Samer Hamadeh is the Founder and CEO of Zeel. Zeel started by providing in-home massage therapy, but looks a bit different these days. As you might suspect, the pandemic crushed their business and overnight their revenue went to zero. But in a time of crisis Zeel was able to leverage the logistics network they had built over the years to start offering in-home COVID testing. They’ve now expanded their services to include in-home medical services and have positioned themselves to be a pioneer in the nascent in-home-medicine market.
During our conversation we discuss the growth potential for the in-home healthcare industry that is quickly taking shape, the difficulties of a logistics based company, how companies can navigate crises, and much more.
MPD: I find it helps people understand who we're talking to and then we can kind of dive in, um, to different dimensions or aspects or perspectives. So if you wouldn't mind, could you introduce us to zeal?
Samer Hamadeh: [00:02:28] Oh yeah. Look, zeal is a heck of a story these days, because for those of you who've used it before. We're a technology enabled massage therapy company. We come to your home. And, you know, we could get to your house before COVID and as little as one hour in a hundred cities around the U S it was really a magical experience.
We got it to $50 million of GMV annualized in February 20, 20 breaking even, and then COVID hit and everyone knows within two weeks, March 13, we're at zero revenue platforms shut down in every state in the country. We briefly tried to stay open in a couple of States. Actually, it was really funny. There were a number of providers and customers were like, it's up to me if I want to get a massage.
And if the provider wants to work in my house, like, you know, this isn't up to the state. So there's a bit of like, you know, personal rights, which of course in America here, we're so fond of, you know, they're, it's in our constitution, but the States want over, there was just too much backlash. So we shut it all down on March 13 and.
We had no revenue coming in for six weeks. It was the same, the most humbling experience I've ever been through. And I've been through, you know, the 1991 92 recessions, the, the, uh, you know, the, the, uh, nine 11, you know, obviously experience for those of you who were in New York then, which came after the NASDAQ 2000 crash.
And then of course the Oh eight crash. And so there was nothing quite like the COVID crash. But we summoned all of our resources. You know, everybody on the team was just a heck of a warrior and we did everything you would expect. We, we cut all of the non-people costs in a matter of days. And we negotiated every contract from Salesforce to, to, uh, our rent, you know, that we could, but it became clear by the end of March that we put in spare people.
And so we had to do furloughs layoffs and pay cuts and all that over the coming weeks and months. Um, but thankfully our. Government came through and provided PPP loans. I still wish they gave more PPP loans to restaurants and bars than they did to, to companies like ours. But, but you know, we, we needed it because our massage therapist had no work.
So, you know, we needed that money and we had to sprinkle it around. So it was, it was very necessary pick to keep, you know, as many people as possible employed.
MPD: [00:04:54] So, uh, we're, we're a year into COVID now the pandemic. It's just about the anniversary of the start of it. How has the business sustained through that period?
It sounds like you went into triage mode.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:05:09] Yeah. So here's what happened. And I like to say that, you know, crisp crisis begets innovation. Because when you're staring death in the face, which is what, what happened on March 13th, we weren't going to wait for the States to reopen. As far as we were concerned, massage therapy in the home home might be dead for a long time to come.
So we immediately started working on idea that my team and I had had, I'd say at least two or three years earlier, but maybe didn't have the guts to pursue. And it took COVID to kick us in the ass to do it. And that is to become a medical practice. And we finally unveiled our medical practice in November this year, what we said, we said this, look, we already know how to come to the home.
We've been coming to the home for eight years. At that time, we had delivered more than 1,000,005 appointments to the home. You know, massage therapy is one of the most difficult in-home experiences to actually deliver. If you think about it, it's an hour, you're taking care of somebody in pain and there's a serious trust and safety element.
Because the patient is, you know, getting down to their gym shorts, um, you know, they're going under, uh, you know, uh, a sheet, the therapist, 80% of whom in America are female massage therapists. They're going to a stranger's home. So we we've worked out over the past eight years before COVID every little detail you could imagine around trust and safety ID, verification, GPS, you know, insurance, the whole.
So there's a high level of trust. We already have that. We already are delivering care to the home. Why don't we just do more medical type care? Why are we sticking to this thing called spa massage? So that's what we did in November. We unveiled our first medical service, which was COVID testing in the home.
We started in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. We've now serviced nearly 10,000 patients in the home. It's been an amazing experience. People are like, wow, somebody gets here in a few hours, swabs everyone's noses in a matter of five minutes. We courier the samples down to our lab, um, in Brooklyn, uh, and you get your results in under 24 hours and you get the nice PDF that you can use during your international travel or for your workplace or whatever.
MPD: [00:07:28] it's increasing what a convenient service. Now I knew you had, uh, introduced the COVID testing, uh, late last year. I didn't realize it was part of a longer-term plan of doing a medical play. Where does it go from COVID testing now that you've, you've kind of opened that door? Well,
Samer Hamadeh: [00:07:46] the, your practitioner who's coming to your home for COVID testing is a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse.
So LPN RN, or a nurse practitioner is a highly skilled healthcare workers. So nurses are able to do a lot of things in America. So we're doing some blood draws. They can inject medication. Hmm, we were, I'm happy to announce today that a few days ago we were approved by New York city department of health to be an official COVID vaccinator.
MPD: [00:08:14] that was going to be on demand vaccines. Well,
Samer Hamadeh: [00:08:17] on demand. No, because you do have to do a lot of paperwork and there's some prep and, um, we're approved for J and J vaccine because we have a vaccine refrigerator here in the office behind me, but not Caesar. Vaccine at home and in the office, we're really going to focus more on the office as a return to work strategy versus home.
The reason is because it's very critical. You don't waste a dose of vaccine in each J and J vile has five doses. So we're still thinking through the home aspect, but you're going to have to do multiples of five, right? It's going to be a little bit tricky. Yeah. But in the office, obviously it'd be very easy to, to plan and coordinate everything.
But, yeah, I'm really excited right now, J and J vaccine is being developed. And so there's, there's shortages all over the country. So I'm hoping in a few weeks we get our allotment in New York city and, uh, we'll then announce it right in the emails and to all of our customers. I think it's going to be just, there's going to be, you know, gangbuster demand for this thing.
And, uh, we'll go out and vaccinate people. So in some ways we're, we're doing our part right. To get America back to work and back to normal, which makes us really happy. So that's the nurse aspect of it. And then, uh, you know, we're working on true to our brand, which is taking care of your body, your injuries, your chronic lower back pain, right?
Your, your sleep disorder, anxiety, which is what massage therapy is for. We're applying that whole thing. Into the medical practice. So think medical, massage, think physical therapy or adding those disciplines. We'll be making some great announcements here in the coming weeks and months of new lines of medicine that will we'll be delivering into the home.
MPD: [00:10:06] How did, um, the investor community, and maybe not specific to your investors, anything you learned about what you're looking for in support or. You know, board dynamics when you're navigating these kind of unchartered waters. I know people can get pretty upset on the board if the company's not performing, but when it's a, you know, nuclear moment for it for the entire world, what do you, did you see a lot of, you know, do you see you or other founders dealing with ugliness in that period?
Or do you think people kind of come around because it's so extreme?
Samer Hamadeh: [00:10:43] What's the, I mean, I heard stories of ugliness through the grapevine and I sit on some boards, but you know, the investors in the board and seal are there. There's such a class. They really are. They they've always been very supportive and they all gotten their hands dirty in the operations.
And, but it immediately, and I don't remember which board member it was, uh, said we have to have weekly board meetings, like until we're out of this crisis, we need to meet every single week. So we put this. Recurring event in the calendar for Wednesdays at, I think it was like at one o'clock for an hour.
And that thing just went and went and away. It had an end date of the end of 2020, but we were convinced that within a couple of months, things will be back to normal. Again. No, we had a weekly meeting through like November one, and then we changed it to every two weeks until Christmas. And then finally we're like, okay, let's just go back to quarterly.
But even last week we were on a call. We said, you know, I'm kinda miss getting together. Cause we were getting together every single week. Right. And some of you may know that. The lovely Venus Williams is on our board and she had only joined, um, about seven, eight months before COVID, you know, to a regular, quarterly in-person meeting that you fly into.
And then it turns into a week, right?
MPD: [00:12:05] A little more than she can send up
Samer Hamadeh: [00:12:07] after her and the other board members, there was 90 plus percent attendance between March 22. Whenever that first one was to Christmas. Over 90% attendance. I was the only one who got a hundred percent attendance, but it was incredible.
MPD: [00:12:23] And that for folks go into a weekly board meeting, I've never heard of that happening. And I do know that for a lot of entrepreneurs, some find a lot of value in the board meeting some don't. And, but I think what is consistent though, is there's this amount of prep, right. There's work created in. You know, it's hard to communicate everything going on with people who aren't in the weeds every day without.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:12:44] I'm glad you asked that question because here's how it went. We decided to go to a weekly company meeting too. We, we, we would have weekly company meetings in person and, but it was more of a four hour sort of sessions where you review your quarterly KPIs and how you're doing against them.
This became something else because we were again in triage mode. So. And we still have now weekly, Monday town halls for an hour, from noon to one. So people are dialing in worldwide.
MPD: [00:13:13] And does everyone attend or ,
Samer Hamadeh: [00:13:16] but there's some people, sometimes we can't attend they're on vacation or something else pops up, but yeah, we've got like 90 plus percent attendance every Monday.
So every Sunday night, and I now have a template of course, a year later, but I write out like a one hour sort of review of what's going on in the business. So I started off for about five, six, seven minutes, and then each senior leader presents his or her section. So there's a format now. And then we do a Q and a at the end, and we also talk about like good stuff and bad stuff that happened in the prior week.
It's been really fantastic. So what happened is I would do that meeting on Mondays at noon, and then on Tuesday night I would take that template and just. Modify it just slightly, and that became my board meeting. So it's actually very easy to do the weekly board meetings because I was doing all the work Sunday night for the Monday town hall, but I found it very helpful because the investors, you know, and the board was extremely nervous.
You got zero revenue and now
MPD: [00:14:14] you'll need a lot of money at risk.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:14:17] You know, you have a years, years of investment at risk. So this helped to calm them down over time. But I will say, you know, when I first mentioned in late March, like guys, we're going to launch the medical business that I've kind of been hinting at for, you know, two and a half years here, you know, half the board was like, how are you going to do that?
You don't even have, you don't even have that in your DNA and it's crisis mode. Like you should just only focus on the core business and make sure it comes back. But, but the other half, you know, I think saw right away, this is just an extension of the existing. You know, values and, and, um, strengths of the company.
So we're in support, let's do it. And I think within a couple of months, everybody was like, yeah, this, this is terrific. We see the future here. Just keep at it.
MPD: [00:15:06] So in hindsight, offering more products for the same delivery network was the right decision leading into the crisis.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:15:14] That's one of the, the conclusions, but the twist is that they need to be, must have services.
And that's the one thing I was always struggling with at zeal that, you know, I like to be very transparent to the people who know me. I talk about margins, revenue amounts. We've raised, uh, in our town halls. We show people our P and L our cash position. I have many, many employees who will even like the new ones who started last week, say like, I've never been in a company that does this sort of thing.
This is insane. The only thing we're not transparent about is everybody's salary. I have not figured out a way to be transparent about salary. And I read online somewhere the other day that this one founder pays. Every single employee of the 40 at the same salary, all 40 people, including the founders, it was like $162,000 each or something.
I wonder what the twist
MPD: [00:16:04] is there. There's gotta be like different equity plans or something, because I think there's different
Samer Hamadeh: [00:16:08] equity plans. He did, he did more senior talent to sign up. You say that in the blog, but yeah, the salary thing is the only weird one. I don't know how you solve that one, but we've been transparent like this at every company I've been part of since, you know, 1997.
So. This is what we do, but I think people appreciated. It makes them more comfortable, less nervous when you really know what's going on. And you don't think that the founders and the leadership team has anything to hide. So, so, you know, that's, that's the way we operate, but, but so must have this thing we were struggling with is that massage therapy is nice to have.
And it's. Yeah, and it's something that's not covered by insurance, even though interestingly, about 65, 70% of all customers would get massage and not just on the Zillow platform, but would they fill out the reasons why they're getting it 65, 70% they're in pain, they have headaches. They can't sleep. They have PTSD.
They're postoperative, they're prenatal. So they're doing it for a medical reason, but our healthcare system just generally hasn't accepted massage therapy as something that should be covered. Which has changing and we'll be announcing some stuff. Like I said, in a few weeks, in a few months where I think we're, we're part of that change and hopefully will be very exciting over the coming months and years.
MPD: [00:17:23] Let's take that tangent for a second. Why do you think massage therapy hasn't met criteria or standards for the insurance side? What, what is that? What is the context around that?
Samer Hamadeh: [00:17:35] Well, there are a lot of reasons, but it just became a spa-like treatment. I think hundreds of years ago, you'd go to the Turkish baths.
Um, you know, you'd, you'd get pampered, you know, it
MPD: [00:17:47] was like a recreational. Yeah, yeah.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:17:51] Yeah. And then, you know, when you see what's posted online about massage, it's. You know, people in the Hamptons by the pool, it's especially massage at home. When we first launched people were like, that's for the 1% of the 1%, right?
When it turned out, it's not, it's actually reasonably affordable for about 150 bucks for an hour. You can get a very relaxing, you know, soothing massage. You can, you can take care of an injured joint. People don't even know that, you know, during physical therapy, you usually will have 15 minutes of manual therapy.
And that's coded as massage therapy. So it is partially covered, just not covered when you're a massage therapist. So the people who have to deliver it have to be more trained. They have to become part of the medical establishment. And that's how you, and that's how you ultimately make it a part of the healthcare system.
You know, you take it out of spas, you take it out of. You know, hotels, you put it in clinical settings and you turn it into an actual healthcare service.
MPD: [00:18:53] Okay. Um, one of the things about your business that I find fascinating is the operational complexity. And you alluded to this earlier on how, how difficult it is to deliver the appointments at the speed you're delivering.
And increasingly we're seeing a lot of entrepreneurs, uh, show up and whether it's micro mobility or. Ubers of the world. Anything in the on demand economy is almost making this look easy, but I have a feeling it's not easy. And I have a feeling there's going to be a lot more people trying to enter this space over time.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs entering this specific niche? Something doesn't have to be massage, but when they're coming to do an on-demand service, is there any best practices or technologies people need to know about irrelevant?
Samer Hamadeh: [00:19:36] Well, and in-home, I was just say in-home health care, which again is even more complex because healthcare is highly regulated and you have to be HIPAA compliant.
You have to take good notes because there's always a referring physician of some kind. So when we come on site to do something, even a COVID test, there's a referring physician, right? So there's, there's a lot more complexity. Um, and then when you're on site for an hour performing a service or 10 minutes on a service, you're in someone's home, you're in their sacred space.
Right. So you also have to, you have to think about those dynamics. Like if something happens or you break something like, you know, you have to have a whole team and insurances that kick in. So we've had to build all that stuff over the last many years, deal with a lot of different issues. Um, and we've gotten very good at it.
But, you know, there's nothing, I would say, like there's nothing really off the shelf per se. Uh, you really have to, you have to think through all the processes and have it in your DNA. So I always tell founders, like the best companies build their own software when you can use pieces off the shelf, but ultimately you have to build it for your business and there's going to be nothing really off the shelf that you could just use.
Otherwise, you're just like a retail store, right. Then you're not a high functioning tech company, right. Then you're not raising VC money. Just open up like a retail store or some little simple local online business and use somebody else's software and just run that business.
MPD: [00:21:10] We both did our MBAs and I remember taking an operations class, uh, where there was more meat on the bone than I expected.
There was more science and methodology. Around queuing theory and some of these other things where there's formulas that, you know, I took it away as one of the 10 things. Maybe I found a business school where I was, I found it to be a nugget of enlightenment that I would take with me for my career. How intensive do you guys think through kind of operational research and science of this when you're dealing with things of that scale to people who are starting companies, can they just kind of glue a basic, intuitive methodology together?
Or do they need to go find a PhD from the local MBA program to help them set it up the right way in the beginning? What's the level of complexity and concern that someone should have when they're starting in this space?
Samer Hamadeh: [00:21:55] Yeah, no, it's a good question. And by the way, I didn't do my MBA, but I do have a master's in chemical engineering and I did do, I did take four classes.
You didn't take
MPD: [00:22:03] operations class. I
Samer Hamadeh: [00:22:04] did know, but I was going to say I took four classes at Stanford business school that took operations research. I took a class on how you set up a factory. Uh, factory flow and, um, and the issue of bottlenecks, which is really what you're referring to. So we were just reviewing before this podcast here in the office, a whole insane or diagram of one of our processes.
And you can imagine what these things look like. There's like dozens of boxes everywhere and all these error arrows, you know, if yes, go this way, if no, go that way. And just how it all triages. That is not something that I can do now. Twenty-five years ago, I can build one of those, but you hire great people.
That's the whole point, a good, good founder and CEO builds an amazing team around him or her. Right. And, and, and pushes the stuff, you know, that he or she is a good add to those, you know, those people, right. And then just provides vision and passion to get everybody really excited. And also like I don't code anymore.
The last time I coded in the nineties was like with, with COBOL and Fortran and nobody even uses a lamp language anymore. When I was 12, I cooled with punch cards, punch cards and IBM machines. So this is the, I don't know how to do this stuff. So when we have these coding sessions, Sometimes I'll come for a few hours.
I just bring in food and coffee and booze to everybody. That's my shit. Happy. Yeah. I'm the cheerleader. I talk about the vision. I give them a bunch of food we toast and they just code away. Right. So, so you don't have to know how to do everything. You just have to bring the right people together. I'll, I'll add in for
MPD: [00:23:41] the folks listening.
If you didn't do your MBA, didn't do undergrad, an operations or any, you know, has some sort of formal education. There's a great book. That a lot of the operations class require folks to read. It's called the goal. And it's a fictional book about someone working in a factory. But while it's a little story, uh, it teaches you how to think about operations.
So you can skip the class and read the book again. It's called the goal. Uh, I'm a nerd, so I loved it, but I think most people probably hate reading it, but check it out. If you're interested, it's a, uh, you know, you're reading kind of a novel. But you're, you're experiencing someone living through the discovery of operational insight.
That's cool. Um, what do you think the industry needs? Right, when we're looking at more broadly, the on-demand industry, uh, you know, are there picks and shovel services or tool sets that, you know, entrepreneurs listening should go to seek out and fill in? Are there solutions that you think, you know, in spaces, in the on demand industry that.
A type of service hasn't been delivered yet that needs to be done. And you're not focusing on it. What are the opportunities for folks right now?
Samer Hamadeh: [00:24:51] Oh, that it will just say that I'm not focusing on that's harder. I be more focusing on in-home health care because we think it's time has finally come kind of like tele-health pre COVID telehealth was just a little niche thing.
And during COVID it's up 10, 20, 30 X, I mean, the numbers are off the charts and, uh, health and human services. Finally thinking about. Erasing those lines where only somebody who is medically licensed in a state can see somebody over video or call them on the phone in that state. Those lines have been temporarily erased during COVID and other talking about permanently erasing them, which quite frankly, they should.
Why can't I be in New York city and talk to us psychologist who's licensed in California, get great care and you know, why not, but pre COVID you couldn't. So. So in home is the same thing. The healthcare system is generally thought of in-home. As you have to be confined to your home, you have to be like morbidly obese or, um, you know, dementia, or Parkinson's unable to move for them to even cover healthcare to the home no longer.
Right. It's now the new paradigm. So I think in-home health care is the next big thing. And there are going to be dozens and dozens of competitors and adjacent type companies to what we're doing in zeal. So the opportunities in in-home health care are, you know, the delivery of care, which is what we're focused on the logistics, but then there's the EMR, right in home care.
There's the delivery of prescriptions. There's all the monitoring using Bluetooth cameras, right? Everything else to see how somebody is functioning. There's like you were telling me about your friend earlier. I have some friends who are now putting that continuous glucose monitor right on their tricep.
So you can start measuring somebody's vitals at all times. There's there's one of those coming out. I hear too a great pine now at Stanford for blood they'll continuously monitor certain items in your blood. Hmm, so that you can start to see what your testosterone or LDL levels glucose is in real time.
Like throughout minute by minute. You know, like five minute increments. That's incredible. Right? Right. Think about what happens now, you go to the doctor once a year for a physical, you get all your results. This one point in time that doesn't tell you shit. You know, you want to see it throughout the day and week.
What about when I'm hungry? When I'm sleeping, when I've had a big meal, what kind of meal or when something starts to go wrong or when something starts to go wrong. So. That aspect I think of on demand, if you will, this continuous and monitoring of your body, of your vitals, of even what's going on in your house, you know, so non-health, non-healthcare that's I think the next, next big wave.
MPD: [00:27:38] And do you think in-home healthcare is the path for people who aren't stuck at home, right. If you're healthy and Oh, absolutely. You have access to a car. Why would people decide to do the healthcare? You know, their treatments at home versus going into a hospital and facilities.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:27:54] There's so many reasons.
The first is that noncompliance on a prescription of any kind is off the charts. People just like they, they get lazy. They don't want to travel the facilities too far. You got to take time off work, find a babysitter. All those issues are eliminated. When the care comes to your house, you don't have to find a babysitter.
You don't have to drive there and the hours are better. You know, at zeal we're delivering care as early as 7:00 AM and his latest 10:30 PM start times two. We're open longer. We're open seven days a week, so you can get a lot more done. Also. Why, why should you have to go to the laboratory to draw your blood?
I can come to you, draw your blood and Curry it over there. You know, you'll save an hour of your time. Just takes five minutes for me to come over and draw your blood. So it's that kind of thing that, that convenience factor, um, that higher level of compliance means in the long run, we will save money in this country because more people will get healthcare because it won't be such a pain in the ass to go to the doctor or go to the lab or go to the hospital.
MPD: [00:28:55] Are there short-term health care or cost reductions that come with this too? Um, I'm imagining, you know, we're seeing the remote work and now people, companies are spending less money on offices. Is there a parallel for medical real estate? Or maybe
Samer Hamadeh: [00:29:10] I haven't even thought about it. I mean, it's very hard to deliver it.
Well, it's impossible delivery our care at home. It's also illegal in every state. So ERs will always have a place. Virgin care. People used to think you can't deliver urgent care the home, but there's this company dispatch health. That's raised a ton of money in the last six months. And they're delivering urgent care though in vans and cars that are equipped with urgent care equipment.
So even something like flu stitches, You know, you could take care of at home, right? They even have mobile CT trucks. Now you could, in theory, come to someone's home, CT, scan them in the truck, take off. So there's a lot of things you can do at home. Surprisingly, and that I think will help the healthcare system in the long run.
Because again, the issue is compliance. If, if I have a prescription for 10 PT sessions, And because I can't deal with my time off from work and taking care of my kid, I don't go to any, or I go to just three and give up that that injury can ultimately become more acute and eventually lead to a surgery or God forbid, opioid addiction.
This is where the whole opiod addiction came from. Just take a pill. Like it's just easier to do that than to get your PT sessions. It's a, it's a, it's a tragedy. So if we can come to the house, To get you to take more PT, to get you well faster that ultimately will save the healthcare system money in the long run and make the humans, you know, more mobile, more productive, happier.
MPD: [00:30:42] What types of care do you think are more, most likely to move to be? In-home.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:30:47] Well, it's already happening, but again, you know, physical therapy and, uh, you know, the massage therapy now is in the home and we're, we're now building out a whole physical therapy practice, um, you know, simple things, what we call routine medical care, like blood draws, COVID tests like affirmations.
Yeah. I think everything that can be done in a physical, you know, we've been exploring this whole thing. There's portable EKG, portable ultrasounds. Yeah, there's um, there's small sort of, uh, scales, so you can measure weight and measure someone's high suit. You can do a basic physical exam within reason, you know, in the home, there might be a couple of parts you can, or if you uncover something, then you're gonna have to go to a specialist, but you can get a lot of this stuff done.
Now in the hopes we call it like routine covered, medical care can be delivered.
MPD: [00:31:35] Fascinating. Okay. Thank you for sharing that. Uh, taking this a different direction for a second. We've I mentioned this at the beginning, but I want to come back to it. You're wearing three hats and I know the primary hat is eel.
You've got some part-time hats. Uh, your relationship with Lightspeed, right? Uh, your relationship with alpaca, where you're an advisor, how does, um, Having kind of ancillary roles that are related to the startup community help you as a CEO. Is this something you would recommend for other entrepreneur?
Samer Hamadeh: [00:32:08] I do.
Yeah. It's, it's not the same. As in the early days we did all these networking events, you know, you remember in the two thousands, tons of networking events, I don't find networking events, all that valuable. Those are social activities, social activities have value. So, you know, go to a social activity, right.
The activities I engage in with alpaca and Lightspeed, I'm meeting incredibly smart, determined founders. I'm analyzing business plans. I'm learning about new software tools, new business models. So I make some investments, but I also learn a lot of stuff that I can apply back to what I'm doing. Good seal.
So, you know, we've. Through one of my investments, there is something I've explored, even though I don't invest in it. We may buy that tool at zeal because I think it's such a great or neat solution to something we're doing. Right. So, so it's really, it's really important. And you also, you also tap this network when you're looking to hire people.
So I'll, I'll tap some of the founders that I've invested in. So do you know anybody for this position or I'm looking for a salesperson? I need a great iOS developer. And they're so helpful, right. Because I'm one of their investors. So
MPD: [00:33:20] it gives you kind of more or less like a curated flow of information and the ability to go back to those organizations and leverage the
Samer Hamadeh: [00:33:26] network.
Yeah. And it, and it keeps, you keeps your hand on the pulse of what's going on so that you're aware of like the next big things, the next trends. Uh, so you're not caught flat footed either in your own business. I think
MPD: [00:33:39] CEOs who have gotten to a certain point in their venture company, life's cut life cycle.
Should we be thinking about seeking these roles out? I know you're a veteran, right? You've been around the block. You probably got a call or there are the first time entrepreneurs out there. Should they be thinking, Hey, we just raised our B I'm going to go look for an advisory role. What is, you know, or getting an EIR role with a venture firm?
Yeah. Yeah. I think you
Samer Hamadeh: [00:34:06] need to be a little proactive, but uh, oftentimes these things come to you, but still you have to be a little proactive. Look there, there are some companies and some VCs are like the founder better, not take any board seats or do anything right. That interferes with the running of the business.
I think you want to gauge how sort of open your, your board is about these outside rules, but I generally find they're helpful. I, and unless you're spending enormous amounts of time on them and I really don't, then I find that they're very helpful. They keep your company relevant, you know, out there people want to support you.
You're supporting them. And like I said, good partnerships or new investments or new hires come out of these things. So ultimately I encourage this kind of activity with my own people and with the companies I'm invested in, I think it's, it's helpful to your business. I do.
MPD: [00:34:59] You mentioned earlier that I might have tipped you off on one of the questions for this interview.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:35:05] Just one. Yeah. Just one, just one slide. Just
MPD: [00:35:08] keep these pretty surprising.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:35:11] Well, this one, this one needed a little bit of thinking, right? So at least it was organized. This
MPD: [00:35:15] is the, this is the one I don't want to get trite answers from folks. I want to get truth and insight. Look, you've got a lot of experience.
You've probably seen a lot of stuff that most entrepreneurs through the whole career might not see just cause we're all going to have different paths. If it's an anecdote, some insight, what's the most important advice you would give another entrepreneur
Samer Hamadeh: [00:35:39] lessons on it. Part here, as we, as we finish this thing, um, you know, lesson number one, failure is part of the process.
I remember reading a Palo Cuellos Alchemist and the line that resonated with me this years ago. Is that success is falling down seven times and getting up eight related to that lesson. Number two, never give up. Yeah. If you realize there's an insane structural flaw in your model, like you're selling $1 for $2 and can never get that cost down.
Sure. Then move on. But if you know that your idea works and you see that your customers are so grateful for your product and you see a path to real scale, keep at it. Remember Churchill never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never, and nothing great or small, large, or petty, never yield to force, never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy could have been talking about start-ups less than you were three.
Realize that entrepreneurs aren't born. I really believe this they're made. You're made through focus, discipline, determination, resilience, you keep at it, you set quarterly goals and then you work backwards to determine what you have to do each day to get there. And then you do it each and every day.
Like clockwork. You just have a few more. That's the number four ordering. Well, I'm giving you seven. So lesson number four is in order to do lessons three, right? Failure never give up. And you know, you have to be made, not born. You have to be in very good physical and mental shape. So you'll work out daily.
I do something six days a week, weights, Peloton, yoga foam, rolling assisted massage, and stretching using Zillow's people of course, and sometimes two of those per day, but you got to do it. And nutrition, you know, is a big part of this too. You gotta eat reasonably healthy food. So cut out the sugar, drink a little bit of coffee, but not too much cut back on the alcohol.
Cause you want to be in peak shape mentally and physically. Number five, your most important job is sales. Getting customers to buy, hiring talent, raising money. The second most important cash, which obviously is related to sales per sales generate cash. But you have to make sure that your company has enough and you have to use it while it's wisely.
Most companies fail because the entrepreneur thinks sales is beneath him or her. I've seen it too many times or because the entrepreneur allows the organization to run out of money. It's it's, it's a travesty. Uh, less than under six is that B2B is easier and a larger opportunity in B to C of course, B to C.
And there are numerous examples of successful B to C companies, but B2B contracts are bigger, oftentimes more recurring, little easier to market and sell to. And then the last one, number seven I've learned over many, many years is I believe in subscriptions. I want every startup to launch a subscription.
Even if that subscription can't be the whole business launch, a subscription. I work on it with every company I'm part of.
MPD: [00:38:35] Hmm, those are fascinating insights. Will you give, uh, one little line of color on the subscription bit? I think everyone knows subscription businesses, but the idea of kind of shoehorning it in to another model is fascinating.
Samer Hamadeh: [00:38:50] Yeah. Like basically I just, every time I joined a board or I invested a company, know some of them obviously have a subscription, but a lot don't so just like, what are you doing exactly? Because otherwise people just are buying every once in awhile. And, you know, how do you, how do, can you create sort of some certainty around where your revenue will be otherwise every first of the month, you've got to try to figure out what the Frick your revenue is going to be.
So imagine if most of it, if not, all of it is already determined, that would be amazing. Right. So I just sort of analyze what's being sold and just figure out if there's a way to get a little more recurrence or to create a little bit of extra value. So for example, if, uh, you know, companies like Uber and, and, um, You know, so door dash in theory, didn't need a subscription.
People order so much, and yet they both do right. If you pay for the Uber eats subscription, which I now have you save money on every order you get like priority access. If you do have an issue, which I had the other day, there's an 800 number. You could call someone answered it right away. I was amazed and I got a full refund on an issue I had.
Cause I took a picture of some under cooked me. Like this is a very valuable subscription. You know, and on top of that, you got the $15 a month from the Amex platinum card. If you had that too, so free subscription, so that's even better, but it's just, it's just valuable. So at zeal we decided early on, you know, people should get massage all the time, even though they don't normally think of it that way.
So we have a subscription where you get a massage a month comes with a free massage table, a robe, and it also comes with a 20% discount. So about 50%, is this all pre COVID? Of course, 50% of our revenue pre COVID was already baked in the next month from the subscription. I was trying to figure out a way to get it to a hundred percent.
They didn't quite get there, but, but that just, it takes a load off your mind, you know, every month, knowing that you've got all this, you know, revenue and cash already coming,
MPD: [00:40:49] that's fantastic with Sage advice. Dahmer. Thank you so much for making time to join
Samer Hamadeh: [00:40:54] us. Thank you listeners.
MPD: [00:41:00] Special. Thanks to Sammer for taking the time to join me today. There is no easy way to navigate a crisis, and hopefully there were a few key takeaways from today's conversations that will help founders accordingly. In particular, I thought Samara's advice on subscriptions was very interesting. If you liked what you heard, please look 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 to hear more of my conversations with innovators, subscribe on YouTube, Facebook, or any major podcast platform. Just search for innovation with Mark Peter Davis.