Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses.
It’s been something that I’ve talked about for a while now, that more and more of the entrepreneurs who I’m talking to in the audience or who I’m interviewing are doing ecommerce companies, where they actually will take a credit card and ship something out. That’s new. In the early days of Mixergy, it was all software companies, people who made software as a service, then apps. Then this little thing started to happen. More and more companies were sending stuff out.
I remember one of the earlier entrepreneurs who did this, the founder of JackThreads, this is a company that was eventually bought by—who bought them? Thrillist, yeah. JackThreads, huge success story. He told me about how in the early days, he used to have pants brought to his house and other clothes brought to his house, and his house was full of clothes and then he got to ship them out every time he got an order and it kind of sounded exciting at the time that I did the interview.
But when you step away from that experience for a moment, you realize that is not good. That means that he’s taking a large part of his time that should be going into improving the site, finding a better product, talking to his customers and spending it on stuffing envelopes or packages with this stuff and shipping it and dealing with when the guy from UPS is going to come into his house. I know when I’m expecting a box in the mail from UPS, it’s a pain in the neck. To ship that many from his house is tough.
Anyway, that’s the kind of thing that went on for a long time. And then options became available. First, there were options that were kind of old school and pretty bad. And then options like today’s guest, the company that he started, which makes it super easy. His name is Jan Bednar. He runs a company called ShipMonk.
If this existed at the time, the founder could ship him all his stuff. Stuff would just sit at ShipMonk’s facilities and whenever a customer ordered, ShipMonk would ship it out and he could focus on his business, not focus on shipping. That’s the story we’re going to find out about today. How did ShipMonk launch? What was the thing they did before this? How did they grow so fast? How are they competing in a world now where there are alternatives, there are other people who are doing this?
This whole interview is sponsored by two companies. One you’ve heard me—actually, you’ve heard me talk about both forever—HostGator for hosting websites and Pipedrive is the software we use to manage our sales. I’ll tell you more about both those later. Jan, welcome.
Jan: Thank you. Thanks, Andrew. I really appreciate being here.
Andrew: Why is it Jan, by the way? J-A-N I thought was Jan.
Jan: Yeah. Well, I moved to the States about 10 years ago. I’ve been trying to explain to everybody that it’s Jan originally, but then I just got used to being called Jan, so I just stick with it. People sometimes confuse me for a girl, especially on the phone. They see J-A-N.
Andrew: I did. I’ve got to tell you. I said, “Jan Bednar—great. We get a female entrepreneur on. Let her on.” When I saw you, I saw the photo my team put together of you, I thought, “This might be a Jamie Foxx kind of thing.”
Jan: That’s kind of a hot pic for a girl, huh?
Andrew: Jamie Foxx, when he was starting out as a comic couldn’t get a lot of work, so he changed his name to Jamie Foxx. I forget what it used to be before. When clubs would see a list of people who wanted to perform there and one of them was called Jamie Foxx, kind of foxy last name, could be a girl, “Let’s bring Jamie Foxx on,” and by the time he showed up, it was too late to say no and he got more gigs because of it. I thought Jan’s doing it.
Jan: That’s a pretty good strategy. I should probably start looking into that a little more.
Andrew: Delete all the photos with yourself online. Replace them with some kind of cartoon character you believe in. Get a picture of Ayn Rand to represent you, all the successful entrepreneurs seem to love Ayn Rand. All right. Let’s talk about revenue. What kind of revenue are you guys doing?
Jan: So currently, we’re on a run rate to do about $10 million this year.
Andrew: What did you do 2016?
Jan: 2016 was $4 million. 2015 was about $1 million. That’s really when we started. So it was kind of a fast growth to where we are today. We’re pretty excited about the numbers we’re doing this year.
Andrew: And these are in like small increments, right? So to ship one product, from what I remember is like $2.50. If I had two products that went to the same customer, you’d charge me $30, plus whatever storage fee. We’re not talking about big orders, right?
Jan: No. So you’re absolutely right. We have customers that ship 100 orders a month, but we also have customers who ship 80,000 or 100,000 orders a month. With those, we charge them the pick and pack fee, which is on these volumes, much less than $2.50. That’s more at the entry level pricing. You also have the shipping component, which depending on the weight, could range anywhere from $2 all the way to $8 to $10 domestically. Internationally, that might be a little more.
Andrew: Do you guys integrate with Zapier by any chance?
Jan: Yes, we do. We integrate with almost all the major shopping carts and marketplaces, and we do have some integration with Zapier. But most of the integrations that we work with are directly with the marketplaces and the shopping carts because it’s easier for the platforms to communicate.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s the big advantage. If someone has a Shopify store or an Etsy store, they don’t want to have to get the data from their strategies and pass it on to you manually. They just want it all to happen automatically. The reason I ask about Zapier is I was working with another company a while back. I wanted any order that came in from Gravity Forms to go out to the shipper. They didn’t have a Zapier integration. Those little things matter a lot more than how fast can you pick a box off of a shelf, right?
Andrew: So, because I run Mixergy, the founders of Zapier are longtime fans of mine, they said, “We don’t do integrations manually, but if you use them, we will personally create the integration. We’ll work with them to get it done.” I don’t think they were ever able to get it done, which is kind of frustrating. I get the importance of that. I told you when I researched you, part of my process was talking to an ecommerce company. I said, “What do you think? What do you know about ShipMonk? What should we be looking for?” Immediately, I noticed when he went to your site, he looked at a couple of things. He looked at pricing and then he looked at integration.
Let’s talk about how you got here, now that I’ve talked over what you do and talked a lot for an intro. You started out in the Czech Republic, right?
Jan: Yeah. That’s correct.
Andrew: And you were a DJ. Were you doing this because you wanted to make money? Was there money in DJing?
Jan: There was a little money. It was more fun. I love music. I was always—DJ is usually the guy who everybody wants to talk to at a party. It was a really good time to be DJing, meeting new people. I was 13, 14. I was not necessarily DJing at those big house parties you can think of when you think of Prague and the wild city of nightlife, but I was at a lot of corporate events, sports events and it was a lot of fun to—I’m by nature a shy guy and this kind of put me in an environment where I was not comfortable and I was kind of enjoying it. I was really—I started exploring this part of me where I was like, “This really sucks, but I’m really enjoying doing it.”
So I started DJing and I learned how to talk to more people and how to say stuff into the microphone where there’s a couple hundred people or being on the floor. It’s pretty exciting times.
Andrew: Is it okay for me to ask if you got to date because you were a DJ?
Jan: I’m sorry, if I got the date?
Andrew: Date, where people—I don’t know if you’re into girls or guys, but were they into you?
Jan: I got a couple dates, I think.
Andrew: Just a couple?
Jan: Yeah, a couple dates. I was kind of the guy that was always first at a party and then leaving last from the party. There’s always girls that would come in early and they would stay late, and I was the guy who would talk to them. I definitely got a couple dates because I was a DJ.
Andrew: That’s always what I imagine. I used to be shy just like you were. I would imagine, “Look at how everyone’s staring at the DJ on the dance floor.” Even at 13, 14 years old, they were staring at them and no one was paying any attention to me. If only I could be up there. I couldn’t mix music. You know what I would do? I would play heavy metal for them or something like Bob Marley, which no one’s dancing to, but I thought in my head that must be cool.
Jan: You know what it is? Everybody wants you to play their song. You’ve got to be smart about it. “I’ll play your song, but let’s grab dinner tomorrow.”
Andrew: Here’s the other gutsy thing that you did that I wish I did. You left school. I hated school. You actually left school and then you left your country, am I right?
Jan: That’s right. I didn’t completely leave school. I left my school to go to another school in the U.S., but it was definitely a big decision. I was, I think, 16, 17 at the time when I decided to leave. I was trying to learn English. So I came to the States for three weeks to improve my English, took some classes.
This whole new world suddenly opened to me. I’m from a very tiny town in small country. Now I come to Fort Lauderdale, where there’s people from around the world and there’s like nice weather. It was just beautiful. I was like, “Man, this is a really good opportunity. I should probably try to come to school here.” I was lucky enough where I met some people and got some scholarship.
Andrew: Hockey scholarship.
Jan: That’s the most bizarre thing, right?
Andrew: In Florida?
Jan: In Florida, yeah. I was lucky enough. I came here for school. I finished high school, and then I transferred over to college and did my four years of college here as well.
Andrew: You then decided, “I’ve got to find a business to get into.” The business you get into has got to do with watches. What did you do with watches?
Jan: There’s only one company in the Czech Republic that manufactures watches. I met one of the CEOs or actually the CEO of the company at some corporate event in Czech. We started talking. They got some funding from the European Union, and they were looking for distributors in different countries.
I’ve always had this dream—this is since I was a sophomore in college—I’ve always had a dream of starting a business. I suddenly started seeing this opportunity, like, “This guy has given me the opportunity to start a business.” So I was like this is really exciting. I haven’t really thought too much about, “How am I going to sell these watches? Who’s going to be buying the watches? What are my distribution channels?” I was like, “There’s a business. I can do it. Let’s do it.”
So, without really thinking about it, I was like, “Okay, let’s do it.” So I was the official distributor for this brand that was actually making some really good watches, but the problem was that they were like $4,000 to $7,000 custom watches from a brand that nobody’s ever heard of.
Andrew: You’re talking about Prim.
Jan: Yeah. It’s Prim.
Andrew: I’m looking at their website right now. They’re gorgeous watches.
Jan: They are very nice watches, very high quality. Because they were made during the Communist era and they’re not a Swiss watch, so most people don’t know, them it was very difficult to tell somebody they should buy this kind of watch instead of a Rolodex or a TAG.
Andrew: Where were you trying to sell them?
Jan: Well, I created a website—my vision for this, I was already thinking online. I was thinking because these watches were customizable, I was already thinking let me create a toll where you can basically design the watch online. We’ll make it and then we’ll ship it to your door. The problem was that the 3D technology at the time was really not as good as I would hope.
So we kind of basically collapsed on the fact that the development company couldn’t go through on their promises. We ended up with a website that was a basic ecommerce store, but you couldn’t really customize the watches the way I wanted them. So we sold a couple watches. I had been doing it for like, I would say, a year, two years and then I pretty much stopped and I was like, “This is it. Let’s move on. It didn’t work.”
Andrew: So then you stay in school. You get into a business plan competition and you win. What did you win with? What was the idea?
Jan: It wasn’t really a business that I even—I didn’t even really consider it a business at the time. I had friends in Czech who were asking me to buy certain products for them, my friends from hockey or people that liked fashion and they wanted me to buy Victoria’s Secret products or some hockey products. Under Armour was really popular at the time. I would be buying these products online and shipping it to them or bringing it with me when I went back, which is, by the way, the story of every international student or every foreigner in the States. You always have someone who wants these products and they kind of use you to get them.
So I’ve been doing it pretty much ever since I moved to the States. But then when I got to the States or this business didn’t work out, I was almost about to graduate. I had to figure out a path for me, “Am I going to go to the corporate world or am I going to try to start a business?” I’ve always leaned more towards, “Let me start a business.”
So that’s why I applied for this business plan competition with this business plan of let me create the same thing I’m doing for my friends, but on a more scalable model for everybody around the world. Let me create a shopping platform that would enable people to buy products in the U.S., ship them to a U.S. address, consolidate multiple packages into one and then ship it overseas to their home address. I wrote the business plan. I had a lot of mentors that helped me put it together, polish it. I applied and somehow, I got through every couple levels of the competition and took the first place.
Andrew: You then had this idea, you get first place, how much money did you win?
Jan: So I won $45,000.
Andrew: $45,000. Sorry. Go ahead.
Jan: It was not all cash. Almost $20,000 was cash, the rest were services.
Andrew: Like marketing, legal accounting, that kind of thing.
Jan: Yeah, all that kind of stuff, which was very useful. We still benefit from some of the legal services because they wrote our contracts. They wrote our agreements. We still use them today. It was definitely a good way to get started.
Andrew: So you’re building out this business. It actually is up and running while you’re in school, right?
Jan: That’s right.
Andrew: Was it to anywhere in the world that would ship stuff?
Jan: Yeah. So, originally, I was only doing it to my friends. Then once we launched the website, which was a few months before I graduated, we started offering that service to anywhere.
Andrew: There are services that do that now. What’s a company, like Poshmark, I think, does that, right?
Jan: There’s definitely a couple companies. There’s MyUS.com or Shipito.com. There’s some competitors that were around at the time, and my vision was to beat them with technology because a lot of these companies, the user interface wasn’t really working well. You couldn’t see live rates, you couldn’t manage the packages online. You’d have to email somebody. It was a very old school way of managing these things. My vision was let me create a different pricing model, a more unique was to acquire customers and create this platform behind it that would really make it easy for customers to use us.
Andrew: Okay. I get it. By the way, I was wrong about Poshmark. Poshmark is just an online store. I’m trying to find the name of some of the other services that I read about, but it doesn’t really matter. That’s a distraction. All right. So then this thing is working for you. What I’m curious about is why did you decide to pivot away from it? You have cash now. You have services. You have a model. You have real customers. Why don’t we take a moment, I’m going to talk about my sponsor and then we’re going to come back and figure out why you changed.
My sponsor is a company called Pipedrive. Jan, you know about Pipedrive?
Jan: Yeah. I’ve heard of them.
Andrew: Do you know much about it or am I about to turn you on to some of the features?
Jan: Sure, tell me about the features.
Andrew: Sure. The idea behind Pipedrive is it’s a CRM that’s designed to help you collaborate as a team to achieve a goal. The goal is usually sell. So every part of your sales process has a step in it and you’re all working together to get people through every one of these steps so you can close a deal. We have a service that we offer on a company of mine, Bot Academy, where you can hire someone to build a chat bot for you. I want to manage that whole freaking process.
When someone buys, I want to know that we know about them. When they are matched with someone that’s going to build a chat bot for them, I want us to organize the follow up process to make sure they got what they paid for, to make sure they’re happy with the whole thing. I said, “What do we use for that?” And then I realized, “Pipedrive, super easy.”
The order form automatically can send that customer’s data into Pipedrive, step number one. They’re in Pipedrive. Step number two, we match them with someone who’s going to build their chat bot for them. So we move their card over to step number two. Step number three, we follow up to make sure they’re happy. Step number four—every step of the process is in there and it’s organized and that’s what I love about Pipedrive.
They force you as an organization to say, “Here are the steps that we’re going to take to close a sale,” and then they help you as an organization to all collaborate to close those sales. Fantastic. One of the things I love about them is they integrate with everything. They took our order form from Stripe and it automatically goes into Pipedrive so that we know about it. If someone has been handled and they’re not happy, Pipedrive will let us know they haven’t been handled right and then an email can automatically fire off to the right person on the team to say, “This person’s not getting what they paid for.”
I love Pipedrive. I’ve been using it for years to coordinate my interviews. I’ve been using it for years at this point to close sales that I need to handle one on one. Now I use Pipedrive to just make sure that anyone who buys is also taken care of. It’s a CRM that’s designed to help you get results. Actually, one result. You indicate what the result is and what the steps are to get there and they will help you get there.
If you need to close more sales, if you want to make sure your customers are happy, if you want to organize your business in an organized way, go check out Pipedrive. But don’t check out their homepage, go to the special URL that I’m about to give you where they’re going to give you something they’re not giving anyone else. That is set it up in two minutes and then you’re going to get 25% off your first three months. It’s already super low. So, I’m surprised they’re even offering anything at all.
And 14 days free—so 14 days free, 25% off their already low prices for three months, but frankly, I don’t give a rip about the pricing. I care that you’re actually going to close more sales when you use them. Go check out this URL, Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. I’m telling you, it’s going to help you close more sales and get better results as a team.
All right. Jan, something happened that got you from that business that worked to this new business that’s working much bigger. What was that experience that took you from one to the other?
Jan: Great question. It was kind of involuntary, I would say. I graduated college in 2014 in May. I’ve got all this money. After the business plan competition, I went on and won two more competitions where I basically ended up with $70,000 or $60,000 in cash, another like $40,000 in services. It’s kind of like a dream graduation ceremony with all this money in the bank and all this money in services.
Now it’s all this pressure to now you’ve got to start a business and be successful because all these people are looking at you. They want you to be successful. It was obviously a great feeling, but at the same time, a lot of pressure. I hired my developer and we started building this platform for Bedabox, which was the package forwarding solution. As we got—
Andrew: Oh, Bedabox, that was the name of the company.
Jan: Bedabox was the name of the company. As we started building this platform out, we got a lot of media exposure thanks to one of the accelerator programs we’d been going through. I got a call one day from a local company that raised $5 million. They were about to revolutionize the internet of things. They said, “Why don’t you handle our fulfillment for us?” I was like, “What do you mean? What’s fulfillment?” I had no idea what they’re talking about. He’s like, “Yeah, the wife of my CEO read an article about you, and I want to meet with you and I want to see if we can work together.”
I go to their office. It’s like a high-rise in Fort Lauderdale, beautiful Apple-like office. You can definitely see where they spent the money that they raised. Great group of guys. They basically explained to me what fulfillment is, which is kind of strange if you try to hire somebody and you’re explaining to them what the service you’re trying to have them do it. I’m saying to them, “We can probably do it. We have a warehouse. We have people that know how to ship products.”
But I was trying to figure out why, “Why do you want us to go and do something where you can just hire people that already do this?” They’d been using one of our competitors for the last two years for a previous company they had and they were extremely unhappy. This was a competitor that actually is fairly large, but because they’re so large, they kind of lack in a lot of the customer service.
When you’re putting a couple million dollars’ worth of inventory into somebody’s warehouse, you want to make sure you can get ahold of someone if you need to get something done. That’s kind of what they felt like if they go with a local company that’s a little smaller, they can achieve that level of service. So I said yes to that deal. We started or I started doing a lot of research in that industry. I was trying to figure out maybe it was an opportunity.
So I went to a couple trade shows. I talked to a couple people and pretty much everybody agreed on three components. They said, “Hey, usually the customer service sucks. There’s no technology. I have to import CSV files or drop files through an FTP server.”
Andrew: Kind of what I was saying frustrated me.
Jan: Yeah. Overall, these companies were really boring and really not fun to work with. So that’s why we kind of created this—at the time it was called Bedabox Fulfillment and then we rebranded to ShipMonk at the end of that year.
That’s when we embarked on this journey to really revolutionize fulfillment by providing the most personal customer service, revolutionary technology that integrates with everything and almost gives you the ability and feeling like you have your own warehouse that you can manage everything through this platform and also gives you the business intelligence and the data to make decisions about inventory, orders, shipping costs, shipping methods and all that good stuff.
We’re trying to be cool. We’re trying to be different. Our office is always open to our customers. We have a bar. We have a meditation room. A lot of people, when they come here, they feel like they’re visiting a fun place, not like the old, boring warehouse with like—
Andrew: Where are you? You’re in what part of Florida?
Jan: We’re in Deerfield Beach, Florida right now, and we’re opening our L.A. facility in September.
Andrew: So anytime someone wants to go into your office, if they’re listening to me, they could go into your office, go into the meditation room or have a beer?
Jan: They can absolutely do that. The best time is Friday nights. That’s when most customers want to come by.
Andrew: That makes sense. I’m trying to find out when your competitor—there’s a competitor that was funded by Y Combinator. I can’t figure out when they launched.
Jan: That’s a good question. I think they launched in 2014.
Andrew: So before you, this already existed, right?
Jan: Absolutely. There’s a lot of companies that do fulfillment, but there’s not that many companies that are targeted towards the millennial way of ecommerce.
Andrew: I’m going to bring up their name. I know that it always makes my guest feel a little uncomfortable when I bring up their competitor’s name, but we’re talking about ShipBob. ShipBob is created, I think, by millennials. They’re part of Y Combinator. They have the integrations we’re talking about. What was it that was missing?
Jan: They weren’t necessarily not around when we started. They kind of pivoted towards fulfillment as well, actually. Their model was more about, “Let me pick up a package at somebody’s business and let me deliver it to the end destination,” very similar to what Shyp was doing.
Jan: They recently pivoted—I don’t really know the reasons or story behind why they did that, but they pivoted towards fulfillment recently, I would say less than a year ago.
Andrew: I see. I thought they were doing this for a while. I see. So you were in it before and then they came in to your space.
Jan: Yeah. This space is pretty big. There’s a lot of fulfillment companies. A company like Shipwire is a great example. They’re a very large—they’re probably one of the largest players in the startup fulfillment space, and they’ve been around since I think 2009 and they sold to Ingram Micro in 2013. They came up with a very similar concept of, “Let us revolutionize the fulfillment for small to medium size businesses.” They’ve done a pretty good job, but as they scaled, they completely started missing the point of what these small and medium size—
Andrew: You mean Shipwire did? Yeah. ShipBob, here’s the problem that I have with ShipBob—this is an industry-wide issue. I was going to catch you on this, but you don’t fall into this trap—no freaking pricing on their website. What’s the big mystery. From what I heard, your prices are lower than theirs, so now that I talked about your competitor and made you feel a little uncomfortable, I thought we can actually talk about something you have going on them.
Why is it this industry will not publish—there are two things they don’t publish, from what I can see, they don’t publish pricing and number two, don’t publish where their warehouses are. For you, I saw you didn’t publish where your warehouse is, and I now I understand why. It’s in one part of the country and it would scare people who would want presence in two parts. Am I right about that?
Jan: You are partly right, yes. I think we do have our address on the website, but we have a lot of companies even out of California who work with us, but depending on the items, the location may not necessarily be the issue. But you’re right, we don’t put that on the homepage that we only have one location in Florida because it’s not the most attractive spot.
Andrew: But what you do is you have prices I can read. I was looking you up while I was having lunch on my phone. Even on my little phone I could see what—I have a big phone, I’ve got the giant iPhone—even on that, I could tell what your prices are, I could adjust the sliders to figure out—why is it that people in this space don’t show the price? What’s the big secret here?
Jan: So I think it’s kind of a common mystification where people feel like if you show your prices, you’re going to scare some people away. By the way, we’ve had a huge discussion internally about what kind of prices do we display on the website. Should we publish prices up to 20,000 orders a month? Do we offer custom prices to people that come to us? There’s a lot of brainstorming that goes behind what you see on the website. There’s been a lot of A/B testing as well. I think the one big thing that we’re huge on is transparency with our customers.
So we want you to know what you’re going to be paying. We don’t have any hidden fees. We don’t want to have any things that you really don’t know what they are and charge you for every little thing. We obviously are in business to make money, so we want to make sure that we cover our bases. But at the end of the day, there’s really four main components. It’s shipping, pick and pack, storage and possibly special projects or whatever other components—
Andrew: Oh my god, look at this. I thought, “Let me go with Shipwire.” Shipwire does not list prices. There’s a button on the site that says pricing information. After Googling around, I found that. I press that button. It takes me to a big form where I have to enter in all my contact information and a message and submit and then I guess at some point I could download it. I guess they don’t want to scare people off, but wouldn’t that be true in any other industry? I feel like there’s something different about this space that makes people want to hide their pricing.
Jan: I think it’s—that’s a good question. We come back to the whole mystery of, “Why is this space so old school? Why are no companies presenting their pricing?” If you Google order fulfillment and you go through the first 10, 15 pages on Google, you’ll see that 80% of these companies look like their website was built in the ’90s. I’ve always asked myself this. These companies are making a lot of money. Why are they not innovating? Why are they not automating things?
I feel like it’s maybe a generational thing, where they feel like they don’t have to, but that’s why we’re coming in and taking them by surprise because we’re the small guys on the block. We started two or three years ago. We’re growing extremely fast. We’re taking away customers from these bigger companies. That’s exactly what’s going to happen with—it happened in a lot of industries where that underdog, the small guy came up with the innovative thing. It might be as little as being transparent about pricing. I think that’s what people like. They want to know who we’re working with. We’re not hiding behind a website.
Andrew: It becomes an enormous amount of time that goes into it for an ecommerce seller to start calling up all these companies to try to figure out—I guess these companies called three party logistics companies, right?
Jan: Third-party, yeah.
Andrew: Third-party, excuse me, third-party logistics companies. It becomes a time suck to go online, find their contact information, schedule a call, talk to them. It’s like you’re applying for credit from someone. By the way, do you guys ship internationally?
Jan: Yeah. Absolutely. Since that was one of the first businesses we got started with, definitely a big part of our business. I would say probably 20% of everything we ship goes international. We ship to 220 countries around the world.
Andrew: That’s a huge issue. People do not ship internationally. I get it. There’s lots of different issues around that. All right. So you start with one customer who calls you up because his wife read an article about you guys. You do it for them. What is it about that interaction that made you say, “We’ve got to get into this space. This is the future?”
Jan: So, actually, they ended up not being a customer, which is even funnier. They made us get into the space, and then they kept saying, “Okay, we’re shipping your product.” Pretty much I think it was six months down the road, the company that originally put money in the business, they backed out and they had to shut it down because they couldn’t get approved by Apple to launch the app or something crazy. They were like this close to releasing their products, and they just got shut down. So that business never actually worked out. But in the meantime, by that point, we already had a couple customers we were shipping for and doing the fulfillment for them.
I guess to answer your question, I just really like the fact that—Bedabox was a B2C. You’re dealing with people from around the world. There’s a lot of language issues, cultural issues. It’s a different marketing game. I’ve always been more comfortable with B2B. I’ve just enjoyed talking to business owners, understanding what their pains are, learning about what they need and really coming up with a solution and seeing them grow as a business.
Right from the beginning, our first customer was a customer who started with 100 orders a month. The next month, they had 180 then 400. They’re still a customer and they were doing 10,000+ orders. It’s been really rewarding to watch them grow and being part of that growth. So I think that’s kind of why I felt like these companies were a little more—first of all, once you get a sale, it’s a larger sale than trying to close one customer in a foreign country who ships once a year, but also it was a more rewarding experience for me because I got to work with business owners, with people who love the same industry that I do.
I’m very passionate about innovative products. We work with a lot of Kickstarter innovative companies, “Shark Tank” companies and people that in general are kind of in that same space and same mindset. They want to innovate and they want to come up with cool stuff. I’ve been really enjoying being part of that whole industry and meeting these people and getting their feedback. So I just kind of fell in love with the space, as crazy as it sounds.
Andrew: I get it. You know what I get about it? Because of the size customers that you work with, you have the best of both worlds. You have kind of a consumer type of interaction in that you’re not dealing with big companies that take forever to make decisions and they always have to go to the next guy. You’re dealing with real entrepreneurs, interesting products. Number two, you don’t have to make your sales one at a time. You get multiple sales, ongoing relationship. I dig it. All right. Let me take a moment and then I want to come back and ask about this shocking thing you had to do to get into the space because you had the idea, everything was working, but you couldn’t just jump in. There was one big thing you needed to do.
But first, I’ve got to tell everyone about a company called HostGator. We needed a hosting company and we went to HostGator. Frankly, many of the people who I interviewed here have gone to HostGator. What I love about the world today is you could have an idea just one Friday night, launch it, see customers come on and pretty soon, you start getting revenue, start getting real fans. The business is real.
What I like about HostGator is—I know I’m supposed to be promoting the fact that they have a really super cheap plan, one that’s like $3.48. Frankly, when I signed up for them, I didn’t use that. I went for the most expensive plan I could get. But even if you’re just starting out and you’re in the experimental mode, I recommend you go up a plan and I don’t get extra commission if you go up a plan, but let me tell you why.
If you go for this plan that instead of $3.48 will cost you $4.98, you get unlimited domains. What I love about having a plan that gives me unlimited domains is let’s suppose I wanted to woo Jan. I wanted to work with him or I wanted to work for him or I wanted him to be a client of ours or I wanted him to buy ads for us.
I could just go to my HostGator account, buy a domain, like JanWorkWithUs.com, one-click install of WordPress for free. WordPress doesn’t cost anything. I adjust the landing page a little bit so maybe there’s a picture of Jan, a picture of Mixergy and I say, “Jan, you should be working on Mixergy. You should be buying ads on Mixergy,” and then I put a couple of extra stuff underneath it, boom.
I send them something that feels flattering and custom made just to him because it is and doesn’t cost me much because they will host unlimited domains for free. Or maybe Friday night, I just have an idea, “What if I created this blog? What if I do this? What if I do that?” I pour myself a little bit of whiskey. Jan, do you drink whiskey?
Jan: Not a huge fan of whiskey.
Andrew: I picture you as an IPA guy.
Jan: IPA is definitely a good choice. I like rum, really good Caribbean rum.
Andrew: Rum? What’s the brand you like best?
Jan: I just discovered a really good one recently from Venezuela. I can’t remember the name. But it’s actually unique to find a rum from Venezuela. But they sell it in this leather bottle. That’s a really good rum.
Andrew: So you will just drink it with a little bit of ice or straight?
Jan: I have these huge ice cubes that I put in it and I’ll drink. Actually, the original idea—I got this really expensive bottle and the idea was let me get a shot every time we hire a new employee. After like four months, the bottle was gone and I was like, “Okay, let’s not do this anymore. Let’s just get the bottle and only drink it when we sign big contracts.” So now I still have a half left. That’s actually, I think Barceló, Rum Barceló, really good Dominican rum.
Andrew: Wow. I’m looking at all these different rum brands. So imagine you’re a rum drinker like Jan. Friday night, pour yourself a little glass of rum and you say, “I have an idea for what I could be creating.” Boom. On that plan, you could launch the website, have it up and running, see if you like it. If you like it, keep it, if you don’t, close it off and go on to the next one. Unlimited domain hosting—it’s amazing.
All you have to do is go to the special URL I’m about to give you. You’re going to get all that good stuff and unmetered disk space, unmetered bandwidth, unlimited email addresses, tech support and a 45-day money back guarantee if you discover that I’m full of it. Oh, and one other thing– $100 AdWords offer, which means you can actually start getting ads for this new business of yours. Go check out HostGator.com/Mixergy, HostGator.com/Mixergy for that. Imagine like a website about rums from Venezuela, that would be interesting—rums from around the world.
All right. The thing that you had to do was you had to actually create a brand new platform from scratch. You wanted it to connect with every possible channel. You wanted people to manage their fulfillment from this site. How long did it take you to rebuild your business or build that from scratch?
Jan: That’s a great question. So the very basic model of the platform, it took us about six months to build. I had three developers, three full-time developers that have been working on the project. The first year, we were outsourcing our software. We were using a third-party warehouse management company that was doing it for us—very, very difficult, completely non-customizable. There’s no integrations. But that’s really the hardest part to get started and get past that. Then we launched it in December of 2015 is when we launched the platform.
My development team did not sleep the last 30 days. They were working 20 hours a day to get it released. Our license was expiring and if we were not done by end of December, we would have to renew for another $15,000 a year. So they had a clear deadline that they had to hit and they did it.
Andrew: License to what?
Jan: To the other WMS system that we’re using in case our platform wasn’t finished at the time. It was kind of an interesting deadline. Development has been kind of an interesting experience overall. We’ve been—
Andrew: Tell me about it.
Jan: We now have eight full-time developers. All they do is work on features, and it’s sometimes frustrating because it takes forever. You just look at what it was a year and a half ago, you look at it now and it’s just night and day. All the features, all the integrations, it’s beautiful to watch.
Andrew: You built out the first version. What were the first integrations you built into it?
Jan: The first integration we built was with Shopify.
Andrew: Yeah. They’re the giant in the space, right?
Jan: Absolutely. They’re really good. A lot of our customers, I would say at least 80% of our customers are on Shopify because it’s the small business friendly website and it’s just kind of the easiest way to get started. That’s why we’re very good friends. Actually, Shopify is using us for their fulfillment.
Andrew: Oh, really? What do they need for fulfillment for?
Jan: Promotional products. They send gift packages or care boxes or these little notebooks.
Andrew: Oh, I see, the gifts that they give people. They’re not selling anything, they’re sending gifts out.
Jan: Yeah. They’re not selling anything. It’s just great when they’re one of our largest partners and we do their fulfillment and they’re really happy. That’s one of our strongest partnerships.
Andrew: They’re good at sending customers your way. I remember in the early days, they used to advertise on Mixergy because they were trying to get the word out about this new platform called Shopify. I went in and all they had was Shipwire, but they were good about promoting Shipwire as a partner. They’re really good at sending customers your way. I imagine that’s a big source of customers for you today, am I right?
Jan: That’s absolutely right. Yeah.
Andrew: I’m wondering where else you get your customers. You have no outside funding, right?
Jan: That’s right.
Andrew: That means that every little thing you do doesn’t get covered by the media. That’s one of the crappy things about being in the tech world today. The guys who are funded have all these investors with built-in systems for promotion, all these different sites that are built in to cover the companies that were invested because they know they were vetted. I don’t see you online much. In fact, if sometimes on your team hadn’t reached out to me and said, “You’ve got to get Jan on here,” I would not have had Jan on here.
Jan: It’s the struggle of bootstrapping. I think that’s the fun part. We’re doing a lot better now with our SEO development efforts. Even if you look at our ranks in the SEO world, we’re flying up right now. We have a really good team that specializes just in that.
Andrew: You have a team that specializes in SEO?
Andrew: You’ve hired a team, you mean, you don’t have someone internally, do you?
Jan: We have someone internally. They are a full-time person, but they don’t do SEO full-time, but they do a lot of content. It’s actually the same person that reached out to you. They do a lot of content. They do a lot of—
Andrew: Augustine Kennedy.
Jan: That’s right, Auggie.
Andrew: Auggie. I see. That’s why Auggie reached out to me and said, “Andrew’s got some Google juice. We’ll have Jan on there.” I’m all right with that. I’m okay with that. As long as we tell a good story here that’s actually useful to the audience, I don’t care what you get—I’m happy if you get a lot out of it. I see. So SEO is a big one. I’m trying to figure out what you do for SEO. You guys have a blog where you write about entrepreneurial topics.
Jan: We have a lot of guest posts that we do on different publications. We have a lot of content. We generate 10, 20 articles a week on different logistics, ecommerce topics and we publish in different publications. We’re very active on Shopify forums, Quora and a lot of other websites.
Andrew: Who’s the person who’s active on all those forums for you?
Jan: Augustine is the guy that does that.
Andrew: I see. So Augustine’s job, is he full-time with you?
Jan: He’s full-time with us, but that’s not his full-time job, necessarily.
Andrew: What else does he do?
Jan: He does media relations. So he does some basic PR. He also does some finance and accounting for us, helps me put together investors’ decks if we need to or put financials together and all the other good stuff.
Andrew: Are you guys raising money? You are, aren’t you?
Jan: We’re considering it. We’ve been getting hounded by a lot of these VCs calling us. We’ve been very hesitant about taking money for one simple reason. We weren’t ready to scale. We don’t want to get to a point where we raise $5 million, $10 million, $20 million and we start opening warehouses around the country and taking all these clients and at the end of the day, we can’t handle it because we don’t have the processes in place to scale from where we are today to $50 million to $100 million. It’s actually happened to one of our competitors. We don’t want to get in that area.
So, at this point, we’re at a stage where we can easily scale. A year ago, we still had a lot of internal issues, a lot of warehouse processes weren’t completely there. We’re a startup. It took time to get to where we are. The money would definitely help speed up sales process and marketing process and maybe we’d have better people, not better people, but more expensive people with more experience.
But at the end of the day, some things you just can’t speed up. At this point, we’re at a point where we think we’re ready capital. So if the right opportunity presents itself, we would probably accept.
Andrew: I see. I get it. I can see your growth. So what his job is—this is something that’s working best for you. He does SEO by writing posts. You also have your CMO. He writes posts on your site too. He also will go into forums and just respond to people. What else is working for you to get traffic? I’m trying to understand how you guys grow your business.
Jan: There’s a couple of different ways. We’ve got definitely some paid advertising out there through Google or all these other channels. We have a lot of referrals. We’re very strong in referrals from our current customers and from our partners. So we work with a couple partners that we have a pretty good partnership program that pays commission to everybody that refers business over to us.
So that’s really some of the main sources, organic traffic, paid traffic through Google and then some—we do very little social media, we have some social media, but B2B, especially our industry is not huge in social media, but referrals are huge and partnerships.
Andrew: Do you have a partnership with GoDaddy?
Jan: A partner with GoDaddy?
Andrew: Are they sending you traffic? I guess not. If you don’t recognize it, then . . .
Jan: They might be sending us some traffic, but I’m not really aware of any official partnership.
Andrew: I’m looking you guys up on SimilarWeb. But it doesn’t seem like it’s a huge thing for you guys. If you had more money though, it doesn’t seem like having more locations is what holding you back, right? What’s holding you guys back is getting more customers, isn’t it?
Jan: Not necessarily. We’ve been actually more, I would say, we’ve never had an issue. We’re not doing any outbound, for example. All the leads, the entire thing our sales team is doing is managing inbound leads. That’s really caused by the fact that we have space—not space issues, but we’ve already moved four times. Right now, we’re in a 50,000-square foot facility that we’ve been here four months, and it’s already getting filled up again. Because we’re self-funded and bootstrapped, we can’t go to a million square feet and then be losing money until we fill it up halfway.
So we have to take it one step at a time. So with the money that we’re trying to raise, we are opening up a West Coast facility no matter what, but it’s kind of like a six month, we want to get a smaller facility to get our presence on the West Coast and get started there. Then once we raise more cash, we can open maybe an additional facility, somewhere in the Northeast to really cover the entire U.S. through our services and then have that West Coast location.
We have a lot of customers on the West Coast currently who are not extremely excited about paying $5,000 for free for shipments that get to L.A. and now they have to truck it to Florida. That’s quite honestly one of the most flattering things, where you see these guys doing this and you know they have another option. They could go with a fulfillment company in L.A., but they pay that extra $5,000 to truck it to us because they trust us to manage your fulfillment.
Andrew: I forgot about that because it’s going to cost them more money to get it to you and then from you, it’s going to take a little bit longer to get it to your customers. I think at this point the bulk of the interview is done. I’ve just got to ask you as a potential customer, not that I have anything to ship yet, but I’m fascinated by this whole idea. I like sending stuff to people. I want to take our online brand and make it into something physical.
So imagine if someone signs up to buy from me, they get what they expect, which is a digital product and at the same time, we send them a gift and it’s in an organized way, so I don’t have to go crazy and the receptionist here doesn’t have to go nuts. I would ship my stuff to you. I think at this point it would be shelf space. You guys put it on the shelf. I think it’s $5 a month for shelf space?
Jan: No. Ours is cheaper. You were confusing us—
Andrew: I don’t mean per thing. I thought it was $25 for a palette.
Jan: ShipBob is $5 a bed. We’re $2.
Andrew: I thought it was you.
Jan: We’re between $1 to $3 really depending on the size of the product.
Andrew: Per item?
Jan: No, per bin. Bin is basically a unique space that contains your products. If you have jewelry, you’re going to be paying $0.50 and you can probably fit 100 rings or necklaces. If you’ve got shoes, they’re going to go on a shelf space and you can probably fit 10 pairs of shoes in one little—
Andrew: I see. I had it wrong in my head. It was shelf space that I saw on my phone and I see now when I’m on a desktop, I actually see a picture of what the shelf looks like. I see a picture of what the bin looks like. If I were to send you stuff, it probably would be like shelf space, maybe large bin, but that’s it. So I pay you anywhere around $2 to $3 for that. Then since I don’t have that many items, every time you take it off the shelf—sorry, first of all, the fee I was just talking about, the $2 to $3 is a monthly fee because you guys are storing my stuff and then every time you take one item off the shelf, put it in an envelope, that’s $2.50?
Jan: Yeah. Depending on the volume, that’s correct.
Andrew: Minimum $2.50, it goes down?
Jan: It goes down. That’s the maximum, actually. So if you’re shipping 1,000 orders a month, you qualify for better pricing. So you might be closer to $2 an order.
Andrew: Plus postage?
Jan: Plus postage, yes.
Andrew: And then the package, the box that it goes in, who picks that? That’s you guys?
Jan: Actually, you can select the type of packaging that you want to use, whether that’s a polymailer, a bubble mailer, a corrugated box—
Andrew: Do you guys have pictures of that?
Jan: We have pictures. We actually have like a guide on packaging somewhere on our support forum.
Andrew: So I pick the one that I want. What if I want my own box, if I want it to look a little bit different, do you guys do that?
Jan: Yeah. That’s kind of the customization component of what we do. So you can definitely customize your box. Here’s the best part. You can actually put a custom gift note that looks handwritten from you into the box with a custom text.
Andrew: You guys will do that?
Jan: We’ll do it. We don’t necessarily handwrite it, but we have a little machine that handwrites it.
Andrew: A little machine, it says, “Thanks for buying from me, love Andrew.” Will it customize their name?
Jan: Yeah. You can literally say—after this interview, you can send me a thank you note that would say, “Hey, Jan, thanks so much for the interview,” and then you can even put a special moment that we had together during the interview.
Andrew: How much is that? Is that like the promotional insert for $0.20.
Jan: That’s for the pic view of the insert, but then the gift message itself is $0.75.
Andrew: $0.75 for the message and what was the other one?
Jan: $0.20 for the insert. The way it works is usually people provide their own 4×6 customized cards. So you would have a custom design on one end, and then we would print on the other end. You would pay $0.20 to pick the insert and then $0.75 for us to print it on that insert.
Andrew: And then it goes inside. If I just want not a promotional insert, but my own receipt, you guys let me put that in there too?
Jan: Yeah. Absolutely. If it’s a packing slip, we would include that for free. If you have a custom insert, it would be—
Andrew: But it’s my designed packing slip? I get to pick it, right?
Jan: Yeah. If you design your packing slip and it just says thank you for doing business, then we would just have it, store it and then we would pick it.
Andrew: So these little things matter so much. Let me show you something. This guy from Y Athletics, I just interviewed him, look at how nice this package is, this little thing goes a long way. It looks nice. It feels good. It feels like a high-end, premium item that he sent me.
Jan: Yeah. That does look really good.
Andrew: Right? Imagine you stick this in some piece of garbage box and it takes away. So you’re telling me I get to pick my box, I get to buy it, and you guys will send that out. Does it cost more if I pick my own box?
Jan: You just pay for the pick fee. So, basically, we’re just picking your own box, which is usually like an additional item. So it would be like $0.20 to $0.25 for—
Andrew: I see. So another pick fee because it’s another item and then do I also pay for the shelf space on that? I probably do, don’t I?
Jan: Yes. You definitely do.
Andrew: Shelf space on my box and shelf space on my product?
Jan: On your product, that’s right.
Andrew: Do you find that people who are doing digital goods will actually send stuff to their customers like this?
Jan: That’s a good question. You have somebody like Shopify who’s a digital platform. They send physical products. There’s this whole “Art of Giftology.” I don’t know if you’ve read the book, but it’s a really interesting art of giving gifts and influencing customers or potential leads or customers with gifts. The guy who wrote the book and does the entire—
Andrew: John Ruhlin.
Jan: Yeah. It’s a very exciting industry. We’re very big in gifts. We like to appreciate our customers. It’s kind of exciting, that feeling you get when somebody’s excited about a box. We’re not giving them ShipMonk t-shirts or a stress ball with ShipMonk. We have all that stuff too, but if you really want to make somebody happy, you’re not going to make them happy by giving them your pen. If they like fishing, you should give them some sort of a fishing knife that doesn’t need to have ShipMonk.
Andrew: That’s a hard thing to do with you guys because then I’d have to have all these different items. That’s more of an Amazon thing. Here’s one other thing finally about you guys. I noticed you don’t work with Walmart.
Jan: We’re starting to work with Walmart. We were actually approached by them to be one of their early integrators with their marketplace. So we have some customers on Walmart. We do have an integration. They might not be listed there yet because it’s kind of a newer thing. But we do have an integration with Walmart. We’re kind of creating a more advanced partnership with them as we speak.
Andrew: All right. I keep going, “One last thing,” the noise—as you were answering that, I heard a beep. Do you go through your whole day with that beep every time an email comes in? That’s Outlook, right?
Jan: No, that’s Apple Mail.
Andrew: That doesn’t drive you nuts?
Jan: No. I just kind of got used to it.
Andrew: I’d go nuts. I’m sitting there all day long and every time I do something, there’s like a bing that needs my attention. I don’t know how you stay focused.
Jan: That’s a good question. I struggle with that sometimes. A majority of my day is email and reviews and charts and graphs.
Andrew: You guys don’t use Slack internally?
Jan: Yeah. We definitely do.
Andrew: Doesn’t that drive you nuts too?
Jan: Actually, now when you say it, we have probably 50 channels in our Slack. Everything from our platform is integrated through Slack. I just started realizing that it might actually be decreasing our productivity because all you’re doing is reading these notifications. They might not necessarily have something to do with you, but what I’m doing is I just monitor everything that’s happening. So I do question the productivity part of Slack sometimes. It’s great to communicate with your coworkers, but sometimes it does become a distraction.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m finding that more and more, that it becomes a distraction for me and it becomes a distraction for people we’re working with. We love using Asana for project management, great tool.
Jan: We do too.
Andrew: There’s no chat. You guys use that?
Andrew: Fantastic, just works. But there’s no chat in there. So then you have to use Slack for chat. Then once you use Slack for chat, it just gets out of control. Then your whole day, the promise is no email, but the reality is worse than email. Email at least you can hold back on, here, you can’t. People are expecting right now with like one-sentence messages at a time. I’ve banned it from the company.
In fact, believe it or not, I’m switching to Basecamp as of this week for the whole team. Basecamp is not as good as Asana, but I like that they’re putting everything in one—chat, long-form messages, project management in one place and it’s not very busy, no excess chatter.
Jan: I get it. With us, we publish our own—we call it a ShipMonk, what do you call it?
Jan: The ShipMonk stack. We displayed it into a burger. You’ve got your bun, your meat, the different things.
Andrew: I’m on the page right now.
Jan: We’ve got probably 20 to 30 different things that we use on a regular basis, from our developers to our marketing team. We love Autopilot, by the way. I don’t know if you came across Autopilot, but Autopilot is a huge part of our marketing automation. Our marketing guy loves it, and we have these journeys built out for our customers and for our employees and for everybody. It’s a really, really exciting tool.
Andrew: It’s not Office Autopilot, is it? It’s Autopilot. I don’t know them.
Jan: Autopilot HQ, it’s called.
Andrew: Automate customer journeys as simply as drawing on a whiteboard. I see. This is for you to plan how you’re going to be talking to your customers. It’s not customer-facing. It’s internal management, right?
Jan: Yeah. It’s kind of almost like an email tool. So there’s email tool, but it integrates with pretty much everything. You can have it hooked up to a CRM, you have it hooked up to your platform. There’s a million things you can do with it. The possibilities are endless with Autopilot.
Andrew: I’d love to see a website that did nothing but talk to every company about what their stack is and why they go with each one of these things. I don’t know why I’m fascinated by this. You use Asana. You use something called Grow. Grow has real-time whiteboard that lets you access any data you need at any moment.
Jan: I’ve got a TV in my office that basically projects KPIs from every department. So I’m always on top of everything happening in the company.
Andrew: I see. It’s a big dashboard you can put up on a screen. Jan, I’ve never heard of you guys before this interview—I’m going to be honest with you—I’m now obsessed with your company. I don’t know why I care to this degree. You guys use Salesforce. Of course, you use ShipMonk software. You use Slack. Then you have a bunch of tools you use, Unbounce, Segment, MightyCall.
Jan: Yeah. There’s a lot of cool stuff. Some of them are—Segment is this tool that basically keeps all the data segmented between 50 different platforms. If you don’t have it, you can’t—like somebody registered with ShipMonk. Now we’ve got to pull their data into Salesforce. Now we’ve got to update our Freshdesk for customer service. Now we’ve got to update Autopilot. To bring all these platforms together, which basically hosts all the data so it flows from one place to another and updates everything.
Andrew: So then when your customer service person responds to them, they know they’re a customer even if they’re using your helpdesk software. I know that you guys use Drift. I saw it on the site. Your CMO was on Drift. I was hitting him up with questions in preparation for this interview.
Andrew: I said, “Who is this guy? Who’s Kevin?” Then I Google him and go, “That’s a CMO. He’s on chat with me.”
Jan: Yeah. We actually just hired a new chat person. We’ve had a really long discussion trying to figure out if we should have live chat, but we have a lot of good leads come in through live chat. It’s difficult because it’s a huge distraction. It’s like Slack. You’re doing something, now you get this chat, so you’ve got to chat with this person, then you start doing something again and then you get distracted.
Andrew: They’re anonymous, so they could go and do something else and then come back five minutes later and they remembered what they were doing and they’re chatting with you. It takes up a ton of time.
Jan: It does. That’s why we hired a new junior sales rep that’s going to manage the chat and some phones and kind of like minor tasks that need to be done because we need our guys to focus on the bigger deals. That’s really what they should be doing, not spending time on chat.
Andrew: I see more and more companies using Drift. I can’t believe David Cancel, the founder of Drift is actually starting to take some business from Intercom. But more and more people are switching to them.
Jan: We’ve considered Intercom. I can’t remember what was the reason we didn’t go with them. I think we tested both. I would have to ask Kevin why they decided to go with Drift. It’s kind of crazy to talk about Salesforce, for example. I’m not a huge fan of Salesforce. I really don’t like them. But if you want to have all these tools work with a CRM, you need to use Salesforce because there’s just nothing that integrates with everything.
We’ve used different CRMs before and they all have their integrations, but it limits you to what you want to use. So if you want to use the best customer service platform, you can’t just use any platform. Any platform integrates with Salesforce. But only two platforms integrate with the CRM that you use.
Andrew: I was talking about in my ad for Pipedrive, if you decide that you want to do is use Help Scout, you have to go and see does Help Scout actually integrate with Pipedrive or not. But if you’re on Salesforce, you can just assume they’re going to integrate with Salesforce if they integrate with anything.
Andrew: The challenge is then you’re stuck with Salesforce, which is a Microsoft 1.0 world, where they just keep adding every freaking feature. So I get the pluses and minuses of it.
Jan: I’m with you. It’s ridiculous. The platform, they kind of refreshed it with the new lighting design, but it does its job. We still use all these other tools that kind of make our life easier. Even today, it’s the largest CRM platform and they’re not integrated with Google Apps. Can you imagine you’re not tracking—you send an email to a customer and it doesn’t pop up in Salesforce. How basic is that?
Andrew: Oh, they don’t integrate with what?
Jan: Google Apps.
Andrew: Google Suite, G Suite.
Andrew: I interviewed a founder who created a Chrome plugin that lets you integrate it. Basically, what it does is anytime you send email, it automatically follows your email into Salesforce because that thing is missing. Why can’t I think of his name? I’ll send it to you after the interview.
Jan: Yeah. I think that it’s kind of interesting because there’s just—
Andrew: You’re right. It’s not there. They’re not thinking—you know what they need? They need to court millennials. Once they start going after millennials, those millennials are going to kick their ass for little things like this.
Jan: We are kicking their ass. We had three guys, they flew down from Atlanta to meet with us. They were trying to sell us on their Pardot tool, which is like ridiculous. It’s like $1,500 a month, something crazy. We’re like, “Guys, we’re using the exact same thing with Autopilot and we’re paying $100 a month. Explain to us why we should go with something like Pardot.”
They just couldn’t. They’re so stuck in their world of being the only SaaS company in the world because they are one of the oldest SaaS companies in the world. I feel like they’re building products for them or maybe for larger corporates. I don’t know. For a millennial business, I don’t think they’re the right solution.
Andrew: The sad thing is that there isn’t someone who does that. There are people who focus on one area, like we talked about Pipedrive, they’re really good at getting you to the goal, but they’re not trying to do everything and there isn’t someone who’s replacing them by doing everything. There’s no G Suite to their Microsoft Office.
Jan: Yeah. I think HubSpot is one of the platforms that they’re trying to do everything, but again, I don’t think there’s strength in trying to do everything. If you’re trying to do everything, you’re going to suck at most of it. You’ve got to pick your strength and focus on that. The problem with companies like Pipedrive, which might be great—I think we actually did consider them—the problem with them are the limited integrations. You are seriously limited. All it takes is one thing. They don’t integrate with your chat or they don’t integrate with your customer service desk or they don’t integrate with whatever.
Andrew: What about Zapier though? That’s the answer to everything for me.
Jan: I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too skeptical. We use Zapier for some stuff, but I feel like maybe you’re right.
Andrew: Zapier solves everything. You know what I’m going to do from now on, anytime I hire someone, I want them to be proficient in Zapier more than anything else. That shows—I could teach you Google docs. I can’t teach you Zapier, the mindset of if this, then that within Zapier, if someone does this, the thought process of how do I create a system without making it into some crazy process that no one can figure out. How do I simplify it so it just works? That Zapier integration, they should be teaching that freaking thing in schools. You learned spreadsheet, right? They should teach you Zapier.
Jan: I’m with you. Zapier is great.
Andrew: I wonder if we should be teaching a course on Zapier. I partner up with Wade and Wade will give our people free six months of Zapier. But I don’t know how to sell it as a benefit. It’s one of these things that’s like air. It’s part of what you need, but no one can see it and appreciate it until it’s gone.
Jan: You’re right.
Andrew: I’ve got to go. I can talk to you for freaking ever. I went from not knowing who you are to suddenly being obsessed with your personal writing. I saw you on Medium. I looked up ShipMonk. I saw how you work. I’m trying to think of products I should be selling just so I can use your freaking software.
Jan: I appreciate that.
Andrew: Here’s the guy who I interviewed. It’s Cirrus Insight. If you want to connect Salesforce to your Gmail inbox or Outlook and so on.
Jan: We’re using Cirrus Insight.
Andrew: Oh, you are? Okay.
Jan: What they do is integrate Gmail to Salesforce. So you can automatically use Salesforce tools within Gmail. But it’s not necessarily the other way around. You don’t see the emails, at least from what I understand from my sales guy what he told me. My sales guys are using them and we’re paying them like $40 a month or something per user. It’s not cheap. But I think it’s—
Andrew: What do you want it to do? When you’re in Gmail, you want to see your Salesforce stuff?
Jan: That’s what they do.
Andrew: Kind of like Reportive but for Salesforce.
Jan: Directly within Gmail, you can change the lead status, update the lead, do whatever. We used Base before as a CRM and in Base, you would find a contact or the lead and you would see the entire conversation of every email that went back and forth from my team or my sales guy.
Andrew: It automatically goes into Salesforce. You want everyone’s email to get sucked out of your business Gmail accounts and pushed into the right contact in Salesforce.
Jan: Exactly. The great advantage to it is because if I speak to somebody six months ago and I go into Salesforce, I don’t remember that I spoke with them. Like yeah, I can go to Gmail and search for their name and see what the conversation was, but in Base, I can just find the name, the lead and I would see the list of emails that we’ve been going back and forth on, which is so much easier.
Andrew: That’s so helpful. I do that for my interviews. My assistant puts it together. If you and I had talked over the years and I had forgot about it because it was five, six years, I want my assistant to find it in my inbox so I can bring it up and say six years ago, we talked about this. It’s good to see you now, how far you’ve come. Maybe someone will hear that and actually understand that’s a problem and solve that problem or maybe they’ll figure out there was a solution already and they can email you and go and have a drink with Jan and his team.
The company, my new little obsession—I love when companies create products—it’s ShipMonk. Go check them out at ShipMonk.com. And the two sponsors I mentioned are the CRM that we use and love because it helps us get to a specific goal and then it gets out of our way otherwise. It’s called Pipedrive. Check them out at Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. And the hosting company that I use to host my new business, it’s called HostGator. Check them out with a low price at HostGator.com/Mixergy.
Jan, thanks for being here.
Jan: Thanks, Andrew. Appreciate your time. Have a great day.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.