CC047: Elias Torres of Drift // opening offices outside of silicon valley (live from Embarc Collective’s grand opening)

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Elias Torres 0:00
What hit me was there’s not many people that look like me that are starting, you know, and building multi billion dollar global companies, right? And so I felt like if I stayed there, I would be wasting an opportunity to have all the training I had to that day to build something like this.

Jay Clouse 0:17
The startup investment landscape is changing, and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them, and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to upside. Hello, hello, hello and welcome to the upside podcast first podcast fighting upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Jay Clouse, and I’m accompanied by my co-host, Mr. Raven Sinister himself, Eric Hornhung.

Eric Hornung 0:56
Did you say Raven Sinister?

Jay Clouse 0:58
Raven sinister.

Eric Hornung 1:00
As in like I’m sinister about raving?

Jay Clouse 1:03
No Raven as in the bird, Eric.

Eric Hornung 1:05
Are we talking about Edgar Allan Poe here. I don’t know, what’s going on, man?

Jay Clouse 1:07
No, we’re talking about Childish Gambino. We’re talking about Post Malone. We’re talking about the Wu Tang Clan name generator, which has hereby dubbed you Eric Raven Sinister Hornhung.

Eric Hornung 1:19
What? Did you–you couldn’t come up with a nickname, so used the nickname generator?

Jay Clouse 1:25
Hey, sometimes you got to go to the experts.

Eric Hornung 1:27
Wow, I can’t believe that you couldn’t–you don’t know anything about me, Jay. You have to use an automated solution online to come up with a nickname.

Jay Clouse 1:36
Neither does the Wu Tang Clan. Hey, listen, I’m just saying if Childish Gambino got his nickname here, maybe this is the go-to source because that’s done pretty well for him.

Eric Hornung 1:44
Is that actually where he got it from?

Jay Clouse 1:46
Yes, it is.

Eric Hornung 1:46
And you think the Wu Tang Clan is where they got it from, too?

Jay Clouse 1:49
I don’t know how the Wu Tang Clan got their name but if you go to WuTangclan.net/name-generator, you can find your own Wu Tang Clan name generated, you can tweet that at us @upsideFM. Mine is Bachelor Illusional.

Eric Hornung 2:04
Oh, Mal is going to love that one.

Jay Clouse 2:06
And here’s the thing, that was not what it was the first time I entered it. So I’m wondering what, what’s going on?

Eric Hornung 2:11
Our friends at rap chat have a generator like this, don’t they?

Jay Clouse 2:14
They should if they don’t, let’s see what Seth Miller’s name is. Short Ferret Indolent.

Eric Hornung 2:19
It feels like that doesn’t come off as a very good rap name. Unless you by SFI.

Jay Clouse 2:27
Well, today we are talking with Martin Musty, which is the name generated for Elias Torres, the founder and CTO of Drift. Drift is the world’s leading conversational marketing and sales platform that helps businesses connect now with the customers who are ready to buy now. After just three years in the market, the company has become one of the fastest growing SaaS companies of all time, and was named to the Forbes Cloud 100, LinkedIn top 50 startups, Entrepreneurs Top Company Cultures and more. Eric, I caught up with Elias at the Embarc Collective grand opening ceremony in Tampa, Florida on February 4, over a year after talking to Allie Felix on our fourth coffee chat in October of 2018.

Eric Hornung 3:15
Man, all kinds of names being dropped there, Jay.

Jay Clouse 3:18
Hoo, lots of names. Allie Felix has been a longtime supporter of the show since that interview and we talked about Embarc Collective in that interview, but finally, their innovation space opened down in Tampa, Florida in February, and they were kind enough to fly–would have flown us both out there, but you we’re unavailable Eric, so I went out. Checked out the space met a lot of our upside friends in three dimensions, in person, and recorded this fireside chat, which is part of their programming with Elias Torres. Elias is a very legitimate guy Eric.

Eric Hornung 3:49
More legitimate than you? More legitimate than me?

Jay Clouse 3:51
Much more legitimate than both of us. But together. He was previously the VP of Engineering at HubSpot, which obviously went on to have huge success before going to Drift, which is also had huge success. Founded in 2015, based in Boston with offices in Tampa, San Francisco, Seattle. They’ve raised 100 and $7 million in funding from Sequoia. Big names, big dollars.

Eric Hornung 4:13
Just a lot of bigness in this interview. A lot of bigness and a lot of names. That’s how we’re gonna summarize this interview.

Jay Clouse 4:20
No outro on this one, guys; this is just a recording from that fireside chat. Hope you enjoy it. And without further ado, let’s talk to Elias. This episode of upside is sponsored by Tresta. Tresta is a mobile app that lets you do business calling and texting from anywhere. With Tresta, you can set up your business phone number, download the app, and start calling and texting unlimited right away. Treasta is the best business phone app on the market, whether you’re a founder or freelancer, just starting your business, or you’re already established. Growing your network and your business is all about communication. You’ve got to be available no matter where you are. Tressta offers the call management features that empower you to communicate smarter and more efficiently, like auto attendance, call recording, user groups, and more. And you don’t need any special equipment either, just the smartphone you’re already using. Tresta is easy to configure. So you can set everything up yourself all online. It’s just $15 per user per month with no contract. So start your free 30 day trial today at Tresta.com/upside. That’s www.Tresta.com/upside.

Jay Clouse 5:29
Thanks for being here, guys. This is a really, really exciting event. On our podcast, we talked to Allie back in October of 2018 about Embarc Collective, so this is an amazing full circle moment. And I’m also a Drift user. So I’m excited to talk with Elias here. So Leah, you are CTO of one of the fastest growing companies in the country. Previously, you we’re at HubSpot, another crazy success story. But I want to go all the way back to your America story when you immigrated here. Can you talk a little bit about your story of coming to America and coming to Tampa specifically?

Elias Torres 6:04
Well yes, I, I arrived in 1993, December 3 of 1993 to Tampa, Florida. I was 17 years old. And we had family here. When you’re an immigrant, you have to go wherever you can get any kind of help. Right? So we had an aunt that had been leaving here, we had a few aunts, my mom had a few sisters in Miami. But we picked Tampa. My mother says Miami’s too crazy, just had that foresight, and said, Let’s go meet with your, with your mother on la Tia. And we came here and it was, as I come, it was exciting, right? I was coming, I grew up in a communist country, Nicaragua, and I was always pro-America, and this is the land of the opportunity. And I had big dreams. And so I was really excited to be here, right? Where we could have an equal opportunity to be successful, because in Latin America, you kind of have to be born into it to be successful. And even though society here is not quite equal, there’s a lot more opportunity. And so I’ve been very, very thrilled that I able to spend a little bit of high school here. I went to USF, and the community here had embraced me, helped me. I received a scholarship to go to school. And it was incredible, right? I worked at IBM while I was here as an intern when I was at college. And then that connection to IBM is kind of what took me up north. And that was the moment where I got a full time job at IBM and I had an amazing opportunity and I took it, right. Just like every other opportunity I took here that the Tampa Bay area gave me. So it was an incredible, about, I spent here from ’93 to ’98.

Jay Clouse 7:39
And so when you, when you immigrated here, you were about 17, you said, you we’re in high school. What was that like experiencing this community for the first time, you know, what was the first opportunity that you remember being able to embrace?

Elias Torres 7:51
Well, the first opportunity was to have access to school. From a very early moment in high school, I went to high school and we, there was a program called Inroads, which is an internship program for minorities, that they would help me at interview, and I had a job at Bank of America, NationsBank at the time. And we would go Saturdays and spend the entire day Saturday learning how to interview, how to build resumes, how to talk to a manager. There’s such foundational things that gave me the, the courage, the courage and the confidence, right, to be in a corporate setting. You know, it was something that, you know, when you’re very poor, when you have food stamps, and you have to dress up and put up a jacket and go to a banking center, it’s like, how do you act, who’s modeling this after you? And so those trainings that we would go to every Saturday made a big difference in my life, right?

Jay Clouse 8:43
At some point, I mean, you’re at IBM, which is truly corporate. That’s, that’s a big corporate job. At some point, you transition into the world of startups and then even venture a little bit. So can you talk about that transition and what piqued your interest into getting into the world of entrepreneurship and startups?

Elias Torres 9:00
Really, it was like something like TechCrunch To be honest, I worked at IBM. It was an amazing run, 10 years there, where I was part of a very innovative and visionary technology organization. We’re the ones who put IBM.com on the internet. They were doing the Olympic websites at the time, Nagano, Sydney. Those were the, you know, this was Deep Blue, Kasparov. So I was on an amazing team that I got to see because of my internship in Tampa. And so when I interviewed IBM, I knew about this team already. And I wanted to work there, and I got that opportunity. So it was incredible. IBM is 400,000 person organization. It was most one of the most advanced. I was there pre-Google, right. In fact, I know some of the engineers that worked with me went and left to go to Google and built great things there. So at the time, I was happy. I was so impressed, you know, of working for such a global company. But I realized quickly that my personality is very entrepreneurial in nature. I’m impatient, and I want, I want to get things done quickly, and I don’t like consensus, and I like people to have a lot of passion. So slowly, I started looking into the external world and realizing the startup scene that I kind of missed into 2000. In fact, I had friends who had asked me to start a startup in 2000, and I chickened out. I really did. I didn’t know anything about it. I was in New York City, and I was like, I don’t want to do it. And I stayed at IBM. And then the second wave, I had to do it, right. Yeah, I was not going to miss it this time.

Jay Clouse 10:27
2000 might have been a good time to be on the sidelines in this world of startups anyway. Was entrepreneurship, was that supported in your family? You know, coming coming from a different country and coming to this world of opportunity, was it expected that maybe you do go on and start something on your own? Or was that something that was scary and culturally less familiar?

Elias Torres 10:46
There’s two parts of it. My mother is a veterinarian, right. And she tried to start a lot of businesses and failed. And so she was always scared of that , but she’s an amazing academic. She’s an amazing professional and she was a college professor. But did not have luck that the system in Nicaragua, it’s communism, we barely had things to eat, right? So it was not conducive to start businesses. And she tried many times. My father lived in LA and had small businesses. I really don’t know exactly where this entrepreneurial thing comes. I don’t, I don’t think, I’m still learning this environment, this system. I think it’s just a personality, right? Where you can tell me no 1000 times and I’m not going to stop, right? I come from nothing. I have nothing to lose. So who cares, right? It’s like, I don’t have anything. So I’ll go, I’ll go for it, right. I don’t have alternatives, there’s no plan B for me. There’s no plan B for me with Drift, right. It’s like, I only have Plan A, we just got to keep going. And so that’s really I think, what fits. And then I just everything else, I’m just learning along the way, and make sure that I have the right mentors. David Kensal is my partner, we’ve been in, we’ve been in business for 10 years, four companies together, and I’ve learned a ton from him, and plus other mentors that we associate ourselves with.

Jay Clouse 12:00
I’d love to dig into that topic of mentorship, bcause if you’re starting something for the first time, you know, maybe thinking back to when you were first starting your first company, all the way through to on your third or fourth company now, mentorships plays such a key role. So if I’m a first time founder, and I don’t have the executive coaching that Embarc offers, how do I find mentors? And how do I best utilize these mentors?

Elias Torres 12:25
Well, I think everything is a numbers game, right? You really have to realize that for a lot of people that are very successful ones, they’re successful–just making money or just being successful at company is not enough. Really it’s, there’s a time where now helping others is way more interesting and satisfying, right? So I really like people want to help. You just have to find the right person at the right time, that has the availability to do it. Right. And so sometimes you got to be careful of like, not trying to, you know, get, you know, the CEO of Apple, right, to mentor you If you’re just Starting out, you got to find the right people that are just a few steps ahead of you, and that are willing to help. But there’s a lot of people that, that really desire to do that. I think it’s part of our human nature. But it’s tough sometimes, right? Because you’re not gonna, it’s like being an entrepreuneur. You can’t just sit and expect people to give you money. You’re gonna go have to knock on a lot of doors until you find the right people.

Jay Clouse 13:21
So where we kind of left off in the story. You are jumping into the startup world out of IBM, you’re in Boston, correct? Talk to me about your first startup venture. And what that was like starting in Boston.

Elias Torres 13:34
Picture 2008, what happened in 2008. A Bitcoin? Yeah. True. So no, it was 2008 right before the crash, right? I quit IBM after 10 years. I have three young children. They were age like, three, two and one. My wife is staying at home and I say to her like, I’m quitting IBM, I want to go join this startup, 10 person startup, about a million in funding. And everything seems to be great. And two weeks later, the market crashes, and we lay off half of the company. I work out of my house, out of a bedroom, out of our bedroom. And that’s how my entrepreneurial journey began. So it was, it was a little tense. In the year before that I had put all my investments in real estate, in my 401k, And so my 401k is basically gone,

Jay Clouse 14:24
Yeah.

Elias Torres 14:25
And I have like two months of savings in the bank.

Jay Clouse 14:27
Why did you continue to stick through that and not go back to say, IBM, please, can I come back?

Elias Torres 14:33
No Plan B.

Jay Clouse 14:35
You’re gonna just keep going. Burn the boats.

Elias Torres 14:37
We’re in the ships, you can’t go back.

Jay Clouse 14:39
So what turned things around?

Elias Torres 14:41
Well, I stuck with my partner, I had an opportunity to sell that company and I could go with that company and get a job at a larger company. But we talked and we said, he’s, he’s like, I’m gonna start another company you want to join and I’m like, Yeah, I have no job. Let’s go. And so we took that opportunity and we built a company called Performable where now was the founder. And so I got to learn a lot there. In the 10 years that I spent at IBM, he spent building companies. So he had a lot more experience. And that was very useful. We started that company, and in about a year and nine months, we reach about a million in recurring revenue. And it was just that, you know, that was kind of really the beginning of that speed that him and I have together when it comes to execution. And that success, we started with the 3 million funding. Were about to raise a Series B, we had a term sheet for 7 million, and we sold to, and we were in conversations with HubSpot to sell the company for 25 million in 2011. And so that was like the first break where I was able to do that. It was funny, because uh, we knew Dharmesh, we knew Brian Halligan from the community in Boston, and I interviewed to work at HubSpot when they were about 45 people. And I said no to join David. And so I then came back, but three years later, into HubSpot

Jay Clouse 15:57
They made you an offer you couldn’t refuse.

Elias Torres 15:58
Yeah, they made me a better offer than the one they had made initially. So that’s how it kind of things, went full circle back into HubSpot. And then went into that incredible journey of taking that public.

Jay Clouse 16:09
The HubSpot story if you guys aren’t familiar with it incredible, incredible story, incredible growth, you guys had continued to be a wildly successful company. Let’s fast forward now to Drift. You know, your, your third company. When did you decide that, Okay, it’s time to leave HubSpot and start this company. And were you still in Boston at this time?

Elias Torres 16:26
I’m still in Boston. I think that it’s really about role models and mentors, right. Brian Halligan is the mentor of Dharmesh. You know, when I first met Dharmesh, and he was starting HubSpot, before I interviewed with them, I’m, we, there was like a tech dinner that I was invited to. And he says, I’m starting this thing called inbound marketing and website grader. And I could just see, and I would see Dharmesh all the time on the news, Like I just raised another $17 million, I just raised another $25 million, something like that. And we’re like, what does this thing even do? But the thing is that, when we see people doing those things, and they’re just like, right there next to you, and you like, this guy’s, it’s not that good. You know, it’s just like he’s just like me. I can coach just as well as he does. And so when you have that, when you see, when you’re a young person, you’re a young girl and you see a gymnastic, you know, gymnasts on the Olympics and you see somebody going downhill skiing or whatever, it inspires you to do the same, right? And so after being there for three years, we felt that it was, we took it public, and I just can’t rest. I just don’t like to just relax. And I felt that going public was going to change things, right, for me, and it might not have been good, right? And so we, we decided to just burn the ships again. And we, David and I agreed to start Drift. And we left two months before the IPO. Left a lot on the table, but I don’t really, I’m not really calculating my career or my net worth in that way, I’m just simply looking for the journey where I can keep on learning. And so we just like eft and it was just two of us starting from scratch again. And that feeling is, is crazy. It is nerve racking because we left such a company that we had position to this growth that you see today, to now 7 billion, and we’re like, start from nothing at a rock climbing gym. And so but I really, that’s what I wanted, you know. And the other thing is that what hit me was there’s not many people that look like me that are starting, you know, and building multi billion dollar global companies, right. And so I felt like if I stayed there, I would be wasting an opportunity to have all the training I had to that day to build something like this. And like, if I go, you know, there’s so many, so many Latinos are struggling, Latinos, Latinas, right are struggling to, to fundraise and to have opportunity, to have a network, to have build experience that, you know, earns their trust to go at it again. And so if I stayed there, I felt like I would be wasting that, and I have more of a social responsibility to go out there and prove it that we can build something from scratch and not just rode along the successes of others. And so that’s kind of that chip on the shoulder that I have. And I want to really be a role model, right? And let other people know that, hey, you can start a company as well, because I’m just a normal guy too. It’s like sounds like, if I can do it, you can do it.

Jay Clouse 19:17
I want to touch on that point, because you mentioned, you know, when you have close proximity to somebody that’s doing something that seems really, really impressive and amazing, but you know them personally. So it’s like, You’re no different than I, it gives you this confidence to keep going. How does that translate between the Boston community and now the Tampa community? You know, is you hear things about Boston, New York, San Francisco, they make a sound like these are these incredible places that are unlike anything else, and if you’re going to start a company, you got to be one of these places. How does Tampa compare to a place like Boston when it comes to being around people that you can look to and say, well, you’re no different than me, I can do this, too?

Elias Torres 19:55
Look, the truth is that talent is everywhere, right? What we don’t have access to resources every day. I’ve been 20 years in Boston and I see entrepreneurs leave Boston to go to San Francisco, because they spent years trying to fundraise and they couldn’t, and they show up in San Francisco, and a week later, they have, you know, $5 million in pre-seed. It’s, it’s crazy, right? The access that they have in San Francisco is way, way, way bigger, orders of magnitude bigger than what we have in Boston. So I’m very used to that feeling, right, of being the the underdog when we get compared to San Francisco. And so I know the feeling that you feel here, but the truth is that we have to believe that we can actually make it happen because there are successes all over the world. What happens is that investors do not want to attend a board meeting that is outside of the valley. It really boils down to basic things like that, of why they don’t want to invest in other places. And there’s two types of investors. There’s the investor that is very analytical that comes from from private banking, from PE and from, from up there, where they calculate everything just numerically. And they’re the great investors that are thinking of the seed stages and taking risks on people. And so I think that we need to keep in finding and accessing those, those, those investors that, that make the big bets on people. And so people are everywhere. And Tampa is really exciting because it has so many variables going for it that I already, that I’ve seen in Boston. There’s a mutual need for entrepreneurial and for America to succeed. We need more entrepreneurs, right, we need more investors. But we need people. And we can’t expect everybody to go to San Francisco, we can’t expect everyone to go to New York. And so we need to kind of work together. And that’s why we brought Drift to Tampa, right? So we can invest and grow the community, grow the talent, but at the same time, help us succeed and grow, right, in a capital, efficient way.

Jay Clouse 21:51
Totally. And you guys are still a business and you you want to be successful. So as much as responsibility and draw I’m sure you feel to come back home to Tampa, you must also be seeing something else that you’re saying, this is just a good business decision. Is that talent? What, what, what is it about Tampa that made you guys say, this is where we’re going to stake a claim to put another headquarters?

Elias Torres 22:13
In the tech world, the hardest thing is really finding the right people. Talent is really your number one expense, is your number one focus of growth and success and effectiveness of the way the company executes. Retaining them is extremely vital, and very difficult. The more success you have, the more people want to come in. Everybody wants to come and hire from Drift because we, we attract the best talent, they learn the fastest. When you’re in a hyper growth company, people experience so many things in like a year that other people would take them, you know, five years to experience. And so when you have a new company starting in Boston, they’re like, oh, where should we get somebody? Let’s go get someone from Drift, right? And so it’s very difficult, right for us. It makes my job a lot tougher. So we figured, why don’t we go to other places, the advice that I’ve had for many of my mentors is to not be relying on a single office location. So we have offices in Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, and now we’re looking to open one in London. But Tampa is very key, it’s special for me, right? Personal because we can develop talent in a community that is up and coming. And we can invest. Many people that I meet in San Francisco all over the world, they say, Why Tampa, and I’m like, because I can go help build it, and I’m gonna have an advantage there. And so I want to come here and grow that talent, and then be able to have and retain my people for much longer, right? So we can actually be successful and move faster.

Jay Clouse 23:40
Can you talk to me a little bit more about when you have these different offices, d you make them all cross functional and have all aspects of the business and all offices, or do you specialize those offices depending on location?

Elias Torres 23:51
Yeah, we’d like to specialize offices. We did this when we opened Ireland with with HubSpot, and Dublin, and then others subsequent offices, 10 offices now worldwide, is that the more cross functional you make an organization, a company, the more dependencies and the slower it is going to move. So you really want to create pockets of excellence in every place. And when it comes to product, especially, we like to have completely self contained product units, you know, squats in a location so they can move as fast as possible. Right, they can take advantage of the horizontal infrastructure that we build globally, but we want people to just, the least number of people that you involve in a decision, the faster you’ll be able to make it. So that’s really the, the approach.

Jay Clouse 24:35
You talked about this social responsibility to being a role model and supporting other Latinx founders. We know that from Amy’s talk, there’s just a sliver of venture capital that goes to most regions outside of three cities or so. And there’s a smaller subset of that of capital that goes to Latinx founders. So what can, what needs to be done to start to shift those things tides? And what can people in this room do to help be an ally and move those tides faster?

Elias Torres 25:05
I wish I knew the answer. But um, just, one is what I what I see in the ecosystem is I there’s a lot of successful people for many companies that they, they make a huge exit, like a CEO retreat with people that have had like billion dollar exits. And now I see them investing in their angel investors in people, but they tend to be investors into people that look like them that they know, right? So one of the things that we have to do is we have to have some success of our own first and really and figure out which groups we can, we can build bridges with, but we have to take care of our own community first, like it is, no one’s going to have the love for Latinx as a Latinx. himself, right. And so we have to have success and we have to invest in one another, and we need to find them. Manny Medina is from Ecuador. He’s CEO of Outreach in Seattle, it’s a billion dollar unicorn company. So we’re building relationships together, him and I have, that CEO page of duty. So we’re building that network of people. And so we can get together some of the capital. We are scouts to invest, in invest in firms and figure out how to bring those people in network them. For example, one thing that I do is that anybody that works for me at Drift, the HubSpot, any company before, I will be an angel investor to them. And that’s my promise, right? You work for me, you’re going to do that. And so one things I’m doing is focusing in hiring more Latinx people and more underrepresented minorities at Drift so I can pay them forward and then launch them into entrepreneurship in the future. This is going to take many, many years. We have to do that. I’m involved with one of the firms in the valley where they have 50 board seats available. And this person, a white male has been charged, you know, in his heart to help him bring some of that social justice. And so he’s asking me for like, help him find the network of people that He can suggest to the companies to get on boards. So then those, you know, it’s just like we have to work this from so many angles. And really it begins from, you know, basic shelter and food and education from the early days to like high school to then college then jobs to be included and supported to work in there, be successful, get capital to then invest. I mean, it’s it’s a long journey. And it’s something that I’m just really becoming aware now. And I’m trying to figure out where I need to focus my energy

Jay Clouse 27:28
You mentioned hiring. You know, I would imagine and I’d like to hear if this is true, from your experience, I would imagine that the same inequality of venture capital happens at the hiring level, you know. Is there anything that employers or startup companies could be doing differently, to find diverse and differentiated talent to bring into their companies?

Elias Torres 27:49
It’s very difficult because, I tell you that it’s very difficult even for me to hire underrepresented minorities in Boston. And that’s why I wanted to come here when you have USF, which is like a number one Latinx successfu, success story in the United States–number one success in the United States. It’s really difficult. We are invisible, really, to the rest of the community in Boston and people say like, I don’t know where to find underrepresented minorities, right? They’re not in the network, ’cause you know, Boston is tends to be a very segregated city. I struggle with that because to get a candidate from like, finding who I am, that I’m interested in meeting them, that they’re going to have an equal opportunity during an interview in the entire process to be selected, the odds are against us. So it’s very difficult. It’s there’s something that because I’m a founder of the company and David and I we’re both Latinx founders, it’s something that we we push and we push and we push, and it takes a lot of work. We do a lot of unconscious bias training. We have a DEI, you know, a person dedicated to focus on on those initiatives. But it’s very difficult. I think that’s something that I’m learning myself, how to, how to help and get get more people through the through the funnel so they can be successful.

Jay Clouse 29:01
I’m going to shift gears here for a couple questions. And I’d love to open it up to the audience if you guys have some questions. From Performable to HubSpot to Drift, you mentioned your Performable story. You and your co-founder, you know, have a history of spinning things up quickly. What are some of the levers that you pull in starting a new technology company to get things up to speed so quickly? You know, with the successes you’ve seen, it’s, it’s obvious that that is true. So if you were going to start a new company tomorrow, what would some of those levers that you pull look like?

Elias Torres 29:29
You know, one of our principles that Drift is you have to be bias for action, deliver daily results. You have to, whatever you build, you have to put it in front of customers. You have to charge for stuff quickly. If people don’t pay you, then you don’t have something valuable. You cannot go sit in a garage and build something forever and then think it’s going to be perfect. People hold on to their ideas too closely and they think it’s a great idea and somebody’s gonna steal it. Ideas are dime a dozen. It’s execution that really matters. Marketing, people underestimate marketing and don’t create a brand, don’t create a movement, don’t create a category. You also have to bring salespeople early. A lot of people think that Oh, we don’t, we don’t want to have sales, we’ll build a touchless product and touch the sales process and it’s going, we’re going to be rich and no, it doesn’t work that way. You really need every function very quickly. You need to hire the best people. You need to go get access to, to funding. You have to move as fast as possible. We’re five years into it. 350 people, 107 in funding, and I still think it’s day one, and as paranoid as is this not working as I was the day that we left HubSpot, so you just gotta get **** done.

Jay Clouse 29:35
When you talk about moving really fast and getting **** done and building quickly, is there a line you draw as founders with your employees for how many hours is too many hours? Or is everybody sold on the mission, and they’re working all day every day?

Elias Torres 30:57
No, absolutely not. This is a marathon, right? It’s like, I go to bed like at 930. You know, it’s like whatever I did from like 5am to 930, that’s what I got done that day. But I’m gonna focus on how do I use my calendar, how do I use my time? Am I do I have the right people? Should I be doing that job? And should I be delegating to somebody else? And who I delegated is not doing it well, I need to find another person. And so it’s really how you use your time. We all have the same 24 hours, and not sleeping, you know, I did that at Performable, and I looked like **** then, you know, it was like, I was like, you know, my partner makes fun of me all the time, because those days I did not know how to balance. I would code till like 2 or 3 in the morning, show up at the office like 9 or 10. And it was not, it’s not good for my health, right. So I think that we do have to have a balance. And it’s very doable, because we all have the same amount of hours. The problem is that people need to build a stamina and that discipline in the training, especially young people that don’t know whether they’re like working really hard or not or they don’t know when they need to go to bed. They don’t know when what is stressful and what’s not stressful? And so it’s, a lot of it is mental. I think people need examples in teaching.

Jay Clouse 32:08
How do you screen for that the hiring process? You talked about the importance of hiring the best people. What are some of the things that you look for to indicate that this is the best, or the quality of the caliber of person that we want at Drift?

Elias Torres 32:19
So there’s personally assessment, this assessment tools that you can use to track for those profiles. It really is, we’re looking for winners. I don’t know if you know about trajectory hiring. But it’s like, you look at what they’ve done in every step. And if they’re succeeding, and they have that competitiveness and that intelligence. And whatever is it that they did when there was a club, whether it was every aspect of every person’s journey, you can look at it, dissect it and find out if they have what it takes to take on the challenges. If they’re not taking risks, if they’re not being promoted within whatever they’re doing, if they join a club and they don’t become the president then, you know, they might not have that it factor that you need to be in a startup.

Jay Clouse 32:58
Drift has raised $107 million at this point. We talked about the the struggles of fundraising when you’re not in Silicon Valley, or when you’re, when you’re a minority or underrepresented founder. What are some of the tips that you would give for founders in this building or founders listening to this to help them fundraise effectively and successfully?

Elias Torres 33:18
Well, what I did is I worked with people that were more experienced than I was. There was times where people were asking me to join the startups with people that it was going to be their first time. So I went with people David Cancel had a lot more experience, had raised money in the past. So I chose to work for somebody else, you know, as a lesser partner, but I gained a lot more, right. You want people that have a, that have a reputation, they have successes in their belt already. And so by us doing Performable by us, brought us into HubSpot. By us being at HubSpot, we met you know, Sequoia, CRV, GCR investors, they knew what we did for HubSpot. So it was much easier for them to write that check because they already had a personal relationship with us. So I think that you need to, you know, if you can, work at companies that have the great investors, the hyper growth companies, join those, like Drift, and then you’ll have the founders be investors in you, and then you have the board there, would know you worked there, because you’ve seen a successful movie. And that’s really important, back to role models. Like if you never work at a successful startup, how do you know what a successful startup looks like? And so that brings a lot of weight, you know, when it comes to a discussion with the VC with besides when you like, start from scratch, and I’m just gonna start this company. But what do you know? You have to know, you have to get experience.

Jay Clouse 34:32
Is there anything that I didn’t ask that I should have asked? I call this the soapbox question.

Elias Torres 34:37
More about Tampa. Why it’s gonna be great.

Jay Clouse 34:40
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I’m sure you looked at other markets when you when you open up the Tampa office. So what ultimately sold you on Tampa?

Elias Torres 34:49
Well, it all started, what like almost two and a half years ago, Marvin, I don’t know if Marvin is here, Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, you know, I was having lunch with him and he’s like, How many are you? He’s like, 350? It was like, 200 something 215. Like, you don’t have another office, you only in Boston? I was like, yeah. Oh, that’s not gonna work. You got to find other people. I know the founders of Wayfair, founders of Bullhorn. And that’s when it just started to hit me that I’m like, wow, I need to open another office for growth. And so I was really busy. We were not at the size that we are now. I was like, My hands were like in too many things at the time. But I started thinking like, Where could we go? And everyone’s like, just go to a tier two, tier three city that has a great school, and then you can like, go and take over the city and I’m like, Where can I go? Like I come here for 16, since 1993, I’ve been here every Christmas, right? And I’m like, Where can I go that has talent and community and a story. And I literally thinking about the Midwest or like Salt Lake City because they have great salespeople, you know, like that, that Mormon like, you know, training and discipline. And then you have Nashville growing up, Austin is great. Boulder was too white for me. And so I was like, No, I can’t do it. Everybody’s just like triathlon every day and like, you know, they hiked the flat irons, and I’m like, I can’t be here, and everyone drinks PBR anyway, sorry. But I’m like, Where can I go that they like, there’s like a Latinx community, and they might know me, and they might welcome me. And I’m that dumb, like, it just took me a while to figure it out. I was like, wait a minute, let me go to Tampa. And so I started making some connections. And they introduced me to, Vinick. It was crazy story for another time. I didn’t know who Jeff was. And like, I was sending an email cc with him. And then he replies and they’re, like, come over, and I’m like, No, I’m busy, sorry, sir. And, and then I find out who he was. And I replied, and I said, Can we have coffee, please? And then he introduced me to Lakshmi, and two years and plus ago and she’s like, we’re gonna build something great here. And I’m like, you seem really going to do something. And to be here today after this journey, it just feels amazing. We have 22 people from drift now started at Industrious. December 1, we opened the office and we probably reached 60 by the end of this year. The team is so excited. We have moved people from from Boston to transfer the DNA and the culture and not have its own thing. We’ve been building executives here as well, so they have representation in the executive team at the company. And more and more people, wherever I go, I’m telling them about Tampa. And they’re like, really, why? And then when I tell them what’s happening, like, we’re going to bring a lot more companies. And definitely, we’re going to make this a successful place. But you know, it’s going to take time, 5-10 years. And it’s going to be a tier two successful, the future of tech in the United States.

Jay Clouse 37:42
Well, if this event is any indication, it’s going to be a really great 5 to 10 years. So please join me in giving a hand to Elias. That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s guest, so shoot us an email at hello@upside.fm or find us on Twitter @upsideFM. We’ll be back here next week at the same time talking to another founder in our quest to find upside outside of Silicon Valley. If you or someone you know would make a good guest for our show, please email us or find us on Twitter and let us know. And if you love our show, please leave us a review on iTunes. That goes a long way in helping us spread the word and continue to help bring high quality guests to the show. Eric and I decided there were a couple things we wanted to share with you at the end of the podcast. And so here we go. Eric Hornung and Jay Clouse are the founding parties of the upside podcast. At the time of this recording, we do not own equity or other financial interest in the companies which appear on this show. All opinions expressed by podcast participants are solely their own opinion and do not reflect the opinions of Duff & Phelps LLC and its affiliates, Unreal Collective LLC and its affiliates, or any entity which employ us. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. We have not considered your specific financial situation nor provided any investment advice on this show. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview begins: 5:29

Elias Torres is the co-founder and CTO of Drift.

Jay recently had the chance to talk to with Elias Torres at Embarc Collective in Tampa Bay. Having worked in software all his life, Elias has been a part of impressive businesses, including IBM and Hubspot, and has founded two software based companies.

A Nicaraguan native, Elias discusses his story of immigrating to America and the opportunity he commits to in other LatinX founders and in his home town, Tampa Bay. With his extensive experience, he leaves us with valuable tips in starting effective and strong teams.

We discuss:

  • Ad: Business calling and texting anytime, anywhere with Tresta (4:30)
  • Immigrating to America (6:05)
  • Transitioning from corporate to entrepreneur (8:43)
  • Mentorship (12:00)
  • Starting companies in Boston (13:34)
  • Tampa vs. Boston (19:17, 34:37)
  • Multi-city office organization (23:40)
  • Bringing opportunity to LatinX founders (24:35)0
  • How to bring speed to a startup (29:01)
  • Hiring at Drift (32:08)
  • Tips for successful fundraising (32:58)

Learn more about Drift: https://www.drift.com/
Learn more about Embarc Collective: https://www.embarccollective.com/
Follow Elias on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eliast
Follow upside on Twitter: https://twitter.com/upsidefm

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