How to land partnerships with big national brands

Today’s guest had a problem. He wanted to give a card. He wanted to pay for a friend’s dinner remotely. He couldn’t do it and said, “I think there’s a solution here. I think I can build it.”

And he built it up and my team of researchers talked to him. We found his revenue. I, being the skeptic who’s the last barrier to having somebody on the site, said this does not seem right to me.

So I did some research and I realized this guy really is working with top brands and I’ve got to find out how he did it. So that’s what we’re going to do here today.

Matias Marquez is the founder of Buyatab, which enables an electronic version of your existing gift cards.

Matias Marquez

Matias Marquez

Buyatab

Matias Marquez is the founder of Buyatab, which enables an electronic version of your existing gift cards.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com. It is, of course, home of the ambitious upstart.

And I have to admit, I started doing these interviews before almost every single other startup entrepreneur interview thing that’s out there. Now when I listen to some of the new ones, I feel a little envious of the fact that some of them have like the huge names in business on. I was wondering: Is there a point in Mixergy, considering that some of these guys have like Richard Branson or they’ll have the founder of Clif Bar talking about how he founded Clif Bar?

Then I realized I’d rather not be the site that gives you the millionth interview with Richard Branson. I want to be the site that gives you the first interview with an entrepreneur you’ve never heard off, whose story is completely different from what you expected and opens your eyes to a new way of doing business and frankly who isn’t super-scripted and isn’t super-prepared. I want to introduce my audience to people who are brand new.

And that means a lot more work on my part. And it means that I can’t just gee whiz everything. I have to actually be a little more investigative before we get someone on. Like today’s guest, for example, he was pitched to me, and I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know if it was real. Here’s the thing.

This is a guy who had a problem. He wanted to give a card, a gift card remotely. He wanted to pay for a friend’s dinner remotely, couldn’t do it and said, “I think there’s a solution here. I think I can build it.” And he built it up and my team of researchers talked to him. We found his revenue. I, being the skeptic who’s the last barrier to having somebody on the site, said this does not seem right to me. Like what, he’s working with Whole Foods. He’s working with Bliss. He’s smiling at me. Matias is laughing as I say this.

So Matias, I’ll tell you here’s what I did. I went to the sites that your website says you work with. I went to the sites that your press releases say you work with, and I looked for your name. I couldn’t find it immediately. So then I did a view source on the freaking website, on Whole Foods’ website, on Blissworld.com’s website, and what I saw was your company name, Buyatab.com listed there. That gave me a lot of comfort and that made me realize this guy really is working with top brands here, top businesses. I’ve got to find out how he did it. So that’s what we’re going to do here today.

His name is Matias Marquez. He is the founder of Buyatab. You know when you sometimes go to some of these sites like I mentioned, like Whole Foods, and you buy not a physical gift card but a digital, a virtual gift card, the kind that makes sense, the kind that you can email or text a friend, well, those gift cards are powered by Matias’ company. Today we’re going to find out how he came up with it, how he grew it and what he’s been doing with this business.

And it’s all sponsored by two great companies. The first is Toptal. I’ll tell you how they can help you find your next great developer or designer. The next is Bench. I’ll tell you later on how they can do your books right, really organize your finances. First, Matias, good to see you.

Matias: Yeah. Thank you for having me, Andrew. And you know, thank you for that intro. It’s actually great to hear, the reason being is what we do here, I think we’re a little bit different than other companies. It’s not about us.

We’re helping brands sell their gift cards online, and it actually makes me happy that it took you–you had to go through and right click and view the source to see that it’s us, because what we deeply believe here is that when you’re on the Whole Foods website or the Four Seasons website or any of the brands we work with, that you’re there because of them. We’re behind the scenes. We’re helping them sell their cards online. That actually makes me smile inside.

Andrew: But you know what? There are also no articles about you out there. So I can’t say that Bloomberg has researched you, for example. In fact, I went to Bloomberg and what I did was they had a company profile about you, which they have for anyone. I could start a company tomorrow and they’ll have a company profile about me.

I was honest with you before this interview started, that I did this kind of research and I couldn’t find much about you. You said, “Actually, Andrew, that is intentional. This is part of the way I view the world.” So why don’t I start out by asking you that. How does this relate to the way you view the world?

Matias: Yeah. For sure. So our vision is simple. Our vision is the world’s going digital. Every gift card we think in the future will be digital. We think the way we’re best suited is by partnering with the brands, giving them tools, helping them sell their cards online.

Andrew: And you actually want to be anonymous on their sites and also as an entrepreneur, you told me, “I’d rather build a good business first and then get publicity because most entrepreneurs seem to think the opposite.” What’s the thought here?

Matias: I have obviously my thoughts on how you should build a company. I think getting a company with revenue and real clients and growing it and then doing the whole getting recognition and getting publicity, that’s what I think would be–it’s what I prefer. Obviously, there are others that do it differently.

But for us, it was let’s build something real here. Let’s get great clients. Let’s service them well. And then if the publicity stuff comes later, great, but our focus isn’t on the publicity first. The first is let’s work with our partners, let’s provide them a good product and let’s build a real company here.

Andrew: All right. Let me ask you then how real the company is. What are your revenues?

Matias: It’s funny, right? I watch your other interviews and everyone kind of squirms at that question. No one wants to share their revenue, etc. We have great revenue. We’re very successful. We have 50+ full-time staff here. We work with hundreds of brands, including brands that you mentioned like Whole Foods.

Andrew: Do you feel comfortable saying if it’s in the single millions, tens of millions?

Matias: It’s definitely north of the tens of millions.

Andrew: North of the tens of millions?

Matias: For sure.

Andrew: Now, what you know behind the scenes is what I told you before the interview started which is, “Matias, you do not have to tell me the revenues.” I actually record myself saying this to every guest. You do not have to answer that question or any others and they all confirm it. And you also know that you’ve given me numbers and I keep them private.

So, as much as people squirm, I think it’s just like instinctive squirming, but it’s not because I set it up in some kind of unfair way for the guests, which is not what you implied, but I want the audience to understand this is not some kind of a weird setup here where I bring you in and I ambush you. I do my research ahead of time. I know the number, and I also know when the person feels comfortable or not comfortable talking about it.

You got here kind of unexpectedly. You’re a guy who told our producer Arie you were serving hamburgers at McDonald’s, driving forklifts, folding shirts at stores. It wasn’t until you noticed your neighbor who was an entrepreneur and his life that made you say, “Hey, maybe this is a different approach to life.” What is it about your neighbor? What did you see?

Matias: It’s a little bit different than that. So I started Buyatab when I was at university. So I was kind of a gritty student at university always thinking of different ideas. I grew up in a town called Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver here, and it was an interesting place, right? One side of where I grew up was super gritty and kind of lower income, and then another side was kind of affluent homes and that kind of thing.

What was interesting, I think, throughout my childhood was there were certain families that you can see the transition happening. You could see like Dad starts a company, it’s super rough. They’re driving not the nicest car. Years go by and like the cars get nicer and the vacations get better. I think as a kid, I was like, “That’s firsthand right there. Look at that, there it is. You can do that.” Obviously, it’s a lot of work. But I think for sure things like that played a role, for sure.

Andrew: I see. You said, “This is at least a direction. By the way, I grew up with a lot of entrepreneurs. I did see that story, where suddenly it would be like that, a whole life changed. I also saw the opposite, where these entrepreneurs kind of kept up that Cadillac life, but behind the scenes I saw that they were suffering. I always saw the dangers in the upside of entrepreneurship and for some reason I still wanted it.

Matias: I would say I’m in the same category. I think we all have selective memories. I think the ones I pull from I think are more, wow, this person started something. It was this ramp up, but I know that people I know went through hard times to get to where she wanted to, but it’s not what I think about, I think.

Andrew: I think I’m just an optimist too because I frankly saw marriages get broken up and I still went into getting married and having kids and everything with an optimistic view that it’s going to be good.

Matias: I’m like that too, and then I watched your interview on The Honest Company and I was a bit worried about in the future having kids because I like sleeping in. I like not having to worry what’s in my detergent. I guess in that next chapter of my life, I’ll have to go into it more open.

Andrew: It really is a whole other life, and I didn’t respect it. You’re right. When I was talking to the founder of The Honest Company and I was talking about some of those challenges, it wasn’t until later that I realized I remember when we had these nannies come in to interview us and one of them looked at the diaper changing table and she said, “You have no creams here?” And we said, “We’re not cream people. I don’t need like this whole fancy-schmancy stuff. We’ve got the diaper. Are you okay with that or what? I have wipes too. You can wipe him first and then change the diaper.”

And she goes, “I think you need creams.” I go, “I don’t think I need creams. I don’t use face creams. I’m a guy.” She undoes the diaper. She shows the kid’s butt and she goes, “Look at how red it is. Stop telling me what you don’t need. Stop acting a little too above it. You have to get it together here.”

Matias: That’s funny.

Andrew: Getting to the story, the pain that you experienced that led you to start this business, it had to do with that restaurant. Can you tell that? What exactly happened that helped you identify a problem that you wanted to solve?

Matias: Yeah. I think from early on I’ve always questioned things and I’ve always wondered does it happen this way? There was a scenario where I was with some friends and we needed to get a gift card to someone. That person that we needed to get the gift card to was in another city. They were going to dinner that night. It was their birthday. You can imagine, person’s birthday, they’re going for dinner, procrastinating students. How do we gift this person something, or how do we pay for their dinner?

So we call down to the restaurant and we say, “Hey, this person is going to be at your restaurant later. Can we pay for their meal?” The person at the restaurant goes, “You can’t do that.” And we go, “We need to do it. Like, this is what we’re trying to do.” They go, “Well, I guess maybe . . .” They were trying to problem solve for us and they go, “Maybe you can fax us your credit card and some ID.” And then I go as like a university student, like, “Where would I even find a fax machine. How do I do that?”

And then we go, “Can’t we send him a gift card?” They go, “Yeah, you could. You can mail him one.” We’re like, “They’re going there tonight and to mail him a gift card, it’s going to be several days, so that doesn’t work either.” So that didn’t work, and then I remember thinking there has to be a better way here. A gift card is just the card number on the back of the card. So why can’t I SMS message this? Why can’t I email it? Why does it have to be tied to this plastic card, and why can’t I instantly send it? That was really the aha moment.

Andrew: What year was this when this didn’t exist?

Matias: I’d say 2008-2009.

Andrew: Weren’t there digital gift cards before 2008?

Matias: I mean, there wasn’t anyone really doing what we’re doing, like working with the brands to help them offer digital gift cards. I’m sure there was smaller version or people trying, but it really wasn’t a thing.

Andrew: I see. So there wasn’t a company like yours doing it on the level you’re doing it, providing it as a service for all these other brands. When Ari in the pre-interview asked about what you did to get it started, you said, “The first step was convincing myself to do it.” Why did you have to convince yourself to do it, and what was the thought process behind it?

Matias: That’s a good point, right? When you’re a young entrepreneur or wanting to be an entrepreneur, I think everyone has doubt, right? I think everyone has questions if they can do it. So what I tell younger people and people with ideas is you have what it takes, you’ve just got to find it.

So step one for me was I have this great idea. Should I go for it? When you’re in that stage of life, you have a lot of options, right? You can go and be a doctor. You can choose different, safer careers. Choosing the entrepreneurial route does come with risks. I would say step one is you have to say, “I can do this. I’ve got to go do it.”

Andrew: I think in this case, it might have been a little bit harder too because we’re talking about handling money. We’re talking about in some ways being a bank for these companies. That’s a hard thing to get past. Is that part of the calculus?

Matias: Absolutely. We process a ton of transactions. We handle a lot of money. Brands big, small, huge brands trust us with their customers and their money, absolutely. So we take what we do very seriously. We’re very heavy on–

Andrew: But to start it would have been tough. And by the way, Whole Foods is the only company that I found on a major scale that doesn’t hide your brand. They still use your URL in the display. Everyone else just it’s their service, it just happens on the backend that you guys are powering it. But when you were starting, what do you need to get started with this virtual payment processing system? What did you need? Did you need a bank account? Did you need some kind of proof they weren’t going to run away with your customers’ money? What did you do?

Matias: I think we did it a little bit the old-fashioned way. It was, “Let’s go prove ourselves. Let’s go prove that we can do this. Let’s prove that we’re actually solving a problem and there is opportunity.” So we started with some really, really small brands. We started with one-off restaurants. Obviously, the requirements of signing off a one-off mom and pop restaurant is very different than a Fortune 500 company.

Andrew: The difference is you walking door to door, like the founder of GrubHub told me he did, walking door to door, knocking, saying, “Hey, can I help you with your payment processing?” Not payment processing, with virtual gift cards, is that what it was?

Matias: It’s exactly like that, right?

Andrew: You would walk door to door. You keep saying “we.” Was there someone else doing it with you?

Matias: We would bring on people in the early days. We have a great team now. That’s something you’ll catch in me. It’s always we.

Andrew: What about the very first one? Do you remember the very first store you sold? Tell me about it.

Matias: So, to answer your question, absolutely. I’d go door to door knocking, calling small restaurants and convincing them, “Hey, you should be selling your gift cards online, and we should be the ones doing it for you.” One of the very first ones was a very funny story now. I went into this restaurant–again, one-off restaurant–and there was this pretty big guy, big build and he’s probably in his late 40s, 50s and I’m, again, early 20s, sweating, nervous.

I go to present to this guy. I pull out my computer. I go through the slides. I get through it. I’m probably drenched in sweat at this point. I’ll never forget this. He goes, “You know, Matias, I’ve got to tell you, that was terrible.” He goes, “I’m going to go with you only if you promise me that you’re going to talk slower. You’re going to come in here less nervous.”

So then I remember leaving that. I was like, “I don’t know how to feel about this.” One part of me, like this guy ripped into me, but we got the deal. So it was a funny moment. It was great advice. It was one of the first pitches I’ve ever done, and I don’t obviously talk to that person, but if I did I’d say thank you. That was an awesome experience.

Andrew: And so what was the backend process for being able to generate a card number that was unique, that was also hard enough for someone to guess and providing it and then keeping track of how much of that card was used, etc.

Matias: So I won’t go too much into the details because it gets pretty technical and pretty complex. We have phenomenal partnerships with the major processors. So think of companies like First Data. Think of companies like First Data. Think of companies like Vantiv.

Andrew: When you started, did you have those deals?

Matias: No. We didn’t.

Andrew: What did you do at first when you were going door to door? What was the backend process?

Matias: It was all us, right? At first, again, very MVP, very minimum viable product. It was us generating the cards.

Andrew: You wrote the software that did that?

Matias: I hired a firm to build the first version, but yeah, it was all us doing all of it at first.

Andrew: How much did it cost to get that first version up and running?

Matias: It was an iterative process. So it was in the tens to light hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Andrew: Wow. How’d you get that money?

Matias: I had been saving up. You’ve got to go back to who I was back then–young kid. I’ll have a down payment for a house. I’ll kind of go the safe route. I had money saved up to put a down payment on a house or whatnot.

Andrew: What did you do? It wasn’t the McDonald’s, forklift-type jobs that did that.

Matias: You know, it really is a great story. I’ve always been very gritty that way. When I was super young or 16, 17, 18, I did invest my money into the stock market. I would play with stocks, and I thought I was a bit of a mini stock market guy. So I got lucky with a few, and I was able to save up enough money to what I thought would be a good down payment on a good condo.

Andrew: And this tens of thousands of dollars that it cost you to build the first version, that was you paying it instead of putting a down payment?

Matias: Exactly. On that kind of startup mentality and that bootstrapping mentality, it really was tens of thousands of dollars initially and then adding to it on like a monthly basis and I was working full-time. So it wasn’t a huge amount of money initially, but it did get to be a significant amount before we did a capital raise or whatnot.

Andrew: Okay. Are you the same Matias who also runs Iron Man marathons?

Matias: No.

Andrew: All right. I’m Googling you as we’re talking to like research your background to see what kind of little jobs you had. What did you have in school that allowed you to save up $10,000 to $20,000?

Matias: I’ve always worked since I’ve been 15, 16.

Andrew: It’s got to be the market then. You had one big hit?

Matias: I had two good ones.

Andrew: Which ones?

Matias: When you say–I’m cautious with it because when you say you had a great hit, people think you made millions of dollars in the stock market. When I was 17, I invested in Lululemon, Tech Cominco, and I made tens of thousands of dollars.

Andrew: That’s substantial, though, when you’re talking about a teenager who brings in that kind of money. All right. Then you had your first piece of software. You personally were knocking door to door. You were learning to go slower and not run so fast through it. You were selling to local restaurants. I’m looking at early versions of your site. It seems a lot of them were in Canada, right?

Matias: We’re based here in Vancouver, Canada. The first brands we worked with were super-small restaurants here locally in Vancouver.

Andrew: You also were in the US and the UK. Why go to three different countries when you’re still pretty young?

Matias: Well, we didn’t do the–it was staged. It was in stages. Canada was first, then the US. Now we are working with brands out of the UK and Europe as well.

Andrew: Okay.

Matias: But in the early days, it was literally just local here in Vancouver.

Andrew: All right. It seems like 2010 you guys were already started to at least dabble with the UK.

Matias: It would have been inbound, right? It would have been more inbound brands than anything back then.

Andrew: I see. All right. I should tell people that if they need developers, they should just go to my sponsor, Toptal. We’re talking about great developers, the kinds of people who like you, Matias, you could live in Silicon Valley. You could actually live in San Francisco, commute down to an office in Silicon Valley. You could run that whole lifestyle, but you choose not to. You’d rather live in Vancouver where you are.

But there are a lot of great developers who say to themselves, “You know what? I know I can get a job at Google. I know that I can get a job at any one of these great tech companies at LinkedIn in Mountain View. I don’t want to live in San Francisco, drive an hour and a half to get to work. I don’t want to even be in the same location. Even if I can live in Mountain View and work in Mountain View, it’s not worth it for me.” There are a lot of these great developers who say that.

And so what Toptal said was, “Here’s our business model. We’re going to take all these guys, put them in a network.” We’re going to hire them. They’re going to be our people. Then we tell companies who don’t need someone in their office full-time, “Come to us and we’ll match you with the perfect developer who can work from anywhere for you as if that person is part of your team.”

And that’s what Toptal is about. If you need great developers full-time, part-time, a whole team of people, you can get them from Toptal, top as in top of the mountain, tal as in talent, Toptal. The nice thing about Toptal is these developers are like your full-time employees. In fact, this blew me away.

Matias, how great is this model? There are a few coding shops, a few dev shops where they only have two or three developers on staff. So if someone says I need an Android app developed or I need an iOS developed and they don’t have that person, they just go to Toptal. They hire from Toptal.

They bring the developer essentially in house to work on this one project. The end customer doesn’t even know the person was working through Toptal. It just seems like this dev shops has a ton of resources, a ton of people. So that’s the way a lot of these guys now are growing by using Toptal. I had no idea this was going on. I love knowing that inside information. So that’s what Toptal does really well. They help anyone out there hire great developers.

You heard my interview with the founder of The Honest Company, Jessica Alba’s cofounder. And as soon as I talked about Toptal and started talking about all these features and all these reasons for joining, he took his pen out–I think it was a pen–and he took notes. I actually was going through the transcript recently. He took notes on it because it was that powerful for him and he never heard of Toptal before.

If you’re listening to me, you’ve got to go check out Toptal and I’ve got a special URL where Mixergy listeners will get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when they pay for their first 80 hours and that’s of course in addition to the no risk trial period of up to two weeks–a trial period of up to two weeks for developers. Think about that. Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy.

All right. You’re starting to do this. How soon before, Matias, you hire the first person to help you out with this business?

Matias: You know, it was very much bootstrapped for the first couple years. Again, I wanted to build something that was very real, and I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to raise money until we could have an MVP and build out and actually prove the opportunity. So I would say at least a year and a half before employees started coming into the mix.

Andrew: And who’s the first person that you hired, or what’s the first position you filled?

Matias: Sales. I think I read about you that you were very sales-focused as well.

Andrew: Yeah. You talked to me about this before the interview started. You wanted to talk about or ask me about the company name I had before. What were you asking?

Matias: I thought it was a really cool story, your Bradford & Reed, how you named it, because you knew you’d be cold calling, you knew that you’d have to break down some doors. Having a name like Bradford & Reed will get you through the door.

Andrew: Yeah. It’s amazing how people will just take a call from a company like Bradford & Reed because they assume–at the time, they thought it was some kind of a venture firm, but they assume it’s that or a law firm or something that’s critical for them to get on a phone for. Then they would get on a phone and it would just be me, a 21-year old goofy kid and I could sell to them and they would be excited that I let them in on that little secret. Did you have an issue as Buyatab?

Matias: I mean, we have a phenomenal lead source now and inbound and you name it, but back then, people didn’t know who we were. We didn’t have the marquee clients to reference. So tons of funny stories of being on the road, tons of funny situations where you’d walk in somewhere and be told to turn around. I think that’s the life though of starting something brand new. Until you have that name built up, it does take a lot of effort, for sure.

Andrew: You guys didn’t have much money. You’ve got to tell people how you’d get to meetings when you really wanted to show up in person to prove you were worthy of being trusted with so much money.

Matias: Absolutely, right? I travel a lot for what I do. The team travels a lot. Traveling today is a lot different than it was traveling five, six, seven years ago. We had so many–I look back and think of all the fun times we had. We still have a lot of fun now, but back then, there was just so many gritty, crazy times.

Andrew: Do you remember any of them?

Matias: I do, for sure. I’ll tell you a really funny one. We used to Hotwire a lot. We used to Hotwire three-star, four-star hotels or whatever. I developed this term back then. I would say I got Hotwired. It can go either way. Like I’d get Hotwired and end up in some luxurious suite and be super happy it was a great place to stay, but it would work the other way sometimes, where I’d get Hotwired and you’d be in like some motel or some rundown hotel.

Andrew: Because with Hotwire you just say, “Here’s the city I’m going to and how much I’m willing to pay and that’s it. You don’t know until you’ve booked the room.” I’ve used them and I think you could even end up at a hotel that’s like the Hilton hotel and you think, “I scored. This is fantastic.” Then you get there and you realize they’re going through construction. There’s a construction operation going right next door to you.

Matias: And the guys at the hotel are putting you right near the construction. I remember being in Toronto once and we got Hotwired pretty bad. There was like this motel or this small hotel right where all the TDC train cars pull into. It was a really tough part of town. It was still considered downtown, I guess, because that’s what we booked. I remember walking into the room.

I get into this room. The guy is like sleeping at the front counter and I walked to get my key and I walk into the room and there’s no security or anything. You just walk into the room right into this super bad area. I get into the room. I look at the bathroom. I turn on the shower. The shower has no hot water. I’ve got this meeting tomorrow. I’ve got to have hot water.

So as any normal hotel guest, you call the front desk. So I called the front desk and I say, “Hey, hot water is not working. I need this to work.” The guy says, “No problem. I’ll send someone down.” Sure enough, a few minutes later, the same guy who checked us in, “I’m here to fix the shower.” So he comes in, he’s got no tools with him and he turns on the shower and it’s cold. He hits it and then he goes, “There you go.” So that was a funny story.

Andrew: I wonder if they still even do that at Hotwire. I think now they’re just a standard search engine.

Matias: I think you can still book randomly. But that being said, there were stories the other way. There were stories where we’d pay $100 a night or whatever and we’d end up at some great hotel and have the other side of it. Definitely it was worth the risk, I would say.

Andrew: I heard you used to take buses to get to meetings, which is a good way to save money, but. . .

Matias: Yeah. I think a lot of entrepreneurs will relate to this. When you’re starting something brand, brand new, every dollar matters, everything matters. We were on the extreme in the early days where we would fly on points, we’d book through Hotwire. Again, it wasn’t about the publicity. It wasn’t about spending money at lavish hotels. It was about let’s build a product that customers and brands really love and everything else will fall into place. I recommend that strategy to anyone.

Andrew: What about the name Buyatab? The idea behind Buyatab is I usually would put the meal on my tab. I guess the idea is I put it on my tab if we were all having dinner together. I’d pay for it. If I’m going to buy it for you, then I’m going to buy the tab. That’s the idea, right? That’s where the name came from?

Matias: A little bit different. So, nowadays when I talk to entrepreneurs, I share this story a lot because I think when you’re starting something, if you look at it from a probability perspective, what are the odds that you build something that is exactly what the market needs? So you have this vision and you build something initially that’s exactly what the market needs or you build something and you’re almost there.

It’s probably way more likely that your first version or the first thing you build is just off the mark. That’s what happened with us. When I first started Buyatab, the idea was a website, so a website you went to, to buy a gift card online. These were digital gift cards and we thought we’d trademark them as tabs. So the idea was you go to Buyatab.com to buy a digital gift card. What I learned really quickly was that it was very hard to acquire customers. It was very hard to advertise and to get someone to come to your website to buy something.

Now, as I’m learning that–again, we had some small restaurants, we had some small brands that we were selling their gift cards on the website. As I was learning that it was expensive to acquire customers, at the same time, something great was happening. The brands were linking on their websites, “Buy our gift card, click here.” And it was linking to our website.

At that point, I had a real, real aha moment. I said, “These brands don’t want to send their customers where you can buy someone else’s gift card. All they want to do is sell their gift card online. That’s where we pivoted. It was a pivot to, “Okay, this is what we do. We help brands sell gift cards online. We help them sell their gift cards online.” It’s a bit of a long story, but that’s–

Andrew: No, that makes sense. I’m wondering how you validated that. Was there a validation of that? Before you built out these integrations that right now look so pure, so connected that I couldn’t tell your part apart from their site, how did you know that was the right direction to go in?

Matias: It really comes down to I’d say you’ve got to look at things objectively. So me, back then, great idea, website to sell gift cards. Looking at that, looking at the analytics and seeing the traffic is coming from these redirects, so objectively looking at that and saying, “Okay, here’s something.”

It’s easy to get ego caught up. It’s easy to get caught up in things. But look at what you have available to you. Analytics are phenomenal. That really was the big pivot for us. That’s where we now have our–that’s what took the company from a startup to where we are today is realizing that, hey, these brands want to sell gift cards online, and the customers want to buy from them. That’s why when you are on purchasing, it was so difficult for you to tell who we were.

Andrew: But there was no conversation with the customer before you created it. There was no experiments. There was no MVP. It was just you looking at the data and saying they don’t want to link out to us and say they don’t want to have their customer see all these other options.

Matias: Yes. It’s also everything is an iterative process. So it’s like okay, this is what the brands want. Build a version of the site that can do that, that’s what we really got picking up some volume and some traction. I think when you start picking up revenue that quickly, it’s kind of right there in front of you, right?

Andrew: I see.

Matias: Yeah.

Andrew: What’s Chatterbait.com? Do you guys also do porn sites?

Matias: No.

Andrew: No?

Matias: I don’t know what’s in your search browser.

Andrew: I’m looking at referrals to see where you get traffic. The number one source of traffic for you that’s not like search or social is Whole Foods Market. Then I just keep going down the list to see like is there something going on here. I see like GiftCardGranny.com. That makes sense.

Matias: Definitely not.

Andrew: No, you don’t work with them. You eventually raised money. Why?

Matias: The opportunity is huge. We’re on this phenomenal growth curve. It’s been such a fun ride for myself and the large team. When we started landing really big brands and I would say even when we started landing regional brands and the revenue started coming from it, it was okay. I’m comfortable going to raise money. I’m comfortable having people invest in this because we’re on something special here. Ever since then, it’s been just a rocket ship.

We have phenomenal brands that use us. Customers and just the public in general is more and more buying online and going towards digital. So to support the growth that we’re on, it was the right thing to do.

Andrew: Where did you put the money towards? Was it sales, was it development? Was it something else?

Matias: Sales and marketing is always exciting for us. Everything we raised money, we’ve gone and invested in sales and marketing. Growing the platform, we were very pro-compliances. We’re very pro certifications. We have this huge amount of volume coming our way. It’s just the right thing to do is to invest in the platform and offer this solution to more brands.

Andrew: Okay. What do you charge for it?

Matias: Not many people ask that, actually. We share in the success with the brands. We’re happy to go into a program and say, “Let’s help you sell gift cards online. We’ll take a percentage and benefit when you guys sell a ton.”

Andrew: It’s a percentage of sales.

Matias: Generally speaking, yeah.

Andrew: When we’re talking about a percentage, how big or small?

Matias: It depends on–

Andrew: Ballpark it. Are we talking 1%, 10%, 50%?

Matias: It’s not 50%.

Andrew: It’s not 50%. Is it 10%? Can you give a ballpark or a range?

Matias: It’s tough because it depends on volume. It depends on industry. It depends on a bunch of things. It’s definitely not 50% and it’s not 1%.

Andrew: Okay. But that’s all you can say.

Matias: Sure.

Andrew: Wow. Did you get into the loyalty business too?

Matias: Yeah. So that’s a great piece of our business. I try not to get too into that in these kinds of interviews because it does get a bit complicated. You’ve got to think digital gift cards. There are phenomenal applications for them. If you, Andrew, wanted to buy your sister a gift card or a family member a gift card, there’s a great gifting component. You can go and you can buy one online and have it delivered instantly, great application, a big reason why customers buy digital gift cards.

Another great application is for loyalty incentive companies, reward companies. Why it’s such a great application for them is because Andrew, if you have credit card points or employee recognition points and you want to use those points, you’ll want to use them on travel. You’ll want to use them on experiences, but you’ll also want to use them to get gift cards. You as the person who gave me those points, you’ll really like redeeming them for a digital gift card because you’ll get it right away.

I’m assuming if you were redeeming your points, you’d rather get the gift card instantly than have to wait three, four, five, six weeks. So digital gift cards have a great application when it comes to loyalty.

Andrew: I see. And that’s why I’m seeing GiveX.com as one of your referrals.

Matias: No. GiveX is a partner of ours. They’re a processor. So they’re First Data, like an SVS, like a Vantiv.

Andrew: I see.

Matias: Yeah. The processors are the guys managing terminals and the card numbers. So the cards work at the locations. I installed over them.

Andrew: I didn’t realize they did that. I thought you had to build that whole thing yourself.

Matias: No. This is a great–this is a barrier to entry. It’s also great partnerships we’ve developed. So, if you take someone like Tim Horton’s, who has thousands of locations. When we go and say, “Hey, Tim Horton’s, let’s help you sell your gift cards online,” it would be very difficult to put an additional terminal, an additional piece of hardware at these locations. Because we’ve partnered with their providers, we’re able to run the cards through that existing infrastructure.

Andrew: I see.

Matias: So the brands can sell their gift cards online. They can use all the great tools and features we give them and they can leverage their existing hardware to do so.

Andrew: All right. Second sponsor for this interview is a company called Bench. Do you ever have an issue with bookkeeping at your company? How soon before you hired someone?

Matias: Again, probably in the early days, I was the one doing the books for everything else. We have a phenomenal accounting team today, so no issues with the books right now.

Andrew: But do you remember how painful it was when you were doing it yourself?

Matias: Absolutely. And you know, Bench is a local company. They’re out of Vancouver here. So, a lot of great things to say about Bench. I know I’ve met one of the cofounders, Jordan, a few times–super stand up dude. So, a lot of good things to say about Bench.

Andrew: I had this issue where I was using QuickBooks, which was the worst–the worst. I did QuickBooks the software because I thought that’s the way that they were pushing me to use their software, the downloadable software. Then I said, “You know what? Screw it. I prefer to do everything in the browser.” So I went to the browser version.

Everything was such a pain because I have lots of little revenue sources. So it would be like I’d take a $25 sale from PayPal, enter it in. I’d take a $30 sale from American Express and put it in. Then I’d keep track of all my freaking receipts. Where did this go? Where did that go? It has to bounce right to the penny or else maybe I screwed up something else. Sometimes if you’re off by a penny, it’s an indication there’s a bigger discrepancy.

So I did that for a long time. I couldn’t get my taxes done on time. I didn’t know month to month whether we were making money or not. I just took it on faith that things were going to be okay. I missed a lot of opportunities because I didn’t realize what was actually working for me. I didn’t realize where the money was going. I didn’t realize what I could be spending. Especially as an entrepreneur who wants to grow, you want to spend as much as possible without being crazy and risk–well, without being crazy. You do want to be risk tolerant.

Anyway, we don’t have to do that. A lot of entrepreneurs out there are going through this. If you’re listening to me, you’re probably feeling guilty, like, “I can’t believe I didn’t get this right. It’s not your fault. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re building this business. You shouldn’t be getting it right. You shouldn’t be dealing with all this QuickBooks and other accounting software. You shouldn’t even hire a virtual assistant to do it because a virtual assistant who’s not experienced in this is going to make mistakes. What you want is not even a bookkeeper. You want a bookkeeping service.

By the way, why a bookkeeper and not software? I’ve tried software. Software on its own does not work. It inevitably makes some mistake where it miscategorizes something and it screws things up. The nice thing about Bench is they are a combination of great software. There’s no one just sitting and typing in each PayPal order you get if you’re listening to me. They suck it in automatically, they organize it automatically but they also have human beings who go through it, make sure everything is done right, everything is categorized right.

If one of the human beings happens to get hit by a bus, the whole accounting system doesn’t go bust for you. There’s a whole team of people there. If someone gets pregnant and needs to take some time off, no problem. We just continue because it’s a whole team at Bench. And as you’ve heard from Matias, they’re run by really good people.

We’ve heard that frankly, if you’re listening to me, from lots of interviewees here who know about Bench. If you don’t know Bench, I want you to check out a special URL that they’re giving just Mixergy people because they’re going to give you 20% off your first six months, 20% off. Frankly, they shouldn’t even do that. Their prices are super low as it is. They work great. But here’s the URL–Bench.co/Mixergy.

I’m hearing, Matias, as I talk, my voice just keeps going and going. It’s because I had surgery on my nose just a few days ago. I should not be doing interviews now. I should not be running and I shouldn’t be doing interviews. I said, “What if I run a little bit?” He said, “I can’t stop you, but don’t do it.” So, I ran six miles. So, “What if I talk a little bit?” He goes, “I can’t stop you.” So, I’m talking all day today. It’s worth it.

Matias: You sound great. Yeah. I would echo the stuff about Bench. Again, they’re out of Vancouver, so are we, so a lot of good things to say about them as well.

Andrew: Yeah. It’s important the people doing your books are good people. They’re not assholes. And Bench’s motto, actually, is “We Are Not Assholes.” Go check it out, Bench.co/Mixergy. You’ll see right under their logo and my logo, which is on that URL, it says, “Bench.co: We Are Not Assholes.” Thank you, Bench, for not being assholes and for sponsoring Mixergy. I imagine they’re going to ask for a refund for that ad just for that. We’ll find out. Sachit will tell us.

What was it like to raise money? Was it easy because you had already proven out your model?

Matias: I get asked this question a lot. Investors don’t–you can’t just–this is just one person, this is just my opinion–you can’t just show up with an idea and say, “Give me a bunch of money.” If you’re that investor, it’s risky, right? This kid or this young person has this idea. Maybe next week they don’t have this idea anymore and they want to do something else. But if you can show up with a product and with sweat equity and really money of this person, that’s a lot more appealing.

For me, again, we’re building a real business here. That was the mentality from day one. It wasn’t let’s build an actual business here. Let’s prove the opportunity.

Andrew: Who did you raise from, and what was it like to raise? I’m on your AngelList profile. I don’t see any investors.

Matias: Yeah. We have a great group of investors here locally, high net worth guys ranging from different–

Andrew: It’s angels?

Matias: Absolutely, angels.

Andrew: Oh, really? How much did you raise from angels?

Matias: Again, confidential.

Andrew: You can’t say that? Can you give me a ballpark on that?

Matias: It’s not–we’re very different, right? We’re 50 people. We’ve hit profitability. We’ve raised money strategically and from super smart guys. We don’t over-raise. So I would say we’ve raised less money than you think we have.

Andrew: Can you give a ballpark? Can you say over $1 million, less than $1 million? I’m okay if you can’t. I’m just asking whether that’s possible, seriously.

Matias: Yeah. I’d say we’ll keep it confidential for now.

Andrew: Who’s one of the angels who’s a strategic investor?

Matias: A ton. We have phenomenal investors.

Andrew: Can you give one of them? Is it Tobias from Shopify?

Matias: No, it’s not Tobias from Shopify. It’s funny because he’s Canadian.

Andrew: He seems to be connected to everybody. Everybody for some reason loves that guy. So he’s not connected to you?

Matias: Not connected to me, no. Local guys here that have been very successful, I don’t know if you’d know a ton of them, guys how have started phenomenal agencies, guys that have run phenomenal brick and mortar companies. Really a great group of people that are really my friends. It’s been a phenomenal relationship I’ve had with them.

Andrew: And you can’t even say who they are.

Matias: I can tell you who.

Andrew: Give me one or two of them that we might know. Actually, I don’t even care about whether we know them or not, I want to think about how strategic you are. Give me someone who fits that criteria, who’s a strategic investor.

Matias: Well, guys like Yuri Fulmer. He’s a very successful person here in Canada, phenomenal friend and mentor of mine. Now, the way I see the world is building a business that does the amount of revenue that we do doesn’t work if it’s 50 Matis’. So I’ve been able to partner and work and bring people on who are very smart, very great at their capabilities that are different than mine. So it’s been a phenomenal group of people doing a great thing.

Andrew: I see. He’s on your board. He is from Fulmer Capital Partners in addition to FDC Capital Partners. What do they do? They’re a boutique private equity firm.

Matias: Exactly.

Andrew: How is that a strategic fit for you?

Matias: Personally, he’s a phenomenal guy. He’s very philanthropic. He’s done some phenomenal things. Other people that are definitely worth noting are guys like Johann Tergesen, who’s, again, a mentor and a really good friend of mine. Guys like Harald Will, who’s on our board as well. Harald started a phenomenal company called ACL, which is like the leader in auditing software.

Andrew: Okay.

Matias: Again, great individuals, all who have played a big role in supporting me and shaping what we we’ve been doing.

Andrew: I see. He created, Harald Will, a brokerage compliance software solution which was acquired by DST Systems. I get a sense of this. So what was it like getting to know those people? Were you plugged into them before, or how did you even get to know these guys?

Matias: Through Buyatab. Again, bootstrapped the company from the beginning, built this phenomenal momentum and then brought on people. It’s really that story of bringing the right people on the bus.

Andrew: How did you do it? How did you get those people in? Is there an example that you can give us of how you met one of them?

Matias: Yeah. Back in the early days, running around local restaurants in Vancouver, helping the brands sell gift cards online, Yuri had owned a chain of steakhouses. We had sold his marketing department. They launched our solution on their site. He ended up exiting from that business.

After he exited, he gave me a call and say, “Hey, Matias. I’m no longer with Mr. Mikes. But I really like what you guys are doing. I saw the value firsthand.” That’s really how that kind of kicked off, which again is great. Again, we believe in building this thing. Great product, great customers, taking care of our customers and it’s led to things like that have just elevated us to go further.

Andrew: I see. I get it. He seems like the right kind of entrepreneur to be connected with because he’s not part of this whole group think, tech think bubble. He’s got incredible experience. I’ve been researching as we’re talking. He’s put together a portfolio. Where was it? An entrepreneur from the age of 19, Yuri successfully built up a $60 million business portfolio before he turned 30. So, he’s run several companies. His company was listed twice on the Profit 100 as one of the country’s, meaning Canada’s, largest and fastest growing private companies. He’s just been involved in lots of different businesses, right?

Matias: And, Andrew, those are just a couple of the investors, right? We have a great list. Our talent pool is like from the board, from the investors all the way to our customer service team, right? And that’s why you always hear me say we, right? Yeah, I’m the founder. I started this. But the amount of transactions and the brands we work with and all the things we’ve done is because of everyone. That’s why even back to your earlier questions, that’s what we’re about. We’re about helping brands and being together and doing this and that’s, again, why you’re not seeing me all over the place because it’s really about we.

Andrew: I get it. So I have someone in the office who I work with who asked, “Hey, how did you bring on the other people on the Mixergy team?” So I gave him the example of April. I said, I needed a writer at Mixergy and I didn’t know how to find a good one. I saw that my friend Ramit Sethi was doing an aggressive hiring campaign to try to find the right writer. That guy is insanely detail-oriented.

So I said, “Hey, Ramit, I bet you hired someone at this point.” He said, “Yes, I did.” I said, “Can you tell me about the person you didn’t hire, that you would have hired if you could have hired two, the person who you wanted to and you may be regretting that you want to still be associated with.” He said, “There’s this woman, April.” He introduced me to April. I loved working with her. We started working together and have been now for half a decade. Do you have examples of how you hire that helps me understand your thought process? Help me understand how you hire in a way that makes your people special?

Matias: Absolutely. This is something that we obviously talk a lot about. It’s super core to what we do. So we have our core values. The acronym is EGC, which also could be an acronym for electronic gift cards. That’s what drives everything in terms of our people. So the E stands for entrepreneurial, the G stands for genuine, and the C stands for creative.

So when we’re bringing people on, that’s the first thing we’re looking for. We say, “How did they rank from an EGC perspective?” The way we see things is that if they have those things, then everything else comes secondary. So, as we’re bringing on a developer, that developer when he comes in for the first interview, he’s not talking to other developers.

The people he’s talking to, they can’t question his skill set or ask him questions about his programming skills. What are they looking for? They’re looking for how entrepreneurial is this person? How genuine are they? How creative are they? If they pass that test, then the can go to the next round and then can be questioned about their skills, etc.

Andrew: How can you tell how entrepreneurial someone is in a test?

Matias: Questions, right? Tell me about a challenge that you ran into that you solved? Did someone do something that made you made and how’d you get past that? We’re looking for people that act like real entrepreneurs that are trying to solve problems themselves. This is huge for us. If someone has the core values we have, we’ll take someone who’s got the core values with no experience versus someone who’s got tons of experience without the core values.

Andrew: I see. Your questions are about a time when they expressed one of these characteristics.

Matias: Yeah. Also problem solving–you have this problem. You’ve got two people discussing this. You name it, right? How would you go about solving it? Again, ways to find out how creative they are. Our HR director here, I’m definitely not giving her enough justice because she does a better job than I do at this stuff, but it’s critical to what we do. For us, we know that every touchpoint with our clients, every touchpoint with their customers, it all comes down to those core values.

Andrew: You heard how the founder of Honest Company, the cofounder, said that he mines all the feedback that they get for ways to improve. Like I remember him famously telling me that one of the things they discovered was when they started out making the wipes for kids’ butts, they just copied the same size as everyone else, and then he started mining all the feedback and he discovered that people weren’t fully covering their hand, so they were always a little afraid that they get a little poop on their hands, which I get.

So he said, “Why don’t we go a little bit bigger?” which he did and then he ended up with a product his customers love. Do you do anything like that, to understand the problems your customers have as a way of creating a better product for them?

Matias: Absolutely.

Andrew: What do you do, and how do you do it?

Matias: Our account management team, this is critical and really everything that drives them is they’re so tightly connected to our product development team. The reason is our clients are such a great source of what products we should be providing. It’s even more important in our industry because we’re going into a digital world. We’re trying to move these brands that sell lots of physical gift cards to digital gift cards.

Now, we can it here and think of all the ideas and all the tools they can use and would need, but I can tell you who knows exactly what they need. It’s the brands. So we’re serving our clients. We’re getting feedback from them and we’re getting features and tools they’re asking for. It’s amazing.

I’ll sit in a sales presentation and we’ll explain a new feature that we built to our prospective client and they’ll say to us, “How did you think of this? This is exactly what we needed.” We’ll literally say like, “You can’t give us the credit. It wasn’t us. Another merchant asked for that.”

Andrew: Do you have a specific example of something like that that came up?

Matias: A bunch, but one that’s very [inaudible 00:55:36] is our tool called Card Valet. So a lot of the brands when we first met with them, they were mailing out gift cards if you called in with a complaint. So say you bought a coffee and it was too hot or it wasn’t the right size and you call them and say, “Hey, this coffee. I’m not happy.” They would say, “Hey, Andrew, we’re going to make it right. We’re going to send you a $10 gift card. What’s your address?” That kind of sucks for you because you’re sitting there waiting for weeks or days for that card to arrive.

Now what our partners do is they login to their back office, they generate a card on the fly and they go, “Andrew, sorry to hear you had a bad experience, I’m going to send you a digital gift card while you’re on the phone with me.”

Andrew: I see.

Matias: That from a customer experience is great.

Andrew: It will be inbox while I’m talking to them.

Matias: Literally you won’t get off the phone until you get the card.

Andrew: How did you know that was an issue for them? This is one person removed, right? This is your customer experiencing the pain of their customer and finding a way to funnel that data back to you. How did that happen?

Matias: It goes back to our clients are such an asset for us. So, you can image the conversations back then, right? We were helping a great brand sell gift cards online and they go, “Matias, it’s great. We’re selling these gift cards online. We’re selling lots of them. You know what would be great is if I can send one of these to when a customer calls me.” Boom. Phenomenal.

Andrew: I see.

Matias: Really, it is about taking good care of our customers and giving them the tools.

Andrew: Do you have a process for doing that, for making sure you talk to your customers and soliciting these kinds of requests and issues?

Matias: Absolutely.

Andrew: What is it?

Matias: So, there are specific processes, where before we build out new features, we send out surveys, you name it. But it goes even higher than that. So, again, our vision is the world’s going digital and we see all gift cards going digital. Now, our mission statement is to partner with the brands. Our mission, it’s we’re going partner with the brands and we’re going to work with them and they’re going to tell us what they want so we can better transition them into digital.

So it is ingrained in our vision and our mission statement that we work with the brands, we listen to them. So we have tons of processes and procedures in place, but when that’s part of your mission statement, everyone jumps on board.

Andrew: Do you have an example of that, of how someone jumped on board because they knew this was part of the mission?

Matias: For sure. We do a lot of customer support. We provide customer support for all the brands we sell the gift cards for. Our customer service team, they write down dispositions and they tag calls for reasons. Our customer service team has a funnel right into the product development team to say, “Here’s why customers are calling. Here are features we think, the customer service team, we think we should be adding to make the customers better for the merchants.” So even customer service has a direct funnel into the product development team.

Andrew: I see. Okay. I bought–I had a member of Mixergy, a listener of Mixergy was going through financial difficulties and he told me how he wasn’t eating well. So we bought him a gift card for Whole Foods. I wanted him to eat healthy and I didn’t want to pick out the food for him. We gave him a gift card. The gift card comes in. I could imagine myself hitting reply on it and saying–I get the receipt–I can imagine hitting reply and saying, “Did he get it?” That would go to you.

Matias: Exactly. So two things there–one, we have a great what we call a delivery tracking system, meaning that when you buy that card, you as the purchaser, you get notified when the person receives it. That’s a great feature. Again, it came from customer support saying, “Hey, we should be notifying. . .”

Andrew: Came because somebody maybe did what I imagine I might have done before, which is I get the email, I hit reply, I say, “Did this guy get it?” You guys say, “Yes, he did get it,” and then someone on the support team says, “We’re getting a lot of requests about did we get it. How about we automate it and we tell everyone when the gift card was received?”

Matias: Absolutely. Another good example is the thank feature. So, when you get a digital gift card today as the recipient, there’s a button at the bottom that says, “Thank the purchaser.” So you can actually thank the person for saying, “Hey, thanks for sending me this card.” Why that was added was because you had people responding to the email that was coming from us to say thank you. We’re like, “We’ll appreciate the thank you, but you should be thanking the buyer.”

So if you add the feedback and the suggestions for the merchant, which are an asset to us, and you add up the feedback from the customer service team and you add the feedback from the developers and just the team in general, it’s amazing what you can get if you listen. It’s been phenomenal for us. It’s ingrained in our mission statement, our vision. It’s part of what we do.

Andrew: Let me go back just a little bit. I know we’re over time and I’ve got to end this interview at some point here, but I’ve got to just understand this. I understand how for your customers’ customers, for the person who’s going to the restaurant, having a digital gift card to give makes sense.

I did not, for example, with Whole Foods, want Whole Foods to send me a plastic card for me then to have to remember to forward this to the person by the time he got it, it’s all done. He forgot what the issue was, he forgot that he told me five minutes ago that he wasn’t eating well. But Whole Foods doesn’t have that problem, right?

So, when you’re selling to Whole Foods, how do you convince them to switch to digital when it’s not that pressing for them, when it’s pressing to their customers? I would not complain to Whole Foods. If you guys didn’t exist, I would just say, “Ah, we can’t send it to Whole Foods, let’s do something else.”

Matias: If you think of the brands we work with–Four Seasons, Fairmont, Whole Foods, Bliss–these brands, we call them brand-conscious brands. What we mean by that is they really, really care about their customers. They care about the experience.

So, when you’re working and talking to brands like that and you explain to them it’s going to make your customer’ s life easier and here’s the benefits to your customers, they listen. It’s ingrained in what they do. So, when we explain to them the benefit, to their customers and the better experience their customers are going to get, their eyes go wide open because that’s at the end of the day what it’s all about.

Andrew: I see because they’re constantly on the hunt for ways to make their customers lives a little bit better.

Matias: Absolutely. If you look at what has made so many of these brands so successful, you can argue that’s been at the core of it.

Andrew: I see. All right. You know what? This story is too good to not put in the interview. Y2K, I don’t know that people remember what the issue was with Y2K. This is just kind of tacked onto the interview at the end. Let’s assume the interview is over, we said goodbye, we’ve got to add this little story to the end because it’s just so fun. What was the issue with Y2K?

Matias: Sure. I got asked–just for some background–I got asked for examples of me being like a disruptor and things like that.

Andrew: Yeah, by Ari. We’re like constantly hunting for little stories that tell us who you are.

Matias: There’s a funny story of when I was a kid. So I’m sure everyone remembers when the clock was going from 1999 to the year 2000. Everyone thought all the computers were going to blow up. People would lose all their money.

Andrew: Because the old computers didn’t record dates in four numbers. They needed to save space, so they recorded the two numbers. ’01 we imagined at the time would mean 1901 to some of these computers and then these computers would go haywire and suddenly either take your money or toss money at you in the face.

Matias: Right. I remember–I was 12 at the time. I remember this being so ridiculous. How does someone build a system in 1995 and not think of what’s going to happen? I remember thinking this is so ridiculous. We’re on the West Coast. We’re in the Pacific time zone. My parents had a party. I was the middle child. I could get away with sneaking away for a little while. It was New Year’s, everyone starts counting down. Then everyone, all the adults are so nervous thinking the world’s going to end or the bank accounts are going to freeze, you name it. They’re counting down.

I had known that at least I thought I knew that because New York and other time zones had crossed over, there’s absolutely nothing happening here, right? So, anyways, people start counting down, “5. . . 4. . . 3. . . 2. . . 1. . .” I run to the back room where the electrical switch is and as soon as it goes to zero, I hit the main power button. I remember going back out there and everyone was like, “This is actually happening?”

Andrew: “We’re in trouble. The ATMs. Run to the ATMs.”

Matias: I thought that was funny.

Andrew: That’s such a great story.

Matias: You can say that back then I was trying to disrupt.

Andrew: Smart. You are still continuing to disrupt. I can’t imagine in like five years, let alone ten years people will still be doing plastic gift cards. It might be like a nice thing, like I don’t know, the guy who came here today, apparently he didn’t know Yellow Submarine was by the Beatles because he’s like 19 years old, 18 years old. So, someone gave him a CD of Yellow Submarine. He can’t even put it in his computer. It doesn’t have a disk drive.

But it’s kind of like a nice little relic. So maybe I can imagine in that sense plastic gift cards surviving. But digital is the way to go. I’m proud to know the guy who’s pioneering it. I’m proud to know the guy who apparently I had done business with and didn’t even know he existed.

Matias: And like I said, that makes us happy, right? Again, we’re helping the brands sell their gift cards online and if you’re buying cards and not knowing we’re behind it, that’s a feather in our cap and we’re happy to hear that.

Andrew: All right. I bet there’s a lot of people listening to us have had that experience too. They’ve used Buyatab. It might even be in their inbox from something like Whole Foods. And now we know the name of the company behind it and we know how the company was built. I’m so proud to have you on here. I’ll give out the URL. It’s Buyatab.com. You can go check it out.

And of course my two sponsors for this interview are the company that’s going to actually do your books right, no matter how small or how big you are, they can handle your books right. You’ll have like a scorecard on a regular basis of how much money you guys are making, where you’re spending it, etc. Anyway, go to Bench.co/Mixergy.

And if you need a great developer, really one of the best of the best, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. Top as in top of the mountain, tal as in talent, Toptal.com/Mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring and to all of you for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.


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