LIVE and incredibly personal

Last year, I was invited to something called Fireside Conf, a retreat with no Internet, no distractions for entrepreneurs.

While I was there I interviewed the conference founder’s cousin, Jeff Pulver.

They never sent me the recording and I thought it was because my questions were rude and way too personal.

Well, they’ve just given me a copy and I’m so proud of it that I’m publishing it now.

Jeff Pulver sold his business for tens of millions of dollars and didn’t end up as happy as he thought. We’ll get into why in this interview.

Jeff Pulver

Jeff Pulver

Fireside Conf

Jeff Pulver is the co-founder of Free World Dialup, Vonage, MoNage, Alchemist, and Zula.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew:Hey there, freedom fighters. It’s Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And last year, I was invited to something called Fireside Conf. Basically, no internet, no distractions, no nothing, you’re just on this camp ground that one of the hosts of the conference, Steven Pulver, went to every year when he was a kid, and he loved it so much. And he brought a bunch of entrepreneurs together to experience it, and I came in as a speaker and as an interviewer.

And I didn’t think I’d ever get to publish this interview from the event because the person I interviewed was Jeff Pulver, the conference’s cousin. And the questions that I asked were pretty freaking rude to be honest with you, and I didn’t record it myself, and I thought that when I didn’t get the copy of the recording that Steven was basically saying, “Screw you, Andrew. What are you doing to my cousin? I invited you all the way here to the conference, I have you here, I host you here, I take good care of you, I gave you good food, good lodging, good everything, and then you go and you’d say this about my cousin in front of the whole audience. Forget that.”

And turns out that’s not what it was. I don’t know why, but for some reason they didn’t give it to me back then, they give it to me now and I’m going to publish the interview for you right here. I’m really proud of it. The one thing that I, kind of, am a little real hesitant about is I let the poem that Jeff reads go on longer than I think is appropriate for a business podcast. I’m imagining people in the audience are going to just fast forward to the freaking poem saying, “Andrew, I didn’t sign up to listen to poetry. I want business.”

Don’t worry, you will get business right after the poem, but I want to cover the emotional side of a guy who sold his business for tens of millions of dollars and didn’t end up having the ideal lifestyle afterwards. And that’s what you’re going to get, man. So raw that I was sure that the founders of Fireside Conf held back on this interview. This interview is sponsored by two great companies. The first will help you host your website right. It’s called HostGator. And the second will let you hire your next phenomenal developer. It’s called Toptal. But as always, I’ll tell you more about those later. Let’s get started.

Steven:So, Andrew and I are podcast freaks. It’s something that has brought us together over the years, just loving podcasts in every waking moment, listening to broadcast, and, you know, Mixergy and Andrew Warner, kind of, you know, this is one of the podcasts that started it all for me. You know, two or three years ago, when we started the Fireside, Dan said to me, “Are you a Mixergy listener?” And I said, “No, what’s Mixergy?” He said, “Oh, you got to listen to Andrew Warner. He’s amazing. He dives so deep into these amazing conversations of people and ask questions that you really never hear hosts ask in these contexts.”

And the first year we said, “How amazing would it be to get Andrew Warner here?” But that was like two days before the conference. Then last year we said, “How amazing would it be to get Andrew Warner here?” That was also two days before the conference. And then this year we said, “Okay, we’re totally getting Andrew Warner here.” So, again, just like with Scoble, persistence pays off, like with any startup or any company, and we really, really were persistent. And we’re so grateful that Andrew flew in from California to be here and run this podcast. And this is an especially awesome thing because he gets to interview my amazing cousin, Jeff Pulver, who I’m sure they’ll get into a great conversation about background and all those things, so I’ll leave it to the podcast.

But it’s my honor to introduce Andrew Warner from Mixergy interviewing Jeff Pulver.

Andrew: Thank you. I interviewed Jeff before in 2011, and I looked at the headline from that interview and it said, “A $40 Million Exit Doesn’t Eliminate All Problems.”

Jeff:That’s true. You could create them too.

Andrew:One of the things that we talked about that moved was how he made all this money. I think most of you know Jeff, but he’s a pioneer in the voiceover internet industry. He’s the founder of Voice on the Net events, which were a huge, VON. He’s the co-founder of Vonage. When most people got to use phones over the internet, it was Vonage that introduced them to it. You know, you can plug your phone into a computer and actually make calls, use your iPhone. He was the pioneer of that.

And he’s the founder of multiple conferences including the 140 Conference. Most recently, he created MoNage which is another conference that we’ll talk a little bit about. But what struck me was how he built all these businesses, he was a pioneer and made so much money but also lost a lot, made so many friends but also, looking over the transcript, had so many people disappoint him. And the thing that I admire most about you, it’s not so much what you’ve done, though I respect the hell out of that, but also how open you are about the journey. And so I want to talk a little bit about that. But I also want to start with this poem that you . . .

Jeff: Oh.

Andrew: We got up here together and you read a poem to me. I’d love for you to read it, but before you do, who’s the poem to?

Jeff: Me.

Andrew: You wrote it yourself?

Jeff: Well, to remind myself about a moment that transpired over seven years, just to add a little context. Let’s see. A week ago, a close friend of mine, I watched her . . . A year ago . . . so what happens in 2011, but a year ago, in June, a dear friend of mine was in Tel Aviv having dinner, minding his own business, having dumplings, and while he was having dinner person driving a car had a heart attack and drove his car into the restaurant and kill my friend. And that wasn’t fun. But that was a reminder to be in the moment.

And then, a dear close friend of mine still recovering, but last Friday, he woke up at 4:30 in morning, looked at his iPhone, and fell back to sleep except he fell forward and he broke his face. And he’s in the hospital until Wednesday. And that was another reminder to be present and to be in the moment. And sometimes it’s not about the money, but it’s about the memories, it’s about the opportunities, about the being, about being here.

And then, on Monday, so when I wasn’t actually at the hospital, I actually went to a wedding, and when I flew to Toronto on Tuesday, I was thinking back about what happened at the wedding and I wrote myself a poem.

Andrew: Who was getting married?

Jeff: A friend of mine who will remain nameless but I’ll give you the title a of the poem.

Andrew: Okay.

Jeff: So, the poem is called, and I wrote this after, but I actually wrote this on the airplane. And really, I just captured it. It was in my head. It’s called “Going to the Wedding of a Girl I Once Loved.”

I saw you, and that moment I knew to be with you would be finding trouble. It’s so easy to be honest with a stranger. It’s so hard to speak the truth with a friend. On the day of your wedding I was so happy for you and yet I was feeling so alone inside once again. The times together were too few to mention, maybe too many to remember. And I knew what was happening would be like nothing else I ever knew. To be there for someone as a friend, as someone of that person of interest who mattered, even for a moment was so special. To talk to someone, to have someone to walk with, someone to explore new worlds with, learning about life and the little things that mattered.

As I sit here and write, I find myself trying to enjoy the memory of the moments before time will take them away. Until it happens, you don’t appreciate who’s missing and about to be lost. Never before having someone who was the last person I spoke to at night, the first person who I started my day with, an equal of obsession and equal of caring on such a special time, such a precious time, such a rainbow and unicorn moment of my life. And then this just happened. I felt it and I knew. It was obvious. It came with complete warning like talking about what’s going on.

But sometimes, we ignore the storms of our lives, especially those we can’t run away from. And along the way, we made a pact about our future relationships and we said, “Let’s see where we are in five years. And if we’re not with someone else, then maybe we’ll do something together.” And this life would have its way. Five years later, just a week before my birthday, which is Tuesday, I was sitting in your party on your wedding day. I have no regrets. I would do this all over again if I could.

Some of the best days of my life are shared with you and I knew it all along, but I may always be too mushy for you and you learned to be too strong for me. I don’t want to forget these memories. I saw your world through your eyes and felt your kindness. I support you from afar. I’m here, but you can’t see me. I have to respect the paths that our souls take. I’m grateful for the chance to coach you, to talk about life for awhile, to look and find direction and remember who I was on the way. I never told you, you helped me find myself, the me I never was, the I who I hope to be, the who I will be once more.

So I watched you at your wedding, the girl I knew is gone. I just hope you’re forever happy in the world you travel to. We can never marry. The years between us are too vast. At least, this is what you told me, and why I knew I had to let go, so I did. I watched you at your wedding wearing makeup and looking great. You and your groom were shining with rays of white light filled with love. I will think of you when I read this, and now I know what you meant to me. And I thank you for the invitation to your life and the ticket to watch you launch into your future on your wedding day.

Andrew: Oh. You didn’t date her, did you?

Jeff: No.

Andrew: And you don’t . . . you loved her.

Jeff: I guess, yeah.

Andrew: And you said . . . you guessed . . .

Jeff: I never told her.

Andrew: . . . for a phone call last . . .

Jeff: I never told her but, yeah, but I never had anyone in my life who I’d actually would talk to . . . The last person I talk to at night and the first person I talk to in the morning.

Andrew: You are how old? Do you mind if I ask?

Jeff: Yes. Really. But I’m turning 55 on Tuesday.

Andrew: And you haven’t found love yet?

Jeff: Not that kind of love, no.

Andrew: Really?

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: Just now in the summer camp, I was talking to people who gone to camp here and other places, they had their first kiss at camp, they had their first love, their first sexual experiences here.

Jeff: I didn’t have that.

Andrew: And you didn’t have that kind of love even back then?

Jeff: With this person, it was not like that.

Andrew: No, with anyone.

Jeff: I’m sure I may have, but then not like the intensity of what I wrote about. I mean, no, I actually never in my life ever had anyone who I’d speak to the last . . . I mean, even when working on deals, I would have . . . Yeah, no. This was like going on for a long time.

Andrew: There’s something that struck me. I went back through the old transcript of my previous interview, you, at the time, were running the 140 conf, the conference about social media. I asked you, “Do you have staff?” You said, “No. Zero! Just me.” I said, “Why?” You said, “No one can disappoint me.” Do you know that?

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: Where do people disappoint you?

Jeff: That’s a very open-ended question. Well, I disappoint myself. So, let’s call spade to spade. It’s not a matter of disappointment, it’s about our setting expectations. It’s a matter of wanting to do the impossible when I think it’s possible, maybe it’s not. But I had disappointment because in my last prior business, my VON Conference, and actually, I only discovered this in 2014, so this is the annual . . . After our interview, a lot of things happened in my life. Things that made me more grounded and made me better appreciate the ability to breathe and to be and to just enjoy every moment we have because that’s, sometimes, all we will ever have. And sometimes . . .

Andrew: You know what . . . I’m sorry to interrupt. But to just appreciate breathing is appreciating just the basics. Don’t you want more out of life? That’s like saying, “I just appreciate that someone looked at me.” I’d rather have somebody care about me, be there for me.

Jeff: I like someone to kiss me but sometimes, that’s all you get. You see . . .

Andrew: Here’s the thing . . .

Jeff: . . . if you wait too long, you may get nothing.

Andrew: Are used to dream about making money, being rich. I assume you get to $40 million exit, a real exit, that life becomes easier at that point that. That doesn’t happen?

Jeff: Oh, my God. That was so hard.

Andrew: That was hard?

Jeff: Do you know I was never so more depressed than when I had my exit, ever.

Andrew: Depressed about what?

Jeff: Well, you see, so I have one company that I actually sold for $57 million, but the circumstances around that, where that . . . So I started to . . . I got fired at my day job in ’96. So, I always believed that getting fired can save your life because it saved my life. And then . . .

Andrew: You are the IT guy that Cantor Fitzgerald job?

Jeff: Yeah. So, I was lucky to be fired and I’m grateful for that. And then three and a half years later, I built up a conference business not knowing anything about the conference business other than attending conferences. And I felt so guilty about selling my business, but I sold it for 1 day for $57 million. But due to the effects of 9/11, I know upside, so it got written back down to 40, but at that point, in to make those conferences happen, I had spontaneously, like, 10 other companies, I had a record label, I had an internet radio station, I had a production company, I had so many other businesses, but when I sold my business, only seven people had a job. But I refused to fire anybody. So, for 3 years, I kept people on payroll until they quit.

And let’s take a moment from this interview to talk about my first sponsor. It’s a company called Toptal. And this guy, Derek Johnson, was listening to me talking about Toptal a couple of years ago, and he said, “You know what, I know Andrew. I was interviewed by Andrew. I trust Andrew. Let’s try this thing Toptal because we’re interviewing at my company,” Derek said, “20 to 30 people, it’s just taking too long to find the right developer.”

So he gave Toptal a call. He went to the URL that I’m about to tell you about. He scheduled a call with their people. And he was amazed. He didn’t have to go through 20 candidates to find the right one. Toptal introduced to CTO two people, and each of the two people could’ve done a perfect job in the role at Derek’s company Tatango.

Well, the CTO had to pick one, so he picked one of the people, they started working with him, and the CTO finally came back to Derek and said, “You know, this guy we got from Toptal is so good, he can actually do my job.” And so Derek said, “Hey, I went back, I hire more people from them.”

And so if you’re looking for phenomenal developers, don’t force yourself to go through months and months of searching, talking to tens and tens of people. Go to this special URL where you’re going to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for the first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period. I want to go get all of the details and get that offer by going to toptal.com/mixergy. That’s T-O-P-T-A-L.com/mixergy. Top as in top of your head. Tal as in talent, .com/mixergy.

Let’s get back into this interview.

Andrew: Because you cared so much for them, is this a story of a guy who loves so many people, who achieves a lot, but nobody feels about you the way you feel about other people?

Jeff: I think there are some people that love me. I am open to the possibility that exists.

Andrew: I know your cousin is standing there, he definitely does.

Jeff: But you know, you just . . .

Andrew: But there’s a hole there, isn’t it?

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: Did you feel like you worked hard because of the hole? To feel it, like, if I build this business and I have this big conference and people show up, then they’re going to care about me. If I build this conference, I have a lot of money, then I could find someone who I’d . . .

Jeff: No. I actually don’t think . . . I think it’s a total bullshit.

Andrew: That’s not how you felt?

Jeff: No. I believe in taking and having fun seriously. If I have a chance to share fun with people, even strangers, I’ll do that. I think there’s not enough love in this world. I don’t think we have enough time to sit back and tell people we love them, that we care about them, that they matter. I mean, so often you ask someone in New York, “How are you doing?” But before, they asked me how am I doing. Actually, I answered the question, but most people just jump and they can ask from me. They never actually stop to pause.

Andrew: You mean, it’s how you doing? By the way, can I come to a conference for free?

Jeff: Yeah. And I’d rather tell people, “Let me pay you $150 so you don’t come because it costs me $300 if you come for free.” You’d laugh. It’s true. But people think that they should come for free, different thing. But as far as disappointment, it’s just resetting the expectations. I mean, because after, you know, after . . .

Andrew: So, let’s go to the depression. So, you sold your company.

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: Big exit. The day before 9/11, he sells his company, $50 plus million, it gets written down to $40, right?

Jeff: Because there was no upside.

Andrew: But still, right, 9/11 happens, you sold at the perfect moment.

Jeff: Being lucky is okay.

Andrew: Right. So, why are you depressed? I would be, like, “Great. I feel sorry for the people who went through 9/11. I’m going to donate some money, and now, I’m going to find love.”

Jeff: No, wait. Well, no. Because I worked at a company that had 700 people die and I knew 400 of them. And then my birthday was September 12. And it was just really, really hard. The depression was the fact that I knew all these other people that worked around me to help contribute to what I did, and then they were like, I had to let go of them, but I couldn’t. So, I just was, like, I wanted to do more but I did what I thought was the right thing at the time to sell the business.

And then, the disappointment happened years later. So, actually, 17 months later, I actually bought my company back, because two weeks before the . . . So, the company I sold my business to actually would end up going out of business due to the effects of 9/11. But two weeks before that, as lucky as I am, I bought my business back for like 12 cents on the dollar, built it up again, and in 2006 I had a chance to sell it again. But it’s sold 2007 but the problem that I ran into, which I only discovered when I was in the hospital in 2014, was that the company I’ve . . . after all these people work for you for many years, the team suggested that they should do a management buyout, so they did and I facilitated that.

They bought 60% of the company from me, then I kept 40% of the equity. They may be a chairman emeritus. They actually stopped listening to me for any ideas. And the first conference that happened was in the fall of 2007. And what I didn’t realize was that and this is all a conjecture from me, but I didn’t realize that the people who were running the business cared more about themselves than the company. And let’s just say that in February 20, 2008, a relative of mine who is [inaudible 00:18:13] and CFO of the company, neglected to make a $10,000 interest payment to the company that financed the business. So on March 19th, 2008, the company that financed the business foreclosed on us.

Andrew: Wow.

Jeff: And that was kind of devastating because I wasn’t prepared for that. In fact, I realized . . . it took me years to realize what happened. But on that day, I was in shock, and I realize that people would rather protect themselves than protect the company. And so, that’s what happened to me. And I’ve said, “Just sign the 5-year noncompete.” So I figured why would ever compete with myself. So I couldn’t do the VON conferences.

And then I went to a few people who made hundreds of millions of dollars at my conferences, people I knew who are actually really wealthy. And they all denied me the opportunity, because I have, like, $3 million left. They offered . . . I could buy the debt back for like $3 million, I think. But then I had no money for working capital, so I needed to borrow $2 million. But this is the business that I really did well. And actually, to this very day, think I would be rocking it but no one who I knew who made a lot of money . . . I mean, we had, during the days VON over 120 companies that I know got acquired by 7 companies. Over 35 of my friends were on public. They all had something. I went to a few people and everybody said no. No one gave me the ability to borrow two million bucks to buy back my business, so I had to let it go. And that still hurts right now because there are days when you’re only useful to someone when they can get something from you.

Andrew: You know, I hate to say this because you’re such a caring person, but here’s what I took away from our previous interview. In addition to all this, you also invested in a lot of startups that didn’t end up panning out, and I asked you why. You said, “I love these people. I want to support them. I’m here to support this community.” It didn’t work out.

What I took from that was, “Andrew, don’t be such a nice guy.” Love everyone but have a boundary to your love, right? Because it’s so easy. I live now in San Francisco. Every friend of mine has a startup, right? It’s so easy to say I love you, I care about you. I need to invest, right? So easy when someone asks for something to say, “Great, we’re friends. Here, yes.” What I took from this was be loving but not as loving as Jeff. It’s too painful, it’s too hurtful, and it’s a sad thing for me to say out loud here to you. But am I wrong in taking that away?

Jeff: Yes.

Andrew: Why? Forty million dollars round up with three, and not even a friend to come and say, “I see you. You’re a great conference organizer. I believe in you.”

Jeff: Whoa, there are things which I’m not going to allow to recorded on this podcast, which explains some of the differentiation, but maybe a future podcast would go into the how the money disappeared.

Andrew: Well, you still . . . It’s been six years. You still can’t say it?

Jeff: No.

Andrew: Does it have to do with the relationship?

Jeff: Not the one that I wrote a poem about.

Andrew: But a relationship?

If anyone is listening . . .

Jeff: I plead the fifth.

Andrew: I fell off my chair. I’d push myself back in.

Jeff: Ouch.

Andrew: And you still don’t take away love but to . . . no?

Jeff: No.

Andrew: Anyone else taking that away or am I a big jerk here? I’m a big jerk.

Man: No, no, I agree with you.

Andrew: You agree? Maybe we’re both jerks.

Man: I don’t think so.

Andrew: All right. So maybe there is something to that.

Jeff: To what?

Andrew: What I’m taking away, which is be loving but to a point.

Jeff: Oh, it’s all about timing. Look, I happen to be very fortunate that . . . I mean, some of the companies that I invested in . . . I invested, at this point, in over 400 startups.

Andrew: Twitter was one of the investments?

Jeff: Yes, so in 2007, when we were running out of money, Fred Wilson tweeted that he led this series A round in Twitter. Twitter was a company, I was actually using this product back in 2007 because, for me, Twitter was a radio of the internet, and I was a very active listener. And so, I tweeted him. I sent him a direct message, “Can I join?” And at that moment in time, I was mostly investing in Israeli startups putting $25,000, setting a pre-money valuation of 400K. So when he tweeted me back two days later that I was in for $50,000 at $20 million pre, I freaked out. Because $50,000, for me, was a big investment in a $20 million company. Are you fucking kidding me? But I’m forever grateful that he had me as an early seed investor because on the day the IPO, and I did not have it then, but the one-tenth of 1% of Twitter that I invested in, on the day the IPO was worth $24.5 million.

Yeah. So you know, that’s one investment. So, if I [inaudible 00:22:46] . . .

Andrew: And that happens to [inaudible 00:22:48]. Are you . . . ? This is . . .

Jeff: I did okay.

Andrew: I’ve asked you a lot of rude questions, some in private, some here. Are you a millionaire now?

Jeff: Yeah, a million kisses, a million what?

Andrew: Dollars.

Jeff: Sure.

Andrew: Wow. All right. Good. So then, I see. So what you’re saying is, “Hey, Andrew, I was hurt a lot over the years because of it but if what you’re taking away is because I was hurt because of my love for people, everything fell apart, you’re missing the rest of the story. The story was definite pain, but redemption that came from the feelings that you had for Fred Wilson, the support you wanted to give for this app that you . . . ”

Jeff: I don’t think it was such pain. I mean, I’ve been through lots of pain. I mean, it’s part of a cycle of life. It’s just how you take it. I mean, I don’t do this necessarily. I’m not here to make money. I’m not here to lose money.

Andrew: What are you here to do then?

Jeff: To hopefully, create love.

Andrew: What does it mean to create love? It’s so much easier to say I’m here to create money. I go to Frank to . . .

Jeff: I’m not against making money but it’s like . . .

Andrew: So then, what’s in you to make your [inaudible 00:23:47]?

Jeff: . . . do you want $1 trillion, you want to make $1 billion? I can make $100 million. I mean, it’s . . . I can do that.

Andrew: I’m going to say yes to all those things.

Jeff: What are you going to do with $1 trillion?

Andrew: I don’t know but basically [inaudible 00:23:57]

Jeff:I have friends of mine that are not satisfied owning $300 million. Their goal is to go to a billion. And a few people I know that have a $1 billion, they’re going for tea. Like, what the fuck? I mean, save the world, you know. It’s just another digit.

Andrew: So what does it mean to add more love?

Jeff: It’s to do things that help increase the energy of those people around us, so we vibrate to a higher frequency. So maybe, maybe, we can make the world a better place. Maybe we could have less stress in our lives. Maybe we can smile more.

Andrew: But that’s what you want. If you could . . . everyone here, have them smile more, be happier, that’s what’s going to make you feel good.

Jeff: But truly happy, not fake happy. Actually, be at peace, not be that worried about where things are and learn to be present so that . . . Here, you actually are present because most people, when I meet them, they’re more focused on where they just came from and where they’re going but they’re never with me. If you ask me where I live, I will be quiet and tell you wherever I’m sleeping tonight, it’s where I live. And I try to be present all the time because when friends of yours die randomly or when loved ones disappear, you start to realize why are you hear and what can you do to make this place better if you can.

Andrew: Do you want to know something? This also could sound rude but because you said you’re still a millionaire, the fact that you’re saying all these stuff about love, I think resonates more. I think that people believe more, they care more about what people who are successful . . .

Jeff: [crosstalk 00:25:20].

Andrew: . . . financially successful, I have to say. Do you disagree with me?

Jeff: Yes.

Andrew: You disagree with me about that?

Jeff: Absolutely. I mean, why is it that airlines only care about their loyal customers? Why don’t they care with all their customers? Why do we have a society that we only reward people when they come back for business many, many times? Don’t you think that everyone should be treated as a VIP? Don’t you think everyone should be treated equally? Why is it that we create a caste system so that only some people’s voice matters?

I mean, we’re living in a time, right now, you know, it was historically, we had two types of people in this world, right? Or three types. People that were infamous and people that were famous. No one else mattered. I like to believe a living in time now where everybody matters. And I think that what we have behind us . . . I mean, if you ask people here about legacy, what they want to be known for, what’s interesting to me is in 2017 to 2117, you’ll find that 100 years from now, people’s relatives, future relatives will actually understand their relatives much better than we ever did before because we’re leaving behind digital breadcrumbs. Each and every one of us, every day, are leaving behind breadcrumbs.

When I used to talk about Twitter, people said I was such a shit that you people don’t care about what you’re tweeting because they don’t care what you ate for dinner, they don’t care about your day, but I’ll tell you that, you know, you can’t . . . well, although they’re proven wrong, you can’t tweet after you die. You know, if you have a relative 50 years from now, once it get to know you as having a bad day, you may find out that another relative had a similar day, and things were okay. They were able to provide a connection.

I mean, one of my biggest regrets was my dad died in 1998, and when I went to my grandfather’s house who [inaudible 00:27:09], I saw a photograph of my father as an eight-year-old having his photograph taken. And I was thinking, you know, well, if Twitter was around, you know, the photographer might have tweeted what they thought of my dad sitting in a chair, having his picture taken. My dad may have tweeted what he thought in having his picture taken. The mistake I made was not asking my grandfather what he thought.

And I think we’re living in a time now where we’re able to capture these moments and create digital breadcrumbs or photographs or words or statements, and we can perhaps, not necessarily the best way, but we can recreate moments of life and leave behind a legacy of love to others to understand that if you’re having a bad time or you’re having a great time, we can share that in the history of our lives so that everyone’s voice can matter. And we’re living in a time where we have almost, well, we’ll have 8 billion people on earth soon. Never before in our history, we’ve been ever been more connected. Never before we had an opportunity to connect more people than ever before. In the future, we’ll be able to share our lives, share our voices, share our histories, and hopefully, give comfort.

Andrew: I’d like to think that but the truth is if I think back on my tweets, a lot of them are trying to make some kind of impression, impression that would lead somebody to go watch one of my interviews, an impression that makes them think that I’m somebody worthy of buying from, right? It’s not the real thoughts . . .

Jeff: And my tweets are like, you know, the best gifts you can give someone is to believe in them that the best, you know . . . And I write to the heart. You write to the money.

Andrew: I do. Thank you. I actually think that we underplay the value of money. We end up with so many relationships where people are not in the relationship because they’re in how do I pay the rent. Robert Scoble the other day said, “If we could give people a basic income, they will stop thinking about how they can’t feed themselves and start thinking about things that are more creative.” I think they are too many people who are thinking about how they could feed themselves. Absolutely, I care about the money a lot. And I’m excited to hear that you’ve made money. Let’s talk about your . . . But I also want love. I’m also curious about, then, you have all this love?

Jeff: I do.

Andrew: But I feel like you still haven’t found someone to love.

Jeff: That’s another podcast.

Andrew: Why? You make it this podcast. You made people cry here last year. I genuinely . . . you told me you make people cry. I’m so excited.

Jeff: I didn’t make . . . they cried. I mean . . .

Andrew: Oh, you didn’t make them. But I’m such a cynic, like, after I researched everything, I went over and I, like, slyly ask them over there. So, what was he like? And did you cry? And said, “Yeah, sniffled so much.” Yes, so you did. So be open here. You don’t hold back.

Jeff: Am I being closed?

Andrew: Yes, about this. Why do you feel like you don’t have love? You have love to give, you care about people, you have money, you have a lot, why not love? Be open.

Jeff: I’m not against it.

Andrew: But why do you feel like you . . . is it because you feel unworthy of love? Like, you told this woman in the poem.

Jeff: No.

Andrew: You told the woman in the poem, “It’s okay. If I had to do it over again, I would do whatever I did that led you to this person who you married.”

Jeff: For the last two years, I have coached her when she went on a dating site. I helped her, coach her, I want you to find a fiancé. I actually explained to her what her boyfriend meant when he spoke.

Andrew: Do you feel like you’re unworthy of love?

Jeff: Not at all.

Andrew: Then what is it?

Jeff: It’s where I spend my time. I’m not against it at all. I am open to it. I’m open to many things. But no, I was very happy I was able to . . . I mean, I convinced her to quit working for someone, start up her own business, I helped her get her first few clients.

Andrew: That’s all very good, but then you also helped her find the person who she fell in love with instead of you when you clearly . . . you loved her.

Jeff: But you could love many people. It doesn’t matter. It’s okay. Life goes on.

Andrew: Let’s switch back to business. If you’re not going to get personal about . . .

I’m going to interrupt this interview one more time to tell you that my second sponsor. It’s a company called HostGator. I had this idea for a second business. I got really excited about chatbots, and I wanted to create an agency that creates chatbots for people. I said, “I need a website. Where will I go?” Well, there is no doubt in my head where to go. I went immediately to HostGator. And the reason I went there is because, frankly, I’ve been doing so many ads for them that the message finally got in my head. I went to HostGator and I signed up for one of their cheap plans and put up a quick website on WordPress. Boom, we were in business. Anyone who wanted a chatbot could come to my website and sign up and hire us to build a chatbot for them.

As the business grew, we found affiliates and partners and webinar people and, you know, podcasters whose trying to talk about it and talked to me about it and invite me on to talk to their audience. Traffic went up so much that the site crashed, and shame on me, I didn’t realize how fast we’re growing. But no problem, we’re with HostGator. I went back to HostGator and I said, “Up my service. Give me the next level up.” And they did and we had no issues with downtime, no issues with slowness, and we just have been growing with HostGator.

The reason I’m telling you this is I often tell you about the cheaper plan that HostGator has where for a few bucks a month, you can end up getting your website hosted. When you’re starting, that’s terrific. As you grow, I want you to know that HostGator will be with you. You just need to tell them what you’re trying to do, tell them how big and what kind of features you want on your side, and they will get it set up for you.

So if you want a discount of up to 62% off their already low prices and if you frankly want to be tagged as a Mixergy person so that they know to always take care of you and that you can always come back to us at Mixergy and say, “Hey, I love them,” or “Hey, I have this issue and know that we got your back.” Here is the URL where you can get that big discount and all the support from us. It’s hostgator.com/mixergy. Hostgator.com/mixergy. I’m not going to be anyone’s support team but I am going to be there to look out for my audience to make sure that any sponsor that I mentioned gives you the best possible service out there. Hostgator.com/mixergy, go get your sites hosted.

Your nephew here is running a conference business. He is where you were when you were starting, VON. Advice to him. What advice do you give him for his business, first conference? Let’s look forward for him, for Fireside Conf. It’s what he runs, of course, for anyone who’s listening . . .

Jeff: VON went from 224 people to that 7,000 people. Along the way, they became a little impersonal. It became really hard to be myself and at the same time connect with everybody that came from 50, 60, 70 different countries. But it was a business and it worked out okay. I think that here, it’s a totally different paradigm. I think to remember who you are, remember what you like, and to remember to hug and to be. Look, but love stuff really bothers, doesn’t it.

Andrew: Yes, it does.

Jeff: Wow.

Andrew: Because how many people walking around with love, but financial problem’s love, but they’re not expressing who they are in this world. Love is not substantive. I could fall in love with everyone here. I don’t think it would make my life happy.

Jeff: I’ll fall in love . . .

Andrew:I mean, call me a jerk.

Jeff: I’m in and out of love every day.

Andrew: I get that.

Jeff: I listen to songs that I first heard 30, 40 years ago and they take on new meaning. And I didn’t understand, I could appreciate the genius of Lennon and McCartney that how in their 20s they wrote about life in their 70s. How they’re able to actually express love in ways I’d . . . I just never got it. But I love music, I love people, I love things. And it’s, you know, and if I find someone who could be as open as I am, I’m open to that. It’s just that it’s very hard, you know, because I get blindsided from people who want something from me and they’ll be not so open about it in the beginning, and then they want it. And it’s like, “How dare I not fly you from California to New York to see me for three days. Fuck me.” It’s like, “Okay.”

You know, so it’s like, people are presumptive too, and it’s like, it’s a hard thing to be open, to be balanced, and to be real. And I have feelings too. And you know, to feel lonely, I think is okay. I’m not saying that I’m weak. I get strength from being able to focus. I get strength from being . . . I mean, what happened to me most recently, though . . . So after your podcast in 2014, I figured out how to get rid of a lot of weight, but I had a seizure, I went through a physical routine. But this past August, August 7, 2013, I was in Turks and Caicos flying back to New York, I had a seizure again. Also, due to dehydration. And I’m forever grateful for the person who stopped my head from banging into the wall because I maybe won’t be here right now.

So, it refocused where I am. It’s not that I don’t care about making money. I love to make money. Maybe the more money I would have, the more I can share. I believe in dreams. Unlike maybe our president and I like to believe that we could find people to invest in, people who need that help. I mean, when I have money, I invest in dreams. When I don’t have money, I still invest in people. I invest my time, I share. And I think that’s all connected. And so don’t think that I’m . . . Of course, I believe I’m worthy of love. Yes.

Andrew: That was a bit of an armchair [inaudible 00:36:08] on my part.

Jeff: And it is my birthday on Tuesday, so I’m very, very much open. But the . . . Hey. It is what it is but the reality is that, for me, it’s about . . . if you’re looking at business, you know, for me, I ran a small event in Turks and Caicos this summer where I asked founders, I asked them several questions. I asked them how do you define success, how do you define failure, what are you looking . . . what is your roadblocks and how do you got there. And I felt like I was running . . . it was a therapy. And I found some really amazing answers. But it came down to, for me, when I ask about success and failure, failure to me is not learning from a failure. That’s the only failure I know. Otherwise, most people when they have failed business, they have interests, they’re introspective and they learn from it. But the thing is you can’t make mistakes. That’s messed up. So I try to, like, look to help from what I’ve learned. I try to process the mistakes I made and to be better. I’m always trying to improve.

Andrew: I’m not always open on Twitter but I’m open in these interviews. I have to be open and tell you that I’m still now going back and taking away from this loveless. Here’s why. Here’s why.

Jeff: Oh, come on.

Andrew: I got a hot mic here.

Jeff: I know. That’s the point. If you’re listening to the podcast, find someone who give them a hug too.

Andrew: No don’t. Here’s the thing. I’m looking at you and I’m looking to see at least, like, some sign of happiness and . . .

Jeff: I am happy.

Andrew: I have to be honest with you. I’m sensing a sadness. I’m sensing some longing, some missing. I’m not sensing this enthusiasm when I talk to you. And that’s what makes me feel like, all right, at the . . . It’s maybe Twitter thing worked out but the rest didn’t.

Jeff: No, no, no, it’s not true. I have a bunch of exits but I don’t publicize them. I mean, it’s the reality that I’m actually starting a brand new venture fund. I’m going to process raising $50 million. I plan on investing in dreams for a long time to come. So, for me, it’s a methodology to a madness. I’ve been very fortunate to have early access to people, but I’m not here telling you about that I have $100 million and exits whatever I had. Who cares?

Andrew: I do.

Jeff: Apparently so. I mean, when I made VON . . . I think, collectively, VON made over $100 million.

Andrew: Here’s why. Because if you tell me be loving and here’s what you’re going to get, I want to see it, and I want to see a dramatic. If you’re telling me, look, go buy Facebook ads and here are the results you’re going to get, I’m more likely to take action.

Jeff: I will not do that.

Andrew: I want to see the big result. And maybe what it is is I’m seeing someone who’s being himself. You know, when Americans take photos, they smile. When you look at Russian photos, they’re just like this, and it looks like the Russians are all angry and sad, but they’re being themselves, right? If you take a photo of a kid without forcing him to smile, they’re like this, just plain. Right? So maybe what I’m looking for is for you to heighten the results for me so that I can feel that everything you’re saying really leads to something, and maybe that’s my mistake.

Jeff: But where I’m leading to is probably not what you want to go to. Maybe that’s the mistake.

Andrew: Come on. Where are you leading?

Jeff: To a world where we have a chance to actually be there for a friend if they need help.

Andrew: I do, but I want them to be there for me, and I want my wife to be in bed next to me and love me just as much. So, I want the money and I want the love, and I’m sensing that you don’t want the money, you do want to love, but I don’t see . . .

Jeff: I am in favor of money. I have nothing against money. I believe in it. I believe in it. We needed to cover our costs. There are times in my life when I don’t have as much money as I’ve had before but I don’t think I’m ever less a person because of it. I don’t think that my ideas are bad because I may have made a mistake or, you know, I’m not perfect. But for me, you know, I figured out in a very short period time how to make tens of millions of dollars from the internet. Who cares? You do but I don’t because I can reproduce this.

I mean, it’s not a challenge, right? I’m trying to actually go to the next level up. I mean, I’m worried about the future when we have to deal with the ethics in AI and understand what happens when we have autonomous vehicles getting into accidents and killing people and having a rule that says in this country that we honor the old, not the young. And therefore, the young should die. I don’t like that. I worry about where humanity’s going. And I want to see if maybe we can have a positive impact on that future, and that’s being a voice, and that’s being able to engage people to affect change.

I’m super excited about what I’ve been working on right now because 20 years ago when I got involved with voice on the internet, I helped change the way we are today. I mean, seriously, and we take for granted now the ability to communicate around the world. And it’s in the background, and it’s just there. In the next 10 years, what I’m working on is going to be in your living room and it’s going to be in your office. It’s going to be . . .

Andrew: When is it going to be?

Jeff: The way that we change, the way we use the internet, the way we actually interact with each other, the way that business happens, that’s what I’m working on right now. I’m working on the immediate future.

Andrew: Can you be more specific or is it too early?

Jeff: I can be a little more specific. I believe that as we, the people, start to become more and more dis-trustworthy of certain entities, that we need a way to be able to find ourselves secure, we need a way to protect our holdings, and at the same time be more efficient in how we do our transactions.

Andrew: Cryptocurrency?

Jeff: Cryptocurrency but it’s . . . I mean, what’s funny to me is the fact that the Bank of England right now is using Brexit as an excuse to not decentralize, but centralize their banking and make it so that if you don’t have money in the bank, that they’re going to actually evaporate one-half for 1% of your holdings each year. They’re going to do that.

Andrew: Wait, if you don’t have money in the bank, then what holdings are they going to take away?

Jeff: Well, because they’re going to basically digitalize it. Anything that’s not in the bank basically becomes worthless. And if your money doesn’t touch their banking system during the course of the year, they will evaporate it. They’ll also use it as a way to do monetary policy.

Andrew: I see.

Jeff: So, if that’s happening, we can’t run away from that, but the ability for people to have a voice, and have a voice that matters and actually then fight and look to me. You know, what’s crazy is that AT&T was forced to break up because they’re a monopoly. Hello Facebook. You know, we’re dealing with the AT&T at its height. It had 100 million consumers and 400 million of this, 500 million business lines, that’s it. Facebook today connects two billion people. Facebook today connects 80% of the connected world together. Imagine if they have some bad AI out there putting out fake news, it can change everything, and they do.

If anyone should be broken up, it’s Facebook, followed by Google. I mean, we’re dealing with power that needed to be decentralized. We deal with power that has to go back to the people, but we’re sitting here and no one has the balls to go to Washington and say what has to happen. I mean, we broke up AT&T, we have to break up Facebook. It’s obvious. It’s obvious what has to happen. So we, the people, have to stand up and do this because if we don’t, our future is doomed.

Andrew: Okay.

Jeff: And I’m not depressed telling you that.

Andrew: You see, I’m thinking, “Well, how do I buy Facebook ads, you’re going higher level than [inaudible 00:43:51] . . .

Jeff: I’m saying short Facebook.

Andrew: All right. I want to take one or two . . . do we have time for two questions? But here’s what I want. Not like the, I’ve got a question that’s nicey nice, but . . .

Jeff: No, attack me.

Andrew: No, no, no. No attacking. If you’re feeling something especially like powerful from what we’ve talked about, then you want to stand up and be as open. I think I was open with my questions about how I felt even though I kept worrying like, how are you going to feel about me, how are they going to feel about me. So if you’re feeling that powerful . . . You’re feeling powerful. What are you feeling strongly about? What’s the question?

Jeff: Then repeat the question.

Andrew: And I will repeat it.

Man: Yeah. I have seen a massive discrepancy between how you guys are keeping score.

Andrew: You’re seeing a massive discrepancy between how I’m keeping score and he’s keeping score, yes. So, what’s the question?

Man: Yes.

Jeff: Which you? Me?

Man: You yourself. [inaudible 00:44:37].

Jeff: Okay.

Man: If money is not how you keep score, what do you to keep score?

Andrew: Okay. So, I’ll repeat the question for the people who are listening. If money is not how you keep score, what do you do to keep score?

Jeff: How I affect and change the world myself.

Andrew: How do you measure that? And this is not a joke.

Jeff: I did change the way the world communicates. With the Pulver Order has facilitated the ability for the past 10 plus years, for over 100 countries to have the ability for their consumers to be able to use the internet in an open and free way and not have to pay for communication services. I did that. That wasn’t about money, that was . . .

Andrew: I would like to do that. So, here’s the thing. So, you’re saying if I hug, I can have that kind of impact. Let me ask these guys. For people who are listening here live and also anyone who’s listening to the recorded version of this interview, if you think I need to hug more.

Jeff:Yes.

Andrew:Hug me. Let’s hug. I’m going to see if I could have some hugs here and see if you feel that what I was saying about . . .

Jeff: I’m opened to hugs too. We’ll see who likes the hugs more?

Andrew: Let’s hug. I’m willing to experiment really. I’m really willing to try.

Jeff:Another question or we have to end it?

Andrew:And we’ll take one other question. If you agree with what I was saying, bring it up to me too in person. All right, one last question. You do feel strongly. What do you feel strongly about?

Man 2: It’s really easy for someone who’s made millions of dollars to say money doesn’t matter. For people who haven’t gotten to that stage, it’s a lot tougher. So, you know, I’m not sure if you’re feeling that anymore because you’ve already your money. There was a point in your life that you hadn’t made money, it was extremely important to you. So I challenge what you said earlier.

Jeff: Why do you think it’s important to me?

Man 2: Because otherwise you wouldn’t have gone into a space to want to make a difference in the world.

Jeff: Different. Totally [inaudible 00:46:18].

Andrew: The question was, it’s easy for you to not care about money now because you have money. There was a time when you didn’t have money and you care about money.

Jeff: I still care about money.

Andrew: And you’re saying, “At the time, it wasn’t about that.”

Jeff: I meant when I was building the conference business, I never thought about failure. I never thought about what if I didn’t make it. It was playing roulette. Every time I did an event, I had to put all the profits into the next conference, I put down the deposits in order to produce the event. And that went on for two and a half years. By 2000, I was making money but it was a different kind of money. I mean, it was money as a return for my time but I wasn’t thinking about how much money am I going to earn . I was thinking about being able to make payroll, being able to make expenses.

Today, I worry about the same thing. I’m about to make a major shift and actually build a business from scratch once again. Right now, I have one employee in my conference business. I’m about to go to seven. In order to go to seven, I need to grow my revenue in order to support the payroll. So it’s going to be a shift all over again because I can’t depend upon myself as a funding source for this business. So I damn well looking to raise money, which is what I’m doing, and I will build the business because I know how to do this.

So, I’m not against raising money, but money and me, we have different relationships. You know, I give when I can, when I don’t, people still come to me looking for it. I’m not able always to give what I want to, but it doesn’t take away my ability to share information and share dreams. I mean, when people ask me for advice, the biggest thing I ever tell people is to believe in themselves and to listen to the voice that got them to where they are, because if you pitch someone your idea and they don’t give you an investment, they just don’t get what you’re saying.

I mean, I had this whole thing. When I was working on Wall Street, I had an idea for a web-based email in ’94. It could’ve been Hotmail but I didn’t have the confidence . . . Someone told me it was a stupid idea, so I moved on. I had an idea to do online broker, like online retail brokerage, brokering and someone said that was a stupid idea, so I went on. When I realize, I need new friends. And so I stopped listening to those people and started listening to myself more. And I gave myself that ability to hear and to do.

And so, I’m in favor. Look, if everyone who works for me can be trillionaires, great, but along the way, it’s hard. And so, I am pro money. I’m not a socialist who wants . . . I know. I am in favor. I need to charge conference fees for my conferences. My hard time is when people want to come to my event for free, how do I say no?

Man 3: Just say no. [inaudible 00:48:48].

Andrew: So, you just say no. All right, let me close it out with this because I know we’re getting to the end and we’re going to go and do a Scotch night here at Fireside, right? I’ll close it up by saying this. I went back and I looked at our old transcripts and I realized, I’ve known about you for over a decade, longer than I actually met you, and I admired what you did. The only reason I had the guts, back then, to ask you to do an interview is I came to one of the meetups that you did for 140 Conference. And for the first time, I saw this guy who I read about for years in person, and I could barely talk to you because there are so many people who were around you, who you knew, who you were hugging.

And I remember saying, “Here is a guy who I felt a lot of distance from because he done so much but I know I could feel comfortable asking him to do an interview.” And which is why I did. And when I went back and looked at the transcript of the interview, everything that you said was open and real, and everything I was curious about . . . you can see, I bring my curiosity to these interviews. You helped me think it through without holding of yourself and without changing and without, and to some degree, maybe taking some risks with what you said. And I feel you’ve done it here on the bus and here in person and here with us and I appreciate you for doing it, and I am really grateful.

Jeff: I’m very grateful to be here. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to be here.

Andrew: Thank you. And there’s the interview. I got to tell you, I cannot say enough good things about Fireside Conf as a conference. First of all, they’re total menges [SP] for giving me this recording after the types of questions that I had, but they believe in the Mixergy mission, they knew I was coming from a good place. And second, boy, it was the most stand out event I’d ever been to, on this guy’s campground where one of the founders of Fireside Conf went to camp as a kid. Completely disconnected from technology, which scared me for a long time, but it was fine. If I needed to call home or check email, first of all, I didn’t check email, but if I need to call home, there was a place where we had a little bit of internet connection, so I could go do that.

But just be on camp with fires going everywhere, with a bunch of other entrepreneurs and people in the tech space, and just talking about life and doing things like going for a swim in the lake or rowing or saying I feel like doing something and then going to do it, felt like being a kid with a bunch of other kids who just happen to be people who I am in the same industry with, where then I’ve done some business with some of the people who I’ve met there.

And really, I freaking love the event. And I think that type of event is the future of events. Not heavy handed with their presentations, a lot of socializing in a really good atmosphere with phenomenal people. So if you’re interested, go and check out Fireside Conf. Was it Fireside Conf or Fire Conf? Firesideconf.com. And I’m grateful to them. I’m also grateful to the two sponsors, hostgator.com/mixergy and toptal.com/mixergy. Thanks. Bye, everyone.


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