Randy Rayess of Outgrow

Founder Coffee episode 043

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

Every few 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 forty-third episode, I talked to Randy Rayess, Co-Founder and CEO of Outgrow, a leading platform for adding calculators, quizzes and other interactive elements to your site.

Prior to Outgrow, Randy and his co-founder had a marketplace for mobile app development. As the sales team needed to be able to make quick price estimates, they built a calculator. Lots of people liked what they had built and wanted to use it in their sites. Outgrow was born.

We talk about how to recruit the right people, how to select the right features to work on, the benefits of meditation and stretching, and why doing something for just 3 minutes per day might be the right way to start building a lasting habit.

Welcome to Founder Coffee.

get Salesflare

Prefer listening? You can find this episode on:


Jeroen:

Hi, Randy. It's great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Randy:

It's great to be here.

Jeroen:

So, you are the co-founder of Outgrow. For those who don't know what you guys do yet, what do you do?

Randy:

Sure. So, we're basically a software tool used predominantly by marketers to create a wide range of interactive content. And by that, I mean specific tools to help with customer acquisition, lead generation, and custom and qualifying leads. So things like ROI calculators, e-commerce product recommendation tools, outcome quizzes, tests and polls. Those are kind of the main examples of things you can build on our software, including, of course, chatbots as well.

Jeroen:

Yeah. I imagine this has a lot of applications and you're reaching a lot of different types of companies. But if you would have to pick the main application and the main type of company in your software, what would that be?

Randy:

Yeah, that's a really interesting question because we do have a pretty broad range of marketers. So, the main users are digital marketers and content marketers. But within digital and content marketers, the types of businesses using us are, I would say our top few industries are going to be financial services, healthcare, computer software, SaaS businesses. And then e-commerce companies, and health and wellness are popular for content like fitness and what type of yoga should I do. Things like these are popular. And I would say those are the top ones. Publishing users and pharmaceuticals use us as well. And then of course agencies, for like how much does it cost to build a mobile app or how should you allocate your marketing spend across different advertising channels? Those are common things we see built by agencies.

Jeroen:

Yeah. But what strikes me is that the first one you mentioned is the financial service industry. How come?

Randy:

Yeah, so financial services use our calculators a lot. Because a lot of times people are thinking, should I refinance my mortgage? Should I refinance my student loan? What interest rate can I get on my mortgage? All these types of questions, they require calculators because you need to see, okay, what's your credit score? What's your income? And then based on that you can say, "Okay, well, how much debt you can get, and then what's the size of the home you can buy?" And then you can say, "Okay, now based on all this information, this is the type of mortgage you can end up getting. This is the reach you'll end up getting on the mortgage and this is your monthly payments". And so, calculators become a really good fit for financial services, mortgages, and then investing and retirement planning. Like how much money should I save each year if I want to retire by the time I'm 60? And so, that type of calculator is a very common one you see people build as well.

Jeroen:

Yeah, right. Yeah, I see it mentioned as the first thing on your site is calculators, and only then it says quizzes, etc. Well, then lower on your site, you're focusing more on quizzes for a publishing industry?

Randy:

Yeah.

Jeroen:

Do I need to see this more as something you put on your site or on your blog?

Randy:

Oh, that's a very good question. So the way we like to think about it is there's going to be a few cornerstone pieces that you're going to put on the main site. So, an ROI calculator for SaaS. They usually put that on their main site next to pricing or on one of their key pages. An agency might have like how much does it cost to build a mobile app? That's going to be on their main site. You'll have a few content pieces that you really put that are main, your core. A security scanner for a security company is going to be core.

Randy:

And then you have interesting content, which is going to complement the blog post. Like how much do you know about sales software? How much do you know about lead qualification? Things like these, those might complement blog posts. Or it might be social, things you engage with on social or in forums. But they're not going to be your top five or top three content pieces, which are going to be on your main site. It could be on the homepage, or on one of your pages linked to directly from the homepage that's separate from the blog.

Jeroen:

Got it. How is it that you came to this idea? Were you in financial services before, in an agency or what was the problem you were facing?

Randy:

That's a really good question. So basically, we were in the early 2010s, the App Store started to take off. And I'm sure you probably remember it was a very interesting time because everyone needed mobile apps. But there wasn't any expert in mobile app development. It was a very new thing, and most people can tell by 2011, that the mobile app store was going to become pretty significant in terms of the future of software and technology. The challenges that come with the cost to build a mobile app, how long does it take? It was very unclear at that time. There was a lot of uncertainty around it.

Randy:

We basically had a marketplace for people to develop mobile apps. And so, we would look at our salespeople, and they constantly had this problem with every single person that would come to us and would be like, "Oh, we're trying to build this," and there weren't a lot of standards around how to do things. Everything was very dark. It's probably like building websites 20 or 15 years before that. It's kind of the same thing that happened to mobile at that time. And so, we said, "You know what, our salespeople keep on having to give this whole education process to every new person that they spoke to. Maybe we can just create a calculator that gives people a sense of how much it costs to build a mobile app."

Randy:

The challenge, of course, as you know, is that when you're building a mobile app, the price varies based on the features, and based on the geography you want your development team to be in. And so, we said, "Okay, obviously, we're not going to be able in a few minutes in the calculator to give you an exact estimate, an exact time and materials of what you're doing because you're not going to give us a full, proper specification document". So, we said, "You know what, people, these entrepreneurs with these creative ideas, they're not project managers who are writing these long spec docs. Let's come up with the calculator, and try to get us around 80% of the way there and clearly say it's an estimate." So that's what we did. We built this calculator for that use case. And it turned out to be such a great lead gen source for us that we spun it off into a software tool for other people to build. This is their acquisition source. So that's kind of how we got into this game of intelligent lead gen strategy.

Jeroen:

Yeah. It was really around calculators at that moment.

Randy:

Yeah. So, that's why people look at our calculator, and it's like, "It's a very powerful calculator". You can build these charts and mortgage calculators and things on it. But the reason is because our initial thought was, "oh, if you're trying to scope out a mobile app, how can we make that easy to do?" And then over time when you have financial math, you need certain functions. You need logarithms and certain things like this to make it easier and you need powerful functions. And so, we're trying to think, "okay, how can we make this easy for a marketer to build this calculator without acquiring any design or tech, and hopefully not much math skills to build it up".

Jeroen:

Interesting. I was looking at your LinkedIn profile and it looks like you have a dual background – partly in finance and partly in software engineering and you've been switching between the two worlds a bit. So this I guess, sort of brings that together.

Randy:

That's true actually. It wasn't like, "oh, Outgrow is made to bring these two together". It was more like the way I kind of stumbled upon it because of what happened to the calculator. But you're right that a lot of the time it's math based and finance based. Especially, our finance customers, obviously, are going to be in finance and the marketing part. But then even our non financial customers, the ones that are building ROI calculators, or the ones that are trying to build projections. For example, a lot of software hosting companies. They come in and they are scoping out like a full cost for hosting and all the different sub products you might buy in addition to hosting. There's a lot of math that goes into it. And so, it is a mix of finance and math and technology and marketing. But I think that's what makes it interesting.

Jeroen:

Yeah. How far back does your sort of entrepreneurial journey go? Is this something you stumbled into when you were, I see here in 2012 being more in private equity? Or was it something that started way earlier, maybe before you even studied engineering?

Randy:

I actually really like that question because it's kind of how you define what you do. I think it just depends on how you define the word entrepreneurial. I think 2012 was when there's a first kind of, I would say a more real company. Then there's other types of companies. So I would say I worked at a startup. I worked at quite a few startups before that though. I worked at a basically, demand gen company that ran Google Ads, which was a startup. And then I worked at a startup that sold a new, before Square and Rebel and those, obviously, you had regular credit card terminals. And so, I worked at a startup that had a more cost effective credit card terminal that you would actually call a point of sale for retail outlets, focused mainly on restaurants.

Randy:

So, I worked at quite a few startups, and that kind of got me into the game, I would say. And then working in private equity is cool or VC or any kind of investing environment, or even consulting. You basically get to see a lot of companies and I think that's the main advantage of it. It's not necessarily just private equity. So I think it's the ability to see many companies. That helps you get insights into the challenges companies face, and how you might be able to come up with something that helps them. So, it's a mix of working at a bunch of startups then working in PE and seeing, okay, what are the challenges that they're facing.

Randy:

The third one was, I was also very, very lucky in terms of the timing; the mobile app store had just launched. And so, there was no expert. So, it was relatively easy to say, If I'm going to dive really deep into this then I can be one of the better people, and have more knowledge and understanding than most other people given that everyone's starting from zero. It's a very unique time, I think. It's like Google Ads in the early 2000s, or Facebook ads. It's just very new and no one really knows how it works. You get an advantage when you get lucky and you end up writing a trend.

Jeroen:

Right. Yeah, it's sort of like a thing in full movement, and when you're in there at that moment and then you start doing some cool stuff. That can really take off, yeah.

Randy:

Yeah.

Jeroen:

Where did you grow up? Pennsylvania?

Randy:

I was in Pennsylvania for a while. Well, after that I was in New York and then Southern California and then North Cal, but I grew up in Southern California.

Jeroen:

Oh. Okay. So, do I have to imagine the Los Angeles area?

Randy:

Yeah, yeah. So basically I was in the Los Angeles area as an adult, but I grew up just south of Los Angeles County, Orange County as you know. It's just maybe 30-40 minutes south of LA.

Jeroen:

So are your parents entrepreneurs or what is it that they do exactly?

Randy:

Parents, so kind of both math people in terms of math and engineering.

Randy:

Math and engineering type people. But they focus, I would say my dad is kind of similar to me in the sense that he spent most of his career on the intersection of engineering and business. He started off in the engineering side, and then he got into the business working in logistics. But the engineering part of logistics because of refrigeration of how to maintain pharmaceutical and grocery products at the right temperature when they're being transported. And so, there's the whole electrical engineering part of how do you cool them at the right temperature, and things like these. I think he focused a lot on that side. My mom is more a math-sciencey person. More of like an educator and a teacher type.

Jeroen:

So, I can see that you kind of went into the footsteps of your dad, but then in a different time.

Randy:

Yeah, yeah. It's an interesting balance of what I took from each of them. I would say, yeah, I think both my parents had an impact on me and I definitely think I did follow in my dad's footsteps. Obviously, I am not in logistics, but we do have logistics companies who build estimators on Outgrow, and I get to work with them on the math side, and it's cool. So, I think in some sort of funny way I do get some exposure to it.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Well, when you started getting into startups, the mobile app development industry and slowly started growing Outgrow, who were the people that inspired you at that moment? Were you reading books, blogs and all that kind of stuff?

Randy:

Yeah. So, I had a few mentors, I would say, who I had known just randomly through I guess events who encouraged me to stay active, and to get out there and go to events and not just spend all your time in your apartment, and try to interact. So that was a very helpful advice to get, I think, because during that period of time I learned a lot about companies. But I also got mentors to guide me. I think there's a wide range of different mentors that I met just in person. People that your audience might know, I would say, there's a startup called Yodle. One of their co-founders was a very close mentor there, and so he was very helpful. His name is Kartik Hosanagar, and he was helpful. Especially, helping, just encouraging us in the early days. Obviously, I'm very close to my co-founder, and we both encourage each other a lot, and we push each other.

Randy:

And then Adam Grant was a professor of mine when I was in college. He was helpful. Especially, validating, kind of helping us, you know what, I'm going to help you with introductions to relevant people. And having these validations, I think, from people of a high caliber is helpful, especially for the early customers. Because the early customers were like, you don't have a big set of case studies. These are the early ones. And so, it's basically a personal thing. Your first customers are like, "I trust you as a person," because the traditional send me all the case studies, and all the examples, and all the metrics, and all the ROI, you don't have that. And so, I think that a personal connection is critical. I think those are all very important early types.

Jeroen:

Definitely. Who was your first customer for Outgrow?

Randy:

Our first customers were companies from our marketplace business. So those were a bit easier, I would add to be honest, because you already have a set of customers that trust you and you've worked with, so we bought them on. So, they're basically companies that had a telemedicine application, online payments for peer to peer, hospitality operations management. Things like these. They were from the marketplace. They basically have been using us to find software teams, and work on software teams. And then it's kind of easier to get them onto the Outgrow business, and then we built off of that.

Jeroen:

Okay. But was your very first customer that you were referring to earlier? Like the very early ones.

Randy:

In the marketplace business, the first few, so there was a guy who we met at an event, my co-founder and I, who was building a mobile dating application. We met him at an event. Another guy who was building, who had an idea for a nursing application, an application for nurses. We met through an introduction. So, another person we also met at an event, he was building an iPad application for people with a very specific disease that makes it hard to learn how to write. It's a syndrome called FOXG2 that his daughter had, and so he had been exposed to it and saw the difficulties in learning how to write, and how to teach someone who is carrying this specific disability. And so, he basically wanted to create an iPad app that auto corrects and adjusts for this type of disability. That's a very specific use case. But it was a really interesting experience to do that back at that time when the iPad literally had just launched.

Jeroen:

Yeah, I remember that as well. That was a big time. I was working in a marketing consultancy for the pharma industry. And all of a sudden, the whole scene was exploding. All the reps had to have iPads, and we had to deliver stuff for that. There was a huge new industry that started at that moment. That was super cool.

Randy:

Yeah. For sure.

Jeroen:

Yeah, it must have been cool to be in the middle of that. What is exactly your vision with Outgrow? Where do you want to take this? What kind of company do you want to make it?

Randy:

Yeah. That's kind of a deep, very deep question. And so, I think, where we sit in this is helping companies better acquire customers, and also build trust with customers. So it's not just about acquiring them. It's also about helping them I think, which is a really interesting strategy that more companies are going to continue to do. I think it's a unique ability to say, "You know what, before you pay us anything, we're going to build trust with you. We're going to help you in some way. We might teach you how you can improve your sales. We might teach you how you can improve your marketing. We might give you some information."

Randy:

I think this kind of experience of building trust with customers before they even pay you is critical in this type of world where customers have so many options. It's kind of overwhelming to see, "oh, what is the difference between Salesforce and versus X, Y, Z". I think that kind of challenge is a common question decision makers have, and the more you can do to build that trust I think is key. So, we tend to sit in that middle and where we want to take it is to continue to empower marketers to do more. To build more personalized flows that are educational, that are interesting. And that, obviously, helps the company better convert people from interest or visitor to buyer. So, those are the things we focus on. We're basically building the tool set to help the marketers improve these aspects.

Jeroen:

Do you see yourself leading this company for another two years, five years, 10 years, and where do you want to take it?

Randy:

Yeah. I think I really enjoy it. It's different. Every year is different. I think even every six months is different, but I enjoy moving and changing as the company evolves, as our customers evolve, as the team evolves. So it's not just the new people, but it's also the existing team members as they grow, and they want new challenges. There's just so many interesting things to learn, and it's a bit different from the early days or the very scrappy early days where we were just trying to think about how can I get this off the ground? Which is a challenge. It's a different problem, but I enjoy it.

Randy:

So, for me, I enjoy what I'm doing. And so, I do see myself continuing to operate and run it or for the foreseeable future. In terms of number of years, the exact number of years, I am not the type of person who says, "I'm going to do this for four years, and then after four years this is what's going to happen." Because there's so much uncertainty. There's so many variables and uncertainties that can develop over time, but for the foreseeable future, I do see myself continuing to operate.

Jeroen:

Yeah. What is it that you currently do at the company?

Randy:

Well, I focus on a few things. HR, recruiting is important. So, I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about that. Especially not just who we need now but who we will need in the next six months. We spend quite a bit of time recruiting. And then quite a bit of time on the product. What can we do to improve the product! The biggest challenge for us now is when you have customers across so many industries using the product, they have such different needs. The volume of feature requests that we get is insane.

Randy:

And so, it becomes very hard, and it's very overwhelming to say, "Okay, how do we best prioritize this?" And then the next challenge is, even though a lot of people love our product because it's so powerful, there is the challenge with the new customers who just come on. We also want to make it easy for them. So, the people who have been with us from the early days, they've seen the product grow and evolve. From their standpoint, it's like, "oh, everything makes sense" because they've seen the features add over time. But for a new person, how can we keep the product straightforward, right? So, we don't want people to come onto the tool and be like, "Oh, just because this is for math PhDs." But there are functionality or features where people who have PhDs will use us to create certain research, kind of like certain reports and certain things.

Randy:

So, we do have this added capability. But most marketers aren't math majors. And so, we need to make sure that it's very intuitive and easy for them when they're creating whatever they're creating. Even if it's just a chat bot. You want to make it easy for them while carrying this power. And this kind of balance is a challenge. So, really think about products from that standpoint, I think. I spend quite a bit of time on this as well.

Randy:

And then the third aspect that I spend time on differs by the week. The marketing team might have a podcast like this and say, "Hey, can you jump on this podcast?" So, it can be helping out marketing. I do attend quite a bit of events, and that obviously has been put on hold. But that would be something that I used to do. Well, I guess everyone in the world has stopped doing events, so that has gone down. So, yeah, that varies. And sometimes I get pulled in randomly. It'll be like, "Oh, there's a customer that I have a relationship with or that I might know." And so, I get pulled into a sales deal or a sales discussion.

Jeroen:

So, it's mainly the product and HR that you spend most of the time on.

Randy:

Those are the two things that are consistent. Yeah, those are consistent. And then there are the other ones. The other kind of 20% is variable.

Jeroen:

Yeah. What you said about the prioritization was interesting. That you have a lot of features, and a lot of different types of customers on your software and that you also, on the other hand, need to keep it simple. How does the system look like that you guys have built at Outgrow for prioritizing features and seeing how they will fit in? How much weight do you for instance, give to new customers versus existing customers, between different types of customers? And between different types of features? Like it could be small improvements, or it could be big features. How do you go about all these things?

Randy:

Yeah. This is the big question that we constantly try to think through. I think everyone has their own way of doing this. What we try to look at is, first we look at the volume of requests. So, per request, obviously, there's a large volume of different requests, but there's also repeated requests, right?

Jeroen:

Mm-hmm.

Randy:

So, we do have these types of requests where companies are like, "Oh, can I have five charts that appear at different times during the content piece?" So we get these types of requests. But then we also know that if you can have so many different charts that are loading throughout the content piece, how does that impact the loading speed? How does that impact the performance? If you have an ad unit that's sending someone to this content piece and you have all these charts, how does that impact it? Isn't it better just to have a few charts than to go overboard? So there's all these different challenges in terms of the flexibility you want to give someone. But also making it easy.

Randy:

I think what we try to do is first say, "Okay, is this something that a lot of customers have requested?" So that's the thing that everyone probably looks at. So we look at that. And then we say, if we were to implement this, how would this impact our trial experience, the new user experience? That's number one, and number two, how will this impact conversion rates and ads? And the organic traffic to this content piece.

Randy:

So there are things that some people want to do, like high def videos on each page. And for a content piece that's based on, if you're doing it for ads, then that's not a good idea because these heavy videos aren't going to load as well, especially on mobile ads. And so, you probably don't want to do that. But if you're doing it on your blog, and it's an organic traffic coming in, and you've already built up certain trust with them, then those videos can make sense. And so, from our standpoint it's like do we want to limit them or do we not want to limit them? And do those make sense with our core focus on digital marketers, and content marketers?

Randy:

Those are our two main users. Obviously, as you probably know, you have people who use your product in ways you didn't anticipate. And so, we do have people who come in and they have a full e-commerce product or condition engine with our tool, but then they also have a wide range of other flows that they were able to build with our software. So they might come with certain requests around that we've seen. We then have to make a decision. Do we have enough e-commerce companies with these specific requests around how to handle abandoned carts? Do we get enough of that for us to say, "We're going to do this."

Randy:

And so, we really have to think about those three things as like, do we get a lot of those requests? How will it impact the speed and the reliability of the software and its ease of use? Then the third is, does it align with the core sets of things that we are built for? And so, those are the top three things, and there will be certain times where we say, "You know what, we didn't originally anticipate this use case, but it's a really cool use case, and we think it's the right thing for us to add." And then we'll do that.

Jeroen:

How do these three factors combine into one? Is it that you first look at the volume and then decide about the other two?

Randy:

Yeah.

Jeroen:

And how do they combine into one number, or is it like a few things you look at together? I mean, it's difficult to rank if you cannot bring it back to one number, right?

Randy:

Right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So, it definitely starts with that, with the number of customer requests. If you have a lot of customers saying, they want to be able to do something – for example, our first version of our product, we didn't have payments. We made a lot of customers because we said our use case was that you want to build trust with someone before you charge them. And so, we didn't have payments. And then very early on people are like, "No, no, no, we want to do payments." And so then we added payment. They basically came with very good use cases for payments. And then people were like, "Oh, we don't want just charges, we want billing".

Randy:

We want to be able to put someone on a subscription. So then we added that option. We kind of integrate with some billing companies and payment companies. And then people said, "After someone reaches the results page, we want to show them a result, but we want to show them a PDF." So they get the results page for free. If they want to get a detailed PDF report, they pay. Okay, so this was something we were like, "Oh, like a full PDF report. Are we going to build a full PDF report builder?" And so, we held off on this because we were like, "Oh, we don't have that many of those requests."

Randy:

And then as we got more and more of the PDF requests, then we thought, "Okay, we're starting to see why people want to do that." They want to build the trust, you see the results page, if you like the overview results, and you want to see a deeper dive into how you can improve your SEO or your company's software security or whatever then you charge for the PDF. It kind of made sense, so we added that. And then over time people are like, "Oh, can we add all these things to the PDF?" And then we were like, "Okay, wait, wait, wait." There's a balance of how much functionality we're going to add to each thing based on what's the time we're in, and then how complicated it's going to be.

Randy:

So, it's definitely first the volume of requests. And then timing, like is this the right time for us because we already have other things we're working on. That's why we delayed our PDF option. And then over time, we added in. Our PDF feature now is pretty good. But I'm sure a company that only focuses on PDF, their whole thing is going to be better than us, now at least. So, there are certain things we have to make decisions on. It's like, "Okay, well, these are things we're going to integrate with. And these are things we're going to build." And another aspect of the decision that we make is, "This is a really cool use case. We're seeing it a lot, but it doesn't make sense for us to rebuild it from scratch. So, let's plug in or let's integrate with tools that have this".

Jeroen:

Do you have any set out decision processes around this or you're just looking at all these things ad hoc?

Randy:

In terms of like the formula to come up with the prioritization?

Jeroen:

Do you have a formula or a way of deciding? I mean, I understand all the factors that go into the equation. But if you have such a massive volume of feature requests, you must have somehow, or not maybe, built out a system for this?

Randy:

We have a system for the ranking based on volume. We have a natural sorting based on volume. So, the volume of requests, of a specific feature. So like, feature X has been requested 12 times. So, once we have that, and then we have that sorted, that next part of choosing from the ones that have the most options is more of a discussion based on a certain set of variables. That's a discussion within the product team. There's numbers on that part, then the next part is more discussion on a certain set of criteria that I mentioned. So, it is not formulated after that point.

Jeroen:

Got it. It sounds like you enjoy the product side of the company a lot. Is that the main skill you bring or is that what gives you energy?

Randy:

That does give me a lot of energy. I do enjoy thinking through cool use cases and applications. That also brings me a lot of joy. Like just sometimes, I think the number one thing that brings me joy is seeing a company use the product in ways we didn't anticipate, and having really, really cool use cases. So, I think that's really cool. There's companies that have pretty complex flows that they build out with our tool and they do things in ways we didn't realize you can. But then they run some custom script and some custom code here and there, and then they have this flow that's really cool.

Randy:

For example, like a dog subscription. There's actually a lot of complexity around how many dogs and how many cats you have, and what types of foods you should get them based on their allergies. There are just so many variables that we don't have a lot of experience on, in the dog food market. But then you see customers come in, and they have this crazy flow that they were able to build out with our product. That I really enjoy. I just really enjoy seeing what they come out with, and then sometimes we look at that. That's another thing that we say, "Oh, this is a really cool use case." But because our product isn't built for it, they have to do a lot of work to get that to work. And so, then we can make a decision and say, "Okay, well, if other people also want this, how can we make that easier?" So that would be something they didn't ask for, but then we see and we say, "You know what, let's maybe make this easier."

Randy:

Things like people coming into the flow, and then they want to integrate. Like someone comes through the flow, and then they want to schedule a call. And then they have this call software that the company uses. Then the company, obviously, has a CRM. So, they're like, "Okay, well, we want to run this process for our lead routing. We want to run this process for our call scheduling. We want to run this process for this, and we want everything to happen natively". And so, how can we make that a smooth flow so that if your key thing isn't just acquiring the lead, but it's scheduling a call or adding someone, assigning someone to the right lead, those are all the things that will kind of make really easy to do without requiring a lot of work to our integration.

Jeroen:

Yeah, cool. Well, apart from building the product at Outgrow and doing HR and stuff you mentioned, that you like to do? What do you do when you're not working? What gives you energy outside of work?

Randy:

I like to play sports. Mainly basketball and tennis. I like to walk, go on hikes, and then I do a lot of dance. So, like hip hop.

Jeroen:

So, it's a lot of physical stuff outside of work.

Randy:

Yeah. So, my way to kind of have some balance because I spend a lot of time sitting on my computer as I'm sure you probably do so too. Or most people in tech do. We spend more time in front of the computer than I guess we were supposed to based on evolution. At least for me, I have to find ways to push myself to be active and not just sit in front of a computer the whole day.

Jeroen:

Do you live alone or you have a wife and kids or a girlfriend?

Randy:

I have a two bedroom and I live with my brother.

Jeroen:

You live with your brother, cool.

Randy:

Yeah, so it is pretty cool. I don't have a wife and kids.

Jeroen:

No.

Randy:

Not yet. I don't have a wife and kids.

Jeroen:

Or you're not going to get them?

Randy:

Well, I mean, I think as I said, it's all about finding the right person, and both being at the right stage at that time. So those are the most important things. And the startup world does suck a lot of time out of you, but for the right person you have to dedicate time for it. So, I think, especially as the company, the early days, I think it's hard to start a relationship and be successful at it. But I think after the first few years, once your head is a bit above the water, I think it's doable. You just need to find the right person.

Jeroen:

For sure. You're based in San Francisco right now?

Randy:

Yes. San Francisco, yeah.

Jeroen:

As I understand it, you are in San Francisco, but a big part of the company is also in Delhi in India, right?

Randy:

Yeah, exactly. We are a pretty international team. So, obviously we have a strong US presence. We have India presence and then we have a European presence as well.

Jeroen:

Where are you based in Europe?

Randy:

Europe, Prague and Berlin.

Jeroen:

Prague and Berlin, okay.

Randy:

Yeah.

Jeroen:

That's developers or the product team?

Randy:

We have some sales, customer success and then creative marketing.

Jeroen:

Okay. Cool. And the San Francisco, Delhi connection. If I've seen it well, it's because your co-founder and you both studied together in Pennsylvania.

Randy:

Good job. You got it. That's a good pick up, yeah.

Jeroen:

Yeah. He is now back in Delhi. I guess you have a big part of the development team there. You yourself moved from the East Coast back to the West Coast.

Randy:

Correct. Yeah. We were on the East Coast for quite a bit. Philly mainly and then New York for a while and then moved out west. Both great coasts. One's a bit warmer than the other, but they're both very good coasts.

Jeroen:

Yeah.

Randy:

So, I don't hate on the East Coast or the West Coast. I had a really good experience on both sides.

Jeroen:

Cool.

Randy:

Yeah, yeah.

Jeroen:

Slowly wrapping up. Going to some learnings. What's the latest good book you've read, and why did you choose to read it or you don't read books because that's possible as well?

Randy:

I do. For business or personal?

Jeroen:

Both is fine.

Randy:

Okay. I would say for business. I do like a lot of the core foundational stuff that lasts throughout time. So, a lot of the Peter Drucker stuff, Managing Oneself. I'm a big fan of his concepts, I think because they stand the test of time. Those management principles and business principles. On the personal side, well, I guess it depends on what people are going through, but for me a lot of the things I like to read about or learn about, are ways to stay healthy and stay active.

Randy:

So, I'll read things like Arianna Huffington, who has a book that is about her experience going through overworking herself. I think the book is called Thrive, I believe. It's pretty good for people who work hard, which is a lot of the people in the tech industry, and many other industries as well. So, she's into publishing, and so I think it's good. It's a good lens into the importance of balance and the importance of making sure that it doesn't need to be that you're sleeping four hours a day. It doesn't need to be that all you do is work. You can still do well while sleeping and while enjoying your time at the same time. I think it's a good balance for a lot of, I guess, across all industries, but I feel especially across entrepreneurs who I think overdo things, including myself sometimes. Spend too much time working.

Jeroen:

What's the main thing you changed after you read the book?

Randy:

I try meditating, and I do quite a bit of stretching as well, especially in the mornings. I used to say, "Oh, I'll just do a three minute meditation in the morning." That's what I used to do. I was like three minutes because then I can't say no to a three minute meditation. I made it just so simple to start with. The reason I did that was because the first 20 minute meditations I was like, "Oh, 20 minutes. That's such a big part of the morning, and I don't think that's a good way to start." I ended up not continuing to do it. So, then I started three minutes. After the book, I was like, "You know what, let me try doing 10 minutes." And so, I think I did three minutes for long enough that I stuck with 10 minutes. So I started 10 minutes in the morning.

Randy:

And then the other thing I try to do is I try to be a bit more aware of my emotional state. And so, I think that awareness is sometimes hard to say, "Okay, what is my body doing right now? Why is my body reacting in a certain way?" And I try to be more cognizant of that. So, that's another thing, and then I make sure I'm stretching and keeping myself active because that also is good for my mental health.

Jeroen:

What is your area of stretch? Your neck muscles or the whole body?

Randy:

I like stretching my whole body. I like the hips. I like to do hip flexors. And then upper back, and then neck.

Jeroen:

Got it.

Randy:

It's common stuff that you do in yoga.

Jeroen:

Yeah. I also started stretching three years ago or something. I don't remember.

Randy:

Oh, great.

Jeroen:

Yeah, it was because everything was stuck. My whole neck and back. I had to go to the physiotherapist, do a lot of sessions, and they taught me how to stretch to keep it away, and I'm still doing it just about every morning.

Randy:

That's great.

Jeroen:

Especially when it starts tensing up. It keeps all the headaches away as well.

Randy:

Yeah, yeah.

Jeroen:

You start getting a tension headache from it.

Randy:

Yeah. For me there's so many knots that can come up like just kind of in the upper back, in the neck, which I try to optimize my seat as well. How I sit and how I work. But then, we spend so much time in that one position, which it's kind of crazy to think how many hours we probably spend on the chair that you work on. So, yeah, I think stretching is really anything that makes you feel better, I think people should try it. And I think for me it was starting with something that's achievable. Starting with three minutes is achievable. So, maybe start doing a one minute or three minute meditation, one minute stretching. That I think people can say, four minutes, I think anyone can do that. Once you start there, then it gives you something to start on.

Randy:

I think the cool thing now is that most people who are working from home have that commute time that they've saved driving back and forth from work. And they should just assume that they still have that commute time, but instead of commuting and driving, they should spend it experimenting. It doesn't have to be these things that we're doing. They can do other things that work for them, that make them happy, that they enjoy. But I think that's a good way for people to start. Just to try. To say, "okay, I'm going to try doing something". It's like I have 10 minutes, then I'm going to try doing something. Maybe say, get five minutes bonus sleep and then five minutes trying something.

Jeroen:

Yeah. I like the idea of doing three minutes of something. I think I also read about it in the book Atomic Habits.

Randy:

Oh, yes, yes. That's a good book as well.

Jeroen:

Yeah, by doing just a few minutes, and then once you get going you can start doing more. I think Headspace recommends you to do 10 minutes of meditation. Of course, 20 minutes is more. If you can do 10 minutes, that's something you can easily keep up with.

Randy:

Yeah. Success in meditation doesn't mean your mind never gets distracted. Success in meditation means you notice your mind getting distracted. Your mind will get distracted, but your ability to notice it and bring it back. Sometimes it takes you a while to notice it. Sometimes it doesn't. So, I think the main thing is going into meditation not thinking like, "Oh, I have to achieve success, and success means they never get distracted."

Randy:

And so, 10 minutes of meditation, it is very hard never to get distracted, especially at the beginning. I think that it's not about, "Oh, I have to be successful. I have to be successful at meditation." And then just the thought of I have to be successful at meditation makes you fail, or makes you get distracted. And I don't like the concept of success or failure in meditation. So, I think that's something that a lot of people do. A lot of the people I've spoken to, that's the reason it doesn't stick. They don't stick with it. And I think, I don't know, I recommend trying to stick with it by starting three minutes, and then build yourself up hopefully to 10. But start at three for a while before you move on.

Jeroen:

Yeah, that's good advice. Talking about good advice, last question, if you were to start over with Outgrow what would you do differently?

Randy:

If I was to start over with Outgrow, what would I do differently? Well, there's a lot of things that technically I think we could have done. Knowing where the product was going to be today, I think we could have done a lot of things technically to make it easier for us to go on that flow. But I think that's something every single software company would say.

Randy:

What else would I do differently? I would say, there are a lot of things especially in the first company that we learned. Because you learn things from each stage. The key things are going to be obviously the hiring. The hiring mistakes are very costly early on. And so, everyone, I think, I don't know, a lot of people make this mistake, but should think about having a process to interview people. Not just focusing only on intelligence. And so, it's not just about that. Intelligence is only one piece.

Randy:

So, I think about doing that more early on. Proper recruiting processes, proper reference checks. I think the early days because we didn't have those. Especially the first company, we had no hiring experience. So, it was just like, do we like the person? “Do you like the person” is very different from a good fit. There's liking, there's intelligence, and there's a third component, which is discipline and dedication. And so, you can like someone. They can be intelligent, but if they don't have discipline and dedication for the specific thing you're doing, it won't work. They might be disciplined and dedicated to basketball, or to something else, but not to what you're doing.

Randy:

And if they don't have that, that passion or the drive or that discipline for what you're doing then it's not going to work. So, I think that third component, I don't know if we didn't appreciate it. We didn't include it then. We just thought, "Wow, this person is smart, and they're fun, and we enjoy grabbing a beer or just hanging out or whatever." That's not sufficient. So, I think going back, starting from the beginning having that third component as part of the recruiting process would be amazing because then you save a lot of time and energy and you improve a lot of your recruitment process. But I would say there's probably so many things I would do differently, but that's just one thing that comes to mind.

Jeroen:

Yeah. I can totally imagine. Hiring mistakes are some of the worst you can make. Especially early on when you're just a small team. But also later on, I guess.

Randy:

Yeah, yeah. Especially later on, any senior hire is important. No matter when, no matter what time the company is in, and then the first hires are just super critical. The first hire might go on to help bring in a few more people. And then that whole function or department that's under that person ends up having a trait. That becomes part of the DNA of that whole function. So, you want to make sure, it's kind of like the nine month phase during pregnancy. That's a very formative phase. It's very sensitive. I don't know if that's a great analogy, but I do think it's a sensitive time period.

Jeroen:

I understand.

Randy:

Maybe it isn't a good analogy. But it is sensitive for you. You want to make sure you take care of it, and you're delicate, and you help get it to a phase where the company can be successful.

Jeroen:

So, it's not just in selection. It's also in onboarding employees in the right way.

Randy:

Oh, yeah. There's so many things.

Jeroen:

Cool. Thank you. Thank you again for being on Founder Coffee, Randy. It was really great to have you.

Randy:

Thank you. This was one of the most detailed and enjoyable podcasts I've been on. I really like the types of questions you asked.


Enjoyed it? Read Founder Coffee interviews with other founders.

get Salesflare

We hope you liked this episode. If you did, review us on iTunes!

👉 You can follow @salesflare on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Latest posts by Jeroen Corthout (see all)