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.
About six years ago, I interviewed the entrepreneur who you’re about to reconnect with and I’m reconnecting with here today about how he started a service called Madtown Munchies that would deliver snacks to you at any time in the night four days a week and how he took it from zero dollars, basically him pedaling a bicycle, taking snacks to people who were, I’m going to guess stoned at night, and craving snacks, because he was going after the college campuses and built it up within two years to a $380,000 a year business, really respectable company that was growing.
I really just enjoyed talking to him back then. We stayed in touch a little bit. Then we lost touch. I was wondering what happened to him. Then I got an email from him with a catch-up. I invited him back here to talk about how he did it. His name is Jeremy Neren. He is the founder of GrocerKey.
Let me tell you what GrocerKey is. You know that grocery store that you love but you can never get to because it’s kind of far and out of the way and you hate to drive over? What GrocerKey is, it allows that company to go digital, which means that you can maybe go to their website and order what you want and have it delivered or see everything that they have in the store, create a shopping list and be ready when you’re there to make the best use of your time. That’s what GrocerKey is.
They are transforming brick and mortar retailers into digital leaders. This is a pivot from Madtown Munchies, that company that he started all those years ago. We’re going to find out how he did it, why he transformed his business, what happened to the previous iteration of the company and so much more, all thanks to two great sponsors.
The first allows even a guy like me—look at how I’m dressed here today. Last time I had a vest on, it was like a sweater vest. Now I’ve got a t-shirt on that looks a little sloppy on camera but looks great in person. I have no design sense is what I’m trying to say—never had it, never will, don’t really crave it except sometimes. Still, because I use DesignCrowd, my cover art for this podcast looks beautiful. I’m so proud of it. It’s all thanks to a company called DesignCrowd. I’ll tell you about them later. The second sponsor is a company that will host your website right. It’s doing it for me, but I’ll tell you about them too.
First, Jeremy, welcome back, man.
Jeremy: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Andrew: I’m not great in design, but I go straight—like a total philistine, forget about art and design, go straight for dollars and cents. The first interview I did with you, I think my second question was about revenue. I’m going to make my first question to you this time about revenue. Where is GrocerKey revenue-wise 2017? Hit me.
Jeremy: So, this year, we’ll do just north of $2 million, projecting to do almost four times that next year. We’re onboarding a lot of new clients and of course very happy with where we’re at in our growth.
Andrew: When we say $2 million, I know that you have what is it about a half a dozen retailers using your software?
Jeremy: It’s actually over a dozen.
Andrew: Over a dozen now. Okay. So over a dozen retailers. The $2 million is your revenue, what you’re charging them to digitize and maintain their digital presence, am I right?
Jeremy: Correct. That is revenue to GrocerKey, not grocery sales, anything like that.
Andrew: Okay. So let’s go back a little bit. Madtown Munchies, you started it back in 2006?
Andrew: I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile. It has kind of an RIP 2015, Madtown Munchies.
Andrew: I thought it was going great. Remember I was in D.C. I said, “Bring it to D.C. I love it. I’d love to have it.” What happened to the growth of Madtown?
Jeremy: Madtown Munchies actually did continue to grow. For me personally, it was a great lifestyle business. I had a great life for close to 10 years, learned a huge amount about entrepreneurship, and frankly learned even more about the grocery industry, what it took to offer an ecommerce grocery business or e-grocery business and set up local delivery services. What really happened is we transitioned away from warehousing all the product ourselves to operating out of the local brick and mortar grocery store.
Andrew: This is back when you were doing Madtown Munchies.
Jeremy: Correct. This was close to four years ago. So that was for a strategic decision, and the original intent was that was going to be a means for us to create a much more scalable enterprise. We were going to go to every college campus across the country and set up shop with the local grocery so we didn’t need to manage the inventory. That was a major burden on that business.
Andrew: Why was that a burden on the business? Maintaining your own inventory seems to be maintaining your control over your future, your destiny. Why was that an issue?
Jeremy: There’s certainly some benefit to it, but controlling inventory on a thousand SKUs is very complicated and dealing with vendors when you’re a fairly small enterprise and that’s in one market, it becomes very challenging, and we started to think through what if we were to try to replicate this business over and over again, the regionality with distributors. We just didn’t see an efficient path forward. We decided to partner up with the local grocer. That local grocer happened to have their own ecommerce business with the company that would now be characterized as the market leader in the white label ecommerce grocery space.
Andrew: What is that?
Jeremy: Grocery software, a company called MyWebGrocer.
Andrew: MyWebGrocer, they were using MyWebGrocer to do what?
Jeremy: To power their own ecommerce business.
Andrew: I see.
Jeremy: So they had their own branded ecommerce store. We saw some of the challenges they were having, and we really felt like we were uniquely positioned to address a much broader need in the market, which is helping brick and mortar retailers, like you said, become digital leaders.
Andrew: So you were in their space using their inventory, obviously paying them every time you sell something. You look around at the software they’re using and you say to yourself, “We can do better. There are problems with this software.” You’re now embedded in their world and you see the problems that they may not be aware of because you’re kind of looking over their shoulder. Am I right about that, by the way?
Andrew: Tell me some of the issues that you noticed when you were looking over their shoulder at the software they were using?
Jeremy: The biggest things we saw were on the back end, the things the consumer doesn’t see, the operational challenges, how they were picking, packing and fulfilling orders. It was a very inefficient process, how they were dealing with out of stocks, how they were getting into labor planning. Even on the front end, MyWebGrocer, to their credit, great company, they’ve become the market leader for a reason, but they were started in the late ’90s, early 2000s, so the technology had become a little bit dated.
The user experience was a little bit clunky. We felt like we could improve on that. So we felt like it was a gaping hole in the market that we could step in and do a great job of filling, and it seemed to be a much larger opportunity than Madtown Munchies, than this idea of going to every college campus and creating an on-demand grocery delivery service for college students.
Andrew: Can you give me a little more detail on one of these issues? They had software. It was already working, picking, packing, dealing with out of stock, labor planning, user experience. What was the one that was most painful, that you might have even seen them complain loudly about when you were inside of a grocery retailer?
Jeremy: I think the biggest complaint that we heard was the setup process was very challenging.
Andrew: Setting up?
Jeremy: Yeah. Getting the software up and running.
Andrew: Wouldn’t they have had the software up and running by the time that you got in?
Jeremy: They had. But you had asked the question. That was the biggest complaint we had heard.
Andrew: After they were done, they still said this was a pain, this was a nightmare.
Jeremy: Yeah, because it still was part of what played into their ROI. They had to see part of their return was the sweat equity they had put into the foundation of it. So they had higher expectations as a result of pouring a lot of effort into getting started with it. Then on top of that—I’d say that was first or second. The other big piece was there wasn’t a lot of help with how to facilitate the operation. It was much more of a user-interface oriented company rather than a comprehensive solution.
Andrew: I don’t understand that. Can you explain that in layman’s terms?
Jeremy: There was much more focus on the website that a customer would go to place an order, not enough focus on how does the retailer then fulfill on those orders efficiently.
Andrew: So what would happen when the retailer got an order?
Jeremy: They were literally printing the orders off and using a pen and pad to then walk the aisles. So you can obviously imagine that’s not a very efficient—
Andrew: So my local grocery, if they were using this software, the website that the user saw, that their customer saw would look nice and modern and all good and fine, but when a customer bought, they would get a printout of the customer order, walk around the store and check things off with a piece of paper and pen.
Jeremy: That’s what we observed. I’m not going to say we haven’t iterated on that. I think in some cases, it’s more than what we have. That’s what we observed. That was kind of the impetus for us saying we have technology that makes this much more efficient. Let’s go to market with it and see if we can help retailers like the one we’re working with—
Andrew: Do retailers like that? Sometimes I feel like I want to digitize everything and it makes people uncomfortable to have everything digital. They almost want to feel that piece of paper.
Jeremy: Yeah. So I think things have really evolved. Three years ago, every conversation we were having with grocery retailers frankly was quite challenging because it was an industry that hadn’t really been changed in nearly 100 years. Fast forward to present day, Amazon acquires Whole Foods. Every big company is getting into this business in some way. Target just acquired Shipt. It’s really become a hot topic.
I think grocery retailers now recognize this is something they need to do and they need to do it well. They can’t simply check the box. Part of doing it well is fulfilling efficiently, demonstrating operational excellence so that the customer is receiving a great service and perhaps even more importantly, it’s a sustainable business where you’re actually making money. If you can’t make money, you haven’t really solved your problem for yourself or for your customer.
Andrew: I get it. Okay. So you see this opportunity. You say these guys are struggling, they’re not able to make it work. The competition is a little antiquated. We can do a much better job and help these grocery stores out. Is the next step to build something, or is your next step to go into the accelerator?
Jeremy: Shortly thereafter, yeah, we did go into the accelerator program. This would have been within three months of actually starting the concept.
Andrew: What’s the first thing you did? Once you said, “This is the idea,” what’s the first thing you did to take action on it.
Jeremy: We already had a product because we had built it for our own business. That was fairly ready to go. We had to make some iterations to make it more enterprise ready. Then we began fundraising. Part of that process was applying to an accelerator program that we were fortunate enough to get into. That was within three months of founding the company.
Andrew: You just took the software that you had and that’s what you repurposed. Did you show it to these retailers? Did you go to any of them and say, “Here’s what we’re using internally, would you want something like this?”
Andrew: They said yes?
Jeremy: We got a few yeses and for us, that was enough validation, “We’re on to something. There’s some retail interest here.”
Andrew: I’m looking at your AngelList profile. I’ve got so many different research docs up about you. It’s interesting. They say that you’re in Madison, which I understand, that’s where you started, and Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Jeremy: Yeah. We do all of our development in Israel. So I was actually very fortunate to meet our now CTO when running Madtown Munchies. He built all of our software from the ground up. He and I met on a website called Cofounders Lab.
Jeremy: Yeah, maybe you’ve heard of it.
Andrew: Yeah, I know the founders.
Jeremy: Yeah, designed to pair a technical and non-technical cofounders. I’d always been searching for someone that could take the lead on all the technology because ultimately we were a technology-driven company. We’ve just developed a great relationship that dates back to having run Madtown Munchies, and we made the strategic decision to continue to build over in Israel because frankly there’s an enormous amount of talent.
Andrew: Was he over there?
Jeremy: Yeah, he’s over there.
Andrew: From the beginning, he was always over there. You guys were communicating remotely.
Jeremy: Correct. He’s originally from New Jersey. So we see each other in person all the time. There really is no cultural or language barrier.
Andrew: How do you meet in person? I was just in a team meeting with my team. They’re all over the world, and I love it because I’m such a friendly person, I want to have dinner and hang out with people, but when I work, I just want everybody to be away. Let me focus on work. Now everyone’s everywhere. They’re away. I want to bring them together. What do you do?
Jeremy: It’s a challenge. We do have people all over the world. We have people in California. We have people in Madison. I’m actually based in the Twin Cities, which is where I’m from. Then we have people in Israel. It is a challenge. But I think there’s actually more upside than there is downside.
The reason I say that is I think it allows people to really stay laser focused on what they need to do. There are fewer office distractions and internal political issues, I think, my allowing people to focus on what they need to get done. We benefitted from that. Whenever we have an opportunity, we do try to get as many people together as we can. Frankly, it is a challenge to get everyone together in one room, but one day, that’s something I would love to make happen.
Andrew: Okay. You’re starting to repurpose this thing. Did you have any commitments from people? Did you have any retailers who said, “If you make it this way, we will sign up and we’ll buy it?
Jeremy: Yeah. So we had two commitments. For us, that was enough validation. We leveraged that to get into the accelerator. And then quickly into the accelerator program, maybe six weeks, halfway into this three-month accelerator we went through, we were very fortunate to develop a partnership with the largest chain in the state of Wisconsin, a retailer by the name of Woodman’s. They actually led our first seed investment round and have subsequently gone on to make a number of other investments in us.
That was really the catalyst for saying we’re going to stick with GrocerKey. There actually was about a six-month period where I continued to operate Madtown Munchies and GrocerKey in parallel. But part of taking on this investment and this partnership with Woodman’s was giving up that business.
Andrew: They told you, “We need to give it up because . . .”
Jeremy: They wanted total focus on them, and frankly we wanted to give them total focus because they had given us a half a million dollars. We raised a couple hundred thousand from other investors, and it was just very obvious that we had a bigger opportunity in front of us and we felt like the opportunity cost was there. We just had to focus on it exclusively.
Andrew: And this was a convertible note that you did with them from what I read, was it?
Jeremy: No. So the original round was a price round. Subsequently, we did one convertible note and another price round. So they made three investments in us.
Andrew: So what was the name of the—it was Generate, right?
Andrew: Gener8tor, why’d you go with gener8tor?
Jeremy: Well, for starters, gener8tor is in Madison. I went to UW. My previous business was there. I lived there off and on for about 15 years, and I was very familiar with the programs. One of the founders I actually went to UW with. So I had known him for a while. On top of all that, they had developed an extraordinary reputation. I think they were recently ranked—they were definitely in the top 15, what might have been 12th or 13th best accelerator in the country. I had seen what they had done with other businesses that I was familiar with.
One of them that’s gone on to achieve a lot of success is EatStreet. You may have heard of them. They’re a competitor of Grubhub. They’ve raised maybe $40 million. So they were one of the first gener8tor companies. So we thought if we can get the assistance those companies got, this is a worthwhile endeavor.
Andrew: Yeah. I saw you guys compared to EatStreet a couple times. I understand why.
Andrew: Did you see that they helped companies in any way? You’re obviously looking for money from them and introductions, but you want to know they can help your business. What did they do that helped your business? What did you see them do to help other people’s businesses like EatStreet?
Jeremy: Yeah. So where they really pride themselves—and frankly, I think it’s totally justified—is they’re a very high-touch accelerator. So they only accept five companies. So it’s a very intimate group of people. The founders, Joe Kirgues and Troy Vosseller, both brilliant guys, very knowledgeable, were really hands on, to the point where I was seeing them on a daily basis. We got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with them because there were only four other companies in the cohort.
They were really aggressive with getting us out in front of investors. We probably pitched 100 VCs and angel groups in the time we went through the program. That experience is really invaluable. I learned so much about pitching and just kind of strategy behind fundraising. Bless you.
Andrew: Thanks. I hit the sneeze button on that. I’ve gotten to know Justin from Needls really well, and he was in the class right after you. He attributes a lot of his success to gener8tor. I think he would have been successful regardless, but I think it sent in a whole other direction. Sorry?
Jeremy: He’s a real go-getter. By the way, that’s—
Andrew: He’s a freaking mad dog. I’ve got a private story about him.
Jeremy: Everyone’s got a story about him.
Andrew: Here’s my great story about him. He was driving me back from an event, driving back to Toronto where he lives. We’re on our way to his house. He’s calling his wife to say, “I’m coming over. I’ve got Andrew in the car. He’s going to probably want to use the bathroom or something and then head out to the airport,” and something he was complaining about. When his wife, when he complained about something, goes, “Then you better work harder.”
I thought, “No wonder that guy’s a freaking beast.” Even from home, he doesn’t get, “Hey, don’t work too hard. Why aren’t you coming here and diapering the babies,” like, “You better work harder.” The two of them are like firing each other up. I go this is a guy who’s got to do it.
Jeremy: Every entrepreneur needs that. You need a boost. What I was going to say—that’s a great story.
Andrew: It’s so personal that I’m going to regret in the middle of the night. The guy brought me into his life, into his house, then I tell a story about his wife. Maybe he doesn’t want that out there. I got a good sense from him he’d be okay with that.
Jeremy: That was a positive one.
Andrew: What were you going to say? What’s your story about him?
Jeremy: I was going to refer more to the power of gener8tor. So I got to know him and the other Needls guys really well. I think that’s one of the strengths of the program is they do bring in the alumni. They went into the program, I think it might have been the next cohort right after me. I was still nearby. They went through it in Milwaukee. I went through it in Madison. It’s an hour away. I would go to events all the time.
Having the support of other entrepreneurs that are going through the same things that you’re going through, that can sometimes get you through really challenging times. I know for me personally, I don’t know that I would be in the position today if I didn’t go through that program and have the support of not only the gener8tor staff, but also the other companies that were going through it with me and had gone through it previously.
Andrew: I see. You both are 2015. I see that they came after you. Did it help you think bigger? It seems like it did.
Jeremy: 100% yes. One of my challenges in the Madtown Munchies days was frankly, I wasn’t very confident in myself. I never considered myself to lack confidence, but in retrospect, I definitely did. That stunted the growth of the company. I wasn’t able to think big enough with it. So I actually published an article about this on LinkedIn shortly after going through the gener8tor program, because it was really an epiphany for me. I think part of it is an issue of Midwest companies. We’re a Midwest company. We tend to be very modest people. I think we’re overly modest with our business endeavors too.
Andrew: Meanwhile, I come here to San Francisco, anything you do, they express what they’re doing in a very change the world type of way and they believe in it, when meanwhile all they’re doing is, I don’t know, speeding up gifs.
Jeremy: Yeah. So sometimes people view that obnoxiously, but regardless of what you’re doing, that’s the mindset you want to have. If you want to become a market leader or really grow your company, it has to be, “I’m doing something big.” Maybe it’s not the very thing you’re doing, but maybe it’s the reason you’re doing it. You’ve got to find that motivator.
Andrew: Right. Let me take a moment and I want to ask you a question about grocery. First of all, are groceries dying? Second, what’s the big thing here with it. Then we’ll understand how you built—once you got into the accelerator, how you made the deal to raise money, what the next step was, how you worked with your first customer, the issues that you had, then later on, I want to come back and talk about mindset because I know you’ve been open about it.
First, I’ve got to do some business here and tell everyone about a company called DesignCrowd. Do you know DesignCrowd?
Jeremy: I do not, but I’d like to—
Andrew: I just thought everyone knew about them. That’s maybe their problem. They’re good but nobody freaking knows about them. They know about all these other design options, but not them.
Jeremy: Yeah. I’d like to learn more. Tell me.
Andrew: When you need design, where do you go? What do you guys do internally?
Jeremy: We have a couple of designers that I’ve worked with for many years internally. We always do have those little one-off projects. I’d be interested to hear maybe this is a company that could help in those times.
Andrew: Yeah. We have a designer too. I freaking love his work. He’s starting to do new work, not on Mixergy, but on this other project, Bot Academy and a little at a time he’s taking over and reshaping it and I love his eye. Still, I went to DesignCrowd and I’ll tell you why. I wanted to get something I thought was small. I don’t need him to drop everything and create new cover art for Mixergy. So I went to them.
What happened was within like five minutes, while I was having a drink one Friday, I filled in a couple of questions they had on their site, like that, I had my request up on DesignCrowd. The next Monday, I totally forgot what I did, not because I drank that much. It was just a little bit of whiskey, just relaxing at home listening to some music or probably a podcast while Olivia was out. I totally forgot about it.
Next Monday, I come in, I see my inbox is full of all these different designs. I checked my email with my assistant. We’re both going, “What the hell just happened?” We click over. We look at all these freaking designs. They are so different from each other that they basically opened my eyes up to a whole new way of doing my cover art. So I kept seeing—when you go to DesignCrowd and you fill out the form, it’s not one person who designs it.
It’s lots of different people all tossing in their different design sensibilities and design styles and their way of viewing the world based on what you need. Some will go exactly as you say. Some will go 180 degrees different. Some will just go completely off the planet. What you do is give them feedback, rate them by stars, you give them feedback and tell everyone what you’re looking for, get a little more clarity.
Jeremy: They’re competing over your business?
Jeremy: They’re competing over your business?
Andrew: Right. They’re also engaging in the sport and loving the sport of design with feedback and trying and attempting. I could see some of them are into it and some of them they’re just half-assing it. The half-assing people, I go, “No, never again.” The people who are really into it, they’re feeding my energy. I’m feeding their energy. I ended up going with one design that I loved from a person who came up with something completely different for me.
I wanted green because I was basically going to copy the number one podcast in business, which was Planet Money. I said, “Here’s the green from Planet Money. Some people confuse me or feel like some connection because of that, who cares? Let’s go with one color.” This guy comes up with yellow. Immediately, my eye goes to yellow. I think, “Actually, that’s better in the iTunes store. Let people see yellow. They’ll go to that.”
Meanwhile, Justin from Needls hates yellow. He has some issue with yellow. We sat down to lunch once. They serve him on yellow plates. He goes back and says, “I need a different plate. I can’t deal with yellow.”
Jeremy: Wow. That’s a little OCD. I’m going to call him out on that.
Andrew: I love obsessive entrepreneurs. Every one of them has got their own little quirks, and I freaking love that. If you guys are out there and you’re looking for really good design, listen to the passion in my voice, I’m telling you, you’re going to feel this way about your design. It’s not going to cost a lot of money. They give you a really good deal. You’re not going to have one designer to deal with, but a crowd of them competing over your work and coming up with new ideas that you never could have imagined. And they guarantee it.
But I don’t want you to go to DesignCrowd.com. I want you to go to DesignCrowd.com/Mixergy because once you go there, you’re going to get a big discount, self-interest, you’re also going to give me credit and you’re going to see some of the work that I’ve done and other people have done. Go to DesignCrowd.com/Mixergy.
I am telling you even if you have a designer, especially if you have a great designer, take your side project or take a little bit of your project, give it to them, watch how many different designs you’re going to come up with. I’m actually looking at this—97 different designs is what I got for that one podcast competition. You guys can click on that and get more details on it by just going to DesignCrowd.com/Mixergy.
Okay. Why grocery? Why groceries? Let’s be open.
Jeremy: It’s a challenge. It’s an industry I happened to fall into with Madtown Munchies and I became passionate about it. I think it’s an industry that I got into it at the right time, where it was evolving quickly. I view it as really exciting. It’s the number one retail segment. Presumably it will always be. We’re always going to need food. So the impact of being part of the transition, I just think it’s such an extraordinary opportunity and excited to be in the industry.
Andrew: Isn’t there a fear, though, that Google or Amazon are going to start partnering up with all these people and let you get groceries from them?
Jeremy: It’s happening. So forget about fear. It’s occurring. I think that actually creates more demand for what we’re doing. They’re putting pressure—this is more so Amazon and less so Google—Amazon is putting a lot of pressure on the grocery industry. They were themselves and now they’ve acquired Whole Foods, so they have a major retailer in their arsenal. They’re a real threat to the industry, but that creates a greater need for other retailers to step up their digital game, and that’s the whole premise of GrocerKey, to help retailers do that. So we kind of view ourselves as a David to their Goliath. I like taking on those types of challenges.
Andrew: I’ve seen that. When I gave that intro for you, I was thinking of a local grocery store called Molly Stone. They have really interesting stuff. I’m never going there. If I’m in the Castro I’m not even going there because it’s two blocks out of the main street, but there’s some food that I would really like to order from them. I see that the outside pressure is starting to get to them. They’re doing a little online sales, but even when you go to their website, you can see that they don’t really love doing anything online because their logo is still pixelated. These people who would never allow anything subpar on their shelves allow anything on their website that I’m a little disappointed by. You’re not working with them, are you?
Jeremy: We are not, but that’s a retailer we would love to work with, absolutely. That’s kind of right in our sweet spot.
Andrew: You told our producer, “We struggled for the first six months.” What was the original six-month struggle like and why?
Jeremy: So one of the biggest struggles was I don’t think this is unique to us, but when you don’t have a bunch of retailers signed up, the first question everyone asks is, “Who else are you working with?” If your answer is no one, that makes the conversation pretty difficult, and you become a risky bet for them in an industry that’s already fairly risk averse. We were just having a lot of very difficult conversations. So, again, probably not unique to us, but I think that it was an even larger problem for us to encounter.
Andrew: Then you did what I just did. I went to LinkedIn. You typed in Clinton Woodman. You contacted him. Who is Clinton Woodman?
Jeremy: He’s the President of Woodman’s. At the time, he was Vice President. That’s really been a source for a lot of my lead gen. I use LinkedIn pretty heavily. But I just decided to reach out to him, see what he had to say. He was kind enough to respond to me, got on a phone call. They’re based just outside of Madison, so I was able to facilitate a face-to-face meeting quickly. Fortunately, he was impressed enough with what I showed him that he took the leap of faith, decided to work with us and then quickly made an investment in us.
Andrew: This is a 98-year old company. I’m looking at their Wikipedia entry—founded by John Woodman. So I’m guessing that Clinton Woodman is a descendent.
Jeremy: Correct. Yeah, family-run business. He’s fourth or fifth generation. I always forget, but it’s been in the family for 100 years. They’re very proud of that. We’re happy to be working with them.
Andrew: How many locations do they have?
Jeremy: So they only have 16 locations, so that might make them appear to be small, but they’re very unique. They have the largest square-footage-wise, the largest grocery stores in the U.S., maybe even in the world. They’re 250,000-square foot stores, which is about two Sam’s Clubs, to put it in perspective. They do like over $100 million a year in revenue per location. So even though they’re 16 stores, they’re really more of the size of maybe 150, 200-store chain.
Andrew: And you were able to get through to him just by sending him an InMail in LinkedIn? That’s what you did?
Jeremy: Not even InMail. I don’t even have the paid service.
Andrew: What did you do then?
Jeremy: I connected with him. He connected with me and then sent him a message.
Andrew: I see, like this button here. I’m going to do that. I’m just going to hit the connect button. Let’s see if he takes my connection. Then you reach out to him and say, “I have this idea. We’re looking to digitize grocery stores. You run one of the biggest grocery stores in the country. Will you listen to me,” and then he did?
Jeremy: He did. I kind of got lucky in that he waited a couple of months. He was traveling. So we weren’t able to meet face to face for a couple months. So I had a lot of time. This was right when I started going through the accelerator, had a lot of time to think about how I might approach this meeting. I was kind of at the point where it was like I have no choice but to make this work. I need to get this deal.
Andrew: So, how do you convince him? I wouldn’t have thought of him as being the right person to talk to. Maybe this is too small-minded of me, but I would have thought find someone with one grocery store who would kind of help you out, experiment with them and then take them out as a case study to the bigger company.
Jeremy: And we had done that. So we had signed a one-store or a single-store operator prior to that, but we quickly recognized it’s going to take a little while because the challenge with smaller grocery retailers is they’re spread really thin. Their data isn’t clean. We were like, “We need a big hit,” basically.
Andrew: What did you say to him? What did you think about? How did you plan to convince him?
Jeremy: I just thought through, “How can I make him an offer he can’t refuse?” We were able to do that, and we were able to demonstrate how our software was superior to the other solutions out there and how we were unique in the market. We’re not just a technology company. We’re operators. So one of the immediate things we identified that I think is what really what led to him taking the leap of faith in us was he said, “I want you to come in and actually operate the business.” So we actually still do that to this day.
Andrew: What do you mean by operate the business?
Jeremy: We pick all of the orders off of the shelf. It’s a grocer, W-2 employee that’s picking the order off the shelf. It’s delivering it to the end consumer in most cases. Now we have close to 350 staff across 12 of their stores. It’s a real operation. We agreed to take that on so that they didn’t need to worry about it. We created a pricing model where there was very little risk for them, but still a lot of upside for us.
Andrew: Sounds like a great deal for them too because now they had someone who was taking over their digital, who had a vested interest financially in their success and then if they worked with other customers, if you work with other customers, you’re bringing their knowledge back to Woodman’s and as a result, you’re improving the way they’re doing business and frankly, in the end, they get a share of your business.
Jeremy: Exactly. We created an offer that I think was good for all parties involved and that’s usually how you get to a deal.
Andrew: Was that part of what you walked in there with, this idea that you were going to give them a share of your business? It was.
Jeremy: That piece came later. That was not part of the initial meeting. He actually came back to us with an interest knowing we were raising money indicating, “Maybe I can get involved in that.” The original offer was geared around our software and then if they were interested, our ability to step in and actually operate. We were operators ourselves. That was the initial offering and that’s what I think made it compelling for him.
Andrew: Okay. So it took you—you had to get this up and running within three months. That was your commitment. Is that right?
Andrew: You get it up and running. What happened that was unanticipated?
Jeremy: Everything. There were so many challenges we had to overcome. Like I said, there are these massive stores. We had to figure out how do we pick orders efficiently. How do we account for out of stocks, which is an industry-wide problem I could probably talk to you about for an hour.
Andrew: What do you mean by out of stock?
Jeremy: So someone places an order online for an item, you go to the shelf and it’s not there.
Andrew: Why is that an issue? Isn’t everything tracked?
Jeremy: No. So most grocery stores, a lot of customers don’t realize this or consumers, rather, most grocery retailers do not know exactly what they have on hand. Most do not have any kind of inventory management system.
Andrew: Really? So when I go into a store and they scan the barcode and give me a price, that just stays within that experience. It doesn’t go into the inventory management system?
Jeremy: In most cases. I’d say at least nine times out of ten. It depends on the retailer you’re working with, but nine times out of ten, they don’t know exactly what they have on hand. They know with maybe 90% to 95% certainty, but that leaves 5% to 10% uncertainty, which creates a challenging—
Andrew: So sometimes someone would order something online and they’d be told, “Sorry, it’s not coming.”
Andrew: I’ve got to tell you, I use Amazon Fresh for delivery. They still have inventory issues. I couldn’t freaking get milk the other day. Milk seems like a natural to keep in stock. How many times do you have a run on milk? I couldn’t get Persian cucumbers to the office from them.
Jeremy: That’s surprising too because they’re positioned in a way where they should be able to fulfill because they’re presumably fulfilling out of a warehouse where they don’t have walk-in customers. So they should be managing inventory. That’s a little surprising, actually.
Andrew: Yeah. That happens to them from time to time. All right. You’re finding all these issues and you told our producer this stuff was actually too much. I had to get outside guidance. I wondered what outside guidance you went and got.
Jeremy: Yeah. So I went out to folks that had even more operational experience than I did. So we started working with someone who was previously the head of ecommerce at Peapod, which is still, I believe, the number one ecommerce grocer in the U.S. today.
Andrew: What is the name of the company?
Andrew: Peapod, yeah. They’re still big, huh?
Jeremy: They’re huge.
Andrew: You went to them and asked for help? They’re a competitor, aren’t they?
Jeremy: We went to a woman who was previously with Peapod and had done a lot of consulting with some large retailers on the—sorry about the camera—some other large retailers out on the East Coast helping them build their ecommerce business.
Andrew: She was running the consulting company and you reached out to her and said, “Can I hire you?”
Jeremy: Yeah, got some help from her and then a gentleman who I knew that had run service in the Twin Cities that was similar to Peapod but focused on the Twin Cities market. So I just got as much expertise as I could from people that, like I said, knew a lot more than I did, especially at that time.
Andrew: How do you direct them properly to get the most value out of that conversation? I feel like sometimes when I do that, I end up dumping all my issues on someone instead of directing them to where they can be most useful.
Jeremy: What I find in situations like that, I’ve always found it is. I’m really honest about the challenges I’m having.
Andrew: You have so many different challenges. Do you just list—do you sit down with her and say, “Look, you worked at Peapod. Here’s what I’m having issues with. I don’t know what the first version of the software should look like. I’m coming up with all these problems where inventory is out of control. Where does she start?”
Jeremy: Yeah. I think it’s fairly comprehensive upfront and then you quickly start to realize where that person can be helpful and where they can’t be helpful, and then you identify here’s another area of need. Here’s another expert that I need to go out and find.
Andrew: So you’re just fishing around—you got a general sense of what she’s great at. You bring up a couple of issues. You see what’s hitting the mark and that’s what you spend time with her on and then you go find someone else for the other issues.
Andrew: How do you find her? I feel like I want to do more of that.
Jeremy: You’ll be shocked by this answer—LinkedIn.
Andrew: What is it?
Andrew: LinkedIn again?
Jeremy: Yeah, I found her on LinkedIn.
Andrew: One of the things I want my team to do is get into a cycle of constant improvement where every two to four months, depending on the work that you’re doing, sit down and rethink the way that you’re doing it so that you can take in all the feedback that you’ve gotten over the last two to four months and improve based on that or look for outside help and improve based on that. I want us to get into the habit of finding someone who’s especially good at doing what we’re doing and is not at all connected to our company, kind of like what I do with interviewing.
When I was interviewing, I spent a lot of time taking in feedback from the audience, taking in feedback from Jeremy, who was a producer who worked with you at first. Then I also said that’s helpful and we’re improving a lot, but we’re going to hit plateaus this way. Let’s go outside. Then I found another person, another Jeremy, frankly, who was a producer of a top interview program and I said, “Can I hire you to come and give me some outside perspective?” That helped. I want us to keep doing that. You just go to LinkedIn? That’s where you find these people?
Jeremy: I do. So I try to really—I put a lot of content on LinkedIn. I comment on the content that other people put out there. I’ve developed a lot of really substantive relationships simply by recognizing other people that are commenting on similar stuff and are taking an interest in the field that I’m in.
Andrew: Commenting, so you’re not just looking for people by searching for them on LinkedIn. You’re also looking to see what they’ve written on LinkedIn, what they’ve participated in, am I right?
Jeremy: Yeah. I’m always exclusively finding people of interest organically, meaning I encounter them frequently because we’re liking the same articles or we have a lot of common connections. We’re commenting on similar articles. They comment on stuff I post. It usually happens very organically, and I find that to be really effective. It does take a commitment. It’s not easy. I invest a lot of time in it.
Andrew: You know what? If I were to do that, first of all, I’d have to spend more time on LinkedIn than I currently am doing, which I’m not sure I’m willing to do. But what I should be doing is saying look, Charlie Rose has all these producers. I don’t even know if the “Charlie Rose Show” is on the air anymore because of what happened with that sex harassment or something, some kind of allegation, I don’t know what it was. Because of that, I think he’s taken off the air. I should be seeing who used to work for him. He did a phenomenal job researching people.
Jeremy: There you go.
Andrew: Who used to be there? Who’s active online? And see if I could hire them as a consultant, that’s what you would do.
Jeremy: Exactly. Or why don’t you go talk with Tim Ferriss? I think I brought his name up last time we talked. I’m still a big fan of his.
Andrew: I do talk with him a lot. Actually, it’s been a while since I’ve talked to him, but I do like his process and his systems. I don’t know that he’s doing that much for researching people unless I’m missing something.
Jeremy: Yeah. I feel like he’s got to be doing something. His interviews I find to be really captivating, really extraordinary. Maybe he’s that good, naturally going through a conversation. You’ve got to find those experts and find creative ways to get out in front of them. I liked your idea with the Charlie Rose deal.
Andrew: Yeah. I loved Charlie Rose’s interviews, but I stopped listening to him for a while, I think because he wasn’t podcasting, so I stopped reaching outside of the podcasting world. Hey guys, if you’re listening to me, I want to talk about one last thing and then get back into this interview. That is that I am looking at Jeremy’s old original website over here. What did you use to create that thing? It’s like a Microsoft product, isn’t it?
Jeremy: The original. . .
Andrew: Madtown Munchies, the very first version.
Jeremy: We used Volusion. It was an off-the-shelf shopping cart solution.
Jeremy: Volusion, yeah.
Andrew: It’s a standard site as it used to look back in 2006, but it’s basic. You put it up together yourself. You were selling all kinds of stuff. You had a phone number. Basically, what I’m saying is you kept it basic. Basically, you kept it basic. Then from there, you kept building and improving the site. You found a CTO. You kept growing and the whole thing just kept taking off.
Here’s the thing. If you’re out there and you want to start something and you haven’t already and you need a website, keep it simple. That’s why I recommend you get an easy host to work with and one that will allow you to keep growing, will grow with you. The hosting company that I recommend, the one that I started my new site, Bot Academy site on is HostGator.
The reason I picked them is I knew I could very quickly get up and running with them. I knew as our traffic scaled up, they have lots of plans, many you don’t even see on their website. So, as you grow, you let them know what your issues are and they’ll scale up with you. What do you want, dedicated server? They got that? You want managed WordPress hosting? They got that. Whatever it is that you want, as you scale, they’ll be there with you and help you scale up.
But if you’re looking to start, they’ve got like a $4.98 plan, $4.98 a month plan that will give you unlimited domains so you could keep experimenting, maybe you hear what Jeremy is doing, it springs an idea in your head and over a glass of wine one evening, you sit down and say, “Let me try it.” Kill it the next day and start a brand new one, it doesn’t matter. It’s all unlimited domains.
HostGator will allow you to keep experimenting. If you want to put WordPress up, one-click install, lots of other software, one-click install. They’re there, designed to get you up and running and then they get out of your way so they can run your company right. If you hate your hosting company, switch to them. If you don’t have a hosting company, start with them. I am telling you, these guys have done well for me, they’ve done well for people in our audience.
There’s not that much magic in it, frankly. Hosting is a solved problem. So, get a company that you can count on, one that’s been around for a long time and will continue to be around for you. That’s why I’m recommending HostGator. If you want a special deal where you get 50% to 60% off their already low prices—and frankly, who cares about that because their prices are so low. It’s like if you take 50% off a penny, what’s the point? Their prices are super low already.
Here’s the benefit that you get. You get to be supporting Mixergy and you get to be tagged as a Mixergy person, which means they always know that if they don’t give you white glove service or the best services they’re able to—I don’t know if they have white gloves literally in the office or if that’s their style, but they do take care of people and if for some reason any of my sponsors don’t, you know that I’ve got your back.
Go to HostGator.com/Mixergy for that discount and to be part of the Mixergy crew that goes over to them. You’ll get unmetered disk space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited email. I’ve said this a million times. Just go to HostGator.com/Mixergy and get started right.
Okay. Man, how much did they spend for me to say, “Look, they solve a problem, nothing magic to it?”
Jeremy: You make it sound natural. You do a good job with it.
Andrew: Thank you. I do try to keep it really honest and in my head think be as open as possible, even if it means talking about their competitors or what doesn’t work. I’ve said that their tech support service used to be a lot better. You used to be able to get through to them in a second. Now it takes a little while. I want to be as open as possible and risk even having them go away for that.
But what I don’t want is to just read. I think more and more podcasters now are just reading off a script because they’re selling to people they don’t even give a fuck about. All right. You get this thing going. I get how you get your first couple of clients. How do you go beyond that? How do you go to the next and the next level? Is it just a matter of saying, “I work with Woodman’s, they’re backing me, let’s get going?”
Jeremy: That was really helpful. But I think we also gained a lot of credibility by—I keep going back to this, but not just being a technology company, also being operators because I think that’s something most grocery retailers can really identify with. That was messaging that was resonating and we learned that very quickly and still to this day, that’s what we really pride ourselves on and we feel it makes us uniquely positioned in the market as being able to step in and say, “Here are all of the problems you’re going to encounter and we know it because we encountered it ourselves. We’ve had to solve these problems utilizing our own staff.”
Andrew: What are some of the problems that when you say you experienced them, your potential clients are nodding their saying, “This guy gets my pain. He feels it.”
Jeremy: Yeah. So getting your product data ready, when you extract all your products from your back office provider, making sure they’re displayed to customers with nice product images and you don’t have truncated product titles and you’re offering the right assortment, you’re offering the right service. Should you offer a pick-up service or offer a delivery service? How do you start fulfilling orders? How do keep product fresh? All these challenges that are not natural to a grocery retailer they operate today that all of a sudden become enormous issues when they start an ecommerce business.
Andrew: And they’ve already started or experimented with ecommerce businesses enough to recognize those problems like the truncated title of a product?
Jeremy: In many cases, they don’t know what they don’t know. So we come and step in and say, “Here are the problems you’re going to encounter.” If they’ve been in this business maybe with one of our competitors, they understand the complexity there. They’ve felt the pain in some way, shape or form, and so it’s our job to show them how we can take that pain away.
Andrew: This is a long sales process, isn’t it?
Jeremy: It is.
Andrew: Who does the sales? Is it you?
Jeremy: So, just within the last six months, we brought on two sales representatives. Up until that point, we were growing organically, and I was doing some of the sales—
Andrew: When you say organically, what was your process when it was just you?
Jeremy: It was basically just hustling. Again, using LinkedIn, I hate to keep on bringing that up, but I was making connections that way, attending industry events, leveraging our relationship with Woodman’s to get out in front of other retailers. But really, it was a lot of inbound activity because yeah, we had no marketing budget, we had no salespeople. We were very product oriented and we still really are today.
Andrew: Even if it’s just you, there’s always a process, isn’t there? I’ll give you an example. So I wanted to take in affiliate partners. I said, “Who has the affiliate partners that we’re looking for? Let’s go hire the person who works for him. Let’s get her to come on.” We did. We hired her. Now she’s coming in and helping us find affiliates. She knows the people. She’s able to open doors. That’s one of the techniques that I learned from doing these interviews.
The other thing that I do is when there’s a long sales cycle for something, I try to not just go to industry events because I think you get lost in there, but I try to host something at industry events. Do you do anything like that? By host I mean my own thing—my own dinner, get a suite, have drinks at my suite with like 20 people, stuff like that. It’s part of my process. It’s not like this, “Hey, let’s hang out, this is what happens.” It’s, “Andrew’s methodical, here’s the plan, here’s how we’re implementing it.” Do you do that? Did you do that at the time?
Jeremy: What I think we do that’s similar to that is we have gotten channel partners. We have relationships with a couple of wholesalers, website providers that focus on the grocery industry but don’t have ecommerce capability or don’t have mobile apps. We found partners that could make natural introductions for us.
Andrew: There are people out there who build websites for grocers but don’t do the whole back end stuff that you do, don’t enable them to sell on their sites. That’s how you found these people?
Jeremy: Yeah. Exactly.
Andrew: What’s an example of a company that does that?
Jeremy: One example would be Webstop.
Jeremy: Yeah, Webstop as an example of a company that—
Andrew: That’s something I don’t do especially well and I want to learn from you. You will find partners who are reaching your customers and you’ll start talking to them. So Webstop is one. Who else?
Jeremy: Yeah. So another website provider is Shoptocook. They do like kiosks in stores as well.
Andrew: So they’re going in to talk to these stores and set up their kiosks and manage the kiosk relationships or in Webstop’s case, they do digital—they do digital marketing solutions for grocers. How perfect is that? You say to them, “What’s the deal? If you refer me to people, then I’ll give you a cut of the revenue?” or is it just, “Hey, let’s help each other out?”
Jeremy: The relationships have been more informal. But yeah, they could theoretically evolve to that point.
Andrew: You don’t even do that. It’s more informal just chatting with them saying, “Who should we get to know?”
Jeremy: How can we help each other out? Maybe I can make an introduction for you. Maybe you can make an introduction for me.
Andrew: You’re starting. Who could you make an introduction to them for? I get who they can introduce you to. They’ve got a bunch of customers. I’m on Webstop.com right now. They’ve been up for a while. How could you help them? I’m saying this because whoever is listening to us should be using this technique too, but I know immediately they’re going to think, “I’m fairly new. That’s why I’m calling these people. How could I help them?”
Jeremy: Be genuine. I think upfront, if you don’t have much to offer, just be honest and say, “Here’s what I think I can do to help you maybe earn more trust from your existing retailers.” In my example, you don’t offer ecommerce now. Imagine if you go to the retailer and say, “I’m going to offer you ecommerce now.” For one, it shields you from your competitors that maybe do have ecommerce capability. Two, it’s demonstrating that you’re trying to add value for your customer. That’s a way that you could help them even without being able to make an introduction.
Andrew: Look at this. I love this whole like niching down. They do newsletters. How many different companies do you know that do newsletters, whether it’s newsletter creation or the software for newsletters? These guys do newsletters for grocery stores. I’m on their site right now. That’s part of their products. And Molly Stone, that I was talking about here in the Castro, they apparently do their newsletters.
Jeremy: Yeah. They’re very hyper-focused on grocery. The founder has I think been in grocery his entire career. So, just like us, they’ve carved out a little niche for themselves, and they’re a very natural partner for us, just like a wholesaler would be, any relationship where you can each add value for one another.
Andrew: I can imagine someone saying, “Hey, this whole chatbot thing makes sense. I’m going to set up a chatbot for a grocery store business. I’ll set them up with their chatbots. I’ll do whatever the newsletter equivalent is via chatbot.”
Jeremy: Someone should do that.
Andrew: Then they could call up Webstop and call up you and just say, “I’ll set it up for your clients.”
Jeremy: That’s actually a big industry issue because people get in the habit of calling the store and then that’s inefficient for the store and the customer gets unhappy. Maybe you should do that.
Andrew: We should just focus on that.
Andrew: We also do chatbot services ourselves, but we teach people how to set up chatbots for their clients, and I’m noticing people start to niche off, like I had no idea that chiropractors would give a rat’s ass about a chatbot. I would have thought it was way too technical that we’re into it, but they’re not.
It turns out—we’ve got this one guy who graduated our program, Stephen Braden. He discovered that chiropractors have this problem where someone will come in just to have this one little issue taken care of and never come back to the chiropractor, either because the problem is solved or it wasn’t solved and then they think, “The chiropractor didn’t solve it. Forget it. I’ll go back to a different doctor.”
He said, “I’m going to set up nothing but chatbots for repeat business for chiropractors.” He started to sell that. Someone finishes their consultation, the chatbot, I imagine, can come back in and say, “Here’s what you can do to take care of yourself now that you’re done with this one appointment,” and by the way, maybe a week later, if you need another one, we can actually help you with a follow-up visit at 10% off or something like that is what I imagine.
Jeremy: That makes a lot of sense.
Andrew: That does make a lot of sense. Now you’ve hired a team of people. They can’t troll LinkedIn the way that you do. You have to be more systemized about your sales. It’s been six months. What’s your process of working with the new salespeople?
Jeremy: So we got salespeople that have experienced selling software in the grocery industry and each of them have 20 to 25 years of experience, so they know who they need to call on. They know how grocery retailers think. They’re currently managed by a gentleman named Todd Michaut, who we added as the Chairman of our Board, who has a background as an executive at a number of technology companies that were largely focused on grocery. We just brought in a lot of knowledge base and people with a broad network and clear understanding of the industry.
Andrew: Sorry. I didn’t know that it was muted for a second. That’s something I notice in enterprise sales. If you want to sell to bigger businesses, what you want to do is go hire someone who sold a different product to those exact same businesses that you want as your current client.
They already have the friendships. They already have the relationships they trust. They now come in and say, “Hey, you like my other product? You like working with me?” I’m now at this new company. Will you at least listen to this new product that I’m representing. It’s the future. They get the open door. They start making the sale. You maybe help out in the beginning. That seems to be the model.
Jeremy: Absolutely. I think it’s especially critical in an enterprise software sales environment.
Andrew: Still, in addition to that, our producer asked you before we started, let’s be honest, what’s the big challenge you have, and you said marketing. We are actually having a hard time getting the market to pay attention to us. Do you even need marketing considering that you have the strategy, hire someone who already talks to your customers?
Jeremy: We still do. We’ve brought in some more ammunition. I think we’ve gotten much better, and frankly we’re still new at even attempting to market ourselves. Like I said, we were growing organically and very product-focused for a very long period of time. There is a lot of competition in our space. There’s a lot of noise. There’s Silicon Valley startups that have raised a ton of money and could put a lot more dollars into their marketing.
Andrew: You’re talking about the Instacarts of the world.
Andrew: Now I feel like you’ve got a David and Goliath story where every time they talk about Silicon Valley, they should be talking about you. Yes, Instacart is coming in, but the big danger for Instacart is all these local stores are starting to get digitized themselves and frankly, once you have a phone, it doesn’t matter whether you have Instacart on your phone or you have the local grocery store’s app on your phone, that little David and Goliath story, does that work for you?
Jeremy: It does. On top of that, we’re trying to help the retailer in a much different way. We’re trying to help them form a digital strategy that’s just as focused on how they can augment their in store experience as creating an ecommerce business. So, when a retailer engages with Instacart, there’s kind of a misaligned partnership in that Instacart is always going to want to get that retailer to move online.
They’re going to want to take customers out of the store, whereas we want to help that retailer engage with customers however the customer wants to shop with them, whether that be in their store or online. So we’re taking on a slightly different approach. I think that really resonates with retailers because it’s a holistic or comprehensive digital strategy.
Andrew: Yeah. That sounds really good for the traditional press, but if you’re going on beyond to the Instacart audience, you’ve got to go like, “We’re punching these guys in the nose.” I know you think that way. I feel like it’s not fully comfortable who you are. You don’t feel—that’s not the way that you operate.
Jeremy: Yeah. I think they’re doing a lot of great things. I want to win business on our own merits rather than trying to knock them down. That said, I do think there’s weaknesses there in their value proposition to a grocery retailer. For example, if you’re a grocery retailer, maybe 10% to 20% of your sales move online.
So let’s just focus theoretically just on ecommerce. Do you want to farm that out to a third party? You’d think you’d want to have that expertise in house. If you’re a brick and mortar grocer, you don’t have someone come in and operate your stores for you. Why would you have someone come in and operate all of your ecommerce under their brand and with them controlling the customer? That’s a challenging pill to swallow, I think, if I’m a grocery retailer.
Andrew: Let’s end it with this thing. My favorite part of the research that the team put together came from your conversation with our producer about how you said that this was scary. You became your own worst enemy. The voice in your head is the one that was helping to screw things up. We’ve all battled with it. I find that’s one of the toughest topics for people to recognize in themselves, let alone to bring up beyond themselves. Talk to me about how you recognized that you had this inner voice and this inner resistance to what you want to do.
Jeremy: Yeah. Like I think it really dates back to the Madtown Munchies days. I started to slowly but surely recognize that I was holding myself back in so many ways.
Jeremy: Negative self-talk. Whenever something goes wrong, I can’t believe this is happening again. I’m never going to be able to make this work and that just snowballs and cascades into something a million times—
Andrew: How do you even notice that you had that going on in your head. I’m looking at—or I was a moment ago, looking at a video of you. You look like one of the most confident, self-assured people that I’ve met. Anyone can go in and just not even hit play on it, just scrub through it. Every moment, even when I’m getting tough, I can see that you’re just totally comfortable with yourself.
Andrew: When you’re that comfortable, you don’t notice the parts where you’re staying within your comfort zone. What caused this to happen? Usually people have this awareness when there’s a problem. Is that what happened to you?
Jeremy: I think that part of it was I was never getting to where I wanted to be. Part of that is I hold myself to a high standard, but also we talked about it. With Madtown Munchies, my previous company, I always wanted to scale it, never quite got to where I wanted it to be. So, over time, it was like I’m not achieving what I want to achieve.
Andrew: What would you do? Would you journal this every year and then look at your journal and say, “What the fuck is going on? I keep saying I’m in a double business, but we’re staying flat.” Is that it? Is it something like that?
Jeremy: It’s similar to that. Yeah. I keep on saying I’m going to turn this into a national powerhouse and we say—
Andrew: Who do you say that to? In your head?
Andrew: Every night you go to sleep, do you say it to God? Do you say, “God, I’m going do it?” Is it like that? Don’t laugh that off. I’ve done stuff like that.
Jeremy: Yeah. I think finally I recognize I do need to kind of look a little bit more deeply, look at how I can control my thoughts. I started to get deeply into meditation, something anyone who knows me that I credit a lot of success I’ve had to that. I started getting into stopping once I had a negative thought, somehow finding a way to convert hat to a positive thought.
Andrew: What’s your process for doing that? I work on that a lot too.
Jeremy: So meditation first and foremost—
Andrew: How does meditation help you identify that you’re having a negative thought and then rephrase it so you can shift it?
Jeremy: I think it calms your mind and it focuses on how do you get to a solution rather than what’s going wrong. I think when you can take a step back when something is going wrong and remove yourself from the emotions, you become much better equipped to actually solve the problem in front of you. That was something that I was probably at my best with meditation and mindfulness and being able to really solve problems when I first started GrocerKey. Frankly, it’s something I’m trying to get better at yet again. So it’s an ongoing challenge.
Andrew: Is there a type of meditation that you work on?
Jeremy: No. For me, honestly, it’s as simple as sound of a bell and breathe in, breathe out 20 minutes. I wake up, before I go bed, nothing overly sophisticated. It’s really that simple.
Andrew: I’ve got a—someone just wrote on it—I’ve got a process that I use. Anyone who wants to go check it out. It’s called True Mind. I’ve got a Google Doc that I apparently have let way too many people go into because I see some of them have accidentally edited it but I will fix their edits. If you just go to TrueMind.com/TheDoc, you’ll see it. It’s this same process you’re talking about, which is identifying what’s going on in my head is the hardest thing and then second, questioning it, “Do I agree with it? Do I believe in it? How did this get in my head?”
Jeremy: What I recognized early on is when I have one negative thought, I’m probably an order of magnitude more likely to have a second and a third negative thought. The key is once that negative thought pops in your mind, how can you distract yourself. How can you get yourself thinking about something more positive? How can you get yourself thinking about how good you’re going to feel when you resolve that problem? It’s amazing how the momentum starts to turn when you do that. You’re muted again, I think.
Andrew: Thanks. I keep hitting the mute button whenever I sneeze or make noise here. I’m actually making a lot of noise because this guy Andrew Rice, I gave him permission to comment on the doc. This guy goes in and he like—
Jeremy: Butchered it.
Andrew: Yeah. He butchered it. I’m x’ing out every one of his additions. Thank you, Andrew. I think you’re ruining it. That is the process that I go through also. You’ve written about this somewhere, haven’t you?
Jeremy: I don’t know that I’ve written about meditation, but I am very preachy about it. Whenever I’m talking to earlier stage entrepreneurs, I’m always big on take care of your health, especially when you’re an early stage entrepreneur and a big piece of that is—
Andrew: Taking care of my health, I can figure out. Someone’s going to give me paleo or the low carb diet or whatever it is, but the mental health we don’t talk about. If someone says, “I get what Jeremy is going through. I want to pick up on something like this,” where would you send them?
Jeremy: This is going to kill me. I’m blanking on the name of the book.
Andrew: “10% Happier” is a good book.
Jeremy: That’s a good one. I’ve heard of that one. It was “Why Quantum Physicists Do Not Fail.” So this wasn’t so much about meditation. It was more about mindset and how you can kind of open up a world of possibilities for yourself. Honestly, that was one of the big things that helped me boost my confidence.
Andrew: “Why Quantum Physicists Do Not Fail: Learn the Secrets of Achieving Almost Anything Your Heart Desires,” by Greg Kuhn.
Jeremy: It’s an unbelievable book.
Andrew: That subtitle would have turned me off if not for you or if not for all the freaking positive reviews here on Amazon. I see.
Jeremy: It’s worth checking out. That was a big one for me. I’m sure others will come to mind.
Andrew: I’m going to send myself a sample to read that. What I like about “10% Happier” is he’s a guy who—he says he had some kind of breakdown. He’s a broadcaster. I don’t think it’s a breakdown. He just seems to have had like a bad day or hard time competing.
Jeremy: I remember the story now.
Andrew: What he ends up doing is going on this adventure. I love stories like that where someone has a problem. They go on an adventure. As they learn it, they’re teaching you what they learn and then they end up having this breakthrough and their life is a lot better. He calls it 10% happier but I say he’s like a thousand times better off because of this. And along the way as you’re reading a story, you’re picking up on some of the frustrations that you might have not noticed you had in your own life and then how he handles it and how he overcomes it.
So we’ve got a couple of different recommendations here, “Why Quantum Physicists Do Not Fail.” I just sent that to my Kindle as a sample. And then number two, “10% Happier,” but you didn’t recommend it, so I’m more curious about what you recommend, so I’m going to get that book. Anyone who wants to see my process should go to TrueMind.com/TheDoc. Are you journaling or blogging anywhere where people can read you?
Jeremy: I’m not currently. We do occasionally post on GrocerKey.com. That’s obviously very industry-specific, but feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Anyone out there, I do engage with anyone and everyone on LinkedIn.
Andrew: You’re big on LinkedIn. You might as well go connect with him on LinkedIn. Frankly, in the previous interview, you not only gave your email address, you told me I could include it in your bio. Did you get a lot of messages from that or was that kind of chill?
Jeremy: I did. I absolutely did. So I appreciate including that. I enjoyed some of the people I connected with.
Andrew: Good. I’ve liked watching you and getting to know you a little bit through these interviews and I hope other people get to do the same thing. If you are ever Toronto and you want to meet a mad man who’s a little obsessive, I really urge you to go meet the founder of Needls. I find that every freaking time I talk to him, I feel more like more alive and also more like, “What the hell am I doing? I’ve got to do something with this energy he’s got.” He’s so methodical too.
Jeremy: Yeah. He’s a brilliant entrepreneur and a really good person.
Andrew: Justin, exactly.
Jeremy: How’d you guys meet?
Andrew: I met him in an interview and then in the interview, I talk about this summer camp for entrepreneurs that I’m going to. He goes, “What the hell, I’m going there.” We both hang out. I have this incredible time there. I get to know him a little bit better. Every problem I have, he seems to have dealt with it one way or the other because he owned a company that used to flip businesses. He’s seen all these different businesses from the inside. He tells me how other people have dealt with this. I go, “What the hell does this guy do?” We drove together to his house. I got to know him a little bit personally. We stayed in touch. He’s a bit of a mad man. He’s the kind of person who will get an alert on his phone every time an email comes through and he can’t help respond to all of them. I don’t know how the hell he does that.
Jeremy: Yeah. Some of us are wired differently, but that can work in your favor, obviously.
Andrew: Right. That is it. I think with him, he’s wired like that. And the two sponsors, let’s not forget the two people who are paying me to talk about them and frankly who I pay to use because I freaking love their service—HostGator.com/Mixergy and DesignCrowd.com/Mixergy. Really, if you have a hosting need and you go to HostGator and you don’t love it, email me, Andrew@Mixergy.com.
And if you go to DesignCrowd and you don’t freaking love it, even if you’re a turncoat, even if you hate me and you decide, “I’m never using Andrew’s code, but I’m going to try out DesignCrowd,” and you don’t love it, I want to hear it. I am so excited about them that I wouldn’t mind someone saying, “Chill out, let me tell you a little bit of my experience that’s not perfect. I want to know. I think these guys are fantastic and if you have a great experience, I want to know, but more importantly, if they’re not, I want to know about that too.”
All right. I stand by my sponsors is what I’m trying to say. Jeremy, thanks so much for coming back on here.
Jeremy: Thanks for having me, appreciate it.
Andrew: Cool. Bye, everyone.