Aug. 20, 2021

"It's Easy to Start but Very Hard to Finish Strong" - Marketing Founders

Amy Tom chats to Gil Allouche (CEO of and Tom Coburn (CEO of Jebbit) about starting a marketing data company. They chat about how they each started their companies, the mutual challenges they face, and give advice on growing a company. πŸ’―
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Amy Tom chats to Gil Allouche (CEO of and Tom Coburn (CEO of Jebbit) about starting a marketing data company. They chat about how they each started their companies, the mutual challenges they face, and give advice on growing a company. πŸ’―

On this episode of the HackerNoon Podcast:

  • What was Gil's very first job? (00:56) And Tom's? πŸ‘Ά (02:30)
  • Why didn't Tom pursue a medical career after school? πŸš‘ (06:48)
  • How did Gil start metadata? (10:00) And how did Gil grow his company? πŸ‘·β€β™‚οΈ (15:03)
  • When is the right time to pivot your business? πŸ›‹ (17:50) And how do you know when things aren't working out? (19:47)
  • What are some business scalability challenges marketing founders face? πŸ“ˆ (21:00)
  • If Tom knew what he was getting into 10 years ago, would he still have started Jebbit? 🧐(28:00)
  • Is reiteration just part of the entrepreneurship game? πŸ” (35:00)
  • What is Tom's #1 piece of advice for a first-time entrepreneur? (39:07) And Gil's? πŸ™πŸ» (40:35)

🐣 Vote for Jebbit for Startup Of The Year in Boston:

πŸ¦† Vote for for Startup Of The Year in South San Fran:

πŸ’³ All Startups Of The Year Nominees get $300 in Pre-paid Brex Credit (conditions apply) - thanks Brex!

Connect with Tom and Gil:




[00:00:00] Amy: Hello everybody yesterday. I did something very exciting. I got my second VAX. So I'm feeling a little bit, maybe a sleepy today, but overall not so bad. Just feels like a little bruise on the arm, no fever or anything. So that's good. Pretty stoked about that. Anyways, this is the hacker noon podcast and my name is Amy.

Thank you very much for tuning in today. I am talking to Gil Ellucian, who is the CEO of metadata IO and Tom Coburn, who is the CEO of Jebbit. Thank you very much for joining me guys.

[00:00:37] Gil: Thank you for having us.

[00:00:40] Amy: So I would like to talk to you guys today about using marketing data to make decisions and starting a company based on that.

I would love to start off at the very beginning. Gil. Can you tell me what your very first job.

[00:00:56] Gil: Very first job ever. I mean my first that another way, the first way I made money, the first cycle official job

[00:01:03] Amy: I want actually, I want to know both now.

[00:01:05] Gil: The first dime I made money, I think I was eight years old.

I used to bring firecrackers from France. For really cheap because I was a kid, no one was suspicious and I would sell them for like legit eight, 10 times the price to the rich kids in my class.

[00:01:23] Amy: Wait, where did you grow up? Sorry.

[00:01:25] Gil: I grew up in Israel, but my family is also from

[00:01:28] Amy: France. Okay. So your family would go on like a vacation to France and you would fire, I guess your parents let you do it.


[00:01:37] Gil: only did they let me do it. They would sometimes invest in helping me get a nice chunk before. And I would tell it both of the stores in my hometown as well as to the kids who were interested.

[00:01:47] Amy: Amazing. Okay. And then what was your first official paid job?

[00:01:53] Gil: Official paid job. I handed out with brochures to a computer programming school that I started in.

[00:02:01] Amy: Okay.

Yeah. Okay, cool. And Tom, what was your very first job?

[00:02:11] Tom: I liked the way Gail answered it a first way of making money and then first job. The first time I tried to make money. I got in trouble. It was in sixth grade because I had started a March madness bracket with half the kids in my grade. And I was collecting $20 from everyone.

And then the teachers found out and I had to give all the money back. So I think your business was more successful than mine was because I didn't actually make any money. And then my first like actual job that I had, a boss and had to show up for was working at a golf course. I was a big golfer growing up.

And I figured I should combine my passion for golf and work at a golf course. Which I, in hindsight, wasn't a great idea. Cause I just had to stand at the golf course all day and watch other people's clubs and get the carts ready for them while they played golf. But that was.

[00:02:59] Amy: Okay. Yeah. So you were doing more of like the caddy stuff?

Not like in the restaurant.

[00:03:04] Tom: I wasn't in the restaurant. Yeah. I was out in the back room. They call it where?

[00:03:08] Amy: All right. All right. Okay. And then, okay, now let's move on to the next stage of your life gala. What did you do after that?

[00:03:15] Gil: I had a lot of jobs as a kid. So I worked as a computer technician in a computer technician kind of store back when there were still desktops and people fixing their PCs.

I used to operate a trampoline in an amusement park.

[00:03:30] Tom: Yeah. In what country?

[00:03:33] Gil: Israel, this is all Israel. I only moved out, lived in a different country when I was doing the.

[00:03:39] Amy: Okay. Clean off rider. Okay.

[00:03:42] Gil: It is random. That, that's what I mean,

[00:03:44] Amy: go to post-secondary

[00:03:47] Gil: post-secondary college university.

Oh yes. So I went, first of all, I went to the army because it's Israel. And after that, they went for a long trip in the far east. And then I went to do my college and then graduate school actually started my computer science degree when I was there. Like classes, remote classes.


[00:04:03] Amy: Okay. So you have a computer science degree and we just don't

[00:04:06] Gil: think it in an MBA.

[00:04:07] Amy: Yeah. Okay, cool. And then when did you move to the states

[00:04:12] Gil: at 24? So 2007, the end of 2007.

[00:04:15] Amy: And what was your first job when we got here?

[00:04:18] Gil: I had I was doing, I was creating websites for my college classmates.

That was just to make some money. And then I had an internship at SAP in SAP, in Palo Alto. Maybe eight months after I started after you write for the U S.

[00:04:32] Amy: Okay, cool. And Tom, tell me about what happened after the golf course.

[00:04:40] Tom: I junior of high school, I got really into the science. I was forced to do science fair for a chemistry class.

I wanted to do. And I really didn't want to do it. And I've learned about myself when I do things, I tend to go all in. So I ended up going very all in on science, fair, my partner, and I went pretty far with it and I ended up landing internships to work in different chemistry labs through that.

So I spent summers working in chemistry labs. Led me going to Boston college, where I went fully convinced I was going to be a biology and chemistry double major and go become a doctor. And clearly I didn't end up going that route, but that is that is where I was at when I got the call.

[00:05:22] Amy: Okay. So when you, do you have a degree in medical things?

[00:05:28] Tom: I technically don't have a degree. I ended up leaving college early to do Jebbit. But at the time I left, I was a biology. I had dropped the chemistry. I was a biology and physiology double major. So those were the things I was studying. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Someday I'll go back and get a diploma though. I promise my grandma.

[00:05:51] Amy: Okay. All right. I have a diploma too. Why did you drop the science?

[00:05:55] Tom: Then? I only dropped the chemistry part. I stuck with biology, but I just

[00:06:00] Amy: what made you want to get not use the science education that you had and start jeopardy?

[00:06:05] Tom: Honestly, I just fell in love with the idea of starting a company.

I our school has a business plan competition, like many other schools do, and all my roommates were in the business school. So me and them decided to team up and pitch a business idea. And freshman year we tried to pitch a medical device idea because we were trying to combine, my passion for science and there's the business.

And just, no one believed us that a bunch of freshmen in college were going to start a medical. Probably fair. None of us had a medical degree. So when we came back for sophomore year, we just tried to brainstorm ideas. That would be more believable. A bunch of sophomores in college would be able to produce.

And I ended up that year coming up with the original kernel of the idea that was ceviche. We have a fault a lot since then, but yeah. Long story short, we won the competition and we did a summer program with a venture capitalist in Boston who had gone to Boston college, our school, and was an alumni. And that summer changed my life after having a whole summer to work on the business.

Full-time I shifted the focus away from medical school to, I actually want to start this company and go make it happen. And how

[00:07:09] Amy: long ago?

[00:07:11] Tom: Let's see now it was about a decade ago now. Yeah, that was the summer of 2011 between my sophomore and junior years of college.

[00:07:19] Amy: Okay. Wow. Can I just say that you do not look like you're a decade out of college?

Yeah. Okay, cool. How many people did you found a job at?

[00:07:33] Tom: There's different like phases of that. I had, four friends that we won the business plan competition with, and then only two of them actually wanted to work on the idea, it's one thing to just pitch it and win a competition.

It's another thing to say now we're actually going to go work on it. And then none of them ended. Dropping out with me. I ended up dropping out with two new co-founders that I met the second wave of co-founders. I guess you could call it similarly, it's a whole nother ball game to say I'm actually gonna leave school and go work on this business.

Full-time and then when I did drop out. We had a team of over 50 students that were working with us. That was how we built the company for the two years I was in school. So we had all these students working with us. And so five of them, I ended up hiring right as they graduated six months after I dropped out.

Cause we had raised a seed round of funding. So there's also a founding team of them as well. So there's three, three different chunks depending on how you want it. Okay.

[00:08:30] Amy: So you hired people almost right out of the gate then.

[00:08:32] Tom: It would be, it hires an interesting word. Yeah. They all were just helping.

So I was just a student in college with no, we had no money. We, it wasn't like a full-time job for anyone, but yes, we had I guess 50 students, I think it was 52 students at its peak were volunteering and, wow. Okay.

[00:08:51] Amy: Cool. Gail, I believe you are also a co-founder.

[00:08:57] Gil: I am today. I am a single founder.

I is similar to Tom. There are a few different rounds with co-founders. I started a company with I started on my own. I brought in two founders and they were working with me each for about two years and they went on to do different things. One of them started a new company and one of them is working at a company.

[00:09:19] Amy: Okay. D did you feel like at the time when you started. You needed a co-founder or if you could do it again, would you have done it on your own Gil?

[00:09:29] Gil: I think you hit it right. I thought I needed a co-founder when I started, I thought this is the only way to go. I heard so many anecdotal statements like.

No one wants to invest in anything in a founder. You have to have someone to to do this way. And I think a lot of it is there is merit to it. But I also realized that absolutely I can build a company. As a single founder, it doesn't mean that I'm working on a company on my own. I can still have partners in the company.

They can still have a material equity stake in the company. They don't have to be co-founder who started from scratch.

[00:10:05] Amy: Okay. Tom, how do you feel about the founder versus co-founder?

[00:10:10] Tom: I feel like I needed it. Now part of that might be, I was a biology major with no degree and no ability to code, trying to start a software company in the marketing world.

So I had no actual like skills on paper, towards what we were trying to do. But as a first time bender to me, it was critical having a couple of co-founders around and like a couple other people that were. They're with me when we were having really bad times and there to celebrate with them. We were having good times.

I think now being a lot later into it. Now I have a lot more confidence. I could do it on my own if I wanted. I just personally wouldn't want to if I started another company again, someday. I would want to do it with a couple of my, friends and people. I've, co-founded this one with, and maybe new people we meet, who knows.

But I just, I liked that team dynamic myself, but everyone's different obviously.

[00:11:00] Amy: Yeah, definitely. Okay, cool. Now, Gail, I would love to learn about the story of how metadata got.

[00:11:09] Gil: Yeah. Absolutely. I went to Boston, very familiar with Cleveland circle and Boston college at Jack, a lot of beers over there.

So I went to Boston

[00:11:18] Tom: to Gil. I'm sorry to interrupt you. But right when we left school, we got up. In Cleveland circle and we had 14 people living in a nine bedroom house, all working for the company for a year. Oh, wow. That must

[00:11:30] Gil: have been an experience.

[00:11:31] Tom: It was, yeah. Sit city, side bar. If we were right by that.

So yeah,

[00:11:37] Gil: a lot of memories from Boston, we can talk about it all day. So I went to Boston to do my MBA. I ended up after call after my graduate school. I spent almost a decade working in marketing, running marketing for three B2B startups. And I realized that as an engineer and running marketing, I actually, especially in B2B.

Yeah. At a competitive advantage because B2B marketing became extremely technical and quantitative job. So I've done that for, I think something like eight years and I realized I'm on the path to being a CMO that makes lots of money. But what I really wanted to do is start a company. And what better way of.

Besides making myself a commodity. And so I started a company so that you don't have to hire software engineers. They'll help you with your technical marketing. I had this idea. I I resigned from my last VP of marketing job and in the same conversation I told him, but you should hire me. Yeah.

As a consultant because I'm starting a consultancy. And and that was essentially my first customer. And then I think a year later I was, I already had a good idea of what I mean, building. I was in that Bessemer venture Bessemer venture partner event, talking to it, maybe 20 CMOs and telling about about experimentation and data-driven marketing.

So many of them were interested in the middle of the there was a lunch break and I took the lunch break to go on LinkedIn and change quickly to founder so that after the lunch break, I can tell people, actually, if you want to work with me, I have a company. And so it happened right there on the

[00:13:05] Amy: spot.

Oh, so you just made it okay. Wow. A lot of power move. Nice. And what year was this?

[00:13:14] Gil: This was 2006.

[00:13:16] Amy: Okay. Okay. So now it's been about five years since you started that. And how many people are working at your company now? I think

[00:13:25] Gil: we have about 55 people.

[00:13:27] Amy: Okay, cool. And how would you have described your growth over the past five years?

[00:13:34] Gil: Like this and then like that. So yeah, the first three years we were just building IP, we just had our fifth patent. We were just building technology in the marketing space. It's very easy to start. Very hard to finish strong. I don't know if Tom agrees. And so we wanted to build a little monster with a lot of technology, a robust and novel technology.

And then only then go to market when we really have something differentiated and that's what we've done. We only went to market maybe two, two and a half years ago. And then the growth happened and we also have to con we had to conserve cash because I think most startups in the first few years, the job, especially if you have something novel that is innovative, you have to survive.

For the market to recognize what your, what you're billing and to use it. And so we really waited to see until we knew product market fit is clear and then scaled.

[00:14:26] Amy: So it took you two and a half years before you officially launched like the product to the market. Okay. Wow. That's a lot of development work.

[00:14:37] Gil: Yeah. Yeah. Those, it was development work. It wasn't in a silo. Like we were trying to find the customer, see what exactly is working, what is not working. And that was a long feedback loop. I would say two to two and a half years, getting that feedback loop, getting to a really good product market fit and then going to market with it.

[00:14:56] Amy: Okay. And Tom, how did become Jebbit?

[00:15:02] Tom: Yeah, so I hit on a little bit of it earlier with we just wanted to start a company. We came up with the kernel of the idea for Jabin and won the business bank competition. The idea I dropped out of school with and raised $2 million of seed funding on was we literally were a website for college.

Where they could get paid to answer questions about brands. Crazy to me, in hindsight, we raise money on that idea and had a lot of issues and challenge with scaling it. But we shut that down in 2015 and pivoted into the ultimate version. Oh, what jeopardy is today. To answer some of the questions that you were asking Gill, we're around the same size now about 50 people and the growth has been crazy up and down over the years, but it's been a really good last year and a half or so.

As we've just pivoted and evolved out of this like marketplace for college kids to make cash, to being a true enterprise marketing platform, now that many of the largest brands in the world license. Yeah, that's a bit of a story, the story at a high level.

[00:15:59] Amy: Okay. How did you decide when was the right time to pivot your business?

[00:16:05] Tom: We had raised money and we knew we had runway to figure it out. And we were just banging our heads against the wall with a lot of the problems. And for us it was two problems. It was first not feeling right. Brands were getting genuine interactions with the students because they were just getting paid and the students didn't really care about the brands there.

And we knew that even if the brands didn't fully realize it and the other one was, it was just a challenge being a marketplace and building both sides. And I think for us, we just all had an honest conversation. Me and my co-founders of is this the business we dropped out of school to start?

And it was like a pretty resounding just gut feeling of no, like it's just not, could we have made it successful? Probably I'm sure we could have, grown it and sold it and had a decent outcome, but it just wasn't something we felt was going to be. Like a real core of any big brands, marketing platform and something that would be, a part of that core tech stack and something that they love to use every day and gives them great value.

And so the problem was we had no idea what we were going to build. We just knew all the problems of our time, current business, and we really didn't have a vision yet of where we wanted to take it. But. I went to a board meeting and I told my investors a bit of what I was just saying. And thankfully, we were very lucky in our investors, told us, look, we invested in you and your team more than we invested in the idea.

So if you guys want to pivot this to something different, we support you on that. Just don't spend a lot of our money while you're doing it. So we agreed to not hire anyone until we figured out the new model. I think the company was like eight people at the time. So it was basically okay. The eight of us are going to go figure out what the future of this business is.

[00:17:45] Amy: But how did you know it wasn't working or it wasn't what you intended gut

[00:17:52] Tom: feeling? I think just a gut feeling. Yeah. It's not like objectively the business wasn't working. We were growing revenues were growing every month we had raised money. It was just like, we just kinda knew this has a certain.

We didn't love the business itself because the incentivized nature. And then I think we just knew some of the challenges of scaling it with being a marketplace and yeah, I guess gut feeling just a lot of conversations with users, customers, each other, things like that.

[00:18:21] Amy: But then that's not really gut feeling.

That's you really understand your marketplace, you under it. Yeah. That's fair. Fair. Yeah.

[00:18:28] Tom: Gut feeling from being in the business, living and breathing it every day for two years. Yeah. Okay.

[00:18:34] Amy: Yeah. So Gail, I want to learn more about. Scaling a business. I think like for me as a young entrepreneur or young aspiring entrepreneur, I get confused about like how to grow quick.

Like when it's quick to like how to scale your business and make sure that your customers are happy, make sure you're still making money, make sure you still have money to pay your employees. So can you describe business scalability to me and some of the problems that you might've encountered and lessons.

[00:19:08] Gil: Yeah. From all the million mistakes I've made. Definitely there are some insights. I will say I don't think I still have the street grids yet to talk about scale because I don't know if 55 60 people is, I don't know,

[00:19:19] Amy: not more than I do

[00:19:21] Gil: but I will say the. I, I think one of the biggest lessons that I've learned are there were a few, pillars, but one of them is to just like a classic cliche sentence.

It's hire slow fire, fast, big one. Not to get into. I remember I had a conversation with. With with an investor who told me Gil, you're doing great companies doing amazing. We want to put in, we want to put more money. Like you should raise the next round. Flexi sounds great.

They feel like, we're gonna, you can hire like five, six new salespeople. And I was like wait. We don't have a real product yet. It's going to just crash and burn. And then we had this 20 minutes argument where it's no, you have to hire these people. I want to put all this money.

And I was like, we'll die. Will they just fast with lots of money? And eventually he was like, I'm not going to give you the money. I was like, okay. It sounds like you're not going to be an investor. That was, I think the right decision, because many times you're forced to grow. Not really because you want to, but because others tell you to, and you're not ready for it.

And I think we it's important to to understand what stage you are and try to reverse engineer the future a little bit. I think another one is. To really understand your unit economics before you scale to see that you are about to grow something that is sustainable. Like if your customer acquisition costs are through the roof or like Tom was mentioning, the business just seems to have, there is a, there's going to be a big bottleneck or a big limitation fairly soon, and you already know it two years ahead of time.

You don't have to actually get there and then regret there, getting there, you can think about it ahead of time. I think the other, these are really the big ones. There's another one that if, if you told me I'm going to talk about this five years ago, laugh, but the culture is a big piece too.

If you build a company, it's an org, the task is strong. Good strong culture. That represents what you want. Like for us, it's like we have the super authentic, the opposite of corporate America, a genuine hustle, all those good traits. When you grow, it's very easy. To bring in by mistake or just by lack of time folks that will change that either lower the bar or or just change the culture to the worst.

And it's million percent up to you to fix it immediately. So you brought in someone that reduces the bar. You're thinking on, I don't want to fire because everyone's going to be sad anymore, but, and demoralized by that. The moment you do that, they're going to tell you what took you so long.

[00:21:51] Amy: And so yeah, fast fire quickly.

Is that what you said? Yeah. Okay. Interesting. Yeah, I think that I would have anxiety about firing people, but I think that's like my social nature and I will also has never had to do that, like managing people and I guess that's part of the job.

[00:22:13] Gil: Absolutely. And I think it's actually it's for people's best interests sometimes, when you're fired when someone is is not performing well or they're not happy or they're just not the fit, they know it usually.

And they're not happy either. They're not really fulfilled. They're not living in fear, but not really happy and fulfilled and someone has to do it. Someone has to, talk about the elephant in the room. This is obviously not a good fit. Let's not be fearful of the future of the, the uncertainty.

We can do it in a very human it can, we can do it in the best way actually doing it. It's I think the right decision, you can give them months off. Severance or insurance, if there's some, if they're family and it can help them find their night job, you can end very amicably, even on a really good note versus letting it linger until it's like not a good breakup,

[00:23:01] Amy: tom, what are some things that you wish you knew about scaling?

[00:23:04] Tom: First of all, I agree with everything that he just said. And then secondly, I think it's really interesting how you asked the question of I want to know how to grow fast. And if you listened to both of our stories and it wasn't like, what did you say?

Three, three years of this. And I missed. And then what did I just tell you? From 2011 to 2015, I was like, scaling this thing. I eventually shut down and rebuilt the whole thing. Like I, I totally I completely underestimate. How long it was going to take to get there. And I definitely in the early years chased revenue growth when I should have been chasing, figuring out the product people actually need and building that product.

And I just had to learn that the hard way. And I don't know how you could have convinced 19 me anything different. Like looking back on it. I read the books, I read the startup books. I knew. Go find product market fit, but you just convince yourself you haven't because you closed five deals.

When in reality, they're not using the platform and three of them churn and you're like you like, but they turned cause they were just a bad fit. We still have product market fit. And you just you convince yourself, you have these things because you want to have these things and that.

For sure. My biggest learning that I will never do again now with whatever I start next is like the next time around, I'll just do it totally different. Yeah. We had the same thing as you. We had early investors and it wasn't like, I felt a ridiculous amount of pressure from them, but it was like, they wanted to see revenue growth, they had invested in this business.

That's what they want to see. And so you just. And in hindsight it was unhealthy, but it didn't really feel unhealthy at the time. You're just chasing closing deals and selling and things like that. But in reality, if I knew what I had known, now we could have saved ourselves years of time, just like nailing the product first and then really scale once you've nailed that

[00:25:01] Amy: if you had known what you know now about how long Jebbit was going to take to build and how much work it was going to be, would you still have to.

[00:25:10] Tom: Absolutely. I have loved it. There's a ton of hard times for sure. There's a lot of stress. There's, real sacrifices you make with how much you can see friends and family, or just have, leisure time and things like that. But I've loved it. It's been such an awesome journey.

[00:25:27] Amy: Would you have started the same product or service, is that something that you want to hang your hat on 10 years ago?

If you had.

[00:25:37] Tom: The easy thing to say now is I just would have built what we do today first, instead of going through six years of pivoting and learning and things like that. But, it's like one of those things, the only reason we got to where we are today is because we went through all that pain and we sat down with so many customers and we watched so many early customers churn and learned why they churned and learned why we hadn't built the thing they really needed yet.

And it's just. The thing with us is we knew nothing about the industry, right? Like it wasn't like we'd been in this industry for 20 years and had a career and knew the exact problem and knew this. We were just. A bunch of young, energetic kids coming out of college saying, we want to go start something and we're willing to work really hard at it.

And we know we don't know the industry, so we know we're going to have to work harder than everyone else. And yes, I do think some elements of that actually helped us. Cause I think we took a really fresh look at the industry and I think we, there's that saying of like beginner's mind or we call it Shoshana at Jebbit is the term for it.

And we talk about that a lot. I think that helped us to someday. But it also definitely hurt us that we knew nothing about the industry and we were trying to figure out what the hell to build. Yeah. Crazy journey for sure.

[00:26:44] Amy: So as a young person who doesn't have the industry experience, what was it like raising capital

[00:26:53] Tom: hard?

[00:26:55] Amy: How did you get people to believe in you.

[00:27:01] Tom: I think in hindsight, they just saw how hard we were working and how motivated we were. And I think they just were willing to bet on us that we were going to figure it out. And I don't really think you can fake that. That was just the reality, because

[00:27:13] Amy: like you said, it was less about the product that you were building and more about you, right?

[00:27:19] Tom: Yeah. Hindsight, I'm shocked, but also understand it, Why are investors acted the way when we went into that board meeting at the end of 2013 and said, we want to pivot the whole business. And when they said, what do you want to pivot it to? I naively said, oh, I'm not sure yet. I haven't figured that out.

They jumped right into that's fine. We didn't invest in this product. We invested in you and your team. So let's go figure it out together. And, I help a lot at college entrepreneurs now and try to help younger entrepreneurs. And it's, again, it's going to sound cliche, but it's so true. Like the team and the people behind it are 10 times more important in the early days than whatever the idea is or the market is, or, whatever it is, those things matter obviously, but they're not the most important.

[00:28:05] Amy: so would you say that you have to be very charismatic in order to get funding?

[00:28:10] Tom: I don't think it's, I don't think it's, I don't know if charisma is the exact word. I, I think being dedicated and resilient and like self-aware and showing you're coachable and you're willing to learn and pivot.

I think those things are much more important than correct.

[00:28:27] Amy: Gail. What was your experience like raising capital for the first time?

[00:28:32] Gil: Just want to say, it's always nice. Here. So many of the absolute truth from fellow entrepreneurs. So many of them of what she says, cause

[00:28:40] Tom: these aren't, these are normally, one-on-one like, I'm the only entrepreneur on this call.

It's fun to have two and hear what you're saying as well.

[00:28:47] Gil: That's cool. So I always joke question named me, forgive me.

[00:28:49] Amy: Oh, what was your experience like when you raise capital for the first time?

[00:28:55] Gil: Oh shit. It was terrible. I, no one wanted to invest in me. I remember I actually went to an investor, so I was a good market there.

And I got a chance to go to board meetings and, show the results and talk to partners. And I thought great. I'm going to go all gonna invest in me later. And I remember I went to an investor and I showed you my product. And it was like, okay. Then he said Gail, I don't think you have a business here or a product.

I'm not interested in investing and I won't say the name of the VC, but we are not interested in investing either. I'm just like, like the energy level goes to 2% And then of course he ends up with if, I would love to keep in touch. It's just let me know how you progress.

And I told him like, dude, definitely not going to keep in touch. It doesn't sound like you have any belief in me or this product. I think I've just got to go back and do some more work, probably find different partners. And that's true. That was that at the beginning that was, I.

Three of these conversations. And I said, I'm not going to go to investors to begin with. I went back, worked on the business, got it to a different place. And then life was very different. Suddenly I would get inquiries. Some the, I think we joined 500 startups and alchemists and it became a lot easier.

I don't think it's still easy for me. I just snapped my finger and I go and raise another round. It's not like that, but knowing the game and the process, and mostly understanding the pattern recognition that VCs have with businesses, like what exactly do they look for? Because they see a thousand businesses and so their eyes and their brain is just like looking for particular signals, knowing that.

If you want funding optimizing for those veterans signals makes for a very different process.

[00:30:36] Amy: You gotta know the game. What's the game,

[00:30:38] Gil: in one word, I would say trend is the biggest game. Like every KPI that you have, like ARR, NRR, gourdola retention, like all of those metrics. Talked about, like CAC to LTV, like all of those things, the absolute number matters significantly less than their trajectory itself.

And when you know that early on, you can basically reverse engineer in a very programmatic, even conservative way, your path. To guarantee almost that you're feeling that you fit that the trend due to Thomas Paulatuk and I did the same mistake you're thinking about the revenue or do I have, do get the customers?

Do I have to sell right now, even though I don't really have something that is sustainable and you think the answer is yes, because you're. Thing that you think you have to continue versus you can really stop. And I admire that you went to your board by the way, and told them I am. I'm going to be within, I dunno what that was.

That must have taken a lot of courage. And I think that's really great and very healthy to do. You can do that. I remember talking to many Medina, he's the CEO of outreach. Like years ago in the rule flight companies about to crash and burn do we have no cash? My product is really not working at all.

And he told me he will just start just rebuild the product again. I was like, what do you mean? I already like working at the company for two years a year and a half. He's like that dude, I replaced my product. Like I, I trash it and build it again five times. Have I told him really five times you build outreach?

He told me, yeah, he was just like, okay. People have done this before. I'm going to try to do this too.

[00:32:10] Tom: Okay. I think we've done it three times at jet.

[00:32:16] Amy: Okay. Interesting. So don't be afraid to start again.

[00:32:20] Gil: Don't be afraid to start again. Don't be afraid to reinvent everything about the business that you think should be reinvented. There is no every day you can decide, I'm not proposing everyday. No, it's never too late. Absolutely.

[00:32:32] Tom: All right. And I think just accepting that, that isn't a setback.

That's literally, that is what progress in entrepreneurship is. I think we're trained so much in school, have a traditional path to progress and success, and literally you have to got to get 90%, to give you a good grade and things like that. And this it's just not that at all. Like you hear enough entrepreneur stories and you learn almost every business.

Did this started going down one direction, pivoted one, another direction. Rebill threw everything away based on what they learned and started something new, whatever it might be. So it's I think many first time founders think they're like alone in that, or they think it's like a failure. Sure saying this first thing we tried, isn't going to work and we're going to do something different.

It's just that's just the reality of building a company.

[00:33:17] Amy: Was there ever a time when you pivoted so hard that you were like, maybe I should just start a new company? Like, why do you keep going with the same brand and same company, Tom?

[00:33:29] Tom: I never got to that point. We always, at least stayed within the world.

Marketing technology that we were selling into brands to some degree. I don't really have an amazing answer for you as to why I think it was just like let's at least I think we were always trying to build off of what we had learned. It was like, okay, this didn't work because of X, Y, Z. So let's tweak it and go over here.

And we think this idea will be better, but then you try that idea for a year and you realize, oh that's. ABC run with it. And then you go from there. I think, how do we just gone and been like totally new industry, totally new product. I think that would have been a much bigger challenge for us.


[00:34:09] Amy: Gail, are you around the same boat or,

[00:34:11] Gil: I think the answer is right there. And also, the team has a shared experience now that you can leverage from and and every failure that is roughly in the same domain. Yeah. You just increased your knowledge and decrease the risk in that new idea.

You're pivoting into significantly. And that's worth a lot. This is the gold in entrepreneurship. I think like when you fail and you get that knowledge and experience, it's like sweat experience too. It's you don't forget that very deeply what is true and what's not.

And applying that to a new idea and now suddenly with fresh capital or a fresh mind is like the second chance or third chance that you ever always wanted and you make it work, right?

[00:34:49] Amy: Yeah. Makes sense. Okay. What is your number one piece of advice for a first time? Entrepreneurial Tom?

[00:34:56] Tom: Something around perspective.

Like I was debating between like finding great co-founders, but that's I think a no brainer that you need. I think for me, I always tried to really keep things into perspective. Like whether it's just how lucky we are to even for us, be in America, building a software company and like all the opportunities we were given and yeah.

Literally just walked into a college, 40 minutes from where I grew up and had money being offered to me in a business plan competition. That's incredibly, fortuitous in the first place. I didn't have to move countries learning a new language. Like I meet people, I meet entrepreneurs that have had to go through crazy things.

And then on top of that, like we were building marketing software yeah, we're competitive. We wanna win. We wanna, build the best company we can, but like we're not. I'm not, we're not going into the medical world trying to save lives or things like that. So even on our worst days, I try to just keep all that in perspective.

And I think that's what that's been a huge reason for me of being able to just keep getting up day after day and keep going through all the hard times we've been through. So I think grand perspectives, probably the big, yeah. Gratitude love, gratitude. Big fan of that.

[00:36:04] Amy: Yeah. Gail, what's your number one piece of advice for our first time entree.

[00:36:10] Gil: I think not that different same lines, maybe managing your psyche. And underneath there, underneath that, there is a resilience for giving yourself gratitude,

[00:36:22] Tom: easy on

[00:36:22] Amy: yourself,

[00:36:23] Gil: these in yourself, and, And believing in your ability to do what you were set out to do and managing, managing your highs and lows so that you can continue this for good amount of time.

[00:36:37] Amy: Yeah, I was just going to say, actually that I admire the fact that you continued to work on metadata, even when VCs told you that you had no business and just continuing to work. Despite the fact that people tell you no. Like an important piece. Not that I am an entrepreneur, but I imagine that you get told no, so many times that you just kinda have to keep going.

[00:37:05] Gil: Yeah. It also, I think, yeah, I think it almost becomes a drive to an extent, like if you believe in your way and 20 nos. There's a yes. And then you did what you said you'll do. And the investor is yeah, this is awesome. You were started thinking like, okay, I can create some of this reality.

Like of course people are not, everyone's going to agree. That's part of the game.

[00:37:24] Tom: I always found it really comforting to know any big company you look up. That's what they went through. Facebook was founded here in Boston where I am, they couldn't get any VCs in Boston to give them money.

Like what they built, Airbnb people thought they were crazy when they started Airbnb. I think there's articles of, they had a hundred nos before they got their first yes, whatever it was. So I always I read a lot in the early days when I was shifting from being a biology major to, I want to start a company and you just realize This is just how it works.

Like most times, most of the time you're going to get a ton of nos before you get that first. Yes. Yeah.

[00:37:59] Amy: All right. Great. Thank you very much for joining the podcast. I appreciate your time, Gil. Where can we find you and what you're working on?

[00:38:10] Gil: I am on LinkedIn. So gala Lewis also deal it, metadata that I, oh, always happy to help out, especially to, to fellow entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs.

What am I working on right now? Growing the company? You can see me on LinkedIn trying to hire the next next wave of of people to the company.

[00:38:29] Amy: All right. Sweet Tom, where can we find you and what you're working on?

[00:38:34] Tom: LinkedIn as well. And [email protected] All

[00:38:37] Amy: right. Thank you very much, guys.

If you liked this episode of the hacker noon podcast, don't forget to like it, share it and subscribe to it. I also want to let you know that these guys are nominated for a startup of the year. At the time of this recording. I don't have all the information on how you can vote, but I will put it in the show notes for you.

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