about this episode
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On this episode of TWiST @jason sits down with The Resumator’s founder, Don Charlton. Don called in to one of the very first episode’s of TWiST for advice and has come full circle as a guest on the show. Learn what it’s like building a starting up in Pittsburgh, Don’s plans for the future of The Resumator, and how Don and The Resumator have overcame their most difficult challenges.
0:30 Today on the show, Don Charlton of The Resumator
3:35 LAUNCH Festival is March 4-6. Go to launch.co to check it out.
5:40 Thanks to GoToMeeting for sponsoring the program. Visit GoToMeeting.com, use the promo code TWiST to get a 30 Day Free Trial
7:30 What episode of TWiST had you called in on back in the day Don?
7:50 What was your question?
9:35 How did you fake it ’till you made it when you were new to HR?
11:15 Why hasn’t your design changed much since the beginning?
12:30 What was the genesis of the product?
15:20 What is the one feature that sells the product?
17:15 When did you add the “Canned Questions” filter?
18:40 What about partnering with the paid job boards?
19:20 How many businesses are using your service?
19:40 What are your plans for customer acquisition?
20:25 What does resumator cost?
20:35 Who is your biggest customer?
21:30 How many people are working for you in Pittsburgh?
22:10 What’s the startup scene like in Pittsburgh?
22:45 What do you gaib/give up by staying in Pittsburgh?
23:05 What do you pay for real estate?
23:45 What about cost of living in Pittsburgh?
25:00 Do you think your valuation would be higher if you were in LA, or the Valley or NY?
24:30 Visit SnapTerms.com and enter the code and enter the code TWIST.
28:20 Where did you find your Angel Investors?
28:50 So what’s next? What’s the goal?
30:35 How hard is it to find and build a sales force?
31:20 At what price point do you get to talk to a sales person?
33:25 What do your competitors in the legacy space charge?
35:25 Have you thought about tools for filtering? Are people asking for a testing feature?
36:40 What do you think about the US and the state of the job market? Do you see a trend in the data?
39:10 What’s the best way to decide if a person is the best candidate?
39:50 How did you come to entrepreneurship?
41:30 Do you feel you were treated differently because you’re African American?
43:45 So you can’t name one time in tech when you felt race was an issue?
49:30 How do you think women are treated in tech?
51:20 So what has been the hardest part of the process?
51:55 Have you thought about ways to make it consumer driven?
55:15 What do you think about the future of Facebook?
55:30 How many customers did you have when you called in back in the day?
55:55 What do you think about founder’s stress? Was there ever a point when you didn’t think it was worth it?
61:25 This has been a great episode. Go to theresumator.com to check it out.
62:25 Do you think your price point is accurate or you could bump it up?
63:15 Thanks to Don Charlton for being on the episode.
67:10 Follow Don on Twitter @Dontrepreneur, help him build his brand. We’ll see you next time on This Week in Startups
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Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. It’s Jason Calacanis. This is ThisWeekIn Startups. Today on the program Don Charlton is with us. He is the founder of The Resumator. A product I’ve been using for 3 or 4 years. He called in to episode 5 of ThisWeekIn Startups with questions on how to grow his company. Boy, has it grown in the last 3 or 4 years. We’re going to hear all about an amazing company, The Resumator, that is crushing it. Stick with us. It’s going to be a great episode.
TWiST title sequence.
Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. Welcome to ThisWeekIn Startups. The program where we talk about startup companies. Pretty obvious, I guess. We’ve been doing this program now for 4 years. Kevin Pollack and I, of Kevin Pollack’s Chat Show, we both started… gosh… 4 years ago doing podcasts. Hundreds of episodes in each. I really enjoy doing the show. The show is about creating products and services that people love, that move the human race forward, that put a dent in the universe. Things that make life easier, better, more enjoyable, fun, more profitable, more efficient. Just… that’s what we’re trying to focus on here. By the way, 8 or 9 out of 10 startup companies fail. Nobody has an exact statistic but, we know it’s the majority case. So anybody who’s an entrepreneur or founder has my respect and they should have yours. Because, these maniacs, these gladiators, these samurai go into an arena knowing the likelihood case is that they fail. That is, I think, what’s fascinating. What I love about entrepreneurship, what I love about startup companies, what I love about founders is they go into a situation, like BlackHawk Down where they drop in those snipers. Those snipers know… You know that Don.
Jason: You know the scene. Those snipers know… The commander says, “You know what you’re asking for.” In that famous scene and they dropped the snipers down in to protect the BlackHawk that went down in Mogadishu. They protect, as best they can, their fallen comrades. That is entrepreneurship. That is startups. It’s like the scene from BlackHawk Down. Or, the scene from Gladiator where there’s like insurmountable odds. Today on the program Don Charlton will be with us. He’s the founder and CEO of The Resumator. You can go and check out The Resumator.comif you’re one of the people who like to listen to the show in the background while they type in URLs as I talk about stuff. Which is kind of a good strategy, I think. Don’t do that if you’re on the road with your Tesla Model S with the big 20″ iPad in the middle of the screen. Not that I would ever do that but boy is it tempting. God. A couple of house cleaning notes. The Launch Festival is March 4th, 5th and 6th. It’s at the San Francisco Design Center. Boy, this is going to be a whopper. This is the 6th year we’re doing it. You can go to Launch.co and click on the Festival icon that’s there. Launch.co. Not .com, .co. Cause, it’s a company. We’re creating our own opportunity there. Launch.co and you will see all the information. Just click on the Festival icon. We’re also having a Hack-A-Thon. You can go to launchhackathon.com. The Hack-A-Thon occurs March 2nd and 3rd. The weekend before. The Launch Festival starts on Monday. We’ve got over 3,300 attendees, 162 people in the demo pit, companies that is, and 51 companies debuting on stage. It is going to be a juggernaut. I’m really happy. We’re in the black. Which is always great because, God, losing money building one these startup conferences is kind of scary. You know, the budget’s upwards of $1M now for this event. Probably a dozen people working on it up until the event and 5 or 6 people working on it all year long. So, a lot goes into the Launch Festival. I would love you to be my guest at the event. Go to Launch.co. If you’re a broke founder or builder just click on the builder ticket. We give a bunch of scholarships away. That’s how we are trying to get to this 5,000 person stretch goal. We thought, “Hey. Could anybody ever have an event that had 5,000 people go to it in the technology industry?” We’re not sure, but we’re at 3,300+ attendees already. We might get there. We certainly are going to blow past 4,000, I believe, with two weeks left. Anyway. The Launch Festival is going to be amazing. I hope you can come as my guest. If you’re a broke founder or a creator or developer you can come for free on a scholarship, just click and apply. If you are a lawyer, banker, etc… you’re going to want to just pay for a ticket. They’re $400 or $1,000 for the VIP experience. Which you can easily afford. I think that’s like one third the price of TechCrunch Disrupt, one sixth the price the Wall Street Journal D conference, and one ninth or tenth of the price of the TED Conference. I think you get as much value or more. Certainly in some cases more. OK. Listen. I love GoTo Meeting. I use it everyday. I was on a GoTo Meeting with one of the companies I’m on the board of, Dyn, DNS. You probably know that company out in New Hampshire, for routing DNS and sending email. Anyway. The point is I was on a GoTo Meeting. One click, instantly on the meeting. Five or six other people, one click, instantly on the meeting. The meeting started on time. Actually it started about 4 minutes late cause one person was late. But, there were no technical difficulties. Let me tell you something, that is not the norm. Every time someone tries to have me use one these free services or fly by night services, you think it’s going to work well. Then you have the third person get on the call and it doesn’t work. Or, you try to do screen sharing and it doesn’t work. Or, you try to change the presenter, Oh, they don’t have that feature. Or, you try to do HD video, Oh, they don’t have that feature. Or, oh, they have that feature but it crashes the product. Or, they have the wrong version they’ve downloaded. All this nonsense. But, with GoTo Meeting, Meeting is Believing. It just works. That’s all these folks do. That’s all they work on is making the product excellent and stable. Visit GoTo Meeting.com. Go ahead and visit GoTo Meeting.com and click the ‘Try It Free’ button. Use the promo code TWIST. Please use the promo code TWIST. I know you don’t need a discount or anything but it let’s them know that you did hear about it on the show. Use the promo code TWIST. Thank you so much. You’ll get a free 30 trial, by the way. No credit card required. GoTo Meeting, Meeting is Believing. On the program today, as I teased earlier, Don Charlton, who is from Philly.
Jason: What? Pittsburgh. Sorry. Why’d I say Philly.
Don: Common mistake.
Jason: Yeah. As a New Yorker, you’re just like, “Yeah. Whatever that area is with the ‘P’ down the block.” But, you’re from Pittsburgh, of all places.
Jason: You called into the program…
Don: Episode 5.
Jason: Episode 5?
Jason: On episode 5 was…
Don: David Sacks.
Jason: Who had just won… Had he won TechCrunch 50 or was he doing Geni?
Don: No, no. It wasn’t Geni, it was Yammer. Yeah.
Jason: It was Yammer. So, that was 2000… What year was that?
Jason: 2009, I guess. It was the second year of the conference. You called in with what question?
Don: I was asking… So, at the time I was thinking of our product as being kind of this utilitarian software product. I was saying, “How do we market a product that’s not necessarily sexy?” It’s not social media, it’s not… You know, the things that were kind of hot 4 years ago.
Jason: Not consumer internet.
Don: Exactly. Yeah.
Jason: Did I give you any kind of decent advice?
Jason: You know what? Go ahead and link to the annotation right here. So, Brandice, I’m going to point my finger and I’ll say, “Click right here on this monkey.” If you click right here on this monkey, we’ll deep link on this monkey on YouTube to the moment that Don called in two episode 5. So, you know how to do that. Just do an annotation right there. OK.
Don: Well, I think that a couple of the things that you did… Or piece of advice that you gave were: One was we had to kind of build ourselves up as being a knowledge center around recruiting and hiring.
Jason: Ahh. Right.
Don: Through our blog, we obviously did that.
Jason: That’s being essentially, if you want people who are in the recruiting space to find out about you, just creating content around recruiting is a great idea.
Don: Yeah. Exactly, right?
Jason: Putting a little bit of honey on the website.
Don: Yeah. I think another thing… This was very hard for me to kind of get used to was establishing myself as kind of a person in HR, so to speak. Or, rather around hiring and so forth.
Jason: Yeah. A guru, a speaker, a leader.
Jason: An authority.
Don: Whenever you’re really small you have to kind of use your entrepreneurial story to try to gain some momentum with the press and so forth.
Jason: But, the fact is that you weren’t.
Don: No. Not yet, at the time. No.
Jason: At the time you were a neophyte in recruiting.
Don: Whatever that means.
Jason: You were new.
Don: Yeah. Exactly.
Jason: So, how did you fake it till you made it?
Don: I like that. Fake it till you make it. I use that all the time. I like to talk about our company had the façade of good design. One of the things you mentioned during that interview was we had a very nicely designed website. You kind of dinged us for our red button on the blue background. But, that was working really well for us conversion rate wise.
Jason: You were converting.
Don: Yeah. There you go, right?
Jason: I know my exact thing. Cause red on blue is like one of the worst design things you can do. Because, it vibrates and it hurts the eyes.
Don: I’m offended.
Jason: However, you’re saying, “Yes, it may hurt your eyes but it actually converts.”
Don: Yeah. It was working. Red converts a lot of different ways.
Jason: And, you still have it.
Don: Yes. Still have it.
Don: We’re doing a redesign pretty soon though.
Jason: That’s a good example of I think like advice in one genre: design, does not necessarily mean good advice in another milieu like… Why am I using all these big words today? …in another area like conversion on landing pages.
Jason: LPO, landing page optimization. So continue.
Don: So, what you were saying was we use the façade of good design. Whenever… I was on sales calls in 2009. People thought we were a 30 person company, because we had a nicely designed website. That’s how you fake it.
Don: You get a good logo. I mean, a lot of Y Combinator companies have to start out that way, right? You have a nice brand and so forth, you try to…
Jason: I’ve always liked the name, The Resumator. It was like… I thought, well, you put ‘The’ at the top. It should be called Resumator, but the domain was obviously not available or something. You know, I think actually it worked. You haven’t changed the design radically in the product?
Jason: Because, as a software as a service company, it’s not a good idea to do that? Or, you just haven’t gotten around to it?
Don: I’d say it was a little bit of both. But, I think that one the failures of a lot of larger software as a service providers is that they don’t modify the product. You think about Apple. Apple doesn’t care. They going to change it in the best interest of the user.
Don: Some of these software as a service providers, they don’t really build the product in a way where… Whenever you have companies paying you a couple million dollars on a contract, you don’t want to upset them by totally changing the user interface. We don’t want to fall into that same trap. So, I think it’s just a matter of when we get the time we’ll try to find ways to slowly roll out the better features.
Jason: Right. I mean the user interface on Craigslist doesn’t change all that much. They’re doing pretty well.
Don: Imagine if they had great design though.
Jason: Yeah. I think it would confuse people and probably slow down the speed at which people get through the site. Which is what I think they’re optimizing for. It’s like getting in and getting out.
Jason: Yeah. But, they have clearly had to make some concessions on maps and pictures.
Don: I had a great experience on Amazon.com on an airplane. I bought a book. Apparently it knew that I was on an airplane so it stripped everything down to just raw text. Times New Roman. The full Amazon experience. I bought a book in about a minute.
Jason: That’s incredible. They must have detected low speed. So, now what was the genesis… the actual genesis of the product? Cause, if I remember correctly there was one specific problem or pain point in recruiting that you guys were coming out of the gate as, “This is our selling point.” Let me see if I got it right. But, go ahead.
Don: Our main selling point was… The industry we’re in is called applicant tracking systems. That was an industry that was not known to the small business. Think about a company that’s rocketing. It’s growing really fast. They were using email and spreadsheets and so forth to manage hiring. Back then… It’s kind of funny. If you’ve seen some of the activity with Oracle acquiring Taleo. There’s a lot of activity around the HR space. But, 4 years ago was still a sleepy boring, nobody was really paying attention to it space. We thought if we could get in it early… I always say we cause ‘I’ sounds very arrogant.
Don: But, I thought, if I could get in early with building the recruiting product that solved the key pain points of, what I called deputized hiring managers, like think about whenever you started your first… Silicon Alley…
Don: Right. You’re hiring people. You’re a deputized HR person. Your not… it’s not your full time gig.
Jason: Right. Founder is the…
Don: Exactly. So, I felt like, if I could give them a product where they could jump in and out for an affordable cost in terms of managing the recruiting process and then get back to their… whatever their full time job is… I thought that would be a market that eventually would start to grow.
Jason: Yeah. And grow it has. The product is doing great. The problem I remember at the time was when you put an ad on Craigslist it sent you everything…
Don: In your email.
Jason: … in your email.
Jason: Which is a disaster.
Jason: You make a folder and then your opening it. Viruses and attachments and all kinds of garbage. But, you said, “Put a link in your Craigslist posting and send them to a form on the web.
Don: Yeah. The funny thing about…
Jason: It changes everything doesn’t it?
Don: Yeah. Well, the funny thing about our business is… I admire companies like SendGrid. Right? They basically… They’re just making email deliverability a software as a service. So, I think we’re kind of in the same vein in terms of, there are all these things that you could consider us pioneering for the small business. Such as reading a resume in the browser in it’s original format. There was no recruiting software product doing that.
Jason: Right. That’s a great feature. You get to see how they designed their resume.
Don: Yeah. They’re not going to vomit whatever was in the resume from text.
Jason: Yeah. They try and translate and do a poor job. It reflects poorly on the candidate. You want to see the design they put into… I kind of feel like that’s a tell. Like, how you design… If people make their resume like 5 different fonts or something. This person’s too self involved. But, if they make it just like, you know, matter of fact kind of… It’s like a Scribd kind of feature right?
Don: Yeah. We started off with Scribd then we built our own over time.
Jason: Yeah. Was that the killer feature? What makes the people actually buy the product?
Don: It’s a pretty easy value proposition. Hey, how’s it going collecting all your resumes through email? That was the early value proposition. It sucked. Nobody would… Email is an unarmed competitor at the time. Then, over time there are some smaller companies and so forth that became competitors. We also were pulled upstream. So, we were competing with really big companies too. I think the value proposition started to become, think about the hiring process. It’s basically, source, screen, interview and hire. Us basically having the easiest to use software in terms of being able to accomplish those 4 things. It’s really user interface above all. It’s especially geared towards people who don’t have time to learn the manual or read the manual.
Jason: Yeah. I’ll tell you the piece that I love about it is… I don’t want to make it a commercial for the product but obviously we need to talk about…
Don: Feel free though if you want.
Jason: No. When we’re talking about how to make a great product and what resonates with people, for me, the number of resumes using The Resumator went down, dramatically. However, it went down because the drive-by resume shooters went away through a couple of features. One, you have to fill out the form. Which is hurdle number one. You don’t just email and fire it off. Number two, we would put questions that were mandatory to answer.
Jason: That were quixotic, obvious. You know, if you’re coming in as a video editor at Mahalo orInside.com we would say, “What’s your favorite scene in any film?” Or, “Who’s your favorite director?” If you ask a question like that it just filters against people who are not seriously applying to the position and it might even engage somebody at a deeper level. When did you add that feature? How has that been embraced?
Don: We added that feature probably over two years ago. But, I love the fact that you said filtering. Because, I think… One of the great things is you sound like an advanced user. You know you can use some of those additional custom questions and so forth to be able to quickly screen through candidates. I think why people really like our product is you can come in and not know how to do all that level of customization. You can just get your jobs up, get resumes coming in, then over time people like the folks at Mahalo and so forth can basically say, “Wait a minute. There’s a much… There’s a lot of features in here that we can use to be able to filter down to a very particular candidates by forcing them to answer questions. I call those kind of pass or no pass questions, so to speak.
Jason: Yeah. It works. I’m pulling up my screen, like hey, we’re looking for a casting manager right now. You see we have 181 applicants, 174 new. We just put this out. 4 are active, 3 are not hired. Over time we can see how many were hired, etc… I actually want to be careful not to go in here and expose anybody who’s… I just realized I might expose somebody who got a job already.
Jason: But, anyway. Here, this is really interesting. Cause, we’ve been using this for 4 years. We’ve had 16,000 applicants over that 4 year period. 4,000 a year.
Don: How many of those did you pay Monster or CareerBuilder for?
Don: I think that’s another thing we do is… Actually the secret sauce, very early on, was partnering with the free job boards to drive some free traffic. Now, we’re trying to scratch their backs as well with Indeed, Simply Hired. Those folks are doing pay-per-click as well. So, it’s kind of a combination of the two. You get free traffic plus you can invest in pay-per-click. It’s just more affordable for the most part.
Jason: Oh, yeah. Here, we actually have the 41 people who were hired. That number is probably is not accurate. It’s probably double that number. But, we probably had people not using the system properly. But, at least we have something. But yeah, it’s really interesting when you have people on hold, approved, needs approval, drafting. Like you can have all these settings as to where somebody is. It’s just made things so much easier for us. So much easier. So, how many people are using the product now? What is the cost like?
Don: There’s 6,500 businesses using us. A good number of those are actually subscribers.
Jason: Wait. How many did you say?
Don: 6,500 businesses are using us.
Jason: Wow. So, thousands of them are subscribing?
Don: Yeah. We’re in the universe of 600K businesses that can use our product.
Jason: You got 1%?
Don: Yeah. So we’re…
Jason: How do you look at that 1%? Why don’t you have 6% or 10%? How do you get there?
Don: I think, some of it is we were early in a space that we’re still trying to learn what’s the best customer acquisition strategy for this type of product. Because, you know, there’s a couple of hurdles. In a small business there is no HR budget. So, we have to basically help them understand the ROI. I think another thing too is from a business development perspective, figuring out the right strategy for… Our goal was basically to put our product in the hands of every small and fast growing business. Sometimes that requires partnering to really be able to make that happen. So, I think our business development chops are just now starting to ramp up.
Jason: What does it cost?
Don: Anywhere between $99 a month and a few thousand dollars a month.
Jason: So, you had people paying a few thousand dollars a month for this huh?
Jason: Those are like what, Fortune 500 type of companies? What would be the biggest company in terms of…
Don: The biggest company? We have publicly traded companies that use us. They’re paying… They could pay $4K a month for our service.
Don: We just landed Al-Jazeera as a customer.
Don: Yeah. Whenever…
Jason: They just bought Current TV.
Don: And that was their entry into the US. I think the other thing too… We can talk a little bit about us having both presidential campaigns as well is, I think what people like about our product is… It’s almost like, if you need to launch a recruiting process, a large scale recruiting process with a bunch of people who don’t have a lot of experience with recruiting, you can use The Resumator to do that. That’s what Al-Jazeera did. They came in, they said, “We got to get hiring.”
Jason: Yeah. That’s what I like about it. It’s almost like, you pop it up and for $100 a month you instantly have what the Fortune 500 or 100 would have.
Jason: I mean, you’re probably are not going to use all the features of The Resumator.
Jason: You built the company in Pittsburgh.
Don: Yes. Which, on that episode 5 you said that’s one of the things we should do. Quote, “Get the hell out of Pittsburgh.” Does that count to the swear jar?
Jason: No. It doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Don: I’m just making sure. Great.
Jason: But, I see that you’re… Are you aiming to get into the swear jar? That would be the first time.
Don: I’m a sailor. So, I’m going to try to avoid it.
Jason: Yeah. But, you stayed in Pittsburgh.
Jason: How many people do you have at the company?
Jason: So, you must be one of the bigger startups in Pittsburgh in the tech space.
Don: I don’t know. Numbers wise. I don’t know.
Jason: There aren’t that many.
Don: Yeah. There’s not a lot. But, I don’t pay a lot of attention to that stuff.
Jason: There’s not really a scene in Pittsburgh.
Don: Well, I beg to differ.
Jason: Oh, there is. OK.
Don: Yeah. I think that we… you know…
Jason: Philly’s got a little bit of a scene.
Don: From your optics, you’re always going to see everything else as smaller. I think for us, the way we look at it is, we’re building businesses in Pittsburgh that are making an impact nationally. At least in some cases globally. You guys have the ground swell of a ton of people, a ton of really cool companies that, you know quite frankly, I think a lot of us were inspired by a long time ago. But, you know, we have families. We have hopes and dreams for our own local areas. We’re trying to make those something.
Jason: What do you gain by being in Pittsburgh? Then, what do you give up?
Don: One thing you… OK. What will you gain? If you’re able to create a little bit of noise you’re going to have an entire city rallying around you to try to help your business.
Jason: Ah. Big fish in a smaller pond.
Don: Exactly. Right? Another thing I think as well the cost of everything is so much cheaper.
Jason: What do you pay for real estate in a place like that?
Don: You guys calculate it differently here. We pay anywhere from $14-$20 a square foot.
Jason: Per year?
Jason: So, $1 and change a month?
Jason: Maybe upwards of $1.50.
Don: Exactly. Yeah.
Jason: That’s pretty incredible. In the Valley… Yeah but I think here in Culver City, I think it’s $2 and change. Maybe it’s getting up to $2.50.
Don: That still sounds…
Jason: It’s double.
Don: That’s double.
Jason: Then, in the Valley, $60 a year or… pretty typical $70 a year. $5 a month.
Don: Yeah. That’s cutting into a lot of money that the startup could use on hiring.
Jason: What about salaries? Salaries, I guess, because the cost of living is dramatically lower, it’s going to be 30% less, 40% less than the Valley.
Don: Yeah. Just take the cost of living, cut. The challenges are though… To answer your question. There’s were not a lot of people in Pittsburgh who were at startup X. Which grew, went public, was acquired and they have $1m-$4M in the bank, they’re a rock star, they have a higher risk tolerance now, so they can work at another startup. Often, the rock stars in Pittsburgh are people who, they’re really thinking about that paycheck a month.
Jason: Yeah. The consistency. They got a family to raise. They got bills to pay. You get like almost a little more blue collar stability.
Jason: As opposed to the, “I’m swinging for the fences” type.
Don: I think people are willing to swing for the fences. My job is to get those type of people to work at my company. I think another thing too is, you have more loyalty. I think, out here folks would talk a lot about the opportunities and so forth, but there’s a lot of problems I think having a company out here as well. Also, quite frankly, our story, we’re doing good from Pittsburgh. You know.
Jason: Right. But, do you think your valuation and the amount of money you could raise could be much higher?
Jason: Yeah. It would have to be because of the cost of doing business.
Jason: But, you do get dinged a little bit, don’t you?
Don: Yeah. I think about, it took us two years to raiser our first venture round.
Don: Because we were at the beginning of this up and coming tech scene in Pittsburgh. So, everything from angels to the VC community. We weren’t really on the map at all. Now, some of the companies that came out of the accelerator program I was in, Alpha Lab, they raised money within 8 months. Something like that.
Jason: How many episodes have you seen? 10?
Don: I’ve seen more than 10. I’m an OG, I was there from the beginning.
Jason: I know. Yeah. Seriously old school. So, if you are OG, old school, TWIST super fan, any of those thank @snapterms on their Twitter handle. Follow them. Just thank them. Even if you don’t want to tweet it like publicly, you could send them a message. Just hit reply and be like, “It’s cool that you support ThisWeekIn Startups cause, I get a lot of value out of it.” Thank you so much guys. So you raised some money. An angel round and then a $2.1M series B. Which, actually talking about raising money, when you hear about a $2.1M series B, in the Valley it’s like that’s an angel round.
Jason: The VCs who invested, Birchmere Ventures and Rincon. I’ve heard of Rincon Venture Partners. Are these local?
Don: No. Rincon’s out of Santa Barbara. Birchmere is out of Pittsburgh, PA. Fantastic with recruiting. Locally especially. Paige Craig is an investor.
Jason: Oh, wow. That’s awesome.
Don: Yeah. In fact, Paige is the reason Rincon’s probably invested in us. Paige did us a solid. He was using the product with Better Works. He said, “This is a great product. I want to introduce you to the community.”
Don: Like everybody he has Pittsburgh roots too. So, that’s another benefit to being in Pittsburgh. Everybody has roots.
Jason: So, where are you at now with the business? You raised $2M back in October. So, that’s just a couple of months ago. 4 months ago, 5 months ago. What now? What are the goals? How do you put that to use?
Don: I think we’re looking for exponential growth. So, we grow steady every single month at this point. We’re looking for… especially along the business development route. Partnerships and so forth. To try to figure out a way to… instead of acquiring hundreds of customers… acquiring a few thousand through a deal and so forth. Our business is really about… If we could get 15,000 of those 60,000, that’s an interesting business for us. You know, that’s one of the cool things about being in SaaS. I’m not going to say it’s hard to go out of business if your a SaaS business. If you’re able to gain some momentum you have a good chance. If you’re able to maintain a good product and so forth you have a good chance of being a really successful company. So, I look at companies like Workday, which they’re obviously able to get to a scale that we’re nowhere near at, but those are… even LinkedIn quite frankly. Although it’s a different type of business model. I just kind of admire companies that…
Jason: Well, it’s sort of SaaS. It’s monthly subscriptions.
Don: They make a lot of money off of their recruiting product. What I admire about those companies is that they’re patient. In other words, I don’t have this mindset that we have to grow really, really, really fast and, quite frankly, dilute the hell out of myself and so forth. I look at it as I have to do what’s best for my investors and employees. I think if everybody is happy and if the company’s growing, we’re going to keep the formula that we have right now.
Jason: You’ll get where you want to go. But, ramping up enterprise sales seems to be the challenge at the moment. I hear this all the time.
Jason: How do I find a great director of sales? How do I find great salespeople? How do I keep them motivated? How do I do it affordably? It’s expensive and hard to build a sales force. Is it not?
Don: It’s cheaper in Pittsburgh. I’m going to keep saying that.
Jason: But, do you find there is some company that you could go steal all the pharmaceutical reps?
Don: I would love to sit inside the boiler room at Box. I just think that’s a great company in terms of building out software as a service and infrastructure. I really admire that company. I think one of the things we’re doing is we’re building out our own sales force. I think too, the customers on that higher end, a couple thousand dollars, you know, those people want to do a demo. They want to talk to a salesperson and so forth.
Jason: They’re going to want support.
Don: Yeah. Exactly.
Jason: At what point can you have a salesperson meeting with somebody? At what point can you have somebody talking to somebody on the phone? At what point do you say it’s self service? Do you have those numbers stratified? Like, a $4K a year person, we can have lunch with. $100-$1K we can have phone calls with. Under $100 a month, we really can’t talk to them.
Don: I would argue that if we have to have a face-to-face with a customer, the only reason we should be doing that is that they’re marquee or local. Actually, quite frankly. Because, if we’re meeting with companies that big, we’re probably outside of our sweet spot. I think, we started off really wanting to help companies with 50 or less employees. The market’s pulling us upstream. Quite frankly, our competitors: these older guys, it’s pretty crappy software.
Jason: Right. They’re going to rewrite their software though. It’s an inevitability that the old legacy systems are looking. Cause I saw this like… We were looking at… Oh, in the PR space, we had Vocus. That was one product and there was another one. Anyway, we’re looking at these… Scion. Anyway, we were looking at these like PR systems. They were like web 1.0. With like the form boxes and the old style, weird gray backgrounds. It’s like, “This software has not been updated in over a decade.” Then we saw MuckRack and we’re like, “Oh. This PR tool is amazing.” It’s like web 2.0. Sort of… I don’t know what we call the post 2.0, but the sort of like mobile aware kind of client.
Don: What that built by those bigger guys or was it a startup?
Jason: No. MuckRack is like an upstart.
Don: Then, that’s the exact same story here. You think about even a Taleo… and they got gobbled up by Oracle. So, the number of people who’s job is on the line if a change in the software affects sales is so large that our gamble is, even if they choose to go down that road there’s a lot of cannibalizing of margins. There’s overhead cost that they have to somehow absorb. There’s hits from layoffs if they want to be more nimble.
Jason: What do they charge? What do your competitors in the legacy space charge per month, per year?
Don: It varies. I would say our larger competitors, those folks they’re looking for 5 figure deals, generally speaking. They’ll also try to give you per user licensing but, in general in the end it’s still…
Jason: Ah. So, $10K plus $500 a seat or some nonsense?
Don: Or, sometimes they’ll say, “Look. We’ll give it to you for $150 a user per month.” We’re thinking, “You only have two users. We’re going to let your whole company use it for that exact same cost.” The way we look at it is, there’s more people in your company who are going to help with hiring than just the people who have a “user account.” There’s going to be…
Jason: Of course. They’re basically throttling the use of their products to make a business model that is designed… The optimization there is for the business model and revenue not consumer experience.
Don: Yes. Exactly.
Jason: That’s got to be a huge mistake long term.
Don: Yeah. There’s some products… We struggled with this, but I think that we’re making the right decision so far. They charge per number of employees in your company. It’s like you’re being punished every single time you’re successful using the product. “Hey. You hired another ten people so…”
Jason: Oh, right.
Don: There’s a value for value story there but it’s something that…
Jason: What is the pricing? Is it based on the number of jobs?
Don: Yeah. We do tiers. So, it’s free if you have just one open job and you just need a couple of folks. So, the way we kind of look at it is… Our unlimited product starts at $499 per month. Right? But, then we pull out some of the features that the larger companies need and we’ll sell an on demand product for $99 a month. So, that’s just for you to have a few folks using the product and being able to get the core needs of recruiting. You know, from posting your job to reviewing resumes. Then, there’s some more advanced stuff that is on our higher plan. So really there are 3 plans.
Jason: Qualifying is a big part of this, right?
Jason: So, have you thought about, in specific verticals, building tools to filter?
Jason: Like, we can ask these questions but questions can be looked up. What if you made a copywriter test, like a copy editor. The basic english language, being able to spell. This kind of stuff or basic math or programming. Are people coming to you saying that is something they want or they can do that with the platform?
Don: I think… I’m not 100% sure if we’re getting a lot of people asking us about that but you make a really good point that if you’re going to be dealing with deputized HR people that also means they’re not bringing a lot of history or skills to the table. In terms of how to effectively screen copywriter and so forth. So, us producing that content, I think our customer success team is something we want to look at. Like we call them success bundles. Where you can create evaluation templates. So, basically these are the assessments we’re going to make for a copywriter. Custom questions that you want to ask a copywriter.
Jason: On the way in.
Don: Yeah. So you can kind of grab it and plug it in automatically. That’s just another way of trying to help these smaller businesses jumpstart a really successful recruiting campaign.
Jason: What do you think about, since you’ve been meditating on jobs for 4 years, when you look at this sort of United States of America and how customers are using it. You have some unique insights into… I would suppose… where the jobs are and who the jobs are going to and stuff like that. Is there some trend that you see in the data?
Don: I think we’d be a little arrogant if I tried to make some grandiose statements given our scale. But, I can tell you I do feel that the economy is getting better. Most definitely. I think that some of the payroll service providers are a better barometer of the economy cause there’s so many blue collar jobs and we don’t really support a nice subset of blue collar jobs fully. At least rather they can use our product but we haven’t really been targeting them.
Jason: Yeah. So, if somebody’s a small restaurant or cafe, they’re not necessarily going to use The Resumator.
Jason: They could but…
Don: Oh, yeah. They most certainly can. We kind of have a white collar view of the pulse of the industry. I would say in general, because we’re 25% tech companies and so forth I think we’re a little bit skewed in terms of really being able to put a pulse on the economy. So, I’d probably say that I’d be making it up if I tried to give you some stats other than companies, on average, are paying us more after a year than…
Don: Yeah. So, that gives us a sense that they’re doing more hiring.
Jason: It feels like there’s more hiring. It fells like there’s still problems around qualified candidates and the match between education and skills.
Don: Yeah. I think one of the challenges that I’m seeing with a lot of… at least some of the customers using our software is how do you quickly separate the wheat from the chaff? Cause I think, we have some customers who, they’re used to getting one or two resumes a day, then suddenly they’re getting 10 a day. Right? So, ramping those folks up to understand how to use our screening tools, those are some of the challenges we have. But, that’s a good problem for them, you know. Would you much rather look at 10 candidates or a 100 candidates before you made a hiring decision? I think there’s a lot of systems out there that are really expensive where people will say, “We’re going to automatically filter down those hundred candidates to the top ten.” But, they’re not that good. Nobody really wants to admit that. But, they’re just going to base that…
Jason: What is the best way to tell if somebody’s the right person for the job, do you think?
Don: Interview them face-to-face.
Don: Like we always telling everybody, “We’re trying to facilitate the processes of recruiting. But, in the end… I think another way to say it is, hiring is always your gut.
Don: It always is. But, how informed is your gut? That’s really what the challenge is. Resumator is a way of super informing your gut. You know, I think if your just using the resume, you haven’t done anything else, you’re not collaborating with other people, your gut’s not that well-informed. Anything you do when it comes to hiring a person you’re not going to be able to do it scientifically.
Jason: How did you come to entrepreneurship? Is this your first company or did you have multiple companies before this?
Don: Well, it’s not my first incorporation.
Jason: Right. So, you’ve had other failed startup projects?
Don: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was a designer for 10 years.
Don: I was designing websites…
Jason: For what, like a web shop or freelance stuff?
Don: No. A web shop. I did freelance too, but… Wow. That was a lot of money. Freelance. But, anyway.
Jason: It was lucrative for a period there. This was during the web 1.0, web 2.0?
Don: I’d say go back 4 years and then the 10 years before that. That was kind of my career. I guess, from ’99 on, pretty much. When I saw that… It was a couple of things. I saw that I could design… I was a good user experience guy. I could design interfaces. I could build the back end of websites. I mean, I could do the front end development as well. I thought, “That’s a pretty good mix of being a web entrepreneur.” Except, I didn’t know anything about the VC, angel, startup world. I just started digesting… This is going to sound like I’m kissing your butt, but I started digesting the Tech Crunch 40 videos. I was just watching other people who. Funny thing is… I’m 35. They were younger than me but I was watching them to see how does this kind of world work. I just started using cues from that to just start educating myself on how to present myself as a tech entrepreneur.
Don: Faking it until you start making it.
Jason: Right. So, you just looked… That’s the amazing thing about the web today. Whether it’s YouTube or Quora or people’s blogs, it’s just all the information is out there now. It’s so democratized. Do you feel like you got treated differently because you were African-American?
Don: You know, the funny thing is…
Jason: Cause, I wrote a little bit about that recently. I don’t know if you saw my pieces or the brouhaha, subsequently.
Don: I think… People always ask me that question. My mom…
Jason: And, if you don’t feel like answering the question, you can tell me, “I’m not going to answer that question.” But, I think it’s kind of an important discussion.
Don: No. I will, because I don’t think people talk about this kind of stuff enough. My mom, along time ago, said to me, “The best thing you could do is to put your best foot forward and be spectacular at whatever you do. So that if somebody wants to not work with you because of your skin tone, you didn’t want to work with that person anyways.” Right?
Don: So, the way I look at it is, what I love about the tech industry is numbers don’t lie. The fact of the matter is that if you’re able to produce results, people will invest in you. I always try to tell people, Paige never met me in person and he invested in me. Christopher Muenchhoff, out of Germany, invested in me, never met me. John Frankel invested in me, never met me face-to-face.
Jason: But, they did use the product. They did see…
Don: Paige did. The other two just went off of numbers.
Jason: So, they just looked at the revenue. They looked at the membership.
Jason: The paid users. You were judged on your merit by investors.
Don: Yeah. Now, in other words I think… One thing I will say is, I do fundamentally believe that… Cause, I talk a lot about things around hiring too. I’ll give you one quick story there, in a second. I don’t forget that it could be somewhat harder. But, I don’t think that it’s malicious. I think it’s… When I realize that I don’t pattern match. There’s a white kid out there who didn’t go to Stanford and that’s his hurdle. My hurdle is…
Don: It’s Pittsburgh…
Jason: It’s Pittsburgh more than being a black guy, I think, right? Don’t you think people discriminate against entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh or second tier cities?
Don: I’d say 9.9 times out of 10 it’s my merit. But, I’m not going to deny there’s a .1% of the population that for whatever reason just doesn’t think I have it in me.
Jason: Did you ever experience it in tech? Like, you think you experienced…
Don: Overtly, no.
Jason: You wouldn’t be able to say, “I get a sense that maybe in this meeting there was a little race involved.”
Don: No. I have to admit, I have never, ever, ever felt like that was the case.
Jason: I’m glad to hear that. Cause, when I wrote my piece that was what I was sort of alluding to. That angels… I did a bad job writing those pieces or just talking about race… Which is incredible two guys can’t talk about race or anybody can’t talk about race…
Don: Yeah. I think it’s silly.
Jason: … without everybody getting so personal. In the personal attacks people were like, “Just because you have an asian wife doesn’t mean that you’re not a racist.” I’m like, “Wait a second. I wasn’t a racist before I married my korean wife.”
Don: There’s a simple reason for that though. I think every black person has plenty of experiences where somebody did do something to them because of their race. And, every white person has somebody who called them racist when they knew they weren’t being. So, there’s this huge level of sensitivity there.
Jason: That’s insightful dude. So, people are coming charged to the argument. Like, I have to start my argument by saying I’m not a racist. Sadly, in America today, yeah there’s still a lot of racists. People still experience racism.
Don: We don’t want to go too far down this path. But, I always tell the story of… Let’s say, if you’re a middle-aged white and you’re interviewing a young white guy for a job. He reminds you of your son, of your caddy, of your neighbor’s kid, your nephew, whatever, you guys live in the same neighborhood. So, you can build rapport on more things. Cause, hiring is really much about rapport. But, if you’re an older white guy and you have a young sister in front of you, now it’s just qualifications. Cause you have nothing in common.
Jason: Yeah, yeah. I see what you’re saying. That makes sense.
Don: That’s a common challenge I think with people being able to connect with each other when it comes to… I mean, hiring is… especially in smaller businesses. In big corporations, there’s so many other reasons that they’re like hire, hire, hire. But, in smaller businesses you gotta figure out the right way to build bridges. I would say, if anything, I dealt with it more as a designer. LIke Don Charlton and the way my voice sounds if I was on a conference call or whatever. I’d walk in the meetings… I call it the 100 yard stare. It wasn’t malicious, they didn’t expect to see me.
Jason: They’re like Don Charlton, did we go to Yale together? I think I saw you at the Harvard Club. Mr. Charlton.
Don: They would say, “Heeeey.”
Jason: Don. Oh, you’re black. So, you could actually feel that like, the moment when they realized you weren’t white.
Don: Yeah. I would say, fundamentally…
Jason: My daughter has that now cause she has such a greek name that they’re going to be like, “Calacanis” and their going to see this little korean girl walk in. They’re going to be like, “What is the disjoint there?”
Don: Yeah, but I’d say, fundamentally though, if there’s any industry where you can be successful based on your merits, I think it’s definitely the tech community. I would say though, that there was a… You can find this video… There was a very famous venture capitalist who was talking about the Google guys. He mentioned that they were all the things that he liked. He said that they were Stanford, geeky and he did say white. You know, obviously, my whole world didn’t implode.
Jason: Whoa! But, that is crazy.
Don: But, I just kind of said, “That means I’m never going to raise money from him.”
Jason: Well, if one guy said it, ten guys thought it. You know what I’m saying? If one person… I find that the white guys now are kind of out of favor. I’m not saying that black guys are in favor, but I will tell you who is in favor. I have had many angel investors or VCs tell me, in private, they would never say it on the show, that they pattern match for people who have immigrant parents. Well, a lot of us came to this country… our families… multiple generations ago. Who’s coming into the country now? A lot of indians and a lot of asians. They’re like, “Oh. Are you second or third generation or first generation? If it’s first generation, it’s like, “Oh. Your parents suffered to get you here? We want you. Cause, you know how to work.”
Don: I would say, in some ways, if you were hearing that, I would say there’s other contestations going on too. Which is unfortunate. My advice to people is keep on moving.
Don: I just feel like I don’t have time to deal with all that stuff. I think, the main thing for me is I’d like to be able to give a big middle finger to anybody who thought that I couldn’t be successful.
Jason: That’s what I did. I grew up in Brooklyn. Nobody thought I could do it. See, that’s the other thing. When I wrote that piece I was probably a little bit naive because, my experience is that I overcame a lot of struggle.
Jason: Then, people don’t know my struggle so they’re just like, “You didn’t struggle.” There’s this one woman on Twitter, who doesn’t even know me is like, “You say we live in a post-race world.” I’m like, “I never said that.” I said, “We’re moving to a post-race world.”
Don: The younger generations wonder what the hell we’re arguing about.
Don: Right? They do. They really do.
Jason: The young people are like… Well, a lot of them are mixed race.
Don: Yeah. I always tell people too…
Jason: I mean, how could you be racist if you’re mixed race? It’s kind of hard.
Don: Yeah. Maybe to wrap up this part, I always tell people that there are still some people alive who lived in a society where there was a colored water fountain.
Don: They’re probably a little bit bitter about it.
Jason: Yeah. Rightfully so.
Don: I’d say, two or generations and we’re probably going to be in a much better position.
Jason: I hope we move to that world where people can talk about it. That’s why I appreciate you talking on the show because, some of these issues like also women in tech… Gina from Mightybell…
Don: I’ve heard some pretty…
Jason: They have it the worse.
Don: Yeah. I’ve heard some pretty… Like the word ‘babe’ and things like that.
Jason: Or… I was talking to one founder, she was like, “Everybody wants…” I won’t say who but a pretty high profile female founder. Very high profile now. At the time was medium profile. She wasn’t in the top slot. People want to go… They ask her on meetings.
Jason: So, she thinks that they want to talk about her product. Then, when she agrees to the meeting, they’re like, “OK. Let’s meet for dinner here.”
Jason: Then, she’s like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Dinner? No. Come by my office for 20 minutes.”Yeah. I’m really busy.” It’s like, “Wait. You’re an investor and you’re too busy to meet at your office? What are you dong at your office all day?” Under what circumstance is a woman meeting with a venture capitalist… Obviously, founder to venture capitalist, the venture capitalist has the money and the founder wants it. “You’re really going to force me to go to a dinner with you where you’re going to try to make it romantic and…”
Don: I’ve heard those stories multiple times.
Jason: That’s ‘F’d up. See, these women, what they should do is just have like an anonymous funded message board. Like, “This guy is a dog.”
Don: Of the funded? Like a version of The Funded.
Jason: Like a version of Adeo’s The Funded. You know what the funny story about The Funded is? So, Adeo does The Funded. He tells me he’s doing it. Then, he says this big thing. He says on the site. I’m going to reveal who it is. I’m going to reveal my identity on this date.
Don: Yeah. I remember the article.
Jason: So, he’s like, “Will you start telling people that it’s your site? Sort of telling them so that people think that’s it’s you.” I said, “Absolutely.” So, then I started emailing it to people. “Hey, this is an interesting site.” So I emailed it to like 10 journalists. “Have you seen this site? It’s really interesting. I don’t know who’s doing it.” Of course, then they all started thinking, “I have the inside line that Jason is…” But, that would be great. It actually turned out that the guy from Kleiner Perkins was macking on a co-worker. Which is always insane. That’s nuts. What’s been the hardest part? In all honesty, it feels like this has been like… I wouldn’t say it’s a rocket ship. It feels like this is like a 747 took off and you’re just cruising.
Don: The hardest part is just trying to… I would say that a rocket is a good analogy. We’re kind of a 747. It’s not going to break through the atmosphere. Right? So, we’re trying to figure out, while we’re on the 747, how do we assemble rockets and so forth and actually kind of…
Jason: Oh. You want to put the turbo boost on?
Don: Oh, yeah. We want a nice chunk of those 600,000 businesses. Yeah.
Jason: Have you thought about ways to make it consumer driven? In that, I could apply and my resume is on The Resumator and you can interact with me there in some kind of way. I’ve proven my skills there, in some kind of way. There are some people doing that. That’s LinkedIn, I guess. Like, here’s my profile. Have you thought about demand side? Like, I’m looking for a job in this and I’m a qualified candidate? Or, is it just too different from your business?
Don: We’re just not big enough to have that level of diversification. We really need to focus on building the very best recruiting software product, period. I think we’re interested in the entire employee life cycle, from hiring to retiring. I think we’re probably more focused on that. You’ve got to make a conscious decision to serve job seekers or employers, in my opinion. LinkedIn I think is probably an exception because they’ve obviously done a marvelous job at it. But, that being said, they make a lot of money on recruiting.
Jason: It took them time to get there too. It’s not like the pro features… It’s the people who are recruiters who are paying $5K a seat.
Jason: Is it per year or per month?
Don: I don’t know.
Jason: It’s per year.
Don: But, you saw their earnings.
Jason: They’re crushing it.
Don: What’s interesting about LinkedIn, a quiet company that is just saying, “Look. We’re not Facebook. We’re not real sexy but we’re hitting numbers.”
Jason: Big time. I think they’re going to… It’s pretty clear that unless Yahoo has some big turn of events, a hit, that LinkedIn will surpass them in market cap. That’s kind of interesting. The second thing is after that is if LinkedIn is worth $20B and Facebook’s worth $70B, that’s 3 and a half times. But, if Facebook stumbles and goes back down to $50B or a $40B valuation and LinkedIn is a juggernaut, it could actually come close.
Don: Yeah. I think Yahoo’s earnings are up too, right, this last quarter.
Jason: I think that they’ve… Yeah. They have to do a big purge, I think, in order to… They have to lay off a lot of redundant people.
Don: What’s interesting is a company like… A much smarter person is going to be able to figure this out. Or, be able to kind of slap this down but, Yahoo used to be the Facebook. Right?
Don: It used to be Facebook. So, what’s going to prevent Facebook from becoming a Yahoo 10 years from now? 15 years from now.
Jason: I think it’s starting to happen. I was in the club last night and everybody had their phones out cause Snoop Dogg was playing. It was all Instagram.
Don: Instagram? That’s Facebook.
Jason: Obviously, it’s Facebook. It was Instagram. It just shows they did a brilliant move by buying that. But, there’ll be another one of those that comes up and people are like, “Yeah. I’m off Instagram now. I’m off Facebook.” Just like they left Facebook for Instagram. They’ll leave Instagram for SnapChat. Or SnapChat for whatever.
Don: It’s unfortunate that Instagram gets created and then acquired then a bunch of other people are trying to do something with photographs. I don’t know, I just think chasing these different kind of avenues is… You know, if you’ll get a quick $10M flip cause there’s another competitor of Facebook that needs something, then great. But, people…
Jason: There’s a lot of photo sharing going on and it really… Actually the only thing I don’t… What did you think of Vine? Did you play with Vine?
Don: No. I’m a laggard when it comes to a lot of these things.
Jason: Vine was interesting. I think, it’s like fun and simple. People are starting to use it.
Jason: Just short 6 second videos. It makes sense. Listen. It’s been great to have you full circle on the program. From a call in.
Jason: How many people were at the company then?
Don: Just me.
Jason: It was a company of one?
Don: It was just me.
Jason: Wow. I didn’t realize it was a company… Did you have customers at that time or you just had the idea?
Don: Yeah. We had our first customer one month after. I probably had 3 customers whenever I called you.
Don: Yeah. That’s pretty funny.
Jason: What a great story, man. I gotta tell you.
Don: Fake it till you make it.
Jason: Fake it till you make it.
Don: Well, we’re not making it. Doing it. We’re doing it.
Jason: You’re doing the work. Listen, it’s hard. What do you think of the sort of founder stress suicide issue that is been talked about a lot. Have you felt like a ton of stress at times? Where this just felt like it wasn’t worth it.
Don: The time when it wasn’t worth it for me was when we were at 3 people, I always tell people. People always ask me, “Give me some advice.” I always say, “Do the exact opposite of what I did.” Like, start a company by yourself. I’ll never forget us sitting there. We had sales calls to do. We had to monitor the site. It was me and two interns and we needed a phone system. So, I’m in there hooking up phone lines and the internet went down. I remember calling Verizon and Verizon not getting back to me. I started… I remember, I was a grown man. I started crying sitting on the floor. You just think, “What did I get myself into?”
Jason: What is life about? What am I doing here? Yo. We’ve all had that moment. Absolutely. I saw my dad have that moment when I was a teenager. When a grown man just hits the wall. It’s just like whoa.
Don: I think… And, I talk about this a lot. The main thing is you got to suck it up. You know? You’re trying to do something that… Like, most people, they’ll get up, they’ll make their cheese sandwich, they’ll go to work, someone else is figuring out all these other things. Pay me on time. We’re not doing that.
Jason: When the bell goes off, you go home. Ding.
Don: Yeah. So, don’t feel sorry… I always think about the person in my ear yelling. Quit. Go back and get another job, you know.
Jason: Right. That’s the thing. Something happened with Jody. You know what I’m talking about? The Ecomom founder that killed himself, tragically. I think we should keep talking about Jody because, the more we talk about it… Actually it was Sarah who did a fantastic piece on… Hey, it turns out that it was something wrong with the business and it looks like… Obviously we don’t know cause he didn’t leave a note. Or, if he did we haven’t heard about it yet. He didn’t say, “I’m killing myself because the business failed.” We don’t have a literal connection there but, the painting is starting to become clear that the business was going to go out of business. He was so vested in it, I don’t think he could see any way out.
Jason: Which, to me, Jody was such a force for good. So loved by so many people. If Ecomom cratered, which it apparently was going to do, he could wake up the next day, go to a hundred… Not a hundred. Go to 20 VC firms and be an entrepreneur in residence at 2 or 3 of them, get a salary, and then just go hang out in the conference room and meet with other entrepreneurs and talk about his failure. Just enjoy it and be with us today. He’d be on this goddamned program right now. This is the thing that kind of pisses me off about it. Is he could be on this program right now talking about the failure and everybody could learn from it and move on.
Don: It’s definitely… I’ve had a friend who killed themselves before. It’s definitely not… It’s something else usually.
Jason: It’s gotta be like…
Don: There’s catalysts for it but…
Jason: A tipping point.
Jason: But, there’s some underlying… Yeah. That’s what we’ve heard is that there was some underlying depression issue or something. Then, people are saying you screen people for mental issues or depression going into entrepreneurship. I’m like, not to be cavalier, but I don’t think you need to screen it. I mean, if you’re an entrepreneur you’re not mentally stable, by definition. What person… as I said at the top of the program… What person goes into the arena knowing that there’s 80% chance of failure. You’ve got to be…
Don: Yeah. People are trying to rationalize and prevent things that are a part of life, kind of. You know? It’s sad.
Jason: That’s wise. That’s wise. I think that’s really wise because, as somebody told me… Mark Pesce actually said this to me. The reason why you’re taking it bad… and other people are taking it bad… is cause you look at suicide as this event and really it’s a diseases. They’ve had that disease that whole time. Now, the disease has killed them. They had this suicide disease, or whatever. The depression disease. They had suicide. Just like somebody had cancer. They had a life. Their life ended prematurely because of their disease.
Don: The people who experience knowing someone who killed themselves realize that it’s a disease. It’s so easy to look back and say… you know. Sometimes you feel like you’re in a situation where you’re actual keeping someone alive by being in their life and so forth. Right?
Jason: Yeah. That’s interesting you say that. I think, maybe Jody falls into that camp because, he was so full of life but yet he seemed to be… like something missing in his life, or whatever. He needed to have that success.
Don: The human body is so complex, I think sometimes we try to over simplify it. Right? Like, this little two pound thing in our head.
Jason: Yeah. There’s a lot of chemicals going on around in there. If they’re tweaked…
Don: A little bit.
Jason: … just a little bit off. You know. It could be a crazy outcome.
Don: Yeah. I think I read somewhere that if you drop one drop of iodine on the brain, I forgot what it said it would do. Just a little drop of iodine. I forget what it was.
Jason: Like your brain will just go crazy?
Don: Yeah. Like, that’s how sensitive the brain is.
Jason: Yeah. We did it to soldiers in like the 50s and 60s. We put LSD in them and tried to have the go fight wars. Or, simulations and stuff.
Don: I wasn’t born.
Jason: Neither was I. There’s videos on YouTube of this craziness.
Jason: You’re like, “We did that to our own soldiers?” That was madness. Listen. This has been a great episode. I really do love the product. So, if you haven’t tried it I really encourage you as a fan of the show, to put just one job in there. It’s free. Go to The Resumator.com. I mean, there’s no bigger endorsement I can tell you than, there’s 3 people in our company right now with The Resumator open in a window. Literally, we have 7 or 8 job recs open.
Jason: Because Mahalo is doing so well. I don’t talk about it. We’ll have Inside and the new product coming. But, it’s going so well we’re literally hiring 7 or 8 people. It’s just they love using the product. So, go ahead and go to The Resumator.com, use the promo code TWIST and you’ll get 10 years for free. Is that what we agreed?
Don: 10 years?
Jason: There is no promo code. It’s free. Like MailChimp, it’s free. Right? Free for a month.
Don: Free to try. Yep.
Jason: Free to try. So go try it out. It’s so cheap. I shouldn’t say cheap. It is kind of cheap. The lowest price is $99 a month? That’s cheap dude.
Jason: I know, I know. People always tell me that. Is that like… Do you think it should be $49 or $149?
Don: We were $49 before. We moved up to $99.
Jason: Did it change anything? Or, did it make more people sign up?
Don: We’re one month into that now.
Jason: I bet you more people buy it now. There’s no difference between $49 and $99.
Don: That’s a classic story. I remember I would have never bought… We have subscriptions that are $850 a month. I remember when I started out. No way.
Jason: Right. Then you’re like wait a second. $850 a month or I could hire two people to do it. Or, I could put a developer on this for 4 months and it will cost whatever that is… $30K.
Don: I think it’s the value of the subscription fee, but also if you get that many thousands customers that’s a pretty big marketing channel too for other services.
Jason: Don Charlton. A pleasure having you on the program. Again. Thanks for making it back 325 episodes later. It’s a real pleasure to have you on. Thanks for the honesty and the discussion. About race and gender and suicide and stress. All these really important issues that I think people are afraid to talk about. But, I”m not afraid to talk about them. Although, I have to say I’m kind of punched… I feel like so beat up after talking about race. People said don’t talk about race. It’s just not a good idea for a whiter guy to talk about race. I’m like, “You know what? I kind of understand it now.” It’s exhausting to be called a racist. I’m certain it’s not as exhausting as having racism thrown at you. I’ve never had any racism, ever. Quite the opposite. As a white guy, I can tell you that. Literally I… This is the experience of a white guy. You want me to tell you the experience of a white guy?
Jason: Every person you meet, like every other white guy… Not every other white guy. But, most other guys you meet are just like, “How can I…” Especially, when you’re younger… “How can I help you get more success in your career?” Like, literally. There’s never a.. Everybody wants to help you become…
Don: I don’t think every white guy has that story. I grew up with a lot of white guys that were…
Jason: I’m telling you. That was mine, man. I’ve met so many potential, like mentors and people who wanted to support me. Maybe it was my energy or something.
Don: I think the big thing people should realize is, it’s not race, it’s class. That’s what it really is. It’s really class.
Jason: That’s interesting.
Don: It’s really where you are in society. If your a black kid and you grew up in the suburbs, you do pretty well.
Jason: That’s true. It’s interesting too, a lot of people were like this term: minority, is kind of over. The minorities are… the demographic shift is like pretty clear the white people are going to be… whatever. The republicans lost the election specifically because they hate the latest group of immigrants to come to this country, the mexicans.
Don: I don’t know if I’d say…
Jason: I think they outright hate them.
Don: I don’t think they hate them.
Jason: I think… It feels kind of like hate to me. When everybody else who came to this country gets to have a path. The irish, the greeks, the swedish, the germans. Everybody got a chance to become legit citizens after sneaking into the country. Except the mexicans. We’re going to stop it there for 10M mexicans when we have a country of 320M people? That’s 3% of the country and they’re working hard.
Don: But, I think there’s a lot of people… Quite honestly, if I understood what conservative meant, I’d probably be republican. Quite frankly. But, I don’t know what conservative means.
Jason: This is like a weird conservative. They’re changing it now.
Don: I’m fiscally conservative. Very.
Jason: Most intelligent people are. It’s like, “Don’t spend more than we make.”
Don: Yeah. But, my point is, I think that’s a huge group of people. I think there’s a lot of people in there, they just basically want…
Jason: They’ve been hijacked, I think. The Republicans. They’ve been hijacked. What were you saying?
Don: I try to stay out of all that.
Jason: Yeah. I stay out of it too but it keep’s coming up on the show. I think… You know what the other thing is? I think the Republicans lost the election and they have… Now that they’ve lost twice and they lost like 8 years. Sarah Palin was a disaster. Just intellectual white weight. Just a stupid person.
Don: That was the weird one.
Jason: This person doesn’t even know what the countries in Europe are. Or, that Europe’s not a country, it’s a continent. It’s like this person hasn’t been to any of these countries. Now that they’ve lost, because of the immigration issue, they’ve lost the mexican/hispanic vote. I think they’re going to have to change it this time around. Like they’re groin to change their stance on immigration completely. 180. Boom.
Jason: Well, this has been ThisWeekIn Politics with Jason Calacanis. Cause I really have deep knowledge. Again. Check out The Resumator.com and follow @dontrepreneur. What a great, great Twitter handle. Holy cow.
Don: And, just to wrap up, that was one of the things you said, “Build your own brand.” It’s gold. I’ll admit that too.
Jason: I have to say, like, this is a great episode. This is a great episode for me. Because, when you put something out in the world sometimes you don’t know if your having an impact. Do you have that experience sometimes? You put your product out there… Then when you… In a way, I’m you’re customer for Resumator, you’re my customer for ThisWeekIn Startups.
Jason: Which is. Somebody who is not in the Valley, who is not in the game, listens to the show and gets a bunch of skills or insights or inspiration or any of those things. They level up and they get in the game. That’s like why I do it. So, it’s so great to hear these stories.
Don: Even though I wish I could… I would tell you this privately too… but I will say, the TechCrunch 40 experience and the feedback that you would give people when they were pitching… you specifically…
Don: Those were my… I was cutting my teeth learning how to become an entrepreneur on the content that you and MIke were producing. Cause, I think, before you guys you couldn’t pull up 50 videos of entrepreneurs pitching their ideas then getting feedback on what venture capitalists would think. You didn’t
Jason: It didn’t exist.
Don: Yeah. The site was so slow but I was digesting all those videos back then.
Jason: That’s so awesome to hear. Mike and I had a good 3 year run. We did some good work together. But, now he’s blocking me on Twitter. He’s literally blocking me on Twitter. It’s pretty funny. Weird guy. Hey. Listen, we’ll see you all next time on ThisWeekIn Startups.
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