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Episode #49: with Brendan Yell

19 Aug, 2020 | 38 mins 27 secs

On this episode we interview Brendan Yell, Director of Twilio Startups and Startup Grind. We talk about his experience growing a successful business, the benefits of working in Newcastle and advice he gives to startup companies looking to scale.

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  • Transcription:

    welcome to tech people today we’ve got brendan yell director apac and us west coast for twilio startups when welcome brendan cool thanks james great to be here hey good to have you on uh i’ve known you for a number of years now from the early days of new e startups for those that don’t know who you are let me give people an overview of who you are and let’s start there and then we’ll go into your backstory because that’s pretty interesting story yeah sure um so i currently run the startup program for twilio but i i don’t like the term but i suppose you could call me a serial entrepreneur i’ve been a founder sort of a tech founder sort of most of my career decided to take a little break from doing that uh went on tour with a rock band called inxs and then got involved with startups and just felt like i had something to offer and i love seeing people get things going so it’s i think i’ve got the best job in the world yeah nice for a best job in the world how do we get to there like that didn’t come by choice not by chance sorry you’ve obviously had a really strong backstory which put you in a position to grab a roll like this mate if we can go back in time how did it all start out well where i ended up well after taking a break um i weirdly i remember there’s a newcastle-based accelerator called slingshot yeah they heard i was living in the area and asked me to mentor i didn’t even really know what that was um but mentored batch one of slingshot up here in newcastle when that program finished one of the startups said to me so yelly what do we do now and i’m like i don’t know like uh like demo day i don’t know i’ve never been involved in one of these accelerated programs before however techcrunch disrupt is on in two weeks why don’t we all go and exhibit techcrunch disrupt in startup valley i’ve done that before i can guide you let’s do it so i took four of the teams over to san francisco we rented a house in a shitty little neighborhood but it was near the convention center they all exhibited at startup alley and when i was there i met some of the people from cengrid uh now sangria ended up getting acquired by tullio so about six months later they reached out to me and they said look you seem to love startups you seem to happy to give to the community we’re looking for your role um we know you’re based in australia but would you like to do it and that’s kind of how it all happens so if it hadn’t been for slingshot uh and um just giving i’m not i didn’t have any equity in these startups i just wanted to help them out and i think sometimes if you go in with the attitude of how can you help people good things will happen you don’t know what’s going to happen good things will happen so it actually really all comes back to slingshot so i’m very very thankful for uh for working with those guys and i’ve still have a great connection with them i helped mentor with the qantas accelerator that they ran uh and they’re still very much based here in newcastle yeah trent and craig have done a lot to the area i probably don’t get the acknowledgement they deserve right um it’s not easy to try to run something out of newcastle there’s obviously easier options to go running in new sydney melbourne brisbane in australia or even bigger if you go internationally but they’ve made a real play to try to try to help the area and who are the who are the four companies in that in number one remember i’m not sure if any other there was there was fusion um who was there there was the sports database one which i think the other ones were um but they were great founders uh you know especially with trent and craig setting up slingshot here you know i think it’s more accepted now to be outside of silicon valley to be outside of sydney when they did it it was a bit you know it was it was everyone was unsure whether it was going to work but when they had the demo day up here in newcastle and all the teams presented they had people from all the top vcs from sydney all came up to newcastle um to watch the demo day so look newcastle has got a lot going for it the university i think is a massive asset and i think we should always think back to the university this is a tech business you need smart people to rebuild these things and we’re competing not just with sydney or silicon valley but with startup ecosystems all around the world there are startups in myanmar thailand vietnam malaysia singapore and then of course all the usual suspects tel aviv san francisco new york los angeles seattle so but you can run a startup from anywhere these days i think that’s what’s awesome there’s no doubt during this period uh that is even more apparent that it just doesn’t matter where you are i mean you’ve got canva now what six billion dollar company based in sydney have no offices really outside uh you know no offices in the us they have no plans to do that and they run this global company from surrey hills so you can do it from anywhere these days yeah i was about to touch on that it made this the pandemic that’s gone on i i know there’s a lot definitely more companies that are accepting from working from home you’re obviously working with a startup team and they tend to be more uh forward thinking when it’s coming to these things anyway but more traditional companies are starting to accept working from home as normal practice do you think that will on that talent part or starting a company how do you think that will affect you know going forward oh i think uh we’re going to see long-term changes around that i think the fact that you can do your job from anywhere i mean we have a distributed team now we plan to get together hopefully in january next year although if that’s unlikely to happen funny enough we’re planning to have like a five-hour zoom call in the next couple of weeks just to build that sort of that sort of team uh to have everyone aligned in the same way but there’s no doubt you know why would you be in a high rent uh apartment in sydney when you don’t need to be you know why you could have a a better lifestyle more affordable and there’s great talent everywhere it’s not limited to the big cities uh and if you can hire these people at a lower cost because they’re distributed now and maybe they just come in twice a year into the office you know i think it’s a i think that change is gonna stay you’ve got really good exposure to the us in newcastle we’re always candidates short from a tech perspective not enough tech talent in newcastle for local businesses do you think u.s companies will become a competitor for our talent as well do you think there’s there’ll be opportunities for usd uh companies in the us paying usd to people from australia to work remotely do you think that will become an issue for us as far as competitive talent yeah absolutely and it’s going to go both ways we could hire you could hire a marketing you know digital marketing expert in austin texas or you know uh twilio could hire someone in lake macquarie so it’s going to go both ways yeah i just think that that usd and the differentiator there they might be able to pick up somebody cheaper right and i think it’ll be interesting i mean with the san francisco-based companies the biggest problem is this comp uh competition for talent that’s wiley’s facebook google they all offer these ridiculous perks and free snacks and gym memberships and all these things because they’re competing so hard for talent i was on a call with san francisco this morning and the comment was about san francisco rents are plummeting they are falling through the floor because no one wants no one needs to be there anymore in fact i’ve got a friend of mine who works at zendesk yeah he is now doing month by month airbnb is just traveling around the country because he doesn’t need to be in san francisco anymore fantastic and that’d be cheaper than the rental much much cheaper i mean the rents i mean i lived there in 2004 to about 2006. uh the the rents were much cheaper but now they i mean until recently they were just like absolutely ridiculous so why do you need to be there i mean is it access to capital are they smarter people there none of those things really apply anymore i mean if you look at the top four vc firms in australia so blackbird airtree square peg right click uh they’ve now got a combined about four and a half billion dollars in capital i mean their biggest problem is finding startups to deploy it to yeah you have to deploy the capital that’s their model they can’t just sit on it you know you used to go to san francisco for capital now we had capital here in australia but it was all very much geared around real estate and to some degree it still is definitely newcastle right definitely right so so now we do have vcs in australia with capital but also understand the business they understand the tech business they understand sas they understand customer acquisition they understand these models so that’s a great opportunity for us you don’t need to go to the value to get that capital anymore sometimes i think we’re a little too reliant on capital and vcs and maybe that’s a media thing you know people read an article oh two guys in brisbane raised five million bucks on an idea now usually when you dig into that article it’s never actually the case but people are like well i’ve got an idea where’s my five million bucks you know and they have these unrealistic expectations so i do feel sometimes founders don’t get far enough along just bootstrapping their own business before they go and raise capital yeah you should be able to get to a place where you’ve built a product got some customers and really what you need the capital for is to like throw fuel on that fire and really blow it up yeah i think that that ideas is you know everyone’s got ideas but it’s the execution part right absolutely and it takes it takes something to actually pull that together right and you you do see those people that have had success bootstrapping to a point you know that they’ve had to grind and find a way to make it work find a way to get those first customers and then as you said the fuel on the fire with the money as opposed to oh i need the money to build a team to build a product to them find the customers and yeah it’s a much riskier play right well it is all about risk and being a founder is not for everybody really you might want to work in a high growth company like a twilio or a zen desk or a sales force or something like that but being a founder where you’re sitting in a room by yourself trying to build something while you’re not getting paid i remember i had a day with shop3 which i founded back in 1999 where i’d mucked something up in the code i’d worked all day now at the end of that day i was actually behind where i’d started from now not only was i behind i didn’t get paid as well for that day and it’s depressing you’re like my mate over there at westpac he got paid i didn’t get paid i worked my butt off and i’ve still got to fix this stuff tomorrow so it’s really hard and you have moments where you’re like why am i doing this i should have just gone to deloitte and got a nice little job and wear a suit and go in and get paid every month and not have to stress about it all yeah so it’s not for everybody but if you do want to take that risk and build something you can do it yeah a lot of the a lot of people i work with a lot of people that listen to the podcast are tech talent or tech newcastle most of them are working for a company not their own company but there’s a lot of them i speak to that have really good ideas of really good talent and you know they work on something on the side how do you feel about that working on something on the side while you’re employed you know building something uh building something that you know that you’re doing after hours a bit of a pet project and then sort of seeing how that goes is that is that something you think is a positive way of looking at it or is that you’d rather see somebody all in i honestly think everybody should have some sort of side hustle yeah they’re thinking about um currently i reacquired the name shop3.com i’m rebuilding that as a side hustle i haven’t really told anyone about it but i’m doing it um our team of five startup people right now three of us are are building us i have a little side hustle weirdly the other two i put a note in the team doc this morning just saying hey molly and frank i want you to start thinking about an idea i want you to build a pitch deck for that idea just it keeps you in touch with what it’s like to be a founder i think when you step away sometimes and startups often the startup ecosystems have people around it and they’re all necessary people subject matter experts and vcs and then mentors and advisors and angels all these sort of people sometimes they forget actually what it’s like to be a founder and how hard it is so i think by having that side hustle it just kind of keeps you thinking so i would highly recommend it for everybody i mean if you think about the startup campify born here out in newcastle those guys had that idea for quite a while and it wasn’t until the rma accelerator came along they’re like hey we could make this work and in fact through the program they still work their day jobs and it wasn’t until it started to move a little bit they went no we’re committing to this now so campfire great success story out of newcastle really did start off as a side hustle yeah left to go with the same thing with kevin as well like another they’re probably two of the biggest success stories in newcastle as well yeah i know exact same thing there kevin was employed locally here and yeah same thing so i like that i think also there’s a lot of employers that like tinkerers so people that you know if you’re a dev you don’t just come to work and you’re a dev and then outside of work okay i’m done with that but the people that are building their own little projects on the side it’s uh it’s the easiest way to you know continue to grow but also for junior people it’s the easiest way to show that you’ve got some skills right yeah and it depends on your risk profile so justin from campfire was really conservative in the early days about whether to give up his day job because he was married and had a mortgage now when i started shop free i was single and lived at home with my parents so my risk profile was very different let’s say to what it is now where i’m married and have three kids and have a mortgage so your ability sometimes like is it harder to do a startup when you’ve got married married and kids and mortgage yeah it is it absolutely is doesn’t mean you can’t do it but you have to kind of manage it a little bit different way that if you’re 20 year university you’re living at home with mom and dad and if it all turns to turns to [ __ ] well everything’s okay yeah i think people i agree 100 and but i do also think that there’s once you’ve got those people a little bit older yeah you might have mortgaged your kids like you’ve also built up a wealth of experience like there’s a there’s this untapped talent pool there where people are like oh to be a founder you’ve got to be a hoodie wearing you know skate shoes wearing you know young 20 year old that you know is a dev and that that’s the only way right it’s where there’s these people a little bit older more experienced you’ve got all the skills in the world you’ve learnt mistakes maybe not to do as well and if companies can sort of tap into that sort of talent or skill set and there’s plenty of options there or plenty of opportunity and a network as well yeah your network is super important now do i know the marketing director of coca-cola in australia no i don’t how long do you think it would take me an email to find that person through my network i’m telling you not very long i’ll probably do it before the end of the podcast because i know people i’ve built relationships over years if i’m a startup that has something for coca-cola now that might take me months to track that person down to get a meeting however you know with a bit of asian experience and network you know i could email my buddy andrew lockwood who’s been in media all his life he would know that person i could have a uh not only know who that person is i could have a warm intro to that person you know within an hour very very different speed is really important in startups it is a race and that you know if it takes you three months to get that first contract as opposed to three years very different results right so the speed aspect is important and network is important you know i mentor around 300 startups a year around around the world i host the pitch competition at web summit in portugal the rise in hong kong collision in toronto canada and all of these startups a lot of the mentoring i do is just connecting them to other people that can help them out you know i’d say 90 of the mentoring is just connecting them to other people you should go talk to these people have you seen what they’ve done go copy their customer acquisition model um usually ten percent of the staffs and maybe are like oh i know this space i can help you out but most of it is me connecting them to other people that can help them out because i’ve got a network and they don’t yeah nice now you mentioned shop free a couple of times for those that don’t know you know your story around the shop free can you give people a quick overview yeah so shop3 was a company i started in 1999 it was my second company i was in a radio station in melbourne helping them with their website and i saw this opportunity they had a whole lot of uh they had packets of chips there and i was like why are there chips here what are you doing you give them away and they’re like yeah we give them away i’m like what on air and they’re like no we drive around and we give them out at events and i was like okay why do you do that they’re like no brands pay us to give away samples and in fact we’re always getting requests to give away samples but we can only fit so many in the in the four drives we send around and i suppose i’m always interested where there’s a demand for something that’s not being fulfilled so i had the idea to give away samples on the internet and i did a little sort of you know back of napkin kind of thing i said okay well if they’re handing out samples at a train station they’ve got to put a person there have a supervisor deliver the samples probably pay the train station i figured out it was probably costing them about three dollars per sample to get that into someone’s hand yet when they walk down the street they weren’t into that sample that would go in the bin and i figured if i could send it to someone a dollar and i could um you know i would get sort of you know the company would pay to have that sample distributed that’s a dollar and then i thought a dollar for me i thought this is a business so within three months i really like absolutely did a minimum viable product the lean startup thing wasn’t a thing then i just thought the idea was that good that i had to rush it to market in three months i’ve got it launched and i launched it in uh august 1999 uh same month as google and uh it kind of took off we had a lot of a lot of free publicity we’re on a current affair and say tonight and i did interviews with people like darren hinch uh abc news we were kind of everywhere we got a lot of free press so that started in australia and then i took that to the us i had to acquire the domain name shotfree.com how much was that back in the days well while i was trying to require it someone bought and sold it for 125 grand so i’m like i’m out yeah however i kept at it and this company that had bought the name who were trying to set up like a shopify kind of thing they ended up choosing a different name which was free commerce instead of shop free i bought that one for 14 000 us dollars and when they agreed to the amount i couldn’t like my fingers wouldn’t move i couldn’t type it in quick enough and i knew that by having a great domain name you know the three biggest words and domains are sex sharp and free well we had two of those we thought that was pretty good so yeah i did that what you know a lot of aussies do which is you know i moved to san francisco because i thought that’s what i needed to do funny enough when i got to san francisco i realized that all of shopfree’s clients were direct marketing agencies they were all in new york yeah so i was actually in the wrong spot you know you got to go where your customers are however i love this you know the san francisco scene it was just it was uh it was so much fun we were at the google float party yeah i actually bought the shares or 53 dollars that day they’re now at 1500 so i should have spent some money on some google shares but just being there a part of that that that ecosystem was amazing and i think what was really interesting because you’re hanging out like you’re brushing shoulders with millionaires and billionaires and it seems really strange but in that world especially with like larry and sergey at google currency in that world was ideas like what are you working on like what are you trying to do like money was irrelevant i think there was this assumption that if you’re here everyone’s going to be fine financially so the currency for them was what’s your what’s your idea what do you think the opportunity is um so that was a really amazing thing to be a part of and see yeah it’s nice it’s a completely different to most places right where it’s you know and so how much money do you have and all the all the other questions about how busy house and whereas the actual ideas and the fact that they they’ve got the smarts to execute on those type of ideas is phenomenal yeah and you roll into that in australia where we have a little bit of this sort of tall puppy syndrome yeah there’s a guy i know who did very well at a buying and selling businesses guy called brad sugars now brad lives on the gold coast and he also had a house in l.a he owned a yellow ferrari in both places he was stopped at the lights one time in l.a and this homeless guy walks across and he’s kind of feeling a little guilty right he’s a homeless guy and he’s in a yellow ferrari and the homeless guy goes well done mate that’s awesome love you know love your work he said the same thing happened on the gold coast guy well past wanker you know just a very different attitude so you know i think sometimes we should look to see what the opportunity is as opposed to trying to sort of knock people down because uh building a business is hard and it’s very hard to do do it by yourself i remember having many moments with shot free where i just felt like i was packing into a scrum like a football scrum but i was the only one there yeah it was just me i was like come on you could do this so you had those moments and that emotional rollercoaster of a startup that happens like month to month but it happens week to week but it happens hour to hour yeah you know it’s a really fast emotional roller coasters you have wins you have losses but you’re just moving forward you know they often say uh running is like the doubt of falling each time by by taking another step i mean that’s probably the best analogy for for starting a company i could find yeah right nice and then uh so you’re in san fran company was building and then you’re able to exit i had a funny exit um we licensed the database we had a database of close to a million we licensed that off to an agency um they ran that for five years they paid us royalties and at the end of five years the domain name came back to me so it was kind of cool we realized that we actually didn’t need to be in san francisco as well and uh when rents were high our customers are in new york they didn’t even really know where we were they didn’t really care we had a lot of deals with the affiliate agencies so that would you know it just didn’t matter where we were so before we left for san francisco my wife and i bought a place in bonnell’s bay just as a like i don’t know if it was an investment it was just like well we’ll have somewhere if we get back so we got back from uh from san francisco and thought we’ll just rent an apartment in north sydney and sydney real estate had gone nuts and we’re like we’ll just go move to bottles bay and it was very very strange like being out of sydney i was in that bubble for so long and it took me a while to adjust to it uh and it’s just the best thing we’ve ever done and we’re now in bright borders you know the kids can go paddling in their kayaks you know from the backyard so i think it’s the best of both worlds i did when i moved here try to sort of seek out the people that were in tech just so i could have lunch with them to bounce ideas off with sometimes you’re not looking for people to tell you what to do it’s just like i’ll catch up with you and we’ll just just have a chat and just talk about things so i think having a network of people around you that you can bounce ideas off is really valuable i remember when i started shop free and i was you know by myself i didn’t really feel like i had anyone to bounce ideas off you know and that’s very different now we do have these startup communities and these startup ecosystems and if you want to get involved i highly encourage you to you could be a mentor an angel investor you could be a subject matter expert so you don’t need to have you know if you know how to do digital marketing or how to do branding it doesn’t mean you have to know about startups but you can come in as a subject matter expert and i think you know if you just come in with this attitude of how can i help i think that’s that will solve a lot of things well as you said before i think if you tie that back into what you said earlier about networks right networks are probably the most important thing to having some success right you’re not going to be the expert in everything but if you’ve got a network and you can be put in touch with the right person that’s the most important thing as you said sitting down for a coffee shooting the [ __ ] and [ __ ] having a beer that type of thing and a lot a lot of things come from those type of conversations yeah absolutely i think as i mentioned before people do forget how hard it is to do a startup and just having that network i think really helps and if you can just be that person that helps out like i didn’t know i still don’t know really why i took those startups to san francisco i just wanted to help them i just wanted to see them be successful and luckily i had you know it it resulted in some good fortune for me so i think if you can come into these startup ecosystems with this attitude of how can you help i just think that great things will happen yeah there’s a lot there’s a lot to that providing value up front and then just seeing what happens you you make your own luck i i guess like things have a the world has a funny way of you know turning things around and and they’re paying off right absolutely so you’re experiencing obviously you’ve experienced startups in new car uh well newcastle here but like sydney uh san fran what do you say like you’ve been around newcastle team for a while it’s obviously small and we’ve had we’ve had a few companies now doing reasonable size rounds what have you seen what’s your current take on the market here i think there’s a good sense of uh community i think because it’s small um people can help each other i actually find that the sydney ecosystem is kind of too big and it’s a bit a little bit competitive sometimes i think that newcastle’s size and its affordability makes it a great place you’ve also got talent coming through the university until recently you had overseas students as well who were talent and there’s an opportunity to to work to work with those people so it’s um it’s got all the the right ingredients would probably be great to tap into a few more high net worths that can do that angel investing then you know i’m talking small checks 15 grand 20 grand to just help someone get through that initial period they might need to hire some tech talent i mean not everybody can do it for free right so i think some more angels here would probably be the one thing i think that’s missing and it’s not about propping it up it’s just about giving those early stage startups a little bit more of a helping hand to get to that next stage yeah i agree i agree as we talked about before bootstrapping is all well and good and it’s really good to see somebody you know bootstrapping to us to a certain point but at some point you do need money right you never met it out of there whether it be throwing marketing whether it be to hire somebody to actually execute on something everyone needs some form of revenues at some stage and a lot of that time is before you actually do get paying customers yeah i mean i do a little bit of angel investing it’s super hard like trying to pick a winner because there’s so there’s a million reasons why a company will fail there’s just so many reasons why it won’t work um the two active investments i’ve got at the moment one is called landmarks id which is like a data enrichment for geolocation so let’s say you’ve got an app uh let’s say your lab brokes yeah and you want to know when people walk into a licensed venue uh this will buy an api will trigger location-based uh events so i’ve gone to a racetrack i’ve gone to a gym i’ve gone to a shopping center that kind of stuff the other one is called etch which is a collaborative workspace uh slash kind of knowledge store and the reason i invested in both of those especially especially in itch was when i chatted to the founder ash he every time i asked him questions about acquiring customers he seemed to have an answer for it because he’d done tests on linkedin ads and different things to find out who his customers would actually be you know if i meet with around about 300 startups per year probably 295 of them have developed a great product that solves a problem that will you know if people buy it would make money but what they have to do then is actually acquire customers and it’s about their ability to cost effectively acquire customers that will determine whether it succeeds or fails yeah um if you can take your cost per acquisition from 20 like down to two dollars that’s the difference between you know hiring more people and spending more money on acquisition or shutting your doors and then look it happens startups sometimes fail i’ve seen it happen many times weirdly though i often see that the startup will go ah the vcs wouldn’t back us or they didn’t understand it often it was just their ability to acquire new customers at a cost-effective way that they didn’t get right and i see founders they they’re like hey and i’ve built my products twice as good as theirs it’s half the price where’s the customers like well unfortunately the best products don’t always win no you know is salesforce the best crm in the market i don’t know but it’s number one right are there better products maybe i don’t know like is oracle the best you know enterprise database software i don’t know maybe there’s a free version that they happen to own that’s better than their enterprise level maybe i don’t know but oracle if you ever meet an oracle salesperson that is a sales driven organization oh yeah right that’s they are hardcore but that’s what the business is about yeah you have to build a product that solves a need that people are prepared to pay for that offer some sort of value but how are you getting those new customers how are you finding them how are you up selling them how are you retaining them how are you winning them back yeah that that upselling as well like sas solutions in general right freemium models uh you know seem to be very hot right i can get somebody on board for free but how are you going to actually convert them when are you going to get them to take their credit card out put those details in and send over some money right like that that’s a very real problem i’ll give you an example there was an app that i installed about two years ago and it was one of those forced saving apps so what it does connects to your bank account it rounds up each purchase and that you can invest in shares or you can pay off your credit card or donate it to charity or whatever so i’m thinking i spend a lot of money on my credit card and a bit of force saving never a bad thing so i installed the app i searched for the app in the app store i installed the app i registered i confirmed my email address went back to the app and it said what are your banking details i was like i don’t know i’ve been using my thumb for two years i’ve got no idea what my banking details are right so i i didn’t obviously it didn’t go any further now there’s a million reasons why people get stopped in an onboarding process right it could be my kids are fighting in the top corner i’ve just hopped off the bus i’m not ready to buy now i don’t have my banking details right now it took them nine months to send me an email to say hey you can just you know ring one eight hundredths and george and get your bank details and you’ll be saving away without app nine months it took them to email me and in that period they’re doing more ads on google more ads on facebook right so they’ve got i’m brick and i’m their best customer and there i am stuck in the process and they didn’t get me on board yeah you’re 80 in a way for a sales funnel right absolutely and sales funnels you know are important i i do that i put my hands up in the shape of a funnel all the time when i talk to startups again tell me what it looks like the best startups will have a very good answer about that though so i get my customers from here this is what they look like this is how much it costs this is how i upsell them this is the lead magnet this is how i win them back you know that is just it’s it’s i wouldn’t even say it’s a dirty part of the business it’s just a necessary part of the business and if you don’t do it i’m sorry you can’t just sit there people won’t people don’t care enough to just knock your door down can feel dirty when you’re uh you’re clearly in somebody else’s sales funnel and it’s not done well and you’re you know you you’re getting text messages i’m prompted you’re getting five emails within two days it’s like that getting that right from an early touch point perspective is so important you know uh we did some research and 90 of businesses think that they do that piece well weirdly 90 of customers think they do it badly yeah there’s a massive disconnect because we all think we’re sending the right message to the right customer at the right time as marketers but so often we’re not um you know i’ll give you a great example there’s a an electronics good retailer here in australia they sent me this text last year and it said hi brendan i was like oh nice personalization 10 off dishwashers i was like when did i ever tell you i wanted a dishwasher like in ten percent really it’s not exactly floating my boat um yet there’s another uh retailer in australia the oxford shop i buy a few jackets from them they sent me a text message and it said hey brennan he is a 20 voucher for the spring collection so i went into the store and i said hey what’s up with the voucher and the person said hey you can buy a short shirt for 21 bucks like and only pay a dollar i was like wow this is good keep sending me text messages this is great so you know i think if you’re gonna you know communicate to people you have to offer them some value or convenience and i think marketers so often think that they’re way more important to their customer than what they are yeah i completely agree completely great my uh previous life was email marketing manager back in the days when email was the thing before social one well look you know email’s still an important part of the probably coming back i think it’s coming back to importance but people are more productive of their inbox these days than they used to be yeah for company communications it’s the preferred method uh so and it just depends what it is right so if it’s archival as opposed to urgent you know so if it’s archival email’s awesome if it’s urgent and text message messages a way to go so let’s say i just purchased some new home contents insurance i don’t want that policy sent to me on whatsapp or a text message i want that on email yeah so for a lot of communications email is still really important um there’s new platforms like superhuman and hay which are making that more efficient and a better experience obviously in the twilio product suite we’ve got sendgrid which was our acquisition last year which has customers like uber and airbnb so if you need high deliverability and you get your message in the inbox then you know we have a solution for that but email’s still still a really important part of the mix but you have to use it the right way yeah i i 100 agree i think it is actually probably it’s gone from it used to be really important then social sort of took over it and then email’s coming back again because you know that organic search or you know the ability to get in somebody’s inbox is so much i guess easier than getting in front of their their news feed on facebook instagram whatever they they’re on these days and and people are more more productive of it so yeah they are and social has got you know i mean there’s a bit of social media fatigue at the moment it’s still a very important part of the mix and i think if you have a product where you know exactly the persona of your customer you know my customer is 35 years old she’s female she lives in a non-capital city facebook and social media is a great place to target those people if you’ve got a product where people know what they want you know google’s probably a better a better choice so you know let’s say it’s a blanket with arms like do i know that i want a blanket with arms probably not so maybe social media is the way to go but if you’ve got a product where you know that there’s people actively searching for it then you know so social is profiling and thinking about google searches like demand like people people want it so you know again if startups can get that piece right it’s just the difference between success and failure yeah completely agreement uh you’re obviously extremely busy man yeah as you said you’re dealing with the us time zones and you start your days really early from a productivity perspective how do you manage your days is that productivity tools you use is that you’re in email is it what’s up what how do you manage your day from a is there any apps or if from a holistic perspective from productivity how would you yeah there’s a couple of things obviously we’re all probably suffering a bit of zoom fatigue at the moment so we do no zoom fridays so friday no zoom calls and then uh the other thing we do is every uh every third week with no calls i know so we can get kind of get things done if it’s urgent it’s customer facing sure that that would happen but just to try and reduce it i think it’s very easy to jump on zoom calls a bit too often we use slack i don’t love it but it sort of is effective obviously i still use email a lot i try to block out bits of time so i actually operate on a couple of different devices so if i want to go write a document i’ve got a little macbook air that i take and it’s got nothing else installed on it but google docs and i’ll go and write that doc so i try very hard to kind of block out the interruptions because it’s just so easy to just you know ping i think i’ve got a short attention span anyway you know this like this uh sort of worldwide living of constant notifications is certainly not good for me so i try to shut those off it’s probably the main thing that i do yeah nice you’re all obviously you’ve had some success in your career but you’re continuing to grow and learn from other people obviously networking is there is there any personal people in particular the utk definitely worth listening to definitely worth reading their books or and that type of thing i’m reading a book called uh hooked at the moment which is about developing habit-forming products has a lot of case studies so it’s not too preachy so i’m really kind of really enjoying that i think the angel book by jason calacanis he’s probably the world’s most famous angel investor put 100 grand to uber turn it into 100 million but he’s also invested in things like robin hood and some other great great apps um his podcast for this week in startups i think is is worth listening to yeah there’s a lot out there there’s a lot of media out there and i think you have to kind of pick and choose what you decide to listen to at what stage right so if you’re an you’re an early stage founder just thinking about what you’re trying to do gary vee gary vaynerchuk would be awesome to listen to you can outgrow garyvee though and then move he actually talks about that in his podcast you know he actually says he’s like hey i don’t want people to listen to me for their career i want them to take my advice and run with it and then never come back that’s awesome we did an event with him in hong kong a couple years ago that guy walks the walk he does talk the talk but he walks the walk he was in the same hotel as us he was in the grand height in hong kong he was doing five o’clock breakfast meetings and he was still remember one night he was still with a bunch of students at 10 pm that night so he does and he gives he absolutely he will stop and give anybody his time in fact leaving the one of the venues with him was the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do because he just kept giving he just kept giving so look uh you know there’s garyvee lovers and haters i’m a lover i’m a fan you know but i think you can outgrow him but he certainly he does preach he does what he preaches he gives and he helps people and i think he’s a great inspiration a lot of people and apparently he’s found this real young audience now on tick tock yeah he has a videographer that follows him around drock and but he’s apparently been putting it all out to tick-tock and he’s got this whole new audience now of people where he’s saying you know you don’t have to do it the way your parents did it the world is different today so i think that’s i think that’s very empowering it doesn’t mean everybody should go start a business or everybody should be a youtube star but if you want to do it you know he does give you some ideas and some tools to make that happen any other advice you’d provide for people obviously we’ve got a more newcastle tech orientated listener base for this but any other you know high level advice you provide people yeah look i think it’s a you can make a lot of people founders make the mistake of thinking that they are the customer and it’s rarely the case usually they’re not the customer so uh thinking that you are the customer i think is it can be a mistake and i see that i do see that a lot and i would say even i fell into this a bit with shop free where customers would point out things on the website and i was like no that’s not the case and i realized i hadn’t actually been on my own website as a customer for months so that old i think the expression used to be your own dog food i think there’s probably another expression that’s more popular there but just that concept of using your own product and then also listening to users you know i think sometimes you you think you’ve got the perfect solution to it but the customers will tell you different like a great example was justin.tv right so justin was a guy in san francisco strapped a camera to his head and justin.tv became his life and you’d tune in and there’s justin skateboarding or whatever right he’s decided after two years he’d have enough of that and he decided what he’d actually built was quite a cool video streaming platform so they launched it relaunched it as a video streaming platform called justin.tv and all of a sudden all this usage went up massively and they’re like what is it what are these people doing like we thought people could like stream like board presentations and you know like boring stuff like that and i found out there were gamers on there they were streaming themselves live and other people were watching and they were this close to switching all those gamers off and just banning them what they decided to do was spin it out into a gaming only streaming platform and that was called twitch and amazon and google had a bidding war over that now amazon ended up buying it it was actually reported that google had made the purchase but amazon came in again and bought that platform and they didn’t start to create a gaming streaming platform but that’s what the users were using so paying attention to what they’re doing you might think this is your number one feature turns out this is what they’re all doing on it right so just looking at that data and seeing what the customers are doing you know i had a failed startup called recipe lover and i spent about 90 grand of my own money and three months developing a feature where you could upload videos to both to our platform and youtube at the same time with chapters and annotations the only problem with that feature is that only one person ended up ever using it that was me so it wasn’t like customers were beating my door down going you know brennan recipe level would be awesome if you just added this video upload feature no i thought that’s what they wanted i wasn’t listening to the customer wasn’t listening to the request and that that startup it failed you know eventually my wife is an accountant came in and said hey uh hello is this going on for and i’m like why she’s like well this is what you’ve spent on it so far i was like oh wow when you put it in one number it does look like a lot you know and eventually i just had to shut it down because i just i couldn’t i hadn’t listened to the customer not wasting too much money on features that no one cared about yeah i i love that i think there’s plenty of advice you provide there so i don’t want to take up too much you time thank you very much for coming in today great to be here

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