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. You guys know I do research in these interviews, right? And so I contacted people, for example, who competed with today’s guests. Wow, the stuff that I found. We looked online and all the stuff that we found is not like . . . this is not an easy story to tell but I’m glad that he’s here to tell it.
Let me back off for a second. Travis Rosser is the founder of a site called Kajabi. It is a tool that lets anyone who wants to teach online quickly and easily create a membership site. I had him on Mixergy with his cofounder back in 2011. They seemed so happy go lucky that they both wanted to be on fricking mic at the same time.
Travis: That’s right.
Andrew: And I wasn’t sure how well the business was going to do because I thought anyone could just install WordPress. Who needs another like piece of software that you pay monthly for? But it turns out a lot of people did. It actually made things easier for content creators to have software that was all in one, just make it easy to publish your courses. That not only did their business take off, this became an industry where other businesses took off. So that shocked me. Then the fact that he is here today, seven years later, eight years later almost without his cofounder because of the issue he had. That shocked me.
And finally, the part that doesn’t shock me is that he’s got a book called “You, Inc.” where as a guy who started out with nothing has actually built a company and has a story that inspires a lot of people that he’s out there saying, “Hey, you know what? I believe everyone should start a business. I think everyone has a business inside them.” He said, “I’m going to take a moment out of my life and just create a step-by-step guide to helping people start businesses.” The book is called “You, Inc.” We’re going to talk about . . . I’m going to start with like the tough parts, Travis, then we’re going to go into how you build Kajabi because I didn’t think it was going to grow like it did. And then finally we’re going to talk about your book.
Travis: Oh, it’s huge.
Andrew: It’s huge. Who knew? Who knew? All right . . .
Travis: I think we knew.
Andrew: You did know. But you guys look so happy frankly because you had Andy Jenkins and I didn’t even know who he was because I’m not like a digital marketer.
Travis: Since then he built a bunch of big software apps too. WebinarJam, Kartra, all kinds of stuff just out there.
Andrew: I just signed up for a WebinarJam and actually it’s really good. All right, this interview is sponsored by two great companies. The first of all, host your website right, it’s called HostGator. Travis has some experience with them. And the second is a company that will help you hire phenomenal developers or finance people. I’ve hired . . . I still pay them monthly because I fricking love the person that I hired from this company. It’s called Toptal. I’ll tell you about them later. Travis, welcome.
Travis: Thank you, Andrew. This is so cool to be back. It’s like a time machine because I went and I watched my old interview. I look like a little kid.
Andrew: What do you pick up on as you were looking back then from yourself from who you are back then?
Travis: Two things. I was super nervous and I was super naive. And being naive was great because it got us where we needed to go. But I had no idea what was ahead of us in the coming years, the good and the bad.
Andrew: Let’s do both. The good. How much revenue did you get at Kajabi to before you left?
Travis: Yeah, as I was leaving, it was in . . . it’s not as high as some of these competitors either. It’s in like the mid-range starting of seven figures because I can’t really disclose exact numbers.
Andrew: So we’re talking about, like, one to five, not even . . .
Travis: No, no, let’s say, sorry. Maybe I’m doing . . . oh, it’s eight figures, 10 to 20 mil.
Andrew: Ten to 20 million. And this was . . . When did you leave?
Travis: This is just this last year. So 2017 was probably the last time I was privy to financials.
Andrew: And how many customers did you guys have at the time?
Travis: Tens of thousands. I’m not even sure. But the number I do . . .
Andrew: We’re talking like 1,000 or more like 50,000?
Travis: No, no, probably closer to 20. Between 10 and 20.
Andrew: Were paying you every month or work, pay Kajabi every month to host their course content, usually courses, right, and also help them sell and so on. You guys expanded beyond just the hosting of the course, right?
Andrew: Wow-wee, wow-wee. Okay. And . . .
Travis: But one more thing, the customers have made $600 million selling knowledge. That’s like the mind boggler.
Andrew: Here’s the part that to me is a mind boggler. I made the mistake back then that I don’t make anymore, which was it’s so fricking easy to install WordPress, install Wishlist. It’s not that hard. I forgot that for me, even for me, it was hard to install WordPress and for me to install back then WordPress. And then also to install these plugins for WordPress. Today is hard for me to install the plugins to make it work. You get this blindness over the difficulty. You assume that’s what it is. You assume it’s easy enough and you forget that . . . all right, and you guys didn’t and I’m seeing more and more whenever there’s like software that someone has to install just cutting that out and making it easy for them by eliminating installation is a huge win.
Travis: Yeah. Because it opens up new opportunities for people that would have never thought that they could use whatever that app is. And that was for us is we wanted to make it easy for anybody to share their knowledge. I mean, there was just something we saw happening and now there’s so many competitors, Teachable, Udemy, Thinkific . . . there’s so many.
Andrew: You’ve got a course online right now.
Travis: I do.
Andrew: Are you using Kajabi?
Travis: So after . . . and, you know, at the time [request 00:05:02], I sold Kajabi this last year. I tested everything after I was kind of out of the Kajabi universe just to kind of say, “All right, compared to the app that I helped build, what does everything else look like?” And I landed on Teachable for right now. I like it. It’s simple. I chose not to keep my stuff on Kajabi. I just wanted to kind of leave that part of that universe behind.
Andrew: So now let’s get to the bad. It wasn’t an easy breakup.
Travis: It was not.
Andrew: What happened at the breakup?
Travis: It was not an easy breakup. Kenny and I have been partners for eight years. And there was a time when I think I started feeling like I wasn’t sure what I was doing at the company. You know, as a startup entrepreneur, you have this vision and you get the troops together, you rally the troops, and they’re like, “Yes, we’re going to build this thing.” And at first, it’s just a couple of you. Then you start hiring out different people. And pretty soon I had people doing all my tasks that I did before.
And the past couple years, I’ve kind of had trouble finding my place. Like, “How do I help Kajabi keep going forward?” And that was something that loomed on me heavy. It was something that Kenny and I kind of I had conversations all the time. “How are you helping the company? I’m doing this. What are you doing?” And it eventually put kind of a rift in our relationship. And just . . .
Andrew: Because he felt that you weren’t doing enough?
Travis: That’s correct.
Andrew: And at the beginning, what were you doing?
Travis: At the beginning, I did everything that had do with design, branding, products, software design, everything. And by the time I’m leaving, you know, there’s over 30, 40 employees and there’s multiple departments doing everything I did. So it’s funny because now I can see exactly what I needed to do and what was the next step, which was moving this message beyond. Because what Kajabi did was incredible. The fact that anybody could share their knowledge was a new thing, and it literally created millionaires. Like I’ve been in events and I’ve met people that are millionaires because of Kajabi.
Andrew: And so you’re saying, “Look, what you could have done was been the guy who talked about this, publish a book, go out and speak.” That’s where you could have added. Instead . . . I don’t want to like spend too much time on this because I know then it’ll make you uncomfortable, close you off and this is about how you built your business not what happened at the end. Instead, I’m looking here at a court case where it’s you, Travis against Kenneth. Is your company called Blink First, LLC?
Travis: Yeah, I can’t discuss it at all, but yeah, there is . . .
Andrew: You can’t discuss any of this.
Andrew: You can you say what lawsuit was about even?
Travis: No, you’ll just have to look it up yourself. But it’s all . . .
Andrew: I’m looking at it right.
Travis: It’s all been resolved, but yeah, it wasn’t an easy exit and I definitely don’t want to spend any time talking about it.
Andrew: Okay. I told you before the interview started, I’m going to ask you questions and you can feel free to say, “Andrew, I don’t want to talk about it,” and I respect it. I’m curious then, can we talk about what happened to marriage?
Andrew: Or it’s too personal?
Travis: No, that’s fine. I think it’s important to look at your life and realize where are you crashing and burning. And clearly I think my relationship with Kenny and leading Kajabi was having these struggles and I was ignoring it. And then I was married for 15 years, and I ignored the problems. And, “Should I be with this person? Are we good parents? Do we get along?” And I had a very difficult marriage for the first 15 years that we were married. And that pretty much . . .
Andrew: Wait, it’s a 15-year marriage?
Travis: I was 15 years I was married. Yeah.
Andrew: And you’re saying for the whole 15 years then it was difficult.
Travis: I look back now and I realized, yeah, I allowed a lot of these toxic relationships. I’m terrible at realizing why you’re treating me like crap and I don’t do anything about it.
Andrew: What do you mean? How were you treated like crap by your wife? And how are you treated like crap by your company?
Travis: I don’t think I stick up for myself. If someone says, “Oh, man, you screwed up or you did this,” I’m like, “Yeah, you’re right.” Instead of saying, “Wait a minute, I actually am a great man. I am a great husband.” And I allow people to kind of just step on me. I think I’m being kind and nice, but it makes me a push over sometimes.
Andrew: So in your relationship, what did you get pushed over about? That you were a bad husband, a bad father in what way?
Travis: Bad husband . . .
Andrew: In what way?
Travis: Well, first of all, I realized I probably shouldn’t have married her because now I realized love is really, really important. I got married at 25. And I think when you’re young, you’re like, “All right, this is the one. Okay, I’m going to get married.” And, you know, go to college, finished college, “All right, time to get married.” And I just married the first person I was dating at that time and I realized looking back that I should have stopped and said, “Well, what do you want?” Like I’m in this phase right now. What do I want to do? What do I want to be? And I didn’t do that before I got married.
Andrew: There does seem to be such a lightness about you right now. I really, all I saw was black and white text. And so I was expecting . . . all right, I was going to say this to you before, as I was talking to people before—just I’d like to prep by talking to people in the industry—one person said, “Shit show.” And I was expecting you to come in here with this, “The world is so heavy on my shoulder.” Like, you’re not. There’s an unbelievable lightness. Even as I talk to you about tough questions, you’re smiling, you’re going along with it, you’re telling me your barrier but you’re also not overwhelmed and bothered by it. What happened? What’s this turnaround?
Travis: All of this, first of all, was necessary. Bad marriage, realizing that Kenny should probably lead Kajabi and I probably should move on was all good things. In fact, I just posted this Facebook Live. I saw this quote in the back of this documentary about the lead industry. This guy had it on his like WeChat. It said, “They thought they buried us but I was actually the seed.”
Andrew: Oh, what a great line.
Travis: That’s a great quote because I was like, “Man, the marriage and I don’t know if I can lead.” It’s like everything was piling on me, and sometimes I was grabbing the shovel and throwing it on me too. I was burying myself. And then just recently I realized, “Wait, I’m actually the seed.” Because writing the book, you know, “You, Inc.,” it made me go back to why did we build Kajabi. And now as I’m working on new ventures and new startups, I’m remembering the things I brought to the table to help launch Kajabi. And then I also realized that if I’m being planted and I’m the seed, that darkness is okay.
Andrew: The seed is what?
Travis: Darkness is the first step.
Andrew: What are you the seed for?
Travis: I’m the seed for my next project, for the next thing I’m going to do. I’m the person that’s going to be the one that moves my life forward. And there’s a part of me that really embraced that lately. Like, instead of being like, “Wait, you’re not in Kajabi anymore. You know, what are you going to do next?” And I realize I’m just going to embrace the fact that I’m right here and I have all these talents and all these relationships. And I know the next step is to grow into something and pretty soon I’ll break through the soil and I’ll be onto my next thing.
Andrew: And you did it well, right? Millions of dollars after you guys separated and now you’re no longer part of the business. You have the money in the bank. So you’re at a place where this isn’t like a sad story. This is a story with a triumph that started in what I didn’t realize was a difficult situation. You always felt poor growing up even though both your parents had good jobs. They were teachers. Why did you feel like you were so poor?
Travis: Yeah, so that’s something that, as I’m writing the book, I realized that I just always thought my parents struggled. They were typical middle class. They had plenty of money to pay the bills, both teachers, but they were always complaining. They were always out of money. They were always limited by their paychecks. And it started making my mind think about the fact, “Well, why? Why is that person down the street have all these things or this farmer is really successful over here?” My dad’s friend. And I started analyzing everything about money. Where does it come from? How do I make it? I mean, down to when I was in sixth grade, I sold a cartoon pictures of Garfield to my classmates for like 50 cents.
Andrew: Because you needed to make it. You needed enough money to get out of your perceived poverty and your perception of poverty came from your parents complaining about their situation. And frankly, also having a hard time making ends meet.
Travis: That’s right. I just didn’t want to be trapped like they were. I wanted to be able to go beyond my small town and just do the things that I could feel in my heart ever since I was a kid.
Andrew: And you had this entrepreneurial spirit, the Garfield story that you just told us. The oranges. What did you do with oranges? You were talking to our producer about this?
Travis: Yeah. So I grew up in the Central Valley right here in the middle of California and there’s oranges all over the place. And we had a couple acres and those oranges would fall on the ground all the time. We might give them away to friends and neighbors. And I started realizing I could sell these things, especially if I left the area. So I started going to Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Burbank and just selling these oranges.
And then one day I was at an auto parts store and they had this air freshener that was made out of orange peels and I sprayed it. I was like, “Oh, man, this is good.” And it smelled exactly like it. So I’d take it to the farmers market. I’d kind of walked by and spray it real casual and old ladies would walk up and go, “You smell amazing.”
Andrew: Ah, so now your booth had a scent.
Travis: It had a scent.
Andrew: Yeah, and it does bring people in. I think it was in Howard Schultz’s book about Starbucks, where he said that the smell of Starbucks is critical to getting people to come in. That’s one of the reason why they didn’t want to have food in there because he didn’t want to disrupt it. You figured that out as a kid. You had that entrepreneurial spirit. You were then, at some point, starting to create a bunch of different software. Who coded the software before we get into Kajabi? Who coded the other software?
Travis: Oh, man, forever, it was Kenny and I. Kenny coded, I designed. We’d have all kinds of crazy ideas. We did that because we were friends since 1998 and we built Kajabi in 2010. So over a decade of just being buddies. We met at church of all things, and we just would hang out and talk about ideas. We made things like we made a Twitter scavenger hunt where it was called Find That Tweet. You could identify this one tweet and then you could give all these clues and then people had to search the entire Twitterverse to try to find it. That was one of our [leading apps 00:14:38].
Andrew: That’s one the things that you are creating, trying to make it as a software entrepreneur, trying to figure this out. I’m wondering how you knew about like Andy Jenkins and the others in the digital marketing space. Were you following them?
Travis: No, what happened was . . . I don’t remember the year. 2004 is when I first heard about, you know, selling information, eBooks, all the stuff that used to be done back then. There was a guy named Corey Rudl who’s kind of the grandfather of Internet Marketing. Yeah, so I would get spams from him all the time. I’m like, “This guy is such a scammer. It’s a scam. It’s a scam.” And then unfortunately, Corey died in a racing accident. And it was in “The Orange County Register” here in Orange County. And I read it and I was like, “Whoa, a lot of these things they said is in the article.”
So I went to the very next convention. It was here in Newport Beach, 2004. And I was hooked on the concept of selling knowledge. I met a guy that taught Madden football, and he’s making tens of thousands of dollars a month teaching how to play Madden football. I met Jermaine Griggs, who’s in the book who grew up in the hood in Long Beach. And he had hearandplay.com and became a millionaire from teaching people how to play the piano. And I was hooked on this idea of digital stuff and selling it.
Andrew: Yeah. You know what? That’s one of the things that these guys are especially good at in the digital marketing space. They’re good at showing their winners, showing the people who’ve done with what they teach and getting that dream sold. You know who’s good at it too from the software space is Russell Brunson. I was like falling in love with him.
Travis: He’s amazing.
Andrew: He’s so good.
Travis: Have you had him on the show before?
Andrew: I have. And he likes my interview so much because . . . He’ll text me from time to time when there’s like an especially punchy question. Like, “I can’t believe you asked it.” And then finally, he wanted to do a live event. And he said, “Why don’t I just have Andrew come in and interview me?” So he flew me out to Utah. We got into this place. And it was like kind of experience he expected. I called up people who didn’t like him and did some research and he loved it. He loved it.
Travis: You bought the dirt.
Andrew: He loved it. Because, you know, at some point, it’s just you want to be yourself. It’s only the people who are posers were afraid that somehow their facade is going to be punctured but you don’t care. You’re fine with it.
Travis: No. If you’re transparent and honest, you don’t really care. I mean, just like you’re asking me I mean, I have dark times and I’ll talk about them.
Andrew: But it’s like what about this dark time here? I kind of bolded it. It was Brian Benson. Brian Benson is our producer here, one of our two producers. He had a really tough conversation. Like was he empathic? Was he easy to talk to?
Travis: Yeah, he was very easy to talk to. It was an incredible conversation. In fact, we ended it with him telling me about his brother that’s making music and he’s like, “Would you send me a book?” I’m like, “Yes.” And so I sent one of the books to his brother and his brother is now reading the book about how to turn what he knows about music maybe into some kind of online course or something.
Andrew: I didn’t realize his brother was there.
Travis: Yeah. The other thing I was talking about was when I realized I wasn’t going to be a part of Kajabi, and it was kind of this gnawing feeling for a long time before it was ever addressed between any of us that it was just time for one of us to decide to stay and maybe one of us leave, depression started setting in, because I was like, “Okay, I’ve been doing this for the past eight years. What am I going to do next? What am I good at?” Like it was this this overwhelming feeling, “I better figure out what I’m going to do.”
And that sent me in quite a depression, quite a, “Whoa, I built this thing and now I’m moving on. Even though I’m leaving with a good exit, what do I do?” And that put me in a place that was difficult, very difficult. It’s crazy to think here you are. And the thing was also, you know, there was a lawsuit pending. We hadn’t resolved it. The sale hadn’t been resolved yet. So I was in a bad place.
Andrew: And when I go into those situations, there’s always some wall I’m imagining crashing into it. It’s something like, “I’m going to let my kids down. They’re going to be publicly shamed and this is going to be a public record for them forever.” Where did your head go?
Travis: Oh, man, you know, losing it all, I know I could build it again. But just because I didn’t get to leave probably the way I wanted to leave really was hard for me because I like people to like me. But we didn’t get to leave in the best like, “Oh, hey, have a parade . . . ” Kajabi was more just like, “Yeah, let’s not work together.” That was hard. And just missing that creation, like that ability to know that, “Hey, let’s work on this thing and let’s build it,” like that . . .
Andrew: And you wouldn’t have that.
Travis: Yeah, I wouldn’t have that anymore.
Andrew: Got it.
Travis: And that had been slipping away for a long time, because, like I said, I couldn’t figure out where I fit in. I think the fear of having to go back to normal day job scared the crap out of me. Like the worst case scenario, “What if I’m back in a cubicle, designing software? Holy shit, that would suck.” And then I’m like, “Wait a minute, you have all these relationships, you have all these tools, you know all these things.” And ironically, I’ve leaned on a lot of things in the book about me trying to find the thing that I love because the book is really about that. It’s about trying to find the things in your life to give you that passion feeling. I mean, you know what it’s like when you doing something or you’re working on something.
Andrew: [inaudible 00:19:40] passion feeling?
Travis: Oh, man, designing software gives me that passion feeling, speaking to people and helping them find their gift.
Andrew: Have you designed software since then?
Andrew: What have you designed? For yourself just ideas, sketches, that type of thing.
Travis: Oh, man, I have so many ideas. Some of them I don’t want to talk about yet.
Andrew: Okay. But it’s your ideas?
Travis: Yeah, yeah, completely.
Andrew: And so one of fears you had was, “Can I get a job? Or what happens if I get a job and then the soul will be sucked out of me?”
Travis: Well, here’s the thing, is Kenny and I had been together for so long. It was like a breakup. It was like a breakup and a death almost.
Andrew: Like so losing the person you love almost.
Travis: [inaudible 00:20:16] and I love Kajabi and I love all the customers. Or it was more just the dream. Me being part of that dream, I realized it’s like better for me to move on. And that was hard. That was like everything in me, my soul had been driving to that. And in the meantime, I’m finishing writing this book because I started writing it like, “Maybe this can help the company. Is I’ll write this book about the customers and how I built the software.”
And as I finished the book and I started reading it and getting feedback, I realized, “Holy shit, like I’m leading everybody to this place. And at the end of the rainbow of this book is Kajabi, and I’m no longer part of that story anymore.” And that was hard to like accept. And I’m the kind of person that I believe in a higher power or something is bigger than me controlling everything.
So I’ve had to come to some moments of humility. Just say, “Okay, this is meant to be. This is how it’s supposed to be.” And that’s kind of the seed thing that kind of came up. I still got to plant the seed. I still got to plant the seed that what you know you could turn into a business. And personally, my favorite thing to do, like if my wife and I go to a party or something is they asked me what Kajabi is or the book, and then I just start talking to them. And I can almost always pull something out of them and it’s powerful. And the biggest shift about not being involved in Kajabi anymore is I’m not so you have to do a course, you have to do a course. I’m interested in all side hustle, all business.
And it’s worth just in the past year with my niece. She is . . . oh, Ashley, if I say your age wrong, I’m so sorry. I think Ashley is 21. She just started doing hair braids for weddings. She’s really good at doing braids and stuff and forever I’m like, “Ash, you should do a course. You should do an Instagram.” So she started doing an Instagram. Then her friends start asking her to come do braids at weddings. And then pretty soon she’s landing weddings and she told me in one wedding she makes the same she made working all month at Anthropologie, like the retail store. And I was like, “Dang, that’s where my passion is.”
Andrew: Not so much you have to do a course, but you have to do something with this passion and talent and it could be a course but it also could be doing weddings where you got it. All right . . .
Travis: It could be anything.
Andrew: Let me take a moment talk about my first sponsor and then come back and talk about the next sponsor. Or actually, then come back and talk about the rest of your story. I want to find out how you met Andy Jenkins and how you partnered up to create the first version of Kajabi. I really love these tips that you’ve got about creating courses having seen people who churn and I want to go through that list with you.
But sponsor is . . . why don’t we start with HostGator? HostGator, have you used HostGator? I think you told me you did, right?
Travis: I love HostGator. I haven’t used it in a long time, but that’s where I started out, HostGator and cPanel and WordPress. I dream in that world just back there building apps and websites.
Andrew: I avoid the cPanel and the whole thing. It was Ron Gula who I just talked to just before you. He also, he’s now an investor, had a business called Tenable that went public. Is over $2 billion in value. I asked him, “What did you use to host your current website?” He said, “HostGator.” I’m going to tell you something. I’m not going to say HostGator is the best hosting company in the world, right? Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. Every time I start to say stuff like that, people will come out with another one that they like better for this reason. Here’s the thing guys, I’m not arguing this with you. Just get your fricking website hosted and move on with your lives. Don’t try to get like this extra feature here, or the other one over there.
Just go with someone who you could count on to work and that will grow with you. You’re going to go to hostgator.com/mixergy. You’ll get a super low rate. Will there be a penny off somewhere? I don’t know. I don’t think so, but maybe. But I’ll tell you this. Once you get started, the site will work. You’ll start to figure out the next step and the next step after that. Then as your business grows, you’ll call them up and you say, “Hey, I got the cheap price. Do you have an inexpensive price that will grow? Give me maybe dedicated server or maybe you guys will manage my WordPress for me instead of me because I don’t want to do it.” I don’t know what it is. They’ll have it and they’ll grow with you. So if you want to get started, go with the company that I have used.
That Travis . . . I still am a customer. There’s Travis, has used. I guess he’s not with it right now. Ron Gula the founder of Tenable is on them right now and so many other people I’ve interviewed. Just go to hostgator.com/mixergy. You’ll give me credit frankly for having signed up using that URL. You’ll also have us at Mixergy standing behind you if you ever have any issues. And finally, I have a hosting company that just works. If you hate your hosting company, hostgator.com/mixergy. If you love your idea and you want to get started with it, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. If you’re just kind of curious about what the offer is, hostgator.com/mixergy. Thank you HostGator for sponsoring.
All right. You and Andy, did you guys connect on Twitter?
Travis: Yeah. So way back then Twitter . . . it’s weird now Twitter is a big deal again, which is interesting. Back then, Twitter was kind of the thing. Facebook was kind of getting there, but on Twitter you can connect with anybody. And back then Andy had just sold this company that he had from the East Coast. I don’t remember where it’s from. And he moved to San Diego, an hour and a half from here. And I would just started to follow him on Twitter and he started asking questions about his blog, ironically, his WordPress blog. And I said, “Hey, I can help you. I can redesign that. I can do this logo for you.”
And I did a couple things for free. That’s the biggest thing is when you first connect with someone, you’d better provide a lot of value. And I did that. And next thing you know, within a couple days I’m on the phone. He invites me to go down there. Kenny and I both go down there. He’s telling us about some course Video Boss he’s going to make one day. And then we pitched the idea of Kajabi. We didn’t have a name yet, but we told them what we thought about building. And back then he’s like, “Yeah, just built on WordPress. Just build a big plugin.” And we’re like, “No, we want to build a platform. Like no installation, just upload content.”
Andrew: Why? Why did you want to do that even back then?
Travis: Well, we were fascinated with building platforms because we listened to this old podcast called “The Web 2.0 Show.”
Travis: Did you ever hear that show?
Andrew: Oh, yeah, long time ago when I think . . .
Travis: Long time ago. It was poorly produced. They didn’t do the best job, but it was really interesting and I am grateful they did it because it opened Kenny and I’s, if that’s how you say it, like our minds to web app. And we had been fascinated with building something, building something that would make us money and then something that would make the people that used it money. And it just seemed platform was smarter than a bunch of WordPress installs.
Andrew: Yeah, you guys were a little ahead of the curve even back then . . . especially back then, because people were thinking plugins for WordPress. And I think at the time people didn’t even realize that you weren’t allowed to charge for a plugin for WordPress, but you could charge for the service that made the plugin work. And that became a thing. Okay, so you said, “We could build this from scratch.” Did Andy come on as a partner or what?
Travis: Yeah. So, Andy was gung-ho, especially once I started sending him designs because that was the thing is I would pitch him on it on just a Photoshop design. And actually, it’s so fun to be back in that phase again, as I’m building new things and I’m just literally just like wireframing stuff. And I haven’t done this in a long time because I had a team and now I’m using Sketch and Figma and all this cool stuff. It’s so fun to design.
But we pitched him on the idea and he loved it. And so, yeah, we completely built it behind the scenes and he was a partner at the very beginning. He gave us a little bit of capital, maybe $75,000 that we paid back. And then he was a partner all the way until after we launched, and he got really heavy into working on movies he was creating. Because I don’t know if you know this but he was like some producer at some level for “Blair Witch Project” and some other [inaudible 00:27:27].
Andrew: I didn’t know that. I’m on his LinkedIn profile and I’ve got a sense of his background. But no, I had no idea.
Travis: Yeah. So once we realized he probably didn’t want to be that involved, we kind of moved on. Bought him out and then it was just Kenny and I from then on.
Andrew: Oh, I didn’t realize that. But then he did launch on your platform, gave you feedback about what to improve, what he needed in the first version. Do you remember one or two . . . I know it’s been a long time, but you remember one or two things that he told you that you wouldn’t have known otherwise?
Travis: Oh, man, he likes to build a lot of features in the software, and it’s awesome because now he’s in the software business. But I don’t know. The way he thought about commenting was really cool. He wanted us to be able to tag the type of comment, which is kind of different. Like was it a question? Was it a suggestion? Was it an idea? That was pretty cool. He taught us a lot about the sizing of the videos because we didn’t know much about video content at that time. The biggest mistake we made back then was trying to host and then code a lot of the video ourselves because there wasn’t a Wistia yet or anything like that. And so he taught us a ton about how video worked. He’s an incredible copywriter. I mean, he’s one of the best at that kind of stuff.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m kind of reluctant to even talk about this domain because I don’t want you guys to take it out. It’s such a good relic of the internet. Kajabi.wordpress.com. Do you know this?
Travis: No, I do not know this.
Andrew: There’s like you and Kenny just kind of thinking through what you are doing back then, updating people from like month to month on where we are. It’s not at all organized. It’s trying to be but it’s not. But it’s interesting because you see things like how you were involved in Frank Kern and Trey Smith’s List Control launch and what you learned from that, how you were doing. Where is this thing? Encoding, here.
Travis: I’m going to try to load too.
Andrew: Yeah. There’s like the creator, crunch, compute. Like you were using the . . .
Travis: Oh my gosh. That’s so . . .
Andrew: [inaudible 00:29:23] cording engine to try to deal with audio and video files. This is all you. The thing that I take away from all that, isn’t it great to just go back in time and see that?
Travis: Oh, of course. I’m so glad this is here. This is so cool.
Travis: Klub with a K. Which was really weird.
Andrew: There’s some reason why you guys wanted everything to have a K in it.
Travis: Andy Jenkins is all about that. To the point where it was it was awkward. Like, “We cannot continue to put Ks after this stuff.”
Andrew: I guess because of Kajabi.
Travis: I guess, yeah.
Andrew: Because there’d be like communicator was a fully featured email marketing service cart adds ecommerce functionality directly into there. You can see Kajabi. Oh, got it. So John Reese came on. So what happened was from what I could see from this is Andy came on and used it. The bottom of Andy’s course pages had a link back to Kajabi. His friends were turned on to it. They signed up. The bottom of their site also was Kajabi. Back then, I don’t know if you did . . . did you do domain mapping?
Travis: No, it was just literally like it was just that link. We call it our whisper campaign. And people would click on that and then there’d be a landing page. Before there was the ClickFunnels or Leadpages. We had built our little page for it.
Andrew: And that’s how people would come in and sign up. And at one point, I didn’t realize this, you told Brian, our producer, “You know, we were doing well with all these influencers, but we couldn’t build a business just on influencers.” Let me pause and ask why. Why is it that you didn’t think if we could just power the highest converting people, we would do great? Why do you want smaller people?
Travis: I think because investors always told us that. As people would come, like VCs would come and try to shop us to figure if we were in a position to, you know, get in that space. They were always like, “Yeah, you have to show us a conversion. Spend a $1 and make $2.” And we did so much better with influencers than we did in that market. Which, ironically, now here 10 years later, that’s the thing. I mean, working with influencers is a great strategy. But back then we were, you know, newer and everybody else was doing it like in the sports space with Nike and everything.
But not many people had done it where you want to find a customer that is your customer and then their customers are all your customers. And we did that with Andy Jenkins. And I watched the interview and I said this to you back then was it was like Tiger Woods won the Masters with our golf club and then everybody wanted our golf club. And that’s what happened. Everybody wanted to build a site like the first Kajabi sites to sell whatever they were going to sell.
Andrew: And so how did the first people sell? How did the first people . . . What did you do to help them sell?
Travis: Well, the first six or seven customers were like Andy Jenkins, John Reese, Frank Kern, Jeff Walker. And we handheld all that. It was like me, Photoshop. Kenny put in the database. There was no admin behind it for months. And those guys just sold based on their own cloud, their own mailing lists, their own affiliate programs. And February was the first time and then all the way through the spring and the summer. And then October 2010 is when we launched ourselves. And so by then now we have like thousands of customers lined up, tens of thousands of customers ready to come and try us out, which was a whole nother nightmare. I can talk about that later. But what the launch was like and the just the hitting that many customers at once.
Andrew: Tell me. Because you know what? I imagine that it was easy in the beginning and then it became a shit show later on. But no, you’re saying even in the beginning, things were tough. What are some of the issues that you had when all these people signed up?
Travis: Oh, we went from having an app that maybe 200 people were using. We have like a beta group. And they had found every corner that you could think of that had issues, but they didn’t have testing like they do now. I mean, all of the programmers now like Kajabi, they build testing into their code so it’s testing all the time. Back then that was sort of a new concept. And so we had tested a lot of it. But, you know, we launched in on a Thursday in 2010 and tens of thousands of people tried it out because like this free trial, you could use it for like seven days for free. And we had hired a team in the Philippines and we didn’t really do the math of . . . you know, they’re basically working tomorrow. So today is the next day.
And so, you know, Thursday came and then Friday came and then pretty soon it was our Saturday and our trouble tickets had piled up to like 2,000 tickets of just questions like, “How do I change my password? Wait, what size is this image supposed to be?” Just all kinds of things. And then bugs, two people found bugs, things that they were able to find a way to break it. And I remember I was at a soccer game and Kenny calls me. He’s like, “Oh, you’re not going to believe.” It’s like, oh my god. I finished the soccer game ran over to his house, got all of our computers and put it on his kitchen and literally started answering tickets. It was like that was the beginning. Huge tidal wave and try to hold our breath until we could get to the top.
Andrew: Because the outsourced team was supposed to handle the tickets, not the coding. They were just supposed to respond.
Travis: Respond and help. But we didn’t have anything in place for that kind of volume. We had never been in that position before.
Andrew: I see it. And, look, oh, no, it’s . . . I thought I found the name of the company where you guys were paying like two bucks an hour to have somebody go through and respond for you. But no, that’s . . .
Travis: No, we hired our own our own people. Andy helped us find someone over there that helped us build the team. And then some of those people are still on that team. Actually, one of the guys tattooed the first logo on his shoulder and the brand has been changed three times since then. So I feel bad.
Andrew: No, actually, that’s pretty good. That’s like having an old t-shirt. Here in San Francisco, if you have an old company t-shirt from like the first version, you are one of the original. That’s a lot of credibility that comes from being associated all the way back then not being a newbie.
Andrew: In my mind anyway. That tattoo is golden. Let’s go down to the next group of people. You and Brian were talking about how the next challenge, now you’ve got all these regular people coming in, was getting them to be successful and to sell. You told me a moment ago about some of the challenges the software had. Eventually the software got up to speed up. What did you do to help the people who were creating courses get up to speed?
Travis: We realized that lots of people have great ideas and great intentions. But when they hit a wall, they just stop. And so we used all kinds of things back then that could analyze usability on the site. And we tried to think, “At what steps do they need to go to find success?” Like, “Okay, if they post a video, if they do this, if they set up pricing, if Stripe is set up.” And so we analyzed that whole process and then we found out something else that if they made at least $1,000, they would never leave.
And so back then, I think Kenny came up with the idea of a Kajabi hero. And that’s someone that’s gone from 0 to 1,000 and that program was so awesome. Within the first two months or so, that program generated for the customers like $1.4 million. This is new revenue to enough people that . . . I got to do all the math. But it was like just over a million dollars in new revenue.
Andrew: Because the competition and the drive to get to that first one was so big?
Travis: Well, the focus, we’re like, “Here’s where you’re headed.” Because up until then you’re like, “I don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m just banging on software. I want to build this.” But like, “No, here’s your destination and head that way.” And it’s not that we had any answers or anything. Pretty soon, though, which is awesome, I started interviewing them. I would do exactly what we’re doing here. I’d ask the questions and then we start posting those interviews. And that was powerful because now they can see someone ahead of them, which is like the true hero’s journey. Now you’ve got someone in front of you saying, “Hey, here’s what you need to do. I tried this, this worked.” And that became like a club almost, to become a Kajabi hero and you get the t-shirt. And even now Kajabi has like $100,000 jacket and special hat. And it’s just such a cool concept of showing you can do this.
Andrew: That’s such a great idea. Do you think that the competition alone is enough to get people to drive towards 1,000? Or do you need to give them something physical? Or do you need to give them . . . We’ve got this chatbot business that we run and I want the people who are building agencies, getting certified to get their first client. I’m just thinking, “What do we send them first as soon as they get their first client?” How about the 10th client? What do you think? Is it important to offer something physical?
Travis: You know what? At the time I didn’t know if this was going to be a good idea, but it sure worked out. I think Russell was already doing where you get like the funnel hacker shirt. But this one you had to earn, you had to earn it. So once you’ve got it, you would then post it inside the Kajabi community. And you were really proud, like, “Hey, I got the shirt.” And that definitely became like bragging rights. It was competitive.
Andrew: So a shirt. Got it, got it. I think I overthink it or under think it when it comes to what to give, partially because Russell. What does Russell have? The 2 Comma Club, right?
Travis: Yeah, of course.
Andrew: He sends you that thing that looks like a golden record. By the way, I never thought I would be in that. I said to my team after I came back from Utah, I said, “Check out this whole 2 Comma Club. Are we in it or what?” It turns out we are. It turns out . . .
Travis: Nice. Congratulations.
Andrew: And I’m proud of that too. It doesn’t give you an extra fricking dollar.
Travis: No, it’s like golden glove. It’s a platinum record on the wall. I mean . . .
Andrew: You know what? I don’t even want to keep it. I think the way that I operate, I don’t like stuff. I’ll take a picture of it and then I’ll dump it I guess. I don’t know, maybe I’ll feel too attach once it comes in.
Travis: You could just sell it. Sell it and donate the money or something.
Andrew: But I did want it and is enough of a draw, I see. And you’re saying the shirt is a draw. The thing . . .
Travis: Hold on. I just unplugged myself.
Andrew: I’m wondering . . .
Travis: Sorry about that, Andrew. It’s weird.
Andrew: What happened to your mic, by the way? Are you still using the mic and headset?
Travis: No, I’m doing the . . . this guy right here.
Andrew: Oh, God, good.
Travis: And I’m doing the wire at the bottom so I can hear myself which really helps.
Andrew: Got it, yeah. That’s a big thing [inaudible 00:38:48].
Travis: And then I unplugged it, it fully went silent. And I was like, “Oh, crap.”
Andrew: We’ve been buying mics for guests, I love it. That little bit, it costs a lot of money and it’s a lot of time. I’m glad, by the way, that you’re not like a schnorrer and none of my guests are. If they have mics, they don’t say, “All right, buy me an extra mic.” They say, “No, I have a mic. It’s okay.”
Travis: That’s fine. Of course.
Andrew: I would still buy you a mic. But, anyway. So that’s what you were doing, just showing what was working for other people, having that competition. I saw that competition works well for Shopify. How about one other tip? What else did you do to make your early customers successful enough to want to stay with you?
Travis: We got them involved. They were part of the process. In 2015, we recoded everything and built a whole new version of Kajabi. And in almost the same time a year, it was like October, November of 2015, we launched this new version of the software and we called everybody that signed up within those first couple weeks, founders, and we charged them like 1,000 bucks. And that gave an annual account, which is a really good deal. And the pricing was never going to change and they would always get early access. And to be part of the founders club was a big deal also.
And a lot of them kind of knew that and so this was really cool. Is during that launch, you know, we made over $3 million in less than probably two weeks, which was like crazy. And a lot of those customers are still customers because they have that intimate relationship. They feel like they’re part of it. So I think having a personality behind the brand is important and that’s one thing where I messed up. I started getting too inside my head and too insecure of my own personal problems. I never went out there enough. I should have just boldly been out there just to tell people how impactful this is when they share their knowledge.
Andrew: Was there insecurity around it?
Travis: I don’t know. I really don’t know. Maybe getting divorced, maybe people around me that I listened to the negative things they would say and I just didn’t.
Andrew: Were you ever a confident person or were you shyer?
Travis: Oh, my story is . . . and I write about this in the book because I stuttered as a kid. So from 10 to 18, I couldn’t talk. And so that’s in me a lot where I have that like shyness, even though I love talking to people. Like this kind of stuff, I could do for hours talking about business, I love it. But I am pretty introverted. I’m extremely critical of myself. Getting comfortable on camera is a whole thing. I’ve worked on for the past 10 years of being, you know, with Kajabi because now my wife, she started to do courses on debt relief and she’s beautiful. And I’m like, “Babe, here’s what you need to do. I see you from every angle, you’re used to seeing yourself from the front. This angle is weird.” You know, and just all the things that that freak you out. So maybe it’s good that I was insecure because I have a lot of empathy for that now.
Andrew: Because you’re sensing what her insecurity going on camera and putting herself out there because you’ve experienced it and you touch in with what . . . Yeah, that makes sense. All right. I want to talk in a moment about what else you did to continue to grow. But first, I’m going to talk about Toptal. Toptal is a phenomenal company for hiring developers. I’m going to imagine that there are some people who kind of are like where Andy was or maybe a little bit where you guys were where there’s like an idea of some piece of software that they for their company need but they don’t have some guy like Travis reaching out to them out of the blue. And they say, “You know, we’re probably not going to use it.”
I wonder if instead of saying, “Our developers are overtaxed and overworked. We can’t put them on this project,” instead of saying, “Why don’t we just find something that’s good enough?” What if they instead said, “Let’s just go to this Toptal place. Let’s a hire developer or a team of developers to build the first version of something that we internally need and we will use with the idea that they would then make it available for others as a SaaS, make it available for other people to use and earn back revenue for doing it.”
I think there’s so many different reasons why somebody will go to Toptal. Another one, by the way, Travis is I’ve had development teams who said, “We don’t have every specialty on our team. But we have clients who sometimes need an Android app, or they need some random thing that we don’t have a developer for.”
If a client comes to us and says they need it and is part of the big package will say, “Yes, we get it.” And then what they do is they call up Toptal and they say, “We need this developer. Here’s what the person is.” Have this developer then get an email address with our company, be in our Slack, talk to our customers, but always act like they’re one of ours. That’s one of the best benefit of working with Toptal.
I’ll you what I do Toptal, Travis. I got a finance person from them. A really phenomenal guy and I do the same thing. There are times when our bookkeepers or someone in finance has a problem that I don’t want to take my time out to figure out. I just say, “Talk to Jack on our team.” I give them the Mixergy email address. Jack gets on like he’s with me. They’re [bold 00:43:20] away that I’ve a finance guy with this kind of background on my team.
Andrew: He takes care of business. He knocks heads around because he’s got a nice touch to him, and he’s not as like the connected to the people as I am because, you know, I’m the face of Mixergy. People have listened for a long time. I don’t want to piss them off. I care about them. I’ve helped them like build their businesses. I’m not here to knock their heads around. But Jack hasn’t, he can knock their heads around. Anyway, whether you’re looking for a finance person, which is one of the areas of Toptal, or a developer, development teams, or even designers, they have them there. All you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy.
You’re not going to have to put a help wanted ad or anything. You’re going to hit that big, beautiful button in the middle of the page. You will then end up scheduling the conversation with one of their matchers, tell them what you’re looking for. If it’s a good fit, they’ll help you find them. And often you can hire the person within days. If it’s not, and I will tell you for many people it’s not, they will be super open with you and say, “Sorry, it’s not a good fit.” And in that case, some people have complained to me and said, “Andrew, I don’t like Toptal. They turned me away.” I’m sorry. They didn’t take your money. That’s great for you. It sucks for me. I get like more props from them when I get them a customer.
But I’d rather that I get them good customers. Here’s what you do to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period, all you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy. That’s top as in top of your head, tal as in talent. Toptal.com/mixergy.
All right. Let’s continue then with the story. So I see how you ended up getting a lot of people. I saw that because of some of the things that you talked about, you ended up with five Kajabi millionaires fairly soon on, right? You know, would you touch the lapel mic for a second?
Travis: Is it doing something? Are you hearing the noise from there?
Andrew: No. I hear something. Maybe something was going up against the mic. No, it’s not good.
Travis: This is where you should hear noise, right?
Andrew: Yeah, I do hear it, good, from that mic.
Travis: I need a sound guy. See, I’m like a one-man shop. We’re here at WeWork in Costa Mesa.
Andrew: That’s a WeWork office?
Travis: This is WeWork, yeah.
Andrew: How do you like working out of that place?
Travis: I think WeWork is a great place to get started because it’s such a quick upstart in the quality you get like right away. I mean, they have desks, they have networking. They’re not ready for sound stuff and it’s all glass. So I’ve got to put stuff around just to try to block some of the bouncing.
Andrew: I don’t hear that thankfully. Yeah, they’re very much into concrete and glass everywhere and good lights.
Travis: Yeah. But you know what? It’s so much better than 10 years ago when you needed to find a creative space. It’s like we were looking for that. If we would had a WeWork, it would have been amazing. So yeah, I love them. I love the community. I love how you can go to other WeWorks. I’ve even gone to other WeWorks and done free lunch and given my book away for free and then talk about the book so people would open their mind to, “Wait, I’m good at accounting and I’m going to create an accounting course.”
Andrew: Oh, it’s fantastic. The book, I’m surprised that you’re not someone who says, “Giveaway ‘You, Inc.’ the book.” That you’re not like pumping the name. I’ll say it, it’s “You, Inc.” That’s the name of the book. By the way, speaking of like if we’re talking insecurities, I’m still in my head on the fact that you gave Brian and like his brother a book. I am so into like if somebody gives us something, it’s a problem. Why do we do it? I want like how do we make it up? How do we do it? I don’t know. Do you get that way, too?
Travis: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’m a giver myself. So I just give. I don’t even think about it. Here’s the thing, I like to give value and shake things up, like the norm. Like we were at WeWork here and someone came to talk about a 401K because they do these like trainings all the time, lunch and learn. So companies are always coming through and they give us free lunch and it’s about retirement. So my wife wants to go and I go there and I’m like, “This is crap.” And then they pitch us on working for them. I’m like, “This is crap.” Because I’m like, “I’m going to get the best food. I got like Chipotle. I’m going to give away 50 free books.” I mean, I just love that like the thing like someone goes, “Whoa, I like doing that.” And it’s just like the best feeling.
Andrew: Yeah. And you know what? One of the things that we . . . We’re in like the direct marketing world in a sense that we like the idea of buying ads and knowing exactly how much do we get back from it. And one of the things that I have to keep reminding myself is what Tony Hsieh told me years ago before he was like super famous. He came here and he said . . . and I asked him, “How do you know if customer service is paying off?” And he kept saying, “I can’t tell you that. I can’t measure it right back to each individual conversation and tell you that there’s a return on investment.” And in my head I keep remembering, “It doesn’t have to be return on investment in everything. It’s okay to just want to be okay with people and then know that it’s going to work out.” All right.
Andrew: So you guys continued to build it. Here are the tips that I highlighted for myself. Where was it? You know what? Let’s talk about the shopping cart. I feel like that helped you. The thing that I noticed in that WordPress website. You started going beyond the course production. How did you know what other features to add to increase customers, decrease churn, etc.?
Travis: We were trying to think about like things that were kind of stopping points for them, what was difficult. And way back then you had to have a merchant account, SSL certificate. It was very difficult to collect funds. And so we always wanted this concept of shopping cart built in. And so in 2014, we created Kajabi Next, which was like kind of a new version of Kajabi. It was really light. It was kind of a lite version of Udemy without all the community.
And through that process, it failed. It didn’t do very well. I mean, it was decent. It’s funny because if I’m working on it now I would consider it a pretty good startup. But for us, we like, “It wasn’t good.” But we realized that if a customer could make money on our system and it was easy for them, they would stay our customers longer. So that was the main driver was I want to be like, “It’s easier for them to make money.
Andrew: You know, I’m on kajabinext.com. This is a place where basically what you . . .
Travis: Still up there?
Andrew: Yeah. Can you hear me?
Travis: Yeah, I can still hear you. I’m still here.
Andrew: I thought you said am I still up there. No, the site is still up there. It does kind of have like this Udemy type feel where it’s a marketplace. Now I’m on kajabinext.com/marketplace. That’s why I see the marketplace of course is. And your idea was you were going to create a place where anyone who wanted to learn could come and sign up for courses, right?
Travis: Well, the idea was an app that was really simple, but yeah. Then potentially a marketplace was something we were going to do. Udemy might have been around at that time. I don’t know.
Andrew: It’s hard to say. They took them a while also to figure out what to do and who they were. All right. And why do you think that that would be good for you today but it wasn’t a good fit for the company for Kajabi at the time?
Travis: We didn’t spend time building a marketplace. We didn’t have the resources available to get customer acquisition like that. We weren’t in that position. We were in the position of building a great app and getting new customers for ourselves. We hadn’t really built the student environment that Udemy had to create because they’re all about more students. The more students, the more revenue, the more courses taken. And we were more about like, “We’re going to build this app that helps this one person do this one transaction.” It was more like we were in their court more, more in the teachers’ court, I guess, or the experts’ court.
Andrew: Yeah, and it is a different model. Now that I think about all the things that went to Udemy of like how do you get teachers to give their first course for free to get something, encourage? To get their ratings and all that stuff.
Travis: I mean, it’s like Shopify versus eBay. You know, eBay is marketplace. Shopify is the awesome tool with some marketplace stuff but . . .
Andrew: That’s a really good way to put it.
Travis: Or Shopify versus Amazon’s private current example with FBA and everything. That’s similar.
Andrew: What about this point? I think now that we’ve gone through the conversation, I could bring this up. Where you consider putting a gun to your head?
Travis: Yeah, I think when I realized it was time for me to leave Kajabi and there was kind of a conflict between Kenny and I and I didn’t know how that was going to go. I just got to a dark place where I couldn’t see the next step. In my life I’ve always tried to see the next step. And I learned that when I was a kid that I stuttered, and I didn’t see the next step. I never knew that one day I would be able to talk normally all the time. And it’s like in my life I’d constantly go through these situations that seem impossible and somehow I make it to the next chapter. And that was one of those where I just thought . . .
And I think I gave the analogy like, “This sucks so bad but I have all this insurance money. I have all this. If I just take a gun to my head and I check out, my wife is taken care of, who cares what happens Kajabi? They can have it.” It was just this thought of like, “This sucks and it’s hopeless and I don’t know what’s next.” That was kind of where I was at. And I think as an entrepreneur you feel that a lot because there’s no net. There’s no, “I’ll just go back to the job.” You know, it’s all about you and building that vision. And then when you’re changing your vision, I had to try to find my new vision and that was a dark time for a while.
Andrew: What did you do to get out of it?
Travis: Oh, man, I did so many things. I took time off. Lately, I’ve been shifting and not just doing what I’m expected to do but doing what I’m feeling inside. Like right now, I get up every morning around 6:00 a.m. Instead of just meditate or getting into routine, I just get quiet and then I write stuff down. Like, “I want to work on this,” or, “Oh, my God, this is driving me crazy.” And I try to get rid of the negative toxic shit. And I try to explore new ideas no matter what they are, no matter how scary they are. Man, I have all kinds of ideas for augmented reality and solar industry.
I am like, “I’m just going to write all these down even though I have no idea how going to do them.” And lately I did this at a talk the other day. The whole thing that Steve Jobs said about, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, only looking back in hindsight.” And it makes me think, “I need to stop connecting dots and just collect as many dots as I can. And then sit back and see where they’re actually connecting.” Because I was getting . . .
Andrew: Augmented reality doesn’t necessarily lead to anything practical and effective today, it might randomly contribute to another idea that does take off. Got it.
Travis: That’s right. Around three years, I might meet the person I go, “Oh, my God, look at this from my journal.” Here’s my journal right here. I’ve got it. Which it’s filled with all kinds of ideas and notes. I mean, I’m constantly writing down what I’m thinking. That has helped so much.
Andrew: Is that or is it that you ended up with millions in the bank and no obligations right now?
Travis: Well, here’s the thing, though, is exited Kajabi but I didn’t get to exit fully on my terms. We just, you know, we basically, like, “All right, I’ll give you this and you could move on.” It’s not like the VC came in or Amazon came in. It was I didn’t want to leave but then I realized it was healthier for me to leave.
Andrew: So when I focus on like here, he cashed out, he made millions, he’s got some in the bank. That’s the proper mind focusing the upside and the good stuff and then we’ll fire you to do next thing. You’re saying, it’s just as easy to think, “I didn’t get as much as I deserve or would have if there was a proper exit. I actually didn’t get to continue with this thing that’s my baby and now other people get to run with it.
Travis: That was the hardest . . .
Andrew: I don’t know where I’m going to go next. I mean, everybody.” Right? They’ve got it.
Travis: Yeah, it was all of that. And I am at the point now I’m like, “Oh, my God, I have this capital available. I’ve got time. I’m going to build new shit.” I am there now, but during that time, it was dark.
Andrew: I focus . . . I have that big pain of, “How do I focus my mind on what I want and not what I don’t want?” I’ve been better, much, much better not focusing on things I don’t want. I do need to keep exercising the part of my brain that says, “Here’s what I want. Here’s what I have that’s great.” You know what I mean?
Travis: No, that’s exactly what it is, is don’t keep doing what you think you’re obligated to do. I bang my head up against the wall because if Kenny was like, “I need you to do this. I need you to be this.” And I wasn’t the guy that wanted to be there all day and be organized and sit at my cubicle. I was trying to be someone else so that I could fit in at that company. And I don’t ever want to do that again. I want to embrace my strengths and know that some of my weaknesses can be my strengths too.
I mean, you ever take those tests where they tell you you’re high on this and low on this? You know, like it’s one that’s based on all the different colors and stuff. One time I noticed I scored really low on one of the colors and I’m reading through it and it said that, “I have trouble organizing things and I have to find solutions that make it simpler.” I was like, “Holy shit, that’s actually a pretty good skill.” Because I do that all the time. It’s what I did at Kajabi. It’s what I’m doing now. So I’m very much like embracing my weaknesses as much as my strengths and just not feeling like I have to do this.
Andrew: What did you do to get to that? Just writing it down? Was it just about like writing down what your ideas are to get excited about them?
Travis: A lot of things. Writing things down, finishing a book. You know, writing the book is a very therapeutic thing, especially if you’re kind of doing it about your life a little bit. It gives you that hindsight. It allowed me to look back and go, “Whoa, that happened . . . Oh, that is how that happened.” Because I had my head down for so long, like working. Then I had my head down because I was, “Oh, where do I fit in?” And I hadn’t stopped and looked back at the past and gone, “Well, we’ve gone quite a ways.” In fact, I came up with this idea as I’m writing the book, which I used the service Scribe, which used to be Book In A Box. You know, you’ve heard of those guys?
Andrew: Yes, yes, yes. Yes, I know them. Tucker Max’s people.
Travis: It was a great experience. And as I’m talking and a person is helping me, I thought of this concept of like, you know, you set something in the GPS, and the GPS never gets mad at you. It just tells you where to go. But my own voice gets mad at me all the time. And I’m really trying to live that way. Like, “Okay, I want to do this thing and I’m going to listen to the voice that guides me there. And if it doesn’t guide me there, then maybe there’ll become a new destination.” And just trying to slow down enough to hear the voice inside of me that can guide me, not the negative voice but that positive voice guiding me somewhere.
Andrew: You know what? I’ve got a process for anyone who wants to go check it out. Go check out. It’s truemind.com/guide. One time I was sitting in Napa, where I love to go to work for the day, and I said, “I got to just write down, here’s my process for staying focused on what I want and not on what I don’t want.” You guys will see beads often on my wrist or on this. The beads are like once I pick what I want, I’m like a maniac and that I take the beads out and I go, “This is what I want.” So one of my goals this year is run a marathon on every continent. All these fricking issues. Dude, so my wife has like a pretty demanding job.
She’s now at Toronto. She’s going to be landing in a few hours tonight and then she’s going to go somewhere else. We’re trying to just schedule the first fricking marathon. I could run it. I know my body can. And then I realized and I asked her what her dates where, she gave it to me, and then there were 10 days when she’s going to be working and now I can’t. So my mind goes to, “I can’t make this work. I’m a father. I’ve got obligations at work, I got friend obligations, I got kid obligations.” And I just have to pull out my beads and focus on what I want, which is like all seven continents, run a marathon on all seven continents. Just stay focused on that. And that fires me up enough that I’ll walk through a wall to get it done. You know, and that’s good. Anyway, truemind.com/guide. It’ll take you to a Google Doc, frankly, guys and you’ll see.
Travis: I love that. That’s awesome. You know, another thing, speaking of Napa, which, we just went to Napa for the first time this year. Great place. If you’re so lucky, you can just go.
Andrew: Yeah, drive out there.
Travis: Yeah, my wife challenges me so much because she’s just an incredibly smart woman. And I think having her in my life in the past couple years has allowed me to really see kind of a new vision for life.
Andrew: I’m seeing pictures of you guys. How did you meet when you were in such a low funk? You guys look so happy, arm in arm.
Travis: She’s incredible.
Andrew: Not arm in arm actually. It’s like one of you touching the other in every fricking photo.
Travis: Yeah. So I met Paola she was our property manager at Kajabi. So I knew for a couple years, and I actually got divorced the year before she became our property manager. After getting divorced, I dated and it didn’t go well. And after I had broken up with this last person, I was single for a while and someone said, “Who have you always wanted to go out with?” And right away I thought of it because I’d see her in the hallway. I’d say hi to her. We would be in meetings trying to plan the next build up for the Kajabi suites. And Kenny would said, he’s like, “You know you’re flirting with her?”
I’m like, “No. No, I’m not. No, I’m not.” And I just asked her out. And on that, I asked out and she said, “No, I can’t.” I’m like, “What?” She’s like, “Yeah, I’m not allowed to date tenants.” I’m like, “All right, cool. Well, maybe we can get a drink some time.” And 10 days later, she texted me that she needed some business advice about how to build a website for her side hustle wedding photo booth. And we went out on that business date and five hours later it would turn into a date and I literally talked to her or been with her every single day since that time, December 17th, 2015.
Andrew: Really? So you’re a couple who doesn’t like take a day or week apart from each other?
Travis: No. She works right next to me. She’s not here right now, but yeah, I spend every day . . . She’s my best friend. It’s strange how connected we are. Sometimes we just go, “Wow, that’s weird.” And I know that before I dated her, I went to a friend’s seminar and he had this thing called The Decision Making Funnel. And it was all about writing down what you want. It’s like write down what you want. So I wrote down everything I could think of. “Interested in business. You know, appreciates my family. Is going to be a potentially a good stepmom to my two sons that I have. Has the same kind of beliefs I have in spirituality.” Like I had 72 items on this list. And it wasn’t like I was like so weird about it. But after I met her, I found the list later and I looked at I was like, “Holy shit, almost all these are there.” And there’s something about taking time to write down what you want that pushes whatever is in our world, whether it’s universe or God or whatever, it starts pushing you in that direction.
Andrew: You can say God if you believe in God.
Travis: I believe in God.
Andrew: Yeah. And the reason . . . so for some people that kind of a list would actually limit their possibilities because nobody would have dozens and dozens of items that they wrote down. For you it didn’t because this wasn’t like a checklist to make sure that Paola . . . It’s Paola, right?
Travis: Oh, yeah, it’s a Mexican name so it’s Paola. But when she was in third grade, her teacher couldn’t say Paola so she said “Payola” and she adopted that name since then. So I call her . . .
Andrew: So she goes by “Payola.”
Travis: I call her Pay. In fact, when I first met her she said, you know, Pay, like pay me the rent.
Andrew: Yeah, the Payola is the thing that record guys used to do with radio stations.
Travis: Oh, nice.
Andrew: As in Payola to get on. So what you’re saying is that it wasn’t a checklist that she had to hit every item, it was just like you reminding yourself what you care about, so that you could be aware and so that you could be ready to be with the person who has it and be aware enough when you see it.
Travis: Well, and I know that after I wrote down this list, I went out on a couple more dates after that and I quickly was like, “Nah,” because I was like, “Oh, yeah this person’s not going to get along with my kids.” This person has nothing in common when it comes to business. So it’s a pretty good filter for the most part but everybody has their thing but that worked for me.
Andrew: Do you guys ever take pictures where you don’t touch? I’m seriously looking . . .
Travis: I don’t know. Dude, we’re pretty PDA even in our office because we’ve got glass everywhere so like we’ve got to be careful. But . . .
Andrew: All right. You’ve heard these interviews? Are you going to walk away going, “I can’t believe Andrew didn’t ask me about this.” Is there something like that?
Travis: No. I mean, I would have liked to get more into the book. So definitely go check out the book just because I . . .
Andrew: What do you want people to walk away from about the book or why do you want . . . ?
Travis: Like just think about this is. This is the thing I thought about . . .
Andrew: Let’s just say, when you say the book, “You, Inc.,” that’s your book.
Travis: Okay. So “You, Inc.” Someone asked me why I didn’t call this book “Me, Inc.”? And actually, Gene Simmons wrote a book called “Me, Inc.,” which is kind of funny. You know, one of the singers from Kiss wrote a book called “Me, Inc.” But the book really is about “You, Inc.” It’s about you need to really get to know and care about two people. That’s the you that’s in the mirror. You need to get to know that person, love that person, embrace that person. You know, everybody else in the world.
That is so important to realize that when you take yourself in the best of yourself and you share it with other people, the world changes. And I saw that at Kajabi. That’s what led me to write the book because I would have these moments where I’m interviewing them just like this on Zoom. And we would either both get emotional or we both get goosebumps because they would tell me stories that were just mind-blowing.
Whether it was financial or even talks about suicidal and depression. And that made me go, “I’ve got to write these stories down.” And then after finishing the book, I was like, “Holy crap, this is definitely a movement.” And so I just want people to know that I’m not here trying to sell a book to get rich. I don’t really care. But I do want you to read it just in case there’s something there you need to hear that kind of makes you go, “Oh, well, I know this thing that I could share with other people.”
Andrew: I’m looking at reviews on Amazon. I’m looking for like the one negative review that go, “But what about this?” There isn’t one. I don’t think you have a single negative review on Amazon from . . .
Travis: I need more though. I need more. I only have like 20-something at this . . .
Andrew: Twenty five. You have 25 positive reviews. “Great read for an entrepreneur. I learned a lot about the benefits of online training programs.” There’s a bunch of people here who said that they get into the personal stuff and how they like it and then the big benefit that they walk away from is, “Hey, I actually have something that I can sell.” And that’s the thing that they realized, including like this musician who felt like he had nothing to offer the world because all he had was this passion for music. And everyone seems to . . . And then he said he walked away knowing what he can sell. I don’t even remember what that was.
Travis: It’s powerful because then it allows you to have hope in your life like I’m just talking about. Because you might be in the cubicle watching these interviews and like, “I’m always going to be in this cubicle.” But if you take time to see what you’re good at and what you could share, who knows where it could lead you to. Just like my niece with braiding hair at weddings.
Andrew: It’s “You, Inc.” available everywhere. I always like the Kindle version. It’s available there, on Amazon, but I know most people seem to still like paper. Go figure. You got it all around you. I like how you’ve laid it out in a way that I can actually see.
Travis: My wife did that. Yeah, like the branding.
Andrew: It’s smart. If we like edited out, we know that . . . That’s one of the things that I realized when I started doing interviews, the best authors were the ones who are smart enough and confident enough to put the books somewhere around so that you could see it. There’s something about having that physical thing that like SaaS companies don’t have, for example.
Travis: Oh, I love being able to like do this and hold it, like hand it to people and sign it. It’s a great accomplishment because I was such a terrible writer that I’m so proud of what I’ve done, And that was the thing. I didn’t want to finish it until I was proud of it and I am. I’m proud of how it turned out. I think it really is helping a lot of people.
Andrew: All right. And the two . . . I’m hoping to meet you in person at some point and just talk, the two sponsors who made this interview happen are hostgator.com/mixergy and toptal.com/mixergy. And finally, we did do a course with Ankur, the founder of Teachable, about what it takes to make a course do well online. It’s not a Teachable-based course but it’s about just online profitable courses.
You know me, I asked him, I said, “Look, show me the numbers behind your courses.” So he said, “All right, Andrew, but please promise you’re going to like hide the names of the people.” And then he showed me what prices sell better for courses, what courses sell well. Something about Ankur, he’s like, for some reason, is a likable person. I can’t even figure out why. You know what I mean?
Travis: Yeah. I’ve talked to him through email. Lately, I tried to ping him and say, “Hey, dude, I’m using Teachable.” But I don’t know if it got through.
Andrew: I’ll let him know actually. I’ll let him know. I’m not super close with him, but he’s a listener and I like him. I know what it is about you, that you’re very relatable in the sense that you’re just like a guy who was aspiring to something and then you achieved it. And you’re also really good about talking about your weaknesses pretty early on so that people want to root for you. There’s like those little things. Plus there’s something about like Christian. Are you Christian? Is this too personal?
Travis: I’m Christian, but I’ll tell you now I’m more about finding God. I don’t really care about church or anything, but I do believe that there’s God and He’s definitely guiding me.
Andrew: Yeah, is that glow, is that religious glow that you get. Yes.
Travis: Am more of an Oprah believer, you know, spirituality maybe. Super soul Sunday stuff. I love that.
Andrew: That’s what it is. That’s what comes across for you. I don’t know what it is with Ankur. Ankur is I don’t think I’ve seen him smile much except like when he has to. I don’t know. He’s analytical but not like annoyingly analytical so it’s not even like the excessive. I don’t know what it is about him. Anyway, if anyone wants to learn how to create a course from him, just go to a mixergy.com/teachable. It’s on there. And I want to thank you, Travis, so much for doing this interview and congratulations on “You, Inc.”
Travis: Thank you. It’s been cool.
Andrew: All right, thanks. Bye, everyone.