Ilan Missulawin of ClickCease

Founder Coffee episode 028

I’m Jeroen from Salesflare and this is Founder Coffee.

Every two weeks I have coffee with a different founder. We discuss life, passions, learnings, … in an intimate talk, getting to know the person behind the company.

For this twenty-eighth episode, I talked to Ilan Missulawin, co-founder of ClickCease, one of the leading click fraud prevention platforms for Google Ads.

Before starting ClickCease, Ilan worked in radio, sold electronics to the defense industry, was a retail consultant, started a photo booth for events company, and did some affiliate marketing. Then his co-founder developed a piece of software for a locksmith who was having competitors systematically clicking his ads. ClickCease was born.

We talk about what makes Tel Aviv a big tech hub, why his wife calls him a sociopath, the definition of a brand, coffee culture, and comic books.

Welcome to Founder Coffee.

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Jeroen: Ilan, it’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Ilan: It’s great to be on Founder Coffee.

Jeroen: You’re co-founder of ClickCease. For those who don’t know ClickCease yet, what do you guys do?

Ilan: We protect advertisers on Google Ads from a very common phenomenon called click fraud, which is where a competitor, or a bot clicks on your ads, depletes your budget, and then you don’t have any money to advertise anymore. We detect that fraudulent activity, and we tell Google in real-time to stop it, or to block it, and that way, we save a lot of money for advertisers.

Jeroen: Oh. There’s people that click on links that they’re not supposed to click. That’s mostly competitors, or are there other cases too?

Ilan: It depends on the industry. For instance, if you’re a locksmith, a plumber, a dentist, or an electrician – like local service provider, more often than not, you’re going to be dealing with some competitor that is just clicking on your Google ads in order to deplete your budget. But if you’re a bigger brand or big eCommerce store, or you’re more of a national brand, then the type of fraud that you’re dealing with is more bot based. And it’s not necessarily malicious, but these bots do click a lot on Google ads and waste a lot of the advertiser’s money. That’s another types of fraud that we block.

Jeroen: And why is that? Is that because they’re scraping pages, and then clicking the ads?

Ilan: Exactly. That’s usually the case. There’s research that says that about half of the traffic on the web is bot based, and this traffic also clicks for whatever the reasons may be, but they do harm.

Jeroen: How does that work on Google’s side? You send something to the Google Ads API?

Ilan: Yeah. We basically tell Google Ads by their IP exclusion not to show the ads to those specific IPs that we detected as fraudulent, or IP ranges.

Jeroen: You add IP ranges to Google Ads in exclusion.

Ilan: Exactly.

Jeroen: All right. So, how is it that you came to this idea? Is that a problem you had yourself?

Ilan: My partner actually, Yuval, he had a good friend, who was a locksmith. And he said, “Look, there’s no way that I’m paying so much to Google, so many clicks, and I’m not getting any phone calls”. And with the locksmith service, it’s obvious. It’s people stuck outside their door, can’t enter their house. They’re reaching out to a locksmith in order to solve a real problem that exists now. They’re not researching the internet in order to find some kind of future solution for something. So, if someone calls, usually the lead is legit. And he was getting a lot of these phone calls or leads that were just not converting, no one was talking to him, or if they were, it sounded like it was fake. And then he realized that it’s a competitor that is doing this, or even a few competitors.

Ilan: So he says, “Look, if you can figure out some kind of solution to this that will be huge.” And then the software was written about four years ago, and that’s also when I basically joined as the marketing/biz dev arm of this, and since then, we’ve attracted tens of thousands of customers.

Jeroen: What were you doing before ClickCease?

Ilan: I was a consultant for retail companies in the US. And this was a pretty serious change – going from the retail world to online.

Jeroen: You have always been a consultant for the retail industry, or you did something else before?

Ilan: I did media. I was in radio for four years. I was selling electronics to the defense industry here in Israel for a while. I was doing the consulting thing for quite some time too, then I also started a photography business, like photo booths for events. I was all over the place. I tried doing a little bit of affiliate for a while as well just before I started working on ClickCease. I was trying to figure out something new.

Jeroen: I hear you wanted to start a company. You had all these little projects, and then ClickCease was the first real one, right?

Ilan: Yeah. I mean, no, the photography booth business was pretty big as well. It was a serious operation, and I sold that. But the power of online was really what I discovered with ClickCease, because, it doesn’t matter how big your photo booth business is, you can’t really scale that to the levels you can with a SaaS business. And I had enough of the physical world, the retail as well. With ClickCease you could be basically selling or making value for other people when you’re sleeping as well. That really goes well with the internet, and there are not many businesses that can do that offline.

Jeroen: You said you are in Israel. I see a lot of tech companies coming from Israel. Is it a good place to have a tech company or not?

Ilan: It is an amazing place for startups, for tech. There are so many companies that have started in Israel and are now known worldwide. Tel Aviv specifically, has a very strong startup culture. Every second person on the street is either a co-founder, founder, CTO, VP marketing, or trying to figure out his new thing. There are a lot of failures, but there are a hell of a lot of successes as well. And the amount of shared office and work spaces in the city are incredible. Tel Aviv is, I mean, it’s a startup Mecca.

Jeroen: Well, why do you think that is? Is that in the culture? Is it the environment? Is it the infrastructure?

Ilan: Yeah. There are a few reasons for this. There’s actually a very interesting book called Startup Nation which is exactly about that question. Well, first of all, there’s a lot of tech training that goes on in the army. We’ve got a pretty big army, and now, they said that the next war is going to be the cyber war. There’s a lot of training that goes on in that department, and a lot of people that come up from pretty elite cyber units go on and do their own thing in the private sector. In addition to that, I mean, it’s stereotypical, but the Jewish mind is always trying to come up with something new, and life in Israel, it’s not an easy life. You know what I mean. There’s a lot of smart people here. In order to survive, you got to figure out something that’s going to be good, not only for your market, but maybe for even an international market, because with the 8 million people that live here, especially if you’re doing things on the internet, you might have to think outside of your current market limitation.

Ilan: I mean, there are many other reasons. I’m not a sociologist. My wife just says I’m a sociopath, but definitely there is a culture here, and the good weather is definitely a plus. So it’s very easy to kid yourself that you’re working when you’re actually at the beach. You should definitely come to Tel Aviv.

Jeroen: Yeah. I’ve never been there actually.

Ilan: I could introduce you, or any of your listeners to 20 companies in an hour.

Jeroen: Wow! Okay, sensitive question. Why does your wife think you’re a sociopath? I think that’s something that a lot of entrepreneurs hear. I want to hear why in your case.

Ilan: She’s in the other room, I can bring her and she can answer that herself, but I’m not going to do that, because then I’ll be in bigger trouble than I normally am. I don’t have clear working hours, I think is one of the major things. We can be watching the new season of Game of Thrones, and I’m going to be with the laptop in front of me. That’s one thing that she realizes. It’s like, “This is your business but still you have to separate family time, leisure time, wife time, and work time.” And I think that lack of delineation is something that she considers as psychotic. But I just call it, “There a lot of customers to take care of.”

Jeroen: Maybe a bit obsessive, but sociopath?

Ilan: Do you get that from your wife too?

Jeroen: I used to, but I started separating work and life time better.

Ilan: That’s a skill.

Jeroen: Well, it’s something you need to put in place. It’s like a habit, and once you have it, then it’s okay, then you can more easily put that barrier. But I remember the first few years with Salesflare, I was very bad at this as well. Especially because the business always keeps running around in your head, and it’s very hard not to be like, “Oh, that seems exciting, and I’m going to do this now”, or like you said, there’s always customers to take care of, and they have questions, and you feel like, “Oh, I need to help them now,” kind of feeling.

Ilan: Do you think you could have done that differentiation of your time when you were just starting out with Salesflare as well?

Jeroen: More difficult. Although, in the beginning, when you don’t have customers, it’s actually easier I would say.

Ilan: But then you feel more rush.

Jeroen: Yeah, there is this feeling that if you don’t make it, it all goes away.

Ilan: You feel guilty for not pushing yourself more.

Jeroen: Absolutely. How long have you been working on ClickCease?

Ilan: About four years now. Four years.

Jeroen: We’re working for now, I think about five years. How big is your team?

Ilan: We’ve got seven people in our Tel Aviv office, then we’ve got another seven people in different locations, mainly dealing with support and sales.

Jeroen: You must have most work delegated, most operational work at least.

Ilan: Oh, for sure. Figuring that out was the key to our growth, because there’s a limit to how many phone calls I can be doing with new customers or support per day. And my wife was just putting the kibosh on that in some way. So, we had to figure out how to automate things. That was huge. Our first outsource – it’s not outsourced, it’s just an employee, but the first person outside our core team that was handling technical questions just gave us so much time to figure out new strategies, more new marketing ideas, more product enhancements, just so much more, and that’s so important.

Jeroen: How long do you think you should wait to do that? At what point should you decide to outsource or insource work?

Ilan: Well, you can wait for your wife to call you a sociopath, but it’s probably better to preempt that. Look, I think it’s important to be involved in all those things as a founder at any point. Just not with that amount of hours that we were discussing before. I think reaching out to people who are currently doing it all, or doing the sales, doing the tech support should come once you have a finger in the wind kind of estimate. I’d say, once you have 30 discussions a day, then you know that you’re ready to have someone take that away from you. Even less. It could be even 20 a day. It depends on, not so much the amount of interactions but more about the type of interaction that’s necessary.

Jeroen: Do you mean live chat interactions?

Ilan: Yeah. With us, it’s all live chat. But again, even if you’re just doing ticketing, and you’re entering tickets, I think 20 tickets a day, that’s quite an amount of work. That’s a couple of hours of your day. And even if it’s just an hour of a day of your time, it still makes sense to train someone to be able to do these things, and free up that extra hour for you, definitely.

Jeroen: But it’s best to first get to learn it yourself, I suppose.

Ilan: Oh, for sure. I mean, you got to know everything before you teach someone to answer. And that’s why it’s always important to stay in the know. Because the questions, as much as you think they’ll repeat themselves, you’re always going to be getting new questions once in a while, or new product requests. Everybody says this, but it really is the lifeblood of our future product enhancements. You always want to be involved in some way, or try and monitor these conversations in some way. I mean, we use Intercom, that’s the go-to these days, because it makes it easy to read all the conversations and go through what might be interesting.

Jeroen: What is the next thing that you’re planning to delegate?

Ilan: That’s a very timely question. Definitely, our content capabilities. Right now, we’re doing SEO. I mean, we’re dominating ads, anything related to click fraud, or click farm, the keywords that are relevant to our industry, but we want to dominate organic results as well. And for that, a lot of content has to be written. Right now, we write a lot of our stuff. We have people writing for us as well based on what we want, but that is such a huge part of bringing in quality traffic of business that we are willing to spend a hefty amount of our profit, of our income on creating a machine for this.

Ilan: And, it is necessary to have a machine for SEO, because, doing some backlinks, or writing a few new pieces of content, or just improving the onsite metrics. It’s not enough. You need a content machine, and an ongoing improvement of any of the things that matter to Google. It is what you try to do yourself. But really, it needs a team of its own once you get to a certain stage for sure.

Jeroen: Is that where you spend most of your work time now, or is it something else?

Ilan: Yeah, it’s definitely what’s bogging me down, personally, lately. Because, us, if you want to be writing, the person that writes, you can’t just take someone to write for you. He’s got to be a part of the team. He’s got to understand what’s going on. And I think that is very, very hard. In a way it’s like training someone to be able to answer anything related to your company. It’s almost like taking on a salesperson or a support person. Someone who knows the ins and outs, and can write quality content about your company and industry. It’s not an easy task to do, but that is what keeps me up at night. But it’s definitely something that I find is going to be like the next one, if we figure this out in an elegant way.

Jeroen: I hear your plans are investing big in SEO. Next to SEA, is that the strategy you’re following, or is it broader than that?

Ilan: No, it’s broader than that. You asked specifically about what is the next thing we want to tackle – getting more attention to when it comes to other people doing stuff. But in general, our strategy is developing more products that will help advertisers win within their competitive landscape, is basically what we’re going for. And we just released a new product where people can see their accurate Google position and their competitors’ at any point in time. And it’s actually the most accurate tool currently on the market because it’s not a snapshot that gets taken every week. It’s really minute by minute accurate results that even you won’t be getting from Google, which is actually pretty cool. We call that AdSpy, and that’s part of the ClickCease suite. We want to add more products like this to our suite of tools, because then we know that people will find more reasons to love our product, which they already have. We’ve got a pretty long customer lifecycle, and adding more value is definitely, I think, for any company, a good strategy just for any consultant or person.

Ilan: Take Tony Robbins. I can credit Tony Robbins. He says, “If you want it …” I’m paraphrasing here, but “if you want to bring more quality to yourself, you got to be bringing more quality to people, and you do that by investing in yourself”. Investing more in our software capabilities will be investing more in our customers. I completely botched that up, but that’s the idea that we’re going for, just provide more value.

Jeroen: You’re in the Google Ads space, and you want to keep adding more value there.

Ilan: Correct.

Jeroen: Are you guys actually bootstrapped, or funded?

Ilan: Yeah, we’re completely bootstrapped.

Jeroen: Completely bootstrapped. Cool. And where do you see the business going? How do you look at it? It’s a stupid question, but in 10 years, will you still be working there, or how do you see that exactly?

Ilan: 10 years is very, very hard. Who knows what’s going to happen. In 10 years, we’re going to be on hoverboards going back to the future.

Ilan: VR headsets basically. But definitely, the company is here to stay. It’s definitely in the next 10 years going to, just like with anything that’s related to cyber or ad tech, it’s going to take a new life form for itself, and it’s going to change. As long as we provide value to our customers, then we’re going to adapt to whatever the market needs in time before it’s too late, basically.

Jeroen: What is it exactly that gives you energy in all this? First of all, why do you actually like building companies? Is that in your personality or is it your environment?

Ilan: I think there definitely is an environmental thing that’s kind of baked in by growing up in Israel. But I didn’t go to any fancy tech college. I was a paratrooper in the army. But I’ve always liked business, and the concept of making something big. It’s these general questions that get you, because you find yourself looking inside yourself, and what are the reasons you’re doing what you’re doing, and where do you want to be in five years, and all these things. I love these questions because we don’t normally find ourselves tackling these bigger strategic elements of our lives on a daily basis. I can be talking to you now, and it’s a very simple question, and I heard you asked it before on your podcast with other people, and when you’re faced with it yourself, it’s amazing what goes on. You freeze, and there’s some automatic answers that you want to bring up, but it’s not necessarily the real thing that motivates you.

Ilan: And, it’s a great question, and I’m not going to answer it properly. And I’m deferring now, because I’m going to give it the honest thought that it takes. But you started off with saying that’s a stupid question. No, it’s a great question, it’s the best question.

Jeroen: I meant it more as a phrase in a stupid way like, where do you see yourself in 10 years? It’s this typical interview question.

Ilan: I know, I know. But these are the best questions is what I’m trying to say. They are the ones if you take them seriously enough, these are the ones that make you think the most.

Jeroen: I think what motivates you the most is even more important. If you know what motivates you, then the ten year or five year plan, falls into place more easily.

Ilan: For sure.

Jeroen: Because then, a 10 year plan, or a five year plan, or a one year plan, even one month – doesn’t matter, if you don’t know what motivates you, and you don’t enjoy it every day, then it’s never going to be nice. You might not remain persistent. Motivation there is a big factor.

Ilan: I’m going to quote Tony Robbins, and this one is accurate, actually. “People overestimate what they can do in a year, but they really underestimate what they can do in a decade.” That’s actually, I think his mentor, Jim Rohn, who said that.

Jeroen: I don’t think it’s Tony Robbins.

Ilan: It’s his mentor Jim Rohn. But I think planning for the long term is definitely important, and it’s definitely not something that we at ClickCease do. Actually, we don’t do it enough, and we should.

Jeroen: Without deferring, what do you think motivates you?

Ilan: Security for my family, for sure. It used to be more selfish once, but now definitely, making something solid, so I know that my family will be secure, is easily what motivates me. I actually thought we were going to talk tactics, and selling new things.

Jeroen: Tactic, no. I tried to stay away from tactics. There’s a lot of tactics out there, and we’ve published a lot of that on our blog and everything. Everybody wants to know how and what behind all these small details. And sometimes it’s just good to understand how other people are doing things.

Ilan: Tactics, and specific tactics aren’t the right ones for everyone, whereas mindset is something that can talk to everyone for sure. Yeah.

Jeroen: Well, to a large extent, at least. I also dislike this kind of question in Facebook groups, let’s say, where someone asks a general question and then gets the shortest most general answers ever.

Ilan: And a lot of plugs as well.

Jeroen: And then, “That’s why you should do …”. Like, do we even know what this person does or what’s his market? I mean, missing the whole context, that’s really the worst, and the issue is that many people even in a sort of peer pressure kind of way, fall into the trap of following the advice as well. And that’s really a pity, because a lot of original thinking, and good thinking gets lost there.

Ilan: it’s true.

Jeroen: You said you live with your wife and kids?

Ilan: Yep.

Jeroen: You said you’re sometimes overflowing in time. Are you also doing this on the weekends, or are you putting more of a barrier there?

Ilan: I’m bad with the whole separating family time from work time. I’m getting better at it. That’s sure. For instance, as I’m talking to you now, it’s actually a holiday in Israel. You just had Easter, and we’ve got Passover. This is the last day of Passover. But, it’s definitely something that needs to be worked on.

Ilan: Well, in a way, we’ve got an office in Tel Aviv, but a lot of the work I do is from home. I don’t have an office at home, because no one in Tel Aviv’s got an office loan, because it’s like everybody’s in a small apartment there. I can be working on my desk, and right next to me, my daughter’s watching Peppa Pig. Out of the actual living circumstances, work and play with kids will always collide in a way.

Jeroen: That must be very difficult if you’re working from home. I did that for a bit, about five to six years ago. It’s fine if you’re working for someone else, but if you’re working for yourself, it’s extremely hard.

Ilan: Because it’s an abyss. You can just go deeper and deeper and deeper. I mean, I found myself some days working to four o’clock in the morning, and it’s definitely not good for family either.

Jeroen: Do you have any issue with stress levels? How do you manage it?

Ilan: I like to think that I’m pretty chill, but I do drink too much coffee, way too much. That definitely is causing some of my stress. I’m trying to cut back on that, but every time I try, I realize how hooked I am. That is going to be my next thing to tackle with my body – quitting the coffee for sure. And at the same time, I was sitting a lot on my chair until I moved to a bouncing ball, and I had terrible backaches, and just moving to that Swiss ball just made a huge difference. So, swimming, less coffee, and standing up more, definitely are positive things for me, at least.

Jeroen: Actually, I found that if you sleep regularly, you don’t even need the coffee so much, and you can actually fully stop. And the nice thing you win is that you don’t have these huge ups and downs with the coffee, because with it you have this span where you get a big high and then afterwards, it goes down as well. And that’s pretty annoying, because you need to keep fueling up, and in the end you drink so much coffee that you indeed feel a bit cooked. Just not a nice feeling.

Ilan: Coffee is actually a funny thing. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a drug. It really is, because your body does get hooked on it. And there’s a whole society that’s kind of like tackling weed in the States, and dispensaries. There’s this whole art around coffee that makes you forget that this is something that makes your body dependent on it. I’ve got this whole you know, ritual in the morning with specially designer coffee beans, and the grinder, and the whole thing. I mean, I’m exaggerating, but it’s a ritual of taking a drug, and I’d like to think that I can live without any of these types of physical dependencies. Getting rid of coffee will be a huge one.

Jeroen: I think it’s possible. What’s the latest good book you’ve read, and why did you choose to read it?

Ilan: I love comic books, and I just finished reading a book about the first comic books that were created in the ’30s. It’s by a guy called Michael Chabon, and I think that’s how you pronounce his name, and it’s called The Adventures of Clay and Kavalier. It really is about like the society of people in Manhattan. Just before there was Marvel and DC Comics, there was a group of people that were creating these.

Ilan: Also Superman, which was two guys from from Cleveland, Ohio in 1938.

Ilan: But also loads of people trying out new things, and it’s like the golden age of almost the beginning of comic books. Because within a few years, kind of like how the internet took over retail comic books, the sales of comic books was at such a peak that, that’s what kids did. They read comics. That’s what the money went on, comic books. We spent on things like video games, then it was comic books, comic books, comic books, and it’s interesting to see how that medium developed, and also how it dwindled down as well, if they can portray it. But, it’s a great book, The Adventures of Clay and Kavalier.

Jeroen: You have to know though that the comic book started way earlier than that.

Ilan: In Belgium, in the Arab world, right.

Jeroen: Since beginning of last century.

Ilan: Yellow Boy, is that true, Belgian guy?

Jeroen: Who?

Ilan: Yellow Boy, I think he was called, I think in a Belgian newspaper.

Jeroen: Oh, Yellow Boy. It’s possible. I’ve been to the comic book museum, but I’m not a big fan. I used to read a lot of them when I was a kid, and I used to go to the library every three weeks and take five books, and one of them was always a comic book. So I read a lot of them, and we had a lot of them at home also. We had most of Suske en Wiske, but that’s probably something you don’t know outside of Belgium.

Ilan: Which one? What’s it called?

Jeroen: Suske en Wiske.

Ilan: No.

Jeroen: It’s a boy and a girl. And I learned reading with, I don’t know how you say it, Tintin, maybe for you.

Ilan: Of course, Tintin. Tintin’s huge.

Jeroen: It’s from Herge. It’s a Brussels coming book.

Ilan: Brussels, right. And then Spielberg made the movie like five years ago, which was amazing.

Jeroen: I grew up on those. I had them both in Dutch and in French.

Ilan: What’s the name of this dog? Do you remember?

Jeroen: In Dutch, it’s Bobbie, and in French it’s Milou. I have no idea in English though! Next question. Is there anything you wish you would have known when you started out with ClickCease?

Ilan: I think we could have scaled much, much faster. Now, we’re scaling pretty fast, but I think we could have scaled faster if we knew exactly who our target market was from the get go. In the beginning, we didn’t know exactly who’s the right type of customer for us. Is it agencies? Is it locksmiths? Is it big brands? What type of advertisers are these? And now I know exactly what type of advertisers need us, or is the most receptive to our services. Because, in beginning we were trying to reach Coca Cola, Procter and Gamble, big companies that we didn’t know how to deal with. We didn’t know how to deal with enterprise clients. No way, way too early. Today we do, but in the beginning, we thought that it makes sense to talk to Nike in Portland. It didn’t.

Ilan: And there’s so many people that need your help that are running small campaign budgets of $5,000 and $1,000 a month. It made sense for them to work with us and we didn’t have to go for the big guys initially. And that’s actually how our company looks today. We’ve got thousands of small to medium businesses, and SMBs are our lifeblood, whereas we’ve got maybe a 2% of our customers that we consider enterprise – spending more than $100,000 on advertisements a month.

Jeroen: That’s actually a good advice. If it’s about small companies versus big companies, when we started off, people would tell us, selling to a big company is as much work as selling to a small company, but you earn much more. That’s what some people said to us. I remember that. And then also, they would say that small companies are extremely hard. There’s so many of them. You need to build up the branding and all those kind of things. And there’s even these SaaS gurus out there that always tell you, “Go up market as fast as possible”, those kind of things. You are really pushed towards selling to enterprises. And also finding your target market is something we also took a bit of time with.

Ilan: Who is Salesflare’s target market?

Jeroen: For us, it’s agencies and startups right now. And that’s not a coincidence, I would say. I used to work in an agency, and we were in between startups, so it’s the companies that we understand the best. We impersonate them, we built this for them. It only makes sense. And, in the beginning, we were also trying all kinds of other groups because we didn’t see it working yet, but figuring out who to target was huge. I totally agree there because it’s such a waste of time if you start talking to Coca Cola for months, and in the end they say, “Well, I don’t know.”

Ilan: It’s expensive as well. It’s time and money going down the drain for sure. And also less stable. I mean, again, today, I’d really rather have thousands of small customers than 20 big ones.

Jeroen: With our big customers, if one leaves in a month, that kills a part of our growth. We don’t grow at the same percentages anymore, while with small customers, it’s way more predictable. Final question, what’s the best piece of advice you ever got?

Ilan: I don’t know. I don’t remember who gave it, or where I got it, or how I formed it, but it came from different areas, I guess. In 2006, was it, when the iPhone came out? I think that the whole concept of real quality products creating a tribe around themselves. I don’t know if it’s so much like an advice that someone gave me, but a belief system or something like that. If you create something worthwhile for a group of people that care about it, I mean, that’s 99% of the trick. And there are enough ideas out there, or products that haven’t been created yet for groups of people that will want it, that exist. You can just connect those two.

Ilan: Another thing is that, when you have created something of quality, the people that connect to the tribe of people, they do promote it. Like when we see with ClickCease, we see some people that aren’t seeing value in the money that they’re saving on Google Ads; people from different industries with their friends, or whoever they may be. But we get so much referral traffic that wouldn’t happen if the product wasn’t quality. Which means quality is in the customer service of what we do. It’s in the way that the UI, the UX of how things are done when they sign up. Anything related to payments, anything related to pricing, anything related to just general value. Quality is what leads. And again, it’s not exactly someone didn’t tell this, it’s things that I’ve figured out, I think, on the way. Maybe quality products that I’ve interacted with along the way, or any of us have, have proven that to us.

Jeroen: Definitely.

Ilan: You know what? And you can scrap all this. There is something that I learned from one of our professors. I studied in Chicago. I studied marketing communications at Northwestern, and there was this professor, his name is John Greening, and he opened my eyes. He asked the class, first day of school, he says, “Who knows what a brand is?” And everybody starts giving their answer. If I asked you what’s a brand, what would you tell me?

Jeroen: I’d say a brand is a connection with some imagined entity that sells you some value. I don’t know. What do you think?

Ilan: That’s good. That’s not bad. That’s actually very good, but that’s probably the dictionary answer. He said, “A brand is a promise kept.”

Jeroen: That makes sense.

Ilan: And it took me a lot of time to process that, and see it over and over again, wherever I go. Doesn’t matter if you meet small SaaS brands, or famous long lasting ones. Whether it’s in product extensions, or within the product itself, or using the product over and over again, that promise kept is that value that I was talking about before, and that is probably the best piece of advice that I’ve gotten.

Jeroen: Cool, that’s actually a nice one. Well, thank you again Ilan for being on Founder Coffee. It was great talking to you!

Ilan: Thank you for making me think, man.

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Jeroen Corthout
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