Detailed notes from HustleCon... AKA how to make $$$ building a brand people 😍

Here's what I learned this week about building companies that people love.

Hello there

Hi friends! Happy Friday. It’s great to be back in action after taking last week off to rest celebrate Thanksgiving.

I had a great time with my little fam… the highlight for me was cutting down a Christmas tree at a farm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

Here’s what you can expect in this week’s issue of Curious:

  • Cool product I discovered

  • Raw, pretty detailed notes from my time at HustleCon (feel free to skim until you find something interesting

  • Link to a podcast where I discussed my bizarre career trajectory

Follow along!

I bought a cool razor

A few months ago I came across this podcast interview with Patrick Coddou where he talked about starting and growing a razor company. I was intrigued because I don’t know much about razors and I don’t know much about building an eccom business.

I learned that you can get a better shave and healthier skin by using a “single edge” razor.

I liked their company story and ended up checking out https://supply.co. They had a holiday deal (pretty sure it’s still active) and so I pulled the trigger.

It came in the mail yesterday and I did my first shave.

Here’s what I liked:

  • Beautiful packaging that made me feel like I was buying a luxury good made to last

  • The razor itself felt… pretty badass. The whole handle is solid machined metal, and it felt heavy in the hand which communicates a great build quality.

  • It was easy to learn how to use it… with good tutorial videos on their site

If you hate getting nicks or are dissatisfied with cheap razors… I’d check em out!

Why and How I went to HustleCon

Several years ago, when I worked for my friend Nate Smoyer, he told me about a newsletter for growth marketers called The Hustle. It’s a daily email full of business and tech news, curated for product markers. Its founder, Sam Parr, is a sharp guy.

I think The Hustle is almost like the cool grand-daddy to Morning Brew, Money Stuff, and the countless other helpful newsletters that have launched in the last few years. I think they helped start this wave of great content and were a proof of concept for other players.

It was SUPER helpful, especially as I was starting out in tech and building my own mental framework for how to grow a company.

Flash forward a few years— last week I saw Sam share on Twitter that he had a couple of tickets to HustleCon (their big annual event) to give away to someone at random. I commented on the thread and… won two tickets!

I called up my friend Jeffrey Kranz (he runs Overthink Group) and invited him to join me. Neither of us had ever been to a tech conference like this in the Bay Area.

We didn’t really know what to expect, but we’re both always up to learn and meet interesting people.

The Lineup

The main reason why I decided to go was the lineup. It was… stacked! I was most excited to hear Michael Acton Smith (CEO of Calm) share. Calm is one of the highest grossing apps in the App Store— totally subscription based and focused on mental health/wellness.

Other notables:

  • A guy who started a deodorant business and sold it in two years for 100 million to P&G

  • One of the founders of Method soap

  • One of the executives from Hims/Hers— the health brand I’m positive you’ve seen Instagram ads for

Full lineup here:

Detailed Speaker Notes

James Reinhart, ThredUP

-Take a manual, painful process and make it easy for the customer

-They had to build out a massive infra to process the used garnest

-ThredUp build the 3 largest garment-on-hanger facilities in the world

-Their company mission is to “inspire a new generation of consumers to think second-hand first.”

-Do only the things that you’re uniquely qualified to do

-Communicate your vision until you want to vomit


Michael Atcon Smith, Calm App

Daniel Di Bartolo 🙃@danieldibartolo
They offered the owner of
calm.com 5% of their non-existent company. “He wisely turned us down, we were just two blokes without a business. But it would be worth about $50 million now.” #hustleconExperience CalmRelax with Calm, a simple mindfulness meditation app that brings clarity and peace of mind into your lifecalm.com

Alex Mather, The Athletic

-Started the company with little runway, maybe 10k in the bank

-Found success reaching out to writers/journalists on Twitter, LinkedIn sucked

-His pitch to journalists was “come here to do your best work”

-Discovered repeatable processes/a playbook they could use to scale to other cities. They looked up to Uber in this regard.


Amy Errett, Madison Reed

-15 billion dollar market for hair color. THAT IS INSANE

-I don’t have to teach people how to color their hair, they do it themselves every 6 weeks


Eric Thomas Ryan, Method


Moiz Ali, Native

I have a lot of respect for Moiz, who had ZERO CPG experience before bootstrapping Native Deodorant.

Shaan Puri, Twitch

Shaan sold his company to Twitch for ~$25 million. He was either going to shut it down… or sell it. He sold it in a process that took a couple of months.

This was definitely my favorite talk because he went into tactical detail on how he sold his company. It was a window into a world I’d never seen… he’s an engaging guy and a good speaker. He also hosts a podcast.

The mental journey you go through when selling a company:

“This is going to work”

“This will be big if it works”

I’m able to do this

I want to do this more than anything else

When you should sell:

  1. You get a great offer

  2. You don’t believe in the business anymore 

  3. You don’t want to run the business anymore

Who you should tell in what order:

  1. Yourself

  2. Your Mentors

  3. Yourself

  4. Your spouse

  5. Yourself

  6. Your co-flounder

  7. Your investor*

  8. Your team** maybe

What you need to sell: 

  1. Executive champion within the purchasing ord

  2. Company Router (someone who can help you navigate the internal structure of the acquiring company)

  3. Deal doula (friends/coaches/advisors to keep you sharp and help you close the deal)

Why they will buy you

  1. Financial reasons

  2. Strategic Reason

Why Companies Will Buy

  1. CEO finds it interesting

  2. An exec needs to demonstrate big moves, save their skin

  3. Catchup to a competitor

  4. Synergy

  5. They are afraid of you

  6. Your team has unique talent 

Engage Physically

Who?

  • Execs

  • Corp Dev

  • Investors

  • Advisors

What do you say? 

  1. Discuss partnership

  2. Considering our next steps, either funding or acquisition 

  3. Paint a picture of what the preferred future looks like... with you or without you 

GOAL is to get to an in-person meeting.

Find their Pain, then offer a cure

  • What are the priorities for the company?

  • What initiative has the most internal momentum?

  • Are there any fires to put out? Anyone on the chopping block?

  • Focus on how your specific product is a cure for their pain. Talk about nothing else.

  • Do the work for them. He went as far as to write an internal memo for the executive explaining the strategic reasons they were buying

  • Technical lead/one-pager

  • Build a talent profile of the people on your team. FIGHT FOR A GREAT DEAL FOR THEM TOO

  • Cleanup the books, get your data room ready 

  • “Turn your company into a giant BUY BUTTON”

Neglect Emotionally

Use these tools to create a competitive market

  • Find another partner

  • Go cold

  • Leave a trail of bread-crumbs… he travelled to different cities where potential acquirers were, for for their CEOs to see. Don’t know if it worked but it created the mystique 

Inspire Hope

  • We have other options, but we want you

  • Can you make it happen?

  • Time sensitive, you can steal it from your competitors

Sell Entirely

  • Due diligence

  • Closing terms

  • Get a good lawyer

  • Get a good accountant

  • Don’t burn bridges

CELEBRATE!

Shaan celebrated with the friends, investors, and advisors who helped him build the company. Took them out to dinner.

Remember:

  • “Birds fly, fish swim, and deals fall through”

  • Deal momentum is everything 

“You pick the price, I’ll pick the terms”

  • The terms matter more than the price in many ways

  • They HAVE to present the terms in conjunction with the price in order for you to assess it. 

Whoever has more conviction can shape the deal size for “abstract assets” like a business with low revenues but strategic value.

Did you like my notes? If so please share

Share


I was on a podcast

I have a BIZARRE background for a product manager in tech:

👉Non-profit intern

-Employee

-Director

👉 Costco cashier

👉Educator in youth prison

👉Biz dev/partnerships

👉Product Manager

👉Group product manager

I was interviewed on the Start Fast Podcast where we discussed changing careers, pitching your boss, and how to break into product management.

Listen below:

Spotify

Apple Podcasts


Thanks for reading… see you next week! :)