135: Julian Weisser - Startups, Angel Investing and On Deck

135: Julian Weisser - Startups, Angel Investing and On Deck

In this episode, we're joined by On Deck cofounder Julian Weisser to discuss the right framework for finding new ideas, lessons for founders to draw from the past, aligning on values before aligning on ideas, founding pairs that work well, the role of defensibility, the role of no code, distributed ownership vs. concentrated ownership, and a whole lot more. 

William Jarvis 0:05

Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways it is worse in the past, where it's a better, more definite vision of the future. I'm your host, William Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives

Unknown Speaker 0:37

Well, Julian, how are you doing this morning?

Julian 0:40

I'm doing great. How are you? Doing? Great.

Will Jarvis 0:42

Thanks so much for taking time to come on the show. Do you mind giving us a brief bio on some of the big ideas you're interested in?

Julian 0:49

Sure, I'll keep it really brief. I come from a fairly non traditional background when it comes to tech, went to music school dropped out. And when I was in Boston, that was kind of when I realized that I there was so much to the world of technology that was beyond just what programmers might be building. There's such an opportunity for people who have different skill sets to contribute and to build the future. So that was the that was the thing that really got me into technology, which is being in a city where there was a lot of technology being built. But we can go into different areas of my background, I think that the thing that I've realized quite recently is the thing that gets me really excited is really the intersection of ideas, people and creation. And that can take a lot of forms. Right now I'm really focused on people who have great ideas that are building startups around them.

Will Jarvis 1:40

I love that I love that. Well, what in particular about startups makes them so compelling, you know, they're really compelling to me, they're really compelling to you. But to the listener who may be less involved, maybe they work at a big corporation, or a government or nonprofit, what makes startup special?

Julian 1:56

Well, I think that startups in general are fairly permissionless, right? In the sense that, you don't really need to get permission to go and try and build something. And a lot of the infrastructure that keeps getting built, to allow more people to create things just kind of increases the level of permission, lessness, right. Prior to prior to, you know, AWS, for instance, Amazon Web Services, you really needed to have a significant amount of money to actually buy a server and run a server and things like that. Now with AWS is just one example, you don't need the permission of somebody who's going to fork over a bunch of money, you can actually get started extremely cheaply. And if you're in a program, like something like on deck or something like that, AWS actually is partners with all of these programs essentially give you credits for free. So it cost pretty much nothing to run a server nowadays. And it's also based on usage versus, you know, having a fixed server cost. So things like that, just really allow people to go and create the things that they want to build. And then if you look at something like even like sigma, which was recently acquired, that was a company that was started because of all of this technology that came before it, that they were able to build off of. But it also created the platform for other people to go out and make things. You know, Adobe used to be very expensive, it still is. But figma, you know, started out and it was free for you to individual users. So I think that that's, that's one of the big things here is, as as time has gone on, and as technology has developed, it's been become easier and easier. Well, I should not say easier, it's become cheaper to start startups, it's still very hard. But the challenges have changed.

Will Jarvis 3:38

The bank sets up, what do you think that the challenges have shifted to, you know, like you said, we've seen this kind of deep, massive decrease in cost, not the by the big servers anymore, you can just go ahead and get started spinning up a simple web app, you know, probably for free and get, you know, 10s of 1000s of users without having high upfront capital costs. Where do you think the barriers have shifted to now at this point in time?

Julian 3:59

It's a great question. You know, my, my general inclination is that, you know, there are a lot of things that were kind of just obvious, and more and more obvious, in hindsight, but I think were obvious to a lot of people who are early to the internet. That was actually obviously before my time, but this idea that there were so many things that can be built, that were kind of like the simple things. And, and now, of course, like all of those simple things have been built. And there's usually like 20 different, you know, versions of them. I mean, just think about, you know, some of the some of the things like note taking apps, right? There's gonna be more note taking apps in the future. But there also are a lot of note taking apps that can solve a lot of people's problems. But at one point, there weren't many, right. And at one point, there weren't many, there wasn't a place to store your photos online, right, or backup your photos or to share your photos, right. So the challenge has gotten to be that you really need to have something that breaks out and solves a fundamental problem, but a lot of the base problems have kind of been solved.

Will Jarvis 4:57

That makes sense. So how should founders operationalize that it seems like it is a real challenge that a lot of low hanging fruit has been picked. But the greatest founders, I think of like, you know, Parker, Conrad at rippling seem to find a way to, you know, get behind that kind of event horizon of, of what is possible. And perhaps you know, for rippling it's this combinatorial thing where maybe if you could build the entire HR and IT stack together, you could get lower costs, you kind of vertically integrate at some level. What do you think the right framework is for founders to use to find those new ideas?

Julian 5:32

Sure. So I think there's, there's two things. And the first is really thinking about as you're thinking about, from an investor perspective, you really want to think about not just the founder, but you want to think think about the market that they're building in. And traditionally, what people say is bet on the founder or invest in the founder. And it's really all about the founder. And yes, like, it really matters that the founder is a good founder, that they think about things the right way that they are driven, that they can hire, that they can retain talent that they can manage, potentially, if they're going to be the CEO. But the other thing that I think gets a lot, that doesn't necessarily get the attention that it deserves, is the market. And, you know, when you when you brought up Parker, he's the exact example of a person who thought so deeply about the market and the need for a different type of solution in the market, or the opportunity for different types of solution. So I think it really comes down to evaluating the market. And that comes from the founder perspective, you know, do you really want to spend your time if you're a, you know, an exceptionally talented person, you want to spend your time banging your head against the wall of a market or an opportunity that doesn't really exist? Or is there or is worth your time to actually, you know, figure out in advance, what kind of market should I be building? And what opportunity should I be pursuing? And then also, like, there's this debate as to whether or not, you know, sort of like markets are sort of like willed into existence, or like opportunities or of a world into existence, I generally think that that's true. It takes you know, there, as you said, rippling is a good example of a place where there's an ultra saturated market, a lot of people would have argued that the opportunity didn't exist. But you know, if you can see an interesting angle, and then you actually can willed into existence, then there's usually a big opportunity in a market where there's, you know, low NPS.

Will Jarvis 7:15

I love that. I love that. How much do you think luck, luck plays into these things? And how much of it is just willing things into being at the end of the day?

Julian 7:26

Yeah, I mean, look, I think that ultimately, you have to be, you have to be lucky. But at the end of the day, it's like, it really does come down to a combination of things, right? There's a really good song that I liked that I can link to that, that essentially just shows that like, yes, ultimately there is determination, where it has to do with the work that you put in the people that you hire, but you can't predict everything that's going to happen. And and ultimately, you know, it luck, luck does play a factor, but wheeling into existence is really a thing. That that I think, you know, people don't want to accept is actually the the main the main form of the outcome, the main thing that drives the outcome?

Will Jarvis 8:05

Well, we can't control like, so it seems like, you know, it's something that's that's best, like ignored at some level, you can only control your inputs. I'm curious, when you first got started, let's say with ondeck? Sure, you know, how much of a hunch did you have that it was going to be, you know, a big deal, and that you were going to you know, build a really great company around it. What were you were you sure it really sure when you got started? Did it like? Did you have these hunches along the way? Like, what did that kind of look like?

Julian 8:33

Yeah, so I think that it was, it's worth going over the history there. So, you know, ondeck started as a community that my co founder, Eric built, and it was really just casual dinners, happy hours, that sort of thing for people who are looking to explore starting a company, and, or even explore what was next, maybe they were looking at leaving their job, and maybe starting a company was one of the options. But it was this very informal, informal community for people to explore what might come next. And that was a really powerful idea. As it turned out, there were a lot of people who maybe they were a job that they didn't care for that much, or they felt there wasn't actually going to really take them to the place that they wanted to be. And having a space for like minded people or people who are in the similar sort of time in their lives was really important. I think that the the thing that was very interesting about on Deck is that people were essentially trying to pull a product out of us as I started running dinners. David, on deck CEO started running dinners as well. And these were all just informal affairs. But people kept trying to get us to do something that was a little bit more structured than these one off dinners and happy hours. And that was really interesting, because people were trying to we felt this poll, right. And the poll ultimately meant that we were able to build something that people wanted because they were telling us specifically what they wanted. And now ultimately, we've had to do a lot of iterations on that but it pretty much directly led to the ondeck founder Fellowship, which is remaining is our flagship program, you know, four years or so after after starting the company around on deck. And you know, we're in our 15th cohort coming up. I've seen so many incredible companies get started out of it, somewhere around 800. At this point, they've raised a billion dollars. And ultimately, I think it really comes down to like, sure, there were a lot of there are a lot of people working in sort of the accelerator space. But there were almost no one. And still, to this day, it seems like in my opinion, a very big opportunity is the pre accelerator phase. accelerators, you need to have a co founder, you need to have an idea. Typically, you need to have traction. And what we said is, we said, hey, there are a lot of people, potentially a lot more people that are starting companies today, who might get off the sidelines, who might get off the fence, if we actually help them find the missing pieces, right. So maybe if we can help you find a co founder, or if you can help you figure out your idea, or if you can help you figure out what your go to market might be, maybe that's the difference between you starting a company or staying at your job. So ultimately, I think that there was there was a lot of the product full there. And this novel idea, which was, hey, we can actually increase the amount the amount of founders if we just help, you know, catalyze creation of companies. I love that. I

Will Jarvis 11:12

love that. What lessons do you think founders can draw from that when they're they're building products? And you're right is something like, you know, you need to be in the search space for a while. And something will make itself clear, given enough time, if you work hard, or is there, there's something else to draw from that.

Julian 11:28

So I think the answer is annoying, because it depends. Ultimately, some people have these insights that they've somehow gotten through work or through side projects and things like that, or through conversations with friends or family members. But ultimately, far, far more people end up having to go back to the drawing board multiple times. And I think one of the biggest, the biggest mistakes that we see is the people who go out there, they they have extreme conviction, when they probably shouldn't, they're kind of lying to themselves, and they go out and they try and raise money, they might even succeed in raising money, which is actually, in my opinion, one of one of the worst things because that almost validates this idea that they have a good idea. Because now people are giving the money to go and pursue it. And then ultimately, when that happens, it means that they're kind of driving themselves down that down this one way path. And it's a lot harder to rewind, and a lot harder to sort of start from scratch again. So what we try and do at on deck and I try to do what I'm just working with founders one on one is really trying to encourage them to not go with the first or second idea unless they have extreme pull towards the idea from customers or something like that. And really try and figure out, you know, what it is that they should be building and not just immediately jump into it. Same thing goes for co founders. Yeah, I think that generally speaking, you shouldn't just go with the person that you've happened to have worked with who may be interested in starting a company, you shouldn't necessarily go with the first person that you talk to. I know it's, it sounds probably very silly, to some people in the audience who are a little bit further removed from from tech startups. But there are a lot of people who just end up going with the person who happens to be closest to them at the time to decide that they want to start a company. And it usually doesn't go well. Right. Right. Right. Yeah.

Will Jarvis 13:12

It's kind of like getting married, you know, when you just you somebody walks in, and he's like, Let's get married for 50 years and be great. And you can bet each other pretty much not a good idea. Speaking about that, how do you go about finding a great co founder? How would you recommend people do that? Is it just, you know, iterating more, having more conversations and finding someone who's a good fit, not taking that first person? Is there more to it that you recommend?

Julian 13:35

So I think there's, there's a couple of things. One thing that I like to say is align on values before aligning on ideas. And this is this is, you know, again, it might sound it might sound silly to people, but you're really describing sort of what the ideal outcome is to someone else, you know, a potential co founder is important, right? The idea that you might not want to sell your company for $20 billion, you might want to actually take it public. Or it might sound like putting the cart before the horse, but I don't think it's actually true, because there will be some people where they get an offer for what could be a life changing amount of money. And they will, they will want to turn it down because they want to continue to build this really big organization, but the other co founder might actually, you know, want to want to sell. And I don't think that either of those are actually bad, necessarily, as long as there's alignment between the founders on what they want. Another thing is, you know, very common, which is like work life balance, right? I first of all, I think that founders really don't have the opportunity to have much of a work life balance. But when they think about sort of their hiring their team and things like that, or of course, like remote versus in person versus hybrid. These are all important things. And then of course, just like how to treat people, sort of like what what are the cultural values? I think it's really important for companies to have non values as well, which is this idea of sort of what the company isn't about, or reasons that you might not want to work at the company. But I think aligning on these things is actually much more important. Because ultimately, the idea and sort of the the product creation process usually will happen. After you've sort of aligned on your co founder, it's usually not a thing where you go out, and you figure out your idea. And then you go and recruit a co founder, this happens occasionally. But generally speaking, I recommend that founders have some ideas or have some interest spaces, but don't necessarily kind of get really aligned, or don't really figure out exactly what they want to build until they have the co founder that they want to build it with. And then they go, and they co create the idea together.

Will Jarvis 15:38

That makes sense. So you're kind of iterating the search space together if you have a partner that can help you tell beachy chapter thinking etc. It does seem to me like that, that's super valuable. Because if you have someone else checking your thinking, it's easy to have one person who's a kook, but it's harder to have two people or more people than that, you know,

Julian 15:55

I think it's good. I think it's also good. I mean, being kooky is not necessarily a bad thing. I think it's like, if you are aligned in your kookiness, I think that's really good. Founders in general, I think are just kind of weird, or at least some of the most interesting ones. And, you know, I think you need to be weird together. Right? If you're weird, and the other person isn't very weird. And you don't really get along in that way. And you don't sort of see eye to eye on these kinds of like, probably, I would describe them as eccentricities. If you don't, if you don't sort of have those aligned, I think it's it becomes a lot harder to actually build something sustaining together.

Will Jarvis 16:32

That makes sense. I'm curious, how important do you think it is to be mission driven? At the end of the day, when you're building these these breakout companies?

Julian 16:39

I think it depends, because there's really two, in my opinion, there's two types of founders. There's the ones who really love the problem that they're working on. And they're the ones who just really love building businesses. And problem solving more generally, think it's, I think it's a lot harder to be one of the founders who really cares about the mission of the company, at the earliest days, because the mission might slightly change, change, given given the nature of, you know, early stage startups, they haven't found product market fit. So they might ultimately morph into something that the founder is less excited about. Having said that, I think that if you are mostly directionally keeping it, keeping it going, and the way that you you thought you were when you were going into it, I do think that's generally good, right? I heard some some story about how you're, for instance, still in field with figma, they were trying to build something, it was like a meme generator, you know, to start when they when they dropped down to the till fellowship. And they just weren't excited about it. You know, they realized, like, is this the thing that we want to spend the next, you know, a few years of our lives on building a meme generator company? Now, there are probably people in the world who that's extremely fulfilling for, right, who love comedy, who think that comedy and sort of like spreading interesting ideas and jokes across the Internet is really valuable. Right. But it wasn't for them. So I think it's really important to figure out like, what's the thing that actually gets you excited and motivated? And ideally, your co founder as well? Because ultimately, if there's misalignment on that, that's a pretty, pretty, pretty big challenge.

Will Jarvis 18:11

Yes, it seems like quite an issue. I'm curious, you guys have been quite successful at merging co founders together helping people find co founders, which kind of went against the grain in Silicon Valley. And in tech that, you know, you had have known your co founder and grown up in the womb together or something like that, to truly be successful. How did you guys realize that that was kind of a $20 bill on the sidewalk? Was it just like seeing a couple of examples of at work, where people had kind of engineered that kind of serendipity? Or was it just like, I don't know, I a thought you came up with kind of from first principles?

Julian 18:45

You I think it's definitely one of those things where you start to see it happen. And you know, when it's when it's once it's like an anecdote, but like, you actually start to see a trend. And that that's when you get really excited about it. But I also think that this is a thing that yes, we we discovered, we've had a lot of success with. And I would say that some of our fastest growing companies, I think I've looked at it was something like 10 of the, the top 20 or something like that. Companies in terms of the amount raised are actually one of the co founders, at least one of them. Sometimes there are three co founders met the other co founder or co founders through on deck. So it's just a, it's a very surprising thing to see how these pairs have actually done really well at fundraising. And usually, you know, the conventional wisdom is, it's hard to fundraise if the co founders don't really have this deep, long term relationship where they've known each other as you said, you know, they've been coding together since they were in the womb. You know, it's it's interesting to see that shift happen, but it's not a shift that has gone unnoticed. Right, because about a decade ago, there was a video of Paul Graham talking about, you know, whatever you do, make sure you only work with a co founder who you've had some prior work experience with that you have had a relationship with, right. And that was really, I think, the operating principle for YC, when it came to them screening applications, for the most part for quite a while. Now, obviously, there were exceptions to that. But that was the general advice given. If you look, now they have a co founder search tool, right? You're on deck does a lot of co founder matching, there are other people who are now in the co founder matching game as well. And you're seeing YC take that shift from Hey, like, make sure that you have worked with this person before before co founding a company with them to like actually having a tool out there is a really big sign in my opinion, that you know, that things have shifted and that everybody is acknowledging that even people who used to have a hard and a fairly hard and fast rule about it.

Will Jarvis 20:44

Yeah, that makes that makes makes a ton of sense. I'm curious, are there pairings you've seen that work really well, kind of like two in the box? You know, maybe once more business minded once more technical? Are there other other pairings that seemed to work really well that or is it just kind of there's very little pattern to these things.

Julian 21:01

So this is less about co founders that meet through on deck, but just more about co founders in general, I think that the biggest sort of red flag, if you will, is when people, you can't tell who the CEO is, if you can tell who the CEO is. That means that usually that means like, when somebody says that they're the CEO, and it kind of feels awkward, you can kind of feel this awkward energy. When that happens, that shows that there isn't necessarily a huge amount of alignment and sort of happiness around that decision, necessarily, or there's some sort of hesitance. And I think that's actually one of the biggest things in the early days, it's very important to define who the CEO is, if you don't have that happening, you ended up with all sorts of weird things going on. And ultimately, I think that's probably one of the biggest causes of co founder breakups is the fact that people actually wanted to be the CEO. No, they weren't the CEO, maybe they should have been the CEO, by the way, I'm not saying that they shouldn't have been the person who wasn't CEO. But But ultimately, that that is one of the things I think is important to look for. Another is, I think, it really depends on the business sort of the skill sets, ultimately, there is going to be a need to be a person who is kind of running the sales and like building out sort of like the Oregon fundraising and things like that. And there needs to be a person who's building the product. You know, they don't have to be technical and non technical pairs, right? There could be two people who are very technical. And one of them happens to be, you know, sort of the CEO of the business and is running sort of the sales stuff, and actually like doing the fundraise. So I don't think it really matters quite so much, you know, technical ability. But I do think that, generally speaking, it's extremely hard to start a company if they're, you know, one of the co founders had doesn't have some pretty significant technical skills needed to build something, it seems like, Yeah, makes sense. So I mean, it is changing slightly, because, you know, people are able to prototype and to build, like fairly substantial things using lower no code. I think this you know, we're talking about kind of the the barrier points to actually starting companies, no code has been absolutely huge for that. You could build a lot of infrastructure. In fact, on deck, I don't think that we wrote a line of code for the first year of ondeck, as a company, because we were just using zaps, and we were using air table, and our admissions process, you know, it was was pretty sophisticated at the time, but we were able to build a really great business, using all these off the shelf tools that we then, you know, duct taped together.

Will Jarvis 23:38

Can you talk about what no code is? For, you know, people in the audience that might not be aware? Sure. So

Julian 23:44

so no code is this, what I think is one of the most important, but under discussed developments in technology, which is essentially giving people the ability to interact with data interact with websites interact with, like various applications, in a way that used to be restricted to people who can interact with these things at the code level, meaning they would actually have to write code. Another word for code might be a script to trigger different actions if something happened. So, for instance, a really basic example of this would be somebody every time you receive an email, having the email be logged to a database, for instance, a Google Sheet, right? Or in more common cases, nowadays, we use a product called Air table, which is kind of like Google Sheets, but better for people who are going to be interacting with non non number non number data. So for instance, names or cities or statuses, right. And the idea is, you know, we could use in the past, you would have had to actually write code to be able to trigger something that would happen every time you received an email to log into Google Sheets. or, you know, an Excel file or something like that. But now with with the tools that exist, you can actually have stuff like that happen. And you can, you can sort of program that, but program that without knowing how to write any code at all. And that is such a big unlock, because while that example is very simplistic, it's like, well, who cares? Like you can, you know, shift some data from an email to, to air table or to Google Sheets really easily, you can actually build an entire admissions process, with email flows with automatic automatic updates with different pings to people in Slack, if they need to fill something out. Like you can actually build an admission like a monitored admissions org, for instance, like we did it on deck, without writing a line of code, and not just crazy. And you can, you can do that with all of these tools that already exist out there. Now, granted, they might cost a little bit of money, but developer time costs a lot of money, right? So I think that's really important to note that no code is kind of allowed people to develop these skills that would have been restricted to developers. And the other thing that's quite exciting about no code is that I mean, ultimately, everybody on your team now has way more ability to create things and build infrastructure, that that is going to be very stable. And that's going to work quite well within your org. So you're no longer having to wait for the dev team to go and build something that helps you with, you know, internal processes or external processes.

Will Jarvis 26:29

That's great. How do you know when it's time to start writing actual code? You know, because you can scale these infrastructures with no code tools to really surprising degree, but but when do you decide when it's time to actually, you know, go hire some developers and start building something?

Julian 26:45

Sure. So I think there's two there's two things. One is, I'll talk to sort of the founder side of things like when founders are kind of prototyping, and then we'll speak to the sort of like the actual like building a product, building the business side of things. So oftentimes, this is what you see, when you're looking at non technical founders, they're like, I can't get started on my company. Like, I'm looking for a co founder who's technical, who will build this idea that I have this amazing idea. That is, if I were somehow to get a co founders technical co founder, we would have a multi billion dollar company, right. And you just have to trust me, non technical co founder or potential technical co founder, that if you join me, and you use my idea, you're going to have such an amazing time. And we're going to go to the promised land together, we're going to make so much money. This is a really, really bad sales pitch. Because anybody who works in startups knows, it takes a extremely long time to actually find true product market fit. When you when you think you have it, you usually don't. And, and ultimately, you know, this, this technical co founder or potential technical co founder is signing themselves up for potentially years of working with this person. And that person hasn't necessarily proven themselves. Yeah. So what you can do now, as a, you know, a non technical quote, unquote, co founder or founder is you could actually go and say, here's my idea. And here's the little note code prototype that I built, right. And I drove some people here, you know, either using, you know, some some mailing lists that I built up or that use some Google, you know, or Google or Facebook ads to like, just drive some test audience to this landing page. And you can actually start to show that as a non technical person, you have proven that there's interesting demand, you've proven that people are clicking around on this prototype. And that ultimately makes you extremely desirable, because you've put in the work. Now, people are saying, okay, this person hustles, they don't know how to code, but yet they put together this, you know, pretty janky prototype. And now that's showing me that they actually understand a little bit about product, they're not just saying they understand product, and they've actually built something that people are using or interacting with. And that actually in that thing that they've built actually seems quite compelling, even though it's not, you know, the most beautiful thing. So, so that's the first piece is I think it's important for founders, especially non technical co founders to do that. But also, technical founders are increasingly realizing that starting with no code, as a way to prototype is just so much better than diving into code and, you know, getting into the weeds so quickly. So, so that's, that's one piece. And the other is, you know, when it comes to actually switching from code, or no code to code, I think that it really depends, you know, like, on deck, honestly, you know, our admissions process, we switched to, you know, internal internal tooling that we built. And there are a lot of issues with it. And I think it's actually way better to have maybe we should have stuck with air table or maybe we shouldn't have moved off of off of the product Foley or the no code product fully. And is that do, you know, we maybe could have done more of a slow transition. So I think There's, there's a lot to be said for, even when you think it might be time to move off, maybe it's not. And then, of course, there are many examples of businesses where it's like, okay, we should probably just be building this thing. You know, from from day one with it with custom code, it doesn't make sense to be, you know, building no code stuff. If we if we feel like we're, we already have a pretty strong insight into the customer, and that sort of thing. And the NoCo tools can't, you know, can't do everything. So it's good sometimes to, you know, to go right into it.

Will Jarvis 30:29

It's perhaps if you're building, you know, a quant fund, no Kool Aid kind of tools might not quite be it. But if you're for plenty of other things, there's great applications there. How do you recommend founders navigate the search space to find product market fit and iterate quickly? In the beginning? Is it just iterating? As fast as you can, trying to talk to as many users as you can? Or is it something else?

Julian 30:50

So I think that there's, there's two things there. The first is, Product Market Fit usually isn't a thing that people even are looking for, until like series A Series B stage there, just to just to really emphasize what I mean by that, you can have millions of dollars in ARR. And you could still not have found product market fit like true product market fit. Right. So there are companies that that I know that are, you know, they have a ton of revenue, but they they admit to themselves, like it's not like they don't have blinders on. They don't think that they that they have figured this out yet. And I think that that's really important for people to realize is that that doesn't happen anytime soon. And almost anytime that a founder says they have product market fit, and they haven't, you know, gotten much further along in terms of org building, in terms of, you know, like, fundraise, and things like that. It's almost always untrue. Now, obviously, there are exceptions, but for the most part, I think that it's it's something that founders should be, should be like very cognizant of. The second thing is, I think it really just comes down to it might sound trite, but like, really making sure that you're building things that people want to pay for. Right? I think that this is this is the main thing is like, the I think the monetary wise these modules build things people want. But you really need to actually quantify that, like, how much do they want it? You know, how much do they want it? How long will they want it for? Right? Like sustainability, of being able to actually build something that people want to stick with? is extremely important. Right? So I think those are those are really important factors to consider.

Will Jarvis 32:35

That makes sense. Can you talk a little bit more about like companies that, you know, do have millions of dollars in recurring revenue that might not have product market fit? What do you mean there? Exactly? Is it that perhaps they're able to make sales, but it's not really exactly jiving with their customers? What does that mean?

Julian 32:50

Yeah, I mean, I think there's, there's a big difference between having one to 2 million ARR and, you know, breaking into the next into the next hurdle, like 10 million Arr, or something like that. There's also a big question about retention, right? Just because you have you have that revenue right now doesn't mean that you're, you're not going to churn through, you know, in six to 12 months. So I think there's just a really big question as to whether or not revenue now means that you're going to be a successful company, you know, five years from now. And, and I think that that's the other thing is like, also, you know, there's, it's not like nobody else is building while you're building. So just because you're building something now that people are kind of enjoying doesn't mean that somebody else isn't gonna come out and sort of like, you know, knock over your applecart.

Will Jarvis 33:35

Yeah, you definitely want to try and avoid that, if at all possible. defensibility. Seems seems quite important.

Julian 33:41

Yeah. And the other thing is, like, I don't, I don't think that companies typically die, due to competition, but they definitely die. If they stop building and they stop, you know, stop creating things that people want, because the things that people want and need, will shift, as you know, different workflows change, or as the world changes, I mean, you know, not not to pick on any one company by name. But there were a lot of companies that were started during the pandemic to solve pandemic problems, right. And a lot of those problems kind of went away as the pandemic has receded. So, you know, and ultimately, they were raising at extremely high valuations. Because people were using the thing like crazy things like crazy, right? But, you know, once once we started to, you know, get rid of lockdown, once people started to actually be going back to spending a lot more time IRL. Some of these pandemic problems kind of vanished. Yeah. So that's an another example of like, well, maybe your product market fit. But you know, when external conditions change, like part of product market, fit, can evaporate.

Will Jarvis 34:47

And you need to you need to be aware of that. As a founder going off of that, you know, we've seen a lot of companies shift to remote first, after the pandemic, do you think we've kind of reached an equilibrium there For companies where, you know, we've barring, you know, huge innovations from data or something like that, it seems like we've kind of reached this kind of stable, maybe it's 20% of jobs are remote, but it's like, will it shift drastically in the future? It doesn't really feel like it. But but I'm not, I'm not quite sure what what do you think about that.

Julian 35:19

So I can't speak to, you know, huge organizations, I don't feel like that's my expertise, what I will say is that, you know, we do the best that we can, right. And with sort of the situation that we have, right, so ultimately, people started companies, and don't work co founders and teams that they couldn't, you know, be in person with during the pandemic, you know, at the height of the pandemic. At the same time, I don't think that anyone would say that all things being equal, it's good for co founders not be working in the same office together, right? Now, if that's like the thing that's barring you from working with a really exceptional person, then it's worth considering right, doing a remote startup and things like that. But generally speaking, I think that the earlier the team is, the more important it is to be in person. And then as teams grow, then maybe you can have some sort of hybrid policy. I'm not particularly, I'm not particularly like dogmatic about any of this. I generally think that it's important to be in person with your co founders, though. I mean, on deck, everybody thinks about it as a remote company, because sort of our second chapter has really been entirely remote. But we started out entirely in person, all of our events were in person, right? So ultimately, and the team was in person. So ultimately, what happened is we shifted when the market shifted to remote, right. And to Silicon Valley in the cloud, I think that we were probably the people who, who actually who actually coined that phrase, but ultimately, you know, we're talking about well, or somebody asked me recently, like, are tech hubs, or Silicon Valley as a hub gone? I said, Well, I don't think that Silicon Valley is a hub is gone. But I think that there are many new hubs, right, and the Internet kind of connects them all. And I think it's important for you to be in, if at all possible, it's important for you to be in one of the major hubs, physical hubs, but you should also not discount the fact that, you know, the cloud is extremely important. And some of the some of the stuff that's happening, especially in web three, for instance, I think that like the cloud is more important. But But ultimately, if you can be somebody who's building a web three, it'd be really active in the cloud, but also in Venice, or in Brooklyn, where, you know, web three seems to have congregated, like, certainly doesn't hurt.

Will Jarvis 37:41

It definitely helps it do you think the benefit to being in person is mostly just like lower communication costs. You don't have to opt in to, you know, we don't have to, like just hop on Zoom to talk to each other. We're just right across the table from each other. And so information, just, you know, shares more quickly, do you think that's primarily the benefit for, you know, companies that are co located together?

Julian 38:02

I think it's I think it's actually less that and more the idea that the best ideas, and the best conversations, and the best breakthroughs often don't happen because they're scheduled on a calendar. Right? Do you know, I can't think of any, like breakthrough idea that came through a scheduled meeting really, like, relative to the stuff that just happens completely surreptitiously. Right. That, to me is, is the really important stuff. And I think it gets it gets way way. Kind of underrated or like, I think that people don't want to acknowledge that. When they're thinking about the cost of remote. They're like, hey, it's actually easier. We can be async we can get stuff done all the time. And like, I don't think that they're, I'm not going to be one of those people who says there's no benefits to remote. There certainly are. But you also have to be like, you know, wide eyed about the the downsides, the cost of it.

Will Jarvis 39:00

There's costs as well, definitely. I want to talk about web three a little bit. Now. In fts. In Dallas, particular, you've been involved in a very large toppling of Constitutionnel. Is that correct? Yeah. What do you think the bull case is for NF T's and dowels within the next like 1015 years.

Julian 39:17

So I think that the the, the interesting thing about NF T is is it really is the first time that I'm aware of where you can actually own a thing that's digital, and that it's not restricted really to to any particular platform. Right. That I think is quite interesting. I think that we haven't really even gotten close to figuring out the implications of that. Both positive and maybe there's some negative ones, right. But I think that there's something very unique about that. And that's that's about all I'll say about kind of NFT specifically, or as like a broader category. And if T art I think is absolutely fascinating right now. You go, you go from looking at DeviantArt I think we're about the same age Deviant Art, you know, is this website when I was really young, that people would post all sorts of digital art, for the most part, it was digital art that they created. And then they would make no money, right? Now, you could have people who create digital art, and you actually have a way to monetize that and actually have patronage around digital art. And I think that's really cool. I'm, you know, I'm a music school dropout. So I've really liked the idea of giving people ways to, to be creative and be rewarded for being creative. When it comes to douse, you know, Dow is essentially as you know, as broad as saying, like C corpse. So it's really hard to talk about Dow is broadly. But you know, constitution, Dow is this example, that I can give just a quick background, we saw that a copy of the US Constitution was going for sale at Sotheby's, we had about a week, we decided that we wanted to try and raise money to put in a competitive bid to buy and essentially co govern copy of the US Constitution. And anybody could put in any amount of money that they wanted to be a part of that experiment. And we raised about $47 million in the span of what was under a week, because we, we decided we were going to do it. The auction happened a week later, but we actually couldn't start taking payments until maybe two days. And so about five days, we raised $47 million. I think this is a really interesting thing, because it shows that people can't we lost by the way punch line, we didn't when somebody outbid us $47 million. It was not enough money. But but you know, I think the thing that we realized was, gee, this is this is interesting, for a few reasons. One, it's bringing people together, to rally around something that really wasn't financially motivated. Nobody was thinking about, Oh, I'm gonna buy a copy of the piece of the Constitution. And that piece of, you know, that piece of the governance token that I that I purchase, is going to be worth something in the future, I really don't think people were thinking about it that way, they were thinking about this is amazing. Imagine what would happen if you know a bunch of people came together, you know, we're able to acquire this really important artifact, they were able to just, you know, decide on its feature, we might want to display it, do a traveling roadshow with it and display it in certain contexts, we might want to lend it out to different museums, I think it's just such an interesting, such an interesting idea. And I think people got really enamored with that. The other thing is, it was it was the first Dow to bid this sort of auction level ever. And you know, it was the largest amount of crowdfunding raised for a physical object of all time. And I hope that that's not the end of it. I hope that that's just the beginning. But you look at people who are trying to do things that are, you know, adjacent, there's people who are trying to buy an NBA team, as a Dow, right. And think about how cool that would be, you know, I'm not even a basketball fan. But I'm just so enamored with the idea of fans being able to co own an NBA team, and be able to be involved, and a lot of it. And if you think about that, it's like, well, especially if it's a team that's not particularly popular right now, if you could actually change it to become the internet's team, instead of like the New Orleans Pelicans. Well, that actually starts to really open up the audience base, right? Because you might be somebody who lives in a country where there aren't any, you know, professional basketball teams of note. And now you can actually have your own basketball team, right, you can be a part of that. So I don't know, I'm just very excited about the creative aspects of this, and the ones that are less speculative in nature.

Will Jarvis 43:41

I love that. I love that. And this distributed ownership does seem to be less speculative and very interesting, some of these kinds of distributors approach to, you know, spreading out organizations that were having them concentrated within, you know, one person's hands or a couple of persons hands.

Julian 43:55

That's right. And it's also just absolutely chaotic. And that's kind of fun. Right. You know, ultimately, had we won the Constitution, I think that we would have done, you know, right, by, right by the document and the importance of the document. But, you know, it wouldn't have been without without its own challenges, right. So, so in a way we lost, but we were able to make a lot of impact in terms of how people think about Dows how people think about web three, how people think about their relationship with the Constitution, which is actually quite funny. I think that a lot of people were thinking about it much more in that week, and sort of afterwards than they had previously.

Will Jarvis 44:32

I love that. What do you what do you owe your success to the Dalits out? What do you think we can Oh, the success of raising so much so fast. There's something like super mimetic about, you know, the Constitution itself. It's this physical object, you know, and it's this really cool idea and we live in troubled times. Do you think I really contributed to it or was there like, really? Was it well, really well planned and executed in the short amount of time you had?

Julian 44:55

Well, I think it's one of those things where, when you have when you have something that Like resembles product market fit, you can fuck up a lot of, I don't know, if we're allowed to swear, but you can fuck up a lot of things, you know, and it will still, it will still like go quite well, because there's just so much Paul, I think that's kind of what happened with constitution down, we had a lot of challenges. I mean, as you would imagine trying to raise, you know, 10s of millions of dollars in a week, and prior to, you know, that week, not having even met, you know, two thirds of the people that you are going to be working with very closely. So, so we have a lot of challenges. But ultimately, I think it's like, one, it's there is the meme right? To there is the dream, the meme is so is so important, because that's the thing that's sort of like the jokey part, right? And people love jokes on the internet, right? People like jokes, slightly, slightly less than they like, you know, anger and outrage. But ultimately, like, you know, we were able to, we were able to really focus on the jokes side of it to get people excited than the dream is really, there's a couple of dreams, right? There's the dream of what might happen if we actually accomplish this, like, how crazy would that be? Right? Like, what would that mean for the internet? What would that mean, for web three? What would that mean for society, quite honestly, right. And then there's also like the American dream, right? And the the American dream, everybody, no matter, you know, where they live, you know where they're from, they live in the US with a US citizen, it doesn't really matter, everybody has some sort of connection to the United States. And that can be a really a great relationship with the United States where they feel like America was the land of opportunity for their ancestors, they could also feel the exact opposite, that America has let their ancestors down. And both of those points of views were actually represented in participants in the Constitution now, because people really liked this idea that this was sort of a, a way of interacting with the American dream, a way of interacting with our country's history or, or the United States history. And I think that that was, was something that really resonated with people as well.

Will Jarvis 47:02

It's really symbolic. Yeah, I love the concept. And it is very vivid in one's imagination. Think about. Very cool. Well, Julian, thank you so much for coming on today. I've got one last question for you. Sure. You've been quite successful. So far, you've been very helpful to me in my career, lots of great advice, etc. What are the next 10 years look like for you? And do you plan out that far?

Julian 47:25

You know, it's a good question. I haven't planned out that far in the past. And the reason for that is because, you know, a lot of my life makes a lot of sense in retrospect. But I don't think it would have made sense or I wouldn't have made the same decisions. Because I wouldn't have known about the opportunities. Like, quite frankly, I didn't even know, when I was playing, you know, the Super Nintendo and the Nintendo, when I was a kid, that you could even be involved in creating video games. If you weren't technical if you weren't a developer. I never thought about that. Right. So So I think that one thing is I try not to expand what's pot or I try not to stop looking at what's possible, or sort of, I really like to think about how the things that I that I do, I might not even be aware of them. Right constitution now is a great example of that. Never in my life, did I think that I would be working on constitution down to be clear, I was one of about 25 people who were on that core team. Lots of amazing backgrounds and lots of stories there. But, you know, ultimately, I just would have never known. And I think that's, that's one of the most important things to think about when it comes to technology, and creativity, and opportunity. Is that, yes, like, you should be optimistic, you should try and put yourself in good positions, right? You should try and probably say yes to things that you might be a little bit worried about looking silly for doing. Right. But ultimately, I think that if I had said no, or I had sort of tried to follow a more conventional path, I would have missed out on all of the amazing things that have happened in my life so far. So the answer is yes, I'm trying to think a little bit more about what the next year the next decade looks like. But considering I hadn't thought about it at all, previously, I think it's gonna it's going to look probably still a lot less clear eyed, and a lot less, a lot less structured than then people who might have taken, you know, a much more sort of, like, predicted or planned path up until this point.

Will Jarvis 49:32

I love that a little bit. So it seems like the lesson is, you know, say yes to opportunities, keep your eyes open, have enough slack to do that, but also work really hard and good things can happen to you.

Julian 49:41

I think it's right. You know, I think that it's one of those things, we're naturally you have to say yes to less things, the more you sort of develop and like, you know, build, build a reputation or build a following or, you know, like I think that ultimately the younger you are in the less experience you have, you don't really necessarily know what thing might be used sort of a breakout for you? So ultimately, you have to you have to be more likely to say yes. But I'm trying to optimize for saying yes, more than, than a person who might and, you know, sort of my stage. And I think that ultimately, that was the thing that led me to constitution Dow. And I think that will ultimately be the thing that allows me to pursue, you know, things that I work on, you know, in the future.

Will Jarvis 50:23

That's great. That's great. Well, Julian, thanks so much for coming on. Where can people find you? Where should we send them?

Julian 50:28

Sure, I think the the first thing is to check out what I'm doing about in Dec. We really are focused on founders and also angel investors, I split my time between working with people who are trying to find the missing pieces to get started with a company from finding co founders to finding, you know, the idea and the go to market. And then I also spend half of my time working with our program for angel investors, people who are looking to really develop a muscle, I describe invalid investing as strength and conditioning. Like you need to go to the gym multiple times a week to develop the angel investing muscle, you cannot just expect to invest in, you know, one or two companies a year and have that be the thing that ultimately helps you, you know, develop a skill set there. So, so you're on deck beyond is our website. And then personally, you know, I'm on Twitter, unfortunately, that's Julian Weiser and then my website is just my last name. WEIWE i s s. E

Unknown Speaker 51:32

That's great. Thanks so much. We'll put those links down there in the show notes. Cool.

Will Jarvis 51:40

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