Join Albert Baez, CEO and Co-Founder of Blended Sense and Troy Schlicker, Austin Real Estate Broker in this insightful talk on why real estate is changing and how realtors, builders, boutiques, mortgage brokers, and investors stand out with quality digital content.
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Good morning everyone. Welcome to another episode of the AustinSpotlight podcast and Facebook Live production of that. I am joined today byAlbert Baez. How's it going, Albert?
0:00:22.2 Albert Baez: It's going great Troy, we're alive and well, so we're gotta be grateful for that.
0:00:27.0 Troy: Always, always, yes.Albert is the co-founder and president of Blended Sense, a local Austin company, obviously with the Austin Spotlight kind of designation there, butAlbert when you talk to us a little bit... Maybe just give a brief intro whatBlended Sense is.
0:00:45.9 AB: Yeah. I appreciate it.So Blended Sense is a media technology company. As you said, Troy, we are herein Austin, Texas. We started the company April of 2019, and really with the mission to connect two groups that we felt were in isolation in our local community, and that's the small business owner with the creative professional.On the small business owner side, they don't have the time, the resources or the know how to produce, create and distribute the amount of digital assets like photos and videos that they need, just to run their business and thrive in today's marketplace.
0:01:20.2 AB: And then on the other hand, you got creative professionals who are running around, trying to make a living, doing what they love, and they struggle with things like customer service, accounting and project management. And so what we've done is build a digital platform that really makes creative services reliable, matches the right creative to the right business at a hyper-local level, and then creates recurring relationships that we foster and we invest in, so that these creatives can keep coming back, giving the small business owner the creative attitude and prowess if you will, that they need to run their business. And then on the other end of the small business owner now has a reliable source of creativity, that they can lean on to run their business. Market it, advertise it, run operations, recruiting, etcetera, and we're really excited about not what we've done already, but what's yet to be solved and to do in this world.So excited to be here.
0:02:16.8 Troy: Nice. And so I always like to mostly start with an origin story for people, most people, especially as I'm in the real estate world, you tend to find more and more people obviously moving to Austin, so it's rare to have a native Austinite, which maybe you are, maybe you're not, I don't know. But most of us have kind of an origin story of what got you into that kind of line of work, what brought you to Austin and all those kind of one fun and wonderful things. And so I want you kinda take us back to the early days and what brought you to Austin and got you going.
0:02:48.9 AB: Yeah, I appreciate it.Yeah, my origin story actually starts in New York City, I was born and raised in New York. I'm not a native Austinite, I've been here eight years, but I did surround my circle, my table with a lot of Austinites. I figured they're rare when I got here, so I thought they would be valuable to connect with. But my story starts... My first life, if you will, is what I like to call it, was all around baseball. I grew up playing baseball, played in high school, played in college, played out in Kansas for two seasons for [0:03:21.4] ____and I even ended up coaching at the college level. And unfortunately, I got injured like many of that type of story. As a bureau bummer, I had dedicated my entire life to baseball, and then all of a sudden within a couple of months, it was now gone, and no longer an option, a real viable option for me to keep pursuing.
0:03:45.2 AB: The reason that's relevant is because I was in a pretty bad spot, it was like eight months of NewYork City bartending, post injury. I just didn't know what I was gonna do with myself, and my really good friend who I grew up with he had just started at a company called Yodle, which is a marketing technology company, and later sold to Web.com. And he basically had... I don't know if anybody out there has seenCoach Carter, but he had a Coach Carter moment with me in my childhood bedroom, shook me up and said, "Hey, dude, I get it, and that was tough. And I know you're hurting right now, but your friends and your family, we're still here, we support you, and there's more for you in this life."
0:04:26.5 AB: And that's when he told me that they were hiring sales people at this company called Yodle, and I was only eight months removed from the baseball field, so it was something that was never in my mind, in my heart. I didn't think I would ever be in a corporate environment working for anyone, but it was a godsend and really shifted my life and is a big part of where I am today. So I ended up taking a job at Yodle. I sucked at sales, so anybody out there who was afraid of sales, believe me, it is not easy, it is not for everyone, but what I did learn is that it was a craft, right, and it was something that was familiar to me in the sense of, I can put in work, I can put in effort, I can learn and then see results. And that's what really drew me to sales and made me wanna be good at it, because up to that point, all you hear from these Wall Street movies is it's a game of, it's a game of numbers. It's all luck. And that didn't compute to me, right, luck and to me I knew how to work hard and see results because of that work.
0:05:27.8 AB: Long story short, I ended up having a phenomenal career at Yodle, all the way down to the exit atWeb.com. I was promoted within four months to a data specialist, and then I was promoted to area sales manager, and then eventually Yodle was the vehicle that got me Austin, Texas because they had acquired a company called ProfitFuel herein Austin, and the big sales hub and service hub was being built in Austin,Texas.
0:05:56.7 AB: And so, when they were positioning the company to sell to Web.com, they needed to grow the office by about 30 sales reps a month for 12, 14 months straight. And so they had a conversation with me and thought I was the right person for the job and wanted to relocate me, and that's how I ended up in Austin. I came down to help grow the Austin, Texas office from 300 employees to upwards of 500, 600 employees in12 months, and I was training sales people, 30 of them a month in a classroom setting, two weeks in the classroom and then two weeks on the phones.
0:06:35.0 AB: Since then I've worked for two other startups that all had successful exits. Opcity sold toRealtor.com, I was the fifth employee there. And then Main Street Hub who sold to GoDaddy. And it was a combination of all that experience that brought me to having this aha moment to start Blended Sense in 2018, really is when the idea came. At Yodle, when I was training these 30 reps every month, 60% of them were creatives of some sort, they were videographers or photographers or musicians that were literally selling their equipment, coming to get this job and trying to make a living for themselves and put money in their pockets and food on the table for their families. And so that was the moment that, at that point, I didn't see Blended Sense, it wasn't a vision yet, but it was just, it stuck with me. Wow, why this creative person is coming here to become a sales person, and they're actually really good at it when they give themselves to it. That was interesting.
0:07:31.7 AB: Then Opcity toRealtor.com was when I actually... So being the fifth employee, I got to see a company built from the ground up, so that's when I got obsessed with the idea of entrepreneurship and knowing that I wanted to do one for myself one day, right. So that was kind of the second tick.
0:07:48.8 AB: And then the third one was a Main Street Hub that sold to GoDaddy. At this point, I had heard dozens of thousands of phone calls in my career, and the enthusiasm that small business owners had about getting a website up 10 years ago was now shifted to, how do I get photos and videos on my website? And so I was able to kind of just be in tune with that change in the market, and at Main Street Hub, it was...Questions were like, "Do you guys keep coming back? Do I own the photos?" All these questions around content and that shift in conversation, and so I went out and did some research in the marketplace. And there was no company solely focused on just producing the digital assets that small businesses need, and delivering those in a way that's easy to use, ready to publish, congruent with strategy and a plan, and so culmination of that eight-year career, coming to Austin, getting those kind of signs, if you will being shown to me, all led to starting Blended Sense and it's really been an exciting journey, and I hope that's not too long-winded of an origin story, but you said origins, we had to take it all the way back.
0:09:05.4 Troy: There you go. We're done. It's taken 10 minutes and we're out now. We're out. I would imagine being an athlete obviously helped you build some resilience, because as someone who was playing basketball, you have to deal with failure and getting back up and trying again and stuff, but I can also see how that would be difficult when you had to leave baseball because it's one thing to get up and then have another at bat, pun intended in baseball versus to get up and have another bat in a completely different career, like now you're like, okay, I don't know what this next chapter holds, whereas again, if you get demoted or you have to go from a college to a junior college, those kind of things, it still is, it's frustrating but, hey, I'm gonna go in there and put in the work to get better at whatever it was. Hitting that curve ball, fielding better, those kind of things. And so you at least have some guidance and some roadmap to help you make that transition, where they talk about a lot of professional athletes that have a hard time when they leave their sports, even though they've been super successful and super famous even potentially that, "Shoot, well, now what do I do? My whole life has been wrapped up in doing this one thing." And so making that transition can definitely be hard for people, especially in a case like yours where it's very abrupt as far as how that happens.
0:10:29.9 AB: Absolutely, it was really tough. But like you said, I got to carry over a lot of my learnings in baseball, especially... You're in real estate, and there's a component of sales, there's a component of service to it, so you really understand the world that I come from, it's all high-octane outbound dialing. This is a 100 dials plus, getting no's over and over again. That next no gets you closer. That can't be more real in the world that I come from, so it's extremely exhausting. And perseverance and persistence needs to be a core characteristics if you're gonna make it in that world, and baseball was the perfect teacher for that. Especially as a pitcher, I throw a ball and gets hit out the park, I have to go throw to the next guy right away. No breather. No time to take it all in.Make an adjustment. And so even batting, you bat 300 and you're a legend in the game, so that means you're failing 70% of the time. And so I was very fortunate that I had that foundation as I made the transition to sales and especially technology sales. You're trying to help people understand concepts and then help them understand that that concept is valuable to them in their world, and then getting them to give you money for it. So it all happening on a phone call within 30, 45 minutes, so... Yes, definitely baseball was a huge foundation and teaching and helped me succeed in sales in the world that I'm in now.
0:12:03.1 Troy: It's funny that you talked about being in sales, 'cause obviously that is... It's what every business runs on, not every person is in that, but obviously in my world it really is, but I don't consider myself a good sales person. I feel like I'm good at relationships, but I'm not the type of sales person that's gonna convince you of something like that's just... If you don't see the benefit, if you don't see the opportunity, if we're not gonna be a good match, then there's more... Again, there's a lot of opportunity out there versus trying to convince that one person that they need to work with you or they need to buy your product.
0:12:41.3 Troy: Obviously, in your world, it can be a little bit different when you're dialing, you have to...When you're cold dialing, you have to be a little bit more persuasive and persistent with the person that way. But it's also kind of... And again, what you guys are doing too, it's also kind of that shift of early on it was Google leads and things where it was just get a lead, and because of how stuff's changed in that regard. Also with the privacy stuff that Apple is doing their way, getting that lead, one, is more and more challenging, more and more expensive, but also people realizing not maybe the best client or contact to have, and so really building up your marketing as a brand versus as trying to spin the hamster wheel of a sale all the time, and I think that's really... HowI initially found you, was kind of seeing that like, oh, that's a cool concept,'cause it's... Again, what I try to do is build up the brand that you can find people that you would work well with instead of just chasing the next sale.
0:13:46.6 AB: One hundred percent, and it starts with the consumer. The consumer behavior is changing and it's drastically changing and moving towards a world where they're almost, the expectation is that they can digest your content before they even engage with you. They wanna see you, they wanna hear you, they wanna connect with you and your product or service before they even engage. But I think that was one of the aha moments for me is that at Yodle, Opcity and Main Street Hub, it was all lead-based, and that caused a lot of... It caused friction in being able to service the small business owners specifically, right. Enterprise, not so much, big franchises, not so much, they can afford to do big budget allocation towards lead gen. But when you have a small business owner who allocates marketing budget to and then expects leads to come in and convert into business and they don't, that causes... That's a bad problem for everybody, that's a very bad problem for the small business owner, puts them at risk, it's a very bad problem for the company that's selling these marketing services, because now you have to turn, right, to small, but they just can't afford it. Even if they wanted to try to keep going, they just can't afford it anymore.
0:15:00.8 AB: And so as the marketplace shifted, as the consumer behavior shifted, I was able to identify that just from the sheer volume of phone calls that I had heard and understood that it needed to be more brand-focused, the small business owner needed to be more engaged with their consumer and their audience in a daily fashion, just to be relevant in today's marketplace. And so I think we're still at the very beginning of the shift of a digital transaction world and in real life be more around event-based and hanging out with people and socializing, and all business is gonna happen online. That's how I believe we're heading. I think transactions are gonna be online, they're gonna be digital, and in the real world, if you will, who knows which way is the real world these days, but the physical world here is gonna be much more social-oriented, event-oriented, friends, family type of deal.
0:15:53.0 Troy: Obviously, things like AR and VR are slowly working their way into stuff, and obviously COVID expedited the timeline for all those kind of things because we found out we can do so many more things online, such as have a podcast or a meeting via Zoom, via online services, and so that's been a huge thing. But at the same point in time, humans also are social people, so there's always gonna be that draw to do some potential stuff in-person issues they say, I think... Again, obviously there's car dealerships now, Vroom and a few others that Carvana, that you can buy your car online. There's gonna be a subset of people who are perfectly happy doing it all that way, and then there's gonna be another set who,"Hey, I wanna get bunch of information online before I go in, so I have that information, but I wanna sit in the car and talk to someone about the car," and then there's other people that don't wanna learn online at all, and they're just kinda going and have the sales person kinda help them entirely.
0:16:53.8 Troy: But car dealerships have had to change their model this year to fit that reality, because they know they can't just... People know how much a car is, they can't just say, "Oh no, we're selling this car for this price," because they're gonna come upon their phone and see that, "Well, I can go... I can go somewhere else tobuy a car for less. I bought a car from Minnesota because it was a much better deal and flew up there, bought the car and drove it back home."
0:17:19.6 AB: Drove it down. Yeah.
0:17:20.9 Troy: So there's a lot of different... Again, the market has definitely continued to change, and technology also makes that change happen faster than we're seeing in the past.
0:17:30.1 AB: One hundred percent.There's a, I guess, a tagline that I tend to lean on, which is, especially post-COVID, everything's changed, but people are still the same, there needs to be a social interaction before a business transaction and that's happening online. It's that simple, as you just said, you probably were able to check out the information of the car, the details of the car virtually via the internet, and then maybe even connect with someone before you made the trip up there, and then you made the trip up there, got a better deal and probably had a blast driving it down to Austin, right?
0:18:05.1 Troy: Yeah. Except there was a winter, so it was the little tricky.
0:18:07.9 AB: But that's your fault.[laughter]
0:18:09.8 Troy: It's when I needed a car and it's when the car was available, so that just kind of how you deal withi t, how it goes.
0:18:15.1 AB: Yeah, yeah.
0:18:16.4 Troy: You mentioned...What was the company that sold to Realtor.com, again?
0:18:19.8 AB: Opcity.
0:18:20.9 Troy: Opcity. So how did you get connected with them?
0:18:24.0 AB: Yeah, so Opcity, one thing... Yodle was not just a technology marketing company, but it was an incredible data company. Yodle accumulated so much data over time, we had such a huge sales force, five different offices across the country dialing out every single day, so there was so much information across so many different segments, roofers, real estate agents, lawyers, dentists, etcetera. And so I say that because a lot of the C-suite at Yodle, including the CEO, including the two founders, they all spun off and created real estate Prop Tech companies.
0:19:02.6 AB: So Opcity is one of them, Orchard is another one that's out in the marketplace, Court Cunningham runs that, and then OJO Labs here in town as well which is John Berkowitz's. So a lot of the Yodle C-suite actually spun off and started real estate tech companies, and that's how I ended up at Opcity. Ben Rubinstein, one of the co-founders of Yodle and one of co-founders of Opcity basically checked in with me. It was about a year or so after the Yodle acquisition and said, "Hey, what are you up to? I would love to have you come here and help me build this company," and he brought me in and pitched me, I felt so cool. I was like,"Why is this guy pitching me to come join them?" And that was my first time, I guess, getting recruited in the world of entrepreneurship in away that felt genuine, authentic, impactful, it made me feel really cool for sure, 'cause this guy was like a legend, obviously at Yodle, as you can imagine, he's the founder, and then now he's over here pitching me to come help him start a company, so that was really cool.
0:20:02.6 Troy: Yeah versus they say larger corporate entities where you're talking to some HR person who... You would never talk to the CEO and be like, oh, this guy has done all this stuff and he's the one that really wants me. I think that's one of the coolest components of the startup world, is that access that you get that you don't obviously get in a larger corporation, although there's still a lot of great things that large companies do, but having that, those connections are so critical for continuing to foster your growth, foster your knowledge of stuff, whereas again with a large company, it's no fault of their own, they're trying to hit their numbers and do different things, and they work off that economies of scale, but then it's usually you doing one very specific silo thing, which makes it a lot harder to grow and just take in all of the additional stuff where when you're... If you're employee five of a company, it doesn't really matter what the title is on your business card, you have probably 16 other jobs that fall into that from time to time. Because it is just a matter about keeping the lights on, keeping the register full and [0:21:14.5] ____ that way.
0:21:14.6 AB: Absolutely, no, yeah, yeah, the building the processes and scripting myself, then recruiting, then interviewing, then training and then managing all those things were of my daily task list, but it was an awesome experience. And like I said, it kinda really opened up the doors for me to understand what it took to build a technology company from the ground up, and Opcity sold within two years for nine figures,210 million, pretty cool.
0:21:54.5 Troy: On any of those companies, how long did you stay with the companies that acquired those start-ups?
0:22:01.3 AB: I did not stay with any of them. The corporate world is still one that I don't know if I'd fit in,I'm a little bit unorthodox, so actually, yeah, all those big... Web.com was huge, and it's huge, Realtor.com, massive. News Corp really is who bought, NewsCorp owns Realtor, and then GoDaddy another. So I actually... No, none. GoDaddy was probably the closest one. It was within days from the acquisition becoming official.
0:22:33.8 Troy: Okay, yeah, 'cause there's some instances where obviously, some people just do it 'cause they are planning to stay with their job, and then there's sometimes with, especially someone that again, is number five at a company that they want some of the senior leadership to at least stay on for a certain time frame to help with the acquisition and kind of blending everything together. And I'm kind of curious if you had done that, some of the vast differences as someone... Again, I've worked for some of the largest companies in the US, and then obviously now I've worked for myself. It really would be... Not that I couldn't do it if I really had to, and if they really paid me enough, but you're kind of like why wouldI... I don't know why I would want to. I would much rather deal with the... I would much rather deal with the struggle and the challenges that are there, because running a startup or being pretty much self-employed has it's...Everything has it's challenges, but they're so much more enjoyable to me than the challenges that you deal with in a large corporation.
0:23:35.9 AB: Yeah. 100%, there's just... We just live in such a great time to be alive. There's just so much opportunity and the numbers are showing it. One of the reasons why we're really excited about the creative workforce is that the numbers are becoming very clear in the US workforce, and I think the pandemic is probably gonna have a bigger impact on it, and we still haven't seen it, but the numbers I'm talking about is that... I don't know if you knew this, but by 2022, over 50% of the US workforce is gonna be freelance. And then the other majority is small business employing it, so the numbers are speaking loud and clear, the opportunities are there, and I think we live in a time where you can really curve a little piece of the world for yourself, and not everybody needs a Jeff Bezos's size. And I think that that's what everyone's realizing, is that there's a line to cross into that happiness threshold. I think it's becoming much more accessible to more people, not all yet, that's obviously utopia and something beautiful, but definitely more of us, and that's an exciting thing to look forward to.
0:24:43.3 Troy: Yeah, no, right, there's plenty of people who... Again, there's studies out there, and I don't know the specific dollar amount anymore, but there's studies that show earning up to... There's... Once you get past the salary, a certain dollar figure, which I think back at the time was like $70,000, which wasn't that long ago that like, once you get above that, really making more money doesn't actually bring you more happiness, obviously, there are things that it can do for you, but trying to grow a startup that gets sold so you can be a multi-millionaire may be enjoyable for some people, but for other people, just be... But for a lot of people, just running your own business and not having to report to a boss, having... Having your boss, which again, I have a boss and it's my clients, but you'd much rather have that be your boss than somebody else in a corner office somewhere that way.
0:25:34.1 AB: Yeah. And you know small business is just such a beautiful thing because as you said, it provides for you and your family, but it also makes... When you run a good small business owner... Or a good small business, you make direct impact in your local community. And that to me is so special. And I really admire the small business owner across every segment, across every field, I think it takes a lot of guts and also a lot of learning and being okay with failing, because the numbers are not in your favor to start a small business to succeed. Yeah, I'm just happy to be a part of that, to have learned everything I learned in the places that I was at, and now being able to make an impact on local communities everywhere as Blended Sense continues to scale.
0:26:22.7 Troy: You mentioned that part of what drew you in or gave you that vision for Blended Sense was seeing a lot of creative types that were moving into the corporate world because they couldn't find jobs as creatives. Obviously, with the rise of social media and the way that people consume content stuff, there's more and more need for those creatives out there. But I guess as someone who's in that world, how do you think that's balanced? Do you still think that there are... It's just that the biggest thing has been connecting those two people, or are there more creatives or potentially not enough creatives out there to, for the demand that's in there, right. 'Cause again, I would love to be a professional basket ballplayer, but there aren't enough jobs and I'm not skilled enough to do that.
0:27:14.1 Troy: So there's a lot of people who just because you want something to be your job doesn't necessarily mean that there's a market or that you're talented enough. Again, I should not be a videographer, I'm sure I could get way better at it if I practiced it, butI don't know that that is where my natural talent lies there too. So being in your world, do you think it's mostly just a matter of connecting us two, again, obviously, there's gonna continue to be more and more demand for those creatives as we keep going, but has that just been an issue for them as far as there being too many people who have wanted to be in that field or just really the connection component?
0:27:50.3 AB: Yeah, it's a great great question, and this is what I'm so passionate about solving. I believe my thought is that the demand exploded in such a way that no one was prepared for it including the supply. And I think that the same shift in workforce that we're seeing, that we saw with engineers and software developers 15 years ago, and then data scientists in the last 10, 5-10 years is what's happening with the creative workforce. In order to keep up with that demand, there needs to be boot camps and all of these ways of getting the supply ready for the workforce, as fast as possible, so I think we are gonna be a big part of that. And it's not as simple as just connecting these two, because Upworks and Fiverrs do that, it's connecting them in a way that you're thinking about both of them and their best interest and adding support, so that the relationship and the business transactions between these groups are reliable. That's the part that's still missing in the supply today, it's unreliable. And for many reasons, most creatives are not good at customer service, accounting and project management, which you need in order to do business, period, and in order to do business reliably.
0:29:05.8 AB: And then also it's the supply is scattered and in a way that's not classified like LinkedIn for professionals. And so the creatives are... You have, I've learned very quickly that the book, the book, what is the saying about the cover of the book? Don't judge a book by a cover?
0:29:24.7 Troy: It's cover, yeah.
0:29:24.9 AB: With the creative, that is so true. You just never know. And so we are forging a path to bring these groups together, build technology to support both of them with their interest in mind right, not one over the other, I think that's what Fiverr and Upwork does, not good. Their interest is in the business, not the creative, and then on top of that is how do we support them with ongoing training, developing, engagement, community. And then over time, what that's gonna yield is a data set that's extremely unique that no company has out there, that companies have fragments of it, like agencies, other direct competitors that we may have, have fragments of this data, but we'll have a data set that's so unique in the segment to create a professional that will be able to be a big part of getting that workforce completely developed, matured and ready for the... To sustain the demand over time, not just at the small business level, but the brand level, the personal brand level, the artist level, we're getting a lot of interest from artists who are actually trying to make a living and build a brand and a business around it, right. Then I also think about education segment, Higher Ed is changing, the sports world, now at college, you can become a brand and market yourself and make money, that's different.
0:30:51.5 AB: That's just within the last month. And so in order to do that, you're gonna need content, you're gonna need assets, you're gonna need to build a portfolio. And so I think when we hit the maturity of Blended Sense, we're gonna be in a position where we're gonna have the best supply, the most vetted supply, the most reliable supply of creative services across the country, and then be able to offer that as support to businesses, personal brands, education, events, communities, non-profits, etcetera.
0:31:22.6 Troy: Yeah, I assume one of the three things you struggle with on the business side of it for finding...For the business clients, again, is getting them to understand that brand marketing component of it, right, because there's not that, hey, you're gonna spend $500 this month to get a YouTube video and this content, and stuff like that put up. Okay, well, great, that's gonna lead to how much in sales? And there's not a specific, direct ROI correlation to that, which for a lot of small businesses is well need... I need that... Not even for a lot of small businesses. Yes, the business itself needs a certainty, but there's a lot of people that have gone into small business who really aren't entrepreneurs, and the fact that they... That most people don't like to live with uncertainty, and so even though the business could potentially not see direct ROI right away, just the uncertainty of not knowing when that business is going to transpire from the work that you put out there is very stressful for a lot of business owners.I would imagine that's a challenging thing to kind of break through with why you should do this, even though it may not lead 3x sales in month one.
0:32:39.5 AB: Man, you nailed it,Troy. I think timings are in our favor, because the growing segment that's starting businesses is the millennial, and they are tech dependent, they really understand this concept, they just don't know how to get started. But you know the Gen X and the Boomers who are trying to make this transition to digital world, it is challenging for them. And you're right, getting the education around why content is valuable and why building your business this way is way more value over the long haul is definitely a challenge. For us, we knew very quickly we didn't wanna be in the bucket of a marketing tech company or an advertising company, we're a media tech company for a reason, and that's because the way we position our product, our platform and our services is as a business essential tool. Meaning that you're not just using assets to market or advertise, you can use them for recruiting, you can use them for business operations, you can use them for sales. A restaurant loses a waiter or a bartender, it's about four grand in costs for that, and that's a low-end. A tech company, you're talking about 70-80 grand when they lose someone. And so with assets, not only can you train people faster, quicker, better, lower money with less effort and less cost, that increases in value over time, every time you train someone on the video material that you give them, but also we believe very strongly that it also helps in retention.
0:34:10.3 AB: When employees are seeing you invest in content, especially the younger demographic, the Gen Zs and the millennials, when they see that, they're much more, they just... I wanna say, take you seriously, but they say, "Okay, wow, there's a future here. I feel comfortable here, I understand this. This is relatable tome." And so we're positioning the product, the platform and the service as an essential tool for business, that in three to five years, you're gonna need to turn on your content services just like you turn on your internet. And we believe that very strongly as an organization, as a founding team. And yes, it is a challenge, but we feel like the timing's in our favor as the millennial group continues to be the dominant figure that's starting businesses today. But still a challenge with anything that's new, the world, the content's been here for 10 years now, but the idea that you need to invest in that as an essential part of your business is still very new to many, and that's been a challenge for the small business sector, period, because they don't have access to marketing experts and CMOs that are going into a meeting with the CEO of these big conglomerates and these big brands and telling them, "This is what's trending. Here's the data. This is what we need to do next."
0:35:26.6 AB: And so the small business owner historically, in my time at least working in the segment, has been behind a little bit when it comes to these trends, and we're hoping to be a company that really puts him in front of it for the first time. You could have easily gone enterprise level first, franchise levels first, but for us, it was just so important to start at the small business sector, because that's where we felt we're gonna make the most impact. And if we make impact there ,the rest is a piece of cake. [chuckle] So yeah, I agree with you it's a challenge, but I think people are picking it up, and I think we're gonna be a big part of that, and the timing is just right.
0:36:07.7 Troy: On the creative side of it now, do you feel like that... In my knowledge of it, in the past has been that you tend to find most people are kind of in all in one type of solution not the biggest solution but... Where I wonder, and maybe you guys are even doing this, that job functions in that group should almost be broken out a little bit more based on your skills, right? Where like someone's phenomenal shooting video, well, we need to have them shoot all the video and get someone else to do the editing portion of it, because someone else may be amazing at, even better than them editing-wise, but you tend to have usually the same person handling both of those things which I think could be fresh, and now again, at the same one time as someone who is in real estate. I like that idea of a bunch of different things. So I could see where there's some people who enjoy, hey, I get to shoot it, then I get to edit it and see what the final product looks like. But I would think for me efficiency standpoint, both cost wise and even potentially quality wise, that having some of those things broken up might be advantageous.
0:37:16.0 AB: Yeah, you gave me chills there. 100%. We not just skill, but also interest is what we've seen, right? So you've got creatives out there shooting weddings, and if you sit with a group of 10 creatives that do weddings, seven of them have that pay day.
0:37:33.4 Troy: Pay day, it's just where their money is.
0:37:34.7 AB: It's just where their money is. So we're doing both. We have part of what makes us special in our proprietary process, if you will, our unique way of doing things, that's really what it is, we just do it in a certain way because of our co-founders experience being in commercial film and acting of what we've learned. And what we took feedback from the creatives is we've broken it up and created an assembly line, very similar to how Henry Ford did the Model T. And we've said, okay, let's work backwards. What's the menu of assets that small business owners absolutely need to do any part of their business, that we're saying we can help with?Also, we created that menu, and then we created recipe books. We reverse engineer it all the way back to say, "Okay, here are the steps that need to happen in order for this asset to get created and delivered, and here are the creatives that need to play a part in that process in order to get that asset created and delivered, not just once, not twice, but at this point, dozens of thousands of times, and eventually hundreds of thousands of times."
0:38:37.0 AB: And so that is something we identified that's unique to us and that we absolutely have found... 'Cause here's what happens otherwise, Troy. You get a creative who's extremely talented. They've got their camera and their equipment. They're great at shooting, and they're pretty good at editing, too. When they run their business and they do everything themselves, they hit a limit of how many projects they can take on at once, and therefore they can't get past that threshold when they're doing everything themselves spending their time. Right? And so, there's limitations to the growth of the revenue. This is where you see a lot of creatives who are pros and been doing it for a long time, get frustrated 'cause they can't get past the 30 to 40k a year mark, right? And it's not because of any other reason than the fact that they're doing everything and it just takes time. Editing takes so much time. No matter how good you are, it takes time.And so if you're putting in that time and you can only handle five customers a month, they put you in a bad spot to grow the business. You can probably sustain it, if you will, for a year or two, maybe three, and some even more, but it ultimately, it doesn't... It creates a barrier. And so, those creatives are awesome for our network because they are pros, they are reliable, and they get to tap in and just do one part of the process and get paid for it.
0:40:02.1 AB: And they don't have todo anything else. They don't have to do the customer relationship. They don't have to do the project pre-production or post-production, and they don't have to do the accounting. Everything's trackable on our app. They get a text message when they're matched to a gig. They accept the gig. Once they accept the gig, they see their pay rate for that gig. Everything's very transparent, and so it brings peace of mind and it brings supplemental revenue where they otherwise wouldn't have had it. So you nailed it, and we're very excited of the way we're attacking this and how we're breaking that up, and I think the caveat is it's not even just skill, it's also interest, and that back to that unique data set that will accumulate over time, is that we'll know which creatives are interested in what types of projects. And that's important because it adds a phenomenal experience for the end user, which is a small business owner when you've got people enthusiastic and excited about showing up to that project and that gig.
0:40:53.9 Troy: Nice. So, what's on the horizon for Blended Sense over the next 12 to 18 months?
0:41:01.5 AB: Right now, we are on what they call "hyper-growth", we brought in a chief operating officer back in May, Ransome Tucker, and we are in a position right now where we're full throttle growing into all of Central Texas. So Dallas, Fort Worth,Houston, and San Antonio, and then with a secondary market in New York, NewJersey. As we continue to test the technology and make sure that we can service customers anywhere in the world. Once we've proven that out over the next 12months, we're hoping to start expanding into major markets across the US, Miami being a really exciting one, especially in the Spanish-speaking Latino market, and we plan to be a bilingual, multilingual platform over time, as well, so that all these local communities can get the service that they need and get connected with the people that they need.
0:41:50.8 AB: In the short term, right now, we've just released a brand new feature today into the application.It's called "Production Credits", credit allocation and content plans. So what that means is, if anybody out there is familiar with working with an agency, a lot of times your final number of the costs won't come until revision number three, four, five, and then you got an itemized breakdown of all these extra costs, and you spend another two grand on one video. So what we've created is a value system using what we call production credits, where it's very simple. You see a menu of assets and you trade in the credits you have for those assets and there's no extra cost. And that's all gonna be tracked and managed in the app now, so when you log in and you go on your user account, you see how many credits you have available. The ones that you've allocated, what did you allocate it for, and then in your content kit, which is what we deliver every month, you can see that progress of all of those assets as they're being created and delivered to you all the way until the content kit is completely full.
0:42:52.1 AB: So a lot of technology developments, a lot of growth, and right now, we are bringing on creatives every single day. So it's www.blendedsense.com/creative-network. Apply. It is a pretty strenuous process, but that is to make sure that the supply is reliable.And that's a very important part. So, very appreciative of being on here with you, Troy, and I really appreciate your questions. They were very thoughtful.
0:43:20.8 Troy: Yeah, no, for sure.Glad you could make it. For those, I say, those people who have more questions and stuff, what are the best ways to kinda get in contact?
0:43:30.6 AB: Yeah, my, so my email is just firstname.lastname@example.org, and then across all social media is @blendedsense. Instagram is where we're most active. LinkedIn and Facebook, we're active, as well. But if you're looking for tips and tricks around how to be on camera, how to prepare to be on-camera. Small business owners this is the first time they're doing something like this. Please follow us on Instagram and we're posting stuff there all the time. And something brand new, this is probably the first time I'm saying it publicly, but if anybody out there is familiar with Progressive, Flo, from Progressive; and Mayhem, from All State, the Content Monster is our mascot, and she is making a full-fledged appearance in the next coming week, and it is going to be an entertainment segment onYouTube, where this Content Monster appears and pokes fun at many small business owners, but also is very helpful and they provide a solution. And so, stay on the lookout for that. Content Monster will be live here in the next week or so. It is hilarious, and you will see one of our co-founders playing both roles of the Content Monster and the small business owner.
0:44:41.7 Troy: Nice.
0:44:42.9 AB: All exciting stuff.
0:44:43.6 Troy: Very nice. It sounds like a full day and full year ahead of you guys, still.
0:44:48.1 AB: Absolutely. We're still at the beginning. So, we're really excited for all that's to come.
0:44:53.2 Troy: Awesome. Well I appreciate you taking the time to join me today and look forward to kinda staying connected with you.
0:45:00.4 AB: Absolutely, Troy.Thank you so much. I appreciate you and, yeah, God bless, and Austin's an awesome place, so, I hope all you viewers are here in Austin. If you are, connect with us.
0:45:12.1 Troy: Yeah.
0:45:13.1 AB: Coffee and...[chuckle]
0:45:17.2 Troy: For sure, definitely.
0:45:17.3 AB: Thank you, guys.
0:45:17.8 Troy: I love it. Thanks a lot, guys. Have a great day.