Ben Hodson - Silicon Slopes Lecture Series
Okay, I am really excited for our, we've got some great speakers this whole semester and I'm really excited to introduce Ben Hodson today. Ben is a serial entrepreneur, which means he has started a number of companies. I believe it's up to 10. Some worked, some didn't work. He's going to tell you that story I'm not going to tell you much about is growing up years.
You can take care all that. But what is really unique about ban is originally he's a musician. He was, he came through the creative elements of music and creativity. And then he got into business. I've just a fascinating story. His current business studies that he's working with among many is called JobNimbus, which is a project management software for roofing and construction type type stuff.
He'll tell you about that. But I want you to think about how would you know if that idea is going to be a good one? What's the problem he's trying to solve? How would you know, before he spent a lot of money on building a software platform. Yet as you know, software takes a lot of work to get it up and working before you even can try to sell out or try to see if anybody's gonna do it. Think about how you would validate. That's a reasonable idea.
He's going to be great for asking questions. So get your questions ready is very, very open from that. It comes from Washington University. University of Washington. We won't hold that against him because he knows where we bleed green here, so badness all yours.
Thank you so much and cool it. Okay. I'm a loud person, so I guess tell me if you can hear me in the back, somebody raise their hand. You can hear me, okay. All right. Good. My dad actually
was a radio DJ for a long time and he's a salesman now and his customers call him the voice because when he calls yes, super deep cool voice, I didn't get the cool voice. I kinda got the nasally part of it, but I got the loudness of it. So all right.
Let me just start my title right now at job Nimbus is CEO and co-founder. And I want to tell you a little bit about myself. I know there's some things I love. I grew up in the Seattle area. I've been in Utah for over ten years now. I love that you guys have seasons here because we have rainy season and not rainy season in Seattle.
And I love off-roading. I have a jeep, I go a lot. I love surfing. I go to ocean a lot,
but I can't go the ocean here. So I go behind a boat, somebody else wake surf in here. So it's actually Rad who was good yesterday.
Beautiful water. My favorite holiday is Halloween. I was Beetlejuice last year. And that's coming up soon. So it's like that to me is the most wonderful time of the year we're almost going into and love our mountain climbing and mountain biking and all that sort of thing.
I also, and I'll talk about this in a second, have written a lot of comics. And so I speak at a lot of comic cons. I'm usually featured at Salt Lake Comic-Con and maybe you guys have come to one of my panels before. And sometimes people actually want to meet me.
So there's my family. This is a picture of us at Berkeley or Bear Lake last year. My my wife Shannon, my daughter Piper, who's 18, and is about to go to New York to do modeling. And my son Jack, who's also an entrepreneur, he's got a health supplements company he's working on right now. He's 21.
Okay. I show this because r was like super and is super important to me. And these are some comics and some albums and some movies that like changed my life that might sound cheesy, but I remember where I was when I saw this or read this. I remember how I felt and I remember the effect that made my life.
And a lot of these things have maybe think a lot about characters in people and that sort of thing as well. So I also make a lot of art. I mentioned comics. These are
some of my comic series I write for one of my most popular blend glory. It's like a world war two vampire comic, super fun. I've written two films.
Both have one film festivals. It's just crazy or out of the gate, the shadow of the mountain. Most recent one, the Houston International Film Festival a couple of years ago. And I've written a book, it's called Tales them a cop west. It is a western ghost story book, which I love ghost stories and I love Western. So it's like a perfect combination.
Now to product market fit. And what you were talking about mark, this the worst genres to write four horrors. The second we're selling Western is the worst selling genre. So I combined both to make the ultimate were selling genre book. But I did it because I love it and it actually.
Sold surprisingly well because I have so many comic fans that bought it. And then I record a lot of albums. Right now I'm under the band name rail yard. We're on Spotify and Apple Music pipe put out a new song. I don't know, every six months now. Okay, Play lot of instruments.
I've started a lot of companies. This is actually the logos of all the companies that I've done. Some had been pretty big successes. Verify was just bought for over a billion last December. That was a huge mark because I've always wanted to created a billion-dollar company. And we're working job nim is towards that as well.
This one, the Venture Fellows at the School of Business at University of Washington. After I had left school and done a couple of businesses, they asked me to come back and we started a fund inside the school was about 25 million. And this was so helpful for me because every single Wednesday night we would have students come in and do pitches to us.
And I would see 510 business plans a week. And I got so good at sizing up financials quick. I mean, running a company helps a lot too, but it just sharpened a lot of things for me. Probably saw over a 150 pitches during that time and ran that fun for a year and a half.
And that brings me to job Nimbus. So job Nimbus, we have about a 180 employees now. We actually owe this is exciting. Last week, we got number 24 of the fastest growing companies in Utah. That was pretty cool. There's a lot of big names in that room when we got that award.
And we made the Inc. 5 thousand this year, we actually got in the top 500, which is just amazing for our size accompany. So we're having a lot of fun over there and I feel like I'm taking everything that I've learned from my other businesses and putting it together.
And one of the things that I've seen over the years, when you're really small. Culture isn't as big of a thing. Culture and values. You kinda just have it because there's like two or three of you running the business. But as you try to scale an organization, let's say even ten people on culture and values becomes one of the most important parts of actually creating a great company. And if you think about it, the more people you have, the more people you have to have different purposes in life, different goals.
And you gotta try to align all those people around your business goal or your mission. And it's really hard to do. And that's where culture values come in. So I was going to talk a little bit today about the culture at job Nimbus in what we've done there. So let me tell you a little bit about the company just so you guys have some context here.
We work with construction contractors. We are the number one software in America for roofers and home exterior company. So think about a residential house, the outside of the house, that's us.
And one of the mistakes that I made many times over my businesses in the past was not being focused enough. I mean, we would say we're going to be everything. Everybody will who will want this product was kinda like Mark was saying, Raise your hand if you want this. Well, everybody will want to.
It's awesome. What's your market? It's everybody, you know, and then we'd know no, okay, well, it's just consumers or it's just people between the ages of one and a 100, or it was just ridiculous stuff. As I got more into more businesses, I realized that the true power is in focus and niche. Okay.
So our, our customers, here's the average contractor in America today. First phone call comes in at six AM and something's wrong on a job or somebody didn't show up. And then they're putting out fires and on the phone all day, tell ten PM at night. And this goes on every day including weekends because there's really no time off and contracting.
And including vacation time that they don't really turn off even if they go on vacation. And anybody who has a contractor friend and has had to try and have a conversation, that person picked up the phone three times in ten minutes. Why you are to hold the high gotta tickle, tickle.
It's always just madness. Okay. Here's how the homeowner feels. They the above there is a great guy. The first time they meet him they say, Oh my gosh, this guy, so cool, I can't wait to do this project. And then they get started.
And then nobody shows up when they're supposed to, and then they don't know what's going on. And then they find out that the price is different than they thought because they forgot about bidding on this part or this thing changed or whatever. It's always something.
And the homeowner at the end goes, Gosh, I really like Bob, but I can never give them a good review because it sucked. It was a terrible experience. And so we are fixing that problem.
That is the mission of job nim is to fix this problem. And I'll tell you a little bit more about that in a second. You find is these guys are unable to grow and scale.
So we say they're great at their trade. I mean, put on a roof like nobody's business. They're just not so good at running their business. And this is so cool because I can take all of the things I've learned over the years of running a business.
And we put that into the software and giving you a business system, it sets up processes for you. It helps you hire the right people. It runs every aspect into end of your project and job, so you don't let homeowners down. So also these are people that have big dreams. They all want to be great. I want them to be great.
They just lack the tools to do it. So our mission is make these people heroes, make contractor sheriffs. It's so easy. I used to do mission statements like we will be the number one provider of that. It's so boring, nobody remembers every employee at job Nimbus knows our mission. Three words, super easy to remember and it's very motivating and aspirational.
What does that mean? What does it mean to make contractors heroes? So I'm going to talk about that. So I think of our team. You guys know, I like comics, had to go there.
I think of our team as the Avengers. And we just had a bunch of new hire start today. I think there's six or seven people in the group. And on the first day, I always talk to every employee and tell them what we're doing as a company and get them on the same page. And I told them today, you guys are all the new Avengers coming in here. And why do I say that? Because each person has a special skill that I need.
And if you guys read any of the comics, are watching any of the movies. You'll notice that every single hero has a certain time where that person is exactly what they needed to overcome the big problem, right? That's what we're doing. A job name is, I need you to help us overcome this problem and this problem.
And what you're gonna do here is very meaningful and it matters and you're just as important as anybody else, and you're part of the superhero team. And so I think about a saying, okay, we're a team of heroes at job nervous, That's very cool and fun. It's a fun culture to be in. But we're also making contractors heroes. And I love that duality.
It's really just gets us totally focused on her heroism. And that's actually what our culture is all about. So I asked the question when we were first doing this. Well, how our heroes actually created, if we're going to make contractors heroes, make employees heroes.
And you guys know, I've written a lot of stuff about characters and thought about heroes. And so I'm going to talk for a second about the hero's journey, which is the most common story format and the last 2500 years of stories in recorded history. Okay? And there's three parts of the hero's journey. There is the departure or the hero leaves their regular life to go on sort of an adventure, the initiation.
And you'll notice that's the biggest part of the hero's journey, where they go through a series of trials that make them better. And then the return, when the hero returns, a changed person knew from the experience. Okay, So I thought I'm going to talk about Star Wars because it's one, I love Star Wars.
Has anybody not seen Star Wars in here? Raise your hand. Okay. I figured there'd be a few. 1977 I'm saying it's going to have to be a spoiler at this point.
That's long enough to wait for you guys to watch it. So star, sorry, I'm going to spoil it a little bit. But this might actually make you want to watch it.
Might. Okay. I've added a couple of employees that actually watch it afterwards and liked it. Okay, so let's talk about departure. That's the first part of the hero's journey.
And I know you guys are going, this is a weird thing I did not expect to be getting into Star Wars. Depth here. Just hold onto your hats. It's going to get good. All right, In the departure phase, the hero sort of has their regular life and their ordinary world.
And typically the hero isn't happy with something in their life. Okay? It's not quite right. And then there's a call to adventure. They meet a mentor, there's a refusal of the call, and then they cross the threshold into the initiation phase.
So in Star Wars, this starts out with Luke on Tatooine. And Luke is very unhappy because he wants to go to become a star fighter pilot at the academy. But he can't because he has to work on the farm for another season.
And he's super bummed about it. He can't even go hang out with friends at the Tashi station. This guy's having a rough day, you know, and kinda kick in the dirt and upset. This is the state of the ordinary world for the typical hero, there's something not quite right. And then there's a call to adventure. These droids play this little hologram and he finds out about a princess and she's in trouble.
And he hears a name that he kinda recognizes. And this is, the call to adventure is usually something that wakes the hero up. If you think about integrate story, there was something that changed for them, woke them up, a mystery or something that got them started, right? And so Luke goes on a journey to find out who this OB1 guy is. And he meets him, and this is the mentor. This is actually the mentor stage of the initiation or the departure face.
So mentors in life due to great things and it'll be one illustrates this really well. I think a great mentor always shows you a larger world, okay? Or you might say, teach you something you didn't know about, tells you something you didn't know about. And then number two is very encouraging, believes in you. You need both of those things to be a truly great mentor. And what is there'll be one do.
He tells Luke about the force and Luke has never heard of the force, which is kinda crazy considering who is dad is. And he says to Luke, this kid, this farm kid, you should come with me and be a Jedi like your father, come with me to all drawn. He totally believes in the sky and just built him up. You can be great. Now, Luke's just got done the other day.
Stormy out to dinner, didn't even drink is blue milky super upset. And what does he say? It'll be one when he's given the chance to go. I can't go with you.
I gotta stay here and work on the farm. What the heck, that doesn't make any sense. This is his dream. This is what he once. Why? Because whenever a hero any of us are confronted with something that would make us change our lives, that make us get out of our comfort zone. It's scary. And we have trepidation and we usually refuse the call as our first reaction.
Okay. But Luke, aunt and uncle die and he decides to go forward and he crosses a threshold into the initiation stage. And I love using Star Wars because George Lucas was very on the nose with the hero's journey. There's even a threshold that they cross symbolically in the movie.
And he goes down to tattooing. Okay, so now we're in the initiation phase. The first thing you do is meet allies. And this works for any hero's journey story. Harry Meets Ron and Hermione and so forth. They always build allies.
And then there's a series of tests and trials. There's enemies, there is the approach which is the strategy for how you're going to overcome the big problem. And then the actual ordeal where you do overcome the problem. Star Wars. The next scene he meets Han and showy and now he's got a group, right? And he's got some friends to help them out with things. And then he gets on the Millennium Falcon and he learns to use the force of that little sphere. And that's the first time he's felt the force before.
And he's starting to tip toe his way. That's what I'd call a test, right? The heroes learning a little bit of how to use this power. And then it will be ones encouraging again, you've just taken your step into a larger world, right? You could do a kid, you're great and teaching them about this thing. All right, then there's all these enemies.
I got Darth Vader and all the Storm Troopers and they're stuck on the desktop. And most of the movie is actually the trials, a whole series of tests and trials that make look better. And this is why this movie resonates so much with so many people, is because we experience luke getting better by seeing him become less of that windy kid on the desert planet and more of the hero that we know we can be, he's starting to take more responsibility. He's starting to take more initiative. He's even telling Hahn what to do at some point, like this guy is leveling up and we're seeing it before our eyes.
Okay? The approach, they actually have a cool diagram of how they're overcoming the desk, started the sweet little analog thing now of how they're going to blow it up. And then the ordeal is actually the trench battle inside the desktop. Okay, this is the moment where they overcome the big problem. All right, Now we're moving in the return face and the return phase, there's a resurrection, sometimes it's figurative, sometimes it's literal.
And then the hero gets a reward and then returns a different person. So in Star Wars, the resurrection, there's actually three that happen in a minute and 36 seconds of film, Super cool. The first one is that Lou hears the voice of Obi-Wan from beyond the grave saying, use the force, okay, he's alive still somehow in some form. The second one is, and I believe this one the most important moments in Star Wars. Luke turns off his targeting computer.
That's the moment when he completely gives himself over to the forces, new power He's just heard about. Going to believe in it more than even all this amazing technology around him. And he's going to defeat the desktop with the power of the force.
And then finally, Hahn, who had taken the money was going to job of the hut, decides to come back at the last minute and save the day this gamblers smuggler, criminal ends up being reborn as a hero in the story. And then they have this great moment where they all get metals and a reward and they return. And Luke is clearly a different guy than he was at the start of the move, right? We have seen this experience, okay? There are a lot of examples of the Hero's Journey.
And now that I've told you guys this, you're going to see this all the time and move that. Anybody seen the new Shang Shi? That yeah, it's gotta hero's journey to a t. So very cool. That's the new Marvel movie.
So Harry, let's take his, his example. Dumbledore is his mentor. He doesn't know anything about the wizarding world.
He Ivan has to be told that he could do it because he refuses the call at first, he doesn't think that he thinks he's a Mughal more, right? And then when he goes to Hogwarts, it's like crossing the threshold, a totally different world for him, right? And he even dies and comes back to life. Okay, Neo, same thing in the matrix, dies, comes back to like, this is a very common format. Even Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, her dad's or mentor, she's trying to marry for love instead of money. And all the trials she goes through. It's a hero's journey to a t. So cool.
Okay, Now you guys are probably go on. Okay, So Ben is just basically explain that Hollywood has no ideas and they just make the same thing over and over again. Flat. I think it's more than that. I actually think this is not just a story.
I think this is how heroes are made in real life. Because if each of you guys thinks about something you did, that is truly great, that you're really proud of in your life. I guarantee there was somebody that inspired you or somebody that was a mentor.
You went through a whole series of tests and trials as you leveled yourself up and it was really hard. And when you came out the other end, you were changed by the experience and you were a new person, a better person because of it. That is the Hero's Journey and that is the core of job nim is his culture. When you come in as an employee, you are changed by the experts.
You are better person because you've worked with us. And if you're a customer of ours, you're a better company and a better person because you've worked with us. That is our culture. Okay. I also don't think this is a onetime thing. I think this is a cycle that we go through throughout our whole lives over and over.
Great heroes go through the hero's journey multiple times. Okay? All right, so I want to talk about a job Nimbus employee and how they experienced this. And I'll use the example of the people that started with us today. There was their life before job Nimitz.
They didn't know anything about our company. Then they may be applied or we recruited them. Somehow we got to them. And at some point through the interview process, we gave them an offer. And that was really their call to adventure.
It was like your life could be different at this other company. And I ask people today that started, I said how many of you had some trepidation when you got the offer letter and every hand went up because it's scary. It's like I might have to change my life. I may have to change my job. What if it doesn't work out? I got this job right now.
They're not super happy with, but I don't know. But they all decided to move forward in their journey. Today when they walked in that building, they cross the threshold into the initiation phase of their hero's journey with us. And they saw CEO talking about Star Wars and they said, whoa, this is weird company.
Okay? So right now, actually in four minutes, they will be sitting down at lunch. We have lunch already ready for them with everybody on their team and they start building allies. We follow this as part of our company practice. It's built into our whole culture.
In fact, when you come to interview at job Nimbus, the first thing you do is we walk you around our main floor, which is a hero's journey and of itself to teach you the basic concept of this, of why this place is really special and why you can be great here. And then you sit down in the interview room with your person ready to go. So there's a whole series of tests and trials. We're going to be training for the next couple of weeks, these new people, and they'll go through a whole series of tests as they learn how to work our software. What kind of customers we have, how we work as a company, what are policies and procedures and practices are, and then their day-to-day job. We'll have a whole series of trials of hard problems they're trying to solve, that there'll be overcoming and getting better.
And I believe that the, the, the approach is actually the, the career goal that they came out, came here. What are you trying to do with your career? Well, I really want to be a director of sales long-term. Okay, well, you're at this level right Now. What can we do to get you there? Here's what role you should be in. Here's what things you should be learning.
So you get prep for your next Hero's Journey and The ordeal job Novus is the struggle which I believe gives meaning and purpose to life, to have people were relying on you to work at a company that's doing something good that you can be proud of to, to accomplish great things. That is the ordeal that you go through a job Nimbus. And when you are done with your journey at job Nimbus, you will be resurrected and new person, your personal goals will be achieved, your career goals will be achieved. And you'll have a lot of learning and self-growth. And that's really your Woodward.
There's, You'll be a new person changed by it. Okay. So I always like to say to everybody, every employee as a hero to me, they're all unique. They have special talents that we need. They are doing, gonna do meaningful heroic things. I think of our employees as everyday they're coming in, putting on their super suit and they're doing like saving the day for the customer, right? But then when I got home, gotta go home.
They've got to make sure they have that balance. And so year, a lot of Superman, you gotta be some Clark Kent at home and make sure there's balanced there, right? And I say, you can conquer the hardest challenges because you guys are heroes. Okay. That was really quick. Does anybody have any questions on that? Yes.
Oh, cool. Okay. So our customers, this is their experience is we paint everything as the hero's journey for the customer to. So in our first sales call, we actually mentioned the hero's journey. Most of our contracts has never heard of it. And we don't go into this kind of depth, but we go to really high level depth about achieving your dreams and what you need to do along the way.
Then you meet with one of our salespeople and we talk a lot about your business So we understand it and we customize our pitch in our software. We have a whole list of things that we can kind of customized to them. There are specific for what they need. What's so cool about this as, as soon as they buy, we actually state good psychological tactic. We stage are buying decision based off of crossing the threshold.
So they know that like if you decide not to buy with us, you're really not accepting the call, you're refusing the call and Heroes except the call, right? But if you accept the call, this is what's going to happen. So when they buy with us, they get assigned a mentor that day, we actually have a designated person at the company and our Customer Success Department who becomes their mentor, their friend, encouraging, you can do this, bob, you can make your business great and also Get, roll up our sleeves and actually get stuff done. I'm going to show you the larger world of job nim is software that you never knew and help you dial in their business and we work with them actually on a weekly or monthly basis depending on what the customer chooses. We actually do a one hour coaching session with these guys.
They really need the help. They don't know how I mean, just basic stuff like how do you i'll I'll give you an example. Talk to a customer recently who said, we're making a lot of money. I got $200 thousand just come in and this week I'm going to go buy a side-by-side razor, I think just to celebrate. And I said Hold on, hold on. You've got a $183 thousand of expenses this week.
So you really only have 17 thousand? Yeah. But they don't think about profit. That's so basic stuff like this, you know, now some are better than others, but that's the general consensus and contracting as people don't really understand business. And if you think about it, it makes sense. These guys aren't MBAs, they're not even business majors like you guys, they're there or tech majors or whatever.
They are, usually a roof or on another crew or their sales guy somewhere and said, I can do this better. Or mom and dad gave them the business and they didn't build it themselves and they're like, I don't know what to do with this. Dad died and I don't know how to take care of this business and they're just trying to figure it out. Great people, great hearts are a lot of ways the people that make the country work, but they don't know.
So we help them with that and then that through the whole stages. And we're always painting the picture of what does your next hero's journey, okay? You guys are trying to get this process under control. You're trying to hire these people, were working with them as they're growing their business. Now here's the coolest thing.
We have some proof here. The average customer job nim is in the first 12 months will grow 43 percent more in revenue. It's crazy, just like rocket fuel for the business. And it's not even that our software is so unique and so cool. Although it is really cool, It's that we help them enforce basic business processes. Hire the right people, actually have good communication the company.
And it's like rocket fuel, it just takes them a whole nother level. Super cool. Yep.
So you guys familiar with the term TAM or Total Addressable Market? Anybody heard of that before? Okay. All right. So that's a really important thing. And understanding, this goes back to what Mark was saying about understanding your market, of what the addressable market is, what you, who can actually use the product that you're building.
And so we spent a lot of time on this in roofing, for instance. Well, let's just talk home exterior is in general, there's $400 million worth of revenue for us in whole mixtures right now, an annual recurring revenue for us. But then you got a segment more, right? So well, how much of that is just roofers? How much of that has windows and doors, people citing gutters, go down the whole list, landscaping, all that sort of thing. And so we have segments for each one of those.
And then we look at two main factors. How good are we at closing deals with those customers? So we get 10 leads. How many of those actually become a paying customer? Let's say five or something. And then we also look at the retention lifetime value of the customer. How many of those people stick around because we might be really good at closing solar companies, but then they all bounce within six months.
That's terrible. We need really good retention and good close rates. And when you have both of those things to Mark's question earlier, how do you guys know of you're in if it's the right idea to work on this a little later stage of you actually have something working.
Look at your close rate and your retention. And that will tell you whether or not you have product market fit. And product market fit is key. You cannot scale or go to go to market, like start doing big marketing anything until you have product market fit. And a lot people do it in the wrong order. So do you have follow up on that? The answer. Okay.
Yes. Okay. So what time do we have to end? Yeah. Okay. Perfect. Got time for this.
All right. I was sitting in a class just like you guys, just like this 23 years ago or something like that. It was entrepreneur class.
We actually had speakers just like me coming in, super cool up and CEO. And one of my classmates that was sitting next to me that kind of hit it off with a guy named Russ. He was a go-getter, like, I am just really interested in business. Before that day though, I didn't think anything about entrepreneurship. And I decided I want to enter a business plan competition because I saw one on a wall and I had an idea. I did not know what I was getting into.
I thought, Oh, this will be fun. I'll just do it in the evening and see what happens. No, no, this is like years of life, what it turned out to be.
So we built a business plan and it completely sucked. It was terrible. But we didn't know what we're doing. And then an entrepreneur Professor heard that we were working on this and he actually came to me as name is Alan Leon. He's one of my first mentors in business. And he said, Ben, you guys should be in my entrepreneurship class and I'll show you how to make a great business plan.
So we started his class at the same time we're entering this business plan competition now this is a cool story because we put our competition plan in and it was all the schools in Washington state, so it was a lot of competition there. And we got chosen for the top 100 teams. Were like, Oh my gosh, this is so cool. Okay, what's next? Well, there's a giant auditorium at the University of Washington, huge, huge auditorium. And they would have each of us set up a table. And you try to build a brand or whatever.
You had a couple of weeks to prepare for this. And then they had all these big business people. And i'm I'm talking about like big names, like you guys may not know the name, but Steve Ballmer, the CEO later CEO of Microsoft, was there. Okay. And they gave everybody that was really well-known business people Monopoly money.
Here's a stack of Monopoly money. And then they would walk around. They said Go and you have like two hours. And they would stand on Friday. All right. Pitch me go. And they were just me mean, they were not nice.
They were not given you any ground and you just give your elevator pitch us too long. I'm not interested. They just walk by and then sometimes they go. Tell me more. Tell me more. Okay.
And they stop you at some point. There's some monopoly money and walk on. So we're collecting Monopoly money, just pitching our hearts out for two hours. We're getting really good at our elevator pitch by then, right? And we put it all in a bowl. And then they counted up all the money.
And the teams that got the highest amount of money got to go in, and we got in the top 10. We couldn't believe it. We're pretty good on our feet because our business idea wasn't that good. All right. Nick stage that same day in the afternoon, there was a boardroom and I don't know why they had it setup.
So it's like super dark in there and kinda creepy. And all the people are around. They have all these famous people around.
The whole thing. Just sitting there like this. And you'd come in and try to get this really crappy laptop was like that thick. Trying to hook it up with the PowerPoint and your hands are shaking a little bit like this is really stressful. And it was a 30 minute session with 15 minutes to pitch your idea.
So you would do your PowerPoint slides and then 15 minutes of questions. And your idea was to try to get them to say yes to investing in your company. Okay? So we're pitching through this and they're asking some really hard questions and we walked out, we thought, Oh my gosh, we bomb that. Oh, that was bad because they were ruthless. That if you guys go and raise money, I don't know if any of you've ever tried to raise money before, but I've since found out that most venture capitalists are like that until you have a name in the industry and are sort of well-known. They treat you like dirt. Unless they really,
really want your company and your product or they know you because you've had some success in the past, then you get a lot of different reception. So they were given us that business. It was great practice for later when I did minify and as raising money for a year and just getting knows all over the place. So we ended that session, went back.
And then the later that evening they had a little work banquet and we got number 3 out of all the teams. We couldn't believe it. And we want $50 thousand, which was a ton of money for us.
We later found out it wasn't really $50 thousand in cash. It was $50 thousand a billable hours at the top law firm in Seattle. So lawyers, can anybody work with lawyers and before they know how to make billable hours, okay. Everything they do have a quick cover. Say Hey, how you doing? What's going on today, okay. That'll be $250.
I'll just send that to invoice over to, you know, crazy. So we ended up taking that money and incorporating the company because that was a thing that they could do for us. We and it was great incorporation.
They did everything awesome. We took other money and patented the idea. I had three patents that they put together, so they helped us put all the reps on it and we got those patented. And then we did have some extra money that we used and we recruit a couple students from our computer science program that I was friends with to just come and work for free and just code at night.
So we do school. Some of us have jobs like me and then we'd meet up at like ten o'clock at night at this little house that we're renting the basement from this old guy. And we were coding on the product. And we kept going on that for about six months until we had something kind of built.
It was barely hanging together, but it was working. And while our niche, the idea we had was security software. So you guys know in your browser when you see the little padlock that says you're in a secure session. You guys seen that before? Okay. Verify is the software that keeps that secure on the server side. I had an idea for encryption back then.
And it turned out that today, more than half of the Fortune 1000 US benefits. It's like the core system. It's crazy, just total luck in some ways.
I had no idea what I stumbled into. All right. So we go along. I'm out raising money for the next year. Working on, on the side. It's really, really tough.
Nobody wants to invest in us and why we had no customers. We had a somewhat product, no revenue. So there was no real evidence around us being a good company, right? Vectors what evidence? They want something safe, more safe, more secure.
They want to see some customers who wants the product market fit or at least the start early stages of it. So we're getting a lot of no's. I lucked into meeting a guy who was an executive at Verizon through a friend of a friend of a friend. I was talking about networking events like that is critical.
I was networking everywhere. It's just talking to everybody, right? And he said, You know what? Verizon just had one of these certificates go down and it cost them over $2 million in security breach. And we say, Oh wow, that's wow, that's a lot of pain. Looking for pain, right? So we went I got a meeting to go down to Verizon and I met with their little IT staff and they loved what I had there. Like this will change r. This is amazing.
It automated all of it. They didn't have to do anything. It's just so cool how it worked.
So they kept working up the chain within a month. I had a meeting with the CEO at Verizon. This was very stressful for me as I think it was 22, 23, and okay, this is so embarrassing guys. I get in there, I pitch what we're doing as shown the software and the CEO goes, this is great, I love it, Let's buy it. How much is it? We hadn't ever talked about pricing.
Okay. Oh crap, we don't know. We're out. We're still trying to figure out this other stuff that was so embarrassing.
So we had we had thrown around some ideas of maybe this would be like 10 grand a year or something like that. But whales, so much pain. And the salesman and me just said, Let's try for some. So I threw out 250 thousand a year. And they said done.
And I said, I was too low. I should I should have gone higher. But that was a lot of money for us.
We had some employees and we were really close to not being able to make payroll. So it was very nice to be able to come back and say, hey, we can actually make payroll next week. And I'm not even kidding. In one week, I had four term sheets. Bunch of venture capitalists heard that we had horizon as a customer and then those same people that were not really interested, maybe you talk to us later. All right.
We're in how much? And we started bidding everybody up on the NAEP, raising 5.5 million on our first round and a good valuation and took the company to a whole nother level. So things you could takeaway from that.
Networking was really important there. I would say. Even when it was really hard, we kept persevering.
And I think there's a question and all entrepreneurs minds, how long before you pull the plug, How long do you keep going before you say, Okay, this is not working. I've got a switch. I would say in that just that first year and a half minify, we probably pivoted four times. And when I mean pivoted, the whole product idea changed to fit to a different market until we found the right thing.
And once we found out all these IT guys were having so many problems with the certificates. We launched that. So later that whole product became encryption management, which is a new phrase that had never been used till we coined it and verify. And now there's over 50 companies to do encryption management.
It's a whole market segments, kinda crazy. So it was a huge success. And minify just got bought for 1.15 billion in December of last year.
But it took like 20 years to get there. The long journey. I was there for the first six years of question.
Yeah. Sorry. Number line like so. I always say revenue covers a multitude of sins.
You can do a lot of things wrong with your business if you're making a lot of revenue. And so take that one step back. How do you make revenue? Getting customers and getting actually your product to a point where a lot of people want it is I think the number one challenge that any business has. And even if you only get that and you're running a really crappy organization, otherwise, you'll still probably be okay. But if you have, you'll see this a lot. New company launches, just awesome culture, everything's right.
And then the product sucks, or it's not really something people want and they don't make it right. So product market fit is the most important thing, probably in most cases. Question, Oh yeah.
How did you get in place by the company culture? If they think it's an important or it is. So yeah, that's that's right. So most of you guys probably want to start a business. And the first place that most people start in starting a business is I want to make a lot of money or I want to make money, right? What you'll find as you go and build the business. At some point, it is so freaking hard that just getting money isn't enough to keep you motivated.
You burn out. Okay, so what I say to all entrepreneurs is find your why, WHY, find out why you're doing this? And even if you have to make it up, find something beyond the money to get you motivated, and then build the culture around that. So our Y job, Nimbus is making these people heroes. The first time I met roofers, early stage of the whole of their story about the founding of the company. I was like Man, these are super cool people.
I really like them. They're entrepreneurs like me. And as soon as I realized that I was like, Oh wait, I want to help them just like I'm trying to do my own thing. I want to take what I know and help them. And it got really exciting. And then we started realizing, wait, we're actually kinda making him the hero and, and went down the whole path there.
But it started with finding that y at verify. We've really felt the pain. All of these companies having security breaches and they would have to go public with it. And it looks really bad. I don't know if you guys T-Mobile had a problem recently.
And it's like 100 million customers effect. It's a disaster. And it takes years and even years later, ten years later, people perceived Verizon security as lower because that one incident 10 years before. So it's a black mark for the rest of your company. And we said we can fix that, we can get ahead of that so it'll never happen.
And you get to know these IT people. I think empathy for the customer is so important to develop. So to the question about how do you get people motivated? Motivated around something? You might think what you're doing is trivial, but if you dig deep enough, you'll find out that you're doing good. And honestly, if you're doing a business, it's not doing any good. You can't find anything, find something else, because life's too short to not do some good in the world. Make a product that makes the world better, not just a financial tool or something, make it something that's actually great, that helps people.
And then once you're doing that, you'll have empathy for those customers. That will then drive your mission and then drive your vision.