Geoff Cook: What It Takes to Win in the App Space

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Geoff Cook is an entrepreneurial success story. He started his first company as a sophomore at Harvard back in 1997. A few short years later, at the age of 24, he sold it for millions. He then sold his second company for $100 million. More recently, he co-founded The Meet Group, a collection of online dating apps, each targeting a specific niche. Geoff also recently co-founded Podcoin, a platform that rewards podcast listeners. His accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. In 2011, he was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. 

Dating Apps with a Twist

Geoff is all about developing unique apps and it’s this originality that is their selling point. A little over a year ago, he launched a live streaming video platform. He grew it to more than $80 million in revenue in just a short period of time. It boasts almost a million daily active users who are live streaming every day.

This live streaming platform goes across all four of his online dating apps: MeetMe, LOVOO, Tagged, and Skout. Geoff has essentially turned what used to be a flat and one-dimensional dating platform world into online communities where people can communicate via video in realtime. Think about the ramifications: no more wondering whether a potential date is using a profile pic from 10 years ago. Their personalities would come alive and you’d be able to get to know them much better than you would by just texting.

Podcoin: Get Paid to Listen

Geoff’s second major project at the moment involves Podcoin, a listening platform that essentially pays you to listen to podcasts. App users get paid in the form of gift cards for retailers such as Amazon and Starbucks. I mean, who doesn’t like free money? And if you’re feeling particularly philanthropic, you can donate your earnings to one of about a dozen charities, instead. It’s simple and everyone wins. Needless to say, the app has been a success.

Innovation Sells

By now you’re probably sensing a theme: Geoff Cook is a master at being innovative. He stresses that when developing a new app, a great approach is to fashion it to be a novel solution to a problem — often a problem that the user didn’t even know they had. He adds that the novel factor really needs to be high for an app to be successful. If it’s only slightly different from an existing one or if it’s been done before, it won’t sell. The key is innovation and novelty — stand out from the crowd and solve a problem most people don’t know they have. 

Funding

When asked about the logistics of promoting a new or existing app, Geoff explains that just because you have access to marketing funds doesn’t mean you have to spend them. He adds that he can’t think of too many apps that became hugely successful because of the amount of marketing dollars that went into their promotion. Good apps — successful apps — speak for themselves. Consider your most used apps: Do you use them because a glitzy advertising campaign attracted you to them? Or do you use them because they work well and do what you need them to do? 

As for raising funds, Geoff suggests the best course of action is bootstrapping as much as you can for as long as you can. And put off putting energy into raising funds as long as you can.


…the entrepreneurs who don’t raise and are successful — that’s always a better story than the entrepreneurs who raised that were successful.

When you eventually do start looking to get funding, Geoff suggests holding off until you have something that’s actually fundable. You’ll be far more successful at getting funding if you have something people can actually look at. If you’re just starting out and you’ve only got 500 DAU (daily active users), Geoff warns that you won’t be successful in your pursuit of funding. He recommends first churning out your app, working hard to drive DAUs and retention rates up, and then having something concrete you can show potential investors.

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Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by OtterAI; there may be errors.)

Adam Force 0:11
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the translator podcast show. If you missed last week’s episode, it was with what I like to call the Jedi Master of Facebook marketing and growth. She knows how to build audiences on Facebook because she knows everything about Facebook. And she’s done it time and time again. So we interviewed Rachel Miller. And if you’re looking to grow your Facebook audience, and figure out how that whole big crazy platform works, she’s the one to listen to. So check out that interview.

She’s full of energy and excitement. Today, we’re going to be talking to somebody by the name of Geoff Cook. Geoff has an incredible background. He is a serial entrepreneur. And he started his first company from a Harvard dorm room. He’s Harvard educated, and he sold it for millions of dollars at the age of 24. Then he sold his second company at 100 million dollars. So yes, he’s doing pretty good there. And he is now the founder of another company called Podcoin. And we’re going to talk about what that’s all about today.

But that does have to do with some of the app world. He’s in the consumer app world. So we’re going to talk about what it takes to build these companies, how to get traction with apps and some of the keys to his success and how he’s selling these companies. So we’re going to dive into that in just a minute with Geoff Cook. And so also guys, just a really exciting time coming up because we have issue 28 of Change Creator magazine that’s going to be out soon. And it is with the one and only Blake Mycoskie. He’s obviously a legend in the social impact space. So we were really pumped and it’s like what’s Change Creator magazine without having somebody like Blake Mycoskie on the cover, right?

So finally, were able to lock that in. And we had a really cool video interview. And he even wore a sombrero during that interview. So you can check that out, we’re going to be releasing some snippets of that interview on Facebook. So make sure you’re following us on Facebook. That’s where you’re going to catch those things. And he just gave this really great discussion. I mean, he’s full of passion, this guy, he’s doing all kinds of stuff. And he talks about some of the lessons he’s learned, which are really valuable through his experience with this one for one model, but also just about life in general.

He’s on a whole new journey. So you’re going to see another side of Blake. And so we highly recommend you check out that magazine and that interview, you’re going to get a lot out of it. So we’re excited about that one. We’re almost at issue 30. That’s a big milestone. So plugging away hope you guys are enjoying it. Don’t forget to leave us, you know, reviews and those big thumbs up five star reviews on the iTunes platform and Google Play and stuff like that. We really appreciate it. Alright, so let’s get into this episode with Jeff.

Announcer 2:51
Okay, show me heat.

Adam Force 2:57
Hey, Geoff, welcome to the Change Creator podcast show. How you doing today?

Geoff Cook 3:01
Very good. Thanks for having me.

Adam Force 3:03
You’re welcome. You’re welcome. You have a huge resume, and you have a lot of things going on in your world. So we’re going to dive into some of that. But I’d like to just understand, you know, what’s the latest and greatest? What do you what are you working on these days?

Geoff Cook 3:18
Yeah, so I mean, the two things that I think we’re working on the most right now one is the live streaming video platform. So, you know, we started this live streaming video platform only about 15 months ago, grew it to more than 80 million in revenue in just a short period of time, grew to almost a million daily active users who are live streaming every day. And then the other thing that’s that’s pretty recent, is an incentive listening platform called Podcoin that basically pays you to listen to podcasts. So both of those things are two of the you know, the main projects we’re working on right now.

Adam Force 3:53
What was the name of the live streaming platform?

Geoff Cook 3:56
So it goes across all of our apps, we have four big apps, one is MeetMe, LOVOO, Tagged and Skout. So we have these social communities. And what we did with — they’re each, like a dating, social dating, social chat community. And what was new about it was that we added livestreaming on top of this, what had been a text based chat community.

Adam Force 4:18
Got it. Got it. Okay, that makes sense. Very cool. Cool. So, we’ll tap into that stuff a little bit more. But I want to give people and yourself just the opportunity to understand some more the background you have. So I want to give you a chance to tell people like in a nutshell, what led you to these current projects. You have a pretty extensive background. So maybe you can try to sum up some of the things you’ve done and how you got here today.

Geoff Cook 4:44
Sure. So I started my first company back in 1997. As a sophomore at Harvard, I was basically looking for a side job. And, you know, didn’t want to work at a library essentially. So just started up, asked myself what could I do. The answer that was write and edit. So I started an editing business, grew it to millions of dollars in revenue, few hundred contractors ended up selling that a few years after I graduated, then worked under contract for a couple years.

Left to start myYearbook along with my brother and sister who are 10 and 11 years younger than me at the time. This was now in 2005. In 2011, I sold myYearbook for $100 million in cash and stock to a public company. Then I kind of came back as CEO of that public company, about a year later, and continue to run it today. What I’ve been doing in the last three years has really been building this live streaming video platform out and then acquiring other apps. And in the last, you know, three years we acquired four sizable apps. Spending, you know, in the neighborhood of you know, $180 million.

Adam Force 6:04
Okay. Yeah, some pretty exciting stuff. And I — and correct me if I’m wrong, but you also won Entrepreneur of the Year from Ernst and Young, correct?

Geoff Cook 6:15
Yes, for Philadelphia.

Adam Force 6:16
Philadelphia. Have you ever lived in Philly? I see that you live in Princeton. But did you ever live in Philly?

Unknown Speaker 6:22
No. And you know that that was the area that I guess the they tie your business to. Our business is in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Adam Force 6:29
I Love New Hope.

Geoff Cook 6:31
Yeah. Me, too.

Adam Force 6:33
I’m originally from New Jersey. So I was right in central Jersey. So Lambert Ville, New Hope that was very familiar. And then I lived in with my wife in Philadelphia for six years, which is why it caught my curiosity.

Geoff Cook 6:45
Where in central Jersey?

Adam Force 6:46
I was in Flemington, which is, you know, you actually know Flemington?

Geoff Cook 6:52
Oh yeah, I lived in Pennington for a while.

Adam Force 6:54
Oh, yeah. Okay, nice.

Geoff Cook 6:56
And I’m from South Plainfield, New Jersey originally.

Adam Force 6:59
Awesome. Okay, very good. We got some roots together. Alright, so you’re working on the livestreaming. And you got Podcoin. And before we go a little further in that. I feel like because of your history, you’ve done a lot as far as starting a company, but also growing the company and even selling those companies.

And, you know, with our audience listening today, I think these are pretty hot topics. You know, everybody wants to know, right? How you’re growing the companies and stuff like that. And there’s always the real high level, you know, anecdotes around that stuff. But I’m curious, just because you’ve had a number of experiences now, have you seen any trends? Like if you were like, you are not you started Podcoin? Like, what are some of the steps besides, you know, dumping major marketing dollars into it that you would advise for people that they should be aware of when trying to grow and really get those first three years moving?

Geoff Cook 7:59
Yeah, I mean for like a consumer mobile app so most of what I think about is like consumer mobile apps. But for something like that, you know, I think it’s, it’s difficult, like there’s no, there’s no question. To get something to break through is ridiculously hard. I mean, people only use something like a couple dozen apps a month. And, you know, to break into that set is just really hard. And so I think one of the ways that I tend to think about that problem is, you know, is there some novel solution?

Like the novelty factor on an idea needs to be really high, because if people have seen it before, or if it’s just like a tiny bit different than some other thing, it’s like a feature added on to something else like that almost certainly won’t work, from my standpoint. So the novelty factor has to be high, but it also has to be a good experience as to solve some problem that people like may not know they have, but that that they do have.

And then I think the other piece of it — and I don’t think novelty is enough — but but I think then the other piece of it is like how can you…because even if you have access to marketing dollars, you don’t want to spend them right? Like the question, you know, there aren’t too many apps that are really made because of their marketing spend. So how do you get into these communities and get adopted? Like, how can you turn some of your first adopters into your sales people? And like that, that’s another thing that I think we’re trying to do with Podcoin that we’ve done in the past as well.

Adam Force 9:30
Yeah, I think that’s a big one. And I’ve seen some companies with serious success app or otherwise, that had smart Ambassador programs, basically, and really inspired their early adopters, you know, they did something unique and cool. Like the idea was cool, but once you get them on board, how do you incentivize them to be your marketer? So you know, you said that, and I think it just really kind of hit home. Because I think, you know, for anyone listening that that is a huge win. And I’m seeing it more and more I know, these affiliate programs are one thing, but these Ambassador programs can be quite powerful.

Geoff Cook 10:09
That’s right. And so like an example of this is like in the Podcoin case, right now, we you know, we know that a problem that podcasters have is getting listeners. And you know, we made it really easy to claim your podcast for free on the platform if you’re a podcaster. And then if you did, so we essentially through promotion inside of the app and how we rank podcast, we’re able to give you a lot more listening minutes, like drive 30 to 40% of our listening minutes, just to the people who the podcasters who have claimed, and in order to be claimed you essentially have to do a mid roll ad somewhere in your podcast. So so we’re finding hundreds of podcasters willing to do that. And you know, obviously that drives new users through the door.

Adam Force 10:54
Tell me about it a little bit here. You know, Change Creators is a podcast. We’re on Spotify, SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher. You know, you’re talking about bringing people on board, and they get paid to listen on Podcoin. And this is based on an advertising model, it sounds like. So you have a mid roll ad? And is…how do you align the relevancy of the ad to the topic of the show?

Geoff Cook 11:23
Yeah, so actually, we are pre revenue. So Podcoin is a is a new concept. And I think we have a good sense of how would monetize but, you know, taking it back a step: So basically, what Podcoin is a loyalty points program for podcasts. Rather than, you know, listening to podcasts and earning nothing, which is the typical experience, this basically allows you to earn this currency called podcoin, which you can then redeem for Starbucks gift cards or Amazon gift cards or various things.

And the idea being that you’re spending your time inside of an app you’re giving, you know, information about what your listening habits might be, and what other podcasts you might listen to, if you listen to this one, so the platform is clearly getting some value out of this. And the idea being while we’re pre revenue right now, you know, we’ve run enough mobile apps to know that, you know, you can typically monetize these things. And I don’t know 20 plus cents are live streaming video function monetizes much better than this. But But let’s say 20 cents per per hour, per user hour. And so you know, if you if you have your your Podcoin earning rate less than that, you know, you’re likely to have some profits.

We view kind of the Podcoin is kind of a marketing expense a reason to have people come in. But the the ultimate idea is, then the potential monetization hope down the road is…and down the road typically means like…when I build these consumer apps, that I normally I’m not thinking, Well, how do I monetize it day one, because I think if you’re, if you’re doing that, you’re kind of missing the point. Like, if you monetize day one in a consumer app, there’s really no chance at all right, like, you need hundreds of thousands of DAU probably before you even have that. That’s a lot, but you should have at least a pathway.

And I think the pathway here is, we’ve found that by making small variations in the Podcoin earning rate, like a half penny per hour, for example, that we could drive 30% of the listening minutes to a certain subset of podcasts that would ordinarily, you know, not be discovered. And so that, you know, in the future, and I don’t know how long the future is, maybe some months from now, maybe, maybe years from now, you can you can imagine how that could be powerful in driving people to particular podcasts and how that could be monetizable.

Adam Force 13:44
Yeah, no, that’s interesting. Okay, and how many…I guess I’m curious, you’re, you’re bringing on podcasters? How are you guys getting shows involved with you guys now?

Geoff Cook 13:55
You know, it’s been just very, in this is just a new initiative, it was, you know, we have probably 21 teams, at the meet group, and 20 of them are more or less on either live streaming video or subscription and one team is on this. And, and so it’s kind of an experimental concept. But you know, we, we’ve always been of the… I don’t know if you followed, like the Google, Eric Schmidt used to talk about, like, you know, 20% time and like having having 70% of the resources beyond core business 20% on [unintelligible], 10% on blue sky.

Like, I don’t know, if we subscribe to these particular percentages. But you know, I think having having blue sky concepts, and, you know, we view podcasts and audio as almost like the flip side of live streaming video, right? Because the video is really lean in, you know, you’re chatting with the, with the broadcaster, you’re maybe sending gifts, it’s, you know, kind of this immersive thing.

In the podcast thing, you know, you’re often feeling some human connection, like people often feel like they’re in the room. But it’s more laid back, like you’re driving a car, you’re maybe running like, but you’re following the conversation. So we see it as just kind of another place, like our users are sometimes driving to work listening to podcasts, and sometimes they’re interested in dating and connecting to people via live streaming. And so we view it as kind of two sides of the same coin.

Adam Force 15:23
Yeah, you know, it’s, it is interesting, and there is an interesting intimacy to it, but also that convenience factor and, you know, even ourselves, we’ve been, we’ve been audio only for a few years now. And I, you know, we started doing some of the video based interviews very selectively, just, you know.

I’m not sure…it’s almost like our, you know, beta test, in a sense, too, because I find that the conversation, there’s distraction, in the sense when you have video instead of just audio, I don’t know if that makes sense. But when you have like you’re on screen, and you’re trying to stare at a webcam, like it’s, it’s a very different experience. And when you’re just listening, I like what you said, you feel like you’re in the room, and it’s a more intimate conversation. I found it’s a very unique differentiation.

Geoff Cook 16:12
I tend to agree with that, you know, I’m a avid podcast listener, of course. And, you know, I think that, you know, you often see these changes into the industry where, like, people are trying that, well, let’s see if we can create two minute podcasts or like, super short segments or the video podcast, and it’s like, or maybe the format works for a reason, you know, this kind of long form content, that’s audio, that’s typically audio, right?

Like it works for a reason. Yeah, I think we do have some thoughts on on maybe live podcasts and down the road. But you know, I don’t know that it’s going to be, you know, the vast majority. I think the current model is more likely to be the winner.

Adam Force 16:54
Seems to be I mean, I love taking like, I like when there’s a really great question that you can use and sample like, take a quick like one to three minutes sample from the show, and then you can use them as a social media hook. Right?

And that’s fun when you have video. That’s what I love the video for. But I feel like when you do the video as the actual interview, I don’t know, like these conversations are good. But when I can, like, have my head down, and my notepad out, and I don’t have to focus on the screen, I feel like the conversation is a little bit more in depth, you know?

Geoff Cook 17:27
Yeah.

Adam Force 17:28
Yeah. So just interesting talking points and stuff and the platforming that the site looks good for Podcoin. And it looks interesting. I mean, I think the concept is interesting. So yeah, we’ll have to see how that develops and where it goes.

Geoff Cook 17:43
Yeah, no, we’re excited to see where it goes, you know, the other thing people can do, and we have an advisor on our, on our advisory board, who’s the head of, or one of the heads of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which is a childhood cancer charity. And, you know, it didn’t occur to me, when we were first thinking of this idea that, you know, there’s always you know, you can run for an often like, you run or you bike and, and people give you, you know, some some money per mile.

And that’s a that’s a way people raise money for charities, you know, but there’s people who can’t run and they can’t bike and through no fault of their own. And so like, is there a way for those people to potentially participate through their time and attention. And Podcoin is essentially that, you know, we do work with charities, and you can donate your pod coin to to about a dozen different charities who work with us, as well. So you don’t have to redeem it for gift cards. And and many of our users actually use it that way.

Adam Force 18:47
Hmm. That’s pretty interesting. And yeah, so you mentioned the Podcoin can go towards gift cards and things like that. So now you’re also saying it can be selected for charities and I have seen things where actually we have friends who are running an interesting business called Atlas, and they do what you’re talking about. They raise money through this app where you run for change and stuff like that. And so they’re kind of doing that. And I never really thought about, well, What about the people that can’t do that? Right? So I think it’s a good concept.

Geoff Cook 19:19
Yeah, no, I don’t think we were kind of keyed in on that. But then we had kind of had that conversation and it just made a lot of sense.

Adam Force 19:27
Yeah, that is interesting. Okay, and how long has Podcoin been going right now? Or is it just a test at this point?

Geoff Cook 19:35
Yeah. So it’s been out for about four months. We launched it in December, and then, you know, we’ve been expanding it since.

Adam Force 21:24
Okay, great. So Jeff, let’s, let’s switch gears just a little bit from Podcoin. And we know we can circle back around on that if we have some things to cover. But I kind of want to hear a little bit about live streaming. And this idea of more human connection. I think, you know, more than ever today, the the idea of live streaming, whether it’s Facebook Live, or you know, doing an Instagram, you know, live session and things like that. Even…I think …Is YouTube doing live now? I don’t even know, I’m not I’m not too big into YouTube, but…

Geoff Cook 21:55
It does.

Adam Force 21:56
Everyone’s getting into the live streaming space. And it’s like, you know, you have Facebook watch and stuff. And you can have your own shows, basically, and Jeez, who needs cable TV anymore, almost. But tell me a little bit about why you decided to get into that. And about the connection factor behind it from your perspective.

Geoff Cook 22:18
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. So we have had this fairly sizable, you know, millions of users community for some time, and people were always chatting, and a key metric for us was chats per day. And yet you log into the community, and you’re seeing people near you, that you can chat with, or that you are already chatting with. And it felt kind of flat, right? Like, it’s profile pictures and, and you can — multiple profile pictures — and you can put interesting things in your profile. But, you know, there might be 100,000 people online right now.

And yet, it seems super flat. Like you’re just browsing through these profiles. And the beauty of live streaming video is it suddenly makes, you know, personalities and makes the thing come alive. So like, it takes it from being like a collection of profiles to kind of feeling like the nightclub or the bar, you know, kind of a coffeehouse — like, this casual gathering spot, where, you know, people are having all these conversations, and you can jump in here, you go into that room there.

And you’re actually seeing someone. And, you know, in the dating space in particular, you know, I think there’s this thing about authenticity, right? Like, is that picture even them? Is it them 10 years ago? You know, is it the best picture of them taken on their best day with the best lighting? You know, what does the person really look like? Also, what is a picture really tell you about a person? What does their voice sound like?

You know, what, you know, can you get any sense of how, you know, if they [unintelligible] and you know, it’s hard to tell any of that, except through video. And so livestreaming, you know, I think kind of is such a natural for kind of dating and social meeting apps. And so we actually first saw it, though, in China.

So China was the first place where we’ve ever seen livestreaming married to a dating app, and it was on an app called Momo, a very big app in China. And so we saw that in 2015, we launched our live streaming solution in 2016. And I think we were among the first if not the first kind of Western brand in the dating space to have it. And that was on our MeetMe app. Okay. And we’ve since added it to our Tagged app, which is an African American meeting app, as well as our LOVOO app, which is a European dating brand.

Adam Force 24:42
So then it sounds like, you know, with all these different apps and programs you’re putting together there, you do keep a very niche focus with them.

Geoff Cook 24:51
Yeah, yeah. You know, I think we we know who the audiences are there we’re trying to serve. And, you know, we see live is kind of an enabler of that audience. So we didn’t see live as our way of expanding, you know, Tagged, for example, beyond the African American demographic, or LOVOO out of Europe. It’s more, okay, you know, we have this existing large base of users, can we get 30% of them to spend 30 minutes a day watching live streams, in addition to the time they already spend on the platform?

Adam Force 25:25
Got it. Yeah. And so, you know, you have this big audience, because they, you know, implementing something like livestreaming? Obviously, I have to imagine is a fair bit of development.

Geoff Cook 25:37
Yeah, yeah, that’s fair. You know, we literally have, you know, 17 out of 21 teams on the live streaming portion. Yeah. And, you know, they’re not all just working on, you know, the, the bits of live streaming, but but also, you know, as you can, I’m sure, you can imagine, there’s moderation demands, right, like, livestreaming at scale. We have about 200 people who do nothing but moderation.

Adam Force 26:03
Wow,that’s a lot. Okay. Yeah, that’s a big operation. But I think, you know, the most valuable part of this topic, you know, for our listeners is, you know, the value and benefit of live streaming, because, you know, you’re connecting people, right. And so as an entrepreneur, you know, you might use live streaming for the same benefits, because you have a chance to connect with people.

And you know, there’s a trust building factor there. Because you just like you said, you know, who knows what those pictures look like in the dating world, and all that kind of stuff, and you get to see someone, you know, live, it’s a different dynamic, and you can earn a different level of trust. What do you think?

Geoff Cook 26:46
Yeah, yeah, no, I think you can, I think you absolutely can. And I think where we, you know, are going with this is, you know, we’ve already kind of doubled and tripled and quadrupled down. But, you know, we’re right now, all of the streaming activity, we have all of the live video activities is broadcast media, it’s almost it’s like one-to-many kind of more few-to-many media, almost like a podcast, right?

Few-to-many. And, you know, dating, of course, lends itself to one-on-one. And so we actually are going to be launching one-on-one livestreaming this this summer, and that’ll take it, you know, in the whole new area. You know, hopefully, you know, maybe a few quarters later we will launch a group video, where we’ll enable maybe people to talk about topics or things that are important to them.

Adam Force 27:32
Interesting. Okay. So I something that caught my attention earlier, just about one of your companies that you started, if you don’t mind me just kind of diving back a little bit. I have a question for you, which is you said you got into an editing and writing business. Is that right?

Geoff Cook 27:49
That’s right. That’s right. When I was at Harvard.

Adam Force 27:51
And how did that I’m curious on how you grew that especially, you know, I guess, I don’t know what year that was, but it was, you know, a different time and stuff. And I’m curious how because it sounds like you built it up to a pretty substantial size? And, um, what some of the steps there were and…

Geoff Cook 28:07
Yeah. I mean, that was my first business. And so it’s kind of dear to my heart. Yeah, I started originally as a side job. And like, my first year, it was really just like, you know, the worst that’ll happen is I lear something about making a website and ecommerce because I did everything by myself. And like, I literally took a $500 or $600 advance out of off a credit card. Because I needed money, there’s a whole reason for doing this exercise was that, otherwise, you’re going to get a job.

So but I thought I even if I don’t make any money, no one wants to buy anything. It’s not really a big deal. You know, at least I’ll learn a little bit about e commerce. But, you know, my first year, I thought it was like the best side job ever. I made $10,000. And, you know, that’s probably more than I would have made if I had a side job. And then, you know, I took an internship as like a lot of students do.

But in the night, I would — it was at an internet company in Denver, they took this internship, and at night, I would work on on this business. And, you know, by my junior year, it was $40,000. But I was still doing all the editing. So then it’s like, oh, my God, this is like a chore. But it was still good money. I was probably making 60 bucks an hour, you know, something like that.

And then I was like, okay, you know, at the end of that year, I was like, I’m not going to take a job, I’m just going to go work on this. So my girlfriend at the time, and I and she’s now my wife, we actually rented a house, did nothing but work on this business. And by my senior year, I didn’t do any editing, I just hired people. And we did 300 grand, and then we grow to five plus million, you know, in the next few years.

And it was basically college admissions essays, Business School, personal statements, it was resumes, we were the resume writing to hot job and the Wall Street Journal’s career journal site for when I still was owning it. So it was a great little business, a lot of fun. And it’s one of those straight line stories, like a lot of stories or pivot stories, that was like, Hey, I needed a side job. And then it just, you know, kind of kind of got big.

Adam Force 30:13
So it sounds like you were taking on any kind of writing work.

Geoff Cook 30:17
It was really admissions and resumes. So like those key things, those key documents that people might pay for, right, like, you know, not not necessarily like the business writing or that you might do or book writing. But more like that, you know, this this thing that you need in order to get through some gate?

Adam Force 30:34
Got it? Yeah. And I’ve seen I think you can I think people can charge a pretty penny for resumes and stuff like that.

Geoff Cook 30:40
Absolutely. Absolutely. And a good resume, right is worth it. Right? Because, you know, might help you get that position and get noticed and resume writing and admissions essays like these are all just a skill. So like those services, they weren’t writing it for you. You had to bring your stories, but like be good editor can work with you.

Adam Force 30:59
Yeah, yeah. Right, you know, to frame up the language properly. And all that kind of stuff, I assume.

Geoff Cook 31:05
Exactly. And and just to invoke the right questions, stories, right. Like, and someone to tell you like this stinks. That often helps. Right, yeah, because a lot of times you’ll give it to someone and they won’t tell you that.

Adam Force 31:17
Right. Right.I guess through your experience too, what have been some of the bigger challenges? I mean, you’re talking about selling companies that are hundred million dollars and things like that, which is, you know, that’s big picture stuff. That’s, that’s big, you know, we’re talking with companies that make, you know, seven figures, but you’re talking about a million and stuff like that. And I’m just curious through the experience of now that you’ve had with these companies, you know, what were some of the challenges that you’ve had that maybe were big life lessons in business? Anything come to mind?

Geoff Cook 31:52
Yeah, I mean, you know, there’s been so many, like, I tend to look at these things as kind of chapters, right? Like, it will be…these aren’t straight line stories were like, and then, you know, I started the company, and then I sold it. It was kind of this up into the right thing that just happened until the day I sold it. Right?

Like, it’s almost never that way, like, you’re often on the brink of disaster, or, you know, you’re worried about, you know, something that’s existential. You know, I mean, I think, layoffs, you know, think things like that, you know, ad rates move against you. Investors are upset, like, I mean, I, you know, just kind of one thing after the other and I think the thing to that the kind of hang your hat on and makes you want to keep doing it is the creation aspect, right?

Like you’re trying to create something new and interesting that hopefully people like and, you know, if you’re able to do, that’s the stuff that I like the best, like the kind of what’s the next thing we’re going to be building? Why is that going to work? And the reality is that you have to also realize that like, probably it won’t, really. But occasionally it does. And when it does, it can really work.

Adam Force 33:10
Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing, though, because every time you want to try a new idea, there is a level of work that you have to put into, you know, you don’t have to go crazy, but like, it’s just you have limited time, and you got limited resources. So every time you want to test out something, there is a level of work and time that goes into it. Did you find it challenging? Were you doing things at the same time and spreading yourself thin at all and stuff like that?

Geoff Cook 33:37
Well, I mean, I mean, as a student, I would probably say, like to go back to the college days and starting the business. Like, at the time, yeah, I was probably spread pretty thin. But then by senior year, I was like, wow, this is kind of exceptional, right? Like, this is a significant business. There’s no question which should win here. Right? I’m going to go to class as little as humanly possible. And so you know, that was kind of an easy decision.

In terms of, you know, there’ll be a lot of demands for your time from from investors or from others. And, you know, if there’s key product decisions, or key things you got to do to be moving the actual business forward. Like, that’s where you should be spending your time. And like, I think, ultimately, like, a lot of people understand that. Like, hey, don’t meet with me, if you gotta go grow the business right.

Now, of course, some people will still make demands on your time. But yeah, I mean, being spread thin is, is kind of just part and parcel. And I think, you know, what helps with that, though, is just personal decisions, right? Like, if you can, you know, if I’m able to work out in the morning, that’s a good day, right? No matter kind of what happens, what happens after or, you know, if I can, you know, read to my kids when I when I, you know, at night like that, that’s that that’s good. So as long as you have some of these kind of routines, kind of humanizing routines, I think it helps with the stresses of the day.

Adam Force 35:06
Yeah, no doubt about it. And it’s hard. It’s hard to commit. And that’s something my wife and I are debating all the time, and we’re super busy people and you get so focused on what you’re trying to do each day that you may not eat, or, you know, you should run for, you know, run a mile or go and meditate or whatever your routine is. And those things are a very small fraction of your time throughout the day, yet, you still feel that you can’t tear yourself away to go do it. It takes discipline.

Geoff Cook 35:39
It’s discipline, and a lot of it really does come come down to that. But then, you know, it’s also true that if you keep it up, you know, it gets a lot easier.

Adam Force 35:48
Yeah, it becomes habit. Right. Right, you know, a part of your normal routine. Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. I think that we’re getting to the end of the time here. But where can people…I mean, you have a number of apps and stuff. But is there maybe Yeah, shout out for some stuff.

Geoff Cook 36:08
Sure. I mean, given it’s podcast, I’ll give a shout out to Podcoin, give you that a try. Or if you’re interested in meeting people or livestreaming, MeetMe app would probably be the good one to start with.

Adam Force 36:19
Yeah. And I’m actually just one thing. I’m curious as we wrap up, I don’t think you have but have you ever had to raise funding for anything?

Geoff Cook 36:27
Oh, yeah. I mean, I’ve raised hundreds, hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of time. Yeah, yeah. So you know, I, you know, the myYearbook business. Actually, I signed a $750,000 financing deal three days after I graduated, for my first business, the editing. So I did an angel round. I raised about $17-$18 million in venture capital for the business I sold in 2011. But on top of that, I’d raised, you know, another $20-$30 million in venture debt. And then, you know, as part of a public company, now that I run, you know, we’ve raised what, well in excess of $100 million.

Adam Force 37:16
Yeah, any…I mean, you’re, you’re playing in big numbers, and obviously, with different track records, but any tips on raising funding for the entrepreneurs that were…that are on the line listening?

Geoff Cook 37:31
Yeah. I mean, if it’s an app, you know, like I, you know, I tend to say bootstrap, as long as you can; don’t raise as long as you can. Now, it’s not always reality that you can not raise, but you know, that the entrepreneurs who don’t raise and are successful, that’s always a better story than the entrepreneur raised that were successful. But, you know, some milestones I’ve heard that some investors look at these days are like, 10,000 DAU.

You know, if you can prove your thing out, if you had a mobile app, let’s say, you got 10,000 DAU, and you’re looking at day 30 retention rates of 20% or more — and I realize those are really high numbers — then you’ve got, you know, something that’s probably quite easily fundable, especially if you have a, you know, especially if you have some good backstory, or like, you should be able to figure that out.

But, you know, but like, if you’re, if you’re sitting there with 500 DAU, or, or even worse, you know, just an idea that you want funded. That’s not really the way to go about it. Like, you got to just figure out whatever the heck you need to do to get the first version out, get some users on it. You know, people want to back something they can see.

Adam Force 38:42
Yeah. And can you just for the audience, can you define DAU?

Geoff Cook 38:46
Daily active users, so like, how many users are actually on your app every day?

Adam Force 38:50
Yeah. All right. Awesome. Listen, Geoff, appreciate your time. Sounds like you’re doing a lot of cool stuff. And we’ll keep an eye out on Podcoin and see where that goes. But I think any final words on your end, Are you good?

Geoff Cook 39:08
No, that’s great. You know, I thank you for having me today.

Adam Force 39:11
Awesome. Well, thanks for being here. And we’ll be in touch.

Geoff Cook 39:15
All right, take care.

Adam Force 39:16
That’s all for this episode. Your next step is to join the Change Creator revolution by downloading our interactive digital magazine app for premium content, exclusive interviews, and more ways to stay on top of your game available now on iTunes and Google Play, or visit changecreatormag.com. We’ll see you next time where money and meaning intersect right here at the Change Creator podcast.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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