Inside Nomad’s product development

About eight years ago, today’s guests realized that if you’re walking around with a phone and you don’t have a way to charge it you just feel vulnerable.

So he started a company that builds smartphone accessories for the modern nomad.

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Noah Dentzel

Noah Dentzel

Nomad

Noah Dentzel is the co-founder of Nomad, iPhone cases & accessories made from the finest materials.

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Full Interview Transcript

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. Um, about eight years ago, today’s guests realized that if you’re walking around with a phone and you don’t have a way to charge a year, You just feel vulnerable.

You feel like you can connect with family. What if there’s an emergency? What if you want to get some work done? And he had this idea that just to tell you about it, doesn’t do it. Justice, no, everything that you create. I can’t describe it. People have to see it because you have a certain aesthetic that’s just beautiful wide, your eyebrow doula, that like you don’t believe me when I’m saying this, you absolutely have an aesthetic.

That is gorgeous. Don’t you think?

Noah: I yeah. Uh, well, I, I, I got to give a lot of, uh, The, um, aesthetic looks, especially in these recent years as we’ve really matured, I’ve got to give some kudos over to Brian, my co-founder and the, the, the product team who’s taken some of these concepts and all the new concepts that we’ve developed as a team.

And. Made them look so amazing. We look at our products sometimes in our, or even our website of today. And then I’ll look at some of our products from five or six years ago, which I love. And they, those are the building blocks where we got started and took off. And it’s just funny to look at our design as it’s evolved and you see our early stuff and we laugh.

Um, because we would, we would just be like, yeah, that’s good. Let’s go, let’s get to production. It was all about getting to production. And I remember in the very early days of the company, so we build these smartphone accessories tools for the modern nomad. We say your traditional nomad has it. My bow and arrow, you know, and your sword and your modern nomad has, has an iPhone.

The iPhone is the, the sword, if you will, of the 21st century. And we aimed to keep you charged and keep it protected. So we see it as something that’s a tool for this, these, these modern lives that we need now tools can be used incorrectly. I wouldn’t suggest that someone, uh, you know, use, you

Andrew: Well, let, let me take a moment and just tell people what you did before we continue with this. What you did was you, you said people don’t want to carry these giant cords with them. What if I could just create this little card that flipped the bottom flips out and so you could connect it into a USB charger.

And then the other side connects into your phone back. When speaking of ugly, the iPhone had these ugly big, giant connectors and you made it look nice. And anyone who wanted to could, could use it to charge up their device. It was called charge card, right? it. You killed it with that. You sold it, you grew, and then you added this whole collection of tools, as you said, for nomads, for people who are out in the world working.

And so that includes things that frankly, Apple makes, but I think in many ways you make it look better and make it more functional. So for example, Apple has a case for the iPad, obviously, right? But yours has a back protector on it. Yours has a way for the pencil to be protected. If it’s attached using the magnet.

Apple has all these, uh, um, wristbands for watches, yours actually cost more than theirs. Yeah, there it is. That you’re wearing one, but it it’s a little bit more, I don’t know. It’s a little more of your static. It’s a little more beautiful. I was going to say, what are you going to say?

Noah: Yeah, no, we, uh, I just, I think that we genuinely put so much. Passion and heart and soul and argument. Um, and we have had arguments over the funniest little details on the little, the lug or the class or the, this, or the slightest variation holler. We dig deep into what we do. And, um, I think that, uh, it’s something that from the very beginning days of, of the company, I remember one of the first.

Arguments that, that we ever had. I say, argument in a, in a well well-meaning way, uh, with, with Brian, my co-founder, we were in Hong Kong and we were talking about our second product because in some ways in consumer products, at least perhaps for the second product is, is as vital and critical important as the first one.

The first one gets you started, but the second one is where you go from. Is this a one hit wonder, or we have something bigger than that here. Cause if you can do a second, maybe you can do a third. Maybe there’s a whole lot more there than just this one-off charge card project. And so that second product, what it was, is it a USB cable, the size and shape of it?

Ki kind of a logical successor. Um, when you look backwards, there’s a lot of logical successors to the story, but when you’re on those front lines and looking at, uh, you know, a lot of fogginess of what to do next, it’s not, it’s not as clear, but when that one emerged as our, as our next product, we had all of our energy and focus on that.

And I remember the big question is whether or not you could take it off your key chain. And, um, we would, it’s funny that sometimes one of us would take one side of the argument and then we. Wake up in the morning and be like, no, I totally discrete the other way. And I was pushing, we should have it at the taxable so you can pop it on and off your teaching.

It’s really annoying to take them on. And Brian was saying, no, we’ve got to keep it on that way. You just know that it’s there. And these are like funny little decisions. You’ve seen our product and we all use products in our lives. And it’s fun to think that behind the scenes of the products that we use, there’s these arguments and decisions and, and discussions, you know, late night at a bar in Hong Kong.

And, and I totally flipped on it. I was like, no, you’re absolutely right. If it’s truly the tool for the modern nomad it’s with them when they need it out of their

Andrew: it, does it ever bother you that you can spend all this time arguing and then someone can just knock you off, get 90% of the way there and not have anyone know the difference and maybe even outsell you.

Noah: It used to, um, when we used to see knockoffs, it was like, There’s you get this visceral feeling that you’ve been copied and you’ve been cheated and need to chase them down and find out who they are. And there was a time where we built a stand for the Apple watch is really elegant. Stand for charging the Apple watch.

It was a very early product for Apple watch at a time where it was just launching and it did incredibly well. All of a sudden, when the knockoffs started hitting Amazon, it directly hit our bottom line immediately. Our sales, that product dropped 70 or 80%. And, um, I was so annoyed. I actually, um, I emailed in to, uh, to Jeff Bezos, jeff@amazon.com, which.

You know, and I have this email tracking thing, so I can see where an email is opened. And I was so annoyed because this was costing us. It wasn’t just a matter of pride. It was like, wait, we got a good one here and we need this. And, you know, cause it’s the revenue that we use to reinvest in the team and other products in.

I was so pissed off and I emailed like legal@nomadgoods.com, which wasn’t even a thing just to make it see, I think I may have even included like some law firm in Seattle that we don’t even work with, but just to let them know that we’re mad and we’re going to speak up about it and sure enough, I see.

And there were all these knockoffs and I see the email. And I see that it’s opened in this weird part of like Texas and I’m like, Oh, that’s interesting. And then I see in the news that Jeff Bezos is in Texas for blue origin, rocket launch. Next day, all of these listings are gone and it’s like, we’ve ruined this space.

And I’m thinking. Holy shit we actually got through and sure enough, it’s whack-a-mole a week later, uh, even when you get Mr. Jeff Bezos or his assistant or whoever it might be to come in and take care of business, it’s whack-a-mole and they’re all back and we’re back at it. And we realized, realized over time, you know, if you’re chasing that fight, It’s good to be thoughtful and proactive there, but not to burn too much of your time or energy because it is a bottomless pit of, of whack-a-mole copycats.

And you and I, I do love these words of Elon Musk. You can’t drive forward, looking in the rear view mirror.

Andrew: So then I wonder what the solution is. How do you build a business when anyone can knock you off? But before you’d say that, let me introduce you. This is Noah dental. He is the founder of nomad. What they do is create these beautiful products for. For your technique for the technical products in your life.

So, uh, maybe a leather case for your Apple AirPods, right? That’s the type of thing that you create. And I should say this interview is sponsored by two companies. The first, if you’re paying people, you need to know about Gusto. I want you to go to gusto.com/mixergy. And the second, if you’re fired up about this, you want to start your own company.

You need a website go to hostgator.com/mixergy. No. Then what, what do you do? How do you build a business when anyone can just knock off your stuff?

Noah: Not to Gusto. We’ve used them before and they were great. So the, the knockoffs are, you gotta be bigger than those. At the end of the day, we are like I was saying, you can’t, you can’t drive forward, looking in the rear view mirror. Like you could, you could spend all your time and energy chasing the knockoff world, but ultimately what people, really, people value and care about the company in the pro that that is at the bleeding edge that is cutting forward.

That is doing it. We’re not going to be able to win all the customers.

Andrew: But you think that your, that your customers care about you care about your brand? They connect with nomad.

Noah: I think that the, I think that over time, we’ve, we’ve absolutely built a solid in growing collection of, of customers who, who do care. They see us over time. They see, um,

Andrew: Where did they see you?

Noah: Well, you know, they, they they’ve, they’ve maybe been a customer, so they, they could have seen us online come across our S our website through, uh, well, you know, we, we do, we, we do a lot of all the various types of marketing that any, that any company tends to do these days,

Andrew: What’s the one that makes him feel more connected to you. The one that makes the creates a brand that they identify with and are more drawn to, and they could trust that if they buy something from you, that your logo won’t be plastered all over, it will be tasteful even to that degree.

Noah: I do think that the most powerful marketing we ever do is. Launching a new product. And then we get the word out, of course, on may, maybe I’m emailing all our people, maybe doing a Facebook advertising campaign, or maybe doing some press, press stuff or whatever. But what we’re pulling from is the real DNA of what we do, which is.

Trying to come up with. Cool, interesting stuff. That’s well-built and useful. And, and something that people are phones are so connected into our lives. We’re using them all the time or touching them or put it in my hands and face and pockets. This and that. So if we can build products that are really quality, this is something that people are going to have effectively a very intimate relation with their phone case, even if they don’t think they care about their phone case at all.

It’s one of the top items that people have, you know, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s a sad story, but when you look at, uh, when you look at political refugees and people who are sear, uh, who are fleeing war torn countries, um, They will often have a phone before they’ll even have food and water. That’s how important phones have become in our lives.

And so when we are, you know, we’re, we’re, you know, we’re building kind of, uh, no more these kind of pre premium cases and charges and cables, but, but, but nonetheless, when you look at, at the human level of, of needs in, in, in what. And what these phones enable the really important things in our life.

Andrew: Let me, let me ask you this, your, your F your family were hippies. You told our producer, you come from five generations of carousel makers. Did your dad take the same kind of pride in his creation that you do? Or was it more like, Oh, we’ve been doing this for five generations. People don’t notice. Let’s just build.

Noah: Um, he, the carousel thing had really dropped off. Um, and by my grandfather’s generation, he actually didn’t even know about it because they hid it from him. They didn’t want to be associated

Andrew: They didn’t, they didn’t want your dad to even know that they come from carousel makers.

Noah: The, it was for my grandfather and his family. They didn’t talk about it. And it was my grandmother who married him, who got a phone call one day about, Hey, like cousin Herman has this carousel, or did you guys want it? This, this miniature carousel. We got to put these pizzas and you guys want this and she’s thinking, wait a second.

All the, this whole carousel thing fell together. And it was in my grandfather’s later years that he began reviving that tradition. And my father then of, you know, took it on and actually did it himself in a much more kind of. Sort of artistic kind of, kind of lower key kind of hopefully self-made, I mean, he’d be doing the welding, he’d be doing the whole thing and more community-based focus.

And he absolutely took a tremendous amount of kind of energy and focus. Cause he, he was, he was doing the whole, the whole thing himself. And I do think that seeing, seeing that kind of stuff, just creating something out of nothing where there’s no rules of how to even do it. As much as I wanted nothing to do with that whatsoever at all.

I wanted the opposite of that. You know, I think as we grow up in life, we hate our parents. And then at some point maybe often when you’re in your twenties or thirties, you start to be like, wait, you know, they were, they were actually, all right. I actually learned a lot

Andrew: think that this thing that you thought was not cool, him playing the accordion, making carousels, the fact that he took pride in the details like welding in a certain way, made it somehow impregnated itself in your mind. And you have to do things right too.

Noah: You know, he, he, he, what, what, what I learned from him and see from him is. Since he’s doing things that other people aren’t even really doing. And I’m building these weird carousel mechanism. There was so much unknown and uncharted all the time that it really normalized the idea of. Do whatever do, do whatever, be whatever, be like there’s, there’s not just some specific path out there.

And I do think that when you’re building something and you’re doing something new, um, uh, that there’s, while there’s many learnings to be had from other stories and journeys that people have been on, that’s really helpful information, but you’re still going on your journey. And I heard a quote the other day that is like, So, uh, I can’t remember.

It was something like, so if, if you, if you’ve seen there’s an expression, if you’ve seen a company you’ve seen one company and the point pointed. It was that, of course there are commonalities. I do believe in a lot of the overtime, a lot of the buy-side she has held true across many companies, but at the same time, these companies and their journeys and how they’re going about it when they’re starting from zero, you know, in their, in grandma’s basement, you know, when you’re starting from zero, there is not a rule book of what you’re supposed to do.

And, you know, sometimes I’ll say when we’re. Well, this is not a book that we’re reading where we flip to the next page and see what to do. It’s a book where we’re writing and we flip the next page and we’re like, what are we going to put here? How are we going to get through this? So having a, an upbringing that had too much openness, like not too much, but like, like just.

So much openness to do whatever, be whoever just go after it, but you you’re going to have to make it happen. You know? Um, like, uh, that definitely, I think in genders, some of those qualities that I think can be sick, help, help an entrepreneur sort of fill that white space in their journey.

Andrew: Did you go to Spain to get away from your family, which at the time you thought was a little bit different or did you go there for a different reason? You were still in school? Why’d you go? Yeah.

Noah: yeah, I was, I was, um, I was very lucky when I was, when I was a kid, I wanted to go to college. That was my ticket out of, of, of this, this, this, this funky hippy carousel situation. I was a very good student. And, um, I came down to, uh, I was, we were living in a small town of the Pacific Northwest, and we’d always come down to California and even moved down here a couple of times and try to make it here for a year.

And then we’d, we’d be driving back up with our van, pulling a carousel, the dog and the cat and the three kids in there. And it was like, we wanted out of this thing and we, my, my siblings and

Andrew: You siblings, but by the way, you’re the dental carousel company is fair. It’s pretty famous. Right? That’s the family that you’re from,

Noah: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s known in the niche carousel world, um,

Andrew: there was one put in Disneyland in, in 1922,

Noah: you have the one hand is a dental dental frame, and I believe it was some dental animals. The zoo in San Francisco is actually a dental, dental carousel,

Andrew: that we see. So we walk right through, we walked through the gate and then on the left, there’s this carousel that all the kids want to go on that is created by your family.

Noah: It would have been like my great, great grandfather or something like that.

Andrew: These are all over the country. Knott’s Berry farm, so, okay. But, but I get what you’re saying.

Noah: whole carousel thing fell into disrepair and the, in the twenties cause carousels used to be the thing to do for entertainment. And then there started to be. Television and other stuff. So that whole being just like, kind of.

Andrew: I get it. I get it. And so, and it’s true that as I’m looking at these, we’re looking at, I’m looking at, uh, carousels that were made in 1905 and 1921 is the one in the San Francisco zoo. Not very far in 1912, I get it. Your dad rediscovered it, this whole thing. That was his famous part of his background that he is getting re-engaged in and loves you and your siblings say, I got to get out of this.

This is not a cool thing to be in. You go to Spain, you look, I want to bring it back to nomad. Uh huh.

Noah: No. I mean, I’m going to try to do it super quick version of it. I, my, my, my, so when I went into college, my brother Zaren, who’s been at who’s, you know, a big, positive influence on, on the, the company and the particularly in the earlier days, he started a social network in Spain with. An old friend of his kind of like a Facebook of Spain type of thing.

And, um, at the time that I had started college, so the, by the time I’m graduating from college and I’m looking at all these interesting opportunities, I finally get to go out in the world and do my thing. I’m thinking, well, this is the recession. It’s 2010. It’s a tough time. And I’ve got this brother at this interesting company in Spain, and I’m thinking, the last thing I want to do right now is go work.

At my older brother’s thing, but, and a good friend of mine told me, look, Noah, get over that, get the experience. You’re going to regret it if you don’t. And then, because it was a whole unique, weird thing. So I, I sucked it up. I went over there, I made it very, uh, I made very clear and sure to be working disconnected from him.

So working under a different team and team member from that, just to make sure that, you know, the, of course is, uh, you know, I didn’t want to have two weeks. Of course, it’s going to be a unique experience regardless. Cause, cause you know, I get this, this younger brother coming over, but in doing, in doing that and being over there for a year and a half, yeah.

I was have a really good experience in seeing, seeing a company, being a fly on the wall and

Andrew: And watching this business get built from the seed level. See that it’s possible to create something. And then. If I understand it, right. You also, since you were in Spain said a lot of these people are having their batteries run out. Spain, just like when I lived in Argentina, the time difference for dinners is weird.

What time would people have dinner in Spain?

Noah: It was that it’s kind of funny, but that key point is a big formative part of charge card. It was so late, people would sit down. It was not uncommon to sit down at midnight at 11:00 PM at a restaurant at 1130. So we would be out and about, and we’d always be talking about ideas and products and concepts and just these great conversations.

Well, we all had blackberries and our batteries would always got, so I would always bring an extra black, gray battery, cause we all be on our phones and BBM and there’s anything that was ever as more, even more addictive than the iPhone. It goes to the Blackberry. And I remember one time, one of the sort of executives at the company were all, we were all like in our twenties, but nonetheless, he, uh, he just said, he said, he’d pay 50 euros right now.

Anyone had a full battery and I gave him my spare battery. And of course, I ran into a hotel and ha charged the Blackberry there because I still needed to charge my phone. Cause it was that critical. And it was these experiences of realizing how important phones have become in this modern age. You know, if you look at the age of, of, of a writing, the, the, the pen and paper had an incredible important value at, at a time.

And now that the phone had become that. So, so it was realizing just how important this was. And I began looking well simultaneous to all of this. I had some immigration issues, so I was, uh, I was got this

Andrew: your visa in Spain.

Noah: I had an interdiction of entry and I was, uh, it had a whole thing where computer screens showed up four different languages.

It looked like something out of a Jason Bourne thing. And it’s like, Noah dental is this, you know, a dense, it’s not a very common name for all. He knows it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, a common name and yeah, that’s me. And it’s says you’re not supposed to be here. And so fortunately, the police officer, um, drove me past the detention center and dropped me off out of subway, told me to get out of the car and told me to get to that.

I need to sort this out or get a lawyer and, uh, So I was so grateful to him, but I knew that when I got back to the office, cause I was just going out to do some paperwork and I came back with this whole thing and it was one of the best things that could happened to me because, um, you know, it, it accelerated me to move forward in my own path and to.

Andrew: By the way, just to be clear, the reason that their batteries kept running out faster, there is because they were out all day till midnight. And then the phone can’t last, that long, you come back to the U S because you can’t stay there in this good life that you’ve got with your brother. And you say, you know what?

I can’t stop thinking about this cable thing. Why isn’t there a solution nobody’s created it. You go to Alibaba, what do you find? What are you?

Noah: No exactly. I had been mulling this idea around for a while. So fortunately, when the immigration thing happened, I had already had a few ideas going, but it forced me to move forward on this. And I’m looking on Alibaba and I’m just, it’s one of those things where you. Don’t see the thing, but you need, I’m thinking, how does this not exist?

Just a little cable, just something to carry with you, a jumper cable for your phone, you know, and, um, I, at this time was also really into the crowd. I used to do couch surfing. You know, I would, I would, I had traveled in couch surfing and I thought it was so cool. You know, you get to say somewhere for free with cool people and get this insider experience.

And. It’s so I was very open to the idea of the crowd and I saw this and I read the tech news all the time. And I saw this beautiful clock that this designer is named Scott thrift design, this beautiful clock. And it went around, did one rotation in a year. And the idea was to reimagine time. And I saw this beautiful project on Kickstarter and the whole thing just to sorta like, okay, I love the crowd.

Kickstarter is amazing, you know, where was Kickstarter the past thousand years. And for that matter Indiegogo as well, they’re there too. And so is this, this coming together of the crowd is cool. You don’t need just these big fancy angel investors or whatever they may be. Maybe you don’t have access to that.

Like, like most people don’t, um, And there’s this real problem that I’m feeling. And I keep on telling everybody and they all seem to be feeling too. And like, let’s go. So I got back into the U S I was living at my grandma’s and, um, I had this, this serendipitous thing where, um, I was trying to find people to work with.

This is businesses. This is not the case of the, the sort of, uh, of the one. Well, I guess this is a more, a board standard classic kid case companies or teams of people that build things together. And as much as I was coming in strong and I was evangelizing charge cards, I had a name for it. I knew how we were going to do it as like I had this treasure map.

I just, I needed some help getting there. And then treasure map by the way, was very blurry and unclear. But somewhere on that was. Charge card was that was the destiny. So it was very serendipitously linked up with, with, with Brian, who became my co-founder, who had all this energy as well. These, these two young guys I’m committed, no houses or mortgages or children.

And that sort of, and we were both at a stage in our life where we were just looking to go all in on something. And we like, we just kind of. When all it was like all of a sudden we didn’t even know what we had signed up for. We were in on this and I think it was several years later until we even were able to digest how deeply we had just fully execute.

Cause what happened with Kickstarters? We pre-sold all these items. So we pre sold 8,000 items. So then we had to make them, so we had this cart in front of the horse and we had that cart in front of the horse for about. Two years before we ever even caught up with it to be like fully caught up with all shipments, not backorder,

Andrew: you know how you were even going to make it?

Noah: you know, it’s as much as we felt confident and honestly presented the genuine confidence that we felt in our ability to make this product. We, we didn’t know. We thought we knew. And once now that we know everything about men or a lot about manufacturing, we really realized later on how little we knew.

Andrew: What about this? So in this video, I’m looking at, look at this younger you in a video, you look pretty much the same, but you’re holding onto to the device. How did you make it for the Kickstarter campaign who made it?

Noah: So it was, uh, you know, in the, in the earlier days of Kickstarter, they were even a little looser. Thankfully for us on the, the level of the law, the stage in the project, you had to be how far you had to be along. Um, To go live. We had, we had fully functional prototypes, but something to understand is a prototype to manufacturing.

Is something like a concept car to production.

Andrew: who manufactured the prototype, who.

Noah: we, you know, we, the, the full, the, the, the first functional. Ones were us futsing around. And the, the other guy who seen the video that was out on who was, who was the early kind of third partner who kind of didn’t didn’t quite know that he was what he was signing up to that, that we were just gonna keep on going and going and going and going and going.

And he was more around for the project and the earlier days. And he actually made some of those, those, uh,

Andrew: These are handmade.

Noah: Some of them are handmade. And we 3d printers. We came across this incredible 3d printer and it did dual materials. So we were able to 3d print a charge card that looked just like a charge card and it had a bendable tongue to it just like what we’re trying to make.

So we had really good looking ones that didn’t work that were 3d prints. We had really ugly ones that looked like. Lash. Cause they were like, this is at-home little

Andrew: Yeah.

Noah: And we took us together. We were talking with the manufacturer and in our minds it was all like, it can’t be that hard. It’s just a gadget.

And what, what? So that was a shortcoming of our shortsightedness of it, but it was having the confidence to then go camp out at the factory. We were in originally manufacturing, California. We went in though. We didn’t know a lot. We went to school and we did our homework. We camp out at that place. We would go

Andrew: The place in California, the place in China.

Noah: The place in California we’d be

Andrew: place that you found a place in California that can make it, you went, you camped out and you’re like every day, just sitting and sitting and sitting and

Noah: go through the different machines, the ultrasonic, welding weeds, all these things that we still do today. We just had a conversation in our Slack channel earlier about ultrasonic welding on a new product. And I remember when we were looking at these ultrasonic welders and going, Whoa, you can weld plastic together with these sound vibrations.

Cause we were so green on everything.

Andrew: Why did they put up with you doing this? You just had. So by the way, the Kickstarter campaign was a real winner, $161,000 and 161,897. So. Decent, but it’s not enough for a factory to go. Let’s stop everything and teach Noah how a Sonic welder works.

Noah: I think because we were there physically showing up in the U S a lot of times to see them manufacturers like medical, military. They’re not making these consumer tech gadgets, which tend to be made in China. And so they’re thinking these guys are literally showing up and they’re here and we’d have these meetings.

And we were the youngest people there, and we knew the least, um, and. I think for them, it was probably, it was probably kind of interesting. Like, Whoa, we have these two really interesting, interested people who are showing up and calling all these shots and making this project. And they, I think the fact that we showed up sometimes when you just show up and you’re there, they have the they’ll go, you know what?

You’re here, let’s do it. And they took us on and I couldn’t believe it because. We were, we were tiny and we were going to make 8,000 units in our, in our mind, all these numbers were really big 8,000 units, 5,000 units. And we had several different colors, big mistake, because then it was really smaller productions of different ones that all had their own issues.

And they’re thinking like, they’re probably thinking guys, like it’s, I don’t even know if we should be wasting our time talking with you. For some reason, they took it on and that allowed us to learn so much. To then source one or, or have we then had one component made in China and we were skeptical of China.

And when we had this one component made in China, we were like, wait a second. We’re going to China. We’re going to make the whole thing there. Um, and we didn’t have familiarity with China. We had never been there before, but part of our, sort of. You know, like I said, when we were linking up in early days, we were going on a mission and we were going to do whatever we had to dope.

So, you know, we, we, we went over to, to China, totally green. We showed up in the wrong part of the city. That was like two hours away because the naming is also confusing. But sometimes when you’re making progress, It’s the worst time you ever do it because the first time is when you know the least. So when we landed in China, we didn’t even land in the right place.

And then we would, you know, we were skipping, well, we wouldn’t want to take rides from them cause we didn’t want to be corrupted to work with the wrong factory. So we’d take the subway all the way out to the end of the line and then walk to this little factory area. But because we did those things, we were so interconnected with the.

With the people. And we were working with sub sub suppliers. A lot of times, you know, uh, foreigners will come in and they’ll work with like an agent who, who oversees all of that. And we went straight into like the sub sub supplier, but it’s that story of business where you can make things a win-win. For us, we found someone that could do this for us and for them, they had the opportunity to level up from just a basic USB component supplier to making a whole charge card, a consumer end product.

And so by going in so deep, we were able to just constantly string this thing together and kind of. Um, fill in these gaps when we have big gaps of experience, the way that we overcame that was by going right to our gap, by showing up to the area we don’t know about by getting our hands. And that’s, I think that’s still what we do today.

And it’s sometimes when I think of. You know our own path ahead. It’s what I’ve realized. It’s probably something we need to continue to do more of because when you’re new to this, all, you’re such a beginner. There’s so much green, you know, you’re so green and there’s all this stuff you have to learn. And then you learn a little bit and you learn a lot and you can almost get a little jaded thinking, you know, a lot, but we got to pick it back and remember.

There’s so much that we don’t know. And if we take that same entrepreneurial energy and push it into that, that’s how we’re going to survive. That’s how we’re going to thrive. Because now that we know, know a thing or two, it’s almost easier to become a little bit more conservative, but we’re not here because we were conservative.

We were here because we were doing things that we were wildly unqualified for it to begin with.

Andrew: Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor Gusto 2021 is the year that everyone who’s listening to us is going to switch to the right payroll program, which has Gusto you’ve have experience with gusta. What do you like about Gusto? Why should somebody listening to us switch over to them?

Noah: I have a soft spot in my heart for a, what are called H R I S human resource information systems. And when you have to do all these paperwork things, all these documents and pull these things up and calculate the taxes and withholdings all these different things. It’s HR can be one of the things that really constricts you from moving forward on your business and doing the things that you want to be focusing on.

But it’s incredibly important because if people are important, HR is one of the most important things yet. One of the biggest frustrating headache things. So, so Gusto, which is a service we we’ve, we’ve used. We, we switched to a different provider to get as part of this healthcare program thing we’re trying to

Andrew: Ruin my ad. The actually, when did you switch over

Noah: No, we switched to just, but there are

Andrew: wait, we just lost the connection. Go ahead.

Noah: It allows you to band up with other smaller companies. So when as it, when you’re your own company doing your own thing, just ghost Gusto is amazing because it’s an incredible is their incredible HR suite when we needed to get, uh, Being up with other companies to kind of get a lower healthcare premium.

We joined what’s called a PEO, which is a totally different thing. And we switched to them and actually, um, PEO systems can have a little bit of shortcomings compared to something like Gusto, but you could have, uh, some of their negotiated rates on healthcare and stuff. So that’s, that’s how our journey went from.

Gusto just

Andrew: the, what did you like about Gusto?

Noah: Oh, just, it absolutely simplifies. And in every, all the aspects of, of HR payroll and I’m sure their, their, their service has grown, but those are things that are huge, huge headaches. And, um,

Andrew: Huge headaches. And then people who are on Gusto say that within 10 minutes, they could do their payroll and just move on. Gusto has HR professionals who are there, who can help anyone who is listening to us with any problem that they have. And then also. Speaking of benefits. I don’t know if they had this, when you joined, they now have the ability to give you, uh, help with your benefits.

We’re talking about. Um, here we go. Finally, every employee benefit for every business, it takes more than a paycheck to build an amazing team with Gusto. You can offer affordable health care and financial benefits to support your team into the future. I’m reading it right off their website. They will do that.

It is quick. It’s elegant. It’s beautiful. It’s. It’s something that will help you take care of your people without sucking up a bunch of your time. If you’re ready to switch or considering switching to a better payroll system today, I want you to go to gusto.com/mixergy. I’m going to give you three months for free, and you’re going to get to see why so many people who I’ve interviewed love Gusto.

I don’t want to, you know what, let’s be open with people know what’s the company that you’ve switched over to. I want them to have like full analog.

Noah: I can totally vouch for Gusto. We use them happily.

Andrew: Yeah, but give, give the other, give the other company too. Let’s let them, let’s let them consider it.

Noah: So we’re we’re we have just works, which is, Oh, which the reason we shifted to that was purely for the sake of getting these, uh, It’s it’s several companies, a bunch of companies come together and then you’re actually, your payroll is kind of done by them. So when someone gets a payment, it’s actually like, they’re paid by just works.

It’s almost like all these little companies then are technically all these employees are employees of one larger company and it just allows for a negotiated thing. So for a lot of people, I’d recommend not doing that because it comes with its own challenges. But if you’re looking for a, if you’re looking for a.

Internal solution. That’s your own? Gustos absolutely amazing. If you’re looking to band up to a larger ship to get maybe a specific purpose of getting a. Uh, PA uh, getting healthcare benefits or something like that just works is, has, has, has been great. And, and, you know, I, there’s a lot, I love great softwares and I, and I can, I can love too that are in a similar space and if they’re making our lives easier, so I can, I can vouch for both of them.

And, and I’m, I’m saying that. Uh, I can’t say that about all the softwares that we have used. So, uh, so it was just logging into Gusto a week or two ago to get some old documents that I needed for some HR stuff. And sure enough, I was able to log in. It was really easy. It was all there. And I was like, Oh my gosh, because when you’re chasing down old tax documents and payrolls, it is just the number one way to, to put a little too much, you know, Hey, on the camels back of

Andrew: I had that problem. Well, I had that problem too. There was, I actually underpaid my taxes. Last year. I made a stupid mistake where I forgot to include one document. IRS sent me a letter with a bill. I look at, I go, actually they’re a hundred percent, right. I start chasing down this fricking document. I can’t find it anywhere.

And I scan everything into my computer. I scan everything into well into my phone. And then it goes into all my devices. Couldn’t freaking find it. I was going nuts with it. And then I asked my wife and she was agonizing over it. She then finally said, you know what, let me just go over to whoever handles HR, my company.

She asked them. Within five minutes on Slack. She got this document that was plaguing me because if it’s, if it’s there, if you’re dealing with a good company, the documents have right there, they’re handled properly. And none of these things become issues. Anyway, I sent it over to my account and they said, just pay it.

I paid it. Life was good. And I was able to move.

Noah: If I could go back in time to the very beginning of the company, I would hop on Gusto immediately because it is such a headache to be doing all this stuff manually. And you don’t even know, and it’s complex and complicated.

Andrew: to make a mistake that hurts. Someone’s forget about hurting them, hurting their family. I don’t want anybody listen, guys, if you’re listening to me, I’m going to close out the Gusto ad by saying, consider every possibility that you want. Go do your research online. Look it, everything.

Consider ju gusto.com/mix. Or do you just go over G J. G U S T o.com/mixergy. I think you’re going to be very happy with them. And frankly, if you’re not email me, andrew@mixergy.com, I stand by all my sponsors. I tell my guests, you can, you can be open about all my sponsors because I want to have the best relationship with my audience possible.

The best way I know that people get to know me is. When they sign up to something I recommend that’s when they know is Andrew full of it, can I trust them or not? Because now they’re living with something I recommend and I want them to enjoy that life and I want them to have good results with it. So I believe I know gusto.com/mixergy will do right by you.

Go check them out and let me know either way. All right.

Noah: I’m glad that you’re you’re, you’re at his first service than I, that I

Andrew: Me too. All right, let’s continue. You know, one of the things I want to quickly just ask you about the fact that, um, when I looked on Kickstarter, one of the things that you had going for you was a ton of press. How did you get all this press CNN tech crunch, um, MSNBC PC world. How did you get all these people that was cult of Mac?

Noah: something that, uh, in the early days of kicks of this whole journey, I reached out to a few different people. Do add projects. And one of the guys got back to me and he had a USB cable, totally different thing. But. He was telling me, you know, I, you know, I was asking all these questions and, and I, and I’ve always been someone who reaches out and will email in and ask questions.

And because there’s so much to learn when you’re doing the unknown and you don’t know what you’re doing. And he, and he was telling me about this, this, this website where it showed all these top press and how it’s so critical to do that. And I was. It just really stuck with me. Like it’s yes, we, we have to get the first thing we do and we’re launching this projects.

We’ve got to get a bunch of press. So we would spend in the beginning times of this, all we would spend while we were waiting all this manufacturing, it was always delayed and we were waiting. So we would spend all our time getting pressed. And we would be, we would be reaching out and emailing out. And, you know, in the, uh, in the ER, like, you know, I remember I emailed with this guy, uh, David Carnoy from CNET, and I saw that he had covered a Kickstarter project before.

So I reached out to, I sent four emails, just trying to guess as email and three of them came back as, you know, delivery, not sent receipt thing. And then one of them came back and it was him. And I was like, Oh my gosh. It’s like, we got, we got one on the line and Oh no, what’s charge card. Well, what’s so special.

Why is it this? And why is it that? And, um, you know, we would be driving, driving car and stock the car, and then she’s like, okay, just have a meeting right there in the car and be talking through this. What is the response to David Cardona? And then. And then he wrote back. Okay, cool. Um, yeah, I’ll, I’ll publish, I’ll publish you guys.

And we’re thinking, Oh my God, we just got to see net exclusive and you got to, we’re kind of like operating out of my grandma’s house. Like we’re not, we’re not like, you know, it feels a little bit like we’re like. A little sketchy and in a way, our, our little operation, we’re trying to pull off here and soon enough and sure enough, you know, it, he said he was going to cover us at 5:00 AM on the launch day cause he was in New York.

So we’re awake at 5:00 AM sitting on the, on the floor. Um, and, uh, The article, doesn’t go up five 30. It’s not up. And then 6:00 AM he writes back. Oh yeah, sorry, I’ll get that up. And we’re just thinking, Oh my God, you know, you’re just changing our lives here at that article. And 6:00 AM, 6:00 AM. Article goes live at this time too.

I had contacted all my previous Spanish colleagues who were in Spain. So it’s two in the two or three in the afternoon there. And they’re just. You know, and I’m like, guys, you got to back us. So we try to start strong with getting all this back. And so we can get that moment momentum, the CNN article hits, and we’re just going to town, contacting every writer we can.

And you know, the next day or two, we went like viral in the Netherlands. And I remember all of a sudden we had all these Dutch customers and there we are just reaching right back out, talking to the Dutch press and this and that. And, uh, we just, we just went all out and I think we appreciated from the early days.

How, I mean, look, when you need to get the word out about something, the power of press, I mean, when a press is doing a story on there, they’re basically writing you a check because all these customers are going to come in. They’re writing you a check and you don’t even know they made anything for it. So we’ve just, we’ve always valued, press.

We FedEx things. We do, whatever it takes. We really give them our time because it’s been, they’ve been so helpful in helping us get the word out and it’s, even to this day, we, uh, We, um, yeah, we, it it’s, it’s just something that I think we appreciated and we spend our last Kickstarter dollars on like a two or $3,000 FedEx, uh, bill.

And it was crazy. I mean, it

Andrew: FedEx bill to send charge

Noah: we were sitting there a few days later

Andrew: sorry, FedEx bill to send charge cards to the press so that they could see it in their hands and potentially write about you. Let me ask you

Noah: because the theory was, it looked FedEx when a FedEx shows up that gets to the top of the desk and they’ll pick it up. And it’s pretty nuts to spend 50 or $60 on a shipment. This was before we had, you know, negotiated discounts and stuff like that. And we were a couple of days later, we were in the New York times blog blog posts, and that. Was so much wind in our sails, you know, not just the sales that came from that, but the energy and the momentum. And when you’re in the early stages of something, you don’t really know what you’re doing and all these things momentum is what you are running on is having some momentum, just to stay, stay tuned in and evolve, to get other people involved and to, so that, that was a huge part of it, you know?

Andrew: What’s the $150,000 that you got from Amazon. How’d you get that early on?

Noah: So the Kickstarter money com is paid through Amazon, uh,

Andrew: and it’s given you all at once because it we’re using Amazon payments.

Noah: yeah. It was, you know, I had never, I had, I had never, you know, never, I had, I don’t know if I had ever had a bank account with more than four figures in it, and now there were, um, six. And it was totally wild. It was this weird sort of like thing that comes every time.

You’re like, wow, I just, I have $150,000 in the bank right now. Obviously we’re going to put it all to work for charge card, but like, Oh, someone could almost abscond and go to something, you know? And, uh, that was, that really kicked things off. We had obligations to those people. We had 5,500 customers that we owed something to in that Gave us something to, to chase and to catch up to. And I think was a huge part of the, the kickstart. I mean, we were a Kickstarter and in every way, shape and form, we,

Andrew: Yeah, let me, let me continue with the story. The next thing that you created after that was charged key. How did you know that, that, that you needed to create something that fit on people’s key chain? Where did that idea come from? Um,

Noah: It was the same energy out of charge card, a USB cable to always have on you. So we’d think, okay. We want something that integrates into your lifestyle and you already have your wallet. So something that fits in your wallet. It is works. And we’d be thinking through the body, okay, your belt, your shoe, your this, or that.

But he came up just as the logical obvious successor to the card, because you always have your keys, keys, phone, wallet. Those are the three things you carry with. And that was a critical product because doing the second product is really where you become a company. That’s not just a one hit wonder,

Andrew: No something I’ve been looking for the Indiegogo campaign on this. All I see are fricking knockoffs of it. It’s all these different people who have variations of the word key. And these chargers, I haven’t, I still haven’t found you on Indiegogo. You still on there.

Noah: Well, the Indigo was more when we launched it, uh, originally, and then we, and then we carried it

Andrew: it off, but still they keep older campaigns on their site. Doesn’t come up to all right.

Noah: We’ll we’ll, I’m sure on there. Um,

Andrew: I’m not doubting that you’re on there. I’m just saying, look at how fast competition comes in and then they go follow your path.

Noah: Yeah, I just pulled it up. It’s, you know, we used to be more concerned and irked by the copycats, but. In our world of consumer products. If you get caught up with the copycats, you are, you are just staring at the ground when you need to be staring forward and looking out what’s next. Because at the end of the day, they can’t copy where the ideas came from.

So the way we’re going to keep our edge is to just constantly be staying sharp and evolving and evolving our product line and doing cool new stuff. And that’s what wins people over. And that’s what wins peoples. That’s how you earn the trust of customers and get them to come back is not through the one hit, wonder about through continuing to, to build great products that are hopefully, you know, making people’s lives better.

And then they enjoy using them and they keep them charged and, you know, help them out in a pinch.

Andrew: right. I’m with you on this right after that, you decided, all right, we’re going to actually turn this thing into a business. We have our thing. Um, you would then raise money on circle up. What was it? What’s the circle up process for raising money.

Noah: Circle up was, it was a little bit wild West. They’re an incredible company. And they did a really good job with the whole process. But under Obama, there’s this thing called the jobs act and they had just opened the possibility for what’s called a public solicitation. So it used to be when you raised money in Silicon Valley and so forth, you couldn’t actually advertise that you’re raising money, which was meant to, I guess, protect.

People from not getting involved in these high risk investments, but at the same time, it kept a lot of people out from being able to invest in early stage companies. So the jobs act allowed companies like ours to. Put publicly that they’re raising money from people. You had to be an accredited investor, but nonetheless it opened it up to a lot more people.

And I thought it was just a really cool thing back to the appreciation of the crowd and crowdfunding it’s bad, but in more of a, kind of an investor, uh, context. And so that, you know, spoke, spoke to us as well, that this is right back to our crowdfunded DNA. We got started on the crowd with Kickstarter. We did any ego and here we are back to a crowd funded.

Uh, fundraising around and it was a little bit strange because there wasn’t a lot of press it at the time. There were a few companies that had done stuff like that, but it was really uncommon. And it was so funny because I remember telling, um, Anya who was working with us on press and marketing stuff. Uh, and she was quite tuned into the whole Silicon Valley thing.

She had had a little startup herself and when we were kicking off the fundraising, I was like, Oh, yeah, we got to go back. We got to get a bunch of press for this. We got an email, everybody FedEx and samples. You know, our playbook sees thinking with a smile on her face. She’s like Noah. Um, sure. Typically companies wait until they close the round to go get all the press.

And I was like, no, no, no. We need to advertise that we’re raising money. And even in that, you know, in that era, that the shift hadn’t happened yet to this con, this, this concept that, that. It is not something that just happens with investors behind closed doors, but there can be a more public component and I’m, I’m a huge evangelist of that and of, of access to investments for people so they can take part in.

Andrew: So, so you did do press to promote your, your campaign to raise money, right? You raised a million dollars. You, one of the few success stories on that platform. From what I understand, they went from being a platform where anyone can invest in startups to saying it’s too hard to get the average person to come in and invest.

They won’t get it. It’s going to take too long for them to invest in one and then come back and invest in another. So the cycle is just too long and they became like an, an equity investor now. Right?

Noah: Yeah. So they were pivoting their model and we saw them pivoting their model throughout our own journey with them. And I think. I think that what they were at the time that we worked with them, they did evolve further from that. And I’m not even fully up to speed on where they landed, but I know they ended up helping allocate a lot of institutional capital.

And stuff like that. Um, and yes, we, we, we, uh, we were, uh, we sprouted or at that stage, we, we, we went, we, we went through with the circle of more crowdfunded model and, you know, we, we still have those, uh, those investors

Andrew: A million dollars in funding, right

Noah: It was, it ended up getting over subscribed and we had to do a last minute late night amendment to the thing.

And boy, that was a whole learning curve in the middle of the night. And it was all timed because all last minute, because we were going on, I was going on TV the next day with the founder. Uh co-founder of circle up to like do this little. This little short spot on CNBC highlighting some of the companies and now we’re over subscribed.

So we’re going to go try to raise money publicly. And the round is full. So did this amendment in the middle of the night to 1.2 is around being a little over 1.2.

Andrew: Okay. All right. Let me take a moment. I’m gonna talk about my second sponsor. And then I want to come back and find out about how, at some point you were relying on Facebook ads and then something happened to those ads. I want to know what happened and how you dealt with it. But first I’ll tell everybody that Mixergy is hosted on a, on WordPress.

And our WordPress is hosted using HostGator. If you want a company that will host your website right now, charge you too much and allow you to just go run your business without focusing on it. I urge you to go to hostgator.com/mixergy. I started out with them using their cheap. When I say to you didn’t expensive, it doesn’t cost much.

It just fricking works hosting package. Hit a button got word, press on it. I think I waited like a minute or so for the whole thing to be installed. And then I was up and ready to go, but I just kept expanding and expanding and growing with their different platforms. I moved all of my domains over to them.

And now if you go to mixergy.com, you won’t even notice that HostGator is who we host. The only thing that will tell you that we’re hosted by HostGator is Michael. Um, my brother who manages the site said. They’re doing such a good job. Let’s just get their logo on there. These guys are so good and they’re charging us a third of what the other company was charging us before we were with them.

So he put their logo on, frankly. I think it’s a little too big. At some point, we’re going to have to make it smaller. It’s bigger than the fricking Mixergy logo, but that gives you a hint hint of how happy we are to be hosted on HostGator. If you want a hosting company that will host your website, right, for many, many years, allow you to just run your business and get out of your way.

And it will scale with you as your business grows, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. When you use that URL, you’ll get there absolutely lowest price, frankly, the prices are low already. They will save you a few pennies every month by using that URL. And when you use that URL, Give me credit and they’ll know that I referred you.

So I urge you to go to hostgator.com/mixergy. Be great for both of us get started right now and grow your business in 2021. No. What was the issue with Facebook marketing? 2012, 2013. You were pretty good with it.

Noah: You know, it’s really important to the lesson from that is don’t think you’re too good at something. Uh, And don’t rely on something too much. Uh, maybe perhaps when you’re, when you’re early on all the way. Um, there’s, uh, we, we caught some early marketing waves with Facebook, um, very early on where it was a lot less common for people to be advertising at that time.

And we were putting, putting ads out. And our theory was, if you have an iPhone, your potential customer, and you could behave, you could hit, you know, advertise to people just to have a certain type of iPhone and. We thought we were marketing geniuses, you know, we were, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I mean, we had,

Andrew: It was working.

Noah: and we believed in our product wholeheartedly and believed in what we were doing. So it wasn’t like, we felt like we were just importing some junk and selling it. No, we were designing these things from the ground up. We really believed it strongly. And it was catching the, the, the Tradewinds of, of the Facebook marketing.

We were shipping these things all over the world. And we had also, we would, when we started shipping all the products, we had a huge back order to catch up with it. So we’d sit down and watch Netflix movies. And this was when they still have the DVDs in, in, in doing all this prepping and the stamping we figured out, wait, Netflix is able to send these.

CDs for $8 a month unlimited. So how are they doing that? How are they getting such cheap shippings? So, um, we looked into it and saw that you can, if you do this under a quarter of an inch, under an ounce, you could send a product anywhere in the United States for like 49 cents, anywhere in the world for like a dollar and 9 cents at the time, something like that.

So we realized, wait a second. We can ship these anywhere in the world for basically a dollar, because our product was really thin. That was the whole concept chart card. It’s really thin. So we started advertising free shipping internationally when you buy two. So we had this incredible, uh, value proposition.

If you’re someone in Norway or Germany or Australia or Thailand who are shipping all over, imagine when’s the last time you got something shipped to you from another country like the United States. And the shipping is free. So we had this huge wave of energy. And the funny thing was, if someone would order two, we’d actually shipped them separately because in order to maintain the low cost, we had to be under a quarter of an inch and under announced.

So imagine when mail goes out in the world that can get split up. So you get your shipment and maybe only one arrives on the first day and the other one arrives the second day. It’s so counterintuitive because people are thinking you’re getting the free shipping because you’re bundling two items together.

We’re actually getting it cause we’re separating them. So we use that kind of, that kind of thinking and energy to, you know, advertise it on Facebook. And we got all these orders from all over the world, but as we grew and evolved and had other products and that sort of waned, all of a sudden we were riding high with this huge Facebook driven program.

And we hadn’t really built enough true foundation underneath us. And so. At that time, we really did an aggressive scale back. And, uh, we, we, we had moved up from, you know, we had moved, I got to San Francisco, we were there for a year and a half and the operating costs were really high. We were able to, to make it until this sort of Facebook all out.

And we moved back to Santa Barbara, um, where we had started originally. And, um, actually moved in, uh, my brother’s house took over and we just had this whole phase where we kind of went, that went into like the bunker and we would look the photos of ourselves now from that era were like, Whoa, we look like cave men, you know, um, we would, we, the, the garage turned into a warehouse.

The, you know, the basement was the office. And we would receive pallets on this. It was on a Hill and it was a slope and the truck would come up and the pallet would almost fall out of the back of the truck because the Hill was quite steep. And we had used these years too. Get off of our high horse thinking we’re marketing geniuses, and truly build the foundation of assortment and array of products in an array of, you know, marketing efforts to make this happen and building a committed customer base and not just being this one hit wonder that caught the trade winds, but really having a full force fleet.

And that allowed us to get our own office, which sure enough, we moved into the office kind of a trademark nomad move, get office, move into office. Um, and from that allowed us to build back a much healthier mix of a business that wasn’t reliant on one particular marketing program or, but a much richer richer program

Andrew: it stop working? Why did that ad stop working for you?

Noah: I think you just hit saturation and there’s more competition in saturates. And then our whole little w when you’re dependent, when you’re dependent upon something, To work for you. That’s no good. You need to have systems and capabilities and team and ability to reinvent to now. Sure. Maybe there’s some things that, that hold true.

Like building great products has always been one of the tenants of the business, but having one ad campaign work really well is not a marketing program. It might be a marketing campaign, but it’s not a repeatable longterm program.

Andrew: Why’d you come here to San Francisco. What’s the upside for you being here.

Noah: No, uh, w we started at my grandma’s house. We moved into Brian’s, uh, parent’s family’s house, and they were sort of, you know, hitting retirement age. So we were sort of pushing them into retirement when we took over their home and did all our crazy shipping parties and everything there. And. It was in suburban LA and we were like, we need to go to the big city, you know, we’re going to take charge card and take it internationally.

And we need to take charge card to the, you know, the, the ground zero of this. And so we went up to San Francisco and there was a tremendous energy behind all of that. But we realized, you know, our, our, our, our team members, they would go, Oh, you know, my friend works at Google and they get free massages and we’d be like, Oh, well, we have SunChips.

And it’s like, Ooh, I don’t like SunChips, you know? And then. When we moved back down to Santa Barbara. I remember when we, when we got our, uh, we ended up getting this really funky office in the, the office leaked. It didn’t have a bathroom. It had, it was an old, uh, wood mill. So there’s all these wood chips everywhere, but we absolutely loved it.

And I remember one time, our shipping manager, Harrison walking by and saying to me, Hey man, SunChips are really good. Thanks really appreciate these. And I was thinking. Oh, my God, that was the shift of what we had. We had group of recent college grads who were excited to be part of something who are okay with some sawdust and not, you know, and having to walk across the street to use the public bathroom, but who were there.

And they loved what we were doing. And we were like, uh, This tight knit group. And we weren’t distracted by the Googles and the apples and your friend that works at YouTube that gets a gourmet meal or whatever. And we didn’t have much, but what we had was ours and it was something that we earned and appreciated, and it was such a wonderful feeling.

We realized San Francisco is an incredible place with such an incredible, powerful mindset of innovation. And we got an adopted a lot of that mindset and we still have it. And we work with so many great companies there, but we realize I’m trying to make consumer products for us at least. That might not be the best place for us to be our crazy messy selves that we need the breathing room that we need to come up with new stuff and run our crazy operation, have pallets of supplies coming in and, and all the things that we do.

You wouldn’t believe it. During this year, we got huge into the mask business and we’ve, we’ve shipped over, I think over 15 million mass early on in March, we were doing this and we’ve even donated over a million or 2 million

Andrew: I saw a bunch of, um, articles about it. Yeah. It was called nomad goods doubles down on PPE. The company is actually called nomad, right?

Noah: Yeah. And so exactly. And so we, by having this breathing room in this incredible team, that’s so dynamic and up for the challenge to take on crazy things in March when COVID hit, we reorganized it. We were, we were. We launched. We started launching all these medical products very early on. It was virtually impossible to get them.

It was so crazy. We had our factories in China, making iPhone cases, switched to making masks. We

Andrew: let me tell you, this is how soon it was it. San Francisco was one of the first places shut down. We didn’t, we didn’t feel it until eight until March, April 22nd. There’s an article here on a local TV station. Uh, the quotes you are saying busiest month in company history, nomad goods doubles down on PPE production.

And it talks about how your Santa Barbara company, which is an electronics company, has just switched and ramps, ramped up to face masks, which are being shipped across the country. That’s super fricking fast, 50 masks for 20 bucks when you couldn’t get on that on Amazon.

Noah: It was absolutely insane. We, we, we, we, we leveraged everything that we had, our, our deep relation with China, our w our shipping that we always joke that we know way too much about shipping, because we always do so much. Shipping is such an important part of this. We had pallets coming in. Tons of pallets coming in and we were shipping them out.

We had, we set up a whole thing to make sure it goes to frontline workers first because there’s a huge shortage for frontline workers. And we were doing this all at cost. It was not to make money. This was done to, this was done to engage our team and our energy and our abilities and resources to meet the moment.

Andrew: Look at this, look, this is, this is you. I think, Oh man. iPad. Sometimes it was you standing and packaging, right? Is that you?

Noah: That’s I think that’s Brian there. My, my, my,

Andrew: I can’t tell. Cause your head’s down or their heads are down

Noah: obviously from our, from our

Andrew: and you guys also added hand sanitizer. How’s a year been for you sales up or down in 2020.

Noah: so when you, when you remove the PPE stuff that we did. We are going to show a little bit of growth this year and in a year with so many challenges for, for all kinds of businesses, just being steady. Like that means a lot we’re surviving now. Surviving doesn’t mean that we’re, um, you know, that, that it’s, it’s going to be our most profitable year ever or our biggest growth year, but it means that we are going to live to fight another day

Andrew: And that’s because you create products for nomads, for people who travel. If you’re sitting at home, you don’t need the extra cable. That looks beautiful because you’re the one that comes with your device works.

Noah: That’s a good point. People spending a lot more time at home. And on the flip side of that, we have, um, most nomads are really semi nomads. Think about it. Um, even, even in the real world, many of the nomadic tribes and groups out there really more semi-nomadic. So for the we’ve we’ve done a lot of the semi nomad stuff this year we’d have our.

Our, um, we’ve had a lot of desks setups, our mouse pads, and a lot of like the cable setup for your ideal home setup. So we’ve been able to adapt and shift to those changing demands from different product portfolios. But yeah, you will see maybe less of the travel oriented stuff and more of the home home desk set up, but it has certainly been.

A strange year for us. And it’s, it’s just as we were getting, uh, uh, uh, getting a handle on, on this business as it was maturing a bit, it went back to the crazy chaos of our early days. But what was really fun about that? Was it allowed everyone at the team. Maybe if someone had joined more recently, it allowed them to take part in.

Wholeheartedly the type of crazy startup energy that we, that is how we launched this thing. So everyone, even if they were newer to the company, got to have that experience of the bootstrapping startup be doing things we don’t fully understand, moving fast, getting our hands, dirty, elbow grease, all that stuff, which.

Which was really, really an awesome, valuable thing, because if you join a company seven or eight years in it’s, it’s sort of maybe has matured a bit and then they get to see, okay, I understand where this crazy group of people came from, how they do this. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to get back to that sort of planning a bit of a little more buttoned up, but it’s good to know that we’ve still got that DNA in us and within everyone who is here, who was part of this, because.

Our HR manager became medical goods shipper, you know, um, it was, it was crazy to switch up that we did literally overnight. It was one of the most impressive things operationally that we’ve, that we’ve accomplished. And it was, it, it was totally nuts. I mean, when we started doing hand sanitizer, we ha we, we, uh, I put, um, I put Brian in touch with this, this dental equipment manufacturer, not far from our, you know, in a nearby city.

We had hand sanitizer arriving at our office the next day and shipping out that very same day. It was the fastest product launch that we’ve ever done in company history was hand sanitizer, which makes no sense considering that we are a consumer goods, but portable power

Andrew: But that’s the year, that’s the year that we were in.

Noah: That’s that’s COVID and it’s, it’s just, uh, it’s a wild story and it kind of doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

And that’s, that’s absolutely, um, part of, part of what 2020 is all about just getting through it and moving forward, you know?

Andrew: Let me close out with this revenue. Where is it? 2020. Give us a sense of size.

Noah: So last year we did, I think just a little, little under 20 million revenue in this year, on the core business, we’ll do a little over 20 million. Um, but when you add in some of that PPI East stuff, I think we’re going to be in the mid twenties. And on the one hand, we’d look at it and I’m speaking really candidly here, but we look.

It as, Hey, let’s, let’s remove that from the business and see what sort of core, but at the same time we did that, we did all those things. We did ship that we did take that on. We expanded and that’s that, even though it’s different from what our core is, it’s very much so genuine undertaking an effort that we did.

So, you know, all in all, I guess we will have a surprisingly like, you know, a 25% growth or something. Uh, in this crazy time, but for, but for us, we’re not, we’re not counting the beans too much this year in that regard, the most important thing is just for us to really be, be, be around, be alive, be healthy, being able to pay our bills and be financially sound so we’ll, you know, we’ll, we’re, we’re not chasing some big growth number, you know, we’re internally controlled.

We’re not trying to meet some crazy and investor numbers or something. Our most important thing is to honestly be a. B B be a happy and healthy team and to be a business that has a sustainable business and their business that hopefully can can through surviving through this can, can also have more positive impact in the world as to throughout all of this.

We’ve really been pushing to make sure that, you know, we have a focus on not just income, but on, on impact. And we’ve. We’ve 2020s been a year we’re unexpectedly. We, uh, accelerated some of our impact efforts and that’s been a really unexpected and rewarding part of this

Andrew: your work looks beautiful. I think I’ve, I’ve seen these, your dad, David David D uh, dental

Noah: Uh, bill

Andrew: bill. Okay. I’ve just been watching different family members, craft things online, and I feel like. What you’ve created here is something that you can be just as proud of when I see the leather case that you have for the AirPods pro, I guess that’s what those are called.

It just looks gorgeous. Your design is beautiful. It makes sense. And it’s a type of thing that people could be proud to hold on to. I hope that we publish this up in time for people to go and consider this as a gift for Christmas though. I ma I know that’s not why you’re here, but I do want to tell people.

Go check out nomad. Here’s their website. It’s nomad goods.com nomad goods.com. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first, if you’re paying people, no matter where they are, if you’re paying people, no matter whether they’re full-time employees or 10 90 nines, go to gusto.com/mixergy.

Start thinking about 20, 21. Make it a great year for your team. Make it a great, an easier year for you when you’re taking care of your team. That’s gusto.com/mixergy. And when you’re getting your business up, you need a website. You need a web presence. I urge you to go to hostgator.com/mixergy. It took me too long to switch to them.

I wish I’d switched earlier. We would have saved so much more money and still been up and solid. And that’s hostgator.com/mixergy. Noah. Thanks so much for being here.

Noah: Andrew. Thanks for having me on.

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