UP069: Relish // relationship coaching in the comfort of your own home

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Lesley Eccles 0:00
If we can get people to therapy earlier they will have a better outcome. And we know that. Typical success rates in couples therapy is 50% because they’ve left it too late. They’re on the verge of divorce when they go to therapy.

Jay Clouse 0:14
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.

Eric Hornung 0:42
Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Eric Hornung, and I’m accompanied by my co-host, Mr. Empty Fridge himself, Jay Clouse. Jay, what is going on over there?

Jay Clouse 0:57
Well, I just don’t really live here anymore Eric. This is my office, and in my office, the fridge is full of Chipotle Mayo, some Atkins meal replacement shakes because they’re great for eating during interviews like this. What else we got? We had an onion in there that started to grow a tree out of it.

Eric Hornung 1:15
Why, why do you have to pull the mayo if the only thing in there is the original Soylent, I guess?

Jay Clouse 1:23

Eric Hornung 1:23
Like why do you need Chipotle mayo? Why do you need condiments in there?

Jay Clouse 1:26
Well, I used to make some food for myself. Here’s, here’s a dish that my friend Zach taught me that was nutritionally sound but some people think sounds really gross. You take chickpeas, garbanzo beans, and you put them in a bowl, and then you add a little bit of avocado, you add some Chipotle mayo, you add coconut flakes and a little bit of hot sauce. And that’s it.

Eric Hornung 1:52
It seems very creamy.

Jay Clouse 1:53
It is kind of creamy. It’s very simple. It’s easy to assemble. It’s cheap to purchase and you don’t Use a whole lot of the mayo per bowl. So it was just kind of an artifact of when I used to kind of feed myself.

Eric Hornung 2:08
When I was poor in college, my go to little meal was, you’d buy the really cheap, whatever, whatever turkey or deli meat was on sale, you’d buy that, and then you’d buy whatever cheese was on sale. So it’d be like $2.99 a pound at Giant Evil or something crazy, just like you’re buying the dumpster here. But you buy that, you get a couple pounds of it, a couple pounds of cheese, and then you get a tub of Hellman’s mayo and some hot sauce. And I thought that was pretty nutritional. So you know, your avocado and chickpea is probably better for you than what I picked. But now one of my favorites–oh, this is gonna make me sound disgusting on the podcast, but whatever–I really, really like and always have liked the really cheap hot dog buns with just ketchup.

Jay Clouse 2:53
What? Just hot dog buns and ketchup?

Eric Hornung 2:55
Yeah, it’s like one of my favorite little snacks.

Jay Clouse 2:58
No hot dog?

Eric Hornung 2:59
No hot dog.

Jay Clouse 3:00
What kind of monster are you? That sounds disgusting.

Eric Hornung 3:03
I mean, I do like a hot dog. I mean, I’ll take a hot dog. I’ll take a hot dog with ketchup. I’ll take a hot dog with mustard and ketchup and relish and onions. And really, I mean, dude, I’ll take, I’ll eat a hot dog. I’m just telling you, we’re talking about poverty snacks here. I really like little 99 cents for a bag of eight white bread hotdog roll with some Heinz ketchup on it.

Jay Clouse 3:27
Well, you build a bridge that we didn’t need, but since you gave it to me, I will cross it. Today’s guest is Leslie Eccles, the founder and CEO of Relish. Relish is customized relationship training that gives users unlimited access to a qualified relationship coach combined with actual interactive and scientifically backed relationship training plans in their app that adapt over time. Leslie is also a former cofounder of FanDuel, which many people may be aware of, but has been working on Relish since 2018 from New York City. This interview also comes after the release of the book, Billion Dollar Fantasy, which tells the FanDuel and DraftKings story from inside the companies. We will probably refer to that in the interview, but we’ll try to cover a little bit of that FanDuel founding story in our interview as well. Leslie worked with the author Albert Chen of Sports Illustrated to help get it off the ground. From the pitch email we received, Eric, Leslie and her FanDuel cofounders walked away from the eventual acquisition of FanDuel with nothing themselves, so crazy story, a company that was in the Zeitgeist, a lot of people have heard of at this point, and I don’t actually know the full outcome. So hopefully we’ll get a little bit of that in the interview.

Eric Hornung 4:48
Yeah, drag along rights dragging us right into this interview. If you guys have thoughts on this interview, hit us up on Twitter @upsidefm or send us something a little longer hello@upside.fm, and we’ll get to that right after this.

Jay Clouse 5:05
Eric, can you imagine being a founder working with Drive Capital, Hyde Park Venture Partners Draper triangle, Excel, Chicago Ventures, Refinery Ventures, Hyde Park Angels. Can you imagine being a founder and working with all of those VCs and more?

Eric Hornung 5:18
Man, if you got an investment from or worked with all of those VCs and they were giving you advice and your board, you just have to be probably one of the best companies in the Midwest or in between the coasts, I would say.

Jay Clouse 5:29
And that’s exactly what Integrity Power Search is. Integrity Power Search works with all those VC partners and more as the number one, full stack, high growth startup recruiting firm between the coasts. They partner with those venture capitalists, private equity groups, and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disrupting companies. Eric, they are working with 84+ companies in those different venture portfolios, helping full roles related to sass companies, autonomous vehicle companies, big data, computer vision, blockchain. If you’re looking to higher, Integrity, Power Search can help.

Eric Hornung 6:00
And if you want to learn more about Integrity Power Search and what they’re doing in between the coasts, you can go to upside/integrity.

Jay Clouse 6:15
Leslie, welcome the show.

Lesley Eccles 6:16
Hello, Jay. It’s great to be here.

Eric Hornung 6:18
On upside, we like to start with a background of the guest. So, can you tell us about the history of Leslie.

Lesley Eccles 6:24
History of Lesley. Wow. Okay. That’s a big question. Good, good, strong opener there, Eric. So originally, I’m from Scotland. I have this weird mid-Atlantic voice now. So forgive me for that. I moved to New York City three years ago, having built a company called FanDuel, which we started in Edinburgh, in Scotland in 2009. We moved the headquarters to New York in 2011, and built into I guess, a household name over the years. I personally left in 2017 and said I would never do another startup again after that experience. Fast forward three months, I got really bored and decided, I’m gonna do another startup. And at that point, I was ready to go. And you know, I think if anyone who’s listened to this has followed the story of FanDuel and know some of the background, they’ll know it was quite a roller coaster of a ride. And coming out of that, I had this overriding feeling of simply wanting to give the world a hug and make everyone feel better. My team had been through a brutal experience with building FanDuel, and I just wanted to make everybody feel better. And that was the kind of reason initially for coming up with the idea for Relish .

Jay Clouse 7:55
I was surprised in my research to find out that Fanduel had started in Edinburgh. It was a, it was a household name in the United States for so many people. What was the beginning of FanDuel like? What were you thinking in Edinburgh when you started this?

Lesley Eccles 8:07
Right? We launched FanDuel in 2009, but actually, it was a result of a pivot from a previous company, or POS product, which was a news prediction product that we had launched a year and a half before that. Going back to the very initial idea, it was my husband and I that actually decided together, we want to do a start up. It was 2007. So probably the worst timing ever in terms of trying to raise VC money. But we were young-ish, and very naive, and ambitious. We saw what the folks over in Silicon Valley were doing. We were super excited about it. We had just recently moved from London to Edinburgh to, I had just had a baby, I had a toddler. It was a terrible time to start a company, build a start up. But I had this notion of, if we don’t do this now, we are never going to do this. You know, we were in our early 30s, we had two, two little boys. And I could just see us in 10 years time saying, we really missed the boat here. We should have tried harder. So at the end of 2007, we founded the company that would become FanDuel. The first idea that we had for a product was called HubDub. It was a news prediction site. So it was user generated content. Users created markets around what was going to happen in news stories, so obvious one would be the Trump impeachment. When will that happen? What will the outcome be? Users generated these questions, and there was a stock market related to the outcomes of these questions. We raised what back then felt like a lot of money, $1.2 million seed round in early 2009. And despite us going all over the states looking for funding, we ended up taking funding from a local VC here and in Edinburgh. And after a few months, we realized, this is not going to work out. As soon as you take VC money, the clock’s ticking, you have to show a return. And we had a very disciplined approach to how we were building the business because of who we took in money from. We had to hit our forecasts, we had to have revenue right off the bat. And that was a hard road to follow. And as we started to look at while we’re building this product that users love, and we’re getting a ton of engagement, we’re growing, but the economy’s in crisis, we’re not growing quickly enough to make this an ad-supported model. How do we pivot into something that we believe we can make into a business? And we looked at all the users in our current product. And we said, You know what, there is this huge spike of engagement around sports. What can we do in sports that’s going to be an exciting opportunity for our VCs? What we landed on was this idea of fantasy sports. Now, I have to tell you, five founders of this prediction game, not one of us was American and not one of us knew the first thing about American sports. So this was a very inauspicious start. And I didn’t even know what NFL stood for. I am horrified to admit that. I was like, no what shape’s that ball, okay?

Jay Clouse 11:46
So it’s kinda like rugby?

Lesley Eccles 11:48
Yeah, exactly.

Eric Hornung 11:49
Founder market fit to a tee right here.

Lesley Eccles 11:53
So you know, we, we had, we chose a hard way to do this. Like we choose a hard way to create a startup. It’s funny, like people say, wow, FanDuel was an overnight success, and I’m like, No, it wasn’t. So we started exploring this idea of fantasy sports. What is it? What does it mean? Who can we talk to? Who can we find? And because we were British, how do we find these people? I couldn’t just go to my dad or my brother or my uncle or my friend from college or whatever. It was, okay, let’s go on Craigslist, let’s go on Facebook. Let’s find these people. Who are they? What are their pain points. And so it was a real like, product-market fit process that we had to go through, which meant we weren’t building this product for us. We were building it for the customers, which is probably not the easiest way to do it. But again, you become very disciplined in your approach, and you get to the, you get to the best solution, possibly more quickly. I don’t know.

Eric Hornung 12:50
You say Edinburgh, so like, cool. I’m gonna say like a, like, I listened to Jay set and he’s like Edinburgh and you’re like Edinburgh. So I don’t, I don’t know the difference, but…

Lesley Eccles 13:00
I’m not going to judge.

Eric Hornung 13:01
Okay. So what is the Edinburgh startup scene like?

Lesley Eccles 13:05
Well, 10 years ago. I mean, there was nothing there. There was a nascent FanDuel, there was a nascent Skyscanner. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Skyscanner, it’s similar to Kayak. It’s been bought by sea trip, turned into several billion dollars valued company. But outside those two companies are really wasn’t very much else. And that was a real driver for us. We wanted to build a tech ecosystem in Scotland. We felt very strongly about building this in a place a little bit like Palo Alto where the lifestyle is very nice, and it’s a good place to sort of grow up into becoming an adult and having a family outside of the city. Had a very strong University, great computer science, lots of, lots of great thinking around AI nowadays, and we have three or four different universities. So there’s a lot of engineering talent here. But there wasn’t at the time many people that choose to start a company or start a tech company here. What you see now as with the growth of FanDuel and with Skyscanner, that has seeded lots of other companies, and now it’s the biggest tech hub outside London in the UK.

Jay Clouse 14:26
So you kind of left off talking about you were this nascent company and grow in 2009. You told us earlier, you moved that headquarters to New York in 2011. And then you said eventually, it was this brutal experience. So I know it’s a lot to cover in not a lot of time, but hit some of the highlights of how this hit the vein of American sports so quickly, and what that looked like from the inside.

Lesley Eccles 14:51
There is a book that’s just been published. It was published in September. It was written by a Sports Illustrated journalist called, Billion Dollar Fantasy. So, amazing title, but it kind of goes into that backstory of what was it like behind the scenes of building FanDeul and building DraftKings and how those two companies were very, very different, even although they were tackling similar problems. And I think, you know, because we had this very disciplined approach, we were able to build a strong business from the ground up, that was tackling this really big cultural change. So when we first started, the thing that really shocked me about fantasy sports was how much of a cultural phenomenon it is in the states. It’s not the same over in the UK. It’s not the same in any other country outside the US. But it was at the time a little bit like asking people to change their bank account. Like, this is a way that they did it. They played it season long and with the same 12 bodies every year, the same draft party, whatever. So that was a big learning curve for all of us. And back in 2010, Facebook really wasn’t an option for online advertising. Like it didn’t really work. And it really only started to work for us in 2014. So we did it the hard way, I guess, you know, we did print advertising, we did radio advertising, we did TV advertising, we didn’t have the luxury of just being able to switch on some Facebook ads and having them, having them work for you. But we took a similar approach to how we grew the company. And it really was a you know, the growth loop was paid acquisition. This wasn’t a viral product. It didn’t just take off. It was, how do you crack that growth loop and use that to to unlock growth in a sustainable way? And that was that was our approach. So every football season, every baseball season, we just doubled down on what was working and, and did more of that. We were able to by 2014 we had raised $70 million. And at that point, DraftKings had also launched. and we were in beginning of a competitive battle with them for market share, the results of which anyone who consumed sport in any way will have seen in 2015. As we went into 2015, that battle got hotter. And DraftKings decided that they would raise several hundred million dollars and spend it all on advertising. So at that point, we said okay, do we sit back and let them do this crazy stuff? Or do we match them and say, you know what, we, we want to win 50% of this market, and we’re not just gonna sit back and watch you guys take it. So we chose to, to show up, and we chose to make sure that we, we kept at least 50% of the market. And, you know, the results of that was as soon as you, between the two of us in 2015, we spend almost half a billion dollars on advertising. And when you do that, people sit up and take notice. And surprise, surprise, some of them were AGs. And, you know, we had, we had fought, we had to try harder, and we tried hard in early 2015, to engage with AGs and to figure out, okay, we know there are some states which are clearly will not permit fantasy sports, and we won’t operate in those states. There are some states that clearly see fantasy sports as a game of skill and is completely permissible to have fantasy sports games in your, in your state. And then there are some states–and there were about 20 out of them–where it’s not entirely clear one way or the other. And those were the states that we have to focus on in terms of really clarifying the law, getting those consumer protections in place. But again, it was only when we spent all that money on advertising that they really listened to us and wanted to engage in it and those conversations.

Jay Clouse 19:09
Was there a point where this no longer felt like the company that you wanted to build?

Lesley Eccles 19:13
So if I think that in fall of 2014, there were 100 of us in the company. And it’s still small enough that you know, everybody’s by name, you know, you’re still that scrappy startup. Fast forward a year to fall of 2015, and we had gone from 100 to over 500 people. And when you grow that speed, they’re definite challenges around how do you maintain the culture? How do you ensure that the hiring bar stays high, how to ensure that the values and the integrity that the founders have continue throughout the entire company? And I think, you know, that was a really tough time in terms of scaling that quickly. At the same time, we took money from private equity investors, we took money from Shamrock Capital and KKR. And we discovered that private equity is probably, not a surprise for many people, but private equity have a different approach in terms of how they run companies to VCs. You know, VCs have tangibles and goal and if one peps, that’s great. Private equity or more, you know, we’re going to take five shorts and four of them have to give us our money back or better. So at that point, there was definitely a shift in control and approach and, you know, that I feel really strongly about what happens in the boardroom tends to dissipate down into the company itself very quickly. So if there are, you know, if there are any issues at the boardroom, then you will see that going throughout the company. So, you know, I think I’ve learned lots of lessons from my FanDuel experience, and one of them is around those relationships in the boardroom and amongst the executive team, and the impact that that can have on the rest of the company and how important it is to maintain those relationships and keep them really strong.

Jay Clouse 21:20
Thanks for sharing all that. I didn’t mean to hit any scar tissue or anything. But…

Lesley Eccles 21:25
No, God, no scar tissue at all, perfectly fine.

Jay Clouse 21:30
So this, this leads into Relish. You mentioned that there was about a three year–or three months pause where you’d never wanted to do a start up ever again. What were you doing in those three months?

Lesley Eccles 21:40
This sounds really weird, but I learned to breathe again. I learned to stop and smell the flowers and notice things and look at the sky. And I mean, we only recently moved to New York, I have three children. And I was just living again and relaxing and enjoying being able to breathe. And it sounds really willy, but that’s, that’s really what it felt like. And it was it was really special time. Healing my scars, there you go.

Jay Clouse 22:21
And so how, how did that lead into Relish?

Lesley Eccles 22:24
It gave me a time to sort of reflect on what does success mean. Like for success for me, building FanDuel was never about making lots of money. It was never about, you know, being a famous startup five, like that was know what gets you out of bed in the morning, because if it is, you’re not going to be successful, because it’s far too hard for that to be your driver. A lot of my drive was, it came from, like, I’ve started that so I’m going to finish it. And part of it as well was, you know, I want to, I want to show my kids what what I can do. And that was a real driver for me as well. But anyway what, what the result of those 10 years of building FanDuel kind of brick by brick man was the the founders and the employees of FanDuel were left with nothing as a result of the merger with Paddy Power Betfair that the board pushed through. No, that is really hard to swallow. And I reflected on it and thought, well, do you know what, all it really mattered throughout all of that experience, throughout all the ups and downs, the only thing that really matters when all said and done is, who your friends are, who your relationships are with, how much love is in your house, and, you know, when you are in on your deathbed, you’re not going to be worrying about how much money’s in your bank account. It’s, who’s there for you? Who’s at your funeral? What are they going to say about you? And how strong are your relationships with these people? And it was, you know, I look back at the other founders of FanDuel, my, my team there, and how precious they all are to me. And, you know, I call them my blood brothers, you know, we had been through so much together, and that’s what matters. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, well, how can I use technology and everything that I’ve learned over the past decade to help with, help people form strong connections somehow. And I’ve watched, sadly, a lot of good friends of mine go through divorce. And I know that Nigel and myself, as we built FanDuel, we had ups and downs. It wasn’t plain sailing by stretch of the imagination. We used self help books now and again to figure out problems that we were having. And I started to think, Well, is there a way that I can use technology to deliver people some kind of customized advice plan to help them? And that was what I kind of percolated on for those few months after leaving FanDuel and before starting Relish. And that led to the idea.

Eric Hornung 25:29
With the understanding that relationships are the most important thing you took away from fanduel, how do you think about your team and creating a team at Relish knowing that the founders are really important and the first employees are really important?

Lesley Eccles 25:43
Yeah. I’ve been very deliberate about it. I’ve been deliberate about hiring the right people and having the right conversations early and really building trust amongst this early team. There are 10 of us at the moment. That building trust amongst a brand new team is very important, because it does, it lays the foundation for what this is going to become. And I think if you, if you do that from the outset, and you’re very careful about who you bring in, in terms of advisors and board members, you just have to be very deliberate about your approach. And especially whenever–and I think there’s more and more companies that are facing this right now where you’re not all in the same room, you’re not all in the same office, you have remote, you know, we’re split between the UK and New York. And I think companies are going to go through that more and more as talent becomes more diverse and spread across the nation. And you know, VCs are more willing to invest in companies that are not just in Silicon Valley or San Francisco. And the more that the VC spread their investments around, the more the teams will become remote.

Eric Hornung 26:52
Can you dig into that a little bit more for me? What, what does the right person look like? You said deliberate and careful approach, but can you give me a little bit more color around like how someone is the right person?

Lesley Eccles 27:05
I gave this some thought in that period of reflection like what, what made successful team members? And the one thing that I kept coming back to was people who are really concerned about putting the company first, having somebody who is prepared to put the company before their career objectives is an important gage as to how successful they will be in terms of coming together and collaborating and building this team, which will then build a successful company, particularly in the early stages, that collaboration is just desperately important.

Jay Clouse 27:47
When you say putting the company first, do you mean the literal like entity organization and mission or do you mean the people of the company?

Lesley Eccles 27:56
Both. Both. It’s, it’s about, How do I think about what’s important? Is it more important to me to be right? To be proving myself? To be constantly growing? Or do I think about how can I grow the company? And how can I work better with my team? And how can I have humility and approach it from that perspective? And it’s not about being right.

Eric Hornung 28:28
So we’ve kind of danced around it a bit. We’ve talked about the team, and we’ve talked about this three months off in between. But what is Relish today, in your own words?

Lesley Eccles 28:37
Relish is a relationship wellness company. Our first product is an app called Relish. It’s in the App Store. What it does is, at the moment, it’s an early intervention to couples therapy. So what I what I try to do is see typically people wait far too long to get to therapy. And we know all the why’s: it’s expensive, it’s logistically difficult, it’s hard to find a therapist you like. If we can get people to therapy earlier, they will have a better outcome. And we know that typical success rates in couples therapy is 50% because they’ve left it too late. They’re on the verge of divorce when they go to therapy. Now, in San Francisco, LA,New York, therapy has become really destigmatized, people are much more open about being in therapy. But you know, America is a big place. And that’s, you know, the rest of the country still playing catch up to a certain extent, I think. So if we can find a way to make couples therapy more streamlined, cheaper, easier, and just as effective using technology, can we do that? So what we’ve built is an app that combines human touch from a real life coach or sex therapist or we have an addiction therapists on staff, you know, we have this personal touch with the coach, but at the same time, we’re using technology to deliver a package of insights and advice and lessons and activities that you can do every week to keep your relationship from going stale.

Jay Clouse 30:17
We hear a lot here in America that, you know, divorce rates are about 50%. It seems like people are more and more career oriented here. How does that compare to your friends and family in Edinborgh or anywhere overseas?

Lesley Eccles 30:32
Yeah, I think it’s I think it’s pretty similar. And you know, that divorce rate statistic is, is very muddied. Those numbers are very muddied. And what you’ll see is that more educated and white-typically people have a lower divorce rate, because one of the reasons is, they wait longer before they get married. So they’re, they’re still in relationships, they’re just not marrying early. And Relish is really for people who have have been together for at least a year and you know, see this as a relationship they really want to invest in. So it’s not marriage counseling, because they’re not necessarily married. It’s more relationship counseling and giving people the opportunity to invest in their relationship as early as possible.

Jay Clouse 31:20
When you talked about FanDuel, you talked about how, how much of a rigorous customer development and customer discovery process that you went through. I’d imagine you’re doing the same with relish. Can you talk about that and how you went about validating this or researching it?

Lesley Eccles 31:34
Yeah, yeah. And it’s really interesting because we, we weren’t sure who our customers were when we started last year. It’s the whole question of you know, is this a vitamin or is this a pill? My hypothesis was that our, our initial niche market would be women mid-30s, one or two kids. Women are much more likely to care for the relationship than men. This is the, the talk in my head that I’m saying to myself. We know from from the data that as soon as you have your first child, your relationship satisfaction takes steep decline and never really recovers. And you know, if you think about the millennial generation, they’re, they’re now reaching their sort of mid towards late 30s at the top end. So it felt like this was the right kind of area that we were targeting. And what we discovered was, actually men are signing up for this just as quickly as women, and it’s not men that are being told to do it by their significant others. They’re seeing the advert, they’re hearing about it from their friends or their, or their partners, and they’re, they’re understanding that this is an important investment that they can make in their in their relationship and in their life.

Eric Hornung 32:52
Do both sides of the relationship have to sign up at the same time or can I just sign up, my fiance doesn’t?

Lesley Eccles 32:59
Right, yeah, it’s a buy one get one free offer. You, you can–the whole premise for me was, this is about giving me control over my relationship, and how I show up in my relationship, and how I react in the moment, and how I view my partner, and how I think about my relationship. I’m the only person that I can change. I can’t change my partner. The more that I try to, the less success I’m going to have. And every therapist I’ve spoken with has told me a similar story. Couples will show up in their therapy room, and they will typically, it will be usually the woman has dragged the man to therapy and says, could you just fix us, like put it on the therapist, or could you fix him. That’s a recipe for, for disaster. So, that was one of the things that I wanted to address with Relish. One of the other things that I wanted to address was, you know, how do we take the stereotypes out of this entirely and offer a product where people are able to tailor it for themselves? We ask what pronoun do you want us to call your partner? We’re not your typical marriage therapy product that you ,that you might think of. So we have, you know, we have people in polyamorous relationships on the app, we have a lot of same sex couples, we have a lot of gender neutral people on there. So it gives them a space where they’re, they’re not being gender stereotyped in any way.

Eric Hornung 34:44
How many people are using the app today?

Lesley Eccles 34:46
We’ve had about, so we only launched in September, and we’ve had about 50,000 downloads so far. So it’s, you know, it’s been a pleasant surprise to see how needed this product is. The messages that we’re getting from our customers are just fabulous. And you know, every morning, I’m just receiving these wonderful messages telling me about how it’s helping them and it’s bringing them closer together, and it means a lot. It’s great.

Eric Hornung 35:16
Do you have any sense and what’s driving those downloads? And that’s September 2019, right?

Lesley Eccles 35:21
Right. A lot of it’s word of mouth.You know, 50% of the installs that we’re getting in our device, the other 50% is paid acquisition. But that’s, you know, it’s a good sign that people are going to talk about it if it’s working for them. So it makes me think, okay, we are, we’re definitely doing a good job here.

Jay Clouse 35:39
Do people tend to or need to come with the awareness of, I can only control me and being a better partner myself, or are you getting people downloading saying, I need someone to fix my partner?

Lesley Eccles 35:50
Right, we have a lot of people who who say, my partner’s not going to use this, so I don’t see the point. And that’s part of the education piece. It’s like, you do you; you don’t worry about them, you know, just believe in the process and take the baby steps and focus on yourself. And, you know, I think there’s a, you know, there’s a lot of care, a lot of talk at the moment about self care, particularly for women, which is desperately important and needed. And this is almost like the next step. You know, you’re doing your meditation or yoga or whatever it is that you need to do to feel sane. But this is going to help you hold your hand on your journey in terms of how you’re thinking about things and the words that you’re using in those tough conversations that you need to have.

Eric Hornung 36:45
So let’s go through a little bit of the product. What’s the onboarding process actually look like and feel like?

Lesley Eccles 36:51
It’s an assessment. You know, we take an assessment of all the important things that we need to customize the experience for you. A lot of our product is based around attachment theory. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s really about how secure you are in your relationship. So it’s on, it’s on two scales. One is anxiety, and the other one is avoidance. And it measures, you know, there’s only four quadrants. And depending on what quadrant you are, we’ll speak to how you operate in a relationship. So if I’m low anxiety but high avoidance, I’m what I, what we describe in the app as a Siamese cat. And this is all based around science, but we’ve tried to translate it into something that’s a little bit more fun. And Siamese cats typically are very independent. They need their space, they don’t see the need for too many people around them. But that is a sense of, that is a symbol of insecurity in itself, and that you are unable to form close relationships with people because you don’t see the need for it. And then we have another one which is high on anxiety and low on of avoidance, and it’s a cockatoo. And the cockatoo is their presenting is more needy, they want to be close, they can’t get close enough. They feel like nobody else is quite good enough and giving them enough. So you know, we’ve, we’ve developed these animals to try to help people understand what the science is telling them. And we base a lot of our recommendations around you know, if you’re, if you’re a cockatoo and your partner’s a Siamese cat, this is what they’re going to be doing. They’re going to be avoiding you, they’re gonna avoid arguments, they’re going to go and lock themselves in a room. That’s the way they are. And as a cockatoo, these are the ways that you can try to help them feel more secure. Because guess what? Nagging them and moaning at them and forcing them to keep your company is not going to work. You know, that’s one of the ways that we tailor it for you. But we also use love languages and various other things as part of your plan. And we have like, date night ideas and that kind of thing as well.

Jay Clouse 38:59
Let’s say I download this, and I start using it, and I’m enjoying it. How much of a factor does it play that Relish itself is sort of a third party arbiter of this information, and I’m not just saying to my partner, you’re a cockatoo, and I’m operating this way, because you’re a cockatoo. And it’s not just me saying that, it’s the third party.

Lesley Eccles 39:15
Yeah, I actually think that’s really important. And I also think it’s important that it’s non-judging. I think the dynamic with a therapist can often be such that, you know, if the therapist’s a woman, she seemed to take sides with the female, the therapists a guy he takes, you know, in the woman’s eyes, he takes sides with the guy. So this takes that dynamic out of it. It’s less about finger pointing, and it’s more about well, this is what Relish is telling me, let’s explore this. Let’s have these discussions and see what you think. And a lot of it is about giving people topics to have those interesting conversations.

Jay Clouse 39:56
When you get these notes of people appreciating and saying this is helping me, what is the period of time that I’m signing into and using Relish before I really start to see results or feel transformation?

Lesley Eccles 40:08
We have looked at the data, and typically it’s that transformation starts at two weeks in. But anecdotally, we know that a large part of our users immediately, as soon as they do their first lesson, it’s like this eye opening moment of, Oh, right, I see where this is going. And, you know, an example might be–and they’re all little, they’re all small things that are achievable. So it’s kind of like a micro-learning, tiny steps idea. But the first one that we offer might be, think back to the first time you met your partner, what were the three things that really attracted you to them in the first place? And it goes from, Oh, so I’ve been focusing on the issue this whole time, I’m going to start focusing on things that are really positive about this person. And that’s the first step towards kind of changing your mindset. It also tells us, is this relationship saveable? Because if they can’t think of three things that they really enjoyed about their partner when they first met, you know, maybe call a divorce lawyer.

Eric Hornung 41:20
How does Relish make money?

Lesley Eccles 41:21
It’s an annual subscription.

Jay Clouse 41:23
Is this is this a daily or a weekly practice? How often is someone using Relish?

Lesley Eccles 41:30
So we have a weekly plan that you can go through at your own pace. We find that people like that aspect of us not telling them every single day, do this, do this, do this. It’s like, here’s what you can do this week. You choose how you’d like to do it, depending on your schedule, who’s in town, who’s out of town, what else you’re doing. Like, we’re all busy, so it needs to fit the individual.

Jay Clouse 41:56
And do you foresee this as something that is staple of somebody’s relational life for the long term? Or is this, heal an issue and then kind of create self sustainability?

Lesley Eccles 42:10
I mean, I don’t know, is the honest answer. I don’t know. I think…I’ve been with my partner for 24 years, and I still get value out of it. And I like the reminder, do you know what, this guy is important. And it’s when you have children who are young, it’s very easy to lose sight of that, because you’re so goddamn busy and you’re so exhausted. And they’re asking for something from you that you just don’t have the energy to give. Yeah, and it suddenly becomes apparent that, you know, as your kids are heading off to college, it’s going to be you and me left in this house. And if I don’t start prioritizing that as an entity, it’s going to be a pretty sad existence. So even although…I have to tell you that when I was doing research for Relish, I was finding out stuff about my husband who I’ve known for forever, that I’ve never known before. I said, you know, obviously your love language is touch. And he said, No, it’s gifts. And I said, What? I never buy you gifts. He says, I know. Okay, so now whenever I’m traveling, I’m up in the airport, I’m like, I better buy him a gift. And obviously, I’m Scottish and we’re tight with our money. So, you know, it’s like, it’s not my love language. I’m not, you know, I’m meeting him where he’s at. I know that he likes gifts. And so it’s, you know, it’s about changing that mindset again. But yeah, the point is, you can always be learning.

Eric Hornung 43:53
You said one of the barriers to people signing up for couples therapy was that it’s really expensive. How does this fit relatively to like a traditional couples therapy?

Lesley Eccles 44:04
Yeah. So, you know, obviously, it depends where in the country you are, but on average, a course of couples therapy is $4,000. And you know, that might be over four or five or six months. And balance is $100 for two people for the year. So like, it’s kind of a no brainer. Yeah, it’s just, it’s easier and quicker, and it’s like a few minutes a day. And these little things really add up.

Jay Clouse 44:31
When you went to start building the product itself and creating the methodology of how this is going to help people and fit into their lives, how did you decide who to work with or what to learn? Like, how did you actually get the couples therapy practices into the product?

Lesley Eccles 44:47
So I did a lot of reading, spent a lot of money on books, and I started to reach out to the authors of these books, and very quickly realized, you know, who I wanted to be involved with and who I really respected. And I, I brought on three professors. I wanted it to be very scientifically driven. And I brought on three professors from three different universities. And it really based on their work and their writings that I agreed, that I agreed with and I really thought was a similar approach to what I would take if I was a professor of psychology, which I’m not. Anyway, I found these terrific professors who loved the idea and really just wanted to be involved. And that, you know, it’s a community where everybody tends to know everybody else, and you’re able to use those connections in a good way. And then, you know, you just start cold calling and emailing therapists, and there are plenty of therapists in New York who are willing to talk and get very excited about what we’re doing. We find that more and more of them are now recommending us, like a companion tool to, if you’re in therapy, you can use this at the same time. It kind of keeps things ticking over between sessions. It’s very easy to leave a session and forget everything that you’ve learned and not do your homework and show up the next week feeling incredibly guilty.

Jay Clouse 46:22
Do you have any sense of how many couples go to therapy annually?

Lesley Eccles 46:27
I did have that stat, but it has gone from my head. A lot. Yeah, a lot. And, you know, probably it should be more. You know, if we get couples coming to us, and we can see from their assessment that they’re almost, you know, almost at divorce stage, we say you know what, you guys need to go to therapy, that you’re not going to get everything that you need from Relish at this stage. You, you’ve left it too late. So you know, I’m banging that drum saying invest early. It’s like the, you know, your granny really told you a stitch in time saves name. This is kind of what it is, right? Just get in early and, and learn the lessons and the habits and the practices. And yeah, save those therapists fees.

Jay Clouse 47:20
I’m sure you’ve read or heard of the study that said the number one leading indicator of divorce is contempt, I believe. Is that what you find in your research as well? Or do you have a different viewpoint?

Lesley Eccles 47:33
Yeah, well, that was John Gottman did that research, and he came up with his four horsemen of the apocalypse, contempt and stonewalling, and another word for contempt is eye rolling. You know, you know the couples that we’re talking about here, right? And, you know, for sure he was able to predict pretty like, I think it’s like 97% accuracy rate, predict based on watching how they argue whether they’re going to divorce or not. And you know, that’s, that’s great. But what can I do today in my relationship so that I’m not going down that path? It’s kind of hard. There’s a lot of advice out there about what not to do. But what can I do? So it’s kind of flipping on its head to say, Well, if you do all this stuff, you won’t reach that stage of the eye rolling and stonewalling, basically being mean to each other.

Jay Clouse 48:28
Well, Lesley, this has been awesome. Thanks for sharing your story with us. If people want to learn more about you or Relish after the show, where should they go?

Lesley Eccles 48:36
You can download Relish in the App Store, or you can go to hellorelish.com and learn a bit more about the background.

Jay Clouse 48:46
Hey, listener, have you ever wanted to get a message in front of the upside audience but weren’t sure how to sponsor the show or weren’t able to do a long term sponsorship? Well, now you can just go to upside.fm/classifieds and let our audience know anything that’s going on in your world, whether it’s an event, an application, a special coupon, or deal, or just letting them know who you are, what your company does. All you have to do is go to upside.fm/classifieds, and you can place an ad on this show. That’s upside.fm/classifieds.

Jay Clouse 49:25
Alright, Eric, we just spoke with Leslie Eccles of Relish. Where do you want to start today?

Eric Hornung 49:30
I want to start with a new segment that we’re bringing to upside. Jay’s Product Review Corner.

Jay Clouse 49:36
Is that that new though?

Eric Hornung 49:37
Well, we haven’t named it yet. So now I’m calling a Jay’s Product Review Corner.

Jay Clouse 49:41
Someday we’ll get some transition music to chime to like…

Eric Hornung 49:44
Wait, let’s try that, let’s try that, let’s try that. You do the sound effects, I’ll do the intro. Ready? Jay’s Product Review Corner.

Jay Clouse 49:54
We, we waited a little bit before doing this outro because I wanted to try this app out. I thought, there’s no way that this can hurt, you know, me and Mal, friend of the podcast, Mal, using this. So I downloaded it, we tried it out for a while. And I gotta say, Eric, I am impressed with the user experience of it. It is beautifully designed. The onboarding of it is really, really great, fun, easy, kind of like a personality assessment. You know, if you take the Myers Briggs or something similar, where it assigns you a type of animal, just like Leslie said, and Mal and I were both pretty impressed with how well the predictions or the, the assigned animals for us kind of fit our personalities. And then it has all these challenges that you go through and, and work through. And it not only has exercises for you to work through, but it has quite a bit of background context and information to say like, Hey, here’s why this is important. Here’s why it’s important to ask unique questions of your partner, and here’s how it’s, here’s why it’s important to have conversations around unique question. Here’s why it’s important to talk about money with your partner. It has all these studies, you work through exercises, it gives you a prompt to ask your partner about. And it also has this coach like an assigned real person who will ask you Hey, how did that exercise go with Mallory or with Jay? And you can respond to the coach. I thought it was really impressive from user experience perspective.

Eric Hornung 51:19
Are you still using it?

Jay Clouse 51:21
Honestly, I am not. And it’s not because we weren’t having success with it. It’s that we became more comfortable working with each other without the prompting of the app. And there’s something about–this, this is worth noting for for products, I think–there’s something about when you train your mind to ignore something, you know, like we were doing it pretty reliably for several days. But then it sends you a push notification every day. And if you aren’t ready to act on that notification, it’s like you start to train your brain to not pay attention to something. If, if it happens and you ignore it, then your brains new sort of default is to ignore that stimulus. So after a few days of not responding back to these push notifications, it kind of just became background noise, honestly. And something that we’ve, we’ve said, you know, we should get back in there and try that. But it has, it was hard to stick to over a long period of time.

Eric Hornung 52:20
Yeah, I think that would be my–I guess we’ll start with the product, which is we didn’t even mention where we’re going to start. But we’ll start with a product here. And my biggest shadow is just that is adoption over time, or retention, I guess would be what that’s called, huh? So getting people to sign up seems like there’s a good value add, there’s a good value pitch. There’s conversations to be had that people aren’t having. Maybe they’re not in distress, which is what Leslie had said, they wanted to go past distress where people see marriage counselors. But there’s this concern I have that people aren’t going to stick with it because humans are just bad at sticking with most things.

Jay Clouse 53:01
Yeah, yeah. You know, I think I think they have this benefit of acquisition being pretty good. And there aren’t many paid apps. There certainly aren’t, I think this is the only app on my phone right now that I pay for other than like iCloud hosting.

Eric Hornung 53:16

Jay Clouse 53:17
That’s true. I guess I do pay for Spotify. But that’s an account more than, like, bought the app from the App Store. I don’t, I can’t think of a single other app that I bought from the App Store. So that’s, that’s awesome. But as we noted in an interview with Alex Rubalcaba, if you look at the apps on your phone that you use the most, almost none of them…no, literally, none of them, for me have been developed in the last five years, maybe even 10 years. You know, they’re old apps that have these sticky behavior. It’s hard to break through as an app. Most people have downloaded between zero and one apps this month. That was another stat that came out of that interview. So that’s just the uphill battle that any app is facing, and for Relish the fact that people are paying for the app is a really good sign. The fact that there is a clear trigger for when someone would go looking for this app I think is also a good sign. And the alternatives that that trigger might also point to, which is, namely, couples therapy, is much more expensive. So I feel really good about their ability to acquire actual paying customers, which is great. But to your point, it is, it is difficult to think of, or is difficult to have this behavior that people are going to go to every day, day in and day out, even though they should. You know, this is investing in relationships is exactly where you should be investing your time every day, which is hard.

Eric Hornung 54:32
Yeah, I really like that point about, there’s less friction with Relish. I mean, having the conversation saying, Hey, we need to go to couples counseling brings with it a large stigma, and almost a kind of weight on your shoulders, like there’s this upcoming event that we’re going to, that we’re going to pay a lot of money for, because there is something wrong, so now and you think about what’s wrong. Whereas with Relish, it’s, hey, let’s both download this app, answer a couple questions and talk about why you’re a turtle, you know?

Jay Clouse 55:01
Or a dog or, or cat. And, you know, if you’re going to invest thousands of dollars into couples therapy, it seems like a worthy test to do a trial or a $15 per month fee for Relish to try it out beforehand to see, can this help address the issue? So I feel, I feel good about that. Something I raised in the Product Corner is there is, there are actual human coaches on the other side of this, you know, which brings with it more overhead than some apps would have, but not too much more. You know, I’m sure they have a development team and a marketing team. Maybe their team is slimmer in other areas to facilitate having some of these coaches on staff, and they probably don’t have a ton of coaches on staff.

Eric Hornung 55:45
Yeah, when we think about those coaches and just what…I kind of want to transition here to how big this market is because it’s something I’m kind of wrestling with. We’re looking at…when whenever we talk about products that are inherently cheaper than the alternative that exists today, looking at the current spend on a certain product is not the proper way to evaluate how big a product is, because if you if everyone is spending $1,000 who uses marriage counselors in that market is x, and now all of a sudden everyone can access marriage counselors at $100, obviously not as, you don’t need to spend as much money on that thing over time. But that being said, it also opens up the ability for more people to access that service, which at this case is marriage counseling, at a lower price point, so maybe it does expand the pie. So I always have a tough time with how big markets are when they are drastically reducing the price of something. That being said, if we just kind of start with a top down analysis, which you know we love here on upside, Jay, the market size of the psychologists, social workers, and marriage counselors industry is roughly $18.8 billion. How much of that is attributable to marriage counselors specifically? I don’t have that information for, but even if it’s a relatively small amount, call it 10%, that’s still a $2 billion total addressable market size in the United States.

Jay Clouse 57:18
And if that’s $2 billion on the basis that Lesley gave of couples therapy being on average $4,000 over four to six months, let’s say you’re spending $8,000 to $12,000 annually, and this is $100 per year. You know, that’s a significant Oh, gosh, math, Eric, it’s hard. $100 is what percentage of…

Eric Hornung 57:46
of 8,000? Let’s just do the 100.

Jay Clouse 57:47
Call it 10,000 to go in the middle.

Eric Hornung 57:49
Yeah. So 1%?

Jay Clouse 57:51
1%. 1% of a $2 billion dollar market would be…

Eric Hornung 57:55
You got this…

Jay Clouse 57:57
$200 million.

Eric Hornung 57:59
$20 million

Jay Clouse 58:00
$20 million. Not huge, pretty small.

Eric Hornung 58:04
I think we have a lot of…

Jay Clouse 58:06
A lot of assumptions over here.

Eric Hornung 58:07
…a lot of assumptions that get us to that number. And that number could be significantly bigger. There’s also product expansion from here into that entire market. So if we went from 20 billion, then we’re looking at a $200 million market as opposed to the $20 million market. I guess what I’m saying here is we don’t have a good sense of how big this market can get. And we’re only looking at the United States. But relationships are everywhere.

Jay Clouse 58:32
Right. Lesley also told us that she assumed the market would be women in their mid 30s with one or two kids, but according to their data, they have men signing up just as quickly as women. So that’s a positive sign for them. All this to say, Eric, I think we’re a little fuzzy on to your point, the market size. Let’s move on to our founder questions and talk about Lesley as a founder.

Eric Hornung 58:54
Yeah, and I think this is the most important one, right? You could have a little bit of question on product, you’d have a little bit of question on market size before If you have a great founder, I think those questions will get answered and ironed out over time. And I think what we have here with Relish is a fantastic founder who’s deeply thoughtful about the product and also has some really interesting historical experience, Jay.

Jay Clouse 59:15
Totally. And I’m glad she was generous with us and sharing a lot about her FanDuel experience. But it’s hard to, it’s hard to think that there could be much better previous founding experience than a company that went through all of the turmoil and highs and lows that FanDuel did. Lesley has certainly seen the pros and cons of a lot of different approaches, especially from, you know, paid acquisition. There aren’t a lot of people who have the paid acquisition of customers experience that Lesley has with what they’re doing at FanDuel. So that’s a huge plus for a company like this, too. Like you said, I think Lesley is deeply thoughtful, and she certainly now has her own perspective on how to hire and how to go to market. All those are big pros for me. You know, even if FanDuel wasn’t in the relationship space, maybe you don’t necessarily have this founder market fit that some people would be looking for. But from her perspective, this is about as experienced of a founder as you could get, or that you could want.

Eric Hornung 1:00:16
So I guess before we get to our last question here, Jay, when I look at this company in general, what I see is a great product that, you know, our Jay’s corner–oh sorry, Jay’s Product Corner, I already forgot the name–that Jay’s product corner gave rave reviews for, it works so well that you moved in with Mal, and I’m giving Relish 100% credit for that. I see…

Jay Clouse 1:00:42
Give me a little credit.

Eric Hornung 1:00:42
No, I give you zero credit. I see a great founder. I see a market size that’s questionable, but it’s kind of like one of those markets when we talked about water with Xeres. It’s it’s one of those like staples of life. So it’s it has to be big. Maybe we just don’t understand how it’s big. My question is, what does this company look like going forward? Is this your blitzscale billion dollar unicorn company? Or is this a company that builds a really nice company over 15 to 20 years and establishes themselves as a key component of modern relationships?

Jay Clouse 1:01:19
Well, Eric, let’s talk about the next 6 to 18 months. What would you be looking for from Relish over the next 6 to 18 months?

Eric Hornung 1:01:28
there was a big blitz of I think 50,000 downloads when they first launched. I want to see how those numbers are changing, increasing, decreasing over time. And I think the more important number for me to look at would be retention, because I think once you get people on, you want them to be long term lifetime customers. How is Relish focusing on that long term customer?

Jay Clouse 1:01:53
Well, you took my answer. I was going to talk about retention as well. Six to eighteen months from now, they’ll have over a year’s worth of time, so people could and should be renewing their subscriptions. I would want to look at that retention number, that churn number, what percentage of customers are renewing? What percentage are not, and when they’re not, why are they not? And is that something that can be addressed within the product itself? Alright guys, we’d love to hear your feedback on this episode. And if Relish sounds like something you could use, you can go to the App Store and download it. You can tweet at us @upside FM or email us hello@upside.fm, and we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview starts: 6:15
Debrief begins: 49:25

Lesley Eccles is the founder and CEO of Relish, an app developed to help guild couples create healthy relationship skills and conversations.

Originally from Scotland, Lesley is also known as a cofounder of the sports fantasy service, FanDuel. Just three months after leaving FanDuel, Lesley founded her own startup, Relish, with the hopes of giving back to others and exploring how technology can improve and preserve relationships.

Today, Relish is considered one of the top relationship training apps, using guidance from therapists, counselors, and academics. In our talk with Lesley, she shares how her experience from FanDuel helped her build a second successful startup.

We discuss:

  • Ad: Finding experienced employees for your new business with Integrity Power Search (5:05)
  • Beginnings of FanDuel (6:18)
  • Startup scene in Edinburgh (13:01)
  • Building and growing FanDuel in NYC (14:51)
  • Beginning concepts for Relish (21:30)
  • Finding the perfect people for a new team (25:29)
  • Goals of Relish and relationship building (28:28, 44:31)
  • App customers (32:52)
  • On-boarding and personality assessment (36:51)
  • Relationship plan specifics (41:20)
  • Relish vs. traditional couples therapy (43:53)

Learn more about Relish: https://hellorelish.com/
Follow upside on Twitter: https://twitter.com/upsidefm
Advertise with an upside classified: https://upside.fm/classifieds

This episode is sponsored by Integrity Power Search, the #1 full stack high growth startup recruiting firm between the coasts. They partner with venture capitalists, private equity groups and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disrupting companies.

Learn more about or get in touch with Integrity Power Search: https://upside.fm/integrity