SaaS Founder Interview with Cody Horchak, Founder & CEO of Zerv Access Solutions
Tony Zayas 0:00
Hey everybody, welcome. It’s Tony Zayas back for another episode of the SaaS founders show, where we have fascinating conversations with SaaS founders who’ve gone through some pretty amazing journeys, we get to hear all about their story. Andy Halko, our founder is my cohost here. How you doing today, Andy?
Andy Halko 0:26
Fantastic. Getting ready for the winter storm to pound us down. And hoping I don’t get locked out of my house or anything.
Tony Zayas 0:37
Keeping the fish alive there.
Andy Halko 0:38
That’s where I they’re swimming around having some fun. So I’m really excited for our guest today. Cody, can you give us a little intro about what we’re talking about?
Tony Zayas 0:48
Yes. So we’re talking to Cody Horchal. He’s the founder and CEO of Zerve and their offer mobile access solutions to enhance existing systems. With that. Cody, how’re you doing today?
Cody Horchak 1:01
I’m doing well, gentlemen. Thanks for having me on the show.
Tony Zayas 1:04
Absolutely. Thank you for joining. We appreciate you taking the time. Tell us a bit about the business we’d love to hear.
Cody Horchak 1:11
Yes. So from a high level 30,000 foot view, Zurich found a way to connect the digital and physical world as the physical world exists today. Right. So it’s, we enable a phone to interact with a barrier, a barrier can be a door, it can be a garage, it can be a turnstile can be an elevator can be a hotel room, it can be anything, it can be a car door, or, you know those kinds of assets as well. We found a way to take the phone and get it to natively communicate with that asset without needing to rip and replace buying something new, that’s more monitoring able, so more more modern and mobile enabled so that what we’re able to do is connect physical and digital, complementing what the physical world already has today.
Andy Halko 1:58
It’s amazing such a ubiquitous need for everybody obviously, is getting access. I love to start our conversation out of hearing about your origin story. How’d you get started? What got you into this? Tell us a little bit about you know where this all came from?
Cody Horchak 2:20
Yeah, so it goes back. Four years now actually, our four year anniversary is in like three weeks, which is crazy. Time flies, right. So it was out of college went into finance. You know, like anybody in finance kind of searching for, for pains and trying to solve them, right? It’s like, and then I met my girlfriend at the time now wife, and we moved to Chicago. And it was it was an aha moment, I went into a parking garage to take her out to dinner. The first night, we were in Chicago, I ended up spending more on parking than I did for dinner, which was like Welcome to Chicago. Who pays that amount of money for? I don’t get it. It wasn’t even like ballet, like it’s not even good story. Like it was literally I parked myself. I, I got no service out of it. So went to dinner, and ended up spending more on parking than we did for dinner. That’s the catalyst of the story. But coming from a finance background, was the most frustrating part because I lived in worlds of supply and demand. And the parking structure was completely empty. So I could have parked anywhere. So like, they should have paid me to park there or whatever. And so the next day started reserve reserve is short for reserve, and actually took us months to come up with the name. But it was all around connecting underutilized assets with individuals like myself who need to use it in a one off basis. And in order to do that we needed to connect that physical infrastructure with the digital world so we could seamlessly convert credential. So think of it as like Airbnb that everything was the catalyst of what Zerve was looking to accomplish. And in doing so, we created the world’s only bridge between physical and digital, and therefore now everything has become open so that a phone can communicate with it. So that was that was the story. A little bit more, you know, fast forward a little bit. We we brought on an exceptional team from Motorola that were there were laid off during the transition from Google to Lenovo. If you if you guys remember that going back four years now when that transition happened, they built things like the Motorola Razor, very, very experienced team and radiofrequency we got really lucky because never again in our lifetime where we have a fortune 100 companies selling a product to another potential if it was a useless company in other Fortune 100 company and then laying off a whole RFT right so we got we got lucky and then, we built an amazing product and ever since then we’ve just been opening up doors for barriers.
Andy Halko 5:06
That’s great. It sits our show speaks to a lot of founders. How did you know? Were you in another role? And you were starting this on the side? Did you dive headfirst in say, This is my life? Did you find a founder or co founder? What what, from that perspective?
Cody Horchak 5:26
Amazing question. So I definitely had one foot in one foot out of my previous role. So it wasn’t as I dive in headfirst and go, which I applaud those who do. But we had a significant engineering requirement out of the gate that required my income from my full time job to offset those engineering hours. Because I’m not a tech guy. I was a finance guy. So I couldn’t create the tech that was needed. So I needed to hire people. And my full time job became a, a cash flow in which was paid to engineers to help build the product.
Andy Halko 6:07
And we talked to a lot of founders. That’s a common story, right? I mean, that’s how it has to happen. And so, I mean, I think that that’s a familiar scenario. And it’s almost rare that folks jump fall headfirst into it.
Cody Horchak 6:21
Yeah, it’s definitely, it’s a more conservative approach. And yeah, I, if I were to do it, again, I would do it the exact same way. Because it also gave me a lot of validation of the technology, like harder money coming in was going out. And I was seeing the direct response of that, of that capital. I think if you go and you raise a whole bunch of venture capital, and you just then jump in headfirst there, the sense of ownership becomes harder to acquire than the route that I took, but then again, different strokes for different folks. And it was, it was a good decision. decision. So yeah, it was actually there’s very interesting story coming out of that, because I did it for about eight months. And then it got to a point where we were raising institutional fundraising or friends and family. And I had to change my LinkedIn, and they found out about it through my LinkedIn. And they were like, you have to stop doing that. And I was like, That will never happen. So I stepped down. Good for you.
Tony Zayas 7:27
Wow. So Cody, coming from, you know, background in finance, what kind of challenges that you face, you know, diving in and working with, you know, your engineering and technical team? How did you get past those hurdles?
Cody Horchak 7:46
Um, there’s the, there’s two answers, A, a lot of trial and error. That’s, that’s the down and dirty answer that you most people like, don’t want to hear, right. It’s like, there’s a lot of money out that there was no return on investment, because it was a learning curve. But then you meet somebody so brilliant, and so inspiring. That also, like inspiring and brilliant people want to work with that individual. So that we got lucky there. And that individual brought a lot of mind power and a lot of people into the organization and have contributed to, to the success we have today.
Andy Halko 8:32
I always find it interesting. We’ve talked to a number of founders that are doing devices, and this in some ways challenge of having to engineer a physical product, and having to develop a technology and have it all work together. Was that a challenge for you? Did you run into roadblocks? What what did that look like?
Cody Horchak 8:55
Oh my gosh, every day, every day we have a roadblock. Something goes wrong in hardware and software that you have to overcome. And you know what, if any tech company tells you that’s not the case, it’s they either don’t know or they’re lying. Think of Apple, think of Android think of all the that companies that’s like, every single day, you probably force close an app on your iPhone, or your Android device because something is glitching. It’s not working, it is a socially acceptable thing to do. And that’s no different than we deserve is the only difference we have is we’re facilitating access into very valuable assets. So the margin of error is a lot. It’s a lot like a narrower, like people don’t give us second third attempts when we lock them out of really expensive assets. So we have we have a very high bar because just going into the app and closing it and re launching it is in some scenarios unacceptable.
Andy Halko 9:52
Yeah, so most people start with an MVP minimum viable product. So in that scenario, where you’re protecting important assets? How did you handle the MVP process? And, you know, putting out something that maybe isn’t fully baked? Or did you?
Cody Horchak 10:09
Definitely, we’re still not fully baked, we’re four years in and four year roadmap of, of technology.
Andy Halko 10:15
And the reality for any entrepreneur is nothing’s every, ever, ever fully bank, we’re always thinking, and you’re at.
Cody Horchak 10:21
Yeah, what a 100%. And that’s my job, right? So my job is to win as a product ready enough for the market to bear it. Because engineers strive for perfection every single time. Business doesn’t allow for perfection. So what I’m a fan of progress over perfection, because I think the way you reach perfection is you just you keep progressing in the right direction. And you know, the bar for perfection is always moving. So, my job is to be like, Hey, this is the MVP, this is or the proof of concept like, this is how we did it, we took it to market we learned a lot. We we’ve made great customers in the progress customers that have been through numerous development cycles reserved. From the very beginning, you have to find your early adopter that’s going to work with you. And you have to be honest and transparent with them. We are also a victim or a contributor to overselling very early and then walking that back. Is is more complicated than just being upfront and honest from the beginning be like this is what it is, this is what it’s going to become. We can work on this together. And guess what, you’re an early adopter. So you’re going to have a lot of influence on what the end product looks like. So it’s a complicated thing as an entrepreneur to wrap your head around of like, sometimes you want you sign up for more than you’re capable of, or you agree to. And that’s one of the biggest piece of advice I can give is like it’s progress, not perfection, and find that customer that’s going to work through it with you, and develop to their spec. And then at the end of it, you’ll come out with a scalable solution that everybody else is going to sign up for. And
Andy Halko 12:02
when you say that, you know, I think to myself that I don’t even consider anything perfect. There’s no such thing, right? I mean, there’s constantly evolution, there’s constantly invention and innovation. I mean, there is nothing that can get the perfect. So you think in that mindset, you’re probably already in the wrong mental place.
Cody Horchak 12:23
You want 100% And things will surprise you, as well. It’s like, you’ll be going down and you’ll be going down the hill and the wheels will fall off. And you’ll be like, Okay, everybody, like roll up your sleeves. Let’s fix this. And then you’re better for it.
Andy Halko 12:40
Yeah. So kind of along those lines, too. I’d be curious to hear how you have led through some of those challenges. Because I think for other founders out there, you’re gonna run into roadblocks barriers, you’re gonna fall down mud on your face, or the pandemic where some outside force comes in and changes everybody’s life. So how do you manage through challenges and issues and all these things? Not an easy question, I guess.
Cody Horchak 13:13
Not an easy question. And for this audience, only 95% of an entrepreneur’s journey is not actually knowing what to do. Because it’s the first time that like, most of the time is the first time I’ve experienced that as well, right? So it’s like something happens. I’m like, Oh, wow. I’ve never, this never happened before. But you have to be a leader in the process. And it’s like, you try to communicate that to the team. It’s like, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing 95% of the time. This is my first startup. Move on my second one, I’ll get a little bit better at it if you know, who knows. But it surround yourself with people who understand that like that mentality where it’s like, I’m not going to hold. I’m not going to come back and say I told you so for making a mistake. I’m going to support you through those those conversations. We’re going to make a collective decision. And we’re going to go and we’re going to be like, did this work? Great. Did it fail? Fail quick? And let’s figure out the next step. And so I’m not sure if that answers your question in its entirety, but it’s, I’m still figuring it out as most of us are. And with the pandemic that definitely threw like nobody had ever experienced this before. One this century at least. And it was like, Hey, let’s how do we pivot? How do we how do we bring value when all these things are happening and we made mistakes and we learned from them and then we also made a tremendous amount of right decisions. We bought a lot of components at a time where like components were very rich and now We are sitting on so much inventory like people are coming to us from our competitors that says, Our competitors have months and months and months of lead time. And we’re like, we have hundreds of 1000s of components in stock. So like, cool. Now.
Tony Zayas 15:18
Cody we’d love to hear a little bit about, you know, we talked to a lot of founders of, you know, disruptive products, creating a new category, a lot of innovation going on out there. And when you’re doing that sometimes articulating what it is you’re offering, can be challenging to the marketplace. So how did you go about figuring out that market positioning and the messaging to your target audience?
Cody Horchak 15:45
You have to be agile, you have to understand your product inside and out, and pivot or, or change the message to the target audience in which you’re speaking to. So we have three areas of focus in 2022, we have commercial, multifamily, and parking, very different buyer personas. Do the research before the meeting, look up the person’s LinkedIn know who you’re talking to listen to interviews like this and understand what motivates them. We’ve actually started leading conversations very, like with a very simple question. rank these in levels of one to three, are you focused on automation, optimization, or sustainability? They all effectively mean the exact same thing. But depending on how the person answers is how you change the narrative to relate to them. Because like, you can’t have sustainability without automation. You can’t have automation without optimization. But if you’re talking with somebody, and I start the conversation with rank one, two, and three, sustainability, automation optimization, and they go with sustainability, I immediately know that cost really isn’t a topic that we should be talking about. It’s all about how do I make your buildings greener? How do I make less carbon footprints, I understand what motivates them, where if somebody says automation, it’s immediately going into dollars, ROI, very different, all are very much the same thing. It’s just It helps me assess the conversation before we go into it.
Tony Zayas 17:11
That’s fantastic. What are your first customers? Like? How did you go about, you know, bringing them in.
Cody Horchak 17:18
So first customers, were where we started in parking, it was the avenue in which the formation of the company started. And we tested the hypothesis. And we did so in a little bit more of a tortious way where we just started doing and then we asked for forgiveness later where we started facilitating like Airbnb of parking, which is not allowed. And which got us meetings with the big companies that then we’re like, Okay, this is cool. Like, definitely don’t do that. And if you keep doing that, we’re going to come after you. But in return, we’d like to buy your tech because you figured out how to make our legacy systems smart. And that helps us automate so that we can get more cars in and out, then it grew into the pandemic started. And still today, our largest customer and our anchor customer is a huge pension plan out of Canada has about $160 billion pension plan. And they came to us right when the pandemic started. We had numerous conversations prior, but when the pandemic started, they were trying to go touch less, right. And Zerve was the quickest way to do that. And then, you know, that roadmap has just expanded. And now we’re looking at 281 buildings and 32,000 apartment units and like a lot of really big opportunities that we’re doing unique things for. So it was the first one was like a bull in a china shop approach, which, which got us customers got us proof of concept. And then with that, we started having bigger conversations, and then it was about timing. So having a solution that at a timing where there was no other option besides spending tremendous amounts of money and ripping and replacing.
Andy Halko 19:14
You’ve kind of touched on this, but I want to potentially emphasize the part of you know, going out and listening to initial customers and then adapting either your product or business model. It sounds like you you know really did listen to folks that you were talking to and not necessarily pivoted but found your way in a better better place.
Cody Horchak 19:43
That’s a great way to put it. So what I talked about day in and day out is it’s an iceberg licen iceberg, right? So it’s like at the tip of the iceberg deserve as a phone opens a barrier. That’s it so what you see above the water, but then when you go below the water, the data, the optimization, the automation all of that is specific to the user or to the customer, we’re talking to the use case. And it’s really not a heavy lift on us. Because at the tip of the iceberg, we make a phone open a barrier underneath of it, it’s what do you want that barrier to become? Do you want it to be automatic, so that you don’t have parking attendants anymore? In a world of labor shortage right now, like, we can’t get parking attendants. So like, maybe it’s how will you get a rental car out of a huge airport where, you know, taking that hour and a half wait line down to 10 minutes, because we can’t get labor. You know, that’s below the surface level. And that’s custom to what they want. But what we provide is just simply, we make a phone, open that barrier. And then we do a lot of listening. We do understand what our customers pain points are. But at the end of the day, it all comes back to a phone opening a barrier. And what’s the reason for it.
Andy Halko 21:00
Yeah, I think that, you know, you and again, I like to pull out these points. And you said it a couple of times, you said in the sales process of being able to understand your customers pains and adapt your story to it, but then also your trajectory of your business. And I think that that’s such an important point that we’ve heard from other founders. And, you know, again, today is listening. And whether that’s in product development, that sales marketing, you know, that’s such a foundational piece of being a smart founder.
Cody Horchak 21:36
The big, the big takeaway from that, is going back to the last point of 95% of the time, I don’t know what I’m doing, as founders don’t. But the way to overcome that is to, is to listen to people who do know what they’re doing. Take that in, because you don’t know what you don’t know. So you have to surround yourself with people who can inform you and give you those the information, the critical data points to make those decisions. And that’s by listening. A lot of people want to talk. Very few people want to listen.
Andy Halko 22:10
Tony Zayas 22:13
So Cody, what does the team look like? Experts would love to hear about, you know, Team makeup, and what that looks like.
Cody Horchak 22:23
Yeah, so I think if I understand your question correctly, like, we have a lot of software engineers, a lot of hardware engineers, we have a robust operations team, we have an administrative team. Human Resources, like we have all of that the only area where we’re a little light on right now is sales. We have a VP of sales that just started a few weeks ago, we have a VP of channel partnerships, that’s been here for a while. And and myself and then also somebody who runs corporate and corporate development and strategy. And like the four of us are really kind of running the initiative, but we don’t have like a, a great account executive outbound lead generation team yet, and it’s something that we’re looking to, to bring on very, very quickly, the rest of the organization is pretty well stacked. You know, obviously, software engineers are very few are very hard to come by today. So that’s always like if we find exceptional software toggle higher, I’m just for the sake of hire brilliant, find what find something for somebody brilliant to do find something for somebody brilliant to do, you can’t pass on those opportunities.
Andy Halko 23:38
Totally. How do you use? Do you use any outside resources we sometimes talk about member or mentors, other groups? You know, just because I think part of that listening conversation, being a founder and we don’t know what we don’t know, where else do you try and soak in information to make better decisions?
Cody Horchak 24:05
So yes, we’ve hired a team that is more of a mentor ship to the organization as a whole like like our C suite and our VPs come with very, very extensive backgrounds and success to help guide a ship in the right direction because it’s not it’s not me, it’s we right it’s an it’s a whole company at this point that’s coming together to achieve things. I get a lot of my own personal mentorship from you know, my wife actually so she’s she’s an exceptional read on people. And and I lean on her to give me some feedback. I also get like professional coaches, which I recommend, it’s effectively a therapist. But it’s like a professional coach, somebody who can really help you. Like strategize, communicate, articulate, and without, like, therapists are exceptional at it, because like, they listen all the time. And then they respond and their responses is quite a punch. It’s like, Hey, you should do these kinds of things to help articulate to a team. So professional coaches, is teaching me how to listen to teams and identify strengths and weaknesses and put those in in a and position. So like, when the dominoes are falling, that we we fall together kind of thing. Yeah, that’s great. So yeah, I recommend, whether it’s whether it’s an advisor, who has done this before, a professional coach, a therapists, significant other, maybe all the above. But definitely find that person you trust. And you can be like, untanned with like, you can be like, bluntly, honest with them, and be like, I don’t know what I’m doing. Should I do this? Should I do that? And then, like, they just listen at the end of it. It’s like, not really giving you exact, like marching orders, but just new ways of looking at what you’re asking and leading you to a decision, which is ultimately your decision. But sometimes influence is helpful. Yeah.
Andy Halko 26:14
Yeah. And I mean, I think, you know, we’ve talked with other founders about how entrepreneurship can sometimes be lonely, and it’s good. You know, again, whether it’s wife, therapist, mentors have other folks to bounce things off of because it can feel a little bit lonely when you’ve got a lot. And there are some things with your team and employees that you don’t want to share or talk about or expose them to.
Cody Horchak 26:39
100%. There was a there was a gentleman early on in my professional career, who told me never let people see you sweat. I disagree with it. Still, to this day, I disagree with it. But there are moments where you need to be so passionate about your answer that people don’t see the sweat associated with that, or the stress or the concern. Because like, when when at the tip of the spear at an entrepreneur level, the founder and CEO, when you quiver and you you feel like you you’ve make people like quiver is probably the best word for it when when I stutter, the rest of the organization, the ripple effect is massive, right? It’s like, when I say 95% of the time, I don’t know. But when I do make a decision, it’s decisions made, right? Like there’s no, like, let’s try it go. Great. It didn’t work. But we tried it, right. And it’s those kinds of things where you’re like, I don’t know, I think maybe sure what not, let’s, let’s try 10 things at once. Like, those are the things that kill momentum, they kill culture, people start losing faith and inability to lead. And those are those are really critical. So A, don’t ever let people see you sweat from a leadership perspective, but then confined in those few people that you’re like, losing my mind over here, like what are we doing? And sweat to those few people?
Andy Halko 28:09
Tony Zayas 28:12
Cody I’m curious to hear more about your coach, because we have, I think it’s the first time that idea of a coach has come up, we hear a lot about mentors, you know, people that you know, find others in an entrepreneurial community, so on and so forth. But when did you make the decision to seek out a coach? And then how did you find your coach?
Cody Horchak 28:31
Hah, we were gonna get really personal on this one guy, so So hang with me. So it was it was more of a like a relationship therapist that then became like, hey, let’s not do this, and let’s focus on like, professional. And it was like, helping me communicate with my wife and so that we could have a very endearing relationship and like we can better like in life because we have different like love languages and those kinds of things. But then it became so much more than that it became, it became a, okay, this person is exceptional at helping identify and relate and communicate to different personalities. And that’s how I found my coach. So it’s not an entrepreneurial coach at all. It’s a professional life coach and how to assess people how to communicate more effectively how to motivate because there are different people, some people are financially motivated. Some people are, like, personally motivated, professionally motivated, like there’s, you throw a bunch of money at somebody who doesn’t care about money, guess what, you’re not going to get a yield out of them. Like you need to be able to understand listen and adopt those kinds of things. So I found mine just through seeking out better means of communicating with like, my significant other. And then that turned into like, I’d lean on this person. We found somebody else and now this person has filled a professional coaching role in my life.
Tony Zayas 29:58
Really interesting and I appreciate you sharing that. And the reason I brought it up is because for people that are watching that are maybe, maybe they’re located somewhere where there’s not a big, you know, community of startups and entrepreneurs, where they just don’t really know how to reach out, or maybe they’re a little more introverted, whatever the case is, you hear sweet, we’ve heard a lot of that, you know, finding mentors in these communities and whatnot. But if you don’t have that, you know, I love this idea of the coach, because as a, as a founder, that route those relationships, and that communication is, I mean, absolutely critical. And so really interesting stuff that I appreciate you sharing that.
Cody Horchak 30:40
A founder is about getting help, right? Like, a founder can’t do it all. It’s not a sole proprietorship, it is a company. And it’s like you need help. And anybody who says I know the answer, once again, they either don’t know or they’re lying. And however you find help, my interpretation of the world is all around communication. It’s how do you relate? How do you communicate? How do you? How do you? How do you drive a path forward? And my help came through the means of professional life coach, right. And they’re, they’re easy, not easy, but like, there’s a million out there. And you don’t even have to see people in person anymore. I’ve actually never met my life coach in person. It’s all through zoom calls. And it’s once a week and we get on and it’s, it’s what’s going on? How do I listen? How do I help guide some strategy? And how do I provide help? And she’s exceptional.
Andy Halko 31:44
You used the word culture a little bit ago, I’d love to hear what’s your approach to building culture in an organization?
Cody Horchak 31:52
I don’t know yet. Do you honestly mean that that is one of the like, single largest things that you think you now. And then something kind of blindsides you a little bit where it’s like, maybe there’s sub cultures that are can be hurtful or something like that, because, you know, when you it’s lonely at the top, it’s not. You do need to have you need to make decisions, but sometimes impact other parts of the organization. My approach to culture is, I’m a raging optimist, so I believe you could tell me a cure cancer, I believe you I promise you I would. And I wouldn’t even ask for proof. I just I’m like, That’s my mentality. I’m like, great. Why would you lie to me? And so that’s, that’s the culture that I breathe of, like, trust, implicit trust, right out of the gate. And I think that works well, for some people, other people are a little bit more pessimistic. And so therefore, the culture is work hard trust from one another, and will accomplish a lot. But no.
Andy Halko 31:54
No, and I think that’s a reasonable answer. I started my company 20 years ago, and culture is still this amorphous, challenging thing. And, you know, as we bring on new folks, it changes as you make decisions in the business, it shifts and so there isn’t an easy answer to culture. And so I think any insight into where you are even helping other founders, both of us sharing that there is no magic silver bullet out there for a great culture is is a good thing for people to understand.
Cody Horchak 33:41
And I think if you’re a good person, you can create a good culture. It’s like, everybody’s had those jobs where it’s like you weren’t trusted. And like out of the gate, there’s a lot of micromanagement, those kinds of things. It’s like, oh, just trust in believing. And that’s kind of what I lead with. But I don’t know if that’s actually creating a culture of scale yet. Like I said, I don’t know, we’re getting big enough now that it’s, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of even little micro subcultures that are being formed, which some are great, some are bad. And it’s it’s a chapter that’s still to be written.
Andy Halko 34:22
So getting back to the product a little bit, and all of those pieces, you came from a finance background, how have you gone about the process of looking at, you know, when you need technology or software, and some of these things that may not be in your background? Obviously, it’s bringing in the right people, but, you know, are there any secrets to kind of how you plan and look at those things and evolve them over time?
Cody Horchak 34:53
Yeah, so there’s definitely roadmapping of like, hey, what what do we envision the future observe to contribute to the, to the world? So it’s like, there’s a clear there’s a clear what’s going on today, there’s a clear what’s going on a week from today in a month from today. And then there’s like a huge gray area between month two and six. And then it gets a little bit more clear out like 12, year 10, right? This month, while the year 10. It’s just, there’s always gray area. So how do we allocate resources? How do we bring on talent? How do we roadmap our product, the reason there’s a gap between like month six and month 12 is because we don’t know especially in the economy, we’re in now where there’s inflation and supply chain shortages and, and growing risk of return to work and return to office actually not return to work, but return to office and migration of employees. And a lot of these things are changing all the time. So that the gray area is just because we most people can’t strategize beyond 12 months, they can do fine until six and then beyond 12, it’s a little bit easier, but between six and 12, that’s where the gray area is the unknown, the uncertainty. And so that’s why there’s you make the best decision based off the data you have today. Based off of where the product is going. You allocate resources based on budget, right? It’s like, hey, maybe we can’t hire this operations person, because we need to hire this product person, maybe we can’t do this, this product person because we need to put on sales. I would say the secret sauce is knowing the finances, knowing the money where the money is coming from and how it’s going out. That’s probably the clearest path to understanding and roadmap. And then the rest of it, it’s it’s best guess.
Andy Halko 36:48
No, that’s great. And I think in the Entrepreneurial Operating System, which is EOS, which is kind of a methodology out there. It talks about the owner, the founder being that has to be one of their pieces is understanding, you know, is the company going to have enough cash flow, and whether that’s capital raising, understanding your cash flow as a company, whatever it might be. And that that is an important piece because it drives a lot of the decisions in a business. I’m curious to hear how how did the pandemic influence the business? And you know, both, from a customer perspective, cost perspective employees? It’s such a big thing in all of our lives, how did it end up impacting your business?
Cody Horchak 37:39
Yes. We were on like, so like everybody, you know, the first six months of the pandemic was incredibly scary, there was a lot of unknown uncertainty. And so that time was just kind of scrapping by trying to figure out we did a lot of like, really creative things, like we gave our technology away for free at no cost to two people in the parking industry who were struggling to, like make payrolls or were like, Hey, can like can we help you automate so you can keep more people on staff? So we did, we did a little bit of charity, during the beginning of the pandemic, which actually in return give us a pretty long tail of opportunity, because now, people look at service, like they helped us stay in business. So therefore, I trust them. Which it was kind of the intent. Yeah, the gate, the intent was to help them stay in business because like the customers that we spent all this time, building up relationships, were now on the verge of bankruptcy, because, you know, parking, nobody really gave parking too much thought but like, there was nobody going to retail there was nobody going to restaurants or was nobody going to hotels or the office like so therefore they cancelled their monthly parking permit. And they were getting no revenue like that was terrible. So at least retail yet ecommerce you have like, order on the phone deliver like coffee, and those kinds of things. And some people were still in the office paying rent and those kind of things, but parking completely destroyed. And they had huge leases that they had to pay with, with effectively zero for forgiveness, so we went to them and that and then they became voice of customer, very, very big advocates of of some of the things that we’ve done, because at the time where everybody else was trying to sell to them. Like we were like, you don’t want anything. We just We just want you to stay in business. Please just go anywhere. So thanks again. Did I answer your question?
Andy Halko 39:42
Yeah. Are you? Is your company remote? Have you brought folks back to the office? How do you handle that from an internal perspective?
Cody Horchak 39:52
Very good. Yeah. So we were kind of all over the country now. So Chicago, I’m in Nashville, Atlanta. Dallas, LA, San Francisco, like everybody’s kind of all over. So we have really embraced the remoteness of the pandemic. But that being said, we have electrical engineers that need to be in close proximity. Our UPS Bill has gone through the roof because now overnighted between like, people. So there’s definitely we, we do have offices, we do have like central distribution of technology coming in and then being distributed and shipped out that people go into. It’s really up to the individual, do they? Do they want to work collectively, with somebody else? So they want to be in close proximity? And if so great. There’s locations in which you can do that. Maybe you want to be on any beach in Bermuda and working great. You’re an exceptional software developer do that. Whatever, whatever makes you creative. So going back to your last question, I think the pandemic has made it more willing to embrace what makes that employee or that customer comfortable. And then really allowing that.
Andy Halko 41:07
Yeah, I agree.
Tony Zayas 41:09
Some work related to that, Cody, with all the variables that are out there. So hardware software, remote team, how do you as the founder, how do you drive vision forward and really communicate those things with all the team members kind of allowing people to see where it is? Zoom is going, what are some of the things that you do to articulate?
Cody Horchak 41:39
So we get together. Effectively, every quarter, we fly somewhere cool, we spend a week we strategize. We roadmap. And we really just, we get together we have a good time. You know, another important aspect is we go out we drink, we get to know each other, we do fun activities. Like those are the important things that are lost when you’re remote of like, Hey, who do I trust? Who do I lean on? How do I get to know them on a personal level? Outside of that, we do do like fun weekly activities, we call it rise and shine where it’s like a water cooler talk every Wednesday, where it’s we take 30 minutes, and everybody comes on. And we we do like fun activities. Like, you know, if you were an Olympian, what sport would you watch? Would you do kind of like, like fun, like creative questions and things like that. We have somebody who leads up our human resources, who’s exceptional at an employee engagement, and does fun things like that. And then it’s just, it’s really around video calls, it’s really important to be on a video, like don’t make a phone call, get on a video. See here, also, don’t put meetings back to back. So you’re rushing to it, like, allow for that time to chat through and be creative versus so slammed and schedules. Because you know, everybody now it’s like, I’m five minutes late to my video, which my next meeting. But half the innovation comes through like not being rushed, right being able to think through new creative ways to attack an old problem. And that’s that’s not solved within an hour with a with a hard stop.
Tony Zayas 43:20
I love that approach. So thoughtful. And it’s something that we have not heard, but it makes so much sense, right? So in today’s age of back to back to back to back video calls, yeah, putting a little buffer in there.
Cody Horchak 43:35
And also make them 20 minutes like scheduled 20 with 40 minutes, nothing scheduled beyond it. It’s like if you can get everything accomplished in 20 be done. But if for some reason it goes to 30, 45, 50 an hour long meeting. There’s no hard stop how many times you got uncovered? I have a hard stop in 30 minutes. God thank you for telling me I’m not important. Cool.
Andy Halko 44:01
I’m curious, do you have a you know, what’s the 10 year vision? What’s the big hairy audacious goal? Like as a founder? What are you looking out into the horizon at?
Cody Horchak 44:14
Yeah, so definitely, we are looking to disrupt the world of proprietary closed systems that don’t like to work well together. So our 10 year vision is like, I see Andy, you walking down the street, and maybe there’s a car that you don’t own, but you can be like, hey, Google, can you let me into this car and it’s like, no problem. You are an accredited person to borrow this car for an hour and unlock so you start off and you go and you run those things. A lot more efficiency is the 10 year vision. Those are maybe like, right now there’s so much greenhouse gases that are being contributed to last mile delivery services and overconsumption of like very, very carbon emitting like vehicles like right, I don’t know how many vehicles you have, but most families have four don’t only have two vehicles now there’s like three there’s, there’s there’s a lot more contribution happening. And then there’s other families who absolutely don’t and have like Ebikes and scooters. And, you know, connecting those people like, hey, we both ordered something from Macy’s. I have a car you don’t have a car, you borrow my car to go pick up a Macy’s but why you’re there? Can you pick up my stuff at Macy’s as well, as a as a trade for borrowing my card in that transaction? Oh, this is the 10 year vision is taking all assets as they exist today, opening them up in the collaboration ecosystem that comes from that.
Andy Halko 45:41
It’s great, really cool.
Tony Zayas 45:43
Cody, how has your role as founder, how has that changed over time? And where do you spend the most of your time these days?
Cody Horchak 45:55
It hasn’t changed as much as I like I’m still very much involved in a lot of day to day sales of product, as it’s morphing now with the onboarding of senior leadership from Channel partnerships and sales, I’m now getting a lot more over the business than in the business, which is, which is a very exciting feeling because it allows me to contribute more from from product development to professional development of employees to to roadmapping of potential partnerships and strategic acquisitions and and Future Fundraising rounds. So it’s still today, probably more hands on then. Then while in continuation over the last four years, but it’s it is changing pretty rapidly here with with new senior leadership coming in. So I would say, as we bring on specific leaders within products within operations within sales, like once that happens, I get to kind of portion off that business and take and step back from ownership of that business unit, and then focus more energy on something else. So it has been an exciting transition. And really, the only thing remaining today as well, circa a month ago was sales. So now with sales coming on board, it’s now I get to be overtop of a lot of business units and being involved in the day to day of that business unit.
Andy Halko 47:32
So what’s the near term future for the company look like? What are you looking to accomplish in the next six months to a year?
Cody Horchak 47:41
Yeah. So continued growth, continued headcount, continued product development, all of those things are very much on the roadmap. In addition to that, we’re we’re getting very involved in and making the world a better place from a green perspective. So we’re getting very heavily involved in EV charging and logistics and fleet management and, and optimization of underutilized assets. So the near term objective would really be how do we, how do we make a EFG approach that helps companies carbon offset, to help companies run greener to save utility costs to, to do those kinds of things that actually make a global impact? So we’re really focused on some of the green initiatives that come as collateral to our solution.
Andy Halko 48:41
So before I ask, we’ve typically got like the final question that I like to ask, why don’t you tell us a little bit about where folks can can find you and how they could interact with the company and just a little bit more about how they can connect?
Cody Horchak 48:58
Yeah, so being B2B, we’re very heavy on LinkedIn. You know, that’s probably the best way to follow along with progress. We do a lot of blog posts, we do a lot of case studies, we do a lot of stuff on LinkedIn. And it’s just serve access and serve as Z-E-R-V-E as in Victor. And then access is is the unique handle. Our website is zerveaccess.com And then that will direct you to LinkedIn. We also have contact us and we do a lot in in HubSpot from like outbound so if you want to subscribe, we can give you some information there. Also, my email’s pretty readily available. So if you’re looking for something to potentially, you know, interview and or apply for some Zerve positions and you want to be involved on that level. My email is just my first dot last name at Zerve Inc, actually, so my lat my email address is a little different. So it’s at zerveinc.com and I welcome anybody to reach out and happy to chat. So yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best, best way to follow along with progress.
Andy Halko 50:09
Yeah that’s great. So I’m kind of curious, I ask everybody this is if you could go back to before you started the business and have coffee with yourself, is there any advice that you would give?
Cody Horchak 50:22
Wow, this would have been that question. Andy, I wanted you to prepare me for when I asked you 45 minutes ago. Any any? No, it’s, it’s a great I think, my, my feedback to myself, circa four years ago, or my, my inspiration to myself, circa four years ago is good question. And I’m gonna, I’m just gonna say what’s off the cuff here, it’s, I can’t make everybody happy. And I am very much a person that’s motivated by by sat like acceptance of like, making people feel motivated and happy and pleased with what I’m doing. And it’s becoming a lot more reality that it’s, some people just aren’t gonna, like, our products aren’t gonna, like our solution aren’t gonna, like, you know, the pricing, maybe they don’t even like me, you know, and that’s the other thing is like, that is, that is the hard truth, at the end of the day, that it’s, you can’t make everybody happy. And for that advice, at that critical point, in my, in my professional development would have been, accept the fact that you’re going to lose a lot of people, you’re gonna lose a lot of customers, you’re gonna lose a lot of friends, you’re gonna lose a lot of these kinds of things that life goes in different directions sometimes and accept that, and know that the the relationships that stay will become, will become tighter. And so that’s, that’s a feedback I’d give.
I think that’s great. I mean, I think there is so much truth, the fact that if you, you can’t make everybody happy. And if you spend too much time trying to do that you let down the folks that you really can. So that’s fantastic.
Yeah. That’s a good question. Thanks, Andy.
Tony Zayas 52:29
Fantastic work. Thank you so much, Cody, we appreciate you spending time here with us. For those tuning in again, check out Zerve and follow Cody on LinkedIn. We look forward to seeing everybody next week. But again, thanks again. Cody. Have a great day.
Cody Horchak 52:49
Likewise, Tony, appreciate the time and thanks for inviting me to be part of the show.
Tony Zayas 52:54
Andy Halko 52:55
Thanks, Cody. Thanks, everybody. Thanks