What Fundable Founders Have In Common

Full Transcript

Paul Singh: In a world where everybody’s trying to build relationships on Zoom, going and meeting them in person is a differentiator.

Ed Pizza: You said no to Airbnb and Uber in the same week because you thought both ideas were stupid.

Paul Singh: I don’t think it’s the founders that have changed as much as it’s that I’ve changed.

Ed Pizza: Here we are six years later sitting in our homes with headphones and t-shirts on, telling people why we think they’re right or wrong. Who really gave us the right to do that? Hey guys, welcome back to the Results Junkies podcast. As we’ve said the past few weeks, we are all about tactics and both of us have been pretty busy this week. Paul, I know you’ve got a ton going on, knee deep in another acquisition, huh?

Paul Singh: Yeah it’s been a busy week. Actually. It’s been in the works for about two weeks now. But the thing about acquisitions is, they’re more delicate. You read the news or the techcrunches of the world for better or for worse. And they make it sound like, well two companies met and magically a wire transfer happens. Not like that at all.

Ed Pizza: Oh, it’s almost like that, every one of these I’ve been involved with, it’s like it never really feels like it’s real until it’s done. And there’s all these points in the process where you’re a hundred percent sure it’s not going to close. And then you’re a hundred percent sure it is going to close.

Paul Singh: Well that’s true. And it’s also the case that it doesn’t even feel like you’re working because you’re talking a lot. Everybody thinks these sort of things are about deal terms. And maybe there’s smarter people than me that can make that happen. But when you’re dealing with culture fit first, and you’re thinking about it that way, you’re really talking a lot. It’s like speed dating. They’re like, are we getting married in three weeks or what?

Ed Pizza: The answer to that is no, you’re already married.

Paul Singh: I feel like my team probably is like, where in the world as Paul? And I’m over here thinking, God, I am so exhausted. This is a lot of talking. So anyway, been a busy week. What’s going on in your world?

Ed Pizza: Just back man, was out in Reno for the week, checking on some of our businesses. And obviously you and I have been tossing back and forth some stuff on a couple of potential investments that we’re looking at in some really interesting spaces. But before we dig too deeply into that stuff, I also want to remind folks to hit the subscribe button wherever you’re listening so you can get notified of new episodes as as soon as we drop them every week. And also you can shoot us your questions, email us show@resultsjunkies.com. Paul is on Twitter @PaulSingh and I am @pizzainmotion across all those Twitter, Facebook, Instagram ish type places. But yeah, it sort of feels like it’s getting back in investment season for us as well. I don’t know if that’s specifically related to people coming out of the pandemic and more things being appealing. But it feels like as people started traveling, we’re also talking about investments more.

Paul Singh: Yeah, I hate to admit this openly, but the truth is it’s also about my attention span. And I think I’m trying to be a little bit more conscious about carving out 10 or 20% of the week to look at deals that come through the inbox and that sort of thing. So I don’t think it’s because the deals have been bad or the bets have been bad through the pandemic. I think it’s really more just attention span for me. And I don’t know how you feel about it, but I definitely think I didn’t give enough attention to some of the folks that were fundraising over the last year. But now hopefully we’ll pick off three or four of them a week and see where it goes.

Ed Pizza: Yeah I know that I’d use the word attention span per se. I understand what you mean. I think for me, there were certain times during the pandemic where… Because I wasn’t a hundred percent sure on certain sectors, if you will. And maybe I wasn’t willing to invest the time to go deeply in some companies. And I think a great example of that is supply chain stuff and just what we’ve seen with tons of ships moored off the coast, not able to drop their product and how that’s causing ripples in so many different things. And so certainly there’ve been a couple of hardware things that wandered across my path. And I just said, look, I don’t have the time and wherewithal to figure out if you have supply chain issues coming down the pipe to write a check. And so I certainly see some of those factors have been impacting the things that I’m willing to put time into.

Paul Singh: I get it man. The unfortunate reality is we’re all… Despite all the hustle porn, hustle culture, that’s out there, we all got the same hours in the day and you got to make those choices. I think people sometimes look for some sexy answer here, but the truth is, it’s just a practical matter of things.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. And one of the things that we’re looking at right now I think, it brought up an interesting question. And as folks will see on my other podcast, one of my frequent guests comments on the fact that I frequently drop things in as a surprise. And I swear to God, I don’t do this on purpose. I meant to put this on our show notes for this week, but you and I both, we’re talking about a company in the pet space and you guys just lost Jack just a handful of months ago. Dana’s dog of a long number of years, we’ve lost a pet. And so definitely an emotional connection for me. And I really struggle, it’s almost like… There’s a question in there. I’m just not sure what the right question is.

But I sit there and I always wonder where this line is. So we’re looking at this company, I’m very interested because pets are a part of our family and they have been since we’ve had kids, so 15 plus years. But where’s that line between, I love it and I think, I have a vested interest in it as a consumer, and I’d love to see this company succeed. Versus trying to figure out if those feelings are clouding my judgment on the investability of this concept. And by the way, this goes back to one of your comments. You always say this on the tech tour, you said no to Airbnb and Uber in the same week, because you thought both ideas were stupid. And the flip side I think is true. I’m invested in this idea, so is it the wrong idea to say yes to this, versus saying no to Uber and Airbnb?

Paul Singh: Yeah. Well, here’s what I would say. First off, I like to invest in entrepreneurship, not innovation. And I’ll explain what that means. So let’s just for a moment here, look at what we’re doing with Bump, just to make an illustrative point. And then I’m going to get to that particular company that we’re looking at investing in. On the Bump side, people misunderstand what entrepreneurship versus innovation really means. The point is, if you look at how we’ve expanded into multiple business units, none of them are new. What we’re doing is, is we’re looking at incumbents that are adjacent to us that are maybe more than 10 years old, making more than a hundred million dollars a year. And then rethinking what that business would look like if they had our deep understanding of today’s tech, our deep understanding of today’s moms, digitally native moms. And without the legacy baggage of the past.

So taking it over to this company that you’re talking about, and the idea of pets and all that stuff. The reason I’m really interested in it is that I know the founder, I knew the head sales guy, invested in them in the past. Actually hired one of them in the past as well. And on top of that, the concept is not new. Before I even started to look at it, when he first emailed me about this… And hopefully he doesn’t hear this, but I stalled on replying to him for a day or two, because what I wanted to do after hours one night was just go scan the public earnings reports of the Banfields of the world. And get a sense of, what is the scale of some of these other insurance programs that are out there like this?

So that in theory gives me an idea of, okay is this big? That sort of thing. And that was confirmed. And then, as I talked to him, it was really just to talk about the differentiation that he had. It’s not interesting to… You never go after an incumbent head on, that would never be smart. But then there’s do they have a novel approach? And in this case, without giving it away, I’ll tell you offline, but they have a very novel approach that skirts some of the regulatory issues while still providing the customer the full coverage amounts and things like that. So I don’t know if that was… Maybe that was a little too rambly and We lost a couple of listeners there.

But I guess what I would just say is that, when I think about these businesses, you’re absolutely right. We should not judge our decision to invest, or not invest in things because of our personal emotions. That’s a recipe for bad decisions in investing, in careers, in life in general. Rather what you should look at is, is there a proven demand for this thing? Are they going up against existing competitors? And if the answers to those things are yes, then is there a novel approach that they’re taking? And that’s really what you’re betting on.

So in this case, I guess here’s a summary. On that particular deal, we are not risking anything in terms of, is there a market or anything of that sort. The question here really is, is this other novel approach coming in from the side interesting? That’s what the fundamental bet is. And again, I have a lot more thoughts on this. I don’t want to give the deal away here. Lord knows these people listening to this will invest in it before we close our deal.

Ed Pizza: Yeah.

Paul Singh: But yeah-

Ed Pizza: I have a lot of interest in this space too. I’ve done a lot of research, so that’s why it’s certainly, this one’s very interesting for me. And it’ll be interesting to watch, see where it goes.

Paul Singh: Yeah, maybe we’re just in a timestamp of this for later on, for posterity’s sake. But I think this could be an interesting partnership for us on the Bump side too. It turns out the overlap between people that love pets and the people that love kids is actually pretty, pretty good.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. No, I agree. I don’t want to use words that are thrown around in the insurance company very often, but I do see, wait for it, bundling opportunities here.

Paul Singh: See. That’s how you know there’s some dads on this podcast. You’ve got the dad jokes, episode three.

Ed Pizza: Oh dad jokes. The worse they are the better I am.

Paul Singh: No, the worse your dad jokes are, the more kids you got. That’s how it goes.

Ed Pizza: Oh is that the deal? So yours must be worse than mine?

Paul Singh: A hundred percent, ask my kids.

Ed Pizza: You have 50% more kids than I do.

Paul Singh: A hundred percent, yep.

Ed Pizza: Well, at least as far as we know.

Paul Singh: Percent. Yep.

Ed Pizza: Well, at least as far as we know.

Paul Singh: Oh boy, you’re going to get me in trouble.

Ed Pizza: [And me 00:11:06] too.

We’re talking about entrepreneurship, I think it’s a good segue into one of the tweets I had flagged. Daniel wrote us a couple weeks ago; it’s an interesting high level question. I’m not sure there’s a tactical answer. But I was trying to think back through our investing history, and yours is much more prolific than ours.

He asked, “What’s different about founder number 1000 you invested in, versus number one? And what’s the same?” And then he asked about the pitfalls that young entrepreneurs should avoid. I think we’re going to talk a little bit about valuation in a bit and what young investors should focus on when they’re negotiating term sheets.

What do you think has changed with founders over the arc of the time that we’ve both been investing?

Paul Singh: I don’t think it’s the founders that have changed, as much as it’s that I’ve changed. What I mean by that is, is that I think the more opportunities I’ve had to look at companies to invest in, the more I’ve had the ability to then refine my thinking. But then, as I invested in them and the more I saw what didn’t work, I was able to kind of figure out why I made the decision to invest originally. What’s happened is, over the years now I’ve gotten more and more clear on what my thesis is, and what my “go/no go,” “what’s negotiable, what’s not” thing, has evolved.

So I think the difference between founder one and founder 1000… I don’t know how to answer that. But what I do know is, is that the portfolio of founders; if you took some random subset of our founders right now and put them in a proverbial room together, I think you would see a lot of similarities. In the sense that what you would see, what I like to describe as, they will be the combination of relentlessly resourceful, incredibly self-aware; meaning that they have a bias towards action, that relentlessly resourceful thing, but they have a sense of self awareness. They can speak assertively, but they hold their opinions weakly if somebody else brings some other data to the table.

Daniel, it’s a good question, it’s a nuanced one. But I don’t think it’s the founders… Founders change over the years, technologies, everything changes, right? But the portfolios are really a reflection of how the investor thinks. Well, hopefully that was…. Probably not groundbreaking and new, but…

Ed Pizza: Well, I would say, I feel the same in an abstract view. If I were to get specific, and not to pick at things that are controversial in our space, but I would say probably one of the biggest changes I’ve seen, and this maybe isn’t directly to Daniel’s “number one versus 1000…” But if I took a cross section of founders from when we first got back into angel investing, call it back in like 2008, to today, I think they have similarities in all those things that you talk about in terms of their tenacity; the things that they go after, the principles they hold. I think one of the really big differences that I see revolves around their gender, and the color of their skin. I would say that our portfolio was heavily skewed towards white male founders. Even more specifically, white male founders from probably 15 or 20 universities. I think that’s changed quite a bit, definitely not enough, but definitely changed fairly significantly.

I’d say, in any room that you and I go into over the past handful of years, before COVID, I would say that the gender and ethnicity of the room, absent our specific investment choices, is much more diverse than it’s ever been. I’m not exactly sure how to pin that on any one thing, other than to say, us evolving as a culture. Because I don’t necessarily know that the money has really targeted itself towards female founders and minority founders, until just maybe the last two or three years. But I’ve definitely seen, I’d say just since you and I have been out on the tech tour, a huge swing in diversity of the folks that are actively out there trying to create great companies.

Paul Singh: I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying there, by the way. But you know, this topic is actually a really hot topic. You have to go far down the Twitter feed to see people talking about equity and equality, and investor dollars, and all that stuff. Before anybody jumps on the bandwagon here and totally kills me; I don’t disagree with that. We need to fix those things. But is some of that because the historical access to capital was very siloed? It was very like, you had to go to Silicon Valley; this is a cliche, but I’ll just throw it out there to paint the picture. I think part of that is because historically everything was centralized, and because it cost a lot to start a company and all that stuff, you had to be able to get to Silicon Valley and go meet those people on their turf. So obviously to be able to do that, you have to have a certain income already, or financial standing, or come from a family that could support that sort of thing. You could take the risks. You could afford to take those risks.

And now, particularly over the last 15 years, as costs have plummeted… I like to tell people that I think $500 today is the equivalent of $5,000,000 twenty years ago. Now all of a sudden, that allows more and more investors, individuals, angels to participate in deals and actually make a meaningful impact, but also it allows founders to kind of look around the corner, if you will. So in theory, where I’m going with this is, do you think that this is mostly like a… To fix this problem, I think what you have to do is train more individuals to learn how to construct an angel investing portfolio; so that solves, in theory, the capital issue at the local level everywhere else. But then on the other side, teach founders the principles of fundraising that apply at the national level. In other words, train both sides to speak the language of the other. Maybe that’s not articulated well, but…

Ed Pizza: No, and I think we’re on the same page there. I’d say if I were trying to give my prescription, I think it’s largely the same as yours. Absolutely; I think the biggest thing that’s overlooked when it comes to involving more female and minority founders in the investment picture, is making sure that they have the same base of information as the white dude who went to Wharton. So I think there’s absolutely something to be said for carrying that information to founders of any skin color or gender. Not just the fact you’ve got minority founders, but you’ve also got all of the white people that didn’t go to Wharton or Harvard, those folks as well.

So I think there’s a democratization of teaching founders how to source the right investors. Not to go with the overly simple answer, but a friend of mine who’s in the investing space, who’s taught me a lot over the years, said quite simply to me at some point in the past few years, “one of the best ways to increase the number of female founders in your portfolio is to have a female on your team, picking companies.” We all have some level of implicit bias of picking people that look like us, as much as we may try to overcome it.

So I think there’s still a large cross section of white males that control the dollars going into companies. And like you said, this is a hot topic and we’re not trying to take the world off the rails here and solve this problem. But I think it’s just that, that’s a big difference that I see in the portfolio over time.

And it sort of dovetails into something else we’ve talked about. When we talk about educating founders, you Tweeted out earlier this week… You and I haven’t talked a lot about this, but we both agree on it. I don’t remember us having tons of discussions about it, but you talked about founders who overly focus on the valuation, say, at a fundraise. And you talked about price exit as well, which I think is also an issue, but not as frequent, because obviously there’s a lot less exits than there are fundraising rounds. But there’s this thing about like, how founders should… What their “founding principles” should be to raise money?

I think absolutely; I think there’s so many founders who sell themselves short trying to negotiate the “price of their round” when there are so many other important details that they need to stake out, in terms of what their investors are going to get from them, and what they’re going to get from their investors.

Paul Singh: Yeah. I’m in this conversation with founders almost every week. Whether it’s on the investing side and even more recently, on the acquisition side here. Here is the punchy thing that I like to say, “If that’s what matters, you pick the price. I get to set the rest of the terms.” People think I’m being smartass. But the reality is, I’m just trying to make a point. There’s a lot of different levers on that piece of paper, whether it’s a term sheet or whatever. There’s a lot of other levers there and I think people need to learn about that. Depending on how you like to consume information, if you like to read it on books, Brad Feld’s book, I think it’s called Startup Deals, that’s an interesting one that can talk to you about all the different levers there.

I personally like The Archives on Venture Hacks. If you go to VentureHacks.co, and click The Archives, you can go down into the different sections and stuff like that. I like that, because it’s easier for me to read. It’s such a rookie mistake to focus on price. Whether it’s valuation, or exit, or whatever, because it’s one of 20 things that matter. It’s like, could you have a billion dollar valuation as a startup? Uh-huh (affirmative), for sure, but you’re going to lose all control.

Paul Singh: … as a startup for sure. But you’re going to lose all control.

Ed Pizza: Right.

Paul Singh: That’s the part I don’t get, by the way. That tweet was really triggered by this excitement that happened to be on Twitter that same day, about a big billion dollar valuation for a startup that had raised money. And I’m looking at this announcement and all these founders. Yeah, you could see the employees of that company excited about it. But what really sort of triggered me was all these other founders on Twitter were like, “Wow, look at this. This is so amazing.” And for those people, I just wanted to shake them a little bit and be like, “You don’t understand that what you’re celebrating here as a founder is complete loss of control of your company?” I mean, that’s it. There’s no scenario in which that’s not the case, I don’t think, unless there’s obscene growth, but that doesn’t seem to me to be the case these days anymore. Anyway.

Ed Pizza: Well, I don’t think a lot of companies think about making that choice when they’re taking on fundraising. First off I think, and I have a bias on this that’s probably different than some others, but I think that the convertible notes and safes and stuff like that are used more frequently than they should be. And part of the downside to those I see is that it largely gives folks a pass on defining a lot of those major terms. And I understand in certain cases you sort of have to punt on that stuff for further down the road. But by definition, we’re saying with something like a convertible or a safe that we’re not defining a board and we’re not defining how you can spend money and we’re not defining what sort of control you get. So you can have a mismatch of expectations between your investors and you as a founder.

But I also think back to, and I think we talked about this at some point, but we talked about we had a chance to write a check into a company called Digital Ocean very early on. The founders were actually working on another startup at the time and they ultimately made the decision not to fundraise at that point and they were going to bootstrap further down the road because they wanted a specific level of control. I think that’s not a decision enough founders think about making. Certainly sometimes you don’t have a choice. You need to bring in outside money. But I think there are some things coming down the pike that allow founders and smaller companies to get capital in ways that may not necessarily lose control over the company, if you will. But I think, at least from my standpoint, the amount of shares I’m giving away and the amount of control I’m giving away at a round is certainly much more important to me than the overall “price per share” of what I’m giving away in terms of my vision for the long-term growth of the company.

Paul Singh: I’m going to just say yes. Well, actually-

Ed Pizza: No, you’re not. See? You’re going to keep going.

Paul Singh: Yeah, I was like, “Do I bite? Or do I not?” I’m going to go ahead and bite. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying by the way. But I think… So for me, I’m not necessarily against notes versus equity rounds, that sort of thing. But I do think the common mistake that founders make, particularly with notes, is they don’t quite understand the mechanics. And again, everything you’re saying is true, but I think maybe alongside that, and maybe just as equally important though, I think founders sometimes look at these notes and they’re like, “Oh, it just seems so much easier.” And what they don’t realize is sometimes there’s terms buried in there, like discounts with multipliers and there’s interest rates that, “Yeah, you can have a 36 month term.” But maybe the way the interest rate is written is it’s compounding. And next thing you know, that $50,000 check that you thought you’re converting at a $3 million value is actually accrued more like $120,000 and it had a discount on the three. It doesn’t actually convert into…

I’m not saying that it’s always that nefarious, but the biggest mistake is people don’t understand how those various terms can kind of spiral out of control. They look so innocuous, but they can spiral out of control. You think you just sold 15% of your company when it converts someday, but that’s not actually what happens.

Ed Pizza: Well, and I think a lot of founders don’t realize that convertible notes still, in many cases, based on the way they’re written, are still dead. And that’s where I think other vehicles that are out there that are explicitly much less a “debt vehicle.” But I mean, at the end of the day, a lot of the convertible notes that I see come across my desk are still debt instruments that can be called. And it’s like, everybody at the table all agrees, “Well, we’re never going to call this. We all know the money’s never coming back, but we’re going to use a document that says that we can do that.” And it just is imbalanced in terms of everybody has the silent head shake, like, “Yeah. Yeah. Don’t worry. We’re never going to ask for this money back, but we want you to sign this document that says we can ask you for this money back.”

Paul Singh: Yeah. The thing about that clause though, because yeah, you’re right, it’s in all those clauses. The tricky part with that is that if you call it, the investor does have a brand reputation risk associated with that. So let’s just assume that the company could afford to pay it back if you called it. The intangible, but important consideration there is would public sentiment of other founders be effected? That’s why I think you don’t see it happen very often. Obviously certainly a lot of companies are burning through the cash. So even if you called it, they may not even have the capability to pay it. That certainly is a big part of it. But I think the other reason you don’t see it happen very often is that, particularly for investors that have some sort of brand, whether you’re an angel or VC, the reputational risk is usually far more expensive than the loss of the cash that you already probably wrote off when you wired.

But by the way, don’t get me wrong. I hate to lose money. I’m not saying that I love it or something like that. I’m just saying that it’s nuanced. Anyway, I could keep going with this, but let me pause there. I know we got a lot of topics we want to maybe get through. It’s like every episode we start with this grand vision. We’re like, “Oh, 11 ideas.” I think today’s sheet that that we put together, we got 15 lines on this thing of topics we’re going to go after and we’re like on number two.

Ed Pizza: Well, and we’re never going to get through all of them. So if you had that vision that we were ever going to get through all of them, that’s not the case. It’s more a matter of trying to have enough stuff out there to make sure that we’ve got good segues and stuff that we can cover. So we will never ever get to the end of the list, mark my words. I never use words like always or never and I just did.

I want to ask you a question, and it’s about one of your tweets, because I can’t tell if I disagree. So you tweet about, and I’m going to read it. You said nothing beats face-to-face meetings when building important business relationships. Nothing beats Zoom/Hangouts/video meetings when maintaining business relationships. Yeah. Okay. Give me the 25 cent version now, not the nickel version.

Paul Singh: Okay, yeah. I was going to say, look, you’re dealing with a 200 character limit here, right? So you got to speak in absolutes there. But in that moment when I was writing that, that was actually earlier today, but when I was writing that, I was just thinking as the stakes get bigger and bigger on whether it’s deals, careers, whatever, things get more competitive. The busier client that you’re dealing with or the busier boss or executive you’re dealing with, attention spans get weaker or smaller and smaller, that sort of thing. So point is, is that I think in a world where everybody’s trying to build relationships on Zoom, going and meeting them in person is a differentiator. And I think conversely, or on the other side of that coin, in a world where a lot of people travel to kind of maintain relationships, I think, I think doing Zoom well or doing video on Hangouts well can kind of replace that for you.

So it’s sort of counterintuitive. I guess my point of that tweet was when everybody’s sort of doing one thing, you got to do the other. And I just think that most people think about building relationships online and then only moving the “important” ones to the offline world. And when the majority of people in my view, or at least in my circle tend to do that, I’d like to go the other way.

Ed Pizza: Okay. Yeah. So now I’m not sure if I disagree with you or not. Well, I’m going to tell you my philosophy and you tell me if I disagree with you. And this is setting aside COVID, which has obviously made Zoom and versions of Zoom much more important in how we communicate from a relationship standpoint.

I’ve always been an in-person guy. I’ve also been somebody who frequently picks up the phone to reach out and talk to someone instead of writing an email if I’m going to discuss something that’s beyond fairly straightforward, directional sort of information. And frequently, I’ll have folks tell me, “You’re one of the only people that consistently calls me to have that discussion, as opposed to trying to have it over email.” And I can’t tell whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but they keep talking to me, so I’m going to go with it’s a good thing. But setting aside the pandemic, I think overall, I would be in favor of deeper relationships through face-to-face communications, and I lean towards actual face-to-face as opposed to Zoom, as opposed to more relationships that are maintained at a smaller or less deep level by having Zooms and stuff that you will, not having the traditional lunch or breakfast or phone call or whatever.

Paul Singh: I think that’s cool. I think that’s cool. I think it’s not important that we agree on this. I think it’s important that people have a philosophy.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, I agree. I agree.

Paul Singh: Because it does have to be tailored to what you’re good at. To your example there, you like that verbal communication. That’s what you do. I prefer visual. That’s why I kind of joke that I’m always video on. I’m either in person or I’m on video. I don’t even call you. I mean, I feel like I don’t even call you. I’d say we’re going to FaceTime. But I think it’s important that people have a philosophy. Actually on that note, by the way, and this is a very, again, biased thing to me, but it’s so amazing to me for people that are working in roles that requires Zoom or video on a regular basis, it’s amazing to me, 18 months after the pandemic started, how few people have actually upgraded their video setups.

Ed Pizza: Yeah.

Paul Singh: Think about like how much money people spend on… Whether we like it or not, people spend-

Paul Singh: … money people spend on, whether we it or not, people spend money to get dressed up to go to work.

Ed Pizza: Yeah.

Paul Singh: Not old school suits and ties, but a large percentage of the population spends money wearing nicer newer clothes when they used to go to the office, whether it was something casual from Banana Republic or whatever. But then they turn around and they’re working from home and, yeah, I know the joke is everybody’s in their pajamas or whatever, but you were comfortable spending probably 1,000 bucks a quarter on, I don’t know, jeans and fancy whatever. And now you can’t spend 100 bucks on a couple of cheap key lights? Come on. But then they wonder why nobody takes them seriously. They’re like, “Well, whatever.” We’re all fighting a war of attention here.

Ed Pizza: And I think that we’re just starting to come around to what’s a “standard” for a Zoom call. What are typical decorum things? There’s some obvious stuff like you’ve should have a shirt on, but there’s a lot of less obvious things that people haven’t quite realized. You’ve probably dealt with plenty of it. The dogs barking in the background, the kids, the stuff that, and we accept some of that because it was a pandemic, but there’s no really established decorum like there is in an office. There’s no pencil written set of rules for how you’re supposed to comport yourself on a Zoom call and whether you should be visible, whether you should have a good camera, and all that stuff.

Paul Singh: Yes, I agree with that. But what I want to say here also though is that, when these topics come up, they’re also touchy because, of course, what happens is, if we were to talk about this publicly in the open at a conference, somebody inevitably would pipe up in the audience and say, “But it shouldn’t be that way. It should be really about the quality of your ideas or the quality of your work,” and those sort of things. And they’re not wrong when they say that. But humans fundamentally have not changed as we evolved. We do tend to make, for better or for worse, snap decisions about, is this person trustworthy? Do they appear to check my implicit boxes that tell me that they know what they’re talking about? Again, we could debate at another time whether those are right or wrong, but they are instinctively baked into all of us.

And so, I don’t know, the thing I just find really interesting is that pre-pandemic you could clearly see people spent some portion of their budget on a monthly or annual basis to look the way they want to look. And, again, there’s always going to be somebody that’s going to comment on this podcast like, “I wear a sweatshirt.” Fine. You are cool. That’s great. But the vast majority of people still buy stuff. That’s why all these clothing stores are still in business.

Ed Pizza: Yeah.

Paul Singh: So why aren’t you actually spending this? I will tell you, on the side, in one of the upcoming episodes, I’m going to talk to you about a buddy of mine that I’ve been helping on the side. This guy’s an AV engineer for a high level celebrity that everybody has name recognition of, and this is the guy that set up my set up here at home. And I’ve been just setting him up with just a quick, I was like, “Dude, you,” I’m not going to say his name, I don’t want anybody Googling him yet, but I was like, “Man, here’s the deal. I don’t know why you did this all for me for free.” A friend of a friend referred him. I said, “Here’s my setup.” He’s such an expert. He’s like, “Oh, you’re going to need this, this, and this. Here are the Amazon links. And then once you have it set up, call me. We’re going to go do a couple sound tests.” And over the course of a week, we dialed it in all remotely.

And I’m like, “Why didn’t you charge me for this?” And he’s like, “I don’t know. Didn’t really think. I guess I should. But I think the point is, I think that there’s a space here for people like him to target professionals, people that work in the tech or other online industries, industries where they are on Zoom on a more regular basis and offer, “Hey, here’s the $200 option, if that’s all you got, and here’s how you set it up. And then here’s the $2,000 option, if that’s what you want, and here’s how we set it up.”

Ed Pizza: And when you think about how people comport themselves, I mean, you and I are comfortable, we’ve known each other a long time, there are times where you’ve taken my call and said, “Hey, I’m on my way to the store to get diapers for Dana.” That’s cool. We’ve established that relationship. It’s fine. But most people wouldn’t have a job interview while they’re standing in line at Starbucks because they know that that’s not appropriate and yet they’ll have equally important calls based around closing an important client or whatever while they’re on the way to the grocery store or they’re on the way back from picking up their kids. And those are all things we need to do, but I think we also need to understand that there are certain expectations that people form based on those behaviors that are much more visible in Zoom than they might be on a phone call.

Paul Singh: Agreed. And just to point it out, by the way, I’ll just say, just think about how we met. I mean, maybe the rhetorical question is, would we be doing this podcast five, six years after we met in person if we had not?

Ed Pizza: Right.

Paul Singh: In other words, if our relationship as friends and professionals and all that stuff, regardless of where we live or proximity and all that stuff, would we have done as many things professionally together over the last five or six years had we not spent that initial time face-to-face?

Ed Pizza: Well, yeah. I mean, that time that we spent, which we’ll have to get into in one of these shows, was to build a concept that we never actually brought to market.

Paul Singh: That’s right.

Ed Pizza: We met half a dozen time Starbucks to build a business idea that we never actually acted on. Well, I think it was because you bought an RV.

Paul Singh: That’s right.

Ed Pizza: Yeah, so it all goes back to mediocre coffee at Starbucks and a business idea that nobody in the public ever really saw besides you and I. And here we are six years later sitting in our homes with headphones and T-shirts on telling people why we think they’re right or wrong. Who really gave us the right to do that?

Paul Singh: Well, I don’t know, but I think it was an interesting topic that really wasn’t I don’t think on the list before we start already talking, but this idea of pre-pandemic people used to care about how they looked, for the most part, cared how they looked when they were in the office meeting their coworkers or their partners or clients or whatever. And then here we are 18 months into the pandemic and 99% of the people that I still talk to on Zoom professionally anyways are in dimly lit corners. And it’s like, come on, you used to spend 1,000 bucks a year or something on clothes and you can’t spend 200 bucks on cheap key lights? Come on.

Ed Pizza: Right, right. And here I sit unshaven as we finish up this podcast.

Paul Singh: But we can do that because we as peers have spent six years building that relationship.

Ed Pizza: If we actually showed the video to people they might think that we look like, or at least that I look, like a scrungy bum.

Paul Singh: Oh, fair. That’s fair. Yeah.

Ed Pizza: And we left one, two, three, four, five, six ideas on the chopping block that will hopefully get rolled over to next week’s episode when we get a little bit more time. And you said, we might try recording some short feed stuff for quick ideas that we have when we’re either happy or mad at each other about pick any random number.

Paul Singh: I think there’s some merit to that. I think we should think about that, this idea of maybe one or two more shorter sessions on the weekly calendar just so we can riff.

Ed Pizza: And this could be a good time to do it because I don’t think I’m getting on a plane for 10 days, which is a pre-pandemic record for me.

Paul Singh: I was going to say, look at you, lazy.

Ed Pizza: You should see the stack of stuff that isn’t getting done at home. All right, folks, as a reminder, you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, all that stuff. He is @PaulSingh. I am @PizzaInMotion. You can email the show, show@resultsjunkies.com. We’d love questions. We’ll answer them on a future episode, and I’m sure we’ll go way off tangent on our opinions on whatever you write to us. As a final reminder, hit that Subscribe button wherever you are listening to get notified of new episodes every time they drop. Until we upload again.

Paul Singh: That was fun, Ed. Let’s do it again and let’s do it more often.

Also published on Medium.