Hey everyone, in today’s episode I share the mic with Andrew Thomas, co-founder of SkyBell, which is a startup pioneering a Wi-Fi-enabled video doorbell that allows people to monitor and open the door with their smartphone.
In this interview we talk about the future of innovation, how SkyBell went from a company that nobody wanted to back to a earning a 9-figure valuation, why you can’t go after the decision-maker right off the bat, and why a video is one of the most powerful things you can do to market your product.
Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How SkyBell Went from Zero Investment Dollars to Raising $100,000 in 5 Days on Indiegogo TRANSCRIPT
Time Stamped Show Notes:
- 01:34 – SkyBell is a video doorbell
- 01:40 – People can see, hear and speak to the person at their door through a smartphones
- 01:49 – SkyBell was founded 3 years ago and is now partnered with Honeywell, Alarm.com, Comcast and other big companies in the space
- 02:21 – SkyBell is a hockey puck shaped piece of hardware that has camera, microphone, and speaker
- 02:32 – When someone comes to your door, SkyBell sends you push notifications to your smartphone and you can talk to that person real-time
- 02:48 – Price is $199
- 02:53 – It has a motion-sensor
- 03:20 – One of their customers’ story was they were able to prevent a robber from breaking into their home while they were in Europe
- 04:45 – Andrew got zero investment in the beginning
- 05:01 – He raised $ 100,000 in Indiegogo in 5 days
- 05:10 – “We went from a company that nobody wanted to back to a $ 600,000 cash infusion from Indiegogo”
- 05:19 – 5,000 customers approved the idea of SkyBell
- 05:28 – SkyBell now has a 9-figure valuation
- 05:45 – SkyBell ships thousands of units monthly
- 06:29 – Andrew decided on a well-designed security solution
- 06:33 – One product that does everything well will serve customers better
- 06:49 – SkyBell was designed to serve the biggest companies in the space
- 07:09 – These companies have great home security solution but nothing on the front door
- 08:10 – SkyBell took 2 different routes to high volume
- 08:15 – SkyBell chose the B2B route
- 08:48 – The industry of smart products
- 09:06 – An example is the Nest thermostat where you can control the thermostat in your house using a smart phone
- 10:54 – It took Andrew 3 years to finalize his largest B2B deal
- 11:29 – Andrew learned from B2B deal is you have to identify what the other business wants
- 11:45 – Find out how the employees from that business become motivated because they’re the ones who make the decision
- 11:50 – “Validate how your product is the end solution for their customers and pitch how your product is the right solution for their company”
- 13:05 – How did you reach out to the other businesses?
- 13:10 – “They usually reach out to us”
- 13:20 – Use LinkedIn to know more about the company
- 13:34 – “You can’t go after the decision maker right off the bat”
- 15:07 – It usually takes 2 weeks to get connected with the right people
- 16:30 – In B2B, you have to find the company that has a good distribution
- 17:38 – What is the magic with your Indiegogo campaign?
- 17:48 – A video is one of the most powerful thing you can do
- 17:55 – Make a video that is compelling, authentic disseminates the value of your product
- 20:05 – In crowd-funding, you have to get the first 30% of your goal in less than 72 hours
- 22:00 – One example of a great video is from Squatty Potty
- 22:30 – Andrew and his team’s background
- 22:40 – Andrew started with SEO work and worked with Google
- 23:31 – Andrew’s partner Joe is an engineer
- 23:53 – They were a couple of hungry guys who wanted to do this together and didn’t take no for an answer
- 24:12 – SkyBell was founded in 2013
- 24:30 – SkyBell’s product design process
- 24:39 – SkyBell doorbell is made entirely in the USA
- 24:50 – They came up with the design by thinking how it would look if Apple designed it
- 25:20 – People will look at the product design because they care about how their house looks
- 25:45 – The design is pretty cool and clean
- 26:30 – Designing a product from scratch would require going to a prototyping house, working with an engineer, creating the sample product, then starting a campaign with Indiegogo
- 27:50 – “It is not easy to make hardware – it is not for the faint of heart”
- 28:07 – Biggest struggle while growing SkyBell
- 28:54 – Biggest mistake for Andrew is releasing the product without enough testing and contingency plans in case the product fails
- 29:47 – “I wish I didn’t put our first product on Amazon so quickly”
- 30:20 – What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your 24-year old self?
- 30:28 – “Understand the power of intention and focus on the possibility rather than the negativity”
- 30:42 – At 24, Andrew made a lot of decisions out of fear
- 32:24 – What’s one must-read book that you recommend?
- 32:27 – E-Squared and The Biology of Belief
- 32:40 – 3 Magic Words Documentary
- 32:53 – Making Your Thoughts Work For You – CD series
- 33:18 – How to Win Friends and Influence People
- 33:52 – What’s one new tool that you added in the last year that’s added a lot of value?
- 34:02 – The power of content
- 34:58 – Video has become tremendously important
- 37:02 – “If you can accomplish your goal while empowering somebody else, that’s the win-win”
- 37:59 – Connect with Andrew on Twitter, Instagram, his website and SkyBell
- 11:29 – Andrew learned from B2B deal is you have to identify what the other business wants
Resources From This Interview:
- Andrew’s website
- Andrew on LinkedIn
- Andrew on Twitter
- SkyBell on Instagram
- Nest thermostat
- Must-read books:
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Full Transcript of The Episode
Automated: Do you want to impact the world and still turn a profit? Then you're in the right place. Welcome to Growth Everywhere. This is the show where you'll find real conversations with real entrepreneurs. They'll share everything, from their biggest struggle to the exact strategies they use on a daily basis. So if you're ready for a value-packed interview, listen on. Here's your host, Eric Siu.
Eric Siu: Before we jump into today's interview, if you guys could leave a review and a rating, and also subscribe as well, that would be a huge help to the podcast. If you actually enjoy the content and you'd like to hear more of it, please support us by leaving a review and subscribe to the podcast as well. Thanks so much.
All right everybody, today we have Andrew Thomas, who's the co-founder of SkyBell, which is a start-up, pioneering a Wi-fi enabled video doorbell that enables people to answer the door by using their smartphone. Andrew, how's it going?
Andrew Thomas: Good, Eric. I'm doing good. How are you?
Eric Siu: Doing great. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at SkyBell?
Andrew Thomas: Absolutely. First off, I appreciate you having me. It's a pleasure to be on your podcast. As a founder of SkyBell, as you mentioned, we make a video doorbell that people answer from their smartphones, so they can see, hear, and speak to the person at the door from their phones. I'm a co-founder, along with a few other folks, and we started SkyBell three years ago. We went on Indiegogo, raised $600,000 and went off to the races, developing this video doorbell. Three years later, to the present day, we're now partnered with Honeywell, Alarm.com, Monitronics, Comcast, big companies in our space, doing some good B2B deals, and also marketing our product through retail channels, and through consumer channels, just helping people build safer homes.
Eric Siu: Awesome, great. Tell us a little bit about the product. How does it work exactly, and how much do you charge for it?
Andrew Thomas: The product itself is a hockey puck shaped piece of hardware. It replaces a current doorbell and has a button, video camera, microphone, and speaker. When somebody comes to the front door and presses our SkyBell button, SkyBell sends you a push notification to your smartphone, and then you can see, hear, and speak to the person. You see live video of the person at your front door. You can talk to them, and they can hear you and speak back to you. It's $199 and it's made in the USA.
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It also has a motion sensor, so if people don't press the button, it can still activate and tell you that someone's at your doorstep. It does this whether you're at home or at work. It's pretty cool, because most people when they break into your house, they actually come to your front door to find out if you're home by pressing your doorbell button, and they do that when you're gone. We've actually helped a number of customers actually convince burglars to walk off their doorstep while they were at work.
Eric Siu: Wow, that's crazy. Can you go into a little more ... Talk a little bit about one of the case studies, perhaps?
Andrew Thomas: Yeah, absolutely. We have this pretty wild story. We had a customer, she and her husband were in Europe. They were on vacation, and someone came to their door, a suspicious person. Luckily, they were on Wi-Fi, and they got the alert. They saw that there was a suspicious person at the front door. The wife, thinking quickly, says, "My husband and I are inside, we're cooking dinner." This burglar believes them, and because he does not want to break into a house where he thinks somebody's inside, he actually walks across the street and robs their neighbor.
Yeah, it was pretty incredible. We're not thrilled that the other neighbor was robbed, but it's incredible to think that from Europe, you could prevent a robbery from happening in real time. Before now, home security systems have always reacted to a break-in, and hopefully the police come in time. Now, with the SkyBell video doorbell, you're getting that alert in real time. You are talking to the person at your doorstep. Usually, it's a sales person you don't want to talk to, or it's the delivery guy and you can tell him to put your package on the side of the house. Sometimes, it's somebody who has bad intentions. In those cases, our customers are very happy they can convince these people that they're home when they're actually not.
Eric Siu: Great. Awesome. People in the field love to hear about numbers. What numbers can you talk to about for the business?
Andrew Thomas: Yeah, numbers. The big number was how much investment dollars we got in the beginning. It was zero. We got no money when we started this company. We went on Indigogo, and we did a crowdfunding campaign. That was three years ago. In five days, we raised $100,000 on Indiegogo, and that campaign capped out at $600,000. We went from a company with an idea that nobody wanted to back to a $600,000 cash infusion from Indiegogo, 5,000 customers, a proven idea. That's the point where we were like, "We've got a great idea, we're going all in."
That was about three years ago, and now we're a nine figure valuation. It's incredible to think that this happened so quickly. I credit our team, and our product idea. We had a perfect product market fit, the right idea at the right time. It just resonates with customers. We're grateful. We're shipping thousands of units every month. We're partnered with Honeywell, Alarm.com, Monitronics, Nest. They're all
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pushing our product, because it's helping make people's homes safer. It's an easy home security solution. We're just thrilled. In three years, from zero to 100 million plus has been pretty incredible.
Eric Siu: Awesome. Congratulations on that. How is your growth being fueled right now? Is it these big partnerships? What's the big thing that's working for you guys in terms of customer acquisition?
Andrew Thomas: About a year and a half ago, everybody in our space was really looking at the customer. Everybody wanted to own this idea of the smart home. The lights, the locks, and the thermostat. They wanted to own everything. We didn't pick that route. We decided that a well-designed point solution, or individual product, that does one thing really well, will serve customers better. We did that. We said, "Here's an easy home security product that gives you ... you know, monitoring. Life monitoring of your front door." We went that route. Instead of going to the consumers, we actually went and designed our platform so it would work with the biggest companies in our space. Those companies are the home security companies. Like Honeywell, right? They make product that powers ADT, or Pro, and Bay Alarm. We went to them, and Alarm.com. We said, "This video doorbell would be great as part of your platform.
They already have great home security solutions, they just didn't have anything at the front door. We designed our platform so it would work seamlessly with their platforms. They loved it. Now, we're grateful to have distribution deals with them, and that's powered our adoption to this point, and now we're in a position where we have revenue coming in from those deals, and the great partnerships there that we're maintaining and accelerating, and we carry that momentum over across the B2C. Now, we're doing the Facebook ads, the look-alike campaigns, reaching people on Instagram, and serving the B2C side of things. To this point, we've been largely by these bigger B2B deals.
Eric Siu: Got it. That's so interesting, because I think one of the competitors in your space I'm not going to name right now, they actually reached out, and they wanted to start with the ads first instead of the partnership. It sounds like you guys went partnerships first, and then once that worked out, you guys went through the standard digital marketing stuff, right?
Andrew Thomas: That's right. Eric, that's an astute observation. We took two different routes to high volume. We chose to go the B2B route. It doesn't quite involve so much in terms of marketing spend and big budgets. It's nice to ship product to companies that have established distribution, and to benefit from that. Just a different model, but like I said, now that we have those relationships, we can come back around and look at opportunities in the B2C side, look at what they've done well and what they haven't done well, and start reaching customers in new ways. We're very excited about it. What's interesting about the Internet of things, we are at ground zero for Internet of things.
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Eric Siu: Can you talk a little bit about what that means exactly? Just so everyone knows.
Andrew Thomas: Sure, so the Internet of things is this name that we assign an industry of connected, or smart products. These are hardware products, mostly, that you can control from your phone. A great example is the Nest thermostat. You can change the thermostat in your home from your smartphone remotely, or when you're in your house. There's also built-in artificial intelligence into that device, which automates raising or lowering the temperature of your home, depending on how you like it and the temperature outside. That's one example. Ours is a video doorbell. There are smart locks that you can lock and unlock from your smartphone, so you can let a dog-walker inside your house when you're at work. This whole industry's built on connected products that actually tie into the internet.
They connect through the internet, and you can command them from mobile apps, or other products even. This industry's burgeoning. I compare it to social media, and compare it to the time when Friendster was still around. That's how early we are in this process. There's a lot of companies that are gaining a lot of momentum, but there still hasn't even been the attrition that comes with big, big market places. We're at ground zero, and there's so many ways to reach a homeowner.
You can do it through direct sales, you can do it through retail, you can do it through B2B. Then on B2B, you can do it, in our case, through home security companies, but big companies like AT&T are getting involved. Comcast. They have a whole smart home platform you can buy. Home Builders is another example. I always talk to entrepreneurs and say, "Don't forget about B2B, because there's so many different ways to reach a customer. It doesn't always have to be through B2C channels, or retail channels, for example."
Eric Siu: When you're first starting out, let's say your very first big B2B deal, how did you go about ... What was your process? You can just bullet-point it out.
Andrew Thomas: Yeah, it's a long process. The unique thing about B2B is that you have longer cycles. For one of our bigger deals ... It actually took about two years. From the first time I spoke with the person at that company to when we closed the deal, it was just under two years. A lot of stuff happens. Sometimes the deal's on, sometimes it's off. There's delays. It never goes as quickly as you want. The big lessons I learned about closing B2B deals, is you've got to identify the partner, you've got to identify what they want. It's just like B2C. You're telling someone a story about how your product will benefit them.
You just got to do that in a slightly different way for B2B. You got to understand how the employees of that company, who make a decision, you've got to find out how they're motivated. They're the people who are going to decide whether or not your product works. You got to validate your product as the right solution, but you also have to validate ... I'm sorry, you have to validate your product how it's the right solution for their end customer, but you also have to pitch on why your product is the right solution for that company. Operationally, there might be
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factors ... For example, at Comcast, they have truck rolls.
They roll trucks, and they have installers that come and install an Xfinity home platform for a customer. They're going to have a say in that decision. When you do a B2B deal, you have to account for the different departments that approve a decision like purchasing a SkyBell video doorbell. There's usually a product person, there's an operations person, there's customer service, customer service and support, and then there's the engineering team. The engineering team doesn't want to spend more money and assign more engineers. If you have a platform that has proven documented API's for example, like we do, it's an easy integration. It's a fast integration. You want to think in terms of their motivation in the different departments of a big company that decides to buy your product.
Eric Siu: Got it. Just to go back a little bit, when you're first starting out with these B2B deals, are you initially just finding their email and then reaching out to them through email, or is it something else?
Andrew Thomas: It's usually something else. In some cases, these people reached out to us, and other cases I knew I wanted to speak with them. The first thing you do is you check your network, see if you know anybody there. That's the easiest and best way to get in. When that doesn't work, you got to get creative. One of the hacks that I use is LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn's a great tool for this. It's very underrated. I have found that you can't go after the decision maker right off the bat. The trick I use is you actually go and you find out who reports to them.
You add them on LinkedIn, and you talk to them first. Send them a nice note, introduce yourself, and say you've got a good idea that might help their team. That usually gets someone to accept your LinkedIn request. Little by little, you keep doing it, and more and more of them will accept your requests. What happens is, they always know who ... If you have mutual connections. Once you get one, and then you reach out to the next, they say, "Oh, this guy knows Johnny, too. Okay, I'll accept his invitation."
Then, you can start sending messages and say, "Oh, I caught up with so and so, I would love to speak with you." That's how I've done a lot of my B2B prospecting actually, is on LinkedIn. To cap off that plan, that example, is then you can go back out to the main contact and send them an invitation, and then they'll notice that you are connected with four, five of their team. You're more likely to get an accepted invitation and a response in that situation, instead of just a blind friend request, or connection request, on LinkedIn.
Eric Siu: Interesting. It sounds like ... For most B2B people, they're going directly to the source. They might use a tool like emailhunter just to find the direct person, reach out to them. You're saying you're playing the longer game here, where you're adding people that know that person. To me, it sounds like a longer process. How much longer is it increasing the time by?
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Andrew Thomas: Maybe two weeks or so. It's not a terribly long process. I am kind of a fan of those kind of tactics. Your site's loaded with awesome tools, and people should definitely use them, but sometimes ... I've gone so far as to find out that somebody was going to be on a panel and have gone to that panel in real life and met them in person. I closed a deal that started that way. I flew to a city, went to their panel, and went up and caught up with them after. I found out that they were on a panel, because I followed their Twitter pretty closely. You just got to get creative, and there's tools that make that easier, but sometimes you got to get on a plane and go meet some people. Do some slower tactics. B2B is slow. Two years for a business deal.
Eric Siu: Got it. Okay. I'm thinking about one of my friends right now that's doing B2B for a startup, and to me it doesn't seem like it's really panning out for them. He keeps hitting his head against the wall. I'm wondering, how did you guys ... When you guys were figuring out whether it makes sense to do B2B, or whatever other strategies, how do you guys map out what the big opportunity is? Do you guys have any kind of framework that you use?
Andrew Thomas: There's no fancy framework, I just call it figuring it out. You just figure out who has good distribution. When you go B2B, you're doing it because they have good distribution, in many cases. For us, a hardware company, we wanted companies that had an existing complementary solution with great distribution. Home security companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, people who are already rolling trucks, installing routers. You look for complementary pieces to you. People who want to say yes, because it enhances their offering or makes their offering [inaudible 00:16:58] to their customers.
That's sort of how we did it. You look at the players in the space, find out how they're motivated, and then you see if there's alignment there. If there isn't alignment, you can't create it. You can't force alignment, especially with B2B. They have to go and they have to get 10 smart people to make a decision. If it's being forced, they're not going to do it. If you can't find natural alignment, can't find economic alignment, it's not going to work. At that point, you really do need to shift, pivot, and find a new focus, or find a new customer.
Eric Siu: Great. I want to jump back to your Indigogo campaign. How did you ... Tell us about that experience. How did you go about raising the first 100K and then how did you get up to 600K? What was the magic?
Andrew Thomas: The magic, to be honest with you, I think the video's the single most powerful thing you can do. You've got to do a good ... When I say good video, you've got to do a compelling video. It can be unpolished, as long as it's captivating, authentic, and it quickly disseminates the value of your product. No one's going to wait around for 30 to 45 seconds into your video to find out why they should support your campaign. Right off the bat, if you look at our campaign, we go right into what the product was. We talk about it, we show how it would be used. Within the first 15 to 20 seconds, people know exactly what they're dealing with. Then, we go into the details like camera resolution or multiple user accounts, night vision, things like
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If you look at the campaigns that do well, they all have strong videos. That's the biggest thing for success. If you don't have a video, I don't think you have a fair shot. The other things is ... You really want a compelling why. I think that still holds up. You need to tell a strong narrative, tell people why you're doing this and how you're going to do it. People want honesty and authenticity, and people are backing you as much as they're backing the idea in crowdfunding. You've got to remember, the crowdfunding, think about what it is. Somebody is buying your product before it even exists. It's pretty remarkable. You need to disseminate that you have a great idea that they want and that you're capable and honest, and that you're the right person that they should trust to execute.
When you look at crowdfunding, not everybody does, right? There's a trust factor you have to accomplish. You do that through a quality video, looking presentable, looking congruent to your product, and then having good assets, good creative assets. Pay a photographer. Have high end photography, because people might say, "Oh, well it's crowdfunding, give me a break." You can't say that, because people are used to seeing beautiful photography everywhere else they look. On websites ... A great example is like Anthropology and women. They're used to seeing unbelievable styled photography, and then they go to your page, and it doesn't feel congruent with the quality. We paid a photographer to do some good stuff for us in the beginning. Content-wise, that's what you got to do.
In terms of how to launch it with a bang, what you really want to do with crowdfunding, is you want to get to about 30% of your goal within the first 24 to 72 hours. It's really important to get a big chunk of your asking price. If you want to raise 100 grand, you've got to get to 35,000ish pretty quickly. If you do that, then the algorithms will help you out. Indiegogo and Kickstarter will put your campaign on their homepage. Or they'll put in email or like, "What's hot?" Then, you get that viral effect. Good ways to do that are email lists. Have your email list ready to go, have a campaign ready to go, get people onto your Facebook page before you launch, build up that community as much as you can. Reach out to influencers before it hits, and get them excited about it, because everything that you can do in that first 72 hours will help you significantly.
As I'm sure you know, with your campaigns and your marketing, there's some level of compounding interest with this stuff. If you can get an extra 15,000 in the first 48 hours, that'll be an extra 75,000 on the back of the campaign. That's what happened with us. We ended up at about 600,000 by the end of our 30 day campaign, but we got hot right off the bat. It was 100 grand, I think, in the first five days.
Eric Siu: Got it. Great, that's fantastic. I totally agree on the video front. We had ... One of the co-founders of Squatty Potty from Shark Tank, and it's that tool that helps you poop better, but it's like how do you educate the world on how to poop better. Nobody wants to talk about that, right? Their video, they had a unicorn that was
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pooping out rainbow ice cream, and it was just totally educating. It was really funny as well. When you talk about great videos, I think about that because, remarkable video, I think they spent like 200 grand on it, but they sold 20 million dollars worth of Squatty Potties in 2015. It just goes to show you the power of video, so totally agree with you there.
Andrew Thomas: That's a great example, Eric. Phenomenal example. The other good one that I remember is Dollar Shave Club. That kind of had a similar feel. Those two companies did such a great job in being informative, being funny, and being creative. Like you said, great point. How do you talk about a Squatty Potty. You do it with a unicorn. That is brilliant.
Eric Siu: Yeah, so I do want to talk about the design of the product. It looks great. What's your background, what are your co-founders' backgrounds? Do you guys have backgrounds in industrial design?
Andrew Thomas: We have a couple of people, and we each have a different background. I got started doing some SEO work, I worked for Google early in my career, right out of school, did that for a couple years. I lived in China, and I just would hang out with entrepreneurs in China, and then I did some SEO work for some folks and then got into mobile app. When I was about 27, I wasn't really happy doing that. I really wanted to be a startup founder, so I told my roommates I wasn't going out anymore until I was a startup founder. I just started reading everything I could get my hands on, all of the books. It was a year later we started SkyBell. I brought a lot of my marketing experience, a lot of deal-making experience to the fold, and then my partner, Joe, he's a brilliant engineer. He just knows how to make products.
He handled all the engineering. Desiree handled a lot of our operations, she's a brilliant tactician and operator. Greg and Tina provided additional support with legal and CFO. We're just a hungry group that just wanted to get together and saw this problem. When we started the company, we couldn't find anybody doing this. It was real blue sky. A lot of people told us we couldn't do it and we're kind of a group that, like many entrepreneurs, just doesn't take no for an answer. We started the company May of 2013, I'm sorry June of 2013, and we shipped our first product seven months later. We squeezed an Indiegogo campaign in between. We moved pretty quick.
Eric Siu: Love it. I want to talk about the design. How did you guys go about ... I think I read one of your interviews talking about having to go to China and all that, so what did that whole design process look like?
Andrew Thomas: Our product is actually made entirely in the USA. We manufacture our product in San Diego, and we have designed it in house. The process was, to be honest with you Eric, we kind of just said, "What would a doorbell look like if Apple designed it?" That was our goal. That was the aspiration. How do you make a doorbell exciting again? How do you make it useful? You have this motion censor, speaker, video camera, hi-def video camera, LED button with colors ... How do you make it
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useful? How do you make it beautiful, like you said?
The thing that we realized early on is that people would be evaluating our product based on how it looks because it sits at their front door. People care about how their homes look. We went with this minimal design. We tried to make it as minimal and clean as possible. We also tried to get it as small as we could, but you're packing a lot of technology into that form factor. We went with a circular device. That seemed to be very popular in Southern California. It's pretty small and pretty clean, like you said. It really just was a process of tinkering and the aspiration was, "What would a doorbell look like if Apple designed it?"
Eric Siu: Got it. If somebody's starting out, and they say, "I want something that looks like SkyBell," or they want to design something like how Apple would do it, who would they go to? Are there any forums out there, any sites out there, I'm just wondering what you guys did in the early days.
Andrew Thomas: In the early days, in the very early days, we had had experience making a consumer product before. We had the engineers around, we had the [inaudible 00:26:18] designers, and Joe had had experience engineering products and producing them. If you're going to start from scratch though, what I recommend people do, is they take an idea, they go to an engineering house, a prototyping house, and you do a 3D design of your product. Work with them, you've got to work with an engineer who knows how to [inaudible 00:26:39]. Do a rendering, 3D rendering, do a 3D printed prototype, and then go on Indiegogo and do a campaign. See what you've got.
Go tell people what it's going to do, spend a couple thousand dollars on a video, and what's amazing about Indiegogo now, is they formed a partnership with Arrow. Arrow Electronics. Arrow is the biggest company no one's ever heard about. They're like a multiple billion dollar company. They will give you some engineers to prove out your concept on an engineering level, they'll consult with you, you can hire ... If you want full resources from them, you can hire them to do it. They supply many of the world's electronic or technology products with their components.
Engineering help, Cloud, Server ... It's amazing what Indiegogo and them have done with this partnership. You can go from an idea to a full-blown product by launching on Indiegogo, and then working with Arrow to execute on that idea. They'll help you production and everything. I would tell your listeners that it is not easy to make hardware. It is not for the faint of heart. It's amazing when it works out, but it is very, very difficult. To the point where I don't think my next start-up will be hardware based.
Eric Siu: That's super helpful, because we don't talk to a lot of hardware people on this show. I just wanted people to get some context. Super helpful for me too. Things have seemed like ... You talked about it being really hard a second ago, but it seems like things have been smooth sailing. Tell us about one big struggle you faced while growing this business.
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Andrew Thomas: The big struggle, the biggest lesson we learned, was when we released our first product. There are parallels to software-driven companies, and people who sell information and expertise, but the lesson is, you want to be pretty tight with your product when you launch it. The Lean Startup makes a whole lot of sense, but I caution people to evaluate what qualifies as [inaudible 00:28:46] and how quickly you can alter it. With hardware, you cannot alter it very quickly. The biggest mistake we made was launching our first product. We did not do enough testing on it. We did not have enough customer service ready to go. We didn't have contingency plans for what happens if people aren't happy with their product. We knew in concept, but we really didn't iron it out as well as we should have, and it hurt our brand. Customers expect things to work like an iPhone in hardware. That's unique to us, but it's true of any company. People want things to work like the best alternative that they've used. That's what they compare you to.
They don't care if your circumstance is you were crowdfunding, or you're just starting off, a lot of people want it to work the first time commensurate with the best alternative that they've used previously. That's what I would say. Going back, I wish we were better prepared for that. I wish we didn't put it on Amazon so quickly, because we got a lot of bad reviews on that first product. Candidly, I would withhold from selling things too soon on any retail website or any outlet where there's review processes. Iron out your product, get it right, and be ready, because how you handle that adversity is going to define your brand.
Eric Siu: Love it. How old are you right now?
Andrew Thomas: I'm 32. I just turned 32.
Eric Siu: 32, okay. So what's one piece of advice you'd give to your, let's just say, 24 year old self?
Andrew Thomas: There's so much advice, but if I get one, I wish that the 24 year old version of myself understood the power of intention, and the ways that we can create what we want by focusing on what's possible, and not focusing on the fear side of things. At 24, I made a lot of decisions based on scarcity, or fear, or out of what I should have done. Around 27, 28, I did a lot of work, a lot of examination, self-actualization, and really realized the power of intention.
When you have a goal, when you can define what that goal is, that goal is backed by a sense of desire and purpose, and you can quantify it and qualify it and visualize it, you can achieve it. When you hold space for that sort of goal or intention, it tends to come true. The more I play with intention or the law of attraction, the more I focus on it, the more and more it seems to be true in my life. It goes back to like I told you, a year before I started SkyBell, I told my roommates I was going to be the founder of a tech company. A year or two ago, I told my girlfriend I was going to be a writer for Inc.com and Huffington Post, and I'm now a contributor for both of those.
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A lot of these things that I've set as goals and held intention for have come true. If people want to learn more about that, some of the resources I listen to are Abraham Hicks, Tony Robbins, Dr. Wayne Dyer is fantastic, Jim Carrey, the actor, my God he's got some great videos on YouTube, some great quotes about how he has used the power of intention. Steve Harvey, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, all of those guys. They all use the power of intention. I wish I learned that earlier.
Eric Siu: That's helpful. Is there any book that you recommend around intention?
Andrew Thomas: Oh, there's plenty. E-Squared is a good book. I'm reading the Biology of Belief right now, if people want a little more of a molecular level on how our thoughts change our biology. That's pretty interesting. There's a pretty interesting documentary called Three Magic Words, that was very profound.
The most profound thing, the thing that sparked it for me, the very first thing, is a CD series by Dr. Wayne Dyer called Making Your Thoughts Work for You. That CD series changed my life. I was at a company I didn't really like, I was with someone I probably wasn't happy with, and that CD series, that audio book turned it around for me. My favorite book of all time, the one that has helped me out the most personally and professionally is How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.
Eric Siu: Yup, that's one of those books that you just read over and over and over, right?
Andrew Thomas: You're absolutely right. I am on 14 right now.
Eric Siu: That's crazy, that's more times than I've watched the Titanic. Anyway, that's great. I think that book, and The Hard Thing About Hard Thing's by far the most recommended on this show. Yeah, great book. One new question I'd like to ask now, and you coming from online marketing background, I think you'd probably like this one. What's one new tool that you added in the last year that's added a lot of value?
Andrew Thomas: Hmm. That's a good question. I would say content. You look at a lot of what you preach and the power of content. I always knew it existed, and as an SEO person, I knew the power of content, but we used to wield SEO in different ways and just pushing content. I got out of SEO a couple of years ago, and now being back in a sphere where I need rankings, and I need to drive marketing it online, I have been blown away by how much quality content really drives ... It drives clicks and it drives sales, but just the way that it helps support your authority on a subject.
Even on a real human level, the content that I write helps me get speaking gigs. It helps me do partnerships with people, and the way that you can use content now is incredible. That content for me has been a lot of article writing for Inc or Huffington Post. I think video, too, has become tremendously important. We use Snapchat now, we use YouTube ads ... YouTube ads are fantastic for us, but I would say, you
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know what ... Again, I'm more of a traditional guy, you've probably got amazing tips and tricks that I haven't even heard about yet, but what's effective for me is the mindset in how you use these tools.
One thing that I've learned, a nuance, is a video that is unpolished and is honest and authentic, outperforms a video that is polished and has it all together. We're starting to use video ... That's not a new tool, but we're using it in a new way. We're trying to tell more founder stories, I'm trying to be a little more unpolished, like in my own Instagram stories, or my Snapchats. That's a challenge because that ties into your mentality and being okay being seen, being vulnerable, and being a little more raw and unpolished. I'm a person who's always been kind of a perfectionist, so that's been hard for me, but the more vulnerable I am, the more honest I am, and the less I try to touch up my videos, it seems the higher the engagement, the higher the influence, and the higher the impact. That's what I'm challenging myself on right now, is to continue putting out content that is more honest and real, and less polished.
Eric Siu: Yeah. I love that comment, because even though people talk about content marketing all the time ... You see Gary [inaudible 00:36:22] talk about ... Him saying, "People need to do more content." I think people are taking that for granted, but here's the thing. It actually feels good when you're putting out content, you're actually providing value to people, and you're getting comments back. The thing is, what you're doing, you're doing Instagram stories, Snapchat, you're appearing everywhere, and it takes a couple touch points to eventually get a sale, but the thing is, even if your content doesn't generate sales, you still feel like you're helping the world. Which is a lot better than just going, acquiring some links, and trying to bed people all the time in the good old days of SEO.
Andrew Thomas: Yeah, I totally feel you on that.
Eric Siu: It just feels better, I don't know.
Andrew Thomas: It does feel better. If you can accomplish your goals, while also empowering somebody else, that's the win-win I think we need right now. I don't know about you, but I look around at our society and the way things are going, I think we need to be more empowering and more uplifting to other people. When I go to your website, I'm uplifted by seeing your accomplishments, and the fact that you're sharing information and sharing your value and experience, it does uplift and empower me, and I would consider myself to be good at this. Imagine the people out there who are listening to your podcast, reading your sites, and reading your tutorials and your programs, who don't have any experience. In two years, these could be the next me, or you. It's incredible to think that what you're doing right now could significantly impact somebody's life.
Eric Siu: Right. It's crazy. For us, it just seems like we're having a conversation, but this can seriously change a couple people's lives. Anyway, this has been great, Andrew. What's the best way for people to find you online?
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Andrew Thomas: The best way to find me online is on Twitter. I'm @apthomas, and on Instagram, I'm doorbellsyall. Those are the two best ways to reach me. My website is at andrewpaulthomas.com, and then on the SkyBell side, we are at SkyBell.com.
Eric Siu: All right. Awesome. Andrew, thanks so much for doing this.
Andrew Thomas: Absolutely, Eric. Thanks so much for having me.
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