Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. And I’m especially excited to do this interview. My mission has been to interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. But before I did interviews, I was doing live events. I thought the best way for entrepreneurs to learn from each other is to come out to a live event to meet other entrepreneurs to maybe hear some of them speak, but just getting to know them would be ideal. And the problem that I had was really interesting people would come and I wouldn’t know how to show people this. It’s more than just about the food and the drinks. It’s about the people who are here. How do I show it? And I took a bunch of pictures, but looking at a bunch of strangers just was blah. And somehow I discovered Animoto. This was . . . Jason, could it have been 10 years ago at this point?
Jason: Yeah, we’ve been at it for just over 10 years. Seems crazy.
Andrew: It’s like just when the iPhone came out, and it was an amazing app. I would just upload all my photos. And it would take photos of people that you didn’t know who are doing things of just like party stuff and making it seem really interesting because it added music, it made the pictures move in this dynamic, interesting way. And people would not just watch it all the way through, they would comment on it. And they would comment on people and things that they saw, which made me realize that they were really paying attention to these pictures. And I loved Animoto for a long time. And I think because they were not part of the tech scene or something. I always felt like they were too removed for me. I don’t know what mental block I had against asking you, Jason, to come on here.
And I’m so glad that today I get to interview one of the founders. This is like an army of people who co-founded this company. They’re more co-founders here. But he is one of the founders of Animoto. His name is Jason Hsiao. He is the founder of Animoto, which is an online video maker that makes it easy for small businesses to create professional quality video. That small businesses part is the two words that he and I added before I officially started this interview because that’s a big difference for them. They were doing well with people like me, but what did that even mean? It wasn’t until they focused . . .
Jason: Yeah, no, that was certainly part of our journey. It’s funny to even think back way back then because that was actually before, believe it or not, the iPhone even came out. And it’s crazy to think that the iPhone has only been, you know, around for like 10 years and then . . .
Andrew: Was I maybe even uploading it to the web? Is that how I got it back then?
Jason: Yeah, yeah, probably because we didn’t have an app back then. Like literally Myspace was social networks, right? Like Facebook was still up and coming. No one even knew what cloud computing was like. So that’s funny that it was only like 10 years ago I think how much has changed. But yeah, I remember we were like obsessed with like how do we help folks stand out on Myspace.
Andrew: Right. Because you could invent the player.
Jason: Yeah, Friendster was just like dying and we were like it’s all about Myspace. So who knows what it is now?
Andrew: I should say this interview is sponsored by two companies. The first is brand new to me. If you are someone like me who need to create a training manual, a set of steps for people at your team to follow, and you want to make sure they’re actually following it right, pay attention later when I talk about this company, Trainual for creating training manuals. And the second, if you’re looking to hire a developer, you already know this, they’re paying me even though you guys already know that the best place to hire developers is Toptal, but I’ll talk about those later.
Jason, I know that you’re not going to give me revenue. My producer have already warned me about that. Can you give me a sense of size? I’m curious for myself a big have you guys gotten over the years?
Jason: Well, I guess what we can say is, you know, we’re about 100 people now. We’re based in New York and we basically run like a cash flow positive business. So you can kind of do the math to kind of get a sense.
Andrew: What’s the back of the envelope math on something like that? Is it usually like 100 people times $1,000, right? That’s the basic.
Jason: Well, when you’re in, I guess, tech world, you’re paying for it. We’re actually very heavy on the, you know, engineering side of things. And those folks are a lot more and then you have to include all the, you know, full package benefits and all that kind of stuff.
Andrew: Right. So 12 more then?
Jason: Yeah, it’s north of 200. But . . .
Andrew: Wait, north of 200 what?
Jason: 200,000, we’re talking about kind of like your per employee, you know, all in.
Andrew: Oh, got it. Got it. So we’re talking about at least $20 million in sales.
Jason: Yeah. We’re . . .
Andrew: Here’s the thing that I’m trying to do. Here’s what I’m trying to get at. I want to see that you guys have done well because I remember using it so much. But there was no reason for me to pay for it. I remember the effort and the attention to details that you guys put into it. And I felt . . . I hate to say it, I felt bad like you guys hadn’t discovered how to get me to pay even though I was getting utility out of it. But you guys did and eventually happened for you. Let’s talk about like who you were before you started the company, how you came up with the idea, and then where what got you to take off? Why you realized that this wasn’t the right approach? How you found the right approach and the right market? And then what is it for your business? So before this you were in television? What did you produce in television?
Jason: Yeah, I was actually a TV producer for MTV and Comedy Central and I did a whole bunch of stuff. Not necessarily stuff I was all proud of but, you know, as lots of interesting stuff on TV.
Andrew: Like what?
Jason: Some of the fun stuff was, you know, like the Video Music Awards and, you know, and big events like live events like that. Like I love live events, producing live events.
Andrew: What did you do that you were proud of? What’s a creation or what’s a Jason piece of input that you look back on you say, “Yeah, maybe it’s disappeared now, but I’m proud that I did that.”
Jason: There’s a bunch of stuff on Comedy Central that we did that was hilarious. You know, like when I worked on a “Showbiz Show” with David Spade or the “Tough Crowd” with Colin Quinn and we had a live audience every day to work with and that was just amazing to like work on stuff and then immediately see the fruits of your labor like literally the day that you are working on it, put it in front of a live audience and then see it on TV in front of millions of people that night.
And actually one of the sad parts about working in TV and why actually why we started Animoto in part and why I love working on [Animoto 00:06:08] now is I think one of the really sad parts about working in TV, less so in film but TV, it’s like so . . . what’s the right word? Like disposable? I spent most of my time working as a post-production producer, which meant I was literally working with some of the most talented editors, motion graphic design artists, all sorts of creatives that were just phenomenal talent. And people would not believe the amount of time and blood sweat and tears an hour that would go into every second of TV.
It’s almost kind of easy how many hours go into every second of TV. And it’s just so sad to me that it will . . . I mean, it will get seen by, you know, sometimes a lot of people but then it’s just gone forever. And I’m like, “Oh my god, all that brilliance, all that hard work is just gone.” And what I love about Animoto or really any business for that matter is like oftentimes when you put that work into something, it’s not just gone the next second, it’s actually being enjoyed by many people for a long time and video is kind of one of those things. So that’s much more satisfying to me now as business. But TV was fun. I mean, like that hustle of having to have something to show for every day was definitely kind of a thrill I enjoyed.
Andrew: As I understand it, you and your co-founder sat down and said, “Let’s see if we can come up with an idea.” Where did you do it? And what was your process?
Jason: It’s a little bit going to sound like, you know, something out of Silicon Valley like that show. My buddy Steve and I who I went to high school and college with and who I actually . . . some of my favorite memories were just like making videos on the weekends with him. We would make like kung fu movies and all the stupid shit. But it was just like I love that. And he was actually working for ABC here in New York doing documentaries with Peter Jennings when he was alive and we decided to get together and we love going to like the . . . there’s a sake place decibel on the East Village here and we’d just go there and drink a bunch. And it was literally napkins. Like we had tons and tons of napkins of crazy, crazy, crazy ideas.
But we just kept coming back to like video because that’s just like our genuine passion. We genuinely love video. And it just seemed inevitable with all the stuff changing so fast that video had to, you know, with like cloud computing and social, like these mobile things that were getting smaller and smaller. It seemed inevitable that these mobile things were one day going to have like an internet connection and probably even have like video on them. And so we were everything is going to change soon. And we would probably be so sad if we were not a part of this. So we were like, “You know what, who knows where this is going to go, but it seems like inevitable that video is going to be important. So we got to jump ship and try something.”
Andrew: Is there an idea that now you think back on that seems silly or sticks out in your mind that you were considering before you landed on video?
Jason: Oh, we had so many ideas. I think one idea was like basically combining technology and video. You could just stick your face into something and it would do all your . . . when I see like my . . . well, now my wife, interesting how long she spends . . . actually, she would probably kill me. No, but she spends forever, you know, like having to do all that stuff, you know, putting your face into something and it’ll just do everything. You just choose like core. You know, we have like ideas for like how to wire up your contacts or your actual eyeballs. And so you could see probably like what people are doing today with AR or VR. Any way . . .
Andrew: You do it within eyeballs.
Jason: Yeah, within eyeballs.
Andrew: I like how big you were thinking, I like how creative and different you’re thinking. All right, and so . . . I’m sorry, what were you going to say?
Jason: Oh, but I was going to say but, you know, I think as you can even tell how I’m talking like we’re just like technology and product. And so it was really with no concept of like, you know, market size or customers. It was just like we literally want to build cool shit. Just like let us lock ourselves in a closet with some computers and we’re going to build amazing technology. I mean, that was literally the first few years of the company in which we got lucky with in some regards and unlucky with in other regards, but we were just total technology nerds. And we still are but I think we’ve learned a lot from those early days.
Andrew: And you weren’t just thinking video, “You were thinking how do we make video more accessible to people so that other people can make it?” And I feel like that still is a challenge to this day. I told you I’m running marathons on every continent and I shouldn’t . . .
Jason: Oh, and I know you’re sitting down on every continent. That’s crazy.
Andrew: Oh, yeah, yes. So a few hours after we record this, I’m going to fly to Mongolia. I’m going to run my marathon. You were saying that you’re thinking about doing them. You’ve done half marathons and you’re thinking about doing marathons. Why?
Jason: Well, I don’t know. The funny thing is I’m not a runner, and I actually don’t even enjoy running. I actually like when I’m running, I’m one of these people that like is just thinking about how much I hate running. But there’s just . . . I don’t know, there’s something about it. That’s just fun to see how, you know, to challenge what your body can do and push those limits on. This sounds corny, but I’m kind of fascinated by the concept of just potential and all that kind of stuff. But I’ve done half marathons, which for me, like felt impossible for a while and now everyone is like, “You should do a marathon.” And I’m like, “No, no, that’s a totally different beast.” But I don’t know, maybe one of these years I’ll convince myself to but, yeah, that’s amazing that you’re doing it all.
Andrew: So that comes up a lot for me that I started running and people said, “Well, you should do races.” So I did races because I thought it was interesting, not because they told me. You do a race and they say, “Well, have you done a marathon?” I said, “Okay, fine.” I actually did a marathon just because I wanted to. I felt like I was building up to that level. You do a marathon it never ends because you do a marathon they say, “What’s your time?” You should actually see if you could get below whatever time it is to get the . It’s so frustrating that it almost takes away the pleasure for me in running that whenever I talk about it, people always talk about the next stage you should do. Dude, I’m celebrating. I’m enjoying the fact that I’m doing the marathon. [inaudible 00:12:15] go faster.
Jason: I’m like I don’t really actually care about my time. What I’m most happy with is because now I’m in my post-48 good that I basically run so I can justify everything I want to eat and drink. And that’s literally the main reason I run because I don’t want to stop eating lasagna or drinking my red wine or whatever.
Andrew: It does let you eat a lot more. Marathon will burn 2,600 calories, which by the way it’s not that much. You think about what McDonalds meal is it’s basically 2,000 calories. So we’re basically burning off a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Maybe a little more than that.
Jason: Yeah, then I should probably be running more.
Andrew: So I do shoot a lot of video. And it’s fun and pleasurable to be in the moment and pay attention to the environment because I’m taking a picture and I noticed things more than I would if I was just looking at it with my eye instead of through the lens of a camera. But it is frustrating to come back home and say, “Okay, now I’ve got all this video, how do I piece it together?” So I understand the challenge. I understand how you saw that as an opportunity. You decided, “I’m going to sit down and work on this for one year, the two of us.” Was it just the two of you who were going to work on it for one year?
Jason: Well, it was four of us. We had four co-founders, actually three friends that I went to high school and college with, two which are brothers. So I guess maybe something we have in common is, you know, like trying to start a company with friends/family.
Andrew: Oh, you can start a band.
Jason: But yeah, so it was the four of us. And we were kind of like, “This is going to be really hard to pull off technically. So let’s give ourselves a year, see if we can make it happen. And if we can, then we’ll quit our jobs.” We were actually working on the technology on nights and weekends. And then once we felt like it was technically possible, then we gave ourselves another year. And we said, “Let’s quit our jobs. Let’s give ourselves one year to actually see if we can turn this into something that we can actually work on for a while.” And just kind of like one year after one year we kind of met our different milestones and here we are 12 years later now.
Andrew: One year of working while you were doing this and figuring out what the idea was, and then the next year you quit your jobs to actually build it?
Jason: Yep, yep. To build the actual technology. And so at the base of that whole first year was even kind of just proof of concept, right, was just like even saying what we’re trying to do, and I this is getting into my nerdy tech.
Andrew: Do it.
Jason: We’re trying to like render video from scratch in the cloud, like 30 frames a second of rendering frame for frame original, you know, frames of video in the cloud from scratch based on customized input. And so we just needed to see, you know, this whole cloud computing thing was brand new. And so we just had to see, was it even kind of viable?
And then once we kind of . . . you know, then we were excited. We could actually do a little bit, a few seconds of video, and then going from that to actually like turning that into not just a company, but we’re like, “Oh, well, that’s cool that we can make one video. What happens if 5 people or 10 people want to make a video at the same time? We’re screwed.” So then having to build up the whole actual kind of scalable infrastructure and all that kind of stuff. And worry about like, “Well, how are we actually going to make money?” And stuff like that. So there was a lot from just even kind of technical prototyping to actually like being ready to launch a full-on kind of site in business.
Jason: Where was the server?
Andrew: Well, so we started literally with servers in my closet and Stevie my co-founder like in his apartment in Jersey City. But what we did early on is we actually, we were one of kind of the pioneers, I guess, of Amazon East, their web services side of their business.
Jason: They founded 2006, you guys were founded 2006 also, so same year.
Andrew: Yeah. And so we kind of discovered each other early. In fact, we were doing stuff that no one else was doing it and we were really actually kind of partners with them and helping them build out a lot of their kind of new, not just this we were doing just like storage stuff like most people do. We’re literally using heavy computing power in the cloud and helping them figuring out how a company needs to do that at scale. And the cool thing was like, along the way, we became just like the perfect, I don’t know, kind of a case study for them. Because we would scale in a week, like from 30 to 3,000 or sometimes 5,000, you know, the equivalent of like a server in one week, which was just unheard of or impossible for, you know, any kind of actual, you know, startup.
So the fact that we had such dynamic use like that and blah, blah, like we were we were just kind of a poster child for cloud computing. And Jeff Bezos was going around showing off our story and stuff. And they eventually became part investors in Animoto because I think in part of our use of our pioneering of kind of EC2 side of their web services. And that was all fun. That was all the super nerdy stuff back then, like deep in cloud computing and trying to figure out how to make that work.
Andrew: You know what? I see it now on Crunchbase. They came in. Series B came in. Series C. All this stuff is private for some reason on Crunchbase but I get the connection. Did it help you get to get customers to have Amazon talk about you?
Jason: No, I think it was . . . I mean, no, not really, because I don’t think most . . . the people who are using Animoto don’t really follow that kind of news. But certainly, it was cool to see for us just to know that Jeff Bezos is going around telling our story. And, you know, like, just to have their name in our corner. It’s not like they’re a major . . . and it’s not like Jeff Bezos was hanging out with us having lunch with us every week or something. But, you know, just the fact that we have their name and we can call them up for certain things, you know, and they’ll be helpful partner sometimes but . . . and especially in those early days, you know, when you’re a nobody having someone like Amazon attached to you was pretty cool.
Andrew: I get that. So, second year, what did you have built at the end of it? What was that first version?
Jason: Now, we were building so much random technology. It was really cool stuff. We were like we had all sorts of really interesting patents. But basically, what we decided is the best way to kind of get people in the video is not talk about video, not talk about editing, because all those words freak people out. So our idea was, “Let’s start with what most people are comfortable with.” And so this is exactly how you started using Animoto, is let’s start with photos and let’s start with music because we know that music makes everything magic, when you can perfectly orchestrate something to music, then you can really wow people.
And so we started with photos and music and we built all this super sophisticated technology that would analyze whatever music you chose or whatever music you uploaded, every nuance of the music, the energy levels, the rhythm, the this and that. And it would dynamically produce customized motion graphics with the images and basically make your whole video come alive to the point where like if you were using something more upbeat like hip hop or techno or you’d see something more, MTV like with all energy. If you use something like classical music, you would see something very slow and elegant and beautiful. And we thought that was super cool. And we invested so much time in that music analysis technology.
And we even had this cool thing that was like, you know, remix functionality. You’re like no two videos are ever the same. So you can just hit a button and you get a totally different video back. And that was just amazing technology. It turns out that really pissed people off because they’re like, “Wait, wait, I liked that video I just had. Why did you remix the whole thing?” So there’s just a bunch of funny stories like that.
Andrew: Oh, interesting.
Jason: We’re building stuff that we thought was cool that actually no one else cared about. And actually, in some cases like that made their experience worse.
Andrew: Huh, I wouldn’t have thought. I kind of liked the idea. The part that was a winner though if I understand it right from the start was the photos changed with the beat of the music and the rhythm of the music. Am I right?
Jason: Yep. And it wasn’t just beat match like that. It would actually take on the energy of the music, right? So it would do much more energetic stuff that. I guess the layman’s version, it would do much more visually energetic stuff with energetic music or even different parts of the song. Like if the chorus was more energetic than the first, you would visually see that difference as your video went along. So really got into like as if you are a motion designer perfectly trying to orchestrate you know, a video to a song, what would you do? And we try to basically replicate that using technology. But probably 90% of all the nuances and stuff that we did, no one even noticed. We do stuff. Like if you’ve heard like a cymbal crash in a song, like you’d see like a white flash and stuff like that. And for us, that was so magical and no one even cared.
Andrew: Oh, yeah. Why do you think they didn’t care?
Jason: Well, we would ask people, like, “Did you notice this? We just spent all this time . . . ” And I think that was all. That probably isn’t . . . I talked to a lot of, you know, folks that are starting companies and I don’t think that’s necessarily uncommon. People are so in love with either an idea or the product technology. And there’s nothing wrong with it. I think that’s really how a lot of people take that leap of faith right to do something because you want to spend time on something that you love. But yeah, it took us a long time to really learn about the whole, you know, customer side of things. And it sounds really cliché about like, you know, knowing your customer and walking the walk up. But I think we learned a lot about the hard way.
Andrew: I’m looking at an earlier version of your site, 2009. And it says, “Animoto is for business, photography, real estate, education, a cause, and others.” And so it’s just you’re going through all the different reasons why somebody would use this. What you found was that this person, and this is a little bit into your business. You found the purpose or a little bit of it, it was at the very top it suddenly said, “Welcome to the end of slideshows.” So you knew that people had messages that they wanted to put out there, photos, anything in a slideshow, we’re going to now let you change it into a video.”
Andrew: But you didn’t nail the use case, right?
Jason: Well, it’s funny. I barely remember those versions of the website. I think what you actually just listed was probably some of our more painful years. So those first few years were so exciting, right? Because we had no idea who was actually going to use this thing. We were just building cool technology. And so the fact that we launched and so many people were actually using Animoto and we actually started with a business model. We had like was like 3 bucks a video or 30 bucks for unlimited videos, you know, kind of mirroring stuff like Flickr was doing. But so people were paying us too. And we had more different types of people using Animoto than we could have ever dreamed. And so for us those early years that was like amazing, right? It was like all these people literally around the world using Animoto non-stop, thousands of videos being made. And I think, you know, several years in for that . . .
Andrew: Actually, let me pause that. I know where you’re going to go with this. I want to keep that. We’re going to go into how you got your first customers and funding maybe in a little bit. But let’s save what the problem was with this exciting period. But first, I’m going to talk about my first sponsor, it’s a company called Trainual. I’m actually curious, when somebody . . . let me tell you about what we did, when somebody came into our company, we for a long time would just kind of wing it. Here’s what they need to know, here’s what we need to give them. We try to do it from memory and inevitably leave stuff out. Like maybe we didn’t get the 1099 information for them. And we wouldn’t get it until the following year. Did you ever have an issue like that? Or how do you solve that this onboarding of people? This is for a sponsor called Trainual.
Jason: Oh, man. I think that’s a whole area we’ve learned the hard way. And I’m taking notes now because that’s probably one area that we’ve suffered the most, but educate me.
Andrew: All right, here’s what we’d finally did, we finally made a list of the things that we needed to have for everybody who came on. Like they should know the background to Mixergy. You knew it. When you came on here, it gives you a sense of like it makes the relationship a little bit easier, it makes you understand what I’m trying to do here a little bit more. So we said, “You know, everyone should actually read the about page, and they should see our mission, they should see our culture point, they should give us information about how to pay them so that we’re not stuck. We should get tax . . . ” Like all that stuff. And we made it into a checklist.
There’s a company that said, “You know what? Checklists are fine but you can’t really keep track of where people are in the process.” And if you change one thing and you want everyone to see it, like let’s imagine that we change one aspect of our culture, and I want everyone who already was onboarded to go back and do that step. I don’t have to sign a checklist item to all of them. Trainual says go and create your checklist. You know when people go through the checklist because you get to see the percentage completion. So you can do things like include a video welcoming them, you can include a link to where they fill out their form, where they tell you how to pay you, whatever it is that you want them to know, how to use the software that you use to create an account on the LastPass, if you want to make sure that you use a password manager, whatever it is, you put it all in there.
If you decide, you know what? We’re changing something or adding something you just added to the main checklist. And everybody now has to go back in and do it or else they’re no longer 100% complete. And it’s for anything that you Jason or I or anyone else out there who wants to get their people trained right, this is everything that you need in order to do that. It’s called Trainual. Get it like training and manual in one. Trainual.com/mixergy. We’ll give you a deep discount on their software and introduce you to how it works and also show you the interview that I did with these freaking guys.
I saw the page that they created the other day, they must have redid it again. Trainual.com/mixergy. They put my photo up there. They’ve got the get started. They even were saying, “Look, if you sign up, you could get Andrew’s SOPs. You get our processes for how we do things like onboard people into our company.” All you have to do is go to trainual.com/mixergy. You’ll get to see my beautiful face. You’ll get that 30% off for the first three months. You’ll get to see how the software works. You’ll get my process documents so that you can see how we organize our company. You’ll see . . . yeah, I think you’ll get the interview, a link to the interview that I did with the founders so you understand how this works. And you’ll get to see how beautiful their design is. I’m amazed by good design, especially when . . . Anyway. That’s a whole other thing. Go to trainual.com/mixergy. That’s trainual.com/mixergy.
Jason: I’m taking notes. So let’s say you said include Andrew’s face on your website and you’ll increase sales. Like I got. Like we’re always like chasing down everyone in our company to do things. Like that’s like a nonstop effort. So I’m taking notes. We’re going to go check that out.
Andrew: Hugely helpful. It’s hugely helpful. You did get into TechCrunch. Did that help you?
Jason: I think kind of. Sometimes I feel like some of that, you know, that tech news and is a little bit of vanity. Of course we love it and we’re lucky that you know, Michael Arrington, who I don’t even know if people remember Michael Arrington. But he was like one of the early fans of Animoto. And so for him to be able to go around and say, you know, we’re a legit company and stuff. But I mean, I certainly I think helps with certain aspects, like maybe, you know, getting actual conversations with folks and fundraising and stuff, but not necessarily in terms of getting new . . . you know, I mean, most people who were using Animoto in those early days are not reading TechCrunch, right? And so it’s just like we are and our friends are.
Andrew: It did get early adopters, but I can see that it wasn’t like the designers that you might have wanted. It wasn’t the small businesses that you eventually discovered. But you know what, I missed a step? You used a version of Animoto to propose to your wife. Can you talk about that?
Jason: Yeah. Let’s see here. Yeah. Before we launched Animoto I was dating this girl, now my wife, Jennifer, in New York here. And I first . . . you know, I obviously love video and probably would use video anyway. But, you know, I think like who wants to commit their life to someone who’s going to quit their . . . By the time I was dating, I was a pretty successful TV producer. I was like pitching, selling shows to networks and I was about to move to L.A. to continue my career there. But I was like, “You know, I want to quit everything and give this Animoto thing a go.” So that was part of the motivation but I wanted to use it. And so this was like live in the mountains of Sun Valley.
Like it was like, you know, moon filled nights, stars in the sky like on a horse drawn carriage ride in the mountains up to this restaurant and I literally, probably, for most people listening to this would completely ruin the moment by taking out my laptop, my MacBook Pro on this little wooden bridge over this creek under the stars. And I showed her this video that we had kind of started making together, you know, a couple hours earlier. And it was supposed to be like me showing her the prototype of, you know, early Animoto. And then finally, the video was done rendering. And so I showed her the video. And basically, it was a video of me with all these photos going around New York with signs about how much I love her. And then towards the end, I look at the camera and the sign say, you know, with big words like one word at a time, “Will you marry me?”
And despite that, she actually said yes. And in part I was logging a win in my head. I’m like, “Cool, she loves the way I just [proposed 00:29:50], the power of video,” because she’s sitting there crying and I got her to say yes to marrying me. And I was like, “Yeah, that’s basically what I want to do. I want that magic. I want everyone to experience that magic.” And so I really believe in this whole thing. I don’t think she was ever skeptical or she was always fully supportive of everything we’re doing. But for me, it was important that she was bought in. And so that was a fun way to kind of show her or remind her of the magic of video.
Andrew: You know what? I love that. Do you still have that video?
Jason: I do. It’s probably buried somewhere on my laptop or something. I’ve shown it a few times here at Animoto. I had much more hair back then. But yeah, that was fun.
Andrew: I was just thinking I wish I had a video of when I proposed to my wife. That it feels sometimes like these devices are so invasive, that you’re stopping to take pictures and video. But, man, I always appreciate it later on when I can look back on them when I have some memory of them. When did you get funding?
Jason: We kind of went through several rounds of fundraising. And we did it very incrementally. So after the first year, we actually kind of bootstrapped it for the first couple of years. We actually all put in a bit of money, but basically just to pay ourselves back and just the minimal salary we thought we needed to survive in New York and not starve to death. And so we put in some chunk in and then that kind of got us through a year. And then once we kind of got some traction we did like a family and friends round. So we had a bunch of family friends in the Seattle area and got them to write a bunch of checks. And so that got us through like another year.
And then really kind of our first major fundraising was with Madrona and Seattle, they were kind of like an early investor in Amazon, how they made their name. And they actually wanted to invest a lot more but we actually said, “We don’t need that much.” And I feel like that’s something that some folks who are just getting into fundraising donors, people are all enamored with like how much money you raise and stuff. And I’m always like, “No, no, actually, it’s not necessarily great to raise as much as you can because that just means they’re taking more of the company.” And there’s pros and cons of that, right? I’m not saying that’s necessarily wrong. But we were very incremental. We said, “What do we need . . . ” every stage of the game we were like, “What do we need to get through the next year or two? And what are those milestones?”
And so now with Madrona, we took just what we needed to get through the next couple years and prove ourselves out. And then a few years later after that Spectrum, who was a private equity group who invest in like Grubhub and stuff like that joined on. And so yeah, so we’ve done it a few times, but we haven’t . . . that was kind of got us through the first half of where we are now. And, you know, we’ve been fortunate to be basically kind of cash flow positive all along the way.
Andrew: You mentioned Michael Arrington loving the software. I found an article from him eight years ago announcing this funding round that you just talked about the one where Ben Spiro from Spectrum joined the board. He called it a jewel of a startup. And he said at that point you guys were profitable since 2008. So even though you weren’t cash flow positive, you were profitable. Does that sound right?
Jason: Yeah. Or maybe the other way around. Typically I think companies are cash flow positive first and then profitable. But basically, the nice thing about when we started is we were making money from day one. And we basically just decided all along the way that we would just spend what we make. And, you know, we took some cash along the way just to kind of fuel little spurts of growth. But we’ve always been pretty responsible in terms of just, “You know what? We’re going to spend what we make and that’s how we’re going to make sure that we are around for the long haul.”
Andrew: You know what? So then maybe I did pay in the beginning. Now that I think about it, it was for work, I wouldn’t be surprised if I did paid it to get the videos to show people why they should come to the next event.
Jason: Well, there was certainly a free . . . in the early days, there was a lot of . . . it was like free, I think . . . man, I testing my memory here. I think it was like free 30 second videos and then full length videos, I think is what we call it. It was anything over 30 seconds. You paid three bucks or 30 bucks for unlimited videos for the year. And then eventually we tacked on like the business plans [inaudible 00:34:34].
Andrew: And did have like Animoto’s logo if it was in the free version to promote? Yeah.
Jason: Yeah. And then business version eventually we got into all the white label stuff and all that.
Andrew: Michael Arrington can also guessed that at the time you guys took some money off the table. The part of this $30 million that you raised at the time of this article, which was 8 years ago was so you can take some money and reduce your risk in ownership. Is that right?
Jason: Yeah, at that time, as I understand, it was a pretty new concept. So I think we’re kind of one of the earlier folks to do that. But it was it was pretty nominal. It was basically like, hey, we’re, whatever that was, five years into this and we still feel like our best days are ahead of us. But it’d be nice to have something to kind of show for for our work. So we cashed in a tiny bit. And it was just to make sure that, you know, family life and spouses and all that where were happy, but certainly, we have a lot of a stake in the game. And so we’re trying to swing for the fences, but without living off Top Ramen, you know?
Andrew: Yeah. And Mark Schuster says . . . he was a big advocate of it in the early days where he said, “Let the founder be able to buy a home for himself if he wants to so that they’re not constantly struggling.” Okay, so we mentioned growth. Things were going great. The problem was, as you told our producer, “We were building a Frankenstein of a product.” That goes back to picking your customers, right? Can you talk about little bit about what was going on with who the users were? What the challenges with having travelers, bloggers, churches, families, marketers, and so on using your software?
Jason: Yeah. Well, the funny thing, the ironic thing is, you know, you brought up Michael Arrington a few times, the thing that I think he was quoted most saying about Animoto is, “These guys, Animoto, these guys do one thing exceptionally well.” And so I think for a while, our reputation, you know, in the Valley was like, “These guys are super focused,” right? And we took a lot of pride in that. But the ironic thing is I think that was actually exactly what we did wrong and . . .
Andrew: Meaning you weren’t focused?
Jason: Yeah. Well, maybe in a sense on the technology sense, but from a business sense, like I said, it was super exciting for those first few years that we had so many different types of people using it. Essentially, if you could take a photo, or if you had digital photos, which is basically everyone, you can make a video. So that was super exciting. But, you know, how that actually manifested itself is . . . and people were like, “Wait, isn’t that great? Because isn’t every business trying to figure out how to like expand in what new thing they can get into?” Yeah, maybe, you know, when you’re a mature company. But when you’re a startup being pulled in so many different directions actually is it’s extremely hard to run a company.
Like we felt like we were on a daily basis being pulled in 20 different directions. And that not only made it hard, impossible for us to figure out how to prioritize our very precious, you know, time and resources, but it impacted the product, it impacted the user experience. Like you said, it became like a patchwork quilt of a mess. We were just grafting on all these different things.
Andrew: Could you be specific about something that you added or a couple of things that just made it into a Frankenstein of a product because you were paying attention to well-intentioned users? I don’t have a visual of what was going on.
Jason: Yeah, I’ll give you . . . let’s see. Maybe a few examples. I thought one of the coolest parts of our early technology was all a really slick like MTV-like motion design that we introduced to you. And that was the magic, right? Well, it turns out that certain people like professional photographers, they love the idea of Animoto, but they hated all this motion design stuff because they really wanted to feature their beautiful photos and create these videos for their clients who were like, you know, newlyweds or people getting married or family portraits or baby portraits. Like they don’t want their family portraits or their brides like things breaking apart or flying off the screen, all that kind of stuff and like . . .
To them that was like, “You’re killing my artwork.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but that’s what everyone loves about everything else. But, oh, you guys are willing to pay 10 times more? Okay, well, I guess we’ll start, you know, introducing some of that stuff. Oh, you want it more clean, more full frame? Okay, well now starting to feel like slideshows.” And that’s actually what exactly we said we’re trying to do the end of . . . so we’re becoming more and more like slideshows because this class of people who will pay a lot more wanted, but everyone else who really talks about animal or really loves all that motion, graphic design and cool stuff that literally looks like it should be on ESPN. So that’s kind of, you know, one example. One of, gosh, hundreds of examples where we’re just like, “Which way are we going with this?”
And then we tried to start grafting on these different things. And it was just a became a very cluttered mess. And not only that, the funny thing is . . . I mean, not funny. The interesting, it also impacted us internally. It impacted morale, right? It’s like people were just . . . there was confusion, misalignment, people aren’t sure if they’re actually working on something strategic or if it’s actually, you know, important to the company’s success because we had so many different priorities and people want to know, they’re working on something that’s, you know, that’s core to the strategic, you know, importance of the company.
And so, just for all those reasons, we were just like, “Okay, we really need to take a step back here.” And it was it was kind of one of these, like, “Would we rather be kind of good at 20 different things or would we rather be best in the world at one thing?” And I think, you know, pretty unanimous we were like, “Yeah. No, we’d rather be best in the world at one thing.” And then it was just a matter of trying to figure out how to choose the right direction. And so by that point we knew it’s not just like what makes for the coolest technology. We have to consider things like, “Who is going to pay us? Is there an actual market opportunity? Is there an area that we feel like that our talents can actually stand out and where we can do something better than anyone else?”
And so, you know, it was clear to us that kind of short form videos is where there was a lot of opportunity to do really interesting stuff and where our talents could align. And luckily for us, short form videos is really what was kind of in demand on social media. And of course, folks are willing to pay and where that big wave was coming this really small businesses because they’re seeing video everywhere. They feel like they need to do video just like all the big companies. And meanwhile, on the kind of the personal side of things are saying like Google and Facebook, you know, coming out with more and more free stuff. So we knew that was going to be hard to compete with. So yeah, we kind of found . . .
Andrew: What do you mean more and more free . . . like ways of showing off your pictures.
Jason: Yeah, they would kind of get into auto-generated . . .
Andrew: Yeah, you know, my iPhone does that too. Now that I can go back and see a slide show that moves and animate. Okay, I’m wondering how you found small business owners but let me pause for a moment and talk about my second sponsor and then we’ll come back and understand how you figured out this was the group. I would have thought photographers would be the group for example.
But second sponsor is a company called Toptal. I’m going to tell you about three people who I interviewed who use top talent specifically. David Hauser, I think he sold his company Grasshopper for $170 million. Started making investments. In my interview with him, he said he used Toptal.” I said, “Why?” He said, “You know, some of the companies that I work with have these side projects that they don’t have developers to put on and maybe they don’t even want to eventually integrate. They just want to test it out.”
And so they went to Toptal, they hired the best of the best developers to go work on this project. Sometimes the project died because it wasn’t a good idea. It’s a good thing they didn’t waste their engineering resources. And other times, it was able to be integrated in with the main product. Toptal lets you do that.
The second person we interviewed is Hiten Shah. He founded Kissmetrics. He founded . . . what is it called? He founded a bunch of different companies. The other one that will come to me later. The one with the egg. It’ll come back to me later. It doesn’t matter. He I asked him why you doing this because you have a big network. He said, “Yeah, the reason that I went to Toptal is the matcher.” He can talk. Hiten Shah can too. A merger at Toptal said, “Here’s what I’m looking for. Here’s our corporate culture. Here’s what we’re working on next. Can you find someone for me?” Toptal lets you get on calls with those people that they specifically find for you. If you want, you can hire them.
And finally, Neil Patel, I said, “Why did you use top cow you have a big network too?” He said, “People think a big network solves a lot of problems, and it does for hiring. But when you want speed, you go to Toptal because with Toptal they have a network already, have the best of the best developers. When you get on a call with the developers that they find for you, if you like them, you can often get started within days.” Those are three of many people who I interviewed who use Toptal. If you, Jason, or anyone else wants to use it, do not go to toptal.com. By the way, I should say it’s top as in top of your head, tal as in talent.
Don’t go to toptal.com because it was founded by two Mixergy fans and they created a special offer for our listeners. Toptal.com/mixergy will give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks. If you’re not happy, they will not bill you but don’t worry, they’ll still pay the developers because they’re mensches. So it’s toptal.com/mixergy. Toptal.com/mixergy. And once again, they’ve got that beautiful photo of me, a different one on that site.
Jason: Plus one to my [alien shot 00:44:21].
Andrew: Another one. So how did you know small businesses were the ones to go with?
Jason: Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned . . . I mean, photographers for us were actually part of our early growth. They really fuel a lot of our growth in those early years. And in fact, in some ways, I’d say we were kind of like an overnight success in the photography industry where within a couple years, we had kind of displaced everything else that we’re using with these kind of slideshow video products, and we’re the ones that everyone is doing. And so we kind of tapped out that market pretty quickly. But it’s also not as maybe as big as you, you know, you might think, at least relative to, you know, probably the bigger opportunity of who could be using video.
And obviously, for us, I mean, you know, the potential is endless with video, right? And so, in many ways, we were like, “Hey, well, if we had such great success with photographers and photographers are essentially a subset of small businesses, so let’s take all our learnings there. But let’s do it right. Let’s build the product that every small business could really use, not just photographers who have very particular needs because you’re dealing with their artwork.” And we just like the . . . I mean, part of the reason I’m excited to be on this show is because I myself I’m basically like a small business owner. That’s what my blood, sweat, and tears have gone into this business and I relate very much to that whole side of what small business is doing. And I love nothing more than talking to other small business owners and entrepreneurs.
And so I very much feel like in addition to video that being able to like be part of, you know, these other small businesses’ stories like, you know, both literally and figuratively is something that we could be very . . . we could be genuinely passionate about. And that was a whole kind of original idea of Animoto, it’s like how do we make sure that video is not just limited to the giant, you know, mega companies like Viacom who can spend millions of dollars on this stuff? How do we make sure that we can get it into every day like people who have literally had no video experience at all? So it just seemed like . . . and we could just see the wave forming, right? It’s just like it was so obvious that every small business just like a website, just like email, just like, you know, every other person other marketing video was going to be the next thing that they all had to have. And so for many reasons . . .
Andrew: How? How could you tell that? What were you seeing that told you that small . . . and when you say small businesses, give me an example of a small business that needs a video today?
Jason: I mean, there were a number of different types of small. There are . . .
Andrew: Let me give you an example that I . . . oh, sorry, you were going to go with one. Go ahead.
Jason: Well, you know, there’s everything from bakeries to fashion designers, to restaurants, hotels, you know, people selling products on Amazon.
Andrew: Let’s take somebody who’s making . . . there’s a woman who I know who makes . . . she takes old lobster rope from Maine, which is where she lives and she turns it into different things like we have a welcome mat at our house that’s made from that. I could see that she’s got these beautiful photos. Why would she need a video and what would video do for her?
Jason: Well, I think I used to have to spend a lot more time on why video, but I think, you know, first and foremost, the proof is in the pudding. We literally see video everywhere. And especially in the last couple years, there’s been so many studies and tests around video and some of my . . .
Andrew: Meaning what we’re testing is if you run video on your own personal Instagram or your company’s Instagram, people are going to be more likely to watch it, [be fed 00:48:28], and then click the link in the bio? It’s that type of thing that we’re talking.
Jason: It’s almost on all facets of kind of like the customer journey. So, I mean, their stats like people remember six times as much information from a video then from text. Or things like video generates 12 times more shares on social than text and images combined.
Andrew: I didn’t realize that? Really?
Jason: Yeah. Or more or more specifically for someone who actually cares about selling, after watching a video 64% of folks are more likely to make a purchase online. And they’re just dozens and dozens and dozens of stats like this. But I think to me when you step back and you just think about not only the fact that what you see video everywhere, the reason why we businesses and your . . . what’s your friend’s name?
Andrew: Actually, I think it’s Michelle. Yeah, Michelle.
Jason: The reason why Michelle needs is because we have to remember as businesses the punchline of all those stats and studies and why videos is effective is because this is increasingly how people want their information, want their content, what their messages. And so we as businesses have to learn to communicate in a way that our audience actually wants to receive that information. And so that’s the big underlying why. But when you just think about video too is just kind of a form of communication. And this is me starting a nerd out on video. But it’s just like it’s literally the . . . when you talk about one plus one equals three, video is that kind of art form, right? It’s visual, its audio, it’s text, it’s people, it’s location, it’s story, it’s colors, it’s everything.
And when paired all together in just the right way, it can really be exciting. So you think about from a practical standpoint the fact that different people receive different types of information in different way, well, video is kind of like the all in one of that. But the other fun thing is video just is able to take on a life of its own. And so I think if I was talking to Michelle, one of the things I think that we would see as a big trend is that, yeah, you know, your website is important. But increasingly, I think how marketing is changing is it’s not just about trying to figure out how to lure people to your website, because today, with things like video and social media, you have the opportunity to take your message, your conversation to where the conversation is happening. And that’s out on social media. And sometimes people actually go to your social media, your Instagram page before they even go to your website. So in many ways . . .
Andrew: Yeah, to the exclusion of the website where they won’t. By the way, I know I get really excessively complimentary and I get disgusted with myself sometimes when I listen because it’s not that fun to listen to a guy who’s just so ravingly excited, but I have to be myself. And I listened to other podcasters, like Kara Swisher is one of my favorite podcasters to listen to. But all she does is like, “This is bad. Don’t you see how bad this is? What are you going to do to solve this problem?” And I’m the opposite. I was about to say to you, “The freaking thing that I’m doing right now is as you’re talking, I go to your website to look at stuff to see what we’re talking about and I get sucked into these freaking videos while we’re talking.”
And now I’m thinking in my head, “Should I be . . . ” and I’ve got a I’ve got a question that I want to use to understand you. I’ve got to ask you about myself too. Should I be taking interviews and instead of clipping what the person said, just have you talking, have pictures of your business or all my guests, then put a little bit of text on top to tell the story? Maybe I’ve been overthinking it by thinking, “How do I find the perfect Jason clip where you told me the perfect thing,” which is a pain in the butt. Instead just clip you talking. “I interviewed Jason, here is his site, here’s the thing that I learned.” Should it be that?
Jason: Yeah. And I think like part of what’s fun about video is so I think some people think, “Videos, I need to go hire a video production firm. I need to figure out how to shoot.” A video can actually just be text or it can be a couple photos or it can be a couple photos and text. And so, you know, if I was talking to you, Andrew and I said, “Well, what are some of the [inaudible 00:52:37]. You’re already doing stuff. You’re already good at capturing such great content. And there’s certainly a huge marketplace for people who need to know listen to great content.”
So I wouldn’t necessarily say, “You know, you need to change video.” But you can promote all your episodes using, you know, short video teasers like on social and you could take . . . I think everyone is sending you great photos that are headshots or whatever these nice photos, and then take, you know, the one or two sentences that stand out from the interview and stick that text over the photo. And so it’s kind of like animated text over that photo.
Andrew: I want to tell their story. And one of the things that I noticed you guys do now is pictures and video with text on the screen. So if I were to tell your story, could it be something like, “This guy worked on MTV.” And show MTV, some beautiful shot at MTV. One of the shows you just talked about. “But he was disappointed because his shows disappeared and his friend decided to have a beer together.” Or what was it? You said you had sake?
Jason: Sake, yeah.
Andrew: Right? So maybe what I do is I take a picture of sake. I’ve got like stock photography or maybe for something from Unsplash sake. And they were sitting and drinking. And they had this idea that more people need video, like I do right now. And maybe I shall myself. We talked about it on the Mixergy interview, and then just keep telling the story using no words from you, just pictures.
Jason: Yeah, just pictures and text. And that I actually think is even more involved than a video has to be. Like it could literally be one great quote that you remember from your interview. And even if you aren’t doing it, other people are doing online. They’re quoting specific things that people are saying on your show. So there’s lots of easy ways that you could either kind of create teasers or highlights or maybe at the end of the year, it’s like take your top 10 favorite interviews and you can also include the audio in the video. So even if you don’t have the video clip, you could take that audio of someone saying something, put it under their photo, or just use text, right? Because most people on social on mobile, and they’re not necessarily, you know, like listening to the videos say. You can just think in small bits and bytes like that.
I think, you know, for folks like Michelle, I think sometimes, “Oh, video, video.” It’s like they’re almost thinking of it like a checklist item on their marketing to-do list. “Oh, okay, I have a video on my website. I’m done.” But video is basically has become a form of communication, right? It’s something that we need to do regularly, just like how we’re emailing or posting on social. Video is one of these things. It’s how we regularly communicate. So if you’re trying to figure out how do I use video, think about all the different ways that you, Andrew, or you Michelle need to communicate with your audience. You need to educate, you need to explain, you need the feature, you need to tease, you need to reveal, you need to invite them to events that you’re putting on, you need to demo something. All of those things you need to do are great fodder for video for your audience.
Andrew: And so what you started to do, I happen to now have an invitation for children’s coat fundraising event on my screen. And so what you guys do then is you create a template, where all they have to do is upload pictures and then write their text and you have the whole thing move so it feels like it’s not just looking at a slideshow. You’re watching moving pictures without distracting from the text. And you have the text come on at the right pace. That’s what you guys do. What I wonder is did you at that point start talking to small business owners? Did you start to do all the things that you didn’t do when you first came out with Animoto?
Jason: Yeah. And I think that was I think one of our truest lessons all along the way is how we actually become customer focus, not like we think about the customers and we do surveys and stuff like that, but it’s like having a regular real . . . like inviting them into the office, putting them up on stools, you know, for customers or flying them across the country, having them at our company events, talking to them, asking them questions. Or when I’m out speaking at conferences, like just sitting down and having coffee or lunch with these folks and hearing all about the challenges of what it takes to run their company. And it’s amazing, because you know, you even though there are companies, where they’re like, “Yeah, we do product focus groups every day, you know, like we talked to customers all the time.”
There are things that you love about your customers that just don’t come up in like a usability test, right? It’s like actually understanding . . . it actually has nothing to do with how easy or difficult my product is. They’re just trying to decide, for example, in our case, like, people are trying to decide, I haven’t touched my website in like, five years. I mean, you know, it’s like, “I need to spend money on that. But I also need to, like improve my email automation. Oh, and I know I need to be doing video.” So it really has nothing to do with some of the features that we’re how easy or how hard they are to use an Animoto. They’re different types of questions that are preventing them from, you know, causing them to hesitate before buying them. And these are just things you learn by having real conversations.
Andrew: And so if you know that, what do you do to overcome it? What’s an example of something you learned hesitation and how did you overcome it?
Jason: Well, certainly there are endless things that we can do to improve our product. And I think most companies are pretty good about how to, you know, run tests or usability tests. But I think when you’re talking about other non-product questions, like where small businesses feel like they want to spend their money, then it’s you’re talking about the content that you’re putting out there. It’s the types of videos I put out there either on social about convincing folks like, “Yeah, you know what? Your presence on social is actually just as important if not more important than your website or, you know, when I’m out speaking at conferences. It’s not just about how easy our tool is to use. It’s actually just educating folks on the power of video and video marketing.” And so it’s just a different conversation. And then, “Hey, look at these five new features that Animoto delivered.”
Andrew: You know what? I’m on your Twitter account. The pin tweet is a photo of you from two years ago at this point, almost exactly two years ago with a slide behind you that says, “All businesses must learn to speak video.” This is what you’re doing. You’re not talking up the software features, you are explaining this is a new way of communicating that you need to know. And it happens that Animoto lets you do that.
Jason: Yeah. I’ll go and speak at these conferences, these marketing or small business conferences, and I’ll just educate about video and social media marketing, content marketing. And I won’t mention Animoto, except for maybe when I introduce myself. I won’t mention Animoto the entire one hour that I’m speaking. And only at the very end I might say, “In case you’re not familiar with Animoto, everything we talked about you can actually do with Animoto, but Animoto doesn’t mean anything to anyone unless they’re actually convinced about, you know, the power of video they’re making.” So that’s kind of how we change the conversation a bit in terms of, you know, how we’re communicating with customers.
Andrew: Okay, finally, let’s close it out with a big challenge, which is hiring. I don’t want to show that you figured everything out that it’s easy. Hiring was an issue, especially with the wrong people who without obviously naming names, what type of people are the wrong people for you? And what did you learn about how to hire?
Jason: Oh, my gosh, there’s this guy, Brian Wilson.
Andrew: Oh, I thought, “Man, that would be so great if you mentioned a name.”
Jason: I’d probably start getting death threats. But I think people kind of know sometimes when someone doesn’t fit and we’ve always known we’ve had a strong culture here, but we haven’t actually known exactly what that is even though everyone talks about it. So for us part of the journey was defining what our values actually are. And we have these three specific values humbletude, betterfication and oomphosity, which means certain things to us here.
Andrew: Betterfication meaning making things better?
Jason: Yeah. So humbletude is like we call it like the perfect blend of humility and confidence. And betterfication is hungry for solutions, not problems. And oomphosity is we say it’s like living life with that extra gear, like kind of being nerds about in whatever it is that you do. And we look for those things when we hire people, and we will even fire by these things, and part with people. And for us, it’s given us vocabulary by which we can talk about whether people are a good fit or not a good fit. And so I think, unless you have that kind of vocabulary of what it means like, you know, people kind of know, at a visceral level, if someone is a great fit or not great fit, but it doesn’t work unless you have the actual syntax to communicate with your team about what people should be prioritizing or living up to or how you run your company.
And I think, you know, maybe the last thing I’ll kind of mention is on a personal level, the thing I value the most is probably this just sense of like finding people that are reliable and dependable and who are aren’t above the small things. When I worked in TV, I used . . . one of my first jobs out in TV was with the show . . . do remember that show “Crank Anchors?” It was like puppets reenacting prank phone calls.
Andrew: Oh, yeah, yeah, on Comedy Central.
Jason: Yeah, on Comedy Central and I literally my job was to drive a van, like a cargo van, a white beat up cargo van around the city, and go make pickups and deliveries. And at one point, I had to go to the grocery store to go pick up stuff that would make good puppet barf. Like as in puppet vomit? And I was sitting there in the grocery frozen food aisle trying to choose between frozen peas and frozen, I don’t know mix vegetable. And I will start a car. I was like, “What am I doing with my life? Like I’m almost 26. I went to a good school. I used to like work in strategy consulting where I was being flown around the world. And now I’m picking out puppet barf.”
But for me, I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to do this as well I can and people can trust me with the small things, then I hope they trust me with the big things.” And that’s exactly how almost my entire career has played out that just if people trust you with a small things, they’ll quickly trust you with the big things. And that’s really the big, especially in entrepreneurship or anyone starting a new company. Like if you find people who are a man of the word, a woman of the word who say what they’re going to say what they’re going to do, to me there’s no better value than that in building a company and surrounding yourself by reliable, dependable, trustworthy people. And I’d say for you too, for everyone listening, be a person of your word. That’s my final thought.
Andrew: And finding barf was you expressing humbled too that blend of humbletude. I will do even all the small things so that they could trust me with it and confidence to know that if you do this right that the world will work out well and things will work out well for you. And it did.
Jason: And I’d like to think that if you watch that episode, you’ll agree that that was the best damn puppet barf you’ve ever seen on TV?
Andrew: All right, puppet barf man ended up building this incredible business . . .
Jason: Is that how you’re going to title the episode?
Andrew: I was thinking about that.
Jason: To learn about puppet barf selection, click on this episode of . . .
Andrew: Oh, maybe that could be the clip. All right, the website and the app is Animoto. One of the things I really I always go into the App Store to see what people think of . . . it just disappeared. Animoto. Here’s how many ratings you have and what your ratings are. You have five freaking stars, 4.8, technically out of five.
Jason: Oh, I didn’t even know.
Andrew: 19,200 reviews on the App Store. So really, for me to find a negative one would have just . . . it wasn’t working. I’m scrolling and scrolling. I find nothing. I like to find negative reviews so I could bring it up and say, “Well, what about this person? What about that person? What about this issue? It isn’t there. All right.
Jason: Well, that’s probably one of our . . . we have a couple of different apps. That’s probably one of our ones that has been around longer. We have a newer app that’s strictly focused on Instagram stories. And I’m sure you’ll find some because we’re still in the early stages of that. So if you want negative reviews, I’m sure there’s some that’s good.
Andrew: What’s that one called?
Jason: It’s also called Animoto but I think we call it like stories builder or something.
Andrew: You know what I did find a negative one from one year ago. I made a slide a slideshow from the camera roll photos, but the pace was too fast. I followed the instructions and shortened the video include 50% of my photos. So this person, the pace was too fast.
All right, thanks so much for doing this. Thank you all for listening. And I want to especially thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first, if you want your team to be on the same page to know exactly how you operate as a company and for you to know if they’re doing it, Jason, me, and so many other people should be checking out Trainual. And if you go to trainual.com/mixergy, you will see the processes that we use when we onboard people and some of the other processes that we have. And you’ll see a 30% discount good for the first three months of using trainual.com/mixergy.
Second, if you want to hire a great developer, go to toptal.com/mixergy. And finally, I should tell everyone who’s listening, I’m super proud of the courses we’ve been doing on Mixergy. If you want to not just listen to the stories of entrepreneurs, but have them come back and teach you what they do best. Walk you through it step by step. There’s no better place to learn than mixergypremium.com where you get courses taught by real entrepreneurs. Go check them out. And for everyone who signed up to that, thanks for supporting my work here at Mixergy. Jason, I’m going to go get things cleared up and go run a marathon.
Jason: Oh, you have a flight to catch. So I just want to say thanks. And it’s been a real pleasure and I’ve had a great time. And I just want to say congrats on the huge success of your show. It’s pretty phenomenal everything that you’ve done and everyone you’ve had a chance to talk to.
Andrew: Thanks. I’m psyched about it. I still, all these years later, I’m still so excited to have these conversations. The hard part, Jason, is not raving too much about what you’re building or what you’re doing. All right, thanks. Bye, everyone.