Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I’ve intentionally decided not to do heavy-handed economic and virus podcast episodes, even though I see that that’s what leads to a lot of downloads. It’s just not me. It’s just doesn’t feel like the thing that the world needs another piece of. But I have noticed that when I see that some businesses are doing well despite the difficult times, I feel that there’s a sense of hope for my business, and it drives me to do better work.
And so I went on Twitter and I said, “Hey, who’s doing better? Who did better in March than they did before?” And I got some answers. I got actually a lot of answers frankly. March is when the coronavirus really became a big issue in the U.S. and the stock market took that big hit. And I got a bunch of responses.
Many of them were in private DMs from people who said, “I just don’t feel comfortable saying because I don’t want to look like I’m bragging.” And my response to them was, “Okay, I’m not going to allow you to do this because I don’t want you to feel that there’s any pressure from what I’m about to say. But you should know that when you tell people you’re doing well, it actually doesn’t . . . it’s not bragging unless you do it in a braggy way. It’s encouraging.”
And a little bit of encouragement, believe it or not, does help, especially when we’ve got so much discouragement coming at us everywhere. So one of those people is an old friend of mine, Kurty D, who said, “Hey, you know what? I’m working at a company right now that helps businesses hire and they’re doing well now.” I’m going to try to like phrase things in are not so sensationalistic excited, everything’s going great way, but he said, “Look, the company is doing well.”
And so I said, “Would you please introduce me to your founder?” And he said, “Sure.” He made the introduction and we made this interview happen. The person you’re about to meet is Nick Cromydas. He is the founder of Hunt Club. It’s a new category of talent company that leverages technology and expert networks to find your next hire.
As you can probably guess, I totally just typed out exactly the way that he wanted me to describe the company. They’ve got an interesting way of finding people based on the people who are connected to them. I know that that seems a little bit ambiguous, so we’ll describe it in a moment. But first, I should say this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies.
The first will help you launch and grow your business. It’s called HostGator. Host your website with them at hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second, if you’re growing your business, if you’re looking to get leads, you should check out ClickFunnels. I’ve been with them for a long time, and I highly recommend you check them out.
Nick, you help . . . First of all, thanks for being here.
Nick: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it, Andrew. Big fan.
Andrew: Thank you. You help companies hire. Who’s hiring when the market is so uncertain?
Nick: Yeah. There are a lot of different pockets acting in a lot of different ways right now. So I think the trend lines that we’ve seen Andrew is really companies that have just recently capitalized their businesses in the tech sector. So venture-backed, that still have critical leadership hires that sometimes take 45, 90, 180 days to actually get done. They haven’t slowed that process down at all.
Some of them tried to be pretty thoughtful about the timing and the cadence of how the macro world impacts their business. And should we pull the trigger on this hire right now? But I think most of the senior roles that we have not slowed down. We’re actually seeing them accelerate because people know that they need to get these positions in place, regardless of what happens the next three to six months for it to be critical for the business.
So I think companies that have had raised and closed rounds recently that are looking to accelerate their leadership teams. We’re seeing quite a bit of still tech hiring. So companies that have closed financing that are looking to accelerate their product and dev teams to hit the roadmap requirements.
And so I think . . . and those that have been insulated by either having a well-performing business over the years or big enough war chest to go through and withstand some of the questions in the fog right now we’re seeing hold pretty strong. So it’s for someone . . .
Andrew: You gave me a couple of examples that I thought were helpful before. The first one was you said telehealth companies. Do you have a couple of telehealth companies? More? How many . . . ? These are people who are doing what my doctor is going to be doing with me tomorrow. I had an appointment with a doctor to check out my lungs. And they said, “Well, you can’t come in anymore. But why don’t you just do it remote?” And I said, “You guys do remote? That’s pretty cool.”
I work with One Medical. They’ve been doing this forever. I didn’t realize that UCSF here in San Francisco does it too. So telehealth companies are working with you. Are we talking about one, two, more?
Nick: Yeah, we have a couple right now. So we’ve got about three or four that we’re partnering with to figure out how to get them great talent in this moment because their businesses are exploding. Everyone’s coming to them. They’ve got more demand than they know what to do with. And so they’re really having a bandwidth problem.
Andrew: The other one I did a little bit of research on, not much, but from what I can tell they are a cloud -computing company that helps bigger businesses automate. And so I’m imagining they’re expecting to grow because they’re reducing costs through automation for enterprise.
Nick: Yeah, the whole robotic automation or workflow automation space is scaling like crazy. You look at like automation anywhere I think it’s the highest value private company from multiple perspectives or something like that. So people that are playing in that space that help take certain tasks that you can either create more accuracy on or help reduce the amount of man-hours on in certain projects we’re seeing grow quite a bit in this moment.
Andrew: I have to tell you, one of the things that happened to me before this interview started was, I got distracted. I wanted to see what Cuomo was doing, the governor of New York. And I started to then go down a mental rabbit hole. And thankfully some alert went off and reminded me, no, stay back on focus and make sure you research Hunt Club. You go through that too?
Nick: Yeah, constantly.
Andrew: How do you bring it . . . what’s your distraction? And then how do you bring yourself back to focus when you’ve got so many people counting on you?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s just being in the moment and understanding that you have to focus. And I think it’s just picking and prioritizing what you need to get done and focusing on that is kind of helping pass the moment as we’re all figuring out how to get through this fog. I think it’s . . . I’m a big believer when things are most ambiguous and we don’t know where the direction is, that’s when you need to be sharpest in what your priorities are, sharpest in what the team’s objectives are, and then maintain that focus and help cascade it to every part of the org.
So I think it’s just about in these moments where we don’t know what’s going to happen.
Andrew: You be a little more vulnerable and a little more specific by giving me an incident where you were distracted to and went to a bad place and what you did to bring yourself back?
Nick: Yeah, totally. So we’re in the process of closing round of financing for our business, and we’ve had a couple of different parties at the table with term sheets. And over the course the last week and a half we’ve had one or two pull out. And so deeply distracting in the moment. And especially one group I was kind of excited to work with too, as well. So, you know, I think this is causing a huge posture.
And so we’ve got other parties at the table and other groups that were excited to work with. But it’s been hard pivoting our kind of entire business strategy to some degree in the last 90 days so that we can focusing on capturing this moment while making sure that our company . . . we’re still small. We’re about 80 people, but feel motivated, inspired and know that the work that we’re doing as a leadership team will protect their futures and keep them active and excited and engaged.
And I think also making sure that the strategy that we lined up is able to capture the moment in a way that will add value and create joy for our customer.
Andrew: What do you mean by capture the moment?
Nick: Yeah, so a lot of our team on the recruiting side is growing quite a bit and we’re getting quite a bit of demand on the telehealth side. But there’s still pockets where is contracting and shrinking. So, in those moments, what we’re actually doing is repurposing them to focus on how can they help candidates that have gotten laid off figure out what’s next?
How can we use our unique expert model to help connect the dots with other mentors or other founders that have been through downturns to help our customers understand how to prepare and scenario plan?
Andrew: And then are they going to pay you for this? Is this going to be a service that you start to offer? No.
Andrew: It’s you saying, “Look, we’ve got people here. Let’s see if we can put them to work doing something and we believe that in the long run it’s going to pay off.”
Nick: Totally. And I think they’re uniquely given that most of our services team job is to take conversations like this all day every day. It’s they’re uniquely equipped to actually prepare and consult people on how to handle and how to position themselves. So it’s how do we create value and joy in a moment where a lot of people are scared and negative and/or maybe a little pessimistic.
And I think our team is creating a lot of good energy in the business. It’s getting a lot of great inertia around the concept of like, let’s do what we can in this moment where we can help and throw the business model aside at the moment.
Andrew: Okay, and so what about the impact on your business? If you’re paying people to do work that doesn’t pay now, what happens to your company?
Nick: Yeah, so great question. We’re in the same position as everybody else. We’re scenario planning and upside, downside mid-case. So what we’ve seen is our demands, although we’re not necessarily acquiring as many customers net new at the moment, our existing customers that fit one of the profiles that I mentioned, so either in healthcare and we’d happen to do a lot in healthcare or in some sort of software that’s an enabler from a cost perspective aren’t contracting that much from a demand perspective.
So I think we’re kind of in this fortunate position where we’re capitalized well enough, we have enough diversity from a customer perspective and we have enough I think, fresh ideas from the team that in moments where there isn’t a lot of work to be done we’re going to repurpose them to create awesome value for candidates and customers. And then for other customers, for other folks in our team, they’re full helping with searches and helping them land great talent.
Andrew: So that brings me then back to your model. The reason you’re able to help your candidates, the people that you’ve placed to jobs before, the people that you’re hoping to place to jobs in the future, you’re able to find them the right mentors is because you have a unique way of figuring out who’s connected to whom and who could make the right introductions to the perfect person.
And so I think the best way to explain that is to bring up something that I said to you before we got started, which is if theoretically, I were to be part of your network as what’s the role that we talked about?
Andrew: As an expert. Okay, this is the way it works. The first thing that I would do is give you access to my Gmail account, not so you could read all my email. Though I’d have to trust you not read.
Nick: I would love to see . . . No, I’m kidding.
Andrew: But what you want to do is see who does Andrew know. So if Andrew is an expert in, say CEOs of tech companies, you want to know what through my Gmail? And what else would you need for me to . . . ? Let’s understand the model through using me as an example.
Nick: Yeah, so Andrew and Nick got to know each other. Andrew constantly helps people find jobs and opportunities or connects the dots as a super-connector. So he signs up on Hunt Club. He drops is both an export of his LinkedIn contacts and his Gmail network. What our technology does is it looks at that network and then helps build the strength of relationship score based on how well does Andrew actually know Nick or other people in his network.
And so when we have that kind of score articulated, what we do next is trying when we have a customer that’s looking for a great CEO, let’s just say it’s $1 billion tech company in the Valley, my gut says that Andrew knows quite a few people. So we’ll build using our tech the list of candidates the best 50, 70, 100 perfect bull’s eye matches for that role.
And then we’ll actually build a seamless way to push those suggestions out to Andrew. So that he can really quickly say, “Yeah, I love Josh. But you know, Josh wouldn’t be a great fit but Susie, Susie’s incredible and she’s awesome CEO.”
Andrew: But you wouldn’t send me your whole list of ideal candidates. You would just check out my connections and say, you know what? It looks like Andrew knows these five people really well. He’s been messaging with them. We don’t know why. It might be that he’s playing poker with them all the time. It might be that he’s doing work with them. It might just be random back and forth. But we’ll send it to him and he could figure out do I know them well enough to make an introduction.
And if I do know them well enough to make the introduction, I think you guys would then pay me as the expert for making the introduction. And then pay me as an expert if you place that person that I introduced you to, right?
Nick: 100% correct. And I think the really cool thing we do too, is we give you a two-way chat with our services team. So you can ask questions about the role, dig in and make sure it’s a great fit for your network. So we incentivize if your referral gets an interview, we incentivize if they get a job. You can donate that referral to charity, you can do whatever you want with it. It’s our way of paying it forward to those that are participating in our network.
Andrew: Got it. That’s the way that your model works. And so the same model could also say, you know what? We did place somebody at a high level of Dropbox, let’s say. They’re running a product at Dropbox, not the whole company, but they’re leading, I don’t know, what do they have paper.
Let’s say they also have a pencil department too that they just launched, the person’s leading it. They need to know how to launch it in a tough situation. You might say, “Well, one of our ideal people is say, Eric Ries. He wrote the lean startup. He understands this. We don’t know Eric Ries. Let’s check Andrew’s network.” It turns out Andrew maybe emailed Eric five times a day for the last two years.
We can ask Andrew, “Would you make an introduction to Eric?” This is not a paid introduction, but it’ll help somebody over here. He’ll help everyone if you want, if you’re willing to do it, let’s go for it.” That’s the model.
Nick: Yeah. Exactly. It’s going to be hard to get him on the Long-Term Stock Exchange, but other than that, that’s the model. We try and give Andrew the ability to help his network get great opportunities and roles and make it as seamless as possible for you to do that, and will reward you when it happens, and that’s it.
Andrew: The Long-Term Stock Exchange is his new thing that he’s trying to create. I feel like he’s doing that. And at the same time on the side trying to save the world, every few days that . . . every big crisis I would say, Eric Ries is out there creating something.
The latest one that was incredibly helpful. I wish I could remember the name of the site, but he created a site to help parents who have stay at home kids. And it was just a list of resources and a place to call other parents and stuff like that. And I found a great resource in there. There was just one app . . . I got to get this freaking out. Anyone who has a kid and do you have kids?
Nick: Yeah. I’ve got a newborn now. So in this period, she’s like four months old. So she’s still you put her in the baby balancer for a bit and I can get a couple of hours of work done. But I’m quite still . . .
Andrew: Oh, really?
Nick: The parents in our company right now it is hard, hard moment where they’re trying to figure out how to balance life and work and I’m trying to do my best to figure out how to support them in this moment. But there’s a total level of empathy and compassion for how hard it is to balance those things.
And as a new dad for the first time, you sort of have a totally different perspective on it. But hopefully, it’s making me a better founder and leader to the folks in our company. But it’s not hard . . . So it’s probably the hardest challenge we have right now.
Nick: Everything else is how to keep our parents in our company in this moment feeling positive, happy, sane, and still have enough emotional energy to be able to contribute to their job on a daily basis.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s really hard when the kids keep asking you for attention when they’re also going through their stressed because they don’t know what’s going on. Why can’t I play with my friends? For example, “Why can I go outside and play in the playground?” All that stuff. The app that he suggested, and I should get his site, it’s called Together.
It’s great because my kids’ grandmother can talk to my kids. They see each other’s faces, talk to each other, and then they could bring up a book that my kid’s reading and he can read it and show her and she can help her money stuck on words. She can read him the longer books. They could play games together like the memory game and Connect Four, probably like a knockoff of Connect Four. Let me see.
Oh, yeah, it’s actually called Connect Four. So it’s a bunch of different things like that. Let me take a moment talk about my first sponsor, and then we’ll get back into the story. And I want to understand how you came up with this? There’s this weird hole in your background that I can’t understand.
Nick: Yeah, right.
Andrew: The first sponsor is a company called HostGator. And listen up, you see that there’s a big problem going on right now. There are a lot of parents who don’t know what the hell could . . . Can I say hell on an ad for HostGator? Probably not but let’s see. What the heck? I’ve got to maintain my advertisers in a tough situation.
You understand that parents don’t know what the heck to do with their kids right now when the kids are at home. This is an incredible opportunity for someone who’s saying you know what? I want to get my mind off of things. I have a little bit of mental space or I could use a project to give me something to focus on other than what’s going on in the world around me.
I’m going to put together a resource of how to teach your kids at home, or I’m going to put together a different blog post on every little project that you can do for a kid. Pick an age group, five-year-old to six-year-olds, first graders, whatever it is, parents who are at home with babies, whatever it is, and then just research the heck . . . See, I’m watching myself.
Research the heck out of it, find a couple of projects and make it the place to go for parents on a daily basis to find it. There’s this author Mo Willems. He’s written a bunch of kid books. He is fantastic. Every day he’s creating a new video on his website for kids to help them draw like him.
And he’ll talk to them. He’ll tell them to hit “pause” and go draw. And so I’m watching my kid on the floor drawing it. He is using this as an opportunity to help families and connect with kids. I’m now researching the heck at more Mo Willems books that I can get. Now, is he doing this just for that? No, but it’s a nice service for people and there is a nice upside for him.
If you’re out there listening to me, whether it’s this idea or anything else, help people. Right now the fact that there’s so many people who are in need means that there is an opportunity for you to create something. Don’t worry about capitalizing on it, the benefits will come to you. But do see this as an opportunity for you to take your mind off what’s going on around the world today.
And instead of focusing on what’s not working out, find a way to help things to help people. This is what we as entrepreneurs always do. We look for pain in the world and we try to solve it, we try to address it. This world of pain that we’re all in means that there’s also a world of . . . I was going to say opportunity. I’m going to say responsibility for entrepreneurs to jump in and help.
Go to gostgator.com/mixergy. You’ll get you know what? I used to have to say, “Uh, who cares? It’s just, it’s already a low price for hosting. It’s going to be a few cents lower.” Now we care, right? So go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And yes, you will get a super low price on already low hosting. HostGator thank you so much for sponsoring. I said heck. Please keep sponsoring.
Nick: You caught that twice. It’s great. You’re going to [inaudible 00:19:00] sponsors. You’re not losing one today, not on my watch.
Andrew: Right. And I can no longer say that I’m a New Yorker. And I live in California, in San Francisco, and I call myself in New Yorker. By saying, “Heck” you’re officially out. Cuomo will not allow you in. Forget Cuomo, no New Yorker will let you in. Heck.
So look at this. I tried to research you. Dude, you speak great. So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be out there talking much. But I don’t see that much on you on the internet, though I think you’ve done a couple of interviews. I looked at your LinkedIn profile. I saw that you were before this just like a KPMG associate.
And then, suddenly a year later, you became a venture capitalist. And then what was it? A year after that you co-founded Hunt Club. Where does the money come from, for example, to jump from being an associate at KPMG to creating what is this? New Coast Ventures which invests in what do you call the most entrepreneurial companies in the world. Where did the money come from?
Nick: So before you missed one spot. Before the KPMG tour of duty, I was a women’s tennis coach at Northwestern University. So I graduated in 2009 at the height of those issues in the economy. And next thing you know why I couldn’t get a job. I wanted to be a strategy consultant. I didn’t apply online or I didn’t go through any of the on-campus recruiting, so I couldn’t get a job.
And what I was, was a professional tennis player for one week, and then I played in college at Vanderbilt. So I had a skill so I applied that to make some money in a period as Northwestern women’s coach. So it’s important because that even makes the dots connect west. So I wanted to make sure that I brought that up.
Andrew: Yeah, because now I’m even more confused because you did this for a little . . . No, you did this for about 10 months.
Andrew: Women’s coaching, right?
Andrew: And then it looks like there was also a big period of about a year with no work, is that right?
Andrew: You were just unemployed for a year?
Nick: Well, teaching. Well, that’s where the story actually began. So that’s where we should start. So I’ll walk you through the career up a bit. So I coached tennis for a year. And I did that. And while I was doing that I had my CTO today, Scott and my business partner across New Coast and Hunt Club, him and I were always building different software products.
So he’s a computer science guy from Vanderbilt. And he went over to Intuit and their software development program for a few years before I convinced him to move back to Chicago in the winter, which was a hard feat, Andrew. So I couldn’t get a job in 2009. I was begging and borrowing and stealing, trying to get anybody to help me get an interview that I could.
So I ended up getting a job at Northwestern as the women’s tennis coach, and I loved it. But during that period Scott and I had this idea that we should be building software to help college athlete alums find other alums to talk to them about life after sports.
And so Scott and I actually built a platform called Athliance. We got two customers, Northwestern University, which wasn’t that hard, and then Vanderbilt University, which, I was an athletic alum. And they’re paying us some meaningless amount of money a month. It was $25 or $50 a month. But that was like the start and where I got the bug. So Scott and I built a product, visualized the product, launched it and got two paying customers. And then I use that experience to convince KPMG to give an old tennis coach job as an associate in their strategy tech practice.
So it was kind of like a backwards way in where I was able to say, “Hey, I understand technology. I’m entrepreneurial. I’ve built something before.” I had some practical business experience, not just a good backhand volley so give me a chance?
Andrew: Let me just underline that. That is an unbelievable thing that we always overlook as entrepreneurs that the fact that we created something, even if it didn’t work out, does give us a set of skills and a set of, I was going to say a set of guts, but it shows that we’ve gotten some sense and guts, and it’s valuable. And it’s interesting to see that that’s what got you into KPMG.
Nick: Yeah. So in a moment where no one was actually hiring all that much, I was able to finally get a job and consulting but the problem with that was I got the bug. I loved the experience I had building what was called Athliance at the time.
Andrew: It’s called F Liance?
Nick: You’re good at the interwebs, Andrew, but you’re not going to be able to find anything on that I think. Unless you can go back into the when we filed for whatever the LLC was?
Andrew: It’s not American Freedom Alliance?
Nick: No, Ath. Yeah, there’s nothing on the interwebs. It’s been scrubbed. No, I’m kidding. But we built our business and got a job out of it. And then I got the bug from there. So at KPMG, I was there for about two years. Loved my team, loved learning the work we’re doing. Did a bunch of product development work and almost staff augmentation for large companies that were building software products and sort of got some baseline product management chops there.
But always had an idea to want to go out and build something after. So, Scott, basically two years into KPMG, I convinced my co-founder Scott who is at Intuit living in San Diego, great apartment like a block from the beach like this awesome life where he was coding for six to seven hours a day, but then surfing, and convinced him to move back to Chicago in February to build a photo-sharing app called Motlee with me seven or eight years ago.
And so we thought it’d be a great idea to aggregate all of one’s moments at a party out doing something with friends or family at birthday parties into like one album. So basically albums group photo feature. And that was the kickstart of most of this stuff. So we built one app. We scaled to the 30,000 users. We got to pitch everybody in the Valley, but no one wrote us a check.
So we piggybacked that experience into getting . . . ever heard of the Brandery in Cincinnati?
Nick: It’s an accelerator program there. So interesting with accelerator program that basically take a CPG focus where if you can build a great brand, you can distinguish yourself in a moment where a lot of tech companies are generally the same and not really good at differentiating.
And so we used that experience to basically give us a platform to start New Coast, and then use that to start Hunt Club. So kind of where the money came from was, I was really lucky that I had a couple of friends from tennis, and from kind of a different life in tennis and were really excited about hearing all the buzz of Instagram getting acquired for $1 billion and what was really going on in the tech community.
And then I’d spent the last two years building software going through this program, pitching a lot of East and West Coast VCs, and building a lot of great relationships. So, in the moment, I just kind of asked, “Hey, we should consider investing into these companies. And do you want me to pick them and would you support them?” And that’s how it started.
And so the whole idea of New Coasts was, we’d be a venture studio. We’d invest in 30 to 40 businesses, and seed series A, first round of financing, really entrepreneurial friendly having dealt and failed a business or two beforehand, and getting to meet a lot of different folks. I felt there’s a gap in the Midwest for those that could be founder first, and then through that landed on Hunt Club.
Andrew: One of the companies that you invested in is Hipcamp. I didn’t realize they’ve been around for about five years.
Nick: Yeah, we invested in 2014.
Andrew: Wow, I’m, I’m really looking forward to getting to use them this summer. It is such a pain to find camping sites. And especially now I don’t want to go to a hotel. I just, I’m not in that mode. And I discovered camping last year. And it turns out I actually like it and I’m not bad at it. So I want to do more of it. But it hard to find campsites. It’s not like . . . I always thought you just have a tent and you just go pitch it wherever you want. Maybe it’s because we’re in the Bay Area, but you can’t.
Nick: No, you can’t. And her business, Alyssa, their CEOs business is fascinating. So she built her business based on the thesis that essentially I think it was in ’14 for the first time, I think it was called the Open Land Act, where initially in order to win API access to put actual campgrounds and campsites on a website or an application, you actually had to bid with the government to get that listing or that access that API. Obama opened it up and she’s like, “Well, the people that are doing this have a terrible UI. Let me build a business based on a better UI.” And then she’s done a remarkable job finding a new market in and aggregating private land and really cool, thoughtful locations that you can never get to see if it wasn’t for applications or for apps.
Andrew: I didn’t I realized that she was working on government land too. So, when you invested, you were investing in a better search engine for government land to pitch a tent on?
Nick: Government campground.
Andrew: Wow. To me, the exciting part is, as I go through it, and you’re right. The government campground searches online are just annoying.
Nick: It’s actually a good business.
Andrew: Is it, for the government?
Nick: Yeah. So Active, which is a big Visa Equity-backed business, basically . . .
Nick: Yeah. Active Network had a monopoly on it. I mean we invested in that business based on a list of her passion for the outdoors and bringing people together, and the experiences you can create is remarkable. So once we heard about like a clever marketplace with a new kind of set of supply that most people weren’t looking at, I was like, “All right, in.” But it was a bet on her.
Andrew: I wouldn’t have thought. To me, the problem with San Francisco is that with hunting for things like campgrounds in San Francisco as a type-A personality, dude, you should see the setups that people have to go and lock in the campgrounds months in advance because they’re type-A personalities, they lock everything months in advance, and to outcompete everyone else like especially people like me, who are just dabblers and say, “Am I curious? Where do I want to go? Do I even care about this?” It’s painful.
What I like about her site is that she also makes people’s not backyards available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in there. But it’s like random stuff like we have a winery, we have extra space. We have porta potty because people use it during the day anyway. Feel free to come in here. Here’s what we can offer you beyond the land, and go with God, enjoy yourself. It’s like, “Wow, I get to do that? That’s all I’m looking for.” Let’s not overcomplicate it.
Nick: In a world of social distancing, being an open area of land and getting to spend quality time with loved ones and friends and family is a great opportunity.
Andrew: I didn’t think of that. That’s going to be fantastic. I do have this almost shame about saying that’s going to be fantastic about anything in such a tough environment. But that’s something that I have to lose. We cannot get into a situation where we both want to stay above water and do well as a people, and then at the same time go, “Can’t believe he’s doing well or she’s doing well. This is terrible, right? Like, why should you thrive right now?”
Nick: It’s a hard place to be. And I think those that are doing well feel bad about it. Those that are doing poorly feel bad about it, and it’s like it’s just an odd psyche at the moment. But I think like, I’m trying to tell our team like positivity. Let’s figure out how to help, help first, help our customers in any way we can. And figure out how to stay afloat and get through this in the best possible way. Work with customers that need us in this moment.
And we’ve actually launched a really cool campaign, Andrew, where it’s if your company is trying to help against anything regarding coronavirus, we’re actually taking a portion of our search fee and donating to a charity or to a group or their choice in this moment so that we can kind of help do our part to combat it.
Andrew: That’s another thing, by the way, that people are not comfortable talking about out loud. I’ve noticed that on Twitter, people are condemning people, companies that are doing well. For example, companies are donating face masks. And I see people going, “Well, why these guys hoarding face masks?”
And truthfully, I totally get it. I just don’t get the anger towards it. Here’s why I get it. A few days ago, my wife needed to drive into the office. I go, “Baby, why are you going in the office?” She’s goes, “Do we have gloves? Do we have anything?” Because we have . . . I wipe poopy diapers a lot. I needed gloves to wipe them, but it goes with the diapers. So I have some of those. Those I didn’t even think, can we donate? I think because of the way that we’ve kept them around the house they’re probably not appropriate to donate.
But I did give it to Olivia. Say if you’re going into your office, at least cover-up. She covers up. She goes in, she comes out with a box of face masks. I say, “Dude, what are you doing with all these face masks? How do you even have them?” She said, and the reason we drove her is because she needed a drive over to UCSF to just randomly pop-in and donate them to the hospital. But I said, “How are you guys at Pager Duty,” which is a company she works for. “How are you sitting on all this stuff?” She said, “Do you remember the fires?” I said, “Yeah.”
Well, in the fires we all . . . we wore face masks. Our two-year-old at the time wear a face mask because the air was just so dirty.
Apparently, the local government required companies to have face masks because we’re anticipating this going to happen again and they need to protect their people. Well, OSHA in San Francisco recently said, “If you have it, you’re welcome to donate it.” And so companies are going and donating it.
Now, it’s a lot to understand. It took me a while to understand that. It’s natural to be curious. What’s I think frustrating is that people’s first impact, their first impulse is to say, “What the hell? How dare you hoard these things?” Instead of, “Hey, what happened here?”
Nick: Yeah, I think that when you hear the stories of people going out and creating a surplus of hand sanitizer and selling it for a tremendous markup and then just, I think some of the bad actors in this environment have tainted anybody that just happened to have an abundance of something valuable in the moment. So I think it’s like . . .
Andrew: And those are unusual. By the way, is that your sound that’s going off? You have these alerts going off?
Andrew: Oh, because we’re so close to the end of our time together, aren’t we?
Andrew: Do you have an extra . . . Can you go an extra 10 minutes beyond what we’re supposed to go?
Nick: Yeah, of course.
Andrew: Great. All right, then let me say this. My second sponsor is a company called ClickFunnels. Here’s where I started to use ClickFunnels. I was buying ads and ads weren’t working for me, but I still wanted to grow. And I said, do you know what? Maybe it’s not the ads, maybe it’s not that, maybe it’s what we do with people after they follow-up on the ads.
And so I signed up for ClickFunnels to be honest with you reluctantly. We created a landing page. The landing page actually got me more subscribers than my past thing. And I said, “Huh.” All right, I kind of dismissed them. Anyone could create a landing page. I can create one in HTML. I can create one in WordPress. What do I need a whole service for?
And then I realized they kind of have all these different tools for what happens after somebody gives you an email address. And the first tool I did use was kind of basic. The next one was you know what if you charge somebody just a couple of bucks to get something? I said, “Well, we’re not going to make much money from it.” And someone on the team said, “You know, you might actually be able to make enough money to pay for the ads?”
I said, “I guess. All right, let’s try it.” And we, sure enough, we were able to pay for our ads, not all of it, but a big amount of it. But then the thing we discovered was people who gave us their email address and then also paid even at couple of bucks ended up having a closer, tighter, more meaningful relationship with our company.
Even if we lost money on them, which we didn’t I don’t think but even if we had, who cares? It’s people who now have a tighter relationship with us and people who gave us their email address. Now, there’s a bunch of little tools like that that you can add if you’re using ClickFunnels.
I know that I could test them but who has the patience to go and figure this out. With ClickFunnels, they make it so easy to drag and drop a payment, drag and drop an upsell, drag and drop a one-click purchase. You say, “All right, what the heck? What the heck? Look at me.”
Nick: I like it.
Andrew: Do you know I have never heard in this . . .
Nick: San Francisco [inaudible 00:34:35] will embrace you. New York won’t have you back because you didn’t drop the H bomb.
Andrew: You know, I’ve never heard anyone at ClickFunnels use anything saltier than the word heck. They’re like super nice smiley people. They never curse and it didn’t occur to me I was on stage, interviewing the founder. I cursed the whole time because I got excited. I don’t curse that much. But I got excited about what I was doing.
And I got excited about the people who I met at the audience. I got excited about the interview. And then at the end, they said, you know, you’re actually in a city where people don’t really curse much. We have this little idea the videographer said to me, would you mind just talking and cursing, and we’re going to, like bleep it out. And then you look up at the sky and you go, “Where is this place that curses automatically get bleeped out or deleted? Where am I?”
And so I played along with them. And then I realized, “Oh, man, Andrew, I get your enthusiasm but read your audience a little bit better. If they’re not cursing, don’t hit them over the head with a curse every sentence.” That’s my problem. It’s always been my problem, overenthusiasm.
Nick: It’s working really pretty well, so far so I wouldn’t pump the brakes on the curse if that’s you.
Andrew: And on the enthusiasm, I do sometimes think, “Well, why are you enthusiastic right now?” I should be proud that I’m enthusiastic and positive. I should be stoking that enthusiasm instead of feeling ashamed that I’ve got it with one exception. The kids are ready to sleep at night. I shouldn’t say, “Hey, you know what? Let’s wrestle.” At that point, I should go, “Andrew, calm down. Calm down.”
Nick: But 7:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m. to 7:30, 8 p.m. fair game.
Andrew: Right, exactly.
Nick: Stoke the flame.
Andrew: Let me close it out by saying if you’re curious about this whole ClickFunnels thing, if you want to try it out, I want to give you an opportunity to go and use it right now. If you go to clickfunnels.com/mixergy. Let me see. I think that they’re actually going to give you clickfunnels.com/mixergy, that’s M-I-X-E-R-G-Y, they’re going to let you use . . . Look at this? They’re going to let you use it for free. So go try it for free if you like it. They will make you . . . Now, make sure that you make money because frankly, you can see right away whether you’re making money with it or not. And if you’re not making money, cancel it. And if you’re looking for a dose of inspiration, my interview with the founder of ClickFunnels, which is on that page is fantastic. That dude failed and failed and failed. I went out and I got the screenshots of every freaking one of his failures. Like we’re like boom, boom, boom.
I couldn’t even get since I use Pages not PowerPoint, I couldn’t even get the Pages app to like my deal was drop all his failures on the screen one at a time. It was overloading the app and I just couldn’t make it work properly. But I said, “All right. I’m going to glitch . . . even if it glitches out on stage I’m going to do it.” And so, sure enough, it glitched out on stage, but there was like . . .
Nick: But that’s the point anyway, right? That’s kind of makes you . . .
Andrew: So much that it freezes up the Pages app.
Nick: Yes, it’s almost a better story that way.
Andrew: All right. So it is a good interview, go check it out, clickfunnels.com/mixergy has got all that. So the idea is we talked about before we got started was people . . . the idea for Hunt Club, people started coming to you and asking you for what? And then you said maybe I can do this a little more organized, more professionally.
Nick: Yeah. So the whole concept started, it was like the summer ’14, early ’15. Basically, I have one friend that was a partner at a large executive recruiting firm. And he started winning a lot of these digital transformations, digital type searches and he didn’t really know much about them, but his customers had a need in the market for them.
And so we knew that I was in digital. That was the extent of our relationship. Usually, we’re just drinking beers and telling jokes. But he’s like, “Oh, you’re a digital tech guy.” That’s you. Who do you know that would be great for this? And so he get a VP of performance marketing search or something like that acquisition marketing.
So he would look to see who I knew on LinkedIn and say, “Hey, can you introduce me to Bonnie or Sue or Tom?” And I’m like, “Sure.” And I made introductions over and over again. And what I found out was I placed five people for him basically in a summer in a four to five-month period and I kept getting emails back from the candidates that were in my network that I knew just through being around the community, saying, “Hey, I actually took that job from that guy that you introduced me to, and thank you because I never would have considered it unless it came from you.”
And it was one of those kinds of aha moments where I was like, “Wait. Our relationship made you turn away from what you were doing for a moment at your current job, listen actively and engaged with the recruiter and take a new job? And granted, that’s a small part of it, right? Like the company, the opportunity, all these things, who they’re reporting to.
But in a world where sometimes the best people are usually someone employed not today’s world always. But in that world it usually requires trust. And I even think in today’s world, trust is what powers someone listening to an opportunity. I’m the co-founder and CEO of my own company. I’m not going anywhere, but there are still three people in my life that if they sat me down and said, “Hey, Nick, you should consider this,” I would listen and that’s just how the world works.
So what we do is we power that at Hunt Club. So I spent a summer shadowing these firms, realize they have no technology that powers their end-to-end process. People that power every single component of their value chain workflow recruiting [inaudible 00:39:42].
Andrew: You sat at his company and shadowed it?
Andrew: You seriously for a year just sat at his office?
Nick: Well, for a couple of weeks, like I’d pop in for an hour or two a day for a couple weeks, but I shadowed the four largest executive recruiting firms in the world for the summer, and watched how they do work, and watched . . .
Andrew: I’m fascinated by this. I’ve noticed a few people who I interviewed have done that, but they tended to be younger people who are just above the internship level. And so the older people felt, “All right. Come on in. Take a look. Sit down at the office.” You’re someone who’s a little more advanced. I’d like to see it. I’d like to understand how you did this.
Were you working on your own stuff while you were in there? What was the excuse that got you in there? How awkward was it for you to sit there? What did you notice?
Nick: Yeah, well, I mean, I think a lot of these recruiting firms are pretty entrepreneurial environments, where it’s usually teams or pods of three to five people, is how many of them operate. So it’s not as awkward as it would be if I was joining a marketing team for a summer trying to learn how to market SaaS software. So I basically called up and said,” I want to build a business in this space. I’m fascinated about the lack of technology. I’m fascinated about the network effects that can happen. Can I just spend some time learning from you? And learning how you do it, how you think about it, and how you start a search for customer all the way down to finding great talent, and the steps that you take?
And I was able to convince some friends to let me kind of ride coattails and learn a bit before we launched the business. But I think, Andrew, like the two insights that I found were, you know, one, there is no technology that powers these firms, every single firm in any of their quarterly reports talks about how they’re digitally enabling themselves and transforming their existing business, like none are there yet or even remotely close.
Like recruiting software is a decade behind sales and marketing software that leads.
Andrew: Hey, don’t they? From what I would imagine, they’re using at least a CRM that is . . . are they using salesforce? They’re not using a custom CRM?
Nick: Many of them use basically a salesforce database on top of their own UI. But I think the really interesting thing is most of them their first move isn’t to use their proprietary network or coveted Rolodex that they all claim. It’s actually to go to LinkedIn like the rest of the world.
So I think it’s a pretty hilarious paradigm that you’re paying these massive firms for their Rolodex, their network, but they’re using the same kind of tools and systems as the rest of the world.
Andrew: So they would go, they would get a new client. I imagine they would start with their own CRM, no?
Nick: So they get a new client, then they have an associate on their team who’s junior. Sorry about that again.
Andrew: What is that? I’m curious about people who have alerts go off during the day. What is that?
Nick: That was my iPad telling me that I had a meeting in . . .
Andrew: And you’re okay with going a little longer?
Nick: Yes, we can go long.
Andrew: Thank you.
Nick: Yeah. We’re good. We’re good. So basically, they start a search to have an associate team research and build a list of candidates, the best 150 candidates for the position. That will take them anywhere between four to eight weeks. Once they’ve identified does best 150 candidates and 100 . . .
Andrew: I’m sorry, and that’s them researching in lots of different places. There’s so many who . . .
Nick: LinkedIn and data but their own databases.
Nick: Calling people and asking who is good. Googling like really doing a ton of research in the marketplace. But primarily using either their own network or asking about other people’s networks. So after 4 to 8 weeks of doing this process, they land in a list of people that they think are great. Then they start reaching out to them and asking, “Are they interested in the opportunity?”
If they’re not, who do they know that’s a great fit. And that is how every single one of these marquee firms function. They try and go directly to their own network first. In the event that they can’t solve the problem there or find someone great, they immediately just start asking for referrals in different network effects.
And so what I learned was, there’s no technology powering these processes. We’re not automating research yet. They’re not even close to it. They’re basically using a leveraged service model where they have associates report to engagement managers who report to principals, who report to partners, really expensive, nice big offices.
So my own thought process was, what if you build as much technology as we can today and in the future to automate the process, scheduling and things like that, and then automation of who’s a great fit, and then use the same world-class network that they’ve built on their own just power their own platform. So if we’re doing a CMO search, we can have the same CMOs who know this person who this person trusts say, “Hey, take a look at this and have a conversation.” And so that’s the power of Hunt Club.
Andrew: And I would have thought that the harder part would be to put that list of 100 or so people who are potential candidates, what you ended up doing was solving the, once we find a candidate, how do we get the right introduction? What do we do about that first part?
Nick: The hardest part is not figuring out who the right fit is. So you could probably spend a couple minutes building a framework on, if this is a series B consumer company selling razors, what type of talent will be a great fit based on where their growth trajectory is and what the current marketing organization looks like, and what the product is, and what their location is.
That’s not the hard part. The hardest part about recruiting in any capacity is getting someone who’s an awesome fit for the role to actively engage with you and listen. And what we believe in a world where there’s more noise than anything else out there today between email, social media, cold calling like everyone has access to your personal information. The only thing that continues to play in the future is trust.
So what we’re really trying to do at Hunt Club is power trust. So when a candidate is introduced to an opportunity that comes from someone that switches their head from being passive to at least actively engaged with our team. And they’re not always the right fit. They may be looking for a bigger job, bigger compensation threshold, they won’t move to Chicago, they won’t move to San Francisco, whatever it is, but we’re getting them in a moment to actually actively listen because it comes from a trusted source and that that is the hardest part of recruiting.
Andrew: And how did you know that that was the hardest part?
Nick: Yeah. Well, you watch these incredible recruiters work. Most of them build and cultivate networks for decades, like decades. And then what they do is they’ll be an executive like, are you familiar with Egon Zehnder?
Nick: So they’re one of the . . . there’s four major firms basically in the space, but they’re one of them. And it’s really interesting. Most of the people that work there actually never come from recruiting. They spend a career in a function in an industry, and then join the firm because they’ve built a great network.
Andrew: Yeah, because they’ve built a network in that. Got it.
Nick: And expertise. Yeah. So that was sort of the initial inspiration for the model, is if they can go out and build a world-class recruiting company that’s one of the biggest in the space, sort of reskilling a profile person that’s never been in it because the density of their own network effects and, why don’t we go out and hire people that have never really been worked in recruiting but are awesome at customer service and client service and arm them with the same network as the best executive recruiter because of trusted referrals?
Andrew: And then how do you get your clients?
Nick: Right now it’s actually referrals, believe it or not. So, as our experts refer candidates that have a great experience and get an interview or a job, many of them over 80% of them are hiring managers so they come back to us and say, “Actually, I have a couple of things on my team. Can you help us?”
And then as our candidates have a great experience, many of them actually come back and be customers. So, as it sits right now, we’re about an 80-person company. We haven’t had a sales or marketing organization really up until three or four months ago. That’s where we got Kurty D. now running the West Coast.
But the whole idea is, we’ll build out brand awareness in local markets. We’ll try and create events, try and connect people authentically to add value and then through those connections it just plays really nice with our brand guidelines of helping each other and ultimately paying it forward. I think, at the end of the day when you work with somebody in recruiting, you want someone that you trust, has an awesome network, and get great talent to take you seriously, but also will be there for you as a customer and we’re really trying to sell both those.
Andrew: What was your revenue last year?
Nick: We are a mid-eight figure business, Andrew.
Andrew: Wow. We’re talking about . . . wait, we’re talking into 10s of millions?
Nick: Sorry, low eight-figure business. Low, low eight figures.
Andrew: Wait, wait, wait. Why am I blanking out on what this is? Seven figures means a million right?
Nick: Seven figures means . . .
Andrew: So over 10 million?
Nick: I misspoke. We’re a low eight-figure business.
Andrew: Okay, so over 10 million?
Andrew: And that’s your own personal cut from commissions? That’s what you get paid for placing the candidate?
Nick: Yeah, so we’re we get paid a fee. We charge a . . . we call it a pay-it-forward reward. So like think about the world as it exists today, it’s usually a retainer at the highest level. So you pay somebody regardless if they placed the role. We actually do a shared risk model. So you pay a start fee and a success fee. So a little bit up front and the lion’s share of it once someone’s actually successful.
And we love that model, because when I was watching our portfolio, hire up sign these retain firms, there’s no more painful check in the world than when a series A or B company or C company pays $150,000, $200,000 for a firm that doesn’t actually deliver value on the backend. So we do shared risk model, and we think it aligns way more nicely with our customer base.
Andrew: Let me close it out with this question that I’ve been asking a lot of entrepreneurs now in my interviews, which is, what’s your plan for a recession? If there’s a recession, how do you handle it? And obviously, I know things are going to change and we can’t predict it. But what are you thinking now you could do to be recession-proof?
Nick: Yeah, yeah. So I think in moments where people stop hiring full-time workers, they do hire contractors to help in different areas. So we’re really thinking about how do we kind of take this unique operating model of connecting experts to people for things and power that in all different types of work and help. So whether it’s, I need a three-month contract or project for a performance marketer or I need a product manager to help me build a great roadmap, or I need a fractional executive to help mentor my young VP to become a [inaudible 00:50:19]. So we’ll power all the different types of work and we’ve already started doing some of that already.
Andrew: Got it. You’re saying, “Look, I got a model to help connect people. Where do we need it? Where do people really struggle to connect to people and what’s the highest value?” So we’re not looking to connect you to a new friend to I don’t know, play Minecraft with, but we’re looking to think what’s the high-value connections that aren’t software our platform can work on?”
Andrew: All right. Kurty D is Kurt Daradics. Do you know what? I was actually looking them up right now to realize you know what? I call them Kurty D in the intro. Is it okay? Is this like an old friend of mine? I’ve known him for over a decade. I didn’t call him that. Did I just use his personal nickname? And I’m glad to hear that you used it too. It’s Kurt Daradics.
Nick: You dropped a couple of emails early on with the sign off as Kurty D, so we’re all good.
Andrew: I always as a kid. My name is Shuki. I hated it. I changed it to Andrew. I was dying to have like a cool nickname, like Kurty D that just sticks with you, that sounds rhyming. Anyway, so I can understand why he didn’t want to keep it.
Nick: My name has not that interesting either, Nick Cromydas. Last name can kind of sound like a disease. So I get it, man.
Andrew: That’s a really tough one. All right. Thank you, Kurt. Thank you. It’s the website. It took me a while. I kept googling you guys because for some reason I didn’t think you’d have huntclub.com. I don’t know why but you do. The website for anyone who wants to go check it out is, huntclub.com. I talked about Eric Ries’s website. It is schoolclosures.org.
So if you’re a parent, you’re looking for resources, he’s got it up on there. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this conversation happen. Thank you so much to HostGator. If you’re hosting a website, hostgator.com/mixergy. Frankly, it gives me credit for introducing you to them.
And if you’re creating a landing page, if you’re trying to create strangers or take strangers and turn them into customers, check out clickfunnels.com/mixergy. And of course, it’s a follow-up interview. The interview with the founder is fantastic. It’s also available clickfunnels.com/mixergy. Still promoting, still here. Heck yeah, man. Thanks so much for being on here. Thank you, Nick.
Nick: Appreciate it, Andrew. Thanks again.
Andrew: You bet. Bye.