On this week's episode I chat with Gregory Galant, the Co-Founder and CEO of Muck Rack and the Co-Founder and CEO of The Shorty Awards.
Muck Rack is a Public Relations management platform that helps organizations find the right journalists to pitch, report on media coverage and prove the value of their work.
Greg has been in the NY startup game for a long time. He famously launched The Shorty Awards where they gave out awards for the best tweets in the early days of Twitter. Along the way he tinkered with a dozen business ideas until Muck Rack finally hit and took him to the moon.
During our chat we talk about Muck Rack, the PR industry and his wisdom about entrepreneurship. Enjoy.
Transcript (this is an automated transcript):
MPD: Greg, thanks for being here today, buddy.
Gregory Galant: Thanks Mark.
MPD: Yeah, looking forward to diving in.
You mind starting off by giving us an overview? Ofm.
Gregory Galant: Sure. Muck Rack is a PR software suite. It's kinda like the system of record for a PR department or a PR agency, and it helps these groups find the right journals to pitch. So if you wanna have your name in the news and figure out like who are the right journals to pitch, it actually has a whole kind of CRM and workflow built in.
So you can then, Send emails to the journalists saying, Hey, why don't you write about my new company? Track those relationships they know, notify you in a journal's, writes about your company, and finally help you build reports so you can show the impact of pr enter media on your company. And now we started with journalists.
Now it's also podcasters like like we're on right now. We happen to already know each other. But if not, I might have pitched you on being on this show using. Finding you through mock rack and pitching you that way. And then building reporting on the impact of all those earned media connections too.
MPD: when did you start the company? It's been a little bit, right?
Gregory Galant: Yeah, we started in 2009. Originally it was a free website for journalists. And then being in New York at the time, I kept running into PR people who were like, Oh, Uck Rack, that's I use that all the time to figure out who to pitch.
We're like, Oh, we could probably. We had all these ideas for tools we could build for them, and then we felt it would fit really well into a SAS model. So we launched it as sa late 2011. Pretty much either at our Mitra year 13 years in is the brand mock rack, and over a decade in now is a SAS platform.
MPD: Love that. Why did you start this? Because it's a little bit of a, Seemingly random niche, but it is a classically good internet solution in the sense that you've got a lot of data that's unstructured and you guys are bringing structure and clarity to it. Had you land on this concept? Yeah, it was
Gregory Galant: kind a twisty path to get here.
So I, I got in into social media early on because I started a podcast back in 2005. Back before podcast, it was barely even a word. People were calling it RSS with enclosures back then. Cause that was a technology that it used. Lot people. You had some big names
MPD: on, you had some big names on your podcast.
Gregory Galant: Yeah, I got re min. It was like I was interviewing entrepreneurs about how they got started and now many people do that, but back then it was one, it might have been the first show that did that. So I. Read Hoffman on back when LinkedIn was 50 employees still. Wow. I believe it was the first podcast he was ever on and he's telling me about his like, wild vision that one day most people would have the resume online, which sounded nutty at the time.
And here we are 15 years later then I had the founder of Yelp on back when Yelp was under a hundred employees. I got John Bole, the inventor of the index fund and the founder of Vanguard Group on my podcast. And one of the people I had on the podcast was Williams, who was doing a a company called Odio, which itself was a podcasting company who was a kind of a podcast rectory discovery platform.
And if you never heard of it, that's cause it never worked. You never quite got to product market fit with. Pivoted to a little side project that he had called Twitter that led me to sign up for Twitter really early. I'm just at Gregory on Twitter. I didn't even call in a favor. I was just the first person to type think, to type in, Username Gregory into Twitter.
And so I was on that kind of early Twitter band. Re
MPD: I wanna add something on that I, I have at npd. I definitely had to call in a favor, but it was still pretty early. If you get the wrong name, the wrong handle, it's a disaster, right? A lot of people just type in at MPD when they think, when they're thinking Metropolitan Police Department, and so I get all these messages about crimes going on and whatever else that I'm tagged in.
Gregory Galant: but I think you should become like a vigilante superhero and go fight. How do you know I'm not already? Good point. Very well hidden.
MPD: Every vigilante. Is under five, five VC type. So there you
MPD: saying. You got in, you got Gregory.
Gregory Galant: Yeah. Got Gregory. I saw there was all this good stuff happening on social media and what struck me about Twitter was I was early. I was early on Facebook I was able to join while I was in college back when it was just for college kids.
But back then, Facebook was, you could only see content from your friends. It was before the news feed. And part to that, it was friends during MySpace and all them you were only really making content for your friends. And Twitter struck me because it was the first social network or social platform, whatever you wanna call it, where you could make.
That people other than your friends might be interested in. And that was starting to happen where you had celebrities getting on there and that you could actually good at Twitter, but it, this big discovery couldn't, if you wanted know a certain on there, no good way to out who follow, had this idea that you could someone could launch a site that would let people vote with a tweet, which now is common.
No one had done that to. And then aggregate who's the best by topic. And I got together with my co-founder, Lee Samo, and we were brainstorm how do we get people to want to vote with the tweet for who's the best? And we said let's call it an award. And tweets are short. So we'll call it the short awards.
And that was the birth of this crazy idea. We built the website in two weekends. We it wasn't a bit, we didn't think of it as a business. We were like, this is this be a fun thing to do and we can build on two weekends, Who cares? Let's see what happens. But
MPD: this became big deal in New York at least.
I don't know if it was nationally, but I was in the scene that time and this exploded. Yeah. So this, I didn't realize the short your words was a side project for.
Gregory Galant: Yeah, it's of everything I launched and I glossed over things that I launched that didn't work and I'm happy to get into them later on.
But a very business idea. I've launched at two days since the shorty words was the one that I taught, had the least potential to ever be a business or make a profit. And it's the one that got the profitability the fastest and it's still going today.
MPD: I love that. Yeah. So tell everyone short your words is cause I don't know if everyone
Gregory Galant: knows.
Yes. So now it's grown to be awards for the best of social media. It's the lar first and largest award of its kind, honoring we started with more influencers and we still have that now. It's also brands and agencies, their best work on social media and winning a short, he can really catapult someone's career forward and get them a lot more a lot more attention.
Really give them a lot more license and help them in their career.
MPD: Okay. But this was like a big award ceremony. I remember, I don't know what year it was, but first decade of the century. I remember showing up and you had celebrity hosts and you know a little bit about the shorty story.
Gregory Galant: Yeah. So it went viral in those first 24 hours. Then had this over. Oh shit. People are gonna wanna come to this award show. Cause we'd launched a site we didn't pro, we didn't say or promise there'd be an actual ceremony because we didn't know if anyone would care. And then when it happened, we were like, Oh, this people gonna wanna come.
We didn't have a background in an event production or word shows or anything like that. We didn't have much money. So I was just like scrambling Okay, I gotta put this thing on. I was like, We've gotta do the award show fast. This Twitter,
we just, so I just announced we're like, after it went viral, just announced like, Hey, the show will be two months from now. And then just scrambled to put the pieces together and the ignorance. I think the only reason we able pull it off is cuz we had no idea like how hard it is to pull off an event.
So like that first venue we found, I did the deal on a handshake with the with the owner. We did a Cogo start space in Debo Brooklyn back before Debo Brooklyn was a place anyone wanted to set, put. And I did the deal on a I did that on a handshake. And now looking back, knowing that. We do 50 page event contracts and have insurance writers and all this stuff.
I'm just like, That's insane. I can't believe we did it. I would never do that now. But we didn't know any better and it worked. Sometimes you get lucky. I wouldn't advise doing it, but it was just that kind of thing. We had wall, she journaled New York Times, BBC all covered the short awards within 24 hours of launch.
I, I DMed like at the time there weren't all that many celebrities on Twitter, so it was notable who was there. So I DMed both Shaq and Mc Hammer and got them both to participate all by direct message. I got Gary Vayner Chuck there back when he was just Divine Library guy. One of the craziest parts about it, so our office at the time was in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
And again, this shows how little we know about event production and why. After the first one, I, me caveat before it makes me sound completely irresponsible. We started hiring professional event producers. We learned our lessons that first we were doing ourselves out the script. First copy comes out, I'm like, Okay, lemme print out the second copy Ran outta in.
And there's no like office supply store anywhere near Dumbo, Brooklyn. And it, this is before Uber, so there's no easy way to get around to anywhere. So I'm like, okay, I guess we only have one copy of the script and I hand it to pass forward a few hours. I'm in the green room. I hand the script to Mc Hammer and he starts giving me all these notes on it.
He's just Hey, it says the Shorty Awards in music. It should be the Music Shorty Award. He's like critiquing the copy and I'm just thinking to myself like, Can't touch. This is the first single. I owned as a kid, the cassette tape. So I'm just like, it's just surreal that like hammers giving me this
MPD: feedback and you don't have a printer to change anything anyway, so what's the difference?
Yeah. Did he do it? Did he do it script or he riff? What happened?
Gregory Galant: Oh, he riff, but the real moment was that kinda he's giving me all these notes and holding onto the script and the show's about to start. And I'm like, Hammer I need the script back. And that's what he realized. He had the copy of the script Mortified
guys before, before they go up there, but it was just, yeah, completely slap dash. But it was like, The expectations then, cuz Twitter was so new that first year, we could get away with all that. And I'm just lucky it didn't turn into Fyre Festival. When I watch that, this was long before the F Festival, when I watched that hockey too, I was like, oh shit.
That could easily been us.
MPD: Okay. So but how did you get from short your words to Muck rack? Cause there, there's a
Gregory Galant: bridge there, right? Yeah. What struck me at the Shorty Awards was. How quickly we got press. So when I launched things previously, like when I was working in podcasting, it was always really hard to get the media to pay attention to something new.
I'm sure with your portfolio companies, like it's hard to get press attention. And with the short awards it just, landed on us. It was all the big outlets for reaching out to us to cover. We had a lot of these kind like early journals who were like big on social back then, like Brian er, who at the Times who at the time was still the New York Times and has gone on to being a CNN anchor and lot these kind of early Twitter journalists.
So got this front row seat to seeing like how journals specifically were using Twitter in a big way to figure out what to cover, what to write. And thought there's so no way to find it. And it was funny, everyone was questioning Twitter's credibility back then in that like, how can you trust that anything on Twitter is real at all?
And I thought if you trust the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any publication, like why shouldn't you wanna pay attention to what their journalists are saying on social? So version one of Mock Rack in 2009. Again, very simple site, no business model. We built it in two weeks and there's just, here are all the journalists on social organized by what publication they're at.
Launched it and then in that first year we ran that long side trying a bunch of other business ideas. So we didn't focus on it just yet, but we noticed in that first year it, we had over 10,000 journals request to get listed on Muck Rack. So we found we'd kinda gone viral. In the journalism community, The New York Times, even linked to Mara on their internet, like to show their journalists how to find their colleagues on social.
So kinda in that early, like social revolution of journalism and and then being in New York at the time, I kept running into PR people. Cause it's a big media town and all the PR people were like, Oh, you do mock rack. I use your site to figure out which journalists to pitch and to monitor what they're up to.
I was like, Oh, that's interesting. We have this like profession of people already using us to do their job. We had all these ideas for software tools we could build on top of the data that we had to help them better find the right journalists. We saw there was this big problem where it was like hard for PR people, or even entrepreneurs who wanna find the right journalists to find them efficiently.
And the journals for getting all the spam, cuz all the legacy tools, they didn't have good targeting ability as far as we could tell. So we thought hey, here's a great opportunity. And I'd also got to witness a lot of my friends start, this is before even people were saying sa a lot, but just the idea of like subscription sites, we, you pay in a reoccurring manner to access online software.
And and I was always into all of those models because the short awards was always profitable, but we could never predict how much revenue we'd get. So I always had these kind of sleepless nights of, Hey, what if we don't land these deals this year? We could lose money and it was hard to grow it because we ended up growing it just fine.
But it was challenging because we couldn't predict the revenue, so it was hard to hire people around it and all that versus what. Sa I was like, Oh, if I knew exactly how much money I was gonna make every month, or at least be able to predict it with accuracy, I could reinvest and keep growing. So got really excited both about the problem that we could solve and the business model that that we could have and that us to relaunch it as a SAA application in I believe December 20.
MPD: Recurring revenue is really a godsend. Just to put an exclamation point on what you're saying, it makes it a lot easier to manage a business. You're talking about Muck Rack, you've talked about your kind of initial feature set, which got you in motion on this. What does the software do now? I'm, you're 10 years later in development.
I know you had a long roadmap ahead of you when you started it. What's
Gregory Galant: the scope? Yeah. Yeah, so probably 95% of what's there now in Uck Rack didn't exist when we launched it. But it still serves the same customer base and we still we still have a lot of customers from our very first cohort from 2011.
And where, yeah, it started really is this like point solution to find the right journals to pitch. And then as we talk to our customers, they were like, Hey, we love your software, but we also need to track those relationships with journalists. We need to monitor the news. We need to be able to reports for management and a whole host of other things.
So we kept building and we've now made it into this kind of system of record for the PR depart. By analogy, like how a sales team's gonna run all their processes through a CRM like Salesforce or HubSpot or, your HR team when it comes to recruiting is gonna use an applicant tracking system like Greenhouse or Iims.
The PR department, they've never really had a system of record software. We have legacy competitors that have been more. Historically, like research tools that, that they use, but they've never had like a full kind of system of record that they can track all their relationships with.
Journalists have workflows, and then see the relationship between who they pitched and all the relationships they built and then the outputs of how much press they got. How that press drove the needle for them. So that's really what we're working on now in our next evolution. And we see the big opportunity in,
MPD: And I assume you guys are the big fish in the PR world, right?
It seems like everyone's on this platform is the right way to think about it.
Gregory Galant: Yeah. We are the fastest growing at scale. We have some legacy competitors, one of which was started as a book in the 18 hundreds that are still, bigger than us by by headcount and absolute revenue just cuz it, it takes a lot to grow.
But we're grow. We grew 75 last year where just about to cross the 200 person mark. So it's been we're taking that mantle and I think if you just find a PR person and ask them like, Hey what's the best PR platform to, to be on? Most of the time, you're gonna hear our name said.
MPD: awesome. What's success for you in this venture? You've been tinkering it as an entrepreneur for a long time as she had.
Gregory Galant: The definition of success always al always changes as we go, but I, there are constants to it. To me, what, what's really fun is just getting to build software, solve customers problems.
That's something that, that's no different than when we started. As we got into scale though, a lot more of how I define success is about cause when we started was my co-founder and I, so we boots, Shopp, the whole thing. So it wasn't like one of these companies where we had 20 people working on our pre-launch.
So at the very beginning we weren't thinking Oh, that's making a great place to work. It's just it's just the two of us and we're having fun building the software. But now that's become a big part of it. We were early to the remote first movement. Pre covid. We had an office in New York, but only half the company was in the New York area.
And even for the New Yorkers, we never forced them to come. In an average day, less than half the people would come to the office. And then early on we meet in the pandemic. We just said, Okay, we're gonna be fully remote. Now to be successes can we make mock rack a great place to, to grow your career?
To make an impact on the world and do it all, in embracing this remote first world and not feel like that's a, a pressure, a disadvantage, but that it's something that that can make the company even better and that we can make people feel really, connected and included doing that.
And we think we do that that leads to us becoming. A whole lot bigger cuz we're in a, we're in a big market so we can bring even, give you more people that experience and then give everyone who works for us now the chance to keep growing.
MPD: It's the kind of answer from someone who keeps going, the people who are answering money. Once they make their money, there's not a lot left. But for a lot of entrepreneur types, the fear of not having money is the stick. And once, once those folks get a payday, there's still a carrot there. So they might not be stressed, but there's reason to play, reason to have impact, reason to get outta bed.
Someone really smart in my life recently said work is a luxury good. Which I thought was super insightful. Cause I think we all have this idea that you wanna retire and when you retire, I think that hearkens back to a day when people had terrible commutes. They were doing their job by paper and corporate culture was crappy and they never changed jobs.
But now in this age where you can sit at home by the pool for 20, 30 hours a week in your later years and use your mind and have purpose, it's really a luxury item. So it's when I hear you talking about this, I, it reminds me there's gonna be, we're gonna be on the show talking again in another 15 years about the next thing you built.
Now you mentioned something earlier, you said You, you bootstrapped the whole thing. Tell me about the pros and cons of that. I've built companies that have been venture backed. I built companies that we bootstrapped no correlation with success by model for me but the it's a different game.
How did you feel about the bootstrap approach? You recommended it to others, when to do it, when not to? Yeah
Gregory Galant: I love the bootstrapping approach. I'll get to when to do it and when not to. Cause I think that's important. I'm not reli like there's some people who are religious about 'em Hey, you should always raise venture and get to market fast.
And some people who are like, Oh, taking on any kind of money is debt and, is what ruins society. But before I get to that I'll answer your first question with the pros and cons. Lemme start with the cons. You have no money. So first years are rough. We didn't pay ourselves for a while, and there were many years where even where I could pay myself, I was, making way less than all my friends and my same age.
And yeah, not even saying that I had super successful friends, just that I was making way, way little money, especially living in New York City at the time. The great, my, my tips though is, between Joe's Pizza and Ma Moons paf, I was able to Able to eat really cheaply. I also recommend networking with as many dcs as possible, cuz they'll usually pay for lunch or dinner , which is another good way.
Great hat to Exactly. Yeah. I got the, I always got a venture funded without the, without giving up any equity. That's a big con. You don't have money and seriously too, not just, for yourself, but there were, Yeah, I would say until you get to like few million in revenue, at least in our, at least in experience, You're always like, Oh man, if I had an extra a hundred k I know exactly what to do with it.
And then every time the revenue grew, it's we know we need to hire these five positions who are gonna fight about, which of these five do we hire? And it's so hard to be like, Oh, do we hire that program? Are we desperately need or the first marketing person or a bookkeeper so that I'm not spending three days a week reconciling the books.
So that's the struggle, that's the struggle of bootstrapping is just like those, the, it's like until you get to a few million in revenue, it's always that battle. And then we get to the pro though, which is a you own the whole thing. Are you and your co-founders do, which you know, is pretty awesome.
And like people, Yeah, I think a lot of times people, especially like you're just in the venture capital, Bubble ecosystem. People downplay like the pernicious effects of dilution, which is, you take that first round when you're tiny and you go 20 per 30%. But then once you're on that VC treadmill, they're like you're being pushed to always spend more than you're making, so you have to keep doing more rounds.
So it's like you're not. I know there are some new models now where you don't have to do this, but the traditional VC model is like the second you take that first round. They're both pushing you to spend as much as possible to grow past, and they want you to take another round so that you know they can market to market and show that they have success, that they, their series A investment.
Now got a series B series signing up where you know the founders are all gonna get diluted to this minority position of the company. And there's a lot of middle outcomes where the effect of that can be huge. If you're, if you grow a company and you see this all the time, like company might sell for 50 million, but then you find out, hey, they, they raise 60 million a venture capital, or even maybe they raise 25 million a venture capital.
But because of preferences and all these terms in there, the vast majority go to the dcs and the founder. Despite selling a company for 50 million, which should be this, life changing outcome, don't make a lot of money, or maybe you don't make any money along with, the employees and all that versus, I know people who bootstrap companies and they sell it for 10 million and they make more money than the VC back company that sells for 50 or a hundred million.
So there's, that ownership, which is huge. There is not having to deal with a board of directors, which I think, people debate the value of a board, but I think in those early years in a business where you're always pivoting, I know I've never had the experience you probably a good perspective on this, but it can be hard to like fla flail around and keep trying out different business ideas cuz the strategies in those early days might be changing every week.
And if you have to layer in Oh, I gotta communicate this to a board and the investor community, it's a lot more work than just being like, Hey, I'm just gonna communicate this to customers in the market and see what sticks. And the final piece is always just the time it takes to fundraise is not insignificant.
Some of those early years we used to sometimes think what do, we went down and tried to get a series A. And we're like we'd have to drop everything and do nothing for three months except for fundraise. What have we spent those three months pushing like hell to get more customers and then we'd have more revenue, more funding and no dilution and the business would worth more.
So that was thought process. And just by, by entering the last part of your question, which is You know when to do it and when not to. Cause your VCs, I don't wanna dissuade all your listeners, but I think
MPD: No, it's good. I agree with everything you're saying so far, so let's keep going.
Gregory Galant: But I think the time to do it is if you're, a, if you're not sure how big your market is, then that's a great time to bootstrap because you have that optionality. And we weren't sure. It turns out our market's big enough, in retrospect, we would, it, we could have a venture like outcome for somebody, but we didn't know that right when we were starting.
So it was nice to know, hey, if this thing, if growth slowed at a few million on arr, could have still just been an awesome business for us. We could have just cash flowed a bunch out, had a few employees running it and had a good life. I think it's like you're not sure the market size.
It's great if you think you're gonna need long time horizon, it's great. We've been at this, the SAS part is we've been at it for 10 years. You think about it, we probably created more value due to our growth rate in the last two years than we did in the first eight. But if we'd raised venture at the beginning, it'd been unlikely we'd have found a venture capitalist patient enough to wait 10 years.
Largely just due to their fund structure and all the structural dynamics. I think, if you want time horizon, flexibility, you're not sure the market, how big the market is and how big the business could be, there's a great reason to bootstrap. And I think the reasons to take venture is like if you either, some businesses just need, if you wanna build a rocket you need to just invest a ton in r and d before you're gonna see a dollar in revenue.
Some businesses you need a network effect to have them work. Like even if you look at like Twitter and Facebook, Adam, for Greg's been taking venture money for Facebook, right? It needed this huge network effect of having lots of people on it before the ad model would really work for it.
So it made sense to go out and. For that. Sometimes if the growth rate is just super fast and or you're in a new market that's like heating up really fast venture could be really good for that. So I think there are definitely model, places where you should take it. I think there can also be some middle paths where, you know, a lot of times you see the companies get out ahead cuz they raise more venture than anyone else.
But then sometimes it's like you see the number two or the number three player they can. Sell, and they own a lot more of the company and their founders do awesome. And then that person who's the market leader gets so diluted that the, that the company might be worth more, but the founders are worth a whole lot less.
So I think you just have to be really thoughtful about how you stack up your funding and your capital structure.
MPD: The I think this is a huge topic, right? Everyone, when you ask an entrepreneur, what's gonna determine the success of your venture? Everyone's talking market size. Team, and those things are all true, but very few people are talking about the financing strategy.
So I, I wrote a book on fundraising. I'm probably the worst book promoter ever. But I think this is my single biggest contribution is a kind of a framework around when to bootstrap and when to do VC funding. And it's been picked up by a few business schools now, which makes me feel pretty good about all the work I put into that.
But the thing that I think that's super interesting that you're adding to. Is this idea of focusing on product market fit. And there's a couple of anecdotes I've heard through the years where, look, raising venture capital can be a total home run of a move. If you know what you're, if you know how the product works, who you're acquiring, you know you have product market fit already sorted.
If you're still figuring out, it's a bit of a danger zone because like you said, some VCs might not be patient. You have to start hitting your numbers. And so if you've raised venture too early on with VCs that have certain expectations, It can derail you a little bit. So I think there's some wonderful optionality in waiting till you've really got the economic engine going.
If you can wait that long, it can't always, Sometimes the market's just too competitive and a bit of a land grab, and if you get that optionality, then deciding if you wanna grow faster or not. I think there's real choices there. My experience, having been a founder of both Venture Back and not venture back bootstrap c.
Is that venture usually cuts two to three years out of the cycle of the growth rate. But if you need two to three years to really entrench product market fit, that can be a liability. And so there's a company in our portfolio that's really successful. And the story of the founder had when they pitched us, it's really cool.
They had started this business in college and there were three other companies doing the same thing, and they all got venture funded and he was the only one that couldn't raise capital. And so they went guns blazing into the market, spending all this money and went really fast, but they went so fast, they never really got found full product market fit.
He went slow and found it, ended up acquiring all of their assets as they fell apart one by one and is now, unicorn. So he ended up having the long road ended up being the right road in that market. It's not always the case.
Gregory Galant: That's awesome. Yeah. Time horizon matters so much. I love what you say about product market.
I think it's both. Yeah. The luxury to find it. But you also don't have any other option. Cause when you're venture back you get, you spend a lot of time just thinking about how do I make my investors happy? And if the investors love the strategy, I show them, then maybe I'm on the right course.
And maybe you're ignoring the fact that customers don't really care. But if you're boots staff and you're reliant on those customers to pay you money, you're. You're gonna have to find product market fit or or it's all gonna unravel pretty quickly. So it's kinda Oh, you're the grindstone.
And that's a good thing cuz then you go spend time on another project, which might be better use of your time. Sometimes fail. Yeah. Sometimes failure is the best outcome for folks. Save the time. I wanna, I do wanna pick your brain on a couple of other topics. We've got a pr, sas, whi in the room.
How do, how should entrepreneurs. Folks out there think about leveraging pr. What's the, what role does it play? When should people engage it? What? What are the strategies for making PR work? For creating value for a company?
Gregory Galant: Yeah. PR and, earned media in general, or whatever you wanna call it.
Getting someone to write about you or interview you or you're not paying them. It's super powerful, both cuz it carries more credibility cuz people know you're not being paid to do it. And and it's free. So especially your bootstrapping like you're not paying for it, Especially in this time where paid media is getting less effective online or direct response anyhow, where you know the death of the cookie.
And you can see it in Facebook's numbers. Like it's harder to spend money to acquire users now. Things can be super powerful. But I think that, most important thing is you first step back and have to ask yourself what's your goal? Cause there can be many things to accomplish with pr. Sometimes it might be to acquire customers.
That's not the, I wouldn't even say that's the most common use of pr, for some businesses getting. PR is a great way to acquire customers. Actually, Airbnb Bill Gurley had a great tweetstorm about how PR was one of Airbnb's biggest ways to attract customers and hosts.
Cause nobody was Googling for like, how do I rent a house from a stranger in the city I've never been to? So they couldn't do direct response. They had to go out there to the market and say, Hey, there's this crazy new way to stay somewhere. Stay somewhere. And it made for a really good story. It was novel, it was unique captured peoples wanderlust imaginations.
For them it was this very capital way to get the news out there about them. Another big part of it is just for credibility. So sometimes maybe you are doing direct response advertising, but when people get your website, they're like, I've never heard of this company before.
If you can point to and say, Hey look, we were just written about in the New York Times for the Wall Street Journal. That's a way to show like where, for real, that this company really matters, seal of endorsement. And sometimes it might be a very specific business outcome that you wanna drive. If you're raising money, you should be doing in a PR at a place that all the potential investors you wanna.
Reach read so that you know they're reading about you. So then when you email them, they're like, Oh, I've heard of that company. I wanna go engage with them. Or if you need distributors and there's trade publications or podcasts that, that these distributors listen to seating the market that way and building credibility to that specific audience can really matter.
So first it's just super important to figure out. What your goal is with the PR before going out and trying to get it, which is surprising number. It sounds obvious, but surprising number of entrepreneurs who come to, So it's like, how do I get, it's slow down. What do you wanna accomplish with pr?
And then you, and we come with the rest of the strategy when doesn't work.
I think when PR doesn't work is when you don't have. The biggest mistake I see people making and say, Don't step back and think what's gonna make an interesting story? They don't put themselves in the shoes of the journalists. So there are all these people who are like, Hey, I just got my new business launched.
The world should wanna write about this. Everybody like, I just launched this business. You wanna write a story about it? That's not news. People are, people are launching businesses. Every day. So you have to figure out like what's the angle on this company that makes it newsworthy?
Like I remember I was once helping out this founder, she'd started a fashion tech company. She used to work for the group, or, a well known fashion startup at the time, back when they were really hot. And she told me, Oh, I pitched all these journals and no one wrote back. And I'm like let me see the pitch.
And it was like this long pitch of describing what her company does, in very technical terms, she wanted to seem like a big company. So she took out the fact that she was the founder and just, didn't have a title there as though she was just a PR person who is working there. And I just helped her rework the pitch to be. Three or four lines and it was like, Hey, I'm a and especially, there still are way too few female founders, but back then there were even less. So that was a great part of the story and engineers so tweaked it to be like, I used to be an engineer at Guilt Group.
I just started my own fashion tech company. Would it one, one sentence description of what it does. Would you be interested in learning more? That was it. That was a pitch. Not every detail about how it works, what the business model is gonna be. And it went from getting no replies out of 10 to like poor, out of 10 replies from the journals she pitched.
And it's just like that thinking like, Okay, to the journalist it's not interesting just that there's this, a new random fashion tech company. It's that, hey, this person broke off of a well known company. Female former engineer. Now founder, like at the, she, she actually had this great story, but she was just focused on the technical parts.
And not to say that's every time, but there's always something. Unique to it. It might be, it's like people launch venture funds all the time, but do they always, is it a podcast or launching a venture fund or like what could you connect to it that makes it something new in the world that someone's gonna wanna read about and not just like, why it's important to you is the founder.
MPD: Yeah. There's probably a lot of podcasting VCs at this. So I don't know if that's either
Gregory Galant: the best example. I'm sure there's lots of other, If we had a little time to workshop this we find a lot of unique angles. You're hired,
MPD: look you've been in and around the PR world intentionally or accidentally since short of your words, even before the podcast.
You've been out producing content and getting, creating awareness around stuff. What does the industry need? Looking at where it is now? What does it need? Yeah,
Gregory Galant: I think there's generally just a lot more needed for earned media. Everyone I think is pointed their attention towards ad tech and paid advertising.
Cause it's just such an obvious business model. But now I think we're seeing, it's oversaturated. There's, you can look at those loom escapes and all these just how many logos there are in it all, and. Seeing nobody quite knows, where, how exactly the dollar travels between when you spend it and when there's banner appears on the site and how many of them are real.
So I think broadly, the space of earned media is really exciting. Even right now we're talking over Riverside. I remember when I started my podcast in oh five, I had to use a voice modem to record it, and then all these hacky solutions along the way. And now it's. Very easy. So one click. Yeah, exactly.
One click. And then it's, getting continually easier to do all the pieces around podcasting to, and get them. Not saying it's easy is working. Really working really hard on this. I in general, where I'd point people is just like this whole world of earned media, be it pr, podcasting, newsletters.
There's just a lot of opportunity here to help companies connect with the right people to tell their stories and even to tell their own stories as many do on podcasts. And I think that's, that's gonna be like the next big thing. And I feel like to the extent we are headed into a recessionary environment, that's like even more important because people, more people have to be boots, strappers.
And tell these stories on their own in an efficient way. And people have to kinda shift from just, spending their way outta problems to being creative about how they tell stories and acquire users or customers.
MPD: Greg, what I love about your story in particular is, as I was talking, hearing you talk about Muck Rack, The Shorty awards everything before, it's like you never really started a.
You just kept tinkering with projects, and then when the market pulled something and created demand, you built a business around it. Is that the right way to think about entrepreneurship? How should people take, What insight should people take from that approach that worked for you?
Gregory Galant: Yeah I think that's a good takeaway.
And again, I'd caveat it with my approach was, hey, if you can launch something, On the cheap, don't think too much about it before you launch it. So I wouldn't recommend this approach. If you wanna start a restaurant and you're gonna sign a five year lease and hundreds of thousands of dollars into, designing it and hiring a and all the stuff you have to do for a intensive business like a restaurant.
But if you have an idea online where you think you can build it in a few weeks or even a few months, What I found is if you take the traditional business approach of Hey, I'm gonna write my hundred page business plan, gonna out 10 advisors get their thoughts on it, then it slows you're not learning from the market.
Those advisors, I mean like advisors are awesome when it comes to Hey, I. I've got a 20 person sales team and how do I restructure it to get to 50 or like a real business problem. But if I'm just like, Hey, have this wacky idea, will it work? Advisors can't tell you that You gotta go out to the market and test it.
So that's where I adopted this philosophy, I'm like, as long as we can build the thing in under a couple months, let's just go do it. And one kind, and I learned this the hard way, but. Then what I did was I structured it with a Holden company that we just called Saw Horse Media. And I remember I had to come with a Holden company name in a pinch, cuz it was right after the Shorty Awards took off and I needed to tell people what to write the check to.
And I was looking around our office and we'd followed this bootstrapping tip that I learned about from reading about the early days of Amazon. And apparently what DEOs did that we also did, Instead of syncing a lot of money into buying nice desks, you go to Lowe's or Home Depot and you just buy a door in two sawhorses and throw the door across the two sawhorses, and that's your desk.
So I was looking around, I saw the sawhorses in our office and I liked that it, it told the story of our bootstrapping and also it hearken back. Remember like the early. Under construction signs you'd see on websites where it'd be the little guy in the hat with the sawhorse. So I liked that.
It felt like that, under construction sign it was a gift actually. Yeah, Before gifts were cool So we called it saw media because of that. But that freeto up a lot because then it's hey, testing out shorter words, testing out mock rack, testing out this, testing out that we didn't have to launch a new corporate entity each time.
And deal with all the overhead and there, there's, a lot of things that go into starting full on new businesses. Just okay, we got the llc, so let's just try this website and that website. And each time it was just spending $8 on GoDaddy to buy a new domain name and then spinning up the site.
So it gave us just all this flexibility to try all these things. And the analogy I use was more, more I always thought about back in that golden era of like TV where like NBC had to hit, the hit Seinfeld and the hit friends. But for each hit they had, they tried out, they piloted 10 different shows that didn't work.
And nobody fired the network execs at nbc. Nine shows didn't work. They were just like one show worked. And it's like being a DC right, too. You're hoping one or two of your, the companies you invest in work and the rest you, they have outcomes. So I thought, so I try to apply that to entrepreneur as the entrepreneur where it's how can I give myself as many at bats as possible to figure out what's gonna strike fire and.
Learn more quickly, what's gonna be out there versus just, picking one idea, pauling in love with it, and spending five years slogging it out to see if it'll work. What percentage failed? I guess 90 actually. Because what happened was actually after we launched Mora Mo Rack, we originally made it a platform so we could curate for other verticals.
So we launched Giant red carpet, a celebrity aggregator. We launched Venture Maven, a site we could find all the VCs on social in one place. We launched the pet feed where you all the pets on social media at the time, weed sites like that. Then we launched something called The Story. It was a first ever Twitter list aggregator.
And we actually licensed out our platform too, to like American Express and Kindness. We made some money from that, but I was looking around at all of them and none of them felt scalable. And then I just, sawm rack over there in the corner neglected where it had this really obvious use case of loyal audience.
Not really Okay, let's go and double down on. I should also mention prior to all that, when I was doing my podcast, I'd also launched a a podcast ad network back in 2005. We built the first ever dynamic ad insertion for podcasts. In retrospect to that one, we were 10 years to or early.
To the market cuz people launched that exact same business in 2015 and did great. But that one was just way too early, So if you add it up, I've launched Dozen, over a dozen different, I know if they're all can be considered a full on business, but web, websites of substance that were trying to be businesses.
And then two of them worked and one of them has grown a lot bigger than the other. But I don't, What I would never predicted this one, the one that worked it was giving myself all that time to experiment is what allowed me to be lucky. In that case.
MPD: You've had a lot of experience through all these ventures.
What is the most important thing you've learned as an entrepreneur?
Gregory Galant: It's that you always have to be adapting and learning and have humility. Both because in the idea discovery phase like I just described, you're gonna have lots of failures along the way no matter how smart you learned that interview other entrepreneurs too, where even someone like Williams who started Blogger and three kind fundamental sites to also had OD and then that didn't work at.
And then the other thing I've seen scaling up very humbling for me, like when I started, even when I had success as an early entrepreneur, it was just me working with a couple other people and some contractors versus then, very humbling moment to figure out like, Oh, I know nothing about managing a 10 person company and having all these employees.
And then next level of scale I know nothing about having a one management layer between me and the employees, and then the next level of scale where it's like, Oh, I knew nothing about, like, how to actually hire executives who man hire and manage managers who manage the employees. And then what it takes to get messaging out to a company with over a hundred people in it.
So you. It's even if you're a success, all you're rewarded with is just, being pushed to new areas that you're gonna be competent in until you figure them out. So you just have to brace yourself for that and accept that even success as an entrepreneur or growth is an entrepreneur means more humbling moments and more areas where you're gonna have to keep learning and figuring
MPD: it out.
Greg, thanks for being on today. Really appreciate all the wisdom you've.
Gregory Galant: My pleasure, Mark. Thanks John. And thanks for doing this. It's great to see you giving out more more resources for other entrepreneurs out there. Amen.
MPD: That was awesome. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Greg definitely has a lot of experience with startups and he drops some real wisdom about how to think about the early stages, the tinkering, the experimentation. If you liked what you heard, please hook us up with a like or a five star review, and feel free to share with a friend.
You can find me on Twitter at M P D and to hear more of my conversations with innovators, subscribe on YouTube or any major podcast platform. Just search for innovation with Mark Peter Davis.