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The SaaS Podcast

Greg Smith - Thinkific

Thinkific: From $29 Online Course to $60M ARR SaaS Company – with Greg Smith [380]

Thinkific: From $29 Online Course to $60M ARR SaaS Company

Greg Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Thinkific, a platform for entrepreneurs and businesses to create, market, and sell online courses and other digital products.

In 2005, Greg, a law student, began teaching LSAT prep courses in-person, later converting it into a $29 online course that eventually earned him $10k per month.

Seeing growing demand for online courses, Greg and his brother Matt launched a basic product in 2012 to simplify creating and selling digital courses.

In the first 3 years, they experienced numerous pivots and setbacks, struggling to validate their product and business model and acquire customers.

After failing to validate their early product concepts, the brothers shifted their strategy. They started manually building online courses for each new customer.

This hands-on, time-intensive approach generated early revenue and gave the founders vital customer insights they needed to develop their software platform.

In 2015, after launching their new software, they had a breakthrough moment when a webinar resulted in 20 customers immediately paying $1,000 each.

After 5 years of persistence and hard work, the founders hit $10 million ARR, fueled by customer referrals, content marketing, and strategic partnerships.

Today, Thinkific, with a 280-person team, generates about $60 million in ARR and has raised over $200 million primarily through its IPO in 2021.

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • How Greg and Matt funded the business for years through bootstrapping and profitability rather than chasing venture capital.
  • The key role that personality and relationships played in acquiring early adopter customers when Thinkific lacked features compared to its rivals.
  • Why it took 3 years of pivots and validations before gaining real customer traction and momentum.
  • How Greg evolved from lawyer to first-time founder learning to hire and manage a team while scaling Thinkific.
  • How Greg navigated the difficult decision to lay off 200 employees in 2021 after aggressive hiring, despite having recently IPO'd.
  • Greg's advice on balancing inbound advice from investors and advisors with trusting your own entrepreneurial instincts.

I hope you enjoy it!

Transcript

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This is a machine-generated transcript.

[00:00:00] Omer: Greg, welcome to the show.

[00:00:01] Greg: Thank you. Appreciate it. Pleasure to be here.

[00:00:04] Omer: Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us?

[00:00:09] Greg: For the longest time, it has been Calvin Coolidge's quote around persistence and it's a longer one, but this, this simple element of it is that nothing takes the place of persistence, not talent or education or genius.

[00:00:22] You know, all of these things are thing, are there things you can have but not succeed. But persistence alone is omnipotent and, and really pushes forward the, the march of humankind.

[00:00:33] Omer: Yeah, that's very powerful. So tell us about Thinkific. What does the product do? Who's it for and what's the main problem you're helping to solve?

[00:00:41] Greg: Yeah, I mean, at its core, myself and Thinkific is about trying to make people's dreams come true. And that's a little maybe esoteric. So the, the more specific is we help people in businesses that have knowledge or passion or expertise. We help them monetize it. And the way we do that is they get their own website.

[00:01:00] They get to create digital products, be it, we started with courses, but now it includes memberships and communities downloads, coaching, things like that. And they get to share that with others to impact other people's lives positively but also build a business by charging for that expertise. And we serve a lot of creators but also actually now bigger businesses that are taking their knowledge and, and monetizing it and sharing it with their customers.

[00:01:21] Omer: And give us a sense of the size of the business where you, I. In terms of revenue, customers size of team?

[00:01:28] Greg: Yeah. So we went public a couple of years ago. We're doing about a little over 60 million US in revenue recurring right now. Team of about 280 people growing profitable and looking for the next big opportunities.

[00:01:43] Omer: Awesome. And you've raised, I think, what, over 200 million now?

[00:01:47] Greg: Yeah, so we were largely bootstrapped up to IPO and then in the IPO raised about 180. And, and so that's been a big, big step up in terms of what it unlocks for us as a business for sure.

[00:01:59] Omer: Okay, great. So let's talk about the idea where, where did the idea for this business come from?

[00:02:04] You founded it in 2012. What were you doing at the time? And, and, and. And how did you come up with this idea?

[00:02:13] Greg: Yeah, so I mean the founding, we'd probably have to go back a little further. So 2005, 2006, I was actually, so think of it, we started in 2012, but we'd go back about five, six years. Before that, I was going to law school at University of British Columbia.

[00:02:27] I was teaching in tutoring the lsat, the law school admissions test. I was doing it in person and realized I'm answering a lot of the same questions for, you know, every time a student comes on or I teach a class, how can I take this online and just help reach more people and maybe. Turn it into a real business that helps pay off my significant and growing student debt.

[00:02:47] So we set out, initially to put it online, used a whole bunch of mixed software tools from WordPress and PayPal to a bunch of custom code that my brother wrote to put up first actually a blog and then start building an audience. And then we put up the course and started selling the course.

[00:03:05] And, you know, even just initially we were selling it at 29 bucks a month and made a few hundred dollars in the first month. And that grew over a period of years. I went on to practice law and do other things, but I. Come to 2012. The course was growing. It was successful. It was doing maybe $10,000 a month at that point.

[00:03:23] So it was a really nice side hustle for us. And we saw this opportunity to build this exactly what we needed, but for other people. And that came about because other people were reaching out saying, we love what you've done with your LSAT course. We wanna do the same with our hula hooping course, or our finance course, or our some other programs.

[00:03:42] And also we'd been, it would just been painful dealing with all of these moving parts of software, right? Like the, the having an audience and being able to make money, selling them our knowledge and expertise was awesome, but keeping all of these moving parts of software together was quite painful. And so we realized there was a real pain point we could solve for others by building one system where they get to drop in their knowledge and expertise, make it look beautiful, sell it to others, build a community around it, build a real business around it.

[00:04:10] And so that's where we set out to build Thinkific.

[00:04:12] Omer: So it took, 2005 is when you said you, you launched your own course and then seven years later was the start of Thinkific. What was the, the process that got you there? So you starting to get people asking you, you know, how they can do something similar, and I, I'm sure there were tools out there at the time.

[00:04:38] I mean, you, you kind of used a, I guess, a homegrown solution on, on WordPress to do this. But what was it that that convinced you that there was an opportunity here, that it was worth, you know, the time and money to, to go and build something?

[00:04:55] Greg: Yeah, I think it was a combination of factors. So in the interim there, from 2005 to 2012, I finished law school.

[00:05:01] I practiced as a lawyer eventually, actually started another company and then came full, full circle back to this idea because. We had been looking for another solution. We just, we didn't want to build it to begin with for ourselves. We were looking for something that was really easy to use that could get us up and running.

[00:05:17] And where our brand was important, we wanted it to live on our own website, under our own brand. We wanted to own the data and the intellectual property we were teaching. We wanted to own that relationship with the customers and not have that live in someone else's system. And and so we looked at.

[00:05:32] Everything that was out there. And what we found was there was LMS where learning management systems, and they're typically designed for like corporate learning or university learning, teaching students or employees. And they were really expensive, hard to use. And and really, you know, they didn't have things like commerce built in and, and e-commerce and the ability to sell and build a business.

[00:05:52] And then we looked at marketplaces. There wasn't, say Udemy Masterclass Coursera at the time, but there were similar products out there. And the issue with them, and many of them approached us was we didn't like the idea that it was going under someone else's brand. We had lost control of the data, the direct relationship with the consumer.

[00:06:09] And, you know, it, it kind of put us at odds with the marketplace because they would probably have competing products to us in there. And also they were spending a lot of their revenue trying to acquire the student, the end user. And that meant we would only get like a small portion of the revenue at the end of the day.

[00:06:23] So because of that, we set out to build our own system. You know, it was the combination of. It was becoming unwieldy and actually quite expensive to manage all the moving parts of software to do it ourselves. And others were asking us to do it for them. So we said, let's just build a really easy SaaS solution that does this for other people.

[00:06:41] And I think at some point along the way, my brother came and said, Hey, I think we're building Shopify, but for digital products instead of physical ones. And that was really where it kind of moment happened and we decided to dive in and do that.

[00:06:52] Omer: So just, just help me understand, you mentioned that you, you wanted to be able to build this on your own site, just in, in terms of just high level sort of technical setup.

[00:07:04] How does that work with, with Thinkific? Are people actually building this on their own site or is this some kind of, you know, there's a subdomain and, and that kind of a, you know, they can, they can customize the look and feel of, of a Thinkific site? Like how, how does it work?

[00:07:19] Greg: Yeah, I mean it can be either or.

[00:07:21] So you come to Thinkific, you set up a free account, you can start building out your course or membership or other products. And with it, you get a site that site could live at, you know, your site.com or your domain.com, whatever that is. It could also live at a subdomain. So for some people they already have an existing website.

[00:07:37] It's already all set up and then they just add what think if it provides as a subdomain. So, you know, courses dot your site.com or learn do your site.com. And so that's, that's, yeah, it, it really could be any of those things. We also give you your own domain of like your site.think.com, but a lot of people will go in and then customize that to URL so that it's their own domain name.

[00:07:59] Omer: Okay. So initially it was you and your brother Matt, who. Started the company and then you brought on a, a couple of other co-founders a bit later on, but do, did either of you have any experience with building software?

[00:08:14] Greg: Not so much for me. My brother, yes, he had some he was still, I think in the process of starting, I think Gick, we originally built a lot of it in PHP as coding language and then he says, you know, Ruby on Rails is cool.

[00:08:26] I'm gonna go learn that. And I think in the course of a weekend, this tell you how he's the smarter brother for sure. He went and learned Ruby on Rails and then rebuilt the whole system in Ruby on Rails. Now since then, obviously we have a lot of other products and, and, and code in the mix, but I had no, no SaaS experience.

[00:08:41] He had some, but pretty limited at that point. And so we were, we were kind of fri figuring it out as we went for sure.

[00:08:48] Omer: Okay, so you've got, you know, Matt's tech, tech expertise to, to help in terms of executing and, and building the product. What about finding. Customers. How did how did you get the first 10?

[00:09:03] The mythical first 10 customers, like,

[00:09:06] Greg: Lots of trial and error, lots of non-scalable activities. A lot of there there was definitely a fair number of, maybe call them pivots in the early days and even false positives. And it's funny 'cause you know, we talk about pivoting and making changes when things fail.

[00:09:21] Our problem early days was actually everything we tried, worked to a little bit. So we initially went after. We had this idea of building what we have now. That was the original idea, but that was gonna be really hard technologically. So to have many, many, like now we have tens of thousands of websites managed by tens of thousands of active customers.

[00:09:42] Didn't have the tech to do that initially. So we said, okay, we'll build actually more of a marketplace and we'll just go and shoot. We'll film people, edit their courses, put it into a marketplace and, and we'll handle selling it. And that kind of worked. So we had some revenue, but then we realized it. We didn't have the expertise to scale that the way like a masterclass would or a Coursera would.

[00:10:01] So we tried another thing where we were kind of building custom learning sites for larger organizations, and that worked. We got revenue from it, but it didn't feel scalable and it wasn't what we were as passionate about at the time. And so eventually kind of came full circle to the original idea of making it easy as a self-serve SaaS system where anyone can kind of sign up, do it themselves and get going.

[00:10:24] And that's really where, so we had 10 customers by that point, but they weren't necessarily the right customers for us. And then where we started getting customers was a lot of non-scalable stuff. So that meant, you know, finding places where these people hung out and figuring out their email address, reaching out to them, hopping on a phone call, and in a lot of cases, early days, getting them to like Dropbox us their videos.

[00:10:49] And then we would custom build the course for them, send it back to them, say, what do you think? Should we set up another call so you can give us your credit card number? I mean, just ridiculous when you think of what SaaS can do now with Stripe and all these other, you know, easy to set up things. But we were literally, I, I remember one time.

[00:11:05] We found this, what we thought was the perfect customer. Hopped on a call, had a great call. He sends us over all of his video. We spend a month building out a whole website and a whole bunch of courses for him. We send it back to them. It's beautiful. We're like, okay, let's set up the next call to get that credit card number and start charging you.

[00:11:22] You're a customer now. And that was it. He just ghosted us. No. Yeah, so, so lots of non-scalable things that but you know, you, we just, like, that's where I love that persistence idea. Like, we did not give up. We just, you know, he, okay, he ghosted us. We'll keep emailing him, but we'll move on to the next one and keep setting people up until we were, until we're really growing.

[00:11:41] Omer: So in many ways it sounds like you were operating like an agency or a services business, like, we'll, we'll build a custom, you know, course for you drop the stuff over in, in, in many ways. Was, was that just because the product functionality wasn't there yet, so you were forced to do that? Or was it. Because you couldn't convince people to try the product, so you were trying to make it as easy as possible, or, or was it a bit of both?

[00:12:10] Greg: It was very much that the product wasn't there, so it was like, okay, we don't yet have the product that other people can just, you know, your, your beautiful SaaS products today. Someone signs up on your website, they put in their email, they put in their credit card and they get to work doing stuff with your product.

[00:12:23] We didn't have that yet. So we're like, okay, well, we'll, while we're building that, 'cause we were building towards that, we'll just call people and we'll do it for them and we'll do it manually so we can start to generate revenue while we're building the product as opposed to like waiting to ship a product and then hoping people use it.

[00:12:38] The cool thing that happened because of it is by doing it manually, we learned a lot. Like we really got to know our customer base as to what they were looking for and then we would feed that back infor in that information, back into the product we were building to make it better.

[00:12:51] Omer: Now, you know, someone listening to your story and saying, I.

[00:12:55] You know, Greg's business, you know, 60 million in ARR, you know, maybe he's a smart guy, maybe he's had luck. Maybe it's a combination of those things and, and maybe, you know, people can look at it now and think it's been an easy journey for you. But, you know, as you and I got, were talking, it's, it's, it's, it's been far from that.

[00:13:20] Can you give us an idea of like, even just getting to the first million in ARR? How long did that take you guys?

[00:13:28] Greg: Oh yeah. Okay. I don't have my old, my old charts in front of me, but I'd say the first three years, so 2012 to 2015, that was that sort of false positives pivoting, trying new different things.

[00:13:42] And then around 2015, so about three years in. We turned on. That's like, this is a long time, but you know, now that I think about it in retrospect. But we turned on the ability for people to sign up on their own and pay us on their own and build the product on their own, like go build their own course.

[00:14:01] And we turned that on and, and I remember about a month later we had a webinar with a partner of ours. It was Marshawn Evans, a wonderful woman who promoted us to her audience and she invited 60 people, 60 of her sort of best customers to the webinar. 'cause they, she thought they might be interested in our product.

[00:14:19] 55 of them showed up and 20 of them bought a thousand dollars, like signed up automatically on our system and bought a thousand dollars kind of annual plan and started getting to work. And I remember, so that happened. And then over the course of that week, because we'd launched this sort of pay yourself and we had some other people promoting the product.

[00:14:39] Every day we'd come in and look at the charts and they'd just tick up dramatically. So we're, you know, growing at really significant rates at that point. I remember I had a moment where after three years of work and getting really spotty revenue, like a few thousand here and then nothing the next month to see that we had recurring revenue on credit cards automatically signing up on our system.

[00:15:00] And the most exciting piece is some of these people, we'd never talked to them. They just found our website and signed up. I remember falling down on the floor and lying there on the floor in the middle of our office and it was almost like I was doing snow Angels, you know, like I was just like, the whole team thought I was crazy, but I'm just like, yes, I can stop putting payroll on my credit card.

[00:15:21] So there was this real moment there of like, we've achieved product market fit.

[00:15:26] Omer: And, and, and w was it because of just enabling the self-serve and making it easier for people just to do things on their own.

[00:15:33] Greg: It was a combination. That was a big piece of it, but it was also spending three years talking to customers, tweaking the product, figuring out the right offering, figuring out what the pitch was, you know, what, what was it that these people wanted, and really figuring out, okay, this is like, they want something they can self-serve, where they get their own site, their own brand.

[00:15:51] They get to have their vision come to life by creating their own course or, or membership. And, and we can give that to them. And then we've sort of figured out some of the marketing channels of how we actually get this out to people. And all of that kind of came together over three years, but it all landed in a period of a few months.

[00:16:09] And that's where we started to see that SaaS revenue just ticking up on a recurring revenue basis. And it, so it, it felt like this instantaneous moment overnight, but it was three years in the making.

[00:16:19] Omer: One thing I'm trying to figure out is like 2015, there's more and more sort of players that, that are around to you know, help you build and launch online courses. So, you know, whether it's an entrepreneur or a business, they, they have a reasonable amount of choices that they can choose from in terms of what to go and use. What was your differentiator at the time? What were you, first of all, were you finding that you had to spend a lot of time persuading people why they should choose you over something else?

[00:16:53] And yeah, how did you figure out like where you could fit, you know, how, how you could position yourself in the market? That made sense?

[00:17:00] Greg: Yeah. I'll be honest, you know, positioning is something we think a lot more about now and do more time thinking about us versus, you know, what other options are there at the time.

[00:17:09] It, you know, I, I realized there were some other companies who were getting started then, but it, it was. We were all so tiny that the chance we would bump into each other was fairly small. And so we did have differentiators but it also felt like when you're really small, it kind of feels like people are attracted to your culture and your brand and your personality as a company more, almost more than anything.

[00:17:33] So there's a, do you solve the problem? Am I excited about it and do I kind of identify and want to be part of this exciting mission that you're on? So a lot of it was just the way we talked to customers, the fact that we were excited about their vision, they were excited about ours. We knew we could help them, and we were building this reputation of having good relationships with customers.

[00:17:51] That was a big differentiator at the time. I think the other thing that set us apart, certainly in the early days, and it's still part of our DNA, is where we were really focused on the learning component of it and cre creating an amazing learning experience. The way I see that is I. For our customers.

[00:18:09] There's a segment of this overall creator market that's just make money on the internet. And we never really loved just that. We wanted it to be about they've got a passion for an expertise they wanna share. How do we unlock that and create an amazing end product? 'cause that creates a sustainable business.

[00:18:24] It's not just have a funnel, make a sale, and then you know, who cares what happens after you sell something. It was about ensuring that when you sold a student something that, that learning experience after the fact was gonna be amazing. And so we invested a ton of effort in making that exciting. So things like interactive components like quizzes and some gamification, stuff like that made a big difference, I think where people saw we were different in that way at the time.

[00:18:50] Omer: Okay. So 2015 things eventually, you know, will finally start to take off. You're able to do the Snow Angels in the office and, and you know, it, it's, it, it feels like. You know, the whatever you've, you know, the effort you've been putting in over the last few years is, is finally starting to pay off, you know, what did you have to do next?

[00:19:11] I mean, we, we, I wanna try and think about like, the next probably big milestone for you guys was like getting to the 10 million, first 10 million in a RR. Was it just a matter of like, continuing to do more of, of the same? Did you get to a point where. You know, growth eventually flatlined and you, you kind of figuring out where to go next.

[00:19:37] Like how, how easy or hard was it to get to that next milestone?

[00:19:40] Greg: Yeah, certainly the next one is, in some ways it's easier. In other ways it's harder, it's easier because you have revenue. You're not putting everything on a credit card or debt or worrying about whether you'll even exist in six weeks. In every other way.

[00:19:53] It's harder, right? Because you now have, you've gone from like, let's just figure out something that works. We can try anything and there's no failure because everything's a failure until something clicks. Then you get into a place of, we have something working and you know, let's not screw it up, but let's grow it and try a whole bunch of things.

[00:20:08] And I'd say like, I'd put things into maybe four buckets at that point. You've got customers. Product marketing and team. And so over the one to 10 million range, you've really gotta spend a lot of time in and figure those things out. And so the customers is, for us, was just a lot of relationships and amazing customer support.

[00:20:27] And you know, everybody on our team talks to customers and especially at that time, would do a lot of customer support coming in and talking to customers. Even our CTO would come in and you spend the first hour in the morning talking to customers and going over customer support tickets to understand what's working and what not working.

[00:20:42] And you translate that into product. And the nice thing when you hit that product market fit is I. I've seen it defined in many ways. For me, it feels like gravity product, market fit is like being sucked into gravity while we're, instead of trying to figure out what to do next, your customers are screaming it at you and they're saying, build this for me next.

[00:21:00] And so rather than trying to sell it to them, it's becomes trying to keep up with their demands as fast as you possibly can by producing what you think is the best fit for your customers that they're also looking for. And doesn't always mean building what they want. That's just one input to it. But in a big way it's trying to keep up with those demands and then the marketing, figuring out how we actually.

[00:21:21] You know, go to market and scale and, and find more people from that million to that 10 million. And for us, a lot of it was referral base. So having really good relationships, really good customer support. We became known for that. It meant that our customers referred more people. We build in mechanisms where, you know, the students can learn about that.

[00:21:39] You know, think Gick is an option, and then maybe they, our customers refer their students to us. We developed a bit of a partner network of affiliates and people who would send people our way. We built out a lot of a content engine as well. Less so on the paid side at that point, but, but heavier on content and referrals, which was a huge way of building that up.

[00:21:56] And then figuring out how to build a team. I did a ton of reading, just trying to understand how to hire, how to fire, how to coach, how to lead, how to build a team. I'd never really built a team before. And so figuring that all out. So those were really the four buckets we focused on for that period.

[00:22:12] Omer: Let's talk a little bit about content.

[00:22:13] So I think that's been one of the, the growth drivers. For your business, what exactly were you doing? What, what was the content strategy, if there was one that, that you were pursuing at the time?

[00:22:27] Greg: Yeah, I think, I mean this is something that I've seen other companies do better and do earlier. And it's something if, you know, if I could go back and do things again or if I was starting something tomorrow, I would probably start with content and developing ourselves as a subject matter expert 'cause the, the genius thing about content is you can produce blog posts and YouTube videos and, you know, podcasts and all of these things in a topic and space, and you've kind of chosen your tam, your total addressable market. And that should be big, right? Especially if you wanna build like a venture backed or scalable company.

[00:22:58] You've chosen this audience you want to go after, and if you start speaking to the topic that interests them, that is also passionate for you and you're gonna build a product or an offering around it that can transcend pivots. And so you get to build this audience. And whether you end up delivering the product you envisioned, which you probably won't, you'll probably make changes, significant ones along the way.

[00:23:19] You still got this audience and that's often the hardest thing. So building that audience through content, I think is, is exceptional to do early on. And so I wish we did it sooner, but what we did was certainly a lot of. Blog posts, a lot of YouTube, a lot of podcast style interviews like this one, although we didn't actually produce a podcast, we just put the YouTube, the videos on YouTube, those kind of things.

[00:23:40] Omer: In terms of the content space, the, the other thing I think that's helped drive growth has been partnerships, but I think you also had a lot of false, false thoughts there as well, or in terms of not being able to figure out how to make these work. So tell me, tell me a little bit about like what did you set out to do with partnerships and what were.

[00:24:03] Some of the, the failures or the setbacks that you had to go through before you could figure out how to get partnerships to work?

[00:24:10] Greg: Yeah, I think, yeah, we made a lot of mistakes. So early days, I think we were thinking, okay, here's someone who's got an audience that's bigger than ours that fits our unique customer profile or, or ideal customer profile.

[00:24:22] Let's just go ask them to promote us and we will pay them some money or give them affiliate fees. And that, you know, one, most of the people never even responded or it was really difficult to get in touch with them 'cause they were bigger than us. They didn't, they'd never heard of us. We were batting way above our weight class and or we were attempting to and then there was, so there was a learning of like, how are we gonna get these people to even talk to us and do what we want them to do? And then there was a realization that, no, it's not boat. Doing, getting them to do what we want them to do. At first, it's about doing what they want. So it's about figuring out what do they want, fitting into their vision, their plan, their business plan, understanding that and developing a relationship on that basis.

[00:25:00] 'cause otherwise you're coming as just like everyone does is sort of a selfish ask. Instead it's coming and saying, how can I help you? What's important to you? Let's do things for you. So one great breakthrough we found was actually booking interviews and saying, we'd love to interview you for our audience.

[00:25:15] And then you just talk to them. You showcase what they're great at. You promote their products and services. And at the end of the interview I'd have a conversation about, Hey, is there more ways we could partner? And that would kind of blossom. Another way I found that worked was, you know, I remember one sort of influencer that we.

[00:25:32] Sent them emails. We and we had some light responses, like they were really kind at one point someone on our team sent them a 3D printer. You know, like we were just really trying to, to get in their good graces, like a, a gift. 'cause we'd heard they liked this stuff. And I eventually, I found that the way to do it was to just get on a plane and figure out where they were gonna be, go at to conferences, where lots of these people were gonna be at and just show up and build relationships.

[00:25:57] And, and even there was a learning of, you know, again, showing up as how can we help you? And then sometimes those partnerships ended, like, or, or, you know, just lasted with us helping them and nothing else. And that was fine. Other times we made something more formal where they would promote us in turn.

[00:26:17] Other times we'd help them and they'd end up just promoting us in their own way, on their own time and, you know but really it all started with both getting on a plane and going to them especially if they were bigger ones, and then booking interviews where we could showcase what they're good at and then ask more about how we can work and help with them and fit into their plans.

[00:26:34] Omer: Yeah, I, I mean, everyone sees those, you know, influencers out there and it sounds like a pretty straightforward thing, right? You just send an email, write a check, and get customers, but it doesn't quite work like that.

[00:26:50] Greg: Yeah, I mean, I think today it is a little more transactional, unfortunately, where it can be send an email, they make a video, you get customers.

[00:27:00] You can do that today. You couldn't when we were getting started. I still don't think it's the healthiest way. Even though you could email a top influencer, cut them a check and have them promote you, it's not the same as building a relationship and doing something much more meaningful together. You can generate better results for you and for them.

[00:27:15] I think if you, if you look to build a, a, a deeper relationship than just a transaction.

[00:27:19] Omer: Yeah, I agree. Who was, who was your ICP at the time? I know today you're, you think about helping entrepreneurs and you, you mentioned that you have businesses now using Thinkific as well, but back in those early days when you're still, you know, seven figure multiple, seven figure business, were you targeting mainly entrepreneurs?

[00:27:43] Was there a particular segment or, or an ICP that you'd identify that was your sweet spot or, I. Was it just basically, you know, anybody who wanted to create a course?

[00:27:56] Greg: Yeah. It, it, and it's, it's stayed the same but shifted or expanded over time and in some ways gotten more specific. I know that's sort of a paradox there, but back then it was kind of coaches, authors, trainers, experts, and the creator thing was.

[00:28:14] Just kind of getting started, it wasn't really a thing yet. And so, coaches, authors, trainers, experts, people who ideally, if you wanna go ideal, they already have some sort of content. It doesn't have to be online content, but if I asked them to get up in front of a room for a few hours and teach an audience, they'd be able to do it.

[00:28:31] Those were our sweet spot because they already knew what they were teaching. They were already saw themselves as an expert and then we could get them up and running, building a course. Where the challenge hit was often figuring out how to show them how to build an audience. Now, I would say that's kind of expanded into, you know, the creator educator, which is anyone in the creator economy who's knowledge, passion, really anyone with knowledge, passion, and expertise who's building an audience, building a business, and has some knowledge they wanna share with the world.

[00:28:59] Combined with some of these bigger businesses as well, especially,

[00:29:02] Omer: yeah, I mean, that, that landscape is, is starting to, to change quite a lot. I wanna talk about this probably we'll leave this for a little bit later in terms of, you know, the opportunity with the creator economy and how big. You know, this thing actually is, or, or, or could be.

[00:29:23] If we go back to, you know, let's say 2017, 2016, 2017, that time, how, how big did you expect or hope for the business? To be able to get, like what was your expectation at the time?

[00:29:40] Greg: Yeah, I am. So at that time I was looking six months out. So on the rare occasion, like if we were raising capital, I would put together a plan that had us going a year out and, you know, project revenue and stuff a year out.

[00:29:54] But it was rarely looking much further than six months out. Now, that's probably a big flaw in my leadership. But I was really just like, okay, how do we get through the next six months? What are we gonna do in the next six months? And rea rarely sort of brought my head up from the desk to think, what could this be?

[00:30:10] I certainly never imagined we'd IPO or you know, and I, I had taken co companies public prior to this as a lawyer, so I used to be a securities lawyer. So I knew the concept of the IPO quite well, had been involved in many or in some, but yeah, never occurred to us that we would. Get to this point become public, grow it this big, and, and now, you know, now I much more look to the future and I think there's a lot more runway left for us.

[00:30:32] We're really just getting started at this point. But it's funny, early days, more just head to the grindstone and just what's the next six month bring?

[00:30:40] Omer: So what was the, when was the first time you raised money?

[00:30:43] Greg: It was, it was in 2015. We were part of a kind of startup incubator. Not where they take equity or anything.

[00:30:52] It was more just like a place to have a desk or a few desks. And we talked to our, our one, actually one founder of another company here in Vancouver Jeff Booth that and he had started, had been quite successful with his own company and were sort of pitching him as like. F mock pitches. We weren't even pitching for dollars.

[00:31:13] And he got, he saw one pitch and then came back a month later and saw the next one. He is like, wow, you actually listened to all of my feedback. This is amazing. If you ever want an investment, I'm in. I don't care. The valuation, like, I'll cut you a check and I'll help you find other investors. And so that leveraged into us also meeting Rhino Ventures who invested in us, but it was, our first round was about 600,000 Canadian.

[00:31:34] Other numbers I've shared have been us, but 600,000 Canadian. And it was funny because we shook hands on the deal to do 600,000. Some of it was Rhino and then a few other more founder type people. And. It took six months to get the check. Now they are way faster. Don't hear, they're not slow to cut checks.

[00:31:55] It was me mostly dragging my feet as a lawyer and working all the details and everything. But it took six months to get the check and by the time we got the check, we didn't need it. So we were already growing Rev. That was when I'd had that, you know, lying on the flare at floor moment, our revenues growing, we're putting cash in the bank and we were hiring people and we just threw the money in the bank on top of everything else and kept growing.

[00:32:17] But it, well, I think what it did do is it gave us the confidence to lean in a little bit more. 'cause I knew I could make some investments and if it didn't work out, it wasn't gonna be just personal debt for me. So, so the, the confidence was the biggest thing I think we gained from that first check.

[00:32:33] Omer: Okay. Got it. So the first three years the business was bootstrapped, you raised the, the seed round. 2015 but didn't really use it. So I guess we could say you're still bootstrapping the business. You just have that money in the bank if you need it. How, how long did you continue down that path before you went out and raised more money?

[00:32:57] It

[00:32:57] Greg: was, so from 2015 raise of 600,000 we did between then and when we iPod in what, 2021. So the next six years spread probably evenly. So every couple of years we raised first a million, then 2 million, and then 22 million, 22 million was mostly secondary. So even that was still pretty much bootstrapping.

[00:33:18] We did put some into the company but in each case we didn't need the money. So it was a weird thing. I'm not. In retrospect, I'm not really sure why we were raising, but it seemed like the right thing to do. One of them was about cleaning up a messy term sheet and some messy equity structure. So it made sense to do a round and raise and then clean up some messy legal things.

[00:33:39] Which I would strongly advise people, if you're raising money, keep your terms, keep, keep your term, your legal terms, like very standard and simple. Don't get fancy. But yeah. So about every two years we raised along the path.

[00:33:52] Omer: And then eventually that led to the the IPO 2021. What drove that decision?

[00:33:59] Well, like why, why did you decide to? To IPO?

[00:34:03] Greg: Yeah, it was a variety of factors. So we, we, we made the decision and five months later we were listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Normally it's about a two year journey, but we were a little bit ahead in that we just had a really strong finance team and finance leader in my CFO.

[00:34:18] Karine had a strong team in my co-founder Miranda, and, and so we were able to move really quickly on that, but the reasons for it was one. We thought it'd be good for overall customers. Like it would give us the capital to build out more of what our customers needed and wanted. So that was probably the biggest thing, is how do we, we're always looking, how do we help our customers succeed in their business?

[00:34:41] And having a significant influx of capital plus a bigger brand platform to stand on just gave us the ability to help more people and build more for the people that we were helping. The brand piece was another piece as well. You know, being a public company, your press releases go farther, your marketing goes farther.

[00:34:57] You know, we get picked up in the newspaper constantly. I know that's not what everybody reads these days, but blogs pick us up a lot more too. So that gives us some more marketing reach. Raising a significant amount of cash was, was a reason as well. Plus it gave liquidity for our team. So, you know, at this point we are 2021.

[00:35:17] We're, you know, almost 10 years into the journey we've got. Everybody in the company has equity. Every person we've ever hired always gets equity but there's no market for it. You know, there's, there's no way for them to turn that into cash. And some of these people would love to buy a home or, and so part of it was just a way to create some liquidity for the team as well.

[00:35:36] So a lot of benefits to doing it. And then we got lucky with the timing in that we were going public at a time when our business is growing like never before. Well, not like we'd had faster growth periods, but it was growing exceptionally fast. And the window for IPOs was very wide open. SaaS valuations were at an all time high, and so we were able to raise money at an exceptional valuation, which I'm quite glad, glad we did, because now it's just a war chest for us to use growing, going forward.

[00:36:02] What, what was the valuation that you just over a billion.

[00:36:05] Omer: Okay. So the, the business is growing. You know, you have the high growth rate, you get to the IPO in total. By that time you've raised. Over 200 million and then a couple of years later. You had to lay off a lot of people. Yes. How many people

[00:36:30] Greg: are we talking about?

[00:36:31] First round was about a hundred. Second round was about a hundred. So over a one year, you know, on, on the two tail ends of a year, we, we let go about a hundred people at each point. So pretty significant. Obviously we were one of the first tech companies. In fact, I was looking the other day at Google, you know, think of it, layoffs.

[00:36:48] And this, one of the second links that came up was a, a news article saying like, is this a sign of things to come? And obviously it was. So we were, we saw the writing on the wall. We, we had raised in part all of that money at IPO because I'm a firm believer that, well, you can't predict when black swan events will happen or what they will be.

[00:37:06] They will happen. And so having a war chest is a good thing. So we built the war chest, the Black Swan event happened, you know, tech markets turning down slow down in tech gen, tech growth generally. And unfortunately we saw the writing on the wall and we, I. We decided to just take very decisive action.

[00:37:23] I'm quite grateful. My board was pretty influential in, in, you know, opening my eyes to the need to do that. And then we have a team that was able to just act quickly and make this happen quickly. And that put us in a much stronger position today because we took those actions and then, you know, in true form to our culture empathy is a big part of it and kindness.

[00:37:41] And so we were really as kind and empathetic with the team as possible. And I think in a way we set a standard. I've seen other companies mirror the way we did layoffs in terms of how they communicate it, when they do it, how much they pay out. And so we did everything we could to be as kind as possible through that process.

[00:37:55] And I think people did appreciate it as much as it's a thing to have to go through for everyone.

[00:38:00] Omer: I, I mean, it's crazy that, you know, a few years earlier you said you were reading books about you know, how to manage people and coach people, and because you hadn't done that before, and then suddenly you are thrown into this situation.

[00:38:16] Where you don't have to lay off, you know, 10 people or 50 people, but you know, several hundred people. Right. That's, that's, that's not, you know, pleasant for anyone involved. Right. When you and I were talking earlier about this Yeah. There's this Black Swan event, and, and we can, we can point to that and say, you know, externally, that was kind of a big, big reason why this happened, but you also said something to me, which was really around you felt like you were growing or maybe going down a direction which you weren't necessarily comfortable with, or maybe you were taking too much advice from people.

[00:39:06] Can you talk a bit about that?

[00:39:07] Greg: Yeah. And, and just to be clear, I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made to get us there. I think as a leader, you, you have to do that. That's my responsibility to make those calls. And so, you know, on the one hand when things are growing as fast as they were, if you don't invest in growth, you do risk being left behind.

[00:39:25] And so we were heavily investing in growth and heavily hiring. And if the market had continued and, you know, the industry had continued and growth had continued on track and, you know, drawn a straight line up into the right, we, it would've looked like the right move. But with it turning around, it certainly looked like the wrong move.

[00:39:41] And you can see that in almost every tech company today, that it looks like the wrong move. But if it had gone the other way, the ones that didn't hire it might've looked like the wrong move as they fell behind. So on the one hand. You kind of feel like you have to because it's growing. And then to be more specific about what you mentioned for most of the early life of the company, I was told I was very coachable.

[00:40:02] I listened to a lot of advice from other, you know, from investors, from other entrepreneurs. But one thing I stuck to was, you know, I just stuck to my guns. And that I would take in lots of advice and nod and say yes and consider it and ask questions. And then I would make the best possible decision I could based on my own information and not always just do what other people suggested.

[00:40:21] There was a point there as we scaled where I really started to have a lot of inbound advice of, you gotta spend this money, you have to have a plan to spend it. You've gotta grow as fast as you can. You have to be the market, you know, the, the winner take most in the market. And the only way to do that is to outspend everybody.

[00:40:34] And that was never the way we had operated. And it was a mistake for me to kind of lean into that and do it that way. And you know, unfortunately, I. We would've been be, you know, with 2020 hindsight, I would've been much better not making that mistake and instead staying more true to our operating procedures up to that point, which was to stay relatively bootstrapped and profitable and keep the cash as you know, not see the cash as a way to outspend everyone, but actually keep it as dry powder to take on opportunities when they arose.

[00:41:04] And I think, you know, there's a good lesson for founders there of don't be obstinate, like take advice, listen to everyone, but then amalgamate all of that advice and make your own decision on what you think is best and, and don't, and, and be cautious of the. You know, fast moving urgent trends. You know, even we, we, we saw lots of trends come across our desk with virtual reality, augmented reality, crypto, bitcoin, or, you know, and blockchain and, and took a hard look, gathered a lot of data and intelligence, and in most cases decided there isn't true customer value here for us to create.

[00:41:40] So we're not gonna do this. AI is different. You know, there's this fast moving trend in ai. We've taken a hard look at it, and we've said we can deliver real customer value here, so we're jumping all over it. But most of the big trends in the past, we haven't because I just didn't see real customer value.

[00:41:53] So I think there's a good lesson to, you know, taking your own advice. After you listen to everyone else, and then taking a pause, compressing, you know considering and then, and then making a move that you're, you're confident in. And the other piece I think is being a student of history and recognizing these are all patterns that repeat themselves.

[00:42:08] And if I had, if I'd been, you know, 75 years old at this game and had seen many, many of these market patterns before, I probably wouldn't have made the same mistakes. But you don't have to be 75 to have gone through market cycles. You can just read books.

[00:42:24] Omer: Yeah. Let's, let's talk a little bit about the creator economy.

[00:42:28] I, I think I saw a, something that you'd posted on on LinkedIn recently, but. Tell, tell me, like from your perspective, first of all, maybe just describe what the Creator economy means for people who don't really understand that, and then what, what is the opportunity that you see and what does that mean for your business in the coming years?

[00:42:51] Greg: Okay. Yeah, so Creator economy to me is people who are creating largely content, but it can be other things, largely creating content usually on social platforms or platforms that distribute to large volumes of people and. It is hundreds of billions in, in revenue that exist in that economy. I mean, an interesting fact, I think, is that kids are more likely to want to be a YouTuber when they grow up these days than a doctor or an astronaut or, or anything else.

[00:43:18] So that's, that's the creator economy in terms of what it, what it comprises and of revenue. A lot of it is actually brand sponsorships and advertising. So typically, you know, someone gets big on YouTube, they're looking to brand sponsorships or ads as a way to make money. It's sort of the most obvious one, especially 'cause you know, YouTube and other platforms have really made that easy where you just flip on ad revenue and you've got revenue.

[00:43:40] You don't have to do anything else. I think where it's really exciting for us, I mean there are other revenue channels in it, like digital goods, which is where we live, but that's probably less than 5% of that overall economy. But what's exciting for us is if you do brand sponsorships, or if you do ads, you or your RPM or revenue per thousand views is about five to $8 made per thousand views.

[00:44:04] If you do brand sponsorships and you're really good at it, you might get to $50 RPM. We see our customers doing a thousand to $2,000 RPM and that's 'cause they're selling their own product. It's a digital good and they're able to generate significantly higher revenue per view. And the other cool thing that, so it's a much more lucrative business.

[00:44:24] Another really exciting thing about it is as we move more, we see more creators moving into offering digital goods, is that. You can make a really substantial business on a much smaller follower count or view. If you wanna make money on ads, you need millions millions of views, millions of followers.

[00:44:42] And that's why you know, the top 1% of creators, they get pushed to the top by the algorithms and they make all the revenue, right. Whereas if you've got a few thousand fans or followers on any platform, it's really hard to make a meaningful revenue. But we see people with a few fans and followers making meaningful revenue on Thinkific because they're selling their own digital products.

[00:45:01] And that means they can make more revenue per view, like by an order of magnitude or two. Plus they it's a much higher margin, right? So even as opposed to say, selling physical goods, which is something that creators do as well with physical goods, you've got. The cost of the goods. You've got shipping, supply chain, logistics.

[00:45:20] And so you might end up with 20% every dollar you sell, you've got about 20 cents on the dollar that's profit in your pocket. Whereas with digital goods, you can end up with 80 cents on the dollar in your pocket. And that makes a huge difference when you're talking about selling a hundred thousand dollars worth of product and having 80,000 instead of 20,000 to take home.

[00:45:37] So the, all these are all reasons why we're actually seeing a shift in the creator economy towards digital goods, towards sharing knowledge, passion, and expertise, as opposed to just entertainment with ads. And that's really where we live, is in this shift towards knowledge, passion, and digital goods and the, you know, the increased revenue and the increased margins for creators.

[00:45:58] And as they get more and more savvy, we're seeing more and more people shift to at least include that in their business model. Yeah.

[00:46:04] Omer: Yeah. I think it's a super, you know, I mean obviously this is a space which is very relevant for, for me. And I've, I've gone down that path. Without even thinking so much about it, where initially you're spending a lot of time, you know, maybe this, you're doing this, creating content as a part-time thing, and then maybe you're doing some consulting and doing some content, then you're starting to get sponsors, then you're starting to do, you know, coaching or, or stuff like that.

[00:46:35] But ultimately, you know, it's kind of opened my eyes in terms of as you, as your audience grows as well. It's like, wait a minute. Why, why am I not doing any kind of digital product? Why am I not doing courses? The one thing you know, I think maybe if this was a, you know, few years ago, maybe it would be, I dunno, a little bit more clear cut today.

[00:46:59] I wonder about like, ai, like, do, do you think AI is, a threat to creators or it's an opportunity.

[00:47:06] Greg: We are seeing it. I mean, depends on how you view it, but generally I'm seeing it as a huge opportunity in that it's what we're seeing is it, it's accelerating. The speed to market accelerating what creators can do with their business because they're using it as a tool in so many ways from, I mean, creating content is the simplest application, but there's so many ways you can do it.

[00:47:25] So many ways you can use ai. And so it's saving them time, it's getting them to market faster. It's letting them launch more products and reach more people. And we're seeing it actually drive up their revenue directly. Like we see it in 'cause we see the revenue numbers of the creators and we're seeing it move revenue up, which I think is really exciting.

[00:47:40] And then of course, we're building a lot of AI into our product that'll allow our creators to reach more people, build products faster, and charge more for those products because they have AI offerings built into them. So that's, that's pretty exciting for us to see this. I think where it is more of a threat is less to creators and more where there isn't a personality.

[00:48:02] So if you look at. Say a business of summarizing textbooks, well, AI can replace that, right? Whereas what you can't replace with a creator at this point is their true personality. And maybe you will have AI driven personalities that build an audience, but our creators aren't successful necessarily because they're really good at a particular topic.

[00:48:23] That's part of it, but they're really successful when they. Have a personality and they build an audience that identifies with them and connects with them. And it's such a beautiful thing because, you know, in the old world of education, you have the, the person in the ivory tower as they call it, you know, teaching finance at university and there's so-called expert PhD and they know it really well, but there's only can be a few of those.

[00:48:46] Whereas now what we're seeing with creators is you've got the woman of color who used to work at a daycare who teaches finance and reaches millions of people in, you know, her community, who connect with her and her story. And and she teaches it her way that kind of connects and in a way that's relatable.

[00:49:04] To the people who are connecting with her. And it's such a beautiful way of saying there's more than one way and more than one type of person and personality to teach a subject and reach people and help them. So I think in that sense, AI is something that's gonna empower them. In fact, we have a, a core value that we deal with, like not a core value of the company, but a VA.

[00:49:23] We, we have a set of values and ethics around the way we use ai. And one of them that is fundamental is to respect the unique genius of our customers in that we're not looking to replace them. We have no interest in using their expertise to go and build products for others, or make it so that you don't have to be good at a subject to go and share it with others.

[00:49:42] We want to just empower the unique genius of the creators rather than replace it.

[00:49:46] Omer: Yeah, I, that's super interesting and the, what you said about personality, I think is, is so important that I feel like that's gonna become more and more. Important and relevant in this space as it becomes easier just to churn out information with, with ai.

[00:50:13] And going back to what you said earlier about why people chose you and Thinkific, in the early days, it was less about the product, right? Because the product wasn't doing that much in, in the early days, and you weren't able, people can sign up or pave or anything, but they were connecting with you and they were, they were buying into you know, what you guys were building.

[00:50:39] There was some confidence or belief in, in where you were going and some kind of connection. And I think in many ways, a, a a lot of founders building SaaS businesses are in similar situations where they're, they're, they've got a product. They're looking at competitors or poten, those competitors don't even, they're not even the, you know, on, on their radar.

[00:51:02] Right? But, you know, if you're the small guy, you're looking at these big players and you're saying, how, how, how am I gonna compete with these guys? I mean, I don't have like, even 5% of the features and the functionality and all that they have, but if you can find the right people and, and, and get, build that connection, I mean, when we say personality, it doesn't mean you have to be a, you know, incredibly charming person or charismatic or whatever.

[00:51:31] It just means you need to be able to connect with people, right?

[00:51:34] Greg: Yeah. Or just be you. I mean, I've seen people who are, who are building on a personality and building relationships where they're not great at connecting with people, but they're maybe they're really good at marketing, you know, and and they just attract other marketers who wanna learn from them, or are really good at marketing too, and they wanna be part of that community.

[00:51:52] It's a great way to do it. So it's just mostly being you and being as unique as you are and that, that helps you kind of build that. And we, it's interesting, even at scale, we find that the relationships matter. Like when we launch a new product line, we, we, you know, not too long ago, created our commerce solution, which helps, gives a whole bunch of features to help people sell more.

[00:52:10] It collects and remits taxes for them, does a whole bunch of stuff. You know, does things like buy now, pay later, or gifting where you can like buy gift certificates for courses and give it to someone else. And when we were initially coming out with this a couple of years ago, we were going to creators and saying, we're customers of ours.

[00:52:25] And saying, look, it's not done yet. We got a few features, but there's a lot more coming. And the ones we had good relationships with were like, cool. I trust you guys, I'll take it. Sounds good. And they, you know, they're, they're moving over in some cases millions of dollars in revenue into our payment processing platform.

[00:52:40] And you know, we didn't let them down so we continued to build trust. But it was that trust built over years of, of, you know, serving them that, that allowed us to launch these new products more easily.

[00:52:50] Omer: That's, that's cool. talking about payment processing, do you, do you handle it yourself using Stripe on the backend?

[00:52:55] What are you doing? Because I was looking at your pricing and the typical business model in this type of business is that there is, you know, some kind of monthly recurring price and then there's usually some kind of transaction fee. I couldn't find those transaction fees with think. Is, is it, is it really zero or or is it something that people are still paying?

[00:53:20] Greg: Yeah, so we don't, yeah, it's good. It's a good question. It's a, it's a bit of a mix. We don't charge a transaction fee per se, just as part of our pricing. It is just a flat month. I mean, there's a free plan and then a flat monthly plan. Most people go to 99 bucks a month to get all their needs met, which is probably still pretty inexpensive for everything that we offer.

[00:53:37] I mean, I know as customers really. Scale and grow. Sometimes we actually lose money on them 'cause they're, you know, all the bandwidth and servers and hosting we pay for. So, so really it is just the, the monthly fee when people get onto the paid plans in terms of the payment processing you can connect any payment processor like Stripe.

[00:53:54] You can connect other things through our API. So we have a, an application programming interface that lets you connect other things up, but we also now have our own payment processor. And beyond that it's, we call it, think of it, it was, think of IT payments. Now it's really think of IT commerce, which is our payment processing plus all of these commerce features that allow you to make, basically make more money.

[00:54:14] And, and it does things like pay your taxes for you and, and transfer funds and stuff like that. And within that we, that is actually built on top of Stripes, API. So they have an amazing platform for building this stuff. It's allowed us to build really our own payment processing, but using their entire infrastructure.

[00:54:31] So it's been a really exciting partnership for us with them. And, and so through that we do have. The ability to earn some revenue there. But the beautiful thing is it's not extra fees for our customers. It's something that they would pay anyway. Anywhere they process a credit card, you're gonna pay that 3%.

[00:54:47] It just means some little piece of that goes to us. So that's where we get a little bit of extra revenue there. But we provide a lot of services and usually the people who are using it, they're selling, they're selling more. So they're actually earning more because they're using our solution there.

[00:55:00] Omer: Alright. We should wrap up, get onto the lightning round. You know, this is one of those conversations that I, I feel like we've just. Skimm the surface. There were so many things that we could go into and you and I are already scheming on a, on a follow up. Yeah, episode two, maybe we'll even do that in person in your studio, right?

[00:55:23] Greg: That would be great. Yeah. Come to Vancouver.

[00:55:26] Omer: But let's get into lightning round for hour and and then you'll be free to, to, to go. So I've got seven quick-fire questions for you, so whenever you're ready. What's one of the best pieces of business advice you've received?

[00:55:36] Greg: People first. I think it was meant in terms of hiring, but I see it as everywhere.

[00:55:41] Customers, relationships, partners, board members investors, but especially customers put the people first and the relationships first.

[00:55:50] Omer: What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

[00:55:53] Greg: Can I pick a few? I read so much. I love this story. Sure. Turning the Flywheel by Jim Collins. Anything by Jim Collins.

[00:55:59] And What is Strategy by Joan Magretta? That is a 50-page picture book. My son took it to daycare 'cause he was so excited about the pictures in it. So it's a super quick read. Same with turning the flywheel. They're both exceptional. I could name tons of others, but those are great.

[00:56:15] Omer: Great. What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

[00:56:19] Greg: Persistence. Willful blindness at times. And, I think you just have to be passionate about the space that you're in.

[00:56:29] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

[00:56:32] Greg: I love Spotify. I know it's not really productivity, but I use it for everything from some mindfulness meditation stuff to just listening to music, to listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

[00:56:43] I learn from it, so it's a huge one for me.

[00:56:45] Omer: What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the time?

[00:56:49] Greg: Hydroponics for like just, it's an envi, like everything I want to do, you know, dream-wise that I know nothing about is really about saving the environment. And, you know, one day if I have a big payout, that's where I'll put my, donate my money.

[00:57:01] But hydroponics I think is a really exciting, scalable way to grow food for the planet that has a much smaller environmental impact. I've actually got just next to me here in my bathroom. I've got a whole hydroponics rig where I'm experimenting growing lettuce and other things I.

[00:57:14] Omer: Wow. Maybe that's the answer to the next question about an interesting or fun fact that people don't know about you ?

[00:57:20] Greg: Well, yeah. Hydroponics in my bathroom. I don't use it as a bathroom anymore. I Love to kiteboard. I love to flight board. I like I play a ton of board games. And what else? Yeah, those are a few.

[00:57:35] Omer: And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?

[00:57:38] Greg: My kids. I got an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, and just live for spending time with them and playing soccer with them and all the other fun things we do together.

[00:57:45] Omer: That's awesome. Yeah, I I, I miss those days. My kids are now teenagers and they don't wanna hang out with me anymore, so.

[00:57:53] Greg: There's a good book on that actually. For the family side is the, the family board meeting, but it's, it's a short read, but might, might even help you get those teenagers to hang out with you.

[00:58:02] Omer: The family board meeting. Yeah. I've gotta look that up. Good tip. Thank you. All right, cool. So, Greg, thank you so much for joining me. It's, as I said, I think given the time we had available, I think we've, we've tried to tell the story and, and extract some lessons here, but I just feel like there's so much more that we need to talk about and go deeper into.

[00:58:24] And so I'm hoping we're gonna, we're gonna do a follow-up and, and, and do that soon. If people wanna learn more about Thinkific, they can go to thinkific.com and if folks wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

[00:58:37] Greg: I'm just greg[at]thinkific or greg[dot]smith[at]t hinkific or on LinkedIn as well?

[00:58:41] I don't respond to LinkedIn messages as regularly as I should, so probably email is the better way. But yeah, if you connect with me, Greg Smith on I think I'm Greg Smith lawyer or something like that on or just if you search Greg Smith, Thinkific on LinkedIn.

[00:58:54] Omer: Yeah. We'll, we'll include a link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes.

[00:58:57] Well, thank you. Thank you for joining me. Thank you for racking your brain and sharing what's some of the lessons and, and, and experiences over the last 12, 13 years. Actually longer than that, 'cause we went back to 2005 and you know, I appreciate you, you, you taking the time and I wish you and the team, the best of success.

[00:59:15] Greg: Thanks. It's been a pleasure.

[00:59:16] Omer: Cheers.

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The Show Notes