Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com. It’s the place where I’ve interviewed over a thousand entrepreneurs and I’ve got a lot of fans, which I freaking love.
I was at this conference a few weeks ago called Hustle Con and I loved as I was walking around I got to know people because they were fans of Mixergy and they walked up and said hello. I invited some of them up for scotch. I got to talk to them. I got to meet them. I got to feel like a superstar in the tech world. Then this guy comes up to me and he says, “Hey, it’s Omar.” Of course it’s Omar. I recognize him because his face comes up every time I see his email in Gmail. He and I have been emailing since 2010. So, we’re talking about six years now.
He says, “You know, Andrew, I think you could be doing a better job on Mixergy.” So, right away, in many ways he becomes my favorite person, especially when he started to talk about why. He said, “Andrew, you really…” Actually, Omar, do you remember what it was you said?
Omar: I do.
Andrew: What was it? Where did you think I could improve as an interviewer?
Omar: Well, I think what I posed was is I said, “What’s next for Mixergy?” You looked at me and you said, “What do you think should be next for Mixergy?” I think that’s how the conversation started.
Andrew: Right. Then you started to say that companies that are further ahead have different needs than companies that are just getting started and I’m spending a lot of time on the getting started part and not a lot on the later stage stuff, which is exactly what I’d been thinking of a lot over the last few months. When you said that you were feeling like Mixergy wasn’t helping you at this stage in your business, I thought that I had found the perfect person to talk to.
We started talking one on one about what it is that you thought I needed to add. Then I interrupted you and I said, “Wait, Omar, let’s do it on camera. Let’s record it because I want to start a more public conversation.” Frankly also because this is my process. This is how I learned how to ask the right questions. I talk to the people who are going to be listening to the answers to those questions. I talk to the people who are going to be listening to the guests who I invite on. I want to find out what they’re looking for.
And you’re the perfect person to talk about this because man, you’ve come a long way since you and I first emailed back in 2010. Today, you are the cofounder and CEO of Ties.com and Scarves.com. Ordinarily, I’d have a long description of what a company does, but anyone can listen to that title and understand you guys sell ties and scarves, but you obviously do much more than that. You sell more than that–socks, etc., which we’ll get into. You also have more domains than that, but we’re going to keep it simple in the intro.
This interview is sponsored by two fantastic companies. The first is a company that Omar says that he’s actually going to be hiring soon. It’s called Toptal. I’ll tell you more about why if you need to hire a developer, you should be considering Toptal and talking to them. The second is a company that will actually help you get meetings. If you’re trying to email people or want your sales people to email people and get in front of them, you need to check out Acuity Scheduling. It will get you way more meetings, way more phone calls.
Omar, good to have you on here, man.
Omar: Thanks for having me. I’ve been listening to you, as you know, for six years, all the way back when I think you were in Santa Monica back then.
Andrew: I was.
Omar: Yeah. Awesome bookcase in the back.
Andrew: Yeah. I do miss that old bookcase. I’ve got all the books in boxes and it feels so sad. I love books. I’d like to just have them everywhere. The thing is that right now if I have books all over the place, it would be a prop instead of an authentic piece of who I am because I read digitally and books that are digital you can’t display anywhere. If I got books to display, it would just be for show and I don’t want to do that.
I want to understand a little bit about your background and frankly where you are today, but why don’t we start off with one big problem or one big need that you have that Mixergy isn’t solving.
Omar: This is probably true for a lot of people who are non-San Franciscans. Is that right? Did I say that right? Those who live in San Francisco–so, we don’t have the access to a lot of really great events that happen over there. I’m sure this resonates with a lot of your listeners or viewers. So, I am in Southern California. We don’t have that same level of talent, that same access to really great entrepreneurs.
So, for me, Mixergy was a really great place to come and learn from all those really great people at an early stage, where my company was six years ago. So, we’ve passed that now. So, Mixergy is no longer evolving, I think is the word that I used when we spoke last, it’s not evolving with me. So, it’s at the stage where it’s still trying to put on training wheels when I’m like, “No, no, no, I’m ready to ride this bike by myself now. Let’s get to the next stage. Let’s go up a hill. Let’s go down a hill. Let’s do that.”
Andrew: I see. And you’re not even at the place anymore where you feel disconnected from Silicon Valley or feel a special urgency towards understanding what’s going on, right? It’s not that. So, if you’re looking at your world today, what’s one big problem that you’re facing or one big challenge that you’re trying to figure out for yourself?
Omar: So, primarily how does a business of my size in terms of revenue scale up to the next level and get access to those people in sort of a more intimate setting, kind of mastermind-esque type of setting and getting those people to ask those sorts of questions that you may not be able to do, let’s say, over an email or you may not be able to do that in sort of a general forum if you go to a conference or something like that.
So, specifically speaking, we have a board, but our board is limited to the members that are on it. We don’t have the same access that, let’s say, a Noah Kagan does in San Francisco, having access to Ramit or Hiten or Rob, even though he does live in San Francisco, he’s within Driving distance. But nevertheless, even you. So, we don’t have that brain trust. We don’t have that same level of brainpower over there.
So, for me, my biggest pain point is how do I get access to those types of individuals who I can’t ask them. I have struck up sort of friendships, email friendships with a lot of those people that you have interviewed. However, they’re sort of long-distance email pen pal-types of relationships. They’re not the same types of relationships I would have with somebody if they were two towns over and I got to drive over there and have coffee with them and got to talk to them.
So, for me, I’d like to see Mixergy evolve in that sense because it has become such a national, perhaps even a global phenomenon. When you and I were speaking, there was somebody who came up who was from a different country. Obviously there’s an outreach over there, but how does Mixergy take its brand recognition, take its solid process of interview. How does it take that and how does it extrapolate beyond that?
This mission has always been to empower the little guy and empower the entrepreneur, the wantrepreneur, the solopreneur. How does it do that and how does it do that going forward? If your listeners have evolved in terms of their business, in terms of their revenue, in terms of their scale, if they have evolved and ready for you to teach the next lesson or help them learn the next lessons.
Andrew: Yeah. It sounds like you’re saying this can’t happen through interviews, that what you’re looking for is ideally more of a personal connection, that you really would like to be able to call or text or somehow have a conversation with someone who I interviewed last week. Is that what you’re thinking?
Omar: Yeah. So, there’s a bifurcation of my thought process in this. So, number one, it’s a level of intimacy that’s produced. So, the other thing is also exactly what you’re saying. Is there a way that we can take the narrative that you’ve been able to accomplish with these Mixergy interviews over Skype, over podcast, could we take these and could we make this into live events that are recurring, therefore making them both accessible to people who are local, but they’re also not so exclusive where if I happen to be in New York or I happen to be in North Carolina, I don’t get to come to San Francisco and have scotch with you.
Like I said, I think my email said I’m going to be in San Francisco in July and I’m more than likely going to reach out to you and hopefully we can meet, but odds are that it has to work for both of our schedules. So, never the less, I think the thought process has always been why couldn’t we do those? Why couldn’t we hold these meetings somewhere else?
And I think the question that I asked you was–and perhaps you can answer this–the question that I asked you was, “Is Mixergy synonymous with Andrew Warner and vice versa? Does Mixergy need to be synonymous with Andrew Warner?”
Andrew: Ideally not, but yes right now, absolutely. So, there’s a lot in what you just said. Let me start unpacking it. First of all, you said you want to go from the level where you are now to the level where you’re going to be. Where are you guys now with sales?
Omar: That’s a wonderful question.
Andrew: By the way, I usually would give people the spiel before the interview where I say you don’t have to say it, but if you do say it, I won’t edit it out. I don’t want you to feel like this number is the defining number, so it’s okay not to say it.
Andrew: That’s what I say to every guest before. As you noticed, a lot of guests will actually tell me before the interview, “No, I don’t want to say it.” And then in the interview, they’ll say it anyway because they just do. But I do like to give people that notice ahead of time. I’m not looking to get deep secret information that you wouldn’t reveal anywhere, but I do want to get a sense of where is Ties.com and Scarves.com and this whole business.
Omar: So, I think a lot of people look at our company and they think we’re a really a really large company, but we’re privately funded. We’ve never sought outside funding. So, we don’t have a tilt to go to and sort of grow our business. But I’ll tell you sort of the scale that we’re at and that will give you an idea.
Omar: So, we are operating somewhere between $8 million to $12 million.
Andrew: $8 million to $12 million in sales, roughly. And when you look at your next level, what’s the next mountain top that you want to hit? What does that look like?
Omar: $25 million.
Omar: So, we actually have–well, $25 million to $30 million is the range that we have. We’ve given ourselves the next amount of time period to do it in. Our goal is to really go to that scale in the next x-timeframe, three years, in the next three years.
Andrew: Before you and I started recording this interview, we got into this long conversation about books. Do you remember the books that you suggested that I check out, the ones that you got excited about reading and one of them specifically you reread? Do you remember?
Omar: “Hidden Champions?”
Andrew: “Hidden Champions,” that’s one of the books you read before and you recently reread. What’s another one you were telling me about?
Andrew: “Superbosses.” Is there another one that you’re especially excited about that you’ve read recently?
Omar: So, I am reading a book that my wife recommended. It’s by Angela Duckworth. It’s called “Grit.” It’s a long title. But that’s another book that I’m reading. I read typically about two to three books at a time. I get switched between them, but yeah.
Andrew: “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”
Omar: That’s it.
Andrew: So, you’re really reading books I’m sensing looking for something in those books, some kind of growth, in these cases for your business. What are you looking for when you’re reading “Hidden Champions?” What are you looking for when you’re reading “Superbosses” and “Grit?”
Omar: So, that’s a really great question. So, “Superbosses,” well, let’s start off with “Hidden Champions” because that’s one of my favorite books that I’ve read recently. “Hidden Champions” is this theory that there is a slew of companies that are operating in the background that people don’t know about that silently empower some of the biggest brands hat you know like Samsung, Nokia back in the day, Motorola back in the day.
So, there are these companies that provide hardware, chips that have been around 90 to 100 years pivoting once, perhaps twice in their entire lifetime, these businesses that produce somewhere about $5 billion in revenue and are absolutely phenomenal. One of the main points of this specific book is that for them, 5% annual growth is absolutely phenomenal. For them, it’s like coming off the rails. In fact, one of the CEOs that he interviews, he’s like 5% growth for us, we might as well–they’re afraid of that. They actually tried to scale that down.
The reason why they do it–they actually refer to this–they don’t want to be sort of an American company where they’re growing by 15%, 20%, 30%. That’s unstable for them. That’s not a stable growth that can sustain a company.
So, “Hidden Champions” represents this philosophy that you can build something really great and you can pivot it only when you absolutely must, but you can build something really great and have talented employees work for you and you can build a talented team and along the way, everybody who comes along gets to be taken care of–good jobs, good pay, work/life balance.
So, the reason I like “Hidden Champions” is for that reason. “Grit” is similar in that–
Andrew: What I mean is without getting into the details of the other books, what are you looking for? It seems like you’re hunting for a step towards $25 million and $30 million in those books. Am I right?
Omar: Yeah. So, all those books, what they do is give me–it gives me sort of independent validation for things that I’ve always felt because I’ve always felt like building a great company is much better than building for revenue. Building for the next five years is better than building for the next two quarters. “Grit” is along the same way–being resilient, life and business always finds a way to test your resolve and “Grit” is that one factor that can always make you successful. So, as long as you have grit, as long as you have emotional intelligence, you can get past it.
“Superbosses” is just a really fun book because it tells you what the difference is between being an exceptional boss and a super boss, all these sort of idiosyncrasies that make you an incredible boss. So, that’s what those books resolve for me.
Andrew: All right. So, you’re now at about halfway towards where you want to be, just $8 million to $12 million and you want to be $25 million to $30 million. What’s the big thing that’s going to help you get there?
Omar: We’ve had long drawn out conversations about this. Do we want to go to the market? Do we want to raise? If we raise, it’s how do we want to do this. So, I think that’s a possibility, an unlikely one, but a possibility. We are very healthy. Our EBITDA is very healthy, bottom line growth.
So, it’s nothing that we really have to do. But I think for us it’s going to be product introductions, reiterating the message we continue to send out. We have great LTVs with our customers, great customer satisfaction along the scoreboard. So, it’s doing a little bit more of what we do, but doing it at a faster pace and doing it at a grander scale.
Andrew: What would a faster pace look like, buying more ads, buying more domains?
Omar: No, no. For us it would be doubling down on the things that have made us successful so far–creating really great content, having superior products and providing really great customer service. And product development is probably something that we would double down and maybe triple down on.
Right now in order for us to bring a product to market–and I’ll use socks, for example–it took us eight months to bring it to market because we were very specific about the number of needlepoints. We were very specific about the kind of cotton that was going to get used. And then we have an entire creative department with a creative director who’s very particular about the coloring we were going to use and the chemicals that were going to get used to die the yarn. When you get that detailed about your product, that process becomes very time consuming and time intensive.
So, one of the things that we probably would do is in terms of scaling, we would probably cut that process down to introduce products. Right now we’re developing a new product that we’re introducing soon. We have worked on it for six months and we’re just about to receive our first production samples. And we’ve never done it.
That’s the great thing about us. So, we’ve never–I don’t have pattern makers in house. We don’t have those sort of big scale thing that a Ralph Lauren does or Tommy Hilfiger does or any of these big guys. So, for us, to do a new product that we’re going to bring in and to go through the process and really learn the intricacies of developing that process is a time-consuming effort.
Andrew: So, how do you speed it up?
Omar: A combination of things–staying overseas. That always helps, right? That actually does, staying overseas really, really helps. You’re in the midst of things. But also, we get a little more–internally we become a little bit more sort of focused on what it is that we want because I think often times when we go into these ideas, we don’t know what we want. So, then we’re basically swinging for everything until this big funnel sort of comes down and then you finally have your product. So, maybe we don’t start, the funnel isn’t as big or the thought process is more focused.
Andrew: You mean you were starting out with socks, hats, pajamas, etc. and then you ended up with socks and then you moved down further? What’s a more concrete example of that?
Omar: Okay. So, we’re going to release shirts pretty soon. That’s our next product. Shirts are really, really complicated–the placard on your shirt, the type of collar, the size of the collar, the spread of the collar, how many buttons the collar needs. Then on the inside there are tons of little minutiae details you need to resolve.
We all know what kind of shirt we like because the minute we put it on, we’re like, “Yeah, I like this shirt,” but you don’t think of, “How is this label applied? Is it sewn in? Is it heat-stamped?” You don’t think of those things until you have to make it. Then you’re like, “I have no idea what I’d like. I don’t know.”
Andrew: Okay. And now you guys have to come up with all those answers ahead of time. I see. And that’s the challenge.
Andrew: All right. Let me come back to that in a moment. First, my first sponsor is a company called Toptal. Omar, you guys have been considering using Toptal. Can you say for what or was it private?
Omar: We’ve been talking about developing an app and we have a full dev team over here and a dev stack. So, we’ve thought about bringing on outside developers to develop this project for us. If we can have access to the equipment repository and we can own the entire process afterwards and we can reach back out in case something goes wrong, absolutely, why not use somebody who’s better at it than we are.
Andrew: Why would you then go to Toptal and not hire another person on your team?
Omar: So, as I said earlier, we have a pretty limited number of resources, a pretty limited number of people here. So, even though we have a dev team, everybody has tons of projects. At any given time, we have seven ongoing projects. So, to bring on one more project just strains your resources that much more. So, keeping them focused and not having them learn a new language or new platform is that much easier for us.
Andrew: I see. And then why not use a consulting company that can do the whole thing?
Omar: Well, number one, I think with the consulting company, the process of going through in person meetings and having people come in and you explaining that process just seems very, very daunting. In fact, not of the reasons why we probably haven’t done it is because we haven’t wanted to go through that process. So, that’s probably the primary reason. Plus who do you reach out to? There are 100,000 people out there who say they can develop iOS apps and we can reach out to them.
Omar: And there’s no clarification. I guess Yelp and…
Andrew: Right. It would be nice if there was a Yelp for development shops.
Andrew: Kind of like what 37signals tried to do with Sortfolio for design, where you get to go see all the designs that other design shops had and then rate them. Anyway, I don’t know if that stuff exists, but the reasoning why you’re considering Toptal is really a common reason people end up signing up with them, that often they don’t want to pay for a full development shop to do the project, especially when they have somebody in house who can really guide it.
They don’t want to hire someone full-time because they don’t want to keep that person around forever. They just have a small project that they don’t have time internally to build and they want someone who’s just focused on it. So, they call up Toptal and they hire somebody from there.
If anyone out there is listening and they’re just like Omar, I’m not going to tell you, “Go sign up for Toptal.” What I’m going to say is if you’re considering it, just go talk to Toptal. If you’re considering developing something new or if you feel like your team is stretched beyond what it can handle right now or you just want someone who’s not focused on the everyday stuff you guys are doing but can concentrate on one thing or a team of people who can concentrate on one new project, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy and when you do, you’ll get to sign up and have a conversation with someone at Toptal.
Frankly, if you want it, Omar or anyone else, if you want, I can make an introduction to the person I’ve been working with at Toptal. His name is Graham. You can just email me, Andrew@Mixergy.com. Either way, whether you use that unique URL or go through me, they’re going to give you an offer they don’t give everyone else because frankly they’re trying to get more of the Mixergy audience to sign up because you guys are the ones who are going to talk about this and spread the word. You’re the influencers.
So, if you go to Toptal.com/Mixergy, you’re going to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours. Think about that–80 hours developer credit they’re giving you and that’s in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks. So, you sign up, you get the right person, they’re going to go into their network, they’ll find the right person for you, you start working with them.
If I’m a complete liar or if it just doesn’t work out or if Toptal isn’t exactly what you’re wanting and you’re pissed, you don’t have to be pissed on your own. You just call them up and just let them know, “Look, this trial period just is not working for me. Get me out of it.”
So, go to Toptal, sign up. You can do designers now too in addition to developers and they’re constantly growing. So, go check them out at Toptal.com/Mixergy or email me, as I said, and I’ll be happy to introduce you.
So, we were talking about this whole process. That’s the thing that you need to do–get more products online and do it faster. So, if you could hire or have the perfect person sit next to you and give you advice and help you get there, what would that person do? What kind of advice would you want from them?
Omar: A number of things. I think having access to that sort of brain trust, getting to hear their stories about how they were where you were and what they did to scale to the next level. I think a lot of people, especially people who built SaaS models and are somewhat dependent on sales, I think for those people as well, you’re building a software where you have maybe 30-40 users and you want to scale up to 100 and then once you have 100 you want to scale up to the next 1,000 or whatever that is and whatever your next goal is.
So, for us, it’s a revenue number when we scale up to the next level, like what exactly did that person do? I have specific goals that I’d like to reach, but are these goals in line with the kinds of things they did and what do they think of these things.
If I’m trying to achieve these goals and I’m pushing my team and I’m pushing all of my resources, is that sort of the right thing to do? Is that the right direction to go into? So, I think that was the secondary part when I spoke of bifurcation of the thought process that I had when I came to Mixergy LA, Mixergy San Francisco, Mixergy Oakland or whatever.
I think this was the second part of it, the sort of missing piece that I think even right now, you don’t have on Mixergy. Even though it’s a really great community, people come and listen, but just the same was we were at Hustle Con and I think I said this to you. People were sort of ushered out. Rob Walling in email asked me how the event was. I was like, “It’s really great, but it’s not like the MicroConf,” which are the events that he puts on, where the speakers usually hang out afterwards. They’re part of the process and you go to dinner with them and they’re readily available.
Andrew: I know when I spoke at that event, I actually invited everybody from the event form the stage, invited everyone from the event to come back to my room and they all came in and Hiten Shah bought some drinks for everyone and we just got together and hung out. I see what you mean. You want to speak to the speakers who are there.
Omar: Yes, which by the way I think we did also with MicroConf. I think you invited people back to your room and we had a really great time over there. That’s ostensibly the thing that’s missing. Like Hustle Con, they’ve done a wonderful job, but I think those speakers were sort of ushered out or they themselves had left, there’s a dissonance in wanting to speak to those people and those people not being available.
I think that’s sort of the thing that I think you can have Mixergy become. So, Mixergy has these evangelizers who would do anything on its behalf. That’s very apparent and I’m not just saying this because you and are talking. You and I are speaking I think for 20 minutes outside of that lunch and I think every four minutes somebody came up ad recognized you and wanted to thank you for what you had–
Andrew: That was really cool. I obviously was excite about it. I see. You want to hear how they got through it, but you want to hear more than just how they got through it. One of the people we were talking about who was speaking at Hustle Con is Andy Dunn, right? He is the founder of Bonobos, the apparel company.
We were thinking how it would be a great connection for you and I don’t think I was able to make the connection at the time because I was in and out of that conference going to make it with some of my conference calls that I had scheduled before. But if you could talk to him, you’d want to know how he scaled his company by understanding how he added more products? What would you want to know?
Omar: Yeah. I think having somebody who has raised $128 million or something, whatever he’s at, obviously he’s playing on a different ball league than we are for most people.
Andrew: He is now, but he used to be selling those pants out of the back of his car, right?
Omar: I don’t quite know the story. I know they had very humble beginnings and they did a lot of–in fact, what I hear is that Andy Dunn is probably the premiere guy who does like tiny little rounds and he’s apparently the king at it. He was able to–
Andrew: The king of small rounds.
Omar: Small rounds, like tiny, tiny rounds. He apparently has some notoriety. But what exactly was it for him to finally raise his first series A. Once he did that exactly, what were the things that he did with that money that allowed him to scale to the next level and then once he got there, what exactly did he do to get to the next level? Ostensibly, that’s exactly what these events, I think Mixergy should be involved in producing.
Andrew: I don’t know that you’re going to get that answer at an event. By the way, I’m looking at his Wikipedia entry and it looks like it wasn’t out of his car. It was out of his apartment he sold these pants. I’m thinking wouldn’t it be better if you could just talk to him one on one. What if you could talk to him one on one and do an interview with him about that?
Omar: Yeah. So, the way I’m imagining this is let’s say Mixergy is doing a world tour, a national tour or something. You may or may not be involved in it. You do an event. Let’s just use LA since I’m over here. Let’s just use LA. You get entrepreneurs over here who want to come and speak at the event and then be available for this event.
The event isn’t as big as, let’s say, a Hustle Con or not even as big as a MicroConf, but it’s sort of intimate enough where the people are available and it allows those who are coming to listen versus those who are speaking to develop these one on one relationships with people. So, then you’re building this brain trust with somebody who might be in your industry or might be in your space, might be in your sort of vertical. Then you can sort of have that brain trust that you can always rely on.
So, it’s a little bit of like hey, I’ll get to hear how you built it, but it’s also I will be available to you to answer sort of the questions and you may not want to ask publicly. You may not want to do an interview about this.
Andrew: I see. So, it would be a guy speaking up on let’s call it a stage, but it might be a small enough room that there wouldn’t be room for a stage. Then once he’s done, anyone can walk up and just have a conversation.
Omar: Absolutely. If you do, let’s say, there are five speakers. You come to LA. You get a Mark Suster, so somebody from the finance world, you get someday from, I don’t know, you get somebody from Snapchat to come and speak and you get somebody from retail. I think Nasty Gal is down here. You get her to come and speak. Then these people are sort of readily available to hang out and speak and maybe I’ll really hit it off with Mark Suster or maybe I’ll really hit it off with the girl from Nasty Gal.
And then those are the sort of conversations that I can continue to have with them beyond this because the value of meeting somebody in person and the value of you sharing your story with them and then them telling you the trials and tribulations they’ve had, that is sort of impossible to purchase and sort of impossible to replicate over email.
Andrew: I see. And what you’re looking for is that intro to them in person and then the follow up is really the benefit, the follow up where if it is a match, if you guys do connect on some level where they see how smart and accomplished you are. You see how smart and accomplished they are and you guys click, then you end up with the relationship you’re really after, which is where you get to find out how they scaled our what they did with their shirts.
Omar: Absolutely. I really wanted to meet Andy Dunn. One of the reasons I went to Hustle Con was to hear Sam Yagan speak, who by the way has always been, whether he knows it or not, sort of a personal hero of mine just because how data driven he is and the way he thinks of data.
But Andy Dunn is probably another reason why I wanted to go and hear him speak. I’ve heard him speak before, but I wanted to meet him and I figured it was a small enough event. He literally had just ducked out. I’m sure he had other things to do. But that would have been a perfect opportunity to meet somebody, shake his hands, go to coffee and have a conversation with him.
Exactly like you said–if there was chemistry there, that’s an opportunity, both for him to guide the next generation of an entrepreneur and it would be a great opportunity for me to learn from somebody who’s doing it and sort of crushing it, but yeah.
Andrew: But isn’t that the challenge with doing in-person events, that it’s so limited and you may not end up getting that conversation?
Omar: Yeah, of course. I don’t doubt that there’s always going to be competing personalities, competing interests, even just competing tasks. If you do it, let’s say, in the next two weeks, I will be in Europe. So, I will have missed this event.
Omar: But the point is that they don’t have to be 1,800 people, right? We’re talking about maybe something that you would hold at your house when the baby is sleeping.
Omar: Olivia is in the corner reading a book and there’s like 10 people in the room, maybe not that small, but maybe 20 people, 30 people. And then if these events are repeated enough and if you have built Mixergy so that it’s not constantly reliant and constantly dependent on Andrew Warner, but it is reliant on the Mixergy name, then those things can be duplicated with or without you as long as you can oversee the direction and the tone and the narrative, why wouldn’t they be able to be replicate and have that same–bring that same value to people. So, if I miss it, let’s say, in June, I may be able to pick up the next one in September.
Andrew: I see. So, I came into this conversation thinking that I’m going to find out a few specific problems that you think I should be addressing in the interviews and then I’ll take those and use them to formulate questions and to guide the interview in a way that actually helps with that. You’re saying no, that’s not what you’re looking for at all. What you really want is some way to get in person with the people who you might have long-term relationships with–the best part of the conference.
Omar: Yeah. Exactly. We’ll come back to this. The best part of the conference, doing what you do and doing what a conference does, somebody speaks and then you get access to that person. But the question you asked me what was do I think is next for Mixergy. I thought of this and I think my email to you was I thought about this sort of evolution process of Mixergy. How does Mixergy serve its constituents now. I could be wrong.
Your continuous constituents could be forever. Let’s call them forever wantreprneurs or forever solopreneurs, people who just basically are always going from one business idea to the next one and they’re constantly coming back to you for that sort of feedback and that reinforcement and encouragement and hearing other people’s stories.
But I suspect that you do have a segment of people who are maybe not quite where a $100 million company is, but perhaps $30 million to $40 million. They’re looking at Mixergy saying, “That was great. Thank you for helping me grow. I got some really good contacts. But what’s the next thing?”
Andrew: Yeah. And I’m also finding that at that level, the interviews aren’t speaking to their needs anymore and that’s a problem. When I started doing interviews, I knew what my need was and I brought that to the interviews, but I also would call up people who I wanted as my ideal customer, my ideal listener, my ideal–I was going to say friend but it sounded dorky but I’ll say it anyway–and then I went and I talked to them and said, “What are you looking for. What’s the issue that you guys are wrestling with right now?”
I do this in one on one conversations and then I realize that I haven’t done enough of them with people who are much further along like you. I’m hoping this will help inform my interviews too so they’ll bring out better questions from me, but you’re also saying, “Andrew, think beyond the question and here’s what specifically I’m looking for. I’d like to get together with people one on one and the way I want to do it is by feeling them out in a group setting first.”
Omar: Right. I think one of the questions that you personally have to answer–and you don’t have to do it now–but if you could evolve Mixergy, if tomorrow you walked in or you walked home tonight and Olivia was like, “Listen you need to change the format of Mixergy because I’d like for you to be home more often or whatever.” What exactly would that evolution for you be ideally? How would you like to do it? Obviously the introduction of maybe what Y Combinator did–Sam came in and he’s sort of taken over.
Andrew: I don’t even have my phone–I usually have it on mute.
Omar: You have to put it on airplane mode. I read your instructions. So, Paul no longer is involved on a day to day, right?
Andrew: Yeah, the founder, Paul Graham.
Omar: So, the reason why I wanted to ask that is because I really wanted to find out exactly what you were thinking about what the next phase of Mixergy is going to be. And then also finding out whether or not you have a lot of listeners like me and then how do you reach out to those people. So, maybe you can do both formats. Maybe you can continue doing this.
Let’s say it’s 60-40. Maybe 60% of your listeners are people are wantrepreneurs, people who still want to come in and want to learn, know about the hustling of the first stage, want to know how to get to the first $100,000, want to know how to do guerilla-style marketing, want to learn about growth hacking, want to learn about all these really cool things from the very, very beginning.
But what about the other 40% or what about the other 30%? Let’s just call them 20%. What about the other 20% of members who have been with you for a long time, like you I’m sure what to resonate with and what to still have their ear at some level. How do you provide them?
And I know from time to time you do live events. Unfortunately because they’re always in San Francisco or out of the country, I’m not there, but could we do that? Could we replicate that more often? Could we do it in a way that would allow us to service the rest of the 20% or 30% or whatever that may be.
Andrew: I wonder if we can even identify who they are. What’s an easy way to say–I don’t know. I was going to say offer a cutoff. I was going to say I guess offer a cutoff. If you’re at this stage and above, here’s what we’re doing for you.
Omar: Well, I think if you just send a survey and ask, “How many of you would be interested if we talked about businesses that were doing $25 million to $40 million and what those challenges are, what those pitfalls are, what those scaling issues are.
Andrew: I know that there’s a need for that. Frankly, if that scares off the wantrepreneurs, I’m okay with that. I think the wantrepreneurs never felt comfortable here because I didn’t ever rag on 9:00 to 5:00. I didn’t ever say that having a boss sucks, largely because the people who are listening are bosses. I don’t think they suck. I’m okay with raising the questions. I think I need to. I think I need to elevate the conversation to the next step in the evolution of a business. I’m just fishing for issues that I can bring up. The thing that I keep seeing is very generic, things like hiring issues all the time.
Oh shoot, I missed my ad spot. Hang on. Let me come back here. My second sponsor is a company called Acuity Scheduling. You haven’t used them, have you, Omar?
Omar: I have not. No.
Andrew: Okay. Let me tell you one way how you can use them. Imagine you put together your own personal hit list of the people you’d like to meet. It might be Andy from Bonobos. It might be like ten other people at his level, maybe even 20. And you decided you were going to ping them the way you pinged me. You’re really good at building relationships. I’m not going to tell you how to do it.
You said, “I want to get on the phone with them on a regular basis with at least one new smart person every week. How do I do it?” Well, you start building the relationships and then you start asking them if you’re free for a phone call. The problem with that is they’re super busy and if you say, “Are you free for a call Thursday at 5:00 p.m.?” chances are they’re not going to be able to make a phone call Thursday at 5:00 p.m.
So, then you have to send them 20 options via email. And if you do end them 20 options via email, then what you end up having to do is blocking every one of those 20 times on your calendar just in case they want any one of them, which means nobody else and take it. Or what I’m seeing more and more is that people then bring their assistants on. Then each of them have their assistants talk to each other and the they go back and forth.
An easier way is to use Acuity Scheduling. With Acuity Scheduling, you just go in and you link up your personal calendar. You mark off the times you want to have a phone call with these people who you’re really curious about and you really want to get to know. You say, “I’m available any time on Friday to have conversations with them. Any Monday after 2:00 p.m. and before 7:00 p.m. to have conversations with them.” And you just basically paint on this calendar the times that you’re free.
Then you get to add a couple of survey questions to this. Actually survey questions isn’t the way I would put it. You get to ask a couple of questions, like what’s their phone number? What’s their Skype name if that’s how you want to do it? Obviously what their name and email address is you’d ask.
You plug all that into Acuity Scheduling. They give you a simple URL. You then get to say, “Hey, Andy, are you free for a call? I want to talk about where you are with your business and share a couple of things that we learned at Ties.com. If you are, here’s my calendar, pick any time you want. Then Andy or his assistant can pick a time right off your calendar, immediately once they pick it off, it’s blocked on your calendar and then they get asked things like what’s your phone numbers. So, you both know how to contact each other and a couple of other things that you might want the answers to.
Easy, so simple, it automatically gets added to your calendar, gets added to their calendar. They never forget. We’ve been using Acuity scheduling for years. If you’re out there and you’re listening and you see that this is for you, you should not go to AcuityScheduling.com because they setup a special URL for us where they’re going to give you 45 days for free of Acuity Scheduling. All you have to do is go to AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy.
I see people use Acuity Scheduling to connect with people one on one for get to know you calls. I see businesses automatically integrate it into their onboarding process. So, as soon as somebody gets onboarded, they get an email saying, “Do you want to talk to a real person about how to use the software?” I see people using it for so many different things. Scotch night I’ve used it for. AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy–if you want to get on calls with people, you want to get in person meetings with them, that’s the way to increase your chances. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring.
I’m coming back here and I just realized I forgot what we were talking about just before the sponsorship message.
Omar: Yeah. I think what I posed to you was how do you see it evolving.
Andrew: You know what? I’m not sure. I’ve really been thinking about this for a while. I had a really clear vision of where Mixergy was going and then I kind of lost it. I’m trying to think of what the next thing is, what the next step is and I’m not sure.
Omar: Okay. Why don’t we–and I think as you were asking me specifically, you said I thought we were going to come on here and you were going to tell me specifically what I’m missing and that’s what we’re going to address–why don’t we do an event here in LA and see how that goes and see whether or not people derive a lot of value? If it’s good, maybe we’ll do one in Boulder and if that’s good, maybe we’ll do one in New York.
Andrew: So, what’s your ideal event?
Omar: My ideal event would be–I think one of the things I proposed to you was letting the community sort of help you with a process. So, the ideal event would be somewhere like an open office like this, where there’s tons of seating, monitors for presentations, tons of monitors everywhere. So, you hold it at a space that can actually host it.
We reach out to the community and we cap it at a certain number, just like the way you did at I think your last event, where you capped it. Then those people who sign up, they come to it And we get the right types of speakers that we think would resonate with that audience and then those people come and it’s a combination of–I think they call them up-meets, a combination of a meetup, a combination mixed with a little bit of a conference-esque type of, “Hey, this is what we’ve done and this is who I am.”
And then a little bit of–and I hate using this term, but a little bit of networking because you get to hang out. Honestly, I love going to events, partially because of the people I meet afterwards and the people I meet in person. So, we make a big portion of that, this sort of exercise where, “Hey, if you really…” Let’s see we do one of these and Howard Stern happens to be there and you really want to talk to Howard Stern. I know you used to listen to him quite often.
Andrew: Yeah. I thought that was kind of a random person to suggest that would be at an event, then I realized yeah.
Omar: But for you, that would be like an amazing opportunity to sit with maybe like 18 people in a room and you get to have access.
Andrew: Would you only want 18 people to come?
Omar: I think one of the questions you asked–I think this is at the core of it–you said, “How would you gain access to these people if the event was paid. That’s sort of the point of it. It’s not the size of the event. It’s actually scaling it down and making it small so you get to have those interactions.
Andrew: So, you just want 18 or fewer people.
Andrew: So, that’s more of a dinner, don’t you think?
Omar: Well, it is a dinner, but it’s also a little formal in that I think not one person is the dominant person that dominates the conversation and then you don’t also have–there’s some structure to is. I imagine if you put any of those speakers that we listen to on Hustle Con, if we put them in a room with [inaudible 00:48:00] is going to dominate that room. He’s going to dominate that conversation.
But if he was one of the speakers, I think it would be a lot more of a different structure because I may really want to walk up to him and tell him I really enjoy his content and that might be it. But somebody else who’s in that room who’s building a CRM or looking to raise money for a CRM, like she might be really, really intrigued by him and she might want to strike up a conversation and they might have something going.
So, it’s a little bit more formal than just going out to dinner with a bunch of people. You can also guide the mission of what Mixergy is. It’s not a social gathering. That’s not the point of this event. It’s a little bit of that. You get to drink a little bit or whatever and you get to hang out with people who are like-minded, but you get to do it not at a grand scale, where it becomes impersonal.
Andrew: So, I can do this for you. You want 18 people or fewer. I could have them come to your office or do a dinner. If it’s a dinner, you’d definitely want it to be fewer than 18 people. And you want someone to speak other than you, right?
Andrew: So, we find someone who can speak at this little get together. I think I can think of someone who’d be a good speaker for it. And then you want people to get together and talk to each other. We can do it as a dinner. We can do it as drinks. You could pick. My question to you then is who do you want to be there and how do I make sure that the 18 people are the right 18 people for you?
Omar: So, that’s it, right? Ideally you’d like to have more than just one speaker. Maybe 18 is too ambitious. Maybe if we say 45 and 5 speakers. That way every single person or every group of people who are there are there for a different type of a speaker. So, maybe you have somebody who comes in and speaks about a SaaS model.
Maybe you can convince Hiten to take a drive or fly down to LA or Orange County and spend a couple nights and speak to people who develop SaaS products over here. And then maybe you can Mark Suster to drive up and Mark Suster will come in and speak to people who are thinking about raising. So, different people would be different for different reasons. It’s not like that one person has to split his or her different time in different ways. He or she–
Andrew: Oh I see. You then want the five speakers to get to talk to the audience. What you really want is a small ratio of speaker to listener so that everyone who’s listening gets to talk to the speaker one on one.
Omar: Right. If my goal as an entrepreneur at the level that I am is if I am asked directly what Mixergy can do for me, this is what Mixergy can do for me. I see this as an evolution to Mixergy. And then this can be replicated, right? It can be replicated somewhere else, like I said Boulder, Oakland. It can just sort of be in other places and you don’t have to be there. I don’t have to be there.
The same speakers don’t have to be there, but nevertheless, they’re not as grand scale as let’s say I’ve got to rent an entire hotel or a venue. So, it’s nothing that grand scale. It’s not as, “Hey, let’s all five of us meet at the local brewery and let’s hang and talk shop,” which are great. They’re absolutely wonderful things.
Andrew: So, why don’t you do one speaker, small group of people to do dinner as a way to start it? It’s too small?
Omar: I think we’d be setting the bar too low immediately. To base the success of an event like that of what the potential of this event may be just on that one event might not be the best sort of like litmus test. So, perhaps what we can do is–I don’t mind. If that’s whether you feel like you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have.
Andrew: I’m experimenting here. I want to find a way–I’m still not sure that events are the way that you’re going to get the person you want without too much hassle. But maybe they are and I’m completely wrong. Maybe I’m not thinking about it the way you are. I’m open to doing it. If you’re saying your office–I’m clicking around your site to see where your office is. What part of LA?
Omar: North Orange County.
Omar: We’re probably an hour outside of LA.
Andrew: Yeah. You’re pretty far south of LA.
Omar: Yeah. So, you were in Santa Monica. We’re probably about 35 minutes away from Santa Monica south.
Andrew: Yeah. It still makes it harder to get anyone from Santa Monica. It has to be someplace local. I was going to say, “Let’s do it at your office then.”
Omar: We’ve done blogger events over here. It’s LA. Everybody drives so it’s not the end of the world. I do have another venue we could do it at that’s in Hollywood. A buddy of mine that owns a company, they’re funded, similar size company, similar layout. So, there is another venue, absolutely, that we can do this at.
Andrew: I’d be up for either one. You pick the one. I’ll email. We’ll find–what’s another speaker? I think you should speak also.
Andrew: What’s another speaker that you want?
Omar: I don’t know if you ever spoke or interviewed the girl from Nasty Gal. I’m trying to remember her name.
Andrew: I don’t think so.
Omar: She wrote “#GirlBoss.”
Andrew: I’ve seen her book actually being held by some women who I’ve wanted to interview and have said no to me. So, that’s how I got to know her.
Omar: Okay. I think she’s local. I know obviously Snapchat is local. I know Zillow is here local.
Andrew: The stuff on NastyGal.com is pretty cool. I like these clothes.
Andrew: I like the whole attitude about it too.
Omar: She’s got a really great story about how she started. I think she was either an Etsy shop or an eBay shop.
Andrew: I actually don’t know if speaking is the right way to do it. I think interviewing is better because then they don’t have to prepare as much. Listening to one person talk can be kind of boring.
Andrew: I think maybe if you think we can do it at your office, I’d be up for trying it. It looks like she’s in Santa Monica or Melrose.
Andrew: So, it’s not too far. We can ask her if she’ll come and speak at your office. You pick the date. I’ll invite people from the audience.
Andrew: We can make that happen and see how it goes and see if it ends up being what you’re looking for.
Andrew: Something that can be replicated.
Omar: Replicated. Absolutely. I think it can. You also have to think outside of the ecosystem of San Francisco or even like Boulder, like how do we give the same great experiences that people get out of coming to dinners at your house or whiskey nights–are they whiskey nights or scotch nights?
Andrew: I call them scotch nights, but I’ve discovered other whiskeys, so I definitely go beyond scotch. That’s the ideal, the scotch night feel is the best. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a small group of people or if it’s that I’m really good at getting people to talk openly about personal things. But I would love to duplicate scotch night everywhere.
Omar: Actually that might not be a bad idea.
Andrew: We’re talking about just four entrepreneurs or eight, never more than that, just drinking scotch and talking about anything.
Omar: Okay. So, let me ask you–if I believe that these in person sessions are the next evolution and you really like scotch nights, why don’t we do that?
Andrew: Do a scotch night?
Andrew: At your office? You invite a couple of people over to your office and just have scotch and talk.
Omar: I will bring Macallans and Obans.
Andrew: And here’s the cool thing–
Omar: Actually, I should probably show you. We have a fully stocked bar.
Andrew: That’s the way to do it. So, one of the things that I discovered because I keep thinking about money too–it’s cheaper for me to have somebody come over to the office, have four people come over to the office for scotch than it is for me to go out and drink and eat and just pay for myself. I could pay for their snacks. I could pay for cheese and crackers. Snacks sounds a little childish. Good cheese, good crackers, certain vegetables, have good whiskey here. It’s much cheaper than to go out and pay for myself. It creates a much more intimate personal experience.
Andrew: It’s not even about the whiskey.
Omar: Absolutely. It’s not. I could probably have the cheapest whiskey there is and I think people would enjoy it.
Andrew: I had a Seventh Day Adventist here last Thursday, a week ago and he didn’t drink anything other than water. He didn’t even drink coffee. I don’t know if he’s against caffeine, but I didn’t even press. I just wanted him to feel comfortable. I think that actually is a really good idea–scotch night, handful of entrepreneurs and you just invite them over. I can help you get them from the audience, you can bring some people you know.
Omar: Yes. Let’s do that. Let’s let that be our first pilot event and then we can gauge it. Are you going to fly down for it?
Andrew: I’m totally up for it? Am I going to fly in for it?
Andrew: I don’t know. Then it becomes my scotch night. The question is will it work without me.
Omar: I think initially you’d have to be here. I’d like you to be here for the first event. This is the pilot event. This needs the Andrew Warner blessing.
Andrew: Okay. I come to your place, I do a scotch night, you get to see how I do scotch night and then you do the next scotch night.
Omar: I’ll do the next one.
Andrew: Okay. I’m up for that. What’s the date? I’ve got to check actually to see what my availability is. My preference is that we do it in July or August.
Omar: Yeah. So, I’m leaving town next week and I’ll be in Europe for two and a half weeks. I will open–you said June or July?
Andrew: Yeah. Let’s pick the specific date outside of this conversation.
Andrew: And then we’ll invite people who are listening. If you’re out there and you’re in or close to Orange County and you want to come–is it Orange County?
Omar: LA/Orange County area.
Andrew: In the comments, say that you’re interested and we’ll be able to follow up with you directly via email. We’re going to try to limit it to four people? Since I’m coming, let’s do a little bit more. It would be weird for me to fly all the way over to see you for six people.
Omar: How about eight or ten?
Andrew: I would rather do two days of five or two days of six than one of ten. It just becomes–I really want to get every single person who’s’ there to talk openly about what’s going on in their lives, especially in their non-work lives. Like one guy talked about having a panic attack. I don’t know that I’d even think to ask that about Mixergy. I got to know him a little bit better afterwards. Panic attacks are a big issue.
Omar: Okay. When you do them at your house, they’re usually four to five people, right?
Omar: Let’s do that, then. Let’s do four people. There will be two of us, four additional people and then we do that twice, back to back.
Andrew: We’ll work out the details offline, via email off this conversation. I’m thinking sometime around July or August of this year, largely because I’m not planning to record there. I’m going to fly down just for that. If we do it in a way that’s replicatable–how do you pronounce that freaking word?
Andrew: If we do it in a way that actually can be duplicated, then I think we’ve got something that’s excited. I do like that one on one style conversation, the simplicity of it. All right. I think we got somewhere good here.
Omar: I agree.
Andrew: But it’s a start. I don’t think we’ve solved the problem. I don’t think we’ve solved the problems of how do I take my interviews up a notch, level them up. I don’t think we’ve solved the problem of what’s the next step for Mixergy. I think that I didn’t get enough into your life. So, at some point we need to have you back here to talk about what you did at Ties.com.
Omar: I’d love that.
Andrew: All right. Cool. Anyone who wants to connect with you, what’s a good way for them to do it?
Omar: Omar.Sayyed–actually, Omar@Ties.com.
Andrew: That’s a good one. That’s such simple email address.
Omar: Actually O@Ties.com.
Andrew: That works also?
Andrew: I should have done A@Mixergy.com.
Omar: You totally can. Why couldn’t you?
Andrew: I wonder if it’s too confusing for people because Mixergy is what I need them to focus on and they might think, “Do you mean hey? Do you mean…?” Andrew@Mixergy ends up with enough of a focus on what Mixergy is but not so much we get too hung up on it. I do like that. O@Ties.com if they want to connect with you directly. And anyone out there who wants to check out your site, they can go to Ties.com, of course.
My two sponsors for this interview are the company that will help you hire your next great developer or designer and so many other–actually, they keep expanding. I don’t know exactly where they are right now. So, I’ll just limit it to your next developer or designer. Go to Toptal.com. And if you really want to get together with people in person, use Acuity Scheduling, AcuityScheduling.com. Actually with both of them, add a /Mixergy at the end for something good.
Thank you, everyone. Thanks, Omar.
Omar: Thank you
Andrew: Looking forward to seeing you in person.
Omar: Of course. Same.
Andrew: Thanks. Bye.