Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy. I’ve got Nir Eyal with me. Nir, do you remember the question you asked me before we started? No. You don’t.
Andrew: You were saying, “Why do you even want to talk about AdNectar?”
Nir: Yes. Why do you want to talk about AdNectar?
Andrew: Here’s why. I think like a lot of our friends, a lot of my friends, I read your book, “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” and I thought, “Boy, this guy knows his stuff.” He’s not just a guy who did a book report and is now selling it to us like a book. He’s a guy who really knows it. He has experience.
So, like a lot of other people, I flipped to the back of the book where it says “About the Authors.” There’s a note here about Ryan Hoover, interesting, who’s your co-author, and a note about you and it says, “Nir Eyal writes, consults and teaches about the intersection of psychology, etc.” It goes, “He’s an advisor, etc., etc. His most recent startup received venture funding from Kleiner Perkins,” but doesn’t include the name of the startup. It says you created two different startups before. It doesn’t even include the name of the companies.
Andrew: You don’t talk much about what you did. I feel that’s important for knowing where this guy came from whose book we’re all reading.
Nir: Well, I did talk about the companies in the book.
Andrew: I did a search within the Kindle book for AdNectar. I couldn’t come up with the name.
Nir: Oh, well I do talk about my experience in the advertising and gaming industry, which is what AdNectar did. The book is written for a mainstream audience. So, unless your Google or Facebook or Twitter and you’re a household name, who gives a shit what the name of your company was. It’s more important, I think, what I did.
Andrew: Really? You really believe that it doesn’t matter what company you started? It doesn’t matter this experience, this accomplishment that you had?
Nir: To be totally transparent, it wasn’t the best outcome. We didn’t go IPO. We raised money and we had a semi-successful exit, but it wasn’t, frankly, the proudest period in my life. I’ll tell you exactly why. I didn’t do the business for the right reasons. I started that company for one reason and one reason only, which was to try and have a big outcome. The biggest lesson from that business was that I’ll never do that again. I will not start a business just because I think there’s a financial opportunity.
Andrew: You were sitting around and saying, “Where’s the most money?”
Nir: Yeah. Twice, in fact. The business I started before that, Sunshine, was also–I liked the business. It was interesting. But mostly, I saw an opportunity. I think that’s a rookie mistake. And I’m glad I made the mistake with the least possible carnage. One thing that I’m very proud of is that everybody I’ve ever done business with in those two businesses I still call friends, including my cofounders. A lot of times when a business doesn’t have a fantastic outcome–we did okay.
We kind of had a soft landing, an acqui-hire situation on AdNectar. Sunshine was a different story. Sunshine, for my very first company, I would call a success. The second company, AdNectar, wasn’t all that great. I see my cofounders probably twice, three times a month. We’re still very good friends. That’s something that was a huge risk of starting a company with your friends.
Andrew: You guys were at AdNectar. You were Stanford Graduate Business School students. It was you. It was Michael Bortnik, Vlada Breiburg–
Nir: Right. And now she’s Bortnik.
Andrew: Okay. I see. And they’re married. And you’re married to the fourth cofounder, Julie.
Nir: Right. So, we were two couples.
Andrew: Okay. And you were sitting around at business school looking for a big idea.
Nir: Right. And the biggest idea at the time–this was 2006, 2007–the biggest idea at the time was Facebook. I remember Mark Zuckerberg coming into my class at the graduate GSB and we knew that this was going to be big. Nobody had any idea how big. At the time, actually, everybody was making fun of him.
The big discussion in class was how this guy had turned down $1 billion back when $1 billion was a whole lot of money. Now it seems like everybody is getting to be worth $1 billion. But we were all laughing at him for turning down the $1 billion offer from Yahoo. We saw that it was the tip of the iceberg. There was a lot more opportunity.
So, the company we started was taking advantage of this boon in apps. Back then, when you said apps, apps did not mean things that you played with on your phone. Apps meant Facebook apps. Apps on your phone came later. So, what we saw was an opportunity to put advertising inside these apps on the Facebook platform. That’s what AdNectar did.
Andrew: Apps like Friends For Sale or What’s Your Pimp Name. I guess they eventually became more and more game-like. So, you had Farmville, etc. But it was basic games at first. You told Nick O’Neill back in 2009 that you first were looking for what that idea was, what the form of the business would take and you were experimenting. What kind of experiments did you run at first until you realized, “Aha, I think I know what our business will be?”
Nir: Well, we actually were pretty cutting edge at the time. This was before Lean startup techniques. They had just started. I don’t think Eric Ries had written his second book we all know and love, “The Lean Startup.” He had written basically a compilation of his blog posts and we had read that before “Lean Startup.” And we also started reading Steve Blank and that kind of became our gospel.
We started doing very early testing. Back then it was incredibly easy to start a Facebook app. The vast majority of Facebook apps were total crap. So, you could basically put one up in an afternoon. We did experiments. We started putting ads inside these makeshift Facebook apps and we see if anybody would actually want to collect a branded piece of merchandise, a piece of virtual merchandise that is. We showed these early results to investors and that’s part of what helped us raise our funding.
Andrew: What are some of the ads that you did inside the apps? Were they banner ads, that kind of thing?
Nir: No. The idea was that at the time, the thesis was that apps would be super plentiful, kind of like what the App Store is today on Apple or Google. We thought that would happen. This was, again, way before the Apple App Store and Google Play store. This was when apps meant Facebook apps. We thought there would be thousands and thousands of them, kind of like with the Google App Store and the Play store.
So, the idea was, “If there are going to tons of apps and apps look like this, meaning they have virtual goods embedded within them, wouldn’t it be great if we could put ads instead of these virtual goods?” So, instead of throwing sheep, instead of giving each other virtual chocolates, you would give people virtual Godiva chocolates or whatever brand you could come up with.
Andrew: And Godiva actually was one of your sponsors. I saw you talk about that case study in a few interviews. So, once you had it–
Nir: By the way, this was a terrible business.
Andrew: Why was it a terrible business?
Nir: Well, because first of all, when a young entrepreneur comes to be and they’re below a certain age and they’re low on years but they’re high on naiveté and they tell me they want to go into the ad business, I say, “Why? Why do you want to do ads?” Because really if they’re honest with me and themselves, it’s to make money. Per what we talked about before, that’s a really bad reason to make your singular purpose to start a business.
Andrew: Why is that a bad purpose?
Nir: If that’s your primary motivator is to make a bunch of money, I don’t think that’s a way to live. Let’s look at it from the hyper-rational perspective of an expected outcome. So, if you say, “Look, this is the easiest route that I can take to make a bunch of money, then you’re just really bad at math,” because the expected outcome of something that’s extremely low probability.
Even if a small proportion make a lot of money, the extremely low chance of that actually happening means that you’d be much better off–if you’re reasonably smart, you can get a normal job with a decent income. You’ll have much less stress and you’ll probably have a better financial outcome than the 99% of businesses that go absolutely nowhere.
Andrew: Or get a job on Wall Street, etc.
Nir: Right. Exactly.
Andrew: I remember when I was an entrepreneur looking to make money, but it wasn’t just about making money. It was about making money and having a big impact on the world. You could only do that as an entrepreneur, I felt. Yes, it feels like it’s low probability of success, but I’m an entrepreneur because I believe in myself to a level that rationality can’t really explain. So, if you have that belief in yourself and you have that need for both making money and impact, it feels like its’ a good place to go.
Andrew: But maybe it doesn’t sustain you because you’re saying you need a little bit more passion than you can get from just pursuing money.
Nir: Yeah. You know, I’m uber for entrepreneurship. I love entrepreneurship. I think lots of people should be entrepreneurs. What I said was that making money shouldn’t be your primary motivator.
That’s why this ad test–when I ask a young entrepreneur who has no experience in ad tech, in advertising and I ask them, “Why do you want to do advertising?” The reason is going to be money. So, that’s the problem. It shouldn’t be the only reason. It shouldn’t be, “I want to make a lot of money. That’s the primary reason,” because look, you’re not going to probably make all that much money.
But if you’re doing a business because fundamentally you think the product should exist–this is something that hopefully you yourself need, that you are the user of and you believe you’re the right person to bring this to market, then terrific. Go for it. I’m very much for entrepreneurship. I’m just against entrepreneurs thinking that this is the fastest way to get rich.
Andrew: I see. All right. And I can see that for some people, advertising would be really exciting, but for most people, it’s probably just a good opportunity to make money. They see that there is a lot of money in advertising and if you take a piece of it, then you’ve got a profitable business. You weren’t that excited about it. Were you excited about it in the beginning? Were you passionate about it once you discovered that you could let people give each other Godiva chocolates, virtual Godiva chocolates?
Andrew: Not even. Really? Okay.
Nir: I was excited by it. This is a lot of self-disclosure here. But I’m kind of opening up about it. I think it’s good for people. I wish someone had told me or prompted me to be really honest with myself because life is just so short. I know we say it and we all understand how short life really is. But it’s really short. Like, why waste even a day? And a startup is not something that you can just hop off of.
So, when you start a company, by the way, it’s like riding a race. It’s like a horse race. You’re going to be on that horse, riding that horse until you finish the race and win it or the horse dies. You’re not getting off the horse. Whereas a job–you don’t like your boss. You don’t’ like the commute–you leave. You quit. You’re done. You can’t do that without a startup without creating a lot of damage in your wake.
So, that’s something we really need to consider when we start these companies. Are we doing it for the right reasons? I think unfortunately people see it as a path to financial freedom. And that’s fine. It can be the byproduct of the hard work. It just shouldn’t be the goal of the work.
Andrew: Yeah. There’s this whole belief that if you go start a company, your time is your own. You could do what you want. There’s no boss telling you what to do.
Nir: That’s a myth.
Andrew: But I’ll tell you, if I just wanted to take next week off–people always think the interviewees would be a problem. The interviewees would understand if I had to reschedule. It’s all the obligations–customers who are expecting something and they have a right to expect something, the team that needs me to do something. Can I get away with just taking off last minute for a week? Absolutely. But would it cause damage? Oh, you bet it would.
Nir: Seriously. It’s true. Entrepreneurship is about going from one boss in a normal job to entrepreneurship, which is having thousands of bosses.
Andrew: My wife works for Yahoo right now. Yeah, it is a pain to take a Yahoo shuttle into work down in Silicon Valley an hour and a half each way–really painful. But she needed to go to the hospital to see her dad the other day. She just emailed one person and said, “I can’t be in. Can you reschedule the meetings?” And she took the day off. It’s harder as an entrepreneur.
All right. So, I get that frustration. The idea, though, did make sense. What was first? Did you find the advertisers first, the Godiva-type companies first or did you find the app makers who were going to incorporate your virtual goods and allow Godiva to pass these virtual Godivas out?
Nir: Well, we kind of had to do both at the same time. It was a marketplace. It was essentially what ad networks did before then and what ad networks still do today just on a new platform. So, building these kind of networks, building any kind of marketplace business has to get over the chicken or the egg problem. So, we were constantly making sure we had enough inventory and then once we had enough inventory, we had enough customers to fill that inventory.
Andrew: Do you remember how you got your first ones? Your first ad maker to run your ads and your first advertiser to start paying for those ads?
Andrew: What do you mean? You just went to the app maker and you said, “Look, I’m going to put some ads in here. I’m not going to wait until I get paid to pay you. Here’s some money. Run my virtual goods. Makes sense.
Nir: Eventually, we could say that. We could say, “Look, when I get paid, you get paid. But in the beginning, to build trust, we had to front some of that money before we even got paid, which made it even a worse business because then you have a cash flow problem of the ad agencies take a long time to pay. So, sometimes we’d be in a potential cash crunch situation, never got to bad, but you open yourself up to that liability.
But the idea was that technology would solve the problem eventually, that if we could get enough volume, that the transactions, the placements of these ads would happen on its own. But in the beginning, there was no technology about it. That happens many times with startups. It’s the whole man behind the curtain technique or as Paul Graham says, “Do things that don’t scale.” A lot of it in the very, very beginning was, “Here’s the gift that we want you to place.” Eventually, it happened programmatically once we built the technology, but in the beginning, it was email.
Andrew: How did you get your first advertisers? You don’t have an ad background?
Nir: Yeah. How we got our first advertisers… Well, getting your first advertiser is easy. It’s getting your first paying advertiser that’s a little bit tough.
Andrew: Did you get a free one at first, one to just try out?
Nir: Yeah. Of course.
Andrew: Who did you get?
Nir: I think we did Godiva as the very first one.
Andrew: How do get to Godiva? If I wanted to reach Godiva and say, “Sponsor Mixergy.” I don’t know who I would call. How did you know?
Nir: You just figure it out. So, one of the real strengths of a person on the team, Julie, who is also my wife, she just figures this stuff out. This is going to sound ridiculous. She’s the best Googler you have ever seen in your life. I can look for something and it will take me an hour and she’ll find it in five minutes consistently. I don’t know how she does it. She just finds stuff.
So, Julie was our sales lead at the time and she just found people. Granted, part of it is casting a wide net. Part of what it takes to be a good sales person is just your numbers, right? Making a lot of phone calls and then you look like a genius when you can close five out of 100 but it’s because you called 100 people that you closed five.
Andrew: Yeah. You know what? I’ve been showing new interviewers my CRM because they’ll tell me that they’ve emailed people asking for interviews and they get rejected. I say, “Look at my screen.” I actually have on my CRM our success rate as a team for booking guests and getting them to actually do interviews. I think it was 67% said no or failed for one reason or another to go through the process and really clearly said “No.” It’s not that we’re waiting for a response. 67%–almost seven out of ten people.
And most people who start out don’t even emailed ten people. They just think, “I emailed five people. No one said yes. I don’t want to bother any more.” If we’re doing ten and only three say yes, the new person needs to do 50, right?
Nir: Right. It’s so true. And that’s a big part of success that nobody talks about. We always look for the hacks. We always look for the tricks. A lot of this stuff is just who has the perseverance to make the calls, to send the emails. It’s not fun work. But that’s what actually gets results, sitting behind the desk or on the phone and making those calls every day.
Andrew: So, Julie makes those calls. She got somebody go come in and sign up, Godiva, for a free trial. You put Godiva out on a couple of different apps. Was there any surprise about how the product should work or was it as simple as, “Hey, you guys are doing virtual goods anyway. Here’s an image we created of a Godiva chocolate. Pass it out. Tell us how many people took it.”
Nir: It did phenomenally well. The ad experiments that we ran on these first few test campaigns were off the charts effective in terms of the metrics that advertisers are supposed to care about–customer engagement and brand recall, brand preference, everything looked unbelievable. The problem was–so, you think to yourself, “Okay, great. It must be a great business.” That’s what we all believed and that’s what we were so excited about. That’s why we kept pushing forward. We ran this Lean startup methodology. We did the testing. We collected the data. We measured. We learned from it. “Okay. Validated experiment. Terrific. Let’s go.”
But part of the problem of being a young entrepreneur is you sometimes lack perspective. We didn’t know at the time the complete history of the internet and that if you look at banner ads when they first came out, I think the first banner ad was by AT&T. The click through rate was like 80%. It’s unbelievable. Today, if a banner ad gets a click-through rate of 0.02%, 0.02% it’s doing well.
And so this is this phenomenon of things that are new, because they’re novel, because they’re new, they get crazy engagement rates, but over time they decay. But funny enough, that actually wasn’t our biggest problem.
Andrew: What was it?
Nir: That was part of it. It was hard to replicate that initial success. That was part of the problem. But even then we had results that were way better than our competitors, putting ads on other platforms, banner ads and conventional. But that wasn’t our biggest problem.
Our biggest problem was that in the ad industry–and this might be getting a little deep into the weeds, but it was a lesson that I took away from the ad industry. In the display ad industry–there are two ad industries. When people think advertising, they think it’s just one thing. It’s actually really not. There are two ad industries out there.
Andrew: Display and direct response.
Nir: Exactly. Display and direct response. So, direct response is extremely analytics-driven. If you can generate more ROI–they don’t even care how–I mean there are some parameters of how you do it–but if you do this ad versus that ad, no problem, whatever drives more clicks, whatever drives more sales, that’s what I want. They’ll back up a truck of money and your door and let you do that all day long as long as it’s a positive ROI.
Display advertising, which is Coca Cola runs a banner ad or some movie runs a banner ad or whatever it might be where the purchase does not occur by clicking that button. Direct response is about you click a button, you check out. Brand advertising, display advertising, there’s no connection. It’s about brand affinity. Its’ the same reason–
Andrew: Its’ like Oreo sponsoring somebody who’s really big on YouTube. They’re not necessarily looking to measure how many people buy Oreos right after they see the ad, they just want people to recognize Oreos as a cool brand.
Nir: Exactly. And that’s a tremendous–like most television advertising, like Super Bowl commercials, that’s all display advertising. They have actually very little correlation–unless you spend a ton of money, you actually don’t know how effective these ads are. And that’s actually what’s very harmful for us. What we didn’t understand going into that business, you can only measure the impact of that display advertising when you’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars in ads.
Andrew: You could never go back to Godiva and say, “If you would have spent $10,000 on this ad, you would have gotten $11,000 in orders.” You could only show them things like–I’m looking at an old article here–you got them 1.1 million branded virtual goods that were sent, 52 million total impressions for the brand, 77,000 clicks to Godiva’s fan page and 12,000 of them became fans of the page. So, that’s the kind of metrics you can get. But you can’t come back to them and say, “We got you these sales.” So, actually, what’s the problem with that?
Nir: When you say, “Hey, terrific,” and actually, Godiva kept spending with us. We gave them the free campaign. They liked it. They bought it once. They bought it twice. But when we said, “How about a bigger budget? Let’s go from $50,000 to $100,000 or why not $1 million. Start taking money out of television advertising.” They said, “Wait, wait, wait, how many sales are you driving? How do I know what my ROI for this spend is? Before, when it was $50k, it was fun little test budget. But now, if you want serious money, how do I measure that?”
And there’s actually this big gap between these small tests–and brands will give $25,000-$50,000 to test because it’s novel, it’s interesting, why not? It’s cute. The problem is you can register a false positive thinking you’ve got this great new product with just these test budgets. Where the real money comes in is, “Well, now will you spend $1 million?” And they say, “No, no, no, we don’t spend more than $1 million on anything but television. That’s the only stuff we can measure. We spend so much money that now we can actually measure uptake.”
Andrew: Speaking of measurement ads, I should do my sponsorship spot for my advertiser, HostGator. Here’s how they measure–HostGator.com/Mixergy. They give you an incentive if you’re listening to me to go to that URL because if you do, they will host your website, give you unlimited bandwidth. They will make sure that your site stays up. They’ll make it really easy to install WordPress or so many other platforms so your site can run fast. All you have to do is go to HostGator.com/Mixergy and you get that big discount.
Nir, if you had a HostGator account and you were starting from scratch, brand new, out of school and you wanted to experiment, what would you put up on that site?
Nir: I would work on something that I’m passionate about, something that can sustain me. My best advice for entrepreneurial success and maybe life success is don’t quit. If you can sustain a practice of doing something for long enough, odds are you’ll get pretty good with it, not with everything, but with most things, we get better and better–many times we can even feel we’re getting better.
So, I really enjoyed writing and I was passionate about writing. If you look at my blog and some of my first few blog posts–I’ve done several hundred now over the past several years, maybe I’m up to 1,000, I don’t even know–my first few blog posts are awful. They’re really bad. I wrote about–I think every blogger when they first start blogging does some kind of like business sports analogy. I fell into that trap and it was awful. But you know what? After several years of it, if I could sustain that practice of writing weekly for several years, I think I’m a little better now. I’ve published this book now. I started improving my skill.
So, if you can find something that you can see yourself doing, not just to make a lot of money–that’s what we talked about earlier as a big no-no–but something that it drives you enough to sustain you over the years, you’re going to get good at it. Even if you don’t make money, you’re going to have that skillset. You’re going to have something that you thought was worth your time.
Andrew: You know what? I’m looking at your old website. It does not have the polish of this current one. I’m looking at it on Archive.org. Oh, and it was powered by Blogger.
Nir: Yes. Wow. You went way, way back.
Andrew: Is it now on WordPress?
Nir: It’s now on WordPress.
Andrew: That’s actually a really good point. If I were going to start, I would put a blog on WordPress, not blogger, of course. I would just use it for experimenting. Experimenting with ideas, experimenting with maybe watch Andrew do interviews and you say, “I’m going to go interview someone.” Maybe you see that Nir is doing psychology of apps and you say, “I’m going to do a blog post on it.”
The cool thing about blogging is it forces you to think about it and polish it to the level that you can actually publish and have other people look at it. It allows you to just keep experimenting and trying new ideas out to see what feels right, where do you want to go. Maybe this will lead to a professional blogging business, which I doubt it will, or more likely it will lead to an understanding of ideas that you care enough about that you’ll turn into a product. So, if you’re listening to me–
Nir: I was going to say I can’t recommend writing more. There’s an asset that people don’t’ realize that they have when they’re new. If you’re an old fart like me and even you, no offense, you’ve been doing this for a while, you have a reputation, you have kind of a brand that people expect you to talk about certain things, your freedom kind of becomes limited.
Like tomorrow, if I want to write about something really esoteric, if I want to write about cooking, that’s weird. Like my audience is going to say, “Nir doesn’t write about cooking. Why does he write about this?” But when you’re new, you can write about anything and there’s some real freedom there to just go explore whatever you’re passionate about.
And here’s the secret weapon of writing. People think that you should only write when you have a good idea. That is not why I write. I write when I want to know an answer that I don’t yet know the answer of.
Nir: It’s amazing. I feel like I learn when I write.
Andrew: Right. That also solves another problem where people feel they can’t publish something until they know it well enough to be an authority on it. “Who am I to write a post on psychology of mobile app usage?” No. Who you are is someone who’s going to go out in the world, research it a little bit and you can publish it on your site. You can go and do an interview with someone you want to learn from and publish it on your site. You don’t have to know it all. You can learn a little bit from it and publish it.
All right. I should close this out by saying go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. You’ll get 30% off. You’ll be up and running with your blog within minutes and if you want to grow it, it will continue to grow with you. If you want to scale it, it will scale with you. If you get a lot of traffic, they will help keep you up. If they don’t, they have a support number that you can call.
Really, get started on it and show me what you’ve built. Do it within a week of publishing it and come back to the comments and let me see what you’ve built. HostGator.com/Mixergy–I’m grateful to them for sponsoring.
So, Nir, you were saying, you were talking about the duality of advertising. There are the people that just want brand recognition and those are harder to get and the people looking for clear ROI, they’re easier to get but it’s harder to show an ROI with your product. Do you feel like if you were more excited about the business that you would have found a way to give them the ROI they were looking for and that maybe the lack of passion is what kept you from pursuing that ROI?
Nir: I think it’s hard to say I lacked passion because I believed in the opportunity, but I think I was too focused on the outcome. The problem with focusing on the outcome is that when things get rocky and the outcome becomes uncertain, then it’s really hard to recover, whereas if you learn to enjoy the process–the way I run what I do today is making sure that the practice is what’s important, right? It’s my two hours of writing every day. It’s the practice that as I was saying before, if you do it long enough, if you can sustain, you’ll find the answer.
So, if the end goal wasn’t, “Oh, this better IPO. We’ll have a big sale so we can make money,” if that wasn’t the end goal, fi the end goal was, “This is going to make the world a better place and even if we don’t have a good successful financial outcome, it was worthy of my time because the world is going to be better for it no matter what,” then that sustains you and keeps you going so that you don’t kind of give up at some point and say, “Well, it doesn’t look like we’re going to have a good outcome. Move on.”
Andrew: You did raise money for it. I guess investors were excited about the numbers you were showing them, right? This was a growing field at the time. People believed that Facebook was going to be a platform kind of the way Microsoft Windows was a platform. So, you raised money. Did that change the pressure?
Nir: Yes. Absolutely. What started out as a fun project between friends–what sustains a lot of entrepreneurs, and when I see great entrepreneurs, they always have this killer instinct of, “I want this to exist so I can show them,” so, it’s the game of, “I’m going to make this work to prove something,” and frankly, that’s not me. I wish it was.
It took me a long time to realize that’s not me. That spirit of, “I’m going to show you I can do this for the sake of doing it,” was not enough to carry me. I didn’t really have that much to prove. I didn’t come from a broken home and have something that I wanted to show the world. I was pretty fortunate. So, I didn’t have that to carry the day.
What carries me now, now that I’ve found something I’m really passionate about, is the work itself, the process of what I think is important work of bringing the message of what I’m doing to the broader audience. But when you do take money, that fun little experiment that you’re playing on suddenly–we talked about how there’s this myth that when you’re entrepreneur, you don’t have bosses–if you want to see a tough boss, take $5 million from somebody and see how that dynamic changes.
Andrew: Is that how much you took?
Andrew: You took it from Battery. Who else?
Nir: Kleiner Perkins, Mike Naples and a few angel investors.
Andrew: Wow. When you sold, did they get their money back?
Nir: They got part of their money back. Unfortunately, we couldn’t give them all their money back.
Andrew: So, how did you feel about that? I can’t remember the entrepreneur who I interviewed. Mark Jeffries, that’s who it was. He couldn’t return money back to his investor. He told him. I think he even cried about it because he couldn’t do it and he got this great letter back from his investor saying, “You tried. You did everything you could and I’m just really proud to know you because of that.” It was reassuring to him because it was so devastating to not be able to return the money back. How did that feel for you?
Nir: Well, it wasn’t good. Frankly, we got an okay outcome. It was a soft landing. It was a soft landing for AdNectar. We got some money but not a ton. These things have all kinds of clauses written into the agreement that some people get more than others. It sucks. It’s not fun when you don’t have a big outcome. On the other hand, I didn’t cry for my investors, I have to admit.
Andrew: They weren’t the kind of people you were cry for, Kleiner Perkins.
Nir: No, they were good–most of them.
Andrew: No, I mean it’s not like they’re an individual who just pulled money out of his bank account and gave it to you. It’s a venture capital firm who does this for a living. They’re not going to avoid dinner tonight because of this.
Nir: Exactly. And look, now that I’m an angel investor and I’m putting money into other companies, I’ve had some companies that have liquidated for one reason or another. Some of them have been total zeroes. What I tell the entrepreneurs and when we sit down for dinner and they’re kind of saying, “Look, it’s not going as well as I thought, but we’re going to pull it out. It’s going to come.”
I say, “Look, your most valuable asset right now is your time. So, don’t waste your time right now trying you make your investors whole necessarily. If you think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that’s fantastic. Go for it. Here’s even more money if you think you can make that happen.” But if the only reason is, “I’m going to pay back my investors,” it’s laudable, but that’s why professional investors get into the business. They want to save their time. They want you to save your time so that you can go to the next thing that hopefully will be successful.
Andrew: Why wasn’t it successful? Was it because what you said earlier? You couldn’t convince brand advertisers to buy these ads and you couldn’t convert into a direct response business?
Nir: Well, there was that–so, a lot of things have to go right in the business. Let’s be honest. There’s a lot I didn’t know back then that I now know. There’s a lot of work I’ve done along the way. This was a long time ago. This was 2007 when we started that company. So, it’s been a long time since then. There are a lot of things I didn’t know. Part of it is how many things have to go right. We actually pivoted into other businesses. When I talked about the Godiva example, that’s why that specific product didn’t work, but we pivoted into other products–
Andrew: What else? I couldn’t find it. I Googled so much.
Nir: Still apps, but it wasn’t just about virtual goods. We started just about virtual goods. Then we started all kinds of ad optimization within apps. And then something terrible happened. And that terrible thing that happened kind of out of nowhere is our central thesis, when we went and raised money from Kleiner Perkins, we said, “When you believe that the app universe is going to have thousands of app makers kind of like there are countless web pages out here. If you believe,” which is what we believe, “That there will be thousands of app makers out there, then there should be a network to aggregate these apps and sell ads on them.” And that’s the case today with mobile apps.
There are lots of businesses kind of similar to AdNectar that do what we tried to do on mobile apps. But on Facebook, what happened in the course of three months is when Facebook shutdown the viral spigot, they didn’t let apps get this kind of viral growth they were experiencing, the app universe on Facebook went from thousands of different companies to about three in the course of 90 days when Facebook made that huge change.
Andrew: So, it decimated the whole businesses.
Nir: They decimated it. This is where Nick O’Neill and a lot of my friends in that industry–it upended that entire industry in the span of a matter of days, which taught me a very powerful lesson which I will take with me in my professional life. When you build a product on someone else’s platform, you have a lot more risk than you may appreciate. We see this all the time, right? Yesterday or two days ago Facebook announced that it’s basically copying several of the apps including Flipboard and saying, “No, we’re going to do that ourselves.’
Andrew: Apple did. Right.
Andrew: They’re integrating other people’s apps into their platform, right?
Nir: Oh, I’m sorry, Apple, not Facebook. So, Apple just announced that they’re basically building what looks like Flipboard for themselves and it’s going to be part of the operating system on iOS. You know, that happens.
Andrew: Yeah. They’re watching to see what are the most popular apps on their platform. They did the same thing for music or they’re trying to.
Andrew: It’s so funny going back to the older stuff where you say, “Oh, we’re going to work on lots of platforms,” because you did in the early days have a response to that. You said, “We’re also on Myspace,” and you gave these other ones like Meez or something. I’ve never heard of it.
Andrew: LiveJournal for sure. That was a big announcement.
Nir: Right. Facebook was not the first platform. It wasn’t for a long time that even people thought it would be the dominant social network that it is today. There were real competitors from people we thought at the time. This was when Myspace for a long time was bigger than Facebook.
Andrew: And Ning had so much more to offer individuals who created networks on there.
Nir: Ning, right. Yeah. Started by Marc Andreessen, right?
Nir: The legend started Ning.
Andrew: Yeah. And if you pull your network onto Ning, you could get the email addresses of people in your network, so they give you a bigger incentive to create your network there and still we all built our network on Facebook.
Andrew: So then how did you find an exit? How did you find Lockerz and work out a way to sell your business?
Nir: Right. Well, we looked for acquirers at one point. We knew that we had a technology that we thought was valuable, that we had several patents on. We made the best of that technology. We had great people. We did partial outbond, partial inbound. You do what’s called running a process. You kind of test the process.
Andrew: What is the process? How do you figure it out? You start making calls to people and saying, “Hey, we’re thinking…” You can’t call them up and say, “Hey, I’m thinking of selling.”
Nir: Right. It’s typically done through investors. Lockerz was a portfolio company of Kleiner Perkins. That’s how that introduction was made. But there were other parties that were interested. We were in talks with several names out there.
Andrew: I see. So, your investors initiate it and they start saying, “Who else in our portfolio should be acquiring this business?” I see. And then once you get them going, you can start having conversations with other people saying, “My investors are talking to this other company, but I like you. Should we talk a little bit about a partnership?”
Nir: Right. You meet very quickly with these interested parties. The investors make the intro, but it’s not much more than an email.
Andrew: I see. Wow. How did it feel to have the sale go through? Do you remember the day?
Nir: I don’t remember the day. It doesn’t really happen on a day. It happens kind of in small bits and pieces. But I remember the day when we made the decision that I would be better to save the time and money we had and take the deal. But it’s bittersweet. At the time, I didn’t know what was next. Had I known how much satisfaction I would find in what I’m doing now, I wouldn’t have been so bummed. But at the end of the day, I was really tired and unhealthy. I remember I gained in those three years that we were in that industry I gained about 15-20 pounds, I think. I was not taking very good care of myself.
I put everything into that business. I got shingles at one point running that company, which is a disease that you’re not supposed to get as a young 30-something. I went to my doctor and he said, “Yeah, you’ve got shingles and the only other people I see with shingles are people who are in their 80s who have autoimmune disorders. A guy in his 30s is not supposed to get this kind of stress-related problem.”
Andrew: I’ve heard a few entrepreneurs who got shingles. It is stress-related when you get it at that age. The other thing that I’m realizing people get is panic attacks. Do you ever have panic attacks?
Nir: I never had panic attacks. I had sleepless nights.
Andrew: What happened to you with sleepless nights? I’ve had those.
Nir: When you have so many different things running around your head, that can keep you up at night. For a few years, I was not sleeping well.
Andrew: One of my things was, “What are people going to say who thought that I was invincible, who I tried to convince that I was invincible when they see that this failed? They’re going to laugh at it. It’s going to be really too embarrassing.” Do you remember one of yours?
Nir: I thought I’d never be able to work again. If an investor puts money into you and you can’t deliver on the promise of what you show them in that slide that says, “Here’s our expected revenue,” to me it felt like a lie. “I told you one thing in here. I delivered something else.” If we had good reasons and all that, it was fine. It was a way to rationalize it.
But fundamentally I felt bad that we couldn’t deliver on those results. So, that would keep me up at night. And of course there’s always the challenge of doing more. One of the benefits of doing a 9:00 to 5:00 is you clock out and you’re kind of done, whereas when you run a business, there’s always more to do. There’s never a time when you say, “Done. I can sleep well.”
Andrew: Right. I remember one time thinking, this was with my first company, “This is going to go down to zero. I’m burning out and I can’t take a break because if it goes down to zero which means I have no money which means I have to work right away for someone else and prove myself to them instead of taking a break just when you can’t handle it anymore.”
This is why I do say entrepreneurs are heroes. I got into a disagreement with one of my past guests about this who said, “Entrepreneurs aren’t heroes.” I don’t know who he thinks are heroes–firefighters and police officers and so on. I accept it. A firefighter that goes into a burning building is absolutely a hero.
But an entrepreneur who can take on a job that’s safe and secure and can provide for his family but instead says, “I’m going to take a big risk because I believe that something should exist in the world and gives jobs,” and then puts up with shingles and sleepless nights and frankly, real financial impact to their families, that’s a hero in my book, especially when you see the upside of all this, especially when you see the kinds of people you could potentially help.
Nir: Yeah. I think one of the things that I internalized form the business is that it’s a reflection on my intellect, on my worth if the business succeeds or fails. I think that’s a gigantic mistake. I think it’s easy to do. Unfortunately, when we judge people, we want to see that they have a track record of success, but a lot of times these track records, there’s an element of luck to all this stuff.
There’s an element of trying and trying again that if you can consistently keep doing this practice of starting businesses, eventually you’re going to get a hit, but we only talk about the hits. We only talk about the successes, whereas I thought if you have one, a sub-optimal outcome, the net says you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough, then that’s something I think a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. And of course nothing could be further from the truth.
Look, Mark Zuckerberg and the Google guys, there are all smart guys. But you know what? There are lot of people in Silicon Valley who are just as smart of them, not that they’re not smart. But the most successful has very little correlation with the most smart. In fact, I think there are a lot of people who are too smart for entrepreneurship because they can’t make decisions.
Andrew: So, what do we do? Does it mean then that things are just too random and too based on luck for us to try?
Nir: I think it’s about being humble and realizing that being smart are the table stakes, that everybody around here is smart. That’s not what it takes. What it takes is right place, the right time and doing the right actions to see success. But it’s not 100% in your control.
Andrew: Your first business, Sunshine Business Development, was that a hit?
Nir: That was good. It was a very different scenario because we had no venture capital in that business. I didn’t even know what venture capital was. I started that company after–I used to be a consultant at Boston Consulting Group and I started that business back when nobody was doing solar. The best way to describe what we did was kind of like what SolarCity does today and of course SolarCity is a publicly traded company now. We did something very similar to what SolarCity does today but this was back in 2003. So, this was a long time ago when the only people in the solar industry were leftovers from the Carter administration.
Andrew: What does it mean that you did that? Here’s what you say on your LinkedIn profile. You cofounded it and managed a renewable energy distribution wholesale and retail business. Does that mean that you sold solar panels for people to put on their homes and you finance it for them so you don’t have to put it all upfront?
Nir: At the time, there wasn’t such a thing. Now you can purchase the energy as opposed to buying the entire solar system. So, we had to go through the manual work of connecting them with financers and home equity loans and all that stuff.
Andrew: And you would go door to door. Actually, no, it wasn’t door to door. How did you get your clients there?
Nir: AT the time, we used this amazing thing called the internet, which at the time nobody was using, believe it or not. It sounds ridiculous today because solar is such a big industry today. It was nothing. It was puny back then. It was a fraction of how big it is today and people weren’t using the kind of technologies that we take for granted.
One thing we did which is now common practice, but as far as I know we were the first people do it in 2003 was that we used satellite imagery. Google didn’t have this data yet. We had to go to a third party that collected aerial imagery of people’s homes and we would send them letters that says, “Your home is solar qualified.” Not every home can have solar. You don’t have enough room. It’s not facing he right direction. So, we did that and it was a really scalable way to find new customers.
Andrew: Oh, that’s fantastic. What else did you do to get customers?
Nir: So, that was the most innovative thing we did. There were a lot of things we did that were standard practice–going to home shows and mailers and sometimes door to door.
Andrew: So, one of the things that I do when I google people is I do a search for their company name, most people don’t know it, but there’s this little dropdown menu underneath the search bar on Google that says more–oh, no, not more. Underneath it says search tools. You click on that and then you an limit your search to a certain time. So, I’m going to limit my search until 2005, everything up until 2005. I type in Sunshine Business Development, LLC. Nothing comes up.
Andrew: Did you guys have a website at the time?
Nir: We did. I think the company we sold to still has it. Try like “Solar Long Island” or “Sunshine Long Island.” That’s where the business was based. I’m sure their site is still up.
Andrew: You sold it to private investors?
Andrew: What kind of an exit did you get form that?
Nir: A nice one.
Andrew: That’s the one that qualifies you to be an angel investor?
Andrew: Let me ask you this–when AdNectar wasn’t doing well, was that any reassurance? There’s this belief that if you have a hit, you should have nothing to worry about because you’re going to eat, you’re going to provide for your family, you’re going to be okay.
Andrew: Did it? Did it give you that okay feeling? It didn’t actually because you were still up nights. Why didn’t it give you the okay feeling? Why didn’t you get up like, “You know what? I’ve got money in the bank. I have a business that I started that already succeeded. Any investor that doesn’t believe that this last business succeeded that can go talk to the investors that bought it. I could provide.” Why isn’t that enough because it’s not?
Nir: Well, to be clear, I would not have started AdNectar if I didn’t have the previous exit from Sunshine. I just don’t have that kind of guts, to be honest. I’m not that brave. It’s because I knew that I had a bit of a nest egg that I could take that chance. Why was it still keeping me up at night?
Nir: That’s just one factor. There are a lot of things that were on my mind. One of them–and frankly, I don’t know how I could have handled it, I know I wouldn’t have done it if I was also thinking, “Oh my god, I’m not going to pay rent.” Maybe some entrepreneurs can handle that kind of stress. I certainly couldn’t. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.
When somebody comes to me and says, “I have a great idea for a business.” I say, “Great, do you have a day job first so you can do some validation? Let’s get to a point where you can either raise money or make some income on this business before you quit your day job.” I think it puts so much stress on you that you can’t even–at one point, you can’t even think creatively because all you can think about is building–
Andrew: Yes. Nobody talks about that, that if you want it bad enough, if you burn the boats–burning the boats is a big statement. It goes back to Cortés, I guess, who landed on the beach, burned his boats so his soldiers couldn’t escape. So, they had no other option but to win. And this belief that if you have no other option but to win then you’ll have to win doesn’t take into account that there’s some point where the pressure on you is so big you can’t think of anything else. You can’t, as you said, be creative even if you could show up every day.
Nir: Entrepreneurship is full of platitudes that are not based in any kind of research that I’ve seen. I think that’s one of them. Burning your ships does work for some people in some circumstances. I think in other circumstances, it makes people throw up on the shore.
Andrew: Yeah. At some point, it’s too much. Exactly. It’s debilitating. And you know what? There’s another thing that I don’t believe people understand, which is it’s not just about, “Can you survive? Can you feed yourself?” At some point it’s about, “I made a promise to someone.” Maybe I made a promise to a client. “I’ve got to live up to it.”
I know for me with Mixergy, I’m not going to die. My son, Shep, is going to be able to eat even if Mixergy fails completely. But if it fails, there’s this belief I have that it’s a letdown for him. There’s this issue I have with a letdown for people who signed up for Mixergy and are expecting some kind of result in their lives. It’s all that stuff.
Nir: Right. It’s your employees. There’s more to it. Of course, when you take investment and you make a promise to those people who put money in your company or people who put their lives in your company and have been working with you for years, that’s what kept me up at night, first and foremost my employees, then my investors, then everybody else.
Andrew: Right. We’ve talked al little bit about these two companies. How do you feel having talked about it? I don’t see you talk about hem much. Do you feel exposed? Do you feel like we’ve wasted time?
Nir: I like talking about stuff that I’m uncomfortable discussing because it makes me question why I’m uncomfortable in the first place. I know exactly why I’m uncomfortable about this because we judge people based on their successes, but I know better.
Being in the entrepreneurship game, I know that there are a lot of factors outside of someone’s control that to judge them based on the success of one venture or another, good or bad, is not enough. Just because you have a great outcome doesn’t mean you’re a genius and if you didn’t have the best outcome doesn’t mean you’re a failure and inferior somehow.
Andrew: If AdNectar had been a huge success, would you have put that in your bio in your book? Would you have put the name? Even if it wasn’t a Google level, if it was a $10 million exit?
Nir: Probably not. Even a $10 million exit is not anything to write home about. A $10 million exit is a soft landing too. If you raise $5 million, then the investors are expecting a 10x return.
Andrew: I have a disagreement with you on this. I believe what you did is highly relevant because of the kinds of companies that you’re talking to. I believe that including the name is important because of the other authors in the space who have no experience and pretend they do. How many people who–do I just want to name the person? What do you think? Is it okay for me to name someone who’s acting like a CEO of a successful company even if he’s not?
Nir: Now I’m just curious.
Andrew: Would you feel comfortable with it? Sorry?
Nir: Now I’m curious to know who you’re going to say.
Andrew: Here’s my belief based on my research. I was at a conference and I saw someone who was introduced as a founder of Evite. He founded Speak. I said, “I should interview him.” And I went and did research on the guy. I saw sure enough where he just announced himself as a founder of Evite or other people had, at least based on my research. He wasn’t a founder of Evite.
Doing a search of what I just talked about on Google, I went back and he wasn’t mentioned at all in any Evite articles from back in the day when Evite was starting, when Evite was big, none of that. What he was was a guy who at some point was about to start a business–in my opinion, I don’t know for sure–who said, “If I am a founder of Evite, I get more credibility. As a result, more people will care. So, I will call myself a founder of Evite.” He might not have even called himself exactly a founder of Evite. Maybe he said he was on the founding team of.
Anyway, I did a lot of research and I saw he just wasn’t, at least based on my research. I don’t want to indict the guy here. I’m remembering to the best of my ability here. I will say that part from him, this happens all the time, especially for authors. They will have been a part of some company. They will take the credit for having launched and built and succeeded with the company and then they come up with the book that has nothing in it.
When I first researched you, I said, “Who is this guy?” And I said, “I don’t see any of it.” But then I saw all the other credibility indicators that said, “This guy has got something.” But no one is going to do the kind of research I did. I believe that it’s import for you to talk about it and say, “Here’s what I did. Here’s the name of the company. Here’s what worked for it and here’s what didn’t work.” It adds a lot of credibility in a world where people don’t earn it.
Nir: It could be too that a lot of us around here feel this imposter syndrome, like at any moment we’re going to be discovered. That’s a concept I learned in business school. Its’ something that once I heard it I went, “Oh my god, I have done that for a long time.” And here I am at Stanford Business School. And I thought, “Man if I only get into Stanford Business School, then I’ll have the stamp that says that I’m smart enough.” And then if I only start a business that gets a public offering, then I’ll prove that I have a stamp that says I’m smart enough. And if I only write a book that becomes a Wall Street bestseller, then I’ll have the stamp that says I’ll be good enough.”
Andrew: And it’s still not there.
Nir: I say this to you and I know it’s silly and I know we shouldn’t feel this way. I appreciate that you push me to articulate it again because it’s message that I constantly need to remind myself, that it’s a universal syndrome, I think for people that are trying to achieve something.
Andrew: I’m glad that you feel comfortable having done it at the end of the interview, especially since I’ve gotten to know you off the interviews too. The reason I’m hesitating now is because I feel, “Do I feel good about the way that I talked about the founder of Speak or not?” There’s no way I’m deleting it or editing it out. I feel so-so about it. I’ll tell you why I feel so-so about it. I want to talk about it publicly because I think it’s importance to bring the audience into it.
I believe that going back and doing research for my interview with Jackie Martling, one of the guys from “The Howard Stern Show” opened my eyes to how honest they used to be on the “The Howard Stern Show,” how open they used to be, brutally so.
I said, “You, Andrew, are pulling your punches with Mixergy. You still have feelings that you’re not expressing. You still have truth that you’re not saying because you’re worried that if you speak out this truth, then someone is going to say something about you or pull some truth out about you,” or, “You, Andrew, are afraid of saying what you know because you’re worried that this is a small community and someone is going to come back and punish you for it.
So, when it came to talking about this guy from Speak, I said, “Do I want to say what I know publicly or not?” I said, “If you’re really going to learn from the research you did and this self-analysis where you want to be more truthful, more open, then you have to talk about it. So, in that sense, I’m a little bit proud of it. In another sense, I also feel a little bit vulnerable because of all the things I just said. And on top of that, if you’re going to speak out, you should just speak out. You shouldn’t do this hemming and hawing, right? You should just say, Here’s what I’ve researched. Here’s what I’ve found. Here’s what I’ve noticed we should all be aware of.”
Andrew: But I’m going through this transition.
Nir: But you’re depressing yourself, aren’t you? You’re going through a transition, you said?
Andrew: Yeah. That’s it. I’m going through a transition. I always was trying to be as open as possible on Mixergy but I realize that there are still places where I’m not open. I always was trying o be more conversational on Mixergy, but I realize there is a formality to the intro, which is why I interrupt my intros now and I get into more of the conversation. I want this to be a better and better conversation.
I do see the other interviews out there and I feel like they bring no research, no background, no nothing. But at the same time, if I’m going to say I’m better than them because I do all this research, I do all this preparation, I have to also say, “Am I better than myself yesterday? Am I better than my past interviews?” And I have to admit that I’m not pushing myself enough and I have to say, “Where else is there for me to go? What else can I do?”
Nir: Is it entertaining for you? When you don’t push yourself, when you don’t ask these uncomfortable questions, is it fun or is it boring?
Nir: You know my most fun conversations are the ones that I have one on one apart from Mixergy. I don’t know how to bring that here, where I will get together with an entrepreneur and we’ll talk about things like marriage problems or talk about panic attacks or talk about the first time we had sex or talk about all these things that don’t seem related to business, but they so are.
They’re the core of what we are. They’re the core of why we bond. They’re the core of what conversations are really like and then they come back to business because when you come to business directly, often you come at it with this expectation of how you’re supposed to talk about business. You come at it with this practice because you practice pitching to investors and pitching to your employees.
So, there’s this practice about it. When you come at it from, “Let’s talk about something open which we don’t’ usually talk, like our marriage issues,” it creates more of an environment to be more honest and be more real and be more in the moment that then allows us to have more real conversations about work. That’s a challenge because if I push people to talk about that stuff on camera, it’s a very scary thing for them to talk about and they then put up walls that I don’t know how to get around.
And at the same time, I know that we’re in an environment that is very sexist. I’ve hired people to help me find guests who, when I say, “We need more women,” they’ll say, “Will the audience respect you more if we have more women?” And they secretly fight me about getting more women on interviews. I realize that if it’s uncomfortable for women in this environment, if it’s uncomfortable because we’re spilling out the sex stuff too much, even if I’m coming from a good place from it, I don’t think that’s an easy thing to bring up in interviews.
Anyway, this is a very long train of thought way of answering, which I’m kind of proud of. I know my real audience, my real fans will get this and help me shape it. The short answer is yes, I do enjoy these interviews and if I don’t, I just throw a curve ball that will make it more interesting for me. But I don’t enjoy them as much as my private one on one conversations and I don’t know how to get to that.
Nir: Have you ever experimented with other mediums?
Nir: I’ve done some research on embodied cognition and how things in our environment change our decision making pretty profoundly.
Andrew: Like what?
Nir: Like if you hold a cup of coffee and you have a warm hand form holding that cup of coffee and then you shake someone else’s hands, they perceive you to be more friendly–no, I think you perceive them to be more friendly, whereas if you’re holding a cold cup of coffee, you perceive them to be less friendly. It has nothing to do with the person. It’s all about this physical environment.
I wonder–and this is just brainstorming here. What do I know? I wonder if the fact that here I see you on this video with Skype in the corner, I feel like I’m being interviewed on “60 Minutes” or something and I want to be a little more guarded. Now, it’s you and we have a relationship outside of these interviews as well and I try to be as honest as possible about everything that we discuss, but even this I kind of feel like I’m on stage and I need to tell you what the audience wants to hear. But what you really want to hear is what I really think.
I wonder if you tried–when I do podcasts today, everyone wants to do Skype. I wonder if we went back to the phone and it became just like an intimate conversation over the telephone if people would be more willing to share with you.
Andrew: And even you suggested just coming in here and recording in person. And I said no because it’s so much work to edit it and so much work to setup the mics. But maybe that’s an area where I should be considering pushing it. There should be a way for me to do it, even if it’s after hours when there’s nobody walking around and just have a couple of mics. I could hire someone to set that up. You know what? I hadn’t thought of it. I thought, “How do I change the substance?” And you’re making me think how do I change–
Nir: The environment.
Andrew: The framework or the environment of it.
Nir: What’s that Jerry Seinfeld show that he’s doing now where he talks to comedians?
Andrew: Yes. “Comedians in Cars with Coffee.” Yes.
Nir: I wonder if there’s something there about the cues that we get form our environment that tell us how we should not behave.
Andrew: That is a good point. All right. You’ve given me something to think about.
Nir: It’s just an idea. What do I know?
Andrew: No, you do know a lot, actually. One of the reasons why I like reading your work is you have this research and this different approach to life that you bring in to your blog posts. The other thing that I like about reading your work, even outside of your blog–and your blog is NirAndFar, Nir is spelled like your name–you and your wife got open about something about something about how you were fondling your technology too much in bed and you said, “We’re going to try to take some steps away from technology.” I like your openness. I met your wife once at a dinner. And I’ve gotten to know your relationship offline and I like it. But I like how open you are about things like that.
Nir: Yeah. Well, that’s interesting, isn’t it?
Nir: When I first started blogging, I read this piece about how to write great stuff, how to be a productive author. One of the things that I always remember about it was that she had this beautiful line in the essay about if you don’t find what you’re writing interesting, there is no way in hell the reader is going to find it interesting. So, that’s what I want to read about. I would want to know how do people have a healthy sex life when they’re constantly checking their devise all night. That’s interesting to me.
Andrew: Intellectually I think, “Well, nobody cares about that stuff.” When you talk about sex life intellectually I think, “All right, sex always sells. Let’s do it.” But when you talk about social things, intellectually I think nobody cares to read about them. But then I remember reading “The Boron Letters” by Gary Halbert because so many of my guests talked about it and he’s a copywriter who happens to be in jail and I couldn’t figure out why he was in jail, but he was writing letters to his son that were just so fascinating.
One of the things that was interesting is he would start the letter saying, “I’m sitting cross-legged in my cell today writing to you on this notepad. The guy in the cell next door is making noise. I’m trying to tune him out so I can focus on you. Onward. Let’s talk about my lesson for you for today.” That little touch of where he is, intellectually you’d think, “He’s wasting my time with information and knowledge I can’t use. How am I going to process or file away or write better copy because I know he’s sitting in his jail cell?” But still, it adds color and it brings me into the moment and it makes it more interesting. I think that’s what your writing has.
All right. We have gone way over here. Maybe I shouldn’t say way over. We’ve gone over. I’m going to tell people that if they want to follow up with you, first of all, they should get your book. But frankly, if they’re in the Mixergy audience, they’ve already bought your book. I’m looking at your website.
Matt Mullenweg has read your work. Andrew Chen, Dave McClure–these guys gave you testimonials. All you need is them. You don’t even need Andrew Warner to say, “Go get the book.” You get those guys and people should have the book or they should get out of the tech industry. Or maybe they’re not readers. If they’re not readers, I get is. But if they are, I feel like people in our space have read the book.
Nir: If you’re illiterate, don’t buy the book. It won’t do you much good.
Andrew: If you’re illiterate, go get the audiobook. Or NirAndFar.com. I’m glad that you came here and talked about it. I didn’t realize until minutes before the interview that you had a whole other agenda, that you wanted to talk about distraction. I’d like us to do something about distraction. You taught the concepts from “Hooked” in Mixergy Master Class. I think people are going to freaking love that and they’re going to be able to learn how to create products that hook people in, that are almost addictive. But as much as I like both those topics, I’m really glad that I got to see your story here. I think our audience agrees.
If you guys agree or disagree, please let me know. Oh, if you like this interview, please go into your favorite podcast app and subscribe to Mixergy so you can get every single one of my interviews directly in whatever your favorite device is. If you love this interview, please go and leave me a rating on iTunes. Just go to Mixergy.com/Podcast and give a review.
Thank you, Nir for doing this.
Nir: Thank you. It was fun.
Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, everyone.