B2B Category Creators Episode 4 Transcript

Mark Huber

Feb 16, 2021

B2B Category Creators Episode 4 Complete Transcript

Gil Allouche:
I’m very excited about this episode. If you can’t tell, my name is Gil Allouche. I’m the founder and CEO of Metadata. This is the fourth episode of Category Creators Podcast. I have with me David Cancel, the founder of Drift and many other companies before. A serial entrepreneur. As well as Henry Schuck. The founder and CEO of ZoomInfo who recently IPO’d. I would love to start with the introduction. David, maybe you can go first. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

David Cancel:
Thanks for having me. I don’t know where to start. I’ve started in a number of companies in marketing and sales. I grew up in New York and I never knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, because when I grew up entrepreneur meant you can’t get a job. All I wanted to do was to create things and make something out of nothing and that’s what’s led me here. I’m on my fifth company now called Drift and definitely my last. No more after this.

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
No way. I don’t buy it.

David Cancel:
I know man, I know. I’m tired, man.

Gil Allouche:
I know. Me neither.

David Cancel:
Yeah. I’m tired and old.

Gil Allouche:
I bet you will be saying that many more times about many more companies you will start. But very much looking forward to this. Henry, maybe you can also give a quick introduction about yourself.

Henry Schuck:
Sure. My name’s Henry Schuck. I’m the founder and CEO of ZoomInfo. Founded the company, it was originally called DiscoverOrg when I was 23 years old. I was in my first year of law school at Ohio State University in Columbus. Grew it without any outside capital through from 2007 to 2014. Brought on a couple of private equity investors, did a handful of M&A transactions and then went public in June of this year. So today we’re a 1,500 employee company based in Boston and Vancouver, Washington. And really big total addressable market that we’re excited to go after.

Gil Allouche:
Amazing. You tell the story so simply, it sounds like you did it in a few minutes. You start a company in law school, some things happened and then [crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, that’s the fast-tracked story.

David Cancel:
You can tell that Henry’s company is from Boston, because he’s got a flannel on and a vest on.

Henry Schuck:
And a vest. Yeah. I like to give away the company location with my wardrobe.

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Always unbranded.

David Cancel:
[crosstalk] he’s got a t-shirt on.

Gil Allouche:
Just a t-shirt. Unbranded. [crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, that’s how you know Gil is in San Francisco.

David Cancel:
Look at this. Hoodie. I’m freezing.

Gil Allouche:
Is it cold right now?

David Cancel:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gil Allouche:
Very interesting. I want to hear a lot about how you started the companies. Henry, you started talking about you being, I think, second year in law school and then bootstrapping a contact in a data company, if you will. I remember this type of work in the early days. You were one of the most expensive data sources. You had two things that was really interesting if I remember correctly. The direct dials and the org charts. Maybe there were more things.

Gil Allouche:
Really curious, how is that start? How is a second year law school student starts a database company [inaudible]?

Henry Schuck:
It’s a little bit not as exciting as you probably would hope for with the condensed version of the story, but I had worked at the similar company when I was an undergrad. I’d just finished my first year in undergrad at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. My mom, when I went to college, gave me a $5,000 life insurance check. You know, like if you buy life insurance it’s like the remnants of it that you can cash out every three years. And that was my college fund. And so I took it, I used it up in the first year and then on my way out of my first year in college I took a job that I found on a job board at a SAS company that was selling online subscriptions to data on information technology decision makers. And I started there in 2002 and worked there from 2002 to 2006. The company grew from about 300 000 in revenue as a real lifestyle business to five million in revenue as a real lifestyle business. It was myself and the CEO and two or three other college-aged employees.

Henry Schuck:
And then we just weren’t really building a business around it, so I left the company. It got sold to private equity and then a year into law school we decided to start a company that competed but wasn’t exactly in the same space. But those four years gave me the opportunity to really see how a business works. I understood the space. I had seen how you sell the contracts, what an annual subscription was, the importance of having it be recurring, how business worked, how you talk to sales leaders. It was just an incredible four years of experience. And frankly, the fact that he didn’t build a company around it was actually much better for me because I got see literally how everything worked across just four people. And so just an incredibly valuable learning experience that we just leveraged into the company.

Gil Allouche:
Is that early experience with the lifestyle business gave you the inspiration to do bootstrap but not go the usual VC road?

Henry Schuck:
Well, first, I didn’t know what the VC route was. I was 23. I grew up in Los Angeles, I went to college in Las Vegas and then I’m sitting in law school in Columbus, Ohio. And none of those places, especially in the early 2000s had much of a VC community and so I didn’t really know what that meant. And so I just thought that the way you run a business is with the money you have, you start it and you make it profitable so you can continue to run it. And so that’s what we did. And then when the company grew, you started hearing from VCs and private equity firms and over time you understood how it worked.

Henry Schuck:
But early on it was more like a necessity than anything else.

Gil Allouche:
Very interesting. [inaudible]. That’s cool. Very different story for you, David. I remember the first time I met David was at a bar, which you told me is unique because you don’t usually hang out in bars and we just started chilling and talking. And then, of course, a few moments in he’s like, “Oh, yeah. My name is David Cancel. I’m the founder of Performable which is basically HubSpot. And I was an Inbound. I was in the INBOUND conference. It was really cool to get to meet you just like that.

Gil Allouche:
Tell us, you started five companies then, I think I heard you say.

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Tell us about that first one that you started and then tell us about how you started Drift.

David Cancel:
Oh, I’m not as smart as Henry. Henry figured it out. He dialed it in and he created his company. Mine was more of like I would say I’m like the Forrest Gump of this. I stumbled my way into different groups along the way and then each one really expanded my thinking and my learning and really taught me that I was capable of doing something that I didn’t think was possible because I grew up in pre-history before the commercial internet and so there were no blogs. There was no Google. There was no way to search for any of this information. So the idea of starting a company or doing any of the things that we do today was just so foreign and so distant that it’s almost hard to explain it to anyone who’s growing up today. It was inconceivable.

David Cancel:
Like Henry, there was one thing that overlapped. I found this group of three people who were founding a company in New York on a message board. A news group. Many people won’t remember what those things were, but back in the day those were like Reddit is today. And so I found them and they wanted to start this company and they were looking for someone. None of them coded and so they were looking for someone to help them and so I joined them and I ended up leading technology and that became three different companies.

David Cancel:
But back then, it’s like the pirate era. No one knew how to create anything on the internet in terms of applications and we always used to joke if you could spell CGI, which was a programming interface that we used, then you would get hired. Because just no one knew about it. There were no books. If you knew about it, it was such a niche thing. So that led me to creating applications and then I moved to Boston and started my first company in October of 2000 called Compete, which was also in the data business. Worst time to start a company because it was post bubble 2000 and then it was pretty hard and then it got really hard a year later, September 11 of 2001. It got really hard. And then by ’03, ’04, things started to really go because the world discovered PPC and so much was moving on to digital advertising that the kind of data business that we were doing was really relevant and then we sold that business in ’06, ’07 to WPP.

Gil Allouche:
Very cool. It’s really fascinating, the both of you, although now you’re Silicone Valley unicorns, you are not at all from here and I really can appreciate that. You’re right. [inaudible] was not available and you’re talking about the bulletin boards and helping to build some CGI scripts. This is cool

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Yet, the way you both evolved in building multi-billion dollar companies is quite interesting. When you started the companies … Maybe we’ll start with you David. When you were starting Drift … I remember the first days by the way. I remember that we were just talking about it, the first version that you had there. Drift [TTT] I think it was the name.

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Did you think it’s going to be what it is today? Did you plan for it to be creating this conversational category?

David Cancel:
Not the category so much, but in terms of where we are right now, yeah, definitely. That was the purpose of starting the company. It was not because of us or because of technology. It was just like we thought that this shift was happening and we thought it had nothing to do with us and so if we were right on that one bet then we could create the kind of company that we wanted to. So in some ways, yes, I wish I was further along. You’re never as far as you want to be, but yeah, I thought the opportunity was that big.

David Cancel:
I think we have a long way to go and we’re just in the beginnings, but I definitely thought it would look like this and that shaped me on decisions that I made on day one. We raised money from day one. I was going to fund the company myself. That was the other alternative and then I decided, no, we were going to raise capital because we were going to try to build this type of business in this way.

David Cancel:
So anyway, the answer is yes, I did. But that was the first time that I ever thought something so crazy.

Gil Allouche:
Yeah, you just said, going through those companies, you were like Forrest Gump. Every time it removes limiting thoughts from you and then you started aiming higher and higher.

David Cancel:
Yes.

Gil Allouche:
I think that’s a really cool insight. It’s such a cliché sometimes to say those things, but when you experience life and you go through all those different stages, sometimes it’s the biggest struggle, the biggest challenge, your own thoughts.

David Cancel:
Yeah, it was so important for me because again, I didn’t have any of these role models. I didn’t have, I didn’t see anyone else do this before and I didn’t have access to find it and so removing those limiting thoughts were super important, as you said. And in the last company, being there and going from 200 employees to I think 14,000 when I left, when we went public, and seeing that and being like, “Oh wow, I think I can do this.” And so here I am. We’ll see if that’s true.

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, cheers.

Gil Allouche:
Cheers, guys.

David Cancel:
Oh, yeah.

Henry Schuck:
It’s always interesting when you demystify the people above you and your role models. They say never meet your idols.

David Cancel:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Totally.

Henry Schuck:
And all of a sudden you’re in the room with the guys that are making the big decisions that made your software companies that you look up to and you go, “Yeah, they’re impressive but they put their pants on one leg at a time, they’re thinking about things the same way that I do.” And I think the more and more experiences like that I had, the more and more I was like, “Okay. I can be the same leader as them. I have to put in the time. I have a ton to learn, but I’m not handicapped by anything.” It was just super empowering.

David Cancel:
Yeah, that’s such an important thing. If I would give any advice if I could to anyone it’s just like keep putting yourself in those rooms like that, like you experienced and I experienced and then you remove those limiting beliefs because you’re like they’re great, they’re experienced, they’re smart, but they’re not a 100 times smarter than you. They’re not 10 times smarter than you. They’re not probably twice as smart as you, so it’s possible for any of us to do this.

Henry Schuck:
One of the luckiest things I think that happened to me on this journey was before we took private equity money in 2014, I had gone through a cycle with another private equity firm and I remember being like … You know, you’re really intimated. It’s my first time through the thing. I didn’t know what they wanted to hear from me, what they didn’t want to hear and I knew that on the other side of our conversations was a big check of money. And so you really want to just tell them what they want to hear. At least, that was the lens with which I was looking at it through.

Henry Schuck:
And so they asked like, “Well Henry, what do you want to do? We come in. We make an investment. What do you want to do?” And I thought that they wanted to hear, “Whatever you want me to do.”

David Cancel:
Oh.

Henry Schuck:
If you want to bring in a CEO and you want me to play a secondary role, I’m good. You want to put multi-millions of dollars in my pocket, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. And that’s what I said. I was like, “Look, I think I have a lot of skills here but you guys tell me what you’re looking to do.” Then they started introducing me to other CEOs because they were like, “Okay, we’re going to make the investment and then we’re going to bring in another CEO and so here are some people who can be the next CEO of your company.” In my head I was just okay with that. I was like, “You’re going to make a bunch of money and they’re going to bring in this next guy and here you go. Go do something else or whatever else it is you want.”

Henry Schuck:
The luckiest thing that ever happened to me in my life is that that didn’t happen. It didn’t work out. The deal didn’t work out and it gave me an opportunity to grow and evolve. And then the next set of investors who came through were, “No, no, no. You’re going to be the CEO, right?” The question was a little bit different. The difference between, “What do you want to do,” and, “Hey, you’re going to stick around and be the CEO, right? You’re really important.” It made all the difference and so I feel so lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to evolve and continue to do this because at some point along the way I could’ve just opted out and who knows if I would ever have an opportunity to really stretch my talents the way I’ve had the opportunity to do.

Gil Allouche:
That’s a really [crosstalk].

David Cancel:
Such an important lesson.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

David Cancel:
I think everyone goes through that, not knowing. This was in the fundraising scenario. My analogy is like it’s dating dynamics. It’s like the last thing you want. The last thing that works in terms of dating is telling the other person exactly what they want to hear. That’s the worst scenario.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, that’s exactly it.

David Cancel:
And this is exactly the same.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk].

David Cancel:
And then the more you think about it, it’s like it has to be the same because there are only people and relationships. Those are the only dynamics. We may put on the business hat or the personal hat or the whatever hat, but there’s only relationships and that telling someone what they want to hear is the worst thing and it’s so fortunate how you found that out.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, total. The other part of this is people are going through this cycle at really young ages.

David Cancel:
Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Henry Schuck:
They’re really young and I was even at the time we were doing this. I was 29, 30 and that feels like actually older in today’s cycle for having those conversations.

David Cancel:
Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Henry Schuck:
And so my thinking about what I saw for myself and what I saw for the company and what I wanted for my future, it just wasn’t evolved at all. And so I feel very lucky that when we had private equity investment it wasn’t like a, “Hey, here’s a whole bunch of money. Go figure out how to build a major company here.” It was like, “Hey, what you’re doing works. Keep doing it. We’re going to invest a little bit more.” And it gave me time to grow into the role.

Henry Schuck:
I imagine when you’re sitting on the other side of that table and you’re 25, 26, 27 it’s just you don’t really know what you want for yourself or what the right answer are and so you kind of just mess it up.

Gil Allouche:
Yeah. It sounds like you survived it. Very interesting, humbling story that what would have happened. Those investors, they always talk about having a good investor, a supporting investor. I remember when I started five years ago, I was just happy to get any investor because they have the money and they give the money into my bank account so I can run the company. But later on you realize that you’re going to have lot of conversations with those people. Maybe weekly, Maybe bi-weekly. If they believe in you, the end of every conversation feeling like a billion dollar. You’re ready to go into the next battle. If they don’t, it’s hard and so it’s very interesting and it’s cool to see that and know [inaudible].

David Cancel:
Remember dating dynamics. The last thing you want to do is the person that dates anyone.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, that’s right. Dating dynamics is a good analogy that you just keep coming back to.

Gil Allouche:
It’s a good analogy. Unless you’re happy to be exactly everything that they want and then it’s okay to say that. When you started, some years passed and then you got some private equity and they kept investing in you, what was the time where you decided you’re the Bank of America of data for B2B?

Henry Schuck:
I don’t know if we ever really decided that. I think with a lot of these stories, with any of these stories it’s easy to look at it from the outside and go like, “Oh my goodness. What a great ride that must’ve been.” But every day feels like Whac-A-Mole.

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Henry Schuck:
When the company was smaller, I remember we were growing and the company was really well and I remember going to some entrepreneurial networking event and there was some other guy who ran a company that was also growing and successful. It might’ve been slightly bigger than us. And I remember thinking in my head, “Wow, it must be great to be this guy. He’s got this great business, it’s running really well. It’s just growing. It just must be the greatest thing.” Because I knew all of the stuff that I was dealing with bag at the office at ZoomInfo and was like, “Okay, I’m trying to fix marketing and sales is isn’t scaling and my engineering team is not as talented as I want them to be.” But every other entrepreneur I saw through rose colored glasses. Their business … What a lucky guy. He must have just the easiest time. He doesn’t have to deal with my crappy engineering team or my sales team that’s not scaling or the marketing team I need to fix.

Henry Schuck:
And the reality is we all have stuff that we’re trying to do better that isn’t going as well as we hoped that it would be going or that’s not as far along as we wanted it to be at this point. And really the journey along the way was filled with moment of difficulty and questioning your own abilities. We made a fairly sizeable acquisition of a company called RainKing in the summer of 2017 and I would say in that moment, even when we’re making this acquisition, it was a multiple 100 million dollar acquisition and I remember being on the plane, flying to D.C. to go met the employees and tell them we’re making this acquisition and thinking, “Oh, I’m just pretending to be a business person.” Like, “Oh, we’re just kids pretending to do grownup work.” It’s how you felt in a lot of those moments.

Henry Schuck:
It goes back to the commentary earlier. The people doing this work are not a 100 times smarter than you. They’ve had some more experiences but I think ultimately for us along the way, we were just really focused on building operational excellence across the company and taking advantages of opportunities that were in front of us. And so along the way I think we became a really great B2B data provider and go-to-market intelligence provider, but there was never a moment where just the light flicked.

Gil Allouche:
Interesting. So the acquisitions were organic. It just happened because it made sense not because it was a strategy necessarily.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah. I mean the acquisitions made sense along the way. People were surprised we pulled it off. No one was surprised about the strategic direction of it.

Gil Allouche:
That’s a nice way of putting it. Very cool. David, just before this episode I was recording another episode with Dave Gerhardt and Guillaume Cabane. You probably know those folks [crosstalk]. Both of them worked at Drift and we were talking about category creation and I was asking them what’s the top trades or campaign that was so important to create a category. And of course both of them are different. Guillaume is more the techy, Quantum [inaudible] quant crazy scientist and Dave is just really good and crafty with his words and messaging.

Gil Allouche:
They mentioned a few interesting tactics that they did. For example, they were mentioned building a really big community and he called it an audience. Guillaume was mentioning, and Dave as well, listening to I think 50 sales calls until they understood all the blockers and created apps to remove those blockers and gave it to HubSpot.

Gil Allouche:
Did you orchestrate those things or did you hire people that you know are going to look at it this way? How did you …

David Cancel:
I’d say a little of both. Both were kind of young in their career at the time and they definitely brought amazing talent. I think I play more of the role of an editor and so I’m the one who’s just like, “It’s not good enough. Let’s do it again.” Here’s the direction we want to do.” Then I would also be the scientist experimenting with my own plays and then when they started working. Between Dave and I and then Guillaume and I and in some cases, then we would basically start … I would get them to start doing some of them. And some of them were the audience buildings ones that we were doing and building our funnels and things like that, and all these different plays that we had.

David Cancel:
I think it’s more of so much of what we do and even in that scenario, is not just being okay with something that’s just decent or pretty good or just like everyone else. We just kept pushing on we have to do things different. If we’re going to stand out, by definition we have to do things that other people don’t want to do and most of them are going to fail and some of them will work. And maybe they’ll work and if they do, we’ll double down on those, but we can’t copy anything anyone else is doing.

David Cancel:
I was just obsessed with looking for role models outside of B2B because we’re just at the end of the day marketing and communicating to humans. Again, just like the dating dynamics. In this case, communication is the same if we’re communicating in business or in our daily lives. We were just looking for models and we looked at all models and models that weren’t popular anymore. From a marketing standpoint and from getting the category created, my mantra internally was really this do the things that don’t scale. We ended up writing a free book around that. The 52 plays that we did that didn’t scale.

David Cancel:
By definition if someone would say, “It doesn’t scale,” someone else, another company, then we would double down on that because those were the things that they didn’t want to do because they were messy and they were hard to measure from an attribution standpoint. They weren’t at scale maybe. As marketers, I always say that marketers want to do one thing, which is fine, massively scalable channels that are perfectly measurable. But when that is true, all the arbitrage is removed out of that system. The early successes in any of those channels are the ones that moved in before it was easy to measure, before it was at scale.

David Cancel:
You have to be looking for these things that no one else will do because they’re just too painful for measure or too niche at the time and then when they hit scale and when they’re perfectly measurable, that’s when everyone else moves in. There’s still leverage in there and there’s still ways to find some pockets of arbitrage, but it becomes really, really hard at that point. So we just had this discipline over and over again of just experimenting, experimenting, experimenting. Don’t ever do something that someone else is doing. Yeah, I’d say in that role I was the editor and more of the person with the guardrails of not giving in to doing the easy thing.

Henry Schuck:
We might’ve lost Gil. Oh. He’s back.

David Cancel:
Oh, did we lose Gil?

Henry Schuck:
No, he …

David Cancel:
Oh, there he is.

Gil Allouche:
This is interesting. Did you guys also experience some stops in the WiFi, in the video, or is it just me?

Henry Schuck:
No, yeah. A little bit.

Gil Allouche:
A little bit. Okay.

David Cancel:
Little bit. Yeah.

Henry Schuck:
But it wasn’t bad.

David Cancel:
No.

Gil Allouche:
Wasn’t too bad. Good. David, I think what you are referring to is you allowed for a lot of experimentation and finding out things that are maybe not the standard. It’s funny, because I heard Dave and Guillaume were mentioning that a lot. That you created a culture of experimentation where, as long as the results are there, [inaudible] is being generated, sales are happening and marketing gets the credit, they can try out crazy things and many of them would not work.

David Cancel:
Many of them. I would say that a little different. I wouldn’t say that I allowed for it. I would say that was the only way. That was the only way we were going to operate and we wouldn’t do anything else. It was just like the way we forced ourselves to operate more so than creating room for it. It was just the only lane we had was to experiment.

Gil Allouche:
I love that. That’s really good. I’m inspired by that. We have a culture of experimentation and we live and breathe experimentation. It’s in our product. I also found it to be the most scientific way to achieve the outcomes. Just trying out what works and what doesn’t. But it’s really cool to see that’s what’s your only lane, how you described it.

Henry Schuck:
David, what do you think? Do you have thoughts about what are those early marketing plays now that are-

David Cancel:
Oh, that works for us?

Henry Schuck:
No, like today when you think about the world.

David Cancel:
Oh, yeah.

Henry Schuck:
What are the things that have not scaled yet to mass consumption that there is arbitrage opportunity around.

David Cancel:
Oh, so you’re asking for new channels. I love it.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, well …

David Cancel:
Yeah. I mean we continue to look for pockets of them. We did all sorts of stuff. I’d say the one 1,000 True Fans. We used to call it hand-to-hand combat at Drift in the early days. Hand-to-hand combat. We are going to reach out, we’re going to communicate, we are going to get back to every single person one-by-one in the early days and just find someone that we think can become a fan or become someone that would be interested in what we’re doing. And we would do it one at a time and email them. Personally I would send them books and t-shirts and this and that. I was doing that.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

David Cancel:
The thing that everyone reacts to that is like, “Well, that doesn’t scale, that doesn’t work.” I’m like, “That is the only thing that scales. Building relationships.” And Henry’s business is about building relationships. Building those relationships one at a time over time and over a large group of people as you grow is the only thing that scales. There’s nothing else that scales. We act like these programmatic mediums, these programmatic channels are the key, right? Like these things are perfectly scalable. It’s like I don’t agree. I think relationships are the only thing that scale. At the end of the day there’s a person on the other side that has to react to this thing and there’s a business on the other side. And so there are humans that have to interact.

David Cancel:
And so that’s the play that I would always start with which is we’re just going to go one, by one, by one, by one and the good thing is almost no one is willing to do that. And so immediately-

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

David Cancel:
I was helping a business school student. I volunteer at a local business school and she was asking me about getting her first 50 users in this consumer app and all she wanted to talk about was Facebook ads and Instagram ads and this ads. I’m like, “You need to go talk to 10 people.” You want to work behind a screen like a laboratory and be like, “We’re going to find the perfect 50 people,” and it’s like that is not possible. You have to find 10 people and then 20 people and then 30 people and 50 people and you have to look for … I would say you have to look for someone who has an emotional reaction. And that emotion could be, “I love what you’re talking about, Gil.” Or that emotion could be, “I hate every word that you’re saying.” Those things are equally as good to me. And all you’re trying to find or avoid is that trough which is the vast majority of that they don’t care. They just could not care less about what you’re doing. They don’t hate it, they don’t love it, they’re indifferent. You avoid indifference.

David Cancel:
Because someone who hates what you’re telling them or are pitching them, over time it’s pretty easy to win them over and get them to become fans. I find if someone’s indifferent you can never get them over. In either way they just don’t care.

Henry Schuck:
They’re pissed off. Yeah. Yeah. That’s interesting.

Gil Allouche:
Very interesting.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, that’s interesting. Having a point of view is important.

David Cancel:
So important.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
You’re talking about things that don’t scale and I remember the first 10 customers or so were either my former bosses, or friends, or friends of companies that they worked for and so and so forth. But the idea of experimentation sometimes is it’s a good way to scale when you already have some good foundation. For example, you were talking about having conversation and having opinion. We found … Jason found actually. Not me. In March and in April we suddenly had to phase this thing with some potential economic backlash so we made quick decision and cut our burn and had to do other a lot of layoffs. Tough period and part of that was to tell Jason, “Hey, I know I told you that I have two people. We’re only going to have zero. And I know I told you, you have this budget. You have a third of it.”

Gil Allouche:
But still the goal is the same. And so you can do anything you want. You don’t have to do what you were planning on doing before because the game has changed. But see what’s possible with experimentation to your point. And he found … I think scarcity did sometimes … It’s a [inaudible]. It’s a known that scarcity did sometimes lead to innovation. It was an interesting situation that he found an arbitrage channel, the one that I think [inaudible] was trying to find some hidden gem. I think conversational ads on LinkedIn became very successful and we actually went after a LinkedIn conversation ads because we had a very successful experience with Drift. We built this pretty sophisticated playbook that seemed like a modern marketer talking back even with an opinion and then we applied it into conversational ads.

Gil Allouche:
It was interesting to see that once you find the right conversations or the right four or five points that you need to make, it’s possible to try to scale that [crosstalk].

David Cancel:
Oh yeah. For sure. Mm-hmm (affirmative). A 100%. I think getting those manual, early conversations is super important for a whole bunch of reasons but one thing that I’m always looking for is when you start to get those people that love and then even the people that hate you a little bit and then you win them over. I’m looking for, I’m trying to get them to express what they’re looking for, what we’re providing to them in their own words and that’s the key. That’s what I’m listening for. Once they’re a fan and they’re articulating it back in their own words, those words are what I’m using in message testing in the early days to get to scale.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, totally.

David Cancel:
Critical. I had this complete [performal] that I sold to HubSpot and we built this A/B testing too in the beginning and this guy, Sean Ellis, who’s basically coined growth hacking was basically … And he had done it for Dropbox and [inaudible] and all these kind of companies. Anyway, he was using our platform to do it and he was one of our advisors and we were sitting there watching what he was doing and while he’s testing early days of Dropbox and he was literally doing that. He was finding the exact words, copy and paste, literal, that someone would say about Dropbox and then testing those against marketing messages, and we would watch exactly what he was doing. And every single time it was those words, because they were almost like this inception thing. They were like the people that were like that person who said that thing. It resonated with them in a way that none of the marketing messages could. It was like they would express it.

David Cancel:
It was like a cheat code. We got to watch this guy doing this insane amount of A/B testing back before really growth hacking became a term, and we copied that. We copied that from him and continue to do that today.

Gil Allouche:
Very smart. Makes total sense but it’s the kind of legwork that I think sometimes people skip and like you said, they jump right in [crosstalk].

David Cancel:
I think it’s easy and simple but I think most people don’t want to do it because they have their own ideas of what they want to test. They think they could write a better headline.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Right.

David Cancel:
It’s all ego issues. It’s actually very simple. It’s like find exactly how your customers express it, find some phrases, test those phrases and those will probably be way better than your product marketing or your CEO, your founder’s way of describing it.

Gil Allouche:
Right, [crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
It’s also super painful, right?

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Henry Schuck:
People don’t want to hear why people don’t’ like it and they don’t want to hear that their idea is wrong.

David Cancel:
Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Henry Schuck:
That their positioning about it was all wrong and so they prefer to avoid that kind of pain. I tell this story about my sister. My sister has a jewelry company. She sells jewelry to lots of major brands and so I told her, “What’s the dream outcome here?” Because she was like, “Look, I want to build a business around this.” Great. How do you do that? She’s like, “Well, I got to sell my jewelry into these 10 brands that are really important.” And she’s like, “And these 10 brands, they would love my stuff. I know they would love my stuff because it fits their aesthetic, it’s what they want.” And I said, “Okay, well here, let me give you access to ZoomInfo. Go find the jewelry buyers at those companies and reach out to them and pitch your brand and your jewelry.” And she was like, “No, that doesn’t work for my industry.” I’m like, “What do you mean it doesn’t work for your industry.” “Because at my job I get emails like that and I don’t pay attention to them. I delete them or …”

Henry Schuck:
And I was like, “[inaudible 00:50:23] just stuff in your head. You’re telling me you have this great product that fits great for these brands and you don’t want to go tell them about it? How do you think it’s going to happen? They’re just going to find you randomly and write you a million dollar check for your jewelry? You have this great thing. Go tell them about it.” And there’s all this in your head about like, “Oh, I don’t want to be that guy who’s bothering you about my product. I don’t want to be the person who sends an unsolicited email. I don’t want them to tell me that my product is not good enough.” It’s like if you could just get out of our own way a little bit.

Henry Schuck:
There’s so much upside in someone telling you, “Your idea is stupid, it doesn’t make sense. These are the reasons why we don’t like it. These are the things that I would do differently.” We already have a product that does that. This is what it is. That learning is just invaluable at the beginning. Any time I meet with people who are starting companies or want advice about starting companies, my first advice is just make sure you’re on the front lines of the sales process so you can hear what people are saying about this thing that you built. Because there’s just nothing more valuable than that.

David Cancel:
Oh yeah. I totally agree. I said in the beginning that I didn’t want to start another company. It was mostly because of this. It’s like because the early days it’s exactly this mode of the first year-and-a-half or so. Even this. Even the fifth company in, it doesn’t change because you have to expose yourself to that real feedback. And every day it was like eating a giant pile of … I won’t say what.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, totally.

David Cancel:
Every day. Demoralizing. Every single day just being told about how awful this was, how this sucked. Having people that you knew for a million years wouldn’t return an email, wouldn’t return a call, didn’t want to hear it. Every single day. But that is the thing that nobody wants to hear, but that is the key. You have to put yourself into those uncomfortable positions if you want to make something and it’s painful.

Henry Schuck:
Totally.

David Cancel:
We try to incentivize that at Drift now of just in terms of creating products and things and services and offerings at drift of just we have to, we force everyone to expose themselves to either the customer or the prospect or whatever early, in the beginning. From like in the worst form of just getting people to just really give them raw feedback and deal with the pain and start the feedback loop. Because it’s not until you start the feedback loop that you can do anything.

David Cancel:
I think Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn had said … I’m paraphrasing, but he a quote a long time ago that was something like, “If the first version of your product people don’t think sucks, you spent too much time on it.” Like you spent too much time refining it.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

David Cancel:
You have to be laughed at and we were laughed at over and over again. But that’s brutal on the ego and people will make excuses just like Henry is saying, all day long.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Almost like a rite of passage for the product market stage to happen. [crosstalk].

David Cancel:
Yeah, but most of the stuff that we’re talking about, even this thing is like it’s simple. I always say it’s simple, not easy. It’s really simple. It’s like the same thing is like how do I lose weight? Stop eating, move less. But nobody wants to do it.

Henry Schuck:
Totally. That’s it. [crosstalk].

David Cancel:
There’s nothing else.

Henry Schuck:
There’s no special secret to losing weight. You just eat less, exercise more. That’s it.

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Henry Schuck:
That’s all.

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Henry Schuck:
And it’s the same thing. It’s easy. The formula’s there. You just got to go do it.

David Cancel:
Yeah, it’s so simple, but everyone’s looking for hacks and shortcuts and tricks and this and that and there basically aren’t any. The only one that I’ve discovered is learning form other people’s failures and not just learning form your own, but that’s an easy thing to say and pretty hard to do because most of the time it’s hard for us to listen to that.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, and also there’s just so many nuances and distinctions in-between somebody else’s experience and yours.

David Cancel:
Yeah. Totally. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Henry Schuck:
But listening to those things is so important because it gives you an opportunity to recognize when you’re in that place.

David Cancel:
Totally. Yeah.

Henry Schuck:
Like, “Oh shoot, this is that thing he told me about.”

David Cancel:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly. That’s the thing. The advice could be right but your context could be totally different. But there are those moments where you’re like, “Oh, I’m In the right context now. I’m at the right stage. That was the thing that Henry said. That was the thing. All right. I’m not going to do it again. Maybe he’s wrong, maybe he’s right, but the odds are better if I don’t just go through and do the same thing and mistake that he did.”

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, totally.

Gil Allouche:
Henry, what was the end of that story? Did she end up buying the contacts? Or not buying or not buying. I guess you didn’t sell it to her. But maybe just-

David Cancel:
[crosstalk]

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, yeah. It was this really interesting moment where I told her, “You can’t actually believe …” She also said she’s not going to do art shows or juried jewelry shows. I was like, “Let me just make sure I got this right. Your business plan is that at some point these people … You don’t have a great web presence, you don’t go to juried art shows. That these people are going to show up at your doorstep and write you a check for your product. That’s your business plan.” And she was like, “Well, when you say it like that it does sound ridiculous.” But yeah, it does sound ridiculous.

Henry Schuck:
I think what she-

Gil Allouche:
It isn’t.

Henry Schuck:
… learned, whether she’s going to … I don’t think she’s done anything from this, but I think what she did learn was that the barrier between her and growing her business was her. That’s it. It was just in-between her ears.

David Cancel:
Always.

Henry Schuck:
That’s it. David, I’m sure you see this all the time. I see it all the time too. For so many people, their biggest challenges in growing and scaling and getting the things that they want lives primarily in-between their own ears.

David Cancel:
Totally.

Henry Schuck:
And getting out of their own way is something as like … I think one of my strengths as a leader is helping people get out of their own way when they’re in their own way. I see big things for a lot of people. Oftentimes more than they see for themselves. And one of my challenges is to make sure that they can see that for themselves and help them get there. But so often you see people self-sabotage themselves into the places they don’t even want to be for themselves and it’s just like a mental wellbeing and wellness and doing things that get your mind right every day, as Tony Robbins-ey as that sounds. It is so valuable, I’ve come to really appreciate it.

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk].

David Cancel:
Oh, it’s everything. I think it’s why I spend so much time now basically just geeking out on psychology and thinking about it and just all those limiting factors. All those things. Once you start to, if you’re able, pull yourself out and be like the observer and watch these patterns and people, including yourself, you see the patterns are so simple, what they’re doing and we’re repeating over and over. It’s like a Matrix moment. You’re like, “Holy cow. What is happening? They’re doing the same thing over.”

David Cancel:
And to bring it back to dating in your example there, I was actually talking to a friend today and she was actually talking about dating and anyway, she was talking about how she wants to meet someone. So I said how many people does she date? And she … zero. So I had the same conversation, because she doesn’t like the dating browsers. So I was like, “So your plan to find this perfect person is for them to fall from the heavens above and just land on your head in your apartment, because you can’t leave because we’re in COVID now.”

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

David Cancel:
[inaudible]. But in her mind, almost like in your sister’s mind, it was a very [inaudible] conversation. Very clear. This is the plan. And it was like that plan is impossible and sometimes you have to; and this is the truth for all of us; wake ourselves up and shake ourselves and be like, “It can’t be …” THat’s where I try to reduce everything to the simplest terms. There’s no way that this can be true. All right. Forget about all these fancy things that we’re working on. But it’s amazing. The one book that I always recommend because I read so many books and people ask me is Peter Drucker’s book which is called Managing Oneself. It’s like you cannot manage a system, you can’t manage anyone else, you can’t manage anything until you can manage yourself. And that book is like a little pamphlet. It costs $5 on Amazon but I read it all the time because in it, it just is basically reinforcing this thing of all the problems start and stop with you. That’s it. That’s the only thing.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

David Cancel:
And then collectively as a company, I always talk about there is no losing to competition or losing because of this or having the … There’s only people. It’s only us and we can only either see those things coming and react and do something to them or we can fail to do so. But no magical competitor or magical shift is going to come and that’s the reason that we didn’t succeed. It was us collectively missing something that caused us not to succeed.

Henry Schuck:
That’s right. Totally.

Gil Allouche:
I love that. That’s an absolute truth and it’s fascinating. First of all, it’s probably why it’s hard to be a friend of an entrepreneur. You get the brutal honesty also when you don’t ask for it.

Henry Schuck:
Yes.

Gil Allouche:
It’s just there all the time. I can really resonate with that.

David Cancel:
That’s why we do podcasts. The only time we can talk to each other, because people ask me-

Henry Schuck:
[crosstalk]-

David Cancel:
… and ask all of us all the time, “How’s it going?” It’s like I don’t know what version they want. I don’t know if they want the real version.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, totally. My wife’s dat made dinner a couple nights ago for us. He made steak and it was over-salted and he was going to cook steak again for us the next night because we had just bought steaks, and I told him. I was like, “Hey, Mike. That’s steak’s got a lot of salt on it. I don’t know. Did you do something different?” He couldn’t take it. He couldn’t take that type of feedback. And later with my wife I was like, “I don’t know. I thought he would want to hear it. I thought he would want to know.” But it was like “He’s making steaks again tomorrow. I don’t know. Just, I thought he wanted the feedback.” She’s like, “Just shut up sometimes. You don’t have to always give people that feedback,” but you’re so geared for it in your work life, it’s like I thought everybody wants to hear it.

David Cancel:
I hear you. This is the key. This is how you know you’re not an entrepreneur. This is the key entrepreneurial trait which I always say like I have this same problem and it works really well in this context and it’s lousy in ever other context. In a social context, personal context, it’s not a good thing to happen-

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk].

David Cancel:
… and it’s not a good trait.

Henry Schuck:
No. Like we’ll meet new people and I’ll be like, “What do you do? Where do you do it? Who’s your boss? What [inaudible]. How do you go to market? Who are your customers? How do you find new business.” And just like leave me alone. Who is this guy?

David Cancel:
And your wife is like, “What is wrong with this person?” [crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
I get a little aggressive.

David Cancel:
Yeah. Cheers to that.

Henry Schuck:
Cheers to that.

Gil Allouche:
This is very funny.

David Cancel:
Oh my god. I have the same problem.

Gil Allouche:
This is why we can’t have nice things. Henry, tell us [crosstalk]-

David Cancel:
It’s funny because people will ask you about stuff related to this. I’m like, “This is not a good trait.” If you create your own world this is a good trait, but [crosstalk]-

Henry Schuck:
I don’t know if I agree.

David Cancel:
[crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
I don’t know if I agree with you.

David Cancel:
It’s not a good trait in other words.

Henry Schuck:
[crosstalk].

David Cancel:
Gil doesn’t … You don’t camp because you’re Israeli. This is cultural.

Henry Schuck:
It is very cultural.

Gil Allouche:
It is true. In my culture it’s true.

Henry Schuck:
It is very cultural.

David Cancel:
I’m just joking. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Henry Schuck:
No, I think like when we acquired ZoomInfo we picked up this 100 person engineering team in Israel and everybody was like, “Oh, you know, culturally da, da, da, da, da…” And I was like, “No, it’s super. It’s great. I fit right in. There’s no issue.

David Cancel:
Totally same.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

David Cancel:
To me and my girlfriend, New York … And so Israelis, Russians. I’m like, “Bring it. Let’s go. New York plus this and entrepreneurial.” It’s this mindset. I’m just like I thrive in it. But normal people, no.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, totally.

Gil Allouche:
I [crosstalk].

David Cancel:
[crosstalk].

Gil Allouche:
I think that entrepreneurs … That’s one of the reasons I feel comfortable being among entrepreneurs. I can speak the truth. Entrepreneurs can take it. But that’s very interesting. Henry, tell us something that no one knows about you. They know your online persona but they don’t know the true Henry.

Henry Schuck:
Oh, that’s interesting.

Gil Allouche:
I learned today that you live in a different Vancouver than the Vancouver that I thought. I always thought you live in Canada for some reason and then today you just told me, “No Vancouver, Washington. It’s right next to [inaudible].”

Henry Schuck:
Yeah. I actually split time for-

Gil Allouche:
But that’s not the fact.

Henry Schuck:
That’s not a thing. I live actually in two places. I live in Vancouver, Washington and every other month I’m in Boston and so I split my time right now. I have a daughter who is four so I can get away with that for the next couple of probably year-and-a-half. What is something people … Oh, I don’t know if I have a good one. I’m a huge Back to the Future fan. I love Back to the Future.

David Cancel:
Oh nice.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah. And I learned the other day that in 2018 the hoverboard got sold. It was like it went on auction and got sold. Actually no, I learned this four months ago and I have not gotten over the fact that I wasn’t able to buy the hoverboard from Back to the Future 2. So if anybody listening to the podcast knows how I could get my hands on that I will pay top dollar for the hoverboard from Back to the Future 2.

David Cancel:
I think the last I heard it’s a rapper that ones it.

Henry Schuck:
Oh, really?

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk].

David Cancel:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Henry Schuck:
Really?

David Cancel:
Yeah, it’s Tyga.

Gil Allouche:
Oh, Tyga.

Henry Schuck:
Really? Tyga owns the actual hoverboard?

David Cancel:
Yeah, search for that online. The last I heard-

Henry Schuck:
I will search for that.

David Cancel:
I don’t know if he still does. Yeah.

Henry Schuck:
That’s interesting.

David Cancel:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Henry Schuck:
I don’t have any direct line to Tyga but I can probably try to figure out. I mean he probably really likes it.

Gil Allouche:
Maybe David does.

David Cancel:
Well, I’m assuming it was to match when Nike came out with those special edition-

Henry Schuck:
Sneaker?

David Cancel:
Sneakers, yeah.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

David Cancel:
Yeah. [crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
Yeah. Pretty cool.

Gil Allouche:
David, what about yourself? What is something about you that no one else knows?

David Cancel:
Oh.

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk].

David Cancel:
I don’t know. My life is online. I don’t know. I’ve lived so many Forrest Gump lives before this so I don’t know. Growing up I was a club promoter, I was a graffiti artist, I was … I don’t know. I’ve done a million crazy things in my life.

Gil Allouche:
Graffiti artist?

David Cancel:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Tell us about that.

David Cancel:
[crosstalk]. Yeah-

Gil Allouche:
How long did you do that for?

David Cancel:
A million years ago.

Henry Schuck:
I don’t know why, but every time we talk I always think about the show, “How to Make It in America” on HBO. I always [crosstalk] kind of. Yeah, I don’t know.

Gil Allouche:
[crosstalk].

Henry Schuck:
I always just think of-

Gil Allouche:
I love that show.

Henry Schuck:
Whenever you tell I grew up in New York, I’m a CRL entrepreneur, I always just think about that show.

David Cancel:
That’s exactly that. I probably have more in common with that show than anything else. I mean I did so many crazy things. I don’t even know where to start. But back then I did graffiti a million years ago and that was the beginning of a lot of sneaker culture, speaking of a sneaker. It’s like a lot of that sneaker culture stuff started back then. It was the very beginnings of that. And then even brands like … I knew the people who had started different brands like Supreme which just got bought, which is a massive global brand now. But that was a local down the block kind of spot that this guy James started a long time ago.

David Cancel:
It was such a cool time because it was a time when we were doing graffiti that it was like graffiti, it was like hip hop and The Notorious B.I.G. and Wu-Tang and that kind of era. And then also heavy metal, hardcore music. It was just like this potpourri of crazy art and mixture with technology. A very long time ago. And that’s kind of fueled … That is who I am. That’s how I still think about things.

Gil Allouche:
Always stays there. That’s amazing.

Henry Schuck:
How about you, Gil? What’s one thing we don’t know about you?

David Cancel:
I know. He must be like a Mossad.

Gil Allouche:
Interesting. I love how the tables turn. One thing that no one knows about me.

David Cancel:
Well, you asked the question.

Gil Allouche:
I know. Yeah, you’re right. [crosstalk]-

Henry Schuck:
Oh yeah, it’s so easy, isn’t it?

Gil Allouche:
You know, the first thing I’ve done is when I was really young I used to sell firecrackers I imported from France. Because I was seven years old, I was really young, I would bring in my suitcase-

Henry Schuck:
Awesome.

David Cancel:
That [crosstalk]-

Gil Allouche:
… [crosstalk] lot of it and I would sell it for like … My brother was my VC and my family. I would raise money from them, a 100 bucks at a time, and I would really make … I [inaudible] a huge, huge return on it because I went to school with a bunch of rich kids in my elementary school. Maybe that’s one.

Henry Schuck:
That’s pretty good.

David Cancel:
Wow. Was it illegal?

Gil Allouche:
You know, this is back in the day when there was actually Franc. It was before the Euro, so I don’t know if it was even illegal but you know, I was so young. I remember going into stores in my hometown. I come from a really [inaudible] smaller hometown in Israel and I would go to the store where they sell the firecrackers and I would be super [inaudible]. I was very short. I would go to the sales person. I would be like, “Do you have any firecrackers?” And he’d be like, “No, no. You kids. Go away.” I was like, “I know you have firecrackers.” He’s like, “What do you want?” I told him like, “Look,” and I would open this big box with all my … I would sell to him and he would just be shocked not understanding what’s going on right now with this kid.

David Cancel:
That’s why Israel is the land of entrepreneurs.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Scarcity leads to innovation. Gentlemen, I really, really enjoyed having you both here. It was really fun and also very insightful. Thank you very much for participating. Is there something you want to tell the audience before we finish?

David Cancel:
No, I think we’re good.

Henry Schuck:
No, We’re good. Thank you, Gil.

Gil Allouche:
Wonderful. Thank you very much for a good podcast. I wish you a wonderful weekend and thank you very much again.

David Cancel:
Thank you.

Gil Allouche:
Bye guys. Cheers.

Henry Schuck:
Thank you.

David Cancel:
Thanks.

Henry Schuck:
[crosstalk] cheers.

David Cancel:
Henry, it was great seeing you.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, good seeing you too, David. Are you in Boston? Or I remember you have a house which is like an hour outside, right?

David Cancel:
Yeah, between Boston and Vermont right now.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah, got it.

David Cancel:
Yeah, yeah.

Henry Schuck:
Cool.

David Cancel:
Let me know if you’re ever walking around outside in [inaudible].

Henry Schuck:
I definitely will. I totally will.

David Cancel:
All right. Take care.

Henry Schuck:
All right, see you guys.

Gil Allouche:
Bye friends. Thank you very much.

Henry Schuck:
Talk to you later.

Gil Allouche:
Have a wonderful weekend. Bye-bye.

Henry Schuck:
Thank you, Gil. Thank you for putting this on.

David Cancel:
I know. Thank you for the wine.

Henry Schuck:
Yeah.

Gil Allouche:
Thank you both.

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