Andrew: Instead of my usual interview today, I’ve got an audio documentary about my life, one that was done by Samuel Donner. And what I love about this is the amount of research and time that he was willing to spend with me to understand how I built my businesses, who I was, what I was trying to do in life.
And then once he recorded with me and we spent some time recording. He, he added these audio elements, this production value that made the whole thing sounds so interesting. So yes, I’m interested because it’s my life life. But more than that, I think he just meant into an interesting story by using audio elements that you don’t usually see here on Mixergy.
And so that’s what I’ve got for you here today, and I can do it. Thanks to Gusto the company that will help you do your payroll. Right. We’ll help you. Frankly, just take care of your people. I’m staring at my Twitter account where I see that my friends and past interviewees are exchanging tips for how to hire people.
The thing is that they’re always talking about how to hire people and not once have I heard them talk about what to do after they hire people? And what you do afterwards will determine how happy your people are with you. And frankly, how happy you are to manage a team of people. The reason that so many companies in my audience and outside of my audience are switching to Gusto is that Gusto makes it easy to take care of your people.
We’re talking about full payroll services. They’ll help you with benefits, medical, dental, vision. They’ve got certified experts to help answer your questions. Basically, what they’re trying to do is get you in and out of your payroll. Fast, but also make it a great experience for your people, including hiring and onboarding.
All right. If you want to go and check them out and see why so many people who I’ve interviewed use Gusto, why so many people who, who listened to this podcast, like you are using Gusto to pay their people no matter where they are. And no matter whether they’re full-time employees or contractors, If you want to go find out about them, I urge you to go right now.
There’s no better time than January to go and do this. Go to gusto.com/mixergy, and they’ll let you try them for free, but more importantly, they’ll make it a good experience for you and your team. Go to Gusto. That’s spelled G U S T o.com/mixergy. All right, here’s the audio documentary. I had this idea that I was going to build this. It wasn’t going to be a billion dollar business. It was going to be $450 million business. But then I had this issue where suddenly I found myself deep in debt, $8 million in debt in my mid twenties. And at the same time I was burning out and didn’t know it.
And I remember getting an email from someone who said they were gone to Southern California and there they were done. They sold their business. They’re going to be on the beach there and thinking, Oh, no, I’d love to be there. I’ve never really enjoyed being on the beach, but I want it now. And that was a real devastation point for me.
Samuel: is finding founders, I’m Samuel daughter, and that was Andrew Warner describing the impossibly fast pace of his first business success shortly out of college. Andrew was handling millions of dollars and taking on passive risk. Only a few years later, he gave up that frantic lifestyle, jump ship, and head for respite in the Caribbean juice life, with all the peaks and valleys of the entrepreneurial journey mirrors, his initial mentors that spring from the pages of books, he took those lessons.
Founded a few companies and now continues to learn from entrepreneurs with this show. Mixergy asking the question. What do you startup founders know that you don’t today? We’ll explore Andrew’s story. A page Turner that started in Queens, New York in a community with entrepreneurial. Sure.
Andrew: The first place we lived was right on grand central Parkway. Literally on the highway, you look out the window, you see the highway there, you hear the sounds.
The whole thing. And I didn’t realize it living on the highway was a problem until a cousin of mine told his dad something. And his dad said, yeah, real estate value is not very good when you’re on the highway because no one wants to live on the highway.
When we moved into Jamaica States, we got lost when we first got into our house because there’s so many rooms and we were used to just two bedrooms
and that’s when I realized that we were in a starter house. And. There wasn’t enough space for all three kids in one bedroom, and that there should be something else. And suddenly everyone had a huge backyard. And as I got to know the people who were there, I saw that there were doctors largely and much more than that.
There were entrepreneurs and the types of entrepreneurs who lived in our, in my neighborhood where the people who sold jewelry, pants, and skirts and had stores. Often in the, in the bad part of town, but you’d see someone who just would hit it big and they became the person who everyone talked about and looked up to
it’s that way. Here’s who’s making it, but it was also an indication. I think, of your personal value as a human being, life is divided into winners and losers and those people there are losers and you have to be a winner if you didn’t do well, then you weren’t really valuable. And that’s just the way it is.
Samuel: Energy was determined to live his own life, his own life within clearly marked boundaries, living around successful entrepreneurs, hearing stories from his dad, the implicit pressure of all this could very well have weighed heavily on a young child, but not Andrew entrepreneurship came naturally to him and he had a booming business before he hit the first grade.
Andrew: way before I knew that there were business books way before I’d ever known about business from my parents. We’re talking about kindergarten, first grade at the latest, maybe even before kindergarten, there were these cigarettes we’re being sold gum in the shape of a cigarette. You’d blow out of the, of the cigarette.
And I think it was powdered flour that would come out. So it looked like cigarette smoke, 50 cents would get you 10 of them. And if you sold each one for a dime, you’d get a dollar. And that was the one thing that I did. And I can’t say I needed the money. I can’t say that I was eager to buy candy. It was just the fun of it.
It was just for the sport of it.
Samuel: As Andrew reflects on this moment, you can hear him savoring the process, the pure love of the game, that thrill that joy in simply playing in life. Everything is a game or at least everything should be viewed as one. That framework takes the seriousness out of the day and infuses life with levity and joy.
It seems from a young age, Andrew chose entrepreneurship as that game. And honestly, having such early conviction for that path is kind of weird, but those unique qualities that might lend judgment of weird or different, or the building blocks of early success. If you aren’t different from the majority of your peers, you fall to the level of that majority, Andrew found he was different from his classmates, but he wasn’t alone.
There were people like him and he met those people as he flipped the pages of a book.
Andrew: My first set of books that I loved with Judy Blume books,
always about. A girl who couldn’t fit in or fit in so much as she was ordinary, who needed to find herself. And through that, she would find the person sometimes who would say, do you want to go steady? And he would ask specifically, do you want to go steady? And I loved all of that. I loved love. I loved romance.
I loved the sense of what was coming in school and I liked duty balloons writing. And so I would read that her stuff.
I also could not fall asleep. And I remember going to the library, looking for stuff I could listen to while I was laying there so that I, I could just at least be entertained. And that’s when I discovered some audio books about business. And from there, I discovered stories that were just as approachable as the stories that Judy Blume had.
I just started reading biographies and I was hooked.
Every biography starts with the person’s childhood. What made them special from early on that still holds true today. And it might be something like, um, Uh, JP Getty as a child, keeping track of every dollar that he spent. And then at Xena dolls, he still keeps track of every dollar that he spends, and that could include buying an oil well in the middle East and buying a 15 cent sandwich.
On the other side, I kept finding in myself these little anecdotes. That I’d read about and other people. So I would see that and say, ah, that is my future too. I’m not a weirdo. There are other people who are doing this too, and I shouldn’t stop it and be embarrassed. I should accept them a little bit ahead of my age.
I remember reading Richard Feynman’s book in one of his books. He says, I lived in fear that a ball would get thrown my way and I’d have to throw it back. I literally had that feeling myself, growing up.
Because I knew that if I’d have to throw it back to you, it was going to go to the side and then you and everyone was going to laugh at me and it would be horrible. Or I would just leave it there. And you think that I was a jerk. And so I’d have to pick it up and show you that I was so lame that I couldn’t throw it.
Right. So in many ways I wasn’t, I wasn’t really fitting in. I wasn’t ahead. I was way better.
I wanted to be class president because all the kids in the Judy bloom type of books, um, we’re doing something like that. And I cared about politics and all that. And so I joined the finance club and the finance club had to raise money and it was a set of ways you’re supposed to do it. And it, to me, it was just now.
I’m doing the homework assignment instead of getting to be creative and entrepreneurship is, is, is creation
Samuel: in archetype, coalesces from Andrew stories of his childhood, the well known and well loved story of the odd kid. The one who’s too smart for their own good. And that oughtness is revealed to be uniqueness, nerdiness, to be genius, introversion, to be independence.
Andrew was reading these stories fictional and factual, whether he realized it or not. He was living this story too. At 12, he was in the prologue. The part where that weird kid is just the weird kid. There would be many steps along the way. And a brick path would show Andrew. He could become that unique genius and independent protagonist from his bedtime stories.
Andrew: I kept looking for a thing that I could do. That’s mine. I looked for lots of them. And one of them was when I saw that they took the bricks off the facade of Brooklyn tech and threw them in a dumpster. I had this idea. Yeah. What if you could Mount it?
and if, uh, the alumni could have a part of the school on, on their wall to remember, is there some alumni who would really connect it to going to Brooklyn tech? And so I said to the people who are in the club, look, you’re supposed to get credit. If you do all these assignments for me. Just help me out. One thing, and I’ll give you a credit as if you’ve done everything, go into that dumpster and get the bricks.
Let’s look for ones that we can Mount. I need somebody to help me mountain. We had a shop club teacher and I talked to him and he said, yeah, I’ll do it. And then I remember going with my girlfriend to whoever was running the alumni program saying I’m going to sell it. And they said, well, you can’t keep the money.
This has to go to the alumni association. If you’re raising money, that’s how it’s done. And I said, no, it has to come to me, meaning to our club. You can’t take it. Good.
And I remember she was so embarrassed. She started pulling my arm and pulling me away. And I said it, I am not going to be with someone who is not going to support this in me. You have to love this part of me in order to be with me. And she usually was very supportive. She was the person who signed me, entrepreneurship and business, and in a real thing.
Thing before I could really express it to anybody except myself.
Sure enough, we sold it. And actually I had to go work at my dad’s store the day that, that the alumni association event happened. And she, my girlfriend went and stood by the table with all these bricks that I had, and she made sure that people bought them and they sold out. Insanely fast instantly, because now that looking back, it was what, 10, 20 bucks, which seemed like a ton of money to us have a piece of your school.
It was, it was meaningful. And that was one of the first things that I did that showed me what I could do with the rest, my life.
Samuel: It’s easy to look back and say that moment. That’s when I knew who I was, it’s harder to recognize that moment while you’re living it. But to a certain extent, Andrew did, he was watching and listening with a degree of introspection. This introspection allowed him to note what he was good at. And more than that, what he loved
He loved creating experiences for himself and others. He loved the creative process of business and it seemed inevitable that Andrew would follow his entrepreneurial instincts. However, he was diverse, multifaceted. He had other interests and would have to decide whether those interests were direction.
Or a distraction.
Andrew: I knew who I was, I would say by first grade I knew how the world was going to work for me. I knew the whole thing. I had two different parts of my mind. I really loved the rush Limbaugh and conservative talk, and I really loved Malcolm X. And the thing that they both had in common was. The ability to speak and to create through nothing but speech.
If you think about rush Limbaugh and how he created what he calls ditto heads. But I saw him create conservatives by explaining what conservative movement was. If you look back to the Malcolm X book and, and even more so to the Malcolm X movie that was done by spike Lee, you see him. Standing on a step ladder in Harlem, New York with leaflets out telling people what his movement was and converting people into his movement either fully or partially into his worldview.
You’re staying here today as what I was when I was born. A black man before there was any such thing as Republican or Democrat, we were black before there was any such thing as a Mason or an Elm. We were black. And I love that. And I wanted to go into politics to be able to have an idea that’s so earth moving that I would want us evangelize it the way those two did and to do that.
And so I thought I was either going to go into politics or I would go into business.
Politics was just this. This thing that grabbed me because it could be so addictive because it is kind of captivating. It gets you angry justice rash to the left. Will you shut up? Listen. So it gets you fired up. And I knew that that was passion. Not, not love. It was, it was like having an affair versus wanting to get married as much as I was in love with politics at the time I recognized that.
Business was who I was. And I started at that point reading a lot about the 1980s financier’s they had this sense that they could do anything. One of the people who got me there was someone who bought famous Amos cookies.
Now, if you’re a kid. And you don’t have cable TV, cause your parents don’t want to get you cable TV. You’re watching famous Amos on PBS reading books or whatever it was that he was doing. Hi, this is Wally Amos again, and welcome to learn to read less than four. In the previous lesson, we have said that letters are a kind of code he’s famous because he was with celebrities.
But more importantly, he also sold cookies that became more famous than he was. This is the house that while the AME is built in Honolulu for his beloved cooks, have you ever seen a cookie? Well, I did. The cookies fell out of favor. Nobody was buying them. This financier bought the cookie company. And put it in vending machines and realized that a lot of people like me grew up knowing famous Amos and would want to at least try his cookies in the vending machine and business was transformed and they were able to sell it for much more than they bought it.
But that article made me think there is this love that I have for finance. And for business more so than I even loved the thing, I, I didn’t even love the, the cigarette candy that I had as a kid that come tasted awful. You look like a dork, pretending that it’s a cigarette, but I love the mechanics of it.
And I thought, ah, let the mechanics of finance. That’s interesting. Another way to get into business. That’s interesting. And so I decided I would go to NYU and at NYU, I would learn all this stuff. And the reason I went to NYU is bud Fox from the movie wall street, one 10 Yeu. I just want to let you know Mr.
Geico, that I’ve read all about you at NYU business. And I think you’re an incredible genius. I’ve always dreamed of one thing and that’s to do business with a man like you. And so I said, all right, I’m as hungry as he was. I’m not going to do what he did, but I’m as hungry as he was. Let’s do it. Let’s start, let’s start life.
I couldn’t get into NYU directly. I was a really bad student in high school, but they had this thing called GPS where you can go get an associates degree at NYU. And then from there, they would let you go into business classes to stern school of business and complete a BA. So I went in and I took all liberal arts classes, all the stuff I hated with, not a single business class.
I always loved reading books. This took me to another level. This introduced me to a little bit more depth in the books in a way that I don’t even have time or patience for it now
I got really into, into Play-Doh. I got really into the philosophy books. I got really into the old history book. I got to discover iron ran, for example, which was, it was out of left field, little closer to what I would love, but I got to discover it in a way that gave me time to think about her ideas and who am I?
I got to also discover Nietzsche who was a lot less approachable than I ran, but I had time with the teacher to understand it. And I got to understand that the type of businessman I am. Where I say, everyone else is wrong. I am right. You and I need to have this space to express how right I am in businesses that space.
And I realized, no, that’s one of the pitfalls that I have. I could start believing that I’m greater than everyone else and go towards this Iran philosophy. And I realized that’s not me. And it’s not the world I want. What I liked instead as my own personal philosophy was the sales books that I read growing up, where they would teach you how to sell.
Because for you to get what you want in life, you have to show someone else how to get what they wanted in life. Business is about helping other people, getting what you want and allowing your S your selfishness to express itself, but also tamping it down and channeling it towards something really productive, useful, and helpful to other people.
And so I wouldn’t have had time to think that through I might’ve gone around being selfish as a business person and allowing that little bit of selfishness. To be in my head, instead of saying, I re I studied it, I care about it. I reject it. And that’s not me.
Samuel: Andrew’s time. NYU allowed him to resolve philosophical dissonance. The very classes he thought were a waste of time, allowed him to get outside himself and view his own practices with perspective.
Found were parallels between how he navigated the world and Anne rans, widely rejected philosophy of objectivism. This epiphany pushed him away from objectivism and towards this idea of the egocentric utilitarianism, how can I frame my success in a way that also gives success to others, realizing the power in this philosophy in channeling his innate selfishness towards a beneficially productive cause.
He began to look for his next stepping stone in his career.
Andrew: Well, working on wall street and I was so shy that I was afraid to ask what my salary was.
I didn’t end up getting a salary because I didn’t ask what it was. And when she eventually said my boss, Stephanie Winston said, um, you don’t get paid anything because you’re an intern. I just accepted it because I wanted to work on wall street and I was too uncomfortable talking two people to say, Hey, you should you got to pay something right.
Then NYU requires it. But one of the things that I said was I really admire the people who built up this city, New York. I admire the business. People who did an ACE Greenberg was a legend. I said, I want to meet the people I admire. I don’t want to have a wall between me and them. I want to be in their world.
And so I remember calling up his assistant, I think it was saying. I work for you as an intern, I’d like to come in and see him and ask him questions. She said he always supports meeting. Anyone worked for him. So I went over and, um, I saw him. And I liked seeing what his work situation was like to see that he really was on the trading desk to see that he really was surrounded by other people to have it feel a little bit less like a mysterious thing that I only read about in magazines.
and I didn’t know what to say to him. It was kind of an awkward conversation. Not kind of, it was very awkward. I finally had my moment. I have the research. I did it all. I could bring up stuff like his poker playing, but for what it was just kind of awkward. And again, I heard you playing poker in school and either you got your name East because you’re an ACE in poker and your name was really Alan ha.
Um, anyway, he was very good about gently saying, all right, get out of here kid. And at the end, I said, maybe I can get one quotable thing. I said, do you have any advice for someone like me? And he said, yeah, I was once told that if you love what you do, you don’t have to work a day in your life. Yeah.
Not that. And it’s so cliched in the minute I realized for some reason, this phrase is going to stick with me more than the most profound statements that I might have heard. And so I’ve kept that in mind, just to feel their love for the work that I’m doing.
Samuel: Let’s face it. ACE Greenbergs advice
Samuel: completely and totally generic. It’s been said countless times and will continue to be said countless times, but Andrew felt more stimulated and inspired by that handful of words. Then the countless books he had consumed. And I think it’s because he was drinking from the source.
He was eliciting a response in real time from someone he admired and he’d returned with something tangible. This interaction had also illuminated a shortcoming. He was shy, socially awkward, and the able to verbalize his thoughts, desires and the wealth of knowledge imprisoned by a lead tongue. He knew he had to change.
Andrew: I would go to my boss, por pulse Rivera’s house, and he had this huge house. And then we’d go to his next door neighbor who had a huge house in a successful business. I think selling lumber. And it was like, all these people did so much, whether it’s building phenomenal companies and being able to talk to people that I couldn’t do any of it.
And I was worthless. And I think in many ways I absolutely was worthless. The only thing I had was this desire and belief in myself. So, what I did was I just started something.
And the first thing I wanted was to create a magazine. I said a physical magazine, um, I’m going to call it achievement. It’s going to be full of the types of stories that I really love. I don’t have to sell that many copies of it. And the fact that I can just make phone calls to people out of desperation should help me sell it.
I think that just the fact that I was calling up people on wall street who are selling for millions of dollars, the fact that I could call them up with his hustle and starting this thing, tell him my dream, sell to them, ask them for a referral, sell to the referral, ask them for more referrals, sell to more referrals, get this thing going, and then build it up into what could be a publishing empire, but always makes money along the way that is I get started.
The problem I had was. I couldn’t get it written on my own. And so I never got to actually call up anyone in stuff. And that was a real painful time to have this desire, to be some thing to start off, but not even be able to do the basic thing, which is write the damn thing, write the damn magazine.
Meanwhile, my brother was creating emails, something or other, I don’t remember what it was. And he was accumulating lots of people on his email list. I think it was writing the software to collect email addresses, writing the software to send out email and I couldn’t even get started. He had thousands of people.
And I said, there’s a problem with the way I’m going and he’s going in this place and he doesn’t know how to sell. Maybe there’s something we could do together. I’ll I just need something to sell because I love selling.
We, we started building an email list and selling software that he made. It would be software, like I could record on people’s computers. And then I could send that audio over to someone else over the internet. And I finally had my chance to write, copy to sell, and I loved it.
And that company was called stern and Peabody because I thought that if it sounded like a wall, like a wall street firm, people would take it seriously. And the first thing we sold through stern and Peabody was a guide to how the stock market worked. What is a stock? What does it mean? And it’s sold so much.
Samuel: Andrew’s brother demonstrated a resourcefulness that Andrew admired and felt he could compliment with his ability to sell. Through working together. Andrew realized that entrepreneurial efforts are always to some extent, collaborative, this collaboration highlights another important, but often forgotten rule in business.
Relationships matter, not just connections, but relationships, relationships infused with trust and understanding. Andrew and his brother knew each other intimately and cared for each other. Their relationships served as the sturdy bedrock on top of which they could build their business. The success of that initial project proved that greater success would be around the corner.
Andrew: to work. And another product Michael created a software that led people make phone calls on the internet, suddenly we’re back up again. Then that starts to go down. And so he makes up another product and some do well, some do badly. I read another book and it’s all these little guides and little piece of software that we’re selling.
And I said, coming up with new products. Is not going to work. We’re going to fail eventually. We’re now in the hits business of Hollywood without the big Hollywood payoffs when we do well, because we would come up with a great product, it would sell well. But if we’d had a bunch of bad, bad products, our revenues would go down.
So then I said, I’m going to start an email newsletter. Where I come up with content, people saw subscribed to my content, and then I will sell ads to other people who make products. And that’s where my revenue is going to I’m from,
with someone who ran a company called emailing, like amazing the, with any anyway. So I sold ads to and then he amazing was acquired by Sony. And when the company was acquired by Sony, the guy who I talked to was a friend of mine. He said to Sony, the best way to grow this newsletter is to buy more ads from these other newsletters and Andrew’s going to sell.
And so he said, Andrew, I want to take as many of them as I can get. And so he, he gave me a check for 17. That’s true.
I had the sense with the 30,000 a month with the 7,500 a month. There’s two things that go on in my head with that. Number one is, this is huge. I’ve got a lot of money. Number two is this is not enough. Nothing’s enough. Nothing’s there. This sucks. I need even more. I am worthy of much more than this, whereas the check for a million dollars, those two things are in my head at that time.
At the same exact time. This is great. I’m onto something. I can’t believe they liked me enough. I can’t believe he likes me enough to buy for me. I am so appreciative that he does. And at the same time, dammit, Andrew, you need to be so much more than this. What is this? 7,500 hundred dollars. You got to get millions of dollars.
What are you here? Right. And so those two things go on in my head the whole time.
Samuel: We’ll be right back after this break.
Andrew: I’ve been asked this question before of like what my last meal would be. Every single time I’ve been asked this question, I’ve responded with, uh, an Uncrustable.
Samuel: That’s your lot, bro. Are you serious?
You could have anything in the world. Yeah. Uncrustables are
Andrew: actually like one of my favorite foods
Samuel: of all time. Anything at all you could have like, like the, the best steak you could have fricking gold flaked, hot dog portabella mushrooms that have been aged in fine wine. And you’re going for the incredible.
Andrew: Yeah, I would actually eat two Uncrustables that is
Samuel: so much better than a Salsbury
Andrew: steak or anything you just said. I am a simple man.
Samuel: Well, honestly, that’s a pretty easy order. All of us, it’s easiest sharing our podcasts. So remember to go rate, finding founders five stars, subscribe to our podcast and take a screenshot and post it to your social media of your choice, and maybe throw in our editing team lead Adrian, a nice Uncrustable sandwich while you’re at it.
Internal coaching is good. And like being hard on yourself in certain areas is good, but
Andrew: it just, it depends on
Samuel: where that
Andrew: coach is pushing you towards. Right? What if it’s you’re worthless and unless you do the thing that makes you come alive, unless you achieve the thing that gives you the greatest joy.
What if, what if it’s that it would be totally fine to say to somebody who keeps saying, I love to sing. I sang in the shower to say you dream of what singing in front of people get out there and sing in front of people. And if they said, no, I just will sing in the shower. You say, look, your life is going to be absolutely worthless unless you go and sing in front of people.
Cause that’s what you want. Get the hell out in front of the ferry, building in San Francisco where you know, a lot of foot traffic is and sing. Get out there. I don’t think that that’s a problem.
I think we, we, we, we prioritize happiness too much. I think the, as soon as you say hard on yourself, you lose a lot of people. And not me. I feel like that’s okay. I think we’re better off with being hard on ourselves. So that’s where, that’s where that came from. And when that check came in, there was this sense of, um, I’m hard on myself.
I like, I wanted more.
Samuel: Andrew, is it wrong? Americans probably do prioritize happiness too much, but I’d like to amend that statement and say Americans and the world at large defer fulfillment for cheap dopamine, all the creature comforts of our ancient ancestors have been infinitely magnified to the point where they are hard to escape.
Television and video games substitute your own life for a fictional one. Porn is a substitute for sex. Alcohol and drugs are substitutes for the simple pleasures, like a long walk or a slight breeze.
These high dopamine activities makes us forget those simple pleasures and abandoned long-term fulfillment. We’re infinitely playing that Stanford marshmallow experiment. And instead of waiting, we’re gobbling what’s easily accessible.
Samuel: perhaps in the process of chasing short term happiness, we catch a glimpse of the feeling that we’re looking for.
Regardless. Andrew was committed to fulfilling the core of his being and chasing that elusive fulfillment and success.
Andrew: The first thing that I did was I went to Michael office unannounced. I found the address I show up there. I give them a check for $2,000 and I say, I’m going to pay you. To run ads with me.
If you run ads with me and you don’t make money back, forget not having to pay me. You keep this check for $2,000.
and then truthfully, I exaggerated how big my list was to him. And I was up nights, worried really up nights, scared that now I was going to get called out, not about losing the $2,000, which was the last dollars, the last money that I had to my name. But I was, I was really upset that I was going to, to, to underperform for them.
And because of that, I wouldn’t sleep. But also because of that, I just worked like mad to find ways to get them the results that they needed.
A few months later, I come back to his office and he and I have had a relationship because he’s the guy managing the ads on my email newsletter. And I go to his office. I talked to him and on the way out, I hear him say to somebody else, I’ve got to go, I’m running late. And I say, Michael, I’ve got a car downstairs.
Why don’t you come with me? We’d drive up. We’re talking. And when we finally got up there, he opens the door. He says, thank you. And then he says, by the way, you should talk to Susan. Susan. Friedman’s been buying a lot of ads from us and from everyone else, she will buy ads from you. He makes an introduction to Susan Friedman, Susan Friedman’s first check to me first.
Ad run with me was for 300 and some odd thousand pounds.
Like this is the groove. This is where my life was meant to be. Yeah, a hundred percent. It was this I’m coming into my own. But yeah, that did feel like this is the life that I worked hard to get to. This is, this is what I write. Yeah.
Samuel: wasn’t just hard work that got Andrew to where he was. Certainly he had devoted himself to his business and pushed himself, but he’d also taken big risks, like exaggerating his mailing list or barging into Michael’s
Samuel: But through all this. She’d begun to build an infrastructure of success. He had the mindset, the business, the wardrobe, and the budget
Andrew: but the
Samuel: infrastructure still wasn’t stable.
Andrew: I didn’t realize that I didn’t have my fundamentals down. I was making up for mistakes with more revenue. So if I couldn’t manage people because I didn’t know how to manage and I didn’t have any advisors to talk to at all, what I would do is just spend more money on more people.
I just didn’t care about the details. And I said, money will make up for it. And all of that was fine until the money dried up. And there was no advertising coming in. And I saw my sense of self from where, where my, my revenue wise, my revenue and me were one, and I had nothing else going on in my life.
When sales went from two to 3 million a month to half a million a month, I thought that I trunk from that to half a million, half a million felt like, like a failure. And I didn’t like it. Truthfully, I was taking on the wrong customers because I was prioritizing more revenue. So I didn’t really feel happy.
It didn’t feel like I was where I wanted to be.
Things happen that helped me turn things around. My friend crystal was taking on a lot of work. She was the first hire, but also she was a friend. And when she did the Avon walk, while she was on the treadmill walking, I would try the treadmill for running because I was wanting to run. She also said, Andrew, you feel uncomfortable going to a gym said, I found a gym.
That’s a boutique gym. There’s only one coach, one person in this gym at a time. So I got to be on the treadmill running while she was there. I got to be in this place. I started getting into exercise, which then gave me this sense of strength in another part of my life. I would go running or skating in central park.
And then I would see somebody and say, if I can beat this person, then I can get through this tough part. And then I would race them. They would know I was racing them. They would just doing their exercise thing for the day. But in my head I was racing them. And feeling my strength come back then. The other person that worked with me was a guy named Richard herb, who was our finance CFO, who said, you need to cut expenses.
And I wasn’t comfortable cutting expenses because I’m an optimist. I was believing myself. Something’s going to come through. Why wouldn’t you cut expenses? And so we cut back expenses. Thanks to him. I got myself thanks to her. My brother, who is still my co-founder trusted me completely. And there was no sense of him thinking I was a failure, even if I felt like a failure and all of that helped me level out a little bit.
And then I finally said, as soon as I get an opportunity to sell, I’m just going to sell. And so we finally did.
Samuel: I feel that there was also a desire to be like those entrepreneurial greats, like Warren Buffett that spent their entire lives building only one
Andrew: company. I
Samuel: feel like you have that in Penn state and wanted to have that legacy selling the
Samuel: maybe seems like a departure from that desire.
Did you feel that?
Andrew: Yeah, I did feel like a failure for it to have had to leave it. I had this idea that I was going to build this. It wasn’t going to be a billion dollar business. It was going to be $450 million business. But then I had this issue where suddenly I found myself deep in debt, $8 million in debt in my mid twenties, owing money on like computers for people at the office servers, random stuff that was nevertheless really important for the business.
And at the same time I was burning out and didn’t know it. And I remember getting an email from someone who said they were gone to Southern California and there they were done. They sold their business. They’re going to be on the beach there and thinking, no, I’d love to be there. I’ve never really enjoyed being on beach, but I want it now.
And that was a real devastation point for me.
And thankfully, because we were doing half a million dollars in sales, we finally got to profitability at half a million, and then I was able to make payments on all of the, the debt and clear that up. And, and then it was done.
I had some money. I had the ability to sell. And I said, okay, I’m going to sell for any, to anyone or anything. That means that I can just move on with my life. I got that
Samuel: denouncing conventional life and heading to the beach. You could call it idealistic. You could call it escapism, but honestly, with $8 million of debt and the intensely critical eye with which Andrew views his success, I can understand wanting to leap.
He’d been holding onto this identity, this identity of the entrepreneurial giants for so long. He had been desperately trying to imitate the Titans of industry, but now all he could do was let go. He’d been on the treadmill of success and it was time to pump off and reflect. Now going to that simple life of selling all your, your suits.
Did you take a step back from always thinking about that next business, that next like entrepreneurial vision.
Andrew: So now I finally just said I’ve had it. I don’t know that I want to do anything. And I said, I don’t want my stuff. I don’t want any obligations. I too many obligations to other people. And so I gave away everything, all those suits that I spent thousands of dollars on and I sold my car and I just moved to LA afterwards, me and the girl I’d been dating at the time we were in the Caribbean, I would never have gone there, but she suggested it.
And I’m learning to actually do things. That’s not work-related. So I go there and I do this jet ski experience and I’d never done anything like that.
Remember it was in this tour of jet-skis with two people. And I said to the guy at the head, how much do I need to pay you for you to come out with me? And let me just stay here for as long as I want you give me a price of that’s fricking peanuts, let’s do it. And I got to just, you know, enjoy the jet-ski, enjoy myself and realize, ah, no, are other things I could enjoy.
And they’re not necessarily things that have to have any value in them. And I think that what I did before gave me the opportunity to have this fun. The best moment that I remember was I had this place right on the beach and I didn’t make my own coffee. I just walked out and bought my coffee. As I walked back, I said, Well, I needed like this.
I can get my coffee outside. I can get my lunch every day. Get my dinner every day. Life is so simple and it doesn’t take much. And I don’t have any of the stress of the people around me who are rushing off to go do something. We’re worried about paying the rent. This is sustainable, this feels great.
Samuel: How did you have such a feeling of wellbeing?
At that point and not think that this way of life could have been attainable earlier
Andrew: because I had some money and I had the time to explore it. I didn’t really need much and I could live and feel a sense of accomplishment from where I’d done. I was also personal, nearly died. I mean, nearly died financial you’re looking at $8 million in debt.
So instead of dying, I became an angel. I can just walk around and feel impervious to life’s issues. And I had this it’s time now to focus on the rest of my life to push myself.
Samuel: no mystery that Andrew felt so invincible. He taken steps in a drastically different direction, a kind of gamble, very different from the financial risks. He was accustomed to. His worth was no longer tied to money. And he could focus on the simple pleasures from which he’d arrived in meaningful happiness.
It was also a time for an exploration unbridled by the life that came before.
Andrew: So I was so disconnected from the tech world for a while there that I would read the physical paper, newspaper and Howard Dean in the newspaper at the time would have these articles about how you raising more money than way more established candidates for president than he was
Samuel: in New
Tom Harkin. We’re going to South Carolina. And I said, how, and he had these groups, these meetup groups that were around raising money for Howard Dean or, or helping Howard Dean’s message and individuals were leading them. And Howard Dean didn’t have to tell them what to do. They could go off on them. You didn’t take back the white house.
And it was the real grassroots thing coming from the bottom. I had to go see it. So I went to see Howard Dean group and these people were fired up.
Samuel: this ignite that same like political interest that you felt when you were in high school?
Andrew: No. I had to, at some point suppress it at some point, I realized, Hey, you know what? I’ll talk about. Politics is actually hurting your relationships with people. So I had to really force myself to stop thinking and talking about it.
So I wasn’t by then at all, um, even even interested in the politics of it, but I was interested in how they created this movement. I said, Oh, it’s from these groups. And if I could create groups to, then it could be this big movement. And so I started organizing small groups. I’d get people together and.
Have cocktail parties and mixers. And since it was mixers where they would mix with each other and get to know each other, and there was this energy to it, I called it mixer G and Mixergy became these events where business people would get together and talk to each other and do business together, hopefully.
And that’s where it all started.
Samuel: Andrew’s conception of Mixergy was driven by a desire to foster a synergetic landscape where people from all walks of life could interact and connect under the umbrella of one. Overlapping passion business Mixergy was about eliciting. The sense of community among like-minded individuals, providing them with both the platform and the means to share their experiences and ideas, exchanging dialogue and making connections in the process of expanding personal networks.
It was a pretty solid idea to begin with, but you need more than just a good idea to start a successful business. Andrew drafted his vision with patients and care. Was imagination and
Samuel: How are those first few events?
Andrew: I thought that they were very nerve wracking at first because I hope people would show up. And then exciting afterwards because people did show up. What we did was we had five people who are hosts. So all I knew at five people, I think at the time in business in LA, because I was basically off the grid.
And I said to each of those five people, you invite your five friends and we’ll all be cohost. And then if you all invite five and I invite five, we’ll end up with 30 people, right. And that’s a pretty good event where everyone knows each other through one other connection. That seems like it makes a lot of sense.
So that’s what we did. And it worked and people did invite five people, but they ended up with 10 to 15 people who showed up from each person and the events were packed. And so that worked out well,
explain the message of it. I didn’t have a mission statement. I didn’t express what we were about. So. It didn’t grow. But I also thought I want to create a way for people to get to know the guests before they show up. Why should you randomly hope that you meet the right person at an event? Shouldn’t, you know, who you want to meet software could do that software.
It could match you up with who you are and who you want to meet before the event. And then it’s going to be great because you come in and you know who you want to meet, and you make sure to go and say hi, but you don’t even need to go and say hi, you can ask the host to make the introduction. That would be great.
So I started doing that and then. Took a little more time and money to improve it and to get it going. And then I couldn’t make it work. And I finally hired someone who I worked with that Bradford and Reed. And since I hired him and it was costing money to put this together, I said, I have to make some money from this.
So let’s turn it into its own software company. And I had to get people to use my software for their events now, because now I’m in the software space. And I couldn’t get anyone to use it. And I would ask friends to use it in. They, they wouldn’t use it or they would begrudgingly use it. And it felt so bad when I knew that they were just appointed, even though they wouldn’t tell me why.
And the final nail in this coffin was when Olivia threw a birthday party for me. And I was at a meditation retreat waiting for her to come. I was in silence. I haven’t looked at mine email and I saw that she invited people using somebody else’s email software. Then I was just so, so, so disappointed. I was just not sure what to do, what to do with myself, what to do with it.
What did work out well, though, was one of the things I got was to try to organize other events on my software. I reached out to these tech events and said, I’ll host a tech event. I’ve got people in my network. And if you don’t mind, I will use my software to promote it. They said, who cares? Use whatever software you want and host this tech event with your friends and we’ll help promote it.
And so we started doing that. We were doing lunches at tech companies, offices, where other people in the tech community can come to the office of a tech company and actually. I see a tech company and get to know each other and it worked out really well. And I started getting sponsors for it. And one of my sponsors was Microsoft and Lynn Langan work there said, Andrew, nobody knows who’s coming to your events and you don’t do social media.
You should. I said like why? She said, I dunno, tweet out. I said, I tweet out when the event is on shows, tweet out, who’s coming to the event, tweet out. What’s what happened. That was great. Post a photo on Facebook about what was great.
I said, okay. And somehow I started interviewing the people who are coming so the world could see the amazing people were in the tech space, coming to the events. And as I started interviewing them, I found my passion for interviewing. And I said, I got to do that.
And so I pulled up a video on mixer G saying, I failed. Hey everyone. My name is Andrew Warner on the founder of mixergy.com. Failed. I failed big time. So here’s why I failed turning mixer G and T invitation site that did not work. I’m closing it down. The part that did work is doing the online interviews and occasional in-person events where people come to see and hear from the people in the tech space.
And that’s what it became. And that’s what took off. And that’s what Mixergy is today.
Samuel: Andrew’s original vision from XG. Didn’t quite live up to his expectation. But eventually it would expand beyond those expectations. This was only possible through accepting failure. That might sound counter-intuitive, but I mean, momentary failure, the failure infused within an idea that has been iterated upon during his multiple trips back to the drawing board.
Andrew explored different ways to redesign mixer from intimate events to software, to organizing tech events, to interview him. Something that was both new and reflective of his childhood interest in biographical
As a kid, I read biographies now I got to actually make biographies
as a kid. I’d always want to ask more questions and why in the book or take it in a different direction. I got to do that. Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of mixergy.com. I’d have to do biographies my way. I got to focus on the things that mattered to me. I got to do it with people who ordinarily wouldn’t be biography worthy at the time.
And that got to be exciting. Today’s guest Steve Huffman. Co-founded Reddit, Brian Chesky. And Joe give you co-founders of Airbnb domain Greg’s
Samuel: does that matter to
Andrew: you? The, how they did it, who they were, how they deal with the issues that I deal with.
Samuel: reading biographies was his pastime as a kid, but it wasn’t enough anymore. He didn’t want to just read the bare bone facts of an entrepreneur’s journey. He wanted to engage with them, ask those burning questions. Only the entrepreneur themselves could the answer starting as podcasts was a monumental step for Andrew.
He was breaking out of his shell. He was getting further and further ahead by refining the entrepreneurial skills he had been. So behind in developing as a child, talking to these successful entrepreneurs, he felt comfortable. There was no hesitation, only pure excitement. In fact, the only thing he feared was cashing in on his success.
Andrew: At first, I didn’t want it to make money. At first. I thought it would pollute the whole thing. It would get me back into business. If it made money, I would turn away advertisers who were interested in advertising. I think the only time that I finally took some money was at the beginning, actually at the events.
I said, if I, I saw somebody else come to my events, take business cards at the event and created another event. And I said, they’re going to create an event. And I got a sponsor and I said, okay, The next time I leave an event, I’m taking a sponsor’s contact information. I’m selling the sponsorship because I’m not going to fall behind these people.
Sorry. I thought my business, my private life, my everything needs to be self-sustaining. And so I said, all right, let’s take some advertising, make this thing. Self-sustainable
Samuel: when you started doing the courses and monetizing that way.
Andrew: W w walkway. I felt that a lot of people who are teaching were people who did nothing but teach because they had time to think about how to express themselves. Well, the people who are doing didn’t have time to teach, because what they were doing was it was working.
It was doing, was running a company. You can imagine if a person’s running a company, that’s doing a hundred million dollars in sales and they have a team of people who count on them. I think I’d have time to teach, to try out one approach of expressing how they do something. Well, And then try another tot and other approach.
And then another, until they finally expressed each message, each part of their message in a way that is easy to understand and actually will be used. No, they don’t. And so I thought, okay, I can provide a service here,
letting the business, people who are amazing at something, find what they’re amazing at with them. Find a way to. To learn from them, how they do it and then turn that into a masterclass. And that was the vision,
Samuel: Andrew, as the perspective, he needs to sit, watch, wait and see what happens. Running away to the beach. All those years ago was a risk. It was a departure from the life he had known since he was singing sticks of gum as a kid. He seems to have found the business world equivalent of a happily ever after this interview is all the proof you need
began his journey, reading about other success. Then he lived his own success and now he draws success stories out of others. But today Andrew is the one being interviewed. That’d be remiss not to ask him the lessons. He learned a lot.
Andrew: I’ll say that having done these interviews and live my life, I’ve noticed that there are two ways that people have built businesses. One is they find the thing that matters to them. The passion that they have, that they can’t stop. And they go for that. The thing that they think that they need and assume that other people needed to that is less successful and less common in the interviews that I’ve done.
But it’s, it’s a way that you can just go and create. The other part that I’ve found is much more common, which is find the problems the world has and find a small way to address it small way to solve it. That to me is the most impactful way to do it.
Samuel: If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life, this expression, or a dad joke, or just generic device, depending on how you see it applies to the lives of all successful entrepreneurs, but it never starts that way. It starts with trial and error, failure and hardship, long working hours and eating Robyn in the garage.
Entrepreneurial success is often found at the tipping point or more accurately at the balance between work and passion for it. Andrew, it took selling everything and moving to the Caribbean to find that balance and look at him. Now he’s living an enviable life, traveling the globe, interviewing entrepreneurs.
I won’t tell you to abandon your life right now and move to a beach, but I think Andrew story is a great reminder. To take some time for yourself and let passion lead you get perspective, do something you enjoy or better yet. Find a way to incorporate the things you love into your work. See you next week.
Thank you so much for listening. If you haven’t already make sure to subscribe, rate the podcast five stars and share with a friend. If you have any questions or comments, DMS at finding founders, podcasts and Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook finding founders is produced and hosted by me. Samuel Donner, getting lead is Adrian Tapia
Andrew: with the support from Joseph Joe Isla, Lauren,
Samuel: Matt Fernandez.
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Samuel: to see more of what we’re up to subscribe to our firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again for listening and see you next week.
Andrew: all right. What’d you think of this now that it’s over. Give me your feedback on this episode, on my story on anything we’re just frankly, say hi on Twitter, where I’ve been spending a lot more time lately. I’m at Andrew Warner on Twitter, and just let me know what you thought. And if you like this storytelling, if you like this approach, if you want more from Samuel Donner and his team, go check out finding founders.
That’s the name of the podcast it’s available on whatever app you’re using. Boy, I’m so curious about what app you’re using to listen to this podcast. Let me know on Twitter, but go to that and check out finding founders. I really enjoy his storytelling and thank you for listening. Bye.