Andrew: Hey, they’re freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of mixer. I’m smiling as I’m saying this, because my guest has heard me say this before. He’s a subscriber and somebody who I went and found old interactions with at his previous company. So there’s kind of a connection here that I’m looking to go deeper on.
His name is Rishi Mondo. He is the founder of a company that as you hear it, you’re going to say, I wish I’d thought of that. And when you hear how big it is, you’re going to go. I wish I’d, I definitely wish I’d thought of it, but I don’t know if I could have gotten it that big. The company is future. And here’s how it works.
I wish I thought of it. Maybe she, the idea, the idea is this, you know, when like you want to work out, you have to figure it all out for yourself. And I’ve seen these people with their notebooks and their checklists, or they go through the gym with their personal training. And the notebooks I find really don’t hold you accountable.
And the personal trainer I find to be very expensive. And it’s also based on the schedule that they give you and the location that they have. Well, what Rishi said is, you know, what, if we could decouple the personal trainer from the gym, what if we could just give people an app where we could connect them with the right personal trainer for them, the trainer creates an exercise program, the phone make sure that they do the exercise program and they understand what comes next.
Um, as I understand it, it comes in the earphones. You’re told what to do and then what to do next, the watch experience also helps to hold you accountable and to guide you through it. And then throughout the day, the week, and set, et cetera, the trainers checking up on you. And one example that I heard was someone went for a hike for the day and then had a workout later on the trainer said, well, since you’ve had this big hike, let’s adjust, today’s workout for you so that it takes that into account.
That’s what he created. The company is called future. The website is called future.co. I was prepared for success with the metrics. And then when he told me how big it was, my eyes practically bald shattered my head, and then it couldn’t have come to like, uh, to a better person, partially because you work so hard on the previous company, you think of how many we’ll get into all this.
I should say this interview where we find out how he did it, and we really learn the breakdown of how he did it is here. Thanks to two sponsors. The first I’m going to tell you how you can invest in art, the kind of arts that has been reserved for the mega wealthy. And I’m gonna tell you later that if you want to go into it, you should go to masterworks.art/mixergy.
But I’ll explain that later. And second, if you’re doing email marketing, I’m going to tell you about send in blue and urge you to go to send in blue.com/mixergy. But both of those will come later. First. Rishi, can you start off by saying what the revenue is at future
Rishi: We’re approaching a hundred million in revenues. So we are a fast-growing business. And, uh, under the radar, I’d say,
Andrew: a hundred million and this is not inexpensive? What does it cost.
Rishi: it’s $149 a month to get your coach. It’s about the cost of one session with a personal trainer in person. And then you get them for the whole month.
Andrew: When you were watching Peloton, get all this attention. Were you sitting there going, if the world only knew this is what we were doing without sending bikes to people’s homes that lock them into one experience, they should be beating a path to my door where you getting that frustrated.
Rishi: No, um, you know, when I started the company, I said to myself, my co-founder Justin, that we need to be comfortable being misunderstood for. 5 6, 7 years before people really get it. In fact, we’re talking about future as you know, a fitness solution. We give you a connected personal trainer, but you know, what we really want out of the company is to help people with a broad set of their day-to-day health and we’re patient, or willing to build brick by brick.
And, you know, the chips will fall where they will
Andrew: Meaning you’re imagining that at some point in the future, I might just want to change up my. maybe before going out to dinner, I might text you and say, I’ve got this place that I’m going to, I know they’re going to serve this type of food. What do you think? And the trainer will say based on what we’ve been doing, here’s how I think you should be thinking about the menu.
Check in with me later today. So I know what you ate. That’s the kind of thing you’re thinking.
Rishi: that’s along the lines. Yeah. So, um, I would say the way we started the company was with a simple realization, was that societal expectation is that each of us will manage all of our day-to-day health or. Right on our
Rishi: Yes. When we are diagnosed And we’re sick, there’s a whole mechanism to help us. But when it comes to your day-to-day concerns, like you said, how you’re eating, what you’re going to eat today, how you’re moving, sleeping, dealing with stress or mental health and remembering to take your meds.
These, these things end up compounding to have a massive impact on not only on how long you live, but how great those years can be. And absurdly, the expectation is that each of us individually will reinvent the wheel and solve these things for ourselves. And it turns out these are really complicated domains, diet, exercise, sleep, um, and so on.
And so the very, very simple idea was if on your own, if doing all of this on your own is a losing proposition. What 75% of Americans are obese and over a way, 80% aren’t active enough. Um, if solving this on your own as a losing proposition, then the design of future was to be the radical opposite of that, which was how can we put a talented, empathetic, helpful, knowledgeable person in your.
Every single day. And when we say every single day, we mean it. We don’t think there’s going to be a bot or some, you know, um, some self guided interactions every day. We want a person there
Andrew: And you were telling me before that you want it to be a human experience. If Andrew’s into the Yankees and there was a game last night, the coach might text me and say, Hey, did you see the game? Or how are you feeling about all right, but here’s the thing. I’ve talked to so many entrepreneurs in my audience who have tried to solve this problem of how do we sustain people’s lives remotely every day, when it comes to food, more likely than for exercise, they hadn’t grown nearly as big as you where’s where all these people coming from.
What’s your, what’s the marketing. That’s driving them over.
Rishi: um, you know, there’s, uh, a handful of things that have come to work in our favor. You know, number one over call it the last five or 10 years. People’s comfort with. Uh, interacting with even intimate relationships, close people over text message over, you know, remote means based time. And so on the, the comfort has grown tremendously.
Uh, and then I started the company four and a half years ago with Justin, who was the creator of FaceTime and iMessage at apple. He ran communications at iOS, you know, the engineering side of that for nine years. Um, and was someone who intimately understood the evolving nature of how we communicate. So that was one thing.
The second thing that, you know, we’ve started the company four and a half years ago, but over the last call it two, two and a half years, there’s been an acceleration of people’s. Connecting with people remotely, you know, whether that be experts or folks they know or work with. Um, and so all I, all of these things, I think come to a head in addition to there’s a lot of technology we built to enable this and that stuff is hard, hard.
You know, there’s a lot of it. It’s not trivial to actually go and take one coach and help them reach many people and stay personal and proactive. But all of that I think comes together to say, this is a very simple proposition. I think you’re right. Many people have thought of ideas
Andrew: You’re saying the world wasn’t ready before, which I accept your also. And now we hyper already because we’ve been in COVID lockdowns and we’ve been in restrictions. And so we found ways around going out and doing things remotely. Make sense today. I get that. But where are the customers coming from?
Rishi: They’re all stripes. I mean,
Andrew: do you have like a model?
worked. You have a
Rishi: where they’re coming
Andrew: you have a source. That’s worked. Is it like Facebook? Is it Instagram? Is it influencers? Where’s it coming?
Rishi: Our single largest sources referral. Um, and you would have observed this with your friends who do like CrossFit or Peloton, which is, if you find something that works for you, you can’t shut up about it. And so that has been a tremendous source for us. And then of course we engage in a lot of marketing activities, but I wouldn’t say that like any one of those is like some just sort of like a oil.
Well, that is just spouting off users. We, we tell a story at the high level with influencers, celebrities, and, uh, with branding and then all the way down, we have different touch points to help people understand. Maybe now is the right time for you to get a coach.
Andrew: Okay. When you know, let’s go back then. How did you and Justin connect on this idea? How did you get to partner with someone so solid?
Rishi: Yeah. Okay.
So I’ll talk a little bit about just like my evolution into thinking and why it became very clear. Like I had to build this with someone like him. So, um, I had had built several companies and, and was, uh, about five years ago doing what you call an EIR and entrepreneur and residents kind of stint as that at one of the big venture funds in, on Santo road.
And the great, uh, sort of fortune of having been there was a substantial percentage of their investments were in healthcare clinical, you know, pharmaceutical type of healthcare, which I know nothing about. I was thinking mostly about consumer problems, data problems,
Andrew: This is
Rishi: and the realization Khosla
Andrew: Got it. All right. So yes. They’re not thinking SAS, the way that, or they’re thinking health and bigger, bigger visions for the world.
Rishi: Yeah, definitely a commitment to hard tech to science, to, to, uh, healthcare. And I think that gave me exposure to the generational problems we have or challenges we have around health population health and, you know, coming in fresh, coming from a consumer perspective, I, you know, sort of narrowed my focus on the less clinical side of things, you know, more on the day-to-day aspects and, and, um, uh, our day-to-day concerned with health.
And I think for me, that gap, we talked about it already on your own is this expectation just felt absolutely backward. And, you know, I was a high level athlete growing up and college and, you know, it was a recipient of a lot of coaching and started to observe that like the most. Um, successful populations of people who maintain high performance or healthy living for like extended periods of time, years on end, not three or six months.
Like most of us can have, but six years, 10 years, 20 years unbroken, these are people like professional athletes or alias celebrities, or, um, even like, you know, fortune 100 execs have to perform at a pretty high level. And so I said, yeah, let’s go study. What do these people do? Let me just spend some time
Andrew: You’re saying that they have coaches and trainers for their health.
Rishi: Like a hundred percent of them, not even like most of them, like all of them resort to getting help. And they get a chef who stocks their fridge with 12 meals a week. If you’re a professional athlete, you’re not reading a bunch of stuff on the internet about what should I be eating you enlist help you get a trainer to tell you what to do and so on.
And so, you know, I think I, I started to distill my thesis is very simple. I mean, embarrassingly simple, which is people will move people. And the question was, how do we do this in a way that is, um, accessible to most folks because a hundred dollars an hour for a personal trainer, if You just want to see that person a couple times a week, that’s $20,000 a year, the average American household, the whole household doesn’t spend $20,000 a year on anything, food or housing or transportation or healthcare or utilities, nothing.
And so you have this thing that has worked 70 years. Personal training has been a product in our country, but you know 1% of people can use it and afford it,
Andrew: You know what? They’ll Rishi,
Rishi: on a regular
Andrew: I’ve gone through personal training. It didn’t work. Eventually. I turned out of it. I’ve seen my friend. They’ll tell you so much about how they have a personal trainer and then they’ll turn out of it. Things don’t work out. They don’t get the results. They’re looking for no six pack abs and or it becomes a time suck in commitment.
And frankly, even for people who have a lot of money, they start to pay attention to the money, going to something that doesn’t deliver the amazing results that they expected. They turn out. I haven’t seen people outside of professional athletes stick with their personal trainer beyond the ramp up period, which either dies down or gets replaced with there, them doing the same thing on their own.
Rishi: Yeah. If you think about the model of training that I’m talking about, Professional athletes or an a list celebrity. This is someone who’s coming to you, right? Not I’m schlepping across town, 30 minutes to go off the very narrow window that this person has available. The, um, the translation of personal training to most of us is we all want to work out at 6:00 AM or 6:00 PM before work or after work.
There is, uh, no appetite in the middle of the day. So you get, uh, a bunch of people who are not maximal utilized. They have a very lumpy demand curve. Uh, they can only service three people in the morning, three people in the evening if they want to do one-on-one. And so then you start stacking all of these folks and what you end up getting at a local gym is someone who is relatively.
Unremarkable, uh, because they happen to be in your local town and they happened to have a slot on Tuesday at 7:00 AM. So it’s an inconvenient thing. Um, you are meeting them where they are, as you said at the start. And if you think about someone, let’s just take a professional athlete, Kevin Duran, that’s not the model of training that he receives.
He has someone who comes to him when he goes on a plane to vacation. If someone comes with him or plans for that, and same thing with how he’s dealing with his food and his stress, there are folks who he has access to on a regular basis. That’s remarkable. That is
Andrew: we could re if we could take this elevated, expensive, difficult experience and bring it down to the average person, they will see results too. They will stick with this too. By the way, I heard, um, in one of the original tech crunch articles about you, they said that 95% of your users stuck with the program for three months, 85 kept training for six months.
Where’s the churn. Now
Rishi: We have one of the best retention profiles have ever seen for a fitness business ever brick and mortar or digital. We don’t, we’re a private company. We don’t talk a ton about all of our data. We try to stay quite, uh, out of the news on what we do, but it is emphatically one of the best retention provosts.
And what’s interesting about that is we charge future monthly and we remind you every month, if you stick with us for a year or two years, we’ve reminded you 24 times that you’re paying us
Andrew: more than, would you say
more than three quarters of your customers stay with you for your.
Rishi: We have a very high
Andrew: You’re not going to give me any more specific than that.
Rishi: We don’t talk
Andrew: More than half. Can we say that at this point?
Rishi: It’s the highest,
Rishi: say this, that, um, the typical retention curve for any fitness business is after 90 days. Uh, three months later after people pick something up, half of them are gone a year later, 80% churn. And we see that in their puppet population numbers, 80% of Americans don’t move enough.
Uh, despite the fact that most of them pick up a workout
Andrew: I’m surprised because I also find that if you ping people on a regular basis about something that they have to do, but they don’t want to do, it becomes a sense of guilt that you’re imposing on them with every text message you might be checking in on me on how the Yankees are doing. But in the back of my head, I’m feeling like, oh, I should’ve worked out last week and I’ve been ducking everything.
I better just knock it off, stop subscribing so that I don’t get that guilt.
Rishi: There’s a mentality shift. When somebody, you know, we bring not only IQ of your coach to bear, we also bring a lot of ETQ and this is actually the key to being a great coach. It’s not telling someone here’s the plan. Why aren’t you doing it? It’s saying, look, it seems like you’re crazy busy. You’re a parent and you run a company and I get it.
So instead of these hour long workouts that we want to do, let’s do 10 minutes today. Let’s do five minutes today. And tomorrow we’ll build on that. You know, we’ll do another five minutes and do that six times this week, we’ve got 30 minutes under our belt. Next week, we’ll turn 30 into 45 and the following week have an hour and then two hours.
And so they’re trying to meet you where you are, um, which is unusual. The entire history of fitness, consumer fitness is giving people, content, hardware, equipment, a place to work out. And the general messages, if you just stick with it P90X or, you know, whatever workout program I have, you’ll be. And if you don’t, it’s kind of on you, cause this is the whole tool set.
And that I think is a very rigid mentality. It turns people out because you know, stuff happens in life w meeting runs late or you’re tired today, or your right shoulder’s hurting. You know, those types of things can knock you off a very rigid routine. And I think the design of future is meant to be, you know, to some degree, the inverse of that, which is let’s design around what you are feeling like you want to do.
And what’s fun and what’s time is available and we will adapt it literally every single day, which is an unusual, uh, service to have as a
Andrew: All right. So you saw high-end athletes are getting this. How, if we could bring this down to the masses at a reasonable price, in a reasonable experience, we could give them. Maybe not the same results as a Kevin Duran, as you mentioned, but we can give them a solid results. How do we do that? Is, is the thought that you had, what’s the
Rishi: And the court. Yeah, the core question at, at the, at the center of it was, if this person’s not with you are they out of sight out of mind? Do you not care what they say? Or can we create, uh, the right?
context and mindset, maybe tool set to allow you to actually lean in and want to get to know this person where that whereby then you start to make yourself vulnerable to them.
and say, look, I just really, I said, I wanted to do five workouts a week for an hour.
I just don’t have that. Because if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you do exactly what you said earlier, which is like, man, I just I’m failing this coach and they’ve got this whole plan. I should just find the exit. And so that was the core question I had was like, could you create that kind of depth and intimacy?
And that’s when you know, both of us went to the same school, Justin and I, we had a lot of friends in common and someone introduced us. The person you need to talk to is Justin. He spent 15 years, 10 years at apple thinking about how to connect people from afar. And if you think about the very beginning of iMessage, which at the time was called messages, right.
It was just an SMS app. Eventually became a message and then, you know, evolved. Um, he was thinking about the problems around as I’m texting the.dot dots and you know, those types of things, how do you help someone feel your presence, feel your intimacy? Photo-sharing what, should that look like? Um, and then he actually spent, after, you know, 10 years at apple, he spent a handful of years at Airbnb thinking about the guest experience.
And again, guests and hosts will never meet in space and time. And yet you need them to feel empathy for one another. It’s not like trashing their place, uh, trust and transaction. All of that has to be
Andrew: what are some of the things that he did at Airbnb to create that empathy and trust?
Rishi: I think, you know, one of the core things, I mean, around this topic was recognizing that when a guest and a host can message each other beforehand, when they trade a certain number of messages, they’re likely to build empathy and be less likely to cancel at the last minute or a trash someone’s place. And it’s, I think the summation of that, the first decade there was built, uh, for him around connecting people who know each other.
And then the second experience was around, uh, connecting people who, who don’t, but have a shared context and a shared in that case, like sort of physical place that they will not occupied together, but we’ll share. And I think, um, he was walking around in the world four and a half years ago, thinking, man, I’ve seen the power of creating an open connection between two people.
Amazing things can happen. How do I apply this to something I’m really excited about? I was saying people will move people. How do we do that with depth and intimacy and trust? Uh, and so it became pretty obvious that we should work together. That ultimately what we’re building, even though it looks like a fitness or a health company is actually just about connection.
And the more connection we can create between two people, the more likely they are to debug the issue today and work on it and listen to one another and push each other. Um, if you think about a stranger who’s coaching, you let’s say every single day, you go to a group fitness class and it’s, it’s kind of a different person at the front, or they don’t quite know you, uh, there’s only so much they can push you, but after you get to know your coach for a month or three months or six months or 24 months, they can kind of say, come on, Rishi.
I know you that you can do better than that, or I need more from you. You know, you can, once you actually build some trust and shared, uh, context, then you can start to push someone harder as a coach or, uh, foresee their hurdles before
Andrew: I wonder how you knew that let’s take a off, let me take a moment to talk about my sponsor and then let’s come back and say, and pick it up from when you had this idea. You wondered if you wanted to test it. What did you do to see that people could develop empathy and get the kind of workout they needed?
All right. My sponsor is a, it’s a masterworks. You’ve heard me do masterworks commercials. What do you remember me saying about masterworks and it’s okay if you’re, if you say nothing, I’ll take that.
Rishi: It’s something like, did you know that.
companies like IBM will be gone after a hundred years, but, uh, Picasso alone or Boskiet. And,
Rishi: and so there’s this like long-term asset, something like that,
Andrew: You know, a funny, you should say, that’s it for today. What I prepared was I went and I said, who wa who are the companies in the Dow Jones when it first launched? And it was Woolworth, it was Westinghouse electric. It was us steel. It was allied. No, it was American. Can, these are some of these companies have stuck around like Mack truck.
Brand name is still out there, but many of them are not nearly what they were before. Think about radio corporation. Meanwhile, like you mentioned, a Picasso is still a name. It’s still an asset. And when I think about people like Larry Ellison, when I first moved to San Francisco, Larry Elson had at the San Francisco, Asian art museum had a showing of his artwork.
And you think this is a guy he owns Oracle super competitive at everything. Why does he care about it? Why does bill gates care about it? Why does Oprah Winfrey care about it’s not just for beauty though. Beauty is clearly a part of it. It’s because they see that art has outpaced the S and P 500. In fact, contemporary art pieces have outpaced the S and P 500 total return from 95 to 2020 by 164%.
It’s more stable when the market plummeted in 2008 to 2009, the S and P 500 tanked, 57%. The, uh, these assets only lost 27%. Meanwhile, they stay relevant. They keep building their value, which is why Richard people keep investing in them. Once they make it. Now, you see me reading from my notes, actually, I’m going to pull away from the notes and say up until recently, we have had to buy a whole work of art if we wanted to get into it, which is why only the richest of the rich got into.
Masterworks said, what if we just buy it and then have essentially shares of ownership where other people, anyone can basically get in and buy a piece of it? What if we can have experts help pick the artwork that we make available to investors to put their money in anyway, that’s what masterworks is.
Anyone who’s interested can go jump right into it and buy into it. I mean, with a phone call, see if it’s a good fit for you, talk to them. And if it’s not, you can move on. If it is, you can invest at a reasonable rate, reasonable amount of money, much less than you’d imagine, and an artwork that you know, and that artwork that makes sense.
All you have to do is go to masterworks.art/mixergy, masterworks.art/mixer. Do they’ll get on a call with you. You’ll see if it’s a good fit. And since I am talking about results and performance, I should also say you should read the firstname.lastname@example.org slash CD and go to masterworks.art/mixergy.
If you’re interested in signing up, I feel like at some point you’re going to have big art on the wall. What do you think Rishi?
Rishi: Um, I prefer stuff. My kids make and photos of the family. So you can see, over there.
Andrew: I see, you’ve got very little on your wall. You say that now. And then at some point you’re going to go, we did it like if you’re at a hundred million in revenue at this point, roughly, think about where are you going to be four or five years from now? Think about how you’re going to want to be. I don’t know, want both art because you love the beauty of it and art, because you’re going to start to want to invest in, in this stuff that will outlive you, outlive your kids and be generationally relevant.
We’ll talk then will you still get to know me even like, say 10 years from now? Can we still have a conversation or at that point, will you be beyond
Rishi: Well, I think, you know, that 10 years ago I was trying to spend time with you. So here I am 10 years later, uh, doing that,
Andrew: So sh I got to get into it happen. And so I, but let’s stick with this, but I’m S I’m so fascinated by social. I mean, you spend a lot of time on that. All right. But coming back to this, you had this idea, you said you wanted to test to see if it worked. What kind of tests do.
Rishi: you know, the way I try to build a company is just in phases and stages. Try not to solve every problem at once. And you know, you heard me talk about what were the central questions. And so that’s reflected in how we built the company when we started it. The first phase of our company was strictly a question about, could you coach at a high level when you’re not physically with somebody?
And if that’s the only question you want to solve, then, um, what we did is we didn’t build a website. We didn’t tell anyone about. We hired some incredible high level coaches. Um, one of our, you know, our lead on that team was an NBA strength coach and, and was the director of performance at Purdue, from men’s basketball, really high-level coach, for example, we hired them and said, okay, um, coach.
Right. Forget everything else. uh, what would you need? And so they started, you know, we gave them a spreadsheet. They would give us some workouts and then they would progressingly together. We would solve this problem and say, I have no idea what you’re actually doing, or if you’re doing it or not, but also what your performances, you know, during that time.
And so we were like, okay, we should strap something on a, so you can see that and we can drive some accountability. And then it’s like taking too long to build these workouts. And I can’t remember things that you told me. And so progressively, we built a tool set and week after week, month after month, what we were trying to do was get to a place where we thought you can coach at an incredibly high level, even when you’re not physically present.
And that meant our little rubric internally was we are not conceding any of the quality of coaching if you were standing there. Um, so we had to understand what you were doing when you were standing there and coaches aren’t always even aware of the things they do. For example, I’ll give you a little example, Josh bonnets hall, our. yeah. Had a performance. Um, he, like I said, worked in the NBA and NCAA and he came to like, coach me in person. And he said, Hey, I want you to do this little kind of like warmup hip series or a warm up your hips. And he could tell, I was like, not that impressed. I was like ready to lift heavy and stuff. So I’m like doing all these like movements, like hip lifts on the ground and stuff.
And I was like, what is this? And he started storytelling. He was like, you know, every single NBA player I’ve coached, including I trained Derek rose during his MVP season and, and all sorts of. Every single NBA player does this hip series before they work out. And suddenly, I mean, I flipped the switch. I was like, they do it.
I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it every time. This to this day, four years later, four and a half years later, I still do that little warmup, hipsters, every single workout. Even if I’m doing an upper body, it doesn’t make any sense, but I was like instantly bought in. And so it took a little bit of them administering coaching to us and us observing and mirroring and playing back to understand what is great coaching.
It is in equal parts, IQ and IQ.
Andrew: Why didn’t you just, why didn’t you also add a component or maybe you did have live engagement, put your phone on. Let’s do a video share. Let me watch you do the exercise. Tell you what to do next with that at all. A test.
Rishi: We tried it. Yeah. And we also understood that in order to help many, many people, hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people, we would need to find a way to take one talented. And leverage them highly meaning get them to have to broaden their
Andrew: if you have to have a high level coach watching people individually for say a 45 minute workout with 15 minute break after between sessions, you can only give them eight people a day, 40
Rishi: Exactly. And then also what we learned about the consumer behavior was if I have to work out at six oh oh am. If I’m running five minutes behind, it’s creating anxiety for me. If I’m running 15 minutes behind, I start to wonder, should I just not show up and cancel and like making an excuse. And it’s like, actually that’s a perfectly legitimate 6 0 6 is a perfectly legitimate time to start your workout.
Right? Cause you, something came up, your kids needed your attention for five minutes. And so we also understood that by it in it’s we saw this happen in other industries, in, in education. For example, you saw people come up with this concept of the flipped classroom. Why should we all get in a room and shut up and listen to one person broadcast a one to many message lecture and then go home and work on hard problems where we have many questions and do that on our own.
What if we flipped that? What if we watched the thing at home and then you actually interacted in your shared time. And so things like that helped also give us clues and breadcrumbs to say, maybe this is a way that we can get. You know, higher impact for a coach, a richer experience for the consumer. So th and you know, there’s lots of little things when you’re working out in a gym, for example, we’re around other people, you can feel really silly having your phone propped up and then trying to tote it around the whole, you know, footprint of the place.
And so what we did is we designed something that not only is asynchronous, but it’s highly interactive. I mean, you can see with video, multiple angles, audio, your coach’s voice is actually coaching you through. And so you can turn your phone off. You’re still getting tons of, of, uh, uh, of coaching, but nobody has to know. Right? And in those environments, that’s inappropriate a use case. So, so we did lots of testing. That was the, your, your question was about how did you systematically build this? We really focused on, could you coach at a high level the days when I’m feeling lazy or pressed for time, are you able to bust through that?
And we continually built our playbook that, which is at the core of what we
Andrew: I can imagine that the playbook then becomes valuable because you’re learning that one coach told this one story and it worked well, why can’t another store in another coach, use the same story and see if it worked there. And if it does, here’s a collection of stories that we tell. If there’s one thing that you’ve noticed affects one of your, your members, maybe the other members would get value from it too.
That’s that’s an interesting thing to keep in mind, too, that.
Rishi: And we’ll come back to this. Cause I said, I know you said you wanted to talk about social, but one of the huge advantages that Justin and I had in building this company was we both came directly from companies. That were entrenched in hospitality, physical, real world hospitality. And for Airbnb adjusting that.
was in like the hotel and stay kind of industry. And for me, it was with social where we dealt with a lot of Michelin starred restaurants of the world and, and kind of physical destinations. And one of the things that we learned about was creating an amazing immersive experience is not, um, something you leave to chance every day, if you’re the four seasons hotel, or if you are a high level restaurant, it’s something that you can actually service, design and think through what are the right things to say and touch points and magic moments.
And how do we guide you there? And not every guest is the same. So how do you also give each person, um, riverbanks and say, don’t go to the left of here. That’s not the future. We don’t go to the right of here, but in between you can actually read the room and,
Andrew: you also get people to read the playbook when they’re already going through their system to stop them and say, Hey, this is a moment where someone’s resisting and we have a play in the playbook to resolve that.
Rishi: Yeah, we don’t, um, we don’t create a monolithic written document. Our playbook is actually also not a single playbook, as you could imagine, there are many archetypes of our clients. There’s also one client who will experience highs and lows in different modes of training that are appropriate for them or, or motivation that are appropriate for them at different times.
And so what we’re trying to do is understand and archetype not only the customer, but their situation, and then for the coach provide inline as they are coaching you with our tools. Hey, we noticed, for example, Rishi used to be working out really frequently and now he’s dropping off. We also noticed the frequency with which he is communicating with you is dropping off something that you sort of were alluding to earlier.
Given this person is a architect, competitive, uh, communication style, highly communicative. Here’s what we think you should do. And here again are not a script, but rather some guidelines guideposts of what we could do now as a coach, as I have many people I’m situationally aware of what’s happening, what maybe the best practices are, but I’m also encouraged to read the room, right.
And I can
Andrew: that’s saying, we noticed this about the person and got it. So it’s not that they’re reading some kind of Wiki it’s that they’re looking at their dashboard, their CRM, that you’ve created. And the CRM says, by the way, here are a few things that we’ve noticed that you should be engaged with.
Rishi: That’s right. And this all comes from understanding how the hospitality industry created amazing
Andrew: that. What did you see when you studied hospitality?
Rishi: you know, just like there’s a very famous, uh, you know, the Ritz Carlton and four seasons are prized, uh, you know, uh, properties or companies that emphasize hospitality and they put people through training.
And an example is in some of these trainings, you will learn at some of these high level, um, hotels that as a, as a S as a member of the. If a guest is within X feet of view, you have to sort of physically, uh, recognize them. Do you have to wave or smile? You can do something. If they get closer, if they come within 15 feet of view, you have to pause and like physically accommodate their path.
And if they get within eight feet of you, you have to say hello and introduce yourself. You know, something like that. And those are like, you know, really kind of simple rules. There’s other things that are very common from this. Like never say no, I was offered an alternative. Someone comes to you and says, can I swim in the pool at 12:00 PM or 12:00 AM?
And you can say it. You’d never say, no, you can’t do that. You could say the pool is closed, but I can offer you X, Y, and Z thing, or you can have this. right. Um, and I think those are just little tiny, tiny examples. I mean, I could talk for hours about this topic, but I think having observed many reps of that, we came to understand if we’re going to meet people where they are, then we’re going to have to like, create an understanding of as a coach and a client are getting closer to one another, or find themselves in situations.
Andrew: Okay. I like the idea of having the software, do it and not having people just read the instructions, having something external, tap you on the shoulder and say, here’s what I think would be useful. All right. You figure this out. You are connected with a friend. I see that the two of you decided you’re going to start this.
How long did it take you to build that first version and hope?
Rishi: Uh, yeah, we, we built it
Andrew: Just the two of you.
Rishi: of us. And we hired a two, three friends early on. So three is, there’s five of us. Uh, and then some high-level coaches and we just started creating builds every day. And the first, like I said, spaces, the first phase was just, could we coach at a high level, nothing else matters.
And when we got to, we created a rubric for ourselves and we got to that rubric. The next phase of the company was okay, that’s great. Do we see anomalous outcomes for consumers? And so let’s go get a wide variety of people from novices to, um, you know, experts and give them a code. And like I said earlier, when we saw the characteristic curve of, of churn on a fitness platform, we said, we want to achieve something way, way, way, way better.
If we’re giving you this world-class coach is super hands on and, you know, situationally aware. And the first cohort we put through, you know, it was better, but it wasn’t remarkable. And so we started to change our tooling, our playbooks, and our expectations. Then we went and found another, you know, crop of customers and we realized over time, you don’t need to wait three months to see how this is going to work.
You know, the first month of churn is a real indication of, of where that cohort will end up. And so we started introducing new cohorts,
Andrew: What were you doing wrong in, in that first batch? When it wasn’t getting the results you’re looking for.
Rishi: Um, you know, we were experimenting, as you said, we experimented with live coaching. We experimented with in-person as a part of the experience we experimented with all sorts of things. Our technology got better. Our coaches got more aware. We didn’t realize that when a coach has, you know, many clients that they can’t go spelunking in the data to understand what Rishi did.
We had to go and create a system of intelligence to help a coach know where to look and to say, Russia just finished a workout. And here’s some high level insights of where you might want to dive in. And now your coach might be a thousand miles away from you. You get yourself to the garage, to the gym, you do a workout and within minutes or seconds, your coaches like, Hey Rishi, I see you.
And by the way, I noticed you quit, you quit halfway on those deadlifts. What’s going on. That Is, that had never been done with real, any
Andrew: is the watch recording the deadlifts or is the
user doing it in the phone or both?
Rishi: No, the user’s definitely not doing any sort of manual input. We are. Um, we are
Andrew: if my workout includes deadlifts, the watch notices that Andrew did three and didn’t do six and tells the coach
Rishi: If the customer is doing pushups, where, think about how little your wrist is moving, we can see, tell if you did 19 versus 20,
Andrew: I have not found an app that would do it. That would do it on the watch. They do it with the phone underneath your chest.
Rishi: and we, you don’t need to ever, you never need to show us a pushup ever. You know, you never need to like train us. For example, you just do you.
and we will do the
Andrew: What do you mean? I
Andrew: train you for a pushup.
Rishi: Meaning you don’t need to do one rep or two reps to show us what does a pushup look like for Andrew? You just do your workout. And what we will do is plug your coach in.
And by the way, we’re not giving you all this like overhead feedback and numbers and counting and so on. We’ll progress, your workout. Uh, you stay in the zone. You’ve got only 22 minutes, cause you’re a busy guy and we want to make the most out of this 22 minutes. And then your coach gets all of this intelligence over what you’re doing by the way, not just what you’re doing and not doing what’s taking longer than they would have expected versus shorter than they would have expected and be like, Hey, I noticed you blew through those reps.
Maybe you should slow down or let’s talk about it. And you know, sometimes the technology gets it wrong. Right? We’ll see someone pause during a workout. And your coach might say, Hey, I noticed you took this big break. Are you, are you feeling tired? They’re like, no, no, no. I was just sharing equipment with some guy, you know, you can’t see that, but that level of proactive engagement, that’s what I’m saying in all of consumer health, that kind of accountability.
Specificity has never existed in less. As you said with nutrition, I’ve got to take a photo of every single thing I’ve ever eaten and like that’s way that’s overhead. That’s not sustainable. Um, and so we have a very simple concept, which is our ideal is the real in-person coach for a high level, you know, say athlete or actor or someone who has someone with them longitudinally every day.
And That’s an ideal we can continue to pursue And to say, how can we be yet more trustworthy, intimate, proactive,
Andrew: also to not have to report back is big. I don’t, you know, in levels health, I imagine, right. The company that sends over a glucose monitor, continuous glucose monitor, it keeps moving. I would have loved for them to have given me some kind of program that allows them to watch what I’m eating without too much reporting.
The reporting becomes, it starts off being really fun, where you take a picture of every food and you connect it to how it impacts the sugar in your body. But it then goes on to become a chore that you don’t want to process. I’m trying to read your faces. I’m saying this, I feel like you have strong opinions about it, but I don’t know how to get them.
Rishi: You know, what I would say is food is, is a different and hard challenge. Um, because if I told you to go eat seven ounces of salmon, very hard to understand what does seven ounces or even worse, eight ounces of chicken. Is that bone in, or is that bone? Is that with the weight of the bone or not? You know, and this is a really, that’s a really complicated.
The nice thing about exercise. It is a high affinity part of your health. Meaning people want to associate and engage. It is empirically measurable from afar. Um, it is frequent, so there’s a lot of time to calibrate and get things Right,
and wrong and then really lock in. Um, and so we felt like that was an ideal place for us to start helping to manage your health when we’re not in the room with you.
And we have some, some ideas of how we can help with other domains without creating an undue burden on each individual. Because that is the perspective of our company is people are busy. Like being an adult today is really hard. You’ve got a job or two, and then a partner or a family, or you’re dating, all of which are emotionally draining and social obligations and bills to pay.
You cannot become a domain expert on all of these other, you know, areas of your health. Some people choose to, and that’s fine if it’s your passion, but it is an unreasonable thing to ask of everybody. And so our goal is to. Not burden you with a lot of overhead and teaching and lecturing and involvement.
We want to get you, um, assistance, help.
Andrew: I feel like this model could work in other areas, maybe not as well or as big, but let me talk about that in a moment, then also get back into what happened before. Second sponsor is sending blue email marketing. It has all the tools that everyone’s looking for in smart email marketing. For example, if somebody bought from you, you don’t want to send them an offer to buy again and then show them a discount price.
That’s embarrassing. It also is not speaking to the person where they are. So it’s marketing automation done, right? And here’s the thing that got my audience excited about signing up for them. People, my audience have built companies before they know what it’s like to sign up for email marketing software.
That’s free at first, Rishi, and then you go, okay, this is great. I’ll figure it out. The price later on when I’m making money, then the company does make money. You turns out you have what, a hundred thousand, 200,000 email addresses, maybe even more. And some of them have subs unsubscribed, but you’re keeping them in the database because you don’t want to send the messages again in the future and also keep track of what they did in the past.
And they charge you for both the 200,000, the part of the 200,000 email list that is active and subscribed in the parts that’s unsubscribed. And then you feed you realize that they charge you a lot, and it becomes the most expensive piece of software in your company. And for what, for email that costs nothing to send.
Well, send in blue, starts off reasonably priced and continues reasonably priced throughout the history of your relationship with them forever. And that’s why a lot of people sign up for them. If you want to get an even lower price than everyone else go to send in blue.com/mixergy, really compare them feature for feature with any other email provider.
You’ll see, they have more than the others. One of my guests said, that’s great, Andrew, but we rely on SM SMS more than email. I said, well, they do SMS to really compare them, feature for feature. And then also compare them price for price, not just today when you’re starting the company or when your client’s starting the company, but a year from now and two years from now, when things are going well, and then you’re kind of stuck.
Yes, you can take your email addresses out, but you can’t take all those automations and move them easily and you can take your email addresses and move them easily with the permissions. It becomes a hassle. And so you stick with them. Well, you know what, why stick with a company, uh, that is going to overcharge.
with a company that will take good care of you and respect you from the very beginning and throughout the history of your relationship with them here, it is go to send in blue.com/mixergy. And, uh, and I appreciate you doing that because frankly, when people do that, Rishi, they give me credit and send them blues happy, and then they come back and they buy more ads, which is phenomenal.
Rishi: And you’ve got a business to run. Totally.
Andrew: you think this could work in other businesses here Roshi something that I’ve discovered? I work really well, not with like an online course on its own, but with the coach, somebody really watching me. So when I wanted to get better at chess, I went and I email@example.com coaching section, and it was awful, but I was able to hire a coach from there.
And then it was
awful because I couldn’t work the schedule. You did the same thing.
Rishi: I did the same thing.
Yeah. Uh, we went off platform, but I have a chess coach. Yeah.
Andrew: And what’s your situation for me? It’s I need to get up early in the day, before my day starts and then go over my past games and get some feedback. And I wish that they had more of a structure then that I’ve created the structure, but we’re left to figure it out ourselves. What’s your, what’s your system with them?
Rishi: Well, you’re exactly right. That, um, this model could work in many domains. In fact, this model is not new. Like we actually saw this happening in other domains, right. In retail. We saw this happening with stitch fix, for example, you know, and, and other companies that think about a remote stylist row
Rishi: The, the models. Uh, none of these are exactly the same, but a little bit different, but there was, there was shades of that. They were a pioneer in some of that thinking, uh, we see this in education. Exactly what you’re talking about. One of the things we observed about, we looked at many, many education companies before starting this company was, let’s say you have a bunch of content to do throughout the week.
And then on Wednesday, you’ll have a 30 minute phone call with your mentor or your teacher or something. What we noticed is people would do, if that calls on Wednesday, all of their homeworks on Tuesday, right? Like all week long, they do nothing. And then like, but it turns out like that’s okay, it got done, right.
There’s something to discuss, like, and there was a forcing function with that person. And then we’ve seen other examples where you talk to them every day or talk to them once a month or it’s asynchronous. And they’ll record themselves looking at your homeworks and talking to. And we looked at a wide variety of this and sort of, it’s a, it’s a derivation truly.
Um, and this is how we decided to educate our kids. We give them a teacher, a teacher who’s there every day and knows them. And, you know, obviously has maybe they don’t use the word playbooks, but curriculum of like, you know, curriculum, I guess, um, of how to, how to teach and react and so on. Um, so I think you’re Right.
I think we’ll see a lot of this. And I think in health, we’re about to see a lot of this, uh, remote experts in your life, um, who can be there more often than if you had to go, you know, get across town, you know, for example, text messages, therapy companies, right? Um, while there is a different fidelity of being in the room with a licensed therapist versus texting them, there are also some emergent advantages.
Like let’s say you’re feeling depressed or stressed, um, or suicidal, right. You know, there’s a whole spectrum there. Your traditional option is to call the office for your therapist and make an appointment for next Tuesday. And then you get across town and then, you know, you talk about it. Um, and that is an appropriate solution, of course, but what if you also have the option to talk to someone within 12 hours, 24 hours, you know, like what an interesting, uh, change of, uh, of a use case or mindset.
And so I think we’re starting to see more and more of this happen. I think we’re actually going to experience an explosion of this happening.
Andrew: Where do you see it? Now? I would like to see it EV I would like to see it everywhere that I’m interested in. So for example, chess and natural, I shouldn’t have to report to my chest instructor on a, on a monthly basis or weekly basis. The games that I played that were good or not, he could go through. And if the software could just tell him, notice this, notice that it already gives me a report card after every game.
And then if he’s giving me puzzles, software should give him the puzzles and then having. Here’s what you’re not doing. Right? You’re missing hanging pieces. Do these puzzles for the next week. And then we’ll go over. When I’m using notion to create a database for myself, I I’d like to learn it better, but I can keep watching videos at other people’s pace.
I’d much rather have a coach say to me, Andrew, for this week, I want you to create a database and here are the fields that I want you to play with. If you need their videos here, that will help you. Let’s talk in a week about that. And then we’ll see how we could build. And then five weeks later, maybe we’re connecting it using Zapier, but a real human being to watch me.
And when I’m stuck to say, I see where you’re stuck, let me help you. That’s where I would like it everywhere. Where do you see as the natural best opportunities for somebody to use the F the future model on different industries?
Rishi: Yeah. I mean, I think, I think you’re, you’re hitting on it. I think everything you said is reasonable education is a great place where, uh, The historical, uh, if you, if you were to criticize the historical model, it would sound very similar to what I said about historically about consumers, health, or fitness, which is here’s the plan it’s on you to kind of figure it out and catch up.
Um, and if we could, um, say, you know, this is the plan, but it looks like you’re struggling here. Let’s slow down some more time here. You’ll have emergency drinks later. We’ll make up that time. That kind of thing. I think education is a really great place. It’ll start with things that look like tutoring and, uh, and fun.
And then it’ll get more serious over time as it develops because you can’t play games with people’s, you know, core education. It needs to be quite developed in order to go and start to, to do that. Uh, another place, like I said, I think I’m seeing a lot of it. And that’s partly because of where I am in the world.
I work on a consumer health company. And so I see a lot of other consumer health companies. I get a pitch a week for future, for X in the, in this domain for sleep coaching or stress or food or whatever.
Andrew: is great. Yeah. So where do you see it actually potentially working? Where would you like to see.
Rishi: I’d like to see. it in all those places. Uh, I
Andrew: one, that’s a natural big market, because if I think about chess, chess is not going to be a huge market for this, but business based products could be where do you see it?
Rishi: um, okay. I would say, um, you have to, I, I described some, some criteria about fitness. What made it a really good fit for this, which is empirically measurable from afar, um, and, uh, something that people want to engage in. And, you know, there there’s some, some interest to do that. And so I would think of places where there’s high motivation and empirical measurement.
So I would look at something like this is actually also a derivative of what we do, like physical therapy, Right.
The, the current physical therapy. Is horrible. It is, I get injured. My insurer will pay for some number of sessions, six, 12, the physical therapist shows me how to do leg extensions and then gives me a handout, physical paper handout that I take home.
And I don’t do any of it Right, now. If that person could see where this thing every day and do ’em or whatever, and I noticed you didn’t do it right.
now, I’m going to give you the nudge. I’m not going to scold you if maybe you’ll respond to That but I’ll give you a nudge or make it easier. Let’s start smaller.
Um, that’s an exact, exact, you know, sort of like, um, derivative of what we do, I
Andrew: And then maybe insurance could pay for parts of it.
Rishi: Sure. And, and I think like a game like chess is again, empirically measurable from afar. I’m not saying that the modality you have is maximizing those, uh, those, uh, um, Attributes, but it.
is very easy to tell when you win or lose, uh, when you make a massive mistake or not.
And so that should be another domain, you know, teaching and tutoring, like very, you know, you do some exercises and there’s a right and wrong answers is another great area to look at remote teaching, tutoring, coaching.
Andrew: I wonder if also anything to do with business marketing would work because marketing departments have budgets. You want to train their people. I don’t know, but I love this model a lot,
Rishi: Yeah. I mean, um, if you can do what we do, which is we built a lot of technology to above all else, help you spend have quality interactions with someone who’s an expert. So there’s a lot of things that our software doesn’t get. right.
But there’s an expert in the room who can say. I think I have a sense of what’s happening here.
Talk to me. Right. Um, and that’s, that creates a really generous catchall for where our software fails. Uh, also, as you said earlier, I think you were alluding to this, uh, uh, uh, learning, uh, environment for our entire coaching team. When one coach is doing something really well, we can unpack that and learn and teach and coach and code best practices.
So, um, Yeah.
I think I I’d leave it at that, but I would say, I think you’re going to see a lot of this remote expertise and when it comes to something like marketing, I think it’s less about right and wrong, you know, is your brand marketing, working is a really complex question and has a lot to do with your, your market, your customers, the timing, you know, et cetera, but getting some quality time with an expert, um, is going to be valuable and
Andrew: software, they are using the software. Well, do you know how to do it? So when you think about even something like email marketing, automation, software, there are people who use it better than others setting up a funnel is easy ish, but setting it up right is harder trying out the different tagging.
Right. But, and you’ll see that every software maker seems to now have their certified professionals who will do the work for you. But often companies don’t want someone to do the work for them as much as they want the person who’s already doing it internally to get better at it and to understand more.
All right, let’s go back to social. Here’s what I saw with social. So started out with the idea that there are these long lines to get into restaurants. Some people are willing to pay a little bit more to get past the 60 day way to get into a nice rest. Social is going to help them skip the line because the good restaurants were making some spots available for you.
That was the previous business that you had that you and I first connected on. Am I, am I picking up on the original idea? Right. And I know it evolved. No. What was the original idea then?
Rishi: The original idea was much higher level and simpler than that, which was. It is really hard to find things locally that are really interesting to do.
Andrew: Got it.
Rishi: that is a historically
Andrew: you’re going to
Rishi: yep. It is a historically hard problem. it. is still a hard problem and it’s not just, you know, Yelp will index brick and mortars, right?
So there’s a place on 20th and Harrison called flour and water that has some, you know, is notorious or, you know, really celebrated is not actually how I would communicate with you. I would say, you’ve got to go there and try the caramel, a pasta or something. Right. And it’s, it’s awesome. And it looks like a little caramel candy and they stuff it with something and they twist the pasta and they cook it like that.
And Tom McNaughton, the chef is awesome. And then the richness there is really different, right. And the, they not only have a different tasting menu every day, but they have a different playlist every day. And they’ll give you a little card of what you were listening to. And that’s like, that’s the totality of what I would communicate with you.
And by the way, tomorrow they’re doing burgers and burgundy or something, you know, like then there’s a temporal piece to it. And then. Is a really hard taxonomy to build. Cause some of the things you would recommend to people are places, you know, lands, end hike in San Francisco. Some of them are specific items and some of them are temporal events.
Um, so this taxonomy didn’t exist. Finding these things is really hard because some of them are, Um, are temporal one gone tomorrow. And so the concept was this and it actually ladders really well into what future does, which was you cannot solve this problem with just a bunch of humans shouting in one room, right?
You also cannot solve this problem with just like the simple tools around data science. Uh, our thesis was. The correct solution. The ideal solution is to try to understand why some people can make heads or tails of this and have good tastes, quote unquote, and recommend the Right.
things and understand what things to recommend a Rishi and how to slightly change those recommendations or the way you described them to Andrew, to take those people and then augment them.
Don’t try to replace them, augment them with technology and help them see way more things that are happening in the city. And use that filter to say, this would be good for this person or that person, um, to teach our system of why you’re recommending the certain thing at the certain time to a certain type of person.
Andrew: drinking vegetarian would have their own, their own set of places. And then if there’s another Scott shrinking, vegetarian, that that list of places that you’ve found gets passed on to them.
Rishi: Maybe if they are live, they live in different parts of the city than no. Right. So there’s, you know, if they tend to go out on Fridays and Saturdays versus Tuesdays and Thursdays, no. Right. Like there’s many different, um, archetypes of people. And that’s, I think what we did really well is we blended human judgment in good taste with machine learning and automation.
And, um, we scaled that company very quickly into a handful of cities. Million people were using it a week. They’re spending a hundred million dollars locally. And actually you were only scratching the surface of where, what we were thinking about, you know, later on in the company’s life. Early on. We were driving very successfully people to things that were, you know, enriching and that they enjoyed.
And then they started to support these local purveyors they had never heard of, or wouldn’t have intersected with otherwise. And these people are now able to build a, they go from a brunch pop-up series that becomes very popular to building a restaurant or becoming a high level chef. Um, and I think ultimately the lesson for social was we were not as methodical in building phase by phase.
We were trying to solve too many problems at every face of the company. And, um, and actually we were putting off, this is, you know, what, 2012, right? We were putting off charging the user for like this interesting layer of recommendation because like, you know, cheap consumer subscription, wasn’t really a common interaction pattern.
And so then instead of doing that, we were thinking about other ways to create additional experiences that, you know, we basically could understand given the data we have. What the optimal time windows for a restaurant to do kind of like a pop up or a, like a special menu item and how to get the more, you know, dollars per square foot out of their dining room.
And so we started to teach local purveyors how to do that and how to build, you know, ticketing on that. But the world
Rishi: yeah, the world’s still, it was a little bit early, you know, I talked about future. Why does feature work? And a lot of it is just like timing. And when we were saying, forget reservations, just pay for your meal and advanced do ticketing.
That became a thing pre pandemic, like seven years later, right?
took some time for people to say, like, don’t tip that tipping is weird and inefficient and anxiety provoking. Just agree ahead of time that you’ll pay like for great service. And here’s what you’re going to get. I’ll make a promise and you make a promise.
And these ideas were just very early. and I think the company was trying to solve too many problems at the same time. The upshot of that was, um, obviously we built some amazing stuff and the core algorithms and the way they worked were very valuable. This was a part of the world. And the time when Uber and Lyft were scaling into new markets rapidly, and food delivery companies were scaling and we had built a layer of technology to help decode a geography without physically having to be there.
They used to all deploy huge teams of people on the ground. You want to launch food delivery in Cleveland, Ohio send a bunch of people, just start walking around and looking around and being like that place seems popular. We should call them. And we were able to sort of show that, that slice of the world, how to do this without having to be
Andrew: How can you simplify that? And I know where you’re going with this, so we’ll get back to it in a moment, but then how were you able to do that without having people on the ground?
Rishi: Well, uh, like I said, what we could do is, well, actually I’ll give you the specifics. What we came to understand was in any given city, when you think about things to do, uh, you know, the types of things we’ll do in your recreational time, there’s, uh, um, a discreet number of categories of things, and I’ll be over simplistic, but there are things to do around outdoors and dinner and brunch and lunch and beer and cocktails.
And, you know, I don’t know there’s many arts and so on, and that’s a discrete number of, of domains. And what we ended up understanding was that an any locality, any major city, there are a number of people, whether those are Instagram accounts, bloggers, people who post on their Twitter, whatever, who, uh, are, tend to be.
Uh, considered authorities around the best wine in New York city or the best pizza. And what we would do is understand who those people were, look at the totality, the internet, and say, who else is recommending those same things. Start to give them a little bit of credit and you can create this Like growing and, um, decrementing kind of system of trust of these
Andrew: Like PageRank for influence.
Rishi: Exactly. You got it. Exactly. That’s exactly what it was. And I had just come from Google and that was like fresh in our mind, uh, when we started the company. And, um, and you do that per Metro, but you can take some of the. The waiting and tuning of your algorithms from Metro to Metro, but those initial sources that you learned from, and we would credit those sources by the way, wouldn’t sort of just learn on them.
And we would say this person found it, or this source wrote about it. Um, because we wanted them to continue to do good work and be recognized and be empowered. Um, and so that’s, that’s something that we built as an approach. And I think everybody started to learn, like you can do that. And, and then what it gives you is an understanding of which businesses or purveyors matter in which neighborhoods.
And then when you overlay populations, you can say, if I could, if I were to win the business of this place called taco licious in San Francisco, I would get X, thousands of people. It kind of, who would we predict would have an affinity to it?
Andrew: Okay. And then you’re getting at what that meant in a world where Uber and Postmates and others were trying to get into different markets. What did that mean for you?
Rishi: We ended up getting acquired as a company. You know, our, our core approach technology Was very smart, but like I said, as a company we were trying to do, we were trying to force a model of the world wasn’t ready yet for, and that we weren’t executing perfectly. We were trying to do too many things at every phase of the company.
Um, and then at Postmates, we came in and, you know, uh, the company grew a lot and that was part of Uber eats. And, and then eventually I left to be in EIR, which, which is where I started to think about, um, uh, future. And then, you know, the journey began.
Andrew: Was it an Aqua hire? I think that’s the way tech crunch talked about it at the time
Rishi: Yeah. I think that’s a good way to, yeah. Um, I think there was strategic value, but, you know, whatever, it was.
a, it was a good outcome for everyone involved, but, uh, not, we weren’t changing the world. So, you know, whatever that is called.
Andrew: All right. What’s um, let’s close it out with this. What’s one of your habits that E that makes you who you are. So we know you work out on a regular basis. What else are you doing that is different? That makes you who you are?
Rishi: Um, okay. I think I’m thinking of two things. Um, and I think they both pointed the same habit. You know, before I worked in tech, I’ve been in tech for 15 years. I was in academia and in physics, specifically, astrophysics was my domain. And, um, a lot of people will sort of just sort of like say, you know, coming from physics, it’ll teach you about first principles thinking, but that was what I, what attracted me to the domain of physics was you don’t have to memorize anything when it comes to electromagnetism, you’ve got Maxwell’s equations, a couple of things, and you can derive everything follows from there.
And so for me, I think it, it made for me, um, the way I approach business, the way I approach my life is to try at the beginning of any period of time or journey to say, like, what really matters? How do I build a framework in my head and then fill in all these boxes? So two things that sort of follow from that is number one, I have an absurdly, um, calendared life and I would put it on the, the, the extreme end where everything from.
My meetings, of course, but then dinner with my wife and kids, his calendar. And like the 15 minutes, it takes me to like, get ready before I work out, which is, you know, the other hour, all of that stuff is calendar. So it does it’s wall to wall, but what it ended up doing for me. So when I started this company, I had no kids four and a half years ago.
Now I have to. And at some point what ended up happening was I was working on stuff at work and I felt guilty. Like I should be with them. What am I doing at 10:00 PM or whatever I should be with like my kids. They need me and I want to be there. And then when I was like giving a bath to my kids and I had this growing startup, I kept feeling like I should be there for like the hundreds of people who work at future.
Like I should be on the clock and thinking and working and effectively, I always felt like I was in the wrong place. Right. Even though I may not have been. And so now at the beginning of any period of time, I think about it. What I say is I have some priorities around my kids. I want to make dinner for them every day.
I want to take my daughter to school once a week, whatever two, two times a week. And I put all of those blocks together and we have dinner with my wife, you know, this many times and so on. And then I do the same for work. I want to work out later that in, and now I can see that.
I’m always in the right place.
I always feel like I am, I am where I’m supposed to be, because those priorities were thought through. And, and if I got the priorities wrong, it’s fine. I’m going to continue down this path. And then next week we’re going to really rejigger that. I’ve learned something about my priorities this week. If, uh, if I felt like it was
Andrew: And you don’t feel like you’re being mastered and pushed around by your calendar. Like, if in the moment you want to do something, but it’s, but there’s something else on your calendar. You can’t do the thing you feel like doing the thing that inspires you right now.
Rishi: Um, I don’t, because you know, you can’t, you can change stuff, right? You can reschedule stuff. We also rebuild in we, my, my EA and I, Jesse, we built in time for breaks. Um, you know, you’re going to have to have a 15 minute walk between big stretches of meetings and things like that. Um, but it actually gives you a lot of peace of mind, actually.
So here’s an example of something that I think really, really worked well for me was I would go on Twitter and see someone write a breakdown of a 10 K of a company, or, you know, some interesting posts and be like, crap, what should I read this right.
now? Like, or if I don’t read this, this is going to float away.
And what I started to, I started doing this when I was in EIR is I said, every Wednesday, I’m going to create a block of hours where I’m going to read. Um, you know, I, I read a book every night, but like, this was like, you know, sort of like topical, like interesting reading. And, um, what ended up happening was I would find these things and be.
I’m going to stash this for next Wednesday. I know I’m going to get to it now, you know, and if next Wednesday I have other stuff I’m going to read, I’m going to move it. And what ends up happening is like, you’re like, you know, at two Wednesdays from now, I can read this. I know I can. And so I got to go put it in there and now I never feel like I’m missing out on something and you know, and then you’re making those judgements.
But, um, but I would say that kind of structure. And then as you could tell from building the company and phases and stages, I do this, I try to do the same for the company is to say at any given period of time, like what are our, you know, do a little bit of an assessment and then create a bunch of checkpoints and some structure and then go and play it out.
And then you see that you didn’t work the way you thought. Um, and my dad used to tell me this thing, growing up, my dad, you know, immigrant from India, entrepreneur himself would always tell me. He told me this to me too early. I was a kid and I couldn’t appreciate it, but he would always tell me, uh, Rishi, your plan will always be useless, but planning isn’t you.
Rishi: he meant by that is like, you’ll sit down and you’ll make this plan. And, you know, in 10 years I want to be the president of United States or whatever, you know, and here’s what I’m going to get about. And then one month into that.
plan, you’re completely off course. Something happened and you’re, you’re totally, of course, but the process of thinking through, if this happens, then that will happen.
How do I prioritize these, you know, needs? Um,
that’s actually really helpful because then as you confront change, you have a prepared mind and it allows you to make decisions pretty quickly.
Andrew: Makes sense. I hadn’t thought of it that way, because I find that if plans aren’t working, I think then maybe we don’t need to plan. Just be better at being agile in the moment. But I think you’re right. The thinking through problems, even if they’re not ones that you end up encountering and thinking through what you want to do, even if you can’t get to do it, it’s an exercise that then informs your ability to be agile in the moment.
All right. The website, I love the name. Future. The website is future.co for anyone who wants to go check it out. And I’d love to hear from everyone out there about this interview and also about future. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and that’s my personal one. The one my wife uses the one, everything goes into my personal inbox, email@example.com.
And I want to thank two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is master. Dot com Nope. masterworks.art/mixer. Do you go there? So I get credit. And also, so you get to jump in with them ahead of other people. And number two, I want to thank, uh, send in blue, send in blue.com/mixergy. Rishi. Thanks a lot, man.
Rishi: thanks, Andrew.