Case Study: Software as a service powered by humans on the backend

Joining me today is an entrepreneur whose business is a service.

I’m really fascinated by these companies that instead of offering just software as a service, offer real human beings doing work as a service. But they’ve structured it in a way that’s much simpler, more organized, more clear, more transparent than service businesses used to be.

Gideon Stein is CEO of Write Label which is the world’s largest on-demand marketplace for short-form content.

I invited him here to talk about how he built up his company.

The podcast is in all major apps, just search for Mixergy.
You can also use our RSS Feed RSS feed.

Gideon Stein

Gideon Stein

Write Label

Gideon Stein is CEO of Write Label which is the world’s largest on-demand marketplace for short-form content.

roll-angle

Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And I do it to give you ideas for how you could grow your business. And if you haven’t come up with a business idea yet, to give you ideas for what other people have done that will inspire you to come up with something brand new.

Joining me today is an entrepreneur whose business is a service. And I’m really fascinated by these companies that instead of offering just software as a service, offer real human beings doing work as a service, but they’ve structured it in a way that’s much simpler, more organized, more clear, more transparent than service businesses used to be.

In fact, I’m on his website right now. I’m on one of his sites, comedywire.com. If I had to give a toast at a friend’s wedding, I know that I can write a few personal things about the person but I can’t make it so interesting that people would laugh. And I really want them to laugh. I really want them to love my toast. I just don’t have that talent and I don’t have that patience to sit down and do it. But if I went to comedywire.com, for 199 bucks, they will punch up my toast, they’ll make it more funny, they’ll make it more interesting, and that’s just 200 bucks. And suddenly people think Andrew is a really funny, great guy.

That’s one of the services that Gideon Stein’s company offers. The parent company is called Write Label. They do everything from toasts like that, that they will punch up to helping bigger businesses like a radio company create copy that will get four pizza. Entrepreneur. An entrepreneur owns four pizza restaurants to buy ads on the radio even if she is not creative and has never bought ads on the radio before and doesn’t even know how to think about her brand. That’s what they do.

I invited Gideon Stein here to talk about how he built up his company and the entrepreneurship companies, entrepreneurship production companies, the companies he founded before. He founded a couple of them. So we can do that all thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first if you’re looking to have a website hosted, you should go check out HostGator. And the second if you’re selling anything online or getting leads or getting people’s email addresses, go to the company that I love. It’s called ClickFunnels, but I’ll tell you about those later. First, Gideon, good to have you here.

Gideon: Great to be here.

Andrew: Gideon, how much money are you making with this thing?

Gideon: Personally?

Andrew: As a business.

Gideon: Yeah, as a business. So, I joined about a year and a half ago, the company had been around for about three years beforehand. When I joined I was brought in to help turn the company around. They were doing $50,000 in revenue.

Andrew: A year.

Gideon: A year in 2017.

Andrew: Okay.

Gideon: No, 2018 they were going to close out the year at $50,000. They had 48 skews. They had a great platform. They had a great community of writers. And it was a great team. I would have written it off and I would have told my friend who had put a few million bucks into it that I wasn’t interested except for the fact that if I just looked on the financial side. Looking at the business and looking at the idea and knowing that we had this sort of stalking horse enterprise client in the wings. I said, “Give me six months. Let’s see what we can do here.”

We took 48 skews down to about 4 or 5. We said, “What can we really deliver on?” We went to this big media company, that’s iHeartRadio. We showed them what it was that we were working on. And they said, “We want it and we want it in our office in six weeks.” And then we all said, “Holy shit. We got to build this thing for them in six weeks.” We were literally coding for them in the SUV on the way to their office to do the deployment. It was a lot of fun. It was the total adrenaline rush, the team really gelled.

Andrew: What do you mean by coding for them? I thought you guys just offered service. Couldn’t iHeart just go over to your website and pick out what they wanted and order it and have it delivered?

Gideon: Well, in a way. I mean, what we’ve developed is a series of customized user interfaces that deliver on a specific creative brief that answers the types of questions and delivers the results that each of our customers is interested in. So radio ads at 15, 30 and 60 seconds are different than the type of blocking and visuals that are needed in TV ads, which is different from internet ads, which is different from when we do a speech punch up. So we’ve got to create those customized user interfaces, those customized briefs. There was a lot of sort of credit allocation in how the payments were going to work because this is an enterprise customer, people are going to put in their credit cards. So there is a fair amount of work to do.

Andrew: Got it. So you just needed to create something for them to be able to buy the service that we’re going to be talking about here today. Got it. All right. You didn’t tell me. And I want to understand where you are, but you didn’t tell me what the revenue was today.

Gideon: So, the revenue was . . . So it was $50,000 when I took over a year and a half ago. We’re probably at well over $1 million run rate. And we’re in discussions with a half a dozen major media companies that would give us a significant multiple where we are. So I think that . . . I don’t think that these deals are going to close. Some of the early stage parts are going to close before 2020, but 2020 will be a significant ramp in revenue. Sort of starting on the hockey stick where we’re just about here.

Andrew: Okay. And what I’m getting that though, is run rate, meaning you take last month’s revenue, you multiply it by 12 and you come up with roughly $1 million. That’s where you are right now, right?

Gideon: Yes, exactly. Yeah. So if it’s like 80 grand or 90 grand or 100 grand, we’re at somewhere between 1 million and 2 million in run-rate versus a year ago we were at $50,000 in revenue.

Andrew: Okay. And iHeartRadio, by the way, owns radio stations all over the country. I remember watching them just accumulate these stations back when they were Clear Channel, back when Howard Stern was the guy I would listening to every morning. He would talk about Clear Channel and all these other competitors. So there are a huge company to get as a client here, massive for your revenue, I imagine, but also significant for your credibility and allowing you to go and get other businesses to sign up. I want to understand how you got here. But let’s go back to the very first business you had or one of the first businesses you had as a kid. What did you have to do with rocks? What was it?

Gideon: Yeah. So, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I decided that I was going to sell rocks to neighbors who are walking by our house. I grew up in Washington DC. And some guy stopped. I can’t remember if my parents invited him to come by and buy a rock. And he asked how much a rock was and this is sometime in the sort of mid to late ’70s. And I told him . . . He pulled out a $5 bill and I told him, “It’s $5.” And I’ve never seen my parents run so fast to go get changed for the poor guy so that they could only pay 50 cents or $1 for this dumb rock. But I thought I was onto something.

Andrew: Literally, it was just a rock. It wasn’t one that you painted or . . .

Gideon: Just a rock. I hadn’t painted. No, it was a rock.

Andrew: Why did you want to be an entrepreneur so badly that you were selling rocks?

Gideon: I probably knew from an early age that it was going to be hard for me to take direction from others.

Andrew: Okay.

Gideon: I’ve gotten a lot better. I sort of see the world in ways that . . . I want to see the world in ways that makes sense to me. I want to move very quickly. I get annoyed when things don’t move the way that I want them to move, which is very challenging in dealing with big companies. And I don’t like to take no for an answer.

And so, you know, we’ve had experiences where we’ve tried because we’re trying out different things in sales and we’ve gone bottom down where we went in through the top at iHeart and then at like Nextdoor, which is another customer of ours. We went in through the bottom. We went in through the individual stations because the senior executives weren’t getting back to us because, you know, what did we have to tell them?

And so we did this incredible pilot across 13 of their stations and we helped bring them $850,000 of closed revenue in just a couple of months. And we then had problems getting the higher-ups to focus on what we were doing. So, we’ve learned that, but not giving up, we just kept at them, kept at them and finally said, “Okay. We get it. You guys want to meet. The data looks really good. We’re going to sit down and say where we believe it, where we don’t.” And of course I have a huge amount of backup support, but it’s really about figuring out ways to get into these companies and to sell them a new product and a new way of doing things.

Andrew: Gideon, I want to hear more about that, but I want to go back a little bit to understand how you got here before we understand what you’re doing here. So, as an entrepreneur, you kept building these little companies as you were growing up, right? You couldn’t wait to get out into the world and start a business and still you went into Wall Street, you worked on Wall Street for a couple of years, right?

Gideon: Yeah.

Andrew: I’m guessing it wasn’t really doing it for you because . . .

Gideon: It was only six months and I was working for a trading firm. And I couldn’t stand it. And they were doing some venture capital and people coming in and pitching us on businesses and I was sort of on that team, and I said, “I could do this.” And so my initial idea it was a magazine that was . . . So this was mid-90s. There was an insert into college newspaper so much like Parade, but this is going to be for colleges and it was going to have an entertainment focus.

And we tried to raise money. We almost raised a bunch of money from Ron Perelman and his New World Entertainment, which he sold to Murdoch for $600 million or $1 billion or something. We had a term sheet from these guys and we just couldn’t make it work. We were 22 years old and this internet stuff was starting to happen. And we ended up going to an investor here in New York that my business partner knew, and he listened to us and then he called us back the next day and he said, “Guys, I listened to your plan.” He said, “I’ve been thinking about a business that I would like to hire you guys to run.” And he told us back our business. And he said, “Basically, this is my idea and I want you to redo it.”

The one difference was instead of focusing on college newspapers, he wanted to focus on national newspaper. So he wanted to come up with entertainment version of Parade Magazine and he wanted us to put it together and run it. And instead of being CEO, I was now Executive Vice President.

I got to tell you just a quick story, I was incredibly incensed, I couldn’t believe that this guy had stolen my idea and regurgitated it back to me. I put in money into the idea and I told him at some point that I was really unhappy that I didn’t like the title Executive Vice President. I was the President and the CEO of this thing and he said, “Gideon,” he said, “the one thing that I care about in a business deal,” he said, “I don’t care what they call me. Just spell my name right on the check.” And I kind of loved it. And like, not that it calmed me down, but it sort of gave me a different way of seeing things. Like, I didn’t have experience.

I’ve now . . . We’ve had interns, people come to me about mentorship, they asked me about, you know, building businesses and what’s the one thing that I’ve learned and I sort of joke about, like, one of my favorite sayings in business and doing home construction, is that you have to multiply all cost and time estimates by pi. And I think that there’s some truth to that. If you multiply everything by three, then you might be in a decent place.

Andrew: I do want to get a little bit into the real estate that you’ve gotten into and I want to hear also about the failures in business that you’ve had because I think that those are helpful for us to learn from. But for people who don’t know, Parade Magazine was . . . I don’t know if it still exists. Does it? It’s a magazine that was included in newspapers, on Sunday newspapers all across the country, created by one company and they put it in. So you created a magazine that then I guess you got the name E from the entertainment channel?

Gideon: Yeah. We got a deal with the Entertainment TV and with Interpublic Group of companies. And it was originally movie magazine, and then just became E! the Magazine and it was a Thursday insert and we had Interpublic owned a company that did newspaper distribution. They were in Naperville, Illinois. I spent a bunch of time in Naperville. I started selling advertising for it, everything was ready to go. And they told us, they were like, “We want to buy you guys out.” And I didn’t really want to be bought out but, like, I wasn’t thrilled being an EVP and not having control. And so we got bought out and then I started . . . I used some of those funds and others to start doing my own things again.

Andrew: So did you have any equity? Is that why you were able to profit from the sale?

Gideon: Yeah, I did. I had a bunch of equities in the company.

Andrew: You do. Got it. Let’s take a detour for a second. Barq’s root beer. You know the guy who owned it for a while there. What’s the story behind that?

Gideon: So my wife’s uncle, John Oudt, was a co-owner of Barq’s. And John is my favorite entrepreneur. Just an incredibly savvy guy, sales guy, operations guy. I think they bought the company for . . . I’ll get the numbers wrong, but directionally $3 million in the early ’80s, borrowed money to do it. Coke almost put them out of business like nine times.

Sometime in the mid-90s Coke came to them with a $65 million offer. John, my wife’s uncle, was ready to sell. His business partner didn’t like the idea. He told people he wasn’t sure what he was going to tell them he did anymore. My wife’s uncle told me, he’s like, “I told him.” He goes, “You can call yourself the goddamn king of Siam for all I care.” He’s like, “We’re selling to Coca Cola.” And he’s like, “Well, maybe we should go to Pepsi.” He’s like, “You don’t understand. If Coke gets pissed, they put us out of business, there is no Pepsi. We have to sell it to Coke.”

By the time they signed the deal they had a certain number of shares that they were getting in Coke. Coke tripled. So that $60 million exit was $180 million. And John . . . And they owned . . . The two guys owned the whole thing. And John has just been a phenomenal investor and operator and he lives a great life in Texas and Aspen and flying all over the place. And he’s just . . . He’s one of the smartest, most clever and tenacious business guys I know.

Andrew: What did you learn from him?

Gideon: So we talked a lot about fear of failure.

Andrew: Fear of failure. Why did you ask him about fear of failure?

Gideon: Well, somebody said, “Gideon, now that you’ve had some success, do you feel like you kind of got it figured out now?” And I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” I said, “I wake up every day, you know, thinking the whole thing could fall apart.” I said, “The thing I’ve learned about . . . “I love and I’m addicted to entrepreneurialism, but, you know, it’s not the straight arrow. It’s these ups and downs, and the ups can be the most unbelievable experiences, you hear back from Amazon and they’re interested in buying your company or that deal with Apple is coming through, or the VC you’ve been talking to and with whom you’ve been negotiating the term sheet or the deal to sell the company and you’ve signed and you’re waiting, you know, they have 24 hours to sign and they call you the next day and say they’re not signing it. Like, there are these unbelievable drop-offs, and so I wouldn’t say it’s addictive, but it is . . . I mean, it sort of makes you feel alive.

Andrew: Does it? For me, it doesn’t. For me, the highs make me feel alive, the lows make me feel, like, not death, but like I worry about death from the lows. It doesn’t make me feel more creative, it doesn’t make me want to fight more. It just makes me feel like, “For the rest of my life, am I going to have these highs and lows? Can’t I ever get beyond that?”

Gideon: So for me what it’s become is how do we fix this?

Andrew: So, whenever you feel a low you think, “How do I fix it?” You just spring to that?

Gideon: I wouldn’t say every time, but a lot of times I’m pretty good particularly if the other rest of the members of team are dejected, I sort of have a different view. And what am I going to tell my wife or what am I going to feel would be different. But you know, it’s all about . . .

Andrew: Do you tell your wife? I don’t . . . My wife ask me about it, I go, “No. This is my distance from . . . ”

Gideon: I usually tell her I can’t talk about it.

Andrew: That’s what I do because this is my . . . “Please, honey, create . . . ” I don’t call her honey. I go, “Baby, please create space for me where I don’t have to think about work and worry for a bit. And if I’m not talking to you about it, it’s because I need this space as a safe haven from all that.” Is that the way you do it too?

Gideon: Yes, but we’ve done enough therapy where I’m now supposed to talk to her about things.

Andrew: That makes sense. Because she does want to . . . your partner. She does need to know.

Gideon: She’s worried and so whatever. And so I fear, I’m like, “Look, I might need an hour, I might need two hours. I can tell you a part of the story. You can’t ask questions because your questions are really good.” And it’s based . . . I remember one of my early companies when I was raising money, we had a meeting with one of the analysts and the analyst looked at us and said, “Well, okay. I mean, this looks great.” She goes, “But what if it doesn’t work?” And I said, “Are you kidding? Like, that’s your question?” I’m like, “If it doesn’t work, we don’t have a company, but like, that’s not an option.”

Andrew: That would be the type of thing that would bother me. “Well, you’re supposed to be cheering me on. I don’t need the hard questions. Everyone’s give me the hard questions.” Okay. So what did he . . . What did John, the guy who ran Barq’s root beer, who sold it to Coke, what did he have to say about this?

Gideon: I mean, he was in the same boat. I mean, the guy had made . . . He’d been hugely successful. And he said that he still was gripped with fear of failure. And it drove him and it drove him to constantly figure out how to fight for shelf space, how to make sure that the other root beers weren’t gaining on him, if he lost a distributor, he would figure out a way to bring them back or get a new one. And so you have to see each of these challenges as opportunities to do something else.

Andrew: So that’s the thing. I’ve got to accept that the failures, the setbacks, whatever you want to call them, that it feels like disaster coming on that that’s just part of the game that I’ve decided to play and if I’m going to play this game, I have to accept that that’s coming up. And if I’m going to accept it, then I might as well be really enthused about finding a solution to whatever is causing that problem and just be okay with that.

Gideon: Absolutely. And the other thing is I don’t . . . Andrew, rather, I don’t think it’s . . . It’s not something that, you know, you can just shield yourself from. You’re going to experience pain, but it’s really about, “How do I pick myself up and how do I make this better?” There’s got to be another customer. Who have we overlooked? What do we have to do? It’s a number of things. [inaudible 00:18:51].

Andrew: Yeah. Who have we overlooked is a big one.

Gideon: What’s that?

Andrew: Who have we overlooked and what if I overlooked that’s doing well is a good one for me. That I have to keep thinking about it because I don’t notice it until a year later where I go, “Dude, I had this thing. It was phenomenal. Why did I focus on the thing that I didn’t have instead of recognizing this thing was the next big one?”

All right. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor and then I’d like to hear from you, Gideon. How can you guys help me improve my sponsorship? So here’s the way I would do my ad for ClickFunnels. And then I’d like to know, can I hire you guys? Can I hire Comedywire to improve it? What would that work . . . How would that work? Here’s the situation. I’ll tell you . . .

Gideon: Do you want me to launch into it or you have a [inaudible 00:19:29]?

Andrew: How about if I just tell you what I would say about ClickFunnels, my sponsor, and then hear from you, how can you guys help improve it? So if I just were to strip everything away and just go total sincere, here’s what ClickFunnels is for me. I was at a place where I wanted to launch something brand new. And the first thing that I’ve learned from interviewing entrepreneurs here is if you’re going to launch something new, create a landing page to see if anyone’s even interested, if they even understand the concept. So I was going to create a landing page using some of the software that I had for it. WordPress has a tool for it. I had this other tool that I was paying monthly for.

But someone on my team said, “ClickFunnels is way better. Let’s go to ClickFunnels.” And I argued with him and he said, “Okay. Andrew, you hired me to do a job. I think ClickFunnels is the best tool for it.” So he did. He said . . . I said, “Okay, go for it.” And so what he did was he said, “You want to teach people how to create chatbots?” Great. Here’s the page that I created for it. It’s all done in ClickFunnels. It explains exactly what’s going on. It allows you to collect email addresses from anyone who’s interested. And then after they’re interested, you could take them to the next step, which might be selling and so on.

And so at first, I said, “All right, let’s do it.” And we signed up for it. And we found that this page converted more than any other page that we’ve had before. So suddenly, people were coming to the page when we were buying ads were more likely to give us email addresses, which meant that at the time it was getting people to come to our webinar, they were more likely to show up to the webinar where I was closing sales. I thought that was a pretty interesting tool.

The next step that somebody else on our team Rebecca said was, “If someone’s giving you their email address, why don’t you just ask them to buy something to see if you could actually close the sale, see if you can collect their email address?” I said, “Well, Michael can create it.” She goes, “No. ClickFunnels has a tool, we just drag and drop it on our confirmation page, and when we do that we can collect email addresses.”

I said, “Yeah, but I like Stripe because with Stripe I can get people refunds faster, I can see what’s working, I’ve got an easy credit card processor that works with QuickBooks and so on.” She said, “Oh, yeah, you could just add it here too. It’s super easy. Just connect Stripe and you can collect payment.” So we did that.

And then she said, “Andrew, there’s this thing called . . . ” I forget what it’s called. I hate that I can’t remember it. This is where I’m a little bit unprofessional. I call it an order bump, but I think it’s called something else, where if I just added checkbox underneath where people put their credit cards, I could say, “Hey, you just bought this thing for $35. For an extra $10 you can buy this other thing.” And the majority of people seemed to just click the checkbox and add the extra thing because it’s just another few bucks, which is nice for us.

And so I did all this stuff. And by doing all of it, I ended up with this funnel as it’s called. A funnel is a set of steps that gets a stranger to buy from you. I created a funnel that did over $1 million in sales and they actually sent me this gold record. I’m in the Two Comma Club because in $1 million there are Two Commas. So, anyone who did over $1 million dollars in sales is in Two Comma Club. So that’s how I came to understand ClickFunnels. I would love it if everyone was listening to me at least went and tried ClickFunnels. I’m going to let them try it for free by going to clickfunnels.com/mixergy.

And when they go there, they’re going to get a few different things. Number one, they’re going to get the funnel that has done really well for me. And number two, they’re going to get . . . Well, you know what? I’m not going to go through the whole list. They could see it there.

The other thing that I’m super excited about is the founder of ClickFunnels invited me to go and interview him live and allowed me to go and do all these conversations with people who liked him, who didn’t like them, and confront him with all this hard stuff. It was a phenomenal interview. It’s all available at clickfunnels.com/mixergy. So go get the software for free for a little bit and get all the extra bonuses on that page.

Gideon, I went a little bit long. I don’t feel like that’s the most exciting thing to listen to. If I came to you, what would I do? Can I just take the transcript and hand it to you? How would it work?

Gideon: Yeah. There are a few different ways. One is you can say, “I’ve got something I like and it works but I’d like a tighter, or I like it funnier, or I like to do XYZ.” We train our writers. We’ve done a lot of work. I mean, I had no concept of what a good radio ad looked like, but I’ve spent the last year and a half studying it and we’ve done 5,000 of them. And so it’s about creating a theater of the mind.

And I think that you’ve done a bunch of that. You sort of are explaining your experience about, you know, how you didn’t think that there was a product that did this, it’s ClickFunnels, and then you’re using it, and it’s great, but you need it to do this and lo and behold, ClickFunnels does that too and they do this. And you were super successful in using it.

So, is there a hook to the story that you can sort of emotionally get people into? Is there a way to make it crisp? I mean, yours is authentic and that’s heartfelt. But a couple of different things. One is we can improve your spiel, which I think is quite good, but maybe there’s some ways to insert a couple of jokes in there and . . .

Andrew: And you guys will write the jokes?

Gideon: What’s that?

Andrew: Your writers will write my jokes.

Gideon: Well, yeah, yeah. We’ll write it. So, yeah. So, you’ll say, “This is what I like.” And either you guys punch it up and make it better or use this as a stepping off place and create your own.

Andrew: Okay.

Gideon: And then we would come to you and we would have like eight different ideas for you. And you can mix and match, we can edit them, we can work with you on it, but it will give you these ideas for a different type of . . . a different way of explaining the advantages of ClickFunnels. And then you go ahead and get it produced.

But the great thing about it is you fill out a brief and within 15 minutes you start getting submissions. Within a couple of hours, you’ve got your eight submissions, we’ve professionally edited them, we’ve selected the ones that we think are the best, we send them all to you, you own everything, you can mix and match, you can use the one you like. If you’re not satisfied with any of them, we’ll run it again.

Andrew: For 200 bucks I get that?

Gideon: Yep.

Andrew: Oh. And that’s the Comedywire option, right? I go to comedywire.com.

Gideon: It’s really the Write Label option.

Andrew: Okay.

Gideon: So, because you’re kind of [enterprise 00:25:08].

Andrew: And Write Label will do it for 200 bucks?

Gideon: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: Oh, wow.

Gideon: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. And all I do is I say, “Look, here’s . . . ”

Gideon: [inaudible 00:25:13] 200 and if you’re doing thousands of them, we’ll do them for, you know, 100 or [several 00:25:19]. So, I mean, what we do for big media companies, the volumes are insane. So, they’ve got thousands of salespeople who are pitching constantly and they are going and creating a lot of content that they’re then using to help them advance the sale and close that sale.

Andrew: Yeah, that was fascinating to me. Before we started you said, “Look, there are salespeople at radio stations who want to get a local store owner’s attention.” Instead of saying, “You should be buying an ad with us,” they say, “I hired writers to put together some marketing copy for you about how your local store, how your local restaurant, what’s interesting about it.” And then now they’re having a conversation with the local pizza owner or the local store about the copy, about their branding instead of whether they should be advertising on the radio and it’s a much easier way to get started. And you guys help them close sales. That’s fascinating. I want to get to how you got there. Let’s take a moment, though, and understand this. Did you sell your business to Omnipod for $10 million? Is that right?

Gideon: No. We sold . . . Omnipod had a run rate of about 10 million. We sold it for a bunch more.

Andrew: So it was Omnipod was your second . . . No. You . . .

Gideon: Omnipod was my second business. So first business was the movie magazine and then E! the Magazine. Sold that and then I . . .

Andrew: Then you started Omnipod.

Gideon: And then I invested in this company called kozmo.com which was one of the early delivery, bike messenger delivery companies. I was the third . . . I was the first investor in the company. My investor group had a third of the company.

Andrew: You did. Wow-wee.

Gideon: And it went on to raise $330 million registered to go public. This is sort of like WeWork. Registered to go public and people looked at the S1 and like, “This is insane. This company is losing so much money.” They postponed and then March of 2000 happened. And then they weren’t able to go out. But they’d had offers from Amazon to buy them, they had offers of all things, Starbucks to buy them. They could have gone public earlier. I saw a lot of paper worth evaporate. One good thing is I hadn’t spent any of it. So, I didn’t owe any money and I hadn’t bought cruise tickets and a new car and . . .

Andrew: How much of your money did you put into it?

Gideon: I put a few hundred grand into it.

Andrew: Okay. That’s not bad.

Gideon: I think at the time high point my stake was worth about 40 or $50 million.

Andrew: Wow.

Gideon: Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew: But wasn’t there a movie made about them?

Gideon: Yes. I can’t watch it.

Andrew: You can’t.

Gideon: They asked to [interview 00:28:00] me and I can’t watch it.

Andrew: This was .bomb, right?

Gideon: It was . . . I don’t know. It was Kozmo.bomb or it was Startup or something, maybe startup.

Andrew: Startup.com maybe.

Gideon: Yeah. Something, one of the two.

Andrew: You know what? It took me years to be able to watch it too only because it was just . . . I had made mistakes then too, I could have taken these big buyout offers, and I didn’t, and I just couldn’t bring myself to see how much arrogance and excessive self-confidence I had. Why couldn’t you see it?

Gideon: Well, it wasn’t mine to sell. So I . . .

Andrew: No, no. Why couldn’t you see the movie then if it wasn’t yours decision? What was it that disturbed you about it?

Gideon: Because I knew every personality, I knew the mistakes that were made. We really wanted them to start charging delivery fees. We thought it was insane that they would deliver a candy bar, there were no minimums. We could see them losing huge amounts of money on some of the markets because people were just screwing around. And then with Kozmo in particular, there was somebody, another group of investors went and did not sign a nondisclosure, got the business plan, spent a bunch of time with them, and then they created UrbanFetch. And so, you know, it’s sort of like the Lyft, Uber problem.

Andrew: Yeah.

Gideon: They can continually, you know, take market share away from one another. They have all the money they spend, they’re spending on acquiring market share, but it’s just, you know, nobody is loyal because it’s just an app. And so literally, when it comes down to it, it’s an app, and you can use one or the other interchangeably, the drivers are interchangeable. And so they’re just driving the prices down and VCs are subsidizing all of us on our [inaudible 00:29:39] on the airport.

Andrew: And so then, the company that you created was Omnipod, that’s the one you sold for $10 million?

Gideon: No. We sold that for more. So . . .

Andrew: For more. It had . . . That was its sales. And Omnipod was or it is. It’s the diabetes software, right?

Gideon: So, Omnipod . . . And there is a company called Omnipod, it’s a diabetes software. The one that we did was a corporate messaging solution. It was much like Slack and Dropbox combined, but about 10 years too early. But we had about 800 enterprise customers, Fortune 500 customers, hospitals, trading firms, a lot of folks that had communications restrictions and requirements by governments from [NSP 00:30:23] to HIPAA. And we sold to a company called MessageLabs that had 13,000 customers, did anti-virus, anti-spam. They integrated what they’re offering. They could then sell it into their channel. And then two years later, they sold it to Symantec.

We thought the company was going to go bankrupt. There are two competitors. FrontBridge had sold to Microsoft. Postini had sold for . . . FrontBridge sold to Microsoft for 150. Postini sold for about $600 or $700 million to Google and we were like, “Who the hell is going to buy this piece of crap?” And MessageLabs, like, in November of 2008 sold for $800 million in cash to Symantec. And so what I thought was worthless stock, I got a nice check for . . .

Andrew: Wow-wee.

Gideon: . . . and when the world was melting. It was pretty cool.

Andrew: What did you do for yourself with that?

Gideon: So my business partner and I started . . . We bought two vacant lots in Harlem and we built two ground-up new construction condo buildings. And that’s kind of what we did for ourselves.

Andrew: Why did you do that? Why did you get into real estate?

Gideon: Because we wanted . . . After doing software for a while and media, we really wanted something where people would agree where they were on contract and they got paid for the work that they did. And so we wouldn’t have any inventory, we really wouldn’t have any employees. We would have a business where it was all contractually-based and we could fight over contracts, but we didn’t have to deal with the headaches of people every day. That was somebody else’s problem.

Now, it’s a tricky market and it was really tough. My business partner was an incredible operator in that stuff. And we ended up doing well on both of them. But we entered the market in 2006 and 2007, and then it crashed. And basically, we were so early on in the process of building our buildings that we just slowed everything down. And then we picked it back up as the market started to come back. So it took us a couple of years longer than we would have hoped, but we were able to save both the projects and actually do well.

Andrew: So for a couple of years you were losing money on this thing, brand new . . . You were brand new to real estate, you’re losing money on it. Was it significant that it endangered your personal finances?

Gideon: I mean, I remember at some point that being, like, if the market keeps going down and it’s like the stock market keeps falling that we could lose the money that we put in.

Andrew: Just the money you put in, but you weren’t going to be financially devastated personally.

Gideon: We hadn’t done personal guarantees on the loans, and so . . . But I do remember going to the banks. The banks had these provisions where they would ratchet up the insurance if the loan was taking longer. And our loan ended up taking a few years longer because we put it on mothballs. And so they said to us, and these banks were like having defaults left and right. We were always paying our . . . We actually leased out our . . . We got the buildings’ bill and then we leased out the apartments as offices because they were condos up in Harlem. And so we were actually making money on them, but our interest rates were going to significantly increase.

We went into the bank and said, “What do you do when somebody defaults on their loan?” They’re like, “Well, we do a workout and we low . . . ” I said, “What do you do with the interest rate?” “Well, we lower that and we work it out so that they have time to pay.” And I said, “So you guys have sent us a letter saying you’re going to increase the interest rates.” I said, “We’re good customers. We’re paying our monthly installments and you’re going to penalize us?” I said, “I’m thinking about defaulting and you guys . . . then it’s going to be a huge headache for you unless you reduce our interest rate.”

Guess what we got done? Reduced interest rate. So, I mean, it took a little bit, but we argued with them. We made, I think, a really good case. We reached out to board members who we found through friends of friends and we were like, “We are good guys. You were going to make all your money back on this, but only if you work with us on the terms.” And they did.

Andrew: You reached to board members of the bank?

Gideon: Yeah.

Andrew: Was this a major bank?

Gideon: There was a . . . It was a bank. There was a consortium backed by Citi and Chase and whatever. And so, like, we found people that we knew who were on TIAA-CREF like the Teachers Retirement System. We knew somebody who was friends with a board member and that guy was on the board of this local community bank. And we reached out to him and had somebody send a letter, we met with them and he said, “That makes sense to me. Like, you guys have been good customers. We should treat you better.” This old model doesn’t seem to work, so you got to ask for things.

Andrew: By the way, it looks like you’re really involved in education and nonprofits. Am I right? I’m trying to understand what’s going on your LinkedIn profile. And I see a lot of things like you’re the director and treasurer of Chalkbeat, you’re a director of new classrooms.

Gideon: Yep. So in addition to being CEO of Write Label, I’m also the president of a family foundation. Our focus is on education and civil rights and human rights abroad and in Israel. I have for the last 10 years managed our education portfolio. And I sit on about five boards. It’s a little bit too many, but I love the organizations and it’s been fun helping build them from . . . Chalkbeat started. When I started with them a little under 10 years ago it was a $250,000 annual budget and it’s now $7 or $8 million annual budget and on its way to 20 million over the next couple of years.

Andrew: Is this . . . It’s a nonprofit, isn’t it?

Gideon: Nonprofit news site. And it’s really very cool.

Andrew: What are you doing in Israel?

Gideon: Israel, we do a lot of human rights and civil society work. It’s not popular, but I think it’s incredibly important, thus . . .

Andrew: What does that mean?

Gideon: So we support a bunch of organizations that are focused on supporting human rights or disaffected populations in the West Bank. We help fund lawsuits over where the border wall is going to be. I mean, a border wall is a great thing. We’re seeing this now in America. As long as it’s on like our land, if you build it . . . If you were saying, “We’re going to put up a border wall and it’s going to be on your land, it’s going to bisect your neighborhoods,” it’s not a great thing. And so they’ve helped sue and ensure where the wall goes.

And we support a lot of the . . . something called the Association for Civil Rights in Israel which is their ACLU. It’s something that we support as well. So, we’re fairly progressive when it comes to Israel. We support a lot of policies and programs within Israel. We have a program where we support now 35 schools that are predominantly Ethiopian and are Arab kids. There is nothing political about it, it is just really good instruction. It’s stuff that we learned through our work here in the U.S. and we brought experts from the U.S., translated a lot of stuff in Hebrew and now have thousands and thousands of kids who prosper and are able to read because of the programs that we support.

Andrew: I can’t believe that in addition to that, you can still run Write Label. That’s a lot of work.

Gideon: I was telling the guys I’m going to Israel in two weeks and I said, “I will be on the 10:00 daily standup every day. It’ll be 5:00 there.” I may have something, so I may have missed one or two, but I will be answering email all day, wake up, be able to . . . I mean, I’m not going to be able to do 100% but I’ll be at 50, 60% capacity.

Andrew: So Write Label was an investment for you? Is that how you got into it?

Gideon: I’ve invested in Write Label. And I did it also as a favor to this good friend of mine who was an investor in my company. And he asked me to help him out and I originally told him, “No,” but I told him, “I’ll take a look,” and I really liked it.

Andrew: Why did you want to get so deeply involved in it? I understand that the people were good. You said, “Look, there’s too many products that they’re selling. There’s not enough revenue. It’s a mess.” But why would you want to sit and fix it instead of creating a brand new company? Essentially, what you’re doing here is creating a brand new company. Why not go and create your own company from scratch?

Gideon: Yeah. I mean, then I have to raise money and then I have to build the team. And I had the team and there was money there. And so John, the chairman and I have a great deal and if John makes a lot of money, I’ll make a lot of money. And so I’ve known him for 10 years. He is a very successful asset manager. He runs a hedge fund. He has done so for a couple of decades, and he’s incredibly successful, one of the smartest guys I know and has the most integrity. And so working with people that you know, who you know are really good people and with whom you want to work and who you enjoy the process, I think is a huge part of it.

Andrew: What did you like about the original concept?

Gideon: The original concept part?

Andrew: Yeah. The original concept which is selling writing services online.

Gideon: Yeah. Well, actually, before that the original concept was a social network of comedy writers where people would come and compete and it was just an eyeball aggregation site and they would look to, there would be 30 or 40 different topics, news articles, challenges and competitions every day. And we have something like 3 million jokes that have been written on the platform. We had well over 10,000 writers writing on it. And it was a fun, engaging platform, but it didn’t make any money. And so . . .

Andrew: That seems even less compelling. What do you think he liked about that?

Gideon: I mean, he loves the humor. And he loved . . .

Andrew: That’s it.

Gideon: This is sort of like . . . It was kind of social media, Twitter, Facebook, Snap, it was kind of everything, they were all growing, and he thought that this was an interesting niche that he could, you know, really focus on the comedy angle and create real value. And then when they all shifted the revenue models and none of it was subscription and it was all advertising, but there was no advertising to be made sort of anywhere else online. He needed to shift the model of it. And so that’s why they decided fee for service.

Andrew: All right. So, the company was losing money, had too many products, but had good people. It was on you now to turn it around. I’m going to take a moment to talk about my second sponsor, and then I’m going to come back and ask, what did you do to turn this thing around?

My second sponsor is a company called HostGator. I’m going to say that one of the things that I love about the web today is, Gideon, if you have any idea, all you have to do is to build a website, just go and install WordPress. With one click you’re up and running, your business is up and running, it could sell, it could create a blog, it could just be a landing page for your service. I feel like, Gideon, people can, frankly, copy your business into a different niche and just do it all on WordPress. Like, what’s a service that if you weren’t doing this, if you weren’t doing writing, what’s a service that you would be offering? I’ll come up with a couple in a second, but if you have one, I’d love to hear it.

Gideon: I mean, we could get into the business of creating logos for people. We can do . . .

Andrew: Logos, there’s a big competition for. I would say something like marketing automation, like how many people need to have a simple marketing automation or popups installed on their site or content upgrades. All of these are distinct products that you could offer as a service. What do you think of that, Gideon? You’ve got more business experience than I do.

Gideon: It could be great.

Andrew: All right. So imagine Gideon and I were to come up with this idea. We could go and hire developers to do this, but that’s a pain in the butt, or we could just go to HostGator, pay them a few bucks a month, with one click we install WordPress. Since it’s WordPress, we could do it ourselves and change the headline on the page, be very clear about the service we’re offering, which is, “We will do your marketing automation for you, popups for $99 for setup.” What else would we offer? Content upgrades, I think are really good, but you need to explain what they are. Landing pages for your business. We could create those for 99 bucks.

It’s just a simple service. We put it up on our website, and then we start making calls, sending out emails and looking for customers and all those customers and come to our site understand what we do.

The next thing I might do with that is maybe you write a blog post about popups on the sites that you like that you know that are actually very effective. Like, what’s “The New York Times” doing? And they have been doing a bunch of different experiments on popups. It’d be interesting to see what they’re doing. What are couple of other companies that are doing well with popups. You know what I like? I like Toptal, my sponsor. They have an exit intent pop . . . Just show a bunch of different options and say, “By the way, if you like these, here is this software you can go and use to install it yourself or hire us and we do it.” Now you’ve got some interesting writing on it, you’ve got some interesting content on your site that will bring people over and get customers. What do you think of that business idea, Gideon?

Gideon: I think it’s great.

Andrew: All right. All you have to do if you want to take that business idea or anything else and you want to bring it to life really fast inexpensively is go to hostgator.com/mixergy. They will give you the lowest price that they have possible on the internet and frankly, their prices are already low, so the fact that they’re reducing it even further for us says a lot about how they feel about Mixergy and you’re up and running fast.

Unlimited email addresses, of course, unmetered disk space, free website builder, thousands and thousands of templates. And if you think that the whole thing stinks and that I didn’t explain this right and you’re not happy with them, they’ll even give you a 45-day money-back guarantee, but I’m confident that you’ll be happy with them. So many people have either started on HostGator or switched over to them that I have heard the feedback over the years and I know that you will be enthused. All you have to do is go to hostgator.com/mixergy.

All right. Gideon, coming back to Write Label, what’s the first thing you did? It’s go after iHeart, I imagine, right, and see what they want.

Gideon: [inaudible 00:43:57] iHeart and we said, “We need to set up a meeting with them. I want to do a call first. I want to understand what it is they want. If we can do a quick meeting, that’d be great. And then we’re going to build a prototype because nobody had gone in there with a prototype. And so we’re going to show them exactly how it’s going to look and what it’s going to do.” And that’s what we did.

And they . . . We sat down in this crazy table, this conference table in New York that they must have their shareholder and bondholder meetings and because it looks like the USS Enterprise, this huge white thing and everybody’s got speakers, microphones, and then they’re all these things like stadium seating around. And then like these three huge monitors and were there and like there were four of us on one side and there are eight on the other.

And so we’re talking and we said, “Look, we’ve done a bunch of work. We’ve listened to you. I know that previous management has not been able to deliver anything, but we have a presentation that we want to go through.” And they said, “Well, we have some work that we did as well. Why don’t you guys go first and then we’ll show you kind of our thinking?”

And so we ran them through a series of 13 to 15 slides, exactly how the frontend would look and how it would function and what the results would be back. And they took their presentations and ripped them up and they said, “This is exactly what we want.” And they said, “How quickly can you do it and how much is it going to cost us?”

And so we came up with a low six-figure number and we said, “We can deliver this in six weeks,” and they said, “Okay. We want it delivered. We want it installed in our office in Florida and our inside sales office and we’re going to have to start off with about 50 people using it and we’ll probably double that. You guys got to be ready in six weeks. All right?” “No problem.” And so we went off and we started building it. And of course, we discovered all sorts of problems.

Andrew: Like what? What’s the problem in creating this?

Gideon: The problem was the previous . . . I mean, the way that the software had been designed is first for community site and then retrofitted for commercial site. And the CTO was a nice guy, but he was enterprise-class developer, and so we just needed to make it work and we needed to do it in ways that weren’t going to cause us more trouble down the road. And so just getting him to do it was very challenging, and so we kept having to tell him that we would, you know, hire more resources. I don’t think he ever hired another resource, but we just paid him more and more and . . .

Andrew: And he sat down and had to find out . . . He had to figure out how to create what you were looking for.

Gideon: Yeah. I mean, he was in India, we’re here in the U.S., there is a synchronous . . . I mean, it was sort of a nightmare, but we got it together. We got it working. It was pretty simple, but it taught me one thing that I hadn’t been sure of prior to doing this project from when I came on which was we had to change our technology provider, we needed to hire a CTO who had a lot of experience and pay up for him here in New York and we have to rewrite all the code. And so we did spend about six to eight months doing that. We got all sorts of . . . We got bids from different companies to come and do it for us and we decided we’re just going to do it ourselves. We used our CTO who we hired and then he hired folks from Toptal, your . . .

Andrew: Sponsor.

Gideon: . . . sponsor. They’ve been fantastic. We had a guy in France and a guy in London, not exactly where I thought my Eastern European tech talent was going to be residing, but they were great. We added a guy from Columbia, South America, and we have a few . . . And we just . . . It’s been very challenging for us to find really good technical talent here in New York that are competing with the big banks that can pay huge salaries, and Google and Facebook and everybody else is coming in. And so they’re good people and we make offers and then some come to us, some go to others. We find with Toptal we can find somebody, we can try him out. If we really like them, we can hire him.

Andrew: I should say, toptal.com/mixergy for anyone who’s listening. They get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit.

Gideon: That’s pretty good. That’s a good deal.

Andrew: That is good, right? Eighty hours of these guys’ phenomenal work. So if I understand you right, what they were looking for at iHeartRadio was they said, “We want to go after businesses that don’t have the ability to create their own ads. We need somebody to write the ads. Can you guys do it and give us a portal where our people can go and submit their request?” That’s what they were asking for and that’s what you created.

Gideon: Exactly. So they said, “In this one office with inside sales, we get on average 625 new advertisers a month. Of those 625 some 200 come with their own ads. So now we’re at 425. We can create in-house about 125 ads where the actual salespeople are writing the ads.” They don’t have a creative analysis. All those people are writing the ads, they’re terrible. And so they said, “We have a deficit of 300 that, like, we can’t get them on the air, we can’t book the revenue, like, they go away, it’s a big problem. Can you help us with doing 300 ads a month?”

And that sounded like a great deal doing 300 ads a month. So, we said, “Sure, absolutely.” And we started off doing that. And somebody at some point down there said, “What if we use this in the sales process? Rather than on the post-sale, what if we start using this on the pre-sale and have discussions with people because we’ve been in discussions with these guys and they haven’t moved and they don’t know what their ad would sound like? This looks like it’d be pretty cool.” And they did a couple of those and they worked really well. And so they started doing more and more of them. So not just doing the post-sale, not just when the ad had closed, but during the sales process, getting involved then, and getting the copy developed and people starting to think about what their ad would sound like on the radio, got customers excited and more willing to sign quicker and for more money.

Andrew: Gideon, how did you get all the supply? How did you get the writers, enough writers to create hundreds of ads?

Gideon: Yeah. So we started off by using our, and we still do use our network of comedy writers. And what we did is we had, you know, 10,000 comedy writers and a lot of whom had written a lot of lines. And so what we did, we looked at the data, we said, “Who are the best writers who have written who have gotten the most likes for their ads divided by the number of lines, not ads, but funny lines divided by the number of lines they’ve written? So what’s their yield?”

So we took the top few percent from our community site and moved them over to pro-site. And our thesis was, if you’re smart and you can write and you’re funny, then you’re going to be able to write other types of smart stuff. It was true to a point. There was an issue. But the fact of the matter is that people who were funny who want to write funny verse and funny lines don’t get excited about writing muffler ads for us.

And so we have now built an entire onboarding platform where we can go out and advertise on college campuses, we can advertise through Indeed, through ZipRecruiter, and we can say, “Write . . . Be a copywriter from home, sitting on couch in your pajamas and make money.” And we then bring people through an automated test platform where they have to look at an ad, not a recurrent customer but a real company, go to their website and answer the question or answer that creative brief and create something that we then judge. We put it first through like a Grammarly to see how they did with that and then we’ll read it and we’ll see, did they answer all the questions? Did they repeat the call to action three times as you’re doing when you do your ads? Are they doing things that we know need to happen?”

And we’ve told them what they need to do. If yes, then we can invite them onto the platform and they’re on immediately. They get an email, “Congratulations, you’re now a writer.” As soon as the new alerts come in and we send alerts out every 15 minutes for new projects, they start getting those alerts for the type of project that they’ve tested into, and they’re able to write sort of on a junior level. As they build up more credibility and they get more likes from customers and they get chosen or featured, then they open themselves up to even more and more work.

Andrew: And that’s how you review them. So if I were to use you, I would get a bunch of submissions, the ones that I like, are trigger to you.

Gideon: You help us.

Andrew: Sorry?

Gideon: You help us figure out who’s a good writer.

Andrew: Right. That’s how you know who the good writers are based on what customers are liking.

Gideon: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. What did you do next? So you had one big customer. What did you do to get more customers?

Gideon: So, we had one big customer, and then they wanted . . . They didn’t want us to work with others in radio, and so we kind of only work with smaller plays in radio. And so then we turned to TV. And we also started working with brands. And so ShopRite is a big customer of ours. They’re the largest employer in New Jersey. It’s a $16 billion grocery chain. And we do their in-store circulars, their in-newspapers circulars, going back to my newspaper days. We do their social media. We come up with clever things to say about chicken for Thanksgiving like . . . I mean, it just . . . And some of it is really funny and very clever and it’s just that the level of writing and creativity is so far beyond what it was before, that they’re super excited, their customers are wowed, people are engaging with it more and more and it’s working really well.

Andrew: Where do I see examples of this? I was trying to find them on your website and maybe I just didn’t know where to look.

Gideon: So, the issue is we’re . . . I mean, I can send you some stuff, but our name is Write Label. A few of our customers let us mention who they are, but the work is pretty proprietary because . . .

Andrew: You what I would like to see? So one of the things that I did was I work with Ahrefs to see content on people’s sites and to see what’s working, what’s not. You guys don’t have that much content on your site. I’ll tell you what I would love to see. This is just like an unsolicited idea, but I think it would help me understand what you guys do. If you could even take like podcast ads as they exist today and say, “Here’s how we would have done them better.” If you could take ads that are in circulars today that stink and say, “Here’s how we could do it better.” If you could find content that you’re not at all connected with and say, “Here’s what our writers would have done with it.” That would give me something to look at. It might even give you some content to rank for.

Gideon: That’s really smart. And we also are doing . . . I mean, we’re launching I think next week our case studies in radio and TV and what we’re seeing. I mean, the fact that we’re in the sales process, we’re now seeing a return on investment. So if a project costs $150 or $200, but we’re bringing in $10,000, then we’re seeing a 50X ROI on that project.

Andrew: What about the way that you’re getting customers? You talked to our producer about how you wanted to start reaching out . . . You put together a hit list of ideal customers, and then you were starting to reach out to CEOs and COOs. Did that work going to the top and getting referral down?

Gideon: So I was at a conference, the Vanity Fair conference earlier this week. And that was last week earlier last week in Los Angeles. There were media CEOs there. I went up to them during a lull in the conference, small conference, maybe a few hundred people, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation and said, “I want to talk to you about what we’re doing with branded content with our crowdsource creative platform to create customized ads. We are seeing unbelievable returns on investment where you can run a handful of projects and bringing in a seven-figure client. And especially when you guys get super busy, and you’ve got 5 or 10 of these coming in a week and you only have 3 people on a team.”

And the CEO of this $15 billion global media company said, “I get it.” He goes, “You need to talk to our head of sales. Send me an email with this subject line and I’m going to forward it to him. I’ve got a call with him tomorrow.” I did that. We used consultants to go to people who we know have solid Rolodex and they say, “Here’s a case study of what these guys did in TV or radio. We think this could really work with your streaming video services that’s ad-supported. You guys should talk.” And so I’ve got a call with them. I’ve got a call with the Chief Revenue Officer for the second-largest cable company.

Like, we now have a base of business and the case studies and the way of talking about it that is intriguing to people. We then do with them and say, “Let us prove it to you. We’re going to run a pilot that we designed with you where we understand what the success metrics look like. If we’re going to invest $100,000 in this pilot, we want to be able to close and we’ll do it. Like, our company will invest $100,000. And it’s real money because we have to pay the writers. So we’ll invest the money. We want to see . . . If we’re spending 100 grand, we want to see $500,000 of new closed revenue for you within 60 days. If we do that, are you then interested seeing a 5 to 1 ROI in 60 days? Are you interested in engaging in a contract with us?”

So we’ve learned a lot about . . . You know, we used to just say, “Can we do a pilot?” And then we said, “Well, what if the pilot is good?” And now we’re like, “Since we know, since we have real data, we know exactly how this is going to play out and we know the types of projects to have their different account executives use.” We say, “We’ll run the whole thing for you. You don’t have to lift a finger. We’re going to bring you hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars on a silver platter. All you have to do is say if we’re able to do that, then you will sign a contract with us.

Andrew: You used to just say, “I’m going to run a pilot, and then if you like it, let’s come back and have a conversation.” Now you say, “I’m going to do a pilot for you. What are the triggers that say that this pilot is so successful that you are committing to buying from us?” Got it. And now the pilots are about how do you land business?

Gideon: It works top-down much better than bottom-up. We did bottom up with a major owner of local TV stations and we have these general managers who absolutely love us, the salespeople love us, but we don’t have a corporate champion, and so it’s sort of low on their priority list. They’re like, “Yeah, we hear that 13 of our 200 stations love you guys, but like, who cares?” And we’ve hounded them so much that, you know, we’ve just been relentless with them that they finally conceded and we now have our meeting at the end of November. It’s taken me about four months on this one.

Andrew: Even though you’re already in, you’re saying if you’re in with the people who are using you, it’s not nearly as effective as going to the top, the person who makes the decisions for the people who are going to be using your software.

Gideon: Exactly. Budgets are centralized. I mean, I learned a lot from selling the school systems with my education technology platform that I ran and sold. If you’re selling to centralized budgets, you want to talk to the people who control the centralized budget because otherwise, you can eke out a few hundred bucks or a couple of thousand bucks at the local level, but that’s not the way to build the business efficiently.

Andrew: And so I have . . .

Gideon: I’ve got 200 station groups and we’d like to use you guys and 50 of them. I’ve got . . . I’m probably doing a few hundred grand a month in business with that customer.

Andrew: And the other thing it seems like you learned was helping them sell more is more effective than helping them service their customers, that if you could convince the sales team that you can help them make more money, that seems more effective than convincing them that you could take better care of their customers.

Gideon: I think they like both, but I keep telling them when we put together a sales deck, I work with my sales team here and I keep telling them to stop burying the lead. They’ll have on the last page the results, the financial results, I’m like, “Fucking put that on page one.” Like, all the other stuff is great. It’s awesome that people, you know, loved it, that the customers loved it that, like, saved them time, here’s how many hours a week of time they saved. That’s great and it’s awesome backup. The number one determinant for our success and the reason why I’m so excited about this company is because we are able to move the needle in real ways on sales. And so that should be what we focused on.

Andrew: All right. And let’s close out with this. You were telling me before we started that buying ads online is something that you guys are . . . You guys are trying to integrate with like AdWords and other online ad purchases? What are you doing there?

Gideon: So with AdWords, we are . . . Oh, shoot. I ended up missing another call . . .

Andrew: Oh, no. Because we’re running late.

Gideon: We’re running late. Yeah.

Andrew: Sorry about that. Thanks for starting a little bit later with me too.

Gideon: Yeah, no problem. So with AdWords and with the self-service platforms, we’re able to insert the creative component into the self-service platforms where everybody comes now to create small businesses to advertise on Google and Facebook and Twitter and snap and Spotify but nobody has any idea how to create an ad. And so inserting . . . We’ve developed a set of APIs to plug directly into those systems such that, you know, our service works seamlessly with their programmatic offering.

Andrew: So as soon as I go in there to buy an ad for myself, they will automatically say, “Andrew, we could help you write this ad in a better way.”

Gideon: Yes. And they say, “If you don’t have an ad . . . If you have an ad, great. And you want to . . . If you want to punch it up, you can upload it here. If you don’t have an ad, fill out this creative brief, it takes two minutes, and then we’ll have our writers develop scripts for you. You choose the one you want and we’ll get it produced for you.”

Andrew: All right. There are two websites.

Gideon: Nobody else is offering anything like that.

Andrew: No, not that I know of. I feel like we’re always expected to figure out how to write it ourselves because it’s our business, we’re supposed to know how to do it, but it’s not that easy. As someone who’s been doing ads here as a podcaster for years, I see I’m improving but I also realize I’ve hit some kind of limit. And if it’s all coming just for me it’s not nearly as good as if I get some input from people who’ve had other experiences.

All right. The website that I’m going to need to use is comedywire.com and the parent company is Write Label, Write as I’m write something down, writelabel.com. For anyone who wants to go check out the business go check out writelabel.com. And if you’re looking to hire writers to punch up your work to help you with your toaster speech.

Gideon: Write Label is supposed do that too.

Andrew: Sorry?

Gideon: You can do it all on writelabel.com.

Andrew: You’re saying just go to writelabel.com and then Write Label will send us to the right place.

Gideon: The only reason to go to Comedywire is if you’re a stand-up comedian or an individual. For a podcast, for a business, go to writelabel.com.

Andrew: So that’s where I should go. If I want somebody to take that ad that I just did for ClickFunnels and improve it, Write Label is where I go? All right. I didn’t realize that.

Gideon: [inaudible 01:03:43].

Andrew: All right, writelabel.com. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is HostGator. If you’re looking to have a website hosted, go to hostgator.com/mixergy and especially I like to see people who are creating service businesses like the one that Gideon is running right now. If you’re hosting on HostGator, let me know about it. And number two, ClickFunnels, the place that I go when I need to create a brand new landing page funnel that will turn a stranger into a customer and really where I’m looking to have them do it for me. I’m appreciative of ClickFunnels and go check them out at clickfunnels.com/mixergy. Gideon, thanks so much for sticking with me.

Gideon: Thank you so much.

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

x