Andrew: My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their audience, how they built their businesses for an audience of entrepreneurs. I’m a little tongue tied because joining me is someone who listened to my interviews and built a company, a phenomenal company that I don’t think we will Brett even be able to explain to people how dramatically big this business that you created is, but we’ll attempt.
Brett Kopf is the founder of remind. They are like Slack for school. It’s the way that teachers can communicate with their students, the way the parents and teachers can talk to each other. The whole thing. It isn’t. How many schools is it in now? Or how do we give me some stats about how big this is?
Brett: Sure. Uh, we have 30 million active users, uh, over 70% of teachers in the United States use it. And as a measure of engagement, they send over a hundred million messages a day.
Andrew: What’s a typical use case.
Brett: There’s a few, like one might be don’t forget. You have a quiz coming up on Thursday. A very popular use case is it’s six o’clock and seventh grader named Johnny doesn’t know how to do a math problem. He’ll take a picture of it. Send a tax safely over a mind, or a push notification to the teacher and ask a bunch of questions and they’ll just start chatting about it.
So where it started as just a system, hence to remind, to send reminders, it’s become this platform that facilitates multiple types of communication, either inside or more predominantly outside of the classroom.
Andrew: Did you say, what percentage of teachers or schools are using you?
Brett: Yeah, it’s about 75% of the teachers in the country that actively use us. It’s not just use us. They actively use us. It’s a big number and we operate, um, in K-12 higher ed pre-K through five. Um, and we’re very proud of this. We operate in some of the lowest income districts in the United States.
Andrew: How much outside funding do you guys take to do this?
Brett: We’ve raised over $60 million in venture capital, some, some big names in the business.
Andrew: And big-name management. And I looked at your LinkedIn profile. It says you are the co-founder of remind from 2009 to present. And from 2019 to present, you’re the co-founder of something new, which you have not disclosed publicly, but you’re willing to talk about it here in this interview. Do you want to save it to the end?
Are you ready to say what it is right now?
Brett: Whatever you prefer. I’m happy to.
Andrew: Yeah. You know what? Let’s save it for the end of this interview. Um, I will say this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies that are helping me tell the story of how remind was built and what Brett is going to be doing next. The first, if you’re hiring developers, you should know about top towel.com/mixergy.
And the second, if you’re looking to build a website and get started, or frankly you don’t like your hosting company and shift over to a new one, I want you to go to hostgator.com/mixergy, but would you, would you entrepreneurial growing up.
Brett: Not really. I was a pretty typical kid. I grew up in Skokie, Illinois. It’s a suburb of Chicago and I mostly cared about sports. I played a lot of sports, but I didn’t really get into the whole entrepreneurship thing until I was a sophomore in college.
Andrew: Now a lot of people think they have add, you seem to have had add and dyslexia to a degree that I don’t know anyone who had it. What was it like for you?
Brett: You know, it’s funny that you mentioned that because two days ago I was cleaning out a closet because my wife and I are moving in a week and I actually saw the transcript from the doctor in probably 1994. Who wrote all about me as a kid, I must have been nine when I’m born 1987. I was a little kid at the time and I was clinically diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia.
And for the first two decades of my life, it was really, really hard. So let me preface all this. I had a great childhood. I had loving parents. They were very supportive. Um, and school was incredibly hard for me because. No school in the United States, there’s sort of the structure and they say, you need to fit into this 99% of students needed to fit in this box.
And if you don’t. You’re you’re sorta like screwed. And so I remember I’d be taken out of class, so it’d be given extra time in all my exams and that bred a ton of insecurity and I felt stupid from it. And which ended up leading me to start remind. And I’m happy to explain that in a second. So it was, it was pretty difficult when it came to the academics, but when it came to things like sports or hanging out with friends or anything that that was social.
I really thrived. I loved it. I just didn’t know at the time that I could have a career in that, not nor was I thinking about a career at nine years old. I didn’t know that it was okay. That, um, that this thing I have labeled with could become a gift.
Andrew: You had apparently some kind of device to help you read? What was that?
Brett: I wouldn’t call it a device. It was like a piece of, I don’t even know what this is a piece of paper. My teacher would hold it, hold one piece, one piece of paper on one line, and then another piece of paper on the other line. And she would only move one line at a time because I literally could not focus and I’ll get so overwhelmed.
You ever read a book and you read the whole page and. The your, your second lizard brain says, Andrew, what did you just read? And then the other part says, I don’t actually know that was it for everything. And so we just had to focus it there’s other small things, right? Like when I, when I, when people spell words like ELLs, they would always split to this day.
When I put a credit card in the machine, it’s always flipped. And now my wife and I, we laugh at it, but is it impossible for me to do it? I proclaimed that that’s user that that’s, um, poorly built software. It’s not me, but like when you go to the gasoline station, I still screw it up.
Andrew: Yeah. You would think that by now that they would, at least every credit card should have a groove or like a, it should be angled in a little bit so that you know, which way it goes in. But anyway, I get, I get your point of view. I wonder about you being, like, how did it affect you? You say that it, it affected you as a kid.
How, what happened? Did you think you were inferior in general?
Brett: Yeah, because I worked two or three times as hard. So my dad was an entrepreneur. My mom was a therapist and had her own business and I saw them work their ass off. My dad would get up at 4:00 AM. And so there was this, like this. This, it was bred into us to just work hard. So I would work really hard, but the results I got were horrible.
And I had all these really smart friends who had to try two times less hard and they would get great grades. And there was some times where I got made fun of because of it. But one of the hardest things is I would always be taken out of class because I had extra time and everyone would say, why does Brett get extra time?
Why is he special? And it wasn’t a good, special, and so then would
Andrew: Why is he stupid?
Brett: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what internal Brett would say. Yeah, that’s what I heard. I wasn’t, I didn’t have the, the conscious level of thought to think, Oh, this is an emotion. The emotion is sadness. This is why you’re feeling this way.
Pause for a second. You’re not stupid. Um, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t have that capacity. I was a kid and I didn’t really realize that until I was for awhile. I mean, maybe even post-college.
Andrew: Wow. I I’ve tried to think about, I try to think about myself and how much that, the way that people felt about me growing up affects me even to this day. It just gets built in the sense that I’m not the person who can talk to people, even though I do, I do it all the time now. And if I do, there’s always a high five when it’s always a reaction still to what the younger me was perceived as.
Do you still have that this sense of, I have to prove to you that I’m not stupid. I have to show Andrew. I am worthy of being here.
Brett: You know, I would lie to you if I said I didn’t have a part of it and no offense lovingly, it’s not to you. Um, it’s probably to my father who has passed now, we’re getting a bit fruity in here, but I didn’t realize until I started remind. And so I started reminding like 2007 or 2008. We killed ourselves for years.
Um, and it didn’t work for a very long time, which I’m happy to talk about, but we worked so hard. We worked 17, 18 hours a day for a long time. And not because we have some type badging on Avanir, we just cared. And, um, I didn’t really realize until I started seeing a therapist in 2000, I don’t know this was five or seven, five or six years ago.
And he helped me. Sort of realized that I wanted to prove to my dad so bad that I was smart and I could do something valuable in the world and I could build something big that, um, that was a lot of the propulsion that would drive me to build, remind us of it successful. Now, my dad loved me unconditionally, absolutely loved me unconditionally, but it was sort of, it came out of a pain, which I actually think happens with a lot of entrepreneurs.
It came out of like a deeper pain of meaning. Not feeling accepted or my dad in this case accepting like just accepting my identity. This is who I was. Um, and now at this point, I’m, I’m really happy with who I am and also who I’m not, there is a part of me though that has a chip on my shoulder that wants to build something big again, because I did it once.
Andrew: to prove that it’s, that you could really do it, that it wasn’t luck.
Brett: You know, they’re the lizard brain part of me, um, would say. Yes to prove that the healthy part of my brain says do it because it brings you fulfillment and joy. This is how you want to spend your life. And that is a true statement, but I would lie to you if it would be a lie. If I said, there’s never, there’s a little part that sometimes says is like, Oh, you’re not worthy.
Or like, are you really gonna do that? Or like, you need to prove this to someone.
Andrew: You know, I, I feel like when my dad passes, his voice will be even louder in my head and me telling him what’s going on will be even more dramatic. But I came to this realization years ago through journaling that one of the things that I aspire to be is someone like my dad was. At his height. I remember he was manufacturing women’s clothing.
He was selling it at stores. Some stores would even paying them in cash, which for a kid you don’t understand a check. I still try to explain to my kids what a check is. It’s hard to grasp it, but cash you see. And I remember they would go into the back of these stores. They would put cash in these machines that would just count the money and then he would take it.
So he walked out of the store and not be robbed by somebody on the street. You would put it in a sock and then we’d go to the, to the safe deposit box. And he would have like this. Safe deposit box full of cash and tic Tacs and cigarette to smoke. As he walked out and were talking about like, this is a very sexual experience there.
Brett: That’s awesome.
Andrew: But I, I realized there was a sense of anything is possible in that world. He wants to go out and buy a sports jacket in the middle of day. He could do that. He wants to wander into a store and take over the cash register and be the big man who, who like upsells people for the store. That’s buying his clothes.
He could do it for you when you’re reacting to your dad, what was he like that you’d need to react that way that you would want to show him? Uh, what was he like as a kid to you that make you now want to show him that you could do it to prove to him? Was he hard on you? Was he.
Brett: no. He, he was like unconditionally loving. Like I know with a hundred percent confidence that he loved myself and my brother who’s my co-founder more than anything in the world. And so I never questioned that. Um, we were just very different people. He was very direct. He was very aggressive. He was pretty analytical and he just like, he just cut to the bone, uh, which is a little bit more how my brother is sometimes.
And I’m just not like that. I’m more like my mom was like way more empathetic and way more emotional someday. If she watches this, she’ll start tearing up. Um, and I think that we just had a difference of personalities and I don’t know if my dad was able to look at me and say, Oh, Like Brett has his own unique gifts and his weaknesses, and he’s going to be great at whatever he’s great at versus I want him to do this thing and maybe follow in my footsteps.
But you know, the funny thing is to close the loop. He’s passed. He passed a few years ago and I no longer hold resentment. I no longer hold anger. It’s if anything, it’s just sometimes sadness because you, you, when someone’s with you all the time, you sorta think that they’re going to be there forever, especially if they’re an important part of your life.
And then like that they’re not, and you just wish. That you could just hang out and go to the restaurant we used to go to as kids and talk for 10 minutes. I wish I could do that, but I have no anger or resentment. It’s just love and appreciation that he, um, he gave me that opportunity to do so
Andrew: I’m sorry to take it back to this, but when he cuts you to the bone, what’s the thing that he would say.
Brett: Oh, you know, cut to the bone might be a bit aggressive. He cut to the bone, meaning in the way he would speak. It was just so, so aggressive and direct. I’ll give you an example. Um, I was working on. When I was in fourth grade, I was working on the simple math assignment. It was just like learning how to do your nines nine times nine to 81.
And I just couldn’t do it. I was so bad at math. And he was like, why aren’t you getting this? It’s just so simple. It’s easy. Just, ah, just, I don’t know, have your brother explained it to you? And um, and then it was like, Oh my God. It’s like all I already thought I was stupid. My friends think I’m stupid. No, my dad thinks I’m stupid.
I’m an idiot.
Andrew: I get it. You know what my dad was, he was super social. And so he would say, you don’t know how to talk about anything except for politics and whatever, whatever business thing you read. And that stuck with me because it was so, so true. And for a long time, I tried to justify it. I don’t need to talk about anything other than these two topics.
And then I realized politics is a pain to talk about it just ruins relationships. And then I went to Dale Carnegie and they taught me how to have real conversations.
Brett: Dale Carnegie huge fan. So there was two books that really affected me when I was in college. I’m 33 now. So this was over a decade ago. One how to win friends and influence people, the art of what he called human relations. And I think that there’s like, you could take that a little bit too far, but truly listening with two years and only having one mouth, like you genuinely listened to people that book truly affected me and taught me essentially what became sales and customer development.
And then the other one was the art of happiness by the Dalai Lama that, that sort of. Making me think about, um, what does it mean to have a good life and fulfillment and happiness? I know you didn’t ask that question, but it just sparked something. I haven’t read Dale Carnegie in a long time.
Andrew: I’m glad you, I feel like you don’t need to read it once you get it, you get it. It’s one of those things that just like I get now, now I see how people operate. I thought they were just all mental patients, just walking around irrationally acting. Now I realize they have an ego too. They think they’re great.
Just like I do. They have this thing that they care about. It’s not the same as me, but it’s not worse. How do I help them? Tell me about the thing they care about and then they’ll care about me. All right. Let me get into, and I didn’t know about the Dalai Lama art of happiness, but now I’m going to go look it up this idea and came when your brother saw that you couldn’t remember when your test was coming up.
Right. And David, your brother did what.
Brett: So, um, I was frustrated and in college and I kept forgetting about assignments and quizzes. And so my brother used an Excel macro. So on my PC, he built this thing. Where every 10 minutes let’s say is a time as a time, as a time. And he would send a text to what’s called the mobile gateway. It is the most an untechnical unsafe and unreliable way to send a text message at the time.
It’s like your phone number at, at and T verizon.net. And it sent me a text and it worked. And so I would leave my laptop open. And then what I proceeded to do is I would wait outside classrooms of like the business school or ag hall. And I would wait for students to come out of their class. Cause I thought, Oh, we should build something.
If it helped me, maybe it can help someone else. And then I
Andrew: he created this reminder for you to say, Hey, it’s time for you to prepare for a test tomorrow
Brett: yeah. And it saved me from missing the exam. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, to premeditate that I had come to a fork in the road. By the time I was a junior in college, it’s like drop out and do, who knows what? Or make. Yeah. For any kid that ever felt like Brett did help him not feel that way. And so then I thought, well, how did I do that?
And I thought, well, the whole world, like we were in blackberries at the time, everyone seems to be texting all the time. I texted my friends every day. Why can’t I just receive a text from my schoolwork? Why can’t it remind me why don’t I have to use a physical planner and that sort of started this whole journey.
Andrew: Got it. And then you said, look, I’m, I’m going to help myself. I’ve helped myself. I’m going to help other people too. And so how did you get this to other students and what did you give them?
Brett: It was just guerrilla marketing. I would wait outside there. It was this brutal. Like I would just wait outside every one of their classrooms. It was Michigan state. Right. And I studied agriculture. So there was hundreds of kids that would walk out of the school, walk up to them. Dale Carnegie went on, Hey, my name is Brett, blah, blah, blah.
I’m doing this thing. Would you be able to give me your syllabus and I’ll send you a text message before exams are due. Like it’ll just help you remember. Probably like one out of 20 of them actually said, yes, I would take their syllabus. I got like 20 of them. I would go home. I would plug in onto my big fat PC at the time into this Excel macro.
So David had every single one of their assignments. You have a quiz Thursday at eight o’clock. You have a test this day at the state. You have to read this assignment, this, and I’ll do that for 20 of these kids. And it would just send them a text. And what ended up happening is we say 50% of them for missing assignments.
And we were like, Whoa, it works. Like there’s something valuable here.
Andrew: What year was this? This was before the iPhone.
Brett: Yeah. Uh, this was in 2008 and which none of that, like, you know, none of the articles that talk about remind have spoken about that, but yeah, it was in 2008, it was pretty early.
Andrew: Yeah. So I guess the iPhone had come out the app. So it was just getting started. People weren’t, they were, they were willing to be in this world, but still SMS was the way that
Brett: Yeah, it was the way a Blackberry was still sexy too. It was still a thing I had that little Pearl that you would navigate on.
Andrew: Oh, I’m so glad I never had one of those. I was more of a trio person.
Brett: I forgot.
Andrew: so much. But you’re a guy who had an entrepreneurial understanding. Were you just looking to give this service away for free or in the back of your head? Did you say? I think I can charge for something here.
Brett: I didn’t think about that. Um, I’ve, I’ve taken a lot of those who you are Gallup poll Enneagrams, um, tilt three 60. If you’ve heard of that, it’s one of the best over, over my lifetime. And one of the things that it says that I’m more, I tend to be more of as a humanitarian, which is like such a. Big name, but like, I like to help people.
I really do. And so I first think, Oh, it helped me. I wonder if it could help other people, it was a secondary effective thing. How do we make money on this? And, and the funny thing is like, when for mine, it took us years to start making money. And I still think that that was the right decision. And I’m happy to explain that, but it didn’t, we didn’t really think about how to charge for it.
We just wanted to help at first.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s interesting. One of the first things I asked you when we got on camera was what’s a win for you. And you said, ah, funny, you should say, I used to listen. If I could just help someone. Who’s where Brett was when I was listening, that would be a huge one for me. And I said, all right,
Brett: it’s so true. Like literally, so what I would do is just so we know that we’re not blowing smoke here. I would be listening. I don’t even know how I did it at the time. Did you have a podcast at the time or was it just straight? Yeah, so.
Andrew: ways that people would get it because podcasting was big
Brett: Yeah, exactly. It wasn’t a thing yet. So I would walk in the middle of winter and Michigan state from agricultural health over to the Barnes and noble, which still existed at the time.
It no longer does. And while listening to your podcast and we listened to like Paul grab or one of these gurus that seemed like they had conquered the world, then I would go and like spend hours, reading business books. And I remember picking up how to start a company. And it was a book in accounting, which didn’t matter at all.
Like what a big waste of time. You’re you’re you’re you’re your podcasts were super helpful to me because they helped me hear stories of how real people did it.
Andrew: Paul Graham. I’m so glad that he, that he bought into what I was doing. He was incredibly supportive, introduced me to entrepreneurs and, um, and add a lot of credibility. Right? I should say anyone who listening to me, who hasn’t yet started a company and wants to, if you go to hostgator.com/mixergy within minutes, literally minutes, you will have your website up and running.
You will be able to launch. Any number of ideas on there because frankly HostGator allows you to put WordPress on your, on your domain really easily. And WordPress is the what, what is it now? They’re at a third of all websites are built on WordPress, but if you want a different platform, you can use that, build your company, build your idea.
And, um, and hopefully you’ll be here to do an interview with me. If you go to hostgator.com/mixergy, they’ll give you the lowest price possible. Actually that’s, that’s an exaggeration, but not the lowest price point. I guess the lowest price possible zero. Then give you the lowest price that they now make available.
They’re already low prices. They’re lowering it even more. Only if you use hostgator.com/mixergy. And by the way, you’ll also be supporting my work here at Mixergy. When you use that URL, hostgator.com/mixergy. Alright, tell me not those years when there wasn’t revenue, I’m sensing that that was really challenging for you personally.
Brett: Yeah. So from 2008 to 2011, we basically. Hit our heads against the wall, which I think I mentioned this in the beginning of the show. We didn’t know shit from Shinola. We didn’t know. And that was my dad’s way of saying, um, we just had no idea what we were doing, but we were extremely passionate, like, so you can tell you have a lot of energy.
Now imagine me 10 years ago on a bunch of sugar, like I was through the roof, but we were like a missile about a guidance system. And so my brother had another job. I would just wake up every day and like figure out how to start this company. But why C wasn’t really a thing. Then there was no stuff online to read and it was just hard.
Uh, I had another side company, a consulting business where I made $10,000 a year, which I thought was a lot. I lived at $20 a week, even though my mom was eight miles away and I could stop at her house for food,
Andrew: You wait, you lived on that. We’re talking about social bonfire that can sell that’s social media. Consultant company, you lived off of the money from that, the 10 K or so.
Brett: Yeah, I had this, I shared an apartment with some of my best friends. Is it was, it was also like one of the most fun times of my life. I had this little, the, the room was like this little closet. I paid $300, $400 a month maybe. And I just basically had a bunch of pasta. And I, you just have no option. It’s sort of like when your backup is against a wall and you have no option, the only way you can move is forward.
And while logically it did not make sense for any of this to work social bonfire or remind it was a kid. I like, I graduated from Michigan state. I had average grades in agriculture. There was no logic to add the math up to say that this should work. I had this naive belief that this network should exist in the world.
A lot of that probably came from this deeper insecurity that I had, but I just refuse to stop. It was just like this incredible ambition where I just refuse to stop. And every, um, because like I just believed, I believe that remind had to exist in the world and I was going to will my way to make it exists.
I just refuse to,
Andrew: Nothing. Okay. And at the, and at the time, what was it? It was more than an Excel spreadsheet by then.
Andrew: it wasn’t called remind what was it called? Remind one
Brett: No. I mean, well, it was first called Cilla Geyser, which did for syllabus organizers. So this is a good lesson for anyone watching the like products change and evolve. And we were open to hearing that evolving and we had this little like, um, mascot. It was little T-Rex, but the problem is with the word silver guys there it’s like, no one can spell it.
Right. Like you should think about getting users to your site. So like no one could even spell it. Um, so it was remind one Oh one, cause we were primarily in higher ed, like history one Oh one chem one Oh one. Um, and then we raised $25,000 from family and friends. So I will say super fortunate. My parents were the first people to invest in money in us.
And they want it to end up investing more. And we told them no, because we felt, you know, we were middle to upper class, but we felt like it was too risky to do more because we didn’t want them to lose all their money. And so we took that 25,000 in total from family and friends, and then we went and pissed it all away with the consulting firm because we weren’t engineers.
Andrew: Oh, to have them develop the first version
Brett: Yeah, like a real version of using rails, like rails that had just come out and they were great engineers, but like in general, it’s not a good idea to hire an external firm to build a company that is a product software company. I didn’t know that at the time, however, it was enough to get us traction. So we built enough of the product.
We would design it, all the engineers would build it. We got probably three or 400 active users and it was working. And everything changed in 2011, when we got into a startup incubator called a magic K-12, which has now morphed into Y Combinator. And now Paul GRA in that program, um, Jeff Ralston who runs Y Combinator started that with Tim Brady.
So they started a magic K-12, which was an education focused incubator. And
Andrew: You know what I, I read a lot that was significant and I didn’t understand why was significant. It, it was, it was always mentioned, but I can’t understand what you got out of a magic. What does it imagine?
Brett: Imagine K12, it doesn’t exist anymore. It’s why see, um, why was it valuable? So I shut on social bonfire. David left his job. We got all of our bags and we have a picture of us holding five, six bags, got on a flight to California with, and they funded us. They give us 25 grand for like five or 6% of the company.
Why was it valuable? Um, at the time in Chicago, the culture was very much, what is your sales model? What is your revenue model? How do you make money from day Allah from zero from one. And, um, our company wasn’t like that. Our vision was to give every kid an opportunity to succeed. And we weren’t a company that could do that.
I actually felt like it would slow us down too much. And so just as a takeaway for anyone listening, I don’t think that there is any right or wrong, whether it comes to funding or not funding, you should think about your specific business. And for us, that was the right thing to do. The reason it was so helpful is because those guys like Tim, Tim Brady, and Jeff Ralston gave us a framework and a lens through which to see the world on how to create something that people want.
And there was three parts to it. One, it was talked to your users a lot, very simple. Two, it was to solve a problem for them three. It was to build a product that solves that problem and rinse and repeat. And so I went and talked to 250 teachers in about 10 weeks and we got super clear that there is a communication problem, and that’s when everything sort of took off.
And by the way, I’ll be crying in a sec. Sorry. We ripped the former product down. Like we totally stopped. We said to our 400 users who we labored to get. Sorry, we’re shutting this down. We’ll see. In three months.
Andrew: Because the previous version was what, and the new version was going to be what.
Brett: In the same realm, but the previous version was a way to upload your syllabus. If you were in higher ed and it would send this broadcast text saying you have a reminder, the new version of the product. Allowed the K-12 teacher to type any message they want in 140 characters hit send, and it would instantly broadcast a text.
And there was a bunch of safety mechanisms in that a 30 year old teacher never wants to see or communicate with a ten-year-old student or parent, just excuse me, student, because there’s a bunch of liability issues with that. And so we use software to sort of act as this, uh, this filter to protect each side where a teacher never saw a student’s number and vice-versa. And that just exploded.
Andrew: Because they’re not allowed to have the texts, the cell phone number of the kid or the parent
Brett: Yes, there’s two parts to it. One, the teacher would share this code ABC and the kid would text ABC to eight, 10, 10, and then remind would respond and say, thanks, what’s your name? And they would say, my name is John Smith. So the teacher knows that it’s John Smith, but doesn’t know that John Smith’s phone number is this and Twilio.
At the time we were one of their biggest customers. Well, we ended up being, um, they acted as this filter in between. And so they didn’t see. Uh, the second thing is it made it extremely efficient to talk. So if there was one teacher and the average teacher, if you teach usually from sixth grade to 12th grade, you have two or three classes, let’s say on average, each class has 30 kids.
So you could have 90, 90 kids. Each kid has on average 1.7 parents because not every kid has two parents. And so there could be 100 to 200 human beings that you have to somehow talk to. And right now, you’re just like all out, getting assaulted phone calls, emails, texts, and it’s just so inefficient. And so we made it easy to type a message once hit send, and it blasted and all 190, we’d get it in a millisecond and it solved the problem.
Andrew: You know what? That’s one thing that I really appreciate now as a parent, Teachers do communicate with you. My parents would have to either call up or go and see the teacher in person. But now, especially during this pandemic, I’m getting to see how school works. And in some ways it really is smart. It really is much more inclusive.
I could see what my teachers are saying to me, to my kids. I could, um, I could see the work that they’re doing. Um, So it seems to me, one of the things that I read was David your brother, by the way, David was working 16 hours also, am I right? Teaching himself to code teaching himself to not need this outside development firm to build your business right.
Brett: we have this little one bedroom apartment on Manitoba Avenue. I’m the baby brother. So I slept on an air mattress in the living room and he would walk out of his room two or three times a day and grunt because he was so focused and he would just get his green tea and go back in. And he has a book.
We still have it called how to Ruby and he would just teach himself and we hired a consultant to sort of help. Get the app off. And it was scary because like all these people were signing up on the site. And even though what he was doing really, and he would even say that now, but we ended up hiring people who were way better than him and me.
He’d be fine with me saying that as engineers who really helped us scale, like they’re there very quickly after that came points where we were adding two to 350,000 users a day, it was crazy.
Andrew: But at the beginning, it was you going on, Twitter, you going on Google looking to see who, who could be a user, right. Teachers, you would then talk to them, I guess, on Skype, which is impressive that they would get on Skype with you. One thing that I read was you found the teachers were attaching sticky notes to students’ shoulders to remind them homework is due tomorrow.
You at one point were on Skype, talking to teachers. David heard you tell a teacher. We’re going to have these three buckets. You held a piece of paper, I guess you’d say here, look, I’m going to do this. And when you press this button, this happens, a teacher would say, um, this is from an article. Uh, I actually don’t.
I wish I could credit this article. Uh, but the teacher would freak out and say, Oh my gosh, if only you could do that. And you’d say, I think we could. And that’s what got you guys excited enough to build a product and you built it up. And when you went to the, when you scale beyond that, how did you get more teachers?
Brett: You know, um, the relationship we had with those 200 teachers was really important. Like, I didn’t want them to feel like a tool where I just like use them to solve their problem. Like I knew who their kids were. I knew that their dog had cancer. I would talk to them every week and we genuinely cared about them and we wanted to solve their problems.
So also know that. There was a trend in education where there the software, uh, previously to that was very clunky. I call it ms. Dos, 1995. Here’s a stack of 20 pieces of paper read this manual. And ours was like click a button once. And it just magically works. And these guys will slave over solving your problem.
They were in heaven. Teachers tend to be a breed of, of like, A market and education, where if they like something they’ll spread it, like God’s word. And so those 200 teachers spread it to 200 other teachers and 200 other teachers. And I would just continue to talk to them. Philosophically, this is something I feel very strong about, about customer relationships, everything from customer development, when you’re trying to identify problems to building relationships, to support, I used to wake up, so we support it.
And once it started getting off the ground, We had two teachers in East coast and we were on Pacific. So there’s a three hour times that I had, I would get up at three 30 or four and make sure to answer a support ticket in five minutes, I’d have real-time alerts on. I could do that at the time. It didn’t value my sleep as much as I do now.
Um, and I would want to answer it instantly because I felt like that was a part of our product and our brand. And I actually think remind like we handle thousands of tickets every day now. And actually one of our first ever employees is still, she runs now all of support remind and she’s wonderful and interesting.
Um, that’s still a part of the company’s DNA, which I’m very proud of.
Andrew: To respond quickly to people.
Brett: Yeah, because like these look, so at a high level, I think teachers provide some of the greatest leverage to help improve the education system. And they’re also one of the classes of people who’s most often underrepresented and people don’t care about. And so like, if we talk about how to solve some of the biggest problems in the world, I think that the best way to do that is to help teachers like for remind my mission when I was running, it was to just.
Help them a little bit, make them more efficient, help them increase parental engagement. I thought it was a load of crap that education technology would come in and revolutionize education. I just didn’t believe that to be true. Our job was to make them like 30 or 50% more efficient so they can get that time back to go engage with a parent or go to spend the time with the students.
Andrew: To be like mrs. Whitefield was for you.
Brett: Yeah, I actually was texting 10 minutes ago. So mrs. Whitefield, I literally want, I could, I could pull it up for you. I have just so you know that I, so mrs. Whitefield as I pull this up. Okay. Well, I was texting with her. She was the teacher who totally changed my life. And when I really started thinking about scaling reminder in 2011, I thought about her.
And I thought, well, what if every kid in the country had a miss Whitefield and the leverage that I feel I felt and feel like that has on the country, or eventually the world reminds primarily in the United States and Canada was really big. And the reason this Whitefield was so great is that she really cared about who I was as a person.
It wasn’t about teaching me content or adding or anything like that. She just believes in me. And I, and I think that every person probably listened to this has a teacher who similarly, or at least at a, a more authority older figure who believed in them as a kid. And that, that instilled so much confidence in me.
Andrew: How do you stay in touch with your teacher from back then?
Brett: We text probably weekly. I used to be, I ended up babysitting her kids. I talked to her about she and my new company. Funny enough, she didn’t know this, but she actually used it because someone else was using it. And I just texted her and said, Hey, thanks for using this. And she’s like, Oh my gosh, that was you.
I didn’t know.
Andrew: That’s how secretive you will have been about the company. You just wanted to keep it private.
Brett: So I, I’m definitely the antithesis of not, maybe that’s the wrong word. I’m not a secretive person. However, remind it was, it got very big and you know, we at points, we were on the New York times and the wall street journal and there’s all this like publicity around it. And after, you know, in 2017 or 18, when I stepped aside from being a CEO, I decided to travel with my wife and take some time off and breathe.
And then when I started my second company about a year and a half ago, we really wanted to focus on two things, which is talking to customers and building product, and then talking to customers and building product. And I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle of all the Silicon Valley stuff or raising capital, all that.
Like, it just doesn’t matter to me cause I’ve done it before. And I really wanted to focus on what matters, which is our customers. So I haven’t, I haven’t really talked about the same company yet.
Andrew: Let me, um, close out, remind and then come back into what this new company is. And then I want to get a little personal, if you could. Uh, the second sponsor is a company called top talent for hiring developers. Let me ask you this, Brett, as someone who’s hired, people who are smarter than you, what’s one advice, one piece of advice that you have for someone who’s listening to us that they could take to top towel or anywhere else when they’re hiring a developer.
Brett: Yeah. I mean, you just kind of said it, your job is a founder. A CEO is to learn to extract yourself and hire people who are better in the functional positions that you are, provide a certain set of value systems that, and like how you make decisions for your business and then truly get out of the way.
It’s really difficult to scale a company. Unless you do that. And so if top towel is the best way to hire engineers, then you should, you should do that as long as they’re way better than you are.
Andrew: If you’re looking to hire engineers who are way better than you are really challenging people over top talent to prove to you that they’ve got it, that they’ve got those people. In fact, one of the things that I noticed was when crypto was getting big, the top crypto engineers were on the top tower platform and that goes for many other, um, areas.
And that’s because top towel decides what they’re going to do is reach out to the best of the best. People get them on their platform. They don’t even have to be full timers with the platform, but if top tower has them and a company wants to hire them, top tile can make that match. If you’re out there listening to me and you’ve heard me talk about top Cal for years, I urge you to go to top towel.com/mixergy and start a conversation with them.
You have nothing to lose. They’re not going to charge you for a conversation, but they could in fact, Challenge them to rock your world. If you go to T O P T a l.com/mixergy, you’ll also get 80 hours of developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours. In addition to a no risk trial period, that’s top towel.com/mixergy.
You hired engineers from, or data scientists from Facebook had it to do what.
Brett: multiple. Well, you show from 2011 to 2000, probably 17 or 18. There were points in the company where we’re adding like. 300,000 users a day. And that’s, that’s not just a vanity metric. Like we had incredible retention. There were times where we’re growing faster than Facebook and WhatsApp and all these companies, we were just ripping.
Um, and when you’re growing that fast, you want to be able to a. Build product features to help engage customers more. And Andrew make money, be, have an infrastructure that can support that scale. Think about this like Ohio state university probably has a hundred thousand people that could fit into their stadium.
There were points in the company where we had three versions of that stadium signing up in a single day and supporting millions of active users previously, you know, Facebook has a billion users, but they’ve been around for a long time and they have thousands of engineers. We had six. Um, and so. Wait, sorry.
I went off on a tangent. What were we talking about?
Andrew: Um, why you would need Facebook engineers and it’s impressive that you’re able to get them away from Facebook because I
Brett: Yeah, we, we, we were able to hire from Facebook and Google and all those companies. I think that there’s two reasons. One, a lot of these people really wanted to have impact on the education system and they want it to do it in a scalable way. And I think we offered a way for them to do that. And the other thing is like we were growing like crazy, like growth is the currency of Silicon Valley.
And we had it, we were growing like wild in an impactful vertical. So recruiting. We were fortunate to have some really wonderful people.
Andrew: All right. You weren’t focused on revenue. When you finally added revenue into the mix, how did you do it?
Brett: Well, we first tried to build. A payments product, because we saw that a lot of teachers kept trying to collect money. Like they would have bags of cash and they would like, or like stacks of checks and that failed miserably probably for multiple reasons, but it didn’t work. And I wish I would have, have started it a little bit earlier.
Like I think we waited too long. Um, cause like it just takes time to, it takes a long time to build a business. Like I remember I started this in 2008. And what are we in 2020? What’s the math on that? It was a really long time. Yeah, it’s it’s, it’s a while and remind is still growing and it hasn’t gotten to like map, like the user base is massive, but revenue is growing at a really healthy way, but like, it just takes a really long time.
Um, and so, but the business model that we ended up pivoting to, and that works really well is we have a SAS product where we sell to schools and districts. So we’ll go into a school that, or a district that has thousands of active remind users already. And then there’s a bunch of value that we offer them on top of that, around analytics, what’s called SIS integration, which is a way to sync school data.
And that business is doing very well.
Andrew: Video conferencing, I think is also included in that. So there’s a lot that people can do for free, but then once you see that people are using it for free teachers are using it for free. You go back into the school and say, look, your teachers are already using this. Would you like all these other benefits?
That’s that’s where the revenue comes in. All right.
Brett: Very similar to Slack.
Andrew: Very similar to Slack. Right, right. Um, did you come up with that before it became a thing, you know, the make it, what was it, land and expand. Get into the consumerization of business.
Brett: I didn’t know what that stuff meant. I didn’t even know. What’s that word? Um, That IDEO loves to use. When you do product development, there’s like a fancy word that they came up with Stanford. I’m forgetting the name of it, but the customer discount, I don’t know. I, all I knew is I should talk to my customers a lot and build a simple product and rinse and repeat.
We didn’t have any like fancy, structured word for that. We got lucky and we fell across what’s called distribution. So if there’s any fun, excuse me. If there’s any early entrepreneurs listening to this. Oftentimes early entrepreneurs only think about the product, but they don’t think about how they’re going to acquire users, which is another word for distribution.
And it’s very important to think about both like second time founders oftentimes think about distribution because it’s really hard to get users using a product. It’s not like once you build it, they’re going to just magically show up. It’s very rare that where that happens.
Andrew: All right. Two things. I want to ask how you left, but before I do one of the things that I’ve noticed now that I’ve done some interviews with, uh, entrepreneurs who sell into schools is parents eventually see the software and say, I want this for my company. Did you get that? And why didn’t you shift in that direction then the way others
Brett: Uh, we have gotten it and we have shifted it. It’s not a shift. It’s an addition. So as of like a month and a half ago, uh, remind, launch what we call remind coaching, which allows students to get real time coaching help from really wonderful certified teachers in seconds over a whiteboard or chat in real time.
Andrew: But that’s not, um, offering remind for businesses. It’s not like a parent who works at FedEx says, Hey, why aren’t we communicating this way with our managers? Remind
Brett: Oh, got it. I’m sorry. Nope, Nope, Nope. And you know, we had. To my brother and I talked about it, but like, we really care about this whole education thing. And then I’ll talk about this in a second. But with my second company, we talk a lot about wanting to build software for people who capitalism doesn’t give a shit about.
And I don’t mean to be so crass by saying that, but like teachers, there’s just not there. Hasn’t been, there is a lot now there hasn’t been great software for them and we just really want it to help them. Our vision is it. Remind is to give. Every student, an opportunity to succeed and going to FedEx and building communication software for them would absolutely deter us from that vision.
Andrew: I do see that all, even at the top of the, my notes, you S when I asked you questions before the interview started, you said it’s easier when you have values. And let me explain why this, why we made that decision. It’s it comes back to that for you. Okay. The final question is you decide you hired a great CEO.
You decided to leave. Why, why not do this for the rest of your life?
Brett: Well, number one, I was in. I’d have to take care of myself emotionally or physically. I wasn’t sleeping. Well, I found out I was pre-diabetic. My dad was dying. He had Parkinson’s and so no one knows this publicly, but you know, in 2011, when we moved out there, he started to get sick and he was in Chicago and there was unfortunately like a slow decline and the emotional toll that, that took.
And also the financial toll on the family was really difficult. And while we were trying to scale the company at the same time that was happening, and the second thing was. I, I decided to fire myself from the role because I, I realized that we needed someone else. And that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
You basically say to your baby that you built from scratch you birth, that. At the time I thought I wasn’t good enough for it, but I knew what the company had to do in this next phase. And I knew I wasn’t the right person to do that. And so I fired myself and I was very transparent with the company and I told the company what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
And then I went on a search for six months and I found this guy named Brian. Who, um, is a wonderful person, has very similar value systems and is an excellent operating executive and it’s worked out great. And I’m really proud of it because, you know, usually when you hear these types of stories, like it worked well at LinkedIn with, you know, Reed Hoffman and, um, Oh, gosh, I’m forgetting his name.
Uh, Jeff Wiener. And, um, it worked really well in some companies, but usually it fails because the whole culture of the company, the leader changes, but for remind, it’s worked really well. And I think part of the reason is Brian has really transcended the values that David and I started the company with till this day.
Um, and he’s a great operating executive on top of that. So it was the right decision.
Andrew: Wasn’t he a Barstool sports. I’m trying to fact check myself, but I guess not.
Brett: He wasn’t a Barstool. Was he was that, um, Bleacher report. It’s a, B yeah, his, a Bleacher report. And he sold that company to some big media company. And then he was just sort of hanging out advising companies and I met him and okay.
Andrew: All right. The new business is we’re finally going to get to her. I’m so glad that Ari told you our producers that do it, do it. And you are, what’s the name of the company and what does it do?
Brett: Name of the company is omerta O M E L L a and Omega makes it really easy for schools, organizations, nonprofits, clubs, to collect money from huge groups in seconds. Imagine it’s sort of like a, uh, Cross up between Venmo and Google forms. If they had a baby, the why behind it is when we were building remind, I noticed that all these teachers would just have stacks of cash or checks, and it was very inefficient.
It was expensive and it wasn’t, it wasn’t transparent. And if you just sort of look at the landscape of where FinTech is going, where if I were to pay you $10 in a post COVID world, and we were in person for pizza, I would Venmo you, but. And this whole vertical of education and nonprofits it’s really bad.
And so Omega makes these organizations much more profitable and helps them collect money faster.
Andrew: Why is, why can’t they just use PayPal or Venmo or something else?
Brett: Good question. Oftentimes a lot of our customers have multiple use cases, everything from membership dues to ticket sales, to raising money, to subscriptions, to installments, we let them do everything. So I’ll give you an example. We have a customer that, um, runs a ski club and they collect over a million dollars a year.
And I know Mela. They can either pay. Yeah. It’s a lot. It’s a lot. And so it’s actually another form of education. We have music schools using it. There’s coding schools using it. There’s non other, non-profits using it.
Andrew: just the teacher saying, I want to make sure we have money for supplies or for this, uh, trip to the zoo, which I’ve seen a lot. It’s them saying we need to collect money in order to teach this thing that we’re doing.
Brett: Yeah. Or just to run our business, like the way Dave and I think about it, it’s very simple. It’s like they don’t have their money, they die. So it’s really important. And so we help them get their money way more efficiently and we save the money on transaction fees. We’ve built technology to do that. And so with this organization that clicks a million dollars, they.
They share a QR code or show a simple payment link. The payer comes in, they have an option to either pay tuition upfront. They could pay $5,000 upfront or they could pay in monthly installments and umbrella. And we’ll just suck the money out of their account. Just like tuition.
Andrew: ah, got it. Got it. So it’s, it’s subscriptions. It’s payments. It’s the way that they charge for their education or for an aspect of their education?
Brett: Both Andy does donations. I know this is a lot, but it’s sort of a mashup that makes it really simple to collect membership dues donations. Ticket sales or subscriptions. And other example, like if I’m, if I’m a musician and if I want to sell products and I want to collect a $10 a month subscription or mellow, lets you do that in 10 seconds.
And it’s just extremely simple software for this demographic. Like I know a lot of this, the subscription world is, is like starting to blow up a bit. But for this demographic, we didn’t think that there was a really simple, efficient, and cost-effective way to help them do that.
Andrew: Oh, and you know, what I love about it is I could use Apple pay.
Andrew: like whenever I could use Apple pay it, just speeds it up. If I can’t, I have to go grab my credit card, I have to type it in and I give up
Brett: Yeah. And we have customers on it at this point, you know, we have some customers collecting $15 million a year on it. We have some customers collecting $5,000 a year and everything in between them.
Andrew: And so how did you get from, I want to help teachers who have this bag full of money to I’m going to allow people to actually pay for education on this. It seems like it’s a lot of calls to customers that got you there.
Brett: Yeah, you’re going to think I’m crazy as well. Your users. So with my first company, remind I spoke to 200 teachers with Amella. I spoke to over 450 individual customers, one by one by one, before we wrote a line of code. Now, everyone listening, probably. And at this point it’s been 13 months, I’ve spoke to over 1200.
You may think I’m crazy, but I did that for two reasons. One, I want to understand our customer better than anyone, because it helps me understand what products we need to build to solve those problems too. It’s building distribution. In that I guarantee you that not all 1200 of them are going to use our product, because that would just be impossible.
That we’d have 100% conversion rate, but I know that there’s going to be some percentage of them, 10, 15, 20%, that will. And when, when we get to the point, when the product is robust enough, we will go back to them. They will know me and we will have a relationship. And I believe, and I know this to be true because they’ve done it already.
They will either Sheryl mellow with one of their friends who might be a customer of ours, or they’ll use it. Because we provide enough value, which at the time we might not have.
Andrew: Okay. Wait, when you started out, did the customers help you understand to go beyond this? Did they say to you? Well, actually, yes, I do want to help collect money for a field trip, but I need a way to collect payment for school completely.
Brett: Yeah. So, you know, this is sort of, um, part of what I think is being a good, I don’t know if you want to call it a product person, but I think before the quad said you have to have two years and one mouth for a reason. Usually what I do is. Ask a few questions to understand how they collect money. So, so like we’ll do use Venmo or use Google forums, or like, how do you use that to do that?
And they’ll just start going off. And then I start looking for trends and then we categorize those trends in two ways. Um, one there’s the, um, qualitative, which is I’m hearing all these data points. And I’m talking to hundreds of customers, and they’re all saying that it’s expensive to, to raise money.
Like they have to spend $50,000 in transaction fees, just as an example. And then we quantify everything in a notion database. And this is where my brother’s really helpful. We tag everything and we surface those trends and say, huh, It looks like ABC feature or XYZ type of customer college clubs. They always have this problem.
And that helps inform our product roadmap when you’re starting out. Sorry, go ahead,
Andrew: no, no. Keep going. I’m excited. Sorry.
Brett: Yeah. Um, when you’re, when you’re starting and we’re, we started from scratch again, by the way, like, you know, reminds us like massive thing. And here we are, I’m just smiling and dialing in my living room and grinding because I love doing it in the beginning.
It’s hard though. Um, And you’re starting out. You don’t have troves of data. Like when remind now we have millions of users. We can look at that data and help make informed decisions. But with umbrella, we don’t have any of that. And so in the beginning it was very qualitative. And now it’s a little bit more of a mixture where it’s like 60, 40, 60 qualitative, 40% quantitative as a company scales, we will build more data infrastructure to help make us make better decisions, but we’re not there yet.
Andrew: And how’d you get all these people to take your call? No one wants to
Brett: is very simple. Not fancy, no rocket science here. So the first thing I did, um, like 13 or 14 months ago, I said, okay, we’re going to do this thing. I called. Or texted or emailed all of the teachers that I knew in my network, there was a few hundred of them and I got on the phone with them and I was like, Hey, I’m thinking about doing this thing.
Do you ever collect money? How do you collect money? Um, and then at the end of every single call, I asked them if they knew one or two other teachers and they would introduce me and that asked them if they didn’t want to try the teachers. And what very quickly happened is like, wow, we don’t know any other teachers, but like this, this fellow I know in Arkansas runs a nonprofit and they’ve been having a really hard time collecting money.
I’m like, Oh, I’ll talk to them. And I just followed this trail of breadcrumbs. We’ve tagged everything in our database. And so there’s a very clear path of who led to who led to who and. Within about six months, it moved beyond just teachers to this broad category of organizations that do good in the world.
Meaning like we’re not helping an oil company and philosophically we have no desire to help them. It’s teachers at schools, it’s, PTA’s it’s clubs, it’s nonprofits, it’s religious leaders of which we have all of them using our product right now. It’s just asking every one of them for introductions.
Andrew: Yeah, your brother created a database in notion. So it’s basically a CRM and what’s important is there is who introduced you to who? So you want to get that connection. What’s the need that they have and then tag each need so that you can surface. Um, so you can find the, the tags that are most common and then go back and find the words that people use to tell you what, what they needed.
Brett: Yeah, like you’re looking to, you want to elevate trends. So if one person says, Oh my God, I have a really hard time collecting money. It’s like, okay, that’s interesting. But if like a thousand people say have a hard time collecting money and these transaction fees are killing me and Oh, by the way, I use these 10 tools.
It’s always a good sign as an entrepreneur. When you build something that displaces another service, I use Google forums and Venmo, and like go fund me. And your service like totally displaces. It that’s a really good sign, but one of the things that I think it’s sorry, I go fast. But one other thing that I think is important for your listeners is, um, when you talk to a customer, there’s what they say.
And then there’s what their body says. And that’s why I always prefer to do a video or in-person pre or post COVID. But if you could do a call, whatever, it’s just get on a call with them because their body language says one thing. Let me give you an example. So if I ask them about a problem, Let’s say like, how do you collect money now?
And I’m like, what was it hard for you? And they’re like, yo, yeah, it’s very hard for me. Uh, I am in the back of my head. I’m like, ah, I’m calling bullshit because, and I’ll actually tell them and I’ll try to build trust, roll, say, Hey, Jane. Remember, you will not hurt my feelings. And just trying to understand if you have a problem, I need you to be brutally honest with me.
The more direct you can be the better. And I have to say that two or three times too, because people just want to be nice. They don’t want to hurt your feelings. And so you want to uncover that layer of truth, but really what you want to get to is they’re like, Oh my God, I use these 10 services to do this.
It is so frustrating. I spent 15 hours doing it and I’d spend $8,000. It’s driving me wild. And I’ve looked in these 10 places for it. Like when their eyes are popping out of their head and they can’t stop talking about it. And they’re just beyond like their body language is jumping out. There’s something there.
And I wait that higher.
Andrew: You know, Brett, you’re one of the only guests that I’ve interviewed who will stop himself midway through talking because I’ve something happened with my eyes. Nobody else notices it. Like if I’m, if I’m going and gasping, you will stop and say, yeah, what do you want to say? Most people don’t pay attention.
And now I see where that happens from just constant, constantly noticing what people are saying. And so are you guys raising money for this or are you going to self self-funded?
Brett: So we self-funded for six months, we did raise a small amount of capital. We did it very quietly. Um, and we have the majority of it are baked still. Uh, but we, we have the intention to build it in a pretty profitable manner. Uh, and we’re doing it a bit differently than remind, you know, we cut our teeth and we learned a lot from that.
We have a hundred percent distributed team, um, and we’re making sure to make money from day one, which we do. We have revenue and it’s growing in a healthy way and we try to make very long-term thoughtful decisions. Like I’m 33 now I’m not trying to create a billion dollar company. Like we, w we remind is hopefully on that path, uh, I’m trying to create something that’s impactful.
And in 10 years from now, I want to doing the same thing. That means like, from my life priority my life. I think about my health, my emotional and physical, I think about my family specifically with my wife. And then I think about the company, because if these first two aren’t first and priority. The third one doesn’t matter.
And that’s something that I’ve learned, the older I’ve gotten. Like if you would’ve asked me in remind days, it’s like remind all the time, but remind, I don’t want to say it’s come and gone, but like it’s in different hands and it’s growing and it’s in, it’s in great hands right now. I’ve moved on from that a bit.
I’m on the board and I care about it deeply, but you know, the relationship with my wife and my health, those things will be around with me till I’m a hundred years old. If I live that long.
Andrew: Your wife is pregnant. You thinking differently now because you’re expecting a baby.
Brett: I think so we’re 20 weeks long and it’s our first kid. And I, um, I keep wondering, it’s like, well, what’s going to happen when we have the baby. I know my life’s going to change like crazy, but I really don’t know how. Um, but before I started this company, I was very intentional, intentional about answering the question of what does it mean to have a good life?
Um, at least for me, and for me, health was always first. And part of that came from seeing my dad die. Um, and you know, that was Parkinson’s so he couldn’t stop that, but he also wasn’t the healthiest. He didn’t eat well, he didn’t exercise. And so physical exercise is super important to me. Eating well is very important to me.
And then the relationship with court is really important to me. And literally the top of my to-do list every day. It’s like, it’s like health court company.
Andrew: What do you, what do you do for court? Like I I’m thinking maybe I should do that. All I do is I think I appreciate Olivia. I tell her, but not really tell her enough. And I don’t know what I should be doing something.
Brett: Well, you know, I’m, I’m hesitant to, I can share what I care about, but like what I don’t, I don’t necessarily think it’s right. That some listeners like, Oh, I’m going to go do this for my partner. You should think about what you think is right for whoever your partner is. Um, for me, it’s really simple. It’s just a matter of being very specific and intentional.
So it’s not necessarily getting her flowers, even though every now and then I do that. It’s when we sit down at the dinner table, I turn my phone off and I look at her and engage and I ask, how are you doing today? And I’m there for her. When we go on our circle, walks together with our dog, like I, I take the time to put work done and I’m not perfect at this.
Right. Cause like I’m online all the time and like actually make eye contact and engage with her. It’s those types of things. And there’s to say it, but like when I was running remind, like there’s a lot of times where I didn’t have time for court and I actually told that to her in the beginning. And that’s what
Andrew: have time for her. Let’s be
Brett: like that’s how awesome she is. Oh my God. Like someone watching this probably thinks I’m such a jerk, but in the beginning I said, look like it is my life’s purpose to build this company. And I deeply care about you, but like, this is a priority right now. Now as time shifted, I realized she’s a priority, but it took me a while.
And I think that there was just some immaturity that I had to get through
Andrew: How do you get past that? How do you start to realize that she is a priority without having a crisis?
Brett: Two things. One when my dad died, she was there for me in ways that you can’t imagine, like in some, in some really helpful ways. And the second thing, um, was when I left the company, you know, you always think you’re so important. Everyone has an ego. I like to think I don’t have a huge ego, but I had one too.
I haven’t. So I think, no, I do. It’s a fact, um, I thought, Oh, well, they’re going to need me. They’re going to come ask me for a bunch of questions. And actually Tim Brady, who is one of the partners of YC, who was the founder of magic. K-12 once told me this story years ago, where he said, when he left Yahoo, he was a Yahoo, his first ever employee ever.
Um, and he went through all the, the RPO, all the ups and downs. And, and when he left, he thought, Oh, they’re going to need me. They’re going to call me. I can’t go on vacation. And like, no one called. And that actually, when I, when I remove my ego from that, and I realized. Um, that the company was on a good path.
That is a sign that you have hired the right people where you’re not really needed anymore. Now, like strategically I have great conversations with Brian and all that stuff, but I was able to separate my identity from the company. And the only one I was able to do that I was able to say like, huh, what matters and why?
And I took the time to actually think about that.
Andrew: I see, and that’s all right. I get it.
Brett: Does that make sense?
Andrew: It totally
Brett: Getting a little spiritual here, but.
Andrew: I want to ask if you’re a spiritual, I want to have so many things, but I also feel like we’ve gone over time here. I do feel like I sent you a spiritual, I can see it in your eyes and in the past, that would have completely you, you wanted, I felt at times to almost say, and my belief in God or my relationship with a higher power brings me to this.
Brett: No, I don’t know. I don’t know how to quantify the word. I’m not religious. I have a set of value systems that I run my life on. I, you know, I can list those off. Like I have a sort of value systems. I have a lot of energy and I really like living. Like, I feel so fortunate that I was birth into the family that I was, and I have the opportunities that I do.
And I just have like a ton of energy. My dad used to have this line and get us. She would say, LA LA LA voice. You know what that means? Of course not who does. And I don’t think he actually made it up. It was probably somewhere that he read about it. It means you laugh, you laugh, you laugh and you die. And I didn’t understand that at the time he used to tell me that when I was younger and I was just grinding and trying to build my company.
And I just didn’t understand that until I’ve gotten a little bit older and I realized like, well, life’s really short and that’s helped sort of inform my life priorities and values around health court and my company.
Andrew: You know, something that stood out for me, you were saying, you wished that you had more time with your dad. Like, like you would you’d want another 10 minutes to go to this restaurant and sit and talk to him. When my kids were born, I went from, I have tons of energy. I applied a lot of it towards them. If they would wake up at five in the morning and they were ready to talk or hang out, just sit there.
They’re they’re still young. I would go and sit with them. I would give them every minute that I had thinking, then I would never feel like I’m missed out or I still freaking do it still feels like it’s not like, I feel like I’m satisfied and I’ll say the same thing. I also thought before I got married, if I, if I sleep with enough women, I will get that out of my system.
And I’ll never look back and regret. It doesn’t to that, to some degree that does actually go away from that. Let’s be honest, but it doesn’t completely, and it kind of sucks that you can’t lock up this feeling and save it for when you need it later on.
Andrew: Yeah. So in some ways I feel like, all right, screw it all.
Then I might as well just, if I can’t hold today, then I might as well, just only do give me a benefit in the future because that’s the only way to hold onto this moment by investing it into something that I’ll get in the future. All right. You made me think about a lot of things. I really appreciate you coming on here.
Um, on Mela is the website. Oh, M E L L H. What’s the,
Brett: The name of it.
Andrew: yeah. Would you come up with that?
Brett: Uh, it’s, it’s spending three weeks for 15 hours a day, searching URLs that were under a thousand dollars that someone didn’t own. It sounds reasonably nice. The URL is short and it was a grand and I bought it. There’s nothing like there’s no like deeper meaning to it. It’s
Andrew: I thought maybe that’s like I got into a cave
Brett: Actually. Funny enough, if you type in Omella, if you’d have an umbrella, we might rank first now, but before that, there was some pastor in Argentina and his name was and his sister came up first. So. That’s our competition.
Andrew: Yeah. You guys beat them though website. Oh, but I can say, yeah, he’s got a good presence, but dude, the website is beautiful. I should be using the app for something. Because when I look at this app, I feel like forget schools and nonprofits. This is the way I want to pay for everything. It’s just super clear.
You take Apple pay. You make it easy for me to. To to understand what’s going on here anyway, for anyone out there who wants to go check it out, it’s all mela.com. I’d love to hear if anyone’s using it. I get no kickback or something. We’re not doing an affiliate program, but, um, if you want to reach out to me and just let me know what you think of Omega, how you’re using it.
My email address is email@example.com. It’s not like an alternate email address that I, uh, that I give out. It’s my actual complete email address, which means I probably shouldn’t give it out
Brett: For like 13 years, right?
Andrew: Yeah. I found an old email from you. Oh, I’m so glad to see how much you’ve done.
I am so appreciative that you even remember Mixergy, let alone are willing to come on here. Thank you so much and continued success, man.
Brett: My pleasure. Nice meeting you.
Andrew: Bye everyone.