How to get the highest quality customers to your events

Derek Andersen is the founder of Startup Grind, a 200-city community hosted in 60-countries that mentors entrepreneurs.

But that community didn’t show up overnight. When Derek first started hosting events it was more like “a startup homeless shelter” instead of a community. One early attendee took a plateful of the pizza provided and left before the event even started.

In this interview you’ll hear what Derek did to turn Startup Grind around and grow it to 200 chapters. Oh yeah, and he did it without any funding.

Derek Andersen

Derek Andersen

Startup Grind

Derek Andersen is the founder of Startup Grind, a 200-city community hosted in 60-countries that mentors entrepreneurs.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of It is home of the ambitious upstart. And joining me today is a Mixergy fan, a guy who was listening back–what, three, four, five years ago? How long was it, Derek, when you first found Mixergy?

Derek: Maybe 2010, 2011?

Andrew: Right, when there was hardly anyone listening back then. And here you are today after having built a company, you’re here to talk about how you did it.

Derek: On this show, I’ve made it. I’ve got my parents. I’ve got all my family here watching the interview. So, this is my moment.

Andrew: This is your moment to shine. I’ve got people more important than your parents. Your parents are important to you. But audience of entrepreneurs are important to the world, to the future of the world who are listening.

The guy who you just heard, his name is Derek Andersen. He is the founder of Startup Grind. These guys have events that go on all around the world. How many countries, 60 countries now?

Derek: Yeah, 60-80 countries, 200 cities.

Andrew: 200 cities and the goal of the events are?

Derek: Education, inspire and connect entrepreneurs.

Andrew: Here’s my motivation for doing this interview. I have a personal motivation here. I started Mixergy by doing events. It was grueling.

Derek: In LA, right? Do I have that right? Was it in LA? Where did you start them?

Andrew: Yeah, I did. I started in LA. It was grueling. But I don’t have a problem with doing grueling work. I will do grueling work and carry a weight vest along with me. I don’t mind it. But I couldn’t make it work for a few reasons. One is that there was no real stated purpose in it. The second is that–actually, the first one was number one–then the second was I got too sucked into creating software for it.

But I’m so fascinated by events because it’s hard enough to get somebody to come and watch one my interviews or listen to the podcast. We do it. But it’s hard. To get someone to come out of their house and go to an event takes a lot of persuasion. Once you get them there, you can create a much richer experience. I want to know how you did that. I want to know, frankly, is there any money in it? I want to know is it fun or is it drudgery at some point?

All right. And we’re going to find out all that and it’s all thanks to my two sponsors. The first one is called Acuity Scheduling. If you want to schedule with lots of people really easily, later in this interview I’ll tell you why you’ve got to check out Acuity Scheduling. The second sponsor is Pipedrive. If you want to take a stranger and turn them into a customer and really just lead them through your funnel–frankly, the way we led Derek through our funnel–a software called Pipedrive will help you do it. He was in every step of our Pipedrive funnel.

Derek: We use it at Startup Grind too. Our team uses it.

Andrew: You do?

Derek: Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew: For what? We’ll talk about that in the ad. Good. I love that you’ve got something to share about that.

Derek: Both of them are great products.

Andrew: Let’s start with startup grind. Is there money in it? How much money are you guys bringing in?

Derek: It’s not like you go to dinner with somebody and you never talk about politics or money or religion, right off the bat–look, there’s enough money for us to spend our time on it and to sustain us. The whole thing is a huge accident. You see this over and over.

Andrew: I’m going to get to accident. But is there over $1 million in sales here?

Derek: Absolutely.

Andrew: Over $1 million in sales?

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: And you’re profitable?

Derek: Well, yeah. We haven’t really raised any money. So, we have to be profitable. I’m not bankrolling this thing.

Andrew: And you’re paying yourself?

Derek: I’m not a trust fund baby. I started paying myself a few years ago, which was really–my wife was really stoked about that.

Andrew: Okay.

Derek: So, yeah, we have a 15-person full-time team, mostly in North America and in the US. We’re based in Palo Alto.

Andrew: All right. Yeah. It’s expensive to be based in Palo Alto. So, if you’re making a living off of this and it’s more than that–it’s a business that has impact and is generating revenue. All right. I want to find out how you did this. You were saying that it was an accident before I rudely interrupted you and asked you a rude question about your revenues. But the accident happened when a college friend of yours asked you to do what for them?

Derek: So, a friend of mine asked me to do marketing with them. So, even back before that, I was working at EA, Electronic Arts, as a product manager making video games. I wasn’t fulfilled. I wasn’t feeling creative. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. A friend and I, we decided to start a business. And my wife had a baby and I waited until the little guy was safe and six weeks later, the best time ever, I quit my job in 2009, which was also a great time to quit your job.

Andrew: And did you quit it knowing what you were going to do?

Derek: I did. But shortly thereafter, my friend was unable to quit his job. So, it was me with this product that I was not extremely excited about that was really kind of his domain expertise.

Andrew: What was the product?

Derek: The product was we were going to build a truck advertising business. We were going to do outdoor advertising. I could give you the pitch. You don’t want to hear it. But needless to say after six months of trying as hard as I could, I could not sell a single ad.

Andrew: A single ad on the side of a truck?

Derek: Not one.

Andrew: Why? Why do you think?

Derek: Very hard to track. Everyone is going kind of analytics-based. You can put a few hundred dollars into Facebook. You know exactly how many eyeballs saw it or how many eyeballs they say saw it. Trucks are just unreliable. It’s not green. But I’ll tell you, there’s a huge inventory. I will never get in the business, but we just couldn’t sell it. We couldn’t sell it and the market told us they didn’t want it. So, eventually you say, “Okay, maybe I should try to sell something else.”

Andrew: Okay. And then is that when you got into doing some marketing work for your friend at $80 an hour?

Derek: I did. Exactly.

Andrew: And you thought, “While I do that, I’m going to do what on the side?”

Derek: I was still trying to get my own startup going. A friend and I kind of were frustrating by attending some of the events here in the Valley. I’m not from here. So, I’m from Florida. I lived in Europe as a kid and kind of all over. So, I kind of came here not knowing anyone and I’d go to events and it just felt like if you weren’t on stage, if you didn’t have some huge name brand, people didn’t find any value in you.

I’d been at EA for four or five years, I felt like I had something to give. So, we said, “Let’s just get our friends together. Let’s brainstorm once a month. We’ll get pizza.” So, we hosted the first event six years ago next month with nine people in my office in Mountain View.

Andrew: And it was just people coming over for free, hang out and try to think of what the next business was going to be.

Derek: Absolutely.

Andrew: Okay. And you ran it on the side for how long like that?

Derek: Two years.

Andrew: Two years, all free?

Derek: All free.

Andrew: All events at your office?

Derek: After about a year, we outgrew the office. We hijacked another office that wasn’t ours that no one was in, in the complex. Then we bounced around from place to place and the events got bigger and bigger.

Andrew: How did you get people to come to the events when you were just starting out?

Derek: In the beginning, no one came. This was kind of frustrating. After nine months, we had an event with four people. I remember going to my car and saying, “What a waste of time.” For some reason, I decided I was kind of doing it but not really trying at all and we weren’t capturing names and even our friends stopped coming. I just decided I’m going to do a great job or I’m just not going to do this.

So, look, we started using Meetup. We started using other customer acquisition tools. We started using Eventbrite. We started reaching out and making partnerships and inviting people to come.

Andrew: What customer acquisition tools did you start using?

Derek: There were things like Startup Digest had this really, really great newsletter at the time. Everyone opened it. If you wanted to go to an event, there were other people–in every city, there are people that curate events. So, we would get in with those people and we had high quality events. So, they liked promoting our stuff.

Andrew: So, you find the people that have a list of your audience who were already running events to their audience.

Derek: Absolutely.

Andrew: You started using tools like Eventbrite. Actually, Meetup is really good because it sends people your way. It’s really good for getting discovered. Discovery is the word I was looking for earlier. Eventbrite I don’t think came on until later, right?

Derek: So, we started using Eventbrite when people started paying, which was at about the two-year mark. That’s maybe an interesting story of why we started charging. Two things kind of happened after about two years.

One, I had somebody come and say, “Hey, I love the brand. I love the values of Startup Grind. I love the community. I need to do this in LA. We don’t have anything like this.” I swear, my reaction to that was, “That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. You’re wrong. This isn’t anything here, why would it be anything in LA?” He said, “No, there’s something special here.” So, we started doing it in LA and it worked. We started doing it in New York and it worked.

And then about that same time, I had an entrepreneur that attended one of my events. So, we don’t have any money and we’re like funding this thing and renting the space and buying crappy food. And like I saw this entrepreneur walk in and he stacked pizza like ten pizzas high and then he walked out, like before the event even started.

Andrew: Meaning stack it to eat for myself.

Derek: I don’t know, to take back to his van where the rest of his startup was or something. So, I realized that we had created like a startup homeless shelter, not a community. So, I decided I’m going to start charging and guys like that, they won’t come anymore. Guys like that, they’re not creating value for anyone. They’re not helping anyone. They’re not living our values. So, let’s just charge.

What happened was when we charged, again, all huge surprises. I probably would have done it sooner. 60% of people came back and they paid and it was the highest quality 60%. So, instead of having 300 people, we had 200 people and kind of the crazy people stopped coming.

Andrew: Let’s back up for a bit. When it was free, what went on at these events?

Derek: So, we tried a number of things the first year. Every month was a new iteration. So, first we started brainstorming. Then we started doing this. Then we started having speakers that were giving talks. And then one of your buddies, Jason Calacanis came and spoke. He said, “I don’t have time for a talk. I can’t do a talk.”

Andrew: He likes to do fireside chat, right?

Derek: Fireside chat, “I’ll show up for an hour and then I’m going to leave. I don’t have a lot of time.” I said, “Jason, great.” I didn’t know him. I cold emailed him. He came and the room was packed and the interview was good. It’s still online. It wasn’t good, but for the time it was good. So, we said, “Wow, that worked. Let’s do that again. So, the next month we had Naval Ravikant. Again, cold email. He came and it was more packed and it was a great interview too. So, from that moment on we said that worked, rinse and repeat.

Andrew: No talks, interview?

Derek: Always interview.

Andrew: Always an interview.

Derek: 99.9% of our 1,200 events last year were a fireside chat interview.

Andrew: You guys call it fireside chat?

Derek: We do.

Andrew: Because of Jason. Jason is the one who popularized the phrase fireside chat.

Derek: That’s probably right.

Andrew: I think I organized an event in LA and he came in and he just wanted to do a fireside chat. But dammit, he was on fire. He loved what he was doing with Mahalo. He had a win with Weblogs Inc. So, he was willing to talk about the crap that he pulled at Weblogs Inc. and he was willing to talk about how exciting Mahalo was. He was a great guest.

Derek: And this was right when he got kind of thrown out of TechCrunch Disrupt and TechCrunch50. So, he was kind of this pariah in the Valley of like Arrington threw him out. He’s blogging about him. So, he agreed to come speak at our rinky-dink meetup event. We learned a bunch of things from that that we still use today.

Andrew: You know what? I had Keith Teare, the cofounder of TechCrunch on Mixergy here and I asked him about that incident and he said, “We just brought Jason Calacanis in,” I always thought Jason was a partner. He goes, “We just brought Jason Calacanis in as like an MC.” I had no idea. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I can’t imagine Keith would lie about it.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: I love his promotional style. So, I see. First it’s just pizza and hanging out and talking. Then it’s pizza and listening to someone do a fireside chat. Then it’s pizza, listening to someone do a fireside chat and payment. So, you end up with now the core of your event.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: Always a live person talking. I see like Gagan Biyani recently spoke here in the Bay Area. Okay. That’s the main message. That’s the heart of it and the promotion was in place. Then at that point, did you realize, “All right, I’ve got a business here. I want to grow it?”

Derek: No. I realized we had something special. But it wasn’t a business. But we’d had a couple of events here that had paid some of our bills. We were just starting to figure out that sponsors want access to this audience. So, we’d never had a sponsor in the first two and a half years, we’d never had a sponsor and then I realized hey, just as your sponsors Pipedrive or anybody else actually add value to the audience because this is a cool tool that people can use. So, we started doing that.

Andrew: How did you get your first sponsor?

Derek: We found a woman who was running marketing for RingCentral. Her name is Denise Terry. She was attending our event. She loved our event. She said, “I want to sponsor.” I said, “We don’t do sponsors.” She said, “No, no, I want to give you money.” We said, “How does that work?” So, we eventually worked something out. She wrote us a $6,000 sponsorship. We did a number of events together, some things on our blog. It was like I had found gold at the end of a rainbow. That was like we weren’t losing money all of a sudden.

Andrew: Sponsors pay a lot of money all at once. You got paid more from that sponsorship than you did from your early ticket sales, right?

Derek: Absolutely. And she ended up coming to work for us. So, it was really somebody who saw it. We had a lawyer who would come every month and sit on the front row, a partner at some law firm. He started wanting sponsor because he just loved I t.

Andrew: Who was the lawyer?

Derek: He was a Greenberg Traurig and you put me on the spot. I’m going to think of it.

Andrew: That’s okay. I couldn’t think of Keith Teare’s name as I brought him up, so I quickly did a Google search. All right. Since you mentioned sponsors, let’s talk about Pipedrive. And let’s talk about Pipedrive like it wasn’t a sponsorship so that people can actually get value out of this conversation. Let me tell you how I use Pipedrive and then I’d like to hear how you use it.

Here’s what we do. The idea behind Pipedrive is that sales should be broken down into clear steps. For us, we have ten steps to take someone who’s completely a stranger to us and turn them into a booked interviewee that’s on the site. Each step gets its own column. The first column for us is suggest a guest.

So, you were suggested because someone on your team came to our site and put you in the form and told us a little bit about your company. So, Andrea said, “That actually makes sense. I don’t know why we haven’t had Derek on here.” And she added you into the first step in our process.

The next step is someone would need to follow up with you and invite you to do the pre-interview and so on and so forth. If we didn’t know you and we didn’t know your email address, you might come in like–Keith Teare, I think, happened because Jeremy Weisz, our producer, and I were on a call and he said, “You should get this guy who’s like the cofounder of TechCrunch.” I don’t know who he is. Is he really the cofounder of TechCrunch? I thought it was just Arrington. Who knows? Let’s go. We Googled him. We found him and I put him into the first column of Pipedrive.

Then Ari came in and she said, “This guy actually does make sense.” And she moved him to the second column, which is approved. And then Stephanie, I think, at the time says, “I’ve got to find his email address.” So, she hunted his email address and she found it. She added it to the card in Pipedrive and she moved it to ready to invite to do an interview and so on and so forth. What’s your process for using Pipedrive?

Derek: We use it for figuring out who’s going to run our chapters. So, with the 200 chapters around the world, we’ve probably had 3,000 people apply to start a chapter for the last four years. And then of that, we’ve accepted maybe 250 or something and then 50 have probably changed over.

Andrew: So, they apply first and then you need a process for making sure that the right people make it to the end?

Derek: Absolutely. We’ll approve between 5% and 10% a month. So, they come in. They apply on the website. They go in the first bucket. They have some things they need to do. We say, “Hey, do we want to even send this person an application?” So, we look at them there. And then they go into the next bucket.

And then from there, they have a big application they need to fill out and then when they submit that, they go to another bucket. And then they get an interview if that looks good. And then they go into another bucket and then after the interview, we have some things on them. And then we meet and talk about it and if they’re a good fit, then they get approved and they go into another bucket to work towards their first event.

Andrew: So, for anybody who’s listening to us, that’s that idea behind Pipedrive. There are tons of CRMs out there, tons of ways to keep your contacts stored online or on your phone or wherever. The beauty of Pipedrive is it allows you to really be clear about your process for selling and have it really laid out step by step and allow other people to help you along the way.

So, even if you’re just starting out by selling all on your own, you still want to be clear about your steps. For me, we have 10 steps to closing an interview. For you, you might have five steps for closing a sale. Whatever it is, you lay it out in Pipedrive and then you start working with your process within the system until you get your sales.

If someone doesn’t work, you can look at their statistics and see where you’re losing people. Are you losing them like we were? We were losing them because they would do a pre-interview and then they forgot to book an interview. So, we saw that in the stats and we improved it. All right if you want to try Pipedrive, just go to and you’ll get–I don’t even know how much they’re giving us.

Derek: I know it’s a lot.

Andrew: Why am I mistyping Mixergy? It gets us two free months of Pipedrive. After two months, you will know whether you can actually use this to grow your sales. I know we here at Mixergy have dramatically improved our hit rate, our success rate for guests with this. So, check them out.

I saw this note here from your conversation with our producer about how one of the first things you did was you sold your current startup to What was the startup that you had?

Derek: I had this product that we worked on. It was a professional social network. It was designed around finding connections that you had with other people from the social networks. So, this was 2010. You log into all your social profiles. It would suck in all this data about you, everyone that you know. Then it would say, “This is who you know with Andrew. This is what you have in common.” And then you could start to build a relationship off of that.

Andrew: And so what did you get for that?

Derek: I got not very much. But I will say this–the interesting part about the story is this. First of all, we were in the process of shutting servers, send grid, everything down because it was just costing us money. I had looked at other jobs. I was starting to do Startup Grind a little bit, but it was maybe in four or five cities. There was nothing clear about what that would be.

I found this company. There was this guy that had bought this domain, He was trying to build a business around it. They didn’t have any sort of technology stack and they liked what we had done. We were able to sell it. It bought us another 12 months of runway for us to Startup Grind out.

But the important thing for me with it was that I remember driving away and saying like if I look back on it–I didn’t take any money out. We put it all back in. But I just remember driving and saying, “If I could live through what we just lived through the last six months and survive, I will fear nothing.”

From that time, you walk through the shadow of the valley of death and you come out alive. And that was our moment. The amount of money–we’ve done deals much bigger than that since in sponsorships. The amount of money didn’t matter. It was that we found a way when there was no way and that changed our perspective of what we could accomplish.

Andrew: The valley of the shadow of death–what was it for you? Be open. Tell me the personal side for you. What happened there?

Derek: Yeah. It was awful. I had a check in my wallet for–I’m a Christian guy. I had a check for an amount of what’s called tiding, an amount of money I felt like I owed to God for what I had made over the last few months. It was slightly less than what I had in my bank account. And I had to make some really tough decisions. And I’m grateful that I made those decisions. I think I was blessed for those.

But telling your cofounder, “Hey, you need to go get a job. We need to find something for you. Where can you work? Which of my friends can you work for? Just temporary. Go do it for six months. Let’s catch our breath. I’m looking at jobs.” I have the best wife in the world. She is absolutely my cofounder. We have three amazing kids. They love what I do. They are the most supportive cheerleaders in the world. But she could have at any moment said, “This is ridiculous. I didn’t sign up for this. Go back to EA. Go do something else.” And I would have done it. But she didn’t.

So, this is my story. So, everybody who I’ve ever talked to, these interviews, the Mixergy interviews that you ever listen to, everyone has this moment or they have this multiple times. In spite of what you read or the funding press release or whatever that people love to talk about, the 30 Under 30 or whatever. That’s what being in a startup is about. Can you survive? Can you make it through that moment? If you can, then again, what else should I be scared of? What could I be afraid of?

Andrew: I would be afraid–losing what?

Derek: Well, what? You tell me.

Andrew: Here’s the big fear. First of all, losing face is pretty scary.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: The other thing is that your kid is going to miss out on school or schooling or some kind of opportunity because you screwed up. That’s another one. That you may never have another opportunity again like this because you’ll be stuck in a job where your kids will then depend on your health insurance and so on. So, then you’ll be stuck at a life you don’t want for the rest of your life. That’s fear. I’d be afraid of that. Did any of that resonate with you? What was it for you?

Derek: All of that has resonated with me at some point. But this is what I would say. I would say step back and focus and write your list of what things you will not lose. You cannot lose these things no matter what. The things on my list–and I say this publicly because I put myself on record–I cannot lose my wife. I cannot have my kids hate me. I cannot go to jail. So, those are the things. And I can’t lose my faith. So, these are the things that whatever happens, I will not compromise.

But everything else–my kids school, where I live, a smaller apartment, a smaller house–I’ve never had a lease on a car. I’ve only owned my cars. So, I don’t drive nice cars. These things to me–and I know that’s not for everybody–to me they do not matter. If they all go away, it’s just money. At the end of the day, I came with nothing. I’m going to leave with nothing. Do I want to make something in between? Yeah. I want to make a lot in between. I want to be successful. I want to take care of my family.

But at the end of the day, as long as my wife loves me, as long as I still have my soul, then you know what? I’ll be okay. That’s what inspires me. That’s what gets me through the fear. That’s what gets me through the 3:00 a.m. nights when you’re pushing code and trying to rally the troops.

Andrew: When you were just starting out, how did you get people like–I’m looking at your Wikipedia entry–Jessica Livingston was there, Reid Hoffman was there. Reid Hoffman turned me down for a Mixergy interview. How did you get these guys to come to your event?

Derek: Take him off the page. If he turned you down, we don’t want him associated with us.

Andrew: You know what? He was really nice to me. I think I just hit him up at a time that was harder. A little before I emailed him, he was much more accessible. At some point, he became less willing to go and talk publicly. But he was nice. The only thing–I got great advice from a mutual friend that said, “Use LinkedIn to message him. He’ll love it.” Usually I would email, but with him I used LinkedIn. But in more general terms, how did you get top people to come to your events?

Derek: I am not great at many things, but one of the few things–I don’t know why–that I’m great at is sending cold emails. As you probably do, I spend hours and hours and hours on writing the right email to the right people at the right time. When they respond, I am right there to respond w within 30 seconds of it.

Andrew: What makes it the right email?

Derek: For me, for somebody like that, to get somebody to do something for you, to speak, it’s about value and it’s about what’s in it for everybody. What’s in it for a speaker is you get to talk about your brand. You get to talk about your company. You get to tell your story. You get to educate entrepreneurs, which most entrepreneurs are naturally excited about doing. And this format, much like our format, is easy. So, it’s show up. Don’t prepare a TED Talk. Just show up and talk and we’ll film it and blast it out.

So, there’s a good value proposition there for people. I find that most people, they don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to waste their time. So, Reid Hoffman, for instance–I didn’t ask Reid Hoffman to speak. One of his friends asked him to speak for us. He spoke with him. They both spoke together.

Andrew: They did a fireside chat where his friend interviewed Reid?

Derek: That’s right. So, that’s how we got Reid Hoffman. How we got Jessica Livingston–I cold emailed her for years. Finally, she finally said yes. Also Paul Graham, who you have had who I couldn’t get, I haven’t had Jimmy Wales, Andrew Mason, I haven’t had a lot of these people. It’s not like I haven’t emailed them.

So, Paul Graham once told me–I emailed him in between Christmas and New Year’s, which is a great time to email important people for some reason. I emailed him and he responded and he said–this was like Christmas 2011. He said, “I’m really tempted to do it. Email me in the fall. No problem.”

So, nine months later, I email him and I said, “Paul, look at the thread below. You said email you in the fall. Here I am. Here’s everything we’ve done since then. Will you speak?” And his response was, “No, I won’t speak. I’m really busy. I’m going to be busy for the next few years.” “No problem. I’ll hit you up.” Fast forward two years later, 2014, fall. “Paul, you told me to email you in a couple years. Here I am. Will you speak?” No. He won’t.

So, he still hasn’t spoken. So, some people, they’ll connect with you and what you’re saying. They might connect with me and what I’m saying. But it’s all about getting to it quickly, clear value proposition. You’re not going to be embarrassed. This is a good thing for you to do.

Andrew: What’s your process for remembering to come back to them?

Derek: With that one, it’s kind of seared in my brain. It wasn’t hard to remember. I might put it in a calendar. But most of the time, I make a mental note. There aren’t that many of these if it’s a high profile person, then I’ll just remember to do it and do it.

Andrew: I use–what is it called?

Derek: Okay. Yeah.

Andrew: So, back in the fall I might BCC. I might say, “Okay, I will,” and then BCC and that way in September, I’ll get a reminder back via email.

Derek: That’s a much better way to do it.

Andrew: That helps. Yeah. We’re incredible systemized because we have to keep pumping out these interviews every freaking week.

Derek: How do you not get tired of just interviewing people over and over and over, not the same people, but even new people. How do you feel energized talking to new people?

Andrew: I think you kind of saw a little bit of that before the interview started where I was trying to get in touch with why I give a damn about you. I just had to really–excuse me, darn, you’re a Christian–actually, honestly was that offensive?

Derek: I’m not offended.

Andrew: I was looking at your face and you’re fine. I always like to use the right words for the right person. But I was trying to figure out why I care about you, why I care about your story. If I can’t find a thing about your story that I care about, then there’s no way I can make it interesting for my audience. I try to do that too when I meet people in person. I try to think, “Why do I really care about them? What am I curious about?” And then just go to that, otherwise the conversation becomes really boring and robotic and obligatory.

Derek: I’ve found the same thing over the years, that if I’m not stoked about it, then why should I expect anybody else to be. That’s really hard, especially what you do. What you do day in and day out, you’ve always got to be on. You’ve always got to have to something. And it’s amazing. Your ability–most people in this whole space and maybe in life, I don’t know, but they just wear out.

Andrew: They do. Yeah.

Derek: You know, the people that are still here that build brands–Richard Branson, he’s been at it for how long, 40, 50 years? Look at the great brands. Look at Apple, how long did it take? Versus look at Atari–the founder left. He got thrown out. No one has talked about Atari for 20 years, 20+ years. So, if you can sustain it, if you can survive–that to me is what’s amazing about what you’ve done is that you’ve never sacrificed quality. I can’t even think of a time where somebody else has done the interview. Has that ever happened?

Andrew: I’ve thought about it, actually. I was talking with one of my past interviewees and I don’t know that I’d ever want to be replaced. I don’t think I would. I love doing these conversations. You and I are going to get to know each other. I’ll ask you some probing questions. If we see each other on BART, even if we’re both busy, there will be an acknowledgement and a closeness that wouldn’t come if we just met at a cocktail party, for example.

I’ll take that and the knowledge I get from having this conversation with you. What I’ve been thinking of is there a way to expand this to allow more people to do the interviews. Is there a way to let them also participate in this? I don’t know how to do that. But frankly, I do want to make this bigger than me.

One of the things I admire about you and Startup Grind is you did. You found those people who wanted to do it in other cities. I think you actually told our producer that at one point, you had to beg, you had to cajole, you had to really use all your persuasion skills to get people to start these chapters. Why did you want to do it? Why did you want them so badly to start Startup Grind in different cities?

Derek: It was a positive thing here. I’ll downplay what we do and whatever. But it was impacting people, it was helping people. It was making the world a better place. So, when someone would come in from Australia or whatever or Texas, I’d meet them and they’d say, “Hey, I’m from Australia.” I’d say, “You’ve got to do this in Sydney. This is working in six other cities. It’s really helping people. You could really help people and also help yourself at the same time.” I think you do.

You beg and plead people in the beginning and then we hit a certain point, you hit a tipping point. It’s less begging and you start to get a little bit choosy, but from those original people, from the original 20 chapters that we started almost four years ago, I’d say we have probably about 10 of those people still involved and running a chapter. Think about that.

We had our 50th chapter in Toronto a few months ago by the same guy. He ran all of them. They’re all startup grind events. This guy has built an incredible brand for himself. He has become someone that people recognize and know. Maybe at the beginning of the process, they didn’t know who he was. We played a small part in elevating him and just making people aware that, “Here is a great person. Pay attention to him and work with him.” So, yeah.

Andrew: When you ask someone to host an event, they had to find a location. They had to promote it, right? Two really hard things–and find a guest. I guess you could help with the guest. How did you help them find a location? That’s been really tough?

Derek: It’s just too hard to manage. So, again, if you’re bootstrapped, low margin business–so, there’s only so much you can do. So, basically as we talk to people, we say look, you need a speaker, you need a date and you need a venue. Don’t worry about anything else. Just get those things figured out. If they couldn’t figure that out, then we don’t want to work with them. That’s not that hard to do.

But even if they were, let’s say, nobody, like me, they didn’t have any great past success or anything, if they could do those things and do it well and we started to see enough of them where we start to recognize quality of someone’s work in this and we’d say, “Wow, we’ll work with that person even though they don’t know anyone and they’re not connected and they’re not known in their own community.”

Then we had people, I had someone in London one time, we got a new director there. His name is Marion. He joined a few years ago. I had a very well-known person in the community there come to me and say, “You’ve got the wrong guy. You know what you’ve got the wrong guy?” I said, “Why?” He’s like, “Because I’ve never heard of him.” I said, “No, we’ve got the right guy because he matches our values.”

It turned out if anyone who’s listening to this has ever been to our event in London, he is the guy. He runs all of our European chapters now. So, we don’t always get it right, but if they match with our values, most of the time, we get it right a lot more than we get it wrong.

Andrew: How can you test to see if they match your values?

Derek: I think you can’t say, “Do you match my values?” That’s the main thing. You have to create mechanisms to prove. So, one of the things that we do is we ask people to fill out a really long, obnoxious application. It takes a long time and it requires a lot of work. Some people get prima donna about it and they’re like, “I’m an important person in the startup community. Why are you making me do this?”

Then other people are like, “I’m just going to do it because I’ve seen who they are on the site. I’ve seen their values. They seem like my kind of person.” And then when they do it and they do a good job, we’ll get on the phone with them and if they get approved, we give them everything that we have.

Andrew: What do you have to give them?

Derek: Well, we have a global brand. We have a technology back end that makes creating and running events a very trivial thing, which it’s not hard to do, but creating an Eventbrite event can take an hour and a half if you want to get it right. It takes us less than five minutes.

Andrew: There was a period where you were doing this all yourself and it was becoming a drain to do all these events, to create all the Eventbrites. You had to personally do that?

Derek: Yes.

Andrew: Why do you use Eventbrite and Meetup? I feel like Meetup will get you more people and they still let you charge.

Derek: Meetup is built for single meetups. Meetup is great. We have hundreds of meetups inside of Startup Grind. But it’s not built for any sort of mass attendance, organization, community. It’s built for the one-off meetup here and there. You can charge for tickets. Meetup was never intended for that purpose.

Meetup was built to get people to live events. Eventbrite was built to collect credit card sand sell tickets. So, they’re both very good at those things and then they’re not really good at any of the other things. So, we kind of tried to take the best of both worlds and use people for what they’re great at. We use an email service for that. We don’t build our own. We use an invoicing service for that. But use people for what they’re great at.

Andrew: And you didn’t want to build your own invitation system?

Derek: Well, we actually have. If anybody’s still listening, when you get to about–

Andrew: Why wouldn’t they be listening?

Derek: I don’t know. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. You get to 20 cities, 20 events a month and it becomes a logistical nightmare. So, you have to move to software or you cannot scale beyond that. So, then when you get to like 50 or 75 cities, you hit–if you some of the right software, you hit other big issues and problems.

Then when you hit like 125, even good software leveraging these other platforms, it becomes very, very difficult to manage. So, now we’re doing 100+ events a month with 200 chapters and there’s just nothing that exists for that use case. I don’t know why.

Andrew: I could have sworn that I saw Eventbrite, though, that you guys were using.

Derek: We do, but that’s all changing this month.

Andrew: Oh, you had to build something from scratch now.

Derek: That’s right.

Andrew: Managing Eventbrite, even using their systems to allow you to automatically create events, it was too much.

Derek: At some point, you can’t bootstrap off other people’s technologies. If it grows the way you want it to grow, do it as long as you can, spend as little money as possible as long as you can, test it, manually do it. But at some point, if it’s successful, that doesn’t work anymore. You’ve experienced that. We experienced that. I think every great company experiences that at some point.

You need your own technology. If it’s a technology company, you need your own technology to run your stuff. So, that’s what we’ve done and we’ll move out of Eventbrite. We’ll move out of Mailchimp. We’ll move basically creating this own ecosystem for ourselves and our own software that runs it.

Andrew: Let me do a second sponsorship message and come back and ask you about this conference. The second sponsor that we have is… Who was the second sponsor, actually? It is Acuity Scheduling. Ah, yes, Acuity Scheduling.

So, here’s the deal. I talked about how I used Pipedrive to come in and do my interviews with me. Well, at some point we need to give them an easy way to schedule calls with us. We are now switching to Acuity Scheduling because unlike all the other systems for doing this, Acuity is easy enough that anybody on my team can use it. I’ve used so many different systems and I’ll continue to use lots of different systems, but I need one that anyone on my team can adjust. I can’t be the person who goes into our booking system and messes with it. I don’t have that time anymore.

So, here’s what you do with Acuity Scheduling. You go in and you connect your calendar with Acuity Scheduling, that way it knows when you’re busy, when you’re free. Then you go into Acuity and say, “Here’s when I like to do my interviews.” For example, for me, I do my interviews on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Today we’re recording on a Tuesday and specifically at these times so that I have some space to do lunch and answer emails and make some calls in between. That’s it. Sorry?

Derek: Take a nap.

Andrew: Take a nap. Oh, I would love that.

Derek: Trim your beard. Your beard is really…

Andrew: I know. I’m thinking of just chopping the whole thing off. I do on breaks from the interviews. I wonder, actually. Sometimes I take it off when I’m away from the interviews.

Derek: I wouldn’t lose the beard. I’m like a 12-year old kid when I grow a beard.

Andrew: The benefit is that I don’t have to shave too long in the morning and I’m really big on time savings. I’d much rather do some email or prep for this interview or do a little bit of other work or roll around on the floor with my kid and spend the extra five minutes. With my thickness, it takes me like 15 minutes, in all honesty. If you’re going to do it, just do the full thing. Just start here and then work your way all the way up.

Derek: And like you, just take it all off.

Andrew: Yeah. That seems like a lot of time. How long does it take you to shave your head?

Derek: Two minutes.

Andrew: Really, literally, under five minutes?

Derek: I need to be in the shower, but yeah, it’s two minutes.

Andrew: Wow. All right. Back to Acuity–once I add my calendar and I add my availability and add a couple of questions that are important to me, like I want to know my guests’ names–obviously want to know my guests’ names, but I also want know their Skype names. I want to know their phone numbers.

Once I do all that, I can take their code, embed Acuity’s calendar on my site and give it to my guest and say, “Let’s do an interview. You pick the date you want and then you can fill out a short form with the questions that I need answered so I can be prepared for the interview.” Acuity is fantastic for that.

The other thing that I like about it, as I said earlier, really simple. Anyone on your team should be able to use it. It ties in with so many other applications. So, if you want to take someone who’s just booked a meeting with you and add them to your email list or fire off another message to them, you could do it. Acuity will connect with all those other systems.

Anyone who’s listening to me is probably not doing interviews. So, how do you use Acuity Scheduling? Well, maybe you want to talk to potential customers, answer their questions. You need an easy way to manage them. You want them to come and look on your calendar. Maybe you want to do some in person meetings. You need an easy way for people to schedule with you and not have any overlap. So, if someone says they want to meet with you on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m., you want to take that off your availability instantly so the next person doesn’t do that. Acuity has got all those benefits and so many more.

They want to win over the Mixergy audience, so they’re giving us a big discount. Let’s take a look– Let’s see the deep discount that they’re… Oh, it’s not even up yet. Is it up? It is up. It is 45 days. 45 days free if you sign up for Acuity Scheduling by going to

All right. I’m looking, by the way, over your shoulder and I love that you’ve got your logo there. I love that you’ve got the lighting done right. You even did the lighting which we see on some popular TV shows like “West Wing” or “House of Cards.”

Derek: It’s called the sun.

Andrew: It’s that what it is?

Derek: I just have a window open.

Andrew: Start paying attention to some of these dramas. What you’ll notice is they have one side of the person’s face well-lit and the other side a little in shadow, right? It gives a little sense of mystery, but also clarity.

Derek: It’s my scars. I won’t talk about them. I don’t like people to see them. So, they’re in the back.

Andrew: No, it’s good lighting. But over your shoulder, I am seeing a Google logo, Google for Entrepreneurs. I see that everywhere, Powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. What does that mean?

Derek: They’re our primary sponsor. We have access to Google’s resources and help to support our local communities and to support the global community here. We started partnering with them in 2013. We worked with them for two years. They’re kind of a newer group. It’s a group inside of Google that helps entrepreneurial organizations like us and Startup Weekend, a lot of co-working spaces and incubators and things like that. They kind of took all those things happening inside of Google, put them into one group and that’s Google for Entrepreneurs.

Andrew: And all they do is sponsor you and give you resources, they don’t ask for anything in return for that money?

Derek: They’re great. They’re amazing. There are absolutely things that they ask for.

Andrew: Like what?

Derek: Well, they want us to help promote some of their events or they want us to participate in some things with them and programs with them, but these are all things we would participate in anyways.

Andrew: Like what? What would they want you to participate in?

Derek: They have a workshop tomorrow in San Francisco with one of the founders of Singularity and they want us to get great entrepreneurs to attend it.

Andrew: That’s an easy ask.

Derek: Yeah, it’s an easy ask. They’re like if you’ve had a negative experience with Google, I’m sorry, but they’re like what you would expect Google to be. They are Googlers helping entrepreneurs. It is very pure. I’ve worked with almost every major company that works with startup organizations or I’ve spoken with them, at least. I haven’t worked with all of them.

They by far have the purest motives of any of these people. Google founders were entrepreneurs and they support this. There’s no P&L. There’s no ROI, “What’s the ROI on this?” It’s, “This is a good thing to do. Let’s help these groups. Let’s help entrepreneurs.” We’re lucky to be part of it.

Andrew: Do they pay you guys over a quarter of a million dollars? You’re smiling.

Derek: If no one was listening… If I knew how many people were listening, then I might be able to share it. Look, they’re great. When we started with them, we were in 30 cities. We’re in 200 now. I attribute a lot of that growth to their help.

Andrew: Do they also help find attendees for your events?

Derek: They help us find speakers. They’ll let us host in their spaces across the world.

Andrew: Oh wow.

Derek: It’s Google. They used to be inside of Google Ventures. They’re not anymore. It was kind of like being a Google Ventures portfolio company, but not having the strings of a VC on your board.

Andrew: Yeah. That’s a fantastic find. How did you get them?

Derek: I got an introduction and just worked hard. The first meeting went horribly. I walked out and said, “They’ll never work with us.”

Andrew: Why?

Derek: Because they were kind of stand-offish and it’s Google and they probably get pitched a lot. We did an event with them. We kind of made up this event to do with them in order to test something. They said, “Come back in four months.” We’re like, “That’s not going to work.” We made up an event. We did the event.

The thing that the Google person will tell you of why they first got excited about working with us was at the event, they saw us. They said, “Don’t worry about the trash or anything. Just leave it. Someone will clean it up.” And all of our team members were cleaning everything up, picking up pizza crust and all of this stuff. That seemed like something different to them. We’re lucky to work with them.

Andrew: Tell me about a time when you organized an event and not enough people showed up and it was kind of painful.

Derek: I try not to think about those. I’ve had a few close calls. I had one where it was like you were saying earlier. I just didn’t have the energy of the person that I was interviewing. I picked the wrong person to interview. That was confirmed by no one wanted to hear him speak. And I almost fell asleep during the interview, true story. I was like pinching my leg. It was just bad. The whole thing was bad. No one came.

Andrew: No one came and the guest wasn’t working well.

Derek: Exactly. Yeah.

Andrew: How many people were in the audience?

Derek: Maybe 50.

Andrew: Do you have a process for dealing with that?

Derek: Sorry, maybe like 25. I hadn’t thought about it for a while. Put out less chairs?

Andrew: That helps a lot.

Derek: Make the room feel bigger. Get a small room. We moved rooms last minute to a really small room so that it wouldn’t feel so gaudy and this huge AOL room that we were hosting in. Another time we had a guy we couldn’t get a venue. We didn’t have a lot of people. He was the founder of Guitar Hero. His name is Charles Huang. Have you had him on here?

Andrew: No.

Derek: We’re going to get him if you want him. He founded Guitar Hero with his brother, one of the most interesting, thoughtful entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. We went to host it at his office. He let us host at his office. There weren’t that many people, but it was really small. He’s the only speaker who’s ever helped us take down chairs ever. I’ve seen hundreds of speakers. He never complained. It’s one of the best interviews we’ve ever had in these little cubicles in his office.

So, you don’t know. Sometimes it works. You do the best you can do. You don’t want to embarrass people. You don’t want to have bad interaction where they don’t like your brand. We try to avoid those things.

Andrew: I’m seeing here a post by you on TechCrunch about the Guitar Hero story based on your interview with him at his office.

Derek: Right.

Andrew: You know what sucks about that post is you posted, I think, the full interview and because you used some service, I don’t know what it is, that I guess went out of business or something, that video is gone.

Derek: Interesting.

Andrew: I love that we’re all using everyone else’s software, that we don’t have to create our own video software solution anymore, but man, when they go away, they just take a piece of your business with them.

Derek: True.

Andrew: That happened to me with I think it was Vimeo or Vimmler for a while there. No, I used Blip, because they let me brand it, they let me hide videos when I wanted to, all that stuff. Then one day they said, “Sorry, we’re taking it all off.” Really painful.

So, what about for when a guest is boring? Do you have a process for dealing with that or when you’re not doing well as an interviewer?

Derek: Go to Q&A. If a guest is boring, you do everything you can do and I try to get through it fast. If I’m not feeling it, then I try to get somebody else to do the interview, which happens more often than not now or if I’m out of town. Again, if the energy level for me isn’t high to talk to them–I think it’s a good lesson for all partnerships, for all relationships.

If you’re not excited about working with a company, why are you going to go try and pitch them and beg them to work with your startup? You’re already having this mountain to overcome. You should have a great reason why you should be there. Why should Google work with you? Why should Microsoft work with you? Why should Mixergy work with you? You better know their business better than they know it. If you do and you show that passion and energy, you might get the deal. If you don’t, you almost certainly won’t get the deal regardless, but you might get it if you’ve done your homework and know what you’re talking about.

Andrew: My process for that is to say, “I think this isn’t working. Are you picking up on it or am I just getting too much in my head?” Sometimes I’m wrong.

Derek: This is great. I’m loving this.

Andrew: “I think it’s just not working. What do you think? Why do you think we’re not able to gel here?” I did that for a recent interview.

Derek: What happened? What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in an interview for you?

Andrew: The worst thing… Nothing bad every happened in an interview. I’ve sweat really badly because I knew I wasn’t doing a good job.

Derek: Like you were perspiring?

Andrew: Yeah. And mostly not like from here, but in my armpits. I just don’t know like how do I get out of this situation. It’s not when it’s awkward. When it’s awkward, I’m fine with it. It’s when it’s boring. That’s when I really start to worry. When it’s awkward, I feel like I’m going to learn something. It’s going to be interesting to the audience if they can listen into it. When it’s boring, I feel like I’m failing here and I can’t undo it. That’s the real painful part.

Derek: Have you ever had anybody say, “You can’t put this up because it was a bad interview?”

Andrew: Yeah.

Derek: Have you have anyone–like blamed you or blamed themselves?

Andrew: Blamed themselves, sometimes blamed me. I shouldn’t say a lot, but it happens on a fairly regular basis.

Derek: Has anyone ever yelled at you in an interview?

Andrew: Oh yeah. Yeah.

Derek: Like angry at you because of something you asked or did?

Andrew: Yeah. And I didn’t ask anything that was out of bounds at all. I asked something out of his freaking book. He yelled at me. I called a friend of mine. I wouldn’t be surprised if you know who this person is, if he yelled at you too. I called a friend of mine and I said, “I’m getting yelled at by this guy. I know you guys have worked together. What do you do?” I was so like startled by the reaction because I really liked him. Has anyone yelled at you?

Derek: The worst thing that’s ever happened to me was I had Dave McClure from 500 Startups one time and it was five minutes into the interview and I was asking about his life and he looked at me, room full of people, 250+ people and he looks at me and he goes, “This is f-ing boring, dude. Like what are we talking about?” And I started to perspire. I don’t have any air to hold some of that in. So, if I perspire, I start dripping.

So, it ended up being fine, but that was just that moment that lights are on, people are there and you do what you’ve got to do, but most of the time, this isn’t Matt Lauer. So, you’re not…

Andrew: Fuck Matt Lauer. This is more important than Matt Lauer. I’ve seen Matt Lauer’s interviews. They’re so much less important than our stuff.

Derek: I’m not saying based on importance, I’m saying based on the number of people watching or people thinking, “If this goes poorly, I could become Tom Cruise. I’ll wreck my life or something.”

Andrew: My process with that again is if the thing isn’t working well, I try to be aware of it at the time and ask questions. How do I improve it? So, tell you what, if this is boring, then can you, Dave, tell me what do you do when you get boring? What’s the most interesting interview? What do you wish I’d ask you? You help me make this better. I kind of was boring with Dave and couldn’t undo it at the time. He didn’t call me out on it. He was trying to work with me. We couldn’t do anything with it. It was at Jason Calacanis’ conference, LAUNCH Fest.

Derek: In the room with the curtains and–

Andrew: Right. Were you there?

Derek: I’ve seen you do interviews there. I figured that’s where it was.

Andrew: It’s not the best place for me to do interviews, like side room where people are kind of told that they’re getting to do office hours with the person. But fine, I should work all those rooms. I should be able to do well there. I just couldn’t find a way to make him shocking like he had been in the past because he was a much calmer person and I didn’t yet know how to relate to him in that calm place. I think it was an okay interview, but I wanted it to be one of these shocking things and couldn’t get that.

Derek: It seems like these people that we all know and talk about and we’ve mentioned on this interview several times. These people are the best marketers. They may or may not be that person when you sit down with them alone or you’re at dinner with them. The first time I ever met Dave McClure, he’s kind of like a hermit. It’s only when he came on stage that he was like… This thing kind of comes out and he built a whole world around that. More power to him. But it’s interesting. He’s an incredible marketer. Jason is an incredible marketer. Arrington was an incredible marketer.

Andrew: Michael Arrington was the best.

Derek: Their ability to market themselves and their product. Even look at the best engineers in the world. They’re also great branders and great marketers. Think of Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers from Nest and what they did with Nest. They made a thermostat feel sexy and cool and Patrick Collison and John Collison at Stripe. They made payments seem like the coolest thing ever that you could work on. But these people are all great marketers. They’re great self-promoters.

Andrew: The other day I was–I know we’re close to the end here–I read an article about how Michelle Obama is doing SoulCycle and how she has to sneak out of the Whitehouse to go do SoulCycle with her friends. SoulCycle is so exciting that she is going out of her way, risking whatever security detail that she has just to go do it. She’s not the only one. Tons of people go to SoulCycle for that pump that you get from it, for the excitement.

How do we make events be so exciting that a president would want to leave–or a first lady–would want to leave the Whitehouse to come to? I feel like we haven’t tapped into that yet with startup events. Don’t you think?

Derek: I agree. You look at EDC or you look at Tomorrowland or you look at these huge areas with hundreds of thousands of people and you think, “There are 1,000 people at this tech event. What is the disconnect here?” What we do is not necessarily always fun and sexy. Some engineers who are the guys you want to work with are not necessarily the guys you want to be partying with at burning man or something.

I don’t know that I have the answer, but I think events are what you make of it, first of all. If you go to an event and you’re unsure of why you’re going–you’ve already wasted your time, you’ve already lost, you should have people you want to meet. You should have people you’re looking for that you know you can help. You should have specific things you’re trying to learn. You should have speakers that you want to approach, that you have specific questions to ask and start to meet them.

I don’t know. I have fun at any tech event that I go with my friends and I get something positive done out of it. But the entertainment, bringing Kaskade to a tech event doesn’t make it fun. You’ve got a bunch of awkward people dancing to Kaskade.

Andrew: What’s Kaskade?

Derek: He’s like a DJ, electronic music DJ.

Andrew: So, let me close off by asking you about your event, the conference, the big one.

Derek: You’re coming, right? Are you coming?

Andrew: I had no idea you guys were even doing this thing, but look who’s there.

Derek: Do a Mixergy interview, not in a backside room.

Andrew: The tent? Will it be in an outhouse?

Derek: Real place. Come on.

Andrew: All right.

Derek: We’ll get somebody good. Can that be a Mixergy interview?

Andrew: I think so. You guys record it?

Derek: Yeah, for sure.

Andrew: Yeah. I’ve done that recently. I think I should do more of it. So, here’s the thing about this event. It’s right here. It’s not too far from me. It’s a drive, but not a bad drive. Are all these people going to be there? Is Marc Andreessen coming to this event too with Stewart Butterfield?

Derek: Well, they’re all coming. I don’t know if they’re coming in the same Uber.

Andrew: It’s the same event? You’re not doing what other conferences do where they lump in everyone who’s been there in the past with everyone who’s coming and saying, “These are our speakers?”

Derek: Come on.

Andrew: You got Marc Andreessen to come. Stewart Butterfield from Slack to come. You got Aaron Levie from Box to come, who I hear is really funny. You’ve got Steven Chen to come. That doesn’t go to freaking conferences. Is that true? Is he really going to be there?

Derek: Are you kidding?

Andrew: No. I’m honestly asking. Is there some kind of shenanigan going on here?

Derek: No. Come on. If we had the past speakers, then it really would be a good list. It’s a good list.

Andrew: Tim Draper is coming. Tim Draper doesn’t come to this stuff.

Derek: Dustin Moskowitz is speaking.

Andrew: I saw that. He’s like Asana, so I kind of get why he would come, but all these people? Is this like Google getting you these people?

Derek: Maybe one or two. But look, we have a great brand. We don’t waste people’s time. So, you can’t get Andreessen if Ben Horowitz didn’t have a good experience two years ago.

Andrew: What do you do to give him a good experience?

Derek: You treat them like they’re kings.

Andrew: What’s one thing you do that makes them feel like they’re kings?

Derek: We get them great specialized gifts. Like for Ben Horowitz, he’s like this big rap guy. We got him this Biggie Smalls doll. When I showed it to him, he had this entourage with him. He showed it to them and they all just kind of went nuts and tweeted it out. We do homework on people. We try to do something thoughtful. It’s not expensive.

You’re not going to get a billionaire something they’re probably going to keep for very long. But you can get them something that makes them think you tried and you were thoughtful and you planned ahead. And then we don’t waste your time. Every minute is like you’re doing. Every minute is scheduled. Every minute is valuable and we film it and we get a lot of legs on it afterwards and a lot of them come back and speak again and a lot of them tell their friends they should speak.

Andrew: Jason Fried–Jason Fried does not fly out of Chicago much.

Derek: I think they’re feeling a little bit of pressure. With Slack and all of these…

Andrew: Jason Fried is?

Derek: I just think Basecamp in general. I don’t think they have spoken much.

Andrew: I hope so. I’m missing them talking.

Derek: Why don’t you interview him? Do you want to interview him?

Andrew: No, I’ve had him. You mean on stage?

Derek: Yeah. We’ll find somebody.

Andrew: All right.

Derek: Find somebody that looks cool you haven’t interviewed and we’ll figure it out.

Andrew: First question is are you upset that Asana is stealing your thunder? He would laugh at that.

Derek: I don’t think Asana is stealing their thunder, are they?

Andrew: I think so.

Derek: Is Asana working?

Andrew: We use Asana internally at Mixergy. I didn’t pick it. Everyone else in the team is going for it.

Derek: What about Slack? Do you use both?

Andrew: The what?

Derek: Slack?

Andrew: Oh, I don’t use Slack much. Asana we use for keeping track of projects. Basecamp I think I’m using with a couple of people. I don’t pick any of these project management apps. Other people on the team pick it and I go with whatever they want. But do feel like there’s more attention now for Asana than there is for Basecamp 100%.

And frankly, I just miss Jason Fried’s voice. I feel like he was the voice of the bootstrapper, the voice of simplicity. He was the voice of web apps. He was really driving the industry. I feel like at some point he just said, “Who needs this? Why do I have to aggravate everybody? I need to just relax a little bit.” Relax as in stop pushing everyone’s buttons. He was good at pushing buttons.

Derek: Well and they went to like a four-day workweek. It felt for a while they kind of–I don’t know… I didn’t notice a single new feature or upgrade of Basecamp. I don’t know how much of that is by design, but even really critical things. We use Basecamp. We have, I don’t know, 300 Basecamp projects in our account.

So, we use Basecamp a lot. But forever, it was like they never did anything. They never went down. It was fast. But there was nothing new. I think that’s driven a lot of people away to look at other things, Asana or whatever else. Maybe Slack eventually comes into that. I think Asana’s original value proposition was defeat email. It feels like at least to me Slack has saved me from email but maybe Asana would too if we used that.

Andrew: I tried using Slack for project management and it was just not working. It’s too hard. We needed to just be able to say, “Here’s one thing we’re working on. How do we redo the dojo on the site? Let’s break that up into pieces.” It was too tough.

Derek: Yeah.

Andrew: Man, that’s impressive. I don’t know why I didn’t scroll down to see the list of people at your event but I’m glad I did it with you because I think if I would have seen them on my own, I wouldn’t have believed it. It sounds like I’m shilling for you. I have no reason to shill. I’m amazed you’re able to get all these people to show up at all.

Derek: That means a lot that you’d say that.

Andrew: All right. Let me close out by saying that my two sponsors are very important for anyone who’s running a business to at least consider. Frankly, I’ve got a reason to tell you guys about them because I’m getting paid by them, but I still think they’re really good pieces of software that will help you become organized and more productive and sell more, frankly.

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You’re going to be amazed by why they bought, what they considered other than you and just learn from them. But for any reason why you want to schedule calls in person, anything, you’ve got to check out They’ll set you up and they’ll take care of you.

Finally, is the site we’ve been talking about if you want to go to one of the local events, if you want to check out who’s going to be at the big conference, it’s all there at

Oh, and please, I’m trying to grow my podcast subscribers. If you know of anyone who should be introduced to this, please let them know about Mixergy and tell them to subscribe in whatever podcast app they have on their phone. If they’re iPhone, they have that crappy but good enough podcast app that comes with the iPhone, tell them to just go subscribe to Mixergy there. Do me a solid.

Thank you everyone, bye.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.