How to build a platform tangentially to cryptocurrency

Joining me is a founder I might have scared off because of my suspicion of cryptocurrency.

Dan Novaes is the founder of Current, an award-based streaming ecosystem. I’m going to keep an open mind. I want to find out how he built a business tangentially to crypto.

The podcast is in all major apps, just search for Mixergy.
You can also use our RSS Feed RSS feed.

Dan Novaes

Dan Novaes

Current

Dan Novaes is the founder of Current, an award-based streaming ecosystem.

roll-angle

Full Interview Transcript

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 joining me is an entrepreneur that I think I might have scared off a little bit. I nearly might have scared you off, Dan. You tell me.

Dan: Yeah, maybe a bit. No, I was up for a challenge, yeah.

Andrew: Dan Novaes is the founder of Current Media. It’s a reward-based streaming ecosystem that rewards users for attention and data while consuming content. The reason that I feel like I might have scared him off for a bit was he’s got a cryptocurrency, and I’ve found that any time an entrepreneur has anything to do with cryptocurrency, it either goes over my head or there’s something weird going on that hurts my reputation to even be involved with.

And so I’ve been really scared, and I told him, “Look. I’ll just be open with you about my skepticism around crypto, around ICO, around paying users or rewarding them in any way for doing something online,” and Dan said . . . well, I think you just didn’t know, “Is Andrew going to just be a jerk and leading me into something where all he’s going to do is beat me up for an hour, or is this just a weird way to say hi?” And I think it’s me being open.

Dan: Well, I think, I mean, I’m pretty sure your honesty and . . . you know, I agree with you with a lot of things within crypto. You know, there’s a lot of negative stuff within the industry. We have a little bit different of a story, and, you know, I’m happy to share some insights on that because we have been able to change some people’s opinions about not only us but the industry as a whole.

Andrew: All right. I’m coming at this open-minded. I should say this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you need a website hosted, I’m going to tell you later why you should sign up for HostGator. And the second, if you need a developer – and, man, they’re big on crypto too in addition to other technologies – Toptal will get you covered, and I’ll talk about those later.

Dan, I feel like what happened was you saw what I saw and many other people saw, which was cryptocurrency was going huge, and there had to be something in it. And you got in, and you didn’t make a quick buck, and you didn’t give up on it when the rest of the world moved on, and here you are somehow connected to cryptocurrency even though it’s tangentially related to your business. Am I right?

Dan: I mean, to some degree. Let me touch on that. So I had been involved in cryptocurrency quite early on. I actually got involved with it just as investing in Bitcoin soon after college.

Andrew: What year was this?

Dan: I don’t know, 2015, probably, 2014.

Andrew: Okay. And how did it do for you?

Dan: It did very well. I mean, Bitcoin was not worth all that much back then. I didn’t buy, like, a truckload of it, but, you know, I bought enough to do fine on it [inaudible 00:02:58] I just held it, but I never thought that I would personally maybe launch a company [inaudible 00:03:05]. I liked the general idea around it. I found out about it because of a kid that went to MIT that was mining Bitcoin. At the time, I thought he literally meant he was mining, like, in a mine.

Andrew: Wait. So how was he mining crypto Bitcoins specifically?

Dan: He said that he was just doing it in his dorm room or something. I didn’t know him that well. It was a story that was brought up at a random party I went to that was a friend of my ex-girlfriend’s brother, and it was a very strange thing. Then I looked into it, thought it was really interesting. That’s how I got involved in it, but then blacked out on it for two years, three years, just had it behind my head.

What ended up happening is I then go on to this trip to Israel, actually, with a bunch of entrepreneurs. I met this really amazing entrepreneur who had exited and had been working for a candy company [inaudible 00:03:56], and she told me the time that she was launching a cryptocurrency. It was really the first time I had heard about it, and this is maybe a year and a half before this period that you’re kind of talking about where, like, I was literally sitting at Thanksgiving, and everyone was talking about crypto. So it was before that whole rush.

And that’s when I got, like, more interested in it, and it was very timely because within our business maybe six months later we had developed this music platform, and we were kind of thinking about a way to better reward our users and then this whole concept of, like, “Well, what if we rewarded people for their attention while they were using our service?” And we thought about, you know, “What are ways that we can do this?”

One of the ideas was to do, potentially, our own cryptocurrency, but we didn’t really solidify that concept. We kind of, you know, tossed it around. And then comes five or six months later. This same person that I talked with maybe a year before does launch that cryptocurrency in an ICO. It was the largest ICO that had ran. And then I was like, “Wow. Like, this is possible. Like, look at this crazy industry that’s happening and all this other stuff.”

And so then we, you know, looked at it again. Like, I just was like, “Well, what if we change the dynamic of rewarding, you know, based on points and stuff?” And then we started focusing on launching this crypto, and then what this crypto really values is what these people’s attention are. So then, you know, that’s what we, you know, decided to do. We went through a whole process deciding like, “Do we want to go a traditional venture route, or do we do this?” And that seemed much more exciting.

Andrew: Because you thought, “We’d raise money through crypto. I know someone who raised the most money ever through crypto by having an ICO,” and then you said, “We could reward our listeners who are listening to our music app by giving them some cryptocurrency.” That’s the original incarnation. Am I right?

Dan: Yeah, and it was a thing that, at the time, we felt that there had not really been anyone in the space that was focused on our type of user, right? And so every music streaming platform really has focused on one thing – not just music streaming, just streaming in general and media – which is offer a free service and then charge, right?

And we were like, “We don’t need to even do that. Like, let’s focus on just free users, and we reward people who actually have more time on their hands than money per se, and that is what we’re really rewarding here.” And it was during times where, like, the whole UBDI model, like universal basic income and rewarding data, and it’s also timely with what’s kind of happening with Facebook and data privacy and GDPR.

Andrew: Meaning if they’re giving up their privacy, they should get something in return other than seeing their sister’s photos. They should get something of value.

Dan: Right, and so all that policy stuff is coming at the same time, so it was all of these things kind of aligning. I had never really even heard about a lot of these things maybe a year before, but, obviously, data privacy and this whole attention side of things and the attention economy is becoming much more relevant.

And so those stars kind of aligned, and we went through it a lot. There was a lot within our company to decide if that was the path that we would take because we did have, like, a kind of limited amount of runway to really make a decision on if that’s the path that we need to take.

Andrew: And then what about music? Do you now have the major music publishers? What’s your music library now?

Dan: Yeah, so the way we actually operate is very similar to, say, TuneIn Radio. We aggregate a variety of different stations from around the world, about 100,000 of them, and users can listen to the music from those stations.

Andrew: Radio stations?

Dan: Yeah, they’re internet . . .

Andrew: Got it. So you’re pulling in radio stations the way that TuneIn does, and the ads don’t interrupt the stations, do they? They come on in the app.

Dan: Well, some stations, if we decide to feature them, they have their own ads in there. We try and source stations that obviously are a good experience for our users, but a lot of the revenue . . . as of right now, we don’t make money on audio ads. That passes through to the stations, who pay a statutory rate based off of internet radio.

Andrew: Got it.

Dan: That does allow us to do some pretty unique stuff at least in some markets. Something that TuneIn, for example, also does is allow you just to record the radio streams for their own private use, which actually still abides within the Fair Use Act. And so that’s something that we also offer our users for free so they can have a legal and free streaming service that also has capability to be offline. They just can’t pull the music out of the app.

Andrew: Okay. I got it, and so it makes sense, and one of the ways that you said that you get people’s attention so that you could display ads is on Android you take over the lock screen, right?

Dan: Yes.

Andrew: And then is it only when the music’s playing or always?

Dan: No, it’s always. It’s something they can do. We’re [inaudible 00:08:45] add a feature that allow them to snooze that functionality so that it doesn’t make it through in a meeting or something like that where they don’t want it to, but, underlyingly, what happens there is the [inaudible 00:08:57] music player is on that screen, and Android is our primary market. It’s probably 90% of our user base. It’s very interesting to see, especially when you’re kind of, like, culminating the concept of data and attention, because what we see is, you know, our users on average look at their phone north of 50 times a day. So each time that happens, you know, you’re rendering impressions. The first thing they see is our product.

Andrew: Got it. And your product is the ability that lets them play music again but also lets them see an ad, and then, if they interact with the ad, the example you gave me before we got started was if they sign up for Hulu because of one of your ads, they get points that they can use to get gift cards and other benefits, and you now get the revenue that Hulu pays you for a new customer, right?

Dan: Yeah, if they see an affiliate-based ad because it’s mostly just display based advertising, and there’s a lot of first-party data that we’re collecting to, you know, have more targeting conversions for our advertiser base. But in general, like, you know, that’s a very interesting advertising unit within the product itself. So that’s essentially how we’re able to generate, you know, a good bit of revenue within the product itself, but we actually don’t make a lot of money on the music streaming. As you can imagine, actually, music streaming is a very tough business to be in. The reason that we focused on it directly was, you know, we knew that the concept of playing music and getting paid is something that people generally like, and it gets them in the door. We monetize through a variety of other behaviors that happen within the product itself.

Andrew: What else?

Dan: There’s a lot of market research companies that we work with, for example.

Andrew: For surveys?

Dan: Yeah, for surveys and things of that nature. And so, you know, that’s one capability. Another one is, like, obviously the affiliate offers that I mentioned where if, like, a user interacts with a specific offer, they get a certain amount of points. We also are doing things now . . . this hasn’t launched fully yet, but this is a process we have [inaudible 00:10:56] from the major credit card companies – MasterCard, American Express – so that users can essentially enroll their credit card or debit card within our service. And then if you shop at, like, a, you know, store, whether it’s something like a Walmart or Starbucks or whatever’s running an offer at the time, you get additional cash back for shopping at that store in the form of points within our product.

So we’re really monetizing a variety of the behaviors that people have in addition to kind of the data that they share with our service.

Andrew: What happened to crypto? You guys were going to give cryptocurrency, as you said earlier. Why couldn’t you give them crypto in exchange for listening to music?

Dan: Yeah, so, fundamentally, you know, after we decided to go down that path of going down the token tail route, it was in this very interesting moment of kind of, like, where the industry was. You had a ton of these ICOs kind of coming out, and then they were really sharing this concept of what is a utility token, right? And a lot of companies were basically saying, like, “Oh, it’s a utility token. It’s not a security.”

We basically raised our capital right at the brink of that whole concept, and then maybe a month after or maybe a couple weeks after, the SEC was like, “Hey, these things are likely restricted securities.” And so we had to kind of go down that path. You know, we went to the best attorneys that we could possibly find and basically told them everything about kind of how we did our offering. And then they basically said, “Listen. In order for this to be a compliant offering, you’re going to have to offer, basically, a repurchase rescission to every investor.”

Andrew: Let me take a moment here for a second. So I guess I should say ICO, initial coin offering, the idea is you create new cryptocurrency, this new set of coins. People pay you for the initial coins. You then have all this money that you can run your business with. As you were mentioning earlier, there’s a difference between a utility and a security. Tell me if I’m understanding this part right. If people are buying the coins in order to get something out of the service, that’s one thing. But if they’re buying it in order to fund the company, that’s basically like selling shares, and the SEC wants you to follow their rules for selling shares. I know I’m oversimplifying. Am I on the right track?

Dan: Yes, somewhat. Fundamentally, basically, there’s a thing called the Howey Test, which is kind of a guideline. Basically, there was this whole thing around oranges in the 1930s or something where it’s like anything can be a security. If there is an expectation for profit on whatever you’re buying, then it will likely be defined as a security. Therefore, you need to follow underlying security laws, which means in the United States [inaudible 00:13:47] accredited. You have to follow a one-year restriction period for them to be able to be sold to unaccredited. There’s a variety of rules, right?

And so what a lot of these companies were saying was like, “Oh, no. We’re utility. We don’t have to follow these things,” and there is actually a point, though, that a security can be a utility and turn into one. There’s just not really any guidance that the SEC has given as to when that happens.

So as an example, Ethereum, which is the second major cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin. They did an ICO a few years ago, and when they did their ICO, that was viewed as a security. But over time, the network became decentralized enough, and it’s no longer viewed as a security by the SEC, and the agency has stated that actually, but there’s no guidance on when that occurs, right?

So there’s a lot of, like, kind of gray area in the space, but that has done notoriously well for those people that were in the initial Ethereum ICO. Even at the price that Ethereum is at today, it’s an incredible return. So that’s essentially why or how it could work to become a utility per se.

Andrew: Meanwhile, you started selling coins just as they told you, “This is not really the right way to do it.” You then gave back money to people who paid you? Am I right? Well, you take it from there. What happened?

Dan: Basically, we went then through a formal process of how any company would do where they feel like the offering was not to the standards that you would need to, right? And most companies now [inaudible 00:15:19] about ICOs. It’s actually because of the SEC stepping in and saying, “You need to offer rescission to the investors of this,” right? And so that happened in the case of several different token sales.

We had done that proactively without anyone saying that based off of what our lawyers had said. So then we went through this whole process and created new documentation and then sent that out to our investor base. Basically, people had the option of, you know, either getting a refund or staying in the deal and then resigning updated documents that showed like, “Hey, this is a security. Here’s all of the disclosures and all that stuff,” and it was like a massive PP ad with all that information. So that’s what we went through was that process.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go back and understand how you got here. But, you know, first, I’m going to tell everyone my first sponsor is Toptal. It’s a place where you can go hire developers. One of the things that they told me is that when a technology gets hot, they get the top developers in that space into their network so that any company that needs to hire developers who are amazing at this new technology can come to Toptal and count on having the best.

One of the examples they gave me was they said when crypto got big, they went after all the top crypto people, got them in their network, and when businesses needed to hire cryptocurrency experts, developers who are the best in the space, there was basically just one place to go – Toptal.

And you’re one of the companies that went to them, right? You hired from Toptal?

Dan: We did hire from Toptal, not for a blockchain engineer. They basically focus on the top talent. I know it’s sometimes very hard if you have [inaudible 00:16:55] that are great. We do have a relatively distributed team, at least for our engineering, and so our lead QA developer we found on Toptal.

Andrew: Why Toptal versus any other place? You could have put ads up online. You could have gone to all these different freelancing sites. Why Toptal?

Dan: Honestly, we did do that. Like, we really needed QA at the time, and I think sometimes when you’re doing your own interviews, that process takes a little bit longer, right? From Toptal we had a good list of people to choose from, and we found a great fit, and they were ready to start pretty much right away. But we did use other sites also because it goes back to just the interviewing component of it like the test that the engineers or the candidates need to go through to basically qualify for the Toptal network. So there’s just kind of a higher standard, I suppose.

Andrew: You know what? That’s a benefit that I don’t talk enough about, the speed to hire. The velocity to getting started is just amazing with Toptal because they spend so long prescreening people in their network, researching them, and understanding who they are and how they work so that when you as an entrepreneur or someone listening to us as an entrepreneur or anyone who’s hiring goes to Toptal, half the work if not 80% has already been done. All you have to do is talk to the matcher. Tell them what you’re looking for. They put you in front of one or two. How many people did they give you? Two people to consider?

Dan: Yeah, [inaudible 00:18:27] hiring manager [inaudible 00:18:29], but I do know that we had multiple [inaudible 00:18:30].

Andrew: Yeah, and then you get on a videoconferencing service like this. You talk to them. If you like them, you can often get started right away.

If you’re out there listening to me and you need to hire amazing people at a fast clip, there’s no better place to go than Toptal. If you go to this URL I’m about to give you, you’ll get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to 2 weeks. Here it is. It’s toptal.com/mixergy. toptal.com/mixergy.

Your guy who was an entrepreneur from the beginning, and I’m going to go back and understand, like, how you got started in entrepreneurship, and then you mentioned earlier, “So we were building this music app anyway,” and I want to know why you were building an app like that and what other apps you were building and then bring it back to the point of the story that we covered.

As a kid, were you born in Brazil, or did you spend some time early on in Brazil?

Dan: I was born in Brazil. I speak Portuguese as my first language.

Andrew: Got it. And then you ended up somehow in southern Indiana. What did you import into the U.S. as a kid? This was something. This was clever.

Dan: Yeah, it’s actually what I imported out of the U.S. Basically, the story goes I was about 15 years old. I had started venturing into entrepreneurship. I was always kind of, like, that kid that would sort of hustle. I didn’t really know what the word “entrepreneurship” was at the time. You know, not many people like that are. I basically worked at Polo Ralph Lauren at the time for, like, a week and noticed how hard it was to make money. I started selling these leather jackets using my employee discount at the time on eBay, and I made literally $20,000 or $30,000 in a few months.

Andrew: Wait, wait, wait. Buying Polo clothes from Brazil?

Dan: No, no, no. So I was now in Indiana working at a store. It was a factory outlet where [inaudible 00:20:30] 16-year-old kid. I started working there for a week. I got my first paycheck, and then realized that the amount that they valued me, I was just, like, really upset about it, and I was actually about to quit. And then I remembered this big tour bus of people that were either from Japan or China went to the store because, you know, it’s a really big outlet mall. They spent, like, $40,000 in there, and I was the guy that helped it.

And I was, like, thinking. I was like, “Man, I’m going to definitely get some good commission for this.” Then I got, like, a $25 Arby’s gift card, and I was like, “Man, that’s so terrible.” And then I was like, “Man, I have 40% off.” I was like, “I could just give them 20% of. I would make a ton of money.” And then it clicked, this idea around using my employee discount to see, like, what items go on eBay, right, and definitely not [inaudible 00:21:21] employee allowed.

Andrew: It goes against the rules. Did you sell first on eBay and then buy the product?

Dan: No, so what I did was I [inaudible 00:21:32] of return policy. Basically, then I just went around, and, like, to date myself . . . that’s weird. It’s the first time I ever said that. To date myself, I had a Palm Treo at the time, and I would, like, literally take photos of all these, like, little barcodes and cross-reference it. Then I found this one item that was, like, ultrahigh margin. It was, like, this leather jacket. It was selling for $400 on eBay. I can get it for $130 with my employee discount. I bought three on a credit card and got the receipt, and I sold all three that night for, like, $300 each. I was like, “Man, I just made, like, $500 after my cost.”

And so I just kept buying those things, and then I had everyone in the store buying them, and then I just basically kept the job to keep the discount. And my manager was actually cool with it, believe it or not, at the time because it wasn’t [inaudible 00:22:18] the revenue of the store. But after a few months, the general manager found out about it, and then I heard that I was going to get fired, so then I just kind of quit. But at the time, I basically did collect $30,000, which then allowed me to use that money to start a much larger business, especially for a high school kid.

Andrew: What was the larger business?

Dan: Eventually, that’s what turned into kind of this import/export thing. So being from Brazil, I always noticed the differences between pricing of things, right? So as an example, a MacBook might cost $2,000 here. That same MacBook in Brazil will cost $6,000.

Andrew: Wow.

Dan: And that is due to the import taxes, the general cost of sending the thing there, and then the markup that happens. In the early 2000s, mid-2000s, it was even worse. There was a lag on a lot of things that would essentially launch in these countries, and that wasn’t just true in Brazil. It was true in a ton of countries. So that’s what I started doing. I started importing goods out of the United States into countries like Brazil. Then I started doing it to the U.K. I set up a warehouse there. What’s interesting about the U.K., you know, it was part of the European Union at the time, and you could essentially sell items in Italy. It was similar to the U.S. The import tax in Italy is actually much higher than it is in the U.K., but you can get it shipped one day from there. I was doing this in Australia [inaudible 00:23:46].

Andrew: Wait, wait, wait. What you’re doing is you’re bringing it into the U.K. where the import taxes are low and then driving it from there to Italy or shipping it.

Dan: Yeah, shipping it from Italy.

Andrew: And then now where taxes are higher you’re competing against people who are paying more. Wow. This is quite a business. So how did you get around import taxes into Brazil?

Dan: So in Brazil, honestly, the way I first started it was definitely not what I was supposed to be doing.

Andrew: Did you have friends get on planes and bring the stuff in?

Dan: Yes, actually, flight attendants, a lot of airline attendants. You just bring it there are. And then the issue about Brazil, like, that’s where I got started because I was in that market, but it’s hard to scale because then I was like, “I can’t just keep paying airline attendants, and, like, this isn’t how things are done.” So I actually then eventually pulled out of Brazil because it was just, like, too much work to get set up there. So what I started doing was doing the U.K. thing, and that’s how the U.K. started. And then I actually moved to Australia for a period of time to set it up there as well.

What was interesting was also, like, the phone thing. I would buy phones here in the U.S. that were, like, refurbished, especially from networks like Sprint and Verizon because they were run on CDMA numbers, which are, you know, serial-number-based, but they would have GSM chips, the BlackBerry one, so I could unlock those devices and send them overseas. So I would get them at ultra-low discounts here, and then I could sell them there for roughly the same price. So I scaled this business to roughly doing about $2 million a year. Meanwhile, I was a freshman in college or sophomore in college.

Andrew: Wow.

Dan: You know, I ran that business for several years, you know, and it provided . . .

Andrew: What did you do with the profit?

Dan: I basically took that money. You know, I was a kid. I bought a new car. Eventually, I started just starting other businesses. So now I’m in college. I got into, you know, doing screen printing. I did that for all the fraternities at school. Then I eventually started an online media company that catered to, like, the fraternity demographic, and that’s actually where I got into, like, online music because that’s what we were doing. We were doing playlists for people before Spotify, and about a million people a month were coming to the site and listening to the playlists that I was curating for parties and studying and all this other stuff. Then [inaudible 00:26:24] the company. That was how I met my cofounder, which was a crazy story in itself.

Andrew: By the way, let me pause here on the cofounder. When I said importing, I had no idea you were doing all this. I didn’t know you were buying clothes and electronics and then sending it down to South America. I just heard when you were a kid you would buy “Playboy” in Brazil where it was easier to get and bring it to the U.S. and sell pages of it to kids.

Dan: That’s when I was in elementary school, yeah.

Andrew: How did you end up getting so many “Playboy” magazines? Your parents were just okay with that?

Dan: No, I got caught for that, so they were not cool with that. My mom is Catholic and definitely was not cool with that, but [inaudible 00:27:06]. It was like one of those things where, again, like, you have rules in the United States, and there’s technically rules there, but I think at 12, to any newsstand, being 12 years old, as long as I had the money no one said anything. In the United States, it wasn’t like that. Eventually, you do get caught. You know, I remember [inaudible 00:27:23] parents, and then I got in trouble and this whole thing.

Andrew: But what I’m seeing, though, is a kid who just had this creative energy, the ability to see that things cost less in one place and more in another, the willingness to sell it where it’s more expensive, the hustle to find flight attendants who are going to move things in, places to sell it internationally. That’s who you were as a kid. You couldn’t wait to be an adult to start a company.

Dan: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I gave up, like, playing sports and all that stuff to start my business, yea, because that’s what I loved, you know?

Andrew: All right. You were starting to tell me how you found your cofounder. Where did you find your cofounder?

Dan: Fiverr.

Andrew: Fiverr? For what? What were you looking to do?

Dan: I didn’t, like, set out to go to Fiverr to find a cofounder. What ended up happening is I’m leaving college, and I had just moved to Chicago, and I remember thinking to myself, like, I was happy about the business I had started, but I really wanted to start, like, a scalable business and not just, like, do, you know, the import and export stuff or screen printing or whatever.

And so there was a contest that Bloomberg was putting on with the “Techstars” TV show back in the day, and so I needed to cut a video for this startup idea I had [inaudible 00:28:38] startup again. And so I found this person on Fiverr to make me this, like, $15 video, and we entered it, and it won the contest on the Bloomberg TV show where we were featured on the season finale, which got me into a top 25 “Techstars” New York interview with, like, David Tisch.

And I remember my whole life I did fine in school. I’ve done businesses and stuff, and I have never bombed [inaudible 00:29:02] someone worse than I bombed that one because I was, like, just this unprepared, cocky, 22-year-old kid. But it didn’t change the fact that I spent $15 on a video on Fiverr and had some ingenuity to be on Bloomberg television on the season finale and won that.

So I thought to myself, “What else can I get for $5?” At the time, that music website was something. I was like, “I should make an app for this. Like, people are starting to focus on apps.” And so I was like, “I wonder if I could find an iOS engineer.” And so I basically looked it up, and someone posted, “Will make app for $5.” I told him the idea. I said what it was, and he’s like, “I can’t make that for $5, but I’ll make it for, like, $85.” And then I was like, “Well, okay, sure. Like, whatever.” And I tried to justify to myself how someone is going to make an app for $85 and why. And I’m like, “Maybe he’s from a country where that’s a great exchange rate.” And then we became Skype friends, and over time, maybe six weeks later, he delivered this app. And it wasn’t the best thing I had ever seen, but it worked.

Andrew: What did the app do?

Dan: Well, initially, it was supposed to be a music streaming app, but that was too hard. So it actually was a bunch of kind of, like, college memes related to the topic of the fraternity music stuff, and then we preloaded, like, 10 of our top tracks that we had gotten approval for in there, and then people could do those, like, little crossword puzzle things. Do you know what I’m talking about that used to be on the Microsoft, like, home browser where you’re trying to, like, decipher the little puzzle? Like, the image is scrambled.

Andrew: Oh, okay. So an image of a meme is scrambled, they’re listening to music, and that’s what he created. Did you come up with the change, or did he come up with it? Did he say, “I think I can’t make a streaming app, but I can do this instead?”

Dan: You know, that’s a great question. I think I told him the initial idea, and he’s like, “That’s too complex,” and then, basically, we found something that was possible. Underlyingly, what I found out was that it was a 16-year-old kid at the time or 17, actually, and he was not from [inaudible 00:31:08], and he was, like, sick of reading programming books and wanted to just work on a project but at the same time didn’t trust his own ability or skills because he had just kind of started. His dad also happens to be, like, a world-class CTO, and so he always had, like, [inaudible 00:31:23] a person that was kind of always exploring, and he was like, “Yeah, I want to work on a project.” So he posted on Fiverr, and I was his first Fiverr gig, and that’s how we became friends.

Andrew: How much did you pay him, and what ended up happening with this?

Dan: I paid him $85, as we agreed, and it ended up making probably, like, $10,000 over the years, you know, over, like, a year or something.

Andrew: Just because you left it in the app store?

Dan: Because I left it in the app store. It had good ASO. There wasn’t a ton of apps. We had good traffic. You know, it made a couple thousand, like, literally off the bat, you know, and then I don’t even know how long that was around, but that was a good return. It wasn’t amazing or anything, but it was fine.

But then I was like, “Listen,” and then we just kept talking, and I was trying to think about other app ideas, and I thought that was really cool. And I was like, “Yeah, I just graduated, you know, and I’ve been looking to start this company.” And then the idea that we came up with was eventually to build an app builder that would allow people to build apps without coding because I thought that was a big issue. I faced that issue. And so he’s like, “Oh, I also graduated.” This is when I found out he was so young. He was in high school. And then I convinced him, actually, to take a gap year and move to Chicago.

Andrew: You convinced him to take a year off of school and move to work with you after high school?

Dan: Yeah, and his parents were cool with it, which was shocking to me. I mean, we never met each other. He lived on my couch on and off for, like, a year. We kind of struggled through that first, like, nine months.

Andrew: Is this Kiran, by the way?

Dan: This is Kiran, yeah.

Andrew: Kiran Panesar?

Dan: Yes.

Andrew: He’s your cofounder. He’s the CTO of the company. Okay. So he lived on your couch. You guys had an idea to build a builder that would enable people to create apps kind of like if you’re thinking about building a website. There are builders that will allow you to build websites quickly, okay, and that’s your vision.

Dan: Yeah, and so we, super naïve, build this thing, and, like, we were able to build something, but we didn’t have all the things, like, that we needed to basically make something that was going to be competitive or similar to, like, Squarespace or Wix. But we did build this builder that allowed us to rapidly build apps. So what I started doing is actually building a ton of different apps on different niches, and I think we started making, like, $30,000 a month off that.

Andrew: $30,000?

Dan: Yeah, $20,000 or $30,000 a month every month on, like, these random-niche, content-based apps like paleo juice diets and little baby music. Whatever it was, it was, like, different niches.

Andrew: So if I was looking for a paleo diet in the app store to see what came up, your app might come up. Basically, you were saying, “What are people interested in? Let’s create an app for that.” And then where would you get the content for it?

Dan: We would just source it from all over different, like, content streams. Basically, we were being paid to curate content for people, right?

Andrew: And it was just a stream of content almost like an RSS feed that you guys got.

Dan: Yeah, essentially. It wasn’t just RSS, but it also had, like, music and podcasts. We had a bunch of integrations that we worked with. Anyway, again, then I caught myself in the same problem, which was, “This isn’t scalable. Fine. We’re making some money, so it’s not a full loss,” because I funded the whole thing [inaudible 00:34:31] a lot of money for me just to fund. And then Kiran had to go back to college because he was like, “I can’t take another gap year.” And then we basically took a step back, and we were like, “Well, let’s take a minute to rethink what we’re doing.”

And so we came up with this idea to work on a different project that was actually supposed to be on a [inaudible 00:34:50], and the general idea was to build an Instagram app, because Instagram was getting popular, that basically was like an exchange system that allowed people to get to the Discover page. How it worked is you uploaded your photo, and then people could like it or follow you, and if they did, they would get coins for doing so – one for liking, two for following. If they didn’t want to deal with all that nonsense, they could just buy coins. And we built this thing in, like, a week, and this is what’s really crazy and was a pivotal moment for our business or whatever we were doing at the time. It wasn’t really a full-blown, like, business per se at the time.

We essentially launched it in the app store. It went to the top three in the, you know, paid category or something or the top 11. More interesting and most importantly, it went to the top 77 in the grossing charts. We were up there with, like, eHarmony and Wall Street Journal. You know, and it was crazy because I remember launching it on a Friday, and then I woke up the next morning, and I was like, “$581. It was only live for, like, two hours. That must be an error.” And then the next day when I get my little report, like, post-Apple-cut, it made $11,000.

Andrew: Whoa. And it’s because people were willing to pay for an Instagram app that let them what? Earn coins? Is that the part that was exciting?

Dan: Yeah, to get more likes. It was called Instant Liker, and it allowed them to get more likes and followers and hit the Discover page.

Andrew: On Instagram?

Dan: Yeah.

Andrew: Wait, wait. How would you get them more likes on Instagram?

Dan: Because it was an exchange system. So people were downloading the app, and then each one was liking and following each other, basically.

Andrew: Got it. For every time I like someone else’s, I get someone else to like mine. Got it. Got it.

Dan: People just started buying it, and what ended up happening is we ended up scaling that to, like, three million users in, like, a couple months. Like, it was organic. There was no money spent. It was insane. It made, I don’t know, a few hundred thousand dollars. Like, we were making, like, $10,000 profit a day in two months.

Actually, Kiran’s, like, in his freshman week, you know, and he’s like, “Well.” The issue within the United States is that we have visa issues. Like, the only visa he would qualify for was the O-1A visa, which is for people of extraordinary ability. It’s like the Nobel Peace Prize type of visa. So he couldn’t get the H-1B. So, basically, we talked to a lawyer, and he’s like, “The only way for him to get one is, like, if you were able to raise some venture funding and get a lot of recommendations and all this other stuff.”

So it kept going on. It kept making money. Eventually, we got this investor that was, like, interested in putting in, you know, more than seven figures into our business, and then he did, and then, eventually, we got Mark Cuban to be an advisor to the company.

Andrew: Wait. Who’s the investor? You know what? Let’s take a moment here. I’m going to come back, and I’m going to ask you who the investor was and how you got Mark Cuban, because that was a big credibility point when I looked at your site.

But, first, let me tell everyone about my second sponsor. I’m going to write “Mark Cuban” and make sure that I come back to this. My second sponsor is a company called HostGator. Let me ask you this. You’re a creative person. Imagine you’re starting from scratch. Let’s say you’re 16 years old today and you have nothing but a hosting package from HostGator. You can host anything. It could be a WordPress site. It could be some other site. What would you do? Nothing else except for that. What would you launch?

Dan: I have a hosting site?

Andrew: Yeah, what business would you launch if you could do nothing but have a website?

Dan: Man, that’s a good question. I probably would focus on TikTok. People are trying to figure out what the hell’s going on with TikTok because it’s [inaudible 00:38:39]. And I’ve seen a lot of really smart, creative, 17-year-old kids that are in, like, the marketing circles that I’m in basically be the Gen Z expert for things like TikTok or Yellow [SP] where everybody [inaudible 00:38:54] and these apps that are [inaudible 00:38:58] that are focused on Gen Z.

Andrew: Maybe an agency like a website where you can hire people who know what to do on TikTok to advise a company?

Dan: I probably would make it two things. There would be, like, an agency so I could have the service-side business, but a lot of TikTok influencers and Trillr and these new platforms that are kind of coming out, there are some big people on there, big influencers, other kids that are, like, 15, 16, 17 years old. That’s in gaming too. And I would probably just hit up all these kids and create kind of, like, my Rolodex of influencers and then basically match, like, being the expert, and I can get you into that because I know there’s a ton of brands that are interested in that, especially . . .

Andrew: So if a brand . . . especially what? Sorry.

Dan: Especially in the gaming category. The gaming category is, like, crushing it right now. I think it’s going to be bigger than Major League Baseball.

Andrew: What do you mean? What are they doing in the gaming category on TikTok?

Dan: It’s not just TikTok, but I’m saying general, like, gaming. I would focus on these new, Gen-Z-related media categories, whether it’s these Gen Z apps or things like gaming-related . . . what’s happening with professional gaming, Fortnite, these types of apps. These kids are some of the . . .

Andrew: So what you’re saying is the website would just be a place to house your agency where you would be a matchmaker between brands like maybe Snickers and TikTok influencers or people who have active accounts there. That would be the first thing that you started off with, and you would just ping a bunch of the people who have big followings and who are creative and say, “Can I rep you? If I bring you Snickers, would you sign up?”

Dan: Yeah, you could do that for them and, like, the gaming kids, yeah.

Andrew: I love that idea. All right. Listen to me. If you guys are out there and you have a website idea and you haven’t started it, just go out there and create an account on HostGator. And one of the beauties of having an account on HostGator is you’ve got a place to play, and when you have a place to play, you just start creating. And this could be an idea that you run with. Once you put up a website with a simple template, fill in the blanks with a couple of pieces of information, it gives you so much more credibility when you reach out to people and say, “Here’s the agency I’m running. Do you want to work with me?”

So, again, whether it’s that idea or any other idea that you have, including one that you currently are running and you don’t like the hosting package on it, take your ideas, take your businesses over to HostGator. They will host you quickly, they’ll host you dependably, and they will scale with you. They’ve got everything from the cheapest website options all the way up to managed WordPress hosting that will just blow your mind. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy to get the lowest price that they have available and to say that you come from us, which means that we will always back you. hostgator.com/mixergy.

All right. We were talking about an investor. How did you get the investor?

Dan: So the way we got them, we actually got approached by one of the people that were working at the office. They were like, “Hey, you know, we saw, like, your profile. We’d be interested in chatting with you.” And then I actually said to them, “Like, I don’t know if we’d be interested in raising money right now because, as it stands, we make about $300,000 profit a month and our costs are, like, $10,000.”

Andrew: This is from the Instagram app?

Dan: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: $300,000 profit?

Dan: Yeah.

Andrew: Do you still have money in your bank from all those import/export businesses? From this? Do you have over $1 million in the bank?

Dan: So we reinvested a lot of the money that we earned back into the business.

Andrew: Wow. Do you have more than $500,000 in the bank in liquid assets?

Dan: Yeah, in the vicinity, I think.

Andrew: Okay. Wow. All right. So you’re not going to be destroyed if this thing doesn’t work out.

Dan: I mean, you pour what you believe . . . at the end of the day, I’ve always had the skillset to be able to create money for myself. I think what I’m trying to prove out now is that . . . I talked about this in a different podcast. I was sick of the businesses that are making $10,000, $30,000, $50,000 a month. Those things are great, but that isn’t actually what I personally am trying to accomplish right now.

Andrew: Those are side hustles or hustles that you had up until now that were damn good, but it’s just that. Once you stop hustling, it doesn’t work. What you seem to want is a brand. You want the reputation. You want the thing that grows bigger than you. You want something really big and reputable. Am I sensing this right?

Dan: Yeah, and I think also have impact. It does something that’s valuable for people. I can always go back to those things. One thing I’ve never worried about is, unless I have, like, a serious, you know, concussion and lose my brainpower, it’s like I’ll always be able to make an income for myself.

Andrew: Why? What is it about you that allows you to always make an income for yourself?

Dan: I don’t know. I think the creative thinking.

Andrew: Because you have these creative ideas?

Dan: I think it’s creative ideas. I don’t know. I’ve always been able to approach things a little bit differently than maybe the average person, and in business, I think it’s the edge that you have that others may not. Basically, a lot of people just kind of sit and dwell and think and think and think [inaudible 00:44:07], and I know that I’m a quick-start personality. Sometimes that is something I need to hold back because you do make a lot of errors when you are a quick-start sometimes, especially when you have a lot of resources.

Andrew: But, you know, let me go back to the basics. When you realized that in Brazil computer equipment was more expensive than in the U.S., most people would’ve thought, “That makes sense. Wouldn’t it be great if I just bought a laptop in the U.S. and took it to Brazil? I could probably pay for my flight that way.” You did it differently. How did you do that? Give me, like, an example from back then that shows how you move fast.

Dan: I just listed it as if I had it, and then I knew that if I had to get it there the worst-case scenario of how I could get it there and also the best-case scenario, and that’s what happened.

Andrew: Where did you list it?

Dan: On this site called MercadoLibre, which is the eBay of Brazil.

Andrew: So you just want to MercadoLibre. What did you say you had? A Dell computer?

Dan: No, no, no. I only dealt with Apple because that was the high-end. You have to know who your audience is.

Andrew: Okay. So you just listed an Apple computer. Somebody bought it. Did they pay you?

Dan: Yeah, they did.

Andrew: So once they paid you, you then had to find a way to get it to Brazil?

Dan: Yeah, so, basically, I knew that I had [inaudible 00:45:28]. I had a deal with, actually, a distributor of Apple products, and even if he didn’t have it in stock, I was like, “Well, I can go to Best Buy. It’s definitely in stock there. Worse comes to worst, I’ll just return it, like, you know, and that’s that. I need it right away.” So I just basically started doing dropshipping, right, before kind of the whole Shopify dropshipping.

Andrew: Yeah, but how did you get it into the country then?

Dan: So I basically did the math, and even if I paid the import tax at 60%, I would break even with shipping. At the time, I knew of someone that was traveling back to Brazil, a family member, and so I was like, “Worse comes to worst, I can just give it to my grandmother, and she’ll just take it there.”

Andrew: These are the worst-case scenarios. What ended up happening?

Dan: I ended up giving it to my grandmother.

Andrew: Got it. And then she put it in the mail when she got there.

Dan: Eventually, I got connected to, you know, some airline attendants and stuff through someone. One of the guys that I ended up selling it to was also a reseller of products, and I don’t know who he was reselling it to. But then I ended up finding this guy that would buy, like, ten at a time from me, and then he had a bunch of airline attendants that I would just work with and send it to them, and then that’s how it started in Brazil.

Actually, the much bigger opportunity that I would say is probably 80% of the revenue [inaudible 00:46:49] business is that I was wholesaling these goods to someone. And he came up to me, and he was like, “Look. You’re making a markup on me, but if you sell to me at basically your cost, I have a [inaudible 00:47:04] business in the U.K., and we export all over Europe.” And if you look at the pricing at the time, the pound was really strong. It was, like, 1.8 to 1. “These things have a worldwide warrantee, and I will let you export it to my warehouse, and then we both sell it in there.” And then I was like, “Okay. Let’s try that.” I had always been doing wholesale or, like, these one-offs, and then I started doing individualized, and it really scaled, and then I started making a lot more money.

Andrew: Okay. I get now how you work. The investor came to you and said, “I want to invest. You said, “I have $300,000 in profit a month. Why would I do it?” Why did you end up saying yes?

Dan: The visa issue.

Andrew: Just because of the visa? How much money did you take in?

Dan: We took $1.5 million.

Andrew: Okay. Who was the investor? I don’t think I’ve been able to find the person’s name.

Dan: It was called Garland Capital. It was a family office here in Chicago.

Andrew: Okay. All right. And so you got the money, and then we were talking about how you ended up with crypto partially because this friend of yours did a really big deal, partially because you were looking to grow, right?

Dan: Yeah.

Andrew: And then the SEC issue happened. Why didn’t you give up on it at that point? Why didn’t you say, “You know what? This is starting to get too complicated. This whole crypto thing is a pain in the butt. Let’s go find the next thing.”

Dan: Yeah, yeah, so, sorry, just to step back here, so these are happening at different times, right? Kiran, then we eventually got him, and then we kind of ran that business with that. Sorry. What was your other question?

Andrew: Thanks for clarifying it. So then you get the investor. You’re continuing with the business. Now Kiran is allowed to stay in the country. You’re going on. You have this idea for one of your apps, which was already in the works, right? The music app?

Dan: Actually, with that $1.5 million, we actually decided to continue on with the app builder idea and focus on that, and then this actually was a big learning for us because while that was happening, we still had these other, like, you know, apps that were actually pulling in the real revenue for our business, which was, you know, these Instagram apps or Facebook or whatever.

Unfortunately, like, those things are also kind of, like, you’re using the API of a different service, and when they want to pull the access from their API, this is one of the . . . I’ve learned major lessons in my life around, like, depending your business too much on the app store or Facebook or whatever, and I’ve constantly gotten screwed each time. You know, eBay, whatever it might be. Like, add the platform. I’ve probably been kicked off of it or had some sort of issue, and so that’s what I’m actually really trying to get away from and which is where we’re taking Current.

But, in any case, we built the app builder platform. We built a really nice service, but then ultimately shut it down because it didn’t work. One, I’m much more a consumer entrepreneur than more of an enterprise entrepreneur, and so I built a consumer-based app builder. But the issue that is different from, say, a Squarespace and a Wix is that they can just throw any website live, and they don’t have to go through an Apple review process. They don’t have to pay $99 for an Apple developer account. And then Apple started getting more and more apps and more and more apps, and so the app review process got harder and harder and harder. Eventually, they were like, “Oh, this app is just like every other app.” So all of the app builder services that were just templatized app building, they pretty much all went under or they became agencies.

And we basically made a decision. It was like, “You know, let’s call it. We still have funds.” And we basically pivoted the idea to something else, which ultimately became Current – we called it something else at the time – where we looked at the apps that we did make, and the apps that were actually the most successful and that people were interested in were the ones related to media because we had this really cool music integration and video integration and all that stuff. And then we started running into this issue with the app store, which was like, “Hey, there’s too many apps in the app store.” So we were like, “Well, what if we created an app that basically aggregated all of these different streaming services into one place and you have these little micro-experiences or app-like experiences within one product?” So we built that. That’s what we ultimately started building.

Then we ran into a different issue. It goes back to, like, if I didn’t learn the lesson the first time, I learned it a second time, which is when you’re building a top of another person’s API, there’s a multitude of issues that occur. One, you’re dependent on them. So if there’s rate limiting, if there’s a bug, if they want to cut off your service, that’s an issue. The second one is these companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create a superior user experience, and then if you try and build that experience, it’s very difficult, especially on a startup budget, right?

And so we then had to pivot again, and we said, “What are our users doing in our product?” And what we realized is the people that were using the product the most were free users, and they were using our free music services the most. We did the radio integration, and that’s essentially when we decided to focus just on music and give people a really great, free music experience, and then the idea kind of went through as we kind of went through, which is rewarding for data and attention and how we increase that. And that’s kind of, like, how that whole thing went through, but it’s several different pivots along the way because, you know, that’s essentially what you have to do until you kind of find something that sticks [inaudible 00:52:46].

Andrew: So then a lot of it did not depend on crypto. It just happened that you got into cryptocurrency. It happened that you got into blockchain. Am I right?

Dan: As an entrepreneur, you’re always kind of looking at, like, “What are the trends? What’s happening?” Whatever. You know, in 2015, 2016, I didn’t hear anything about, like, data privacy or GDPR. We didn’t really hear about these things, right? And so that’s happening and then, simultaneously, you know, this concept of, like, this coin is, like, an attention token, right? You focus on this. At the time, Basic Attention Token launched Brave, which is actually building an awesome product, you know, that is a crypto company that you should totally, you know, check out. It’s by the same guy that created Firefox

And so it’s something that we started seeing more [inaudible 00:53:47], and we were like, “Wow. This is a really big opportunity, and who are the users that are really going to be fanatical about this?” It’s either really tech-based people who tend to have more money, so that was [inaudible 00:53:58], but I was like, “Free users. Like, free users care about this stuff, and we’ll focus on that. That’s our target market.”

So it was kind of a culmination of all those things and also having the appropriate, like, you know, mentorship from people that had done it before to kind of, like, rethink the idea. “Does this make sense? Can we do this?” And that’s ultimately how we got in it.

Andrew: What about this? I’ve seen lots of companies try to reward people for doing things online, and what happens is the people who want to be rewarded for doing things online aren’t very valuable. There’s not that much money in targeting them, and they need a lot more in order to entice them to come in. And so what you end up doing is going down this rabbit hole of, “How much can we take advantage of them and their willingness to do stuff for money?” I see your eyes light up, so I know that this is making you uncomfortable, and I get it. I’m not talking about you.

Dan: [inaudible 00:54:51].

Andrew: I’m just saying in general this is what’s happened. You end up with them filling out forms for credit cards, which I know you can’t do because it’s incentivized, filling out stuff that you’re basically cramming down to them, or you’re taking affiliate products like if Netflix is super desperate to get new customers, which I think at one point they were, and they were willing to give out free trials and all that. You go to them and you say, “I’ll sign up for your affiliate program.” You dump a bunch of users in their lap. They take that to the stock market and say, “Look, we’ve got a whole bunch of users.” Meanwhile, everybody knows those uses are never staying around and paying. They just basically paid a third party to incentivize people who don’t have much money to go and sign up for Netflix because they were going to get points. I’m over-talking about this, but you know the problem, right? I’m explaining this [inaudible 00:55:33].

Dan: Here’s what I’ll say. Everything has a conversion rate, right? There’s a reason why these things work. It’s not like these marketers are just spending money, you know, idiotically. These people kind of, like, look into that. You’d actually be very surprised, though, about the brands they go after that type of audience.

It’s one of the reasons, though, that I didn’t want to just be a rewards app, and where we’re kind of taking the business is to be much more of that, because if that’s basically what we’re building, then I would be very sad, I suppose, but the general idea is like, “Let’s provide something of value.” These people aren’t paying monthly subscriptions for music. That I know about my user base. So they’re going to use Pandora. They’re going to use TuneIn. They’re going to use free Spotify. And I was like, “Am I able to offer a comparable service that gives them maybe a feature they don’t have like offline content and pay them for it so that they know that their attention and data is valued at something?” And that was why we kept the music and the streaming content in there.

But to go a little bit further, I think that if you’re not providing an additive service to people outside of just, like, small micropayments, you’re not going to have a great business. And so where we’re kind of actually looking to take our business and actually in line with kind of building a moat around our company, so as I’ve mentioned many times, the one thing that every entrepreneur has to think about is like, “How can I get shut down? What would be detrimental to my business?”

I was watching a YouTube video that talked about Spotify specifically and if they would ever be [inaudible 00:57:23] worried about being shut down. Spotify has a ton of dependencies on the business with the music labels and the fact that they’re trying to go direct with artists. Will it ever be a $1 trillion company, right, the fifth horseman or whatever? And so what it talked about is, like, Spotify has a really tough time because if you search music in the app stores, it’s actually the fourth or fifth results, believe it or not, the largest music service ever, and there’s a big antitrust lawsuit happening right now because of that, and they’re very dependent on these distribution mechanisms. And it talked about until you have your own hardware and you can own the experience of the user, it’s difficult to get out of just being, like, a software app, and software apps have retention issues and all this stuff.

So what we’re specifically looking at at Current is, “How can we take our model that pays users call it $5, $10, $15 a month and provide them with something of value, and what does this user base really care about?” And Current is an international product, so we look at not only low and middle class here in the United States, but we look at emerging markets. “Where are the people coming, and where are those next two billion users coming online?” We [inaudible 00:58:25] in countries like the Philippines, Nigeria, Malaysia, and so on. Basically, we’re creating a model where we can provide a low-cost Android device that will be the cheapest on the market that pays you as you use it.

Andrew: That’s what you want to create?

Dan: That is what we’re working on, yeah yes.

Andrew: So now you have no platform issues like you did. I don’t know what happened with eBay. We didn’t get into it. But I understand with Instagram, I imagine they just cut it out because they did not want you to trade on likes, right? So now your thinking is, “If we create a free Android device . . .”

Dan: And pay you for your attention.

Andrew: Free and pays you for your attention.

Dan: Eventually, yeah. In the U.S., I actually think that we can offer it for free because we have a unique business model with it. It’s like paying with attention, right? You do this little action. You get this phone. And then, essentially, as you use this phone, your data and attention would pay for your data and voice plan.

Andrew: Got it. How much money do you guys have in the bank in order to be able to do all this?

Dan: I mean, we have over eight figures in the bank.

Andrew: Okay. And one of the reasons why you could do it now is Android phone prices are coming down dramatically.

Dan: So here’s the thing. It’s really unique. People have tried this before in the past. Like, if you actually look, there are articles for, like, the $4 smartphone in India that somebody tried to launch and actually was a huge bomb. But it’s more [inaudible 00:59:51]. The chips get cheaper every year. There’s a ton of, like, stuff going on, and we can basically manufacture really high-end devices for very low cost – call it $50 or $60 – and sell a device and just be the cheapest 4G device that exists, but where we’re really monetizing is the usage after.

The thing that’s really interesting about it is that if you tried to do this five years ago or seven years ago . . . some businesses have already kind of, like, tried to do it, like, in other things. So Amazon launched the sponsored Kindle Fire, right? And if you remember, it was, like, cheaper. But a lot of things have been difficult. Like, five years ago, the mobile advertising industry was not what it is. Today, the average user is using their phone four to five hours a day. So we can monetize all these different experiences that are occurring in the product, and that’s what our software does. And as people are using that, we’re providing value back to them, and then, also, the retention mechanism over the course of the next 12 months is much more valuable because a person owns a phone for a year, right, 6 to 12 months. A person may have an app. If the app has a 30% retention rate and it’s a consumer app, that’s a sick number. That would be great, right, but most companies don’t. So how do you . . .

Andrew: What do you guys . . . sorry. Go ahead. What do you guys have? I get the vision for the future. Today, what’s the churn on the app? What’s your average usage?

Dan: Today, we do over 100 million ad impressions a month through the product.

Andrew: For the people who download it, how often are they using it?

Dan: So our rolling retention is about, I think, 30% or 40%. That’s rolling retention. So, like, new user retention is probably in the vicinity of 10% at day 30 or week 4, and it changes depending on the country. Like, we’ll see some countries are much higher. Other countries are much lower. And it goes back to the international thing of, like, what we learned, right, which was you’ll find some really weird markets. Like, you’ll see, like, Singapore has higher CPMs than the United States, right? And you’ll see these, like, weird kind of, like, things happening. And so we analyze the data. What are the best countries for us to go acquire users in? And so we’re still early as a company, but it has been scaling. I mean, if you look in the app store, we have, you know, well over, you know, 500,000 downloads just on Android and over 50,000 reviews, but, you know, we’ve had millions of users download Current thus far.

Andrew: All right. For anyone who wants to go check it out, you guys have a really well-designed page. Its current.us, right?

Dan: Yeah, current.us.

Andrew: Whoever designed it, a lot of props. The images, the simplicity, the clarity. It’s just really a well-done page. It’s not just that page. I went into the Careers page. I clicked around to other pages. The design is really nice on it. Its current.us for anyone who wants to go check it out, and from there, of course, you can go into the app store and install it or just look at the business.

I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is HostGator. If you’re hosting a website, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second, if you’re hiring developers, do what I’ve done. Do what so many people who I’ve interviewed have done. Go to toptal.com/mixergy.

All right. Now that it’s over, how does it feel?

Dan: It feels good.

Andrew: Was I a dick?

Dan: Not at all. You were good.

Andrew: I didn’t come at this with, like, happy-go-lucky, but I was absolutely curious, and, man, you won me over with some of those stories . . .

Dan: Good.

Andrew: . . . and the big vision. I get it. I think that it’s going to be a challenge to get there, but I love the big vision for where you’re going.

Dan: Yeah, for sure, man. Yeah, nothing’s easy in life, you know? You’ve got to go for it. I have a question for you, actually. I remember [inaudible 01:03:37] schedule. You did a marathon in Antarctica, huh?

Andrew: Yeah.

Dan: How was that?

Andrew: It was amazing to be in Antarctica. I’m not really somebody who’s just into beauty and surroundings, but the fact that I got to run through that beauty and then look at the surroundings, I got really lit up about it, and I just kept going, going, going. And the truth is that I ran a marathon before then in Chile because I wanted to do a South American solo marathon. And then a week later I was in Antarctica, and I ran a mile marathon there. And then I was on all these flights, and I didn’t give my body a chance to recover. Right now, I’m feeling it in my back. I’m feeling it all over.

Dan: Do you do a lot of marathons?

Andrew: Do I what?

Dan: Do you do a lot of marathons?

Andrew: I did a lot last year. I ended up doing eight. One of them, the one in Santiago, Chile, was a formal marathon, and as I was waiting for the flight to Antarctica to be cleared for safety, I was going nuts. And so I said, “That’s the only continent that I didn’t do a solo marathon on. Everywhere else was a solo marathon, just me doing 26.2 miles, me and my camera.” And so I said, “Screw it. I’m going to do it.” So in Chile, as I was waiting for the flight to Antarctica, I went and did 26.2 miles, and it was fantastic.

Dan: That’s cool, man. I’m doing my first half-marathon in May.

Andrew: Where?

Dan: Just here in Chicago. Kiran’s a huge runner. He, like, runs, like, marathons and stuff. But I’m, like, a larger guy, but I’ve been doing it now. I’ve been reading this book by David Goggins. I don’t know if you’ve ever [inaudible 01:05:01].

Andrew: No. What is it?

Dan: This guy is a Navy SEAL guy. Sorry. I keep forgetting the title.

Andrew: Oh, you know what? I just bought it because of this guy in Antarctica. “Can’t Hurt Me.” I was on Antarctica. This freaking guy says, “This is the book that gets me going,” and he was skiing.

Dan: I listen to that book while I’m running. I listen to it on Audible because this guy, man, he’s unlocked his mind, man. He’s one of the most intense guys. He went through [inaudible 01:05:30], just really insane, and then he does all these extra marathons. He went and did an ultra for 100 miles in 24 hours with no training. Like, I read that thing, and I’m just like, “What the fuck am I bitching about?”

Andrew: I still have not heard this book even though I got it. I was planning on just listening to it on Antarctica. I thought we’d be stuck there with bad weather. It turns out I got back faster. Let me tell people. It’s “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. I think it’s actually published by Tucker Max’s publishing company. I think that’s Lioncrest.

Dan: Honestly, it’s been great. I highly recommend it. I’ve been listening to it over the last week every time I work out, and it’s great.

Andrew: All right. Good luck in the marathon.

Dan: Yeah, thanks, brother.

Andrew: Half-marathon. Thanks for being on here. Thanks for doing this interview.

Dan: Sure.

Andrew: Bye, everyone.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.

x