Unwrapit was founded to offer an engagement platform for forward-thinking people building personalized & sustainably-minded gift experiences, at any scale. We are solving for the complexity & logistical challenges that come with procuring, preparing and providing gifts in a digital way. From identifying the right gifts to getting them in the hands of recipients, conventional corporate gifting is full of administrative and creative obstacles. Our product seeks to remove them.
Unwrapit hopes to minimize the amount of 'stuff' that is given through gifting, at events, to employees and to customers. We care deeply about people and the planet. We believe that giving gifts and making a positive impact can be one and the same. That reaching out, saying thank you, and providing an experience of a lifetime can be seamless. That receiving corporate gifts doesn't have to feel corporate at all.
We are excited to embark upon what we know will be a busy Fall/holiday season and appreciate being part of the TechTO community! Head over to our website to learn more.
Each week we interview an innovative Canadian company that is hiring.
At Drop, we’re on a mission to level-up consumer lives, one reward at a time. Through our personalized commerce platform, we intelligently surface the right brands, at the right time, to make our members’ every day a level better than it was before. Powered by machine learning, we match consumers with our over 300+ partner brands to satisfy two main goals: to earn points from their purchases and redeem them for instant rewards. Calling Toronto home but operating under a global mindset, Drop is building the next level experience for our 3 million+ members across North America, and most recently, the UK.
Drop is comprised of top-tier, passionate, and diverse talent from a wide range of professional backgrounds, including fellow startups like Ritual and Shopify, to Fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and Airbnb. We’re backed by top venture capital firms from Silicon Valley, as well as Canadian and global funds who’ve invested in now-household names, including Dollar Shave Club, Robinhood, Groupon, Snapchat, and more. We move quickly, but always ensure every voice at Drop is heard. Our culture is shaped by passion, hustle, and people who actually enjoy coming into work every day. Join us in revolutionizing personal commerce and building a next level rewards experience for everyone.
Drop is currently hiring across Sales, HR, Marketing, and Product. Check out the careers page to learn more.
Are you thinking about or in the early days of starting a business? TechTO wants to help! We have put together a four-week course that will guide you through some of the key decisions you need to make:
Every week for four weeks you will get an email with answers to all the questions and more. Everyone who signs up will get:
Sign up now! The course starts on September 16th.
Mydoh is a money management app and Smart Card that helps kids make their own earning and spending decisions — learning values that help build a strong foundation for the future. We are committed to helping parents raise money-smart kids. Mydoh began with the shared belief that money management isn't something you are taught, as much as something you learn through experience – and that experience should start early. Kids learn money basics through play, earn their own money through tasks, and spend it wisely using their Mydoh Smart Card. Parents can see their kids' spending activity and control how involved they want to be.
Using innovative security measures, like advanced digital ID verification, Mydoh allows parents to securely sign-up in less than five minutes. Parents then simply invite their kids to create their own personalized account on the platform to access a digital Visa Prepaid card immediately upon sign-up, and then they receive a physical Visa Prepaid card. Parents can lock and unlock their child's card at any time.
Mydoh is Canada's first neo-bank for families and our vision is to make it easier for every parent in Canada to set their children up for success with the right money values, skills and experience. Mydoh is proudly run by a team of passionate leaders, including Gaurav Kapoor as the Head and Co-founder and Megha Sharma as the Head of Technology. The idea of Mydoh was inspired by Gaurav's own start in saving money when he was earning an allowance as a child and this saving instinct was already hard-wired in his mind when he started earning.
Mydoh is hiring for roles across product, design, marketing and engineering including Senior Product Manager, Growth Marketing Manager, Head of Design, and Software Engineer II. Learn more about all the open roles here.
Mydoh was recently covered by CTV News’ Chief Financial Commentator on Your Morning and CTV Morning Live.
Each week we interview an innovative Canadian company that is hiring.
Synex Medical was founded by CEO Ben Nashman in 2017 with the vision of providing people with constant data about how their bodies are functioning. Our unique approach uses magnetic resonance, the same underlying principle as in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in a miniaturized system that can non-invasively measure critical metabolites like glucose, lactate, and ketones in real-time.
At Synex, we understand that the company culture is not defined by ping-pong tables and beer taps at the office. We have built a culture that we are not only proud of but live by every day. Open communication, collaboration, accountability and ambition are a few of the ways to described how we operate. We are quick to give praise and recognize each other's contributions. We are building very complex hardware-based on deep science, so having a collaborative culture has been critical for our success. Our passion towards achieving our mission is very clear in our day-to-day, from how we make technical decisions to how we operate the company to whom we hire.
We are currently hiring for Sr. Electrical Engineer, Sr. Software Engineer, IT and Scientist positions. Check out our careers page to learn more.
On August 25, 2021, from 11:00am-1:15pm EST, the Infosys Canada C-Suite Forum will tackle the theme of ‘Accelerating Resilience’. This virtual event will have leaders share insights and dive into the strategies and tactics needed to reshape business for resilience and success in a changing world.
Featuring notable speakers and panelists such as Katherine Emberly, President – Business, Shaw Communications; Charles Duncan, Executive Vice President, WestJet and President, Swoop; and Afzal Jessa, Chief Digital Officer, Vale, the forum will explore recipes for resilience and discussions on growing digital muscle, new talent pools, and the future of customer experience.
Infosys is a global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting that has created thousands of jobs across Canada in the last two years.
Interested in learning more or attending? Register for FREE, here.
Edmonton-based Growing Greener Innovations is an award-winning Canadian clean-energy technology company.
Our mission is to end global energy poverty by providing world-class battery energy storage solutions for community, commercial and residential use. Our engineers have developed an industry-leading Smart Switch control system that monitors, optimizes and organizes grid-tie and off-grid renewable energy generation systems.
Our innovations cut greenhouse gas emissions, significantly cut energy costs, and promote greater use of renewables. To date, our technology is deployed across Canada, Africa and The U.S., with upcoming work in India, the Middle East and South America.
The journey towards building a better energy future began when our founder lived in a small Newfoundland community that had an unreliable electrical grid. Living without reliable power as many people do in remote communities and out-of-the-way work sites means living in uncertainty and having to rely on expensive and high-maintenance backup equipment such as diesel generators. This experience led to a question: “Why isn’t dependable, affordable power available to everyone?”
To use technology to create tools and opportunities for people of every socio-economic background to live a clean and sustainable life at affordable costs.
Check out the GGI website to learn more about their mission, products, and what's next!
Alex Norman sat down with Lloyed Lobo, Co-founder and President of Boast A.I, and Laurie Schultz, Board Director at Boast.AI & Former CEO at Galvanize to talk about how to build a billion dollar company. Check out the discussion below.
Norman: Let's get Laurie on stage so she can Introduce yourself.
Laurie: Well, thanks very much, Alex. It's great to be here. And I'm looking forward to the next hour. I'm Laurie Schultz, I was the CEO of galvanize for 10 years, up until April 30. As you'd mentioned, we sold the business for $1 billion, which was about a 40x increase in valuation from when I joined. And today, I'd be delighted to share with you that that journey, I waited by the founder actually 10 years ago, to basically come in and break all the rules that he created in the first place. In building our business and creating a category we we live in the governance risk and compliance space. And what our application does is it interrogates data, to help customers mitigate fraud, corruption and waste, and we are the leader in this $41 billion market. I have a feeling that Mark has expanded over the period since the company is founded. Well, you know, when I joined 10 years ago, while we were owners of a segment of that market, we've kind of pigeon holed ourselves, in that we were exclusively committed to just auditors and a big part of our transformation. As I said, a 40x increase in valuation, a 4x increase in revenue, was our ability to from a product and go to market perspective, brought it broaden the types of customers that we sold to beyond audit, and they're in the types of solutions that we delivered as well.
Alex: So I'm gonna let Lloyd take over his conversation. But before I go down, I have one, I have one question for both of you. How do you know each other so people have some context of why you are having this conversation.
Lloyed: I've been a big long standing fan of Lori, you know, running traction, one of the largest communities for innovators. And after a fundraise, we created a list of board members. And and so Laurie was high on that list. But I did not know her. And our investors, Chris, who, you know, Chris Livingston and radium capital, he reached out, and then we collectively evangelize Laurie to join the board. But I think the question is, what excited Laurie to join our board?
Laurie: I was not aware of Boast A.I and it's in my backyard. And when I was first exposed to the opportunity, you know, is curious, of course, about its total addressable market and the people and, of course, what's not to love about Lloyd. But in particular, I think that this is a very unique application. It's got a very compelling Tam, total addressable market, and I will do a major commercial on Tam for any founder on this, this call, it's, it's fundamental to your success. And I love the business model. And so those you know, those three things combined for why I'm so excited to join the poster board.
Lloyed: I'm the co founder of Boast A.I. I hope everyone can hear me. Okay, sorry for the technical difficulties. So yeah, the journey with Laurie has been phenomenal. For us, it was really important that a board member had run a company and scaled it to a billion dollars, and understood our space. And Laurie has a phenomenal background. So Lori's background, over 25 years experience in software and technology. But more importantly, she's held, she was the SVP at Sage she was VP or into which is held leadership positions at KPMG. And, and tell us and galvanize is in the space as well, right here a GRC. So governance and compliance software. And I think when Laurie joined the company nine and a half years ago, it was a services company, you turned it into a software SaaS company, and sold it for a billion dollars in cash. And then like a boss, you've pieced out on a boat for two months. And Laurie has been extremely helpful to us. And we have like a bi weekly call schedules every other Tuesday. We chat with each other. And I look forward to those conversations. When I think about who can I work for. If I ever wanted a job, Laurie would be at the top of that list. And so it's great to have people. It's good to have people on your side that you respect and that you would want to listen to it who's been an operator. So I think my fundamental feedback for anyone here is if you want to bring a board member make sure that they have been through the journey a couple of times. where you want to go to and you want to, and you respect them. And it's funny, we've known each other for only a few months, but it feels like I've known Laurie for a number of years. Awesome, Laurie, walk us through your journey, you started in accounting, right? You were an accountant or I had that wrong.
Laurie: I had a marketing finance have a marketing and finance background. And I just so happened to get a job at TELUS. And I launched calling line ID back in 1989, before most people in this phone were born. And that was my exposure to technology. At the time, it was a very sensitive media privacy related business, and kind of put me on the ground working with technical engineers. And I never looked back, I moved to Intuit, to sage and to galvanize, and over the course of a 30 year career, I've run 12 software businesses. So really, really awesome to try to find places that I can add value to a great business like like yours, Lloyd.
Lloyed: I often keep confusing that you have an accounting background, because you know, finance better than most CFOs I've met, how is that?
Laurie: I, you know, I'm just predisposed to it. One thing I find very, very rare. And, you know, I always kind of look for this in my employee base, for example, it's like the rare person that can put a price tag on an idea, you know, if they're a product manager, or if they're a marketer? Yeah, I'd say in my experience, you know, maybe less than 5% of employees have the ability and maybe more importantly, the confidence to put themselves out there and put some math and I've always been predisposed to that. I've always used that my entire career. And I guess I've just had a lot of practice in the finance world as a result.
Lloyed: Definitely. So you've got this great journey. It's like you planned this 10 step of building a billion dollar companies like when you join you had planned this. Can you before we dive into that, I'm curious, what experience you felt you could draw on coming from sage and Intuit that helped you map that out? Like, how, what do you How did you feel so confident?
Laurie: I think I'll say it in the moment here, I think one of the most important skills a leader needs to have is change management, to convince people to do something against their better instinct to get them to change what they've done, in some cases, that formula successfully in the past. That's what I learned. That's age, actually, I joined sage, I was running one year product called ag pack. And when I left, I had seven of them. And all seven, when I got them, I thought they were the best. And I had to kind of mash them together, put them under one brand. And they you know might sound very Navy like Lloyd. But we really had to greet some economies of scale by you know, kind of leveraging the best in the in the practice. And that was really hard. Not everybody won. Not everybody was the top of the food chain and not exercising. A great you know, learning for me was just to try and you know, learn how to drive change in an organization.
Lloyed: How do you get good at Change Management? But first I wanted to share Laurie and I often joke about this concept of pirates and navy startups are often like pirates, we do whatever it can to hit the end goal. But there comes a time in your life where you have to graduate from being a pirate and like just trying to win at any cost and, and sort of try everything to becoming more like a Navy Because ultimately, pirates get loot and navies conquer worlds. And so my pitch to Laurie was we need you to help us become the Navy. And more like when Lori joined galvanize It was a 40 year old services company she had to change them into a pirate and then turn them into a Navy before getting into the billion dollar exit. But yeah, let's answer that question actually, how did you get how does one get good at change management and then let's dive into the 10 fundamentals.
Laurie: There's a couple of fundamentals to Change Management not to make it over simplified but you have to get in the hallways you have to talk to people and you have to be relatable You know, I'm sure no one on this on this call is uh, you know, kind of an in the office with the door shot type leader. People want to follow people that they like people want to follow people that are human that have made mistakes and you know, the single biggest thing that I've used to drive changes just kind of, you know, monthly Town Hall accessible CEO, I don't sit in an office I will call. You know, I wear my Lulu lemons to Safeway on Saturday. I'm very relatable as a leader and as a result People feel comfortable talking to me. And, you know, we, we focus very, very much on culture and, you know, kind of that type of accessible leadership number one, number two, you know, if you're starting to get stuck, you know, when I joined galvanize, we were already 25 years old, if you can imagine that in dog years that made us like over 200 years or something like that. We were stuck, like we've fallen victim to continuing to do everything that had made us successful in the beginning, and those things weren't working any longer. And so one thing I've done is create a case for change. And, you know, bordering on the finance modeling, you can model out status quo. And you can draw a picture of what five years looks like from now. And that can often be a very, very sobering catalyst to get people off of kind of the treadmill and to convince them to do something differently.
Lloyed: Definitely. And so let's let's dive in, right? So here, when you when you join galvanize that you're effectively taking over as CEO. So the first step was this founder transition. Tell us all about that. Because that's, that's a very hard thing. Once you're at scale, sometimes the founder CEO is maybe not the right CEO for the company for the next level, or maybe they might be burned out. And these guys probably were a combination of the two of them this company for 40 years. What made you join that company? And what did you have in mind that I'm going to take this company in the next few years and turn it into SAS? And did you? Did you have that all in your head? Like, how did you come in and manage that sort of founder to CEO, new CEO transition?
Laurie: Well, there's a lot to unpack there, you know, if I reflect just from my own point of view, I'd say that, you know, when a company gets around the 15, to $20 million range, and led by a founder, that's the time for the founder, to consider, you know, organizationally, what they can do to drive further change. I mean, it could be getting a board, I've been on boards, where founders, you know, aren't necessarily leveraging things like a board chair, necessarily leveraging the board to help them achieve their goals. And certainly, there's many software companies that don't even have a board. So that's number one. Number two, to state the obvious. founders need to stop trying to do everything on their own, and bring in a leadership team that's been there, done that. And that is, you know, Lloyd, I know you're doing that right now, that can be tough, right is passing the baton to somebody that maybe actually can even do it as good as you because you have to give them the opportunity to learn in order to scale. In my situation at galvanize, the founder, actually, an incredible leader, stepped into the board role, he actually got out of the business. And that takes a lot of courage and humility to do. He authentically gave me the baton, to break all the rules he created in the first place. And, you know, that was a big ask for me, I'll tell you this. Most employees at galvanize at the time and many in the tech scene in Vancouver had bets on how long before either quit or got fired. And, you know, it speaks to how rare a founder CEO transition typically have, you know, happens, especially when the founder is the one initiating it. So in our case, it worked. It worked because Hill, Harold was very authentic. And we worked like crazy to make sure that we were aligned in our values. And that we were, you know, kind of focused on the same destination.
Lloyed: Definitely. And so what was one of the first things you you did you talk a lot about town halls, change agents, like, you know, one of our biggest challenges is we were bootstrapped, sub 30. People got paid figures with that. And then we raised this money, we did the series A, we brought on a whole bunch of key execs, I went from running products and marketing, which was no marketing, just running a big community. And for salespeople to now we have a CTO, we have a CMO, we have big team. And I sometimes wonder what do I do? Like what now that we've scaled with 95 people right now? And and I wonder, like, what do I do, but one of the most important things is, when you're growing, there's a lot of people who are stuck in their old way of doing things. Like how do you manage that scale? You come in as a CEO, and I'm asking it from a perspective of a founder also, right? Whether you bring on a new CEO or not, as a founder going from a bootstrap company to a venture backed company and adding 6070 people in like, five, six months, you got to become a new founder. So how did you manage that going into Galvanize?
Laurie: Let me think about this from a justice from three perspectives. We I focused on three Internal audiences and I, you know, I probably spend 50% of my time communicating. You think about that, that's two and a half days a week. It's an enormous commitment. And I focused on employees, monthly town halls, weekly CEO slack messages, very, very transparent leadership. From maybe a founder to who just got investment to your situation. Lloyd I also spent a ton of time building a strong leadership team. We had, we had this one pager that talked about leadership expectations. And one of our anchor statements was SLT his first team, senior leadership team, his first team meeting, when you were at a meeting that was SLT, your commitment was to your peers, not actually to the department that you lead, that was a pretty big culture breaker for us. And I'll just say this, thirdly, we brought on investment in 2017. That was like 30 years after we were born. So we bootstrapped it all up until then. And as you know, what, you know, managing a board with investors on it that that takes a lot of work, we work really hard to make sure we add values, and evaluation and a vision aligned investor. And I spent a considerable amount of time making sure we continue to be aligned, where we aligned on our exit strategy where we clear on our exit strategy. Did we prefer sale to strategic or going public? On a financial dimension? was everybody aligned on a growth agenda? Or was it more of a hybrid growth and profit? Those are obvious things to say. But when you're managing a dynamic with the board, it's really, really critical that you've got transparency and clarity and alignment on those on those topics.
Lloyed: Definitely. And then when you joined, right, because in Yeah, you say you It's a 30 year old company, but when you joined effectively, you change the direction of the company in ways you took it. You turned it into a SaaS company. And so in many ways, you're re-founding the company, and people who are used to doing things a certain way. You talk a lot about like town halls and and change agents with us. How did you identify who are the people to take you on this trajectory to a billion dollars like it starts all starts with people?
Laurie: When I joined, we were we were just shy of 200 people. And I kind of made this up. But it was like there was a ping pong game going on at the company, there was the people that were willing to change. And then there were the people that were not willing to change, let's call it a third each, and they were battling each other, they were not aligned. And then you had a third of the employee population sitting in the middle, watching the ping pong match, trying to figure out what side they were on, it was a very, very disruptive situation. And it started with leadership. And not to be too gentle about it. But I took the leadership team out in the first year, we just did not have the right chemistry there. And that was breathing its way down into our organization. And so I talked a lot about that a third, a third, a third, and trying to swing as much of the leadership team and employees over to that that group that was willing to drive change. Now, how do you? How do you come up with the playbook of change? Again, not to oversimplify this, but town halls was a significant part of creating the culture where people would put their ideas forward. Some of them stupid, some of them great, and if you listen hard enough, not only are you going to get great ideas, because people are smart, you are more importantly, going to be able to spot in the crowd, the back of the room, the person that has got integrity of intent, who's got a great idea, and who everybody else watches. And that actually is a huge part of how we drove change. At galvanize, we called those change agents, kind of like a top talent program, to be honest with you. And we put those people in charge, but whether it was in an organized, you know, maybe role or whether it was a certain projects, and that change agent program became very public and visible. And, you know, people wanted to be change agents, and it bred this bravery that helped us drive our uniform outcome.
Lloyed: And those change agents are not necessarily always your oldest employee. I made a very controversial statement on LinkedIn recently, and I got some flack for it. I said, if you keep promoting people on tenure versus trajectory, you become the very thing you set out to disrupt maybe the government.
Laurie: You know that that concept born in the very first town hall I did on my second day, that transitioned into kind of over and above town halls and organized programs. So every year we launched that years change agents, these were the 10 to 15% of our employees, who were both great performers, but also had potential to the most potential to drive our vision. And we published this list. And I spent, you know, quarterly strategic workshops with these folks, I spent one on one time in terms of trying to understand their their career aspirations. And you know, I remember asking other CEOs and even my board, have you ever heard of a public top talent program? And nobody's ever done it? And I thought, well, let's do it. Why wouldn't you communicate to everybody? What amazing looks like why wouldn't this just be a badge of honour. And so this public top talent program, public change agent program, again, was something that kind of bred our transformation. It was, without tenure, it was untitled. In fact, I'll admit, I went out of my way to look for somebody that was kind of new in green. And so we did, you know, try to have kind of a diversity envelope when we when we built those, those groups.
Lloyed: How do you get the same benefit from a town hall in a remote distributed environment? Did you have to you probably had to battle some of that, because the last leg and probably the most difficult leg when you're deciding, should we IPO? Should we take more investment? Should we exit? Probably all of that was happening in a distributed world, right?
Laurie: it's harder to do this remote, that kind of thing. And certainly, if I reflect, because we had such a baseline, and we were so face to face, and we built this culture, in a lot of face to face town halls, when you meet somebody, then subsequent in a town hall, and it's through zoom, you you already have that muscle built, so the communication was strong. Having said that, we we did do our town halls remotely, and be able to state the obvious. So we had to supplement that with tools like slack. I mean, we were maniacal users of slack, it's like a great surrogate for a hallway conversation. And so, you know, we as leaders were very, very accessible for that, through that, and through through crises, things like COVID, and maybe other other examples of crises, you know, there's many actually end up writing a daily SEO post, and that to some of my earlier comments, you know, you can talk about the business stuff, surely, I think it's really important to talk about personal stuff as well. You know, with COVID, we went through together, regardless of position, personal stuff, as well. And so trying to be very relatable, even if it's done through a tool like Slack, or, you know, zoom townhall, you could still connect with people, if you could somehow find a way to be human and real about it.
Lloyed: the thing is, both has been a remote first company. And I feel like yes, we're, you know, the medium of, of zoom, or venue gives you two senses, right, sound and sight. But anytime you try to incorporate more than two senses, taste, touch and smell, you end up building more genuine bonds. So we do things like offsites in different cities, we do conferences, so we meet around that. And, and also, sometimes, you know, ship people food and drink during the calls. But, you know, one thing that was touched on which is really important, the job of the leaders is to communicate, right, like clearly articulating and communicating your vision to excite, inspire and motivate people is probably one of the most important skills to have. And it's not a one and done activity, like you've said, right? If you've been doing it day in, day out, because when people are excited, inspired and motivated, they can move mountains. And so I think communication is a very, very huge part. And most leaders I talked to say the same, same thing. The concept of change agents you advised us on is something we've tried to recently to implement, we created a group called the both the Avengers and we found people in the company that may or may not be new, but they just had a lot of context. More importantly, trajectory. You know, you know, what I've realized through our conversations, Laurie, is that a company that's on a hyper growth trajectory, they it becomes a different company every six to 12 months. Last December, we were a different company than we are right now. We're growing to 125 I don't know half the people in the company. And so you know, when you're a bootstrap company, you're always looking at how to react to situations Okay, we signed clients now we got to feel like product or CES or whatever. But when you're growing hype or when you're moving hypergrowth you're thinking about what is a company I should build for end of next year today? And and the people you need that I feel are people who are high trajectory They may not have the experience, but they have trajectory thinking, they look at problems. And they're like, you know what this is how the company says, These are the things we need to do today, to get to where we are next year, versus, you know, it's a concept of people saying, build me a faster horse versus people saying, No, we need to actually build a Ferrari. That's your advice that we took, and we instituted very recently.
Laurie: Folks here are doing things like regular employee surveys and stuff like that, you know, if you're like us, you know, the one area we would get negative feedback on was pace of change, pace of change, everything is, you know, it's always moving, like you said, Every six to 12 months. And, I mean, the reality is, that was the reality. And for the transformation agenda we had, there was no nine to five. It wasn't particularly balanced, just to be completely honest. But we were clear about that. Four people that joined us and, you know, it speaks to making sure people know what they're getting into, and then not apologizing for it. Because, you know, if you want a billion dollar unicorn outcome, it, it's, it's hard work. And you need people that have got that appetite, and that curiosity and kind of the relentless, you know, desire to, you know, drive change, and to lead their peers to change.
Lloyed: Definitely. And that's why so much of this is people you, you've advised as a ton on like people is the top focus at the equation, if it build, inspire and motivate a team, if you treat your people with love, they'll treat your business with love, and the outcome will follow. And that's that's a lot of what we've learned from you. Now you talk a lot about TAM right. So let's dive into the TAM. How do you craft a compelling picture of your tab? I mean, probably when galvanize started, it was a smaller TAM. And then you guys painted a picture of a $41 billion. TAM, walk us through that, and why that is important, you know, through m&a and everything else. But even like building your company and your roadmap.
Laurie: We had two pieces of paper galvanize that were that drove everything. One was our one page strategic plan, maybe chat a little bit about that. And the other was TAM. Now, when I joined, we had flatline our culture wasn't good, our technology was old. We weren't growing, and we had pigeon holed ourselves. We were an audit analytics company, we own the space, we created the category, we help people stop fraud, corruption and waste, but we were only selling the auditors. And so the success of building and, you know, creating dominant market share, and that was our biggest liability, because we were afraid of kind of breaking out of the sandbox. And so I remember early boasting about our town then and it was, you know, about a billion dollars. And I thought that was pretty vague. And person I was talking to just kind of laughed at me and said, That's not very interesting. And it took courage to and creativity to build a credible view of a $41 billion total addressable market. And what that what that envelop for us was looking at how we move from selling just a point solution to a platform, how do you deal with the entire governance risk and compliance suite? And also, even more tricky was how do we move beyond auditor? How do we talk to a CFO? How do we talk to a chief information officer? How do we talk to General Counsel? How do we talk to CEO? How do we talk to boards The reality is we didn't know how to talk to different buyers. And so consider those two dimensions, we sized the share of wallet that different buyers have. And we sized the different solutions that we sold that we looked at the intercept. And you know what it what that allowed us to do was figure out what we were going to build versus buy. It informed our m&a strategy and our r&d investment. And then also significantly informed kind of our go to market roadmap. How do we evolve our brand across buyers? How do we sales enable people to speak the multiple dialects of the different buyers that we were looking at? Just for bonus points, we also cut our town by geography, when is the right move, time to move into different markets and what kind of go to market model Do you need to be effective there so that TAM for us, we we built it in 2014. And we use it we use it today religiously. It fundamentally put us on the map. We presented it to investors Of course to our board and to our employees alike, and it was compelling. It was original and it It was significantly informative in terms of how we're spending our time and our money.
Lloyed: Awesome. And, you know, a lot of founders and Alex will attest to this for them, TAM is the three bubbles on the champ slide in the pitch deck.
Laurie: Drew on as many analyst reports, and we had 6000 customers, so we could impart us kind of the profile of our own face, to build this kind of original view of the market, there was no template, there's no book, we created this space. And, you know, perhaps coming up with a picture of it at the beginning, was easy. What was hard was to create believability about it. And so our follow through on that town, you know, here's the buyer, here's the product suite, here's where we're going to invest this year, here's where we're going to acquire for us to rinse and repeat that, you know, every second conversation at the board every second conversation with investor for us to continue to use that over time, people could see our execution against it. We said what we're going to do, and then we did what we said. And we had investors that would, you know, seek out that view of the town, we often got comments, you know, they'd never seen anything like it. And, again, I'm probably over commercializing this, it was a huge part of our billion dollar outcome, because it showed both the enormity of the opportunity number one back to the moat comment. It described why we were in a unique position to deliver it. And three, because we had follow through on it, we had credibility that we could execute against it.
Lloyed: Definitely. And then moving on here, you said this, the second most important piece of paper was your one page strategic plan. Walk us through it, why should every business have it? And what are the key elements of a one page strategic plan.
Laurie: So remember the job you had before the current one that you're in right now used to walk past the poster by the elevator and had your values vision and mission. And the mission statement was about 500 words long, and they were boring as hell. That was my experience. I hate to say before galvanize values vision mission, they weren't meaningful for me, they were too many words, I wasn't given any authorship and creating them, they weren't a motive. For me. At galvanize, that was different. we cared a ton about our values, vision and mission we got in the hallways, I remember the we, we built our one page strap plan in 2014. So three years after I joined, and to be honest, to retire the incumbent values and put three new values out, I kind of needed to earn the right to do that. So we anchored on core values as authored by employees. And with the help of our town, we created this beautiful, meaningful, self actualized picture of our destination. And we were able to get people's heads and hearts lined up against this one page strat plan. So it captured our values vision and mission. It captured a statement on what was our distinctive competitive asset in the space. And it actually had at the bottom three strategic priorities, which were more annual in nature, and focused in order on employee than customer then shareholder. The the act of how we built that was how we created ownership of it. And the fact that I use that one page strat plan in every single kind of formal presentation I did with employees, even if it you know, they couldn't stand seeing, again, emphasized how much I was using it to drive the business.
Lloyed: And in those buckets, employee, customer shareholder, I love that order. Because without people you have no customers, and without customers, I have no shareholders. And so what was in those buckets, I mean, maybe you can watch Walk us through the most recent one, or maybe the initial one in under employee, customer and shareholder.
Laurie: So our first under employee was called mobilized talent. And when I was hired, as I'd mentioned, I was hired to fix culture. We actually had one metric for that. But we had many, but the one most important that we use my entire 10 years was employee Net Promoter Score. So most many folks are accustomed to use it in net promoter score for customers on a scale of zero to 10. how likely are you you'd recommend, we use that for employees. And, you know, depending on the year, we did the survey, either twice, or we did it even quarterly. And we published that. And we interacted with that survey. And we were very, very religious around growing our score, when when we first did it, we were zero NPS. And I think our peak was around 72. And so that, that said a lot. And it said a lot because as a leader, as a leadership team, it was clear, we cared so much about it. And because of the culture of transparency, I mean, people gave us a shit. And of course, because we acted on that we gained credibility in this tool. On the customer front, yeah, the the the label, there was disrupted category. And for us, you know, one thing that's hard, I think, for someone like me coming in and taking the reins from from a founder and an incumbent business, so I had to unstick it. And so a lot of what I had to focus on initially with the customer bucket was kind of growth in the strategic parts of our business and the customer experience there. And not let that get whitewashed with parts of the business that I was exiting. So for example, let's say customer NPS is is a metric there, I had to separate the kernel from the chaff. I had to focus on, you know, what's the level of engagement of the customers that are part of our strategic future. And you know, it'll sound bad. I was less focused on customers at work, want to be part of moving forward in that journey with us that was really, really hard for us because it sent a mixed message. Well, you love customers so much, but I guess you only love certain kinds of customers. And the reality is just that was true. For us, the third pillar unraveled shareholder, we labeled it transformed the business model. And one thing about us, when I joined, we were on premise, we were perpetual Boyd, as he mentioned, we were consulting 47% Consulting, well, we transitioned our business model to subscription and to to multi tenant cloud. We're at 9% recurring revenue today. So by default, when we 11% Consulting, and you know, a big focus for us was to move 100% of 6000 customers to subscription that was a that was a crazy thing to do financially, but it colored the business model transformation agenda. And you know what, to be honest, that's a hard thing to do. Especially when you have investors in your mix, we chose to do it before we bought on investment, because we had to tank our p&l for basically two and a half years before we saw the the payoff of compound growth on a subscription model.
Lloyed: Only a visionary kid could do that. 'm personally very passionate about people all my life is driven by people. And Laurie said in at the end, you guys worse over 70% NPS I just want to share, Salesforce and Adobe are two of the top employee experience, like in terms of top companies in terms of employee happiness, and Adobe z NPS is 57 last time and published NPS from Salesforce is 58. So you've done a fantastic job there. One question before we move on to moats because I really want you to talk about your view on moats and why it's important. Do these NPS surveys need to be anonymous? Like what's your view there?
Laurie: We used a tool called Work Tango. And it was excellent because it did all math. But it also actually had an interactive capability where employees, you know, gave you qualitative feedback as leaders, you could go in and you could read them and you know, it only publish stuff. You know, you wouldn't get results if it was below a certain sample size, but you could interact even anonymously, and often on a very sensitive issue doing that the person would would come out and you would you know, you would build trust through that tool. So, you know, I'd say for us 90% of the time, people were just fine, telling us who they were, because we created that culture, but you know, 10% of the time they weren't and so and anonymity I believe is still very critical.
Lloyed: Definitely. The other thing we talked about a lot is every time we talk to you, it's your favourite - tell us about moats? What do you see as being valuable moats for companies growing into this next sort of decade here.
Laurie: You know, sometimes when describing a moat in one sentence can be any climatic because you want it to sound bigger than it is. And when we updated our one page strategy plan, it was only one other time we this was the biggest subject for debate. So what is it that you uniquely provide that personifies you as a scarce asset that both customers will buy into, and certainly investors will buy into. For us, our formula was around things like to multi tenant cloud, in our space, there's a lot of bullshit cloud, not true multi tenant cloud, our emphasis was on platform over point, you think about trying to present risks to your board, and you're trying to do that by you know, cobbling together a whole bunch of independent risks, you're not gonna really have objectivity in that conversation. For us, our moat was around global scale, we were the only one in our space with sales, and 130 countries, whatever it is for you, you know, it's important that the organization has a common opinion on what it is that's distinct about you. And once you figure that out, you know that the trick is to maintain your lead. And, you know, I'll give you another example, our chief revenue officer was from avalara. And they have a great example of a moat in that their sales tax or their tax compliance tool is embedded in most of the major e RPS around the world, talk about a moat, somebody that wants to kind of take a run at that business. They're not trying to upstage them just on a direct sales model, they're gonna have to try and get all of these, you know, global vendors to change who they're married to. It's an excellent example of a moment.
Lloyed: How do you build a moat that strengthens your market share, without planting yourself into a corner? painting yourself into a corner?
Laurie: When we first talked about our moats, it was around, I didn't mentioned beautiful design, easy to use to multi tenant cloud. And platform over point II, I realized that's just galvanized, gobbly gook language. But in doing so, we actually had to say no to a lot of business, imagine 10 years ago, telling auditors and risk professionals that they can only buy a true multi tenant cloud solution. And all of the way we don't do that. And we just said, well, we're not doing business with you. It's a bit of a risk. But, you know, once you've kind of got religion around your moat, make sure you have religion, about your execution against it. Because if you get tempted by large revenue opportunities that are off strategy, you're most likely to be credible, credible.
Lloyed: Awesome. And you guys have this heat map. There's another concept you talk about the billion dollar heat map, what goes into that heat map? What were the key elements drivers along the way?
Laurie: Yeah, billion dollar heat map that that's a great thing to try and do. It was a keep ourselves honest about what we still need to focus on, on route to a billion dollar outcome. And I remember building it, built it with our leadership team, build it with the change agents, and then build it, we ran it with the board. So I'm trying to, you know, play dispatch and get alignment, we probably had some 40 different metrics at the beginning, and we consolidated it down to 12. key thing is that it's diverse. I mean, there's gonna be the obvious financial metrics, don't let it be 80%, financial, you know, pick your two or three financial metrics, maybe it's rule of 50, for example, or maybe it's net return. You know, whatever your favorite metrics are, those should be easy, hard thing, there will be the pick. We pointed at a couple of other things, the caliber of the C suite, and the diversity of our board, not just where they diverge from a gender, you know, that type of profile, but did they have publicly traded company experience for example, we we had metrics around a product that would capture win loss with certain segments that were strategic, for example. We also measured accessible town. So this $41 billion town our platform, you know, by the time we sold, didn't deliver All, you know, against the full $41 billion capability every year, though, you know, we would grab another 3 million or 5 million based on either what we built or we bought, we had an accessible Tam metric in there. And so the key thing, you know, is I have one, we, we had these metrics projected out three years, we had valuation ranges around it, we had red, green, yellow, and I presented kind of the status of this billion dollar heat map in the monthly financial memo, and the quarterly board reports. And that was tough, because we were great at everything. But at least I had kind of alignment on what we needed to get great at, up down and across the organization. And it was really, really helpful. I built that, by the way, with an independent on my board, back to some of your opening comments, Lloyd, you know, if you've got a board member that's been there, done it, that, you know, that you can work with on something like that it can be a really impactful tool to use.
Lloyed: Definitely. And, you know, as you were building this company to a billion dollars, who are the three key people that you probably wouldn't have gotten without? And how should the audience here look for those people kind of thing? Who were some of the key drivers to help you because as a founder or a CEO, you're alone, right? Who do you talk to? Who do you bounce ideas off of your board is not with you day in, day out?
Laurie: I'd say the chemistry I had with a founder was really, really critical. He and I, over the years that we did an initial raise in 2017. And then we we sold in 2021, he and I were out on the streets, actually, in it, you know, 50% of my communication, my time internally communicating was supplemented with a bunch of time, call it 25% of my time, with with a founder building relationships with investors. And, you know, a great piece of advice I'd the I think about the timing of arrays is to do it when you don't need it. And if you have relationships with investors you respect in the queue, and you know, values and vision alignment was always key for us, then you can draw on those relationships when you are ready for investment. So the chemistry and that Harold and I had the founder and I had in building relationships with founders that really appreciated how hard what we were doing was, and who were able to see kind of the before and after, was high, high impact for outcome. Instead, you asked for a third, I had an amazing strategic product officer, who was the author of the TAM, who had domain actually, and was able to, in a way I couldn't bring kind of the customer piece along for the ride. So that combination created a ton of credibility for us as we we had our kind of investment discussions really mobilizing in this past year.
Lloyed: And in your in your 10 step plan that we talked about through this conversation. Investors courting investors at the end, a lot of what you what you talked about was invest in people have the right people in the right seats, talk about high trajectory, finding high trajectory people. You talked about processes, and and having a big tab and really putting the framework in place. And the investors are courting investors is at the end there. So tell us a little bit more about your process of courting investors. Also, you said that you guys didn't raise money until What was it? 2017. Right. Yeah. And it was from Norway. It wasn't a big amount of money. Like we're seeing hundreds of million millions of dollars this way. I think you guys raise what 50 or 70 million?
Laurie: 50 million, with Norwest was a minority investment in 2017. And so as you know, we are incorporated in 87. So pretty good run bootstrapped. And, yeah, we spend time thinking about control of our business. And then of course, when we brought in investment, we we weren't, we didn't want another table. We wanted people that we could learn from who are truly provided guests and great partners. And that's what we got in in the past year. And I didn't expect to do this but so it's something that I learned how to do and then I hope to be able to do it again, because we had so much inbound. We got organized, and my board was really really helpful for me and you It was my responsibility to create choice. And we actually thought we're going to go public. And in the end of the day, we sold to a strategics. And so we in kind of the last nine months that I was at galvanize, we had three tracks of organized conversation. And I reviewed these every second week or so with my board. We had about five investment bankers, we were talking to Evercore ultimately helped us with our transaction, they were fantastic. And we use them to keep us honest about our IPO agenda, we gave them a look under the hood. And we took their advice. And as a result, we created some evangelists in the investment crowd investment banker crowd, door number two, we on a very selective basis, cued up conversations with 10 to 15, private equity organizations, we got to know them, we looked for, you know, kind of compatibility of agendas. And on the third track, on a very selective basis, we talked to a few named strategics. And as you can imagine these plates on sticks, I mean, at the end of the day, I probably had like 20 conversations going and it's not just a one time thing is you know, Lloyd, then it won't meet with you every three months. And so it was crazy. But in those conversations, we created scarcity value, people got to know us. And, you know, we knew where our works were at the same time. So we had time to kind of double down and, you know, address those issues. And that put us in a great position to queue a competitive process in December, which culminated in our transaction. But, you know, we pro acted, we proactive who we wanted to have the conversations with, we didn't just respond to inbound.
Lloyed: Definitely. And you know, Laurie, you have such great brand value that many of the growth equity and private equity and VCs that that know you very well reached out to us, because there's a function of you being on our board. And everyone seems to know you. Well. It took to sort of bring this all together. I know, you don't like the word playbook. But you did have a playbook. Right? What were some of the six or five, six things that you would say were key to this ultimate playbook that led to a big exit.
Laurie: I had a playbook and I didn't even know I had one. But if I look back, I wish somebody would have just given this to me. And so five or six things, culture, technology, obviously, I talked a lot about culture, we transitioned our business to to multi tenant cloud business model. With the backdrop of those two things. We asked 6000 customers in 130 countries to change how they paid us. And then we rebranded our company, we used to be ACL, you may notice that as that end, we rebranded to galvanize, and we did that actually coincident with an acquisition. By the way, if you ever do a rebrand, try to do it with an acquisition, because the coincidence that those two things, almost gave us instant credibility beyond audit, we were immediately credible in kind of the cyber risk management space with Chief Information Officers. So you know, of anything, those five things stand out the most, and, you know, simple to say five words, those were major transformations, each one of them in and of themselves. But those are the five things that we focused on to to get our outcome.
Lloyed: How did you know it was time to sell the business you could have IPO? How did you know it's time to sell the business?
Laurie: It was, it's hard, I didn't want to sell a business. It was a long shot, we talked to just a few select strategics. And here's the thing in the governance risk compliance space, and if you think about auditors who remain one of our anchor tenants, unfortunately, these these professionals don't have the audience that they really need, at the board. Bring in diligence, the company that acquired galvanize, you know, they, they're on the iPads of 700,000 of the world's most influential leaders, be it you know, board directors and such. And the customer value proposition was just too good for us to walk away. It was a fast forward on our ability to get our customers into a position where they get up high impact. And me that was the main reason that we acted before we thought we would and in a way we thought we wouldn't. So what's incredible now is to say See how that transaction has transformed the lives of employees. And, you know, what we've done by virtue of this is we've incubated this next generation of leaders into the tech scene who've gone through this crazy transformation and now have, you know, built some muscle around what it takes to be able to drive a change agenda on candidate formula of culture, technology, business model, m&a, and brand.
Lloyed: Awesome. And Ross here asks, How did you personally or as a leadership team, keep going on the change of billing model to 6000? clients? That's crazy. And you sank two and a half years of PnL to make that happen? Did you ever worry, like at some point like this is not going to work? That's a massive that.
Laurie: Well, we were crazy. And maybe we did it. So with such certainty because we didn't know what we were doing. It I like to describe it as being pregnant. The first year was like being in the first trimester, we were amazed, it was actually easier than we thought to get customers to sign up. Of course, we deferred a bunch of revenues. And so your two was like being the second trimester. I mean, there's no getting out of it. And the problem is, we didn't know how to count our success, we actually didn't even know if we were successful. It's like you had to create belief in something nobody could see. So we looked for, you know, different ways to predict whether customers would continue to retain their, their, their solution, we looked at their actual consumption of our technology. And from a financial perspective, I trained my board and leadership team out, she had a hang up on the balance sheet, not the p&l. This is crazy. And it's where you have to have a lot of credibility as a leader, like I said, because you're you're trying to create belief around something people can't yet see. And your pot committed. I mean, there's no going back. by year three, we had all of the right signals. And this was the greatest move that we ever made. Because the concrete lift from a recurring business model was, was obviously high impact for us.
Lloyed: We're at the top of the hour. I think this is a great note to end on. First, they ignore you, then they call you crazy, then they fight you. And then you win a billion dollars. Laurie, what a great pleasure. I wish actually, I was working for you at galvanize at the time. It's just so phenomenal to just learn every time we talk. We talk more frequently. I learned I learned more. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
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I recently joined Pinterest after 5 years at a small boutique agency that was almost like family. Within that role I wore many hats and I was at a point in my career where I was ready to not only try something new but to focus in on less hats to get better at wearing one. It was a hard decision and it meant moving my life to Toronto but I knew it was what I needed and what was best for my career.
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Alex Norman sat down with Matt Clifford, Co-founder of Entrepreneur First, the world's leading talent investor, and Benedict Evans, a venture partner at Entrepreneur First, to talk about investing technology more in general about EF. Check out the discussion below.
Evans: I've never quite understood why people say secular shift as opposed to temporal shift. Anyway, maybe it's like societal. I mean, we kind of had an awful lot of sectors. We had this moment of sort of forced experiment and forced adoption and forced acceleration last year, and everyone had to try and do everything online. And some of it will stick not all of it like we won't go back to we won't carry on doing things exactly the way we did them in April last year, but we also won't get back to go back to 2019. And that applies to video calls and business travel and conferences and all sorts of and online dating and all sorts of stuff. In e commerce site. The numbers I'm most familiar with are that the UK went from about 20% to about 30%. And the US went from sort of 16% to sort of low 20s. Some sectors a lot more jumped a lot more UK online. Great. We've got online grocery kind of doubled investment. He says in the UK, it went from about 5% to about 10% in the US about half that. And I think what that that kind of happens is a couple of things that happen now, like one of them is it sort of crystallizes the realization that this stuff has gone from being something that some people do for some categories, to something that everybody will do for any category, if you can come up with the right business model, the right experience, the right logistics model, and so on. Anyone will buy anything online? That's not the same as everyone will buy everything online? Second, I think you've got two splits within that. One of them is around what the kind of the buying experiences where, you know, do you want the kind of pure commodity of Amazon where I know exactly what I want, I go to Amazon, I type in the skew and I get the skew. Or do I want experience recommendation, discovery of curation, expertise, experience, some other kinds, something else beyond just that kind of pure logistics, pure kind of database with a with a with a truck on the end model, and part of the story of e commerce for the last 20 years has been like converting categories that people thought needed experience and turning out actually, you could do them online, if you had free shipping, or same day shipping or free returns, or you could order five sizes and try them all or something. But even today, like Amazon is like 40% of e commerce. So like, what's the other 60%? Like, a chunk of it is other like logistics base retailers, but a whole chunk of it is other stuff. And so part of the journey of the last 20 years, the other side of that journey, the last 20 years is like what experiences can you create, you know, with Warby Parker is not a logistics company, you know, how do you make it? How do you create that delight online. And that's everything from, you know, editorial content, to live streaming, to video to Instagram, all sorts of other things, which are more like about experience and media and culture than they are about software. The other big split? So you've got this split between listed logistics and experience. What is the retailer doing? The other split is between parcels and trucks. So you can look at e commerce and say, what's the penetration of books versus makeup versus shoes versus pet food, say, but you can also say, what's the split of e commerce between or what's the split of retail overall between stuff that could go in a parcel and stuff where you're going to have to go and collect it, or software, it has to be a truck or software, it needs to be somebody on a bike. And so it turns out that if you you kind of run that analysis, you get sort of, say sort of 50% can be in a parcel 30% can be you're going to need to deliver it or collect it in some form, which basically means groceries, furniture, white goods, stuff that can't go in the mail, and need some whole other logistics chain. And like 20% is restaurants, right? And we also can't get a parcel. And when you go and look at the numbers, it turns out that somewhere between a third or half of restaurant spending, particularly in the US was already this phrase off Prem like it's a nice kind of disconcerting way of referring to restaurants as on prem and off Prem. So like a third to a half of restaurant spending is already off Prem. But it was analog, it was collection, or takeout or delivery. And that very obviously, you can switch to software models, it's the same thing. It's just how you make the booking. But that also means that you move to models like dark kitchens, and cloud kitchens and virtual brands, and you've got one kitchen that's cooking for five different brands or five different kinds of food, and does it need to be it doesn't need to be at the same kind of real estate as a restaurant. Same thing with Dart stores. So right now the hot thing in London is one hour grocery delivery. So you've got the giant truck, you've got the big refrigerated truck, bringing your weekly shot, that's one logistics model, that a guy on a moped bringing you an hour one hour shot like five things that's a different logistics model.
Evans: And so you've got these two different kinds of questions. One is what's the experience of shopping? What's the customer journey like? And the other is how does it physically get to you and you've got this kind of bifurcation.
Clifford: It's interesting, because if you think about almost like betraying my consulting rooms as like a two by two of like experience logistics, and then you've got sort of parcel trucks, it, it almost feels like the naive view would be to say, you know, like, some of those are just going to be very pro incumbents spaces, you need a lot of capital you need, you know, you need to have existing infrastructure, but actually, it looks like looking at the funding landscape for startups that all four of those boxes have attracted a lot of new players starting from scratch in the last year or so. Do you see any of those like segments is particularly promising for startups versus like all the gains accrue to Amazon or similar?
Evans: I think there's sort of one other level to this which is across everything I've just said you will also people making the software So there's this little company called Shopify. From from a company comes in Canada, I think so. Yeah. Well, most people in California couldn't find Canada on a map, I suspect. But you know, Shopify did $120 billion of gmv last year, which is about 40% of Amazon market credible. Yeah. And I have this conversation with people in anti trust, because you know, Shopify is not doing exactly what Amazon does, it's doing something different. And the model and the sort of general and a specific point here, like the general point is like the competition competitive threat to a giant tech company is never somebody doing the same thing. If somebody's changing what the market would look like and changing if something else, and we go back to like Microsoft, Microsoft didn't make IBM irrelevant by making better mainframes. Google didn't make Microsoft irrelevant by making a better PC operating system or better Office Suite. You know, Facebook didn't break into Google's market by doing better search, they did some whole other thing. And the same with Shopify versus Amazon. So I think that's one point, I think the second, like much more general point is like, it reflects the willingness of consumers and brands to go direct, and it reflects sort of the unbundling of the stack. And the ability to sell any individual bit of the ecommerce stack as its own thing plugged into other bits and pieces, you know, with sass and cloud, then with machine learning, and, you know, the kind of proliferation of an ecosystem of commerce tooling on top of that, and that happens in everything from shipping to warehousing to, you know, stores to a sort of every aspect of this people are kind of poking away, trying to carve something out. Maybe it's a one other thing that I think is interesting issue, Shopify is you can always solve a business, make a new company by solving and taking a solve problem and doing it 10x easier. Yeah, and part of what's interesting, and, you know, part of what goes on with Shopify is you know, how many customers are not sneezed but giant companies, which is also supported the digital transformation thing, which is where we've got an SAP installation and the sap tell us we can do e commerce, but like, it's not very good.
Clifford: This idea of unbundling the stack, we funded a company in London, an entrepreneur first called dispatch, which is basically making the bat that particularly high end chefs, right now are forced into sort of full stack models to exploit their IP. And actually, if you can find a way to do a lot of the boring bits for them, they can sell not just, you know, kind of 50 covers a night, but to anyone anywhere in the world. And if you can ship the meal in a box based on their IP, you've got something there until you do it that way. I hadn't thought of it as like, they're basically just unbundling, that that stack of what it means to be a high end restaurant.
Evans: I mean, part of the, you know, the old cliche in tech, there's two ways to make money bundling and unbundling. And this is a joke about video. Now, what I really want is for somebody to sell me a box, I can put under buy TV that has a dedicated internet connection and give me one interface to connect to all of these TV services. And you could call it like cable TV. Always that pendulum swinging back and forth. I mean, there is a sort of a pendulum at the moment of disaggregation. In software, it's also kind of you move to new stacks, and then you build off, you build everything again on the new stack. So when you move from Oracle, Windows client server, to cloud, fast web machine learning, you have like you draw a line from everything that got built from like 1990 to 2000. In on prem data centers or not, you just fill all of that again.
Clifford: Well, that's some you mentioned video. But let's let's talk about audio. I mean, as well as sort of e commerce and not the huge startup story in the pandemic has been the rise of clubhouse, which your former colleagues have funded handsomely, and has, has had a great run, how do you think about that you've written a bit recently about the future of audio? How do you think it is playing out and particularly the role of clubhouse as a new player?
Evans: I think a little bit of this is like, you've heard Kate like a kind of 50 foot by 50 foot whiteboard, and like, just look for whitespace and fill in a matrix and go, Well, you know, what do you do with like, what do you do with every sense on the phone? And, you know, what do you do with every kind of model of interaction? And, you know, we've had a lot of image based stuff. We've had a lot of video basic stuff. What happens if you have video and take off the video? Like, what happens if it's just audio? You know, one way of bringing a clubhouse is, you know, I think we've all been on zoom calls where we've kind of thought, Well, why do I actually need video here? So you know, I would actually rather have the clubhouse UI, where instead of appearing at somebody's little thumbnail of their face and trying to work out is that who's talking on this call, I would rather just have like an icon of their face and an index I refuse talking feels like that would be a much more effective like way of doing cool. I think there's another piece to clubhouse specifically, well said two or three other things to say about clubhouse. One of them is how like, how many problems there are podcasts. And I think, you know, one way to think about podcast is like, imagine if instead of the web, we were using these proprietary FTP apps that downloaded PDFs. In each FTP, have like its own hand coded Yahoo style directory of what the good PDFs were get the sealed box of a piece of data that you can't release, look inside or link to or do anything with or search Yes, people are doing indexing, you can't search on link to a copy or doing it or remix or do anything with it. You can't nobody can add any new features because you'd have to persuade all the clients to add the features. So that's all screwed up. There's no discoverability there's no like there's no search, there's no links, there's no social like, it's all like, it's like this kind of weird screwed up fucked up kind of format. And, of course, it's open. And some people in tech have like this sort of this sort of joke about people in tech have Tourette syndrome. But instead of saying Spark, they say open or certainly crypt like podcast has that. So I think that that sense of like that when World War problems does exist, like he created the seal system where like, you can actually have features because you own the whole thing. I think the other interesting part of it is that that you have these sort of different that you kind of break away from all of the models in Twitter and Facebook that lend themselves to abuse. So you don't retreating, you don't have comments, you don't have all of those sorts of easy mechanisms for for being obnoxious. You don't go viral. You don't have Miss, you can't have misinformation, you can't spread you, you also don't have advertising you have, they're going to move to a kind of a tipping model. And so I think there's a lot of things about that, that are kind of interesting, in the way that they sort of shift you to this. They sort of shift away from a bunch of things that are way like kind of web 2.0 work. And you could plug type in talk about this all day. But like you could plug this into like another narrative, which is sort of the death of cookies, shift away from advertising shift away from a model of the internet, where everything happened on lots of different sites, and advertising and content and commerce, and discovery and search will happen to different places. And it was all sort of stitched together with cookies and links. And at this point, people start chatting but privacy, but privacy, but privacy. And of course you never think to the sort of vertical silo where everything happens in one place. You don't have any privacy problems. But you also don't have openness. You don't have linking you don't you know, you see kind of shift to like a different way of thinking about the way the web of work.
Clifford: or the way that Twitter when I turned it on this morning offered me the chance to enable tipping on my profile, which I'd never seen before. I didn't feature testing thing. I don't think anyone would want to tip me but it's it's an interesting idea. And of course they have their own clubhouse clone as well as do Facebook.
Evans: Yeah. Well, you know, clearly everyone in the valley is always terrified of what might happen if Twitter pointed. It's famously effective execution machine out there. That's very mean manager. I mean, it's a question. I mean, it is fascinating. This Twitter gave this at this event like a couple of months ago, where they basically said, Look, we know we started executing and we subject being a partner for the last decade, and we decided it would be a good idea to be good at executing. Okay.
Clifford: A general way of thinking about this very common occurrence, though of sort of like, in sort of insurgent innovator, big tech company with distribution tries to copy. I mean, because Facebook actually has executed a lot of these copying mechanisms pretty well, I would say, how do you think face How do you think about sort of cop house versus whatever Facebook ends up pushing in the space?
Evans: So I think there's like a kind of a generalized question, which is sort of pointed to kind of plan completely different case, which is look at something like Apple doing a disk, a device discovery system with find me and add tags. And Tyler really upset about this, obviously. But the kind of the way I would think about this is if you bought a spreadsheet back in the early 80s, or P word processor, it wouldn't have charts. And if you wanted to do charts that was a nice for $200.02 $100 in early 80s Money. So that's like $500. Now, what do word count and footnotes in your WordPress, okay, that's 100 bucks, there was actually a program called sideways, that was, again, like 150 bucks. And what it did was it let you print your spreadsheets in landscape. And like go back another couple of decades, you buy a new car, my father bought a new car, his first car in the 50s, it didn't have turn signals. But the reason when you do a driving test, the reason they teach you hand signals, is because until like the 80s, cars, like quite often didn't have a light, you know, that was. And that's like, so when Ford and General Motors and everybody else put lights in the car, so you go to a shop and buy them, you get a screwdriver, and you spend your Saturday putting adlet physically adding the turn lights to the back of your car. And when Ford and GM added that that was really, really unfair to the people who were selling lights. And when leaders and Microsoft added word counts and footnotes to their word processors that was really unfair to the people who sold that software. But do we think that means they shouldn't do it? And I think this is there. So this is sort of the question. The other side of this is well, what about when Microsoft added a web browser to Windows? What about when Apple adds streaming music to the iPhone? And so you've got this kind of difficult question of like, is does that naturally belong? as something that's integrated into the system? Is that the right place for it to be? Or does it naturally belong as an add on component? And the people who run the system, actually abusing their position? Like not letting Spotify sell a subscription? Or not? Always is just like, Well, of course, it should be part of that. You know, you know, when when Microsoft rebuilt windows in Windows 95 said that you didn't need a third there was no point having a third party memory manager that put quarterback out of business. Okay, so we're saying that, that your operating system shouldn't memory manage if memory for you so that there can be an opportunity for somebody else to save your memory manager? Well. So where do you draw a line?
Clifford: I want to talk about VR briefly. So you know, I suppose one of the big things that eventually always look for is like, you know, is there another big platform opportunity? And, you know, VR, at least presumably, the reason that Zack bought Oculus was the idea that maybe VR would be the next big computing platform. As you've written about recently, that sort of hasn't happened yet. VR winter, I think you called it I Why do you think we are on that? Will there ever be a VR summer? Could it be?
Evans: Well, so you can go back in time, he says, So VR and machine learning, were both like dumb ideas from the early 90s that have never worked. And until about 2012, and about 2012, if you'd said, I want to work on the old machine learning, like what are you talking about? That's your that's your brand new career, it's a waste of time. And then basically, for the same reason, for both of them, people realize that this has worked out, which is basically Most of all, like, we have way more fitting way, way, way more data by way better chips, better screens, but the sensors, it would actually work now and not suck. And we spent like the last seven or eight years in VR going from like, well, theoretically, this would work. But it's still like five grand to now the Oculus quest here is $300. And it's really good. It's not like you don't use it and think it's a beta, you don't make excuses for it. It's a viable consumer product that you can give to somebody. The other side is what do you do with it. And the problem there is that it is a very good niche games device. It is not yet apparent what else it would be. And there's an argument that this is about the hardware and you need better, you need better sensors. So you can have hype, and you can use your hands. And you need a much higher definition screen. So you can see text, as well as just seeing game graphics. And that, that basically this is Facebook's thesis is you start with games, you bootstrap up a real user base. With that you keep going until the hardware gets good enough to do text, then suddenly, you've got pop and you've got this 360 bubble of screen all around you. And it's amazing. And like suddenly now, you know, this is a month clearly more vastly better way to do your work and do all kinds of stuff. I kind of feel like if that was true, why don't we all have 70 inch screens on our desks? And why is it that actually, most of us do most of our work now on iPhones? Right? And I feel like this is skeuomorphism it's like, you know, this is old joke that like never invest in anything called Virtual because they're trying to try to do a crap copy of something in the real world instead of making something new. And it's a little bit like the shift to the cloud, which is a sort of narrative I always have is like you've got somebody in a big company and whose job is to take data out of SAP into a CSV, put the CSV To accelerate charts, but the charts in PowerPoint, make slides, emailed them to everybody. And one brilliant day somebody comes along and say, hey, we've got this cloud thing. Now, instead of emailing everybody the PowerPoint, you could just put it on Google Drive. And then somebody says, No, no, no, you shouldn't be doing that. You should be using Google Slides. And these are both like, well, yes. But shouldn't SAP be making the charts? Yeah, a friend of mine the other day at Facebook, and he's like, I just downloaded, you know, this new iMac is so great. I just downloaded a 650 meg, CSV and analyzed it. And I'm like, yeah, run me through that one again. How do you see, the reason I say this is like, I don't think like more screen is the answer to any important question in productivity, or in how we use our computers, like more screen is interesting. For some things. It's interesting, basically, for certain kinds of entertainment. Yeah. Is that would that make my Salesforce experience much better? Would it enable me to make some transformative new Salesforce same? isn't like the whole point of this shit to have less stuff on the screen? Like, isn't that the whole direction of travel to have less buttons? Yeah.
Clifford: AR is distinctively different, obviously, from VR, and that that you can tell a story about why the use cases for that ought to be a lot more general. So do you buy that?
Evans: It's interesting. So I mean, AR it feels a lot like talking about smartphones in like, 2000. Okay, what is gonna be? Is everyone gonna have one are you gonna have a big one, a small one, you're gonna have a PDA, you're gonna have a keyboard, is it gonna, you're gonna have a bluetooth headset and a screen, but you leave the screen at home. And he's like, we have no idea what it's gonna look like. I think there's like, there's a hard science problem in AR, which is you need to have something that looks more or less like this, that has a full set of cameras and sensors built in, that has compute equivalent to like a high end smartphone. Now, whether that's wireless is where the actual smartphone in your pocket or not, maybe how Apple plans to do it to begin with. And then you need all the objects so I can put something in the world that looks like it's really there. And then it works in broad daylight, and hasn't good field of view. And, and and, and so there's like a whole optics problem, and then a sensing problem, and then a computer engineering problem. And then when you have that, okay, I've got a pair of glasses, I can look around. So Marc Andreessen had this sort of theory that like most people don't go anywhere. So like, the whole narrative is like you're standing in the art gallery, and you look at the picture, and you see the Wikipedia entry or you know, like, I have a meeting and like I see your LinkedIn profile above your head and and and and it's like that the like the cynical case on this would be it's a little bit like, like in the mid 2000s, when people were like really interested in location, but had no clue what it would be. And the use case, everyone would always say is your walk past the Starbucks, and you'll get a pop up on your phone saying you can have a cheap coffee. And here we are 15 years later. And we do use GPS all the time. But we don't do that with it. And so there is sort of, Okay, if I walk out grasses that could put stuff into the world around me. What would that be for? And like, it sounds great. But what is no actually what would that be? And like I'm sure you've got a VR headset, I've got a VR headset I've been on call everyone, half the people I have calls with on VR headsets. Like I don't think it's never literally never occurred to any of us to do this thing. They these calls in VR, right? inside and the same without like this is there is this sort of say the bear case. Again, I could talk about this all day. The bear case with VR is it's a subset of games consoles. It's a deep, intense, richly immersive experience. Most people do not want against console. Most people see a games demo today. And they go that's very creepy. And don't don't buy it. Yeah, you know, most people, if you'd shown to somebody at a PlayStation five in 1980, they would have said, Oh my god, this is amazing. This is part of the future. Turns out that's 150 million units, which is a big business, but it's not 5 billion smartphones. Yeah, that's the bear case for both VR and AR is it's very cool. But it's not easy to universal experience. And I don't think we know I mean, we were having this argument about mobile 20 years ago. Well, will everyone do that? Or that'd be like a nice thing. is a smartphone a PC accessory? turned out PC as a smartphone accessory. Yeah, literally, that's what happened until about 2010. smartphones, were PC accessories now PCs are smartphone accessories.
Clifford: With this sort of unifying theme of things that VCs hope would be trillion dollar businesses. I mean, the other thing you've written a lot about is how autonomous vehicles level five autonomous vehicles are sort of five to 10 years away and have been for Yes. Well, where do you think we are with that right now many fields in some ways, like, all the things that technologically needed to happen to make that happen, have continued to move at the pace.
Evans: So it's comes back to machine learning. So machine learning meant that people said, Oh, actually, this could work now. And it got it. It got us from it working very badly, a little bit to working very well, quite a lot. The trouble is very well, quite a lot isn't good enough. And it's a classic case of like the last 10% being 90% of the work. And nobody working on this stuff thinks it's even close to working in a generalized sense yet. I think the maybe the more interesting question is what is working mean? And where and I think it's aware rather than a when question. So which is why like kind of full autonomy is kind of meaningless, because like full autonomy, where, like, I'm a way better driver, when there's nobody else on the road. There's other people around, you know, I've never had an accident if there were no other cars on the road. So like, you can have a car, you can have a garbage truck that can follow the crew down the road at walking pace, and at the end of the road, they get in and drive at home, you could say this medium sized town says, well, we're autonomy only at the weekends. And that means you drive to a parking lot, and you get into an autonomous golf cart. And the autonomous golf cart can only drive within this geographic area, and there are no manually driven vehicles in that area. And that big suddenly that bikini on, you're only driving 10 miles an hour. So suddenly, that becomes a really easy for a much easier problem is that car fully autonomous, while it's fully autonomous, at 10 miles an hour in this city, when there's neighbor autonomous when there's no manually driven vehicles around. So what is full autonomy mean? And I think that's sort of where we're going to go is, you know, freeway driving is way easier than cities, right? For example, I think where it gets really challenging is when is the midpoint, where you have some human driven vehicles and some not human driven vehicles. And in particular, where you have a vehicle that is not fully autonomous, but somewhat autonomous. And the human being is supposed to be sitting in the car all the time with their hands like this, ready to grab the wheel at any moment. And this is why like 98% of people who work in autonomy, look at Elon Musk and Tesla and say that is dangerous. Because it's not level five, it's not anywhere close to level five. It cannot drive itself in any meaningful sense. If anything unexpected happens. And like it looks OK, as long as nothing unexpected happens, but you don't know what it will do when something unexpected happens. And it's not a good thing for a human being to be not driving and not paying attention and then suddenly have to be driving. That's actually the difficult one of the kind of the challenges is it's way easier to make. In a sense, it's, it's much fun, I think, the middle case, the uncanny valley, is the hard bit. It will be way easier of all the cars were autonomous.
Clifford: You can imagine sort of, we have an office in Singapore. And you can sort of imagine somewhere like Singapore saying, we're just going to brute force that transition.
Evans: It's the same as it is what's happening with electric, right? German post office will say all vehicles are electric, or we're going to replace up our fleet, we're going to have, you know, the generational fleet change, the new vehicles will be electric. Because we've got a constrained scenario, we know exactly what the average mileage is, we can we know exactly when they can charge, we're just gonna go electric. And you know, Manhattan can say, all delivery vehicles under certain, you know, certain criteria or delivery vehicles have to be electric by this date. And they can do that. And that's like a practical thing you can say. And you can imagine saying that with some autonomy scenarios, if you say that, you know, delivery vehicles at night, maybe certainly freeways, like the obvious thing, you can make an autonomous truck much more easily than you can make a taxi in suburbs. So it's again, it's the where, rather than the 'when' question, I think, becomes the answer.
Evans: When do you have South Boston? When do you have Naples? When do you have Moscow? What is that hand signal actually telling you to do to your mother, what does full autonomy mean? You know, it requires that degree of understanding of what people are going to do. It's easy, but as you know, creating constrained environments, then it becomes viable. I mean, you mentioned VC. And the question, the, the thing that's become apparent is that like, this is billions of dollars, right? So we've seen both Uber and Lyft get out because they just said, we just don't have the cash flow to support a we don't have the cash flow to support this be actually we don't think it's going to be somewhere think we have to control with it, we'll just be able to go out and buy it when it happens. So we don't have to do it ourselves. And they don't have the money. Tesla basically gets away with it by actually not doing that capex, you know, they're just free riding on the user base. But the problem with that is that means they don't have radar. They don't really even have high definition cameras. So they've got a very different kind of quality of data to everybody else. But there is this kind of interesting thing: how much money is it going to take to get you there?
Clifford: It's interesting that there was a point when Uber was saying, maybe not fully open there. But you know, there was there was this sort of like meme that Uber required this to make their business model work in the long run, you know, like without autonomy, driving costs are just too high. But it's kind of striking to see that reversal.
Evans: I mean, it's a puzzle. I think there was a moment of euphoria when people thought like, Oh, my God, this might actually work in like, three years. Yeah. And I think you could also maybe fit that into a funding and valuation story. But, you know, it's become apparent, as I said, like, you went from not working at all. There's this famous DARPA challenge whenever I come in with 1010. Yeah, actually pre machine learning. And like, you can get it to work sort of, but thought of isn't good enough. And that's become the question.
Clifford: As you say, like you maybe it's a bit like one of these sort of Bell Labs or Xerox PARC, things where you kind of need to attach it to a massive monopoly with huge cash flows to fund it, affect it forever, and to make it work. All right, I think we're out of time. But better, this has been fascinating. So thank you so much. I just and Alex, thanks for joining us back. One thing, Alex, I realized you didn't say in your introduction is we're lucky to have you as one of our Venture Partners in Entrepreneur First in Toronto.
Norman: I think you guys are having a huge impact on the ecosystem, because you bring a different approach to building startups here. And we have a lot of talent on the sidelines, that would not be building up companies without you.
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