Patrick Campbell di ProfitWell

Episodio 009 del Caffè del Fondatore

Sono Jeroen di Salesflare e questo è il Caffè Fondatore.

Ogni due settimane prendo un caffè con un fondatore diverso. Discutiamo della vita, delle passioni, degli apprendimenti, ... in una chiacchierata intima, conoscendo la persona che sta dietro l'azienda.

Per questo nono episodio, ho fatto una chiacchierata con Patrick Campbell, cofondatore di ProfitWell, l'azienda che vi aiuta ad analizzare e incrementare i ricavi da abbonamento.

Prima di fondare ProfitWell, Patrick ha avuto una carriera molto varia. √ą stato un maestro del caff√® presso Starbucks, uno stratega di Google e un analista di intelligence per il Dipartimento della Difesa degli Stati Uniti.

We chat about his animal cracker hustle, US politics, optionality and about solving the world’s problems.

Benvenuti al Caffè del Fondatore.

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Jeroen: Hi, Patrick. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Patrick: Yeah, it’s great to be here.

Jeroen: You’re the Founder of ProfitWell, which used to be Price Intelligently if I’m not mistaken. What made you make that switch?

Patrick: Great question. We still have the Price Intelligently product and still have that brand, but we started releasing other products in the subscription space too. So ProfitWell’s a little bit more all inclusive versus just Price Intelligently, which sounds like something for ‘pricing’ only.

La risposta breve al motivo per cui abbiamo fatto il cambio è che, fondamentalmente, ora abbiamo diversi prodotti per aiutare le aziende di abbonamento.

Jeroen: Okay. So for those who don’t know, what does ProfitWell do in short?

Patrick: In breve, aiutiamo le aziende che producono abbonamenti a crescere e lo facciamo fornendo gratuitamente le metriche finanziarie degli abbonamenti. Si inserisce direttamente nel vostro sistema di fatturazione e vi fornisce gratuitamente tutti i vostri MRR e churn e tutto il resto. Poi vi aiutiamo a trovare i problemi della vostra attività e per alcuni di questi problemi vendiamo prodotti per aiutarvi. Per altri, invece, abbiamo un sacco di ottime risorse per aiutarvi a risolverli.

Jeroen: So you plug into things like Stripe and Green Tree, and tell us things like which of our credit cards are going to fail somehow? But there’s more than one product, right? Like one which is similar to marketing automation. Not sure how you put it!

Patrick: Yeah, so it’s a customer success product that basically helps reduce your churn algorithmically. There’s a lot of different reasons that a product churns. You know, everything from credit card scaling to you know, some people just not wanting your product. So we started it off with just attacking credit card delinquencies and then from there we’ve been basically been going after churn as well.

What’s cool about it, is that you just turn it on and it does the work for you. You don’t really have to do anything. We’re using all of our data to basically crank from there.

Jeroen: Ora avete anche uno script front-end che tiene traccia dei clic e del resto?

Patrick: Cosa intendi per script front-end?

Jeroen: Per esempio, qualcosa che potremmo inserire in Salesflare e poi essere in grado di vedere chi probabilmente convertirà, in base ai suoi clic, o chi invece abbandonerà.

Patrick: So we are coming out with engagement data for free right now. That will help you basically determine who’s gonna churn and some other pieces. We’re gonna be attacking top of the funnel data soon. Our whole vision is just to kind of go a little bit deeper and offer complete end to end analytics for free.

Basically from the top of the funnel, all the way through to your engagement data, we want to allow you to see everything connected in a nice, comfortable and kind of turn key manner — all focused on subscriptions.

Jeroen: Capisco. Come è entrato in questo settore? Aveva già un'attività di vendita?

Patrick: Non proprio. Ho lavorato in una grande azienda tecnologica. Ho lavorato con la comunità dei servizi segreti a Washington DC, qui negli Stati Uniti, e poi ho lavorato a Google, a Boston.

Yeah, it was one of those things of course. I did work at another startup between Google and Price Intelligently, but they weren’t a SaaS company. I was working on a kind of Econ modeling and pricing. Then what ended up happening is, you know, just obviously the customer as well as the data just kind of started guiding me in this direction.

Jeroen: Quindi questa è la sua seconda start-up?

Patrick: Well, this is the first company that’s mine.

Jeroen: Oh, ok.

Patrick: So yeah, this is the second start up I’ve worked at. The previous one was a very traditional kind of venture backed company, you know. We raised 30–40 million dollars. I was there when we were about 60 people up until we were about 100 people.

Jeroen: Forte.

Patrick: Sì, un tipo di atmosfera diversa.

Jeroen: Ha lasciato Google per questa azienda?

Patrick: When I was at Google, I was cranking out some really cool stuff and made them a ton of money and it was one of those things where it didn’t make sense to work my ass off and not get some of that money. It was one of those things where it was also kind of, I mean, it wasn’t all about the money.

C'√® stato un progetto a cui ho lavorato, sapete. √ą andato molto bene e, per motivi di priorit√†, hanno preso la decisione giusta, ma per motivi di priorit√† hanno deciso di chiudere il progetto.

To me it was like, if I’m going to work my butt off for this type of work, I can do it on my own. Naively or very intelligently, I don’t think I was making a conscious choice as much as I would want to believe at the time. But I knew I had never started a company. I did some little things when I was a kid.

I ended up going and working for another company, which is great, because I think if I would have started a company right outside of Google it may have been a success, but probably wouldn’t have been because I just didn’t know enough.

Jeroen: Ha detto di aver fatto alcune cose da bambino. Dove sei cresciuto e che tipo di cose facevi?

Patrick: Sì, sono cresciuto nel Wisconsin, che è il re degli Stati Uniti centrali e il nord di Chicago. Sono cresciuto in una bella comunità di agricoltori, ma ho fatto un sacco di piccole cose che si possono fare, come il chiosco delle limonate, la consegna dei giornali, ecc.

I had a little recycling business, where I would go and tell people, “Oh, I’ll take recycling off your hands.” Then I would get the money for the recycling. I mean, I think that was the first experience I had.

I miei genitori erano operai. Lavoravano tutti i giorni, facevano orari lunghi e mia madre viaggiava molto. Fin da piccola ho dovuto prepararmi il pranzo per la scuola e fare un sacco di altre cose. Ricordo che era un po' per pigrizia, ma anche, credo, per spirito imprenditoriale. Prendevo un sacchetto gigante di cracker animali e poi li scambiavo con altri bambini per diverse cose nei loro pranzi.

Mi creavo il mio pranzo senza doverlo preparare. √ą stata la mia prima incursione nell'imprenditoria, credo, quando ero in una classe bassa, dalla terza alla quinta elementare.

Jeroen: Quanti anni avevi allora?

Patrick: Gosh, I don’t know. I think I started going here in fifth or sixth. So I had definitely had to be under 10. Say, five to eight years old maybe.

Jeroen: A quell'età ti creavi già il tuo pranzo con il trading?

Ci stavo provando. Alcuni giorni nessuno voleva scambiare. Nessuno voleva i cracker animali, quindi era una di quelle cose in cui, sai, dovevi mangiare i cracker animali per quel giorno.

Jeroen: Erano cracker animali gustosi?

Patrick: Yeah, I don’t know. I was obsessed with animal crackers when I was a kid. I don’t know why. There’s this place called Sam’s Club in the States. I think it’s in Europe as well, but they would just sell these giant bags of animal crackers, just like enormous bags because they were bulk and my parents, we bought in bulk to save money and it was one of those things where it was like, “Oh, that’s a lot of supply that I can go after demand with.”

Jeroen: Ci sono cose che hai fatto anche dopo? Prima di andare all'università o di iniziare a lavorare?

Patrick: I’ve worked since a really young age. In the States, I believe when I was growing up you couldn’t officially work. Like you couldn’t be on the payroll until you were, I think, 14. I remember that really bothered me because I wanted a job.

Little did I know, but it was one of those things where I wanted capital because I lived in the rural world and it was one of those things where, you know, you had a paper route and that was okay, but that wasn’t a lot of money.

You didn’t have a lot to invest in trying to build something and so, I ended up working at 14 in a restaurant and then in college, I did a lot of different stuff in order to make cash. It’s funny, but it wasn’t my own venture where I had one of the most transformative work experiences. I actually worked at Starbucks for about five years.

Jeroen: Oh, sì?

Patrick: Yeah, this was back in the last couple years of high school and the first couple years of college. It’s kind of like a retail or kind of a food job, but what was really fascinating about it, is the number of people that I got speaking to. You know, especially when they were aggravated because they didn’t have their coffee yet. That was something where I learned, and also, it was just a great company to work for in the States here.

I just learned so much about customer service and so much about what makes a customer happy and what doesn’t. That was just an amazing experience for my kind of trajectory into being an entrepreneur and a CEO.

Jeroen: Sì. Se hai lavorato lì per cinque anni, sei cresciuto nei ranghi di Starbucks?

Patrick: Not really. I mean, I was a coffee master, which is not an easily received honor. You have to do a bunch of courses and stuff like that to learn about coffee, but I was mainly just like a front line person. This is what was kinda cool about Starbucks. They give a lot of opportunities to people who aren’t going to school and need a full time job, but one that pays well. They normally favor people whose aim in life is to try and become a Starbucks manager or try to be a retail manager of some sort.

The supervisors and the managers, at least when I was there, they were people who were kind of trying to rise through the ranks of the Starbucks hierarchy. It was one of those things that kind of aggravated me, because I was like, “Oh, I can do this. I can do this.”

A posteriori, √® stato davvero un bene non salire di grado, perch√© mi ha dato abbastanza flessibilit√† per concentrarmi su ci√≤ che era importante, cio√® imparare il pi√Ļ possibile.

Jeroen: Qual era esattamente la sua ambizione quando faceva tutti questi lavori?

Patrick: I think when I first went to school, or when I was in high school, I wanted to be a surgeon. I wanted to be a doctor. It’s kind of the traditional, you know. You come from a poor family, they want you to be a doctor or something that’s very safe, secure, and makes a good amount of money.

I think that I quickly learned, particularly in high school, that I didn’t want to be just another doctor. I wanted to specifically be a cardiovascular surgeon but then things changed.

Jeroen: Oh.

Patrick: I know it’s funny, now that I’m thinking about it. I remember actually, in kindergarten and in the first grade when you write down what you want to be, I don’t know why, but I latched on to cardiovascular surgeon.

Era l'unica cosa con cui volevo lavorare, i cuori. Quando andai al liceo, feci questo tirocinio in cui vai a trovare un medico, un paio di medici, e impari da loro come un ragazzo che vuole diventare medico. In pratica facevano un cateterismo in cui entravano nel cuore attraverso la gamba e spruzzavano del colorante o rimuovevano la placca e così via.

I remember looking at the screen. I wasn’t actually looking at the heart or anything, but I was looking at basically a video heart and I was like, “Ugh.” I got lightheaded. I was like, “Oh, I can’t …”

I found that out and I immediately had saved myself a ton of time and money because I was like, “Ugh, this is not gonna work out.” Then in college, I wanted to be a lawyer because I went to school on a debate scholarship. It was one of those things where I was participating in debates for about 40 hours a week the whole of four years to basically earn my scholarship. I thought I wanted to do that as I got closer and closer to the government, and the law. Then when I went and worked for the government, it’s one of those things where I was just like, “Ugh, I don’t like dealing with bureaucracy.” I finally realized that like bureaucracy is literally the worst thing I ever want to deal with.

That’s what kind of started getting me closer and closer to tech. So yeah, I didn’t grow up being, “Oh, I want to go into business.” I think I was pretty entrepreneurial just because I needed to be, but it was one of those things in college. It wasn’t like, “Hey, I’m taking a bunch of business classes.” I was an Econ and a Math guy, which obviously helps with business, but it was one of those things where it wasn’t like I grew up looking up to Steve Jobs or anything like that.

Jeroen: Ha studiato legge o economia?

Patrick: Ho studiato economia.

Jeroen: Economia, ok.

Patrick: Yeah, there are some programs that are pre-law. But in the States, it’s mainly your undergrad where you don’t need to take any courses in college to go to law school, or those type of courses. They look at your transcripts and then they look at your score on the LSAT, which is an entry level exam. So yeah, I studied Economics and Math with some Political Science and some Rhetoric mixed in there as well.

Jeroen: You wanted to be a surgeon. You tried law, but didn’t like it. You studied Economics and then eventually ended up in more Engineering stuff?

Patrick: More Math than anything, yeah. I would never consider myself an Engineer. It was one of those things. I think now if I went back I’d be like, “Oh, why didn’t I study Engineering?” At the time it was one of those things where I was like, “Oh, I don’t even know what those guys do.” It was when I was very naïve about it.

Jeroen: Voglio dire, sei finito nel settore tecnologico, quindi sei finito in una sorta di spazio di ingegneria, credo.

Patrick: Yeah, totally. When I worked in the intel community and at Google, I was never an Engineer but I learned how to use Python and a bunch of other scripting in order to deal with data sets. When I was in school, I obviously learned some of the things like SPSS and some of those other tools too. The way I describe it is like, you know, I’m data technical. I’m never gonna be a full stack Engineer, at least as of right now. It’s one of those things where I’m pretty nimble with scripts when it comes to data manipulation.

Jeroen: Yeah. Is there anything you learned in the intelligence community that you’re still using?

Patrick: I can’t share that. No, I’m just kidding.

There is plenty I can’t share, but no, I think what’s really funny is that we spoke of kind of transformative experiences in Starbucks, you know?

Che sembri bello o meno, è stato piuttosto trasformativo. Penso che anche lavorare per la comunità di intelligence sia stato altrettanto trasformativo, perché essere una persona intelligente e lavorare con i dati e cose del genere durante la carriera universitaria è fantastico. Ma è stato un lavoro in cui, in pratica, nel giro di tre mesi ho imparato una quantità pazzesca di logica, di ricerca, di schemi, di ricerca di obiettivi e di riflessione su un problema specifico.

I would say that the experience is number one in terms of making me an effective operator because it’s very unemotional in a good way. Meaning you try to stay as dispassionate about what is going on or the problem that you’re facing. Then from there, really focusing on understanding the causes and things like that of what a problem is, or trying to figure out a problem.

Credo che questo mi abbia aiutato molto. Credo che la cosa pi√Ļ bella sia stata quella di mettere in pratica ci√≤ che avevo imparato fino a quel momento. Perch√© in economia si impara anche questo, e la retorica, che avevo studiato, e il dibattito abbiamo imparato le stesse cose quando si tratta di argomentazione. All'improvviso, ho avuto l'ultimo pezzo del puzzle che mi ha insegnato a pensare, il che √® stato davvero efficace per me.

Jeroen: Pensa di utilizzare ciò che ha imparato, ora, in ProfitWell?

Patrick: Yeah, I mean I use it every day. I think it’s one of those things where just yesterday we were trying to solve a problem and we had one customer come in and say something. The whole team was like, “Oh, we have to change …” Not the whole team, but the whole sub-team, I should say, was like, “Oh, we should change this, we should change this.”

I said, “Okay, let’s hold on a second. This is definitely something that might need to change, but let’s think through the problem. Let’s look for the causes of the problem. Let’s validate or invalidate.” It just helps with that basic thinking through of something that’s coming up rather than, like I said, kind of going crazy with it.

Jeroen: Quali sono le sue ambizioni con ProfitWell?

Patrick: In what sense? All senses or is there something specific you’d want to know?

Jeroen: In tutti i sensi. Ad esempio, dove lo vedi andare?

Patrick: That’s a great question.

I think for me, I’m very fascinated by problems. Admittedly, when I first started Price Intelligently, which is now ProfitWell, I was on this like, “Hey, I want to make a million dollars. I want to make a bunch of money.”

I think what I quickly learned is, if it’s all about the money, there are much more effective ways to make money than by building a freemium SaaS business. I think that’s what I really learned by starting to build this. I’m very fascinated by solving problems and then going after bigger problems.

It doesn’t mean I need to go cure cancer, or it doesn’t need to mean that I need to go do those types of things. It’s just that I needed to latch on to a problem and really go after it. For me, in particular with ProfitWell, I think there’s a fundamental failure in how we think about a subscription business’s growth. I think that we as a community, talk about this and basically get romantic about certain ways to grow and certain ways not to grow.

Il modo in cui mi piace pensarla è che con ProfitWell voglio trovare la teoria unificata della crescita degli abbonamenti. Ciò significa che abbiamo bisogno di approfondimenti dall'inizio dell'imbuto fino ai dati di coinvolgimento, e sulla base di questi dati e di quelli relativi a un'ampia fascia o a un'ampia percentuale dello spazio degli abbonamenti, posso iniziare a prendere queste conoscenze e a creare prodotti davvero validi per aiutare le persone a crescere meglio.

A lot of the tools that we use are what I like to call the workflow, or framework tools, where the onus is on you as an operator, to go figure out and become a master at customer success, at PPC, at all of these different pieces. I just don’t think that’s a good idea and I don’t think that’s effective because I think that you should be a master at your customer and at your product side.

That’s the thing that you do best or should do best in your business. All the other stuff you should either outsource to people who know what they’re doing, or you should use smart tools, and unfortunately just smart tools don’t exist quite yet.

That’s what it really comes down to. I think there is a unified theory of subscription growth and we’re on a mission to find it.

Jeroen: Quindi, in sostanza, volete creare prodotti in abbonamento molto forti, oppure volete aiutare i prodotti in abbonamento e, allo stesso tempo, aiutare queste aziende a costruire relazioni pi√Ļ forti con i clienti.

Patrick: Yeah. This goes a little bit deeper, but I think frankly, we want to also do this in a way where it’s completely anti-active usage. What I mean by that is I think that I don’t want to help you have a stronger relationship with your customer in the sense of creating a better help desk, right?

Let’s talk about Retain for a second. With Retain right now, I can go, “Listen, you have this problem. I can see it in your numbers, or you can see it yourself in your numbers. It’s a really big and important problem, and it’s mechanical.” We’re really good at solving that mechanical problem. You can just turn it on and we automatically reduce that problem and take it away.

That’s the type of product that we like building. Overall, that type of product is something where we have a over indexed amount of expertise compared to our customers and it allows us to be the best in the world at it, and allows you to not have to worry about it because we got your back essentially.

That’s kind of how I like to think about the product and I think that’s where a lot of SaaS products should and are going. Either it’s really in your work flow or it’s just removing a problem completely from you.

Jeroen: Totally agree. We’re actually trying to do both. We’re trying to be with Salesflare in the workflow, and we’re trying to go more and more into a space where we use data to help people as well and remove a problem. But I can see that you’re totally in that outer space taking the problem away and you just turn on ProfitWell, we pay ProfitWell, and things just go away, right?

Patrick: Sì, esattamente.

Jeroen: I problemi si dissolvono.

Patrick: Yeah. Even about workflow products like you’re creating with Salesflare. But right now what’s really cool about what you guys are doing, is talking to customers. I can’t do that for you right now. Maybe one day, right? That’s what you’re saying to your customer.

“Maybe one day we’re gonna do the actual sales for you in a very cool way,” but probably not because relationships are something that are so important, “but I can take away all of these little bits that you shouldn’t worry about. The data. All of this little stuff that takes time and money that you shouldn’t have to worry about and you can be better at customer relations, which is great.”

Jeroen: Sì, sono assolutamente d'accordo. Avete intenzione di raccogliere fondi per ProfitWell?

Patrick: I think right now, we are not planning on raising cash. We’re about 45 people so we’re kind of okay running without that kind of money. As I like to say, money is not the limiting step, or the limiting factor right now in our business. It’s one of those things where we have plenty of problems. Don’t get me wrong, but we’re also not too inclined towards it like some of the bootstrappers who are very ‘chip on the shoulder’ kinds about funding. They’re very much like, “Oh, we’re never going to do that. We’re never going to do this.”

We’re not like that at all. I think money’s a tool, right? It’s just like a CRM, or it’s just like other things where it helps you do your job better depending on what you’re trying to do. So I think the circumstances through which we’ll raise money are if we have a direct need in terms of understanding our unit economics so good that we just need to throw money on the top of the funnel, or if we just all of a sudden have some crazy competition.

We have some pretty good competition but it’s one of those things where it’s not an unreasonable competition.

Jeroen: You don’t need the money right now so you can just stay self-funded and make your own decisions.

Patrick: Yeah, and it gives us a lot of optionality. I mean, I’m a big fan of optionality. I think that’s something I picked up on when I was working in the intelligence community where having optionality is something that’s super important.

Jeroen: That’s funny, I actually had a talk with Louis, one of the previous talks and he also talked about the concept of optionality where he always likes to build scenarios that keep different options open and never really commits to one scenario that needs to happen. Right?

Patrick: Yeah, I think that can be dangerous, right? You have to be really careful about what option you choose because you can protect optionality to the point where you basically do nothing and say, “I can’t make a decision because I want the ability to make a decision later.”

I think for us it’s there are certain decisions like raising money, which depend on the pressure we’re feeling. I can summarise this a lot more succinctly. I think it just means basically don’t do something just ‘to do something’. Have an intent and once you are going to do something go all in, right?

For us, it’s we’re all in on boot strapping right now and that might not be the right decision and we’re always tracking the data, and tracking whether that’s the right decision we’re making constantly. Eventually we’ll get to a point where it’s like maybe, “Hey, this makes sense,” and then we’re going to go all in on funding but we’ll see how long that takes.

Jeroen: Sì, perfetto. A cosa dedichi la maggior parte del tuo tempo in questo momento a ProfitWell?

Patrick: Most of my time is being spent on kind of building the marketing team. We haven’t had a team up until now. I think I just mentioned this before, a few months ago. We literally just hired our first Growth Manager; not even a month ago. It’s been something we’ve been cranking and really just kind of pushing things forward.

I think it’s one of those things where we’re constantly kind of re-evaluating what we should be doing and how we can best build a team from the right structure. Then I’m doing all the classic CEO stuff. Making sure the trains run on time and making sure that all problems are unlocked and things like that.

Jeroen: Capito. Come è cresciuta ProfitWell prima di avere un team di marketing?

Patrick: Your guess is as good as mine. No, I’m just kidding.

I think it’s one of those things where we have essentially always been a content shop. What I mean by that is we basically started writing a lot, really early on. Mainly because we were trying to figure out a lot of this stuff, you know? Not only pricing, but different problems to solve within a business.

We started writing some post. I call them the bottom of the top of the funnel; they were things that you’d find if you cared about it. They weren’t like, “Hey, this is what it’s like to build a company,” or, “Here’s this founder’s story.” They were very, “Hey, this is how discounts affect this …” You know? That type of stuff. What that allowed us to do is frankly, just learn as much as humanly possible.

Then from there, that allowed us to really kind of get a good niche hold on the market because we only wrote posts that were pretty in-depth. I think we’ve written one kind of fluffy post in the past four to five years and it did really well, and it bothered me that it did so well because it was a really fluffy post.

Jeroen: Che cosa intendi per "post soffice"?

Patrick: Well, we did like a quote wrap up. Like, “Hey, here’s six quotes on pricing.” I was like, “Oh, this is crap. This is terrible.” One of the quotes was from Fergie, some were from people who had nothing to do with software. I told the person who was doing it that, “This is not going work. It’s just not going to work,” and then it worked really well.

Jeroen: Sì?

Patrick: We were like, “Ah, crap.” It’s important obviously to have diverse content and so that’s why for the longest time we were able to really grow with just this deep seated content and then when we launched ProfitWell.

It was kind of a similar story where we were just writing and writing more, but we were kind of diversifying our content a bit, not just talking about pricing. Now we’re going all in.

We’re basically going all in on a specific content strategy that we’ve been developing and really building out the team, and then, focus on what’s allowing us to grow the numbers. That’s kind of a tangential answer to your question, but yeah, that’s kind of how we were growing.

Jeroen: Se dice che stavamo scrivendo, era lei e qualcun altro?

Patrick: Well, in the early days, yeah I was. But I always hate using the word ‘I’. Every time I say, “Oh, I like this,” or, “I do this,” I cringe a little bit because it’s always a collective effort here. But in the early days, it was just me.

It was just me working on the company end. I was the one writing everything, I was the one distributing everything, and about a couple years ago we did start basically bringing on other writers so we’ve had writers now for a couple years, but I still do a lot of writing. Mainly because it’s both cathartic as well as something that lets me think and learn more. I don’t know if there’s a phrase, but I’ve heard of this thing where if you don’t know something, figure out how you can teach it. Because once you can teach it then you’ve, maybe not necessarily mastered it, but you’ve at least gotten the learnings down.

Jeroen: Sì. Trova attivamente il tempo per scrivere durante la giornata?

Patrick: I’m a very zone writer, if that makes sense. Meaning, I have to kind of, be in the zone, and it’s really hard to do that when you’re handling 1,000 little paper cut issues in a business. It’s one of those things where I do make time, but then I’ll always have stubs, I call them, which is story mini outlines that are maybe incoherent and little lines here and there that I think would be really good for a post.

I always have a bank of those. Normally those come when I’m running or when I’m working out, or when I’m just walking around Boston and I’ll just type into my phone and be like, “Oh, that’s a really good idea. Let me write that down.” Then what I’ll do is, I’ll take that bank and basically stub out the outlines and set aside time to actually just write five or so of those posts because when you kind of get into the zone, you can. I don’t know how much you write in particular, but I’ve actually really shared your GDPR post around because I thought it was good.

Jeroen: Grazie!

Patrick: It was one of those things where, when I write it’s kind of like building momentum. The first post is never really that great, but then the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth one are really good. Then you can go back to the first one and fix it.

Jeroen: So it’s like a day you reserve for writing?

Patrick: Yeah. Normally it’s on the weekends too, which are a little bit chiller and I can work on writing the posts.

Jeroen: Come si svolge una sua giornata normale?

Terribile. No, non è vero.

Jeroen: Terribile?

Patrick: The last couple of months have been really bad. This is how I explained it to someone who was like, “Oh, man, how’s it going? You seem like you’re really stressed and working a lot.” What I explained to her, was that there’s two types of work. If you had to categorize, there’s certain work that is strategic and then there’s some mechanical work, and they’re both very taxing. The strategy end is all about for instance, how you’re going to set up your adwords campaigns, and then there’s the mechanical work of actually putting your adwords campaign in the account.

The past couple of months, because we’ve been building this team up and I’ve been really hands on, it’s been both strategic and mechanical work — mostly on the same day.

I’ve been working insane hours, like 17 hours a day. I’ve been in the office until midnight. I’ve even been sleeping in the office. But what’s kind of cool about it is, I love it. I love what I’m doing. It gets exhausting and it does catch up with me. So normally on Saturdays or Friday nights like today, I just do nothing and crash.

I don’t have to do those things and we probably would get the same results, sadly, but I think it’s one of those things where I just really love what I’m doing right now. So I sit down and I’m working on something, and I look up four hours later and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, how much time has passed?”

I’ve created four hours worth of work, which is great, but it’s been one of those things where it’s just been back to the grind, which hasn’t been the case for a while now.

Jeroen: Da quanto tempo lavora a ProfitWell? Quando avete iniziato?

Patrick: L'intera azienda che abbiamo avviato con il primo prodotto, Price Intelligently, risale a cinque anni e mezzo fa.

Well, maybe it was six years. Oh wow, it’s going be six years in June! So yeah, June 2012. It was on June 15, 2012 that I had the last day at my other job. Then yeah, it was like nine months of just me and then we hired Peter, who’s our GM. He’s been here ever since!

Then ProfitWell came along. I think the idea for ProfitWell came four years ago and the first MVP was shortly thereafter. Yeah, we’ve just been cranking from there.

Jeroen: Sì e continua a lavorare duramente.

Patrick: Yeah, it ebbs and flows. I just think that for me, it’s not always going to be like that. But I learned very early on and I think it’s given a blue collar background and those types of things, that it doesn’t matter what I’m doing; I will have to work hard.

When I was at Google I would actually get, not yelled at, but I would definitely get kind of reprimanded for how much I was working because there was no work life balance that I kept. It’s amazing, but I just found myself working on things always. Sometimes it’s just reading, sometimes research or something else. And it’s not always strenuous work.

I don’t know if I could work digging ditches for 17 hours a day. Obviously that would be a lot more taxing, but it is one of those things where if I love what I’m doing, which I really do — especially on the marketing side right now, I can work that long and be happy.

It does catch up, don’t get me wrong. It compounds and by the weekend I’m absolutely dead. I don’t do anything on the weekends except rest. It’s a labor of love.

Jeroen: Ha moglie e figli?

Patrick: Se avessi dei figli, questo non funzionerebbe.

I don’t have a wife. But I do have kind of a partner. We’ve been together for, gosh, it’ll be three years in May and she also has a pretty good understanding of how I work. She does commercial real estate, which is not a nine to five job, if that makes sense. We’re pretty aligned and I was very up front when we started dating.

I was like, listen, this is how my day looks like. This is when I wasn’t working as much but I was still working very hard. I was like, “Hey, this is a specific point in my life where I’m trying to build this.” We’ve been on the same page ever since, which is great.

Right now, since the last three months have been very strenuous in trying to build this up, we have a basic agreement where she gets, or we get I should say, one night a week and then one weekend day where my phone’s off. It’s just us and our dog. I know that sounds crazy, but it is needed.

You know, I go home and we still have some other nights during the week. But it’s one of those things where I just wanted to protect that time. I don’t foresee this pace lasting terribly long. I think maybe by mid-year, we’ll have enough people on this team and the processes will be in place enough, for me to relax a little bit. Or at least it’ll be a lot more manageable, but it’s just kind of a nature of the position and the business.

Jeroen: Currently it’s like full on, working and sleeping. Are there any other things you do next to this? Like, what do you like to spend your time on, when you’re not working?

Patrick: I can’t even think about that right now!

I mean, when I do have time, I really like working with my hands. What’s kind of funny is that we’ve built a lot of stuff in the office. Since we’re bootstrapped, it kind of works out well. We’ve built these barriers for sound protection, for instance. So we built a couple of call rooms.

I really like that type of work because it’s a very different style. You know how I talked about strategic and mechanical work? Well, that work is completely different. It’s more tactical! You’re using your hands, I mean, there’s still a lot strategy and still a lot of mechanics, but it’s just a very different type of mechanics than building software products.

I think I get a similar feeling that a computer scientist or engineer would get where it’s like, “Oh, I built this thing. This is good or this is bad.” I really like doing that type of stuff!

Right now, honestly, while all this insanity is going on, I’m trying to get back in shape. I have definitely sacrificed my personal health. Saying sacrificed makes me sound more of like a martyr, but I think it’s more like I’ve definitely chosen to forego really caring about my health the past five to six years. I’ve gained a ton of weight since starting the company. I’m trying to get that in check.

Jeroen: So you’re going to start with sports again or working out regularly?

Patrick: I’m pretty good about it a few times a week. But now, just really trying to get my nutrition in check and thankfully we’re in a good place where I can at least do that. I’m on the right track, but I’m not quite there yet.

Jeroen: Yeah, I think that does happen with all of us. Now imagine there wouldn’t be ProfitWell, you sold it for a ton of money, how would you spend your life?

Patrick: Frankly, I can’t imagine not working. I think for me, and this what’s a terrible and scary thing too about the company, is work addiction. If you move me to a place where we might not sell for some reason and we’re like, “Oh, well, what else are we gonna do”, I will actually say that there are a few more ideas that I’ve thought of or think are interesting. But of course, you would need a successful exit in order to work on them. I think if and when we get sold, I think I would commit to taking a minimum of six to nine months off. Even if I was like I want to start working on something else, I would just make myself do that, even if we fail at a later point in time. Even if we have to shut down, I’m still going to try and tap into my savings in order to take that time off just to reset my palate.

One thing that’s really fascinating to me is, as is to a lot of people, is kind of like how we do elections in this world. Particularly the United States. I think that what I would love to do, is lower the barriered entry to running for office in the states because I think that’s one of the problems today. If you think of the problems that we have with our elections, they’re the most logical conclusion. Now if you take it to it’s Nth degree, it is that the money is really where the power is and we can say, “Oh, in the perfect world, we wouldn’t have that problem.” We would pass laws to do it, but it’s like water, you can’t tap water pressure. It’s something that’s going to come out.

Il denaro deve fluire in qualche modo, quindi mi piacerebbe produrre la quantità di denaro necessaria per candidarsi. Il modo in cui si può ottenere questo risultato è fondamentalmente attraverso un migliore targeting, una migliore comprensione dell'elettorato, eccetera.

The reason that people use money in the States for elections, is to basically sell ads in order to convince their constituencies to vote for them. I want to make that more efficient because I think if we lower that barrier, you get better candidates, and if you have better candidates theoretically, you would essentially have a better government. That’s something I think about a lot. Kind of going back to the debate days and the lawyer aspiration days.

Jeroen: Don’t you think that if this technology would be available to target ads better, that the candidates with a lot of money would also use it?

Patrick: Oh, absolutely. But I think that there’s only so much saturation that you can have in an election right? Meaning, there’s only so many ways you can advertise. It’s just like running ads for a business. There’s only so many ways we can advertise now, right?

There’s more density in the market for selling software and so for me, I think that if you lower that barrier it’s never going to be zero. You’re still going to have to garner enough money to run them. But I think the other thing is that the way that these ads and the way that the polls work, and we saw this in the latest presidential election, it’s very archaic. It’s not great. It’s good, it’s some basic statistical models and some advanced statistical models, but the inputs into those models aren’t right anymore because of a whole host of technological factors.

I think if we can put better the inputs into those models and have better models, we can resolve the problem. Let me put it this way; if we get to run for Senate right now, which is the upper house of our legislature, you need to raise a significant amount of money every single week that you’re in office, like a million dollars a week!

It’s a crazy amount of money. There’s some people who have gotten appointed because someone left or someone got promoted, or something like that, and people ask them, “Hey, are you going to run for re-election?” Most of the time their response is like, “I can’t because I can’t raise as much money as required.” If we can lower that barrier theoretically, even if it improves by a factor of two or a factor of three, you all of a sudden have a better pool and we don’t get into these situations where things are so crazy, or they’re not as crazy I should say.

Jeroen: Prenderà in considerazione l'idea di entrare in politica in prima persona o preferisce solo dare potere ad altre persone?

Patrick: I don’t know. I think that every time I see an election, I’m kind of like disenchanted with that type of life. I do think that there are a lot of injustices that I really care about, but I think at this point, I’m too much of a moderate to be successful.

Mainly just because when I look at a crazy liberal person, or a crazy conservative person espousing some views, I can look at both of them and say, “Oh, this part of your point I think is really good, and this part of your point is terrible.” I can do that for both of them and unfortunately that logic just isn’t really rewarded. At least as of right now, but maybe if we are able to lower that barrier, it’ll make it more of an interesting journey.

Jeroen: That’s a big issue in politics now as well, I guess. That the extremes get just too much attention.

Patrick: You know what it’s funny. Not to sound like a Trump supporter, which I’m not, but it is really the media’s fault. Not liberal media, not conservative media, but both the media. If you look at what happened, I don’t know how much you know about US politics, but since 1994, and then with the birth of the internet, and we’re seeing a lot of this right now in the last election cycle where basically people with extreme views, get rewarded. Because it’s sensationalist, it’s almost like a tabloid where, oh, this is going to sell headlines, this is going to sell papers. I think what ends up happening now, is that just about anyone has a voice.

A little blog can break a major story, which is great for a lot of reasons. But we didn’t get the fourth estate that we were promised, which was, “Hey, we’re going to have so much information and so much access that the crazy ideas are going to be clearly shown that they crazy and wrong, and the good ideas are going to rise to the top.”

We have an inverse that’s happening where the bad ideas are rising to the top. I think that says a lot about people because if this stuff didn’t work, people wouldn’t do it. We’re kind of rewarding it. That’s why I think that if we assume that human nature is going to stay constant, which it will, and there’s not a lot of success showing that it won’t; if we make that assumption then what ends up happening is that we put ourselves in a place where we can’t do much about it.

That’s where my Econ background comes in. It’s like, play within the rules of the game. What are the rules of the game? The rules of the game are defined by human nature. You’re not going to cap money. I mean, you might make some caps, but you’re never going to get all the money out of politics, at least in the states, and based on those two factors, like how do we still fix this problem?

We fix this problem by working within the system, and we’re working within human nature, and basically just making people more effective.

Jeroen: Well, I’m actually both a US citizen and a Belgian citizen because my parents are Belgian, but I’m born in the US.

Patrick: Oh, fico!

Jeroen: Posso votare in entrambi i Paesi.

Patrick: That’s amazing.

Jeroen: I must say, that in the US, politics go much more to the extremes than in Belgium. We have it here as well. There’s parties supporting the extremes, but it’s just so much more extreme in the US and that’s kind of scary. I always feel that the US is a bit ahead in that respect and that other countries here in Europe will also eventually go that way.

Patrick: Well, I think what’s insane and scary, is that the world would probably be better if this didn’t happen. But with World War II, it made Europe really sensitive to some of these extremes, right? I think that in the US we’ve been very insulated.

Since the Civil War, there really hasn’t been a war fought on our land. We definitely fought in wars, but not ones that we felt, and not on demagogues that we felt. So I think that it’s going to probably stay consistent — at least in the States. In Europe, I think you’re right, we’re starting to forget what happened only 50 years ago.

Jeroen: Sì.

Patrick: You know, with Berlusconi and the Brexit movement. All of these things might be okay, right? Because just from a philosophical standpoint, I’m a big fan of the will of the people, but when the media aspect comes in, or the time span of content that I published, interferes with the will of the people, then you have problems. That’s what is kind of scary. We’re not handling the reciprocals of time, in Europe in particular, and you’re exactly right, you’re starting to see the rise of some of these things. Hopefully it doesn’t have to get so bad that we pull it back or hopefully technology catches up to basically improve it.

Jeroen: Yeah, I guess it’s also a matter of scale. In the US, these kind of problems directly have a big scale, while in Europe it’s one country at a time which is much smaller.

Patrick: Yeah, totally. I don’t know. We’ll solve all the problems in the world one day. Right? That’s what we’ll do.

Jeroen: Sì, lo faremo.

Patrick: If more of us have the will. So I knew Aaron Schwartz a bit here in the States, who was a big advocate for dissemination of knowledge and things like that. I think that the one thing I learned by observing his story and just basically being in his presence more, was basically that we have a lot of skills and a lot of really powerful ideas in the tech community and it’s really important to apply those things to marketing automation and building a business.

Don’t get me wrong, I mean, there’s a lot of value there and it’s going to make us a good living, but there’s a lot of things that we can be doing either just through conversations or through building technology eventually, or when we’ve quote-unquote made it. Dedicating time or money to these other things that are going to not make the world a better place in the sense of curing cancer, but are going to make the world a better place by just making people’s lives easier. I think we need to dedicate more time to that in general.

Jeroen: Yep, I agree. Slowly wrapping up. What was the latest good book you’ve read and why did you choose to read it? Was it about politics or was it about something else?

Patrick: No, in realtà ho letto Radical Candor. Ne ha sentito parlare?

Jeroen: No.

Patrick: It’s a book about a woman’s journey, who worked at Google. It was just a really good book on communication because at 45 people, we’re starting to reach the size where there’s definitely different personalities in the office. I picked this book up because frankly, we have one executive who is very direct. If he likes something or doesn’t like something, he’s not going to sugar coat it. He’s going to be respectful, but for some people who are more sensitive, it comes off as aggressive, right?

Then we have another exec in the office who has everything that comes off as positive. Even when he’s giving you negative feedback, it’s almost like, “Oh, he actually liked what I did, but he wanted me to tweak it a bit.” In reality he’s trying to say, “This was really bad. It can’t happen again.” He’s not quite saying that.

I’m explaining it a little bit more dramatically than reality, but this book really kind of bridges the gap of how should you be giving feedback or how should you be communicating. The idea is Radical Candor, which is on a very basic level. I’m not going to do it justice. Making sure your team knows you’re in a really good place, but not sugar coating things and making sure they realize that this is good or this is bad because you don’t want to leave ambiguity with those types of things.

Jeroen: Come funziona? Gli fate sentire che possono commettere errori, ma quando li commettono, li comunicate onestamente?

Patrick: Yeah, I think. I mean, for some people, this is going to come off super obvious. But what I’ve found at least and this isn’t necessarily the core of the principle, but it’s at least a nice little tactic that came from it, is when I’m about to give someone feedback, I attempt to make them feel safe — which I know sounds kind of wishy washy.

For example, I’ll be like, “Hey, I know your heart was in a really good place. You did this really quickly, but this can’t happen again. This part. We can’t do this.” Even that little tweak, it helps even mildly, you know; not soften the blow necessarily, but it helps in basically showing the person, that, “Hey, I know you’re well intentioned, but this was still bad.” Right?

When you were saying, “Hey, this is bad”, a lot of people’s reaction is, “Well, I’m trying,” or, “I worked really hard,” or those types of things. It makes the landing of that feedback really negative. They make it feel really personal because it’s like, “Well, I worked really hard on this and I thought about it and it still can be bad,” but it’s one of those things where you’re recognizing the effort at least, or that their heart was in the right place.

Jeroen: Yeah, got it. That’s really good! Is there anything you wish you’d have known when you started out with ProfitWell?

Patrick: I think there’s a lot of little things. I think the biggest thing that I need to keep reminding myself of, is that growth takes time, or just building takes time. When you have a vision, you’re like, “Well, the vision’s there. Why isn’t it happening? It’s in my head.” Right? It’s right there! Why aren’t we all on the same page?

I think it’s just one of those things where it just takes time. I think the other thing is that people are not complicated necessarily, but when something’s in your head, it doesn’t mean it’s in someone else’s head. You saying it once doesn’t mean that they get it or that it’s being imbued in their work. You have to keep repeating and you have to keep aligning the team essentially.

Jeroen: Yeah, so it’s all about communicating and having patience?


Jeroen: Bene. Grazie ancora, Patrick, per aver partecipato al Founder Coffee. √ą stato davvero bello ricevere queste informazioni da te!

Patrick: Thanks, man. This was great! I normally don’t get to talk about this type of stuff so I appreciate it.

Jeroen: That’s good to hear!

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Jeroen Corthout