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. You ever feel like you just know what’s going to happen? Like, you know, who’s gonna win a game or, you know what Apple’s going to launch or, you know, uh, I don’t know Bitcoin is going to trade for, and you say, I know I’m right, but I just want to be a guy yapping on Twitter and talk about it.
I want to find a way to just get rewarded, to actually put a little bit of money up so that I know that what I’m doing is not just yapping, but also get a prize, get money so that I know that what I’m doing actually has value. And I’m not just trying to pat myself on the back. Well, John BD created an app called an a game and a platform called verses.
would allows you to do is take a position and then they will match you up with someone who takes the opposite position. And they’ll tell you how much money you win by doing that. I have to say I’ve had some issues with the app. I started telling John about it before. I wasn’t sure if the business was as big as a, as, as I thought it was, he said he gave me the numbers.
It’s actually bigger. He says. And so I want to understand how he got here. I want to be open about my challenges and more importantly, I want to find out how he evolved as an entrepreneur. Uh, we had a few failed businesses and then had a couple of successful ones and learn from them. So. This interview, where we do all of that is sponsored by two phenomenal sponsors.
The first is HostGator. If you need a website hosted, go to host.com/mixergy. The second, if you want to actually start to turn your business, turn your content business into a membership business, where you get to charge your audience and have a direct relationship with them. I’m going to tell you later why you should go to member full.com/mixergy.
First, John. Good to have you here.
John: Andrew. Thank you for having me. It’s a luxury. I can’t wait to get into it All
Andrew: All right, I’m going to be open with you. Here’s the part that I love, the part that I love is it feels very much like Tik TOK. I opened up the app and I see somebody looking at the screen very clearly saying here’s what I think is going to happen. And it could be someone who says, I think Bitcoin is going to be trading for $40,000 by Monday, or actually what’s today.
Today’s Wednesday by Thursday. I loved that. It was that immediate. It was a bunch of people commenting about who’s going to win some kind of sporting something or other, and I didn’t give a rat’s ass because I can’t follow it. I love that. I said, I don’t know, should I pay money to experiment with this or not?
And before I knew it, there was apple pay up on the screen. It’s only for five fricking box. I said, okay, it’s only five bucks and the money was paid and I was able to move on. Here’s the part where it was a little bit challenging for me. And it made me think maybe John’s just like,
Andrew: On Mixergy too early.
Maybe there’s not a thing here. Number one, when I downloaded the app, there are 47 reviews on the app store, the iPhone app store, and a couple of them were, were negative already. Number two, I wasn’t betting dollars. I was betting C what is a C. Um, but apparently I bet a hundred of the C’s and I went 170 sees if I’m right.
I’m yapping too much. Number three, I didn’t even realize at first that it was me betting because I thought it was two different people who are betting because my name on the platform is like X, Y, Q R S like some random set of letters that are clearly UX issues. Right.
John: actually apple. We’re kind of out of our hands. So if you sign up with apple, They have this weird, funky code that we’re trying to like hack a solution to,
Andrew: But can’t you just say afterwards, now that you’ve logged in, what username do you want?
John: um, Apple has this weird thing, and I’m not too deep into that piece is we just launched speaking of the 47 reviews, we just launched with apple. We launched on Android first and then everyone’s like laughed. And I was like, what about iOS? And I’m like, all right. So, uh, but the majority of our players are playing on mobile web.
And as you know, there’s a big push for the younger generation away from. App stores and they love the actual web again, the mobile web.
Andrew: But, but you know, when I go to versus game.com your site, it immediately tells me about the app store and the Google play store.
John: Oh yeah. because we’re trying to push that too. We just, we launched them all. Yeah.
Andrew: Android has 104 ratings and also three and change stars out of five. So it’s still fairly new there too.
John: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. We’ve been around for 2.5 years. Um, the majority of the time, except for the last month or so has been on a mobile. and we’re we’re pumps. Um, you know, there’s, the game itself is a prediction game where you get paid, if you’re right. So we’re letting people predict the outcome of culture, and that means different things to different people and to how you do that as all in gamer, in app purchases.
So just like you would buy coins in Fortnite, they’re virtual currency, you’re buying coins C.
Andrew: what the C was. It was
John: Yeah. So one coin. is one, penny a hundred is a dollar. And so you put a dollar in on, let’s say it’s, let’s say the question is Bieber versus Drake
Andrew: You know, it could be one it’s, uh, sorry. I keep it. It could be like, will Brittany Spears get out from under her dad’s thumb, right.
John: I can be, that would be a long game though.
Andrew: Right. And I do love how the games are immediate. It’s immediate that a lot of the people who are on there are saying, do you, what do you think will happen by Thursday? And it’s more immediate that as soon as I take a bet, I don’t have to be told, turn on your notifications because we’re looking for somebody to take the opposite side of the bed.
Nope. I found somebody at the opt to take the opposite side of the bet within seconds.
John: It’s quick.
There’s a lot of people playing. We have 7.5 million people, monthly active users playing this.
Andrew: How much revenue I said to you, I doubt that you guys are really doing a million dollars. Ma maybe we misunderstood it, your smile, you smile at me though. You’re smiling at me now, this like condescending Andrew, you don’t even know how big this is, none of which is, which is legit.
John: am. We’re doing a lot $70 million in revenue for this year or
Andrew: million deposited in your account. Do you have to give that back to people? If they win?
revenue. Yeah. So then we share, we share some of that to the winners and we keep them. Uh, we’re on average year, over year growth rate of 491%. We’re adding about 50, 60,000 new users per week. And I am super, amazingly over the top.
Grateful to be a part of this.
Andrew: part of it. You
John: One of those things that I did, but I’m just a part of it now. And it’s one of those things where, uh, it humbles you and it’s taking off by itself. It’s a natural thing. I have an idea. I want to share it. And now we infuse money in there and it.
it’s this perfectly designed loop.
Like we’re consuming so much content all day long. We naturally form opinions and predictions off that content. We can’t stop. It’s fun. It’s that primal reptilian part of our brain. We’re wired to do that. But when was the last time you were awarded for thinking this Cardi, song’s going to be a hit on Spotify or what’s going to happen on bachelorette probably zero time.
So our mission is simple. Knowledge should be rewarded.
Andrew: How is this not gambling?
John: So legally we’re classified as skill based gaming. So we don’t follow the same rules as a draft Kings. We follow the same rules as skills that just went public for like 10 billion, like a few months ago. So we don’t need any gambling license or anything like that.
Andrew: All right. I promise this whole interview is not going to be a pain in the ass of me making you justify yourself and prove that you are who you are, but I’m on SEMrush. I’m doing traffic analysis, uh, analytics for versus game.com. It says visits for May, 2021 is 9,900. And should I be going on a different domain to see all these users?
John: Uh, we work. So all the data out there that we look at it from SCM rush to Crunchbase and ma what was the other one? They always try to get me. they’re always fishing. They’re all wrong.
Yeah. Even at Annie they’re all off. I talked to people and investors like, yo, it’s all, all over the place. It’s hard data, so dirty.
Um, but yeah. we work with a lot of affiliates. So a lot of affiliate traffic, we live inside of other people’s apps and games and websites and blogs and radio stations and all that kind of stuff. And so we’re there you play inside of their experience
Andrew: So do most people play on versus game.com? Do they play in the app or do they play on somebody else’s platform and app?
John: Most of it’s getting more towards, you know, the website and the app?
And we came out at first when we launched this thing is that we want to, we want to be a natural extension of what you’re already doing, enhance what you’re doing. So most people play in other people’s experiences.
Andrew: Okay. I think, I think I’ve got where you are. How much net comes to you from all this
Andrew: is it, is it profitable at this point? You
John: We’re are.
profitable. We’re net profitable. So after we pay out everybody and everything and all the employees and AWS and all that, we are actually adding a little money to our bank account.
Andrew: You took funding from the Vinco Winkle, Voss. So that tells me that there’s some kind of crypto angle on this, because those two are our head without head of the game. Right.
John: Uh, they are ahead of the game and they’re amazing people and, uh, you can play crypto games right now. Uh, but there’s going to be more, um, um, you know, extensions into crypto soon.
Andrew: What do you mean by play crypto games?
John: So like you said, I think you mentioned, uh, if you’re. You’re on the site. You can see if doge coin or Bitcoin is going to be doing this by this day by Thursday.
Those are like, you can just play questions about crypto. So you actually don’t have to own crypto Bitcoin to make money off of Bitcoin.
Andrew: Yeah. There were quite a few people who, uh, were betting on that and I liked the simplicity of it.
Like, I think it’s cool and a little crazy and outdated that my bank account is attached to the market, the free market, the people in wall street. Right. That’s cool. But kind of weird. I think my, I would rather have my bank account be attached to just my own knowledge. Right. So I had my butthole super clenched and it still is because of Bitcoin and what I’m involved in Bitcoin to, you know, buying it.
But then I’m still making money off of it, positive in vs game, which is cool. Cause it’s just.
Andrew: Oh, you’re saying it stinks that whether you, whether your asset, which is Bitcoin or the S and P 500, if you invested in that goes up and down, not based on how hard you worked or how smart you were, but about what the market is doing and whether Elon Musk
John: Exactly. Exactly.
Andrew: Big seems to be what 30% you guys take?
Is it vaguer? I don’t know what the right number with the right word for it, but you take like 30% of each.
John: It’s a Platform fee. and it varies.
Andrew: All right. It’s a, it’s a killer fricking idea. The fact that you’ve got these people on board tells me that you’ve done your homework up, probably you never know, but they’ve done your homework on the gambling part, but if it’s not for the gambling, the execution I’ll tell you what’s the best part of the execution is freaky.
And people would just coming up by my screen. And I just scroll up and up and up like Tik TOK. I can’t stop looking at these people who are just making stupid arguments for stuff that I want to you’re on the wrong. It’s just really well done.
John: Thank you. It’s just normal behavior. We didn’t invent anything, but people have been doing this as the beginning of time. We just created a fair and fun platform for the masses. We’re trying to put real money in real people’s spots.
Andrew: were you able to fund this in the beginning of the, in the beginning, was you your own money with one of the companies that you started before you earned it? Right.
John: That’s Right.
Good memory. Yeah. So, um, I, I started four companies before this, my first two failed miserably. It wouldn’t change a thing. I learned a lot. My last two I successfully exited. And then I put some of that money into. Uh, try to do some iterations of it and got smart enough to finally, um, hire my, or bring on partner.
I, uh, sorry with my co-founder and CTO. Uh, and he really just took this to the next level on the, on the, on the product side.
Andrew: What was the one that allowed you to fund this? Was, it was the big one. Merchant Atlas.
John: Uh, yeah, that was the bigger one.
Andrew: What was merchant Atlas or what is.
John: Uh, it was a B2B, uh, SAS, uh, businesses and machine learning. It was automating sales for people that had large sales teams selling into the SMB space. So our clients were Microsoft, Facebook, Google, or yellow pages, Yahoo. They had all these humans. Having for dollars, you know, to say here’s a cellular website or an ad for like a hundred bucks to like a pizza joint and it was interrupted and it didn’t pencil out financially.
And we came in and automated some of that. And sometimes all of it depends on what it was.
Andrew: Automated. What, so, one of the things that you told our producer was you learned at a preview, you know what, why don’t we go in chronological order? Because I feel like every part of your life built on everything that came on before and now you’re at the best part of your life, right? This is the best that you’ve ever been.
John: My best life, for sure. Yeah.
Andrew: This really? Yeah, I can, I can see that. Um, is Bitcoin also up-to-date is that also helping you
John: I mean, I don’t even fucking look at that right now. I’m like, whoa.
Andrew: What’s the most, you were down on Bitcoin
Andrew: or crypto in general?
John: crypto in general?
Cause uh, Bitcoin is just one. Yeah, I would say I’ve been down that a lot. Probably like 60, um,
Andrew: 60,000. Okay. Not terrible.
John: No, I don’t fuck around too much at Bitcoin,
Andrew: where’s your money? Mostly
John: uh, real estate,
Andrew: real estate. What type?
John: uh, uh, rental properties, condos, duplexes, quads, stuff like that.
Andrew: Wow. I never would’ve thought. All right. Let’s let’s come back and understand that I’m actually going to go all the way back. You started out scooping ice cream as a kid, and right away, you said, this is not my thing. I’m not, I’m going to be
John: go, let’s go a little, bit beyond.
John: Further back. I want to give props. Props is due. My parents were born and raised on a farm in Italy with no running water or electricity. Um, and they came here on a boat immigrant story, and they had me in Boston. They were too lazy to come out to California at that point.
Cause it’s definitely better out here. Um, but I owe it all to them. I, and I, because of them, I’ve seen both sides of it. Um, and I’m extremely grateful and humble and Yeah.
I went to school at the, uh, well, actually I left home at the age of 17, went off on my own. And before that I was working and Yeah.
Andrew: went off to do what you’re see a dad was you told our producer, your dad was a sharecropper. You realize that he was what he was getting work and then getting laid off and then getting work and getting laid
John: so that he was a farmer, like, uh, in Italy for trade, not the profit. Right. You have eggs. I have wheat, that kind of thing.
Andrew: That seems horrible.
John: it’s really hard. Uh, actually have a garden and chickens right now. I’m becoming more like my mom and dad every day. Um, I love it. Um, Yeah.
And so. Uh, they came here and then I saw him, you know, get fired and laid off of job after job.
And I was like, wow, I don’t really affected me as, at a young age. I did not want to have my livelihood and my everything, the dependent upon some other human that could just be like, no, we’re done with you right now, whatever. I saw that growing up. And that was like, whoa. So I wanted to go and figure. And all I could do at that time was scoop ice cream.
Uh, you know, at, at first as my first job, I looked at the check and I was like after two weeks and I was like, holy shit, this is not a lot. I got fired from there because I ate all the ice cream. I was like a little chubby kid and I fucking love ice cream.
Andrew: Literally fat kid chubby.
John: Like chubby, you know, but you can chubby shame me.
I’m all good with that. Um, and I was like, oh my God, this is ice cream. And he put me in front of like an ice cream shop and then game over. So I got fired from that. Then I went to go work at a grocery store and I got fired because I was drinking the chocolate. Um, and then I went to work at a bakery and a, another grocery store and I was like, man, I’m just not me.
I just did not want to work in a place where there’s food. Cause other people.
Andrew: Yeah. I didn’t realize that. Of course. That’s the theme.
John: I’m Italian. This is what we do, you know? Um, so yeah, and then I came out here the day after I graduated university. Like literally the day after, one way ticket with a red duffel bag, a little gym bag, I had had nothing. So I came out here, fell in love with California.
I stayed and I jumped into a company called Proofpoint.
Andrew: But before we do that, what’d you come into California for like, this is 17 years old, not after you graduated university, but after high
John: university. And now I came to California.
Andrew: Okay, so 17, you leave, you go to university. You’re done with university. Then you come to California. Is that right?
John: Yeah. I was 17 in high school and then I eventually went to, I went to college, whatever 18. Right. And then I graduated normal years. I was 21 And I flew out here.
Andrew: And then you said I’ve got to get into what, what was it that got you fired up about California?
John: Oh, uh, anything, but I don’t mean to be mean, but anything but Boston excited me about that.
Andrew: Got it.
John: I just had to get out as a kid when you live in that kind of environment with that family and with no money. And like, he didn’t have anything. And I just, you know, the family is tough. We’re immigrants. Like there’s no, there’s no like
Andrew: Your dad speak English.
John: uh, no, my parents did not really speak that
Andrew: yeah, that’s, it’s such a challenge when your parents don’t speak the language. Okay.
John: And so I was like, you know what? I want to get the fuck out of Dodge. So I really worked my ass off to do that. And then. I figured it out. And so I got out here, I just went, I was like wanting to go the other way. And so I was in California. I loved it. Um, I, I got lucky cause I loved California right away as my first stop.
And last stop.
Andrew: All right. You start a pasta company as the first thing that you launched. Why
John: Well, this is not, this is, this is after my first court, my first, the only corporate
Andrew: Okay. Tell me about the corporate job.
John: uh, it was a company called proof. And it was an anti-spam company tech company. And I did well there. I won all the spiffs. I was in sales, BD marketing type of stuff. And I had an E I was young. I was dumb. I had an ego and I thought I could do things better and differently.
So I was like, fuck it. I’m out. I’m I bounced, I dipped out and I struck out on my own. I went off on my own and I started four companies before this. Two of them failed to them. I successfully exited the first one. Of course. Was food related. I couldn’t get away. It was pasta, but I didn’t eat my own stuff, but I was so I was telling it, but I mean, I did taste it cause I, I know I want to make sure it’s good.
I was selling it around to like, you know, uh, local grocery stores and restaurants and they loved it, but I found out quickly service versus product time versus impossible to scale. And so I was like, this isn’t going to work out. I could not scale this thing with just me.
Andrew: Why didn’t you think that pasta was the thing for you? You came, you went to work at a tech company. You saw how big tech companies can get, why go back to pasta, which is an older market. That’s more competitive.
John: Yeah, this is a good question because I don’t care what I, I’m not, I’m not passionate about like, uh, one thing I’m passionate about creating stuff. Um, you’ll see over, like if I drew a chart. No, no, they all are directly tied, but very like indirectly kind of. So I had pasta making
John: and then I had a recruiting thing.
Then I had a clothing company, then this B2B SAS, hardcore technology, automating sales, and then this, which is a prediction marketplace game.
Andrew: Yeah, way
John: ties in and I
Andrew: see the tie in, but yeah, let’s go through the story and see if we could figure out the tie in for ourselves at the pasta company. It didn’t work out because,
John: because I couldn’t scale it.
Andrew: because you couldn’t scale and you also told our producer, you know what, I was actually living in a world where the Atkins, diet and keto and all this was big.
John: Well, I mean the ass and I was like, all Right? timing’s everything. Then I was like, all right. I, I, I had some friends that were recruiters, tech, tech recruiters, and I, they were working full time. I w I did this. I was like, let’s, let’s do this. I’m down. They’re like, alright, great. So I was doing on a full-time, they were on a part-time that didn’t work out because of alignment of interest.
They had a full-time thing. They had different goals. They weren’t like hustling as much. So.
I figured out quickly there, again, I wouldn’t change a thing on any of this stuff. People are the biggest asset. You have the most important thing
Andrew: Okay. And if they’re not working, instead of saying those guys are jerks, you said I have to value all people and only work with really good people.
John: and that people that want, that have the Same vision, the same drive,
John: energy, the same frequency as me.
Andrew: How, how, uh, what type of energy did you have? How hard were you working? What type of worker were you back then? When you’re talking about the, uh, the recruiting company?
John: Oh man. Uh, I work eight days a week still.
John: Oh yeah. Cause I love everything I’ve done. I loved it because I love learning. Like I learned how to fly a plane and ride a motorcycle and I, I make my own sausage and wine. Right. I just like to learn how to, how stuff
Andrew: And when you were doing recruiting, were you making a lot of the phone calls to companies or were you talking to candidates?
John: I was dialing for dollars everywhere.
Andrew: And even without them, why didn’t you continue? Why did you say, you know what? It’s not right fit for you. I’m going to replace you I’ll continue with the recruiting business.
John: At the end of the day, I didn’t like a 17 wastage. Because you have to go sell the candidate and then sometimes sell like the family. Cause it was a family affair. You have to go sell all these different managers and HR and recruiting and HR people internally. And it was like, oh my God, this is like, it, it productized humans.
And I was like, Yeah,
I’m not really into it. It was fun to learn. That’s why I figured learn how to that’s where I learned how to sell.
Andrew: we continue, why didn’t you at this point? Feel like a failure. Why don’t you say, you know what? I remember mouthing off to my boss before saying I had all these brilliant ideas. They told me to sit down and look pretty. Maybe they were right. Maybe I don’t have it. Yeah.
Oh my God. Such a good question because, well, how do you define failure?
Andrew: I guess the fact that it didn’t work out, the fact that you aim for something, I didn’t have the sense that you weren’t saying, Hey, I’ll sell some, some bags of pasta and things will be good. I have a sense of you that you said I’m going to work really hard because this is great. Everyone needs to know about this pasta.
This could be everywhere. This could be the new pasta. Why is that one eating Barilla? Right. And so if it didn’t work out, then why didn’t you say, I’m not what I thought I was. I can’t do what I thought I could
John: Oh, beautiful question. Because, because of my childhood and what I’ve learned in school, and I almost failed out of college, I think maybe twice, um, failure for me was breakfast. Seeing how my dad failed. And w the whole history there and just my whole life of being like, no, you can’t do.
this. No, you’re an idiot or whatever failure was like, I’m onto something
Andrew: They said that to you, they said to you that you’re a failure, like you’re who they said
John: oh, yeah. I’ve had people tell me, I’ve had people tell me about this company, even back. Yeah. At you, don’t look like us. You’re not one of us, so you didn’t go to Stanford and you’re not like a white blonde hair polo,
Andrew: that to you.
John: a hundred thousand percent.
Andrew: All right. And so, so you
John: I was like, fuck that. And so now here we are at a little
Andrew: allows you to continue then? What allows you when all these people said that this is not going to work out for you? That you’re not, you’re not one of us. You’re going to fail out of school. What allows you to just keep feeling confident, optimistic, and ready to go?
John: It’s just my drive and personality. Um, I love learning. I re I rarely, I think so my dad calls me like tested the pasta, which means in Italian, it means thick. Like I’m stubborn, like a mule. So, um, I have a thick skin thick head and I, I rarely listen to negative people. It doesn’t hit my frequency of bounced.
It vibrates off.
Andrew: Can I, can I ask this? I wonder if also you’re fueled by it because I was, I was, you are right. When I, when I challenge you before the interview started about how this stuff, uh, what I saw with a lot of guests, I have to then reassure them that I’m not here to push, to push them down. I’m here. I’m trying to keep them from like bolting, because of that with you, you immediately put aside what you were doing.
You face me and you’re like, oh, this is good. And I sense that, that instead of driving you down, it fuels you to some degree.
John: It does.
to a big degree. Of course let’s call it out. Yeah. And I love, I love that because again, it’s how I learn. It’s how I get better. If you get offended by this, you are in the wrong field.
Andrew: All right. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor. In fact, I’m going to ask you John, imagine you’re starting out and you have nothing. Except Andrew Warner said my sponsors HostGator. It only costs like what five bucks a month. I’m going to pay for a year of HostGator hosting, hosts, whatever website you want, what would it be?
No coding, no software. I just want to give you a website that you can start creating content. What would it
John: was the website?
Andrew: Yeah. What would you be? What would you launch? Starting from scratch
John: Oh, a free school.
Andrew: a free school teaching.
business, real business, not like reading a book about somebody who add an idea on a napkin, and then they’re on a yacht because it worked like real business,
Andrew: I think I would learn business from you. What would you teach?
John: uh, everything from how to start a company, uh, for the team, the timing, how to interview, how to get the right players on board, how to network and get investor money in how to launch it, how to fail, how to reiterate all that.
Andrew: And then if it’s free, where are you going to make your money from this?
John: From from, um, sponsorships, from people at, from people like Google that will want our employees because we’re teaching them the real shit.
Andrew: Ah, got it. You’re team, you’re training people for jobs, but you’re giving them the practical knowledge. They’re not going to get in school. All right. Listen to me, people, whether it’s that idea or anything else, when you’re ready to launch a website, all you have to do is go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And I’ll make it super easy.
In fact, teaching is great. And the nice thing John about teaching today is there are a lot of people who are experts at something they do, especially, well, maybe it’s hiring, right? Maybe it’s maybe it’s even just setting up a company. They would teach for free just to get exposure to the audience, just to get somebody to work with them and to help them organize their thoughts in a way that lets them teach.
So that’s a great idea for anyone out there listening to us, take that idea. Take one of your own, go get a website from HostGator start publishing. And if you use my URL, I’ll get credit and you will get the lowest price that HostGator makes available. It’s hostgator.com/mixergy, hostgator.com/mixergy.
All right, so then artificial flavor, the men’s wear that’s. What did well for you?
John: That was my first success.
Andrew: Is this artificial flavor? I was looking it up.
John: Oh boy. Be nice.
Andrew: did I find, is this one of yours?
John: I can’t see it go.
Andrew: like a black jacket. Let me see, are these, are these, did you make shoes too? No. Someone else is using it in the name. Artificial flavor.
John: Well, we sold.
Andrew: Yeah. Okay.
John: still lives. Uh, I don’t know what they’ve, uh, uh,
Andrew: maybe this is their thing post you, what type of clothing did you make? What type
John: men’s contemporary sports wear.
So it’s stuff that like were wearing all the way to underwear and jackets. And we were in stores like Neiman’s and Sachs and Rolo and Kitson, and Fred Segal all over the world from Europe and Asia, Dubai, north America.
Andrew: Why did that one take off?
John: Why did it? Um, I think we, um, found a niche, uh, if I may be so bold and brazen, the real start of it was underwear because, you know, I was a young guy and having fun, whatever, and I was like, man, all these other people’s underwears are so great. I look at guy’s underwear. And I was like, this is so boring.
This is a long time ago now. And I was like, man, we’ve got to compete. So I wanted to start a men’s underwear thing to fill that niche. And then it turned into like a loungy wear and like dressed up lounge wear, um, and you know, underwear, it was a big. Like shop, you know, drop shop, uh, drop ship delivery, all that kind of stuff.
Recently backed by VC is, um, it was fun. It was me and three other guys. And we hustled, we did everything in the beginning. Like the design that we outsourced, the manufacturing San Francisco, uh, we took the boxes. We packaged them up, fulfilled the orders. We taped up the boxes. We put them to ups delivered it there.
It was insane.
Andrew: How’d you get into stores. Do you have an example of a store that you got into that shows us how you did.
John: Uh, yeah, I mean, let’s say, uh, Fred Segal in LA.
Andrew: Yeah. How’d you get the Fred Segal? That is, I love the look of the store. I love the style of the people there. It’s just phenomenal. A lot of people try to pitch them though.
Yeah. So at that time it’s the landscape was different. There was no fun, cool, sexy, fun hip men’s underwear. So we slid right in and they were like, Yeah, this is super cool.
Andrew: Yeah, look at this. All right. I finally found it. This dude right here is wearing your underwear.
John: That’s it. I,
love it. Yeah. The way back machine. There you go. You know, what many photo shoots that we’ve done? Oh my gosh. It’s so funny. Yeah, we had fashion shows were on runway.
Andrew: release that you sent out artificial flavor LLC has announced the release of their debut line of men’s underwear that caters to the fashion forward set of today’s style conscious man, they’re coming off a successful fashion show at San Francisco’s Ruby sky venue
John: Oh, my God, bro. You’re crazy. You wanna hear
John: You want to hear some shit? You wanna hear some songs? I, this is not the way I look then, but I looked tired of shit now, but that I actually. Had to strap on the underwear and walk on the runway for thousands of people at Ruby sky to go and see to showcase it with all
Andrew: you have abs like the models on your site?
John: a long time ago.
Andrew: Oh, that’s hard. All right.
John: That sucked. It was terrible. Abs are a waste of time.
Andrew: No, they’re not. The pay office has been huge, especially if you’re in LA.
John: It’s a waste of
Andrew: It is. Ah, I’m glad you’re saying that. I tried so hard to get him. I couldn’t do it. Lay this. You had boys shorts, which were retro style. Mid-length hipsters. They have con contrast trim at the leg openings. This is great. This is crazy.
Did you write that?
John: I don’t know.
Andrew: Okay. All right. So the thing took off. Um, and then what’d you, do you sold it for how
John: all over manufacturing. We had containers. Like containers going across the oceans and all that kind of stuff. It was cool. That was acquired. And I was like four years doing that. That was really hard business. That was the hardest business I’ve ever been involved with to date.
Andrew: You know what I remember, I interviewed the founder of Sachs underwear, one of the first guests that I had on, he did really well with it, but he said that it was murdered to even just get underwear. Right. Because with a t-shirt, if the seam is off, you’re going to be okay. He had, I think it was a scene that was off.
And boy, did he hurt people?
John: It it’s it’s, it’s a living, breathing product and Yeah.
we’re in multiple seasons. You’re thinking about a season ahead while you’re, you’re thinking about two seasons ahead while you’re delivering the future season. Cause we have to be in stores before the season and you’re also doing re uh, deliveries and re-ups on the currencies and also the last season.
So you’re trying to predict the future. And planning it while you’re working in the past and present. Plus if you’re late, if one of those containers is late because there’s weather in the open ocean, Macy’s Siemens sacks they’ll discount you. It sucks,
Andrew: Even one
John: don’t want it or we’ll discount like 50, 15%.
Andrew: All right. How well did that deal with on the exit?
John: That was about a single for me.
Andrew: Okay. And do you do anything to celebrate and take off one of the eight days of the week
John: Uh, I jumped, right. I know I
Andrew: right away?
John: A lot. Cause I was like, oh, I had this idea. I was cooking this idea already.
John: I’ve been cooking versus game for the past 15, 16 years. I just had the balls and the wherewithal to do it.
Andrew: You know, people have tried this. I don’t know why it didn’t work for them in the past, but people have tried this type of thing before, and it hasn’t worked before, but let’s continue. You told our producer while you were artificial flavor, you started noticing that there would be these sales people coming in from like the yellow pages who knew the yellow pages was still a thing going into local stores, just like you were.
And you said, this is not the way that they should be selling. What did you see that they were selling and what were they doing wrong?
John: I was also looking merchant too, because people were there was, I had a brand. Right. But so yeah, I was living in those stores too?
And so there were selling, it was interrupted sales at an ad and it was like, Hey Sally, here’s a website. Here’s an ad. Here’s whatever.
Andrew: Meaning they would come in and say, buy my buy website for your business. You need to
John: It will come in or call them on the phone. And it was very interrupted in the, the, the owners where I was like, or the buyers. I was like, oh my God. Right. And like, noticing this. And I felt that too, I saw it and I felt it experienced it. And I was like, there gotta be a better way. And I had some sales experience now for my last jobs. And that was a local merchant experience in that I was like, you know what? I think there’s a better way. So hence the birth of, um, the last company before this, um, where, where we start, I was like, you know what, let’s go and automate this. And let’s, let’s create let’s bridge, let’s bridge the gap and create a better ecosystem for everyone involved because that’s a nightmare right now.
Andrew: Yeah, what’s the better version. How will you, how are you envisioning making a better
John: Um, the, the vision was to automate it. That was, that was the number, the name of the game, how we
Andrew: the sales calls that go out? The emails that go out.
John: made the sales process. We tried to simulate, emulate and create a better sales experience by doing all the research. Right. By coming up with a little menu of what we think you should buy. And instead of the sounds pedestrian, perhaps, but people hate phone calls.
We emailed instead, and we had a beautiful, beautifully designed drip campaign. Um, and then people wouldn’t, some of them, we would get them to be a lead and pass it off to a human. If the sale was too complex at, uh, uh, Microsoft or Yahoo. And then if there was sale was simple, it would close a sale because you just buy it right there.
From the email,
Andrew: And so what you were doing was reselling ads on search engines, reselling yellow pages, et cetera.
John: we took whatever client we had, whatever the sales products they had, and we would resell it on their behalf or kick it over to the sales team,
Andrew: How many salespeople did you have at your height?
John: salespeople for us.
Andrew: Yeah, or,
John: Well, we only need.
Andrew: you just had automation, no salespeople at all. Making
John: we had automation, no assessment. We had BD people that were partnering up, like getting clients like Microsoft, Google, yellow pages, Yahoo, stuff like that.
Andrew: Got it. Got it. And it was mostly like, I, it seems like it’s it’s sets of email campaigns, find scrape, databases, get email. Got it. Message. Over update.
John: this is a long, remember this is a lot, it sounds normal, but this is a long time ago now.
Andrew: When is this 2013?
John: I don’t remember, I sold this like seven something years
Andrew: Oh, you sold it seven years ago. All right. Okay. How,
John: like a double for me.
Andrew: when you say double for you, we were talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions for you.
John: Uh, um, talking, you.
know, I was able to take two years off and get into real estate.
Andrew: Okay. Got it. How’d you get, uh, how’d you get into real estate.
John: Oh, I bought my own property. Uh, first, and then I, um, talked to some people and I was like, I noticing what my neighbors are doing. And then I was like, well, my place is appreciating. And I found out I discovered free money and it’s a beautiful thing
Andrew: Your price is appreciating. So you take another mortgage, use that money and go put a down payment.
John: Yeah. So if you’re a place makes a couple hundred thousand dollars, that’s free money. I didn’t spend money to do that really. And so then I take that few hundred thousand dollars buy another place with that, and that place appreciates and you do it over and over again, you take that and you buy two, you take those and by four, take that by eight, you know
Andrew: What’d you do it?
Andrew: Yeah. Southern California.
John: uh, I’m in San Francisco, by the way I live in
Andrew: Oh, okay. I didn’t realize, yeah, me too. You, you could do it here in the bay area. Yeah. I mean, no, we still.
John: Oh, nice. Okay. Um, yeah, so all over the country now.
Andrew: Really, and you can manage this stuff remotely.
John: Yeah. I mean, I don’t, I don’t do anything really. I just have the people that manage it. Yeah.
Andrew: Wow. You know what? Your core should not be just about business. How about if you have a second site on real estate
John: I think it should be about money and
Andrew: be just about money. Anything that people need to know about.
John: encompasses all that. Yeah.
Andrew: All right before we get into verses, I should do my second ad. And the second ad is for imagine this, John. Imagine if you say, you know what, instead of me making money from advertising from Google, I’m going to offer free classes, but if people want it.
More interaction, maybe with our teachers, they need a membership or I’m going to have one free class, but if they want the next level, the next level we’re going to, we’re going to charge for it. Or maybe it’s like email is going to be the part that we charged for because our best stuff comes by email or a podcast where it’s a lot free in some parts.
Uh, we charge for, well, if you want to do that, you need software. That’ll help you do it. And member full is a software for you, John, and for anyone? No, not for you. You got, you got your hands
Andrew: versus. All right for you. And whoever’s listening to us. If you want software, that’ll do it right.
Go to member, fool.com/mixergy. When use that URL, they’ll let you try their software for free. Once you try it, once you get it, even if you don’t use it today, people you’ll see what’s possible. Maybe a year from now. You go, Andrew told me about this thing. I tried it out. It makes sense for me. This is great.
And you’ll launch that business that, that needs this, that will grow for you. All right, here it is. It’s dot com slash Mixergy. It’s a Patrion company. They bought the business because they love it. It’s memorable.com/. All right, you took two years off. You’d finally decide to get into versus what’s the first step you take to launch this.
John: Um, cool man. Uh, the first step was taking the idea and putting it on paper and outsourcing it to some engineers overseas, to go build a terribly shitty poop website and experience. And then from there, iterated, iterated. And got some people to play, like friends, family, you know, um, seven degrees, Right.
And then I finally got smart enough to, uh, rope in, uh, my co-founder and CTO. And, uh, I knew him cause he was a client of mine. He was the senior VP of engineering and data at the time yellow pages, who was our client.
John: And before that he was at Amazon and Yahoo Saba data marketplaces, which at our core, that’s where we are with a game veneer because on appeals to the masses and put real money in real people’s pockets.
So, um, he came on board and just tore it apart after he laughed and made it a much better, uh, thing and made it better. And then we made it better and better and just iterated it. And the first. Discovery was wow. We cannot scale when we cure human curates content, AK a game. Cause we have to look at what’s running,
Andrew: you were creating games at the beginning. You were saying, here’s the thing that people might want to bet on the Supreme. Court’s about to announce something next week. We’re going to list that on. Ah, got it. Yeah. And now you need to get to people
what’s important for you here in SF might be different than what’s important in Boston or Miami, right? So how could you make it relevant to everybody? So like that couldn’t scale. So we developed because of my last company and this is What he was doing at data, and I was doing ML.
We created this patent pending machine learning technologies that created all these games in an automated process without humans. So that was going great. And then one of our investors, roadblocks was like build a self because what happened was we started working with celebrities and some big brands and they loved it because they were making a mailbox money.
But just by asking a prediction question,
Andrew: What do you mean they’re making mailbox money.
John: making free money, like dumb money, money while you’re sleeping, because he
Andrew: putting up a contest and then
John: asking a question, people go and play, and you just look at you like thinking you’re
Andrew: And you were giving them a percentage of every sale of every a bet that was coming up.
John: Every prediction. Yeah,
Andrew: What’s an example of a celebrity. Sorry. I keep saying that. Um, what’s I sometimes say that even about the stock market, so
John: No. And by the way, you’re 100% correct, because that’s all, that’s all a game. They’re all just games.
Andrew: Right, right. But I know that language could be, could be a little touchy with this because of the regulation, but, so what’s an example of a celebrity who put up a game on the platform.
John: Wow. I like Shaq T-Mac for the athletes, Amanda Cerny. You know, now it’s many lot of different people now, but that in the beginning it was like that. And then they were like, let’s do more like fat Joe. Right. Let’s do more. And then, so we could. Serve them fast enough, the way they wanted. So roadblocks Is like slap me in the face and said, just build a self-serve model and get out of your own way.
So we did that and that was the second big inflection point for us. That’s when things started taking off again and it major way because now people, anybody can go on and create their own games, host it, and then get a cut of it. Of there that who’s ever playing that game from their friends. So they basically are all what happened was all these content creators and influencers are constantly complaining.
I can’t monetize on snapper on Tik TOK or whatever without ads. And now, for the first time ever, you can directly monetize your content, your audience without ads in a fun, natural way with verses and what a whole new revenue stream. Sorry.
Andrew: is there a celebrity I should go and look for right now.
John: Oh, there’s yeah, there’s a bunch. I mean, we work with. A lot of different people.
Um, but you can look at Josh Richards, Jason Derulo, Kevin Hart. I don’t know. Um,
Andrew: Richard just came up right here. He’s that’s him right there
John: There you
Andrew: recommended. Right. So I
John: Give him a follow.
Andrew: I’m going to follow. Okay. Oh, and so just like on Tik TOK where there’s, it’s basically the tick-tock design will Bitcoin climb back to 36,000 by Saturday. That’s this question?
John: Yep. So then you can play or not.
Andrew: harder one. Some of these people were asking questions that were way too easy for me to, to
John: I hear you’re you have a big brain. Yeah.
Andrew: Will Bitcoin. Oh, he’s just doing a bunch of Bitcoin. No, who’s wait. Who’s weighing less at UFC main event and it’s him just doing a video, but I’m reading.
John: they want to see his face. He is his brand, and now we have a whole new revenue stream for Josh and his engagement usually goes up double because of wins. The last time he played a game against your favorite influencer or a celebrity, and they let you make money with them too. So we’re interactive media.
Whatever’s going on in the universe. There’s a question on it. on verses and people get to play.
Andrew: That’s interesting. So I could do something like will, um, oh, you know what, like there’s this, there’s this new social network that pays people essentially. Uh, what’s it called big cloud, right? Where now will Elon Musk joined bit cloud in the next week? I could go and post that. I say, no, he’s not going to join.
He’s staying off this platform. If you disagree with me now you have a way to back
John: or we’ll eat soup and cloud.
Andrew: to the cloud for using his name. Yeah. Right, right, right. That
John: Yeah, you can absolutely do That
Andrew: all right. Did you, did you do any paid acquisition at the beginning or none?
John: Uh, yeah, most of it’s like, you know, yeah. We have some of that, you know, most of it’s word of mouth type of stuff, but, um, you know, affiliates and stuff like that.
Andrew: What’s the first platform that you put your content on, where people were able to actually take both sides.
John: Well, versus is a platform.
Andrew: Yeah. But you said before that some of the action happens off of your app and off of your website, where does it
John: Oh, oh, um, ESPN, Cumulus, radio. I mean, uh, uh, games, weather apps, um,
Andrew: So I could see in a weather app, some dude saying something about tomorrow’s game and I could decide whether I want to join in or not.
John: Yeah. About tomorrow’s weather. So it’s relevant to what app you’re
Andrew: Oh, got it. Got it.
John: there’s a lot of skill in science and weather.
Andrew: Yeah, that makes sense. And there a lot of people with opinions about whether, wow. All right. And so when you were pitching this to investors, I’m hearing some really impressive investors. Roadblocks. I didn’t see them on Crunchbase. I saw, uh, the Winklevoss twins I saw who was that one celebrity that I saw on there, Bryce.
Right. How’d you get all these investors, it seemed like your, you told the producer, you had some challenges getting it, but it seems like you’ve got some great.
John: Oh, in the beginning, it was challenging because I switched into industries, right. Food
John: uh, consumer tech. And now this is a game, so it’s always a little different.
Andrew: Got it. And so it’s like, what are you, what the hell do you know about this? This doesn’t make sense. Okay. So it’s that would, were there any concerns about the gambling aspect of this?
John: Oh, for sure. For sure. We’ve had,
John: we spent a ton of money with all kinds of lawyers around the world, uh, to architect this the right way in the beginning. So we’re allowed in proud. Now
Andrew: Yeah, look at this a skills IPO. Yeah, I don’t, I never even heard of skills. What skills.
John: it’s a bill 10 billion.com.
Andrew: When public threw us back a marketplace platform for competition-based mobile games. Huh? All right. And so what was it that it allowed you to, to persuade them? How did you get them to say this? Makes sense.
John: Well, just by looking at the facts and the law, uh, as far as that piece to check that box
Andrew: And then what about the part of you not having any experience with, with data like this and marketplaces?
John: it became, uh, idea and traction at that point. And because they knew me from my last company, some of them I’ve had investors from the last one. So they’re like, oh, I believe in you, John. So let’s do it. And they referred me to other people that were more relevant for me.
Andrew: All right. Winklevoss capital. I’d said in the beginning there crypto, right? These are the Bitcoin billionaires from the book. What did you do to get them on board?
John: hung out with them two weeks ago in Miami.
John: Yeah. Um, uh, I got referred to them by another investor and near we just kind of fell in love. They’re awesome. They’re so sharp. Such kind people.
Andrew: Yeah. You know, what did you re you don’t seem like you’d be into this book, that book Bitcoin billionaires by what’s his name?
Andrew: He’s that guy is such a good author. He’s the guy who wrote the book that the became the network. What is it? A bit coin, billionaires. He basically left the Winklevoss twins as the evil, like.
The evil losers from the Facebook story. And then he comes back and he goes, you know what? I, along with the rest of the world totally underestimated them. It seems like they’re way smarter than we realize. And they actually might be better and more ethical for the world. Then, then Facebook Ben, Mezrich such a good book, man.
John: What’s his name?
Andrew: Ben Mezrich he’s written a bunch of great books.
John: I’ll check it out.
John: What’s the name of the book.
Andrew: it’s called Bitcoin billionaires. A true story of genius, betrayal and redemption.
John: Nice. You want to know what the book, what book I’m reading right
Andrew: Yeah. What are you reading?
John: I think everyone should read this in my school. Our
Andrew: I like it. Yes. Oh, sapiens. I keep getting referred that book.
John: Ah, you gotta read it.
Andrew: I think I should have stuck with it. I stuck, I listened to a couple of minutes on audible and I should have just stuck with it,
John: No, you got to get
Andrew: love it. And so many other.
John: You know what else is amazing if you’re into this is, um, uh, prisoners of geography. Oh my God.
Andrew: Why? What is it?
John: it’s just amazing. It’s it basically sums up. All history and it helps you predict the future of why certain countries and continents are super powers. Why no one will ever touch certain places while their places are always in trouble. it?
just a complete historical guide. And, uh, but, but from a, from an economic macro-economic political economic frame,
Andrew: Prisoners or prisoners of geography, 10 maps that explain everything about the world by Tim Marshall. It is, oh, it’s book one of four,
John: Yeah, I think, yeah, something like that. It was awesome.
Andrew: wow. I see. But each one covers a different topic. It’s not like it’s a it’s. It’s not like four books to get
John: No, it’s one book.
Andrew: One book on its own. The reviews on it are out of this world.
John: It’s so good. I was buying it for everybody. Yeah.
Andrew: All right. This is fan freaking tastic. If we look forward 10 years from now, where do you see this? Where do you see versus.
John: I think it, I hope that I think it’s going to be a household name. I hope to have everyone on it and having fun enjoying it, and we can make people some money, you know, I would just want to do more of the same.
Andrew: Can I, I can change my name on this. Right. So I’m going to change my username to, uh, Andrew. What’s a good bet for me to put on here. I could just talk into this and then do I have to take a side of the bed?
John: No, you’re just the host. You asked the question,
Andrew: All right. I’m going to make my username into Andrew Warner.
John: you got to follow me. Give me, I don’t have that many followers. I’m not, I’m not very cool or popular.
Andrew: Oh, and it’s got that apple private ID. That’s what I use for everybody. And you then took the first part of my email address and made it into the temporary username instead of having me come up with one. Got it. And that’s why that happened. All right. What’s a good thing for me to, to um,
John: By the way you can’t not, anybody can go and host a game. We have to, you have to get approved because there’s a lot of balls
Andrew: can’t just create.
John: you can’t, you can pay. So what you need to do is hit that great button
John: at the bottom middle, and then we’ll there. We’ll go through a process and verify you. And I’ll fast track you.
Cause now I know you
Andrew: Got it. So I want to create by hosting game, uh, apply to be a host. Okay. You know what I, you know, what I would do on this? All I want to do is just before Apple’s big announcements. I want to take a side on that. I don’t know why, but I, I feel like they’re not going to give us what we want and I want some satisfaction.
John: Yeah, let’s win.
Andrew: Will apple allow me to put on my beloved iPad, actual Mac apps. I’m going to bet. No. So that when it doesn’t happen, I’m gonna feel a little bit better about the world.
John: I’m going to play your game.
Andrew: Take the other side of it. All right. John Vitti, thanks so much for being on here. The site is versus game.com and then of course, it’s going to take you into the app store that I recommend that the first thing you do is change your username to something that makes sense.
And the second thing is, look for me and, and take up one of my games and then do, do I get this back in money? I just made two bets. Do I get us dollars back?
Andrew: And I can take them into my bank.
John: absolutely can buy real stuff. Yeah.
Andrew: Dude, this is going to be so fricking addictive. Oh, wow. All right.
Thanks for being on here by everyone.