About this episode

In this episode, we’re talking about anonymous emailing, a topic that may be considered controversial for some people. This is because many of us don’t understand the established laws as it relates to email marketing. Many of us know GDPR because it is the most restricting, but CAN-SPAM, CCPA, and CASL relate to your organization, too. Today, Adam Robinson will teach you how.

Adam is the founder of GetEmails, an identity resolution service that has the ability to identify one-third of your anonymous website traffic. The GetEmails solution can obtain email and postal information for your anonymous traffic so that you can market to those potential customers immediately. An ongoing challenge for many entrepreneurs is brand awareness and marketing, but GetEmails solves all of that by pointing you to those who have visited your site but not submitted their email on a lead magnet or made a purchase. Tune in to learn more about Adam’s origin story and the incredible service he provides.

In this episode, you'll hear.

  • Adam’s experience working on the floor of the stock exchange and with the founders of Vimeo.
  • How he got into email marketing with no technology background.
  • The things he had to learn the hard way that helped him start GetEmails.
  • What GetEmails is.
  • The privacy rules around opt-in/opt-out.
  • His greatest challenges since day one.
  • The real-time acquisition and integration of emails that GetEmails provides.
  • How he solves the churn rate issue.

Resources from this episode

Join Grindology: https://grindology.com/

ExpressVPN: Get 3 Months Free → https://www.expressvpn.com/startupstory

Get Emails: https://app.getemails.com/referrals/newaccount?ref=R18HWW5

The Startup Story Inner Circle: https://www.thestartupstory.co/vip
The Startup Story on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thestartupstory
The Startup Story is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jamesmckinney
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory

Adam on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adam-robinson-64409348/

GetEmails on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChgG1qKmdGDFF96bL2b08gg

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Episode transcript

The Startup Story - Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson: My name is Adam Robinson, founder and CEO of GetEmails, and this is MY startup story.

Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.

James McKinney: Welcome to episode 96 of The Startup Story and to the last week of October 2020. We're just two short months from wrapping this unbelievable year up, and I cannot wait for '21 to get here because there are so many exciting plans on the horizon. Of course, you've probably heard me mention numerous times the launch of Grindology. We are just one week away before Grindology.com opens up for subscription, which also means you only have one more week to receive your free 30 days access to The Startup Story Inner Circle. Just visit Grindology.com and sign up for launch notification. Once you do that, immediately you will get an email with a special link to get your free 30 day access to The Startup Story Inner Circle.

We have an incredible episode today and for some this might be considered a bit controversial. The topic of anonymous email marketing is what we're talking about and the reason I say it is possibly controversial is because most of us do not fully understand the established laws as it relates to email marketing. Many of us know about GDPR because it's the most restricting of the policies, but do you know how CAN-SPAM, CCPA, or CASL relates to your organization? Well let's jump into this week's episode because it's going to be incredibly helpful for all of us.

My guest this week is Adam Robinson, founder of GetEmails. GetEmails is an identity resolution service that has the ability to identify one-third of your anonymous website traffic. Their solution can obtain email and postal information so you can market to them immediately. One of the ongoing challenges we hear when it comes to building a business is awareness and marketing. GetEmails helps all of us identify those who have visited our site and have not submitted an email through one of our lead magnets or has not setup an account with us at all. Now if you're like me, the first question that comes to mind is how is that legal, and then the second question that comes to mind is even if it is legal to capture the email it is definitely illegal to market to them without their consent. Well, I bring both of those concerns to Adam when we discuss the GetEmails chapter of his entrepreneurial journey. But long before GetEmails he was on the floor of the stock exchange and rooming with the founders of Vimeo in a New York City apartment. You are in for a fantastic episode. But like all Startup Story stories, we need to start at the very beginning.

Adam Robinson: I grew up in Houston, Texas and my father was an oil trader. He worked at Enron. I don't know, something drew me to entrepreneurship. In high school and college, maybe it was like the lifestyle. It was less frequent back then than it is now and I think the ones that you knew about that kind of lived in your neighborhood, it would just seem like cool stuff they were doing. One of our family friends like owned an arcade. He rented arcade games to people, just had this amazing lifestyle doing it. It just seemed cool. So I was reading books and everything about how to be an entrepreneur and I went to Rice University, which was also in Houston where I grew up, to play basketball. I was reading these books about being an entrepreneur and I was really drawn to it. Bane and Boston Consulting Group, their pitch to college kids was 40% of people go on to be entrepreneurs and I was really drawn to that for some reason. Then one of my friends who I went to high school with, he had an internship after his junior year at Goldman Sachs on the trading floor, and he's like, "Dude you've got to come up here and do this stuff. You would love the environment. Its super intense, very smart guys. All of them played like Ivy League college sports. If you can get in here somehow, come do it."

James McKinney: That's awesome.

Adam Robinson: And hadn't even occurred to me at that point to go be an investment banker. So there were some internal recruiting programs at Rice. I had never worked before. I always did basketball camps in college, which I think was another thing that gave me the entrepreneurial bug. I'd put together these things that I was making decent money off of, and it was a good product. The kids liked it, the parents loved it, and I think I just wanted to continue doing my own thing because it was cool and I was making more money than everyone else that I knew. But this Wall Street thing was compelling just because of the conviction the guy had in it.

James McKinney: What year is this by the way? Let's put a time stamp on it.

Adam Robinson: This is '03.

James McKinney: '03 okay. Coming out of the dotcom bust.

Adam Robinson: Yeah. There was the dotcom bust and then there was that September 11th thing that happened in 2001 that was like another slam on the brakes. So it actually was a weird hiring year in '02 because the brakes were still slammed on from September 11th. Very different environment than a few years after and then during the dotcom bubble. But like nobody who graduated Rice was going into tech. going to San Francisco was not a thing. It was just not a thing that people were doing at the time. So I did that. I somehow managed… I didn't get a job through Rice but I somehow managed to get a job at the last minute at Lehman Brothers in their banking program, not their sales and trading. And then the first day of training it's like all this spreadsheet education. I'm just like I can't, I'm not interested. And they're like you're not going to have a life the next two years. Like friends? You're not going to have them. That's just what you signed up for.

So in my mind I was like I need to get to the trading floor as quickly as possible. So somehow I wrangled my way into a job at Debt Capital Markets which is like a bridge between banking and trading. And then I basically forced myself into an early morning basketball game with these traders, these senior traders. Kind of thinking the whole time this could end up in something good, and I just like wanted to exercise in the morning. They invited me a couple times and then like I just showed up. They were very strict about who came and everything. Then I just became part of this group. And somehow I got out of that banking job after like a year, which I hated.

This was like, I was thinking about… My brother actually had started a business. He's two years older than me, went to Stanford. He had started a business like a year before. I was just like thinking about going to work for him as an employee, not even a… Just like New York winter, after you've lived in Houston, work these crazy hours. Got on the trading floor after a year which was a horrible experience for a year. Because we were doing these things called credit default swaps, which just occurred and five years later took down the financial system.

James McKinney: I was going to say there's a movie-

Adam Robinson: Yeah, The Big Short.

James McKinney: The Big Short, yeah.

Adam Robinson: Completely. I worked at Lehman doing that. It's crazy just to think about. And my dad worked for Enron, like the two big corporate bankruptcies. It's just we're cursed. The job went from like the systems weren't built to make this job reasonable. So the market exploded before the system could support it, so like when you first started you were a backup. You were tying trades out, making sure the sales person and the trader their trades matched. And if you messed up, they lost $1 million. It was just this infinite downside, zero upside job for right when you got there. And then thank God, this girl, one of the people I was working for, got pregnant. She had a book that no one cared about. She moved to Toronto, they gave it to me, and it turned out to be the real estate stuff which was just like...

James McKinney: Wow, wow.

Adam Robinson: The next five years were just incredible. It was just like what they let you do as a 25 year old who knew nothing, it was crazy. Crazy this opportunity. And then even more interesting part than that was I moved to New York. I moved into this place with my buddy's fraternity brothers, and they started Vimeo in the apartment that I was living in.

James McKinney: So wait, hold on. You're on the trading floor and you're living in the apartment-

Adam Robinson: And I'm going home every day. So this apartment these guys found and let me rent a bedroom in was kind of like this office. It was like a loft in Tribeca. There was 4,500 square feet, beautiful big windows, they were paying for most of it.

James McKinney: That's incredible.

Adam Robinson: I mean, unbelievable. I stayed there for 15 years.

James McKinney: That's awesome.

Adam Robinson: I kept it. They like sold their business and moved out, I'm like I'm not moving. And it reminds me of this office. I think I walked in here and I fell in love, and I asked Dave if I could rent a desk from him because it was this big open space, big windows everywhere. So these guys it just seemed like so fun. They were building this thing and it was just growing like crazy, and they were getting written up in The New Yorker and all their employees were young and cool.

James McKinney: Let's talk about that, that season, for a second. You're on the trading floor. Things are going well because it hasn't imploded yet. I assume you're enjoying life, you're enjoying the job. You come home, you've got a startup being built out of, and again a significant startup, we now know the story of Vimeo, but a significant startup being built. I assume high energy as well. Lots of excitement. I don't know what their fundraising story was. So was it not discouraging or enticing to you to want to leave the floor or wee you just like, "I'm loving where I'm at, I love what they're doing but we're good."

Adam Robinson: Everybody that I worked with who was doing this job, like the five guys, we were all making like millions of dollars in our twenties every year, and it's just impossible, you know what I mean? Even if you're like I don't want this to last forever, this is great for now. But in the back of your mind, everybody yearns who does that job, almost everybody, they yearn for the day that they can make their X amount of million dollars and just leave and go run a shop somewhere. Like that's the dream. It's like I want to sell running shoes. Like so many people have this dream. And like you walk into these, New York there's tons of these little shops people are running, there's this strange envy of walking into a place that someone has their own thing and they're not just like extracting money from the system. Like that's how you envision yourself in the future. It's a weird way to live now that I don't have that life, but when it's all anybody's doing it seems very normal.

James McKinney: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: Luckily for me which we can get to, I effectively was pushed out. It was a combination of the market shrinking rapidly over a couple of years and then I moved to London because my boss thought that Europe was going to blow up and it never did. So what you do when you think something is going to blow up is you sit there short and you just wait for it to blow up, and that didn't happen. So we lost money, no one got paid, and then I had saved a pile of dough and I was just like you know what, I have this dream, I always had in the back of my head, and I was talking to one of the guys actually who I'm still very, very close to and I was like… so I move back to the US, I try to work at this hedge fund. Didn't work out.

And then, which you know after you've had a very sort of upward trajectory career you make a couple bad career moves and you get fired, it's so weird to adjust. Now I don't think it would phase me nearly as much just because so many bad things happen to you when you're an entrepreneur, along with the good, and you just realize that your life is not over and your ego is a lot less fragile in that way. I was talking to my buddy, I'm like, "Okay, so I could either take a bad job relative to the one that I had with very little near term opportunity, or I could just take this money, say it's an MBA, and go try to figure out if there's anything I could do in tech." And tech is a broad term, but I'm just like why would I not take a year rather than travel and just try to start hanging out with people doing stuff?

James McKinney: At this point when you're working through this decision process, what is your technology background?

Adam Robinson: Zero. Zero. Look, this was an expensive… it was not business school. It was a lot more expensive than that.

James McKinney: Yeah.

Adam Robinson: it basically, I think this probably happens to a lot of people. My knowledge was, you don't know how much you don't know.

James McKinney: Yeah, 100%. Yep.

Adam Robinson: And I think Wall Street, people who do well, something happens to you where you have an overconfidence in your abilities because you know how to trade securities well. I don't even think I knew how to trade securities well, I just think I was in the right place at the right time. I would never do that job again just because I really think it was just a product of every single person doing that job killed it. It was just the thing. And these guys who are truly great investors, like a couple of them are my friends, they're just wired totally differently than me. Their temperament, their disposition, they're unemotional, their ability to focus, not ever unplug and all that stuff. I'm not interested in that. So zero background, way too confident.

But I think if I knew okay, the hard thing is because now I know you can learn things over time and I have confidence in my ability to do that. But at that time if somebody could have articulated how little I actually knew and how long it would take to get something that was actually paying me like a salary, like it took five years before I took a dollar out of my business. Five years. The last year and a half I was ploughing $50 grand a month into the thing because we knew that we had this thing which was unit economic positive. We were like 5X CAC to LTV so it's like well what are you going to do? If you have money, you're going to go plough money into it until you can't do that anymore.

You know, my brother is a financial partner and I was an investor and we basically got to the point like we ran out of money. It got to cash flow positive when we did, but like it was at that moment that it became cash flow positive and probably because we were running out of money.

James McKinney: So real quick, so what was that first venture?

Adam Robinson: Robly Email Marketing.

James McKinney: And so from a framework perspective like a Mailchimp or-

Adam Robinson: Exactly, yeah, it is like a Mailchimp. Unfortunately, they are the best company in the world.

James McKinney: They're remarkable.

Adam Robinson: And actually they are probably the reason that my second company came to be because if they weren't around and it was only the other guy who created the market, it would be much easier for everybody else to compete. But like just that offer that they came up with and the power of that brand, and how good their software is, they make it incredibly difficult unless you've figured out a niche that's like that narrow and a channel they're not in. few people have done that, but there's like 250 email marketing vendors, and like 225 of them are stuck at 3 million.

James McKinney: Yeah. But again, no technology background and that's where you go. I'm thinking of the framework of timing where back in the day, with no technology background, your default was, "I could build an app." Low hanging fruit from a technology opportunity. You went for something considerably more complicated.

Adam Robinson: Well I'll tell you just because I think it's a valuable lesson that I learned and would be worthwhile for people to hear who are just starting, who might be considering doing the same thing. I had this kind of mentor guy at Lehman. I had a couple mentors at Lehman. One, this one that I'm talking about in particular, he had all these side ventures which were, like he was this sales guy that was just like an ungodly, just like his ability to sell these things and he was killing it. He was like he always had stuff going on the side. He was like an equity owner in a pig farm when he was 28 and took a $10 million dividend or something like that, he owns a ton of land in Florida. This dude it always seemed what he had going on was so cool. He was kind of sitting atop these assets, loosely managing them.

So like that was like the vision that I had for myself, what I wanted to do. I'm like I'm going to take this capital I made and I'm going to sort of sit atop five different things. Of course, tried that. I got involved in five things, like nothing worked. Nothing. Even the stuff that should have. I put a huge chunk of dough in my brother's company and just because of macro stuff that happened in oil that no one expected, thank God I got my money back because of this weird thing, but like that didn't work at all. It was this company that I believed in. don't believe in anybody else but my brother, like my best friend was the private equity firm who like did it. That should have been an incredible outcome.

Nothing worked, except for this Robly thing. It was just so flawed in the way we went about it from the beginning. We only started it because my brother was using this product called Rate Point for his company and it was email marketing customer reviews. The dude had raised $25 million, and in one week in 2012 they turned the lights off, so my brother's like, "Oh, you're looking for stuff to do. Let's see if we can build this thing, split it 50/50, get somebody else to run it. Build it on the cheap overseas and try to get that guy's customers. How hard could it be?" You know, I'm like yeah, it's easy, you know? I'm reading all these books on how to start-

James McKinney: It's always easy.

Adam Robinson: Yeah, reading all these books on how to start stuff. Content marketing at the time was just like, it was an easy thing to have like content marketers to tell you that content marketing was the way to market and the only way, and whatever. It's so easy, just start creating content and put it out there, and people will find it. So I made these three videos, one of which made it to the CEO of that company, Rate Point, and he was like, "If you do what you're attempting to do, it will not work. I can show you how to do something where you will succeed with 100% certainty." Nothing is 100% but he's like, "There's a company down the road from here. Not going to tell you too much because my partner is starting a data business. They leave a ton of their customer information around the internet and they don't know they're doing it yet. So go find it, build yourself a call center, make yourself a price and future competitive product. It will work, you will get a cash flow positive business. I know because I just did it. The reason that it didn't work for me is my VC's cut me off and I had too much overhead. But great lifestyle business opportunity. Do that, figure out what's next."

First of all, I'm not sure that I would do it today because I'm just such a believer in higher priced subscription SaaS and the ability to like accrue, how much easier it is. And Jason Lemkin says this, the SaaS, it's not 1000% harder to sell somebody a $10,000 a month subscription than it is a $10 subscription. It might actually be easier, but it's definitely not 10,000 times harder, right? So and I've seen that in my second business. Our average price at Robly started at $15, and this other one we've got people paying us $25,000 a month. It's like how many, thinking about what it took to get Robly to $25,000 a month selling these $15 subscriptions through phones, like oh my goodness. So I don't know whether I would have done it again, but like if I did the amount of resources and time that it would have taken would be, as is anybody their second time around.

James McKinney: So that second venture, is that GetEmails?

Adam Robinson: Exactly, yeah it is.

James McKinney: Okay, so before we get to GetEmails, and that's why we're talking to you today is your current startup. When you look at the span of your business learning if you will, the business school learning, your MBA, the various ventures you tried to pursue, when you look at that span heading into GetEmails, were there any principles that you set out in the beginning, like I'm not going to do this because I learned this lesson with this, I'm definitely not repeating this because of this lesson here, I am going to repeat this? Like can you run through some of the things that you learned painfully or well that brought you into GetEmails with a better education on how to start?

Adam Robinson: Yes, and I'm going to try to be as diplomatic as possible on a few of these answers. So the first thing which I would encourage anyone who even has a remote sort of entrepreneurial bug and thinks they want to get into this stuff to do, the dream for a finance guy is to like be this bootstrapped, remote entrepreneur. You don't want venture capital, you don't want an office. I was wearing a tie for 10 years. This idea that I could live in a ski town and ski every day, and no one is going to be the wiser. It seems totally impossible and unfair and all that stuff. So I would read about that. That's more ubiquitous now, but it wasn't at the time that I was doing it. But the people that I would read about that are like the Basecamp guys, Remote, Rework. The Lean Startup, even Four Hour Work Week a little bit just because it gives you sort of, I don't agree with everything in that book but like it gives you this idea that there's a time versus money trade in your life, which like Wall Street you're programmed. The only reason people work is for money. There's no other reason. If I could work for more money somewhere else I would. If I could work for less money I'm going to be pissed off about it. But it's all just work and whatever, which is just untrue. So that's one side of it.

The side that I found myself believing in more now is the YCombinator philosophy, and I don't want to go raise venture capital which they advocate if you're growing enough, but like it's an orientation towards product. Product market fit and growth. It's like if I had to summarize everything they write about, it's like don't spend it all until you've got product market fit. It's very hard to do for an entrepreneur, especially if it's your first time. The amount of times people are like, "I'm going to hire a CMO," it's like dude, make sure you have a repeatable sales model before you sale, and product market fits before that. Very hard to explain to people, very hard to have the discipline to do that.

But that and then having weekly growth goals. I want to grow 5% this week. And they have this attitude, which is totally opposite of the Base Camp Guys that like growth solves problems, growth creates opportunities. If an entrepreneur is burnt out, 9.9 out of 10 times it's because his thing stopped growing, for whatever reason. And then churn is a huge part of that with SaaS, you just have to, which is a struggle we're having with GetEmails right now. You can just see a point where with the churn rate that we have it's going to be impossible to grow at some point, so we need to figure out what we need to sell to get people to not do that, or who we need to sell to, whatever.

So those were a couple takeaways that I had when going into the second one, that just it's like a different philosophy. Also that bit about high price subscriptions. If people are going into this $10 or $15 a month market, it's not to say that… it's just hard. If it lines up with your goals, then that's fine. But like my goals challenged. My goals were one thing until I achieved those goals, and then it's like okay. This is how I am. I was able to just pull back, work a couple hours a day, and chill for a year maybe until it's just like okay, I want to do something else. What do I do? Do I try to like reinvest in Robly and double it, because if I doubled it that would be great, or start something new? That's an interesting debate also, but we won't go into it there. The YCombinator guys would say don't reinvest into Robly, the product market fit is not right. Whereas if you talk to a different type of entrepreneur, they're like well I mean if you're making $500,000 now wouldn't it be great if you were making $1 million? And they've got a thing that's working, customers like it, they're not quitting, go find more customer.

James McKinney: So for clarity, Robly is still working? It's still function, people can still sign up for Robly?

Adam Robinson: It's awesome. It's the type of customers we generally speaking serve are very small business, main street, non-ecommerce, people who are just sending newsletters once a month or something like that.

James McKinney: So that is working. There's some challenges with it. How do you get to GetEmails then?

Adam Robinson: This is kind of where Mailchimp comes into play. We went over the first growth strategy. It was an incredible data mining and call center effort. The reason the call center worked is because we had such good data. I think we got it up to like $50 subscriptions during that phone operation. You still can't make $50 a month subscriptions work with a phone call operation in New York unless you have the best data in the universe. So that was a finite strategy because the data was from one place, so it became it went from being like we had 35 callers at one point, now we have zero callers. It went from that was the outbound to like okay what's our outbound going to be?

You can read marketing books all day long, they all tell you the same thing. It's like go find your best customer on your list and then profile them, and go find more. I'm telling you for me, maybe I'm not a good marketer. When the swatch of your customers are just these main street people and it's very hard, and like there really wasn't a best customer. And they were very diversified. It was incredibly hard to figure out one avatar that was good. And at the same time, Mailchimp was just doing such a good job at spending $1 billion a year like marketing this free product, which the same thing ours did, and by the time it wasn't free for you, you'd been using it a year and a half.

James McKinney: Mailchimp shares, and Ben shares in his episode that free model gets them 2 billion views.

Adam Robinson: That's unbelievable. It's just unbelievable.

James McKinney: That's so hard to compete w.

Adam Robinson: People have done a good job chipping away. There's a few vendors like Klaviyo. There was a vendor called Bronto that's still around, but Klaviyo stuck themselves right in between Bronto and Mailchimp, and had this amazing ecommerce suite. And they did some stuff that Mailchimp wasn't doing, and it was so much easier to buy and cheaper than Bronto, and it's actually a better product. And they've absolutely killed it. The Convert Kit guy, he's distributing through influencers, blogger selling to blogger, selling to bloggers and it's just like that is a channel that Mailchimp was never in. they don't pay an affiliate commission. But like I could never figure it out, and it's tough. I was looking for stuff they weren't doing and it's just hard when you're not one of these people. Like the Convert Kit guy is a blogger, you know? And he's built a product for himself. But like I don't think there's any way we could have built a better product than Klaviyo. Somehow those guys got into that market, and they just from day one, from when we started Robly-

James McKinney: Killing it.

Adam Robinson: … they were always building that twice as expensive as Mailchimp, half the price of Bronto. Amazing ecommerce tool.

James McKinney: I think part of it has to do with they, and I don't know the complete launch story, but I think they started fundamentally with how can we piggy back on the Shopify economy, which is smart.

Adam Robinson: Shopify's been like a 15X investment over the last five years, since it went public, you know? So unbelievable. Whatever they did, them, Mailchimp, these guys in our space kill it. It's such a competitive space. I look at them in awe. I could never figure it out. So I tried a couple things and finally it came across this one thing, and I'm friends with the founder of BounceX and they acquired an identity company, and he was looking into acquiring an email service provider which is what Robly did, so we talked about it. And when he explained to me what they were doing, I was just like oh my goodness. If I could sell that as a feature in our thing, I don't see any ESP focusing on it, this identity resolution and growing people's email lists that way. It would just be so amazing.

So what they were doing at the time is a little bit different than what GetEmails does. They were helping ecommerce stores send out abandonment emails to people that weren't logged in, and even that was like huge ROI for the ecommerce store. So I asked him if I could try to sell what they were selling and include it as part of Robly, which like was incredibly difficult. Like, "Hey, we're an email marketing company. We have this cool feature." It's just like eyes glazed over. But when we realized that we could also use the technology to grow people's email lists, and I started dropping that at the end of these sales calls, you'd see people's eyes light up, you know?

But it took, man from when that started to when we figured out how to actually do it and deliver that product it was probably a year and a half. We were trying other stuff that wasn't really working. And then finally last April I guess it was, we got this tool inside of Robly that Identified people's anonymous traffic that didn't fill out forms, and it passed them full customer records - email, first name, last name, postal - into their email marketing account so they could send automated retargeting over email in addition to their web programs. And our existing customers, a few profiles loved it, like these local magazines that we had.

James McKinney: So right now it's still just, at the time in April, it's still just a Robly feature?

Adam Robinson: Right. We called it Robly ID.

James McKinney: Got it.

Adam Robinson: And we were getting through outbound new people to sign up, and instead of switching to Robly which was the whole plan, they were downloading the file out of Robly and putting it into their email marketing app, and using that to send all of those. And to be fair, like while we were trying to figure what to do with Robly out, we were underinvesting in the product by definition because we didn't know which way to go. So it's like well, we could try to build all this stuff, but then whatever. So we never built the drag and drop automation like everybody else has because it's just like well, we're going to build that. It's going to cause a lot more support burden and it's not going to help us get new customers.

James McKinney: When you see that data point though, this idea that they're using this identification tool but they're exporting it out of Robly into something else, to me as an outsider not being where you are, not seeing the actual data, I think okay well whatever it is Robly is not meeting their needs for something, and I think a lot of people, wise of you to peel off into something else. I think a lot of people just kind of spin on how do they continue to refine a product so that they stop doing that versus well this is really useful, people are using it, let's peel that off to something separate.

Adam Robinson: That's half of it, where you're sitting there scratching your head being like man, we can't even get people to switch. The other half of it is like eight weeks in we did a bunch of customer interviews and everyone one of them to the MPS question said it was a 10 out of 10 product, with a horrible user experience.

James McKinney: Ah, interesting.

Adam Robinson: That's one of these YCombinator blog posts. It's like that's a real sign of product market fit. We don't have perfect product market fit now, but like that's an early indicator that people are just like if they're willing to endure a horrible user experience and still say they'd recommend it to everybody that they know, then you've at least got something that you can start refining. So at that point we're like okay, this is actually a pretty bad product if we're trying to make people switch to Robly. It's not good for the customer. If we spun it out, had it connect to everything, and made it super slick and easy to set up and use, then it's actually a really good product.

James McKinney: And that became the birth of GetEmails then.

Adam Robinson: Exactly.

James McKinney: So before we continue on for everyone listening let's clearly unpack what GetEmails is.

Adam Robinson: Okay, here's what GetEmails is. GetEmails will identify 35% of your anonymous web traffic, and we send you customer records - email and then optional first, last, and postal - of people that don't fill out any forms. The use cases are for ecommerce stores. You can send more "cart abandoned" emails, so to people that are either not on your list or they're on your list but they're not logged in. you can send browse abandonments to people that aren't on your list. It's just retargeting. And for publishers, just a lot of publishers exist on an active clicker base, so this is the cheapest way. It's like 80% cheaper than getting an opt-in. it's the cheapest way to increase eyeballs and clicks back to your website by far, and so subscription funnels also work. So if you want more paid subscribers, you can get these emails for very cheap, put them in an automated flow, and get them to eventually pay for your content.

James McKinney: Now, just for clarity for those listening as they might be thinking, so they somehow acquire email from people that are visiting my website but they're not really opting into anything. And when I first heard of GetEmails, that was my first take, well they're not opting in. and I came across some content that you had published talking about the GDPR. So I want to start off the gate, because I want everyone to be educated in this. Can you speak to, because in the US we have a certain understanding of GDPR because I think GDPR was really based on some European rules that we've just kind of mixed in with the reality of what US rules and laws are. So can you kind of unpack for the audience, for both here online and also those watching via Entrepreneur.com, can you unpack a basis for what the privacy rules are around opt-in/opt-out?

Adam Robinson: Right. So the first question every single person asks is how is that legal. There's some big misconceptions about two different things. One is GDPR and how it relates to this new California stuff, CCPA. There's a big misconception there, and there's a big misconception about the CAN-SPAM law in the US in general. So let's talk about GDPR because you brought it up. GDPR applies to Europe only. GDPR says that you have to get express consent for data collection on the internet, meaning you have to have an opt-in to collect data.

James McKinney: European law only. I want everyone to catch that.

Adam Robinson: And Canada. CASL says the same thing. The CCPA law, which people believe will be the blueprint for something at a federal level in the future, says nothing about opt-in to anything. Nothing about consent for collection. This is very clear about opt-outs. You have to have an opt-out mechanism set up in your organization. You have to be able to tell people what data you're collecting. The privacy policy has to say that. Nothing about opt- in. so there's this huge misconception that CCPA, the California thing, is more strict than CAN-SPAM. GDPR is more strict than CAN-SPAM, therefore CCPA equals GDPR. That is not true.

James McKinney: Yeah, yeah.

Adam Robinson: Not true. The other thing is just a total misconception about CAN-SPAM in the US and what the law is. People believe that you have to legally have an opt-in to send email marketing, which is not true. There has to be an opt-out link, but it's not an opt-in country. The reason this works is because email marketing in the US and everywhere else is about engagement. Gmail really doesn't care where you got your emails from if your open rate on market emails is like 50% and 25% of those people are clicking. You can buy that list from anybody and it's going to help your deliverability.

On the other hand, if you have an opt-in list that has a 3% open rate that nobody is clicking on, that will hurt you, opt-in or not. So it's about engagement and the way we procure these emails, the engagement is excellent. So those are the two big misconceptions. One is that people think that CAN- SPAM is opt-in. It's not, it's opt-out so you can legally do what we're doing. And they think that GDPR is CCPA which it's not. And the other interesting thing about CCPA that's not applicable to GDPR is if you have under $25 million in revenue, CCPA does not apply to you whatsoever. Doesn't exist.

James McKinney: See, this is the information that most people are completely unaware of.

Adam Robinson: GDPR applies to everybody. Non-profits, 501(c)3, CCPA does not apply so it's a way less inclusive, way less restrictive legislation. You still have to do, if you have over $25 million in revenue, you have to do a lot of stuff. It's annoying, it's admin, you have to set up this infrastructure that works. We have like an opt-out on our site where people click and they go, we talk about the database, if they want to see what we're collecting we tell them. But it is not GDPR. It is not opt-in legislation.

James McKinney: I hope everyone listening, all the entrepreneurs that are listening, all the wantrepreneurs that are thinking of starting on their own, when it comes to the marketing side I hope everyone is catching this because the understanding of the law is critical so that you don't find yourself limited on how you go about capturing these things. And again, back to the idea of anonymous information, Facebook Pixel, everybody. Facebook Pixel is tracking anonymous information across everywhere that the Facebook Pixel is involved. For those watching or listening that do not know what Facebook Pixel is, it's a tool that Facebook uses for their ad platform to deliver relevant ads based on sites and brands you visited. So again, anonymous tracking.

Adam Robinson: Sure. And every time you log in through Facebook to another app, they're fingerprinting your browser and tying that to their identity graph of you.

James McKinney: From a culture perspective, Adam, from an adoption perspective of your tool, of the software, has it been hard to get brands to understand this or from a marketing side, from a brand side, it's a no brainer because they've seen it across everything?

Adam Robinson: There's layers to that answer. So there's kind of this ceiling, mostly the biggest brands in the world that have the most to lose. A, they're probably GDPR worldwide just because they want to have the most strict compliance possible. And B, even if they're not, a lot of them have these policies where they're not going to send email marketing without an opt-in, but that is a brand level decision that they're making on this perceived relationship they have with their consumer and this PR presence that they're managing, and a potential class action. If whoever, CVS Caremark were like doing this because of the nature of their business, some lawyer is just going to be like, "Oh, yeah, let's go get a billion dollars out of those guys." Their market cap is like 300, I don't even know. So at the high, at the biggest corporation they're never going to do this.

There's types of publishers that are smaller that have a perceived relationship with their subscribers just because they're all organic content, they've never bought an opt-in in the first place. Like if you've never bought an email address, you're not going to do this because this isn't what we do. Like we create high quality content that drives organic content or whatever. But at that level, the people that are open to it literally it's like I said, the conversation every single time is like wow, this is pretty cool. They're 20% of the price of opt-ins, how is this legal? Right? And then it's like oh my gosh. So we've never not gotten through a legal department. The only, because this is legal, the only time we get either people are just like I don't have time for this, we are fundamentally against non opt-in marketing at an organizational level, there's various reasons they can have it.

But the answer to that question how it's legal, and then a lot of people are open to trying it. The other worry is like well, my boss bought a list two years ago, we sent to it, it blew up our deliverability, it took me 15 months to unwind it, is this going to do the same thing? And the answer is no because of how we procure the emails. Like email marketing is a lot about recency of data also. If we send the record to you in real time and you send an email out in real time, one to one, to that person the odds that they will complain about that are virtually zero.

James McKinney: And I think too, one of the things, so we use it, I love it, and one of the things that we've done on our side is from a relationship standpoint with my audience and those who just stream the content on our website versus a podcast platform or jut visit, whatever the case may be, if you're visiting my website we have an engagement. If you've streamed my podcast from the site we have a relationship of some sort. So then I've set up on the back end a 24 hour email that goes out, just kind of thanking them for stopping by and hopefully there was value delivered. And the data on that side is incredible, because they know they were just at my site and so there is this familiarity with it and it's not spam in any way, shape, or form.

Adam Robinson: Exactly. So that's the other, it's like well this is going to blow up my deliverability. And like we simply say you can try it on a small size if you want. Certainly, there's a size where it would be an impossible thing for your deliverability to get blown up. So whatever, we'll give you 500 free emails to test it, do it. And then they see that their open rate is like 40% or something and they're like okay, this is fine, no complaints. Like we're fine rolling with it. The interesting thing is I've owned Robly, we launched it in 2014. I was unaware that the CAN-SPAM law in the US was opt-out and not opt-in legislation. When I learned it, I was just like well, I just didn't know. I didn't know until we were well along this road of trying to figure out this was like, I that I knew before we put it in Robly, but when I wanted to do it, it was till just like man, people are going to want these email addresses. They'll probably do it even if it is illegal, just because… I haven't seen any CAN-SPAM legislation in the US of any real significance.

James McKinney: So let's talk about some of the growth challenges you've had. So one, when do you consider the start date for GetEmails?

Adam Robinson: November 4th we launched it as its own…

James McKinney: So 10 months ago. What have been the challenges for you, we'll say from day one, well it's 10 months I'm going to say from day one until now? What have been your greatest challenges?

Adam Robinson: So everything went probably 10 times better than I expected, which very rarely happens. Normally you make these budgets for stuff and it's like… I would also say to entrepreneurs starting out whatever your expectation is, make sure it works in your models when it goes 10% as well as you think it will, because that's probably what's going to happen initially.

James McKinney: That's smart, that's smart.

Adam Robinson: You know until you tweak and you whatever, so make sure you have enough, get your lifestyle cost down. Just be as conservative as possible when planning especially if you take investment capital. It's so easy to spend other people's money. Put your spend at 10%. Assume your revenue is going to be 10%.

James McKinney: I love it, I love it.

Adam Robinson: So this actually worked out 10 times better than I thought it was going to. And I guess it's not totally surprising based upon like my initial, your initial reaction is often wrong, but like I'd been operating in this world for five years, and I was like I just know the people who do email marketing one of their biggest challenges is growing their list. They also want to market to people on their website. Another challenge is capturing people who are on their website. This thing, I've never heard anyone sell this before and I know people want this, right? So I made this initial video sales letter from watching a digital marketer video on how to make a video sales letter. I wrote a script. I had this, a girl on UpWork, her name is Romania, paid her $1,000 and she made it into this two and a half minute like word art video. Got a little background music from like the Jungle or whatever it's called, the A Vento website. And threw that up on Facebook and we spent $5,000 the first three weeks and got $10,000 of MRR out of it.

James McKinney: That's awesome.

Adam Robinson: I would have expected, I mean now that I know what our churn rate is like it's still amazing but like if you think the churn is going to be anything like email marketing you're like oh, I would expect to get paid back. It would be amazing if I got paid back in six months, and then it's like double your money basically that day. Regardless of what your churn rate is, if you're getting paid back immediately on your ads, you can just plow it right back in and you can grow like crazy until the church thing becomes an issue. That worked really well. You're working with like 20 vendors, setting this whole network up. I don't even know how many there are. There's all these partners for the IDs side and the data side. And I had this idea, initially we got it all coordinated to where we were giving people data once a day.

And to me it was just like man, this product is going to be so much better if we could do it real time, but the coordination that took to get everybody to give us these API end points that we could build into to make that possible, on the ID side it's like queuing up a bunch of vendors and then an MD5 comes in. you've got to check all these different databases to see if it's in those databases. Getting everybody to selling them that it was the right thing to do, to invest time in us, when we just started to make this real-time thing happen.

James McKinney: And just for the audience on that real-time thing, correct me if this is not what you're referring to, is the real time integration is as someone visits the site and a user is identified, that email is then vetted against your current contacts so that you are not charged as a new acquisition for it, and that's done in real-time.

Adam Robinson: And then we wait for their session to end, and we let 15 minutes to go by so we don't register another, make sure they weren't just doing something else. And then pass you the record right then. And you can start your re-targeting right then, which is very powerful. That's like an incredible thing, especially for ecommerce.

James McKinney: Should I adjust my process from 24 hours to shorten it?

Adam Robinson: I don't think it… if you're going for a sale right then, which ecommerce people are, there's like an offer with a coupon in the email I think it's way more, recency becomes way more important. If you're just like starting a relationship as a publisher I think it's just not as critical. I mean you can. I'm happy to show you how to do that but like I would say it's not as critical.

James McKinney: Got it, okay.

Adam Robinson: so that was a challenge. Getting, for a while like we probably have 50 integrations now, maybe 30, but like for a while you don't have the integrations people want. We have pretty good indication just from studying the email marketing market so much. We needed Mailchimp, we needed Active Campaign, we need Klaviyo. Klaviyo is like 75% of our customers use it.

James McKinney: Oh wow, okay.

Adam Robinson: But after that, somebody wants Sendlane, and somebody wants Elastic Email, somebody wants whatever and so there's this queue of integrations to build. That was a challenge. You know, COVID happened. Event companies were our biggest customers right out of the gate. Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo and Spartan Races were all paying us huge… I was like this is incredible, thousands of dollars a month, this is the product. These other big events, it's going to be so useful for them, and then just boom, done. Which was like we lost 40% of our revenue in like two days.

James McKinney: See and that's interesting because when I think of the opportunity of that season, I would have assumed the opportunity would have brought all the brick and mortar that are now focusing on their ecommerce to try and stay alive, that a tool like this would have just been invaluable because at that point, really COVID I know for us, COVID showed us our weak spot and our weak spot was really the email database but really the user identification. Understanding who our people were and how to reach them one to one, and I know that was the case for a lot of brands.

Adam Robinson: For sure, and I think that's why we were able to get it back so quickly.

James McKinney: But what's the churn issue you keep referring to though?

Adam Robinson: The churn issue, there's several use cases for this. Someone, a publisher who's just looking to increase their active clickers and people reading the emails and clicking on them, the way you were going to do that was going to go find opt-ins on Facebook for $0.75 or $1.50 or $2.50. We can give you better engagement for like $0.25 or $0.20 so that's a no brainer, no one would ever cancel who is doing that. The problem is we went freemium a few weeks ago and rolled it back which we can talk about if you want to or not, but a lot of businesses like in order for this to work for an ecommerce store it has to have positive ROI for most people roughly in line with your other channels.

Some people see the value in owning this first party data set and moving it between platforms and stuff like that, but there's a pretty high hurdle for ecommerce for actually converting this into dollars. If your business doesn't have great product market fit in the first place, doesn't have good email marketing in the first place, and is a really low gross margin product it's very difficult to make this work. Selling it is simple, it's like of course I want those emails. But if half your people are churning 60 days later because they're like I'm just getting 2X ROI to this, I'm getting 4X on my Facebook channel, then the overall churn rate despite the fact that your best customers are never going to quit, it's just way too high. So that's the issue and I don't think any startup is like a straight line.

Thank God we got to cash flow positive very quickly and we're sitting in a position of strength now, we have a great core customer base. But the come to Jesus now is we had an unbelievable amount of success on Facebook which we can talk about later, but now it's like okay, this might not actually be a self- serve tool that we can just give to anybody and expect to have a churn rate which will make it so we can grow to $50 million in revenue, because you have to have a low churn rate to get there or you have to have the most phenomenal brand and marketing, and just this inbound thing. But anyone would tell you that it's about churn more than anything else.

James McKinney: Yeah. So when you think of solving your churn rate issue, do you look at it from a standpoint of how do we adjust product or how do we get it into the right hands?

Adam Robinson: Both. Right. So the conversation we had last week is ultimately enterprise SaaS gets valued way higher than small business SaaS. The contract is incredibly valuable to investors and to purchasers. So I was talking to our head of sales and our head of product, it's like okay we started this self- serve product. We're at an amazing point, but like what does the product look like that one of these brands would sign a contract to use? Let's just start there.

We don't have to start selling contracts but what does that look like? It's also like you said who are we selling to? If we're just doing ads on Facebook and we have a free to start $19 a month plan to start out with, and we know those guys churn in 30-60 days, almost all little guys who are ecommerce stores churn. The bigger guys it's way more in our favor. Make this sort of avatar of a series D funded ecomm company. What do they want? And a lot of them, they use agencies a lot, their marketing departments are strategic, they're happy to let you do stuff. And they're worried about, some of them are like worried enough about their deliverability to where it can stop the conversation.

So if it's like we'll do the sending, we'll set everything up, we'll write the emails, we'll just basically send you checks and here's what it costs. I mean that's interesting to me. I don't know if it's going to work but it's interesting to me to try, even if we don't do it on contracts at first. So it's like, now it's getting to the point where it's like okay, that sounds a little more like an agency service with a SaaS tied to it. They're used to being on yearly contracts with SEO agencies and paid ad agencies. Getting closer, and it's like I think the ultimate thing that we do is be like okay there's a 60 day out on this contract if it's not ROI-ing for you. But if it is then it's a 12 month deal because we're doing all this setup. So that was sort of like where a start, right, kind of some element of done for you and I don't think it's going to be crazy like taking over other email marketing because we know what to do, we just set up abandoned carts and welcome series for people, and it's not that intensive, and you're giving somebody an out but it would give us a little more obviously the funnel will dry up at the top, but when you're bringing somebody on you know you're starting at least a 12 month partnership unless something goes wrong.

The other thing that it does is there's this problem where we hand somebody data and we have no idea what happens after that. We don't know if they're setting it up right. We don't know what they're sending out. We don't know how much money they're making. All of these problems get solved if we take over the sending part, and we'll be able to learn as an organization what works, who our customers are, who the wrong customers are, all of these things which are impossible to tell right now. Somebody just comes in to cancel and we're just like well, there's a million reasons why, like we hired a guy basically his sole purpose was to try to figure out this whole problem. But I think it gets figured out 10 times quicker if like we just provide a little more of a service element to what we're doing.

And maybe even not for everybody because there's people sophisticated enough that they don't want that and they make it work no question, but is it a mass market tool that we can advertise on Facebook and let anybody sign up for, and they'll be around for three years? No, definitely not. So I think that we need to at least try to go this route of getting something that bigger companies are more comfortable. And it's not like Robly where we're selling $50 a month subscriptions. We already have people paying us $25,000 a month. We're already selling to these type of people. It's just how do we get it to where it's a little more like the other stuff that they're buying, and that's the Holy Grail. That would just totally change our trajectory.

James McKinney: So when you think of the landscape of where you fit and where you play, who or what are your competitors? And I say what from just is it a mindset perspective competition that you're fighting against or is there an actual player, again maybe Facebook Pixel? I don't know.

Adam Robinson: I think there's a lot of indirect competition, but there's very little just like that guy's doing exactly what you're doing.

James McKinney: I'd never heard of GetEmails, I love it so...

Adam Robinson: Yeah, totally. So it's interesting when you talk about the avatars that we're going after, this also whenever you start digging into the stuff it all kills you. It's like it's going great and then you're like well we need to do something else and it's like well we really didn't do enough of this sort of avatar work or whatever. Our product market sucks on the website, it's not really speaking to anybody. So the avatar is tough because you mention mindset. The avatar really is about mindsets. It's like somebody is either open to this or they're not, they're fundamentally opposed to it. Like there's publishers in communication that we're focused about. Publishers, some have the mindset to where they like it and what they're looking for is increasing active clickers and they don't care about anything else, and it's like wow, for that guy 100% success rate. Problem is, you have no idea looking at a LinkedIn profile if they have that mindset.

James McKinney: Yeah, yeah.

Adam Robinson: Then there's another type of publisher that it's like I want to sign people up for paid subscriptions. The hurdle is higher but we know we can do it, so they've got to be open to it and they've got to be looking at that. If we prove that out with a couple of the brands that we're working on right now and they let us do case studies, which is another problem, people don't necessarily want everyone else to know that they're doing this because it's kind of…

James McKinney: Everybody it's Facebook Pixel, it's Amazon-

Adam Robinson: It's kind of gray area right?

James McKinney: It's so crazy.

Adam Robinson: Like just because people think that it's illegal, they don't really want to be associated. They may not want to be associated with a brand that's doing it. So it's like a challenge that we have that those are all challenges. It's like if you gave me 100 audience people of publishers, they have to be okay with this in general at the organization level. They have to be interested enough at the individual level and have incentive to like if somebody is an audience manager, a publisher, ecommerce person and the mandate for that year is grow this first party database, I'm your guy, you know what I mean? So like conversation is over right there. If you don't use us, you've lost your mind. If it's more nuanced than that, you can't tell until you talk to somebody what their actual goals are so it makes it very tough. Where does this publisher audience person hang out? It's like well, only one out of three of them works for me so I don't know.

In terms of people who do exactly what we do from the tech side, they're not really software businesses, they're data companies. Like there's a company Tricera for instance. They don't have any integrations. They don't even have a dashboard. They email you the file every day. You sign a contract with them. I wouldn't even consider what we do what they do because it's so different. Pop in and ecommerce companies, a contact record with the cart contents attached to it into their Klaviyo account so that it can start a cart abandonment flow is a totally different product than someone who's doing a very similar identification thing and emailing you files. And then there's people who are way higher, like the guy Ryan Urban BounceX, they're like a full service lead generation service for enterprise, and this is a very small piece of what they do, and they don't actually do what we do in a sense that they don't sell people the email addresses they don't have. They work with such big brands that I think it would tarnish their reputation if they did that, so they're just not interested in being in that market. And then you have indirect competition from basically everybody, all other retargeting and advertising channels that people have because ultimately you look at something like this on an ROI basis. Like you're not going to keep doing it if it doesn't convert.

James McKinney: Yep. You know it's interesting because I mean I'm sure my audience would love to just know the technical side of how it's done but you have a video that you actually released so we'll include a link to the show notes on how this is actually done. We won't go into it in this episode but-

Adam Robinson: Tons of stuff on YouTube. Every question you have is answered there.

James McKinney: I know and that's why I want to keep getting this word out because I think when people think of the idea of just anonymous traffic identification and they think of email lists growing, they think it always has to be opt-in, and there's so many… there's already technology in play that is doing what you do but they're keeping it in an enclosed platform. Again, we talk about the Facebook Pixel. Our phones. You can talk about a product, I talk about a product with my wife and my Google Pixel is sitting between us. The next time I go online there's that product I was talking about. It is everywhere.

Adam Robinson: They say they're not doing that but like they're testing that.

James McKinney: Oh, 100%.

Adam Robinson: Like they're either doing that or they're figuring out if they can, and then they're going to weigh it against the PR risk.

James McKinney: And I'm completely okay with it. That's the thing, it's like I'm completely… hey, we were talking about this product, two days later I forgot about it, oh look it's in my feed, how about that. Like I love it. So I'm a big fan of what GetEmails is. I want to be part of the education process so hopefully my listeners found tremendous value in understanding the various laws around this and how it is 100% legal and legit, and it has been an incredible resource for The Startup Story in engaging our audience because the user expectation and behavior has changed from again, for those that may be aware of email 10 years ago now we want things in our email. We use email as a file cabinet for saving later for deals and offerings. It's a reminder of abandoned carts. It's a reminder of a podcast episode I want to listen to. Email is completely different use case than it was 10 years again and it is an incredibly valuable tool.

But as our time comes to an end unfortunately I want to make sure that I honor my listeners time with the three questions I ask every single founder. And your journey with us today has been spectacular so I'm anxious to get your insight on the first question, and that first question being do you think anybody can be an entrepreneur? Not do you think anybody wants to be one, but do you think anyone can be one?

Adam Robinson: I think that my answer is no, and I think probably it's not really about you can teach yourself to do a lot of things but like in the same way that I wouldn't go back and be a trader, there's certain temperaments that people have just innately, and I think if you have the wrong temperament, like you could do it and you could succeed even but you will be driven made. You will be driven insane by the volatility and the change and everything else. Some people are just not going to live a good life if that's the case, and I think that would probably even impede most people from succeeding in the first place because instead of doing what you need to do you're sitting there worrying and not even getting started. That's my personal opinion. It's more about temperament than anything else. Plenty of people are not that smart, whatever. You don't have to be a rocket scientist. I think you have to be good with people, you have to get people to buy into your vision, and then there's other strengths that different entrepreneurs have but can everybody do it? I think that temperament is a very important thing that it would help you if you were wired a certain way.

James McKinney: As you were talking, I just kept picturing Rocky Balboa. He knows how to box, he became the greatest boxer, not technically but because the man wouldn't quit in any of the Rocky's. He just wouldn't quit. And of course Rocky IV with Drago, he just took the beat down and kept getting back up and it's like man, that is entrepreneurship, absolutely is. So you are where you are today, not because of just your effort but because of the many people that have poured into you along your entrepreneurial journey. This question is about gratitude and identifying who are those people that you look back on with such immense gratitude for their contribution. And the reason I ask that question is there' this narrative around entrepreneurship that it's a solo journey. That it's just heads down, you against the world. And I think that narrative has some destructive elements to it, and I think if we begin to forget all the people that poured into us we'll begin to think we did it on our own and that isolation strengthens and ultimately can lead to our failure. So when you look back on your journey, who are all the people you look to with such immense gratitude for their contribution?

Adam Robinson: A lot of people say this but my parents were great. Just couldn't imagine a more beneficial for life place to grow up than the house they made. My girlfriend when I started my first company was incredibly supportive and she had a finance job so it was like we were living together, which I think having a second source of income was I could have done it by myself but it alleviated a lot of worst case scenario type of stuff. It helped me get my burn down a little bit.

There was a guy, and obviously this guy Neil Creighton who was the guy who showed us how to do the original thing and was just a great mentor the whole time in getting started, I almost didn't make something work that someone gave me basically the complete blueprint for. There might not have been any way on my first time that I could have made it work had I not had that. So that's just one of those things where I look back, I'm like oh my God, so thankful that happened.

Then a fourth person, this guy Steve Kincaid who invited me to the basketball game and when I quit finance he did not like the amount that I was partying and decided that I was going to have like a 30 year old early retirement, and was just like forget about the skills that you have, we're going to be working forever. Go get skills that will keep you busy for the next 50 years. Put that money that you have in some place where you can't get it. Just make some stupid investments even and take your perceived runway down by like three- quarters because you're useless was effectively the message.

James McKinney: I love it.

Adam Robinson: Yeah, but coming out of finance that's what people want to do. It's like I'm going to be so happy if I just sit on the beach and show other people that I'm not working.

James McKinney: Yep. Oh I love it. So last question as our time comes to an end. And we've been talking about your entrepreneurial story and GetEmails at a high level, speaking to 60,000 people plus. This is my give to my audience and that is this mentoring minute where I want to paint the scenario where it's just you and one of them. And whether it be the frustrated entrepreneur who maybe this is their second or third startup and there's a cemetery of failed startups in their past, and they're frustrated, lack of cash flow, traction, user acquisition, or maybe churn rate. Maybe it's the wantrepreneur. Maybe it's the one who's got a 9 to 5 and a book full of dreams and ideas, and they want to move on something but there's a narrative of I have a mortgage and I have kids, and I just can't go. Or maybe I'm 60 and I'm too old for this. Whatever it is they have created this limiting belief that they can't just move forward on something and try to execute, even on a side gig. Or maybe it's the defeated entrepreneur that because of COVID they just lost everything and they're not sure they want to do this again, even though they had something successful before COVID. Whoever, whatever persona resonates with you if you were having coffee with one of them what would you say to them as we close out your Startup Story episode?

Adam Robinson: So I try to say this to people very often. If you are starting your first company and maybe you raised some money from people because it's easy to do right now, maybe not, please read that YCombinator stuff about product market fit. Do not spend any money until you have it. And ask me as frequently as you want whether or not you have it, and I'll look at what you're doing and let you know. But read that stuff, and just that product market fit the upside to achieving it is so massive. Get that before you invest anything in this thing. Because I think that's probably the most, I made it, I think that's the most frequent mistake people make.

James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value Adam Robinson brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. And lastly, if you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. Well, Adam is allowing you to test GetEmails for absolutely free. Just visit getemails.com to sign up today. I'm telling you, it works. I've been using it for a few months and as long as you have the appropriate email automations, the conversion is remarkable so visit getemails.com and sign up for free today. Like always, we will include a link in our show notes for easy access. I say it in every episode because I believe it with my very being, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs so let's show up for Adam and visit getemails.com as a thank you for all the value he brought us today. And now for my personal ask.

The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.

These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly. I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to the show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.

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October 27 2020
Adam Robinson, founder of GetEmails

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