TSP081 | Vince Thompson – Transcription

TSP078 | Kurt Theobald – Transcription
TSP077 | Mark Bidwell – Transcription

John Livesay:

Welcome to The Successful Pitch. Today’s guest is Vince Thompson, who has a background that would make anybody impressed. He used to work at Facebook, he was one of the first executives at AOL, and now he has an amazing consulting firm and funds multiple startups that are hugely successful. He really knows what it takes to be a successful founder, and what it takes to get your pitch fundable. He said what he really looks for is someone who’s authentic, who doesn’t oversell, and doesn’t have unrealistic expectations in the deck that say, “Oh, we’re going to be growing at such a fast rate that you’ve never seen in the likes of this before.” It’s really about a relationship and getting that second date. He doesn’t write a check on the spot. He said, “You know, if you want to connect with people, it’s the things you do after work that gets you your next job, your next connection, your next investor.”

The interview begins in 45 seconds right after this information on how you can get funded fast.

Are you a founder struggling with your investor pitch? Do you need warm introductions to the right investors to get your startup funded? Do you need a funding road map to get you there fast? All of this and more can be found in Crack the Funding Code. Join host, John Livesay, and Judy Robinett, bestselling author of How to Be a Power Connector and board member of Illuminate Ventures, on their free Crack the Funding Code webinar. Simply go to judyrobinett.com – that’s J-U-D-Y-R-O-B-I-N-E-T-T dot com – and click on the webinar tab to see how to tap into their network of investors from around the world. There’s a link in the show notes as well. You’re only one click away from getting funded fast.

Hi and welcome to The Successful Pitch Podcast. I’m thrilled to have Vince Thompson on as our guest today. Vince is a consultant and author, specializing in revenue generation and business creation. Through his LA Consulting firm Middleshift, he and his partners have helped a variety of companies and highly profiled early stage ventures achieve revenue success and scale. Among them are GumGum, TV Guide, Michael Eisner’s, Guguru — I believe is how you pronounce that. We’ll find after the show if I was right or not. But prior to Middleshift, Vince was an early executive AOL and Facebook. He’s the author of a great book that I’ve personally read called Ignited. I highly recommend that. Graduated USC Annenberg School and Pepperdine. He’s just an all-around guru and wiz and nice guy. Vince, welcome to the show.

Vince:

Thank you John. Fun to be here.

John:

Well, I always like to tell our listeners a little bit more about who the guest is beyond what I just said. So would you mind taking us back to your days at AOL and Facebook? How did you get into that world back in 1998 and 2005?

Vince:

You know, I’m a sales guy, so starting there, right? I have been attracted to interesting media opportunities since the earliest days. As a kid I worked in radio. When I went to USC, I wrote screenplays and I got some things in developments, I went in the TV business at the station level and kind of the pre-internet days. Then when the internet, that started happening, I’m really excited about it. I got a line in 1994, and well, at probably ’92 on prodigy, but ’94 on AOL, and I really started seeing the promise of it with the browser, the netscape it created and  it was mosaic then, and I tried to get in the business. I couldn’t get in for a few years, they didn’t know what to do with a local TV ad sales guy who wanted to work in the internet business because the internet was not an important thing.

But in 1998, I got a job. A really neat place, third-age media south of market in San Francisco, just down the street from Wired, back on the days when people were trying to figure out how big the ad banner should be. How many pixels, and what’s that thing will look like, and we’re all trying to figure it out. I had written an article for a publication called at that time, Electronic Media, today it’s called Television Week, I believe. It was an article that I wrote as a guest commentary, talking about how exciting the internet business was, and how great it was and creative, and unlike the television business that as you moved up in the ranks, it became more about math and ratings and numbers. The internet was kind of laid open with creative possibilities from marketers, and so I wrote that piece, about how excited I was to be in the business and a great guy at AOL, Charlie Warner, who was consulting Bob Pittman in helping build the company ripped it out. I guess they had talked about it and said, “Hey, here’s a guy who’s super excited about the internet and AOL needs somebody in the West.”  It just lead to a great opportunity for me, so that’s how I got in.

John:

A great story that is, because we talk about now the importance of having a digital footprint and creating your own brand and blogging and posting, but way back then, nobody was doing that, but that’s what got you in the door. I love that story.

Vince:

Yeah. I often tell people when I’m talking to students, it’s not the things you do during your day job that get you your next opportunity, it’s the things you do after hours, and it’s exactly that. It’s having a voice, it’s blogging, it’s showing up at a fence, it’s hustling around and it’s those extra things that lead to your next opportunity. So it certainly did for me in a really big way.

John:

That’s great, and then I can’t let you go without talking a little bit because everyone’s always so fascinated about what was it like to work at Facebook in 2005?

Vince:

It was fascinating. You could see the vision that Zuckerberg had been then. Just an incredibly brilliant guy committed to the single vision of connecting the world socially and changing the way that people interact, and really facilitating relationships, and using software and the internet as a platform to do it. I got involved with the company in 2005. I went for a job interview they had. This is really true, there was about 20 employees, maybe a few less, and they literally had a sandwich board out front the office, just off University in Palo Alto, and on it said “Hiring,” and one of the jobs was VP sales.

John:

A sandwich board instead of online advertising for a position like that.

Vince:

Well, they may have done that too. Sean Parker had contacted me via LinkedIn and they asked me to come in an interview for the position, but it was a small company with a big vision. It was a fun experience, it’s fun being there.

John:

Now, has working at AOL and Facebook given you some really key insights as to what you now as an investor look for in a startup? Has it helped you be able to say, “Ah, this reminds me of AOL, this reminds of Facebook and I can see that this is the right team to execute this idea.”

Vince:

Yeah, I think both of them were informative for me. My 10 year at Facebook was very short, but I had come out of really big company. I’ve been at AOL which was massive, and so in the brief time I was at Facebook, I got a deeper insight into the startup culture and how fast things needed to move, how innovations — you know, 24/7. That was informative in that regard. AOL was a big company and innovative in many many ways, but it was bureaucratic as well. All of that said, I learned a ton at AOL about building products and companies to meet the needs of a variety of markets. AOL started just by putting people on the internet, but then just building solutions. You have a partner and you’re building solutions for people to address all of their potential needs online and offline.

There was a moment in time where the company was so incredibly hot, it was able to attract all these super talented people. So there are literally hundreds of businesses and I got to look at so many of them when I was there. I got to meet with people who were product managers and internal entrepreneurs on a regular basis, and see how they identified markets, how they work in to address markets, and I got to see some really interesting products being created, and I got to see a lot of stuff that in the first version failed, but we see it successful today. A lot of these ideas are forged out of many many many people trying and trying and trying and trying, and at some point the market timing is right and the resources are in line, and you find yourself into big success but it’s all hard fought.

John:

Yeah. Well let’s talk about three of the companies that you invested in and are also an adviser on, because I think our listeners would love to hear the story of how those founders found you to be both an investor and an adviser. Does that sound good?

Vince:

Sure. I don’t what companies you’re going to be mentioned but I’ll do my best.

John:

Well let’s start with Contract Cloud, because I know that one specifically. So if you wouldn’t mind, tell us what Contract Cloud is, why you were attracted to it, and let’s start with did they pitch you? I’m assuming they did, so I’d love to hear what that sounded like.

Vince:

The Contract Cloud is a really special company that is in the video agreement space, and what happened was I was at an event and I met this smart lawyer, young guy, and he was telling me that he had sat in the courtroom on many occasion and thought to himself, “Oh my god. This is a ridiculous frivolous lawsuit,” and if we just had a little video of what happened at the contract signing, well we had a little more evidence, we wouldn’t be here today. People who would sign mortgages and then later said, “Geez, I didn’t look at all the pages so I’m not responsible,” or “English is my second language and I didn’t understand this.” A variety of things that people will do in litigation. Listen, sometimes the people are right, right? But if he has video evidence, he could change that. So the idea of Contract Cloud is that at the end of the mortgage signing, you can confirm on video that yes I understand I’m getting a 7% loan, and yes I understand the — or they were today at 2.5% loan, and I understand that it’s a non-recourse loan and I understand what I’m signing today and I’ve had enough time to review it. So what Contract has found since is that there’s lots of very interesting ways to apply video technology and video agreements, and help both the consumers and the companies protect themselves and clarify their business relationships.

But the reason I got excited about that company is you had somebody who had domain expertise. This guy, he’s a lawyer, Paul Vaky, he’s a very smart guy and he was very passionate about the solution and it was a real problem. He had relationships with other people who are looking to solve the same problem. So that was a fun company to get involve in. One of the first things we did is got Paul introduced to Amplify LA which is one of LA’s leading venture accelerators. They did a lot to really help his company and take him to the next level and I’m going to see him later today.

John:

Fantastic. Well, the big takeaways from what you just said, Vince, for the listeners is investors like you invest in the person that has domain expertise that is solving a real problem, and that person’s expertise not just comes with smarts but comes with passion, which I really really like that.

All right. Let’s jump into another one. Jukin Media. Am I pronouncing that right?

Vince:

It’s Jukin Media.

John:

Jukin, sorry.

Vince:

J-U-K-I-N, and I’m an adviser to that company. Gosh, this is one of the best cultures I’ve ever seen in the media company. Great leader, Jon Skog, the CEO. Lee Eisner, the COO and president. These guys had just done a brilliant job. This is a company that is in the video business. They operate several businesses under the tent of Jukin Media, but their real core business is identifying the most exciting videos online in platforms like YouTube, and taking those videos and licensing them oftentimes along with the creators. Then making those videos available to TV morning shows, television productions and clip shows like Ridiculousness or Tosh 2.0, and that were their own very successful show which is called World’s Funniest Fails on Fox TV.

It’s just a very neat company that works in lots of ways. They got a television division that produces things and just licensing division. They work with marketers in a very special kind of handcrafted way to take this content and either use it as the messaging in the ads. Got a great example — I’ll tell you in a sec — or to advertise a site. Here’s a fun example. There’s a viral video of a police officer, a trooper, probably in the northeast somewhere I’m not exactly sure, who in a snowstorm had skid it off into a snowbank. A guy came along in a Subaerial and throughout a tow rope and pulled the police officer’s car out of the snow punk and back up onto the road. So that was a video that Jukin licensed and later Subaerial wanted to use for a commercial.

John:

Oh, how fantastic.

Vince:

So they literally have tens of thousands of videos identified.

John:

Right. Well, this whole concept of curation is such a needed thing with the volume of every information that’s coming at us. Can you tell us how the founder found you, and what kind of pitch they gave to you that made you say this is the right team?

Vince:

Well I had a relationship with Lee Eisner, who’s an accomplished CEO. The guy’s been involved in early stage incubators ventures, who’s a super-talented M&A lawyer, and I had been friends with him for several years and wanted to be involved in a project with him. As he had gotten involved in this company and he had needs over there, he asked me to come in and spend some time with them and that just grew into a consulting relationship for me, and a lot of fun also. So that’s been a lot of fun for me.

John:

One of the things that investors often ask founders when they’re pitching, they show people who are on the advisory board is how often is this adviser actually involve, right? Is it once a year? Is it once a quarter? Is it once a month? What is your typical involvement in these companies on a frequency basis? Or does it vary?

Vince:

I’m involve. I think there’s really two types of investors and advisers. I think this is very important point. There are advisers that as an entrepreneur, would be really important to have in your company, because they establish certain credibility. There’s a marketing or marquee value to their name that’ll help other people in the industry. They’ll give you credibility and will help you in your relationships. So that might be if you’re an entrepreneur and you wanted to go disrupt the farm equipment industry, right? You got the former CEO of Jon Dior, right? So being an adviser, that would be a major coup and you may be willing to give him some equity knowing that given their incredibly big life that you may only get to talk to them for once a month on the phone, and maybe see him twice a year or something like that, that might be a perfectly suitable adviser deal. I think, when I’m talking entrepreneurs, we’re building companies, when the fit’s right — if the fit’s right, you’re really like that person you can really learn from, and you understand like the marquee value of their name as what you’re buying a little bit with your equity. It’s okay to do a couple of those advisory roles. I assume an entire company is built on them. I don’t think that’s a very good idea, but you’re very strategic there.

The other type of adviser is really the working adviser, okay? That somebody that has a specific set of expertise that’s applicable to your company. So I’m working with this really interesting young company Steezy Studios, that teaches people how to dance hip-hop by introducing to them to the hottest choreographers in the business and people can sign up and they can take classes. So it’s a young company but really really neat, and in a situation like that, music and licensing is important, and technology is important, and subscription marketing is important. So with that type of company, I’ll work with the founders and we’ll make a list and say, “What are the things that we really need help on, and how can we identify a hands-on adviser who would jump into that scene and love this company as much as we will,” and so forth.

So I, John, I’m not marquee value. I’m just a guy who is good…

John:

Oh you are.

Vince:

Oh I get it. I’m really just a guy who has a lot of experience in the sales world, who really loves it, and is delighted to have any of those conversations all the time. So hopefully, the companies that I advise are getting a lot of value from me and taking advantage of the fact that I’m always willing to talk about the stuff.

John:

You said two things that I really want to underline for our listeners. One Vince is, when you’re looking for an adviser, make sure that they love the company as much as you and the founders do. I think that’s so key. Obviously, when you get someone to invest in your company, you want them to be part of the culture and get excited, but the same as too for the adviser. They have to love it as much as you do so that everyone on the team, whether it’s someone who’s doing that job everyday, an adviser or an investor has the same passion for the vision, right?

Vince:

Yeah. There’s something, John — well, you hear me talk about how I love these guys, I love this guy, but not everything’s perfect, right? I’ve worked with some companies that the founders are more short-sided and they think creating a business is a little bit like packaging a movie. You get all the right names and somebody exits, and it’s all great, super exciting, and they try to Bisdev the most exciting thing they can and build a lot of hype. The industry kind of points to some of those things and industry conferences, and some of the people in the industry try to maybe leave you with the impression that gosh, if you could just get these people and this venture funding and this thing that you’re bound for an exit. The truth of the matter is they’re 99% of the time, these companies are hard and they take a long time to build. There’s a lot of valleys and so the people that you get involved in your business, the reason why I say they have to love it, is because those people — they’re going to be with you for a long time through a lot of stuff.

John:

Yes. In fact, some of it last longer than some marriages, right? It’s 10 years and the average marriage is over 7.2 unfortunately.

Vince:

Yeah. That’s interesting, but yeah. Gosh. We need an app to fix that.

John:

Yeah exactly. There you go. There’s a solution for every kind of problem. What advice would you have for our listeners on when they are pitching you or any other potential investor? Not even an adviser, let’s say just an investor, what is something that you really look for when you hear a pitch?

Vince:

One of the first part is authenticity. You know, I don’t want to be sold and biased. The minute I think somebody’s kind of overselling, it makes me uncomfortable because it’s a long partnership, it’s a long road we’re going down. So I really want somebody give me an honest assessment and not oversell me. That’s really important. Honestly, I see entrepreneurs make claims quite often and then it make me uncomfortable. I think they’re kind of coached, you got to have this big chart and go way up to the right, and then this is what people react to. But yeah, if somebody comes to me and get their business plans and says, “Geez, you know, we’re pre-revenue but we’re going to make 1.5 million next year and 19 million in the next year.” “Yeah, I know man. How did you get there?”

John:

You can’t over-exaggerate your projections. It’s all about, as you said being authentic. But what I think you’re saying is I want to see someone’s logical thinking, and that they have some experience or have at some advisers that are giving them good information on that doesn’t makes sense to have that kind of growth. It’s much more realistic, especially with you coming from a background in sales. You can probably spot when somebody’s pushing too hard. Just to continue the analogy a little bit of dating and marriage and relationships in general, right? The whole point of a pitch is to get the second date, not to get someone to open up their checkbook.

Vince:

Yeah. It’s great. It’s a great point. I’ve never written a check on the spot and I think there are people who do that. But for the most part, it’s building a relationship and going down the road a little bit and figuring out what you can do. I think for me, if I want to have exposure to the venture innovation world, I invest as an LP in a couple of funds and that’s the way I get that exposure.

When I invest directly into a company, it’s because I also believe that I can benefit that company and be involved in a way that’s meaningful for all of us. So that’s the way I work. So I appreciate it when an entrepreneur says like, “Hey! Do you have any interest in medical technology and what do you think about that?” Right? I go, “Geez! I don’t know anything about cancer prevention but if it was fitness I might be kind of interested, right?” So then you start the conversation there rather than take a whole pitch.

John:

Right.

Vince:

Also for young entrepreneurs like if you want to spend time with somebody, tell them exactly what you want to do. Like all those people who wanted to meet me for coffee, “Hey! I want to pick your brain,” or “Want to come out?” Then I drive across town to go meet with them and then they want money. It’s okay to want to have me invest but let’s have a really productive meeting. Tell me you’re interested in me investing, send me a copy of your executive summary. Let me tell you if it’s exciting to me at all and we’ll go from there.

John:

Yeah. Nobody appreciates the bait and switch, right?

Vince:

Yeah. I think sometimes people aren’t comfortable to be that forward. It’s more helpful to all of us. By the way, if I’m not the person who’s interested in type of deal, maybe I can send it to somebody who is…

John:

Exactly. That’s the whole key, right? As if you build a relationship with somebody, they’re willing to let you into their network and that warm introduction is worth gold in the world. Is there any other company that you wanted to tell us about before — because a half hour just flies by with someone like you, that you’re excited about or want to give a shout-out to or have as a great story that you think would be a great thing for our listeners to hear?

Vince:

I mentioned Steezy Studios were early there, but that’s an exciting company. If you know anybody who likes dancing, or hip-hop, that’s totally great. You can go there and get a free account at Steezy Studio, and check that out, there’s some really great choreography there but also a dashboard that gets you into it and teaches dance in a way that you could never learn on a YouTube or somewhere else. So yeah, I’m excited about that. Some of the bigger companies on Los Angeles are really killing it like GumGum — they just do it. They’re just doing great and they’ve really pioneered this whole field of — and M&G advertising, and they’ve innovated a lot of the advertising technology that’s unique. That’s a very fun company to watch in the future of Los Angeles.

FanBread — for those YouTube influencers or people that have influence on platforms like Vine or Instagram, there’s opportunity to partner with FanBread and FanBread can help monetize your audience off of those platforms, on destination mobile sites with compelling content and commerce opportunities. That’s a new opportunity for those people who have develop audience and they are just looking to monetize. So that’s a very interesting company.

John:

That’s fantastic. I like both of those a lot. Is there any other book besides Ignited which we talked about, that you would recommend listeners to buy? Either about life or in the startup world?

Vince:

You know what? When it comes book only and first of all, Ignited is a book that I wrote based on my experience being a mid-level manager in major corporations. There’s a lot of leadership stuff in there. There’s some sales stuff in there, but the very specific nature of that book is focused on helping people in the middle understand the power they have in corporations by connecting the corporate vision to the real actualities of the work at the street level, and levering themselves up in their organizations to create true and meaningful change. That’s what that book’s about. So that’s not right for every entrepreneur, it’s fantastic I think for middle managers. You can let me know. But that’s the story there.

I’m a lifelong learner, I’m always reading. I’m always digesting stuff in the space, sometimes it’s biographies. I recently read Elon Musk’s biography, I thought it was fantastic. I read The Everything Store about Bezos, I just really enjoyed that book. Peter Thiel’s book for startups is a fantastic book.

John:

Those are great.

Vince:

I’m just piling through the stuff. Yeah, you pull some things out of each. Yeah. Listen, one of the best books I ever read in my career is Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s a framework for building good relationships and it’s just a good stuff for your life. Twenty years later, twenty five years later, I think about that book often. Probably really one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

John:

Wow. Imagine leaving that kind of legacy as an author, how great. Vince, how can people follow you? What is your Twitter and all that good stuff?

Vince:

I’m @VinceThompson at Twitter. I typically paste — post stuff that’s just related to the technology innovation in the ad community things. I don’t have a huge personal voice on that account, but these things that I think are interesting to share to our folks, and that’s it.

John:

Fantastic. And of course, your consulting firm Middleshift is another place where people can — Middleshift.com, reach out to you. We’ll put all these in the show notes for everyone as well. Vince, thanks again for bringing your enthusiasm and passion. I just can feel the energy coming through which is so helpful for people to realize that’s the level you need to be at when you’re talking to potential investors.

Vince:

Yeah. Thank you John. I always love talking to you and look forward to catching up again soon.

John:

My pleasure.

Thanks for listening to The Successful Pitch Podcast. If you liked the show, please go to iTunes and write a review, and encourage your friends to write reviews too. It really helps get the word out.

You know, people say that the longest distance is between someone’s mouth and their wallet. People can tell you they’re going to invest but when it comes time to write the check, they don’t do it. So, how do you get people to say yes and then follow through? Visualize yourself on the left side of a riverbank and you have to cross the river, and on the other side of the river is where the funding happens.

So, first, you make up your idea and then you make it real and then you make it re-occur. Once you start dipping your toe into the water to get to funding, that’s where I can help. I get you across that river faster than you would on your own with a lot less frustration than you will get when you hear a bunch of no’s and you don’t know why. So, if you want some help getting funded faster with less frustration, go to my free funding webinar, sellingsecretsforfunding.com/webinar and sign up and get in depth information on how you can get funded fast. Thanks.

TSP078 | Kurt Theobald – Transcription
TSP077 | Mark Bidwell – Transcription

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