Marcus Taylor started off working at one of the largest SEO agencies in the UK. However, it was his late-night website experiments that brought him out of the employment sphere and into becoming the CEO of a multimillion-dollar venture company.
Today, Marcus is the CEO of Venture Harbour and founder at Leadformly. He is also among the distinguished digital entrepreneurs celebrated in Forbes 30 under 30 list.
In this episode, Marcus discusses how his digital product company started and grew. He also shares the step-by-step processes and strategies that can help you grow a top-notch digital marketing company.
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Joe: 00:00:00 Hey everybody, it's Joe Troyer from digital triggers and show me the nuggets and welcome back to another episode. I'm super excited, super honored today to have Marcus Taylor here with us. And I'm excited because frankly, I don't think a lot of you guys know who Marcus is. And to be honest, I didn't until my team brought me to his attention and when I started going through his bio and everything that he's accomplished in his career, like guys, I was absolutely floored. So, uh, Marcus is the CEO of venture harbor and also founder at leadformly. He's a part of Forbes 30, under 30. Um, and, and he's built venture harbor into a million dollar multimillion dollar, uh, per pound portfolio of over 10 online businesses with absolutely zero outside funding. So man, congratulations. Like that's quite the freaking accomplishment.
Marcus: 00:00:56 Thank you. No, it's really exciting to be here on the show as well.
Joe: 00:01:01 Awesome, man. So for everybody that doesn't know you, can you give like the, the two minute, three minute like highest level, uh, kind of background catch up on you?
Marcus: 00:01:10 Sure. So, so I started coding websites when I was about 10 years old and, um, when I was kind of, so through my teenage years, I would just build adsense arbitrage websites. Um, and I came out of school, I didn't go to university and, um, was really, really fortunate to work, um, get a job at a SEO agency, um, with one of the top SEOs in the UK. A guy called Kevin Gibbons. And I learned so much from him working on these big SEO campaigns in the daytime. And I'd go home every night and just build these kind of experiments, build these websites to kind of figure out like, where's the line with Google? Like, what's, what's actually true and what's, where's the line between what the industry says? And so it got to a point after a few years where I was actually making more money from all these experiments I'd created in the evenings than my actual job.
Marcus: 00:02:05 And so I created venture harbor initially is just a holding company for some of these kinds of weird little experiments. And, um, and that's over time just evolved to where venture harbors today, which in a nutshell, we build a new online business every single day, every day, every year. And uh, we're not quite at that point, new a new one every year and we have this goal of completely automating it within 18 months. Um, and we have one rule, which is that each new venture we build must be more ambitious than the last one we built. That's the only rule. Besides that everything's game.
Joe: 00:02:43 Yeah, man, that's crazy. Uh, sounds like, uh, an entrepreneur's dream, right? Like 18 months to build it, prop it up, set it up, and then Kinda set it in the back and let the team run with it. Uh, that, that sounds like a dream come true.
Marcus: 00:02:56 Yeah, it's a n I should point out, very rarely do we actually managed completely automate it within 18 months. But that's kind of like, that's the goal. That's the thing we aspire to.
Joe: 00:03:07 Oh, 100%. So I'm, I'm curious about the shift you made from right. Going from agency and SEO to a digital product company. Right? Like did it really just happened by happenstance like that. Like you just kind of woke up one day and you're like, all right, well enough of these kinds of tests like you said, have turned into assets. And that was kind of, that was the turning point.
Marcus: 00:03:28 Well it was so it was kind of like this, um, this kind of this, this bell curve thing, right? Cause I, when I set up venture harbor, as I mentioned, it was initially, you know, this, this holding company for all these, these ventures, hence the name. Um, but when the consulting thing happened organically, because when people had seen what I built, they, they said, Marcus, can you, can you consult, can you help us figure out how you apply what you've done to that too for us. And so I'd naturally built up this, um, this portfolio of clients and it was all well and good, but then I hit this plateau. Like it was very hard to grow the revenue beyond a certain point. And you know, despite all the client wins, the, you know, there would be clients that obviously that projects came to an end.
Marcus: 00:04:16 And so I just hit this plateau, which was quite frustrating. And simultaneously I, you know, I, clients were great and all, but I always just wanted to get back into that creative mode of just, I just wanted to build stuff. We locked in a room for a day and just, just be able to create. So it was these two things that in parallel triggered me to kind of be like, okay, I just, I think in a, it also happened to be, I think they were like two clients that at the time were kind of just really frustrating, really. Um, you know, and he goes, yeah, it was just kind of like, okay, enough's enough. This is, this is not where I want to be. I want to be back in product mode. And so that for me was just like, okay, fine, like build up the, the product stuff so that the revenue is not kind of, it's not this huge leap. And then it came to a certain point where I just stopped trying to get new clients coming on board. And then eventually when the last client, when we just switched over to product.
Joe: 00:05:14 Okay. So what were the, when you look at that transition time, what were like kind of the, the, the keys there? What were the key challenges?
Marcus: 00:05:23 I think there was a lot of doubt around, uh, in, so in theory, um, what was in the back of my mind is, you know, the, the agency consulting model that was, you know, there's clear exchange of time for money, right? Like if I were to stay late, I would have to detach my kind of what they brought to the business from a knowledge perspective and then a scale of the team, which was something that was just very challenging for me. Um, and so the theory was, you know, with a product, I can just build a product and make it great and then it's, it's almost infinitely scalable. And so there was a lot of doubt for me around, that's fine in theory, but is it true in practice? Yeah. Am I practically going to be able to be able to build a product that I can scale, um, much faster than I can scale consulting. Luckily, it turned out to be true, but there was this kind of six to 12 month window where the products were not growing as fast as the consulting. And so it was just that kind of like, should I, should I bring on a few consulting clients to push the revenue back up again?
Joe: 00:06:28 I think it's such an interesting conversation because I think that so many people go through this. I feel like I'm, and it doesn't really get talked about a lot, right? People, people start running an agency business or a consultant business or a social media marketing business, whatever you want to call it, right? Um, and they're helping other, other people and at the end of the day, they view it as kind of a means to an end, right? It's like, let me, in the meantime, let me focus on this affiliate website. I'll let me focus on this product or service that I'm building. And it's like, it's like they're working on the, the bigger goal or the bigger dream. Um, and so, uh, just to see you make that, that transfer in that shift is interesting and to be able to kind of dissect it a little bit, um, is something that I think that I personally haven't ever seen done on a podcast.
Joe: 00:07:16 So this is cool. Um, so if I were in your shoes, right, being an agency and only having an agency, let's say, which isn't the case, but let's just pretend, um, what, how would you recommend to me like to make the switch, right? Like if you had to tell me like, Joe, like, you know, I'm a, B, c and d are the core components. Like make sure that like looking back, if I would've just done it like this, it would've been so much easier. Like what would, what advice would you give me Marcus?
Marcus: 00:07:45 I think it's, you've got a really, um, I mean, what we did was fortunately, like we're not killing it so much as an agency that, um, in a weird way, this is good. Like we were, we were not like, you know, this really high growth agency so we could, we could sort of allocate a reasonable amount of time to building up the products. And I think that's the key. It's like you've got to, I know like so many agencies tried to do this and you know, with all the best intentions, they kind of start treating this, this side project as like a client and scheduling x many hours a week to work on it. Um, but you've got it, you've got a really kind of be disciplined with that. You've got to kind of, um, you know, it's going to take a certain amount of time, effort, resource.
Marcus: 00:08:39 And so, I mean if I was going through that again, I would, I would almost hope that I wasn't, the agency wasn't rapidly growing and to, to kind of make it an easier, um, transition because it's also recognizing like the first year or two like that venture is probably not going to be, it's probably not going to be that impressive, um, impact wise and revenue wise compared to the consulting side. So you kind of have to be okay with that and realize like this is a three to five year play. Like this is going to be like your biggest client in three to five years, but the next two years you have to treat it like it's going to be impactful despite it not looking like that on your, on your accounts.
Joe: 00:09:22 Yeah. Yeah. That's a great tip. Um, and just for some context, I guess like for me, when I got started actually with my agency, uh, and in doing services for clients, like it was a means to an end. Like when I got started it was like, let me, let me use this to learn and to figure things out and much like you to figure out what would work in Google and what would it, and when I build a website, what were the tricks, what, you know, what do I do this stuff myself. And very quickly I got wrapped up in that agency business. But you know, I was, I was playing with e- comm before e-comm was cool and Shopify existed before the huge craze, right. Um, and was lucky enough to, to build some, some, uh, some ecom businesses and, and sell them and move on.
Joe: 00:10:05 Um, but it was always a means to an end. Um, and I think that that key, like what you just said, that having the time investment available and not being too busy, um, and being able to dedicate effort and resources and, and really like counting on the long term. Like I can definitely say that that really, really helped me. Looking back, um, I wasn't too busy like my team could run it, could manage it. Um, we invested time and effort and resources into it and probably for about two years before it really did anything. Um, and then I was lucky enough to be able to kind of exit and duck out of it and move on to the next project. That was kind of over it, a stocking
inventory and all the complexities of e-comm started to really show their, uh, their ugly head. So I was thankful to move on. So That's interesting. Yeah, I think that, um, planning for it to be your biggest client was a big takeaway for what, you know, what you just said. And that's definitely how I treated it. Like it. Got It. Got The lion's share of the love, not like the clients. Right. Cause the clients for me were just going to means to an end. So That's interesting.
Marcus: 00:11:10 Yeah. So any of the, sorry, the, the other thing that I've, I've seen 'em work work quite well is like if, if the venture is like this force multiplier for the client work. Um, so like a really nice example I think like in the UK here is like Distilled created like the ODN optimization delivery network software and that's like, you know, can charge silly amounts for this. Um, SEO AB testing software. I think Eric Siu, um, Single Grain in the U.S. He's got click flow. Like that's really interesting. An interesting model as well because it's like they can take an SEO service, which I would imagine is kind of, you know, anywhere from like three files on to $8,000 a month as a retainer service. But then with this software that they've built, you know, I would imagine they can charge double, triple, um, with that. So that's another interesting approach that I quite like is like what piece of software can be a force multiplier on the consulting and then you can just eventually switch to just the software.
Joe: 00:12:12 Yeah. So one of the things I always tell people is like, what's the leverage for the next play right, that you have right now that you're not thinking about. But I actually really liked the force multiplier kind of angle. Um, I think it's a more creative type of word, um, so to speak. Um, and for a lot of people, I give the example, I have a, I have a client and really close friend of mine that played in the chiropractor space as a digital marketer agency for a long time, many years, um, help them run like really successful campaigns. Um, and the, the entire time he was building his Facebook Pixel himself too. So then, you know, he, he forced multiplied or, or leverage that into building an ecommerce store for people with bad backs. Right. And selling back braces and all kinds of things. Right. But he leveraged the pixel that he had built over years of working with all these chiropractors that were treating people with bad backs.
Marcus: 00:13:08 That's smart. That's clever.
Joe: 00:13:11 So, um, so I think that, that, that makes a whole lot of sense. Yeah. I mean, ultimately, um, I do a lot of kind of what you said, like Eric Siu, um, and distilled. Um, ultimately at the end of the day, I take a lot of the systems and processes, um, that we have in the local agency, you know, building backlinks, things like that, and build them up into slps and into software. And then I sell those. Um, and it helps me not only, like you said, kind of sell the product for more, um, but it really gets my cost of goods to be in a completely different dimension where people can't compete with me. Right? Like, even if I wasn't going to charge more money, um, my, my cost of goods on my service business just went from, you know, 50% to, you know, 10% or 15%. Uh, and just realizing that profit margin differences is crazy for a business.
Marcus: 00:14:03 Yeah. It's effectively what, like, you know, you're adding an extra 40, I guess like put another way, how, what would you have to do to kind of grow an extra 40% on your profit? Yeah. Through acquisition or like, it's an insane increase just from this kind of competitive advantages
Joe: 00:14:21 for sure. Yeah. That's very interesting. So any other kind of keys that you would look at or things that you would think about kind of looking back?
Marcus: 00:14:31 Um, I think like from a, from a sort of a tactical or strategic perspective, I think that's, that's really it. It's just, it's managing that transition process. Um, there's a, there's sort of two angles to it, right? Like there's the, there's the sort of the operational, you know, keeping the revenue at a point where that, that sort of, you know, you're not going into this deep dive and taking all this risk in, during that transition. But then there's also the sort of the emotional, psychological side of, um, they're very intellect. Like, I think, you know, if you're seeing your revenue dive, it's going to be very difficult for you to go home feeling fantastic and like this is the right thing. So I think it's, it's really sort of balancing those two. Um, and yeah, just sort of getting that transition right.
Joe: 00:15:18 Yeah. That, that's a really good point. Um, so much of business is based upon emotions and how you feel right from day to day and that's gonna that's gonna drive you or not drive you and help you make your decisions or not make decisions. And if your PNL so to speak is looking like crap, um, because you're investing all your resources and aren't going after new business. Right. That could potentially be a big catch 22. So, um, so I guess how would you fight that, I guess? Um, strategically I guess try and get your books looking a little bit better, right. Have a little bit more profit in the business without having to sacrifice too much time on the, the other project, right? You're your biggest client so to speak, which is yourself.
Marcus: 00:16:03 Yeah, definitely. And, um, I mean something that we, we do a little bit more, um, now, um, but also kind of relates to to the sort of the Distilled or Eric Siu's approach is most of the ventures that we create now are things that we want for ourselves. Like things that internally, even if no one else buys them, if this doesn't become a product per se, it's still something that makes sense for us to build for ourselves. Um, and so that massively reduces the risk of our R and d. Um, because it's like, well, we should just build this anyway, this is, this is a useful, like we recently built a, um, kind of like a ab testing scheduling tool and it was just, cause I, you know, if we, if we have this tool, it's going to save us so much time, so much kind of like gives us a huge competitive advantage and you know, it's going to cost us, you know, what, like one developer working a couple of months, it's not a huge investment and it'll pay itself back even if no one else wants it. But then as it turned out, we started to tell people that we were doing this and everyone was like, oh, like we have to have that, that that solves our problem. So it's kind of like this nice way of like building products. It's just like solve your own problems. Um, that reduces the risk of the, the R and D and then if it turns out other people want it, then great.
Joe: 00:17:28 So that's really interesting. I feel like very early on in my career I was very, I'm very, for what you, what you just said, I feel like as time goes on, I shy away from those things personally because I feel like I'm longterm maintenance and upkeep and brainpower for me in those projects stay so high. Just long term that I'm just like, yeah, let me just pay for a solution instead. Thoughts on that, I guess, right? Like building something for yourself versus just saying, yeah, screw it. I'll just go use one of the other Ab testers out there. How do you draw the line, I guess?
Marcus: 00:18:06 I think. I think that if there's, if there's something out there that does like exactly what, what you want, then I absolutely like it rarely makes sense to build it yourself because as you say, like, it seems so simple. Like, you know, this many entrepreneurs like me who are like, Oh yeah, like I'm going to build my own CRM, I've got my own automation system and you know, rather than paying Zapier, let's just build our own. And it's not factoring in the fact that like the maintenance, the security patches and all the other stuff that comes with that. Um, but the difference for me is if, if, if I can't, if there's not a solution out there already that does what I want, and I think it's kind of, there's a value in me piecing that together, um, then, then that's where I'd build it.
Marcus: 00:18:57 So the latest example for us is, so the most recent venture we've created, um, serene is, um, so like the problem that we kind of had and the reason why we built it was, um, we, you know, we were all struggling here to, to focus and get stuff done. And I, it got to a point where it was, it was silly. I downloaded like freedom to do like website blocking. I have apps for app blocking, I had brain FM for focus music, I had keyboard maestro to set up all these macros. So when I press command S triggered all this stuff and fire zaps to my phone to put it on airplane mode. And I was so proud of this and it was like, this is amazing. Like I can now just like press a button and all of this stuff happens. We even had these like Phillip use strip lights on our desks that flat like went red when we were pressing command S to tell everyone in the office like, I'm working, don't distract me.
Marcus: 00:19:53 And, um, and it just kind of dawned on me, it's like, no, no one has built this and yet this is so valuable. Like I'm getting so much more done and so much focused. So that was an instance where we said, okay, it's like let's just go and build that. Yeah. Because it would help. It would be really great for us. We've already kind of built a hacked together version anyway and proof that it's nice. And then just by telling other people we're like, this is what we've built. Or they'd come into the office and see it and they're like, wow, that's really cool. That's kind of how I like to sort of approach the r and d side now is like, but there was, I think the key difference, to answer your question is there was no, there was lots of solutions for pieces of the problem, but no one had kind of connected all those dots together. So that was kind of where we came into credit product.
Joe: 00:20:37 Gotcha. So on the, the split testing one, I'm curious like on that product, did you look at it and you said like, this is going to have like this effect on my business and you kind of played out the numbers and so it was like, alright, great. Um, because it seems like right on like the time management one kind of effectiveness one, so to speak. Um, the other one that you were just talking about, like that's like a disruptor potentially, right? That's not like something that you're going to drop in your business and you're going to get, I mean, you're going to get results because you're more effective, but you're not going to see like dollars and cents out the other side. Like AB split testing. Like for me, those are two very different types of businesses. Right. Um, so I'm curious like, do you view them as those two different types of business and do you have any type of criteria or it's just like whatever comes along and we think it's a great idea we just kind of run with?
Marcus: 00:21:32 Okay. So there's, there's so two categories for us. Like we've got, we've got ventures, which is like the example I just shared. Like Serene is very much a disruptive, it's a completely new venture and then leadformly yet fall in that category, so on and so forth. Then our kind of competitive advantage is that we then we'll also buy, invest and build technology that sits above the venture level that can be applied across all the ventures to give each venture a competitive advantage. So the AB testing software is an example of something where we, we said if we had this across, you know, all nine 10 ventures, that's going to make all of those ventures a little bit harder to compete with. Um, and so, and like the, the specific problem we were solving was um, ab testing scheduling. So we found that tons of tools out there, you know, allow you to kind of set up ab tests.
Marcus: 00:22:32 But what we were trying to do is we wanted to set up ab tests for the next like five years and to have like a, an intelligent like multi armed bandit system that just said, okay, like when this test finishes, we want to find the next best alternative. And there weren't many good tools for doing that. And so it's with our whole kind of focus around we want to automate the, not just the running of the ventures, but the growth of the ventures having an ab testing, scheduling software allowed us to kind of like automatically optimize campaigns over time, but without any human intervention.
Joe: 00:23:08 Yeah. Yeah. That makes a whole lot of sense. Okay. So you got the, the two categories, um, how much time would you say you're, you're working on like brand new tools versus things that kind of help the other businesses that you are software that you already have?
Marcus: 00:23:26 Okay, so the, the ratio that we use, um, we tried to model it off of, uh, what Google, Google use, which is 70, 20,10. So 70% of our time is growing the existing portfolio. But that 20% of the time is working on like the most recent ventures or the ones that are going to be that, the biggest ones in, in three to five years time. And then on the time it's kind of just pure r and d playing with ideas, um, moonshots for, you know, to pinch a very googly term. Um, but that's the sort of ratio and we said we'll, like, everyone interprets that differently, but we'll make sure our, um, our budget is roughly allocated to a 70:20:10 ratio. And like I for example, like schedule my time is like out of the, you know, 10 working days, seven will be on existing ventures 2 on the latest venture and then one day every two weeks.
Joe: 00:24:18 Okay, cool. So when you think about, when you think about the, the businesses that you, that you've built inside of venture harbor, um, what do you think are the differences between kind of those businesses and an agency and or, or digital products company with regards to like client acquisition for example. Like, we hit on this a little bit earlier, but it's like, you know, you, you gotta build a longer ramp time, you're obviously not making as much per customer, but, um, w in your mind, what do you think are the differences?
Marcus: 00:24:53 I think there's one, there's one big difference, which is that we've a product company, um, the marketing is very much focused around how do I get, how do I get a hundred new customers today or thousand new customers today? Whereas we an agency, it's how do I get one new customer? So that completely changes how you think about acquisition. And I would love to, I would, I think there's a lot of benefits of actually swapping those around and having, you know, if you're running an agency, thinking about how would I get a hundred new customers this month or a thousand new customers and vice versa for a product company to think, well, what would be like the perfect system to just get one person on board and make that perfect? So it's neither one is right things. But the difference in acquisition for us, it's like we rarely think about, you know, like I don't really speak at conferences.
Marcus: 00:25:43 We don't really do any kind of like campaigns per se. Like nothing that's sort of like, you know, spike and then nothing. Everything we do is this sort of like stackable passive saying like we'll, we'll implement a marketing channel that we expect to kind of perform for the next two, three, five years. And then we stack things on top of that so that the acquisition is cumulative. Whereas with an agency, I think it's very much kind of like, how do we just get the next one, the next one, the next one, the next one, and make that kind of growth outweigh the, the clients dropping off.
Joe: 00:26:18 Yeah. Yeah. I think the, that makes a lot of sense. So when, when you think about then in terms of like retaining clients and keeping them long term, it's really the same. Um, I would think. Um, and you're just working one to many versus one on one to talk to try to retain the clients. Right. Um, any thoughts kind of on other key differences between, again, you know, the agency model that you started in and kind of the digital product that you're in now in terms of retaining clients?
Marcus: 00:26:47 I think one thing that we, um, that we sort of learned, particularly with leadformly actually, which is like a marketing SAAS tool that we built, is we made a decision early on to, to not work with enterprise companies, um, largely for that reason. So we found that like enterprise companies just like we, the retention and maintenance and management of those accounts was just, it just didn't make sense for a product company like, like us because we'd have to exchange so much time to just managing that and bespoking our software. Um, so that, that was kinda like an interesting thing. Like we, our kind of goal is like, we don't really speak to customers too much. We don't really, you know, across our ventures we reached something like eight, 9 million people a year. And so there's, there's just feasibly no way that we can, um, jump on Skype calls with customers and take them out for lunch. Like, it has to be very, you know, we still aspire to have a really good customer experience, but it's, you know, we have to be quite mindful about that.
Joe: 00:27:50 Yeah. It's gotta be low touch. Um, yeah, I, I've, I've kinda messed up frankly in that in the past. Um, I had a software company that, uh, grateful enough again to sell. Um, but the, uh, the thing was, is like we just, we oh way over delivered on support, which was great when we started, but like scaling and that is a big problem. Um, it became way too big of a cost. Um, and we were trying to do the right thing and, and be great for people, but like ultimately we spent way too much time and effort and money in the support department, um, hand holding and getting on Skype calls and everything else for, um, uh, uh, a fee that didn't make sense in terms of pricing. We were kind of like, we're like a bring your own account, like bring your own Twillio account type of platform. And so like, we just made a flat fee. And so even if we help people use the crap out of the product and get great results, like we didn't make any more money. Um, and so yeah, you gotta you gotta be careful on that side. That's a good tip for sure.
Marcus: 00:28:55 Yeah. Yeah, it's very easy to, um, I mean it's, it seems exciting, like when we have these big enterprise companies come to us, it's like, oh, what? Like it's such a, a validation thing and we're like, wow. And like they're going pay lots of money, but then if you actually look at like the, the profit on those accounts, it's next to nothing because there's so, you know, stacks of papers like this of like, okay, you've got to like go through all our security and integration guidelines. You're like, I've need to hire a person just to look after you.
Joe: 00:29:23 Exactly. Exactly. All right. Awesome. So, um, we talked a lot about how you come up with ideas for new products. Um, like are you, are you at this stage where you, you have kind of a backlog so to speak, and when it's like, all right, you know, in 18 months we got to start another one, or in 12 months, we got to start another one. And you're kind of always evaluating at this point what you're going to build and, and why. It seemed a little haphazard when you said you just built this apps company, right? Like, but I, I'm guessing with you and your background and, and our conversation so far, it wasn't haphazard at all. Right? Like you've been thinking about this for a while.
Marcus: 00:30:05 Yeah. So it's, it's, um, so we do have a backlog of ideas. Um, generally though, like if something is not, like if something goes into a backlog, it's like not, it's already, yeah. It's, it's kind of, um, I'd say the most successful ventures tend to just be things that fall into like, we need to build back for something else anyway. Yeah. But we do, we do try to, there's a few things we do to kind of like systemize the sort of the innovation aspects of what we do. So one is, um, so we take everyone on the team in the core team at least a way to like an airbnb twice a year for about four days. And you know, on those, we run like one day hackathons and, um, generally we come away with have like a prototype for something that could be a new venture from those.
Marcus: 00:30:55 So that's something we do to kind of just like make sure that we're always, you know, we never get so busy or, um, focusing on like growing ventures that we don't do that. Another is the 70, 20,10 approach that makes sure, like everyone's kind of doing a little bit of r and d. Um, but then the other, the other thing we do is like, we have our backlog, we, we've created over the years this like, I think it's like three, four page checklist now or how we evaluate venture ideas. So this is, I think it started off as being largely inspired by, uh, Verne Harnish's like scaling up, um, one page strategic plan. Um, yeah, it was kind of thing. And just over time we sort of like every time we read a good book, you know, like Peter Thiel zero to one and I like anything that's like good for like evaluating is this not just a good idea but a good business idea?
Marcus: 00:31:49 We'll kind of pinch those questions or concepts and just add it to our checklist. And now it's like, after several years of doing that, our sort of new venture checklist is, it's pretty brutal and it's, it's very difficult to get an idea through it. So it's like when we do get an idea that ticks all the boxes and gets through it and we know like, okay, this is something that we should, um, definitely go ahead with. And I think because we've got at a budget perspective, um, we, we aim for what's about 20% of our revenue per year into, uh, innovation and new projects. It's kind of like we've got this, um, this, this pot of money is, we'll sign to that every year. And it's kind of like we, we as far as I'm concerned, like we have to spend that money to say rather than, so it's, it's sort of, that makes it a lot easier. It's not there or like I've had this good idea, now I've got to think about the money. It's like the money is there now I've got enough to come up with the ideas that justify spending time.
Joe: 00:32:49 Awesome. Yeah. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Um, looking at your team now, what, what's kind of the makeup of, of your team? Like how much, how many people are developers? Like what do you have in terms of marketers or could you break down kind of high level what your team looks like?
Marcus: 00:33:04 Sure. So, so the, the core team is very, very small. So there's, uh, five of those going on six. Um, so on the core team we have myself a CTO backend, like had a backend developer, had a front, and then we have a marketing marketing manager, um, um, and a head of product who kind of manages the overall development across the ventures. Um, so that's like the core team who are largely involved in all of the ventures. And then we then have sort of these, these hubs of developers and marketers. Um, which is is elastic, it kind of we scale up and down depending on what's relevant, what the kind of quarterly goals look like. So it really depends. I think at the moment we've got something like 27, uh, external people, um, which is mostly developers or Dev ops or QA, like mostly development focused. Okay.
Joe: 00:34:02 So when when you run one of these products and it doesn't go well, is it like, all right just back to the drawing board or do you like, do you ever can the project or is it just like, hey, like at least it's going to work for us and it's going to be a cool side project? Or like if, if, if it doesn't go well, I guess what, what's your train of thought or how do you proceed from there? Like, because I mean, I'm sure you've been there, right? Like, this is going to be great and then you're like, yeah, this sucks. Like, yeah, the development didn't nail it on the head or we're not quite there. The market doesn't really want it or, right. Like I've been there firsthand, right? Like I've had to, uh, I've had to, uh, delete a product so to speak and, and drop it. Um, so I'm just curious kind of your thoughts on that side of things.
Marcus: 00:34:44 Yeah. So it's very, um, it's very kind of varies case by case depending on the, sort of, the type of, the type of lack of success. So, yeah, I mean, two examples, um, to kind of illustrate like the different approaches. I think three years ago we created a, one of the ventures with like a, um, website hosting insider. Like it was like, uh, we have a lot of success with like a financial comparison site, uh, CRM comparison site too. So we were like, okay, like we sort of know this model works, let's apply to the web hosting space. And the thing just completely flopped, like it just did not work. Um, we had just not accounted for like how hard it would be to compete in that space, um, despite having kind of done it in the forex space. So we were kind of like, you know, quite, I wouldn't say cocky, but we are like, well, you know, if we do this in the forex space, like web hosting is fine.
Marcus: 00:35:42 Um, and yeah, it just completely flopped. And I think within a year we've just like, nope, we're not going to put any more like development time into this. We're not going to waste our time. Let's just forget this ever happened and move on to the next thing. So that's the worst case scenario is that there's kind of like, we just Kinda, and just say, this is, this is not worth it. Um, a slightly more interesting one is, um, so like with leadformly. Leadformly was not as successful as we expected it to be, but it's, it's still actively running as venture. We still have a development team actively behind it. Um, but we weren't, the MRR growth was not as strong as we had hoped for, but it's still, you know, still a profitable venture. It's a meaningful part of our portfolio. It's just yet, it's not the sort of way we had expected it to be, you know, this, this kind of big venture that represents where our growth is gonna come from. It turned out to just be kind of like the supporting venture that, you know, it's great. So it's a really great product and we use it ourselves and it's, um, it's got a kind of quite a niche, um, group of customers that love it, but it's not this kind of like transformative, you know, the next whatever, like it's not, it's not kind of taking that side.
Joe: 00:36:56 Yep. So, um, when, when something goes well, like Leadformly but doesn't quite have the MRR growth. Um, I guess like for me, My, my entrepreneur ADD brain would be like, this is great. Let me get to a point where like it's systematically growing and then like, let me get rid of it at the right time. Right. Because I should be focusing on things that kind of, that explosion of MRR growth. Right. But you have definitely more of a, of a mindset of a portfolio so to speak. Right? Yeah. Thoughts on how you like keep that going day to day and like you aren't like trimming your portfolio or like, hey, like this venture is obviously not doing as well as the others or um, I guess thoughts on that side. I think you view it very differently than I would. And so I'm curious. I think like, um, I think my tendency would be to like constantly be like, you know, trimming, trimming things. They're like, yeah, this one's good but not what I wanted. Let's get rid of it onto the next.
Marcus: 00:38:09 Yeah. So, I mean we, so we have a kind of a, a rough goal of creates an event for every year. So one every three years is the sort of rough ratio. So the portfolio is always kind of growing on average, but we are, we are trimming it. Um, but there's no, um, I guess the way like it's, it's very important for us to have nice cash flow and to be cash positive because that also changes our r and d budget. So often like me for me is quite interesting because it's, you know, we can sort of systemize it. It's not, it's not this like a normal, you know, crazy explosive growth, but it does sort of keep the pot of, um, you know, cash topped up so that when we are located at 20% of r and d, it's like that number is going to be a bit higher. And so we can maybe be a bit more ambitious, a bit more aggressive with the, the new ventures that we do expect to be.
Joe: 00:39:06 Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. Um, so you, you talked a little bit about kind of driving traffic. I'm curious since you, since you guys are in all of these different verticals with all these different types of products, really, how are you driving traffic like, because there's isn't that changing kind of, um, from, from product to product to product? I think half of the battle is just cracking the, the, the traffic and conversion strategy, so to speech, so to speak for each of them.
Marcus: 00:39:38 Yeah. So the sort of, the common thread is we, we tend to lean quite heavily on SEO and content marketing. That's definitely a kind of an area where I'm, I mean, coming from my background, that's sort of what I was doing. Um, and it's, it's got easier over time in a way because with each venture roughly, the ventures are all kind of serving with a few exceptions. They're all kind of serving roughly the same audience. So generally entrepreneurs, digital marketers, even, even like the latest one, like serene, even though it's kind of productivity, it's the people that's like that. You know, most of those are entrepreneurs. So, you know, we're at a point now where across all the different ventures, um, we have an audience of, of sort of eight and 9 million people a year. Um, like the venture harbor blog is very active and so we have a lot of people through that.
Marcus: 00:40:34 So that's, that's generally like the first sort of how we get the initial traction is using our, leveraging the existing audience that we've built. And that's a big consideration when we launch the ventures. How, how easy is it going to be for us to, um, for this to be of interest to our existing audience. And then from there we tried to kind of then your, those stackable acquisition channels. Um, PPC is something that we're, when we've, we've never really cracked and it's insane because it's like, it makes so much sense for our, our model. But that's the next big challenge
for us is creating the sort of the PPC side. Um, but yeah, it's, today's been mostly SEO and content.
Joe: 00:41:17 Okay. So, um, I'm curious then. So, so venture harbor, obviously you have all of the audience, so to speak, kind of all following venture harbor. So if somebody comes in and they buy leadformly, I'm assuming, you know, in the first week, the first two weeks, the first month at some point, right? Like I'm going to get it introduction to you and to, uh, and to the parent company, right?
Marcus: 00:41:40 Yeah. Yeah. So some more so than others, but generally, um, yeah, we'll sort of, uh, yeah, that will be kind of touch points, go to different benches.
Joe: 00:41:50 And so then when you launch something new, obviously you, you bring something out new, then you are able to kind of push from venture harbor or any of the other brands to the, the, the new opportunity or the, the new release.
Marcus: 00:42:05 Yeah. Yeah. So like the, the model that we, um, kind of aspire to and, and really kind of look up to is, is that last year, um, so last year in like, you know, they've got Trello, Jira, bitbucket, bamboo, like, and, and it's kind of amazing cause like if you use Jira, it's like very integrated with Trello. And bitbucket and it, these are all like fundamentally different products, but it feels very integrated. And so that's kind of where we're looking to kind of head.
Joe: 00:42:35 Okay. Yeah, that's interesting. I mean, when I look at my business, I think it's very similar, um, in, in some ways like, uh, my main brand is digital triggers, but then I'll release software out of the digital triggers brand. But ultimately the goal is to get each of them to kind of live on their own outside of the brand and be able to be marketed outside of the brand. So it's not just me and my face, you know, that, that the company is leaning on. Right. But yeah, kind of strategically the, the team as well. So, um, definitely I'd say we've, uh, got down the process for, um, for that initial rollout. And we do like the launches really well in the, the affiliate game really well for somebody like me. Um, the content, it sounds like an SEO then for the individual ventures is probably where you would spend your time next. Is that right?
Marcus: 00:43:29 Definitely.
Joe: 00:43:31 Okay. And so if you had to tell me how to, how to go about the SEO and, and content for those ventures, like what would you say is like, what's worked for you guys or what hasn't, where would you tell me to spend my time or effort?
Marcus: 00:43:44 Okay. There. So there's like two broad strategies that that I love and um, generally I would say that they're just as effective today as they were like six, seven years ago when we started using them. One is, is just like spend, so like 10 x content. Like we'll spend generally like our general rule of thumb is like if we're going to spend less than 40 hours on this piece of content, it's, it's someone's going to beat it. Eventually someone's going to be like, yeah, like let's pay our agency to like make this a little bit better and our rank as skyscraper, all that stuff. So generally we're kind of like, how do we make this 10 times better than the next best piece of content on the Internet? And that makes it very, very economically difficult for anyone's compete with that piece of content work.
Marcus: 00:44:37 If, if we're going after something very competitive, like if we want to rank number one for like marketing software or forex brokers or something like very competitive, that would be generally the approach we take. The other strategy that, um, has worked very, very well for us over the years and it's, it's harder to get right tactically is like massively scaled automated content. Now that sounds like, you know, I'm sure anyone with a remote background in SEO, you know, has, has, you know, going up on the, on the back, like it's, this is why it's important. Like you have to get it right, but if you get it right, it's insane. So an example of this, um, one of our website's broken oats, which is kind of the black sheep in the group. It's like the one venture that doesn't fit everything I just said, it's like financial comparison.
Marcus: 00:45:31 This site, we created like 7,000 pages that were completely automated, automated content, um, comparing different brokers. So like, if you want to find, you know, without getting into all the jargon, like let's say broker A versus broker B, um, let's say there's like 300, 400 brokers that exist. Creating like every different combination of broker comparison taking every single possible feature you could look at in a broken creasing, a comparison around that feature. We were able to like build out a data set and generate content in a way that was genuinely useful for the user. Like if it doesn't look automated. Um, and yeah, like it's, it's still, it still meets that criteria of like, it's a genuinely great piece of content and we would go and rewrite it's manually if it, if it wasn't, but that's, that's been very effective. Okay.
Joe: 00:46:28 So, yeah. Um, I've, I've been able to leverage that second type a couple of times ever in, in my lifetime as a marketer. Um, and, um, I, I think once or twice as worked out and it's worked really well the rest of the times yet just didn't come out so hot, lots of r and d time, but didn't quite get there. Um, and I think at the end of the day for me, when I look at why it didn't get there, it wasn't valuable at the end of the day to the user. Like it was just us trying to quote unquote like game the system, so to speak, right? Like, how do I get, you know, 500,000 pages index by Google, you know, over the next, you know, 90 days. And that was the goal instead of, instead of like you said, like, uh, focusing on the user experience and is this going to be really helpful?
Marcus: 00:47:17 Yeah. Yeah. And it's, I think there's so much to be said for, um, like we put so much emphasis, particularly if we're going down that route into things like, like getting like the design, the use it for when like really putting a lot of effort into just understanding like, what's, what's the intent behind what people are searching for here? Like, what do they want to see, how do we kind of go above and beyond? Um, because exactly as you said, like, you know, I've, I'm particularly more in [inaudible] when I was doing SEO consulting. You know, I was working with like property aggregators that generated like 8 million pages for every query. And lately it just gets slammed. Like it's, it's not a, it's not what Google wants, it's not what the user wants. And generally if you're not ticking those two boxes, then yeah, it's not gonna not gonna be pretty.
Joe: 00:48:09 So, um, it seems like for most of these ventures, definitely content marketing is the key. And it seems like, and correct me if I'm wrong, but mostly quote unquote skyscraper type of content, for lack of a better phrase. Um, um, I, I just say it as that because people know that term, right? Um, so linkable assets, right? And like you said, something that's gonna do better than everybody else, like they won't touch it because of the amount of work involved. Is that right? Yeah. Okay. Um, and anything else that's been notable in terms of marketing or marketing channels or systems or processes or things that are really working for you guys at venture harbor in terms of, in, in terms of marketing, like you're obviously getting on a good amount of podcasts, right? Is that a channel that's, that's been working to get you guys some business and get your brand out there, um, or
Marcus: 00:49:01 Podcast. So podcast is very, is a very new one. So the jury is kind of still stood Alex on, um, on that side. And there's kind of like mixed goals with that, right? Like it's partly a personal branding thing. It's also like seeing how does that, you know, affect with a different ventures. Um, but I'd say like one, one thing that has been, um, perhaps unsurprisingly effective but nice from our automation automation view is, uh, we've done a lot of stuff with automated webinars like evergreen webinars, um, which has been a really effective way of like, it was good for leadformly because leadformly it was like we saw that there was an increase in conversion rate if we had spoken to a customer. Like there was definitely a degree of this is sort of expensive, so I want to make sure that this is right and I want to trust the company behind it and all this stuff.
Marcus: 00:49:56 But obviously it's not so bad. It's not such a high cost that it made economic sense for us to jump on Skype and speed customers. We tested, um, automated evergreen webinars and uh, it was really funny because initially the conversion rate of the Webinar was not as good as as giving a manual data demo. Um, but it was still higher than if they hadn't. But over time we ab tested like chunks of content in the Webinar and tested different slides, different, different offers. And eventually we were able to get the conversion rate of an Evergreen Webinar to be higher than me actually speaking to a person, which I don't know if that says more about my ability, my sales ability or the effectiveness of evergreen webinars. But that was pretty interesting.
Joe: 00:50:42 Yeah, man. I mean that's like every sort of dream, right? When when they're hustling and they're grinding and they're trying to get to the next level and they're, they're running all those demos and one on ones. Like to be able to beat that with an automated webinar like that saying something man, I think that's definitely an accomplishment for sure.
Marcus: 00:51:00 Well, it's, it's, you've got to, you've got one big advantage with the Evergreen Webinar, which is that you can, you can measure and optimize, like you can change a different, a different kind of way of explaining the products every week. Like, so it's, you, it's harder to do that with manual demos because so much is going to be like, how are you feeling that day? How is like there's so many variables that are out of your control.
Joe: 00:51:24 100%. Yeah, man, that's, that's great. Um, wow. Lots of, lots of really good stuff. When, when you look at Your Business, um, what, what are the core like fundamental five, six, seven, even 10 like systems or processes, high level that you think, um, truly run your business and are the most important things. Like you've mentioned a lot of little takeaways like, you know, this cheat sheet, that piece of content, this, you know, checklist that we go through. Uh, and it seems like your brain thinks in that way much like mine. I'm curious like what are the core systems or processes that you've ever, or resources or assets in your business that like you think are big wins? Like when you, when you go come up with another idea, it's like, yeah, these five things I'm going to pull into this business. And automatically we're already like shooting out of the gate, right at a hundred miles an hour versus starting at five, right? Like what, what are those big wins? So to speak, are the core things there.
Marcus: 00:52:23 So I think, I think one of them is, um, so we use confluence like, uh, internal, uh, like our guidance manual if you like. So that's like confluence. We've just got like a lot of these sort of, uh, like when we close in new ventures, just like empty documents or things that we just found useful to fill out. So like salesforce is v two mum document, which is like a vision and values, methods, obstacles, Ma measures. So you think like that. Like we'll, we'll fill that out. And then that just makes sure, like we're not gonna get too wrapped up in execution and like figuring out campaigns before we figured out the bigger picture, like what's the vision here? What are we going to stand for, how are we going to do that? So things like that are really valuable. And having it in confluence just as a sort of an opposite manual just makes it easily repeatable.
Marcus: 00:53:15 And like if I'm not here, someone is going to be like, oh, well why doesn't this venture have a VT mum document filled out? So that's, that's quite a key one. Um, we use BreezyHR for our recruitment process, which automates a lot of like using scorecards from like top grading methodology that's been really good for just basically has turned our kind of recruitment process into more of like a CRM pipeline. So we have consistent processes for how people get to the next step. Um, uh, else have we got, um, I mean there's another sort of like a tactical day to day level. Like so much of, um, it's, you know, it's, it's maybe not like the sexiest or most interesting, but like we use active campaign as like a backbone for so much of like the automation that we do that day to day and just Zapier.
Marcus: 00:54:11 Like I think our, like we've got some ridiculous amount of zaps set up. Um, and what I would kind of encourage is like, cause I know, I mean most of the people listening to this podcast I'm sure like very familiar with Zapier. Um, but what I've kind of noticed is, um, less, less people are familiar with, like some of the more unusual, um, features in Zapier that are the things that are kind of add a lot of value for us. So like specifically is Zapier's like the has their own kind of little functions. So they've got conditional pass format. Uh, we haven't run like excel
functions inside a Zapier trigger. These things are just game changes for us because like, um, like when we built the AB testing software, we actually built the first version almost entirely in Zapier, which sounds insane. But because you can run like excel functions and like run Java script and you can just say like, okay, when a, when I add a new like post in wordpress, run all these functions, all this jobs, we have to figure out the best title and then schedule that in my SQL database for like the next five years.
Marcus: 00:55:23 So like getting really kind of into the nitty gritty with Zapier just for us like speeds up innovation and the so many little things that funnily enough, like we build a lot of tools in Zapier that then we then ultimately ended up like paying other SAAS companies to use. Like receipt bank is a really funny one, I'd like, we built like our version of receipt bank a few years ago where like anytime we took a photo of a receipt and store it in a Google drive, we did like the tax recognition then send it off to zero that we just built a zap to do that a while ago. And then our counseling came in like few months ago. It was like, oh you guys should use receipt bank if does this way. Oh, well cool. That's a probably a more stable way of doing it, but like we've, we've built our own, so like that's, that's like a really useful thing I think to just a very quick dirty innovation.
Joe: 00:56:15 Yeah. I love that. I found is so many times you can do that quick dirty innovation using Zapier and yeah, I agree. Nobody's doing it. Uh, you know, I'll take a quote from a developer on, on staff and there'll be like, you know, it's going to take 40 hours to do this. And I'm like, well, why don't we do this instead? And you know, basically just have the backbone be Zapier. Uh, and they're like, yeah, that would take me like three hours. I'm like, yeah, let's, let's do it that way. Yeah. So that's really a makes sense. Okay, cool. So then we kind of got into this, but like marketing stack then for all of these companies, like you said active campaign and Zapier obviously like does venture harbor have an active campaign account then every, every each of the company has one as well, right? Or how do you do that? And then kind of what's the tech stack look like that you use from, from company to company or site to site?
Marcus: 00:57:15 Yeah, so, so we, we tend to have most of the software and the, the tech stack at the parent level, so at the venture harbor level and then that's used across all the ventures. Um, so active campaign is like the sort of the backbone to everything. It's the central CRM, it's the automation software, like everything comes off a campaign. Um, and that is, it's really case by case. Like the only one, the only other one I would say is kind of roughly this sort of kind of equivalent is unbounce, um, which we usually just use sort of rapidly getting up landing pages. Um, besides that, it's very venture venture specific and we're, to be honest, we're probably lighter on the sort of the marketing tech stack then we could or should be. We use click flow, which is the, Eric's Ab testing software, which has been really, really valuable.
Marcus: 00:58:10 Um, but yeah, generally I think because like so much of what we do is like, is SEO content focused? It's, it's really, um, I guess semrush and deeper and those kind of things fall in that category, but it's kind of like we'll sort of hypothesize like, what, how do we take this like 10 x , like what do we need to do? And generally that involves like the spoke development, hiring writers, creating like really good content. So it's not often not say, um, a tooling or tech problem. It's sort of like a in development development thing. And so when we're very, very heavy on like was sort of like development tech stack is slightly ridiculous, but the marketing tech stack is, it's quite, uh, quite,
Joe: 00:58:52 yeah, that makes sense. So then when you running, I guess like are you treating each of these as separate businesses or are you kind of running all of the, the revenue through venture harbor and the parent company?
Marcus: 00:59:05 Um, so there's different, the structure is like quite, um, it varies from venture to venture. So like lead formally is, for example, it's a con, it's a completely separate company. The only relationship between leadformly and venture harbour is like a service agreement between the two. Uh, broken notes is a subsidiary. So we have that as kind of like within the group within or is, is the Shareholder. Um, so it Kinda like depends venture venture like a lot is going to be dependent on, uh, you know, what our future plans are for the venture, um, where we want the sort of the liability to set. But generally, yeah, we moving a little bit more towards when we're incubating new ventures, they sit in at the venture harbor level and then when they hit a threshold, that's when we spend them out as a separate company.
Joe: 00:59:57 So that's, that's Kinda how I started doing things is kind of in an incubation level and testing level. And then once it hits x in terms of revenue, right. My idea was to then pull it out and remove it. Um, I found though like some sticky problems in doing that just personally email deliverability issues and moving billing becomes a nightmare. Have you had to go through that and kind of how'd you deal with it? Like moving the billing alone in the merchant processing stuff with recurring like, oh man, I wanted to call my eyeballs out, like one of the worst experiences of my life.
Marcus: 01:00:31 Yeah, it's not, um, it was, it was a really big learning actually was the first time we spun the companies out. It was, you know, our well intentioned accountants and lawyers were like, yeah, this makes loads of savings. Like this is way more safer. And like, you know, it'll keep things nice and clean and you know, the first time you do it you're like, oh, you know, a council knows best lawyer knows best, so let's do that. And then suddenly we got to a point where it's like, okay, now we've got, uh, like in the UK we've got vat, so it's like three separate vat returns, three, like everything just tripled in terms of overhead and admin. And so it just got a little bit ridiculous. And so now it's like my, my temptation is to keep things under one company for as long as possible. Um, but when it's like, when it hits a trigger where it's like, okay, the, the increase in Admin is worth it either because we're expecting an exit for this or there's some reason for us to kind of like spin it out, then we'll do so, but it's not something if I had gone through the same thing again, it's not something I would do lightly. Like it's definitely, uh, uh, creates a lot of, um, a lot of extra problems.
Joe: 01:01:44 Yeah. It's, uh, it was a heartache for me. I still feel like I don't have the best solver, best solution. Um, but yeah, definitely a heartache and something that I think about like every project and every new opportunity I'm working, I'm like crap. Like, how do I think this one through? And I don't think that there's any right or wrong answer, right. Like, it's just what's, you know, depending on the situation, you know, what's, what's the best practice, but, okay. Cool. All right. Um, so any other automation tools that you use, you, you mentioned, um, a couple of, we talked about the marketing stack, you talked about the split testing. Um, we talked about Semrush, we talked about, um, the active campaign. I think that was kind of the, the key.
Marcus: 01:02:30 The only other one that I'm as, it's a little bit of a controversial suggestion, um, but for the more technically inclined, there's a tool that I love called ghost inspector and it's, uh, I, I love it. These guys have built site laser and uh, but it's, it's built as like QA testing software. So the idea being you, you record, you record like, you know, a video of you going to the home page, clicking a button and take a good pricing page, and then every day that test will run and make sure that when you click that button, it takes the pricing page. So you can build hundreds of these tests and just make sure, like nothing in your website or app is, have a brakes. That's what it's designed for. Um, I say controversial because like I, I'm barely certain I be breaking their terms of service in various ways, but I, I love using this software to just like automate random things.
Marcus: 01:03:31 Like, I'll, you know, if I want to check flights, I'll set up like just has to like every day like go to this like extract the, the current price and put it in a Google sheet. Um, it's kind of like in combination with Zapier cause you can trigger like ghost inspectors to run from Zapier. You can do all kinds of fun stuff. And again, it's another tool in the tool box or like rapid innovation way. Often my team will be like, oh, like, yeah, like let's, you know, we can start with ghost inspector tests that every day or every hour it goes and like gets this and pulls it yet. So I love it. It's really, um, yeah,
Marcus: 01:04:29 Um, so one thing you do, like one thing I experimented with for awhile was like every day I'm going to like product hunt and extracting like what are like the top five products on, on products hunt extract like the categories and then like go to a Google sheet. And then if there's any ever anything that like I'm interested in and you know, I'm sure like product hunt has their own like, you know, notification system for that. But the beauty of this is I was able to kind of like do a little bit more and yes, it's on my side to like, do better filtering. Um, but it's the world is your oyster. Like I, I'm reluctant to share some of this other things we've done because I'm sure, I'm sure they, they may be, um, a little bit more of these, but yeah, in essence, you can, you can go to any website, click things, extract stuff, um, take screenshots of the page and then return that to you. So can use your imagination as to what that could be useful.
Joe: 01:05:29 Yeah, yeah. 100%. Yeah. That, that gets my brain going. Yeah. And I've never, I've actually never heard of the tool, so great share. I love, I love when somebody is so excited about a piece of software and I've never heard of it. It's like Christmas, right? Like good stuff. Thank you for that share. Um, so
Marcus: 01:05:46 I'm sorry on, on your, like is there anything that you've come across recently that, that you feel similarly with?
Joe: 01:05:54 So, um, you use a Mac. Yep. Yep. Krisp with a K. K R I s. P. Dot. AI is a game changer for me. So simple, but um, essentially, uh, gets rid of all your background noise and makes your audio amazing. Um, and it's just a Mac app that's just a Mac app that's free. You can't hear a typing, you can't hear background noises. Um, for me, like I'm recording and on meetings all day every day. Um, and like this little tool as like revolutionized, like my meetings in my recordings, like sound 10 times better and all I did was like two clicks of installing this app. So for me that's like the latest one that's been like so simple. But a game changer.
Marcus: 01:06:39 Awesome. That's pretty cool.
Joe: 01:06:42 Um, so what, what's the future look like, Marcus? Like, um, obviously you, you've built an amazing foundation. You've done some crazy things in business so far. I'm curious like what's, what's your vision and what's, what's on your mind. What's next in business?
Marcus: 01:06:57 So for me, the, the goal is, um, to have a hundred businesses under the portfolio by 2100 or to have created a hundred by 2100. Um, so that's, and the one rule that has, has to kind of remain through across the, that is each one being more ambitious than the last. So that's the thing that kind of drives me and excites me is this idea of like, okay, like in 2100, the level of ambition behind the ventures we're creating is going to be geometrically like insane competitive, you know, what we're doing today. Um, yeah, that's, that's the vision. I don't know. I don't know what those ventures look like. I don't, don't know where it's going, but it's, for us, it's just this journey of, uh, using the creation of these ventures as a vehicle for personal growth. So the whole reason I do this, the whole ethos behind venture harbor is just that we're creating these ventures to grow ourselves. And then the value that it adds for people and the, um, human potential that we unlock through the ventures we create, that's an, that's an added bonus. But it's really about like the personal growth in for, I was on the team that we're kind of creating. That's, that's the real driver. Yeah. It's just, it's just kind of good. You know, I love what we're doing and it's just continue doing that, but at a bigger level.
Joe: 01:08:17 So I, I love that. Um, I, I'd like to spend a second more on that if we can. Um, I think that that's amazing. Like I think that so many people are thinking about the end result instead of the journey to get there. Right. And they're not worried about being better themselves and personal growth. They're just like worried about the end result, which is money. And an exit or, or whatever it is, right? It's like, yes, you know, um, this is, this is the goal and that's all that they think about. So when, when you, so that's amazing. Um, first off, just like I love that attitude and mindset. How do you keep that forefront in your mind and in your team's mind and how do you get that buy in? I'm curious from, from your team. Um, because it's one thing for you to think it right, but it's a different, it's different for your company to do, to really embody that and to run with it. And I love the mindset and I would love to run with something similar. Um, but I'm just curious how, how you really seed that into your, your team and your culture, so to speak.
Marcus: 01:09:22 So I mean, uh, it's, it's funny cause it's kind of like, it's just one, it's like given things, it's like this is what it is. If you're aren't venture harbor that it's a given that you've bought into that, it's like there's no, this is not debatable. This is not negotiable point. Like this is what we're doing. And if you're here, you're part of that. So, um, I mean it kind of goes a step back, right? Like it's, it's the people that, that join the company must be like on board with that. And so in our hiring process, like I'm very, very clear about this. This is, you know, we're not doing this to x or we're not doing this for like these very kind of, um, you know, this is not like a three, five year play. Like venture harbor is very much this, we're playing a long game and this is about growth and everything that we do.
Marcus: 01:10:14 I would, I would like to think that if you ask any of my team members, like, is there some like bullshit thing that we stick on the wall and say in podcast interviews but don't do, or is this like genuinely like how can we act today? I would like to think that they would say like, yeah, like Marcus has done some weird things that, that genuinely support that. Like we, we really do stand by the fact that, you know, personal growth comes above business growth. Um, and it's, yeah, they're very, very kind of intertwined. Um, cause yeah, it's, it's, for me it's, I've often struggled with like what is, why am I doing this? I what is the vision? And, and there's a temptation to like have this sort of very sort of silicon valley ESC statement. Um, but for me, this is authentic. This is like, this is just true. This is what I believe in. And so I'm not going to come up with, you know, some, you know, inauthentic statement that sounds nice, but this is, this is what it is. If you want to join my team, if, if that's kind of, if you, if you find it exciting, perfect. But if not, like, you know, it's not, right.
Joe: 01:11:15 So you, I think probably being like polarizing in your hiring right and saying this is who we are and this is what we believe in. People are either going to cling to that in the interview and be all over it and start asking questions and really digging into the details. And those are the people that you're wanting to hire versus the people that are like, all right, great, when can I start? You're like, yeah, no, see you later.
Marcus: 01:11:40 Yeah. And it's, it's so clear, like you can, you can just tell so easily whether it's like genuine excitement and infuse yet enthusiasm or if it's kind of, I mean, it terrifies a lot of people, like a lot of people, you know, the concept of basically that role changing every year, different venture, different challenges. That's terrifying to a lot of people. And so it really does take an unusual kind of person to work here and it's, we have to be polarizing to find those people
Joe: 01:12:08 100%. So when you think about staying competitive right at venture harbor and you guys staying on the bleeding edge, right? Like what, what do you consider, what are you thinking about that, right? Like with that strive to always be better? Like who are you following or are, are just kind of, what's your mindset I guess? Um, thinking through that.
Marcus: 01:12:31 So I think, uh, this is where I'm, where like I, I put a lot of kind of my focus on a k like developing myself as a, as a leader, but also coaching my core team too to increase the sort of, the capability of the team because I think they're the two, they're the two sort of ceilings that will potentially cap our, our competitiveness. It's the humans in the business driving all the decisions. So at a personal level for myself to make sure that I am, I'm lessening the bottleneck that I create. I make sure that I spend at least I go on at least like two or often three, like immersive learning event, each year I just did, um, the executive marketer's program at MIT, which was just, you know, a week of just drinking from a fire hose, but from like some of the best like teachers and trainers in the world.
Marcus: 01:13:34 And so for me, it's like, that's just the motivation of the learning
can, things like that helped me. I break those limits and then know the team level is, it's coaching my team and making sure that we, um, you know, we've really heavily invest in everyone's personal and professional development so that equally the team do not become a bottleneck to our growth. As long as we get those two things right, then we should never kind of hit this point where we're not, uh, you know, we, we don't want to be massive wave. Like we want to be kind of ultra competitive and 10x better than our competitors. And so it's really sort of just making sure where we were developing ourselves personally to, uh, prepare for that.
Joe: 01:14:20 That's awesome. That's amazing. So I'm cognizant of time. I feel like we could go on for another hour or two. Uh, but, but I'm cognizant of time. I want to wrap it up. Um, I, I appreciate you coming on and spending so much time with us. Um, and, and I want to rack it, wrap it up with one question. Um, on the end of like every podcast, I feel like everybody asks the same question. Like, what book would you recommend? A, what, three books. And I think that that's great. Like don't get me wrong. Like I'm an audible junkie, like I'm going through a couple of books a week. Right. So, so I love that. But um, I I change it up a little bit. So I wanted to ask you like what's the one book that if you look at like your business has made the biggest impact?
Joe: 01:15:01 Like directly, not like I read the book and I thought it was a great book, like which has had the biggest impact on your business. So like I just got done reading like David Goggins book, right? Like, but that's like, that's more like me and, and self development for me that's not so much about the business and so I can't correlate in the business how big of an impact that's, and so if you look at your business, like what's the, what's the one book that's made the biggest transformation or the biggest impact in your actual business?
Marcus: 01:15:32 Okay. It's, it's a, it's a tricky question, right? Cause so much is, is like context and timing. It's like that book was perfect at that time. But if I read it now, um, I, I think the one those possibly that did have a huge impact, but it's also to some degree, largely like not dependent on time and events is Anything you Want by Derek Sivers, which is funny. He goes, it is quite, is a relatively personal, uh, like it's, it's a summary of like all of his blog posts and he's a brilliant guy. But the reason why I picked that is it made me realize a few things about business. One being, but you can just like everything that we hear about how to run a business and all these books, it's just the perspective. There is no right way of doing this and you can kind of just make up your own rules. Like running a business is just a way of creating your own little world where it's your vision of how you want things to work. And I, for me, that was just like, just a relief. It was like, Huh, okay. Like I don't need to subscribe to like, you know, eos and traction and scaling up and all these like frameworks that sure they're, they're effective. And they're great, but they're just our perspective. Like you can just make this stuff up and you know, follow your intuition to what you think is right.
Joe: 01:16:55 Awesome man. Thank you so much. Thanks so much Marcus man for checking us out for spending the time with us today. Uh, for everybody that wants to follow you. Like where are you most active on social or you know, where should we send people in the show notes as well.
Marcus: 01:17:09 Um, so a ventureharbour.com, Um, is good place. Uh, you can contact me through that site for you if you want to reach out. Um, yeah, the, the ventures we've got Serene, which is three nab.com. Uh, we should, we're looking for beats testers, broken notes, broken socio. Um, but that, yeah, feel free to reach out.
Joe: 01:17:24 I'm sure. I'm sure you've got a lot of Beta testers here from digital triggers. They'd be, they'd be honored to be a part of it. Awesome, man. Thank you so much for stopping by. We appreciate it. And uh, and we'll have to get you back before 2021.
Marcus: 01:17:40 No, thanks Jo. It's been a been a real pleasure.
Joe: 01:17:43 All right. Thanks man. Appreciate it. Adios.