Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of Mixergy.com. It’s home of the ambitious upstart.
What that means is . . . actually, here, let me tell you a story to show you what that means. I was having dinner with my friend, Will Schroeder. He’s the guy who’s been buying up a bunch of startups lately, like Zirtual, the virtual assistant company and Launchrock, the site that makes landing pages. He and I had this great dinner. We were talking about our families, talking about why we do what we do.
He said, “Andrew, what is it about Mixergy that motivates you to keep going?” I said there are all these people out there who start companies from nothing and they work hard and they often fail and then they fail again and then they finally figure something out. That something ends up leading them to build this tremendous business that employs a lot of people that’s fun to work at, that they enjoy that is a whole new world of possibilities.
I love hearing those stories and I love hearing the things that they do to get there because often some of those ideas penetrate my brain and without me sitting down and saying I’m going to exactly do what they did, I find myself doing some of what they did. I know by broadcasting interviews with these people that my audience ends up using some of these ideas and they end up building business based on then.
And often, if you’ve listened to Mixergy long enough, you’ll see that many of them come back here and do an interview themselves and complete that circle of Mixergy. That’s what gets me excited about doing this, that ambition that it takes for you, whoever is listening to me, to listen to these stories is as exciting for me as the stories themselves.
So today I’ve got one of those interviewees, someone who you’ve probably never seen on major media, but you should because it’s an exciting, inspiring story. This woman grew up on a farm. To me, having grown up in New York, it feels like the middle of nowhere, and she had a bunch of setbacks which you’ll find out about. And then she ended up with this idea that you and I probably never would have hit on. I didn’t even know this was a business. But it is and it’s growing and she’s here to talk about how she built it up.
Here name is Robin Smith. She is the founder of WeGoLook.com. It’s an online platform which dispatches a real person to perform tasks like dynamic data capture and personalized report templates. I don’t like the way that I described it. Let me give you a better description. Imagine you wanted to buy a car that you saw online but happened to be 400 miles away. Everything looked good online, but you wanted to be sure it was the right car. You don’t want to drive 400 miles and maybe looking at the wrong car and wasting your time.
So you go to WeGoLook.com and they send somebody out and that person inspects the car for you, maybe even does a better job than you would do for yourself inspecting the car and sends you back a report and photos, videos, the whole thing. That is what Robin’s company does and it does it on a big scale. It started one on one, and then it went on to enterprise and I want to find out how she did it.
I can do it thanks to two great companies that I’ll tell you more about later. The first is called–well, it’s the company that will book real calls and meetings with people who you want to meet with. It’s called AcuityScheduling.com and the second one has been training developers in this unbelievably difficult way because they want to make them into incredible developers. I’ll tell you more about them later. For now, they’re called ReactorCore.com, Reactor Core.
But first, Robin, it’s good to have you on here.
Robin: Thank you. I’m so excited and I loved hearing your dinner story. That’s inspiring.
Andrew: Thanks. Yeah. You know what? Every once in while we talk about, “Why are we doing this? Why are we putting this through all this?” For me, I told him part of it was I grew up in New York where everyone was doing this. If you grow up in an environment where everybody seems to be building businesses, you’re much more likely to do it or want to do it. For you, you grew up on a farm, right?
Robin: I did, in Western Oklahoma. There were 8 to 12 kids in my class at any given time. So, it was pretty small.
Andrew: This is no joke. I went to elementary school in Queens. There were 8 kids in the bathroom at the same time. We’re talking about a way bigger situation. Today, since we’re speaking about numbers, tell me how big is your business? What are your revenues for, let’s say, 2015 even though we’re in the middle of 2016 here?
Robin: So 2015 we actually ended up at just $4 million, but right now we’re currently on a $15 million run rate. So we are just growing exponentially.
Andrew: That is huge.
Robin: We’re hiring ten more people today for like two weeks from now. So it’s like we’re constantly adding to our team. It’s very exciting.
Andrew: 2014 I heard you did $1 million?
Robin: Yeah. That’s about right.
Andrew: Wow. So, this is huge growth that you’re looking at over here. This is for a girl, as I said, who grew up on a farm but didn’t grow up the way I imagine people on a farm grow up. You kind of had similar to me, this need to be an entrepreneur.
Robin: I did.
Andrew: In fact, I heard that you were selling something in school. What did you sell?
Robin: I created and sold yarn belts in school colors starting in second grade and was able to recruit my friends to help me. So, we had a larger supply. If you could imagine, we didn’t have much of an audience at the time, but it was a lot of fun.
Andrew: You were making the belts yourselves with your friends and selling it?
Robin: Yeah, out of yarn in school colors. Absolutely.
Andrew: did you feel any kind of hesitation about selling to other people, like maybe selling is wrong? None of that.
Robin: No. No, I loved it. And then I learned about the word entrepreneur in a spelling bee. It kind of opened up my eyes because you learn about the definition. That was very exciting to me that there were people out there creating their own future and their own company. I really wanted to do that.
Andrew: I actually am now looking for schools for my son. He’s only two years old, so I’m maybe getting ahead of myself, but I want to know what list I have to put myself on. I was looking at reviews of some of the local schools over here. There was one where this mother said, “I looked at the song my kids were singing in school and one was about like being anti-companies and anti-businesses.”
That just didn’t sit right with me. I realized that these little things that we give our kids, whether talk to them about what an entrepreneur even means or maybe push them away from it have dramatic impact.
Andrew: So, you heard about the word entrepreneur. You started thinking about being an entrepreneur. You eventually weren’t so much an entrepreneur. You got pregnant at an early age.
Robin: I did. I was actually in college. That happened. But I worked for the Washington Post and I didn’t let it slow me down. I won the President’s Award two years in a row for their company, the youngest ever and just really pushed forward in my career with the Post. Several years later, my husband passed away in a car accident.
Andrew: This is the second husband?
Robin: I realized that I needed to do something a little different in order to be at home more with the two boys. So, I started my own consulting company with internet departments, primarily for auto dealers.
Robin: That’s where I kind of really became familiar with the internet and I fell in love with it and became familiar also with CRM tools and different types of platforms.
Andrew: Because before that your whole experience was media?
Robin: It was media, but it was really selling and working with different companies, all types of companies. So, I learned the ins and outs. I worked with the business owners. I heard the needs that they had. I would obviously work with them on different types of campaigns that would help their companies.
Andrew: We’re looking at Cable ONE, Cumulus Broadcasting. You used to do marketing for them or sales, actually, right?
Andrew: You were the one that was going to local business and saying, “You should get your ad on radio or television. I could help you do it. I know you don’t have a production company, but we can work it out for you. That’s what it was?
Robin: Absolutely. Yeah, coming up with all of it. Yeah.
Andrew: When you started your consulting company, was it to the same kinds of businesses?
Robin: Yes. But again, primarily auto because I had learned a long time ago that that’s where most of the money was in advertising. I understood the auto industry pretty well from my experiences, but absolutely, went there and started training business development center employees and learning about when leads come in, how to handle it. So, that’s all given me a good experience to launch what we’re doing here.
Andrew: I do remember when I listened to the radio it was car companies. It was mattress companies. Those were the two big ones.
Andrew: Quick question about them. When car companies are buying ads on the radio, are they doing it . . . how do they measure results? How do they know whether each add–they don’t?
Robin: They don’t. No. They don’t. That’s why you just kind of–in a given time, only two percent of the population is wanting to purchase an auto anyway. So, they’re just trying to blanket everyone. So, when they’re in the market, they come in. Obviously if they have certain types of ad campaigns going or pricing they’ll see some results directly from that, people coming in. But for the most part, it’s just general awareness.
Andrew: Pricing is somebody listens to an ad on the radio, hears that they can get a specific price on the car, they come in asking for that price and the dealership knows that’s where he found out about us. I see. Okay. So, then you’re doing consulting. You’re saying to these people, “I can bring your marketing online. Hire me.” You’re starting to do some ads. It seems like that was a pretty good business. Why wasn’t that business enough? Why did you feel like you wanted to push even more?
Robin: Well, working with different types of groups, there are some that are still kind of hesitant to move forward and actually engage in technology. Some of the companies I worked with didn’t even have websites. Of course, this was 2007 to 2008. So, it wasn’t as prevalent as it is now in leads coming in.
But it was really when one of my friends was wanting to purchase a high-end projector on eBay and wanted someone to look at for him. I helped do some research trying to find a service to provide that and couldn’t find one. That’s when I really thought, “This is a great idea to help people mitigate their risk when purchasing something sight unseen.” That’s when I kind of let the other go and focused on WeGoLook full time.
Andrew: And you knew that this was a real business because you’d seen it somewhere else, not in the projector space, not in eBay but where did you see it?
Robin: Well, in the BDC centers in auto, even people calling in online still want the sales people to go out and verify additional photos, even though there may be photos of the vehicle online, even in Autotrader or Cars.com, they still have specific questions and they want the sales person to go take photos and a lot of times sales people are lazy and don’t want to do that. I knew the people online still wanted more information.
I knew it was a viable path and it just made sense to me with everyone purchasing online. Of course, back in 2009, everyone was buying on eBay. It was really before Amazon became the monolithic giant that it is. I felt like that would be the wave of the future, people needing someone to go do something for them or go look at something for them.
Andrew: You know, I’ve bought cars and I often will do a lot of research online. I’ll find the car that I like online. I’ll call up the dealer to make sure it’s still there, but I never thought to do what I really want, which is to say, “I’m curious about what the dashboard looks like. Let me see what the inputs are for the car. Does it have a USB port?” those little things they wouldn’t put on the website because most people don’t care about them but I’m obsessed with them.
Andrew: I see. So, because you were in the space, you knew that this was a thing and you saw an opportunity because you saw your friend. Mark was the guy’s name, right?
Andrew: He had this need for the projector. You married the two and you said, “This is a business.” While you were still running your consulting company?
Andrew: You were. So, you said, “I’m going to keep running the consulting company. Let’s build this new thing that will be bigger.”
Robin: Just for a short period of time until I devoted 100% of time here. Yeah. It took some time. I hired a developer. So, it was he and I. He worked on the platform and the website and then I worked on recruiting.
Andrew: How did you find the developer? Sorry, you worked on what?
Robin: Recruiting the first group of lookers.
Andrew: Lookers. Okay. I want to talk about this because marketplaces are tough. This one I think is a little bit easier than most because you don’t need to have both at the same time. You’re offering both a job and the other is going to give you money, but let’s talk about how you hired the developer because that can be really tough. Where’d you find your first person?
Robin: It was tough because something I wanted to point out is I don’t think you have to be an expert in any kind of industry to be an industry leader. You’re looking at Uber and Airbnb founders being the leaders. But obviously I didn’t have a lot of technology experience or coding experience. So I really worked through a friend of mine that knew others. It was more of a referral. He came on board and kind of helped us in the beginning.
Andrew: What were you paying the developer?
Robin: He was around $5,000 a month, which at the time I thought was a lot, but now I have a team of 12 and I wish it was only $5,000 a month.
Andrew: And then this developer started building out your first product. How long did it take the developer?
Robin: It took us almost a year.
Robin: We launched before that, but we kind of beta tested. We came out of beta at the end of 2010, but it took us a good year to kind of get everything put all together.
Andrew: And the $60,000 that it took for him to do this came from where?
Robin: We bootstrapped it.
Andrew: The consulting company paid for it?
Robin: No, my partners and I.
Andrew: So, I did see on Wikipedia, actually, that you have two partners. One of them, if I’m right, if your husband?
Andrew: Who’s the other one?
Robin: Karl Baldischwiler.
Robin: He’s a silent partner.
Andrew: How did you meet up with Karl?
Robin: He is business partners with Matt also. So we have actually three different companies here.
Andrew: What are the other two?
Robin: It was nice. So a civil engineering company and then a nationwide land title ALTA survey company. So, not very exciting, but very solid. We had buildings. I was able to kind of utilize those shared resources here internally. So I was able to work without rent for a while.
Andrew: And your husband, Matt, what was his background?
Robin: He’s a civil engineer.
Andrew: Okay. And he ran a business and that’s where he could start to help fund the business.
Andrew: How much input did he have in the original idea?
Robin: In the original idea, there wasn’t a lot. It was really just myself and the developer for the longest time. We just kind of ran with it.
Andrew: When the first version was built, did it work?
Robin: The first version?
Andrew: Yeah. Did it do what you needed it to do? It did.
Robin: Yes, it did. Whenever the first order actually came through and it dispatched it properly to the looker that was closest to the asset and everything came over and we submitted the electronic report and it worked, I was so excited, but it wouldn’t scale. It wasn’t really built for what we needed to do. We used some software and kind of built on top of it, so it wasn’t really customized to our needs. So, as we grew with business, we needed the platform to evolve as well. So, we went into another phase or another growth period. We’re actually on the third platform now.
Andrew: The third version of it?
Andrew: Okay. Let me do a quick sponsorship message and then I want to come back and ask how you got those lookers and how you got the first customer.
Andrew: The sponsor is actually a kind of brand new company. It’s called Reactor Core. I’ve interviewed the founder of Reactor Core here on Mixergy. He must have gotten a bunch of students to join up, which is why he probably said, “How do I get more?” and contacted our salespeople and now we’re doing this ad for him.
But what I learned from having done the interview with him and having met him in person is that this guy is a little bit psycho when it comes to teaching. He’s obsessed with teaching people how to be developers. I should have known. When I talked with one of the founders and he said that he used to have people sleep at his house to make sure they could complete the Reactor Core training to learn to be developers.
Andrew: They do 12 weeks, 6 days a week. I think they go . . . yeah, from 9:00 a.m. to midnight they teach people how to code, but at the end of it, they make these like super developers. I think close to 100% of them end up getting jobs. They make over $100,000 a year and many can go on to build their businesses with this solid foundation of development, having real development chops.
They do this in person because they’re kind of like a cult. But they also have an online live instructor that offers the same kind of hands on support. They’re there for the same hours watching you carefully. I kind of laugh at this obsession and this psycho need to get everything exactly right, but I’m proud of them for doing that.
I actually once was on BART here with my son, who was screaming. I saw this guy wearing one of their t-shirts. I said to my wife, “Watch the kid. I’ve got to go talk to this guy.” With my kid screaming, I talked to the guy and I say, “Did you actually go through the training?” The guy said, “Yes.” I said, “What was it like?” He goes, “They’re like a cult.” I go, “What do you mean?” He goes, “They work you. You’re in there. You’re getting obsessive training.” I said, “Was it worth it?”
This guy didn’t know me from Adam. He said, “Yeah, it was. Now I’m a really good coder. I’ve got this job where I’m doing development here in San Francisco.” And then he gave me some tips for how to quiet my kid.
Robin: That’s great.
Andrew: Right? I think I liked the tips maybe more than that extra knowledge. But there’s something about me–
Robin: I love that. Yeah.
Andrew: I don’t know if it’s with you, Robin, but even in my spare time, I have to constantly confirm. I have to constantly learn. I have to constantly see, “What’s going on?” Like what phone do they have? What do they have on that phone? How are they building their business?
So, Anthony, one of the founders of Reactor Core came over to the office here for scotch. I said, “What’s on your phone?” He goes, “Well, this flashcard app.” I go, “What are you doing with the flashcard app?” “I want to know the names of every single student who’s going through the program. Now more students are going through the program and I’ve got the natural capacity to remember.” So, use the flashcard app to remember everyone’s names. We’re really talking about obsession.
And if you are listening to me and want this kind of obsession over your development learning, you’ve got to find out about and go check out Reactor Core. Go check them out at ReactorCore.com. And if you know anyone who wants to be a developer–we’re not talking about the dabbler developer, but the real developer–tell them about ReactorCore.com. It’s amazing.
It’s really a great program. I’m sure that they will introduce you to their former students if you want to apply. Frankly, if you do apply because of this, email me so that I can keep track of how you’re doing and help out along the way. My email address is Andrew@Mixergy.com. I’m grateful to Reactor Core. It’s ReactorCore.com. Go check them out and sign up.
Robin: Very neat.
Andrew: Thanks. One of the things that I like about the sponsors is that I often get to introduce my audience to brand new companies they should be aware of. That’s a good one. So, let’s talk about you with WeGoLook. One of the things that you were doing while your developer was working was getting the lookers. How did you find this network of lookers and how did you keep them organized so when you needed them they’d be there?
Robin: Sorry, I really thought about looking at people that were out in the field and mobile professionals. So, I targeted mobile notaries, process servers, field inspectors, those types of groups and went on different forums and email lists and really went out. We built I would say a fake website. We called it HouseLookers.net.
That was more a signup sheet because people were very familiar with property inspections. So, we thought we’ll sign people up under the premise they’ll be going to look at properties and then launch with WeGoLook looking at different types of assets. So, we funneled everyone in through our HouseLookers.net website and kept them, of course, in that pool, but that’s where we…
Andrew: Were you paying for ads to get all those people in?
Andrew: No. When you say you went to mailing lists, how did you get mailing lists to promote this HouseLookers.net?
Robin: So there are all kinds of services out there. You can purchase lists for any kind of industry. So real estate is a good one.
Andrew: But you weren’t purchasing those lists, were you?
Robin: Yes. We were purchasing those lists. I’m sorry. But we weren’t paying for any ads. Yeah. But you can get some lists for around $400 or $500, pretty decent lists, mostly going on forums and posting is a good thing and then commenting on different types of job sites, like Rat Race Rebellion, things like that will get you a lot of–
Andrew: Rat Race Rebellion is a website?
Robin: Yeah. They’re huge. People love them. We get quite a few leads still from that.
Andrew: Rat Race Rebellion. I see them, RatRaceRebllion.com, real work from home jobs from Rat Race Rebellion since 1999. I’m looking at HouseLookers.net here and there it is. It says, “We’ll email you an order with a property address,” that’s a misspelling even. It’s, “Will email you an order with a property address. You will then travel to the property, complete a simple report and take a few digital photos. No real expertise or experience required. You will merely be asked to make a few simple observations about the property.” I like how simple and quick you got it and how clever you were to not show the full business.
Robin: Yeah. I’m trying to find it. I thought we had that taken down.
Andrew: You did. I actually leads now to a 404 page. I’ll send you a link to it here in the Skype chat if you want to take it out afterwards.
Robin: It would be great to see it.
Andrew: Go take a walk down memory lane and see it.
Andrew: How did you keep track of them? Were you just using basic CRM and you could then go search for them afterwards based on the city they were or their zip code?
Robin: Right. It was all based on their zip code and of course they setup their data range, where they wanted to travel. Of course that was just all introduced into our platform at the time.
Andrew: So, did you build that software yourself?
Robin: We tool some software and then built on top of it. It was actually a warehouse management tool.
Robin: We just utilized different components of it for our purposes.
Andrew: Okay. I see. Which one was it?
Robin: Honestly, I don’t know. It was Canadian warehouse. I really don’t remember.
Andrew: I like the simplicity of it and I like how clever you were to find something that existed already and use it as best you can. One of the things I know about you is you like to be thrifty. You actually will not . . . like right here, the lunches that people go to are tremendous. What do you guys do when it’s time for food in the office?
Robin: I’ve become a lot better at that. We used to have kind of a pot luck and everybody would bring something and we’d kind of celebrate and I would supply certain pieces of it. We did a big thing today with the Oklahoma City Thunder/Golden State Warriors game tonight. So, we brought in barbecue and things like that.
Andrew: Where do you buy your barbecue? I heard Sam’s Club is a big place for you guys.
Robin: We do try to be thrifty. It was a big step for me to buy new chairs for our new conference room.
Andrew: Ordinarily you buy used.
Andrew: I see. I like that. So, then you had to get customers once the software was up. Where did you get your first customer?
Robin: It was all really inbound organic like SEO guerilla-type marketing. I’ll be frank with you. When I first launched, I was kind of naïve. I thought, “When eBay buyers hear about this, they’ll flock to our website. They’ll love it. It’s such a great opportunity for them to be able to purchase something with confidence.” That didn’t happen. People weren’t familiar with the crowdsourcing term yet. There was no Uber yet. So people didn’t really understand this on demand-type economy. So I started focusing on different verticals. So property inspections, auto inspections.
Andrew: Forgive me, but before we get into that, I want to talk about why the other approach didn’t work and what you did to try to make it work. What was that? What did you try to do to make the consumer one on one experience work out for you and why do you think it didn’t work?
Robin: Well, I went to eBay the first time, February, 2011, with the first platform and with my first presentation.
Andrew: To their office.
Robin: Yes, in San Jose to eBay Motors. At the time, they weren’t providing any kind of inspection service. Frankly, we weren’t large enough anyway. We didn’t have the experience that we needed or the volume. So, it was a good thing that we didn’t receive any kind of contract because we wouldn’t have been ready.
Robin: But I kept in touch with them and we are now their exclusive partner. So, you can go to any eBay Motors link and you’ll see a direct link to our site that says, “Order on-sight inspection from WeGoLook.” So, that’s fantastic. We’re on marines, RVs, motorcycles, vehicles.
Andrew: I see.
Robin: It ended up working.
Andrew: Even that was not thinking about how do I place an ad and get one customer at a time. You were still even thinking back then about partnerships, about enterprise-level sales. I see. So, you never put up a website that tried to attract one customer in at a time. That wasn’t ever your focus, was it?
Robin: It was the idea originally, but it didn’t take long to realize that the B2B model would be very popular because there are companies that really need that nationwide footprint with the personalized data capture. So, we started focusing on that as well.
Andrew: Okay. You quickly shifted over to that. It does make sense. Going after customers one at a time is not nearly as exciting as going to eBay and being placed in front of all their customers.
Robin: And it’s expensive. You would have to have a multi-million dollar campaign for a new to market-type service, frankly.
Andrew: I’m going over to eBay right now to try to find you. I’m looking at a certified pre-owned Lexus from 2015. Where on the page would . . .
Robin: It’s in the listing. Let me pull it up also. So, if you go to . . .
Andrew: Maybe I should just do a search for one of the words.
Robin: Just go to eBay Motors and click on–it says shop by type. You can pick a sedan, coupe–
Andrew: I picked SUV and I picked the first one that came up on the list.
Robin: So, when you click it, there’s a buy it now, make an offer and then there’s a box underneath it. The third line down says, “Order an inspection from WeGoLook.”
Andrew: I see it. There you are. Wow.
Andrew: With a little icon and everything.
Andrew: Wow. That’s really embedded in there.
Robin: Yeah. It’s exciting. So, it came around full circle, their initial idea. We’re working with them right now to take them across other verticals as well. Sorry. I’m not used to having earphones on.
Andrew: I know. I asked you to pick earphones. I asked you to use earphones so we can hear you clearly because I’m noticing that more people are listening than watching and you didn’t have any earphones and you ended up being a good sport and putting earphones that didn’t exactly fit just so we could get the audience a good listen to this interview.
Robin: No problem.
Andrew: Thank you. It was worth it.
Andrew: I heard from our producer that the first order came through the platform. Somebody just happened to come to your site and sign up. Am I right?
Andrew: And then after that, you started going after enterprise contracts. You got this one insurance company that I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention because you told our producer the name but you said that you wanted us to keep it private and we want to respect that. But can you tell me about how they found you or how you found them?
Robin: Yes. I can tell you that it’s the nation’s largest insurance company. We went out with a bang going full guns in the beginning. Sure. So, it was actually a referral through one of our other clients that we perform auto inspections for. They received the RFI from that company that were actually looking to augment and supplement their field labor force and field assignments. So, this may sound a little technical, but it’s really exciting to understand how the sharing economy and these crowd workers are really becoming part of mainstream enterprise solutions.
So, they asked us to create four different products–vehicle photos, scene inspections, salvage retrieval and courier documents. So, we go pick up police reports on demand instead of having their people in the field at a high cost in a fleet vehicle. They’re able to simply place an order. We go out immediately and either take post-accident vehicle photos or pickup items. It’s a very efficient and cost-effective way for them to conduct business.
Andrew: The reason they wanted you to do this is because you already built that network while your developer was working and your network wasn’t your employees. They were people who were willing to work per job the way the same Uber driver works per task.
Andrew: I see.
Robin: We have over 26,000 now.
Andrew: 26,000 what?
Andrew: Lookers, 26,000 people who will go and pick up a document if I need it or go take a picture of a car or a projector or something like that.
Andrew: And none of them get paid until there’s a job and then when they do, you pay them and you get paid by our client.
Andrew: The first enterprise customer, then, how did you get them?
Robin: It was through also contacts, working with different people that we had worked with in the past with one of the other companies. It was in property inspections. So, that was really a great win for us as well. When Hurricane Sandy hit, JP Morgan Chase contacted the company that we were working with, Cushman & Wakefield, and asked them to perform some property inspections there. One of our lookers was FEMA certified and he went there on his bicycle and performed the inspections.
So, it was fantastic. JP Morgan Chase asked Beller Berger and CBRE to start using us as a vendor. So, we started getting that referral system with our large clients going and it worked really well.
Andrew: Robin, what’s your process for finding people, getting on the phone with them, staying in touch with them, keeping them organized in some kind of system. What’s your process? Take it even to the mundane.
Robin: For our lookers and our clients?
Andrew: For your personally, for you, Robin. You did make connections very fast. You got into eBay’s offices faster than I think other entrepreneurs would. You realized you had these other connections you could tap into and then one connection led to another, led to another, led to this biggest insurance company client of yours. What is that process that you go through? Do you use an Excel spreadsheet and you just go through and make phone calls? Do you constantly email all your friends? What’s your system?
Robin: Gosh, I’ve been fortunate enough with all the experience that I’ve had for so many years in sales and marketing and relationship building to really just know the people. Like when I’m talking with you and I hear you talk about your stories, I’m already thinking of people I know that can benefit from your sponsors. I kind of remember I really try to develop true relationships with my people so it’s not just a name on a spreadsheet. They’re part of my thoughts whenever I’m thinking of any kind of new opportunity.
Andrew: Is it all mental or do you ever go back after a conversation and write some things down so you remember what you learned about them?
Robin: I absolutely write things down. I’m pretty unorganized, frankly. But I have all my notes. I’m still kind of old school when it comes to that. And of course I loved LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool for me. And I keep files on my computer for different things as well. But for the most part, it’s really mental and I also try to connect my connections, kind of like you do with the people that can help them.
So I always like to be a resource outside of our company as well. I think that always helps the relationship because they in turn do the same thing for me. So, I’ve always kind of been that way. That’s what helped me in my consulting company. It’s mostly mental.
Andrew: It is mental. So, the founder of Soma Water emailed the other day. He asked me if I knew anyone at Tesla. I said I don’t know anyone at Tesla, but I know someone who worked at Tesla. I think I might have even interviewed them. I can’t remember the guy’s name. I didn’t have any system to go back and look them up, so I had to email them back and say, “No, I don’t know anyone at Tesla. Sorry.”
I wish I did have some kind of process, some system that I could go and look things up in. I’ll tell you what I do, though. After a conversation, like after the conversation I had with Will, I went and I wrote down a couple of things in my address book just to remember about him, like that he is going to come back to San Francisco in three weeks after going back to Ohio. I might have written down when he’s expected to have his second child. He told me his second child’s name. So, maybe I wrote that down. That way the next time I talk to him, I remember where we left off. You don’t do anything like that?
Robin: Well, if it’s something like that, if I work with someone at Tesla, I typically will have their name. Then if you go into LinkedIn, you can pull up by name. If you’ve had email communication, you can find different things that way as well. Google Notes is great because you can just voice dictate things that go to your shared Google Drive. I do things like that if I’m driving or if I’m trying to think and I have a long thought. I don’t want to say it’s all mental, but there are little things like that that I use.
Andrew: And Google Notes goes into Google Drive?
Andrew: I didn’t know that.
Robin: Yeah. So, you have to download the app and then you can just dictate.
Andrew: Is it Notes or is it that Google Keep?
Andrew: Are you on Android?
Robin: Actually, it’s Google Word. You just pull up Word.
Robin: Yeah, on your Google Drive.
Andrew: All right. I’ll look it up. Oh no, you mean Google Docs. You’re using Google Docs.
Robin: Yes. That’s it.
Andrew: And then you’re going–I’m switching also to Google Docs. Everything I’ve got about you, like what you were doing in elementary school is in a Google Doc. Sorry?
Robin: It’s just like notes. You just dictate it. You can open up a new one and start talking to it. It will type everything for you.
Andrew: Are you Android?
Robin: No, iOS.
Andrew: Yeah. People do not use that voice dictation enough. I’m amazed. It works so brilliantly fast.
Robin: It does. I like it.
Andrew: If you’re leaving a meeting and you want to leave a note to yourself, just start dictating. You can talk and frankly, even if it doesn’t get everything right, if it gets nine out of ten words right, you’re going to understand later on. Just record it. Save it for yourself. Or as field notes said in their motto, I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now. Even if you just write it and talk into your device and save it and never go back to it, you’re going to remember it more because you’ve taken the time to think about it.
Andrew: All right. So, that’s your process. A lot of it is mental. Some of it just written down but there’s no organized system. I can’t go over to your computer and see you have some CRM. You’re not using Salesforce or anything and keeping track of everything there.
Robin: I don’t. We have Salesforce here that we use for our company, like leads, but I don’t personally use it.
Andrew: Got it. And when you use it, you use it for leads for new customers, new people who are going to be hiring your lookers?
Robin: Yes. We have leads come in all the time, inbound, organic leads, people that are on eBay or other customers, international customers wanting us to go look at something, then of course B2B customers as well. But we use it.
Andrew: How do you get your leads? What’s your process? I feel like enterprise is hard. If I wanted to create a funnel that would bring in consumers, bring in small businesses, it’s fairly easy to do. But for enterprise, it’s hard. What do you do?
Robin: We just hired a business development director about five weeks ago. Again, most of this has just been inbound or referral. Some of it’s been outbound, but very little because it’s really just been myself working most of the leads, but it’s all guerrilla marketing. We went to our first conference about six weeks ago, which was exciting and had a tradeshow booth. We’re planning on doing more of that this year as well.
Andrew: What do you say to someone, Robin, who’s listening to this who says, “She lucked out. She ended up with the Uber of lookers without realizing she was creating the Uber of lookers and because she had this interesting idea, the whole business took off. She’s not that structured.”
Robin: Oh no. We had a plan the whole time. We knew that our community was very important and we went after business. So, we have obviously produced a lot of different articles. As far as thought leadership, we’re on InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com as they feature some of my work there. So, we go after more of a tactical approach, hitting different industries and categories, but also knew the looker community was our biggest barrier to entry and very important.
As we moved into the future, we’ll be adding licensed drone operators into our community. Obviously we have bilingual lookers. Any kind of task or look you need us to perform can be matched up and weighted against the looker closest to that location. So, we’re able to dispatch anyone with any kind of certification on your behalf. So, it can be a very skilled workforce or not.
So, we’ve always worked on that. So, it’s definitely not luck. It’s been a lot of hard work and keeping at it. It’s persistence, really. You don’t just luck into some of the contracts that we have. You have to work really hard at it.
Andrew: I wouldn’t have thought of it. When you say work hard, what’s an example of one where you had to work really hard?
Robin: Well, you have to definitely approach the right people. You have to have the right presentation materials. You have to totally understand where they’re coming from and understand how you can fit into that efficiency model and help them.
So, it’s a lot of research or understanding that industry really well and then creating a solution to present to them in ways that they can understand it. If I just go in and start talking to people about what we have or show them what we have, it’s different than if I’ve already created it and showing them the actual process.
Andrew: If you don’t mind, I’m going to do a quick sponsorship messages and I’d love for you to walk me through one of your customers, you don’t have to tell me who the customer is, just walk me through how you thought about them, how you presented to them, what you presented and why you were able to close that deal. I think we can learn a lot from it. We don’t talk enough about enterprise sales.
Andrew: All right. The sponsor is — thank you — the sponsor is Acuity Scheduling. Here’s what we do at Mixergy. And then I’ll show you how it can work for you. Anyone who’s listening to me can use this and should be using this.
So, we send out lots of requests for interviews and lots of those people need to schedule with us. If I were to send out a date to every one of them, it would just be crazy to say, “Hey, Robin, are you free to do this interview on Monday at 2:00 p.m.?” I send that out to Robin and then it means I can’t send it out to everyone else so then I’m kind of holding onto that date until Robin says yes or no. Most people don’t say no. They take too long to respond and so I have to hold on to that date and not make it available. It’s just a mess.
So, a long time ago I signed up to Acuity Scheduling. With Acuity Scheduling, I just said, “Here’s my calendar.” I linked it up, that way Acuity Scheduling knows when I’m busy and not to book things when I’m busy. Then I go to Acuity Scheduling and say, “Here’s when I’m available. I like to record my interviews on Mondays and Wednesdays. I like to do them at these specific times.”
And Acuity Scheduling then says, “All right, great.” It creates a calendar with these availabilities. It lets me either link directly to their calendar or embed the calendar on my site, which is what we did with Robin. I embedded the calendar on my site. Then I sent it to Robin. I sent it to a few other people who I’m going to interview today and will interview for the next few weeks. What they can do is look at my calendar, seen when I was available and pick which of those available times was convenient for them.
Once they picked it, I asked a few questions. I like to know, for example, Robin, what your Skype name is so I can connect with you. So, we’ve got that. Acuity lets you ask whatever you want. I like to know what someone’s phone number is in case there’s a last-minute issue. That’s really helpful. I need to know their name, their email address, all that stuff.
So Acuity Scheduling asks for all of it and then it puts all that information on my calendar. So, when it’s time for me to connect with Robin, I know her name. I know her phone number. I know her Skype name. I know her email address. It’s all setup for me and I’m ready to go and I’m ready to be present in the conversation.
It also lets her add it to her calendar. It also sends out reminders to her. I don’t think I’ve had anyone not show up since I’ve added Acuity Scheduling. Yes, there are some people who had to cancel, but because they get an alert the day before, they’d hit reply and say, “Andrew, I can’t make it,” or they’d hit reply later on and say, “Andrew, I can’t make it,” but they don’t just not show up because they know it’s going to be here.
So, how does this help you? If you’re listening to me, you’re probably not doing interviews, but what you do want is meetings. You do want phone calls. You do want your team to get on calls more often and be more productive. If what you want is–by the way, we’re seeing more and more that sales often close on the phone when people get to talk to a real human being. You’re seeing this in interviews, right? Robin, I see you’re nodding your head.
So what you do is you either call someone out of the blue and hope you get on the phone with them or you send them a list of times you’re available and hope that works out, but there’s going to be a lot of back and forth and you’re going to need to hold on to a lot of times. Or you say, “Steve, let’s jump on a call and we can talk about this. Here’s a link where you can pick the time you’re available.” That’s a way more professional way to do things. That’s why I recommend using Acuity Scheduling.
And if you go to AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy, they’ll give you a ton of free time so you can actually try this for yourself and see how effective it is. Frankly, you can book a lot of calls. You can book a lot of meetings. By the time you’re done with the free trial you probably would have gotten way more value than a years’ worth of payments to them. Then you could decide whether you want to continue or not.
So, check them out, AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy. They also have tons of integrations. Robin’s email address could have been added to my address book if I wanted to. You could also send people to–tons of integrations through Zapier and others. I’ll leave it there and suggest you just go to AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. Good company.
Andrew: So, Robin, speaking of good companies, you’re a good company. You’re going after other businesses. What’s the process? Give me one example of a company that you targeted and then you closed?
Robin: Absolutely. I think this is a good example. We had a nationwide bank. They have 852 branches and they have a product that they offer to their customers where they pull equity for cash out of their vehicles.
Robin: And they needed people to go take vehicle photos. Finding out the entire process working with their team, they also would have to have the customer have documents notarized and then sent into their department at their headquarters.
So, instead of just creating a vehicle photo dashboard based on the questions they wanted us to ask in the photos, we also added a document portion where we could send out a looker who was also a notary where they could upload whether it was the power of attorney or lien release into the dashboard. We could actually show those photos in the actual deliverable report and then drop off the documents on behalf of the customer at a FedEx location.
Andrew: How did you identify them as a potential customer?
Robin: They called.
Andrew: They called.
Robin: They found us for the vehicle photos, some of the SEO, guerilla marketing that we had done. But this is where finding out the whole process–we actually came back to them with an entire solution to take all of that out of their hands. So, we perform all three of those tasks for them instead of just the vehicle photos. So, what I did was create this dashboard with the entire solution instead of just what they asked for. I understood the entire process from their side also.
Andrew: How did you understand it? This is before you even sold it. You understood they needed these documents, they needed the inspection, etc. How did you understand all that?
Robin: Because I think it’s important. If anyone is out there trying to learn about a prospective client to ask so many questions. Most people, they said, “We want to hire you for these vehicle videos,” I want to know why. What else is part of the process? I’m kind of lucky you’re asking what are these questions. You’re always thinking. You have to ask more questions of how does that fit into your workflow. When you find out exactly how their whole work process works, you can make it even more efficient.
So that’s what we did. They’re actually now able to offer this service to the entire nation through iLoans.com because you don’t even have to be one of their customers anymore because we handle everything for them. This is a good example of how crowdsourcing also is able to be part of the process and help big companies expand their footprint of services.
Andrew: So, if I’m understanding you right, they contacted you you because you do SEO, you write on other sites, there’s inbound traffic coming to you. They called you up and instead of saying, “We’ll pitch you,” you said, “What is exactly the process? What are you looking to do?” You really took the time to understand it all.
Then you created a dashboard to show them what that finished product as you imagine it would look like and you presented that to them and you said, “Here is what you will see. Here’s what your customers will see. Here’s the experience that we could create for you and yes, we can give you this one thing you asked for, but look at how much we can take care of for you all within this dashboard all taken care of.” When they sign up with you, do they sign up with–what kind of commitment do they give you?
Robin: Well, in the beginning, it was pretty tentative because they weren’t quite sure how it would work. Now we get all their business. Every single loan that comes through that portal goes directly to us. They can’t do it without us now because we’re so part of that process. We’ve taken the entire capturing of collecting that data out of their hands. Again, like I said, we can do it anywhere in the whole United States. You don’t even have to have one of their branches nearby.
So it’s fantastic. It’s a great success story and it’s a great way of showing how going that extra step of understanding and pitching, really going through the whole process and showing how it would actually work in real time instead of just a pitch deck or just what they asked for, I always try to give them more. Absolutely.
Andrew: I remember watching the movie “Cocktail” and the Tom Cruise character is constantly trying to build some kind of a business. He’s not sure what. He looks at one point to his girlfriend and says, “Look at these little things on the tips of everyone’s shoelaces. There’s probably some company out there that makes nothing but that that’s getting really rich and we’re not even aware of it.”
Now, I’m not sure that’s really true, but what we’re finding in your case is a better example of what he was going for–a company that’s right there in front of everybody but nobody sees it because you’re doing services under other people’s named or for other companies that we do know of, like this insurance company, like eBay. I see. Sorry?
Robin: I was just going to let you know what we did is we replaced three different vendors with just one looker. We’re an auto inspection company, notary company and courier service all in one. So, it’s very efficient. You can understand we are in control of that entire order process from the beginning when it comes in to the delivery. So, the turnaround time is much faster as well.
Andrew: I do like that you guys will send somebody over for notary. I used to work in an office where the receptionist was a notary in DC. Now that I moved here to San Francisco, the receptionist is not a notary and when I need it, I don’t know what to do.
Robin: Someone handy.
Andrew: Just go to your site and they’ll send somebody over.
Robin: That’s right.
Andrew: Even one-offs you do, not just big enterprise sales.
Robin: Absolutely. Sure. Let me know.
Andrew: It hasn’t all been easy though.
Andrew: You told our producer that there was a period there where you were just going through flat numbers not seeing growth. What years were we talking about there?
Robin: That was around 2013. I was on my second platform. We were having a really hard time getting things to work right. We were working with a Drupal contractor who kept adding different types of modals on top of each other.
Andrew: Was the first version of the site Drupal?
Robin: No. But the second one was and now it’s not.
Robin: It wouldn’t scale and it was slow. It was a frustrating experience and it was frustrating for our customers also. My partners weren’t really willing to invest in additional technology or the staff that we needed to kind of make it work. So, it was kind of a hard time. They didn’t really want to move forward. I think a lot of entrepreneurs go through that. You have a great idea. You work hard. You go through all these brick walls over and over and sometimes the wall is so thick and people around you who typically are supportive of you aren’t anymore. It really takes a lot of course to keep going.
Andrew: By partners, you mean your two cofounders?
Andrew: Your husband being one of them.
Robin: Yeah. It was a tough time.
Andrew: Why do you think they didn’t believe in your vision?
Robin: Well, from their perspective, they had other businesses that they were running and were successful. This, again, wasn’t really a proven business model. Again, there was no Uber. It was mostly me saying, “I know we can do this. I know we can make this happen. I know there’s opportunity. I need a little more money and I need more time.” It was difficult. But we came through it.
Andrew: You felt like you had to just plead. You felt a little embarrassed by it. But you did convince them to invest a little bit more money in this business and believe there was more growth than you guys had?
Andrew: Then I’m looking at the numbers, then the numbers took off. In 2013, you didn’t do that well. 2014, $1 million, 2015, $3 million, I think you said, 2016, $15 million, right?
Robin: We’re on that run rate. We haven’t done it yet. But we will by the end of this year. That’s our current run rate.
Andrew: Part of it was they believed enough to continue supporting the business. Part of it was you revamped your software. Am I right?
Robin: Yes. That’s what a big portion of it was. I knew we had to make this work and execute properly and then we raised series A October of ’14, which really helped me be able to hire the kind of people I needed. I didn’t have any more bandwidth personally, also the development team that I needed as well. That’s kind of when it all started turning around for the big gains.
Andrew: How did you get your investors?
Robin: Locally through . . . we have i2E. It’s a seed fund here. There are a lot of angels involved also. I just presented to them and had to have some local assistance there. That’s how it happened.
Andrew: How much money did you raise? According to CrunchBase, they’re saying it’s $1.5 million and then $1.7 million. What was it?
Robin: Yeah. We had a series A and then we had an extension and then we added some money from the current partners. So, all together, it was around $3.5 million total.
Andrew: Total put in. Wow. How close are you to profitability?
Robin: We actually hit profitability about four months ago, but we are putting everything back in. We actually are showing a burn rate, but if we wanted to, we actually could be profitable.
Andrew: You mean you hit profitability and then you said, “No, we should keep spending the investors’ money to grow.”
Andrew: And when you spend money to grow, what do you spend it on?
Robin: More people, development. We added more people. So, like I said, we actually have ten developers, my CTO and IT and then a creative designer in my development team, so quite a few on that side and we’re adding more just based on the scope and scale of what we’re doing. It’s pretty exciting.
Andrew: I was checking to see how we even found you. I said, “How did I even find this company? I obviously don’t come across it a lot.” And I see this guy–do you know Greg Archibald?
Robin: I don’t know Greg, but he heard someone on your show talk about us and he heard–like he knows somebody here–
Andrew: Yeah. I’ve got Greg’s email. I get an email from Greg. He goes, “Hi, my name is Greg Archibald. I’m the founder and CEO of an oil and gas tech company known as GreaseBook. I’m also a longtime lurker and listener of Mixergy. First, thank you for doing what you’re doing. I’m freaking frugal, but I gladly paid $200 to buy into Mixergy Premium to support you and the team.” He likes it. Then he says, “No shit, you enrich my life and for that I thank you.” He goes, “On a flight from Midland, Texas, oil capital of the world. I was listening to a particularly interesting interview you did with Mark Podolsky, the Land Geek.”
Andrew: You know Mark?
Robin: He’s a customer.
Andrew: In the interview he mentioned that WeGoLook is one of the tools he uses and it turns out he knew your…
Andrew: Your CTO, Greg Starling. He said, “Do you want an intro?” I said, “Absolutely.” Actually, I said, “Tell me more about the business. I don’t know how big it is.” Then he told me and I said, “Absolutely, do it, Greg. What do we need to do to make that happen?”
Robin: Thank you so much. It’s fantastic. Mark has been a customer for probably four years, which is fantastic too.
Andrew: And he’s using you to send people out to inspect property because he buys these little tiny pieces of property.
Robin: Right. Sometimes he wants us to go put signs up or he wants to verify that something is there. Absolutely.
Andrew: What’s the weirdest thing that your lookers have done? Let’s not say weird. Let’s call it unusual or unexpected. Putting signs up is pretty interesting.
Robin: We had a guy hire us to go verify a lot. When I say a lot, I mean like in an auction of blow up dolls. There were like 50. That was kind of an odd request. But very cool stuff that we do, going out and looking at cellphone towers that are disguised as pine trees. The company can tell if they’re out of zoning ordinance just by the photos we take.
There are some really cool things like that that we look at. We’ve gone and we actually help people that are wanting to write books on history. We’ll go to the cemetery and take pictures of different headstones with them. They’ll give us specific instructions. Those are cool things. 99% of what we do are autos, heavy equipment, property and the custom tasking on document retrieval. But that other one percent is pretty fun.
Andrew: I wanted to go see what was built on the house I grew up as a kid because they tore it down and they put a new house in. Google Maps wasn’t telling me anything. I wish I’d known about you. I ended up when I was in Manhattan for a trip going all the way out to Queens, just going out to look at the place. Driving through Queens is not interesting. It was definitely not worth it. I could have used a little bit of help on that one. Wow. Well, congratulations.
Robin: Thank you.
Andrew: WeGoLook–I’m so excited to have found out about the company and to hear the story of how you built it up. If anyone out there is listening to me and they hear me talk about or have heard me talk about frankly anywhere any company you think I should know about, email me, email the team. We take this seriously. I’m glad I found out today about Robin and WeGoLook.
Before I say goodbye to you, I also have to say thank you to my two sponsors. The first is a company that will turn people into incredible develops, some of the best in Silicon Valley. They are Reactor Core, ReactorCore.com. They probably have some place in your area where you can learn in the same way they teach here in San Francisco. If they don’t, you can learn online from them. The second sponsor is a company that allowed me to schedule with Robin and hundreds, literally hundreds of other people. They are called Acuity Scheduling. Go to AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy.
I’m grateful to you all for being a part of this. Go check out WeGoLook.com. Thanks.
Robin: Thank you. It was fantastic. Thank you so much.
Andrew: Thank you. Bye, everyone.