Arjun is the founder of Retargeter, and in this episode he talks to us about how he took a bootstrapped startup to millions in revenue. He also gives us a crash course on creating company culture, and teaches us how it effects growth.
→ The topic is retargeting in online marketing
→ Retarder aims to solve the problem of driving traffic to a website but not converting it into desired actions
→ Services provided include site retargeting and audience retargeting (difference not specified in the transcript)
→ Site retargeting: Showing ads to people who have previously visited a website as they surf around the web
→ Audience targeting: Showing ads to new potential customers through the use of technology and data partnerships to find users who fit specific demographics or behaviors
→ Targeting specific audiences using RTB and data partnerships is key for retargeting
→ RTB allows for buying display ads in real time based on data sets or insights
→ Smart clients use Retarder’s services to target qualified leads with storytelling and audience targeting
→ Best practices include using retargeting and audience targeting to bring back previous visitors to a website and find new potential customers in real time
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV and Bronson Taylor. And today I have Arjun Dev earlier with us. Ah Jun, thanks for coming on the show.
Arjun: Thank you.
Bronson: Yeah, I’m excited to have you. I was looking at some of your other interviews online over the past few days and you always give solid interviews. So I’m excited to talk to you here. But Arjuna, you are the CEO and founder of Retarder. So let’s start there. Tell us a little bit about retarget or what is it?
Arjun: Yeah, absolutely. So we target to really aims to solve kind of one of the core problems in the online marketing world, which is a lot of folks are spending time, money and energy driving traffic to their website. But unfortunately, not a lot of those folks are converting. They’re not taking the action that you would like them to, whether it’s buying a pair of shoes or filling out a lead form or frankly, in many cases just remembering the brand. And so that’s really the problem that that we’re trying to solve. And and over time, we’ve also helped folks with other kind of aspects of display advertising, which are exciting to chat more about. But that’s, you know, at our core is what we’re, what we’re all about.
Bronson: Yeah. So kind of like getting qualified leads. Does that sum it up? Getting the right people on your site.
Arjun: Getting the right people back to your site?
Bronson: Go back to your site. Let’s talk about that a little bit because on your Web site, it seems like you break down your services into two categories site retargeting and audience retargeting. And maybe there’s more than that. You can tell me if I’m wrong, but tell us the difference in site and audience retargeting.
Arjun: Yeah. So site site retargeting is when someone visits your webpage and then they leave and then we’re actually able to start to show that your browser ads as they surf around the web. So let me give a kind of a more specific example. So someone shows up at a online retail store, let’s say they sell leather bags. So you go on to the site, you poke around for a little bit. You decided this isn’t the right time to buy. The next day you’re on Facebook or YouTube or CNN or The New York Times, and you start to see ads for that leather bag company. And then you say, Oh, yeah, I did. I was actually interested in that. Let me go back and, you know, make a purchase or, hey, maybe I’ll tell a friend about it or, you know, something like that. So can either encourage kind of direct action or, you know, kind of more social sharing or other things like that.
Bronson: Yeah. So that’s the site retargeting, right? So what is the audience retargeting? How is that different?
Arjun: Yeah, it’s actually it’s actually called audience targeting. And basically what that is, is more is more the top of funnel stuff. So it’s actually where we’re able to show ads to folks for the first time. So rather than reengaging someone who’s already been to your site or may already be familiar with your brand, we’re actually able to leverage our inventory base and data partnerships to be able to find users for the first time. So let me give you kind of a specific example there. We can, through the use of our technology target, let’s say women in New York between the ages of 25 and 35 who are reading an article about finance on their iPads, you know, just kind of and these are all kind of layering together different data segments. And that audience may not be that large. But, you know, we’re able to find those folks across the Open Web to the extent that we can with the inventory and data partnerships that we have.
Bronson: Yeah. Now, you said an important word there, Open Web, because we’re used to that kind of granularity in like a Facebook ad platform. Where you going there and choosing the specificity of ads for Facebook, but that’s just for Facebook. You’re saying I can have that kind of audience targeting across the open web, which opens up a whole new level of opportunity, right?
Arjun: Yeah, absolutely. That’s exactly right. And I think you hit the nail on the head. And I think that’s where, you know, a lot of what we’re trying to do a lot of education around is that the ability or the possibilities with real time bidding. And it’s all done on kind of what we call RTP, a real time betting platform, which is the ability to buy display ads in basically a fraction of a second before someone sees the ad. And so it’s all done in real time. It’s all done based off of various data sets or insights about either the device or the or the inventory source. So if it’s a site about finance or a site about, you know, soccer or whatever it happens to be, we, you know, we can at least glean that information. So this is the the big push into the RTB ecosystem, which is which pretty exciting.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. So that idea of them being qualified really is kind of the heart of the whole thing. It’s qualified with storytelling targeting. It’s qualified with audience targeting. Yeah. So talk to me a little bit about how the really smart clients of yours are using your service, the smart marketers. What are some of the best practices around the retargeting or the audience targeting that are just kind of things you could put out there? So people use your service, they’re using it with a little more knowledge now?
Arjun: Yeah, absolutely. So a couple of different things on the site based retargeting. So it’s it’s really and this kind of holds for everything. But one of the things that folks often forget is the importance of the creative. I think people get really excited, Hey, we’re going to start a campaign, this is great. And then they just kind of send across something and don’t put as much thought into it as as they probably should or don’t send across variations. So I think that one of the key and probably simplest things to do to make your campaign more successful is actually just. One, putting a little bit of thought into the ads and then two, sending us multiple variants because we’ll sometimes even more shocked by what we assumed to be the app that will perform the best. And oftentimes we’ll find out where it’s actually not that one. It’s, you know, it’s just completely different, one that we may not have expected. So those are things that, you know, kind of first steps are kind of first order principles that I would recommend is just make sure that creatives are, you know, are in line. The second thing would be around making sure to target or retarget folks from the right place. So it’s often, you know, and segment the audiences as appropriate. So let me give a specific example. You’re a B2B software company and you’re selling a SAS product online for the folks who just visit your site for the first time and you want to retarget them, you want to show them ads that highlight the features, just get people back, have the logo very prominently, get people excited about the product. Let’s say someone then fills out a lead form and you have now their email address and now they’re kind of in the second stage of the sales process over there. You’re really going to want to, you know, reengage them with a different kind of messaging, which is, hey, come back, sign up, or maybe we have a special going on, or here’s content that can be really valuable to you given that you signed up. And then lastly, and this maybe applies more in the eCommerce world is once someone has converted, then you can offer, then you can start to show them ads for maybe referring their friends and getting a discount or joining your social media profile. So, you know, there’s other things that you can do to basically reengage and bring people back into the fold in a way that, you know, is respectful and helpful and adds value. And so segmenting the audiences, I think, is another another important point. And then on the audience targeting side, one thing that I’ve mentioned is it’s really understanding your audience. I think, you know, the old adage is know thyself. But in the marketers world, it’s no they audience. So, you know, the more the more that you can know your audience, the better you are. And I think that can help us craft a more targeted audience campaign. And oftentimes we also learn in our clients, learn from campaigns that they target as well, which is which is great. And that can help us further refine. But to the extent that you start with a strong hypothesis or set of hypotheses, that helps a lot and that helps just optimize ad spend as well. But just to touch on one kind of quick point there, previously you can actually use both retargeting and audience based targeting to learn a lot about your audience. So for example, you run a site based retargeting campaign and then we can show you kind of in aggregate what were the URLs that the audience you have visited and you can realize? Oh, wow, I didn’t I never knew that my audience was on, I don’t know, the Huffington Post or something like that. Maybe I should target that site directly. Or, you know, it turns out that a lot of my conversions happened from Facebook, so maybe I need to go back there. There’s there’s a lot of interesting insights that you can glean from, you know, kind of targeting your audience and all the data that you get back from there. So that’s another interesting point I’d say, is to definitely look look at the data. It’s important.
Bronson: Yeah, there’s great fundamental insights there. And that last one you said, just make sure I’m clear. It’s somebody who specify an audience. So they’re saying kind of, you know, a woman, 25 to 35 on an iPad doing whatever and then you’re getting information about where they actually came from. So that’s new knowledge that you didn’t put into the system. The system’s feeding to you based on the specificity you gave it.
Arjun: Exactly. So you learn even more. It’s kind of a self-referential and it’s a pretty cool way to that, to continue to garner more and more insights about the audience that you’re targeting or that you think you should be targeting. So you may also learn that, hey, maybe that audience that you just described isn’t actually the right one. Maybe we need to target somebody completely different. And so it’s a great way to learn very quickly and frankly, very inexpensively about different audience segments that you may want to target.
Bronson: Yeah, those.
Arjun: Are the ones that actually visit your site and convert, which are often the most important ones.
Bronson: Exactly as exciting as all the different aspects of retargeting is and site targeting, being able to learn new information to feedback in to the data loop, that’s what’s most exciting to me because then you can just, you know, you can run so fast and improve so quickly. I mean, it’s the whole lean startup build, measure, learn it. The learning is a huge part of it. So that’s why I like this not let me come to target toddler spend a bunch of money it’s let me come to a toddler and learn in the process. So yeah, that adds a new layer to it I think. Give us an idea of how big you guys are today. Yeah. And the reason I ask this is what I’m going to go into kind of your growth a little bit, but I want to give people an idea of anything that you publicly released, you know, users, revenue numbers, anything out there to give us an idea of size?
Arjun: Yeah, just start at a high level. Yeah, we’re kind of a double digit million run rate. You know, 30 plus employees headquartered in San Francisco. And you know, I’ve been around for a little over four years now, so I’ve scaled and we’re bootstrapped as well. So that hopefully give some sense of, you know, kind of the core metrics of the of the business.
Bronson: So absolutely that’s that’s where I’m going is into the bootstrapped idea because I have, you know, a double digit million runway and then put bootstrap in the same sentence. Something special’s going on there, I think, you know. And so how did you all manage to grow your userbase so substantially without a lot of initial investment capital? Walk us through the early days a little bit. We’ll talk about what it looks like today later. But early on, how do you get that flywheel going?
Arjun: Yeah. I think the the early days was, you know, frankly, it’s just a lot of hustle. I don’t I don’t think there’s any other way to describe it. I mean, I think we had a you know, we still do, but we had an incredibly tight knit, strong team of just folks who were going in and working really, really hard. And, you know, we would do email outreach, we would go to conferences, we go to events, we talked to anybody and everybody. And we’d really just kind of help folks understand. I think education was a really big piece of it. We weren’t trying to push, you know, our service on anybody were saying, hey, let us teach you about this awesome new technology and how, you know, our TV can be helpful to you and how retargeting can be helpful. And let’s show you some results. And if we can be helpful with anything else as well, let us know like we’re here too, you know, we’re here to help. And I think that that ethos was, was super valuable in the early days and continues to be hasn’t changed. And then from the technology and the product standpoint, we were just really scrappy. I mean, I, I hacked together literally the first version using open sourced, you know, technology and just, just mashing everything together to make it work. Of course, over time, know, we’ve continue to improve and now we’ve got a nice solid engineering team in-house. But you know, over time, initially it was totally hacked together. Then we used an outsourced team to help us out initially and over time have now have a strong, you know, engineering team in-house that’s that’s cranking away. But I think, you know, just just working hard, being helpful, staying scrappy, all things that I think were were valuable.
Bronson: Yeah. You know, I’ve heard Paul Graham say that early on in a startup. When you’re trying to grow it, you have to do things that don’t scale.
Arjun: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Bronson: Do you agree with that idea?
Arjun: Absolutely. 100%. I could not agree with that more. I saw that article and I wanted to run over and high five parameters as I got it. And I think that, you know, what that looks like specifically is, you know, does it scale for the CEO to talk to every single customer? Does it go to the CEO to be out, you know, eight nights a week? Yeah, yeah. You know, that’s what it felt like. And so, you know, just talking to people and doing that and it definitely doesn’t scale, but that’s what gives the the momentum and the traction. And I think then ultimately, to your point, gets that flywheel spinning.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Now, you know, so often when I think about a bootstrap business, at least I think about lifestyle businesses. And when I think about VC backed businesses, I think about, okay, their have real growth potential. How realistic is the retargeting story because you guys took a lot of seed funding, not enough to matter and you’re targeting a double digit million run rate, right? Is that realistic? Do you encourage young entrepreneurs to try that or is that just something special happen there?
Arjun: I think I think, you know, we got lucky. We worked really hard. We were in the right market at the right time. I think getting some cash early will just it releases tension. It eases things. It’s it’s you know, it’s worth it. You know, there are certain cases in which it works out. And I think if you’re if you’re willing to really, really work hard and if you got a space where you can, you know, you can sell and you can monetize relatively quickly, that’s where, you know, it may make sense. So, for example, in our case, you know, within 3 to 6 months, we were able to start charging and, you know, the dollar values were relatively high. And so we were able to start kind of getting some traction and making some money and moving forward. So typically that would have been, you know, if you’re selling a SAS product for 1599 month, it’s not going to work. Right. And I think, you know, we started off $500 a month. Now we’ve got clients who spend significantly more than that by orders of magnitude per month. And so, you know, it just it’s a different story altogether. But I think in certain cases it definitely does work and it’s worth it. But even that I would encourage folks to get at least some meaningful capital out of the gate. And I think these days, while it is still challenging, if you can prove traction by bootstrapping for a while, then it becomes easier to raise money.
Bronson: Yeah, well, I appreciate your transparency honesty with that answer because a lot of times once we’ve done something and we’ve succeeded at it, we look back to everyone else and be like, Oh, it’s easy. You can totally do it, when in fact it may not be easy at all. And you know, it’s kind of the the survivor bias, I guess, you know. So I appreciate your perspective on how special retargeting is. And so, yeah, it’s possible, but there has to be certain things in place, you know, the, the amount of margin being one of them. Yeah. Other things to to really make it work. Now over the years you guys have evolved. If I had it correctly, you started out almost as pure retargeting and just the name reporter, but you’ve had to broaden your services since then. What are some of the things you do now that you didn’t do in day one in month one?
Arjun: Sure. Some of the biggest thing is actually the top of funnel kind of stuff that we were talking about. In addition to that, we’ve been innovating pretty aggressively in the last two years and some of the things that we’re particularly excited about, our email retargeting, CRM, retargeting, short targeted. One of our social products. And also we have we’re one of the early partners of the Facebook exchange. And so we have access to retarget on Facebook in the right real ads and then also in the news feed as well, which are both pretty, pretty exciting things that frankly weren’t even around when we got started. So I’d say, you know, top of funnel, new retargeting technologies and then new sort new sets of inventory, particularly on the Facebook side, which which I think are most exciting. And also video, we have access to video inventory, which we weren’t doing in the past real time, but in video inventory. So we can do cool things like video retargeting. So you can come to a website and then let’s say you’re watching a YouTube or a Vimeo or something clip. You’ll see a 15/2 ad before the video starts for the site that you visited, which is which is pretty exciting. So, you know, I think there’s there’s new retargeting methodologies, inventory and then the top of funnel stuff.
Bronson: Yeah. You mentioned email retargeting. I’m not familiar with that. What is email retargeting?
Arjun: So email retargeting is pretty cool. Know retargeting is basically where you can reengage folks who have opened an email. So, you know, an email is effectively just an HTML piece of code and so we treat it although it’s different and requires some nuance, but we treat it effectively the same as a web page. And so we can actually place code in an outbound email that goes to a web based browser. So for example, folks are opening their emails with Gmail or Yahoo or a Hotmail. We’re able to put a line of code there. And what that does is that if someone opens an email but doesn’t click, we’re able to start retargeting them. And this is actually really valuable for, let’s say, all the email lists that you have where people are still maybe opening the email engaging, but they’re not clicking through maybe a, you know, one of these couponing sites or something where, oh, that looks interesting. Cool deal in San Francisco. Let me open it up, but you’re not going to click on it. And so for those folks, it it’s valuable now.
Bronson: It’s great. How important has this kind of new suite of services been for you guys? Would you guys be close to your run rate if it wasn’t for kind of broadening the services you provide?
Arjun: Yeah, it’s interesting in that it’s been helpful in a non-obvious way. So I think, you know, while while the percentage of revenue that is derived from these products is still somewhat relevant, you know, is relatively low. What is interesting is that it often helps us open conversations. So, you know, people like oh, especially in some of the areas where things are getting crowded, for example, in retail, it’s getting a little bit competitive these days. And when we can come in and say, look, we’ve we’ve really focused on innovation and not just on kind of these core site based retargeting, but while we continue to improve that with optimization, we also have X, Y and Z. And that’s where people like, oh, wow, you guys are ahead of the curve. You’re optimizing, you’re thinking about the future and thinking about different ways in which to be helpful to us. That gets people excited and then they want to talk to us and then they start to work with us either in Cypress retargeting or in some of these new products. So that that to me is actually one of the. The cooler side benefits of these new products. Granted, of course, that they are actually very helpful, the bible of driver wine and all that other great stuff.
Bronson: Well, let me ask you this as a founder. You’re always having to decide what opportunities to take advantage of. There’s so many opportunities. There’s so many ways you could innovate off the basic retargeting idea that you started with. How do you know when something is a good direction and opportunity worth expanding into, and when do you feel like you’re losing your core focus? Because I feel like founders deal with that a lot. I mean, we’re drowning in opportunity. And when we say no to may help our success as much as what we say yes to sometimes make that distinction.
Arjun: Yeah, it’s a it’s a it’s a really tough one. Having one that, you know, I’ve been learning more over the course of the last couple of years. And I think the. One way to do it. I heard someone say this recently and it really stuck with me is that, you know, minimize kind of all of your downside risk and or have zero downside risk and have kind of infinite upside risk. And what that looks like specifically is don’t take on something that would potentially cause harm on the downside, which would potentially destroy the business or hurt the business, but do little tests or say, okay, we’re going to take, you know, 25 K or 100 K and test out this new product or this new marketing idea. And and in three months, if we get some meaningful traction, great. If not, let’s go back. Right. And that way the downside risk is contained and minimal. In that particular case, it’s okay, we’re investing 50 in this thing, but the upside potential is potentially massive. So let’s say it does get traction. And I know this email retargeting product, for example, you know, all of a sudden, oh crap, everyone loves this thing and it’s going bad. All right, then we can keep reinvesting and then the downside risk is limited. But, you know, betting the farm on something else is typically not a good idea. And, you know, it happens. And you you don’t maybe bet the entire farm, but you bet half the farm when you should only be Ben a small tractor or something like this analogy is getting out of control. But I think, again, my point is that.
Bronson: You know, that’s great. It’s almost like bringing the lean methodology into the features themselves and not just the staff as a whole, you know, build, measure, learn in a small scale within the company as it grows and not just with the entire company itself. Now, you guys obviously help a lot of people acquire new customers. Like you said, your focus on top of funnel stuff, retargeting, all those things. But I want to talk about how you guys actually get your customers. Yeah, because it’s always fun to see how you help others, but then also how you’re helping yourself. And sometimes it’s the same way and sometimes it’s unique and different and sometimes it’s a mix. So today, what are your primary channels for new customer acquisition? We know early on you said it was just hustle things that didn’t scale the Paul Graham model. But as time goes on, usually things level out a little bit. Yeah. So where are your customers coming from today?
Arjun: Yeah. So one of the I mean, our we do a lot of content marketing. We’re big fans of inbound marketing, so we’re big fans of HubSpot and those folks and their kind of philosophy. So we do a lot of content marketing and that’s been very helpful. Know we rank pretty high for certain SEO terms and things like that. You know, we continue to do kind of you aggressive outreach to the right folks and using different tools to do that, whether it be through our inside sales team or through, you know, email marketing or whatever the case is, you’re still always doing outreach. And I think if we do it in a way that educates and adds value, we’ve gotten a really great response from it. In addition to that, we. You do kind of the traditional things like AdWords. And then of course we’re big users of retargeting so but, but, you know, other things and we still do things that quote unquote don’t scale. But you know, I think I travel quite a bit and, you know, team members go to a lot of conferences. You know, we’re meeting people in San Francisco in the evenings and, you know, events and things like that. And while those things don’t necessarily scale to some degree, they they kind of do in that if everyone does it and we’ve got a structure around it, it is kind of doing it at scale. So, you know, and it has a good impact on it and it’s valuable. So those are those are some of the major things that we do. And then, you know, I think PR helps and writing for different blogs and contributing content. I guess kind of inbound but more kind of our founded on other sites that’s also actually quite valuable.
Bronson: Yeah. What what kinds of content have you guys created that’s really worked out well for you? Is there any kind of content that you really found that when we produce this kind of content, you know, the inbound links are just, you know, greater, the inbound leads are greater.
Arjun: Yeah. So I mean, one of our kind of most prized possessions in terms of content is just a very simple article, is just what is retargeting? And it’s something that’s that simple and it really helps folks understand what is this whole thing called retargeting. So there’s that very core, simple basic content. But then on the flip side, there’s the the more you kind of initial content, which is, for example, how do mid-market e-commerce companies leverage retargeting and display most appropriately for the holiday season? Very specific. Yeah, but but it works and it drives a lot of meaningful traffic and insight and people learn from it, the right people learn from it. And that that sort of content is is also very helpful. So I think, you know, the really broad stuff that’s written really well that really helps folks to understand is great. And then kind of the let’s get us specific can help someone almost, you know, even a small tribe of folks understand something and then that also gets a lot of link to it’s the weird stuff in the middle that tends to just fall by the wayside.
Bronson: All right. So that’s a good insight to have because that changes how you think about content. And I’ve heard you mention the word education a few times already, learning a few times already. So really your strategy is to produce content that helps people learn things, but only super niche and super broad. Not necessarily the middle where it’s no man’s land.
Arjun: Yeah, exactly. Right. That’s exactly. Yeah.
Bronson: Yeah. That’s a great insight. Now, what kinds of things have you guys tried the maybe hasn’t worked for you all because, you know, every business has its own makeup and they try some things. It just it doesn’t work. It’s nothing wrong with the business. It just doesn’t work for them. Any player, any more stories?
Arjun: Yeah. I mean, I think AdWords for sure. It’s weird, but you know, for us we tried a lot of different things and we found some subsegments of it that do work, you know, for a, you know, for example, certain keywords in certain terms. But by and large, you know, on the whole, like I guess we just expected more from the platform, but it just maybe because things have gotten too competitive, maybe because the space is confusing. So people are advertising gets terms that they don’t really do. I don’t know. Whatever the reason is, it just it doesn’t work. And we spent thousands of dollars trying to figure it out. And, you know, at the end of the day, it’s maybe marginally ROI positive or or or slightly not. And ultimately, in the long run, it works out because our clients stick on with us. But, you know, we just found that we can we can spend the money elsewhere and it’s more impactful. So yeah, that’s probably one of the once again for us and I know there’s for other people, it works just fabulously well.
Bronson: No, I’m so glad you said that again, being transparent, because it gives me confidence when I hear someone who knows what they’re doing and doing it well. And then the retargeting company telling me that AdWords doesn’t quite work for them. It’s like, okay, I’m not a crazy person. If certain things that work for other people don’t work for me. And people need to hear that every company has its own path to growth and it can’t just do what everyone else is saying is working. It just does not work for you. And that’s life. So it makes me confident knowing that you’re failing at something.
Arjun: And and let me be even more real with you. And I’ll say that for certain things, retargeting doesn’t work either. And I can, you know, be frank about that. But I think, you know, if you’re selling a very low margin product and you’re it’s commoditized and it’s a low dollar value, it’s just not worth it. Right. And it’s something that we would encourage you to do, will tell you on the phone, just like it’s probably not worth your time. Now, if you’re looking to build a brand and you want to actually, you know, you’re willing to invest in the brand, then it then it makes a ton of sense. But if you’re hyper focused selling a $5 product with a 5% margin, just don’t don’t waste your time. And there’s other ways to make that work. But, you know, retargeting may not be one of them. So yeah, I completely agree with that. And I appreciate you pointing that out. Well, yeah.
Bronson: That’s true with really any paid channel, if you don’t have a really high LTV pay channels, just I mean you can’t build a blog where you’re going to sell eyeballs to advertisers because there’s no LTV in the business. You can’t do ads to bring people to your blog. You just can’t work. You’ve got to have something to sell that’s substantial to make that machine kind of work itself out. Now, let’s talk about Charles culture a little bit. You know, I’ve watched online a little bit, like I said, and it seems like it’s something that’s really ingrained in the company there. It’s not just a set of, you know, vision and values just because we’re supposed to have them, it’s it’s it really is baked into the people there. So tell us first, what are the company values at Retarget or what is it you try to get into your employees there.
Arjun: Yeah. So a couple of you know, just pure the values, respect, adaptability, intelligence, hustle, focus on long term relationships. You know, these are some of the things that we that we value and there’s a few more. But, you know, that’s kind of how we how we think about the world. And I think it’s important to have that set of values because it’s a rule set by which you can live. And now it’s actually really challenging to maintain those values and live by those values. And, you know, I’ve made mistakes. We’ve had folks on our team make mistakes in terms of either hiring people who don’t fit the values or allowing people who don’t fit the values to stay on longer than they should. And these are all things that we’re learning and getting better at. But yeah, it’s it’s very valuable and very tough to execute on. But if you do it right, you know, it can allow you to, you know, bootstrap a company or build something large. And I think but it’s tough.
Bronson: And that’s the point I really want to touch on, because on this show, I rarely, if ever, go into company culture. It’s just not what we talk about here. It’s not that it’s not important. It’s really important. This is not our angle on everything. Because I was putting together this interview, I thought about it and I thought, you know, if values inform employees, it’s almost like the algorithm that tells employees how to be an employees are really your greatest resource in terms of growth. Without employees doing the right things are not going to grow. Then it seems like, you know, transient property that your values actually will lead to growth, just not directly. It just goes through the employees. Do you agree with that assessment?
Arjun: 101%? Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s you know, and it also is important for the leadership team and the management team to operate from those values, because they’re the ones who are instilling those values into the employees and the team. And then everyone kind of grows from there. And so particularly as a CEO, I have to be very cautious and aware of that at all times so that I’m leading by example, but yet it’s so, so important and it’s easy to see, I guess maybe, maybe for me. But but it’s easy to see for me at least when there is values misalignment, how it kind of ripples through the organization and when there’s values, when there is values alignment, not misalignment, but alignment, how it can have such a positive impact in the in the environment as well. So there’s a really, really interesting kind of. Opportunity to. To figure this stuff out.
Bronson: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Ask you about two of your values specifically because some of the ones in that list, you know, hustle, every star talks about hustle, intelligence, every start startup talks about intelligence. Those are the known ones that everyone kind of talks about, even if they don’t really understand them. Sure. But there’s a few here that you don’t really hear about or I haven’t heard about it. Startups. One of them is adaptability, and the other is long term relationships. I mean, that sounds like something. You get a marriage counseling. It doesn’t sound like the kind of stuff you talk about in startup culture. So talk to me about adaptability and long term relationships here.
Arjun: Right. Well, yeah, just to to pull on that thread a little bit. It’s interesting because, you know, you’re spending more time with your fellow kind of startup teammates than you are sometimes with the folks you’re married to. And so I think, you know, I’m not surprised that you draw that analogy. But let me let me jump back to adaptability and long term relationships. So adaptability, I think, is important, particularly in your startup culture, because things are changing so quickly. You know, there’s a new technology out tomorrow that can help you do your job better. And if you’re stuck on the old way of doing things, you’re never going to be able to move fast, move forward and be more efficient. And so there’s from the work process perspective and then there’s also from the industry perspective. So in our industry, if we weren’t adaptable, we said, no, we’re just going to do retargeting and we’re not going to look at this other audience targeting or top of funnel activity. We would have missed out on literally millions of dollars in revenue and we may have even lost customers because they said, Well, you guys are just doing this retargeting thing, but I need a more holistic approach. I mean, that’s just, you know, something to take into consideration. So I think being adaptable in, you know, kind of in every process so as above, so below. So whether you’re adaptable in your your daily day to day work practices or adaptable as an organization to the market forces, you know, you just you have to be thinking about that kind of all the time. And I think that’s why it’s important. And then in the long term relationship side of things, what’s really important there is that, you know, businesses are built on relationships and relationships primarily with your customers or investors or advisors or whoever. And having a focus of building those meaningful relationships over time is really key. Doesn’t mean you always have to be working with the person, doesn’t mean you always have to be best buddies for life. But it does mean that you at least do the core things right in terms of adding value, caring about people, being respectful and being committed to knowing that person for a long time rather than. And sometimes it’s best to describe this by the inverse, which is if you’ve ever been to a place where you’ve been sold something, you’re like, Wow, this guy is like super short sighted. You know, the used car salesman, unfortunately, is, is the archetype here. But like, are you that shortsighted where you’re going to, you know, not give me the right deal or sell me something that’s broken where you don’t recognize how how much is going to impact you down the road or, you know, with your reputation or things like that. So sometimes it’s better to describe long term relationships by the inverse, which is the extremely short sighted. I’m just going to hype this and sell this to you right now and then disappear type of person. We want to be the opposite of that.
Bronson: You now those are great insights, larger and this has been an incredible interview. I have one last question for you here. What’s the best advice that you have for any startup is trying to grow? And I know that’s a super vague question. I know there’s no real way to answer it unless you’re consulting one on one with them. And even then it’s hard. But at the high level, what is the best advice you have for someone trying to grow a startup?
Arjun: Yeah, I think it’s to surround yourself by sound, yourself with amazing people and in every aspect of your startup, whether that is the investors, advisors, employees, customers have a set of values, have a set of rules that you want to live by and find those folks that are aligned. If you operate from a certain perspective in life, find investors and employees that operate from that perspective. If you find, you know, and that’s so, so critical because once you have those people around you that are aligned from a values perspective, then I have to do it doesn’t have to be groupthink by any means, and there can be disagreement and discussion, but at the core of the value set has to be aligned across the entire universe of the people that you interact with. And that is super, super short to say the least.
Bronson: Yeah. You know, in our culture, it’s so often that we focus on product. The product is this thing and no one’s saying the product doesn’t matter. But throughout this interview you keep bringing it back to the people. Yeah, I think that there’s something very wise about focusing on the people that are building the product and not skipping the people and think you have a great product with the wrong people working on it and the wrong kinds of advisors, the wrong kind of investors and the wrong kinds of customers, you know, people, employees, you know, to use Jim Collins analogy. You get the right people on the bus, then you figure out where the bus is going. Yeah, I think there’s really something to that. So. Carl Bernstein, thank you so much for coming on Growth Apple TV. It’s been an incredible interview. I’ve learned a lot. I know people watching you listening are also learning a lot. So thank you.
Arjun: Thank you. My pleasure.
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