881: Startup Story: Greg Shepard, $985M eBay Acquisitions & Beyond
Welcome to the tank bloke writer podcast, your guy to future Tech Trends and innovation in a language. You understand now over to your host Neal Hughes. Welcome back to the tech law Reuter podcast. Not many people ask me Neil, what you recall, these podcast every day, and that are so many different reasons by doing and I'll be honest with you. I have seen and experienced a few things over the years that nobody should, and it really did wake me up on how precious and how fragile life can be because we're all here for a limited time. And I do often say, so many people sleep walking their way through life, placing limitations on themselves and convincing themselves to these too late for them to make any changes. And it took me until I hit four to find my way say if I can give a little bag and share inspirational stories of people scattered all over the world and beam. That message. All around the world to and help others fun their way improve that technology really dues were best when he brings people together. The not sure sounds like a good enough reason to publish these podcast everyday, and today's guest, Gregg Sheppard, and he's a season faction in building and ruining sustainable growth. Businesses is former company affiliate traction was acquired by EBay enterprise marketing solutions in January twenty sixteen and the following year. The company was rebranded Pepe. Gem joined a transaction earned them the prestigious tech deal of the year over two hundred and fifty million dollar award, as well as the private equity deal of the year award over five hundred million to one billion on the cross border deal of the year over five hundred million to one billion, and the amony deal of the year over five hundred million to one billion award, and that nine hundred eighty five million dollar deal. Comprised purchase. And sale of more than fourteen companies, including Atta showed another company founded by Greg and garnered while him an early spot among the elite in performance marketing, and all that is incredibly impressive. Bull is nowhere near as impressive as he's inspirational back story on also is outlook to life two and my interview with him today. Will honestly it will stay with me for a long time. And I hope if your stalled founder you're able to take a few valuable lessons from our conversation tonight, because that is pure gold hidden in that so book elope, and hold on tight as I beam. Your is all the way to California. So we can speak with Gregg Sheppard. So massive warm, welcome to the show. Can you tell the listeners a little about who you are? And what you do. Sure. My name is Greg shepherd, and I started as a entrepreneur done, you know twelve companies, then exited them. And then most notably. I built a company that sold to EBay, and then we had a crossword or transaction carve out from EBay that participated in where we fourteen companies all twelve. Another one of my companies in another company, and it was one, actually four private equity awards. It was a nine hundred twenty five million dollar transaction and magenta does actually, one of those companies. Wow. I mean, hate me twenty nine you a major Silicon Valley angel invest, invade. See hasn't always been that way. One of his involved you on the show today. He's on sharing inspirational starts stories, and from the world of tech, and how anybody listening listening can follow their dream and really make a difference. So can you share your story from humble? Beginnings to actually going on not only achieving success, but actually giving away three million dollars after your first big deal testing store and it really is. So I started my mom's nine thousand Greece. They left the church to take our kids and doing so they didn't have much money they really wanted to foster and adopts, I was raised in family of foster children. And then we were we have any money so, you know, I, I built my own businesses when I was a little kid, I used to sell remix cues and actually later on when we were in a pretty rough neighborhood and Oberland California. There was a lot of gangs and stuff, my momma, just the country and I will catch rattlesnakes solemness exotic pets to the pest or. And then the rows necks eight rats. So I bought two rast Radoman and started feeding him. So I can feed them the the product. It was a two sided platform, basically, is the rows Knicks. And the, and so, you know, I started building tech companies and build this one company and built it up and sold it. And like I said earlier, and it was really, really exciting. And it was a lot of people that really helped me, and so I gave away, three million dollars to, you know, to the people that work for me. And it was the most inspiring thing I'd ever done. And it was full of magic to why people pay off student loans, and put their kids through school by houses, and, you know, pay for their his way, and it was just it was magical is what it's all about how refreshing to hear that story being told and you have been incredibly inspirational journey, but in two thousand sixteen you so to you'll full companies to EBay and I think it was over nine hundred million. Dollars cross Brun Dale unav-, help twelve plus companies get quiet, but anybody listening at the beginning of their stole to journey that could be going through a bit of a tough time at the moment or, or China achieve funding of so many of stages of that journey. What advice would you pass down to that person? I would say, first of all, you know, I have I'm working on a Ted talk that I'm doing later, and I tell him you need a handful of things. And you're in the handful is, is Dr enthusiasm discipline and optimism. And those things I think are critical. That's one thing I would tell them the other thing, I would tell them I think is, and this is something that I always get into debates about with investors is that when you start building a business, you have to understand who your buyers and a lot of people don't do that. A lot of people say, oh, well, you know, I'm building a business, I don't need to know that was down the road. And I tell them I say, well, listen, if you don't have an ideal buyer profile in ninety. Customer profile and you don't know that, that ideal customer profile is the same ideal customer profile profiles, your buyer basket of June. A really bad situation. You've ma'am work under company for years. And it's not like you were going to company, build it up. And then you go find a buyer, you have to have the whole time you have to be creating a relationship doing partnerships and things like that. So I tell people, I'm like if you were to build a product, you would have customer in mind, you would be solving a problem for a customer will your whole company to good buyer to a strategic. Buyer is just a product to them, most of the time, they don't need your customers. Not the good strategic, you know, as good synergies they have customers, and they've already paid for them if the customer acquisition costs have been absorbed, so you're building a company and you make sure that your buyer in their buyers aligned, they see, acquiring you as an additional extension to their existing investment in their current. Customers, and your whole go to market strategies should be aligned with that. I see people raising capital. And I you know, in my own investments to where I say, they're like, I want to raise five million, and I'm like, well, why do you want to raise five million and they said, well, because I have go to market strategy that's three million. And I say, well, why what is your go to market strategy? Let's go. Going out. And Quiring customers will buy you're going to go on choir. All these customers will because I wanna have revenue we'll buy you need. Revenue is the buyer. That's buying your company buying your company because you'd have revenue because if they're a forty billion dollar company, or a ten million dollar company are one hundred million dollar company, and they're buying your company, and you're like you've got like two three million in revenue, or whatever it is, is insignificant to them. They don't care about that. Would they care about his growth, margin and retention grosses, people want to buy a product margin says you do it at scale and retention says people wanna hold onto your product? And attachment rate is when you have a buyer and you acquire some of their clients and show those three drivers on their clients on their current customers, and that's how you sell company. And so you have to start with that in mind, otherwise, raise capital, you don't need you burn, where he don't need. And by the time you turn around the now, I wanna sell my company, you're starting on that process net process takes a year two years. You know where you start working with their customers in, you prove rove, margin retention with their customers. And you show that over a period of twelve twenty four months, and then you go, and you set up a partnership with them, and then you take a little investment from them, and then they buy your company and that's the pattern that I've seen repeatedly. And I get into a lot of arguments with investors look at their track record. I'm like, what are your clothes, how many deals out of the ones that you invest in fail? And they're like nine out of ten and I'm like, well, I don't have mines twelve for twelve so there you go. Oh, that's a pretty good averages any of that. So, well, it was just about to ask, why do so many stall to struggle to get a quiet formula experience. Sounds like if I'm is because if not doing early work around growth, margin and retention and kind of skipping those steps, would you say I think it has to do with that. But I also think it has to do with them, not planning for the acquisition. Right. So, you know, when you if you're building a company that sells widgets, and you have a better widget and everybody else has or you have a bulk onto an existing engine existing widget. Then when you go out need to identify I calm, your ideal buyer profiles. So you go out and you find three to five companies that went by your company, and then you justify that acquisition by building user stories. So I am and I want to buy so that I can set. Right. And when you build that out, then you say, okay who are their customers, and what are their customers ideal profile? And then you go out and acquire their customers. So let's have a base, which is their total customer size and I'm just using random numbers all over here. But let's thousand customers and you say them, I'm going to acquire ten percent of your. You don't tell them this. But in your head you say I'm gonna choir ten percent of this abyss buyers customers. And then you get out of that ten percent. You get fifty percent you shown a fifty percent growth rate on their customers. That's tach -ment. Now, if you retain those for twelve to twenty four months, you're showing that you can retain them for twelve twenty four months. Now, if you show that you can scale, meaning you can actually, you know, do have margins increase in show economies of scale over time now you have the magic trio. Right. That trio on their base makes it. So why wouldn't they buy you've proven to that already that you're perfect acquisition for them? Does that make sense? Absolutely. Another thing that I. Read a was also think this, incredibly important to build relationships with potential buys, but making those relationships building those relationships very early on in the process. So can you tell me more about why so important an also what any good or bad examples, you could maybe share that would highlight that you all? All bad. I think, you know, with regards to the relationship, you know, one of the things outside of the actual numbers, you know, so you have growth, March retention and the assumed attachment rate, as, as value drivers for Virat electric company in value, the acquisition of your company, but the other thing is the culture fit Ryan. So this is in unsaid, but very, very real thing. So if you look at a lot of companies, where the company will out in by another company, or even looking at buying another company, there is a certain amount of time, where the two companies are trying to figure out whether or not they can work together. You know there's a culture there, the city haven't been company that's very corporate. And you have a startup as you know, a star up, you know, where people are a little more wild than, you know, the big company, people are a little more laxed, you know there under the umbrella, the big corporations startup. People are hustlers started. People get frustrated with the big company started people leave. Investment goes down the toilet. So and so forth. Right. Or the startup gets acquired and they lose their hunger. Because now they're you know, everybody fat happy and you know, they're, they're not as motivated to, to Bill, the new company. So, you know, this is these these situations are very common. And so, and it's an unsaid thing. So if you drop out and acquisition for a long time. So what I suggest that people say, look, if you want size, specialize in selling companies in twenty four to thirty six months. Right. That's my that's my game plan. So I pick up a company at a point where I think, I can make that happen, so usually usually when they have what I call marketing by validation, and that's dated by somebody buying their product. And then right at that point immediately at that point, I start figuring out the buyer profiles are and then you have your entrepreneur go out and and start building relationship through partnership. Hey, I'm so, and so you make the introduction. And you you're warming up to them. They're warming up to you. You're starting to work together and you show that, that you companies can work together for a period of twelve months or so. So you know the thing I tell on for north my glow. Let's say you work on your company for five years may not divide. Your you go. Okay. I'm ready to sell my company. So first of all, how do you know you're ready second of all what, what tells you, you're right, just because you decide you ready, like if you have no metrics and no buyer, you don't know how close you are to that, right? Second of all, that means that you're starting the process, right? That, right. Semi you're, you're starting to have that phone call with them. You starting to develop this relationship, and that works has to be done and that could take a year or more. Right. So you have to really you have to really start that it's, it's a big. It's a big relationship thing, even outside of the dry, even if the dryers lineup they still can set back and go, yes, not good fit. We just don't think it's good that, you know. So it's really really important. Unfunny. Entrepreneurs listening. How can I say to pivot focus to long-term exit planning, is any tips around that economic I do in Boston business operating support system book that I'm writing called meet the boss this what I call it I called the northstar. And so that was a shameless plug, by the way, sorry about that. You have a the northstar in I call it the north star because you can always see the northstar when people get lost, they have the north star, and I tell people if you are ready. Fire aim perces, ready, aim fire. I tell him if you're trying to cross the ocean. And you're one degree off on your company's. You're going to land on a different continent. So you have to know where you're going to constantly align yourself to that north star and you can change your north star, but you need to start with something. So I tell people the first you have to have is the what, so what is your business, and what is your product, and they need to be separate? So that's just description feature and benefit. And then you haven't why why should somebody by your company in? Why should somebody buy your product and that's problem solution an impact, and then you have the who and that's the ideal buyer profile, and the ideal customer profile, and then you have the win? Mrs also very important. You know, boss uses eight from x to y date. Algorithm. And a lot of a lot of the boss methodology. And that's because if you don't have date, it's like running a marathon without a finish line. Right. You lose the interest of your people. They know they're in a start up. You know, just your keep people, who's interested, you know, people stop running when there's no finish line. So you have to have that win now that win can change. But you need to say I'm going to accomplish this by this date. And then now after you have a win. You have to establish the how much and people always go crazy on this one. Right. The investors, and I don't know how much as much as I can get all the sort of thing, and I say to them, I say, listen, if you don't know how much then you don't know how much money you should take on. You don't know how close you are. And you don't know what can I dilution, you can take on and more than anything? You don't have alignment from the board. A lot of times I'll get deals that are cleanups. Right. So there's a misalignment with the board the company's off. They've been draining money, the investors, retire putting money in, and they'll send it over to me to work on. Right. And so when I work on this deal with I'll do is, I'll sit down and I'll have a conversation with the board or the management team. I and I'll say listen management team. What is your strategy, which is all those things, right? What why when how much and then all lying those things, so you go into the board meeting, and I had one of these other day during the year. Like look the fact of the matter is that in order for this company to exit in the next twelve to thirty six months, you're looking at fifteen million dollar exit. And, you know, the board comes on the go, what I thought this was going to be fifty million dollar exit. And I'm like, where did you get that from mega? Oh, we just thought we thought that and I was like, well, then you have misalignment right because they've been giving out money looking at the. Outside and they'd been looking at it incorrectly. So a lot of times valuations, you high because of that, and they can't take on money without doing down round or a lot of times. They're trying to build this company out, and there's just false expectations. And so this time cost of money is off. So they're like, yeah, I can't wait five years for this exodus. It's going to be fifty million. I thought it was going to be fifty million, so you know there's a lot of lineman there, and how close are you to that exit? Will you have to have a trending wine yet? Say well growth margin retention and attachment, my top, and bottom line revenue need to be at a certain place for us to be ready for next. Well, if you don't have those numbers, you don't know where you are in that marathon. What, what are you on? Right. You're are you halfway? I don't know. Are you on the sprint should you start running so companies by companies? If you look at it like a bell curve company in all companies have belco, right? They reach appeal. Peak, and then they dropped down the other side and companies wanna buy companies as low on the left of the curve as possible. But when it's really safe because they're looking for that upside tick. And that's where you get through value from a synergy, the, the attachment rate in that outside take that they're going to get over time. Gets you a higher multiple, which is bore basically looking forward in the future. So they're gonna pay you ten times revenue. That's ten times ten years of your Ramya looking forward. They need to validate purchases be valuable. Right. And they do that two ways. They do that by looking at the future of the company and how well it's going to do and those valid driver's growth margin retention. So that would be the advice out, give to an entrepreneurs zinc of that stuff ahead of time and really factor that in make sure you keep its like GPS. Right. I told you I'm like, if you're gonna go from your friend's house to somebody else's house, and you don't know where that other location is you don't have GPS you don't know where you are. You don't know where. To make a turn. You don't know how long it's been taking together you need to have a GPS from the point where you are to the point where you're accidents, tastic advice, not you did mention you've got a book coming outlet. So we've got to explore. So what can we expect from your book, and when he's actually GIO the book comes out the first quarter next year? It's called meet the boss. And so what I did is I spent the last twenty five years, you studying, and, and I think of it as an open source platform, I spent the last twenty five years studying all of the different process architectures out there, so six sigma, lean forty axe, OGSM, okay. Ours. You know lean agile Kanban everything that's out there. Right. And I've spent twenty five years, and I didn't just study them. I actually use them at companies in different stages, and in different functional areas and basically, I put different. Aspects of them all together to create sort of this unified program, which takes advantage of these different pieces, along the half along the journey of a business from the point that it's his exits idealization all the way out to the company has liquidity event. And so the book sort of outlines those steps, and it has stories I've done hundreds of interviews with investors on for Noor's angel incubated groups might reveal sees on yours at succeeded. Entrepreneurs that failed meaning there's a ton of data around this, and the, it's not just me. Right. I mean, I think of myself as somebody who has collected the data led the project. But the input is from a lot of, you know, subject matter experts in different focuses addressing this problem because you have a ninety percent failure rate from Toronto Newroz. Well, that's just unaccepta-. Rable. I mean, I've seen really good deals lose and really bad heels win. And it has to do with their ability to execute in most entrepreneurs don't have the experience, so you have to give them a framework. It's like bowling with guard rails, you know, and it's like you know, making sure that you're staying in the ropes all the time and you're, you're not coming off the rails, you know, with your business, and you're moving forward over time in boss was built for that my passion actually for that came from growing up without any money and looking at the economy's today and seeing this massive consolidation of wealth. And what I what I wanna do. And, and so this is what my passion is to have that consolidation of wealth exit two companies founded by entrepreneurs and that helps with wealth distribution right? It gives it to entrepreneurs because I've seen these entrepreneurs win. And you get these people that really deserve to win, and they've earned it in their, their humble and they they're very. Charitable, and they have a different level of appreciation, and those sort of people deserve to get that wealth distribution. That's my motivation for putting together, boss. Then you seem to keep yourself incredibly busy, 'cause I believe you've also tend to coming up as well. Tell me all about that. Where that's going to be, and what to expect from them. I'm I'm not sure exactly where I'm trying for LA. I'm the subject matter is overcoming obstacles. So the narrative has to do with a handful that I brought up earlier focus, Dr doozy disciplined and optimism and the idea is to help, you know, TED talks aren't just business. So it has to be more universal. But and I used it, you know, to run Mero, I've asna, right? And I've run a marathon, and I've rock line, the face of al-qaeda can, which is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world and. Namely, had done a lot of different things I could go on and on. You've got to give me a few bowl about. I wrestled a crocodile, I did bullfighting I grant I swam with great white sharks, and while they ratings seat, eating seals, which was absolutely terrifying. I've done a lose go down the ice. You know, in a lose bungee jumping, skydiving, hang gliding, parasailing, parrot lightning. You know, it just goes on and on it, it's a and I do one of these things area. Your this year. I'm gonna ride a six hundred miles on a bicycle last year. I decided I wanted to do. I wanted to dead lift five hundred pounds five times. So I spent a year doing this year before that it was a marathon. I did John Muir trail, which is two hundred miles and thirty mountains twice a climbed. Forty two fourteen thousand foot mountains. You know, so anyway, you get kinda getting silly now but the idea the testing. Go to next year's Llandough Paul, any of the big on your book list. You you're desperate to take off over the next couple of years. I, I want to go into space next year. Oh, so. Yeah. So I want to go outside of our atmosphere and look at that little blue line that makes earth happen and see the beautiful planet that we live on this, this spaceship that we live on all together from a distance. I'm very worldly. And I think of everybody has my brothers and sisters on this. Little this Little Rock floating around in space together. And I wanna see that from a distance nice beautiful really's, but just for a moment, only to bring it back down to earth, and the world of technology. And, and that's all the any trends in at tech will ecommerce that particular accelerate yet. So I spent a lot of years in Marquette at tech, and I think that there is a huge transition going on there. So you look at the if you look at that space it started out, you know, in the really starting to kick off in about the nineties and over time, you know, there was no analytics, there was no data tracking was very limited. Now we have this. Unbelievable amount of data and unbelievable amount of tracking, and in that space, I think that the data and the ability to analyze the data is a substantial problem. So, you know, you look at people making quite a bit of money that are analysts that look at data and the amount of data we have has created the drive towards you know, business intelligence tools. You know, business analytics tools in the sort of thing will those tools have so many different reports and so much data, it's impossible for somebody to really go through and get, you know, claret you know, they can have a whole bunch of screens, go back and forth. But really, I think that where that's going to move to is machine learning, I think that machines are gonna learn how to run a look at the data without having to pull reports in analytics and all that and follow the orders of the user to figure out what that data actually means and that's where things are going to. That's one thing, the other thing is, you know, the personal information privacy is really, you know, with GDP are and, you know, all the updates far near you go on and on. You know what we're looking at as you know, the day of your reckoning for lazy advertising. Right. So you have, you know, the idea of, you know, span before it was lazy, our ties ING and, you know, really most of the hour talent. The advertisements done is, is really lazy. And you know, people are getting tired of lazy advertise just because I looked at divers once doesn't mean I have a baby, you know, it doesn't example, right? It may be. My sister has a baby in my arm. You know. So you know, things are changing and moving more towards advertising requires a lot of effort. And so you see this with the influencers you know where people are actually putting an effort and people want to hear from other people not from machines. And so you here, you know, you see you to the growth in YouTube influencers, which is substantial company called TV page is doing an incredible job in that space. And then you see the influence or space for Twitter Instagram, excetera, it really, really growing people starting to realize the value of humans talking to other other humans like referrals. And so, I think that's something they grow botox and everybody talks about robotics. But I think robotics is, is another big, but I think the robotics that, we've used as far as for manufacturing, and I think, you know, the, the ease of human day to day stuff is where robotics, we're going to start to become more handy, and I don't mean really super advanced robots. I mean, intelligent machines that are connected to the IOT that make things a little easier run for your life. Now, the other thing I think is that universal single platform. Technologies are really big team all over the place. Right. So you have, you know, you're an average user, you have Skype and you have what's happened. You have chat. And you have, you know, all of these, you know, I mean, there's so many different J Facebook messengers, and all these things going on. There's so many different places for people to get a hold of you, and I think, more and more users starting to realize that there is so much out there that, you know, somebody has to consolidate this somehow into a single interface or people will just start to drop certain things. All right. So you see people go. Yeah. I don't use that. You know, I, I don't use this, this particular thing. I use this one and people didn't have to add it up. I mean I haven't whole screen get a gate dedicated to chats. You know, entire speech is built with different chats. So I think, you know, human communication digitally is a problem that has yet to be solved. I think that's you know, something that is a big deal. And then Lastly, I think. You know, people wanna understand their impact on the earth and two other individuals with day to day stuff. Right. So, you know, I think most people are starting to care more in light of some of the horrible political environments. We have going on, especially in the United States. Where people are starting to really say. Oh, man, we really have to pay attention to what's going on here, and so anything that starts to track. The true cost of things is going to be really important. So when you buy something, the price, you pay is not the true cost of something. So, for example, if you're using natural gas, or any form of fossil fuels the true cost of that product is not recognized because the most governments don't make the oil companies sector, etc. Pay for the drill a well, and then they'll fill it up with the dirty water that comes out of the oil that they pull out of it that water drains into water table and pollutes water. And, you know, five ten miles down the river, some native American Indian reservation now has fluted, water or some farm is getting polluted water, and that oil company can't be attached to that. So I think that there is a, a need with regards the manufacturing of different products. It's shipping. A lot of things that are going to start moving towards tracking where the true cost of things actually, is because you can't charge tax or any sort of a fee onto the true cost of products or services, unless you understand what they actually are. So that's I guess a handful of them. I got so many, I'm sorry. I'm talking about so long. Until well before I to let you go, could I ask to even everyone listening if weather confirmed that more information about you. When you coming out folio progress. Maybe catch your ten till. Until just in case anyone's any questions and the best way of reaching out to you too. Yes. So my, I'll give you my Email address my Email addresses, Greg. That's G R E G at drops and drop. This is my last name spoke backwards. It's a playoff dyslexic. DRA P, E H, S dot com. And that's my Email the websites going to be Gregory shepherd dot com and it's supposed to be coming live. I think this week, I haven't had a website for a long time because, you know, I all of the growth has been really fast. I mean I started talking. You know, publisher pick me up at at a conference, and then things started going crazy. Super fascinating realized that I things that I had to say were things that people wanted to listen to so. What I can honestly. Tell you it was eight hundred and seventy interviews just a handful stay with me. But I just know that your inspirational story from humble beginnings to giving away three million dollars and seeing the difference, you able to make to others will stay with me for the rest of my life as well. You'll look Villar fuel adventures and seeing everyone on this flight in rock in space, as you'll brother and sister, you really do speak, my language, so the best of luck for the book full the tattoo, we'll stay in touch, and I'll speak to you again soon. Hopefully, but thanks for coming on the show today as a true honor, and you so nights. I'm very humbled by I appreciate it. Obviously meant everything I said in out, try when I found, Greg to be completely inspirational and one of those guys I could just chat two hours. And I think the big thing that really will may over was his huge being Holt. And these Hiatt actually help others, not to mention he's list for life, an adventure because all those things together. That's my kind of language in the kind of things that motivate me to, and we did cover so much. Granted as example. Why startup struggled to get acquired the importance of building relationships with potential buyers early on have to craft the ideal customer profile, and the ideal a profile all wash down with some Tech Trends in the attack. An ecommerce space not to mention his book, meet the boss. The agile playbook for startups, which is coming out next year alongside with a tedtalk. I'm just gonna fading that. I'm going to be chatting with him again in the not-too-distant future. And I genuinely hope get to me in person and about life, the universe and everything over a few be as well. Not. But what did you think please share your so she all inserts or feel free to ask me, any question for a mailing me? Tech blog writer at outlook dot com. You can tweet me at nail. See houst- check out any of the eight hundred seventy plus interviews. We've had on this podcast over at my website. Tech blog ROY dot co dot U K but he's told them to leave rainy old England now. So I'm going to bet you all phone for. Well, I have no fear or will return tomorrow with another great guests. So thanks for listening is always until next tone dog bay strange. Thanks for listening to the tank global ROY support cost until next time. Remember technology is best when it brings people together.