Andrew: Hey, they’re freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And I don’t think he’s ready to come on and do an interview with me, but there’s a listener of mine who I’ve been emailing back and forth about all these different opportunities, all these different ideas that he’s good.
He’s thinking about it. How in depth, he’s thinking. And it just made me realize how much I love entrepreneurs, how much I love the audience that listens to this. And he’s someone who, at this stage in his life, he’s, running a couple of incredibly successful companies, not at the stage where he wants to jump on any of these ideas himself.
He’s just looking for somebody to run them, somebody to take these ideas and, and for him to back and, and to work with. And I’ve been doing this now long enough that I get to see this over and over again, people who are listening, who are building, who are often struggling and feeling that they’re failures and Allie, I know we’re going to talk a little bit about how you went through that too, who eventually ended up doing these incredible things that I usually just read about entrepreneur or is doing and here they are doing it more and more.
And it makes me excited to know that there’s someone who’s listening to this interview right now, who a few years from now, or maybe a few days from now will message me and say, Andrew, Um, I’ve got this great idea. I’m working on something that’s amazing that I don’t want you to even mention even, or hint at on an interview, but I’ve got to tell you about it and let’s talk it through.
And so all that is to say that I love you. If you’re listening to me and I want to hear from you about what you’re working on, and I want to see you develop over the years, the way that I have so many people who’ve listened to Mixergy. And over 10 years that I’ve been doing this consistently and consistently seeing what the listeners of this podcast are able to do.
Join me as somebody who. Allie, I would have just admired so much and not believe that you existed. If I would have heard about you when I was growing up. It’s it’s not just what you’ve done with hub. And I should introduce Allie Magyar is the founder of hub. It’s a virtual event platform, um, that allows you to do your meeting planning.
Basically, if you go to an event. You don’t realize how much chaos and how much needs to be organized in order to make the event happen. Her software hub does all that. And, um, I’m fascinated by the stuff that you did behind the scenes. I don’t even know if I should say I’m going to handout it a little bit.
I think the fact that you would build cars and then, and then race them the way that she created all these events, the way that you from events created software. I just want to hear all of it, and we’re going to hear how she built this business and our whole, um, backstory, which I think is equally fascinating.
Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors who just believe in entrepreneurs enough to invest in them and invest in the work that I do here at Mixergy. The first, if you’re hiring and when you’re hiring developers, Oh, yeah, I wish I could go back in history and tell you this. Hire from top town, the best developers, top towel.com/mixergy she’s nodding.
And you’ll see why. And the second, when you’re finally ready to launch a website, just go to hostgator.com/mixergy. You get started quickly. Get started with the company you can grow with. I’ll talk about those later first, Allie. Good to have you here.
Allie: Okay. Really excited to be here. I also have a passion for entrepreneurship and people in all stages of their journey.
Andrew: Like you, did you always want to be an entrepreneur or were you someone who just wanted to coordinate people and put together events?
Allie: No, I don’t think I knew what the word entrepreneur was, uh, back then, but I think it’s always just been innate in me that I enjoyed bringing people together and having groups of people. And I always had leadership roles even, you know, in grade school, running for class office and figuring out that I really enjoy the ability to create experiences for people through life.
Andrew: I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I’ve talked to. Who said, I didn’t even know the word entrepreneurship growing up. Can you, and they teach us all these words, all these concepts in school. This is the one they leave out. Even if they don’t want you to be an entrepreneur, you should know what your boss does.
Right? You should know what’s out there on the menu of, of jobs, you know, to be a firefighter, might not know here, a little fight thing. All right. Um, you were in community college, working at old Navy. You loved cars. Did you actually build cars yourself?
Allie: It did. Yeah, this was, uh, back in the early, early days, thousands and street racing was a huge thing in Portland. And so I’ve found myself throughout high school, really loved cars, had the big stereo that made everything rattle like crazy when I was driving down the road. And so I got really industry racing.
And so I found a bunch of friends that taught me how to throw wrenches in the garage. And I rebuilt motors and decided to really get into cars in a heavy way.
Andrew: Movies where there’d be somebody in the middle of the street, throwing down an arm or a flag or something. Right. And then two cars racing. That’s what you were doing this exists.
Allie: Yeah. I just took my daughter actually to the Portland flower market and we used to just shut off the road. And so I was telling her all about these stories and she just was looking at me like, yeah, you’re still not cool, mom.
Andrew: Illegally shutting off the roads just to have the bunch of people stand by.
Allie: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We had people on watching for police and having radar down the road. And it was, it was exactly like what you saw in the movies. It really was.
Andrew: You have to do to it, to be cool in front of your kids. If that’s not doing it, do you need a face tattoo?
Allie: Yeah. Something.
Andrew: And so speaking of the organizer, you would organize these things doing what, what are the roles that you would put together? How would you make this happen as the person that you are.
Allie: I think community is such a big piece to me. So when we would go out, there would be 500, a thousand people sometimes at these street races and we would gather up and then go to different areas. Um, back before I knew internet protocol and we used to be on AOL, I would literally post. The address to my house and invite everyone to my house and I’d have parties with hundreds of people.
And then we would go out street racing afterwards. And it just was a way for me of connecting with people and creating an experience. And so I looked at that and I, you know, my parents would go, you’re spending all your money from old Navy on modifying your car. Like, how does this make any sense? Like you’re wasting away all your money.
And I said, well, maybe I can turn a business out of this. Why don’t I, instead of doing this at a street race, why don’t I actually throw a car show? But I don’t know what that means. I just know that I want to bring people together for an experience. And so I took a thousand dollars, which was my entire savings that I had and I rented a local fairgrounds and bootstrapped.
I mean, I printed out flyers at my dad’s office. I took them to malls. I went to colleges. I called every radio station. I hustled on making everyone aware about this car show slash lifestyle event that was going to happen. And didn’t have I, I mean, I was panicked. I had on my friends that I had recruited to help me and like Mark out the floors and sweep up things and I didn’t know what was going to happen.
But the day of the show, we ended up having several hundred cars come and exhibit and pay, and we ended up having thousands of people come to the fairgrounds. And we weren’t prepared for it. So my poor dad was running back and forth to a local grocery store trying to get money orders because we had $50,000 in cash from people coming and paying us at the door to be able to get into this car show.
And so it was the craziest and most fun experience that I had had of being able to see all these people come. Seeing people have such a great time and being able to build our community and provide an experience for people.
Andrew: So I’m looking at the notes that my producer gave me on your conversation with her. She said that you couldn’t breathe. You, did you feel like a failure after that first event? This seems like a huge success to me.
Allie: Yeah. You know, I think when people look at things from the outside, all they see is the success, but they don’t see sort of the fear and the anxiety and the high standards that entrepreneurs oftentimes hold themselves to. And when I did my first car show, this is back before computers. So we literally were taking pieces of paper, grading, all of these cars sitting in a huge group of people, hoping we were doing math, right?
Like totally up putting papers in order. And you know, at the end of this show, people were upset about the judging because everyone always feels like they should win first place. But I ended up dealing with a lot of people that were unhappy on the judging. And I, you know, I, instead of having a mindset of what went well, I think I instantly went to, what do I need to improve?
And what. Did I not do well. So it felt really overwhelming because there were elements that were executed perfectly. And now later on in life, I look at that and say, yeah, when you’re doing something for the first time, you have no freaking clue what’s going on. And of course, you’re going to mess up on a bunch of things, right.
You learn from them. But in that moment, it felt really overwhelming. And I ended up being out, back behind the fairground, sort of not able to breathe and sort of feeling like I had been a failure and I had a mentor come up that had produced some shows in Seattle. And he said, Allie, what is going on? This was successful.
Like this was such an awesome show. You did such a great job. You just need to take a breath, figure out what you’re going to do differently next year. And you’re going to rule the world with this. And I took that advice and I did, I turned one show into two shows and to four shows into 10 shows over six years across the country.
And every time there was failures, but I had to learn from those and reimplement and try something new in order to find success in those areas. Yes.
Andrew: David Rubinstein. The billionaire told me that he looks back on his failures and analyze them. That’s who he is. I remember he even said maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but that’s my makeup. I know. That’s why it’s stuck in my head. He also said my co-founder in the Carlisle group. Does never looks back. I wonder if he, to this day is still like that.
And he sees another way that works. I wonder if, if this is who you are, if I know I do that too, I keep thinking, what else could I have done? How could I have made it better? And no matter what I do to work on myself, that’s who I am. And maybe I accepted. Maybe that’s the way you are too.
Allie: Yeah, I completely accepted. I now look at that as a blessing, you know, and there’s, I think we have to look at the things that we uniquely bring to the table. And as you grow in business and you grow in the team that you end up doing business with part of my role has been hiring people way smarter than me in areas where I lacked.
And that are different from me so that I can have different perspective, but I am still uniquely me. I’m still, you know, I’ve been an entrepreneur now for over 20 years and I still, if I mess up, it still hits me. Sometimes I can’t breathe. Sometimes I’m incredibly freaked out.
Andrew: What about this organizing event? You still worry that enough people will show up.
Allie: absolutely. I, I mean in managing an event, um, we just threw an event this spring and I was like, is anyone going to come? Is it going to go well, are people going to leave feeling like, you know, they felt connected and that there was community, there were certain goals we were trying to obtain with it. And.
You put me, I can speak on a public stage to thousands of people. I can present to senior executives at fortune 100 companies. None of that really phases me, but when I put effort into something, that’s uniquely my vision and have other people be judging that it still affects me. Even though I have the confidence, I have the experience.
Andrew: You know what Ali, I have a similar situation and it’s for organizing events. It’s especially difficult because if I I’ve had scotch nights at my suite at conferences where it was just the right amount of people, where it was all the speakers who were there, because they knew this was the room where they were hugging me and saying, this is the best. And I remember. A couple of scotch nights after that, there was one where people were packed, like sardines standing up. They could move where the people who I’ve interviewed, who, uh, that were speaking at the events would quickly come over and say, Andrew, I’ve got to go. As soon as they would come in.
They’d want to go out. And the wrong people were excited about being in the room where everyone was. And so you don’t win by having a lot of people. You don’t win by having too few people. There’s like this medium spot that is so hard to hit, and I’ve learned to just accept it and be there. And frankly, on that, I was gonna say scotch helps, but I don’t drink at my own events because I don’t want to get out of nerves, overdo it. Uh, universal contacted you to do what back in Melbourne in those days.
Allie: Yeah. Well, I was, uh, managing a lot of the street racing and promoting a lot of shows. And so when the fast and furious came out, um, they contacted me to help promote the movie and to bring all the cars to the movie theater. So as you were coming to the movie theater, you would see all these super cool cars outside and
Andrew: what? For fast and furious.
Allie: for the fast and the furious.
Andrew: Wow. We okay.
Allie: Um, and it was a lot of, you know, back then, there wasn’t a lot of women involved in the industry as well. And I had my car on the front cover of magazines and did a lot of racing at the track as well and had a lot of national sponsors. So there’s a lot around just providing cars and providing talent.
Um, that also helped me just with my brand in terms of promoting the shows that I was doing as well.
Andrew: You then you build it up, as you said, we’re getting to the year, 2004, we decided to go big. And what does big mean for you in 2004?
Allie: Yeah. You know, I started the company when I was still working at old Navy and over the next couple of years, I ended up quitting and then doing that as my full-time gig. And pretty scary when you’re supporting yourself and then, you know, supporting your friends and flying them out to help them produce those shows for you.
Um, and I had decided everything had gone well, attendance kept climbing numbers, kept climbing. And so as any entrepreneur, I’m pouring money back in all the money I’m making and bring back in to continue to grow and grow. And in 2004, I went from four shows to 10 shows and I decided to go around the country and produce these shows.
And it was a big risk because a lot of deposits went into venues. Um, and there’s a lot that happens in trade shows that is somewhat out of your control. So if I’m hosting a lifestyle show and then all of a sudden there’s a prom that night, or there’s a big concert, or it’s a sunny day, or, you know, name one of a hundred different things, then your gate could be lower.
The people coming in the door could be lower. And so you don’t end up making your money. And I also was very inexperienced. I didn’t know what it would mean to go into Detroit and have union labor. I didn’t even know what that term meant. So I didn’t know what to do, pay someone $10,000 to do nothing, um, you know, for the show.
And so, so I ended up overrunning on expenses and doing a lot of learning Leon. And also by that point in time, you know, the sort of the momentum has slowed a little bit in terms of the, the cars and the fast and furious and how street racing was being managed. And so. I ended up going big and putting all of my money.
Um, and I remember going from show to show and having to take the money from one show to make sure I could keep the doors and the lights on and the next show. And it was just hanging on by a thread. I mean, to the point where I didn’t want to answer my cell phone, I had taken out a hundred grand in personal loans and credit cards on myself.
And it all culminated in 2004, um, in the fall here at the Portland expo center where it was my last show and like any good entrepreneur, I’m like, all right, this is it. It’s going to happen. It’s going to be successful. And I’m going to be able to continue on. And at that show, I sort of sat by the front gate.
And we only ended up with a couple thousand people coming in the door and we needed a lot more than that to keep the lights on. And so at the end of that show, I completely collapsed because everything I’d worked for for over six years, all I had to show was a hundred thousand dollars in debt. And a feeling that I had massively failed and that I wouldn’t be able to be successful.
I hadn’t gone to school. I didn’t have a degree. Really didn’t have any work history. This had been my baby. And so at the age of 24, I felt like, okay, my life is now officially over and I have no way to pay off this a hundred grand in debt that I’m personally indebted to.
Andrew: I was in a situation like that, where there was deep debt. And I remember the offer that I got from somebody at my height to buy the company out. And as I would walk into work, I remember walking through the streets of Manhattan, almost like, like a zombie, unable to look at anybody where a car would hit me because I just kept thinking I screwed up.
I have no energy to continue. I’m deep in debt and look at what could have been. And I just had to keep walking to show up to work and be there for people expecting me to cheer them up.
Andrew: What was, what was going on in your head? How did you feel about this? How did you get through day to day?
Allie: it was really, I felt very similar to what you’re saying. I mean, it was hard to face anyone because I felt like I had let them down as well. For someone that has a deeper purpose in building community and creating these experiences, I felt like I’d lost that opportunity, which makes you feel incredibly hopeless. And so I ended up spending a few weeks in bed. That’s probably the longest time I’ve ever spent, like being just comma, toasts, and, uh, really grieving is really what it was grieving.
Andrew: not getting out of bed for days.
Allie: Literally not getting up for days. I went and stayed at my mom’s house and she would bring food into my room and just everyday asked me if I was ready to get up yet. And I was
Andrew: And in your head, just when you’re the most higher that’s when you have to figure out what is next and. I know for me, it wasn’t for me, if it was just me, I would have completely collapsed. It was our CFO at the time, Richard herb, who was very analytical, but he also said, Andrew, go run. And he saw that me having this hobby of running this was new, was helpful.
I felt guilty about it because how could I justify running in the morning? I should be getting up. And being in the office and helping people out and he kept saying, no, go run. And if the most analytical person is telling me to do it and giving me permission, I felt okay. And he was absolutely right.
Absolutely. Right. For you. It seems like it was your dad or your mom who helped out and gave you next direction.
Allie: time. I’ve learned that in order to take care of others, we have to take care of ourselves. And self care is sometimes one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs that are constantly moving, constantly striving for new things. So for me, it was the encouragement of. Let’s get up. What is next? Let’s look at all the positive things that you learned over the last six years.
I learned how to run a business. I learned what a P and L was. I learned how to file taxes. So they learned so many business fundamentals from sales to marketing operations. I mean, I had to do it all as a solo preneur. Um, and so I looked at that and said, you’re right where I actually find joy is when I’m creating these experiences for people.
And so. Their encouragement to help me see what I had achieved during that time and how it was going to support me. And my dad kept saying to me over and over again, Allie, this isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning of the next story. And I didn’t understand that at that time, but now looking back on that.
That’s been the mantra that I’ve used throughout my entire life is sure. There’s failure. There’s really tough things and there’s really beautiful things, but it’s all just a part of becoming who I am and the strengths and the weaknesses that I have that I know I have to overcome.
Andrew: And he was right. I mean, literally in this interview, it’s 15 minutes in, that was just the beginning, this small portion of your past, the beginning of the story. Tell me about your dad. I get a sense that he’s this dynamic person. But I don’t understand. I don’t see it. Do you have an example of what he was like growing up a story that reminds you of who he is?
Allie: Yeah, well, he is the quintessential sales guy. He knows everyone in the world and every product is the greatest product there is. And he understands, um, how to just bring your whole self to work and how to be, what you say that you are. And so growing up, he had me building first aid kits when I was eight years old, because that was a company that he wrapped was first-aid kit company.
Andrew: Selling first aid kits. And so his daughter, Allie was going to be setting this up. You’re going to be brought in and you’re going to feel his energy for how great these first aid kits are.
Allie: Yeah. And I got like 25 cents for first aid kit. So it was a lot of money too, when that all, but that was sort of, he, you know, I don’t think I correlated the word entrepreneur back that and with what he always has done in life, but that’s really been who he is. He represents brands, he sells, he thought his own companies.
And so I really learned from him and in the early days on what it meant to work hard and to have reward from working hard and to understand. How there can be such great joy in being able to create something and form relationships with people as well.
Andrew: My dad was like that too. He, I remember loving that in the middle of the day and I would go work for him too. I feel like that was, that was more important to me than going to school. And I remember seeing him one time saying I’m feeling down today. I’m going to go and buy myself a sports jacket. Cool. I thought men do this.
I didn’t know. Okay. And you could just go in the middle of the day. That’s pretty cool. But I also remember years later, when he suffered a setback, he was in a store. He needed to buy a jacket for somebody’s wedding. And for the first time in his life, he said, I’m going to check and see how much it costs to see if it’s in with, within my budget, because he didn’t have a budget up until then, but he now needed to learn budget before it was spend as much as you want.
That’s the way you tell your mind that you can earn more money and you can write, did you have that kind of period where your dad had a setback?
Allie: Absolutely. I think it watching him in his business. I mean, every business has setbacks. I, you know, there isn’t a business out there that doesn’t. And so watching him, he had a, um, uh, basically a reseller contract where he would take all of the salvage from Costco and Sam’s club and then resell it to companies all around the country.
And there were points where that reseller contract went away. And the potential of the entire company going away. And so watching him pivot through that to say, how do I keep the company going? What’s the angle, like who could I work with? Who could I network with? And being able to be proactive versus reactive?
I think taught me a lot and seeing him through the large and the small struggles that he had.
Andrew: What was though the painful one for you or the one that you as a family felt? Do you feel comfortable talking about that?
Andrew: my head there, there are few things that I remember that keep me going. One was my brother fell and my dad had to lean next to him and say, Look, we don’t have enough insurance. You seem like you’re okay here. If we call an ambulance, you know how expensive this is going to be for us, we didn’t have any insurance.
There’s another one where our phone was disconnected in a friend of mine. And I went to reach out and use the family phone to make a phone call. And I had to. Look at him embarrassed. I don’t know why it’s broken. Meanwhile, he and I both knew why the phone wasn’t working. The thing said you didn’t pay your bill.
Um, and then there was a one that I mentioned earlier with the jacket where he had to have a budget. I think about that a lot. I don’t think it’s served him by the way, to have a budget. I think he was better. He might’ve needed a break from being himself, but he was better when he got back to the point where he said, yes, I will spend whatever, because I need to keep reinforcing to myself.
I will earn whatever I need.
Allie: Yeah. You know, I think there’s all sorts of stories throughout my life that I feel like my parents have taught me really the value of things. I remember being really young and growing up, my dad actually had a drug and an alcohol problem, and, um, he is now sober over. See almost 40 years. Um, and so, but as a part of that, my mom was a single mom and she was working three jobs and she had two kids.
And I still remember, she gave me her last dollar and we ended up because I wanted a Popsicle. And so he gave me the dollar. We went into the back alley and ended up, um, the dollar blew away. Cause it was really windy. And my mom was just in tears because it was her only dollar. And then we didn’t have any money.
So we literally chased it for like two blocks to get this dollar. Um, and, and that really shits me a lot. Um, and I, I think it’s when you really think about what’s important in life. I had some of those same things happen when I lost my company and I was a hundred grand in debt. You know, all of a sudden it becomes every dollar matters.
I’ve got to pay back this debt. I really have to prioritize what I’m doing. Those types of things have affected me throughout my entire career. And now I’m running a software company that’s growing 500% every year and, you know, way larger numbers than I ever was. And I still manage a budget. Like my dollar is flying down the hallway.
And so there’s some things that end up sticking with you in terms of just who you are as a person and things that you’ve learned throughout your life. And again, I look at that as a blessing. It’s protected us in areas where we have had down years. And we’ve had to think about making tough choices and having to make sacrifice instead of just assuming that everything’s going to be okay.
Um, and so there’s, there’s a lot, um, that I think in our early years really helped to inform us.
Andrew: I think about that a lot too. That that is the thing that keeps me going that my equivalent of the dollar is the phone being and also lack of insurance and the fear that comes with that. And it’s what drove me for many years. Never get to that point. In addition to here’s what you could get. And so I’d have my vision of what’s possible and the vision of what I don’t want to happen.
And those two kept driving me. Let me take a moment and I want to come back and find out how you got out of bed and what you ended up doing next to recover. But first, I’m going to take a moment. Anyone who’s listening to me who hasn’t started a business yet, who’s looking to get going. There’s no better way to do it than just to have your own website.
Give yourself that canvas to create in 2021. In fact, whatever year you’re listening to me on give yourself that canvas to create, have your own website, your own domain, your own property on the internet. And then bill, I didn’t realize that Mixergy was going to be, Oh, you may not know this. I thought makes her do is going to be an event site with events.
That’s how I started. I didn’t realize Mixergy was going to be this. Once you have your site, once you have something that you own yourself, not on somebody else’s platform. Believe me. I love it. Sub stack. I love that notion now is becoming this platform for creating content, but when you have it on your own platform, your own site.
You can adjust, you can change. So we went from an invitation site to a blog, to a podcast, having forms and membership, but whatever’s out there. I can experiment and keep what works, get rid of what doesn’t. And that’s what you have. If you go to hostgator.com/mixergy, I’m telling you. You don’t test me, test me and see if I’m exaggerating.
Then in under 10 minutes, I would actually even say six minutes is what it took me, but who knows, maybe it takes you a while to type in your information, your email address, maybe you’re hunting and pecking with one finger under 10 minutes. Challenge yourself and challenge me. I guarantee you’ll have your site up and running.
You’ll get to play around. You may love it. You may hate it, but at least you’ll get started. And even if you hate it, You’ll have something to fight against and that’s enough to create momentum to take the next step. But that very first step is to go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And why are you throwing the flash mixer at the end?
It gives me credit for sending over. I appreciate that. Number one, but number two, you’re going to get the lowest price. When you use that unique URL, that’s host gator.com/mixergy. What’d you do to get out of bed, Allie.
Allie: I think I, I needed purpose, you know, I think I needed the ability to feel whole, like I was contributing again. And, and so I decided to look at how I could put the skillset that might. Parents. And so lovingly reminded me about to work. And so I ended up, um, talking to family and talking to friends and trying to see where I could continue that passion for events.
And so I ended up interviewing with an events company up in Seattle that produced events for Microsoft, um, and got hired after my first interview at an entry level position at the events company up there.
Andrew: The one that did it for Microsoft. And did you feel any hesitation about getting a job or anything like it’s so embarrassing for all these people to see me get a job.
Allie: No, I was grateful to find a job in something that I felt passionate about. I think I felt like I could take the skillset that I had learned and apply it at a new company. And I’ve never been afraid of hard work. I knew that I would learn something new at this company because it was corporate events instead of trade show events.
And so I knew that there was more for me to be able to learn, to be confident in the skill set I was looking to build.
Andrew: Yeah, I do think that so many entrepreneurs hate getting a job. And I wonder how could you actually employ people if you hate jobs, if you see jobs as this, right? What are you inflicting on people? And so. For me. I remember getting a job helping you recover, helped me understand that if somebody could just pave the road in front of me, I could just drive super fast.
I don’t want to pave the road and drive, figure out where to go and go. And I was my best self. It seems like the same thing happened for you.
Allie: Absolutely. It was almost a relief of, I don’t have to worry about the budget and every dollar coming in, I can actually focus on the things that brought me a lot of joy of creating these experiences, working with customers and bringing things to life. And so it almost was this free pass for me to really focus on the things that brought me joy, um, and that I could grow my skillset.
And without those pressures,
Andrew: It seems like you are also gung ho about it, right? That you, what did you do that’s beyond what was expected of you?
Allie: I look at this and, and even now it’s, when you do something you do at a hundred percent, there really isn’t another way to do things. And so as I joined that company, it was where can I learn? So can I clean the warehouse to understand where all the supplies go?
Andrew: Literally clean the warehouse.
Allie: Literally clean the world. Like I organize things so that we could find them easier and know what we had in stock and inventory.
How many badges did we have? What kind of lanyards? Because no one could answer the question. And so I looked at things and said, well, I’m just going to learn from the bottom up on how to do these things. So I figured out what our finance person, how did they manage budgets and how did they look at invoicing and how much were we charging?
And then I worked with sales to say, how do you actually sell our services? I want to understand. No one ever, you know, when you’re in a small business, that is the biggest opportunity and small business, to be able to craft your own role, to be able to say, I want to help. How else can I help? Because people don’t turn you down.
It’s sort of like, sure you want to shadow me. Awesome. I’m the only salesperson, let me tell you what I do here. And so every time there was a new opportunity. When I joined fax machines where our technology people literally would mail in RSVPs or they would fax them to us. And so I looked at that and said, how could we build an online registration tool where people can reserve online?
I know nothing about that, but let me go find some companies and let me learn how to build these sites. And so for me, it was an opportunity to constantly say, yes, And to have ownership thinking and mentality because within six months I was running that place because I knew all the different business lines.
I knew what we were doing. I was working with customers. I was increasing contracts. And so I had formed my own role without a promotion, without a title change, but I was invaluable to the organization in terms of our growth,
Andrew: Do you remember your salary from then?
Andrew: So you $36,000. Did you ask for a raise? Did you say, look, I’m doing clearly more. You did what happened.
Allie: And I don’t know that I shouldn’t be admitting this, but I remember they hired a senior person in and. So pissed because they had just told me no. And back in the day, they used to put everyone’s paycheck stubs, like in the little containers that are in the office. So I went there really late one night, steamed open her paycheck and saw that she was making double, that I was, and I was like, I’m done.
Like, there’s no way I’m running this place. And they won’t give me a raise. And they’re hiring new people in that are making double what I am.
Andrew: So what’d you do, did you quit? No.
Allie: No. I went to the owner and I said, I run this place and you’re either going to sell to me. Um, or I’m going to leave and take all the customers because I run everything.
Andrew: How did you get so gutsy to be able to do that?
Allie: Um, well, I think I just have a really clear vision for what I want to achieve. I was working so hard for her because I wanted to grow the business. I saw opportunity and it makes me excited when I see a challenge in front of me, that’s the number one thing it’s like, I’m going to go do that right now.
And I, I kept putting RFP responses on her desk and new opportunities to grow the business, which would just sit there. And so I ended up just continually getting frustrated because I felt like what I was trying to contribute wasn’t valued and that we were missing a huge opportunity in terms of go to market and ability to grow the company.
Andrew: Okay. You then go to her. Does she feel, this is such a treacherous move? I can’t do this. Or does she talk and entertain this offer?
Allie: You know, a lot of it is having a high IQ to understand where other people are coming from. And so, as I saw her, she was so overwhelmed. She wouldn’t turn in those RFPs. I overheard conversations with her saying she didn’t know how she was going to pay payroll. She was constantly unhappy. And so I saw that she was an entrepreneur that was in the right place at the right time.
And she decided she worked at Microsoft and when they formed their vendor programs, she left him, formed her own company. So there’s right place, right time made that first step. She was not an entrepreneur. She didn’t hold people accountable. She didn’t have a vision for growth. She was just sort of existing in that space and it was making her miserable.
And so I saw that as an opportunity to say you have passions for other things. So I want to take on this company, but by the way, I’m a hundred grand in debt from my car show. So I don’t have any cash, but what I can do is give you money over the next two years out of the profits of the company. And you can go off and, and do the thing that you have said you have the most passion for which, for her was coaching people in Africa, on women owned businesses.
And that was something she constantly talked about. And so it was just a recognition that she didn’t want to grow and that she was unhappy and looking for a way out. And I was the complete opposite I wanted all the way in.
Andrew: And how’d you get the money to pay her?
Allie: I was, well, it was risky. I still remember talking to my dad. I was taking my dog on a walk and I said, dad, I don’t know. I don’t have any money. And so I’m gonna have to pair two. It was two grand a month. Um, for two years that I had to pay her. And I said, I don’t know where I’m going to come up with the money, but the company is profitable.
I already booked out the next year’s worth of revenue. So I, I think I’ve got it. And he’s like, are you kidding me? What are you talking about? Go buy this company right now. Um, and you know, that was always the conservative side. And it’s still been the conservative side as I think about fear of being attached to massive debt or, you know, feeling like I can’t pay bills, but that was the agreement that I worked out.
And then I just worked my butt off to make sure that we had enough profit every month that we could pay her. And I paid her off after two years.
Andrew: That’s a pretty good price. And you got the contracts to do events, including Microsoft’s events, though. It’s up to you to keep it. You also got all the expenses. What are some of the big expenses that she had that caused her to lose money? Despite all the had.
Allie: Yeah, well, that was an interesting exercise in and of itself because I was 25. And I remember the conversation with Microsoft as panicked. All of the senior procurement people are in the room and they’re like, why should we let you continue? Uh, and so there was a big show that I had to put on in terms of how I was going to run that business and how I was going to help their business as a part of it.
So there was a lot of work that was involved in making sure that I could. Name the company, but you know, they’re her ability to run and manage a company. She had inefficient people working for her people that were aligned to the vision or the mission and to where we needed to go as a business. And so the first thing I did was go to people and say, here’s my vision.
And I don’t think you align to it. Do you want to stay or would you like to leave? So literally I ended up either letting everyone go or they left on their own accord. I ended up completely by myself now to give some scope. There were 17 people in the company when I joined. So this wasn’t a giant company.
Um, but, but it still was a, I had a vision for where I wanted to take the company and it was very strategic and very different from the way she had ran the company. So I bought it cleaned house and then started over completely from scratch.
Andrew: What was your vision?
Allie: You know, events are not about the chocolate chip cookie that’s on the table. Events are so much more about the sales strategy and the business strategy. And specifically in corporate tech, which was the majority of events that we were doing. There was a huge transformation towards. Um, digital and how we increased sales and product knowledge as a part of these events.
And so my vision for what we were doing was much less about the tactical. We had to do the tactical as a part of our jobs, but it was much more about creating the strategic experiential design of an event to achieve the sales and business goals. So it was upleveling what we were doing and moving us from a event coordinator to more of a strategist for business.
Andrew: What does that mean? Specifically? If you can take me through one of your, I guess Mike was Microsoft, your biggest customer or your own the
Allie: They were a biggest customer.
Andrew: Maybe you don’t want to talk specifically about them, but if you could imagine one company without mentioning them, what did the event look like before you took over?
And then after you implemented your view, what’s different.
Allie: Yeah, I think there’s just a lot around metrics and what you measure and the data that you measure that helps to enable success. Um, and that’s been a constant evolving of the meetings and events industry over the last 20 years. But instead of measuring things like the executive left and felt good, which is not a very, you know, strong metric, it’s more of just an emotional metric from someone it’s before the event setting up what’s success look like.
Here’s what I’m going to measure, how I’m going to measure it and how we will know that it’s successful. And so it was much more data-driven and it integrated more into the sales and marketing components year round than just over that specific set of days.
Andrew: I can imagine also the difficulty of then keeping track of all the data around it. You did eventually closing out this story. You went to Microsoft, you said, well, you stay customer. Even though this person who used to work for you is your contact is gone. They said, yes, you kept doing, you kept doing what you’ve described and you ended up with an Inc 5,000 company.
Allie: I did. Yeah. So we were able to grow the company from just me back in 2005 to be on the Inc 5,000 list, several years in a row. And up until COVID, um, grew that company. And we had about 65 employees, um, and quite exponential growth in revenue as well.
Andrew: You just closed a company recently or isn’t that company? Well, I thought this was dynamic events
Allie: Yeah, it’s still in business.
Andrew: still in business. Oh, okay. I see you as the CEO of dynamic events up until 2016, but I guess it continued after you weren’t the CEO. Okay. So that brings us to my right.
Allie: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I actually, as I was growing the company, my right hand, that sort of executed everything with me and growth, um, with, I decided to step away and we’ll get to that part of the story. And next she took on and she functions as CEO, but I remained the owner.
Andrew: Okay. So one of the things that you noticed which led you to hub was. There was an insane amount. I, this is my phrase. I’m looking at it. I can’t even repeat all the things that Ari told me, went into it and seeing the amount of data and seeing the amount of like elements to coordinate. And you would coordinate them not using the fax machine anymore, but still spreadsheets.
Email. What else?
Allie: STP sites for anyone that remembers FTP sites.
Andrew: we’re talking about. Wait, by the way. So this is FTP sites night and not in 1999. We’re talking about less than a decade ago.
Allie: Yeah, technology advancement is, has been insane or SharePoint sites. We started to get towards SharePoint sites as we got a little bit beyond
Andrew: enterprise loves sh Microsoft SharePoint.
Allie: Oh yes.
Andrew: And Microsoft of course loves Microsoft SharePoint. So give me an example of what you were coordinating and what the problem was is you felt it.
Allie: Sure. Well, you know, people sometimes laugh when I tell them that USA today ranks meeting planning and top five most stressful jobs every year, because you’ve got sort of ER, doctor and firefighter and police chief, and then you’ve got meeting planner and people are like, what, what is this? Like, that’s not a stressful job, but when you think about planning out an event, Think of the overload of data, you have all the people that want to speak all of their titles and abstracts all their bios that they want to change 10 million times all of your sponsors that need to submit all their company information and choose their boosts.
You have all of the assignments of where do things go on site and all of the marketing material that goes behind it. So there could be hundreds of thousands of emails that are traded almost daily. And back in the day with spreadsheets and email or an FTP site, there was no. Be working off of a document, someone else’s working off of a different version,
Allie: which then you have to double check all the work happening by your web designer to make sure that that information is accurate.
So they’re just, we were spending the majority of our time instead of upleveling to that strategic level that I was looking for, we were spending all of our time and the tactical back and forth and planning and managing a lot of the data around the event. And then sharing that out to ensure that the event to be successful.
Andrew: You know what, and in these situations, I’m tempted to say, why didn’t you use, but even if I could fast forward to today and say a Sonic exists, I can tell you Allie, why didn’t use a sauna. A sauna is going to still be a whole other nightmare. It will take on some of the tasks, but not the rest notion is a software that everyone’s excited about.
But even with notion. There is still a lot of building in it and it’s still doesn’t do what you’re looking for. Okay. So you said at some point you must have said, I need to create software. Were you thinking at first I need to create software for me, or I think I could create software for others.
Allie: Yeah, I looked at it and said, I really want to make my team more strategic. So what are the things that I could take off of them that allows them more time to be strategic? And so I wanted to build software that helped automate all of those processes around events to free them up from the manual, back and forth.
That required almost zero brain power. It was just having a single source of truth. Data. And so that was the first iteration was building the product for us internally on running some of these large tech conferences.
Andrew: so you’re in Seattle. You’ve got some Microsoft connection you end up talking with. Uh, I guess, can I give the person’s position at Microsoft who you talked to about software
Allie: Yeah. Well, I think that was part of the blessing of growing up within the Microsoft ecosystem was always feeling fully supported and being around some just amazing brainpower in terms of what was possible. That was right at the time when office was going through its entire digital transformation and, and talking about sort of productivity and how we bring productivity.
And so I was managing all of the Microsoft office events. So SharePoint link exchange Vizio back with Vizio as a thing. And so I just had a great group of people around me that were showing me what software had the capacity to be able to do. And so one of our board members now his name’s Chris Johnson, he originally was in the Microsoft SharePoint team.
And so as I was talking to him about this, this software that I wanted to build, he said, great, I know a lot. Let’s, uh, I’m going to leave and form a consulting company and I’ll build this first version of this for you. Way too much. You know, when you go from being a services CEO where you understand how to put events together, uh, and you go to being a software CEO that has no clue what waterfall versus agile means.
You end up saying, this is what I’m looking for in six months later. And lots of money later you go, what the hell is this? This is not what I wanted
Andrew: Cause waterfall is it, you should almost call it Domino’s because it’s one thing that has to happen to knock over the next domino, which is the next thing that gets spelled the next thing that gets built and so on. And you don’t see the finished product until the end. Agile is more, let’s go smaller. And each thing needs to stand on its own before building the next there’s no, not as many dependencies, right?
Allie: Yeah, exactly. And so it’s just a, it is a long build time without actually utilizing the software and making sure that it’s fitting the needs.
Andrew: And what did you need it to do? Or what did you ask for the first I have, by the way, the amount I’m not going to reveal it. Cause it seems like you wanted to keep private, but it is a lot of money for a bootstrapped entrepreneur when a hundred thousand dollars in debt to commit, what did you need the first version to do.
Allie: Yeah. I mean, when I was looking at the first version, we were managing these very complex texts of tech events. And so we needed to be able to manage all of our speakers and our sponsors, and then be able to feed that into a mobile app for people to utilize when they were onsite. Um, and you know, the money that we invested, I looked at it as an opportunity of having a very profitable services company and being able to build in this software.
And so I did end up putting about 3 million of my own capital into the company and the first couple of years of investing in our development of it and hiring a really small bootstrap team to go to market. But I think as we saw the product start to come to light and we utilize the product ourselves.
We realized how much value it was bringing us. It cut our work by two thirds. And so I saw this actually starting to take shape and to be an incredible value, not only to us, but also to the event in terms of how information was marketed and how we made the processes easier for everyone participating.
And so to me, as an entrepreneur, I said, Whoa, hold on. This is helping us so much. I should really go help all the rest of my friends in the industry to help them streamline their work as well. And that’s when I decided to take up the market.
Andrew: Yeah, I do wish that I had done that with Mixergy. There’s so many things that I created that then ended up being standalone businesses, like the ability to sell older episodes or to make it part of the membership. There are a lot of podcasters who are now understanding, give this whole thing away for free, but then there’s some part that I add onto it.
That’s paid and they’re looking for software. We had that software built like seven years ago. We could have done that. It probably isn’t too late to do it now, but that whole idea is. Is fascinating to me build for yourself because you know, you can use it and build and create a better company and grow your revenue.
And by the way, let’s think about bringing other people in so we can make money from the software and have their needs help make the software better, because maybe we didn’t think of something like maybe I didn’t think that’s something that I should have added to our paid program. Um, The first version though, when it was in waterfall, you know what, let me take a moment and then I’ll come back and ask you what it, what it built.
I’m going to tell you about a company that I think if we can go back in time, you would have wanted a hire. It’s called top tile. You go to top towel. You tell them what you need, and they hired either one developer or a team of developers. Who’ve already built something similar. In fact, let me ask you this, Allie, if you can go back in time and give yourself.
I’ll say to you here’s top tile. If you could go back in time and hire developers, right? What would you do? What are some of the questions, some of the things that you would do, right? Let’s give people advice within this commercial for top talent.
Allie: Yeah. Well, I think when you’re, when you have a product vision, um, you really need to ensure that the people that you’re hiring or are able to think strategically and not just tactically. So how is it that they build a product to a higher vision versus what’s immediately in front of them? So prioritization is a really big thing.
Andrew: You know what, in fact, I’m going to mention a competitor here. A lot of times when people say I’m not going to hire from top towel, I’m going to hire from Upwork. I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking, I know what I need. I just want someone who can inexpensively do what I want and what you’re realizing, having been in business now for years is no, I know the result or I know the vision.
I need somebody who can help me think beyond what I can think of.
Allie: absolutely. It’s the challenge, right? You want someone that’s going to come and say, Hey, I hear this is what you need, but I actually think there’s a better way to accomplish this. It would be more flexible. And so if you’re hiring someone to just be a yes person, you’re going to end up with exactly what you say versus if you hire talent that is actually educated and is able to challenge, you’re going to end up with a way better product.
Andrew: If you’re listening, just don’t hire from top town. They’re paying me to get you to go and hire from top towel. Go have a conversation with him for free. If you go to top towel.com/mixergy, you can hit one button, schedule a call, talk to one of their people and see if it’s a good fit. Talk to one of their developers.
See if you’d want to hire them or a team of developers if you want to hire them. And then if you decide to. You’ll get 80 hours of developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours, as long as you use my URL. In addition to a two week no risk trial period, two weeks, no risk only have to do is go to top isn’t top of your head, talent, talent, T O P T a l.com/m I X E R G Y.
Top towel.com/mixergy. Every time I say top town, people will think, I said top towel top, whatever. What I probably should do is. Before I introduce them, I should say top isn’t top of your head talent and talent. Because by the time I’ve said that maybe people already have it in their head pronounced differently.
Every little bit needs to be cared about every little bit needs to be paid attention to. All right. You decided that the first version would have what, when you were thinking through months in the future, waterfall was going to end up with you having what features, what functionality, what are we looking at?
Allie: I think prioritization of feature set is always one of the top challenges in inside a product. And so we had to really look and say out of everything that we want, what are the things that bring the greatest value? What are the features that will really help us move forward the most? And so it was a constant sort of reviewing of, um, What would serve our business needs and being able to prioritize those things.
And that’s a hard thing when you’re building a product because you want it all, you have this vision of what the end product looks like. And so you have to be really clear. And so for us, it was all around sort of automation of that content process. Um, so because it affected not only us, but also our speakers, which we wanted to keep very happy since there are a lot of the content that ends up happening at events.
And so that was our first focus was around the content
Andrew: To allow them to. So it would be a website I’m imagining for your conference, for your client’s conference with am I right?
Allie: Yeah, it would be. Um, if you were a speaker you could come and submit your topic, ideas and submit what you wanted to speak about. And then you would have a speaker portal to be able to come in and make whatever changes it was. To your title or to your abstract and be able to update your bio yourself.
So if you ended up getting a new certification or went to a new company or took a great new headshot that you had, all of those controls yourself, and then the value of that is that it could instantly be marketed on the website or in the mobile apps, whatever changes were happening with reflect real time and what we were marketing.
Andrew: And where are you going to create mobile apps for your clients?
Allie: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: the beginning, we need a mobile app for the client and we need a portal for the speakers to be able to edit and take control so that it’s not, you babysitting them and constantly running around and getting them to submit their stuff.
Andrew: Okay, got it. You created it. The first version I heard you I’ve been cursing on this podcast for years, but maybe I should call back. You basically said, what is this? And it was off. What did you do to fix it? Did you start from scratch? Did you take it on to, did you hire a developer? What did you do?
Allie: Yeah, I think it was, I would never repeat this again, but from the day we did sort of the product design to the day we had to have it in market. Uh, it was less than six months, so we didn’t have a lot of time because we were actually.
Andrew: set up, coming up. Okay.
Allie: Yep. And so I, you know, as we sort of got through the first version, it was, how do we use what we have and make it good enough so that we can actually get through this and then what are we going to tweak?
So just, you know, backlog of things. And so it was a lot around how do we get through the next month or the next two months sprint. But I think that taught me a lot in that first iteration to say, I really can’t outsource this. If I don’t have someone owning the process, having that more strategic vision and ensuring that we’re building for short and long-term.
And so that really led me to hiring one of our first employees, which is, um, has been my right hand throughout the company. And now my COO was to bring our development in house. And so that prompted me to then bring our development house. We got through that first sprint, did our first event and then brought everything in house so that we could start to think more strategically about what we were doing and how we were doing it.
Andrew: And said, so that meant having a developer who can go and adjust it, who you can start to build a rhythm with and learn how to request for things and also have them understand your, your approach. You then how developed, how involved was hub before you can go out and market it as ad, as market it as its own standalone software.
Allie: Yeah. We started talking to, um, you know, early adopt who built the product back in 2012. And, um, by the beginning of 2014, we used it, we tweaked it. We made a lot of changes within the product. And that’s really, when I said, Hey, I sorta want to bootstrap this and look at how we might be able to go to market.
And so it was outreach talking to people that I knew in the industry. Seeing if there would be interest, if so, what would, what would they need as a part of this product? Um, and so it was a lot of discovery. And how would we take this to market? And does it fit a need for people in the way that I think it does.
Andrew: What did you learn that you didn’t expect from those conversations?
Allie: You know, I, I had been, I spent my entire career in, in meetings and events in corporate. And so what I found is by going out to different industries or verticals that people had completely different nomenclature. So how I sold to them or how I would provide a value prop to them would be slightly different.
Um, some of the workflows were different. It taught me a lot about. Flexibility in software in terms of how you can build for optionality. So allow people control. Um, and so I think there was just a lot to be learned of getting outside of my bubble, that I had moaned my entire career and being able to look outside of that and learn from those in our community.
Andrew: Do you remember the first user and what the experience was for them?
Allie: I do. And it was a shit show.
Andrew: What happened?
Allie: You know, there’s a lot of things that I think when you build software for yourself, You sort of know all the bugs and you know how to work around things and you do sort of put up with it because it’s software you built. And so I think it was just a really big learning opportunity for me to realize that if someone was using this software and even if they had paid a reduced value for it, that they had certain expectations of what usability meant and what.
But the ability criteria would be. And so there was a lot of discovery through that first customer to understand what we needed to very quickly make changes to, in order to ensure that the rest of our customers didn’t have that same experience.
Andrew: okay. And you didn’t lose them. These are high, high value customers. Who, how did, how did you not get them to be so upset that they would never talk to you again?
Allie: No, I believe in transparency and authenticity. And there is a lot around when I sold to them, they were still using spreadsheets and email. There wasn’t a lot of competition in the market. And so it was. You know, you’re going to be our first customer. And they knew that they were our first customer. And through that process, I think anytime a customer is upset, what they’re saying is I want to be heard and I want to be valued.
And so as a part of that, I learned from them and I valued their input and I showed them how we were making changes. And I think a lot of relationships that we have in business are about showing forward momentum and showing that we care. And that’s been our approach with our customers is no one is ever perfect.
Obviously, we’ve learned a lot in six years, but we continue to grow. And a big piece of that is being open to receiving our customer feedback and showing them how we’re utilizing that to become a better company.
Andrew: did, at what point did you decide you were going to raise money?
Allie: Well, I’d been self-funding and dumped all my profits into getting this company off the ground. And in our first year in market, um, we ended up with just shy of a million dollars in revenue. And I saw that there was a massive opportunity for us to take this product to market. But when I looked at my available cash flow, we had had a year where it wasn’t as profitable as the year before.
And so I didn’t have a million dollars in put in. So I maybe had 20, 30,000 a month that I can put into growing the company. And I looked at that and said, man, I’ve spent years building this awesome product. I know it’s changing the industry. I know that there’s a huge need for this, but I don’t know how to fund it, but I had no idea what a cap table was.
I had no, you know, I’ve been a bootstrapped entrepreneur my entire life. Um, and so I started to just ask questions. What does it even look like to raise money? What’s venture capital what’s angel money? Like what does all of this mean? And how could I potentially find some people that would give me money to help me grow the company?
Andrew: How’d you find investors once you understand what it is. I know it was a tough process for you that somebody, well, how did you find the, the investors that you would go and talk to?
Allie: You know, it was a process. I mean, at first I asked my dad to call together some of his friends that I knew invested in companies and I did a pitch and then they would ask me a bunch of questions and I took that opportunity to say, Tell me, is there someone that you think might be interested in this or that could give me feedback?
Like, could you introduce me to five people is what I would ask the people that I’ve met. And I, my sister was very well connected in the venture capital world as well. She lived in San Francisco, so she ended up making some introductions. And so I took every person that I met with and pitched with and took it as an opportunity to learn.
What questions did they have? What didn’t make sense. And then utilizing their network to introduce me to five people that they thought might be beneficial, whether it’s how to pitch better, whether it’s they have product knowledge or industry knowledge, and a big piece of that was being able to ask the tough questions.
Like saying when I presented this slide, you had a lot of questions. How could I have presented this differently? That would have answered your questions ahead of time. And so it was this five by five by five, by five effect in terms of getting to know wide variety of people in a wide variety of industries and investment modalities, and being able to learn what that world may look like in the end, what ended up happening is I saw that there was an ad for the Seattle angel conference that someone had sent me and.
The deadline to apply was literally the next morning. And I was on a plane, but I saw it and I emailed them and I said, okay, if I get everything in, can I compete? And they said, well, sure, but there’s no way you’re going to get everything in before tomorrow. You should just wait six months. And I was like, well, you don’t know me.
I got my stuff organized. I’m going to submit. And so I ended up submitting. And that process also helped immensely because it took me through from needing to do a three minute pitch to needing, to do a 10 minute pitch and then a 32nd pitch. And you went through all these different rounds with all these people, grilling you all the time, making you think bigger and really helping you to understand what it meant to raise money.
And so we went on to win first place out of several hundred startups that had been competing. We ended up winning first place at the Seattle angel conference and then went on to compete at the bend venture conference and won first. Place there as well. And as a part of that ended up meeting a wide variety of angel groups here in the Northwest and ended up raising a little over three and a half million dollars to that process.
I’m sorry, you’re on mute.
Andrew: Thanks. You were aiming for more. Thanks. That’s so awkward. I try to do it so that I don’t say that my breathing doesn’t make it on Mike. Uh, but um, you were aiming to raise more from what I understand. You didn’t realize how much time this would suck up from you. And you’ve got two businesses that you’re running at the time.
And in addition to that, which is par for the course, you also had some. Some discrimination. Right? Some, what were you feeling when you were talking as a woman to investors?
Allie: Yeah. You know, that first round that we raised, it was here locally in the Northwest. Uh, Blew my mind in terms of the support and, and how things were managed. But as you look to raise additional capital, we were looking to raise another five to $10 million. Later on, we had taken that money. We had gotten to a break even standpoint.
We were deciding whether we wanted to bootstrap or continue to grow at a fast rate. And so as we look to take on a much larger round investment capital here in the Northwest is limited. And so I had to get outside of this bubble here in the Northwest and ended up doing a lot in San Francisco and the East coast and found a completely different world.
And I’ve always felt, um, an inclusive environment here in the Northwest, even growing up at Microsoft and the support that I was provided. And so I really had never faced discrimination until I started to raise real venture capital and look for larger dollars. And that time period, that was back in 2018.
And it was probably over the period of about three months where I met with overseas. Private equity and venture capital companies. I flew all around the country to meet with these people and the experiences that I had, I could not even believe that I had, I would sit in board rooms and people would say, Oh honey, you have a nice little lifestyle business when I’m outperforming every metric, or I would get offers that were 10% of what fair market value you know, was going for for startups and valuations.
And I would ask why here’s all my metrics. I’m hitting all of the success metrics that would typically generate a 10 X on, on revenue. Why am I not getting that? And the only response I would get is we’re just not comfortable. AKA, there isn’t a lot of money available to women and so take what you can get.
Andrew: is a software company. It’s not like you’re coming in with an events business that they’re, they may not be familiar with, but they’re not comfortable investing in. This is you having experience in the event space, having created software in the event space with your money, proving that there’s revenue in it.
And literally you’d get phrases like words like honey, from what I’ve seen.
Allie: Yes. And I had scaled the company to over $4 million. You know, the percentage of businesses that can scale to that, um, are very rare and especially on only raising three and a half million. And so it definitely was a challenge in terms of, um, feeling that discrimination and feeling sort of. In all the weight that you normally carry as an entrepreneur.
Am I good enough? Is this really not a good idea? Is it not worth investing in there becomes a lot of doubt as you visit all of these different companies that are all low-balling and all saying that, you know, the value isn’t there.
Andrew: Ari, our producer said that, uh, you told her this was a beat down for three months at the end of it, though. You raised, you, you grew your revenue, you built your business. COVID hit what happened to your business after COVID.
Allie: Yeah. You know, COVID has, um, been an experience unlike anything else. You know, when I bought dynamic events, my agency, it was just a couple of years prior to the 2008, 2009 crash. And thinking about meeting to scale through that. Everyone always asks how your business is. Recession proof. No one asked, ever asked me how my business was pandemic proof, and those are two totally different things with COVID.
Our entire industry and events has completely fallen apart. 70% of meetings, uh, industry providers are out of work currently. And so we saw this coming in February where, you know, some of our clients and some of the industry, large giants, like mobile world Congress canceled their events. And I started to hear how Microsoft was going to cancel for the next 18 months.
And there was a lot happening and business basically froze for 60 days. There was literally no contracts coming in. There was no renewals happening. No one knew what was going to go on in the events world. And so I looked at that as an opportunity and. My COO and I went on a walk and he said, I think we should pivot to virtual.
Like we’ve got the product set to be able to do it. And it’s never been the focus, but I really think we should pivot. And I said, well, hold on, what indicators are we going to have that will tell us that this is the right pivot. Uh, but we did, we pivoted really quickly. And what we did is we took care of our industry and the process.
We thought everything start to change. We saw all of these people start to become so stressed out about keeping their jobs about the new skill set that was required and transitioning to virtual events. And so the very first thing we did as a company was we decided to host an event or the meetings industry to teach people what virtual events could look like.
Not nineties video games, which is everyone’s vision of virtual. But to throw an event where they can get hands-on and get tactical skill sets and learning and to build community. And for me, it was an opportunity to go back to my roots of planning events and being able to bring that business value. And so over six weeks I decided to have the event.
And then six weeks later, we had the event and we ended up with over 5,000 meeting planners from 60 different countries that all were able to get their hands on and gain skill set that has helped them in their career transitions.
Andrew: And the observation was that they too were feeling the pressure. Maybe even more than you. And they were eager to try something new because of that, that when there’s pain there’s opportunity. Okay. What’s diff what do you, what are you bringing in what’s that makes a virtual event better than just a big zoom room.
Allie: Yeah. You know, when you think about meetings and events, there’s, there is absolutely a place for zoom where you’ve got a single conversation happening it’s over an hour or a couple of hours. But when you think about what we’re trying to replace. We’re trying to recreate an experience. When you think about these events that people would invest time and money to go to it.
Wasn’t just, I’m sitting on zoom the same as I am. I’m doing every day. It’s there’s an experience element. There’s a human connection
Andrew: For me, it’s the scotch night at the event, in my room. Right. It’s the running into someone on the line to get coffee. Okay.
Allie: exactly. And so hubs platform, because of what we’ve done and events over the years, we’ve always been supporting customers that had these really large events where there may not be enough room inside of the breakout room because there’s thousands of people wanting to see that session, but only 500 people can fit in the room.
And so we’ve always had tools. Bringing sort of remote experiences into the events experience because they might be in the lobby or back in their hotel room, but still needing to connect and engage. And so, as we think about the new world of virtual events, it really is about creating those connection points.
How do we create a platform that gives a sense of brand and a sense of experience where you actually want to explore? How do we give recommendations to people? Our entire world is changing in terms of. How we shop, how we work out. Think of all of the digital revolution that’s happening. Events are the exact same.
How do we get recommendations of who we should meet with? And then maybe small group discussion topics that people can participate in to have that water cooler
Andrew: Is that the answer to pick the right people and get them into a water cooler moment via video.
Allie: I think there is going to be a lot of change in our industry. If you look at where a lot of the money is going right now, and, and the valuations that are being spent, there’s a lot being put into VR, AR XR, and there is so much to be said about. Human connection is not just an events problem. It’s a world problem right now.
And mental health is becoming an issue. People need to feel connected. And so I don’t think that the answer is purely just putting people into a video gram. I think that might be a short term solution, but longer term. I think there’s more meaningful experiences to be had and there’s ways of crafting experiences, even when you are in a room to make it more meaningful.
And so there’s.
Andrew: what’s, what’s one specific thing.
Allie: Yeah. One of the things that we did as a part of the untethered event that I was talking about was that everyone introduced themselves with their word of inspiration. So my word of inspiration was hustle. And because regardless of whether it working the denim Jean while old Navy, or whether I’m running the hub as a fast growing software company, hustle has always been my word.
And so we brought people together. To do storytelling and to share their word of inspiration. What ended up happening was we had a moderator and that moderator kickoff and introduce, they would interview me and say, Hey Allie, what’s your word of inspiration? I’d share my word of inspiration. And while that was happening, we had a visual artist drawing the words of inspiration and what it meant to those people.
And then I would pick someone else that was in the room and they would share their word of inspiration. I’d ask them some questions and it was this constant evolving of storytelling and of. Positivity and grace through adversity that ended up being incredibly meaningful to people where they left feeling empowered.
Like they could do that. There are tough things. And so there’s a lot around experiential design, as we think about events that can actually still pull on the heartstrings that can connect people in a really meaningful way. We just have to be very intentional with the design.
Andrew: I interviewed the founder of hungry. They, their whole business was getting, getting catered lunches to offices by top chefs. And when that one office is shut down, he decided what he was going to do was. Send ingredients for food to his clients, employees, and then have them all on zoom with the chef cooking.
This whole experiential thing on, on a video platform is really interesting to me. I see how you’re doing it. Facilitator clear outline of like what you’re doing and then somebody doing something different than just sitting there. So you had the person who was drawing out their inspirational word overall.
What’s revenue like now, compared to what it was before, as a percentage,
Allie: Yeah. We’ll have 500% growth this year.
Andrew: 500 wait, five X growth going to virtual events.
Andrew: And you were doing, you were doing over, you’re doing about 5 million before, right? Wow. We, I was ready for you to say, okay, we didn’t lose that much. Five X from virtual wide because more people want to do virtual events and now they need software for it.
Allie: Exactly the entire world has to do virtual events now. And hub is unique in our industry in terms of being able to create a sense of brand and a sense of place. You know, when you have a virtual event and your event looks exactly the same as your competitors, that was two weeks prior that doesn’t do anything to help build brand or help to. Create a sense of place. And so our platform is incredibly flexible that when people log in, they might be in a research lab in the UK where people normally were, or they might be on the green yeah. Field, um, at Miraval and then be experiencing these unique experiences. So they actually feel immersed in an experience.
But then allows them to be able to consume and learn and the way that they find best, whether it’s on demand content, it’s interactive content, whether it’s experiential with some of the food type things that you were talking about, whether it’s facilitating human connection and meetings. There is so much around being able to still obtain the business goals and objectives because events have always been such a large part of the marketing portfolio and that’s never stopped.
We stopped doing events. We stopped lead gen, which means we stopped sales, which means business goes down. And so events have to continually invest to ensure that lead gen is up.
Andrew: So this is going to be an ongoing part of your business. I see it’s embedded into your site right now. It’s embedded into your product. So post COVID, this continues. I’m going to suggest that post COVID. The other thing that’s going to happen is more conferences than before. Assuming not deep economic recession.
The reason is there are going to be more companies that go remote, and if they’re going remote, they need more organization for getting people together. And this becomes the replacement for the office or the replacing for the in person part of the office. Right.
Allie: Absolutely. And think of the power of data. I mean, data surpass oil in terms of value. And so now, as we think about the value of data and events, what if you could look across your entire marketing portfolio of events and be able to say, Hey, you know, mixer G. They attended all of our events. These are the products they’re most interested in.
These are the community groups that are most active and here’s the topics that really interest them. I now have data to be able to year-round market more efficiently and close business faster because of the data we have on how they participated across our events.
Andrew: Right. So you get more value for the in-person more now this whole new thing, which is the, the virtual event. This is phenomenal. All right. The website is it’s hub.me. Am I right? H U B B dot M E U. You started out with enterprise only. You’ve gone down to SMB. Am I right as clients?
Allie: we definitely focus on the higher end of the market. So if you have a really complex meeting and event, or you’ve got thousands of attendees, we really focus on the upper end because we’re all about creating that brand experience and helping automate the complexity.
Andrew: All right. Thank you so much for being here. Everyone go check out hub. hubb.me. A lot of people go with.co. I could see why you’d go without me. It’s all about like this person that you’re connecting with. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. If you’re listening to me, right? You haven’t launched your website.
Go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And if you did it launch it, do what I did. I took my website over to HostGator and then reduce my price, kept the site up and nobody noticed hostgator.com/mixergy for the best price available. And if you need to hire a developer, go to top as in top of your head, how is it?
Talent, T O P T l.com/m I N E R G Y. Alli. Thanks so much for being here,
Allie: Chatting today.
Andrew: Tammy. You’re good. Thanks. Bye everyone.