Former HomeAway CTO on fear of failure as a first-time CEO and founder

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Joining me is the former CTO of HomeAway. He left that company and was going to take a year off but he could barely make it 10 months before jumping back to work.

Ross Buhrdorf is now the founder of ZenBusiness, a corporate entity creation and management company.

I invited him here to talk about that business, but also HomeAway.

 
Ross Buhrdorf

Ross Buhrdorf

ZenBusiness

Ross Buhrdorf is the founder of ZenBusiness, a corporate entity creation and management company.

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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 for an audience of real entrepreneurs. Joining me is the former Chief Technical Officer of HomeAway, the site where you can go and rent people’s homes when you’re on vacation. He left that company, was going to take some time off and it’s going to be a year, but Ross, you couldn’t even do it, right? You had to jump in even sooner.

Ross: Yeah, I couldn’t make it a year. I mean, at 10 months, you know, I started getting itchy and literally within two weeks of making the decision, I was, you know, in the middle of it already. I mean it goes from, I wouldn’t say day to day, but it goes from, “Oh shit, what did I get into?” to now, this is so very exciting. So I don’t resist it anymore. I just go with it. I’m having a ball.

Andrew: Ross’ voice you just heard is Ross Buhrdorf. He is the founder right now of . . . Founder’s the right term, right?

Ross: Founder and CEO.

Andrew: Founder and CEO of ZenBusiness. ZenBusiness is a site where if you go to their website, you can actually create an LLC for yourself for free. They’ll charge you, of course, whatever state filing fees there are, but they’ll do it for free and then if you need more services, they’ll be there for you to offer low prices and good packages on those. I invited him here to talk about frankly, ZenBusiness, but I’ve got to ask them about HomeAway also. And we could do it all thanks to two phenomenal companies. The first will help you hire great developers. It’s called Toptal and the second will help you host your website right.

Why don’t we just jump into this? I have this one question. Usually, I want to ask what the revenue is and then start off where were you were and how you got here, but you said this one thing that stood out for me. You told our producer that it’s scary to be CEO and I think about, why would you be scared of all people? You had a huge hit under your belt. You have enough money that if the business goes belly under, you could, is it belly under? Whatever. If it fails, you could still survive. What is it about being CEO that makes you nervous, that made you a little scared? To be honest?

Ross: I’ll certainly own it, I think it is scary to be a CEO and if you get in a visit with any, I don’t want to say competent, but any seasoned CEO or someone that’s been around it, they all have a level of fear around it. I mean, you know, especially in the startup space, it’s, you know, you’ve got a great team, but at the same time, you know, you’re the one that’s out raising the money. You’re the one that’s putting your reputation online, and certainly your team is also involved. I don’t want to diminish that, but you know, it’s scary to think of the 20 plus people I’ve got working for me, the reputation. I mean, I will tell you, you know, all of us CEOs are, you know, egomaniacs with a inferiority complex. So, you know, I think it’s . . .

Andrew: What’s your egomaniac part? Mine is I want to leave a legacy that’s going to outlive me and people are going to herald me and talk about how great my work was. What’s yours?

Ross: Yeah. I think mine, the legacy I want to is I’ve got plenty of money, I’ve been successful financially and you know, now I’m very involved in a place and have a lots of other philanthropic stuff that I want to do. And so, you know, that takes more money. I literally during that 10 months I was off I thought, hey, you know, maybe I’ll go back, get my Ph.D. and you know, start working on some of these problems that are facing the world. And I’m involved in a place called the Santa Fe Institute, which I think is really going after these big problems that are facing the next generation, won’t face our generation or starting to face our generation, but certainly the next generation.

And, you know, what I decided is like, man, you know, all these people that I’m interacting with, PhDs, they are way smarter than me. They’ve got a 30 year head start on it and you know, my 30 years of experience is in creating jobs, creating startups, you know, creating commerce, I’ll just go out and do that again, make more money, and then, you know, give it to these causes and yeah, try to save the world.

So I think, you know, it’s not about what you take. I think it’s really about what you give. So my motivation is, you know, being able to give more and impact the world in a positive way while at the same time I do love what I do. I love building teams. And you know, the fear part of me is always the, I guess the fear of failure is always kind of around the corner. I mean that’s what motivates startups. I mean, you’d have to be a real egomaniac honestly to go into a startup and just say, yeah, you know, it’s all going to work out.

Andrew: Okay. All right, so I get it. Let me go back and see how you got here. You had this interesting experience that I did too. When you were a kid, you wanted to get a job and the law said what?

Ross: Said I couldn’t get a job, so I just lied. I think I had to be 16 and I was 13 and I was tall so I just went ahead and lied.

Andrew: I couldn’t believe that was a law. Like if you worked on your parents’ farm, you could do it. Meanwhile, that’s more backbreaking work than, I don’t know, working at McDonald’s, which is what I would have taken.

Ross: And it was in a grocery store.

Andrew: This was at a grocery store. You couldn’t even get that job.

Ross: That’s right.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s shocking. And so you ended up working at a grocery store. How did you get the technical chops to become the CTO of HomeAway?

Ross: You know, I graduated from the University of Texas with a computer science degree that’s top school and I interned at a company called Data General. That was a minicomputers. Think of VAX and VAX and the CDCs. And then I wrote microcode for 68,000 microprocessor for a smart terminal back in those days. And then really that was kind of my interning and then I got hired there as a consultant and then after that I’m trying to think of my next job then was . . .

Andrew: I got it here. Tandem companies then Hal Computers. The interesting thing about you is that your career does take, like, you could see the rungs of the ladder being climbed. You went from being a software engineer to then a VP of engineering at Excite one of those historic companies to then as CTO at Salion, then VP development Between Markets. Then CTO, HomeAway, 2005 is when you started there. Isn’t that the year when it started?

Ross: Yeah.

Andrew: You did.

Ross: They had about five. They had about five months on me and then I came out of another gig. I took a month off. And I started working there. There was like 25 folks, when I hired on there was maybe a handful of people, 5, 10. And then when I started there was 25 when I came on board.

Andrew: So three years before Airbnb.

Ross: Yes.

Andrew: Yeah. And I remember actually being able to travel to South America, or I don’t even know if it was South America, but to different parts of the world and do HomeAway. Was the original idea the same as the one that Airbnb eventually hit on, where you can rent homes for a short period of times, or was it a little bit longer?

Ross: Absolutely. I mean, HomeAway was really a growth equity deal. You know, we raised a ton of money. We raised over $450 million IPO and then sold it to Expedia a couple of years ago for $3.9 billion. But what we did and the innovation and the smart piece was we went around and we bought up all of what I’d consider the mom and pop, you know, the very small startups with VRBO being the biggest one, but that was started by a single individual and his wife, and that was the whole premise. So now what Airbnb did, they certainly disrupted in making it an easy flow. And, you know, taken being part of the transaction. All of the businesses that we purchase usually were subscription models. So I’ll give you the example of VRBO, which was the biggest one when we . . .

Andrew: Acquired a year after HomeAway started. So basically for people who don’t know, HomeAway not only launched in this space, then started buying up all these businesses that were in the space of letting travelers rent homes while they were away. And so you guys just went on an acquisition spree. You were saying 2006, VRBO was one of the acquisitions and I interrupted.

Ross: Before I left, I think we did over 26 acquisitions. So we would buy the biggest vacation rental business, internet business in the market. So, you know, France, Germany, Asia, Australia, and then in the U.S., UK, everything. So we would just go globally and bought everything up. And the innovation that we did is we took all of these small or smaller companies and we put them together so that the traveler could come and have access to all of the inventory and have a seamless experience from that point of view. So, you know, essentially I want to say overnight, which it really was pretty quick within a year, you know, we had aggregated all the inventory on the globe, you know, from a strictly a vacation rental point of view of independent owners owning it.

Andrew: Independent owners.

Ross: We had property [inventory 00:10:13] there also.

Andrew: And in the beginning, was it also individual homes, people renting out their homes when they were away, or was it always people whose homes were just meant to be rented full time?

Ross: It really is. It’s both. So mostly the early on it was predominantly vacation homes. So if you compare HomeAway and Airbnb, right now HomeAway dominates in the vacation rental market, so, you know, Florida, the coasts, Spain, etc. So the vacation spot. What Airbnb did was they disrupted in the urban market, right? So they came in and said, hey, rent your back bedroom or rent your house when you’re not there or, you know, go stay at your boyfriend’s when there’s some hot thing going on in San Francisco or Austin or Chicago and make some extra money.

HomeAway never did the, you know, renting a room and never really went after the . . . I mean since then we’ve or they, I’m no longer there, but you know, we went after the urban market, but really Airbnb had dominated it. So if you look at the revenue mix is HomeAway’s revenue would be 90% vacation spots and dominating it, whereas Airbnb’s would be 90% urban spots, cities.

Andrew: And why did the urban one work so well compared to vacation?

Ross: I don’t think one works any more or any less than the other. I think that what Airbnb did is the same thing that I’m doing with my new businesses. They disrupted in an underserved market, right? No one was there and they disrupted it. And in addition, the minute we started doing all those acquisitions, we’re dragging around 28 acquisitions. Some of the technology is 20 years old, and I’m trying to, you know, integrate it all. So you know, everyone said I always had the hardest job there and I agree. You know, dragging around all of that old technology really weighs you down.

Andrew: Yeah, I remember one of the first times that I decide I’m going to take a break from work, just go off on my own. I went to bedandbreakfast.com, a site that you guys eventually bought. It was even that looked like some mom and pop person created it, but it was nice. It connected to all the local bed and breakfast and sure enough it was a nice experience and you have to take that old site that it was maybe built, I don’t even know what, and connect it into your overall network so that its inventory and the mom and pop bed and breakfast that are on it is connected to HomeAway. That’s what you had to do. By the way, I’m looking at, I love Internet Archive. I’m looking at Internet Archive for like the first version of HomeAway from July 17, 2005.

First of all, it says, it cites research from Forrester and Forrester’s is not capitalized yet. It says, “Vacation home sales has also been one of the strongest segments in the real estate market, accounting for XX billion in sales, 2004.” So you can see that you guys were making an argument to investors to say this is what we’re going after it even though the data wasn’t fully there. All right, so you were in there. What did you learn about entrepreneurship before we talk about why you left by being at such an entrepreneurial environment and then going on an acquisition spree of other entrepreneurial creations?

Ross: I mean, I think of, you know, on the entrepreneurship is the ability. We, earlier we talked about fear, it’s the ability to, you know, do it even though the odds are against you or how are we going to cross that bridge to just do it anyhow, or take the next right step. So not looking at the negative but going after the positive and the opportunity. Even back at excite.com, which for me was really my crucible. You know, I think one of the reasons that I ended up at HomeAway was at excite.com, we did a bunch of acquisitions. I was involved in lots of those and you know, there was so much traffic pouring down on you, you know. It was just like, you know, man, the stock is doing great. We’re all making a bunch of money.

I remember even saying this to my team, I’m pretty sure none of you guys are going to leave and you know, how do we deal with all this shit, you know, how do we deal with all this traffic? And so, you know, it’s good news, bad news story. You know, you have fantastic growth and you have to deal with it. It generates a bunch of opportunities. You know, you can spend money, you can solve really hard engineering problems, the big problems of scale and security, just all those fantastically fun engineering problems and business problems too.

Andrew: What’s the biggest one in your career that you felt like you have to do it but it seems impossible? And by the way, for people who don’t know, Excite was one of the original portals. It offered a search engine. It also offered the first customizable, or maybe one of the first, if not the first customizable home page where you can put your stock ticker, your choice of news on it. And then when you returned back the next day, wouldn’t forget because it kept a cookie on your computer and it would tell you what, it would just bring up your homepage the way that you wanted it with all the data that you like. So what’s one of the things that you had to do at Excite or any of these other companies where you felt like this is impossible but you managed to pull it through?

Ross: You know, I could point out, you know, dozens and dozens of them. I would actually say, you know, I would generalize my answer to even at this startup right now, and certainly at Excite and certainly at HomeAway is, you know, you’re faced with a problem or a failure and you know, potentially customers are screaming and you know, your boss is screaming and everyone’s screaming and they, you know, they’re starting to calculate the revenue that’s not happening.

And, you know, I think that what is true, I still believe it is true is just like, you know what folks, or you know, what team we’ve been faced with plenty of problems. I’ve been placed with plenty of problems in my career, I always seem to get through them. You know, nothing has killed us yet. I’m pretty sure there’s probably is some things that seriously damage businesses and some of them could be technical, but we also see a lot of personal stuff killing businesses right now too which seem to be more fatal than the technical issues.

I mean, so I think it’s just that mentality of, you know, we’ll make it, you know, and we’ll find a path through. I will tell you, we did do two Super Bowl commercials at HomeAway, and those were, you know, technically challenging. I think the first one we did, which was the, you know, the family vacation with Chevy Chase, you know, where we compared hotels to vacation rentals and the traffic that drove and the money we spent and all of the caching and that we went through in was really fun. It was fun. It was stressful. And you know, we came out in the top five. I think we were number two or three as far as performance for the Super Bowl website we got rated and that was our first time out. So that was fun, and that was good, you know, a good thing, a fun thing to do.

Andrew: But it was on you to make sure that the site could hold up considering the onslaught of traffic of people just seeing what it was.

Ross: I mean, we even had to go as far as we had to get our know our bandwidth to our hosting facility. I mean, we had, that cache is all over the globe. I mean, it was, you know, our pages had to have all kinds of tripwires.

Andrew: What do you mean? What’s a tripwire for a webpage?

Ross: Well, I mean like they would, you know, whether they would, they had to all be cached. So essentially had to all be static and so we had to figure out exactly where we would hit the database if at all and what was cached and what we were going to present because literally, the Super Bowl commercial goes on and then you have a bazillion people hitting the website like you’ve never seen before. It literally bandwidth becomes an issue.

Andrew: So I wonder, did you leave because the company was sold to Expedia, or was there some other reason?

Ross: I left because it was sold to Expedia.

Andrew: That was it. It was time to move on. They didn’t need a CTO. They had one.

Ross: Yeah. I mean everybody exited at that time. And I think, you know, it’s, I mean it, you know, we did 25 plus acquisitions. I don’t think we kept a single founder throughout the whole thing. I think we did keep some, definitely kept some great employees for the long haul, and they made a, you know, they did very well. But most of the founders, you know, moved on and we tried to keep a couple of founders just doesn’t work out because it’s your baby and you know, they paid a fortune for the company. And really from an evolutionary point of view, it was time for them to move on. I think they’ve done a great job. I think we handed them a fantastic company.

Andrew: You still had shares in the business at the time of the sale, right?

Ross: Yeah. So it’s all positive from that point of view, but, you know, coming up on 11 years is long enough. And you know, when you’re the behemoth in the marketplace, you just don’t move as fast. You just can’t, you just can’t move as fast as you want to.

Andrew: By the way, the reason I asked, if you still had shares, one of the weirdest things about like researching you and some other guests is, there people throughout the years counting your money essentially in every time you sold shares of HomeAway, there are people counting up how many shares you sold. And sometimes with such ferocity that I thought maybe you just sold everything at that point. This was like an article I read in 2004. It may be sold everything at that point. Maybe you sold everything at this point. Anyway. So, I get a sense of where you are. Let me take a moment. What were you going to say?

Ross: I was an investor also. So not only was I was an early investor plus . . .

Andrews: In HomeAway.

Ross: Yes.

Andrew: Oh wow. Okay. By the way, I interrupted you earlier when you said you made all those acquisitions and you converted them into a subscription model. And I meant to come back to that because I interrupted. What was the subscription model that you implemented?

Ross: Most of them were a subscription model. You know, the original businesses, if you take VRBO for example, you know, I’ll use Dave Clouse, one of the best acquisitions, one of the best human beings that we ever dealt with, absolutely love Dave, and that wasn’t always the case with acquisitions. Dave said, “Hey, I’m going to quit my job, my day job.” This will be perfect for your audience when I have to paid subscriptions coming on the website a day and then, he quit, you know, I think when we bought them, they were the biggest independent of us, vacation rental and you know, it was a subscription model.

Andrew: Meaning, the owner would pay a monthly fee to list on the site and then get. Got it. Okay.

Ross: All the revenue. And what Airbnb did, which I think is a brilliant model is, you know, theirs was a transactional model, you know, they’d get a percentage of the cut. We, certainly did that. There was multiple business models within the HomeAway network and multiple companies. We used, you know, a property manager. So we had all the models that Airbnb did, but although Airbnb’s was a primary, this transaction model, and since then I think HomeAway still does everything, but mostly has moved into a transaction model where they get a piece of the booking.

Andrew: And VRBO I just looked it up. I always forget it’s Vacation Rentals By Owner. That was the site.

Ross: Right. Sorry to use the lingo.

Andrew: No. That’s the way they still use it. It’s still vrbo.com. I still talk about it that way. I know we’ve rented from them before. My wife and I are big travelers and so, I still forget. All right, let me take a moment, talk about my first sponsor and then we’ll come back and find out how you ended up as a new entrepreneur with ZenBusiness again when you said you were going to take some time away.

My first sponsor is a company called Toptal. Let me ask you this. You’ve hired a lot of developers over the years. Toptal is a place to hire developers. What’s one advice that you’d give someone who’s listening to us about how to find the right developer?

Ross: Oh, me?

Andrew: Yeah. I’ll ask you and what kind of make that part of the ad.

Ross: I think the best advice is networked. So if you hire out of your network and then they hire out of their network and you know, you’d get the experience, it multiplies, so you don’t have to take a chance on somebody you don’t know. If you’ve got a good employee that you’re very happy with, they tend to want to work with great engineers and developers.

Andrew: So that’s the thing about Toptal. They have a network already and the idea is the two founders had this network that they kept expanding. They incentivize the people who are the developers in the network to go and bring in their friends to bring in the developers that they admire and they like working with, and then they put them in the Toptal network of developers. When a founder like you or me needs to hire, we can just go to Toptal, tap into their network, talk to someone and say, “Here’s what I’m looking for. Here’s how we operate.” They will find someone often, believe it or not, within days. You get on a call with a developer, do a task, do whatever you want. If you happy with them, you can often get started with them within a day or two.

That’s how fast Toptal is. They are funded by Andreessen Horowitz. They’re making tons of money. They haven’t needed to go in for another round because they’re doing so well. Anyone out there who needs to hire developer, except for you, you probably have a killer network considering all the different entrepreneurs and developers that you’ve worked with over the years. Anyone, except for Ross, who needs to hire a developer should go check out toptal.com/mixergy. When you go there, you’re going to hit that big button. Get on a call with someone to Toptal, tell him what’s you’re looking for, let them find it.

And if you’re happy you can hire them and often get started right away. If you’re not happy with them, hang up, just move on. There’s nothing to lose. And if you decide to hire someone from Toptal, not only will they take all the risk away from you, but also if you pay for 80 hours, they’re going to give you your next 80 hours of developer credit for free. Go get details at toptal.com. Top as in top of your head tal as in talent. toptal.com/mixergy.

All right. So the idea for ZenBusiness came to you from whom? Did we just freeze up? There we go.

Ross: Well . . .

Andrew: Yeah.

Ross: Yeah. You know, I wish, I mean, I don’t know how to wish. It certainly wasn’t this brilliant flash of insight. It was really one of these ideas that I discovered. So I wanted to do a roll up and looking at this space of formation as a roll . . .

Andrew: As in Business Formation.

Ross: Yeah, business formation.

Andrew: And a roll up, meaning go out and buy all the businesses, other smaller companies that are helping startups form their. . . Really?

Ross: Yeah.

Andrew: Because?

Ross: Pardon?

Andrew: Because why would you want to do that? What did you see that I’m not seeing still?

Ross: What I saw was it’s got a great margin business, so it’s got a healthy margin and it’s regional. So what’s great about the LLC business in good and bad is one is when you form an LLC, it’s at the state level and states, so, you know, there’s all 50 states. So what happens is these businesses end up being regional, right? So there are around the capital city and, or they’ll be regional, California, Seattle, etc. So there were regional, it looked like they could be rolled up. Long story short, I went out and looked and learned the business. And what I discovered is that really there’s an underserved segment in the business and it’s the solopreneur segment. You know, small businesses are really not being taken care of from a product and services point of view.

And so when I came out with and said, listen, I’m not going to do a roll up. That’s something I can do later after I’ve created this business, which was ZenBusiness. And what we do is we get companies formed for free. They have to pay the state fees, but we can do the formation. We use technology to do the formation, you know, this being that it’s in 50 states is great for a technology person, right? And we can codify all that. So, you know, with technology we can do it for free.

And then what I discovered is, hey, these businesses are being underserved in the banking, insurance, tax, accounting services and products. And so what we’ve basically created is an SMB platform where everything’s integrated. Once you form all your evidence is there, you never get these nasty letters from the state saying you, you know, geez, you didn’t pay your annual franchise tax. We handle . . .

Andrew: I get those freaking things every year. I have a good accountant. I’m telling you, one of the biggest accounting firms. I said to them, “Guys, I don’t remember this stuff. Can you just make sure to pay? I will pay. Take your best accountant, charge me whatever per hour, per year. I hate how I keep missing this because I don’t look at paper mail. And then I’m always having to pay the penalty. And then I don’t understand what the penalty is for, so then I come back to you guys.” That’s a huge problem. But I saw that on your site that immediately stuck out. I just want someone to say, it’s not like I’m getting away with saving a few hundred bucks, right? That’s all it is.

Ross: That’s right. So what we have is a product called, but you know, everyone that I talked to that’s done a formation, they all have the same thing. And in fact I just got, I’m the CEO of the company, I just got one of those letters from the state, you know, just said, hey, you know . . .

Andrew: You know what, I pay everything on subscription, take my freaking credit card California, every year, charge it or take my bank account and leave me out of it. But you don’t, and if you miss it, there are penalties. And then they send you these threatening letters and you’re like, for what? For some tiny thing.

Ross: It’s great.

Andrew: So you saw that and you said, “Look, all these businesses they’re sole proprietors, they don’t understand this stuff. They can’t get these accountants. They can’t get all this stuff done. I’m going to start serving them.” And if it was the idea that if you start creating their business early and start doing their books and so on, if they take off, then you’ll have these bigger businesses, or was it just to limit yourself to the smaller companies?

Ross: Well, I think it’s both. I mean if you’re going to just from an entrepreneur point of view, you know, I think it’s, you know, it’s kind of a meat grinder to go into the middle of the SMB market, right? Everyone wants to go into the small and medium-size business market because that’s a lot of revenue, the economy is there. But to go into these businesses that are already started is very difficult, right, because they’re very seasoned. So if you’re going to disrupt, just like Airbnb disrupted HomeAway, you want to go into an underserved segment. And so . . .

Andrew: I’m fascinated by you, by the way, I want to understand this. You’re saying is look, the small-medium sized businesses they have a lot of money to spend on business services, but if I start knocking on doors, even if I get the best salespeople out there, these businesses are not going to change accountants because even if they don’t like their accountant or their accounting software, they’re not going to change because they already are in the flow. Very rarely will they change. And then some things are seasonal like I guess tax services are seasonal. That’s when they decide they’re not going to decide it in May if they’ve already had their taxes done in April. And so you think if I get there in the beginning, then I have a big piece of their business later on. Is that right?

Ross: That’s right. And so not only is an underserved is I can go in there and get even a small piece of a small . . . If you look at the latest reports out of the government, the biggest job creator are these small businesses. It is the largest segment of LLC formations is these solopreneurs. So it is a huge part of the market that’s underserved. So you want to go in there, we want to be able to provide the services and products for them, do it for free. It’s hard to beat free, and provide them with a digital dashboard with everything integrated. So you know, the banking statements come to the accountant, the accountant does the taxes. We’ll guarantee that you’ll never get any of these nasty notes. So we do the franchise tax. Everything’s on your dashboard, you get emails, you can go and you can look at it and see if everything is handled for you.

So if you’re going to go after a market, you want to go in and penetrate that market at the top of the funnel, right, where those companies are starting. And then we are fanatical. Zappos is an investor in us.

Andrew: Zappos or Tony Hsieh, the founder?

Ross: Tony Hsieh’s venture fund is an investor, and we are fanatical about support. So the view is, and I can read you a review, I mean we get reviews where 9.2 out of 10 and we, trust me, we abused some of our early customers, but we are fanatical about support. I could read a review right now that almost brings tears to your eyes. It’s like, you know, “I didn’t think I could do this. You guys helped us out. I’m so grateful you exist.”

So that really the point is we get you as you’re coming into form your business. We treat you fantastically. We don’t rip you off and then we give you this great platform and then when you need banking, when you need insurance, it’s not like we’re selling you stuff you don’t need. As you grow or even early on, some businesses you absolutely have to have liability insurance. Every business needs a bank account. Every business needs, you know, accounting. So we provide those at a subscription. So if you pay us $10 a month, or if you want to do an annual $100 a year, we will absolutely make sure you never get a late notice.

Andrew: And I thought I saw that. I pay you guys 10 bucks a month, 120 a year and then you make sure that I don’t get a late notice. Now, by the way, the late fee is what? 150 bucks.

Ross: If you get it, we’ll pay it..

Andrew: If I get it. What else do you do for the 10 bucks a month?

Ross: So you’ve got that. Think of that as our platform fee. So then you have this digital dashboard, you’ve got all your, you know, your evidence in there we’ll send you. We also go out and we check the secretary of state and make sure that no one has taken over your entity. So bad guys can take over your entity. We go out and check it. We make sure it’s still in your name and everything is the same. Nothing’s changed. So that’s part of that $10 worry-free fee. And we do the annual filing. So if you were to go to another provider, they’d actually charge you for your annual franchise filing. That’s included in that 120 bucks. So this is a no-brainer deal.

Andrew: By the way, if I was a little distracted and I didn’t guide the conversation as tightly as I usually would, here’s why. For a second, as soon as you said, “We’re fanatical about customer service,” I said, “I’m going to go test it right now.” So I went to see if I could chat with your people and just like spring a question on them. And you guys use Drift. I think that’s Drift. So immediately I got a response using the bot and I said, I got a trip up this fricken bot so I could bring in a human. And sure enough, a human came in. JC jumped into to chat. I go, all right. My basic test worked out. All right, so you had this idea. You said, “Great, we’re going to do it.” How much of it did you . . . I’m sorry.

Ross: We use Intercom by the way. Love bots.

Andrew: That’s what it is. Oh, right. Intercom also added a bot platform. Okay. So you said, “We’re going to do free filing that brings people in.” How much, what else did you do in that first version?

Ross: Well, really, the first version was just about the free filing, and then there’s a piece of the business which is called registered agent. It’s built into the law. I’m sure you have a registered agent for your LLCs.

The industry overcharges. We charge what is a fair fee for that too. So that’s a subscription piece, and that’s part of the law that’s built in. So registered agents part of it. That’s another subscription. And then, we have subscriptions around banking, accounting, and then insurance and tax prep.

Andrew: Right from the beginning. You had all that right from the beginning?

Ross: No, no, no, no. What we did from the beginning is just formation and the worry-free guarantee and registered agent. Those are the fundamentals of . . .

Andrew: Registered agent seems like a no-brainer because people are charging hundreds of bucks for it and all they do is provide an address in case someone wants to sue the company, right?

Ross: That’s right.

Andrew: That’s all it is. And then their companies charge a bunch of money. I interviewed the founder, I forget who it was, who was doing $20 million a year just doing registered agent, just providing an address and I think maybe even forming LLCs. Okay. So that was the beginning of it. How did you get the first customers?

Ross: Oh man, I mean, I think what we did was we created a bunch of websites. So initially we, you know, we would create, you know, anything and everything, any kind of idea, and that’s why, you know, the goal was let’s see how many potential customers we can abuse. We had all kinds of crazy models like, oh let’s charge them $50 a month and we’ll do absolutely everything and it’ll be, you know, this complete concierge service and you know, and we’d get on the phone and we’d talk to people and you know, it was just, we had lead gen pages. So we would just try anything and everything early on to tap in and figure out the market, and we still do a lot of that.

I mean, I think the thing that I see a lot of entrepreneurs and I try to remind my team and it’s somewhat of a mantra is, you know, we are not so big and we are not so great and grand to think that our website, you know, can’t, you know, is untouchable. Nobody knows about us and very few folks know about us at this point. And what we’re after, the big advantage we have is testing and figuring out where the market fit is.

Andrew: So are you saying that you tested out in a websites with bigger ideas than this just to see if providing more services would make sense?

Ross: No, actually it was just to get this bite in the market around formation and this worry-free guarantee. So we’re really the first ones to come right out of the gate as a subscription model in formation. Some of our competitors, they’ll talk about compliance is the worry-free guarantee that they charge a lot more money and it’s buried in the website. So we really wanted to come out to . . . you made the point, you can be our next salesman. It’s like, you know, I want to do a formation. I don’t want to have to worry about this damn thing. Once I created, I’m used to just paying a regular fee, take it out of my credit card. That was the premise and we had to figure that out.

And you know when you’re forming, it can be confusing. You know, now you know that you need to do that because you’ve gotten a late notice. People that are forming for the first time don’t necessarily know that they’re going to get a late notice.

Andrew: And even if they do, you always think, I can pay my bills. I’m a responsible person. You don’t realize that this stuff just gets lost because the state doesn’t know how to get your attention properly until they want to scare you. So, oh wait, but the original traffic though came from what? Was it paid ads or was it? It was paid ads.

Ross: Oh, sorry. We went after paid and this is the other thing. So we did a lot of research where we’re digital advertising specialists, SEO specialists, and so we really went after this from a digital point of view. There’s a super rich funnel of people creating LLCs, right? Everybody does this online.

Certainly, the market segment that we’re going after, does this online. Millennials do this online. The, you know, the economy is moving to where everybody is a contractor and a consultant, and they need an LLC to protect themselves. So this is a rich funnel, and we just tapped into that funnel, so we had to figure out what’s the messaging to tap into this funnel, what’s the disruptive product’s technology to tap into this funnel and really the piece that we came up with is free and great service, really taking care of the customer and then moving them into other services that they want.

Andrew: The model makes a lot of sense. Free to get started when someone’s starting. That is a clear hook. Then for you to think through, what are some of the things you learned from HomeAway. Subscriptions make sense? Great. Especially in this space because people need the services year after year after year. A great. You added that in. When you say go after paid advertising, that scares me because you have a lot of competitors who are buying a lot of ads and then they charge a bunch. How much does like, what’s that big company name? The zoom, Legal Zoom. They charge 150, 200 bucks to set up an LLC minimum, right?

Ross: At a minimum.

Andrew: At a minimum. So then they have all that money goes into paying for their Google ad. So why did you think that you were going to make paid search work when you’ve got so many competitors?

Ross: Well, you know, it comes back to what I said when I said before is like let’s figure out if there’s a market here and if we can do that. And what we figured out is that there absolutely is a market here. We could do this at an efficient way, at a cost-effective way. We can acquire these customers. And remember it’s the same way that Airbnb disrupted HomeAway in this segment. We compete with Legal Zoom at formation, but Legal Zoom does a whole bunch of other legal stuff. We don’t do any other legal stuff. What we do is we provide services and products for that small business to make them successful after the point. So we only compete with Legal Zoom at formation. It sure is hard to compete with free.

Andrew: Okay, so you’re saying your ads will do better because even if they are advertising right alongside you, you’re saying this is completely free, more clicks come to you, which means Google’s going to show your ads more. So that was your thinking.
Ross: That was certainly my thinking. In addition, if you dig into the data, there is a lot of formations are getting created, so we don’t mean to compete with Legal Zoom. They are the behemoth. They create. They do a great job. You know, I’m not going to, you know, cut them down. They created this market the same way HomeAway created a market for Airbnb. So they’ve created a market that we’re tapping into for a segment that they underserve.

Andrew: Okay. All right.

Ross: Does that make sense?

Andrew: It does.

Ross: And it’s a huge segment by the way.

Andrew: How tough is it to work with the different states to form an LLC, a limited liability company?

Ross: Well, it’s different. I mean it’s different in every state, and some states have really quirky rules. I’m a former CTO and hire a lot of very talented technical people, and we can build robots that can deal with anything the state can throw at us.

Andrew: What is it? Is it filling out the forms on their website, filling out pdfs and mailing them in? What else? What is it?

Ross: Well, let’s see. I think they’re probably, I think there is still one or two states where you fill out pdfs, but most of them are online. So we can build robots and then put APIs on top of that and you know, then have our back office. We do everything. For example, our whole entire back office was built on Salesforce. That’s something I learned from HomeAway is, you know, our whole fulfillments built on Salesforce, our whole marketing cloud. Not a single email goes out that doesn’t go through. I’m sounding like an ad for Salesforce. They charge a fortune, but you know, from a back office scaling point of view, it really works great for us.

Andrew: Wow. So every customer goes through the Salesforce software.

Ross: On the back office.

Andrew: The back office.

Ross: The front end, of course, we, you know, things have changed a lot since I started HomeAway. Everything we do is SaaS based. We do a lot of software development. But what you can do nowadays with Stripe and Salesforce and all of the, you know, Mixpanel, you know, a [real story 00:44:12]. I mean it’s just, it’s amazing what you can do now.

Andrew: All right. Second sponsor, company called HostGator. They kind of have a similar model to you. They didn’t go free, which as I’m talking to you, I wonder why didn’t they? Maybe they should. Basically what they’re doing is they’re offering web hosting for basically free and then as your business gets bigger and you need more services, they are right there for you. You need email marketing? Well, they bought an email marketing company. And so it’s easy to integrate their hosting with their email marketing company. They bought a, I forget what else, but they’ve got all those other services.

So if you’re out there starting a business and you need cheap hosting, that actually works really well, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. Once you go there, you’re going get their lowest price as far as I know, ever or anywhere and you’re going to get tagged as a Mixergy customer, so they’ll take great care of you and truthfully, as your business gets bigger and you want new services, they’re not going to force them on, you’re not going to have to sign up for their email company, but yes, they will be encouraging you to sign up to their emails company to send out email through them, and yes, that’s where they’ll make their money. As you get bigger, they’ll profit.

And if you’re already big and you don’t like your current hosting company, go with the company that can service all these different businesses really well and do it inexpensively. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy, hostgator.com/mixergy, and I always tell my audience, if you’re ever unhappy with any one of my sponsors, let me know. I want to stand there behind them forever because I just believe in these companies. You know more and more I’ll tell you this, more and more podcasters now put music underneath their ads as a way of saying, look, that was the content. Now let’s play music, the stuff that we get paid for, distancing themselves more and more from the ads.

I actually hear some podcasts do recorded ads. No fricking way. If it’s not something that I feel enough pride in talking about myself, I don’t want them here. And if I have to distance myself from the sponsor by putting music underneath it, then they should never be on here. We should be disgusted to take their money. All right, hostgator.com/mixergy. I’m very proud to take their money and I’m very proud to introduce you guys to them.

Ross: Maybe when this gig’s up, you can come and talk to me and we can find you a job.

Andrew: You know what, I kind of was thinking, why didn’t we do the whole, like when I talked to that woman years ago about how much money she was doing just being a registered agent and setting up LLCs for people, that’s such a no-brainer for Mixergy people, right? We should’ve done that.

Ross: Really I was just commenting on your commitment to the business. I mean, that’s the way we feel about it. We’re really, at the end of the day, we are committed to these small businesses and making them successful, not ripping them off, making them comfortable. I mean, think about it when you’re . . . this last review. I don’t know if I can read something to you if that’s too corny, but you know, here’s the last review. Literally, I got two hours ago this came in. It says, “It’s always been a dream to own my own company. The thought of logistics held me back. I contacted Zen and wow, in just matter of days, no hours, my fears were halted. I find it difficult to express the depth of my gratitude, relief and surreal experience Zen provided. I am a hard working woman. With Zen, my dreams became a hassle-free legal reality. It really is that easy. Wow. You don’t have to believe me. Try it for yourself. It’s real.”

So I mean, this is what gets me up, you know, every morning is the ability to really help these solopreneurs, these first-time pet sitters, designers, you know. They deserve the same legal protection that big corporations do and that they should be creating LLCs and they certainly should be creating them with us because we do it for free, and then we protect you once you’re created, not out there to rip you off. And I believe that that, you know, the same way you stand behind your sponsors, that’s the way we want to stand behind the business. I’m not out to, you know, it’s a long haul. If you treat your customers right and you provide a great service, and treat them with respect, and of course, there’s problems trust me . . .

Andrew: I want to know more about how you market, but what do you do that makes you say that you’re offering a Zappos level customer service? And I’ll tell you when I first interviewed Tony Hsieh years ago, he said, “Even if we don’t have shoes, our people, our salespeople on the phone, will then go look online for another store that has those shoes.” And so I tested it. I said, “Tony, I’m putting you on mute. I’m calling up customer service.” And I did it. And anyone can go back and listen to that interview. A woman on the phone told me how I could buy shoes somewhere else that they didn’t have. Do you have an example like that, something that you do that goes out of your way to take care of your clients that other people wouldn’t do?

Ross: Well, I’ll tell you what here’s the fundamental difference just at formation. So if you go to some of the other folks that do do formation, we all have our customer support, people are formation experts, so they are formation experts in the industry. So when someone calls up and has a question and says, hey, how do you do this? How do you do that? We don’t say, hey, go to the website and figure it out yourself. Look at the FAQs. We know the answer no matter how complicated the question is. And we can handle that.

So just from a fundamental point of view, like in the case of this last review, people are fearful, they don’t know what they don’t know and we help them through that. We do it fast, effectively, high level of communication. If there’s any problem, just in general, if there’s any problem with your formation, you know, we’ll bend over backwards to make it right with you.

So I don’t know. We have 5,000 customers. You know, we try to talk to our customers. You saw the chat experience you had. I mean we’re almost, I don’t want to say this, but it’s almost in some cases we’re almost creepy in the way we really want to reach out and get customers and engage them because that’s what this is all about. It’s not about, you know, when you were talking, you said, “Hey, if you guys have trouble with any of my sponsors, let me know. I want to know.” I mean, this is a thing. This is fundamental to the business. I see a lot of entrepreneurs that somehow want to out think it or think it. I mean, you’ve really got to get in touch, get on the ground, talk to customers, figure out what they want.

All these services that we sell, we went out and surveyed our customers and we said, “Hey, do you like our service?” They said yes. “What else do you want?” And they came back and they said, “Well, we want banking and insurance, accounting, tax prep,” and that’s what we offered them. So it’s not like, you know, I cooked this up myself. It’s, you know, we’re really want to be engaged with the customer and I think that pays. I know it pays off in the long haul. We were very engaged with our customers at HomeAway. I mean, I was a customer at HomeAway and I’m a customer of my own service. I eat my own dog food.

Andrew: I’m surprised by the way that you mentioned how many customers you have. One of the big notes that I had was he is not willing to say how many customers he has. And I’m glad that you feel comfortable sharing that number with us.

Ross: We just started March.

Andrew: Started March of this year, 2018.

Ross: Yep.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s phenomenal. Revenue. I do have the revenue number, but I promised I wouldn’t say it unless you felt comfortable saying it.

Ross: Yeah. We’re over 5,000 customers and growing very fast.

Andrew: And you’re not going to say, would you say the revenue number?

Ross: No.

Andrew: No. All right, I’ve got that here in front of me, but it is recurring revenue largely.

Ross: Majority of it is recurring revenue.

Andrew: All right. So we talked about paid advertising being the biggest source. You’ve also done some affiliate programs. What have you done, and is that okay working for you?

Ross: I think affiliate, you know, from a digital marketing point of view, I think affiliates, it’s one big basket, so you need to do everything. So I think affiliates can drive some traffic. Of course, prior to going in with an affiliate, you need to know what you can drive traffic at because that kind of sets the bar and then anything south of that from a [CAC 00:52:43] point of view is, is money well spent. So I think, affiliates, you know can play . . .

Andrew: Do you go after affiliates individually? Are you partnering up with a company that gets you affiliates?

Ross: We partner up with big affiliates that have multiple websites, so there’s multiple of them that we do.

Andrew: Got it. Are you guys reaching out to those affiliates working out a deal one on one?

Ross: Yes.

Andrew: Got it. Okay. How significant is that for customers, small percentage, big percentage?

Ross: Small.

Andrew: Small. And then referring from referrals from existing customers. Do you do anything to encourage more of that?

Ross: Yeah. You get a $25 gift certificate with Amazon on both sides. So as a customer you get $25 gift certificate and then the new customer that comes in gets $25 gift certificate. And we use a product out of the UK called Mention Me. I’m an investor in that one. Those are former HomeAway people, employees and they do a referral program.

Andrew: Dude, I’m smiling. I’ll tell you why I’m smiling. You said, “We have experts.” So I go, “All right, let me go check in.” So I asked my question and again I get this time the bot answers with, we’ll be back with you soon. Enter your email address. So I did and I thought, oh, I’m not going to get a response. And then immediately JC jumps back in there and this time he knows my name, Andrew, because I typed in Andrew my email address. And I said, “I’m going to throw him a little bit of a curveball. Should I incorporate in New York if I’m in California?” I wanted to see what he would say to that. So first question from him was, tell me a little bit about your business. Give me some context. I thought, oh, interesting. He’s not just going to like throw me a link to something, he wants to know.

And then he comes in with a smart response that I wish I knew when I screwed up and I incorporated outside of California, which was, first of all, he says, so New York and California are weird birds. I say that because both have odd requirements. For example, in California, you will be required to file a statement of information within 90 days of incorporation and it could cost an additional 800 bucks. Which I didn’t know when I first started, like what? What am I saving then by doing that? In New York, you have a publication requirement where you have to physically publish your name it goes on, but you could see this guy is actually coming in with a smart response. All right.

Ross: You want to know something?

Andrew: Yes.

Ross: Completely unscripted JC’s on chat. Did you know he’s a founder of the company also?

Andrew: No I didn’t. Is he the guy who came? Oh, it actually shows it right there. He’s the founder of the company. He is in Austin, Texas. It’s 5:00 p.m. there, and he’s a Cleveland’s sports fan. Got it, got it. No, I didn’t realize that. I’m going to tell him I’m on an interview with, oh wait, I’ve got to spell your last name right. B-U-H-R-D-O-R-F. I had to test you guys. Hey, we talked a lot about the good stuff that happened. Let’s talk about a mistake to make sure that people see that this wasn’t just like coasting to success. There was a mobile app. What happened with the mobile app?

Ross: Ah, fantastic. So we had this great idea and, you know, like any great CEO, you know, if they’re listening is you want to take credit for all the good ideas and then find someone to blame for the [inaudible 00:56:06] certainly my strategy jokingly, but the mobile app was all mine. I said, you know, what, people need to know if they’re in good standing or not, and we’ve got all this high powered technology, let’s go out, pull all the secretary state data, you know, people will download a mobile app and then they can check the status of their entity and see if it’s in good standing, see if all the information is correct, and then we’ll upsell them into all these services, etc. We did that, we built that. It was a complete disaster.

One, it’s like, how do you get people to download the app? How do you do the messaging around all of that? I mean, it’s like, you know, in hindsight it’s two steps removed from, you know, the real problem, which is, you know, what the business is now.

So in one sense, it was good in that we learned a lot. We learned what not to do, we learned a lot about technology, we learned more about the business and the industry and, you know, I still, we have that technology. That’s one of the things that as I told you with the worry-free guarantee, we’re rolling out a feature where it will periodically on a quarterly basis, maybe we’ll even do it monthly. It doesn’t matter. You know, we’ll go out and check and make sure your entity’s in good standing. It’s not a real, it’s not like an official letter from the state, but it is, you know, we’ll knock up against the database and say, hey, you’re in good standing. You, here’s your entity, does it look or we can also notice if anything’s changed from a security point of view. So that came out of that technology.

Andrew: But the app didn’t work because . . .

Ross: Because you can’t get anybody to . . . It’s too hard of an idea.

Andrew: To download the app in order to do this.

Ross: Yeah. No one cared. I mean, it’s too hard to market to, and I mean, I would say, you know, it really is one of these things where, I mean, I certainly think that there’s, you know, there’s disruptive ideas. I’m not a believer. I study innovation at the Santa Fe Institute, which is one of the things that I’m very interested in. I really do believe that you know, the kind of innovation we see in technology is, you know, what I call a combination innovation where, you know, you take a piece from here and a piece from there and you put it together in a novel way.

You know, in the case of HomeAway, we took what was going on already. Our big innovation was to make the biggest marketplace. Was to pull them all together, make it really convenient and easy for the traveler to pull it together. In the case of what we’re doing in ZenBusiness, the big, the big innovation is we’re disrupting with price and then we’re pulling it all together into a single integrated platform, so everything’s easy, right?

I mean, insurance is a commodity now we can pick, we’ll pick the best vendor. Banking is a commodity. You know, accounting, I’m not sure. It’s certainly not in a commodity, you know, but if you provide great service, integrated with all your banking, make it so it’s hassle-free and everything is there available, you know, at your fingertips digitally. Now, that’s an innovation. That’s what people will want to do and use in a small business. So those are the innovations.

You know, I think the, with the mobile app, I just think it was a step too far as far as you know, getting people that already have businesses to download it, that’s a hard message to sell. And so we basically couldn’t get anybody to download it or use it.

Andrew: All right. I’ve been looking at some of the other competitors as we’re talking. First of all, by the way, JC was having some fun with me too. I told him that I was on with you. He goes, “Who is that guy? I don’t know him.” I thought, well maybe I’ve got a liar here and then went back to your team page, and of course I saw your photo and I realized he was just putting me on. And then I started looking to see who are people comparing you guys to. And the one company that comes up a bunch is Stripe’s Atlas Service, but I understand the difference. Atlas charges $500. They’re aiming largely at people internationally. Atlas focuses on Delaware corporations, right?

Ross: Yep.

Andrew: And that’s what they’re aiming for. And then . . .

Ross: I think Atlas is Valley-based startups.

Andrew: They want more international I feel like. Like the companies that I think are interested in this are people who can’t get U.S. type services, who then need to incorporate in the U.S. and they want to make it easy for them. But they’re also doing registered agent. They’re doing a bunch of other stuff, but it’s like this big package deal. If you want to start collecting payments from Stripe and you’re having trouble, this could be an easy way to do it.

Ross: I do have thoughts on that. I think Stripe Atlas does a great job what they’re doing, but remember their core business is, you know, being a payment provider, right? That’s their core business. And so our core business is an SMB platform to make solopreneur, small business moving upstream as you said, businesses get bigger and bigger. We want to be that platform. Formation is just one piece of it. So our business is that small business platform that gets the company at formation and then takes them through their entire life cycle.

Andrew: You know what I feel like would be useful here, I’m getting a little more excited about your business than I usually do. I’m supposed to be finding out what’s working for you and I think we’ve done a good job there, but there’s something that just keeps going through my head. I feel like you out there speaking about entrepreneurship or your company being this leader in getting more businesses started and talking about entrepreneurship as a way of life is a really good approach to get people to pay attention.

Kind of like, did you see what David Hauser and the guys over at Grasshopper did years ago when they were selling phone services to entrepreneurs? They weren’t talking about phone services entrepreneurs, they were talking about the value of being an entrepreneur in the world and creating these music videos about entrepreneurship and then once you started your company, you pay attention to their phone business. They didn’t have a direct connection, I don’t think between product and that messaging, but that messaging in your product feels like such a natural fit, such a natural fit. What do you think of that?

Ross: I agree. I mean we’re here to make small businesses successful in that, you know, fundamentally that’s the big vision message. You know, all of the tactics of getting them at formation, that’s the right time to get them and do a great job of it and then continue to do a great job providing the best services and products along the way. So I absolutely agree. And I think it’s just fundamental to. I mean, we just, you know, you really have to go back to every single entrepreneur should have a legal entity to protect them. Everyone else.

Andrew: You know what? I am such a big believer in that. I think business cards and all that other stuff to waste time with is meaningless. But once I get the legal entity to protect myself, I feel so much more empowered to say things as a business owner, to sign agreements, then it’s no longer me. Then I have this FU, sue me, right? And then you’re suing my company and if my company goes under, fine, but you’re not going to put me in personal bankruptcy because it’s something that I put up on a website somewhere.

Ross: That’s right. And it’s a fantastic law. I mean, the foundation of commerce in the U.S. is based on this great law.

Andrew: And so that’s why my company’s called the Andrew Warner Company, LLC. I didn’t even know what the business would be, but I said, “Whatever I try, I don’t want anyone suing me. I got too much to lose here.” Obviously, there are ways for people to pierce the corporate veil, but it gives you a lot of protection. All right, for anyone who wants to go check out your website, it’s zenbusiness.com. Before I close this out, I noticed you have a tattoo on your arm. I’ve been wondering whether I should ask you about it. I feel comfortable enough to ask you.

Ross: Oh my God, yes.

Andrew: What is it?

Ross: Do you want to see it?

Andrew: Yeah.

Ross: Let’s see. Can we do it here?

Andrew: Yeah. Just bring it up a little bit higher. What does that say?

Ross: Let me take my watch off here.

Andrew: Fear is a liar. I feel that too. Tell me about that. Why do you say fear is a liar?

Ross: Well, I mean, I just think, you know, so many people will hold themselves up in life and in business because they’re now paying attention to fear. I mean, in the . . .

Andrew: Have you done that? When fear lies to you, what are the lies that it’s told you?

Ross: You know, I can’t do it, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good looking enough, I’m not educated enough.

Andrew: And why does it say that to you in reference to like starting ZenBusiness or something else?

Ross: Well, I mean, I think it’s just in business. I mean, you know, I think it’s just the standard imposter. The imposter thing and I think especially, you know, especially with men. I’m sure women have this, but you know, men are brought up, you know, to go out and hunt and kill . . .

Andrew: And pretend it doesn’t hurt.

Ross: Yeah. Pretend it doesn’t hurt. And I think, you know, the deal with fear is that I think it’s probably useful when lions were chasing you or you know when you’re hunting elephants or whatever or mastodons. But right now it’s not particularly useful to pay attention to. And I see the difference between successful entrepreneurs and just people, in general, is if you pay attention to that fear, it can drive some pretty bad decisions. And so if you want to be untethered in life in whatever you do, you just can’t pay attention to it.

And I just don’t . . . I mean, I’m not sure if I believe someone that says that they don’t have fear. I think maybe that that would be a maybe a sociopath in some sense or egomaniac or something, you know, I don’t think it’s normal. So you know, really this tattoos just to remind me, you know, hey Ross, just keep moving forward and do the next right thing and, and you know, make the best decision you can with what you’ve got. Trust your people, trust your team, you know, and you know, try to make the world a better place. And I think, you know, kind of the opposite of that is fear.

Andrew: I’m so glad that I asked. It seemed a little bit personal and off topic, but I saw like something under your watch and I’m glad I brought it up. Zenbusiness.com for everyone to go check out. And of course, I want to thank my two sponsors hosting company, hostgator.com. And if you’re hiring developers, go check out toptal.com. Wait, hostgator.com/mixergy and toptal.com/mixergy M-I-X-E-R-G-Y. All right, thanks so much for doing this interview.

Ross: Great, thank you. Great time.

Andrew: Same here.

Ross: Bye.

Andrew: Bye, everyone.

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