Distraction-free productivity

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For years I’ve been wanting to write a book but I could never sit still long enough to write it. I even tried to hire somebody to sit and write with me. It was too awkward to write together. I tried to hire someone to write for me. I didn’t like their writing.

Finally, over COVID, I used something called Focusmate and I freaking wrote the book!

Today I invited the founder of Focusmate to find out how he built it. Taylor Jacobson is the founder of Focusmate, virtual coworking that helps you get things done.

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Taylor Jacobson

Taylor Jacobson

Focusmate

Taylor Jacobson is the founder of Focusmate, virtual coworking that helps you get things done.

 

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I actually, this is too early for me to say, but dude Taylor, I freaking wrote a book. You don’t many times over the years of Mixergy, I’ve said, I want to write a book.

I’m in the process. Didn’t happen. I sat down, over COVID and I frickin wrote it, but it was, it was tough. And the reason that it was tough is because I’m not a sit still person. I’m great at going out and talking to people. I’m great at like pushing myself to do more with my inner energy. I’m not great at just sitting still and quietly working by myself.

I even tried to hire somebody to just sit and write with me, tried to hire someone to write for me. I didn’t like their writing. Writing with me was a little too awkward. Anyway, I finally found an answer. Number one. Has nothing to do with this interview. I got a coach from a big publishing company. I said, just get on a call with me every week, go through what I’ve done, holding me accountable, but more importantly, give me some guidance when I’m stuck so that I don’t keep spinning a number two.

And tell me also how to improve my writing and how to get better. And number two, I signed up for focus, mate. Actually, I’d been at the user focused me for a long time, but I got back into using focus, mate. This is either going to make my audience Taylor laugh or Taylor, they’re going to say, huh, this could be what I’m looking for.

Taylor, and by the way, is the, is the founder of focus made here’s, here’s how it works. I basically get on video chat with a stranger that I never met before. The focus mate matches me up with, I tell that stranger what I’m going to do for the next hour. It’s actually 50 minutes, but I say what I’m going to do, they tell me what they’re going to do.

We hit mute, which I don’t think Taylor likes, but we hit mute and then we work and we kind of watch each other. And it’s so fricking weird that that helps. But at the end of the session, when we check in, I’d say nine times out of 10, I say, I’ve done what I was supposed to do in that 50 minute session.

And then I give myself 10 minute break and then I go back and I schedule another one and I do another 50 minutes where I tell the person what I’m going to do. There’s something about having somebody sit there that keeps me, obviously from getting up and wandering around. And of course in my kitchen and my living room, we’ve got interesting food in the house.

And so I might go snack. I might make another cup of coffee. Well, if there’s someone counting on me, I’m going to sit there. So works that way. Something about declaring for the next 15 minutes, I’m going to do this one thing. There’s something about having a little bit of like, not really accountability, but a little bit of a check-in at the end, that where someone’s saying, did you do it?

And you get to tell them, okay, It sounds like they even pay attention. It’s not like there’s anyone who’s ever shaming me or giving me advice on how to improve. If there was, I would just be done with them, just checking in and fricking helps. It helps me. You have to, through that, it helps me. Uh, so I, I wrote the book.

It helped me do other projects, like clear out my inbox and this and that. Tell am I talking too much here? I’m basically just like go long-winded, but I’m excited about what you built with them. Focus mate

Taylor: go for it. Yeah.

Andrew: sent him so many love notes over the years that at one point he said, uh, he said, Uh, Andrew, do you want to be on our investor email list? I said, yes. And then I’ve been watching as the business behind it grew. And I thought this is fantastic. Let’s have Taylor Jacobson on to talk about why this simple concept, where you can do video sharing.

There’s a little bit more involved to it if you want it, but that’s how I use it. Well, it’s little concept has grown where he’s going to take it and what we can learn from the way that he’s built his business. And we can do it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you need to host your own website, the way that Taylor did, I recommend it use the site that I use, which is HostGator.

And I’ll tell you later why you should go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second, if you’re hiring people, I’ve got a way for you to know who the right person is. Um, it’s fantastic. It’s called Vervoe, but I’ll talk about those companies later. First, Taylor, good to have you here.

Taylor: great to be here.

Andrew: Where’s your head go is I was saying that it was kind of watching you a little bit proud and also I always feel like you think that I’m not fully getting the idea of focus, mate, even though you see that I’m excited and getting value out of it,

Taylor: Well, first of all, I just love how tuned in you are. Um, I dunno, it’s just a new, it’s like fresh every time when somebody just describes their experience of using the software. And, um, I, you know, over time you kind of get like closer or further to the customer, so to speak and, and you start thinking about the business and the operations and building the team and like a million things.

And, um, and then there’s just this very grounding experience of somebody just like, yeah. And like, you’re very kind of raw and real about it too. So I don’t know. it,

was just, I was kind of just going on the journey with you and, and appreciating how, uh, It’s like, it’s actually not, It’s not something that happens every day that I just get to sit with somebody and hear kind of their emotional journey.

So thanks for that.

Andrew: It’s fast. It’s so simple. It’s video sharing. I could also do screen sharing. Uh, unfortunately I prefer not to use the laptop. Um, I’m now talking to you on a laptop, but I, I hate using it so I don’t get to do screen sharing and I don’t feel like I need it. It’s just, I put it on my phone with the, with my webcam, with the camera up on my phone so that people can see me.

They usually put it on their computer sometimes on their phone so I could see them or watching each other. Why do you think that works? Where we’re just two strangers watching each other? I don’t care what they think about me.

Taylor: I mean, there’s actually a ton of reasons why, and, um, we sort of keep learning about more of them over time, but I think the really simple way to think about it is that human beings, uh, we did not evolve to do complex long-term computer work. We, we evolved in tribes to survive by hunting and gathering and teaming up with other other people.

And, you know, we were clearly not faster or tougher, stronger than a bunch of other animals in the food chain. Like the thing that we nailed is, is collaboration. And, um, you know, if you are a bad tribe member, then you’re going to die basically. And so we haven’t evolved past that. I mean, I don’t really know how far we’ve evolved past that, but not very far.

Um, which is to say we’re highly social animals. We’re very attuned to other people and wanting to be good tribe members. And so. You know, a lot of this, this is just a hypothesis, but a lot of it’s played out in myriad social science research. Right. So actually, uh, today’s Wednesday. Yeah. Yesterday morning we had a call with, uh, uh, a couple of researchers from NYU and Columbia who did some research on how focus may work.

So they just were like, oh, there’s something new happening here. Um, so I think there’s like nine different, you know, effects that we’ve listed on our science page. And they actually surfaced a 10th one, uh, which is just having another person sitting on video with you. I mean, they they’re, you know, they’re researchers, so they had to isolate one specific thing, but you know, just the, just the presence of another person, forget all the other stuff that you actually talked about in your intro about the, you know, the different pieces of focus made that, that we could look at.

But, um, yeah, it affects our brains, you know, subconsciously or, um, Without, without thinking about it, we just want to perform better.

Andrew: It’s hard. There’s very little software that you’ve created from scratch. Right? It’s not an app you’re using web RTC. Am I right for video? You’re using this, you’re using standard, um, internet tools to allow us to communicate. Right. Um, you know, I want to understand, well, let me ask you about how you built up the company and we’ll understand how the tools in the software built up, but why don’t we start with revenue?

Where are you guys now?

Taylor: uh, we are

Andrew: what do you feel comfortable saying? We talked about how you don’t want to reveal the exact number, but what do you feel comfortable

Taylor: Yeah, no, I mean, we’re we’re well, on our way to a million in ARR, uh, this year

Andrew: No a million total, but you’re charging people monthly. Right? I feel like, so I told you that I was going to tell you this. I think you’re undercharging five bucks a month. It’s too fricking little I’m on their session. You could see how many sessions I do. There’s some days I’ll do five sessions some weeks when I do 20 sessions, that’s a lot for me to be paying five bucks a month.

And I cha I tend not to chat with people before or after we do a session I’m done with them. We’re ready to move on, take a break and then do another work session. I don’t want this to be a distraction for me or for them, but I will occasionally say, this is great. I can’t believe I’m paying five bucks.

They’ll say the same thing. Even students say that. Why aren’t you charging more?

Taylor: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, we’ve had people reach out and say, I would pay 300 bucks a month for this. Uh, we just had, uh, we just hired this woman actually, who our relationship started. Cause she was like, I need to pay you a lot more or I need to, uh, do some free work for you. And then she did do that.

Uh, so yeah, we’re, we’re accumulating a lot of Goodwill at the moment because of that, but why are we charging that much? Um, you know, it’s really a function of how we started charging and at that point in time, uh, we didn’t know nearly as much as we know now about our target users, about our strategy. And so we wanted to start earning revenue and, and, you know, that’s a key proof point in building a business.

Obviously it’s like, are people going to get out their cards and pay for this thing? And, and we had a sense that the number of use cases and types of people that use this is very diverse. And we felt like if we set. Initially too high of a price point, we would inhibit our learning. And so we set a low price point because we knew that actually it would be very inclusive for the

Andrew: But Taylor, that was, then this is now you now have enough cost. And I understand also you want liquidity in the market. You want me to never hit the button that says, I want somebody to work with and end up with, sorry, we can’t get you somebody. Right. I get it. So now you’ve got that. You have us all in there clearly over 10,000 people a month are, are at least paying if not using, I think I can say that.

Right. All right. So you’ve got, I don’t think there’s ever been a time where I hit a button and didn’t have somebody who was there to talk with, talk to me at the next, uh, interval. And they go every 15 minutes. You could increase prices. And if you care about students, couldn’t you say, if you have a.edu email address and we’re going to let ourselves get ripped off here by people that have old Dottie, do you email addresses from schools that they haven’t attended in years, but if you have a Dottie meet, do you email address, we’re going to keep it at five bucks.

If you have anything else and you keep your account, we’ll keep it at five bucks, grandfather you in, but in the future, anyone who comes in with anything other than a.edu, we’re going to charge much more. Congratulations you’ve grown, or frankly, you don’t even have to grandfather people. Why aren’t you doing it?

I feel like maybe there’s either a do gooder ism in you, or maybe you just too gun shy of about charging too much.

Taylor: Yeah. I mean, the short answer is we are going to do it and, um, it’s on our it’s on our roadmap. And so, you know, we, we could talk more about, uh, why now and why it’s taken so long and some of the, you know, call outs you, uh, you just made. But, uh, yeah, I mean, I would encourage people. We may grandfather people, so now’s a good time to sign up.

Uh, if you want, wanna, if you want to get that price point, um, you know, one of the shifts that we will make is actually shifting to a model where we’re charging for features instead of usage. Um, and so like, you know, w whatever the most popular features become, you know, we pay a lot more

Andrew: what’s a feature that you’re thinking about and that you think people would pay for

Taylor: Uh, I mean, a very classic one is like, you know, your who, your favorite partners.

And, um, you know, for

example, we can make it free to add people to your favorite partners. But if you want to have unlimited usage of the ability for us to put you with your favorite people and lock in lock in those, those matches with your favorite people, then, then you’ll pay more for that.

Andrew: Okay. And why not? Based on usage, you get 20 sessions a week or a month at five bucks. And then anything else you have to pay more.

Taylor: Yeah. Uh, because a core part of our strategy is around network effects. And so, um, we are definitely playing the long game around revenue. So we’re, you know, absolutely not profit maximizing revenue maximizing. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about revenue. I mean, the best, the best, uh, source of. Capital is revenue.

Uh, and we are, uh, I’d say at this moment, especially acutely aware of this because we’re, we’re building our team a lot. Um, so yeah.

Andrew: I feel like I make you uncomfortable. And I think the audience is going to feel a little uncomfortable listening to this and I, and I’m fine with the audience feeling uncomfortable. I don’t want them to feel comfortable. I want them to get a sense of the conversation and the person in the business, but I feel like I make you feel uncomfortable because I, I talk to you sometimes about why you should charge more and push you there.

I think that’ll make you uncomfortable because I’m taking you. Maybe away from the spirit of what you’re doing. I feel like you’re onto something that is spiritual meaning to you. Sometimes when I talk to you, is that true?

Taylor: yeah. You know, and that’s, uh, that’s an astute observation and, you know, you know, you touched on something about, and I, my gun shy or not. And, um, I don’t know. I don’t, I don’t think so. I do. I do think that being inclusive is it is a genuine drive and, and frankly, it’s part of the magic of the community.

Like Focusmate is not just a productivity software. Like what. What really makes a difference in our psyche is having this feeling of like people having your back and sort of like the team spirit aspect of focus made. And, um, so much, so many people in our community are neurodivergent and have ADHD and sort of experience focus made as this place where people will just believe in you and they accept you for how you are.

And it’s like, Hey, we’re just going to provide, you know, this is a place where I get The support that’s that works for me to actually, you know, do my best work.

Andrew: The diversity. I will sometimes run into developers who are coding while they’re doing this and to entrepreneurs who are doing their taxes while, while they’re there. But I’ll also come across a lot of students who just will want to read, and it’s weird, but they’re just looking at their screen and it doesn’t feel weird at all, or just someone in a country where there isn’t a lot of money who’s studying something.

And you could see that there’s not a lot of welfare, but there’s, it’s the same experience. It’s, it’s a really great little community that you’ve built and it’s shocking how effective it is. Let’s let’s go into how you discovered this. You got into, I guess you were working at a startup that decided to go remote and that’s what led you to start focus mate

Taylor: Yeah, actually, uh, I was working at a, at a startup whose office moved and so my commute got twice as long. I was actually living in Mumbai. And so it was like just a horrendously

Andrew: in India?

Taylor: in India?

Andrew: I didn’t know. Okay.

Taylor: Mumbai. Um, yeah, so I just, uh, You want to do the commute anymore and just begged my boss to let me work from home.

Um, and she was very reluctant, um, and you know, understandably so. And I just, you know, I, I had been very productive person, my whole career and started working remotely and overnight I was really struggling. Um, and I, yeah, yeah. I mean, it took me years honestly, to figure out how to, how to work remotely.

And, um, but that, that moment was definitely pivotal in terms of, uh, just coming to appreciate like how difficult it can be to work in a, in an isolated environment, not having structure, not having people, like when you work at an office, you can be having a shitty morning and then, um, You know, you just go grab lunch with somebody that you really like and you laugh and you blow off steam and you can like get back at it.

And, um, you know, we don’t have that when we, when we work by ourselves, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty isolating and, you know, going back to like tribal psychology, it’s just like, we’re not meant to be that isolated.

Andrew: I found, I remember when I was first working on my own out of college, got my own place and I’d go to work. And this was no more distractions. My parents can’t be blamed for not letting me focus the mess someone else made in the house. Can’t be the issue. It’s just me and I get to finally be productive and I couldn’t do it.

And if I read my journal entries from that time, you could see a person who is just beating himself up and why can’t I do this? I have all the time in the world. I just need to write one email to go out to my list. Why am I not getting it done? And it was just such, such shame and disappointment and lack of productivity, but I kept at it.

And then I remember hiring my first person and the fact that. I always thought that it’s because she would depend on me to finish my part for her to do her part that got me going, but maybe there was another part and that we were working in the same room sometimes. And that also did it. Um, I guess that’s what your that’s what you didn’t have, I wonder.

Okay. So you didn’t have that. And then you had this experience where you said to someone else let’s work together. Who is the person? What happened?

Taylor: Yeah, so, uh, yeah. You know, skipped over a few steps, but coming out of that experience of really struggling to work remotely, I actually, I, I, I became very motivated to understand how to solve that problem. And I actually, I went and got trained as an executive coach. Um, cause I, I kind of just, at that point, I was very clear that I just wanted to focus my career somehow on, you know, on solving and solving this Really?

a broader problem around like, how can we be our best selves?

Um, and, uh, yeah, I had a, a coaching client who is a member of a men’s group. I was running who, um, you know, very successful entrepreneur who was also procrastinating and, um, funny. I think I probably had this idea for years, but I felt like it was so like silly or shameful to need this level of support that I probably, I just did it tell anyone.

And, uh, fortunately I was close enough with this guy that, and he was struggling enough that I was like, all right, let me, let me bring out this like super wacky thing and from my, from my closet. Um, and so I just pitched him out. Let’s, uh, let’s get out. It was Skype at the time. Let’s get on Skype and, uh, let’s share exactly what we’re going to do and we’ll write it down and, and we’ll just keep each other company and we’ll check in.

I, you know, as we, as we make it progress and, um, it was just, you know, instant magic for both of us. And, um, so he and I did that, you know, a few times, but, but pretty immediately, it was, it was obvious to me that, you know, this thing that, that we had stumbled on, uh, could be beneficial for a lot of people.

Andrew: What’s the men’s group, by the way.

Taylor: Meaning a, like a peer support group

Andrew: Yeah. What type of men’s group helps you? Yeah.

Taylor: Uh, it was like, uh, this particular group was meeting up for three hours a month and super, super confidential and sharing like, this is exactly what’s going on in my life. These are the, you know, and in particular focused on the stuff that each of us were struggling with.

So it was, uh, five of us, you know, and I, I recruited each of these, each of these men, all entrepreneurial, all sort of mission-oriented and had enough like values, alignment that everyone was like really excited to spend that time together. Um, yeah, and just, you know, building up a lot of context for each other’s lives over time so that we could really, uh, support each other in a unique way.

Andrew: How did you think about turning this little experience that you had? What’d you guys do it on Skype? I think. How’d you think about turning that experience into a first product?

Taylor: uh, yeah, so it was just me initially and I’m, I am not a software engineer. Um, so, you know, my first step actually was just creating a Facebook group and inviting people and sort of sharing the concepts and the structure and inviting people to, uh, just post and say, Hey, I would love to have a partner at this time.

And people would just, uh, if they feel comfortable, they would share their Skype handle, if not, they would DM each other. Um, and so that was, uh, it was just like a really, you know, quick way of starting to validate and see if people like the concept and

Andrew: but you were validating to see if there was a business here that if there was enough need for

Taylor: yeah. I mean, definitely. Uh, charging money is the only true way to do that. But at the time I just was like, let me, let me just get started. And, uh, you know, so starting to, uh, do user research and see are people willing to invest time in this and give me their contact information and how, how responsive are people when I post online about this, is it like 50 people instantly start commenting?

Or is it like a dud? And so, yeah, very quickly it was clear. A lot of people are excited about the idea, you know, that branched into, like I built a WordPress site that uses one of those like WordPress, uh, themes that you can customize a lot of stuff and like plug in. I plugged in, you know, schedule once used to be a popular scheduling thing.

And, and I, you know, I built the database in Google sheets and use Zapier to connect all this shit. So,

Andrew: well, let, let me understand how that worked. I didn’t know that you could do that with the way you schedule two people together. You use just schedule ones to do that to two strangers.

Taylor: no, I use schedule once talking to Zapier, talking to Google sheets and I put in a bunch of fancy Excel code into Google sheets to actually discern if there was an available person and then create a link and send it to them. So I just used what I knew how to do, which was

Andrew: it’s phenomenal that you could do that. And then what was the turnaround time there? Was it people would say I’m available tomorrow or could they, do I know today I could find someone within 15 minutes.

Taylor: Yeah. I mean, today you can find somebody within 60 seconds usually. Um, I can’t say I remember the turnaround time, But you know, same day

Andrew: But the same day, they just say, I’m want to do I need somebody. I guess they fill out a form that goes into a Google sheet, the Google sheet, using the code that you wrote in, in the spreadsheet, matched them up and then booked it on a calendar and then message them when they were. Wow. You know what freaking, I know code Zapier solutions are so impressive.

I, I wouldn’t have thought that was, that was possible

Taylor: I mean, I think it’s much, much easier today than it was

Andrew: still. That’s impressive. Wow. By the way. All right. Here’s something I would pay for, you know how now I could say I need somebody and it’s every 15 minutes you start a new session. I would pay to be able to say, oh, I just missed the 15 minute mark. I wanted to have someone right now. Anyway. So at one 17, I could get somebody instead of waiting until one 30.

What do you think? Yeah.

Taylor: Sounds good. Uh, I think that, uh, yeah, I think that there’s a lot of things that our customers say they would pay, pay for pay more for. Um, so I think the sky’s the limit in terms of, you know, making that

Andrew: It is really hard. I do feel like you must get a lot of requests from, from people because lack of productivity is it’s such a tough thing to describe, and we all think we have a solution for it. And you know what, frankly, maybe the fact that you ha that it’s, that I have to book it within 50, that I have to book it in 50 minute intervals of forces me to book it in advance and forcing me to sit down and helps I get, I get it.

How do you decide which of these, um, feature requests to take.

Taylor: Uh, it’s a good question. In short it’s hard. Um, and we, you know, we have a strategy and we try to honor that and we sorta try to strike a balance between, uh, building strategic building in a strategic way and just, and then also very kind of fundamental enhancements to what’s what’s already there. Uh, so it’s not super super science-y, but,

Andrew: what do you mean? What’s the strategy?

Taylor: Um, so the core of our strategy right now is, is actually moving away from this idea of, of working with a stranger, uh, Because it, you know, in essence what the word stranger means is kind of somebody where you’re like, I don’t, I don’t, like, I don’t know enough about this person to make any kind of assessment about them.

It’s, it’s in a way it’s like a signal of like, uh, they might not be safe and that’s in a very like primal sense of the word. Um, and we also, you know, we know that working with your best friend is not a good idea. It’s not going to be productive. So, you know, what’s the, what’s like the ideal partner for you, right.

Um, what are the, what are the, you know, you tell us, oh, I, I I’m like, do you want a partner that’s like more on the chatty side or like really focused? Or do you want to do, um, Do you want to work with somebody who’s working on the same thing as you, or went to the same college as you, or, um, you know, any number of parameters that are how you know, who you want to work with, um, such that you feel, you know, super excited and motivated by the people that we’re matching you with.

Andrew: Hmm. All right. I get that. You created that first version. Let’s continue them with the store. You know what the first version, just so fricking brilliant. I wish that you could save it somehow or just keep, just have a video even of how it works. I like how simple that is it. How’d you get people to come into your Facebook group, get people to try this first version.

That was a no-code version.

Taylor: So, uh, I joined Facebook groups that were for people that I thought would be working from home, uh, you know, groups for freelancers or, um, you know, how to, how to grow your freelance business. There’s just like a thousand of those kind of groups basically. And yeah, just go and I get a sense of the vibes in the group and, um, the culture and, uh, you know, add a little bit of value and.

Um, you know, you don’t want to like dive into these groups and just like plaster and add in there. Um, so yeah, then I would, I would like DM the, the moderator or the admin of the group and share what I was working on and get their permission. And then I would post an invitation and it wasn’t commercial at the time, you know, it was just like, Hey, we’re doing this experiment and here’s how it works.

And, uh, just like post a comment below if you’re interested in I’ll DME or something, something, something like that, you know, or I would, post in the first comment, like here’s a survey, if you want to just like share a little bit more, learn a little bit more. Um, and that, that was it basically, um, just got a ton of responses in almost every group that I did that in.

Andrew: I would, I’m so surprised that people would see the value of it fast. And, you know, I guess it’s because I think like you felt the first time that you did this, a little ashamed that you needed a little weird that this is helpful. Um, alright.

Taylor: I think I actually probably took a little of the edge off of it being like, Hey, me and a friend are doing this weird experiment.

Andrew: yeah,

Taylor: Um, which just it’s, Uh, I, I th it was kind of intuitive, but I think there is something to that, which is like, yeah,

this is an invitation that let’s acknowledge, like this might be wacky, but, uh, I think that makes it a little more safe for people.

Andrew: it’s, it’s just an experiment. We’re much more willing to try and experiment, which more willing to put something out there. That’s an experiment. You know what? Paul Graham has this great article about how a lot of the best things. Uh, that have been created online, especially are, start out of these toys are silly things, but that’s the way it starts.

And that’s, that’s good. He says, the problem is a lot of us don’t want to create these things that our toys are silly because we’re afraid of looking ridiculous and he acknowledges that that’s a problem. And then he says maybe the solution is to just call these things that we’re doing it games or experiments, or I forget the exact phrasing.

And I’ve thought about that a lot. And I realized that I’ve been held back from trying new things. And one, one approach I’m taking is to just let myself actually create things that are just for fun, that don’t necessarily need to go anywhere and then see where they go or see if I care about them. So I guess that’s, that’s the approach you’ve taken

Taylor: Yeah. I mean, I love that. It’s like, I think there’s a certain, uh, seriousness to like entrepreneurship culture, um, that probably does get in the way of, of trying more wacky things.

Andrew: Yeah. If you want to keep building a reputation, if you then launch something that sucks, it feels like it’s going to damage your reputation, right? Unless you say, well, this is just a goofy thing I did this weekend, or I’m experimenting with, um, I should say my first sponsor is a company called Vervoe. I want to tell you about this tale.

I think you might like this. When you hire people, do you give them tests or what’s your process for knowing whether they should even meet with you?

Taylor: yeah. Um, it, it changes, but, uh, we ask people to use the product and give us some feedback. And so we can tell how they’re, especially, you know, how their critical thinking and their communication skills. Um, and after we do a little bit of like culture screening, we always ask them to do some work. I would say like essence of figuring out both the culture fit and the team dynamics is just like actually doing some work

Andrew: What type of work do you give them to do?

Taylor: So we’re hiring, uh, at least one designer right now. And so, uh, we give them just a brief take home, which might be like, Hey, here’s a user story. And like, just, you know, spend two hours, show us your work. Um, like just see what they do?

next with it. Um, but then, you know, the, the next step after that would be potentially like a 15 or 20 hour paid project where, um, we ask them to go through like the whole arc of developing a user story into a feature.

Andrew: Wow. All right. So then I think you’ll appreciate what Vervoe does. They actually do that it’s software that helps you manage this whole process of saying to somebody you want to work with us. Do a little bit of work. Let’s see how you handle the job self before you get the job and what they, now you could do this, obviously by saying, Hey, go program on this app or go and use this other app for spreadsheet or write something for us in a Google doc.

What Vervoe does is it says let’s just put it all in the same application can actually embed a spreadsheet in there. You can embed a video recorder quarter in there. If you want to see how they respond to something on video and audio recorder, if you want to see how they respond, you can record yourself doing the video and then say, imagine somebody called up and they had this complaint.

Now here’s my complaint by video now, type out how you would respond or do a video of yourself, responding to it, take an, all these different tools for you to. Give your, uh, potential hires, um, a test and then all these different tools for them to respond back to the test, to do the work. Now, one of the problems you’re gonna have with this type of approaches, it’s really painful to figure out who should I even talk to now, I’ve asked people for video.

That means I have to watch hundreds of videos. I’d ask people to all, give me a response to this customer service issue. That’s a legitimate, real issue from our real lives. And I have to read all of them. Well, Vervoe does, is it not only makes it easy for you to ask for this stuff and collect it, but they also analyze it for you and then tell you which of the, um, candidates responses are worth looking at and need more of your attention in which ones their artificial intelligence software says we could push out.

In fact, their AI is why they raise so much money. Their AI is why so many companies have used them. So. If you want to try them out and it seems intriguing, but you’re not sure if it’s the right fit, I’m going to let you use it for free. And that means you too, Taylor, if you want to use it for free, all you have to do is go to a tailor.

I have to just go to Vervoe.com/mixergy. It’s V E R V O e.com/m I X E R G Y. They will let you use it for free and because you’re a Mixergy listener, they will even give you a 30 minute complimentary consulting session to really make sure that you can use this right to hire well, verbal, thanks so much for sponsoring.

Um, uh, I didn’t even know all the things that they did until I interviewed the founder. And before I interviewed the founder, I started, I said, I went through your software and how it works. And then he started giving, tell me what happens. And I said, wait, your site doesn’t even say this. I had no idea that that does all that says, yeah, we do much more than you can see on the site.

Taylor: founders wouldn’t know what to do. And plus they got interviewed by you, you know,

Andrew: I do feel like, um, some products are much harder to explain than others. Like Vervoe is a really hard product to explain how do you explain the need for it? And there are lots of needs. There are lots of reasons why you need it. Um, it’s not just can the person do the job, but are we frankly, being a little bit, um, prejudice in our hiring process?

Not just prejudice based on age or, or, um, gender, but maybe prejudice based on what we think the right candidate should look like for this job. Right? So that’s one thing they do. And then how do you convince people that they should give tests that they should collect feedback or they should collect these test results in all these different formats?

And then how do you also tell them? Well, trust us, this artificial intelligence really does the job. All of these different businesses use us. So I think they simplified on their homepage, but when they do, when they do one-on-one conversations with enterprise customers, they explain the whole thing.

Anyway,

Taylor: it lends itself well to a podcast,

Andrew: I know, I think that’s why they’re doing it. Right, right. I think you’re right. Um, as opposed to like a short Google ad. All right. So you did it at what point did you say? I think I’ve got enough here that I should start coding up a solution. Okay.

Taylor: I mean, I don’t know if any entrepreneur should ever say this, but, I was pretty confident of that after I did it once.

Andrew: After one time you did it with your friends on Skype, you said this has gotta be a product it’s that effective. Okay. I

Taylor: yeah. You know, I really, the, the, and I’ll talk about a couple aspects of it. I was confident because I had had, I had tried enough things as an entrepreneur, you know, or a wantrepreneur at different times in my life. And just, you know, had a sense of like what it feels like to push a Boulder up a hill and just be like, oh, this is, this isn’t, this doesn’t want to happen. Uh, and, and then just having this moment, really, maybe for the first time and that entrepreneurial journey of just being like, holy sh you know, this is a thousand times more awesome than anything else I’ve created in terms of its impact on me. And. I think I’m representative enough of enough people that I just, I was just was very confident.

And the thing that had me kind of put the brakes on for awhile was, was frankly having had enough, uh, false starts before and just being very wary of like, oh, if I’m going to build this business, like I’m going to really go for it. And, uh, just wanting to kind of coalesce that clarity and energy. And in me in terms of executing it.

as opposed to just being clear and confident that there was there, there

Andrew: what was the business that you started that was most top of mind as you were starting? This one,

Taylor: terms of like other

Andrew: it seems like you’ve been scarred a little bit from some of the businesses you started. You said what’s one that’s that stands out for you.

Taylor: yeah. In college, I started a business called holy Creek. That was, uh, you know, basically. Our intent was to be a late night food vending option on, on campus. I just come back from study abroad in Paris and ate a lot of crepes and, uh, oh man, like talk about it intensely operational, not scalable business, uh, making food outside on a little cart. yeah, I mean, I just, I was just like missing class to just show up because like our, you know, the students that we had hired to do it, weren’t showing up and, uh, of course you.

actually can’t cook raw foods outside of North Carolina. So we had to switch and be like, all right, we’re going to do sandwiches and soups, which like right off the bat, I was like, uh, it’s kinda sad.

Like we had this exciting thing of, you know, recreating our late night Paris snacks and we’re already not even doing that. And, uh, yeah. So learned a lot of lessons pretty quickly from that one.

Andrew: Let you do this outside and their campus.

Taylor: Uh, yeah, they,

Andrew: Wow.

Taylor: um, I guess they were, you know, they happened to be kind of doing a lot of construction and creating more outdoor spaces. And so it’ll happen to align with their, uh, their needs at the time.

Andrew: You went from there to doing a lot of, um, I’m going to call do good or work. I feel like, why is that? Why did you not say I’m going to be an entrepreneur the way so many other people, but we’re talking about 2006, 2007 new year. You’re doing a holy crap. You graduated from school. Yeah, the economy’s bad, but startup culture is just starting to bubble up soon after.

And you’re in the micro philanthropy businesses. You’re doing stuff that is, is different from what you’re doing now.

Taylor: yeah. Yeah. Um, you know, I, I really, I would say that. I grew up around a lot of affluent people and, uh, for different reasons, I always felt like an outsider. And I think because my parents maybe came from a more humble background, um, I felt like I didn’t have the social skills and some of just like the cultural fluidity, um, to fit in.

And so, you know, my best assessment looking back on it is as a kid, I just sort of developed this like almost resentment towards these people that I just were like, oh, they’re not like me. And, and somehow that fed into a, you know, a narrative that it’s like, it’s, it’s pretty easy to sell yourself this narrative that like people who go after social causes are better people or people who, you know, and it really became like, I don’t know if I was aware of this, but like an anti money thing.

Right. And, um, so yeah, I just, I, I naturally gravitated more towards like, uh, you can’t be a good person unless you do these things. And, um, at some point I, I just realized what was going on in my mind and how much it was limiting me. And, and frankly, like, I, I think that business is perhaps the best vehicle.

If you want to create change in the world. Cause there’s not a lot of obstacles and the, you know, you make money and that fuels what you do. And it also measures what you do, you know, when people give you money, it’s, it’s a signal that you’re actually helping them. So, uh, yeah, but I spent a lot of my twenties, you know, wrapped up in that story.

Andrew: what, what was it like growing up for you? What do you mean.

Taylor: I mean, I, I definitely want to be sure that I don’t dramatize this cause I feel like my childhood was awesome. And I grew up in a wealthy suburb of Boston called Newton. Um, but you know, it was, it was subtle things. So like, you know, by, uh, uh, my mom is Jewish and wanted to raise us Jewish, but she, she wasn’t raised Jewish and my dad was not.

And, and so, you know, uh, they put us into Hebrew school and, you know, went through all those paces. And yet I didn’t have like any cultural fluidity or knowledge around Judaism. I was like, it was like, I would show up and I would not know anything that any of the other kids knew every single time I showed up there.

Um, and yet at the same time, I was always made fun of for being a Jew from my Gentile

Andrew: Uh,

Taylor: Uh, you know, and again, I don’t want to dramatize it a lot, but, Uh, yeah.

there’s just an aspect of like, well, I made fun of for being this thing that I actually don’t feel like I am, because when I’m with the people who are that thing, you know, Jewish, I feel, I feel like left out there too.

And I think that, uh, Yeah,

just, you know, like sensitized me in some way and perhaps contributed to just like when you’re, when, when you are more sensitive and you can pick up on problems that people are having. I think that helps you, uh, as an entrepreneur.

Andrew: I think that’s true, but boys are painful to, to, to have experienced. Um, but I hate a childhood. I I’m surprised that you said that you liked it. So

Taylor: Oh, I don’t know. Did I say that? I said, I, I have a lot to be grateful for. Absolutely. And I, you know, I’ve had so many opportunities given to me, um, but. yeah.

I mean, I think most childhoods have their traumas

Andrew: I hate to tell that I just couldn’t wait to be an adult. And you know what? Being an adult is so much better. I think, I guess it gets worse as your parent, right? Because then you have so many, you have everyone else’s burdens and responsibilities on your shoulders, but I it’s too early for me to say there.

I can’t say being an adult is so much battery. You get to make your own life. All right. So part of you making your own life is you figure this out focus, mate, you start to, you start to code it up. What’s the first version look like and who coded it?

Taylor: um, yeah, so I, um, I met my co-founder Mike, um, in 2016 at some point and we just started talking and, uh, 2017 asked them to do a little freelancing, um, while he was looking for a job at a time. And, um, so he coded up, uh, you know, really quick and dirty version of the application. Um, January, 2017.

Andrew: What did it do?

Taylor: Um, it was like a list of all the times in the day, not a visual calendar, just a list of times. And, uh, you could, uh, you could see like a little orange icon if there was somebody there, which was actually very important at the time, because there were not a lot of people. So, uh, you would want to go and see where there were people available and you could just check that box and book a time and we’d send you both an invite.

Andrew: ah, okay. So there’d be a list of all the times of the day. If somebody had already picked one of those times, it would be indicated and I could pick it and be more likely to get a match. If not, I pick a time that I am available, even if there’s no one there and hopefully you’ll find a match for me. It’s that simple.

And then you sent a calendar link, which also is fairly easy to, to create right. Got it. All right. How far did you get with that before you started charging?

Taylor: Um, like I can hear, you can hear your criticisms in my, in my head at this point, but, uh, we started charging in 2019.

Andrew: Okay.

Taylor: So,

Andrew: And how much did you get? I mean, how much, sorry, how far did the software come

Taylor: um, well, I’m not sure what you mean.

Andrew: and what was it that it did at the time that you started charging? What you’re looking at? It’s version one was just, you know, coding version two was Mike’s uh, is his last name pronounced gala Galanos.

Taylor: Yes.

Andrew: So Mike Galanis is, uh, first version with the list of times. What, what did the version look like when you were starting to charge?

Taylor: Yeah. I mean, it, honestly, it wasn’t about a version update that precipitated us charging. It was like, oh, we’ve been, uh, putting this off for too long and we need to actually validate that that people will pay for this. So, um, Yeah, it was kind of just like a, this maybe feeds into some of the, you know, uh, some of maybe my, uh, biases as an entrepreneur.

Uh, but for, yeah, for a good while they’re sort of like, oh, let’s put that off later. Let’s just focus on adding more value, adding more value. Um, I think, yeah, eventually you just realize like you can’t really, you can’t build a business without, uh, without revenue. And also the quality of the feedback you get from people is just, is not the same, uh, the standards they hold you to also, as customers are, um, are higher, even at $5 a month.

Um, so there’s a lot of reasons that we just decided, you know, we need to do this, obviously.

Andrew: Okay. What do you mean? Do you have an example of the type of feedback you get from somebody who’s a free user versus someone who’s paid?

Taylor: I mean, maybe this is just a belief that I have, but, uh, you know, and this is my experience too. Like there’s a certain, uh, entitlements, if I want to use the sort of judgemental word, there’s certain entitlements, you have to like, oh, this should just work. You know, whatever this is, it’s like some aspect of the user experience that you’re just like, what the heck? Like I’m paying for this. Why is this happening? And so that kind of like indignation almost is, uh, is a very sober, helpful

Andrew: ah, yeah, yeah,

Taylor: to get.

Andrew: yeah. That’s true. I thought you were going to say the other, uh, about the free customers, that they also have a sense of entitlement, but maybe they don’t even have a clear understanding of what they want because they’re not paying for it. It’s not yet ready. It’s not. Exactly what they want in order to, to be willing to pay, but they’re not sure what it would take to get them to pay.

And so their requests are for you to adjust it in ways that they’re not sure, but they think would lead to payment. Like there’s a sense of it’s it’s too much of an amorphous relationship with an unpaid customer, especially when you get started, it seems like

Taylor: yep, totally agree. I think it just creates a, a psychological shift in that person’s mind that. Um, yeah. And, and certainly you can also like choose to ignore feedback from, uh, from your free users, um, to help just focus you on, on the things that add value to people who are willing to pay.

Andrew: So also 2019, you at the top of your site said like focus mate, investment focus, mate, and you link people over to Republic. You’re one of the first people to be on Republic, right? This is before all the major changes happen that enabled more businesses to. To raise money on Republic. How did that go for you?

How’d you get? I, I imagine that it wasn’t a lot of people on focus made who are clicking that link and going and investing. Right.

Taylor: um, I mean, as a share of our users, I, I couldn’t tell you, you know, how many so to speak. Um, I will say, you know, even at that point, our community was so passionate that, um, that we were confident that a lot of people would turn up, um, and contribute. And, you know, if you have to think of what kind of business lends itself best to crowd funding, it’s definitely a community.

So yeah, we, we knew we had a lot going for us. Um, and yeah, we just liked the idea of, um, of, uh, putting more, you know, the power of focus made is the community. And so like giving people more of a stake in what we’re building.

Andrew: and is that where you got your, so let me see how much you raised, um, on the page you raise 122 plus thousand dollars. Did that all come from the community? Are you working your network and reaching out to other entrepreneurs?

Taylor: Definitely both. Yeah, definitely both.

Andrew: What was the experience like to raise on Republic?

Taylor: I’ll say it was good but tough. Um, I mean, looking back, it’s easy to say, oh man, that was a lot of work for 120 K. Uh, because now capital is a lot more available to us at the time. That was not true at the time, you know, pre COVID and, you know, it was just an idea that I think a lot of investors needed to see more traction to believe, to believe it because it just sounded weird.

You know, I think in today’s today’s world, it’s, it’s actually obvious to a lot of people why this makes sense. Um, so, uh, yeah, I, you know, there’s a lot of regulatory burden that you experience doing crowdfunding. Um, so yeah, I would, I would say be careful and be discerning and making the choice to do crowdfunding, but, um, I mean, I think it’s, I think it’s awesome.

It’s going to be really empowering for a lot of businesses that may not. Be a great fit for venture funding also, um, or just wanna, you know, have a little more control over their destiny to do crowdfunding.

Andrew: Okay. All right. Second sponsor HostGator. I usually in the HostGator ads, Taylor asked my guests, if you had to start over with nothing but a hosting package, what idea would you, would you create? And if you want some, some that we’ve come up with in past interviews, I can throw some out. But if you have one idea that you’ve had before that maybe you could give up here or one that you’ve been thinking about, I’d love to suggest that somebody to go and sign up on HostGator and create that.

Taylor: Oh gosh, you’re putting me on the spot. Uh, it’s funny. I used to have tons of startup ideas now I’m just obsessed with this one. Um, I don’t know. Recently I was, uh, I was, I was wishing that somebody would provide end to end support so that if I wanted to create social media content, I could just record a video.

On my phone and drop it into some folder and it would like magically be turned into content for that.

suitable to every different platform, different preview images, different lengths, blah, blah, blah. So that’s

Andrew: oh, that’d be, that’s brilliant. That could totally be created by somebody who’s listening. Right. Because what you’re basically saying is you want a service that is productized and you’d pay probably a monthly fee for a certain number that you get. So all the person has to do is have a great landing page.

WordPress will do that. And then some kind of membership access or plugins, tons of them that do that, that will let people who paid get access to a form, which I would say just use gravity form, which is a plugin for WordPress, but you could use anything. You could frankly, even put a type form in there.

And as soon as somebody uploads their video or whatever it is that they’re doing, maybe it’s just audio or text or whatever. They hit send, it goes into a Trello board where somebody on the team takes, it, starts working on it and then sends it back to you probably via email to keep things simple and boom.

All right. I’ve seen productized services like this work, listen, many people, whether it’s that productized service or anything else, how much would you be willing to pay for that tailor? It depends right on the quality of work. It depends on what, what platforms they go into.

Taylor: Yeah. For a great service, 300 bucks a month.

Andrew: Yeah. All right. I would think that probably would cost more than that. If, unless you’re. Are you talking about just images or you’re talking about writing too.

Taylor: I guess you’re right. The answer is It depends.

Andrew: Right? So you can imagine if somebody says I’m just going to do standard Canva, we’re going to use Canva to create the images for Taylor. He’s going to, we’re going to onboard him by asking some questions. We’re going to give him some SA we’re going to give him some results. And then every time he gives us some feedback, we’ll add it to the doc that we keep on Taylor.

Um, and that’s how we improve it. But we’re focusing on just creating images for social media, using Canva, and we’re going to watch the results of that and, and his feedback to improve it. That makes sense. 300 bucks. Absolutely. That makes sense. I’m now thinking what if it’s just talk into it into a microphone on your phone and then upload it and then turn it into even like a LinkedIn article.

That can’t be that can’t be that tough. Basically. What we’re looking to do is say, I know what I want to say. If I had a huge team of people, they would turn it into these images. They would turn it into text. Well, I don’t want to have a huge team view cause I only have this once a day, maybe three times a week.

Have a, have a team do it for me online guys, if you’re listening to me right now, this is a great idea to run with, give it a shot right now, by going to hostgator.com/mixer, you can right away get a WordPress website. Focus made started with a WordPress website, super simple, have a landing page, explain what you’re doing, and then just go out there and put out offers.

And the way that you did it, Taylor was you went what on, on Facebook groups and you help people out. And then you said, by the way, I’ve got this boom there’s people. And if you want a really low price from HostGator, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. They’ll take even more money off hostgator.com/mixergy.

What’d you do with the money from, uh, your raising on Republic.

Taylor: uh, what did we do? The money.

Andrew: Was this to hire a new, a new developer or something? It was

Taylor: count. I think just, you know, pay our rent, basically keep going. Yeah. That’s not, that’s not enough money to do, to do a whole lot, but, uh, but yeah, just keep going

Andrew: But what was the need that you had? It was, we need some money to pay our rent before we get enough, uh, recurring revenue coming in. And was it hire one developer or something?

Taylor: Um, you know, at the time I think I was not paying myself, my co-founder needed some income as keep paying him. Um, we brought in a part-time customer support person who needed, you know, um, we had an agency doing design, you know, so we were kind of just scraping together different resources for our team, but, um, yeah, just covering, covering, uh, personnel.

Andrew: that design that you have for your homepage you’ve had now for what? A couple of years, right?

Taylor: Yeah. Uh, we have, we actually are working on

Andrew: Uh, all right. I’m curious what you got, but dude, that design is so good. I remember the first time I discovered focus mate, I said something like. I do email with my assistant using zoom screen share, and it’s been incredibly productive and somebody said, dude, have you checked out Focusmate and when they put that link in immediately, I think the image from the home screen of a human being kind of like fist bumping like this, I don’t know how you ex how to even describe it, but you, in that moment capture what it’s like, you’re going to be working with someone else.

They’re not really there. They’re virtual and you’re going to get stuff done. So really great design that you had. What did it cost to get that?

Who did that?

Taylor: LATAM mere Covich did that?

Andrew: It was just a guy. Wasn’t an agency.

Taylor: It was just the guy. I stumbled across another startups website and I was like, oh, this is beautiful. And I, uh, I just tracked him down. Uh, yeah, I have no idea what it costs anymore.

Andrew: It’s damn good. You know why it’s damn good because it takes a tough concept and quickly explains it. You kept it simple at the top, and then there was all this, um, like all the social proof with like your CNN mentioned and this and that. And then the letter from the founder, you’re always the guy who’s like on there, earnestly looking at the, at the person going, I get you.

Here’s what we’re building, um,

failures here, anything that was especially challenging and didn’t work out.

Taylor: um, of course, Yeah.

I mean, I think, I think probably the hardest part, um, in my journey has been, um, knowing when, to when things aren’t working with. With people. Um, I’m curious what your experience has been there too. Um, you know, I just, I love people, you know, and, uh, like one of my favorite things is just to do the first interview and I’m hiring somebody new.

Cause I’m just like, you know, waxing, philosophical, and just getting to know new people. But, um, you know, when things aren’t working, it’s often really subtle, uh, a, um, can’t tell in any, I mean, I suppose you could, but I’ve never had the experience of working with somebody where it was just incredibly obvious.

So, um, yeah, I’d say that’s, that’s been one of the toughest challenges, just acknowledging like, oh, we really like working together, but there’s something that’s not,

Andrew: my problem is I think I’m just not doing it right. I’m not managing right. I’m not giving them enough guidance. I’m not motivating them enough. I can’t. And then I just want to keep trying it because in anything else, if you’re not getting it right, you have to take responsibility, it’s you. But what I, what I’ve been told is if it’s not working.

Just don’t force it. Don’t it’s it. Even if it’s your fault, you just kind of move on unless you’re doing something terrible. It’s not worth trying to fix you so that you can fix this relationship. So you can then get the person to do the work, right.

Taylor: right.

And I think, you know, that I think that where we go wrong is we we’ve, we think we’re doing it wrong and we need to do it better. But I think if you shift the context, just be like, oh, this isn’t about like right or wrong. It’s just, this isn’t quite right for me. Um, take sort of the, the judgment out of it.

Uh,

Andrew: Yeah.

Taylor: been helpful for

Andrew: Right. For whatever reason, maybe I can’t make it work with you. Maybe it’s you, but it’s just not happening. I’ve got to let it go faster, but it is not easy to say to somebody, sorry. It’s not working out. It’s hard and it’s hard to unwind it. Yeah.

Taylor: Yes. Yes. I, you know, I think dating is kind of a fun example or it’s like, at least in dating, it’s just like, ah, I’ve just got attracted to this person. Like there’s a little bit of a healthier context, but, uh, in the workplace. Yeah. There’s, there’s a FA you know, and, and I think being a good entrepreneur is being somebody who just takes responsibility for everything. And it’s just like willing to figure out anything. Uh,

but that can obviously make it hard to just give yourself permission to be like, oh, this just, this could be easier. This could be more exciting or better or something.

Andrew: Can we talk about this fasting thing that you’re going to do?

Taylor: Yeah,

Andrew: What are you gonna do? I I’m, I’m a big believer in cabins in the woods. Is that where you’re going?

Taylor: That is where I’m

Andrew: How’d you find the cabin, you’re doing it yourself.

Taylor: Um, actually my, uh, my cousin has a cabin in upstate New York and, uh, I managed to, uh, secure a few days between his trips.

Andrew: So while you’re doing these cousins, got it. Cousin’s got a cabin. You’re just going to go to his cabin and you’re doing your own self-directed fasting. What is it? Multi-day experience.

Taylor: yeah, uh, I, that sounds like we’re marketing it or something, but, uh, yeah, so I I’ve, I’ve started fasting more frequently. Uh, the last five months in particular and just find, uh, like a lot more mental clarity and sort of intuition also becomes much more available, I think, uh, not, I think, uh, when I’m fasting, um, and you know, combining that with being offline and then being in nature, like just being in an environment that removes a lot of the noise of just kind of inertia of day-to-day stuff.

Um, I feel like the times that I’ve been most effective as a leader are when I’m really. Um, self-aware and connected to my intuition, especially. Um, and you know, and another aspect of it is just, how do you, how do you even become aware of things like, oh, this relationship with a colleague isn’t working.

And I think when you’re just caught up in getting shit done every day, um, it’s like, you just don’t have time or, or Headspace to, to think about that stuff. So this is not something I’ve done before. It’s something I’ve thought about doing probably for, you know, a decade. And, um, finally just giving myself permission to do it.

Andrew: I’ve done something like it. I w w there was no fasting, but there was a lot of introspection on my own. And so, I went to 1.2, a Nanda, which is this, um, meditation retreat create, I guess Yoganonda created it or somehow a part of it. There’s this religious organization, whether they, they call themselves religious or not.

I’m saying the religious organization, they’ve got these tents, they’ve got this meditation, they’ve got the Sunday prayer. I wasn’t interested in any of that. I just wanted the space that they created for me to go in and just sit and think. And for me, thinking needs to happen on paper or more, more likely digital, just an empty journal, nothing else I could do.

And just sit and write out questions, try to answer them and just be alone with my thoughts and have somebody prepare food for me. So I don’t have to. I think about that. Um, and also because it’s like in this meditation place, there’s no constant refrigerator to go into. They cook the food three times a day.

There’s silence. Um, except for dinner, just do your thing has been incredibly helpful to just sit there and think, and to force a thought through. And when you want to hide from the thought, there’s nothing else you could do. It’s not like you could just turn on Netflix and say, I’ll do this or check Twitter.

There’s nothing else. You’re here with your thoughts, just see them through. And if you go home with an empty page, you know that you haven’t done it, so you just fill up the page,

Taylor: Is that something you do on a regular basis?

Andrew: I’ve done it. And I haven’t done it enough. I feel like once we had kids, my time to do that became shorter. And the closest that I could get to it is I’ll do it sometimes on my birthday. I’ll go off and say, okay, what is this year, man? What am I frustrated about? What do I wish was different? And I’ll sit down and I’ll write it out there.

Um, I have, and I’ve talked about this before gone to, um, Just go into Napa. There are these beautiful hotels there where you could sit in the courtyard, nobody’s in the courtyard because they’re all doing wine tasting. So you just sit out in nature, you have all this space, you get the best food and coffee.

And so, uh, for me, food is important. Not so much that I could eat it, but I don’t want to think about it. I want to know that this is taken care of. It’s going to be healthy. I don’t, I don’t have to scramble around for it. Right. So if you go, for example, to Carnero sand, it’s like a $1,500 a night place. If you could get a spot in there, right.

Courtyards, beautiful. You sit there. They’ve got what they call the, the farm or the market where you can go and buy some, buy some coffee and you sit there and there’s not much else you could do, except do your work. These creative spaces are just phenomenal for that,

Taylor: Hmm. Yeah, that sounds awesome. Uh, I might have to check out this, uh, Sananda I think for me, uh, this definitely will be an experiment, the not eating and I’m curious, you know, it could just kind of, my energy could just get so low that not much happens, but you know, there, um, I I have yet to do, you know, the Iowasca, know, adventure, but a lot of these types of, you know, psychedelic state altering experiences you do on an empty stomach, because it, it opens you up more, you know, just like allows, it allows you to be more sensitive to your body in particular.

So let’s, uh, let’s see, I’ll keep you posted.

Andrew: Yeah, I wouldn’t want to do any of that with, uh, on my own. I’d want other people around, but I, I feel like this, what you’re trying to get, we need a more formal way to do that. Some, some way to just say, I need to, to disconnect from the world, but also be productive in my, in my introspection. If that makes sense.

You know what I mean?

Taylor: oh, totally. I mean?

I, I talk about this a lot in how I think we have a unhealthily linear oriented culture and really we need more cyclicality and how we operate and, uh, you know, whether it’s seasons or whether it’s young, young, or, or whatever the case may be like, you know, doing, just showing up and doing things like that.

Um, we need interruptions to, um, to really slow down and like, see what, you know, what, what, what do I want to change? What needs to die? What wants to be boring? Um, so.

Andrew: how you’ll end up doing on your own with that. Sometimes I feel like a coach helps. Sometimes I feel like I need my own space. I wonder what you’ll end up coming back with that, but you’re not the type of person who’s going to go and do a blog post and say, here’s what I did. And what happened from it.

Are you

Taylor: I’m not, you

know, I, I definitely have had people encourage me to start making more content and, um, I may do that soon, but I, and I, um, I’m a bit just personally leery of sort of perverting my own experience by starting to think about what I want to share. And it’s, it’s kind of deeply embedded into our culture to like to do that.

And so, yeah, I tend to be slower than most perhaps to, uh, to talk about what I’m thinking. And I don’t know my perspective on things tends to shift a lot as well. So, uh,

Andrew: No I’m with

Taylor: until something is more maturated before it’s like worthy of someone else’s attention.

Andrew: No, there’s a sense of all right, I’m going to go do this fasting experience to see what needs to get cut out of my life, what needs to be added. And then the whole time you’re sitting there going, I think I’m going to write this in my head right now. The best part of sitting and not eating is. And now you’re just trying to experience the things that will sound good on paper to other people, instead of what really matters to you though, I will say no Kagan did this Iowasca experience.

And then he wrote about it and it was just enlightening to see what Iowasca could do to a person. And I’d never thought about it. Before, quite the same way. I’ve had a guest come on here and talk about iowaska experiences that here he does an organizes, but seeing a regular person, someone who I’ve known go through it, made it much more accessible to me.

I’ve thought, all right. I think I’m, I’m down for something like that. And there’s some sharing with that that I think would be valuable that your experience, but I wouldn’t

Taylor: Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely something to like, Hey, if I’m, if you move away from the, let me teach you something, which I think is very, very common in how we think about content to just let me tell you a story. Um, that could be awesome. I could even help sort of help you more deeply reflect on what your experience was.

Andrew: Yeah. You do any other things like that. That’s helped you.

Taylor: you.

know, I, uh, I have done psychedelics a few times and, uh, most often, if I’m in, like, it’s been, when I’ve been in a, in a bad place and I’m just like, oh man, I really need to get to the bottom of this and figure out what’s going on with me. Um,

Andrew: like, give me an example. What’s one time, go, go open with us.

Taylor: Yeah, let’s see. I’m trying to just think what, uh, What’s been going on. So, you know, there’s a time when I was going through, uh, a tough time in my relationship and I just was feeling very scared, a lot of anxiety, and it’s kind of ironic because I spent the vast majority of my life, you know, kind of judging psychedelics and being scared to do them.

Cause sort of scared to lose like my mental acuity or really to lose control or like to become something. I didn’t know, you know, what I would be, you know, who I would be after that, or maybe I’d be more dollar or something. Um, but there’s something about that that actually attracted me when I was feeling that fear.

And I just was like, I really got to break through whatever this fear is. And somehow doing something scary, uh, Always just kind of appeals to, I mean, like I went skydiving and bungee jumping within a week of each other when I left my first job in my early twenties. And it was like this sort of accumulation of courage that happens all at once.

So, uh, it’s something like that where I was like, ah, I gotta, I gotta just bust through whatever this, this, this Firas. yeah.

Andrew: You know what? I’ve had that in smaller experiences. This is not really comparable, but I remember breaking up with someone and then finally going and getting contact lenses and being comfortable, touching my eyes like this is now me saying to myself, I’m going to break free of these resistances that I’ve had before.

I never thought I was someone who could put contact lenses. I go, I put it in and now I feel like, all right, what else am I, not someone who’s comfortable wearing tighter jeans. Let’s go try that. Right. Going into these clothing stores and getting comfortable with the whacked out stuff that they have a Barneys, let’s go do that.

Um, did it help you to do psychedelics to deal with what was going on with your girlfriend?

Taylor: maybe, I don’t know. You know, I think just relating to myself as like, uh, courageous helps. Um,

Andrew: oh, you’re saying it’s not necessarily even with the psychedelic experience with like, it’s just saying I’m a little afraid of this. It’s going into, it’s going outside of my current boundaries. And then once you do that, it strengthens you to do other things.

Taylor: yeah. I mean, I’d say it’s pretty hard. I think a lot of people come out of, you know, eating acid and they maybe over a scribe, some sort of transformation to that, because of course you haven’t experienced a physical experience. It’s like, whoa, I’m connected to everyone and everything. And, um, and that’s, I think that’s powerful because it.

It just gives you a perspective that you have never had before, even though you really, I don’t think can hold onto it, but just having had that experience, I do think as powerful as just a, um, an awareness that there could be another experience of yourself that you’re, you’re preventing yourself from having cause you’re scared to change. Yeah.

Andrew: oh, that makes that’s, that’s what I’ve heard people say. And you’re saying that partially comes from the, uh, from acid and you’re saying partially it comes from just breaking through a barrier.

Taylor: Yeah. So you know that the acid might kind of force you into this, uh, state of consciousness that you’ve never had before. Um, but then just knowing that, um, I got, you know, the first time that I ate acid, um, I just had the most physically ecstatic, you know, pleasurable experience that I’ve ever had and sort of it was, I look back on, I think, oh, maybe like, I think that some form of trauma release, you know, leaving the body, it’s like, uh, I, I, I became terrified early on in the acid trip and just, you know, started crying and sort of having these hallucinations of scary things happening.

But at a certain point I just decided I was safe and I just, you know, huge, huge, emotional release followed by like very physically pleasurable experience. Um, so yeah, I mean, that kind of journey is just, I think can be facilitated by,

Andrew: yeah. There’s someone

Taylor: by substance.

Andrew: that somebody facilitate the substance experience you

Taylor: Yeah. definitely.

Andrew: I feel like I would do that. I, I I’m ready to try that.

Taylor: And I think for me, I didn’t go into it being like, oh, I’m going to do this. I was invited to it. I was like, all right, I’m going to show up. And I think, at least for me, um, it’s, uh, it doesn’t, it doesn’t resonate to be like, oh, I’m somebody who does these things or I’m somebody who

Andrew: me too. I have that same experience. Um, um, I don’t see myself that way.

Taylor: It’s just like, I show up in the moment. It’s like, oh, I happened to be hanging out with people who are like, oh, we’re planning to do this, this journey. Uh, and does this feel like a yes to me in the moment and that’s kind of, that’s how I’ve, how I’ve approached it anyways.

Andrew: all right. Um, I’m going to end this interview by telling people to go try, focus me to bring back. I’ll tell you why. I do feel like it kind of connects in a sense that there’s this. Extra us that can come from something that we hadn’t expected. There’s some, I don’t, I don’t think that this could work for everyone.

Focus me. The idea that there’s another person watching, you could just be too creepy and distracting for some people, but for people who are willing to try it and to just see, maybe you do three free ones a week, I’d say to just try two or three and just go for the experience and see what comes out. I think for some people it’s going to be revolutionary.

It’s just going to be the sense of, I can’t explain why having another person there. Helps, but it’s somehow does. And I keep coming up by the way, Taylor, with all these reasons and rationalities and I have to, I have to understand that I don’t know every part of why it works, but I come up in my head with things like, well, if my wife and I are both working from home now, which is what we’ve done over the last year, if she sees that I’m in a focus made session, she knows that we’re respecting the other person who’s there.

So we’re not going to interrupt and say, can you come and do this thing over here? Go do that. If it’s an emergency, absolutely. You just say BRB and chat and you can go and come back. But if it’s just, Hey, would you just chat with me or let’s have whatever, no one focus made. So that, that I, I understand its signals to everyone else.

And to me that this is a work session, but I feel like there’s other things at play here that I don’t know how to express. Why is it that having another person’s presence, even if I don’t look at them, forces me or, or just keeps me on track. I don’t know.

Taylor: Yeah, so it actually starts before the session it’s, uh, uh, pre committing to a time. Right. So you’re actually starting to like, build some psychological momentum around that.

time. You have an agreement with another person to show up. Um, of course you can cancel, but Yeah.

Just psychologically, like knowing that that person could be checking out your profile and looking forward to meeting you and, you know, so you have an appointment on the calendar and you’ve already, uh, started to build some, like, I’ll say excitement about how productive you’re going to be.

Um, especially if you’ve done a few focus made sessions, you know, you can count on yourself to be productive when that’s coming up. So you’re starting to get excited about it. So you’re like sort of getting into that head space ahead of time. Um, and you show up and, um, you have this moment of being very specific about what you’re going to do.

So setting very clear, specific intentions, um, is hugely valuable, especially if you take action on them immediately. Um, and then you also are sharing them with another person. And so there’s this sense of an agreement that you don’t want to break? All of that. Um, is hugely impactful, separate from the impact of having the person sitting there, which also makes you more productive.

So just having the person there, keeping you company also increases productivity. Um, a lot of users will post an update if they make progress, you know? And so you get a little, you get a little, you know, dopamine hit sense of satisfaction. That’s amplified by sharing it with somebody immediately. And then at the end, you, you know, you talked about this, you also reflect on how it went and, uh, Reflection is, you know, there’s two types of activities.

One could say there’s executive function and reflective function and we skew way too heavily towards executive, like getting things done and not don’t do enough reflective. Um, so even just taking this moment again, especially right after you did it to be like, Hey, how’d it go? And it’s, it’s almost seems like it’s so trivial that how could this be impactful?

But just having this moment to sort of say, oh, like, wow, I was incredibly focused or, oh, I got distracted by this thing, whatever you create a little bit of awareness, like meta awareness for next time. And then in a way you can also kind of like, uh, close the chapter on that hour. It’s like, all right.

how we debrief, this is how it went.

Now I can move forward. Um, and then there’s also, you know, there’s a lot, there’s this shared sense of celebration also, so that the completing something with another person, um, adds to that. As well, so, and I’d probably miss them, but you get the sense. There’s like probably a few dozen things going on. All told

Andrew: Right. You’re right about that reflection. It’s not even about the other person hearing me. It’s just me stopping and saying, I didn’t do it. Here’s why. And I’m telling myself it’s yeah, it’s helpful. You know, what I haven’t done in a while is I haven’t shared my screen in awhile. In the beginning. I used to go grab the laptop just because that’s the only device you can clearly easily share a screen on.

And then I found that I don’t need it anymore, but I should do it from time to time. Because if someone’s looking at your screen, there’s no way you’re going to Twitter. If you’re saying, I just need to write this thing, they’re watching, you’re either doing it. Or you’re not. I’ve noticed developers will do that to you.

They’ll turn up their screen and they have no issue with me. The scene was there,

Taylor: there’s another premium feature right there.

Andrew: share screen. You already made it available free courtesy.

Taylor: Just brainstorming. Yeah.

Andrew: Oh wait, I, you know what, I wonder if maybe one of the reasons why you, uh, increase fees is because do people pay when they need it? I feel like you have low churn of five bucks.

It’s not enough for someone to just go cancel. Right. Compared to your friends, would you say you have lower

Taylor: Yeah, definitely.

Andrew: yeah. Five bucks a month. Why cancel when you’re going to have something you need to do? Yeah. There’s the advantage of that? Just, I, it just, every time I use it, it feels like I’m not paying them nearly enough to do.

Now how many yesterday? I realized that I had a bunch of stupid apps that I was paying monthly fees for like these crazy apps that I was just experimenting with and forgot to cancel. Some of them were like six, seven bucks a month for nothing for like, how do you take the background off of an image that I needed a quick solution to it.

I know there’s free background image, removers. I just needed this one. And I kept the going and those are more than five a month. And I paid them. Those, those scumbags who have nothing to offer, they just like, just basically trick me and I needed the tool. Meanwhile, for you. All right. You’re helping me so much.

I feel like I should be paying focused me more. All right. This is not an ad for folks, man. You know what? It is an ad for it. It’s an ad for host Gator. Here we go. hostgator.com/mixergy. Go sign up for them. If you need a website hosted. And if you’re hiring people, I think you’ll really appreciate the tool set that Vervoe brings in to let you ask them to do work and then analyze the work that you’re, that they’ve done to see if they’re a good person for you to hire.

And that’s VR to be V E R V O e.com/m I N E R G Y. Vervoe.com/mixergy. If you want to use them for free and get 30 minute, uh, complimentary consulting session with one of their, uh, with one of their team members, tell her this was great. Thanks so much for doing this.

Taylor: thank you, Andrew.

Andrew: All right, bye bye. Everyone.

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