Transcript | Founder grit in the age of AI | Tyler Carlson (Co-founder @ Resquared)
The transcript from my podcast with Tyler Carlson from Resquared
Tyler Carlson 0:00
I think that all AI is doing is just making us all more like priests. Right? It's essentially doing helping us do less dumb shit. And I think that more often than not, that's what technology is here to do in the first place. Right? Like, you know, like Apple's announcement yesterday with a VR, it's like so you can feel like you're in the room with somebody without having to go visit that person like, just to make it easier. So you don't have to do as much dumb shit to do what you and I are doing right now, which is connecting with human beings.
Thanks for reading Future of Product! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Max Matson 0:28
Hey there, everybody. Welcome back to future product this week, sitting down with Tyler Carlson, co founder at rescored. Tyler, would you mind telling us a little bit more about yourself and your journey with rescored?
Tyler Carlson 0:41
Sure, Max, I appreciate you. Give me a chance to chat here. So I'm Tyler Carlson, I'm talking to you at Tampa, Florida here right now. So summer is upon us.
Born and raised here in Tampa. And really squared was founded about three years ago, when my my business partner and I and credit to my business partner, Griffin identified the pain point of a lot of landlords that he had worked with in the past, if you're driving down the road and see a shopping center, or a mall or a, you know, a target or whatever, that landlord has to give a bunch of free stuff to the big businesses to the targets and the you know, the Walmarts of the world to get them to come to their center. But it's the local businesses where they make their money. But it's also the biggest challenge to sell the local business, it's a harder to get their contact information, it's a smaller deal size, etc, etc. And so we've set out on the mission to make it easier to sell to local businesses, we started primarily in commercial real estate, we've started to grow into other industries, such as insurance, marketing agencies, essentially, if you're a b2b selling to a local business, we can help make it easier.
Max Matson 1:50
I see. Very interesting. Well, let's talk a little bit more about kind of, you know, some of the unique challenges that come with selling to local business, right? Especially for those who aren't familiar. I've done a little bit of it, you know, in my career, but I'd love to kind of get your take.
Tyler Carlson 2:05
Yeah, for sure. And let me know to have the internet um, gets spotty and I'll switch to a hotspot because I've been having trouble with my internet lately. But it looks like it's working okay, now.
But so the challenges related to selling to a local business owners is I think I would kind of bucket into into three, three categories. The first is, is identifying the contact information in the first place, right? Spend more time Googling, you know, chiropractor, Tampa, Florida and going on their website and finding an email address and copy and pasting it into an Excel file. Right. So just getting like the contact information in the first place. Like I thought I saw a stat that Salesforce put out a little while back that like only 27% or something like that of a salespersons time is actually selling the rest of it is like administrative tasks, which I'm sure we'll talk more about in the AI, you know, vein. So the first piece is like, who am I contacting in the first place?
Right? How do I even get their contact information. The second piece is okay, I can have Max's name and email address, right. But if I send a crappy email, he's never going to get back to me. And because getting their contact information in the first place was so difficult. What happens is the salesperson puts all their energy into getting this list right of a bunch of generic names and email addresses. And so they don't have the time or the energy to manually email each one of them a good email. So they ended up blasting them. So the first piece is, it's hard to get their contact information. The second piece is it's makes it even more hard to do personalized, personalized, or tailored emails. And then the third piece is because the deal size is typically smaller when you're working with an SMB, you don't put it you're not able to put as much time and energy into it. And so I think the fact that it's a smaller deal, it's hard to get their contact information, which results in you blasting is kind of a perfect storm of making it just really painful to work with these folks.
Max Matson 3:54
I see. Gotcha, gotcha. So it's a, it's a little bit harder than a place where you have a giant org chart, right? Where you have all these opportunities that you could potentially burn through and where the cost of acquiring the information is a lot lower.
Tyler Carlson 4:07
Exactly, exactly. And I can Google, you know, Chief Financial Officer of Apple, and it'll tell me who he is and how much money he's making and all that kind of stuff. But to find the, you know, the pizza shop owner, right? And then to say something to that pizza shop owner, that's going to get them to reply, the the kind of secret sauce, if you will, is you make it specific to his area. So it's like, hey, you know, South Tampa pizza shop owner, but you can only do that if you have the data in the first place. And then there's a whole bunch into the messaging and stuff like that. I see. Yeah, so basically avoiding what we all see a lot, right, which is just templates, you know, boom, bang. Yeah, exactly. Spray and Pray emails.
Max Matson 4:47
Yeah. So how did how did you guys actually go about validating this idea before launching, I mean, it makes a lot of sense, but I'd imagine that you still had to do some work on that end.
Tyler Carlson 4:55
Yeah, good question. So back to the kind of the end. The inflection point of the the founding of the business. So when Griffin and I each had commercial real estate technology companies, which like the industry terms like prop tech, you know, technology companies where I was working with, with bigger brands like Subway and Burger King with a company called SiteZeus, who really is the main reason I've gotten so much startup experience a shout out to Hannibal and Kenan Baldwin, the the founders there that, that gave me an opportunity and knew one day I'd start my own thing, and they really supported me. So I'm very grateful for them. As far as going around validating the idea. So Griffin launched the product, his first version of it in March of 2020, before I was even, you know, aware of it, he reached out to me about a month or so later, I just found out my wife was pregnant at the time with our first baby. And so it was kind of that in the middle of the pandemic, right? Keep in mind, this is like April of 2020, right? When everything is just kind of fallen underneath us, right, we're like, you know, wearing gloves, open our groceries or whatever, you know.
And, and so I was like, look like, this is my, you know, my chance to put all the chips on the table, you know, let me do some, some due diligence and actually working with some clients trying to, you know, kind of see if this is, you know, really a, a real problem that can be solved, etc. And so I think one thing we did early on that I think is beneficial for everybody. And it's, it's pretty obvious, but it's easily overlooked, especially as you start selling, you kind of feel yourself and feel like you can kind of like, get above and beyond that stuff, is we would one by one onboard every client. So we refuse to do group onboarding. So like, if you had a team of five people, we would do five different onboard things, right.
And the reason was, is, you might have a guy in his 60s, you know, and somebody that just got out of school, and they're all got different experiences different familiarity with tech. And so if we're trying to give the same class to a 17 year old and a seven year old, it's not going to work. So I think the first thing we did was, we really took the time to onboard our clients hand on hand on hand. And then I think, by far the thing that we did, that was most important was and everybody in tech knows this term, right? Dog food were we literally every day, every week, we were using our product, just like our clients were as if we were our clients. And so we would, I would actually email like, you know, Asian restaurant owners, right? And I'd be getting emails on like a Saturday, you know, and so I got to see firsthand the product and how it could be better and how it was amazing, and how I could get all that information. So short answer your question of how we validated was one by one onboarding, and really getting obsessed with seeing through the customers lens, working our initial network we already had in commercial real estate. And then lastly, most importantly, dogfooding. And using that to create the best practices, which we still use today.
Max Matson 7:45
I see. Gotcha. And so in that process, did you have any like, I guess defined process for how you actually collected the feedback from those folks that you were kind of onboarding one by one,early on?
Tyler Carlson 7:56
No, it was very much just like anecdotal, organic, you know, I think that we, we also would do pilots, which we still do occasionally today, but there always have been and will always be paid pilots. And so like, there's always got to be skin in the game, which I think for anybody trying to validate a product, like if you're not asking for money, you're you're you're playing yourself, and highly recommend reading the Mom Test, which I think I have like over my shoulder right now. If you haven't read that, I highly recommend anybody reading that about validating the problem, not the you know, the product.
Max Matson 8:30
It's called the Mom Test? Okay, gotcha.
Tyler Carlson 8:34
Yeah, it's called the Mom Test. Basically, the SparkNotes version of this book is, let's pretend Max and Tyler decided we wanted to start a recipe app for an iPad, right? We might go to our mom and be like, Hey, Mom, if we made a recipe app, what would you use it like? Wouldn't it be helpful if you didn't have to, like get your paper all dirty? And you could just like, look at your recipes on on the app, iPad, and what would your mom say if you said that to her? Absolutely.
Max Matson 8:57
Of course, honey. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Right. Oh, yeah. That sounds fantastic.
Tyler Carlson 9:01
Oh, yeah, those paper recipe books are so annoying, you know, little did she admit that she could just go to all recipes.com on her phone. She has it right there. And so the point is, is that you don't talk about your solution. You talked about their problem, right? So what you would actually do to talk to your mom is you would say, Mom, where are you getting your recipes today? Right? Like, how are you but and that applies even when you're in line at a Starbucks right? And you happen to bump into each other. You don't say hey, would you buy my product Max? Right? So for me, I would say like, Hey, Max, do you sell to local businesses? Like oh, you do? What do you sell? How are you doing it today? Like, right, get clear on that first before you get into the solution. So yeah, this book is awesome. Highly recommended. So we weren't using any we've used in the past and my other experiences like different voting, you know, mechanisms, stuff like that. But early on, we weren't but I think it's important as you scale you do. I see. No, absolutely. I completely agree with that.
Max Matson 9:56
That's really interesting. So just to pivot slightly. You guys are YC Correct?
Tyler Carlson 10:01
Max Matson 10:02
Would you mind talking to me a little bit about what that looked like, you know, from kind of this outsets, where you came on board until, you know, joined yc. And some of the things you might have learned kind of in the program?
Tyler Carlson 10:13
Oh, yeah, cuz you can tell I like to talk. So I'd be happy to talk about it. So taking a super step back, I would say like YC has always been like a dream of like anybody that's in startups, like, I know, for me growing up, it was always like, one day, I could be in yc. And, you know, frankly, I think that not to be you know, too much of a douche. I think they are like the like company, the incubator, like, I think everybody else is like a, you know, a fraction of the value of Y Combinator. So I would recommend everybody out there, like being very careful of who you work with. And I think Y Combinator is like the gold standard, and there's a big standard deviation between the next person or next group. So it's always been a dream. I remember Griffin and I decided in November of 2020, that we were going to apply. It was intense as hell, I remember, we reached out to a few YC alums and just kind of like got on Zoom calls and asked her advice. To be honest, it wasn't all that helpful. It was kind of just like, ya know, your shit, basically, because it's so you know, situation unique, you know, but basically, I remember I don't know, if you've ever used like a giant post it note, you can put in like, on a wall or whatever. But I had posted notes lining up my apartment at the time with all of the, you know, questions they would ask us in every way through we had.
And so I think that the reason, in my opinion that we got in and for anybody listening that wants to get in, is like, I think that we had two things that were huge for us. The first was, we had traction. So like, if you, if you were to take away one thing with YC, it's like, have some traction, and you'll get it if you don't have traction, and you're like, Oh, if I just get into yc. And if I just get 1% of a million people, then you're wasting your time, right, so half traction, and you'll get into anything, it's kind of like, if you got something for Mark Cuban, if you email Mark Cuban, and it's gonna benefit him, he'll get back to you, right.
But if you're just going to ask him, you know, to pick his brain, you're gonna fuck off, he's never gonna talk to you ever again. So we had traction, I don't remember the exact revenue we were at, I think we were at like maybe, like eight or 9k, and monthly revenue. So it was still very small. But we were actually profitable to so we had, you know, we had, you know, less burn than we were bringing in every month, which was unheard of, especially in the early days. So that's number one. I think that was like the main part of it, maybe 70 80%. And then the other 20% was Griffin and I both had experience. So like, it wasn't our first startup. We've both we're both in the industry of commercial real estate, I had the experience of selling, you know, seven figure deals to big customers and growing teams, like I ran the sales team at Site twos for a while, and then ran the customer success team. And again, super grateful for every bit of opportunity I got there. So I think it was the fact that we were able and then Griffin, you know, built the first version of the product himself. He also had, you know, some experience in the in the product, you know, world which, you know, he's probably a better interviewer for this podcast and me because he's more of a product guy than me, but I can I can fake it enough to talk through it. So I think the biggest thing with that is just have traction, right? Another lesson I learned from yc. There's a ton of them. But one that I can touch on and I'm happy to expound on others is don't estimate underestimate your own network.
Like I had this like idea that like, you know, I'm a Tampa guy, Tampa is a pretty badass city, but it's no New York, right? It's no Manhattan. And you know, it's no Silicon Valley or whatever. And I always thought like, we just got to find people to hire in Silicon Valley. And we got to get, you know, investors in Silicon Valley, which we have almost all of our investors in Silicon Valley. But I think you'll never underestimate your existing network for those early hires, people you trust that are grind worthy, I think is more important than ever. There's a few other lessons from YC that I'm happy to share. But I think that's a good kind of bookend to start.
Max Matson 14:04
Yeah, no, absolutely. I would love to get into some of those other ones. But I completely agree. Right. And I think with startups, the most important thing is to be scrappy, right?
Tyler Carlson 14:13
Yep. Being scrappy. Yeah, make it happen. Yeah, show that you can make it happen by having if you don't have a paying customer. And you're trying to get into yc. Unless you're building like a, you know, biotech startup or whatever, you know, like, you're, you're, you're playing yourself, you know, yourself, in my opinion, you know, that's just very interesting.
Max Matson 14:33
So one thing I would like to talk about just real quick, and then we can get back to some of the other lessons that you learned in yc. So I get the sense that your guys's product is very robust on its own right, and that the kind of AI features to it extend that value, right. And it's something that I've talked to a few people about, but I think that that's the way to go. Right? You have to have that core nugget, that core answer, and that answer is amplified by AI for the most part
Tyler Carlson 14:59
Max Matson 15:01
But there's a lot of startups I see coming out that are kind of, for lack of a better term kind of all hype, right? All flashy features, AI buzzwords, right. Let's talk a little bit more about that founding story, right and how you guys got to that value? Because I think it's really fascinating.
Tyler Carlson 15:22
Yeah, I think I think it's, you know, Paul Graham that says, like, you should either be working on your product or talking to customers. And like, that's, you know, and so I think that, like, I remember, we did just like one post on LinkedIn announcing me like joining and CO founding here with Griffin, and we closed like, 200 grand a business off of one post, you know, we were doing clubhouses and stuff, I think it like, it really just comes down to in sales, like you have to, you know, if anybody has ever sold anything, if you're less excited, and the person you're trying to sell about what you're selling, good luck, I'll be selling anything.
Yeah. Right. It's impossible, right? Unless it's like, you're working for Apple or whatever, and you just show up and clock in and clock out, right. But if you're trying to build something, right now, you know, sell it, somebody's already built, not to believe in it, right. And so I think that like, the single most important thing, and I, you know, I literally, it was just mapping out, you know, like a whole nother new dog food project with our team right now, you know, obviously, like, it never goes away. It's just like you experiencing what our customer experience, like to be able to, we would do this side by side project, where we would say, Okay, try to hit up, I think it was like, you know, taco places in a certain city and try to do it without our product, and we would screen, record it, and then try to do it with our product. And you were able to feel like firsthand what your customer feels like. And you were able to feel firsthand what your customer will feel like. And I think having both of those experiences was really, really important. And something that, like, I think we have let our foot off the gas a little bit, you know, as we found growth and success, to, you know, to a degree, like I think we felt like oh, well we we know, you know, we know, but the reality is, is like is always changing.
So I think in that founding story, taking a step back, Griffin builds the first version of it, right? We get some customers to agree to a paid pilot, right? We physically onboard those people, right? Manually ourselves, we also do the dog food with them, we get some success from them, we figure out what we need to build, which at that time was the ability to send the email. So at first it was just like a target list. Like give me all the chiropractors in Atlanta, right? And then it was, I don't want to export this list and send it somewhere else can you guys let me send it all on the same flow. And that was the major, you know, thing that we built early on. And then we went from, you know, like, $8,000 a month in revenue to like, $80,000 a month in revenue, and like, three months, you know, three or four months, you know, got over a million dollars in a very short amount of time. And then I had my first baby and we raised money through Demo Day raised a couple million dollars. And you know, since then, we've made all the, you know, classic mistakes, but we're we've learned from them. And, you know, I really am excited about where we are now and how AI I think is gonna fold right into what we've already been doing and just make it even easier to sell to local businesses. No, absolutely. I love that. Right? The split screen right before after, you know, you've been here.
Max Matson 18:24
Yeah, no, I totally. And so this is the part where I get to talk a little bit about how I have been there, right. So back when I was running my own agency, I had kind of a hunch that film festivals, you know, could use marketing and branding. And so I tried my best to scrape the information that I needed to actually reach out to these folks, right. And what I ended up landing on because there were no good options was I can't afford like a zoom info or you know, any of these big kind of data providers, is I'm going to work my way into a free trial. And I'm going to during that free trial work 1,000 hours a day, and just scrape all the info I can. And then by the time I got done with it, I'm emailing these folks, and I realize I don't know what to say to them. I this is I'm so tired. I don't want to do this.
And it was a bit of a failure of a project. So I can totally see the value of how your product would would solve that. It's a great example, man.
Tyler Carlson 19:29
It's a great example. You're not alone. It's not alone. You you get all excited. Oh, I'm gonna hit up 100 people and then by the time you get 100 people's contact information you sent you realize the email you sent like you spelled Hello wrong and you're like that did all that or you know Hi, first name
Max Matson 19:44
Tyler Carlson 19:47
You're not alone, dude. You're not alone. Absolutely.
Max Matson 19:51
That's funny. So you guys, let's talk through a little bit about like the AI right? Because you've got kind of this core product. You've got a good fit We'll it sounds like when did kind of AI come into the picture for you all?
Tyler Carlson 20:04
Good question. So I'll make a super macro point. And then I'll tie into like where we are we are and where it started to kind of blossom from. So I, there's a great author called Bill Bryson, he wrote a book called A Walk in the Woods. And my dad wanted me to read a while ago, and then he wrote a book, highly recommend called brief history of nearly everything. I don't have it on my bookshelf, but it's a fucking badass book. And one thing I took away from that book, and I think he made this point, and it's I'm not like taking credit for this realization, but I think it's just a great metaphor.
And that is, if you look back in history, like all a lot of the big discoveries were done by religious and priests, religious people and priests. Now, why, right? If you had to just like make up an answer of why you think priests, were the ones discovering some of these, you know, different scientific discoveries? What would be your guess on that? Or why do you think that it was priests?
Max Matson 20:57
I would, my guess would be probably that a lot of the power was concentrated in the church and Western civilization for a long time.
Tyler Carlson 21:05
I think that's accurate. And I think for, for me, what I would add to that is, I think you're absolutely right, is the priests were one of the few people that didn't have to work with their hands.
Right? I think both are true, right? Where like, they weren't having to go work the fields, right, they weren't having to go hunt, they weren't having to make swords or whatever, right, or, you know, build houses, or whatever it was, they were able to think and use their brains. Right. And so I think that, like, in my opinion, that is, I think the best way to explain the immediate medium term of AI now, long term, I have no clue. Nobody has any idea.
You asked me, I think there's been, you know, civilizations before us that have collapse, and we probably will be a part of that at some point, you know, 1000s of years in the future. But that's a whole nother story for the Graham Hancock fans out there. But, you know, I think what I
So to make my point succinct here, I think that all AI is doing is just making us all more like priests, right? It's essentially doing helping us do less dumb shit. And I think that more often than not, that's what technology is here to do in the first place. Right? Like, you know, like Apple's announcement yesterday with the VR, it's like, so you can feel like you're in the room with somebody without having to go visit that person. Like, there's to make it easier. So you don't have to do as much dumb shit to do what you and I are doing right now, which is connecting with human beings.
So, with that idea in mind, the way I describe our product is it's like a gym with steroids on the equipment.
If you just come to the gym and workout, I guarantee you, you will see results, right? Like you will feel you will get stronger, you will get leads you will get traction, right? Just like any gym, right? If you don't work out and ain't gonna do anything, right. And just like any fitness exercise, right, January one, you're ready to go in the gym every day by January 10. You're sitting on your ass. You know, I think that anybody in sales knows that what you're doing today is what was a result of 3060 90 days before a pipeline or prospecting. Right? And so to answer your question of like, how have we kind of been incorporating AI, there's really two lenses that I would three lenses, I would put that in the first is the data itself, which I'll touch on in a second. But the second is just making it easier to reach out to these people and making it so they have to do less clicking and less dumbshit. Right. So the idea is, I think the vision for where we're going right? In the short term, I think, you know, six, six months or so from here, we'll be there is you'll have a prompt, you can use audio, you can use tax, and you say, Hey, I'm trying to sell chiropractors, and Sandy Springs, Atlanta marketing services for you know, videos and testimonials for their website, can you reach out to help me reach out to all of the chiropractors in Sandy Springs that have at least one location, but no more than three. And here's a testimonial from one of my clients, they didn't go, and then the AI just spits out a list for them and makes emails and they kind of approve, you know, and tweet them and then boom, and now that person wakes up the next morning and they have five chiropractors that email the back and they go close them, you know, so does it replace a salesperson? No, it makes the salesperson just do instead of that that Salesforce data I gave you earlier if it's 28 You know, actually selling they're able to spend 90% of their time doing this and not googling you know, for the you know, the film festival, this contact information.
Max Matson 24:38
Totally. It's almost like like all of these I feel like a lot of AI companies have kind of maybe unwittingly or intentionally created interns, right. Like these. These artificial interns that take away all of the kind of drudgery work and I think you're spot on that right because that stuff. Well it seems small and inconsequential and it actually I think has a huge cost on kind of the mental bandwidth that people have day to day, right. Like when I think about the more painful days, in my work experience, it's typically the ones that have spent doing stuff like that. Right?
Tyler Carlson 25:13
Exactly. And not seeing any results from it. And it's even more frustrating. Because if you, if you would have done all the 100 research on those film festivals, and then you sold $10 million? Well, fuck yeah. Like you're wasting your time. I agree. And I think that intern analogy is spot on. Now, when does it become more than that? I don't know. But I that's where it is, I think in the immediate call it the next at least a year or two? I don't think it's gonna get much more than that, you know, and the next year or two, and then, you know, the the rest is, you know, I think you can't predict them in my opinion. No, I completely agree. I completely agree. And I'd say, just for the audience in general, beware of anybody who does, right. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Nobody knows what the hell's going on. And that's one thing that, like, have realized, I don't know if you've ever had this aha moment. Where you get done from school, you know, whether it's Miami of Ohio or wherever you go, right. And you get you realize, holy shit, my parents are just people thought they were like this like aura of like, I've been like, no, they don't know what they're doing. And just like, their parents don't know what they're doing.
What I can tell you is, like, from my experience at SiteZeus working with some of the biggest client customers in the world, like, like, you know, these companies that are billion dollar companies, right. And some of which we didn't work with, but I, you know, sold like into them, and I know their processes. None of them know what they're doing, dude. And like, the three or four that do are crushing it, like Warby Parker knows what they're doing, right? Chick fil A knows what they're doing. Right? Right, fill in the blank of every other company, right? I won't say who it was. But I remember, like two years into working with this company. And this is keep in mind, probably one of the five to 10 largest restaurants in the globe, was like, Oh, we realized that some of our operators were sending you 12 periods of data, some are sending 13 periods of data, some are sending 15 periods of data. So in short, the data that was feeding their predictive models was not the same apples to apples. And so some stores looked like they're performing better, but it was just because they were reporting more months of of sales, and it's like, you can't even get your sales information. Right, you know. So I think none of us know what we're doing. And you know, if anybody expert acts like they have it all figured out, they're probably just trying to sell you a course. So they can go sit on the beach, you know, teach people to do stuff without ever doing it themselves.
Max Matson 27:31
Totally. Yeah, I completely agree with that. So circling back a little bit, we talked about kind of the big lesson that you learned from joining yc. Let's talk about some of the other things that you learned.
Tyler Carlson 27:42
Yeah, you're a great interviewer, very impressed, you're quick on your toes. Being able to read through the lines of me just rambling here.
Two other lessons from yc. The first is probably the most like tactical one. Is week over a week. sales goals are huge, right? Everybody does the end of the year goal, everybody does the quarterly goal. Everybody, most people do a monthly goal, right? But there's something so powerful about a weekly goal. Why? Because it forces you to do everything you can to control, right? Because if you have a month, right, it's June, whatever now, right? If we still have x number of weeks in the month, right, then I might wait, you know, to push right. And then at the end of the month, I'm scrambling as I need to get it in, right. Or like you remember back to writing a paper for college. Right? You're gonna wait until, you know the think it's Parkinson's Law that says like, everything expands to the deadline, right? So I think that like that week, over week Growth Goal is so helpful. And I remember every, and also a level of accountability with that growth goal. So what me and my partner would do is at the beginning of the week, we call our goal, right, and it was always a week, a 7%, weekly growth number, which is easy as you start getting bigger numbers, but early on, it's doable. That's a gold standard for YC companies. And I remember every other week, so one week, you would do just your like small group. And then the other week you do it with like the larger group, and you'd have to stand up and say my goal was this, we sold this much we hit our goal, or we did it and that was it. You couldn't be like, Well, my grandma died and blah, blah, blah, you know, it was like, shit or get off the pot, like what you got. And we hit every single goal. At every time. It was like an hour before we'd get like a nice like $10,000 deal come in and like we just mute it, you know? So I think those three goals, you'll really it'll force yourself to put in that daily action and not put things off. What would be number one would be weekly goals.
Max Matson 29:45
Totally. Yeah. That's super true, right? Like, whether we call it procrastination or not. I do think that humans just have a natural tendency to delay right as much as possible. So with those weekly goals, how do you I mean, I guess it kind of naturally forces accountability, right? That's kind of the goal of having the goal.
Tyler Carlson 30:05
Exactly. Yeah, having having somebody that you have to say whether you hit the goal or not, right, and the thing for us, it was not only my business partner, you know, and so it was like, and keep in mind, right, like, he came to me if any person in the world to be his co founder, right, and, you know, change our lives together. And so like, I didn't want to let them down, you know, like, I didn't want to be, and I'm supposed to be good at sailing. And so I didn't want to come in and like, him be closing more than me every time and be like, What the fuck, you know, and then the added accountability of having to stand up in front of our other, you know, batchmates other people that were in YC, it's a powerful thing. And I think to any, any startup people that are in like, phase like to, like that have gotten like, are close to that million dollars in ARR, like have like a, you know, have what we all hear is product market fit, right? Or think they have product market fit, I highly recommend getting an accountability partner, and a business coach, and just have it as simple as like, every month you lay out, Hey, here's what I'm committing to. And then at the end of the month, it's like, did you do it or not? Or halfway through the month? Are you on track or not? And we've fallen off on that a little bit. You know, we don't have the weekly goals like we used to our sales team does, but I don't think we're as like gung ho with it as we should be. So that's just, and then we also last, like anecdote that is interesting, is we would do little challenges. So when we would hit their bonuses, so when we would hit the number, it was never like, oh, you we get $1,000 or anything like that, it was never monetary, it was always like, hey, we get a round of cocktails on the business. And what we would do is Friday night, we'd be at the bar, and I'd like selfie him on a FaceTime and be like, let's go, bro, we close 20 grand today like blah, blah, blah, you know, and that was just so powerful. Like, I'll never forget those those, you know, facetimes that we would do with each other. So it's like the weekly goals, the accountability, externally, the accountability, the ability externally and internally, and then some sort of fun, like progress feeling, you know, way and I would have a thermometer on my whiteboard right here and I would fill in, okay, the goal is 100k. Okay, I'm at this much. I'm at this moment this month.
Max Matson 32:10
Awesome. How do you keep that kind of? Because, you know, as the founder, I mean, you're as close to the success of this business as possible. That's crucial make or break, right? How do you keep that kind of intensity and focus, as you kind of scale up and start adding a team?
Tyler Carlson 32:29
Good questions. I don't know if I'll have that figured out yet. I think I think it's a unfair for business owners and founders to expect the same work from their team, as expected from them. And I think things changes, right. Like, I can't put in the same work I did, when we were in yc. As I can now, like, I'm just, I would, I would die. Like we were, we were great. Like, we were not sleeping, we were grinding constantly, you know, and especially with the kid, it's just impossible. So I think like one just having like a real X realistic expectation of like, this, like their world does not revolve around your company, you know, it does, then they're probably you know, don't have a good, you know, long term strategy, as taking that into account by having the right expectation of at least like, Hey, be at a six or seven out of 10, or an eight out of 10, you're not at a 10 out of 10 in terms of intensity is, I think, to two advice, one would be in in the interviewing process, which I think are important. And I've learned a lot about that. So a lot of improvement needed. But I would always ask like, Hey, Max, fast forward, like five or 10 years in the future? Where do you see yourself? Like? Do you own your own business? Like, are you like, if I'm interviewing for a sales role? Like are you uh, are you just closing million dollar deals and flying around on first class and staying in nice hotels? Or are you like a sales leader and you have like a team around you? Or you may be out of sales and trying something different? Did you start your own business? Is it a local business? Is it a huge business? Like, what what do you see yourself? And how can we help make this opportunity a stepping stone for you to get to that point, and that's something that the SiteZeus guys did for me is they knew, hey, I know you want to start your own thing, and we hope we can be a part of it or invest in it or whatever. So I think it's like having the right expectation. See, seeing where they want to go in life. And then obviously, like compensating them fairly, I think.
I think if any, anybody listening to this is like, applying for a job, like don't take the first offer, like just don't take the first offer. Like, you can't expect the employer to like lay out all their cards at the beginning. Like it's just never gonna happen. And so if you take the first offer, you're leaving money on the table. More often than not now sometimes what I'll do you know, when I'm talking to people is I'll make my initial offer, they'll come back and I'll say, Look, this isn't a shark tank negotiation like this is the best we can do here. You take it or leave it you know, I really want to work with you, but I can't do anything more than this. Right. So I think he's transparency
And then the best. The last thing I'll say is I learned this from a mentor of mine, the best leaders, he the best leader he ever had, would call him every week, randomly. Just say, Hey, what's up, Max? How's it going, man? How you doing? That was it? It was never, Hey, how's it going? But did you get that? You know, blah, blah, blah report for me? Or did you get that deal done? Or did you get blah, blah, blah, like, you're just like, it's kind of like, there's that one. There's like a Kanye song. And he's like, Yeah, I hate when my friends text me What's up? And then or somebody haven't heard or text you what's up? And then ask you for something five minutes later, you know? So I think that the short, concise answer of how do you motivate you know, your team, with the same level of motivation you have is have the right expectation of what that level should know where they want to be in life, and how you can set them up for success for that, while also being careful to promise when they can get there and whatnot. And then lastly, just treating them like a human being, how are you doing? Right, what's going on? You know, what's, what's stressing you out? What are you excited about? And I think that probably goes the longest way of all of them?
Max Matson 36:02
No, absolutely. I love that. I mean, I think that that gets lost, right? Is in all the tactics and strategies to be a decent human. Right, it goes a lot further than people think.
Tyler Carlson 36:13
Agreed. Agreed. To, because like, I said, you know, and you're not, I think, I think team members, you know, in the past, like, for me, I'd be like, well, he needs to call me and he needs to give me this promotion, he needs to give me a bla bla bla, like, any, anybody in sales, or business knows that, like, it all comes down to one thing, making it fucking happen. Nobody else is gonna make it happen for you. Like, if you want to be the head of a sales team, if you want to be the CEO of a company, you got to make it happen. If you're just waiting for that person to like, here, Max, would you like this? Like you're gonna be waiting forever? Not because they don't believe in you is because they're caught up with whatever they're caught up with in that moment in time? Totally.
Max Matson 36:53
No, absolutely. I think that's great advice. Right is, you know, you got to, I mean, it's it goes back to the same as what you were talking about with, you know, your product in those early sales days, right. It's like you have to believe in yourself and your product more than anybody else.
Tyler Carlson 37:07
You're right, you're spot on, do a good job time, connecting the dots real quick on your toes, dude. I appreciate that.
Max Matson 37:15
So circling back to AI a little bit. Yeah. Would you mind talking through kind of, you know, what the implementations of AI look like in your product?
Tyler Carlson 37:24
Good question. So I, I'm definitely not the smartest person in the room, and definitely not the smartest person on the team in terms of everything, especially with this stuff. So, you know, I'll buffer my comments with that where I'm not, you know, like, I'm not the product owner. I'm not the scrum master. You know, even though I've played those roles in the past, I think that, uh, I think that the AI for us how it was initially surfaced was through our metadata. So like, if you think about, you know, every week, you know, there's hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of businesses that are being contacted on our platform, right? You know, when I try to use the, you know, the chiropractor in Sandy Springs Atlanta example, when I email 100 chiropractors, and one of them gets back to me and says, I'm interested. Now I have that person's, you know, cell phone number, right, I have their address, I have the sentiment of, was it a positive response? Was it a negative response, right? And so then what I can do is I can update the contact information, right? And where we're heading is the ability to kind of have hot leads, right? Knowing like, Okay, if this person, you know, responded positively to someone else, he probably will respond positively to somebody else. Again, within region. iser kind of complements between industries, and stuff like that. So I think the first piece is like,
I remember I read this book a long time ago, AI superpowers, China, Silicon Valley, and the New World orders actually really cool book before all this chat GPT stuff about AI. And he talked about how, like, the new oil is data, which, you know, I think is a whole nother topic around privacy and how it's like a double edged sword, like, if we're to private as a country, we're going to fall behind in terms of like, our data to feed these models. Someone like China's gonna run all over us. But the earliest implementation, I think, was on the, on the metadata itself, and kind of adding like different sentiment analysis, you know, to responses and, you know, kind of the likeliness of response, and then I think the, the next iterations of the AI are around the, like, actual email deliverability. So we're doing some stuff where it like queues, emails, it's automatically like, you know, separating time between them. It's recommending when you need to switch templates, it's grading your template, you know, stuff like that, which I think is the step in the right direction for us to kind of do the template for you, and then you approve them. And then I think this all comes into the actual like, UX of it, where it's like, okay, how can how can I kind of prompt what I'm looking for and then AI connects the list building with the email outreach
Each with the tracking kind of in the background. That's that future stuff that we're working on right now.
Max Matson 40:05
Very cool. Kind of all one ecosystem, one ecosystem.
Tyler Carlson 40:09
Yeah. So it's really the metadata into the, you know, kind of template notation and the email deliverability into the entire like workflow with like, more of a prompt base flow.
Max Matson 40:22
I see. Gotcha. And you touch on data there. It's super interesting. And we can get into this to whatever depth you feel comfortable with. Would you mind talking about kind of, you know, data, how you guys are able to provision it?
Tyler Carlson 40:36
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So basically, the, you know, I think every every badass database starts out with with a public data, right. And so with us, we've taken this fragmented market and put it all into one place to start. And then we have added the moat with the metadata that I was just talking about. The initial, you know, sources that we would look at are things like Yelp, Facebook, the company's websites themselves, right? We all know how fun it is to work with the government, especially their data bases, right, the secretary of state data, Chamber of Commerce Data, Better Business Bureau data. And then as you know, as folks get reached out to, we're updating the data, as businesses are opening and closing, we're updating the data, we even are having clients that have been requesting, which we do this manually, but we'll probably make it a little more automatical, the ability to actually add, they add the data in, you know, like, where it's like, Hey, I know this guy's email address, let me just put it in there. So I can just email him the next time and not have to go to my Outlook or Gmail, or whatever.
So that's the combination of it. But I think last, last I looked, I think we're at like over 7 million businesses in the US and growing. And I feel strongly in saying, like, we have the best local business data that you can find.
Max Matson 41:57
That's fantastic. Yeah, no, I love that, right. I mean, a lot of people that I talked to, I kind of keep coming to this realization that AI is as good as the data that you know, creates it, and that feeds it. So having you know, that fantastic giants, you know, proprietary database has got to be just a real shot in the arm for you guys as a business.
Tyler Carlson 42:19
It is, I think it's our, our lifeblood. And I think the thing that we know that I think a lot of people under appreciate that are in the data world is that like, data with shitty messaging means nothing. And so you know, if we can have the if we can have the world's best local business data, and we can make sure that every message that ever comes out of rescored is unique and tailored, and no two messages are the same. And nobody's blasting folks are actually taking the time to be tailored, that's just going to further beef up our data, which is going to further give up, you know, give more wins to people, which is going to get more people using it, etc. And that's, I think the grand vision is, you know, we initially started in commercial real estate, you know, and they know before anybody else does, who's growing. And so now we can start to go into industries, like insurance, and marketing and advertising and, you know, b2b sales across the blaze while also staying focused, you know, and not chasing too many rabbits at the same time. And that's the balance that we have to fight through every single day.
Max Matson 43:19
Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, it's quite a quite an existential challenge, right? When you're you're at, because you guys have some serious scale, but when you're trying to take that next step, right, and really expand out reach new markets, how do you guys kind of find balance when it comes to that market research and analysis and all that?
Tyler Carlson 43:38
Great question. I think I think it's just iteration, like quick iteration, you know, and also carving out time to focus on our, you know, our core competency, like, for example, we've been doing some, some Facebook ads, you know, and, you know, the team is, you know, Griffin and Leo and Ashley, and via bid, just, like crushing it were early on, we were getting like, a lot of leads, but not quality. And then we got, you know, started getting more quality leads, and then more that are closing. And so I think that like, just getting better, you know, is super crucial. While also I think not like kind of bringing back what you and I spent a lot of the early conversation on, like the dog fooding. You know, like, I'm, I'm literally messaging people as if I'm an insurance agent, you know, every day, you know, to see what it's like, so I can learn to be able to, you know, translate those best practices.
Max Matson 44:31
So, yeah, but that said, you know, what would you say to somebody, maybe a founder, who's doing founder led sales at this stage, who is wondering if the tech business climate is even sellable, right, because I've heard a lot of people, you know, saying, you know, the conditions are so bad, how are we even gonna make a sale?
Tyler Carlson 44:50
Right? It's good question. I think my first answer is if you're scared, get a dog, you know, like, you know, like, I think that Uh, if you're if you're a founder, right, and you're asking that question, you know, and this is something I remind myself every day is like, you got to keep earning that right to be the founder. And guess what it takes risk, and it means that you're gonna have to risk it. And if it was easy, everybody would do it. And then you wouldn't have the same rewards or the same incentives. You know, so I think that, uh, I think it comes back to do sauce focus on the problem. Like, you just know, what spoke is a problem. Yeah, like, there's nothing worse than they're like, well, our solution is there's just like, 10 solutions, and we're putting it all into one, it's like, that is the worst fucking business ever, because it's not even a real problem you're solving because what's gonna happen is another solution is going to come out and you're just gonna be obsolete, right? So it's like, how can you just get laser focused on what is their problem, right, and then define success. But you're asked to meet that be clear with the expectations, be clear with the progress and then try it again. You know, I think that I found that like, human beings and people, like there's a lot of good people out there that like, will give you a chance, if you're just real with them, and you're honest with them. And if you can just like build a relationship with somebody, that will go a long way. Like there's so many clients that I had use that are clients of ours now that I'd never in a million years would have thought had been clients because it was we didn't have the same clients, like they just happen to, you know, translate over. So it's like, don't be don't be scared, you know, if you're scared, then you're probably in the wrong, you know, seat anyways. And if you're scared, that means you're growing. That's number one. Number two is shrink the problem down, right, don't make this this like grandiose, you know, thing of like, Oh, if I could just raise $100 million, and I could get a million users, then I'll start making money. Just figure out the read the fucking mom test would be my, my advice, and make those week over week growth goals and just keep going. Don't give up that was a big thing with yc is it's like, the difference between companies that kill it and don't as it should keep going. Like, it's gonna get hard. It's gonna be, you know, everybody's heard of the trough of sorrow, right. And we dealt with it right, like, right out of yc. We like didn't sell as much as we were in yc. And we've gotten, you know, back and forth from that, and like, it sucks. But like, you just got to keep going.
Max Matson 47:16
Totally, totally. And read the Mom Test.
Tyler Carlson 47:20
Read the Mom Test
Max Matson 47:21
No, absolutely. I mean, I think it's a I think it's something fundamental to human nature, right. I mean, it's a similar statistic to talk about podcasts, I think something like 90% of podcasts never reached their fourth episode or something like that. Something ridiculous, I believe. Right. And it is just consistency, right? Like, even if the conditions are bad. What else are you doing? You know?
Tyler Carlson 47:43
Exactly. I think you're so spot on something I've been trying to do. You've probably seen Alex Hermoza or whatever, on YouTube, and actually really appreciate a lot of what he puts out more often than not, and something he said 100%, related to what you said was like he set off the goal of making a podcast episode every week. And that was the goal not to make to get 100,000 downloads. It was the input. That was the goal, not the output. And I think that for myself, you know, as I've gone from, like, pure founder of pure like, selling myself, building teams to the founder selling to trying to build the teams to back to selling to and building teams at the same time. Like you sometimes, like, get away from that and think you're like, you know, better than your you are, and you set your mind. Like, I gotta do my cold call. It's just like, the guy next to me does. And if I don't, he's gonna beat me. And so game on. Yeah, absolutely. I love that. Bring that competition into that. Yeah, exactly. If it was easy, everybody would do it. So you gotta gotta blaze your own trail. Now 100%.
Max Matson 48:44
So we're running a little tight on time. But I do want to ask you. Just one last question. Please. What is your biggest hot take on the state of the tech industry today?
Tyler Carlson 48:55
Question? Well, first off, this has been great. So thank you for for being so thorough and actually listening to what I'm saying. And you know, digesting it and asking very thoughtful questions. My hot take for the tech industry. I think my answer right now would be and this was before AI and all this stuff. I've thought this since since my sites these days it started with I remember, one of our investors said to me, sales cures all sales always cures all. I was just like, No, it doesn't. Yeah, it temporarily cures all like, it's like. So I think my hot take is for the tech industry is I think customer success is going to become a more important enroll than sales. And I think that the paradigm is going to shift that the customer success person is going to make more money than the salesperson will in the future.
Max Matson 49:54
Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah, no, I I've heard that expressed as well. One month of contract is not equivalent to 12 months, right? Yeah.
Tyler Carlson 50:04
Yeah, exactly, exactly. And it's just like, anybody that's sold before that's gotten a referral, knows how fun and easy it is like you earn a great salesperson, and you're just got a referral right now. I also think that right now, the best salesperson wins, you know, so, I think there's, like, there's still that human element that as product becomes more and more, you know, plg product lead growth, you know, it'll be less the case, but like, I just think that customer success, like that wasn't even a role 1015 years ago, right. I just think that like, the human element behind the technology, alright. And that relationship building and that, you know, kind of guidance and that Sherpa kind of, I'm willing to, you know, like, that service mentality, I think is that's going to flip where they're going to be the ones making half a million dollars a year while the sales guys making you know, 100,000 if they're lucky, is what I think is going to happen. In tech as a whole.
Max Matson 50:59
Right on right on, you've heard him guys getting the customer success.
Tyler Carlson 51:04
Agreed. I think it's, I think those lines will be blurred, and I think that, uh, yeah, land and expand will be a much more common thing than just like only enterprise deals to start with. No, absolutely.
Max Matson 51:17
No, I completely agree. That's a great Hot take.
Tyler Carlson 51:20
What's your hot take?
Oh, my hot take Oof. For flipping it back on me. Let's see here.
Max Matson 51:28
Okay, my real hot tick,
Tyler Carlson 51:30
real hot take. Hit me.
Max Matson 51:32
A Chat. GPT rapper is not an AI product.
Tyler Carlson 51:36
There you go. Now. Interesting.
Max Matson 51:40
I've seen a lot of those. Because you're you're just chat GPT is an AI product and you're just putting lipstick on the pig? Or do you think chat GBT? Is not a really a full? No, no, I do believe in the efficacy and value of generative, right. And I do also think that a lot of people are building on black boxes for applications that really can't withstand that. You know what I mean?
It's one thing that at player zero, we've really, like, tried to think through a lot is when you're talking about people's data, especially if you're talking about you know, people's product data or insights, analysis, anything related to to kind of that end, the level of buy in is extreme, right?
The thing that I hear a lot is, but what if it misrepresents the data? How do I find that out? What if I run with this assumption, and then later, I'm on I find it's wrong, right? It's that thing that you were saying, right, the sale doesn't matter if we lose trust in the first time that they seriously use the product. So I think that a combination of more transparency around the models, as well as incorporating the tech in a way that is more than just a wrapper, right, more than just chat GPT inside of this thing, right? It's using it in novel new ways. I think that's actually going to create value.
Tyler Carlson 52:58
Now makes sense. Makes sense? Is it fair to say like, as a, as an example, what you're describing, if I'm, and I'm just making this off the top my head, so we can chop chop all of this up if we need to, is a, like Uber, for hypothetical example, can take all of the Uber data model and then use that's real, you know, just like, we have chat, GPT and Uber now like, it's the same database and everybody working from
Max Matson 53:25
exactly like, I'd say that your guys's product, right, like, that's, that's what gets me excited, right, is when you have this unique database that no one else has, and you're able to utilize AI in a way that nobody else has. Because it does come down to the data always.
Tyler Carlson 53:38
Yeah, no, you're right. No, it's a good point. That's why I think Reddit, you know, recently just said, like, you know, they can't You can't use Reddit data, which I think is where like, YouTube has such an advantage if they can just get the, the transcriptions of YouTube down, and just like that, all the search data and all that, like to me, they just like coulda shoulda all over Chet GPT. But, you know, if they can get over the bureaucracy of what they've built at this point, you know, it's kind of they're, they're not as nimble as they were, in my opinion, you know? Yeah. But I hope they prove me wrong, because I like Google, ya know, same here.
Max Matson 54:08
Same here. I, I mean, I, I tried to be agnostic with the models when I'm using them. But yeah, I mean, I'm, I'm pretty team Google all day.
Tyler Carlson 54:18
From having to use Outlook for so long. And then now we were Google shop. And it's a it's a world of difference. So, but no, this has been great. Max, I appreciate the opportunity. And you let me know whatever the next steps from your arm.
Max Matson 54:31
Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate it so much, Tyler. And if you want to just, you know, let everybody know where they can find you. You know where they can follow you.
Tyler Carlson 54:40
Yeah, so check me out on LinkedIn. linkedin.com/tylerwcarlson is my URL, I think. But yeah, make sure to find me on on LinkedIn. And yeah, I'm happy if you're trying to sell a small business. Need some help. Just slide into the DMS and I'd be happy to help you
Max Matson 54:58
right on and it's RE2.ai
Tyler Carlson 55:02
is our website yeah
Max Matson 55:03
of course thanks so much I really appreciate it
Thanks for reading Future of Product! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.