conscience decision to focus and so this message means a lot. Now you may
change things in the future, but I don’t want you to feel like you can’t
talk because it might lock you into something.

Wil: Yeah, no that’s what I’m saying. I’m telling you how I feel today. It
could always change in the future.

Andrew: That’s the thing about these interviews, that the more I go and the
longer I’ve done them…Actually you know what, no, what I’ve found is
really, the essence of the person always stays the same.

Wil: Yeah. Yeah, cool.

Andrew: And we’ll be happy to have you back on. Here’s the big takeaway
from fundable.com. Here’s what I’m understanding. If I, not today, but it’s
coming soon because the law just changed, you guys are jumping in there
before it all goes into effect, but if I’m an entrepreneur who wants to
raise money for my company, not by going from entrepreneur to entrepreneur,
investor to investor, trying to raise angel funding, and then going, series
A etc., the way that you have. If I want to instead put my stuff out there
and say, ‘Anyone love this thing enough to want to invest in it? Anyone
care enough about this thing to want to take a piece of this and I will
fight for you like mad if you do and you’ll guide me because you’re…’ Now
also my fans, if this is what you want, this is the site to go to. Go to
fundable.com. Do I have the right understanding of where you’re seeing this
business go?

Wil: Absolutely. You nailed it.

Andrew: OK. All right. And until then, what do they do if they have a
business? Do they just go to fundable.com as their place to register and
say hey, as soon as this new law comes out, I want in?

Wil: Yeah. Yeah. You can apply to be a start up on the system right now.

Andrew: There it is. On the bottom right, the number 6 box I see on
fundable.com is apply for a fundraiser.

Wil: Yup. And we’ll walk you through the process and we’ll be able to do an
early version of equity fundraising as early as July 4th. So it’s only
about [??] weeks away.

Andrew: Oh, wow.

Wil: By the time we get your profile set up, your video ready, and
everything else like that, it’ll be almost time to start that portion of
the race.

Andrew: Ah, I see. So you want people in there as soon as possible so that
they can jump in there if they want to.

Wil: Yup.

Andrew: All right. I just, the reason that the connection slowed for the
audience for a bit is because I was clicking through to see how easy it is
to apply. Its right there, you’ll figure it out. I don’t even have to
explain to you. All right, fundable.com. Wil Schroter, thanks for coming
back and doing a second interview with me. I look forward to many more in
the future now that you’re focused on one business.

Wil: All right, my friend.

Andrew: All right, either way. Bye, talk to you soon.

Wil: See ya.

Andrew: Bye everyone.

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  • http://www.ipyxel.com/ Tom Fang

    I suffer from this idea ADD all the time.  I often question if the thing I’m doing now is going to be able to attain the goal and vision that I have set in my mind.  I am constantly seeking validation for motivation to keep going.  I often think I should go for one of my “bigger” ideas as the current one I’m working on has a limited market but I feel a more sure of a bet.  I think I feel this all the time as time itself feels SO SCARCE.  Years of work could mean a lot of nothing. And you only get a couple “years of work”.

    PS, I have the same Blue Yeti microphone as Wil!!  Gosh visionaries think alike I guess.

  • http://www.itcertificationmaster.com/ Mirek Burnejko

    Interview: Wow. What a guy. I love how he mix all these ideas: lean startup, bootstrapping, raising money, addiction to startups. I would love to see a master class with Wil about lean startup. He has so much ideas in his head.

    Technical: I love new resolution (probably two/three last interviews). Two small minuses: echo :) and “why-Wil-isn’t-in-the-center-of-his-camera?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/wilschroter Wil Schroter

     Mirek sorry for the crappy audio.  That conference room has vaulted ceilings so it does a horrible job of managing sound.  We need a better system.  My apologies.

  • Retina

    Finally a interview with scenery. Great program as usual.

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

    Thanks, Wil. And Andrew. You both infuse me with renewed energy. And make me wonder what my generation might have accomplished had we been so open.

  • Antonio Centeno

    Great interview – I about spit out my coffee when Andrew mentioned one of my past comments.  Thanks for the acknowledgement Andrew and I meant it – Mixergy premium is the best!

    Highly advise Wil’s older interview – I rate it as one of my favorites as he really goes into detail on pay-walls and when to charge people/how to test the pricing so you don’t leave money on the table.

  • Anonymous

    Great interview, very inspiring. I went to high school in Columbus, OH so it’s fun to hear from someone in my hometown and outside of SV/NY. 

  • Carter Johnson

    Great interview! Every minute I spend on Mixergy leaves me more motivated, more focused, and more eager to learn more for my business. 

    Quick question… As a resident of Cincinnati Oh, I can strongly relate to Wil’s statement about how theres not too many people to talk startups/business/software with in the MidWest. Any recommendation how to find and connect with likeminded individuals? I love the energy I come away with after being on Mixergy and wish I could find more people to talk ideas and projects with on occasion!

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