A few weeks ago I got an email from a guy named Mark Zhang who said he’s a freedom fighter from Canada who’s living in Singapore.
He’s been listening to Mixergy for years and he found someone in Singapore that I should interview. A guy named Justin Fulcher, who built a multi-million dollar business when he was a teenager and gave it away.
Justin is here. I invited him to talk about how he built his company, Kinda International and what happened to it.
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All right. Let’s get started.
Hey there Freedom Fighters! I am the very bearded Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy, Home of the Ambitious Upstart. And a few weeks ago, I got an email from a guy named Mark Zang, who said that he’s a freedom fighter from Canada who’s been living in Singapore. And he’s been listening to Mixergy for years, so he knows the kind of guests that I’m looking for. And he said that he found someone in Singapore that I’ve got to interview: a guy named Justin Fulcher, who built a multi-million dollar business when he was a teenager, and gave it away.
Well, Justin is here. I invited him to talk about how he built his company, which is called Kinda International, and what happened to it afterwards. And I want to also hear about the latest company that he’s running right now, which is called Ring MD. This allows you to call, video or text with a doctor. I want to hear all about it. Justin, welcome.
Justin: Thanks for having me, Andrew.
Andrew: Hey, how old were you when you launched Kinda International?
Justin: Oh man, you’re getting me to think quite a long time ago. But I was 13 right when I launched.
Andrew: 13 years old.
Andrew: And, I’m thinking about what you and I talked about before we started and I think Mark might be wrong. It wasn’t a multi-million dollar company, was it?
Justin: Well, not quite. I mean we were doing about six figures a month in revenue. And I ran that for almost a year and basically… Well, at that rate, I ran it for about a year and pretty much got tired of building sites for other people.
Andrew: And when you say six figures, are we talking about 100,000, 300,000 a month?
Justin: Yeah, just ranging between about 100,000 and 150,000 a month. Depending on…
Andrew: A month. Okay. I shouldn’t say that Mark is wrong. I’m glad that Mark found you. Obviously there’s no way that he’s going to know everything about your finances. That’s why I got you here, so I could find out about them. Pry with my questions, like always. And also hear the story of how you built it up. And it all started with you making your very first sale. How much money was that?
Justin: Very first sale, I remember before I even thought about the business or anything, I was just building websites for fun. And I remember, actually one of my friends mother’s was like, hey what you’re doing for yourself looks cool, I’m running a business, would you be able to make a website for me? And so I was like, yeah sure, I mean, why not? It’s nothing different right? And basically she was like, yeah I’ll even give you $50 to do it. And I was like, wow! This is only going to take me like 15 minutes. Man, I feel bad charging so much. So, first sale was $50.
Andrew: And that got you on your way. And did you know how to code at that point? Or are we just talking about basic plug-and-play website development?
Justin: Actually my coding experience started a few years before that. It started back when I was about seven or eight. And I learned to program in Python, out of just a desire actually, to learn about the computer and figure out ways I could make it do things that no one else could.
Andrew: How’d you learn how to program at seven or eight years old?
Justin: At first I just remember being completely fascinated with this machine, I think it was like a Windows ’95 , like really old school machine, and I would just go through, just file by file, folder by folder, and just look at every single one, and edit files, change settings, and break-in the computer many times causing the operating system to basically not be able to boot up.
All this tinkering just naturally led to programming and so how I learned it was really by trial and error. By looking at the existing codes, and all the files that were there which ultimately is different programming language files, and just editing and making it basically do whatever I wanted it to do.
Andrew: In order to learn how to program you have to have some discipline or some process to figure it out right? I shouldn’t say discipline necessarily, but did you have a book? Did you have a website that you went to learn? A teacher?
Justin: No teacher. Unfortunately back then there were pretty much zero resources online like they are now. You can find hundreds of different resources to pick up Ruby on Rails or PHP. Great resources now but then it was back when the web was pretty early, and so you could find a lot of surfaceable information, but the real nitty gritty, you kind of have to do it yourself.
When I tell that, people find it very hard to believe that I just learned programming, but really what most people don’t understand is that programming is like 90-95% of mindset rather than actually the words that you’re typing on the screen.
Andrew: What about when you’re messing with a file structure, and did you ever break the computer? Did you ever keep yourself from being able to log back in?
Justin: Oh yeah, that’s actually what really led me to programming is because basically I would tinker around, change all these files and then good old Windows ’95 wouldn’t be able to boot up and so then my parents would come in later, the next day, and they’re like ” What on earth? What are you doing? Why are you breaking this computer?” I was like, “Don’t worry, I didn’t break it. I can fix it.” That’s what caused them to basically put a restriction on me, and so I could only spend 10 to 15 minutes a day and basically would have to be monitored or something.
Andrew: 15 minutes a day on the computer?
Justin: Yeah, that’s the limit. So, they password protected it, and so that was the key. Then ultimately led me to figure out how to circumvent that password, just really for the desire of not being restricted.
Andrew: You did a pre-interview with us, and because you’re in Singapore that pre-interview ended up at what time of the day?
Justin: I think it was around like 1:30 or 2:00 A.M.
Andrew: Wow. Thanks for doing it.
Justin: No worries.
Andrew: It’s a little bit later in the day for both of us now which makes it easier. One of the things you told Jeremy Weisz in the pre-interview is that you got into arguments with your parents over this stuff, and in at least one argument you froze their bank account.
Justin: Yeah. This was back. I was a lot younger then. [SS]
Andrew: It’s not usual behavior.
Justin: I didn’t realize what were the possible implications, but once you kind of get, and this was after a couple of years of really learning to program, and understanding first how my own computer system worked, and then ultimately you could apply those same principles to the web. There was one time where they basically threatened to cancel the internet connection at our house. I was basically just like, “All right if you’re going to do that, I’ll just freeze the account,” and really didn’t know the implications of that, but that got their attention.
Andrew: So how do you freeze an account? I might want to freeze someone else’s account later today.
Justin: Well, I’ve tread carefully here with what I’m saying in that regard.
Andrew: No you don’t. You’re out of the country, our people can’t get you.
Justin: OK. As long as I still own the U. S. Passport, but yeah basically back then definitely security on the web wasn’t really even thought, people really didn’t think about it, and definitely not big corporations which is kind of scary because banks have billions of dollars and it was just totally open market.
Andrew: So what did you do?
Justin: So basically, basically got in, and modified some settings.
Andrew: Oh, you were able to get into the banks computer system and modify settings?
Andrew: All right. I can see why you don’t want to go much deeper than that.
Andrew: Wow. Alright. And you were never caught?
Justin: No. All I did was just place a hold on my parents account, so . . .
Andrew: Justin, you’re still early in your life at that stage. You know that other people aren’t doing this?
Andrew: Do you feel at that stage, like I think some people in my audience feel, which is there’s something different about me, I’m meant for some other life. To do things that the average person thinks is just beyond what you’re supposed to, I’m meant to do that. Do you feel that?
Justin: Yeah. Definitely. At this stage, it was a big discovery stage of seeing what I’m doing in my free time, and seeing what people my same age, or even a few years older are doing. It was just the general normal things that they were doing just was not intriguing for me. It just wasn’t. After a few years, after getting older you definitely, I seen a big separation of my mindset versus others, and you can feel it. I’m sure you understand that.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s sometimes maddening because I feel alone in it, and other times it’s maddening because I know I’m in for something bigger, and I just can’t get to do it. For the most part, it feels so liberating. Why doesn’t the rest of the world see that this is possible? Why doesn’t the rest of the world see that? I don’t know, maybe not that they can break into bank accounts, but they could do things.
One of the things that you recognized early on for yourself was you could make money. Someone actually wanted to pay you for these programming skills that were still early, but started to develop. You had to go out and flex those muscles. Where’d you get the next big customer that you got?
Justin: Then the real thing, the first client was my friend’s mother who runs a basically a small insurance office, and basically from there, the great thing was that she sold insurance to businesses, so all of her clients were businesses in the area, or the region. She provided my first next client, which was a referral for I think it was, I don’t quite remember, but I think it was a lawn manicuring company, some yard service company.
Andrew: They just needed a website?
Justin: Yeah. This was very early days of the internet, where people were starting to get the idea the web is not going to go away. We should jump on this, businesses were.
Andrew: We’re talking about 2006, roughly around there?
Justin: Yeah, 2003, 2004, 2005.
Andrew: Okay. Do you feel any intimidation charging this guy, or worry about whether you can build the site for him or not?
Justin: I don’t worry about whether I can build the site, but more about when you’re doing something that you just love to do, like a hobby, or in my case building websites and programming. When you’re first doing it, it’s weird to charge for it. It’s just different, and so I guess the big change there was starting to make the big transition from just doing this. It would have been totally normal if I were just going to do it for free for him. It would have been no big deal.
The fact he was paying me money, it got me thinking this is very interesting. This is a totally different mindset, but it was a mindset I liked, because it was more empowering. That first $50 it really does ignite something in you when you realize, “Wow” here’s the connection between something I’m good at, a value that I can provide to other people, and they’re willing to pay for that.
Andrew: In the early days, one of the things that I know about you is you tried to double what you were charging. First client was 50, second client was 100, were you able to keep doubling it with the third, fourth, and fifth?
Justin: I doubled it for probably the first five to ten clients, and then after that, I got a pretty big deal, which was 10,000 for one back end, like administration, so I think maybe like four or five times [SS]
Andrew: What exactly did you build for them?
Justin: So what I was first focusing on with those first few sites were just super simple, HTML, like five page site, you know, most of these businesses don’t even need a site but it’s kind of like a vanity thing.
Andrew: It wasn’t even built on a CMS, it was just straight up HTML?
Justin: Yeah, I mean probably the whole site had less than a thousand lines of code. I mean super small, very, very quick and easy to do.
Andrew: Well, frankly Justin, I think in that case you’re doing more good than harm to these sites because often people will load them up with heavy CMSs that they can’t edit, that the next guy who fixes their site has to figure out or undo. I’ve seen so many people that should have built their websites on WordPress but were sold some crazy CMS [SS]…
Justin: Oh I know.
Andrew: Now you can’t undo it, or just a headache to undo. You were still keeping it small. What’s this back end thing that you did?
Justin: And so then when I realized where people could really get a lot of value out of technology was applying automation tech to their business. And so this back end system was basically, this was the first real web application I built commercially, which was basically a logistics management tool that helped. It was a cabin building company, they made like pre-fab cabins, like custom built cabins for people.
It was a logistics management tool that basically allowed the client to come in and fill out this big questionnaire. And like, okay this size, these many square feet, these kind of features, and then what it would do is it would tie in with their existing supplier’s ordering tools, and it would automate that process. So I felt kind of bad at the time but I replaced four or five people’s jobs with this one piece of technology.
Andrew: And you got 10,000 for it.
Andrew: It took you how long to do it?
Justin: It took me about two, three weeks.
Andrew: And you coded it by yourself.
Andrew: So two, three weeks of work, while you’re in school, you’re still in school at this point?
Justin: Yeah, I mean I’m like 13 or 14 at this point, so I’m just going into high school.
Andrew: I’ll ask you in a moment how you got that client. But tell me what you did with that money, when you’re that age and you have 10,000 dollars suddenly in the bank, what do you do?
Justin: At the time I was just banking it. I mean pretty soon I bought a car. I was getting to about that age. It was a black Jeep Wrangler. [?]
Andrew: You went from feeling like there’s something special about you, did you start to feel like other people are idiots?
Justin: Yeah, I think most people when you go through this kind of progression, it seems like just progressing a lot quicker than those around you, you do get frustrated. And around this time there was a lot of frustration towards my peers. Spending time in high school was probably one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had. Sounds dramatic but I saw it as such a waste of time. Like why was I spending eight, nine hours in a building doing nothing basically.
Andrew: They give you arts and crafts classes in high school, they don’t call it arts and crafts but it’s basically arts and crafts. [laughs]
Justin: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: But I remember one of the criticisms that I read about Nietzche when we were studying him in college was that he appeals to people who are smarter than the average person, and the philosophy that he gives them though is always, you are better, separate yourself and don’t conform to their world, in a way that separates that budding genius from the rest of society, instead of showing them how to deal with the rest of society. And maybe even how to master living with other people. We all go through that stage I think, did you go through that stage where you felt like I am better than these people, what am I even doing with them, they don’t relate to me. Yeah, in a damaging way. Talk about that.
Justin: Definitely, definitely went through that. There are multiple times where, actually, probably my junior year in high school, and so about 15 or so at the time, I remember I actually received a letter that I was going to fail because I missed, my grades were fine, I think I remember all As, but I missed like 90 or 100 days of school out of like 180 or whatever. And so basically I received a letter that I was going to fail. And I remember I got the letter, and I’m just like, I don’t care. I’m doing fine, what is this strange rule that because of absences you can fail. And so I remember this really started changing the mind set about how most of the world views education.
And it’s sad but most people think how many hours you sit in a chair determines the quality of your education, or how much money you pay for it. And I just didn’t see it that way. I mean you could just read the book, spend a couple of hours, and you would get more then you would get in the whole year. So this separation started happening, not like physical separation, yet, but mental separation where I just wouldn’t even put up with these kind of societal norms at this time, and basically just live in, I guess, my own world in relation to that sort of, high school society. [laughs]
Andrew: What about when you eventually had to hire people? How do you deal with them, how do they deal with you?
Justin: Yeah exactly. So I very quickly realized a correlation between my time and the amount of revenue, and the amount of work that could get done which ultimately is the amount of revenue. And so I realized very quickly that I needed to bring in some more people to offload some of the stuff to. You have to remember this is like pre-incorporation. Like nothing, literally no business, I don’t even know anything about that side of things.
Andrew: It’s just you with a marketable skill.
Andrew: And customers who are willing to pay.
Justin: Yeah, and so most of the time customers are the really tough things for people to find when they’re going to start a company, but like for me, actually, I had too many. And so my big challenge was, all right how do I find some people that can, basically, help me get all this stuff done. I tried basically hiring people locally, and most of the time people didn’t take me seriously at all.
I mean because I would meet at the Starbucks, and let’s like interview, I remember the first time my mother dropped me off at the Starbucks, I couldn’t even drive yet, I’m like 14 years old. Drop me off at the Starbucks, I had three or four interviews lined up, and all of them were like, what is this a joke right now. I’m like, no, this is serious, these are like 25, 30 year old people. And so I realized that in person physical office hiring probably wasn’t my main thing. I ended up finding two good people that helped me locally. And then from there I kind of discovered this whole virtual work force, essentially building the team online, which no one [SS]
Andrew: [SS] find online team?
Justin: I remember it was just searching for PHP developers, you know, PHP developers…
Andrew: [SS] rent-a-coder.
Justin: Yeah, I mean just Googling, and then I think that one that everybody falls onto first is like E-Labs. And then experimented with some guys there, you know tons of mistakes that way. And I was just like, it was a good thing I persevered, because I was like, man all these guys so terrible, they say one thing, they don’t deliver, and classic first outsourcing experiences. So eventually I built up a team of about 40 or 50, like an online virtual office.
Andrew: A whole lot of people. For 100,000 a month.
Justin: Yeah. Well I mean the thing is, so 100,000 is like profit, sorry.
Andrew: Oh, okay, so he was right, it was multimillion sales, a hundred thousand profit.
Justin: Like I said I didn’t run those figures for that long, but there was like, what I realized is that I was [xx] so many people, because I was doing kind of like a very ad hoc approach, and I would have, say, 50 or 100 clients going at once. And it would like a one week or two week type job, and so basic…
Andrew: It’s really messy to work with people overseas or people who you just find online. It’s hard to communicate with them what you want. It’s hard to maintain quality.
Andrew: It’s hard to get what you want out of them.
Justin: Yeah, and so I very quickly learned that this, like one I had too many clients, and two I had too many people, which was, you know, like working on projects, which was a result of the first.
Justin: And so I just realized I needed to seek out better quality clients. And so at this stage out in my life my family made a pretty big transition from like west coast in like the bay area to good old Charleston, South Carolina.
Andrew: Oh yeah?
Justin: Which, great place, great place if you are going to retire, but if you’re going to start like a, if you’re going to build a tech company, the reality is, is there’s just not much going on, especially not at that time.
Justin: So what I started to do is I started to take trips to New York City. So like two or three times a week there’s a direct flight, and I basically fly up there and I just, beforehand I would just cold call like crazy, get on the phone, hit them up on email and just try to set up as many meetings as possible over a three day period or something.
Justin: And so then that’s when I started to seek out higher quality clients and so I basically finished most of the existing operations, scaled that down, had that like rolodex of people who I knew were quality, like for coders and stuff like, that online. And then basically just looked at setting up these big deals cause I only wanted to work with and manage two or three clients, you know a handful of clients, but were giving me the same amount of cash flow.
Andrew: How did you get that first client that paid you $10,000, the first big one?
Justin: So that one basically, so this was when I was in Charleston, South Carolina. The first, that was the first big one and to get that one I remember just going around, like searching online for different people’s websites, and I saw that basically, that this cabin company, which it’s a really popular thing for people on the coast to go up to North Carolina or Virginia and have a cabin, like second home.
So I saw that this was a popular trend and that there were already one or two companies online that were promoting this and had a website. So like five minutes or seven minutes down the road there is this company called GRC which basically built these cabins, and so I remember, I just, it was something that, you know, my family would do during the holidays, like head up to a cabin up in the mountains and so I just reached out and I was like, Hey, your two competitors have this. Are you familiar with what a website is?
Justin: And I’m talking to like a 65-year-old guy and he’s like, “You know I know what that big scary, you know, world wide web is, but why do I need to be a part of it”?, and so basically because it was so close to home I was like, hey well let me come in and just talk to you about it, and so basically in person meeting and just told him that basically the web is changing everything…
Justin: . . . and if you don’t embrace it you’re just going to, you going to get left behind, and so, thankfully, I guess maybe out of pity, I don’t know, or sympathy, he’s just like, well this young guy he seems to be pretty convincing, like why don’t I give him a chance.
Justin: Because I was likes what are your biggest problems. Just let me prove it to you. Let me just show you. That’s the easiest thing, and so the big key for that is I did for free for like three or four days and I solved one of his biggest problems, which at the time was like he didn’t have email management set up correctly. He wanted to set up, basically an auto- responder for when people registered on his site and then like “Hey welcome.”, like you know, “reach out to us,” you know, “We’ll give you a quote.” So I did something for free, added value and then of course, he trusts me and gives me something bigger.
Andrew: Alright. So then how do you . . . do you continue to get customers like that? Just talking to people one on one.
Justin: That’s always been something that I’ve found effective. I cold call/email like crazy. Just filter out, you know, people that are going to waste my time, who are interested anyways. And if I can just find someone who has a small interest in it, if I get them in person, normally I can close it.
Andrew: And this is just you, in your parent’s house, on the phone?
Justin: Yeah. Pretty much. I didn’t have a cell phone at the time.
Andrew: What about this? One of the things that we do when we pay people at Mixergy is, we ask them for their social security number or their tax ID number. Do you ever get asked for that?
Justin: Yeah. That’s a really good point. People downtown in the south, it wasn’t really a big deal. When I started trying to get these clients in New York City, basically, whole different ballgame. They’re like, what on earth? Yeah, what’s your tax ID number? And I’m just like, my secretary will send that over to you. You know? Like yeah no worries. Then I remember I’m just like, Google, what’s a tax ID number? But yeah because at this point in time, I’m not even incorporated. I don’t even know that you need to have a business. I know that sounds strange.
Andrew: But you’re a teenager, flying into New York to make sales?
Justin: Yeah. I mean, this is when I started to take it to the next level. I had cash flow. I mean I had some money to do this. So I was reinvesting it back into my business in that sense by now searching and going to New York and finding big clients.
Andrew: And how do you get clients in New York? Do you just knock door-to- door?
Justin: One of the big things was, I remember I was basically cold-calling a lot of companies that were already doing it. I figured that would probably be the best approach, was to call web agencies that already had an existing client network. And say like, hey instead of outsourcing to India, outsource down here to South Carolina. You know, that kind of thing. So basically everybody was just like, no, what’s your operation? And I’m like, you know, I’ve got a ton of people. But they’re like, how many people in house? I’m like, two, but we have a very large virtual workforce.
Andrew: Many of them are in India. The same process that you tell them not to do.
Justin: Yeah, exactly. So I’m just like, outsource down here. Just give us one of your projects, or give us a piece of your project and we’ll, I just made a statement, I’m just like, we’ll do it for half the cost. I don’t even care what it is. We’ll just do it for half. And we’ll deliver. And so, one of the clients there, one of the web agencies, did that. And they pitched us a project. And then basically the founder of that agency was doing a digital media conference. And he’s like hey, why don’t you come speak about what you’re doing. And so I was like, okay, I mean, that’s interesting. I never thought of that but sure man, I’ll do that.
So basically it was about a 100 person conference or so, located in New York. And that weekend after he pitched me the project he’s like, come out, it’ll be good for you. You know, at the least it’ll be good public exposure type of experience. So I was like, all right. So then the next day he’s like, all right, the floor is yours. So I spoke for like a 20-minute session in the morning. And basically after that, it was probably one of the best PR-type things you could do, because I had all these digital agencies, people who were parts of digital agencies in New York, I had all these companies hitting me up and saying, okay let’s do this.
So then now it’s like a paradox of choice because I have a ton of options. And that wasn’t my problem. The customers have never been my problem. It’s always been figuring out the best way to manage, and get me more hands-off. Because I knew that this isn’t what I, you know, you want to build stuff for yourself, not for other people usually.
Andrew: Right. Did you go to Asia after you moved past the business or while you were still running kind of international?
Justin: There was a version, branding was kind of all over the place. The first name of the company, super original, was called Carolina Software Solutions.[laughs] That’s six, seven years ago, the first time I incorporated I incorporated under that operating name, and that wasn’t very cool. So IT happened because, and we’re jumping a little bit here, but after I moved to Asia basically the first thing to get some cash flow going was my first instinct, which is, do software development.
Andrew: And this is after, were you still running the previous company that we’ve been talking about?
Justin: So right before I moved to Asia…
Andrew: Somebody’s coming into your conference room?
Justin: No, just some employees were walking in so I was just waving at them.
Andrew: Can you turn the camera around? I want to see what room you’re in.
Justin: Yeah, right now I’m just in my conference room.
Andrew: That’s a really good looking conference room. Is it yours or is it shared?
Justin: No, this is mine.
Andrew: This is your conference room?
Andrew: You have funding for this new business that we’ll talk about in a little bit? [SS]
Justin: Yeah. We’re venture backed.
Andrew: How much?
Justin: Three quarters of a million.
Andrew: Okay. And does that go a long way in Singapore?
Justin: Absolutely not.
Andrew: I wouldn’t think so.
Justin: [laughs] We’ll talk more about that, I’ll be happy to share all those details.
Andrew: We’ll come back to that. Tell me about how you got into, I think it was Thailand that you moved to first, right?
Justin: Yeah, so basically just fast forward through that, final years in high school, just tired of it, not sure what I wanted to do. I knew that college wasn’t the thing I wanted to do, but I didn’t really know what the alternative was. So I ended up going to college more for the social experience, and I went there for basically less than a year. Ended up dropping out, and then two months later I basically was like, all right the US is just not my thing right now, I wanted to see more of the world. That simple. So I jumped on a plane, I wanted to go somewhere unique, Thailand sounds pretty exotic. And also I’m like a minimalist when I travel, so I want something cheap, easy, and just have an adventure. So I flew, and actually moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand. That was about two and a half years ago or so now.
Andrew: So you continued to run the business?
Justin: Okay, sorry, I missed that part of your question. So then right before, I realized I wanted to separate myself from this completely. I’m not feeling like this is what I’m supposed to do. There’s bigger and better things that I should be doing. And it’s a great business and I could have kept doing it and expanding it, but it just wasn’t interesting anymore.
Andrew: Sorry, I’m asking the challenging question before I’ve even let you tell the story. I’ll come back with the challenging question.
Justin: Okay. Then basically I told a lot of my clients that I was basically moving on. I was moving to Asia, and I was like passing it on. A mistake for the longevity of that company was that I was the sole person with relationships with the clients. And so after I told them that, half of my clients were, basically that day, well finish your work, you’re moving on, well we’re moving on too. And so I felt kind of bad for my guys when I moved on, because like half of that dropped, but it was still healthy revenue when I passed it on to [SS]
Andrew: [SS] I was just going to ask you about this, this is the part that was the most shocking to me when I looked at the notes and I heard your story. People don’t just give up a successful business like that. My assumption was the revenues were high but the numbers were going down and the profits were low and you were basically earning a salary that was nice but not so much that you couldn’t walk away from it.
Justin: Yeah. I mean, it was fun, like it was doing really well. [SS]
Andrew: [SS] getting more than 25,000 a month a that point.
Justin: At that point in time I wasn’t, because [xx] of my expenses, you know I was spending like maybe 500 to 1,000 a month.
Andrew: You’re still living at home?
Andrew: Were you making more than $10,000 at that point?
Justin: At that point, yeah.
Andrew: You were
Justin: Around, yeah.
Andrew: So you gave up ten . . . around what?
Justin: The profit was more than that, but for me I was keeping most of it inside of the business, just because I didn’t need it. 10,000, 25,000 even 100,000, what kind of different lifestyle am I going to have when you’re a teenager living at home? For me that was already a lot.
Andrew: It’s called, “F you money.” It means that you can just do whatever you want, that you don’t even have to live by your parents rules.
Justin: Well, I know.
Andrew: How much money did you have in your bank when you moved to Thailand?
Justin: Well, okay. Don’t get me wrong, when I moved to college I had my own place. I rented a sick house, just an awesome place.
Andrew: Did you date in college?
Justin: What’s that?
Andrew: Were you dating in college?
Justin: Yeah, of course, who doesn’t?
Andrew: Who doesn’t? Me. Look at me.
Justin: Awe, come on don’t play that game.
Andrew: It’s true. College was very bad, that’s why I was so aggressive afterwards, maybe not aggressive. That’s why I was so motivated after college.
Justin: Motivated, all right.
Andrew: Driven, yes.
Justin: I like it.
Andrew: Believe me; some of the guys who were really sleeping around were not as driven as I was. They were out after college partying on First Avenue in Manhattan on the Upper East Side. Okay, so you’re still in the business, you were about to tell me something about why you moved on, or how much money you had in your bank account when you moved on.
Justin: When I moved, the money in the bank was about 100 grand, so just comfortable. I knew that I had a little nest egg that I had to sit on if anything goes wrong. I gave the two guys a stipulation. I said, just send me, I looked up online the average cost of living in Thailand, whatever, “Send me $500 every single month, that’s all I want.”
Justin: I moved on, I gave it to them. They ended up running into some pretty big hardships, which this is a big thing I learned about creating a sustainable company that’s not so focused on me, and what I’m doing, because it was pretty disastrous after I moved on.
Andrew: What happened?
Justin: Well basically, I just didn’t train these guys to effectively maintain relationships and zero growth happened, due to the nature of development. Software, typically you have a set amount of time, and from there if your contract’s two months to get this done, you’re done, the projects over. It’s not a recurring revenue model [particularly]. From there after two or three months, they were emailing me and they were saying, “Man, Justin, how do we get more clients?” I would just think about it “Isn’t it obvious? Just talk to people and get it.” I didn’t make that connection that other people maybe would really struggle with this.
Andrew: What could you have done to solve that problem, so that the business is bigger than you?
Justin: I learned so much about that afterwards. I learned that one, you need to create sustainable processes, so more documentation about these things that I was just doing naturally, and wasn’t really thinking about, documenting that. Then doing a proper knowledge transfer, for the key people directly underneath you. Then also have them keep passing that on. I really failed on that part and ultimately, I really put them in a really tough position, because they had no idea what they were doing.
After about two or three months most of the contracts were running up. These guys were married with kids, so they couldn’t just take trips up to New York, this stuff that I was doing. I was so free in time and location that they were struggling, trying to get clients in the local area. Unfortunately, most of the clients ran out, and I basically had to funnel a lot of the savings that I had in there to keep it going, and probably put 60 to 70 grand to sustain this for a couple of months to keep it going. That’s why I rebranded, pushed like kind of IT, kind of international, and I started basically looking for some clients in Asia, not for me, but actually to like push it for my guys, and then this time train them how I was doing it so they could do the same.
Andrew: And now, did it work out?
Justin: So it worked out pretty well, I mean, for me like personally I spent most of the money that I’d saved, basically like revitalizing this. And I got a couple of key clients in Singapore, so then I started flying back and forth a bit from like Shanghai, Bangkok, Bali, wherever I was to Singapore. I got a couple of good corporate clients, and basically was just like, all right, here you go. And so I went for more long-term so I also was doing like social media, SEO, like a whole package.
Justin: Not just development projects. And so then it’s like, all right, here you go; this is recurring revenue for the next two years, basically like one or two year contracts. Here you go . . .
Andrew: And you still own the business, so you have an opportunity to get your money back.
Justin: So basically the first company I basically passed on, and so we did incorporate and that was like Carolina Software Solutions, did incorporate, pushed that on. And then for this one I incorporated again kind of IT, and so for that I do still have like some stake in that.
Andrew: I see, okay. Do I have the name wrong? I introduced you as Kinda International, but is it kind of IT?
Justin: So like the technical name is like Kinda International, but the URL is Kinda.IT.
Justin: So yeah, either way.
Andrew: Okay. And meanwhile you were puking blood, and lost the ability to use your money.
Justin: Yeah, basically at that time, yeah. When you first come over to (? Tan), so it was like when I first moved to Thailand it was like everything just hit the fan, you know, like right away. I mean, like personally, financially, socially, like everything. And so that’s what; I had savings, but then I had to funnel like almost all of that into the business because you know these are like the guys aren’t even able to pay themselves, and you know, I’m like, man, you guys have like a wife, kids, like you know, that comes before me, you know, it definitely comes before me. And so I was putting that–I couldn’t even–yeah, I got super sick, like I was afraid I was going to die, honestly.
Andrew: From food poisoning?
Justin: Yeah, basically. I assume, and I still don’t necessarily know what it was, but when we first moved to Thailand and water, food, anything, everything is very, very different. And so, yeah, I was doing that stuff, puking blood and this lasted, you know, one to two weeks. I honestly don’t even remember, but at that time all of this simultaneously, like I remember I couldn’t even use my cards, like pull any cash out.
Andrew: The banks, when you go overseas, they start to think that there’s fraud, and shut you down.
Justin: I know.
Andrew: That’s happened to me, too. I now have on my checklist for flying, it’s take passport and call up the bank and tell them that you’re flying overseas.
Justin: You have to, because American’s don’t travel, so when you’re using American banks they’re like, oh, man, fraud; chop this off.
Andrew: Yeah. Did you eventually have fun there? You were out on this adventure; you got to do what you wanted. Did you eventually get to have fun?
Justin: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Andrew: All right. And then you started this business. Is it now time for us to talk about Med Pat, or RingMD?
Justin: So like, Med Pats, RingMD.
Andrew: They’re the same company?
Justin: Yeah, so Med Pats is the company name, which basically, so, just to go into the name before I give you like the back story, it means like, it’s an abbreviation for like Medical patients. And so I knew for me, so kind of from this event, it stemmed because you know obviously who’s like a reliable trustworthy doctor I could have even spoken to in that time where I really needed it.
Justin: And also just like I spent the next like six or seven months just traveling around, and just actually, I wasn’t in the same country for like more than three days at a time. I mean, just bouncing, like learning about the region, and the biggest thing that I kept seeing is that there’s this huge disconnect between like access to quality healthcare in all these countries, and so Singapore though has like one of the best healthcare systems in the world, and it’s really, really cheap. I saw this arbitrage between like these like lack of quality, care facilities and countries surrounding Singapore and then Singapore itself, and even tons of problems in the U. S. healthcare system.
I’ve always been interested in healthcare, because it’s something that affects you whether your rich, poor, young, old, it doesn’t matter it’s a universal either problem or characteristic of all of us.
I like things that are similar to that because it has the potential to reach everyone on the planet. So, yeah RingMD, Medpaths, RingMD, they stemmed from this huge need I saw especially in all these developing countries, but even in the western world, and in developed economies healthcare is just so broken. It’s broken, and that’s why I was motivated to offer a solution, because I know technology can enable access to quality healthcare regardless of where you are anywhere around this planet.
Andrew: Medical tourism is big right now. The idea is you fly out from a country where it’s expensive to have a procedure done to one where it’s inexpensive, and the cost of the flight and the nice recovery in often a beautiful country is cheaper than getting it done in the U.S. or, your home country.
For you, you’re doing it differently, you’re saying sometimes you don’t even need to fly out and see a doctor. Sometimes you just need to talk to a doctor, have some questions answered. I know for myself, if I go see my doctor, actually I don’t have a doctor yet here in San Francisco, but in most cities I’ve been in it’s hard to find a doctor that will actually sit and talk to me. They will fly in and out of that room so quickly that I don’t have even time to compose myself let alone ask my questions. That’s the idea behind Ring.MD. I can go on there, I sign up from my phone, I can talk to one of the doctors by video, I can talk to them by audio, and I can text them. I’m just not going to give away the prices, because my guess is that you’re not sure where the prices are going to end up we’re talking before the official launch in preparation for the launch.
Justin: Yeah, exactly. That’s how the progression went as first medical tourism was really interesting, because coming from the U.S., and even when I was still living in the U.S. I was seeing these big problems, and like obviously, like Singapore, other countries, even Bangkok has incredible healthcare. Private facilities are like five star hotels. You’re like what? How’s this so cheap? This is so good, and most of them are U. S. trained doctors or UK trained, and that’s what I thought was the first solution to healthcare, but then I realized that, that’s not the big picture. That’s one piece of how we can really solve the healthcare problem, but in essence it’s a much bigger, and global problem which is where RingMD came into play, and where it’s like the primary focus of basically providing quality access to healthcare regardless of where you are.
Andrew: I remember in the Soviet era where people from Russia would come to the U.S. and see things like free toilet paper in the bathroom, and they’d be all wound up about how exciting it was. They would be pissed that they were living in an environment where this stuff wasn’t available to them.
Similarly when I was in Argentina, and I saw what a hospital was like there, or I saw what a dentist office was like there, I was pissed at the U. S. I didn’t know it was possible. You could actually talk to a doctor, never mind the prices, but the conversation you could have with them. Going to the dentist is like going to a spa, and the prices are so cheap that I can understand why people would fly out.
Looking at the frequently asked questions on RingMD and under how much does it cost it says doctors set their own prices, and what I do know from a conversation that I had with you is it seems like it’s going to be less than a deductible. Whatever you pay the doctor when you have insurance it seems like this is going to be less than that. Just based on what I’ve seen here.
Andrew: No. You speak Spanish?
Justin: Yeah, actually I spent a good amount of time in Columbia before I ventured out to Asia. I thought you did the same in Argentina.
Andrew: You know what I did? I did learn a little bit of Spanish, but mostly what I wanted was to just focus on my work in the office, and hang out with my wife, and friends afterwards. I wasn’t deep in anything. I went there to be in a bunker, to just sit there and get my stuff done. But from the office to my house I would often take a cab and I would get three language lessons from the cab driver.
By the way, keep looking over. I see people coming in. Is this, it’s your own office that you own. Or do you own it or are you renting?
Justin: No, I don’t.
Andrew: You’re renting. And then you’re renting it out to other people like co-working space, right?
Justin: No. I mean, the employees are coming.
Andrew: I’m looking here in my notes and somewhere I see in there asking about co-working space.
Justin: So actually I opened up a co-working space in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Andrew: Oh, really?
Justin: Yes. So me and a few friends of mine we saw how the big opportunities there were for like the entrepreneurially minded Vietnamese and so that’s actually where our second office is. Our company runs a second office located out of that co-working space in Ho chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Andrew: Let me do a quick plug here and then I want to ask you an important question that I think people who are listening to this have on their minds, especially after what you just said right now.
And the plug is, of course, for Mixergy Premium and as a follow up to this interview if you saw what Justin was able to do with outsource developers, outsource hires, and you’re interested in doing the same thing but you understand that it’s not easy to outsource, it’s not as easy as it sounds, you want a little bit of help figuring out who the right person hire is we did a course with Liam Martin, the guy who owns staff.com, which is a website where you can go and hire outsourcers.
And he did this before I even think he launched staff.com. He just said ‘Here is the way that I do it’. And he walked us through things like, here is a simple one I remember that sticks in my head, if you hire someone overseas, he said, do a video Skype call with them. I said why, I don’t need to talk to this people and I don’t want to be disturbed during the day with a video Skype with them. He goes ‘No, when you’re hiring them, do video Skype. What you want to do is see the environment that they’re in.’ He said he did that once with someone and realized that she didn’t have a place to work. It was just this loud coffee shop. There’s no way that he could get her to continuously work. She didn’t have dependable internet and she didn’t have a quiet space to work.
So tactics like that and overall idea of how to hire that Liam taught me in that course and I’m still using it today. Go to Mixergy Premium. Liam is one of over 100 entrepreneurs who have taught courses on Mixergy Premium and over almost 1,000 entrepreneurs in general who have taught and done interviews on Mixergy.
I hope you go over and sign up to Mixergy Premium where you can get his course and like I said, hundreds of other programs all part of your membership. Mixergypremium.com. I guarantee you’ll love it.
I may not now how to grow a beard properly or how to get my hair cut but I do know how to run Mixergy Premium. Go sign up.
Here’s the thing. A lot of people, Justin, have ideas. But it’s hard to make them happen. Here you are doing it from a new country, doing it as a teenager, doing it in this whole other country still in Vietnam where you got co-working space. I don’t want to make it too simple, I don’t want to make it seem like it’s too simple but give me one piece of advice that will be helpful to someone who says ‘I see how this guy Justin keeps launching things. I need that kick in the butt and clear direction to do it myself’.
Justin: I think the biggest thing is to start now and be okay with failure. I mean, it’s easy and I always find out that when I’m listening in to other interviews, even people that like you’ve interviewed as well, and some of the guests make it seem so easy. But it’s really not. The hard truth is that it’s not and for every success or whatever you want to call it that I’m talking about or anyone else is talking about, normally there is about another dozen failures that no one ever mentions.
Andrew: Yes. We didn’t get into Men vs Zombies, the app that you created, Go Organizer Pro, the other app, right?
Justin: Yes and, I mean, these things they were incredible learning experiences and like that is the biggest thing. It’s funny because most people don’t really mention their failures but that’s normally where those epiphany moments come out of.
Andrew: What is the epiphany moment that you got out of Men vs Zombies, the mobile app game?
Justin: Wow. That mobile is definitely, I mean, a pretty epic failure but mobile is changing. Mobile is important. I mean, that was a few years back, like right after the launch of really that iPhone.
Andrew: Like literally 2008.
Justin: Yes. Early 2008, mid-2008. And basically, mobile is super-important and you know this is something, a lot of the mobile techniques that I learned, where I failed I’m now applying to now build in, in our like mobile version of RingMD now. So.
Andrew: Alright, so what you’re saying is you just go and launch it. A lot of people have an idea that hey maybe someone should create co-working space in Vietnam, but they . . .
Andrew: . . . wouldn’t do it because who’d want to bother, what if it doesn’t . . .
Andrew: . . . work out.
Andrew: Et cetera. You’re saying naw, just go do it.
Justin: Yeah I mean basically, because, most likely you will fail. I mean that’s the reality. If you, you haven’t, you don’t have much experience most likely you will fail. And that’s good, that’s what you want to do. Because then you get comfortable, and there’s not this huge delay of time of like one year, two years Where it’s like, yeah I think I want to start this business but, you know it may or may not work. I mean the easiest way to find out that answer to your question is to just do it. And here in a few weeks you’ll know, you’ll know if it’s going to, if it’s going to just fail, or if there’s potential. So, . . .
Justin: That’s just how I live, it’s execution minded.
Andrew: [laughing] ‘Execution minded’ Thank you so much Justin for doing this interview. And thank you. Do you know this guy Mark who introduced me to you?
Justin: Yeah, yeah, um, of course I mean, I met him here.
Andrew: Did I say.
Justin: In Singapore.
Andrew: Did I. Did I pronounce his last name right? Mark Zhang?
Justin: Um, that’s, that’s fine. [laughing]
Andrew: No, how do you pronounce it?
Justin: It depends. It depends if you’re, if you’re pronouncing, um, I don’t know exactly, for sure.
Andrew: Mark, email me. It’s.
Andrew: It’s Chinese, right, the last name?
Justin: Yeah, but, it.
Justin: Yeah. So.
Andrew: Hopefully he’ll email me. And he even has his own uh, domain. Let me see markzhang. Me. Maybe if I click [SS]
Justin: Yeah he’s.
Justin: Yeah, I mean, yeah I know, I know him. I’m, I’m good friends, very good friends with him. And uh, yeah he’s a great guy he’s, he’s hustling on some cool stuff now too. So.
Andrew: Oh look at this, the top post on his personal blog is My Starbuck’s Girl Rejected Me. [laughing]
Andrew: I’ve got to see what he’s saying there. Alright, anyway. Thank you so much for doing this interview, ah, the website is Ring.MD right?
Andrew: Thank you all for being a part of it.
Andrew: Bye, guys.
Justin: Thanks so much.ustin