Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I do interviews with real entrepreneurs for an audience of real entrepreneurs. And today I’ve got a guest who listened to my interviews, and now he’s here to kind of complete what I call the circle of Mixergy. He listened to the interviews, he built a company, and now he’s back here to talk about what he learned so he can pass it on to you. And you know, the funny thing is when somebody listened to my interviews, they never say, ”I’m so glad to be here.” They say, ”I’m a little nervous to be here. I trust you and I’m still a little nervous.” Does that feel right to you, Patrick?
Patrick: Totally. Yeah, I mean it’s, you know, growing up, listening to, you know, whenever I moved to San Francisco I just binge watched you a ton. So it’s kind of funny to, like, be at the other end of it for sure. But it’s also, you know, I don’t think as an entrepreneur, there’s many times, especially if you’re hustling day to day where you can kind of stop and just say, ”This is cool, like, I’ve hit a mark, and I’m going to appreciate it.” So I hope in our conversation. Yeah, I can just appreciate it and hopefully offer some little nuggets to entrepreneurs out there.
Andrew: You definitely hit a mark. You hit several marks. Patrick is Patrick Murray. He is the founder of multiple companies, and I’m trying to find a way to weave all of the stories into this interview because it has been quite a bit for you, Patrick. Most recently he is the founder of NoSon. It is a technology company that makes it easy for travelers to park at the nearest airport.
Let me tell you what that means. You ever need to take a flight, let’s say out of San Francisco and you know, you’re just going to be away for four days and you don’t want to rush to the airport and scrambled to try to find parking and figure out what it is and get ripped off. And then regret the whole thing. Maybe it’s even longer than four days. Well, what Patrick does is he’s got a website. You can go onto it and just find a parking spot, book it, like you did your flight, pay pretty little . . . Like, here, daily rate in San Francisco. I just did it $4.49 per day. You just do it and you go.
And immediately, first of all, that brings up a question in my mind about why wouldn’t somebody just used Uber, and I want to bring that up to you. And immediately that brings up questions in my mind about what happens in the future when people go to autonomous vehicles, considering that you’re in the parking business and still, despite what’s going to happen in the future, I have to acknowledge this guy’s built up this company over a short period of time into one that’s producing solid revenue. And it’s growing. And I invited him here to talk about how he did that. I also want to talk a little bit about this thing that he did earlier on in his life taxi and shuttle business. I also want to find out about what he had to do with way.com and maybe that’s where you’re a little uncomfortable because you no longer at way.com. Right, Patrick?
Patrick: I am no longer there. Yeah, I left before founding this company. But yeah. Not uncomfortable. I’m happy to share and hopefully people can learn from it.
Andrew: All right. And this whole interview is sponsored by two great companies that I sometimes honestly do make uncomfortable and they wonder whether they should be sponsoring and then they get excited because of what we do. The first is a company called DesignCrowd. I hate design. Look at this t-shirt I wear. I suck at design, but I went to DesignCrowd for very little money. Under a hundred bucks, I ended up with a really polished design for the cover art for this podcast, and I urge you guys to check them out. And the second is a company called Toptal. I hate to admit it. I’m also really bad at hiring, but I’ve hired some phenomenal people from Toptal. I’ll tell you about them later.
First, Patrick, I’m going to hit you with the question that I warned you I was going to hit you with right away, which is NoSon, how much revenue are you guys producing at this company NoSon?
Patrick: So in 2018 we should hit $1.3 million.
Andrew: How about over the last 12 months? How much did you do?
Patrick: Last 12 months we should be at like $1 million, 1.1.
Andrew: Okay. Wow. And before we started, I talked to you about how you’re like an inveterate entrepreneur growing up. You had . . . I’ve got a list here of some of the things that you did, but I think it’s better off coming from you. Tell us like as a third grader, as a kid, what did you do? What kind of businesses?
Patrick: So as a kid, I don’t know if that was really creating businesses, but I enjoyed buying baseball cards and trading baseball cards and buying candy. And my parents didn’t give me a lot of money, didn’t really have an allowance. I was one of seven kids. So I had to hustle to make anything. So my brother and I found out that we could deliver the newspaper and make like 30 bucks a week. So we would get huge bags of papers, and then wrap them up, and I had my mom drive us around. And in the beginning, we actually delivered them to the doors, but then we found out that people were okay with just tossing them on the driveway.
So, yeah, those were the early days. But then from that we would purchase baseball cards and just go nuts with it and buy huge boxes. And when we get really nice cards, we mostly just wanting to trade them for more money. So we’d hustled flea markets and once we had like a huge collection, we’d put them in books, like most kids probably did and sell them at a garage sale or two a year.
Andrew: How about penny stocks? You got into that a little bit?
Patrick: Yeah, that was in high school. So we were getting into stock trading in school, and me and a good buddy that I’ve done a couple of businesses with realized that we could probably invest some money and thought that other people might be interested. So we could actually see in our class, out of like 444 people, who was ranking the highest. So for the top 50 people, we wrote down all of their names and we dressed up in suits, which nobody does it in my public high school. And we knocked on people’s home room doors. We just both got bathroom passes, knocked on people’s home room doors and said, ”Hey, is Kevin Dutiac [SP] here?” And Kevin raises his hand. [inaudible 00:05:32] know and we just walk up in our suits and give them this piece of paper. And everybody was like, “What the fuck are these guys doing?” And it was great because we got like a, we probably converted like 75% of those 30 people we handed out the invitations to.
But so we first started investing in like sound businesses like we were in the game, but then somebody brought up a penny stock, and we all went around the room and talked about why we should invest in certain stocks and then somebody mentions this penny stock and we were all gambling, right? So we all invested. So it’s a fun journey with all like slapped hands in the hallways of high school until finally we invested in, I think it was Fuel Nation [SP] was the name of the company that just epically failed.
Andrew: You lost a lot of money.
Patrick: Yeah, I think we’re actually still around. We still have an account somewhere, but I think it’s probably worth a couple of pennies.
Andrew: I did a little bit of that in high school and college, and my big problem with it was I couldn’t control it, and I hated that I couldn’t control it. So what I would do is in between classes I would find the phone number of the investor relations people and I’d called them up. I find the CEO’s phone number, and I’d called them up. I go, “What am I doing here? My call is not going to influence jack with this person. Go power and it feels awful.” [inaudible 00:06:43] that’s a stop. And it just sucks.
I was also thinking, why do I keep asking guests about their childhood businesses? What am I trying to do with that? Because it’s starting to feel like maybe a stale question for me. I realized that I remember having a conversation with this guy who acquired Ziff Davis at his office and we sat in his office and he said, ”I really miss the candy store days.” I said, ”You owned a candy store. Is that how you started in business?” I thought this is a great story. He goes, ” No, no. I said I loved it when it was that simple when you just buying something simple, selling it.” And I realized that at its heart that is when business is most exciting. When you come up with an idea for baseball cards and you buy more than you expect and you sell it and it’s fun and it’s not the end of the world if the whole thing bombs and that I feel is the most exciting part about business.
You and your buddy, you sat down, you started writing all these business plans, you wore your suits, you were dreaming big. And then before we started, you told me about the first big thing that you did because I think that’s a cool story. We should talk about that before we get into NoSon.
Patrick: Yeah. Yeah. So you know, I think one shift in me being an entrepreneur was in college, I finally went from, and I guess like some of these things you could consider taking action, but in college I finally started taking action on ideas that I had. Instead of writing out elaborate business plans and kind of just trapping myself in the planning. But then after school, yeah, I was kind of mentioning to you Penn State, it’s a very corporate-driven school. So it’s a great business school, but at the same time it’s kind of building you up to go work at a corporation. And so not many entrepreneurs I think come out of there, and so all of my friends are interviewing, getting jobs and as I’d tell people, ”I want to start businesses after school. I want to be an entrepreneur.”
I would just get crazy looks, and I think parents of my friends were just kind of scared for him. And I started to get scared for myself. So I interviewed at a couple of places, got some job offers. But my last, my senior year of college we went down to Panama City Beach on spring break, and it was a great time, and we drank a lot, and we hung out on the beach and just, you know, that a ton of memories. And a one night though we were trying to get back from the bars, Club Le Vela, I think was the club name and nobody could get a taxi and this is before Uber and Lyft. And we finally found like some shuttle that was parked on the side of the road, got on it and more people came in and more people, and this driver was collecting like $10 from everybody coming on sometimes 15. And then as I’m drunkenly kind of like taking this bus back to our place, I’m doing the math in my head and I’m like, ‘Shit, this guy is like making like $500 bucks on this trip.”
And so there was like a little like message I sent to my future self. I was like, ”If we’re doing what we want to be doing, which is starting businesses, this might be a good way to start.” And so yeah, my best friend growing up since three years old, which is not Nathan, who we’ve been talking about as well, called me on the phone or something and I was meeting with my friend Nathan, telling him about this idea to go to Panama City Beach and he didn’t get into dental school. So he went to OU [SP]. He didn’t get into dental school, and he was kind of saying like, ”Hey, you know, I’m open for the summer. I’d love to do this. I love Panama City Beach.” And Nate was excited about it.
So, you know, we planned and we got permits for Panama City Beach to drive a bus. We got everything prepared. I was visiting my brother out in California and flew back to Philly and bought a bus. It was like $3,000 cash. Not too much actually for a Ford E350 and it’s a 14 passenger bus. You don’t need a special permit or anything, and we bought it. But then when we got down there, we met with the police station, and we’d been talking to them, and the lady told us, ”Oh yeah, so it’s, like, it’s great that you have all this stuff we told you about, but it’s going to be a month until you’re able to actually get the permit.” Well, spring break season is three months long, so that’s one third of the revenues we were anticipating.
And so this is the first huge blow for us as entrepreneurs and like really everything is riding on this. We don’t have savings. Like our parents aren’t giving us money to like go have fun and try being entrepreneurs. We’re like, ”Shit, are we going to live in this bus, or what are we going to do?” So we all kind of like took the day off and like immediately we kind of got frustrated and just said okay, we’re going to just do free rides and people can give us donations. And we started cruising around doing that. But I think all of us kind of realized this isn’t the way to do it.
So I stayed at the long-term hotel that we were staying at and those guys went out, and we all kind of came up with the same solution, like we need to fight this and we needed to talk to somebody. And so we looked up different names and called some different city workers. And this city manager’s name popped up and he came up a lot. So again, comes into suits I guess. But we said, okay, we’re going to dress up nice, going to wear some students, and we’re going to just talk to this and see what he says. I’m blanking on his name. Richard something. He has like a road named after him in Panama City Beach.
Andrew: You said, I’m just going to go talk to this government official. I’ll convince him to bend the rules?
Patrick: Yeah. We’ll tell him our story. Yeah. You know, it’s like shit man, like, we just put everything into this. We didn’t know, maybe beginner’s luck. So he picked up the phone and said, ”Okay, come down, you can talk to me.” And so we get in and we just explained ourselves, you know, this would put anything that we’ve had financially into this, which wasn’t much, and we really want to try to start a company. And he looked at us, kind of like is analyzing us for a little bit. There’s a sign of him at or a picture of him and Bill Clinton shaking hands and like shit. But after we talked to him, he calls the police station and just says, ”Hey, you know, I’ve got like three seemingly nice gentlemen here that, you know, we’d really like to get a permit if you guys could do me a favor and just give him a permit that would be great.” And luckily with that we . . .
Andrew: And you get it.
Patrick: We got it. Yeah.
Andrew: So this thing that I wanted to do as a college kid just call up the, like the power at the company and try to get them to listen to me. It’s kind of silly as I described it, but that’s the way it was. You did it, called up the government official. It wasn’t silly. It actually worked out. You relate to that.
Patrick: Yes, totally. And you know that too. Yeah.
Andrew: You know, it’s one of the things that I do love about business and what I hate about investing in public companies that you really do have the power to influence things. If you could just pick up the phone, if you are actually making calls. And so you had the guts to do that. I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile though, and it shows that this business ran from 2011 to 2012. What happened to it? That’s not a very long time.
Patrick: Yeah. So after school, I didn’t know too much about creating a business long term, right, especially after college where I had to pay off student loans and make enough to provide a living, right? Like, we didn’t have money, so we just needed these things to work. So really our goal is just to survive, to make enough cash to live off of, pay the student loans that we all need to pay, and like have fun doing it, right? So I guess we were a little short-sighted to be honest, but we go down in spring break season’s obviously great. But then after spring break, Panama City Beach is like dead. Families starts to come down, but it’s nowhere near the type of business you can get during spring break.
So my one buddy, Nathan, as we were doing this, signed up for a Master’s program and I think he got a scholarship through the rotary club, so he was out, and then it’s me and my childhood best friend and he’s got this year until dental school. So we had the bus and we had some cash and we said, ”Well, let’s take a break.” So we took a week long break just taking this bus that has [850 day to day 00:14:40] on the side of it because that was our number. And we’re in a different state parks, just like sleeping in the bus and blow up mattresses and hanging out and enjoying some free time.
Andrew: What happened to the business? Did you guys end up selling the van, the bus?
Patrick: We ended up selling it. Yeah. So we did one more spring break season. We went to Orlando, Florida and did some deals with some old people homes and were cruising around old people like we were at spring break students. But yeah, long story short, the ticket business and travel and tourism for LA Discount Tickets to came into the picture that was making us more money. So we just kind of dropped everything else.
Andrew: And that was the next business that you started. Let me jump ahead. That was LA Discount Tickets. How well did that do actually before I move on past it?
Patrick: Good for the same reason, right? It provided me the ability to live. It was able to pay off student loans. We revenued a lot of money, but then we spent a lot. We probably had a couple, like a million dollars at one year but, yeah, didn’t.
Andrew: And then you become the cofounder of way.com. I’m looking at . . . Where it was that? Too many screens open up at the same time. There it is. The Angel List profile for way.com says gave people what they wanted, grew off airport parking sales to $800,000 a month. way.com sounds very similar to what you’re doing right now at NoSon, right?
Patrick: Yeah. Yeah. It is.
Andrew: And when, but when you guys started it was doing the whole bunch of things. You told our producer, ”Look, we were basically throwing shit against the wall, seeing what stuck.” That’s exact quote. What are some of the things that you guys threw against the wall?
Patrick: Yeah, so I joined at the end of 2013, and my one cofounder had been trying a couple of things out for maybe like two years. So he was working full time, but he had this thought for Way. So I actually met him whenever I was in LA doing the ticket thing. And so whenever I came in, he was still working full time, and there was one guy in the office taking calls, and it was mostly revenues from tickets similarly to what I did down in LA. And they wanted to do a lot, and it’s a very cool concept, right? The thought was to become like an Amazon.com of things to do around you. So if you want to buy movie tickets, you can get the cheapest rates through way.com, similarly to Fandango but cheaper, like a Grubhub for food, event tickets, like . . .
Andrew: All the things that you do around town for a little bit cheaper.
Patrick: Exactly. So the only thing that I saw that stuck to the wall really was parking. We have one . . .
Andrew: Because people were coming to the site saying I need a parking spot and filling out a reservation even on way.com for this?
Patrick: Yeah. And we had like a really, really bad website, but we had a good rate, and we kind of knew how to market, and people were buying it. You know, like everything . . .
Andrew: Let me understand this. When you’re talking about back then at way.com, this is roughly, you started 2013?
Andrew: By the way, how does, how does a guy start at a company that already exists and ended up being called the cofounder?
Patrick: Right. Yeah. I don’t know if you should get credit or not as a cofounder. I was initially going to come on as the CEO/cofounder, which I think if you’re a CTO joining a company, or like I got 15% of the company when I joined. If you’re getting a big equity stake and really, like, dedicating yourself to start it, maybe that you’re warranted that title. I think I was more into titles then than I am now, but yeah, I could have easily not been called a cofounder.
Andrew: Okay. But you know, what I’ve noticed is that the title cofounder is something that people negotiate with when they started out because it does have big reputational value in this world. Okay. So ended up with 15% of way.com. Come in there. You’re helping us by leading the company, figuring out what works. All these other things are doing okay. Nothing’s really a breakout hit. But parking is at the time people were looking to go park where?
Patrick: At SFO.
Andrew: Just SFO. So of all the things that were on way.com, people wanting to park at San Francisco airport.
Patrick: Yeah. There was still revenues coming in for other things. But this was just like a scalable model. It wasn’t like some weird hacked together thing. Everybody was kind of happy in the equation. That parking facility was happy because we were sending them more reservations. Our customers were happy because it was a good. It was the a loft hotel down by in Millbrae if you’re familiar with it. Yeah.
Andrew: Oh, that’s where you guys parked. So you made a deal with the hotel. You said, ”You guys are near the airport. Give us a lower price than the airport would charge. We’ll list it.” Got it.
All right. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor. It’s called DesignCrowd. Patrick, I’m actually going to tell you a story before I get into DesignCrowd, but it relates. Here’s the deal. I say all the time I suck at design again. Look at this shirt. It’s my best t-shirt because it’s the only one that actually fits kind of. It was awful. This past weekend I hired a photographer because my team said, “We need photos of you online. People keep asking, we have nothing but like this thing that you took.” So great. Get me one. So they got me a photographer. The photographer schedules a call with me and I say, ”I don’t so much care about the photos, but look, all I have is these cruddy t-shirts. I want to hire you to find clothes for me.”
We get together at the mall here in San Francisco, on Mission Street, whatever that’s called, and he says, ”All right, I’ve found clothes. We’re ready to go.” I said, ”Hang on a second, but I know it’s only 10:00. I need to have a drink first because I’m not relaxed around any design decisions.” So we go upstairs to Nordstrom. We sit down. He thinks I’m just going to have like a little shot of something and go, ”I go, no shot. Give me a double whiskey.” I got a double of whiskey. He’s sitting there. He’s not sure what to do. I get another double whiskey after the first one. I’m spilling my heart out about how I suck at design. It makes me super uncomfortable.
And about six drinks in. First of all, I totally like. I’ve understood who he is, he likes rock music, a passion, I know about his sex life, the works. We get really deep into it. Then I’m ready to go. Once I have a conversation and drinks, then I’m ready to go shopping. We did okay. We got shots.
The reason I say this is when people told me, ”Andrew, you should get a better image for your podcast.” Do you know how I operate? Do you know how intensely painful that is? I avoided it for a very long time. Even when DesignCrowd paid for sponsorship, I avoided it. It wasn’t until one night Olivia was out. I had a drink. I tried DesignCrowd. I said, “Let me see.” It turns out all I have to do is fill out a form, and the questions they asked are like a mind fuck. They’re so easy. It’s like, ”Oh yeah, I know the answer to that. Are you pushing my buttons because I know how to respond?” I respond in the thing. I totally forget about it. I come back Monday. My assistant and I go through my email together because, again, I’m like a baby for some things.
And we see one person submitted to design, another person submitted design, another . . . My inbox, I swear was flooded. Dozens of designs. Now I’m looking at them and I have some opinions about them. All I have to do is hit the rating? I could do that. I hit the rating. I get more designs based on what people see that I’m writing positively. Boom. I now have a crowd of people designing my cover art, and I am so uncomfortable with design that I have this beautiful design anyway. The reason I’m saying this to you guys, if there’s anything that you are not proud of the design, no, I get it. People put emphasis on design. They’ve valued this podcast more if the design of the cover art looks better. This the world we live in. We have to accept it
If we suck at it or if our designers aren’t coming up with great ideas, what we need to do is go to designcrowd.com/mixergy. When you go there, they’re going to make it super easy for you to fill out a form. I say form, but it’s like two questions that are designed to provoke you. You’re going to answer it, and then they’re going to have a bunch of designers compete for you to show you what they could do. You pick the ones you like and you pay for it. If you don’t like anything, I think, yeah, there it is right there. Money back guarantee right on the site, and Mixergy listeners are going to save 100 bucks. Go to designcrowd.com/mixergy. If a guy like me that had anything resembling a decent design, you know these guys do beautiful work. If they would only dress me, I would love it, designcrowd.com/mixergy.
All right Patrick, coming back to where I do feel comfortable, which is asking questions. I see that something is working. What I don’t understand is you said you had good marketers. What did you do to make people say, “I’m going to go to the airport in a few days. I better think ahead, fill out a form online with my dates and pick out a parking spot”? What did you do to get them to do that?
Patrick: Yeah, I mean, luckily, people are already thinking like that. If you’re parking in downtown SF, maybe you’re not thinking to look on Google for a cheaper rates, but typically for like airport parking, people actually search on Google, so we didn’t have to incentivize them to search. We just had to show up if they did.
Andrew: They were just so literally people are searching already for this because there are people who think I need to go park. I need a spot?
Patrick: Yeah. Like, of course, you can get more detailed with the marketing, and you can really go into all strategies for marketing, but there are certain people that search for airport parking across the U.S. and across the world.
Andrew: You know what, I see it here. All right, so I just did a search, a parking at SFO and I see a bunch of search results. Some of them actually look familiar, some of them are clearly really good at SEO, and so this is what you guys were doing and starting to compete on price. What did you do to separate yourself from all these other people who are doing the same thing?
Patrick: We negotiated great rates, and we would give them cash back as well with Way bucks, but mostly the rates incentivized them. And we just became an aggregator, right? We tried to get as many people as possible so that any parking brand that somebody knows they can just purchase that brand and get a lower rate for it.
Andrew: And then would you SEO that brand too?
Patrick: Yeah, we weren’t really too good with SEO at Way. So, you know, we attempted a lot of different marketing things, but yeah, we didn’t get ranked too high in the beginning.
Andrew: So then if you couldn’t compete with them with search engine optimization, what did you do that worked?
Patrick: Yeah. So Google ads was huge. Bing ads, Yahoo ads, some Facebook and Display. So we just, we went deep with the marketing. We hired some consultants that did digital marketing. Well, and yeah, we just invested in heavily. So that was the thing too. We weren’t looking to make profit here. We were looking to be a startup, right? So we’re trying to prove that we can be a billion dollar company somehow in the first vertical to do that with as parking.
Andrew: Okay. Yeah. I’m looking again at Angel List. It looks like they raised $4.4 million at least for this because they wanted to own parking. And so if you have that kind of money you can throw it advertising. Was it you who is figuring out the ads?
Patrick: I did some of the ads and more so managed it. I was more working on sales and just getting us the kind of prices and inventory that we needed.
Andrew: Was it Binu who was the head?
Patrick: Binu was the founder that was there that was throwing this shit up at the wall that was, you know, still working. Yeah, that was him.
Andrew: And he gave you 15% in order to run it with.
Patrick: He did.
Andrew: He did, even though this was after the seed funding of 3.4?
Patrick: No, no, no, this is before any funding.
Andrew: So it was just the two of you guys trying to figure out what it is.
Patrick: Exactly. He’s making a salary. He’s paying me like a penny of a salary and kind of trying to just hustle and figure it out. Yeah.
Andrew: How do you know him?
Patrick: So I knew him through the LA Discounted Tickets. He called me up one day and said, ”Hey, trying to do this way.com thing. You know, would love to . . . ” What did he want to do? He wanted to buy a lot of tickets. I’m like, “Okay man. Yeah, you can buy as many tickets as you want from us.”
Andrew: And then what do you think he liked about you? That he wanted to partner up with you?
Patrick: I mean I would call him all the time whenever we were working together and I just gave them free advice. I just passionately talked for like a half an hour, an hour like, “Man, you guys are like doing way too many things. You could easily be focused on one of these. This could work. I actually really liked the concept, but like you guys got to figure some stuff out,” because I could I just really saw the opportunity for it, but some things were just yeah, not done right.
Andrew: I did something in preparation for this interview. I went onto way.com. First of all, they do have good SEO. I see them show up when I . . . It’s not the best, but it’s good SEO for parking. When I go into look at movie tickets, they’re offering discounts on local movie theaters like 40% off, which sounds great, but I look at the search results, it’s a clear a stock photography image. It doesn’t look necessarily good. Kind of old fashioned from the ’80s or ’90s, stretched out like somebody didn’t know to keep the proportions right. I go say, ”All right, but it’s 40% off. Let’s just go and do it. You can’t buy it.” What’s going on? What do they even have those still?
Patrick: Yeah. I don’t want to get into too much of what they’re doing wrong or right at this stage because I’m not part of it. Right? But what’s going on is the question, right? It’s, who knows, but I think it’s a lack of focus. That’s the vision, right? If the vision is hit and it’s awesome if you’re able to search and you get that, that’s great. Like who doesn’t love 40% off? But yeah, you know, it’s not there yet. And so I think when I was trying to propose really while I was there and one of the reasons why I did leave, and I’ll try to just talk about the reasons why I left and about me. But it was I wanted to control this thing. I did one every single page to be perfect. If a pictures there, I want it to be perfect. I’m a neat freak with product, but I think that people deserve that. Customers deserve that.
And I think really how we could have made that successful and how they still can make it successful is the Amazon model, right? You start with one thing, you focus, you stay focus, focus, focus, focus, focus. Then when you see a good opportunity that does make sense for another vertical, you can add it on. And yeah, you know, having movie tickets that aren’t available, I don’t think is really helping anybody.
Andrew: They’ll still take a credit card on there. All right, so that’s why that’s why you left. Was it amicable? Are you guys still friends at all?
Patrick: I don’t really talk to them. It wasn’t the cleanest leave. Yeah, when I decided to leave, you know, a couple of things were going on and I think I wrote about on one blog post, but it just kept getting to the point where like, felt my soul getting sucked into my body. Like, it just didn’t feel good, and we were about to raise a million dollars and the straw that broke the camel’s back was Brett, who I do business with now. He was a mentor. We were talking every week. I look up to this guy, I just . . . He’s such a gem. And the investor that came in apparently said that it would only be him if, if we were going to take the investment. And I shook Brett’s hand and we took other people’s hand to take money, and we’re going to have to tell them no. So yeah, that’s why I decided to leave. It was a long process. I won’t get into the details.
Andrew: You shook hands with the investors saying we’re going to do this, but you didn’t. But what?
Patrick: Sorry. So my business partner now, Brett, he was a mentor. I shook hands with him saying, he said, ”I want to invest in this company whenever you guys take it.” I said, ”Okay, we’ll do this.” Right.
Andrew: So he had an opportunity to invest, but then you had to come back to him and say, ”Sorry Brett, we went with someone else.”
Patrick: Yeah, that’s nice. He came in and he’s saying, “I’m going to be the only investor.” So I’m not sure exactly how that conversation happened with the VC and us. But it just didn’t feel right, you know, and it was . . .
Andrew: Okay. So the fact that your mentor had a promise and then you couldn’t live up to it made you feel uncomfortable. Okay. By the way, Brent Harwood, I don’t know him, but I’m fascinated by him.
Patrick: I love him.
Andrew: You what?
Patrick: I said I love him. He is the best.
Andrew: How does a guy like you even get connected with him? First of all, he is older than you. You’re super young. He’s older, number one. Number two, he’s in the a private investment and parking business. Who even knew there was a parking industry to be this involved with? That he’s that involved with? He’s part of like even going back to 1994, he was president, chairman of the National Parking Association. How do you meet him? Let’s get into that.
Patrick: Yeah, so in 2013 I fly out to San Francisco, start to dig into why I become obsessed with parking and the possibility that we have there. And in February they have this winter leadership forum, they call it with the National Parking Association. It’s all like CEOs and stuff. And it’s perfect because you get to meet all the right people in, like, one trip. So it was in Carlsbad, at the LA Costa resort down there and within like the first day I think I noticed Brett, right? Because he’s just so confident. He’s wearing like jeans while everybody else is dressed up. Like, you can tell that this guy knows a lot of people and he’s comfortable with who he is. And I was like, man, I need to get to meet him.
Andrew: I get that sense, by the way, that some point in your life you either hit a point where you know what you know and you’ve got it and you know your industry. Like what you were saying about Way in the beginning, doing way too many things. He’s super focused, and I get the sense that he’s super confident in what he knows. All right. So that’s where he is. And so what do you do? How do you connect with them?
Patrick: So Brett was actually outside and he introduces himself, which is another reason why he’s amazing. ”Hey, I’m Brett. What’s your name? What are you doing?” And we started talking. We become friends. He invites me to lunch with his wife and him and another guy in the industry and we just hit it off. We’ve become friends that weekend and stay in touch and he becomes a mentor and, yeah, that’s how we met.
Andrew: All right. I also saw somewhere where you said, “I saw a problem that I needed to solve with NoSon.” What was the problem that you saw?
Patrick: Yeah, well, it was also an opportunity, right. So Brett, after I leave Way tells me, you know, “I was investing in you anyway. I’ll invest in anything you want to do,” and that’s great.
Andrew: Let me stop right there. What do you think he saw in you? We all know our strengths. What is your strength that you drew him to you with?
Patrick: Good question. I think that he appreciated by my ability to introduce myself to a lot of people similarly to him. So at that conference, I’m trying to meet as many people as possible. I’m trying to learn about this industry. So I’m talking to everybody. I’m pitching them. It’s obviously uncomfortable for me because I’m new to the industry, but I think he appreciated the persistence and the ability just to say hi. One thing that he always says is just show up, just show up somewhere. I guess he appreciated that I showed up and [inaudible 00:33:26]
Andrew: But still, there are a lot of people who show up, and they’re just nudniks. They got nothing going on and they just keep showing up. There’s a skill that you have that he was drawn to. What would you say that is?
Patrick: My ability to, yeah, just communicate effectively and get along with people in the industry. I think he saw how I connected with everybody.
Andrew: And the reason you need to be connected to the industry is because if you’re online as an aggregator, you need these people to trust you enough to do business with you and to be listed on your site. Okay. And so that’s essentially what this is. Find a bunch of local parking spots. You aggregate them. So when someone’s in San Francisco, they’ve got a search that they could do, and then when they happen to be in a different city, they could search. Actually, no, they don’t need to just search your whole market, right? You’re not searching more than that.
Patrick: Yeah. I mean if you’re traveling and you know, like an app like SpotHero, which is more for city parking, it’s great because you’re traveling and if you rent a car, then you realize, “Okay, ‘I can get discounted rates through this app.” And eventually we’ll get to that point too with NoSon and, yeah, we would appreciate people to use this when they travel. In the airport space though, yeah, you’re really, you kind of have your couple hub airports.
Andrew: Okay. And I do know you guys are getting beyond just parking. I saw it on your website with the coming soon. All right. I found the place where my researchers, , pointed me to about where the idea came from. It was a site called Galvanize, like this quickie Q&A type site where you could answer with one with one word answers if that’s all it takes, but here’s what it says. When it came to the question of where did the idea come from, you said I interviewed customers and partners and listened to their problems and feedback. The opportunity was clear. I was wondering, what did you ask them that got you such a clear opportunity? What’s this question or line of questioning?
Patrick: Yeah. Yeah. So in the beginning, whenever we were chatting, I told, you NoSon means to give, right, and how we fundamentally want to give to everybody involved with the company. So our partners, our investors, our customers and our team members should all feel like we’re to them and should feel a part of something and we should have good conversations with them to see what they want out of, you know, working with us are working for us except or investing in us.
And so that was the foundation that we wanted to build this on. Brett and I had a failure at first, which we might get it into, but for this opportunity, you know, I knew the off airport space and I thought, you know, there were just things that we weren’t doing right at Way. How can we fix it? So I called up some operators, some people in the industry that I know and I just had long, long, candid conversations like, ”Hey, here’s what I know how to do. I know how to market your spaces for you. If you have anything empty, I know how to sell it. I knew how to sell it good. I know how to create a product online that can make this the most efficient way possible, so much more efficient than your own website. But how can I help you? How can I create a business that you will be happy to tell your friends about and you’ll be happy . . . ?
Andrew: What did you hear? It seems like that would be enough to me that know how to sell my stuff. Great. What did they say that was a shocker?
Patrick: So there’s a couple of things and some of it’s proprietary to us. But the one thing that was really great to comprehend and understand was they talked about how in an aggregator type platform and you know if Groupon partners or somebody or whatever else, your own brand name ends up getting used against you. Right? So let’s use Sky Park as an example out here at SFO. So Sky Park’s around, they have a brand name, it’s Sky Park, and if they work with a third party, they’ll use those names against them, right? If Groupon signs them up for $10 a day and they’re selling for $16 a day, somebody that’s parked with Sky Park their whole life, Google’s Sky Park looks to go onto their website, and then it’s like, ”Oh shoot, there’s a Groupon ad up here that’s $9.99 for Sky Park.” And through SEO Groupon’s actually popping up above Sky Park as well.
Andrew: So they’re competing with themselves or they’re competing with the person who is offering a cheaper version of themselves and [inaudible 00:37:41]
Patrick: It’s taking a commission. Right? And that, so things like this [inaudible 00:37:45] and made doing it before anyway, and I’m really trying to come up with ways that we can fix this. And so what we did for our first product Top Airport Parking, now it’s On Air Parking, is we came up with the unbranded solution or opaque, like the Hotwire model or Priceline express deals and it wasn’t because we wanted to be cool and like Hotwire. It’s because we got this feedback and we’ve thought, ”Shoot. Okay. If we can just give people details about parking, then this way we won’t cannibalize your business. Maybe a couple of people. But if anybody’s searching for Sky Park and wants to park at Sky Park, they’re not going to come to us. ”
Andrew: Yeah, the reason that they might be looking for Sky Park is maybe they’re used to seeing the vans at the airport, the ones that take you from the parking lot to the gate. Got it. Okay. And you know what, that explains why when I’m on your site, first of all, you do have, I guess, stock photography. It just looks like a parking lot, but it’s not stretch. It looks right. And this is why I’m not seeing the logo of the parking spot, why I’m not seeing exactly where I go in there. And to me it wasn’t an issue, but now I understand why it is the way it is.
Okay. So that was one of the things that they told you. You don’t feel comfortable revealing the others, but there’s a list of things like that that they said, ”This is what we care about. Can you put this together for us?” And you said, ”All right, I think I got a model here that works.”
Patrick: And it was constant conversation. Right? In the beginning we had, we could have easily extended us to 20 markets, but I kept it to like three, and I just kept having conversations with them every week and kept a candid, right, like, give me true feedback, what’s going on, what can we improve? I was taking customer service calls. I just wanted to make sure that we just had a good system of getting feedback and making changes to everything. But including the partnership, which I think in previous companies I hadn’t done.
Andrew: All right, let me take them off and talk about. My second sponsor is a company called Toptal. Just like this guy, Brett Hardwood said, you know what? It’s not the company that I’m investing, it’s the guy that I know with the company that I’m investing in. He understands he’s putting his money. He’s putting his relationship. He’s putting. We didn’t even talk about it, but he did. He put up the first $100,000 in the business, right? So he put up his money. He puts up his trust. He puts up his time. He puts up his reputation because of the person there. Same thing with us when we hire developers. If you’re out there and you’re hiring a developer, I want you to know about a site called Toptal. You probably already know about it, but we forget the importance of hiring really phenomenal developers.
Let me give you the best story that I can think of about the difference between a good developer and a great developer. It was in the early days there were very few people at Instagram, small, tiny company, and you wonder why did Instagram beat the bigger players? What was it about their app? And I never knew what it was. It just felt better to use Instagram, and then I saw a presentation by one of their developers that helped me see the way they thought different from their competition. The stuff that we don’t see. He said, ”Look at most companies. Person takes a picture, types in a little description and then hit send and at that point the photo starts to upload to the site. They take their time. They run or have the right text, great hit send. It goes up with Instagram. You take your photo, it starts to upload. Then we say, what’s the text that you want to have underneath it? So you take your time writing the tax, right, getting it exactly right, you hit submit. It’s like, wow. It uploads instantly.
It felt magical and the reason it felt magical was while you were typing in the description, they sent up the photo. While you were staying and lingering, they uploaded the photo. That type of thinking is what separates a great developer from an okay developer. An okay developer will take what you want them to do and do exactly what you want. A great developer will understand. You will understand your needs, understand the psychology of your users and create something, and frankly, that is why you and I, Patrick, we live in San Francisco.
We see people constantly moved their companies here because the great developers are here. Well, they’re not only here, they’re all over the world too and the thing that Toptal did was they said, ”Work wherever you want, we’ll find new clients.” And all these developers said, ”Well, a nominal go for it.” And so when you Patrick or I or anyone listening to me looking for a great developer, all we have to do is go hit this one big button on a site that I’m about to give you an. As soon as you do, you get to talk to somebody at Toptal, talk to them about what you need. They’ll say, ”Hey, we’ve got someone” And you could talk to that person and decide whether you want to hire them or not, or you say, ”You know what, it’s not a good fit for me. Andrew is a nice guy, but this is not a good fit. I don’t want to put my money behind it.”
That’s the beauty of Toptal. You go to toptal.com, top of the top of your head, tal as in talent .com/mixergy. There’s a big green button that says start your trial right now, and the truth is you hit that button, you even get to talk to someone. It’s not immediate. No one’s taking your money. They want to make sure that you love the developer before you get started, toptal.com/mixergy.
All right. He put up a $100,000, as I said a moment ago. You’re a founder, you’re cofounder. I’m wondering, actually before we continue, was there an issue with the fact that you are essentially going to be competing with way.com with your old company?
Patrick: Was there an issue for me or with what?
Andrew: For you, for your old company, for anyone?
Patrick: No, I mean, you know, in California there’s non-competes or you can’t really . . . There are no non-competes but no, yeah, not really an issue.
Andrew: Okay. Were they upset at you at way.com?
Patrick: So it progressed, right? In the beginning, Brett and I were targeting on-airport parking. So instead of reserving off-airport, we saw an opportunity for airports to be able to sell online reservations and use a lot of the marketing tactics and everything for on-airport. Right. It makes so much sense and we could have made them so much money, but we never worked with the public sector. Talked to 100 airports, met with like 10 in person and just realize like the public sector isn’t for us.
Andrew: This is at Way.
Patrick: No, this was at NoSon. So the first couple of months from March 2016 until like July, we were focused on-airport.
Andrew: You were focused on parking spots owned by airports, which are often owned by the cities that they’re in, right?
Patrick: Correct. Yeah.
Andrew: Okay. And that’s your focus. And so Way was not doing that. Way, you talked earlier, was finding off-airport spots, and so it wasn’t much of an issue, and then you decided this is not necessarily for us. We can go off-airport too.
Patrick: Yeah, let’s make money, you know. And I learned a lot and I use a lot of my knowledge to create NoSon at the same time. You know, I had this investor and I kind of fell into like the startup trap of like, cool. Well, what we’re going to do is we’re going to spend a lot of money building the product and I’m going to like fly around and like spend money on flights, and I just forgot my lean sense that it has helped me in all other companies. And you know, after meeting with these places or whatever else finally, we were running down to no capital. I was going to have to stop paying myself a salary where, you know, I’m living in SF. Rent is so expensive out here and yeah, it got to this place where we needed to make money or we were going to fail. And that’s whenever I had these conversations with the off-airport guys to, ”Okay, how can I reevaluate this market?” So with some of the bigger thoughts in mind, but at least to start some revenues.
Andrew: The first thing you did was you had deals with these airport, with the parking spots, right? So you can list them on your site and these were on-airport. They were part of the airport.
Patrick: No, these are all off-airport.
Andrew: Oh, all off-airport. This is the way that you started out. You had all those deals, you listed them on your website. You said how lean did you keep the site?
Patrick: To like three markets in the beginning for like four or five months,
Andrew: Three markets. And the software behind it was from where?
Patrick: So the software this is what was great. We spent all this money and 50,000 bucks to try to get this other product built. It, it kind of. I did not use Toptal. I should have.
Andrew: You used Weebly.
Patrick: Yeah. I used Weebly, and I used Weebly and like, this is something I use in college and then. But I just, I started finding all of these apps that could work together. So I used just a simple, simple Weebly site and I had a typeform, and Typeform I love, and I know you interviewed them recently, but they have just created such a beautiful form. Really a lot of us can create companies just by sending people to a typeform and use. The Stripe is integrated. So that’s what I did. I said, ”Okay, shit, I’m going to test out an ad that goes to Typeform that converted.” And I was like, ”Great.” So then I create a Weebly, pasted the HTML on there and started going. And then I figured that . . .
Andrew: Wait, pasting the HTML, you mean you took the form and you put it on your Weebly site?
Patrick: Yeah. I took the typeform and put it on the Weebly site.
Andrew: This airportparking.top?
Andrew: That was the domain at first.
Andrew: Okay. And so all that was a hosted typeform page with Stripe collecting payment when you didn’t need to have people. Like, you didn’t need to check inventory, you just assumed you had the inventory. If somebody filled out the forms that I want this date, you assume they could have it. And you [inaudible 00:46:57]
Patrick: Yeah. Were either sold out or we’re not. We just kept it so lean . . .
Andrew: Yeah, did you know if you were sold out or not? How’d you do inventory?
Patrick: The people would just call us and say, ”Hey, [inaudible 00:47:05] us up.”
Andrew: Oh, but oh got it. And then you would just turn it off on the form. So you couldn’t do what you do today, which is say for a specific date we’re open for specific date. For a specific date we’re closed. You just [inaudible 00:47:15]
Patrick: Right. And we will be able to put in like little descriptions in Typeform saying like, “Hey we’re sold out these days,” but there was no way to regulate it. So I’d have to add in an equation like plus $100 if they put in this date, so that they’d be like, why is my bill $200 [inaudible 00:47:30]?
Andrew: Right, right, right.
Patrick: Because I’m hacking this shit together man.
Andrew: Because you could have these dependencies in a form. Got it. And then how does Zapier fit in? I’ve read a few times that you love Zapier.
Patrick: So yeah, a Typeform is so amazing. Zapier is great too. So basically they, they allowed me to create this thing myself while I was waiting for product to get built. So as somebody filled out the typeform, you know, basically that’s an action and Typeform or Zapier connects actions to other actions. So I would take that form and paste the data into a Google sheet and Google sheets or like my live database. So then I’d paste in there, and then I would have it make an equation set up to make a smaller reservation number, and then send them an email. And then I found out, okay, this Zapier thing is amazing. Like, I can do so many other things. So I started to create Google calendar events for the reservation and then send them reminders three days ahead of time.
Andrew: Well, from a Zap.
Patrick: From Zapier.
Andrew: Zapier would do is say as soon as there’s a new entry in my spreadsheet, take it and create a calendar entry and send that to the client?
Andrew: You know what, I’m wonder how many businesses today are secretly run by Zapier and publicly available software that we just don’t know it and we don’t care because it works. Okay. And they started out as though as a software that connects different software together, and now I think they’re becoming the alternative to coding.
Patrick: Yeah, truly.
Andrew: Okay. So that’s what you had on your site and that was your soft launch? This was. Okay. And I saw a Medium post that you did what you said, “We basically took this MVP to 18 markets.” So from three markets you expanded to 18 with this thing that you described it right here?
Patrick: It still would . . . It’s live today. So we have our new site. We’re slowly transitioning over, but yeah, we’re still live with that today.
Andrew: Wait, it’s still Zapier and this whole thing together today?
Patrick: Yeah, it is.
Andrew: Holy. Oh right. Okay. All right, so here’s another thing that I saw that you said, I think this was on your Medium post. By the way, why is your Medium name PMM 621 What does that mean?
Patrick: Those are my initials and my birthday.
Andrew: Got it. Right. That you were starting to understand what your customers wanted, the travelers. Talk to me a little bit about that. How do you know what your customers want? Do you do any customer development with them?
Patrick: Yeah, so in the beginning, and like I said, I was talking to our partners weekly at least really getting feedback. With the customers, I was taking customer service calls on purpose. I could have hired, but I wanted to hear every problem they were having. And what’s great about Weebly and Typeform and Zapier is that it is so easy for somebody that’s nontechnical to edit it. So if they were having an issue, I would fix the problem, and I would try to find out a solution until the next call came in and I could solve that problem and make it not happen again. So yeah.
Andrew: So every time they had a problem, you’d say, “How do I . . . ?” What’s an example of a problem that you would say I would have to go in and figure out how to avoid that?
Patrick: Tons of things like small, like load time was heavy. So instead of having the typeform on the landing page, I would create a button that would then send them to the typeform on a different.
Andrew: Right to save a fraction of a second or whatever it is, just to get that page to load fast. Okay. But that’s not something you find out by talking to people. That’s something you find out afterwards.
Patrick: Kind of talking to them though too because they’re, you know, they’re getting bad load times. Emails weren’t delivering right, which I learned from them. What else did we actually . . . ?
Andrew: So what do you do? Let’s take email that seems like a classic software solution. It was a classic need for software solutions. What did you do if email wasn’t firing off right, what did you do to adjust?
Patrick: We switched. I was just using Zapier. Like their . . .
Andrew: Their email system.
Patrick: Yeah, exactly. Which I, and this is a great way to learn technical skills too. I’m like, oh, okay. Really, you can’t just send emails through Gmail or Zapier. So we got to SendGrid account . . .
Andrew: And then again, SendGrid connects to Zapier and Zapier sends through SendGrid.
Patrick: Totally. Yeah.
Andrew: Ah, okay. And then if that doesn’t work, then maybe you realize I need to send text messages to people, and all you have to do is get a Twilio account and use Twilio to connect it to Zapier. and then say send them. Wow. You know what, you do do inventory today. I’ve gone through your site. You do inventory. Zapier lets you do inventory?
Patrick: Not . . . So on-air parking, we do inventory on. I’m sure there’s a way that we could figure out how to Zapier . . . with Zapier, you can really figure out how to do anything.
Andrew: You’ll do that. It actually, you know what it will you can do now is search. You can create a multistep Zap. So the first step is when this comes. No, I think this comes in. You could then trigger a search that then does. Is that what you guys do?
Patrick: It filters it. No, we don’t need to on that page. So it’s still this old school technique. When we’re sold out, we just give a note and charge them like an extra 100 bucks, but our goal is to never be sold out. Right. Our goal is to have enough inventory always at the [inaudible 00:52:32]
Andrew: I’m in San Francisco. Is it sold out every time or just that I happened to pick?
Patrick: No. So SFO, we’re actually not live in, and we do keep these stages. It’s good for SEO. We keep trying to get [inaudible 00:52:41]
Andrew: Got it. You know what wonder then, so it does . . . At least your button says sold out and you don’t collect my credit card info. I wonder as a marketer, why do you don’t have. When I was like, can I hit the button and then you say, enter your email address and then afterwards say, sorry, we’re sold out. Why are you choosing not to collect email addresses of people in San Francisco who wants to?
Patrick: No, that’s a good call. We used to. We used to send them to a form, but it’s been a while trying to get SFO, so I don’t want people to think that we’re going to get them like in the next month or two. Just because it’s a popular market out here, the airport is actually working on parking, so places like Sky Park are selling out. They don’t need a third party like me, so that be six months to a year when companies here actually need to partner with us.
Andrew: And this is a typeform still to this day on your site?
Patrick: Yeah. On Top Airport Parking, yeah.
Andrew: It just feels so native. Wow. Let me do a search typeform. I can’t find it in what’s it called view source. Okay. Wow. All right. So then you have your software all set up. That’s impressive. You’re talking to customers to understand what’s working and you can start making adjustments. That’s impressive. You told our producer the first dollar you got came from putting up a Google ad in Boston for $8.99. You linked it to a typeform and then you got your first customer.
Andrew: That was it. And the next big milestone was getting to $500,000 in sales. What do you do? Is it still all advertising to get to 500,000?
Patrick: Yeah, you need to advertise a lot. You know, email helps to kind of like follow up with your loyal customers that are parking in a couple of times a year. But I think the changes that we made early on with the first couple of markets was huge because then as we were expanding, we just had a great conversion rate, like 20% to 25% of the people that we’re bringing onto our page. So we just kept it so lean that it was so effective, and it was expanding. Right? So once we, we probably could have expanded more in the markets that we were in and got a larger market share before expanding it, but I just wanted all of 2017 and kind of just worked on sales calls and expanding, and that helps scale the number up to 500K getting more markets.
Andrew: Just getting in more markets and the site is, it’s not NoSon, it’s on, onairparking.com, like on airport. That’s the message there?
Patrick: But that’s what it was supposed to be.
Andrew: No, it’s not.
Patrick: So we’ve got the domain name. Yeah.
Andrew: You know, so I’m on SimilarWeb, it says your total website visits for that site are 14,000 for April through June 2018. So that’s not that much traffic though. [inaudible 00:55:38]
Patrick: Airportparking.top is still our heavy producer. We’re slowly moving things over to the new site, and I’m trying to give the same tests that I did with Top Airport Parking. But yeah, we should top airport parking. We’ll probably show more traffic.
Andrew: Airportparking.top. Let me check that out again. Going into SimilarWeb. Airport. Let me try it again because nothing’s coming up as far as traffic there. Again, 17,000. That’s not that much. Search engine traffic. No, that’s search traffic. If I were to look at an overview of the site, 67,000 from April to June, so in three months, again, still not that much.
Patrick: Yeah, we should hit around like 30 unique visitors per month across the board. Not too many. Yeah. And like I said, we tried to be lean, try to have really high conversion rates. It’s a different type of model where we’re trying to bring people on that are looking to purchase parking.
Andrew: In your ads, again, according SimilarWeb are all price based. 3.99 DIA Airport parking, say 50% free cancellations. That’s essentially the model that you got for your ads. 4.99 Newark airport parking. Lowest Price guaranteed. 9.99 New York city’s long term parking. Save 50% free cancellations.
Patrick: Yeah. So the people that we’re marketing to are leisure and vacation travelers, right, that are not business travelers. It’s a family going on a trip, so they’re very price sensitive, so price, having the best price per market is very important to our users. A couple of other things as well, but yeah, we make sure to get that and the way that we’re selling these helps as well.
Andrew: What do you mean by the way you’re selling it?
Patrick: With it the opaque or unbranded? Right. So since it is unbranded, we’re able to get lower rates than if we were using somebody’s brand name.
Andrew: And I like how the landing page is so specific to where they’re from. So like someone from the Upper East Side . . . Am I revealing too much? You seem comfortable with this.
Patrick: No. Yeah, please.
Andrew: A landing page will say Lennox Hill, which is Upper East Side, and you explicitly say Lennox Hill, Upper East Side parking, New York, New York, $9.99 a day. So if you’re in the Upper East Side, you feel like, all right, this is meant for me. That’s what it is. Three blocks from the Roosevelt Tram, Second Avenue and 59th Street, which is . . .
Patrick: We want to say as much as possible without giving away the exact location. And yeah, that’s the exciting next step for us. We’re getting into the city parking, urban locations.
Andrew: Is this a parking spot in Manhattan Upper East side.
Patrick: This is in Upper East side, yeah.
Andrew: Oh, I thought this was an ad targeting people in the Upper East Side. No, this is targeting people want to park in the Upper East Side $9.99 a day?
Patrick: In New York. Yeah.
Andrew: In New York they charge 65 a day.
Patrick: They charge 65.
Andrew: And this is. Oh wow. I see. This is actually not even someone who’s . . . If I were coming in from Queens, I’d want to do this search and do it. Let’s see what happens if I hit call. Oh, you’ve got a phone number on there that just automatically does. All right. Okay. These are really good deals. That’s why you need someone who’s going to have partnership there.
Andrew: All right. And then the other thing that you said, this is some blog post. I read so much about you in preparation for this. This is why it’s sometimes drives me crazy when an interviewer say,” Oh yeah, just go in there. I’ll figure it out. Got to do this stuff.” My answer, my first question is, is online, which is at some point it’s cheaper to park and pay per day than it is even Uber to the airport. Am I right?
Patrick: Yep. You are right.
Andrew: That’s the advantage. That’s how you guys deal with Uber.
Patrick: Yeah, that’s a big reason why what we’re doing is working in the prices that we’re able to get our working. The park industry is getting hurt by Uber and Lyft. It’s like 20% to a 5% decrease in revenues in our industry. And it makes sense. You know, a lot of times I will, even with me being in the industry, I’ll take an Uber or Lyft with my wife to SFO or Oakland. But what’s cool is now there are times where we don’t have SFO. We have Oakland for 6.60 a day. Let’s say we’re going on a weekend trip flying Southwest, we’ll book the parking, and it’s almost as fast as taking an Uber and Lyft as well, especially with the pickup. Do you know they have shuttles waiting for you? So instead of calling your Uber and waiting for it to come, you just jump on this airport parking shuttle. It’s already on the way to the highway for me. I get my car and I’m out.
Andrew: It’s cheaper for or it’s easier for families who need the car seat on the way out who have. All right. So this is what you did. You started going into bigger markets. You kept iterating on the site. What did you do next to grow even further, or was it essentially that get lower prices, get better at ads, get better at refining the product?
Patrick: Yeah, it was cool because the house low we were to expand, was really helpful as we did expand because there just weren’t problems, right? We weren’t losing partners that were saying, ”Hey, you know, this isn’t what you presented to us. And we had high conversion rates because of all the systems.” And like even with Typeform, I tried different questions in different. Like with AB testing, like what’s your first name compared to what day are you flying out? And that helps. So yeah, it was just expanding it, you know, it was just more and more markets and then really working on getting more market share in the markets we expanded to. So looking at how big the market was, which it’s like a $3 billion industry across the U.S., saying what it was per market and just trying to increase different marketing approaches.
Andrew: Why are you in San Francisco? If you’re a Typeform type of person, you’re just a few blocks away from me. It’s super expensive here. Why?
Patrick: Well, I fell in love here, so my wife works out here and she appreciates her job and I love SFO though too, man. So I’m at Galvanize right now at Second and Howard and the energy here is amazing. I worked from here four days a week and not at home because the energy is just so thriving. And what I always say, and it probably hurts me, I do it on investor talks to you, but if I’m the dumbest guy in San Francisco, I’m going to be able to add something to the parking industry, especially with technology. We just, the parking industry doesn’t know half of the different things that companies use is like simple best practice.
Andrew: You’re saying if you could bring even the dumbest ideas from San Francisco to an industry that’s not at all tech-oriented, marketing-oriented, etc., you’re like a guy bringing a gun to a thousand year old battle. You suddenly have a huge advantage.
Andrew: Totally get that. You know, we should, we should have a drink. You know, with this guy, Chandler Bolt is just moved to San Francisco while back. He’s been wanting to hang out. I want to hang out with him. I’d love to like he is encouraging me to have more deep conversations, which I used to have before I had my kids. We should get together. We’re like two blocks away from each other.
Let me close out with this. I’m fascinated by your level of automation. I didn’t know you did this. You told our producer you don’t need to invest heavily in technology, which I get now that I’ve gotten to know you, but you also said you created a Twitter bot that helps people with anxiety and depression and it uses Zapier and a typeform. First of all, wow. Second, Wade’s got to find out, the founder of Zapier has got to find out what people do with this freaking software. That’s amazing.
Patrick: Wade answers my email. Customer support, he’s smart. He gets it. He’s answering customer support at least weekly.
Andrew: So weekly. You do this to every Friday.
Patrick: Yeah. Got to.
Andrew: If I come by . . . No, you’re not going to do it at Galvanize. Where are you going to go?
Patrick: So it’s actually, it’s once a month on Friday. I’ll take calls for like four hours. I usually do.
Andrew: Take phone calls?
Patrick: Yeah, take customer calls.
Andrew: Definitely. You know, by the way, the answer to that drive to Napa. You go to Napa, you’re in the sun, everyone’s out in wineries. You get the space to yourself, you take phone calls, you feel like you’re top of the world. People feel it in your voice, just like sales people are told to have a mirror in front of them so that they could see their face. Because if they see that they’re not smiling, they know how they’re communicating a non-smile personality. If they see themselves smiling, they’ll reinforce . . . anyway. I feel like Napa does that. Why anxiety and depression? What’s your connection to that?
Patrick: It runs in my family. I definitely, you know, I’m one of seven kids, so I feel like I can relate with a lot of people just because I see my siblings in a lot of people. So yeah, my different members of my family have battled with both of those. And I think and a lot of times I used to have thoughts and how I can improve things that I’ve never acted on them because I’ve been selfish. So I don’t know what spurred me to actually take action.
Andrew: When you say, it goes to your family, what’s depression feels like for you?
Patrick: I’ve never been depressed before, but I mean, what it feels like . . .
Andrew: What does anxiety, or whatever it is that you feel like?
Patrick: I have had anxiety before. I mean it’s when you’re so . . . One year in college, it was actually after I started doing all the business stuff, I had severe anxiety and every morning it kind of was like a battle to not think about it. Right. And I was trapped.
Andrew: Not think about what?
Patrick: Just the anxiety. There is anxiety, right? It’s like there was this loop that I had there. Right. That was, you just didn’t. I didn’t want to know that I was anxious and it, it came from, I got 300 [inaudible 01:05:15] my freshman year of college. I just went there and got in trouble and it was weird circumstances. But then I felt like a failure, like, ”Oh, I’m failing my parents.” And all of this failure stuff kind of built up. And then in the summer, I’m feeling that, and I’m just feeling like I really let them down and it would come every morning. So what does it feel like? It feels like you’re trapped and you don’t know how to get out of it. And you’re just wondering if it’s going to end.
Andrew: And it just keeps, does it get worse the more you think about it because you focus on that and then you bring more of it into your life?
Patrick: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. It’s just doesn’t feel good. But what’s nice is I definitely found techniques for myself to get out of . . . .
Andrew: What are they?
Patrick: So personally, and now I never fall into a loop, which is great. But I meditate every day. I run every day if I can like least work days. And I feel like that I’m kind of a control freak, so that puts me in control all the time. Right. Like before this as well, like, okay, I’m going to feel a little anxious talking to Andrew, made sure that I got eight hours of sleep, which typically I don’t get on a work day. Yeah, but running, meditation. Meditation is so helpful. I’m at least 20 minutes a day just to know how to control your thoughts. You realize that thoughts are just thoughts.
Andrew: And so by doing that, you’re basically trying to control your thoughts, meaning keep away the, the thoughts that you don’t want and stay focused on the stuff that’s more positive?
Patrick: Kind of. I mean, luckily I don’t battle with anxiety now, but I think there’s so many things that we don’t even know happened if you just have meditation as a daily practice, but it makes you more relaxed, your cortisol levels are down. And really for me as a businessperson, it helps me stay focused, right? I think if there’s one thing that I wished for myself to be able to do, it’s stay focused on my task at hand. And so with mindfulness meditation, you’re basically acknowledging a thought that comes up and just letting it go and coming back to something just as if you get a text message and you’re working on a project or Telegram or Slack, just staying with what you’re working on and coming back to that really helpful.
Andrew: So the bot that you built on Twitter, first of all, can you give us a Twitter handle for that?
Patrick: So I stopped it. It was called @PleaseHelp. I don’t know if there were numbers after it, but I stopped it because I had one form filled out, somebody seemed suicidal, so I put on a, you know, a message to call the suicide hotline. But unfortunately there’s probably legal ramifications with kind of thing.
Andrew: So help me think, like, help me understand how you think through solving this using technology, even though we didn’t get to the ultimate solution. I just want to get to know the way your mind works. It was a Twitter account that did what?
Patrick: So it’s searched for people that said “I’m depressed.” And my thought going into this too was the younger generations are looking for anything online, and they’re expecting to be tracked. They’re expecting for the world of the internet and their phones to have answers and to know so, and we’re all happy to do. And it’s like, hell yeah. I’ll sell you parking. I have it right. Nobody is really looking out for these kids that are now trying to communicate through these means where they get answers everywhere else. I was like, shit. Like, I’m picturing my little sister’s like searching online, you know, “I’m depressed or whatever else.” And so what I searched for on Twitter was anybody that said I’m depressed, I’m sad, could be used a lot, but I’m depressed. It’s kind of like a strong word I thought.
So I targeted that in anybody that said I’m depressed, this Twitter bot would just follow them and the handle was please share something. And we just had a link and we said, ”Hey, you know, you have some thoughts, we’re happy to listen.” And it would link to a typeform and it asked three questions. Basically asked what would you like to share, what’s one goal you have in life, and what’s one thing you’re grateful for? And like out of a thousand people that we followed like 15 or 20 responded. And I also put in one, like a real person in San Francisco will read this. So they know it’s somebody will actually listen. And yeah, man, the results are crazy. A lot of people wanting to get stuff off their chest. And what was cool is you could see how they were able to shift too. They did have goals. They did have things they were grateful for.
Andrew: Yeah, I see what you’re saying. And I’m doing a search right now for “I’m depressed” and there they’re clearly people who are going through something and it’s like walking into a room and saying, “I had a miserable day” and have everyone say, “Where’s the cocktail? What do you guys up to tomorrow?” and completely ignore them. And I see actually that now . . . not all of them. Some of them have people who clearly are reaching out to them because they said that and others nothing. All right, I don’t want to end it on this sad note.
Patrick: What’s great is we can all help though, right? It’s like with the tools that are out there.
Andrew: You genuinely believed that we had this conversation before we started. I said, you’re like the zillionth entrepreneur this month who told me that he just wants to help the world. And in the past I argued with people, come on. It’s not true. Or you’re just wacky or something. This is really you. You really do want to help people.
Patrick: I do.
Andrew: I do feel inferiority considering I want to help people. Is your mission and the way you’re going to help them with parking?
Patrick: Yeah. So you’re totally right. I’m so lying to myself about this in a sense. Right? But I fundamentally believe it, but I easily forget about it as I’m creating a business that’s driven by so many things. So it is my north star. Do I, am I looking at my walking north all the time? Hell now. But yeah, you know, my hope is I can sell this company eventually, you know, merge with somebody or we’re around and making great profits where we’ve kind of proven that a business model can be built on win-wins for everybody because, you know, I love using Amazon as a customer, but I kind of don’t really look up to Jeff Bezos. I think he is . . . He’s created a great product, but I don’t think he cares about the brands that he’s selling at all, and he drives them down. So it’s ruthless. I think there’s a way that everybody can win, and I think fundamentally those partnerships last longer, those companies last longer. Yeah. And there’s definitely a selfish part of it for me too, that just thinks it’s more sustainable.
Andrew: I know and I feel that’s fine because if I don’t always need people to save me from myself or the worst problems in the world. Sometimes I just want somebody to give me a little thing like, have food delivered properly when I’m stuck. I remember actually sending a note to a Gagan Biyani, the founder of Sprig. I was stuck at my desk. I couldn’t leave in between interviews because I overscheduled. He was the only one who’s . . . like, Sprig was the only service that would come and deliver to my desk.
I think sometimes as entrepreneurs, by the way, I was only asking that question in a challenging way to draw you out. It wasn’t because I was saying that’s all it is? Parking. I’m trying to draw out is I actually think we do. I do think we help out as entrepreneurs with the things that we do, with the things that we create, him getting food to me in between meetings being the only service that would come upstairs to the twelfth floor of my building where security is so intense.
My friends have a hard time coming in. That’s a huge, huge win for me. I just don’t know that you need to solve that much more than that frankly. That one little thing. If you make a quarter of my life, great. I think that’s fine. That’s a huge win and if we do it out of a selfish reason, it’s totally fine too. What I’m trying to understand is the entrepreneurs who I seen more and more of doing interviews with me who are more hippie, like, who do believe that there’s some bigger thing and I’m not challenging them because I disagree with them challenging them because I want to understand that.
All right. I think I’ve got a little bit of where you are. I love the way you put this whole fricken site together with, just off the shelf software. I love that. You found that that parking has . . . Do you think actually parking as a future? I was talking to another entrepreneur in the parking space just a minute ago and a minute before you and I got. And he’s saying, “Autonomous cars, man. People aren’t going to need to park.” Cars are going to travel around in circles. You talk to investors, they don’t want to invest because they think 10 years out they’re not going to be cars parking.
Patrick: Yeah. So love the thought of the autonomous vehicle being a shared ride, etc. One thing that number one though, you if you own a vehicle or even if you’re a company, and especially with CO2 emissions and everything you don’t want, you don’t want cars to be driving around without passengers in them. And so these Uber’s and whatever else, you’re going to have to be parked somewhere when they’re not in use, right? And will it be a very price-sensitive solution? Of course, they’re going to want. They’re able to find through information exactly where the cheapest space is and the depreciation of the vehicle to get there. So that is one thing. Definitely these vehicles, even if that’s the case, there will be spaces, but I heard something interesting too in our industry that I really liked that I could get along with that.
So if, let’s imagine that there is autonomous vehicles that are so affordable that it’s actually less expensive to use them then to have an Uber or Lyft or GM or whatever’s coming out subscription. Well, this thing would pick you up in your house and stay at your house and it’s just imagine like a little cart, right? So you go and it takes you to the office, but you’re able to do work. So we’re going, I’m going from Marine to SF. I’m doing work, I’m taking calls, I’m lounging back in this autonomous vehicle to work, right. I’m probably going to leave things in there if I want to go golfing or whatever else. I’m going to leave my golf clubs in there. I want this to be mine. I don’t want like some weirdo jumping in my car while I’m not using it. Though that’s an awesome solution and I’m sure there’s people that want that. I’m going to want to find it very, very cheap parking space close to me and I truly believe that, yeah, if even with the autonomous model, that people will still park. It will want to do things like that.
Andrew: I see. Especially if it’s like an hour to and from work. I’m going to want my work setup in there. All right. I get that vision and partially I’m kind of living that vision. I’m living, I’m working out of a Regis office. I could take my laptop everywhere, and the idea that you don’t really need an office exists today, but still I want to have my computers the way that I liked them so that I can be efficient and you’re saying the same thing would happen. Someone’s going to buy a car. It could drive autonomously, but if they’re working in they want their work environment the way it is. If they’ve got their kids in there, they want all the seats exactly like they like it. The toys for the kids that are going to keep them occupied and that means ownership and that means parking and that means okay, and that means not going from San Francisco to San Francisco Airport. And then having the car wastes a fuel by driving back and emissions. I get that. I feel like that’s a challenge because I don’t know for sure. That’s this future. Are you finding that’s a challenge with investors?
Patrick: So we’re not trying to raise venture capital. We are halfway raised in our $1.5 million round. I don’t want to go venture because I don’t want to have to try to become a billion dollar company. Right? Like, you mentioned Sprig earlier, I think Gagan did a great job. I really appreciated him as an entrepreneur, but I think it’s terrible. I love Sprig. I want to see Sprig around today just as a company that it is right. Like don’t be a billion dollar company, just be Sprig, right?
Andrew: Just give me the three meals that I need.
Patrick: Yeah, right. We need to get him back. But in terms of what had been done.
Andrew: He got malaria I think he gave up . . . after he closed up his company, he traveled the world. Every time I go see where he is, it’s some random place. He got malaria. The guy nearly died in the middle of nowhere. Alive now. He’ll be back on his feet. I feel like he’s in a find himself type place.
Patrick: Yeah, exactly. He’ll come up with some concept. I’m just. Yeah, I’m excited to see what he does next because I love Sprig as well.
Andrew: All right. But I get what you’re saying. Sprig was good service. I liked it. What did a guy need? Just don’t try to make it into a billion dollar business that competes with Uber Eats. Just keep three items every single day. Keep it interesting and have it be available. He couldn’t get to that. And that’s where, that’s where you want to go. He can’t raise that much money and then say that’s all I’m going to be.
Patrick: Well yeah, exactly. If you’re taking venture capital, you’re kind of promising to either fail fast or grow to a billion dollar company. Right. This happens all the time, people take venture capital and half to fail though they had a really, really good product that a lot of people liked, but it’s more ethical for them to close the company down for their investors. So I don’t want to get into that trap because the parking industry isn’t that big regardless. And so, yeah, I haven’t been, I’m not even talking to VCs, but they would totally try to say that. I’d be able to argue back and forth. I’m sure we could get some investment with not the best VCs.
Andrew: Yeah. But, you know, once you have to start arguing back and forth with them about changing their worldview, it’s painful. All right. We didn’t even talk about how you’re also getting into transportation, that this is not just about parking. I think I got a sense of you. Anyone wants to read more. You’re up on Medium. You’re, you know what, why don’t we just link them? What’s a good website to link them to if they want to get a sense of who you are and follow up.
Patrick: My Twitter page. I try to keep that somewhat . . .
Andrew: What is your Twitter handle? Is it also a PPM621. PMM?
Patrick: PMM. Penguin, monkey, monkey. 621, yeah.
Patrick: Yeah. That’s me. What is that? That’s just my. It’s my initials and my birthday. It’s perfect. It’s easy.
Andrew: Are you? Did you act on something too?
Patrick: I did act in something. Yeah.
Andrew: So what name did you use there? So again, I was like searching for you on IMDb trying to figure out [inaudible 01:19:45]. Patrick Murray is a very common name. There are Patrick Murrays who are in incredible movies.
Patrick: Exactly. Yeah. So you’re not going to find me. I think I’m like Patrick Murray 11 on IMDb.
Andrew: Oh my God. What the numbers.
Patrick: Well, no I didn’t. I didn’t pick 11. They picked 11 for me.
Andrew: But then do you have like a . . . Don’t you have a Sag name or something that you can.
Patrick: No, I wasn’t so it. This was during college. We created a, like a movie or I helped create a movie, so I was more so on the business end of things like producing and finding locations. But then somebody dropped out, and it was like the fifth lead, and I was told that I sounded like a stoner. I’m, kind of, like the monotone voice, so they’re like, you’d be perfect for this donor. So that was my embarrassing role in the movie.
Andrew: That’s great. Right on your Twitter account. There it is. There’s you and the woman you fell in love with it to Roya Fafi [SP].
Patrick: Yep. Fati [SP]. They pronounce it. Yeah.
Andrew: Right there on the Twitter account. It’s Twitter.com/pmm621 to one. I’m excited that I got to meet you. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do. Congratulations on getting this far and I want to thank my two sponsors who made this work. The first is the company that is making a design oaf like me look good.
Frankly. Guys, look, look at my cover art. That’s nothing but me filling out a fricking forum and choosing from a 100 or so different designs. Anyone could get great designs, even people with good design teams, they tell their design teams occasionally go to DesignCrowd, get a bunch of new ideas fresh and things up. New perspective. You only pay for the ones that you like, so go to designcrowd.com/mixergy.
And number two, if you really want a phenomenal developer, don’t take my word for it, go to the URL for Toptal and talk to someone over there, and if they don’t blow you away, then just don’t work with them. If they do, what does it cost you? It costs you a little bit of time to get on a call with them. They’re going to blow you away. Top as in top of your head, tal as in talent that’s toptal.com/mixergy. Boy, there was someone in my audience who created something great, but he didn’t give me a URL in time. So we’ll have to talk about it another time.
Patrick, thanks so much for doing this.
Patrick: All right, Andrew. Thanks.