Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses, and I do it by talking really, really fast because I don’t have time to waste. Today’s guest is someone who’s listened to my interviews before. He sent me an email, a really nice one talking about what he liked in my site and said, “Hey, can . . . I’ve got this new book. I thought I’d make a good guest.” And I said, “No, I’m not interviewing you about your book.” Just kind of an awkward thing to say to somebody. But I had a sense that his company was really interesting, and the more I looked into it, frankly, to be honest with you, Steve, before I responded, I spent a lot of time just looking into this because I get so anxious about saying no.
I spent some time looking at your site and finally said, “You know? I’m really fascinated by the company. Let’s just talk about how he built his company.” And so I will say this, Steve Glaveski is the author of a book called “Employee to Entrepreneur: How to Earn Your Freedom and Do Work That Matters,” but we’re not going to be talking about that.
We’re going to be talking about his company. It’s called Collective Campus. The idea behind that is, you know, you see these startup ideas that are just so good and then you go back into the corporate world and you say, “Oh, you guys are still stuck in the Dunder Mifflin days.” You’re still like the TV show “The Office.” Why aren’t you picking it up on some of this stuff?
Well, the idea behind Collective Campus is they’re helping bigger companies pick up on these startup ideas, and they do it through hackathons. They do it through online education. They do it through in-person education and so many other things. I’ve invited him here to talk about how he made Collective Campus into a successful company, and we can do this, thanks to two sponsors. The first will host your website right. It’s called HostGator, and the second will help you hire your next phenomenal developer. It’s called Toptal.
Steve, good to have here.
Steve: It’s an absolute pleasure to be on the program, Andrew.
Andrew: Let’s talk dollars and cents, while you still like me. What’s the revenue of Collective Campus?
Steve: It’s been around for three years, and at the moment our revenue is just over $1.3. We’re on target for $2 million this financial year. So that $1.3 given that we’re so early in our sort of life cycle, has put us into the top 100 fastest growing companies in Australia.
Andrew: Wait, $1.3 million over what? Twelve months?
Andrew: So that means since November 2017, November 2018?
Steve: So our financial year here is June to June. So, ’17, ’18. June to June.
Andrew: Okay. I told you how I was going to describe your company before the interview started. You winced. It was like, Andrew. This is like, all right, fine. It’s oversimplifying but fine. Well, how would you describe it better? Where do you guys make your money?
Steve: So it’s interesting because I usually focus in on our purpose, and then I talk about what we actually do. So, at our core we’re about unlocking the latent potential of people to create impact. And the reason why I say that is because we work with corporates on training, on capability building, on culture change consulting, on hackathons, accelerator programs and so on. But a big part of that is your corporate accelerator programs, which means that we work with a hell of a lot of startups. We’ve incubated close to 100 startups in the past three years that have collectively raised about $25 million U.S. dollars.
Andrew: What do you mean you’ve incubated them through . . . What’s . . . how does that work? I saw that on your website and have to be honest, I didn’t fully understand it.
Steve: Totally cool. So what we do is, say, we will work with a large organization whose industry is perhaps under threat in some way thanks to technology.
Andrew: Let’s come up with someone who’s specific. What’s an example of a company that you’d partner with?
Steve: Yeah, sure. So a company that we partner with is Charter Hall, which is a large commercial real estate investment trust. So they make a lot of their money through buying large commercial assets, oftentimes securitizing that and trading that on a secondary market as well.
Andrew: Okay. So they came to you and they said what, “Our problem is that real estate is . . . ”
Steve: Well, real estate has not changed in ever. You know, it’s an archaic industry. It’s very slow to move, and they are relatively new real estate investment trust. By new I mean they’re about 25 years old. But they still have a rather progressive culture. And they said, “Look, we realize that unless we do something, unless we change the way we go about things, we’re probably going to get left behind. The market might get fragmented. We need help. What can you do for us? How can we get exposure to some of these proptech startups that we’re hearing about all the time in the media?” Because in 2016 proptech startups raised about $2.6 billion worldwide.
Steve: Property tech, real estate technology.
Andrew: So they come to you and they say, “Look, we want in on this, we’ve got some money. You go find startups in this property tech space, we will back them. You help them grow”?
Steve: More or less, more or less. Although we had to . . . they didn’t come to us with that. We as part of our sort of outreach campaigns reached out to them amongst many other organizations and they wanted to do a bunch of internal stuff and I said, “Look, changing internally a big organization with hundreds of staff that requires a . . . it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” You got to work on your processes, your systems, your values, your culture.
If you guys are looking for faster returns, what we can do is, we can partner you with some startups that are working in your industry and we can incubate them. It’s basically a 13 week program where we’ll work with the startups, we’ll provide coaching, mentorship, we’ll work on their business models, we’ll, find ways that Charter Hall in this case can leverage its domain expertise, its assets, its networks, its resources to help the startups grow.
And so in that case, we went to market, we identified about 300 startups across Asia-Pac that we’re working in the property tech space. We then reached out to them. We had about 50 applications come back. We evaluated each and every one based on a set of criteria. Made sure there was alignment back to Charter Hall’s business model and ultimately ended up putting four startups through these program. Charter Hall now is working with all four of these startups and it’s been about six months since the program ended, which speaks volumes about the quality of the startups we put through.
Andrew: And they invest in the startups too?
Steve: They have the choice to invest in the startups. In some cases they will. For example, in past accelerator programs we’ve run with Mills Oakley, which is a law firm. We ran a legal tech accelerator program. They invested in the startups. It was something like 5% for $50,000. Plus they also provided a stipend to the startups for the 13 week program.
Andrew: And what they’re giving is their expertise. They’re giving their backing and in return they have the option to invest. If they don’t invest it, do they still get a share of the business?
Steve: No. If they’re not an investor, they don’t get a share in the business.
Andrew: How do you get paid?
Steve: We get paid to run the program.
Andrew: That’s it?
Steve: So, we . . . Yeah. I mean . . .
Andrew: Wow. So look at this. This is a guy who started out working in Corporate America. Big history there. You then founded Hotdesk, which I thought was an innovative idea. We’re going to talk about Hotdesk. You’re smiling as I say that because, no, it wasn’t working well for you. We’re going to find out why it wasn’t working well and what I missed with that.
And you turned around because of this meeting with a guy who became your partner. That’s how you ended up with Collective Campus. Let’s go back in time and just get to know how you built this up. Because right now it sounds like you’re like a VC guy with an interesting accent and a bunch of . . . You’re a guy who really struggled here. Let’s talk about why you didn’t like working in Corporate America. Before we get into why you start a company. You told our producer, “I was miserably comfortable.” What made you so miserably comfortable? You were making how much? Let’s talk. You said six figure salary to our produce it. Let’s be honest. How much money? We talked about $100,000, $200, how much?
Steve: Yeah. Look, I was 29 at the time. I was earning about $120,000 plus bonuses, so that was pretty good. Pretty comfortable lifestyle for a 29-year-old. But like going back in time, growing up I played in rock bands, I had long hair down to my waist. I was always quite creative and wanted to be on stage and all that sort of stuff, but as I got older I guess my days got longer and my hair got shorter as I like to say, and that’s because I started to conform to society’s expectations of what I should be, what success is and all that sort of stuff.
Andrew: Did you have the tattoos? I’m looking at you here and on the webcam, you have tattoos. Did you have that when you were working for Dun & Bradstreet, Ernst & Young, KPMG?
Steve: Yeah, definitely I did. I did have the tattoos and come casual Fridays, today every day is casual day, but back then casual Friday I would not hesitate to wear a short sleeve shirt just because I was somewhat anti-authoritarian and I just did not like conforming to this model of, “Hey, you got to have your hair super short. You’ve got to have your tie nice and high and all that sort of stuff.”
Andrew: You got to be yourself. You got to make money. You are on a path. You had a nice job. What was so uncomfortable about that? Or miserable.
Steve: Yeah. Look, ultimately I found that the work that I was doing didn’t really serve to create that much value. In fact, a lot of the work felt like it was just serving to maintain the status quo. A lot of the times we’d perform these big orders and reviews of say, client’s technology, and we’d come up with a bunch of recommendations. This was a more so that client could comply with it. It’s a, say, it’s SEC obligations and things of that sort. You’d make these recommendations. Ultimately, most of it would not get implemented. You come back the next year and do the same thing. So while the money was there, there was no real purpose behind what I was doing, and there was also this thing and Jason Fried from Basecamp, calls it the presence prison where you’re expected to stay late even though you’ve pretty much finished most of what you could do by 4:00 p.m.
And so yeah, I had, like you said, the six figure salary, the business class flights, the corporate junkets, hosted by a big TV stars, all that sort of fun stuff, but ultimately deep down, like when I was standing on, say, the railway station platform at 7:00 p.m. in the evening, I was like, “Well, what did I actually contribute today?” And I knew I could just do so much more. And that’s why I say miserably comfortable.
Andrew: You were looking around, you saw that this was roughly 2012, you saw that there was a lot of vacant office space. What city was this in?
Steve: This was in Melbourne, Australia and Sydney, Australia at the time.
Andrew: So, as you’re saying, all this vacant office space, you’re talking about like at the clients that you worked with?
Steve: Yeah, a lot of clients that I worked with.
Andrew: So what thought goes into your head as you see it? You say this is empty space, this is empty space sitting there, what are you thinking?
Steve: I’m just thinking at the time, and this was really as Airbnb was just starting to take off, so I’d like to say that I was inspired by them and I called the Airbnb for office space, but I hadn’t even used Airbnb at the time. I just thought, “Hey, there’s all this empty space. Perhaps what we can do is maybe just come up with a platform that connects these vacant space with a lot of the startups, freelancers, entrepreneurs.” Because that was starting to take off at the time as well. Co-working was taking off. I just thought maybe, that just makes perfect sense to me. And like most things, like most entrepreneurs who embark on a marketplace idea, you quickly realize that it’s 10 times harder to build a marketplace than it is to build, say, a single-sided market.
Andrew: And still you did well. So you were smart enough to realize. And this was a rough roughly the time that everyone used to create scripts to copy the well-known sites. So, if like Trello did well, someone created like this open source Trello software so you can copy them. If Airbnb did well, someone would create . . . I just knocked on my mic out of excitement. Someone will create like a knockoff of Airbnb. And you saw that and you said, “I don’t have to start from scratch. Take this software that works, don’t apply it to compete with Airbnb. Use It in my company. You found it. You went to what? Freelancer.com?”
Steve: Oh, yeah. Found out. Went to freelancer.com. Paid about $2,000 to get that built. And basically I had a prototype within, I don’t know, it took about four to eight weeks to get that done. I was still working full time at the time with Macquarie Bank, one of Australia’s biggest investment banks, and basically what I did was, well, I’ve got a prototype, obviously I need to get that into the hands of people. So, as you do at the time, I googled how to write a press release. So tried my hand at writing a press release, never written one in my entire life, but I’ve always just tried to do things the first time myself.
And then I had to find email addresses of journalists, and there was no RocketReach or Hunter.io or any of these growth hacking platforms at the time. I got onto Twitter and just started putting together this spreadsheet with journalists emails. I put together this spreadsheet with about 100 emails, I sent out one by one. I didn’t want to send out a bulk email. It was literally one by one, and at the time I didn’t know about tools like MixMax so or MailShake or anything like that. And, of course, you can imagine how many actually got back to me with this great new innovative idea.
One journalist got back to me, but it just so happened to be a journalist from “The Australian,” which is one of Australia’s largest newspapers, nationwide distribution, several hundred thousand circulation and, I mean, long story short, they published an article a couple weeks later about the idea which was a full page spread in the property section. But funnily enough, because it mentioned Macquarie Bank employee, it got picked up in the Macquarie News, which is this email that gets sent out to all 14,000 employees of Macquarie Bank with any mention of the organization.
Andrew: Ah, and so, okay.
Steve: So my manager basically tapped me on the shoulder say, “Hey man, what’s up with this? You leaving us?” And I just basically had to say, “Look, it’s just a side project. I’m Macquarie Bank till I die,” as I like to say. But I wasn’t. And that article within three months got me some seed funding, and that side project really quickly became my full time gig.
Andrew: Wow wee. All right. That’s really impressive. I can’t believe by the way that Corporate America is still a corporate or Australia corporate anyone is still looking for somebody to say, “I bleed your colors and I’m going to be with you till the death,” but that’s the way it was over there. Huh?
Steve: Well, I don’t know if that’s how it was. I mean, that’s how I interpreted it. Or perhaps they just had some fear, because once I told them that it was just a side project, they were pretty cool with that. But I guess like any organization, if I hire an employee and they may be . . . this was only seven months into my stint at Macquarie Bank, I’m going to be a little bit concerned if they want to move on elsewhere because then there’s a lot of costs involved with onboarding, training new people and all that sort of stuff. So, yeah.
Andrew: So you’ve got a marketplace now. You got some attention. I think the way that you got office space listed on your site, it was what, hotdesk.co.au. Right?
Steve: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andrew: Something like that. I think what was interesting was the way that you got office space listed there. It is a hotdesk.com.au. Excuse me. Tell people how you did that. I thought that was it.
Steve: Yeah. So one thing I learned and going back to prior, you know, business endeavors, if you want to call it that, once upon a time, like I said, I was a rock and roll fan, a heavy metal fan and I ran for one year on Friday nights, what was the heavy metal nightclub called Madhouse. And what we found was some nights you’d get 100 people turn up, other nights maybe five people. And that would be so totally discouraging and demoralizing. But one way we learned to pack the place out was simply by partnering with concert promoters.
So if there was a big band in town playing a gig on a Friday night, we’d say, “Hey, all of your punters can come to Madhouse after the show. Half price entry for anyone with a ticket.” So without fail, every time we ran that promotion, the place was packed, you know, 200 people. Sometimes the bands would come out, we’d hang out and have drinks.
And so I learned from that experience that partnerships are key rather than trying to do everything yourself. So we thought this, I just reached out to a lot of these players that had a hell of a lot of supply already, like your Servecorps of the world, Regus, these big shared workspace providers. I also reached out to all of the co-working spaces. And so that was one way for me to start, get a lot of supply on the [inaudible 00:15:36] with thousands and thousands of listings on a form. As with most things marketplace, it’s not just about the supply side. You got to get the demand up there as well.
Andrew: I thought getting supply made sense, getting demand let’s talk about in a moment. First, let me tell everyone about my first sponsor. It’s a company called HostGator. If you need somebody to host your website and have it hosted right, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. When you go there, you’re going to get a big discount. You’re going to get tagged as a Mixergy as a customer or Mixergy listener, and they’ll take great care of you. I just started a new company called Bot Academy at this point. It’s not even that new. I actually . . . someone on my team said, “Andrew, you know we’re part of the Two Comma Club?” Do you know the Two Comma Club, Steve?
Steve: No idea.
Andrew: It’s a . . . This guy Russell Brunson says, anyone who uses software to create a sales funnel and does over a million dollars in sales from one funnel, we’re going to put them in what we call it Two Comma Club, because you know in a million dollars there are two commas. Told them this little Bot Academy thing. It was just like a fun side project. It is in the Two Comma Club. Rebecca on our team told me that. She told me that because I’m always frustrated that nothing works as great as I would like it to be. Everything that happens I always think is not enough. I run a marathon. I think when I did too. They said, “Andrew, look this one single funnel is doing that well.”
Anyway, the whole site is hosted on HostGator and it’s done really well for us, especially when we get slammed with a lot of people who are coming in to watch me talk about how chatbots work. They come to my webinar. I need the site to work. I need it to work well. I need to be able to keep upgrading it and not have any issues. HostGator doesn’t really right by me. It’s done well by my audience. If you’re out there and you’re looking to start a website or you hate your current hosting company, go to hostgator.com/mixergyhostgator. Thank you.
Okay. You are at this point and trying to find the other side of the marketplace. Get people to pay to get office space. How did you get those people?
Steve: Yeah, well, I got some people. I can’t say I got as many people as I would have liked. Otherwise we may not be having this conversation about Collective Campus, who knows? But, what I did was I asked myself the question, where would my customers go before and after they come to me? So ultimately it was about partnering with potentially travel agents and things of that persuasion whereby I would tap into, say, traveling freelances startups. For example, if I wanted to tap into startups. I partner with meetups. I’d partner with startup grind, local chapters and the EO organization, things of that.
Andrew: And did you partner with Startup Grind?
Steve: Yeah, yeah. Well, I got them to send an email out on my behalf, locally at least. So that was something.
Andrew: Got it. That’s good. So they’re telling people, “Hey, if you need office space, here’s a guy who’s got a clever site that will help you find office space.” And did you get customers? Did they go in and sign up?
Steve: Well, yeah, we got customers. I mean, we were making not too bad an income. It was something like 10k a month at one point. But I think I did fine throughout that process, and this is something that perhaps, I mean, like I said, I jumped out of the corporate world because I didn’t feel like there was meaning that I was contributing and whatnot. And so at the end of this two year stint with Hotdesk, what I found was that, I just didn’t really believe in what I was trying to do and I didn’t really want to be what I refer to as a glorified real estate agent. And, you know, being an entrepreneur is incredibly challenging and if you want to be successful at it, you’ve got to, you know, in my case at least I really need to buy in to what I’m doing if I’m going to stay the long course.
And so what I also did during that process was a hell of a lot of planning. Like I would put together these 100 page documents full of market research findings that I’ve found from IBISWorld and Gartner and Forrester and things of that sort. And I think that’s a testament to my time in the corporate world. Like I said, I spent eight years with KPMG and Ernst & Young and Macquarie Bank and places like that. And in those places you learn, you know, a lot about voracious planning. You learn about project management, communication, interpersonal skills, process improvement, and you’re also forced to make sure that everything is just, just absolutely perfectly right before you do something.
And that works in that environment because that environment is a lot of certainty. You’ve got an existing business model that makes sense. You’re just delivering on that business model. So you’re playing defense. But if you’re an entrepreneur bringing something new in the world, you haven’t really got a road map and you can’t afford to play defense for long. You’ve got a short runway, you’ve got to play offense.
Andrew: So you’re spending too much time thinking too much about the future, too much about defense. I get it. I’m wondering about this. There are a couple of things that I wonder about your business. Number one, why put it down as being a glorified real estate guy? Look at the WeWork people, they’re selling themselves with valor. They’re selling themselves as some kind of multizillion dollar company. And they’re convincing everybody in the space that they’re changing the world, that the world is changing and they’re the only ones who understand it because they’re the ones who are impacting the way that people work. They’re saying they’re thinking of themselves as empowering workers of the future. And you’re smiling at that. Why not just change your focus? Why not say this is working? I think I just need to re-think how I present this to myself and the world?
Steve: Yeah. Look, potentially, and I think if I was really aligned with the idea and what I was . . . the purpose that we’re serving, I perhaps would have put the time to re-think it and realign and experimented and adapt, but what I ultimately found was that through my time trying to build Hotdesk, like I devoured absolutely every piece of content I could come across on marketing, on sales, all that sort of stuff. Like I said, I spent too much time researching and not enough time actually experimenting and adapting the platform and the business model.
Andrew: Before we get into what you noticed, one of the problems that you noticed, that you had was somebody would say, “Hey, this is an interesting website. Go check out the office space.” Maybe they would pay through your site or page that you credit and you’d end up making money. But eventually they say, “I don’t need them. What do I need Steve? Why do I need Hotdesk? I’m just going to go off and do it on my own.” And then they would just cut you guys out.
Steve: Yeah, that’s one of the biggest pitfalls of marketplace platforms. And if you look at a platform like Airbnb, you know, you don’t book an Airbnb for a week and say, “Huh, I quite like these place. I think I’m going to buy it.” Nobody does that. I mean, at least nobody I know. And the thing about office spaces, it doesn’t operate in the same way. I might book a space here in Melbourne for the week and then I’m like, “Hmm, this place is pretty cool. I think I might negotiate to stay here long ago with the vendor or the operator.”
So that’s the difference between say a Hotdesk and an Airbnb. And I know since Hotdesk came along, there’s been a hell of a lot of platforms that have come and gone in the intervening six years. And some of them have been heavily backed. I think it was an organization called Loosecubes who raised, and don’t quote me on this, but I was about $11 million if I’m not mistaken, and they went out of business within a year and I think they fell into the trap of . . . I’m just seeing that funding as a form of market validation and buying up too many assets and resources they didn’t need, hiring a big team, building out a lot of features that nobody asked for and then shutting the gates shortly thereafter. So it’s not an easy nut to crack.
Andrew: Look at this, I didn’t read the article, but as you’re talking, I’m doing research to make sure that what you’re saying is accurate. And look at this headline from “The Observer,” “Why did much-loved Loosecubes shut down five months after raising $7.8 million?”
Steve: $7.8, yep.
Andrew: Wow wee, dude. All right. So, I wonder if another issue is that you are reselling the same thing that they were selling, would you think if you would have gone into like the one day office space or the hour long meeting space, kind of like a, is it called Breather that that would’ve worked for you so that it wasn’t the same thing that Regus was selling directly and so they wouldn’t cut you out. It was your unique thing. Membership where they pay for a monthly fee and they get access to all these different spaces or an after-hours thing where they pay a monthly fee and they could host drinks or something or meetings after hours. What do you think? You’re smiling as I say that.
Steve: Yeah. I mean a lot of things like that went through my mind and some of that I actually implemented, the challenge with, say, having an hourly meeting room booking system of some kind is the inventory management and calendar management that goes with that. I mean, if I’m going to have hundreds of spaces on my platform and you can book an hour meeting room over here, an hour meeting room over there, I basically need to have some kind of really sophisticated API or something to that effect that’s just going to, you know, integrate all of these different systems and communicate back to these different spaces.
And, you know, Loosecubes, you said there was like seven point something million dollars. I had raised $150,000 Australian dollars, which is maybe like at the time $120,000 U.S. So capital was another inhibiting factor. But there were definitely things that we were looking at trying and experimenting with, targeting different customer segments. Maybe even just targeting large corporates with something that we tried. We said, “Hey, you guys we looking to get more exposure to the startup ecosystem. Why don’t you take a membership out on Hotdesk and you can access this co-working space down the road and work amongst startups.” But, and the thing about selling to corporates is if you’ve only got $150,000 your runway, it’s not that long and you can’t deal with the sales cycles that corporate have which can be six months through to 18 months long.
Andrew: I’m starting to understand it. I’m the type of person who then would just keep going at it without taking a breath and saying, you know, maybe this isn’t the right move. I admire that that you did that, that you were least able to stop and say, instead of beating my head against this wall, maybe I need to go around the wall. Maybe I need to be in a different building completely. And so you ended up switching.
But boy, I just like that models for some reason. I feel like there’s something there. The idea that we’re all working out of coffee shops, I think is a mistake. You can’t get the best work that you want done at a coffee shop where every minute somebody can come sit at your table, where every time you go to the bathroom you have to take your laptop with you. You’re not inspired in that area. It’s the same thing even if it changes from coffee shop to coffee shop. I feel like the idea of working in a different environment with different kinds of people is more exciting. And then sometimes just quietly working in an environment where there’s nobody around and you can get your work done. So I’m fascinated by that. I see that it didn’t work out for you. You did have this buddy of yours who you kind of connected with. Am I right about that?
Steve: Yeah, so, through the Hotdesk platform, of course I found some space in Melbourne where I myself worked, and that’s where I met my co-founder of Collective Campus. He basically owned and operated a space in Melbourne CBD called Queens Collective, and General Assembly the tech bootcamp company where resident there. However they basically said, “Hey Sean, thanks. But no thanks. We’ve been here for a year, we’re going to find our own space,” which left him with three classrooms. So, I’d like to say, yeah, I was really forward thinking in my desire to just say, okay, this isn’t working, let’s move on. There was a lot of serendipity in place as well.
So I just basically approached Sean who was going to set up his own version of General Assembly and said, “Well, look, I’ve been working, reading all this stuff for the past few years. I spent eight years in the corporate world. I know that corporates want to learn this kind of thing. How about we just run a few experiments and start testing whether or not there’s any appetite for say, lean startup for corporates workshops.” And so . . .
Andrew: Yeah, sorry. I’m interrupting. I’m excited about this. I want to make sure that I got this right. He had this office space with classrooms anyway, so he said I’m going to create my own educational space, kind of do what my previous tenants did. He was looking for a topic and looking for an audience and that’s when you approached him and said, “I think the corporate world that I’m from could benefit from the lean startup ideas that the startup world is innovating on.”
Steve: Exactly. Exactly. But, you know, taking the lean startup ideas, it was a matter of not jumping to conclusions, which is another big pitfall that, you know, employees to entrepreneur fall into. It was a matter of how can we test whether or not there is actually something here. And so, what we did was we simply just set up a page on Eventbrite, just an event with a simple curriculum. We called it Lean Startup for Corporates and through about $100 of Facebook ads at it, went on to LinkedIn and looked for heads of innovation from different organizations and just direct messaged all of them. This Lean Startup for Corporates event come on down and yeah, sure enough, we got about 50 RSVPs. So you can imagine the night, 6:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, we set up the room, 50 chairs nicely, blind theater style, plastic cups, food, music, of course music being Australia, a bit of AC/DC, it doesn’t go too bad. Especially on a Wednesday night and get people into the mood, but come 6:00 p.m., there was about three people that turned up.
I thought, yeah, let’s just give him five more minutes. It’s probably going to be a few more, no three people turned up. But that’s part of the process. And like I tell a lot of these first time entrepreneurs now, man, you’ve got to be really comfortable with adversity and just failure along that journey. And what we did was we learned from that, we tweaked the ad copy to say how to quickly experiment in a large organization. Things of that persuasion. Something that might align a little bit more. Slowly but surely the numbers came up. But, we again had to go down the partnership route to really take off.
Andrew: Let me pause here for a moment, when you offered this for free, how are you planning on making money? Was this like a sales presentation where the upsell was more training?
Steve: So, when we offered this for free, it was more so just to start building our mailing list because if we could just get a few hundred, say, corporate executives from large organizations, we can then start re-targeting them. Like then they will definitely not buy on the first exposure to our product. Most larger organizations really do. They usually need to read your emails, you know, visit your website, you need to align your product with their budget, appetite, timing, stakeholder buy-in, all that sort of stuff. But we just knew that building that list, would it be step one in that process.
Andrew: So it was terrible that people didn’t come, but not so terrible because you still had the contacts, the email addresses.
Andrew: How did you perform when there were only three people in the audience and 47 empty tables and desks and chairs?
Steve: Yeah. Well, many, many years ago, I read a biography on Aerosmith. I think it was going back to the late ’70s when they were just starting out and nobody knew who they were. And something Steven Tyler said was even before we made it, when we were playing in front of 10 people in dirty clubs, I acted like I was a rockstar. And so, I’ve read that when I was like 16. And it stuck in my head ever since. And I thought, “Well, there’s three people here, but I’m going to just bring it as if there’s 300 here.” So you just got to bring up regardless.
Andrew: And you were able to do it?
Steve: As good as possible. I mean, part of you deep down on the inside it’s like, “Man, this sucks.” But on the outside, I think [inaudible 00:30:29] the circumstances.
Andrew: By the way, I’m totally with you on the heavy metal. My music tastes go everywhere. I’ll listen to like French romantic pop that I don’t understand a word on, but I need it in the background to then suddenly Motorhead or Iron Maiden. The latest thing I discovered is I’ve been working off an iPad and I really love it, but you can do like this little picture in picture window of like a rock concert because I listen to music anyway. If I’m putting a rock concert in a tiny window on my iPad, it gives me like the energy of a rock concert, the music that I crave to listen to and work to, and then it kind of fires me up. So now when my team gets screenshots of, “Why is this out of place? What’s going on over here?” So it was like a little corner of rock concert that happen to be listening to. Boy, I love that. I love that. I don’t know why I didn’t do that before. What are you listening to right now?
Steve: What am I listening to right now, actually listening to a band called Rhapsody of Fire this morning from Italy. They basically fuse like symphonies in classical music with heavy metal. They’re pretty cool. But, I listen to everything. I can listen to metal, Johnny Cash. I can listen to drum and bass, dub step, you name it. It’s all good.
Andrew: Me too. I love that. I use Spotify, but I’m like an Apple music person. I love that I can just shout, “Hey Siri,” and boom, get whatever song I want. I’m in the mood for this. Fire me up.
Steve: Yeah, it’s funny man. You can even take it to that next level of where you don’t even need to stipulate the name of the song. So I could say, “Hey Siri, play that song from the ‘Breakfast Club,'” and then will play. Don’t you forget about me from the Simple Minds like boom.
Andrew: You know what? I’m so anal, so I want the perfect thing for when I’m working. So, I’ve used the new shortcuts feature of iOS 12 to trigger the right concert in the corner. So like Beastie Boys Glasgow is where they’re playing just their greatest hits, but only short clips of it. So my short attention span doesn’t have to get lost. They kind of shouting anyway, so I don’t have to pay attention to the words. And boom, I say, “Hey Siri, play Beastie Boys concert.” Knows exactly which one puts in the freaking right corner. I get to work. I’m fired up. I’m energized.
Steve: What’s your favorite Beastie Boys album?
Andrew: I don’t have a favorite. I don’t love “Ill Communication” anymore, even though that’s the one that got me into like picking my own music. But Beastie Boys at Glasgow so good. Every little bit of their best of is in there.
Steve: I’ll check it out.
Andrew: The other guy I’ve been listening to is Matisyahu. He’s the guy who used to perform with this Hasidic beard on stage in New York. And then he decided he wasn’t going to be a Hasidic Jew and . . . The whole thing is just, it’s interesting because he’s got this unique take on the world.
Steve: Cool man. I’ll check that out. Sounds cool.
Andrew: Let’s, you know what? Let me take a moment here and talk about my second sponsor. And my second sponsor is a company called Toptal. Do you know Toptal, Steve?
Steve: Enlightened me.
Andrew: All right, I’m going to open you up to Toptal. These are guys who said, “Do you know, many businesses just like they don’t need permanent office space that they own for the next 10 years. They don’t need to hire somebody full time and frankly it costs a lot of time and money to find the right developer.” But you can’t go into these freelancing websites like you tried and expect to get a Google caliber developer. What you’re going to get there is a good developer but not someone who’s Google caliber.
And when you have tough problems, when you need somebody you really think through and come up with solutions, it’s never been thought of before. You want the best of the best, so they said that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to have this database of those people. Anyone who wants to hire from us can just go to toptal.com/mixergy, and actually they just said Toptal at the time, the slash mixergy came later, so just come to us. Tell us what you’re looking for, and often within days, you get on a call with them, you tell him what you’re looking for, and within days you get to hire someone who is phenomenal, not happy with them?
Don’t worry, just say I’m not happy. That will make that person go work on another project and you won’t have to pay. Here’s the URL. Best of the best developers at toptal.com/mixergy. That’s T-O-P-T-A-L.com/mixergy. When you go there, you’re going to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours. Steve, the companies you’re working with, they’re going to love you for introducing them to Toptal. No freaking kidding.
Steve: Sounds pretty good.
Andrew: I’ve been super open with you. I’m going to ask you a challenging question that’s going to be embarrassing for you to say no to, but to be open to, but I . . . But this was going to separate the men from the boys. I feel like the email that you sent me was like a MailShake type email where I was on a list of something of podcasters and you are out to try to get podcasting interviews to promote your book. Am I right?
Steve: You would be correct.
Andrew: And it was just like, I’ve been listening to Mixergy. And Mixergy is kind of a fill in the blank, and you did your homework and preparation for this interview, but you operate in this, what, Gary Vaynerchuk calls the “at bats world,” where you want to get as many at bats as possible, at bats meaning, get out there and talk to as many podcasts as possible. Get out there and talk to as many potential buyers of your book, as many potential people in your program as possible. As many . . . am I right about that? I feel like that’s one of your strengths.
Steve: Yeah. I mean, I will caveat that by saying that I have and had listened to Mixergy in the past quite a bit. But apart from that, I’m a big believer in the at bat philosophy. Even with the book, I reached out to one of my podcast guests, our Tim Harford, and basically said, “Hey man, have you got something that can help me get a book?” And he said, “Here’s a template you can use.”
Andrew: He said he had a template you can use? Sorry, the connection broke up for a second.
Steve: It’s basically a template on a non-fiction book proposal. So it’s about 10,000 words when all is said and done. And so what I did with this whole at bat theory was, well, I’m going to have to just send this out to heaps of publishers, heaps of agents and things of that persuasion and just be comfortable with the idea that I’m going to get rejected by the first 50, and I’m going to get a lot of rejection emails, and you know what? Well, that’s cool. That’s part of the process.
And whenever I get these rejection emails, I’m going to respond that I’m going to say, “Hey, what could I have done better? Did I align with what you guys are about? Was there something I could have done better in my proposal?” And then I’d be tweaking it as I went along.
And I counted, there was something like 39 rejections I got from agents and publishers before I finally got a publisher and a massive caliber publisher in Wiley who responded and said, “Hey, this aligns with what we’re what we’re about, where we’re going. We like what your message is. Can we have coffee?” And so after a few conversations we had signed on the dotted line for a book deal.
So I think that at bat theory, you know, there are different ways to approach it, but if you’re operating in a space, especially like ours in the corporate innovation space, where you have those massive sales cycles and most people will have no issue with taking a meeting with you just to take your time because they’ve got nothing better to do, they just see it as getting out of work, and then they’re going to give you the counterfeit, yes.
And tell you that they’re really interested in your product and get you all excited, but they don’t really have any interest. They don’t have any budget. They have nothing. So when you do that, you need to play the . . . you need to cast a very wide net and you need to get really good at qualifying your prospects so you can actually work on the ones that are going to buy your product.
Andrew: So let’s talk about how you got the first customer for this new business. Where did the first customer come from? How’d you land your first client?
Steve: Yeah. Our first client was again, the taking the partnership route. What we did was we partnered with an organization, a meetup called Data Science Melbourne, who ran just informational sessions on data science, but no actual workshops and we said, “Hey, we’ll run a workshop, a four session course on data science for people who are interested in just learning the basics of R programming language. You guys promote it to your audience will give you a 15 percent cut.”
They were happy to oblige. We sold these tickets for something like a thousand dollars a pop. Actually, I think it was $1,500 a pop. We sold 20 pretty much in the first few days of this email going out. So we’d made $30,000 in the back of basically the simple partnership. And so, that was our entry point, but that was a, B2C play. We needed to get our corporate clients.
And the way we got our first big corporate client, it was really just a stroke of serendipity. I mean, we have this program we call Lemonade Stand, which is a children’s entrepreneurship program. And it was January of 2016, I think, where we run these over the summer holidays. Summer being December to February here in Australia. And so we had this cohort of kids to come along and one of those kids’ parents just so happened to be the head of innovation at a large law firm with offices all over the world.
Thousands of employees. She loved Lemonade Stand program. And we got chatting and she said, “So what do you guys do?” And I told her, “Well, Lemonade Stand, it’s just a little side project we run during the holidays. What we actually do is very corporate innovation, school and accelerator and we work with organizations to help make them more innovative.” And so she got interested and before you knew it, we were signing on the dotted line with, you know, one of the world’s biggest law firms. So that was how we started to build credibility and social proof that we could work with large companies.
Andrew: What was Lemonade or what is? You’re still doing Lemonade Stand. It’s you bringing students? How old?
Steve: We’ve had students as young as seven come through that program.
Andrew: And how many weeks is it or days?
Steve: So, initially, it was a two-day workshop. where kids come, we basically asked kids at the start of the program, not what they want to be when they grow up because chances are what they want to be probably won’t exist or they’ll more likely they’d be more than just one thing in their lives. We ask them what problem do you want to solve? So we work with them on coming up with ideas, we work with them on coming up with prototypes, test those ideas, we work with them on how would you raise funding for this? And then pitching their ideas. So, while it’s an entrepreneurship program, it’s really supposed to build those underlying fundamental character attributes entrepreneurs have such as resilience, adaptability, being okay with your idea of being wrong, being okay with failure.
Andrew: And you were teaching it to them in the room?
Steve: Yeah. We were teaching it to them in the room. We’ve actually put over a thousand kids through that program, face-to-face workshops across Melbourne [inaudible 00:40:30] and Singapore. And we’re now, we’ve just developed the first version of the online platform, which is being trialed by a private school here in Melbourne called Ivanhoe Grammar. So they’re giving us heaps of feedback . . .
Andrew: And it’s mainly 9 to 12-year-olds who come through, you’re teaching them about entrepreneurship. You’re not having them go out and actually sell anything. Right?
Steve: Well, in some cases what we do, the big aha moment for a lot of kids coming through this program, because a lot of stuff they learned in school is all theoretical. As part of the program, when they build these prototypes, we help them market them, we help them run ads. So they actually say, “Wow, my website just got, you know, 200 people from different parts of the world.” They can actually say someone from India, someone from Israel, someone from Germany visited my website.
That’s a big aha moment, because then they realize, “Wow, these computer, it’s more than just something that I can play games on. I can actually do a lot more.” And that has resulted in a lot of kids who have graduated from the program as young as 10, as young as 11 running businesses now that are making over a thousand dollars a month.
Andrew: Got it. Why do that? You’re running a business. It’s not taking off. Why takeover Lemonade Stand? Frankly, I should be creating something like Lemonade Stand. I have the time here with Mixergy. I’ve got the resources if fits in with my business, since we’re talking about kids, what the heck are you doing with Lemonade Stand?
Steve: So, I mean, this was early in Collective Campus’ life cycle. So we weren’t exactly killing it.
Andrew: A year after you started?
Steve: Yeah. And the thing is though, this was around December, January when we run the Lemonade Stand workshop, at that point Corporate Australia is absolutely asleep. Like they pretty much check out in November. So you’re not going to make any money during that period anyway. And so, one of my team members basically said, “Hey, why don’t we do something a take the lean startup stuff that we teach and apply it to kids during the school holidays?”
And I started thinking about that. I mean, I could have easily just shut that down and say, “That’s a ridiculous idea. What do we know about working with kids?” But I knew that the world is changing fast and that schools were just preparing kids to do the same thing they’d been doing for the last hundred years, and I also knew that, hey, we’re not making any money for the next few months. This might be a good idea.
Andrew: Again, I freaking love that. And you know what I love about it best? I did a little research on you. I saw Lemonade Stand. And I planned to ask you all the questions that I asked you here. The part that I didn’t pick up on was you started out with just two days. You weren’t overthinking it and saying we need to have a summer program. We need to bring teachers in just two days. And how did you get students? Again, another partnership?
Steve: Oh, how we got students? We just thought about who’s our target customer segment in this space and, you know, you could like a lot of entrepreneurs fall into the trap of targeting anyone and everyone, but we just thought how can we target young moms who have kids who basically have kids that are in the age group of nine to 12 at the time, and we just threw $100,000 of ads on Facebook and we targeted mom bloggers or people that like mom blogger pages. And that $100, I think we paid about 50 cents a click. So we got about 200 clicks and about a 10% conversion rate. So we got 20 kids who signed up to that first class, cost us 100 bucks, tickets to that class we’re about 400 bucks a pop. So it was, you know, $7,900, sort of margin minus for operational costs.
Andrew: And then you ended up getting a good client from it. Collective Campus. You used the phrase a lean startup so much, that’s like an Eric Ries trademark, but you’re at a point if . . . at the point in the story where it doesn’t matter, your lean startup, you got to try it. Eric’s going to contact you say, “Stop using the name.” You stop using them. You adjusted. That’s where you are.
You realize lean startup is not what these corporate people are looking for, but innovation is a really big word for them. You’re going to be teaching innovation. You start to change the way that you present the idea, you start to get some clients. You actually told me how you got your first client. Thing that I didn’t understand is where do you get off telling them how to innovate? Why are you the guy to know the lean startup technology . . . techniques? You are the guy who had a Hotdesk site that didn’t even do that well and you had to close it down.
Steve: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. So one thing I know is that in the corporate world, people just expect you to do things them. And that’s not true of everybody in that world, but this is part of the reason why they always pay big consultants to come in and do stuff for them even though they’ve got thousands of employees all making six figures. It’s like can’t you do this yourself? And oftentimes there is an outsourcing accountability component to it where they want to get that rubber stamp from an external organization. And other times it’s just because they don’t know what to do and they don’t take the time to read the books, to listen to the podcast, to listen to the audio books, to try the things.
And one thing I always tell my clients nowadays is that, “Look, I’m not going to tell you the silver bullet. I’m going to introduce you to these methodologies, these tools that can help you figure out what works for you.” Because every other, every organization is different. And so, you’re absolutely right. But we went into it with this knowledge that we knew more than they did, a lot more than they did about these topics.
Andrew: It’s not that you’re . . . they’re not hiring you to say, “You’re the guy who started all these companies, teach us how to start companies.” It’s more like, “You’re the guy who’s done the research, do the freaking research for us, bring us the best ideas. We’ll figure out what we want to implement and what we don’t.” That’s how you got started. Talk to me about the evolution of the products. When I’m on your website and it’s one of my 50 billion tabs here. I swear when I work, I’m like a one or two tab person. When I interview, 5,000 tabs [inaudible 00:45:44] here on my desk. I see the hackathon, the startup matching, the corporate accelerators, the culture change, the legal academy. How did you start evolving and adding all these different parts of your business, and how do you know what to add?
Steve: Yeah, so, I mean initially it was literally just workshops and what we found as we started to do a lot more work with clients. I mean, we’ve worked with over 50 big brands globally, now across all major cities and through that process we’ve learned a hell of a lot about what holds them back, what works, what doesn’t. And so, we’ve evolved it and we also learn more about where are they willing to spend money as well.
And one thing we learned was that training was one thing, but training requires a lot of face to face, service-based business, margins are pretty low. You got to sell it like crazy and you’re probably [aren’t 00:46:31] going to make $10,000, $20,000 a session. It’s not that much, it’s not that compelling. But these corporate executives were really interested in partnering with startups, and so that’s why we developed the accelerated programs and started matching programs because that’s something where we could charge a lot more and make way more margins. Like you’re talking upwards of $300,000 for some programs, and the margins are much higher and therefore you only need to sell to like three or four big clients a year rather than say 40 small ones in order to make the same amount of money.
Andrew: How’d you know that that’s what they wanted? What kind of conversations led you to that?
Steve: Man, I’ve got Google docs with like 100 questions in them around what kind of things you want to ask when you go into these meetings. So our biggest thing from day one, especially going back to the very start of Collective Campus, one thing we did was we had in the first . . . it would have been in the first four or five months, about 100. No, 100, 500 maybe conversations between me and my co-founder, so 250 each. We would just go out. We weren’t even trying to sell. We were just asking a hell of a lot of questions. Like just understanding who makes the purchasing decisions? Why do they make the decisions? How much budget do you guys have? What are you struggling with right now? What interests you? What do you want to learn?
Andrew: Just sitting there learning, learning, learning, and that’s where you . . . And so, if you’re going in there, not even selling and learning, that kind of explains why the company was started, I can’t exactly see when, because there are all these different things.
Steve: April 2015.
Andrew: 2015. At some point though, didn’t you go back and work for KPMG as a manager innovation or something, am I right?
Steve: Fantastic. So I like to call that a reverse side hustle. So, for the first seven months of Collective Campus, we didn’t pay ourselves anything. Even though we had some money coming in, we couldn’t afford to just blow that on our own salaries. So one thing I did, and one thing a lot of corporate entrepreneurs should consider it, well, a lot of corporate executives should consider if they’re looking to make the leap, is because you’ve had that experience in the corporate world. There’s heaps of contractor gigs available now. And contractor gigs are going to pay you some crazy daily rates. Maybe like $600, $700, $800 a day. If you can get a two-day a week gig as a contractor, that’s going to be enough to just keep you going.
Spend the rest of the week on your, and don’t call it a side hustle. It is your full time gig building your business, that’s preferable to spending say five days a week in a corporate job, and then whatever an ounce of cognitive capacity you’ve got left at 7:00 p.m. at night goes towards your side hustle. That to me makes way more sense.
Andrew: And so you were doing that and doing what for them at just a couple of days a week?
Steve: Yeah, it was just working in their innovation team. Literally just doing a lot of that research stuff that I talked about earlier.
Andrew: So, basically, clients will hire them who then hire you to go and research innovation for the client?
Steve: Yeah. Well, I would basically just be developing a lot of these, they called them white papers and I’d be developing white papers on emerging technologies like internet of things, blockchain. What is it? How does it get applied in your industry? All that sort of stuff.
Andrew: How would they use those white papers?
Steve: They would use those white papers as part of their marketing funnel. So they will turn those white papers into PDFs on their website into hard copies, make themselves seem like thought leaders, and then if you can project that thought leadership, which is something we do at Collective Campus as well. We publish heaps of eBooks and blogs and things of that sort. That just builds that credibility and also it gets people onto your mailing list and, you know, we’ve had some clients on our mailing list for about 18 months to 24 months before they actually pick up the phone and say, “Hey, we’re interested in working with you.”
Andrew: It’s a big expensive sale. I get it. Talk to me about when one of your clients asked for some coding work.
Steve: So that was actually our first big client. So the law firm I mentioned earlier, and the . . . I guess being your first big client, you’re just so excited by the fact that, “Hey, we’re working with is huge client, you know.” It was like a mid-five figures deal. It wasn’t massive, but it was big enough for us at the time. It’s all relative. And so, we kind of rushed through what this would look like. We quickly got a facilitator onboard. We just, more or less jumped to conclusions. We just didn’t think it through the way we should have. But what happened was, it was a four week program. First two weeks went by, the head of innovation at the organization, gave me a call and said, “Hey, what’s going on? All this stuff’s theory. The guys aren’t actually learning how to code.”
And so I had a chat with the facilitator. He said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. The next two weeks, all practical.” The first few weeks had to be theory and I thought, “Okay, cool. Whatever, that makes sense.” Weeks three rolls around, we had some technical issues with facilitator’s laptop. He wasn’t basically able to do any prac. And so, the organization was absolutely pissed off and saying, “What the hell is this? What are we paying for?”
And at this point it was, it was one of the pivotal moments in our organization’s life, I guess, in the sense that I created a culture of extreme ownership where I sat the team down and said, “Hey, let’s trace back everything that happened from the moment that client said they’re interested in working with us to delivering these three workshops. What could we have done better?”
And so we identified areas where we basically just jumped the gun and didn’t make sure we had, say, backup laptop in place. Make sure that, “Hey, we’ve got coding and prac every single week. Not just theory.” Like we were just happy that these guys are going to pay us. And that was the wrong attitude to have.
So what we did with all this information around what we could have done better, we were proactive. We called a meeting with a law firm and said, “Hey, we apologize, but we’re not just about saying sorry. We want to find a solution. Can we have a meeting with you?” We had a meeting, we presented all of our findings, and we said this is how we basically stuffed up, here’s what we want to do about it. And so, out of our own pocket, we said, “We’re going to fly a couple of other guys over to your senior office as well, because the classes were taking place in Melbourne.
We’re going to run a full day of skills consolidation session. We’re going to record the extra webinars so your guys can watch these after the sessions. We’re going to just go above and beyond.” We created these booklets for them, these PDFs that we printed out that they could take home. It was just about everything we could do to just show that not only were we sorry, but we were looking for a solution. And then as a byproduct of that, half of the people that attended that class recorded videos for us, video testimonials, which we then used in subsequent marketing.
The NPS on that class was about 50, which was still pretty damn good. Fifty is excellent. And that client continued to work with us. So that to me I think speaks volumes about taking ownership and not making excuses.
Andrew: What do you find the time to do that? To now go in and write all these different books for them, to go and redo the curriculum. Are you writing it yourself or I am . . . The reason I’m asking is because, yeah, I get the sense that you’re really good at finding the writers and putting this whole thing together. Where do you get the writers? How do you put it together?
Steve: So we leverage our existing networks. Basically, I mean, we’ve, whether it was from my corporate world, whether it was from the startup experience, it’s always been about building relationships. And that’s one of the big reasons why I host a podcast, you know, it’s like 300 episodes in and like yourself, Andrew, I mean, met so many people, built so many relationships and I’m able to just pull people in, as and when I need them. But as for my own time, I mean, I’m very big on optimizing my time because that’s one thing that I saw in the corporate world, but people would just default to one hour meetings when a simple phone call could have done.
You know, they’re constantly checking notifications. They’re constantly checking email. They’ll be there for 14 hours, but they might get one or two hours of work done. So in my case, I’m always, you know, thinking about prioritization. What are the few things I can do to create the most value? I’m cutting tasks that don’t create value. I’m outsourcing. I’m automating all that sort of stuff.
Andrew: Just writing those, getting outsourced, right? Is this okay to talk about or am I about to get into [inaudible 00:54:22]?
Steve: Go for it.
Andrew: So who’s writing all this stuff? You’ve got a bunch of eBooks, your posts. What’s your blog called? Where is it on your site?
Steve: It’s under resources.
Andrew: Oh, okay. There we go. So I’m looking under resources and there’s the eBooks section. This freaking eBook collection, who’s putting that together? And I’ll totally understand if you feel like I can talk about how we hire other people, it means that we’re not writing it ourselves. It hurts our business. We can talk, we can shift away from this, but if you’re comfortable talking about it, I’d love to know how you’re getting this put together.
Steve: Yeah, definitely. Look, so as far as a lot of the workshops are concerned, it depends what the topic is. If it’s a corporate innovation or lean startup, I’ve developed that content. If it’s something like data science or coding, we’ve got people outside of the building who worked with us.
Andrew: How? How do you find the people who know this stuff and are going to write it for you and do it in a way that makes sense economically for you?
Steve: Yeah, I mean, we just, as if you’re recruiting someone to join your team, you know, we’ll put the call out, we’ll find five people, we’ll look at the past, we’ll get some references, we’ll look at that past experience, we’ll interview them. We’ll get a feel for the people and then we’ll get some sort of . . .
Andrew: I think there’s some something different about the way that you do it. This is just a hunch and I could be going in like, chasing I don’t know what. I could be going down a rabbit hole that doesn’t have any benefit at the end of it. But I do sense that you’re a guy who used that freelance service to get somebody to build an Airbnb knockoff for you. I do get the sense that when it was time for you to get podcast interviews that you were smart about how you were going to automate it and it still not look like a douche. I still get the sense that there’s something about writing that you do especially well that would amaze us. And if we were having a drink, you talk about. What am I picking up on?
Steve: I mean, if I’m onboarding someone, I will basically point them to these templates we have developed around what the structure needs to look like and of course, you got to tell a story. You’ve got to be engaging. You got to have this much theory and this much practice. So we provide that guidance. But, I mean, that’s the courses.
In terms of the eBooks and the blog posts and the podcasts, a lot of that is actually me and that’s because I absolutely love creating content. I’d spend all day on it. I might spend like an hour or two a day on it, but the reason I do that is because by creating the content, I think it reflects a lot on our brand. Creating the content is also a form of skills consolidation for me, because if I’m writing something down and putting all these lessons learned into an eBook, into a blog post, I then remember it. I then learn it going forward.
And it’s also about re-purposing content as well in a really smart way. So I might write a bunch of blog posts and then we’ll just have someone, for example, a VA who will take bits and pieces of those blog posts and then put them into an eBook and then just make sure that we plug in the gaps with statistics and things of that sort. So that way we’re able to pump out heaps of eBooks as well based on past efforts.
Andrew: There we go. I hit the mute by accident. This is all a system somewhere, a checklist.
Steve: Yeah, it’s all checklists. And so I’m very big on systems, and that’s perhaps something that comes out of the corporate world. So I like to say that in the corporate world, like I said, you develop a lot of attributes that can serve you in that world but inhibit your success as an entrepreneur, but some of them at least if used correctly, like setting up systems, setting up processes can go a hell of a long way.
Andrew: Where do you put your systems? I can tell actually that you’re an automated systems person, and one of the reasons why I could tell is while we’re doing this interview, you tweeted. And I know that your hands are up in the air. You’re not sitting and typing. It’s in there as like a . . . I don’t even know what software you used.
But yeah, you tweeted about Foursquare.
Steve: Yeah, that was automated.
Andrew: Future Squared with Steve. It’s for . . . Oh, no, it’s for Future Squared podcast. I guess you are publishing it. So what would you put your systems into? What software do you use? How do you do it different for most people?
Steve: Yeah, look, it varies. There’s a number of different tools we use. So, for example, for us, B2B outreach stuff that I mentioned earlier is absolutely huge. So one thing we do, and this is for a shout out to all the B2B entrepreneurs out there who are assigned to large organization, something you can learn from, if you’re not doing it already, is using LinkedIn Sales Navigator. We’re able to determine if someone’s been mentioning the media recently or if they’ve got a new role.
So we’ve got a VA who picks up on that and she’ll basically put a shortlist together with all these LinkedIn profiles, she’ll then use LeadIQ to pull out the email addresses, she’ll take those email addresses, pump them into MixMax or MailShake, that will then send an automated email to these people. It’s a drip feed that will say something along the lines of, “Hey Andrew, I see you’ve started a role at JP Morgan as the head of innovation.” Just so happens we work with a lot of banks in the innovation space. We [inaudible 00:59:10] 15 minute conversation.
And by doing that you get to be so targeted with your outreach, but you’re also not wasting anytime during it. And then you start to get these inbound stuff, but rather than just saying, you know, sometimes it will say 15 minutes, but we’ll also say, “Hey, if you’re not ready for a conversation, here’s an eBook we wrote on innovation in banking.” Then they’re on our mailing list and they can start to get our content and get more familiar with our brand. So that’s one way we use automation.
Andrew: I love how excited you get about that. I get excited about that too. I feel like real business people should love the systems that they create, because it just so . . . it works so well and it continues to improve and . . . I’m totally with you on that. I didn’t talk at all about your book. I don’t want to shaft you. I know that you’re not here because you’re like me. You’re here because you’re on a book campaign, book tour. What do you wish I would have given you space to talk about?
Steve: Oh, look, there’s a hell of a lot of people out there that wants to jump into entrepreneurship. I think this stat is one in two people in the United States are dissatisfied at work. Many of them are exploring whether or not entrepreneurship is right for them. And many of them fall into the same old pitfalls I see — jumping to conclusions with their first idea. They might hire a software development agency and they’ll pay them $50,000 or $100,000 to build a prototype in air quotes that doesn’t actually help them test their assumptions and nobody wants. And so they’ve basically burnt a big hole in their pocket. And as a result of that, they go back to the corporate world with their tail between their legs.
There’s a lot of those attributes that they bring over into the entrepreneurial domain, like analysis paralysis. They think too much about compliance, about intellectual property, about non-disclosure agreements. They are very closed with their ideas. They’re not sharing their ideas with other people. And you know what? Like, yeah, there is a chance that someone might steal your idea, but it’s kind of like the same chance of you catching a plane that crashes. Like if you want to get faster . . . if you want to get further faster, you’ve got to jump on that plane.
It’s the same with your idea. Sharing it, you’re going to get that feedback to make it what it needs to be. So the book basically distills everything I’ve learned in the past year, it’s six years in this side of the corporate world, and applies it to someone’s still in the corporate world because I’ve got, you know, eight years corporate experience, six years, seven years startup experience. And it’s about bridging those two gaps.
So distilling all that knowledge into the book to help people avoid common pitfalls and also to help them determine whether or not entrepreneurship is right for them. And also the biggest thing is really the underlying sort of mindset that one needs to have. Because one thing you’re going to experience jumping out of the corporate world, if you’re on six figures, if a lot of your friends are on six figures, you’re then going to pay yourself absolutely nothing to start with.
If you start by comparing yourself to all your associates, everyone you hang out with, that’s a very terrible place to be. Mentally you’re not going to last. So you need to re-frame that worldview in order to give yourself the chance of success. So the book deep dives into all sorts of stuff on making that transition.
Andrew: How did you get, what is it, Adam Grant, I think on the home . . . on the cover of your book? How’d you get all these people to say yes to giving you quotes?
Steve: Yeah. So going back to something I mentioned earlier, hosting the podcast. So, I’ve got a podcast called Future Squared and it’s like 296 episodes in. I’ve interviewed . . . about half of that was interviews. So you’re talking about 140 interviews with people like Adam Grant, with people like Kevin Kelly, with people . . .
Andrew: Tim O’Reilly.
Steve: Tim O’Reilly, Jason Fried . . .
Andrew: Steven Blank.
Steve: Yeah, Steve Blank. Man, the list goes on.
Andrew: These people then you just went, you picked a few of them and you said, “Look, I’m writing this book. Would you give me a quote?”
Steve: Pretty much, and this was after I had an interview, but it wasn’t that simple. So I interviewed, for example, Adam Grant. But then I would be supporting his work. I’d be retweeting his stuff. I’d be sending him an occasional email saying, “Hey, read this, thought you might enjoy it.” So keeping people warm, but it’s still, you know, it’s not just like, “Hey, I interviewed you 16 months ago and I haven’t been in touch since then, but can you give me an endorsement for my book?”
Andrew: I’m bad at that. Like you and I are never going to talk again unless randomly we’ll speak at the same event. And I hate that. I’d love to find a way to stay in touch with all my guests. I’d love to do something. I could see that you’re way better than I am at it. You know what I would prefer is . . so I can’t talk to over a thousand people and just actually have real connections with them. That’s the pain of it. It’d be better if there was an event that we could go to together or something like that.
Anyway, I’ve learned a lot from you. One of the best things that I learned from you was the at bats, you’re just constantly willing to put yourself out there and ask for more and more and more. I picked you just sitting there working and putting all your drive.
All your friends got better jobs because they stuck on the career track than you, but you’re never going back. You going to show the world that you’re right and you’re going to continue to put those emails out there. Continue to put those offers out there. I like that about you.
The other thing that I like about your story is, that you’re just constantly trying things, that you’re willing to stand up and say, “Maybe we’ll teach. All right, you guys don’t like teaching. Great. You’re not going to pay for that. We’re going to try this accelerator thing,” and most people would like imposter syndrome at just getting up in the morning and going to work and you don’t have any of that. How do you not have that?
Steve: Because we’re creating value, and we say that in the results of our work. So there’s absolutely no need for imposter syndrome, particularly when I look at our own sort of journey in terms of coming together three years ago with nothing, no brand, no collateral, no resources, and three years later being in the list of Australia’s fastest growing companies. To me that’s a massive validator and that’s because we embody the mindset methodology tools that we talk about, that we talk to clients about. We’re getting results, our clients are getting results. I think you got to look at your wins because it’s very easy to look at, you know, and I think something like 90% of people have imposter syndrome. So you can always find things to put yourself down about. But you going to find [crosstalk 01:04:53].
Andrew: Now you’ve got clients who have wins. Before you didn’t, you just had a bunch of ideas that other people wrote. But there’s value to that.
Steve: Yeah, I think that’s just the whole [Steve mentality 01:05:01] mentality, man. There’s no one in the audience, but we’re just going to bring it anyways, and I think if you don’t do that, then you’re going to project lack of confidence. People aren’t going to believe you, and if people don’t believe you, they’re not going to buy from you. So, I think if you are just starting out and you don’t believe in yourself, man, just pretend it’s a packed audience. Pretend you’re in a packed Madison Square Garden and just give it all you’ve got anyways.
Andrew: The book, “Employee to Entrepreneur,” it’s available everywhere. It’s by Wiley, it’s your second big book. Anyone who wants to go check it out, should just go to whatever bookstore they like. I feel like we’re all using Amazon. Number one and number two, the website is, which of these freaking 5 billion tabs is it? You know, so I use Safari because I like the simplicity of it. The problem with Safari is if you bury your tabs, it’s not smart enough to go and open the freaking thing up. Collective Campus, am I right? Collectivecampus.com?
Steve: Yeah. Well, collectivecampus.io is Collective Campus’ website, however they should probably check out employeetoentrepreneur.io. That’s the book website. That’s where they can download bonus bundles, all that good stuff and steveglaveski.com. They can just find links to all my stuff there. Podcasts, Collective Campus, Lemonade, Stand, you name it.
Andrew: All right, I’m going to go check out at Lemonade Stand. I love that you did that. All right. And thank you to my two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is this hosting company that will host your website right. It’s called HostGator. Check him out at hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second is a company that will have you hire phenomenal developers. Go check them out at toptal.com/mixergy. It’s top as in the top of your head and tal as in talent.com/mixergy. Congratulations, Steve. Thanks for being here.
Steve: Thanks so much.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.