Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses, and I do it for an audience of entrepreneurs. I almost regretted the topic that we picked for today’s guest. Cameron Yarbrough is a guy who created an online store . . . what was the store called?
Cameron: It’s called Gone Surfing.
Andrew: Gone Surfing. Is it on your LinkedIn profile? I don’t even think I see you talk about it much, not by name anyway.
Cameron: It was so long ago that I don’t talk about it much by name. And it was a big pivot for me going from selling shoes into selling psychological services.
Andrew: So, you know what, I was thinking, we should just spend the interview talking about how the guy created a shoe company that did other things and sold it. What do we do in talking about his new thing, Torch? What does Torch do? Torch is an executive coaching company. It works with HR departments to bring in coaching, leadership coaching to employees at scale. I thought, “Ah, it’s kind of . . . I don’t know, it seems a little bit touchy-feely. I don’t know what it is. Why are we talking to him about that? It’s not big enough, probably. Maybe one day, someday.” And then I saw the numbers. It’s big. It’s bigger than the company that he sold before. It’s way bigger concept. It feels like one of these touchy-feely things that’s never going to go anywhere. But even now, at its early stage, it’s gone somewhere. It’s actually, yeah, helping people. And I don’t mean to dismiss it, but helping.
But it’s also, like, got good revenues, which he’s not going to tell us specifically. But he’s doing well, raised money. And so I understand why Gone Surfing is just like in the background. But I want to understand how he founded Torch. Do you call it torch.io or Torch?
Andrew: Torch. The domain is torch.io, right?
Cameron: That’s right.
Andrew: I want to understand how he got here, and how he built this up, and how he’s getting organizations to spend money on coaching, something that you can’t measure, there’s no clear ROI. All right, I mean, enough of me. I should just tell you that this interview is sponsored by a phenomenal company though, that will host your website right. It’s called HostGator. Cameron, good to have you here.
Cameron: Thank you. I’m super excited to be here with you, Andrew.
Andrew: What are you willing to say about the revenue at Torch to give people a sense of size?
Cameron: What I’m willing to say is that we’re selling to over 200 corporate customers at this point.
Andrew: Nothing about dollars and cents.
Cameron: Nothing about dollars and cents, not today.
Andrew: You know what? Brian Benson, our producer, you told him, he wrote it down in the notes, I was so paranoid about revealing it because you asked me not to share it. I started, like, crossing it off a million different ways on my notes. It’s doing well. Let’s go back and understand how you’ve got it to the point where it’s doing this well. You got, at one point, into an argument with your co-founder, which is a common issue at Gone Surfing. What was the argument about and how did that lead here?
Cameron: So my co-founder and I, at the time, we’d started the company, we were in our mid-20s, and we thought, “Hey, we love surfing, we love snowboarding, let’s start a snowboarding and surfing company. In fact, if we start selling snowboard and, you know, skate, snow, and surf equipment all over the world, then we’ll get cheap deals on all of the equipment that we want to buy, and we’ll have plenty of time to do all these things that we love.” All of those things turned out to not be true.
What we did find is that we were working 70 to 80 hours a week, especially around the holidays. And while we did get discounts on all the gear that we were buying, we never had the time to actually use that gear. So there was the rub. But one of the things that I did badly while I was running that company was maintain a healthy relationship with my co-founder.
Andrew: I’m sorry, what year was this?
Cameron: This was in 1997, ’98.
Andrew: Oh, wow.
Cameron: So old days now.
Andrew: Really old days. You really were ahead of your time. I don’t think that people thought about e-commerce until 1999 at least. All right. So the one thing that you did right was, with your co-founder, do what?
Cameron: The one thing that we did right was believe that people would ultimately buy their favorite sporting gear on the internet. So we did believe that they would do that. And because we had physical stores, we had three physical stores, we thought, “Well, we have physical stores, so they’re going to be able to connect, Gone Surfing to something real.” It was called click and mortar back then. And so we thought, “Well, because our customers know that we really exist, then they might actually buy from us.” And we were right about that. They did buy, and they bought from all over the world. It just turned out the things that they bought most are shoes.
Andrew: And so shoes are what they were starting to buy, did you ever do more sales online than offline?
Cameron: Oh, yes, absolutely.
Andrew: It became more of an online business then.
Cameron: It became more of an online business, which was very, very exciting. And skate shoes, in particular, when a 13-year-old buys a pair of skate shoes, if he or she skates a lot, they destroy that pair of shoes in about a month and they have to come back and buy another pair. So that became our hottest seller. And then we got in the pro models and all of the signature series, etc., which are hard to get, and we had accounts with all those vendors.
Andrew: And so you’re doing well, but . . . take me to this argument that you had with your co-founder. What happened?
Cameron: You know, there was a lot of stress because we were running this business. And we didn’t have much time to enjoy the sports that we loved. I never got to go surfing anymore. And we were just really close together, you know, working under the same roof. We live together in the same house and so tensions were just naturally high. And this was an example of that kind of argument that would unfold very frequently. He had shipped a snowboard, you know, this was like $700, at that time that was expensive for a snowboard, a $700 pro model snowboard to a customer, but it was the wrong board that he shipped. And this was three days before Christmas. So this was supposed to be a Christmas gift, and he shipped the wrong one. And the customer was absolutely irate. And I happen to do a lot of our customer service calls so I was dealing with this incredibly angry, pissed off mother screaming in my ear about getting the wrong snowboard for her kid right before Christmas. So what did I do? You know, what do you do? You go yell at your co-founder, right? Is that what you do?
Andrew: Why did you yell at your co-founder, do you think?
Cameron: You know, at the time, I think that I just was immature. I didn’t know how to regulate my emotions. I didn’t even know that that was really important or really a thing. I didn’t know how important it was, as a leader, that you need to regulate your emotions in front of your employees. As a young leader, I was just naive to these kind of basics of being a leader.
Andrew: Let me ask you something, what’s wrong with you yelling at your co-founder in front of your people? Why shouldn’t they see that you care that much that you would yell at your co-founder, that the co-founder, even though the co-founder is the boss, still can make a mistake and get yelled at and everybody’s held to the same high standards? What’s the problem with you yelling, seriously?
Cameron: Yeah, I’m telling you. So the big problem with yelling is that it’s scary. It’s scary for people.
Andrew: Shouldn’t they be scared a little bit, right? No?
Cameron: People associate unregulated anger and rage with abuse, with toxic family systems, with broken relationships, with failure.
Andrew: They don’t associate it with a passionate leader who will not accept second rate anything, who demands the best and will yell at them if they don’t deliver the best so they better deliver the best and then doesn’t lead them to produce better? No?
Cameron: It does not. It’s like, you know, you’ve seen that funny old poster, the pirate ship poster that says, “The beatings will continue until the morale improves.” That joke, I think captures it. It’s just not true. People don’t trust leaders who aren’t mature and do not have the ability to self-regulate.
Andrew: And so then, what happened to your company as a result of this type of issue?
Cameron: You know, what happened to my company was a big competitor emerged, Zappos. Zappos comes on the scene. They are selling shoes below our cost, and they’re offering free returns. We were not a venture-backed company. They were. We didn’t even really know what venture capital was honestly at the time. And so here’s this big competitor coming on the scene that’s undercutting us, and all of a sudden, our sales start to drop. And if we had a strong culture, if my co-founder and I had a better relationship, we might have had the fuel on the tank to figure out how to solve the problem. But because we were so at odds with each other, and the relationship had soured so much, he was just like, “Oh, let’s just the first investor that came along that wanted to buy the company, we are out.”
Andrew: Got it. I think Tony Hsieh told me that something similar happened him in his previous company, and he decided that he was going to create a culture that he was excited about working in, and that his people are excited about working in Meanwhile, he was competing with that against you who was competing with the opposite. You were burned out arguing with each other. But you did get an exit. How much did you sell for?
Cameron: So, you know, we had the real estate assets, and we actually had the goodwill, and the business, and the brand, and the website. We ended up selling those assets to a couple of different investors. Overall, I won’t say the exact number. It was over a million dollars. It was enough that I didn’t have to work for a long time.
Andrew: Did you end up with over a million dollars?
Cameron: I did not end up with over a million dollars.
Andrew: Not you personally.
Cameron: Not me personal.
Andrew: The pair of you.
Andrew: And as a result, you didn’t just go off and start another company. What did you do instead?
Cameron: I went on a very long surf trip, by the way. That was the first thing.
Andrew: Oh you did? Where did you go? What was that surf trip like?
Cameron: I went down to South America. I went down to this place called Chicama. It’s the longest left-hand point break in the world. And I just posted up there for a while and I surfed. And I needed that very badly.
Andrew: I can’t believe you weren’t so burned out on surfing and anything surfing-related that you didn’t want to touch it again for a bit.
Cameron: That was the whole point. When you started surfing company, you’re going to have no time to surf. That’s the irony. So I actually needed to go surfing.
Andrew: All right, then when you get came back, how long . . . Well, why didn’t you start another company? Why didn’t you say, “You know what, I got far, but I had a co-founder, I had these issues, I’m going to start over without the co-founder, without the issues. Do it right this time.”
Cameron: Because I had been a jerk in my previous company. And I wanted to send myself to school to learn how to not be a jerk. And so I went and got a master’s degree in counseling psychology, where they teach you those things.
Andrew: Specifically to heal yourself and then with the idea that you would do this for other people.
Cameron: No. The truth is it was specifically to heal myself. I didn’t have the idea that I would do it for other people at the time.
Andrew: You thought you’d go and start another company?
Cameron: I thought eventually I would start another company at some point. But really, I wasn’t thinking that far out. I just knew that I had had this very unpleasant, very bad experience as a leader running my previous company, and that I needed to go and learn how to be a better human being in the world. That’s true. I wasn’t thinking any farther out than that.
Andrew: That makes sense. Did you like it, school? You did?
Cameron: I loved it. Yeah.
Andrew: What did you like about going back to school?
Cameron: I loved learning psychological theory. I love the relationships that I got to form. I love being forced to go and be in my own therapy. I love being in group therapy. It was this cool experience.
Andrew: You know what, it sounds like doing school right. Like the first time we go to school, we start until we like it and then we start to hate it a little bit more each year . . . maybe I’m speaking for myself. They force you into classes you don’t care about, you don’t appreciate it because you think there’s so much else you want to do in the world, and you miss it. And you had an opportunity to go back and not miss it, to do it right, to take the classes you’re passionate about, to spend time really appreciating that you could indulge in learning, right?
Cameron: That’s right. You know, going through undergrad, you’re just sort of, like, on the treadmill, at least I was, just trying to get that degree. But then, when I got to go to grad school, I got to study what I really wanted, and it was really all about me and what I wanted to study, which is what you just said.
Andrew: And so, when you came out, did you just start practicing right away?
Cameron: Yeah. So I burned through my cash, and I had to figure out now how to monetize this degree that I had just gotten. And it dawned on me, “Oh shit. I need to actually become a therapist now,” and that had never really even been the plan. So I did. I hung a shingle as a therapist, and I loved it, and I was good at it. And all of a sudden, very quickly I had lots and lots of clients. And then, I started hiring more therapist because I had so many clients, and then the next thing I knew I had 40 therapists working for me.
Andrew: Forty therapists.
Andrew: So did you know going in that you’re going to start a business?
Andrew: You didn’t. You just said, “I need to make some money. I like this. I’m going to spend time doing what I like.”
Cameron: That’s right.
Andrew: And so then, at what point did you say, “I’m going to give up what I like,” essentially and be a manager?
Cameron: So I didn’t. I kept running my practice while launching this other business, this new business in parallel to running my practice. And I was just a workaholic.
Andrew: We’re talking about Well Clinic?
Andrew: Well Clinic. So just in parallel, you would take on more clients and say, “I can’t handle this myself, but I do have this other therapist, who I think you’d be happy.” Got it. What did you do differently than most therapists that allowed you to bring so many people in? Forget about, for a moment, what you did differently in therapy because I know, from what I understand, you were a great therapist, but what did you do to bring so many people in?
Cameron: Well, at that time, Yelp was something that no one used. And therapists, I think there were one or two other therapists on Yelp in San Francisco at that time. And it was very frowned upon to even utilize Yelp for lead flow. I took the risk. I said, “I’m going for it. I’m going to put my profile up on Yelp,” and I did it, and all of a sudden there was just, like, a waterfall of clients coming to me. So I started hiring other therapists.
Andrew: Wow. What about keeping it consistent? One of my problems, I’ve gone to therapy a lot. I don’t think I got much out of it, with few little exceptions, partially because you don’t know what the therapy is going to be about. You’re just kind of going in to talk to someone, who a friend of yours likes, you may not even like the same food as this friend, you may not even like the same books as this friend, but because they recommend the therapist, you go in, versus if I want to exercise, I ask, “What are you doing? Are you going to take me through . . . are we going to be lifting weights? Are we going to be running?” Like, I want a little bit more from a personal trainer to know more about their methodology than I would from a therapist. Isn’t that an issue? Now I’m turning this as my own personal need, but I feel like that’s a big problem with therapy and coaching in general. There’s no methodology, they’re just a bunch of people, and it’s a friend of yours or a business relationship who recommend someone and you end up there.
Cameron: Look, I would argue that you’ve just have not been matched with the right therapist. And the match is everything. The match is everything. The right therapist for you, Andrew, is out there. You just have not met that person.
Andrew: But then, do I have to go and try every therapist, which by the way, means spend an hour with each therapist, which means also some bit of travel to get there? And then, in addition to that, it’s not one session that leads to a breakthrough and understanding of who anyone is. My first date with my wife, we spent now over 10 years together, the first date wasn’t such a great hit. The first session with a therapist is necessarily going to tell me who they are, who I am in that therapy.
Cameron: A first session with a really good therapist, when the fit is right, you’ll know it in that first session.
Cameron: Oh, yeah.
Cameron: First of all, it’s an inefficient way, to match with a therapist to actually have to make an individual appointment and then go and try three or four different people. The first thing you want to do is you would you . . . There’s a couple of options. You can come to a place like a Well Clinic here in San Francisco, where we pre-vet all those therapists for you. So you’re coming in to a place where we’ve done a lot of that pre-vetting for you, and then we do a careful intake process and try to match you with the right person. That’s one way you can do it. There’s also online filters that you can use. You can go to Psychology Today, and you can filter through and try to find the right profile. But I would argue that going to a place like Well Clinic, you’re more likely to get paired with someone who’s going to be a right fit for you because we’ve done that pre-vetting.
Andrew: Here’s another thing that comes up as I listened to your story. It feels like the clinic and Torch both kind of happened because you are letting go of trying to be a successful entrepreneur to some degree and allowing some things to happen. And I wonder if I’m misreading it. Like, you didn’t sit down and say, “I like this therapy thing, but I can’t be an individual therapist. I need to make it bigger. The first step will be me doing this, then I’ll start to train others, then we’ll have this whole lead flow.” No. You just said, “I like this one thing. I’m going to do this one thing,” and your natural instinct to be an entrepreneur, to build, took over and you ended up creating Well Clinic. And then from there, you ended up creating Torch. Am I right? This is one of the things I’m trying to take away from my conversation with you, did it just kind of happen because that’s who you are and you lead there, or was it happenstance or what?
Cameron: Yeah. I think that’s exactly right. I didn’t go to business school. So I wasn’t someone who went to business school and then came out and came up with a strategy to build a company. I have never been that person. I was someone who followed my passions. I started Gone Surfing because I love to surf. I went and started Well Clinic because I got really, really into therapy. I started Torch because I got really, really into executive coaching. When I get into something, I get excited about it and I want it to be bigger. So that is the pattern.
Andrew: Just do it not because it’s a big market opportunity, not because you have a big vision for how this could be a billion-dollar business, or never mind that, even a $10 million business, more like, “I have a passion.” I like how you’re just shrugging this off uncontrollably as I’m saying it. This is why I love video. Nobody watches the video. But you know what? I watch the video. I can tell when I’m hitting on something that the guest is passionate about.
All right, let me do a sponsorship message here, and then we’ll continue with the story. By the way, guys, if you’re listening to me and you’re saying, “I think I got an idea for something. It may not be big enough or whatever,” don’t worry about it. Go to hostgator.com, create a website for it, get started, and see where it takes you. Even if it doesn’t take you anywhere, the fact that you created a website, the fact that you experimented with installing WordPress or a different platform and trying a theme, and trying it on for size will get you to a place where you’re more comfortable creating the next, and the next, and the next.
I’m actually going to take it away from business for a second here, Cameron. I, everybody knows, dress horribly. All I usually wear is a V-neck black t-shirt. Every person who I’ve interviewed, everyone who see me see me nothing but that. I said to my wife, “Listen, I know you want to get me a gift for the holidays. I don’t need any more stuff. I’m done with stuff. How about this, I like your style, take me to the store and buy some stuff for me.” She said, “Okay.” We both understood that I needed a flask of whiskey just to get myself comfortable with even going into the store, but I didn’t get drunk or anything. I just kind of went along and I said, “Let me see your method. What are you going to do?” And one of the things she did was she just asked me to try on a bunch of stuff that I didn’t even like including this one thing that looked like, I don’t know, like a lumberjack would wear. I’m like, “I’m not a lumberjack. I’m not going to try it. All right, I’m going to try it. That’s what I’m here for.”
So I put the frickin’ thing on. Not only did I look good, I’m pretty sure the guy at the store wanted to sleep with me because I wore this shirt. I’m like 80% sure. I’m not even messing around here. It looked that good. This thing that I’m wearing right now, look at this, it’s like a jacket vest, you don’t even know exactly what it is but it looks good on me. Same thing, I just tried it on.
Why am I saying this as a HostGator ad? Because when you go to HostGator and you create a site, you don’t know what’s going to be the thing that you throw away, or the thing that makes you look like a lumberjack that you hate, or the thing that makes everybody fall in love with you and makes you love the idea the way that that lumberjack shirt makes me look that good.
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All right, I see now how it happened. It was Yelp and then what else? What else allowed you to manage this group of people who are independent contractors, essentially? They’re all working not for you, they’re working through you?
Cameron: No. We did hire. I started hiring administrators . . .
Andrew: You hired dozen of people here in San Francisco?
Cameron: Yes. Therapists.
Andrew: Therapists. Wow.
Cameron: Yes. And we hired them. They’re actual employees. And I did a very careful job of vetting them and trying to get the best ones. And it just so happens that I had a huge therapy network having gone through a graduate school right here in the city. So I thought I knew who the best ones were so I went out and hired them.
Andrew: And then what allowed you to then build it up to this degree? I guess what I’m asking is what’s your secret? And I hate when I listen to people say, “What’s your secret?” but what was it beyond the Yelp that you credit that clinic’s success to?
Cameron: Here’s what it was, every single therapist office that I ever went into was dingy, the couches were frayed, the carpets were stained, and the therapist would walk in with an old acrylic cardigan that was stretched out and should have been thrown away five years ago. And I thought, “Wow, I’m paying $160 an hour, and this place is a dump.” And at that time, that was a lot of money. It’s like way more expensive now. So I thought, “Why not create a therapy experience that kind of feels like I’m going someplace really nice so that when I walk in, I’m sitting on a nice couch, it’s like mid-century modern furniture, it’s got the kind of creature comforts that I would want if I was going to sit and waiting for a spa.” And so, between that and hiring great people, somehow it worked. All of a sudden, we had lines out the door. That’s Well Clinic.
Andrew: I never thought about the location. I find that they all use these, like, temp spaces. They have a small little box next to another small little box, and they all play the shh sound, you know, ocean so that you don’t hear the next person’s conversation. I didn’t realize that was an issue.
Cameron: It was an issue for me as a consumer. I thought, “Wow, I’m paying a lot of money for this, and this place is really funky and dirty,” and, you know, my therapist is dressed like a schlub. So I feel like I knew my customer because I was the customer, and that worked really well. The third thing that I did was that I created a community among my therapists. So therapists will stick around if they have great colleagues that they can do case consults with, they can connect with and feel like they’re not so alone.
So being a therapist is actually very lonely. You’re sitting in a room by yourself for, like, eight hours a day and you’re alone. Like, you’re either, like, taking notes in between sessions or you’re just with your clients. But no one sees your work. So that was the next thing I did, I created a community. So therapists had a place where they could connect with other colleagues and create and forge relationships. I made the facilities really nice. And then, the last thing, you know, I brought the leads in.
Andrew: I feel like also the matcher is important, that ordinarily, like I said, you get a recommendation from a friend whose food and movie recommendation you wouldn’t take necessarily even though you like them. To have a matcher say, “I get you. Here’s someone for you,” is a big win. Is that right? Did you guys do that?
Cameron: Yeah. The algorithm for a long time was me. I was the algorithm. I got very good at talking to someone on the phone and then just matching them in my mind with the right person. I got very good at being a professional matchmaker. Ultimately, that’s what I ultimately started doing with Torch. When I first started Torch, I drew on that experience of matching therapists with clients. I did it for years, and then I started matching founders with coaches. And because I had done it for years with Well Clinic, I was very good at it. I figured out what forges a great relationship, what makes a great match between people and then I repeated it.
Andrew: You are considered . . . I guess someone gave you an award for best couples therapist in San Francisco?
Andrew: Who was it?
Cameron: I think it was “San Francisco Magazine.”
Andrew: What made you good?
Cameron: I think I was good because I wasn’t afraid to be really direct with people. And, like, people are used to going into therapy and having the therapy just be a parrot who repeats back what they say or just listens quietly. That was just never me. I would sit in the room and if you told me that you were cheating on your girlfriend, I would tell you why I thought that was a really bad idea. I was very direct with people, I let my opinions be heard, I was passionate about it, and people love that.
Andrew: I do find that people want that, that they want more opinionated therapists. I tell you, I don’t. I’m done with their opinions. I want somebody to finally listen to me. All day long, all I do is listen to everybody else. I’d like someone to say, “Andrew, that’s a very valid thing to say. So you want to go and cheat on your wife. Let’s talk about why.”
Cameron: Andrew, then you’re in luck because there’s a lot of those therapists in San Francisco.
Andrew: I can’t find them. Maybe because I talk so much, they always have to yap about their opinion. The other thing that I noticed about therapists in San Francisco is they’re okay with open relationships. I’m surprised that you didn’t say, “All right, you want to cheat? Why don’t you just tell your wife you’re going to be in an open relationship? That’s a good thing.”
Cameron: I would say that all the time.
Andrew: You would?
Cameron: Yeah. “Why would you cheat? Why don’t you go to your wife and say, ‘Hey, I want to be poly, or I want an open relationship.'” To me, it was . . .
Andrew: Did you help people go poly if that’s who they were?
Andrew: You did?
Cameron: But really the core of it was helping people be more honest with themselves and with other people. And so, if that means being poly, great, then go be poly. But don’t be closeted poly. That’s just someone cheating on their part.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m with you. I get that. The whole idea of cheating just makes me feel so uncomfortable. I don’t want to have to keep a secret. It’s a lot of work on my part.
Cameron: Exactly. The quality relationship with your wife if you’re cheating on her is going to be very . . . it’s going to be just a vapid . . .
Andrew: Forget about my wife. At that point, it’s the quality relationship with me. Already, it’s like a lot of pressure for me while I’m talking to you to make sure that I don’t blurt out what your revenue is. Did I like frost it out properly? Is it going be something that accidentally comes out of my mouth? Who knows? All right. So you’re doing this, how did you transition to Torch? Where did that come from?
Cameron: So when I was a couple’s therapist, co-founders started coming to me. They started coming to me to work on their issues. And, as you remember . . .
Andrew: Co-founders would go to couple’s therapy, to you, even though they weren’t in a romantic relationship?
Andrew: Wow. So you’re saying and if you remember.
Cameron: If you remember, I had a few experiences with having a relationship with a co-founder that didn’t work well. So I had a direct experience of what it was like to fight with a co-founder. I then developed a lot of skills for how to improve and maintain better relationships with a significant other through my clinical practice. I was the guy. If you were a co-founder, you would come to me to help you fix your problems, or have an amicable divorce, whatever you needed to do. And so that was the natural progression for me out of being a couple’s therapist into being an executive coach, so working with co-founders.
Andrew: I have heard several co-founders say that they went to couple’s therapy, which seems a little outrageous.
Cameron: That was me.
Andrew: That was you. You were the person that they would go to. I would think that that would make sense because I wouldn’t want someone who’s never been in business to start chiming in on what a real business relationship is like. Not that they’re inferior, but they’re these things that you prepare for your whole life for, and then by reading books and understanding it intellectually, and then you start a business and it seems so different. And only somebody who’s been in it understands how different it is.
Cameron: I think everyone wants a coach that they think is going to be able to relate to their experience. And so I think it’s really hard to be a really great executive coach if you’ve never run a business before because people ultimately want to feel understood.
Andrew: And so then, you start taking them on, at what point do you start making the transition to matching people, matching founders with leadership training and coaching? What’s that next leap?
Cameron: So what happened was my executive coaching practice became successful. And the same thing that happened to me at Well Clinic, which was all of a sudden, I had more clients that I knew what to do with, and I had to scale myself. And so this was just the natural progression. I didn’t think about it. This wasn’t the plan. I just had clients that were coming to me that wanted to work with me and I couldn’t. I was referring them out. And so I thought, “Well, wait a second. Let me start to hire some other coaches. I know this playbook.” So I started hiring other coaches. I started placing clients with them. Those matches went well. And then I started thinking, “Well, wait a second. Why don’t I build a software and make this really big?” And so that was Torch.
Andrew: Wait, even though you’re talking to entrepreneurs who are building great companies, who are doing really well, even though you’re living in San Francisco, where it feels like everyone’s got a startup, and you feel inferior for not having a technical company, a software-based company, you didn’t go into this thinking, “I think I found my next big business idea”? It was just more the road was paved and you just walked down it.
Cameron: That’s right.
Andrew: And one of the first things that you did, and you told our producer this, you said, “I started using a spreadsheet to match up other coaches with the people who are coming in, right?”
Andrew: Use an office shelf, 360 assessment. What’s that?
Cameron: So a 360-degree review or assessment is a way for me to learn something about you as a leader. And what I do is, if I were to do a 360 manually, I would go to your co-founder, Andrew, I would go to your employees, I would go to maybe someone on your board of directors and say, “What’s it like to work with Andrew?” And then I would compose a report and I would give it to you. And I would say, “Andrew, it turns out you’ve got some pretty serious behavioral problems that we need to talk about.”
Andrew: That’s wonderful because you know what, I hate when I like start getting into all wonderful stuff with my guests because then I hate myself afterward for being too nicey nice. But I do feel like the people I work with know me better than just about anyone else, and I’d love for them to chime in and say more about the things that they’re seeing that I do. Like, they notice what I put off, what I don’t want to touch, what I’m resisting. And so, by doing this 360 assessment, you get to identify that in your coaching clients, and then are using it to match them up with others in your spreadsheet with other coaches?
Cameron: So the 360 review happens after the match. So the first thing is the matching process, the second thing is the 360 review, and then from there you start setting goals. So that’s the sequence, match with a coach, get a review, set goals.
Andrew: And so you’re doing that, how are you finding coaches? It feels like that’s a harder thing to do if we said that they need to have business experience in order to understand how to help business people.
Cameron: Finding coaches is not hard. Right now, like everybody and their sister and brother want to be a coach. You know, it’s a way to make a lot of money working from home, using your business skills, and your meditation skills, and your psychology skills that you’ve learned and putting all that together. Everybody wants to be a coach.
Andrew: Everybody wants to be like Tony Robbins it feels like or whoever their coach that they really wanted is, wanted to have. They feel like they could then be on stage, everyone loved them, give advice, know the answer. Yeah, but most of them don’t know jack. They haven’t done anything.
Cameron: So the trouble with building a company around coaching isn’t getting the coaches, it’s filtering out the ones that you don’t want and hiring the good ones. That’s the trick.
Andrew: So how did you do it? It feels like it’s harder to do than even hiring good developers.
Cameron: So you have to interview every person. You have to look at their backgrounds. You need to make sure that they’re authentic. You need to make sure that they really have operational backgrounds, that they’ve actually either had important jobs, or built a successful business, or been a leader of a big team. They need to have had done something in the business world that says like, “Okay, this person actually gets it.” Then, they need to have either gotten a psych degree. They need to have gotten a coaching certification. They need to have done some kind of a leadership training. They need to have the ability to listen to people. And so those are the skills, those are the kinds of backgrounds and skills that have worked for us.
Andrew: Skills to listen to people, but also business background, and also some kind of training in how to do this.
Andrew: Who’s the first person that you hired?
Cameron: Oh, the first person I hired was my co-founder.
Andrew: Your co-founder. How did you find your co-founder?
Cameron: I found my co-founder because he and I had gone through a master’s program together and we stayed friends. He had gone on to get a Ph.D. at Northwestern and had just finished his Ph.D., and I got to him before he went and started a clinical practice. I said, “No, move out to San Francisco. We’re going to start a startup.”
Andrew: This is Keegan Walden.
Cameron: Yep. That’s right.
Andrew: He’s a Ph.D. Is he someone who started a company before?
Cameron: No. He’s a clinical psychologist. And he has a background in psychometrics, which is really a fancy way of saying the combination of data science and clinical psychology. I did not have that background, would never had the stomach for that kind of study or the brains, frankly, but my co-founder did. And so I said, “Hey, you smart guy, come work with me.”
Andrew: And then he was a coach, but doesn’t that then violate one of the first things that you said you were looking for, that you said that you were good coach because you are in business, that you are looking for coaches who had business experience?
Andrew: Did I just get you?
Cameron: No. He had worked for Wells Fargo as a designer, as a product designer for many years before he got his master’s degree. So he had corporate experience. On top of that, what I really needed in a co-founder was someone who had a psych degree, had worked in the business world, but I needed somebody who really could build these assessment tools and knew how to measure behavior change. So he brought to the company something I didn’t have, which was the ability to build these tools and measure behavior change.
Andrew: He did, according to his LinkedIn profile, developed interfaces for online banking applications and enterprise customers back at Wells Fargo. So you brought him on board, how did you get the first group of customers?
Cameron: The first group of customers were . . . remember, I was executive coaching and working with a lot of individuals and co-founder pairs, and they had said, “Hey, you know, I’ve got this person on my executive team who I think also needs coaching with you. Can you coach him as well?” And I would say no because I can’t multiply myself. So the first people I went to were my existing clients. And I said, “Hey, let me coach all of your executive team. Let me coach your directors. I now am hiring the people to do that. And next is I’m going to build the software that allows us to do that even bigger.”
Andrew: That’s what I’ve read, that you were going to people and not just saying, “I can coach you,” not just asking for referrals, you know, of another entrepreneur or maybe one at your poker game that could use this, but you said, “Bring me in to work on your whole team. I will handle your employees. And it won’t just be me, I’ll have other people to do it.” That makes a lot of sense.
Cameron: The trick is that, ultimately, it becomes chaotic and really disorganized really fast as you start to scale because you’ve got to coordinate the matches, you’ve got to then coordinate the 360 reviews, you’ve got to make sure that all the people who need to respond to those 360 reviews that happens in a coordinated way, and then you’ve got to have billing and admin and all that. Very, very quickly, we had to build software. What I described to you a minute ago was the MVP, the minimum viable product. It was just a manual kind of matching service that could prove out that there was demand and something that we could build bigger. That was what we pitch YC with. When we got into Y Combinator, we just pitched them with our MVP and then told them, “Hey, but trust us, we’re going to go and hire a CTO, neither was going to build software, but we’re going to hire someone, we’re going to build this cool software and go with it.” And they bought it.
Andrew: Because of what? They want developers in-house, why did they say yes to you? Because number one, from what I understand, you got to $60,000 a month in recurring revenue, right? That’s huge.
Cameron: By the time we applied. At the time that we applied to YC, that was our revenue.
Andrew: Sixty thousand.
Cameron: And that was our MVP. Yes.
Andrew: And it was just you asking for referrals for a whole company?
Andrew: And how many companies would you say you had at that point?
Cameron: At that point . . . oh, I’m guessing at that point . . .
Andrew: Roughly, we’re talking a dozen?
Cameron: Probably a couple of dozen.
Andrew: A couple of dozen. Wow. All right. And so you showed you can bring in customers, you can take care of those customers, you could create an MVP, now what you needed was to scale this thing that you created. While you were at Y Combinator, you found your CTO?
Cameron: That’s right.
Andrew: You did.
Cameron: Scott Mercer.
Andrew: How did you find your CTO?
Cameron: He worked out in the same gym with my co-founder in Buffalo, New York. My co-founder is from Buffalo, New York, of all bizarre places.
Andrew: Why did you pick this person to be your CTO?
Cameron: So Scott was someone who worked at a . . . he was a senior engineer for a large enterprise, and we wanted a developer who had real enterprise chops. And, you know, they met in the gym, but they’d become friends. And he really liked him from a personality standpoint. So this guy had enterprise software chops and turns out he was a really easy to get along with. We just thought that the chemistry would work. And we also really like the strategy of scaling an engineering team in Buffalo, New York, rather than San Francisco.
Andrew: Because of costs, among other things.
Cameron: Easier to recruit, cost of living is lower, so they don’t have to be paid as much, but really, the ease of recruiting. Also, the culture there is . . . honestly, we’ve created a very, very healthy positive engineering culture in Buffalo. It’s hard to do that in San Francisco. A lot of engineers in San Francisco are divas.
Andrew: Yeah. They talk to me about all the benefits that they get. It’s just shocking. But one of the nice benefits is a lot of them get executive coaching, you know. That’s a nice perk when you sign up. Did you raise a seed round before YC, or was that your first investment?
Cameron: We raised an angel round before YC. So I think we raised 300 grand, and that was from . . . you know, we raised from Steve Huffman, both of the Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, Justin Kan, Trip Adler.
Andrew: These are the people who run what is it called? Initialized is their fund, right?
Cameron: Well, Steve Huffman is the CEO of Reddit. And so Alexis Ohanian is his co-founder. Those guys invested in our angel round. Then Garry Tan and Alexis Ohanian separately run Initialized Capital. But they invested personally. At this point, we hadn’t raised from any institutional Initialized . . .
Andrew: And this is before Y Combinator?
Cameron: It’s before Y Combinator.
Andrew: You told our producer that was really tough. It’s one of the toughest parts of building this company, raising that angel round. Why was it so tough?
Cameron: When I even talk about this round, like my whole body tightens up. I get sick to my stomach. It was really, really hard, that round, because first of all, a lot of these people were my coaching clients and I was going to my clients and asking for money. And once you do that, you burn a bridge. And so when you ask a client for money, if they say yes, you kind of can never come back from that. You pretty much just have to win. And so . . .
Andrew: If they say, “Yes, I will give you money,” you can’t fail anymore?
Cameron: I mean, you can but then you’ve really impacted a relationship with someone who was your client.
Andrew: Can they still be your client if they say yes? Can they be your client if they say no? It feels like both ways is kind of awkward.
Cameron: Yeah, but Andrew, let me ask you this, say you are my client and then I said, “Hey, Andrew, will you give me 50 grand?” And you say you had the money, and you believed in the idea, and you gave me the 50 grand, what if I lost your 50, would you still want me to coach you?
Andrew: The truth is the culture around it is it’s okay. I would . . . I don’t think people are upset when they lose money in this way. They know going into it, especially the guys you’re talking about. The awkward part is if you take a friendship, if you take a business relationship, like the type of intimate relationship that you have with your clients, and now you suddenly bring in, “Will you invest?” it feels like at one point . . . at what point did you see me as a mark? What happens if I say no? It’s kind of awkward now. Can you really be my coach if I say yes? It’s kind of awkward because now you’re just going to be nice to me the whole time because you’ve taken money from me and you’re waiting for the next round? It does change that relationship. It almost burns the bridge in the coaching, much more so than losing the money.
Cameron: So you’re right. So I had to grapple with these feelings and really be super committed to this path because once I took that money from my clients, I really knew that I had to go forward. I couldn’t back out, and so I really had burned the ships behind me and I knew that the only way was to go for it.
Andrew: Was it hard to get them to say yes?
Cameron: No. They really trusted me. The nerve-wracking part of it wasn’t getting them to say yes, it was to know that these people really, really deeply trusted me so much that they’re willing to give me money. It was more about the impact on me, like the obligation that I felt to make sure that . . .
Andrew: You still feel . . . I could see it in your body, when you talk about it, you still feel like, “Now I’ve got a win for them.”
Cameron: Yeah. I’ve got to win . . .
Andrew: And then Y Combinator, you got into Y Combinator largely because the people who you just mentioned are huge in Y Combinator.
Cameron: It certainly helps getting recommendations. So they wrote, you know, letters of recommendation. So it was really, really helpful having customers who are already paying, we had the 60 grand in revenue, and then I had letters of recommendation from a few folks who had really done it before, who had come out of that ecosystem. They wrote me letters of recommendation and boom, that’s how we got in. Out of 8,000 interviews, they took 120 companies and we were one.
Andrew: So something happened to you that I’m hearing more and more happens to Y Combinator companies. You don’t just get funding from Y Combinator, you don’t just get direction from them, but you get your customers from them in the three months that you are in Y Combinator. What happened to your revenue?
Cameron: In that three months, we doubled.
Andrew: Doubled. So another $60,000 in monthly recurring revenue just because of the network of Y Combinator companies who hear about you, who are more open-minded to you. Wow.
Cameron: That’s right.
Andrew: That’s the power of the network. Now, let’s talk about how they helped shaped the business. What did you learn from Y Combinator that helped you create that next version of Torch?
Cameron: What we learned from Y Combinator was . . . oh, I learned a lot from Y Combinator. I’ll just distill it down to a couple of really important points. We learned about a lot of stupid mistakes that other founders have made in the past. YC does a very good job of curating that history of really bad mistakes that other founders make and presenting them to you and banging you over the head with them with 1,000 slides so that you see what those pitfalls are. That’s one.
Andrew: Like what? What are some of the stupid mistakes that stuck with you?
Cameron: You raising a seed round at a huge valuation, and having a lot of hubris, and then going and bragging about how big your round was, and thinking that big round was a proxy for success, and then going out and hiring people, going out and spending the money before you’ve actually figured out a plan for how you’re going to spend that money. A lot of founders will then go and build things that they don’t need to build because they haven’t done a good enough job of talking with customers and finding out what customers really want. They just go and build things, they spend the money on building those things, and then they run out of money and they can’t raise it again.
Andrew: How did you learn what to build? What did you do to allow you to build properly?
Cameron: I stayed super close to our customers, and I kept coaching for a while because I really wanted to more deeply understand the craft. I was extremely frugal. You know, our first office coming out of YC, no joke, was 300 square feet, 300 square feet. And we pack six people.
Andrew: And how many people were you?
Cameron: Six people.
Andrew: Wow, around a big table.
Cameron: There was like a couple little tiny couches and chairs.
Andrew: Was this at WeWork?
Cameron: No. This was right here at 100 Bush Street, Downtown San Francisco. I rented a tiny little . . . we called it the shoe box still. We actually keep it to this day. We still have the shoe box. It’s for good luck. It reminds us of our roots. So we were super frugal with the money.
Andrew: So what did you learn by talking to your customers that . . . well, give an example of something that you built because you had these conversations with your customers, because you had this experience?
Cameron: So I think a great example is the matching tool. We thought that our customers should be more focused on the 360 review, the quality of the 360 review, but they weren’t. They were way more focused on matching with a great coach, way more focused on matching with a great . . .
Andrew: That’s what I’m talking about.
Cameron: So we focused on the matching first, even though we thought we wanted to build this big, awesome assessment. We continued to work with our canned, off the shelf assessment for a while because we put the resources into our matching because that’s what our customers wanted. That’s a good example.
Andrew: That’s a great example. The next thing you did, or one of the next things you did was you hired a boutique marketing agency. How did they help you?
Cameron: Man, they were awesome. Purpose Generation are these scrappy marketers who are really good at taking a small budget and doing a lot with it. And what they did was they built custom content for us and then they pushed it out via social media. And through their efforts, we started just getting more and more leads. And this is how we broke out from the Y Combinator ecosystem. Purpose Generation helped us expand our footprint and expand beyond the YC founder network and start getting really real leads and launch a real marketing program.
Andrew: Because they did content marketing for you.
Andrew: Okay. All right. And so do you have an example of some piece of content that was especially effective?
Cameron: I’ll never forget, it was a webinar between Justin Kan and I that they designed and put it all together and built the script and all the questions. That webinar between Justin Kan and I on co-founder relationships generated a tremendous amount of leads for us.
Andrew: You know what, I remember I was at Justin Kan’s house shooting a program for Mixergy, and I said, “Why there’s a guy here who’s taking a picture of me for your Snapchat?” And part of what he said was, “I missed out on these other big opportunities that the other networks grow and so I want to jump into Snapchat.” But the other part was he recognized the importance of having credibility, of having a reputation in the space. And so when he comes to you as an investor, other investors trust your company more because they know Justin, but also other businesses, who are not at all investing in you, are more drawn to anything that you do that’s associated with him. Steve Huffman, of course, because of Reddit fame, a lot of people know him. He’s on your homepage. I stopped for a moment and I said, “Okay. I think I get why we’re going to talk to Torch. I see where this is going.” And so you get that with Justin. How hard is it to get Justin Kan, the co-creator of Twitch to say yes to doing an event like this with you?
Cameron: So this is going back to that early angel round that you and I talked about. This is where it actually does matter who you take your money from early on. And it’s really worth it to take that money at a low valuation. I think our angel round, like that was like a $4 million valuation. But for us, it was worth it to give away that percentage of the company so that we could get names like Justin Kan, and Steve Huffman, and Alexis Ohanian, and Garry Tan and Trip Adler and the Weebly co-founders. Those guys invested in us. It really paid off later when we needed to build a marketing campaign because those people were clients, they were customers, and they brought us that credibility. That really helped us launch early on.
Andrew: Want to know something? When you told me that you did content marketing, you might have noticed me turn my iPad over so that the keyboard is out. I wanted to go to Ahrefs and search for you. Ahrefs I should say is a partner of ours. They give an account so that I can search people to understand how they’re using content marketing. I see post-case study, Scribd. That’s because Trip is the creator of Scribd, and he’s also an investor, and so you did a case study on Scribd. That’s one of the popular pages on your site here. I see Atrium, a case study. That’s Justin Kan’s company, another popular post on your site. And I can see now that these investors created content that then allows you to bring in more customers and they become top pages as far as traffic goes. Wow, that’s phenomenal. As you’re talking to them, do you ever feel intimidated, like, “Man, this guy knows so much, so many people. He’s done so much. She’s got so much money. What do we do in here? How am I going to compete with them? How am I going to stand out and look smart enough for them?”
Cameron: You know, early on, when I first met a lot of these really successful founders, I would get intimidated. But you do get over that pretty quickly when you get to know them. And they’re just people. They have the same problems that you wake up with every single morning. They have the same anxieties. They have the same insecurities. They have the same relationship challenges. They’re just people. And as soon as I started to really get that, like my discomfort just completely disappeared.
Andrew: I wonder if it’s because of how you’re seeing them because I often see them, hear a problem over drinks, come up with an answer, and I go, “How’d you just do that right away?” Hear somebody mentioned, hear a new software mentioned, and they know immediately who the person behind the software is and then they could do analysis. One of the reasons why I love playing poker here is I don’t give a rat’s ass about winning or losing the money, it’s kind of uncomfortable to sit there with people and take their money even more so than . . . and I always want to take their money, but it’s always uncomfortable. But what I love is one person will say, “What do you think of this?” and the other person will know exactly what they’re talking about, the software, what’s good about it, what sucks about, who the founder is. That’s pretty impressive there. They’ve got these minds that I think enabled them to do as well as they’re doing. You don’t feel intimidated by that?
Cameron: They’re super smart people. There’s no question about it. But everybody’s got some like superpower.
Andrew: What’s yours?
Cameron: Understanding people.
Andrew: That’s it. So because you have your superpower and you know going in, you feel like, “All right, they’ve got their superpower here. I accept that I’m not going to have their superpower just like they except that they don’t have mine.”
Cameron: Correct, 100%.
Andrew: What are you reading about me? Like as we’re talking, I’m putting it out there, what would read are you getting on me? Use your superpower.
Cameron: So my read on you is that is you present as someone who is fun, sometimes snarky, a little bit arrogant but in this very charming way that’s endearing and magnetic. People are drawn to you because you’re handsome, because you’ve got that awesome new coat that you’re wearing.
Andrew: Thank you, Olivia.
Cameron: So you’re really good at drawing people in. You’re also very comfortable disagreeing with people, and there’s something about your ability to disagree with people, to have conflict in this optimal way, that’s also very attractive. So people believe that they can trust you pretty quickly. I would also say that once people get to know you, they probably find that you . . . even though you like to present that you’re not necessarily very emotional, that you’re kind of too cool for school, you’re pretty passionate and emotional person inside, and I believe that you’re probably really attach to people once you forge that relationship. You get very close to people. They become very important to you. I can be wrong about all that.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m kind of putting you on the spot within an hour of knowing me to analyze me like that. I do feel that I think that I try to disagree so that I don’t go back home and regret, “Why don’t I speak up? Why didn’t I say something?” I’ve had those situations in past interviews, and I don’t want to live with that again. And I think that you’re right, that doing it in a way that doesn’t create a debate, for example, but just shows my innate curiosity helps a lot.
Cameron: It makes people trust you. It also makes you interesting. And this is what I would say is your superpower, so just because you don’t know who’s the developer behind some masterful product, you do know how to have a really healthy and fun debate with somebody and that is your superpower. You take that into a relationship, you can rest on that.
Andrew: All right, I like that you said that. I honestly will then use that when I’m at dinner parties with some of these people and go, “What’s going on here?” Frugal, you mentioned frugal several times, 300 square foot place. You didn’t spend money developing software that people didn’t need. You also talked to our producer and said, “You know, honestly, at times, being frugal held us back,” for example?
Cameron: The biggest way that being frugal will held me back as a founder was by not hiring really strong leaders early enough. I wanted to try to do too much of it myself. I wish that I would have started recruiting fora senior marketer earlier and just been willing to take the risk and pay that person. Same thing with a professional salesperson, it’s very easy to get caught in this trap of trying to do everything yourself because you’re trying to save money.
Andrew: And when you eventually did hire a salesperson, it seems like that changed a lot, that helped you grow tremendously, right? What’s the sales process that you were able to hand over to them because you did it yourself, and how did they grow sales?
Cameron: Well, the idea is that you train them on how you nurture a lead and how you close the deal. And if they are skilled enough, they can learn how to do it and they’ll develop their own way, they’ll develop their own kind of game. But, ultimately, their ability to learn how to nurture and close a client is part of it. The second part of it is they also have to know how to generate their own leads. So this is really how a sales team scales, you train someone on how to close but you also train someone on how to generate leads. So that was a really big driver. I wish that I would have hired more of those people earlier. The problem is it’s really hard to find good ones and they’re really expensive.
Andrew: How do you get leads now?
Cameron: We get leads through our salespeople outbound like email, cold email people that are in buying positions at enterprises . . .
Andrew: HR people.
Cameron: HR people, learning and development people, people leaders, either on operations teams or in HR teams. You know, we also have an inbound flow. So we still do a ton of content marketing. So we have people inbounding us through our content marketing. So those are the two motions, outbound through email campaigns and then inbound through content marketing.
Andrew: And that works, the outbound email campaigns?
Cameron: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Andrew: All right. So if somebody’s listening to us and they decide, “You know what, I got to try this Torch,” go to torch.com, they realize, “Oh man, I made a mistake,” they go to torch.co and realize no, no, that’s not it, go to torch.io and go, “Oh yeah, input, output. It’s a techie place.” They sign up, what happens to their organization once they’re . . . specifically, I’m guessing it’s their executives who then get paired up with a coach, they get to talk to the coach remotely once a week, is that the way it works? That’s usually the rhythm?
Cameron: That’s right. You got it.
Andrew: And first you match them, then you get them on a call with the coach, and then I’m assuming also in between sessions they also get to find a way to follow up with the coach if they need to.
Cameron: Email and messaging, yes. Got it.
Andrew: I’ve seen this . . . my wife works for tech companies here, so through her, through her friends I’ve seen that this is offered to some senior-level people at companies. But it’s kind of done in a very casual way, “Yes, we’ve got a coach for you. Now, whenever you want to go sign up with them,” but it’s awkward, “Now I’ve got to go back and expense it. And I’ve got to go back in and tell the company we’re doing this.” I think that that’s one of the benefits, to set up some kind of a rhythm for the people to be able to work with the coach. And then what happens to the organization if they go through coaching?
Cameron: So what you said was the way that the whole coaching process used to work. So L&D leaders or HR leaders would see that they had someone on their executive team that needed a coach, that people leader would then go look into a spreadsheet of people they went to business school with who are now coaches, and they would say, “Hey, I think you might really work well with John. And then there was a manual process and then John has to build the company, you have to deal with the administration of working with John, and then you have a bunch of different coaches all from different companies that you’re trying to manage across your whole executive team. It’s really very confusing. It’s very onerous to manage. So that’s the old way.
The new way is platform-based coaching. So we build an engagement with the HR team, they buy a number of seats for us, we then look at the scores of people that they want us to work with, we look at their titles and their levels, and then we match them with coaches that have the experience to work with people at that level. So it’s not the same background of coach that you try to match with a VP that you match with a new manager. VPs needs someone more experienced, and they’ll pay more for that, the company will pay more for that seat. So that’s how Torch works.
Andrew: All right. Here’s what I learning from you. Number one, if you don’t have the right coach or therapist, you know pretty quickly and you should just switch. If you’re not happy with coaching, if you’re not happy with therapy, it’s probably because you don’t have the right person. Number two, you don’t have to get into business from the start knowing exactly where it’s going to go. Sometimes just following your passion within . . . and I know that sounds cliched, you’re not just following your passion. Like, doing it in a small way and being okay with it never growing could end up leading to growth. I know that without the background of our conversation, that sounds very weak.
Number three, we all admire yellers when it’s people like Steve Jobs, but people don’t really function while you’re . . . your cheek just literally did something as I even was saying yellers. Like, it made you uncomfortable to even hear.
Cameron: If you’re going to be a yeller, you better be a Steve Jobs. That’s all I got to say.
Andrew: I’m not even sure if it was working specifically for him. So what really works for . . . leaders who have it under control, who are more organized emotionally and intellectually end up doing better. And finally, if we want to get a coach for our company, we can go to torch.io. Oh, one more thing, and if you get one of these brand named investors, it really helps you get customers. Can I actually say is there someone who you’ve been a coach for who I can mention in the headline? Imagine if instead of “Coach creates a new coaching platform,” can I say Reddit founder uses this coach to stay sane or something like that?
Cameron: Garry Tan . . . do you know who Garry Tan is, the founder of . . . ?
Andrew: I do. I don’t know if he’s known outside of the tech space, but absolutely. The guy is brilliant. He led Y Combinator, didn’t he, for a while. He created a couple of companies. He’s invested in a bunch of well-known companies.
Cameron: You can say Justin Kan, you can say Steve Huffman. I’ve got . . .
Andrew: I can say that you coached him and Steve Huffman?
Andrew: Oh, the guy who coach the founder of Twitch and Reddit.
Cameron: There you go.
Andrew: Oh, that’s killer. All right. You know what, in my interview with Steve Huffman, the last one that I did with him after he left Reddit, I said, “Can I say that you wish that you still own Reddit?” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “I’m only going to use it for clicks.” He goes, “Yeah. Yeah. Go for it.” I did. It got me a ton of Reddit hits. Anything you say that has to do with Reddit is huge. And it wasn’t just clickbait. He ended up going back and running the show now again.
Cameron: He certainly did. And he turned the culture around and helped that company go from a very, very painful, difficult place culturally to where it is now, which is much, much better. And he did that through the people he hired. Katelin Holloway is a big part of that.
Andrew: And it seemed like it was never going to be sane internally at Reddit. It felt like it was always going to be chaotic internally and chaotic because that’s the product they created at Reddit and it’s not. Like, considering what they’ve got, how many people now are looking towards Reddit as a model for what Facebook and other platforms can use to allow people to speak but not create this toxic culture?
Cameron: And Steve won’t take credit to that. He’ll point to the people that he hired to do that. And Katelin Holloway was a big part of that. She was the VP of people for the last four years and has really, really done an impeccable job of turning that culture around.
Andrew: I don’t know her, Katelin Holloway?
Cameron: Yeah. You want to know her. She’s a star.
Andrew: All right, see, now I’m the type of person that has to go now and look her up. All right, somebody should do a Mixergy for HR. Maybe it’s something you guys do, where you just get to know . . . I feel like the HR people are really creating the culture of the company. They’re bringing in the people the company. They’ve got a lot of power so, like, if you wanted to sell ads that reach HR, it would be incredibly effective and very, very profitable. But nobody knows who these HR people are. It feels like the Mixergy of HR . . . somebody steal that. Don’t create the next like startup interview podcast. That’s been done a million times. Talk to the HR people. I see her right here now, and I’m going to go and look her up.
All right. Thank you so much for doing this interview. I wanted to talk to you just about your previous surf business. I’m so glad that I talked about everything here with you. I appreciate you being on here. And I’m grateful to the sponsor who made this interview happen. Go check them out at hostgator.com/mixergy.
Cameron: Thank you, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you.