Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I found out about today’s guest soon after I got my iPhone and installed whatever stupid apps were on the app store at that time. I say stupid because they weren’t super useful.
And today’s guest was one who created an app that got my attention. It was called iFart. I’m not really into fart humor but the reason I downloaded it is because everyone else was freaking downloading it and I wanted to see what it was and I tried it a couple of times and it felt inauthentic to me but, man, I was admiring how this little app got to the top of the charts. I’m not really into fart humor. I’m really, really, really into like numbers and this app went to the top of the charts.
And then I look at the founder and his name was Joel Comm. I thought, “Ha, ha, maybe this is the guy who changed his name to like joel.com. He kind of was playing on the internet name. Who is this guy?” You know, apparently his name was Joe Comm and apparently this wasn’t his first success. He’s a guy who had an online game site that he sold to Yahoo, Classic Games is what it was called. He then went on to build a bunch of different things. He was in affiliate marketing. He was in AdSense. He actually wrote a book on AdSense that was incredibly successful.
And so I tried to get him to do an interview. This was back in the late ’00s I got nowhere. And I think I got nowhere because I was just getting started with my interviewing and I didn’t know not to ask someone on Twitter especially if he wrote a book on freaking Twitter and probably everyone’s contacting him on Twitter.
But I like kept an eye on him over the years and I met him for drinks I think in my room for a party of for a dinner that I organized and I invited him on to do this interview because I’ve always been fascinated by how he did all these different things, software, books, online marketing, the whole thing, and always with a smile on his face. And so I thought, “How did he do it?” And then he sent me this book, “The Fun Formula.” This is like the first book where he doesn’t just say, “Here’s how to do this one thing I do.” It’s like, “Here’s how to be me.” I’ve read it dude, cover to cover. And the answer is what, “Have fun??
Joel: It’s not too far from the truth. It’s really, you know, there’s this huge move right now that we’ve seen over the past few years about this hustle and grind mentality that you know if you want to succeed in business, if you want to make it, you got to get up early. You got to crank away all day. If you want to crush it, you got to stay late and while your friends are fishing or having drinks on the weekend, I’m here in the office and I’m killing it.
Joel: And yeah, you’re killing something. You’re killing yourself. But I reverse engineered, Andrew, the 23 years of online business that I’ve done and I’ve looked at the major successes, the major failures, and all the in-between. And what I realized is the greatest successes took the least amount of effort. When I was hustling and grinding that’s usually when at best I had moderate success but more often than not, those were failures. And identified these key principles in “The Fun Formula” that are indicated by our own curiosity by the ability to take risks and by serendipity or what I call “trusting the process” and that’s what the fun formula is.
Andrew: I want to understand it and I’m really going to grind you in this interview and I’ll tell you why.
Andrew: Earlier in the day, I was grinding with my team. I was like, “Guys, why does everyone not have their numbers in the spreadsheet? Why aren’t we increasing this? How do we get a bigger . . . ” This is my life. I’m not someone who at work likes to put a smile on his face and be as happy go lucky as you are. I’m much more of like, “Why am I even like, I think not working harder? Why is everyone not working harder?” And I know that I’ve got a lot to learn.
Joel: Maybe you need to chill out a little bit. Maybe you need to take a breath.
Andrew: I don’t know how to chill out at work, but that’s what I want to find out from you because honestly, if you were just a guy with a book, I’d go, “Interesting. Cute. One day maybe I’ll read it.” But you’re a guy with a track record that I admire and I want to learn from you.
I should say this interview is sponsored by two companies. The first is one that Joe and I both know. It’s called HostGator. Host your website right with them. And the second is a company that will help you hire your next phenomenal developer. It’s called Toptal. I’ll tell you more about those later.
You know, let’s talk specifics. You said the ones where you worked the least is where you’ve got the most success. Give me an example.
Joel: Yeah. Or I’ll give you a number of examples. You know, iFart for example since you led off with it in 2007 I bought the first iPhone because I thought this technology is going to be groundbreaking, and, of course, it was. And in 2008, Steve Jobs says, “Let there be apps,” and so we had one of the first thousand apps in the app store. I hired a developer specifically to create apps because I can’t code my way out of a paper bag and that’s actually a tip right there — not doing things that you’re not good at that you’re not inclined to do. I hired a graphic designer and one day we’re sitting in a conference room and we’re just spit balling ideas and putting them up on the white board, filled a white board.
Andrew: When you say, “we,” I read that in the book and I have a note to ask you who’s we? Who was running the company at the time?
Joel: Yes. So I built my team up to 38 people at my peak which I never want to do again. I am now happily a solopreneur with contractors only working at home again as you guys can see with an incredible view of the Denver mountains right out here to my right.
Andrew: So this is the Infomedia, the company you’ve had forever. Here, I actually see here . . . I don’t know where it was but this is where at one point in your life you said, “I’m going to be a professional businessman and I’m actually going to actually hire a bunch.”
Andrew: So you and all your team got together in a room and you were doing what?
Joel: Right. You know, our executive team basically. We got together and we said, “What are we going to do?” We had one of the first thousand apps into the iTunes app store. But that wasn’t the big hit. It was after that . . .
Andrew: What was that app?
Joel: It was called iVote, iVote Mobile that it was a polling app and it had a little bit of success, you know, but the biggest claim to fame is it was one of the first thousand apps in the app store, you know. So I got to pioneer that but it was when we sat on the conference room we just started to putting all these ideas when one of the guys, I think it may have been Dan Nickerson said, “We’ll create a digital fart machine.” We all just cracked up and I turned over to the developer, I’m like, “This is easy. We could do this, right?” He says, “Yeah, three weeks, graphic designer three weeks.” I said, “Go, do it.” Put it out there, a couple of press releases later. The least amount of effort you can imagine. And it was telling the right story at the right time with the right angle and it’s not the angle that you thought it was. A little bit of creativity that got us the attention and . . .
Andrew: What was the angle then?
Joel: The angle was, you know, everybody thinks that their story is about their product or their service, the obvious angle. Guess what? That’s not always the tech especially if what you’re doing is in a crowded field. What I did is something that nobody had done at that point and that was I was sharing the sales to rank numbers on my blog at joelcomm.com. So I was tracking, okay, we’re number 200 in entertainment. What does that translate to? How many sales was that? How much money did you actually make? Because back then nobody knew what kind of money you were actually making with your apps and every day I would chart.
And after about five or six days of it and we’re moving up slowly, I put out a press release to the developer community not to the consumers that would be buying this product but saying, you know, iPhone developer release a sales to rank numbers. Well, that got picked up by VentureBeat and a number of other publications at it just turned into, you know, whoosh, this big wave. And that’s when, you know, Mashable, and TechCrunch and then it went mainstream news and, you know, we’re being mentioned all over the world in multiple languages as this thing goes to number one in the world not in the category or subcategory, the number one app for just over three weeks.
And it was because I chose to tell a story in a different way and I didn’t know what would happen. It was a risk but it paid off and the amount that you know, we’ve had several million downloads to date and . . .
Andrew: And the revenue came from where, I forget?
Joel: Well, at that point the app sales in the app store was 99 cents for the app and Apple took their 30% and we get 70 cents per download.
Andrew: So how much did you make from it overall?
Joel: You know, I don’t know the numbers to date but, you know, in that first year we cleared half a million, you know, easily. And then, you know, it still sells. It still gets attention. It’s going to be 10 years Andrew, on December 12, 10 years. We just got featured in a Snapchat story just last month. It just keeps coming back. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
Andrew: So let me understand this though, the thing that you guys did was you sat around the conference room and you said, “What’s fun for us to do?” And you created iFart. But I believe that there’s more to it than that. There’s somebody there, you, saying, “This is not enough to create an interesting app. We have to really get on this. We’re going to blog about it. We’re going to get our numbers. We’re going to . . . ” getting your numbers is not easy, right? It takes time. I’m telling you, my team couldn’t get the numbers together last week. Someone missed the number today on the freaking spreadsheet. So that takes work. The creativity to say, “Here’s the audience we’re going after that takes work. Is it just that this is work? It’s a grind but you enjoy it?
Joel: Yeah. Well, it actually wasn’t hard. It wasn’t a grind and yes, now you’re talking about the fun formula, right. There’s people that are looking at what can I do to make money but they’re not focusing necessarily on what they’re passionate about or what their natural gifts are, and where their curiosities and creativity lie. And that’s where I believe you have the greatest success.
You know, here’s, you mentioned that I sold a site to Yahoo. This was in 1997. I got an email from my webmaster who says, “I know you’ve got a couple of point and click games on the website . . . ” you know, I think 1997, my website was 2 years old. They were simple, you know, image maps, point and click games. And he said, “Check out this guy, he’s a grad student at UC San Diego and he’s got a couple of his friends playing these Java-based table games and board games, chess checkers, hearts, spades. And I went and I check it out and he had a few of his friends kicking the tires on this thing, and so I sent the guy an email.
I said, “Hey, this is great. I’ve got a site here and I think your games would go well on it. Why don’t we partner up?” And so we did. We partnered up. He kept developing. I pushed it through my existing website and less than a year later we had an offer from Yahoo and it was my first seven-figure deal. And I’ve got to tell you, Andrew, that that project took me personally. I would say less than a month’s worth of hours to bring from beginning . . .
Andrew: Now that was him doing what he does best, which is creating the games. You doing what you do best, you said, in the book, “The Fun Formula,” “I bring marketing in.” What kind of marketing did you do in a few hours to promote this?
Joel: You know, some press releases, did it. You know, again, it was a right time thing because we were one of the first multiplayer game rooms. And so I was able to leverage that unique selling proposition and people were interested. They started, you know, flocking to it. And so, you know, a few emails, and honestly, I tried to sell classicgames.com to the other big search engines at that time. I wasn’t even thinking of Yahoo. I was contacting, here’s some blast from the past, Excite, Lycos, Infoseek, right, the AltaVista, the big search engines at that time and none of them were interested.
Yahoo, sent me an email and said, “Hey, we see what you’re doing. Would you be interested in partnering with us?” I didn’t even pursue them. They came to me. And they flew us out to the Valley and we met with them and I knew what we wanted. They insulted us with a smidgen of that and I said, “That’s not going to do. This is what we need.” And then they insulted us just a little bit less. I said, “That’s not going to do. This is what we need.” And then they came back with an offer which was a really inexpensive acquisition for them at that time.
Andrew: How much? You said seven figures. It’s over a million. How much money?
Joel: Yeah. It was, I would say with the revenue share that we got, it was probably about 1.3.
Andrew: 1.3, and 50-50 split?
Joel: Pretty much. I gave my webmaster a little bit because he was the one that sent me the email.
Andrew: Okay. So Joel, here’s something else that I’m noticing about you and I’ve talked about you in recent interviews because look at that t-shirt. You got the “Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.” You do “The Bad Crypto Podcast” which I’ve said to my audience, “I admire how you jumped on that.” When you said we were one of the right place, the right time, it made me realized something else about you. You jumped into stuff when it’s early, not so early that it’s like you’re not thinking what’s happening 20 years from now but what’s so absurdly early that people will eventually come around to it. I’m going to jump and do something. Cryptocurrency you created a podcast for it. You’ve told me in private what the revenue is from it. Do you feel comfortable saying it here to my audience?
Joel: No. We’re not going to talk about revenue but we could say the show is very successful.
Andrew: Give me like a ballpark, just to give me a sense of it like how successful it is.
Joel: It’s a six-figure podcast.
Andrew: Six-figure a month or a six-figure a year?
Joel: A year in its first year.
Andrew: Okay. So here’s the thing that you do, you jumped in early, you do have fun with it, but you’re a freaking beast when it comes to marketing not like a beast, and there’s some people who are beasts. I shouldn’t say beast. You’re good at marketing. You have a talent for it. The way that some people will just go and sing, you’ve got that ability. They don’t need to warm-up and get the right room. They’ll sing. They’re not the best greatest singer in the planet but they enjoy it and they’re good. You’ve got that when it comes to marketing, fair?
Joel: Well, but not that always. Not always. I’ve had my share of failures and we could talk about those . . .
Andrew: Give me one.
Joel: Since you brought up . . . okay, we’ll do that then we’ll go back to Bad Crypto because there’s a story there.
Joel: You know, in 2009 my team persuaded me that you know mobile marketing was going to be big and we were using AWeber for our direct marketing, of course, GetResponse, Constant Contact, all email autoresponders. They said, “You know, we could build a mobile autoresponder service and it would be huge.” And I said, “All right, let’s do it.” And we called it Text Cast Live, built the infrastructure. I spent solid six figures on my team in time and development for this thing. It didn’t take off and my marketing didn’t do squat.
I went to tradeshows, set up booths. People just, they didn’t get it or our marketing failed, whatever, and at the same time, you know, I’m facing some personal issues in my marriage. The economy is taking a turn. I’ve got a guy embezzling from me. You know, another guy is running my company and things are not going the direction I want. Long story short, the thing didn’t succeed.
And then I started trying to sell the technology to somebody who could use it because we put a lot into it. Couldn’t sell it to anybody. I couldn’t sell the code to anybody and I came to this point about 2011 or 2012 where I’m still paying for the infrastructure to keep it on life support because the moment you pull the plug on your short code it’s done. And one day I just like, you know what, this has failed. I just need to pull the plug at it.
And I thought that when I pulled the plug on it I would feel the weight of the failure, it didn’t. Instead, I felt liberation. I felt freedom and I recognized something profound that day that yes, I failed but I stopped failing the moment I stopped paying for it. I opened by hands and I released it. And what happens when you open your hands from grasping something? Now you can receive something new because your hands are open. And I’ve had a lot of failures but I spent more time, effort, and agony on that failure than I did on most homeruns I’ve had.
Andrew: Okay. I’m making notes here. So that’s another thing that I do notice with you that where you do well is when something’s not working, you don’t invest a ton of time, a ton of money into it. Actually, that’s another one, let me write that down. Small investments, you do best in, and get out fast if it doesn’t make sense. Like you have no pain associated with virtual-whassup.com. I went to that site. Can you tell people what that is?
Joel: Well, you remember the Budweiser commercials from, oh gosh, well, is it 15 years, 20 years?
Andrew: Can you describe it to people who don’t know?
Joel: Yeah. A bunch of guys get on the phone and they all “What’s up?” you know, and the quick edits got a bunch of people, “Yeah, what’s up?” It is funny. And so I thought, you know, greeting cards sites are a big now. What if we created this greeting card site where people can send virtual what’s up so we’ll have this animated characters. And we did Ricky Martin and Hilary Clinton and a few others doing “What’s up?” And they were funny, they were cute, and the thing flopped. Flopped, and I kept the site, at virtual-whassup.com to stand as a testimonial to failure. And it’s funny because now people are starting to send me cards. They’re reading the book. They’re going the site and they’re sending me these things I haven’t seen in a dozen years.
But I don’t have a problem with failure and I think that’s important. A lot of people do. They’re ashamed when they don’t succeed at something and they’re hard on themselves. And, you know, I think the way we treat ourselves, if we had friends that talk to us as negatively as we sometimes talk to ourselves, those would not be good friends. Those would be bad friends. You might even call them enemies.
And I’m not hard on myself like that. I want to try things, I want to experiment, I want to play, and this is why I believe that there is an actual formula that it doesn’t have to be unique to me. Anybody can play. Anybody can take risks. Anybody can say, “I’m going to be creative and try something.” And it’s not that I’m so smart that I’m on the cutting edge of each of these things, Andrew. It’s that they catch my attention and I want to play.
Andrew: You know what, I’m writing notes on this. I want to ask you what your formula is in a moment. First, let me talk about my first sponsor because, you know what, I read the book. I didn’t notice that there was a formula in here I thought that whole idea was the formula is “have fun.” I didn’t realized it was . . . all right, let’s come back to this in a second. First, I’ve got to tell everyone my first sponsor is a company called HostGator. I actually had a different sponsor and then I ran HostGator by Joel and he said, “I know them.” So Joel, what’s your experience with HostGator?
Joel: Well, I’ve used them for hosting multiple times throughout the years. You know, it’s been always a quick easy set up. And, you know, you get in, you get your website up and running and it’s always worked for me. Also I’ve worked as an affiliate for them and sent others their way and earned commissions from the little gator there swimming around in the hosting pool.
Andrew: Yeah, you know, I wanted to, because I feel like hosting feels generic. I could say HostGator, people may not even remember the animal. I went out and I got myself a hat that looked like an alligator head. You’d like it because it’s fun. In reality, I was kind of walking through the motions of having fun. There was no fun in me buying that hat. I just thought this is what a person who understood how to have fun would do. So I bought one from Amazon, I put it on my head, I had it in an ad, and said, “Look, guys, now you can remember it’s HostGator like I have on my head.” And then the hosting people said, “That’s actually not an alligator.” I don’t remember what I had, it was like a crocodile, different color.
Joel: Oh, yeah. You have to know your reptiles, you know?
Andrew: Yeah, it’s kind of hard for you guys to remember I think. Unless you remember, “Look, Joel used it, I used it, you could always come back and search my site to see which hosting company. The vast majority of my interviewees have said that they use. It’s actually, they probably have said it because HostGator is a sponsor and they’re the only ones that I ever bring up.
Here’s the deal, HostGator, I use them, Joel has used them, lots of people have used them. It’s really good because it just works and you can get back to your business and not focus on hosting. If you want to get up to 62% off all you have to do is go to hostgator.com/mixergy, of course, by adding the slash /mixergy at the end you’ll be supporting these interviews by showing them that you like me enough and that you trust my recommendation enough to go use them. So I appreciate you guys doing that, hostgator.com/mixergy.
Joel, the formula, where is it?
Joel: It’s not a mathematical equation.
Andrew: It’s not. What do you mean by that? So what is it? You’ve referred to this a lot. I kind of thought of it as an interesting title. I didn’t realize there was a formula. What is the formula?
Joel: It’s, well, the subtitle, “How Curiosity, Risk-taking, and Serendipity Can Revolutionize How You Work.” Somebody once said “If you could tell the difference between your work and your play, you’re doing one of them wrong.” You know for me the two have just flowed seamlessly together. I do what I love. I love what I do, no matter what I’m doing.
You know, I haven’t kept a regular schedule of work in so many years. I don’t even know what that looks like and I know so many people that do. And they separate their work and, you know, they say, “Oh, I got a case of the Mondays,” or “Hey, it’s Wednesday. It’s Hump Day,” or “Thank God, it’s Friday.” What day is it? It doesn’t matter. I might be working on a Sunday. I might be off on a Wednesday. I do what needs to be done when I do it. It could be midnight. I could be sleeping until 9:00 or 10:00. Unless I have scheduled something very specifically, I find that I am most effective when I’m in the flow and feeling most creative or if I’m under the gun and it has to get done.
Andrew: Like what? What’s an example of a time when you’re under the gun, so you got something done?
Joel: I got a presentation that needs to be done and I am notorious for waiting. If I’m being hired to do a keynote, if they asked me to send my slides, you know, even a week before, I go, “That’s not going to happen.” I do my best work and I get my inspiration usually 24 to 48 hours before and that’s when I’m a machine and it flows out of me seemingly effortlessly. And I’ve stopped worrying. I don’t even go to myself, “Oh, man, I’ve got a big presentation in Santiago, Chile, you know, for a Fortune 500 company next week. I better get going.”
No, no, I know because I’ve learned myself and I’ve learned to trust the process. I know my own flow. I don’t follow. You know, I don’t do a lot of business book reading anymore because I find that people tend to say, “Here’s what you should do,” and I’ve learned not to let anybody should on me. Find my own flow. You find your own flow. Figure out what works best for you because that’s part of your fun formula. And if you’re Gary Vaynerchuk, and there’s only one of you, so I’m only talking to one of you right now, then hustling and grinding your ass off so you can have the New York Jets, guess what? That’s your fun formula. But for the rest of you, you’re not Gary V.
Andrew: You are very good at accepting who you are. Like I think a lot of people would say, “I can’t believe I do it at the last minute,” and beat themselves up for doing it and promise themselves they’ll do it better, faster, earlier next time. But you are good at saying, “I work best under pressure at the last minute. I’m not going to swear to God and promise to myself that I’m going to do it earlier in the process next time.” All right, you mentioned serendipity here . . .
Joel: But that’s experience. That’s experience, Andrew, right? I didn’t always know that about myself. You know, I’m 54 now. I’ve been, you know, working for myself since I was 25 years old. And so you learn if you’re paying attention.
Andrew: Serendipity is in the title. There is a . . . you’re in 2006 at Yanik Silver’s Underground Online Marketing Seminar. I don’t know why they call it seminar except that it maybe sounds more professional. It’s another conference but it’s his way. He’s really good about having fun, getting people in costumes and getting marketers on stage to talk about what they do.
You’re there. You see a guy who has a sign or piece of paper that says JV with Eric. I got to be honest with you most people would say Eric must be a douche bag. Who walks around with the sign that says JV with Eric meaning like partner up with me. You see what Eric has. What is it about you that made you see what Eric has and then tell people what Eric led you to do which most people would have missed the opportunity?
Joel: I don’t remember if there was a sign or if he was handing out flyers, so I may have embellished it . . .
Andrew: I think you said in the book handing out flyers but frankly neither one of them is the cool way to show up at a conference.
Joel: Right. But Eric didn’t just walk up to me and hand me a flyer. He introduced himself and he said, “I’m Eric Holmlund. I’m an affiliate marketer. I’m a fan of what you’ve done with your AdSense book.” So first thing he did, he didn’t just come up and said, “You should JV with me.” He started talking about me and his relationship to what he understood about me.
Joel: And then he said, “You know, I’m looking for partnerships. If I could find a way to help you and your customers, would you be interested?” Now he didn’t try and sell me anything right there on the spot and say, “Yes, sure. Let me know if you come up with an idea.” It was a week or two later that he sent me the email. He says, “I’ve got it.” He said, “You have thousands of people who have bought your eBook on Google AdSense. What is their biggest struggle?” Well, their biggest struggle is getting their own website up so they can get their content out there and start making money with AdSense. And mind you, this is pre-WordPress. Right? People were using more rudimentary tools to build sites.
He says, “What if we do AdSense templates that are ready to go for a number of different platforms with customizable headers, where the block for advertising their AdSense would already be built in and we give them five private label rights articles in this individuals niches to kind of, so that they can get the site up and running and then add their own content. I said, “I love it. We’ll call it Instant AdSense Templates.”
He put most of it together. He is young. He is hungry. He understood the market and the needs for, you know, what the customers wanted and we joint ventured. I JV’d with Eric and that we did two rounds of it. The first one we did $300,000 in sales of a 197-product and then it was so popular that there was such a demand for it.
We did Instant AdSense Templates 2 six months later and it was a 197-product and we said, “We’re, you know, really ethical about how much we’re going to sell.” We said, “We are going to cut it off if we hit a million dollars.” That will be it. That was the scarcity. And we weren’t sure if we could do that but it was seven days or a million dollars. We hit a million dollars in five days of a small . . . it might have been the first low price point million dollar launch. This would have been back in 2007. I can’t verify it.
I know John Reese had the first million dollar launch overall. He was selling a thousand dollar product. We may have had the first internet marketing million-dollar launch of a small price point product. And the effort for me, my part was going to my partners, affiliate marketers and saying, “Hey, I’ve got this great thing we’re going to launch. We’d love for you to play and you can earn.” And they did.
Andrew: Okay. A lot of people . . . you know, forget about a lot of people. I have it all the time. People email me all the time and say, “Andrew, I want to do something with you. I have an idea for you. I want to . . . ” there are times in my life where I’ve said, “Okay.” And then what happens is I got to start managing the relationship with them. We have to start working together and creating checklists and I go, “The hell, now, I have this whole job to work with you,” and it becomes a distraction. It’s not another like million dollar thing on the side that helps promote me and helps me customers the way you . . .
It becomes this. You work with people really well. Let’s not say, “Work with people is the takeaway from this.” Tell me more? Add more depth to that why did your relationship with Eric work where so many other relationships including the ones that I’ve had with people or strangers who’ve contact me online do not work? What do we take away from that?
Joel: Well, first of all, you don’t work with strangers.
Andrew: You know what, I shouldn’t say strangers, but you get what I’m saying. Good point, you got to know him a little bit before you did it. Actually, let me [crosstalk 00:28:05] of that.
Joel: Okay. And I trusted him. I trusted him because of the way he approached me and because there was just something . . . You know, you know people, right? You become a people reader. It’s like . . .
Andrew: And you look to see cam they take over everything and you’re good letting him do the whole thing?
Joel: Yeah. Exactly.
Andrew: That’s the big thing with you?
Joel: It is a big ting with me because . . .
Andrew: So you find someone who’s good at it or someone who you know could be good at it? What do you look for?
Joel: I look for somebody that I believe is going to be able to accomplish the goals. You know, don’t make me look stupid. There’s times that I’ve selected people that weren’t good, and the reason I did it was because I thought, “Well, I could make a lot of money here.” Right? But those are the times that didn’t work out. What worked out here is he had a very specific plan for helping my customers. This is what they need, right? It wasn’t about what I was going to create for them. It’s about this is what people wanted. It made sense. I trust . . .
Andrew: And if you would have created it in a way that didn’t feel right, but put a lot of time and work into it, you wouldn’t have felt a little bit, “Oh, you know what, the guy put all this effort into it. I gave him the go ahead. I can’t say stop. We have to continue.” You would have . . .
Joel: I would have stopped.
Andrew: You would have stopped it.
Joel: If it wasn’t right, I would have stopped it. And there have been time . . .
Andrew: You have said, “I know you’ve put in a lot of effort. This is just not good.” Crush him.
Joel: That’s happened. That’s happened with people that you know, we’ve decided to go a direction with the project and then I see what’s happening. I’m like this isn’t what I thought it would be. I don’t think this is going to serve anybody well. Let’s cut our losses here, shake hands, and go our own way. And that’s happened.
Andrew: I’ve got to get better of doing that. That actually is a really tough thing for me to do because of the reason they approach me and did all this work for free is they are investing in an outcome that I believe I’ve led them to expect. But you’re right, you got to cut.
Joel: But you’re not going to serve them. If you know, if your gut is telling you, “This ain’t going to work.” Then how are you serving them by allowing them to continue? You’re actually enabling a failure. And, you know, maybe there’s something else down the road. Just because something doesn’t work with someone doesn’t mean that’s the end of the relationship.
In fact, how you and they deal with that sudden shift in what the objectives could deepen that relationship. A respect could grow there. I’ve had relationships with people, I’m not going to name names but I’ve had a relationship with one person for 13 years and we’ve done some work together but there’s an opportunity now to do something bigger that we’ve never done before that I didn’t see coming and I couldn’t have planned it. But I recognized the opportunity when I see it and this is a lot of people were afraid to take these risks and to see that there’s way more opportunity than this, what’s right before you. In fact . . .
Andrew: Could you explain more what or tell me more about the situation where you did take a risk? What are you talking about in this situation? It was that you saw something in someone and you realized there’s a long-term play here and I’m going to risk what, to get to that long-term play.
Joel: I don’t see it as a long-term play, I see it as a relationships here and now. I can imagine what I’m going to do 10 years from now with somebody. That should be a . . .
Andrew: That doesn’t seem like risk. It feels to me like when you did that marketing software, that was risk, putting six figures up in a business that you failed. Why is your investment in people feel like a risk?
Joel: I don’t think it does. Did I imply that?
Andrew: Okay. No, maybe I misunderstood then.
Joel: Yeah. No, no, it’s not. It’s just that you never know where something is going to lead. So, you know, treat people well. There’s going to be people that you know at a certain time there’s, you don’t see any synergy but, you know, they might, ten years down the road, there might an incredible synergy that will transform your life and the lives of so many others and so many others.
And so, you know, that’s why I have . . . one of my brands is Do Good Stuff. You know, put good out there without necessarily expecting something in return. Everything doesn’t need to have a payoff. Everything doesn’t need to have this spreadsheet ROI. You have to set the boundaries of what you’ll do and what you won’t do but it’s okay to do things for others without expecting that ROI. You don’t know if it’s going to pay off, how it’s going to pay off, but anytime you’re investing in people and you’re doing good, invariably good comes back to you.
Andrew:Okay. I’m taking notes on this stuff. I get the do good for the people, should I’d be putting that on my list is that because that feels like an obvious one. Here’s what I have in my list. Joel gets into stuff early. Got into web games early, got into iPhone early, got into cryptocurrency early. That’s what Joel does. Joel does marketing. He’s not reinventing marketing he’s just doing good solid marketing. Joel has fun. I don’t have anything beyond to say that in my notes here. Joel gets out of a bad business fast when he’s good and here’s an example, VirtualWhassup, right?
Here’s another thing that Joel does. When he’s at his best it feels like Joel makes small investments. Big investments do not make Joel excited. Working with other people, Joel does really well because he’ll find someone and he’ll let them run with it. And then I’ve got a note here about serendipity. Am I on the right track here?
Joel: Yeah, you’re hitting a lot of components of “The Fun Formula” and that’s . . .
Andrew: Am I being too anal so anal that I’m missing the full point of the book which is “Dude, have fucking fun,” instead of like writing bullet points of why someone and how someone is having fun?
Joel: Maybe you’re getting at it.
Andrew: Right. I think I’m having fun doing it that way.
Joel: And maybe you are getting it.
Andrew: I love that.
Joel: And that’s the thing, it gets overcomplicated. We have all of these books telling you how to work. But they’re not telling you how to live. What I do and what I’ve discovered that I have done is I’ve got a lifestyle. You know, listen, once you’ve made a lot of money and you’ve lost a lot of money, you know, you underhand how to make money and you recognize that life is not about material goods.
Andrew: How? You know, let me come back in a moment. I’m going to do a second spot real quick and then I’m going to come back in a moment and I’m going to ask you if you had to make a lot of money today you had nothing, not reputation, no nothing, how would you do it? It feels like you found the formula to do it. How would Joel make money if he had nothing? By the way, is Comm your actual last name?
Joel: It is, yeah.
Andrew: All right.
Andrew: Second sponsor is a company called Toptal. You know Justin Hartzman? He’s now a mutual friend of ours.
Andrew: How do you know Justin?
Joel: Justin, I met a number of years ago. He actually, wesellyoursite.com, they brokered two of my businesses, my dealofday.com site which was I was early to affiliate marketing. I had one of the first coupon hunting sites. They brokered that for me and I created a WordPress theme early on called the Socrates Theme that they brokered for me.
Andrew: So he sold it for you. He’s a freaking mad man. He’ll text me in the middle of the night. His daughter is jumping on the bed. He’s texting and Facetiming me while he’s telling me about this new business idea. He runs accompany called Needls. His new thing is in the crypto world, CoinSmart, you know it?
Andrew: He raises money for Needls, now he seems carried away with CoinSmart. What’s going on behind the camera? I feel like something has just got your attention.
Joel: No, I’m right here, man.
Andrew: Okay. I thought maybe something fun happen.
Joel: My life is always fun also.
Andrew: So it seems he’s getting directed towards this crypto business, CoinSmart, and he texts me and he says, “Hey, Andrew, I’m hiring someone from Toptal.” I go, “Why are you hiring someone from Toptal? You’ve raised money for CoinSmart. You have a full time team.” He goes, “Yes, they’re super smart. Here’s who they are.” And he told me all of them because, ” . . . but I need somebody to watch over them and make sure that they’re doing things the best way possible in an outside, like an outside pair of eyes, like we could get from Toptal. It’s going to be great for us.” So he reached out to Toptal to hire from them.
The reason I’m saying this to you is even people like Justin who have access to lots and lots of developers, access to lots and lots of people. Lots and lots of people can make referrals? No. if you want to hire the best of the best developers you go to Toptal. Have you hired from Toptal yet, Joel?
Joel: I have not.
Andrew: But you don’t hire anymore. You just work with freelancers.
Joel: Well, I don’t hire, yeah. I mean I’ve used, you know, the outsourcing sites all over the place and partners, right. That’s, you know, joint ventures [inaudible 00:36:17] of it. No, I’m the only person on my payroll.
Andrew: Yeah. I could see that actually and I could see why you love it. If you saw me give this look, it’s they just changed the whole look of the landing page that they have with me. I think I like the previous design. If you guys have seen it before, here’s the URL, top as the top of your head, tal as in talent, toptal.com/mixergy that’s where they’re going to give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks. That landing page used to look beautiful. I’m not sure I love the new design. But guys, go check it out because the offer is still freaking gorgeous, toptal.com/mixergy.
Oh, I see what they changed. This offer is limited to Mixergy listeners. In the past I’ve said that you guys should do refer other people to it. They don’t freaking want that. They didn’t pay me to go spread the news online that you could get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit for free. All right, go use it if you’re a listener, toptal.com/mixergy.
Joel: I wasn’t familiar with this, so now I am on the page here. I’m going to check this out.
Andrew: You’ll like it, Google-level developers, really. You got nothing. It’s 2018 . . .
Joel: You got nothing.
Andrew: You got nothing. You’re starting from scratch. It’s not Joel Comm. It’s Steven Schnoberger, right?
Andrew: You got to do something. What is Steven Schnoberger going to do?
Joel:Nobody knows that guy. Nobody knows what he could do. Nobody knows the hidden talent within him. And so Steven if you want to be smart what you’re going to do is figure out what do I know something about. And you’re going to find a place where people that would be interested and what you do and know would find you. You’re going to go to an event. You’re going to get out of your house whether it’s a local event or, you know, somewhere else in the country.
Andrew: You know, let’s say that person is interested in virtual reality and the reason I’m throwing that out is it’s future oriented. You’re really good at that. So they’re into virtual reality. There’s your headset right there. You actually have it. I should have known you’d be into it.
Andrew:All right, so they go to a virtual reality in-person event.
Joel: Yup. Go to an event and you ask questions. Don’t walk up to people and hand your business card and tell them how great you are and what you’re going to do for them. Ask questions, ask people what kind of problems they’re having because you might discover as you ask them questions and find out what their problems are that you can solve that problem. None of us are in the business of selling a product or service. We’re not. That’s not what we do. You might think that’s what you do but that’s not what you do. You are in the business of solving people’s problems and your channel, your conduit is your product and/or your service.
And so talk to people and then listen to them. They will tell you specifically what they need and when somebody tells you what they need and you go, “Ah, I can help with that.” Then you ask a question. It’s a really simple question. You don’t just hand them a card and say, “Here’s what I charge to do that.” You ask this question, “If I could help you, fill in the blank, would you be interested?” Because what happens now is you’re not selling them, you’ve gotten their interest and you’re getting their buy-in and their permission to share what it is you do. The more people you talk to, the more questions you ask, the more problems you are going to uncover because we, humans, have problems, of all kinds. But at this VR event you’re going to discover problems and if you know something you’re going to have some solutions and that’s where you start.
Andrew: Okay. So cryptocurrency, “The Bad Crypto Podcast,” you were starting to tell me something about that. Let’s use that as an example of problem solving. How are you solving problems with that?
Joel: Well, so that’s such a great question. By the way, I love your whole interview style . . .
Andrew: So you’re good.
Joel: . . . it’s so much more engaging than some of the shows that I do because you feel like you’re putting me on the spot and it feels different to me but you’re not because I know the answers.
Andrew: Hey, because you know what, I realized it’s just coming into this interview. I think some of my interviews recently I’ve done in a perfunctory way. I think that’s the word.
Joel: It’s a good word.
Andrew: And I can’t do it that way. I had to just come back and say, “What am I genuinely curious about?” Forget that Justin is going to listen to this and judge me based on how well I do with you based on how much he knows you. Forget that this is going to be an interview that people are going to come to “Just go Andrew.” Forget about all that and your system and everything, what are you curious about come honestly to Joel with that, because then the interview is useful for me and Joel can roll with it.
Andrew: So I appreciate you saying it. And you’re coming to “Bad Crypto Podcast” as a way of solving the problem. What is the problem?
Joel: So I’m going to share that part and then I’m going to tell you a backstory which I find really fascinating. I think your listeners will as well. The problem with the cryptocurrency market previous to “The Bad Crypto Podcast” is there was a handful of shows, some of them very good, some of them not, but they were all over people’s heads.
Joel: They weren’t speaking to me or you, to people who really like I heard about this bitcoin thing but I don’t get it. What the heck is this mining? Until I understood mining, I thought, “What? Are there little people in there with pick axes and processors going ting, ting, ting and bitcoin are flying out?” It wasn’t until I understood that and so in July of 2017 when Travis Wright and I started “The Bad Crypto Podcast” there was not an entertaining crypto show.
Well, Travis and I, we’re a couple of clowns. We have fun, when in fact we call ourselves the crypto clowns, the blockchain block heads. It’s called “The Bad Crypto Podcast,” because when we started we were just going down the rabbit hole and we were confessing, “You know, we don’t know exactly what we’re talking about here but we like talking about it.” And so we brought humor and entertainment and levity to the crypto space and that’s why the show has taken off to become one of the most, if not, the top crypto podcasts on iTunes.
Andrew: Look at this, hey, you guys really do have fun to a level that I can’t deal with. Not that I can’t deal as a listener. I can’t deal with it as a participant. Like if we have too much fun in an interview, in my head, “Dude, get back on track. You’re too . . . ” You never do that.
Joel: Whose voice is that?
Andrew: It’s my personal voice. I am very, like I believe inherently I’m anal and it wasn’t until I recently, a listener heard me and say that . . . heard one of my guest say, Andrew you should take a personality test and go, “Andrew, let me give it to you.” I took this personality test, guys, if anyone wants his name, contact me and I’ll give it to you. This was the best hour I ever spent. I did the test and then he told me exactly who I was based on this freaking test and my guest is also, because he listens to the podcast, but what he did was he gave me permission to be me.
Basically, he said, “Andrew, you are like . . . ” I forget what it was. It’s like someone charging through a door and breaking it open, that’s the way your mind works. You can’t just open the door. I realized I could just accept that, that actually is who I am. Why am I pretending? And that’s the other thing that his test showed. In reality I pretend I’m a lot quieter and nicer than I am. Why I have this disconnect? So that’s the difference. I’ve now been given permission to do that.
Joel: Well, you’ve always had that permission, that’s the thing, and there’s this nature and nurture and there might be a nurture component. I’m going to play, you know, amateur Sigmund Freud here for a moment, is it possible that you had a parent or a teacher or peers, somebody that drove you to believe that this is how you succeed in the world.
Andrew: I don’t believe in this psychobabble gobbledygook, but you’re absolutely freaking right. It’s my dad. It’s my dad who was both saying, admiring that I was like a serious kid from the age of four but also saying, “Dude, chill the fuck out,” from the age of four. So there was like this both sides of it, the admiration but I need you to relax at some point. Yeah, all right, that actually is helpful too.
Joel: Yeah, there you go. That will be $500. So let me tell you the story. Let me rewind because . . .
Andrew: Yes, come back to crypto.
Joel: This is one of the most impactful stories. You know, I’m going to get personal here for a moment, not with you. I’m going to get transparent. Back in 2010 as the business was beginning to, you know, get hit by the economy, my relationship at home was also getting hit. It wasn’t the first time but this time things . . . the wheels fell off and due to a number of factors many which had to do with me . . .
Andrew: Can you be more specific? I’ve heard this and I didn’t know if we could talk about it. I heard that you’re divorced. You lost money and you lost something else and that’s why you’re disconnected. But I don’t know. I’m just listening to rumors.
Joel: Well, I lost my marriage. I lost, you know, was it . . . I didn’t lose a lot of money unless you count, you know, in divorce you definitely, you know, lose money but it was very equitable. But, you know, I lost the person who is closest and dearest to me. You know, we had two children together and shared, you know, a couple of decades plus together and, you know, I definitely contributed my part and then some to . . .
Andrew: What’s your part, what do I have to watch out for, because my wife and I were married. We have a tough conversation today because I realized I was a big jerk but I feel otherwise we’re okay. But every marriage seems to break up. What are we in for here?
Joel: Well, they don’t all breakup but I mean it is hard. Relationships are hard.
Andrew: Your parents broke up, you said that, right?
Joel: My parents broke up, yup, so there’s, you know, there’s a propensity there if your parents are divorced. Guess what, you are more at risk because that’s what you had modeled for you. Right? So, you know, my kids, how could they stand a chance going into it?
But, you know, look, marriage is difficult, all relationships are difficult and don’t be a jerk. You know, listen to your spouse. Seek to serve your spouse on both sides. Seek to . . . you know, love is not noun. It’s a verb, and verbs mean action and it’s something that we do whether we feel like it or not. And I was too selfish, you know, in my marriage and more about what I wanted than listening to what she wanted or belittling what she had wanted.
And, you know, I wasn’t a bad husband but I wasn’t the best. I was a pretty good father. You know, I was always there for every birthday party and recital and all that but maybe sometimes a little too authoritarian with my kids rather than hearing their hearts and what their needs were and treating them like individuals. And, yeah, it’s not an unusual story, right? It’s pretty fairly typical and there was parts of me that really didn’t understand and it’s because I hadn’t been through my own dark night in the soul. You know, I hadn’t really . . . you have to, at some point in your life you’re going to grieve deeply at the loss of something and that loss and that grief puts you face to face with reality.
And it took my wife leaving me. We tried to work things out. It didn’t happen. But it took that time for me to pull back and say, “You know what, I’m going to let go of my team here over the next year, I’m going to take a semi-sabbatical and I’m not going to write books. I’m not going to speak. I’m not going to speak. I’m not going to launch new products. I’m kind of go under the radar.”
And I took that time to work on myself. Physically, I lost a bunch of weight. Emotionally, I saw a counselor. I dealt with my crap to some degree and, you know, there’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the pyramid and at the top you have self-actualization. I’m not there but I did move a couple of steps forward in there. You know, I made some movement and that’s all we can do because we never arrive.
And spiritually, I connected with God in a way that was meaningful and significant for me. And during this period of getting healthy and finding myself I started getting a little restless and bored and finally, I came back out to speak and write again. And for the last few years it’s not going through the motions. It’s figuring out what do I do now? And so I got to the live video space because I love live video and I’ve been able to teach and write in that space and do keynotes.
And from outward appearances, Andrew, people would say, “Wow, Joel is killing it.” And they did. But internally, I’m not. Because in my mind I haven’t had my last grand slam home run since 2008 and 2009. And I’m questioning even as I’m writing this book I’m asking myself, “Is my best work behind me? Am I just going to coast now on these things that I’ve done before or am I going to expand my audience? Will there be a greater impact ahead of me because I tell people your greatest work is before you?”
But as I’m writing the book and telling people part of the fun formula is you have to trust the process, you can’t put the cart before the horse, you have to wait for the right time, the right person, the right thing to resonate with you. First draft is turned in, I’m still struggling with this. Between the time that the first draft and the second draft is when it happened.
In April of 2017 I had this natural curiosity and fascination with cryptocurrency and bitcoin. It wasn’t planned, didn’t see it coming. I had heard about bitcoin from peers for a couple of years but I didn’t get it and I didn’t try to get it. So in this case I wasn’t as early as I could have been. But I started paying attention and then my friend, Travis Wright and I we’re talking about stuff. We share a lot of things, you know, that we agree with and so we’ll get on Messenger. We talk politics. We got bored talking politics and we discovered we both were fascinated with crypto.
So from April of 2017 forward we’re on Messenger almost every day talking crypto. And it was July 16th, 2017 and Travis sends me a message and it’s sarcastic. He says, “When are we going to start the Joel and TW crypto show.” And the moment he said that, Andrew, boom, it landed in my soul. And I said, “I’m calling you right now.” Two days later, we launched “The Bad Crypto Podcast,” website up, logo, design, Libsyn account, first episode recorded, I had no idea what was going to happen. We just knew it sounded like fun.
So the fun formula worked again, and I think it’s ideal that I was struggling with this question while I was writing this book because people will invariably are going to say, “Well, this is easy for you to say Joel because you’ve done this, this, this.”
I was having the very same struggle many people who are listening right now are asking themselves. And once again, the formula worked and now my career is almost completely pivoted towards cryptocurrency. I just got back from Vegas today. Travis and I are emceeing a major crypto event, World Crypto Con, the Halloween weekend in Vegas at the Aria. They flew us out and they out us in Lambo’s and Ferrari’s to drive around and film a commercial spot yesterday. It was a blast. We’re having a great time.
I’m going to China next week to speak at a crypto event. I’ve never been in Beijing but this is expanding and checking off my bucket list. And if you would have asked me a year ago, “What are you going to do next?” I said, “I don’t know. I . . . ”
Andrew: I saw you in that figured it out process. You were on Snapchat and it looks like maybe you’re going to do something there. There was some interview type site where people can get on and chat. I think I saw you on there. You were just kind of having fun trying these things and I would never have known that this would be it. James Altucher, I could see doing like and being the face of crypto. You, it’s not crazy but I wouldn’t have expected it.
Joel: Me either.
Andrew: All right, the book is “The Fun Formula.” I’m going to say that you have got, for a marketing guy, you’ve got like the least sticky marketing funnel on the . . . wait, what’s the website?
Andrew: Funformulabook.com, I expected it like a landing page, collects email addresses, no. So hey, guys, if you want to go buy the book, click here. You bought the book, you want a little bit more that I couldn’t put in the book, click here. So, no, no funnel, no nothing.
Andrew: All right, but it’s good.
Joel: You do, and people are telling me, you know, marketing friends, “You should have a course and you should do a seminar.” And I’m like, “You know what, I’m so focused on, you know, I just want to get the message out there.” This is an evergreen title. This is not like, this is not a strategy that’s going to go out of style in a year or two. This is not like Twitter power that I need to do a 4.0 version if it’s going to be valuable for people to read or AdSense that needs to be updated every few years. This is evergreen and this is a core message for me and there’s a killer keynote to go with it and I think it’s going to inspire a lot of people.
Andrew: I could see that. All right, it’s a good book. I read it because I’m like you, I like to work at the last minute so I read it about like 30 minutes before we start. I read it cover to cover but that’s where I do my best work. I could never sit last night in half hour and finish the book. But I did, I like it. “The Fun Formula,” guys, go check it out. It’s available everywhere already because I couldn’t schedule this interview with Joel sooner. I will also say that I did find . . . where is that? I found the guy who did that personality test. It’s behavioralresourcegroup.com, if you guys want to go check it out. That guy did . . . he knows me. He knows my soul.
Joel: Now, you need to go talk to a therapist about your father and . . .
Andrew: Forget it, I want to talk to him. He did such a good job. All right, and then finally, I want to thank my two sponsors. The first is a company that will hot your website right, hostgator.com/mixergy and the company that will help you and Joel hire great developers is called Toptal, and the book, of course, “The Fun Formula.” Joel, thanks so much for being here. Hang on for just one second once we’re done but I want to thank everyone for listening. Bye everyone, including you, Justin. I hope I kicked ass for you, man. Bye.