Jason Saltzman is the Co-Founder of Relief and a well known member of the New York start-up community.
Relief is an app that helps people navigate the craziness when dealing with debt. According to Jason, Relief is here to kill your debt.
The statistics about debt in America are staggering:
Beyond Relief, Jason is one of the best community builders out there. Rolling Stone actually called him a “cruise director,” a hilarious and accurate phrase if you know Jason.
He is also very much on top of his social media game, especially TikTok, which he believes that all businesses should be active on.
During the chat we discussed the intricacies regarding debt in America, what it takes to build a strong community and strategies to make winning content on TikTok.
MPD: Welcome Jason. Thanks for being here.
Jason Saltzman: I am so beyond. Happy to be here with you, mark. And I can't wait to catch you up and talk to you.
MPD: Awesome. There's a lot to cover today. Mine starting with just a brief background on your story.
Jason Saltzman: Yeah. I, a second version I'm going to try my best, I'm very long-winded, but for the last 20 years I've been building my own businesses in several different verticals, I've had a couple of successes.
And I really I love helping people, I love sharing information. So I write for different publications and I just started a new company in the FinTech space. We raised a seed round and I love, I love helping and talking about the journey and I'm here to just, kick it with you.
MPD: Awesome. Let's jump into the company so relief. You want to give us an overview on.
Jason Saltzman: Sure. Do I have 30 seconds or I have a little more this time now take your time on this one. Thank you. Because I would start to sweat and it would be all uncomfortable. So relief is an app that destroys credit card debt for free.
It's the culmination of two decades of hating the debt industry and knowing that the problem has only gotten bigger over time. With no real scalable, tangible solutions to consumer debt, which is a huge problem that goes untalked about in America today for several different reasons. So we're facing ahead on,
MPD: so wait, destroying credit card debt.
I obviously know about the company here, but can you explain that? It sounds like bullshit.
Jason Saltzman: I gave you the elevator pitch, cause there's really going off the 30 seconds though.
MPD: Okay. Now tell us let's, let's get into it. What is actually happening to the debt and I want to hear about the problems.
Jason Saltzman: So the problem is only gotten bigger over the years and the problem is it's, it's a very complex problem. That ha that, that there are, there is access to simple solutions that people just don't know. They're just not aware of and for several different reasons. But the problem is I would say part cultural, right?
We have a spending problem in the United States. We also have a credit issuing problem where banks issue money to people credit rather to people that just can't pay it back. And when you mix those two together, You have a volcano of a problem that can erupt at any time, the case in 200 eight, the housing market banks were issuing money to people that couldn't afford it.
They basically asked you how much money you made. They didn't ver verify it, which was called stated income loans, which had another name on the street liars loans. What do you need me to say to get the loan and to our shock and all. People couldn't pay it back. And the banks have manipulated the whole process and the time being, but the credit not to get too far with credit cards.
MPD: How was that the same? I thought with credit cards, it's pretty well understood. The credit worthiness of the folks who were borrowing.
Jason Saltzman: I know, I think no
MPD: worries. Let's get into it. Let's talk about why is this a real problem for individuals? I know a lot of people run credit card debt, obviously debts can be bad.
Yeah. There's good debt and there's bad debt. I know credit card debt is generally bad
Jason Saltzman: debt. Yes. We refer to it as toxic debt. It's the way it's issued. It's like you give a human being enough rope, and they're going to hang themselves. For the most part, there are well-educated people that understand.
That a 27% interest rate is bad, but there are other people that want instant gratification and spend money exorbitantly that they do not have. And bank and credit card companies are set up to extend enough credit to see how people are paying it off. And if you're paying it off on time, their golden gift to you is more credit.
And the process is repeated until you're stuck making these minimum payments. The problem with these minimum payments are, if you do the math, as you love to do right, you would match up a $50,000 credit card debt paying $600 a month, and you'll be in debt for the rest of your life. Not even touching the balance and people don't realize the math when they're signing these, these, these contracts that have small print, the size of a.
And that's basically what it says in the small print. And God forbid you go behind because then your interest rate defaults to Shylock rates and the, the credit issuers make more money off people in default than they make off people that pay their bills on time. And when you topple that on top of a system that is mostly predatory against disenfranchised community.
That don't have access to the type of education that you and I have that had the benefit of having access to your, your non-educated in a, in a jungle that wants to rip you apart. And that's, what's been happening for the last, since the Dawn of the creation of the credit card.
MPD: What percentage of folks are in credit card debt in the state?
Jason Saltzman: It's a big number. Yeah. So even more important than that, one of three people, one out of three people is behind on a credit card bill, right?
MPD: So that's 110 million folks in America. That's correct. Again, I guess that probably includes kids. So maybe it's a lower number
Jason Saltzman: and the consumer debt rate is around $805 billion right now.
MPD: So the average person out there, how much debt are they in
Jason Saltzman: the average debt's around $6,000. And the average credit, the average amount of credit cards that people have is about eight.
MPD: Got it. And that's for a lot of the folks who are in jeopardy here, a significant chunk of income for the year.
Jason Saltzman: It's not just that, yes. Um, what we're finding out in doing our research is that not only is there. In income issue, it's a discretionary income issue. Like when will you retire? What are you when you're making these minimum payments? Because that's when people feel like they're doing their best to get rid of this problem.
They're basically just getting by on the bare minimum, they're giving up a quality of life. That is the norm. And it's subpar. And people are a flat tire away from just losing their shit. And it's sad, mark. It's sad that because we only have this life as far as we know it. Maybe people out there believe that you're going to be reincarnated to a nice little puppy, but at the end of the day, this is our life.
So when you see the impact, so the data shows us that suicide rates in America, And divorce rates on America have gone up with the financial issues of America. And when you start to study the systemic problems of financial issues and financial wellness, you realize that this shit is killing people. It's quality of life.
It's hurting relationships. It's a stigma that nobody talks about. It's a problem on top of a problem. And that's why I've decided to dedicate my life to solve. Because I want to do great shit before I die.
MPD: Yeah. I feel like people don't, first of all, that's inspiring. I feel like people don't understand that it's an endless treadmill.
When you get into a 27% interest rate compounding against you. They get trapped in it. But I think what you're touching on there is a bigger part of the story that feels like it's not a. Is, obviously people know too much debts, bad for a family or an individual, but there's a bigger social implication of this, right?
This is having a more system-wide impact. So can you talk about that a little bit more? I know you mentioned obviously divorce rates, everything else, but this is a macro issue. It is far as I can see it.
Jason Saltzman: It is it's all in the date. And I'm not going to bore you with statistical information, but I will tell you from a sociological perspective, there's a, there's a SA a shit sandwich of a problem, right?
Because you have people that are not only getting themselves in debt, they're in hiding, they're hiding from their mailbox. They're hiding from their phones and they're IDing. The data shows us from their significant others. So they're not even bring it up. And when that happens, the real problem is.
When you're not facing a problem, what's the surest way to not solve something, to run from it, to not face it. And that's the real problem. Not only is it a treadmill, but you have to start thinking about what you're giving up in the process. You're giving up. We're looking at people in middle America, like lower to medium income people that can't feed their kids, but they're paying Amex.
Or capital one, minimum payments, exorbitant, minimum payments, three, $400 a month and they're skipping meals and that's the problem. And it goes deeper than that, because then you go into talking about what a credit score is like, what is your credit score? W we're convinced in America that your credit score is the most important study of your worth to live a good life.
But the reality is if your credit score extended, you credit that you can afford. And you're only worried about that score and you're not feeding your kids a third meal. That's ludicrous when you think of it like that, but that's exactly what's happening. That's the sociologic economic effect it has on society where people care more about.
Then they do have their quality of life where I'm not saying credit is an important, of course it is right. It's a part of your future . But in the world of disposable income, it's a luxury compared to what you need to take care of, to have a quality of life. And that is part of what we're doing at.
We're not just building systems to algorithmically, which I'll go into it a little bit, which I'm sure you'll ask me to get you out of debt as quickly as humanly possible, but we're here to expose as simple as possible, the ruin of what you're currently doing right now, like what your situation is and how that actually is going to affect you, because most people don't understand how this affects your future.
MPD: How did you come to understand those payments? I think it's something where
Jason Saltzman: it's basically been getting shit on and kicked in the face for the last four years. My first business that I built was in the consumer debt space. It was a debt settlement company that, that I was exposed to the world of helping people negotiate down their principal balances and building a company around it.
So I learned all of the. Intricacies of how debt worked, how it affected families. And I got to speak on at the time 20 years ago, everything was done over the phone. So you would literally speak to families about this problem. And not only did you learn the algorithms and the nature of how debt worked and the way credit issuers extend credit and their funding philosophies and their collection philosophy.
I was speaking to families across the country that were dying because of this. So that was my first entry into this world. But at the time there was, we didn't even have an iPhone. Then you even build a business. Matter of fact, the first person I saw raised money was you in a tech crunch?
And I reached out to you. That's how we that's. How that's you and you, it was unheard of that. You could build something at the time, overnight the way you had access now. So you, the way you did it was you made money. You went and you made money. So now we have access to different ways of business did not only different ways of funding companies, but access to different business models that help consumers more.
And it's a perfect storm. To help people in debt. The way that business is set up today is much more much more rewarding for consumers. If it's looked at the right way. And that's basically what we're doing.
MPD: So let's say family listening to this has debt, maybe an entrepreneur, who's been racking up credit card bills to build a company and they don't see a way out.
Income is not rising enough to pay it off. What are their options? What are the levers you can pull as someone in a debt trap?
Jason Saltzman: Yeah. So currently there are five options, right? Um, one is to continue what you're doing, right. Rob, Peter to pay Paul. Which basically is like balance transfers to lower interest rates and mathematically figure your way out to use any discretionary income.
You have to go towards higher interest debt and cysts and systematically pay it off. So if you have the means, that is the best way to get out of debt, right? If you don't. Then you need more aggressive tactics, right? If you don't have the income, the discretionary income to pay more. So you can either go into a debt consolidation program, which is like a tally where they lend you money on top of your credit cards to pay the debt off at a lower interest rate that will get you out of debt.
And that is probably one of the best. Alternatives to bankruptcy that won't systematically or systemically rather hurt your. And these loans are available. They're out there. You could do that in the form of a personal loan with your bank. You can go to, like I said, like a tally, or you could, if you have equity in your home, you could take a home equity loan and you could pay off.
But I don't really recommend doing that because you're taking something that's unsecured. That's not backed by any asset and you're turning it into a security asset, but it is a way out which you asked me. The third way is a bankruptcy and there's two types of bankruptcies for personal. There's a chapter 13 and a chapter seven, a chapter 13 is a repayment plan.
A chapter seven is a complete forgiveness of debt. Bankruptcy is a very difficult thing to file, but it also is if bruising, your credit to get out of debt is a thing, a bankruptcy would be a skull. Because you always have, not only does it hurt your ability to get credit, it actually hurts your ability to live a good quality of life.
If you want to get a job, you always have to check that box. I'm sure many of us have seen, especially with government jobs or any type of, um, security systems, things like that. You have to check if you've gotten bankruptcy or not. And you'll have to check that which make gives you a disadvantage to somebody who has.
And you have to live with that for seven years, seven to 10 years, in some cases the next option, which is a fourth option is it's a more aggressive form of getting out of debt for people that are either caught in the minimum payment trap, or they're already fell behind on their bills. The value of their debt has gone down because they actually have a hardship and there's a deal to be made with the creditors.
That is called a debt settlement. And you could do this completely on your own, but there's a whole industry. There's a billion dollar industry that charges fees to establish these settlements. But really all you have to do is call up your creditor and work out a deal which could get overwhelming for several different reasons.
But that is known as a debt settlement, right? High level. And then the fifth way of getting out of debt, which is my personal favorite. It's winning the lotto, which by the way everybody thinks they're going to do right.
MPD: Peter Sullivan from Jack pocket on the show a while back,
Jason Saltzman: I love that app or you set up,
MPD: everyone else can download that app and that'll be the fifth way out.
Jason Saltzman: That's right. That's right. Which is the most common. Like psychological thing that like an impending capital event, I'm going to get a better job. I'm going to make more money. This is going to go away. There's going to be a windfall of cash. Daddy Warbucks is going to, it's going to pass away and leave me all this inheritance, no it more than likely it's not so defer to the other, but that is currently in our country. The ways to get out of.
MPD: I love that was included on your list. Okay. So tell us about relief. What is relief doing? So someone's in debt. They've got four realistic options. They're all hard. Yup. Why do they come to you guys?
Jason Saltzman: We believe that debt settlement, let me take a step back. We know that debt settlement works as a concept and as a tool to get out of debt, if you are either caught in a minimum payment trap, or you're behind on your bills, debt settlement is the best alternative to bankruptcy. That's out there.
Currently in its current form. If you were to go to help with debt settlement, you have to pay exorbitant fees that are part of the settlement, whether they're upfront fees, which are getting banned in each state systematically over time, they've already started to, or you get, they get paid based on performance, but as a company, what relief is doing.
Is it's taking that model and turning it upside down and saying, you shouldn't be, if you're in this situation, you shouldn't be paying fees for debt settlement, because you don't have the money in the first place. So the question when we had, when we started the company was how do we make this free for people to use?
And that's a big part of relief because relief does two things. Relief has a negotiated. That is a tool that's completely free to use that mitigates the circumstances of your debt and negotiates a settlement for you completely free it end to end. Does the whole thing for you. On top of that, the other feature that relief has currently in works is a loan system to provide financing.
If you need a debt consolidation, loan, and those are for people that have better credit. That don't fit into the category of needing settlement,
MPD: right? So you're doing two of the four
Jason Saltzman: that's correct.
MPD: Got it. So what does the industry still need? So you guys are coming in and solving this.
Are there other things you're hoping people will build for other entrepreneurs listening around relief for as ancillary services to support? Is there, is it not an entrepreneurial problem? We need some legislative change. What do we need? You're coming out and you're going to tackle a lot of the process that people are not tapping into.
Yeah. What are some, or could you be on
Jason Saltzman: that? Two things, I think legislation needs to, government's here to protect us right. Against things that we can't protect us ourselves against. And I feel that the way credit issue is issued needs to change. And that's a policy thing. On the other side of things, we've fundamentally believe that two industries should not exist to multi-billion dollar industries should not exist.
Debt settlement companies should not exist. You should not charge fees to somebody that's going through a negative circumstance and to the debt collection space needs to change drastically. It's archaic that there are millions of call centers set up across the world. To try to go after you like loan, shark tactics to collect money.
And it's creating a multitude of layered problem that translates into customers being hounded thinking they're less than, and ultimately at its highest point divorce rates and suicide rates going up because you just have somebody on the phone that's incentivized to to scare the shit out of you. So you take the money that you don't have.
To pay a bill. So you can't pay your, you can't feed your kids. Those two industries need to die and we need help doing it. It's a huge, they're huge monsters to take on. And if you're going to look for a space where there's impact and to disrupt and to create value, those are the two direct spaces that need a fast and hard death.
MPD: When lenders prefer to work with a relief than a debt collection agent. The idea is either way, they're probably not getting every dollar paid back, in those situations, when you go to a debt collector there, they're selling someone's debt at a discount. So it's understood. They're not going to make their money back and a debt consolidation done by you guys.
Wouldn't that just be a similar financial outcome with a more humane temperament? You said
Jason Saltzman: it so you're right. Credit issuers have a huge problem. As we know the world has shifted to being less about shareholders and more about corporate social responsibility. So how could you be a fortune 10 credit issuer and say that you want to be diverse and you want to have focus on corporate social responsibility and equality when you're issuing credit.
And then when somebody misses a payment, you hire the Gestapo. To go after them. It doesn't, it just doesn't line up. So you're right. Relief offers a bridge. And what we're finding through our study, we just got started. We have to get to critical mass. To appeal to creditors credit issuers that are out there, but they are, they're going to be our friends.
We're offering them a really nice way to get paid. We've touched these consumers the right way. We spoken to them and treated them like human beings. And here's your money. And by the way, let's get them back into banking the right way, because now they know there's only, obviously there's those people out there that always are going to touch the hots.
But for the majority of people that have gone through something like this, which is not easy, which is very emotional, which can tear people apart, families, relationships, what have you, you're not going to do it again.
MPD: They, with the lenders make just about the same amount, getting paid back by you as they went through a debt collection
Jason Saltzman: The efficiencies that we're creating, we're seeing that they're actually going to make more. Because when you look into the system, the systems of getting debt collection involved with collecting debt, think about the cost infrastructure of call centers across the world, right? And the, the fees that they're paying to collect this debt.
So we really are venturing into a world where it's a, win-win, it's a win for the consumer, and it's a win for these large credit issuers.
MPD: So you mentioned earlier you would change how credit is issued. What policy changes would you make if you were.
Jason Saltzman: I would stop lending money to people that can't fucking afford it.
Am I allowed to curse by the way? Yeah, that's fun by the way. I've never heard you this serene before you are so fucking serious. I'm like, am I not fuck happen? You
MPD: up, bro? Yeah, I think it's the microphone, man. It's got a, it's got a
Jason Saltzman: special, no you're, it's very calming, but no You stop, stop lending money to there needs to be policies.
And fortunately bankruptcy is a, although bankruptcy is a really tangible option for people that can't afford anything, which there are millions and millions of people that just can't afford even a settlement. Bankruptcy is very hard to find that there was legislation put in the Bush era. That made it very difficult.
And we find there's a lot of literature and a lot of information around like why that is. The major credit issuers obviously want to shine against you being you know, able to file bankruptcy. Sticking your middle finger up the debt as easy as possible. And there were some bad actors, consumers that would just repeatedly file bankruptcy over and over again.
So there was a gentle, there needs to be a gentle balance. And right now the balance is, is way in the other way. So I would say that we need to make policy that goes more in the. Where it makes bankruptcy really accessible, but it also regulates the amount of capital that lenders can issue people that can't afford it.
And not just looking at metrics like the credit or credit reporting agencies, which are to me in my opinion, archaic. But on top of that, you're just, they're just looking algorithmically at what people can afford to pay, not how they got the fucking. So like somebody might be like borrowing from another credit card to pay that credit card off.
And all of a sudden their algorithm issues that more credit, and this is ongoing and there are so many credit card companies out there. You could, people do this for years. Debt doesn't go down. It adds up before, you know it, you have a hundred thousand dollars in debt. You'll have a $60,000 a year income, and you're making payments of all your discretionary income.
For the rest of your life,
MPD: And after oh eight, it seemed like the legislators put an eye on how mortgages were done. Is anyone in the government talking about this now or paying attention to this issue? Is there anyone who's a champion out there? Yeah,
Jason Saltzman: I don't want to, I don't want a single handedly dis you know, Disrespect the efforts and even the efforts that I'm not aware of, because there's a lot of work being done in the space, but as a lay, as a looking at it from a uh, a layer like what's right in front of our face, there's obviously hasn't been enough because this problem is only getting bigger.
MPD: It's fantastic. One of the things I found so interesting about this venture when you picked it up is it's very missionary. You've been a serial entrepreneur, you've built a lot of stuff. You built coworking spaces, you've done, the debt collections in the past and some and call centers.
I think in between, you've done a bunch of different types of businesses, both in how they're financed models, who you're managing, what you're building. This is the first time I've seen it with such a robust mission. How has having a mission. Guide and pull the company affected the business. How has it affected you as a founder?
Jason Saltzman: No. So it took me a year to figure out if I wanted to do this or not, and I did deep due diligence. And I think as found, I know as founders that if nothing else, the right way to do it is to be a seeker of the truth. And that was a year of learning about the space, getting updated on all the material and then seeing if, as great as possible, if I could validate some of my assumptions to pull this off.
And ultimately that due diligence became a study of who's with me. And ultimately what I've been able to do because it's, I'm so passionate about it because I see the problems so vividly, I've been able to evangelize great partners to be around me. And ultimately when we went to raise money, when we found that we actually can make this a reality and do it, it took me three weeks to raise an oversubscribed round.
I actually had to give money back as because we raised too much money. And that's what it does. It's efficient having a mission and having an awareness around how you're going to and, and, not a belief, but a knowing that the world needs your shit to exist. Makes it so powerful to do everything you need to do to get things off the ground, getting the right team members, getting the right partners, getting the right investors, everything lines up.
When, the world needs your product to exist. And when you can articulate that with the passion and vigor of an animal. Yeah.
MPD: I've had some interesting about this particular narrative is this is one of those cases where everyone knows it's a big problem, but I think a lot of people have lost hope in finding a solution.
It's too complicated. There's too much bureaucracy. There's too much of a fragmented population involved in this. It feels like we're all sitting around waiting for a government shift or someone to do something. So when you show up as an entrepreneur with this type of approach and a mission to do something about it, I think you're right.
I think it's very inspiring and very easy to get behind for founders who are listening now, maybe that maybe they're not all building companies that have an inherent social. I believe companies generally are, most businesses, if they're going to be generating profits outside of negative externalities, which the government is supposed to regulate, but it doesn't always, generally companies are making the world better and that's why consumers pay money from people pay money when something makes their life better.
So we all do I there's a lot of founders listening to this who may not have, a project at hand, that's solving a social issue with somebody. But it still could be mission-driven any advice for them on how to be thoughtful or identify the mission, how to craft it, how to leverage it, to help them be more successful.
Jason Saltzman: Yeah. It's an obsession over value mark. It doesn't matter if you're saving the planet, making a cure for cancer. If you're making a pencil factory, what value are you creating for your users? And obsessing over that value, money comes after value. We all know that now. But Mo but when you see entrepreneurship glamorized, as if it were in this game, just to have an exit, you are missing the.
Especially if you've been there before, right? Like us, you we're getting older. You know, we know our mortality is there. You are. I know you're a single you're you're we're going to connect to the internet and live forever. I'm with you, bro. And if anybody's working on that's the ultimate value.
Please continue obsessing over value by obsessing over value over your own financial needs, which is a very tough thing to do. It's very circumstantial, right? But ultimately if you're in that space and you have the way that is the way this is the way, all right, obsessing over value creation. And that value becomes your wow.
And we all know that the, the, the money won't get you through the sleepless nights and the getting shit on and getting the nose, but the why, and the deep, why will get you through everything you need to pick yourself up again, when you fail, because you will on your journey to keep going. And that's that resilience creates success.
MPD: Yeah. So interesting. I agree with what you're saying. So many entrepreneurs, it feels like. They're chasing the carrot. There's nothing wrong with that. The system is designed to put a carrot in front of them. So they'll run in that direction. But the reason the system puts the carrot there is entrepreneurs are society builders.
We're building our world. Yup. That's what gets me inspired about it. That's why I don't wanna retire. I just constantly love knowing that I get to be a part of crafting and architecting the future. So let me, you've got a. This mission you have, I think is appropriately aligned for you just knowing you.
There's a social justice dimension to this, and you have a social justice bone in your body. Where does that come from?
Jason Saltzman: I've had the advantage of being around a diverse group of people. And when you really see that the field has, has been lifted. When you see it, when you, when you're, obviously kids, these days call woke, but when you see something, you can't turn a blind eye to it, when you know it exists. And I've had the privilege of being around a very diverse group of people that could show me through their lives, through their eyes, to what has happened. And it's clear to me that this our current world is not. And I have a big, I have a big bone to pick with that because what makes me whole, as a person is helping others.
I'm at my happiest in life when I'm helping other people. And that's, it's fun. It's interesting. I was just talking about this the other day. There's a philosopher and whose name escapes me right now? Who says, is there such thing as a selfless act, right? Because you think all of these philanthropic endeavors come from a selfless place, but truly those of us who are on a mission to do good, know how much they get out of it and being somebody who has suffered through anxiety issues, my whole life.
And finding calm in helping others and such joy and serenity. Ultimately, when you're mixed with seeing the problem that they'll the field has not been leveled and I can use my assets, my privilege, my experiences to help others to level their world into a better circumstance than it was before motivates the shit out of me.
So it's not just about relief. It's about picking up others around us that need our support being a good fucking human being.
MPD: Where did you feel like you found this connection? Was it? I know you've done a lot of community building. Was it when you were building the community? Allie, when did this click?
Jason Saltzman: I think like over the years as. My anxiety got bigger as I was building new businesses. Ultimately, I would find that I was at my calmest when I was helping people and it hasn't been so aha. It wasn't like I woke up in the morning and I'm like, I'm going to put a fucking Superman Cape on, it was a stubbed toe thing over time of being miserable.
And by the way having reached a level of success. You can afford all of the, like the gold stars of bottle popping and having a nice watch and having a nice car and having this and having all those, those ego rewards. And you realize that isn't, that's not only is it not sustainable is that real that you're faced with what really makes you happy?
So I think that comes with a level of maturity, right? For me, at least where as I get older, my, why has changed over time from wanting all these nice things, to finding that feeling of obtaining those nice things. Wasn't what I thought it was as sustainable happiness to what really makes me happy.
And I know this is not like a one point, like one shot. Again, I didn't wake up in the morning and, had my cup of coffee and be like, oh shit, this has been a discovery of self. This has been a hard look in the mirror about what really makes me tick and what I want to leave the world with.
MPD: And you've done a lot of community building, and I knew you for a long time, obviously, but through your days at Allie and Allie was an incredible community development exercise. Can you give just a very quick on alleys to people listening, know what that is? And then also again, I want to dive into what you've learned about community building some, one of your superpowers.
Jason Saltzman: Yeah. Thank you. In 2010 I was exposed to the world of coworking and the what jazzes me up about coworking that got my blood pumping was I was an entrepreneur beyond building that business and I know how hard it is to not have a good support system around you, because shit's going to go wrong for height.
If you're uncomfortable. You're on the right path, right? People don't know that though. They're like, oh shit, many people don't get through that. And I've seen that coworking as a tool is a way of bringing awesome people together that share the values of bringing great shit into the world, but also the support and a frustrating process.
Of going through that and the benefits of having a support system around you. So I was geeked out by it. I was like their needs, and obviously there was WIWORK, which at the time had two locations and I was really inspired by these pockets, but there was nothing in Midtown at the time. Now you can't walk down a city block without throwing a rock and bumping into a coworking space.
But in 2010, a community coworking was a brand new thing and there was nothing in Midtown and I was upset. With a thesis where if we did it in a central location, like Midtown, where you very close to Penn station giving access to people that don't necessarily live directly in Manhattan, that you could build a really great community.
And the economics made sense. But early on, I realized that the value wasn't in the real estate, it was around bringing people to. And I had to do a lot in the space that were counterintuitive to a real estate product, but then we were came like a shit storm. And I've said many times back then, and mark, this in 20 12, 20 13, I was like, there's no way.
This shit's real, you can't give away free like $200 glasses of beer and may make profit. I know the economics is a Ponzi scheme and we all know what happened with that. I was like early trying to whistle blow, but it also hurt my ability to scale the business. We had to lower pricing and it was competitive.
Even you saw it. I remember you coming in here look, we works, offering me free space. I'm like, mark, I can't do that. We have, I can only offer you great people. But anyway, we built that business and we found a value in getting the right people together. And ultimately we started finding that demographic was very sought after, by large enterprise organizations, Verizon through a massive partner.
Uh, T uh, took a big stake in the company. And we, we now grow the company much like an agency that connects entrepreneurs and startups that have little to no resources to some of the largest companies in the world. Like Verizon. That don't have resources. They just don't know exactly what to do with them.
And we connect those two worlds together, and that was a successful business and it's still alive today. And a great CEO runs the company. I was able to step down
MPD: the community building though has become this broader thread on the marketing side of the house for so many companies. E-commerce SAS, it's across the board now, and you have a gift on this.
Would you mind sharing some lessons? What is, what should a founder who's starting a company and they haven't figured out a community strategy yet, or an existing a team. That's got an existing operation, but right now they're just doing paid ads. Yeah. And they haven't figured out other ways to acquire customers.
What should people be thinking about community? How
Jason Saltzman: should they. That's a great question. It is dependent on the business, right? But the first jet, the, oh, I'm going to go back to what I said earlier about value, right? If you're obsessing over value, you're finding out what people want. As you're finding out what people want.
You find out what many people want and together, when you're creating value as a whole. That becomes community and how you connect these people together, whatever your product services or services and out, as you look at them as a community and not just a customer, you will start to think of the human side of adding the most valuable point of this whole thing, which is experience.
You have to be obsessed over value. And the way you get to value is driving the right experience. So whatever the world is in, whether you're doing ads on Facebook or whether you're hosting barbecues, think outside the box on the experience that you could provide by obsessing over the value you're creating.
As part of that experience, what do your ads look like? Are they different than your competitors? Do, are you showing these people that you care about them by thinking in terms of community? You're thinking human. You're thinking that the human elements of bringing people to a value exchange. And if you obsess over that you will, you will hit a level of success.
It won't be easy. But you have to test and churn and keep iterating, but you will, if you obsess over value, you will get to that point.
MPD: Now you've done this community building at the alley side. You were doing it in person, not exclusively, but in large part. Yes. You've since moved from New York to Boulder.
How was the community out there?
Jason Saltzman: I don't know.
Yeah. I add this all, but I will tell you, it just going back as an example of alley, based on community building you, ultimately you, when we first started alley, we had a very small budget to fix the space. It was Ikea. And I remember the, who has ever been who's ever listening right now. Who's been to the original alley in Midtown.
The floors were warped like you literally, and the bathrooms are always breaking and it was smelly. You wouldn't even want to move there, mark. And you were like, I would love to, it's just, this is a bad look, so I knew that that was not my product. The real estate became secondary to my product.
My product was people. It was getting the right people in the room, the value. Have a connection I would ask you, what's the value of a connection. There's an infinite value of a connection. And that's the way I would describe thinking about your business, take the product out of it and think outside the box and think about what you're truly providing.
The value that I was providing was putting great people together in a room that can learn from each other and support one another. And it was not, but it was a real estate product.
How do I do that? How'd you do it? Oh, so there so it was it was a study in everything. I, we, and mostly what I found was the best way to do it was to just get great people in a room and get them drunk. How'd you get them in a
Jason Saltzman: By having that first party. Okay. Uh, let me back up for a second.
This is a great question. If you have not read tipping, By Malcolm Gladwell and many of us have read it, but reread it because it is this it's a convergence of circumstances where you can only hope to bring the right people together. And that requires some thought to an algorithm who are these people?
How are these people creating value for other people? How are these people communicating bad value to other people? And how is the value you're creating these people going to be exponentially amplified by this right group of people together. And that was my special sauce.
MPD: I feel like you were the guy at the party who would know this person needs to meet that person.
And you were doing, you were that host who has that ability to do that on a large scale, almost like an institutionalized scale, bringing people into your community, matching people, making introductions. You had that you have that DNA, I think maybe on the
Jason Saltzman: rolling stone called me a cruise director when they came.
Yeah. And I grew I I'm aware of that. Yeah. I had that.
MPD: Yeah. No, it's great. It's a great skill. People love that.
Jason Saltzman: Yeah. I just want to use it for. Purpose. And that's where I come back to relief. It's like now that cruise directing skill is getting the right people in a room to work on the project together.
MPD: Beautiful. Okay. So you've got this community building skill, but it's not your only skill. And you know that you also are created content. Your podcasts are columnists. You make very good noise and you do it a lot and you've had success and getting your word out. A lot of founders are trying to figure this out.
We recently had a journalist on who took us through how to talk to a journalist and had a gauge. Can you give us some tips, maybe put you on the spot three tips for how to up your content game, if you're an entrepreneur trying to get your brand out there.
Jason Saltzman: Yeah. So I've been obsessed over this lately.
So one is. You got to try. I know most of us don't you probably don't even like going on social media these days. Instagram is like the fake veneer of what life could be if everything was perfect and hunky Dory, but it's a platform and it's a platform to spread your message. And you, as an entrepreneur, part of your job is to sell people on what you're doing.
You have to admit that social is a great way. Of amplifying that narrative. And even if you don't have a big following, you have zero. And even if you hate it, turn your camera on and start fucking talking. Because as you are passionate about what you do. It will come out and you will suck at first.
Who's the king of content right now. It's like Gary V right. Go to his original YouTube videos. And he sucked. I'm doing this series right now on where all these famous content creators came from. And like Mr. Beast go to their original shit. Cause right now you just see a by-product of that.
You're like, damn dudes got 69 million followers on YouTube. Yeah. But it started with one. And he did some awkward ass shit to get started. So the number one start doing it. You have to do it. If you're not in the content game, you're losing number two, you have to look on where the future is going.
If you're totally focused on like Facebook, you're in the wrong space. People are migrating away from Facebook right now. And I know we just started to have this conversation before the podcast mark, but Tik TOK is on fucking fire. So get on fucking Tik TOK, right? Learn it. And it's not just about dancing teenagers.
Tik TOK is about the future of user generated content. It's the future of advertising and there's many different ways that I could describe being bullish on it. But as a, just a quick. Obsess over it. The algorithm will take over and you'll stop watching, dancing teenagers and start seeing content that is more familiar to what you like.
It's real. It works. And the third thing most important do not listen to anyone else. Listen to the people that you're serving your friends, new, the old. The content you is going to be the new you, they might stop following you. Who gives a shit, right? You are in this game, not for them, you're in it to serve the community and to create value for the people that are going to be on your platform.
Those are the people that you're listening to put your, your, your headphones on and oh and, and, and be focused on the community that you're.
MPD: Tik TOK. You've been talking that up quite a bit lately, and I know you've been crushing on there. You mentioned, I just followed you for the show.
You have over a hundred thousand followers. Yeah, pretty quickly. Can you give us kind of an, a push you in the bucket? And it was structured here again, the three things everyone's got to know about succeeding on Tik TOK. If they're using it for business.
Jason Saltzman: So I'm not I'm, uh, I'm not a Jetta yet full disclosure.
I'm a paddle on, but I'm obviously getting there. The platform has fire. We have a hundred thousand, 105,000 followers to over 200,000 lights. I have almost a million impressions, which is sick. Um, for me, anyway, that was my goal. Number one, don't expect it to happen overnight. Just start putting content.
That's the best way to do it because you'll, you'll you'll get better. It's like the 10,000 hour rule I've been waking up and doing tech talks, number two, do at least one a day. And number three, have a plan of who you are. Personal brand development is key and it needs to be authentic for me.
I love sharing information about business. Finance and mental health, when it comes to inspiring people to push past themselves, that's my tick tock. And I do it in all different ways. Some hit, not all content is meant to go viral and some shit that you didn't even expect is getting a quarter of a million views, but you have to, no matter what, you have to start doing it
MPD: as you've been doing this and putting your 10,000 hours.
Have you had an aha moment where you're like, oh, I just did that by accident. And it was better or I need to do more of this. Yes. What are the things you learned as you got from beginner to intermediate as you level up? So
Jason Saltzman: three things, number one, have a really good hook, right? Cause people scroll really fast on Tik TOK.
So within the first three seconds, probably sooner than that, get a hook. You need to watch this because this is going to change your life or three ways that you're going to avoid, financial Bruin, it needs to be quick, whatever your genre is, it needs to be quick. It needs to pull people in to a little bit of controversy.
My best performing video is about Kanye and how he got into. And he worked his way out. And not everybody likes Kanye. So if you look in the comments, there's thousands of colonies of, oh, I hate Kanye. I love Kanye. That creates buzz. So that little bit of controversy slipping it in there.
Think about that. And number three, you are not the star of your tock. Your community is, it's not about you. It's about. So again, I'm going to go back to what I said earlier, obsess over the value that you are creating others, not what you want to get out and that's it.
MPD: Very insightful. Okay. So first of all, and we, we've talking about this community, building the social media for the folks listening, you're one of the people who helped push me to do this podcast.
That was pretty. So thank you for that. Jason was a good gentleman and told me that, it would all be great and fun and be worth doing. And here I am and I'm enjoying it. I'm learning a lot.
Jason Saltzman: I'm so happy to hear that. I knew you would. I knew
MPD: it. Yeah, no, I learned a lot. For me, this has been creating people on who I want to ask questions to and getting trained.
This is my private tutoring and you're my tutor today. So, uh, going big picture, where do you see yourself going in 10 years? You've got, you've got relief up and running. Those ventures are ten-year runs. What's the what's the plan here? Or where does Jason go?
Jason Saltzman: My, my journey is always going to be around.
What's the next thing I could do. To help as many people as humanly possible. I have no idea what that is, but as we get access to new technology and I get new people in my network and people in my network develop new skills like you in this podcast, we're going to figure it out together. I'm a fundamental believer that entrepreneurship can save the world, right?
When you could take your own personal discretions and bias and you could put them to the side. And get with somebody complete on the other side of the world that comes from a whole different background and you can connect and build something for a common goal to make people's lives. Better. Magic happens.
And to me, that's how entrepreneurship is going to save the world.
MPD: Jason, thank you for being on today. Always. Great
Jason Saltzman: to see you too, mark. It's been a pleasure. I'm honored to be on your show. I'm so happy for you.
MPD: Thanks buddy.
Jason's the man grateful to have him on the podcast and inspired by what he's doing and proud to be an investor. This is where I'm supposed to ask you to help promote the podcast. So if you're interested, feel free to give us a, like a five star review that helps people find what we're doing. You can share with your friends and I'll see you next week.