UP063: Visible // powering communication for founders and investors

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Mike Preuss 0:00
It’s really hard, like even when you’re fundraising, right, think about how much more information data points investors have in a founder. Like, I’m seeing deals all the time, I know what’s in the market, I know traction metrics, valuation, who’s raising, who’s not, who’s dead. And as a founder, it’s like your own world, it’s your head, and that’s it. Maybe you can through osmosis and other founders understand how to do this live more, but like, it’s still pretty uneven in terms of like the information. And so we just want to give foreigners all the tools they can to get the most out of that relationship.

Jay Clouse 0:32
Thhe 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 1:01
Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the Upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Eric Hurnung, and I’m accompanied by my co-host, Mr. Extended Vacation himself, Jay Clouse. Jay, how’s it going, man?

Jay Clouse 1:17
I’m excited for my extended vacation. I will actually say, extended vacations are coming up. I hope you weren’t referencing something in the past. Am I forgetting about an extended vacation I already had?

Eric Hornung 1:26
No, no, you, so we have one of those weird little time lapses happening here on the podcast. This is getting recorded before November. But this won’t go out until January. So Jay will be finishing up his extended vacation. As we sit here today, recording this episode. Jay is looking forward to a month and a half without talking to me.

Jay Clouse 1:46
Wow. Well, you guys are going to tweet at me @JayClouse and asked me how that went for me. But as of now, as we suspend a little bit of disbelief here in this time, warp whoa…I’m sitting here looking forward to this month and a half, where our goal, Eric and my goal was that we would not record in December, we would get our inventory and backlog up to get us through into the new year after November, because mid-November, I’m going to California for two weeks. In December, I’m going into a hole for a month.

Eric Hornung 2:14
A hole, a physical hole or mental hole?

Jay Clouse 2:17
Mental, metaphorical, metaphysical hole.

Eric Hornung 2:21
A metaphysical whole?

Jay Clouse 2:22
I’m actually not entirely sure what that word means. But I think so. Yeah, basically, I want, I want to become less accessible for a month while I hide and get a lot of writing and preparation for 2020 done.

Eric Hornung 2:34
Are you doing anything crazy like turning off your phone, or your computer, or your internet?

Jay Clouse 2:40
I would consider it. I think I will definitely turn off the internet for stretches of time to do some writing. In California, Mallory and I are going to Joshua Tree for a couple days, which is probably one of my favorite places to hide, but I’ve only actually been there once. First time was amazing. And so the second time I expect it to be just as amazing. But yet producing content Eric, I’m doubling down on all things content marketing, and as you know, that takes time.

Eric Hornung 3:04
Oh, it takes a lot of time. We’re learning that right now as we try to create a content strategy for Upside. And just making little audiograms, little 30 second audiograms, takes every single morning workout I have.

Jay Clouse 3:21
You’re doing great though. And you know, dear listener, I hope you are following us on Twitter already @upsidefm we’re trying to be more visible in all of the spaces of your life.

Eric Hornung 3:30
Wow, that was such a layup. That was your segue. You just jumped right on in. You through the name of the company that’s going to be on today into the Segway. I love it.

Jay Clouse 3:39
Today we’re talking with Mike Preuss, the co-founder and CEO of Visible. Visible as a stakeholder reporting platform used by over 2,000 businesses. It allows you to keep all of your team members investors and stakeholders engaged through beautiful reports. Visible integrates with applications you already use to run your business like Google Apps, Salesforce, Stripe, and more. It automatically lets you capture all of your key performance indicators and leverage all of your stakeholders in one platform.

Eric Hornung 4:06
I love when we have companies on that are very useful to us potentially, like podcast companies, or we send out a monthly update to everyone in our Upside community. So I feel like we’re gonna have some good questions on this one.

Jay Clouse 4:23
Totally. And a little behind the curtain, Eric, I’ve used Visible before way back in I think 2014 or 2015. My research here shows that Visible was founded in 2014. And I know we used it back in the Tixers days, reporting to our investors after our fundraise, and I would get a monthly email from Brad’s app say make sure you fill this out and I would have to pull together a lot of bad record keeping on my part to give monthly revenue, monthly burn valuation, I think was something you wanted us to fill out, or like value of the company which was a total shot in the dark for a one year old software company. But it’s fun to come full circle here and talk to the man behind software.

Eric Hornung 5:07
Yeah, so let’s see what Visible is like four years after the Jay Clouse experiment.

Jay Clouse 5:13
And if you guys have any thoughts as we go through this episode, you can tweet at us as always @upsidefm or email us hello@upside.fm. We’d love to hear from you.

Eric Hornung 5:23
Jay, if we were going to give out executive titles for Upside, which one of us would get CEO?

Jay Clouse 5:27
I would.

Eric Hornung 5:28
That was so quick. You didn’t even like contemplate meeting CEO.

Jay Clouse 5:32
It’s obvious.

Eric Hornung 5:33
What would I get?

Jay Clouse 5:34
Not co-producer.

Eric Hornung 5:35
Now, not co-producer I don’t think that’s in the executive category. So if I was hiring for an executive position, I probably wouldn’t look for co-producer in that bucket. Hmm.

Jay Clouse 5:47
How would you go about hiring for an executive position?

Eric Hornung 5:50
I mean, that’s easy. I go to our friends at Integrity Power Search. They’re the a number one full stack high growth startup recruiting firm based between the coasts. They partner with venture capitalists, private equity groups, and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disruptive companies. I mean, since 2012, they’ve successfully executed over 600 searches, and they’re on track for 200 more just in 2019. Their clients have raised collectively over 2.5 billion in venture capital and counting.

Jay Clouse 6:19
You’re not trying to replace me as a CEO, are you?

Eric Hornung 6:21
I didn’t know you actually got the title. I thought this was just a hypothetical.

Jay Clouse 6:24
No, it sounds like we’ve made a decision, we’ve come to a consensus. So if you guys are looking to talk to the CEO of Upside, you can talk to me, and if you’re looking to hire your own executive help, you can go to Integrity Power Search at upside.fm/integrity, find out more about how they can help you.

Jay Clouse 6:44
Eric, one of our favorite questions is what sucks and do you know what sucks about podcasts?

Eric Hornung 6:51
The fact that we don’t know who’s listening to us?

Jay Clouse 6:54
Exactly. The analytics in podcasts are terrible. And so I think I came up with a solution of how we can get a better feeling for who our listeners are.

Eric Hornung 7:04
Well do tell.

Jay Clouse 7:05
All we need you to do, dear listener is go to upside.fm/survey and answer a short one to three minute survey so we can get a better understanding of who you are, which helps us serve you better. We love feedback on the podcast, don’t we Eric?

Eric Hornung 7:19
We love feedback.; All about the feedback,

Jay Clouse 7:22
All about the feedback. So if you would humor us, please go to upside.fm/survey. Let us know a little bit more about you so that we can better serve you and make this podcast even better. That’s upside.fm/survey.

Eric Hornung 7:37
We promise the survey won’t suck.

Jay Clouse 7:47
Mike, welcome to the show.

Mike Preuss 7:48
Hey, thanks for having me.

Eric Hornung 7:49
On Upside, we like to start with a background of the guest. So can you tell us about the history of Mike?

Mike Preuss 7:56
Man, that’s a good question and happy to dive in. So I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, in a little town called Batavia. I guess, you know, as it relates to entrepreneurship and starting companies are like most people, I had an eBay business in high school, where I was buying and selling junk on eBay. But I think the one that really got me started a young age as my dad, my dad was a pretty prolific cross country coach. And they wanted a highlight video of the season one year. And dove into iMovie and like fell in love with making movies on Imovie and on a Mac way back in the day. And then found out I can make money doing that. So you know, I would charge a team like 1,000 bucks to put a highlight video together. And then every parent wanted a copy. So this is back in the day when you like burn DVDs, and then you would put like a sticker on them with the press and then I would sell them for like 10 bucks a pop. And so that was kind of like my start to entrepreneurship and loved that you could take something with like your brain and computer and really know assets and turn into something pretty valuable. So that was high school. I caddied a lot in high school. I loved being outside and outdoors. And it was just a great way to set your own schedule was kind of like your own boss, like if you showed up, you made money. If you didn’t, you didn’t. Then started looking at schools, went to Indiana University, kind of fell in love with the campus when I visited there, and they had an awesome entrepreneurship program that I was part of. And towards the end of that I was doing my kind of standard work shy work, what do I want to do? And so I interviewed at, you know, the consulting firms, the Big Four accounting firms and really hated all of it. And then stumbled upon this thing called the Orr Fellowship, which is a program in Indiana, which is really cool. It’s actually evolved quite a bit since I was part of it nine years ago. But the thesis back in 2010 was, we have all these great students coming to all of our state schools, and then they leave, they go to the coast or somewhere else. How do we fight brain drain and keep these really talented people in the state? And I joined a company called Formstack at a time, which was eight people building online b2b forms. And it’s actually kind of funny because through that, we created a small product that was called Formspring. Formspring moved out to the Bay Area. So I kind of broke the thesis of the Orr fellowship and moved up in San Francisco for a couple of years working at that company because we spun it out, but ended up coming back and starting Visible with a bunch of folks from from Indiana. But that was like the very quick version of Mike but kind of my story in terms of everything that led up to Visible.

Jay Clouse 10:33
Speaking of quick, I want to rewind real quick to cross country highlight videos.

Mike Preuss 10:38
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 10:38
What does that look like? What’s a cross country highlight?

Mike Preuss 10:41
A lot of people running across the finish line set to Rrocky or Queen music for the most part.

Jay Clouse 10:48
Amazing.

Mike Preuss 10:49
Yeah. I did, I did better with the football highlight video. So then like, you know, kids wanted to get recruited and play football in college and all that, and those those highlight videos are typically a little bit more exciting than watching people run.

Eric Hornung 11:00
Yeah, I’ve watched football highlight videos and lacrosse highlight videos, but I…a cross country highlight video, just wow. That is, like….and he passed him there.

Mike Preuss 11:09
Yeah. A lot of videos of like the team and stuff like that. But yeah, I mean nothing, nothing that you would want to watch on a Friday night in my opinion. No offense, dad.

Eric Hornung 11:17
So take me to the Orr scholarship. We’ve, I’ve heard of this before, but how, like, how many people get it? You know a little bit more about the scholarship?

Mike Preuss 11:27
Yeah, yeah, it’s awesome. So I think there was about 20 people in our class. So I think like 2,000 people started this process and then it gets down to 20. And then the whole premise is, hey, we’ll help all these companies in Indiana find great talent. And then we’ll expose them to leadership meetings, some of you get to meet the governor. Exact Target, which was sold to Salesforce, right, Scott Dorsey’s at that company, and you get access to Scott Dorsey when you were an Orr fellow back in the day. Yeah, it was a kind of this intimate group. You would do things outside of you know, your day to day work. Everyone got paid the same amounts, everyone gets a full salary and all that. You all get paid the same amount, kind of sign up for two years, and you get this awesome exposure to leadership and everything that’s going on in the community. Since then, I’m probably not the best to speak on this. But I know it’s certainly evolved. Now, I think they have 50 or 60 plus people. And it’s actually turned into an importer of talent, which I think is pretty interesting. So now people, before you had to be part of, you had to either be from Indiana or go to an Indiana school to be part of it. And now they kind of got rid of that rule, where you could go to Duke, be from the Carolinas, but then get into Orr fellowship. So now they’re actually importing talent to come work at a lot of these companies in Indiana. So it’s certainly evolved along the way and more people are even part of it now.

Eric Hornung 12:44
So you had a pretty significant network in a very niche area in Indiana. Why is Visible today in Chicago, besides the fact that you’re from there?

Mike Preuss 12:54
So Visible today is actually like now for the most part fully remote. Basically what happened, so when I started visible I was living out in San Francisco at the time. And then a couple people from a firm in Indianapolis called High Alpha. And Mike Chilean and Christian Andersen, I knew them because they were investors in Formspring, the company I was working at. And they’re also involved in Orr Fellowship. So they’re kind of, I knew them through kind of two different things. And they had this idea for Visible being investors themselves, called me up and they’re like, Hey, we’re thinking about kind of moonlighting this project and putting something together. Do you want to be part of it? Said, Sure. I was wworking out in San Francisco at the time, and my now wife, she was living in Washington, DC, so we were doing long distance. And then throughout that, I said, Where do we want to end up? That was Chicago. So we ended up coming back to Chicago, going Indianapolis quite a bit. And then from there, we actually just moved out to Seattle like three weeks ago, so she got relocated with, with her company, so I’m up in Seattle now. We have people in Chicago still, people in Indiana still, and we turned the company to be fully remote when, actually like right around when we started about 2015. So one of our engineers at the time was really passionate about remote work, and it’s allowed us to hire some really great people and, and be super flexible in how we operate the company. So we’re everywhere.

Eric Hornung 14:12
We talk about remote a lot. What are some of the challenges you’ve specifically faced in spinning up a remote culture?

Mike Preuss 14:20
Yeah, I think that’s the hardest part, right, is like culture, when it’s you know, when you’re in an office environment, the culture kind of creates itself and you can kind of taste it and get it get a part of it and talk to people and hang out with them in the office. But when you’re remote, you know, you’re seeing people through like zoom or video chat. And so that’s the hardest part for, for me personally is like, I love that feeling of like the energy of a in person kind of culture. And how do we create that through being this, you know, virtual and that’s, that’s certainly a challenge. Just like everything’s got its pros and challenges. We get together twice a year and do an off site where everyone gets togethe, and I think that energizes everybody. I wish we could do it more, which is pretty, pretty expensive. But it’s, it’s great because everyone gets together, we get super energized, and kind of go back and execute, rinse and repeat. So, yeah, what do you what do you guys think about remote work?

Eric Hornung 15:14
Jay and I have never met each other in person.

Jay Clouse 15:17
That’s not certainly true.

Eric Hornung 15:18
Not sure. But there actually is a podcast, the Keystone podcasts, where they’ve only met three times in person and they co-host a podcast. So,

Jay Clouse 15:25
Mostly, I mean, just by virtue of our guests being all over the country, we have to be remote recording anyway. But yeah, we’ve had some perspective in our written publication, the Update from Kevin McArdle on this, Tyler Tringus running Earnest Capital talks a lot about remote work. And I’m bought in, I’m all on board. But I do find or hear that the off sites once or twice a year are a key cornerstone to making that work.

Mike Preuss 15:49
Yeah, I definitely think, and then we’ll even do I mean, we’re small company right? We’re we’re seven people. But we’ll even do things where a couple people get together that are, you know, everyone in marketing and they get together, everyone on the product team will get together a couple times a year as well. Yeah, I’m certainly bought in. It’s, it’s awesome. Yeah, it’s certainly got some of its challenges when it comes to, I think like the brainstorming and collaboration part specifically, it’s hard to do that through, through Zoom, or whatever you’re using. But other than that, I think it’s got a lot of, lot of great advantages, like my wife had this awesome opportunity, you know, 10 years ago, we’ve been like, oh, man, like, what do we do? Like someone’s not gonna have to have a job for a little bit. And now, let’s go do it.

Jay Clouse 16:29
How much do timezone differences play a role in your communication?

Mike Preuss 16:34
I was just talking about this today. So for the most part, it hasn’t been a problem. We all gear up to Central Time Zone when I was in Chicago. Now that I’m on the West Coast, I said I’m gonna keep my same hours as Chicago hours. So I start my day at like 5:30 or 6am right now, just so I can have a you know, we probably have four to five hours of overlap now with Europe, Europe works a little later in the day for our hours. But yeah, it’s been, it’s personally it’s been a challenge. I’m trying to figure out how sustainable it’s going to be waking up. Plus I’ve been traveling for like, personal reasons, like people getting married and all that. So I’m like in between time zones right now, but we’ll see. Right now I’m waking up at 5:30 three days a week. And I like my sleep.

Jay Clouse 17:20
That’s early.

Mike Preuss 17:21
Yeah, yeah. It’s really like, today rolled over in bed, texting the team, I’m like, can you push the team call back like half an hour? And I don’t want to do that. That’s not great, either, making people mend to your schedule. So I’ll figure it out.

Eric Hornung 17:34
When you think about the future of the company, do you think you’re going to be remote first? I.E., you have a headquarters but most people are remote. Remote only, so no headquarters or remote friendly. So headquarters first and then the ability for remote.

Mike Preuss 17:51
If you would ask me that question, two years ago, I would have said we’d been like have a headquarters and have remote. But now that I’ve seen the company evolved and people have come and gone. I think like the best way to make it work is like remote person only, I guess, like no real headquarters. Because then you get like many cultures popping up and offices and people might feel excluded and things like that. So I don’t know if we’ll ever have like, quote unquote, an HQ. I mean, we’ll have people in the same city and those people in the same city might not even see each other, right? So I see us evolving to probably something like that, where, you know, we might have a couple people in the same city, but not necessarily like an office that has its own culture and then like people that are working remote. Never say never, though.

Jay Clouse 18:35
I want to jump back into where we left off in the story here.

Mike Preuss 18:38
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 18:38
When this idea for Visible was brought to you, how was it described then? Or how was the problem described to you then?

Mike Preuss 18:44
Yeah, so when we originally started Visible I remember sitting on the plane and, I think it was Christian or someone sent me a link to like a fake app page. And at the time, it was a tool for investors to get insights into their portfolio. Like, here are all the companies I’m invested in, here are the key metrics of some of those companies, here’s the margine I’ve invested in those companies. And so that was the genesis of Visible, was actually a tool for investors first and foremost. And then as we built that product and then started selling it through, we learned a couple things. One, investors are incredibly cheap and don’t like to pay for anything. And it’s just a hard person to sell to. They’re getting pitched all the time, every day, and not necessarily for software, but for investment. And so you’re trying to signal to these folks like, Hey, we’re not looking for investment, we’re looking at, we want you to be customers. But their business is to try to make deals, right? Not necessarily like all the other crap that goes on in the background, so it gets pushed to the bottom. So like, people are like, yeah, this is a problem. They would buy it but they would never get in and use it. And so we pivoted more or less the strategy to be like, this is a problem for founders first and foremost, like, they have all of these different constituents and stakeholders that matter to them. They’ree investors employees, but then like potential investors and employees, and how do they, you know, get the most out of those relationships, keep those people informed of what’s going on in their business. And so that has been a great decision to go out and then build that product for, for founders, first and foremost. And we’ll see, because we actually just launched investor product again, back in the summer. We think that we learned from our mistakes the first time. So we’re taking a different approach when it comes like both go to market in the product itself, but launch an investor product again, like four years later from when we started company. So we’ll see if that’s the right decision or not.

Eric Hornung 20:39
I think this is a good time to kind of transition to what is Visible today in your own words.

Mike Preuss 20:45
Yeah, visible is a tool for founders to leverage their investors and engage their investors. So we help do that through sending out what we call updates. Those updates include beautiful visuals of data, but also the written, you know, verbose word on top of other elements. And it lets founders know exactly like who’s engaged with their business and who’s helping out, right? A lot of times investors are like, Oh, yeah, we’re value add, we’ll do all these things for you, and then a lot of times they just fall completely short, right. And so our whole thing is like giving founders a better chance of success, even if that’s like a percent more. Because it’s really, it’s really hard. Like, even when you’re fundraising, right, think about how much more information data points investors have in a founder, like, I’m seeing deals all the time. I know what’s on the market, and I know traction metrics, valuation, who’s raising, who’s not, who’s dead. And as a foreigner, it’s like your own world, it’s your head, and that’s it. Maybe you can through osmosis and other foreigners understand how to do this a little more. But like, it’s still pretty uneven in terms of like the information. And so we just want to give founders all the tools they can to get the most out of that that relationship.

Eric Hornung 21:53
How does the product look different when it was geared towards investors versus the product when it’s geared towards founders, like what, what are the main differences?

Mike Preuss 22:02
For investors the product, it was, you know, these like cool looking pie charts of like, here’s how much I’m worth of all my companies and these charts of like the total value and all that. And then you would create essentially forms for companies to fill out saying like, hey, what was your revenue last month? What was your total headcount, total burn, all important things. But like that is literally when you send out to a company, that’s like literally zero value add, right? Like fill this out for me please because I want to know how you’re performing. Versus companies, we built pretty much a really amazing editing experience very similar to like I guess you know, like, notion or Dropbox paper, some of those tools where you know, you can come in and add different elements to them. So you can say like, oh, revenue is up, and then you can connect like chart mogul and show your total error chart, or, hey, we had all these inbound leads, and connect the HubSpot. So we connect all these different tools to automate this for you, and then make it really pretty, and then it’s all a render directly in the email inbox to that investor. So they don’t have to sign off or sign into another tool. But really, I guess the main difference is that companies can say whatever they want. So instead of saying like, here, report this to us, it’s more, here’s what’s going on with my business. Here’s why I think it’s important. Here’s where you can help. Everyone does a little bit differently in terms of our customer base, but it’s, it’s built for the founder, and it’s not built for the investor. So it’s completely customizable. You can kind of share what you want, how you want, when you want, versus like the very structured rigid, like on the 15th of the month, please fill this out for me.

Jay Clouse 23:32
I’m pretty sure that I used v1 of Visible. It would have been circa I was thinking 2014 but it sounds like it might have been 2015.

Mike Preuss 23:39
It could have been ’14 or ’15, yeah.

Jay Clouse 23:41
We had an investor in the accelerator we went through in uptech, Covington, Kentucky, who was really, Brad, if you remember Brad’s app, he was really pushing it. And it was something where we got an email from Brad every month like, hey, fill this out. And some of the metrics that he wanted us to fill out were such like finger in the air type things that we just didn’t track very well. And it was kind of something where I was like, I don’t even know how to get this information that he wanted.

Mike Preuss 24:06
Yeah, that’s funny, there they were one of our, one of our first like, investor customers. Yeah, that’d probably been 2014 or ’15.

Jay Clouse 24:13
So now, when does a founder come across Visible or go looking for Visible? Like, what’s the pain point that they feel first where they say, I’ve got to get a better tool for this

Mike Preuss 24:23
In terms of like, what stage are they at, or how did they come across us?

Jay Clouse 24:26
Or, or like the moment that’s happening in their company or in their workflow where they’re like, I need a solution for this.

Mike Preuss 24:31
I think it’s one of, it all kind of comes down to at least what I’ve seen, honestly, only in like the past year, which is like, companies have no idea what they’re doing, which sounds crazy, but like we see it, I see it all the time. And it’s not a bad thing, but you know, you’ve built this incredible offering service app tool, what what have you, and then your investors like, yeah, Hey, what’s going on? Like, what’s going on with the business, and you’re like oh, what do I say, like, what should I share? Because there’s no playbook for it, right? There’s no like, when you’re a publicly traded company of the 10K and the ten queue and all these regulatory filings that have to include this…when you’re a startup that just raised like 5 million bucks and and like, what do you share? And so I think that’s the first thing is, is really more educational than anything. Here’s what you should share, how often, and there’s, you know, I think there’s like the standard head count, cash burn, cash in the bank, all that. But then there’s a lot of other things you could possibly be sharing in, in best practices. So in terms of that, I think it ranges in terms of like the stage, like we’d see people that need it and they’re big, you know, 200 person companies, and we see people that are two person companies that do it. But I think the the first initial point is like, what should I be sharing and how frequently, is when they’re when they’re coming across Visible. And it and it doesn’t know boundaries in terms of geography. We have customers all over the world, Australia, Singapore, Europe, I mean, all over the world. So it’s not just something that’s like a San Francisco Bay Area thing, actually like I think in terms of geography, those people do a really bad job of reporting versus like a lot of people all over the world do a really good job of it.

Eric Hornung 26:07
So how does your go to market strategy kind of feed off of that scenario you just laid out in terms of, you have geography but you could have someone who just started up in Wichita or you could have a 200 person company in New York. How do you go to market and find those people?

Mike Preuss 26:21
So we get customers essentially 1 to 3 like three buckets, and they’re all pretty much around the same. So sort of our customers are coming from organic search, some people writing in investor updates, invester update templates, investor reporting. We do a ton what we did–I don’t–our team does a great job of, of content marketing. We produce an item called the founders forward. It is its own brand. Still very once a week to your inbox. It’s kinda like Meta Mark daily was back in the day, we curate what we think is the best content for operators. And so we build a lot of content. And so we get about a third of our folks joining us that way. A third through campaign channels with primarily paid search, and then a third coming through referrals, of those like offline and offline. So another founder saying, hey, check out and useVisible, or an investor is saying check out and use Visible. But then will be written about on other blogs and things like that. So that’s another part of that referral traffic. And then I think like a lot of startup communities, just because of how prominent it is in the States, a lot of them are speaking English. So we haven’t localized or done really any work in terms of translating our marketing efforts or application. But people are still finding us because I think it’s, English is still kind of the go to at least when you’re thinking about getting investment in some start up communities across the world.

Jay Clouse 27:38
I liked what you said about this helps founders leverage their investors.

Mike Preuss 27:43
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 27:43
Do your founders get any pushback on trying to do that? Or is there just, is it just a problem of founders are leaving that opportunity on the table when they’re not using a tool like Visible?

Mike Preuss 27:54
Yeah, I don’t think it has to be, you know, from what I always say, like, it doesn’t even have to be Visible the tool your using get leverage out of investors. I mean, you can use a MailChimp list or email or whatever tool you please. But I think that a lot of times you’re not just…Well, I think one is cadence, I think founders do a bad job of just establishing a regular cadence of their investor communication, both the potential and current. So I’m gonna take a step back here. So we think about Visible as like a sales and marketing funnel for, but for your investors. Right? So at the top, I have like prospecting. These are investors I want to target and be part of my company. Then in the middle, maybe I’m fundraising, and these people might invest in my company. And then I have investors, right? And that’s kind of customer success, like, how do I engage and retain my, my current customers or my current investors? And a lot of times founders, what will happen is, they’ll send out an investor update, maybe once a quarter, or like only when they have good news to share, which is the opposite. You always want to share when you bad news actually, because people can jump in and help. And so you always want to be top of mind in terms of this communication. So, you know, I think like once a month is great. But when you’re top of mind to an investor, that’s going to help with hiring, partnerships, sales, future rounds of funding. And it’s just like you’re nurturing leads, right? Like, if you go without six months and say like, Hey, here’s what we’re up to, Mr. and Mrs. Lead, they’ll be like, Who are you again? It’s the same thing for your investors. Right? So whether it’s Visible or not, I think just cadences is really important. And we help build some of that muscle with the product. And then in terms of leverage, yeah, like, being able to ask like, hey, it can be something as simple as, hey can you like, tweet this out for me, here’s the link, I already put it together, just click this thing, or, hey, we’re looking for introductions to this type of person or this type of company and this type of geography. And because I think a lot of times founders will make the mistake of like, yeah, we need leads for enterprise customers. It’s like, well, that could literally be anybody. So in terms of leverage, like yeah, I don’t think founders will get pushback at all. If anything, an investors like, yeah, keep sending me things that I can help with, because that’s what we pitched you on when you took our money.

Eric Hornung 30:05
Does Visible have the ability to track some of those metrics you’re talking about? So responses from investors or the click to tweet type thing?

Mike Preuss 30:16
So we track a lot of the different engagement metrics, similar to most, you know, email type apps, so opens, clicks, responses, we even enabled a little thing called reactions. So you know in Slack, you can like react to messages. We launched something similar that founders can turn on because, you know, a lot of times an investor will get an update, and they’ll be like, great. Mmaybe they can help us something, but they just want to give like a quick like, I read it, keep up the good work. And then we’re working on productizing the like ask component and some of the social sharing. So hey, can you tweet this out for us or make an introduction so we’re going to…Unclear what the product will look like, but almost like leaderboard it a little bit where if I’m an investor, I’d be like, oh, like this person’s done this many things for this company and it creates a little bit of a competition where I’ve even seen people make that into like, their Visible updates where they’ll be like a leaderboard or like a special links section because like, hey, thanks to Jay, he tweeted this out for us last week and Eric made us this introduction, where it kind of, other people get their, get their crap together, because they’re like, oh, man, like they’re helping, and I’m not.

Jay Clouse 31:25
So does this function, you mentioned other email apps. If I go into this, do I have a sort of CRM back end of the types of contacts in there that I can segment by those different, you know, types of funnels that you described?

Mike Preuss 31:37
Yeah. So we let our customers set up different lists and contacts and you can belong to multiple lists. I would say like the most common, at least the way I have mine personally set up is like, I have friends, I have investors, board members, potential investors, and depending on you know, when I’m sending out, you might be part of that or not, and then you can also set up your own cadences for all those so, you know, I think the best personally is like the CEO sends out like a weekly note, like, Hey, here’s what’s going on the company that’s going more internal. Every month, I’m sending out an update to my investors. And then every quarter, I might be sending one out to like, quote unquote, friendlies, this could be like potential funders or even potential employees or partners. And each one of those might be slightly more redacted, right, than the rest, like you’re not going to share cash burn to maybe potential funders, but you’re not going to share cash burn maybe with your team. Or whatever, you know, floats your boat, but I think each of those has its own content. Some of it overlaps. Some of it doesn’t.

Jay Clouse 32:38
This is like a classic, eating your own dog food type situation that I’m sure you’re doing on like a daily basis here.

Mike Preuss 32:45
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 32:45
So how well are you sticking to your own goals of how often you update those different groups of stakeholders?

Mike Preuss 32:51
I would say now, it’s kind of fine too, but very well. The one exception might be like the team one. I try to send it out every Monday evening, but sometimes it slips to Tuesday, but send out a weekly note to the team. And that’s usually like, here’s how we’re progressing to our quarterly objectives, is the kind of tone of that. So, here’s wins on the customer, and we’re recurring revenue business. So here’s our wins on recurring revenue, here’s a product KPI that is really important to us. And then right now, for us, one of our other kind of core KPIs is calculating a score while you’re on a trial of the product. So how are we positively or negatively impacting the lift of that score for new trailers. So every week that goes out through the highlights with our performance of those KPIs, everyone’s kind of on the same page. But then yeah, the investor one goes out every month, and then the friendly one, I actually don’t do the quarterly friendly one. I just send out a monthly one to friendlies as well, with just some different types of content in it.

Jay Clouse 33:48
What aspect of the product frustrates you most frequently as a user?

Mike Preuss 33:52
Hmm, good question. I would, for the longest time, I would have said our update editor itself, because you could build like charts into it. And it was awesome. It was, it was really beautiful. But if you wanted to make any changes, it’s kind of clunky and you’d have to like position things up and down. But our team at our last off site, we went around, and everyone’s like, let’s just rebuild it. And so we rebuilt it, it took like, six weeks or so over the summer, and the thing is frickin sweet now. You can like drag and drop and enter. Like, it’s, it’s, you know, definitely best in class, my opinion. So, I would have said that six months ago. Now I would probably say the metrics and data is still so messy with like, how you get data out and extract data and KPIs. Like every business had different KPIs and different systems. And so that will always be a battle we’re fighting, and probably the one I would say now is just like, all right, I connected integration, and that creates metrics, those metrics create charts, those charts go on updates, and so a lot has to happen right to get that to work. And it’s coming a long way, but it’s probably still the pain point for me is like the charting and metrics.

Eric Hornung 35:05
What are the KPIs that Visible pays attention to for its own business?

Mike Preuss 35:09
Kind of the standard staff metrics. So new ARR, churn ARR, church as percent of MRR, or ARR. And then some non standard ones that we really like to track are new organic web visitors. So we produce a lot of content. So we’re really keeping track of like, how many new people are finding us every month organically, that’s a big one. How many unique recipients are getting a Visible update every month, so the more people are getting more updates, more virality we can create within the product. So that’s a big product KPI for us as long as, in addition to like, how many updates are being sent. I’m trying to think of some other ones Oh, support response time as well. So we really pride ourselves on giving support the way we’d want to get it. So someone writes into us, I think our median response time is like five minutes, so–at least Monday through Friday. So if you’re writing in, we’re gonna respond right away, help you out. Customers our core. So that’s another one we like to monitor, just like how fast are we getting back to, back to our customers.

Eric Hornung 36:13
How many unique people are getting Visible updates?

Mike Preuss 36:16
It’s about a 25,000 right now, every month between…We track that between you can send an update and email and you can also send it out as like a link that people can open, like a Google Doc. So it’s hard to get an exact number because of that, but it’s somewhere around 25,000.

Eric Hornung 36:31
And how does Visible make money?

Mike Preuss 36:33
We’re a recurring revenue business. So we have kind of three plans: good, better best model, depending on like, all the bells and whistles you might want. That ranges from like the data integrations to like sending things from your own domain and brand. So our average customer pays us around $140 a month for the product, and then of that around 35% are paying us annually upfront. So I mean, it ebbs and flows but yeah, around 35 to 40% are paying annual for a steeper discount.

Jay Clouse 37:05
I would imagine that as long as a company is operating, this is useful software for their, their workflow. How often does like the rate of startup failure result in a churn of customers for you guys?

Mike Preuss 37:19
Yeah, it’s probably like, you know, it’s, it’s definitely higher since our SMB tool, I think churns about a percent a month. And of that, I would say, it kind of falls into three buckets for churn. One is like we’re going out of business, which actually isn’t too common. A more common one is, we’ve been acquired, and we no longer need Visible. And then like, you know, and this is something we’re really going to work hard on in the first quarter of next year, which is like, I stopped using it for whatever reason. It’s like a, you know, I think Visible is very much like going to the gym. And so if you’re not going to the gym and working out, you’re going to cancel your membership after some point. So we’re working on a lot of ways to unlock where we can help with fundraising because there’s a huge pain point with, with fundraising, right? Like, everyone feels that pain point. And you’re like, give me whatever I can to help with that process. So that’s, that’s something we’re actually working on right now and we’ll have a lot on later in the year, early 2020. But yeah, churn just because like, Hey, I’m not using it for whatever reason.

Jay Clouse 38:26
How big is the overall market of founders who would be a fit for this software? And has that trended any differently since you’ve been doing this?

Mike Preuss 38:34
Man, it was, I haven’t done a TAM in a while for Visible, but I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s huge. I mean, Carta, who does cap tables, I think has crossed, like, $80 million in ARR or something like that. So I would say, you know, there’s, what’s interesting is more and more companies are being started. And I think, you guys mentioned, Ernest Capital and some other folks as well. I think there’s even in this kind of–and we’re looking into this–but there’s a shift in just in terms of how new businesses are started and funded, where it’s not even necessarily venture capital, like it could be folks like Ernest Capital, or there’s even all different types of like financing you can get through things like clear bank and other folks. So we’re looking into, like, what does that market look like? And, and because there’s a lot of just like indie builders and folks all over that are building tools that maybe aren’t like, quote unquote, venture capital, but they still have like stakeholders and other folks, they want to keep a price. So I don’t have like, unfortunately, I probably should. I don’t have the hard data of like, oh, there’s, you know, you know, more companies than ever. I think the general trend is, there’s more capital than ever going into pure companies, though.

Eric Hornung 39:45
Do you have any customers that kind of fit in those other buckets that aren’t traditional VC backed? And specifically, I’d be interested to hear, are there any investors that use this to send updates to LPs?

Mike Preuss 39:58
Yes and yes. So I’ll touch on some of those. We have folks like in New Zealand that are purveyors of honey that use Visible, and they’re using it to just share like internal management reports. So we have like really nice Zero Integration, Zero’s built in, in Australia and New Zealand, and they’re using us to like, you know, send like, we have a mega church there, too. So they’re just using like it to send out more like internal quote unquote stakeholder updates. So we have folks that are like embracing really no outside money and using Visible. And then we have folks like harness capital is actually a customer of ours, they’re using Visible to get recurring revenue metrics from their companies. And then in terms of like the LP ones, I would say for the smaller, for like smaller funds that have raised, you know, less than $10 million, they’re using Visible to share updates with their LPs and, and their and their folks. I would say like a year from now, that will be much more like as we, as we continue to build the investor product is still very nascent. So but in an ideal world, you like create report for the quarter and it spits up like a page for a company that you can use in your own LP reporting. That’s kind of like the Holy Grail.

Eric Hornung 41:06
How did you settle on the price point?

Mike Preuss 41:09
So we started as Freemium, and then we removed Fremium. I want to say we started like 20 bucks a month. And then we’re like, well, what if we raise prices? And then we raise it to 50. And then we said, What if we raise prices? And we said, What if we raise it to 100? And then we kind of naturally just kept pushing price up until we started getting pushback on price, which we certainly do. I think it’s more of a premium product, where I don’t know if this is true or not, you know, rule of thumb is like, you want 20% of people saying no because of price. And I think we’re probably right around there, where I think we’ve kind of naturally just tested our way into that price. That said, that’s kind of one of my personal things I’m looking into this year is, I think it’s always healthy to look at pricing and packaging and kind of hear what the market’s saying. And so I would love to have a way where we can find a way to get this in the hands of founders that haven’t raised a whole lot of capital yet that necessarily don’t have the budget for it, but want to use it because that, we hear that all the time. Would love to get it in their hands and then have them you know, kind of land and expand their way to to our current price point. So we’re working on along the lines of fundraising. And we believe, so kind of just tease us a little bit, we’re working on a tool where a founder can come into Visible and say, like, Hey, I’m a company in the Midwest, and I’m raising this much capital and I’m in this market or industry, who are all the folks I should be talking to? And we’re trying to build that from like, first party reported data directly from the investors saying, like, I invest in these verticals, and they need these traction metrics, and they need to be based here. But we’re also just grabbing like funding announcements or grabbing public available information so that a founder can spend the right time with the right type of investor. And that type of tool I believe we’re gonna give away for free. And then you know, maybe they can send in updates to those people without necessarily like all of the sexy integrations, but at some point they will be using salesforce and will want to pay us for that. So I think the fundraising product will be a great time for us to figure out like a free version of that product and then a natural way for them to kind of expand their account with us over time.

Jay Clouse 43:13
Something you said earlier, Eric and I talk about a lot, which is the asymmetry of information that investors have access to because they see this number of deal flow versus what founders know, because they’re often doing this for the first time. So how well do you guys structure your data intake to have kind of a macro view of what’s going on in the state of funding and fundraising?

Mike Preuss 43:36
As of right now, we probably do a very bad job and on purpose. So given the content and other updates that are being sent, there’s a lot of like, you know, I would say fairly private things you don’t want people knowing. And so we’ve always toed the line of like, we need to be so whitehat about what we do with the data that we don’t do anything with it at all. So like in our terms of service, I think the first line of privacy policy’s like, we don’t do anything with this data. So as of right now, we don’t do anything with, with the data that’s coming through Visible, like you’re paying us to distribute your investor reports, and we’re not going to do anything with that. If we ever were to try to create like benchmarks or other things with data coming through Visible, it would kind of be your typical like, opt in like, yeah, I’m gonna opt in and exchange I get something out of it. So I don’t, that’s not necessarily on the on the horizon for us, though, in terms of that. Now, with fundraising, there’s interesting thing, I mean, it’s so early, the products not even built yet. I mean, you can think around how you can leverage like, a founder being like, yeah, this investor just dragged me on for three months in this process, and then like, never wrote a check. And then you could see that maybe like three other people using that were like, Yeah, same thing happened to me. And so then use in front are like, okay, like, don’t even like waste my time with this person. So I think there’s some interesting things we could build in where we give founders like signal in terms of who are the good actors and who are the bad. But even then that’s challenging, right? Because like, as a founder, you’re reluctant probably to share some of that, because you don’t want to be like, you know, blackballed out of like the investment community. So I think that has its own struggles, but I definitely see like, some way to give a founder like insight into, like, who they should be talking to, and what are the experiences, all these…Isn’t it really like, kind of quick aside, you can get like reviews on anything in the world. Like, I could see the reviews of products, software products, now, doctors, and all that, but like when it comes to financing, it’s still like, super hit and miss in terms of, you know, you’re pretty much relying on background referencing and talking to founders who’ve worked with people before.

Jay Clouse 45:41
I saw on Crunchbase that you guys had raised a seed back in 2016. So it said from High Alpha, which seemed like a connection to all back to Scott Dorsey and maybe even the auto ship. What does the horizon look like for you guys? Are you in a place where you’re just cruising and working off of cash flow?

Mike Preuss 45:59
Yeah, exactly. So that’s kind of where we are right now. So we raised some capital early on and then through like our pivot and all of that have gotten the business to a place of cash flow and profitability. So for us, it’s, it’s more about execution than anything. And if we think like there is an opportunity to accelerate growth and, and we need to, I don’t think we’re hesitant to raise more capital, but for us right now, we’re in a place where we can kind of spend, spend our cycles where we think our time can be most, I guess, well spent.

Eric Hornung 46:31
We’re sitting here recording this on the back of WeWork, slashing their valuation by over 75% and a lot of doomsday kind of sayings around the tech space. So let’s just pretend those are real for a second. How does Visible exist as a premium product in a potential downturn or recession?

Mike Preuss 46:54
Man, that’s scary. I’ve no idea to tell you the truth. If there is a doomsday, if there’s a doomsday I think a lot of people are screwed. But yeah, so it’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit. And I think there’s, there’s kind of three things that one of them is working our favorite, and then there’s two things we would do pretty quickly. So one is, for the most part, we’re already in control of our own destiny and don’t have to rely on outside capital to keep things going. So that’s a good thing. But let’s just pretend our customers are going out of business, and so maybe that’s not true. There’s a lot of…I’m not saying like, we would just like completely pivot the business. But I think we would orient it towards a lot of internal stakeholder communication. So we go out to like, banks, Price Waterhouse Coopers in Australia just became a customer of ours, where they’re using it for more internal reporting and, and keeping people in the loop of what’s going on. So I think we would, you know, if that is happening, and we’re like, all right, it’s doomsday, we would probably orient to go to market to be more focused on internal reporting and management reporting. And then this might be wishful thinking, but I think the best companies in doomsday would be the one sending investor updates the most. So we’ll see But yeah, I don’t know. What are people saying, do you think it’s doomsday?

Eric Hornung 48:07
No but, I would assume that…

Mike Preuss 48:09
Definitely crosses my mind.

Eric Hornung 48:10
…the yield curve inverted so everyone’s freaking out about that as well. Also, bankruptcy could definitely use some work in reporting, just from personal experience. So monthly operating reports, if you want to systematize those, you’re super priority, you get paid before everyone else.

Mike Preuss 48:25
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 48:25
Mike, this has been an awesome, awesome conversation. Thanks for sharing with us. If people want to learn more about you or Visible after the show, where should they go?

Mike Preuss 48:33
Visible is Visible.vc for our domain. About me, probably Twitter, although I’m not like super active anymore on Twitter, but Twitter is probably the best place. it’s just @MikePreuss, P-R-E-U-S-S.

Jay Clouse 48:48
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Jay Clouse 49:27
All right, Eric, we just spoke with Mike Preuss of Visible. What sticks out to you, what are your hot takes?

Eric Hornung 49:33
My hottest take is that they are sitting on a treasure trove of data that they’re doing nothing with.

Jay Clouse 49:40
Ooh, yeah, that burns.

Eric Hornung 49:42
Yeah, you know I’m a data guy. You know, I like data sets. Large, complex, hard to get structured data, and they have it by the truckload, Jay.

Jay Clouse 49:55
Yeah. I was thinking about it the entire time through the conversation. I was like, there’s some so much that I think there could be on the back end here of…because you brought it up early on in the interview. These investors see all the deals, they understand what deal terms are happening now, for the founders, it’s as a lot of first time things. Even if it was just keeping a state of the pulse of current valuation and deal terms, that would be a game changer for a lot of first time founders. And on the other hand, I really respect in, like the, the idea of first line in our terms is that your data is your data, we are facilitating a need for you, we are not collecting that or capturing that. I like that ethos, but it does feel like there’s something left on the table.

Eric Hornung 50:43
Ever since I listened to the Ryan Callback podcast on the Patrick O’Shaughnessy podcast called Invest Like the Best…wow almost forgot the name of that podcast that I listened to…that there is going to be someone who does what Circle Up did but for all startups. There’s going to be a Citadel, a Renaissance, a two sigma type investor who invests in early stage. And this has nothing to do with the Visible business model we just talked about. But when I see Visible and I see the data that they’re creating and the unique to data set they have, I have to think that that is a extremely underutilized asset that, you know, maybe it’s not in the next 6 to 18 months but down the road, if they store all that, it is going to be a huge competitive advantage to bring quant finance to private markets.

Jay Clouse 51:41
I have a little bit of an incomplete story in my mind, not from Visible but related. He mentioned the newsletter that Visible writes that he compared to the Matter Mark Daily, and Matter Mark, started, cofounded by a friend of the podcast Andy sparks, who was at our South by Southwest panel last year. Andy has introduced himself several times and as co-founding a startup that raised several million dollars, sold for a lot less. Matter Mark had kind of unceremonious end, collecting and capturing a lot of data around the VC space and selling it to investors. Mike, in this interview, talked about investors being a difficult customer, because they’re already getting sold to a lot just in different form and that they’re cheap. So that completed one little bit of the loop. The second bit is, back to what you’re just saying, around this data piece, it seems like there’s a lot of value in this data, but who’s going to capture it in the right way and sell to the right person and package it the right way remains to be seen, I guess.

Eric Hornung 52:39
I think it’s a problem that no one’s feeling yet. And I don’t think it is really that important to this deal memo. So I’m glad that I started with it because it’s a personal interest.

Jay Clouse 52:51
Well, to keep going down the weird, the weird deal memo train here, I did some math, Eric?

Eric Hornung 52:56
What? This is the weirdest deal memo we’ve ever done.

Jay Clouse 53:00
I did some math. I was prepared. And here we go.

Eric Hornung 53:03
Alright, let’s hear it.

Jay Clouse 53:03
So, at one point, Mike said that average customer pays about $140 per month. Hundred forty dollars per month is $1,680 per year per customer. If you multiply that by what Mike’s LinkedIn bio says, over 2000 customers, let’s just assume 2,000 customers, that’s $3.4 million in a ARR.

Eric Hornung 53:24
Look at you. That was pretty quick. That was pretty snappy.

Jay Clouse 53:28
It was easy for me to get there. So that’s a pretty tasty MRR for a company that’s raised $1.4 million to date. And he said at the end of the interview, you know, they’re profitable, they’re cash flowing, they’re growing on that. Certainly they could grow faster and build the product faster with more people, higher incomes, the cost and oftentimes the cost of hiring comes with fundraising. Doesn’t sound like that’s the direction that they’re headed right now.

Eric Hornung 53:52
And I don’t think it needs to be. I think this is a product that has a lot of potential use cases. I think they’ve this niche that works really well for them. It gets them to this, what did you say, $3.4 million ARR?

Jay Clouse 54:07
Well, and that’s at 2,000. He says over 2,000, so it could be anywhere from 3.4 to 5.1.

Eric Hornung 54:14
Did you just do that math in your head as well?

Jay Clouse 54:15
I did. Again, pretty easy for me to get to that.

Eric Hornung 54:19
So if they’re making money, and things are looking good, and they’re kind of exploring this new product with investors, I don’t know that they need to catch up to Carta, who’s doing 80 million ARR, or whatever he said it is.

Jay Clouse 54:32
And the reason that I did that math and I brought it up was because, to the point I was kind of making with Matter Mark, I questioned how big this total addressable market was as a venture bankable business, and not because I have an answer. And the answer is, it’s small. I just didn’t know. And my presumption has always been that startup founders are a difficult market to stick with. Its limited in scope. And same with investors. I think I’d heard Second hand that there also just weren’t enough investors to sell to, to make matter mark a giant company. And I didn’t get a great answer to how big the market was. Mike said huge. I just don’t know how huge that is and what that means for, if they did want to fundraise, what the prospects of that would be for a major fund.

Eric Hornung 55:20
My thought is if they wanted to fundraise as a series A type investment, they would have to expand out of the just-for-startups and just-for-investors kind of world and migrate into what he said they would do in terms of a recession. They would have to become a reporting tool for a broader range of customers. They would have to have be an internal reporting tool. They’d have to be reporting tools for other functionalities. I mentioned bankruptcy, he never talked about it, but there are all kinds of areas where they could be the recurring reporting tool. And that’s a much, much, much larger market. I mean, just think about, you know, TPS reports from office space or whatever. There’s always these kind of, like, recurring reports that you have to be submitting in the ordinary course of business.

Jay Clouse 56:08
Yeah, I think you’re right. So now that we’ve talked opportunity, we’ve talked business model a little bit, let’s turn our attention back to where we usually start, Eric, and that’s with the founder, Mike. What stuck out to you about Mike?

Eric Hornung 56:21
Well, we had a fun conversation about just remote work. And going into this interview, I had no idea that Visible was remote. You know, there’s that like joke that you can use for a few things, which is like, how do you know if a company is remote? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. Didn’t come across here with Visible, it’s just something that kind of naturally grew out of their culture. I also think that because they’re not as rocketship oriented–and that’s not to say they’re not growing or not growing fast, they’re just not on that traditional Silicon Valley we’re going to raise 50 million that 100 million then 200 million or whatever–I think that gave them a little bit more flexibility and a smaller team, that they could kind of do more of what they wanted. What about you?

Jay Clouse 57:03
It wasn’t that they’re remote first that was surprising to me. What was surprising to me was that they’ve been remote first since they started back in 2015, when it was much less in vogue. In a lot of ways, they’re a unique company, you know, starting in Chicago, which isn’t one of the coastal hubs, but it’s certainly the Midwest hub. So they started in Chicago, they became distributed pretty much immediately, and have remained that way to this day. Two offsites per year I think is awesome for a team of seven. A lot of companies strive for an off site, and they get one a year. So he mentioned you want to do more, but even two is more than I hear a lot of times. And what he brought up when we talked about culture and being hard, we talked about, they would be a no headquarters place first because of the split that could happen with cultures within the culture or sort of cliques within the team. That’s a risk that I’ve seen and totally makes sense to me that I don’t think is talked about enough, even in the group calls that we do for Unreal Collective, when we have four people who are in Columbus and one who is not, or even three people who are in Columbus, a lot of times those groups will meet up outside of the call we have weekly, and that creates a little bit of a schism that I try to avoid. And I’m sure that happens at a more severe degree for a company where people are meeting every day. And if some of them are in the office, and some of them are not, it would be really easy to feel left out of a lot of jokes, a lot of conversations, a lot of the camaraderie that comes with being in a company.

Eric Hornung 58:34
Other than that, I thought Mike was a very thoughtful founder. I think that he has this drive to continuously increase the product and make it the best thing for founders. I love the idea of, if I can give founders a 1% chance, additional or incremental 1% chance of being successful, that’s a win because the odds are so stacked against them. So I think he has the drive. He has the passion. He has the thoughtfuless around making sure the product is serving founders. And I think that’s really important.

Jay Clouse 59:06
Love the backstory of, had an eBay businesses in high school, ran a caddy racket, racket club in high School also, did the highlight videos for cross country. Like there’s a clear pattern of entrepreneurship in Mike’s background, which I really appreciated. And I love a company that dog foods their product. Love anytime a founder can actually be dogfooding their product, it’s only going to drive him you know, he’s the founder, he wants to get 1% better himself, I’m sure. So it’s it’s great to hear that he does it and has a structure for doing it. Had some key takeaways for what he recommended other people to do, sending updates when you have bad news, segment your different audiences for consistent updates. That’s something that’s interesting. Not only are you sending investor updates, but potential investor updates, friendly updates. I think anybody can benefit from having consistent contact with the different types of people in their lives.

Eric Hornung 59:58
I’ll also say that he made a joke about I have no idea what’s going to happen in a global downturn. And the purpose of that question isn’t, what do you do in a doomsday scenario. The purpose of that question is to think, it’s to see how much the founder has thought about their business if their primary thesis doesn’t hold true. And I like that he had a few answers for that. So he’s really thought deeply into this business. And that goes back to this idea of Chris Dixon’s idea maze. How far down the idea is, can you go Can you go set a second level thinking, third level thinking? So I think that his answer to that question definitely impressed me. Alright, Jay. So before we close up here, what do you want to see from Visible in the next 6 to 18 months?

Jay Clouse 1:00:39
I’m definitely looking out for this new fundraising premium product that Mike talked about. That seems super valuable. And I know we kicked off this deal memo on kind of a downer note of it seems like they’re not taking advantage of some of the data they have. This seems like a step in that direction to turn the tide and democratize some of this information that founders don’t have access to right now. So I’m definitely looking forward to that. I’m looking to see if churn is increasing. And if so, why? It sounds like turns pretty low, 1% per month. And that’s a really good sign because like I said, I figured this would be pretty sticky for a founder who starts using it, but I just don’t know what the lifetime value is of the typical startup founder with failure being so high among startups.

Eric Hornung 1:01:22
And I want to see what kind of feedback they’re getting on the investor product. It’s, they went out to market with an investor product to start, found out that’s not the way to go, went to a founder product, and now they’re coming back to their original idea. You don’t see that often, you don’t see the 360 degree pivot. So I want to hear what’s different this time? Is it better this time? Is the reception there this time? And why?

Jay Clouse 1:01:48
Alright guys, we’d love to hear what you think about this episode. You can tweet at us @upsidefm or email us Hello@upside.fm as always. We’d love to hear your thoughts, what we missed, and what resonate with you about this interview.

Interview starts: 7:45
Debrief starts: 49:27

Mike Preuss is the co-founder and CEO of Visible, an investor reporting platform for startups. Beginning in 2014, Visible is a completely remote company used by over 2,000 businesses. They help founders update their investors on their business and maintain accountability and trust throughout growth.

An Orr Fellow from Indiana University, Mike Preuss was the Business Development Manager for Formspring before Visible.

We discuss:

  • AD: Finding experienced employees for your new business with Integrity Power Search (5:23)
  • Mike’s background and entrepreneurship experience (7:56)
  • Orr Fellowship (11:17)
  • Managing a remote culture, different time zones, and off-sites (12:44)
  • Initial problem and genesis of Visible (18:38)
  • Changing the product from investors to founders (21:53)
  • Finding clients (26:07)
  • Tracking metrics and data (or lack thereof (30:05)
  • Visible using Visible (32:38)
  • Money model (36:13)
  • Investors’ and founders’ access to information (43:13)
  • Visible’s potential in a downturn or recession (46:31)

Learn more about Visible: https://visible.vc/
Follow Mike on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MikePreuss
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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