SaaS Founder Interview with Ray Blakney, Founder & CEO of Podcast Hawk
Tony Zayas 0:06
Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of the SaaS founders show. I’m Tony Zayas joined by Andy Halko. Again, if you haven’t joined us, this is the show where we sit down and talk with SaaS founders and hear all about their amazing journey. We’ve had some really incredible guests on so far this year. And I would like to introduce just to kick it off. This week, we’re talking to Ray Blakney. He’s the CEO and founder of Podcast Hawk, a SaaS product that helps people get booked on podcast. So really cool. And obviously, an important need these days. Ray, how are you doing?
Ray Blakney 0:47
Doing well, Tony, thanks for having me on.
Tony Zayas 0:49
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for taking the time. But I read the brief descriptor, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Podcast Hawk?
Ray Blakney 0:56
Yeah. So you know, we’ll start with the origin story of how podcasts came around. So I’m a serial entrepreneur, background as a software engineer, but oddly enough Podcast Talk was my first SaaS product. I’ve been in, you know, online business for 15 years, never actually bothered with a SaaS product before. So the story is, my other business, its name is livelywith.com are one of the top five online language schools in the world, bootstrapped by my wife and I. So we’re recording this kind of at the end of COVID. What happened was March 2019. Wow, it feels like a lot shorter than that last two years, when COVID hit. We were one of those people who were the lucky position that our business took off even more, right. So we were big, but it grew 40% that just that month, because everybody was stuck at home, and suddenly they wanted to go online and learn Spanish, English, French, German, you know, might as well make the most of being stuck at home. And we up until that point, we had primarily done our marketing through SEO, Facebook ads, and Google ads. I’ve been on a few podcasts in the past, but generally, it’s because I spoke at conferences and somebody invited me on because they saw me on stage or people I knew what podcasts. But I wanted to get in front of a new audience. So I went out there. I’m like, Okay, let’s find some podcasts to get on. How hard could this be? Right? So like everybody else, we go to the big G, Google and podcasts to be a guest on Google that for anybody out there who’s tried that, that absolutely does not work, right, you find podcasts there. They’re either haven’t produced episodes in the last few years, or you get like Joe Rogan. And while I’d love to be on Joe Rogan probably is not going to be on anytime soon, right? Until I build the rocket to go to space, he’s probably not going to have me on his show. So it was a waste of time, I spent a whole day and I maybe found four or five podcasts to pitch. So I said, Okay, maybe there’s got, there’s got to be a better way. So I started looking for software out there to fix it, or maybe an agency that will do it. So the agencies came to me and they’re like, look, we’ll charge you a few hundred bucks or a few thousand dollars a month to get you on like five shows. And I’m like, Are these big shows with a lot of listeners? Like, no, we can’t guarantee any of that. So you’re telling me, I’m gonna pay you thousand dollars and I’m gonna be able to show some kid in his parents basement who’s like recording a podcast. And you know, they jokingly said, Well, you never know, right? And I was like, No, I’ll not be spending that much money. So being an entrepreneur, and a business owner, I saw an opportunity. I’m like, Look, is there Can I do something better? And so that’s how a podcast called Podcast Hawk was born. I’m like, What can I get every podcast in the world into a database? I experimented for a few weeks, and what Yes, I can. I didn’t finish it a few weeks. But I physically said I could get it. Let’s see if we get their contact information. Let’s see from get their social media information. We’re mixing in right now, you know, SEO information like H refs, and all the rest of it. So you can actually use it as SEO play. And right now we have it. So you can go in there and search and Podcast Hawk every podcast, let’s say you guys, Andy, you want to be on the show about marketing. You’re like me, every podcast in the world that has the word marketing in the description, released an episode in the last two weeks has at least a 4.5 star reviews has at least of podcast score of 50, which is what our own internal rate ranking is a podcasts and has the word pink flamingo in the title, whatever, right? I mean, any of these and it’s in Swahili. You know, all we have all these little factors. I challenge anybody to go to Google and find those. And it’d be you know, how long will it take you to Podcast Hawk take a few seconds. And then after that, we’ll even do the email drip, pitching for you. So first email, follow up, email, all the rest of it all in our system. But we’ll get more details in a minute. But that’s pretty much the origin story of Podcast Hawk.
Andy Halko 4:14
It’s pretty awesome. I’m kind of curious when, you know, it sounds like obviously, you had a primary business that you were focused in, day in and day out for other folks that are other founders doing the same thing. When did this turn from a side project into a real thing for you? Or was it always from the beginning?
Ray Blakney 4:33
I think it was always from the beginning. So I’m a serial entrepreneur. I owned a chocolate factory in Southeast Asia for five months while running a language school. So I’ve always actually had multiple businesses going at the same time. The way I do it, obviously, is I have a good team working at my primary business who kind of takes care of the day to day operations. So we’re past the startup phase in that business, which allows me to do these other projects. This is my primary project Podcast Hawk is my primary project right now. Right, so lively while I go went for the level 10s meetings every week with the team and all the rest of it. But day to day, something explodes. I don’t have to do very much over there. I know it’s a privileged position to be in to be there. But you know, I’ve been at this for 15 years. So it was not an overnight success. I joke that my book would be called seven years to seven figures, and nobody would buy it, because no one wants to hear that. Right.
Andy Halko 5:20
Yeah, right. They want seven minutes for seven
Ray Blakney 5:22
Andy Halko 5:25
You know, you mentioned something, and we’re our shows focused on talking to founders, you said level 10. And I think that’s something that dig into which we haven’t ever on any other show. What’s a level 10? And how do you use it?
Ray Blakney 5:39
Yeah, so and I’ll give all the credit to my COO for implementing this, because I’ll be honest, for anybody who’s read the book traction out there, you know, when there’s the visionary and the integrator? Yeah, definitely not the I’m definitely not the integrator, right. I mean, it’s not me at all. Yeah. So a few about, I guess, about a year and a half, two years ago, I hired a my C, my COO over at lab lady when she came in and looked at the business, and she’s like, how did you get so big being this disorganized? Was pretty much original things like you guys have no like systems in place. But I’ll be honest, my background, again, as a computer engineer, I’ve never studied business. I’ve winged it. I’m like, you know, if somebody asked me for my business plan 10 years ago, I’m like, what, what are you talking about business plan, I’m like, I just made a website. And then I’ve kind of got it figured out stuff as we went along. So she came in there and to us, I’ve read books on the EOS before, but it’s called the entrepreneur operating system is the management system that we have implemented in my company, we actually use another SaaS product, which we love called ninety.io, which helps you implement SaaS implement TOS within your own company. And that is actually what we’re using as our project management system. At our leadership level, we just click up for our kind of day to day project management, but for ninety.io is what we use for the vision mission direction of our company. For companies that are starting out and are looking for kind of a little bit clearer direction on what they’re doing. I recommend implementing EOS. But generally wait till you’re about I think minimum five people, maybe 10 people on staff, otherwise, you’re wasting a whole lot of time with implementing a system. If your two founders, what are you going to do with EOS? I mean, you know, you don’t need level 10 meetings
Andy Halko 7:16
Only you accountable every week.
Ray Blakney 7:18
Exactly. Or you should be talking every day. I mean, you guys are just starting the company out. You don’t need this kind of thing. When you get
Andy Halko 7:23
You could be in this room with five beers and just talk yourself.
Ray Blakney 7:27
That just my morning though, for me, right? I’m like, come on. That’s how I get myself validation. Every morning, I’m just like talking to myself in the mirror, right? So EOS is a great system, it’s worked out for us, especially somebody like me, who, like a lot of entrepreneurs, the whole shiny object syndrome, I tend to fall into that quite a bit. In the EOS kind of keeps me on track, we do the quarterly planning, the monthly planning and the yearly planning. And we have a three and five year vision built into that. And you know, it’s flexible, but we got to keep it up. And everybody on the goal has to keep up to that everybody on the team has to keep up to the goals. And the key there is that they set their own goals at the beginning of each quarter, and they able to hold themselves accountable. So it’s not like me, the CEO coming in and saying, cracking the whip all the time. We’ve already implemented that over a podcast, because our team, there’s nine people, and we have EOS implemented there as well.
Andy Halko 8:13
Yeah, it’s so funny, I probably say the term shiny key syndrome about myself, weekly to people. So I hear what you’re saying. There’s a lot to unpack there. I’m kind of curious, you know, how you, you mentioned the size for companies, but how important is it to look at these types of business methodologies when you’re starting up? And either trying to implement it yourself or finding someone else to help you and implement them? I mean, EOS is one, but I mean, there’s a lot out there that are fully valuable and interesting. Do you take time to learn about those and incorporate them?
Ray Blakney 8:52
Oh, yeah, well, we follow up, you know, decided on EOS after taking a look at a lot of other systems out there. Right. So this one we just decided was the best for us. And like everybody else, there’s the strict TOS as described in the book. But then there’s how you implement it in your own company, you know, you take some parts of it, you take other parts, you leave other coins and you mix them all in together. Let’s talk about the phases though. So if you’re just starting off, I’d say don’t worry about it. Right? There are so many other things. I’m a big believer of the if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you waited too long to launch kind of that philosophy. And if you spent all day planning, you know, okay, we need SOPs for everything. I’m like, No, you don’t need a website out there and see when one person buys your product before you put down your first SOP because you’re you know, nobody buys it don’t waste validation, no validation whatsoever. So worried about getting validated if it’s just you and one other founder, build your product, get some selling. So the ideal fabric combination, of course, the tech and the marketing, right. So there’s a go out there sell, you know, have one of themselves the other one builds and then let’s see if anybody actually wants this if you’re a solo founder, which is what what I’ve generally been in the past, you’ve had to learn a little bit of both of those things because you’re going don’t have to do both of those at the same time, if you’re doing this as a side hustle, it’s also going to take you a little bit longer to kind of get off the ground. That being said, while you’re doing that, make sure you educate yourself about the systems so that when you are building the company, you start hiring more people, you have that in mind. And you can start putting these systems in place at least gradually while you’re building up the company. Otherwise, you end up in a position like me, where you have a company live, let you know about 15 staff members, and we have nothing in place. And then the CEO comes in, it’s like, I was having one on one meetings with like every single staff person from like customer support all the way up, because I didn’t know any better, right? And these nobody had goals, only like two or three people have goals, the rest of them didn’t, you don’t want to be me, right? If you want to do better, and actually plan your way out. So that when you get there, it’s just more like plugging pieces into a puzzle, instead of having all these pieces and having to like, okay, let’s reorganize everybody. There’s a lot more friction when you do it that way.
Tony Zayas 10:53
Right. Just to go back to your comment about you know, if you’re not embarrassed that first version, you waited too long. Tell us about what Podcast Hawk look like as an MVP?
Ray Blakney 11:05
Yeah, I mean, I would argue I liked the Google model. If you guys remember Google search at the beta sign on it for like 25 years or something like that. So like Podcasts Hawk, if you go there, we launched about two years ago now? And I still have the beta sign on there, right? Because I’m like, hey, if there’s any bugs, it’s still in beta, you know, you’re you can always have that to fall back on. So the first version of Podcast Hawk was quite embarrassing. You know, again, I come from a software engineering background. And I’m like, I would have been fired from my jobs, if that would have been the product that actually launched. But the one of the things you have to keep in mind if you’re bootstrapping your business, now, if you’re a VC and somebody give you $10 million, yeah, your first version can be very pretty, right. But most of us mere mortals who don’t have $10 million in the bank account, I bought the first beam off of ThemeForest.net, for 45 bucks. I mean, that was pretty much what it looks like. So it didn’t look awful. But you know, it is what it is. The first version we had allows you to search the database and just download the contact information. So none of that email functionality was built in there. The searches are very buggy. I mean, some of those get caught if you combine certain criteria, the answers those search you got back was like off slower than I’d like not ridiculous, but took like three or four seconds, because I’m a programmer, but I’m not a database guy. And we have what 2 million podcasts in there 60 million podcast episodes. Yeah, that’s a lot harder to search than, you know, other business where we might have 10,000 records, and you have to search, it might take a second or two. From that same thing on 60 million records, you hit Search, and you’re gonna get a coffee, you know, come back, finish your coffee, and then maybe the results be waiting for you when you’re there. So that’s the version we started out at the way I’ve worked around it is we gave, the pricing model that we use is at the beginning, we have a really low I give a really low price give you every feature that we had. So essentially premium membership for a really low price, with the idea that you know that you’re going to lock in this price for the rest of your life. But there are a lot of bugs right now. So you’re putting up with that. The reason I did that was, again, I’m bootstrapping. So I’d rather have some people at least offsetting some of my costs, instead of me just kind of paying everything out of pocket myself. And that’s kind of how we built it up. And some of those users are LTV is great, because once you know it, we were still in that phase where we’re giving prices. And we’re raising prices every 6 to 12 months, because we’re adding new features and all the rest of it. And we’re not at the final product that I had in my head yet. Hopefully, by the end of this year, we’ll be kind of 90% of the way there. And it has worked out pretty well for us. It offsets the cost, it helps us grow. We haven’t needed to go and get money even though we might be going out for a Series A right now, because we’ve proven them all, right? For anybody who’s trying to raise funds is a lot easier to raise funds. When you say look, I already have customers and money coming in. But here’s my idea, give me money. Ideas are easy. If anybody here wants it, I have a list of about 200 business ideas on a notepad, I’m happy to share it, each one will take 5 to 10 years to build. So it’s about 2000 years worth of ideas. I’m not going to do half doing it is the hard part, right?
Andy Halko 13:57
100%. Still so much to unpack there. But where I’m gonna go is market validation, right? I think every founder is in that stage where they’re trying to figure out whether the product is viable, and they’re spending time and money on it. How long did it take you to get to some point that you felt validated about the product? And prior to that, you know, did you have moments of saying okay, is this worth my time?
Ray Blakney 14:27
I’ll ask you the questions in reverse order. So the first one is No, I never got to a point where is this worth my time because of kind of the way that I come around business ideas. I believe there are two kinds of business, you know, business entrepreneurs out there right there. The visionary entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, those who create things that we didn’t even know we wanted, right? Nobody was looking for an iPhone. And then it’s like, oh, let’s meet that need. I’m not that. I’m definitely not that those kinds of entrepreneurs. I’m one of the kind of entrepreneurs like look, I need something let me go look for it. Hmm, nobody’s doing it or they’re not doing it very well. So I’m like, I just won’t build it myself. And those kinds of ideas are generally considerably easier to validate unless your idea is way out there. Like, you know, I need a car with five wheels. And like, probably nobody else needs that. But this kind of thing I decided, you know, I mean, number of networks with entrepreneurs. And I mentioned like, Hey, would you guys be interested in this? Just the easy validation was nobody I told this to up till now. I said, No, I would not pay for this, especially since I’m bootstrapping at our private price point. Like, literally, at our lowest price point, you get on about one show a week for $39 a month. And everybody’s like, are you an author? Are you an entrepreneur? Are you a coach? Would you pay $39 to get in front of like a show every week? Would that be worth your time? And nobody’s saying no, I would never pay that. Everybody said, yes. So the first version I actually came up with, I built the database. And I’m like, Would anybody like to pay me to build, you know, to search there? And I’ll just give you a data load of a thousand podcasts for you to do it for like a hundred bucks. Everybody I reached out to said yes. And so you know, not huge, but I did about 50 sales there just within my network. This wasn’t publicized. No Facebook ads, nothing. Like to a tee. Almost everybody said yes, there. But that’s what I’m like, I got something. I’m like, everybody does it. There’s nothing like this that’s out there on the market. We can go in there, we can disrupt. And I’ll be honest, since I don’t have VC money, private equity or anything behind me, if this only becomes only becomes like a two or $3 million, or SAS product, and anybody in SAS knows, I have a small team nine people, I don’t see any reason to grow maybe one or two poor customer service. I’ll have a 70% profit margin. It’s a sole proprietorship. But two or $3 million, I’ll be fine. You know, I’ll be able to pay my rent every month kind of thing, right? And if somebody comes in right now with the multipliers on gross that they’re giving for SaaS products of like, 10 to 20x. Then we’re done as well, it is, I’ll be honest, this is an exit play for me. So it’s like, you know, I’m trying to do five years, get it up to about 5 million, and then exit. If somebody else wants to take 200. That’s fine. But we’re calling you’re talking to me Mexico right now, right? My wife’s Mexican, my cost of living is nothing. Right? So if I could make you know, 20 $30 million exits? Yeah, I’ll never have to worry about it.
Andy Halko 17:10
Well, you know, the other point that I heard there, and again, what I was trying to bring up is a lot of entrepreneurs founders are looking for that market validation to like, give them that confidence, right? And what I heard from you is that you weren’t trying to do that on some big vision, big product, you literally were taking this data and saying, I am now learning that people are willing to pay for this. And then once you did that, you’re building around that core class.
Ray Blakney 17:39
Absolutely and then it’s all about getting user feedback, right. So we have other features that we’re building in there we’re getting right now it’s getting booked on podcasts, we’re actually getting podcast, advertising information as well, because people like can I use this to find, you know, find podcasts to sponsor right now, there is no database in the world where, you know, let’s say I want to pay $100, for a mid roll on a marketing podcast, you know, let me know which podcasts are $100 for a mineral nothing. So we’re reaching out to, I now have the cleanest database of podcasts contact information in the world. So I can reach out to every single podcast in the world have my team go in there. And like when people ask me whether media gets in, everything will just get a manual entered it. It’s a very, very tedious process. So there’s a big barrier to entry. And this, this is a data play. And it’s a manual data play. But once we get that in place, everybody will be able to go in there and find podcasts, one click to sponsor to, you know, to be a guest on to sponsor to all the data that you could possibly want to do, what we’re looking to do is build a marketing tool. We want to make podcasts the marketing channel, which they kind of water, but most people look at marketers marketing channel where you create your own podcast, and that’s the marketing channel. As somebody who has failed three podcasts, I can tell you that and you guys know this podcasting is not as easy as those courses make it out to be buy a $50 mic and you’re a podcaster. Right? Yeah, there’s quite a bit more to being a podcaster than that. I tried three times. My last one worked out. But it’s because I hacked the system. But the first two were other bombs. And I was like, it’s you know, it’s much easier being on somebody else’s podcast, you talked about what you’re passionate about, they do the editing, they do the social media, you get a backlink for SEO to your website, you know, especially on some websites with high domain authority, that it’s an SEO play. And the last thing that I found that it’s a great play for self discovery, because you get asked the same question many times. So like, you know, Tony, and if somebody asks you tell me about yourself. The first time you answer that question, I remember my answer was all over the place like well, this kind of did this. I’ve been on 200 shows now. And now when you ask me Tell me about yourself Bo i 30 seconds. I got it down verbatim. I know the answer. And it’s, it’s kind of an honest answer. It’s that old analogy of you know, there’s a stone and there’s a statue in there somewhere. My first answer was the stone. Now I just had to chipped away at the kind of peripheral stuff and I actually know myself a little bit better for having done this. You know, having answered that question publicly so many times.
Andy Halko 19:56
I do love that idea real quickly. Of perfecting the pitch, you know, part of whether you’re a founder and you’re trying to raise capital you’re trying to sell, you’re trying to convince employees to come on to, you know, startup business is having that, you know, identification of who you are, why you’re in the world, what you’re doing. And I love this idea that these podcasts, whether they have big reach or not, are your opportunity to hone that message and pitch.
Ray Blakney 20:27
Tony Zayas 20:30
Ray, just to back up a little bit. You mentioned that, you know, you foresee, I think you said in this year that like, getting the product to like, 90% of like your vision? How did you achieve that? Like, what did that view vision look like? And how did you build out those iterative steps to grow and get I mean, 90%? That’s pretty awesome. So I would love to hear a little bit.
Ray Blakney 20:54
Yeah, great question. And the answer is a little bit of a cop out. But it’s because my vision is very simple. You know, it’s a lot of people when they want to build SaaS products. And as somebody who was involved and you know, I was I worked in Silicon Valley as a computer programmer, I saw coops creep is, I mean, scopes. Scope Creep, there you go. That’s a tongue twister. Scope Creep is very real, right? Because everybody wants that every bell and whistle they have on top of it. You guys know this, people paid for probably only 10% of what most of the products out there do, right? I mean, if you had just done that 10%, you would have had 90% of your customers without 90% of the headache, right? Because you’re supporting all these weird features that only a small subset of your customers actually do. The beauty of Podcast Hawk is it is so simple. I mean, we have a search engine on the top of it. But really, we are a data’s company, like what our product is our data. So as long as we get the clean data, and once we have the cleanest data, which is why by the end of this year, we shouldn’t have it all done, because we’re manually cleaning it. The product on top is really simple. It’s a search engine, that helps you easily find podcasts with just, you know, simple Boolean logic, right, this and this, and this, and this and give me all the results. And we send out emails, you know, even one email to email three, that’s it, there’s almost nothing else that our system does. I don’t have to worry about, you know, all these extra things that we have to add on top of the product. Sure, we’re gonna have media get, you know, this automated media kit feature so you can put in your name. And we’ll tell you every time your name appears in the podcast description, you can just validate Yes, that’s me. And you’ll have a public page on our website that says, you know, you can use as your media kit here, all the shows that I’ve been on, listen to my previous episodes. But from a programming point of view, that’s actually a really easy feature for us to build, right, it’s a read only feature, and there’s not too much for us to do. That’s why we’re gonna be able to get to 90%. By the end of the year, I consider that the data being claimed, and everything else is just little bells and whistles we add on top based on the user base, but we want to do one thing, we want to be the best in the world at doing one thing and doing it really, really well.
Andy Halko 23:00
I’m curious your perspective on you know, I would say in the all the founders we’ve interviewed, it’s a 50-50 mix between technical founders, folks that come in, they know a little bit of programming, or they’re just, you know, very much in that technical mind. And then folks that no, no concept of at all, but they’re still trying to build a SaaS product or, or a technical product, what is your viewpoint on coming to the plate with that background and knowledge versus not?
Ray Blakney 23:32
I respect people who come without that knowledge, because that would be really, really scary to me, right? I do come up. I’m a computer programmer. So I’m not I wasn’t like a systems administrator or anything like that. So I know my strengths. I know my weaknesses, I have been in the online field for a long time. So if I pay attention now websites work and all the rest of it, I’ve analyzed the UI UX side of things. If you’re coming in with just the concept, I would say try to find a technical co founder, because you’re gonna waste a lot of money spending it on things that you don’t even know even I, you know, I’m not a surfer guy. So if you tell me, should you be using AWS versus a, you know, Digital Ocean droplets. I’m just like, Google that because I read I really don’t know, myself either. I have a few my technical team takes care. But I know enough that they can’t really just kind of do an end run on me and say, Can you do this? I’m like, No, that’s silly. But at least I have that. If you don’t, you’re, I would say if you don’t make sure you have a lot of money in your bank account, or you have a lot of money behind you, right? Because you’re gonna be spending a lot of money to learn this on the job. Can it be done? Absolutely. But it is a big hurdle for you to learn when you’re coming in to try to find a technical co founder, if at all possible. I don’t have anything to back this up. You guys might know a little bit more. But I’ve I’ve heard that like many VC and PE about funds will not even look at you as long as if there’s not at least one technical co founder on your team if you’re launching a SaaS product because the risk is just simply too high for them to invest without there being somebody technical on your team to kind of offset that risk a little bit. I haven’t looked into it, but I’ve been mugged. People tell me that.
Andy Halko 25:01
So what, you know, you came in with a technical background? What gap did you potentially have in the beginning? And was like the first thing that like, Hey, I gotta find somebody to help me fill this gap?
Ray Blakney 25:11
Yeah, so for me the gap was a time thing more than a knowledge thing. So as I mentioned, to me that the big two big things when a product is building it selling it, right, there are operations and everything in between. But generally, those are the two steps you need. Luckily, since I bootstrap my first company, 15 years ago, I exited that one 2012. Since I only have $2,000, in the bank account, I just left the Peace Corps that was like the only money I had, I have to learn marketing. So I taught myself SEO back in the day where SEO was a whole lot easier than it is right now. I mean, back then there were like software’s that would send articles and auto comment on blog posts, and all that good stuff. So I’ve been, and I even started doing SEO consulting for about five or six years. So I’ve been doing, you know, I’m really, I’m old by SEO standards with 15 years of doing SEO, that makes me pretty old. So I’m pretty good at marketing. I mean, I know Facebook ads pretty well, I know Google ads, like online marketing, if you ask me to hire, you know, rent out a billboard on the side of the highway, I have no idea how to do that. But on online marketing, I’m pretty good. And pretty technical. So theoretically, I could have done this all myself, the problem is I have another company to run I have a two year old is running around, you know, in the other room, I simply did not have the time. So when that happens, if you are in a position where you know, multiple things in your company, try to avoid the no one could do it is better as well as me track, right? I’m the founder, I need to do everything, you will never get past a certain point your business, that’ll get you from zero to seven figures. And just just barely seven figures, they will not get you to multi seven, forget about getting you to eight, right, so you need to kind of put your ego to the side a little bit and then examine where everything is the who’s available in your network to kind of compensate for some of these things make up some of the time and bring them into the company. For me in this in the case of Podcast Hawk. I luckily knew somebody who loved things Zendesk from zero to 30,000 users. And he’s come in as my partner and my cmo on this. Do I know marketing? Absolutely. Do I have time to be doing it full time all day, every day when I’m also doing the technical side and running another company? Absolutely not. So it was kind of recognizing that weakness or that, that lack of resources myself, in order to bring people into the company?
Andy Halko 27:21
Something I’ve asked a number of founders is I know there’s no silver bullet, right. But we’re talking to other founders that are trying to grow business. Is there any one or two things that you felt were like big catalysts for growth that like kind of took that trajectory from this to this? Right? Anything in your path that you’ve seen in either of your businesses? That helped be that catalyst?
Ray Blakney 27:45
Yeah. So unfortunately, in my other business leveling, when No, we’ve just done 20% growth for 15 years straight, and that actually gets you to a decent size, right? There was no, I remember the first time we were featured in Forbes, I was like, This is gonna be we’re gonna be huge. Yeah, nothing. Crickets. I mean, like, you know, maybe there was a little spike in traffic for like the day the article went live. But after that, it never grew the business. Now, podcasts on the other hand, we have actually gotten lucky. So we’ve gotten some exposure. I started networking about five years ago, and I remember the first four years I’m like, this whole networking thing. I don’t get it like nothing really. Yeah, it’s one of those hockey stick things, right? You just kind of reach a point. And suddenly the, you know, enough people that you can actually start pulling some levers that otherwise you didn’t have. That’s what happened to Podcast Hawk. So we Podcast Hawk, I knew some people who introduced me some other ones. And for example, as a result, we were able to get Pat Flynn, who those who listened to hear as an advisor on our company, and I was on his show recently, and that went by episode with his went live about a month ago, he introduced me to John the duelists, that episodes going live next week, these kinds of things, these essentially it’s influencer marketing. For us within the podcasting space. Again, it’s relatively new, most people don’t, you know, everybody tries to get on the big podcasting, but it’s an overall strategy that you follow week after week. It’s a relatively new concept people, you know, it’s like going on Instagram going on all the rest of it, that has actually helped our growth a lot. You get on the right show in front of the right audience, and your business can take off. The example I always give is, for the first hundred users, I haven’t ordered every single one on to Podcast Hawk. One of the ladies that came on there, she was a burlesque dancer. And I was like, wow, she’s like, Are there any podcasts or less dancing? I’m like, honestly, I have never run that search before. Let’s do it together. Because it’s not something we did. There are about 200 shows on burlesque dancing in the world. Not that many of our podcasts but still to undershoot with us pretty good. So I only bought her she started six months later, she sent me an email saying this is awesome. I have been on about half a pot podcast about burlesque dancing of the world and I have more leads right now that I know what to do is a very niche market. But if you get on the shows every show in your market, and every people hear you everywhere, it doesn’t matter which show they listen to no matter how small it is. You’ve just become an authority. Go to person to coach the SaaS product. You know, if you’re selling, a friend of mine does SaaS products for hockey leagues, high school hockey leagues, right, right on every high school like sports podcast out there, you will be these, the software that everybody goes through for high for that and your business will grow immensely within your market. So that’s what’s worked really well for us.
Tony Zayas 30:27
So Ray, you know, what does with that, where you guys are at right now getting to that 90%? Does that change anything for the future? Beyond that the current vision of the platform? I know you said, simplicity is kind of key to it all. But what are the plans beyond that?
Ray Blakney 30:45
So the plans beyond that, as I mentioned, I might actually be looking to raise seed or series a funds after that for two reasons. To accelerate the growth, of course, which is the main reason you raise seed, well, some people use to build a business, but we’ll have that, you know, we’ll already have a profitable business before I go into that space. Next one is to accelerate it and kind of get market dominance in with what we do, because the long term vision if we can get to where I want to be and become the number one company for people to get booked on podcast in the world, so not only individuals, but agencies use us for their clients. I want to build the H refs, or SEM rush for podcasts. That is the next phase of what we’re building. If you have your own podcast, if you want to mark it on every data that there is to do with podcast because we’re already aggregating data from social media, we’re aggregating data from again, SEO backlinks, we’ll have all the backlinks to your, your podcast page in ours, nobody else will have that we want to become the hrs sem rush of podcasts.
Andy Halko 31:47
Pretty interesting. So talk a little bit more about that product roadmap, because you mentioned it is that every founder has a big vision, there’s a lot of features, you talk to customers, you know, your friends and family give you ideas. You know, as soon as I hear this, I’m like, Hey, Ray, I’ve got you know, 10 ideas for what you could do with what we tell you about them, right? How do you? How do you manage all of those ideas and turn it into a roadmap? that’s right for your business?
Ray Blakney 32:24
That depends, again, on the phase of the business you’re at, right? If you’re starting off, I would say for the most part, before you get your MVP out, ignore those ideas for the most part, right? Get out your MVP? Have them see what people really do. Because what people say and what people do, you know, until they pull out their wallet, everything they say they say is like how would be great if you could do this, would you pay me 100 bucks for oh, like no, no, I never pay $100. For them, I know that I’m not going to do that, right? I mean, so you need to kind of keep your vision, keep it simple to remember, get that, let’s go back to the if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of you watch, you will be embarrassed, just launch it out there, throw it out there, see what people say, then when you start getting feedback document. So if a hundred, you know, let’s say you have 100 customers and 90 of them are asking for something, then you might be on to something, the challenge that I see a lot of founders fall into is they kind of people give them feedback. And the ones they remember the ones that are the most interesting to them, not necessarily the ones that they’re hearing the most, you’re like, Ooh, that sounds cool. I’m gonna build that even though most people were asking for something else. So I actually have a document. Even in our system, we have one of those voting systems where everybody gets one vote, and they get to pick the next feature. We We love those systems. Yeah, that’s the simplest one there, right? We are not at this point, we’re not even deciding what our next feature is they’re doing, you can write something new if it’s not already there, and everybody gets to vote. And that’s essentially that just gets imported. Once it gets approved by me, it just gets imported into our project management system. And that’s what we’re building next. And we just add that into the system. So essentially, we’re going to right now the product roadmap is we built what our users are asking for. It’s past the point of view in my my vision, my egos put to the side, my vision is having a company that works for the most amount of people and helps get messages out there. Right? You know, that’s what we do. As the podcast guests kind of software. I want to help people with these amazing stories and messages, get to get connected to great podcasts where they can share their stories and messages we have a gift for if you’re a charity have mentioned right now, if you guys don’t mind, we’ll give you a free account, absolutely free, we will not charge you a message. Because if you do, it’s up to make the world a better place. You do not have to pay us let us know we’ll give you a free account for life so you can get the message out there. And if you know we want to build a software and though SaaS product that helps the most amount of people do that and make a living along the way.
Andy Halko 34:37
What’s been your best way to get that customer feedback because we’ve talked about that a lot on the show. And I’ve met a lot of founders there. Some of them are great at right. They’re they’re great at going and talking to people and asking the right questions. Or there’s other founders that are maybe more on the technical side, other things that they struggle to really, you know, have that gumption to go out and ask the right question. Just how have you talked to customers? And what have you found the best ways to do it?
Ray Blakney 35:06
Yeah, so my, the best hack that I’ve come up with in all these years, and I do this both at live linguae. And at podcast talk is I put that between, quote, air quotes for those who are listening to it, send a personal email to everybody who signs up that looks like a personal email from me not, you know, with the perfect formatting it looks like comes from like a Gmail account. We have been personalized a little bit. So you know, I would say, you know, Andy, I hope so I was going well in Chicago, or wherever you’re at right now. My name is Ray, I’m the founder this company, I just want to know, why did you decide to sign up with us? And you know, what could we do to make this product better? Looks like a real email, I get about 20% response rate to that risk, then I’ll have my personal email, because it is really my email, if they reply that comes to me. And if there’s a complaint in the future, I get an email about, but especially when you’re starting off, that has worked wonders for me, because now everybody knows me, has a personal my personal email, and they feel comfortable coming to me with their complaints. And while I don’t like hearing their complaints, that’s what I need to hear to make it a better product.
Andy Halko 36:09
Just getting on that a little bit. I think there’s the other thing I’ve seen with founders is this idea of, you know, are you in your own head and you see your vision and you’re locked into it, versus hearing what other people are saying, and having openness to change and ideas. What do you think that right balances potentially, even if there isn’t a right balance of, you know, sticking to the vision, knowing who you are, what you want to accomplish? And then having that ability to adjust, pivot? You know, or just hear other ideas?
Ray Blakney 36:49
Yeah, so another great question. One of the things that I hear that I see, especially when I speak at conference for founding, for the first time founders especially right, they get emotionally attached to their business, right? This is my baby. I’ve, you know, this is my life. This. Yeah, I’ve launched dozens of businesses, none of these are my babies anymore, right there is, I am building a solution to a problem that’s out there, you know, I want to build the best hammer to hammer nails, right? That’s kind of it. So I’m not emotionally tied to what my hammer looks like, is it really is it ugly, it just needs to get the job done. And that’s my recommendation for the balance you have the vision for me is what your Yes, you said what you’re trying to accomplish. We’re trying to connect great guests with great podcasts. It’s that simple. Everything else around it is just extra kind of frosting on the cake. And I don’t care if the you know, the way that cake looks at the end is not the way I want the cake to look like you know, I wanted a white one with, you know, flowers on top. But we end up with a blue one with you know, blooms coming out of it. I’m like, I don’t really care. Because the cake is good. It does what it needs to do. Emotionally separate yourself from the business, you will make much better decisions about your business. If you’re not personally insulted. Everybody, somebody tells you your software is awful. It doesn’t work for them. A lot of people do. I’ve even seen some people kind of get angry emails back. You don’t fight with your customers. Or it’s like, Oh, it didn’t work. You’re like no, you’re you know, you don’t you weren’t using it right? That is never the right answer. Take it say sorry, if this bureau says product, give them three months free is not going to cost you a penny. And just to you know, take their feedback to heart because if they came to you, if they’re mad enough to come to you, that means there’s probably 100 other users who are having the same problem. We just never bothered to come to you, right? I mean, you know, they just never got to that level out there. So fix it, you’ll get a lot more happy customers out there.
Andy Halko 38:35
Gave me the title for my next book, the business baby problem.
Ray Blakney 38:38
There you go. A little cry on the cover, I’d buy that.
Andy Halko 38:44
I’m gonna put Tony in a diaper.
Tony Zayas 38:50
Sounds like an exciting photoshoot. So Ray, to shift gears a little bit, you know, being a founder involved in you know, a couple businesses. You’re a busy guy probably wearing a ton of hats. How do you organize your day, days? Weeks? How do you do the time management, productivity, focus on objectives and prioritization? What is how does Ray like manage all this?
Ray Blakney 39:20
I actually have a detailed system where I might actually be writing a book soon on it. Because I’ve mentioned I thought everybody did this until recently. And I started showing people the system I use. So I actually spend a lot of time time management. And when I came up with this first time, I spent like six months actually coming up with a system. And now I do it every six months to do it. So basically what I do is I track down where I spent all my time, every three months. So I go through through a week and I track all my time. And then I kind of optimize it based on four categories in life, which is work family, hobbies and health. And I kind of break down to see how much time I’m spending on all of those. I also actually, as part of the exercise in each one of those categories. You write the title of the book that would be written about your life. At the end of your life, right? So you kind of go in there. So that kind of gets you thinking about how do you want people to remember you, when you’re there. The next step is you actually write the back cover of that book. So you say, Tony, is this right now he went through this transformation, and at the end of the life, this is what he had, then you work backwards. So you know, I’m 40. So I plan on living to 100. So you know, I’m not gonna put say where I’m, you know, I’m not going to be planning a year to year all the way up to 100. But I do by decades until I get to about five years, and then I broke it down into Okay, three year plan, one year plan at that point. And then you see, because I wrote broke down my week by how many hours I have, I actually know how many hours I have free. And I can actually allocate that to whatever my priority is right now in life. And that changes when my son was born, obviously, both family priority went way up, and I had to spend more time on that, which means I have to sacrifice some of the time I might have spent on work health, I never sacrifice because it’s kind of that’s the kind of core if you’re unhealthy, it doesn’t matter how your business is doing how your family is doing all the rest of it, right, you need to kind of keep that in place. The other one that’s off suffers, unfortunately, generally is my hobbies, because I do have hobbies. And that’s usually the first one I have to kind of give up when I’m trying to focus on kind of short term goals. So that’s my entire process for doing it. So the basic idea is, hopefully I’ll write it out on my personal blog in the next few months. But the first step to do that just work for me, I just did it with my wife is write down all the hours you spend every week, and see how you can optimize that there’s certain things like my learning time, you know, I’d have learning time and I’d have to commute take my son to school and take him back. listen to audiobooks on the way to work. Suddenly, I save two and a half hours a week, I kind of go through that. And I was able to save in my case, I found that I five hours free, but I was able to take 18 by by doing this exercise just a month ago, my wife didn’t, she’d got 25 hours back every month, every week of her time, because she was she found out like wow, I could be I don’t need this many meetings, and I don’t need to be doing this and I can get somebody else to do this. For me. All that kind of stuff, we just never sit down and even think about it. It All it takes is just write it down on a list and you will see labeled the ones that you can’t change like sleep, you’re like No, I’m going to sleep one hour, that’s probably not a possibility, right? There’s I need to eat, I need to take a shower, you know, all those kinds of things, but do a huge amount of detail. And you will find you’re probably wasting a lot more time than you think every week. And if you could just get four or five hours more free every week to spend on your business spend on your health spend on something else. Your life could be you know, you change your life.
Andy Halko 42:20
I was enjoyed years ago I did an exercise you you kind of draw a circle and you create these different parts of the pie chart. And you have so many bars and each one it’s like, you know, family, friends, hobbies, spouse, kids health business, well, which ones are you going to fill bars. And because you only have so many.
Ray Blakney 42:41
Facts. Nobody bothers to do that. Right? We all think we all think we have much more time in the day than we do. So we tried to do it all. And I can’t remember who said the quote. But one of my favorite quotes is you could do everything you want in your life, you just can’t do it all at the same time. Right. And that’s the thing we all tried to do to save time, we try to focus on our families, focus on our jobs, focus on our health, and have a hobby that we would do all at exactly the same time. And you’re never going to be able to do that. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur, you need to focus on one or two of those things for now. So you can get the rewards and focus on some of the other ones later on down the road.
Andy Halko 43:14
Really helped me understand what I found important. I’ll be completely transparent. My friend’s bar was like, hero, because I have two kids. I have a business. Health I mean, you know.
Ray Blakney 43:27
All my friends are entrepreneurs because I can that way I could squeeze them into the business.
Andy Halko 43:32
Yeah, that’s the way to do it is try and combine.
Ray Blakney 43:35
That’s it. That’s it. Yep.
Andy Halko 43:41
So talk about the future of the business. And like, you know, you you were talking a little bit about raising capital. And bootstrapping, I always am a big believer in the advice that like, get some revenue and get some customers before you go out and raise capital. What’s your one mindset on that? And two? Have you gotten into the process of raising capital? Because that’s always such a big daunting thing for founders, the time effort, everything that goes into trying to pull in money. What’s your perspective on that?
Ray Blakney 44:19
Yeah, so I’m actually very much in the early phases of doing this. There’s a few things that kind of, I think make it easier for me than for other people. One, one of the beauties of doing raising capital for a business that’s already making money, so I don’t need the money. Right. I’m not going in begging for money because my company you know, I don’t have like a six month runway, a 12 month runway. I have a 10 year you know, my runway is as long as I want to make it because it’s making money, right? I mean, you know, it’s the capital is for growth. It’s not for survival. And that’s the treadmill a lot of people get on there because they hire with the expectation of future growth and the growth doesn’t come and suddenly Wait, I’m burned, you know, my burn rate is much higher than my actual income. So that’s part of what makes it a little easier for me. The second thing is, since I’ve been in the game for 14 years now without ever raising capital, I know busy people and be people that they’re actually friends of mine, that I’ve never actually tried to they, you know, there have been multiple times with people that have said, I’ll give you money, and I’m like, No, that’s fine. That’s fine. So you know, it’s, I’m in a slightly different place. And when it comes to that, that being said, I actually, when I’m raising capital, I know what my requirements are. So step number one is, I don’t really need it. So if you’re not going to meet my requirements, as an investor, I don’t care if you can meet the money, I’m not gonna take it because I don’t, you know, I’m not willing to kind of compromise on these certain things. For me, personally, the certain things is all my companies are virtual. So if you expect me to rent out an office building live in a certain place and do all the rest of it, I’m like, Yeah, I’m not taking your money. I’m looking at people to invest for the, you know, mid to long term. So if you’re like, Okay, two years, we need an exit, you need to have 20% growth month on month, that’s not necessarily the kind of person I’m looking for, as well, I want to get this to five to $10 million, have an exit, you know, the investment amount I want is going to, you know, I’d say, let’s say 10 to 20% of the company kind of gone based on the futures sale values, but I would raise, you’re not gonna be a majority owner. So if you’re coming in here, and you want to enjoy the company, that either we can talk about, you know, what kind of stocks we have, and all the rest, because I registered a C Corp, so I do have multiple stock options for you there. But I’m going into it with that mindset that I am looking for investors who are looking for the same thing I am. And if you’re not that kind of investor, then I’m not interested. And I would recommend that to anyone who’s trying to raise capital, try to get into that position, before you’re raising capital, because otherwise, these VCs, they do this for a living, if you think you’re gonna outsmart them by kind of going in there and saying, no, no, no, I’m gonna get what I want, you’re not gonna get what you want, I hate to disappoint you, no way, there may have way more lawyers than you they have done a thousands of these deals, you are not going to get, you know, a disproportionately good deal out of any of these and a reliable VC out there. So but if you go in there with your expectations, you say in the beginning, you might actually have a slightly lower, you know, higher turnout rate, but the person you get to invest with you in the long term will probably be a better fit for your company culture and your vision. And you will be let us sleep better at night. Because you don’t have somebody who’s trying to do something different from you kind of breathing down your neck every month, to try to make you move in a direction that you don’t want to do like is that, you know, I have a two year old, I’m gonna spend time with my two year old, I’m not at the age where I’m going to be like working 18 hours a day, and sleeping in the office and all the rest of it, if that’s what you expect on investment. I’m investing my track record, I’ve had multiple exits and multiple successful businesses. I’ve never had VC money before, but I know what to do. And I know how to make it work. So that’s kind of the position you should be in when you’re investing anything else, bootstrap it until that point would be my advice.
Tony Zayas 47:53
I love that approach. Because you’re basically putting yourself in a power strength. And the whole dynamic starts out from a completely different standpoint. So rather than being there, you know, with neediness, you’re choosing gun as much as they’re choosing you eggs, I’m sure even though that is by design, and that’s how it’s working for you. That’s probably something to learn for a lot of people that are out there trying to raise funds.
Ray Blakney 48:21
And I think they you know, VCs, they can sense that, if you need them badly. Like Google, we can get out we’re getting another 10% of this company out, you know, maybe I would have invested for 20% before but now that I see how desperate is our 40% of the company? Because I know. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Andy Halko 48:37
If you’re desperate it’s hard
Ray Blakney 48:40
It’s like on a date, right? They’re like, Yeah, they’ll totally, totally in a walk all over you, right?
Andy Halko 48:49
A lot of our founders talk about mentors and networks and groups that they’re part of I you know, I’ve had mentors, I’ve been a mentor, part of lots of groups. Talk to me about who you bring into your life to help you be a better entrepreneur.
Ray Blakney 49:07
Absolutely. This is I think this is one of the keys to growth, especially once you get past the startup phase, right? So how would I put it? I was like, I’m an introvert. Believe it or not, you know, nobody has ever met me in a conference will ever say that. But you know, when those after today’s conference, don’t talk to me for a week. I just need a good book and just lock myself in my room. But so I went to my first conference about five years ago. So I had been running businesses for about eight years before I actually met another entrepreneur. I didn’t know I’d never actually started doing these things before. But I also point that as the point where my business went, growth kind of doubled and tripled because I started talking to other entrepreneurs, learning from them and networking. So I started in one group, and every two or three years, depending on the kind of entrepreneur you’re I’m still friends with the people in the group I started out with, but the strange thing happens is not every entrepreneur out there that you’re going to meet is going to have this growth mindset. So I met people, the first group I was in, I was kind of the right level for them when I got there. But after two or three years of going to the events, I found that the people like who were there two or three years ago, were at the same level while my business has grown. And I’ve learned more. So I find another group for the next level. And I, you know, after that you kind of grow past that group, and you grow into the next one. Again, not everybody grows, or people are happy where they’re at, if your goal is to have a lifestyle, business $100,000 A year and travel around the world, what if I were to be, but that’s not what I want. So I was in a group like that, and then I kind of moved that move past it to the next group. Once you get to that, seven figures, that’s when I personally kind of started the mentoring stuff I, I would have started earlier, if I knew how amazing was not mentoring and coaching, so led to different things. So the mentoring was on the business side, but I actually did a lot of mindset work as well, as I was growing. And I think that was key to my kind of my growth when we were doing it. And now yeah, I’ve had the privilege of being part of numerous groups with people with nine figure businesses. I’m a big proponent of be the dumbest person in the room. And trust me when I go to these conferences that you know, within the business context, yeah, some of those conference conversations are way over my head, not to name drop too much, but because of networking, I got invited out to Necker Island about 12 weeks ago, maybe 16 weeks ago. So those of you don’t know it. That’s Richard Branson’s private island. So the first of the story I tell is the first night we were there, about 25 entrepreneurs were there. It was quite a charity event. And we were all talking and Richard kind of walks in the room, the whole room goes Hush, and they will pretend he’s not there. Right? You know, we just kind of go back to our conversation, nobody goes back up, he invites us out to dinner. And he’s got this like the longest one piece of wood table I’ve ever seen in my life. He looked at sequoia tree and he must have made a table out of it. Like most of us mere mortals have like five tables we put together to make a long table, not a big long one. So I decided there’s so many interesting people here, I’m gonna sit in the middle of the table. So somebody on the left somebody, all right, somebody in the front, I can talk. So I sit down, I start talking to the person on my left fascinating conversation. And then I kind of turn in front of me. And it didn’t even occur to me that Richard Branson would sit right in front. So I’m sitting right across the table from Richard Branson. On his left is President Sirleaf, the first female president of Africa, and was Dr. Astro Teller, who’s the head of Google X. And you know, essentially, x is the moonshot factory of Google. So the smartest people in Google work there. And he’s the smartest person in the smartest, you know, the smartest quarter that we do small talk. And eventually, they just start talking about things that are way beyond not that I don’t understand them. Just the way that they look at the world. They’re talking about, like ending world wars and global hunger. Right? I mean, just the things that they’re thinking about, is amazing. That’s what networking and new groups could do. I was by far, you know, the least experienced in life and dumbest person in that group. But I was so inspired. Again, I understood what they were saying, I just don’t think the way you I can learn to think the way you do. I just it’s just like, I don’t dare, I guess would be the best word. Like how many of us dare to think we can do? We can that’s a global global hunger next month, next year. We’re all thinking about growing our businesses 10 to 20%. Why don’t we think about growing our businesses 10x or 100x in the next year? That’s what those level of people think about. And that’s what networking, mentorship coaching kind of shifts your mind to start thinking about the world in a different way, as opposed to what we learned in school, which was like, you know, gradual increment incremental growth in our businesses. I don’t have the answer now to do that yet. But at least I’m looking for it now. And that is kind of the biggest thing that networking is not
Andy Halko 53:25
That’s great. Any groups that you recommend out there for folks to get involved with?
Ray Blakney 53:31
Yeah, so it kind of depends on the level in your journey you’re at and what your goals are, right. So I’m pretty active in a group called Dynamite Circle, that’s kind of a digital nomad, entrepreneur group, right. So generally, you need at least 15 $100,000 of income, to make it into that one. But the biggest person there is $100 million company. So you know, the, that’s a certain kind of mindset there. I am part of another group called Mastermind Talks, it’s invite only about 150 people. And that group, you also need to have at least a seven figure business to do it. I’m also a founding member in a group called M three, I just got back from Vegas, where we were all done fighting each other in planes together. experience based networking, everybody, there are seven or eight figure businesses as well. You can apply but it’s generally invite only. So once you get to the kind of seven figure level, you can do that. You can also go to YC, and EO those are all over there’s a much, much more well known groups that you have joined iOS, literally, you know, or why he sees a little easier to get into. He knows a little higher level, but applied in the network that people you meet there can change your life. A lot of them are more traditional businesses. So I wasn’t YC for a while, but they’re more kind of brick and mortar and it’s great people but it’s not really kind of my thing in the online space. And that was it wasn’t that great of it, but try it out. You can always leave if they don’t work out for you, but do it. Your business will grow as a result.
Tony Zayas 54:49
Right. That’s awesome. Before we ask you what kind of last question that we wrap up all these conversations with podcasttalk.com That’s where people can go to check it out. Yeah, where’s a good place for people that want to follow your journey? You know, pay attention to what you’re up to? Is there a good spot?
Ray Blakney 55:07
Yeah. So I always joke that I busy building businesses. So I will have never been really busy building my own personal brand, right. So if you go on Twitter and follow me, you’ll be really bored. Because I don’t have, I can’t think it was one thing to say every day on Twitter, right? So I mean, I’m working on the business. But if you want to follow me old school, go to Facebook, add me on Facebook, look for rayblakney.com. Look for a picture of somebody swordfighting, you talked about hobbies, professional swordfighter on the side. So that’s where you’ll find me, that’s where you can kind of follow up, you know, the shows, I’m on all the rest of that are there along with a few personal things that I do. Or you could go to my web personal website, rayblakney.com, R A Y B LA K N E Y.com. And that is where I have, I’m starting a blog, I have some articles I’m not quite published yet, but I’m trying to get about 12 articles ready before I do it. And I’m gonna start publishing and writing more regularly on there. So you can kind of keep up with what I’m doing. Also, you know, if you want to have me on a podcast or speak at a conference, you can contact me through.
Tony Zayas 55:59
Andy Halko 56:01
So question I asked, every entrepreneur we talked to is, if you could go back in time before you started a business and have coffee with yourself. What advice would you give?
Ray Blakney 56:14
Oh, absolutely focus. Don’t get to, you know, don’t follow these other businesses. The example I’ll give for Livelink was so we were online language lessons. We were an early mover we did about 14 years ago, we kind of went up to mid six made six figures pretty quickly. I’m like, I got this. And then I started building all these other businesses that didn’t go anywhere. I spent the next two years. That’s it. Exactly. And in the meantime, big investors started coming around and building companies that did the same thing. So then I had to refocus on that. Now, we had all this competition, and I had focused on live Lego for those two or three years where I got distracted, we would have been so far ahead of the competition, that nobody would have been able to catch up with us on the SEO and the ads and the growth side of things. But I did not I got distracted, took my eye off the ball. And as a result, I have a successful business, but we do not dominate the market like we could have for podcasts. I’m trying not to do that. I’m gonna focus on that. And this is what I’m doing for the next five years.
Tony Zayas 57:08
It’s fantastic, Ray. Well, I want to say thank you so much. This has been outstanding, really great conversation. Great insights. For everyone tuning in, check out podcasttalk.com, really cool stuff. We will have another exciting found around again. People for joining and we really appreciate your time here today.
Ray Blakney 57:31
Thanks for having me on guys. It was a blast.
Tony Zayas 57:33
Andy Halko 57:33
Thanks, Ray. I’ll be signing up for Podcast Hawk myself. Don’t worry.
Ray Blakney 57:37
Tony Zayas 57:38
Take care everybody.