Andrew: Freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner and, um, I talk to entrepreneurs for a very long time. Before they say yes to interviews. Joining me is an entrepreneur who I, I guess we had a conversation a while back, and then I get an email from him out of the blue about a month ago where he says, Andrew, I’m finally ready to tell my story.
And I thought, okay, great. I wonder why he was hesitating. Then he follows up with me and he tells me what happened. I go whole, is he really going to say all this online? And he’s smiling. And apparently he is. Joining me is Martin Martinez. I know him as the founder of Alfred. And what Alfred does is. It basically lets you market to people on LinkedIn.
It both lets you say, if you have like I do, I have thousands of people who are connected to me on LinkedIn, I could pull in their email addresses, um, and then bucket them. And if I want to just CEO’s who are here in San Francisco? How for, it allows me to send email to them, uh, just to the CEO’s in San Francisco.
If I wanted to expand my network beyond and say, I want to know every founder in San Francisco, they will me to find all those founders, Adam, uh, add them on LinkedIn and then send the messages. And then if they do add me on LinkedIn, I could follow up with them both in InMail, which is LinkedIn’s email system or with regular email.
And apparently coming now I could also tweet at them basically robust communication and marketing tools within LinkedIn. That’s what Alfred is. I know that that was amazing on its own because it’s kind of a gutsy thing to do. You’re you’re basically saying LinkedIn wants to control communication between its members.
And Martin says I’m going to let people decide how they’re going to communicate with people on LinkedIn. So it got them into a little bit of trouble with LinkedIn, but he’s found a way out of it. But then I read his backstory, the poker, the poker, the debt, the whole thing I want to find out about all of it.
Some of it maybe is illegal. We’ll find out within this interview. Um, This interview is sponsored by two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you’re hiring developer, you already know keep repeating it, because I know that you’re gonna thank me for telling you about them. You should be going to top tao.com/mixergy.
And the second, if you have a team of people and you want to make sure that they’re all working like your best person, you need the right online manual. You need the right online training system, and there’s a software called that I’m going to convince you later on, that you should sign up for, but first Martin, good to have you here. I want to know about the poker that happened in your house. You were how deep in debt before you did this
Martin: Um, well, you know, life gives you a couple of knocks and, uh, by the time that I started playing hosting poker games at my house, I was minus $40,000.
Andrew: $40,000 in debt sleeping well with that or freaking out.
Martin: You don’t sleep with. I mean, I had a normal job. I worked in a casino. Um, you know, and when you actually work in a casino, it’s kind of interesting. You, you lose. Understanding of who money is because people come in with thousands, if not millions, and you think, Oh, this is normal. And you get, you know, $800 a week or whatever your wage is and you blow it and you cannot play gambling as well.
I wasn’t a gambler. Um, but you know, you just, you know, life gives you a couple of knocks and set you back. And, uh, at that time I got in pretty deep at 40,000.
Andrew: We’re going to get into the knocks and how you got deep in debt, and then also how you climbed out. But the idea that you had was hosting poker games at your house for who.
Martin: Well for my, for my workmates. So we all work in a casino. We’re all loving gambling. We often took trips to different places to gamble and what better place to do it then? You know, a 15 minute walk from the casino, uh, at a mate’s house. And that’s kind of where it all started out. I had to find a way to.
You know, get out of debt, but I couldn’t just quit. And I also couldn’t do anything illegal. Otherwise I would lose my casino license because I worked in the, in the Sydney casino. So it was just, um, it was just one of those things that my friends, uh, my actually other people were hosting games and they stopped.
So there was a demand for it. And I said, okay, let’s start doing it. And I would have a fully hosted game. So we tear down my living room, put a poker table empty. The fridge order, the pizza see was fully catered. Uh, and, and they loved it.
Andrew: How much money were people vetting?
Martin: I w we, we started relatively small. It was like one, $2, you know, um, you know, auntie and bats. And, but it was no limit poker. So, you know, the punch could get pretty high, pretty quick. Um, you know, we, we, at one point actually had to put some responsible gambling policies where if you lost all your money, you have to take a break for an hour because people would just borrow him.
Buying a game. Like it was, he got crazy, but he was friends. So you got to control it. You know, it wasn’t, it, wasn’t a nice to see all your friends losing all that money.
Andrew: How did you make money from this?
Martin: So I played, I was a dealer and then nobody dealt with me as, so I played as well as Delta and I also took a 5% commission. So that, that, that part of it is the illegal,
Andrew: That means offer every, every game.
Martin: every pot.
Andrew: How does it work? Every pot bef so got it. Every pot before the winner takes it, you take 5% into your pile
Martin: Alright. So if there’s a hundred dollar pot, I’d take $5, put it in my pocket, give the 95 out, and then you keep on scraping the pot as he goes.
Andrew: Was it awkward to just take money off of your friend’s pot and put it into your pile? No.
Martin: Well, it’s fully catered. You know, you come in, you drink beer, you drink alcohol, you drink whatever you want. If eat as much as you want, you had everything taken care of. You had cable TV, it was like music scene, but he wasn’t in a one bedroom apartment. So, you know, they, they, they don’t mind. It was part of the game.
Andrew: read a great book, a woman who did something similar, it’s called Molly’s game. I liked the book so much more than the movie. Um, but one of the things that I learned from her was she didn’t want to rake because once you take money off the table, then it’s illegal. Otherwise it’s just a house game. The government seems okay with it.
Um, and so what she would get is I think she would just be given gifts from people. You, you were just straight up taking a rake. Once you worried about that, being illegal, considering that you’re working in a casino at the time.
Martin: Being a home game. It, you know, if you looked at the delayed, the legislation, which I did because I worked in the casino, so I had to look into it. Um, it was, it was kind of ambiguous. So we just run with it and actually casino management plating my game. So they were part of culprits as bad as everybody else.
So they knew what was going on.
Andrew: All right. Fair enough. Let’s get into your story. I should also say Alfred hit a milestone revenue wise. I hope you’re going to talk about that. There’s so much to cover now for the alone, but I want to go a little bit further back. You’re from Uruguay. My wife and I used to have to go to Uruguay when we lived in Argentina, because we were not Argentine citizens.
And we had to leave the country every few months. We just take a trip to Europe. Let’s just go there. Let’s go. Let’s go to Chile. I didn’t feel like I got a sense of Uruguay, but from what I saw, it seemed like a good country that was fairly easy to live in. Why did your family want to leave your wine in the seventies?
Martin: Right. Well, you know, I actually was one month old when I left your wife. So I’m, I’m a tourist, just like
Andrew: Why? Yeah. Why did you guys leave it?
Martin: It was, you know, my family, like most, there’s more Uruguayans outside of Uruguay that there are inside of your wife. So it’s just one of the countries that is so small. It doesn’t have huge opportunities.
It’s very agricultural driven. Um, you know, so, so business opportunities or, you know, work opportunities, weren’t there. Um, so my, my father decided to follow my uncle who had moved to Barcelona, Spain, um, and he helped them out to move over. And then, you know, it was kind of that one of those things that just.
Traveling and moving for better opportunities.
Andrew: And I guess also I I’m experiencing Uruguay as somebody who is living in an internet connected world where it doesn’t matter where I live. I get to live nicely in Uruguay, but I get opportunities for business from the rest of the world. That wasn’t true then. Um, all right. So why did you end up traveling so much afterwards before you settled down in Australia?
Martin: Yeah, you’re going to have to ask my dad about that because by the time I was 14, so one month old, I moved from Uruguay to Spain. And from there we moved and moved and moved. By the time I was 14, when we arrived in Australia, I had moved seven 27 different places and seven different schools.
Andrew: You didn’t ask your dad. Why are we moving? Was
Martin: Well, they were just looking for opportunities and, you know, I don’t know if my
Andrew: I don’t know. I gotta tell you Martin 27 times that seems like maybe getting away from something. No.
Martin: yeah. I mean, maybe I should ask my dad
Andrew: I got to interview him
Martin: more ambition. It was more envisioned. It was trying to better himself and better the family and the situation. He comes from a rural part of Uruguay. So, you know, they don’t have anything there where he was gone. He was trying to get better and better.
So it was more about opportunities coming up, moving for those and so on and so forth. Um, so yeah, that, that was my, my childhood. Unfortunately it was a gypsy lifestyle.
Andrew: Hey, we’re doing things like importing wines from Spain, doing all kinds of things, looking for opportunities. Like what we call today, a hustler, someone who’s hustling for business. All right, got it. You then ended up getting a job at, um, I had a bank lasted only six months while you were watching multimillion dollar transactions, because you saw this guy who was working there for 20 years.
What happened with him?
Martin: Right. So I started, you know, I was interested in international business and, and we did a little bit of the wine thing that you were saying, and I thought, okay, banking could be an interesting area. I got a job as a, you know, entry level employee in the international operations. And I was handling multimillion dollar transactions and I was getting paid like.
At the time, it was probably $300 a week. So I’m thinking like there’s a lot of responsibility on me for, for this managing these transactions yet, you know? Um, you know, it didn’t seem right, but then on top of that, one employee would choose his 20th, 20th year anniversary. Uh, they literally stopped everything.
Congratulating him, gave him a cake and a pen. After 20 years. And then he went back to work five minutes later. So I thought this, this is not right, going to work for them. So I kind of had to leave. Uh, and, and I actually went to help my parents manage, uh, what was, uh, failing, um, French patisserie business.
Andrew: How’d you do? What did you do there and how did it go?
Martin: The thing is my daddy’s, he’s very passionate. So it’s all about quality, even won awards for his croissants in Australia and so on and so forth. But, you know, he didn’t look at the numbers very well. Now I was, I was very young. I was still really early twenties, so I just came in and I looked at it from fresh eyes.
And then I said, well, we got to, we were literally in bankruptcy at that point. So my job was. Let’s let’s, let’s pause all debt, everything that’s there that’s owed. And then we only pay rent that’s priority and everything comes thereafter. So I negotiated with all the vendors, uh, you know, and then with the little money that was coming in, we were able to take care of the rent, take care of all the other vendors, but most importantly, renew our lease.
And instead of selling the business, what I do is actually sold the lease because it was a prime place in Bondai, which is one of the number one beaches here in Australia, or the number one pitcher in Australia. So it was prime real estate. And as holding a five year lease, we could sell the lease and then get out of the whole data.
And that’s kind of how I brought them out of, out of a jam.
Andrew: Ah, got it. Yeah. My night beach is beautiful. It’s kind of a Richie area rifle of people in their twenties who are getting to live life on their own for the first time.
Andrew: All right. That had to fill you with confidence, right? Because you found a way out of it.
Martin: Well, it was, you know, it gave me an insight of business because up until then, I was just working as an employee, uh, you know, managing money and being frugal. Uh, but it also gave me a percent. Collect the opportunity. If you do, if you do the work, you get more compensation than if you’re actually working on an hourly rate.
So, you know, it’s still, it was in an insight. We didn’t kind of, you’re an entrepreneur now, but it kind of gave me an insight of the possibilities.
Andrew: All right. You then decide I’m going to go get it. Another job. Why not do the start another business? Why not help other people? Why you just don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur or you didn’t. It seems like,
Martin: Well, the thing is you in a one speak then twice shy. So when I see, when you see your parents going almost bankrupt, In running their own business. You, you think twice about, you know, investing your whatever little, little dollars you got into running a business. So I kind of took a safe route out and, and I was actually looking to become a flight attendant.
Uh, but nobody was hiring at the time I was looking to work for Quantis or Emirates. Uh, and then I got, I got into the casino, a business. I was one of the first employees in the new, uh, Sydney Harbor casino. And it was kind of, you know, just got a job until I saw something else. And then once I got into that, The casino industry.
I saw a career path and an easy career path. He was
Andrew: the career path. If you’re, if you’re dealing, what does it end?
Martin: Right? Well, unlike in America, you take tips and croupiers of dealers stay there forever because they take the, the, the, the, you know, They they’re given tips and stuff. We don’t have tips in Australia. So in our case, what we did, what we did is, you know, you start as a dealer, but your progress as a supervisor or your first, first, you learn more games.
Once you learn enough games to go to the supervisor, then you go to pit cross, and from there to shift manager and then casino manager and so on. So it was a pretty linear and clear, and you could see other people because the industry was growing. I thought, okay, well, this is going to be much better than working in an airline.
So I kind of stuck it out.
Andrew: Okay. How did you end up in Denton?
Martin: Yeah, well, um, you know, I lived on my own, so, uh, you know, you got to furnish your place. You borrow a couple of dollars to do that. Uh, I never liked living with anybody else. So it was kind of, you know, I had to pay high rent because is expensive, as you probably know. So it was just one thing after another, I had a, I had an accident busted a tooth, it cost me 10 grand to get an implant, you know, it was just kind of those things.
Um, and so, so I ended up getting into debt to about 30 grads. And then what, what I had an epiphany, I said to my girlfriend, let’s go to the Muslims serious holiday we could ever imagine. And that was $30,000 down. So I ended up finding a place it’s a private Island that in Malaysia called punk korla would $500 a night, you know, 10 years ago.
So it was pretty hefty with bungalows over the water and stuff like that. So we decided to take it and it was all on credit. So by the time the whole purpose of that is to really, you know, feel something positive. It was like, you know, when you’re, when you’re down, you’re negative. Like I just wanted to go somewhere and leave.
That kind of life that I want to live, which is a luxurious life, comfortable life. So we ended up going there. We ended up going for Christmas and spend new years in Kuala Lumpur and it was amazing. It was unforgettable. And then when I came back, I was minus $40,000 and it was just the new year. And I said like, I got to get out of this, you know?
And, and I hustled, like you said, it’s all about hustle. So that’s kind of what I
Andrew: that’s where the home game came in. Do you feel that going away on your trip helped you get your head on? Right. So you could do that.
Martin: It put, you know, one of the things that I think I’m good at is ease, reacting well under pressure. Uh, and, and your back is against the wall, your, your, your number’s called and, you know, you need to do something. So you either put your hands up or you get getting, getting into the grind. So I feel like that’s happened to me twice, and we’ll probably get into that story later, but.
That’s what happened to me then I said, my back is, I know, I don’t know how to quit and I’m not losers. So for me, losing 40,000 going back, but it was just not an option. So I had to hustle it out. So the trip gave me a time to not think negatively and think positively. And I didn’t come up with an epiphany while I was on holiday.
So it was just that great experience. But when I came back, he gave, I had my mind clear that I needed to do something. I didn’t know quite what it was going to happen, but I ended up doing the home games.
Andrew: No Martin, I’m the same way. And I need to recognize that more than myself, that when I’m in an inspiring place, It does push me to bring out my best work it, I know for some people, well, I’ll give you an idea. But when I, when I graduated from school, I bought myself a nice Audi and I bought myself a house when I couldn’t afford anything I should have, I shouldn’t have bought an Audi.
But it inspired me to say, this is the life you deserve. This is the life you’re claiming you’re going to fight for this. And I somehow knew that I would be able to do it. I think for some people that would just spiral into wasted money and they’d be disappointed that they’d done it. It would be an absolute mistake.
I don’t know how to say it, but for me, it’s, it’s a positive and I need to keep doing that. And it sounds like that’s what happened to
Martin: up on that, I’ll back you up. One, one step further. One of the things that I experienced were experiencing the casinos that I was, I was always in the VIP room, in the high rollers. So I was always exposed to. I don’t know whether these people made the money, but they came in with millions. So I’m thinking, what the hell are these people doing?
I want to learn from that. When I went on that holiday, it was a private Island. You couldn’t be in there unless you were a guest. And I saw families with their nannies. Traveling with them, like I’m thinking, okay, this is possible. I saw helicopters landing, you know, like this is possible. This is what I want to, and for me, if you aim at something that’s potentially unattainable, you get halfway there.
You’re going to be doing all right. Um, so that’s kinda, that was kinda my driving force.
Andrew: You know what, I’m a lower end. There was this a school teacher. I think she was in New York, Marva Collins. She was so popular. There was a TV show made about her because she would take people who are underprivileged and turn their lives around. And one of the things that I heard her say that she did was she would take these kids.
Who’d never been to a nice restaurant before and take them to a nice restaurant and sit them down there. She said, if I could show them a taste of what’s possible and make them feel that this is a place that they could. Be in that they would aspire to return and they would feel worthy of that kind of success.
And so the smallest thing for them, it’s a restaurant for you. It’s a place with helicopters for me when I was graduating, it was that Audi, but I do, I completely believe that that is true. And I could see that that was a responsible decision. I’ve learned a lot, actually from just tapping into your experience with that about myself.
You then turn things around financially with your poker game. You had this site called high rollers network.com, which was.
Martin: It was an affiliate site for online casinos. So as I said, I was working in the casino space. I actually, you know, was only exposed to high rollers. So I thought, you know, and I am a, I’m a kind of a techie, so I thought I can put two and two together and I launched an affiliate side. So I contacted all of the premium online casinos, told them that’s my pitch, that’s my angle.
That’s the people that I want to appeal to. So can we create, you know, better services, better bonuses, better everything for those types of clients that would come in at a higher. You know, price point or a high end deposit rates. And the logic behind it for me is, was not only the commission that I would make, but also if I’m appealing to a larger customer, in fact, I don’t need as many customers to make a good living.
So there was a two sided kind of idea behind it, but it ended up flopping. It was too early for his time.
Andrew: But it’s, it seems like, well, from what I’m understanding, you’re saying it’s a link site where you’re linking out to online casinos and you’re getting a commission, but there was nothing for people to do outside of going to get to link out. And yes, they could. Well, right. Except you’ve got these promotions where they could win baseball cups and, uh, excuse me, coffee mugs and mouse pads, and so on.
Martin: Yeah, we had promotions. We had bonus structures that you couldn’t get anywhere else. So I negotiated things that if you went directly with the casino online, you couldn’t get yourself. So you have to become a member which was free, but you then had access to those benefits. But you also require you to have larger deposits.
So to pre-qualified by the amount of money you gamble,
Andrew: Got it. And so there was a way for people to come to your site and get, for example, a thousand dollars at casino, Atlantis. Got it. And on the smaller end is the coffee mug and the mouse pad and so on. Got it. But you were saying. If I could get the top, people in casinos would want them and they’d be willing to give them a big deal for coming in.
And I would get an affiliate. It seems like the big challenge with this is that there’s not a reason for people to come to your site and that’s why it didn’t work out. Am I right?
Martin: No, it was just, you know, online gambling is huge, but at the time high rollers wasn’t huge. So it was, I think premature, it was probably, I would say even five years premature, the idea would probably work today, but it didn’t work at the time.
Andrew: Okay, fair enough. I’m looking at a version of the site from 20, from 2003. Okay. But you didn’t lose much money on that, if anything, right. That’s just your first attempt.
Martin: It’s my first real attempt to launch a business. It failed, but. He gave me, he gave me encouragement that, you know, um, I learned from, you know, I don’t treat failures as failures. I treat them as learning experiences and I learned a lot from that. And yeah, you know, I was pretty frugal with my money because I didn’t have much of it.
So it was just an opportunity that I took on it. Didn’t work out. Let’s move on.
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You won’t have the development team there to do it. Hire from top tower. They’ll get you started top isn’t top of your head tellers and talent. T O P T a l.com/m I N E R G Y. Alright. So you had your taste of online. You had your taste of success flying, but what you were doing was let’s say not technically legal.
So this house game, you were trying to think of, how can I make it into something that was legal? What are some of the thoughts that you had that would allow you to make it into a longterm business?
Martin: Right. So, so technically the game wasn’t legal, but you know, since I said the casino management will come to these games and it became so popular that I kind of lost the fear. Um, the, the business model around that is that I would take 5% of every pot. So if there’s a hundred dollars in the pot, I take 5%, then I give it to the winners.
Uh, and that covered all the costs, you know, all the food and alcohol and whatnot. When I moved away from that, I was looking at different ways rate no rate, which is the commission side. Uh, and you know, that a lot of different models that have been come up with, and I can’t remember them, but I stroked luck with the idea of not charging anything I’m making the entire game free of charge, which is essentially what’s called a free roll.
The moment. And I was dealing with legislation because I worked in the casino. I knew what the ins and outs of the law. I knew what was going on. So the moment that I came up with the idea of there is no risk whatsoever because the game is a hundred percent for free. And I presented that to the government as a submission, they took this time longer than any other time of every other idea that I had, they actually took several weeks to reply to me and I, and I thought, what the hell is going on?
They came back to me and they said, this is 100% legal. And the reason why is because the moment that you take the gambling side, the moment that legislation didn’t apply. So I went from having a home game that took 5% commission to a free game that would, you know, how the hell do I make money? Um, and the idea behind that was that in Australia, what there’s a lot of pubs and clubs, um, where a lot of people gather on a, on a regular basis and they need entertainment.
They have trivia nights, they have darts, they have dance, they have all sorts of things. So what I did is I came up with the idea of bringing in a poker league, hosted by my people. Who would roll up the tables, roll up the chips, roll up the cards and host the poker game and earn points towards these leaks.
And that’s kind of where the business kind of rolled out from.
Andrew: No Martin, the only concern that I have with that is it, it makes a lot of sense. I just be worried about so much money being in the game and having somebody come and hold you up.
Martin: There is no money.
Andrew: Oh, because they’re just playing for chips. Oh, got it. Got it. As long as they play for chips. And then it’s only the grand prize winner that gets cash.
I’m assuming. Right.
Martin: So we, we went from having really small games. So for example, our first season, then we gave away, uh, um, so the winner of the entire league, after a major championship, this, this lady wanted to go to the Aussie millions poker tournament in crown casino in Melbourne. So that was the only price. played for weeks, you know, and it was for entertainment.
You know, they come in, they learn to play. It’s no risk if I lose who cares, but I’m learning the game.
Andrew: I win, I get to go to this big, bigger poker game. Got it. Or at some point you eventually did cash prizes. Am I understanding that right?
Martin: Well, I mean, when, at the height of our business, we were giving away $10 million in cash and prices. Every year
Andrew: Wow. We all right. This makes so much sense that I think would be even legal here in the U S to do and right, because there’s no cash trading hands,
Andrew: don’t even have to pay to enter. Do they have to pay the, enter the game? Yeah. It’s kind of like all the quizzes and stuff that bars have here.
Andrew: Got it. Except the only thing that you did was you said if you get chips, I feel it’s more interesting. I don’t trivia is kind of fun because you get to talk with other people much more than you do with poker, but poker is much more interesting because you get your chips and you get to keep going. And of course, you’re going to have a drink and then another drink.
Got it. And I could see how it goes on all night. It makes total sense. And. You then said, I’m going to franchise this. How was your franchise model working? Who paid?
Martin: Well, the business model was kind of unique. So I franchise the business from day one because we wanted to, it was the kind of business that had a low barrier barrier of entry. You could buy a couple of times was you could buy a couple of chips and Todd’s, and you’ve good to go to run a franchise or run a poker league.
So what we did is we created the Australian poker league. So we played on the green and gold colors and you know, that Australian sporting sportsmanship kind of thing. So we, I approached. People that I work with on a daily basis at the casino and say, Hey, I’m coming up with this idea. It’s been approved by the government.
I’m selling franchises for $15,000. That includes the tables and shapes and cards. Yeah. Have a region here, all the pubs and clubs that are in that region. Go sell. We’ll take. There are, the website will take care of everything and then you go on and host the games. And we sold, uh, 11 franchise before we even started.
So the, all the money that I had put into the business, we recouped from day one, because all the franchisors were sold and we continue to reinvest to scale. And yeah, that’s how it started.
Andrew: Before we started, I said, why would anyone pay you a franchise fee? And you said, well, Yes, they could go and buy their own tables and sell to local, uh, um, bars. But the upside of working with you is they get to feed into this bigger network and their winners get to go and compete against other people.
And you get these bigger prizes. Got it. Um, what was the name of the company I’ve been trying to find it.
Martin: Yeah. So it’s a it’s Australian poker league is the name of the company is still running. Um, the URL is play apl.com. Um, they may have some issues right now because of coverage. Cause there’s not much poker running
Andrew: I don’t know what they’re going to do with COVID because it all has, you know what, actually, I have to tell you, some of my friends were doing poker online and I just hadn’t been able to get into it. The idea of recreating the in-person comradery online, it could be via zoom like this. It could be with just audio, but to just have a group of friends, play poker against each other, it makes total sense.
Martin: No. I was actually talking to somebody who did it with his friends on zoom, so that will play on the iPad or whatever the computer, but they will see each other on zoom just to talk and talk smack and whatnot, but it was kind of difficult. Some didn’t work out too well for them. So I think they gave up.
Andrew: I just, I just can’t figure out how to schedule with people, but there was a poker games here in San Francisco. One of the re the only reason, in fact, well, the two reasons why I’m here in San Francisco, one is my wife has a job here. And the second is the conversations that you get into with the people that you meet randomly are just amazing.
And so, as soon as we went into lock down, a few people created these online poker games. And I just had not been able to get into one because who can schedule this thing in. It’s a little artificial when it’s done remotely. All right. I see how you’re building this up. How big did it get revenue wise for you?
Martin: right. So we, I turned that business from a basic idea that I created in a one bedroom apartment. And we think three years we had 122 franchises in two countries and we were turning over combined $50 million.
Andrew: $50 million. Oh yeah. Look at this. I see. Um, I guess you did, and you did an interview or something back in 2017 where you talked about how you did it. And the headline of this thing is after the exit, how Martin Martinez grew a $50 million a year poker empire and then gave it all up. What happened? It started not with you giving it up, but with one sale first, right?
Martin: Right. So, um, we, we were, we were doing really well. Uh, we were the leading, uh, company in the market about, as I said, it’s a low barrier of entry business. So within 12 months we had like a dozen competitors and within 24 months we had. I dunno, I lost count at 30. So we were still the biggest way. We’re still the largest and we’re still the best because of the amount of prices we were giving away for nothing.
Uh, we were the first company in the world to host a $1 million free roll, which was an in person event, completely free to enter, but you have to win your way in, uh, we did that at Luna park, which is a, a theme park here in the Sydney Harbor. Uh, you know, we, we, we built a production company. Like it was crazy.
We were basically the world poker tour of the Southern hemisphere at that time. Um, just to give you some comparables, uh, crown casino in Melbourne, uh, which is one of the largest casinos in Australia has at peak 300 cables in operation. Every night, we would have at least 1200 tables in operation. Just to give you the sense of scale, a quarter of a million players per month, he was nuts.
Um, so everything was going rosy, uh, until more and more competitors started, you know, um, you know, biting at our franchises. So, you know, we were the most expensive we had to adjust and, and so on.
Andrew: What does it mean that they were biting at your franchises? What does
Martin: It was a price war, because if you were selling to the venue, right, the venue was paying us to host.
It was paying the franchisee to host the game. If somebody undercut the price where the venue is going to consider it and consider it seriously because it’s a fixed cost to them. So for us, it was kind of that level of competition that started to buy, um, So, yeah, we grew, we grew, we grew was all fantastic.
You know, Vegas, you know, the works, it was a wonderful experience. But one of the, one of the things that I did wrong was that one, um, perfectionist by heart. So for me, it’s my way or the highway I wanted done this way. And when you have 122 franchisees, quality control is an issue and we didn’t have the resources.
So I, you know, it became, it became a challenge to manage that network because it grew so fast. We just didn’t have the infrastructure. So that was one challenge. The other challenge was that, um, the competition was fierce and we didn’t adjust the, our business model. So. We were getting a lot of referrals as from franchisees.
Do these do that or the other? And because I was more rigid at the time, I said, no, I think we need to do it this way. Kind of long story short, we were actually producing our own show. So it was just, you know, it was crazy. So we wanted to continue to expand and for us to have a differentiator, we said, well, we have our own TV shows.
Who’s going to play for a league that doesn’t have, like, you can play on TV for free. You know what I mean? So. Uh, we, we got approached by several companies to buy us out or to invest in us. And then we undertook a, uh, a VC kind of process in order to get investors in. We ended up in 2008 selling house of the company to win television, which is the largest television television, regional television network in Australia.
Uh, and that gave us not only cash in our pockets, but it gave us. A TV contract for a minimum of three years. So anything that we produced, you know, would be televised, I think a free elite into a pub. You play for Nath paint, you make it all the way to the top. And now you’re on TV playing for a million bucks.
You know what I mean? It’s very compelling a story. And that was kind of what happened. Unfortunately for us, once the deal was consummated, I got my money. Um, there were two things that happened. Number one, is that within three months of the deal being done, The CEO and CFO of the company when television got fired.
Now, this was a big deal because we’re talking about large TV network in Australia. So it was all in the press and whatever. But every plan we had with them was in the bin because the owner of the company said, whatever they take touched it’s tainted. We don’t want to deal with it. So that was one thing.
The second thing is, unfortunately, my business partner checked out. Of the business once he cashed in that first half check, because we had already made plenty of money. So I kind of was left alone. I was sitting there kind of, you know, now only, only, only 5% of the business. I couldn’t control the company yet.
I was getting, I got two token board members from this wind court. Yeah. Well, it was a mess from there on, and, and I kept on pushing. I was trying to grow it. I was trying to kind of do everything I could, but it started to wear thin. So towards the end, which is 2011, um, there was a coup by the franchisees against me.
Um, I was like a dictator I admitted today and I admit it the time to, uh, to them. Yeah, it’s my way or the highway. And they said, well, highways for you. Or they basically asked of me
Andrew: What does that
Martin: kind of.
Andrew: when they asked, did you, what does that mean? That they also do, they
Martin: It was a vote of no confidence. It was a vote of no confidence. And when you have 122 franchisees pushing, you know, following your, every word and, and really following your vision, which is what happened from day one, to them telling you to get the hell out of there, because you’re doing the wrong things.
You know, it’s, it’s a turn for the worst.
Andrew: I heard you also sold to win for less than you could have to someone else, because of everything that they were going to bring to the table. Right?
Andrew: How, how
Martin: our deal, a deal has never been disclosed, but the valuation at the time, I’m happy to share the, it was, uh, $8 million. And we sold half the company. And, but it also have a clause with a programming deal. We’re $3 million. So the deal only all was about $11 million. And we were able to kind of capitalize that.
But, you know, we were looking to turn this $8 million company to a $40 million company, because with television, you could, they wanted to own a league instead of other, you know, like rugby league or soccer or whatever they want it to on poker. And that was the deal that we struck, but the CEO and CFO got fired.
So. That deal went, went to help.
Andrew: Alright, you, you and your co founder, how did you guys connect? And then what happened to the two of you after the sale?
Martin: Yeah. So we were very good friends from, from, from work. He was also an employee of the casino. Uh, he was actually the one that hosted the poker games for me. And when he quit, I took over. So we were both very knowledgeable in poker. We had obviously lots of friends that were knowledgeable as well. And, um, I actually was actually going to run the li eat with another friend of mine.
But he didn’t have any capital to actually help me launch it. So then I went to this other friend and I said, well, let’s go into it together. You’ve got some cash, I’ve got some cash, let’s put it together. And that’s how we’d all start.
Andrew: All right. And then you eventually sold the last 25%, I think in 20, excuse me. In, uh, 2011 Martin sold out the remaining 25% of the business that he founded in 2005 is what I’m reading. That was it. How much at that point? Not because there was nothing left.
Martin: Well, I mean, the league was still running, but, uh, I just wanted out, I had worked since 2000 thousand and five to 2000. Well, before 2000, 2004 to $2,000, I worked 24 seven. It was 24 seven. You don’t go from zero to 50 million in three years. You don’t go from zero to 122 franchisees in three years, you know, doing that level of, of expansion without burning out.
And I. So I, the girlfriend that I went to, to Malaysia with we, we ended up splitting up and we split up for about three years. Then we got back together and we ended up getting married and, and, and whatnot. But, uh, you know, she, she was happy for me to kind of leave that world because I, you know, I wanted to do
Andrew: to be with you as you were working 24 seven obsessing on this.
Martin: No, we had split up prior to me kind of starting this poke league. So it was kind of went on a holiday, came back. We kind of split up around that time. And then I started doing the poker games at home.
Andrew: And then three years later, you reconnected.
Martin: Yeah. Three or four years later, we, we reconnected. I mean, I never lost my love for her. It was just the wrong time, you know, and I was able to do my thing.
Uh, you know, grew the business and
Andrew: like a life that you could balance a relationship with.
Martin: Now you could.
Andrew: How did you, how did, when you were dealing with all these different franchisees, what’s your process for getting them all to work the same way and work together? Was it, um, yeah. What was your system?
Martin: There was no system. It was my passion.
Andrew: It was just you calling them up and saying, no, the way we do this is this way you have to do it that way.
Martin: it was, it was the belief in me and the vision they
Andrew: What I mean is like, I know when I was doing poker games in my house, I’m kind of anal, kind of very, you know, I just would put a checklist together because I knew I was doing poker on a regular basis here and I didn’t want a single thing to be off. And so if something
Martin: for sure.
Andrew: what was, it was a bunch of
Martin: Yeah, it was, we had a pool. I mean, as a franchise, you have to be process driven. So is process after process, after process documented training, online training in person, like he was mind boggling what you need to do in franchise and to be consistent. I mean said that once they’re in the field, you know, if they’re in another state policing, that is very hard.
Andrew: Yeah, but at least you give them some foundation. All right. That kind of feeds into my second sponsor, which is why I was teeing that up. To be honest with you, it’s a company called the idea behind training all is they said, we want to take your best people and duplicate them so that you can have everybody be like your best.
And the way to do that is to create a written down. Not just necessarily with texts, but images and videos and everything documentation, and that’s what train you will is a way to easily create a training manual for your team so that you can read their best ideas to everyone. Yeah. Here’s the beauty of training.
Well, yes, it’s easy to create each one of these manuals, so you’re actually going to do it. Yes. It’s easy to edit. Which means that if you make a change. It’s not going to be something that you dread going back into the documentation and changing, but anyone who we went through the first process, the first time. If there’s a change, that’s significant. You could just go back. Anyone who took this process before who learned it, who did it before should know about this new change? There are lots of different features here that will make it easy for anyone who is listening to us Martin, to have a clear, documented process of working.
And it’s especially important when you’re working with people all over the world, different sensibilities, different working styles, and you want them all on the same page. I’m going to tell anyone who’s, by the way, this is not like a paid ad. From what I understand their ad rent out Ari. And we said, I’m not selling any more ads this year.
And Ari says, alright, I’m just going to take some of the best, um, the ads that have done well, that’s what we want to do. Well, the companies that we love and we’re just going to give them a free, uh, spot. And so this isn’t even a paid ad. We just really like trainable. So if you’re out there listening to me and you want to sign up for it, you can actually use our URL.
I was just testing right now to make sure it works. Um, they haven’t advertised in a while. But if you go to dot com slash mixer D they’re going to give you 30% off your first three months. Plus you’re going to get our onboarding process that we use to hot when we hire people. And the interview process is automatically going to be dropped into your train.
You will account for free. So you see the systems that we use here at mixer G. So here it is. It’s train uil.com/mixergy, by the way, the
Martin: We should have trained you.
Andrew: You would have loved it. I had to cut back on a lot. You know what I realized I wanted this year to be a light year and I cut back on a lot. And then I noticed that I was married to a lot of things, a lot of things that I just wanted to do because I did them.
And it’s hard for me to, to cut back on them. And one of them is advertising. I just want to sell it. I love selling there’s I don’t know if you’d like this Martin, but when you sell. And somebody buys. I feel like for me, I feel like they like me. I feel like I’ve validated. I feel like I’ve got points. I feel like I’m I, all of that.
Martin: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, it’s one of those insecurities we have that, you know, get, get confirmed with the chaos.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s and so I had to say, yes, we will be selling. Let’s sell again next year. And then, Oh, we got this sponsor. That’s coming up Gusto. I said that the Gusto I’m sorry, I can’t sell anything. The only thing I’m going to sell this year is I want to, we never sold any ads for Christmas. But I think we’ll do that.
And as an experiment, she said, I’ll take those. Cool. Wow. I just try not to sell. And you bought anyway. I feel great now I love Gusto. Um, and I feel like God still loves me. So that’s the only new advertiser that we’re going to see. Otherwise a hundred is going to try to take some time to just think and clear my mind this year and to do homeschooling this year, which I’ve been freaking loving.
Um, alright, so this thing worked out. Why is it that you told me. You eventually had to sell your house afterwards.
Martin: Yeah, this is where the story took a turn. So in 2010, after we got back together with my girlfriend, we got married. And to be honest, from that point on, it was like, it was the kiss of death. Uh, and if, and, and we’ve talked about, it’s like from that day we were married. Everything kind of turned back, not our relationship, but it was just, you know, everything else.
So I go downstairs out of the business in 2011 and I was kind of pleased with that at the end of it. It wasn’t a nice ending. It, wasn’t a nice way to kind of exit your own business that you’ve created this baby on this monster, but you know, it ended and I moved on. And when I close a chapter, I can choose.
Isolated and move on. So we, you know, kind of in this honeymoon period with my wife, looking for different ways to make an income and the unfortunate part for me was that everything that I touched, um, when you do an exit. And you have millions of dollars and you you’re you’re, you know, not say rich, but you’re, you’re wealthy enough where you don’t have to work.
Um, you think your, your shit doesn’t stink and you, whatever you touch, you’re supposed to be gold. And he actually was the opposite. Everything that I touched just went sour, nothing would work, nothing would take off. And I launched, um, hair salon franchises. I launched, um, an online magazine. I launched. I mean, I, I can’t even remember.
I, it was seven or eight different ventures before the boardroom, which I can get to in a
Andrew: hair salon? It seems like these are pretty outside of your focus.
Martin: Well, again, when you think your shit doesn’t stink, you, you think you put your money on it’s going be,
Andrew: What drew you to a hair salon?
Martin: uh, it was franchising. So I knew that I knew the model, uh, and, and it was a new, new brand moving into the Australian market. So we were getting early and cheaper than everybody else would have. So we took an opportunity.
We were open to signing loans. They didn’t end up working out, you know, and I moved on, but you know, there’s three quarters of a million dollars just gone there. You know what I mean? You know,
Andrew: what’s the mistake that you made because you thought that everything we touch was going to turn to gold.
Martin: there’s one common thread. I cross every business that I launched except this last one. And that is when I launched the poker league. It was a great success, but he was not on the back of what we were doing. It was actually on the back of what the pubs and clubs were doing. So if I can explain that label, if you go to a local pub and you see a poster for a poker game on Thursday night, you’re going to come back.
There’s not a map, no amount of Google searches or paid paid ads that I can run to drive you into a pub. But if you go into your local anyway, and on Thursday nights as a poker game, I’m going to come back. So marketing is the common thread that I didn’t ever learn in business. Never had to learn it in poker because he was, and by the venues air, the franchise silence.
Do you think you opened the doors and people are going to come in? So there’s no marketing. So I never did any understanding of the power of marketing to actually launch a product. You can have the best product in the world. That’s just my lesson. You can have the best product in the world. If nobody knows that it exists, it doesn’t matter.
So that’s the common thread amongst the businesses that I lost all this money, because I never did an adequate marketing. I didn’t know how to do it. It wasn’t a skill set that I had.
Andrew: In retrospect, the marketing for poker was brilliant that you didn’t have to do it. It was built into the product itself. Right. Okay. Alright. And so you finally, did you get to a point where you said I can’t do this anymore? I’m failing doubt yourself. None of that.
Martin: No, no, no. I, as I mentioned to you pre interview, I kind of, I don’t know how to lose. I’m a sore loser and I, and I’m not a
Andrew: it, but you never even thought of yourself as a loser. You didn’t think you failed, you didn’t go through mental, like
Andrew: What happened to you?
Martin: you, well, I mean, I toughed it out. So the first thing that I have to say is the biggest failure for me in life. And this is by far. And I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel this way, but for me personally is working for somebody else. I could’ve easily, after the success that I had in that league, I could have easily gotten on CEO jobs in any company because I had achieved something amazing in a very short period of time.
So I would have gotten jobs, well paid jobs, but remember, bring back to that job that I was working for that bank. Was the turnoff that that will never work for anybody else, especially once you’ve tasted success working for yourself. So for me, I could not give up the idea of me continuing to push and drive and try to build something of my own over working for somebody else and giving them the reward of my experience.
So that was kind of the thing that held me back from giving up and just saying, okay, enough is enough. I’ve lost it all. And as I said to you in the email that when I contact. Not only did I lose all my money. I had my maintain a lifestyle that was pretty, pretty high. I then went on to, um, sell my house. I wanted to actually relocate to move to Canada.
I ended up getting rejected. So we ended up back in Australia. I ended up going so negative that I ended up cashing illegally passionate in my 401k in Australia or the version of formula K, which is our super to survive. And I’d be at the end of that. I was able to lift off. So I wasn’t negative again, it was minus 40.
When I started the properly, it was probably minus 200. Okay.
Andrew: Wow. We
Martin: So yeah, I went through the ringer,
Andrew: can not feel defeated at that point is shocking.
Martin: Well, I mean, it’s either naivety stupidity or just a pure fight. I don’t know which one, which one of those it is, but I knew I knew and the most, and I have to say this. The most amazing thing is that my wife was there at all and supported me through it all. And believe me, I have to give credit to her or anybody else because to have lived with me to have mean what was going on at the bank account, going dag.
And they have negative negative every month. It was something that, you know, I will, I will thank her for the rest of my life.
Andrew: What about this? I, I remember when things were going bad for me financially with the business, I felt that I didn’t, I didn’t have any energy. I didn’t have the confidence. I wasn’t communicating in sales as well. And then it wasn’t until I discovered running where I could master something where I could do really well in the morning before getting into work.
And so I felt strong that I had the confidence to get back in it. Did you have something like that, some external thing that gave you confidence? No.
Martin: Now that you post the question. I don’t think I had anything. It was more about one of the things that their self awareness is probably one of the biggest skills that I’ve learned throughout this entire process. And one of the things that I’ve learned is that I’m a problem solver and I think most entrepreneurs are that and nothing else.
And I heard recently a quote saying, founders are. Builders CEOs are people that scale businesses, and I’m very much that builder. So for me, I love getting in the mud and building things and kind of working things problems out and this and that. And when the problems disappear, I get turned off. So for me, the fact that I had this problem actually drove me because I needed to find a solution.
No matter what it was kind of the driving force was actually the problem itself.
Andrew: So I don’t want to spend too much time on the boardroom.com only because I want to get to Alfred, but you came up with the boardroom.com. How.
Martin: Well, fortunately, because of my success with the poker league, I. I had lots of friends who are CEOs of companies and, you know, uh, successful entrepreneurs. I actually pretty good, um, to be a chairman at the CEO Institute in Australia. And I became at the time, the youngest chairman of the history of, of the, the program and effectively is just the mastermind group.
Just to put it into simple terms, but the business model is that they selling me as the chairman to host these meetings with these groups. And they were paying me an hourly fee, a nice hourly fee, but an hourly fee, nevertheless, and there was selling memberships with my name on it for 10, 15 grand a year.
So I thought this doesn’t work for me either. So once I learned the model of masterminds and how they worked, I flipped the business model on its head. And I said, in order to appeal to really top CEOs or retired CEOs or people with skill, you got to give them a good pet. And what I did is I flipped the model where I’m paying them 80%.
Of the mastermind revenue and I would keep 20%. So I was able to go to my network and say, Hey, I’m launching the boardroom, it’s a virtual. And in-person master mind meeting group that we do a monthly, we’re going to charge this and you’re going to get 80% of that. And obviously that works say yes because who wouldn’t, but again,
Andrew: and they get to keep the vast majority of the revenue. Of course.
Martin: Correct. The problem with that business is two things. One was that, although they’re great at what they do, CEO’s in their own fields and whatever, they’re not great at sales. So if I set up a meeting with someone to actually, and you have to meet the person, you’re going to be doing the mastermind with, if you met with them, they wouldn’t know how to sell themselves.
So then the sales rate wasn’t good, even though the caliber of people was incredible. Um, so that was one of the problems. And the second problem is that the marketing sucked again. It was just another thing that I didn’t know how to do. So I put on, go ahead.
Andrew: But because of the marketing sock, it seems from what you’ve told me before, that’s what led to alpha. And you said, I need to come up with a system, something that will get people to come in. And so what did you come up with? What’s the
Martin: So I did, I did paid advertising. I did everything, but TV and radio, I put money on everything and nothing really worked, but I got in touch with a friend of mine who runs a LinkedIn agency. And he said, why don’t you try LinkedIn? Cut a long story. Short this guy. It’s the only time that I was successful in marketing, because I was able to take someone’s profile a major CEO, connecting with the target audience and get them meetings on the fly without leaving my home.
And it works so fantastically that we actually hired virtual assistants to run their campaigns for them, but I couldn’t scale it. So I looked
Andrew: it work? What was it that it did for LinkedIn? What’s the
Martin: So we had 15 consultants with 15 CEOs in our masterminds that we were marketing. We would take over their LinkedIn profile. We would be filled up, make it look better.
And then we will, I mean, they saw themselves had their conversion rate was 60, 70%. Because if you get the CEO of Verizon, for example, contacting you, you’re going to accept same thing. But in the, in the Australian context, right. So we will connect them with target people. And then we say, Hey, you know, we’re running a mastermind or would you like to host, have a meeting to discuss it?
And then, then we’ll have a meeting. And then there was some that
Andrew: It was just find people who would be in the target. Send them a message from that person’s LinkedIn account. I think you had the president of Warner or the former president of Warner music, for example. Right. Got it. It would be, you would take over there. That level you would take over their LinkedIn accounts and you would have an assistant send messages from their LinkedIn account saying I’m hosting, who would say no to that.
Got it. And so this was good, but it wouldn’t scale. How, what was the problem with scaling?
Martin: it wouldn’t scale because the virtual assistants would do it manually would take the best part of three hours. When you have 15 people, I needed to scale the team. It wasn’t easy. Right. So then I looked at software to automate an agile. Didn’t like the tools that existed in the market. So I then looked at building something and I connected with someone on Upwork and there, you know, and
Andrew: you said what I want, what did you tell him that you wanted to do?
Martin: originally, what we wanted.
To do is just to do you profile also dramatically. There was a product I can’t remember. It was called, there was $99 a month. I said, how expensive can this be? To just view someone’s profile automatic. I contacted someone on Upwork and he had just built that product for someone else who didn’t pay them.
And so that to me, for 250 bucks, I said, okay, here we go, 250 bucks. And when you, when you got the CEO of a major company looking at your profile and you get a notification, you think, Hey, Why is he looking at me? So you’re getting the reverse engineer outreach by saying they contacting
Andrew: all it would do is it would just go look at people’s profiles so that they got, when they went to LinkedIn would see that somebody looked at their profile and, and then would it, I guess, based on some kind of targeting, you would say who you wanted and then it would go and look at,
Martin: and stuff like that?
Andrew: and what would somebody do if I, if I saw that someone looked at my profile, I don’t know that I would do anything about it.
What, what did they do about it?
Martin: they would receive connection requests.
Andrew: do, it would look at their profile.
Andrew: so when your target, sorry, were, were talking over each other because of the connection. What you’re saying is when your target would see that a majors CEO with looking at their profile, they would just send them a connection request. And then that tray that allowed you to go and, or your virtual assistants to go and send a message out on their behalf.
Martin: And the sales discussion changes, right. Because if you’re contacting me, you’re approaching me, not me approaching you. So it was, it was very powerful, but then obviously that was stage one, like the first version, and then we added connection request and then we added messages and we added this, this and this,
Andrew: mean, the way it would automatically send a connection request on behalf of your clients. Got it. And at what point did you say, you know what? I got software here. That’s so powerful. This should be the business.
Martin: I’d never thought of that, to be honest, I fell into this. So what had happened was that I had run the PR the, the boardroom for the best part of two years. He was semi-successful it wasn’t huge. It was, it was paying the bills. So I wasn’t going into negative. Any more of that point, but I wasn’t going to any, to positive either.
It was just survival. So then what happened was that I decided with my partner, we had launched two pieces of technology. One is a virtual conferencing platform. Like we’re talking here in zoom, but it’s web based. So there was no downloads, no nothing. It was part of the boardroom.com. And that’s how we met with clients.
And the other was this, this LinkedIn automation software. So, what we did is we said, let’s just push it out there and see if people would actually use it. And we published it on the Chrome store and the Google Chrome store, and we left it there. We no support or nothing. We just were using ourselves. We also told our clients, they could use it here.
It is, blah, blah, blah. And we did that in November, 2017 by March, sorry, February, 2018, we had 6,000 users just like that. They love it for free at
Andrew: weren’t charging in the Chrome star at that point.
Martin: I was not charging at the time, but it was a pretty basic product. So we turn on payments in March, 2018, and we didn’t convert 6,000 customers, but we converted a lot.
So we, that became, you know, high margin business, which no operational cost. And we said, okay, let’s look into this a bit more. We then keep kept on growing, kept on growing. We got approached by AppSumo to run a deal. Uh, we had already by then had thousands upon thousands of subscribers. We run a deal with AppSumo.
We became at the time, the third or fourth largest deal that they had ever been done at the time. And then it just took off. So we went from six to, I don’t know, 14,000 users would send me. We just, it just grew from there pretty rapidly.
Andrew: I am looking up the, I can’t stop looking this stuff up. The nice thing about AppSumo is it looks like they even did a YouTube video on you guys. And so that’s still out there, uh, bringing people in it’s that even after the deal, because they give them an unbelievably low deal for lifetime access. Right.
I think is what you did. But even after the deal is closed there, their SEO is still so good that it’s still sends people traffic from what I understand, right.
Andrew: Okay, so now you’re on track. How do you know what to do to improve to it? What was your process for figuring out the next features?
Martin: well, I’m a user, I’m a user of the product. So I knew what people wanted because I’ve been using it all along. So I kept on building what I needed and I also listened to customer’s needs and whatnot. They said, can you build these, can you build that and whatnot. So it was just, it was just really, again, me building my own product and scratching my own itch.
That was it. Um, But then it just became bigger and bigger. And effectively we became the law, the third largest tool in the marketplace within like six months. It was just super fast. Again, he took off like the burglary,
Andrew: So I get, I get now how this is working. What about marketing? Did you eventually, there’s still not, you’re still not good at marketing. The only thing you’re doing is putting it in the Chrome store and letting people try it. And then at some point, when you, when you charged it was freemium where there was a portion that was free.
And in another part that wasn’t.
Martin: What happens with the crunch story is that, you know, it was so well received, the product sold itself, but people review it. And based on your reviews and rankings, you appear higher on the, on the search results. It’s like Google. So we were getting a lot of free traffic, maybe a hundred, 150 users a day from the Chrome store.
But just word of mouth people saying, Oh, you know, I’m using this tool. It’s free. There’s a free version. But so that’s how it took off. It was really word of mouth and around that time, but maybe a little earlier is when I actually wrote this book Freakonomics. Free economics, not freak economics, which is the bestselling book.
He was frequent on it. You can, you can download it for free. And it basically, I told, I pretty much tell the story of all of the freemium business models that I’ve learned over time, which was the free poker league. And now the freemium with the software. So I applied for freemium as my business model, pretty much throughout every business that I’ve done.
But now in particular with this software,
Andrew: It was called Leonard. Well, we’ll get into why it’s now called Alfred. Um, but when, when it was called Leonard, what was free about it and what was paid, where did you draw the
Martin: So we, we had a free trial and unrestricted free trial. And the benefit of a Chrome extension is that you can see LinkedIn lists the stuff happening on LinkedIn, right in front of you. So you see the connection request being sent and so on. So people they’re just mesmerized. They’re sitting there looking at this.
But just doing all this work. So they use it for free for 14 days on restricted, and then they could choose a free plan if they chose to, we were the only product in the market that had a free plan. So we will get a lot of free users who would then choose to operate because they want an access to the outer features.
Andrew: Got it. Alright. What happened to the name? It’s now called Alfred used to be called Leonard.
Martin: Right. So Chrome extensions, unfortunately. Uh, well LinkedIn doesn’t like any LinkedIn automation. They don’t like it. I mean, If I get into the real story to me, uh, they, they, they like it’s, it’s their playground with their rules, with their ball. You do what they say, or you don’t do it at all. If Facebook, same with Twitter, same with everybody else.
So they don’t give API access. So you kind of have to hack your way, but when you do it as a Chrome extension, there are ways that they can detect what you’ve installed. So, what they do is they, once they figure it out and how to detect it, because we obviously try to be not detected once they figure one way, they flag a lot of people, but they don’t restrict you.
They don’t do anything. They just flat, flat, flat, flat, flat. Then later on, whenever they decide, they go, boom, all of these people are going to get a warning. You either is uninstalling this, or you’re going to lose your account, which they never do. It’s just a threat, but that’s what they, I mean, you don’t want it.
Andrew: it. Got it. And so now all these people are freaking out because, and they did LinkedIn tell those people, your, your users that is because of Leonard. They did.
Martin: They even say the name so they know it wasn’t just us. It many, many Chrome extensions got gotten, you know, detected that way. So then what we decided was, you know, we needed to move away from a Chrome extension and we also wanted to build with some other capabilities that we couldn’t do with a Chrome extension.
So we actually approached, uh, another company, um, and, uh, cut a long story short. We, they actually got threatened by LinkedIn, just like every other tool, but they’re based in San Francisco. So we acquired them and acquire their technology. And that’s when we launched. Perfect. So alpha is a desktop app. And Leonard was a Chrome extension and we were running them concurrently for a period of time.
So they were two separate brands. But what we then decided is that this Chrome extension thing detection is just not for us. Every time you get detected, you lose 40% of your business. So we said, let’s transition from one platform to the other and let’s leave the Leonard brand behind and leave the people that have had a sour taste in the mouth behind, uh, and move to this technology that they can’t detect at all.
Andrew: And so the reason that you could survive as a desktop app is because they can’t detect it. Your, what you’re doing is you’re just mimicking a user on their own computer with their own IP, with EV with the, got it. I bet. At some point they can detect it, but it’s much, much harder.
Martin: It’s I mean, they’re, they haven’t detected it yet. They’re uh, not that they haven’t tried. Uh, well, they have tried, but the way they make, I mean, I won’t get into the technical details, but it is, it is undetectable compared to anything else. The only things that can happen is that they detect unusual activity.
So let’s say you have a LinkedIn basic account. You go from there to sending a hundred connection requests a day every day. Hang on. Something’s odd here. Yeah. And then they assume that there is automation. So they may give you a warning, but they can’t stay, say it’s Alfred. They can’t say it’s whatever two weeks, he either just know that it’s an unusual activity.
Andrew: right, right, right. I think they could write, they could detect it there’s automation, but they can’t detect what that automation. Well, I bet
Martin: And there’s nothing for it. And there’s nothing for you to say, Hey, I’m sending a hundred connection requests manually every day. They can’t say that because the way our product works is it mimics human behavior. So we don’t send a hundred connection requests. Only one go, we send a few, we take our coffee break.
We send another few weeks and another
Andrew: Like someone who’s a hustler who’s willing to sit down and put in the work. You mimic that. Okay. Alright. By the way, it’s Alfred, but I should say to anyone who’s listening wants to go check out the software. It, you should go to meet alfred.com. I kind of feel like you should change the name of the company to meet Alfred.
If we’re going to talk about it, we should be giving the URL as much as possible. Don’t you think?
Martin: Yeah. I mean, a lot of people call us meat off for it. I don’t know why they meet, like, what we wanted to do is one of the things that we did that worked really well with Leonard and now with alpha is that we differentiated by giving the product a personality, people call us. So people contact us and they say, Hey, Alfred, how you doing?
Okay. I mean,
Andrew: to just have the name Alfred. Alright, well, what about this then you now no longer have the Google store, the Chrome store promoting you. What do you do now to promote yourself? How, how does a guy who doesn’t know how to promote himself? Who failed? Because he was challenged by that? How does he promote this new business?
Martin: There is, there is a thing to be said that. Uh, being a perfectionist and building a great product and the product promotes itself. So we’ve grown to over 40,000 registered users because people are spreading the word about the product and the quality of the product. Now like with every product, every software product is bought from time to time, especially when you’re dealing with LinkedIn who changes the algorithms and code all the time.
But it’s the most stable product. DDD is reliable. People are very happy with it. So they’re willing to spread the word. The only thing that we’ve done to market this product, uh, to date has been the introduction yeah. Of what’s called a refer, a frame program where you, as a subscriber, refer someone and get $10 off if they subscribe and your friend also gets $10 off.
So there’s a lot of them of that going on because a lot of people effectively, if you refer enough people, you get the product for free, you know, and you know what plan you’re on. So that has been a stroke of genius with regards to the product. And how we design it and that each sells itself. We are now entering in the world of marketing as we speak.
I just hired the head of growth. Uh, a gentlemen, um, Adam Israel, who’s an expert in this and actually comes from a competitor and we are now for the first time, after three years on a bid. Going to invest in marketing. We’re going to start with webinars and partnerships and educating people on LinkedIn.
I’m building a lot of content. We’ve done nothing, no content ever
Andrew: No, I, you, you
Martin: I don’t even do emails just to give you an idea.
Andrew: badly at it, Martin, that similar web is not showing much traffic for you. I go to look you up on platforms like, uh, Oh, you know, these review sites, like your gt.com. I don’t use it, but I know bigger businesses use it. They’re just linking to what they think are your competitors, because you’re not even listed in it.
The one place where I saw that you were listed and it looked like for a while, maybe you were driving some customers to, it was Trustpilot,
Martin: We just started that.
Andrew: yeah. You’re not putting much work into it. Just enough.
Martin: This is, this is a true Testament to product led market, right? An expert at it, by the way, by any means, but it is the product and the quality of the product and its capabilities. That’s driven the growth. It hasn’t been me, but I drive the product development as far as what I want to be built.
Uh, so, so that’s worked for us.
Andrew: And before we started, actually I think an email you gave me your revenue. Are you comfortable sharing it publicly?
Martin: As I, as I mentioned, there, it’s a private business. I own the majority of this business. So I’m going to give you a range just to fulfill your requirements of sharing revenues. We are, we’re doing more than 2 million in less than 5 million in revenues per year.
Andrew: Dude, who owns the rest of the business
Martin: The CFO of the company that acquired us and got fired.
Andrew: of the company that acquired which company
Martin: Poker league the company that acquired the poker league,
Andrew: how did he end up owning a piece of the business?
Martin: correct. He owns 20% of the business because we, I just befriended them like the whole reason why I had sold at the time. And so I could learn from people with experience. So I had, I can build great friendships with both the CEO and CFO, the CEO, and now runs the largest TV network and cable television in the middle East.
So I don’t get to see him very often, but I’ve befriended
Andrew: invest in the business?
Martin: No, no, I just,
Andrew: You just gave him 20% because he wanted his feedback, like a
Martin: I just trust them as an advisor. It’s been very good to me. Mean value in value.
Andrew: Wow. Yeah. You’re you’re a marketing sucks, dude. I can’t believe you’ve gone so far.
Martin: Well, if we talk in 12 months, hopefully it will change, but you know, we’re still getting about 1500 plus new subscribers, new trial users. Every month we convert healthily at about 20, 25% of them into paying customers. Um, the product just does a wonderful job.
Andrew: Yeah. I feel like content would be really big for you. I put you into SCM rush. Um,
Martin: going to find anything.
Andrew: there’s nothing. This is
Martin: product and customer service, we provide 24 seven customer support, which none of the other competitors do, uh, and, and the products. And that’s it. And, you know, we, we, I’m a nice guy. So if you hear from me or you get an email from me, it’s, you know, hopefully you’ll resonate to modern sending you an
Andrew: doing your own, your own customer service, are you?
Martin: No, no, no, no, no. I’ve got a very
Andrew: but you’re saying if somebody hears from me, yeah. Look at this. And you guys have a, a windows app.
Martin: Yeah. It’s windows or Mac.
Andrew: Windows are Mac. Okay. Yeah. I see that. There’s a people searching to see if there’s a windows verb. Oh, I see what it is. They are, you know, there’s an Alfred search bar that you could connect to the Mac and people are asking about that.
That is people confusing you with that. Alfred is sending you more traffic than people intelligently, like, and you’re still growing.
Martin: Yeah. Yeah, it wasn’t, it wasn’t done on purpose. I didn’t know. There was another Alfred app.
Andrew: No, they’re a bunch of different companies called Alfred. The reason is that I think Alfred must’ve been some kind of Butler and an old TV show, or maybe it conjures up this
Martin: Batman’s Butler
Andrew: That’s what it is. Yeah. So conjures up this sense of I’m going to go do the work for you. And so it fits really nicely.
Martin: then again, that’s how bad I am. I never even thought of that. People told me that after I bought the domain.
Andrew: You just went with it here. Design is really nice. I remember you didn’t you show me your, your Apple a while back. I was doing a webinar for myself. I was curious about your software. You just did a screen share back when it was Leonard and you walk me through and it works beautifully. It’s just simple.
It’s uh, and I could see why people
Martin: I’m not a techie, right? So I want a product that’s easy for me to use. So I try to make it easy for the users because people don’t have time to learn all these products, you know, all the time. You just want the damn thing to work.
Andrew: It does it also just, I feel like you also got a nice designer, which is helpful. All right. For anyone who wants to go try it, it’s meet Alfred. You have a discount code or something or code that people can use. I don’t want to, I don’t want to get a commission from it, but I’d love for you to see people coming in.
Martin: Let’s uh, I’ll give you, give everybody my email Matson at Madonna for doc.
Andrew: Wait. Sorry, do it again. I just
Martin: I’ll I’ll uh,
Andrew: Give me the email again. I talked over you.
Martin: it’s firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew: Okay. And you just hook them up.
Martin: just reach it, reach out to me personally. And I look after you because we don’t, we don’t have discount codes because we already have discounts on the side, plus the refer a friend program.
So we’re working on a few other things that I’m happy to do individually to all your listeners.
Andrew: This is just, and I don’t think we’ve done enough to talk about what it does, right. I can reach it. I could email all the people in my, well, you talk about it. What is, what is alpha do
Martin: Anything you do manually on LinkedIn. You can do with alpha, you can connect with people. You can send them followups, you can continue to send follow ups. If they don’t respond. If they do respond depending on how they respond, you can send them back into your sequence. You can start your conversations on LinkedIn and then move them to email.
You can. Now, as of hopefully tomorrow you can do it in Twitter as well. We are trying to build the leading what’s now called social selling platform, which is. Yeah. And it’s not welded to the define this, this terminology of social selling, but it’s all about multitouch relationship building, automated automation that you can do in multiple different networks.
So LinkedIn, email, Twitter, you know, that’s what he basically, it saves you a ton of time. I mean, I can tell you from personally doing it myself, it saved me at least three hours a day of manual processing.
Andrew: another, do you have a use case or example of what somebody has done with, uh, Alfred
Martin: We don’t talk about too many use cases because LinkedIn potentially blocked their accounts. If they know they’re using out of Asia, but many, many, we have many large companies and sales teams who use it to run the entire outreach campaigns. It’s really the time for, for, for that.
Andrew: dude, I’m not going to call them out because I love the company and I don’t want them to get hurt. You got from one of the major companies that I’ve interviewed. I shouldn’t say major, like, I don’t want to talk about like their SAP, but a big company. Good funding, good reputation. They, they gave you a quote here about how they’re using Alford, which makes me wonder they make a mistake.
They should just keep that as their own little secret. What do they need to give you a
Martin: try to, we try to change names where possible and whatnot. We try to keep the message, you know, testimonial. Correct, but, but we try to keep everybody’s privacy as much as possible.
Andrew: All right. For anyone who wants to go try it again? I do not accept the commissions from my guests. I’m only just saying, because I’ve seen this product evolve and. Martin. I’ve grown to really like you a lot. And I hope that people go and try it. If you guys are out there and you do try it. Uh, Alfred, my email address is available to too.
I’d like to find out from you what you think of it. So my email address is email@example.com and frankly, most founders have first firstname.lastname@example.org. Um, let me know what you think of Alford. And I want to thank my two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first, if you’re trying to systemize your business, make sure that everyone body on your team is working like the best person on your team.
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Bring them your biggest challenges. I dare you. And then challenge them to get to a developer who can solve them. Martin, keep that in the back of your mind, go to top talent, calm slash mixer. Do you have a big crisis, big issue you have big need. Challenge them to find the best of the best people to solve before you.
And when you go to top talent.com/mixergy, they will give you 80 hours of developer credit. When you pay for your first 80 hours. In addition to a no risk trial period, I’m doing a whole other ad for them. Now I should instead say thank you top down. Thank you, Martin. Bye everyone,